Sweet Crisis – ‘Tricks On My Mind’ Review

The best compliment I can give about Sweet Crisis is that if these guys has a time machine, you could drop this album into any decade from the 1960s onwards and it would not be out of place

I like a good natter with people, both online and in person, especially if said natter is about music. I was friended on instagram by a nice bloke who works with touring bands doing Merch and set up. He suggested I give Sweet Crisis a listen. That was weeks ago, so I apologise for the delay. 

The bumf that come with the link states that Sweet Crisis seek to balance all their inclinations and influences – like Free and Lenny Kravitz, nothing is off the table if music sounds right. Their key influences run through their debut album like a stick of Blackpool rock. There is everything from Fleetwood Mac to Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones to The Verve. That’s your appetites well and truly whetted then!

For the lover of upbeat rock, there is the opener ‘Loosen Up’, ‘One Way Traffic’, and ‘Living Life On The Edge’ (which has some cracking guitar playing courtesy of Piers Mortimer, and it is wonderfully trippy and exhilarating all in one song. The title track, ‘Tricks On My Mind’ is snappy and punchy and delivers in spades and reminds me a bit of Rival Sons.

For blues rock aficionados there is a magnificent ‘Love Me Like Sugar’ (my fave track along with ‘Living…’; ‘Misty Haze’ (great name for a porn star), and is an equally great song; ‘This Guitar’, and ‘Black Magic’. 

Whilst it’s not bluesy or rock, there is also the enticing and somewhat mesmerising ‘Ain’t Got Soul’, which I feel should be a darling of the airwaves on Radio 2 if it isn’t already. 

As debuts go, ‘Tricks On My Mind’ is a little belter. In a saturated market where blues rock seems to be the go to music of choice, I think that Sweet Crisis have enough diversity, quality and wide ranging influence in their armoury to rise above the majority.

The best compliment I can give about Sweet Crisis and ‘Tricks On My Mind’ is that if these guys had a time machine, you could drop this album into most decades from the 1960s up until the present day and it would fit in neatly like peas in a pod. It is a debut album that deserves your attention. I can’t wait to see these guys live.

8/10

Tracks –

Loosen Up

One Way Traffic

Ain’t Got Soul

This Guitar

Karma Will Come

Tricks On My Mind

Misty Haze

Black Magic

Love Me Like Sugar

Living On The Edge

Mick White – ‘Somethings Got To Give’ Review

Are you ready to Rock? Then get your arse into gear and support British Rock.

Back in the day, Mick White was a teenage singer for Samson (who incidentally the first professional band I saw live, supporting Whitesnake on the Paints & Thinners Tour in Dec 82). After leaving Samson he formed his own band, First Strike, but grunge buggered that up like it did with a lot of bands at that time. This led White to session work for the next five years, before becoming disillusioned at the end of the Millenium, (98 to be precise). This lead to a long period of inactivity until 2019 where White was approached by Steelheart Records to finally get a release of the First Strike album. Whilst guesting on a song written by Marty Punch in 2019 called ‘Better Be Strong’. White was approached by the drummer Carsten Enghardt on that song and Carsten knew White was the right singer for his own band Endfield.

Fast forward a bit to 2020 and like many others, Covid meant a period of songwriting for a solo album, which brought in Enghardt and guitarist Luke Hatton. Included on this album are a song co-written with Paul Samson back in 1988, called ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’, a reworking of a First Strike song ‘Hold Tight’ and a new version of ‘Better Be Strong’. Which leads us sweetly into this review.

‘SGTG’ starts off with a bang on ‘Burning In The Night’, as it moves through the gears fast, with Hatton and White in the driver and passenger seat. Title track ‘Somethings Got To Give’ is a step to the side but is equally enjoyable as the opener. Hatton again gives his talent and fingers an airing on the solo. ‘Without You’ shows MWB can mix it up a bit, as its a moodier song, and adds a burning desire to the song. ‘Emergency On Planet Earth’ shows how White can deliver a melodic rock song with aplomb as its very catchy indeed. It sees Mick singing to a younger version of himself, now older and wiser and telling his younger self of the issues that lie ahead.

‘Ordinary Girl’ is as you would expect, a ballad, with feet planted firmly in the 1980s. Not one of those soppy ones, as it builds to a nice crescendo. ‘Alter Of Desire’ is a snappy, up-tempo rocker. ‘Hold Tight’ is broody, but has a very melodic bridge and chorus, that would have been a staple on many a 80s album (in fact it was, it just didn’t get released until 2019!). ‘Sometime Superman’ was the 2nd video to be released and rightly so, as this and ‘Emergency…’ show the band in fine form and at their prime best on these melodic numbers.

‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ is Samson through and through. It’s a shot of adrenaline to the ears. Mick screams the title just like Don Dokken (when Don could sing). ‘Better Be Strong’ closes on a (well, er…strong) note, and it is a definite highlight.

