Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Playlist 2016 Week 4: Rob Zombie, THC, Metallica, Holy Grail, Lacuna Coil

A couple of surprises and a little strange holiday cheer as the playlist rolls on.

"Get Your Boots On! That's the End of Rock 'n' Roll!" Rob Zombie. This album was one of the surprises of the year for me. I haven't been that interested in anything Zombie has done in a while, but this album was pretty entertaining. The chorus of "Get Your Boots On" is like his love letter to rock 'n' roll.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Fairies Wear Boots," from Paranoid (1970)

One instrumental piece leads into another as “Rat Salad” gives way to the intro to “Fairies Wear Boots,” sometimes referred to as “Jack the Stripper” and sometimes not on different releases of the album. Oddly, I’ve always thought the intro to the tune was a little over long, and I couldn’t wait to get to the swinging rhythm of “Fairies Wear Boots.”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday Night Special: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "First Snow"

To be honest, it just hasn’t felt like Christmas to me this year. I’ve been super busy with work. The weather where I live, for the most part, has been more like summer. My son’s too old for my annual pilgrimage to the toy stores, and as I write this (a week or so before you’ll read it), my tree sits in my living room undecorated. It’s been a strange year.

Part of the reason, I know, is that Santa Claus ended for my son last year, and I think that also took some wonder and excitement out of things for me. So, in hopes of finding some holiday cheer, I turned to an old favorite, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and they delivered.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Playlist 2016 Week 3: Megadeth, Charred Walls of the Damned, Anthrax, Zakk Wylde, Whiskey Myers

Week 3 of my 2016 playlist goes from heavy sounds to brutal imagery before ending on a happier note with a little Southern rock.

"Bullet to the Brain," Megadeth. Another classic thrash band makes the list. I'll admit this record had to grow on me quite a bit. I didn't like it at first, but at the end of the year it has a shot at cracking my year-end list.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Rat Salad," from Paranoid (1970)

After the dark and dreary “Hand of Doom,” the instrumental “Rat Salad” provides, perhaps, a brief ray of light amongst the doom and gloom.

I’ve always felt that this tune had the feel of a jazz number. It’s still heavy, of course, but I could easily hear the distorted guitars rearranged for horns and a big band playing it with gusto. Iommi’s guitar solo kind of takes the shape of a horn solo in a jazz tune. Though I often hear people talk about the jazz influence on Sabbath, particularly in the drumming of Bill Ward, I don’t often hear it as clearly as I do on “Rat Salad.”

Monday, December 12, 2016

Playlist 2016 Week 2: Jackson Taylor, Metallica, Delain, Amon Amarth, Wicked Realm

In the second week of my Playlist 2016, we'll go from country to Viking death metal with a detour through the 1980s.

"Which Way is Up?" Jackson Taylor & The Sinners. If any song perfectly encapsulates 2016, it's this title track from Jackson Taylor's latest release. It expressed my feelings exactly as most everyone around me seemed to lose their minds in a particularly nasty election year. It's a message that I believe everyone needs to hear before this year is over.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Playlist 2016 Week 1: Metal Church, Anthrax, Testament, Death Angel, Jackyl

Last week, I started sharing some of my favorite songs of 2016 over at the Facebook page. I wasn't planning any posts on those here, but what the hell? Here's a look back at the first week's worth. (These are in no particular order, other than the way they come to mind.)

"No Tomorrow," Metal Church. I'm calling this the year of the classic thrash band, as so many of my old favorites turned out fantastic records. Let's the get the playlist started with the return of Mike Howe to Metal Church, a most welcome reunion.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sharing my favorite songs of the year on Facebook

Been on a bit of a break again between holiday activities and work. I'll have some new reviews coming soon, but in the meantime, I'm sharing some of my favorite songs of the year on the Facebook page as I prepare to do my annual best list. Give the page a like or check out the feed below on the right to see my picks. Thanks.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Hand of Doom," from Paranoid (1970)

As much as I love the rest of the record, this may be my favorite song on Paranoid. I don’t know that there’s ever been a better song written about the power and hopelessness of drug addiction.

