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Ravenheart Reviews: Archived

Reviews S cont (5)

STAR CRYSTAL...'FOLLOW ME'

(Self Release) Reviewed 27th June 2016

Star Crystal come from Ukraine and is another awesome band from that part of the world. Their music comes from the cabinet of Melodic Rock/AOR and this album is rather cool as a consequence. Ten tracks of AOR, this highlighted very well within the opening number 'Don't Give Up'. The album follows a similar trend of 80s style Melodic Rock/AOR throughout, never really deviating from the tried and tested formula that this style of music delivers the listener - mid tempo to uptempo melodic rockers with the occasional ballad or two. I have very little info here regards Star Crystal, but I believe the vocalist is Susanna Radimovskaya, her vocals reminding me a little of Tina Turner on the track 'Forgotten Love'. However, Susanna does tend to 'scream' the lyrics at times in some of the songs, but I am listing that as just a minor gripe. If you like 80s style Melodic Rock/AOR, it would do no harm in checking them out. One purchase point is here.. 8/10 (The Nugget)

STAR ONE..'VICTIMS OF THE MODERN AGE'

(Century Media) Reviewed 26th October 2010

Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon fame is back with a relative rarity, a second instalment of one of his side projects. They normally last only one album, or in the case of Stream of Passion, carry on without him. The original Star One was a metal reaction to the gentle Ambeon album, perhaps this is a response to last years Guilt Machine alt-rock album. The name Star One comes from an episode in the cheesy but highly enjoyable and very deeply meaningful cult British 1970s Sci Fi show Blake's 7 written by Terry Nation, the man who gave the world Daleks. Blake and half the crew were soon dead or missing giving the minor characters a chance to shine, a bit like Stream Of Passion, it should have been renamed 'The Blakeless Four'. If you like the heavy side of Ayreon or highly sophisticated heavy space metal then beam down and buy it, this has Arjen's stamp of high quality. However I like the mix of light and heavy that is Ayreon, I personally found this far too biased towards the heavy, I know that is the purpose, but it is remorselessly, mercilessly, intensively heavy, my poor ears were battered and bruised towards the end, so a pulverising 8.75/10 (Reviewed by Phil)

ANDI STARR..'NEW WARM WORLD'

(Independent Release) Reviewed 7th September 2009

It is time to chillax and listen to the new album by Andi Starr. Andi is from California and is a classically trained pianist, who is a dab hand on the accoustic guitar, as this release (her 5th I think?) proves. Hailed as a cross between Jewel and Tori Amos, do not expect a blasting of metal from this record. Instead, drift away on a sea of tranquility and rid yourself of life's everyday problems. And the lass also plays more or less everything on this record, and several of the songs here are recorded live and in some cases in just one or two takes. Kicking off with the title track, this offers up perfectly the sort of music that is to follow. If you are into the aforementioned acts, and enjoy Enya and the like, check this out (www.myspace.com/andistarr). Highly recommended for lovers of melodic-gentle folk rock. 8/10 (Reviewed by Dave).

STEALING BETTY...5 track EP

(Self Released) Reviewed 4th July 2012

Formed in 2008, the genesis of Hard Rockers Stealing Betty was rooted in chance and tragedy – inspiring musicians struggling through personal circumstances – much of which has been transformed into a music experience that resonates universally with fans. The Stealing Betty motto is “when the going gets tough, you get your shit together and rock the house”. Hailing from Flint and Detroit in the USA, Tonya, Myke, Deano & Tom are a powerhouse of talent and charisma with a determination that doesn’t quit! Tonya's vocals are raw and the band's sound is intoxicating. The songs are catchy, tending to bang around inside your head long after the cd has finished, with the opener 'Natural Born Thrillers' being one such prime example. Stealing Betty’s new EP is an interesting hard rockin' release, and if this band was to come to the UK, their style would fit in well with that of Newcastle based rockers Riff-X. Their website is here, while this is a resonating 8/10 (Dave)

