Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Powder Mill, "Land of the Free"

On its fourth studio album, Powder Mill delivers a rough-around-the-edges, nasty, gnarly blend of Southern rock and country that will certainly remind fans of fellow Ozark rockers Black Oak Arkansas.

Through the course of the 11 tracks on Land of the Free, the Missouri boys go honky tonking, show plenty of pride in where they’re from, get rowdy and even display a sensitive side.

The album and journey begins — where else? — but prison. “Letters from Jail” opens things with a definite old-school country flavor and both that sound and vocal delivery of Jesse Charles Hammock II put me in mind of the late George Jones. It’s a fun way to get things going. I also dig the little circus music lick right before the guitar solo, and the chicken picking inside the solo.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Faster Pussycat, Dangerous Toys, Nightwish, Armored Saint, Ozzy

Where else are you going to find Faster Pussycat and Walt Whitman within a few paragraphs of each other? Only in the shuffle ...

Faster Pussycat, “Cryin’ Shame.” From the album Wake Me When It’s Over (1989). So I’ve already confessed my weakness for Faster Pussycat, but this particular song takes a bit of a turn from their usual sleaze-filled fare. It’s a bit more of a blues rock piece and tells the story of Ricky Kasso, “The Acid King,” who killed a teenager in Long Island in 1986, claiming that Satan commanded him to do it. Despite the serious nature of the song, it’s still a very 1980s piece, but it’s still a great tune.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Something Borrowed: "In the Navy," Alestorm/The Village People

Alestorm has a long and sordid history of strange cover songs — well at least as long as the band's brief history can provide.

Scotland’s premier purveyors of pirate metal have, after all, done rousing good covers of “Wolves of the Sea” (originally done by Latvian pop act Pirates of the Sea), “You Are a Pirate” (from the Icelandic children’s show Lazy Town) and “I Am a Cider Drinker” (originally done by the scrumpy and western band — whatever that is — The Wurzels).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Living Colour, Ozzy, Crue, Hank III, Powerwolf

A bit hard to sum this week's shuffle up. Newer stuff from an old band, a couple of metal classics, something completely new, and a little neotraditional country for good measure ...

Living Colour, “The Chair.” From the album The Chair in the Doorway (2009). I quite liked this album from Living Colour. I hadn’t listened to the band in years when I picked it up, and I really loved the heavier vibe. That’s on display in this semi-title track. It’s a bashing, gritty tune. Not the best on the album, but certainly reflective of the rest.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Ashes of Ares, Soil, Alice in Chains, Savatage, Damn Yankees

This week, we start out with some new stuff and end with a couple of old favorites, including one all-time favorite ...

Ashes of Ares, “Move the Chains.” From the album Ashes of Ares (2013). Made up of fomer members of Iced Earth (vocalist Matt Barlow and guitarist Freddie Vidales) and Nevermore (drummer Van Williams), Ashes of Ares sounds pretty much like what you’d expect. That’s not a bad thing at all, though. “Move the Chains” is one of the better tracks on a very good album, very reminiscent of Barlow’s early work with Iced Earth.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Down, Alestorm, Jon Oliva's Pain, Pantera, Philip Anselmo

A very Phil-centric shuffle this week ...

Down, “The Seed.” From the album Down II (2002). The power of the riff compels me. Down II, despite what some think, may just be my favorite album from the band. This tune is a great groover with the usual Sabbath and stoner rock overtones that you get from the band. Good stuff that’s as sludgy as the south Louisiana swamps it was born from.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: Soil, "Whole"

I was a big fan of Soil’s breakthrough 2001 album Scars, with its infectious hit “Halo.”

As much as I liked that record, though, the band seemed to fade quickly for me. I picked up the follow-up Redefine, but don’t remember much about it, and I haven’t given the band much thought since.

When I heard that original singer Ryan McCombs was returning after a stint in Drowning Pool, the first thing that ran through my head was the chorus from “Halo,” and that pretty much sealed the fact that Whole was going to at least get a chance with me.

Musical times have changed, naturally, and much of what sounded fresh in 2001 has become a stale staple of rock radio. While there’s not much different about the Soil’s sound on Whole than there was on Scars, they’ve still delivered a pretty solid hard rock record with their reunion.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Amorphis, Pinnick Gales Pridgen, Annihilator, Dangerous Toys, Bob Wayne

A little bit of heavy, a little bit of funky and a little bit of country with a metal flavor ...

Amorphis, “Three Words.” From the album The Beginning of Times (2011). I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything Amorphis has done since vocalist Tomi Joutsen joined in 2005. This song hits what the band does best. It’s beautiful, melancholic and dark, and Joutsen is one of those rare vocalists that impresses both with his clean vocals, which are primarily on display in this song, and his growls.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: 3, "A Fiendish Threat"

Early word was that A Fiendish Threat would be a new album of Hank Williams III’s “hellbilly” material, the mix of hard rock, punk and country that I don’t think he does nearly enough of. As it turns out, the album was a new punk rock project that he’s simply calling 3.

If the Misfits had grown up in Appalachia and formed in Tennessee, they might have sounded something like “Can I Rip U,” the opening track of this record. III wears his Misfits influence on his sleeve throughout the album, as most, if not all, of the songs will put fans in mind of the classic horror punk outfit. But there are also shades of other bands, notably Suicidal Tendencies with “Full On.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: Hank III, "Brothers of the 4x4"

When Hank Williams III finally got out from under his contract with Curb Records in 2011, most fans were expecting another album along the order of his landmark Straight to Hell record.

We assumed that his last few Curb albums had been uneven because he was sandbagging his best stuff. He certainly had plenty of material for fall 2011, when he released four albums — the country/Cajun double album Ghost to a Ghost/Gutter Town, a decent doom metal record under the name Attention Deficit Disorder and the completely bizarre and head-scratching blend of thrash and auctioneer cattle calls entitled 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’. Perhaps our hopes were too high, but it was largely a disappointing mess.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Jackson Taylor, A7X, Nightwish, Hank Jr., Anthrax

A little country, a little rock 'n' roll, and a drum interlude to end...

Jackson Taylor and the Sinners, “Country Song.” From the album Aces n Eights (2009). This song was my introduction to Jackson Taylor and the reason I’m a fan. I’d taken my kid bowling one day and sat through at least a half dozen country radio songs about pickup trucks. Later that night, I discovered this song by accident, and I was hooked. The video, which features Taylor and his band in corpse paint, is a hoot, too.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Doyle, Iced Earth, Flotsam and Jetsam, Dash Rip Rock, Volbeat

Interesting shuffle this week in that it hit all newer material.

