|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:20 PM||comments (0)|
Bigfoot – Bigfoot
Written by The Rock Man
When you work in the world of music journalism as I do, you get bombarded by record company press releases and emails about the “next big thing” or newest “must have” product. So it can take a bit of time sorting through press release after press release trying to weed out the genuine article from the waste of time hot air, and occasionally I have gotten it wrong. For several weeks I received pressers about this band calling themselves Bigfoot who were on the verge of releasing their debut self-titled album. Initially I dismissed it thinking they were nobodies and not worth worrying about until I got sent a copy of their album. So for whatever reason I put it on... and what a revelation!
Instantly a flood of questions fills my mind like: “Who are these hard rock marvels?” and “Why am I only hearing about them now?” and “Where do they come from” and “Why didn’t I pay attention to all those press releases!?”. So let’s break it down: firstly, Bigfoot are a five-piece band from Wigan, England who have released two EPs prior to the release of this full length album. The group consist of Sam Millar and Mick McCullagh on guitars, Matt Avery on bass, Tom Aspinall on drums and Antony Ellis on the mic. The band burst onto the music scene back in the spring of 2014 and have been growing a strong support base touring around their native UK and appearing at major music festivals such as Bloodstock, Hair Metal Heaven and Hard Rock Hell. Now it would appear the band is ready to unleash its fury on the rest of the world.
Bigfoot is an 11 track monster that will knock you clean on your ass. The disc explodes from the speakers in a hail of distorted guitars and deep driving rhythms with the opening song Karma. The track is a spirited take-no-prisoners cut that, not only reflects the energy and charisma of the band, but sets an uncompromising framework for the rest of the album. From here each track is better than the last and when you’re able to produce that kind of gold standard of music the end result will always be nothing short of phenomenal.
It may seem a little unfair to single out a couple of tracks in such a consistently, fully developed, well-balanced body of work, but there are a few which stood out as focal points of the record. Take for example, The Fear, I Dare You, Freak Show and Uninvited which are all sold, hard-edge rockers deserving of maximum volume. In addition, the rockers are passionately supported by two ballad-ish tracks; the stunning, near six-minute Forever Alone and the near nine-minute opus Yours.
Throughout the record the guitar work of Millar and McCullagh is steely edged, assertive and gritty, but always loaded with tonnes of melody and punch. The drumming of Aspinall is fierce, dynamic and unwavering and is well supported by Avery’s thrusting bass which adds extra depth to the overall sound. Vocally, Ellis is his own man and has his own style but from time to time I couldn’t help but hear similarities to Danny Vaughn (Tyketto). That said, he has all the potential to become a star in the making.
It has been some considerable amount of time since I was last excited about the prospect of fresh blood entering the music scene with something solid and valid to offer. In a climate where the question “Is rock dead?” is often asked, for the first time in a decade or so I have optimism that the baton has been passed and the future secure. I know that’s a lot of pressure to put on such a young band who’ve just put out their first album, but I feel super-confident Bigfoot are up for the challenge.
|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:10 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:05 PM||comments (0)|
Autograph – Get Off Your Ass!
Written by The Rock Man
When I think back to 1984, I recall the majority of music fans in those days partying out to the sounds of Michael Jackson, Prince, Cyndi Lauper and Culture Club. But I was going down a different path. Back then I had just discovered Californian hard rockers Autograph, largely thanks to the T.V. show Miami Vice that featured their hit of the day Turn Up The Radio on one of season one's episodes. It’s fair to say that I took to Autograph like a duck to water and from that moment until they disbanded in 1989 they maintained heavy rotation on my stereo system.
Fast forward through 24 years of nothing and some of the original band members reformed in 2013 to play a bunch of shows here and there. This new relaunched version, “Autograph 2.0” if you will, led by guitarist Steve Lynch, drummer Keni Richards and bassist Randy Rand, were now joined by new vocalist Simon Daniels. Unfortunately, Richards time in the band was short and he was replaced by Marc Wieland in 2014 and this line–up has been powering on since appearing at Monsters Of Rock Cruise, Firefest UK, M3 Rock Festival and releasing a 5 track EP titled Louder. But in 2017 the band takes things a step further by offering up their first full length album with this new reincarnation titled Get Off Your Ass!.
