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There is always a way to find great music in this world and sometimes the best come from a chance find. It is just that way that I found a band from Finland that blew me away from the first listen. You know the feeling, the song kicks in and you are instantly blasted back in your seat, volume cranked to 11 and after the 3 minutes, you jam it again and again. That was my first impression of Shiraz Lane when I happened across the video for “Mental Slavery” from their “Be The Slave Or Be The Change” EP. I instantly checked the bands website out and found a spot to purchase the EP directly from a site in Finland that was handling the merch at the time. Best $15 I ever spent. This band made me feel the same way that I felt when Guns N’ Roses blew up in 1987 with the brash vocals and in your face “Screw The World” melodies and power. I knew that these guys were making it big and a few months later were signed by Frontiers Records. Their debut album, “For Crying Out Loud,” released in 2016 was everything that I expected and more, but like most artists, having a great debut brings the pressure of following up with a 2nd. Well I am here to say that “CARNIVAL DAYS” is one hell of a sophomore release. All of the hooks, power and melodies are there, but there is also some change sprinkled in; maturity and willingness to explore. Come on in to a show that never ends and WELCOME TO THE “CARNIVAL DAYS.”

The album opens with the title track “Carnival Days” and I am instantly reminded of the swagger that Aerosmith brought to every album; there is a cool here that you see in bands that have been on the scene for 30 years, a “We Have Been Here Before” attitude. This tune has grooves a plenty with harmonies and yes, even some horns thrown in. This is a song that rocks from all angles. I am a huge fan of a catchy hook and this has it. Alright, its in my head and I keep singing it in my mind “Welcome To The Carnival Days………….a perfect way to open this album.

The opening track brought me right in where I needed to be and then “The Crown” kicks in and I am blasted right into my seat just like I was when I first heard the band. The track opens with a steady bass groove and thumping drum beat provided by Ana Willman drums & Joel Alex bass and the guitar follows in with the textbook Shiraz blast and a BOMBASTIC bridge and Chorus. With Jani Laine – lead guitar and Miki Kalske – rhythm guitar there is twin tandem here that compliment each other like ice and water – cool grooves and melodic riffs for days. These guys are heavy in all the right places and are a force to be reckoned with. DAMN, I realize why I have loved this music for 35 years and these guys just cement the fact. Lead singer Hannes Kett, has the shrill, glass shattering vocals that remind me of an Alleycat scrapping in a pure vengeance to overpower its prey and he has total command. In my opinion Axel Rose never sounded this good.

As “The Crown” slowly winds down there is no time to catch a breath and yes it is getting “Harder To Breath,” the 3rd track that incorporates the same power and melody. Another huge hook and a full out onslaught of straight forward, groove driven melodic hard rock. The first single released and this is everything that this band is about.

I have been focusing on how great the songs are and they are massive, but the production is also masterful. Huge sound and I often think that this is live. Produced and recorded by Per Aldeheim at Gröndahl Studios, Holländargatan 29 and at The Terrace, Stockholm Sweden, mixed by Linus Corneliusson at Fascination Street Studios and mastered by Tony Lindgren and Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios, Örebro Sweden, there is mega sound flowing perfectly though my headphones.

Back on track, “Tidal Wave” kicks in with a poppier style that is geared for radio, but when its Shiraz Lane, there are no weak, give-up tunes. There are the massive hooks and guitar driven melodies that are the foundation of the style that these guys write in. Every song is well written and again, it seems like the band has been together forever. Tight lyrics and melody lines flow through the entire album.

The band has the ability to do it all and diversity is symbolized in this album and no track shows more than “Gotta Be Real.” There is a slower paced flow here with the sitting around a campfire feeling. Mega heart and emotion with a feel good groove. I hear so much passion with this one and that shows how deep these guys are with the writing. Perfectly delivered and the listener can see where they are coming from; A story told across the time.

There are keys sprinkled in throughout the album and that is prevalent with the track “People Like Us.” The tune delivers the groove as do all of the tracks here. There is just so much included with all 11 tracks and I can hear the influences of the band members orchestrated perfectly. This is a band that is maturing and writing for themselves, directly from the heart.

“Shangri-La,” track number 7, incorporates the steady melody and a very soulful lyric by Hannes Kett. Kett delivers this one from the heart with vibrato and plenty of style.

There is depth in all of the right places and this is all mixed with mega heaviness and “War Of Mind” kicks in. The political lyrics about the mind and trying to escape the internal, mental struggles that we all face. This is a tune that just needs to be played loud. As with any excellent hard rock song, there is a guitar solo that stands out and Jani Laine tears through this one like a knife through butter; Smooth and precise, yet with speed that hugs every corner.

