The success story continues for NESTOR, consisting of five childhood friends from the small town of Falköping, Sweden, who chose to restart the band they once formed back in 1989, that’s been lying dormant for just over three decades.
Their debut full-length album Kids In A Ghost Town was released on October 22 and reached first place on the Swedish Hard Rock Album Chart as well as an honorable second place on the list for Physical Album Sales. The album has been unanimously acclaimed by rock press and media, both at home in Sweden and abroad in Europe, the UK, and the US, where many have mentioned it as a given candidate for Album Of The Year.
Their music has already reached close to 1,5 million streams on Spotify and more than 500 000 views on YouTube of their music videos, among them the one for the single “Tomorrow” – an epic ballad duet with 80s icon Samantha Fox, that together with the videos for the two prior singles “On The Run” and “1989” showcase the band’s love for the 80s and all its attributes, with a sense of detail that is hard to match. With their live debut accomplished in conjunction with their album release at a sold-out gig in Stockholm, where the only real complaint was that the crowd wanted more, NESTOR have several upcoming live performances, both at the big arenas in Sweden and on the trustworthy summer rock festivals.
NesTOUR DATES 2021-22:Nov 20 – Keep It True Rising, Würtzburg, GermanyDec 10 – Scandinavium, Gothenburg, Sweden (w/ Takida)Dec 11- Hovet, Stockholm, Sweden (w/ Takida)Dec 17 – Malmö Arena, Malmö, Sweden (w/ Takida)Feb 4 – Vulkan Arena, Oslo, Norway (w/ H.E.A.T)Feb 5 – Berns, Stockholm, Sweden (w/ H.E.A.T)Feb 18 – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, Denmark (w/ H.E.A.T)Feb 19 – Trädgår’n, Gothenburg, Sweden (w/ H.E.A.T)Feb 26 Folkets Hus, Blomstermåla (w/ H.E.A.T)June 4 – Atlas Rock, Gävle, SwedenJune 11 – Sweden Rock Festival, Sölvesborg, SwedenAug 3 – Sabaton Open Air, Falun, Sweden Many more dates to be added.
NESTOR embraces influences from the 80s in their nostalgic rock, with tongues-in-cheek and a lot of heart along with great passion. The album Kids In A Ghost Town is produced by Tobias Gustavsson, mixed by Sebastian Forslund (The Night Flight Orchestra), and mastered by Thomas “Plec” Johansson at The Panic Room.
NESTOR ARE: Jonny Wemmenstedt (guitar) Mattias Carlsson (drums) Tobias Gustavsson (vocals) Marcus Åblad (bass) Martin Frejinger (keyboards)
Much like Ken Ingwersen’s latest album The Future Looks Bright, Barnabas Sky is a project put together by a guitarist / songwriter, and assembled with an outstanding cast of great singers for each track, from bands Markus Pfeffer admired [hence the title]. A solid collection of heavy rockers and a few lighter melodic numbers. Great hefty sounding guitars, and lots of good songs. Really liking the opener “Legends Rise” and “Say Goodbye To Darker Days” [both featuring Danny Vaughn of Tyketto], as well as the heavy riff rockers “Yesterday’s Gone” [featuring Bob Rock of Impellitteri], and “Youngblood” [w/ Jesse Damon of Silent Rage]. Love the sound and production of this album; nice big guitar sound, well placed keyboards where needed. And pretty cool songs, which I’m looking forward to hearing more of.
The new all-star hard & heavy project BARNABAS SKY comes from the mind of guitarist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Markus Pfeffer (Lazarus Dream, Winterland, ex-Scarlett) from Kaiserslautern/Germany. The debut album full of catchy hooklines, edgy-groovy rocking guitar riffs and filigree guitar solos is titled “Inspirations” for a certain reason: Pfeffer was able to hire singers from internationally known bands for it, which had influenced him significantly during his musical beginnings: Jesse Damon (SILENT RAGE), Steve Grimmett (GRIM REAPER/LIONSHEART), Danny Martinez Jr. (GUILD OF AGES), Rob Rock (IMPELLITTERI/AXEL RUDI PELL), Zak Stevens (SAVATAGE) and Danny Vaughn (TYKETTO) do the lead vocals on the album.
TYKETTO’s “Don’t Come Easy” was one of the first CDs Markus Pfeffer listened to on an endless loop as a schoolboy in 1991. Three decades later, he composes two songs together with TYKETTO’s golden throat Danny Vaughn, the appropriately titled epic opener “Legends Rise” and “Say Farewell To Darker Days” with elaborate vocal arrangements and poignant lyrics.
SAVATAGE singer Zak Stevens contributed lyrics about the psychological effects of the pandemic for the heavy stomping track “What Lies Beneath”, which is underpinned with down-tuned guitar riffs and subtle orchestral arrangements, and he sings about a legendary figure of Russian folklore in the form of a bird with a woman’s head on “The Alkonost”.
GUILD OF AGES frontman Danny Martinez Jr. from Denver/Colorado dominates the melodic hard rock songs “Breathe Again” and “In My Mind” with his very own timbre and velvety voice. The latter is the album’s first video track with a more than hooky guitar riff and lyrics about the increasingly important attention to mental health.
SILENT RAGE’s smoky-throated frontman Jesse Damon carries the epic ballad “Till The End Of Time” and the rocker “Youngblood”, with AOR legend PAUL SABU contributing backing vocals for both tracks. Nostalgia fact on the side: Interestingly, the Hollywood classic movie “The Thief of Bagdad” starring Sabus’s father was Markus Pfeffer’s favourite film during his childhood. Damon recorded his vocals in North Hollywood at the studio of Bill Metoyer (FATES WARNING, ARMORED SAINT etc.).
