I’ve always skirted around STP. Core was an undisputed classic, but Scott Weiland always got on my nerves, with his tragic demise sad yet inevitable. The band soldiered on with Chester Bennington but released no new material and with Bennington leaving to focus on Linkin Park in 2015, STP kind of disappeared. Having recruited vocalist Jeff Gutt, formerly of Nu-Metal outfit Dry Cell and more widely known as a two-time contestant on X-Factor USA, STP have delivered a rather impressive chunk of hard rock.
With the three original members, Dean Deleo, Robert Deleo and Eric Kretz all in fine form, Gutt adds his own mark on the release, rather than attempting to copy Weiland’s unique style. There are a couple of weak points, such as the ballad The Art Of Letting Go and the melancholic closing track Red & Blues, but overall, it’s just shy of 50 minutes of quality rock in the style that made STP such a legendary outfit in the 1990s with Dean Deleo’s guitar work particularly inspiring. 7/10
FM: Atomic Generation (Frontiers Records)
Few bands can match the smooth polished finish of FM when it comes to melodic rock. The UK rockers return with their 10th album, Atomic Generation, 52 minutes of perfect pomp and harmonies. Opener Black Magic and Too Much Of A Good Thing immediately remind you that when it comes to this genre, the band have few challengers. Loaded with light touch keyboards and synths, the high-pitched vocals of Steve Overland superbly backed by the rest of the band’s sweet harmonies and the subtle guitar work of Jim Kirkpatrick.
It’s little wonder that the band, who reformed in 2007 after a 12-year hiatus, are now regarded as legends in the world of AOR. The band mix it up a little without straying too far from their tried and trusted formula. Playing Tricks On Me has more than a passing resemblance to Steve Miller’s Abracadabra whilst the anthemic In It For The Money and Make The Best Of What You’ve Got are just classic tracks. FM hit the road in April, playing the Muni Centre in Pontypridd along the way supported by Wigan’s Bigfoot. If you like your lightweight rock, it should be well worth checking out. 8/10
Grave Lines: Fed Into The Nihilist Engine (New Heavy Sounds)
Opening with a 15-minute song isn’t something that every band can pull off. Grave Lines aren’t ‘every’ band though. From the opening chords of Failed Skin, dripping with atmosphere, gothic reverberation and haunting lyrics and thick, sludgy riffs which consume the listener, this isn’t a cheery album about fairies and ice cream. Oh no. Darkness, misanthropy and despair echo throughout, as the sophomore release from Brighton’s sludge ridden doom lords Grave Lines provides a mighty serving of heft.
Huge, lengthy songs echo Nick Cave, Nine Inch Nails and Neurosis in equal measure, the animosity towards humanity all too visible in Jake Harding’s loath-filled vitriol. Self-Mutilation By Fire And Stone, the massive Silent Salt and The Greae all vomit bile and anger. The harrowing Guilt Regret is chilling and segues into the monstrous closing track Into The Nihilist Engine which closes an album of quite mammoth proportions. 8/10
Dorothy: 28 Days In The Valley (Caroline Records)
Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Dorothy formed in 2014 and this is their second album following on from 2016’s debut Rockisdead. An interesting combination of hard rock, soul, blues and even pop, the focus of the band is the belting voice of Dorothy Martin, which draws comparisons to Grace Slick, Florence Welch and even Patti Smith.
Several tracks are of the highest quality, with touches of the White Stripes, Pearl Jam amongst others and sufficient variety to keep the interest fired. It’s not all fabulous with a couple of tracks weaker than a new born kitten. Overall though, plenty to interest even the most hardened rock fan and massive potential. 7/10