Sinister Mind
Locomotive Records

Jaded Heart are one of the few pioneering AOR bands to break through the stone wall that was grunge. Established in 1996, the German five-piece have delivered half-a-dozen stellar slices of melodic hard rock that include their debut Slaves & Master, Inside Out and IV. Sinister Mind is their ninth opus and after solidifying their recent round of lineup changes, sees the group still very much committed to their craft. This time around mega-producers Michael Voss and Chris Lausmann are turning the knobs and have given the disc a meticulous sheen. The band has every element in place from the soaring vocals, guitar harmonies and a rhythm section that packs a punch. The disc starts off strong with “Hero” quickly becoming a favorite. It’s a fist-in-the-air anthem with a ripping solo and worth checking out on YouTube. The slick “Justice Is Deserved” sticks like glue while title track “Sinister Mind,” “Crush That Fear” and “Open Your Eyes” rumble unapologetically into Helloween/Dokken territory complete with melodic time changes and a chorus to remember.

“Going Under” and “See The Light” are typical Jaded Heart with layered guitars and a quick-step drum kick. While the band join ranks with Pink Cream 69, Bonfire and Fair Warning they have uniqueness in their melodies that set them apart from the pack. Replacing established vocalist Michael Borman with Johan Fahlberg was no easy task and has proven to be perfect for their continued progression. Fahlberg shines on the more metal tracks like “Heavenly Devotion” and the guitar slammer “To Please and Give In.” But his voice can be just as engaging on the more mellow “Always On My Mind.” When mining for the classic track similar to past glories “Burning Heart” or “Surrender” the under appreciated “Hellucinate” might just take the prize. Everything comes together at just the right level and if the hairs stand up on your forearm - it’s a good enough sign. On a side note the crunching “My Eager’s Red” features Heloween’s Sascha Gerstner in full six-sting fury.

Website: Jaded Heart, Locomotive Records

Rebel Youth Records

Canadian five-piece Sound and Fury plan to hit the streets June 24th with their self-titled debut. Heralded as the next generation of AC/DC meets ‘70s punk with chunks of classic rock thrown in have folks salivating for a mere morsel. The band has already done tours of the UK (with Sum 41), Canada and the Vans Warped tour to raging success. They have plans to bring their adrenaline-filled rock and roll circus in full force to the states this summer. “I wanted to make a killer rock album that captured what we do live,” says singer Luke Metcalf in our recent phone chat. “I want people to party their ass off when they listen to it. No bullshit, just down and dirty rock n’ roll.” The band started out in high school where they quickly locked onto a direction and sound. “A lot of our songs have this high school vibe because most of them were written when we were there,” says Metcalf, himself only slightly over 18. “We wanted the record to be fun but have all the elements of the music we love to listen to.”

Songs like “School’s Out,” “Teenage Rampage” and “18” all hearken back to those awkward days of zit cream and raging hormones with a defiance attitude. “It’s all about the power chord,” says Metcalf. “We are a total sonic assault with all the high energy of a six pack of Red Bull.” Looking like a bunch of CBGB’s rejects sporting Mohawks, baggy pants and reversed ballcaps the band plug and play at hyper-speed. They frame their songs around the Oi! chant, punching the air with verbal anthems like “She’s a high school hotbox” and “She’s on a 12-gage teenage rock n’ roll rampage.” But, their real charm is when they settle into an Angus Young strut like “Can’t Get Enough” and personal favorite “Bad Touch” that sound straight off ’79’s Highway To Hell. Says Metcalf, “Our music is ferocious and dangerous, like a wild animal let loose.”

Not all eleven tracks on the disc are so easily compared. “Night of the Ghouls” has a more original tone with Metcalf sounding like a young Jack Russell (Great White) as he howls out “Like a steel blade / I plunge right in / cut my dirty deals / ripe for sin.” “Hellhound” has a similar splattering of rockabilly grease with a cool bass drive and a wicked guitar grind. “It took me a while to get my vocals down,” admits Metcalf. “I worked at it every day for two years. I guess what you hear is me doing all my favorite singers rolled into one.”  They also tumble in references to their idols like the intro to “Runaway Love” which borrows from Joan Jett with “hello daddy, hello mom, I make your daughter go up like a bomb.” The Golden Earring “Supercharged” runs head on into “Rader Love” with the Beastie Boys in hot pursuit. For a debut Sound and Fury is remarkably solid with enormous promise for years to come. Check ‘em out!