Melodic metal siren Rob Rock (AXEL RUDI PELL, IMPELLITTERI, M.A.R.S. etc.) takes over the mic on the riff monster “Yesterday’s Gone” and GRIM REAPER’s Steve Grimmett’s unmistakable voice convinces on the straight rocker “Never Enough”.
As a tribute, Pfeffer has adapted the title tune of the seventies TV series “Timm Thaler” in a “GARY MOORE way” and provided it with deliberate sonic and stylistic reminiscences of Moore’s classic “The Loner”.
Musical guests on the album are keyboardist Thomas Nitschke and pianist Michael Weickenmeyer, drummer/percussionist Thomas Rieder and bassist Bernd Schreiber. The album’s artwork was designed by well-known French artist Stan W. Decker (RAGE, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, MASTERPLAN) and mastering was done at Rolf Munkes’ (CREMATORY) Empire studios in Bensheim, Hessia.
The names of the contributors speak for themselves – there can hardly be more arguments to lend BARNABAS SKY’s debut album an attentive ear.
Tracklist: 1. Legends Rise, 2. What Lies Beneath, 3. In My Mind, 4. Yesterday’s Gone, 5. Till The End Of Time, 6. Say Farewell To Darker Days, 7. Breathe Again, 8. The Alkonost, 9. Timm’s Theme, 10. Youngblood, 11. Never Enough, 12. Till The End Of Time (Piano Version)
New York’s Twisted Sister became a household name in the mid ’80s with the success of their 3rd album Stay Hungry, and more so with the hit single “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and the comical videos created for the Stay Hungry singles, as well as the follow up album’s videos. But my favorite from Twisted Sister is their 2nd album – You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll in 1983. The album may not have been a huge commercial success, but it was the band at their best, before the hilarious videos, and the attempts at appealing to the mainstream. You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll was full of straight on edgy and angry TS rockers and anthems. You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll was actually the band’s first North American album release, as their debut Under The Blade was recorded in the UK and did not get a US deal & release until after the band had found commercial success; it was remixed and issued in 1985 in Canada and the US. It was produced by British producer / Engineer Stuart Epps who, at the time was producing Wishbone Ash and Vandenberg, and who’s previous engineering credits included Elton John, Chris Rea, Bill Wyman, and US band Shooting Star. Also recorded in the UK, where the band had built up a strong following and would issue 3 singles from You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll. The cover art was simple – with the band name in huge pink letters accompanied by the TS logo on a dark background, Difficult to miss, very to the point!
One thing Twisted Sister albums always had were great intro songs, Under The Blade had “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)”, Stay Hungry and Come Out And Play both had strong intros with the title tracks, and You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll had “The Kids Are Back”. Drawing on those rebellious / outsider teen ideas, with a chorus (like many TS songs) that’s not overly complicated but easily burns into your brain. The next 2 tracks come at you aggressively first with the opening riff to “Like A Knife In The Back”, followed by “Ride To Live, Live To Ride” and heavy metal battle cry “The Power And The Glory”. “I Am (I’m Me)” went in to the band’s sorta poppier direction, catchy, but ..ok; was probably a good choice as a single.
Side 2 opens with “We’re Gonna Make It”; a good song, tho the riff reminds me of Sammy Hagar’s “There’s Only One Way To Rock”. A couple of solid rockers in “I’ve Had Enough” and fast paced “I’ll Take You Alive”, followed by the closest thing to a ballad in “You’re Not Alone (Suzette’s Song)” – penned by Snider for his wife; not one of my favorites here, but it’s a decent forerunner to future ballads “The Price” and “I Believe In You”. The album closes with the title track,; another great anthem, intro & title would’ve fit well on an AC/DC album! Cool video to boot.
The 2018 2 disc reissue contains 3 bonus tracks, as well as 1 disc being the band’s 1983 performance at the Marquee in London, UK.
The band followed this up with their break through classic album Stay Hungry in 1984. That album I remember picking up at the time, then later going back to get the previous 2 some time later. It was their biggest success with a couple of huge hits & videos, but the band’s next album Come Out And Play veered more in to the commercial direction, lacking a bit of the weight and anger, but heck I loved that album, and played the crap out of it! It is also notable for including the return of Alice Cooper (I was a huge AC fan then, and this was his first ‘new’ thing when he came back). The band’s last album was 1987’s Love Is For Suckers. And whether I wasn’t paying attention at the time or what, but I don’t recall hearing anything about it until I walked in to the local Sam The Record Man and saw it on display. I liked that one too, tho’ not so crazy about the production (heck, I don’t think TS ever found a great producer to capture them properly, and consistently). The band split after this album, and Dee Snider (who also wrote the band’s songs) went off to other projects, but by then I’d moved on and didn’t keep up. I have gone back and picked up some of the archived and later released live albums, as well as Dee’s last album For The Love Of Metal, and the excellent For The Love Of Metal : Live, released last year.
The new Iron Maiden album that’s been mention for the past year [or less] now has a release date. During the pandemic the band released Nights Of The Dead : Live In Mexico City to hold over fans until the time was right (with the pandemic) to release their new album of 10 tracks. The first video/single came out last week – “The Writing On The Wall”, opens with acoustic guitar, something pretty different for Maiden, then kicks in to 7+ minutes of more typical kick-ass Maiden. I gotta say I like this lead-off track a lot more than I liked the lead-off track from Book Of Souls! I am looking forward to this.
