Houston – II

Photographer Linda Åkerberg

Photographer Linda Åkerberg

Not to be mistaken with the excellent Italian band Houston!, the Swedish band of the same name earned plenty of acclaim and deserved praise with their self-titled debut album. Consisting of melodically enflamed passion drenched songs  the release soon found its place at the top spot on the Classic Rock Magazine’s top AOR albums of 2010, whilst Houston went on to garner further recognition through live performances including a successful tour of the UK the following year. Now they return with their imaginatively named second album II, building on that strong plateau with more potent melodic rock which will feed the needs of all AOR, Foreigner, Journey, and Survivor fans.

With producer/keyboard player Ricky Delin becoming a full band member for the new album alongside vocalist Hank Erix and drummer Freddie Allen, the album again sees the band bringing in some of the best Swedish melodic rock musicians including Tommy Denander for the majority of the guitar work and long-time band associate Soufian Ma’Aoui on bass. Also featured across the ten tracks are the likes of Calle Hammer and Jay Cutter, whist offering backing vocal talent there is Victor Lundberg, Geir Ronning, Jessa Slatter, Kristoffer Lagerstrom, and Catharina Lindqvist. Released via Livewire/Cargo Records, the album is a flourish of melodic might and striking songwriting from start to finish and as mentioned if their genre is your chosen pleasure, the release is like aural manna at best and poetic expression in its least dramatic breaths.

As the opener Glory shows, there is also plenty to entice for those of us with a heart stoked by more aggressive and intensive delights. Houston_II_CoverThe track immediately engulfs the ear with the outstanding keys and craft of Delin, their embrace a soaring pull of the senses into the heart and sky of the song where they find the fine vocals of Erix courted by accomplished guitar flames and an inviting bass stroll. Whether the song offers anything new or unexpected, which can be applied to the album as a whole, can be debated between AOR enthusiasts and the more casual visitor, but undoubtedly the skill of the band and poise of the song leaves the senses more than eager to indulge the album in greater depths.

The strong start is followed by I’m Coming Home, the recently released to strong responses first single from the album. Vocal harmonies and the ever persuasive keys shape a vibrant and emotive narrative to enjoy with real appetite though there is a strong familiarity to something elsewhere, though at this point in time it escapes definition.  It makes a good appetiser for both Return My Heart and Talk To Me, the first a keen but restrained melodic blaze with anthemic lures whilst the second merges power ballad grandeur with a smouldering temptation with female backing vocals adding an extra kiss of warmth to the emotive embrace.

The likes of the expansive yet precisely honed 24 Hours and the radiant Losing with a great bass tone from Ma’Aoui marking its territory, leave the ear basking in pleasing heat and melodic prowess but all are blown away by Just Friends, the best track on the album. Led by the delicious tones of Minnah Karlsson, a Stevie Nicks lilt raising their potency, the song is a thrilling wind of dual vocals and harmonies, Karlssson and Erix complimenting perfectly to lift the passion and heights of the song to lofty levels whilst musically the track wraps their seduction with equally magnetic textures and charm.

With the easily accessible and infectious Believe closing off the album, II is a release which will leave AOR fans basking in its open triumphs and the rest of us admiring its craft and alluring presence though maybe more from afar than close up. Definitely for and recommended to every fan of Michael Bolton to Foreigner, Styx to Journey.

www.facebook.com/Houstonsweden

7.5/10

RingMaster 04/09/2013

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Death SS – Resurrection

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    Resurrection the follow-up to the critically acclaimed previous album The Seventh Seal sees the return of Italian heavy metal band Death SS and their compelling tales and sounds of horror soaked devilry. Formed by vocalist Steve Sylvester with its first recordings as far back as 1988, the Pesaro band has been an ever potent presence within Italian heavy metal and to a lesser degree the world. Taking, one suspects a more than healthy influence from the likes of Alice Cooper, and possibly inspiring again on assumption the likes of current bands such as Houston! and Superhorrorfuck, Death SS create a blend of metal and drama inspired by horror movies and literature and apparently also this time around the Italian sexy-horror comics of the Seventies especially in the album art work. Resurrection is at times a riveting excursion through crimson red temptation but also has tracks where inspiration is lacking for song and listener, something which suggests that many of the bands they may have sparked life within have since surpassed their own creativity. Despite that for the main the album is a pleasing and easy to return to riot of familiar fun.