I have to be honest here, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this new redesigned union or if they could deliver anything of relevance so I approached this with a fair degree of trepidation. However, to my surprise what I found was an album that not only stands up well against their back catalogue, but also promises a bright future for the band moving forward. A future that I didn’t think possible without original singer Steve Plunkett at the helm.
The band has packaged a collection of 10 songs that make up the track listing for Get Off Your Ass!, although a handful of these cuts first appeared on the Louder EP. In a nutshell, the tracks marinate in ‘80s excess and it becomes blatantly clear as you work your way from track to track that chief architects Lynch and Rand have little interest in trying to reinvent the wheel and are happy bathing in the sunlight of their glory days.
For example, take You Are Us, We Ae You, here is a song which screams 1980s. The track features that familiar chugging guitar tone used so often back in the day and is driven by a strutting rhythm section that commands your feet to tap along. Lyrically the track celebrates the relationship between the band and its fans and in another life time could have easily passed as a KISS song. I Lost My Mind In America follows down a similar musical root: lots of self-assurance and groove and it boasts a big melodic chorus, although the guitars are a little meatier.
All I Own is a mid-paced ballad that offers the record a change of pace. Again, typical ‘80s in attitude with its big melodic chorus and propelling acoustic/electric guitar riffs. The title track explodes in a hail of guitar and drum frenzy before launching into a steady, reliable and standard chugging rhythm so often drawn upon within this style of music and so often with maximum effect and this is no exception. And if that wasn’t enough Lynch lays down a pretty smoking guitar solo as well. A real treat comes at the end of the record with a live version of Turn Up The Radio which holds its own compared to the primary studio version and is a definite selling point of the album. My hat goes off to Daniels who does a sterling job of doing justice to the spirit and energy of the original vocals.
There has been a swag of bands that in recent times have tried to revive their careers with reinvented line-ups. Sadly, most of them just aren’t able to capture the fire they once had, while others have found a way to not only re-engage with the past but clear a path for a strong future. Unquestionably Get Off Your Ass! shows that Autograph easily falls into the latter category.
|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 9:00 PM||comments (0)|
Boulevard IV – Luminescence
Written by Juliano Mallon
Over the years, in recurring conversations about which bands should resume their career, Canada’s Boulevard was always quoted. With only two albums under their belt, the band had left an indelible mark on the scene in the late 1980s just to disappear into the shadows as the 1990s began. Then after 25 years, the band reunited and released the great "Live From Gastown," DVD that captured Boulevard in action at the legendary Warehouse Studios in Vancouver.
And now, finally, after 27 years, the Boulevard - in its fourth incarnation and, therefore, the IV in its name - returns to the scene with "Luminescence", the first album of brand new material since the classic "Into The Street ". With a more contemporary but equally captivating sound, the band comes back in style and shows itself not only renewed but also improved.
The album features a series of engaging and well-built songs, such as the exciting “Life Is A Beautiful Thing”, the radio friendly "Laugh Or Cry" and the explosive "Come Together," three rockers that accurately depict the new phase Boulevard’s into. These three songs are not only highlights of the album, but mainly deserving of your full attention and maximum volume.
Keeping the high level up, "Runnin 'Low", "I Can’t Tell You Why" (and its classy sax), “Slipping Away” and “Don’t Stop The Music” display majesty and property, both common ingredients on any Boulevard song. Here you have four more highlights of the album, and so that maximum volume becomes mandatory once again.
Still, the album offers the mid-pacer "Out Of The Blue" (with a very nice vintage aura) in addition to the ballads "What I'd Give" (introspective, with an intimate arrangement and one of the highlights of the album), "Confirmation" with a more classical structure, especially in the chorus and the wonderful "What Are You Waiting For", with its acoustic base and carefully stripped arrangement, which captivates from the beginning in one of the great moments of the album.
