Monday, October 21, 2013

Fozzy Rocks Tavern 120 in Marietta, Georgia

After so many years of being a huge fan of the band Fozzy, my dream of seeing them live finally came true on Friday, October 18, 2013. Not only was the concert itself mind-blowing, the whole experience was like no other.

My boyfriend Dean and I journeyed down to Marietta, Georgia, from our Knoxville, Tennessee, home for the overnight trip. Fozzy had actually just played the night before in Nashville, which was a bit closer to us. However, the Marietta show being on a Friday night was more convenient for us and our jobs. Plus, it was going to be ultra cool seeing the band's hometown show, as most of the guys in Fozzy hail from the Atlanta area.

Arriving at Tavern 120, our fantastic evening started immediately. The parking lot was full because of another event going on at the Tavern, so Dean let me off at the front door so he could find a space. A few minutes went by, so I walked around the corner where I spotted a tour bus. I thought there might have been some parking over there, but I wasn't expecting to see Dean chatting it up with Chris Jericho. As I approached them, I believe I said something silly like, "I leave you alone with my car for two seconds, and now you're talking to people!" Once I realized it was truly Chris Jericho, I said "hi," and he instantly remembered and hugged me. He even complimented my shirt (which was actually my mom's), and I got to give him the bottle of Grey Goose vodka I brought him as a gift. Dean and I didn't want to take up much of Chris's time, so we walked off telling each other we would see him later in the VIP meet and greet session we were signed up for. As we walked away, I asked Dean, "Did he hug me?!" I honestly wasn't sure because I was so excited, and everything had happened so fast!

Dean and I went into Tavern 120 for a drink and a quick bite to eat as we nervously waited for the VIP meet and greet to start. The place had a good menu and drink selection. Our quesadilla and cheese fries were satisfying, and the beer was certainly cold.

When it finally was time for the meet and greet, Penny the VIP assistant and venue's security guys led us into the concert area that was attached to the Tavern. Fans were able to buy band merch before the general public. I got a really cool "Spider in My Mouth" hooded tee and a double-disc Sin and Bones vinyl. During this time, we also got to visit with Mark Willis, Fozzy's manager who I had met along with Chris, Rich, and Frank, back in 2010 at an autograph session the band did at the Hot Topic in an Alpharetta, GA, mall. Somehow, Mark recalled Dean's last name. It blows my mind how people remember details from Facebook and Twitter!

After we all bought our goods, the band--Chris Jericho, Rich "The Duke of Metal" Ward, Frank Fontsere, Billy Grey, and Paul Di Leo--lined up at the table for an autograph session. I got my Sin and Bones CD and newly purchased record signed. Dean got his Chris Jericho action figure signed too. We got to talk to the band, and I was so nervous as I showed the band my "Watch Me Shine" tattoo, told The Duke about my dogs, talked about Twitter (The Duke said he keeps up with Dean and me!), and gave Mr. Jericho a Black Liver Society shot glass to enjoy his GG with.

The fans then took a group picture with the band. I kept poking fun at myself for being the only person with a drink in hand, and Dean was making folks laugh as he usually does. After that photo, there was time for fans to get individual photos with the band, which Dean and I took part in together.

When the meet and greet was over, there was still plenty of time before the actual concert started. After another drink and mingling with fans (we met another Knoxville guy!), the opening act, The Thrillhammers, took the stage. They performed some original songs and some covers. They were great and got the crowed warmed up for Fozzy. After the show, Dean told one of the band members about his podcast, and he got a CD to give the band some exposure. I'm excited about listening to it too!

The moment we had been waiting for had finally arrived. Fozzy was onstage, and I was just a couple of feet away from them. When the band first came out, Chris Jericho was wearing his infamous sparkling leather jacket, which made the crowd go absolutely wild. He was also wearing a Dio shirt, which made me happy too. The whole band looked incredible, and I particularly enjoyed bassist Paul Di Leo's facepaint homage to Nikki Sixx.

From start to finish, Fozzy exuded more energy than I'd ever seen in a band. They sounded phenomenal, and all of the songs--not just one or a couple--were memorable. Each member was captivating to watch, and they all did an excellent job making the fans feel like a part of the experience. Not to sound like a giggly school girl, but OH MY GOD RICH WARD TOUCHED MY HAND AT THE END!!!

After the show I had the pleasure of meeting in person and hanging out with Julie Ward (Rich's wife) and Tracy Fontsere (Frank's wife). Both were very friendly and eager to chat about the band, the show, and our pets we're always discussing on Facebook. I can't wait to see these lovely ladies again!

Since this was the final show of the Sin and Bones tour, I won't be spoiling anything for anybody by posting a setlist:

Spider in My Mouth
Eat the Rich
Pray for Blood
Inside My Head
She's My Addiction
God Pounds His Nails
Shine Forever
Whitechapel 1888/To Kill a Stranger
Martyr No More
Sin And Bones
Blood Happens

It is amazing how great things can come to those who wait. I've been a huge fan of Fozzy for so long, and now that I've seen one of their incredible live shows they are famous for, I can truly say my life is just a bit more complete than it was before.

Dean--being a longtime metal, wrestling, and overall Chris Jericho fan--was just as impressed as I was, summing it up best, "I was a fan of Jericho's wrestling, as well as the band's other ventures... but Fozzy is the rock/metal band to watch! Fan-friendly and an awesome band to see live, you've gotta see their live show!"
Tavern 120

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Anselmo enters the solo arena with 'Walk Through Exits Only'

Former Pantera frontman, Philip Anselmo, can add something new to his already lengthy rock 'n' roll resume. He is back in the music spotlight with his much anticipated album, titled Walk Through Exits Only. Unlike his other projects--such as Down and Superjoint Ritual--Walk Through Exits Only is considered to be Anselmo's first true solo project. The album was recorded at his very own studio, Nosferatu's Lair in New Orleans, Louisiana, with his backing band, The Illegals.