For the first half of the Lucifer Rising / Scarlet Records released album, Resurrection is a bit hit and miss, the alternating tracks bringing death-ss-coverrides of horror rock and more straight forward heavy metal, and the former much more thrilling than the latter style. For the first time Sylvester produces a Death SS album and does a great if unspectacular job whilst alongside guitarist Al Denoble, keyboardist Freddy Delirio, bassist Glenn Strange, and Bozo Wolff on drums, he leads the stirring passions through a disjointed but appealing journey of rock ‘n’ roll. The album certainly gets better the further into its body you go too, finding a stronger consistency to the variation working its devilment.

Opening track Revived opens on a pulsating heartbeat with a sinister ambience soon emphasised by the vocals of Sylvester. This menace is accelerated by the joining throaty bass and wide rhythmic punches all scored by sonic guitar lashes. Into its thumping stride with a blanket of refreshing electro temptation, the song is a rampant stroll of horror rock which instantly brings thoughts of Wednesday 13, Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13, and as mentioned earlier Superhorrorfuck. It is not bursting with originality but as the riffs and rhythms cast their contagious net around the senses and the vocals unleash their raucous grazing it is imagination capturing fun.

The following track The Crimson Shrine avails itself of a more classic heavy metal breath, riffs and drums a tower of sinews whilst the keys paint a symphonic picture upon the big boned canvas. The guitar work of Denoble is impressive and creates enthralling shards of melodic flames across the song whilst the additional female vocals temper things with grace and beauty, but the track is pale in potency against its predecessor and next up The Darkest Night. To be fair some of this is down to personal preference towards the two styles offered but it is an uneasy lie in many ways nevertheless. Its successor takes a mere breath before launching another muscular stomp of horror rock/power metal like persuasion. The electronic veins provided by the keys are like torches, lighting the thick shadows of the narrative which dance within the crushing frame of rhythms and hungry predatory riffs. Like the first song there is nothing unheard before but delivered in the accomplished and energetic style of Death SS leaves a very satisfied appetite.

The decent enough melodic charms of classic metal honed Dionysus lead into the rapacious growl and hold of Eaters, the track a bestial torrent of steely jawed riffs and mountainous rhythmic provocation driven by great vocal incitement, lyrically and in delivery. Again it is no coincidence that the song is a Cooperesque/Murderdolls like romp with lethal dangling weaponry disguised as guitars solo and bass lines to enslaved and tear the senses into bliss, and is the style exciting these ears.

The likes of the Ogre’s Lullaby, with its psychotic whispers and heavily laden vocal tempting, and the metallic swing/swagger of Santa Muerte both ignite thoughts and a little bit of greed for their sinew stretching and especially in the first, schizo charms, whilst The Devil’s Graal is a crawling provocative beast that leaves welcomingly entrenched sonic claws and dramatic teeth in the senses. As mentioned previously, Resurrection gets stronger and more perpetually appetising as it works nearer its climax, both the Manson like Precognition with its rhythmic juggling and carnivorous riffing and the bruising rock n’ n’ roller Bad Luck proof as they leave limbs and passions laying down an accompanying energetic escort. They make a thrilling conclusion to the album and compensates for the disappointment of songs such as the bland The Song of Adoration, certainly in comparison to this last pair. Wrapped in the great artwork of Emanuele Taglietti, an internationally renowned painter and author of all the covers of cult adult comics such as ‘Belzeba’, ‘Zora’, ‘Sukia’, ‘Cimiteria’, ‘La Poliziotta’ to name a few, Resurrection is a very enjoyable album even with songs which just do not ignite any heat for their presence included, and though there is nothing truly new here which has not been discovered and reaped elsewhere, it is hard not to like and want to return to.

http://www.deathss.com/

7.5/10

RingMaster 31/07/2013

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Raised Emotionally Dead – Memo

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     When we say that the sounds you hear on Memo are nothing you have not really heard before do not take this as a slight or criticism as the debut from Canadian hard rockers Raised Emotionally Dead is one of the most enjoyable releases to come along this year. It is pure metallic rioting, with songs and music to turn any occasion or hour into an adrenaline soaked, sonically sculpted thrilling storm. There is also a distinctive breath and tone to the album which does go against our opening line but simply if you are already seduced by the sounds of say early Marilyn Mansion, Murderdolls, Rob Zombie, and Dope you are going to have a ball with this Toronto quintet.

