Monday, April 30, 2012

Dog Shredder-Brass Tactics

dog shredder
Good to die

Hailing from Bellingham, Washington this band have knocked out an EP that attempts to throw in everything but the kitchen sink at various points. Every song title starts with the word "battle" too which probably should have told me they are either short on ideas or not as funny as they may think they are. The music here will probably eventually get listed as being post-everything. At it's roots it's probably progressive and perhaps experimental. Somewhere in between the lines is some metal, hardcore and various offshoots of both of those. The pace is chaotic as a rule and not a whole lot else. I heard a lot praise about this band and for the first minute or so of each I song I could begin to understand that. Yet as each song went on, the smoke begin to clear, my senses began to return and I realized that most of the ideas the churned out out in the blur of the opening sixty seconds were the same one they were running around for the new few minutes. Meaning they were running in circles. Okay, they were running very fast and smacking their instruments all over the place to appear to be wild virtuosos. I liked much of what I heard and repetition can be fine, but I on the first two tracks I did the impression they were more about knocking out notes and beats with a feverish pace than they were about having any real direction. The third track is shorter, simpler and has more of a direction. Yet hardly typical which is great because here I can really hear and feel depth that I wished that had been able to maintain on the previous two tracks. Overall this album shows some real potential, but the band needs some more work.

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Napalm Records


Apparently there is more to the Stockholm, Sweden metal scene than just death metal. Who knew? "Skylight" may be Atoma's debut offering, but the band's roots can actually be traced back to the melodic doom metal group Slumber. In 2011, Slumber decided it was time they called it a day. The band split up and then turned right around and formed Atoma. The only thing is it had the same members as Slumber did so it was more like a continuation of the band if you will. Or maybe evolution is a better term to use? Either way with Slumber disbanded the members went a completely different route while still holding on loosely to Slumber's atmospheric elements. Whereas Slumber were a competent melodic doom band this is superb post rock/metal packed with interesting electronic and progressive rock elements. On "Skylight" the music has, for lack of a better description, an almost epic video game feeling. Almost more of a soundtrack-like quality than a traditional album. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, what unfolds before the listener is almost more akin to something you'd expect to hear out of a fantasy computer game than a heavy metal album. That might sound like an odd way to describe the sound, but with it's otherworldly electronic sound I almost felt as if I should be playing Final Fantasy or something! The music is given ample time to move about and develop on it's own. Post rock/heavy metal turns into nicely drawn-out ambient passages with perfectly placed keyboard work. It's beautiful, emotional and epic with complex layers that combine both natural and synthesized feelings. Just as heavy rock is settling in you'll find that the music has been transformed effortlessly into something deeper. The 10 tracks unite to form a sort of journey that's partly based in reality and the dreamworld. The atmospheric Atoma is lead by skillful vocalist/keyboardist/synth player Ehsan Kalantarpour. His smooth vocals fit what the band was aiming for sound wise although it must be said that the best moments on "Skylight" are when he steps aside and just lets the music speak for itself. When that happens your treated to this wonderful work of art that combines the best of what electronic music and post rock/heavy metal has to offer. Hopefully this is just the first of many albums for Atoma. It is not a perfect work of art mind you (as not every paint stroke is as evenly applied), but as for a first offering? When you consider for a moment that the band has only been around for a year or so, in this from at least, then "Skylight" is an amazing feat. It's created in such a fashion that you really need time away from everything in order to truly appreciate all it has to offer. For me that meant a quiet Monday morning alone in my study. With the kids off to school I can slip on my headphones, soak in the rich sounds and slowly drift away. I suspect that with the proper time to mature Atoma will really be special. There is a strong chance that the band could have the ability to create true masterpieces if "Skylight" is anything to go by. With it's many different colors and textures it is another album that I plan to enjoy time and time again.

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Forgotten Gems: Torch-Torch (iTunes Digital "Bonus Track Version")

Alright, this will take a little bit of explaining. With this particular Forgotten Gems I've opted to cover the early eighties power metal act Torch and their 1983 self-titled album. Now, this heavy metal band hailed from Sweden and were formed in 1979. In 1982 the band released a self-titled 5-track EP. Then in 1983 came this album, also under the name of "Torch". In Germany it was released under the title “Warlock” with the same tracks, but when it came time for the eventual American re-issue of "Torch" on Metal Blade, also titled "Warlock" after the album's simple (and yet effect) opening track, for what ever reason the label decided to cut out the track "Beyond The Threshold Of Pain". Why? No idea. But, for those keeping track at home that's two Torch release with the same name and two versions of the 1983 album, only with different track listings. How's that was some epic confusion? What is it with some heavy metal bands (or maybe it is just the record labels themselves?) that they feel the need to confuse fans? Anyway, as I said this 10-track LP was released on Tandan and, while it lacks the driving force of the band's earlier EP, is still top-notch and surprisingly heavy for the early eighties. Before I go any further with this article (and since I'm sure everyone is completely lost by now anyhow!) the version I plan to talk about today is digital (available for download off of iTunes) and includes the complete "Torch" EP and "Torch" LP. As well it tacks on the group's 12" EP, "Bad Girls". This 3-track EP was released in limited quantities (1500) and includes songs that were originally recorded by the band for their "Torch" LP. So, in all there is 18 tracks. Now, since the original album is going for serious bucks (on both LP and CD) this is one of the rare times when I just say go digital and don't worry about it. The music is what counts the most right? Especially if the album in question has as goofy a cover as this one does! Then again so does the band's second offering, 1984's "Electrikiss", which features not only a guy awaiting electrocution, but for some reason a hot model as well! With that said Torch are on of those bands that didn't make much of a dent on the scene the first time around, but in the years since have become a bit of a favorite among tape traders and collectors. One of the reasons is the fact that Torch were a smashing mixture of early eighties power metal and NWOBHM. The band had a sinister and mean edge without losing any of the eighties charm that makes the genre so much fun to begin with. Time and time again this extended album ends up resorting to forceful heavy metal that was slightly ahead of the time. As a whole Torch was a band that had seemingly all the pieces together to truly excel. For Torch it was just wrong place, wrong time and wrong record label. Back to the actual band though. Vocalist Dan Dark is more than capable of covering a lot of ground for Torch. He does a scratchy Rob Halford on the almost thrash metal track “Watcher of the Night” and then is able to turn around and pull of the sound's of a simpler (or if you will more raw) Lizzy Borden on “Gladiator” (an admitted filler track). Meanwhile we have the pair of Claus Wild and Chris First. These two guitarists feed off of each other. Tracks like "Beauty and the Beast", “Rage Age” and “Beyond the Threshold of Pain” offer deadly riffs with enough force to make things both interesting and intense. Bass player Ian Gregstop and drummer Steve Streaker are the back bone of Torch and help keep everything in check. The two of them anchor this formidable heavy metal band and help to keep things rolling along at a nice steady pace. Sometimes the band sounds right out of the same scene that gave us Judas Priest, Tokyo Blade, Saxon, Iron Maiden, Cobra and Blitzkrieg. Other times they had more in common with the early 80's metal rumblings of bands like Dark Wizard, Atlain, Griffin, Lions Breed and Ruthless. In other words good old fashioned power metal with hints of speed. Heavy enough to almost be thrash, but still rooted in plain (but never boring!) heavy metal. "Torch" is a fun album and requires nothing from the listener other than time and a wiliness to sit back and enjoy straight ahead, uncomplicated metal. Of the band's two full-length albums I prefer "Torch". It just has that little something extra to make me grin ear to ear whenever I play it. So, seeing as you can get 18 tracks for only $9.99 on iTunes why not take this extended version of "Torch" out for a spin? If you love eighties metal as much as I do or you want to see the humble birthplace of the more modern power metal/thrash then Torch should warrant some investigation.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Donald Trigger-Infinite Persistence


In 1989 Dainel Trigger heard Europe's "The final countdown" being played during a laser light show at the London Planetarium and this had such an impact on him that he wanted to make music that sounded "like that". He would form his first band at 15. Then he few years later he had some problems with this voice, but he would eventually recover and then form Trigger with his wife, then teenage guitarist Dave D'Andrade. Trigger would go on to record four albums and get some real attention before calling it quits in 2011. That brings us to this solo album for Daniel Trigger. I suppose I was expecting more of an 80's AOR style there is some of that. However the album as a whole is more of a mix of hard rock, AOR and even some more modern rock mixed in. I hear some Skid Row, Bon Jovi, MSG (Robin McCauley era) and yes even some Europe mixed in.  There is definitely a strong balance between heavy rockers and ballads. There is no doubt that Daniel Trigger handles both styles with ease. Listening to this album it sounds like whatever throat/voice problems that Trigger had they are certainly in the past. His voice is one of the major strengths of this album. Fans of hard rock should definitely give this album a listen.

