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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Reviews: Halestorm, Astral Doors, Docker's Guild

Halestorm: The Strange Case Of... (Roadrunner)

This Pennsylvania foursome return with their second full length with front woman/guitarist Lzzy Hale and her brother Arejay again leading the band in radio-friendly American rock. The most noticeable thing about this album is that the song writing has increased tenfold since the debut. The songs sound really big swagger and full of juicy hooks, mountain top soloing from guitarist Joe Hottinger and with the lyrics giving a huge feminist punch to the throat due to Lzzy's transformation into a snarling femme fatale. It's with the opening two tracks that the stall is set, the punky Love Bites (So Do I) and the very metallic Mz. Hyde both show of the bands chops and Lzzy's great vocals. The band have a sound similar to tour mates Shinedown and also there is a lot of Sixx: A.M present (who's James Michael appears on bonus track Private Parts) The album is mainstream American rock with an ear for radio, this is best seen on I Miss The Misery with its "Whoa" refrain and the "Na Na's" of Daughters Of Darkness.  The production is handled by veteran American metal producer Howard Benson who has worked with Bon Jovi, Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson (who is an obvious reference point in the ballad Beautiful With You) among many others. The only fault I can find is one that appears on many albums of this type and that there is maybe one too many ballads but most of the album is a prime slice of American arena metal and will propel Halestorm to stardom! 8/10

Astral Doors: Jerusalem (Metalville)

Astral Doors have always been a band with critical acclaim mainly because their vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson who does sound remarkably like the late great Ronnie James Dio albeit with a slightly lower register. This is also prevalent on this album but the songs are more akin to Dio's Rainbow years than his solo work. With big powerful tracks full of rocking guitars, muscular keys and Johansson's powerful vocal performance the album is perfect for fans of classic metal with tracks like Child Of Rock N Roll, Babylon Rise, Operation Freedom and the epic title track  meaning that the album rarely drops in pace. The album is somewhat generic but that just adds to its charm. Albums like this are not made as frequently anymore and Astral Doors are definitely one of the best at doing it. This album is not big nor is it clever but it is very fun. 7/10

Docker's Guild: The Mystic Technocracy - Season 1: The Age Of Ignorance (Lion Music)

If I asked you who comes to mind when I say progressive metal/rock album with a heavy sci-fi concept? Well no this isn't the new album from Arjen A Lucassen but from keyboardist Douglas Docker. Named after a Babylon 5 episode this album is separated into 15 'episodes' and revolves around the concept of religion and its supposed alien origins. Docker is backed by a great band consisting of former DLR drummer Greg Bissonette and English guitar wizard Guthrie Govan. He also has a star studded vocal line-up with John Payne kicking things off as the voice of the alien creators, Docker himself handles one tracks vocals admirably, before Goran Edman (Ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) provides the voice of history, Tony Mills (from Norwegian Hard Rockers TNT) brings the voice of humanity and Amanda Somerville as a love interest dueting on the final track Black Swans. All the vocalists add their distinctive tonsils, meaning that this album flows excellently and never gets boring, it also adds to the cinematic nature of the album. The music is very keyboard heavy so it has an AOR sound to many of the tracks but with Guthrie guitars adding some crunch a few drift into more metallic territory. The heavy title track, the bouncy Darwin's Tears, rocker Judeo-Christian Cosmogony and David Bowie cover Loving The Alien are great tracks that stand out, but not by much as the album is fantastic and anyone who loves Mr Lucassen's work (like I do) will get huge pleasure out of this album (much like I did) 9/10

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