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Judas Priest - Turbo 30 (30th Anniversary Edition)
Written by The Rock Man
Remastered albums… To be perfectly honest with you, more often than not, I couldn’t care less for them. I usually view them as an excuse for a band to fulfil record contract obligations that are nearing the end. Sometimes it also seems like a good excuse for giving a young, green-behind-the-ears studio engineer some much need experience; or my favourite reason of all, after the band in question has long left the record label or broken up, the label, who would own the rights to the material, can continue at will to use it as a cash grab year after year.
However, every now and then an album comes along that can justify the “Remastered” treatment. It also helps if the band is still together and has endorsed the process, and that boys and girls is what separates the 30th Anniversary Edition of the Judas Priest album Turbo from other remastered works going around. But Turbo 30 isn’t just a reworking off a controversial record in their decorated careers; this edition also contains two live CDs as well adding extra bang for your hard earned dollar.
Firstly though, the original album. Turbo was released in 1986 and at the time ruffled a few feathers amongst the “hard-core” traditional metal fraternity. The album dared to expand the boundaries and scope that the band would operate in by introducing new technologies and elements like synth-guitars. For some, the blending of traditional recording methods and sounds with new innovative ideas was a little too much to swallow. I however never had this problem and to this day I still regard Turbo as one of the band’s highest achievements. So upon hearing about the remastered Turbo 30 release my initial thought was “How do you improve on what is already a brilliant record?”
A good start is to be respectful of the material and not to over-equalize/over-compress/over-dub/over-blah, blah, blah the original work. By and large the album has only gone through minimal tweaks and changes, retaining the same spirit of the original. In simpler terms it’s been given a fresh coat of paint giving it a smoother, polished, pop of energy. The album’s greatest strength has always been the material anyway: cuts like the anti-PMRC inspired Parental Guidance, the feel-good summer track Wild Nights, Hot and Crazy Days, the fist-pumping Rock You All Around The World and the iconic lead single Turbo.
Now, onto the live stuff. Featured over two discs is a recording of the band’s Fuel For Life Tour of ’86. These live performances are from the Kemper Arena in Kansas City and capture the energy and decadence of the era. In addition to a number of tracks from the Turbo album, fans will be more than satisfied with live cuts of definitive Judas Priest gems such as Living After Midnight, Hell Bent For Leather, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, Metal Gods and the iconic Breaking The Law. As a live act Judas Priest have stood amongst the top echelon of metal performers for four decades. After listening to this live performance it’s very easy to see why they have been crowned “The Metal Gods” and why lead vocalist Rob Halford is so highly regarded by many as the best in the business. As someone who has never really been a big fan of live albums, these recordings have managed to reproduce the excitement, adrenaline and frenzy of a live concert experience not found on other live records.
When I heard the announcement that Turbo 30 was going to be re-issued I was surprised; as I said before, in its day it divided fans. And to be honest I really can’t see this 30th Anniversary Edition changing too many people’s minds; simply you’re a fan of the material or you’re not. If however, like me you are, then this package will not only let you re-live those glory days of the ‘80’s metal scene, but take it to another level.
|Posted on March 31, 2017 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on March 30, 2017 at 11:50 PM||comments (0)|
Stephen Pearcy – Smash
Written by The Rock Man
During the 1980s, the Sunset Strip – in West Hollywood, California – was dominated by the glam hard rock scene. Bands such as Faster Pussycat, Enuff Z’Nuff, L.A. Guns and the like ran riot on the Strip and leading the pack were three major players of the genre: Motley Crue, Poison and Ratt. All three would go on to have their moment in the spotlight and at one point or another become darlings of MTV. But what made Ratt standout above the crowd was the raw, raspy, energetic and distinctive voice of lead singer Stephen Pearcy.
In the same way as you knew instantly who you were listening to when you heard a Cinderella song back in those days, the same was also true of Ratt, largely due to Pearcy. However, like most of these bands, the 1990s were not kind to Ratt and the band would “disband” or be “on hiatus”, depending on who you spoke to. In any case, Pearcy would leave to pursue other ventures.
