Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Diamond Lane-Save this city


As I listened to the opening riffs of Diamond Lane's "Bite the bullet" I suddenly saw flashes of 1990 in my head. I think this song triggered memories of hard rock from that time in that there were some hard rock bands who stepped up the heaviness level just enough to make you notice them. At that time I thought that was a good sign and that metal was going to rule the 90's like it did in the 80's. Of course I was dead wrong on that however I think that I have a better handle on what's going on with Diamond Lane's four song EP. The two founding members of this sourthern California based band are vocalist Brandon Baumann (22 ) and guitarist Jarret Reis (23). So these guys are fairly young yet this album very much sounds like early 1990's hard rock with some leanings towards Skid Row on the heavier tracks and a touch of Bon Jovi on "Lonely Road". They also put forth enough of their own ideas to make me think they are on to something as well. The opening riffs are big and undeniably tight plus the vocals are solid all the way through. I think the approach is different enough from a lot of the other young hard rock bands pouring out of every crevice these days. The only fault I had was a concern that 2/3 or so through every song except the ballad they seem to kind of run out of ideas. Not so much that it's repetitive, but more that they to need a little more of something to keep the song going throughout the entire length of the track. That didn't keep me from enjoying this album, but I think it's something that can be the difference between being good and being great and right now this band is in that first category. According to their Myspace page they have a full length album titled "World Without Heroes" slated for a late 2008 release. They are also looking for a 2nd guitarist, a bass player and a drummer to round out the line-up. So my hope is that they working on fine tuning their songs and find the rights people to fill in those spots.

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Your Highness Electric -The Grand Hooded Phantom

Longhair Illuminati

If you grabbed a hold of a big old handful of Black Sabbath style sludge, threw in some Led Zeppelin grooves then you would have a strong foundation. Let's say you took that foundation and then had the original Alice Cooper band arrange it in their oddly brilliant manner and then push in some early 80's style punk vocals and attitude. Okay, now you really have a whole mess of styles that sound as good working with each other as they do when working against one another. Just take all that shake it up and set it on it's side and you might begin to have an idea of what this CD sounds like. It's like they take chips from different genres and then kind of rotate around using bits of each in equal doses without over or underusing any of them. It doesn't matter so much whether it's metal, stoner rock or punk because what matters is the album works and oh, it probably it is all of the above if you feel the need to have a label slapped on it. Now, it's not exactly perfect though I am afraid. I know this band would hate me for saying so, but there were definite moments when these guys sounded like a less hip version of Wolfmother. Now I like Wolfmother alright, but I think that Your Highness touch on being a little accessible than maybe they were hoping to. The other thing is I think they could open and be a little crazier, it was like they seem to start to go a little wild and then they would reel it back. That's not to say they are predictable, but I think they could both handle and benefit from being a tad more unpredictable. Those are my minor complaints though because this is really a very intriguing album that does a lot and makes it all look rather easy.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Johnny Crash-Unfinished Business

Sun City

LA's Johnny Crash had some success back in hard rock's heyday however their second album never saw the light of day. This album included future Guns 'N' Roses members Matt Sorum (Drums) and Dizzy Reed (Guitar). Now Sun City has released it in it's entirety so we get to check it out. What we actually get is primarily AC/DC inspired hard rock with some touches of late 80's Aerosmith stirred in. The overall feel is fairly typical yet they do make some quick pace changes and do enough to vary the songs from the old three chord form that most bands with these influences follow to the letter. With titles like "Ditch the bitch", "When it gets hard" and "Mama don't care (what she don't see)" you know exactly what you are in for lyrically. However the vocals help greatly in keeping you from realizing at least some of the shortcomings the lyrics may have as does the extremely sharp production. Johnny Crash lean a little more towards hard rock than the sleaze side of this style. They manage to bring enough of their own flair and personality to make things interesting enough. It's not terribly original not even for when it was recorded yet I can see myself playing this one every once in a while. Not quite the lost gem that some people may have hoped for but a decent and appealing slab of hard rock.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Interview with John Ricci of Exciter

Canada’s Exciter were one of the early pioneers of speed metal/thrash back in the mid 1980’s. One of the first thrash bands I ever heard and they established their own sound. They are still going at it today, so I recently got to talk to guitarist John Ricci to find out about the band’s past, present and future.

MM-So what are you currently up to?
JR-We are getting ready to play Rock Hard Festival in Germany, May 10. We also played the Atarfe Vega Rock festival in Spain, March 8 .Right now we are doing one-off shows but are planning a full European tour this fall.

MM-Along with Metallica and Slayer you also released your debut “Heavy Metal Maniac” in 1983. Did you ever dream you would be one of the bands that would help create thrash and that it would go on to be such an important style of metal?
JR-We were caught completely by surprise by this title. We didn't realize the music that we were creating would be part of the next genre of heavy metal. I guess I could say our musical style was discovered accidentally. HMM was a collection of songs which was meant to be a 9 song demo recorded in the basement of our sound engineer's house.

MM-Around 1985-86 you were headlining clubs and had a following, but then it seemed like scene went on past you. Why do you think you didn’t become more popular than you were?

JR-We missed our chance at success because of a few reasons. The original line-up had many disagreements therefore affecting our business decisions and losing our focus. Also we never had proper management, we tried to manage ourselves but it really didn’t work. Being based in Canada is definitely a disadvantage. The Canadian music industry doesn't support metal musicians as a result we never had the same support like Metallica or Slayer had. They had people behind them pushing and promoting them. We didn't.

MM-What songs does your current set list consist of? Is it mainly songs from the 83-86 period or is it more of a mix of songs you have done over the years?
JR-Our song list is 50 % old stuff ( 1983-85, 1990-93) and 50% new stuff (1996-present )

MM-What are your audiences like these days? Is it all older fans or do you get a mix of young and old?
JR-A lot of younger fans who have discovered the origins of thrash metal are coming to our shows and our audience is growing because of this.

MM-In recent years there has been an outpouring of younger bands like Municipal Waste, Warbringer and Merciless Death who are playing 80 s style thrash. What do think about these bands and are they really doing anything that bands like yourselves didn't do twenty years ago?
JR-The younger bands are taking what we did and bringing it to a more extreme direction which is a good thing. There are a lot of really new metal bands out there, all the power to them.

MM-What younger metal bands do you like?
JR-I've been listening to Arch Enemy, Cannibal Corpse, Cradle of Filth, Kreator, High On Fire etc.


MM-There were several good thrash acts coming out of Canada besides yourselves such as Annihilator and Sacrifice. However, it doesn’t seem there was as many thrash acts coming from Canada as there were in the States and in Germany. Do you think that is true and if so then why?
JR-Like I mentioned before Canada is a country that follows musical trends and is primarily a pop market. As a result any musician in Canada that tries to put a thrash band together find out how hard it is to succeed, they get frustrated and quit, therefore less thrash bands coming from Canada.

MM-What is the metal scene like in your area today? Any great unsigned bands we should be aware of?

JR-There are some good new metal bands in our hometown Ottawa, Aggressor has a few demos and are currently developing themselves for success.

MM-Is there anything that you wish you had done different in your music career?
JR-I do have one regret, quitting Exciter in August 1985 but now that I think of it I wish the band the way we exist today was the original line-up, we would probably still be together with no break ups and line-up changes over the past 30 years. We would be further ahead in our career!

MM-What would be your advice to a young band just starting out?
JR-Keep going and never give up. The band must stick together through the good times and bad times. That's the only way things will happen for the band.