Doyle, “Mark of the Beast.” From the album Abominator (2013). Doyle, former guitarist for The Misfits, has released a surprisingly strong solo album that bears little resemblance to his former band beyond the horror imagery of the tunes. The music here is far more driven by metal and thrash than the punk of The Misfits. It’s good stuff, though.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Nine Inch Nails, "Hesitation Marks"

As a teenage metal head, I was convinced that all things electronic in music were evil. Then, a roommate in college introduced me to Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine. Much to my embarrassment, I found myself cruising around with tunes like “Terrible Lie” and “Head Like a Hole” blaring out of my speakers. I’d never thought that drum machines and electronics could convey as much emotion as I found on that record. 

When Trent Reznor cranked up the guitars on the Broken EP, my personal favorite, I became an even bigger fan. I had mixed feelings about 1992’s The Downward Spiral, though, and though I always check out his new stuff, not much that Reznor has done since has grabbed me.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Pantera, Metallica, Adler, BLS, Black Sabbath

Some killer live stuff from Pantera and some new stuff from familiar faces this week:

Pantera, "A New Level." From the bootleg Black Tooth (1998).  The Black Tooth bootleg is perhaps the best-known by Pantera and far more interesting than their official live record. Phil Anselmo is obviously trashed as he rambles from the stage, but it makes his performances that much more intense. We get a warts-and-all Pantera performance that’s actually a pretty strong show despite Phil’s condition. “A New Level” was never one of my favorite Pantera tracks, but they rip it here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Annihilator, "Feast"

There may be no more underrated musician in thrash than Annihilator guitarist/founder/bandleader Jeff Waters.

Of course, Waters himself may hold some of the blame for that. The band’s debut album Alice in Hell is one of the finest examples of the genre that you’ll find, and the follow-up Never, Neverland, featuring Omen vocalist Coburn Pharr, is almost as good. After that, though, things become spotty for the band.

There’s some great music to be found in the rest of their catalog, but a revolving door of musicians and some occasionally bad ideas — like the programmed electronic drums on 1997′s Remains — diluted the power of those first couple of records and allowed Annihilator to slip out of the minds of many fans outside their native Canada.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Fifth on the Floor, Savatage, Danzig, Adrenaline Mob, Jon Oliva's Pain

Start off with some country, mix in a couple of Savatage-related tracks, something from Danzig, and could this be the only time Duran Duran will ever appear on this blog?

Fifth on the Floor, “The Fall.” From the album Dark and Bloody Ground (2010). Ooh, this is an easy one. It’s probably my favorite tune from Fifth on the Floor. It’s just so damned soulful and moving. It’s a tight competition between “The Fall” and “Distant Memory Lane,” but I think this one wins.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Something Borrowed: "Ain't No Sunshine," Black Label Society/Bill Withers

I’ve been a fan of Zakk Wylde since his pinch-harmonic screaming debut with Ozzy Osbourne on No Rest for the Wicked. He was a six-string shredding madman who brought a much-needed energy and a much heavier sound to Ozzy’s band.

Over the years, through Pride and Glory and Black Label Society, we’ve come to know a different side of him, but one that’s just as captivating as that loud, brash, flashy side we first knew.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: Carcass, "Surgical Steel"

Surgical Steel, the first record since 1996 from reunited English death metal legends Carcass, is probably one of the most anticipated of the year for many metal fans. I can’t really say that I was among them.

I only own one Carcass album, 1993’s Heartwork, which is really the only record by the band that I like. 

Death metal, in general, is a hard sell for me. My collection of it is small for a few reasons. I don’t like feeling like I’m being bludgeoned over the head with a snare drum. Blast beats can be quite effective, but often it seems to me that’s the only weapon in many death metal drummers’ arsenal.

Then there are the death growl vocals. Like the blast beats, they can be done well, but so often, particularly when paired with those blast beats, they make the music seem monotonous and lacking emotion.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Pantera, Gloryhammer, Annihilator, Anthrax, Wayne Hancock

Some old stuff, some new stuff in this week's edition of the shuffle:

Pantera, “Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks.” From the album Far Beyond Driven (1994). I differ from many Pantera fans in that Far Beyond Driven is my personal favorite. “Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks,” for some reason seems to come up a lot on my shuffles, though it’s not one of my favorites from the record. It’s still rock solid, though.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Lowside, "Lowside"

It’s been a while since hard rock fans have heard former Lillian Axe singer Ron Taylor’s voice, and it’s definitely good to have it back again.

Lowside is the sort-of new project from Taylor and former Lillian bassist Darrin DeLatte. They’ve actually been kicking around for a little while before releasing their debut CD. DeLatte trades his four-stringer for a six-stringer, and the pair recruited bassist Craig Cowsert and drummer Mel Bittick to complete the band.

Though fans will hear some of that familiar Lillian Axe sound — it’s hard not to make comparisons with Taylor singing — Lowside definitely isn’t Lillian Axe 2.0. There’s a decidedly more modern rock flavor to much of the music and even a few surprises along the way.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: White Wizzard, "The Devil's Cut"

There are those bands that are downright frustrating. They release one fantastic album that makes you an instant fan, and then they never can quite seem to hit that high note again.

For a while, I was afraid that White Wizzard might become one of those. The band’s first full-length album, Over the Top, hasn’t left my playlist since it came out in 2010. Songs like “40 Deuces,” “High Roller” and “Iron Goddess of Vengeance” still get a big crank of the volume knob every time they come on.

One of the regular criticisms of that record was its campy, old-fashioned nature. For me, that was one of the selling points and a big part of the record’s fun factor.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Amon Amarth, Jon Oliva, Slash, White Wizzard, Pantera

Another hard rocking week, from melodic death to pre CFH Pantera ...

Amon Amarth, “And Soon the World Will Cease to Be (Live).” From the album Vs. the World Bonus Edition (2009). This re-issue of the band’s 2002 record featured a second disc with the entire album performed live. This tune, the final cut on the album, is crushing, heavy and melodic. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Tesla, Iommi, Warrant, Van Halen, Rev. Horton Heat

A little '80s rock, newer material from a couple of classics and something a little different ...

Tesla, “Change in the Weather.” From the album Psychotic Supper (1991). This big, driving blues rocker was a great way to kick off Tesla’s third record, one that I think is a bit underrated from their catalog. The song has a real 1970s rock vibe, with some influence from the 1980s hard rock scene.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Shooter Jennings, Marilyn Manson, Travis Tritt, Manowar, G'n'R

A couple of Jennings, a shock rocker, a hard rock classic and metal's loincloth-clad kings ...