Phil Anselmo has always been an interesting character, with his history of substance abuse and his very public rivalries with his former band mates--most notably, Pantera's Vinnie Paul. Anselmo has proven to be a very volatile rocker, leaving music fans always wondering what he will do next. Walk Through Exits Only does its best to answer that question.

"Music Media is My Whore" is the perfectly placed intro track on the album. It serves as an announcement for what to expect--"The rise of authentic anti-music / unearthly timbers, ominous sonorities, relentless, iterated non-melody / A shuddering original, unlike anything that has come before". Phil is definitely stating that he's trying to do something different, and he's using the medium of music as his "whore" to do it. This song and album are powerful and aggressive right from the start. Jose Gonzalez's drumming is fiery and militant, and Marzi Montazeri's guitar playing is heavy and distorted. "Music Media Is My Whore" is a short track, but it packs a lot of punch in such a small package.

The title track, "Walk Through Exits Only", is equally aggressive, with Phil shouting "It's ruined! It's ruined! It's ruined!" as it begins. The drumming in this song is extremely fast, sounding almost like a machine gun blast. The guitar riffs rival that speed, and the higher pitched parts give the song a slight classic metal sound. The rest of the song boasts lower guitar tones that are equally fast. The angry lyric, "Everybody ruins music, not just me" really sticks out in my mind. It seems as though it is Phil's way of responding to some of the criticism of his previous post-Pantera projects.

"Bedridden" is the single Phil and the band have recently released a video for. It features some of the album's best guitar riffs--if not the best--and has a heavy, driving rhythm. Phil's vocals are higher and throatier in the beginning, but they return to his usual range for the rest of the song. The highlight of "Bedridden" is when he sings the line, "Stay in that fucking dress, and I won't change a fucking thing!" It has such a killer pulsating beat accompanying it. It is one of the shorter songs on Walk Through Exits Only, but one of the most memorable.

The album's last track is called "Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens". It contains lyrics about being lied to about who the "real enemy" is by the powers-that-be. It is angry and aggressive just like the other tracks--and then some. It features varying vocal styles from Phil, ranging from higher pitched to a lower growl. Also, unlike some of the other songs from Walk Through Exits Only, it has an impressive and substantial guitar solo. Clocking in at 12 minutes, it is the album's grand finale and quite unusual. The song winds down five minutes in and it becomes much slower and quieter with distorted guitar effects and ambient noise. It is crackly, scratchy, and filled with static for quite some time. At the very last minute, the song changes directions once more--having a laid-back bluesy melody with guitar, bass, and drums.

Walk Through Exits Only has some great moments that have the potential to satisfy fans of the angriest of metal music. Some hardcore Pantera fans may like it too but I can see how it could be very difficult to separate "solo Phil" from "Pantera Phil". One particular fan I listened to the album with said it was almost like a rehashing of Pantera vocals with studio musicians. He felt like he was waiting on a Dimebag solo that just wasn't coming--leaving him sad, disappointed, and confused. He added that the songs from Walk Through Exits Only are good and they are a good indicator of "what could have been" with Pantera or any of Anslemo's other bands. He absolutely nailed it with his observations, and I believe Down and Superjoint Ritual were stand out projects, partly because the bands were so cohesive and had so much substance to them.

While I admire Phil's unapologetic rage and aggression, the band he currently has assembled--The Illegals--lacks the same soul. With this solo career, it seems as though Phil is trying to replant his roots in different soil, and it's just not working.

5 1/2 out of 10 stars

Housecore Records/Megaforce

Black Veil Brides prove they are much more divine than wretched with their latest release

Revivalist glam rockers Black Veil Brides have released their third studio album, a concept album called Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones. Wretched and Divine tells the story the rebellious "Wild Ones" who defend their lives and spirits against the controlling organization F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. stands for "For Every and All Religion" and is voiced by Wil Francis of William Control and Aiden. Spoken interludes that sound like radio broadcasts--known as the "F.E.A.R. Transmissions"--help the album flow and to tell the Wild Ones' tale as a rock opera.

"Exordium" kicks off the album. It introduces listeners to the F.E.A.R. organization and to the religious imagery that will play a major role throughout Wretched and Divine. "Exordium" features lyrics about the Kingdom of God, which are spoken dramatically over low music that sounds like it is just dying to erupt. And it finally does--into the album's first song "I Am Bulletproof".

"I Am Bulletproof" starts off with a slow and rather eerie piano melody, but the hard rocking guitars from Jinxx and Jake Pitts quickly join in. The riffs are immediately fast and heavy, and they evoke a pure metal sound that would please even the staunchest Iron Maiden or Judas Priest fan. As Andy Biersack's vocals hit with the first lyric "Here we go!" the song instantly becomes a rock anthem. Biersack's vocals are raw and powerful, and they really illustrate the song's lyrics about invincibility and strength--being bulletproof. The guitar solo is great, and the blistering fast notes and crystal clear pitch give this song even more of a decadent metal feel.

The album's title track, "Wretched and Divine", begins with thunderous drumming from Christian "CC" Coma and heavy guitars whose riffs become more intricate as the music leads up to the first verse. Just like "I Am Bulletproof", "Wretched and Divine" features another anthemic sing-along chorus that would surely be the highlight a Black Veil Brides concert. The song's lyrics are about being an outsider but being cool with it--even being empowered by it. This concept reflects the contradictory album and song title "Wretched and Divine".

