Reviews roundup – Michael Schenker vs. Vexine vs. Mercy Isle
Michael Schenker Fest Live
He does like a live release does Michael Schenker. There have been a few of them since his Temple of Rock project got underway so why do we need another one?
Because this isn’t Temple of Rock. This is Schenker reuniting with a group of musicians from his eighties heyday to revisit classic material from his past. So not only are you getting a rhythm section of Chris Glen and Ted McKenna, Steve Mann from the Macauley Schenker years and no less than three vocalists – Gary Barden, Robin Macauley and, surprise, Graham Bonnet. I say surprise because the nature of his firing in 1982 made a reunion seem unlikely.
As you would expect it’s Mr Barden who kicks things off with a handful of MSG classics before Bonnet arrives with three tunes from the Schenker masterpiece ‘Assault Attack’. Robin Macauley goes all AOR on us before taking on a couple of UFO classics. It’s wall to wall memories on the first disc with tunes like “Assault Attack”, “Desert Song” and “Armed and Ready” making me feel positively young.
Not everything is perfect as there are a few vocal issues around the high notes but the music is unbelievably good. The highlight of this box set (2CD/DVD) has to be the Bonnet triumvirate of tunes as his brief stint did result in a lost classic. I preferred the audio to the video as some artsy farty director has decided to swathe the film in some kind of stupid ass filter which made it unwatchable for me. That aside, let the music do the talking on a never to be repeated night of rock.
Some classic rock now from Virginia. Vexine formed back in 2012 with their first album coming out the year after. Then it was time for some hard gigging and a live album before heading back to the studio.
This is the result and it’s an enjoyable piece of mainstream classic rock with a few blues rock touches thrown in for good measure. The band themselves are all excellent musicians with Paul Pearce – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Mike Skiffington – Bass Guitar and Jorge Santamaria – Drums and Percussion all putting in a good shift.
Vocalist Sarah Francis Gleason isn’t he best singer but she can hold her own on the better songs so the likes of “Caught Up In The Tears”, “Empty Hole” and “Hornet’s Nest” stand up to repeat plays. It’s only when they slow things down that things don’t really work. But in Paul Pearce they’ve got a great guitarist who is worth the price of admission alone.
Some female fronted symphonic metal to finish up with from Dutch band Mercy Isle, whose debut full length album this is.
Now I enjoy a bit of pomp and circumstance so I was more than happy to immerse myself in this release. They err more on the side of rock than out and out metal but it suits the songs and in Kassandra Novell they’ve got themselves a very strong vocalist.
There are some eighties synths and a few goth rock moments but they all add to the atmosphere. They’ve also got some heavy friends in to help out with Amanda Somerville the most prominent name. Not all of the songs are A+ but there are more than enough good moments to suggest that Mercy Isle could work their way up the ladder.
“Storm”, which appeared on their debut EP, is a real gem as is the reworked “Uncaged”. They’ve got a pop hit in the making with “Stop, Kiss Me” which could easily get some radio play for the band. The big ballad, “Saying Goodbye” with the aforementioned Ms Somerville is an out and out classic, even if it seems out of phase with the rest of the record. Regardless, Mercy Isle are definitely a band fans of symphonic rock and metal should check out.