Saturday, January 31, 2009
Twenty-five years into the game and Sepultura are still forging ahead. During that time span they have certainly gone through their share of line-up changes. They have also gone through numerous musical approaches with mostly positive results. The new release is based around “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess. That's the novel, not Stanley Kubrick’s film). The album consists of 18 songs with a whopping running time of over 60 minutes. Each song is a only couple of minutes long. In many ways the songs feel more like chapters and the structure is often loose at best. They reached out and pulled in elements of thrash, hardcore and a few brief tribal type rhythms. So basically it's comprised of styles that they have done in the past. Yet the arrangements are ferocious and focused enough to really have an impact. Despite the sometimes rough feel, "A-Lex" undoubtedly works as a whole. There is much to take in due to the amount of songs and different styles, but all of the parts are important. They tend to sacrifice melodies for aggression and that does limit them. Still they certainly keep everything rolling along except for a few slightly dull moments towards the middle of the album. Cavalera-less Sepultura may be, but that doesn't take aways from the fact that this album still caries on the dark, heavy and intriguing style of music that this band has come to be known for.
Labels: 2009 Sepultura
Friday, January 30, 2009
What's coming up?
Originally I was going to have my review of the new Sepultura up today, but I just ran out of time. So I will have that out on Saturday. I was watching a number of old shows this week including Wonder Woman. Back in the late 70's early 80's I used to love these "action" shows. Now I go back and watch programs like Wonder Women, Dukes of Hazzard, Buck Rogers, The Incredible Hulk and others and wonder who wrote this crap? Or importantly why was so I into them back then? I guess it was because I was a kid and didn't know any better. I don't know what my excuse is these days as I still watch them. I guess I should just be glad that Wonder Woman is in her satin tights fighting for our rights. Here is what I hope to have out next week.
Scale the summit-Carving desert canyons
The Rock United-Baptized in oil
The Assassinations-Future Blasts from the past
1977-Rock 'n Roll
Interview with Hemoptysis
Clash of the album covers
Top ten albums of 1982
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Sinner-Crash and burn
Much like fellow German acts Running Wild and Grave Digger, Sinner are a long running band who have pushed on largely by one man. In this case it is Mat Sinner who is also a member of the Judas Priest inspired act Primal Fear. Sinner have definitely had a revolving door policy going for years. A number of guitarists and drummers have been in this band during the twenty-five plus years that they have been in existence. This album will not make you love Sinner if you were not already a fan. It doesn't try to tread in any new waters that's for sure. In fact much of the material is based on 80's sounds. There is some NWOBHM influences for sure with Saxon being the first act that pops into my mind. There are some similarities to early 80's Accept and later era Thin Lizzy as well. The material is fairly familiar, but the presentation is key and they approach the songs with plenty of fire and fury. So the results are old style metal with enough confidence and sharp edges to make it worth while. Mat Sinner probably has not gotten all of the acknowledgements that he deserves. He certainly has earned it though. His contributions are many and he has been at it for years. As German metal goes he has contributed almost as much as people like Udo, Doro, and Kai Hansen. This is yet another entry for him to be proud of.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I remember buying this one on vinyl twenty plus years ago. The original cover had a patch with the Exciter logo on a black leather jacket this album is sometimes known as . My hope was that it be a return to the style of their first three releases. I think that the band had begun to go more mainstream on 1986's "Unveiling the wicked". Unfortunately that was a trend that continued on this the band's fifth album which is sometimes known as "O.T.T." . Drummer Chuck Beehler gave up vocal duties to new member Rob Malnati as the band became a quartet for the first time. That decision made little sense to me. Nothing against Malnati, but Beehler's screaming vocals helped define Exciter's sound. Malnati can hit similar levels, but he also has more of a hard rock voice and he just does not have the touch that Beehler did. To accompany his voice the band spent about 2/3 of these tracks sounding like an accessible, big hair rock bands ala Dokken. Not that there is anything wrong with Dokken. However Exciter had established themselves as one of the founders of speed metal. With this change in style on this album they were going soft and they seemed to be taking step back what they previously established. I think by 1988 that they found themselves falling behind in he thrash genre and being replaced by bands they had influenced just a few years earlier. Yet instead of progressing and building on their sound instead they chose to slow down and try to make mid-tempo anthems. Some are decent, but some are just rather ordinary and even a little old by 1988 standards. All in all it is a rather average album at best. Exciter would eventually get back to their roots and they are still going at it today.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The band name Navigator had me thinking that I was going to be lead on some type of journey. Indeed that was the case. This project is largely the work of one man. Alan Webb played almost all of the instruments on this album, wrote all of the music and lyrics plus he co-produced the album. The majority of the material is inspired by 70's prog rock with a more modern upgrade. We are treated to various instruments and textures all with a high level of polish. However there are moments where some death metal vocals and rough thrash parts are brought into play. The vocals are actually done by two separate singers, one handling the clean parts and the other taking on the death metal parts. I am not sure the transitions between the styles are always as smooth as they could have been. There are five songs with a total running time under twenty minutes. The ability is undeniable and the ideas are interesting. The songs would have benefited from being tighter in places. Alan Webb has a fine grasp on tones and knows to pull the best bits from different styles, but there do seem to be a few gaps here and there. Still as a debut and an EP Navigator present enough to make me want to hear more. Here is hoping that they Mr. Webb keeps working on his band's approach and that some time in the not too distant future we are treated to a full length album.