Website: Sound and Fury

Got The Goat By The Horns
Day Kamp Records

For fans of the Hellacopters, AC/DC, Wolfmother, The Cult and Supersuckers (among many others). This is the tag sent around to the music press to hype Dirt Mall, a newish band out of Cambridge Mass. Always skeptical of any band who claims space next to our sacred Hellacopters, we gave DM a go and the claims were rightly sound. The New England four-piece do bash around hyper garage punk with reckless abandon but their madness has purpose and that’s what we liked best. Led by Johnny Anguish (guitar / vocal) with Jason Murray (guitar), Jamie Griffith (bass), and Derek Madeiros (drums) the quartet kick up some serious dust singing about moving to “Cali-forn-iA with records in the trunk and saying goodbye to Boston.”

Already darlings of famed UK music mag Classic Rock Dirt Mall cater to old school rock from Sabbath to the Replacements. “Medicate (Today)” and “Hopeless Bore” are straight-up Replacement-styled drunken poetry with lines like “Hey, get off the drugs / you have to medicate today” and “I’ve seen miracles and dreams of nations but there’s no salvation for a hopeless bore.” The nine-minute “The Demons and The Damned” finds redemption in a slow, gritty hook that increases into a nice solid rock piece. “Rows” with its ringing guitar, seems to come from the Turbonegro school of writing apocalyptic-spawned masterpieces with a sing-along chorus. Our favorite line comes from the song of the same name, “I’m not saying what you did is wrong but your timing could have been better.” The disc closes with the originally strange Black Crowe-ish “Ghost Descend” that could go country until the guitars kick in and destroyer your speakers.

Website: Dirt Mall

Far From The Sun
Transubstans Records

The brilliant new Siena Root is now available for public consumption. Far From The Sun builds on the band’s established hippie/jam vibe yet rocks it up considerably. Fans of the first two records A New Day Dawning (2003) and Kaleidoscope (2005) are already familiar with the group’s worship of transcending classic hard rock using the best elements of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Blind Faith with the atmosphere and psychedelic wanderings of Jefferson Airplane and the folk art rock of Jethro Tull. Right, that’s a lot to absorb but these four Swedes have no problem pulling it off. From the first record two things have set the group apart: a heavy organ presence and the charismatic and eloquently played Sitar. Far From The Sun continues to showcase the band’s progressive spirit with the Sitar in “Waiting For The Sun” while treating us to some very inspired heavy riffs found in the Mountain-esque “Dreams Of Tomorrow” and rip-roaring “Time Will Tell.”

Lead singer Sartez Faraj has a falsetto that brings back memories of Elkie Brooks in her heyday with Vinegar Joe, especially on songs “Wishing For More” and the foot-stomping “Two Steps Backwards.” He has this caterwaul that sends shivers up your spine in the same way Plant use to do. KG West is a master at Strat leads feeding the Trower/Hendrix intoxication of “Almost There” and hitting hard the subterranean Sabbath of “The Summer Is Old.” The majesty of this track is in its color, texture and moody arrangements that have flashes of Opeth and vintage Tull. Supporting “The Break Of Dawn” are sturdy bass lines between flute and Hammond runs. A nostalgic instrumental made timeless with shard or raw metal guitar and thunderous drums. The ten-minute “Long Way From Home” is a ’69 time warp to Emerson Lake and Palmer at the Isle of Wight, brooding keyboards, driving bass and spiraling melodic vocals swirling into an opium haze of cosmic delight.

Website: Siena Root, Record Heaven

Meteor City Records

Euphoria is the second installment of Dead Man’s gnarled reach into the decaying abyss of late sixties-early seventies stoned out hippydom. Much like their self-titled debut, they bask in the warm glow of ambient doom-guitar, creative interplay and laid-back percussion. Curved Air comes to mind with the gentle build of the nine-minute “The Wheel” while a heavy Tull influence collides with Amboy Dukes in “Rest In Peace” including the lyric lift, “journey to the center of your mind.” A generous dose of folk/country rock allows the disc’s eleven tracks to be steadied by a throbbing bass and stitched together with crisp solos runs and flute melodies. Singer Rotifer Sjödahl’s warbling falsetto is gingerly poetic, almost on the verge of lunacy. His country take on “I Must Be Blind” and “A Pinch of Salt,” is pure Bronco with traces of Greenslade. Guitarist Johan Rydholm is a master of guitar tones hailing down a volley of riffs then shifting to quiet interludes. Amid the cosmic “Today” and jovial “July” there are some catchy ditties including the toe-tapping “High or Low” and the title cut “Euphoria.” It must be noted while on holiday in Africa, bassist Joakim Dimberg claims to have found the spirit of pop music during a drinking frenzy with some voodoo witchdoctors.