STEELEYE SPAN...'WINTERSMITH'

(ParkRecords) Reviewed 12th December 2013

With a career spanning six decades, Steeleye Span are not just a legendary name in British music, but are a link to the days of classic rock and folk music. Being a well established band on the scene, they have now found inspiration in the work of British author Terry Pratchett, a long term fan of the band. This album is a brand new project based on Pratchett's Wintersmith novel - a tale of ancient rituals and secret folk dances that perfectly compliments the band's previous work whilst taking it in new directions. The band is still fronted by the distinctive vocal style of Maddy Prior, who herself has been in the band for close on 40 years and remains on very good form. The 16 songs on this release (male and female vocals) are instantly likeable, energetic and hideously catchy like 'The Dark Morris Song' and the title track. We get pipes and whistles on rather nice ballads like 'You' - damn awesome if you ask me!! 'The Good Witch' features spoken voice from Terry Pratchett, while the folky vibe of 'Band Of Teachers' and 'The Wee Free Men' will have you dancing around the camp fire before you can say "camp fire". Foot tapping stuff indeed. Other extremely likeable songs include the progressive sounding 'Hiver', the very nice 'Fire & Ice', the brooding 'First Dance', with it's lovely violins and closer, the very beautiful 'We Shall Wear Midnight' which like 'The Making Of A Man', was sung by the awesome stalwart Peter Knight, who himself will be leaving the band after their current tour. Pratchett and Steeleye Span fans will lap this up, but overall, this album is solid, very good and well recommended from the Ravenheart team for music fans in general... get it! 9/10 (Dave)

KAREN STEVER..'PLAYGROUND ISOLATOR'

(Independent Release) Reviewed 4th May 2008

Multi-instrumentalists Karen Stever and Frank Gryner (A Perfect Circle, Rob Zombie) team up to produce this solo record. Raunchy female vocals over a heavy rock/orchestral back-drop. And Karen has one helluva powerful and captivating voice too. 'Playground Isolator' puts the listener through a journey of the pain and persistence of battling one's demons, in a place of loneliness. There are many highlights on this album, kicking off with the awesome 'Sicko', that deals with one's addictions, 'Dream Baby Dream', 'Thanks To Me' and 'Ride Of Your Life' amongst many others. And the tracks merge into one another quite nicely on this release. This is a solid record that can be purchased at cdbaby.com. And I ask, why is this lass unsigned? I wish some label executives would crawl out of their caves and flippin' well wake up! 8.5/10 (Reviewed by Dave).

STITCHED UP HEART…’NEVER ALONE’

(Self Release) Reviewed 22nd June 2016

Stitched Up Heart hail from California. This is an album from this four piece outfit that will pound your eardrums, just imagine a mix of Paramore and In This Moment on the eleven tracks featured here. The band offer up crushing riffs, and pummeling drums, led by frontwoman Mixi Demner and all wrapped up in a kool melodic coating. A very brief review but if you feel this is up your alleyway, this is well worth checking out. The band’s Facebook is here - an absolute belter of a record! 8.5/10 (Dave)

GINA STONE...'WOVEN' LP & 'MAGNETIC' 5 track EP

(Self Released) Reviewed 22nd April 2012

Ravenheart Music gives me a chance to listen to all types of music, not just Rock or Metal. Well, Gina Stone (Janet Mcdermott) is a singer songwriter from the East Midlands here in the UK, and 'Woven' is 13 tracks of atmospheric, rather beautiful and haunting darkwave/electro/synth pop music from Gina, and her partner in crime Matt Whatley. Gina has had her music played on various local radio stations across England, and I am not surprised after having given this LP a very good listen. This is beautiful stuff. Okay, perhaps not for you metalheads out there, but what is wrong with shutting yourself off from the outside world, and listening to some rather seductive and sensual music from Ms Stone. I get a Massive Attack/Goldfrapp vibe listening to this album, and even subtle hints of Kate Bush at times in the vocal department. I understand that the album was originally released under the Whatley and Stone moniker in 2010, before being re released in 2011.