In short, "Luminescence" does more than just mark the return of Boulevard. Bringing to the table excellent compositions, great interpretations and a contemporary sound without falling into the "modern" sameness; the Canadians not only rescued the sound that made them known, but mainly reinvented it carefully, with a contemporary dress that refers to everything that made us enjoy Boulevard many moons ago. That this album has, in fact, marked the return of Boulevard, and I hope we have more material as cool as this in the next years. There is no doubt that "Luminescence" is one of the best surprises of the year.
Boulevard’s “Luminescence” is out now, on MelodicRock Records.
|Posted on November 6, 2017 at 8:50 PM||comments (0)|
Accept – The Rise Of Chaos
Written by The Rock Man
Acclaimed German metal pioneers Accept are one of those examples of bands of a certain vintage that prove retirement is not, and should not be, an option. For over 40 years they have produced quality material time and time again and have out-lasted all the trends of the day. I have a strong belief that when you know who you are as a band, know who your audience is and stay true to that formula, you’ll always be successful. Accept would appear to support that theory. Adding further weight to this argument is the band’s latest effort The Rise Of Chaos, which in short, can only be described as a sold ball of heavy metal mastery.
Guitarist Wolf Hoffman and bassist Peter Baltes have been the driving force since the bands conception back in ’76 and remain so to this day. As for vocalist Mark Tornillo, this is his fourth outing with the band and with each record I feel he consolidates his place in the legacy of Accept. The album also introduces fans to newcomers Christopher Williams on drums and Uwe Lulis on guitar.
For those looking for a little more lyrical substance than the standard ‘boy meets girl’ tag-line, the album is full of thought provoking themed tracks. For as long as I can remember a popular source of inspiration for metal bands throughout the ages has been the destruction of the human race and/or Mother Earth. On The Rise Of Chaos cuts such as Die By The Sword, Race To Extinction and the title track serves the album adequately in this regard.
Koolaid, in short, is a cautionary tale of extreme religious cults. More specifically the 1978 Jonestown massacre where cult leader Jim Jones forced 900 of his followers to participate in a mass murder-suicide. For those of us that grew up in the vinyl/8 track era there’s Analog Man. Here Tornillo laments a simpler time before the world was overtaken by technology with lyrical gems like “I’m an analog man / trapped in a digital world” and “My cell phone is smarter than me”, and this is a song I can honestly relate to.
On Hole In The Head the band focuses on breaking free of the bonds of addiction. The track is written in such a manner that the “addiction” can be interpreted however the listener chooses. Of course anytime you have a metal song called No Regrets it’s pretty obvious what you’re going to get. In a similar vein, What’s Done Is Done shares a simple message that: ‘the past cannot be changed, accept what has happened and move forward’.
Once again the band has turned to producer Andy Sneap (Saxon/Megadeth) to helm the production duties. And why not? Sneap has produced the band’s previous three albums and on those works the results were stunning. Again, the sonics are well balanced, clean and crisp and you can easily identify what each band member is doing and the ratio of vocals to instrument is spot on.
Overall, The Rise Of Chaos is another durable achievement in the band’s extensive contribution to metal music. And with strong efforts like this under its belt, it’s easy to see why Accept have become one of the powerhouses of the German music industry over a four-decade reign.
|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 11:15 PM||comments (4)|
|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 11:10 PM||comments (0)|
H.E.A.T. – Into The Great Unknown
Written by The Rock Man
Sweden’s melodic hard rockers H.E.A.T. are proof that a television singing competition contestant (in this case, Swedish Idol) can take over the vocal duties of an established band and lead them successfully into the future. There are other cases where this has failed miserably but somehow H.E.A.T. have managed to turn this into a strength. Since joining the band in 2010, vocalist Erik Gronwall has elevated the group to new heights on the albums Address The Nation (2012) and Tearing Down The Walls (2014). But it is in 2017 that Gronwall and his fellow H.E.A.T. bandmates take their biggest leap forward with the stunning new release Into The Great Unknown.
There has been a minor change to the band along the way since we last heard from them on Tearing Down The Walls. Late last year guitarist Eric Rivers departed the band and was quickly replaced by former guitarist Dave Dalone who had left the band back in 2013. He now returns to the fold along with bassist Jimmy Jay, keyboardist Jona Tee, drummer Crush, and of course, singer Gronwall. As I say, the change is minor; so minor in fact that you wouldn’t even know something happened as it has no bearing on the band’s sound or ability to write an almighty good melodic rock song.
