Wednesday, July 31, 2013

HAMMERFORCE: "Access Denied"

Rating: RRR
Label: Hammerforce 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Here's the second album from Russian Power/Prog Metal band Hammerforce. Well, they really couldn't be anything other than a Power Metal band with a name like that, right? The band's first album "Dice" was released in 2009, but it didn't really make an impact, and the band were struggling for a while.Some personnel changes took place and the band started working on new material. They decided to ditch the "usual" metal lyrical themes and to concentrate on real issues, and as a result, the lyrics of "Access Denied" deal with modern social problems.

What separates Hammerforce from the countless other power/prog metal bands is their use of keyboards. While their songs are pretty standard power metal with a lot of prog overtones, the keyboard work is rather interesting - they use a lot of techno/trance/dance-type of sounds and layers. Frankly, if it wasn't for the synths I'd hesitate to give this album three "R's" because their songs could seriously use some memorable hooks... but the somewhat innovative use of unusual sounds and the good production secure them that third "R". Now if only they could add some pop flavours into their otherwise interesting metal soup... that might be something quite special.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Robin BECK: "Underneath"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Her Majesty's Music Room 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Ever since Robin Beck returned to the melodic hard rock style of her breakthrough album "Trouble Or Nothing", she's been one of the most reliable artists of the genre. I thought her previous album "The Great Escape" was another career highlight and I glad to report that "Underneath" is once again a very good album from the reigning AOR queen.

For "Underneath", Robin has reached out to new songwriters outside the genre to give her music a bit of a new, contemporary edge. Despite the new influences "Underneath" is still very much a rock album, but the new writers do add some new flavours to it.

"Wrecking Ball" gives the album a crushing start, showcasing the slightly modernized style yet boasting a big, rocking chorus. It's followed by something more familiar sounding, Robin's cover of "Ain't That Just Like Love", a track originally recorded by Fiona in 1992. This big, hook-laden rocker has always been one of my favourite Fiona songs and Robin's version is very good too. Production-wise I may prefer the original, but Robin's passionate vocals are in a league of their own. The modern pop/rock sound returns with "Sprain", which is okay but not one of my favourites.

The album's title track is something really special, a massive ballad with fine lyrics and a great vocal from Robin. It's penned by songwriters Annica Williams and Måns Ek and lyricist Charlie Mason, who has co-written most of the album actually. I wouldn't be surprised if it found its' way to the mainstream charts eventually - some major label artist will surely want to record it sooner or later.

"Catfight" and "Check Your Attitude" are two of the more contemporary tracks, taking Robin to the Katy Perry/Pink/Avril Lavigne direction. "Check Your Attitude" is rather good but I can't say I'm too fond of "Catfight", it just doesn't have enough meat around its' bones. But thumbs up for Robin, she sounds convincing singing these kind of "angry pop" tunes.

The rest of the album is more in the vein of "old school" Robin Beck, melodic hard rock with big hooks. Robin's husband and producer James Christian shares the lead vocals on the power ballad "Burnin' Me Down", while Christian's House Of Lords bandmate, guitarist Jimi Bell gets a co-writing credit for the energetic rocker "Perfect Storm". "Ya Can't Fight Love" is Tommy Denander's sole songwriting contribution to this album and a very good one it is too, a lively uptempo track with a great hook. "I Swear The Nights" is another fine power ballad but somehow the production doesn't do it justice. It might be just the mp3 I'm listening to, but it sounds somehow distorted. The Glen Burtnik-cover "Follow You" closes the album like it closed Robin's Firefest set last year, a good pop-rock song that suits the album's mood nicely.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

SANTA CRUZ: "Screaming For Adrenaline"

Rating: RRR
Label: Spinefarm 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

I was quite impressed by this Finnish band, when they supported Cinderella a couple of years ago. They had a great stage presence yet I thought their songs weren't quite on the same level. Now that their first album is out, I'm again impressed by their delivery yet I'm not completely sure about their songs. They've got a few really good ones, but then again they've got a couple that almost make me cringe.

