FROM THE VAULT

DECEMBER 2008

VIKING SKULL
Doom, Gloom, Heartache, and Whiskey
Powerage/Classic Rock Records

UK’s bad boys of musclehead biker rock are at it again with their third release Doom, Gloom, Heartache, and Whiskey. Regurgitating a sound that combines the density and dexterity of Motörhead, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, these bastard sons smash together a devastating array of heavyass, brutal metal that will bring the legions of hell to their knees. Leading the attack is vocalist Roddy Stone, guitarists Dorn Wallace and Rich Vose, bassist Waldie and CKY drummer Jess Margera (also older brother to Bam Margera of MTV’s/Jackass Viva LA Bam fame). The band has inked a deal with Candlelight (US) and Classic Rock records (UK) and plan for world domination in 2009 starting with their British invasion this month. The disc follows the much-heralded Chapter Two, which boasted the Priest heavy The Blackened Sunrise. The video for said song created tsunami-like waves when it was aired as a supplement to Bam’s Unholy Union on MTV. Like its predecessors Doom, Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey was recorded in Philly and reeks of attitude, stale beer and undying determination.

As stated before, Candlelight records in the US will be distributing Doom, Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey nationwide November 25th. The advance copy proves to be a hard hitter putting cracks in the ceiling as the volume goes up. Roddy’s voice is as crusty as a hundred-year old dirt road growling out belligerent pub songs about drinking, wicked women and more drinking. There is the instant classic “Start a War,” that bashes about a militant anthem pitting a surging riff against a pulsating drum beat. The title cut “Doom, Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey” lashes out a chugging soundtrack specifically written as the band’s road warrior mantra while leading single “Hair of the Dog” officially ushers in the return of metal. “Bam’s doing the video “Hair of the Dog,” says Jess. “It’s going to be insane ‘cause we got no rules - anything and everything is open.”

Both “In Hell” and “In for the Kill” are Panzer-heavy, Motörhead-inspired rumblers with a fierce baseline and Neanderthal drumming.  The machinegun guitars rip and roar with snarling intensity drenching the tracks with bloodstained sweat. Counter that with “19 Swords” which leans more toward Maiden with ringing twin guitars and lyrics that conjuring up tales of lust and conquest. “Shot Down” starts out as an acoustic reprise only to turn into a real smoker as the groove bears down like an angry rhino in heat. The core of drinking songs continue with the metallic-stoner “Double or Quits” and the quite essential closing track “Drink” – a true throwback to Specters-era BÖC. The barroom boogie piano, tambourine and slurred vocals are a clear indication the band is already there as they merrily sing, “We gotta drink, drink till we shit our pants, drinky, drinky drink…” Check out our full feature by clicking here.

Website: Viking Skull, Candlelight Records



NOVEMBER 2008

ELECTRIC MARY
Down To the Bone
Bad Reputation Records

We stumbled across Electric Mary by way of a CD sampler sent out with the September edition of UK magazine Classic Rock. The disc is intended to promote current bands that still believe in the true spirit of rock ‘n roll; they play it with gusto and inspire even the most cynical. Among those featured were these Aussie lads who waste no time in broadcasting their conviction with a smart, sassy tune that teeters on the power lines between AC/DC and Bad Company. “Let Me Out” is lifted from their current disc Down To the Bone and comes with a chest thumping kick drum, a Slash-like riff and a hair-raising vocal that dwarfs even established mainstays of the genre. The band’s been singing in the devil’s choir with their own brand of retro rock since their 2004 debut Four Hands High, but seems to have struck gold after their summer slot opening for Whitesnake and Judas Priest down under. Suddenly the five-year old band are the talk of the town and making international press.

According to lead singer Rusty Brown it seems the whole thing started with a sightseeing tour of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studio in New York City. “We met up with studio manager Mary Campbell who gave us the look about. So much history in such a little space. When we left she gave us her email; electricmary@...” The name stuck and with it came a more focused direction. The groups first CD Four Hands High boasted a fist full of blues hard rock, which became more refined with the 2006 EP Definition of Insanity. Electric Mary has been compared to an unholy consummation between “Guns and Roses and Free” which Brown finds entertaining. “You'd be surprised how many people say how much we remind them of Guns and Roses or Aerosmith,” says Brown. “I seriously don't own a Guns and Roses album but Free is one of those bands that are always in my top three.”