Iron Maiden – Senjutsu – September 3. We are thrilled to announce the release of IRON MAIDEN’s 17th studio album Senjutsu on September 3rd through Parlophone Records (BMG in the USA). It was recorded in Paris with longstanding producer Kevin Shirley and co-produced by Steve Harris.
For Senjutsu– loosely translated as ‘tactics & strategy’, the band once again enlisted the services of Mark Wilkinson to create the spectacular Samurai themed cover artwork, based on an idea by Steve Harris. And with a running time of a little under 82 minutes, Senjutsu, like their previous record The Book Of Souls, will be a double CD album/triple vinyl album.
Steve says “We chose to record at Guillaume Tell Studio in France again as the place has such a relaxed vibe. The setup there is perfect for our needs; the building used to be a cinema and has a really high ceiling so there’s a great acoustic sound. We recorded this album in the same way we did The Book Of Souls in that we’d write a song, rehearse it and then put it down together straight away while it was all fresh in our minds. There’s some very complex songs on this album which took a lot of hard work to get them exactly as we wanted them to sound, so the process was at times very challenging, but Kevin is great at capturing the essence of the band and I think it was worth the effort! I’m very proud of the result and can’t wait for fans to hear it.”
Bruce Dickinson continues, “We’re all really excited about this album. We recorded it back in early 2019 during a break in the Legacy tour so we could maximize our touring yet still have a long set up period before release to prepare great album art and something special as a video. Of course the pandemic delayed things more – so much for the best laid plans – or should that be ‘strategies’!? The songs are very varied, and some of them are quite long. There’s also one or two songs which sound pretty different to our usual style, and I think Maiden fans will be surprised – in a good way, I hope!”
The full tracklisting is:
1. Senjutsu (Smith/Harris) 8:20 2. Stratego (Gers/Harris) 4:59 3. The Writing On The Wall (Smith/Dickinson) 6:13 4. Lost In A Lost World (Harris) 9:31 5. Days Of Future Past (Smith/Dickinson) 4:03 6. The Time Machine (Gers/Harris) 7:09 7. Darkest Hour (Smith/Dickinson) 7:20 8. Death Of The Celts (Harris) 10:20 9. The Parchment (Harris) 12:39 10. Hell On Earth (Harris) 11:19
Senjutsu will be released on the following formats and available to pre-order from all good music retailers starting Wednesday July 21st
Standard 2CD Digipak Deluxe 2CD Book Format Deluxe heavyweight 180G Triple Black Vinyl Special Edition Triple Silver & Black Marble Vinyl (from selected retailers) Special Edition Triple Red & Black Marble Vinyl (from selected retailers) Super Deluxe Boxset featuring CD, Blu-Ray and Exclusive Memorabilia Digital album (streaming and download)
Thor – the band formed around vocalist Jon Miki Thor, a former body builder turned rock star. Thor delivers heavy metal with some awesome riffs, some comic book influence, melodies as well as power metal rockers, and anthems…. Alliance features 17 tracks, as well as a lengthy and impressive list of guests, most notably Chris Holmes [ex W.A.S.P.] and ‘Ross The Boss’ Friedman, guitarist [and former bandmate] Frank Soda, Al Harlow [of Prism], and numerous others. Kicking off with the anthem “We Need Musclerock”, Alliance contains plenty of fun hard driving rockers, with favorites being “Power Hungry”, “Bounty Hunter”, and “Rock Around The World” [w/ Danko Jones]. “Queen Of The Spiders” is my favorite song here though, it’s with Frank Soda, a bit more laid back, a bit of a Doors feel. I am not so familiar with Thor’s back catalogue, but this is a mighty collection of hard rock & metal tunes that [presumably] anyone who’s familiar with these guys will enjoy, and a cool start for those unaware.
Metal Titan THOR Forges The Ultimate ALLIANCE With W.A.S.P.’s CHRIS HOLMES & ROSS THE BOSS In A New Video/Single From His Forthcoming Album!
Los Angeles, CA – Like the Heavy Metal Avengers, heroes and icons from all over the metal world have united behind the legendary god of metal thunder, THOR, on an epic new studio album, entitled Alliance! Only a figure of such mythic strength and power as the mighty THOR could unite such an astounding armada of artists including W.A.S.P.’s Chris Holmes, Raven vocalist John Gallagher, Soilwork singer Björn Strid, Danko Jones, Anthrax’s Neil Turbin, Ross “The Boss” Friedman and many more. Together, this battalion of champions fuse their talents to create one of the heaviest, most melodic THOR albums of all time! Just check out the album’s first single, “The Ultimate Alliance,” a heart-pounding, metal riffing powerhouse of a track that features some stellar guitar solos from Chris Holmes & Ross The Boss as well as the vocal talents of A Sound Of Thunder singer Nina Osegueda and Lords Of The Trident frontman Fang VonWrathstein! The track is debuted here alongside a superbly fun, special-effects heavy video.
Alliance features stunning artwork from Timo Wuerz and will be available July 16 on both digital as well as on CD in a digipak and limited edition silver vinyl in a gatefold jacket! Watch for Thor to launch several shows and festivities in this year as he celebrates his 39th studio album and an astounding 50 years of metal mayhem as well as co-starring in a feature-length action movie “Pact Of Vengeance,” which will feature music from the new album!