Monday, January 26, 2009
So much has changed since the 1980's. Metal vocalists who were hitting all kinds of notes back then oftentimes are not the same now. It's just natural that age catches up with you and singers can certainly suffer from this. Some vocalists lose a lot of the range they once had, while some only lose a little of their edge. Some singers like Bruce Dickinson and John Bush actually sound almost as good as they did two decades ago. Absolutely nobody sounds better than they did two decades ago or do they? Well that's what I thought until I heard the Steve Grimmett Band's 2007 release "Personality Crisis". I liked Grimmett back in the 1980's when he was in Grim Reaper, but he could be over the top with his screams. However on "Personality Crisis" he showed a control over his voice that had escaped him before and he had become a much better singer because of that control. For this project the band name was take from the last names of singer Grimmett and guitarist/producer Steve Stine. The styles represented here vary between hard rock and metal. One classic influences like Iron Maiden and Grim Reaper as well as some modern sounds. The feel is slightly uneven and they bounce around between the sounds with one song being a style and the next being very different. We get some gritty bone shaking metal, but there are ballads here that actually have touches of very commercial hard rock tinged with AOR edges. Grimmett's voice is consistently rock solid so that helps bring some stability to the album. The music is tight and to the point. There are a whopping fifteen tracks on this disc. While quantity can be great, I got a sense that this album would have been more concise if they cut off the last five tracks. Those last five songs are all decent, but almost all of them are far more mellow than the bulk of the album. As a whole this album is a good offering for sure, but perhaps not as focused as it could have been. Still fans of Steve Grimmett will surely want to check it out.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Top ten albums of 1981
Here are my top ten albums for 1981.
1)Van Halen - Fair Warning
2)Iron Maiden- Killers
3)Ozzy- Diary of a madman
4)Black Sabbath- The Mob Rules
5)Motley Crue-Too fast for love
6)Def Leppard-High and dry
8)Hanoi Rocks-Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks
9)Cirith Ungol-Frost and fire
10)Tie: Raven- Rock 'till you drop and Venom- Welcome to hell
In 1981 the NWOBHM was still going strong. Iron Maiden started to develop the style that would serve them so well for most of the decade. Several albums on my list are debuts so a good year for new bands indeed.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
What's coming up?
So we have a new president, the Super Bowl is just over a week away and the bad cold spell we had has seemingly snapped for now at least. I broke down and bought the Planet of the apes movie set on DVD when I saw it for a good price. I already own the underrated and short lived TV series plus the rather week cartoon series. I saw all of the movies years ago and used to have them taped on VHS. The first film is fantastic of course. The second has some good ideas and a dark outlook, but it's uneven at best. The third film is good, but just a reverse of the original. The forth film is perhaps the second best of the series. The final film is average at best, but still worth watching. Kind of funny how each sequel got a smaller budget and today the budgets seem to get larger on sequels. So much for the monkeys, this week I hope to have these topics out.
Sinner-Crash and Burn
and my top ten album list for 1981
Have a great week and get ready for the Super Bowl!
Friday, January 23, 2009
Satan-Court in the act
The NWOBHM included plenty of bands all emerging in a fairly short period of time. Of course with the market being flooded like that there was inevitably only room for a few bands to really achieve massive success. Satan were a band with plenty of ideas and talent, but unfortunately it didn't lead them to fame and fortune. They were fronted by former Blitzkrieg vocalist Brian Ross at this time. The music isn't completely removed from other acts of their time. There are definitely some similarites to Iron Maiden and Diamond Head. The production on this album isn't the best because there is a dull quality to the sound in places. That does not really matter though because Satan play an instantly likable style. They play with an energetic passion greater than many other debuts of the time. Guitarists Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins support one another and they masterfully forge their way through some very diverse and challenging passages. The guitars are a huge plus on this release. Satan let loose some occasional bursts of speed and they do it with ease. However their real legacy is the impact and influence they have had on power metal. It's easy to hear the roots of that metal sub-genre on this album. This is quality hard hitting music that is as good today as it was twenty-six years ago. Satan would became Blind Fury for the next release before coming back to the name Satan again in 1987. Not a band that received a great deal of fanfare, but "Court in the act" is certainly worth hunting down.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Faith Factor-Against a darkened sky
I had never heard of this band before very recently. However the name Norm "Ski" Kiersznowski stood out to me because he sang in former New Renaissance artists Deadly Blessing back in the day. So my interested was peaked after making that connection and I was very hopeful. The album opens with the grandiose orchestral piece "Evila si eh" before giving way to the decidedly more metal "Keep it true" which comes blasting on. The music for this track is steady, but the vocals just didn't work for me. He has a good range, but the whole vocal arrangement is very uneven on this song. That being said, this was the only song on the album that did not work for me. After that the band sink their teeth in and create some blistering classic style power metal. The duel guitar attack create blistering riff after riff in an all out assault. Faith Factor gallop along forging tracks that are both heavy and melodic. They waste very little time in this effort as they are very tight and too the point in their approach. They unwind track after track of crunching and powerful music. "Against a darkened sky" is reminiscent of acts like early Fates Warning, Liege Lord, Helstar and Attacker. It is true metal music with a strong mid-1980's flavor. Now the band use very strong Christian lyrics so whether or not that works for you may depend on feelings on that matter. The album exceeded my expectations and made me a fan right away.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Once you get past the slightly odd yet comical band name and album title, you realize that Snew are a real down and dirty hard rock machine. They play a style that follows in the footsteps of Bon Scott era AC/DC. That is an approach that is certainly not new because there have bands following that path for some time. In fact there are moments where they sound like AC/DC by way of Jackyl, Dirty Looks or Rhino Bucket. Now not everything is rooted back to that long-running Australian band. I also hear some bluesy Led Zeppelin inspired bursts churning away in the mix as well. In many ways they are as a much a sleaze rock act as they are a blues based hard rock band. No matter what the case, they bring a great of grit and swagger to their performance and it pays off. The songs are of course very basic and not particularly involved. So it is Snew's energy and spirit that keeps this ship afloat. Snew succeed at driving straight ahead and they are not afraid to throw in some different tones here and there. They are not particularly original, but they are entertaining and consistant. There have been and will likely continue to be many bands who follow AC/DC's sound. Still Snew deserve attention because they are playing solid hard rock the way it was meant to be played. While I am not quite ready to plunge straight into the Snew world order, I do think that "Snew You" is certainly worth a listen.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Clash of the album covers