And that is exactly what you get from H.E.A.T. on Into The Great Unknown; a collection of 10 almighty good melodic hard rock songs. It has to be said that the benchmark is set pretty high with the opening cut Bastard Of Society, which is a blistering anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian anthem. Redefined follows and is a solid melodic rocker, while Best Of The Broken is a less than flattering view of the music industry and bubbles along with a steady toe-tapping beat before launching into a massive melodic chorus.
Blind Leads The Blind is a heavy guitar driven rocker with a great neo-classical keyboard section and scorching guitar solo. This is without doubt one of the band’s heaviest tracks recorded. Eye Of The Storm serves the album as a mid-paced ballad-ish track that focuses on the hardships of being in a relationship. We Rule is a slow burner to start that builds into a heartfelt rocker. If it’s classic radio friendly H.E.A.T. you’re craving, then you can’t go past Do You Want It? Lyrically the song is about bad sex; apparently inspired by a trip to Thailand, according to Gronwell. Bringing the album to a conclusion
is the seven-and-a-half-minute title cut. Some of the main features of the track include a massive gritty heavy guitar riff, lots of rhythmic strut, a big chorus and melodic harmonies and a nice symphonic section at the mid-way point where we find a trade-off between guitars, keyboards and bass.
While the title of this new effort is Into The Great Unknown there is no doubt where this band is headed. This is the band’s fifth studio album overall and the third to feature Gronwall and its clear that H.E.A.T. have a very straightforward understanding of who they are, what they do best and what their fans want. Simply put: pure unadulterated rock and roll pleasure.
|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 11:00 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
Janet Gardner – Janet Gardner
Written by The Rock Man
I have said this many times before, the 1980s was a glorious time for the hard rock/metal scene. Tonnes of make-up, spandex, smoke bombs, laser light shows, scorching guitars and ear shattering vocal acrobatics; and this was mostly the male bands I listened to. But there were a couple of female bands around holding their own at the time too, take for example L.A. rockers Vixen. Considered by many as the all-female version of Bon Jovi, I thought they were simply awesome. To this day I consider their debut self-titled album (1988) and their sophomore release Rev It Up (1990) to be two of the classic hard rock records of that generation.
I was convinced they had a bright future ahead, but then, as we all know by now, the landscape changed dramatically during the 1990s and that style of glam metal became redundant. Fast forward 19 years later after she last recorded with the band back in 1998 and lead singer Janet Gardner is releasing her first solo album, simply self-titled.
To be honest I thought I had a fair idea what to expect from the Vixen singer, but I was way off base on this one. Upon first impressions it would appear that Gardner has tried to put some distance between herself as a solo artist and that of her role in Vixen. This record is very aggressive in tone and very heavy on a gritty, dark guitar attitude which is aided by her guitar playing husband Justin James, who also serves as album producer. Vocally Gardner still has what made her a powerhouse back in the ‘80s.
The album pulls no punches as it is a short and sharp 10 track affair running in at just under 40 minutes. Rat Hole kicks us off and it becomes crystal clear that this is going to be a modern sounding metal record with little time for ‘80s nostalgia. The track is driven by raw and ballsy guitars with slight undertones of industrial rock, while vocally the song relies heavily on effects such as phasing and distortion in selected areas for maximum impact.
The album quickly settles into a rhythm with rockers like Your Problem Now, Hippycrite, Lost and The Grind all following a similar formula to the album’s lead track of contemporary sounding, intense and assertive rock and roll. On Best Friend, however, we get a chance to catch our breaths with this acoustic ballad that is a real standout moment and showcases Gardner’s vocal ability, as I said before, she’s still got it. Bringing the album to a conclusion is The Good Or The Bye which out of the 10 tracks on offer is the only one that resembles anything like a Vixen song.
Lyrically Gardner has a few things she wants to get off her chest and explores issues such as psychological abuse, social and political commentary and despair as well as the stock standard topics of love, desire and relationships.