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Sledge Leather-Imagine Me Alive

Metal Up Records

Just last week I covered Leather Leone's lone solo release, "Shock Waves", in a Forgotten Gems article. The former Chastain vocalist, who has also played in Malibu Barbie and Rude Girl, has just resurfaced in a new project called Sledge Leather. Now, it should be quite obvious that the "leather" part of Sledge Leather refers to Leather Leone. Well, the "sledge" part is drummer Sandy Sledge (who also plays piano on the album's cuts "Torch" & "One Glimpse") who, besides playing in Warbride and Weaponsvan, played with Leather Leone in Rude Girl and Malibu Barbie. Joining the pair is former Dio members Scott Warren (keyboards) and Jimmy Bain (bass; also ex-Rainbow) as well as Matthias Weisheit (all guitars - rhythm and lead, E-Bow on "One Glimpse'", baritone guitar). There is also a guest appearance by bass player Jeff Subauste on "Fast Forgiveness" and "Sisyphus". Alright, now that we know who plays what on “Imagine Me Alive” let's take a look at what Sledge Leather has to offer. First of all I must state up front that I am a huge Leather Leone fan. As far as I am concerned if you are talking about women of rock and metal then she is one of the all time greats. In fact you could argue that she is quite possibly the best female heavy metal vocalist of all time. Maybe I'm off my rocker (or off my meds), but few singers past or present can touch Leather Leone when it comes to raw talent. So, with that said she sounds great. Has her voice changed since the early days of Chastain? Yeah, I'd say so. That is to be expected though. We all age and go through changes. Leather Leone though can still knock the ball out of the park so no complaints there. Musically, the CD ends up somewhere between hard rock and traditional heavy metal. There are some exceptions though. Take the short instrumental track "Illusions Opus 1" for example. It almost sounds like something you'd expect to hear from Queensrÿche or Fates Warning. And then there is the track "The Lost Forgiveness". The keyboard parts make the track have an almost Evanescence vibe. Only Evanescence would never be considered as heavy as Sledge Leather is. Otherwise, the keyboard is used only as an enhancement on tracks as the sound that is coming through the speakers is quite heavy. The title cut not only opens the album, but ends up as one of the more serious shredders. It is the excellent work of guitarist Matthias Weisheit that really carries the number along. The same goes for the heavy track "The Guy Upstairs Lied". Here you truly hear the Ronnie James Dio influence is Leather's voice although musically it is a bit more power metal than anything I recall Dio ever doing. What else can you say about the slow burner “Father’s Daughter” other than it is emotionally intense. "One Glimpse" might be taking it's time building up, but it does feature some nice guitar work. The album's last track, "Sisyphus" will leave you wanting more. It sounds as if it wants to eventually take off and then.....well, the album is over. With just 11 tracks in all (5 of which are just smaller numbers that are mostly instrumental in nature) "Imagine Me Alive" is one short album. It just squeaks by the 30 minute mark. So, in a way it is more like a glorified EP. That said it can be all yours for a mere $10 (in the U.S. at least) so who can complain? And that includes shipping and handling! Even if it is short on length it still packs a nice punch and has plenty to offer old school and new school metal fans. Follow the link below if your interested and if your a heavy metal fanatic you should be. This album is a nice welcome back present for Leather Leone fans. It's equal parts heavy and melodic, rock and metal and trust me, if your a fan of either Chastain or Leather Leone it is a album you'll want to own. Let's hope that Sledge Leather keeps at it and the next release is not only longer, but right around the bend! After all the years of waiting I think I speak for all fans of Leather Leone when I say "we want more!". Until then "Imagine Me Alive" will have to do.

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Everything Went Black-Cycles Of Light

Lost Shepherd/Prosthetic

Awhile back I talked about trying to cover some of the releases that we've had sitting around Heavy Metal Time Machine waiting to be reviewed. While these releases are not physically taking up space, as we are talking about our digital Haulix page here, they have been overlooked for one reason or another. With that said let's roll the dice so to speak and grab out Everything Went Black's album "Cycles Of Light". This particular release came out in mid-January so it is a few months old, but it still smells fresh enough to review so here goes. The promo states that the band hails from the "wasteland of St. Louis". Apparently someone decided to take out St. Louis and I didn't know about it. Man, talk about media blackout! Anyway, since the band’s formation in the spring of 2009 they have released an EP, a 7” on Hands Up! Records, and a split with Louisville, KY hardcore outfit Rattletooth on St. Louis based label I Hate Punk Rock Records. Not that much in the way of a catalog, but some bands save up their best stuff instead of releasing a slew of so-so records year after year after year. With "Cycles Of Light", Everything Went Black's debut album, the band took took their sweet time this past summer putting all the right pieces in place. You could look at it as make or break it time for the band I suppose. After all metallic hardcore isn't exactly a new trend and there are more and more of these types of groups hitting the scene daily. Go to just about any large city in America where punks and bangers hang together and I'm sure you'll find your own Everything Went Black. Is that a bad thing? Pardon my French, but hell no! Since my teen years (or the days when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth according to my kids) hardcore and metal have been hooking up, having one night stands and producing the most insane and over the top little crossover babies you've ever seen. I'll go on record as saying that with their debut full-length album, "Cycles of Light", there is not anything new under the sun music-wise. And despite the fact that the band (who no doubt took their name from the 1982 compilation album by Black Flag) are said to be influenced by the likes of The Hope Conspiracy, Black Flag (hence the name) and Entombed this is more or less straight ahead hardcore metal. It sounds as if it was released back in the mid to late eighties. Of course just like albums from that era (or rather underground hardcore/metal releases from that time period) the production is raw. The sound tends to suffer a bit as a result and, again just being honest, some of the material blurs together. But, you can't discount the intensity and energy that Everything Went Black bring forth in their music. "Cycles Of Light" is one of those releases that I'm glad I took the time to go back and check out. If I was still "anarchyboy", as in the days of my youth, a band like Everything Went Black would be sitting in my tape bin well-worn out. As a 38 year old single father of two that sort of fire might be gone, but it is never really forgotten. It still sits there right under the surface and as a result, even with bad knees and a bad back, Everything Went Black is able to push all the right buttons. I can't say that Everything Went Black will end up being more than just one of "those" bands. You know the type of band I'm talking about. It is the type of underground band who puts out a few releases every couple of years but, despite having a nice size following, they never really make it past the underground stage. I hope I am wrong and the band matures into a real ball-breaker outfit. My gut though tells me that this is band that will stick to their roots (which is a good thing), put out good music and have a steady career, but ultimately remain a mere cult act.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Diablo Swing Orchestra- Pandora's Piñata

Sensory Records/Candlelight Records

Diablo Swing Orchestra (or DSO for short) is Swedish band that was formed in 2003. This is the group's third album so far and, believe it or not, the band's sound is made up of heavy metal, opera, swing jazz, tango and even spaghetti western type soundtrack music. How's that for an odd mix? The origin of band's name is a bit long so if your at all interested I've posted a link to Wikipedia below. The odd name of the band (and for that matter odd album title) aside this is certainly an interesting listen. Having expanded to an eight-piece lineup, with the permanent addition of two horn players, since their last album (the acclaimed 2009 album, "Sing Along Songs For The Damned And Delirious") DSO is fronted by a trained opera singer by the name of Annlouice Loegdlund. Her professional range helps DSO avoid being a mere avant-garde metal curiosity. Instead she helps set the pace of "Pandora’s Piñata"'. No doubt most will still view a band like DSO as a bit of a gimmick. Can such an odd mash-ups of styles truly work? On paper the answer would seem to be no. Even as I type this review (with "Pandora’s Piñata" playing in the background) I'm torn between liking this album's attempt at extreme musical experimentation and the thought that it all sounds so, for lack of a better word, weird. Should you seek out the album be prepared to experience a new take on genre-splicing extreme metal. DSO are another band that will certainly be of no appeal to the mainstream heavy metal fan. That being said I know there is an audience for bands like DSO. For those seeking something different, off the beaten path as it were, DSO are a must-hear band. It should do wonders for people who march to the beat of a different drummer and view avant-garde metal as just the first step of many new adventures waiting to be discovered. I do plan to listen to this release more in the very near future and, since it has already happened with the second run through of this album, I am sure that with each play there will be new discoveries to be had. This is an album that really needs repeated listens. Especially if you are to have any hope that you can pull more out of the band's one of a kind sound.

