If the ’80s were your decade, then you’ve probably heard at least one song by Emmy winning US singer-songwriter Stan Bush, possibly without even realising it. From giving Jean-Claude Van Damme kung fu flicks Bloodsport, and Kickboxer a surge of synth-enhanced adrenaline with ‘Fight to Survive’ and ‘Never Surrender’, to giving criminally overlooked Charlie Sheen sci-fi ghost car movie The Wraith an extra helping of AOR cheese with ‘Hearts vs Heads’, Bush is arguably most famous for his musical contribution to 1986 animated classic Transformers: The Movie – ‘The Touch’.
After nearly two decades spent exclusively on the live circuit, Blue Oyster Cult returns with their fifteenth full-length album, The Symbol Remains (Frontiers Records Srl). In a way similar to the recent releases by fellow Seventies Rock legend Alice Cooper, the band opts for a kitchen sink songwriting method. The fourteen tracks play out like a career retrospective of sorts, exploring a variety of moods between classic-minded rockers, synth-heavy AOR numbers, and atmospheric occult excursions.
High Spirits’ endearing sincerity has always been a shining contrast to the often-sour realms of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, and that feelgood brightness is needed now more than ever. While it’s been four years since the release of their last album, 2016’s Motivator, the Chicago project’s fourth full-length doesn’t skip a beat and their established blend of AOR and Classic Metal is well intact. You always know what you’re getting but it’s presented with far too much enthusiasm to ever feel stale.
They say fashion and pop culture are cyclical and this old adage is at work again with the current ’80s revival, with the recent Goonies-esque vibe of Stranger Things and IT, the Motley Crue film The Dirt and the Spielberg explosion of colour that is Ready Player One. As well as Muse‘s retro love fest Simulation Theory and the wonderfully abundant AOR cliches of The Night Flight Orchestra. From this colourful decade, Swedish rockers Royal Republic have drawn inspiration for their fourth album Club Majesty (Nuclear Blast Records).Continue reading →
Formed in 2006, and including members past and present of Soilwork, Arch Enemy and Spiritual Beggars, are The Night Flight Orchestra. Despite their heavy origins they are anything but, this Swedish sextet are enamoured with the sounds of the late 70’s and early 80s – so expect big riffs, huge choruses, corny lyrics and artery-clogging amounts of cheese. Continue reading →
There aren’t many bands who mark forty plus years with an extensive UK tour promoting a brand new album as opposed to a full-on nostalgia show; but then again Magnum hasn’t followed the trend of many of their peers since their return from hiatus in the early 2000’s. As mentioned by our own Sir Tovey in his Lost on The Road To Eternity(Steamhammer) review, Magnum missed the nostalgia wave of recent times and thus, perhaps as a result, haven’t exactly been media darlings or more a recognisable name more on the periphery. This was certainly the case for me until finally discovering them with the aforementioned Lost …, discovering with it a rich and highly consistent catalogue; a new album more than capable of standing its own with even the band’s more highly regarded efforts.Continue reading →
The release of Magnum’s twentieth studio album, Lost On The Road To Eternity (SPV/Steamhammer) is no mean feat, considering twenty-five years ago, the band were releasing the aptly named and wholly underwhelming Sleepwalking (Music For Nations) while struggling to find a foothold in a musical environment that had no room for them. Continue reading →
Swedish multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö has had a long and strange career. On the one hand, he’s known for ambitious melodic death metal with Edge of Sanity on the other, he’s been a stalwart of the progressive rock scene with the likes of Nightingale, who are back after a seven-year hiatus. Their new album, Retribution (InsideOut), it’s all about the melody.
This is the seventh album from the band – made up of Swanö on guitar, keyboards & vocals, his brother Dag on guitars and keyboard, Erik Oskarsson on bass and Tom Björn on drums. In their early days, Nightingale was a goth rock outfit unafraid to embrace their experimental progressive sides. Today, they’re more of a poppy, radio-friendly outfit with hints of 80s goth, 70s style synth and AOR.
From the upbeat opening of ‘On Stolen Wings’ to the gentle rock of ’27 (Curse Or Coincidence?)’ it’s clear Nightingale are sticking to the lighter side of the rock spectrum. Whether it’s the synth heavy ‘Chasing the Storm Away’ or the slow gallop of ‘The Voyage Of Endurance’, every track is essentially a catchy, hook laden pop songs and it’s not to get caught up in the moment.
Swanö’s vocals have always been a strong point, no matter which band he’s playing in. And while there are no death growls, his powerful, soaring voice suits the AOR style of Nightingale’s music perfectly. But despite being easy on the ears, there’s little on offer for anyone who doesn’t like their rock dad or radio friendly. Pretty much every song is either a mid-paced stomper or some kind of power or acoustic ballad. The song writing is all to a high standard, there’s little filler, but there’s nothing to get the blood pumping or the head banging.
It might lack any adventure or experimentation, but Retribution is an enjoyable and perfectly listenable album. Edge of Sanity fans may find little to enjoy, but anyone who enjoyed the melodic aspect of Witherscape‘s debut or any of Swanö’s prog-orientated releases will be pleased to find the man back on good form.
Now apparently, this latest effort from Leaves Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine has been sold to us as ‘Ambient doom’. I can safely say that no version of doom has been anywhere near Vervain (Napalm) but within is a sound of some melancholy, despite adding only a touch of gravity to the more expected symphonic template.
Opening track ‘My Wilderness’ houses a sense of despair, lush keys creating a stirring atmosphere while Liv’s heavenly tones are accompanied by haunting backing vocals. The ensuing ‘Love Decay’ features dramatic 80s goth vocals from End of Green‘s Michelle Darkness, adding to the dark pop-rock feel which is given further piquancy by an spiky riff and crashing drums. The title track’s strange synths and gentle but driving beat underpin a gorgeous vocal which is Tori Amos-like at its height: indeed the quirky Goddess is evinced on a number of tracks here, not least in the roughed-up dub of ‘Creeper’ and closer ‘Oblivious’, both full of sparing leads and woolly key fills in the worst traditions of 80s AOR.
It’s a plaintive sound, that largely gothic instrumentation and dark, icicle-drop keys giving the style expected to the Benatar-ish ‘Stronghold of Angels’, which is given a harder edge by a wonderful contribution from Doro Pesch and some heady harmonies. Though devoid of extremity, even weaker moments such as the occasionally feeble ‘Hunters’ are given a little oomph by Kristine’s soaring, crystal-clear voice, full of emotion; the layered backing vocals; and those ‘riff and rhythm’-laden choruses. There’s a hint of Kate Bush also on the edgy ballad ‘Lotus’, evincing a bitter coffee in a lonely Parisian cafe.
There’s an unmistakable air of European rock about it all, even when that riff kicks in, yet it’s emotive despite the clinical over-production and delicious for devotees of heartfelt operatic rock. Liv’s honeyed notes are effortless, even aching on the mournful ‘Two and a Heart’, and overall it’s fairly pleasant though not the sort for rough old me. Catchy, sweet, and choc-full of darkness and melody, it’s Gothic Symphonia with an even softer heart.