Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ONE MAN'S TRASH (featuring Jimi Jamison) "HIStory"

(c) 2011 As Is Records

  1. Real Thing
  2. The Restless Kind
  3. Long Time
  4. History
  5. Meadowland
  6. Lose My Mind
  7. Through Your Eyes
  8. She Shines
  9. Out Of Control
  10. Tears In My Eyes
  11. The Restless Kind (acoustic)
  12. History (Hotel-room version)
Jimi Jamison--Lead Vocals
Frank Zahl--Guitars
Beathoven--Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Timo von Kresslein--Bass, Backing Vocals
Heinzangel--Drums, Backing Vocals

Not long after it was reported that Jimi Jamison would be heading back to Survivor (again), I received this little CD by a band called One Man's Trash.  Now, I realize I put "featuring Jimi Jamison" on the title line, and not "featuring Jimi Jamison and Frank Zahl", but come on, be you have any clue who Frank Zahl is?  I didn't think so.  While Jimi rightfully deserves to be listed as one of the most powerful vocalists of the 1980's (and, in my opinion, in the history of melodic hard rock), nobody outside of Germany likely has any clue who Zahl is.  Well, for fans of solid melodic AOR-styled rock, that will change if people track this CD down.

Zahl, it turns out, is a pretty solid songwritier who also plays guitar on this album.  He is not a fretboards-blazing type of player as much as he is a tasteful, laid-back, smooth melodic player that can rock a nice solo when he wants to, but is content to sit back and let the writing and musicianship of the entire project take center stage.  Granted, it's going to be tough for this project to be viewed as anything more than a vehicle for Jamison's smooth-as-silk delivery, but that's okay.  If it is Jamison that brings people to the party then there are a lot of people who are likely to leave that party fairly happy.  Not ecstatic, but probably smiling a bit and feeling a bit warm inside.

This is not a metal album by any stretch; heck, a lot of people might question if it is even a hard rock album for much of the record.  In fact, never does it even touch the hardest sounds that Survivor released.  There are no "Eye Of The Tiger" or "Burning Heart" moments to be found here.  I would categorize this more in the vein of Survivor's...or Journey's....or Foreigner's....more middle-of-the-road rockers, radio friendly but with just the hint of an edge that will keep the rocker in you happy.  Fan's of Jimi's solo work are definitely going to find a lot to like here, I think, as this is pretty much the style and sound of One Man's Trash...up-tempo melodic rockers that have that classic rock feel, never really reaching the arena rock style of Survivor. 

The album starts off with one of the harder-edged tracks, "Real Thing", which then leads into one of my two favorite tracks, "The Restless Kind", which has the most Survivor-like feel to it with a rocking guitar lick and the keyboards playing a supporting role in the background.   "Lose My Mind" falls into that Survivor-rock camp as well and features a voice-box guitar intro before settling into a solid classic rock rhythm with some understated keys and a nice, melodic guitar solo.  The title track, "History" has a big drum intro, a nice opening guitar lick, an above average, rocking solo at the end of the track, and some huge harmony vocals on the "whoa's" of the chorus that will have arena rockers from the 80's grinning from ear to ear.  It's not a hard rocker on this disc, but I'm betting that in a live setting it bumps up the rock factor just a bit.  "Out Of Control" is my other favorite here and showcases Zahl letting loose on the guitar on this song, which is the truest hard-rocker on the disc.  The main riff is AC/DC-styled three-chord rock, but neither Johnson or Scott can hold a vocal torch to Jamison's stellar pipes.  Zahl has a tasty but TINY solo in this one (come on, Frank...let it rip!!!) that just begs to be extended by even fifteen or twenty seconds.  "Tears In My Eyes" is more of a mid-tempo rocker, despite it's ballad-sounding title, and is another one of the strongest tracks here. 

There are a couple of more down-tempo numbers here, and while they are good musically, I have to say that they are distractions for me.  "Meadowlands", to be truly honest, is actually almost boring during the verses, although the chorus picks things up a bit.  It seems like the band is trying out a sort of 90's-era Bon Jovi know, when they went all pop-schlock sounding on us like on the weakest moments of Keep The Faith or These Days.  "She Shines" has a roadhouse stomp kind of country sound made popular by the pop-country crossover band Restless Heart, and the big ballad here, "Through Your Eyes" REEKS of that same country act.  Not bad songs, really, but they will turn off the sleaze and hair metal fans of this site, for sure.

The last two tracks on the disc are reworks of previous tracks.  There's really no reason for an acoustic version of "The Restless Kind", as the rock is removed from this track which, when stripped down, becomes nothing more than Jimi and an acoustic guitar.  The "hotel room" version of the title track is, once again, simply an acoustic rendering that does nothing to improve upon the main version of what is really a pretty good rocker.   