Track List: 1. We Need Musclerock feat. John Gallagher (Raven) 2. Niflhel (Realm Of The Dead) feat. Björn Strid (Soilwork) 3. The Ultimate Alliance feat. Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.), Ross “The Boss” Friedman (Manowar), Nina Osegueda (A Sound Of Thunder) & Fang VonWrathenstein (Lords Of The Trident) 4. Ode To Odin feat. Dan Cleary (Striker) 5. We Will Fight Forever feat. Neil Turbin (Anthrax) 6. Because We Are Strong 7. Rock Around The World feat. Danko Jones 8. Queen Of The Spiders feat. Frank Soda (The Imps) 9. Power Hungry 10. Bounty Hunter feat. Frank Meyer (The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs) & Dennis Post (Warrior Soul) 11. Battlements feat. Trevor William Church (Haunt) 12. Thor vs. The Juggernaut (War Of The Gods) feat. Sean Peck (Death Dealer) 13. Generation Now feat. Joey Killingsworth (Joecephus & The George Jonestown Massacre) 14. After The Laughter feat. Martin Gummesson (Thundermaker) 15. Good Stuff feat. Al Harlow (Prism) 16. Congregate feat. Joey Roads & Sheldon Byer (Roadrash) 17. We Will Fight Forever (Reprise)
“The Ultimate Alliance” video credits:
Written by: Jon Mikl Thor / John Leibel
Lead Vocals: Jon Mikl Thor
Special Guests: Lead Guitar: Chris Holmes Lead Guitar: Ross “The Boss” Friedman Lead Vocals: Nina Osegueda Lead Vocals: Fang VonWrathenstein
Lead Guitar: John Leibel Rhythm Guitar: Matt Hamilton Bass: Ted Jedlicki Drums: Tom Croxton
Video Directed by: Josh Grambo
Special Effects and Editing: Josh Grambo and John Magz Videography: Josh Grambo, Javier Cedillo, Kevin Stuart Swain, and Lisa Freakrock Additional Videography: Don Watson, Matthew Szablewicz, Ty Christian, Josh Schwartz, and Catherine Holmes
Icon Of Sin is based around the vocals of Brazilian metal singer Raphael Mendes, who has made a name for himself for his remarkable vocal similarities to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickenson. In fact listening to this album, it may be easy to forget the title for a moment and think you’re listening to something new from Maiden. If you’re waiting patiently for a new Maiden album and need something to fill the time, this would be well worth checking out. Musically, it even sounds like Maiden in places, as well as influences of WASP [post ’90s], Sabbath [w/ Dio], Rainbow….. Check out tracks like tracks like “Road Rage”, “Shadow Dance”, and “Clouds Over Gotham” to see what I mean. But, really – great playing, a solid metal album – even if much of it sounds familiar, plenty of really good songs. Favorite tracks being “Arcade Generation” and “Night Breed”. Will be interesting to hear more from Raphael Mendes.
Frontiers Music Srl is excited to announce the signing of ICON OF SIN, a new project centered around the vocal talents of the popular Brazilian YouTube sensation Raphael Mendes. He is joined in the band by two other stellar Brazilian musicians, Sergio Mazul (SEMBLANT) and Marcelo Gelbcke (LANDFALL).
Raphael Mendes has become a very popular figure in the Youtube world due to his jaw dropping vocal covers. His recognition as one of the hottest new talents in metal started in 2016 when he was invited by guitarist Fabio Lima to record a YouTube video that wound up going viral. Encouraged by the reaction, Mendes launched his own YouTube channel to create more videos for fans to enjoy. As more and more fans around the world started to discover him, he was invited to join other musical projects, including Marius Danielsen’s “Legend Of Valley Doom Part 2”, which also featured Michael Kiske, Vinny Appice, Mark Boals, Michele Luppi, and Diego Valdez, among others.
One of the things that made Mendes’ reputation grow considerably happened earlier in 2020, when a video series called “What if Bruce Dickinson sang in other bands” was launched. With Mendes Dickinson-esque singing style being used to cover songs by Megadeth and more, these versions impressed fans worldwide and word quickly spread in the metal community. Collaborative versions are now being made with some emerging rock artists and also musicians from the global metal scene, such as drummer Aquiles Priester (ex-Angra, Primal Fear, W.A.S.P.).
Raphael’s videos ended up reaching the eyes and ears of Frontiers, a label known for signing and nurturing the most promising new names of the next generation of rock and metal. Frontiers has recently started to work more and more with South American based talent and had the thought to pair Raphael with two outstanding musicians of the Curitiba metal scene, both of whom have already unveiled their musical talents through the label: Sergio Mazul, singer of Semblant and Marcelo Gelbcke, guitarist of Landfall. While the music of their respective bands are quite dissimilar, both have a passion for traditional heavy metal and knew they could craft amazing music for Mendes to put his vocals to. They have already set to work with Raphael in the creation of a no-nonsense, straight ahead classic pure heavy metal album.
“Music is my passion, a way of life!” says Raphael Mendes. “It’s really been and continues to be a fantastic experience, working on the Icon Of Sin album. The songs are so powerful and it has awakened something in me that I haven’t felt for a long time from a heavy metal album!”
Tracklist: Icon Of Sin Road Rage Shadow Dancer Unholy Battleground Nightbreed Virtual Empire Pandemic Euphoria Clouds Over Gotham Arcade Generation Hagakure (Intro) The Last Samurai The Howling Survival Instinct
Pyromide is the 3rd album from Finnish metal band Temple Balls. If you just want to hear some all-out 2 guitar, heavy, pounding hard rock & metal, with cool lead vocals, melodies, and big vocal choruses – then check this out. There’s a number of kick-ass rockers here in “T.O.T.C.” [Thrill of the chase] , “Fallen Youth” [shades of Dio as this one starts] , and “You Better Run”.
