Friday, July 12, 2024

Review: Wage War, "Stigma"


Normally, I'm a fan of bands with identity crises, but I find Wage War to be pretty frustrating. On the one hand, they'll deliver an awesome heavy tune like "Death Roll" from their 2021 album Manic, then they'll turn around and give you one of the most generic and uninteresting radio rock tunes that you've ever heard. I find it hard to believe that anyone can enjoy both sides of the band equally, but apparently, they're out there. Stigma is no different in that I find myself really enjoying about half the album.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Review: Dominum, "Hey Living People"


Pitches at Napalm Records must be crazy.

Band: Our gimmick is that we're not musicians, we're actually ...

Napalm: Say no more. Here's a contract.

I joke, but pirates, werewolves, dwarves, gladiators, dinosaurs, and apparently, now zombies.

Dominum is an artsy power metal band with a zombie gimmick and an interesting sound that sets them a bit apart from the pack with flavors of Savatage, Queen and others.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Review: Kiuas, "Samooja: Pyhiinvaellus"


Kiuas was one of my favorite mid-2000s discoveries. They had a sound that was really all their own at the time -- a blend of power, folk, and death metal, with occasional forays into thrashier territory or blackened realms (though there's really none of the more extreme end here). They released four great albums on Spinefarm Records, including two fantastic ones in their debut for the label Spirit of Ukko and their 2008 album The New Dark Age, then after 2010's Lustdriven, they disappeared.

I was surprised a few months back to see an unfamiliar song from them pop up as a recommendation from Spotify, and I immediately clicked on it to find that they had released a new EP, Samooja: Pyhiinvaellus, which translates to Samoa: Pilgrimage. I was thrilled to hear new music from them again.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Review: Blackberry Smoke, "Be Right Here"

I consider Blackberry Smoke’s 2012 album The Whippoorwill to be one of the greatest Southern rock albums of all time, and yet I haven’t listened to it in years. It was a record that arrived in the darkest hour of my life and seemed written for me.

I identified with nearly every song on it, and I’m not being dramatic when I say that it played a huge role in helping me survive the turmoil and return to the land of the living again. And therein lies the problem. While I’ll still occasionally rock out to “Sleeping Dogs” or “Shakin’ Hands with the Holy Ghost,” some of my favorite songs from The Whippoorwill – like “Ain’t Much Left of Me” and the title track – are too tightly tied to that darkness for me to comfortably revisit. They hold emotions and feelings that are better left in the past.

For years now, I’ve wished that Blackberry Smoke could release another album that hit the way that The Whippoorwill did so I could enjoy it in better times. While I’ve liked most of what they’ve done, it’s never quite reached that pinnacle. But Be Right Here may be the record that I’ve been waiting for them to make.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Review: Durbin, "Screaming Steel"


After years of trying to cash in on his "American Idol" fame with more radio-friendly rock fare, James Durbin turned to his passion for 1980s metal on his 2021 album The Beast Awakens. While the style is not likely to land him on top of the charts, it did seem like he was having more fun. He's continued that on the follow-up Screaming Steel, wearing his influences on his sleeves and basically writing another love letter to classic metal.

What's hot?

The record is a treasure trove of Easter eggs and inside references for fans of classic metal. It starts in the title track, where Durbin throws out references to classic bands and songs almost non-stop. Is it campy? Absolutely. Do I care? Not at all. I'm banging my head and shouting them out along with him. The strongest performance on the album, in my opinion, though, is one of the shortest tracks here, the Dio tribute "The Worshipper 1897." I love the whole delivery, and it makes me wish that Dio was still around to maybe do a guest shot on it. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Best of 2023, Part 2: In Flames, Avatar, Metallica, Nita Strauss, Overkill

Continuing my list of top 20 albums of 2023:

No. 10. NITA STRAUSS – THE CALL OF THE VOID: The long-time Alice Cooper guitar slinger delivers her second solo album, this time shaking things up with a whole host of guest artists (including the boss), as well as some incredible instrumental pieces. The songs with guest stars do tend to take on the flavor of the guest’s band, but that’s honestly not a problem at all as it brings great variety from the melodic death metal influence of “The Wolf You Feed,” featuring Arch Enemy vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, to the quirky nu metal of “Dead Inside,” featuring David Draiman of Disturbed, to the all-out hard rock of “Victorious,” featuring Dorothy. But it’s not just guest vocalists that Strauss brings on as we get a shredder's dream collab with Marty Friedman on “Surfacing,” to close the record. Call of the Void is a solid album that should appeal not only to guitar fans, but fans of great rock songs.

Standout songs: “Summer Storm,” “The Wolf You Feed,” “Victorious,” “Winner Takes All,” “Kintsugi,” “Surfacing”

Monday, January 1, 2024

Best of 2023, Part 1: Icon of Sin, Extreme, Texas Hippie Coalition, Burning Witches, Gloryhammer, Angus McSix

This was another surprisingly good music year for me. Perhaps not as strong as 2022, but still solid enough to produce a Best of 2023 list that includes a lot of very familiar faces and a few newcomers:

No. 20. GRYMHEART – HELLISH HUNT: There were several albums competing for this last spot on my list, including solid new efforts from Prong and Spirit Adrift. In the end, though, Grymheart’s debut album was just too much fun to deny. From the first time I stumbled across “Ignis Fatuus,” I knew this was my kind of band – a blend of folk metal, power metal, and extreme metal with some super addictive melodies. The lyrics are, at times, pretty awful, but since the only Hungarian words I know I learned from Alestorm, I really can’t knock them for their English lyrics.

Standout songs: “Ignis Fatuus,” “My Hellish Hunt,” “Fenrir’s Sons,” “Monsters Among Us”