CLEANBREAK – Coming Home

American singer James Durbin isn’t a household name in the UK, but for those Stateside, his work comes with a certain amount of expectation. After a stint fronting veteran metal band Quiet Riot, he eventually launched a solo career that aimed to take his huge voice and a love of classic metal in an even more traditional direction. The resultant album, ‘The Beast Awakens’ (released under the name Durbin in 2021) was well received in some corners of the rock press, but despite a few great tracks, the bulk of the material valued volume and bombast over almost everything else. In addition, clichéd material like ‘By The Horns’ and ‘The Prince of Metal’ honestly didn’t do Durbin any favours. Although it was all well intentioned, the worst aspects of the album played too much like a broad parody of old school metal, leading to the kind of thing that a more discerning listener might spin twice and then move on.

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VYPERA – Eat Your Heart Out

Vypera, a melodic metal band from Sweden, began life in 2016 as Madhouse, a covers band working the local circuit. On the basis of their debut release under the new name – their first to feature all new, self penned material – you might find yourself wondering if they were better when hammering through other peoples’ hits, since the bulk of ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ is…fairly bad, to put it mildly.

Sweden have a great track record for rock and metal exports, and the Scandinavians have more than shown an easy knack for great riffs and choruses over the years, very much providing a strong backbone for the melodic rock and metal scene. On on the basis of this debut, though, as much as some people would like to purport such a notion that the Swedes are infallible, such talents aren’t guaranteed. Although the bulk of this debut rehashes some old style riffs fairly solidly, Vypera’s song writing isn’t amazing; the record’s production values are decidedly average, and vocally, seventy five percent of the time, an ugly voice derails most of the good elements there might have been. Faced with something that sounds like polished demo with half of the guitars sounding really trebly, as if they’re bleeding in from another room, it’s immediately hard on the ears.

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BLOODY HEELS – Rotten Romance

Latvian rockers Bloody Heels began carving themselves a niche within the hard rock scene in 2012, but it was only with the release of their third record ‘Ignite The Sky’ that they really attracted wider attention. That album, their first for Frontiers, potentially placed them in the hard rock ranks alongside Hell In The Club, and really upped the ante with regards to their chorus writing. It was all very old fashioned, but that, in many ways, was the whole point. Their celebration of all things big haired and carefree actually created a great tribute to the hard rock glory days of 1987-1991, and as such, attracted a keen audience who still wanted to hear old school rock churned out with a real enthusiasm.

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VENUS 5 – Venus 5

Another act from the conveyor belt of Frontiers’ manufactured talents, the thinking behind Venus 5 was to create a “credible metal version” of the ultimate girl group. Label boss Serafino Perugino had obviously thought about the sales potential of multi-voiced pop acts and figured that a huge harmonic potential could be transposed to something heavier and still work. In some ways, he isn’t wrong, since this debut album never sells the listener short on massive vocals. He isn’t necessarily right either, as there are times throughout its eleven tracks where being constantly confronted with all five voices most of the time can be a little wearing. It’s not that the girls can’t sing; each member has a very strong voice, but the opportunities to hear them performing apart aren’t always so forthcoming as they perhaps could have been.

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Graham Bonnet has always been prolific. Since the release of his self-titled album in 1977, he has barely stopped recording and touring, but the few years in the run up to this third release from Graham Bonnet Band has seen Skegness’s most famous export take on a phenomenal amount of work for a man in his 70s.

Beginning with 2016’s double set ‘The Book’, the veteran vocalist began a late career gold run, with that album presenting some massive new tunes alongside some tight re-workings from his past, creating a great release suitable for both the big fan and the more curious listener. He then played a one off show with a reformed Alcatrazz in Japan, and recorded with both Michael Schenker and Ezoo, before 2018’s ‘Meanwhile…Back In The Garage’ saw Graham and his band sometimes rocking out in a more casual way, but still delivering the goods in terms of riffs and hooks. At a point where most performers might consider stepping back to admire their handiwork, Bonnet then revived Alcatrazz again, toured, and eventually released the critically acclaimed ‘Born Innocent’ – the first new studio work from the band in almost thirty five years.

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