If you have been listening to this band regularly like I have, you can tell just by hearing the opening riff who it is. The song opens with almost a high powered bongo beat and then kicks in right where expected. There is a straight forward, in your face style with vocal chants in the chorus that make you just want to throw your fist in the air.

For all of the power there is also a passion and the ability to deliver a great power ballad and in steps “Hope.” The song is so well written and this is where I get the Aerosmith influence. Steven Tyler has the uncanny knack of delivering a vocal that takes you to the true emotion of a song and I hear that exactly with Hannes Kett, especially with “Hope” and the closing track “Reincarnation.” There is a positive influence here that just makes the listener understand the true meaning of music and life in general. The ability to reach the heart and soul of the listener is what music is all about and that is exactly what Shiraz Lane has done, again.

I was asked recently if Hard Rock and Metal is still alive and my answer was an affirmative “Yes.” With that yes, I am backed by a masterful piece of melodic hard rock, glam and sleeze that is “Carnival Days.” Shiraz Lane has taken it yet to another level and these guys are truly transitioning from a piece to the mold in which all hard rock should be formed. I cannot say enough great things about a young band that just continues to impress me from every beat that they deliver. If you are looking to be rocked with and blown away, check out Shiraz Lane. I highly recommend and I am without a doubt a fan of this band forever. “Welcome To The Carnival Days” a show that never ends.

SHIRAZ LANE IS:

Hannes Kett – lead vocals

Jani Laine – lead guitar

Miki Kalske – rhythm guitar

Joel Alex – bass

Ana Willman – drums

Links:

• Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ShirazLane

• Twitter – https://twitter.com/shirazlane

• Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/shirazlane

TRACKLISTING:

Carnival Days

The Crown

Harder To Breathe

Tidal Wave

Gotta Be Real

People Like Us

Shangri-La

War Of Mine

Shot Of Life

Hope

Reincarnation

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I sit and look back on another year and through all of the good times and bad of 2017, there was always one constant and that was and always has been music. It has always been there for me and the best albums and songs have a moment in time attached to them; a memory, whether good or bad, the song has always conjured up a positive reflection even in the worst of times. Music has the ability to touch the heart, sooth the soul and bring back the happiness which everyone desires in life.

Now when I put an album, song or artist on my best of list the criteria are:

  1. Is the album worthy of sitting in my car for weeks on end and does it offer the full gambit of great songs with no filler. There are plenty of great songs, but is the full album built around one song or is the album full of tracks where I have a different favorite every time that I listen.
  2. Is there a song on the album that touches me. I love memorable songs with tons of feeling and I love a song that I can connect with.
  3. Does the artist/artists offer a product that I can tell is total pro. What I mean is that there is a premium put on quality songs, production, lyrical content etc…,

With the criteria set and my ears softened up for a years worth of great music, here are the albums and songs that were my “Best Of” for the year 2017. I don’t have these in any particular order as I consider all of these fantastic pieces of art.

  1. PHANTOM 5 – “PLAY II WIN”

Having been a fan of every member of this band and their previous bands since I was cutting my “Metal” teeth, (Frontline, Bonfire, Jaded Heart, Mad Max) are the Pinnacle of German melodic hard rock and these guys collaborating on a project was about as close to a guarantee as the sun rising in the East. Claus Lessman, Robby Boebel, Michael Voss and Axel Kruse delivered a monster debut with the first Phantom album, but the bar was set even higher with “Play II Win.” Melodic Hard rock the way I like it, tremendously well written songs, mega hooks, tons of melody and a booming drum sound all equal an instant classic. There is never a compromise here and there is not even a semblance of a filler track. I had the opportunity to interview Claus Lessman and my now good friend Axel Kruse and these guys are the “Real Deal.” Some of my best interviews with 2 of the most sincere musicians I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. If you are a fan of Melodic Hard Rock, I highly recommend Phantom 5 or anything that these guys do.

Phantom 5 - "Read Your Mind" (Official Lyric Video ) - YouTube

2. PINK CREAM 69 – “HEADSTRONG”

For me this one was another no brainer. With “Headstrong,” Pink Cream 69 has brought an extremely monster production to their fans. Having been a fan for so long, I really hear the influence of Dennis Ward here on the production end. Ward just has the knack of putting a LIVE sound to an album and he just drives this one straight to the top. I also have to mention David Readman and his performance on this album. Readman delivers his best performance with a passion and a power that just mesmorizes on every track. This album absolutely crushes and I have not stopped listening to it since its release day.

