Jorn: Life On Death Road (Frontiers Records)
There is an ongoing battle for who can really be considered 'The Voice' of rock but every time I'd throw my hat in the ring for Jorn Lande, the Norwegian Masterplan vocalist has carved out a name for himself as one of the go-to vocalists for many artists, he features in both the Ayreon and Avantasia projects and has had continued success in the power metal band Masterplan, personally I've always been more blown away by his solo career which has always carried a thumping hard rock grunt to it, now the quality of some of these records has varied wildly but on this his ninth studio album he sounds better than ever, his vocals are astounding, strong full of vigour and soulful but for the first time he has a backing band that are up to his carrying his talent.
The band in question are essentially all of Voodoo Circle, the pumping rhythm section are Mat Sinner (bass) and Francesco Iovio (drums) both of Primal Fear, the keys and organs are from Alessio Del Vecchio (Hardline) and the guitar prowess is unmistakable the Blackmore loving Alexander Beyrodt (also of Primal Fear), it's this line-up that recorded the last Voodoo Circle album and as that band does seem to be on a hiatus what better way to continue the Purple/Rainbow/Whitesnake vibes than with the man who could easily be the singer of any of those bands with ease, the aim of this record was to make the best album possible and that is exactly what they have done.
With an experienced musical team contributing all of the songs are the ultimate examples of what you'd want from a Jorn album. From the galloping title track, through to the heavy but melodic Purple-like Love Is The Remedy the album, the gutsy ballad Dreamwalker, the rifftastic The Slippery Slope (The Hangman's Rope), the AOR influences creep in on Devil You Can Drive and The Optimist is the proper ballad with a very heartfelt message. Life On Death Road is possibly the finest album of Jorn's career, a rock n roll masterpiece; Lande, Beyrodt, Vecchio, Sinner and Iovio have crafted 12 anthems and delivered a vital hard rock album. 10/10
Gentle Knife: Clock Unwound (Caerlysi Records)
I gave the Norwegian progressive rock ensemble Gentle Knife a glowing review back in 2015 and now they are back with their second concept album, this time the eleven piece band have dealt with the relentless passing of time. In their words the record "delves into lives overshadowed by longing and disappointment. Plans go askew, lovers betray and dreams fade. Yet, as a sense of resignation descends upon a dystopic inner landscape, moments of beauty remain"
So perfectly normal for prog then, musically it's once again a very layered, intensely musical affair, picking up where the last album left off as the traditional instruments of bass, drums, keys and a trio of guitars are augmented by woodwind and brass (on the jazzy title track). It's the sort of progressive rock favoured by King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Yes, check out the folky Fade Away which washes over you displaying the duality of the male and female vocals and moves into the Smother which has Latin rhythms and huge organ stabs the battle with the parping trumpet. Clock Unwound is another piece of progressive near perfection from Gentle Knife, I really want to see the band in concert as I can see it being an incredible show with all eleven members translating the soundscapes on these records to a live crowd. 8/10
Dream Tröll: The Knight Of Rebellion (Self Released)
Leeds metal band Dream Tröll's debut record has cause a bit of a stir before it was released as it features guest vocals from Labour MP and Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon (who retained his Leeds East seat in the May 2017 Election fact fans). The press accused the band of being Satanic (really it is the 80's all over again) but when your band features songs about sorcery, mythic creatures, warriors and trolls I think Satan is pretty far down on the list. The mainstream press also said the band were inspired by Black Sabbath, well maybe overall but this record is stuffed full of NWOTHM, it's denim leather all over ladies and gents and it's of a high quality.
Tongues planted in their cheeks, the band set out their stall by playing melodic epics that draw from Maiden, Saxon, Dio and bands of that ilk. Galloping basslines, lead harmonies, melodic vocals, progressive tendencies and a slightly goofy D&D style, all make this record. It's this mix of technical precision and joyful heavy metal cliches that can't fail to put a grin on your face. With a new vocalist in tow, Dream Tröll look set to follow up this record, lets hope there are more orcs to slay and more quests to conquer. 8/10