Shooter Jennings, “This Ol’ Wheel.” From the album The Wolf (2007). The Wolf is, in my opinion, the weakest of Shooter’s records, but this rocking song was one of the highlights. Shooter delivers the verse in a rapid-fire, almost rap style, and it’s just a really catchy, fun song.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: Jackson Taylor and the Sinners, "Crazy Again"

For some reason, Jackson Taylor seems to fly under the radar on the underground country scene.

You don’t hear as much about him, but he’s released a solid string of hell-raising, good-timing, rowdy country albums. His latest, Crazy Again, continues that line.

The Texan’s sound mixes equal parts of the late-1970s outlaw country sound, the red-dirt alternative country scene and crunchy ZZ Top-style blues rock with an occasional dash of punk attitude or even more modern country sounds.

Though he does, every now and then, take a swim in the deeper end of the pool, it’s not really Taylor’s style. He’s more the guy that you hire when you’re ready to get the party cranked up around the pool. For that job, he’s the perfect person.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Still Spinning: Scatterbrain, "Here Comes Trouble"

What do thrash, Cheech and Chong, Mozart and some of the greatest riffs in hard rock history have in common?

This sadly forgotten gem of an album.

Scatterbrain arose from the ashes of singer Tommy Christ and guitarist Glen Cummings’ previous outfit Ludichrist with a more thrash feel and a bigger focus on humor. Yes, Here Comes Trouble is something of a novelty album, but the comedy is delivered over some pretty solid chops throughout.

If anyone remembers a song from this record, it’s likely the single and video “Don’t Call Me Dude,” a goofy but hilarious tune about a guy who snaps when his girlfriend leaves him for a burly lifeguard on the beach. The song goes through several movements, and the video follows, with the band mimicking various eras of rock ‘n’ roll from doo-wop to 1980s glam. It’s all a lot of fun, but like most of the rest of the album, the underpinnings of the song are very solid thrash licks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: W.A.S.P., Lamb of God, BLS, Tim Owens, Pantera

All metal, all the time this week, though a couple of songs are on the softer side...

W.A.S.P., “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” From the album Inside the Electric Circus (1986). This was one of the weakest releases in the W.A.S.P. catalog, and unlike their other 1980s albums, I very rarely give it a listen these days. This is one of the better songs from it, though.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Philip Anselmo and the Illegals, "Walk Through Exits Only"

Phil Anselmo is angry. And he’s going to scream at you until you get it. That’s the general gist of his first solo album Walk Through Exits Only.

The record opens with a nearly two-minute intro track, “Music Media is My Whore,” which is dissonant, choppy and uncomfortable as he announces his intent to make a type of music that’s never been made before. I’m not quite sure that he achieves that lofty goal, but the eight tracks on this record are certainly different.

There are portions of the album that are like a hard slap in the face or a baseball bat pummeling you over the head. They’re ugly, gnarly and beastly. But nearly every time, those passages are balanced by others where you find yourself bobbing your head and locking into the groove, the way you would with a Pantera or Down record.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Judas Priest, Faster Pussycat, Jani Lane, Sabbath, Metallica

A pretty rocking set this week, some heavy, some glitzy, but all rocking ...

Judas Priest, “Devil’s Child.” From the album Screaming for Vengeance (1982). On an album where Judas Priest went more metallic, “Devil’s Child” is kind of a throwback to the classic hard rock of their previous records. It’s got a great 1970s feel with some early AC/DC overtones to it – a nice complement to the rest of the record.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Something Borrowed: "I Gotsta Get Paid," ZZ Top/DJ DMD

Leave it to ZZ Top to take a regional rap hit and turn it into a smoking blues rock celebration of cool.

When working on last year's La Futura album, the bearded boys from Texas found inspiration from an unlikely source, a gangsta rap tune from Houston-based artist DJ DMD. The original, titled "25 Lighters," focused on hustling drugs and smuggling crack inside emptied out disposable lighters, which were easier to transport and pass. Of course, the ZZ version bears little resemblance to the original.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Ozzy, Travis Shredd, Uncle Nuge, Benedictum, Down

A little flash, a little heavy and a little fun this week ...

Ozzy Osbourne, “Lightning Strikes.” From the album The Ultimate Sin (1986). I maintain that The Ultimate Sin is one of Ozzy’s most underrated records. As this song and the accompanying video prove, it’s a record very much of its time with all the glitz, glitter and sparkles of the mid to late 1980s, and yes, Ozzy looked ridiculous in those get-ups. But the record contains some really good songs for the style. If I’m being honest, I like it better than Bark at the Moon.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Something Borrowed: "Snowblind," Black Label Society/Black Sabbath

It's rare that an artist creates a cover that transforms and transcends the original, but I think that's the case with Zakk Wylde's version of Sabbath's "Snowblind."

Wylde, who spent longer than any other guitarist as Ozzy Osbourne's main axe slinger, taking over on 1988's No Rest for the Wicked before being quietly pushed out before 2010's Scream, has always shown nothing but respect to his former boss and the almighty Black Sabbath. "Snowblind" is one of several Sabbath songs that he's recorded over the years, and he always does it with great reverence.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Aerosmith, Poison, Kiss, Iced Earth, Savatage

It's a pretty rocking week for the shuffle, though a couple may be questionable ...

Aerosmith, “Jaded.” From the album Just Push Play (2001). Though I initially liked this record out of sheer fanboyish unwillingness to admit that it sucked, I now realize what a mess it is. This is really one of the best songs on the record, and that’s saying something.

Poison, “Bastard Son of a Thousand Blues.” From the album Native Tongue (1993). I guess if you have to hit a Poison tune, this isn’t the worst album to choose. With the short-lived and disastrous tenure of guitarist Ritchie Kotzen, Poison took a more rootsy, blues-influenced approach to their music. That’s not to say there isn’t still plenty of the 1980s glam sound here. Bret Michaels, after all, who might have the defining voice of glitzy 1980s glam rock, is still singing, but I kind of like this record and the follow-up with Blues Saraceno, too. Oh, and the song features Lynyrd Skynyrd's Billy Powell on piano.

Kiss, “Domino.” From the album Revenge (1992). One of those huge Gene Simmons numbers that made this record so good. It’s nasty, it’s grooving, it’s what Simmons does best, and in turn what Kiss does best.

Iced Earth, “Electric Funeral.” From the album The Melancholy EP (1999). This is a pretty straight forward cover of the Black Sabbath classic with a little more involved arrangement. Matt Barlow’s dramatic vocals, though, just don’t have the same sinister ring as Ozzy’s originals.

