Tag Archives: metal

Adrenaline Mob-Dearly Departed

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If you look at my past reviews you can see I am not the biggest fan of Adrenaline Mob. In fact I think the band may have taken on their namesake and put a hit out me. So it must seem odd that once again I am tackling their newest. Call it self flagellation or more likely that it’s February and there is not a lot out. Dearly Departed is a mini-LP mostly made up of covers or acoustic numbers. They did this right after their debut album and I like this idea. Alice In Chains did it and I think it’s a nice way of staying in the public eye without milking the cow.

Let’s address the covers first. Dearly Departed kicks off with Pat Travers’ “Snorting Whiskey”. This is a blazing cover and it had me rethinking my attitude towards the band by the time it hit the chorus. It is a balls out rockin’ version of this 70’s classic and you can hear the band enjoying themselves. Especially guitarist Mike Orlando who sounds like a mixture of an Allman brother and an 80’s shredder on here. Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down” also gets the treatment and it is a good one. The feeling is like this is a fun practice room song that they just decided to record. I applaud the guys for choosing some not too obvious songs. However, just because it is a surprising choice does not mean it is a good one. Case in point is their version of “Devil Went Down To Georgia”. It sounds exactly as you would imagine and it’s not nearly as clever as it needed to be. The last cover on here is a “Black Sabbath Medley”. It is about as original sounding as that title. One highlight is drummer AJ Pero channeling his inner Animal and going bat shit insane on it. There needs to be a moratorium on bands covering Sabbath, Metallica, and Slayer. Just don’t do it. You will always be compared to the original and in doing so will always be lacking.

Along with the covers, the other draw is the three acoustic interpretations on here. Each one of them being very good. Russell Allen really gets a chance to show off his voice on them. “Crystal Clear” and “Angel Sky” have full band accompaniment on them but the acoustic vibe is still there and the stripped down quality is delicious. As good as those versions are, “All On The Line” is legendary. With just Russell and Mike alone with a guitar the emotion really comes through. Really beautiful and powerful.

Dearly Departed is rounded out with a radio edit of the title track. Taking off that extra minute really streamlined the song and makes modern rock keeper. “Gets You Through The Night” is an unreleased track from Men Of Honor. It is a little peppier and reminds me of Saliva or Nickelback and I’m not saying that in a good way. It proves the adage that if the song was any good it would have been on the album.

I guess Dearly Departed has opened my eyes to Adrenaline Mob. I really like how the band is able to mix modern hard rock with classic rock sensibilities. Hopefully it will continue on their next release. My one small complaint is I think Dearly Departed should be a bit cheaper. It’s only $1 less than a regular album so I dropped it down one because of that.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-buy it as a used CD

$1.00-streaming it on Spotify

$0-Not worth the drive space

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Rated X-Rated X

RATEDX

The other project featuring an Appice in it is Rated X. This group has Carmine Appice on the drumstool. He has been in so many bands that it’s probably easier to name who he hasn’t been in. He is best know for Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, and King Kobra. The singer for Rated X is Joe Lynn Turner who fronted Rainbow during the MTV days. Rounding out the quartet is Tony Franklin the fretless bass maestro from Blue Murder and The Firm and guitarist Karl Cochran.

There are a lot similarities between Rated X and the other Appice project WAMI. Both singers have sung with Yngwie and Rainbow. Both bassist have played with Carmine in Blue Murder. And oddly, the least know of each group is the guitar player. However the big difference is that Cochran and Joe Lynn Turner have been playing together for awhile. Unfortunately Karl suffered a stroke midway through recording so Nikolo Kotzev of Brazen Abbot filled in for him.

Rated X offers up some classic sounding hard rock that sounds fittingly like a cross between Rainbow and Blue Murder. What makes this group standout from the others is that the familiarity between the members gives it more of a band feel and less of a studio one. The album kicks off with “Get Back My Crown” and “This Is Who I Am” and seems like a fitting declaration for a group of guys trying to reclaim their spot in the game. The keys on it really adds to the Rainbow feel. They’re also evident on “Fire & Ice” with it’s big chorus and bigger organ. (Don’t laugh, I’m talking about the musical instrument.)