Fave cuts here would be “Bad Bad Bad” [an easily likeable tune, a bit less metal, and a bit of pop, the anthem “Heart Of A Warrior” , and the power ballad “If Only I Could”, which starts on piano and becomes pretty heavy, no mushy stuff here; killer guitar solo. I really like the production and sound of this whole thing. This just gets better after a few listens. Now I am curious about the rest of this band’s stuff. Pretty cool album cover as well from Jan “Orkki” Yrlund.
Temple Balls are an energetic hard rock band from Finland. “Pyromide”, their Frontiers debut and third album overall, is a tour de force of melodic hard rock that sees the band pushing themselves onto the world stage. Produced by none other than Jona Tee (H.E.A.T.), “Pyromide” is a tour-de-force of hooks, powerful rhythms, and anthemic rock ‘n roll like it was meant to be played.
For the past couple of years, Temple Balls has kept busy both in the studio and on the stage. Opening for such bands as Sonata Arctica, Queen, Deep Purple, and Uriah Heep, the band has proven to be more than capable to handle stages of any size, whether it be a big festival or your local club’s stage. Live, this band will set your friggin’ pants on fire and turn you into a believer.
The band’s first official single, ’Hell And Feelin’ Fine’ was released in September 2016 and got loads of airtime on Finnish Radio Rock. The band’s debut album was recorded at Karma Sound Studios (Thailand) in May 2016, and saw the daylight on February 24, 2017. The album was produced by Tobias Lindell, who is known for his collaborations with Europe, Mustasch, and H.E.A.T. Fall of 2017 started with a sold out tour across Finland with Battle Beast. The band also played in Japan for the first time and did a five day tour of Ukraine in late 2017. After their swing through Japan, the readers of the biggest Japanese rock magazine Burrn! voted Temple Balls as ‘the second brightest hope’ and additionally were chosen as ‘The Newcomer of the Year’ on Masa Ito’s Rock TV.
The second album, “Untamed” dropped on March 8, 2019 and immediately got fantastic reviews from music media such as Soundi and Burrn! magazines. The band also toured Europe as support fro Sonata Arctica, cementing their reputation as a stellar live act.
Temple Balls third album, “Pyromide” is now ready to be unleashed. Produced by none other than Jona Tee (H.E.A.T), it is a stunning punch in the face for all lovers of anthemic and melodic hard rock.
Tracklist: Thunder From The North Long Ways, Long Lies T.O.T.C. Fallen Youth Bad Bad Bad What Is Dead Never Dies Unholy Night Heart Of A Warrior You Better Run If Only I Could Something To Die For
Line-up: Arde Teronen – Vocals Jimi Välikangas – Bass Jiri Paavonaho – Guitar Niko Vuorela – Guitar Antti Hissa – Drums
I gotta start by saying I am not a huge Stryper or a LA Guns fan, no particular reason why, But I do like some of the side projects Michael Sweet has done, such as his albums with George Lynch, and I do like this! Very heavy stuff. Not sure why there’s the forgettable band name, just call it after the 2 main forces here Sweet & Guns [OK, maybe that doesn’t sound so good either]. Regardless, probably the heaviest thing either of these guys have done. “Life” leads this album off with a cool guitar intro, Sweet throwing in one of his many screams here, and the band kicking in to an awesome fast paced rocker. Lots of great guitar heavy rock here, love Tracii Guns’ tone throughout, especially on slower Sabbath rockers “Take Me Away” & “World Gone Wrong”, driving tune “No Tomorrows” [something about this reminds me of Ozzy’s “Steal Away The Night”] , and the not-too-soft ballad “Been Said Before” [a nice summertime feel with the acoustic guitar]. I really like this album, it’s got a ’70s Judas Priest / early ’80s Sabbath feel, IMO. 11 excellent tracks, no filler. Makes me wanna dig a bit more into Sweet’s and Tracii Guns other projects.
SUNBOMB is a highly anticipated new musical alliance between two steadfast warriors of the U.S. hard rock/metal scene, Tracii Guns and Michael Sweet. They have put together an absolute blinder of a heavy metal album, melding influences of classic metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest with Tracii’s love of metal subgenres, specifically doom metal.
Tracii leaked the news of the new project in a March 2019 tweet, where he described the project’s debut LP as “the Metal record I would have made when I was 17 years old.” In May 2020, he mentioned on “Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk” that “The SUNBOMB record is really kind of like [L.A. GUNS’ 2019 album] ‘The Devil You Know’ times three. It’s more on the heavy side of ‘The Devil You Know’ album. And Michael Sweet, he’s a really fantastic metal singer.”
The music style on the record is much heavier than what one would expect from these two musicians and is firmly planted in the ‘metal’ category. While Tracii wrote the music for the album, the fact that Michael Sweet has been writing in an increasingly heavier style on latter era Stryper albums made him a very logical choice to sing for the band. And since doom metal, often known for having powerful singers like Messiah Marcolin from Candlemass and Eric Wagner from Trouble, was a massive influence on Tracii’s songwriting here, Sweet’s ability and range were a perfect match.
Drums on the album were handled by Tracii’s old L.A. Guns bandmate Adam Hamilton and bass was handled by Mitch Davis, with the exception of the track ‘They Fought’, which features current L.A. Guns bassist Johnny Martin.