Santa Cruz play unashamedly retro hard rock and "Screaming For Adrenaline" could just as well be an unreleased, undiscovered piece of "hair metal history" from 1991. You know, the kind of album that certain labels are releasing one after another - "They were local heroes, famous for their live shows and drew thousands of fans to their gigs. Then Grunge happened... but now we have discovered their unreleased album and bring it to you in its' full glory"... but nope, these guys weren't even born in 1991, so it's kind of strange that they have totally managed to duplicate the sound of the era. And it's especially the sound of 1991 and thereabouts. Guns'n Roses had already left their mark, and most "hair" bands had toned down their image and tried to toughen their sound. Santa Cruz would have been right at home in that time and space both musically and visually. I could imagine them battling against bands like Bang Tango, Southgang, Kik Tracee, Roxy Blue and other B-list groups who were active around that time... and probably winning most of them.

The influence of GNR is pretty obvious on many of the songs, especially when it comes to vocalist/guitarist Archie's falsetto screeching. It's very Axl-like, but frankly I've never been a fan of his and to me it's more like fingers on a chalkboard. Thankfully Archie doesn't use it in every song. You might also hear echoes of Poison, Dokken, Skid Row and even that aforementioned Bang Tango in some of the songs.

My favourite tracks include High On You" which has the biggest melodic chorus of the album, "Sweet Sensation", the party anthem "Let's Get The Party Started" and "Aiming High". The latter does feature Archie shierking on it like a cat in heat but the glam-tastic monster riff saves the song. More like these for the next album please! Forget about songs like "Nothing Compares To You" and "Lovin' You (Is Just For Playing)" which sound like Poison's left-overs...

Friday, July 19, 2013


Rating: 6 CD Comp.
Label: Universal 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Marc Bolan - The BBC 6 CD BOX SET - Said to be the most ambitious and complete collection of BBC recordings so far. They've spent years collecting, researching and compiling the best sources where possible. A few of the sessions and concerts did exist in the BBC archive but those which did not have been sourced from BBC Transcription Discs, off air recordings made on reel-to-reel tape recorders and in one or two instances cassette tapes. It's throughout the box-set a mixture of music, poems and radio interviews (mostly John Peel) not always up to standard of todays music industry. You simply have to take the good with the bad

Breaking down the musical standard of U.K. past, the ex-mod and model Marc Bolan set out on a magical journey through time and space. Not to mention music. Disc one contains the only session recorded by his first band, John's Children, recorded for the BBC Radio One – Saturday Club in June 1967 and also includes the John Peel's Top Gear programme between November 1967 and December 1968. A total of 30 tracks and amongst groovy titles such as 'Dwarfish Trumpet Blues' and 'Frowning Atahuallpa' (the latter features one of the first commercial Hare Krishna chants on record) lies a deeper meaning and thought connected to the folk-rock psychedelica movement aka make love not war.

It's the pre-glam stuff and you just have to be open minded as to what Bolan was actually trying to say. The lyrics are rather typical for its hippie era as they are heavily based along poetic lines, some are clear, some are hidden, and some are just the result of too much weed and various toxica. For instance, the prophet got zapped and "Scenescof" came out as the result of the very far-out and groovy happening. Oh those crazy hippies. 'My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows' - the 1968 debut album by Tyrannosaurus Rex really tells us the story of the movement. Normally.. not my kind of music, but... Marc Bolan and a few other acts (George Harrison) are so superior to the rest of the schmucks and thus why their music ending up on the must-have list. Two-man band unplugged with Bolan on vocals and guitars, and Steve Peregrin Took on backing vocals, drums, pixiphone, percussion. Hardly everything is included though, the whole 5-song-session around "Cloud Fall" and one or two more complete 1968 sessions are missing.

Disc Two (23 tracks) contains 4 Top Gear sessions plus 3 interviews for the Night Ride programme recorded in June 1969 and the In Concert performance recorded in January 1970 / tracks). Add to this 3 poems and the previously unreleased (not broadcasted) version of "Wind Cheetah". Again, do not expect this to sound like 2013, but most of the BBC material works just fine in the digital era. Disc Three (14 tracks) contains the Top Gear session from October 1970, 2 songs from the long lost Bob Harris session from November 1970, a Dave Lee Travis session from December 1970 and 5 songs recorded live for the December 1970 broadcast of the John Peel Sunday Concert. By now they've gone electric and things are starting to sound glam-ish but not quite there yet. "Elemental Child" - obviously inspired by Jimi Hendrix as it captures the spirit of the first and original guitar hero. The cover of "Summertime Blues" - okay but hardly essential and slightly out of place.