Savatage, “She’s in Love.” From the album Gutter Ballet (1989). A love song, of sorts, from Savatage. It’s got that trademark, knife-edge Criss Oliva guitar sound and Jon Oliva’s unmistakable rasp. It might be one of the weaker moments on Gutter Ballet, but it’s still better than the best tune by most other metal bands. And finding a video of a rare live performance doesn't hurt, either.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Something Borrowed: "Long Haired Country Boy," Every Mother's Nightmare/Charlie Daniels

As most of my friends know, Charlie Daniels' "Long Haired Country Boy" has always been one of the anthems of my life.

There's something about that chorus: "I ain't asking nobody for nothing, if I can't get it on my own/ If you don't like the way I'm living, you just leave this long haired country boy alone." It seems like a good way to live to me, and even though my long hair is long gone, it's a tune that I still identify with.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Black Sabbath, Kiuas, Kid Rock, Amorphis, Lacuna Coil

Yep. I had to get embarrassed eventually. See the third track. But the others kind of make up for it.

Black Sabbath, “Voodoo.” From the album Mob Rules (1981). I’ll admit that I don’t like Mob Rules as much as Heaven and Hell, but there still isn’t anything remotely close to a stinker on the record. “Voodoo” strikes me as much closer to a Dio tune than even a Dio-era Sabbath tune, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Geezer Butler is his usual badass self on this tune, thumping along and offering up some tasty bass fills.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Something Borrowed: "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit Has Done Got Out of Hand?" James Hetfield/Waylon Jennings

So, we've already established that Metallica makes a damned good cover band, but when their frontman lets loose by himself, he's not half-bad either.

When I've Always Been Crazy: A Tribute to Waylon Jennings came out in 2003, there was a distinct feeling of "one of these things is not like the others" in the track list. You had Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, Hank Jr., Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt and others. Then, toward the end of the album, you have Metallica's James Hetfield. Huh?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Oliva, "Raise the Curtain"

If you thought Jon Oliva’s debut solo album would sound like Savatage or Jon Oliva’s Pain, you’ll be disabused of that notion right from the top.

The album opens with the title track, which sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard from the Mountain King before. The largely instrumental five-minute track plays on his 1970s prog and Broadway influences. It sounds a bit like a cross between Yes and Queen’s more bombastic moments, with the only vocals being a show-style gang chorus of “Raise the Curtain.”

Considering the album contains the final unreleased music from his late brother and Savatage guitarist Criss Oliva, one would expect connections to the sound of that band, and they’re here, but not completely obvious. Raise the Curtain, as you can tell from the cover art, is something of a tribute to Criss. The focus of the cover is the piano and microphone, representing Jon center stage, then off to the left is the iconic image of Criss’ white Charvel guitar wrapped in roses, which first appeared on the back cover of Savatage’s Gutter Ballet album. Surrounding them are theater curtains with ghostly images from his past.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Headcat, Monster Magnet, Cult, Sepultura, Tom Keifer

A litle bit of new stuff, a little bit of old stuff, and a metal legend delivering an unusual performance.

Headcat, “The Eagle Flies on Friday.” From the album Walk the Walk … Talk the Talk (2011). Lemmy does the blues? You bet, and he does it well. The gruff voice of the Motorhead frontman takes on a smoother, quieter tone for this basic 12-bar blues tune, and it works. Danny Harvey’s tasteful guitar licks add to the mood, and it’s a favorite from this record.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Something Borrowed: "Black Sabbath," Type O Negative/Black Sabbath

It was the song that announced the arrival of heavy metal. That menacing tritone chiming out across the musical landscape like bells of doom. There's no way that this song could get any darker, spookier or more evil, right?

Enter Type O Negative, and their even more oppressive take on the song.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Amon Amarth, "Deceiver of the Gods"

I remember once reading a review that said something to the effect that to not like Amon Amarth was to not like heavy metal. I wish I’d written that because I wholeheartedly concur.

Amon Amarth represents all that I love about the raw power of the genre. It’s ugly, it’s gnarly, it’s brutal, but at the same time there’s a great beauty in what these Vikings do. It speaks to some primal instinct in me, makes me want to pound my chest and gnaw a little bloody meat right off the bone. It’s why when I get ready for a workout, the playlist is filled with their stuff.

On Deceiver of the Gods, the band doesn’t change up a whole lot. Amon Amarth at its best combines a death metal intensity with the grooves and melody of classic heavy metal. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Saliva, Danzig, Sorrows Path, King's X, Volbeat

All songs rocking hard this week ...

Saliva, "Survival of the Sickest." From the album Survival of the Sickest (2004). I couldn't have cared less about Saliva until I saw them opening for Kiss in '04, and they ripped out this tune, which quite frankly, was the best performance of the night as Kiss kind of phoned it in. This is a fantastic, old-fashioned hard rocker, with a great hook of a chorus. If they had continued in this vein, I'd probably be a Saliva fan today. I'm not, but I still love this record and have to crank this song every time I hear it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Dio, "Magica" (Deluxe Edition)

I’ve been meaning to revisit Dio’s Magica here, but the new Deluxe Edition from Niji Entertainment, provides a perfect opportunity to talk about one of the metal legend’s most overlooked records.

Magica, at least in my mind, is Dio’s most underrated effort — and every bit the equal of his early work. Originally conceived as the first part of a trilogy, the record revolves around the concept of a fantasy tale written by Dio about a doomed world named Blessing and the hero that arises to save it.

Coming on the heels of what I consider by far the weakest album in his catalog, 1996’s Angry Machines, Magica managed to recapture the feel and, well, magic, of Dio’s early career.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Something Borrowed: "Bullet the Blue Sky," Sepultura/U2

There are a couple of reasons I shouldn’t like this song.

First, it’s a cover of my favorite U2 number, and while I’m not a huge U2 fan, covers of my favorite songs by other bands generally don’t work for me – with a few notable exceptions, this being one.

Second, I’m not a big fan of the more hardcore-oriented Derrick Green version of Sepultura that arose after the departure of Max Cavalera.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: Queensryche, "Queensryche"

Round Two of the Queensryche wars arrives with the eponymous new release from the Todd La Torre-fronted version. As expected, this lineup dips back into the history of the band, pulling out the more metallic and progressive sounds of the 1980s.

