Planet Of Zeus: Loyal To The Pack (ihaveadrum)
Greek metal has a bit of an obsession with the stoner scene, some of the country's biggest bands appeal to the beer drinking, bong hitting, beard wearing members of the metal audience. Planet Of Zeus have been doing their thing for 16 years sharing the stage with Hermano and Brant Bjork, Monster Magnet, Karma To Burn, Eyehategod, Church Of Misery and more recently Clutch on their European tour. The band have a hardcore following in their native country and with luck this will extend outside of Greece, due to the high profile support and indeed their own headline UK tour at the end of the year and of course it will be bolstered by this their fourth album, Loyal To The Pack which once again is heavy slice of Southern Stoner rock but one that sees the band shake things up a bit, the record sounds more complete than previous efforts adding some melody to the oppressive riff assault the band usually favour.
Much of this more melodic sound is driven by frontman Babis focusing more on his cleaner delivery rather than the growls he has used in the past although these still crop up on the rallying cry of Scum Alive. This new dynamic sound means that Loyal To The Pack is the bands best and most varied album so far. Opening up with the title track that grabs you around the collar with the immediacy of the riffs and the off-kilter southern sound, it's a strong first song that is followed by the Clutch-like Devil Calls My Name which has the sound Neil Fallon and Co have made their own. Babis' vocals are very good his roar is still powerful but it's his clean vocal that's a revelation, he has and American tinge to it that helps on the Southern rocking Them Nights and the atmospheric Retreat and the attitude filled Makes Me Want To Hurt Myself which also has nod to Volbeat with Babis and Stellios cranking out riff after riff. Then the lighter side of returns on Sea Bastards and is blown away by White Shroud which has one of the records best swaggering riff. As I said Loyal To The Pack is Planet Of Zeus' most accomplished record to date and I'm a little annoyed I've got to wait until November to see them kill it live! 8/10
Chris Ousey: Dream Machine (Escape Music)
Chris Ousey is probably best known as the the vocalist of Heartland and Snakecharmer, his smooth hard rock vocals have always been perfect for the melodic rock spectrum his soulful and passionate vocal delivery is one of the best in the UK. Dream Machine is his newest solo album and he has teamed up AOR guitarist supreme Tommy Denander who has famous played with numerous AOR projects since the 1980's. He and Ousey write all of the songs on this record and you can hear the quality in the song-writing this is hard rocking melodic music with Ousey's perfect rock voice matching in synchronicity with the fleet fingered virtuoso guitar playing of Deander, who also adds keys and plays all the rhythm guitar tracks allowing Chris Green show his six string prowess.
The opening three songs on the record set the tone for the rest of it, from the harder edged This Is The Life has very Deep Purple vibe to it due to the driving riff and the heavy organs from Snakecharmer bandmate Adam Wakeman, Another Runaway is more melodic number bringing the Journey style repeating synth and a big sing along chorus, a theme that carries on for the next few. Gone Long Gone has Whitesnake sound to it with a big chorus that Coverdale would be proud of, this surely is Ousey's application for when David retires next year and it's followed by the driving Better Time To Come which ramps the album back up again leading into the swaggering Eager To Please a track that you can practically feel the leather trousers and lust.
Dream Machine is a melodic rock album with more of an emphasis on the rock, so if you always felt the AOR scene was a little lightweight & laughable then this album will be right up your street it's wedged right in the 80's glory days with double tapped guitar solos, songs about ladies, cars (the title track) and rocking out it's a fabulous celebration of rock music from the first moment. Yes there is oodles of cheese on the record, that's a given, but the songs speak for themselves every single one is prime quality melodic rock. Filled with catchy hook filled writing, impressive musicianship and Ousey's spectacular vocals, demonstrating why they quite rightly give him the nickname "The Man With The Golden Voice". If you love classy, melodic tinged hard rock sung with passion then Dream Machine will be for you, it's quite frankly one of the best melodic rock releases of the year! 9/10
Lonewolf: The Heathen Dawn (Napalm)
I really wanted to like the latest album by speed/heavy metallers Lonewolf and musically I do, it's galloping, chest beating metal that reminds me of Manowar with the toughness of Amon Amarth added to it, the drums rampage at full speed with Bubu Brunner doing what he does best on Rise To Victory while the guitars slice and dice with lightspeed riffs and intricate widdly leads and solos, this is proper power metal that usually would get my engine running however there is a problem with the French metal troop. I just don't like the singer's voice it's too reminiscent of Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl for my liking, I'm always ready to welcome grizzled vocals with power metal as I know it's not all high shrieks and glass shattering but I can't warm to the vocals at all, songs like When The Angels Fall are the best evidence for this as when he tries to go into a higher register it falls painfully flat, he's not a bad vocalist and fans of Grave Digger or Grim Reaper will love them but personally they don't do anything for me at all. Still musically the band are a competent experienced prospect and they do write powerful trad metal but I just can't past the vocals. 5/10