Monday, January 19, 2009
Guitarist Bill Menchen seems to be a part of every other release from Retroactive records these days. He is part of Titanic and Seventh Power as well as Menchen. Joining him on this project are bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder), drummer Robert Sweet (Stryper) and vocalist Ken Redding (His Witness). Reportedly this album originally started out as an instrumental outing for Menchen and Sweet back in late 2007. However it quickly morphed into something more when Menchen felt that it really needed vocals. "Red Rock" is more hard rock than metal if the distinction needs to be made. Picture a cross between Queensryche, Dokken and early Armored Saint. Bill Menchen is an incredible guitarist and a fine song writer as well. He knows how to make his presences known by ripping off some monstrous riffs, but he also knows how to build the song as well. The rhythm section of Franklin and Sweet work well together. Sweet playing is tight and to the point. Franklin helps manage the pace and cranks out some meaty bass parts that help texture to the band's sound. Redding has control, solid range and at times sounds similar to Geoff Tate. However he can be a stiff in his delivery at times. I am not sure if it always him or some awkward lyrics, but there are times where the pace is hurt some by the vocals. Still those times are few and far between. There are moments where I think the songs would have benefitted from some involved musical passages. Minor complaints aside, this is still a fine effort with plenty to offer for hard rock fans.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Lesser of two evils
AC/DC-Blow up your video (1988)
Twisted Sister-Come out and play (1985)
It is Brian Johnson going against Dee Snider. You have one guy (Johnson) who has never been much good doing alright material so he really sucks doing this sub-par material. AC/DC were never that creative, but for this album they were definitely on empty as far as ideas go. Johnson just stumbles hoarsely through the most tedious tripe of this band's career. Snider was always more about attitude than range in his approach. That's fine if the songs allow him to bring some aggression. The problem here is that they tried to tone down their sound on several songs and Snider sounds like a caged tiger going around in circles because he had no idea where to go with this type of song. However the sound of a caged tiger is better than the sound of a cat having it's tail stepped on so...
Point to Twisted Sister
It is Angus and Malcom Young vs. Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda. There was a time when the Youngs could have outplayed these two lightweights on their worst day. Unfortunately by this point the Young brothers had gone through numerous bad days and even worse albums. The fire they showed in the 70's was about gone by this point and they had become shells of their former selves. The Twisted Sister duo struggled even in their best moments and this album was certainly not their best. It's extremely funny when a guitarist goes by the nickname "fingers" yet he can barely play. Still they hit on a few songs while the Young brothers just mailed in their performances.
Point to Twisted Sister
It is drummer Simon Wright and bassist Cliff Williams of AC/DC against drummer AJ Pero and bassist Mark Mendoza for Twisted Sister. Talk about afterthoughts, neither rhythm section really stands out here. Pero and Wright are both okay but bland as can be. However Williams is alright while Mendoza is barely audible. "The Animal" probably also did help his reputation by playing the bass with a pounding closed fist on those videos from the previous year.
Point to AC/DC
AC/DC's previous full length was "Fly on the wall" back in 1985 and is was mediocre at best. Then came "Who made who" in 1986 which had three new songs which were decent. So my expectations for this album were not that high. Twisted Sister's previous album was the excellent "Stay Hungry" in 1984. "Come out and play" had a few good songs, bit it also had mindless crap like "Leader of the pack" and "Lookin' out for #1". Before this album came out Twisted Sister were really on the brink of becoming huge. Then they went and released an album where half of the songs would not appeal to any self-respecting metal fan. I don't know if they had lost touch with their audience or if they were just arrogant enough to think they could get away with this. No matter the reason, Twisted Sister tanked their once promising career with this album.
Point to AC/DC
Who rocks more?
For a band who loved to put the words "rock" and "rock and roll" in their songs a lot AC/DC had really forgotten how to write good rock songs by this point in their career. There is maybe one or two songs that kind of rock on this album. Twisted Sister blew a golden opportunity by straying too far from the sound they had established on their previous three albums. Still there are four or five songs that rock on this album.
Point to Twisted Sister
There you have it as Twisted Sister take it 3-2. Both albums are severely flawed. AC/DC bounced back commercially on the next album. However for Twisted Sister it was the beginning of the end at least for that run of the band. AC/DC sounded old and tired on this album. Twisted Sister sounded like they were trying to incorporate pop elements into their music. Unfortunately the end results included about half an albums worth worth of stinkers.
There you go, I'll be back with another one in a few weeks.
Top ten albums of 1980
I recently re-visited my top ten list for 1980 and made changes as I saw fit. So here it is as it currently stands.
Top ten albums
2)Motorhead-Ace of spades
3)Judas Priest-British Steel
4)Black Sabbath- Heaven and hell
5)Ozzy- Blizzard of Ozz
8Van Halen- Women and children first
9)Saxon-Wheels of steel
This year saw some the NWOBHM open up and some veteran British acts (Sabbath, Ozzy, Budgie) bounced back. AC/DC ended their consistently streak by releasing the highly overrated "Back in black". KISS got even worse and other than Van Halen the American scene was looking and sounding tired.
I'll have the list for 1981 out next week.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
What's coming up?
It has been very cold this week. The Championship games are coming up so most everyone is wound up about that. I live in Ravens country so the people have been out in purple and black all week. However I live close to Pennsylvania so there are a number of Steelers and Eagles fans around as well. Still the Cardinals have not won a championship in over sixty years so that's reason enough for me to root for them. More than anything I am hoping for well-played games. Here is what I hope to have out this week.
