V/A-This Is Your Life-A Tribute To Ronnie James Dio

 

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Very rarely are “tribute” albums a good thing. Either they are modern artist playing classic rock songs because the label thinks it’s a good idea, KISS My ASS or Zeppelin-Encomion. Or you get gimmick-y crap like Country Does Metal. Ugh. Lastly, there’s what I call the Cleopatra effect. A label uses a group of older artists to do classic rock tributes. The label Cleopatra had an assembly line of 80′s rockers doing songs of 70′s acts. It became comical to see Jizzy Pearl of Love/Hate or Joe Lynn Turner on every release from Cleopatra. Very rarely do you get a tribute album of well known acts doing songs in the same genre of an iconic artist.
Lo and behold, here comes This Is Your Life-A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio. They did a great job of collecting metal artists for this record and the songs they covered range throughout his career. As an added bonus most of these songs are new recordings. With this kind of an album I think it’s best to go track by track.
Starting us off is “Neon Nights” by Anthrax. They do a nice and faithful version of the song. It’s a perfect album opener. If you heard last year’s Anthems you know they can do great covers. Following that is is Tenacious D’s “The Last In Line”. It has a nice acoustic opening but once it kicks in… the only way to go is down…… I love these guys but doing an electric metal song doesn’t work. Plus Jack Black does not have the pipes for this song. We are then greeted with Adrenaline Mob’s “The Mob Rules”. This was done on their covers EP a while back and I was not a fan of it then and still feel the same. Most of Stone Sour tries their hand at “Rainbow In The Dark”. They are joined by guitarist Satchel of Steel Panther fame aka Russ Parish from Paul Gilbert’s band and Fight. Doing such a well known song can be tricky but they put their spin on it. It’s a little heavier and just a tad faster. What is interesting is Corey Taylor’s vocal choice. His delivery is very restrained thereby letting the guitar riff to shine. At first it’s surprising because you expect him to go big but this works a lot better.
Young ones Halestorm try on “Straight Through The Heart”. The band proudly wears it influences on its’ sleeves and have done a couple of covers EP’s already. I know I’m supposed to like them but something about them doesn’t click. Lizzy Hale has a killer voice and on the second half of the song she steps it up a notch and it’s is killer. However the band is very blah and the guitar playing is bar band level. I know her brother is the drummer but she needs to be with some players.
The first track released was “Starstruck” with Biff Byford of Saxon singing with Motorhead. Just typing that sentence is a metalhead’s wet dream. Listening to it is even better. Biff’s gravel works great with Motorhead’s dirty delivery. It’s just so simple and so great. Another legacy act is next with the Scorpions doing “The Temple of the King”. The Rainbow track fits right in the Scorpions wheelhouse. The mid pace song is perfect for Klaus Meine’s vocals. It sounds like it should have been on their MTV Unplugged album. The Metal Queen herself, Doro gives us “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” and it is as glorious as you would think. When Ronnie passed they did a couple of tribute shows and she sang this song. It was done awhile back but chances are most people haven’t heard it. Another already available track is “Holy Diver” by Killswitch Engage. Done when Howard Jones was still the singer, it’s still a pretty cool cover and even better video.
Glenn Hughes takes the lead alongside Dio veterans Simon Wright, Rudy Sarzo, and Craig Goldy on “Catch The Rainbow”. Since this is very ballad-like it reminds me of some of the Black Sabbath stuff Glenn did. I like that he chose a song that he could do use his blues voice but it doesn’t really work. Next is one of my favorite songs Ronnie sang.”I” ,from the Black Sabbath-the Dio Years, is better than anything on that gawd awful 13 record. Former Lynch Mob singer Oni Logan is joined by Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, and Brian Tichy, Musically its good but Oni cannot match the defiance that was so evident on the original.
One of the tracks I was really looking forward to was “Man On The Silver Mountain” with Rob Halford on vocals. When Dio dropped out of Sabbath when they were going to open for Ozzy’s retirement shows, Rob stepped in. He did a terrific version of “Children Of The Sea” so my expectations were high. Unfortunately time has caught up with the Metal God and his voice is flat and very uninspiring.
The mighty Metallica do a medley on “Ronnie Rising”. It’s made up of “A Light In the Black, Tarot Woman, Stargazer, Kill The King”. It’s tremendous. Any long time fan will know that they love to do covers and it shows here. Especially on “Stargazer/Kill The King” sections.
The album ends with Dio himself singing the title track. It’s just him and a piano and it’s phenomenal. A little heard track and it shows what a powerhouse he was.
There are some other songs depending on what version you buy. The digital download has “Buried Alive” by Jasta. I like it since we get to hear Jamey actually sing and this track works for him. The Japanese version has Stryper’s “Heaven and Hell” which was available on their covers LP from a couple years back. It’s good but they changed some lyrics and that kind of bugged me. Dio Disciples crank out “Stand Up and Shout”. I don’t have that version but it’s either Oni Logan or Ripper Owens singing so it should be good.
As with any tribute there are some hit or misses. As a whole This Is Your Life is a fitting tribute for Ronnie and with all the proceeds going to the Stand Up and Shout cancer fund that was set up after his passing it’s even more fitting.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale
$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop
$0-Not worth the drive space