    Raised Emotionally Dead was born from the earlier project of vocalist Jezla and guitarist ZeeDee called The Hellz Kitchen Show. 2011 saw the pair build their own recording studio and start Red Channel Records as they sought to discover and perfect their own unique sound. Now you could happily argue that uniqueness is one of the less immediate attributes of Memo but to be fair it is hard to think of anyone who presents the familiarity in the same breath-taking way that these gentlemen do. With a line-up completed by ex-Zeroscape guitarist Specializt, ex- Papa’s Delicate Condition bassist Nibz, and drummer Naz, the band has opened for the likes of Marilyn Manson, L.A.Guns, John Corabi, Vince Neil, Gilby Clark, The Birthday Massacre, DOPE, Faster Pussycat, Dog Fashion Disco, Trash Light Vision, Carnival Diablo, Nash the Slash and many more. Memo is the next major step and one with luck which will open them up to the hunger of the metal/rock world.

     The release opens with one of the most contagious songs heard in a long time. Channel Radio stomps all over the senses the moment it leaps from the initial sample, drums thumping with antagonistic provocation whilst the guitars eagerly grind through the ear with compelling riffs and vigorously seductive grooves. With the throaty bass adding its devilry to the mix and the vocals of Jezla scowling over it all like an expressive tempest,  the track takes mere seconds to tempt thoughts and passions into joining its bruising cause. Every second and atom of the song is pure contagion, a wicked device to have the limbs, voice, and energy of its recipients expelling their enthused participation. Ok it has that call of recognition to it but the likes of Dope, Mansion, and Wednesday 13, whom the song reminds most of, have not had this effect and persuasiveness about them in a long time, if at all for some.

   The outstanding start is soon complemented by the equally hungry and tempting sounds of Shed It, guitars carving up the air with muscle clad riffs alongside an infectious rhythmic menace. The hard rock voice of the song is a clear call which suggest elements of G ‘N’ R whilst vocally again that confrontational squalling tone of Jezla assisted by great group calls, rides the torrent of aggressive energy like a sinewy surfer, syllables and words caught in the appealing wake. As the song and its successor Selfish Inc. rampage with varied intent and enterprise it is hard not to be wrapped up in the fun and energy of it all, whilst that openness of resources just makes it easier to engage and participate with the lure of each track.

     Whilst the previous two songs slip slightly below the immense opener both Resistance and Code Red have little trouble in staking their claim for top honours on the release. The first of the pair has a slight industrial lilt to its enticement which makes for a NIN/Pitchshifter like incitement with an extra unintended nod to Italian band Houston! which only adds to the imaginative craft and adventure of the song. The track also continues to push the diversity within the album beneath that surface recognition, something the second of the two equally reinforces with creative ease. There is a feel of Gruntruck at times here as the guitars shape the body of the song and rhythms cast their cage over the senses to appease further the greedy appetite slavering now over every song.

     The underlying mystique of Faceless makes an enthralling temptress next, even if the song falls short of the pinnacles set, whilst the likes of Out Of Control with its Jane’s Addiction like groove and the slow burning Messenger captivate with a virulent toxin that leaves nothing less than rich satisfaction.

   Closing on the fiery and reflective Applaud, a song which arguably is the weakest on the album yet still enlists full union with its badgering rock sounds, Memo is an album that leaves you exhausted but enriched in pleasure. Yes the band probably need to explore for a distinct voice ahead but right now they have delivered one undeniable treat.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Raised-Emotionally-Dead/191217410892909

http://www.raisedemotionallydead.com

8.5/10

RingMaster 24/03/2013

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IVEZA and ELEMENTS

I and E

Already aware of and having enjoyed earlier electronica led sounds from Serbian multi-instrumentalist Ivan ‘Iveza’ Ivezic, there was plenty of intrigue when discovering his new project Iveza And Elements. What it discovered was an enthralling muscular fusion between electro and rock which ignites the ear before moving on to the senses and accompanying aspects. The quartet from Kragujevac is an emerging force which on the evidence of their first couple of songs is set for a potent horizon.

Alongside Ivezic, whose history past and current includes playing in Thimble(hardcore/screamo/new school),KBO!(legendary punk/hardcore band founded in the 80`s) and Librium(melodic/post hardcore) as well as his solo electronica cored work, the band consists of Marko Sujica, Predrag Spasojevic, and Nikola Vasic. Together, as evidenced by Fireman and The World Is Gonna Stop, the four-piece creates an expanse of sound which defies precise labelling but reaps the essences of a great many seeds for its own individual persuasion. Industrial, alternative, and electro metal all find a loud whisper within the songs and add to the imaginative and riveting temptation offered.