On first listen, Queensryche struck me as on OK album with a couple of standout tracks, but I have to admit that, the more I listen to it, the more the songs began to creep up and grow on me. A perfect example is the first real song on the record, “Where Dreams Go to Die.” I really liked the opening of it on first listen, and the big guitar riff from Michael Wilton leading into the verse is great, but I wasn’t crazy about the slower verse and bridge of the song. About three listens in, though, I had to admit that the song had me. It’s not quite what I expected, but there’s enough of that early Queensryche sound there to draw me in.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Best of 2013: Mid-year country and Southern rock picks

I’m pretty picky about my country and Southern rock listening, and to be honest, I don’t explore it as thoroughly as hard rock and metal. At the midpoint of the year, I find myself unable to put together 10 records, so I’ll go with my Top 5 …

No. 5: WAYNE HANCOCK – RIDE: Neo-traditionalist pioneer Wayne Hancock delivers another fine album of old-fashioned country music in the vein of Hank Sr., with a few jazzy twists, of course.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Down, Jamey Johnson, Metallica, Dio, Pantera

A couple of Phil Anselmo's finer moments, a couple of bona fide metal classics, oh, and a country song wedged in there ...

Down, “Mourn.” From the album Down III: Over the Under (2007). I thought this was a very tastefully done tribute to “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and a very good way for Phil Anselmo to address the controversy surrounding it, with him being blocked from the funeral and blacklisted by members of Dime’s family.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: Sturgill Simpson, "High Top Mountain"

Sturgill Simpson’s brand of country is undeniably old-fashioned, dripping with honky-tonk spirit, but don’t expect him to try to cash in on it by singing about what an outlaw he is.

That’s made clear on the album opener, “Life Ain’t Fair and the World is Mean.” The song starts with a record executive telling him what to do to sell more records. In response, Sturgill sings, “The most outlaw thing that I ever done was give a good woman a ring. That’s the way it goes, life ain’t fair and the world is mean.”

The practical streak shown on that song follows through the rest of the album as Simpson rambles across the country landscape visiting the bluegrass of his Appalachian roots and the Texas honky tonks with heartfelt ballads and just good, old-fashioned country sounds.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Something Borrowed: "We Don't Need Another Hero," Northern Kings/Tina Turner

There’s only so much cheesy awesomeness that you can pack into a single video and song, and Northern Kings get every bit of it crammed into this cover of Tina Turner’s theme for the third Mad Max movie.

For those not familiar with Northern Kings, it’s a side project featuring four of the top singers in symphonic Finnish power metal. It includes Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot), Jarkko Ahola (Terasbetoni, Dreamtale) and Juha-Pekka Leppaluoto (Charon). Up to this point, the project has been largely for fun, with the band releasing two albums of symphonic metal covers of mostly 1980s pop tunes.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: Megadeth, "Super Collider"

Even though I had no real anticipation or excitement for this record, I felt some sort of obligation to listen to it.

I’ve been a Megadeth fan since I first heard the bass line for “Peace Sells” way back when, though my enthusiasm for the band has certainly waned since the early 1990s. It’s been hard to hang with them through a series of albums that ranged from average to horrible and repeated comments from Dave Mustaine that the next album would have the intensity and energy of early Megadeth that have invariably led to disappointment.

Those same comments came during the recording of Super Collider, and again, they lead to disappointment.  Super Collider sounds pretty much exactly like the last three or four records. There’s nothing really awful on it, but there’s not a whole lot to get excited about, either. It’s safe in the style that Mustaine has settled into in the band’s late career, it takes no chances, and it’s kind of boring.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Best of 2013: Mid-year hard rock and metal picks

It’s been a really solid year for hard rock and metal so far. At six months, I’m often adding mediocre albums that I know won’t make the final list to get to 10. This year, I actually had to make a tough call or two. Maybe I should have gone to 13, but with two 13s on the list already, that might get confusing …

No. 10: GLORYHAMMER – TALES FROM THE KINGDOM OF FIFE: Christopher Bowes, the man who brought us Scottish Pirate Metal with Alestorm, now brings us Scottish Epic Fantasy Metal. Tales from the Kingdom of Fife pokes a little bit of tongue-in-cheek fun at the formulas of power metal, but also shows a great respect for the music. It’s a little cheesy, a lot of fun and better than a great deal of the “serious” power metal out there. If for nothing else, this album gets a nod because “Angus McFife” is the most fun I’ve had singing along to a song with my son all year.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Tesla, Dash Rip Rock, Slayer, Mojo Nixon, Prince

Wonder if the last selection this week will throw anyone?

Tesla, “Government Personnel.” From the album Psychotic Supper (1991). Here’s a short, fun acoustic number that’s Tesla’s send up of the classic acoustic rock protest song. It’s a bit of a throw-away track to lighten the mood of the record, but try to get Jeff Keith’s drawl out of your head. “Go straight to Hell, all you government personnel…”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: Black Sabbath, "13"

There’s a bit of genius in the layout of Black Sabbath’s long-awaited reunion album 13, which just became the band’s first U.S. No. 1.

It’s a pretty safe bet that with 13, we hold in our hands the final studio album in the career of Black Sabbath, which makes the choice of the first and last tunes on the standard eight-song version of the album so great.

It opens with “End of the Beginning,” which features, early on, a riff that’s designed to put you in mind of the title track from their eponymous debut album — the song that started everything. Then, as eighth track “Dear Father” fades out, we get the thunder, bells and rain sounds that open that album. It brings the career of Sabbath full circle in a very nice touch. It’s a simple, but powerful moment that leaves fans with a bit of a wow.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Something Borrowed: "Temple of the King," Angel Dust/Rainbow

If you're going to cover a song by the mighty Ronnie James Dio, you'd better bring it. If you're going to cover one of my favorite songs by Dio, you'd better blow me away. Much to my surprise, Angel Dust did just that with this version of Rainbow's "Temple of the King."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Fifth on the Floor, "Ashes & Angels"

Fifth on the Floor’s 2010 release Dark and Bloody Ground stands as one of the absolute best Southern rock albums of this generation. It rocked with rowdy party anthems, but also featured some very strong and soulful heartfelt songs.

Welcome to the follow-up, which could be described in very similar fashion.

The show gets started with “Whiskey,” a hell-raising party tune if ever there were one. The boys get the energy kicked up, and singer Justin Wells — one of the strengths of this outfit — belts out the lyrics in his best smoke and whiskey-laced drawl. The very next song changes things up a little bit. Guitarist Ryan “Matty” Rodgers offers up some very Lynyrd Skynyrd-like slide work on “Shotgun,” but the song itself is certainly not copycat. The tune swings with an almost jazzy feel as Wells sings about folks in a town where “ain’t nobody leaving, but dammit everybody’s hellbound.”