Satan-Court in the act (re-issue)
Clash of the album covers
Lesser of two evils
and maybe the top ten albums of 1980
Have a great week and stay warm!
Friday, January 16, 2009
10 things I think about metal in 1989
In reflecting about 1989 I thought about these things in no particular order.
1-In general this was a better year for metal than 1988 was.
2-There seemed be less releases from independent metal labels than there had been in previous years.
3-Motley Crue came back to form somewhat with Dr. Feelgood, but I am not sure they were that relevent anymore.
4-KISS began the 1980's on a low note and they ended it on a low note as well.
5-Even though I am not normally big on post-Dio Sabbath I think that the Headless Cross was slightly underrated.
6-Despite not being all that original Tora Tora's "Surprise Attack" is still a darn good hard rock album.
7-Labels were signing bands (mostly hair bands) who they would not have signed a few years earlier due to lack of talent.
8-Skid Row's debut is good, but it hasn't held up as well as I thought it would.
9- This was a good year for early death metal releases. Although death still kind of blended with thrash at that point.
10-Warrant's debut is even worse than I remember it being.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Juliet's Vice-Decadence and Romance
Juliet's Vice hail from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and were formed in late Summer of 2007 by Dan Parsels (ex-Primadonnaz) and Damian MonteCarlo (Midnight Angel). Shortly after, drummer Johnny Tuscadero and Stevie Lang joined the band. These guys have a strong sleaze rock sound with a nod to the likes of early KISS, Ratt, Guns n' Roses and LA Guns. There is also a pinch of punk rock both in their sound and their attitude. "Goin' Down" opens with squealing guitars and a raw drum sound. This was a good track to start with because it sets the mood and lets you know that you are in for some bare bones hard rock. They bring on some songs that have some fire to them like the instantly likable "Lovin' comes easy", the catchy "I can't take it" and the groove heavy "Bitch". Although not every song works as "Tear down the walls" came across as dull filler that was lacking the personality that most of the other songs contained. There also seemed to be several songs towards the middle that were the same exact pace and slowed the flow down a little. That's just a matter of song placement so it could easily be corrected the next time around. The production is perfect for the sound. You can hear every instrument equally and there are just enough rough edges to compliment their approach. That is certainly a refreshing approach for this brand of hard rock because too many bands settle for a glossed over sound. Juliet's Vice are a band with a lot to offer and they seem to be headed in the right direction.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
This disc was originally released back in 2004 on Life Sentence Records, the album has been re-mixed, re-mastered and comes with all new artwork. This was the bands sophomore effort. It may not be new material, but straight-edge hardcore band xDeathstarx know how to rip into their songs. This is fairly standard hard core with a definite nod to a traditional approach. There are also enough thrash parts in it to appeal to metal fans as well. This band succeeds in being in your face and they have a strong grasp on creating a maintaining heavy rhythms and beats. Much of the music has been done before many times, but these guys do it well and with some conviction. The music is basic and oftentimes that works. Still there were a few songs where it was so simple that I was reminded of Billy Milano's various bands and that it made it difficult to take those songs seriously. These guys certainly want to be taken seriously. The production is inconsistent and some songs are sharp and others find the drums and guitars sounding muddy.
The band has several vocalists contributing here. I actually wasn't aware of that fact until I looked at the credits because it's difficult to tell the difference between the singers. So I am not sure if having multiple vocalists is a benefit if they sound so similar. The band's talent is obvious, but it's hard to fully appreciate it completely because this style has been done to death. Diehard fans of this style will like it and more casual fans may not be as impressed.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Top ten albums of 1989
Wow was 1989 really twenty years ago? I guess it was. Here is my list for what it's worth.
10-Faster Pussycat-Wake me when it's over
Not as fun as their debut, but a fine album for sure.
9-Faith No More-The real thing
A fresh approach that was much needed and appreciated.
8-Bang Tango-Psycho Cafe
Great debut with some much needed fire added to their hard rock sound.
7-Annihilator-Alice in hell
Jeff Waters going crazy on his band's debut.
6-Sepultura-Beneath the remains
The previous album turned some heads, but this one put them on the map.
This band finally came into their own and began to carve their niche as the best death metal band of all time.
The Steve Souza era finally began to gel.
The story is a bunch of crap, but the music and vocals and fantastic.
2-Overkill-Years of decay
I loved their debut, "Taking over" was alright but noisy and "Under the influence" was weak. By their forth release they were finally back on track.
1-WASP-The Headless Children
These guys were good before, but they came out on fire for this one. Just a huge monster that stands up well even today.
Golden Turd of 1989-Alice Cooper-Trash
Not his first bad album and maybe even not the worst of his career. However he had done "Constrictor" which was decent and the very good "Raise your fist and yell", but then followed them up with this clunker. This was Alice trying to do a sappy hair metal album and it resulted in a limp noodle.