MM-If someone came up to you and said that they had never heard one of your albums but they would like to then what album would you recommend they start with and why?
JR-Thrash Speed Burn is the logical choice it's old school metal at its best and best describes Exciter's unique delivery of speed and power.

MM-If you had to pick three of your songs that you think are at least among your bands best, what would they be and why did you pick them? JR-Massacre Mountain...very intense high voltage classic in the Exciter tradition, The Dark and memorable, a favorite with the audience when performed live. Metal Crusaders.....a wicked anthem to all metalheads throughout the and furious !

MM-What do you hope to accomplish in 2008?
JR-Our main focus is to encourage sales of our new record Thrash Speed Burn and the only way to do that is to play live as much as possible. So far the pre-sales before the release date have been fantastic we're hoping that is a good sign. We're quite content with our new label, Massacre Records in Germany.

MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about your band or your music?
JR-Exciter's music is timeless, old songs or new songs they all deliver the essence of what metal is all about. Hail to all Metal Crusaders !!!

***Thanks to John for doing the interview.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yayo-The demos


Young guitarist/vocalist Yayo Sanchez hails from Austin, Texas. He is obviously a fan of 70's and 1980's hard rock as those sounds shine through loud and clear on the four tracks on his CD. Most of the tracks remind me quite a bit of Ratt with a slight sprinkling of early KISS. The guitar rhythms are basic, but solid and the vocals are decent enough. I like the guitar solos because he leans more towards tones and notes that really fit with the overall song as opposed to speed just for the sake of being flashy. I think some of the songs could use a little more variation at times and there is little doubt he could handle doing that as well. My favorite track was the final one "True" which has probably the strongest song structure of the bunch and you can just feel the track growing and building as it goes along. Rounding out the band on the CD are former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick on bass, Jerry Rubolino also did some bass plus piano and backing vocals. Bret Fitz (Vince Neil, Union) played drums on all songs. Kulick and Rubolino also helped with the writing so there were veteran hands helping out this young talent. As for Yayo, I think the playing talent is unquestionable, but he just needs to work on songwriting and maybe stretch out and take a few more risks here and there.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Violent Force-Malevolent assault of tomorrow

Metal Mind

Germany's Violent Force had a very short career as they formed in 1984, but were gone by 1989. They did a few demos then this album in 1987 and recorded another album, but it was never released. Having come from Germany at the peak of the thrash movement one might expect them to have the typical German speed metal sound that was largely defined by the big three of Kreator, Sodom and Destruction. However these guys obviously drew more influences from both UK and American bands. In order of influence I would say Slayer, Motorhead, Dark Angel and even hardcore bands like the Exploited inspired this particular thrash act. The music is relentless focusing more pure adrenaline and a fair amount of fire. The production is slightly low and fuzzy which actually works to their advantage because it gives the music a heavier feel. The biggest shortcoming might be that this wasn't anything new by 1987 standards because it actually sounds more like it could have been done around 1984-85. These guys have somewhat of a following even today and although it's good, solid thrash they did not nothing that hadn't already been done in the overall thrash scene even if they were slightly different than the thrash scene in their home country. I never heard this one back in the day although I do remember reading some good reviews on it. Once again Metal Mind does a fine job as the album sounds great and the booklet has lyrics and a band biography.

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What's coming up?

The biggest struggle at my house lately was being without our clothes washer for two weeks. We had to wait for a part to be ordered and finally it was fixed today and I could tackle that mountain of stinky clothes. The good news was our warranty covered the repair. Other than that I am still working my way through that stack of CDs I need to review. So this week I hope to have these out this week...

Reviews of...
Yayo-The demos
Violent Force-Malevolent assault of tomorrow (re-issue)
Johnny Crash-Unfinished Business
For Friday-Ekklesia
Your Highness-The grand hooded phantom
and maybe 1-2 more if possible.

Interviews with...
John Ricci of Exciter
David Reece of Bangalore Choir

and maybe a picture of my old back patch if I can get around to it.

***Here are ten things I think about music so far in 2008.

1-It's been a good year so far, but not a great one.
2-So far younger acts are beating the snot out of veteran acts.
3-I have heard a number of good demos from glam bands, but not a lot of good full length albums so far.
4-Like last year the overall best genres so far are doom metal and stoner rock. I would say bands from those genres occupy four-five spots in my top ten albums of the year so far.
5-Byzantine's Oblivion Beckons was the first album I heard this year and it's still the best release of 2008 so far.
6-I have not heard a whole lot of really bad albums so far, which is a good thing.
7-I have not heard a really good old style thrash album yet although I have not heard Testament's new one and Bonded by blood's new one is coming soon.
8-The 2008 release I would most recommend to fans of 1980's hard rock/metal is ShannoN's Angel in disguise.
9-Metal Mind records have released some outstanding re-issue CDs and some fine DVDs so far. A glance at their upcoming releases for the next few months looks just as good.
10-I am glad that Axl Rose's album still hasn't come out.

***Have a great week!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

The Hounds of Hasselvander-s/t

Rock Saviour

Joe Hasselvander is most known for having played with Pentagram and having been the drummer with Raven for the last two decades. However he has been involved with numerous other projects including playing on over half of Blue Cheer's last album. He has indeed been a very busy man over the last thirty years and this is his most recent project. This certainly leans more towards Pentagram in terms of tone although the bulk of the songs are generally heavier and slightly faster. It's a bit like early doom combined with late 1980's metal and there is probably more than a hint of Joe's idols Blue Cheer stirred into the mix as well. Since Hasselvander played guitar for Pentagram on some albums the songs here have that same thick as molasses feel although perhaps even more aggressive. So the overall sound is perhaps right in between doom and classic metal and has enough of each style to appeal to fans of both. The approach is basic without a great deal of variation, but the thickness of the music and the killer drumming more than make up for it. This is all Joe's baby because he wrote all the songs, played all the instruments, did all the vocals and co-produced the album. Needless to say this is must have for fans of Pentagram for sure, fans of doom and more classic style metal will probably find enough about to enjoy as well. Hasselvander has added members for a live line-up and they have played a few shows in recent months.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

After Death-Retronomicon

Iron Pegasus

Something about this CD had me a little confused and it wasn't just the odd album title. It had to do with the music, it was this nagging feeling of familiarity with many of the songs. Yet it took me a few plays to place where I heard this style before. Then it came to me on about the third play of this CD. A good chunk of the material at least musically sounds like someone followed Kind Diamond into the studio around 87-90 and grabbed up some mid-tempo outtakes and then held on to them for years before slapping on some gravel like vocals and updating the drums a little. Actually this is a project from drummer/singer Mike Browning (Morbid Angel, Nocturnus, Incubus) and this CD includes songs recorded by different line-ups of the band from 2000 to 2006. There is some heaviness to it, but at best it's just mildy interesting and it's worse it's mind-numbingly dull. If your music is going to drone rather flow, you still have to have something to draw people in. This is more like filler with very little direction, it's like they are just sort banging around a little without any real rhyme or reason. The production is decent, but that kind of makes the album's flaws just all that more apparent. Obviously they got fascinated with gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt and there are various ramblings about mythology and such, but it doesn't matter much since the music isn't going to keep your attention enough and quite frankly neither will the vocals. The ancient pharaohs may not roll over in the tomb from this album, but like me they won't be too excited about it either.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Black Rain-Innocent Rosie


The three tracks on this EP from France's Black Rain are going to be on their upcoming "License to thrill" album. I was expecting a big dose of hairspray propelled glam and that's pretty much what this is. Yet their approach is slightly different at least from most of the other hordes of mid-80's inspired acts that have popped up in recent years. I first heard the vocals of Swan during the opening title track and I thought my ears were going to pop but then they adjusted to the higher pitch. The vocals actually work and they are definitely different in today's glam field, but it was just different than I was expecting. The second track "Rock your city" has a bit of a Ratt feel to the music, but the vocals come on with their own flavor and I like how they have fun with it. The final song "Nasty" begins with kind of an early Motley Crue riff and this may be the band's smoothest track of the three. It feels very complete and solid, like every little detail is in place. Black Rain are not re-inventing the wheel here, but the vocals and the overall musical approach are different enough to set them apart and there are certainly tight enough that I don't think they need much work. I don't know if that has to do with being from France rather than Sweden or not, but you are certainly not to get these guys confused with the number of Crashdiet sound alikes that are coming out of Sweden.So hopefully their full-length release comes out soon and we will see what they can do with even more time to fill.