The Blue Murder pedigree shines through on several tracks too. Some of it comes from Tony Franklin’s signature fretless bass sound. “Lhasa” has the same big epic song feel to it as “Valley Of The Kings”. Then there just some straight up rockers in “Devil In Disguise” and “Piece Of Mind” where Rated X is making there own statement.

To be fair there are a coupe of stinkers. “You Are The Music” reeks of “we need a ballad here” thinking. “Maybe Tonight” is a bland soft rocker. It almost seems that if they slow down it falls apart but they do a great job on “Our Love Is Over”. It’s a nice ballad that really shows off Karl’s playing. There is also an acoustic version that is just Joe Lynn and a piano and it is beautiful. It’s amazing to hear his voice still sounding that good.

What makes Rated X so much better than all the other project bands is that they seem to want to be a band. The extensive demoing and work they did before recording is evident. The cohesiveness comes through the speakers and the band has made an album worthy of their collective legacies.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-but it as a used CD

$1.00-streaming it on Spotify

$0-Not worth the drive space

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Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators-World On Fire

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You have to give Slash a lot of credit. Out of all the members of Guns N Roses he has had the most success. From Snakepit to Velvet Revolver to this new band. I really do like them but I really hate the name. The quartet is billed as Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. So out of the four guys, two get mentioned. The Conspirators must feel like Andrew Ridgley when Wham started getting referred to as Wham featuring George Michael.

World On Fire is their second album they has made. If you’ve never heard Myles Kennedy sing before, The Alter Bridge singer is a nice fit and has a very unique high pitched style similar to Axl but with a bit more modern feel. The Conspirators are the rhythm section of Todd Kearns on bass and drummer Brent Fitz behind the throne. Brent was in Union the tragically overlooked band that also had John Corabi and Bruce Kulick in it.

 

There’s a lot to like on this album. It kicks off amazingly with the title track, a perfect mix of classic and modern hard rock. I think the band is at its’ best when it does that. At times it does feel like it is at odds with itself. You start off with the aforementioned track then it’s followed by “Shadow Life”a decent rocker but very dour. It seems that they wanted to show how modern they were right upfront. Being diverse is great but that song placement is not. Especially since it’s followed by another great rockin’ track in “Automatic Overdrive”. I think that song along with others like “Wicked Stone” are a nice representation of the melding of Slash’s and Myles hard rock backgrounds.

 

One of my favorites is “Bent To Fly” which is best described as an upbeat power ballad. It has a lot of beef to it but enough sensitivity and slowness for the ladies. Just like the ad for Monster Ballads said “Every bad boy has a soft side.”

 

If you look at the liner notes you can see that all the songs I mentioned are at the very beginning. You will also see that there are 17 tracks on World On Fire. 17!! SEVENTEEN!! That is a lot for a single disc, actually it’s too much. I think an album is best with 10-12 songs. So World on Fire has 5 to 7 too many tracks. That excess is obvious as the songs are not necessarily bad but just blah. If the album ended with “Dirty Girl” it would have been great. The back half has two songs over 6 minutes a piece. Ugh. I hate to criticize an artist for giving the fans too much but if they would have whittled the album down a bit it would have been a much better experience.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-but it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Overkill-White Devil Armory