On a related note in upcoming weeks I will be re-evaluating my top ten lists for 1980-1984. Back when I started this blog I did those lists in very quick fashion. Then with 1985 I began doing more involved lists. So I will look at the lists from 1980-84 and post again. Maybe there will be some changes due to my tastes or albums I have gone back and heard. We will see.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Clash of the album covers
Bloodsworn-All Hyllist Til Satan
This album was actually supposed to be released a decade ago. However label problems prevented it's release back then. It was later remixed in 2007 and now it finally gets to see the light of day. The album starts out in very noisy fashion. Unfortunately it's confusing, annoying noise rather than a brutal or aggressive style of noise. Perhaps they were shooting for chaos, but the results were not impressive. A few songs in they get a handle on the music to an extent. This is black metal with some old style thrash wedged into the cracks. They certainly have moments where they nail down some direction. However they spend far too much time rummaging around in layers of mess. They could have gone heavy, fast or a combination of the two and it would have worked. Instead they get caught up in a web of sound that isn't doing enough to advance the songs. The vocals are typical at best and bland at worst. More than anything I just got the sense that this band didn't have enough of a plan of what they were going to do. Granted perhaps having to wait ten years to release has made this album seem a little dated. Yet I think that even if I had heard it in 1999 that I still wouldn't have been very impressed.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Screamer-What excites you
This CD sat on my desk for a few weeks before I realized that this is the same band that recorded "Target Earth" way back in 1988. I have never heard that album, but I do know that it highly regarded. If it is anything like this album then I really need to track it down. Screamer hail from Wisconsin and this version includes 3/5 of the line-up that played on "Target Earth". The sound here is reminiscent of early progressive metal like pre-Rage for order Queensryche, early Fates Warning and Crimson Glory's first release. There is also some melodic metal similar to late 70's/early 80's acts like UFO and the Scorpions that is evenly blended in to the sound. This album sounds very much like metal from the 80's, but they manage to be fresh enough that it never feels dated. The melodies are well crafted and the vocals soar yet maintain enough of an edge to really work. The guitars on the album contain tight and furious riffs that manage to set the mood for every song. The solos are direct and some times they just blaze ahead like on the killer solo of "Black Valentine". Drummer Pat Hainault does a great job really laying down the heavy beats and he adds enough flair to his parts to really help the overall sound. Most of the tracks are about the same pace. Although I liked every song I couldn't help but wish they had varied the pace more at times. Other than that this a fantastic example of how solid playing and strong melodies can go together to create a blistering metal album.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Weird Owl-Ever the silver cord be loosed
Weird Owl hail from Brooklyn. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect as the band name is funny, but the album title had me thinking this was going to a rather serious effort. The band immediately began to lay landscapes of sound in slow, rolling fashion. This is psych rock with lots of texture and more than it's share of twangy, biting parts tossed in. There is very spacey feel to much of the music, but it doesn't hamper their tight grasp of creating solid melodies. I definitely hear Pink Floyd, Neil Young and others tucked into the layers of these songs. They obviously excel at creating long, winding passages as many of their songs take that approach. The music manages to be engaging and absorbing without being too elaborate. It requires some concentration to fully soak in all that is transpiring, but it is certainly well worth the effort. The thought occurred to me more than once that the pace could have more at times. Also a few songs to seem to end rather than come to a fitful end. There is no doubt about the playing ability of this band. However the writing could probably be a little more tight in places. Considering this is their first official full length, I think those skills will come in time. A strong outing that is certainly worth checking out.
What's coming up?
Juliet's Vice-Decadence and Romance
Screamer-What excites you
Bloodsword-All hyllest to satan
Clash of the album covers
and maybe another review or my top ten albums of 1989 if I can get to one of them.
Have a great week!
Friday, January 09, 2009
Lesser of two evils
Roxx Gang-Things you never did before (1988)
Roxy Blue-Want Some? (1992)
Roxx Gang formed in Florida and Roxy Blue were from Memphis. This the debut from Roxx Gang, unsurprisingly they didn't get far and broke up a few years later. By the mid-90's they did come back with Kevin Steele recruiting all new members. They released a few more albums that went nowhere as well. They came out at a time when there were a lot bands who were better and had more support. Roxy Blue released this their one and only album in 1992. Surprisingly they had some support. I say surprisingly because by 1992 this kind of power ballad, posing type of hard rock was being shoved off the face of the music world. However Roxy Blue were signed by Geffen, had Mike Clink as a producer and got some radio airplay. Yet it still lead to a one and done career for them. So let's break these albums down and expose their rotten insides.
It is Kevin Steele for Roxx Gang against Todd Poole for Roxy Blue. Kevin Steele sounds like a cross between Bon Scott and Stephen Pearcy. Only without as much spirit as Scott. He is possibly the best thing about his band and that's not saying much. Todd Poole reminds me of Janie Lane only not quite as sickening. I have never had a match-up on this segment before where both singers were in tune yet it's hard to pick because they were so boring. Neither guy hit a clunker yet neither one could convey emotion if their lives depended on it. Oh, I'll just flip a coin or say Kevin Steele because he didn't sound like someone in Warrant.
Point to Roxx Gang
For this one it is Jeff Taylor and Wade Hayes for Roxx Gang against Sid Fletcher for Roxy Blue in a two on one situation. Goodness, were these guys playing out of a book called "Generic hard rock riffs for the truly uninspired guitarist"? If not then they are certainly qualified to write such a book. It's just all by the numbers tripe with the mandatory squeals and runs stuck in. However Sid Fletcher did a better job on the slower songs as he actually kept the pace going well enough. So...
Point to Roxy Blue
We have Roby "Strychnine" Strine on bass and David James Blackshire on drums for Roxx Gang. Roxy Blue has Scotty T on drums Josh Weil on bass. Scotty T? Strychnine? Did they really think those were cool ideas? Well, anyways it's hard to tell that either band has a bass player because you rarely hear them. On the drums Scotty T. manages to keep time and benefits from decent production. Blackshire is audible I guess, but does nothing to make any impression one way or another. So...
Point to Roxy Blue
Roxx Gang sound like a very low rent version of Ratt when they are on. However more often than not they just sound they are standing there trying to figure things out as they go along. There are at times one of the most hookless bands I can think of. Roxy Blue borrow from Van Halen, Warrant, Firehouse and lots of others. They had virtually no ideas of their own and sound like a second rate version of the bands they attempt to copy. Roxx Gang are not a very good band to be honest, but the cheapo production hurts them for sure. A number of riffs are buried below layers of fuzz. Roxy Blue received a decent job from Mike Clink. It doesn't make their sound any better, but it doesn't hurt them either.
Point to Roxy Blue
Who rocks more?