One of those projects would be a solo career which has yielded the Californian native four solo records. But unlike his tenure as the frontman for Ratt, his solo efforts haven’t always been met with glowing acceptance with many fans divided and opinions often polarised. Despite this Pearcy continues to create and record new music, and maybe with the release of his new studio work Smash fortune may smile once again.
In simple terms Smash comes across as a blending of classic ‘80’s sounds and attitude with a modern day rock and roll twist. I have always believed that the opening couple of tracks should lay out for you what is to unfold on the rest of the record; and the opening songs on Smash serve this purpose well. We kick off with I Know I’m Crazy, which mixes raw, edgy and gritty contemporary sounds with melodic attitudes from yesteryear. This formula also aids Pearcy well on tracks such as Dead Roses, Want Too Much and Passion Infinity. And then there are the songs, which no matter how hard Pearcy tries, just sound like they belong on a Ratt record. Cuts like Ten Miles Wide, Hit Me With A Bullet, Rain and I Can’t Take It ooze ‘80s decadence and that distinct Ratt attitude and flavour which would become their trademark.
Overall the production is pretty solid, something that is often criticized on previous outings and the band is solid also. Pearcy gets a lot of criticism for continuing his career and many fans feel he has had his day and should hang up the microphone. But what I discovered on Smash is a pleasant surprise and not what I was expecting. If this was an album under the Ratt banner, I’d be pretty satisfied with the result.
|Posted on March 30, 2017 at 11:45 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on December 11, 2016 at 8:40 PM||comments (0)|
Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct
Written by The Rock Man
After a long eight-year absence Metallica are back and by God they are back with a vengeance! Their new album Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is one of the most anticipated albums, not only of the year, but for quite some time. And what becomes abundantly clear from moment one of pressing play is that it was worth every long, agonising minute of that eight-year wait.
Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is a brutal, aggressive, take no prisoners, unrelenting lesson in how metal should be done in this day and age. It flawlessly combines all the elements of what we love about ‘80s metal with the finer points of the genre today. In short, an album not for the faint of heart.
On numerous occasions the band have stated their desire to pick up where the last record Death Magnetic left off and personally I would have to say mission accomplished as Hardwired… To Self-Destruct quite easily could have been subtitled: Death Magnetic 2.0. One aspect of Hardwired… To Self-Destruct however, that sets it apart from Death Magnetic is in the production stakes. With all the respect in the world to legendary producer Rick Rubin, the last album was poorly produced and criticised by some fans and media alike.
But Hardwired… To Self-Destruct doesn’t show any signs of the distorted/compressed technique which was unnecessarily prominent on the last effort. Produced by frontman James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich and Greg Fidelman this new offering is definitely more sonically pleasing to the ear in terms of its production and mixing values.
The material featured on the album however is like being hit by a battering ram from start to finish. By now we’ve all heard the lead single and opening track Hardwired, which sets the pace and standard for the album very nicely indeed. From here it’s one heavy rocker after another leaving the listener very little time to breathe as the record contains no ballads, there are of course a number of tempo changes within songs but that is about it.
While the album overall is very consistent in its quality from track to track, there are a couple of standout moments worth pointing out. Metallica have had a long history of exploring military subject matter and its destructive aftermath and Confusion is now another worthy edition. Lyrically the song focuses on PTSD and I walked away from this song with a real sense of thought for what military people must go through trying to adjust to normal life after service.
Spit Out The Bone is a fitting frenetic bookend to the title and opening track. Lyrically the band explores the addictive obsession mankind has developed with technology, but cleverly they do it from the technologies point of view. Also of note are the tracks Now That We’re Dead with its groove laden drum rhythm and ‘80s style chugging guitar bed and Here Comes Revenge which tackles one of the oldest motivators of mankind, sweet revenge.
At the end of the standard two disc, 12 track, one hour and eighteen-minute running version you’re still craving more ‘Tallica’ action, then fans can sink their teeth into the Deluxe Edition which comes with a third disc jam packed with extra goodies. Included on this bonus disc is ten blistering live performances, Ronnie Rising Medley (a tribute to Ronnie James Dio), a cover of Iron Maiden’s Remember Tomorrow, Deep Purple’s When A Blind Man Cries and the scorching track Lords Of Summer which Metallica have played in their set over the past couple of years, available for the first time as a studio version.