The Ep 'Magnetic' carries on where the LP left off. 'The EP's title track is a little more upbeat, with perhaps more electronica thrown into the synthesised melting pot, and indeed, the EP overall has a slightly more upbeat vibe. Overall, the music of Ms Stone is the sort of music that MTV once upon a time would be falling over backwards to play. Gina's vocals are sexy and sensual if I am permitted to say so, and for those laid back evenings with a bottle or two of wine, 'Woven' or 'Magnetic' would be the type of music to stick on the cd deck. Her Facebook site is here. For both 'Woven' and 'Magnetic', I will give an 8.5/10 (Dave)

STORM...'STORM'S a BREWIN'

(Tin Idol Productions) Reviewed 6th Feb 2015

Hawaii has a Goth-Metal band on the rise...and a Storm is brewing...Sandy “Storm” Essman is a classically trained singer with a versatile background in the music business, Sandy is a vocal powerhouse and front-woman extraordinaire of the band STORM. She balances her appetite for dark heavy rhythms by appearing on Hawaiian music projects, Na Leo O Hou Hawaii and Love Songs in Paradise among them. Now, her lifelong dedication to her craft is focused solely on breaking new ground in Hawaii’s Goth-Metal scene. Ably backed up by a contingent of experienced musicians including a female keyboardist from Serbia, STORM deliver a blistering 13 track album that will assault your senses. I suppose the band has a way to go before they even enter the same league as the European Gothic-Metal elite, but this is a fine start and paves the way for the future. Listening to tracks like 'Fly' and 'Crossfire' proves this band has got what it takes. Their Facebook is here and check out their YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/channel/UCE-6QE2Tqswg7BFg3T94XkQ .. 8.25/10 (The Nugget)

STORM…’MEDUSA’

(Tin Idol Productions) Reviewed 22nd January 2016

There are not many if any Gothic Metal bands from Hawaii apart from this rather cool band who calls themselves STORM. Fronted by Sandy “Storm” Essman, she so happens to be a classically trained singer with a versatile background in the music business, Sandy being a vocal powerhouse and front-woman extraordinaire. Onto the album now and 'Medusa' is the band’s 2nd cd following on the heels of ’Storm’s a Brewin’ that we reviewed in Feb last year. This latest record is a "Metal Musical" and I must say is rather good too, adopting a sound that would I am sure go down well within Europe and the UK. Some catchy tracks all linked by a deep haunting male spoken voice, the complete musical package telling the tale of Medusa. There is a storm on the horizon striking in the blink of an eye, and if you don’t check this LP out it may well strike you. To be honest, this is rather good! Facebook is here… 8.5/10 (Dave)

STORM CORPORATION..'A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS'

(Self Release) Reviewed 3rd June 2011

Storm Corporation were founded in the town of Preston in the north west of England during the summer of 2009. They have taken a distinctive British approach to their melodic metal which is imbued with spirit of Led Zep and classic British heavy rock and the energy of NWOBHM, creating a unique hybrid. The first thing that strikes you is how professional this outfit appear, with top quality videos, production, and musicianship, quite simply they ooze class. Then you have to add the outstanding rock vocals of leading lady Georgia Howson to the boardroom. The forecast warns you to baton down the hatches for a tornado of fast and furious razor sharp riffing with enough wind power to fuel Blackpool illuminations, but never at the expense of a cracking song, perfect examples being the storming 'Dreamless' (video on Female Voices blog) and the funky groovy hurricane they kick up on the tempestuous 'Deathwish'. I would like to see them develop the more diverse musical elements that occasionally shine through, like on the epic closing title track 'A Quiet Belief in Angels', that would make their next album something very special indeed. The outstanding classic building ballad 'Never Far' commemorates Sophie Lancaster who died as a result of an unprovoked attack by a gang simply because they were wearing gothic clothes, with the foundation founded in her name campaigning to ensure that people belonging to alternative cultures are protected by the law from acts of hatred and violence, rid society of prejudice, and increase understanding, their website is www.sophielancasterfoundation.com/. Friends of mine have been seriously attacked just because they have long hair and a leather jackets, and I myself once had to make a fast getaway, but these cases never get the police, media and political attention created by race attacks, a situation that must change. Although slightly brief at 33 minutes, for some baffling reason they giving away this little beauty free of charge so you can't complain, just head to their Facebook for more info, a storming 8.5/10 (Phil)

