Album Review – Jessica Wolff / para dice (2020)

An unstoppable Finnish singer and her loyal “Wolffpack” will rock your world with their electrifying new album of modern-day Hard Rock.

The stunning Helsinki, Finland-based Hard Rock vocalist Jessica Wolff is a very busy young Finnish artist who’s not only committed to music, but she is also into acting, practicing kung fu and doing stunt work. However, behind the actions of this adrenaline junkie, you’ll find a warm-hearted girl with a striking personality, which is beautifully reflected in the music, in the catchy melodies and in the thought-provoking lyrics of her brand new album titled para dice, the follow-up to her 2013 album Renegade and her 2017 release Grounded, being highly recommended for fans of Pink Floyd, Joan Jett and Morcheeba, among others. Produced by Jonas Olsson, para dice, which title refers to going against the stream and daring to take risks in life if you want to achieve your goals, will offer your avid ears a direct and entertaining fusion of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll, showcasing all the talent by Jessica and her “Wolffpack” formed by guitarists Ari Manninen and Sebastian Lindqvist, bassist Taneli Tulkki and drummer Jarno Vanhanen.

Ari and Sebastian begin slashing their strings in great fashion in the opening track Ella’s Song, providing Jessica exactly what she needs to shine on vocals in a thrilling hybrid of modern-day Hard Rock with classic Rock N’ Roll. Not only that, this song is particularly special for Jessica and a little girl named Ella. “A couple of years ago I saw a post from the charity organization called Brother Christmas. It was about a girl who had been so school bullied she didn’t dare to go outside the house.  I contacted her mother and offered to come and hang out with Ella, talk, take walks or work out. I started to meet Ella who opened about her story. Ella is a true fighter with the heart of an angel. Her story really touched me and I asked if we could write a song about it,” said Jessica about the inspiration for such amazing tune. And keeping the adrenaline level truly high the band fires another dancing tune titled Perfect Kind Of Wrong, with Jarno dictating the rhythm with his classic beats while Jessica continues to embellish the airwaves with her piercing vocals, followed by All The Tight Things, a radio-friendly composition where Tanelli and his bass punches together with Jarno’s beats build a solid base for Jessica’s crisp vocals, while the band’s guitar duo delivers strident rockin’ riffs nonstop.

Then it’s time for a Blues-ish ballad by Jessica and the boys entitled The Sunny Side Of The Bay, with its delicate ambience being effectively boosted by Jarno’s minimalist beats, inviting us all to simply relax and enjoy the serene sounds and introspective lyrics of such enfolding song. In Kill Switch the unstoppable Jessica and her henchmen continue to venture through the gentle and passionate lands of rock ballads, but this time increasing their punch and electricity significantly and presenting a solid job done by both Ari and Sebastian with their riffs and solos, whereas in Fight Forever they blend contemporary Rock N’ Roll the likes of Paramore with the groove and heaviness of Hard Rock, also bringing forward another awesome vocal performance by Jessica supported by her loyal bandmates. Needless to say, this is a great option for hitting the road with your loved ones during the hot and fun days of summer.

The awesome Superhero offers us all a high dosage of acid lyrics with Jessica’s own feminine touch (“You say you need nobody / Here we go again why do you pretend / I see the pain inside you / You ain ́t fooling me, you ́re not a mystery / Yeah, come and look at mister cool, hey / Mister all the time, mister blow my mind, yeah / Come and look at mister fool, hey / I get so tired of your shit”) while at the same time presenting the heaviest riffs of the whole album, endless stamina and pounding beats, which together turn it into the best song of para dice hands down. Adding hints of Southern Rock to their Rock N’ Roll core essence, the band brings forth Demons, a headbanging tune where all guitar riffs and heavy beats create an interesting paradox with Jessica’s delicate but powerful vocals, while Take Me Away is another heavy ballad that keeps the momentum going with Jessica’s pensive vocal performance bringing a touch of finesse to the overall result while Taneli keeps hammering his bass, generating a welcome rumbling background sound. Lastly, closing the album we’re treated to the Rock N’ Roll extravaganza titled Strangers, offering the listener classic heavy riffs intertwined with lighter and more melodious moments and, therefore, putting a very pleasant and embracing ending to para dice.

If you’re more than curious to take a full and detailed listen at para dice, you can stream the album in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course if you want to show your utmost support to such talented vocalist from the land of ice and snow you can purchase your desired version of the album by clicking HERE, as well as follow her on Facebook and on Instagram, and subscribe to her official YouTube channel. Jessica is definitely poised to become one of the biggest contemporary female singers of her homeland, following the steps of renowned vocalists such as Tarja Turunen (Nightwish, Tarja) and Suvi Hiltunen (Afire), with para dice representing a fantastic step in her career and the perfect path for her to follow in order to keep on rocking our world and our hearts with her classy and electrifying music.

Best moments of the album: Ella’s Song, Fight Forever and Superhero.

Worst moments of the album: All The Tight Things.

Released in 2020 Metalapolis Records

Track listing
1. Ella’s Song 3:14
2. Perfect Kind Of Wrong 3:45
3. All The Right Things 3:19
4. The Sunny Side Of The Bay 3:28
5. Kill Switch 3:44
6. Fight Forever 3:33
7. Superhero 4:09
8. Demons 3:23
9. Take Me Away 3:42
10. Strangers 3:08

Band members
Jessica Wolff – vocals
Ari Manninen – guitar
Sebastian Lindqvist – guitar
Taneli Tulkki – bass
Jarno Vanhanen – drums

Album Review – Faith No More / Sol Invictus (2015)

It might have taken 18 long years for Mr. Mike Patton and his demented squad to release a new album, but the result is so good it was definitely worth the wait.

