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.