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Forgotten Gems-Blacklace-Unlaced


Okay, admittedly unlike some of the forgotten gems I write this isn't some band I stumbled on the other day. This is New York's Blacklace and I have been a fan of theirs for some time. The first time I heard them was likely by way of them doing "I like to rock" on Hit Parader's Wild Bunch cassette only compilation back in 1985. It was a good solid rock track. Although as I would eventually find out they had even recorded even better songs. This New York band formed in 1981 then a demo in 1983 before releasing two full length efforts with "Unlaced" in 1984 and "Get it while it's hot" in 1985 both on Mausoleum records. In addition to being on the Wild Bunch they also contributed "Damn Cheater" to the "New York Metal 84" compilation. The played a lot around the New York/ New Jersey area opening for Twisted Sister, the Plastmatics, Manowar and others. The band would eventually call it quits in 1987. The band was anchored by the Fragnito brothers Anthony (bass) and Carlo (guitar). They were fronted by Maryann Scandiffio. The band had a different drummer they parted ways with shortly before recording this album, but landed Steve Werner in time to record "Unlaced". The sound is somewhere between hard rock and classic metal. Think early Warlock mixed some Judas Priest riffs and add in some catchy vocal melodies. It has a definite mid-80's feel and the lyrics range from adequate to cheesey. but the music and vocals always make up for any shortcomings in this department. I have played this album over and over during the years and own both and the follow-up on vinyl and on a two on one CD version.  Mausoleum

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Blood Mortized- The Key To A Black Heart


Swedish death metal? Well, that is unusual. Or not. Really though when it's good death metal who cares if it is original right? Blood Mortized (nice name by the way) come courtesy of the German label FDA REKOTZ. It's far too early in the morning for me (and I was only left one cup of coffee!) to remember how it is that I came to get promos from these fine folks. Sometimes these things just show up in my inbox so who I am to argue? Formed in 2007, the band has released a self-titled debut album and an EP, "Bestial", already. Now, as I'm looking back through the archives (at this very moment) I do see that I previously reviewed "Bestial" so that does help to explain why this full-length blast of Dismember type death metal showed up in my mail. Maybe, it's the lack of sunshine on this dreary Saturday morning but I rather like this release more than "Bestial". Despite my 13 daughter walking into my study just moments ago and saying "what is that noise?" this Stockholm based death metal band has a wonderful old school sound that is also somewhat underground in nature and "fuzzed out garage metal" in style. With the gritty vocals coming from Mattias Parkkila the album ends up sounding quite raw, almost black in places, and just the ticket for a rain soaked April day in my part of Ohio. It certainly seems to be a step up from the band's EP and an album that should appeal to not only Dismember fans but Amon Amarth ones as well. With my second cup of coffee in hand (thanks Dad!) I'm off to see what other kind of trouble I can get into this morning. I don't expect to forget about Blood Mortized as easily the next time around as "The Key To A Black Heart" will be on my listening list for the week ahead. Who needs more Swedish death metal? The answer is we all do!

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Stone Axe-Captured live! Roadburn festival 2011

Ripple music

Stone Axe have not been around that long but they sure have quite a few releases. Even though they have done just two LPs, there were two disc deluxe editions of those plus they releases some seven inches. So what kind of release are they missing? Oh, I know a live album. They teased with some live tracks as bonuses on those deluxe editions. From those we knew they could bring it live and were very comfortable on stage too. Yet a whole album would surely be even more spectacular. Indeed it is. Not every bands translates well on a live album although some try to twist the knobs in the studio to tweak their live sound. I doubt there was a great deal of that going on when getting this album together. There didn't need to be because the old style early 70's throwback rock that this band creates so easily flows on a live album just as well as the studio versions. Maybe even better believe it or not. They tear into the instrumental opener "Stonin'" and then glide into "On with the show". From there they just keep knocking out killer rock songs one after the other with their mix of of AC/DC, Free, Bad Company and others. For me the highlights include the slow and raw "Black Widow", the bouncing "Shine on" and the heavy hitter "Old Soul". Seriously ever track is worth hearing and the band is seriously tight live.For those who are already fans of this band this is a welcome addition to their catalog. For those who have never heard this fantastic act then this would serve as a fine introduction.

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Soundgarden-"Live To Rise" Single

Hollywood Records, Inc.

Back in the summer of 1990 I was turned onto Soundgarden by a girlfriend. The band's second studio album, "Louder Than Love" (which had been released in Sept. of 1989) became the soundtrack for my long nights working at Sea World (or Slave World as we liked to call it). Cleaning a park after hours can be a lonesome process, but somehow the sound of Chris and company made it easier to cope with. By the time "Badmotorfinger" came roaring out I had become a full-fledged fan. Three years after that Soundgarden became a household name thanks to "Superunknown" and, while the rest of the world was singing their praises, from that moment on I sort of lost interest. It wasn't because Soundgarden were suddenly huge. It was simply that the music I knew and loved had become lost. The band (for me at least) was no longer about riding this huge post-Black Sabbath riff. In a manner of speaking what rolled off the presses was something more akin to pop. Where was the band that penned such great tracks as "Get on the Snake", "Full on Kevin's Mom" and "Big Dumb Sex"? They were gone. Now, with the much hyped, and highly anticipated by my son and I, new Avengers Assemble movie due out May 4th we get one of the album's cuts in "Live To Rise". This was a free download off of Itunes otherwise I'm not so sure I would have picked it up. The movie's soundtrack is set to feature not only Soundgarden, but Shinedown, Rise Against, Bush, Evanescence, Five Finger Death Punch and a host of other alternative rock bands. For Soundgarden this is hyped as the first new material in 15 years. For later-day Soundgarden fans I fully expect a lot of horns in the air and full blown hard ons. For older fans of the group "Live To Die" will be more of the same alt-metal that plagued Soundgarden towards the end of their run. Ultimately it sounds like a soundtrack rock track which might be the worst thing about "Live To Die". There is just little to the song in terms of substance to set it apart. If you've heard other soundtracks from the past 10+ years that feature sets of alt-metal/radio metal material you already know what to expect. Soundgarden should have material stronger than this. The song does little to set it apart from radio-rock of the Foo Fighters which is just crazy if you consider just how good this band used to be. I'm sorry Soundgarden as I really wanted to like "Live To Rise". Instead it made me just go "Eh....".

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Current playlist

Here you go.

Listening to:

Heavy Metal Army-S/T
Huntress-Spell Eater
Kraze-Devil In Disquise
Cobra-Warriors of the Dead/Back from the Dead
Faithful Breath-Gold 'n' Glory
Blade Runner-Back Street Lady / Too Far Too Late, Single
Front Line-Outside Your Window 12"
The Exploited-Death Before Dishonour
Charged GBH-City Baby Attacked by Rats


The Abominable Snowman
They Live
Quarantine 2


52 Things Kids Need From A Dad

Metal Mark-
Listening to-

Blacklace-Unlaced and Get it while it's hot
Sadus-Illusions (Chemical Exposure)
Iron Maiden-Brave new world
Pyramid-First stone
Attila-Rolling Thunder
Stone Axe-Captured live-Roadburn festival 2011
Bagatur-Сказание за Древнобългарското Величие
Daniel Trigger-Infinite Persistance
The Fog soundtrack (the 1979 version of course)

Logan's Run complete series
This island earth
Various Three Stooges shorts
Frasier season three

a bunch of young adult books for work

***What are you listening to, watching and reading?

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Avenue Of Allies

When Oliver Hartmann's debut album, "Out In The Cold", was released in 2005 it was meet with rave reviews. The former At Vance front man (who has also been heard on rock operas such as Avantasia, Aina and Genius as well as guesting on many productions by acts like Hammerfall, Edguy, Helloween, Lunatica, Rhapsody, Soul Seller and Empty Tremor) ended up with numerous "Album Of The Month" awards and even a "Debut Album Of The Year" award. The same top-notch melodic rock that was on display on "Out In The Cold" is also present on this, the 4th release from Hartmann. The songs, with the obvious exception of the cover of "Shout" (Tears For Fears), were mostly written by Oliver Hartmann himself and fall squarely into the melodic rock/AOR/melodic metal catigory. The album was mixed by Sascha Paeth (Avantasia, Edguy, Epica, Kamelot) at Gate Studios, Wolfsburg, Germany and from the opening moments of "All My Life" offers a great reason to simply sit back and soak in the sounds of Hartmann's powerful voice. "Like A Rive" will resonate well with melodic radio rock fans as will "You Are The One". The mid-range rock of "Fool For You" and "Save Me" are good, but it's a shame that as the album unfolds the songs tend to slow down a bit. It's not as if Hartmann moves completely away from the rock. On cuts like the diverse "Fall From Grace" Hartmann can be heard pulling the power rock riffs out of the garage. He thinks about taking the guitar rock for a quick ride, but does not seem to make it past the end of the drive way. It is what it is though and even I will admit that a track like the power ballad “After The Love Is Gone” is well-written and executed. So is the track “From A Star”. While the slower cuts might take away a little of the edge of "Balance" they are so well done that it's hard to argue against them. It must be said though that when the opening moments of “Dance On The Wire" came on I had to double check to make sure it wasn't a cover of "Sweet Home Alabama". I was fully expecting someone to tell me "turn it up"! While that number isn't a cover Hartmann does tackle the Tears For Fears number "Shout". Their cover version of the song actually pulls out the harder rock that has been patiently waiting to be released since "Save Me". It's a fun number that works well done up garage rock style. "Time To Face The Truth" turns the mood around though by bringing back the smooth sounds of AOR/melodic rock before "The Best Is Yet To Come" finally tells you it's time to settle down for the night with a glass of wine and a good book. It's hard to argue with the fact that relaxation (and wine!) might just be the ticket in this high paced world. "Balance" might not be the best choice of album titles if your talking about the balance between rockers ("All My Life") and ballads ("After The Love Is Gone") as the album certainly seems to favor the slower cuts. But, if your talking about a nice balance of various moods and emotions then "Balance" is a sure-fire winner. If your in mood for sincere melodic rock that is played with both passion and professionalism then "Balance" is the way to go.