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Hank III, Machine Head, Infectious Grooves, Lillian Axe, The Ramones

Today we start in anger and end in fun ...

Hank III, “Punch Fight Fuck” (live). From a live bootleg recorded at Juanita’s in Little Rock, Ark (2007). III’s tribute to G.G. Allin is really at its best in the live setting. This is one of the better III bootlegs that I’ve got swimming around on my hard drive, too. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Something Borrowed: "Stone Cold Crazy," Metallica/Queen

Editor's note: Today, I launch a new feature here on Hall of the Mountain King called Something Borrowed. Each Wednesday, I'll take a look at a cover song that I like (or maybe one that I hate, I haven't decided if I'm going there yet) and say why I think it stacks up against the original. Enjoy.

No one can deny that Metallica is one hell of a cover band. Before this series reaches its end, I'm sure they'll have several entries in it. If I had to choose just one Metallica cover, though, this would be it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Alice in Chains, "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here"

I’ve been reading fantastic things about The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, the follow-up to the new lineup of Alice in Chains’ very good Black Gives Way to Blue. But I’ve got to say that I’m just not feeling it.
Black Gives Way to Blue came as a great surprise to me. I always knew that Jerry Cantrell drove the direction of Alice in Chains, but I felt like it just wouldn’t be the same without Layne Staley’s voice and intensity. In that, I was absolutely right. It was most certainly different, but it was good in its own way.

The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here just doesn’t have the same kind of renewed energy that record had. I find the album to be very monotonous. The darkness, menace and unease that I love about Alice in Chains is largely missing, and many of the songs just blend together for me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Turisas, ZZ Top, Scatterbrain, Down, Ugly Kid Joe

This week's shuffle finds me preparing for battle, digging a little double entendre and laughing along with a forgotten gem ...

Turisas, “As Torches Rise.” From the album Battle Metal (2004). Symphonic, epic, folk battle metal. I don’t like this song quite as much as the title track, but it’s still great fun in a campy sort of way.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: Hank III and David Allan Coe, "The Outlaw Ways"

A collaboration between Hank III and David Allan Coe has been long talked about and hinted at by III, something that’s been met with a great deal of excitement by both camps of fans.

It’s finally here, and the first disappointment is that it’s only one song, “The Outlaw Ways.”

Things start on a good foot, with an old-fashioned country swagger and a little mutual appreciation. It’s intended to be sort of an updated take on Waylon Jennings and Hank Jr.’s “The Conversation,” as Coe sings “You know your grandpa was one of my heroes Hank,” and III answers, “David, you were always one of mine.”

They move on to pay a little homage to Jennings, Junior and Johnny Cash. They also take a shot at the Grand Ole Opry and its refusal to reinstate Hank Sr., as III has done for years.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Judas Priest, "Epitaph"

The final performance of Judas Priest’s “Epitaph World Tour” in May 2012 provided the perfect opportunity to offer a live video celebration of 40 years of metal.

Filmed in their back yard at the famed Hammersmith Apollo in London, the band had an enthusiastic crowd and a performance that was clicking on all cylinders — once they got going. Things start a little slowly with the instrumental “Battle Hymn” opening, followed by “Rapid Fire,” a tune that seems to be pretty much a warmup for the band. I have to admit that I’m kind of partial to the classic “The Hellion/Electric Eye” opening for a Priest show, too, so that might have something to do with it.

By the time the crowd roars along on “Heading Out to the Highway,” though, the band has kicked into full gear, and “Victim of Changes,” one of the strongest pieces of the set, blasts the show into orbit.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Maiden cover, Annihilator, Willie Nelson, Whiskey Myers, The Misfits

This week, a group of really good musicians do a really bad job on Iron Maiden, and we throw in a little classic country, Southern rock, Canadian thrash and punk...

Chuck Billy/Craig Goldy/Rickie Phillips/Mikkey Dee, “Fear of the Dark.” From the album Numbers from the Beast (2005). Yeah, this is one of Iron Maiden’s coolest songs, and this version just really doesn’t work for me. An overly effects-laden vocal performance from Chuck Billy might be cool in another use, but I miss the dark Bruce Dickinson delivery. Musically it’s pretty faithful, but as much as I love Testament, this isn’t the venue for Billy.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: Queensryche, "Frequency Unknown"

It will come as no surprise to many Queensryche fans that the weakest link in Geoff Tate’s version of the band may be Tate himself.

To be fair, Frequency Unknown is actually a much better record than I expected from Tate-sryche, and if it had been a Geoff Tate solo record instead of something masquerading as Queensryche, I probably would have been more open to it. It’s certainly far better than Tate’s recent Kings and Thieves. But it’s not Queensryche, and it’s not really a band. It’s more of a Tate solo project with a whole bunch of guest musicians.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Van Halen, Chrome Division, White Zombie, Slayer, Jackson Taylor

A few all-time favorites in this bunch ...

Van Halen, “Jump.” From the album 1984 (1984). Keyboards often overpowered guitars, and fans were left scratching their heads at some of the material on this record, but I still have to admit that this song has one of the catchiest synth lines around, and that’s coming from a guy who, for the most part, hates keyboard.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Still Spinning: Shotgun Messiah, "Violent New Breed"

In 1993, I had little to no interest in Shotgun Messiah.

I considered them one of the also-rans of the late 1980s glam metal scene. Their previous two albums hadn’t connected with me, and they were part of the great same-looking, same-sounding mass that I considered responsible for the downfall of the 1980s hard rock scene.

Then I heard the title track from this album, and I immediately sat up and paid attention. “Violent New Breed” was definitely apropos for the sound of this record. The song opened with a thumping industrial drum beat and exploded into a guitar riff heavier than anything that had been heard on any previous Shotgun Messiah album. Singer Tim Skold traded in his glam style for a distorted, attitude-laden snarl, and then there was that huge, powerful chorus. It just makes me want to raise a fist in defiance, and 20 years later, I can still not listen to this song at anything less than the maximum possible volume.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Bon Jovi, Queen, Aerosmith, King's X, Shooter Jennings

A couple of classic favorites trapped in the middle of this shuffle ...

Bon Jovi, “Wild in the Streets.” From the album Slippery When Wet (1986). OK, I knew we had to get into some marginally embarrassing music at some point, and here we go. I actually do enjoy some Bon Jovi. This track, though, is about as cheesy as 1980s rock comes with lots of glitz, heavy keyboards and that radio rock sound that is most definitely of its era. Not the best song from this record.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Tom Keifer, "The Way Life Goes"

A 10-year long journey for Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer came to fruition with the release of his first solo album, The Way Life Goes. A long time in the making, the album is probably the most varied effort of Keifer’s career, and covers a wide range of feelings, emotions and life events during that time.