It starts out with that dark and mysterious bass lick from Geezer Butler, and as always, Bill Ward’s jazzy beats lock in perfectly with it to create the mood. Enter Ozzy, moaning out the lyrics in a delivery that’s perfect for the subject matter of the song. To my ears, it’s bleak, even by Black Sabbath standards, then we get the punctuating explosion of sound at the end of each verse, like a mini-climax – perhaps the brief hit of the drug hitting the subject’s veins that soon returns to the low of the original bass and vocal.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Electric Funeral," from Paranoid (1970)

Today, we move on to side 2 of Paranoid. Yes, I’m dating myself, but “Electric Funeral” was the first song on side 2 for a long time for me before it became track 5.

And what a way to kick of the second half of this album. Tony Iommi delivers that huge, warbling wah-wah lick, another one of those instantly recognizable riffs. There’s something particularly sinister and ominous about this one, perfect for the lyrical content, a bleak picture of the aftermath of a nuclear war.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saturday Night Special: Hellbound Glory, "Either Way We're Fucked"

So, if you’ve read my stuff for long, you know I’m not a huge fan of overt politics in music, and I try to keep them off my blogs, too. But I simply couldn’t think of a better song for this week’s election, in which the two major parties took a field of about 20 candidates that most people didn’t really like and winnowed them down to the two worst. Go USA!

Of course, this tune off my personal favorite Hellbound Glory album isn’t at all political in nature. Instead it features songwriter Leroy Virgil’s typically dark sense of humor as it lays out the story of an unhappy relationship in which the two parties decide that “it’s better to stay together, ‘cause either way we’re fucked.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Metal Meltdowns: Celtic Frost, "Cold Lake"

In the mid-1980s, Celtic Frost, along with contemporaries like Venom, Hellhammer and Bathory, was one of the pioneering bands of what would become death and black metal. The band’s first two albums – Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion – helped lay down the template for what those styles would become.

Their third outing, Into the Pandemonium, marked a change in style, opening with an unlikely cover of Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio,” and incorporating many new and jarring influences for fans. But for all its strangeness, that record still doesn’t draw the ire of metal fans like 1988’s Cold Lake.

Frontman/founder Tom Warrior had planned to end the band, but was convinced to continue with an entirely new lineup … and an entirely new sound.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Something Borrowed: "Feed My Frankenstein," Beasto Blanco/Alice Cooper

The apples don’t fall far from the tree on the latest release from Beasto Blanco. The leader of the band is Alice Cooper bassist Chuck Garric, and the female vocals are provided by Calico Cooper, who just happens to be Alice’s daughter. So, I wonder how they got the rights to cover an Alice song?

All jokes aside, this is an interesting take on a song that’s not one of my favorites in the Alice catalog.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Iron Man," from Paranoid (1970)

Is there a more important guitar riff in the history of heavy metal than the main riff from “Iron Man?” If there is, I certainly can’t think of it.

There’s also probably not a metal riff that’s more recognizable among people who are not fans of the music. Hum those first notes – duuum-duuum-dum-dum-dum – just about anywhere, and I’ll bet there’s someone standing around who can finish it.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Saturday Night Special: Raphael Saadiq, "Angel"

So this installment represents two firsts for this blog – an R&B song, and apparently, a fictional song.

Of course, the song is not entirely fictional, at least a part of it exists. But after hearing it on the “Luke Cage” premiere on Netflix, I went out in search of it, only to discover that it doesn’t exist. It’s apparently something that Saadiq recorded for his cameo on the show. It’s not even on the soundtrack for the series, a fact lamented by several commenters on the videos that I found.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Planet Caravan," from Paranoid (1970)

If ever there’s been a soundtrack for the acid trip, it’s probably the third song from Paranoid – “Planet Caravan.” When Pantera covered it for their Far Beyond Driven album, they took that feel even further, creating a trippy animated video that suited the song well. As much as I liked Dimebag’s performance on that version, though, the original still rules.

Though we’d heard psychedelic sounds on the band’s first album, “Planet Caravan” was the first hint of it that we heard on Paranoid, but it’s a full dose.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Something Borrowed: "The Hunt," Sepultura/New Model Army

It's been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I hit this song in my shuffle today and had to crank it up.

I’ll admit when Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. came out in 1993, I wasn’t very familiar with punk band New Model Army and didn’t know at first that this was a cover. But I loved it from the first play of the record.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Metal Meltdowns: Judas Priest, "Turbo"

To hear many fans talk about Judas Priest’s 1986 album Turbo, you’d think it was practically a disco record. Truth be told, though, it’s not quite that bad. There’s not much here that couldn’t be fixed by replacing the synthesizers with a heavier guitar.