This category gets very difficult when rotten bands come into play. Roxx Gang could not spell rocks and they didn't know much about making their music rock either. Roxy Blue tried at following a hard rock blueprint laid out by other bands in the hopes of making it. They came too late and they brought far too little of themselves to the game. However they knew a little about when to cut and move plus they had the benefit of above average production work.
Point to Roxy Blue
Roxy Blue win this war of the weenies by a tune of 4-1.I had not heard either of these discs in a while and went into it thinking Roxx Gang would win in a close one. However much of that was based on my memory that the opener on the Roxx Gang disc is solid. They never get back to that level again on the album. Roxy Blue annoyed the crap out of me years ago by being so run of the mill. However they were not nearly as dull as Roxx Gang. Roxx Gang should have set the hairspray down and spent more time practicing. It's painfully obvious that they were not ready to do an album. These two albums actually began to make my poor brain feel very numb so I hope you appreciate the great sacrifice I made in writing this segment. I will listen to some real music, regain my senses and be back with another match-up in a few weeks.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Hemoptysis-Who needs a shepherd?
Hemoptysis hail from Tempe, Arizona and formed back in 2007. I was surprised at how tight this band is on their five song EP particularly given the relatively short time that they have been playing together. This is old school thrash and lots of bands are doing that however they guys mix in classic style metal as well. I hear Kreator, Sodom, Slayer, Dark Angel and others. Beyond that I also hear some shades of Mercyful Fate and even some NWOBHM influences to boot. Where this band excels is at mixing thrash and classic metal into a solid, heavy assault. The approach is basic and familiar yet well executed. Their sense of melodies and pace is strong. The maturity level of their playing and writing is evident as well. Hemoptysis has a solid grasp on how to really build the song, but keep it heavy and vibrant at the same time. Those are skills that not every up and coming thrash band has. Too many acts are content to just copy the older bands, but these guys do an admirable of trying to blend some styles. I was surprised at the production of this CD. The quality is very crisp and sharp with the right amount of emphasis on everything. My only real complaint is that now I want to hear a full length to see what they can do with that format. I do however hope that they pushing the limits. I like what is here, but they could certainly from just continuing to head in the direction that they started with this EP.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Exile on Mainstream
This album is my first exposure to Bulbul. Quite honestly I don't know a whole lot about them. They are from Austria and they have a new album out, but other than that all I really know is what I hear on this disc. What my ears tell me is that this album is flat out weird. I mean that in the best way possible though because this band makes odd sounds and patterns an art form. It's not always a full on chaos. Instead they start with simple beats and the build swirling mounds of madness around that central beat. There is a sense of subtlety to their approach and they are always in control. Bulbul stir in bits of funk, dance music, pop and shreds of other styles as well. The variation is important, but their mastery of arrangement is even more important. They know how scatter sounds and they knew when to add more and when to pull back. Despite the large amount of sounds, they still manage a good sense of balance. They keep a heavy bouncing foundation and never lose site of keeping the pace going. Now it did take me some time to get into the album. At times they were throwing so much out there that it was tough to absorb. Repeated plays solve that problem though because by the second turn I was beginning to bask in the layers of sound that they were building. Maybe this isn't for everyone, but it's a fine choice for those looking for for heavy music with a refreshing approach.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Goblin Cock-Come with me if you want to live
I remember when I was like 12 years old and first saw this kid on my bus with this book that had a picture of this monstrous giant warrior rising up over his opposition. I was in awe of the picture and I took in the words "Dungeons and Dragons" etched at the top of the book. Soon I found out that it was a game and I knew it would not be like Monopoly, Battleship and the conventional games that I was used to. In my mind images started to form, images of fantastic and ferocious battles with horrendous beasts and searches for fantastic treasure. From that point on I knew that one day I would play Dungeons and Dragons. I knew that once I played that would be an event that I would never forget. At least a year went by before I finally had the opportunity to take part in a Dungeons and Dragons adventure. True enough it was an event that I would never forget. Yes, five pimple faced kids sitting around a desk under dim light pretending to hunt for treasure. It was as fun as watching paint drying on the wall. All my high expectations were shattered by the reality of it just being a rather dull way of wasting time. That is kind of the way I think of Goblin Cock. Now granted this band and their albums are not quite as disappointing as that game of D & D. Yet both had my expectations up as I hoped to be absorbed by fantastic worlds. Instead both just came across as empty shells. Goblin Cock is a bit of a tongue in cheek take on stoner rock and doom metal. They are also the brainchild of Robcore labelhead Rob Crow. I knew that going in yet I still hoped for a full-on assault. They plunk out the fantasy album cover, put their lyrics in runes and slowly grind out some Sabbath inspired chunks. Okay, some of this works yet I cannot help but shake the impression that they do not totally commit to either being very heavy, very quirky or even very funny. Instead they try a combination of all three that ends up sounding generic and even lukewarm. The song title "Beneath The Valley Of The Island Of Misfit Toys" got a small chuckle from me, but that one of the few and brief highlights contained on this disc. I cannot help shake the impression that they wanted to be a spoof of evil drenched doom with all the trappings. However they never push hard enough and there are too many fluffy parts sprinkled throughout. I got the same impression when I heard their debut "Bagged and boarded" a few years ago. The new album is more consistant than the debut, but it still lacks the qualities that I hoped for. My hopes were high, but the results were rather average.
Monday, January 05, 2009
Clash of the album covers
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Top ten albums of 1988 and other awards
I didn't get around to doing my normal top ten list of twenty years ago last month. So here is an abbreviated version
Obscure Pittsburgh thrash band with a frantic sound.
9-Blind Illusion-Sane Asylum
Long running Bay area band finally release their one and only album
8-David Lee Roth-Skyscraper
A lot more of Steve Vai's style this time around and that was fine by me.
The story drags more than usual, but another fine effort for the King.