"Devil's Choir" features a militant drum march intro followed by a blazing guitar melody. It starts out as a heavy song, as the title and intro would lead you to think. The chorus, though, is very melodic, catchy, and bright. It also contains some great backing vocals. This chorus almost doesn't fit, but it strangely does. Maybe it's a part of this whole "wretched and divine" paradox? "Devil's Choir" is later brought back to its metal beginning with a hard and heavy guitar solo.

"Overture" is the entirely instrumental track in the middle of Wretched and Divine. It sounds purely orchestral, but it does contain musical themes and melodies from the album's other tracks. It features a gorgeous string arrangement from the ultra-talented and versatile multi-instrumentalist, Jinxx. Not only does he play guitar, he plays the violin, cello, and piano as well.

I was instantly glued to the track "Nobody's Hero". It's fast, it's heavy, and it's definitely one of the harder songs on the album. The whole song is killer, but I especially love how right before the guitar solo, there's this huge guitar screech that is just so '80s. "Nobody's Hero" really reminds me of "Unbroken", the song Black Veil Brides lent to last year's Avengers movie soundtrack. The lyrics about being "a loaded gun" and "on the run" could easily be about vigilante superheroes. It would be such a mistake if this song weren't featured on the Avengers 2 soundtrack in the future!

"In The End" was the first single from Wretched and Divine, and it was also used as one of the theme songs for last year's WWE Hell in a Cell pay-per-view special. It has choral style singing in the intro, which also features a string arrangement that subtly remains throughout the rest of the song. It has fast, intricate guitar notes just before the vocals it, and the chorus is catchy with the many "woahs" in the backing vocals. The lyrics, which are about not being afraid to die, but wondering how you'll be remembered, are powerful and moving. "In The End" may be an appropriate name from the final song on the album, but it is not the final track.

Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones ends with the final F.E.A.R. Transmission, which says F.E.A.R. has been defeated by the Wild Ones. However, the mysterious voice continues to taunt the rebels, telling them they can never truly escape F.E.A.R. There's definitely room for a sequel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album--the music AND the lyrical subject matter. While the songs from Wretched and Divine focus on being an outsider and just being plain different, they do not have that whiny and insufferable, "Nobody likes me, I don't belong, so I'm going to go kill myself!" attitude that plagues a lot of the modern rock music--and often causes people to make fun of it. Instead of that, Black Veil Brides offers an alternative that steps up and says, "By God, I'm not like everyone else! I'm better, and I'm going to rise above and show them all!" It's rebellious, but in a very positive way.

I also can't say enough about the excellent guitar work of Jinxx and Jake Pitts. They both have a clear, dynamic, and powerful playing style. Not only were these guys classically trained and influenced by the works of Bach and Beethoven, you can very much tell they were raised on the metal classics too. That particular combination is known to breed good metal guitarists! This duo works so well, and they certainly boast some of the most impressive guitar skills I've heard from the newer hard rock and heavy metal bands.

If you don't think this album sounds quite theatrical and dramatic enough for you, Black Veil Brides has created an accompanying film for it called Legion of the Black. It has seen some limited release through Internet streaming on Facebook, and the band will also be releasing it with an upcoming special edition of Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.

8 1/2 out of 10 stars

Lava/Universal Republic
Black Veil Brides Official Website

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Rockers from half a world away deliver a vintage Motor City sound

They may call Warsaw, Poland, home, but Elvis Deluxe sounds like they've come right out of late 1960s or early 1970s Detroit. They began their musical journey a decade ago as hardcore and punk fans who formed a band to explore the genres' garage rock roots. Elvis Deluxe has now released its third full-length studio album, The Story So Far. The Story So Far features several brand new tracks and re-tooled versions of songs from their previous albums Lazy (2007) and Favourite State of Mind (2011).

The Story So Far opens with "Yourgodfreed". Its two-minute intro is ethereal and space age-y, sounding like someone is screwing around with knobs and buttons on the U.S.S. Enterprise over the music. The bass line and drums are laid back, and the guitar riffs take on a more bluesy sound as the song progresses. When the vocals first hit, they start out as haunting and deep--reminiscent of Lou Reed--especially during the opening line, "You pray to Mother Mary / You pray to Jesus Christ". Singer Ziemba then goes into his slightly higher range, where he stays for the rest of the song and most of the album. "Yourgodfreed", which tells of religious hypocrisy, really has a '60s rock meets '90s alternative feel. It's a very good, song but it does clock at almost eight minutes. I would have probably chosen a less dragging, more energetic song to give the album's first impression.

"No Reason", The Story So Far's single, follows. The intro is heavy on the drumming, thanks to Miko. "No Reason" is a lively, hard-hitting rock song--much more so than "Yourgodfreed". The vocals are cool, sexy, and smoky. (Note to self:  Polish accents can be HOT in rock songs!) I was really drawn to "No Reason," because it really reminds me of one of my favourite bands, The Lovehammers, and their lead singer Marty Casey. "No Reason" has such a catchy hook, and the repetition in the chorus makes it so memorable.

"Out of Life" is the heaviest song from The Story So Far, bordering on metal. The intro riffs feel like they are just absolutely barreling down on you! The guitars still have that "fuzzy" garage rock sound like most of the other songs on the album, but the rapid rhythm is so metal. The vocals are even grittier on this one, and Ziemba really sings with soulful conviction here. The song slows its pace at bridge, giving it an almost grunge feel. "Out of Life" has many diverse components, just as the songs on The Story So Far are diverse. Many are short, sweet, and punkish, while others are much longer--like something from a stoner metal jam band.