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The first time I saw Overkill I really didn’t want to see them. They were the opener on Slayer’s South Of Heaven tour that also featured Motorhead. The only exposure to Overkill I had was their “Hello From The Gutter” video. It was alright but didn’t grab me. Me and my buddy Kevin went to the show late to miss them and catch Lemmy before Slayer destroyed the place. In true metal club fashion the show was running late and we ended up seeing Overkill. They were unreal. A perpetual thrash machine was on full display. They annihilated during the allotted time. I was a fan of theirs until the lineup carousel started and they faded into the woodwork. However, with the release on Ironbound in 2010 they have been on a roll. Now we get White Devil Armory and the momentum hasn’t stopped.
All the staples are here. Bobby Blitz sounding as good as ever. DD Verni’s signature bass sound. And some quintessential thrash riffs from David Linsk. White Devil Armory punches you in the gut from the start. “Armorist”, “Down To Te Bone” and “Pig” are a lethal triple threat. The band was wise to put “Bitter Pill” next since it starts off slow and gives you a chance to breathe. However “Where There’s Smoke” is next and they’re off to the races again and they don’t stop until the album finishes. My version of White Devil Armory has 2 bonus tracks. “Fight Song” has a tinge of soccer singalong to it. Lastly there is a cover of the Nazareth track “Miss Misery” with fellow New Jersey thrash legend and current Accept singer Marc Tornillo
It’s amazing to think that after 30 years Overkill is still killing it. Playing high level thrash nonetheless. Ponce Del Leon went looking for the fountain of youth in Florida, when apparently it’s been in New Jersey and Overkill found it. In today’s scene I don’t think there is another metal band that has released 3 quality albums in a row like Overkill has. White Devil Armory doesn’t show that Overkill still has it, it shows that they never lost it.

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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Marty Friedman-Inferno

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You have to give Marty Friedman credit. He could have taken the easy route post-Megadeth and formed his own metal band or just done more shred records and everyone would have been happy. Except he wouldn’t have. He loves the Japanese culture so he moved there and did some TV and some J-Pop and was extremely happy. On his terms.
However, the metal siren’s call was to much to resist and he is back with Inferno. It is a collection of instrumentals along with some very cool guest stars. It starts with a couple of said instrumentals that show off Marty’s handy work. (See what I did there?) Neat part about them is that they are both noticeably different in approach and sound but still equally entertaining. Now Inferno goes into the guest phase. First up is “Wicked Panacea” with Rodrigo y Gabriela, the outstanding neuvo flameno guitar duo. The song incorporates them perfectly as Marty’s playing allows them to easily slide in and out throughout the track. Truly remarkable. Canadian hard rock hero Danko Jones provides some lead vocals on “I Can’t Relax”. Again Marty crafts a song tailored for Danko and shows a different side of himself while exposing Danko to those who may not be familiar with his awesomeness. My favorite track is “Meat Hook” and it features Jorgen Munkeby of The Shining on saxophone.
Yes, saxophone.
If you are not familiar with The Shining, they are a Norwegian avant garde metal band and Jorgen is the lead singer that occasionally breaks out the saxophone. He is brilliant and so is this track. Similar to what he did on “Wicked Panacea”, Marty lets Jorgen play what he wants over the track as they intertwine and eventually harmonize. I love this song so much and it is a true testament to what someone can do if they are willing to push the boundaries. I mean really push them. A lot.
Alex Laiho from Children of Bodom sings on “Lyncathrope” and it’s pretty good. As is “Sociopaths” with David Davidson of Revocation. I was hoping for a little more crazy shredding on this one considering who was involved. Inferno ends up with two very interesting tracks. “Undertow’ is a very light track that leads into “Horrors”. It seem like it’s a battle between classical influence, represented by the piano played, and shredding, his guitar. They go back and forth over the course of 6 minutes and it’s pretty impressive.
After grunge hit it became very uncool to know how to play with your guitar. Shredding was a dirty word and all of us that grew up looking forward to the newest Shrapnel release were doomed. Like with everything, time wins out. Shredding has returned and with it Marty Friedman. Inferno is a terrific reminder of what he could do plus it’s a better reminder of what he can do. And hopefully how others can push themselves.

