Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Best of 2014: Hard rock and metal

We enjoyed a really strong year in hard rock and metal, so much so that some albums I really enjoyed got bumped off of my Best of 2014 list. There were great comebacks from the likes of Sanctuary, Body Count and, of course, Judas Priest. There were releases from some very promising new acts like Anti-Mortem and Black Crown Initiate. There were entries from some steady-as-ever acts.

As always, this list is subject to change with my mood, or as I discover a few records that I somehow missed over the course of the year, but here’s my Best of 2014 list for hard rock and metal — at least, as of the last week of the year …


No. 10 — SANCTUARY – THE YEAR THE SUN DIED: It’s been 25 years since Sanctuary’s last album, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell that from this record. This is a bit heavier perhaps, a bit more progressive, than the band’s earlier work, but just a stellar album all the way around.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Best of 2014: Country and Southern rock

Unlike my Best of 2014 list concentrating on hard rock and metal, not a whole lot changed from my mid-year picks for country and Southern rock. There was a little bit of shuffling and a new entry or two, but precious little from the second half of the year managed to unseat anything from my early Best of 2014 list …


No. 10 — MATT WOODS – WITH LOVE FROM BRUSHY MOUNTAIN: Woods is a really good songwriter, an underrated art in country music today. That’s really what makes this record stand out for me. It’s about the songs and stories.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best of 2014: Reader picks

Before I get into my personal picks for the best records of 2014, I want to give my readers the spotlight.

To tabulate this list, I looked at all the posts to this blog for the year. I tossed out all of the Saturday Shuffles which tend to get quite a bit of traffic and focused just on the reviews. These are the Top 10 most viewed articles of the year.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you again in 2015.


10. Metallica - "Lords of Summer." Published April 8. A new tune from Metallica that may or may not make their next record. I liked it despite its flaws.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: Sanctuary, "The Year the Sun Died"

If there’s a balm for fans to ease the breakup/hiatus of Nevermore, it has to be this: The first new music from Sanctuary since 1989.

Four-fifths of the original lineup returned for the band’s 2010 reunion and for The Year the Sun Died — vocalist Warrel Dane, guitarist Lenny Rutledge, bassist Jim Sheppard and drummer Dave Budbill. Only guitarist Sean Blosl passed on the reunion. He’s replaced on the album by Brad Hull, who joined the touring band in 2011, after the departure of Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis.

The 2014 version of Sanctuary has, perhaps, a bit of a chunkier and heavier sound, with some shades of Nevermore’s more progressive leanings coming into play at times. Dane’s vocals are the deeper warble we’ve become accustomed to with Nevermore, rather than the youthful shrieks of the late 1980s, but no less powerful.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: Whiskey Myers, "Early Morning Shakes"


At the end of the year, there always seem to be a handful of albums laying aorund that I really like, but haven’t reviewed for some reason. I’m not making any promises, but I’m going to try to catch up on those at the end of this year, beginning with this one.

I discovered Whiskey Myers quite by accident when I stumbled across “Ballad of a Southern Man” on YouTube one night. The song, which hit home for me, led me to pick up their 2011 album Firewater, and I loved the mix of country and fire-breathing Southern rockers the boys from Tyler, Texas, brought to the table.

Their most recent release, Early Morning Shakes arrived in February, and it delivers more of the same with, I believe, some even better Southern-fried grooves.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Review: Black Crown Initiate, "The Wreckage of Stars"


I’d heard a little bit of the buzz around Black Crown Initiate, but hadn’t taken the time to check the band out.

I’m super picky when it comes to the more extreme subgenres of metal, and unless I get a promo on it, I’m not usually one to run out and find music from a death metal band. When the video for first single “Withering Waves” showed up on a social media feed, it was an easy click to check it out, and I was astounded.

In short, Black Crown Initiate gives me what I’m missing from Opeth since their move to a 1970s prog rock sound. I wouldn’t call them a clone, but what Opeth did better than anyone else, Black Crown Initiate also does exceptionally well. They deliver crushingly heavy death metal parts, interspersed with moody and dark melodic pieces and plenty of progressive bursts.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: Texas Hippie Coalition, "Ride On"


For their outstanding 2012 album Peacemaker, Texas Hippie Coalition brought more of a Southern rock flavor into their brand of groove metal. It worked fantastically.

Before the release of their latest album Ride On, frontman Big Dad Ritch said Texas Hippie Coalition wanted to honor the sound of their earlier records as well as what they did on Peacemaker. At least in the early going, they very much do that on Ride On.

The first two tracks on the album, “El Diablo Rojo” and “Splinter” have just a hint of those Southern elements, but the overriding feel of them — particularly “Splinter” — is more of a modern metal sound. Both are good songs, but I have to admit by the end of “Splinter,” I’m missing the redneck noise.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: Slash, "World on Fire"


Slash’s 2012 record Apocalyptic Love blindsided me. I went in for a half-hearted listen, and it turned out to be one of my favorite records of the year. Of course, that means the expectations for the follow-up were much higher.

World on Fire races out of the gate with the same vibe and energy that Apocalyptic Love brought, but it doesn’t sustain that drive and fizzles a bit toward the end.

I appreciate Slash wanting to give fans more bang for the buck with 17 tracks on the album, but maybe it should have been pared down a little as many of the tracks that come late on the record kind of blend into each other.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday Shuffle: DLR, Dio, Living Colour, Metallica, Soundgarden


A nice variety of hard rockers from classics to new stuff, from glam to grunge ...


David Lee Roth, “Tobacco Road.” From the album Eat ‘Em and Smile (1986). I always forget how much I love this cover until I hear it again. Steve Vai’s screaming guitar licks are perfect, and the bombastic, showtune tone of the song is right down Diamond Dave’s alley. It could very well be my favorite track from my favorite DLR solo album.