Album Review – Striker / Play To Win (2018)

Blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, one of the biggest exponents of contemporary Canadian metal music strikes once again with a brand new album, always playing to win.

Champions in blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, Canadian shredders Striker are back with another good album titled Play To Win, the sixth in their undisputed career and a follow-up to their two previous award nominated winning albums, their 2017 breathtaking self-titled opus Striker (nominated for a JUNO award, winner of an Edmonton Music Award and Western Canadian Award) and the WCMA + EMA award winning album Stand In The Fire, released in 2016. That means this Edmonton-based squad comprised of frontman Dan Cleary, guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown has been on an absolute roll in the past few years, not only delivering first-class metal for our total delight, but also spreading their music live across Europe and North America with bands like Sonata Arctica, Dark Tranquility and Warbringer, along with festival appearances at 70,000 Tons of Metal and Bang Your Head Festival, proving why they’re already considered one of the biggest exponents in contemporary Canadian Heavy Metal.

Mixed and Mastered by Hendrik Udd at Hendrik Udd Recording Studios, and featuring not only an old school artwork by Elvis Amaral (HipnoFX Audiovisual), but also the fantastic Randy Black (Annihilator, Primal Fear, Destruction) as a session drummer, who by the way also recorded the album Stand in the Fire with the band, Play To Win will please all fans of traditional metal and rock, keeping the name of Striker relevant and strong in the scene. “Play to Win: if you want to win you have to play the game. Find the rules and break them. This is our 6th album and 3rd independent release. If we followed the rules and listened to the industry people we’d have gone absolutely nowhere. Play To Win is about listening to yourself, following your own path, and playing that 5th ace hidden in your sleeve. This album is designed to light a fire under your ass and get you moving, and we made sure to get the most modern, ear melting sounds possible. It’s all about where metal is going, not where it has been, and this is our soundtrack to success,” commented Tim about the album.

And Tim and Chris begin slashing and shredding their strings from the very first second in the opening tune Heart of Lies, where the band delivers their usual ass-kicking fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, with Dan declaiming the song’s chorus beautifully (“Another victim to a heart of lies / Can’t see the truth behind those venom eyes / Another victim to a heart of lies / On deaf ears will fall the eagle’s cry”). Then leaning towards pure 80’s Hard Rock and Glam Metal, in special the crisp and passionate vocal lines by Dan, we have Position of Power, with William and Randy maintaining a solid and rumbling background throughout the entire song; followed by Head First, a good song that gets a bit too commercial at times, but that obviously brings Striker’s old school punch, sounding very rhythmic, groovy and melodic. In addition, Tim and Chris are once again on fire with their riffs and solos, making it a highly recommended addition to your road trip playlist.

Blending the music by Iron Maiden with Motley Crüe, Stratovarius and Van Halen, which in the end resulted in sheer awesomeness, Striker offer us the thrilling On The Run, showcasing a brilliant vocal performance by Dan while William keeps extracting that metallic sound we all love form his bass, whereas The Front is another classic song by Striker, also feeling as it was taken from an 80’s Hair Metal album. It’s a bit too smooth compared to the sonic massacre from their previous albums, but the crisp sound of the guitars and the precise beats by Randy make it very enjoyable and fun. The title-track Play To Win, a mid-tempo feast of rockin’ sounds, sounds even more inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock than ever, with the guitar riffs and solos by both Tim and Chris getting sharper and groovier, and albeit its lyrics are extremely cheesy, the message the band wanted to send is there (and that’s what really matters in the end). Then despite the excellent vocals by Dan, its tuneful guitar solos and a pleasant vibe, the power ballad Standing Alone never really takes off, getting way too mellow compared to what Striker are capable of doing.

Back to a heavier and more epic sonority, those talented Canadian metallers fire an electrified Heavy Metal and Hard Rock tune entitled Summoner, inspired by many classics by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and other behemoths from the NWOBHM, also presenting the best guitar work of the entire album in my opinion. In Heavy Is The Heart the band shows how to do a proper power ballad, bringing passion to the musicality without forgetting the always needed dosages of electricity and rage, again presenting an inspired Dan leading his bandmates from start to finish. However, the closing tune Hands Of Time is another generic song that sounds and feels extremely soft if you’re a longtime fan of Striker, lacking the same potency and kick from their already classic tunes. Put differently, it’s far from being a bad song, but as we all got used to a lot heavier riffs and faster beats by Striker it’s hard to truly relish it.

As a huge fan of their self-titled album released last year, which I personally considered one of the best metal albums of 2017, I felt slightly disappointed with the final result in Play To Win. Nothing to worry about, though, as I guess I’m being too harsh on the guys from Striker, almost “demanding” that they had released another Heavy Metal masterpiece instead of actually enjoying their new album. There’s still a lot of top-of-the-line music to savor in Play To Win, available from their official website as a digital download or as a special edition CD, as well as from iTunes and Amazon, and you can also follow the band on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel and listen to more of their music on Spotify (if you don’t do all that already). Striker are a band that keeps winning no matter what with each and every release (despite singing in their previous album that they were “born to lose”), and the flame of Canadian metal will remain alive and vibrant while we have those skillful metalheads from Edmonton among us, always playing to win.

Best moments of the album: Heart of Lies, On The Run and Summoner.

Worst moments of the album: Standing Alone and Hands Of Time.