Life Take Me Away Better End No Tomorrows Born To Win Evil And Divine Been Said And Done Stronger Than Before Story Of The Blind World Gone Wrong They Fought
Line-up: Tracii Guns – Guitars Michael Sweet – Vocals Adam Hamilton – Drums Mitch Davis – Bass Johnny Martin – Bass (We Fought)
You know, those albums that go together as a set, if you have one – you got to have the other[?] They are linked in some way, be it – cover art, band line-up / personnel, success, sound, lyrical themes and song titles, etc…
So, I’ll start with one of the easiest pairs of albums for me, and that is the first 2 Ozzy Osbourne albums [aka the Blizzard Of Ozz band]. 1980’s Blizzard Of Ozz and 1981’s Diary Of A Madman – the same band, written & recorded less than a year apart, for the same label. These 2 go together as a set, more than anything else in Ozzy’s career, and for me it was all downhill after these 2 albums. Both were major successes, and gave Ozzy’s post-Black Sabbath career a huge lift-off. (I’ve also added in some detail & recall).
“I went to a gig in London, and there was a band called ‘Girl’ playing, and they were a Jet Records band; Widowmaker had also been on Jet Records (as you probably know). I was looking for work myself, and I thought ‘well, it’s always good to put yourself around and see who’s about!’ I met Arthur Sharpe – who had been working for Jet Records, and it was Arthur who introduced me to Ozzy. Ozzy told me he was about to form a band and would I like to go up to his house in Stafford, and have a play, and he’d get a couple of local musicians in, and I said ‘Yes’. So I went up there, and he knew I’d just come from Rainbow; he said he liked my playing and would I be interested [?]. And I said ‘yes, I’d be interested in getting a band together with Him, but I wasn’t so sure about the local drummer and guitar player that he’d got in. And he said ‘OK, leave it to me, hang on a minute.’ And he walked out of the room and in to the studio that was in his house and said ‘OK guys – it’s not working out – Now pack up your stuff and go!’ [laughs]. And that was how he told them, which I thought was quite funny. Then he got on the phone to Arthur Sharpe and said ‘Bob and I get on like a house on fire, and the fire-brigade’s just left!’ And we went from there. He said he knew a guitar player that he’d met in LA called Randy Rhoads, so Jet Records flew Randy over and we started auditioning drummers…. He [Lee] was the last drummer we auditioned, and we must’ve auditioned 30-40 drummers at that time. We almost decided on 1 or 2, but they didn’t work out, and we had one more to audition and that was Lee Kerslake…. We auditioned down at The Who’s rehearsal place at Shepperton in London, and he perfect within the first number! I think the first song we did was ‘I Don’t Know’, and as soon as Lee started playing he just went for it ‘big time’, broke sticks, bits of sticks were flying everywhere, and Randy and I looked at each other and thought ‘this is the guy!’. He was like a bull in a China shop – he was perfect!” – Bob Daisley, 1999
To start you had a new band [for any doubters, look up earliest band photos] that featured the line up of Ozzy Osbourne [fired from Black Sabbath, but who had a distinctive voice and was a major character], along with Bob Daisley – ex of Rainbow, Widowmaker, and whom would pen most of the lyrics on the 2 BOZ albums], Lee Kerslake – the last to join, had been a huge part of Uriah Heep’s classic line-up having played on their biggest albums, And a young American guitarist named Randy Rhoads – Rhoads was a guitar teacher, and previously played with LA glam rock act Quiet Riot; he could play classical guitar, as well as contributed huge riffs and solos. He had a sound of his own, and as far as ’80s guitarists go, he was #1 for me – NO one sounded like him, or was as creative.
“He [Randy] was admittedly influenced by Ritchie Blackmore, Jimi Hendrix, and certainly Eddie Van Halen, you can hear a bit of the Van Halen thing in his playing. But he had his own interpretation, and he had a great musical background, having come from a musical family – his mom ran a music store and Randy had been a teacher for quite a few years himself. It really fell together right, the chemistry was right, we got on well as personalities.” – BD
Although the band would co-produce both albums, Max Norman engineered Blizzard, while serving as co-producer on Diary [while Lee & Bob were cut out of the credits on this album]. You had Don Airey playing keyboards on the first album, while Johnny Cook played on the 2nd [uncredited]. And even though the album covers aren’t very similar, they do feature what would become Ozzy’s classic logo, as well as a photo of Ozzy in some scary setting [with upside down crosses], taken by legendary rock photographer Fin Costello.
“That was the idea – to make it a sort of comic book image. It took on legs with ‘Diary Of A Madman’ and with ‘Bark At The Moon’… It worked in establishing Ozzy after the Sabbath imagery. It’s the same stuffed cat on the first two. The cover for Japan’s Tin Drum cover was shot on the Diary set on the first day of construction.” – Fin Costello
I can put on either of these albums any days, both feature 8 classic songs [OK, Diary features a short guitar piece by Rhoads titled “Dee” for his mom, and “No Bones Movies” may have been a later add on that isn’t quite as outstanding]. But, both featured killer intro songs [“I Don’t Know” vs “Over The Mountain”], followed by a classic rocker that would be the major hit single off the album [“Crazy Train” vs “Flyin’ High Again” and become one of Ozzy’s trademark tunes, followed by a ballad [or lighter track\ featuring Randy Rhoads on acoustic guitar [“Goodbye To Romance” vs “You Can’t Kill Rock n Roll”]. Each featured another killer rock song with lyrics based on dark subjects to kick off side 2 [“Mr Crowley” vs “Little Dolls”.] “Little Dolls” would feature 1 of 2 big intros from the drummer.