While my favourite original song from Elvis Deluxe's The Story So Far is "No Reason", I just can't get enough of their cover of Iggy & The Stooges' "Search and Destroy", which is the final track on the album. I've always been a huge fan of this song, and The Stooges are one of my favourite bands. When I first saw the song title, I thought to myself, "Could it be?" Oh, and it was! Elvis Deluxe accurately captured the spirit and energy of the original. It's a bit more polished, but the guitar work of Bert Trust and Bolek really shines through here. 'Search and Destroy" shows Elvis Deluxe's garage rock roots and proto-punk influences, and it also shows exactly what they are capable of.

As a band, Elvis Deluxe has a lot of energy, they are super talented, and they're absolutely one I'd like to see live. Overall, the songs from The Story So Far are good, but I wish more of them stuck out like the obviously radio-ready single "No Reason" or their "Search and Destroy" cover. It took me a few more listens to really get into any of the other songs. I instantly took to their raw vintage sound, so that definitely made up for it. I would highly suggest Elvis Deluxe's The Story So Far to any metal fans who are looking for something kind of different, but still wanting that heavy, gritty rock with loads of attitude.

6 1/2 out of 10 stars

Metal Mind Productions
Elvis Deluxe on Facebook

"Rat Vendor" successfully sells the Zombie sound and vintage vibes

Just days after his film, Lords of Salem, hit theatres, horror-rock icon Rob Zombie has released his follow-up to 2010's Hellbilly Deluxe 2. While Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor isn't a companion to the film, Zombie's latest offering is as thrilling and macabre as ever.

Guitar mastermind John 5 remains in the band line-up, along with bassist Piggy D. John 5's former Marilyn Manson bandmate Ginger Fish makes his first album appearance with Rob Zombie, replacing drummer Joey Jordison.

The album opens with the wildly titled "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy" which begins with young woman talking, sounding like a clip from an old movie. She says "It's here! Can't you feel it?" followed by more talk about feeling free and seeing all the molecules and the colours in the air. It's an absolute trip right away. The music starts, and it has a hard-hitting industrial feel with especially heavy drumming. A Deep Purple-esque organ soon joins in. It's only in the forefront briefly, but it remains rather subtle for the rest of the song.  Rob's vocals really have an Alice Cooper tone and attitude here. It becomes increasingly apparent when you notice the rhythm in how he sings, "I am so hazardous / My name is Lazarus," and the chorus, "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy / Turn it on! / Turn it on!" When describing the new Zombie record to my best friend and fellow rocker, my exact words were, "It is SO Alice. Alice Cooper with more sex and violence, of course!"

The next track, "Dead City Radio & The Gods of Supertown", is Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor's lead single. It begins in a manner similar to "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy", featuring an old film clip (or possibly a radio recording) of a man repeating, "Radio has changed our lives and probably saved our lives", as the massive riffs hit. It's a very heavy, modern song--but it has undeniable '60s and '70s influences. Rob's vocals on this track still have the Alice Cooper sound, and the chorus is filled to the brim with the electric organ. I also really dig that big, bright guitar lick that's just before the chorus.

Because of the "shock rock" image, Rob Zombie will always draw comparisons to Alice Cooper. However, that isn't the only reason why Alice's name keeps getting thrown around. As it turns out, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor was produced by Bob Marlette--the guy who produced Alice Cooper's foray into the darker industrial side of metal, Brutal Planet, back in 2000.

While the industrial Alice Cooper-y hard rock sound is at the forefront of Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, there are some significant departures from that. "Theme from the Rat Vendor" is a short but noteworthy instrumental with psychedelic and Eastern/Indian characteristics. The strangely danceable "Rock and Roll (In a Black Hole)" begins with a dark electronic beat but takes on a moshing metal style for the chorus. With it's fascinating lyrics mentioning Captain Kirk and black holes, I'm all over this one.

"Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga" deserves some kind of award for its crazy title. Hell, I deserve some kind of an award for spelling it out! I like to pretend it originally meant something, like how "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was supposed to be "In the Garden of Eden".  The lyrics are just as interesting as the title. No matter how many times I listen to this song, I never cease to be amused by the line, "Strapped behind the wheel of a flat-bed truck / A payload of pussy and Peking Duck", which starts off the chorus. Musically, it features elements common to many of Zombie's other songs, but "Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga" is certainly one of a kind. It's awesome regardless, but the more you listen to it, the cooler it gets.

Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor also features a live cover of Grand Funk Railroad's classic, "We're An American Band". I've been fortunate enough to see Rob Zombie live, and this recording spectacularly captures the band's energy and sound. Rob's vocals are gritty, soulful, and full of power, and John 5's guitar work is electrifying. The band really does this song justice, and they don't do anything too wild with it. It's basically a heavier version of the original, but it too good to go unnoticed.

The album ends with "Trade in Your Guns for a Coffin". The intro guitar riffs are low and fuzzy, and with a giant screech they get louder. It actually sounds as if the music gets closer. "Trade in Your Guns for a Coffin" contains clever lyrics about the misplaced priorities of today's youth--laziness, apathy, and self-serving attitudes. One line about the constant pursuit to get high--"Baby's shootin' vodka in her eyes again", particularly stands out. The chorus of "It's why we suck and why we fuck / Alright! Alright! / Trade in your guns for a coffin / Alright! Alright!" is lively and catchy. This is a very energetic and hard rocking song with some thought-provoking commentary on society.

Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is a fantastic metal record with industrial, psychedelic, and classic rock overtones. It has all the things you would expect from a Rob Zombie album--overt sexuality, horror, and the use of sound clips from cult films and pornos. Nobody else sounds quite like Rob Zombie. So, unless he completely changes his musical direction--which in itself would be horrifying--his records will be familiar. While there will always be this familiarity, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor does sound new, creative, and modern. It leaves a solid lasting impression, and with the right exposure, it could become as memorable as his more venerated earlier works.