Website: Dead Man

A Wound In Eternity
Meteor City Records

Never heard of Farflung? Neither had we until an ecstatic fan emailed us with all their details. The power trio are based out of LA and claim the tag “space rock” on their MySpace page. We’ve heard spaceier (Hawkwind) but they defiantly have the rock thing down. Second track, “Endless Drifting Wreck” is pure Monster Magnet (the early years) meets Love-era Cult and really catches your attention. The wide-open riff rings in the ears for hours with a metallic harmony and trance-like bass that logs it as a prime mover. A couple other tracks, “Silver Shrooms” and “Unborn Planet,” hail from the Pink Floyd school of hums, drones and psychedelic feedback. The guitar is far more prominent, cascading and aggressive – less trippy yet laidback. Space boogie might be the better term like pre-Schenker UFO with lots of echo on the vocals. The drums are massive and dense as in the heavier “Stella Volo” with a kind of new wave techno beat followed by crushing distorted guitars. The lyrics follow the space tag to a near comical end giving the impression that maybe their trying a bit too hard. A favorite is the country twang of “Like It Has Never Been.” Check out the video for “A Wound in Eternity” on YouTube.

Website: Farflung

Above The Wing Is Heaven
South Groove Records

In June of 2007, California-born Rob Lamothe became a Canadian citizen. That says a lot about the Hamilton, Ontario-based blues/folk singer. The last 15 years he’s spent more time in Europe and Canada than anywhere else and recently co-wrote the first single for Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porters' triple platinum-selling debut CD. Above The Wing Is Heaven is his debut for Grooveyard’s Records’ subsidiary South Grove and highlights Lamothe’s masterful song delivery with a voice that gracefully balances pop and blues. Comparisons to Richie Kotzen are certainly warranted especially in the warmth of “Ashes To Ashes” and the Robin Trower cover “Road To Freedom” complimented by Craig Erickson’s emotional wah wah. A couple other impressive names drop by to lend a hand including Brain Robertson (Thin Lizzy) and Jamie Oaks (Daba Rojaba) all working their own six-string magic to Lamothe’s acoustic resonance.

A favorite is Lamothe’s haunting version of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” The song takes on a gorgeous presence with Lisa Winn singing harmonies and playing percussion - a chiller to say the least. Congo-fueled “Time Will Go By” features the above-mentioned Robertson and finds simple charm in its soulful shuffle. The more rootsy “Blue Ray” is traditional Dobro Delta Blues with a tinge of gospel. The lyrics hint at the artist’s own musical journey with the line, “I know you’re out on a big soul ride and I wish you well.” Production is clean and crisp lending itself to the ambience of the studio – which in places sounds like Lamothe’s living room or front porch as you can hear the kids in the background. “Water” is just one of those tunes as he sings with pleading penitence, “muddy water wash me clean” while a child’s voice echoes “row your boat” in the fade out. The seduction of “Lies” is in its delicate nature of balladry and melodic picking. The record’s last song “I Ride The Waves” is a riveting seven-minute Jamie Oakes composition that sews together an acappella gospel standard with beautiful dark results.

Website: Rob Lamothe, South Groove Records

She Gave Us Magic
Independent Release

A smokin’ independent release from Wichita-based Black Gasoline has all the right pieces in place. Stealing from their dad’s 8-tracks we hear lots of influences from Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy played through a set of busted out speakers from the back of a Pinto. “Lady Iron Wing” and the plodding “Caster Oil and Marmalade” with it’s vintage organ sound embrace early ‘70s and pumps it out with some serious ass-kicking guitar. Said guitar is dirty, fat and juicy with a truckload of fuzz packing a wallop with each frantic lead. Go right to track #5 and crank up “A.C.T.I.O.N.” What you’ll hear is a blistering two and a half minutes of high octane, chest-beating noise that fuses the modern dirge of Nebula and sonic energy of the Hellacopters. Pile that on top of  “Pesci” and “The Fever” for an energetic romp with five guys who will give their left nut to rock you senseless. The record opener “All Night” comes with the backseat tale “you double parked in my heart babe / you just grabbed the wheel / you didn’t wait for the light to change you just went for the kill.” That attitude is what these boys do for 46-minutes tearing through one head-pounder after another. Standouts include the over-the-top “A Ghost Is The Highway,” the booming instrumental “Transmission Interlude” and the eclectic “The Boy Who Destroyed The World.”