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KISS in the 80′s aka Scott looks back fondly on his teenage years

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One of my favorite podcasts, ROCK AND OR ROLL SHOW, just did an episode on KISS in the 80′s. In that episode they went over each KISS album from that decade, talking about each album plus all the band happenings. At the end of the episode, the two hosts chose their Top 10 songs from that decade of KISS. Me being a sucker of music lists, got inspired and decided to do one of my own. Please listen to the podcast as it’s very well done and has oodles of KISS trivia.
I grew up with KISS, they are my band. The band that no matter what they do you still like them. Even when you don’t. I remember my Uncle Brian giving me his copy of The Originals and being entranced. I watched the dreadful KISS Meets the Phantom Of The Park and loved it. Still do today but on another level. The big turn for me was the release of Dynasty. When my Dad said he liked a couple songs I knew something was wrong. Then the 80′s hit and my favorite band was just another act. When I looked at the cover for Unmasked and the comic has someone saying “They Stink” on it, it was telling. Line-up changes and dwindling sales turned KISS from being the “biggest band in the world” to just another rock act. So I re-listened to the albums from Unmasked through Hot In The Shade. Ironically the biggest selling album of the decade was Smashes, Thrashes, & Hits, a compilation with 2 new tracks neither I wanted to remember.

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The aforementioned Unmasked was released in 1980. It would be drummer Peter Criss’ last official album as he had one foot out the door. Like all of the 80′s albums, it is very hit or miss. The productions is way off. I don’t know if it’s because they just did the disco album or if producer Vini Poncia felt just like Peter.”Shandi” was the single and I bought the 45, it’s around here somewhere. In hindsight it is a very lackluster love song and I still have not met anyone named Shandi. Got to say I’m a little disappointed by that. My pre-teen mind did not understand but was still fascinated by some of the odd song titles, “Torpedo Girl” & “She’s So European”. That and the opening line of , cats drooling on the bar stool, from “Is That You” still makes me smile to this day. Although it took me years to realize he didn’t mean a feline when referencing cat. There are two songs from this album I still like. “Is That You” and “Tomorrow”. Both Paul songs with the second one being just a perfect pop rock gem.

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Next is the very odd Music From “The Elder”. This concept album was supposed to be the catalyst for a movie. Never happened and after listening you know why. Poor Eric Carr gets his big break in joining KISS and this is what happen. Also, over hyped and glorified one hit wonder Lou Reed did some writing with them insuring that this would be KISS” worst LP. I remember staying up late to watch them on the show Fridays. They did “World Without Heroes” a ballad where Gene literally sheds a tear and “The Oath”. The only song I really like is “I”. Very upbeat, uplifting rocker that is a motivational poster in audio. Plus having Paul and Gene both sings lead is pretty cool too.

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1982 ushered in another change for KISS. Guitarist Ace Frehley and his car lost a fight with a tree and he exits. Even though he is on the cover of Creatures Of The Night, he doesn’t play on it. Most of it is done by his replacement Vinnie Vincent who also co-wrote a bunch of songs. This album is a welcome return to the bands hard rock roots. “I Love It Loud” was all over MTV and “War Machine” became a staple of entrance themes for pro wrestlers. Watching Humongous use it coming to the ring back in the Mid-South days.

The standout track is the title track a full on metal song and one of the heaviest for the band.