Initially I was taken aback by what Gardner served up on her debut record, but after several listens the tide has changed. This is a new-fashioned record for a modern audience, a generation that has embraced this style of new-fangled metal; but this doesn’t mean that us ‘old-school’ rockers can’t enjoy it too. It’s an interesting blend of textures, dynamics and techniques and as a fan boy of her previous work I look forward to what potentially comes next.
|Posted on September 11, 2017 at 10:50 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
Mr. Big – Defying Gravity
Written by The Rock Man
They just don’t make them like they used to…. Or do they? As a fan of hard edge rock and roll bands from the ‘80s I often lament “The good old days”, when bands took pride in their work and created music from the soul and with conviction. These days there seems to be a lack of imagination, technical excellence and passion about making rock albums, about track selection, about cover design and about delivering a quality product to the fans who made their careers a success in the first place. However, Mr. Big are one of the few bands left from that by-gone era that could mount a serious case to the contrary.
The band are into their 28th year of recording music and over that time I am yet to hear one sub-par or rubbish record. Their brand new effort Defying Gravity is no exception and maintains the high level of craftsmanship associated with this band. And when any band can boast the outrageous magnitude of talent from musicians like guitarist Paul Gilbert, bassist Billy Sheehan, drummer Pat Torpey and vocalist Eric Martin, then it hardly comes as a surprise that anything they record is going to be of the highest standard possible.
Sheehan doesn’t just play bass and make music. No, he creates works of sonic art and the notes emanate from the speakers and dance before your eyes. Gilbert mesmerizes and dazzles as his versatile fingers navigate with ease across the fret board and guitar strings. While Martin effortlessly blends rock and roll crunch with a smooth sensual soulfulness and pitch perfect harmonies that leave many of his frontman counterparts looking flat and lifeless. And then there is Torpey, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease back in 2014. The fact that he can play at all is testimony to the human spirit and with the addition and support of drummer Matt Starr, who was brought in for this project, lays down some solid, groove-laden rhythms.
In a move that will feel all too familiar for long-term fans of the band, the record kicks off with the spoken phrase “Okay, we’re rolling!”. This was used to great effect on the opening track of their debut self-titled album way back in 1989, and once again the band ventures down this road with equally stunning results on Open Your Eyes. The album’s title song is a great little rocker with a quirky melodic guitar hook running through the verses before exploding into your standard massive Mr. Big chorus; this is then proceeded by Everybody Needs A Little Trouble, which is classic Mr. Big with its big polished production, deep driving rhythms, shredding guitars and dynamic vocals.
The pace takes a slight detour with the acoustically drive mid-tempo Damn I’m In Love Again. Here you’ll find lots of vocal harmonies and soulful “Do-do-do, do-do, do’s” and “Yeah, yeah, yeahs” and sentiments of unexpected love. Mean To Me is an eclectic rocker, the standout feature here is the duelling licks between Sheehan’s deep cutting bass and Gilbert’s high pitch guitar hook that inevitably launch into a smoking solo. Interestingly, the track was musically inspired by the rhythm section of Christina Aguilera’s What A Girl Wants and has been twisted to fit the band’s needs, this track alone is worth the price of admission.
Further down the track listing other highlights worth noting include the mid-paced ballad Forever And Back, where Martin’s vocals come into their own as he contemplates lost opportunities in love. There is the brilliant rocker 1992, where the band reflects on their sudden and meteoric rise to fame during the early ‘90s with the chart topping To Be With You single and the blues-laden Be Kind which brings the album to a satisfying conclusion.
From day one Mr. Big have prided themselves on not just making good quality records but blazing high impact pieces of music and Defying Gravity is yet another example of that creative excellence.
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:20 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
Quiet Riot - Road Rage
Written by The Rock Man
You never forget your first. Whether it’s your first car, your first job, your first date, your first whatever… you never forget. In 1983 I had my first encounter with L.A. Heavy Metal and a whole new world opened up to me thanks to Quiet Riot and their album Metal Health. Since then Quiet Riot have been an integral part of the soundtrack to my life and regardless of the vocal revolving door policy that has dogged the band since original singer Kevin DuBrow’s passing in 2007, I have continued to support the band in whichever version it presents itself.
