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Melodic Rock Round-up: July 2011

Dave Ling on new releases from Black ’N Blue, Big Life, 8-IS, After Hours and Legion

Black ’N Blue: Hell Yeah

Among the most underrated groups of the 1980s, Black ’N Blue have strong connections with Kiss. Guitarist Tommy Thayer eventually donned Ace Frehley’s spaceman make-up,while Gene Simmons did his utmost to transform the Portland quintet into stars, even producing two of their albums. Regrettably, he failed. Dee Snider lookalike Jaime St James went on to front Warrant for a bit, but returns with a new line-up that features all the original members bar Thayer, with newcomer Shawn Sonnenschein partnering Jef ‘Woop’ Warner. Hopes that Hell Yeah might match B’NB’s seismic self-titled debut were plain unrealistic, and it doesn’t. St James’s voice has understandably lost some of its vibrancy, but tapping back into their original slightly sleazy vibe, the band have delivered a very creditable comeback album. To quote their own song title, Black ’N Blue may not be holding on to 18 any longer, but this album suggests they have entered middle age with dignity. (710)

Big Life: Big Life

Awash with dancing keys, fiery guitar work and huge choruses, Big Life feature Newman’s Steve Newman and former Idol Rich vocalist mark Thompson-Smith. Crammed with memorable foot-tappers such as Better Man and Dying Day, these dozen tunes represent a convincing introductory statement and are certain to resonate with fans of Newman (the band). (810)

8-IS: Frame Of Us

Equally prone to exquisite lip-trembling ballads such as I’ll Be There and On And On, as rocking out in the politest way possible with Everlasting Love and the Toto-esque Fallin’ In Your Eyes, Italian trio 8-IS offer a slick, synth-dominated strand of the melodic rock gene. The smooth vocals of Marcello Catalano make it well worth seeking out. (710)

After Hours: Against The Grain

Best remembered for a pair of albums in 1987 and 1992, After Hours are another long-lost British band hitting the reunion trail. Their ace in the pack remains John Francis, the singer who had a dalliance with Shy. Luckily, the likes of Turn On Your Radio and Angel suggest that this reconfiguration could be as serious as they’d care to make it. (710)

Legion: Code Of Honour

Capitalising upon the slew of rave reviews garnered by a self-titled debut issued late last year, this US-British five-piece are back with another tasty, hook-laden slab of Winger-esque hard rock. Long Way Down and Shot Down In Flames have one foot planted in melodic metal territory, but these songs are supremely catchy. In fact, COH may even outstrip the debut. (810)