I’ve not come across Mick White before (oo-er!), and probably hadn’t had I not been contacted by Ian Edwards who is MWs Bassist. (Note – Ian only works with ex-Samson vocalists – Peter Scallan ‘Moritz’ and now Mick White. If this were the 80s, next up would be Mammoth – now there’s one for the over 50s!).

Mick White is a very decent singer of gravelly velvet voice and a definite ear for decent tune. I can’t wait to see where this goes next. Its definitely for fans who like their rock music with lashings of leg warmers, bleached jeans and built on the foundations of NWOBHM. Are you ready to rock? Then get your arse into gear and buy this album.

7.5 /10

Tracklisting –

Burning In The Night
Somethings Got To Give
Without You
Emergency On Planet Earth
Ordinary Girl
Alter of Desire
Sometime Superman
Hold Tight
You Poisoned My Love
Don’t Close Your Eyes
Better Be Strong

Mark Tremonti Sings Frank Sinatra

Mark Tremonti has come together with the surviving members of Frank Sinatra’s orchestra, creating new takes on some of the classics and deeper cuts from Frank’s catalogue. The album is courtesy of the Take A Chance For Charity foundation. It is a brand new charity focussed on giving artists/actors/athletes the ability to get out of their comfort zone, having the people with a platform get out of the genre they are known for to raise funds and awareness for the charity of their choice. An actor can sing, and athlete can dance, a musician can sing a song away from their musical genre, any artistic interpretation. This gives the artist the ability to do something out of the ordinary, even extraordinary all in the name of charity. Tremonti Sings Sinatra is the first release for the cause, the recipient being NDSS. A charity close to Marks heart as his daughter Stella has Down Syndrome. Frank raised over a billion dollars for charity, and now Mark is on the same path, raising funds and   helping families and individuals with Down Syndrome. 

Whilst I am a out and our rock fan, my musical journey started probably from the age of about 4, possibly earlier than that. I remember going into town with my dad and buying the record player that became a massive part of my life. My dad was a Teddy Boy in the 50s, and he opened me up to the rock n roll greats of the fifties and sixties. I think its why I like rock music as it’s the same path for me as it was my dad. I digress. 

One man stood at the top of the tree for my dad, and it wasn’t Elvis. It was Nat King Cole. Talented pianist, and a voice that was pure velvet. Mt dad owned everything that he released. So I have some skin in the game when it comes to crooners. Whilst I was never a fan of Frank Sinatra, I watched many a Hollywood musical growing up, of which he did many, and it is something I still enjoy today. Mr Sinatra was a part of this journey and I totally respect his place in music and film history

I have watched (and heard) Mark Tremonti go from being a decent backing vocalist (and part vocalist) in Alter Bridge to fronting the band in his own name and getting better with each Tremonti album. What I didn’t realise was how bloody good he is taking on the classic Sinatra songbook. He is too good. When AB decide to call it a day, he will easily jump to crooning if he so wishes to.

So what do we have? Well, theres all the classics we have all heard of, unless you’ve been living in a rock, or were born after 1990. Mark is making sure all the kids who like AB will be directed to Sinatras legacy. I played the opening track for my wife last night, and told her it was Tremonti singing ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’. Gill is in fact a much better reviewer than I am. She can sort a duffer almost immediately, and also knows talent when she hears it. If fact she was blown away by how good Mark Tremonti is in singing a legends songbook. 

When you sing songs like Frank Sinatras, there is nowhere to hide, and Tremonti isn’t phased for one second. Hi hits some low notes on Wave that felt like being stood next to a subwoofer. All the classics are ticked off with aplomb – Fly Me Too The Moon, My Way, Luck Be A Lady, You Make Me Feel So Young, That’s Life (a song covered by David Lee Roth in the 80s), and Come Fly With Me. I just wished they would have thrown in ultimate Sinatra classic New York, New York from the film I only watched last week, On The Town. 

That said, following in Sinatras shoes is one hell of an achievement, and at no point does he let Frank down. The tone and phrasing is excellent. Whilst I think that Take A Chance For Charity is about giving artists the chance to go out of their comfort zones, Mark Tremonti may well have been shitting bricks in having to tackle these classics, but it certainly doesn’t look or feel like it

I don’t think this is the last we have seen from the current and future great crooner, Mark Tremonti.

Tracklisting

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

I’ve Got The World On A String

I Fall In Love Too Easily

Wave

Fly Me To The Moon

Nancy (With The Laughing Face)

My Way

You Make Me Feel So Young

Luck Be A Lady

That’s Life

Come Fly With Me

In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning

The Song Is You

All Or Nothing At All

FM – Thirteen

FM’s Thirteenth album doesn’t mean its unlucky. In fact its the finest of this version of FM

Said in my best Smashy and Nicey voice “FM are probably one of my favourite bands of all time, probably of all time mate!” Just like Mervs missus’s band, FM never let me down, especially live. OK I have selective memory with Dead Mans Shoes, but there are still a couple of belters on that album (Sister and Tattoo Needle). So, this thirteenth studio album from FM is aptly called, well, er…..’Thirteen’. I’d like to have been there for that meeting.

