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Tuesday 24 January 2023

Reviews: Big City, Heroes & Monsters, Issa, TEN (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Big City - Sunwind Sails (Frontiers Music Srl)

Norway's melodic hard rockers Big City return on Frontiers with Sunwind Sails, another record that sits itself between rock and metal with as much owing to Journey (Diamond In The Rough) as it is to Kamelot (After The Raid) or their countrymen Pagan's Mind. Their 2021 album Testify X featured Jørgen Bergersen behind the mic for the first time and he again is the key part of this record, his great vocal style evident on the soaring 80's tinged Now, his voice the ideal foil for Daniel Olaisen, the guitarist and songwriter of the group who comes from a prog metal background, (explaining why Silver Line feels like prog meta). 

Switching between virtuoso neoclassicism to acoustics as Olaisen's rhythms joins Frank Ørland on lead guitar and bassist Miguel Pereira and drummer Frank Nordeng Røe bring the shifting time signatures to Sons Of Desire. If I could settle it with one bands I'd say that Big City sound a lot like Europe, but pre-Final Countdown a track such as I'm Somebody, which could have come off Wings Of Tomorrow. Anthemic melodic rock with love of 80's and prog metal, Big City's third album could be their best yet. 8/10

Heroes & Monsters - Heroes & Monsters (Frontiers Music Srl)

Comprised of Todd Kerns who is the bassist/vocalist for Slash Feat Myles Kennedy & The Co-Conspirators, Stef Burns a guitarist who has played with Y&T and Alice Cooper, recording albums with both and Will Hunt who is the drummer for Evanescence, Heroes & Monsters are a hard rocking power trio, with a wealth of experience behind them. 

A collaborative effort, this debut spans a wide selection of styles, from the glammy Let's Ride It, to the Zeppelin-like Locked & Loaded they understand the classic side of the rock sphere but also the more modern approach with tracks such as Angels Never Sleep and the bouncing I Knew You Were The Devil, in the modern radio rock resume. 

These three friends lock in well for 39 minutes of music that you can hear the inspiration in but is all original, packed with hooky choruses and rock n roll attitude, Kerns' vocals for me a bit of revelation too. Expect this to be played to death on rock radio, which is the whole point of the endeavour, no longer sidemen/band members, this is a trio of experienced players in somewhat of session supergroup. 7/10

Issa - Lights Of Japan (Frontiers Music Srl)

Issa's seventh solo album opens with keyboard riff similar to the one that was featured on Bon Jovi's Runaway, but in that one minute you get what Lights Of Japan is about. Driving 80's style hard rock with Issa's powerful vocals at the forefront, Michele Guaitoli's production doing its job admirably to fill your speakers full of big rock anthems that are very much stuck in the decade of big hair and bigger shoulder pads. Guaitoli plays guitar and bass on the album as well as some songwriting however most of the songs here are written by James and Tom Martin of Vega. 

James is Issa's husband and he also plays keys as the rest of the band are Italian session men Marco Pastorino (who's on every bloody album nowadays) with rhythm guitar and Marco Andeetto behind the drums. Musically it doesn't move much from that sound established by the first song but it's all very slick I suppose the major selling point are Issa's vocals along with the guest guitar solos from Robby Luckets, Michele Guaitoli and John Mitchell. I can't say much more about this record other than it being full of slick melodic rock. 7/10

TEN - Something Wicked This Way Comes (Frontiers Music Srl)

TEN have been around for a bloody long time now but Gary Hughes is nothing if not prolific. Something Wicked This Way Comes was recorded at the same time as 2022's Here Be Monsters so the band stays the same as it did on the last album. Dan Rosingana and Steve Grocott in great guitar unison, merging with the keys of Darrel Treece-Birch as bassist Steve McKenna and drummer Markus Kullman hold down the groove. Produced by Hughes and mixed/mastered by Dennis Ward, songs such as Parabellum stand out as some of the most politically aware to date.

There's of course similarities to their last album due to them being recorded together, both taking a darker style but with that melodic rock background where TEN come from. Cinematics, theatricality and orchestral parts are all augmented by Ward who helps to pick out every instrument, there's also  some great backing harmonies that are always a highlight of Hughes and TEN's music. Constantly linked to bands such as Magnum, Giant and even Whitesnake, TEN have never been a band in vogue but they have gathered a very dedicated following due to them consistently strong albums throughout the years. Something Wicked This Way Comes continues that trend of latter period classics that Magnum also have been giving us. 8/10

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