Disc Four (18 tracks): 8 songs recorded for the Radio One Club (March-July 71) the session recorded for the Bob Harris 'Sound of the Seventies' in August. The interviews with Tony Norman (71) and Keith Altham (72) and the short christmas jingle. It's glam-bam-thank-you-mam' as our mad poet goes through the "Hot Love, "Jeepster", "Get It On", as well as "Telegram Sam" for the '72 Peter Powell show. Disc five (16 tracks) interviews with Andrew Salkey, Johnny Moran and Nicky Horne. Disc six (17 tracks) interviews with Anne Nightingale, Michael Wale and Insight. Disc 5 and 6 contain mixes which were exclusively recorded for the BBC between May 72 and January 74. "Metal Guru", "The Slider", "Children Of The Revolution", etc. etc. are all a fun listening experience. I do not have the sleeve notes so I can't comment on the book with a new essay by Mark Payress (Author, 'Marc Bolan – A 20th Century Superstar'). Final verdict: if you're going to pick up merely one Bolan box-set in your life - this is indeed the one to on.

DEEP PURPLE: "Live In Copenhagen 1972" DVD

Rating: DVD
Label: Edel/ear-music 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Popcorn, check. Cola, check. Remote, check. Play, check. Hey... there's no colour? Goddamntv... crapdvdplayer. I'll teach them to mess with the legend... what? huh? According to the box video is in black and white. Surely a mistake? I don't feel like watching 133 minutes of the dogs-only version of live in Copenhagen 1972. Crapdanishtv. Why the black and white in 1972? 1942, sure. But if they could put a man on the moon, etc. Whatever. The first nine tracks are simply not in colour and recorded on March 1, 1972, when DP took to the stage at the KB Hallen in Copenhagen, Denmark. The place burned down to the ground in 2011 but that's another story and not connected to 'Smoke On The Water'. In fact, DP did not play the song in Denmark as they prefered to perform several other songs from the by then soon to be released 'Machine Head' album.

The Danes and especially the sound engineer (the drunk geezer on the soundboard) did not react well as he decided to ignore Glover completely during the opening numbers. Gillan is however at the top of his game, wailing through the marvelous "Child In Time". Paice goes bezerk during 'The Mule', and Blackmore's on fire during 'Space Truckin'. In fact, I believe they had to rebuild his Strat at the beginning of the first encore (Fireball). This gig has previously been released on VHS in the eighties and I believe there's also the Japan only DVD from the mid-00? Video and audio is restored and digitally remastered in 2013 though and makes for overall goody entertainment. Just pretend that you're a grumpy Bulldog while watching (some of you are howlers anyhow) and simply try to look past the ancient equipment at Danish TV.

The bonus tracks (Strange Kind Of Woman, Smoke On The Water, Space Truckin') are in colour as they were recorded 29th May, 1973, at Hofstra University, New York. The two G-Men (Gillan, Glover) would leave the band shortly afterwards and the singer does not exactly look pleased during some of these numbers. Perhaps nothing new to the die-hard fan, but the 2013 remastering should provide for better sound quality than previous issues. Neat.

The MOODY BLUES: "Timeless Flight" 4CD

Rating: Comp.
Label: Universal 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Moody Blues - Timeless Flight - 4 CD Anthology. An exhausting career retrospective spanning the years 1967 to 2003. Containing singles, key album tracks, previously unreleased mixes and live favourites. The majority is nontheless already released elsewhere although it does include a couple of rare and unreleased numbers. The whole package does however impress with its 40 page book, unseen photographs, and liner notes by Mark Powell.

My personal knowledge about the utterly moodie brommies? Very limited. Prior to receiving this smashing 4-disc box-set (there's also the 17 disc box set), yours truly had merely been listening to some dusty old compilation record featuring their ten 'best tracks' or whatever. I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about The Moody Blues and their music beyond the standard hits of "Tuesday Afternoon", "Gemini Dream", "The Voice", and not to forget the ultimate tear-jerker, "Nights In White Satin". I really should have continued to play my ten track album though. It's by far their best material and I can't believe that a wimpy number such as, "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)", could end up as #4 in their all-time top five as voted by the fans?

They have sold over 50 million albums though, received 18 platinum discs, and surely must be regarded as classic rock? But to be completely honest, their middle-of-the-road, baroque/soft progressive pop has more in common with Chris De Burgh than great all-time U.K. artists such as Pink Floyd, ELO, or The Beatles. The other way around actually as De Burgh's first album did not see the light of day until 1975. But truth be told. I constantly find myself thinking about De Burgh and his ultra soft pop music while listening to the early seventies material. Chris - the massive MB fan/stalker/copy-cat artist?

