Pop Evil: Pop Evil (eOne)
Pop Evil's third album Onyx was the record that launched this Michigan, blending the grungy earnest of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam with the flashier touches of Motley Crue and the glam rock bands, Pop Evil have adapted their sound in the years following the Onyx cycle, Up brought more variety and with fifth album they have dealt with line up changes before hand which has led to this self titled release. Now a self titled album is usually a sign of a band trying a rebirth and Pop Evil kick it off with two big heavy hitters Walking Lions has a crunchy riff and a big radio chorus but Colours Bleed brings some rapid rap metal vocals, never afraid to use a sample as they do Ex Machina.
I'm struggling a little at this point as there seems to be a lot of Nu-Metal influences coming in especially on Art Of War which is trying to RATM and I don't think it's a style I enjoy Pop Evil branching into, on Onyx and UP their previous albums they were a band that courted the mainstream but didn't sacrifice their rock roots, here they seem to be trying to focus their sound on the Imagine Dragons and X Ambassadors crowd. Do I like Pop Evil? Not really but then maybe I'm not supposed to, the only song I thought were pretty good was God's Dam the rest of it though I can take it or leave it. 6/10
Kris Barras: Divine & Dirty (Provogue)
Devonshire bluesman Kris Barras has had a rather different path to music than others, inspired by his father, Gary Moore and Jimi Hendrix he performed on stages from a young age but as he grew more disillusioned with the music industry he indulged more in his other skill Mixed Martial Arts (14-3 record folks), having competed all over the world the lure of the blues was too much and now Barras is once again slinging a guitar. Divine & Dirty is his second record and his first for world class blues rock label Provogue part of the Mascot Label Group and home to Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Walter Trout, Eric Gale and more, with such good company around him his second record is a case of put up or shut up and this axe slinging cage warrior doesn't pull punches.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a rollicking creole good time, Lovers or Losers is a stomper with with a piano pounding and dirty slide and it collects the main styles that come through on this record which is a mix of classic blues rock, Southern rock and Planet Rock listener seducing hard rock (Blood On Your Hands), a song such as She's More Than Enough blends all three into a Dixie-fried piece with a big sing-along chorus, while Hail Mary could have easily come from a Black Stone Cherry record. The record races with only the torch song of Hold On For Tomorrow slowing the stride along with final track Watching Over Me which has Gary Moore's influence writ large.
It also here that it's probably worth mentioning Barras' excellent hard rock vocal, a talent only matched by his six stringing prowess. In the future Divine & Dirty will be seen as the touchpoint for Kris Barras' career, a slick blues record firmly in the new school. Kris is on tour in late March and early April so get down to your nearest show to see him before he's moving on to bigger venues soon. 8/10
Animal Drive: Bite! (Frontiers Records)
Fresh out of Zagreb Animal Drive are the second Croatian band to be featured in these pages in as many months. Calling themselves a progressive rock band I'd say they are more heavy rock much like Jorn or early Rainbow. Formed by singer/multi instrumentalist Dino Jelusic, who was chosen as a featured vocalist of Trans Siberian Orchestra by the late Paul O'Neil, his rough and ready vocal has a touch of Dio and quite a lot of the Norwegian singer they call The Duke (Jorn Lande).
With the metallic muscle of Skid Row and the hard rock strut of Whitesnake Bite! sinks its teeth into you like Great White shark, you can struggle and exclaim that you've heard it all before, but as the album goes through the motions you can't help but nod your head and pump your fist, it's not world changing but it is catchy rock with a bit of pomp. The only issue I have with the record is that it like numerous bands that draw heavily on the more AOR style of hard rock, it has a few too many ballads and mid-paced rockers but when they unleash some fury Bite! sinks its teeth into you with tough dirty riffs and big chorus hooks. 7/10
Bob Katsionis: Prognosis & Synopsis (Symmetric Records)
A solo album in the literal sense the fifth album by Firewind/Outloud & Serious Black multi-instrumentalist, producer, video director and composer Bob Katsionis. The record is a retrospective look at where he has been (synopsis) and where he is going with his music (prognosis), pitched somewhere between Vangelis (obviously), Jean Michel Jarre, John Pertucci, Jens Johanasson and Keith Emerson this is cinematic instrumental music with virtuoso keys and guitars you get solos galore from both on Aegean Sunset and Tomorrow Starts Today, a bit of dark electronica on Dark Matter and some acoustic laced metal on Secret Of The Nomads.
There's fat riffs on Asymmetric Parallels however The Messenger and futuristic Prognosis are both very Vangelis and pulsating power metal on Cold Embrace. Bob is an immensely talented individual and on this fifth album he draws upon his wealth of experience in his own bands and collaborating with others to bring this album to life as something more than an instrumental solo compilation, you almost forget that it's instrumental as the songs are well crafted and bleed well into each other resulting in the excellent Synopsis to round the album in true Keith Emerson style. 7/10