Pink Cream 69 - "Walls Come Down" (Official Music Video) - YouTube

3. TOKYO MOTOR FIST – “TOKYO MOTOR FIST”

Ted Poley and Steve Brown getting together on a project was a perfect marriage for me as a melodic rock listener. Ted is one of my favorite vocalists as his unique blend of smooth delivery and passion with any style song is definitive. With this album I hear the influences of Trixter and Steve Browns writing and the Danger Danger flair with Poley. Brown continues to release quality in everything that he does and this album is just that. This is a “Feel Good” album that is the Beach Boys meets hard rock, for me. I just feel rejuvinated when I listen to it. Standout on this album, “Love Me Insane” is not only a great song, it is one of my favorite songs of 2017. Browns writing is stronger than ever and he deserves the recognition for his abilities. I really hope that this is not just a one-shot deal.

Tokyo Motor Fist "Pickin' Up the Pieces" (Official Music Video) - YouTube

4. KEE OF HEARTS – “KEE OF HEARTS”

When I first heard this album, I was blown away. I receive the tracks to review, via Haulix and when I saw Kee Marcello and Tommy Heart collaborating, I was all in. Heart delivers a premiere vocal performance here and Marcello’s guitar-work is at its pinnacle. Hearing this reminds me so much of the first Fair Warning album from 1992, but with a much more massive production. Marcello tears it up and I am taken right into how excellent this guy is as a guitarist. This album is full of bombastic hooks and mega guitar riffs that just beg to be cranked to maximum decibel levels.

Kee of Hearts - "Crimson Dawn" (Official Video) - YouTube

5. ECLIPSE – “MONUMENTUM”

Sweden’s kings of melodic hard rock drop another killer album. These guys are slowly forging their image onto the Mt Rushmore of melodic hard rock. With every album I see growth in songwriting, structure and ability to just overpower with sheer heaviness combined with maximum melody. Erik Martensson is one of the premier songwriters on the scene today and everything that this guy touches turns into melodic rock gold. I first heard Eclipse when I found the “Are You Ready To Rock” cd in the $5.00 used bin at a local cd store and to say that I am a dedicated fan now is an understatement. Another, sometimes forgotten element of this band is the guitar playing of Magnus Henriksson who’s shredding is powerful with tons of feeling. This guy is an incredible musician who’s playing just oozes into the core of every song. Eclipse is everything that you want in a melodic hard rock band and the crazy part of it is that these guys are just hitting their stride; their future is going to be epic.

Eclipse - "Never Look Back" (Official Music Video) - YouTube

6. CRAZY LIXX – “RUFF JUSTICE” 

The kings of the Swedish glam rock scene release yet another premiere melodic rock album. This is a band that brings the true style and feel of the 80’s and early 90’s heyday right to the new millenium. If HUGE hooks and MASSIVE choruses are what you look for, than this band is a must. Combining the best of Def Leppard with all of the swag of early Skid Row with Dokken combined, the Lixx boys got it all. When I want to listen to an album at maximum volume while cruising with the windows down, I look no further than Crazy Lixx. Vocalist and songwriter Danny Rexon has the knack for putting together the perfect blend of all of the essential elements and combining them with guts, grit and melody. There is a system here that works and its doesn’t matter what, if I see Crazy Lixx, I’m buying.

Crazy Lixx - "Wild Child" (Official Music Video) - YouTube

7. HOUSE OF LORDS – “SAINT OF THE LOST SOULS”

House of Lords have long been one of the best melodic hard rock bands that combine the traditional style with elements of the mystical that make this band stand out from the rest. With a perfect mix of keyboards, the amazing guitar riffs of Jimi Bell and the powerful and extremely well written lyrics and music of the great James Christian, how could you not love this album. From the first listen, I was taken back to the debut album in 1988. “Saint of the Lost Souls” is quite possibly the best House of Lords album to date and the bands best produced. These guys are incredible musicians and Bell just continues to inject his style into every song to a perfection. I had the chance to chat with Jimi before this album released and I must say, Jimi Bell is one of the nicest guys in the industry. A true pro and a sincere human being. This album deserves the accolades and I highly recommend.

House Of Lords - "Harlequin" (Official Music Video) - YouTube

With another year of tremendous music coming in 2018, its nice for me to reflect back on the year that was 2017. Being involved on the media side and having the opportunity to interact with these incredible musicians is truly humbling. Everything that we do here at Rock In The FastLane is built around a true passion for the music and the artists that create it. I pay homage to 40 + years of listening to their inner-most feelings brought to life in their music. My appreciation and thanks for their art is Rock In The FastLane. We are honored to say that this is where the legends live and will never die. Keep on Rockin’ in 2018 and support the art of music in its truest form.

Thank you all for supporting us. 

Jon

Rock In The FastLane


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The mighty Ray West, lead vocalist for hard rockers Spread Eagle and his new project, Weapons Of Anew, chats with the FastLane. Ray gives us some incite on the early days and formation of Spread Eagle, the music scene back in the day to the current successes with Weapons Of Anew; a great interview with one of hard rocks legendary frontmen.