This current version of FM is the most stable in the bands illustrious history. The vastly underrated rhythm section of Jupp/Goldsworthy are firmly behind the wheel and Steve ‘The Voice’ Overland is still here, sounding as good as ever. He sits comfortably alongside Gramm, Perry, Hughes, Dio and Coverdale, and that is how high a regard I hold him in. Drop in Jem Davis adding sumptuous layers and Jim Kirkpatrick (still the new bloke) who has turned up yet again with a suitcase full of riffs and melody, and this magic recipe has delivered the best FM album since Metropolis, possibly after Tough It Out (and this assessment is just after a single listen) and instantly gets into my top 4 FM albums of all time, and could go higher after repeated listens.

Opening track ‘Shaking The Tree’ shows that FM have lost nothing of their vim and vigor. Its fair to say this is one of the finest openings since ‘Tough It Out’. Jem Davis add some nice keyboards to this song and he threads through the whole album like a champion sewing bee. Proving that its not just the one song being great, ‘Waiting On Love’ shows why they still are one of the finest bands to come out of Blighty. Mr Overland sounds at his absolute best and the fab 5 harmonies wash over me like a coveted security blanket. I don’t think there is a chink in his armour. ‘Talk Is Cheap’ has a tougher edge to it and ‘Turn This car Around’ is something that Don Henley would have killed his granny for in 1986. ‘Love and War’ takes me back to the very underrated ‘Run No More’ from ‘Aphrodisiac’. ‘Every Man Needs A Woman’ is a barnstorming track, and is Jim Kirkpatricks tribute to EVH. And nails it. I’ve never quite understood the phrase ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ because surely you just get more fire! Its the kind of song that would have adorned an 80s B movie. That is no insult when you listen to soundtracks like ‘The Wraith’. The final track ‘Be True To Yourself’ has a bit of a proggy undertone to it, only with harmonies a plenty and rounds off a cracking album.

To summarise, Overland is still one of the best vocalists of all time, the harmonies are to die for, Kirkpatrick’s playing gets better with each album, (not that he was shite before!) and the understated rhythm section of Jupp and Goldsworthy are the meat and bones of FM.

FM have brought their ‘A game’ for ‘Thirteen’ as the quality of songs are probably the best that this version of FM have put together. I have waxed lyrical about some of the previous FM albums, but this one is the absolute bollocks!

Tracklisting –
Shaking The Tree
Waiting On Love
Talk Is Cheap
Turn This Car Around
Love And War
Long Road Home
Be Lucky
Every Man Needs A Woman
Just Got Started
Fight Fire With Fire
Be True To Yourself

Gone Savage – ‘Past Life’ Album Review

Massive improvement since Gone Savage released their EP ‘Resurrection’ a couple of years back. ‘Past Life’ has a great set of songs with not a duffer or filler in sight

Review by Paul. Chesworth

Gone Savage have been diligently releasing quality songs for a number of years now. Two years ago GS sent me their EP ‘Resurrection’, and single ‘Bulletproof’ which was a whetter of an appetite for what was to come. And that ‘for what was to come’ is now actually here in 2022 with the release of ‘Past Life’.

They are down to a main 2 piece of Ian Salpekar (bass) and Will Glover (Vocals), and have added the likes of Sam Millar and Grant Mallison (Guitars, but not at the same time), with Don Genovese (backing vocals) but we are promised a full on band when live with 4 part harmonies. Thats good enough for me as I’m a sucker for harmonies.

They self describe themselves as ‘Rock with a modern melodic feel, together with a hard edge and tight under belly!’ Compared to ‘Resurrection’ (which had a different vocalist to Will) back in 2020, Gone Savage showed a marked improvement with ‘Bulletproof’ (included on ‘Past Life’), and have definitely upped their game even further with this new release. Gone Savage have bands like Leppard, and Dokken running through their music and veins like a stick of Blackpool rock.

So what do we get? ‘Regression’ is an intro with not a lot of substance, but it gives way for the very 80s sounding ‘Icon Of Today’ with Will sounding a little like Blood Red Saints Pete Godfrey. It makes for a very decent opener. It only gets better with the very aptly named ‘Irresistable’ which is built on the foundations of a cracking riff and chorus. (Stryper anyone?). ‘Life In Black And White’ has one of those ear-worm choruses that once heard, are immediately embedded in your skull. I mentioned earlier about the Def Leppard and Dokken influences and both are definitely in play for ‘Permanent State Of Change’, with vocals and delivery Lep-esque, and the riff coming from a ‘Dysfunctional’ era Dokken. ‘Bulletproof’ has a much heavier sound and it stands out from the rest of the album. I don’t mean in a better ‘stand out’ moment, its the heaviness that stands out. Bear in mind this song is a couple years older than the rest and possibly this was a sign of things to come, but everything before this on Past Life have been pared back a little for a more melodic approach. It (Bulletproof) still fits in though as bands need to show that are not all a bit ‘same-y’ or predictable, and this is proof positive with ‘Life Incendiary’. It offers up a slower paced sound and deliberate menacing tone and underlying riff that evokes George Lynch and Adam Jones. Its a definite highlight.

