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.