Vega: Only Human (Frontiers Records)
Melodic hard rock is a genre not showing any signs of slowing down thanks to quality releases from Frontier Records and one band that is leading the way are British rockers Vega and with the release of their fifth album Only Human they should definitely be receiving a lot more attention as this album is utterly fantastic.
Vega play a style which is a mix of 80's and contemporary hard rock. It's a style used by many current hard rock bands but what Vega have in their arsenal is sheer songwriting skill. There is not a dull moment on the album with banging tune after banging tune all with a euphoric spirit and bags of positive energy. This is definitely a feel good album for a warm summers day. Songs which I found to be particular earworms were Worth Fighting For, Last Man Standing, Mess You Made and the majestic title track.
I'm not the biggest melodic hard rock or AOR fan with my tastes generally leaning towards the heavier side of things but sometimes you need an album which is guaranteed to put you in a good mood and bring a smile to your face which this album achieves wholeheartedly. This album comes highly recommended to hard rock fans everywhere. 9/10
Hell's Gazelles: Take Your Medicine EP (Self Released)
Having supported acts like Black Moth, The Treatment, Desert Storm along with playing Bloodstock Open Air and HRH Roadtrip Hell's Gazelles have been carving up the stages across the country (and Ibiza) with their hard hitting heavy rock. Hailing from the melting pot of Oxford their rock music has an edge to it, you can probably hear it on Planet Rock but that's only half the story, they have fuzzier heavy blues riffs, some alt rock touches and the ear splitting vocals of Cole Bryant who screams his lung out on Stone Cold.
According to Cole this EP deals with "mental health, faith, faithlessness, and disillusionment, both in politics, and in our own personal experience of life" painful words against a punchy rhythms instil this record with a feeling of being a bit special. On the title track there is the fist pumping urgency of Wayward Sons as the surging rhythm section and free guitar playing all make it the best track on the EP, that is until the bluesy She Devil which closes things out with a fat dirty riff, just what you'd want. At just five tracks i's a snippet of Hell's Gazelles but you can take away from it that this band have some serious chops and they will be hitting a stage near you soon. 7/10
Praying Mantis: Gravity (Frontiers Records)
British AOR veterans Praying Mantis are back with their tenth album in their lengthy careers. Following on from the well received Legacy album in 2015 the same line up has gathered to write and record this new album Gravity.
Ever since their origins and debut album Time Tells No Lies back in 1981 Praying Mantis have always had a balance between the harder NWOBHM sound and a softer AOR sound. With the new album the sound is definitely leaning towards the softer end of things although unlike many other AOR bands they manage to keep the ballads to a minimum. Despite a generally softer sound the songwriting on display is great indeed with some absolutely killer, uplifting AOR anthems such as Keep It Alive, Time Can Heal and Destiny In Motion.
Gravity isn't a groundbreaking release by any means but it's a very solid effort with some great songs showcasing AOR for the 21st century. This probably won't win the genre any new fans but should definitely please followers of the band. 7/10
Head With Wings: From Worry To Shame (Self Released)
From Worry To Shame is the debut album from American progressive rock band Head With Wings. Head With Wings are from the new school of progressive music alongside bands such as Periphery, Animals As Leaders and TesseracT. Whilst I'm very fond of a few bands who fall into this new progressive grouping I found From Worry To Shame to be a very dull and unengaging album.
The music on From Worry To Shame is mostly on the light side and written to be very emotionally charged. There are bursts of heaviness throughout the album which I found to be the most enjoyable moments as well as the impressive guitar solos throughout. Despite being emotionally charged I found these songs just left me cold probably not helped by the irritatingly whiny vocals of frontman Joshua Corum.
From Worry To Shame is a very well produced and performed album but the music throughout just didn't do anything for me. Maybe it's something I need to be in a certain mood for or maybe it's just not for me. 4/10