Released in 2018 Record Breaking Records

Track listing
1. Heart of Lies 4:04
2. Position of Power 3:41
3. Head First 4:02
4. On The Run 3:52
5. The Front 4:02
6. Play To Win 3:49
7. Standing Alone 4:56
8. Summoner 4:04
9. Heavy Is The Heart 4:54
10. Hands Of Time 3:47

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Guest musician
Randy Black – drums (session)
Lindsay Robinson, John Kennedy and Nathan Schadeck – gang vocals

Album Review – Devilfire / Dark Manoeuvres (2017)

An electrifying lesson in how to set (devil) fire to a Rock N’ Roll party by five indomitable British musicians.

It’s said that some of the greatest bands of our time have been forged on the road, and British Melodic Hard Rock act Devilfire is no exception to that, brought into being in Birmingham, England during a studio session in 2013 when producer and singer Alex Cooper (Shy, Spike of the Quireboys, Ginger) was working with Uli Jon Roth drummer Lars Wickett, revealing to him his plan for a Birmingham-based Melodic Rock band. After 3 years of planning and writing, things finally fell into place in 2016, when the band (at that time known as Devilstar) was offered to open for Tarja Turunen during her Eastern European tour in the beginning of 2017, blasting their flammable music to rock and metal fans from places like Hungary, Romania, Greece and Turkey, as well as to a sold out festival crowd at Hard Rock Hell AOR 2017 in the UK as the icing on the cake.

And the year of 2017 couldn’t have been better for this five-piece act formed by Alex Cooper on vocals, Baz Blackett and Kieran Topp on the guitars, Dan Bate on bass and Lars Wickett on drums, as they’re ready to conquer the world with their debut album Dark Manoeuvres, released in the beginning of October. Mixed by acclaimed producer Romesh Dodangoda (Motörhead, Bring Me The Horizon, Bullet For My Valentine) and co-produced by Romesh and Devilfire frontman Alex Cooper at Long Wave Studios in Cardiff, Dark Manoeuvres is a mammoth 13-track album calling on several distinct influences with a darker melodic sound, pushing the boundaries of Rock N’ Roll while at the same time remaining loyal to their British roots.

Rock N’ Roll is in the air with the smooth sonic waves blasted by Devilfire in the opening tune Ready For War?, an excellent business card delivered by the band presenting an 80’s-inspired vibe led by the passionate, raspy vocals by Alex, followed by She’s Like Fire, a born-to-be-a-classic of underground Hard Rock where they speed up (and spice up) things considerably, perfect for dancing the night away with whoever you want to the sound of its catchy chorus and the precise beats by Lars. More melodic and romantic, (In and Out of Love) All of the Time is a potent display of classic 80’s Hard Rock,  a song for all rockin’ girls out there energized by the fiery guitars by Baz and Kieran; whereas Waiting For a Rockstar, a mid-tempo chant with a fun story told by Alex, brings hints of symphonic elements in the background to make it even more impactful, turning it into a serious candidate for becoming one of the band’s biggest hits.

In Lay It On the Line, a semi-ballad with the band’s characteristic approach, we’re treated to harmonious guitars and beats while Alex keeps firing his sharp vocal lines, reminding me of some of the old tunes by Motley Crüe, Bon Jovi and Poison, among other classics, while Kill Your Love is another awesome composition by this talented quintet, sounding faster and more violent than its predecessors (but still very melodic). Hence, this fantastic song could be played on any radio station all over the world, showcasing addictive vocals and soulful guitar solos and, therefore, being captivating form start to finish. Tear Me Apart is that kind of generic ballad that, despite having its good moments, is below the rest of the album in terms of creativity and complexity, albeit still displaying the band’s trademark guitar solos and overall solid melody. Fortunately, the band gets back on track in God Give Me Vengeance, a song to do the famous “air-drumming” together with Lars due to its catchy rhythm, presenting a fusion of modern Hard Rock with old school Rock N’ Roll boosted by touches of symphonic sounds.

Baz and Kieran are joined by Dan and his bass for an onrush of slashing strings and rumbling sounds in Devil In Your Eyes, tailored for fans of old school Hair Metal and Hard Rock, before the entire band comes crushing with the underground hit (You Gotta) Revolution, blending the classic sonority of bands like Van Halen with the rebelliousness of Motley Crüe, with Lex being flawlessly supported by the song’s elegant and potent backing vocals. Put differently, if Devilfire don’t play this song live, we riot. Anyway, She’s Always On the Run is another average ballad that doesn’t do any good nor any harm to the album, feeling like filler despite being one of their first ever songs recorded; however, for our total delight their upbeat musicality returns in great 80’s fashion in A Thousand Times, a song that made me think that if I didn’t know it was recorded now in 2017, I surely might have thought it was recorded back in 1980 something by a veteran Hard Rock band, mainly due to its beyond classic combination of vocals and backing vocals. And lastly we have the melancholic Somehow, which in my humble opinion is how the band should always sound when writing ballads, avoiding being cheesy or predictable. Quite the contrary, it’s very introspective, pleasant and deep, and consequently an interesting way to conclude the album without being literally electrified, but still feeling electrifying.

How can you put your hands on such top-tier album of Hard Rock, you might be asking yourself, right? Well, that’s easier than you can imagine, as Dark Manoeuvres is on sale at the band’s webstore, on iTunes or on Amazon. And in order to show your proper support to Alex, Lars and Co., simply go check the band’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and Spotify for news, tour dates and all other things Devilfire. Dark Manoeuvres is a lesson in how to set fire to any Rock N’ Roll party in the world, and if I were you I wouldn’t miss that celebration for anything.