‘Louder Than The Sun’ sounds as if its a seamless transition from ‘Life Incendiary’, and it hammers home with Will doing his very best ’Stars In Their Eyes’ Joe Elliot moment with the phrasing and delivery. The harmonies are also in full force. Again, its quality stuff. ‘Love Caught Me Out’ sounds like a Night Ranger title if ever I hear one. Only this song is like ‘Night Of The Crime’ era Icon (Check ‘em out kids, Icon are fantastic). GS are on a roll now folks! ‘Redemption Song’ dials it back a little but it still packs a punch. The harmonies are in force and Salpekar’s bass pulls this song along for most of the way. ‘Powerless’ has all the hallmarks of a very early Leppard (Rock Brigade) and has a pulsating riff that drives the song from start to finish. ‘Touch Your God’ has a more atmospheric sound to it than the rest, and is the type of song that played live could easily become a lengthier, epic number.

The addition of Will Glover has seen Gone Savage grown into a force to be reckoned with. I also have to give credit to Grant Mallison and Sam Millar as the guitars on this album take me back to my late teens when bands like Dokken, Ratt, QR etc ruled the World for me. The songs on ‘Past Life’ are better (much better), the vocals have more range and feeling than previously. The band have come on leaps and bounds since our paths crossed with ‘Resurrection’. ‘Past Life’ is a mix of ‘the great and the good’. There’s at least three great songs, probably more once I really have a few more listens under my belt, and the rest are good, with not a filler or duffer in sight. For that I have to give it very credible and enjoyable….

8/10

Tracklisting

Regression
Icon Of Today
Irresistable
Life In Black And White
Permanent State Of Change
Bulletproof
Life Incendiary
Louder Than The Sun
Love Caught Me Out
Redemption Song
Powerless
Touch Your God

Scarlet Rebels – ‘See Through Blue’ Album Review

Few bands get better with each and every album. Scarlet Rebels are one such animal. If you thought you liked the debut…sit down and strap yourself in for a helluva ride!

Review by Paul Chesworth

Wayne Doyle, frontman with Welsh rockers Scarlet Rebels, was watching TV in the middle of the pandemic when he found his anger rising. Some faceless British politician – he can’t remember which one, mainly because they mostly look the same – was shamelessly taking credit for footballer Marcus Rashford’s successful campaign to reinstate free school meals for children during those difficult times.
“This guy was basically hijacking something someone else had done,” says Wayne, the ire still evident in his voice. “I was watching these politicians coming on the news every day, trotting out absolute bullshit and using the world’s downturn to make a profit for themselves. And no one from the other side was calling them out in it. Politics is so corrupt. It needs a kick up the arse.”

This state of affairs inspired the title track of the Llanelli five-piece’s stellar new album, ‘See Through Blue’. Bands nowadays are not really allowed to have a ‘voice’ when it comes to politics these past few years. But it has been the case for many a year, attacks against the establishment, dictators, politicians, etc. Sticking it to ‘The Man’ has been part and parcel going back to the foundations on which rock was built – The Blues. It is refreshing to see a band stick two fingers up to the Tories in 2022. I sense a kindred spirit.

The Band Scarlet Rebels shot for EarAche Records

‘I’m Alive’ is snappy and to the point, and its a decent opener, but ‘Storm’ is magic. It reminds be of a now defunct but also brilliant band called Sons Of Icarus. ‘Storm’ is as catchy as Omicron (too soon?), or catchier than a baseball clove dipped in superglue. ‘These Days’ sounds on the surface like its a nice little pop ditty, but dig beneath the surface and it’s a darker narrative – social media, the (current) Government not feeding school kids, and BLM. Mr Doyle has a message and its a barbed one with feeling and meaning, wrapped in nice pleasant riff. ‘London Story’ tells a story of a love that’s lost, a modern Romeo and Juliet, only Wayneo lives to tell the tale. It a song with a bit more oomph. ‘I Can Sleep Now’ is a belting song. It is moody and brooding to start but slowly it builds the tension into a completely different animal. By the time you get to the bridge a crescendo awaits from the twin guitars and Doyles very emotive vocals. I reckon that this is probably the best song of their career. Really, it is.

‘I Can’t Say’ opens with a choppy riff and quickly becomes a raucous pop song, but then again, what isn’t in this album, SR are a band destined for major radio play. ‘Take It’ on the surface sounds like another pleasant song, but has a much darker meaning once you delve deeper. To top it off it comes with a belting guitar solo. ‘Leave A Light On’ is a part acoustic (not a ballad) with some proper soul searching lyrics. The bloke is getting a hug next time I see him. It’s a lovely song that will speak volumes and strike a chord to many a SR fan. Wayne sings ‘Just who I am and what I’ve become, this empty vessel that sings a few songs’. You are so much more than that.