This newest incarnation sees new vocalist James Durbin join guitarist Alex Grossi, bassist Chuck Wright and band stalwart drummer Frankie Banali on their new studio recording Road Rage. This is a brand new chapter in the band’s legacy as Durbin, a former American Idol contestant, takes the reigns of the band’s vocal duties after the departure of Jizzy Pearl. The one thing I try to do each time the band changes lead vocals is try to leave my love and affection for Kevin DuBrow at the door and judge the band on what they are doing here and now. Because let’s face it, the simple fact is no one is going to come close to DuBrow; much the same way as no one will ever come close to Freddie Mercury in Queen.
So what does this all mean for Durbin? Well, after a couple of listens to the album I believe that the guy might have a future as the frontman of these metal legends; after all, Banali has put his faith in this young kid, so I’ll back his judgement and do the same. Musically that big, bombastic ‘80s swagger still exists and is flaunted throughout the album. From note one of the opening cut Can’t Get Enough it is crystal clear the band have regained their appetite for their craft. The track features all the hallmarks which has made the band an iconic name in metal music: gritty, raw and meaty guitars, solid and unwavering groove-laden rhythms and powerful, take-no-prisoners vocals.
To prove that this wasn’t dumb luck, the band repeats this formula over and over with each track and the results don’t lie, this is a solid, fun, let-your-hair-down record. Some notable highlights include Wasted, Knock ‘em Down, Renegades and Still Wild which are all balls-to-the-wall rockers and serve as a fair sample size of work to give an indication of where Quiet Riot is heading from this point on. But the two tracks that stood out for me as the “gold standard” were Freak Flag and The Road. On Freak Flag we find the band in “classic” Quiet Riot mode, the track is dripping with a big driving bass line, an irresistible drum strut, a healthy dose of guitar arrogances and a massive melodic chorus. While The Road serves as the album’s mid-temp ballad-ish track as the band reflects on life on the road as a touring act and thoughts about the families that get left at home.
It has been well documented the struggles this band, and Banali in particular, have gone through since the passing of DuBrow. I am just thankful that the band appears to be in a peaceful place right now and can enjoy making music once more and if Road Rage is anything to go by then whatever is to come next has the potential to be very exciting. Thank you Quiet Riot for all your past efforts and for your welcomed return.
|Posted on August 15, 2017 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:10 AM||comments (0)|
Nickelback – Feed The Machine
Written by The Rock Man
I’m going to ask you to do something, which for some of you may be difficult - I want you to forget everything you think you know about Nickelback. Forget that they are one of the most commercially successful groups to come out of Canada. Forget that they have sold over 50 million albums worldwide. Forget that Billboard ranks them as the most successful rock band of the 2000s. And forget that they have become one of the most hated bands over the past 20 years. I want you to try and forget all of that because if you do, then you may be blown away by the direction of their new album Feed The Machine.
This new body of work is the band’s ninth studio release and it’s also their grittiest, edgiest, rawist, most aggressive, take-no-prisoners effort to date. Sure, on previous albums they have had some vigorous and intense moments, but nothing like you’ll experience on Feed The Machine. At several points throughout the album I found myself thinking about the sonic tone of the material, “OMG they are so enraged!”, and I for one loved it.
The first single and title track kicks-off the album and from note one sets out very clearly and commandingly Nickelback’s mood and course plot over the next 45 minutes. Guitarist Ryan Peake is on fire throughout this record and his work here can more than hold its own against some of the best in the metal world. While frontman Chad Kroeger sings with a passion and sometimes rage I haven’t heard since Never Again and Too Bad. Oh, and that pounding, almost bursting feeling you’ll experience in your chest, that’s coming from bassist Mike Kroeger and drummer Daniel Adair.
What thrilled me the most about Feed The Machine is the relentless nature of the album. There is very little time to catch your breath as you work your way through one potent and driving track to the next. Some noteworthy moments include Coin For The Ferryman, For The River, Must Be Nice and the dynamic and enraged The Betrayal. Of course there are a handful of ballads on here but even they seem to have a bit more edge to them musically and occasionally lyrically. Take for example Home (which may or may not have been influenced by Kroeger’s failed marriage to singer Avril Lavigne) has a definite regretful and irritated tone to it.