Best moments of the album: She’s Like Fire, Waiting For a Rockstar, Kill Your Love and (You Gotta) Revolution.

Worst moments of the album: Tear Me Apart and She’s Always On the Run.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Ready For War? 3:07
2. She’s Like Fire 3:22
3. (In and Out of Love) All of the Time 3:33
4. Waiting For a Rockstar 4:10
5. Lay It On the Line 5:09
6. Kill Your Love 3:51
7. Tear Me Apart 4:00
8. God Give Me Vengeance 4:52
9. Devil In Your Eyes 3:10
10. (You Gotta) Revolution 4:58
11. She’s Always On the Run 3:49
12. A Thousand Times 4:31
13. Somehow 2:59

Band members
Alex Cooper – vocals
Baz Blackett – guitar
Kieran Topp – guitar
Dan Bate – bass
Lars Wickett – drums

Album Review – Steel Panther / Lower the Bar (2017)

The most depraved band in the world raises the bar once again with an ode to all the debauchery and joy of the golden age of Hard Rock, Glam and Heavy Metal.

After the considerable letdown that was All You Can Eat, released  by American Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band Steel Panther in 2014, I got a little worried about the future of one of the funniest metal acts in the history of music. Their jokes were not as good as before, their lyrics were way too repetitive, and there were no memorable anthems like in their previous albums. However, it seems that Michael Starr (vocals), Satchel (guitars), Lexxi Foxxx (bass) and Stix Zadinia (drums) have got their mojo back in Lower the Bar, their fourth major-label studio album and an ode to all the debauchery and joy of the golden age of Hair and Glam Metal.

Let’s be honest, after the first official video of the album was released exclusively on Pornhub, we knew Lower the Bar would bring back the good old Steel Panther we learned to love through the years. Musically speaking, the album kicks ass with its crisp production, enhancing even more the already potent impact of each instrument like a gigantic dildo would do to a young woman. Moreover, there’s a lot to enjoy in this album, from pure Hard Rock to a mellow ballad, from a Rock N’ Roll anthem to their personal tribute to a classic band from the 80’s, and so on. Put differently, it’s two in the pink, one in the stink, and Steel Panther blowing your speakers with the electricity flowing from Lower the Bar.

And Steel Panther blast great old school Glam Metal to kick off the party in Goin’ in the Backdoor, with Satchel delivering his always amazing riffs and solos while Michael Starr proves he’s by far one of the best singers in Hard Rock today, resulting in a solid musicality that lives up to the best songs of their career. The following song, Anything Goes, has all it takes to become a classic during their live concerts: its rhythm is perfect for headbanging, a beer and some tits at a rock n’ roll party, while its lyrics are absolutely mental (“Break out the tanks / Hand grenades / Minus Charlie Sheen / Cuz I don’t want AIDS”). Satchel, Lexxi and Stix definitely know how to generate pure Hard Rock, turning this into a fun rockin’ anthem for admirers of depraved music. In Poontang Boomerang, the song that had its official video debuted on Pornhub (which was in my opinion a fantastic idea), the music is pretty much a witty homage to Hard Rock icons Warrant, as it sounds a lot like their all-time hit “Cherry Pie”, but of course this one is nastier, sexier and more demented; whereas in That’s When You Came In we’re treated to an acoustic intro beautifully delivered by Michael and Satchel, slowly becoming one of those “romantic” and “touching” power ballads by Steel Panther, not to mention Satchel’s amazing solo before the song’s last piece.

My favorite song of the album, the fantastic Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills), is a blazin’ high-octane anthem highly recommended for your road trip playlist, with Michael kicking ass on vocals while Lexxi and Stix keep exhaling pure Rock N’ Roll with their bass lines and beats, which obviously means they have to play this awesome tune during their live concerts. Now the Fun Starts, a dark-ish low-tuned composition that kind of puts the listener in a trance, might be used to open their concerts, in special because there’s a lot going on in the lyrics that can be considered a warm-up for the show.  Getting back to their high voltage mode we have Pussy Ain’t Free, a modern and fresh Hard Rock tune with a Glam Metal twist and another top moment in Lower the Bar, with Satchel and Lexxi being on fire with their strings. And if you think the name of the song is already sexist, how about those lyrics (“Don’t need a certified public accountant / To run the numbers on my dick and balls / Don’t need to look at every Amex statement / Already know I’m getting charged for the booty calls”)? Anyway, Wasted Too Much Time might not be a bad song, musically speaking it’s quite fine and even reminds me of some Hard Rock classic ballads from the 80’s and 90’s, but it lacks that mighty punch from the rest of the album.

Mixing up the gripping Hard Rock by Scorpions and Motley Crüe with 80’s Pop Rock (in special its synths), I Got What You Want presents a very pleasant sonority with Michael having an amazing performance, supported  by the song’s old school backing vocals; whereas Walk of Shame ventures through the fields of American Country Rock with hints of Blues and obviously their kick-ass Glam Metal core. Stix dictates the rhythm with his groovy beats, while Michael sends a thoughtful message to all women (“No wonder then, every weekend is the same / Your vagina’s still eighteen / Baby, stand up tall and walk that walk of shame / That walk of shame / Go on, girl!”). And lastly, She’s Tight is their top-notch cover version of a summer-like hit, being heavier and more metallic than the original version and even featuring Robin Zander, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the Rock N’ Roll band Cheap Trick, the band that recorded the original song back in the 80’s. I’m sure Robin is really happy with what Michael and the guys did not only with the music, but with the official video for it (by the way, Michael’s “Cheap Slut” shirt was a great tribute to Robin and his band).