‘We’re Going Nowhere’ is a straight up rock song and as usual the chorus is instantly singable. ‘Everything Changed’ is all about the bass and drums, but again it’s also fuelled by another stonking chorus. Finally its the title track ‘See Through Blue” and Im sticking my neck out here but I think Wayne’s not a fan of Boris! Me neither. Bands have also had a voice when it comes to railroading against the ‘Establishment’, and none more so here. Probably two years after this song was written, nothing has changed and STB is still 100% on the button. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. Fuck, it is like it was only written last week!!! It is probably even more apt in this current clusterfuck of a Tory government. A leopard definitely doesn’t change its spots

There is good reason why Earache teamed up with Scarlet Rebels, and that reason is ‘See Through Blue’. Its early January 2022, and I can honestly say that STB is going to be one of my albums of the year

Its a rare these days for bands to get better with each and every album. OK this is only No.2, but if you include the V0id output then my comment is confirmation that SR are onto something. Scarlet Rebels are the best band you haven’t heard of…….yet! The way Boris is going there’s enough fuel for the fire of another couple of albums worth of material.

I urge you to give Scarlet Rebels ’See Through Blue’ a listen and support a cracking British rock band. I’ve enjoyed the ride so far and I honestly cannot wait to see where it takes them over the next couple of years.

Scarlet Rebels –
Wayne Doyle – Vocals, Guitar
Chris Jones – Lead Guitar
Josh Townshend – Guitar
Wayne ‘Pricey’ Esmonde – Bass
Gary Doyle – Drums

Tracklisting
I’m Alive
Storm
London Story
These Days
Take You Home
I Can Sleep Now
I Can’t Say
Take It
Leave A Light On
We’re Going Nowhere
Everything Changed
See Through Blue

Links –

Album pre-order: https://earache.com/scarletrebels
http://scarletrebels.com/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb_chrUcU1G7VFXiPQi3rLA
https://www.facebook.com/scarletrebels
https://twitter.com/scarletrebels
https://www.instagram.com/scarletrebelsofficial
https://open.spotify.com/artist/1gVWbJsabbAcgkD24oEVR9
https://music.apple.com/gb/artist/scarlet-rebels/1466928458

Needle In The Groove’s Top 10 Albums of 2021

My top 10 albums of 2021.

Well grapple fans (an up to date reference for the kids!), here we are at the dying embers of 2021 and thinking at the same time last year we were all predicting we would all be back to normal, everyone fully vaccinated and living like to the full. Well thanks to Covid-19 mutating like, well Covid-19, here we are a year down the line, all pretty much locked up as we were last Christmas. Gigs opened up for a couple of months and I snuck in 3 before the UK government made it pretty much impossible to go see a gig from Boxing Day onwards.


Thankfully bands didn’t let this affect them and it was a very strong year for releases. Most of the bands on this list were albums purchased in 2021, so there will not be a review on the site for further details. Where there is a review I will attach a link. It’s far from me to criticise, so if you have brought an album out in 2021, well done to you all.


It was also good to hear only yesterday that vinyl sales were up in the UK, with them making up 23% of all sales, which is 14 years of continuous growth, and CDs seeing the lowest number of sales since 1984, just one year after they were introduced to the UK. This increase is probably down to two factors – Adele and Abba. I don’t think my haul of over 200 albums bought in 2021 made a dent in the numbers.


I’m sure vinyl sales would be a lot higher were it not for manufacturing issues, PVC shortages and the fact that demand is outstripping supply by 2:1. If you have a spare couple of million lying down the back of the sofa, build a vinyl pressing plant. You can’t fail. For some reason, probably because they were part of a ‘bundle’, over 190,000 tapes were sold in 2021, their biggest selling year since 2003. When compared to the streaming monsters however, its bugger all as the likes of Spotify, Amazon, Deezer etc etc had an 81% share of the market.

Anyway onto my top 10 albums of 2021……

10. Lifesigns – Altitude

I was new to the Lifesigns party in 2021 but even from the first listen I was hooked. Its a really great album, and John Young is now a firmly established name in the Chesworth household.

9. The Dead Daisies – Holy Ground

The Dead Daisies were good, then they became excellent. Why? Well Glenn bloody Hughes only went and joined them. The ‘voice of rock’ added his Glenn Hughes-ness to TDD and the result is the fab. The man is the Tinkerbell of rock, adding a drop of fairydust to take TDD up a notch above anything they had done before this point

8. Thunder – All the Right Noises

Considering I was at their last ever gig a few years back, Thunder’s return and resurgence has been a great one, with ATRN sitting nicely near the summit of Thunders best works. It’s that good.