Electric Mary’s new disc Down To The Bone is a nod to the their own history. It is a compilation of the band’s latest EP (only released in Australia) Definition of Insanity including “No One Does It Better than Me,” “Let Me Out,” “One In A Million,” “Luv Me” and “One Foot In The Grave.” In addition there are four new songs, two songs from a previous release, re-sung, remixed with spruced-up guitars. Says Brown, “It's basically eleven songs from our live set.” Their sound is unique and refreshing, not over produced or stale. The guitars are chunky with both a modern and country flair while the rhythm section packs a huge punch. With big hooks and a stadium sound it’s no wonder they’ve been hand selected to play alongside the monsters of rock. “We try and write hook-filled songs that are modern yet sound like they’ve been around forever,” says Brown. “We’re a long way from the rest of the universe but we still feel we can rock with the best of ‘em.” Check out our feature on the band by clicking here.

Website: Electric Mary, Bad Reputation Records



OCTOBER 2008

URIAH HEEP
Wake the Sleeper
Universal Records

Wakey, wakey, it’s time to get up and smell the bacon. In this case it a generous slab of home-cooked ‘70s hard rock from the master wizards themselves, Uriah Heep. It’s been almost ten years since we’ve covered the ranks of guitarist Mick Box, bassist Trevor Bolder, keyboardist Phil Lanzon, vocalist Bernie Shaw and newly found drummer Russell Gilbrook. Wake the Sleeper is without a doubt a hearty return to form for the Brits and one fans have been clamoring for for ages. As the title song suggests the record is a reverberating call to rise up, stoke the embers of rock ‘n’ roll and bang thy head once again. The band themselves sound rejuvenated, inspired and creative. As the laser hits the opening track they assault our ears with a full-throttle instrumental, the ringing of watchtower bells and layered choir chanting the record’s mantra “Wake the Sleeper.” It immediately gets your attention as does the metallic “Overload” and the AOR-friendly “Tears of the World,” one of the best penned tracks from the band ever.

In speaking with guitarist Mick Box about the album’s struggle for release he mentioned his concern that it might never see the light of day. “We know we had delivered one of the best records of our career but were afraid, with the label shifting around, it would end up on the cutting room floor and forgotten about.” Luckily, after a year, they were able to renegotiate a deal with Universal Records and save the tracks from certain demise. Therefore, we have the true delight of listening to soon-to-be immortal classics such as the keyboard-driven “Heavens Rain,” the lyrically powerful “Light of a Thousand Stars” and energetic “Ghost of the Ocean.” Main songwriters Box and Lanzon have focused the songs on the band’s mid-seventies sound while producer Mike Paxman (Status Quo) adds a crisp production and clean snap to each track. Both organ keys and raging guitars fuel the engine but it’s the colorful emotion of vocalist Bernie Shaw and the rumble of the rhythm section that keeps this train on the tracks.

Uriah Heep have always been wonderful storytellers not only with words but in musical soundscapes. Wake the Sleeper continues to expand the band’s social commentary with lyrics that touch on addiction, the ravages of war and religion. Having toured most of Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and the Far East the lyric lines, “a new world with a new morning, a new sunrise on a brand new day, a new life with a new meaning,” lend a certain legitimacy to the songs “Angles Walk With You” and the poignant “War Child.” Forty years is a long time no matter what your occupation. Where most have retired and settled on the easy life, Uriah Heep not only prove they have staying power but continue to create contemporary music that is thoughtful, vivacious, and alarmingly explosive. Guided by Box through a dozen different lineup and the harsh realities of the music business, the band stands like a beacon on a hill still consumed by their lust for music… steeped in tradition and willing to share with the masses. Checkout our interview with Mick Box, guitarist and founding member of the legendary Uriah Heep, by clicking here.

Website: Uriah Heep



SEPTEMBER 2008

BLINDSTONE
Freedom’s Calling
Grooveyard Records

We were lucky enough to get an advanced listening to Freedom’s Calling prior to its official street date and have been anxiously awaiting the full version to arrive in the post. Now that it’s here, it is no small undertaking to digest the immense amount of heavy blues-rock that pours out of this opus including the mind-blowing Frank Marino cover “Had Enough” that features a guest appearance by Texan guitarist Lance Lopez. Hailing from Denmark, Blindstone is a power trio that features Martin J. Andersen on guitar / vocals, with bassist Jesper Bunk and drummer Anders Hvidtfeldt. Originally formed in 2001, the band has made it their mission to resurrect the pure essence of ‘70s rock that aligns with Hendrix, Trower, Marino and Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel. The nucleus of this musical hurricane is the world-class axe master MJ Andersen whose skill with six strings is equally on par with the true greats of the instrument. He slices, dices and boogies his way through a dizzying array of high-powered, riff-heavy tunes guaranteed to blow your mind.