Sure, there’s a sound shift here toward the glam rock that was gaining popularity at the time, and it’s certainly Priest’s most commercial album. But there are also some good tunes on it.

Taking it from the top, “Turbo Lover” remains one of my favorite Priest tunes. Despite the more commercial bent, it’s a great, driving hard rocker with a huge hook. Any time it comes on, I’ll be cranking up the volume knob, and I’m suspicious of any hard rock fan who doesn’t.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Paranoid," from Paranoid (1970)

As is often the case, it was one of Black Sabbath’s shortest and simplest songs that gave them their biggest hit.

“Paranoid” reached the Top 10 in the UK charts, the only Sabbath song to do so, and according to Bill Ward, it was a tune knocked out in less than half an hour to fill the album. Despite its last-minute nature, the song got traction on the charts, and before the record was released, the name of the album had been changed from War Pigs to Paranoid.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "War Pigs," from Paranoid (1970)

So now we’ve reached what is probably Sabbath’s most popular album, though in my opinion, not their best. That one’s coming a little later in the program. But Paranoid does contain more than its share of the band’s iconic songs – the title track, “Iron Man,” “Hand of Doom,” “Electric Funeral,” “Fairies Wear Boots,” and of course, album opener “War Pigs.”

Originally titled “Walpurgis” by writer Geezer Butler, that name was nixed by the record company as being too satanic for the time, resulting in the change to “War Pigs.” It’s a song that announces fairly quickly that Paranoid is going to perhaps be a little more aggressive than its predecessor.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: Anthrax live at Riverside Warehouse (Shreveport, La., Sept. 23, 2016)

It was my first trip to the Riverside Warehouse in Shreveport, and I was a little surprised by the venue. I was thinking warehouse – a big open space. Instead, it’s a cozy, but cool little spot, with a bar out front and the performance area in the back, an open floor and a balcony above, with good views of the stage from just about wherever you’re at.

It was also my first time to see Anthrax as a headliner and the only time I’ve seen them since the late 1980s, when I caught them opening for Ozzy Osbourne. (I was supposed to see them once during the John Bush years, but they dropped off the bill at the last minute.) I was looking forward to hearing some old favorites and plenty of stuff off their latest, For All Kings, my current favorite album of the year.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Warning," from Black Sabbath (1970)

And we close our journey through Sabbath’s debut album out with the second cover, “Warning,” originally performed by the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation.

Given what I’ve said about Sabbath’s rhythm section through the previous pieces in this series, “Warning” provides them with a great opportunity. The absolute coolest thing about the original version of this song is how the bass and drums lock together in a rumble of thunder. Bill Ward and Geezer Butler follow through on that, but there’s a little more inflection on what they do that makes it sound kind of, for lack of a better word, “bendy.”

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday Night Special: King's X, "Goldilox"

King’s X’s debut record, Out of the Silent Planet, stands as easily the band’s most straightforward rock record. Though there were hints at the progressive powerhouse they’d become, the songs here have more in common with other hard rock bands of the time.

At the time I got the record (which was my second King’s X record after the follow-up Gretchen Goes to Nebraska), I was vehemently opposed to ballads. So “Goldilox” didn’t really register for me. I was much more likely to be rocking to “King,” “Shot of Love” or one of the other higher-energy tunes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Review: Jackyl, "ROWYCO"

In case you’re wondering, the title of Jackyl’s latest album ROWYCO is an acronym for the phrase “rock out with your cock out” – advice that frontman Jesse James Dupree has been known to take quite literally. It’s also a phrase that pretty well sums up the band’s musical output over nearly 30 years, including the 10 rowdy tracks on this record.

I thought Best in Show, Jackyl’s 2012 outing, might possibly have been their best since the 1992 eponymous debut. So, ROWYCO had a lot to live up to. The songs on this one are not quite as punchy and immediately infectious as tracks like “Encore” and “Screwdriver” from that last album, but there’s still some really good stuff here.

Dupree knows what Jackyl does best, and that’s what he gives us: high-energy rock ‘n’ roll with plenty of attitude and raunch, and, of course, a good drinking song to go along with it.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Sleeping Village," from Black Sabbath (1970)

Here’s where we get into some more tracking weirdness. In North America, we have a medley “Sleeping Village/A Bit of Finger/Warning,” while Europe splits into “Sleeping Village” and “Warning.” Europe wins again. Sure, it all kind of melds together, but for some reason, I’ve always preferred separate tracks to “slash”songs.

