Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sweden's Spiders channel their '70s spirit with Shake Electric

Following their 2012 full-length debut Flash Point, Gothenburg band Spiders have put forth their latest album, Shake Electric, and continue to offer their vintage hard rock sound. Some bands that go the throwback route will often sound contrived or the whole thing will even be a joke. This is not the case with Spiders and Shake Electric. They are about as authentic as it gets.

As soon as Shake Electric takes off, you are instantly transported to the 1970s. "Mad Dog" opens the album, having an early KISS vibe that meets the raw power of Iggy & the Stooges attitude laden garage rock. The riffs are great, and the sultry vocals from Ann-Sofie Hoyle are immediately appealing. "Mad Dog", with its unusual (or strangely translated) lyrics about being chased by some kind of aggressive whoremonger, isn't the best song the album has to offer, but it does give listeners a glimpse of what Spiders are all about.

Title track "Shake Electric" is a fun song about being young, having a good time, and wanting to stay in that moment with the person you're with. The clapping during the guitar solo adds to the fun, as does the catchy chorus of "Never never never never get enough of you". The harmonica solo at the end gives the song a nice touch of blues at the end.

"Bleeding Heart" is one that really stands out on Shake Electric. I could imagine it as a hit radio single in the late '70s or early '80s when Joan Jett, The Pretenders, and Blondie were cranking out hits. The guitar solo is probably the best on the album, and you can really hear the KISS inspiration there.

"Back on the Streets" and "Control" are in the same vein as "Bleeding Heart". I hear a major Pretenders influence on these two, but they're definitely heavier. I especially like the "Control" chorus with the memorable repeated lyrics of "Calling out her name, calling out her name." It has Chrissie Hynde written all over it, but Hoyles does it effortlessly. This song particularly drives home Spiders powerful female-fronted rock that is ass kicking and sexy all at the same time.

A surprising track from Shake Electric, at the end of the album, is "Hard Times". It is a ballad with soulful guitar riffs from John Hoyles. The lyrics are about not hiding your feelings and facing your fears. Ann Sofie's vocals are especially intense and emotional on this one.

Shake Electric is a perfect homage to late '70s and early '80s rock 'n' roll, and Ann-Sofie Hoyles pays great tribute to the powerful front-women that came before her. Spiders' sound is somewhat polished, but you can still hear a lot of raw intensity in their sound. Shake Electric is a phenomenal album, and I would highly recommend it for fans of heavy '70s rock and are also looking for something new.

7 out of 10 stars

Spinefarm Records
Official Spiders Website

Hard and heavy blues rockers Crobot expand on EP to create 'Something Supernatural'

Releasing their self-titled EP earlier this year, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, band Crobot gave us a taste of their unique blues-based musical flavour. Now, just after a few short months, they have their major label debut album, Something Supernatural, ready for rock audiences to devour.

Opening track, "Legend of the Spaceborne Killer", has its roots from Crobot's 2012 independent release of the same name, and a revamped version featuring the band's new rhythm section--bassist Jake Figueroa and drummer Paul Figueroa--was recorded for this year's EP. "Legend of the Spaceborne Killer" begins distorted riffs, almost like the band is warming up. It also contains some effects like a radio tuning in, reminding me of the futuristic dials and gadgets from the Enterprise on Star Trek. This song has a major early '70s blues rock feel, and Brandon Yeagley's vocals are heavily reminiscent of Jeff Keith from Tesla. While "Legend of the Spaceborne Killer" is heavy and '70s to the core, it definitely has a more space age vibe than a darker Black Sabbath one.

"Nowhere to Hide" is the lead single from Something Supernatural. When I first heard it on the radio, I could have sworn Crobot was a new band fronted by Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge and Slash's Conspirators. The similarities of Yeagley and Kennedy, particularly on this track, are uncanny. The guitar riffs on this one are funky, and guitarist Chris Bishop's solo is fantastic with its fuzzy effects. The chorus is catchy, and the whole thing is really upbeat for a song about someone being hanged.

Crobot's upcoming single is "Night of the Sacrifice". It fits quite well with the band's supernatural and mystical themes. The chorus of, "Now you're gonna die / step right up / don't be shy," followed by the line "No one gets out alive!" is memorable. It has another impressive guitar solo, very much like "Nowhere to Hide".

One shouldn't fail to mention "Chupacabra," with its twangy, country-inspired intro riffs and heavy bass. The Chupacabra may just be my favourite mysterious creature, as every time one is "sighted" it ends up looking like a creepy version of my Chinese Crested dog, Louie. (That's a whole other story though). The song "Chupacabra" is a great one, and the lyrics, "I found that bloodsucker down by the river," along with the repeated, "down by the river," really stand out.