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That was supposed to be a comeback album for KISS but it did not sell well. I guess The Elder put a stench on the band that could not be washed away so quickly. KISS ditched the makeup and released Lick It Up. The not too subtle named album was a big seller and had two big videos from it. The title track and “All Hell’s Breaking Loose”. Both featured a post-apocalyptic world that was in vogue back then.
Thank you The Road Warrior.
Lots of people, including the podcast, do not like “Breaking Loose” but I love it. Paul’s rap is so Paul that I don’t see how you could not like it. Plus it has an infectious guitar riff.

During this decade Gene started dabbling in other things and his songs really took a backseat. However, his sexual innuendo laden “Fits Like A Glove” I really like. Now it might be due to hearing this as I was going through puberty.

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1984 had the band replacing another member. Out went Vinnie Vincent and in came Mark St. John. Animalize is his only appearance as Reiter’s Syndrome forced him out of playing. “Heaven’s On Fire” was the hit but it was “too simple” for me. I did like “Thrills In The Night” but the album as a whole was kind of boring. They really missed having Vinnie Vincent as a writer. If KISS would have recorded some of the songs from his Invasion album…..

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The year of 1985 was same song, different day for KISS. Guitarist Mark St. John was out and Bruce Kulick was in. He had been touring in place of St. John but Asylum was his recording debut. The videos for this album are hideous. Bright colors, fringe, and volcanoes, just ewwww. Unfortunately those images are what people remember and not the songs. “Tears Are Falling” was the lead video and warning image. Nice song that featured curtains being ripped down which somehow became a staple in the 80′s.

Asylum was a showcase for Paul’s songwriting. The standout track for me was “Who Wants To Be Lonely?”. He just knows how to write a catchy love song.

Thankfully, with Gene dabbling in acting Paul made sure we did not go without a sex song. The working for the weekend anthem got turned on it’s literal back for “UH All Night”. The sex sells idea of the 80′s was on full display here. However I think this is where the “Paul Is Gay” rumors start. That captains hat paired with his open chest was a curious choice.

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Crazy Nights broke the revolving guitarist streak. The album reflected the band actually having a steady lineup. Still Simmons was off doing things so Kulick got more writing time. They even let him do some shredding on the lone good Gene track “No No No”. KISS also brought in Desmond Child and Dianne Warren. Yes that Dianne Warren, she of the Aerosmith ballad lame, I mean fame. The host of the podcast, BJ,  loved her track “Turn On the Night” but I found it too Bon Jovi with its keyboard popness.


The title track was interesting since the video had Gene and Paul putting the makeup back on. It was a pretty good song too even though the standing up for yourself lyrics had grown tired by then.


The other notable song is “Reason To Believe”. Paul and Desmond created a terrific ballad that is right in Paul’s wheelhouse. It fit in with the 80′s hard rock at the time but it was still KISS.

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Next up was the Smashes, Thrashes, & Hits compilation. For a greatest hits collection it was alright, it did touch on all their history. But it also had Eric Carr re-record “Beth” which he, and the fans, were not too fond of. Paul wrote both of the new tracks and they were as subtle as a pool party at the Hustler mansion. “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” and “Let’s Put The X in Sex” try way too hard and would have been better off left on the demo pile.

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The Eighties finished up with Hot In The Shade. Rolling Stone magazine made a list of Top 10 KISS records and they had this #10. To be fair there is some good stuff but is weighed down with 15 songs, about 5 too many. It has “Hide Your Heart”which former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley covered and was on his solo album that came out a week before KISS’. It is a Stanley/Child song that did not make it on Crazy Nights and was offered to other artists, but still. I do like KISS’ version a lot.

Paul’s love for ballads had him co-write a song with future white man of soul Michael Bolton on “Forever”. Another great ballad from Paul and it was a big hit for the band, even landing in the Top 10.

Interestingly, there are two Gene tracks that he co-wrote with future KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer. Neither are worth writing home about. Eric Carr finally got the chance to sing on “Little Caesar”. It has a nice chorus but the riff is kind of generic. Shame he didn’t get a chance to sing more.
So there was the overview on the 80′s KISS albums. After sorting through them, warts and all, here is my….