Freedom’s Calling is the band’s second disc following their 2003 debut Manifesto. It concentrates on the group’s ability to write original material while still keeping the sprit of real rock guitar clearly intact. It also just may be the heaviest record The Grooveyard has produced to date – in some cases walking the line toward heavy metal. The title cut “Freedom’s Calling” charges out like an enraged rhino with a thunderous roar. The guitar twists and turns through a minefield of bombastic bass and super-sonic drumbeats while the soulful voice fuses it all together. A key selling point is Andersen’s raspy vocal chops. Melodic and powerful, it comes close to higher registered Davey Pattison (Robin Trower, Gamma) or even Jeff Scott Soto in the more funky moments. The hook-filled “Can’t Be With You,” a Montrose-inspired “I’d Quit” and strutting “She’s So Pretty” are essential listening for those who still hanker for mean, sweat-soaked guitar rock.

Both “Good Time” and the phat “Waste A Little Time on Me” are compact Mahogany Rush drenched in the blues with dynamic solo stretches. “Hang Onto My Love” is a beefy ZZ Top boogie number with a ton of swagger and plenty of juice in the engine. Andersen’s voice is augmented for texture while his guitar feeds off the wah-wah to maximize a head full of angled distortion and crushing density. The lead-footed “Sugar Room” is all in the bass and drum groove with stoner distortion and Fu Manchu riffs. Below-the-belt double-entendres buzz about like bees to honey making the most out of clever little lines like “I can’t get out of this hole / the sugar room’s got my soul” and “my skin is on fire / it’s an aching desire / it’s payment by the hour”. The 15-minute Scorpion-esque reprise at record’s end adds an acoustic element that builds into a majestic firestorm of music and politics.

If Freedom’s Calling taps that nostalgic bug, invest in the band’s first record Manifesto recently re-issued by Grooveyard records. A superb collection of 13 songs, the 2003 release combines covers and originals that mapped out the musical direction for the Danish three-piece. Of the self-penned numbers “Wasted Days,” “Somewhere” and “Unifunk” with their rhythmic riffs, reflective lyrics and 70’s tempo cast a long shadow over the whole record. The guitar sound is chunky with a slight distortion. At times it moves from being hollow and thin to tingy giving the whole thing a retro garage sound. The bass and drum grooves are thick and dirty with the guitar coming in on top igniting a combustible harmony. A stripped down “Temple Trippin” burns with Deep Purple heatwaves while “Say It Ain’t So” is pure George Clinton funk. The more melodic “Open Up Your Heart,” and acoustic “Sleeping Alone” come close to Wishbone Ash in emotion and solid brilliance while the cinematic instrumental “By Grabthar’s Hammer” is pure guitar overload with lead and rhythm tracks piled on top of each other. Three covers are added to the original recording including George Clinton’s “Funkadelic Medley,” Frank Zappa’s bizarrely entertaining “Dirty Love” and Robin Trower’s six-minute, deep cut “Gonna Be More Suspicious” featuring Grooveyard president Joe Romagnola joining in on the shredfest.

Website: Blindstone, Grooveyard Records



AUGUST 2008

JUDAS PRIEST
Nostradamus
Epic Records

The mighty Priest have returned to the hallowed halls of metal with their most ambitions work to date. Titled and concepted after 16th Century French apothecary Nostradamus whose prophetic writings Les Propheties have become know for their astonishing accuracy, this two-record set boasts 23 tracks and well over 140-minutes of bone-crushing, forged-in-steel metal. For a band whose legacy extends over 38 years, to approach a monolithic undertaking of this magnitude is an enormous professional risk – especially in light of a collapsing music market. Yet, undeterred, the Birmingham five-piece have soldiered on and created a masterpiece that pulls together a glorious soundscape with some of the most mature lyrics vocalist Rob Halford has ever penned. Joined by guitarists Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, the three wrote, arranged and concept the entire project over an 18-month period. American drummer Scott Travis and original bassist Ian Hill were on hand to assemble a sonic stampede that merges the classic thunder of the band’s past with a modern heaviness of pure brutality.

