Sad news as Bob Kulick, infamous sideman and collaborator, has died at age 70. The news was confirmed by his brother Bruce via social media. No cause of death has been revealed at this time. Kulick’s discography features guitar work on KISS’Alive II,Paul Stanley, Unmasked and Killers;Meat Loaf’s Bad Attitude and Live (at Wembley); Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby; W.A.S.P.’s The Crimson Idol and Still Not Black Enough; Michael Bolton’s self-titled album, Doro’s Calling the Wild; and Ripper Owens’ Play My Game. Bob played guitar on WWE Superstar Triple H’s iconic entrance music, “The Game,” which also features Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister. Kulick also composed the track “Sweet Victory” for the SpongeBob SquarePants episode “Band Geeks.” The song was also featured during the Halftime Show for Super Bowl LIII. We send our condolences out to Bob’s family, friends, and fans at this time.
Although they’ve been around since 1986 (or 1972 if you wish to include their previous incarnation, Cacumen), German act Bonfire have always had to live in the shadow of fellow countrymen and hard rockers Scorpions and Accept. Even with fifteen studio albums to their name, plus numerous compilation and live releases, the band has only ever achieved a limited, but steady amount of success.
With decades of personnel changes, reunions, and legal wranglings behind them, and with only guitarist Hans Ziller remaining as the band’s original member (and even he left the band for seven years after being fired in 1989), Bonfire’s latest line-up still manages to deliver the goods with their new record Temple of Lies (AFM).
Opening with a short, narrated, introduction, the bluesy guitar and neoclassical piano of ‘In the
Beginning’ sounds like something Manowar would come up with if asked to produce a beer commercial. Next up is the title track, a great song powered by a strong riff, dominated by the high pitched wailing vocals of new frontman Alex Staahl, and containing a chorus of which many a European Power Metal band would be proud.
The Dokken-esque ‘On The Wings of an Angel’ and ‘Stand or Fall’ are a little lighter but no less catchy, and with a very eighties title for a very eighties song, ‘Feed the Fire’ is slow, but solid foot-tappy goodness. ‘Comin’ Home’ is standard power ballad material and probably goes on a bit too long, while ‘I’ll Never Be loved By You’ is a slightly heavier ballad with big eighties hooks and a pleasant aroma of Meat Loaf.
“You’ve been down this road before” sings Staahl on the faster paced ‘Fly Away’. Well, yes we have actually. Many times in fact, but it’s still good though. ‘I Help you Hate Me’ is a great little song with a headbangy, foot-stampy riff, but because of its reggae influence, automatically draws comparisons to the Scorpions’ superior ‘Is There Anybody There?’, and closing cut ‘Crazy Over You’ finishes the album in reasonable, but less than stellar fashion.
A worthy addition to the band’s back catalogue, Temple of Lies may not be Heavy Metal heaven, but it contains more than its fair share of highly creditable material and is certainly one of the strongest records the band has put out for many a year.
It seems that being in one band just isn’t enough for some musicians these days. Especially within the European Power and Symphonic Metal scenes. Quite possibly two of the most (musically) incestuous genres of all, there seems to be an unwritten law that every band has to release an album featuring a bare minimum of one special guest, or contain at least two members who have performed, produced or written material for no fewer than three other bands. So it comes as no surprise to find that the first release from Phantasma, a collective effort from Charlotte Wessels(Delain), Georg Neuhauser (Serenity) and Oliver Philipps (Everon), contains performances from no less than six guest musicians. As enticing as that prospect may be to fans of the acts involved, it’s all too common for collaborations like this to end with mixed or disappointing results, and The Deviant Hearts (Napalm) is no exception.
Opening with a nice, but rather twee sounding duet from Wessels and Neuhauser, the piano played ‘Incomplete’ sounds like it would have been more at home at the end of the record rather than the beginning. Evergrey vocalist Tom Englund lends his voice to the powerful title track, and things continue in good form with ‘Runaway Gray’. Easily the best track on the album, it features a superb performance by Wessels, with more than a hint of James Bond theme song about the verses, and even a touch of Rush during the middle section.
Things take a hefty downward turn, however, with ‘Try’. A horribly overwrought ballad featuring Trans-Siberian Orchestra singer Chloe Lowery, who although clearly capable of belting out high notes with ease, seems unable to sing softly without her voice cracking on almost every line. ‘Enter Dreamscape’ is a substantial improvement on the previous track, but it’s still just standard fare which sounds like it could have been written for any band within the genre.
‘Miserable Me’ begins by slowing down and reworking the tune to ‘Money, Money, Money’ by Abba before plodding off to nowhere interesting. Duet ‘The Lotus and the Willow’ is an attempt at recreating the Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue classic ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ but falls miles short of the mark. An insipid and forgettable tune, the song only lifts off momentarily during its Top Gun-esque guitar solo. ‘Crimson Course’ is another nondescript song that sounds like it could have been written for anyone, and the only memorable thing about ‘Carry Me Home’ is the return of that Top Gun style guitar solo.
By now, everything has started to sound like music from movies and other bands, and ‘The Sound of Fear’ does nothing to change that by appearing to be several old songs at once. The upbeat ‘Novaturient’ rescues things a little until it tries to be Meat Loaf, and ‘Let It Die’ closes proceedings as best it can, but it’s essentially just another song with nothing more to offer than a reasonably strong chorus.
At its best, The Deviant Hearts is a good, listenable album with two or three memorable songs, a handful of strong choruses, and some excellent vocal performances by Wessels and Neuhauser. But for the most part, it’s just a collection of songs not strong enough to make it onto the albums of any of the bands involved.