Blackwelder - Survival Of The Fittest (2015)

Except for the guitarist, Blackwelder will quickly recognized by metal fans by just looking at the line up. This must be the next project by Ralf Scheepers outside his Primal Fear day jobs. Aquiles Priester is the next big name to mention. He just appear on Tony MacAlpine's latest solo album . Bjorn Englen, ex Yngwie and also part of Tony MacAlpine band. It's only the guitarist that required me to googled up his name, Andrew Szucs is the one trusted to carried out all the axing and hack job. Put all together we got their first album, Survival Of The Fittest, visualized with eye catching cover artwork.

Listen to the first opening song, "Survival Of The Fittest". Through a simple leading melody we landed on catchy riffs followed by headbanging groove when the vocals kick in. Ralf's voices quickly dominated the scene and we know who is the boss here. The second song simply rock n' power in style, "Spaceman", is kind of over the top AOR song with stormy guitar chops and drum all over it. Very interesting song, solos are quite jaw dropping for somebody who just handshake with Andrew. We got to interesting guitar instrumental track in "Adeturi", shred in neo classical style. Looks who is speaking now. His neo-classical licks still can be hear on "Inner Voice" intro then in "Remember the Time". The later is quite epic metal in spirit. You may want to surprise yourself with other excellent songs.

This is the album where expected nothing but straightforward power metal. There are not much brain twisting complicated composition here. Just old time formula where the guitar gave in the power riffs, followed up with blasting double pedal drumming. Needless to say, Ralf Scheepers is the front man that top all talents into his voices. He is closely followed by our newly discovered talented guitarist. Andrew Szucs that gives the shipload of solos and riffs, he is the boss on the six strings. As mentioned, Aquiles Preister impressed us with his top speed foot works, nothing beat a 300rpm double pedal fills in. So please welcome, Blackwelder.

Favorite tracks: Spaceman, Adeturi
Metal Harem class: ********* eight stars out of ten

Buy it Here - Amazon

Blackwelder - Survival Of The Fittest (2015)

01. The Night Of New Moon
02. Spaceman
03. Adeturi (instrumental)
04. Freeway Of Life
05. Inner Voice
06. With Flying Colors
07. Remember The Time
08. Play Some More
09. Oriental Spell
10. Judgement Day

Line Up:
Ralf Scheepers - Vocals (Primal Fear, ex-Gamma Ray)
Andrew Szucs - Guitar (Seven Seraphim)
Bjorn Englen - Bass (Dio Disciples, Tony MacAlpine, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen)
Aquiles Priester - Drums (Primal Fear, Hangar, ex-Angra)



Martin J. Andersen - Six String Renegade (2015)

This is a semi instrumental hard rock album done by guitarist Martin J. Andersen. Six String Renegade is the debut album for Martin, who is the guitarist of Blindstone, hardrock / blues band from Danish. If you haven't heard about his name, google him now. The style has been around American blues and hard rock.

The first track is instrumental The Fire Burns Within , very much open for a fascinating guitar teasing hour ahead. Six String Renegade and Dirty Little Angel are blues rock that focus on vocal and also incredible amounts of blues solos inside. On the cover are notable The Trooper by Iron Maiden. The Trooper turned into backing track for Martin to lay out some killer licks and solos, if you are Iron Maiden fans do not missed this one. For the closing it is Anthem For Humanity, an nine minutes epic instrumental that guested by Torben Enevoldsen, Michael Denner (ex-Merciful Fate) and Soren Andersen.

Attractive package on this album, Six String Renegade, as the title suggest, is a celebration of guitar music and song. The instrumentals tracks are worth collected by shred fans while the vocalized song will please the blues rock fans because they are highly enjoyable. Another valuable addition from quite unknown guitarist into my collection.

Metal Harem class: ********* eight stars out of ten

Buy it Here - Amazon

Martin J. Andersen - Six String Renegade (2015)

01. The Fire Burns Within (instrumental)
02. Six String Renegade
03. Dirty Little Angel
04. Strange Dreams (Frank Marino cover) (instrumental)
05. Never Ending Climb
06. The Trooper (Iron Maiden cover) (instrumental)
07. Freak Flag Flying
08. Funky State Of Mind
09. Stranger (Johnny Winter cover) (instrumental)
10. Anthem For Humanity

Peter Bruun and Jesper Bunk on bass
Klaus Agerbo on drums
Martin J. Andersen on guitars and vocals
special guest Michael Denner, Torben Enevoldsen & Soren Andersen at "Anthem For Humanity"


Tony MacAlpine - Concrete Gardens (2015)

The 12th studio album from Tony. Concrete Gardens once again contained all shred guitar instrumentals. On this album, Tony supported by Aquiles Priester on all tracks and three other bassists. Jeff Loomis appeared on one song, "Square Circles". Some of the tracks are being recorded live with video, you can view it on EMG PickUp TV. Also Nili Brosh appeared on the live video.

Most of the songs done in progressive metal manners. "Exhibitionist Blvd." as the opener gives a concrete melodic licks, the song flows from one to the other parts smoothly. Mind blowing transitions and aggressive drumming. "The King's Rhapsody" is rather Djent-like, lots of dissonances scales, quite contrast from the first one. "Man In A Metal Cage" started with blasting drumming fills, the shreds on its full speed. "Poison Cookies" back to "average" tempo and melodic approach, suitable for beginner's ears. "Sierra Morena" is one of the album highlight, twin guitar attacks, odd metering, well, basically any progressive tricks and ideas put in together. It is continued to "Square Circles", Jeff Loomis joined in for a couple of bar jamming. These songs performed live in EMG TV studio Youtube channel. "Confessions Of A Medieval Monument" is kind having bit of power metal spirit. Tony closed the album with his trademark piano exercise, "Maiden's Wish" is quite a virtuoso pieces.