STORMGARDE..'THE ANSWER'

(Independent Release) Reviewed 16th April 2009

Melodic female fronted metal from Germany fronted by Sabrina Grochocki, and with similarities to Nightwish as a reference point. Okay, people and critical reviewers will no doubt argue that all this has been done before. Yep it has, but I myself cannot get enough. The title track kicks the record off and the music continues in a similar vein throughout - melodic symphonic metal I would call it. Maybe a little samey at times, but nonetheless, this band are worth checking out for anyone into the genre. Go to www.myspace.com/stormgarde and investigate further! 7.5/10 (Reviewed by Aimee)

STORMY ATMOSPHERE..'COLOR BLIND'

(Self Release) Reviewed 19th February 2010

This is my second excursion into Israeli prog after the wonderful Slaves for Life by Amaseffer, which saw singer Mats Levin going from the paganism of Therion to a story based on Moses! Color Blind is the debut from this melodic prog outfit formed back in 2002. The intertwining dual vocals are truly stunning, with the sumptuous Dina Shulman, the lovechild of Marcela Bovio and Simone Simons, and the powerful lungs of Teddy Svets, the result of a liaison between Tony Kakko and Michael Ball. The music is as changeable and unpredictable as the climate, which makes every gust and lull so enjoyable and fascinating. In summary, the outlook is that fans of Stream of Passion, Ayreon, Mostly Autumn, Epica, Sonata Arctica and Dream Theatre will storm down to CD Baby and order this shining CD. 9.5/10 (Reviewed by Phil Wooldridge)

STORYUM..'INSOMNIA'

(Edge Records) Reviewed 21st January 2011

Here's something to wake you up, the Slovakian band Storyum with their brand of new wave/pop punk, classic/alt rock, and light melodic metal, a mash-up of Green Day, Elvis Costello, Paramore and Lunatica, with a touch of Duran Duran and Bon Jovi. The references are strengthened by the deep Andrea Datwyler style voice of delightful leading lady Toni, with her phrasing at times reminiscent of a female Elvis Costello, and she is ably supported by the backing vocals of the lads. 'Walk the Way', 'Don't Leave Me Alone' and 'Closer' have catchy pop-rock verses that launch into rousing refrains. 'Scars' is a Lunatica type ballad and following track 'Illusion (Heaven)' fools you into thinking that it is going to be similar, but then it bursts into pop punk. 'Forget' and 'Enough Cash' are infectious pop punk/new wave numbers, while 'Fire', 'Angels' and title track 'Insomnia' veer towards alt-rock/metal. If this sounds like it will keep you awake at night, don't worry, it's all done in their own cohesive style, yes there is variety, but it all has a consistency of sound, with a rather good production job.
This is a tremendous crossover album, if you like pop/punk/alt/classic rock and the lighter end of melodic metal then you will find loads of enjoyment here. Their Myspace is http://www.myspace.com/553753879, so let them read you a night time story, a rise and shine 8.5/10 (Phil)

STRANGER AEONS..'eNneagon'

