Sunday, December 18, 2022

Review: Skid Row, "The Gang's All Here"

 I didn’t see this coming.

Like many fans, I’ve longed for a reunion of the original lineup of Skid Row. While I enjoyed some of the band’s work with replacement vocalist, the late Johnny Solinger, it never quite stacked up with their earlier output. It’s become pretty clear, though, that the chasm between former vocalist Sebastian Bach and the rest of the band is too wide to bridge. So, I never expected to get a new Skid Row record that I considered on par with those first three albums.

Enter Erik Gronwall, former vocalist of the band H.E.A.T., a lifelong Skid Row fan despite being born only a couple of years before their debut album. His version of the band’s hit “18 and Life” on a Swedish TV singing competition helped earn him the nod from Skid Row after they went through a series of replacement vocalists for Solinger, including Tony Harnell (TNT) and ZP Theart (Dragonforce), and they seem to have made the right choice. Gronwall breathes new life into the band. He sounds enough like a young Bach to hit old guys like me right in the nostalgia, but he also brings enough of his own sound to not give off the tribute vibe.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Review: Ward Davis, "Live from an Undisclosed Location in Hays, Kansas"

The story behind Ward Davis’ latest live album is almost as entertaining as the record itself. Back in 2017, he and his friend, fellow underground country singer Cody Jinks, were playing a show in Hays, Kansas. The previous night, they had played in Colorado, so they were well stocked on, um, herbal remedies.

After the show, Davis was hanging out by his van behind the venue while his bass player was inside the van partaking of said herbal remedies when one of Hays’ finest (alternately “Officer Asshole” and “Officer Tough Guy” in Davis’ words) knocked on the door of the van. The bass player threw the doors open while lighting up, the van was searched and Davis and his bass player ended up being put in cuffs for possession of just under an ounce of marijuana.

As Davis and his bandmate were being marched the full block from the venue to be booked at the courthouse, Jinks emerged from the building and proceeded to cuss the cops all the way to bailing Davis out, much to the chagrin of Davis and one of Jinks’ band members who were attempting to calm the situation. Davis ultimately ended up with a good story and some unsupervised probation. That’s the short version. It’s definitely worth reading Davis’ version, though.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Review: Ozzy Osbourne, "Patient Number 9"

I gave myself a few weeks to sit with Ozzy Osbourne’s Patient Number 9 before rendering an opinion on it because I didn’t want a knee-jerk either way. I initially liked it a lot. With repeated listens, I still think it’s some of Ozzy’s best work in quite a while, though I’m not nearly as excited by it as I was a few weeks ago.

Let’s get my big complaint out of the way up front, and it’s the same as on the last album, Ordinary Man: Andrew Watt’s production sucks. There’s no nice way to put it. It’s not quite as horrible here, but it’s still bad. It’s over-compressed, muffled and muddy, and there’s this god-awful buzz that he seems to love, because it shows up all over the last two records. To me, it sounds like a busted speaker.

In places, I almost think he’s trying to give it the lo-fi sound of Ozzy’s early albums, but even if that’s the case, it falls flat – quite literally. It’s a real shame because a clear, quality, dynamic sound could have elevated both of these albums a couple of notches.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Review: Whiskey Myers, "Tornillo"

Whiskey Myers has never been shy about letting their roots show in their music, but on their latest release, they put them on display like a piece of fine art in a museum.

Tornillo takes the listener across the landscape of American music. There is, of course, plenty of their rowdy traditional Southern rock, but they also get a little funky, take a trip to the country, roll around in the blues and even dip their toes into arena rock – albeit very twangy arena rock.

I have to admit to being slightly disappointed with the band’s 2019 eponymous album2019 eponymous album, which was, at times, a little too much rock and not enough Southern. But the lead single from Tornillo, “John Wayne,” immediately announced that while we’d see a few new tricks with this latest evolution of Whiskey Myers, it would be well grounded in where they come from. The song opens with a funky, thumping bass line from Jamey Gleaves before vocalist Cody Cannon joins in on harmonica, kicking off a Southern groover with plenty of flash from the horns and female backing vocals that are both new touches.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Still Spinning: Pantera, "Power Metal"

The announcement of a Pantera “reunion” tour in 2023 leaves me with a lot of mixed feelings. Obviously, a true reunion is impossible, and I really hope that they ultimately spin this tour as a tribute to guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell and drummer Vinnie Paul Abbot rather than a return of the band. While I’m a huge fan of guitarist Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society) and drummer Charlie Benante (Anthrax), they’re not the late Abbot brothers and this is not Pantera. That said, it would be great to hear those songs live again, and, yeah, I’ll probably go. But the announcement brought to mind another record that I’ve meant to write about for a long time, the album that featured the debut of vocalist Phil Anselmo: 1988’s Power Metal:

Normally, when I write in the Still Spinning series, they’re records overlooked by fans – but in this case, it’s a record that was buried by the band itself. In the 1980s, a very young Pantera released four albums. Their first three, Metal Magic (1983), Projects in the Jungle (1984) and I Am the Night (1985) featured vocalist Terry Glaze, with Anselmo joining for the fourth. When Pantera made its major label debut on Atlantic with Cowboys From Hell in 1990, it was with a much heavier and thrashier sound than the previous four records, which ranged from glam rock to Judas Priest-influenced heavy metal. With their newfound following of heavier music fans and the hair metal scene of the 1980s waning, Pantera did their best to cover up and ignore the existence of those first albums.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Review: Alestorm, "Seventh Rum of a Seventh Rum"

The pirate ship has been righted and is back on course.