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Kontrust: Second Hand Wonderland

Napalm Records

Kontrust are one those bands where, try as hard as you may, you just can't appreciate how different they are until you actual hear them. While the promo calls them "crossover" (not crossover as in D.R.I., S.O.D., etc) for me at least that particular tag doesn't quite cover the experimental nature of the band's sound. The band was formed in 2001 (out of the ashes of a band called Suicide Mission) and on "Second Hand Wonderland" the group delivers a genre jumping mix that is highlighted by the vocal interactions of Agata Jarosz and Stefan Lichtenberger. According to Wikipedia the band is known for wearing lederhosen when they play live and while that, in and of itself, is different it's the music that counts right? First off both male and female vocals come into play on "Second Hand Wonderland". Before I get into the meat of the matter that is the one thing I really liked about the band and this album. The differences between Agata and Stefan's vocals offer a nice contrast. It is against this backdrop that the band paints wildly with it's many colors. When I say that Kontrust, which by the way translates to “butt rest”, sound like no other band I've ever heard I am being deadly serious. This album is so unique that it defies a logical description. I would say that "Second Hand Wonderland" reminds me somewhat of Mike Patton's various bands, but even that doesn't quite cut it. The best way to truly express how out there the sound is would be to suggest that you take out a blender and mix Pantera, Textures, No Doubt/Gwen Stefani, System Of A Down, Ministry, Faith No More (without the funk that is), Bob Marley, Linkin Park, Weird Al Yankovic, Brujeria, Mr. Bungle, Andrew W.K., Limp Bizkit and maybe even the Melvins. Then, after your done cleaning up the mess you've just made (and yes, it will be a bit of a mess), you toss down the whole thing with a side order of (hot and spicy) weird lyrics presented in English and German. Depending on your mood (and musical tastes I suppose) the end result is either tasty or repugnant. Or maybe a little of both? Like I said, this is a hard act to describe and an even harder album to fully digest. So, if your going to check out Kontrust please be patient. Even if it does not tickle your taste buds at first give it awhile to sink in. With all of the different elements of punk, groove, ska, death metal, reggae, pop rock, industrial, heavy metal, alternative rock and polka that Kontrust have incorporated into the songs (in fact you can usually find all of those different genres in one single song!), "Second Hand Wonderland" ends up as an album that, while not brilliant, is at least interesting to the ears. Sometimes interesting music is a refreshing change even if it leaves you scratching your head in disbelief.

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French Metal Friday: ADX

ADX are one of those French bands that has managed to carve out a nice career for themselves in their homeland, where they are a highly respected group, and yet they are hardly known by the heavy metal community at large. Outside of their native country ADX are at best thought of as the French's answer to Agent Steel. And while that description is fair, the band's debut album, "Exécution", being one of the best speed metal albums of all time, they do have more to offer fans. This Paris act was formed in 1982 and, as was the case with most bands of that time period, they sang in an unapologetic manor entirely in French. After two demos, both of which were released in 1984, the band's top-notch sound could no longer be ignored and they were signed to Devil Records. In 1985 the group released the cult album "Exécution" with "La Terreur" released the following year. The band would remain an active part of the French metal scene, releasing studio albums and proving to be a popular live act, until sometime in 1992 when they decided to take a break. After six years away from the scene the 1998 best of/compilation album "In Memorium" was released. Also in 1998, with public interest peaked again, ADX would do a short reunion. That same year saw the release of ADX's comeback album, "Résurrectionin". With the French public yet again worked up in a frenzy by their homegrown heroes a live album was released in 2001 ( "VIII Sentence"). For whatever reason though after the live album's release ADX went on yet another hiatus. They would however reform again in 2006 before releasing a new album, "Division Blindée", in 2008. Since then the band has been going steady. Their latest album, "Immortel", was released in 2011 and, while I have not heard it personally, from all accounts it finds the band in top-from. ADX were one of those bands who never felt the need to conform to others expectations. The band continue to sing in their native tongue and, while that no doubt limits their appeal to English-speaking fans, play their own potent brand of French steel. If you are not familiar with their music I would probably suggest you start with the band's debut album and work your way up. The two albums that follow, “La Terreur“ and “Suprematie” are also killer, but their debut album, “Execution”, has become a real cult classic because of it's mixture of speed metal and power metal. One of these days I hope to fill in the holes in my ADX collection, but as a single father I often times find other priorities come first. In the meantime I can't help but wish that more people would become familiar with this cult French metal act.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Huntress-Spell Eater

Napalm Records

Observant readers might recall that a month or so ago (March 22, 2012 to be precise) I did a write-up on Huntress and their "Eight of Swords" single. At the time I did wonder to myself if the band would prove to be anything more substantial than all the hype that surrounded the group's hot singer. After all, one good song does not an album make. Since that time two things happened though to change my mind and, as a result, get me truly excited to hear the whole album. The first is "Spell Eater". Or, rather the song "Spell Eater" as it was included on the last sampler album to be featured in Metal Hammer. It proved to me that the band was capable of pulling off true heavy metal that, while yes both dark and sinister in much the same way as Mercyful Fate, was well crafted and executed consistently. The second thing to happen was the tremendous amount of praise this album was receiving. I'm not just talking about reviews from your run of the mill, mainstream sources (where they wouldn't know NWOBHM if it smacked them in the face) but from reviewers I highly respected. So, a day after sending off a formal request to Napalm Records I was happy to see that I was approved and that "Spell Eater" would be there for the taking. I've got to mention something and that is yes, even though Huntress is much more than the seriously deadly lungs of Julliard-educated vocalist Jill Janus, I'm still drawn to the band because of promo pictures like this:

There is of course nothing wrong with being both strong and sensual and Jill Janus is much more than simply a temptress. As stated she can sing and "Spell Eater" does a great job of wrapping music tightly around her that works to highlight her strengths. Before taking the lead spot in Huntress, and probably before she went around in fur and fake blood, Jill could be found fronting an all-female cover band called The Chelsea Girls. Since that band was known about town for playing hard rock and heavy metal numbers it does seem funny that with Huntress at least, since I did not check out The Chesea Girls myself for this review, Jill pulls off a rather nice impersonation of King Diamond. Let's not forget about the rest of the band and there help in crafting this killer album as it would be easy enough for them to be over shadowed by Jill. The rest of the band is filled out by ex-Professor members Blake Meahl and Ian Alden (guitar solos), Eric Harris (bassist) Carl Wiezrbicky (drums). Their old band was straight-ahead heavy metal so when they formed Huntress with Jill the foundation must have already been set in place to create heavy steel. Huntress brings forth the sounds of older metal (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Taist Of Iron, Witchfinder General, Black Sabbath, Cirith Ungol, Chastian, Mercyful Fate, etc.) and like many bands these days splices it with a more modern touch. For Huntress it is all about having that edge. The band's metal comes across as a no-frills, no fuss approach and yet, hidden right below the surface, there is a technically savvy bunch that knows just how good they really are even if Jill gets all the glory. When it's all been said and done I walk away from Huntress with a new appreciation in place. For a band to get this much hype and really be worth it says something. "Spell Eater" is a satisfying debut for this female-fronted act and an album that, hopefully with time, will be the first of many great moments to come. It's good to see Huntress step right into the scene and make a lasting impression with an album that is equal parts heavy, dark and dreadful.

