Reviews roundup – Gamma Ray vs. Sonja Perenda vs. Hildegard vs. Nobody’s Business vs. Hungryheart
Heading For Tomorrow (Anniversary Edition)
I refuse to believe that it’s 25 years since Kai Hansen put together a solo album after leaving Helloween. That’s just scary. But people tell me it’s true, hence this anniversary edition of what became the first Gamma Ray album.
Youngsters may find this hard to believe, but it was big news back in the day as Helloween were at the height of their success, so leaving was a big step. It’s also worth bearing in mind that was also back when Ralf Scheepers was on vocals, before he headed off to join Primal Fear in 1994.
And it’s still a stone cold, power metal classic. Frankly, you can’t call yourself a power metal fan if you don’t already have this in your collection. The first disc replicates that album, with a couple of B-sides from the “Heaven Can Wait” EP filling out the space.
So, it’s CD2 that Gamma Ray fans will be looking out for, especially as it has the original demos of songs such as ‘The Silence, ‘Money’, ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and others, which had Hansen on vocals, prior to the arrival of Scheepers. Granted, no-one needs to karaoke versions of the songs, but they did have a second disc to fill.
The original album couldn’t be bettered, but as the opening salvo in the reissue series, this is going to take some beating.
Symphonic metal now, with Austrian mezzo-contralto Sonja Perenda. Yes, it’s female fronted metal time again. Now there is a lot of dross in that particular field these days, but this isn’t one of them.
Ms Perenda has had some operatic training, and she certainly has the pipes to take on the task of presenting these songs. Unusually, for this style of music, it’s textured a bit differently, with lots of synths and darkwave influences. But it has guitars as well, and if that is your thing check out ‘Time Has Come’ for starters.
Elsewhere, ‘Call of Freedom’ and ‘Victim of a Miracle’ are definite highlights, and that’s before you reach the ten minutes excesses of the title track, which ends the album. After all, this is a genre that demands over the top, and you certainly get it. Apparently, some of these tracks are re-recorded versions from her debut album. But I never heard that so it’s fresh to me. Add in the guitar work of former Blaze Bailey guitarist, John Slater, and this ends up a real treat.
“Darling, je vous aime beaucoup, je ne sais pas, what to do, you know you’ve completely stolen my heart, morning, noon and night time too, toujours, wondering what to do, that’s the way I’ve felt right from the start.” Oh, sorry, this is a different Hildegarde. Sans E.
And I’m not sure what this is, really. Turns out that Hildegard is a collaboration between two well known members of the New Orleans alt-rock scene, namely vocalist Sasha Masakowski and guitarist Cliff Hines. But this isn’t alt-rock or art rock. It’s too poppy for that. But there are lots of arty farty time changes in there as well. Which takes us back to prog.
But then there are electronica elements as well, on tunes like ‘Siren Song’ and ‘Karma’. And it has dance vibes. So consider me confused, apart from one thing. This is blooming good.
Ain’t Life Grand
Mr Giorgios Records
It’s off to Detroit, Michigan now, to meet Nobody’s Business. And it turns out that meeting them was a real pleasure. Well it would be, as they basically seem to be a rockabilly band. Which is always welcome round my eay.
They say they’re influenced by the likes of Carl Perkins, Dave Edmunds, The Blasters, Johnny Burnette and The Rock and Roll Trio, so they tick all the right boxes. But they’re happy to throw a ballad and a country tune into the mix, just to keep things fresh.
They’ve been on the go for about twenty years now, and this seems to be their fourth album. And they’v emixed in good company, with the earlier ‘Waykool Rock & Roll’ being produced by The Stray Cats’ bass player Lee Rocker. And this is a blast from beginning to end, with songs like ‘Rebel Soul’, ‘Never Had A Haol’ and ‘Nobody’s Business’ hitting you right where it hurts. Fun, fun, fun.
Dirty Italian Job
Lastly, for today, it’s off to Italy for some melodic rock / AOR. And very good melodic rock slash AOR it it too. Five years on from “One Ticket To Paradise” album, and band mainman Mario Percudani has pulled another rick out of the bag.
And it’s eighties melodic rock to the fore, straight from the opening ‘There Is A Reason For Everything’. There is a bit of a Bon Jovi vibe to the record. Well, Bon Jovi before they turned shite, and anyone listening to the likes of ‘Back To The Real Life’ and ‘You Can Run’ will sense a lost eighties classic.
There is a touch of Tyketto / Vaughan to numbers like ‘Devil’s Got My Number’ and ‘Second Hand Love’, and the only fault with the album is the cover of ‘Bad Love’, one of the worst songs Eric Clapton ever recorded. And one of the worst songs Mick Jones from Foreigner ever wrote.
Apart from that, this is a shining example of what a good AOR album should sound like.