Top 10 KISS tracks of the 80′s
10)-Fits Like A Glove
9)-Uh! All Night
8)-Is That You?
7)-All Hell’s Breaking Loose
6)-Who Wants To Be Lonely
5)-War Machine
4)-Forever
3)-I
2)-Tomorrow
1)-Creatures Of The Night
I’ve switched these around several times in the past day. If you asked my next week I might have a different list.
What do you think?

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Sister-Disguised Vultures

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How in the Hell did this happen? Another European band playing classic American rock? Yes, but this time it’s Sister a band from Norway and these guys worship at the makeup caked alter of Motley Crue with a touch of Murderdolls. Disguised Vultures is the second release from the quartet and their first on Metal Blade. First time I heard of Sister was a Tweet from Metal Blade CEO Brian Slagel. Since that label has been on a roll as of late, I was quite intrigued. Being on Metal Blade and having blood splattered somewhat quasi anti-religious album art, I was expecting something heavy and menacing. What is delivered though is a sleazy punk / hard rock hybrid that combines the sleaziness of the Sunset Strip infused with scream singing of modern rock.
Sister does a great job of bridging the two and in turn appealing to both sets of fans. The songs are very catchy and upbeat with crunchy guitars but with a slightly sinister quality to them. Lead single an video “Sick” is a perfect example. Snappy, hooky, and with a chorus that begs to be sung along with. They show their punky side on “Arise” and “Slay Yourself”. For me the highlight of Disguised Vultures is “DMN”. Perfect hard rock song. Simple yet catchy, nice solo, and lyrically the band puts themselves over thereby making them more appealing to listeners. One of the more curious tracks is “Naked”. A misfire of a ballad that is twice as long as it should be. Thankfully, the album finishes out nicely with “Please Kill Me” an acoustic guitar led rocking track that highlights the bands rhythm section.

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It would be easy to take shots at Sister just off their appearance. Add in that they have members named Rikki and Cari, somewhere Jizzy Pearl is smiling, and it’s easy pickings. However once you listen to them and you hear that there is something behind the sound. Disguised Vultures is a fun trek down memory lane that is rooted in the now.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon(This, not showing bold for some reason)

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale
$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Black Bear-Rock From The Woods

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Back in the mid 90′s I worked at a local record store. When Seattle was in full swing there was this one customer always coming in to sell old CD’s to buy new releases. He had the proper grunge uniform of shaved head, goatee, and Doc’s. The CD’s he brought in were all the 80′s hard rock bands; Poison, Winger, Motley Crue, etc. Our store always required someone to show their ID. On his drivers license his picture was of him in full Cure’s Robert Smith attire. In other words he was just playing dress up or trend hopping. You saw it with bands too. They cut their hair and got “more serious” to fit in the Nirvana world. Now this was not an anomaly as bands have kept doing that. With the rise of 70′s rock/Southern rock influenced acts; Scorpion Child, Rival Sons and so forth. Guys that were dabbling in modern rock or whatever genre Octane is playing, are now buying bell bottoms and Orange amps.

And that brings us to Black Bear and their album Rock From The Woods. Judging from the band name and the cover, a walking bridge in the woods, I was expecting some Southern twinged rockin’. However, just like the guy selling CD’s we have some guys playing dress up. You can tell something is fishy from jump street. Album opener “We Are Black Bear” is just Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band” except they just replace American band with Black Bear. This would be cute as the last track but since it’s the first, just silly. Unfortunately the aping of a classic rock band does not end there as they lift from The Doors “Roadhouse Blues” on “Uncle Vic”. Even rappers would think it was excessive.

That track is the epitome of what is wrong with the album. The guitarist seems to latch onto a cliché 70′s guitar lick and beat it to death. Besides the unoriginality, it is usually done very poorly. A simple 4 note fill sounds as if I was playing it. Then there is the vocalist. He just doesn’t have the swagger or soul to pull off this music. Most of the time he sounds like he is really struggling. I learned the band is from Milan so that cultural disconnect is a problem.

Now the odd part of Rock From The Woods is many of the songs are flat out modern rock. And surprisingly, their good too. “Time” is a really tremendous song. A mid-tempo slow builder that pulls you in as its plays. “Ghost of You” is a fist pumper that would easily slide in regular rotation on modern rock radio. Same with “Never Easy” a nice ballad that once you get past the horrible guitar fills in the first minute is rather good.

