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Melodic Rock Round-up: December 2011

Album Review

Dave Ling on new releases from The Magnificent, Houston, Grand Design, Soul Seller and Bonfire

The Magnificent: The Magnificent

There was a danger that in selecting such an immodest moniker, Michael Eriksen might have shot himself in the foot. In fact the singer of Norwegian group Circus Maximus has come up trumps with a project that co-stars the comically named Torsti Spoof, the producer/guitarist of Finland’s Leverage. With hook-laden, multi-layered songs submitted by members of Brother Firetribe, Leverage, Circus Maximus and Urban Tale, the foundations of something very special were set in place. Though it’s been a vintage 12 months for pure AOR, the genre will offer very few better songs than Holding Onto Your Love, Satin & Lace, Love’s On The Line or Angel, the latter a lighter-waving power ballad to die for. Complemented by dancing keys and guitars that chug and weave, Eriksen’s voice is truly amazing, often sounding like a younger version of Joey Tempest. The deal-breaker, should any such thing still be required, is Spoof’s crystal-clear production. Don’t be surprised if his work here leads to some top-level commissions. Yes, this is magnificent indeed. (9/10)

Houston: Relaunch

With myriad guests including Mark Mangold and Laurie Mansworth, who contribute to remakes of songs by their bands Touch and Airrace, this nine-song mini-album, on which Swedes Houston cover material by New England, Michael Bolton and more, is far more than the mere exercise in treading water between albums that one might rightly have expected. (8/10)

Grand Design: Idolizer

Grand Design want to be Def Leppard so much, you can imagine that it almost hurts them. Idolizer is certainly an improvement on the Swedish group’s 2009 debut, Time Elevation, but where Steel Panther represented a (briefly) amusing pastiche of an entire genre, Grand Design’s aping of a single band, for all the undoubted skill of its execution, quickly becomes tiresome. (5/10)

Soul Seller: Back To Life

These Italians dabbled in different types of rock before being steered in an airwaves-friendly direction by their producer Alessandro Del Vecchio (Shining Line, Lionville, Eden’s Curse). The occasional turkey, such as Message From Planet Venus, aside, Back To Life includes some convincing material, notably Keep On Moving and the video song Wings Of Freedom. (6/10)

Bonfire: Fireworks... Still Alive

Earlier this year, Bavarian stalwarts Bonfire performed their signature album Fireworks at several festivals in continental Europe. This well-recorded live album relives the experience, mixing slickly delivered old favourites such as Ready 4 Reaction, Sweet Obsession and Sleeping All Alone with newer tunes and even a song written in honour of the late, great Gotthard singer Steve Lee. (7/10)

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