Shiraz Lane: Carnival Days (Frontiers Records)
I have seen Shiraz Lane live before supporting Brother Firetribe and they were utterly fantastic but their new album Carnival Days is my first experience of their recorded material. Finland is a hot spot for producing great hard rock bands with Shiraz Lane being no exception and Carnival Days is a fine album showcasing the talents of this young band. The band clearly take influence and inspiration from the hard rock and hair metal bands of the 1980’s though Carnival Days is far from a nostalgia trip adding in other influences which make this a fantastic contemporary sounding hard rock album.
From the jazziness of the opening title track to the saxophone throughout Gotta Be Real and the reggae break in Reincarnation the band have definitely decided not to play it safe and release a bog standard 1980’s tribute album. It also helps that the songs throughout the album are damn catchy with tunes such as Tidal Wave and War Of Mine proving to be irresistible earworms. The only letdown are the ballads which seem very by the numbers for a rock ballad. Shiraz Lane have released a fine album in Carnival Days which should be on the playlist of any self respecting hard rock fan. 8/10
El Camino: Cursed Congregation (Night Tripper Records)
Another leftover from 2017, Cursed Congregation is the third album from Swedish band El Camino. This was my first exposure to the band and on Cursed Congregation the band perform a very blackened style of doom metal. You have hints of Black Sabbath and other classic doom metal bands mixed with the darkness of black metal creating a sound that is evil and foreboding. Unfortunately though it is a sound that is far from interesting with the vast majority of the album sounding identical throughout with virtually no variation between the songs.
Everything is the same pace throughout leading to a rather tedious listening experience. There were one or two songs which stood out above the rest such as the title track which has a certain degree of catchiness absent from the rest of the album. Although very well performed throughout Cursed Congregation just simply failed to hold my interest which is very disappointing as I am a big fan of both black metal and doom metal. It’s not an awful album just a very unengaging and uninspired one.5/10
Signal Red: Under The Radar (Escape Music)
Under The Radar is the debut album from Signal Red which is the musical pairing of Lee Small (of Shy and Lionheart) and Steve Grocott (of Ten). With their skills combined they have produced a fantastic album of melodic hard rock. The sound is very much rooted in 80’s hard rock and AOR but also takes a few cues from 80’s heavy metal especially in some of Steve Grocott’s riffs. Lee Small is an absolute monster of a vocalist with his voice truly escalating many of the songs on the album turning them into pure earworms.
Songs such as Defiant, Stronger, Monster Truck and Pyramids Of Mars are an absolute masterclass in melodic hard rock and are guaranteed to have your foot tapping and a smile on your face. Even a song such as Emotions In Motion which would normally be seen as the token ballad is given a whole leash of life thanks to Lee’s vocals. This album doesn’t stray from tried and tested and doesn’t break the mould when it comes to melodic hard rock but it’s such a good album that this can’t be seen as a bad thing. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Even with a running length of 55 minutes the album doesn’t run out of steam and is thoroughly engaging and enjoyable throughout. Let’s hope for further collaborations between Lee Small and Steve Grocott in the future. 8/10