I’ve been a fanboy and evangelist for Alestorm since their debut album Captain Morgan’s Revenge in 2008. Christopher Bowes and his goofy band of pirates have put plenty of smiles on my face, and I’ve shouted the band’s praises from the rooftops so loudly that a lot of people I talk music with regularly have probably wished they could make me walk the plank.

Their last lackluster outing, Curse of the Crystal Coconut, left me scratching my head by putting far more emphasis on the goofy than the pirate – and just honestly not featuring many memorable moments. But, hey, 2020 was a rough year for everyone. And so was 2021, particularly for Bowes who became embroiled in some controversy around one of his other bands, Gloryhammer. But in 2022, the world, and the seas, have opened back up. Bowes takes to them with gusto.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Stuck in my Head: Gloryhammer, "Fly Away"


A great deal of turmoil has descended upon the Kingdom of Fife since last we heard from Gloryhammer.

In the summer of 2021, the band unceremoniously fired vocalist Thomas Winkler with a brief, matter-of-fact social-media post just as live music was beginning to make a comeback. Shortly after that firing, a leaked chat transcript revealed some juvenile and offensive chatter between remaining members of the band that included racist and misogynistic jokes. An evil cloud descended upon the land, and it seemed that the former heroes might not be able to save it this time.

OK, I make a little light of what was a serious situation on both fronts. Winkler was an integral part of the band’s sound and was the absolute perfect frontman to take on the role of their main character Angus McFife. Obviously, I don’t need to explain the seriousness of the other charges.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Review: Zeal & Ardor, "Zeal & Ardor"

When a band gets classified as black metal, that’s usually going to be a hard pass. The label conjures up a certain stereotype, I suppose, that just doesn’t appeal to me. I imagine an album that sounds like it was captured on a shoebox recorder in someone’s basement, guitars that sound like angry bees and a guy in corpse paint screaming in an incoherent rasp about Satan. I expect songs that are linear with little melody and certainly nothing so mundane as a chorus or hook.

Yes, I know that’s a broad generalization of the genre and not truly representative of everything it contains, but that’s what immediately comes to mind.

There are plenty of exceptions, but none quite as exceptional as Zeal & Ardor. In fact, I wouldn’t call them black metal at all, but that seems to be the general consensus. There are elements of the music present, certainly, with occasional buzzing guitars and screams, and there’s the general disdain for religion that permeates black-metal lyrics. But there’s so much more at play here, including blues, soul and, strangely enough, a heavy gospel influence.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Review: Aerosmith, "1971: The Road Starts Hear"

As a young boy, I was introduced to Aerosmith by my teenage aunt as we rode the backroads jamming to songs like “Walk this Way” and “Sweet Emotion.” I forgot about them for a few years, until their resurgence in the mid-1980s, at which point I went back to explore their ‘70s work and discovered that I already knew most of it.

Aerosmith was, and remains, one of the two most important musical acts in my life, along with Black Sabbath. I was obsessed with the band for many years, so obsessed in fact that my friends in high school knew that if I was a few minutes late to class, it probably meant that an Aerosmith video had come on MTV at the time that I should have been leaving in the morning, and I had delayed my departure to watch it. I sang the praises of Aerosmith until my friends were sick of hearing it and would insult the band just to get me to shut up and leave. The ‘70s version of the band was just so damned cool, though.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Random Rants: HBO's "Peacemaker" and glam metal

When director James Gunn took on the relatively obscure Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel, he brought a chart-topping soundtrack of 1970s music that connected with audiences and became an integral part of the film’s success.

Now, Gunn has taken on an even more obscure property from DC in the HBO Max series Peacemaker, and he’s done something similar for a surprising genre. In this raunchy romp about a ridiculously goofy and often clueless anti-hero, James Gunn has injected a much-needed dose of humor and silliness into the previously mostly grim DC Comics Universe, and in the process, he’s also injected life back into the glam-metal sounds of the 1980s.

For a child of the ‘80s, the soundtrack for Peacemaker hits hard. But much of the real fun in it is that a great many of the featured bands and songs are not from that era of the glam scene, but from the more recent past. Look no further than the goofy yet endearing opening sequence which has turned Wig Wam’s 2010 track “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” into a bit of a sensation.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Best of 2021: Trivium, BLS, Sumo Cyco, Flotsam and Jetsam, Ad Infinitum, Cody Jinks

I’ve been pretty quiet in 2021, and that’s because it was a year of great change for me. I made a career shift well out of my comfort zone in January, and it was a pretty intense 12 months – but intense in a good way. Because of that, I didn’t get the opportunity to write much about the music that moved me, and there was a lot of it, so I didn’t want to let it all pass without at least some small acknowledgement. I’ve got a lot to say for one best of list, so without further ado, here’s a look at my Best of 2021:

Honorable Mentions

 ANTI-MORTEM – ANTI-MORTEM: This was probably my most anticipated album of the year. I loved their 2014 debut New SouthernNew Southern, and the first single from this record, “Old Washita,” recaptured that grooving Southern sound that hit so close to home for me. It sticks out like a sore thumb on this album, though. The rest of the record is mostly good, but very different than what I expected. The heavy guitar riffs from Nevada Romo are still there, but it has a more modern feel with some electronics thrown in – and Larado Romo’s powerful voice is too often disguised under megaphones or effects. 

Standout songs: “Old Washita,” “STFU,” “Money”