Concrete Gardens is one of Tony MacAlpine best album lately. Compare to his 2011 Self Title album, this one having more concrete basis to enjoy. The main menu is progressive metal, but it is done with excellence composition in it. Not just a blasting nowhere notes by average guitarist, Tony polished every song with great details. Aquiles Priester must enjoy playing on this album very much, his chops are top notch. This maybe the album where I really impressed by Aquiles after many years. Superb shred album that must be listened by all guitar lovers.

Favorite tracks: Exhibitionist Blvd, Napoleon's Puppet, Square Circles, Sierra Morena, Poison Cookies
Metal Harem class: ********** nine stars out of ten

Buy it Here - Amazon

Tony MacAlpine - Concrete Gardens (2015)

01. Exhibitionist Blvd.
02. The King's Rhapsody - see Videos
03. Man In A Metal Cage
04. Poison Cookies
05. Epic
06. Napoleon's Puppet
07. Sierra Morena - see Videos
08. Square Circles - see Video
09. Red Giant
10. Confessions Of A Medieval Monument
11. Concrete Gardens
12. Maiden's Wish

    Tony MacAlpine – guitar, keyboard, bass (tracks 2, 3, 5, 10), production
    Jeff Loomis – guitar solo (track 8)
    Nili Brosh - guitar
    Aquiles Priester – drums
    Pete Griffin – bass (tracks 1, 4, 6–8)
    Lucky Islam – bass (track 9)
    Sean Delson – bass (track 11)
    Adair Daufembach – mixing
    Seva – mastering
    Michael Mesker – executive production


Michael Kiske & Amanda Somerville - City Of Heroes (2015)

This is the second studio album for Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville duet, City of Heroes. Noted that they are now using expanded full version of their name, instead of simply Kiske/Somerville. The backing musicians are very much the same, Magnus Karlsson and Mat Sinner are on duty to provide arrangements. City of Heroes come with slightly different feel compare to the past debut album. While the debut sounds very much Timo Tolkien, City of Heroes is leaning more towards Magnus Karlsson world of power metal. Michael Kiske sounds very much home, this maybe his most power metal project, as compare to his other job in Place Vendome or Unisonic. Amanda Somerville is given more wide range tasks from operatic voices to soul-like singing,

"City of Heroes" is the usual opener with tasty intro riff, then the guitars are chopping through out the song. Michael Kiske sings the most of the song with Amanda providing powerful backing. This song can be describe as ideal power metal + Kiske + female voices setup. "Walk on Water" is rather quick piano + orchestra ballad incoming but then we'll know why.  It's a real potential hit. The song quickly do the male and female duet arrangement. Everything went out really epic when we got to the power chorus part, well remembered. The composition get their teeth shown well on the third track "Rising Up". The song will be good sung by any power metal singer, and of course absolutely beast in the hand of Michael Kiske and Amanda. It's a slowly built up, the orchestra parts is no brainer and the choruses are again well written. "Breaking Neptune" is another interesting point in the middle section. Started with re-touched familiar riff. It is interesting because the song done in simple one-two pedal drumming yet the accompanied musics are heavily symphonic metal. "Ocean of Tears" is teary violin ballad, come in real slow tempo and Amanda Somerville takes the control. Everything back in track with "Last Goodbye", guitar orientated heavy metal track. "After the Night Is Over" is the third ballad, this one done with acoustic guitar on top.

Aparts from the lead Kiske / Somerville spot light, Magnus Karlsson's melodic solos also contributed to the composition something like the third voices. We can say the song writing are really get into good hand by the musician team and executed well by the duo. We also witness one of few female power metal drummer, Veronika Lukesova in action. Her drumming didn't indicated anything feminism , instead as hard as any men can do. Kiske / Somerville is transformed into highly waited project, perhaps in rival to other "duo" such as Allen / Lande project. There is not much complained for power metal fans, this is one of the year highlighted album.

Favorite tracks: Walk on Water, Rising Up, City of Heroes
Metal Harem class: ********** nine stars out of ten

Buy it Here - Amazon

Michael Kiske & Amanda Somerville - City Of Heroes (2015)

01. City of Heroes 04:02
02. Walk on Water 04:16
03. Rising Up 04:44
04. Salvation 05:59
05. Lights Out 04:49
06. Breaking Neptune 04:09
07. Ocean of Tears 04:28
08. Open Your Eyes 04:17
09. Last Goodbye 03:47
10. After the Night Is Over 04:57
11. Run with a Dream 04:39
12. Right Now 05:18

Line Up:
Michael Kiske - Vocals (Unisonic, Avantasia (live),  Place Vendome, ex-Helloween)
Amanda Somerville - Vocals (Avantasia (live), Aina, ex-Epica (live))
Magnus Karlsson - Guitars & Keyboards (Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall, Primal Fear)
Mat Sinner - Bass & Backing Vocals (Primal Fear, Silent Force, Sinner, )
Veronika Lukesova - Drums

Guest Musician:
Sander Gommans - Lyrics on track 6 (ex-After Forever)

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