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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L.A. GUNS – Another Xmas In Hell EP

In the US, Christmas music is big business. You can find a festive album to suit pretty much every one of your holiday moods. There are countless Christmas albums from country artists; you can play it traditionally with the easy listening approach with She & Him’s retro pop or Lowen & Navarro’s world of log fires and woolly jumpers. You can opt for retro rock ‘n’ roll and a swingin’ yuletide with the brilliant Brian Setzer, or even funky festivities with James Brown. In a world where even Bad Religion – a punk band fronted by one of the world’s most outspoken athiest academics – have a Christmas album, the gloves are off. We live in a post-irony world.

In December 2019, L.A. Guns’ ‘Another Xmas In Hell’ appeared on streaming services with little to no fanfare. A five track release, it finds the US hard rockers putting their own slant on a couple of very familiar festive favourites and a couple of lesser known gems.

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BLACKTHORNE – We Won’t Be Forgotten: The Blackthorne Anthology

Supergroups rarely last a long time. The combination of various egos usually leads to burnout pretty quickly. In the case of Blackthorne (featuring Graham Bonnet along with members of Quiet Riot, House of Lords and Skull), there wasn’t really anything you’d call genuine longevity, but their course ran a little longer than most. Formed in 1991, they released their debut ‘Afterlife’ in 1993 which led to some success in Japan. Work on a second album was undertaken in the mid-90s, but the band called it a day before the record was ready for release. The tapes remained unreleased until HNE Recordings unearthed them as part of their extensive (and excellent) Graham Bonnet reissue campaign. It’s a shame Blackthorne’s proposed second album couldn’t be heard in 1995, as at least half of it was an improvement over their first release.

Having already released ‘Afterlife’ with a handful of bonus tracks and finally gettiing ‘Blackthorne II: Don’t Kill The Thrill’ out to the fans in 2016, you’d expect that Cherry Red/HNE Recordings would have nothing more to give from Blackthorne’s all too short career, but this compilation (released in October 2019) actually adds a lot more to the band’s recorded legacy. Not so much a career overview with a few unreleased trinkets, this set is actually a vault of demos and alternate takes, peppered with a few album cuts to give a fairer overview of their short life span. Presented among the 44 tracks in this set are 30 unreleased cuts, a couple of which go right back to the band’s origins when the rhythm section featured White Lion men James Lomenzo and Greg D’Angelo. In other words, there’s a huge amount for fans to get their ears around.

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KXM – Circle Of Dolls

Over the years, dUg Pinnick has put his name to some fantastic albums. His long career with King’s X has afforded him a legendary status. Likewise, guitarist George Lynch has performed on some great material. Even at times when Dokken’s material didn’t hit the mark back in the 80s, Lynch’s lead guitar work was almost always terrific. In theory, a union between the two should have created hard rock gold, but unfortunately, the first two albums released by KXM – their supergroup with KoЯn’s Ray Luzier – were patchy affairs. 2017’s ‘Scatterbrain’ was an improvement on the 2014 debut, but still fell a little short in direct comparison to anything by King’s X at their very best. The bulk of this third album – their first for Frontiers Records – follows suit with another hit and miss collection of heavyweight rockers.

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BIG RIVER – Redemption

Released over three years after the band’s formation, Big River’s debut album was a long time coming. Between 2016 and 2019, the band spent what seemed to be an eternity playing small venues on the UK’s south coast. The constant live work made sense, no matter how small a venue; there’s no point in spending money on recording before there’s an audience. Having been guitarist with several grassroots rock acts before Big River were even a twinkle of an idea, that’s something that band founder Damo Fawsett knows only too well. Three years of gigging eventually paid off, though, when in 2019 Big River scored support slots with both John Corabi (ex-The Scream/Union/Motley Crue) and Marco Mendoza (Dead Daisies/Black Star Riders).

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