“Sleeping Village” is an interesting song, opening with an ominous acoustic guitar and, of all the strange instruments to choose, a boinging jaw/mouth harp. It’s not a particularly dark sounding instrument, but Sabbath manages to make it one. Ozzy’s moaning vocal delivery adds to the melancholy and dark mood of the song before Iommi cranks up the distortion to finish out the piece as an instrumental.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday Night Special: Anti-Mortem, "Path to Pain"

I absolutely hate it when a band puts out a completely badass album and then almost immediately breaks up. One of the most frustrating examples I can remember is recent years is Anti-Mortem. The Oklahoma band’s first album New Southern arrived in 2014, and it blew me away. It was a collection of fantastic hard rock with occasional hints of Southern rock and thrash. If Judas Priest hadn’t put out an incredible album that year as well, New Southern would have been, far and away, my pick for album of the year, and it's been a staple in my playlist for the last two years.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review: The Dead Daisies, "Make Some Noise"

The Dead Daisies may have found their best lineup on their third record, Make Some Noise. For those not familiar, the band — which was founded by guitarist David Lowy and vocalist Jon Stevens (INXS) — features a rotating roster of all-star musicians. This time out, they’ve got vocalist John Corabi (Motley Crue, the Scream), guitarists Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio) and Lowy, bassist Marco Mendoza (Ted Nugent, Whitesnake) and drummer Brian Tichy (Billy Idol, Whitesnake).

While you’ve got three Whitesnake alums in the mix, the record sounds nothing like that band, though it is in the same ballpark — good, old-fashioned hard rock with blues underpinnings. The Dead Daisies don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as David Coverdale’s camp, though. Make Some Noise is pretty much party-ready, good-time rock ‘n’ roll from beginning to end.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Evil Woman," from Black Sabbath (1970)

After our detour to North America, we come back to Europe to pick up “Evil Woman,” the first of two covers that show up on that version of the album. This one was originally recorded by the Minneapolis based blues rock band Crow, but doesn’t appear on the American version.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Saturday Night Special: Jaco Pastorius, "Crisis"

You may have noticed I don’t cover much jazz here (and by much, I mean any). While I have an appreciation for it and enjoy it from time to time, I just don’t feel that I have the knowledge or qualifications to talk about it intelligently.

I have kind of an interesting relationship with Jaco Pastorius’ work. When I first picked up a bass many years ago, I read a magazine article about him, and decided that I needed to check this guy out. Well, one listen told me that I’d never be able to play a bass even remotely like that, and while I was stunned by his abilities, I really didn’t feel most of the music he recorded. The relatively mellow sounds of Weather Report just didn’t appeal to a metal kid, and still don’t appeal to a metal dad in his 40s.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Wicked World," from Black Sabbath (1970)

Now we jump back to the North American version of Sabbath’s first album to pick up “Wicked World,” a song that didn’t appear on the European version, and to be honest, it’s one of the weaker tracks on the album.

The song starts with a jumping and jiving riff from Iommi that paired with Bill Ward’s drums has an almost jazzy feel. After a brief little jam session, it drops into the main riff of the song, which is OK at first, but gets a little old as the song goes on. Ozzy’s vocal delivery is also a little flat and tired for the most part.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Night Special: Bang Tango, "Wrap My Wings"

I’m working on a couple of ideas to try to breathe a little life back into this site. I started with the Sunday Sabbath feature, and now a series I call Saturday Night Special.

If you’ve been coming to the site for a little while, you’re probably familiar with the Saturday Shuffle that I used to do. That kind of ran its course, and though it got good traffic, was a pain to put together with my work and family schedules. So instead, I’m going to try a one-song approach, where I focus on a tune that I heard at some point in the week that maybe I haven’t heard for a while or that just struck me in some different way. We’ll kick things off with my favorite song from an ‘80s band that I consider underrated.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "N.I.B." from Black Sabbath (1970)

Thumping bass solo from Geezer Butler? Check.

Mega-fucking riff from Tony Iommi? Check.

Sinister lyrics about the devil? Check.

