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Friday 19 March 2021

Reviews: Black Diamonds, Gary Hughes, Issa, Hevilan (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Black Diamonds - No-Tell Hotel (Metalapolis)

I've always been under the impression that the glam/sleaze rock sound that was born out of the Sunset Strip in LA never actually died out, it just moved Eastward. By that I don't mean it settled in New York, no I mean Eastward towards Europe, bands such as Treat, H.E.A.T, Eclipse, Crazy Lixx, Reckless Love all having that bandana wearing, smokey eyed, neon hard rock sound, their albums full of driving anthems, drinking anthems and odes to love. Black Diamonds are yet another band that looks West for their influence. Fourth album No-Tell Hotel is fit to bursting with sunny solos, bouncy riffs and sing along choruses the band sounding like a merger of Motley Crue, Poison and Def Leppard. 

It's their first album with new guitarist Chris Johnson who adds his own flair to the songs. Yes the songs, slightly conceptual the album revolves around the guests at the titular hotel, there's a decent balance between pumping rockers and ballads such as Anytime, which sounds like a Mutt Lange special with those backing vocals. No-Tell Hotel is the sort of album made for cruising in an open top sports car, Aviators on and this blaring out of your freshly installed compact disc player. It ain't gonna change the world but it'll make you wish for sunny weather and good times with your friends. Optimism overload! 7/10

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 - Symphony Of Good & Evil (Brutal Records)

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. 

The album deals with the battle between good and evil, in this case God & The Devil, with lots of religious lyrics used throughout though not as overtly as bands like Stryper where it's about praise, here it's about the darker tales of good vs evil, the mood enhanced by the energetic, at times thrashy riffs of Moraes, virtuoso bassist Biek Yohaitus, who adds flourishes on songs such as Great Battle and Here I Am. The propellant as it were, is new sticksman Rafael Dyszy who is explosive behind the kit but also can turn his hand to the more melodic sounds such as on the four part title track suite that closes the record. While they may be legendary in Brazil, possibly South America, Symphony Of Good & Evil is probably the album that will expose them to a wider heavy metal audience, good job it's a winner then. 7/10

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