6-Flotsam and Jetsam-No place for disgrace
The second and last really good album from these guys.
5-Slayer-South of heaven
It took me a while to get over the fact that this wasn't as good as Reign in blood. Eventually I realized how good it really is.
4-Helloween-Keeper of the seven keys pt.2
One of the two best albums in this band's long career.
The second best band on the German thrash scene stepped up and knocked one out.
2-Cinderella-Long cold winter
Cinderella brought in their blues hard rock sound and improved greatly from their debut
1-Iron Maiden-Seventh son of a seventh son
It took me a while to warm up to this one, but eventually I realized it's greatness.
Oh and here are some other awards for 1988.
Best album cover-The one at the top of this post.
Most improved band-The nominess for this would be Sodom, Cinderella, Sacred Reich, David Lee Roth, Cinderella and Nuclear Assault. I'll go with Cinderella for their huge turnaround.
Golden Turd-Celtic Frost-Cold Lake
It had to be bad to beat out AC/DC's worst album and Van Halen's OU812. However this was a huge letdown and very bad musical direction for one of the best underground metal bands of the 1980's. It took me years to get over this and it damaged the band as well. They did bounce back with another good album a few years later, but some damage was definitely done.
There you go. At some point this year I'll do a list of my top 10 albums of 1989 and a list of 10 things I think about metal/hard rock in 1989.
Saturday, January 03, 2009
What's coming up?
Reviews of ...
Weird Owl-Ever the silver cord be loosed
Goblin Cock-Come with me if you want to live
Hemotysis-Who needs a shephard?
Clash of the album covers
Lesser of two evils-Roxy Blue vs. Roxx Gang in a battle of big hair and low talent
Have a great week!
Friday, January 02, 2009
Interview with Marc Johnson of Executioner
MM-Hello, what are you currently up to?
MJ-Currently, I teach high school English in Revere, a city just north of Boston. Dan is a conductor for CSX Railroad, and our last bass player, Tommy Flynn, has his own plumbing business.
MM-Executioner formed in 1984 (I believe). How did the band form?
MJ-Executioner formed in 1984, when Ari Vainio and I found Dan Scannell through a musician referral service. The band was originally called Last Generation, but when we quickly changed musical direction, Dan offered the name Executioner and we decided to go with that.
MM-Who were your musical influences?
MJ-Our musical influences varied. Originally we were influenced largely by classic metal, Iron Maiden, Priest, Ozzy; but as metal evolved, we became more influenced by newer bands like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Manowar.
MM-What was the Boston club scene like around 84-87? What bands did you open for?
MJ-The club scene was changing from '84 to '87. Punk and metal were crossing over, so we played with a variety of bands including Megadeth, Manowar, Kreator and Voi Vod, but also D.R.I., GangGreen and the F.U.'s/Straw Dogs.
MM-Did you guys go through the whole sending out demo tapes and handing out fliers type of promotion?
MJ-We sent demos to the bigger indie labels at that time: Megaforce, Metal Blade, Combat and eventually New Renaissance. We also handed out TONS of flyers for our local shows. Flyers were a huge form of promotion back then.
MM-You had “Victim of evil” on New Renaissance’s Speed Metal Hell compilation in 1985. How did that come about?
MJ-New Renaissance selected "Victims of Evil" from our first demo tape for their first Speed Metal Hell compilation.
MM-How did you get signed by New Renaissance? Were there any other labels interested in you as well? If so then what labels?
MJ-"Victims of Evil" was well received on Speed Metal Hell, and as a result, NR offered us a two album contract, which we took. We did not have offers, or serious interest, from any other labels.
MM-What was the band’s relationship with New Renaissance like?
MJ-We had a fairly good relationship with NR. I think we saw it for what it was. We never expected to sell millions of records on New Ren, but it seemed like a good place to start, and at least get our music out. New Ren was very do-it-yourself, which made for minimal financial support, but part of me still kind of liked as it made for minimal creative interference. We worked back in Boston to get our self-financed recordings done, and then booked two nationwide tours--the first we booked ourselves, and the second was booked by a real cool punk booking agent, Johnny Stiff, out of New York. We paid for all our own recordings, but New Ren did give us a little bit of support on our second tour. I think we had a realistic expectation of what could come from the label, and because of that, our relationship was pretty good.
MM-One of my friends bought this video that you used to sell and it had several shows on it. There was one show where you threw a vinyl copy of “In the name of metal” out to the crowd and it broke. Did you often throw albums out to the crowd? I would imagine that a lot of them got broken with everyone trying to grab them, was that true?
MJ-Funny, I only threw that one record out into the crowd, and I never knew it broke (if, in fact, it did). I just did it to draw attention to the release of our first album. It's ironic that it was all captured on video, as it was a one-time thing.
MM-I have read some reviews of "In the name of metal" by people who loved it and then some magazines absolutely hated it. It seemed like there wasn't any middle ground in response to that album. Do you think that's true if so then why?
MJ-In The Name Of Metal is an odd record. Much of the production is very poor. We had almost no studio experience, and were often misled production-wise, especially when recording speed metal tracks. However, some of the slower and mid-paced songs seem to hold up ok. Overall, it is an odd mix of influences. Ari and I co-wrote a lot of that material, which made for some, at least fairly, original material. Ari's influences were far more diverse than my own. He liked everything from the Ramones to The Clash to Venom. In truth, he was a much more original composer. I was more a copycat--the majority of the songs I wrote were directly inspired by who I was listening to that day, lol. "In The Name Of Metal" itself was written during my Manowar month! Overall though, to try to answer your question, the album is diverse, and I think that while some people really appreciated the scope of having punkier tracks like "Stand Up And Fight" fused with thrashier ones like "Victims Of Evil", other people bought it expecting pure thrash and just didn't know what to make of it. They then ended up dismissing the whole disc.
