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Steven Reid

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Hell: Curse & Chapter - Proving that the long awaited debut wasn't a flash in the pan, Hell return with the storming Curse & Chapter, an album that makes you grin while you headbang. A clever mix of NWOBHM ideals and sharp production values make it a slap up to date slice of retro, with a hint of knowing silliness!

Gandalf's Fist: A Day In The Life Of A Universal Warrior - One of the most interesting, involved and intriguing Prog/Prog Metal albums of the year, ADITLOAUW is the sort of thing that many bands strive for, but few actually achieve. The only way is up for Gandalf's Fist!

Touchstone: Oceans Of Time - What's happened here then? Where did this heaviness come from? A striking, hard hitting change of pace from one of the UK's most underrated outfits which is still recognisable as Touchstone, but decidedly different from what they've done before.

Blaze Bayley: Soundtracks Of My Life - Poor old Blaze definitely splits opinions. Some love 'im, some hate 'im. I have to say that the ex-Maiden-man has, for me, always made some memorable Metal since his time with Eddie and the boys and Soundtracks... is a cracking two CD collection of his best work, with some new stuff for good measure.

Toby Jepson: Raising My Own Hell - Having triumphed with the returning (and now retired again) Little Angels, frontman Toby Jepson serves up a six track acoustic CD which confirms he still has some great songs up his sleeve. A short tour is up next, and I for one can't wait!

The Sweet: The Answer - An excellent album from the ignored 80s era The Sweet. AORtastic, rather than Glamorama, The Answer is very much of its time, but what a time it was and what a surprisingly excellent album this is.

Michael Monroe: Horns And Halos - I pretty much ignored this album when it came out earlier this year but witnessing MM play most of it at a phenomenal Glasgow gig inspired a quick revisit. Glad I did, this is storming stuff from one of Rock's hardest working men.

3rdegree: Human Interest Story - Having recently tied up with US Prog specialists 10t Records, Prog/Rock/Pop innovators 3rdegree reissue their second, largely ignored at the time, album. It's an extremely worthy collection and one which ties up nicely with later releases Narrow Caster and The Long Division. The band also have a new song, "What It Means To Be Human" as a taster of what's to come, it is an off the wall departure from what has been before. Exciting times ahead methinks!

Sahg: Delusions Of Grandeur - A great band anyway, DoG is a serious step up from this Danish act. Previously happy to ape Sabbath and a bit of Zep, Sahg have stretched things out and added a Progressive edge. The results are superb and highly recommended.

Taberah: Necromancer - A whiff of NWOBHM rubbing shoulders with the likes of Helloween and a slowed down Dragonforce results in an urgent and stunning barrage of riffs and screams, double kick blasts and galloping bass work - and who can argue with that? All that and they're from Tasmania!!!

Care Of Night: Care Of Night - How this superb AOR act remain unsigned, I have no idea. Care Of Night is their debut EP and to say it's pretty astounding would be 100% bang on the money. This is great stuff and I want to hear more.

Big Big Train: English Electric Full Power - A sumptuous, digi-book release which brings together the two English Electric albums and a new EP from this UK Prog act who are beginning to slowly gain the recognition they so rightly deserve. If you haven't heard them yet, this is a fantastic place to start.

Rush: Vapor Trails (Remix) - The album that announced Rush's comeback after their self imposed sabbatical always had sonic issues. However some doubted whether fixing those would be enough to really buck this album up. Indeed it is, with a far more cohesive and focused set of songs being the result. Still far from their best release, VP does now become a worthy part of the Rush catalogue.

Steven Wilson: Drive Home - I have to admit that for me Mr Wilson can do little wrong, but when he is releasing little gems like this selection of live, unreleased and video tracks then the proof is in the listening. All credit that even these stop gap releases are of the highest calibre.

LIVE SHOWS

Skid Row/Ugly Kid Joe/Dead City Ruins - The previously unheard of Dead City Ruins financed their own way from Australia onto this three band trek round the UK and Europe and the phenomenal reception they received proved it was worth their efforts; their Aussie grit and a heavier approach proving to be quite fantastic. UKJ then gave a solid performance, but Skid Row reigned supreme, mixing older tracks with brand new EP numbers to great effect. Skid Row are back and we should all rejoice that they are.

Michael Monroe /The Black Lights - A chance for young Scottish band The Black Lights to impress wasn't wasted, their sleazey good time Rock making the band a whole host of new friends. Follow that up with the consummate entertainer that Michael Monroe is and the results were a guaranteed great night out. A set that mixed Hanoi Rocks, the hugely underrated Demolition 23 and MM solo tracks was supremely paced and delivered with real verve by Michael and his cracking band.
  

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