The album starts, really, where it has to with first track “Solid Ground,” a hard-driving rocker that would have been right at home on a Cinderella record — Long Cold Winter, perhaps. After that, though, it takes a more personal direction, with styles ranging from heartfelt ballads, to pop pieces, to blues rock, to even some country-flavored numbers. There’s a lot of Stones, a lot of 1970s Aerosmith, some Cinderella and a little bit of twang, too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Rainbow, "Live in Munich 1977"

If you have any doubt who the greatest singer in the history of metal, heck, maybe in the history of rock ‘n’ roll is, just pop this DVD into your player and fast forward to the second song.

When Ronnie James Dio belts out the vocal of Deep Purple’s “Mistreated,” an in-his-prime Robert Plant bows to the mastery and original singer David Coverdale quickly ducks back behind the curtain.

There’s so much power in the performance that song alone would be worth the price of this movie, but then you get seven more.

Don’t think that just because there are only eight tracks you’re getting cheated either. There’s a lot of free form jamming and improvisation. They pull 12 minutes out of “Mistreated,” nearly 20 out of “Catch the Rainbow,” around 16 each out of “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Do You Close Your Eyes?” and a whopping 27 minutes from “Still I’m Sad.” The last one also includes extended drum and keyboard solos.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Motorhead, Nirvana, Blind Guardian, Primus, Thorogood

It's kind of all over the rock world this week ...

Motorhead, “Ace of Spades.” From the album Ace of Spades (1980). How easy does it get? I really don’t think I need to say anything about this tune. Just push play and let Lemmy and Co. rip your face off.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Chili Peppers, TSO, Hardcore Superstar, Uncle Nuge, Girl

A huge hit, a dark signature moment and a couple of overlooked gems in this week's shuffle ...

Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Give it Away.” From the album Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991). I’d much rather the shuffle hit “Suck My Kiss” or “I Could Have Lied,” but this one will do, too. Sure, this album, “Under the Bridge” in particular, marked the beginning of the Chili Peppers’ descent into commercial mediocrity, but there are some great songs on it, too.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Flotsam and Jetsam, "Ugly Noise"

After 1995′s Drift, Flotsam and Jetsam seemed to do just that — drift off the musical map — with a series of disappointing records and a couple of long hiatuses between records. Then came 2010′s The Cold. Though it didn’t grab metal headlines or vault the band back to popularity, it was most definitely a return to form and the best material they’d released in 15 years.

If the band’s latest release, Ugly Noise, doesn’t put them back on the radar, there are a lot of metal fans out there who need their ears cleaned out.

The album, which was released to fans who helped fund it in December and got an official release on Metal Blade Records last month, finds the band refocused and re-energized.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Anthrax, Misfits, Alice Cooper, Queen, Testament

Another shuffle, in which we encounter one of the darker moments of Alice Cooper's career ...

Anthrax, “Caught in a Mosh.” From the album Among the Living (1987). The best album of the Joey Belladonna era and one of the band’s truly classic songs. I’ve always thought it funny that one of the chorus lyrics is “which one of these words, don’t you understand?” when at the time, there were a whole lot of people who wouldn’t have known what a mosh was. Great, great song.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Interview: Tom Keifer of Cinderella

Tom Keifer has seen the view from some of the highest mountaintops in the music business and had to claw his way out of some of the deepest pits.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Keifer fronted hard rockers turned blues rockers Cinderella. The band had multi-platinum records and filled arenas with a spectacle of a show that included Keifer descending from the ceiling behind a white baby grand piano to perform their hit ballad “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone).”

Times changed, and in the 1990s, so did Keifer’s fortunes. First, there was a shift in the music scene as the grunge movement and a more grim outlook ushered out the good-timing hard rock that Cinderella was known for.

“I still want to get a shirt that says, ‘I survived the ’90s,’” Keifer jokes of the period.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review: Skid Row, "United World Rebellion, Chapter One"

After a very uneven first album with new singer Johnny Solinger and a second album that was full of jokey novelty tunes, I didn’t hold out much hope for the future of Skid Row.

Until now.

United World Rebellion Chapter One, the first in a series of EPs that will make up their new album, is easily the best thing released under the Skid Row name since 1995′s Subhuman Race.

The band gets right down to business on the first track, “Kings of Demolition,” which sounds like it was ripped straight from the Slave to the Grind recording sessions.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Jamey Johnson, Guns 'n' Roses, Tesla, Nine Inch Nails, Soilwork

Quite a variety this week, from country to industrial to melodic death.

Jamey Johnson feat. Lee Ann Womack, “This Ain’t My First Rodeo.” From the album Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran (2012). One of the best current country songwriters Jamey Johnson singing songs of one of country’s most prolific songwriters. How could you go wrong? The songs on the album, including this one, are very faithful to the originals and usually pretty good.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Freebies: Century Media Records offers up a 40-song sampler

Century Media Records is offering a 40-song sampler for free download. Go here to get it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Gloryhammer, "Tales from the Kingdom of Fife"

Christopher Bowes may be on the verge of becoming a new musical hero of mine. First he gave us Scottish pirate metal, now Scottish epic fantasy metal, and it’s just as much fun.

If you’re familiar with Bowes’ other band, Alestorm, it will be no surprise that Gloryhammer’s music is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s no joke. Yes, Bowes and his cohorts dress as wizards, warriors and elves, and they skewer some of the tropes and conventions of the power metal genre with some laugh out loud moments. But when it comes to the music, it’s no laughing matter. This outfit is tight, and they play the style much better than some of the “serious” power metal bands out there.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Freebies: Hellbound Glory covers Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues"

Hellbound Glory is offering a free download of their cover of Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues." Go here to get it.

Saturday Shuffle: Skid Row, Danko Jones, White Wizzard, Luna Mortis, Hellbound Glory

Some old-fashioned hard rocking, a little bit of extreme, and some nontraditional traditional country this week ...

Skid Row, “Sweet Little Sister.” From the album Skid Row (1989). Skid Row’s debut album was a little more in line with the 1980s glam rock scene than their later, heavier albums, but there are still some great songs on it, and this is one of them. Energetic, catchy, fun, everything that was good about 1980s rock. This is one 1980s band that I would love to see back together.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: "The Merciless Book of Metal Lists" by Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins

I think there’s something innate in music fans that drives them to want to make lists. And then, of course, to argue about those lists to the death.