“The idea behind the record was suggested to us by our manager,” says bassist Ian Hill over the phone from Athens, Greece. “We were all sitting around after the Angel of Retribution tour and he threw the idea out there. Rob really took to it and before long had a list of ideas and lyrical directions.” Aside from the ambitious nature of their subject, the band has expanded their bludgeonry with symphonic orchestration, keyboards (courtesy of Deep Purple’s Don Airy) and Gregorian chant-like choruses. The first disc begins, as others in their catalog, with an instrumental surge that breathes fire into the first track, “Prophecy.” Already a radio and Internet favorite, the song carries the flag of Painkiller complete with chugging twin guitars and chest thumping rhythms shadowed by Airy’s keyboards. There is a sense of 70’s Prog rock texture in the mix making the listening experience far more cinematic than the band’s 80’s records. It’s almost as if they returned to their Sad Wings of Destiny / Sin After Sin days of story telling and musical presentation.

Granted, there is far more on these two discs than one can possibly digest in a couple sittings. This is a record that like Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Who’s Quadrophenia or The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street needs the liner notes, headphones and multiple plays. Once properly digested the songs start to emerge from a sea of production like the marching “War,” the metallic “Death” or the 8-miinute “Future of Mankind” which is Point of Entry on steroids. Several shorter snippets ranging from the 53-second “Awakening” through the just over a minute “The Four Horsemen,” “Solitude” and acoustic “Shadows in the Flame” help guide the record’s mood and showcase the unprecedented skill of the musicians. Key songs transcend the past Priest formula on an epic scale. The closer on disc one, “Persecution” is one of those mind-blowing moments were Halford reaches his stride and nails notes unheard since Ram It Down’s “Blood Red Skies” Both “Visions” and title cut “Nostradamus” from disc two emit greatness that could easily become legendary triumphs.

Join us as we unravel this extraordinary tale with original Judas Priest bassist Ian Hill by clicking here.
 
Website: Judas Priest




JULY 2008

MEL GALLEY (1948-2008)
It is with deep regret we announce the passing of Trapeze, Whitesnake guitarist Mel Galley. The world famous musician died of cancer at the age of 60 in his residence at Staffordshire, UK. The Midlands-born musician was a member of Finders Seekers with bassist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), and together they co-founded Trapeze in 1969. After the band’s breakup in 1975 he was next spotted in Whitesnale touring with the band in 1983-4. He worked on several projects including MGM and the Phenomena series before retiring in the late nineties. He had just started playing again when he was diagnosed with cancer in February 2008. Check out his stunning solo from Whitesnake’s “Cryin’ In The Rain” (1983) here.

“I’ll see you in the Garden one day, and truly recognize you as my brother,” ~ Glenn Hughes

“I treasure the memory of knowing him and working together with him."
~ David Coverdale, who dedicates “Love Ain’t No Stranger “ to Galley every night.


WONDERFOOLS
Too Late To Die Young
Locomotive Records

Norwegian punkster, the Wonderfools are at it again. Having locking themselves away for over three years they finally surface with another cherry of a record. Sorry to gush, but these guys embody what is best in rock with brash guitars, a head pounding rhythm section and biographical lyrics that have more than a bit of wit and humor. A steady lineup since 2003’s Doing Their Duty To The Nightlife, the five-piece continue to rule Oslo’s back alleys and seedy bars. On microphone is Thomas - gritty, manic and funny. Flash, flare and guitars are Joey (Joakim) and Chris while bassist Zugly and drummer Mags run the furnace in the cellar. With their roots in all things spectacular include Destroyer-era Kiss, Rocket To Russia Ramones and Green Day’s Dookie the five have sewn together the future sound of Scandinavian rock. Too Late To Die Young has the band expanding to include everything from traditional punk to stadium rock. Having toured with Germany’s Böhse Onkelz and working with producer Børge Finstad the band deliver a career defining effort that’s not only playful but sonically complex.