7. Dirty Honey – ST

Dirty Honey hit the ground running with their cracking EP. Their debut album picks up where the EP left off. Self produced and financed, they want to take care of their own destiny. In Mark LaBelle they have a singer who can challenge some of the greats. 70s rock is alive and well. (Fun fact – their single from the EP ‘When. I’m Gone’ was the first ever single from an unsigned band to top the Billboard Rock Chart). My only gripe is the album is too short! I’ve had longer shits.

6. The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic II

If your idea of melodic rock heaven is parpy keyboards and songs that sound like they were written and performed in the 1980s, then look no further. TNFO make every song sound like it was written for the Rocky film franchise and 80s B movies when the likes of Paul Sabu, Lion and Stan Bush were regular contributors.

5. Myles Kennedy – The Ides Of March

This is the album I waited 11 years for. Myles’s debut was good and all, but with TIOM he came out of the blocks like a stabbed rat. More power and welly, and in the title track, he has a song that is a close second to ABs Blackbird. ‘The Ides Of March’ track is completely all over the place. No wonder he hardly plays it live, but when he does…..its a thing to behold.

4. Leprous – Aphelion

Leprous is another bands that I came to the party late with. Having heard ‘Pitfalls’ first, I was smitten. With ‘Aphelion’, the feeling was identical. I can see why fans are not too hot when comparing the 5 albums before ‘Pitfalls’ to the latter two new ones, but for me ‘Aphelion’ is a brilliant album. OK its all about Einar Solberg and he clearly holds the keys to the castle, but the performances of all the guys is something to behold. They are brilliant, and they bloody well know it.

3. Plush – ST

I’ve been a fan of Moriah Formica’s ever since she appeared on a Michael Sweet album back in 2016. She is a very talented singer/songwriter and when someone of her age can tackle Ann Wilson songs with ease, you know they are special. She is surrounded with some amazing talent in Plush – Brook Colucci, Ashley Suppa, and Bella Perron. Considering they were all under 21 when the album dropped in October, the results are stunning. A band so young shouldn’t be this good with their first album.

2. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

OK its another dinosaur of a band up at the sharp end of the poll for the second year running. After a 6 year gap Iron Maiden didn’t need to ever make an album again. But they did, and its a belter. OK, its no ‘Powerslave’ or ‘Piece Of Mind’. Its about as diverse as Steve Harris and Iron Maiden get, and that is a good thing indeed

  1. Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

This album simply ticked all the boxes for me – great gongs, great vocals, set in the 80s and some of the best videos this side of Van Halen and David Lee Roth. A lot of bands try to recreate the 80s heydays but few succeed. Lets face it, some of the lyrics are corny, but they are delivered in a style and knowing nod to the past that you are just swept along for the ride. The sign of a good album is one you can’t stop playing, and with KIAGT its hardly been off rotation. They even roped in Sam Fox for the best ballad I’ve heard in a number of years, ’Tomorrow’. I can’t wait for album No.2

Groundbreaker – ‘Soul To Soul’ Album review

If you liked the debut, you’ll absolutely love ‘Soul To Soul’. Quality AOR from Groundbreaker and Overland

Buy here – https://www.frontiers.shop/search?sSearch=groundbreaker

By Paul Chesworth

Unless you’re a fan of melodic rock/AOR, then you won’t be aware of one of the hardest working men in British rock music, one Steve Overland. Outside of FM, he has a CV that few can muster – The Ladder, Shadowman, Ozone, Lonerider, and his own project, simply called Overland. Not including all the albums he has guest appeared on, sings with The Staz Band, and has done shed loads of tribute songs, AND sang the theme to Galaxy Rangers! Phew. Known to his bandmates and supporters of FM as ‘the voice’ its a title that is very aptly bestowed, given we are in a world where platitudes are handed out like sweets.

‘Soul To Soul’ is a grand title for Overlands blues/soul vocal stylings. The debut included Robert Sall (Work Of Art) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (production). Sall has gone, joining this time on the songwriting side and is Stefano Lionetti (Lionville), Pete Alpenborg (Arctic Rain), Jan Akesson (Infinite & Devine), and Kristian Fyhr (Seventh Crystal). The line up includes Sven Larsson (ex-Street Talk) on guitars, Nalley Pahlsson (Therion) on bass, Herman Furin (Work Of Art) on drums, and Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards.

On to the stuff that matters. The music. The appetite was well and truly whetted back in August when the video for ‘Standing On The Edge Of A Broken Dream’ dropped. Its massive slice of pure and polished AOR. Its somewhat akin to FMs debut and the more recent efforts by bands like W.E.T, WOA, and Perfect Plan. An opener wouldn’t be an Overland special without the obligatory ‘whoa-ohs’™️. ‘Soul To Soul’ opens with a lovely parpy keyboard, and sees Overland hitting notes that I didn’t think possible from him. Its also worth mentioning Sven Larsson’s sterling guitar work. There’s a couple of obligatory ballads in ‘Captain Of Our Love’ and ‘Fighting For Our Love’ and because of Overland they are elevated and could appear corny had anyone else tackled them, such is the gravitas he brings to the table.