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Lesser of two evils

Another Lesser of two evils is upon us and this time Rob from Hard Rock Hideout volunteered to do this one with me. We have...

Junkyard-s/t (1989)
Noisy Mama-Everybody has one (1991)
MM-Both of these bands kind of emerged when hard rock bands seemed to be pouring out of everywhere. Junkyard got a little notice and an obvious push because they were on Geffen and Tom Werman produced it. Noisy Mama kind of went unnoticed as they emerged in during the final times of hair metal’s prime and they were bit of a faceless band that kind of got swept away rather quickly. However they were on a major in Atco (division of Antlantic) and I remember their album cover on a full page ad in RIP magazine back in the day. While listening to these two CDs my biggest problem was that I couldn’t remember a whole about either one. I listened to them and maybe three days later I went to write my part of this feature and I could not remember enough about either band so I had to go back and listen to them again. This time I made sure to do the write-up the same day in order to avoid having to listen to these two releases again.

Rob Rockitt : I must admit, much like Mark, I haven’t listened to either Junkyard or Noisy Mama for a long time. I remember Junkyard’s single, Hollywood from MTV, and as far as Noisy Mama goes, I had no recollection, other than them being somewhat of an AC/DC clone.

MM-So it’s David Roach for Junkyard going against Paul Skowron for Noisy Mama. David Roach at his best is sort of like Taime Downe meets Bon Scott and at his worst he is like a bunch of mediocre late 80’s/early 90’s hard rock vocalists whose names are not that important. He can hold a tune well enough, but he’s not going to overwhelm you or reel you in that easily. He also sounds far more comfortable on the medium paced songs than he does on the slower ones. Paul Skowron must have wanted to impressions when he was a kid because he seems to be trying to bring in elements of all kinds of bigger name hard rock singers. Unfortunately he’s not copying them very well and he is not doing my ears any favors either. He can hold a tune to some extent, but he hurts the music by trying too hard to be like what he thinks a “rock singer” should do.
Point to Junkyard

Rob Rockitt: After playing Junkyard’s debut again, I was surprised of the sleazy sound of David Roach’s voice. He kind of reminds me of Jizzy Pearl from Love / Hate somewhat. He has a very limited range, but in the case of Junkyard’s 3 chord rock, he doesn’t need much. His voice fits well with the music.
Paul Skowron’s style is not one that I can put a finger on. He has a little bit of rasp in his voice, but his style isn’t exactly sleaze. His voice isn’t as coarse as Brian Johnson’s from AC/DC. He isn’t terrible, but not what I would consider great either. I think Roach’s voice has more depth.
Point to Junkyard

MM-We have Brian Baker and Chris Gates for Junkyard vs. Jimmy Gumina and David Scott of Noisy Mama. Both bands are fairly basic in this category and some of the influences are the same. Both have some obvious Angus Young moments and both bands wish they were good blues hard rock bands. However the reality is that Junkyard guitarists do enough to keep from sinking in a sea of mediocrity, but not a whole lot more. Almost twenty years after the fact and I still don’t know why punk rock legend Brian Baker threw in with this band. Noisy Mama’s guitarist also have some alright rhythms initially, but they just don’t do enough to keep the songs going and no one else in their band can really pick up the slack either.
Point to Junkyard

Rob Rockitt: Junkyard seems to stay on that bluesy borderline sleaze, hard rock. It is three chord rock with very few solos. Noisy Mama kind of sounds as if they want to be a Faster Pussycat playing AC/DC. For whatever reason they come across sounding like a pub rock band, and while I like this style of music, Noisy Mama’s guitar tandem of Jimmy Gumina and David Scott does not overwhelm me. Junkyard’s songs have a bluesy touch, and in my opinion, the guitar work is much better. There are a lot more solos present. At times this music reminds me of Cinderella’s style on their later releases.
Point to Junkyard

Rhythm section-

MM-Junkyard’s rhythm section is bassist Clay Anthony and drummer Patrick Michael Muzingo and they are up against bassist Chris Merulla and drummer Tommy Rich. Yeah, I don’t really hear the bass much on either album. Actually both drummers are alright enough, they keep things going through different paced tracks. I think the good production values on both albums help both drummers. After several plays I still didn’t see one as being better or worse than the other.

Rob Rockitt: The Rhythm section for Junkyard and Noisy Mama are both fairly standard. Both bands have mid tempo to high speed rockers. I don’t hear a whole lot of bass playing from Clay Anthony on most of Junkyard’s songs. I do hear a tad bit more coming from Chris Merulla from Noisy Mama, but just barely. It’s a virtual tie as far as Junkyard drummer Patrick Michael Muzingo and Noisy Mama drummer Tommy Rich goes. Either drummer could stand in for each other, and I doubt you would tell a difference.
Point to Noisy Mama


MM-Let’s get the pleasant part over first and that is that both have good production values. No doubt about that although Junkyard might be a hair better. However they are lucky that is part of this category because neither act is going to score high on originality. Junkyard copy AC/DC, ZZ top and other bands to various levels of success although without as much groove as either act. Noisy Mama copy AC/DC and others to slightly lesser levels of success because they seem to be trying too hard, but lack the playing and writing skills needed to pull it off. In a time when every band with long hair and a Marshall stack was getting a record deal, I am not sure why these bands or their management thought they were special enough to make it.
Point to Junkyard

Rob Rockitt: Originality? You are kidding me right? Neither Junkyard or Noisy Mama have a sound that is remotely original. The production quality is about even with both bands, but once again, Noisy Mama kind of sounds like an above average bar band that recorded a CD. Junkyard sounds like a watered down product of the 80’s Sunset Strip sprinkled with a dash of AC/DC. With that being said, I still like them better than Noisy Mama.
Point to Junkyard

Who rocks more?
MM-This category is rapidly becoming more like “which one can I stomach more”. The answer is that although Junkyard are kind of a second rate AC/DC at best, that still beats out Noisy Mama who would be a stretch to be referred to as a third rate AC/DC. Junkyard certainly didn’t tear it up, but they had a few songs that flowed enough to get close to rocking. Noisy Mama hit a few moments, but they have more trouble sustaining a whole song. Noisy Mama just sound like they wanted so bad to play rock star that they sound like they are trying too hard and failing.
Point to Junkyard

Rob Rockitt: When it comes right down to it, I can still play Junkyard’s disc today, and get a little bit of enjoyment out of it. I liked them enough to pick up their second disc, Sixes, Sevens and Nines, and I play that disc from time to time as well.
I did like Noisy Mama’s tunes Dirty Dog, and Million Miles, but the rest of the stuff is fairly standard. I probably wont give their disc a whole lot of play after today. So who do I think Rocks more? Junkyard has the songs that I will listen to more, from time to time. Point to Junkyard.