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Angel King-World Of Pain

meantime music

Another Swedish sleaze metal/glam rock band? Is it just me or does it seem as if another new one pops up everyday? Taking a look at the album art left me with one of those "been there done that" feelings. And while I appreciate a hot angel with a gun as much as the next guy I wasn't exactly expecting to be blown away with anything original or inspiring. Thankfully Angel King were not as bad as I feared. This Stockholm based quartet was formed in late 2010 by guitar player Jack Vegas (Snakes In Paradise, Bedlam). Before that though Jack had actually been kicking around the idea for the band for some time. He had songs in mind, but there was just one problem- no band. Enter friends Rock Boston and Snake Denver. This bass and drummer pair (of the band degreed) helped Jack create actually music around the riffs he'd already written. With vocalist Lazzy G (Lizzard Eye) on board the band was on set. "World Of Pain" being the end result of course. First things first. I was not expecting what came out Lazzy G mouth and that was a rather noticeable Blackie Lawless vibe. It certainly makes this Swedish rock/metal band sound a bit more raw which was the one thing I did like. Music-wise though this album draws from the same sources as most modern sleaze metal/glam rock bands meaning the album sounds really familiar. That said there was one song, "Enemy", which was different. It has a real 70's vibe going for it making it stick out like a sore thumb stand among the usual AC/DC style rockers. In this case different is good though. "Enemy" is just one of those numbers where your instantly transported back in time. Or at least you are once it takes a decided turn from the usual sleaze vibe at around the 2:45 minute mark. That is when (for even a brief moment) things get interesting. Beyond that moment "World Of Pain" just walks along a well-worn path of rock and roll riffs set in place by everyone from Kiss and AC/DC to Great White, Danger Danger and Kix. While Angel King most likely do not have enough going for them right now to really stand out in the crowd (seeing as there are so many acts going for the same sound and style these days) the music is at least above average and that has to count for something right? No doubt sleaze fans would like this release although I must say that Angel King offer nothing new or exciting to the scene.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Andy says-

This cult British band should not to be confused with either the rock band Incubus or the five or so other bands known as Incubus. Rather what we have here is a short-lived NWOBHM band that managed a 5 Way Split album on Guardian with fellow NWOBHM bands Millennium, Spartan Warrior, Risk and Tokyo Rose ("Pure Overkill") and their one odd album, " To the Devil a Daughter". What makes the album so odd? Well, first things first. Let's take a quick look at the band. Despite what the picture above might imply this Incubus was a four-piece act that was formed in 1980. The band was made up of what one might reasonably assume was three brothers and a friend/cousin? Dave Crawford handled vocals and guitars while his brother Ken played guitar and his other brother Steve played drums. Colin Evans rounded out the group on bass. Maybe three brothers in one band might not be all that unique. That said for whatever reason the band choose the occult name Incubus and adopted this satanic/witchcraft image. Not the best recipe for success in the days of NWOBHM. And while the band might have found some common ground with groups like Demon, Satan, Witchfinder General, Venom and Witchfynde thanks to the sinister edge there was the sound to deal with. The two songs from the Pure Overkill split ("Ain't Runnin' For You" and "Caught Red Handed") were melodic metal and showcased a rising band full of promise. No doubt a lot of people were thrown off then when "To The Devil A Daughter" dropped. Here the band's sound owes more than a little bit to Blue Oyster Cult although there is still some melodic NWOBHM to be found on cuts like "Life Beyond The Grave" and the "what were you thinking with that title folks as it is not an AC/DC cover!" track "Highway To Hell". There are times when Incubus sounds like Demon or Dark Heart and you really take notice of what these guys were aiming for. Other times thought the album just seems odd and misplaced. Likely the band couldn't settle on a sound and just tried their hand at whatever they could come up with. When the band's record label ran into trouble it looks as if that signaled the end for the band. There was talk of a second album in the works although if it would have been as bizarre as their first album I doubt they would have made much more after that. "To The Devil A Daughter" is an album I like (I just picked up the re-release with bonus "Pure Overkill" cuts) but even I agree that the mash-up of styles can be frustrating.

Metal Mark says-

This is a slightly one. The title implies a satanic leaning, but the music is melodic metal with a definite nod to the 1970's. However the album title is also a 1976 Hammer film so their devil influences may be by way of horror films instead of straight from the hellish inferno. These guys are more about melodies and textures than the the straight, raw riffs that made up the sound of other bands from the scene like Raven and Saxon. Their style is a little closer to the more structured sound of Diamond Head and Dark Heart, but not nearly as even or focused. I hear some Thin Lizzy at times only smoother in their music too. "To the devil a daughter" is uneven at times. What I liked about were the amount of ideas and the strong mix of melodic and heavy parts. The music doesn't go with the lyrics so much, but back then maybe the two didn't always have to go hand in hand. It's a shame they didn't do a second album. I definitely would have liked to have heard that to see if they settled on a more definite direction or if they just kept doing the different songs thrown together in a package. Definitely worth hearing and despite it's faults it still holds up very well.

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Top of the heap-Saxon

Andy Says-

Released only a few months after the classic "Wheels of Steel" the band's third studio album is my personal favorite by these NWOBHM legends. Seeing as we have covered this classic British act more than a few times already (be sure to check out our NWOBHM WEDNESDAY feature on the band) I won't spend too much time of the band's history. Needless to say along with Iron Maiden these guys are NWOBHM and the reason the movement had a lasting impact on future bands. Now, as is "Strong Arm Of The Law" sits right next to "Wheels of Steel" as a classic album and you can't go wrong with either release. Frankly the band's first four albums are all killer and the reason I got into the genre to begin with. The same friend that turned me onto Picture was kind enough to make me mix tape after mix tape of their songs and as I grew in knowledge of the band I grew in respect for just how amazing and timeless their music remains. With that out of the way let us take a look at album number three. It is a release many claim to be their personal favorite by Saxon and judging by the track list one can easily see why. I love the title track and along with "Heavy Metal Thunder" it is my personal favorite cut."Dallas 1 PM" was written about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and showed that the band was capable of composing material that was both heart felt and hard rocking. "20,000 Ft." is another number that is considered a classic and as a whole this album is just top-notch. How can you go wrong with an album that covers everything from rocking out to the assassination of President Kennedy?


Metal Mark says-

This is a tough choice. There were three real contenders for this honor. Those being Wheels of steel, Strong arm of the law and Denim and leather. They all have a fairly similar in style. Each one has some rockers, some slower one and some faster songs. Ultimately there's always been something about this album that is just a little better than the other two. There is plenty to offer here from the powerful "Princess of the night" to the driving "And the bands played on" to the fist pumping title track. I think the first Saxon album I heard was Crusader when it came out and I wasn't crazy about it even though I had heard so much about Saxon. Yet eventually I figured it was their earlier albums that got so much praise so around 1986 I went back to discover their earlier albums because what they were doing in the mid1980's was certainly not impressive. I heard Wheels of steel and Strong arm of the law and I found out what all the fuss was about. For whatever reason none of the stores I went to had Denim and Leather so I didn't hear it them. It probably wasn't until about 1989 that I found a used copy of it on cassette at a time when I was well into thrash and stuff like NWOBHM  was a distant memory in my metal education. However the cassette was like fifty cents and was using my walkmen a lot back then so I picked it up. I ended up wearing it out got a new copy maybe a year later. It became my favorite album then and has been so from that point on.

***What is your favorite Saxon album?

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Kissin' Dynamite-Money, sex and power

kissin dynamite

This is the third album from this German sleaze/hard rock outfit. They wear their influences on their sleeves with Guns and Roses, AC/DC, Motley Crue and Skid Row showing through. Plus some comparisons to current younger acts like Reckless Love and Vains of Jenna could be drawn as well. This band seems to be getting some hype. I am not sure if that's because people really like them or if they are just amazed to see a band who isn't from Sweden playing this style these days. What I liked about this album was the in your face approach they had. This style doesn't normally work when you play around with it too long so yes give me all you got right away. This also helped to demonstrate a sense of confidence and I definitely got a feeling that they love what their are doing and believe in it. Okay, I know you are just waiting for the "but" part of this review. Okay here you, overall this albums is decent, but the vocals inconsistant at times and that was a major distraction. If your singer kind of tries to be Axl Rose on moments and then sort of attempts to be Joe Le Ste the next it breaks up the flow of the music. That happened here a few times. I also felt like their creativity wasn't always equal to their energy which lead to moments where they are tyring be excited about playing dull music. That approach just didn't pan out all the time. It's a well above average effort, but they need some real work before people can start proclaming them the next big thing in hard rock.

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Strong Intention-Razorblade Express

PATAC Records

This six-track EP has been getting a bit of press thanks to the fact that the title cut, "Razorblade Express", features a guest spot from Eyehategod's one and only mad man Mike IX Williams. Forget that number for a second and consider the fact that the five other cuts on this release also offer the listener great bodily harm music wise. These tracks are just as intense, angry and in your face as the title cut is even without the help of Williams and his gargling razor blades voice. Underground act Strong Intention have been kicking up shit around the scene since the mid-nineties all the while bringing their New York influenced hardcore meets English grindcore sound to anyone with enough back bone and balls to handle it. Their music isn't for everyone as this Baltimore act is hostel as hell and (if we're being honest here folks) downright scary. With the album's first press run limited to just 500 copies "Razorblade Express" is sure to find a place in the hand's of die hard fans as well as those who love and appreciate the sounds of blistering and intense gut-punching hardcore/grind.