In a nutshell, if you never get tired of Steel Panther’s sexist and dirty jokes, I’m sure you’ll love Lower the Bar, and album that does exactly the opposite of what its name says, raising the band’s bar once again in heavy music. In addition, there’s always new entertaining material on their YouTube channel, such as the one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime Lower the Bar Awards, which at least for me is already more important and honest than the Grammy Awards, don’t you agree? Anyway, you can buy some interesting Lower the Bar bundles at their official webstore, including one with a beer stein and one with a shirt. And no, there are no bundles with dildos, inflatable whores or anything like that. At least not yet.

Best moments of the album: Anything Goes, Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills) and Pussy Ain’t Free.

Worst moments of the album: Wasted Too Much Time.

Released in 2017 Kobalt Label Services

Track listing
1. Goin’ in the Backdoor 3:10
2. Anything Goes 3:01
3. Poontang Boomerang 3:22
4. That’s When You Came In 3:46
5. Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills) 3:07
6. Now the Fun Starts 3:43
7. Pussy Ain’t Free 3:56
8. Wasted Too Much Time 3:50
9. I Got What You Want 4:13
10. Walk of Shame 4:11
11. She’s Tight (Cheap Trick cover feat. Robin Zander) 2:54

Band members
Michael Starr – lead vocals
Satchel – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Lexxi Foxxx – bass guitar, backing vocals
Stix Zadinia – drums, percussion, backing vocals

Guest musicians
Robin Zander – additional vocals on “She’s Tight”
Rudy Sarzo – bass on “Wrong Side of the Tracks (Out In Beverly Hills)”
Michael Catton – background vocals on “I Got What You Want”
Chris Catton – background vocals on “I Got What You Want”

Album Review – Black Diamonds / Once Upon A Time (2017)

Inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock and Hair Metal, these Swiss rockers are more than ready to shake the world with their brand new upbeat, electrified album.

Proudly waving the flag of 80’s Hard Rock since their inception in 2004, Swiss rockers Black Diamonds are more than ready to shake the world with an electrifying Rock N’ Roll extravaganza titled Once Upon A Time, their third full-length album and in my humble opinion their strongest and most cohesive release to date. If major bands such as Gotthard and Krokus helped put Switzerland on the map of Hard Rock with their flammable music, it’s time for this farily new talented quartet formed by Michael Kehl (vocals, guitar), Andreas Rohner (lead guitar), Andi Fässler (bass) and Manuel Peng (drums) to take the lead and keep the rock n’ roll party going on in the Land of Milk and Honey.

Based in the Rhine Valley in eastern Switzerland, Black Diamonds are not only musically inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock and Hair Metal, but their looks and attitude are also deeply rooted in that period, which translates into pure energy when their music is blasted through the speakers. After releasing their debut album First Strike in 2008, followed by Perfect Sin in 2013 and an extended tour through their home country and the adjacent countries named Perfect Swiss Tour that same year, the band aims at reaching new horizons with the excellence found in Once Upon A Time. For obvious reasons, don’t expect to find anything truly innovative in the whole album, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have tons of fun listening to its twelve catchy, melodic and upbeat songs.

The symphonic intro Tales Untold kicks off the album before Michael Kehl and Andreas Rohner begin firing their heavy riffs in The Ghost and the Shadow, a rockin’ song that can be summarized as a fusion of Manowar and Motley Crüe (or maybe “Hard Rockin’ Power Metal”), being very melodic and impactful with highlights to the great vocal lines by Michael. Love Stick Love brings more Hard Rock from the 80’s with a contemporary twist and the always beautiful European harmony, making me imagine how successful this song would be in the 80’s. Simply follow the beats by drummer Manuel Peng and enjoy the ride, with its catchy chorus, awesome backing vocals and a classy guitar solo embellishing the overall result even more. And presenting a Van Halen-inspired vibe (in special its main guitar riff), Romeo & Juliet is a song about the most famous romantic duo in history, with a solid background built by Manuel’s drumming and the bass lines by Andi Fässler. The narration halfway through it is a bit weird though, but nothing that harms the overall quality of the song.

Although Pieces of a Broken Dream feels like a ballad in the beginning, it quickly morphs into a stylish Rock N’ Roll tune perfect for any radio station mainly thanks to the rhythmic beats by Manuel, while Andreas continues to set fire to the musicality with his solos; whereas Love, Lies, Lonelines, a true ballad from start to finish, is a soulful and melancholic composition with a strong performance by Michael on vocals, with a gentle ambience and more of the band’s tuneful guitar solos and bass lines complementing the music. And get ready for a kick-ass Rock N’ Roll party by Black Diamonds titled Thrillride, showcasing guitars à la Scorpions and a classy, dancing rhythm, with Michael delivering raspier vocals and, consequently, sounding dirtier just like the music needs. Moreover, Manuel couldn’t sound more old school on drums than what he offers in this awesome tune, one of the best of the album in my opinion. When the night comes, it’s time for the Swiss vampires of Hard Rock to attack with their high-end metallic sounds in Vampires of the Night, a great song for their live performances bringing elements from the 80’s and 90’s with razor-edged guitars and a badass attitude.