Overall, I was nicely surprised by most of the music here, at least as far as the songwriting goes.  I was not surprised by the strength of Jamison's vocals, as he sounds pretty much like he always does, which is a great thing.  I just wish more time was spent in the style of the title track, "Out Of Control" or "The Restless Kind", with a few less mid-tempo or slower tracks.  Would I recommend this album to my friends?  Depends on their preferences musically.  If they are of the glam, sleaze, or hair metal ilk, then no.  If they are more into the arena rock, AOR, melodic hard rock style of the 80's, then by all means.  It is a solid effort by a band that I have a strong suspicion is a one-and-done project, at least with Jamison on vocals.

If you want to hear it before you buy it, I believe most of the album streams on a player on the band's site here.

Rating:  Rock this to a nice 6.5.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

ABSYNTH AURA "Unbreakable"

(c) 2011 logic(il)logic Records

  1. Believe Me
  2. Desert Flower
  3. That's Why You Die
  4. Smile
  5. Understand My Fight
  6. Looking For The One
  7. Life
  8. Fire In My Eyes
  9. Will Is Power
  10. Unbreakable
  11. Zombie
Claudia "Klod" Saponi--Vocals, Keyboards
Michelle "Dr. Viossy" Vionni--Guitars
Giorgio "JT" Terenziani--Bass
Marco "Mark" Renzi--Drums

Absynth Aura is a female fronted band from Italy that really has more in common with modern hard rock bands like Disturbed than they do the vast majority of bands found on this review site.   Lacuna Coil, who also hails from Italy, by the way, would be another obvious comparison if you want to take the female lead vocals into consideration when drawing a comparison, and I am sure Evanescence is use by many to describe the Absynth Aura sound.  While there are elements of all of these bands in a song or two, Absynth Aura really strikes me as more, due largely to their intricate song structures and much more distinct guitar sound throughout this album.  Dark and moody at times, generally pretty heavy, and also rather complex on several occasions, the music found on Unbreakable is not what a lot of followers of Glitter2Gutter are accustomed to seeking out.  However, the band possesses an undeniable sense of melody that a lot of modern bands are missing, and there is a definite level of musical talent found in this band that is not present in a lot of others.   

On the opening track of this album, I have to admit that I thought Absynth Aura was pretty much in-line with every other modern hard rock band out there now, trying to go for that downtuned, chugging sound that Disturbed took to the top of the modern rock charts so many times, and that bands such as Shinedown molded with a bit more melody in places.  "Believe Me" is a track that, had Klod's vocals not kicked in, could have easily been mistaken for something off of the last two Disturbed discs as far as the style and sound of the guitars. But by the time that song ends and "Desert Flower" kicks in, it should be obvious to the listener that something is different here, and it isn't just Klod's enormously powerful vocals.  Vioni's guitar skills really come screaming through on this track, as the full scope of Absynth Aura's sound can be appreciated starting here.  In fact, if I had my choice, "Believe Me" would have been buried somewhere down in the tracklisting, as it is not really representative of the overall sound of the band.

Complexity abounds on this album, with tracks like "That's Why You Die" and "Unbreakable" both showing some incredible musicianship and songwriting depth. The same can be said of the aggressive "Understand My Fight", which I think is one of the stand out tracks on this album.  The band can do a lot with a less aggressive, less pounding song as well, however.  "Smile" is a track that stands out because of the pop-styled nature of its arrangement and the power which Klod delivers the vocals with.   There is also a soaring, melodic guitar solo on this extremely radio-friendly track.  "Life" is a nice bottom-heavy, groove-filled mid-tempo number that lets Klod stretch her vocal style just a bit.  Album closer, "Zombie" is, as you may have predicted, a cover of the Cranberries song.  Klod's voice fits this track very well but Absynth Aura brings an overall heaviness to the track that was lacking in the original with some furious guitar work that absolutely buries anything the Cranberries did with the song.  I find myself actually liking this version of the song, which is NOT something I can say about the original.

Not everything works 100% of the time.  For example, "Looking For The One" is a big ballad, filled with piano and powerful vocals, but this song falls flat to me compared to "Smile".  It lacks any kind of heft to its sound and really sticks out.   "Fire In My Eyes" has some great musical moments to it, but it is a bit forgettable as it sounds like a lot of other songs that find their way onto modern hard rock stations or Sirius/XM satelite radio.  These couple of misses aside, this is a great record filled with some very powerful musical moments and I think Absynth Aura is a band that people in the modern hard rock world should plan on hearing a LOT about in the near future.  Unbreakable is an album well worth tracking down, even if you are not part of the Disturbed, Lacuna Coil, Evanescence crowd.