Rating4

FNM_frontAt long last, after 18 fuckin’ excruciating years, the demented squad composed by the gentlemen Mike Patton, Jon Hudson, Billy Gould, Roddy Bottum and Mike Bordin, “usually” known as American Alternative Metal/Rock band Faith No More, is back with another freakish experiment entitled Sol Invictus (Latin for “Unconquered Sun”), the seventh studio album in their revolutionary career. Without Faith No More there wouldn’t be Alternative Metal, Funk Metal, Nu Metal, Grunge, contemporary Hard Rock, and so on. And if you think what I’m saying is bullshit, how about what Corey Taylor, frontman of the biggest Alternative Metal group in the world, Slipknot, said after seeing Mike Patton and his crew performing the all-time classic “Epic” at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards? “I was mesmerized by that. I never felt a moment like that until that moment. It completely turned me around.”, stated the iconic #8.

Perhaps the greatest question in everyone’s minds, after knowing the band was officially getting out of their state of “creative hibernation”, was that if they were going to be capable of releasing something as amazing as their previous albums, especially the masterpieces The Real Thing (1989), Angel Dust (1992) and King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime (1995). Well, although Sol Invictus doesn’t have any “A Small Victory”, “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” or “Digging the Grave” among its songs, it’s still a well-set album with lots of thrilling moments, showcasing a band that doesn’t seem to have been on hiatus (not including their sporadic live performances and tours along all those 18 years) since their previous release, the also spectacular Album of the Year, from 1997.

The title-track, Sol Invictus, is just as weird as the album artwork, which means it’s perfect for opening their live performances. It’s short and melancholic, just like they’ve mastered doing through the years, and we all have to agree that with that piano intro and those whispering vocals you know somehow it’s Faith No More even if you’ve never heard anything about the band in your entire life. The same can be said about the awesome Superhero, a very melodic and alternative tune with interesting keyboard notes by Roddy Bottum, where after only two seconds you know it’s pure Faith No More. I guess there’s no need to mention how incredible Mr. Patton’s crazy screams and vocals are, but it’s valid to mention that the lyrics beautifully follow that vocal craziness (“Like an American drug / Makes a mean cock grow / …kill a priest / Makes a superman of glass”).

The next track, Sunny Side Up, sounds a lot like many songs from Album of the Year, with a stylish blend of Jazz, Blues, Rock N’ Roll and everything else. In other words, fans of the band will enjoy it for sure, while others will probably ask themselves “what the fuck is this?” Even if you don’t understand that song really well, you’ll relish Separation Anxiety and its stronger Rock N’ Roll vein. Mike Patton once again steals the show with his wicked voice and proves why he’s among the best and most versatile singers in the world. The only setback in this exciting tune is the drumming: I was expecting more from Mike Bordin, despite him doing a relatively decent job throughout the whole song.

FNMThe dark intro in Cone of Shame corroborates they really enjoy sounding bizarre, with its last part getting a lot more vibrant and intense, while Rise of the Fall offers the listener some elements from Reggae music and more audible guitar lines, as well as more rhythmic beats. Moreover, the crazy screams by Mike Patton end up adding a lot of electricity to a song that’s below average for a band like Faith No More. Following the lowest point of the album we have Black Friday, a song purely inspired by 80’s classic rock music which despite its lack of creativity has a good blend of semi-acoustic parts and heavier riffs and screams.

And just when you think Faith No More cannot get weirder, they come up with the stupendous Motherfucker, another perfect choice for opening their live concerts, where the focus is obviously on Mike Patton’s vocal lines and the song’s eerie lyrics (“Get the motherfucker on the phone, the phone…”), also including the best guitar solo of the entire album. Not only that, I doubt you won’t be singing this song everywhere, even at work with your boss by your side. Unless you don’t know shit about the band, you probably know how much they love songs with Portuguese or Spanish names (and sometimes lyrics), but unfortunately the boring Matador doesn’t get close at all to the marvelous classic “Caralho Voador”, for example. It’s just an average song with nothing new or outstanding, except for the strong bass lines by Billy Gould. And sounding like a B-side from King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime, From the Dead gives a melancholic ending to Sol Invictus with the band’s trademark. It’s a good listen if you’re at home or in your car, but definitely not recommended for their live performances.

I wish there were a few more guitar solos by Jon Hudson and some faster beats by Mike Bordin in this or that song, as Sol Invictus sounds too calm for me in many of its moments, but at least we can loosen up knowing Faith No More are not “dinosaurs”. They are a more-than-alive group that still got it in them, and from now on (well, they’ve been doing this already) there are even more outstanding tunes in their lunatic arsenal to be masterfully played during their live concerts all around the world. And we’re all very thankful to the unparalleled Mr. Patton and his fellow mates for that, even if it took so many years for them to return.

Best moments of the album: Superhero, Separation Anxiety and Motherfucker.

Worst moments of the album: Rise of the Fall and Matador.

Released in 2015 Reclamation Records

Track listing
1. Sol Invictus 2:37
2. Superhero 5:15
3. Sunny Side Up 2:59
4. Separation Anxiety 3:44
5. Cone of Shame 4:40
6. Rise of the Fall 4:09
7. Black Friday 3:19
8. Motherfucker 3:33
9. Matador 6:08
10. From the Dead 3:06

Band members
Mike Patton – vocals
Jon Hudson – guitar
Billy Gould – bass guitar
Roddy Bottum – keyboards, vocals
Mike Bordin – drums