Possessed with one of the biggest voices in rock – possibly the biggest, alongside his regular collaborator Russell Allen – Jorn Lande has carved out a career with some great releases over the years. His place as Dio’s natural successor is very much assured due to a few albums of self-penned material often presenting well-honed performances. He’s also fond of a cover tune or six: his 2010 album ‘Dio’, in particular, did exactly what it said on the tin, with Lande putting his stamp on tunes originally brought into the public eye by the late, great Ronnie James, the results meeting critical acclaim. Some six years on from his Dio-fest, Lande’s eleventh studio album ‘Heavy Rock Radio’ finds the huge voiced Norwegian wheeling out more covers. This time, however, the results are sometimes questionable. So questionable in places, the disc could have perhaps been subtitled “Jesus Christ, How Did This Happen?”. The answer to that should-be-rhetorical question, of course, simply being “because he’s Jorn Lande”. As most people know, with Jorn you only get Jorn, and that means – whatever the material in hand – it’s very much a case of “dials up to eleven and needle in the red” all the way. In this respect, he’s very much made each of the cuts his own, but frankly, his choices don’t always work.
The Black Milk Project released their debut EP ‘Holes‘ in March 2016. By the time the recording had been made available for streaming and purchase via Bandcamp, it had already been a case of all change for the Sheffield based jazz poppers with vocalist Delia Taffler having moved on. Guitarist Kris McAdam had other projects and interests on the go, however, and his funk pop outfit Bongo & The Soul Jar had already set about recording their debut full length. That debut, ‘What Have You Got To Lose’, is a brilliantly professional work with it’s core sounds culled from a late eighties and early nineties vintage. While the musicianship is strong, it’s never overly showy: each play of the album uncovers the work of a very natural sounding musical unity; the funk grooves that lie at the core of the best tracks possess an almost timeless quality.
Previously the bassist with Irish indie rock million sellers JJ72, Hilary Woods embarked upon a solo career following the band’s demise. Her debut EP ‘Night’ – released in 2014 – took a step away from the jangling sounds of her former band and instead took a fascination with dream pop drones and acoustic guitar, creating a kind of dark folk vibe. Two years on, ‘Heartbox’ continues her musical journey, but takes it down a deeper and more foreboding route, often dispensing with the folkier elements, leaving just moody dream pop and electronica for the basis of three surprisingly minimalist soundscapes.
In 2013, Norwegian prog rockers Airbag released their critically acclaimed third album ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’. Naturally, in some quarters of proggy fandom, people got excited. In some ways they were right enough to do so, since the album contained some fine music; it was all very well played and excellently produced. In other ways, it was hard to understand the hype. For all of Airbag’s obvious talents, the music all too often sounded as if it had been plagiarised from ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘The Division Bell’. There came a point – fairly quickly, too – where you could legitimately ask why you’d spend quality listening time with music derived from such classics in a very obvious way, when you could put on a Floyd disc and hear it all done properly?
Finland’s For The Imperium are an intense bunch. ‘Hail The Monsters’, their second full length album, is one of those records that’s really hard to get through in one sitting. It’s frightening. Not just because it’s intense and heavy – this is by no means just noisy alt-rock or metal – but more for the fact that between the obvious grooves, these guys aren’t afraid to experiment.