"Nights In White Satin" - (sadly) heads and shoulders above all their other compositions and it features the classical Neapolitan chord which especially Beethoven used during the Moonlight and Hammerklavier Sonata.

BLACKLIST UNION: "Til Death Do Us Part"

Rating: RR
Label: HeadFirstEnt. 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Blacklist Union's latest offering to the Gods of groovy metal reads 'Til Death Do Us Part'. Not the most original title but whatever. The music's modern but grungy edgy and thankfully not quite as predictable as most rock acts in the unholy year of 2013. L.A. GUNS' Tony West screams at ya' with the sophisticated swagger of a cat in heat. The guitars provided by Jon E Love (Love/Hate?) shriek and howl like a dog to the moon. And I believe there's a proper animal behind the drum-kit too.

According to several press statements, West's vocals often draw comparisons to a young Ozzy Osbourne? Are we listening to the same record? Sure, tiny bits and pieces of the prince of fookin' darkness, but just as much/little of the Bang Tango and Jane's Addiction. The songs themselves are raunchy/gritty without ever hitting the mark. Songs are written with Anthony Valli who people may remember as a member of Crazytown (the 'Butterfly' song , etc.), several members of Salvia are involved, and producer Chris Johnson (Goldfinger, Josh Todd, Hillary 'Fookin' Duff) at the controls. Tony West himself has appeared as the redneck white trash on The Jerry Springer Show, Maury Povich, Geraldo Rivera, The Riki Lake Show (twice), The Richard Bey Show, and some of these clips even made it onto the great Talk Soup. Geez... are we supposed to laugh or cry?


Rating: RR
Label: WeBeRecords 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Yours truly hasn't been this confused since last time we dug up Katie The Preacher from the graveyard. You know it's wrong but it feels so good? The noisy-punky U.K. power trio of Mayors Of Miyazaki are coming at ya' like a runaway freight train in the night. Creating a massive wall of terror and back and forth shouting vocals between the male and female vocalist. According to the band we are now listening to Math-Punk? In reality it's the hardcore vs. punk experience only slightly edgier and complex than your average punk. You're at times reminded of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Television, several hardcore acts, and actually just the hint of King's X (their most progressive stuff), only not as great of course. "Holy Cop" is indeed noisy as hell and if this, their second album, is intended to broaden their appeal I can only see it strengthen their cult status and underground following. It's raw, priminal, and frankly just not as great as expected. The rhythm section does impress however and their arrangements are quirky to say the least. Now if only they could throw a couple of choruses into the mix...


Rating: RRR
Label: SPV/Steamhammer 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The post Type O' Negative version of Sal Abruscato sound as if he's singing with the weight of the world on his shoulders. It's dark, twisted, doom and goth metal featuring lyric that deals with everything inbetween the morbid to the darn right macabre. There's no happy ending. You're all going to die. We're constantly losing the battle of life and humanity is nothing but a sad and tiny place of the universe. Indeed, it's dirty rotten filthy stinking gloom. And we all know what came riding on a pale horse in order to bring total darkness and destruction (nope, not Clint Eastwood).

Do they sound anything like their previous art and dance performance group? Definitely. It's very much chapter two of the Negative story and that's not that strange considering that Abruscato's a founding member and fellow ex-Negative member Johnny Kelly bashes the skins. They do however inject a certain large amount of sludge and grunge into their melodies and thus becoming bleaker and more towards the style of Seattle's greatest of the early nineties. While they are never quite as brilliant as their previous atc, A Pale Horse Named Death has kept the flag flying and stuck to their gloom. I only wish they had more songs in the style of "Shallow Grave" as it's their best track and definitely closer to the Type'O formula. Look no further if you're into disturbing creepy metal.

GURU: "White"

Rating: RR
Label: MelodicRockRecords 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Metal Guru, they are certainly not (see Marc Bolan review elsewhere). White is in fact the rather strange mix of Westcoast and Melodic Metal as if they've decided to record the not so likely tribute album to Tommy 'Mental' Denander (don't bother). GÜRU from Spain are obviously inspired by Scandi as well as soft rock and they might even describe their music as Radioactive Toto. We don't always tend to agree though as there's no real spark in the dark. It should literally glow in the dark since that's the least to expect from radioactive stuff. Simply ask the poor Chernobyl kids and that's no joking matter. Track two, 'Straight To Your Heart', best of the bunch and comes complete with dut-dut keys and everything. Very nice, darn catchy, but-oh-so polite and sterile. The following song and dance number goes through the motion and may lack the spirit of rock n roll. The next one reminded us of Jan Johansen and his sappy Euro-vision material. The rest of the tracks are all very mid-tempo and trampled upon by the different styles and genre changes. Back to the drawing board and better luck next time.

