JORN – Heavy Rock Radio II: Executing The Classics

Jorn Lande is no stranger to cover versions. In 2006, he released an album’s worth of covers in tribute to the legendary Ronnie James Dio. Ten years on, he released ‘Heavy Rock Radio’, a tribute to some of his other favourites and influences. Unfortunately, ‘Heavy Rock Radio‘ wasn’t very good at all. A couple of tunes might’ve just about passed muster in terms of hard rock reworkings and – predictably – the obligatory Dio-related song fared quite well, but overall, it was a bit of a turkey. Making things heavier doesn’t necessarily make things better (unless you ask a particularly unadventurous metalhead) and in a rocked up cover of ‘Hotel California’, Lande truly hit rock bottom by giving the world a reggae metal hybrid that no-one with ears deserved to hear.

Jorn obviously had fun making that record – terrible as most of it might have been – and he enters his fifth decade as a recording artist with a second volume of reworked favourites. ‘Heavy Rock Radio II: Executing The Classics’ is an improvement on its predecessor, but then, in many respecrs, it would have struggled to have been worse. It’s actually about fifty percent better, but still makes for an incredibly patchy record.

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LOVEKILLERS Feat. TONY HARNELL – Lovekillers Feat. Tony Harnell

TNT are one of those bands that are absolutely beloved by some melodic rock fans. Even into the 90s and against changing musical fashions, their late 80s albums ‘Tell No Tales’ (1987) and ‘Intuition’ (1989) continued to have some very vocal supporters. In lots of ways, it’s easy to see why since guitarist Ronnie Le Tekro always played in a very inventive way and in melodic metal terms, those albums carry a frightening amount of energy. None of that really matters if you were one of those people who didn’t really like Tony Harnell’s vocal style, of course. Much like the younger Geoff Tate, Harnell had a tendency to tackle everything at full pelt and with a huge banshee wail.

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HARDLINE – Life

2018 was a very busy year for Johnny Gioeli. He released two well received discs in both his solo album and a collaboration with Deen Castronovo, but also found time to work on a new Hardline record. At a time where the respected rock singer appeared to be in strong voice, he was perhaps wise to take advantage of this burst of creativity, but has releasing three albums in a little under a year spread those talents a little too thinly?

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GIOELI-CASTRONOVO – Set The World On Fire

Take two two key members of the original Hardline, the guitarist from Italian melodic rock band Hungryheart and a bunch of strong chorus driven songs and you have a more than reasonable recipe for AOR success. Johnny Gioeli’s delivery can sometimes err on the side of being too bombastic, but in comparison to some of his peers, he still possesses a voice that holds up and when teamed with Hardline/Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, he sounds better than ever. It’s that sense of drive that gives this release most of its strength. After just one full listen, it’s obvious ‘Set The World On Fire’ has no real filler material; it’s dozen rockers so often play like a greatest hits of the best bits from the Frontiers Records catalogue from 2011-2016 and for that alone, so many AOR buffs will consider it an essential addition to their ever growing collections. It’s unlikely to be at all far reaching beyond those whom already consider themselves fans of the musicians involved, but in many ways, to expect more would be kind of beside the point. For what it does – at least in terms of songwriting and performance – this is a great record.

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HARDLINE – Human Nature

hardline lpBack in the early 90s, the Gioeli Brothers (vocalist Johnny and guitarist Joey) attracted the attention of Journey guitarist Neal Schon. After drafting in Bad English drummer Deen Castronovo and forming Hardline, the band’s debut album ‘Double Eclipse’ was well received by the melodic rock community. It took a full decade until a follow up belatedly appeared and another eight years for the third Hardline album to materialise. You could say that Hardline make Metallica and Guns N’ Roses appear rather prolific. 2016’s ‘Human Nature’ – the band’s fifth studio album – reinstates guitarist Josh Ramos, absent for 2012 offering ‘Danger Zone’. This is something that will undoubtedly please fans, but it does mean that Hardline have featured a different line up on each release. There are some that have long thought that, in this repect, the band are basically Johnny Gioli and whomever he can find at the time of recording – and they’d probably be right – but if Johnny says it’s Hardline, then Hardline it is.

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