European bands playing distinctively American styles is nothing new. There seems to be a part of Finland that is forever 1987 Sunset Strip glam rock. Just like some of those bands, Black Bear may love the music they try to play but it doesn’t translate.

Pun intended.

Rock From The Woods seems a bit bi-polar with its’ conflicting styles. Yet when its’ good, its’ good. Hopefully Black Bear will decide on who they are.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon purchase

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on a MP3 sale

$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop

$0-Not worth the drive space

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Julian Angel’s Beautiful Beast-Kicking Down the Barricades

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There is this wave in Europe that features a revival of the 80′s Glam band. There are some very good ones and some very bad ones. Julian Angel’s Beautiful Beast from Germany is one of the higher regarded. As I’ve never listened to them before I had no idea what to expect. I was a little leery since this is only a three piece yet Mr. Angel felt the need to put his name in the band name anyway. Maybe he’s just trying to be the Tyler Perry of Germany. Then there’s the album cover for Kicking Down The Barricades. I know I’m not a great writer but even if I was Stephen King I could not do it justice. Basically it looks like a 10th Grade metalhead designed an album cover.

 

In 1987.

 

To say it’s ridiculous would be an understatement. What’s worse is that this is a trend for European metal acts. I think it’s an attempt to look retro but it just looks cheesy and embarrassing.

 

Now for the actual music on Kick Down The Barricade, you start off with “Bad Boys Never Dance” and you run into another hurdle. Lyrically the album is very stilted and you wonder if there is a language barrier or they’re trying to be authentic to the era. Either way it’s grating at times.

 

Julian Angel is the vocalist and guitarist of the band. His voice has an unusual and scratchy quality that takes a bit of getting use to. The harmonies are top notch too. Now his guitar playing is very exceptional. The soloing is top notch and fits each song perfectly.

 

“Unsexy” is an extremely catchy song with a hooky chorus that could have been in regular rotation on Headbanger’s Ball. Same can be said of “Big Stuff” with it’s Warrant inspired verses and big choruses. “Shake Me Back Home” is very reminiscent of Junkyard’s “Simple Man” but still has a certain charm to it. The album ends nicely with a a dirty slinky number in “Six In The Red”.

 

When I first listened to Kick Down The Barricades I thought it was a demos from the 80′s that had been re-released. With the cover, lyrics, sound, it comes across as a bit dated. Maybe it’s the innocence and sincerity that help you overlook the rough patches and you appreciate the earnestness and honesty of Julian Angel. In the end you go from a mocking position to one of understanding.

 

 

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

 

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

 

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

 

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale

 

$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop

 

$0-Not worth the drive space

 

 

 

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Truckfighters-Universe

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Truckfighters have been one of those bands I read about but not checked out. With the release of Universe I was able to change that. They are usually referred to as a Stoner band or Desert Rock, with there obvious influence of Kyuss. After hearing the first two tracks, “Mind Control” and “The Chairman”, I would have to agree. They have guitars that are fuzzier than a closet full of cashmere and cause the listener to head bang without though. One big difference is that the bass plays a much bigger role than their contemporaries. It carries the main riff and has several moments of flair.

After that, the band takes a bit of a turn.

The fuzz gets dialed back a bit and what is left is a somewhat heavy, gloomy metal band. Just like a less pretentious version of Tool. If you ever heard of the Boston act We’re All Gonna Die. It’s very similar. In fact I was sure this was them after a name change. Oops, since Truckfighters are Swedish.

“Convention” is more straight ahead and should have been on the new Queens of The Stone Age album. “Get Lifted” is the Tool sound I referenced just with a lot more distortion and the vocals dialed back. The band finishes it off with the 13-minute “Mastadont”. I don’t know if this is a dig at Mastadon or not. Maybe the length of the song is a nod of influence. It starts of slow and hypnotically until about halfway. Then is kicks in, but just for a minute. It’s like they needed a breath before hammering it home one more. The song slowly winds down until it fades out with some tasty acoustic guitars. It’s a real tour de force from these guys. One last kudo for Universe is that it is only 7 songs. While that may sound short, 3 of the songs are over 7 minutes. Plus I would rather have 7 good and interesting songs than 7 good ones and 3 more that are just fillers.