Several big number jump out straight away including the kick off track “Thinking of Something Mean To Say.” The song’s framed by staccato guitars, a bludgeoning drumbeat and vocalist Thomas doing his best Paul Stanley. Then there’s the Helter Skelter-riffing of “Out Of My Mind” and the frantic “Nothing Left To Burn” both with a big chorus and rapid-fire guitar. A couple surprises for hardcore fans are found in the polish and sheen of “The Song About The Song,” “Apples” and “She’s So Easy.” Both the Beach Boys and Beatles roll around in the harmonies and build of the songs. “Apples” is easily the most FM friendly the bands penned with a throwback to the earlier ‘60s. “She’s So Easy” amid crashing guitars, holds on an infectious melody that combines a chugging beat with a brief Hawaiian/surf swing to it. An immediate classic is the Ace Frehley-inspired  “Big Love” – a straight forward hard rocker with an addictive chorus that could sit just as easily on a Turbonegro compilation.

The acoustic “Taking Chances” breaks the record up as a bitter relationship ballad giving the listener a moment to switch gears then it’s back to ‘80s hair metal in ”Too Late To Die Young.” The records title track is a rebellion pisser that conjures up the spirit of Johnny Rotten with lyrics like, “the landlord was giving me a hard time so I went out to drink up my rent” and “I bought a guitar with some money I stole from the place I worked so the boss said don’t come back” all centered around a Mötley Crüe backbone. The tongue-in-cheek “Never Gonna Make It” video had been up on YouTube for a couple months gaining some serious attention. Powered by Megs’ drums and the V-8 charged assault of Chris and Joey the song is a high-octane roller and quintessential Wonderfools. Poppy “Let It Shine” lands somewhere between Journey and the Foo Fighters leading up to the acoustic toy-box version of “Thinking of Something Mean To Say” as an outro. Find it – crank it!

Checkout our exclusive interview with the Wonderfools by clicking here

Website: Wonderfools, Locomotive Records



JUNE 2008

THE HELLACOPTERS
Head Off
Wild Kingdom Records

It’s too bad the Hellacopters were so pissed off at the record industry that they broke up. In a final act of defiance, the Stockholm-five extend one last middle finger to the industry with what ends up being a very cool tribute. They closed out their Universal contract with a disc full of cover songs – which is so MC5! Now before you get your undies in a bunch, these aren’t your standard lame-ass covers. These 12 tracks were hand-selected from a short list of bands they admired or were influenced by. This from their website: “There are shit loads of great bands with equally great songs out there, songs that could and SHOULD be heard all over the world. We're not saying that by recording these songs we'll put them on any charts, but maybe, just maybe, a few more people will get to know these gems and their origins.” What a world it would be if any mainstream band covered their opening band’s songs. We only saw it happen once when Audioslave played Queens of the Stone Age’s set because they weren’t able to make the gig.

Here, the ‘Copters do a whole record with songs from Adam West, “Demons”, The Peepshows and The New Bomb Turks to name a few. They give them that special Hellacopter twist and let the songs blossom on their own. Recorded fairly quickly and in a couple different segments, the songs radiate the bands ability as musicians and can only be described as stunning. The single “In the Sign of the Octopus,” already available for a couple months, is a real cherry. Originally done by The Robots (2004) the track has a sturdy rhythm section, a sticky chorus and the trademark Anderson / Dahlqvist cross leads. A couple other house rockers are tossed in including White Jazz labelmates The Turpentines’ spaghetti western “No Salvation” (also the name of lead singer Nick Andersson’s soul band). “Electrocute” ("Demons") and “Throttle Bottom” (Gaza Strippers) are Grand Funk on speed with good ‘ol Detroit riffing. Keyboardist Boba Fett is a man possessed with his plastic keys a’flying.

The production is rawer than the last couple band outings, yet the group’s taste for slick grooves and thunderous melodies can still catch fire. “Midnight Angles” (The Peepshows) boast a great chorus as does “Another Turn” (The Maharajas) with its garagey mid-tempo and pounding rhythm section. We’ll forgive them for the cheesy “Rainbow’s in your eyes” lyric. “I’m Watching You” (The Humpers) could have easily come from a Donna’s record with great guitars and a taste for ACDC. Though the Hellactopers pull from a wide array of influences, the vibe here is still very mush ‘70’s pub rock with the occasional burst of punk. You’ve got the piano crazed “Veronica Lake” (New Bomb Turks) along side Asteroid B-612’s “I Just Don’t Know About Girls” with its spastic run onto pop.  Then there’s the massive, Dead Moon’s “Rescue” conjuring up memories of early BÖC. “Darling Darling” by The Royal Cream closes up shop as a typical open chord classic with lots of tambourine and a voice that caresses the lyrics with power and emotion. The import has two additional tracks “Straight Until Morning” by Australia’s Powder Monkeys and “Acid Reign” by The Yes-Men.