With "The Merciless Book of Metal Lists" ($18.95, Abrams Books), Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins take it to a new level. After a foreword by Slayer’s Kerry King (which is really more of a Q&A, actually), they jump right into all of the obligatory lists — best metal bands, best guitarist, best singer, best drummer, best bassist and so on.

Sure, those are fun to agree or disagree with, but it’s the other pieces of the book that actually make it so entertaining. It’s quite possible that even the hardcore metalhead might find something to explore in some of the lists where they play it straight.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Interview: Bob Wayne

Though his music is very much set in the world of traditional country, filled with banjos, fiddles and, for the most part, nary a distorted guitar to be found, Bob Wayne is not what you’d call a traditional country musician.

He curses like the proverbial sailor, sings songs about the party life, rubs elbows with heavy metal bands and really doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him. He’s a songwriter that lives for the story and a wanderer that lives for the road. Pick a night, and you’ll find him in a dive bar on the corner, or maybe opening for a metal band in a larger venue. He’s on stage 300-plus nights a year and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Freebies: Get the title track of Amon Amarth's upcoming LP

Listen to and download "Deceiver of the Gods," the title track of Amon Amarth's upcoming new album.

Saturday Shuffle: Hank Jr., Van Zant, Jesse James Dupree, Savatage, Kiuas

We open this week’s shuffle with a decidedly Southern-flavored trio of songs.

Hank Williams Jr., “Sometimes I Feel Like Joe Montana.”  From the album Stormy (1999). This song is pretty typical of Hank Jr.’s later period. It’s not a bad song about longing for the glory days, but it certainly doesn’t live up to his classic material. Then again it could just be that, as a Saints fan, I still have bad thoughts about Joe Montana and those 49ers from the NFC West days. That could cloud my judgment.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: Suicidal Tendencies, "13"

Most metal fans are probably looking a little more forward to another album titled 13 later this year from a barely known band called Black Sabbath. Me, too, but I was also quite intrigued by Suicidal Tendencies’ album of the same title.

I was a big ST fan in the 1980s, both the energetic hardcore punk of their self-titled debut and the thrash sounds of their later albums in the decade, like Lights, Camera, Revolution. The 1990s were a bit shaky for the band, though, with the very commercial The Art of Rebellion (which I haven’t revisited in quite a while, but seemed anything but rebellious to me at the time), the more metallic and underrated Suicidal for Life and a couple of uneven albums in Freedumb and Free Your Soul … And Save My Mind, both of which had their moments, but were fairly unmemorable.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: Anthrax, "Anthems"

After hearing Joey Belladonna’s cringe-inducing vocals on Anthrax’s version of Rush’s “Anthem,” I didn’t have much hope for this EP of covers from the thrashers, especially considering the rest of the lineup included covers of Cheap Trick, Journey and Boston.

The good news is that “Anthem” is far and away the worst thing on this record. The bad news is that it’s still a mixed bag.

For the most part, this is hard rock karaoke. Anthrax doesn’t take any chances with any of the songs here. They don’t play them in their own style or try to do anything different with them. They deliver note-for-note renditions of the originals with maybe a little extra crunch here or there, but not much else.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Amon Amarth, Sabbath, Metallica, Charlie Daniels, Alice in Chains

From Amon Amarth to Charlie Daniels in two songs. That path creator thingie online has nothing on me.

Amon Amarth, “A Beast Am I.” From the album Surtur Rising (2011). The day always goes better with a little Amon Amarth. I’ve always loved the blend of death metal and very catchy melodies and hooks that Amon Amarth delivers, and “A Beast Am I” has those. It’s like death metal for non-death metal fans.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Review: Adrenaline Mob, "Coverta"

I kind of chuckled when I saw that Adrenaline Mob had chosen three Ronnie James Dio-related songs for its eight-song covers EP, but now I get it.

As a fan of Symphony X, I knew that Russell Allen was a hell of a singer. In fact, I thought he was sorely underutilized on much of Adrenaline Mob’s debut album Omerta. When I played the version of “Stand Up and Shout” on Coverta, I had to do a double-take and make sure that I had not accidentally clicked on the Dio version.

Allen pretty much channels the legend on the track, and follows suit on the cover of Rainbow’s “Kill the King” and Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules,” though those don’t hit as close as “Stand Up and Shout.”

Freebies: New track from King Diamond and Volbeat

King Diamond and Volbeat are offering a free download of the track "Room 24" from the upcoming Volbeat album "Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies." Click here to get it it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Still Spinning: Metallica, "Metallica"

OK, I guess it’s about time I delivered a mea culpa on this record after all of my years of badmouthing it. It’s actually not a bad album.

There, I said it, as foul as those words taste in my mouth.

I’m joking, of course, but not entirely.

When Metallica’s self-titled album came out, it was a shift in my musical landscape. When I picked it up, on release day naturally, I initially liked it, though not as much as past works. The simplicity of the songs was a bit of a turn-off, but there were some pretty catchy tunes there.

It didn’t take long for my opinion to change drastically. All of a sudden all of the people around me — many of whom had made fun of me for years for liking heavy metal, Metallica, in particular — were driving around with their windows down blasting this album. It was more than the angst-filled teenage version of me could take.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Overkill, Behemoth, Mayan, Armored Saint, Maiden

Kind of a heavy theme to this week’s shuffle. Let’s get it going…

Overkill, “Loaded Rack.” From the album ReliXIV (2005). This was a pretty uneven record for Overkill, but “Loaded Rack” is one of the better tracks. It’s got that old-school Overkill feel and a some memorable hooks and melodies.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Shooter Jennings, "The Other Life"

You never know quite what to expect from Shooter Jennings. It drives some fans crazy, but it’s part of what others, myself included, like about his music.

Will it be country, rowdy Southern rock, experimental art rock, hard rockers, heartfelt and serious songs, crazy and sometimes silly numbers? The answer on The Other Life is yes.

Really, for the first time in his career, Jennings has brought together all of the various sounds from his past, and it feels almost like it’s the first album that is fully and truly his musical voice.

 Last year’s companion piece, Family Man, focused on just what its title said. Every song had something to do with family. This one focuses mostly on life on the road and the music business.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday Shuffle: Toxic Heart, Lazarus A.D., Sepultura, Blackberry Smoke, ZZ Top

Another Saturday, another shuffle.

“Rebirth,” Lazarus A.D. From the album The Onslaught (2009). I remember that this debut album from Lazarus A.D., an aggressive, Exodus-influenced brand of thrash really excited me. I thought we might finally have a band from the new wave of the style that could play with the originals. The follow-up, sadly, was quite disappointing.