(Ledo Takas Records) Reviewed 19th August 2010

Stranger Aeons are a new band from Lithuania who started life as Bestija before deciding to take their music to another level in 2009. Stylistically, they are close to Dreamtheater, To-Mera and Rush, in fact Edita Burbulyte sounds like a female Geddy Lee, and she even looks like she could be his daughter. The album is packed with seven multifaceted epics packed with big riffs (plus an intro and interlude, hence the album title), showing influences from 70s bands like Black Sabbath, Yes, Pink Floyd and Led Zep. They do tend to go wandering off into long guitar workouts, whether you like this or not is up to you, I tend to go and make a cup of tea, mow the lawn, have a shower, bake a cake and be back in time for the return of the tune (OK, I'm exaggerating, I haven't got a lawn). Strangely, although they have a keyboard player, he only appears occasionally (perhaps he does have a lawn?). The standout for me is the melodic 'Melting Time' which sounds like a long lost prog classic from the 70s, despite a brief detour into doom territory. Barack Obama, fresh from his appearance in Diabulus in Musica, now crops up in 'Never Ending Lie' rather nice of him to take time off from the Oval Office to appear in all these metal albums. If you like your prog metal, like lots of great guitar work, then this is available from a variety of outlets (e.g. Amazon) and their Myspace is www.myspace.com/aeonslt. The final score depends on your predilection for long guitar solos; I personally would have preferred some judicious pruning and a greater emphasis on the songs, so 8/10 (Reviewed by Phil)

STRAWBERRY FIELDS..'LIVE STRAWBERRY FIELDS' DVD

(MetalMind) Reviewed 17th March 2012

Top Polish prog musician Wojtek Szadkowski from the groups Satellite and Collage created the band Strawberry Fields as a side project based around the voice of lovely singer Robin (Marta Kniewska), releasing the album 'River's Gone Dry' in 2009. Incredibly Robin had never done much singing before, Wojtek accidentally met her in a pub, they got talking about Within Temptation, and he instinctively gave her job without hearing her, thankfully it turned out that she really could sing! Indeed, she is often compared to Anneke van Giersbergen. Last year I reviewed his new project with Robin, The Travellers and their excellent album 'A Journey into the Sun Within', but this concert, filmed in April 2011 at the Wyspiański Theatre in Katowice, is all about that Strawberry Fields album. It is performed by world class prog musicians, mostly members of Satellite, who look more like a gothic metal band, so not surprisingly there is a barely controlled power propelling the music, with instrumental flourishes that only musicians of their calibre can supply. But this is all about Robin's voice and creating a mesmeric mood fashioned by Wojtec building his songs around the beat and rhythm of the drums. She is a very engaging, expressive and personable performer with her and the band looking totally at ease on stage, but there is very little interaction or chat with the packed theatre, it's a show to sit back, relax and enjoy, not to go moshing down the front. It also means that with the faultless sound and performances it is of almost studio quality. In short, you don't have to have been there to enjoy it. They run through the whole of the album but in a different order apart from the jazzy 'Moon' which is replaced by new song 'Problem'. Performed live, the songs take on a whole new lease of life with the extra guitar and keyboard parts as they gain a rumbling rock power with a almost hypnotic quality to their rolling rhythms heightened by Robin's calm effortless voice and repeated lyric lines, like the awesome title track 'River's Gone Dry' (video on Female Voices blog) and the seductive slinking stalking 'Your Story'. For the encore they do three Satellite and Collage songs that were obviously chosen and changed to suit the mood and Robin's voice, 'Don't Walk Away in Silence', 'Living in the Moonlight' and finally, and very appropriately, 'Is It Over' with its false ending, even Robin sits down at the end to listen to the band, engrossed in the music, lost in the moment, summing up the whole concert experience. It's beautifully and highly professionally filmed using multiple camera angles with a suitably tasteful, restrained but colourful light show and a respectable running time of 75 minutes, with interviews and slide shows as a bonus. A wonderful concert DVD for anyone who loves intelligent melodic pop, rock or prog, their Myspace is here, an entrancing 9/10 (Phil)