Rating:  Crank this to a surprisingly good 7!

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DR. FREAK & MR. 4 "Rock N Roll Brotherhood"

(c) 2012 logic(il)logic Records

  1. Rock N Roll Brotherhood
  2. Occasional Lover
  3. Love After Death
  4. Farewell To My Muse
  5. Jumpin' Again
  6. I'll Never Forget
  7. Destination L.A.
  8. Masters Of Aesthetics
  9. Your Words, Your Air, Your Day
Dr. Freak--Vocals, Guitars
Mr. 4--Bass, Lead and Backing Vocals

The information in the press release for this album is fairly sketchy about who plays what on this album, but what is known for sure is that Dr. Freak and Mr. 4 are the singer and bass player, repsectively, of the sleaze/horror punk band Superhorrorfuck.  For fans of that band, don't anticipate picking this record up and hearing a SHF album, however, because despite the fact that Dr. Freak's voice is the same as in Superhorrorfuck, low and growling, sounding like he just gargled with shards of glass, there is very little else that will remind of SHF.  This is especially true when Mr. Four steps up to the microphone to offer his own vocal stylings on a handful of songs here; in these moments, there is virtually nothing reminiscent of SHF at all.  

Musically, this project is more in the straight-up hard rock and sleaze vein with less punk added to the overall sound, although there are still moments that the frantic pace of Rock N Roll Brotherhood blurs the lines between the full-time band and this side project.  The press releases states, "Rock N Roll Brotherhood will show a new and intimate side of the two musicians, linked to their former life, experiencing an electro-glam rock trend, with forays into pop...".   Ummm...okay...whatever the heck that is supposed to mean.  Sure, there are a couple of tracks that bear more than a passing resemblence to an SHF song.  The title track, "Rock N Roll Brotherhood" is definitely a punked-up sleaze affair that I think was put at the front of the record to kind of ease listeners into this disc.  "Destination L.A." is another tune that carries enough punkish attitude in its style that no one is going to be shocked to hear it included here, although it is far from my favorite track here.  Beyond those tracks, however, I will say there are several songs on this album that would never find their way onto a Superhorrorfuck record.  Such a moment is the ballad, "Farewell To My Muse".  While, lyrically, it still deals with some rather dark subject matter, musically it is far more radio-friendly than anything these guys have released before, actually showing a sense of melody and style that would have placed it firmly in power ballad territory if this was 1991.  "Love After Death" is pure 80's/90's MTV-era hard rock with a simple chord structure and a hooky chorus.  "Jumping Again" is another very 80's sounding track, at least musically, with big drums, a nice guitar hook, and some slick production; Dr. Freak's vocals set it apart from anything you heard in the 80's however, with the exception of some of the stuff you heard from Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction.  Album closer, "Your Words, Your Air, Your Day", on the other hand, drifts into some electro-pop sounds, especially in the looped drums and keyboard usage, that I have a hard time picturing the members of SHF ever listening to, let alone playing!  Mr. 4 handles lead vocals on this song as well, which gives the track a distinctively different feel than anything recorded by his primary band.  

A couple of tracks really don't go anywhere for me on this effort.  Despite the name, the previously mentioned "Destination L.A." really doesn't have anything in common with the L.A. music scene as far as style and sound goes. "I'll Never Forget", ironically, does nothing to make it memorable, so I am pretty sure I will forget this track the second I take the disc out of my player.  And "Masters Of Aesthetics"....well, I just don't get it.  It seems like a decent enough rocker, but it incorporates these weird keyboard in the background that are just annoying as sin, and the lyrics seem tied to pretty much nothing in particular.  Just an odd, odd song.... 

So what do we really have here?  Well, for me, it was easier to absorb this album on its own merits when I didn't keep refering back to Superhorrorfuck, as there is really very little in common between projects other than a couple of band members.  To be fair, when Rock N Roll Brotherhood is at its peak, I like it a lot more than anything SHF has released as it is not so punked up that it loses its sense of melody.  Unfortunately, this album comes of as being rather disjointed, jumping from style to style so frequently that it sounds more like a compilation album of studio outtakes than a true project album.  That makes it rather distracting and difficult to just sit down and listen to, at least for me, as there is no flow to the record at all.  I guess it says something when my favorite track on the entire album is one that has as much in common with the 80's New Wave sound as it does with glam or sleaze.  To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement, as I was really hoping for the best elements of Superhorrorfuck here, not the most unusual and mismatched.

Rating:  Unless you are a hardcore Superhorrorfuck fan, I'd recommend turning this mish-mash down to a non-intrusive 4.5, pulling out the things you really like and skipping over the rest.