Website: Black Gasoline

Locomotive Records

This disc is a fantasy line up for fans of melodic hard rock. Mega producers Michael Voss (Mad Max, Casanova) and Chris Lausmann (Bonfire, Jaded Heart) penned ten highly polished gems that can only be considered pure ear candy. The two played on and scored each track with a certain singers in mind. Then using their star power cajoled top seated vocalists to contribute their golden pipes to the project. James Christian gets the ball rolling with “Voodoo Woman.” His voice is a little buried in the mix but the chorus swells with melodic beauty. The guitars have real muscle and on the first half of the disc are spine tingling. Both Jean Beauvoir (Plasmatics, Crown of Thorns) and Johnny Gioeli (Hardline, Axel Rudi Pell) are in full swing belting out “Wild Thing” and “Phoenix Rising” respectively. Terry Brock (Kansas, Strangeways) does a magnificent job with the higher octave “Nightingale” as does “Robin Beck” with the raspy “Underloverd.” A real stunner is the Harry Hess sung “Irresistible.” With chugging guitar and a soaring vocal it makes the 7-minute opus a crown jewel amongst an already impressive set. And the Gary Barden “Love Is Blind” is one of the best in the man’s career – even with the dated lyrics. Unlike other heavily produced AOR slabs, this disc sticks with the “real” studio sound of the drums and bass - none of that pro-tools mud. Even the keyboards know their place.

Website: Locomotive Records, NEH Records

Chasing Shadows
Locomotive Records

Ritchie Blackmore thought Doogie White sounded like Ronnie James Dio without the growl, that’s why he was featured in the final moments of Rainbow. So it’s no surprise that the new Empire Chasing Shadows sounds like a melodic Dio record especially in the chorus where White sings, “I am the darkness, I am the light, I’ll see you through the storm tonight.” Taking over for Tony Martin (Black Sabbath), who sang on the last two Empire discs The Raven Ride (2006) and Trading Souls (2003), White adds his own spin on the Christian-themed “Child of the Light,” “Manic Messiah” and “Angle and the Gambler.” Partnered with guitarist Rolf Munkes, old Sabbath / Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray and drummer Mike Terrana (Masterplan, Axel Rudi Pell) we get a nice balance of New Wave of British Metal by some of it’s star alumns. “The Alter’ even sheds it’s skin with the classic galloping bass-line made famous by UFO and Iron Maiden. Munkes is a tremendous composer and writes to his strengths. The songs have chunchy melodies and bask in blues-based rock with ambitious solos. He has a tendency to get stuck on the occasional Malmsteen twiddle fest yet the songs are strong enough to support him. He out does himself on “Mother Father Holy Ghost” an absolute masterpiece with the band firing on all six. Amid the metallic barrage is the subtle and sweet “A Story Told” that proves the band can take a slower track and still pack a sonic punch with props to drummer Terrana who shook the house.

Website: Locomotive Records, Empire

Rock The Rebel / Metal The Devil
Mascot / Megaforce Records

Although unknown in America, Denmark’s Volbeat are phenomenally popular on mainland Europe. Calling themselves, “Elvis Metal,” they derive their influences from an eclectic mix of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Megadeth. Their dark, rhythmic hard pop is extremely catchy and fully testosterone-charged. Recorded in 2007, Rock The Rebel / Metal The Devil marks the band’s second outing. It wasted no time topping the Danish charts – a first for a metal band on home turf. Like their first opus, (The Strength/The Sound/The Song, 2005) the disc regurgitates ’50-60s bubble-gum flavor with a clever mix of metal and melodies. Like most Scandinavian acts, the production is flawless giving the guitars and drum a pompous “Rob Rock” treatment. With that comes several Metallica moments found in the infectious groove of “Mr. and Mrs. Ness,” the battery of “BOA” and FM friendly “Radio Girl.” Vocalist Michael Poulsen who’s previous group Dominus is now legendary, borrows more than a little from Glen Danzig and the baritone heavy Elvis in an intriguing combination of growls and grunts.