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Forgotten Gems-Supernaut-s/t


This is a strange one, folks. Strange because of it's origins so let me share that before getting at the music. Kissing Spell records released this album in 1999. This Supernaut were from England and are not be confused with 70's Australian glam band of the same name. This Supernaut supposedly formed in 1973 and had entered into negotiations with Vertigo records, but the record company decided not to release it because "it was too heavy". Too heavy? Well that sounds too good to be true...and it may be. The problem here is no one ever seems to have heard of these guys prior to the 1999 release of this self-titled album. Yet we are lead to believe that Black Sabbath's label had serious interest in a very raw instrumental band. Sounds funny to me like it's a lost recording yet there was some real interest in it. The two sides don't quite mesh. Now I listened to it thinking it was made in 1974. My thoughts were about how heavy it was for the time with really thick chunky riffs and deep tones despite the recorded in the basement feel. About halfway through the second track I began thinking there is no way this was done in 1974 and people didn't know about until 25 years later. Had this been in 1974 even if they were not signed back then it still would have bootlegged to death at some point in the 1980's at least. With the NWOBHM not far off after 1974 some band from that scene would have known of these guys and shared their praises. The sound incorporates early Sabbath heaviness mixed in with some Deep Purple, Bang and shades of other proto-metal acts. They have keyboards that try hard to be of the early 70's variety, but I heard few parts that had me thinking they either pre-dated Rainbow's Rising (1976) or they heard it and couldn't keep from letting it slip in thus revealing that it wasn't recorded in 1974.They thrive on repetition, but frequently conjure up some interesting odd bits to tuck in the mix along the way. Almost every song sounds like a very loose jam, a very early demo or both. There is some charm in that whether it's real or not. This is a slightly interesting listen and it's fun for a minute to imagine these guys tucked away in some apartment listening to Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Budgie albums. Then they get up, fire up their gear and set out to work on trying to carve out the heaviest music they can think of.  I guess someone else thought that sounded like a good idea too. Probably someone involved with Kissing Spell records in the late 1990's would be my guess.

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Forgotten Gems: Black Widow-Satan's Playground

Jab Productions

Several years ago if you were to have asked me if I knew any bands by the name of Black Widow I'd have either brought up the occult rock/progressive rock act that released "Sacrifice" back in 1970 or the Belgium act that released the excellent "Streetfighter" in 1984. Just how Maryland's own Black Widow came to my attention is a long tale that is better suited for another day. For now at least let's just say that it was initially Black Widow's 7 minute track "Heavy Metal Warrior" (off of "Satan's Playground") that compelled me to search out this four-piece band. Black Widow (now known as Black Widow USA) was formed in 1997 and began life as an '80s metal cover band. The female-fronted band is lead by "Cat" and features John Anthony (guitars, piano), Dean Meredith (bass) and Tommy Azzinaro (drums). Right up front I feel compelled to mention that "Satan's Playground" features a very basic production job. If the thought of a raw, paper-thin album doesn't appeal to you then stop reading. It is not demo quality or anything. More than anything it just sounds like a bare minimum approach and if one didn't know better you'd swear this was an eighties release. The no-frills production job works for a band like Black Widow though. With their take on traditional eighties metal (influences being bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Metallica, Saxon, Dokken, Motorhead, Bitch, Raven, Warlock, Iron Maiden, etc.) you wouldn't want an album that sounds too slick. The band's debut album is real heavy metal with a noticeable dark atmosphere. The vocals of Cat fall somewhere between Doro Pesch and Betsy Bitch and the more the album unfolds the stronger she gets. On the album's opening number "Black Sunshine" your treated not only to Cat's powerful voice, but also to John Anthony's thrash metal riffs. Falling somewhere between the sound's of Bay Area thrash and old fashioned metal the track easily sets the mood. Dean and Tommy (bass and drums respectively) are highlighted next on "Silent Scream". Here we find a nice metal thumper delivered with sinister intentions. On the passion-filled "Ends of the Earth" you can't help but hear the Doro influences really come into play. Cat's voice has the same kind of intensity that Doro is well known for. It's the same feeling on the track "Blackjack" (which on my copy at least cuts off out of the blue) where Doro seems as likely an influence as solo Ozzy . "Now It's Over" offers a nice change of pace as Johnny Anthony shows off his skill on the piano. After a sample of children playing the title cut kicks in next. "Satan's Playground" sounds like "...And Justice for All" material. Speaking of Metallica, "Brain Damage" is another Black Widow track that seems to have it's roots firmly planted in Bay Area thrash. "Winds Of Fire" is one of my favorite tracks as it offers a nice sinister vibe. This epic track sounds both charming and downright evil. I'd say it's similar in feeling to what you'd experience on some of Dio's solo albums. "You're Guilty" is a rather gritty metal number. "The Unknown" is Black Sabbath meets Raven. Things get a little weird on the next track "Night Chills". After some creepy samples (nice zombie moans there folks) guitarist Johnny Anthony goes off on a (heavy metal period) Ted Nugent rampage out of the blue. It's both odd and fascinating. Black Widow gets back to basics on the album's seven minute closing number, "Heavy Metal Warrior". As stated earlier it was the first track I ever heard from Black Widow. Really, there's nothing fancy about the track at all. It's just a no-frills heavy metal number that reminds me of mid-eighties US metal. In general this album really does sound like something you might have found while rummaging through a stack of LPs back in 1988 or 1989. I find myself listening to this album at least once a month or so when I'm in the mood for something familiar and yet different. Black Widow are one of those bands that offer real heavy metal without any studio-tricks or fancy arrangements. "Satan's Playground" might not look like a quality LP (for one thing the album art is super cheesy as is the album's title!), but at it's heart it is just old fashioned heavy metal played with passion and integrity. The band did release another album in 2007 called "Soldiers from Hell" although I have yet to hear it. You can find out more about Black Widow at the band's website below even if it does look as if it has been updated since late 2008. There is a Facebook page as well set up for the band. Just look for Black Widow USA.

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Incoming Cerebral Overdrive-LeStell: A voyage adrift

Supernatural Cat

Some people probably spend some time going over a band's background before listening to an album they are going to review. I rarely do that. Nope, I frequently just fire it up and give it a shot then do the research on the band later. I don't see the need to have any preconceived ideas about  a band. The music is either going to hit me or it isn't. So I start this album up and the opener "Mirzam" flies on spinning all over the place with riffs, drums and synth effects going this way and that. I am trying to get a focus on all that's going on. There really isn't time as the second song "Sirius" comes smashing through with spaced out effects and all the subtlety of a wrecking ball through your front window. The vocals growl along with musical attack. The rest of the album continues the high quality of these songs. Each track has it's own insane sounds and personality although they all contain moments of beauty and brutality mixed in together as they tie in elements of stoner rock, drone, death and hardcore. Frequently bands playing this style can't seem to contain themselves and tend to have longer tracks. However on this album out of the first nine tracks only one is over five minutes. They saved some up for the final track Rigel which runs about eleven minutes. Unfortunately despite the length this song didn't grabbed me as much as the other songs. It felt like the same amount of tempo changes and ideas only stretched out to fit into the time frame. Still the bulk of the material got my attention and I will definitely be listening to this album for a while.

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It's always good to hear that thrash music is alive and well even a place like Greece. To be precise the four-piece band Menace hail from Crete, but honestly this particular brand of thrash sounds more akin to something you'd expect to hear coming out of North or South American. The band has been around since 2006 although this seems to be their first recording. Or at least that is according to the Metal Archives. Now, before I get too far ahead of myself the promo material (which by the way is not much, but what there is of it was pulled off of Strappado's Obscure Metal Blog which is where the demo came to my attention-thanks mate!) states that CD-R copies are available with pro-tapes to be released soon. Speaking of which it should probably be noted that the same folks at the Metal Archives have made mention that those pro-tapes are limited to a mere 200 copies. Just thought I'd throw that out there to everyone. So, let's get our minds back on Menace now. Just what is it that these three particular tracks might have to offer fans of thrash metal? Why don't we first take a look at the vocals of one Stelios "Stelis" Kartsonis. Some have been bringing attention to the band Rage and sure enough when you hear Stelios get things moving it does bring to mind that cult act. It takes more than just a sinister voice to get noticed these days though so on we move to the heart of the matter- the music. Here is where we find old Bay Are bands coming into play as well as South American thrash like Sepultura. Throw in some Annihilator and Razor (we can't forget about our friends up in Canada now can we?) and what you end up with is a thrash act that is hard not to like. There might be some German thrash to be found in this raw style as well (maybe a hair of Sodom?), but on the whole this thrash sounds more western then anything to these ears. These three tracks might not set the world on fire, but if your at all into thrash you could certainly do worse. You can find out more info over at Strappado's site below.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Trioscapes-Seperate realities

Metal Blade

Too often when a band gets the label of metal with jazz the results are more metal than jazz and you get varying results. What if a band's music involves just drums, bass and tenor saxophone? I see the metal fans that are still reading this getting antsy already. Hold on, it's more promising then you may think. How can it be metal without guitar? The answer is the saxophone takes lead parts that you may think would be assigned to the guitar. Now there are still some unpredictable movements as well which allows the band plenty of room to show off their chops. It's interesting to hear a song begin and I think this is jazz and won't be heavy yet eventually they find a way to make it heavy and keep the bouncing feel of jazz throughout as well. They even go beyond regular arrangements and tread into the bizarre and chaotic territory at times as well. The production is all that is should be. It really brings all the sounds to the surface. The only downfall of this album is that they do run out of ideas here and there and just putter around trying to stretch the songs out. Definitely a great effort with plenty to recommend about it.

