Reviews roundup – The Outlaws vs. Vicious Rumors vs. Letzte Instanz vs. Erik Sondhy vs. Arena
Live At The Bottom Live New York ’86
Well it’s been quite a month for me. A vintage Van Zant concert and now an eighties radio recording from The Outlaws. Southern rock manna.
Now I’m not actually a fan of all these radio broadcasts that are popping up everywhere but when it’s a band who barely made it over here, and they were promoting an album that was their major label swansong, then I’ve got to give it a go. After all, I only saw The Outlaws once, on their ‘Los Hombres Malo’ tour, and even if this concert saw them heading for faded glory, the chance to hear live versions of songs from ‘Soldiers Of Fortune’ is too good to pass up.
1986 saw The Outlaws sporting two vintage members, Henry Paul (who was back after the departure of Freddie Salem) and sole original member Hughie Thomasson, alongside their later recruits, and they really did want to push the new album with seven of its tracks on offer here. They kick off with a couple of new tunes – “Whatcha Dont Do” and “Outlaw” before heading into “You Are The Show” from the underrated ‘Playin’ To Win’ record.
Bar that, you’ve got to wait till the second CD before the classics start to arrive. Although just prior to that, there is an unexpected run through of “Feel The Heat”, a Henry Paul Band track from when he’d left the Outlaws. “Green Grass And High Tides” seems slightly truncated at a mere eleven minutes, although you do get “Ghost Riders In The Sky” as well. Soundwise, it’s probably a strong B+ or at a push A-, but if you’re a bit of a fanatic (like me), then it’s well worth a visit.
Steamhammer / SPV
Album number twelve from San Francisco Bay Area metallers Vicious Rumors (Rumours to people who can spell) and it’s a concept album. Hurrah! As you would expect it’s not about fluffy bunnies. No, it tells a chilling story of an armageddon by a global killer asteroid and how humanity unravels in the wake of the news.
It’s their first bash at a concept album, and even if at first listen you’re too busy being crushed by the brutality of it all to get it, repeated plays show it to hold up well. It’s another new lineup for the band with newcomers Nick Holleman on vocals and Tilen Hudrap on bass, alongside founder Geoff Thorpe and Thaen Rasmussen on guitars, and veteran drummer Larry Howe.
You also get some special guests along for the ride with Brad Gillis (Night Ranger, Ozzy Osbourne) and Steve Smyth (Nevermore, Testament, Forbidden) laying down some solos. The band are taking no prisoners as this is classic old school thrash with a hint of power metal grooves in and around standout tracks such as the title song, “Chemical Slaves”, “Chasing The Priest” and “Circle Of Secrets”.
It’s brutal and compelling and is out in a plethora of offerings with a Digipak CD (plus poster), double gatefold red 180 gram vinyl LP with printed inner sleeves (plus CD in paper sleeve), and download.
Liebe im Krieg
Letzte Instanz have been on the go for a long, long time, but this is their first album for new label AFM. Now I’ve only had a passing acquaintance with their music over the years, but this is strong enough to get me going back for more.
It’s goth meets rock meets metal, with the emphasis on the former. It’s quite a world away from their early days, but the ongoing twist of an inbuilt string section certainly adds flavour to their stylings. And those stylings have moved on from when I remember them, so the folk flavours have gone and been replaced by a much sleeker rock machine.
Their last couple of albums have went Top 20 in their native Germany and it’s easy to see why a rock obsessed nation would warm to them. Yes, the guitars are hard, but there are plenty of melodies lodged in there, and even if the arrangements are more mainstream than in days of old, it still has enough of a twist to stand out.
The title track, “Steh auf!” and “Weiß wie der Schnee” standout on early plays, and even if the vocals may not translate well to an international audience, the music grabs you straight from the off. As well as the usual formats – CD, Digipak (with 2 bonus tracks) and digital, there is alos a limited edtion boxset (limited to 1000 units;.. Including digipak, exclusive live CD of the acoustic tour in 2015, Seal, Seal wax candle, handwritten lyrics of Holly, letter and envelope , signed autograph card, certificate of authenticity). Fans will go crazy for that.
Abbey Road Session Vol.1.
Time for some Indonesian improv jazz. No, hang on. Don’t run away. Well, if you’re still here, last year Bali-born Erik fulfilled a childhood dream by heading off to London’s Abbey Road Studios. While there he improvised enough tracks for four albums, of which this is the first, hence the title.
It’s all original material bar a revamped Beatles tune, and sees Sondhy demonstrating his abilities across a range of styles and tones. He gets quite strideful on the opening “London Blues” before reinterpreting The Beatles “I Will” from the White Album.
“Song for My Mother” is almost classical in its melancholy presentation before he jives things up with “Sofia’s Rag”, a tune for his six-month-old daughter, Sofia-Rose. “Hope” is a more traditional downbeat jazz tune, while the closing “Echo Beach Calypso” livelies things up again. There is no doubting that Sondhy has a major talent, and he can turn his hands to any style with ease.
That’s probably why his services have been in such demand on the international jazz scene and fans of the genre should do themselves a favour by listening in.
Off to the American colonies now to meet up with Arena, one of Minnesota’s most seasoned bands. Note: not the UK prog band who’ve been going for the last twenty plus years. However, this Arena have been playing for a long time now, doing their own shows as well as opening for the likes of Bret Michaels, UFO, Y&T, LA Guns, Faster Pussycat, Firehouse, Autograph, Jackyl and more.
So eighties styled melodic hard rock with some AOR sheen. Yup. Bang on. And they’re good at it. Fronted by vocalist Linda Bullock, alongside Tedd Bullock on bass, drummer Billy Wesp and lead guitarist Tim Kletti, they know their way around a good tune. It’s taken them a while to get an album out, but at least that means they had time to sort out the material.
Which is enjoyable, with songs like “Should I?”, “Vicious Circle”, “I Tried” and “Take Me Down” immediately connecting with radio rock fans from days gone by. They’ve got some really good harmonies on the go, excellent guitar work and a decent production. It’s not life changing but fans of melodic rock will find themselves right at home here.