8 1/2 out of 10 stars

Zodiac Swan Records/T-Boy Records/Universal Music Enterprises
Official Rob Zombie Website

Friday, April 26, 2013

Raw rock sounds explode from Corporate Dynamite

Iowa's Superchief are not your typical metal band. Their debut full-length album, Corporate Dynamite, boasts an unpolished sound and their no-nonsense approach makes them difficult to categorize--but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Corporate Dynamite's opening track is "Fear No Shield". Part I of the song is named "The Getaway". It has an acoustic guitar intro that is very medieval sounding. Heavy electric guitars soon kick in, lending a bluesy hard rock feel. As Haldor Von Hammer's low, rough vocals hit, he sings intensely and powerfully. The song's main riff is catchy, and the bass line is deep and striking. "The Getaway" ends in the acoustic manner in which it began, but the song continues as Part II: "The Standoff" for another two minutes. It incorporates similar themes as in Part I, but with a heavier sound.

Following "Fear No Shield" is the intriguing "Odin Be Praised". This song wastes no time being hard and heavy right from the start. Von Hammer's intense singing style is very obvious on this track, as it becomes so vehement. The way he sings the line "Good GAWD / Mah LAWD / I gotta get my friction on!" in the chorus amuses me to know end and makes this song so memorable. The vocals aren't the only stand-out part of "Odin Be Praised." It features a good guitar solo accompanied by some seriously heavy drumming. I also enjoyed the Viking imagery in the song, as it fits really well with the rock 'n' roll image and attitude.

Corporate Dynamite's title track has a brief spoken intro, which sounds like a police scanner type radio playing a conversation between two men about a building that's on fire. One of them slowly and very deliberately says "burn baby burn" right before the music hits. The music itself starts with a heavy bass riff from Jason Boten, then Ricc Terranova and Jason Monroe join in on guitar. Von Hammer's vocals are his most forceful yet, as he sings about rebelling against the corporate world and "sticking it to the man". The chanted "Stand up! My fist raised!" lyric is just as stirring as it is catchy.

The album's final track, "Destiny's Child", begins with the barely noticeable sound of someone racking the slide on a gun. It's so quick you just might miss it if you're not paying enough attention. Drummer Ryan Marcum starts playing a slow march and the guitars are gradually added into the mix. The guitar is a lot mellower on "Destiny's Child" than the others, and the tones often sound much brighter. This overall bright sound contrasts with the rather harsh vocals that appear on this track. Occasionally, the vocals do lighten up, especially at the end of the refrain.

"When the Bear is Hungry (He Will Eat)" is Corporate Dynamite's fun and light-hearted bonus track. It is predominately the title repeated over and over with shouted backing vocals, but it's actually a cool song. The guitar solo is brief, but it is very good--much better than what I expected from such a goofy song.

Although the shortest song from Corporate Dynamite clocks in at 3:41 ("Odin Be Praised") and the longest at 7:06 ("Fear No Shield"), many of the songs feel like they drag on a bit.

This probably has something to do with the Superchief's style, which is kind like the metal version of a jam band. Clutch is the only band I can think to draw a comparison with.

Superchief's Corporate Dynamite has such an unrefined sound. Listening to it almost feels like listening to a demo, but a well put together one. The album's name Corporate Dynamite and the ongoing theme of rebellion lead me to believe that this is just the sound Superchief was going for. They definitely succeeded in getting their point across. Superchief's particular sub-genre of metal is hard to pinpoint, but any rockers who are into the bands like Clutch--and others that play the bluesy and seemingly endless jam session type songs--will certainly enjoy this band and their album Corporate Dynamite.

6 1/2 out of 10 stars

Brolester Records
Superchief on Facebook

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Elusive Cambridge band's album finally gains wide release

Originally a vinyl-only release by Rise Above Records in 2011, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats' Blood Lust was selling for £700 on eBay. It was re-released in early 2012, but even the record label's website crashed due to the high demand for the album. The re-re-release is now out on Metal Blade Records, and CD and digital copies are widely available.

But--who is this band Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, and why are so many people willing to pay that kind of money for a record?

Well, no one knows exactly who Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats truly are. Only going by the names "Uncle Acid", "Kat", and "Red", fans don't have many details about the band members themselves. On top of that, they have kept a very mysterious persona. There aren't even any live performance photos of this band. This should change, however, in March. The band has shows scheduled in London for the 22nd and 23rd.

I can, though, give you some insight into why this band and their album are becoming so popular. Imagine this--Black Sabbath riffs combined with Alice Cooper horror imagery. It's pretty incredible, if you ask me. When a friend first sent me a link to an Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats YouTube video, I honestly thought they were some unknown cult band from the '60s I'd just never heard of before. Obviously that wasn't the case, but it did seem plausible. Blood Lust sounds very much like it was produced to sound vintage.

Opening Blood Lust is the track "I'll Cut You Down". It begins with the eerie sound of flipping TV channels. The guitar soon kicks in, and the riff sounds like something from an old Stooges song. It then becomes more Sabbath-esque as the song goes on. The vocals are muffled and quiet compared to the instruments, and it adds to the mystique surrounding Uncle Acid and their music. There is a horror theme in the lyrics right off the bat, particularly with the line, "I lust for women's blood". The part of the chorus with the "I want you, and I need you" lyric is also quite catchy.

"Death's Door" follows, and it has a distinctly heavier bass line than "I'll Cut You Down". It is also much slower and has a laid back stoner rock feel. The vocals remain slow and mysterious. I particularly enjoy this track from Blood Lust because of the impressive guitar solo in the middle.