These guys don’t seem to get tired of filling the air with upbeat rock music based on what they offer the listener in Not Going Home, a pub hymn with the electrified guitar lines by Michael and Andreas adding a high dosage of groove to the band’s already exciting Rock N’ Roll; followed by Hard to Let Go, another Scorpions-inspired classic tune that sounds heavy and very harmonious just the way we love, also presenting a perfect synchronicity among all instruments with highlights to the piercing metallic bass lines by Andi. Years, the second to last rockin’ missile in Once upon A Time, keeps up with the rest of the album in terms of quality and energy, being one more song that could be played on any rock n’ roll radio show, with an inspiring performance by Michael on vocals supported by the precise drumming by Manuel. And closing the album we have This Is a Love Story, presenting an interesting balance between more introspective moments and faster passages, despite being slightly repetitive and below the album’s amazing average.

In case you want to know more about Black Diamonds and their top-notch rock music, go check their Facebook page for news and tour dates, and go listen to their music on YouTube and SoundCloud. Once Upon A Time is available at several locations, such as the band’s official webstore, AOR Heaven, Nuclear Blast, Target, Amazon, NEH Records, and many more, most of them offering two awesome bonus tracks with the album. If you’re ready to dance, drink some beer and have fun to the sound of high-quality old school, uncompromised Rock N’ Roll, then this album is definitely what you’ve been searching for. Just don’t forget to put on your tight leather pants before heading to the party.

Best moments of the album: Love Stick Love, Thrillride and Hard to Let Go.

Worst moments of the album: This Is a Love Story.

Released in 2017 AOR Heaven

Track listing
1. Tales Untold 1:08
2. The Ghost and the Shadow 4:13
3. Love Stick Love 5:03
4. Romeo & Juliet 4:20
5. Pieces of a Broken Dream 3:51
6. Love, Lies, Loneliness 5:37
7. Thrillride 4:52
8. Vampires of the Night 4:46
9. Not Going Home 4:42
10. Hard to Let Go 4:38
11. Years 5:21
12. This Is a Love Story 6:40

Bonus tracks
13. Rock’n’roll Music 4:02
14. Vampires of the Night (Piano Version) 3:50

Band members
Michael Kehl – vocals, guitar
Andreas Rohner – lead guitar
Andi Fässler – bass
Manuel Peng – drums

Album Review – Striker / Striker (2017)

Canadian Heavy Metal has never been more vibrant and rapturous than today, thanks to the brand new rip-roaring album by one of the biggest names in heavy music hailing from the Great White North.

In case you’ve never heard of Canadian Heavy/Power Metal act Striker, there couldn’t be a better moment to get to know such distinct band and their classic mix of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock and 80’s Hair Metal. This Edmonton-based quartet, which was formed in 2007 and has toured across dozens of countries as headliners as well as support for major metal acts in their rising career, are unleashing their fifth studio album, self-titled Striker, a kick-ass follow-up to their two previous albums Stand In The Fire (2016) and City of Gold (2014), perfect for fans of the unparalleled music by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motley Crüe, as well as Swedish metallers Enforcer and Steelwing. After listening to this flammable metal album, I’m sure Striker will feature among your favorite bands of the past decade.

Featuring a neat, straightforward artwork by Rizky Putranto (Rish XXV), Striker is an ode to traditional metal, with no new elements or any type of shenanigans added to it, just plain good old heavy music. “This is our no bullshit album. We cut out everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary and kept everything short and to the point. We pray at the altar of heavy metal everyday, and there are some musical ideas that persist through time and some that don’t. We focused in on what keeps listeners coming back and got rid of everything else. You can’t climb Mount Everest dragging any useless shit with you; if you want to make it to the top, only bring with you what is absolutely necessary: Lethal Amounts of Shred”, said the band about their new album, and based on these words you can get a very good sense of what you’ll find in Striker.

Guitarist Tim Brown doesn’t waste time and starts firing electrifying Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll riffs and solos from the very first second in Former Glory, a song about enjoying life and being the best person you can, where frontman Dan Cleary keeps up with the greatest vocalists in Hard Rock delivering sheer awesomeness through his melodious voice. Sounding like a hard rockin’ version of Anthrax, in special due to its cutting riffs and demented vocals, Pass Me By presents a kick-ass fusion of Heavy Metal with old school Thrash Metal, with drummer Adam Brown pounding his drums mercilessly, therefore adding more stamina and heaviness to the overall musicality. And the first single of the album, Born To Lose, is in my humble opinion a newborn Hard Rock hymn, bringing all elements that make heavy music so thrilling, such as the metallic guitar lines by Tim, which  together with the rumbling bass by William Wallace (not the Scottish warrior) take the song’s impact to a whole new level.  Add to that already fantastic formula the song’s catchy chorus and a high dosage of adrenaline, and there you have not only the best song of the album, but also one of Striker’s most sensational creations to date.

Cheating Death is a short and atmospheric bridge to the incendiary Shadows In The Light, a dancing tune that lives up to the legacy of old school Hard Rock ignited by the potent bass punches by William, also offering the listener beautiful guitar solos and thrilling beats; followed by Rock The Night, another song by Striker that was born to be a classic. Dan is fantastic on vocals, supported by the song’s powerful backing vocals and the precise instrumental blasted by the rest of the band from start to finish, not to mention its extremely cheesy but entertaining lyrics (“You always seem to be on my mind / I can’t let you go / I can’t let you stay / You always seem to be a mystery to me / I can’t let you go / I can’t let you stay / The more that I think about you / The more that I know what to do / There’s something out there and it’s calling me / To rock the night / You’ve gotta bring them to their knees / There’s something out there and it’s calling me / To rock the night / Yeah you’ve got to make them see / What you can be”).