It’s on the polished, and punchy numbers that Groundbreaker truly shine. ‘Evermore’ picks up the tempo and has a good chorus. Its as close to FM as Groundbreaker gets. Overland himself gets to shine by playing lead guitar on Wild World. It borders into fm-radio territory and that’s not a bad thing to say by any means. ‘Carrie’ (not that one, or the other one) ups the ante, and Larsson wrings the neck off of his guitar. It’s a cracking little song. ‘It Don’t Get Better Than This’ has great harmonies and reminds me of The Storm. ‘Theres No Tomorrow’ keyboard sound is straight out of the iSPY book of Michael Bolton songs (that’s a reference few will get unless you’re over 50!). It’s a great song and my fave of the bunch. ‘When Lightning Strikes’ has a great melody and nice layered harmonies with now obligatory searing Larsson guitar solo. Its formulaic, but it’s one hell of a formula. ‘’Til The End Of Time’ is solid enough, but it’s on the final song ‘Leap Of Faith’ where it is a prime example of Overlands ‘cream on top of the milk’ analogy. It’s a fine song to end a mighty fine album.

If you love your pure AOR in bands like Signal, Bad English, Alias, LeRoux and Unruly Child, then look no further than ‘Soul To Soul’ It may not break into many peoples top 10s but it certainly will do on mine come December

Anything Michael Bolton can do, so can Overland, only sometimes a lot better but without Bolton’s bank balance. The man should be a household name. Well you are in our house son.

I liked the debut, but this one comes with knobs on!

9/10

Tracklisting –
Standing On The Edge Of A Broken Dream
Soul To Soul
Captain Of Our Love
Evermore
Wild World
Carrie
Fighting For Love
It Don’t Get Better Than This
There’s No Tomorrow
When Lightning Strikes
Til The End Of Time
Leap Of Faith

Plush – ‘Plush’ Album Review

Stunning debut album from Plush. I thought it was going to be good, but I didn’t know how f*cking good!!

Review by Paul Chesworth

Buy here – https://amzn.to/3AWIEJP

Released 29th October 2021

I first came across Moriah Formica (not that way you perv), a couple of few years back when she duetted on a Michael Sweet solo album, ‘One Sided War’. Back in 2016 I predicted great things for her even back then. I’ve kept a distant eye on her career and have been hotly anticipating this debut Plush album after seeing some of the covers they have been releasing. My appetite was completely whetted when they posted their ‘shit-hot’ version of Alter Bridge’s ‘Isolation’.

‘Plush’ is composed of four talented women, under 21, whose accomplishments and talent eclipse their age. This female rock force is fronted by singer, songwriter and guitarist Moriah Formica. Drummer Brooke Colucci, guitarist Bella Perron and bassist Ashley Suppa round out the lineup.

When I said hotly anticipating, I thought it would be a good debut, but I wasn’t expecting it to be THIS. FUCKING. GOOD. If anyone was thinking fluffy girly metal, then you couldn’t be more wrong. After stating recently that Nestor’s debut was one of the best I’ve heard in a long time, along comes Plush with an equally superb debut album.

‘Opening with “Athena” Plush ready do set their stall out early. It has a really heavy, dirty riff from Bella Perron that Mark Tremonti would be proud of punches you like Bruce Lee only wearing an iron glove. Harmonies are a-plenty, and the rhythm of Brooke Colucci and the pulsating bass of Ashley Suppa drive this on to stand head and shoulders in the pack. Throw in Moriah Formica’s stunning vocal range and it make for one sumptuous recipe. Think Ann Wilson or Kelly Clarkson singing for Alter Bridge and you will get where I’m coming from. “Champion” “Found A Way” and “Hate” are more melodic, but still pack a hefty punch. Perron has a great guitar tone and Formica’s vocals are crystal clear.

“Sober” is a powerful anthem, moving from acoustic to electric and is an emotional ride digging into the lyrical content. “Better Off Alone” is a song where Formica is wearing her emotions on her sleeve, and if auto-biographic, has drawn on some life affirming decisions. Bella Perron earns her weight in salt with her guitar playing. “Sorry” is nicely paced, branding from stripped down to a strong phrasing of ‘Sorry’ for each line of its chorus. “Why Do I Even Try” uses Formica’s instrument (her voice) and interplays with Bella Perron guitar licks. The Princess of Pound (Colucci) and Suppa are up front and centre on the dynamic “Bring Me Down”. “Don’t Say That” is the true ballad on the album, and shows that Plush have a lot of strings to their bow. If this was the late 80s, Plush would be sitting on a Top 10 Billboard song, and playing arenas within weeks of its release.