If it’s value for money you’re looking for then you can’t go past Hardwired… To Self-Destruct. With material this strong it’s hard to imagine the band is going to slow down and retire any time soon; which is great because the rock world needs bands like Metallica to continue doing its thing for as long as it can. Lord knows there isn’t any new talent coming through worth paying to hear, so let’s just hope it isn’t another eight years between records from these legendary San Francisco metallers.
|Posted on December 11, 2016 at 8:35 PM||comments (0)|
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HammerFall – Built To Last
Written by The Rock Man
For close to two decades Sweden’s HammerFall have administered their brand of medieval themed fantasy heavy metal to the masses; and that impart continues with the release of the band’s new album Built To Last.
I don’t know whether Built To Last is just a clever title or the band making a statement but I can’t think of a better way to describe the resolve of this band over time. When you consider that when the band formed in the mid-1990s metal music was struggling to survive and the world was caught up in Grunge fever. The demand for this type of ‘80s Judas Priest/Accept inspired music was pretty low. So to forge a career with this style of metal and be successful with it over a twenty year recording career, while their peers are going off in a different direction, is quite honestly extraordinary and courageous.
From day one guitarist and band founder Oscar Dronjak has had a clear vision of what he wanted HammerFall to be and the legacy of that vision continues to grow with Built To Last. This is an album for the true believers, those who have metal running in their veins, those who appreciate that metal is more than a form of artistic expression but a lifestyle, those that live it day to day.
The album kicks off in blinding fashion with Bring It! and honestly this track alone tells you everything you need to know about this record. The guitar work from Dronjack and Pontus Norgren is flamboyant, flawless and exhilarating but all the while maintaining a nice balance of melodic punch, while the solos are scorching to say the least. Bassist Fredrik Larsson hits the pocket every time with his bass runs while drummer David Wallin lays down some solid double bass thunder and reliable snare aggression and swagger. Which leaves vocalist Joacim Cans, arguable one of the best in the industry today. The melodies and harmonies are dynamic, beautiful and soaring all at the same time and delivered with power.
But if you still require additional evidence look to tracks such as Hammer High, Stormbreaker, The Star Of Home and Dethrone And Defy as further confirmation. But of all the noteworthy tracks on Built To Last the standout moment for me was New Breed. In 2016 you don’t get anymore ‘80s metal in style and attitude than this song; this juggernaut captures the spirit of metal perfectly with its driving, snappy guitar hook to die for and who could resist lyrics like “New Breed/old breed/we are all the same breed/heavy metal running through our veins”… classic isn’t it? Of course it’s not all full steam ahead, the band takes the opportunity to show a gentler side with the tracks Twilight Princess and Second To None which execute a stirring balance of power and grace.
Built To Last, like many of the band’s works, is a prime example of how metal should be done today. The fact that so many bands of their generation choose to ignore this is a little disturbing to me but that argument is for another day. For here and now however I am just grateful that there is still one band out there prepared to stay the course for traditional heavy metal of old.
|Posted on November 6, 2016 at 8:40 PM||comments (0)|
Bon Jovi – This House Is Not For Sale
Written by The Rock Man
For those rock fans feeling a little unsatisfied with the past couple of Bon Jovi releases, the pleasing news is their new studio album This House Is Not For Sale is guaranteed to make those previous efforts a distant memory. By his own admission, frontman and chief architect Jon Bon Jovi has stated that the past year or so has been difficult for himself and the band; but on THINFS what we find here is a band re-energised and firing on all cylinders.
So before we go any further let’s address the elephant in the room: The departure of Richie Sambora. While I still have trouble coming to terms with the fact that I now live in a world where Sambora is no longer the right hand man to JBJ, the simple fact is he’s not in the band anymore. End of story. The burning question then becomes: Can Bon Jovi successfully exist without Sambora? Strangely, after just one listen to THINFS the answer might not only be yes, but “Hell Yeah!”