What you won’t find on the album is cliché rock and roll lyrics that they have become known for such as “I like you pants around your feet”. Instead Kroeger and co appear to have some stuff they want to get off their collective chests and leave the listener in no doubt what they think about a range of issues such as a possible dystopian future, emotional despair and hopelessness, social consciousness and the affluently privileged.
Like I said at the beginning, forget what preconceived ideas you have about this band. Feed The Machine could be a defining moment in the group’s career; and it may change a lot of people’s minds and introduce the band to a new generation of fans. What I can say with absolute clarity is that Feed The Machine is one mighty impressive work of outstanding craftsmanship and artistry.
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:05 AM||comments (0)|
Styx – The Mission
Written by The Rock Man
I love concept records. In fact, some of the greatest albums in rock history are concept records. I also love 70's hard rock and science fiction; so if you blend all these ingredients together, life is pretty awesome. It also happens to be the basis of a bold and ambitious new project by progressive rock veterans Styx titled The Mission.
It wasn’t enough that Styx decided to record new material - their first batch of new songs in 14 long years - but they also added the complexity of making it a concept record as well. And then to add a further layer of difficulty to the album the band chose to record it using old fashioned analog technology (it is possible that a younger generation will have no idea what I’m talking about here), a process that nobody uses anymore. The result: one of the most stunning and captivating records I’ve heard in decades.
The plot line is really simple: a crew of six adventurous space travellers from Earth are on a mission to Mars in the year 2033 aboard the spacecraft Khedive. Naturally, as it so often happens in science fiction, things tend to go pear shaped and the fight for survival ensues. The story develops over the course of 14 tracks or 43 minutes and I’m sure someone will see faint similarities between this tale and that of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
The story is narrated through the characters of The Pilot – Tommy Shaw (vocals/guitar), The First Officer – Lawrence Gowan (vocals/keyboards) and The Cynic – James ‘JY’ Young (vocals/lead guitar) with the rest of the band playing minor roles and vocally each band member does an impressive job at conveying the seriousness of the crew’s plight as the story and album unfolds. Musically, the band taps into a very defined ‘70s progressive rock sound and coupled with short musical interludes that segue from track to track create a dynamic atmosphere that elevates the material to the next level.
While the album is designed to be enjoyed as a whole experience, it is worth noting a few outstanding moments. Take for instants the groove laden Hundred Million Miles From Home or the phenomenal powerful ballad The Greater Good, that sees Shaw and Gown trade vocal chops with an unrivalled degree of prowess. Red Storm is classic Styx as it trades acoustic guitar parts with smoking electric lead licks and blistering solos and is further enhanced by atmospheric piano sections at the back end. Then there is The Outpost which is simply a triumph of melodic 70's radio rock.
When I first heard that Styx were embarking on recording new music I was pretty stoked. It had been such a long time since they had done anything fresh that I was happy to just have them put out some new product. But I had absolutely no idea just how impressive The Mission would turn out to be, this is good old fashioned record making in every respect. From the genuine 70's sound to the recording process to the craftsmanship and mastery of the playing and writing. They literally don’t make albums like this anymore… which is such a shame.
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:00 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 1:50 AM||comments (0)|
Cheap Trick – We’re All Alright!
Written by The Rock Man
When Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s Cheap Trick released their Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello! album in 2016, I don’t think anybody expected a follow up record so quickly. Yet 14 months down the road these Illinois rock veterans are back with the remarkable We’re All Alright!.
This rapid turnaround between records certainly takes me back to era when musicians and bands brought out new product on a yearly basis, even twice yearly on some occasions. These days you can wait 5-10 years just to get an EP off some artists, so the fact that Cheap Trick have managed to knockout two quality records in such a short amount of time is testimony to their work ethic and standards.
I guess one could be forgiven for thinking that an album rushed out in no amount of time would suffer from a lack of character and polish but to the contrary, Cheap Trick have crafted 10 glossy and skillful songs (13 on the Deluxe Edition) that vary from hard rock to punk to psychedelic to good old-fashioned 70's rock in tone and attitude.
