Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Hank Williams Jr., "It's About Time"

The title of Hank Williams Jr.’s latest album seems most appropriate. At least, it sums up what I’m thinking as I listen to what might be his best complete album in years: It’s About Time that Hank remembered he’s a musician and not a politician.

That’s not to say that there’s no political content on his Nash Icon label debut. His cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “God and Guns,” for example, certainly qualifies. But the commentary comes from a far different place here than the soapbox pandering that he’s so often done in recent years. It’s closer to the sentiment on “A Country Boy Can Survive” than on, say, “Keep the Change” from his last record. The political content here is more a statement of personal belief than a forced attack on other ideologies, and you can respect that.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday Shuffle: Doro, Skid Row, Skynyrd, III, Manowar

Returning to the shuffle after a while with some good old-fashioned metal, a nasty hard rocker and some Southern flavor, as well...

Doro, “Revenge.” From the album Raise Your Fist (2012). I don’t know why I don’t listen to Doro more. I loved her work with Warlock, and it seems like I enjoy her solo work when I hear it as well, but I just don’t listen all that often. “Revenge” is just a driving, old-fashioned traditional metal ripper, pretty much what Doro does.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Best of 2015

This past year was a strange one for me musically. While there were a few albums that I’d consider outstanding, I had a very hard time finding new music that connected with me. Some highly anticipated records disappointed me, and an album for which I really had no expectations stunned me and rose to the top of my Best of 2015 list.

Rather than culling from a big list as usual, I had to stretch a little to get it to 10 entries, and the bands on the list are all pretty well-established acts. It’s certainly not the strongest top 10 that I’ve ever turned in, but those few records at the top would be there in any year.

Here’s hoping for a more fruitful musical search in 2016 …

10. PRO-PAIN – THE VOICE OF REBELLION: This is the first of a few surprises on the Best of 2015 list for me. Though the veteran hardcore band has been popping out albums every year or two since their 1992 debut Foul Taste of Freedom, I haven’t really given them much thought since that record. I liked the debut but, as with most hardcore, the sound got old to me after a while. I gave this one a listen with somewhat fresh ears, and songs like the raging title track and the catchy “Age of Disgust” pulled me in.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lemmy Kilmister, 1945-2015

Despite his recent health problems, the news of Motorhead frontman Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister’s death on Monday (Dec. 28) came as a bit of a shock. Like many other folks in the hard rock and metal world, I’m sure, I considered Lemmy one of those almost immortal guys — someone who would always be around. Sadly, cancer is not a fan of anyone.

I still remember the first time that I heard Motorhead. I was probably 11 or 12, already a metal fan, but only just beginning to move into the heavier stuff. Some friends played it for me. I don’t even remember which record it was, but I heard Lemmy’s gruff, shouted vocals and thought, “Who in the heck would listen to that? The guy can’t even sing.” Of course, as the years went by, my opinion changed drastically. In all honesty, I never became what I would consider a hardcore Motorhead fan, but I gained a great respect for what they did, and I certainly became a fan of Lemmy. It was almost impossible not to.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review: Queensryche, "Condition Human"

Condition Human marks the full return of the Queensryche that I know and love.

While I really enjoyed the band’s eponymous debut with new singer Todd LaTorre, I thought, in places, the dynamic hadn’t quite come together. That’s not the case with the band’s second record with LaTorre. It hits right in Queensryche’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s progressive metal powerhouse, yet manages to not sound dated.

I had my doubts. The first song that I heard was album opener “Arrow of Time,” and while it’s not a bad song, it’s not a standout either. But then along comes “Guardian,” and all is right with the world. An aggressively catchy guitar riff, combined with some driving beats from drummer Scott Rockenfield, puts the listener in mind of some of the band’s more aggressive early work. The huge chorus, though, is firmly rooted in the Mindcrime era, which Queensryche backs up with a lyrical nod to that album. For me, it’s easily one of the best hooks of the record — and with Todd LaTorre wailing like a young, in-his-prime Geoff Tate, it’s a thing of beauty.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review: Amorphis, "Under the Red Cloud"

I didn’t think that Finnish folk/death metal outfit Amorphis would ever top 2009’s epic Skyforger. But their latest, Under the Red Cloud, certainly gives it a run for its money.

Under the Red Cloud may be Amorphis’ most folk-influenced record to date, but that makes it no less crushingly heavy when it needs to be.

We see the two sides in the first two songs. The title track opens softly, playing heavily into the folk elements before transforming into a ripping rocker with just a few growls from vocalist Tomi Joutsen. Second track “The Four Wise Ones,” digs in for some good, old-fashioned melodic death metal. We get a break in the middle with some effects-laden vocals from Aleah Stanbridge (Trees of Eternity) before the song ramps back up. Even in its heaviness, though, “The Four Wise Ones” plays to the folk elements with whistles and pipes running throughout.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Danzig, "Skeletons"

Glenn Danzig has a pretty good history with covers.

His version of Elvis Presley’s “Trouble,” which appeared on the Thrall/Demonsweatlive EP is, despite some unnecessary lyrical changes, a near-perfect metal cover of the tune. In fact, it ranks as one of my favorite cover songs ever. He also unleashed a solid version of T. Rex’s “Buick Mackane” on his Lost Tracks collection.

Both of those songs are right in his wheelhouse. The selections on his new covers album Skeletons, though, offer some surprises with covers from Aerosmith, ZZ Top, and … the Everly Brothers?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Still Spinning: Fastway, "Trick or Treat Original Soundtrack"

When I was in junior high, I thought Trick or Treat just might be one of the greatest movies ever. I’d stay up to watch it in the wee hours on MTV, and on the rare occasion that I had a chance to rent a movie to watch by myself, it was often my choice. I even wrote a sequel to it at one point that, of course, featured a kid who totally wasn’t me in the lead role.

The movie tells the story of rocker Sammi Curr, who has died in a hotel fire, but his restless spirit has a plan to return to life during the playing of his unreleased album at midnight on Halloween. It features some pretty bad acting by Gene Simmons as the DJ who plans to play the album, and a hilarious but equally bad cameo by Ozzy Osbourne as a TV preacher.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: Marilyn Manson, "The Pale Emperor"

When Marilyn Manson’s latest, The Pale Emperor, hit shelves earlier this year, I dismissed it, as I have the many mediocre Manson records since Mechanical Animals. In fact, I even wrote a review of Mechanical Animals the week it was released instead.

Much to my surprise, though, The Pale Emperor has become one of my favorite records of 2015. Granted, this has been kind of a meh musical year for me, but this record would be a contender in any year.

The Pale Emperor features something that I’ve not heard from Manson in a while, and that’s the willingness to push himself and evolve a little. It’s an interesting blend of the Bowie-esque sounds of Mechanical Animals with some things that we haven’t heard from the shock rocker before, and while Marilyn Manson seemed to get lost a little after his third record, this one feels more like a natural progression from it than anything since.