RAY WEST - SPREAD EAGLE & WEAPONS OF ANEW - INTERVIEW - YouTube


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MICHAEL SWEET - INTERVIEW - YouTube

The Incomparable voice of STRYPER chats with the FastLane. Michael gives us the inside scoop on how the band got started, how being a Christian act getting started in the Hard Rock Genre was in the early days, the bands early success, how Stryper has been one of the strongest acts in Hard Rock for over 30 years, the Sweet & Lynch Project, up coming Stryper album and tour, plus everything Stryper. From the beginnings to the Mega success of Christian Hard Rocks finest act, Michael Sweet is forging a legacy as one the greatest vocalists and songwriters of all time.


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DEREK DAVIS - INTERVIEW - YouTube

The FastLane catches up with the mighty voice of Babylon A.D. – Derek Davis. One of the best bands to come out of the Golden Era of Hard Rock, Derek chats with us about the making of “Revelation Highway,” the brand new album that delivers the bombastic sound of the classic’s with a modern punch that is vintage A.D., the power behind the writing of a Babylon A.D. tune, the upcoming tour and everything that is Babylon A.D.


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Swedish Melodic Metal’s finest, Air Raid, has been tearing up the scene since its formation in 2009 and their new album “Across The Line” packs an onslaught of power and melody that is certain to take the band to the next level. The FastLane caught up with Guitarist and founding member Andreas Johansson to talk about the new album, the upcoming European Tour, the bands formation and everything Air Raid. Great interview with one of Metal’s up and coming legends.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON - INTERVIEW - YouTube

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MIKEY CUNNINGHAM - INTERVIEW - YouTube

The FastLane catches up with Florida’s master of shred. Mikey Cunningham sits down for a chat and delivers the inside scoop on how he got started, his influences, the Aftermath band, upcoming album and so much more – the shred master delivers.


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Air Raid from Gothenburg in Sweden were formed in 2009 by guitarist Andreas Johansson. After a two-track demo in 2011 and CD EP called »Danger Ahead«, the band’s debut album »Night Of The Axe« saw the light of day in 2012, followed by the critically acclaimed »Point Of Impact« record for the High Roller label (in 2014).

Along with similar acts such as Ambush, Black Trip, Bullet and Robert Pehrsson’s Humbucker, Air Raid are hailed as one of the most accomplished protagonists of the new wave of traditional Swedish heavy metal. However, it took three years for the new Air Raid album »Across The Line« to be come out, that’s quite a long time.

A lot had to do with line-up problems. “Better late than never” is Andreas Johansson’s motto. It always is kind of a cliché, but with songs like “Hold The Flame”, the rather Saxonish “Hell And Back” or “Northern Light” with it’s slight Swedish folk influences, »Across The Line« is without doubt the band’s most creative effort by far. “Thanks a lot for the kind words, man!,” says the guitarist. “First of all, we have two new members in the band: Magnus Mild (on guitar) and Fredrik Werner (on vocals). I would say »Across The Line« is more guitar-oriented than our previous release »Point Of Impact«. It’s really packed with screaming solos and riffs. The overall feel of the album is melodic but with a very powerful edge. It comes natural for us to blend in neo-classical elements along with the ususal heavy metal, so that’s another significant thing on this record. Last but surely not least, Fredrik delivers an amazing performance on vocals. This guy has a monster voice!”

BAND:
Fredrik Werner – vocals
Andreas Johansson – guitars
Magnus Mild – guitars
Robin Utbult – bass
David Hermansson – drums
TRACKLISTING:
01 Hold the Flame
02 Line of Danger
03 Aiming for the Sky
04 Cold as Ice
05 Entering the Zone Zero
06 Hell and Back
07 Northern Light
08 Raid or Die
09 Black Dawn

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ROUGH CUTT - INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS HAGER & PAUL SHORTINO - YouTube

One of the Premier bands born on the LA Scene during Hard Rocks hey day, Rough Cutt, took the scene by storm, then sailed off into the sunset way before their time. Now the thunder is back and the original lineup reunited, band mates Chris Hager and Paul Shortino chat with the FastLane for an exclusive. The boys give us the inside scoop on the early beginnings of the band, the LA scene in the 80s, writing the first album and raising the bar with “Wants You,” the split and subsequent reunion in 2016 and new material that is in the works. A powerful and entertaining interview with 2 Legends of Hard Rock.


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Jeff Westlake Interview - YouTube

Jeff Westlake – The acclaimed musician, producer and founder of Hydrogyn – shows another musical side and opens a brand new door with “IN THE KEY OF BLUE.” From Hard Rock roots comes a blues album that puts a new twist on blues rock and launches a new era.

Jeff Westlake - Just Like Before - YouTube

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