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Tuesday 21 March 2023

Reviews Phantom Elite, Cross Country Driver, Stormwarning, Transworld Identity (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Phantom Elite – Blue Blood (Frontiers Music Srl)

Another week another set of Frontiers Music Srl releases. Yet again another walk on the melodic side but through the medium of symphonic metal this time. Phantom Elite have released two previous full length albums but their beginnings are in Sanders Gommans (After Forever) HDK project many moons ago. Gommans still languishes behind the producer’s desk and ramps up the cinematic, but the core trio of guitarist/bassist Max Van Esch, who also arranges the synths and electronics, drummer Joeri Warmerdam and vocalist Marina La Torraca (Exit Eden/Avantasia), are the writers and creative force for this third album as they were on the two previous records. 

Sat firmly in the modern style of metal, Phantom Elite use synths and electronics very well, the drums are huge and deafening, boosted by the electronic percussion, giving a throb to Inner Beast, but the progressive sound they also cultivate, means Birdcage is a ballad where they can display their introspective moment, Laid With Vines too is beautiful in it's longing and building atmosphere. While on the other side Apex is a EDM 'banger' and Skin Of My Teeth is the heaviest outing. Blue Blood is an album that has been performed by a talented musicians though it's not as tenacious as it could be, with a lot of focus on slower songs. 7/10

Cross Country Driver – The New Truth (Frontiers Music Srl)

Take one member of Riverdogs, Rob Lamothe (vocals/guitar), one member of Fighting Friday, James Harper (guitar) and one member of Logan Staats Band, Zander Lamothe (drums) and you get Cross Country Driver. If any of those bands mean nothing too you essentially get three, long time, veteran musicians in the studio together with Grammy winning producer Nick Brophy, let them loose with free reign and an address book of some of their high profile buddies and you get The New Truth. A rocking, classic sounding affair drawing on the blues and Americana, as well as a whole host of eras of rock music, though it's the late 80's and early 90's that they stick to mostly the decade where Rob made his bones. 

The guests are from numerous genres but includes Mike Mangini (Dream Theater), Greg Chaisson (Badlands), dUg Pinnick (King's X), Rhonda Smith (Jeff Beck), Jimmy Wallace (The Wallflowers), KFigg (Extreme) and Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard/Last In Line). A Man With No Direction has the funk of Kings X, guided by dUg Pinnick as it touches on Extreme, Rio Tulerosa too features Pinnick and Mike Mangini behind the kit on a track that's very Mr Big, and it's with those two references that you get the influences of Cross Country Driver. An honest, blue collar rock album, but doesn't do as much as perhaps it should. 6/10

Stormwarning - Stormwarning (Frontiers Music Srl)

Yet another band guided by the production team of Sergio Mazul (Semblant) and Marcelo Gelbcke (Landfall) who oversaw the Icon Of Sin album. Stormwarning is a project from Argentinian vocalist Santiago Ramonda who has been writing and performing since 2007, but he then decided on vocals as his primary outlet. Vocally he has a set of pipes such as Joe Lynn Turner, whom he's covered in the past. Ramonda is joined by Marcelo Gelbcke playing most of the instruments adding Felipe Souzza on drums, the music on this record in the AOR/melodic rock tone of Joe Lynn Turner/Firestorm, House Of Lords and Axel Rudi Pell. 

The opener Eye Of The Storm, is Down To Earth Rainbow as Marcelo manages to do a bit of Blackmore soloing, from here the Question Of Time is the first ballad of the album but it’s followed by the choppy riffs of Neon Skies and Way Of The Warrior. At 11 tracks long Stormwarning is a melodic rock record that punches above its weight and another great addition to the melodic rock sphere from South America. 7/10

Transworld Identity - Seven Worlds (Frontiers Music Srl)

I’ll just get this out of the way now, Livin’ On The Run is a dead ringer for Ghost’s Dance Macabre, but that’s only a minor criticism of what is otherwise a good melodic rock album. This Finnish/English band started out as a covers act and the influences of big names is evident across the record, but Transworld Identity’s (bit of a mouthful) debut album is all originals, singer Mila Bosa backed by quite an experienced selection of musicians from the Finnish rock scene, Michael Monroe/Hanoi Rocks being the reoccurring names. Seven Worlds though is quite modern hard rock with some melodic metal added to make it a wider sound. 

The title track, Time, Starchild and few others have a storytelling, fantastical lyrics that remind me of Magnum and Gary Hughes Ten, the acoustics used to join the electric guitars for some folk whimsy but also blues backing and lots of synths for drama although In For The Long Haul uses them like an 80’s pop track, in fact it’s Nena meets hard rock. Mila’s vocals are great, the songs are pretty good too, especially for a debut, and where they go from here though is a guess as there’s quite a bit of variation to this record so I’ll be interested to see if they go towards the pop route of or the proggier conceptual one. 7/10

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