Fireman is a song which immediately seizes the ear with a mighty commanding grip; forceful riffs and vocal strikes scything through the electro dazzle being expelled around the ear. The brewing tempest soon breaks into a stride of hungry energy and snarling aggression; the guitars, drums, and bass all growling with rapacious urgency whilst the keys dance and transfix the senses with exhilarating warmth and invention. Like a mix of Celldweller, Marilyn Mansion, Houston!, and Terminal Choice, the song rampages with refreshing intensity and insatiable enterprise, chewing and caressing the emotions with equal greed and potency. It is industrial metal at its most compelling and thrilling, and alone makes the band a certain target on the radar.

The World Is Gonna Stop ventures down a less metallic avenue, its electronic ambience and expressive melodic narrative a sonic heat within colour drenched electro imagination. This is not to say the song lacks sinews, its rhythmic framing caging the ear with firm inescapable skill, but the venture is more a sultry blaze of smouldering vocal tempting and keys sculpted sunlight which washes over the listener like a vibrant dawn and sizzling sunset. The mentioned vocals are a gentle call compared to the aggressive snapping delivery in Fireman, but as impressive as the unique sounds and evocative atmosphere borne.

With another song, Revelation, a track which sits somewhere between the two covered here, bringing further irresistible quality and adventure to the opening introduction of the band, there is only intensive anticipation for the future of and creativity from Iveza And Elements. It is impossible not to keep a close eye upon them after the unveiling of their first songs, an excited eye.

https://www.facebook.com/IvezaAndElements

RingMaster 20/05/2013

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Project Silence: 424

Proj silence

    A new scourge to confront extreme noise fans, Project Silence is a Finnish band which is a brawl of intense promise and in 424 has unleashed an album equally as powerful and striking. Though not without flaws, the release is an immense conviction of brutality and bewitching enterprise, in fact that its only real prime issue in that it offers so much in diversity and ideas it risks confusing the listener into indecision over its impressive contents.

From Kuopio, the quintet of Delacroix (vocals, programming, keyboards), Mr. Sanderz (guitar), J (guitar), Silve R (drums), and Sturmpanzerjäger (bass), combine a ferocious furnace of industrial metal, dark electro, trance, aggrotech, and black metal, setting the band somewhere between God Destruction and The Browning with primal essences of Mortiis adding their serpentine malevolence. Formed in 2008 as originally a solo project of Delacroix, the band released its first songs soon after as a free download before working on their debut album and releasing a pair of preview songs in 2010. Obstacles and delays held up the album until the powerful collection of invention and aggression was released at the tail end of 2012. Now with its experimental muscular confrontations open to the world there is an expectation, after listening to 424 that Project Silence is on the first major step of an impending forceful ascent.

The title track wraps around the ear first, the electronic instrumental a warm expanse of electro warmth over slightly blistered 424coverambience whilst keys evoke a tender yet firm invitation to the heart of the release. The piece gives no indication of the destructive intent to follow though its brief minute and a half is merely a pleasing slight-of-hand as the malice of Pressure Revolution takes its place. The track plunders the ear initially with electronic teases and riotous shouts before gaining a stride of rampant electronics and hungry riffs. In full flight the song is a storm of brawling intensity, grazing acidic vocal squalls, and transfixing sonic rain of melodies and electro shards of infection. It is an undemanding yet sinewy encounter which has essences of Houston! and Celldweller within its heated stance.

The following My Reality immediately invades the ear with a darker ambience and invading shadows leading to a malicious caustic vocal and predatory black metal flavoured persuasion. Whereas its predecessor was a relatively direct offense the songwriting here is an evolving and senses searching journey which ravishes and seduces with equal hunger and effect. A guitar power metal infused temptation is just one seamless escapade on the insidious encounter whilst the symphonic caresses in the latter part of its presence is an extra fire of unexpected pleasure to add further diversity to song and release as is Stardancer (Raven’s whore). The track opens with a trance soaked wash which persuasively leads one right into the furnace of rampaging energy and riffs driven by a ravenous breath. Once more it is a song which into its onslaught skilfully and passionately merges a distinct spicery, the track a raptorial tempest which shifts from bringing loud whispers of Rammstein and The Kovennant to those of Firewind and Enter Shikari.

The corrosive Keeper with its dramatic keys, euphoric ambient symphony, and riveting electronic grandeur, is a powerful and compelling slice of symphonic metal imagination but again as with all songs employs a weave of provocative textures and sounds which crosses genres and appetites. As mentioned at times you feel there is almost too much going on, though everything is with a craft and inventive sculpture it is impossible to refuse its addictive lure and the more you immerse within the album the more its persuasion is dominant.

