Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: Machine Head, "Catharsis"

There seems to be quite a lot of dislike in the metal world for Machine Head’s latest outing, but in truth, I think it’s one of the most interesting records that the band has ever done.

I get that frontman Robb Flynn is opinionated, outspoken and often gives off an air of self-importance that can make him a tough guy to like. But I’ve got quite a bit of practice in putting a musician’s personality aside and separating it from the music.

I get that some of the songs on Catharsis perhaps don’t sound like Machine Head is supposed to. Honestly, though, that’s why I like it. I’ve never been a huge fan of the band, and one of the reasons is that I find a few good songs on each album and the rest sound kind of the same. Catharsis, as the name would suggest, seems to be a very personal album for Flynn, and as a result it’s more varied and more interesting.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Review: Dark Hound, "Dawning"

When I think of Nashville these days, my first thought is usually nausea-inducing, skinny-jean wearing, faux-country boys rapping about pickup trucks and dirt roads. But even if I listed the positives of Nashville music – and there still are a few – I highly doubt that a blend of thrash, progressive and early-‘90s hard rock would appear anywhere on that list. But here I sit, listening to Dark Hound’s latest album Dawning, and enjoying the hell out of it.

Listening to this record, I hear shades of some favorites: early Saigon Kick, Lillian Axe’s more progressive work, Testament, perhaps a little Dream Theater here and there. But Dark Hound blends it all together into a sound that’s completely their own and doesn’t really fit into any of the current trends or sub-genres in the metal world.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Stuck in My Head: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, "Fire."

“I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you …”

A proclamation made in a black-and-white video full of fire and smoke, by a singer wearing a flaming crown and decked out in corpse paint – possibly its first use in rock. In 2018, after the music world has seen the likes of Alice Cooper, W.A.S.P., Marilyn Manson and even more bizarre acts, it may not seem that wild or shocking. But imagine being a kid in 1968 and stumbling across the Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s “Fire” for the first time. It had to be just about the coolest thing you’d ever seen – and for parents, probably one of the scariest.

This song pops up on my shuffle on rare occasion, and it always reminds me of just how big an impact this relatively obscure artist had on my favorite music. Though “Fire” was a No. 1 hit in the U.K. and reached No. 2 on Billboard in the U.S., Arthur Brown is far from a household name. His work, however, spawned whole genres of rock and metal.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Best of 2017: Alestorm, Hellbound Glory, White Light Cemetery, Bob Wayne, Savage Messiah

It was, honestly, a pretty lousy year for music to my ears. Not a lot grabbed my attention and even less held it. So, rather than puff up two or three albums that I didn't feel were all that great to round out a Top 10, I've opted to keep it to five and cut a couple that I do feel are deserving.

5. Savage Messiah, Hands of Fate. This spot was by far the toughest call on the list, and I wavered for a good long while between this one and albums from Firewind and Alice Cooper. In the end, though, Savage Messiah just spoke to me more. On previous outings, the band has leaned more toward speed metal and thrash, but Hands of Fate is the kind of fantastic, old school, straight-up heavy metal album that we don’t get much anymore. At the same time, though, it doesn’t sound like a dated imitation of bands that have come before. It’s full of awesome riffs and great hooks, and if the title track doesn’t get your head banging, it may be time to hang up the horns.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Playlist 2017 Week 5: Power Trip, Tyler Childers, BLS

The final installment of the Playlist is going to be a short one. It was a holiday week, and I didn't feel like logging in on those days. Plus, we're getting to the point of the program where we're just going to have a lot of repeat appearances from Alestorm, Hellbound Glory and a couple of others. So here are the final three to round out my 2017 playlist.

Power Trip, "Excutioner's Tax (Swing of the Axe)" from Nightmare Logic. One of the problems I've had with the new crop of thrash bands is that they often seem content to repeat what's come before instead of innovating the style. I already have all of the classic thrash albums, so I don't need a remake. Power Trip doesn't completely avoid that pitfall either, but there's some good stuff on this record. Some nice grooves and memorable melodies.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Playlist 2017 Week 4: Locust Grove, Body Count, Hellbound Glory, Alex Williams, White Wizzard

For the fourth week of favorite tunes from 2017, I look at a surprising cover, a repeat offender and a promising start to 2018, among others.

Locust Grove, "Monster" from the Monster EP. One of my favorite finds in recent years, and one of my greatest disappointments when they broke up less than a year after I discovered them was Oklahoma hard rockers Anti-Mortem. Guitarist Zain Smith is back on the hard rock scene now, though, with Locust Grove (where he also handles vocal duties). It's not quite Anti-Mortem, but definitely enjoyable and in the same vein.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Playlist 2017 Week 3: Firewind, Bob Wayne, Living Colour, Iced Earth, Alestorm

For week 3 of the playlist, we've got hard rock sounds, country, a little funkiness and a late pirate attack.

Firewind, "Back on the Throne" from Immortals. Guitarist Gus G may not have gotten to record an album with Ozzy Osbourne, but he was clearly writing for it. There's some great classic rock riffage that will certainly remind listeners of both Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde. This tune's a little different from the rest of the record, but very cool.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Playlist 2017 Week 2: Hellbound Glory, Alice Cooper, Danzig, Manson, Savage Messiah

Week two of my 2017 playlist includes my favorite track from a great comeback album, a high-powered rock 'n' roll team and a couple of solid tracks from lackluster records.

Hellbound Glory, "Hellbound Blues" from Pinball. One of the few musical high points of 2017 for me was the triumphant return of Hellbound Glory. This gritty, dark rocker from the record is easily my favorite song. While I in no way condone the use of cocaine, I love the first verse of the song, particularly the interesting description of his coke as "whiter than the Alabama Ku Klux Klan."

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Playlist 2017 Week 1: Alestorm, White Light Cemetery, Cellar Darling, Fozzy

I'm still trying to decide whether it's worth doing an end-of-year list for 2017. You'll note that I didn't write much this year, and while it's true that I was busier than normal, it's also because there wasn't a whole lot that excited me musically this year. That said, there were a couple of great records and a handful of really good songs. So I'll start with my playlist and see where it goes.

Alestorm - "Fucked with an Anchor" from No Grave but the Sea. Let's go ahead and get this one out of the way, since everyone knows it's coming. I called it as my song of the year when I reviewed the album, and that hasn't changed. This silly profane song was the most fun that I had this year musically, and you'll be seeing Alestorm again in this playlist.