I really dig the song titles from Blood Lust. "I'm Here to Kill You" just sounds awesomely evil. The opening riffs of this track almost sound like some old school Maiden or NWOBHM, but it quickly turns more prog rock when the keyboard is added in. The vocals are still muffled, bordering on indecipherable at times. "I'm Here to Kill You" offers a change of pace, as it is the least Sabbath-y sounding tracks so far. And despite all the prog rock stylings and the intense keyboard instrumental, it is one of the shortest songs on the album.

My favorite track from Blood Lust is "Ritual Knife". It begins with a heavy and looming bass line. The memorable underlying guitar riff is dark, menacing, and just plain creepy. I wouldn't want to be driving alone in the dark and have this song come on! I initially stumbled upon this song via one of the band's YouTube videos .The video is definitely worth watching. It is styled after a low-budget horror film and is befitting of the band's mysterious and often occult-like image. "Ritual Knife" also boasts a great guitar solo at the end of the song.

"Down to the Fire" is a bonus track for the this re-re-release of Blood Lust. It is an acoustic number that gives off a really cool Zeppelin vibe. It is much different from the rest of the album, but it's a worthy addition.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats' album Blood Lust is a fantastic album--even one of the year's best. My only real complaint is that some of the riffs are repetitive and overused. For instance, the track "I'll Cut you Down" sounds an awful lot like the track called "13 Candles". That kind of threw me off the first time or two I listened to the record, because I thought the first track was somehow repeating itself or being revisited for whatever reason. Other than that, I can't say anything bad about Blood Lust.

Frequent readers of this site probably know that I'm always excited to hear bands that incorporate a classic or "vintage" sound into their material. I am especially pleased about a band like Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, because their music goes so far back to such an early period of metal. I can't wait to hear what they do next, and I won't have too much longer either-- a brand new album is slated for release in March of 2013.

8 1/2 out of 10 stars

Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records/Riot! Entertainment
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats on Facebook

Norwegian rockers Audrey Horne re-invent their sound to deliver rock 'n' roll gold

Audrey Horne's earlier material might have been considered somber post-grunge but their fourth album, Youngblood, is definitely filled with arena-ready bombast. The band's newly discovered high energy brand of hard rock will instantly leave listeners begging for more.

Youngblood opens with "Redemption Blues" which kind of sounds like Judas Priest's "Electric Eye" at first. It then winds down but soon speeds back up into a completely different direction. "Redemption Blues" becomes a fast guitar-driven heavy rock song with powerful and dramatic vocals from lead singer Toschie. The chorus containing the lyrics "It's safe to say that I'm going nowhere" is catchy and instantly sucks you in. The guitar solo in the middle is absolutely blistering, and this classic sounding song has me impressed with Youngblood right from the get-go.

Right away, the band's classic hard rock and heavy metal influences become strikingly obvious. Don't let that fool you though--each song is unique, and none of them sound the least bit dated.

"Straight into Your Grave" comes next. The hard and heavy intro riffs are reminiscent of Motley Crue's earlier stuff. This track's guitar solo is fast, intricate, and intense. The guitar work of Ice Dale and Thomas Tofthagen is superb and the two mesh together flawlessly. Kjetil Greve's drumming on "Straight into Your Grave" is pronounced and rapid, also adding to the Crue vibe I get from the song.

One track that just strikes me as fun is "There Goes a Lady". It is sexy in a sleazy rock 'n' roll sort of way. It's not as fast or explosive as any of the previous tracks--it's more of a hard-edged bluesy rock song than heavy metal. The lyrics' subject matter about a seductive "maneater" type woman almost makes this song like a modern day "Strutter."

"Cards with the Devil" is very exciting, in that makes you feel like you're in a horror movie. The lyrics are full of imagery and tell a story. I especially dig the lines "Midnight, they reanimate / The living dead knock on my door" and "The grave digger got his eye on me / He carved my name with his bony hand". They're so descriptive and make it feel so real.

"Cards with the Devil" also features a brief organ solo before the guitar solo, but it certainly doesn't sound like your typical Scandanavian keyboard-heavy metal.

A track that is a bit more prog rock-ish is "The Open Sea". Its vivid opening lyric--"Hold your head under water as you reach across the sky"--is layered over a subtle organ and sounds as if it is being sung underwater. A strong bass riff and guitars join as the song picks up. The heavy guitars along with the increasingly prominent organ really give this song a '70s Deep Purple or Rainbow feel.

Audrey Horne's Youngblood is one of the most impressive albums--if not THE most impressive album--I've heard in a long time. The first time I played the album, it was one of those rare moments where I knew right from the first riff of the first track just how great it was going to be. I honestly can't say enough without coming across as some idiot saying, "ZOMG!!! This album RAWKSSS! Old-school metallllll FTW!!!" This album does get me wound up like that! In all seriousness though, rock fans who haven't yet heard of Audrey Horne and Youngblood are definitely missing out on something incredible.

8 1/2 out of 10 stars

Napalm Records
Audrey Horne Official Website

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dangerous Toys singer joins forces with Pitbull Daycare members to form Evil United

According to Evil United's Facebook page, they "will definitely quench the thirst on you heavy metal pallet [sic] and make you wanna gargle nails and then spit them out with AK-47 intensity impaling non-believers!!!". After listening to the band's self-titled metal offering--especially the powerful guitar riffs--I'd say that it's a pretty accurate description.

Evil United opens with the track "Blasphemer". The song begins with a mysterious sound effect, but the guitars and drums kick in right away. Evil United certainly brings the metal, but the vocals were not at all what I expected. The singing was mostly high-pitched, throaty screams. I was expecting something much lower, almost a growl. "Blasphemer" is very rhythmic and fast paced, which gives the song a thrash metal feel. The guitar work is fantastic, and although the solo is short, it really packs in the intensity.

