PRAYING MANTIS – Gravity

In 2015, Praying Mantis broke a six year silence with their tenth album ‘Legacy’. A welcome surprise, the album was not only their first with new vocalist John ‘JayCee’ Cuijpers, a man with a big presence and someone who appeared to be a perfect fit for the band, but also the strongest Mantis offering for a very long time. For the most part, the album featured memorable rockers that allowed the band’s trademark twin lead guitars to shine and also presented some very melodic hooks showing the band could still truly hit the mark. 2018’s ‘Gravity’ – obviously – follows a very similar path lyrically, musically and stylistically. After all, it’s not so much that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but with an album as good as ‘Legacy’, Praying Mantis would have been foolish to mess too much with a winning formula. However, although this second album with JayCee offers a few tracks that are a little less inspiring, on the whole, it’s a great return.

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JIZZY PEARL – All You Need Is Soul

Upon release in 2014, Jizzy Pearl’s EP ‘Crucified’ was incredibly well received by the online rock press, with many thinking it was the former Love/Hate frontman’s best work for a many a year. Although only a six tracker, it did indeed manage to capture a lot of the energies of his younger self, something probably amplified by a short playing time. With no room for filler, he really made an impression, so you’d think Pearl would’ve been keen to keep up the momentum and really capitalise on its success, but it took him almost four years to craft a follow up. Prior to release, he claimed that follow up, 2018’s ‘All You Need Is Soul’ had all the excitement of his former band’s ‘Blackout In The Red Room’ debut. Big talk indeed, but it seems that no matter how much time passes, that album is still very much the benchmark for everything that’s followed.

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ISSA – Run With The Pack

Issa Oversveen made her first notable appearance on the melodic rock scene back in 2010. Her debut release ‘Sign of Angels’ quickly got attention from the AOR die-hards, with some proclaiming the album “a female fronted Journey”. An odd claim, since the songs neither had a particularly 80s shine and it had a distinctly European flair. That of course seemed only fitting with Issa hailing from Norway and her hired help all being European; it was a little better than most of the second division melodic rock being released at the time, but was still quite workmanlike. A follow up, ‘The Storm’ appeared surprisingly quickly in 2011 which, on the surface, promised more of the same but upon closer inspection boasted a better production and bigger and better songs. It may have accentuated the Euro slant a little more, but the results were enjoyable.

Keen to promote Issa as the new queen of a purer AOR sound, Frontiers Records pulled a master stroke in 2012 when ‘Can’t Stop’ presented the vocalist with a selection of melodic rock covers from the 80s and 90s. Obviously the big hitters like Journey and Survivor weren’t accounted for, but the choice of second division material made the album all the more interesting. For melodic rock buffs, it was fun to hear cult material originally recorded by the likes of Aviator, Tower City and Mystic Healer re-interpreted by new hands. It also was a welcome reminder of a golden period when now defunct labels like MTM Music were cranking out interesting albums on a monthly basis. Following a three year hiatus, 2015’s ‘Crossfire’ was well received by the faithful but, predictably, didn’t make any kind of impact beyond the melodic rock fraternity. As melodic rock albums go, it was a reasonable listen – the upbeat style of ‘Long Time Coming’ harked back to 1990 and was very much a highlight – but after the covers album, it never felt like it deserved as much stereo time.

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Watch the new video from Love/Hate’s Jizzy Pearl

Best known as the front man for Love/Hate, Jizzy Pearl releases a new solo album ‘All You Need Is Soul’ in May, which will be accompanied by a full UK tour which includes four acoustic shows in addition to a run of full band gigs.

The second track to be released from the upcoming album, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone’ is already streaming on Spotify, but you can also check it out via the new video below.

Jizzy is scheduled to appear at London’s Camden Underworld on 13/5/2018 two days after the album’s release.

The album is Pearl’s first studio work since 2013’s ‘Crucified’ [full review here]

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WORLD TRADE – Unify

Mixing prog, pop and AOR, the first album by World Trade is somewhat of a cult classic. Showcasing Billy Sherwood’s multi-layered sound, the record is essential listening for fans of ‘Images of Forever’ by Cannata, ‘90125’ era Yes and ‘Hold Your Fire’ era Rush. Given it’s technical approach and sophisticated choruses, it’s no wonder Billy became a member of the Yes family tree a short time later. Six years on, a second World Trade album appeared, but ‘Euphoria’ seemed to not quite match expectations. Maybe it’s because both Guy Allison and Bruce Gowdy had founded AOR band Unruly Child with Marcie Free in the interim and had other interests; maybe it was just a difficult second record. The record, while enjoyable, lacked the focus of the debut and re-used tracks that Sherwood had previously demoed with Chris Squire alongside other material.

With Sherwood having other projects taking his time and also taking on the unenviable position of full time bassist with the ever-touring Yes in 2015, and with Gowdy and Allison having commitments with Unruly Child, it seemed we’d heard the last of World Trade…and then a third album appeared somewhat unexpectedly on Frontiers Records in 2017.

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