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Friday, 6 June 2014

Reviews: California Breed, Absolva, Outloud

California Breed: S/T (Frontiers)

So what happens when a supergroup implodes? Well they usually go back to their day jobs and the more talented members do better. This seemed to be a problem with Black Country Communion as Joe Bonamassa had a mega successful solo career before the band and indeed still has after and Glenn Hughes is one of the few in rock who can be known as 'The Voice'. So after these two had the age old 'creative differences' off they went with Joey Bones taking Derek Sherinian fleet fingers into his band and Hughes taking is old mucka Bozo's son Jason with him. So what to do? Well they formed another band, this time a power trio, Hughes taking up position with four strings and his velvet tones, Bonham with his four sticks and thunder from the gods and new boy Andrew Watt wielding a six stringer with all the gusto of SRV and Jimi. Watt is sickeningly young and talented and slots right in to the band with the veterans. Make no bones about it this is not a Hughes vanity project, most if not all the tracks were written by the three men in the band. Hughes describes it as 'proper rock' and that it is big, ballsy, riff filled rock that ruled the airwaves in the late 60's and 70's, think Zep, Purple, The Who and The Stones and you'd be on the right track. The album kicks off with four super charged tracks that start things off in good form with rocker The Way, the funk filled Sweet Tea, the trippy Zep-like Chemical Rain and the booty shaking blues of Midnight Oil which has some soul backing vocals from Kirsten Rogers and its on this track where Watt goes for it on the solo front ending the song with a Hendrix style freak out. This leads into the melodic balladry of All Falls Down on which Hughes croons like the master he is. This is killer album and at 13 tracks you get more than your money's worth, this is the amalgamation of Hughes' and Bonham's legacies with a nice nod to the present on it in the presence of Watt who brings a hell of a guitar and indeed a voice to proceedings see Spit You Out on which he sings. So a real rock record indeed and one that could dispel any memories of the Hughes-Bonamassa unpleasantness. 9/10

Absolva: Anthems To The Dead (Rocksector)

British metallers Absolva (formerly Fury UK) return with yet another album filled to the brim with classy British metal that messrs Halford and Dickinson would recognise and approve of. The drums of Martin McNee smash, crash and burst through the speakers driving the rampage along, he is helped by the rumbling bass and roaring backing vocals of Dan Bate and finally the trio is topped off by the virtuoso guitar playing and banshee-like vocals of Chris Appleton. Absolva's first album was metal tour-de-force full of riffs, solos and some great metal songwriting. Absolva have looked to expand on this album with their second and expand they have with Anthems To The Dead having more of the same but also bringing a more aggressive tone to things. Things start off with the thrash riffs of The Devil's Mouth before the rampaging gallop of Victimiser carries on the metal assault and the trifecta is finished with the Maiden-like first single of Never Back Down which features the guitar talents of Saxon's Doug Scarratt and Iced Earth's Luke Appleton, this has the biggest number of guests but it is one of the weaker tracks on the album unless you're a guitar solo fan!! The same cannot be said for the title track which is a rampaging song with a slower chorus. The album continues in strong style from there with nods to thrash, trad and even prog metal but all of it with a virtuosity and keen ear for songwriting as well as knowing nods to their influences. Yes Absolva have created yet another good album full of British metal and as the final one-two of Soul Remains and Silent Sacrifice (a Maiden epic if there ever was one) you have experienced 11 tracks of British metal that reaffirm that we still do it better than most! 8/10

Outloud: Let's Get Serious (AOR Heaven)

Firewind offshoot Outloud return with their third album and they do get better and better, yes it's cheesy, yes it's all been done before but I doubt this kind of AOR/melodic hard rock has ever been performed with as much technical proficiency as it has with Outloud. The band is the brainchild of Bob Katsionis the guitar/keyboard foil for Gus G in Firewind, who shows here why he is no slouch himself bringing some great hard rock riffs that Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt, Reb Beach and even Neal Schon would be proud of. The guitars rock and roll, the solo's soar (with help from Jim Scordilis) the keys are powerful, furious and melodic. The drums are fast & furious with former Nile man George Kollias showing his mettle on the blast beating opener Death Rock! which ploughs onward backed by some big keys from Katsionis just fleshing out the sound. Chandler Mogel's voice is on form as usual moving between the hard rockers and crooning ballads with ease. As for the songs we have I Was So Blind, the Mr Big style A While To Go, the bouncy One More Time, Bury The Knife has a murderous sub text (and screaming vocals from bassist Sverd) the heavy as hell Toy Soldiers (featuring Mike Orlando of Adrenaline Mob) as well as the acoustic ballad It Really Doesn't Matter all show this band's talent and their cover of OMD's Enola Gay adds a new flavour to their sound. Yes this is AOR but with bands like Brother Firetribe and Reckless Love bringing the genre back it is music not to be sniffed at, the musicianship is top notch and the songwriting is strong and despite the familiarities to Journey et al they have enough of their own ideas to stop them from becoming a pastiche. Well done Mr Katsionis yet another great Outloud album! 8/10

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