The NEW BLACK 7: Hangovers & Heartbreak

Rating: R
Label: HeadFirstEnt./Route3 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Oh, the pros and cons of America. We sure do enjoy the majority of the music styles from across the pond. Two of them that sadly do not belong in the category of two thumbs up: Country & Rap. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy my Public Enemys and Eagles. However, they've been flogging a dead horse for the past twenty years and both genres are now as interesting as watching wet paint dry. The New Black 7 (not to be confused with The Old Black Seven?) is an intoxicating dose of country music with a shot of 90 proof rock & roll added for good measure. Yeah, sure, but that's exactly the reason to why the rest of the world can't stand Bon Jovi post 1996...

Two versions of the utterly horrible 'Fly Me To Freedom'? Christ oh mighty... where's my shotgun? They've managed to include everything you absolutely hate about sentimental b.s. and U.S. country. It's no wonder that noone outside the states are interested in modern twang and honky tonk. It's bloody awful. They gave up their rock/pop dreams and decided to sell their souls to the hillbilly devil? We have a similar concept over here in Sweden - dansband music - where talented musicians are selling out their dreams for the pleasure of watching drunk people dance (old geezer folkmusic style) along to the same old song. Oh the horror, the horror.
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Rating: RRR Label: Doolittle Group 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

"Within Temptation Goes To Church"... The influences of Swedish Christian Rock act My Endless Wishes are perhaps a bit obvious. They kick off their first album with a riff that "might" remind you of WT's "Faster", and it surely isn't the last time you'll get this deja vu feeling... but let's not hold it against them, it's not they are merely trying to rewrite the WT hits all the time. They mix it up a little with some influences from other bands like Skillet and Evanescence. Not to mention the pop sensibility that most Swedish bands seem to have, it shines through.

Vocalist Frida Viberg has a voice that reminds me a little of the former Nightwish vocalist Anette, she has similary down-to-earth, organic sound. She is definitely not a operatic singer, which gives the band a little bit of identity of their own.

The album is well-produced and sounds suitably pompous for this kind of music, and it's hard to pick out a favourite song because the quality is quite consistent. I guess my favourites are on the first half of the album, with the balladic "Angel" being a good example of the aforementioned Swedish pop sensibility and "Waiting For A Sign" taking a step towards the sound of Skillet. The second half suffers a bit of the fact that some of the songs are quite similar to each other. Still, the somewhat poppier sounding "Paradise" with its' Nightwishy melody and the dramatic piano ballad "Once Again" get my vote.

Three "R's" feels a bit low for such a quality release, but but since we don't do halves, It'll have to do. A real standout song or two would have earned the band an additional "R", now we "only" get a dozen rather good songs.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Rating: RRRRR
Label: Frontiers 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

One of Frontiers Records' reliable songsmiths is Magnus Karlsson, the Swedish guitarist/songwriter/producer. During the last decade or so, he's been heavily involved in some of my and possibly your favourite albums, such as the three Allen/Lande albums, Bob Catley's "Immortal" and Starbreaker's two albums. Many metal fans will know him as one of the Primal Fear axemen or from his earlier bands Last Tribe and Midnight Sun.

For his first solo album, Karlsson has written a really impressive set of songs, and to sing them, he's gathered a really impressive list of vocalists. And if that doesn't impress enough, he also proves that he's a very good singer himself on three of the tracks. In fact, those three songs ("Heading Out", "Ready Or Not" and "On Fire") are among my favourite songs, they're highly melodic and catchy ones and Karlsson's smooth voice suits them perfectly.

If you're familiar with Karlsson's work, you'll know what to expect - gloriously melodic metal and hard rock songs. That's what you'll get, ranging from the heavier tracks like "Higher" (sung by Primal Fear's Ralf Schreepers) to "Stronger", a superb balladic pop/rock track with TNT/Westworld/Starbreaker singer Tony Harnell on vocals. I could easily imagine someone like Pink scoring a massive hit with this song... but I'm glad I get to hear it sung by Harnell instead, he does a great job as usual.

