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Friday, 21 March 2014

Reviews: Vandenberg's Moonkings, Vanishing Point, Ring Of Fire

Vandenberg's MoonKings: MoonKings (Mascot Records)

Adrian Vandenberg is a former guitarist of Whitesnake co-writing most of their comeback album Slip Of The Tongue, however all of the guitars on the album were done by some guy called Steve Vai. Still Vandeberg has made a career after his fling with Cov and co before hanging up his axe in 1994. 20 years later the man returns with his six string, a brand new band and an album full of hip shaking, powerhouse rock songs that our David would be proud of (old leather lungs himself appears on the final massive Whitesnake cover Sailing Ships). Vandenberg sure knows how to right a rock song with opener Lust And Lies having the dirty, lust filled swagger that the Snake have made their name doing, this moves into the Zep-like rockers Close To You and Line Of Fire which along with the mega-ballads Breathing and Out Of Reach, both of which would be a number one from 'Snake. As you can see I keep mentioning Whitesnake and that is because this album sounds a lot Whitesnake's more modern output with lots of hard rock riffage, killer solo's, big drums and bass from Mart Nijen Es and Sem Christoffel respectively. The whole band are rounded out by the great vocals of Jan Hoving who sounds like ex-Firewind singer Apollo Papathanasio doing a (brilliant) Coverdale impression. This an album for fans of the 'Snake and any hip shaking, python licking, hard rocking music. As a debut this a great, big songs, great production and excellent musicianship, however I wouldn't expect anything less from a former Snakeman, Cov only picks the best to back him and Vandenberg's MoonKings shows this in spades, as the band say on Nothing Touches "Nothing touches rock 'n' roll!" 9/10

Vanishing Point: Distant Is The Sun (AFM Records)

In all my years of metal I've only been peripherally aware of Vanishing Point and with Distant Is The Sun being their fifth album I thought it was about time I checked them out and I'm very glad I did as these Aussies play strong, melodic metal with progressive flourishes. The band fuse the heavy, crunchy guitars of James Maier and founder member Chris Porcianko who bring some seriously technical riffage to every song along with the blast beats of Christian Nativo, the bass of Simon Best providing the driving rhythms and Silvio Massaro's soaring melodic vocals. The band also have lots of symphonic elements with keys and orchestrations playing a part on every track giving the band a sound similar to American melodic prog bands Redemption, Shadow Gallery and Fates Warning, especially on the ballads like Let The River Run while the symphonic backed faster/heavier tracks like Distant Is The Sun and King Of Empty Promises have more in common with Kamelot or Sonata Arctica (who's singer Tony Kakko appears on Circle Of Fire) with their galloping rhythms and big orchestrations. This fifth record is a complex, progressive, melodic metal album that has touches of AOR, prog rock and of course metal. On the back of this album I think it's time I looked for Vanishing Point's back catalogue on the strength of this album. 8/10

Ring Of Fire: Battle Of Leningrad (Frontiers Records)

Ring Of Fire are a neoclassical metal band from the USA made of former Yngwie Malmsteen air raid siren Mark Boals, guitar virtuoso Tony Macalpine who programs the drums, both men are aided in their neoclassical mastery as usual by keyboardist Vitalij Kuprij and former Stratovarius man Timo Tolkki. So as usual the album is filled with the simply staggering guitar playing of MacAlpine who does things to a guitar that very few men can do, he works in tandem with Kuprij to pull some seriously fast riffs on the first two tracks Mother Russia and They Are Calling Your Name and then they conjure some mastery on the ballad Land Of Frozen Tears. This is a technical album with lots of great songs however there is one major downfall, the production of Tolkki is awful it's sounds very weak and muddy, it's similar to the Metal Hammer edition of Manowar's last album. Music like this needs crisp modern production to make it sparkle however this just means the album sound like a bad NWOBHM demo. Poor form indeed. 5/10

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