The album launches into top gear with You Got It Going On, a track that is best described as loud, hard, driving and overflowing with 70's bluster. This is proceeded by the lead single Long Time Coming which follows a similar formula. From here the band mixes things up a bit with the punkish Nowhere and Radio Lover, the quirky Floating Down, the Beatle-esque She’s Alright and the 90's driving hard rock of Brand New Name On An Old Tattoo.
Father Time clearly isn’t having an impact on the band either as Robin Zander’s vocals sound as fresh, flamboyant and dynamic as they did 40 years ago. While Rick Nielsen has lost none of his flair, innovation and eccentric nature of guitar playing. Tom Petersson, as we’ve become accustomed to over the years, is predictable and solid as a rock on bass and Daxx Nielsen on his second outing with the band, brings a youthful energy and rich, lively tone to the sonics of the drum tracks.
I have always thought of Cheap Trick as one of those bands that you either get it or you don’t. There’s really no fence sitting here - you’re either a fan or you’re not. I like bands that have that kind of ‘with us or against us’personality about them and Cheap Trick definitely fit the bill in that regard. I can’t imagine that there is anything on this latest effort that will change whatever opinion you hold towards this band.
In this ever changing disposable bubble-gum pop obsessed world we currently live in, it’s good that bands such as Cheap Trick continue to defiantly and unapologetically fly the flag for the glory days of rock music. For those of you still out there flying that same flag, We’re All Alright! is a worthy addition for collectors of good old-fashioned quality Rock and Roll.
|Posted on June 28, 2017 at 1:45 AM||comments (0)|
Radiation Romeos – Radiation Romeos
Written by The Rock Man
So I stumble upon this self-titled record by a band calling themselves Radiation Romeos. I have no idea who they are and I haven’t heard a single note of their music. My first thought is “Huh, Radiation Romeos, that’s a line from the Steve Stevens song Atomic Playboys!”. My second thought is “Who are these guys and how dare they rip off Steve Stevens?’. Upon further investigation it turns out that Radiation Romeos is the new band of Parramore McCarty, the vocalist who sang on Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys album way back in 1989.
As I stare at the band photo I realize that McCarty has gone through some changes: gone are the skin-tight leathers and the long jet black mop of hair so fashionable back in the day. In its place is a man with a shorter blonde cut and sporting jeans and a designer style t-shirt and I wonder if McCarty is still able to rock like he used to… I press play and it becomes clear I had no reason for concern, the voice is still there.
The album explodes with a burst of melodic guitar riffs and punchy drums accompanied by McCarty’s powerhouse vocals on the opening track Radiation Romeos. Yep, they even have a song called that too. The song itself could’ve easily featured on the Atomic Playboys record and reflects the solid and consistent nature of the material to come. Cuts such as Ocean Drive, On The Tight Rope, Castaways and Monstertraxx are fine examples of what I’m talking about.
But it is worth mentioning a few standards like the blistering Bad, Bad Company. This track comes packed with serious attitude and gritty melodic bite. Promised Land lays down a nice meaty guitar arrangement and solid drum grooves under scored by Middle Eastern sounds and influences. Ghost Town is a throwback to the late ‘80s/early ‘90s ‘cowboy-influenced’ style hard rock tunes made popular at the time by bands such as Tyketto, Firehouse, Tangier and the like. It’s strong on acoustic guitar blended with shredding melodies and solos and lots of clichés and metaphors about ‘moving on’, ‘nothing tying me down’, ‘tumbleweed’ and ‘no horse towns’.
It’s not often that I will be critical, but if there was one minor issue I had with any of the material on the record it would be the disjointed lyrical flow of Mystic Mountain. Not sure if this track was a little rushed but it just seemed to me to struggle getting a rhythm going. However, this slight misstep wasn’t enough to stop me enjoying the album as a whole.
To that end I can’t imagine most fans of hard rock from that golden age not finding something of value on this record. Those searching for an enhanced musical experience with complex arrangements and thought provoking lyrics won’t find that here. Radiation Romeos is best suited to connoisseurs of pure rock and roll fun.