Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: Delain, "The Human Contradiction"

Every now and then, I come across a record that for some weird reason seems to call out to me for a listen despite past history.

When Nightwish’s Imaginaerum came out a few years ago, I wasn’t a huge fan, but it ended up being my favorite record of the year. Likewise, I’ve had a couple of Delain records cross my desk in the past, including their 2009 effort April Rain, which seems to be regarded as their best. They’ve never grabbed my attention.

But as I scanned my available promos over the past weeks, my eye kept hitting on their latest, The Human Contradiction, so finally I decided to give it a listen. Pretty randomly, I picked the song “Stardust” to sample. By the end of the song, I was downloading the full record.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: Mat D and the Profane Saints, "Holyoke"

Every now and then, I like to do what I call YouTube hopping. I pick a song I know I like, whatever I’m in the mood for, and then I bounce through the related videos, hoping to discover something unfamiliar. It often leads to a lot of partially listened songs and a dead end. But every now and then, I have a wow moment.

That’s what happened a couple of weeks ago when I hit on a video of Mat DeRiso, leader of Mat D and the Profane Saints, performing a solo acoustic version of “Gambling, Girls and Guns” from the band’s recently released Holyoke album. I ended up listening to the song over and over for about a half-hour and deciding I needed to hear the rest of the record. “Gambling, Girls and Guns” is a dark tune that definitely features a touch of “House of the Rising Sun.” DeRiso spins a tale of a bad man, in more ways than one, in an entrancing, deep voice that’s part country, part rock and 100 percent badass.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday Shuffle: 5FDP, Aerosmith, Kiss, Staind, Bob Wayne

Strange mix this week. A couple of bands I don't really listen to, a couple of classics from 1976 and a country tune ...

“The Way of the Fist,” Five Finger Death Punch. From the album The Way of the Fist (2007). So the lyrics are not exactly the stuff of poetry, and there’s a lot of uber-macho posturing. Still, this tune is fantastic to crank to the max after a bad day at the office and scream along.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Shuffle: Crue, Quiet Riot, Testament, Megadeth, ST

A very 1980s feel to this week's Shuffle ...

"Jailhouse Rock (Live)," Motley Crue. From the album Girls, Girls, Girls (1987). I must admit that Girls, Girls, Girls hasn't held up as well over time as some of Crue's other records, but I still enjoy this messy, bashing cover of Jailhouse Rock. It's not a perfect cover, but it's the perfect cover for Motley Crue.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: Bob Wayne, "Back to the Camper"

After a two-album stint with metal label Century Media, DiY-country artist Bob Wayne heads Back to the Camper for his latest record. The title references his early years of making his own records and hand-burning them in his John Deere motor home.

Wayne, who is still signed to Century Media’s People Like You imprint in Europe, went back to basics for the album, and the results are fantastic. While Wayne’s two Century Media albums focused more on the rowdy side of his personality, with loud and brash tunes — many re-recorded versions of earlier songs — Back to the Camper is a quieter and more thoughtful affair.

It has the feel of one of his earlier self-released albums, only with better production values, and features easily some of his best songwriting to date. The focus rests firmly on Wayne’s storytelling in these songs, and he spins some good tales.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: Black Label Society, "Catacombs of the Black Vatican"

After the lackluster Shot to Hell — the band’s weakest album — in 1996, Black Label Society, which had been churning out pretty much an album a year to that point, took an extended break. Zakk Wylde returned with a vengeance on 2010’s Order of the Black, finding the fire again and punishing eardrums across the metal world.

The band’s latest Catacombs of the Black Vatican comes after another four-year break from studio recording. It also marks the first release without long-time rhythm guitarist Nick Catanese, who joined in 1999 and left in December 2013. Known as the “Evil Twin,” Catanese was the only other stable member of the band besides Wylde over the years. Wylde himself handled all guitars on this release, though Lizzy Borden guitarist Dario Lorina will handle rhythm duties on the road.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday Shuffle: Alice Cooper, Jackyl, Oliva, Shooter, Volbeat

Not the most memorable shuffle in the history of the feature, but still a few high points ...

"Something to Remember Me By," Alice Cooper. From the album Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011). This ballad was not one of the high points of what was a surprisingly good sequel album by Alice. It's OK, but there are far better songs on the record.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: "Ronnie James Dio: This is Your Life"

Any tribute to Ronnie James Dio begins with a conundrum for the artists involved. It’s Ronnie James Dio, one of the greatest singers to ever grace rock music, an iconic voice that can’t be duplicated. So the vocalists here have a tough job right out of the gate. But it’s all for a good cause, as proceeds from Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life will benefit the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund.

Anthrax kicks off the album on a high note with a faithful rendition of the Black Sabbath classic “Neon Knights.” I often give Joey Belladonna a lot of grief when I write about Anthrax, but I also believe in giving credit where it’s due, and he holds his own. That’s no small feat, considering he’s being compared to Dio.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: Gus G, "I Am the Fire"

With Ozzy focusing on Black Sabbath and Firewind on a hiatus, guitarist Gus G. found himself with a little time on his hands, resulting in his first solo album, I Am the Fire.

Gus manages to cover a lot of metal/hard rock ground on I Am the Fire. There are a few power metal-tinged numbers that will be familiar to Firewind fans, but there are some much heavier tunes, some more commercial pieces, some grunge-influenced material and a few softer moments, too.

For the solo record, Gus called on a number of special guests, notably singer Mats Leven (Yngwie Malmsteen, Therion), who appears on four of the 12 tracks on the album. Leven also filled in on the road for Firewind with the departure of Apollo Papathanasio.