"Speak" is slower than the opening track, but it is by no means a slow song. It begins with begins with lower, deeper guitar tones. When the vocals hit, they contain the high-pitched screams, but it quickly turn into more of a melodic singing style. Vocalist Jason McMaster's singing voice becomes much lower and is at times quite melodramatic. It almost sounds like two different people are singing on this track because of the great variation. "Speak" features another good solo--one with a bright power metal sound that really contrasts with the lower tones present in the rest of the song.

"Wargod" also features the varied vocal style from "Speak." The drumming is fast and heavy, and the guitars are, again, fantastic. It is definitely a thrash-inspired track.

"Fifty Year Storm" is preceded by the melodic instrumental "Dark Serenade". It is incredibly fast and heavy, and it really takes you by surprise because the brief "Dark Serenade" seems so calm. I quite enjoyed the vocals on this track. They're not too high in most of the parts of the song, and they seem to fit the musical style better. You can really hear the distinct lead and rhythm guitars working together here, especially during the intro.

Evil United's final track, "Hexorcism", begins with an almost demonic voice speaking the line, "I'm speaking to the entity inside of this child!". The screaming vocals hit, repeating the same phrase. The name is cool, like several of the other evil and "metal" sounding titles--"Dawn of Armageddon," "Walking to Sodom", among others. What I enjoy most about "Hexorcism" is that it boasts one of the longer guitar solos on the album. It is has a melodic power metal sound, which is a lot brighter than the rest of this deep, dark song. The contrast is fascinating.

Evil United has put together a very fresh, modern sounding debut album. One can really hear the influence of other metal styles such as thrash and power metal over the course of the record. I didn't really care for some of the vocals on this album. Jason McMaster's high-pitched moments kind of came across as a bad Bobby Blitz impression, but really throaty. The variation in his singing style was often distracting, and I couldn't quite tell what he was going for.  There were times when the vocals just didn't seem to complement the musical style. However, it was nice to hear something new and super heavy that didn't use a low guttural growl the ENTIRE time. Despite all of this, the top notch guitar work from TC "Bird" Connally and John "JV4" Valenzuela made Evil United completely worth my time spent listening to it. Now, I am rather anxious to check out their other band Pitbull Daycare to hear how their amazing talents match up with another vocalist.

6 1/2 out of 10 stars

MVD Entertainment Group
Evil United on Facebook

Slipknot spin-off band delivers part one of a double album epic

The House of Gold and Bones - Part 1 is the first installment of Stone Sour's new double concept album. It is the band's first album without bassist Shawn Economaki. Rachel Bolan of Skid Row fame temporarily joined the band to record both parts of The House of Gold and Bones.

Part 1's opener "Gone Sovereign" begins with feedback noise and heavy repetitive guitar riffs. Corey Taylor's vocals are calm, yet powerful, in the beginning. They periodically get louder, and come to a scream during the highly intense "This is MINE" line of the song. The guitar solo is purely hard rock--with fast, screaming notes. It is definitely something that fans of more classic hard rock and heavy metal will really appreciate.

"Gone Sovereign" bleeds into the following track, "Absolute Zero". During this transition, the word "yeah" is sung in a dark, dissonant type vocal. It almost sounds like something out of an Alice in Chains song. The "yeah" (or "hey" as it often sounds) is prominently featured throughout the song. "Absolute Zero" has some moments of screams, but the vocals are mostly a melodic style. This song, with its heavy and driving beat, also features a catchy chorus with the memorable lyric, "You're looking at an absolute zero / I'm not the devil / But I won't be your hero".

Part of what makes The House of Gold and Bones - Part 1 a concept album of sorts are the recurring themes and motifs. This really begins to take shape with "The Travelers Pt. 1". This track is a peaceful ballad featuring an acoustic guitar with an underlying string arrangement. It is highly emotional, and very descriptive of travelling through life. The vocals are super pure and clean, but the song ends with muffled screaming in the background, which escalates into the next track, "Tired".

"Tired" is much heavier than previous track, but it's definitely not the heaviest song on the album by any means. It opens with a somewhat bluesy guitar riff, and an orchestral string arrangement soon appears again. The strings really add more fullness to this track. I'm very drawn to the overall big sound and the intense outpour of emotion.

"Taciturn" is another acoustic ballad on The House of Gold and Bones - Part 1. It too is highly emotional, which really comes across in Taylor's vocals. "Taciturn" is more dynamic than the previous ballad. It has a lot of build-up and suspense. It briefly "goes electric" toward the end, but it ends in the acoustic style in which it started.

"The Travelers Pt. 2", which is near the end of the album, revisits "The Travelers Pt. 1". It is quite a bit heavier than Part 1, especially at the beginning where it prominently features heavy guitar riffs. The vocals also often have an interesting muffled quality to them. "The Travelers Pt. 2" recalls some of the lyrics from Part 1, particularly the "I don't need a conscience..." line. This gives the song a strikingly similar chorus. The dark guitar riffs from James Root and Josh Rand really add to the mood. A heavy bass line leads into the album's final track--the highly energetic and aggressive song "Last of the Real."

Stone Sour's The House of Gold and Bones - Part 1 boasts a great balance of introspective ballads and heavy rock songs.  It is an incredible musical journey through pure aggression and sincere emotional contemplation. The tracks are well organized, and the constant changes in pace always keep it exciting. I absolutely cannot wait to hear the continuation of this album! The House of Gold and Bones - Part 2--which was recorded alongside Part 1--will be released in 2013.

8 out of 10 stars

Roadrunner Records/Warner Music Australia
Stone Sour Official Website

KISS' latest offering has its high points, but does it live up to its predecessors?