Bon Jovi have always been and will continue to be a “heavy guitar driven” rock outfit and a major part of that now falls on Phil X (Xenidis), and it doesn’t take too long into the album before you get the feeling he is more that capable of getting the job done. The solos throughout are scorching while the leads and rhythms are dynamic and bold and I can’t help but feel his inclusion has added a freshness and needed shot of enthusiasm to the entire band.
So what of the material? THINFS is jam packed with killer rockers, but there are a couple of standouts that can’t go without a mention. First up is Born Again Tomorrow; this number has everything you could want in a song: all of those guitar qualities I just mentioned, a driving rhythm section which refuses to let you go and loads of melody and punch in the vocal department. If this isn’t a future single, I’ll be shocked. Next is Knockout which is already a single. Simply put, this song knocks it out of the ball park. And God Bless This Mess is one of those positive uplifting rockers they do so well.
On the band’s previous release Burning Bridges, JBJ spelt out in no uncertain terms his thoughts on the record industry and the band’s former label on the title track. On the title song for THINFS Bon Jovi takes this theme a step further boldly declaring that their integrity, creativity, and brand is no longer in a position to be exploited by greedy record powerbrokers. It is clear this is still a burning issue for the band as The Devil’s In The Temple, also takes another swipe at the industry and their former label. Now, Living With The Ghost is a song about lost love, but depending on how far you’re willing to read into things there could also be a few lines here with double meanings pointing Sambora’s way. But that is for individual listeners to decide.
You can’t say “power ballad” and not think Bon Jovi. On THINFS the band serves up Labour Of Lov which screams of Springsteen-esque undertones. Also checkout Scares On My Guitar, this cut explores the most important asset any singer/songwriter has and that is the relationship between himself and his guitar. By now we’re all aware that JBJ is the world’s eternal optimist and his belief in hope and prosperity shines through on New Year’s Day, which, reading between the lines, is a metaphor for new beginnings and fresh starts. Something the band clearly feels it has at this point of their career.
For 30 odd years I have followed this band and it has been a few years since I was this excited about a new record. Initially I came away from listening to THINFS comparing it to The Circle, with maybe a sprinkling of Have A Nice Day, which are clearly in my mind two of their better efforts in the past decade or so. This in short is simply a stunning effort and one of the “must have” albums of 2016.
|Posted on November 6, 2016 at 8:35 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on November 6, 2016 at 8:25 PM||comments (0)|
Tyketto – Reach
Written by The Rock Man
Around 1989-1992 there was a batch of exciting up and coming hard rock and metal bands that got their big break in the mainstream arena. The future looked bright for this crop of new talent but virtually overnight those futures were wiped out by the rise and rise of the grunge movement. Unfortunately for many of these bands it was simply the wrong time to be forging a career in the rock world. One of those bands that was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time was New York natives Tyketto.
Their 1991 debut album Don’t Come Easy was a standout moment of that year and signalled what was supposed to be the beginning of a new age for hard rock and metal; but in the blink of an eye they were left standing by the side of the road with no future as the musical landscape quickly changed around them. Fast forward to 2012 and the band, which had reformed and played a handful of reunion shows since 2004, had released an album of new original material under the title Dig In Deep. This would be a serviceable album that would introduce the band to a whole new generation of rock fan and serve as a platform for the follow up album Reach which the band has just delivered.
Original members Danny Vaughn (vocals), Michael Clayton (drums) and Jimi Kennedy (bass) are joined by newcomers Chris Green (lead guitar) and Ged Rylands (keyboards) and instantly you get a feeling that there is some real chemistry going on within the band.
The lead single and album opener is the title song. The track is a high energy rocker that is packed full of lyrical emotion and is a great feel good moment. It’s kind of hard to resist smiling and tapping along, or maybe this was just me. From here the pace is set with rockers like I Need It Now, Sparks Will Fly and Big Money but of all of tracks there are a couple of standouts. The first of them is The Fastest Man Alive, which features a very nice meaty guitar riff that tears your head off. This is an awesome cut that is marinating in a strong ‘80s flavour. The same case could be mounted for the following track, Remember My Name. This too features a gritty, raw guitar riff and the addition of harmonica gives the song a strong blues undertone. This was a trend that was very popular amongst hard rock bands back in the ‘80s and it’s great Tyketto are keeping that tradition alive.
