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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REAL GONE GOES OUT: Night Ranger – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 11/3/2018

This evening at Shepherds Bush Empire has been billed as a double headline show between Night Ranger and Skid Row. However, it isn’t long after Night Ranger take the stage, it becomes clear that the event is nothing of the sort. Night Ranger’s set design is limited to a few extra Marshall amplifiers which are placed in the middle of the stage, rather than at the back. Kelly Keagy’s drumkit looks awkward, placed on stage left (audience right) and facing towards the middle rather than facing the audience. The band, in turn, are only given about three quarters of the stage to work with. Somewhere behind the amps, Skid Row’s drum kit sits in wait. So much for “double headliner”: Night Ranger have been given a support band’s set up – and that’s before we get to the massive issues with the sound.

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EPIC – Like A Phoenix

epicNot to be confused with European symphonic metal outfit Epica, Epic are a multi-national hard rock band comprising members from the US, Canada and The Lebanon. Their debut album, ‘Like a Phoenix’ released on Escape Music – home of Saracen, Impera, Chris Ousey (often the label’s only true saving grace) and many more – is a somewhat patchy affair, but three melodic belters make it worth hearing. In many ways, the inspirations behind those songs and the styles are very well worn, but looking chiefly at their target audience – a bunch of middle-aged, stuck in a rut men who’ll blindly purchase everything the label puts out – Epic work hard at giving those listeners exactly what they want. Early comparisons to Heart and Saraya might just be a bit of a stretch, though. It’s a brave or hugely optimistic person who even thinks comparing frontwoman Tanya Rizkala to the almost peerless Ann Wilson is a sensible idea. Tanya has a big voice, it’s true enough, but in terms of range, it is a far cry from Wilson’s impressive style.

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NAKED – End Game

naked end game cdTake a computer graphic from 1983. Use it to create the outline of a naked woman. Call the band Naked. To be honest, that doesn’t really get things off to the best start, but could possibly be forgiven if the music within this album was of a high standard. Which it isn’t. As it is, most the tunes on this Swedish band’s debut release sound very tired.

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RAGE OF ANGELS – Devil’s New Tricks

rage of angels 2016The 2013 debut album from Rage of Angels featured an impressive roll-call of guest vocalists. Tyketto’s Danny Vaughn, Impera‘s Matti Alfonzetti and the legendary Harry Hess were among those helping to bring ex-Ten keysman Ged Rylands’s larger than life project to fruition. It takes more than impressive vocals to create a classic, of course, and rather regrettably, Ged managed to fill ‘Dreamworld’ with bloated arrangements. Most of the tracks outstayed their welcome by at least two minutes and that meant, that when heard one after the other, the album just became rather dull.

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