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Dead Lord - No Prayers Can Help You Now

High Roller Records

There isn't much to go by with this 7' EP I'm afraid. All I got from Pure Steel Promotion was a e-mail that suggested I check out the link. With that link I got the album cover and these two tracks. Nothing else. Likewise, online I didn't find much information on the group and as I'm pressed for time at the moment I will just cut this review short. Call it lazy journalism if you will or just the mad desire I have right now to figure out why my Itunes will not open. Dead Lord are a raw Swedish rock band with a nice garage sound. The four piece band (guitars and vocals - Hakim Krim, guitars - Olle Hedenstrom, bass - Tobias Lindkvist and drums - Adam Lindmark) look like they went to the Motorhead school of rock and sound more like the older (and better) Swedish rock/metal scene. Not much more than that to be said I'm afraid so I've decided to just post links to both songs below so you can check out Dead Lord for yourself.

"No Prayers Can Help You Now"


300 x "blood-red" vinyl + black vinyls

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Forgotten Gems: Leather-Shock Waves

Leviathan Records

Leather Leone is sadly not a name you hear mentioned much anymore. Despite fronting Ohio's Chastain through the eighties (and in the process helping to create some of heavy metal's top albums) she is often forgotten when discussions turn to metal's top singers. Even in Chastain itself it seemed as if she was overshadowed by the skills of guitarist David Chastain. One could certainly make the argument that Chastain's early albums would not have had the impact they did if not for Leather's distinctive voice. That isn't to say that David Chastain doesn't deserve all the praise that has been heaped on him over the years. He is every bit as good as his fame dictates and any Chastain album (as well as his work with CJSS) warrants repeated listens. If you've never heard his work then by all means stop whatever it is you are doing and hunt down his music. That is of course after your done reading this article! Getting back to the lovely Leather Leone though and it was Mike Varney, president of Shrapnel Records, who discovered her while she was fronting the band Rude Girl. In 1984 Mike Varney put together the band Chastain as a vehicle for David T. Chastain to show off his shred guitar ability. After a few album's with Chastain it was clear that Leather Leone would benefit from a solo career just as David himself had. With that it was David himself who was the one who suggested a solo album for Leather and from the start he helped push her to create an image and sound she could call her own. Looking to highlight her talent outside of the band Davis and Leather went about writing new material for the album and took up the task of finding a suitable backing band. Thus Leather (the band/solo project) was born. Who could have known at the time that Leather would go on to release such a cult classic? This might just be one of the best 80's metal albums that most people have never heard. Inspired vocally by the late/great Ronnie James Dio, Leather released her lone solo album, "Shock Waves" in 1989. With "Shock Waves" David and company found the right kind of album for the beautiful American singer to succeed. It was just the thing needed to fully showcase her distinctive voice. Leather Leone may have helped craft some truly remarkable albums when she fronted Chastain from 1984 to 1991, but it is this album, which was released through David T. Chastain's own label Leviathan Records, that allows her a chance to shine on her own and show just how remarkable she was on the mic. Granted, Chastain himself was responsible for the album's stellar production and as he did help write some of the album's material one can't help but point o Chastain (the band) as an obvious starting point sound-wise for "Shock Waves". But, it is Leather herself who makes the most of her solo album and the golden opportunity it presented to her. She was more than ready to step into her own and create a hard and heavy album that deserved more notice than it received. "All Your Neon" (which was written with Nevermore/Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O'Brien) for example opens "Shock Waves" with the same sort of pummeling heavy metal that made Chastain such a great band to begin with. It has a swagger all it's own and is it charges head-first out of the gate with sharp teeth exposed it sets the tone for an album full of true traditional metal numbers. Fans of not only Chastain, but eighties heavy metal in general who have never heard Leather's only solo album have no idea what they have missed out on. "The Battlefield of Life" (written by David Chastain himself) is another one of those cuts that shows just what it was about eighties heavy metal that was so appealing back then as it is now. Heavy metal in the eighties was just different. Then it was as much about attitude as it was having fun. So when you have an album full of hard rock numbers that are not only heavy (surprisingly heavy in fact) but catchy and then they are fun to begin with what more do you need? That said with heavy metal like this you do need someone who knows their way around and ax and that is where Michael Harris comes into play. Michael Harris (who was the founder and guitarist for the rock band Arch Rival) shows off his own amazing skills on "Shock Waves" playing with energy and emotion. Even if he isn't quite up there with David Chastain skill wise he shines on cuts like "Something in This Life" and the absolutely killer title track (penned with Manilla Road's Mark Shelton). Check out the track "Diamonds Are for Real" for some of his fret work and see for yourself how he managed to bring both skill and style to the album. The rest of the band is filled out admirably by bassist Paul David Harbour (who played with not only Leather, but Chastain and King Diamond) and drummer John Luke Herbert. In addition to producing the album Chastian himself does handle some keyboard work, but it is so light that it is hardly worth mentioning. Let's try moving away ever so slightly from the harder material we already discussed on "Shock Waves" so that special mention can be made of the beautiful "It's Still in Your Eyes". This power ballad manages to be both heavenly and heartfelt with still packing a nice little punch. Just how it managed to slip by unnoticed in a day and age when power ballads were all the rage with hard rock and metal bands remains a true mystery. "Shock Waves" offers up heavy numbers like "Catastrophic Heaven" just as easily as it does slightly off-kilter numbers like "No Place Called Home" and that is one of things I love most about the album. While it didn't make the splash that every one hoped for back in 1989 (blame the changing musical landscape) the album still holds up rather well. It still sounds fresh to these ears even after all the years that have passed. With Leather Leone now involved with the Sledge/Leather project (featuring drummer Sandy Sledge) perhaps more people might feel inclined to give "Shock Waves" another chance. Those who do might end up surprised by not only how the album is for a female-fronted heavy metal release, but how classic and timeless it is as well. And who knows what the future holds for the band Leather itself? Maybe she still has another solo album tucked away and she is just waiting for the right time to release is. Leather Leone is a voice that today's heavy metal fans needs to hear. With her talent and class she deserves to be heard once more on a larger scale. Let's hope that happens because Leather Leone truly is one of heavy metal's all time greats.

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Monday, April 23, 2012


Arkeyn Steel Records

Dragonsclaw hail from Sydney, Australia. The band was formed in 2007 by guitarist Ben Thomas (Paindivision, ex-Thundasteel as well as a guest spot in Empires of Eden) with this, their debut album, just now being released. It actually took the band from 2007 to 2010 just to get a stable line up in place. Along with Ben's technical guitar skill the rest of the band is now being rounded out by fellow Paindivison member Ray Martens (keyboards), Giles Lavery (vocals) and (of Kaamora fame) Aaron Thomas (bass, guitars, orchestration). Guest vocals on select tracks come from the legendary Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden, Wolfsbane) and keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge Of Forever, Eden's Curse). Musically this ten track debut LP sounds really out of place with modern metal. Of course I mean that in a good way. This album seems to be aimed more towards those of us who grew up on a steady diet of 80’s power metal versus today's modern metal that adheres to the "everything and the kitchen sink" mentality when it comes to writing music. Even so it must be said that while there will be much for eighties metal fans to enjoy about "Prophecy" (since even the production job has the feel of an eighties heavy metal album thanks to Stu Marshall's capable hands) the sound still packs quite a wallop. Dragonsclaw should have no problem competing with the hordes of newer metal bands clamoring for a spot atop the hill of modern traditional heavy metal. The group's sound, while certainly rooted in traditional US heavy metal/power metal of the eighties, does vary somewhat song to song as you get the sense that Ben Thomas and company are fans of the genre just like the rest of us. I would not call this retro-worship or lump Dragonsclaw in with the rest of the NWOTHM crowd as theirs is a slightly more mature outing. The album brings to mind so many different bands throughout it's ten tracks and what's more at any given moment you can pick up influences from the likes Eden's Curse, Judas Priest, Jag Panzer, early Satan's Host, Helstar, Symphony X, Iron Maiden, early Kamelot and even early Helloween. The one thing that can be said about "Prophecy" is that it isn't boring. Guitarist Ben Thomas has assembled a project that gets right to the heart of what makes traditional heavy metal/power metal so appealing to begin with. With Dragonsclaw your treated to the same sort of true heavy metal that groups like Metal Church and Sanctuary were aiming for. Only with these guys there is a decided effort to make the detours into speed metal and progressive metal both meaningful and enjoyable. That isn't to say that these ten tracks stack up to either of those Seattle greats. There is still work to be done for this young group to be listed among the greats. All I am saying is that their aim seems true enough. Hopefully Dragonsclaw will prove to be more than just a side-project because as "Prophecy" shows there is a lot of potential for this Aussie band.

