Vuur: In This Moment We Are Free - Cities (InsideOut)
Vuur is the latest band from the enchanting Anneke Van Giersbergen, it's an often proven point that anything she lends her vocals too is usually of the highest quality, be it The Gathering, The Gentle Storm, her solo records and her guest vocals for Devy, Ayreon and many others. Vuur's debut record has been written with Joost van den Broek (Producer/Ex-After Forever) as well as Mark Holcomb (Periphery), Esa Holopainen (Amorphis), Daniel Cardoso (Anathema), the lyrical themes of this debut album "revolves around cities and freedom."
Accompanying her in the band are drummer Ed Warby (Hail Of Bullets, Ayreon, ex-Gorefest), guitarists Jord Otto (My Propane, ex-ReVamp) and Ferry Duijsens along with bassist Johan van Stratum (Stream of Passion). Much like The Gentle Storm project from a few years ago this is at the heavier end, the songs on this record are tough progressive metal in the Devin Townsend attitude of more is more. Each song reflecting the cities they are a tribute to, My Champion - Berlin uses stop start djent style riffs that conjure an industrial battle scarred landscape with a beauty cutting through, Time - Rotterdam have a Gothic overtones to it, Days Go By - London is the most progressive, The Martyr And The Saint - Beirut seeks to unify.
It's glorious stuff and sees this band of supreme musicians playing with all their power. Elsewhere Fire - San Francisco breaks into a thrash middle section as is only right and is one of the heaviest tracks on the record, juxtaposed with the beautiful Freedom - Rio. In This Moment We Are Free is more of a straight up metal record than anything Annie has been involved in before, her lyrical, folksy vocals glide like an angel over the seasoned metal assault, it's an interesting and engaging listen as much as I enjoy Anneke guesting, she always seems to fit in a band situation and her uniqe vocal phrasing always means she is in class of her own. A killer debut from the Dutch metal act. 8/10
Cyhra: Letters To Myself (Spinefarm)
Cyhra are a band formed by ex-Amaranthe vocalist Jake E, ex-In Flames guitarist Jesper Strömblad drummer Alex Landenburg (Rhapsody & Annihilator) as well as bass player Peter Iwers, also of In Flames. With members of In Flames in the band you'd think there would be melodeath battery present even with the clean vocals of Jake E at the forefront but there isn't, this record could be classed as power metal on some of the earlier tracks but as things progress the AOR influences creep in and the record becomes limp.
Tracks like Black Wings have a gothic AOR hook and Inside A Lullaby is stirring piano driven Euro-ballad but much of the record is filler. As I stated at the beginning it starts out heavy and gets much lighter with too many ballads lumped together, the result of which is that I lost interest. It's not what you'd expect from former members of heavy metal acts, still it's not really the style of the music that's the problem (a bit of lighter fayre never hurt anyone). The real crux of my issue is that the songs are poorly written, many would be ok for a local act starting out but with the experience of this band it's all bit too tame and easy. Listen to it if you want to but with the lacklustre songwriting and the heavy sag in the middle, I found once was enough. 6/10
The Radio Sun: Untouchable (Pride & Joy Music)
Another month another The Radio Sun record, this Aussie band seem to have an almost endless mine of AOR rocking to spare, every album is slickly produces and filled with sun worshipping anthems of love and having a damn good time. All of their records are packed with feel good anthems that in these cold winter days give you that warm feeling of the height of summer. Dreams That Last Forever has big Queen harmonies, We'll Set The Night On Fire rocks with working man strut while Heaven On Earth, You've Got The Touch and Tonight's The Night are punchy rock numbers allowing to Stevie Janevski to once again work some six string magic while Jason Old still has a voice to melt butter with.
The Radio Sun's records are always extremely confident and stick rigidly to the American FM rock formula but when they do it this well you can forgive the likenesses between a few of their songs, there are only so many breezy keyboard passages, lyrics about love and 80's guitar solos in the world and The Radio Sun have pretty much used them all. Still they continue to come back again and again with new material that never fails to bring a sunny disposition. Autograph once told you to turn up the radio, take their advice let The Radio Sun into your life and feel better. 8/10
Wildestarr: Beyond The Rain (Scarlet Records)
The PR compares this three piece to Judas Priest and Queensryche, while that is the style they are aiming for they never really achieve it. This record is bargain basement power/trad metal from former Vicious Rumors guitarist David Starr who has brought in wife London Wilde on vocals unfortunately this is what causes me the most ire about this album, she simply cannot sing, she tries to emulate Rob Halford but comes across as a bad Ralf Scheepers. It meant that I could only get four songs in before having to shut it off. A shame really as it promised so much but delivered little. 4/10