Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: Shooter Jennings, "Shooter"

Shooter Jennings decided to title his return to country music after himself, but it could just as easily be called Junior or Bocephus. Much of the record is simply a love letter to one of his influences – Hank Williams Jr. That’s not a bad thing, though.

The love begins flowing from the very first track, “Bound Ta Git Down,” which is Shooter’s unabashed reworking of Hank Jr.’s “Born to Boogie.” The life experiences recounted in the lyrics belong to the singer, but the rocking boogie-woogie rhythms and melodies are mostly Hank, with some notable influence from Charlie Daniels. Despite its derivative nature, though, it’s still a high-energy and fun way to start this record.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Review: Cypress Hill, "Elephants on Acid"

I can count on one hand – with fingers left over – the number of hip-hop acts I get excited about hearing new music from. Cypress Hill, though, is at the top of that list.

I was a metal kid in my early 20s who, with a couple of notable exceptions, hated hip-hop with a passion when I first heard Cypress Hill through a friend and co-worker at the fast-food joint where I was working my way through college. He was a black hardcore hip-hop fan from California, and I was a white redneck metalhead from Louisiana. We often taunted each other, good-naturedly, with our respective music while we worked. That was his intent when he popped a Cypress Hill disc in the little boom box, but there was something about this group that caught my attention. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but they had a different vibe that I really liked – and it didn’t hurt, I guess, that one of the first songs he played was “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That,” which sampled Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Review: Alestorm/Gloryhammer at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill (Sept. 11, 2018, Dallas, TX)

If you take off work, pull your kid out of school and drive five hours to go to a club show, you may have a metal problem.

If you’ve followed my ramblings for the past decade or so, you’ll know my love for all things Christopher Bowes, so there was no way that I was going to miss a U.S. tour featuring both Alestorm and Gloryhammer, even if I had to do all of the above to get there. Which I did. And it was more than worth it.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Review: Burning Witches, "Burning Witches"


My dismal 2017 would have been a good deal brighter if I'd discovered this record last spring when it came out. I picked up on the single for "Executed," the first track from their upcoming sophomore release, and I was impressed. This record wears its Judas Priest influence on its sleeve, but it's done fantastically well. Given that it's an all-female band, the comparisons to Doro will definitely come, too, but to be honest, I think these ladies do it better all-around.

What's Hot?

This album is loaded with fantastic guitar riffs from Romana Kalkuhl and Alea Wyss (no longer with the band). I'm going to assume Romana handles the leads on the record, and I give her props, too, for some hot licks. Vocalist Seraina Telli has amazing range, which she shows off right from the start with a glass-shattering scream on "Black Widow" to open the album.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Review: Dimmu Borgir, "Eonian"


This is Dimmu Borgir's first new music in seven years, and I’ll preface this review by saying that I’m not a black metal fan, and I’m only a marginal fan of the band. My favorite Dimmu tune is “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse,” so if you love the band’s earlier work and black metal in general, you'll probably completely disagree with what I have to say.

What’s hot?

This album is very heavy on the symphonics, and since I’ve copped to the fact that “Progenies” is my favorite song by Dimmu Borgir, it will come as no surprise that I really dig that aspect of it. There’s really not a lot of what I’d call “black metal” here beyond Shagrath’s vocals, and even they don’t always fit the harsh mold you expect. There are also some really nice memorable riffs scattered around the album that I don’t normally associate with the genre. It’s far more symphonic than black, and instrumental album closer “Rite of Passage” sounds almost progressive.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Review: The Dead Daisies, "Burn It Down"

Editor’s note: I’m introducing a slightly new format to try to breathe a little life back into this site. I miss sharing my thoughts on music, but I find myself without as much time to do it these days. In addition, some folks are starting to go to a stream-only mode for promos, which gives me less listening time and opportunity to write the longer pieces. I may still occasionally dig into an album here or there and write something longer, but hopefully these shorter reviews will help me do one or two a week.


After the outstanding Make Some Noise album in 2016, all-star group The Dead Daisies returns with new drummer Deen Castronovo (Journey, Bad English) taking over the sticks from Brian Tichy and a small tweak in their sound. 

What’s hot?

