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Friday 11 December 2020

Reviews: Palace, Hollywood Undead, Vanden Plas, Eyes Of Tomorrow (Reviews By Rich & Liam)

Palace: Rock And Roll Radio (Frontiers Music Srl) [Rich Oliver]

Despite being a fan of all things violent and aggressive I do have a massive soft spot for things on the very cheesy side of things with power metal and AOR regularly making their way onto my playlist.  When it comes to top quality AOR then Frontiers Records is the place to seek it and one of their best artists has to be Palace. Palace is the solo project of Swedish multi instrumentalist Michael Palace with Rock And Roll Radio being the third album from the melodic hard rock project. I thoroughly enjoyed the previous album Binary Music describing it as “a very fun enjoyable album” and that can certainly be said of Rock And Roll Music which takes the winning elements from the previous albums and expands on them.  The 80’s influence is amplified if anything with 12 songs laden with glorious retro keyboards, slick guitar work and hooks that bore themselves into your brain. 

The influence of artists such as Stan Bush, Vince DiCola, Survivor, Journey and Def Leppard is ever looming and whilst this album may be nothing more than a convincing homage to 80’s AOR it is a damn fucking good homage and very much captures the spirit and feeling of that era.  Just listen to songs such as CastawayCold OnesEleonora and She’s So Original and you are immediately cruising down the highway in an open top car in 1986. The songwriting is on point throughout the album as are the performances. Apart from a very small handful of guest spots all vocals and instruments are handled by Michael Palace himself as well as fully producing, mixing and mastering the album. Rock And Roll Radio is a fabulous AOR album. It certainly won’t appeal to people who already don’t like this style of music but melodic hard rock fans should definitely be giving this a spin as it is a prime example of how good AOR can be when it is done well.  After the shitshow of 2020 we could do with some feel-good music and Palace deliver that in spadefuls. 8/10

Hollywood Undead: New Empire Vol. 2 (BMG/Dove & Grenade Media) [Liam True]

The American Rap Rockers have already released New Empire Vol. 1 to much praise from fans and critics alike. But now as Vol. 2 cruises into our radar they’ve truly defined themselves as a band with the new direction they’re taking. With a more pop and synth elements on their new album they break down any barriers that people may have had about them. The guitar tones mixed multi-instrumentalists of J-Dog, Danny & Charlie Scene provide an epic backdrop to the band as they open with the catchy Medicate. Moving Into Comin’ Thru The Stereo which features fellow Rock Rap star Hyro The Hero, they utilise both of their vocal capabilities perfectly to perform yet another catchy song. Ghost Out & Monsters flow immaculately as Killstation gives a helping hand on the latter song.

Coming Home & Worth It are as catchy as you’d expect from the album so far provided by the band and their entourage of guests. Final song Heart Of A Champion which features Jacoby Shaddix of Pap Roach & Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills end on a perfect note, sending the album off without a hitch. Between releasing an album already this year you’d think that the creative juices would have ran out for the band, but in fact it’s made them more hungry and more creative and free to explore more roots to go down in the future. Still, the albums is still in touch with their original Rap Rock roots, but the pop sounding experimentations they use blend perfectly creating one of Hollywood Undead’s best albums yet. 9/10

Vanden Plas: The Ghost Xperiment: Illumination (Frontiers Records) [Rich Oliver]

The Ghost Xperiment - Illumination is the tenth album from German progressive power metal band Vanden Plas and the second part in their The Ghost Xperiment concept album series with the first and previous instalment The Ghost Xperiment - Awakening being released last year. It is a progressive metal take on a ghost story and whilst the album does have a narrative it is the music I find myself most focused on. Vanden Plas have been releasing melodic and progressive metal for many many years and have not really had much in stylistic changes and this album continues with the sound that has served them well for decades. It is progressive metal very much in the school of bands such as Dream Theater and Threshold. You get a mix of songs ranging from a middling length to long prog epics. The shorter and more compact songs are the most effective with the opening duo of When The Wall Is Falling Down and Under The Horizon proving to be the better moments on the album whilst the longest and most epic song on the album The Ouroboros justifies its 13 minute duration with plenty of interesting ideas and many twists and turns. 

The album does have a lull at around its midpoint with songs such as Black Waltz Death, The Lonely Psychogon and Fatal Arcadia being just that bit too overlong for their own good. Long songs are usually part of the package when it comes to prog but these songs just don’t have enough about them to justify their song lengths although there are certainly moments with some great guitar solos from Stephan Lill and some nifty keyboard work from G√ľnter Werno. Vocalist and primary songwriter Andy Kuntz has a vocal style that serves this progressive power genre well but his nasally sounding vocals whilst serviceable aren’t the best the prog metal genre has to offer. This second album from The Ghost Xperiment series is another fairly solid Vanden Plas album. It doesn’t hit the heights of previous albums Christ-0 and The Seraphic Clockwork but it is an enjoyable album of melodic progressive metal. It won’t blow any minds but follows in a line of solid and dependable if rather safe sounding albums from this German band. 6/10

Eyes Of Tomorrow: Settle For More (Swell Creek Records) [Liam True]

The bands which loomed large in the musical socialization of Eyes Of Tomorrow should be clearly recognisable to all those who are not unfamiliar with the Cro-Mags. The Ruhrpott squad, named after the same-titled song of the HC veterans, devoted their heart, brain and mind to old-school Hardcore. No nonsense, no beating around the bush, just straight in the face in tradition of Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All or Madball. And Settle for More shows how much they live and breathe Hardcore. Taking influences from the early bands to the newest era they pull no punches and provide an enjoyable 11 track album that clocks in at only 24 minutes. With the average track just under 2 minutes a piece, they pack in plenty of riffs, call outs and heavy does of Hardcore layered destruction. 

From the slow burn opener of Gone For Good, to the erratic head-banging title track to the ender Things We Need the album is non stop in your face old-fashioned Hardcore. The thing that makes this album stand out from other records is how slow it may seem in some songs, as it does sound more melodic and slower paced, but then that makes the faster tracks seem like they’re going at 200MPH which is a game changer. The album sounds great and the songs are the sound that we need at this time. But I don’t know why I feel like it’s missing something, and I can’t but my finger on it. Maybe because it’s a tad slower it’s throwing me off, but as good as it is, it could be better. They’re no Hatebreed, but they have the foundations set for it. 7/10

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