KISS just reached a major milestone in their career--the release of their 20th studio album, Monster. It certainly stays true to the band's signature sound, and it pretty much picks up where 2009's Sonic Boom left off. Monster was produced by Greg Collins and Paul Stanley, who also produced Sonic Boom.

"Hell or Hallelujah" is the album's opener and the lead single and it has the classic KISS sound right from the start. Paul takes on the lead vocal duties on this track, and his voice sounds like it is in great shape, not in the least bit strained as it has in recent times. The chorus is catchy, and the riffs are heavy. "Hell or Hallelujah" features a great guitar solo from Tommy Thayer. This relative newcomer to the band really fits in and sounds like he's been there all along.

Monster's first track with Gene Simmons on vocals is "Back to the Stone Age". It has a heavy bass intro and is very much a Gene song. The chorus is rather cheesy, but what would you expect from a song about returning to the wild and free days of being a caveman? Gene would have probably made a good caveman, so it actually makes sense!

Another Gene song from Monster is "The Devil is Me". It's darker and heavier than "Back to the Stone Age"--and an overall better song. I really dig the sinister attitude of this track. "The Devil is Me" is no "God of Thunder" by any means, but it's pretty cool.

"Shout Mercy" is one of Monster's heavier tracks, and it really reminds me of something from the band's Creatures of the Night era. I'm a sucker for good backing vocals, and this song is no exception. I really enjoy the shouts of "ooh hoo", "alright", and "mercy" in the background. The guitar riffs from this track are great and certainly have the classic KISS feel, and along with "Hell or Hallelujah", it's the best song from Monster.

"Outta This World" is a fun rock song that features guitarist Tommy Thayer on vocals. It's not one of the best songs from the album, but it did raise an eyebrow. The first verse of this track mentions feeling out of place in the human race and "wasting my time looking for my kind", and the chorus mentions a "midnight rocket ride". These lyrics just might touch a raw nerve with hardcore fans because they seem to have such a forced Spaceman theme. Tommy is definitely more of a singer than Ace has ever been--which is this track's redeeming quality--but this song just does not scream KISS at all.

"Last Chance" is the appropriately named last track on Monster. Paul Stanley sings lead on this song, which has the most classic sounding riffs on the whole album. The intro sounds very much like it was inspired by "Deuce". There are some really cool moments where the bass line gets extra heavy. I've always said Gene Simmons is an underrated bassist, and I enjoy his playing style--particularly on this track. Along with this great bass playing, this track also features the most explosive and impressive guitar solo from the whole album.

Monster may have a few good songs on it, but not many truly stand out. It was difficult to pick my favourites because of this, but there were some songs that grew on me more than others. Some of the songs may be catchy enough to get stuck in your head for a few days or even weeks, but they're not necessarily good enough to be remembered for years like much of KISS's previous work. I did appreciate the fact that the band embraced their classic sound, but the substance of the songs just wasn't all the way there. Monster is not at the top of my list of favourite KISS albums, but it's a decent record with some fun moments.

6 out of 10 stars

KISS Online

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Sevendust, Call Me No One members join Tennessee couple in new band

Guitarist Chad Grennor and singer Ashley Grennor currently hail from Knoxville, Tennessee, and are active in its local music scene. They are rising stars and are moving onto bigger things, as they have formed a new band--Annandale--with Sevendust and Call Me No One guitarist Clint Lowery and drummer Morgan Rose. Annandale will soon be releasing their debut EP, Moving Forward, which Lowery produced.

Moving Forward kicks off with the hard and heavy track "This Fight". One thing that makes this song--and the band itself--unique, is the use of a male vocalist and a female vocalist. Annandale's female vocalist, Ashley Grennor, is featured most prominently on "This Fight". Her singing alternates between being strong and being lighter and breathy. The band's rhythm guitarist, Chad Grennor, shares the singing duties, and the chorus features his vocal harmonies. Another thing that makes this track really exciting is the highly suspenseful build-up before the bridge.

Next comes the EP's title track, "Moving Forward" and it’s a bit heavier than the previous one. The verses are mainly sung by Ashley and they are quite melodic. This really contrasts with the angsty, hard-hitting chorus sung by Chad. This song's chorus is faster, and has more of an alt-rock feel to it. "Moving Forward" boasts a fantastic guitar solo with some blistering fast hard rock notes.

"Step One" has to be my favourite track from Moving Forward. It is the catchiest song from the EP, and I can't wait to hear this one on the radio. The song's intro features some heavy, pronounced drumming courtesy of Morgan Rose. The fast guitar quickly kicks in, as do the rapid rhythmic vocals from Chad. Ashley provides some much calmer harmonies in the chorus. The riffs are certainly hard and fast on this one!

"Waiting" is much more relaxed than the previous tracks. It has sort of a pop rock feel, but the guitar riffs are still substantial. The vocals on this song are sung as a duet, and it kind of reminds me of a rock version of country music's Lady Antebellum.

The final track, "Broken Dreams", is very low and dark sounding in the beginning, and it's probably the heaviest song from Moving Forward. The riffs on this one really pack a punch, especially in the guitar solo. Chad's vocals are the most prominent, but Ashley's really provide depth to the song. The style of the song--and the heavy use of the male vocals--are reminiscent of a band like Daughtry.

Annandale's Moving Forward EP features a wide variety of sounds--pop rock, alternative, and hard rock bordering on metal. While there are surely some Sevendust and Call Me No One influences, this band is purely original and certainly has its own vision. As a fan of both Sevendust and the Grennors' work in the Knoxville music scene, I am ecstatic this band has come to be, and I am excited to see where they will go.

7.5 out of 10 stars

Official Annandale Website