Album Review – Afire / On the Road From Nowhere (2018)

Uniting the beauty of old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock with a modern twist, this awesome Finnish band is ready to take you on a ride on the road from nowhere with their debut full-length album.

As I mentioned in my review for their debut self-titled EP last year, anyone who got in contact with the music by Finnish Hard Rock outfit Afire was probably desperate for more of their music in a not-so-distant future due to the extreme quality, energy and harmony flowing from the three tracks presented by the band at that time. Fortunately for all of us, admirers of our good old Rock N’ Roll, this electrifying Oulu-based band wasted no time and brought forth now in 2018 their debut full-length installment, titled On the Road From Nowhere, a lesson in Melodic Hard Rock perfect for hitting the road, the gym, a special party with your loved ones, or anywhere else where classy and vibrant rock music is certainly needed.

With the same lineup as their debut EP, that being the stunning Suvi Hiltunen on vocals, Sami Kukkohovi (Sentenced, Kypck) and Antti Leiviskä (Poisonblack) on the guitars, Harri Halonen (Impaled Nazarene) on bass and Tarmo Kanerva (Poisonblack) on drums, Afire are indeed on absolute fire in On the Road From Nowhere, uniting the beauty of old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock with a modern twist and the always pleasant Scandinavian melodic waves in each one of the album’s ten powerful songs. Furthermore, bassist and songwriter Harri Halonen had a few nice comments about the album. “I’ve had a bunch of songs for quite a while, but for which I didn’t have an outlet, so we started Afire. With Suvi’s vocal lines and lyrics, the songs started molding into their current shape, and we finished them together. Lyrically the album is about leaving, departing. It’s not a theme album, but the lyrics do revolve around the subject anyhow,” said the talented Harri, inviting the listener to join the band in their rockin’ voyage.

And the album kicks off with a revamped version of their 2017 song The One to Take the Fall, sounding crisper and clearer than the original version thanks to the top-notch album production. Once again it’s a pleasure to listen to Suvi embellishing the airwaves with her vocals, while Sami and Antti deliver that catchy riff that made me enjoy this song so much from the very first listen last year. Their guitars keep invading our senses while Tarmo dictates the rhythm in the headbanging Not Coming Home, where they nailed it one more time in a lesson in modern-day Rock N’ Roll, setting the bar absurdly high in On the Road From Nowhere; followed by Let Me Be the One, a power ballad where Suvi shines with her passionate vocal lines while the rest of the band keeps the rhythm vibrant and impactful, with highlights to the potent bass punches by Harri, rumbling the ground like there’s no tomorrow.

Let’s keep raising our horns and enjoying a cold beer while witnessing Suvi and her henchmen kicking ass in Nowherefound, another classy and thrilling composition by the quintet where the stringed trio Sami, Antti and Harri are in total sync from start to finish, whereas Tired of Being Broken is a more serene and introspective born-to- be-a-radio hit tune, with Harri and Tarmo building a solid background for the guitar riffs and solos to soar high together with Suvi’s potent vocals. Then drinking from the fountain of renowned rock and metal acts such as Volbeat, Godsmack and contemporary Metallica the band offers us the awesome Veiling the Tears, adding elements from Southern Rock and Metal to their already thunderous sonority and with the solos by Sami and Antti bringing an extra dosage of electricity to the overall result. Once again venturing through the realms of power ballads we have Shining Through, bringing forward a solid instrumental that works well in providing Suvi what she needs to give another potent vocal performance, keeping the album at a sensational level of energy.

Following a similar pattern as its predecessor, Rotten to the Core also presents a dense and complete sonority; it sounds a bit too generic, though, when compared to the rest of the album, but its guitar solos are powerful and sharp as usual. Strangers Again, the second song from their debut EP, was also upgraded to a more metallic version, sounding crystal clear which means we can all appreciate Suvi’s vocals and the band’s riffs in more detail, translating the whole experience into sheer awesomeness, and closing the album we have another 2017 song the band re-recorded, Forevermore, a fantastic ballad showcasing a focused and talented band delivering beautiful and passionate Rock N’ Roll to soothe our souls.

Do you want to know more about Afire and listen to more of their stylish Hard Rock made in Finland? All you have to do is follow them on Facebook for news and tour dates (and I wouldn’t miss the chance to see them live if I lived in Finland, by the way), and buy your copy of their ass-kicking album On the Road From Nowhere, available also on Spotify, from Record Shop X, from the Inverse Records webstore, or from iTunes. And there you have Suvi and the boys ready to take you on a fun and pleasant ride “on the road from nowhere” anytime you want, all in the name of Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: The One to Take the Fall, Not Coming Home and Veiling the Tears.

Worst moments of the album: Rotten to the Core.

Released in 2018 Concorde Music Company

Track listing
1. The One to Take the Fall 3:30
2. Not Coming Home 3:42
3. Let Me Be the One 4:36
4. Nowherefound 4:50
5. Tired of Being Broken 4:36
6. Veiling the Tears 4:06
7. Shining Through 4:04
8. Rotten to the Core 4:12
9. Strangers Again 3:49
10. Forevermore 5:33

Band members
Suvi Hiltunen – vocals
Sami Kukkohovi – guitar
Antti Leiviskä – guitar
Harri Halonen – bass
Tarmo Kanerva – drums

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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