A lot of blues rock influence shows up on this album, starting with a slinky, tasty guitar riff that opens the title track and really showing up on the ballad "Set Me Free." It gives things a very slightly different feel from the straight-up, old-fashioned hard rock on Make Some Noise. That said, there’s still plenty of that sound to go around. Opener “Resurrected” reminds me of something from singer John Corabi’s underrated 1994 record with Motley Crue and songs like "What Goes Around" rock with a vengeance. The band also wears its classic rock influences on its sleeves with a cover of the Stones’ “Bitch,” and a hat tip on the opening of “Judgement Day,” which will definitely remind listeners of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” before it kicks in the high octane rock on the chorus.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: Machine Head, "Catharsis"

There seems to be quite a lot of dislike in the metal world for Machine Head’s latest outing, but in truth, I think it’s one of the most interesting records that the band has ever done.

I get that frontman Robb Flynn is opinionated, outspoken and often gives off an air of self-importance that can make him a tough guy to like. But I’ve got quite a bit of practice in putting a musician’s personality aside and separating it from the music.

I get that some of the songs on Catharsis perhaps don’t sound like Machine Head is supposed to. Honestly, though, that’s why I like it. I’ve never been a huge fan of the band, and one of the reasons is that I find a few good songs on each album and the rest sound kind of the same. Catharsis, as the name would suggest, seems to be a very personal album for Flynn, and as a result it’s more varied and more interesting.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Review: Dark Hound, "Dawning"

When I think of Nashville these days, my first thought is usually nausea-inducing, skinny-jean wearing, faux-country boys rapping about pickup trucks and dirt roads. But even if I listed the positives of Nashville music – and there still are a few – I highly doubt that a blend of thrash, progressive and early-‘90s hard rock would appear anywhere on that list. But here I sit, listening to Dark Hound’s latest album Dawning, and enjoying the hell out of it.

Listening to this record, I hear shades of some favorites: early Saigon Kick, Lillian Axe’s more progressive work, Testament, perhaps a little Dream Theater here and there. But Dark Hound blends it all together into a sound that’s completely their own and doesn’t really fit into any of the current trends or sub-genres in the metal world.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Stuck in My Head: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, "Fire."

“I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you …”

A proclamation made in a black-and-white video full of fire and smoke, by a singer wearing a flaming crown and decked out in corpse paint – possibly its first use in rock. In 2018, after the music world has seen the likes of Alice Cooper, W.A.S.P., Marilyn Manson and even more bizarre acts, it may not seem that wild or shocking. But imagine being a kid in 1968 and stumbling across the Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s “Fire” for the first time. It had to be just about the coolest thing you’d ever seen – and for parents, probably one of the scariest.

This song pops up on my shuffle on rare occasion, and it always reminds me of just how big an impact this relatively obscure artist had on my favorite music. Though “Fire” was a No. 1 hit in the U.K. and reached No. 2 on Billboard in the U.S., Arthur Brown is far from a household name. His work, however, spawned whole genres of rock and metal.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Best of 2017: Alestorm, Hellbound Glory, White Light Cemetery, Bob Wayne, Savage Messiah

It was, honestly, a pretty lousy year for music to my ears. Not a lot grabbed my attention and even less held it. So, rather than puff up two or three albums that I didn't feel were all that great to round out a Top 10, I've opted to keep it to five and cut a couple that I do feel are deserving.

5. Savage Messiah, Hands of Fate. This spot was by far the toughest call on the list, and I wavered for a good long while between this one and albums from Firewind and Alice Cooper. In the end, though, Savage Messiah just spoke to me more. On previous outings, the band has leaned more toward speed metal and thrash, but Hands of Fate is the kind of fantastic, old school, straight-up heavy metal album that we don’t get much anymore. At the same time, though, it doesn’t sound like a dated imitation of bands that have come before. It’s full of awesome riffs and great hooks, and if the title track doesn’t get your head banging, it may be time to hang up the horns.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Playlist 2017 Week 5: Power Trip, Tyler Childers, BLS

The final installment of the Playlist is going to be a short one. It was a holiday week, and I didn't feel like logging in on those days. Plus, we're getting to the point of the program where we're just going to have a lot of repeat appearances from Alestorm, Hellbound Glory and a couple of others. So here are the final three to round out my 2017 playlist.

Power Trip, "Excutioner's Tax (Swing of the Axe)" from Nightmare Logic. One of the problems I've had with the new crop of thrash bands is that they often seem content to repeat what's come before instead of innovating the style. I already have all of the classic thrash albums, so I don't need a remake. Power Trip doesn't completely avoid that pitfall either, but there's some good stuff on this record. Some nice grooves and memorable melodies.