MM-What are some of your favorite songs on that album and why?
NJ-My favorite tracks are "Stand Up And Fight", and "Hell And Back" (both of which were mainly written by Ari). I like both of these songs for their originality. I think they represent the most inspired songwriting on the album. As a result, I feel they hold up over time (the ultimate test in my mind) the best. Interestingly, I have often thought lately that the closing lyrics to Stand Up And Fight are eerily relevant to our current war in Iraq.
MM-Was original bass player Ari Vianio really kicked out of the band because he got his hair cut?
MJ-Ari was kicked out because he could not handle the pressures of the first tour. This resulted in his punching our van in Texas so hard that he broke his hand; and thus, in our being forced to cancel the rest of the tour.
MM-Did you approach writing and recording “Break the silence” any differently than on the debut?
MM-Your second release “Break the silence” has re-recordings of a few tracks that were on the debut. Why do you re-record those songs?
MJ-We re-recorded those tracks because we were very unhappy with their production on ITNOM. Ann Bolyn cautioned us against doing this, and she was right. It was a mistake, as it made people less likely to buy an album with songs they'd already heard (and in some cases, owned).
MJ-Unlike the debut, all the new material on Break The Silence was written by me. Therefore, the new material moved in a much more of-the-moment speed metal sound. This basically made for solid, albeit less original, songs. We also pared down the production to a more bare-bones sound, which worked well, I thought. In many cased, ITNOM was simply over-produced, where as the production on "Break The Silence" better captured the essence of the band's sound. Lastly, Break The Silence did produce what I would say is the band's best cut. The last gasp of Ari's influence can be heard on Terminally Ill, and to this day, I feel it is our strongest track.
MM- What was Seth Putnam like to work with? Where did you find him at?
MJ-Seth had been friends with Dan and myself for some time up until 1986. He was even a roadie on the tour when Ari broke his hand. Therefore, he was a natural fit as a new bass player. Initially, Seth was great to work with, but as Executioner began to wane a little and Seth became more involved in his own projects, our relationship deteriorated.
MM-Then you recorded a third album that I believe it was originally going to be called “In cold blood”. When was that recorded and did you get any label interest?
MJ-In Cold Blood was recorded in 1988. I would say it is by far our best production, although as for the songwriting, I'd say we were really just beginning to sound derivative of my influences. I do feel that on those tracks, we finally got the production quality to where we wanted it. Unfortunately, it did not attract major label attention, which is what we were seeking. We then considered releasing it on our own, but that idea faded, as the challenge seemed too daunting.
MM-When and why did the band break up? Did you play in any other bands after that?
MJ-The band broke up in 1989, and neither Dan, nor Tommy, nor I played in any other bands. Executioner ended because we were limited by my songwriting ability and we were never going to be a great band, or even a great enough band to make a living playing music. More and more over time, I see now that ultimate success hinges on songwriting/creativity, and as I mentioned, my songwriting tended to chase the latest trend; whereas the truly great bands who have endured (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth--not to mention auteurs like Nirvana) were all genuinely original, and ahead of the curve. Also, I had begun to develop other interests at that time, and we were each at an age where we needed to focus on some kind of financially viable career.
MM-“The Storm after the calm” came out earlier this decade. Is that the same material that was going to be “In cold blood” (minus the fake live tracks)? I think I bought my copy on eBay from drummer Dan Scannell. Was it just Dan who put “The Storm after the calm” together or did you have input into it well?
MJ-Dan and I worked together to put out "The Storm After The Calm" (although the title was suggested by a student of mine at that time, Roman Temin). It is, as you say, "In Cold Blood", less the live-in-the-studio tracks (with fake audience--inspired by Slayer's "Live Undead" EP).
MM-Have you had any talks with New Renaissance about releasing “In the name of metal” and “Break the silence” on CD?
MJ-New Renaissance mentioned perhaps wanting to release ITNOM and "Break The Silence" on CD, but we never had any serious discussions.
MM-Do you have any regrets in your music career?
MJ-Happily, I cannot say that I have any real regrets regarding my music career. It was an amazing adventure that I wouldn't trade for anything. I got to play music, meet lots of cool people and see the country. I guess, if anything at all, I might wish that Ari had remained in the band, as I think his original songwriting might have lifted the ceiling on what we could have accomplished. Overall though, the '80's were a great time to being playing metal music, and I just feel really lucky to have played a little part in all of it.
MM-Is there anything else that you would to say about your band, your music or anything else?
MJ-So, thanks for the interview! Thanks to those who read it; and if anyone out there has some time, throw on an old Executioner song. If it takes you back to a fond memory, I couldn't ask for more.
Dan Scannell and Marc Johnson on Christmas Eve 2008.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Eldorado-En Busca De
Spain's Eldorado play a classic style of hard rock. The influences on their debut are obvious and include Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and later day Rainbow. One item that needs to be noted early on is that with the exception of their cover of Deep Purple's "Mistreated" the rest of the album is sung entirely in Spanish. That was a little surprising at first, but it certainly doesn't detract from the power of the album. By the second spin I was eagerly soaking in the catchy hooks and melodies. The music oftentimes walks the line between metal and hard rock while pulling in the best of both styles. The real strength of the album is their consistent delivery of pounding riffs and the stellar vocals of Jesús Trujillo. Solid production also helps boost their sound. They manage to seamlessly blend in blues parts on several songs. They wear their influences on their sleeves, but they have the confidence and the ability to pull it off. I only have two minor complaints about this disc. The first is the album almost seems split with the first half being the more metal tracks and the second half being largely the bluesy hard rock tracks. Mixing the tracks more would have given it a more even and effective feel. The other item is that it was just too short. Two or three more songs would have helped it to be more of a complete package. Still this is fantastic material delivered with a great of passion and precision. Highly recommended.