From the singular techno presence of Sky, Space and Twilight Zone, a track which perfectly accomplished did not manage to spark any fires without that viciousness that pervades throughout the rest of the album, and the black metal malignancy of the again strong but ultimately uninspiring Alone (Crushed by Your Lies), the album is soon preying on the passions once more with firstly the feral BEAST and its successor Cage of Hate. The first of the pair fuses black and pagan metal into a voracious devouring of the senses with dazzling yet shadowed industrial magnetism whilst the latter is an incendiary soundscape of spiralling elements and ideas from again a wealth of genres and styles brought into a contagious slightly suffocating maelstrom of imagination.

424 is completed by the dark electro metal revelry of Everything where again the likes of Rammstein stalk thoughts and the short evocative instrumental Promise to bring a rounded closure to the release. It is an excellent release which impresses from start to finish whilst breeding an even more powerful promise and anticipation of the band in the future when they find their unique voice, which suggested by the album is still a search in progress. The bottom-line is Project Silence left us enthused and breathless, enough said.

http://www.projectsilence.info

8/10

RingMaster 27/02/2013

 

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Houston! – Mechanical Sunshine

Houston! is one of those bands that despite being around for a few years suddenly falls into view from nowhere like a starburst of quality and intriguing sounds. The band from Piacenza, Italy formed in 2006 releasing the demo Never Alcoholized within the first year but it was the release of their debut album Fast in Elegance in 2008 on US label Sliptrick Records that notice outside of their homeland began to stir. Opening for Vengeance and a first European tour followed through the year and into 2009, continually building up their fan base with sold out shows across Europe. Still though there was much more scope to be discovered worldwide and with the release of their second album Mechanical Sunshine on Tanzan Music on June 24th, a major stride will be taken to achieve that. The reason for confidence that soon Houston! will be a name on many more lips is because their new release is simply impressive. Bursting with 14 tracks of smartly fused gothic c electric and hard rock sounds fuelled by a vein of strong metal riffs, it surprises, inspires and most of all deeply satisfies.

The album starts after a brief instrumental with Planet Terror, a striding track built on tight nu- metal riffs and hard rock melodies and vocals, a combination that on the surface is not immediately encouraging but under the artful songwriting of Houston! it works a treat. It is with the next track though that the real uniqueness of their sound announces itself and shines. Anghell Clown erupts with a Korn/Primer 55 like groove with a slow Manson vocal delivery and intermittent warped circus melodies. The track expands with a hard rock group chorus but never strays too far from the metal almost dark industrial flavour. Vocalist Niccolo Savinelli can deliver many styles with his fine voice, from a hard dark growl, through metal aggression and simply with straight rock flavours, he is able to mix it up neatly and never going too far in one direction.   

The next tracks Let Me Shout and Mechanical Breath stay more with the hard rock sound, the first being a relatively straight forward and satisfying song and the latter having a more gothic tone and strong guitar solo from Phil. The tracks do not move into anything too adventurous though this is not to say the tracks are merely ordinary but up against the more menacing and inventive tracks before and following they do not stand out as blatantly. The melodramatic gothic Black Rose rises up next with driving riffs and a darker intensity from bassist Gaby Facchini and the powerful drums of Giovanni Savinelli, showing the difference just mentioned. There is a cool gothic cinematic feel about the song and one can visualise a potent emotive video for it in the mind as it plays out.

The album as it progresses ebbs and flows, always holding a fine consistency with bursts of stunning songs regularly breaking out. The industrial/hard rock blend of Generation ’09, My Swedish Baby Looks Like A Star with its Dope like energetic and irresistible groove, and the best track on the album the stomping stormer Sick, Sex, Six, are all thrilling examples of the quartet’s infectious and inviting music. Amongst the raucous rock grinding sounds the band also show their skill with expressive ballads such as One Day and Cold, showcasing the ability and variation in the bands songwriting to bring something unique with each individual song.

Mechanical Sunshine closes with a cover of the Rob Zombie classic Dragula. The band produce a fine effort and though it is impossible to come near to the original it does make a fun way to end the album and after the previous great tracks it is merely a good enjoyable addition rather than a musical statement. Houston! has created an album that explodes with great sounds and creatively realised ideas and should bring them into the awareness of a much bigger audience. Further on they could explore two directions, the hard rock tradition or a harder darker metal edged sound which currently seems their destiny going by Mechanical Sunshine. This is a must listen release that will impress everyone who ventures into it.

Houston! will be touring across Europe in summer/fall 2011.

For more information, please visit: www.myspace.com/houstonband.

Pete RingMaster 10/06/2011

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