“Will To Win” matches ‘Athena’ for its heavy riff and these songs sit really well in Plush’s wheelhouse. All 4 are on top form here, and Formica’s vocals shine. This is a nice composition and Perron lays down some understated riffs. I just with she was given more slack to let rip with her talent. It’s only on closing track “Walk Away” where she has anywhere near an extended solo. Moriah wails ’I’m gonna walk away, walk away from all the pain’ and you know she means it. At 13 songs and 50 minutes it flew by. There’s not a duff song on here and that is something else.

Plush have clearly done their homework. In Formica they have a singer songwriter that is a shining light in modern metal now, and hopefully for years to come. It easy to over sing when you have an instrument like Formica’s voice. She knows when to be subtle, when to let loose and when to emote. Add the undoubted quality to Colucci, Suppa and Perron, and its delicious. The four women complement each other perfectly to become Plush. They have avoided the pitfalls to be a ‘saccharine-coated-look-great-but-no-substance’ band and come out all guns blazing. If they are doing this now, then I cannot wait for what’s to come in the future.

To write and perform an album that is so contemporary, mature, and with a wink to the past, with all band members at a (relatively) young age is remarkable. Ok maybe not remarkable as I’ve seen their videos leading up to this release so it shouldn’t be a total surprise. They have lived up to my expectations, and gone way beyond it. ‘Plush’ is a simply marvellous album. Look out boys, the girls are here to kick your asses!

I haven’t been this excited about a band since I found Rival Sons, Alter Bridge and Coheed And Cambria. Plush sit in great company

For fans of Alter Bridge, Shinedown, Red Sun Rising

Score – 9/10

Plush are –
Moriah Formica – Vocals & Guitar
Bella Perron – Guitar
Brooke Colucci – Drums
Ashley Suppa – Bass

Tracklisting –
Athena
Champion
Hate
Found A Way
I Don’t Care
Sober
Better Off Alone
Sorry
Why Do I Even Try
Bring Me Down
Don’t Say That
Will Not Win
Walk Away

Wicked Smile – ‘Wait For The Night’ Review

Wicked Smile hit the ground running with their powerful debut. Fans of 80s stalwarts such as Dio, Skid Row, Maiden and Sabbath can find something to enjoy here

By Paul Chesworth

Australian heavy rockers Wicked Smile will release their debut full length album titled ‘Wait for the Night’ on September 24th. Oct 15th in the UK.

Wicked Smile are all about bringing back fist pumping heavy rock to the forefront with a collection of ten ‘killer songs’. The forthcoming album is produced by Paul Laine (The Defiants) and mastered by Bruno Ravel (The Defiants/Danger Danger).


Guitarist Stevie Janevski goes on to say, “last year was all about giving the world a ‘taste’ of what we’re about. We’re a five-piece kick ass heavy rock band and I think we made our presence known with the release of our Delirium sampler EP”.

Wicked Smile is fronted by charismatic powerhouse lead vocalist Danny Cecati (ex Pegazus & Eyefear) with Stevie Janevski (The Radio Sun, ex Black Majesty & Cyclone Tracy) and Dave Graham (ex In Malice’s Wake) on guitars, Glen Cav (ex Virtue) on bass and Jason Tyro on drums.

I won’t dwell on the EP songs from last year as all are included here. (see link to my EP review at the bottom of this paragraph) What WS have done is capitalise on the success of the EP and gone full steam ahead and put the album out a year after the EP. WS set their stall out early with the powerful ‘Date With The Devil’. Its full on 80s metal, very guitar heavy and Cecati sounding great. ‘Daze Of Delirium has a cracking chorus and is as soft as WS get to Steves other outfit The Radio Sun. ‘Don’t Wait For Me’ shows that balladic side to WS and Cecati and sounds a different vocalist completely.It has its obligatory searing guitar solo to appease the faithful. ‘Sign Of Times’ is a more doom laden vibe, which is quite Tony Martin era-Sabbath, which for me is praise in itself. ‘Last Goodbye’ has an opening riff that transports me to Bark At The Moon era Ozzy. The title track ‘Wait For The Night’ is the strongest on the album by a mile, it will certainly please fans of bands like Maiden and Halloween and Cecati’s vocals soar throughout the song. The twin guitars of Janevski and Graham definitely need a mention here as they shred the arse off each other.

EP Reviewhttps://needle-in-the-groove.com/2020/06/07/wicked-smile-delerium-ep-review/

It’s on songs like ‘Killer At Large’ ‘Date With The Devil’, and ‘Wait For The Night’ where they really hit the mark. Theres a variety of styles and influences coming into play as they show on the melodic ‘Daze….’ I understand this melodic rock style based on previous bands. But its the heavier, metal songs that stand out for me, and with that in mind I’m already looking forward to that difficult No2 album!

8/10

Date With The Devil
Wait For The Night
We Fall
Sign Of Times
Daze Of Delirium
Killer At Large
Last Goodbye
Loves Got A Hold On You
Don’t wait For Me
Stronger