“It was just on the spur of the moment. And as we were writing it, and I went ‘I’ve got an idea for this’, and I did, as simple as that!” – Lee Kerslake, 2014
Also included would also be a fast paced rocker [one that is under appreciated IMO – “Steal Away” vs “S.A.T.O.”] , as well as an epic track featuring classical guitar and strings [or synths resembling strings] [“Revelation (Mother Earth)” vs “Diary Of A Madman”] – both have the band coming off like an metal orchestra! And not to be forgotten were 2 other fan favorite / classics [“Suicide Solution” vs “Believer”].
Unfortunately, the band would be split with Daisley & Kerslake being fired before the release of Diary Of A Madman [hence, no credits and a photo of the ‘new’ Ozzy solo band on it]. A shame there are no official live releases from the one UK tour this band did, though there was a 12″ Live EP released between albums featuring live versions of “Mr Crowley”, “Suicide Solution”, and the non-album track “You Said It All”. The BOZ albums stand above and apart from anything else Ozzy did in the years [and decades] to come, and I eventually lost interest.
“Over the Mountain, Flyin’ High …- They’re great tracks, they’re so different. And I was the first to ever put triplets in to an introduction of a song, also a single on Over The Mountain.” – Lee K.
Randy Rhoads was tragically killed in a plane crash on March 19, 1982. A live ‘tribute’ album w/ Randy was eventually released, featuring much of these 2 albums, but with Ozzy’s US touring band.
“He was a very dedicated musician; he practiced a lot, he was really in to music. He was a very young up and coming guy. I think he got an award as one the ‘best new talents’. He certainly was and still is an influential guitarist for that sort of music, and he certainly had a lot to do with the success of Ozzy’s career as well!” – Bob D.
Bob and Lee went on to join a reformed Uriah Heep after their departure from BOZ, and .bring some of that ‘heaviness’ and energy to the albums Abominog & Head First. Bob would return to work with Ozzy, while Lee stayed with Heep for the remainder of his career. The pair reunited for 2004’s Living Loud project [along with Don Airey, Steve Morse, and singer Jimmy Barnes] where they did an album which included a number of remakes from Blizzard Of Ozz & Diary Of A Madman. In 2007 Lee was forced to retire, due to health issues, and sadly passed away September 19, last year. He made record a solo album in his last few years [recently released] titled Eleventeen.
Following the loss of Randy Rhoads, Ozzy carried on – first with a live album of Black Sabbath tracks [guitarist Brad Gillis doing an excellent job], followed by 1983’s Bark At The Moon. By this time Bob Daisley had left Heep and returned to write [uncredited for a few more Ozzy albums]. Max Norman was also back for Bark At The Moon, and the live albums, as was Don Airey. I liked that album [Bark] at the time, to me it tried to keep to the pattern of the 2 BOZ albums, and Jake E Lee [who would also get hosed, as well as not credited for his writing] did a great job. But the album was less heavy and less consistent, as well as including the ridiculous sappy ballad “So Tired”. Bob would go on to work on Ozzy albums The Ultimate Sin and No More Tears, as well as record with Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, and The Hoochie Coochie Men. He also wrote his book “For Fact’s Sake”, published in 2013, which detailed his career, with plenty of insight and stories into his time writing and recording Blizzard Of Ozz & Diary Of A Madman, and generally setting the record straight about his years working with Ozzy – a must read, really. Don Airey would eventually join Deep Purple, and Ozzy would carry on recording solo albums [with one released last year]. and with much of his live repertoire reliant on classics from the albums the original band created. I haven’t bought an Ozzy album in years, [mainly, but] not just for it being that last few I heard sounded forgettable, but the treatment of former band members [Sharon once referring to Lee & Bob as ‘session players’], the re-writing of Ozzy’s early history by Sharon, and Ozzy’s overall rise to fame as a TV star / celebrity, with his ‘metal’ persona and music taking a laughable back seat were about it for me. I was happy to see him with Black Sabbath 4 or 5 years ago, but I’m done with adding to my Ozzy collection in this lifetime – unless I come across something already out there of the original BOZ band I haven’t heard or have.
Lucifer’s Friend’s brand new album “Black Moon” is out! [see my review], and fans of this well aged German band [fronted by an English singer] will be happy to hear it! Fan and album artist Damian Bydlinski [of Lizard] also gives us a few words on how he got involved and his favorite LF songs!
Singer John Lawton was with the band in the beginning and has sang on all but 2 of the band’s 11 albums. Here John answer questions regarding the band’s brand new album and updates on members and future Lucifer’s Friend plans.
LF has been back together for 4+ years and Black Moon is the bands 4th release. Did you forsee the band being so busy and are you happy with the reception overall that the bands return has received?
John: Yes I think so. After such a long time away fans of the band were naturally curious to see what we had to offer. That we could play Sweden Rock festival made it easier to reach quite a few new fans. Overall the reaction has been good plus the fact that it gave us the push to write new material.
The first thing that stands out on the new album is the artwork. I like how it ties in with the bands debut from 1970. Can you tell me a bit about how that piece came together and if bandmembers had much input (idea wise)?
John: Actually the artwork was put together as a backstage pass by Damien Bydlinski the singer with our support band Lizard on our Polish tour. He is not only a good musician but also a graphic designer. We loved the idea and after a few tweaks we had it…..
How do songs for LF come together nowadays – pieced together through emails or is there a time where you’re all in the studio together?