MM-My scorecard says Junkyard 4, Noisy Mama 0 and one tie.
Junkyard was not that awful, but when you can listen AC/DC and some decent AC/DC copycats like Rhino Bucket and the Four Horsemen then why test your patience with this average pulp? Noisy Mama had maybe one or two songs where I really liked the whole thing and maybe only 1-2 were really bad, but the rest was just so lukewarm and forgettable. It’s very easy to see why this band never made a blip on anyone’s radar.

Rob Rockitt. Junkyard 4, Noisy Mama 1. Junkyard is a solid hard rock act, and they have better songs than Noisy Mama, but not by much. In fact, if you put both discs in your playlist, the songs tend to run together in some cases. Both bands seem to borrow from that AC/DC style of rock. Maybe it is an unfair comparison, but neither band can hold a candle to, Airbourne, who I saw live recently. Both discs are somewhat average, but Junkyard’s is a tad bit better. I owned both of these on cassette, and I now understand why it took me so long to replace these on CD.

****There you go and thanks to Rob for doing this with me. He writes Hard Rock Hideout
If you think you have ears of iron, a stomach of steel and feel up to doing a Lesser of two evils with me then you can reach me by using the contact on the upper left hand side of this page.

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Phantom Witch-s/t (EP)

Heavy Artilley

This will actually be released as a six song vinyl only release with a limited number of 500 copies being pressed and the band will have a full length album out later this year as well. However, the band’s label has sent out a four song CD as I am assuming this is 2/3 of the upcoming EP. Okay, Phantom Witch hail from Indiana and I started hearing some buzz about them last year. It is immediately evident that they loved those days back in the mid-80’s when speed metal was a new phenomenon the style was pretty straight forward. That’s all well and good because I ate that stuff up back then and lived to hear every new leather studded bracelet and black band wearing shirt that popped up. However the genre progressed or at least many of the bands did after a short period of time. Phantom Witch have picked a spot around 1983-84 and that is straight where their sound comes from. More specificily the songs contained here are so Show no mercy/Haunting the chapel era Slayer that I can’t think of a whole lot else when I am listening to this. Hey, I loved that chapter in Slayer’s career probably more than most fans however Slayer quickly moved past it. Even the bands that were influenced by those Slayer albums back then moved past it rather quickly as well. Yet Phantom Witch seem to be approaching these album not as a stepping stone, but more as a script and they sticking to this script with little variation or ideas of their own. That’s the problem because although I liked this style over two decades ago, doing the same thing without adding any gusts, spurts or fragments of your own does not define your band. I realize there are bands today who sound like early 70’s metal and mid-80’s glam an indeed some of those bands sound like their idols without adding their own ideas. However this new wave of style thrash bands seem to be the biggest culprits for not adding anything to the mix. I don’t know why that is, but album after album of thrash re-hash seems to be causing me to see this current phase in that light. I am not going to write Phantom Witch off because the talent is obvious and so is their enthusiasm, but the ideas have been done and re-done and then some. If you like old style thrash then you may be absolutely thrilled by this one, if you already heard every speed metal band that’s come down the pike then this may not be for you.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Saints of the underground-Love the sin, hate the sinner


I’ll don’t like Warrant, I never have and I doubt that I ever will. Whew, I am glad to get that off my chest so I can start this review. Now I have liked Warrant and I always Jani Lane was a particularly bland vocalist. Yet I never knew if he himself was bland or if it was just the material. When I saw this “supergroup” of sorts coming out with a release I decided to give it a shot. Joining the Warrant frontman are Ratt members drummer Bobby Blotzer, bassist Robbie Crane and Keri Kelli (of Alice Cooper’s band and others). My thoughts before playing this were that Lane was either going to sink it with some lifeless vocals or he was going to rise to a level he had never previously achieved and carry this album with him. Actually it’s not 100% either of those choices, but most surprisingly this album leans towards that second category. Like a number of other 80’s hard rock singers (Joe LeSte, Jamie St. James) Jani Lane’s voice has gotten deeper with age. However unlike those other guys it seems to have helped Mr. Lane form some much needed grit in his vocal delivery instead of the syrupy approach he used far in the late 80's-early 90's. In addition to the tone of voice Jani also seems much more comfortable with the material than he did back he going on about cherry pies and wherever it was that the Down Boys were going to. The music is hard rock with some power pop and plain rock undertones and on several tracks they remind me of Cheap Trick. I think the fact that the two guys in the rhythm section have played together for about a decade is obvious in the sound and it’s a major plus. I also was greatly relieved that they avoided the overdone, sickeningly repetitive choruses that so much defined Warrant. Now the tracks aren’t anything new by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, but they are decent and everyone involved sounds comfortable. My initial guess on this project was that it would be a real dud like Contraband (anyone remember them?). However perhaps it’s experience or perhaps it’s the fact that they are doing songs they like instead of doing strictly to try and land a hit single, no matter what the motivation this is a decent album. There are two cover songs with as they deliver a solid version of Tom Petty's American Girl which is a fine fit for Jani's voice. They also cover the Stones' Moonlight Mile, but they seem a little more hesitant to put their own brand on it and it's just alright as a result. Some of the best tracks were "Exit", "Dead Man's Shoes" and the very Thin Lizzy-esque Jimmy. This album doesn't change the history of those involved, but unlike a number of other 80's hard rockers everyone involved here can claim to have been part of a pretty good album.

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Dark Suns-Grave, Human, Genuine


Germany’s Dark Suns have released their first effort in three years and it’s a rather scattered blast of progressive, avant garde and metal. Thee drums at their peak are just all over the place in a chaotic rage of sounds and they were by far the highlight of this album for me. The bass was there at times, but not as active I was hoping for. The guitars were kind of a disappointment on several tracks with rather thin intermittent bursts that were neither powerful or intriguing enough to really make their precense known. This really bugged because the overall needed some more risks from the six strings, but it didn’t happen enough and the overall feel of the music suffered some for sure. The vocals varied from clean to kind of high pitched shrieks that sometimes hit some melodies and sometimes they didn’t. My impression was just there just wasn’t enough on here to keep my interest. They had some moments of bashing and noise that drew me in initially, but they never quite had of anything going on. I am not sure who this is going to appeal to because it’s not metal enough to bring metal fans in. The progressive parts lack strong guitar or vocals and just are not wild or adventurous enough to really appeal to avant garde fans. It’s not that it’s all bad, but they just don’t seem to have a real direction and they don’t make very good use of their time.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

The return

"Whole lotta album covers" has returned with the same great staff. Not sure that we will be posting more than once a week, but drop by and check it out. The first new post is up and waiting for you to come and gaze at it.

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Thieves and Liars interview

Thieves and Liars are from San Diego, California and play a style of music that is largely influenced by classic hard rock/metal bands. They recently released their debut “When dreams become reality”. I interviewed Guitarist Corey Edelmann to find out more about this band, their album and their plans.

MM-Tell us a little about your band's history and who you guys are.
CE--- I started the band 6 years ago with the idea of doing a heavy rock and roll band, it took years before I found the right guys, Joey and Kyle have been in it for about 3 years now.