"Queen of the Light" is Something Supernatural's finale, and it sure is grand. It begins slowly, almost like a ballad. The vocals are strong, and Brandon Yeagley sings in his lower register to start. It features acoustic guitars in the beginning, but it goes electric for the chorus and beyond. It is theatrical, telling the story of a mysterious woman, "She has the keys to under Earth / her only wish a holy rebirth / all dressed in the darkness / but she'll trade it all for a white dress." It has some subtle distortion with the electric guitar, and it has the same space age feel of the album's opener "Legend of the Spaceborne Killer". "Queen of the Light" is darker than the rest of the album, and it's one of those great songs that is completely unexpected. I absolutely love this one, and it is my favourite along with "Nowhere to Hide" and "Chupacabra."

Crobot, with their major-label debut album Something Supernatural, has a phenomenal sound. I would say it's akin to the Black Crowes but definitely with a bit of a metal edge. (There just happens to be a killer metal scream in the song "Skull of Geronimo"). Their bluesy riffs, supernatural lyric themes, and hard-hitting vocals make Crobot a refreshing band in a sea of new hard rock acts who often sound too much alike.

7 1/2 out of 10 stars

Wind-Up Records
Official Crobot Website

The band you hate may just be the band you should get to know

Oft-dismissed rockers Black Veil Brides have released their self-titled fourth studio album, produced by the legendary Bob Rock. It is not a concept album like its predecessor, 2013's Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, but Black Veil Brides does pretty much stick to a main theme throughout - criticism of religion. It's not preachy as in, "let's all go be atheists now" (not that there's anything wrong with that), but it is more about being sincere, finding your own way, and recognizing the hypocrisy that is often found in organized religion.

"Heart of Fire" is Black Veil Brides lead single and opening track. It has great riffs and a hard driving rhythm, especially in the beginning. The chorus of, "This heart of fire is burning proud!" is empowering. It features some choir-inspired backing vocals toward the end, and there is also a fantastic guitar solo.

It is immediately followed by "Faithless." There is bell in the intro that really reminds me of something out of a Black Label Society song. "Faithless" has explosive guitar riffs from Jake Pitts and Jinxx, and Christian "CC" Coma contributes brutal rapid-fire drumming. Its lyrics of, "Even when I fall down to my knees / I never say a prayer I don't believe / and I don't wanna lock up to the Son / But I will never be the faithless one," are about being sincere in faith and having faith in something possibly other than religion. The guitar solo certainly has some classic metal influence in it.

"Goodbye Agony" is a much slower track that has an Avenged Sevenfold vibe to it--especially in Andy Biersack's vocals. It also reminds me of the slower Metallica songs that were big in the '90's. The chorus is quite theatrical as Biersack sings about letting go of previously held harmful, painful beliefs. "Goodbye Agony" is Black Veil Brides' second and latest single.

Like several of the songs from Black Veil Brides, "Last Rites" has a straight up classic metal sound. I absolutely love the intro guitar riffs, and the rhythm in which the opening line, "Children born and raised on a Sunday / hearing what their leaders say / singing along," is sung. The lyrics about children being forced into church and not feeling like they belong is sure to resonate with a lot of listeners. There is also some rapture imagery in this song. "Last Rites" features what is probably the best guitar solo on the album, and it is my favorite track along with "Faithless."

"Crown of Thorns," the album's finale, has NWOBHM-style guitar riffs in the intro, but it quickly takes off in more of a modern direction. Regardless, this track is pure metal. The guitar work from Pitts and Jinxx is excellent. The chorus of "I will walk through Hell / in these words I fell / straight into your arms / with this crown of thorns," is super catchy, and the song has an overall great sound to it. It has the potential to be another single.

Black Veil Brides' latest offering is filled with great songs, and it does not have any low moments. It is truly a solid album. I honestly believe Black Veil Brides get a bad rap. Sure, they may look like the bastard children of emo scene kids and Mötley Crüe's Nikki Sixx, but they are so much better than that. Black Veil Brides have an appealing, and increasingly mainstream, sound that many rock fans will enjoy if only given the chance.

7 1/2 out of 10 stars

Lava/Universal Republic/Universal Music Australia
Official Black Veil Brides Website

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Band Alert: Saints of War

An exciting new band, Saints of War hail from Billingham, England, and they have recently recently released their debut single "Do or Die" on iTunes. Proceeds from the single will go to a local children's cancer ward in the UK.

"Do or Die" is fantastic right from the start, with its classic metal intro riffs from guitarist Dave Shannon and bluesy rhythm supplied by bassist Chris Diboll and drummer Matthew Bate. Darren Hough's vocals are aggressive and gritty, and the "hey! hey! hey!" in the backing vocals is memorable and catchy. The guitar solo is impressive, and fans will notice the Zakk Wylde influence there.

Saints of War are currently working on their forthcoming EP. If all the songs on it are as good as "Do or Die," this band will certainly have a hit on their hands.

Saints of War on iTunes

Saints of War on Facebook