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The Love Below-Every Tongue Shall Caress

A389 Records

The Love Below is a fairly new California-based act made up of members of Carry The Casket, The Mistake and Mother Speed. After hearing The Love Below's (TLB for short) top-notch 2009 demo A389 Records approached the band with a contract in hand. After issuing their well-received debut EP, "Reproductive Rights" the band did a split with fellow A389 label mates Homewrecker. Now, on we move to 2012's full-length, "Every Tongue Shall Caress" where TLB offer up 10 new tracks (three tracks are from the split supposedly) with a run time just under twenty-four minutes. With their new album TLB adheres closely to the framework set by their earlier material so fans of the group should thoroughly enjoy every minute of "Every Tongue Shall Caress". Taking a look at the number of cuts (13) verses run time (under 24 minutes) should provide you with a small hint of what TLB has to offer. If that does not do it for you then check out some of the album's song titles like "Nazi Uniform", "Rotten Fruit From A Shitty Tree" (the album's best cut really) and "Social Fuck Disease". Still left out in the dark? Well, for starters TLB belong in punk/hardcore's extended family. More specifically they have found a home in one of the many side branches. Now while they share the same kind of mindset that has made many a punk and hardcore band great they offer something much more potent. TLB start with some nasty and filthy hardcore before taking a Brillo pad to the the sound's surface. The band's take on truly abrasive punk/hardcore would be enough if you were to just stop right there. TLB up the stakes though by adopting some of the most vile post-Black Sabbath's doom/sludge metal this side of Saint Vitus. That in a nutshell is TLB in all of it's brutal glory. Tony Iommi-styled guitar leads mix with sludge and gritty, raw and honest street-level punk/hardcore. Between these layers of abrasive sludge tinged punk/hardcore (that has drawn comparisons to bands like Trash Talk) you'll also find an unhinged and volatile lead vocalist who half sings/half screams out a message of pain and desperation. This is certainly politically charged mayhem at it's very core and one can't help but feel the raw pain than runs through the heart of TLB. That said if the band's honest look at life sounds too real for some then forget the message of "Every Tongue Shall Caress" and instead just focus on TLB's brand of hardcore with it's metallic undercoat. That alone should be enough to convert the unbelievers as this is some of the best constructed hardcore metal I've heard this year. If hardcore metal or doom/sludge is something you fancy then do yourself a solid and check out TLB.

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AFM Records

Even though this is the fourth full-length album for Germany's Lyriel it is my first experience with the group and their take on folk metal. Even if I am not the best judge of the genre (and would much rather be checking out some old fashioned traditional heavy metal act or even thrash band right about now) I am always looking to broaden my tastes and review music outside my comfort zone. Of course my comfort zone already includes everyone from ABBA to Napalm Death so how much more room I have to expand is any one's guess. I'm really not sure what I expected to hear out "Leverage". Would any aspect of this band make me more open to folk metal? Would my mind end up taking a pleasant enough stroll? Or what I just end up listening to the album while secretly hoping I could just tune the whole thing out? Those were just a few of the questions I started with when I made my way down into my office with wine in hand all in an effort to relax after a tiring weekend. My first thought when it comes to this band is that singer Jessica Thierjung´s voice is both soulful and stunning. She is quite heavy on the heart and her sweet air of intoxication just might be the extra incentive I need to give this album my full and undivided attention. For whatever reason I now feel compelled to let you all in on a little secret of mine and that is while I might not always appreciate music like Blackmore's Night (a band that Lyriel was often compared to in their early years) I do enjoy not only stuff like ABBA, but also older folk rock and the softer AM radio hits of the seventies. By that same token then I should like folk metal right? Well, there are somethings I just love by themselves that just do not go together in my opinion. For example as much as I love both bacon and chocolate they should not be mixed together no matter what some weird food fanatic tells you. That is how I generally feel about folk and metal. Even so I do enjoy the mixture of let's say melodic rock and harder-edged heavy metal. And I can appreciate hard rock bands that tone down the rough edge to let in a more gentle moment. So, when the album's more tender moments of melodic rock come into play I did perk up some. On "The Road Not Taken" it is the softness in singer Jessica Thierjung's voice that mostly intrigues me. Not that she can't handle the album's heavier material. The album's title cut is what happens when a band evolves beyond it's humble folk rock/metal and makes a move towards a far more mature symphonic metal style. It's a wonder that cuts like the already mentioned "Leverage" and the hard rock/heavy cruncher "White Lilly" exist on an album that still tries far to0 hard to involve the violin and cello at whatever cost. Why? It ends up sounding quite unnatural and forced on an album that has occasion to sound all the more special. With "Repentance" you have a track that finds this German act more forceful and powerful than ever and yet it is the album's closing number so you do have to wade through filler material to get there. I say this with the full knowledge that it will not make much sense, but If only this band would drift towards a more mainstream/streamlined hard rock or mainstream metal sound they would be truly magnificent. It goes against my better judgement to suggest that any group embrace a (for lack of a better description) popular sound, but Lyriel has all the tools it needs in their lead singer to break through to a larger audience. They don't have to abandon the heavy metal part of their sound or anything, but I would drop the folk aspect and move comfortably into a style that falls somewhere between Halestorm and Sister Sin. If not I suspect that Lyriel will never be much more than a national treasure at best.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Best hair metal albums 5-1

Here they are.

5-Twisted Sister-Stay hungry-1984
Any of their first three albums would fit here but I think this one had the greatest influence on the genre.

4-Def Leppard-Pyromania-1983
These guys started out doing NWOBHM and eventually became an AOR band. In between they knocked out this really catchy album.

3-Motley Crue-Shout at the devil-1983
Wow, what a great album. A shame they never came close to this level after this album.

2-Motley Crue-Too fast for love-1981/1982
To me this was a an 80's hair metal album that had a slight nod to 70's glam.

1-Guns and Roses-Appetite for destruction-1987
If people try to turn up their nose at all hair metal this is the first I point out as the one showed how good this style could be. Unfortunately for every band like GnR or early Motley Crue you got five bands like London, Trixter or Warrant.

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Roach Clip-Night Falls


It was back in 1990 when Roach Clip released their debut album, "Till Morning Light" on vinyl. This German band might have been around since 1986, but this is only the group's third album so the output leaves a bit to be desired. It would take until 2009 for the group to return with the aptly titled "The Return". In between the time of their debut and this, the group's third release the individual band members have kept themselves busy with other projects including Rose Tattoo, Udo Lindenberg, Nicko McBrain, Paul Samson, Jon Lord and Carmine Appice. With "Night Falls" it seems to be that the band (vocals, guitars, bass, keys - Sven Bauer, keys - Oliver Noack, drums - Fritz Steger, vocals, bass - Thilo Kromer and guitars - Rolf Schmidt) has opted to return to the same tried and true sound of old. For fans of the group that means more of the same AOR-influenced hard rock that Roach Clip has become known for. For the rest of us though (who are not so familiar with the band or their take on AOR/hard rock) I'll try to take in the album a little at a time all so that we can look at some of the album's high points and unfortunately low points. With album opener "No Reason" these German rockers easily adapt to the sounds of modern rock while still retaining a classic sound that seems to be rooted in 70's hard rock. Not a bad way at all for the band to open up album number three and certainly a nice rocker like this one deserves to be put out in front to get things started properly. "No Reason" might not be the most inventive hard rock number of all time, but it sets out to make a statement and it does. We'll skip "Buffalo" for now and move onto track number three. "Le Bon Roi Dagobert" takes it's sweet time in getting where it needs to be, but when it does finally get there it keeps the listener entertained just enough to also get it's point across.. On "GL 298" the mixture of keyboards and guitars points backwards to the seventies and a simpler time for hard rock music. So does the number "It Is You" where one can find the band keeping themselves busy with the same sort of laid-back rock and roll that made Tom Petty such a joy to listen to. "Poison Blonde" is nice straight-forward hard rock while "1077" features a nice detour into blues/classic rock territory. "Suck Duck Rockin´" is slightly sleazy bar circuit rock and roll. It's raw and gritty guitar rock sounds almost out of place on "Night Falls", but it still packs a lot into such a short number that it ends up being one of the better cuts. It isn't all Grade A beef though as the slower "Buffalo" falls flat on it's face before it even gets started and on "Praying Mantis" the band just tries too hard to make something out of nothing. In these moments you find yourself waiting for something to happen. The same thing applies to "When the Nightfalls" unfortunately. Thankfully the album still has more to offer. "St. James Infirmary" is a much better attempt at a slower number as is "Stay With Me". With "Stay With Me" the little side effects work their magic to transform a simple rock number into something a bit more charming. The album closes with the decent enough "Fisherman". The solos are great and reminded me almost of Eric Clapton. That part is wonderful it's just that some of the vocal work/lyrics don't work so well and as a result it ends up being a number you could take or leave. In a way the song is just like the whole of the album in that there are great moments ("Poison Blonde" and "Suck Duck Rockin´") and some not so great moments ("Buffalo" for sure). Roach Clip fans will no doubt find much to like about album number three. For the rest of the world though? AOR-infused hard rock has made a bit of a comeback so it isn't as if the scene is devoid of choices. I'd say that Roach Clip will find it hard to break into the mainstream of American rock with a style so hit or miss.

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