Over The Top, a fast-paced, potent Power Metal extravaganza where Tim and William are absolutely on fire with their stringed axes, brings forward elements of the traditional Heavy Metal played by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden combined with the Melodic Metal by Stratovarius, and the result is obviously beyond awesome. The same can be said about the second to last track of the album, titled Freedom’s Call, which will pump you up once again with its perfect balance of the heaviness of Power Metal with the harmony of Hard Rock. Needless to say, Dan doesn’t stop impressing with his puissant voice, never getting tired nor sounding uninspired. And the unstoppable Striker fire more of their kick-ass metal music for our total delight in the superb Curse of The Dead, where Adam takes the lead with his frantic beats whereas Tim keeps delivering his amazing riffs. Moreover, guest guitarists Simon Fallon and Adam Grimmelt only make things even more fantastic with their spot-on solos, turning the song into another memorable moment of the album.

In a nutshell, Striker not only have released a mighty Heavy Metal album, but they have also made us at The Headbanging Moose really proud of being Canadian. You can get in touch with Striker and their fiery metal music through their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, and in order to put your metallic hands on this first-class album all you need to do is go to the Napalm Records’ webshop to grab the CD or the LP version of it, as well as on CD Baby, on iTunes and on Amazon. If you manage to get the special edition of the album, you’ll also be treated to Striker’s cover version for Ozzy Osbourne’s Desire, from his 1991 classic No More Tears, one of the four songs co-written by the most beloved badass in the word, Lemmy Kilmister (R.I.P.), showing how much the band loves old school heavy music. We’re all born to lose, but if we work hard and have the new rip-roaring album by one of the biggest names in heavy music from the Great White North as the soundtrack to our endeavors, we’ll surely win in life and rock the night.

Best moments of the album: Former Glory, Born To Lose, Rock The Night and Curse of The Dead.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Record Breaking Records

Track listing
1. Former Glory 3:59
2. Pass Me By 3:33
3. Born To Lose 3:58
4. Cheating Death 0:53
5. Shadows In The Light 3:29
6. Rock The Night 4:30
7. Over The Top 4:38
8. Freedom’s Call 4:30
9. Curse of The Dead 3:49

Special Edition bonus track
10. Desire (Ozzy Osbourne cover) 5:27

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Guest musicians
Simon Fallon – guitar solo on “Curse of the Dead”
Adam Grimmelt – outro solos on ““Curse of the Dead”
John Kennedy, Dave Arnold, Chris Segger, Lindsay Robinson, Clayton Parent and Tyler Dory – gang vocals

Concert Review – Guns N’ Roses (Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON, 07/16/2016)

Do you know where you are? You’re in Toronto, baby! Wake up! Time to die!

OPENING ACT: Billy Talent

GNR_Toronto_2016I must confess I’ve never felt so happy in my life for missing an opening act like what happened this Saturday, when I “couldn’t” arrive on time at the Rogers Centre to watch Canadian Rock N’ Roll band BILLY TALENT opening for Guns N’ Roses on their sole Canadian concert from the colossal Guns N’ Roses: Not In This Lifetime… Tour. I had the unpleasantness of watching their lame and tiresome concert once back in 2011, when for a reason beyond my knowledge they played AFTER classic bands such as Exodus, Death Angel, Testament, Mastodon and, believe it or not, the almighty Slayer, and were obviously booed throughout their entire “performance”. Whoever had that brilliant idea of inserting such a hideous group among so many real metal bands might have been involved in the stupid decision of placing them as the opening act for Guns N’ Roses instead of the excellent Alice In Chains, the iconic The Cult or even the not-so-bad Lenny Kravitz, as it’s happening in every city Guns N’ Roses are playing except for Toronto. The only thing I know about their performance is that drummer Aaron Solowoniuk was replaced by Jordan Hastings (Alexisonfire), which doesn’t really mean anything at all for any regular fan of Guns N’ Roses. Their setlist is below, but why bother?

Setlist
Devil in a Midnight Mass
This Suffering
Louder Than the DJ
Rusted from the Rain
River Below
Surprise Surprise
Afraid of Heights
Devil on My Shoulder
Red Flag
Fallen Leaves
Try Honesty
Viking Death March

Band members
Benjamin Kowalewicz – lead vocals
Ian D’Sa – guitar, vocals
Jonathan Gallant – bass guitar, backing vocals
Jordan Hastings – drums, percussion

GUNS N’ ROSES

IMG_1542Who would imagine that after 20 years Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan would not only be reunited on stage, but still kicking fuckin’ ass as if they had never split up in the beginning of the 90’s? I’m pretty sure the entire crowd of over 50,000 gunners who were at the Rogers Centre this Saturday will agree with me that GUNS N’ ROSES were almost flawless during the whole concert, blasting their biggest classics from the 80’s and 90’s blended with some “newer” material from the controversial (but good) Chinese Democracy, their latest studio album. To be fair, after they played It’s So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Chinese Democracy and Welcome to the Jungle, I was already satisfied enough to go home so good those songs were. Let’s say the only thing that didn’t make anyone happy were all those despicable scalpers trying to extort good people who just wanted to see one the best Hard Rock/Hair Metal band of all time playing. I truly hope very few people ended up getting their tickets from those scammers, and this is only going to end when absolutely NO ONE buys tickets from unauthorized people anymore, but you know how diehard fans are, right?

