Rock Roundup: Naked Idol + Strike + Crusher + Midnite Sky

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Review by Brian McGowan

Four young, ambitious rock bands, two German, two Finnish. Only one signed to a label, albeit a minor, but all four making waves playing live around Europe:

  • Naked Idol – Filthy Fairies EP
  • Strike – We’re Back
  • Crusher – In Heat
  • Midnite Sky – Blood, Sweat And A Little More

Have they got what it takes in the studio? Let’s see.


Naked Idol – Filthy Fairies EP

Rascal Music

Naked Idol’s link with Lordi has been well documented in the music press, though the band seem to express an ambivalence over the value of such a connection. Certainly, Lordi’s loud and leering theatrical version of apocalyptic evil was soon undone by his Eurovision success. Hardly the stuff of street cred. That said, the Naked Idol band name itself seems to suggest some salacious new talent show.

Enough.

The crushing weight of opener, ‘Shattered’s cacophonous, bass-heavy metal suggests that Naked Idol are determined to banish any such thoughts from our mind. It also suggests that an album of forlorn anthems is on the way. That’s before it shifts up through a slick, well-oiled gearbox, racing headlong into a strong, bright, invigorating chorus and some wiry, razor sharp axe soloing. ‘Hungry For You’ lacks the melodic appeal of the opener, relying heavily on (Ex-Lordi bassman) Magnum’s gruffly lovable vocal persona. It’s almost a speaking role, and it barrels along with jarring buoyancy, carrying the song to its apparently reluctant conclusion.

Naked Idol 2014

An aggro stomp and sleazy undercurrent combine well on the title track, but it’s the balladic ‘Jane’ that really stands out here, ditching the heavy metal mannerisms for dark, densely textured Melodic Rock, eminently tuneful, on a song that the LA Guns would’ve been proud of. Roll on the full album… soon?

7 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Shattered
  2. Hungry For You
  3. Filthy Fairies
  4. Jane
  5. Devil Ridin Shotgun

Strike – We’re Back

In his life before Thunderstone, Finnish vocalist and songwriter, Pasi Rantanen fronted fledgling melodic rock band, Strike. Nothing came of it apart from a few songs and demos. First love never dies of course. The band have reformed, dusted down the old material, written some new stuff and gone back into the studio. We’re Back is the result, produced by Rantanen, mixed and mastered by Timo (Stratovarius) Tolkki. It’s an impressive album in which the band express a stylistic range that takes in eighties’ AOR and hard rock, and the more powerful, potent stuff of the nineties.

The initial pleasure comes from the disparity between our preconceptions and what the album actually delivers. Keyboards play a dominant role on ‘Joanna’ and ‘Angel’, handsome throwbacks that deftly maintain the intimacy of the best AOR, songs that will turn a few heads today. ‘Day Of Reckoning’ strikes the same rich, hard rock seam that was mined so successfully by Coverdale and Sykes back in 1987. Throw in a few nods to the darker, harder edged melodic rock of the nineties with the title track, ‘We’re Back’ – a perfect match of style and substance – and ‘Runaway’, a track that totally and winningly belies its clichéd title, and we have a classy little album that deserves wider acclaim.

Strike 20148 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Joanna
  2. Only Heaven Knows
  3. Day Of Reckoning
  4. Hear Me Out
  5. Strike
  6. We’re Back
  7. Angel
  8. Runaway
  9. Nobody Lives Forever

Crusher – In Heat

When you see the title and the artwork, you might immediately despair over the band’s lack of imagination, but as a ‘mission statement’ the words and images do a persuasive job, getting the point across better than any convoluted chunk of hyped-up PR could do, and yet, even then it’s slightly misleading. Sleaze, Glam, Hair Metal are the obvious reference points, but much of this album turns away from the usual eighties’ suspects, percolating the music through a seventies’ hard rock filter.

‘Turn It Up’ and ‘Black Beauty’ are cracking tracks, recalling class acts like BTO and Free. Unfortunately, the Survivor like ’Chain Reaction’ and the down’n’dirty ’Sweet Sugar’ are undone by weak bgvs and badly recorded vocals. In fact, too often there’s a mismatch between Tommy Stripes’ theatrical vocals (which seem too high in the mix) and the band’s tight, securely grounded musicianship. There’s also a tendency to seek out rock music’s worst cliches, as in ‘Redline’ (no “steeds of steel” fortunately) and ‘Sex Drugs & Rock n’Roll’, although maybe that’s meant to be ironic and I’m too much of a philistine to notice.

It’s a patchy, uneven album, and apart from a couple of highlight tracks, only guitar and bass seem to really know what they’re doing and how to do it.

Crusher 20144 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Too Far From Love
  2. Turn It Up
  3. Open Your Heart
  4. Redline
  5. Black Beauty
  6. Chain Reaction
  7. Sex Drugs & Rock’n’Roll
  8. Payback’s A Bitch
  9. Hard To Say Goodbye

Midnite Sky – Blood, Sweat And A Little More

Second album from Germany’s Midnite Sky, and there’s clearly an experienced hand at the tiller here, steering the band deep into eighties’ melodic rock waters. Mainman Holger Blickle co-wrote the songs, produced, recorded and mixed the album, and if the music seems derivative, that’s because he designed it that way, if the guitars sound dated, that’s because he recorded them that way, and if the album falters occasionally, that’s because Blickle’s songwriting doesn’t yet match up to his prowess in the studio. When he gets it right though – particularly on the Autograph like ’Change Your Mind’, the Van Halen-esque ’All I Ever Want’ – it sounds natural and unforced, a sound suspended in aspic.

The problem is this: a respectful homage to the past, no matter how earnest, how accurate, indeed, how affectionate, will always make you sound like a covers band. Even a standout track like ‘Feels Like Heaven’, one that neatly plugs brittle, sharply defined Brit Glam into big chorus US Arena Rock can’t avoid that backward glance – the stars and the script have changed, and it’s done with skill – but essentially it’s the same old movie.

Midnite Sky 20145 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Hellfire
  2. Feels Like Heaven
  3. Change Your Mind
  4. Where Are The Angels
  5. All I EVer Want
  6. Tell Me Why
  7. Lay Down Your Fear
  8. Sex Bomb Love Machine
  9. Waiting For Your Love
  10. Love Is A Stranger
  11. Now You’ve Gone
  12. Rock With Me