Must be time for “N.I.B.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review: Metallica, "Hardwired"

So, I’ve given this new track from Metallica almost 24 hours and quite a few listens to settle before I sat down to write this – because my initial reaction to the song was not good at all, and I didn’t want to go with a knee-jerk. I wanted to try to give it a fair hearing and a chance to grow on me. A day later, my reaction is better, but still a little “meh.”

To be honest, there have been times in Metallica’s career that I would have rejoiced to hear a song like “Hardwired.” Had it arrived in 1998, I would have been jumping up and down and celebrating. Since the 1990s meltdown of the band, though, fans have seen a new evolution. Beginning with the rough and raw St. Anger in 2003 (more thoughts on that to come in my Metal Meltdowns series) to a really good outing in 2008’s Death Magnetic, despite its aural challenges.

What I hoped for was a continued evolution on that path. Eight years later, I hoped that they had honed and perfected that sound. I’d hoped that if St. Anger was the Kill ‘Em All of this version of the band, then the new album would be the Master of Puppets. Yes, I realize that expectation was way, way too high, but given the quality of music that other classic thrash bands are putting out there this year, I didn’t think it was beyond the realm of possibility.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Behind the Wall of Sleep," from Black Sabbath (1970)

So here’s where things start to get a little sticky with this series, depending on which version of the album you have. The original European version has the third track as “Behind the Wall of Sleep.” The North American version that I grew up with jams this song and “N.I.B.” together as “Wasp/Behind the Wall of Sleep/Bassically/N.I.B.” I’m going with the European (at least for the next two tracks), because it makes way more sense.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "The Wizard," from Black Sabbath (1970)

If you’ve spent any time over at my book blog, you’ll know that I’m a complete fantasy geek, so it should come as no surprise that “The Wizard” is one of my favorite Sabbath tunes.

While the eponymous “Black Sabbath” announced the arrival of a new genre, “The Wizard” opens with a wistful harmonica that speaks to the band's blues roots. Of course, as Tony Iommi’s big, brooding guitar riffs come into play, the tone changes from wistful to angry. The combination of the guitar and harmonica riffs, though, are simply infectious, and when they combine there’s a certain sense of joy among the heaviness.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Review: Steven Tyler, "We're All Somebody from Somewhere"

I said that I wasn’t going to even listen to this album after hearing the first couple of songs, but I’m such an Aerosmith fanboy that I unfortunately just couldn’t resist. The band provides the soundtrack to some of my best memories and no matter how bad their stuff gets or how far off the reservation frontman Steven Tyler goes, I’ll always hold out hope.

That said, We’re All Somebody From Somewhere is exactly as bad as I thought it was going to be. About the best that can be said of the pop country tunes here is that they’re bad latter-day Aerosmith ballads with some traditional country instrumentation.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Black Sabbath," from Black Sabbath (1970)

Welcome to the start of a new series taking a track-by-track look at the masters of heavy metal, Black Sabbath.

It’s only fitting that the series start with the eponymous track off their eponymous debut album, which for me, is the genesis of the genre of music that I dearly love.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Metal Meltdowns: Quiet Riot, "QR III"

In 1983, Quiet Riot’s Metal Health announced the arrival of metal as a viable commercial music form when the title track and their cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” both made waves in the Top 40. The band, however, was unable to capitalize on that success. Their next album, 1984’s party-hardy Condition Critical failed to make the same impact, despite the band throwing in another Slade cover “Mama, Weer All Crazy Now.”

By 1986, Quiet Riot’s fortunes were definitely on the wane. Bassist Rudy Sarzo had left, to be replaced by Chuck Wright (Giuffria, Ted Nugent, House of Lords), and for QR III the band took a far more pop-oriented approach to the music than the previous two records.

Let’s start with the good, and that’s the lead single “The Wild and the Young.” On an album of sub-par material, this tune shines. It’s a fantastic hard-rock anthem with one of those hooks that burrows into your head and gets stuck there. Sure, it’s a bit more polished than their previous work, but it’s still instantly recognizable as Quiet Riot, and I would argue that it’s one of their best songs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review: Jackson Taylor & The Sinners, "Which Way Is Up"

Listening to Jackson Taylor’s Which Way Is Up, one has to wonder if the hell-raising country rocker has reached a crossroads.

Granted, he’s always had more traditional tunes that seem to get overlooked in favor of his party anthems, but this album feels a little different. There are still plenty of drinking and partying songs among the eight tracks, but this seems to be a more subdued Jackson Taylor, not quite as raucous and with fewer middle fingers flying.

