Art Nation: Revolution (AOR Heaven)
Something about this album stinks, it's not the music, it's not the vocals or indeed the production, no it's the thick layer of cheese that permeates this record, there is a definte layer of 80's like high gloss that keeps this record shinning like it's 1985, think Journey, Foreigner and indeed Styx with a bit of Leppard thrown in for good measure. So we are talking swathes of all encompassing keys and synths, riding on top of clean guitar phrasing, po-going rhythm section and some sky scraping vocals with as much emotion as a Pixar film. As the percussive opener Need You To Understand gets things started with soaring intro solo, some huge drums and an even bigger chorus that puts the biggest smile on your face from the first time it plays. This Gothenburg band brilliantly fuse European and American AOR, with the twin guitars of Johnan Gustavsson's chunky rhythms and the blistering leads of Christoffer Borg having the same kind of affect as the twin guitars Whitesnake and indeed Def Leppard have always favoured, they bring the hard rock flavour to tracks like I Want Out and the strutting Number One but for as much electricity they give the record they can also turn it down when they need to see All In, although for the most part it's enormous riffs.
The band are not all about the guitars though they have a concrete rhythm section in the shape of Simon Gudmundsson's walking bass (Don't Wait For Salvation) and Carl Tudén's sublime tub thumping, both of these men work like hell to give the songs guts and stoke the fires of the rest of the band giving a backline to die for. No everyone knows that no AOR band is complete with a Keyboard and in Theodor Hedström Art Nation have found an ivory tinkler par excellence, he casts a spell on the the songs with his dazzling, exquisite and just fantastic keys and synths giving tracks like All The Way a pop sheen, a fuzzy 80's synth on Start A Fire, while also providing the heart rendering piano on Look To The Sky. Musically the band are perfect yes they are cheesier than decade old cheddar but that is to be expected and they do it with such class that it makes them exciting and endearing. Art Nation was formed from the ashes of Diamond Dawn with singer Alexander Strandell coming from that band finding the guitarist, keyboardist and bassist in quick succession and he has found the perfect foil for his simply devastating vocals, his on-stage energy transcends into this record and he delivers every song with sincere sentiment and an unmatched intensity. There has been a recent resurgence of AOR and for all the bands that have come out of it Art Nation have leapfrogged their way to the top of the pile, Revolution is the latest in a long line of pop baiting hard rocking albums that enlivens the soul and gets you singing along, get the cheeseboards ready and fire up the wind machine Art Nation are here!! 10/10
Hair Of The Dog: The Siren's Song (Kozmik Artifactz)
Three piece rock and roll from Scotland now with Hair Of The Dog, now if you're thinking Nazareth because of the title, you'd in the wrong ball park, these three men draw their influences from Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and even Hendrix, in fact they draw from the 1970's style of rock opening up proceedings with Into The Storm which is just that, a track that builds up the intensity and leads straight into You Soft Spoken Thing which gets things rocking excellently while Don't Know My Name has that Hendrix vibe mentioned earlier with some psych passages moving into the big heavyweight riffs of Adam Holt's guitars, his brother Jon's wild drumming and Iain Thomson's pummelling bass. For an idea of Hair Of The Dog's sound think Wolfmother, The Brew or Tracer all of whom have that three piece riff filled rock sound. For all the big rock riffs that permeate this album on My Only Way Home and Wage With The Devil they can also add a light touch on Weary Bones which is a bluesy track that slow burns until the final part where it really fires up showing off Holt's bawling vocals and searing leads. The albums final two part title track is the best on the album focussing everything this band are good at. This is catchy 70's style blues rock played with panache and delivered in style. 7/10
Wolfheart: Shadow World (Spinefarm) [Review By Paul]
We belatedly reviewed Winterborn, the first album (2013) from Toumas Saukkoen’s Wolfheart in February of this year, giving it a six. The second album has arrived, now from a more complete outfit since Saukkoen turned the band into a full time project in 2014. Basically it’s more of the same. Melodic death metal in the vein of Wintersun and the like. As with the first album, the technical ability of the band is not in doubt with some rampaging powerful drumming, excellent guitar work cutting huge gashes with the vicious solo work of Mika Lammassaari and ground moving bass lines. Storm Centre, Aeon Of Cold and Abyss all pound your ass until you beg for mercy, whilst all the while lashing a large serving of melody on top of the brutal thrash onslaught whilst there are some calmer tranquil moments in Last Of All Winters and Nemesis (only snippets mind, no full noodling) which provide a bit of light to contrast the assault. Saukkoen’s vocals remain as marmite as before, with some real guttural growling in parts, sufficient to shake a sleeping dormouse out of its box. Overall Shadow World is an improvement on Winterborn, and a pleasing listen if you like this kinda thing. 7/10