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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Reviews: Ritchie Blackmore, In Flames, Blazon Stone (Reviews By Paul)

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow: Memories In Rock: Live in Germany 2016 (Eagle Rock)

When the man in black announced he was returning to his rock roots for three dates in June this year, it was unsurprising that tickets shifted quickly. After all, this was Ritchie Blackmore, formerly of the parish of Deep Purple and Rainbow, two legendary bands in the history of rock.

Recorded at the two German dates that the band played, Memories In Rock is a memento for those who were quick enough to get tickets. It’s a high-quality recording of a guitarist who can still cut it with the best, whose legendary status is assured and who clearly does what he wants. And why the fuck not? However, despite the best efforts of Lords Of The Black frontman Ronnie Romero, it’s the vocals that are the Achilles heel on this release. That’s not Romero’s fault. He’s just singing songs which were originally performed by Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner. Some of the greatest rock vocalists of all time.

Opening with the classic Over The Rainbow the band launch into the first of six Deep Purple songs, the always blistering Highway Star. The band are tight, the rhythm section of bassist Bob Nouveau and drummer David Keith providing the platform for Blackmore to remind everyone just how bloody good he still is. All the tracks remain true to their original format with the keyboards of Jens Johanssen superb, bringing the sounds of the late Jon Lord and Don Airey back to life again. Blackmore’s duels with Johanssen a highlight of this release.

The set list is a real greatest hits package, with the odd curved ball. Spotlight Kid for example is not one of the more well-known Rainbow songs but it gets an outing here although Romero struggles with it somewhat. As the set progresses, the surprise is really the amount of Purple songs that feature. Given that Deep Purple are regularly touring, the crowd may well have expected to hear more Rainbow. Thankfully, only one Bonnet era song is here, the classic Since You’ve Been Gone with the set heavily focused on the Dio era, including a magnificent Stargazer and 16th Century Green Sleeves. Numerous medleys also feature, occasionally bloated and over indulgent but at times brilliant; a fantastic segue into Beethoven’s Ninth during Difficult To Cure case in point.

The problem with many live albums is that they rarely capture the full flavour of the event. The crowd response isn’t an issue on this album with the German crowds in Loreley and Bissingen enthusiastic from the start. However, given the classic rock crowd that this would have pulled in the UK, I’m happy to listen to it on CD in the comfort of my own home. If you were there I’m sure it is magical. However, as the recording ends on Black Night and Smoke On The Water, I’m left wondering where’s my copy of Made In Japan? 7/10

In Flames: Battle (Nuclear Blast)

Alongside Dark Tranquility and At The Gates, In Flames are considered originators of the “Gothenburg Sound” which merged mainstream metal with the heavier elements of death metal. Battle is their 12th studio release and follows on from 2014’s Siren Charms. It opens well with Drained and The End both characteristic of their usual sound, dual guitars, the combination of growling and clean vocals from Anders Friden and harmonies on the chorus.

My problem with In Flames is that their sound remains instantly identifiable but totally unremarkable, release after releases. If you are not a devotee of the band, then In Flames are of limited interest. Technically Battle is excellent, with the use of keyboards and programming extending their moves into the “alternative metal” sound (whatever the hell that is). The Gothic tinged atmosphere adds an edge to Wallflower and Save Me and anthems like The Truth are solid. It’s by no means a bad album. Just a bit more of the same from a band that are one of the dullest I’ve ever seen live. 6/10

Blazon Stone: War Of The Roses (Stormspell Records)

War Of The Roses is the third release from Blazon Stone, side project of Cederick Forsberg, a multi-instrumentalist from Sweden. Named after the 6th album by Running Wild, War Of The Roses is a quality power/speed metal release full of tales from history and war. Forsberg plays the guitar, bass and drums on this and the two previous releases whilst [brother?] Erik provides some timeless power metal vocals and new keyboardist Jan adds some layers to provide breadth and depth. It’s very good power metal with a heavy feel. Tracks like Black Dawn Of The Crossroads and Lusitania really gallop along in traditional style. Forsberg’s playing is exceptional, with the instrumental Welcome To The Village allowing him to cut loose with some prominent Iron Maiden style guitar interplay. 8/10

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