Other highlights include the powerful "title track" "Free Fall" with Russell Allen and the melodic double treat of "Us Against The World" (vocals: David Readman) and "Our Time Has Come" (Mark Boals). There are really no weak moments on this album, even the tracks I haven't mentioned would be highlights on an ordinary melodic metal album.

The production by Karlsson himself and Daniel Flores (mixing and mastering) is great, and Karlsson has obviously taken his time with the guitar parts - there's some fine axemanship on this album. I really couldn't ask for much more, so the rating is a no-brainer... folks, we have an Album Of The Year contender here!

NEWMAN - “Siren”

AOR Heaven 2013


Review by: Alan Holloway

Are you ready to rock? Of course you are, or you wouldn’t be reading this. One person who is ready, willing and able is Steve Newman, the vocalist, guitarist and general head honcho of Newman. This is a man who knows the cardinal rule of rock music: if you name the band after yourself you can’t get fired. “Siren” is the ninth full album since 1998, and it’s been two years since the very well received “Under Southern Skies”, with no reason to suspect that the new disc won’t be afforded a similar reaction.

As usual, Newman himself does the lions share of the work, partnered up with his usual drummer Rob McEwen. Tourring guitarist Shaun “Da Prawn” Bessaant and Robert Sall both get a track each to show off their own guitar skills, but this is the Newman show, make no mistake. As ever, it’s an incredibly solid offering, full of hard hitting melodic rock, more guitar than keyboards and full of Newman’s standard ‘take no prisoners’ attitude. His vocals are as good as ever, and the clean production (by Steve himself, natch) really allows the songs to stand out. The stall is set out with opener “Scar Of Love”, an immediately catchy track with a cool, angry guitar riff. Much like opener “Hero To Zero” from 2010’s “Balance” album, it doesn’t let up, although thankfully on this album there’s no annoying (and poinyless) intro, as we’re straight into the action with no twatting about. There’s a couple of slower tracks toward the end, and whilst “When It Comes To Love” is a great, powerful ballad, “The Foolish One” tends to drag a little. That said, it’s the only track of the twelve on offer that does, and it does have a great solo which helps.

“Siren” will naturally delight existing Newman fans, and with any luck will win him some new ones. It’s up there with his best work, with this and the last two albums all coming over very strongly indeed as quality hard melodic rock. If you like melodic rock that has a little bite to it and doesn’t have songs about cruising down highways then Newman is pretty much a must have, as with “Siren” his winning streak continues unabated.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

MEMORY OF A MELODY: "Things That Make You Scream"

Rating: RRR
Label: MOAM 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Thankfully, melody isn't only a memory for this interestingly named band. Despite their name and occasional hardcore leanings, their songs do have decent amounts of melody and hooks. The band has definite crossover appeal, as their heavier material could appeal to the fans of bands like Bullet For My Valentine, while their more melodic material has similarities to Black Veil Brides, HIM, Shinedown and even Nickelback. A cynic could say that they're modelling themselves on everything that's popular on rock radio... but I kind of enjoy most of their tunes.

The album starts with "Mask", one of the more "sinister" tracks. Machine-gun riffs and cookie monster screams are balanced by Mario Galdos' melancholic vocals. It's effective as an opener, but I prefer the highly melodic "Till Death Do Us Apart" and "Things That Make You Scream" (check the video). The next couple of tracks fail to impress: "Pieces" goes a bit too far to the screamo direction and "Intersections" just isn't particulary interesting with it's grunge-ish chorus. The next real highlight is "Skin Deep", a slightly Shinedown-like ballad that might earn some serious airplay for the band. "Reach" is another balladic track that could be a potential radio hit too.

The last few tracks are a mixed bag. I kind of knew that "Ultra Violence" wouldn't be one of my favourites just judging by the title, and no surprise, the good ol' cookie monster raises its' ugly head again. "The Core" is better, even though the band try hard to ruin it by screaming the last 20 seconds. The closing number "Truth In Lies" is an instrumental with a "Master Of Puppets" vibe, not bad but somehow it feels like an unfinished song waiting for vocal melodies and lyrics. It could have been just as well left off the album...

What more? Well, the production of "TTMYS" is top-notch, courtesy of Bryan Scott (The Union Underground, Evil United), easily comparable to any major label release in the genre. That's pretty impressive since the band has no label backing. That might just change one of these days.