RockStar Weekly

CD Review: Fraze Gang - Fraze Gang II

Fraze Gang 2
4.5

Brighton Rock was one of Canada’s most under-rated melodic rock bands of the hair band era, and despite not having anything new from the band in since 1992, BR alumni Greg Fraser (vocals and guitar) and Stevie Skreebs (bass) are continuing to hold the torch with the band Fraze Gang, which just released its second album Fraze Gang II.

Rounded out by drummer Phil Epp and new guitarist Derek McGowan, Fraze Gang has taken their version of the Brighton Rock sound that was evident on the debut album and turned it into something very separate and much harder from the lighter rock of BR. There’s a bit of an Ace Frehley, Judas Priest and Ratt sound going on on Fraze Gang II, which might be courtesy of former Ratt/Europe and Winger producer Beau Hill, who mixed the album.

Fraze Gang II embraces an 80s sound wrapped around some extremely solid guitar playing from Fraser, who led all those classic Brighton Rock riffs and solos back in the 80s. The rhythm guitars have a nice crunch, but the lead shines through with tasteful and memorable licks. It actually reminds me of the first time I heard the Ace Frehley KISS solo album and discovered just how important a well played guitar is to any song. And now all these years later, Fraser is cranking out solos that sound reminiscent of those classic 70s and 80s solos from Frehley, Jimmy Page and to a certain extent, Tommy Shaw. And in contrast, Fraser has grown into a much more talented and solid player than Frehley ever did. The guitar playing alone is worthy of three of the four and a half stars this album was awarded.

The album standouts include the powerful lead track Saint Or Sinner, In Your Face and the very KISS like Juggernaut. A cover of the 1954 Muddy Waters song I Just Want To Make Love To You rounds out this heavier collection of new music from a group of Canadian melodic rockers that certainly sound like they really believe in what they do.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 08 September 2012 00:23

Hits: 1285

CD Review: Wig Wam - Wall Street

Wig Wam - Wall Street
4.5

Norwegian rockers Wig Wam have always been a favourite of mine. The band can rock and glam with the best of them and their debut Hard To Be A Rock N’ Roller was one of the best hard rock albums of 2005. In their four album career, the band has been slowly evolving, including letting go of their original glam image and slowly dropping the party rock schlock. The results of the transition have resulted in Wall Street, the band’s latest effort, showing a more serious and mature Wig Wam than we’ve ever seen before.

For fans that have been following the band since the beginning, the change is a little less obvious, but for those that only remember In Dreams or Gonna Get You Some Day the new album might be a head scratcher. Borrowing from melodic rockers like Def Leppard and Night Ranger, Wig Wam have found a sound that can showcase how good a band they really are and kick an ass or two in the process.

Aside from the obvious theme of money on Wall Street, the songs are less about parties and women and more about life, success and winning. The most notable change on the record is the clarity of Glam’s voice - he’s starting to lose his Norwegian accent a bit on this one and the result is an album that might have a better time cracking the US market. Musically, the band is tighter than ever and best showcased in the instrumental track Things Money Can’t Buy.

It’s certainly not a Wig Wam we’re used to, but that might not be a bad thing. The sound is mature and evolved, while the lyrics are provoking and relevant. It’s a Wig Wam for the next generation.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 June 2012 16:08

Hits: 1315

CD Review: Celestial Ruin - The Awakening

Celestial Ruin
4 stars

Vancouver rockers Celestial Ruin are breaking ground by offering one of the first professional symphonic rock albums released by a Canadian act. The majority of symphonic rock and metal, which boasts loud guitars, symphonic keyboards and operatic vocals, tends to come from Europe where the style is thriving. In Canada the format is still relatively new, with the exception of the massive breakout from Texas rockers Evanescence a few years back. So in that sense, The Awakening is a great title for an album that might serve as an introduction to the world of symphonic rock and metal for those that might not know the format all that well.

Sounding the furthest thing from the commercial sounds of Evanescence, Celestial Ruin tend to borrow more from their European counterparts Nightwish and Stratovarius and mix it with a slightly less operatic vocal approach and not as much concentration on epic pieces. This gives them a unique mix of European flair and North American song structures.

The 10 track debut is a strong beginning for a band that has the skill and look to bring symphonic rock/metal to the Canadian masses. Notable highlights include From Beneath You - the most epic sounding piece on the album and Asylum, which showcases a more smoky vocal from singer Larissa Dawn, resembling a younger Cher or Stevie Nicks. What might be missing from the album though is a certifiable radio hit, but I doubt that’s the point for a band that seems to love making mini-symphonic masterworks.

The Awakening sounds like a lot of effort was put into the writing, production and performance of it, showing that Celestial Ruin are here for good. And if The Awakening is only the beginning of things to come, you’d best get on board now while the getting’s good.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 June 2012 16:01

Hits: 1421

CD Review: The Life and Times - No One Loves You Like I Do

The Life And Times, No One Loves You Like I Do
star 3

The Life and Times, known as TLAT for short, are an alternative indie rock band originating from Kansas City, Missouri. They have been in existence since 2002, but the lineup has since changed on multiple occasions. It was in 2004 that the present lineup featuring Allen Epley, Eric Abert and Chris Metcalf first came into being as an official trio. In the years since, they have added new members and lost them too. Thus, in 2011, the 2004 trio of Epley, Abert and Metcalf became just a trio again. In 2011 they recorded No One Loves You Like I Do. The album was recorded at Earth Analog Studio near Champaign, Illinois. The vast majority of the album was recorded, a little over a year ago, in January 2011. Interestingly, the studio is where Allen Epley recorded with, former band, Shiner around a decade earlier, offering a nice symmetry to this portion of the band’s biography; a return to origins, if you will.

No One Loves You Like I Do was released in January 2012 on the SlimStyle Records label. The track listing for the album is quite intriguing. Each track is titled as a numbered day. So track one is day 6, track 2 is day 9 and so on. What I find interesting is that the days are not in chronological order and the number listing is incomplete – certain numbers are missed entirely. I resisted the urge to listen to the album in ‘day order’ as though intended as a narrative and decided to stick to the conventional track listing order. I did so as I find that albums are usually produced to be heard in the order they appear in the track listing and not by title. Moreover, this combined with the fact that, as mentioned, some numbers in the chronological sequence are skipped entirely made me feel that listening to the album in such an order would likely be a fruitless task anyway. Although, I must say the use of chronological day numbers to title the tracks did tempt me to try the album in day by day narrative style order and it may provide a thought provoking experiment for someone picking up the album for the first time with fresh ears.

For me, Day One is the best track on the entire album. The album does form a kind of fractured narrative with the vocalist also turning narrator. As you might guess from the title of the album, the major emotion of the album is love. A love that is at once heartfelt and intimidating, perhaps daunting even. The album is a story of love played out over a period of days – hence those track titles. Unfortunately, Day One is not a track indicative of the album as a whole. The potential is there, this isn’t a bad record, but it isn’t a great record either. It is an average, listenable record that doesn’t do the ambition of TLAT justice. It is saddening as the album has solid potential, but it simply doesn’t hit hard enough. Not to sound condescending, but perhaps another six months in the studio would have taken it to the next level, or perhaps TLAT don’t have the musical expertise to complete their vision and pull off the overall potential of the album, it’s difficult to say which. One thing is for sure, the album has its quality moments, but I personally hoped for more. Fans of the band will enjoy it, but the album falls short of reaching what were surely heady goals. The emotional ambition appears high, but the musical enactment is not nearly as far-reaching.

 The Life and Times

Last Updated on Friday, 11 May 2012 18:41

Hits: 1320

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