MM-Who came up with the band name and why was it selected?
CE---- It was an idea by one of the old members Ryan, he felt like a lot of people were judging him, he liked the idea that we are all thieves and liars and not as good as we think we are, so we shouldn't be so quick to judge others.

MM-Your album "When dreams become reality" is a concept album about the story of Joseph. Why did you decide to use this particular story for your album?

CE--- It was an idea that I had for a long time. I liked the idea of doing a concept record on a story that everyone already knew instead of making up something. I think it is harder to tell a story musically that way, it is almost like writing a score for a movie. The reason I chose that story is because I have had a very troubling time in the last years, the 3 names that the record is dedicated to are my son, mother in law, and best friend, who all passed away in one year. When you read the story of Joseph you see life being very cruel to him, things go from bad to worse, but you never see him give up or become jaded, he never turns his anger toward God but just keeps moving on, It has been very inspiring for me.

MM-Your Myspace page says that you worked several years on your album. What was the writing process like? Did you break the story down first and then assign parts to each song or did you just start with the beginning and work from there until it was complete?
CE--- We just started writing songs and knew what the feel for each chapter of the story was like, so when we had a song we would say "hey that might work for this part" and so on. We wanted the most aggressive song for "betrayed by blood" and the saddest songs for Joseph's time in jail. The title track took a long time to find. How do you show the epic feel of his dreams becoming reality? Overall I am very happy with how it turned out. We may not have written any hit singles but I think we did a good job telling the story musically.

MM-Your album has a rather 1960's/1970's feel to it. Did you use any equipment or techniques in the studio to achieve the sound?

CE ---- Ya we did. We recorded to tape at half speed(15 ips) and we recorded the drums mostly with overhead mics and couple of room mics and snare and kick mics instead of micing each drum individually. The bass and one rhythm track were also tracked at the same time as drums so we did most of the record live. Seven long years you can even hear me switching my toggle switch after the solo to go back into the rhythm. Vocals were done with pro tools to save time and money.

MM-How long did the album take to record and produce?
CE-- We started in April of '07 and finished in July. We weren't working every day because we did not have a lot of money to record the record so the studio just gave us whatever time they could afford to give us for the price we could pay.

MMWhat was the most difficult aspect about making this album?
CE---- Waiting. Everything just kept getting pushed back. It all worked out but it got frustrating during the process.

MM-What has been the response to your album so far?
CE--- Like any new band there will always be mixed reviews. We get both good and bad reviews but that is just how it goes. Every band when they first come out is always just compared to the bands they sound similar too, for some that is good or bad. Nothing is original, and with rock music there are far less bands than say metal bands. So for those few rock bands it almost seems people are more critical that we sound like this band or whatever. As if there has been a metal band in the last 20 years that is doing something different. Eventually if the band has success, ironically they are the point of reference. Like Coldplay is no longer a Radiohead rip off, now bands are a Coldplay rip off.


MM-How did you come to get signed by Facedown records?
CE-- Jason Dunn is along time friend of mine and I really respect his business ethics, which is rare is the record industry. We tried to get a deal with a major at first but they are all dying right now, so an independent seemed the logical route and working with Jason was an easy choice, but so people did not just affiliate us with his hardcore bands he chose to start a new imprint called dreamt and we are his first signing.

MM-You have a few tour dates set for the spring, mainly in California. Are you going to tour this summer and is there any chance you will make it to the East Coast?
CE-- Our goal is to tour everywhere, but we want to do it the right way. If we can get on a good tour we will be out there for sure. But gas is too expensive to just get in a van and head out to shows.

MM-What are you doing that sets you apart from other bands today?
CE -- I don't know, uhhhh. Every band has its own unique way of doing things. I like being a rock band that is more hessian sounding but still having a classic rock vibe. I like that we could play on a tour like Ozzfest, a lot of the rock bands out right now are not hess enough for that. But we are not doing anything new, no one is, its all the same 12 notes just re-packaged in a new shiny cover, over and over. We stand out right now because there are not as many bands doing what we are at the moment, but there is nothing new under the sun.

MM-What is the club scene like in the San Diego area? Are there any great unsigned bands there that we should know about?
CE--- The Delta Spirit just got signed, but they are the best thing to come out of SD lately. Dirty Sweet are awesome. There are a lot of good rock bands but the music scene is difficult here, too much going on so its hard to get people out to shows, always has been, unless you are already huge nationally, then there might some people out.

MM-Having done a debut that's over an hour long and a concept album, does this put any pressure on you for your next album to be along the same scale? Have you started writing any new songs yet?
CE-- It took us so long to get that album out we are already anxious to get into the studio and get another album out. We have already started writing. The next album will be different because we just want to write an album of good rock songs which is very freeing. The last album we would have some good songs that just did not fit the story so we passed on them. We have a handful of great songs that we just couldn't use for the last album. Now we can just write 20 good songs and pick the best ones for the album, like everybody else. I want to do a couple covers on the next record too. Well see what happens.

MM-Pick the band from the following pair that you prefer and tell why.


Black Sabbath or Deep Purple-- Sabbath, more hess.

AC/DC or Thin Lizzy -- AC/DC, more hess.

Aerosmith or Van Halen.--- Aerosmith, more rock and roll.

Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd. ----Wow that's the hardest question I have ever had to answer, those are my too favorite bands and I never know which one I like more. I'll go with the Zep because they are more hess.

MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about your band or your music?

CE--- Listen to our whole album at least 3 times before you decide whether you like us or not. We are the type of band that grows on you.

***Thanks to Corey for doing the interview.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Merciless Death-Realm of terror

Heavy Artillery

This is the sophomore effort from Southern California's old style thrash band Merciless Death. I kind of like this album, but I liked it a whole lot more when Slayer did it under the title of "Show no mercy". This is very early, say 83-85 style speed metal and they seem to try hard to make every detail of the music sound like it was from that time period. I think the question has to come after hearing any of these style thrash albums is why do this when it's already been done? I still can't figure why these bands and still chopping away at this kind of music like they think it still 1985. Okay, they like the style, but if you don't add anything of your own to it then you come across as a speed metal cover band. I am sorry that many of these bands missed the speed metal explosion of the 1980's becuase they had not yet been born or were in diapers. However, time moves on and so should music to some extent. I thought their 2007 debut "Evil in the night" was decent, but they needed to bring their own ideas and the vocals needed some real help. Well, the vocals on the new album are a little better, definitely deeper and more intense. The music is tighter overall and the production might even be sharper. Yet the part they spent no time on is adding their own ideas. This is just 28 minutes and 12 seconds of a style of metal that was done well over twenty years ago and done better back then. I love speed metal a lot, but if you are not bringing anything of your own to the mix then I fail to see the point in why I should listen to this when I can just pull out a Slayer or Dark Angel album and play that instead. I still hope they keep pushing at it, but I hope at some point that they realize that they need to stretch their music out and begin to define their own sound.

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Believer-Extraction from mortality

Metal Mind

I remember reading good reviews about Believer's debut back in 1989 and I remember reading a good interview with them around then as well. However I never pursued any of their CDs because I was ignorant in thinking that because they were a christian band they would not be very heavy. I guess that my train of thought was that all christian rock sounded like Stryper and Petra. Fortunately I have gotten to get ahold of this re-issue of this album so I can hear what I have been missing. Believer played thrash a little in the style of Exodus and Testament although with even grittier vocals. The sound leans a little more towards heaviness than speed which helps the music to have a very thick feel to it. They plow into almost every song with a lot of confidence and more fire than many acts who just went through the paces back then. It's not the most original thrash release ever done and it came when thrash was into it's peak which means it was a crowded field when this came out. Yet they approached their material with a head full of steam and the end product shows that for sure. They control the pace and really milk each moment as much as possible and that in itself sets them well above the bands who thought thrash was only about speed. This re-issue includes a thick booklet, a nice package and I am certainly glad to find out that these guys far exceeded my expectations.