The difference is felt immediately. Album opener “Another Bottle Goes Down” could easily have been a classic outlaw country number from the 1970s. Taylor adopts a deeper vocal on the song, and while it is about drinking, it’s not exactly a wild party tune. That same feeling is all over “Foolin’ Around,” which sounds so much like a classic track that I thought on first listen it was perhaps a modified cover of a classic tune I wasn’t familiar with. That’s not the case, but it could be.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Metal Meltdowns: Megadeth, "Risk"

The only reason that I still own a copy of Megadeth’s Risk is because when I took it to the local used CD shop about a week or so after I it came out, the owner already had five in the bin and wouldn’t accept my trade. That story just about sums up the initial reaction to Dave Mustaine’s 1999 effort, in which he perhaps handed too much control to producer Dann Huff, and delivered the band’s least metal album to date.

Megadeth’s trajectory in the 1990s was toward the more commercial. It began with Countdown to Extinction in 1992, which in some ways echoed Metallica’s self-titled album of the year before. It was still heavy, but the song structures were simplified and more melodic. Youthanasia in 1994 went even further toward mainstream rock. Cryptic Writings, which I consider one of the band’s most underrated records, struck a better balance between fast, heavy numbers and the more rock-oriented pieces.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: Rob Zombie, "The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser"

Once upon a time, I thought Rob Zombie was something of a metal genius. The last two White Zombie records and his first solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe, were all landmark records of the 1990s as far as I’m concerned. (We’ll forget about all of the dance remix records.) They were weird and quirky, pushed the boundaries at times, but were still undeniably metal.

Then, he decided he wanted to make movies, and music seemed to become a side job. The Sinister Urge, his follow-up to Hellbilly Deluxe, while not a bad record, was far too brief with a lot of filler. Since then, he’s released really good songs here and there, but his albums as a whole haven’t really interested me.

So, I was a bit surprised when I gave my first listen to his latest mouthful of an album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Review: "We are Twisted F***ing Sister!"

Twisted Sister may have had one of the strangest rides in heavy metal history. When Stay Hungry was released in 1984, the band was on top of the world. They were the darlings of MTV for their over-the-top cartoonish videos and a target of controversy for Tipper Gore’s PMRC for the violence in those videos. But a few years and a couple of poor-performing albums later, Twisted Sister had fallen off the face of the earth.

For those who had been following the band through their tumultuous club days, that’s par for the course. As we learn in We are Twisted Fucking Sister!, they were always one of the most popular bands that no one wanted anything to do with.

The film focuses on the pre-Stay Hungry days, beginning with the formation of a very different band than the one we know by guitarist Jay Jay French in the early 1970s. Through interviews with Twisted Sister and their fans, and some rare early live footage, it traces a decade-long journey that brought us the familiar lineup and the band mainstream popularity.

That journey, at times, is of Spinal Tap proportions. The outrageousness of their antics during the Stay Hungry years was apparently nothing new, as the band shares some wild and often funny stories from the early days.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: Metal Church, "XI"

Could 2016 be the year of the classic thrash band?

The year started with Megadeth’s Dystopia, and while I personally have mixed feelings on it, most fans are hailing it as their best in years. That was followed by Anthrax’s For All Kings, which is on its way to becoming my favorite album from the band ever. In the remaining months, we’re expecting releases from Testament, Death Angel and Flotsam and Jetsam, and Metallica continue to promise their next outing will also arrive in 2016.

The latest in the string is Metal Church’s 11th album. XI marks the return of singer Mike Howe, who first appeared on 1989’s Blessing in Disguise – a personal favorite. He recorded two more albums with the band, The Human Factor (1991) and Hanging in the Balance (1993), before they broke up and he retired from singing.