You might want to call Truckfighters the thinking man’s Stoner band. Except that’s a stupid moniker. I do feel the Tool comparisons are valid though. I do feel kind of bad for not listening to this band before. Do yourself a favor and don’t be like me, several reasons for that actually. Just go buy this.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale

$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop

$0-Not worth the drive space

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Iced Earth-Plagues of Babylon

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I have never been that big a fan of Iced Earth. Every time I heard them, I enjoyed it but it never really grabbed me. Their brand of traditional metal has always been well executed and main man/guitarist Jon Schaffer seems like a cool guy. I remember reading interviews over his frustrations of being a metal band with Korn and Limp Bizkit being called “metal”. He wasn’t bitter or angry just adamant about his love for metal. Plus he’s a history geek and as a history major myself, GO COOGS!, I have to appreciate that.

Regardless of my previous indifference, Iced Earth has returned with a new offering in Plagues of Babylon. It is chock full of what has brought them this far, good ole metal and some above average lyrics. The title track starts us off with galloping guitars and some tasty duel playing between Schaffer and lead guitarist Troy Seele. With a lyrical theme that continues from the “Something Wicked” album, it tales a lovely tale of the ruling class suppressing the masses by unleashing deadly viruses. Several of the songs convey a deep hatred for the way society has gone but is done in such an open ended way that it allows the listener to draw on their own feelings.

The conveyor of said lyrics is vocalist Stu Block . His voice is pretty nondescript and average. He has a touch of gruffness but it is almost always mid-tone. He doesn’t get really high and subsequently his sound gets swallowed up by the music. And it’s not a mixing problem as the album sounds terrific. To be fair, on “Cthulu” and “Spirit of the Times” he sounds awesome. Those two tracks do have a ballad feel, “Cthulu” end up pretty heavy though, and his softer delivery works perfectly. Hansi Kursch takes the mic on “Among The Living” but you can’t really tell. I didn’t know it till I read the notes. Most surprisingly, Jon Schaffer takes his turn on the just as surprising cover of “Highwayman”. Cool idea but to “metal” that song up comes across as silly.

Plagues of Babylon is not a bad album. Good writing, great playing, terrific production, passable singing, but it just seems eh. I know that Iced Earth is a popular band but it just doesn’t click with me for some reason. I want to like them but just don’t.

It’s like a George Costanza break-up, its not you it’s me.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale

$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop

$0-Not worth the drive space

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Red Dragon Cartel-S/T

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The musical equivalent of Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster being spotted, ended when Jake E Lee came out of the shadows a while back. His much lamented time in exile ended with a cameo in a Beggars & Thieves video and then another cameo on That Metal Show. After those two visual appearances he has finally done some audio. Red Dragon Cartel is his new band and their debut release has a lot of expectations to meet.

 

Jake did a great job in assembling a terrific band. Ronnie Mancuso, the guitar player for the previously mentioned Beggars & Theives, is on bass. Jonas Fairley is the erstwhile drummer and the group is rounded out with Darren James Smith on vocals. Smith, or DJ as he is referred to, has a nice flexible voice. On the opener “Deceived” there is a bit of a Graham Bonnet sound in there. Then on “War Machine” a hint of Ozzy to go with the very Sabbath-y riff. The rest of the time he has more of a raspy voice that works well on the ballad “Fall From The Sky” as well as the rocker “Slave”.

 

The member that everyone is curious about is the man himself, Jake E Lee. He sounds as great as ever and reminds you why he is so revered. Plus, with the many guest vocalist he adapts his playing to their strong suit. Robin Zander and the catchy pop with “Feeder”. In This Moment’s Maria Brink and the heavy yet slinky sounding “Big Mouth”. Sass Jordan sings on “Redeem Me” and its’ echoing of the great Badlands. The most surprising appearance is Paul Dianno on the rockin’ “Wasted”.

 

With all that being said, the most shocking song is “Exquisite Tenderness” a solo piano instrumental played by Jake’s.

 

It’s been close to two decades since Jake E Lee has released an album of original material. There was a high possibility for Red Dragon Cartel to be either an offering of safe, dated material or a misguided attempt to be modern. Thankfully it is neither, it is a terrific testament to the musical ability of Jake E Lee. He has created a slab of terrific and timeless hard rock/metal that is a declaration of of what veteran acts can do. I know it’s early but this is a clear leader for Album Of The Year.