Anyway, getting back to what really matters, the (official) price paid for the tickets was definitely worth every penny. The whole band was in such perfect sync it’s hard to point any issues with their concert, and except for minor changes I would personally make to their setlist (which might have been already perfect for many) everything else went beyond my expectations. The “least famous” members of the band (Frank Ferrer on drums and Melissa Reese on keyboards, or whatever she was doing on stage) did their job, provinding the necessary support for the other guys to shine. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed (don’t ask me why they have three keyboardists, including Axl) and guitarist Richard Fortus proved why they’ve been with Axl for such a long time, probably even more time than Slash and Duff themselves, especially Richard who was spot-on with his riffs and solos to the point he wasn’t overshadowed at all by the one and only Slash. Quite the contrary, they make an amazing guitar duo together. However, no matter how much I praise those musicians, we know everyone was at the Rogers Centre to see the “heart”, the “soul” and the “blood” of Guns N’ Roses.

Starting with the “blood”, known as bassist Duff McKagan, he couldn’t be more physical and dedicated to the music he plays. Wearing a Lemmy T-shirt and having a Prince sticker on his bass guitar (a nice tribute to two unique musicians, with only the black star by David Bowie “missing”), Duff was on fire with his rumbling bass lines and awesome backing vocals. And when he was the lead singer, like in their cover version for Attitude, by the Misfits, he showed all his love for Punk Rock and how charismatic he is.

IMG_1541Axl Rose, who will always be the “heart” of Guns N’ Roses, surprised even the most skeptical fan with an absolutely incredible performance on vocals, singing each and every song as if he was the same Axl from Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion. What he did on my favorite Guns N’ Roses songs of all time, the superb Estranged, You Could Be Mine and Civil War (how can the lyrics for this song still be so meaningful after more than 20 years?), was a thing of beauty. He kept running around the stage, danced a lot, wore some almost-classic outfits from the 80’s and smiled to the fans all the time, and by seeing that I finally realized his troubled years might be dead and gone for good. When they played the beautiful ballad This I Love, the touching Sorry and the fun Better, songs where Axl is truly needed as they had zero contribution from Slash or Duff when composed, we could witness a focused and passionate artist that has found peace and is now on the right path to reconquer the world of music. Even when Axl talked about their small incident at the border, when the police found a gun with them, he didn’t get angry or anything like that, simply mentioning it was a funny moment and that “it wasn’t his gun”.

Lastly, what can I say about the “soul” of the band, the unparalleled Slash? That guy is getting better and better as time goes by, delivering his unique riffs and even more unique solos for the total delight of every fan of the band. His guitar duet with Richard Fortus, his beyond stunnig solo in November Rain and his classic riffs and solos in Sweet Child O’ Mine led many fans to an amazing state of ecstasy, a sensation many had to hold for decades to feel again. Let’s just hope Slash remains with Guns N’ Roses for many years to come, because that’s the place where he truly belongs in music. Well, as everything must come to an end, after the masterpieces Nightrain, Patience and Paradise City, together with a cover version for The Seeker, by The Who (which could have been easily replaced by another classic like “Think About You”, “Used To Love Her”, “Don’t Cry” or “Yesterdays”, or even by “Madagascar”), it was time for Axl, Slash, Duff & Co. to say goodbye to the awesome Toronto crowd after almost three hours of concert and get ready for the next city. No one knows if they’re coming back to Canada soon, but based on the reaction of the fans and the smile on the faces of each band member when the show was over, I doubt it will take another 20 years for us to see those guys in action again.

Setlist
Looney Tunes Theme (Intro)
The Equalizer (Harry Gregson-Williams song)
It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Estranged
Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
Attitude (Misfits cover)
This I Love
Civil War
Coma
Speak Softly Love (The Godfather Love Theme)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Sorry
Better
Out Ta Get Me
Slash & Richard Fortus Guitar Duet
November Rain
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
Nightrain

Encore:
Patience
The Seeker (The Who cover)
Paradise City

Band members
Axl Rose – lead vocals, piano, keyboards
Slash – lead guitar, backing vocals
Duff McKagan – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dizzy Reed – keyboards, piano, percussion, backing vocals
Richard Fortus – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Melissa Reese – synthesizers, keyboards, programming
Frank Ferrer – drums

Album Review – Roadless / Keep Rolling (2015)

Questo è Rock N’ Roll, cazzo!

Rating4

coverBorn in Turin, Italy in the beginning of 2012 from an idea of guitarist Noxy after his musical experience with a band from the city of Genoa called Lethal Poison, what Italian hard rockers Roadless have to offer us in their first full-length album, Keep Rolling, can be clearly summarized as direct and effective Rock N’ Roll. In other words, they’re not aiming at reinventing the wheel nor anything like that, but offering rockers and heavy metallers all over the world straightforward and versatile rock music that will put our bodies in frenzied motion. As simple as that, and it works extremely well.

After releasing their first EP in 2012 entitled Love to Roll, which name by the way was born from the psychedelic attitude of the band, and after sharing the stage with famous bands such as Pompei Nights (Sweden), Dead Vikings (Japan), Dobermann (Italy), and especially with American veterans Faster Pussycat, Roadless look and sound ready to spread their rockin’ wings and conquer new territories with their exciting musicality. In addition to that, the band is truly strengthened by the support from their record label, Carma Musik Records, who, according to their owners, “loves to produce only the music that still manages to excite, remaining one of the few who still believe in the power of emerging music.” That alone says it all.

