Uriah Heep - Outsider

Artist: Uriah Heep
Album: Outsider
Label: Frontiers
Genre: Hard Rock


Here’s a band that gave me a very pleasant surprise with their last. I caught one of their Official Bootleg albums back then too and loved their assured mastery, rounding it all off with a very enjoyable interview with Mick Box.

But what of this? It kicks off strong with “Speed Of Sound" that has it all, rolling rhythms, cool Hammond keys and the Mick Box guitar, before solid hard rock vocals float over it all. They do melodic heavy rock very well and keep it going.

They mix in some piano led mellowness on a slower “One Minute”, and there are some diversions like that, but this is at its roots a solid rocker. Mellow parts of songs soon yield and the bulk just roll up the sleeves and get on with it.

There is a little bit of over familiarity after a while and I think that may be difficult to avoid with this their twenty fourth studio piece. A few choruses slip into rock cliché for example but I can forgive them that - the solid hard rock does bring a smile and I imagine many of these will come alive on stage.

My favourite is the blues infused “Is Anybody Gonna Help Me" and that might just be because it is a real diversion. I like the main approach but we have heard it before. We’ve also heard the blues style too I suppose!

Solid and reliable, this is Heep hitting the mark but probably not dragging in many new fans as they do so. But it is infectiously fun.


Tesla - Simplicity

Artist: Tesla
Album: Simplicity
Label: Frontiers
Genre: Hard Rock


My last real engagement with Tesla was in 1980-something when they supported (and blew away) Def Leppard. I have never understood why I haven’t caught up with them over the years although this is only their seventh album.

They open with a slow grinder in “MP3" which is okay but a little lacking in variety and perhaps an odd start, and way too long. And the album never really gets going for me.

The guitar is safe, the rhythms largely anonymous, the vocal approach samey. The songs never really go for it and it all feels very within their comfort zone. Occasional pace tens to dissipate into more easy playing.

Looking for some positives, the basic melodies are well played but then you would expect that from such simplicity! The album title is unfortunately spot on and I have to be honest - it’s all a little boring.


Neal Schon - So U

Artist: Neal Schon
Album: So U
Label: Frontiers
Genre: Hard Rock


The Journey guitarist now appears to have an umlaut on the “o”. How silly! There’s a Journey bedfellow on drums and a Black Star Rider on bass, but this is Schon’s own piece too.

There’s some blues in here and some jazz too as Schon mixes it up. But the bluesy opener “Take A Ride" isn’t that interesting and the following overlong title track just drifts and drifts before going off the rails.

There’s an instrumental and a procession of average rockers, nothing really inspiring. I guess this is all stuff other bands rejected and maybe some self criticism wouldn’t have gone amiss.

I think Schon has scored pretty low with this one and I am struggling to find many redeeming features. Maybe he enjoyed recording it!


Nightmare - The Aftermath

Artist: Nightmare
Album: The Aftermath
Label: Label
Genre: Power Metal


A spoken atmospheric intro suggests it’s a movie about to start rather than an album but “Bringer Of A No Man’s Land" leaves us in no doubts. It’s a full on if slightly slower power metal track that reeks of the past but is still reasonable fresh.

Vocals are gruff but clear, riffs deliciously heavy, and melodies abound. The songs are well produced and there is generally a good flow to the whole piece.

It is a little bit of a set piece album so don’t expect any surprises. But the power is embedded in the heaviness and whilst I guess it’s isn’t ground breaking, it is a solid affair.

There are plenty of good songs and they don’t let it go on too long, showing that this veteran band still has something to offer. That slower approach to the power should widen the appeal.


Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism

Artist: Teramaze
Album: Esoteric Symbolism
Label: Nightmare Records
Genre: Progressive Metal


This is an album loaded with atmosphere, with deep moods from the off and some very clever structures along the way. There’s a lot of power thrown into the mix and symphonic layers abound.

There is a bit of a “Teramaze sound” meaning this really works best as a whole album in one sitting, rather than being able to dip in and out too easily but that’s not really an issue when the writing is so rich.

Taking their position at a slightly more aggressive end of the progressive this may not be for all - it’s a long way from prog rock. But it is sophisticated in a raw sort of way and the skills on show are at times exceptional.

This is especially true of the guitars which do tend to dominate the overall sound. They are very good but a few more breaks would maybe offer a little more dimension. But that’s being very picky about a great album.

This is at times dark, at times very heavy, but overall excellent. It may be a little niche as it is long and very technical in places, but for me that’s no bad thing!


