Black Diamonds - No-Tell Hotel (Metalapolis)
Gary Hughes - Waterside (Frontiers Music)
With over 30 years in the music industry fronting rock band Ten Gary Hughes has carved himself a very cult following in hard rock/AOR circles. This new album is his first solo record since Veritas in 2007 and it coincides with the two disc 'best of' Decades. If you have ever listened to Gary Hughes you'll know that he is revered in the melodic rock world, and while he has always broadened his horizons this is his return to AOR/Melodic Rock. Infused with some blues on Lay Down the record has moments of Ten slickness, Gary's soulful vocals instantly recognisable, those husky tones carrying the heavily layered musical backing, The Runaway Damned almost sounding like Neil Diamond while Screaming In The Half Light a torchlight ballad. I said there's a Ten influence, with his co-band members Darrel Treece-Birch (drums/keys) and Dann Rosingana (guitars) playing and co-writing, with David Rosingana (bass) while Karen Fell and Scott Hughes add the backing vocals. Waterside is a reminder of why Hughes has been doing this for 30 years, an excellent vocalist singing anthemic songs with a precision band behind him, Waterside is another killer addition to the Gary Hughes discography. 7/10
Issa - Queen Of Broken Hearts (Frontiers Music)
This is the sixth Issa album! The sixth record is called Queen Of Broken Hearts and if I'm honest it sounds like the previous Issa records. Fronted by the soaring vocals of the projects namesake Issa Oversveen the musical element once again is spearheaded by Alessandro Del Vecchio (keys/producer) and he's again got Simone Mularoni (guitars DGM) on guitar like on the Sunstorm, here the additional band are Andrea ToWer Torricini (bass Vision Divine), Marco Di Salvia (drums Hardline). Now maybe I was a little harsh when I said it sounds like every previous Issa record, as this is sort of the destination those records have been heading too, it's certainly grandiose and epic with shifts between AOR, melodic rock and symphonic rock with ease but doesn't stray from the formula set down on that first album. Queen Of Broken Hearts is the fruition of the Issa journey and it's probably the best of the lot, though only if you're a fan. 6/10
Hevilan are a 'legendary heavy prog symphonic metal band', well perhaps in their native Brazil but I haven't heard a single thing by them. Until now. Symphony Of Good & Evil is their first release on Brutal Records and it's a reasonably good intro into the sound of this São Paulo act. What you have here is heavy, downtuned power metal with a big slap of prog to keep it fresh. Think Symphony X (Alex Pasquale's vocals), Evergrey and even Sanctuary and that's where you'll have your headspace after one track. Muscular riffs come from ex-Warrel Dane guitarist Johnny Moraes, with tracks such as Rebellion Of The Saints have a distinct Nevermore feel.