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.