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Flying V

Perhaps I should known what was coming when I saw the image on the back on the insert that showed a man wearing ancient garb inside an Egyptian tomb looking at this band's Myspace page on his computer. However, I did not judge this CD by it's back cover and soldiered on. My interest in this project was really just because half of this band (guitarists Simon Lees and Andy Hart) had played in Budgie at different points. They say this project combines numerous different styles of music and indeed does. It has elements of metal, jazz rock and more modern rock traits as well. Unfortunately they seem to have decided to pick some of the worst traits of each style. There are number of instrumentals and although most of them have some decent guitar parts they all become horribly repetitious before even reaching their halfway point in the running time. The songs with vocals tend to lean more towards modern rock although without much energy or enthusiasm. The vocals are done by Sarah Co'burn who is the daughter of bass player Pete Williamson. Her vocals are in tune, but they just kind of float out there with no real thrust or direction. I know this was a project that everyone involved said they were very excited about. However it sounds like they got together over a weekend, threw some random parts together and switched the record button on while they noodled around, called it an album and packaged it up for sale. It just really reeks of being very underdone and no amount of ancient Egyptian references can save this bland effort from feeling like a side project that wasn't worth doing.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's coming up?

I am starting to accumulate a leaning stack of CDs sitting on a shelf so I need to knock out more reviews this week for sure before it topples over and crushes someone. So here are the topics I hope to have out this week.

Reviews of...
Your Highness-The Grand Hooded Phantom
Dark Suns-Grave Human Genuine
The Hounds of Hasselvander
Merciless Death-Realm of terror
and maybe 1-2 more.

Interviews with...
Thieves and Liars
Slik Helvetika

A Lesser of two evils with guest Rob from Hard Rock Hideout. We will be doing Junkyard vs. Noisy Mama.

Have a great week!

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Interview with Mustang Cobra

Mustang Cobra hail from Rhode Island and have been around for about a year now. I heard some good things about them so I got to check in with them and find out more about this band and what they are up to.

MM-Please introduce yourselves and tell what instrument you play.
My name is Christian White and I front Mustang Cobra.
My name is Aaron Leidecker and I am one of the guitarists.
My name is Natalie & I play the drums.
Dino-I tickle the six string fretboard.
Zeus Sousa....rider thunder.

MM-Tell us a little about the history of your band.
N: The band came together in April '07. The boys did a great job spreading the gospel of Cobra WAY before I joined - they already had t-shirts made & had created buzz that resonated all over Providence and beyond. By the time they asked me to be their drummer, people were salivating at the mere mention of this band. They were dying for it. I think the band has done very well, despite only playing live since last August. Since the recent arrival of Christian on vocals, Mustang Cobra has become a freight train. Totally unstoppable. I'm proud to be in this band.
Z: History is a spoil of those that are victors....this story is this flesh and metal come together as blood and cold steel...

MM-Do you see this as just a temporary project or is it long term?
C: I see everything as long term until it becomes temporary. I am a fickle motherfucker but, with or without me, Cobra is forever!
A: I am willing to go as far as this is going to go.
N: In the beginning, I figured we'd go full-blast & see where it took us. Now, not even a year later, we have a great local fan base & people are demanding a CD. We're ready to break out of New England & get this show on the road.
D: I love Mustang Cobra 4-evaZ: I'm projecting this project is as long as the term of its existence.

MM-Who are your musical influences?
C: Glenn Danzig, Iggy, Miss Natalie, Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Josh Homme...Yes, I said JETHRO TULL. Metal indeed.
A: Just music in general. Whether it's "What's the Buzz?" from Jesus Christ Superstar or "The Anti-Christ" from slayer. When I HEAR good music, it influences me to MAKE good music.
N: As a drummer, I have influences all across the board. I love the metal masters - Iron Maiden, Slayer, etc. I also have a big place in my heart for the greats like Sinatra & Louie Prima. I'm heavily influenced by my band mates; they're all stellar musicians & make me want to become a better drummer.
D: Richard Marx,Rick Astley,and Gerardo to name a few.
Z: I'm a sucker for a falsetto....sing me to sleep with the hooks of your horns.

MM-How would you describe your sound?
C: We are metal heavy soft at the core gimme summmore gimme summmore...headbangin' orgy metal.
A: Traditional heavy metal. The way it was, the way it should be.
N: Classic Power Metal
D: Theatrics-KISS. Flash-Whitesnake. Sound-Diamond Head...kinda like "Kiss my WhiteHead"!
Z: White hot love fist fuck fight heat.

MM-What are some of your songs about and where do you get the ideas for your song topics?
C: Well...obviously there's swords and sorcery. Pagan dancing and hot blood. We are old testament metal. Angry and vengeful. Locusts and shit.
A: The lyrics I write are a lot about fantasy worlds. I don't really dive too deep into political/religious topics. But Christian is the main lyric man, so he probably has a totally different answer.
N: That's one for the guys to answer. I just hit things.
D: They're about 4-5 minutes long and as far as topics, we try to stay away from bad ideas.
Z: "Good composers borrow....great composers steal."-Paul McCartney...or so I was told. I don't bother to look up much of what I've heard. Yeah, sure???

MM-Some of you have been in bands that play different style of music and I believe that you have been on bills with bands from different genres. Is that difficult when you plays shows like that or is everyone still into what you are doing?
C: Well, that can be a mixed bag. Depends on the band. For instance, we'll play with a band like THE COLD WAR, who we sound nothing like, yet for some strange reason it works. Other times...not so much. The bottom line is when Cobra plays, no other bands matter. We are METAL. We are not musicians. We are destroyers.
A: I like when all the bands on a bill bring something different to the table. Shows where everyone is playing almost the same thing bore me.
N: Playing in bands of different styles makes you a well-rounded musician! I think the array of musical backgrounds we all have in Mustang Cobra has resulted in one bad-ass combination.We have definitely been on bills with bands that are nothing like us. In my opinion, that's a great thing. I personally am not a fan of going to shows with 3-4 bands that sound identical. Mix it up, make it interesting, and expose the crowd to different bands they may not have seen otherwise.
D: Not difficult at all. If we make 1 fan or 100, that show was worth playing. To be honest, if they ever invent a 500 dollar bill I would really like to be on that.
Z: Check out The Cold War. We like to hang out with them. Those Suffering Bastard/I, Destroyer kids are super awesome. Other people are usually alright. It's a fuckin' crapassshoot asswell....roll your 13 sided die to raise your charisma...."what is my, what is my?".

MM-What’s the music scene like in your area?
C: Myopic.
A: It's got a lot of potential. Some of the most talented musicians I have ever heard live not ten minutes from me. I love it.
N: Live music is in trouble. And not just in Providence - everywhere. Clubs are closing down one by one, being resurrected into lame Top-40 Meat Markets. It's unfortunate, but we're doing everything we can to keep the music scene thriving. Every time we play a show & there's a mass of sweaty people in front of the stage, pumping their fists and singing along, I smile. Live music in Providence will not die on our watch.
D: It needs fixing. There are many really great people in a ton of good bands that are busting their ass to get their music heard. CHECK THEM OUT!
Z: "...two words combined that don't make sense."