 

 

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

 

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

 

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

 

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale

 

$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop

 

$0-Not worth the drive space

 

 

 

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GWAR-Battle Maximus

gwar

 

For a band like GWAR, releasing their new album Battle Maximus is an interesting quirk. They are well known as a visual live band, is new material truly necessary? If you saw them perform on AXS TV early this year, their over the top outrageous-ness is still evident. You also heard singer Oderus muttering gibberish instead of singing the actual lyrics but no one seemed to mind. The stage antics had already seeped over to the music side previously. GWAR had gone from being a metal band that played funny songs to a comedy band that played metal eventually becoming more of a punk act.

 

A couple years back they acknowledged the wrong path taken and went back to making some great sounding metal. Question is, does Battle Maximus continues that path or do they veer off track once more. There is some very heavy, catchy stuff here. “Triumph of The Pig Children” and “They Swallowed The Sun” are two nice heavy tracks that will get the heads bobbing. I think the highlight of the album is “ I, Bonesnapper” which features, not ironically, Bonesnapper on vocals. He has a much different style and sound than Oderus and it is pretty welcoming. Refreshingly, the title track is an unexpected and very well done instrumental. One of the more curious tracks is “Falling” which would be a hit on Octane from one of those Hot Topic metal bands.

 

On the whole Battle Maximus is kind of flat. Not coincidentally this is the first album since guitarist Cory Smoot aka Flattus Maximus passed away. Beside that, there is also a new Beefcake the Mighty aka the bassist. Besides the uninspiring music, the lyrics are not nearly as clever nor as funny as previous releases.

 

Battle Maximus is not an album one will play over and over again. It seems like it will be background noise while the band and its’ minions lambasts Kim Kardashian, decapitates the President, feeds audience members to the grinder.

 

In the end that’s why we all came in the first place.

 

 

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

 

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

 

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

 

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale

 

$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop

 

$0-Not worth the drive space

 

 

 

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Herman Rarebell & Friends-Acoustic Fever

rarebellacoustic1

I guess it’s fitting that Herman Rarebell, the ex-drummer of The Scorpions, would do something so Scorpions. What I mean is that band has the tendency to release lots of unnecessary material. Others might say milking the cash cow. There are probably more live/best of albums from the Scorpions than there is original albums. That being said, Herman did give an interesting twist in releasing Acoustic Fever. The album is13-tracks of songs he co-wrote done acoustically and features a different singer on each song.

 

At first glance this does have Deadline Presents written allover it. There is Jack Russel, Don Dokken, and, Paul Shortino singing and they were staples of those awful “tribute” records. However, since Herman wrote these songs there is a strong attachment evident and he does a real nice job in converting the songs to acoustic. Accompanying him are guitarist Robby Lochner and Dario Seixas both of Great White. The Jack Russell version, as he takes the helm on “Don’t Make No Promises” from Animal Magnetism. It’s a good interpretation, retains feel of the original but nothing earth shattering. The title track from that album is done by Michael Nagy. Seemingly a local California guy Herman knows. It gets a flamenco makeover and comes out quite nice.

 

Some of the other highlights are “Loving You Sunday Morning” with Michael Voss of MSG. It’s like if Sheryl Crow did the version and I mean that in a good way. Someone apparently pulled John “Naughty Naughty” Parr out of his cave and his version of “Passion Rules The Game” is perfect for a soundtrack to St. Elmo’s Fire 2. He does a nice job in making the song fit his style and making it his.

 

The real standout of the album is “Is There Anybody There” with Alex Ligertwood of Santana fame singing. There is some orchestral accompaniment but his voice and Lochner’s guitar makes you forget about the original. Just a tremendous mix of power and lament.

 

As unnecessary as Acoustic Fever may have seemed, Herman Rarebell did a great job in making this album enjoyable. A lot of energy was done in remaking these tracks and it delivered. The problem is that while it is quite good at times it just makes me want to go dig out my Scorpions albums and listen to the originals.

 

I guess he wins either way.

 

 

Final Rating, I would be happy paying…

 

 

$14.99-Regular priced CD

 

$9.99-get it from iTunes or Amazon

 

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale

 

$1.00-finding it at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop

 

$0-Not worth the drive space

 

 

 

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