Tuesday, February 28, 2012

15 Years, 15 Records: 2004, Iced Earth makes history ... sort of

In the wake of Sept. 11, Iced Earth singer Matt Barlow decided that he wanted to do something for his country and joined the Department of Homeland Security. Jon Schaffer regrouped by picking up former Judas Priest singer Tim Owens, and the pairing turned out to be a potent combination on The Glorious Burden.

It’s a concept record of sorts, featuring songs based on historical events and figures. It’s a topic that Schaffer is passionate about, and it shows in the music. While the first disc of the two-disc set is outstanding, it’s the second disc that really shines. “Gettysburg (1863)” is a 32-minute epic in three parts, telling the story of the Battle of Gettysburg from the American Civil War. It’s bombastic, symphonic and quite possibly the best work of Schaffer’s career.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Overkill's "Electric Rattlesnake" now streaming

From the upcoming album The Electric Age. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Lillian Axe, "XI: The Days Before Tomorrow"

Growing up in rural northern Louisiana, I didn’t often get to see my guitar heroes live. Maybe that’s one reason Lillian Axe’s Steve Blaze became one of them. I could be guaranteed to see the New Orleans-based band at least a couple of times a year somewhere, and Blaze’s, well, blazing fretwork was, and still is, impressive.

There was a little dive bar called the Cartoon Lounge tucked away next to a highway overpass in Monroe. It’s long been closed and demolished, but I have fond memories of it. I didn’t go there to drink. I didn’t go there to socialize. I went there for music. You’d often find me by myself, leaned up against one of the poles that ran through the middle of the building, in my own little world, intently studying whatever band was playing. Yeah, I was that guy.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

15 Years, 15 Records: 2003, Anthrax comes for us all

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the John Bush era of Anthrax, but in my opinion, We’ve Come for You All is easily on par with any of the records of the band’s classic lineup.

While I like all of the Bush records, this one is special. It’s an album born out of Sept. 11 through the eyes of New Yorkers. An album that expresses both the anger and disbelief over what happened that day, as well as an album that seemed to show a new unity within the band.

It’s a very varied record from the semi-ballad ode to their hometown “Safe Home” to determined tracks like “Refuse to be Denied” to good time rock ‘n’ rollers like “Strap It On” and “Cadillac Rock Box.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

15 Years, 15 Records: 2002, Members of Pantera, COC get Down again

There was some serious competition in 2002, but it’s an easy choice for me. The Southern sludge of Down’s second release remains an all-time favorite record of mine. After beginning as a side project between Pantera’s Phil Anselmo, Corrosion of Conformity’s Pepper Keenan, Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein and Eyehategod’s Jimmy Bower – all from New Orleans – the band released its first record, NOLA, in 1995 and disappeared for seven years as the members returned to their respective bands.

In 2002, as Pantera was falling apart, the band unleashed Down II: A Bustle in Your Hedgerow, now also featuring Pantera’s Rex Brown on bass. The album was a little groovier and a little more Southern than the band’s first outing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Freebies: Listenable offering free 22-song sampler

Listenable Records is offering fans a free 22-track sampler, which is now available for streaming and download at sampler.listenable.net. The album, which features tracks from many Listenable's diverse roster of artists - past and present - includes Gojira, Svart Crown, Sarah Jezebel Deva, 77, Hate, Serpent Cult and more. Full sampler tracklisting below:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: Widow, "Life's Blood"

My relationship with Widow has been up and down. I really liked my introduction to them, On Fire, when they were a female-fronted, horror-themed outfit. Their last outing, Nightlife, just didn’t do anything for me. So I went into Life’s Blood not really knowing what to expect, and that’s probably why it took me so long to delve into this one. I was won over from the first track.

The album opens with an old school hard rocker “Lady Twilight,” which heads back into that original early 1980s metal territory that I liked so well on On Fire. The song flat out rocks, with a wailing guitar riff and a great chorus hook that gets stuck in your head. It reminds me of recent efforts from acts like White Wizzard and Holy Grail.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Van Halen, "A Different Kind of Truth"

Note: This review originally appeared at Something Else Reviews. When you're finished here, head over there for a couple of other takes on this one.
I stand corrected – and pleasantly surprised, too.

When I went into my first listen of Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth, I was expecting a steaming pile of mediocrity. After a few spins, I think the team in charge of promoting the record has done a big disservice to it in the clips that they’ve allowed to dribble out to the public. Those clips, with the exception of “The Trouble with Never,” which I’ll get to in a minute, have largely been forgettable and often not even the best parts of the songs.

Take “Stay Frosty,” for example. The clip out there makes it sound like a weak attempt to recreate “Ice Cream Man.” It is, of course, an attempt to recreate that song, but by the time you get to the turbo-charged hard rock section later in the tune, you don’t really care. It’s great stuff, and it’s what Van Halen should sound like.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

15 Years, 15 Records: 2001, Jon Oliva takes the helm for Savatage again

The field of candidates for 2001 wasn’t the strongest, but the year did see original singer Jon Oliva return to the helm of Savatage on Poets and Madmen. The album is probably the band’s least publicized and, possibly, least known, which is a shame because it’s a great record.

The record has a loose concept based around the work of journalist Kevin Carter, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the Sudan was featured on the tray card of the CD, but covered by a black-backed jewel case because of record company financial ills. It wasn’t until I interviewed producer Paul O’Neill just a few years ago and he told me the story that I even discovered the photo was there. Like all Savatage records, this one has great variety from big metal mashers like “I Seek Power” to tender piano-driven ballads like “Back to a Reason” to the more symphonic sounds of “Commissar.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012

15 Years, 15 Records: 2000, Alice Cooper gets 'Brutal'

The thrashing opening riff of Alice Cooper’s Brutal Planet announces immediately that this record is going to be a little different. The record, which is essentially a morality play, is darker and bleaker with less of Cooper’s trademark black humor, though it does creep in on songs like “It’s the Little Things.”

It’s a heavier record musically, easily Alice’s most metallic, and the themes that he tackles in the songs are heavier as well. It was part of a trio of heavier records, ending with 2001’s Dragontown, after which he returned to his garage rock roots.