Several standout tracks make the record worthy of its critical praise. “The Garden’s Tale” is an elaborate, acoustic-driven Gaelic piece that brings the highland-spirit rumbling out of the fog in fine Thin Lizzy fashion. Banjo-picking “Sad Man’s Tongue” is old-school Johnny Cash highlighted in country swagger and a deep-throated delivery. The Nashville slide of “The Human Instrument” embraces a more roots almost folk vibe complete with nonsense lyrics that might find their way into a child’s verse book. “River Queen” uses crushing guitars and a galloping bass to rattle the speakers while singing about the Egyptian delta. It’s that eclectic flare that gives the whole thing charm. The band move from the humorous, double kick temperament of “Devil or the Blue Cat’s Song” to the frantic speed of “A Moment Forever” then onto the grind of “Soulweeper #2” with complete conviction. What we like about this band is that amid the crooning and infectious choruses there’s still plenty of ass-kicking rock to bang your head to.

Website: Volbeat

Come On
Small Stone Records

Shame Club is unequivocally ‘70s hard rock with a mix of punk attitude and Neanderthal rhythms. They pay attention to the deeper cuts of classic vinyl. Within their music are bits and pieces of Ten Years After, Grand Funk and Mountain with melodies that aren’t immediately catchy but pack a punch. They worship the almighty riff and use the nimble fingers of Andy White and Jon Lumley to build a wall of sound that not only rocks, but also maintains sonic texture. Lumley also sings and uses his soulful voice, which occasionally sounds like Lenny Kravitz, to proclaim his lust for fast women “How Far,” his forlorn “Sweet Mercy’s Gate” and his ode to the break up in “Lurch” with the sympathetic line, “You think your heart’s been broken girl / Well, I think it’s only been bruised.” Bassist Eric Eyster and drummer Ken McCray give the Saint Louis quartet a serious kick whether it’s in the chugging engine of “Transamerica” or the more subdued “Light Solace.” There’s also the Southern / Blues element that keeps the whole thing honest, heart felt and well crafted. Listen for the musical chemistry in the acoustic front porch jammer “Alicia Circles” and the thundering “Jonestown.” And you might get a chuckle as they spin the whole retro vibe with songs like “Don’t Feel Like Making Love,” “I Ain’t Surprised” and “Can You Feel It” all packaged up in the killer artwork of Bryan “The Butcher” Cox.

Website: Shame Club, Small Stone Records

Gypsy Trip
SiAn Records

We’re so tired of hearing people complain about the lack of any real “classic rock” anymore - none that compares to the likes of Bad Company, Aerosmith or Thin Lizzy. Well, Jaded Sun is just for them. Here is not only a remarkable band out of Ireland, but also one that has released a monster of a debut on par with Rode Hard – Put Away Wet (Tattoo Rodeo), Backstreet Symphony (Thunder) and Four Winds (Tangier). The UK has been pushing band’s like Glyder and The Answer claiming they are all that but when the laser hit the plastic, Lord have mercy, Jaded Sun delivered the goods. A juicy mixture of southern rock, slide guitar and a voice reminiscent of Robin McCauley, bring back the late ‘80s in raw style. Ball bustin’ tracks like “Breaking Through,” the bass happy “Positive” and rumbling “Higher” are instantly addicting. Then there’s the record anthem  “Can’t Stop” a foot-stomping feisty belter what throws down a sticky riff and cheerleading chorus. When the boogie piano/organ dropped in we knew we had a winner.

We’re not saying the album’s perfect but everything is in place from the Tennessee swagger in the ballad “Crave” to the greased up leads of “She’s Got Class.” Think bits of Humble Pie jamming with the Faces and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The best litmus test is always a tear-jerky, love-stained song about hanging on when it all seems lost. “Sweetness” has that magic rapture with a bucket full of emotion and a heart tugging solo. The Rolling Stones shadow looms large over “Crazyman” and “Hey You” as the band kick up their heels and take a run around a couple arena-sized rockers. “Fever” even lends itself to the bluesy side of Free. Producer Richie Mouser (Dream Theater/Weezer) gives the whole thing an authentic ‘70s vibe complete with soul-sister backup singers and a sweaty pub sound. No complaints kiddies, this is a retro outfit with all the right moves and the gusto to back it up. Crack open a brew and turn it up.

Website: Jaded Sun