John: The days when bands spend time in the studio rehearsing before they record I think are gone. Firstly, the logistics of spending the amount of time it takes to go through say 10-15 songs arrangements, keys etc. is really time consuming. These days with so much computer stuff available to musicians, it’s easier to sit at home and fine tune everybody’s parts….. It the same with LF, Peter Hesslein or Dieter Horns will forward to me the basic track which I can the add the vocals too. I record my vocals in peace 😎😎here in the UK and then via the wonders of the web, they are sent back for the guys to work their final parts. The only time we spend together apart from gigs is in the rehearsal room before the live stuff. But even when we are not recording or gigging we are on the phone to each other at least a couple of times a week…..
You write the lyrics – what sort of inspires you for ideas and topics these days?
John: A lot of the lyrics are based upon stories I hear in the news or read about. For instance on TOO LATE TO HATE some of the lyrics relate to the thousands of refugees trying to get to Europe for a better life. Even 2 years later this story is still making headlines….
Can you give me a bit of insight into particular songs on the new album – how they started, ideas – really like the title track, Call The Captain, Little Man, Passengers,
John: CALL THE CAPTAIN is based on recent stories again in the news about mental heath issues and how younger people are being manipulated by social media, wanting to be like the celebrity’s they see in magazines. The title is just about trying to reach parts of the brain (the captain and pilot) for the right direction….🙂🙂
LITTLE MAN relates to my 2 grandsons and watching the grow up. PASSENGERS is written to open people’s eyes to the shit we are doing to the world….
BLACK MOON – Really just about those days when everything seems doomed to failure but you struggle through….
Any others that you’re particularly happy with?
John: I’m happy with all of them, they all have meanings hopefully not only to me but also to the listener…..
There’s a number of guests on this album, really dig the horn solo on Black Moon – classic LF touch. Can you comment on how some these (or this one) come up?
John: On BLACK MOON Peter and I were talking about a particular solo part and we tossed around a few ideas until Stephan (drummer) suggested a trumpet player who was with the James Last Orchestra (Chuck Findley). He lives in LA but very kindly went in the studio and put down (I think) a blistering solo… On FREEDOM Peter new Stephan (violin player) from studio days and again asked him to put something together….and he did and I think it’s one of the highlights of this album….
What can you tell me about Simon Hesslein and his involvement with the band?
John: Simon runs a very successful music business in New York and has hits under different names, he has always wanted to produce a Lucifer’s Friend album so we said hey go for it. Unfortunately, it was at the wrong time as he was also very busy so that’s why the delay in the release. Simon is very accomplished at what he does and we are very proud of the final mix….
How is everyone’s health?
John: Not so good actually. Peter really needs an operation on his shoulder as he is in pain daily. The only drawback is that the operation is very complicated and the recovery time is long…at least a year and the surgeons have told him there is no guarantee of a complete recovery…it’s very sad that it happened to Peter but we hold out for him to get back to playing ASAP …. Dieter Horns has recovered well from his problems, which is a great relief and I’m getting there slowly….oh the joys of getting older 🤪🤪🤪🕺🕺
Will we see many LF shows this year and will there be plenty from Black Moon in the set?
John: For the foreseeable future we won’t be performing live, some people have said “we could get another guitarist to stand in for Peter or another bass player for Dieter” – but we couldn’t go out as LF without those 2. I am hopeful that one day we could be on stage again together…. We still have one more new album to release….I still need to do the vocals etc. but that looks like 2020 release…..
You’ve used Jogi [Wichmann] on keyboards over several LF projects, but he’s only a guest on BM. Was it just easier for Peter to do keyboards or something else?
John: Jogi was very busy doing studio work around that time and he was playing keyboards in the musical CATS….. Peter had put down most of the keyboard parts that he wanted Jogi to play but his were really good, so we stuck with it….
One thing – there is no vinyl edition of Black Moon (or previous few releases). Any chance this can be fixed ? 🙂
John: At the moment I don’t think so, unless we sell quite a bunch of CD’s the company is a bit reluctant to go vinyl…..There was talk of TOO LATE TO HATE on vinyl but nothing concrete yet….
Next year Mark’s the 50th anniversary of the first Lucifers Friend album. (A couple of things) – do you have any long outstanding g memory or stories fro. Making that album?
Will there be any anniversary reissue or show to celebrate it?
John: Wow – is it that long [?]….it has stood the test of time, I think 🥳🥳 It was a strange time for me, coming off the back of doing vocals on Asterix and then going straight to something really heavy was a bit of a kick but a good one….. Looking back, it was a great time and when I think that there was no rehearsal time, I was it in at the deep end with heavy lyrics 👹👹👹 The guys were looking for an English singer and I happened to be there at that time…. I don’t think there will be a re-issue as the there have been so many bootleg copies etc. down the years but it’s not such a bad idea….
From the Album’s Cover Artist – Damian Bydlinski :
“I am a big fan of Lucifer’s Friend. The proposal to make a cover was a great honor for me.
I love all their albums. But for the best, I think – two albums: “Banquet” and “… Where the Groupies Killed the Blues”. With favorite songs – it’s harder because there’s a lot of them and a derivation from different albums. But the most important ones are: Hobo, Burning Ships, Ride the Sky, Groovin Stone, Spanish Galleon, Dirty Old Town, Fugitive …. However – there is a song – at which time since I heard it for the first time – I always have shivers and I am overcome with emotion – “Thus Spoke Oberon” – amazing melody, arrangement and brilliant singing of John.
The history of the cover is quite simple. Two years ago – LF and my band Lizard – we played three concerts in Poland. For this occasion, I designed a poster and tickets – the project appealed to John and asked if they could use it for the new LF album. After introducing some changes in the color scheme – this cover was created.”