Other rockers on here of note include Tearing Down The Sky. Lyrically the song focuses on strength of will and character, while musically it features all the hallmarks that make the Don’t Come Easy album great and wouldn’t be out of place on that record. Also be sure to check out Kick Like A Mule, Clayton’s drumming is the standout feature. Of course it’s not all balls-to-the-wall; the band takes time out to slow down the pace with some impressive ballads. All up the record features three, and they are all a consistent quality that you would expect from Tyketto. But the one that stood out to me was Letting Go. Here you’ll find acoustic and electric guitars intertwined. While the electric guitars push the song along, it’s the overlapping acoustic guitars that prove the emotional tenderness required. This coupled with Vaughn’s vocals make for a special moment. If I was putting together a hard rock band today, I would want Vaughn’s ability at the helm.
Back in the day Tyketto sat comfortably amongst my Bon Jovi and Whitesnake collection. It’s great to know that in 2016 they still do. Reach is one seriously fun hard rock record.
|Posted on November 6, 2016 at 8:20 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on November 6, 2016 at 8:10 PM||comments (0)|
Dee Snider – We Are The Ones
Written by The Rock Man
Twisted Sister were one of my early influences growing up. If I’m being completely honest I’m not sure how I would have survived the mundane day-to-day life of high school without them. So it is fair to say that frontman Dee Snider has been an important part of my life. I’ve taken an interest in all his projects over the years, regardless of what form they take; and I was pretty excited about the prospect of a new solo record. Then when talking about the album Snider said this: "Forget anything from the past. Most of my heavy metal fans are gonna hate it; I've abandoned my past to move forward."
Naturally this raises eyebrows and the odd concern starts to creep in. So with a degree of hesitation I got a hold of We Are The Ones casting aside any thoughts that this would be in the mould of Under The Blade or Stay Hungry. Once you come to terms with this fact and leave any pre-conceived ideas at the door, it’s pretty easy to take this record in and see it for what it is; which is Dee Snider re-inventing himself for the modern age.
I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I pushed play but the lead single and opening track We Are The Ones kind of gave me a sense of relief. Okay it’s not ‘80s metal by any means, but it is a solid modern day rock song (at least it’s not country!). Here you’ll find a nice chugging guitar riff with a solid rhythm section underneath and Sniders hallmark defiant lyrical standpoint on display. Snider backs this up with Over Again and Rule The World which follows a similar format and early on one has to wonder ‘what’s not to like?’.
I love songs that were written for a specific time or generation that confronted a particular world or social issue of the day, then decades later become more important to the next generation than the original one. That is what has become of We’re Not Gonna Take It. Back in 1984 this was an anthem for the youth of the time but this new piano driven version takes on a whole new life and meaning in today’s world. Of all the tracks on We Are The Ones this is hands down the most powerful. Although to be fair, I’ve always been biased towards this song.
Further along there is the Foo Fighter-esque Crazy For Nothing and Believe, in addition to a cover of the Nine Inch Nails track Head Like A Hole. I’ve never been a fan of Nine Inch Nails or that track and yet I found myself tapping along to it. The record comes to a conclusion with So What and this track reminded me of the Twisted Sister song S.M.F. But not in the way you would think because the two songs have no musical similarities what-so-ever. So What is a strong moody acoustic driven song with Snider’s roaring vocals over the top, while S.M.F. is a raging bull. The similarities I speak of are in the lyrical tones and sentiment of the track, once again Snider gives a double handed “one finger salute” to a controlling society that demands conformity; confirming that the same Twisted Sister attitude of the 1980s is still intact and alive and well in 2016.
I have often heard members of Twisted Sister say that they aren’t going to record any new material because Snider has nothing to say. Clearly that isn’t the case as this new album of material proves. Did he need to do it in this format and this musical style? I’m not so sure but having said that I still found myself enjoying the final result and I didn’t hate it like Snider suggested I would. But a metal album from him next would be awesome.