Monday, March 18, 2019

Review: In Flames, "I, The Mask"


After three of the first four songs released from In Flames’ latest showed a lot of promise, I was hoping to party like it was 2002 with great albums from both Soilwork and In Flames again. In the end, though, it’s a mixed bag with some really strong songs, but quite a few skips.

What’s Hot?

Fans of the band’s earlier work should be pleased that there are heavier songs on this record than they’ve done in a while. It starts with album opener “Voices,” which definitely has some Clayman feel in the verses. That’s followed with the title track, which is an absolute banger. After that, things get spottier. There’s heaviness to be found in “I Am Above,” “Burn” and the addictive riffing of “Deep Inside,” which does a really good job of blending their styles. Yes, the heavy songs here do have more melodic, mainstream choruses, but in most cases, they’re very catchy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Dream Sets: Judas Priest

Let's say you've won a massive lottery. You'd use that money responsibly, right? Like building your own music venues and paying your favorite bands to play your favorite songs there?
So here's the deal. You're booking your favorite bands, and you're paying them so much that they let you pick the set list. You've got 10 songs (it's got to be a challenge, right?) plus a three-song encore. What's your Dream Set? 
I’m hoping to do a couple of these a month. Since I’ve seen Judas Priest recently, and it’s fresh in my mind, that’s where I’m going to start.
Feel free to disagree with me or share your own.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Review: Beast in Black, "From Hell With Love"

Imagine, if you will, a world where 1980s electronic pop incorporated blazing metal guitar riffs and soaring solos. I’m talking about the cheesiest songs from the Flashdance, Footloose or Rocky movie soundtracks of the early ‘80s blended with the metal bands that rose to prominence in the latter part of the decade. That’s the world inhabited by Finland’s Beast in Black.

From Hell With Love is a beautifully cheesy world of guilty pleasure. As a metal guy, I’m a bit embarrassed about enjoying this so much, but at the same time I’m bobbing my head and belting out the lyrics at the top of my lungs.

Do you fit in this world? To answer that question, just hit play on the title track, “From Hell With Love.” You’ll soon know. My progression went something like this:

• First verse – “Man, how cheesy can you get?”
• Second verse/chorus – “But it’s really catchy.”
• Chorus after the solo – *head banging* “Another voiceless cry / another hopeless try / I wish you’d open your wings and take me inside …”

About 10 repeats later, I finally gave in to my inner ‘80s child and bought the record. I have no regrets.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Review: Soilwork, "Verkligheten"

Unfortunately, evolution can be a difficult and dangerous thing for a metal band. Any change in sound in the genre is often met with a swift and ugly response from a large portion of the fan base.

If there’s a template for the way to evolve gracefully, it might belong to Soilwork. That’s not to say that they haven’t seen the backlash as they’ve moved from the Gothenburg death-metal sound to something more melodic and accessible, but they’ve weathered it better than others and continue to pump out great albums. Their latest, Verkligheten (which translates to Reality in English), is no exception.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Best of 2018: Judas Priest, Machine Head, Burning Witches, Dark Hound, White Wizzard, Amorphis, more

I’ve seen many in the metal community praise last year as one of the best in recent memory. I’m not going to go that far, but it was pretty solid. My personal best of 2018 list features great records from old favorites, a few awesome new discoveries, and even a good record here and there from bands that I haven’t been a huge fan of in the past.

Then there’s that one mammoth record that made the whole year worth it, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s start with the notable records of the year that didn’t crack the Top 10 …


JUNGLE ROT – JUNGLE ROT: That moment when you realize that you’ve misjudged a band for years because of their name. They categorize themselves as death metal, and with a name like that … well, I knew what I was getting. Or did I? About a month or so ago, the video for “A Burning Cinder” played as a YouTube ad, and instead of going on to the video I wanted to watch, I played it again. And a third time. More thrash than death metal to my ears, this album spent some time in the lower portion of my top 10 before getting pushed out on a tough last-minute decision.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: Shooter Jennings, "Shooter"

Shooter Jennings decided to title his return to country music after himself, but it could just as easily be called Junior or Bocephus. Much of the record is simply a love letter to one of his influences – Hank Williams Jr. That’s not a bad thing, though.

The love begins flowing from the very first track, “Bound Ta Git Down,” which is Shooter’s unabashed reworking of Hank Jr.’s “Born to Boogie.” The life experiences recounted in the lyrics belong to the singer, but the rocking boogie-woogie rhythms and melodies are mostly Hank, with some notable influence from Charlie Daniels. Despite its derivative nature, though, it’s still a high-energy and fun way to start this record.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Review: Cypress Hill, "Elephants on Acid"

I can count on one hand – with fingers left over – the number of hip-hop acts I get excited about hearing new music from. Cypress Hill, though, is at the top of that list.

I was a metal kid in my early 20s who, with a couple of notable exceptions, hated hip-hop with a passion when I first heard Cypress Hill through a friend and co-worker at the fast-food joint where I was working my way through college. He was a black hardcore hip-hop fan from California, and I was a white redneck metalhead from Louisiana. We often taunted each other, good-naturedly, with our respective music while we worked. That was his intent when he popped a Cypress Hill disc in the little boom box, but there was something about this group that caught my attention. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but they had a different vibe that I really liked – and it didn’t hurt, I guess, that one of the first songs he played was “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That,” which sampled Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Review: Alestorm/Gloryhammer at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill (Sept. 11, 2018, Dallas, TX)

If you take off work, pull your kid out of school and drive five hours to go to a club show, you may have a metal problem.

If you’ve followed my ramblings for the past decade or so, you’ll know my love for all things Christopher Bowes, so there was no way that I was going to miss a U.S. tour featuring both Alestorm and Gloryhammer, even if I had to do all of the above to get there. Which I did. And it was more than worth it.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Review: Burning Witches, "Burning Witches"


My dismal 2017 would have been a good deal brighter if I'd discovered this record last spring when it came out. I picked up on the single for "Executed," the first track from their upcoming sophomore release, and I was impressed. This record wears its Judas Priest influence on its sleeve, but it's done fantastically well. Given that it's an all-female band, the comparisons to Doro will definitely come, too, but to be honest, I think these ladies do it better all-around.

What's Hot?

This album is loaded with fantastic guitar riffs from Romana Kalkuhl and Alea Wyss (no longer with the band). I'm going to assume Romana handles the leads on the record, and I give her props, too, for some hot licks. Vocalist Seraina Telli has amazing range, which she shows off right from the start with a glass-shattering scream on "Black Widow" to open the album.