Steelheart: Through Worlds Of Stardust (Frontiers Records)
Miljenko Matijevic the singer and founder of Steelheart is probably not a name many will be aware of but by rights he should have been the biggest thing in the world, his amazing vocal range and the band's forward thinking sound set them apart from the numerous American 'strip' bands at that time. The band went on a hiatus 1992 after Matijevic was struck in the head by a lighting truss, knocking him to the ground face first and injuring his skull, jaw, nose, and spine, since reforming in 1996 they have been performing and releasing music sporadically each time bringing the right amount of retro and modern styles, in this time Matijevic also lent his vocals to the film Rockstar being Mark Walhberg's singing voice.
More recently they made a return to the Rockingham festival in Nottingham which in turn has led to their newest record released, quite rightly for a band such as this on Frontiers records. Through Worlds Of Stardust sees Steelheart once again bring classic rock riffs in a modern way much like Winger they have embraced the current crop of rockers like Alter Bridge and Haelstorm while also retaining their influences. Stream Line Savings the track that kicks off this record is pairs the hip shaking rocking of Zeppelin with the grungy fuzz of Soundgarden's Spoonman, it's a odd one to start with but as it bleeds into My Dirty Girl we get yet more distorted riffs and a chorus that bring to mind Jane's Addiction, you understand that this is the natural evolution of a bands such as Steelheart.
Matijevic's vocals are still impressive, his range is very hard to imitate and it lifts some of the more middling songs on this record to a higher level. It's great to hear Steelheart still knocking out albums 25 years after their debut, Through Worlds Of Stardust may be a bit too modern sounding for anyone that wants a 90's hair band fix but it to me it's a testament to the bands longevity that they are willing to adapt with the times. 7/10
The Contortionist: Clairvoyant (eOne)
Sometimes a band has to go through numerous reinventions and experimentations to really become themselves, this has been the career trajectory of Indianapolis band who started out as teenagers in the burgeoning djent explosion, their music then was of little interest to me, I'm a classic progger at heart and much of the djent scene leaves me cold. However The Contortionist's last album brought more expressive soundscapes which pricked my ears up and made me take notice, on Clairvoyant they have become the band they have always threatened to be, shimmering guitar lines, huge layered instrumentals, first single Reimagined is a floaty poppy track with killer chorus to it totally throwing you off guard.
If you're expecting 28 string palm muted riffs then this record is one to avoid as for every section that has this (there aren't many), another sweeps in bringing jazzy, jangly guitars, flowing melodious keyboard lines and deft grooving rhythms, The Center exhibits this perfectly Joey Baca and Jordan Eberhardt controlling the tempo as Cameron Maynard and Robby Baca craft complex but never overwhelming riffs. Both Relapse and Return To Earth have an ear to the mainstream with a lighter more gossamer aesthetic really settling in, those that love the band's more aggressive early years will probably not warm to the 8 minute expressive journey that Monochrome (Pensive) takes you on. The Contortionist come of age on this record, they have always threatened to take a shot at the big boys and now they are ready to take the throne as their own. 9/10
Contrive: Slow Dissolve (Self Released)
Melbourne thrash metal band Contrive are made up of bassist Tim Stahlmann and twin brothers Paul (vocals, guitars) and Andrew Haug (drums). Contrive have a knack of playing 80's thrash metal with hardcore beatdowns a style that has seen them compared favourably to Sepultura. They certainly have the stomp of the Brazilian band Connect-dead could come off the Chaos AD record with the shouted vocals and stomping riff. This is the bands 3rd record and it sees them running over the same old ground with 8 abrasive hardcore thrash tracks driven by distorted riffs and Paul's rough hardcore vocal. Yes at times they do flesh it out with a synth or an industrial tinge that takes them into Fear Factory territory (Your Owned) but as soon as the vocals kick in it all starts to sound alike. I'm not to enamoured with this record, for those who love a good pit Slow Dissolve will be a frenzy of inciting riffs but other than that I just find it a bit too simplistic and repetitive for my taste. 6/10
Midnight Sin: One Last Ride (Scarlet Records)
Motley Crue, Poison and Ratt are clearly the reason why Midnight Sin exist, unfortunately they are more pale imitation than successful homage. One Last Ride is their second album and it's just not very good, none of the songs really stick with you they try to be sleazy and dangerous without the shock factor of Steel Panther or the sex factor of Reckless Love. Songs such as Land Of The Freak, Send Me A Light (which tries to be Cinderella) and Never Say Never are just a bit safe. If you still use a can of hairspray a day and still dress in leather and fishnet then I'd say indulge in some Midnight Sin, however everyone else should just sleep through it. 5/10