MM-How many original songs do you have so far? Any plans to record a CD in the near future?
C: We are recording right now. You can hear a track on our myspace page...myspace. com/mustangcobraband...
N: Eight and counting. We're in the process of recording our first full-length (or EP), and it will be diabolical.


MM-Do you play any cover songs live? If so then what?
A: What? And spoil the surprise? I will tell you that they are songs you love and will pump your fist and sing along to, but you'll have to come to a show to hear "the goods".

What are the some of the best shows that you have played so far?
C: The first show Mustang Cobra ever played (without me) at Jerky's was a high water mark for ANY RI band. Ever. With me, I'd say our 'Ides of March' show, also at Jerky's. I thought we owned.
N: The first show was RIDICULOUS. Fog, lights, and tons of metal horns up in the air. It was glorious. Since that debut gig, our first show with Christian (@ Ralphs Diner) was fantastic. He had one band practice with us, got up onstage, and owned it.
D: They have all been great in their own unique way, but personally the next one will always be my favorite.
Z: Any show that supplies enough sauce....

MM-Obviously you like 80’s metal a lot. What do you think was so good about the music from that decade?
C:Here was a solid mix of thrashy true metal, mixed with social commentary that lacked the demon of pretentiousness. It's a fine line between saying something and rawking out. You need to listen to the old masters to understand exactly how to do this without assing up the place.
A: Excess. That, and everything was about fun. Having a good time all the time....this is our motto, as well as Viv Savage's.
N: Decadence. All the great 80s bands pulled no punches when it came to their stage shows.
D: It's what I grew up on. If you don't like it now you never liked it then.
Z: I prefer the Metal from the 70's.

MM-What should someone who comes to one of your shows expect?
C: A harangue of black noise and both a stiff neck and cock. Don't come unless you are prepared to kneel.
N: To be completely aroused & go home with temporary Tinitus.

Pick the band from the following that you prefer and tell why.

KISS or Motley Crue
C: Tull.
A: Motley Crue. They are my favorite band of all time. KISS is up there though.
N: Crue! KISS is all cheese.
D: Well, KISS's "Destroyer" album was the first metal record I owned. I was probably 6 or 7 and my life hasn't been the same.
Z: I'd rather "meet, meetchyu in the ladies room" than go "smokin' in the boys room". Gene's tongue legends Tommy's dong.

Megadeth or Metallica
C: Tull.
A: Megadeth. Hands down. Dave Mustaine is a better song writer, better guitar player and he has ALWAYS kept it real. Well...kind of. More than Metallica, thats for sure.
N: Metallica. "Master of Puppets" will forever be in my Top 5.
D: I look at this like a boxing match. Metallica kicked their ass for the first few rounds. In the middle of the fight Megadeth started landing some heavy shots and the tide started to turn. Later in the fight they just danced around the ring without even throwing a punch. That's when I threw away my entire 9th grade wardrobe. But I am curious what Rick Rubin producing the new Metallica album will be like. Maybe they'll land that haymaker and knockout Megadeth in a Balboa like fashion.
Z: Why not have both...."Kill'em All"!!!

Iron Maiden or Judas Priest
C: Mustang Cobra.
A: You cant make me do that, man.
N: Maiden all the way. Although "Painkiller" is just so ridiculously good.
D: How? Why?...impossible.
Z: The electric eye burrows deeply in the furrows of a piece of mind. This is a gangland of orgiastic harmonies, you'd better learn your lesson and get hell bent! We are the neighbors of the beast....and it's two minutes to midnight!

MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about your band or your music?
C: Music is a cunt. This is still a fistfight.
A: If you haven't heard us, listen. If you haven't seen us, come to a show. We have a blast onstage, the crowd has a blast offstage. It's a party and it always will be.
N: If I wasn't in Mustang Cobra, this would be my favorite band to go see. Get your ass to a show.
D: CD out soon, hitting the road, spreading the word!
Z: We like Jagermeister. Don't be shy, buy us a round....

***Thanks to Mustang Cobra for doing the interview.

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Friday, April 18, 2008



Progressive metal and progressive rock are tricky styles in my book, tricky meaning I think they are difficult to pull off. However that's as it should be because they tend to require a great deal of skill so it's okay for us listeners to have a high standard. The opening intro "In solitude" for some reason reminded me of Harry Potter movie music. After that almost every song has the same shortcoming. Picture yourself floating up in a hot air balloon, but you have no control over where it's going. It might be pretty for a little while, but then you realize it's not going anywhere and it's no longer very pleasant. The bulk of this album is kind of like that. They know how to play their instruments, but everything kind of floats along with very little rhyme or reason. They avoid being self-indulgent, but still it's just passage after passage that just kind of meanders around until the time is up. I hear a huge dose of Dream Theater and smaller doses of Rush, early Queensryche and Crimson Glory. However, all of those bands (to various extents) knew when to zig and zig and how to keep the flow of the music interesting. Bushwhack kind of missed out on that part of the lesson even though they have some technical skills. But all the technical skills in the world won't save an album if it's not arranged decently. I liked some of the tones and the production, but it kind of felt like video game music to some extent. It was just kind of going in a big loop and even though it was kind of showy it still seemed like background music because it lacked the hooks that it sorely needed. When it was all said and done this album felt rather flat despite the playing ability of this band and their talent is just wasted with this approach. These guys are really young so they still have time to figure it out and I hope they do.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Interview with John Hoyles of Witchcraft

Sweden's Witchcraft have been cranking out their 1970's influenced doom for several years now. They released their album "The Alchemist" back in the fall of 2007. I recently got to interview guitarist John Hoyles to find out more.

MM-What has been the response to “The Alchemist” so far?
JH-Its been great! Ive read some good reviews and we have received a lot of fan mail from people who are enjoying the album.

MM-How do you the new album compare with your previous albums?
JH-I think we have become better song writers and have worked more as a team. Also we had a proper producer called Tomas Hakava who also run the studio Up And Running Studios where we recorded. I also prefer the production to our previous albums the guitars and drums sound alot better.

MM-Was the writing and recording process any different for this album?
We had a longer time to work on the songs and having a producer who also knew his way around the studio made things a lot smoother.

How did your tour of the United States in late 2007 go?
JH-Touring the states was one the funnest things I ever done. We had no idea what to expect but when we got there the response was great specially on the west coast and New York. Also meeting Phil Anselmo and Down and Jamming with Bobby Leibling and Joe Hasselvander from Pentagram was surreal!

MM-Are American audiences different from the audiences in Europe? If so then how are they different?
JH-Not really. We have a bigger following in the US and people seem more into the music. It seems like the music we play is becoming very popular in the states thanks to bands like Wolfmother they are referring our music as hipster metal for some reason....

MM-Sweden has had a huge outpouring of death metal bands and more recently glam bands. Was it difficult for you emerge from that scene? Are there any great doom or stoner bands in Sweden that we should know about?
JH-There's a few bands about like Graveyard from Gothenburg who are really good and also a band from our home town Örebro called Deadman that play very psychedelic hard rock. They have just released an album on crusher records. Well worth checking out!

MM-What current bands do you like a lot?
JH-I'm really into the US band Danava who we are touring with in April. They sound like a mix of Black Sabbath and Hawkwind. They are really cool.

MM-You have a very fuzzy sound to your production. Is that difficult to reproduce live?
JH-I think we sound quite similar live. We have old amps and stuff so I don't think its that different.