After the departure of Ronny Munroe in 2014, Metal Church founder Kurdt Vanderhoof was already talking to Howe about a side project and opened the door to his return. Howe was impressed by the riffs that Vanderhoof was coming up with, and agreed to the reunion.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Metal Meltdowns: Danzig, "blackacidevil"

Most any band that’s been around for a while has at least one of those albums where fans listen and wonder, “what the heck were they thinking?” In this series, I’ll explore some of those moments where my favorite metal and hard rock bands went off the rails. Some of the records I may hate, some I may like, but all represent a fundamental shift in the band’s sound, at least for a moment. I’ll start with a record that’s one of the more dramatic changes of direction in my memory, Danzig’s blackacidevil

After coming out of punk band the Misfits and the experimental horror outfit Samhain, Glenn Danzig established his own name and unique sound under the tutelage of Rick Rubin. For the better part of four albums, he delivered a dark, powerful, doomy brand of metal underpinned by blues rock. Even though he experimented a little bit on his fourth record under the Danzig moniker, nothing prepared fans for what was to come with his fifth outing in 1996.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Review: Zakk Wylde, "Book of Shadows II"

Great records are created by a certain set of circumstances that are nearly impossible to replicate later. That’s why sequels are generally a bad idea. If the reunited Guns ‘n’ Roses, for example, were to decide to record Appetite for Destruction II, it would create an expectation among fans that there’s no possible way the band could meet.

Zakk Wylde’s Book of Shadows isn’t exactly the landmark album that Appetite for Destruction was, but it was still a great record that showcased a surprising side of Wylde that we’d not seen to that point. In the 20 years since its release, we’ve heard a lot of acoustic music — both great and not-so-great — from Wylde. It’s hard for this record to have the same impact that one did, and it doesn’t for me.

All of that out of the way, Book of Shadows II is, for the most part, a good album. I’m just not hearing songs on this one that are as memorable as “Sold My Soul” or “Between Heaven and Hell,” and that’s what I was looking for from this record.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Stuck in my Head: Flotsam and Jetsam, "Iron Maiden"

I’ve been a huge fan of Flotsam and Jetsam’s last couple of records. They’re probably one of the more underrated thrash bands of that genre’s classic era, and I thought they found their way again on 2010’s The Cold and 2012’s Ugly Noise.

“Iron Maiden,” the first single off their upcoming eponymous album presents a serious shifting of gears from those two records.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review: "Alice Cooper, Volume I: Welcome to My Nightmare"

Editor's Note: Normally, I keep my music writings  and book writings separate, but I thought this would have some crossover appeal, so I'm sharing here, as well. Enjoy.

Though I was at one time an avid comic collector and reader, and I’m a lifelong fan of hard rock and metal, I had never read the Alice Cooper comic series. Recently, a co-worker, knowing my proclivities for both comics and rock, gifted me with “Alice Cooper, Volume I: Welcome to my Nightmare” ($24.99, Dynamite).

The first thing that struck me about this collection was that it was a gorgeous presentation. The hardcover collects the first six issues of the Dynamite Alice Cooper comic, along with a bonus featuring Alice’s first comics appearance with Marvel in the 1970s.

The story arc of the newer comics features Alice as the Lord of Nightmares. Trapped in a bad contract by a trio of devilish agents known as Clan Black, he has fallen into obscurity. That is, until a young man who is being bullied discovers Alice’s music and accidentally summons him from the Nightmare Place for help, freeing him from his contract with Lucius Black, but opening Alice and the young man, Robbie, up to danger from the other two members of the clan.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Review: Anthrax, "For All Kings"

In the 1980s, Anthrax rested, arguably, at the bottom of the Big Four totem pole. When they wanted to be, they could be just as dark, political and technical as their contemporaries Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, but they were really a different animal.

Aside from being the only member of the Big Four not born on the West Coast, Anthrax was made up of a group of oddball guys who liked to have fun and be goofy from time to time. Whether it be a rap song where a band member messed up the rhymes at the end of each verse (“I’m the Man”) or a twangy, Western-inspired ode to Tipper Gore and the PMRC (“Startin’ Up a Posse”), the New York boys didn’t always take themselves so seriously. Perhaps the fact that they were open to doing funny things their partners in crime were not ultimately led some in the uber-serious thrash crowd to not take Anthrax quite as seriously as those other three.

When it comes to staying power, though, none of those other bands have been able to hang with Anthrax. Over the course of their last three records, Anthrax has consistently produced far better music than any of their contemporaries, and I might argue that it’s some of the best music of their career.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Stuck in my Head: Zakk Wylde, "Sleeping Dogs"

I remember being extremely excited about Zakk Wylde’s solo album Book of Shadows back in 1996, and then supremely disappointed. Loving his work with Ozzy Osbourne and Southern rockers Pride and Glory, I expected a scorching set of metal tunes. What I got was a collection of mostly soft, acoustic numbers, and I hated it.

