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Wednesday 23 November 2022

Reviews: Arc Of Life, Enemy Eyes, Autograph, Rising Steel (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Arc Of Life - Don't Look Down (Frontiers Music Srl)

If you hadn't heard Arc Of Life's debut album or didn't know anything about them you'd be able to guess what they play purely by the membership. Featuring two official members of Yes in vocalist Jon Davidson and bassist/vocalist Billy Sherwood, along with Yes live drummer (also member of Asia Featuring John Payne/Dukes Of The Orient/GPS) Jay Schellen, former Yes guitar collaborator Jimmy Haun (Air Supply/Circa) and prog rock keyboard player extraordinary Dave Kerzner (Sound Of Contact), it's a pretty safe bet that Don't Look Down is going to be bursting with melodic prog rock. 

What's also as obvious as corruption in FIFA is that Yes is going to be a pretty big influence, however it's not the only influence luckily as there are so many offshoots of that band that sound the same, it would be redundant to start another. That being said the crux of this sophomore album, like the debut before it is taken from Yes and Asia, the AOR roots of their label Frontiers showing through as Kerzner's kaleidoscopic synth playing easily blends with Haun’s fluid guitar lines and Sherwood’s lead bass, which like in Yes is high in the mix, giving the groove to the sweet melodies. 

At just 6 tracks long, closing with the 17 minute Arc Of Life, the grandiose sound of the debut has been adapted here to add some more technicality and experimental. Still with Schellen’s expansive drum work and Davidson’s falsetto vocals, if you don’t like Yes you won’t like Don’t Look Down, it’s that simple. Luckily I do like Yes and their offshoots so Arc Of Life appeal to my ears. 8/10

Enemy Eyes – History’s Hands (Frontiers Music Srl)

At this point in his career Johnny Gioeli can pretty much do what he wants. He found success with 80's melodic rockers Hardline before joining guitarist Axel Rudi Pell as singer, before reactivating Hardline, who are also on Frontiers. As well as this he is also the singer of Crush 40 a band massive in Japan due to their contributions to the Sonic soundtracks. 

He has somewhat of a Midas touch when it comes to bands and projects so for his 100th release he wanted to do something that was very personal to him. Enemy Eyes is a band where Gioeli can merge his passion for European metal combining acts he grew up with like Dio, Rainbow, Maiden etc with his background of hard rock bands such as Hardline, who's debut album famously featured Neal Schon of Journey, thankfully Gioeli has yet to be sued! This vision means that History's Hands is a record that encapsulates everything Gioeli has been a part of over 99 previous records and 30+ years in the game. 

The focal point are those rough and soulful pipes of Gioeli but the band behind him aren't amateurs in fact keyboardist/bassist/producer/songwriter Alessandro Del Vecchio (yep him again), is the key musical figure on these melodic metal outings with Marcos Rodrigues on guitar and Fabio Alessandrini on drums Enemy Eyes strives to be different from his other bands and manages to convince due to the strength of the songwriting and performances. 

The title track is heavy, while Peace And Glory is speedy, it's tracks such as Preying On Your Weakness and What You Say both have lots of symphonic sections, What I Believe the albums one major ballad. Johnny Gioeli has done what he set out to on History's Hands, melodic metal at it's slickest. 8/10

Autograph - Beyond (Frontiers Music Srl)

"Turn up...the radio!" If like me you played a lot of video games in your youth then you will have definitely heard Autograph's big 80's hit while cruising the streets of Vice City. A staple of American radio rock in the 80's Autograph were disbanded by 1989, retrospectively gaining respect as the band that featured Steve Lynch the innovator of the two-handed tapping technique popularised by Eddie Van Halen. 

Lumped in with other "one hit wonders" Autograph had a decent catalogue of music in their 80's heyday and also since 2011 when Lynch and co-founding member Randy Rand met up and decided to get the band back together. What came next was singer Simon Daniels and drummer Marc Wieland this version of the band having recorded another two records before Beyond

In Jan 2022 they signed to Frontiers this album already underway with completion in April, however a few days after Rand passed away, his instructions were to release the album no matter what do in November 2022 Beyond is the last recorded work of Randy Rand and it's an archetypal example of the heavier, bluesier band Autograph have been since 2011. 

Now featuring House Of Lords man Jimi Bell on guitar, it looks as if Autograph will continue and good thing too as Beyond is a record that is packed with glam/melodic rock that will hopefully bring them a younger, newer audience. Turn up your radio and play it loud. 7/10

Rising Steel – Beyond The Gates Of Hell (Frontiers Music Srl)
French metal firebrands Rising Steel return with their third album Beyond The Gates Of Hell. Now with that title it’s either fist pumping classic metal or black metal, turns out that it’s the former as this French band play a trad metal that takes as much from the Teutonic scene as it does the thrash style. 

Imagine Accept jamming with Mercyful Fate in the Bay Area circa 1983 and you’ll be on the right track. Emmanuelson’s histrionic vocals are styled like King Diamond or Warrel Dane while every tracks features some crunchy, distorted riffs and lots of twin axe attack. Beyond The Gates Of Hell is their second album on Frontiers and it continues their exposure to a wider audience, with another 40 or so minutes of rampaging heavy metal.

Tracks such as From Darkness shredding away at speed as Life Awaits brings a bit of gloom as Death Of A Vampire and Infinite Pain adds some of the horror themes of American’s Helstar along with some Nevermore dramatism. Much like fellow Grenoble band Nightmare, Rising Steel have brought the NWOBHM style some thrash/speed metal aggression, and on Beyond The Gates Of Hell they are guaranteed to wins new fans. 7/10

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