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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WINGER-Better Days Comin’

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Odd how time plays out. In the early 90’s Winger was the toast of MTV. Then came Metallica’s video with Kip as a dartboard and Beavis & Butthead. Suddenly MTV, and the rest of the music world, wanted nothing to do with Winger. Ironically it happened when they just released Pull, arguably their best album. The band took some time off but still kept releasing material. Both IV and Kharma were well received and pretty good listens too. Now Metallica is making shitty albums with Lou Reed and Beavis & Butthead bombed when it was relaunched. However Winger still stands and have just released Better Days Comin’.
It was pretty interesting that Winger released two videos ahead of Better Days Comin’ release. I think it was a very wise move as “Rat Race” and “Midnight Diver Of A Love Machine” showed a more aggressive side of the band. So not only did it interest those that were going to buy it but those that may have begrudgingly liked the band, despite Kip’s dancing, were now interested. Well the band delivered big time with Better Days Comin’. It is a prefect representation of those that already love the band. Besides the two hard rockers already mentioned another heavy track is “Storm In Me”. Then there is the exceptionally catchy hard rock of “Queen Babylon” and “So Long China”. With having a drummer like Rod Morgenstein and a guitar player like Reb Beach, the band gets to flex their musical chops on “Tin Soldier”. Both guys along with Kip, who is an underrated bassist, give a progressive feel that may surprise some. The album wraps up with “Out Of This World” a song that is a prefect amalgamation of best traits of the band. It’s catchy, a little poppy, some showoff playing, and a lot smarter than their critics say.
It’s very fitting that Winger chose Better Days Comin’ as the album title. While huge success is out of reach, they have crafted a terrific album that will stand up against the best of their catalog. They did it on their terms, the way they wanted, without a promise of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Better Days indeed.

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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The Pretty Reckless-Going To Hell

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Sometimes it’s good to listen to a band without knowing a thing about them. A couple years back I heard Light Me Up, the debut album from The Pretty Reckless and loved it. Great female fronted dirty hard rock. It was months later that I discovered the singer was Taylor Momson an actress from Gossip Girl. At the time she was doing the typical Hollywood actress getting older routine of fighting with her Mom and showing her tits for no reason. Thankfully I missed all that drama and got to enjoy the album and liked it so much I bought their follow up EP Hit Me Like A Man. So I was looking forward to their new offering Going To Hell.
Listening to Going To Hell you realize that Taylor Momson is not just another actress cashing in on her fame by making an album. Lindsay, Hillary, I’m looking at you. She is in fact a rock singer. She has a real good sound that borders on the gritty with a hint of blues potential. Sort of if Sass Jordan was a Mouseketeer. The band cranks out some quality hard rock here. Kicking down the door with “Follow Me Down” and the title track, you know that this is not a pop record. They get heavier on “Sweet Things” a blistering track that has some creepy counter vocals by guitarist Ben Phillips. “Why’d You Bring A Shotgun To The Party?” wins for best song title and best song. Very slinky riff that is unavoidable with a chorus to beat.
Interesting is the amount of slow songs/ballads on here. Probably could have done without several of them. “Burn” is a standout and is just Taylor singing along with an acoustic guitar. The simplicity of it works so well that you don’t mind it’s under two minutes long. “Waiting For A Friend” has a classic sound that Rolling Stones/Guns N Roses fans will recognize. The slides on the acoustic along with the harmonica are timeless alongside her smoldering voice. Now depending on what version you buy there are two more acoustic tracks. “Going To Hell” and “Sweet Things” get the acoustic makeover. Taylor and Ben do a great job of remaking the songs not just simply performing them on an acoustic. “Going To Hell” is about the half the length and the guitar has a definite Johnny Cash feel to them. Curious that “Sweet Things” was chosen for the redo since it is the heaviest track but they do it well. Now the riff does sound just like the acoustic version of Winger’s “Down Incognito” but it still works. Plus Ben’s vocals have a more sinister sound to them here.
All in all Going To Hell is another success for The Pretty Reckless. Granted there are some missteps and they could have chopped off a track or two. But it shows the growth of the band. More importantly you see the growth of Taylor Momson as a singer and songwriter. It’s that growth that makes you want to hear what is next.

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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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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Sister-Disguised Vultures

sister

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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