MM-What do you hope to accomplish in 2008?
JH-We are going back to the states in August for a couple of weeks and are playing some festivals in the summer so I'm pretty satisfied. I hope we can finish writing songs for a new album.

MM-Is your material written to sound like a 1970’s album or does it just turn out that way due to who your influences are?
JH-Everyone in the band has been diehard fans of 60s and 70s rock music since we were 15 and I think its come naturally our sound and song writing.


MM-Obviously you are hugely influenced by early 1970’s metal. What do you made the music from that time period special as compared to music from other times?
JH-Not all bands were good back then but the ones who were sounded very honest and real also the production back then fitted guitar based music a lot better then the sound of today. I think there's a lot of good bands today but they are much harder to find.

MM-Choose the band from the following pair that you prefer and tell why.

Bang or Captain Beyond
That's difficult they are both such good bands. I Like Bang because they were one of the first heaviest bands around along side Black Sabbath and Sir Lord Baltimore and they have a great singer. Captain Beyond is brilliant because of the song writing and being amazing musicians. There first album is one of my favorite albums of all time.

Uriah Heep or Wishbone Ash Wishbone Ash.
Ive never really liked Uriah Heep I find them very boring. Wishbone Ash have some great songs and really good guitarists.

Candlemass or Saint Vitus
I'm not that fond of either. Ive never really liked the 80's and 90's doom scene. Magnus likes both really a lot.

Black Sabbath or Pentagram
Also very difficult, I cant really say which one I like the most.

***Thanks to John for doing the interview.

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Tape Eater

I had a CD skip once briefly last night because my son had gotten a hold of it and greased it up with his fingers. I cleaned it off and it played fine after that. However that brief when it was sounding bad reminded me of a cassette player I had back in the mid-1980's. I couldn't afford a stereo and my parents got me this small boombox for my 15th birthday. It worked fine for a while, but then every once in a while it would eat a tape. I would hear this gurgling as the tape was being devoured. I would frantically try to rescue it, hoping to stop it and get the tape out before it got shredded. Yet I buying cassettes for years, but that's because I didn't have a turntable yet. A shame I didn't get a turntable earlier or else I would have even more cool albums instead I own some of albums and have a bunch of useless cassettes.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fever Jack-Get the hell out



Imagine the scrawniest kid from your school days talking crap to the biggest kid. It may have been have amusing for a few seconds, but ultimately you would know that even though the scrawny kid was talking tough that they ultimately didn't have the muscle to back it up. When it's all said and done that's about how I feel about this album from Italy's Fever Jack. The title, the image and the spoken intro for the title track all have you thinking they are really going to bring something. However what they bring is a lot of hot air, luke warm riffs and sometimes flat and ineffective vocals. It's not exactly bad and in fact almost every single track starts with some promising licks. However any signs of promise fade fast as the guitars quickly dip down in repetitive mode and the bland vocals come on and amateur night begins. The influences I hear might be Pantera, Alice in Chains and maybe even Zodiac Mindward, but far less intersting. The beats and heaviness are not far from being something, but the songwriting is a long ways off. I gave it repeated plays hoping something might click, but I actually got more annoyed with each play. I like the guitar tone a little and the production was fine, but the vocals don't help and this band is in desperate need of finding some hooks and a real sense of direction.

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Conqueror Worm

I received an e-mail from a member of San Francisco's Conqueror Worm asking me to check out their Myspace page. A doom band who likes Poe and horror movies caught my interest right away so I went over to check them out. They currently have four songs for people to check out. They obviously love horro films and the influences span from the early days of metal in the late 60's/early 70's up to modern doom and includes metal, doom and early black metal that falls in between those two time periods. For some reason my first impression brought thoughts of Electric Wizard's self-titled album. Not so much in style, but more in appraoch because the music is very abstract in it's structure. It's more open in nature rather than being tight structured. I think the approach becuase their is enough going on to sustain your interest. The approach seems more 90's like say early Electric Wizard and Dopesmoker-era Sleep, but the sound is more early 1970's. I was thinking Pentagram and Bang are the band's that the guitar tone reminds me as it's thick yet they depend on lot on very singular notes. A big plus for Conqueror Worm is the rhythm section because too many modern doom bands rely so much on the guitar that they forget about the importance of a heavy foundation depending so much on the drums and bass. These guys get everyone involved from the get go and it gives the music a heavier sound and you can feel the wall of sound just being built up around you. The vocals were alright, spoken at times and more lively at others. I was a little more impressed by the music, but maybe the production is holding them back a little, I am not sure. Yet I certainly liked most of what I heard here and hope they progress towards pushing to do as much as they can. So hop over and check them out.

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Clash of the album covers

Sometimes a band just uses a simple logo on their cover and that's what we have this week. So it is...
Twisted Sister-You can't stop rock n' roll (1983)


Whitesnake-s/t (1987)

***So which one do you prefer?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008



I wonder if around 1970 that Black Sabbath had any inkling of the far lasting impact they would create with their deep down sludge-driven approach? Probably not, they were likely just going from one song to the next doing what they thought sounded good. However, their legacy is still as strong as ever in today’s cluttered world of music. Norway’s Sahg tap rather deeply into the vein of Sabbathy style doom as the basis for their work. How a band translate their influences is the key and different bands of course take Sabbath’s foundation and build in different directions. Sahg’s sound is more stuck in the 1970’s than a number of other doom bands. The sound is simple yet cutting plus the production is just right for allowing the sound to have enough fatty heaviness piled on it. I must admit that the first few tracks were a bit more typical than I hoped, but after that Sahg open up and let loose with a flurry of spine-rattling musical jams here and there. The biggest plus about this band seems to be the spontaneity of their music as they can just start rip off a wall of sound and it fits just fine despite the slight lack of conventional song structure. The vocals are a little like Ozzy in the approach, but a little less nasal. The band also inject some 80’s style metal in places and it adds to the overall heaviness. This certainly won’t make you forget Sabbath, however that’s not the point. The point is that Sahg are taking what’s been done and slowly adding to it to twist and mold it into their own. I think they are on the way towards establishing their own sound and identity.

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There was once a time back around oh say 1987 to 1990 when death metal was fairly new and bands in this style were still lumped in under the much larger heading of thrash. During this phase some of the earlier death metal bands still had a good deal of thrash within their style o various extents. Why am I rambling about something that happened twenty years ago? Well, that is because Indianapolis based Plaguesayer sound a whole like a band caught between prime late 80's thrash and the early days of death metal. They use the best of both styles to their advantage by building up an edge with thrash bits and then bringing the hammer down some with chaotic death metal style attacks. I think their approach allows them more room in which to work and they take full advantage of it by incorporating quick pace changes and utilizing off beat bursts here and there. The vocals are between both styles, but lean more towards the traditional death metal method. The guitars as they should, which means they are sharp, often lightning quick and brutally heavy when needed. The rhythm section is probably above average with the drums really hitting upon some different approaches which helps keep the overall feel more unpredictable than it could have been. Perhaps the overall sound is a little dated, but I always preferred my death metal with some strong thrash passages thrown in and Plaguesayer deliver that in an aggressive fashion. On a few of the earlier tracks the production seems a little low primarily on the guitars as they fall a little far below everything else. The problem was soon rectified though as most of the tracks have a thick, rich sound suited to their style. I think they are good at what they are do and they even occasionally tap into some interesting parts that lead me to believe that they have not only the skill, but the creativity to progress even more. I like what's here and hope they keep pushing and plugging away.


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