Fast forward 20 years, and I have developed a much greater appreciation of Wylde’s acoustic work. In fact, I think it’s some of his best work, and some of the tunes from Book of Shadows are among my favorites.

I’m generally opposed to “Part 2” albums because they create an expectation that they can almost never live up to. But I have to admit that my interest was piqued when Zakk Wylde announced that he’d be releasing Book of Shadows II in April.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Shuffle: Flotsam and Jetsam, Testament, III, ST, Ratt

This week starts strong with an underrated album and ends on a mediocre note.

Flotsam and Jetsam, "Empty Air." From the album Drift (1995). Drift is far and away my favorite Flots album. I loved the slightly more progressive tone of it. "Empty Air" is one of the heavier tracks from the record, and it's got as much power as anything that the band has ever recorded. A fantastic song from a fantastic record.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Shuffle: Prince, King's X, Dream Theater, Sabbath, Ashes of Ares

A quintessential 1980s pop tune, a classic metal moment and a great live performance from one of the most underrated bands ever ...

Prince, "Delirious." From the album 1999 (1982). Remember when we all thought 1999 was so far away and would never come? One of the hits from 1999, this tune has a quintessential 1980s pop synth riff, but it's still a lot of fun in 2016. It may come off as a bit cheesy today, but just a few seconds in and you'll be bobbing your head. There's no video available because it's Prince, but you know how it goes.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Hank Williams Jr., "It's About Time"

The title of Hank Williams Jr.’s latest album seems most appropriate. At least, it sums up what I’m thinking as I listen to what might be his best complete album in years: It’s About Time that Hank remembered he’s a musician and not a politician.

That’s not to say that there’s no political content on his Nash Icon label debut. His cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “God and Guns,” for example, certainly qualifies. But the commentary comes from a far different place here than the soapbox pandering that he’s so often done in recent years. It’s closer to the sentiment on “A Country Boy Can Survive” than on, say, “Keep the Change” from his last record. The political content here is more a statement of personal belief than a forced attack on other ideologies, and you can respect that.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday Shuffle: Doro, Skid Row, Skynyrd, III, Manowar

Returning to the shuffle after a while with some good old-fashioned metal, a nasty hard rocker and some Southern flavor, as well...

Doro, “Revenge.” From the album Raise Your Fist (2012). I don’t know why I don’t listen to Doro more. I loved her work with Warlock, and it seems like I enjoy her solo work when I hear it as well, but I just don’t listen all that often. “Revenge” is just a driving, old-fashioned traditional metal ripper, pretty much what Doro does.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Best of 2015

This past year was a strange one for me musically. While there were a few albums that I’d consider outstanding, I had a very hard time finding new music that connected with me. Some highly anticipated records disappointed me, and an album for which I really had no expectations stunned me and rose to the top of my Best of 2015 list.

Rather than culling from a big list as usual, I had to stretch a little to get it to 10 entries, and the bands on the list are all pretty well-established acts. It’s certainly not the strongest top 10 that I’ve ever turned in, but those few records at the top would be there in any year.

Here’s hoping for a more fruitful musical search in 2016 …

10. PRO-PAIN – THE VOICE OF REBELLION: This is the first of a few surprises on the Best of 2015 list for me. Though the veteran hardcore band has been popping out albums every year or two since their 1992 debut Foul Taste of Freedom, I haven’t really given them much thought since that record. I liked the debut but, as with most hardcore, the sound got old to me after a while. I gave this one a listen with somewhat fresh ears, and songs like the raging title track and the catchy “Age of Disgust” pulled me in.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lemmy Kilmister, 1945-2015

Despite his recent health problems, the news of Motorhead frontman Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister’s death on Monday (Dec. 28) came as a bit of a shock. Like many other folks in the hard rock and metal world, I’m sure, I considered Lemmy one of those almost immortal guys — someone who would always be around. Sadly, cancer is not a fan of anyone.

I still remember the first time that I heard Motorhead. I was probably 11 or 12, already a metal fan, but only just beginning to move into the heavier stuff. Some friends played it for me. I don’t even remember which record it was, but I heard Lemmy’s gruff, shouted vocals and thought, “Who in the heck would listen to that? The guy can’t even sing.” Of course, as the years went by, my opinion changed drastically. In all honesty, I never became what I would consider a hardcore Motorhead fan, but I gained a great respect for what they did, and I certainly became a fan of Lemmy. It was almost impossible not to.