Anubis Gate - Horizons

Artist: Anubis Gate
Album: Horizons
Label: Nightmare Records
Genre: Progressive Metal


For reasons I won’t go into I have had to take a break from reviews for now - hearing that the latest from Denmark’s Anubis Gate had arrived forced me to fit in at least one or two reviews for this month!!!

They return with another expansive feast of truly superb progressive music. The instrumentation and arrangements are intelligent and beautifully crafted, supplying the strongest of platforms for layered vocals.

There’s also mood and shades of dark and light across the piece. “Never Like This (A Dream)” is a superb early song and dips into something almost popular sounding for a while, a fused piece that just goes to show the band’s variety.

But it’s the massive “Dream Within A Dream" that really hits it, a dreamy fourteen minutes that has pretty much everything you can think of. It shows how the band is back with more of the same but taken to a brand new level. If they can get even a small percentage of this on stage this year then they could be the live act of the year.


Sonata Arctica - Pariah’s Child

Artist: Sonata Arctica
Album: Pariah’s Child
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Melodic Power Metal


This is their eighth full album and it immediately comes across as a polished piece. But maybe just a little too polished.

Vocals soar as ever and there is some cool bass flying around, but the careful chaos does get a little tired after a while. The keyboards have that harpsichord twang too often and the cymbals get bizarrely irritating!

I don’t think bands should rest on their laurels but for a while now the band has moved away from its early albums and a sound that I found more enjoyable. There is a good balance to it all but it isn’t what I necessarily want.

A lot of the pace of earlier releases is gone and that does allow some skill to shine through but this isn’t going to go down as a classic. It’s a tad superficial for that, songs simple enough that after a few bars you can predict where they will go. It’s fine, but I’m not excited.


John Wesley - Disconnect

Artist: John Wesley
Album: Disconnect
Label: Inside Out Music
Genre: Progressive Rock


The opener and title track is a sprawling mellow number that has some top class guitar keeping it all together. Bits remind me of others but it still remains its own piece.

That guitar of Wesley is the stand out feature throughout and he exudes the progressive as he keeps it all going forward. He throws in sharp parts on songs like “Once A Warrior”, and something deeper and more meaningful on the likes of “Take What You Need”.

There’s a good deal of heaviness here too, edging it slowly towards metal. Many start soft but are soon licking away and delighting as they do so. Then Wesley chucks in softer and acoustic elements to give a very nice balance.

The songs are well written, the guitars drip with class and his vocal is pretty cool stuff too. This is quite a good one!


Devil’s Heaven - Heaven On Earth

Artist: Devil’s Heaven
Album: Heaven On Earth
Label: Helldiver Records
Genre: Melodic Metal


Opener “Welcome II The Show" has the unsubtle chorus of "Wine me, dine me, sixty-nine me" that sits oddly on a backdrop of a relatively serious guitar driven sound. The puerile lyrics are odd bedfellows for the music, joke band meeting real one.

The next, “Demerital Action”, threatens to be a good song but now this one has a chorus saying “Welcome To The Show”. So I wonder if something odd has happened to the listing. It (well, one of them) is slated as a single with a pair of frilly pants dressing a flying V guitar.

I have to say I’m looking for a tad more sophistication. As suggested, the music is reasonably solid, if a little predictable, but the lyrics are weak.

I later checked out the cringe worthy video to “Demerital Action”, to find it sounds like a song listed as “Devil Woman” so it does look like the track listing I have is messed up. But there is so much linking each song this shouldn’t matter.

This offers a lot in the music and quickly falls into set pieces that are safe and often dull. The song subjects and therefore the lyrics are often sexist, normally simple, and uninspiring. There’s a good band in here trying to break out and they need to grow up and present something befitting the skills.


La Ventura - White Crow

Artist: La Ventura
Album: White Crow
Label: Ravenheart Music
Genre: Melodic Metal


Now here is an album that presents me with a quandary!

The female vocal delivery is superb, as pure and solid as you can hope for. It’s then supported by some crisp guitars, all enhanced by simply excellent production. So far so good.

But there isn’t really a stand out, nothing to grab me and stick in the mind. The opener is a little repetitive and the rest sadly just a little anonymous.

Individual parts are really good - some cool gritty guitars grind, little flourishes pop up and as said the voice. So good! But the whole is not the sum of those parts. Is it too dumbed down for the heaviness to really catch? Are the light gaps between the heavier parts losing the momentum?

I’m not really sure but whilst I do like certain elements it isn’t the finished item. Maybe one to look out for live and to see just what they can really do!

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