Enough with the chit-chat, it’s time for Rock N’ Roll, baby! And the opener Scary Face couldn’t be more suitable for that: totally inspired by classic Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock from the 80’s and 90’s, it’s a great tune where Noxy and frontman Blaze are kicking ass in a display of love for old school rock music. Following that brilliant start, with a similar vibe to Deep Purple’s classic “Perfect Strangers” and with Blaze lowering down his voice a bit for a darker result in a few passages, Back To The Top is pub rock music that could have easily been a song from a renowned Hair Metal band from the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, especially due to its guitar solos and thrilling beats; while we all gotta love the riffs in She’s Gonna Take Me, a song about love, sex and relationships, with a great performance by drummer Cris Crow.

roadlessNot only the lyrics in the fast and furious track Love To Roll are an ode to 90’s rock music, but the song also has a Punk Rock touch that makes it even more exciting. Can you imagine how cool it should be to see them playing it at a sold out pub night? Anyway, Home Sweet Homicide showcases an instrumental full of elements found in the Rock N’ Roll played by Motörhead, with highlights to Cris Crow and bassist Morgan for fueling the music with their outstanding performances, and in order to maintain a high level of energy Roadless deliver Never Say Never, a more rhythmic song where Blaze and Noxy once again make a great sonic duo.

Heavier and slightly more modern, the next song, Voodoo Love, was born to be a radio hit thanks to its amazing riffs, lyrics and the vocal lines by Blaze, followed by Hot Mama, a badass sexist song loaded with the best elements of Stoner Rock, Hard Rock and old school Rock N’ Roll. This is another great composition I consider perfect for a hot and sexy strip-tease, and I can even visualize the strip girl taking off her tiny panty during the guitar solo. Then suddenly the band gets a lot thrashier in the high-speed circle pit-generator You Are Nothing with its lyrics that are definitely not what we can call “polite”, probably a message the band has to a very good friend, before they say goodbye to us all in Believe, where their Stoner Rock side gets even stronger, with its distortion, heavy beats and raspy vocals giving it a rawer taste.

You can take a listen at the full album at Spotify and SoundCloud, connect to the band at their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and buy Keep Rolling at the Carma Musik Records webstore or at Amazon. In English, we would say something like “This is fuckin’ Rock N’ Roll!” to describe the awesomeness in Keep Rolling. However, as we’re talking about an Italian band, I think it sounds a lot more genuine and rousing if we all pay homage to that beautiful country and scream together QUESTO È ROCK N’ ROLL, CAZZO!

Best moments of the album: Scary Face, Love To Roll and Hot Mama.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Carma Musik Records

Track listing
1. Scary Face 3:18
2. Back To The Top 4:40
3. She’s Gonna Take Me 2:35
4. Love To Roll 2:23
5. Home Sweet Homicide 3:44
6. Never Say Never 3:06
7. Voodoo Love 3:07
8. Hot Mama 4:08
9. You Are Nothing 2:09
10. Believe 3:56

Band members
Blaze – The Voice Of Fuckin’ Revolution
Noxy – Reckless Jungle Guitar
Morgan – Thunder Bird
Cris Crow – Drums Killer

App Review – Songza

A very useful app for music lovers to enjoy anywhere, anytime.

Rating4

songzaSongza is one of those things/apps that make me believe there’s still hope in a world full of all types of useless garbage. In my opinion, any app that doesn’t add some value to your real life, or even worse, that provides the user a very fake or biased impression of life, should be banished from the planet. Fortunately, Songza is a very simple idea that can make your day a lot better, no matter what you’re doing: it’s a totally free music streaming service that recommends various playlists based on time of day, mood or activity, and you can also browse for playlists that contain specific artists, bands, music style or genre etc. Their slogan is “Good music makes good times”, and I agree 100% with them.

According to their website, Songza’s playlists are made by an expert team of music critics, DJs, musicians, and musicologists. However, there are many playlists created by users, which can be a lot more interesting as we music fans know what our friends want to listen to, right?

Songza (1)I’ve already created a playlist called Workout of the Beast, which includes 66 Heavy Metal songs from bands like Slayer, Cradle of Filth, Exodus, Arch Enemy, Primal Fear, among others, to be used as a soundtrack for those days at the gym when you need some extra energy in your workout. If you have some free time, give it a try and let me know if you enjoyed it (and if it helped you achieve that one more rep at the gym).

My favorite playlists so far are the ones below, which I’ve been listening non-stop for the past few weeks:

Reign in Blood

Death Metal

Hard Rock, Hard Bod

Hair Metal

Thrash Metal Shred

Today’s Titans of Metal

songza_articleOf course there’s a lot of crap in Songza (it’s not an exclusive heavy music app), and sometimes even the playlists you select might have one or two “surprises” that would make you want to shut Songza down and never open it again. Besides, there’s a limit of how many times you can skip the songs from a playlist if you’re not a premium user. I don’t consider these to be huge issues with this app, especially due to its strengths: there are no listening limits, it’s a light app that works well in any device, you can use it in your mobile devices, laptop or desktop, and you can have some fun creating your own playlists for the other users to enjoy (you cannot listen to your own playlists, though).

Another important detail is that as you keep “liking” or “unliking” the songs from different playlists, Songza will start recommending you different options, enhancing your experience with the app and making it a very useful tool in any moment of your real life. Just watch out to not select by mistake any playlists that might contain some disgusting shit like Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga, and you’ll enjoy Songza as much as I do.

Get the free Songza app
App Store | Google Play | Windows Store | BlackBerry World | SONOS | Amazon Appstore for Android