Website: Hellacopters



MAY 2008

HELL N’ DIESEL
Passion for Power
Locomotive Records

We grabbed our first bite of Hell N’ Diesel back in ’04 browsing through Tower Records in Portland, OR. It was the Tear for the Wicked EP (see review here) and once played was forever a part of our chemical DNA. Bastard sons of the Backyard Babies, these five Swedes grind out high-octane, adrenaline-filled rock n’ roll with the three “Gs;” grease, grime and grit. Four years was a long time to wait but as soon as the guitars kick into gear on opening track “Sweet Sister,” it’s balls-to-the-wall fun with sirens in the rearview mirror. Where the EP was soaked in retro biker rock Passion for Power reflects a revitalization of sleaze, Sunset Strip-style with songs about cheap women, drugs and the never-ending party. “Sexual Suicide,” “Love Me Hard” and the current hit single “Miss Cocaine” are sweat-smeared anthems of rebellion with a gargantuan sound that leaves a permanent mark. The bass, drums and guitar are sonically lethal and the vocals are criminally insane.

Part Guns N’ Roses, part Motley Crue with a tad bit of Skid Row, the 11-track disc takes the cock out of cock-rock and beats you to death with it. Sure “Attitude” boasts, “We’re gonna kick some fuckin’ ass” and rightly does - but there are deeper, darker elements to the band with the GNR-ruckus “Crosses (Kixxx)” which takes an introspective approach with the lyric, “I am what I am” and “we all have our crosses to bear.” The closest thing to a ballad is the slower “Fallin’ where one can hear some Linda Perry in the vocals and appreciate the song’s big finish with converging bass and guitar. “SOYL” (Speed of Your Love) is a clear standout as a street-gang motorcycle song. Complete with revving guitars and a piston-pumping rhythm section, the track has Dr. Feelgood written all over it. Ya gotta dig a chorus that’s as simple and honest as “strapping on your leather, turning the motor on and going faster.”

The band makes quick work of AC/DC hooks keeping each song compact and musically dense. That kind of catchy momentum is all over “You Shook Me” from its hi-hat intro to the Slash-like chugging guitar riff. “Ride Away” peels back layers of classic Kiss to find a goldmine of punked up endorphins that get the head ‘a bangin’, the foot tappin’ and the hips o’ shakin’.  The disc closes with the arena-ready, “Sweat It” that sums up the whole record’s “passion for power.” Buried in the rhythm is the funk of Cameo’s “Word Up” and what better groove for this below the belt thriller than a sexy romp of teenage testosterone fueled by real rock guitars. The band’s Swedish label, Smilodon, have signed a licensing deal for America with Locomotive (distributed by Ryko). The disc is slated for release in the US 10 June, 2008. On a side note, Passion for Power was recently nominated in the glam/sleaze category for the Swedish metal awards.

Website: Hell N’ Diesel, Locomotive Records



APRIL 2008

SEX MUSEUM
Fifteen Hits That Never Were
Locomotive Records

Spain’s hottest export, Sex Museum, have released their first ever compilation since forming in 1985. Fifteen Hits That Never Were takes bits and bobs from their sordid past, gives them a fresh coat of paint, rerecords a few select novelties and bundles ‘em up in a right smart package. The Madrid-based five-piece have been actively cranking out volcanic rock that range from ‘60s garage to head-banging skull-crushers. The disc presents 15 of their finest moments including oldies but goodies “Black Mummy” and “Two Sisters” only available in their native Spain. In fact, most of their output is of a regional nature but after inking a deal with Locomotive Records in 2000 they plotted a course for world expansion with the release of Sonic. Featured from that disc are the Deep Purple-inspired tracks “Let’s Go Out,” “Can’t Stick Around” and the massive “Flying High” which takes just enough ‘60s edge and combines it with a Steppenwolf road rhythm.

Prior to Sonic the band had released six full-length LPs and three EPs all considered classics; however most of the material from Fifteen Hits is taken from their last three Locomotive discs with the majority coming from 2006’s United. The bass driven “Ghost without a Will” borrows more than a little from Golden Earring while “I’ve Lost My Faith (In You)” is more punk-meets-new wave. Guitarist Fernando Pardo has a thing for big, fat, boogie riffs as heard in “I Won’t Go Back” and furious solos that heat up even the light tracks. If it makes your foot tap – he’s on it. But it’s keyboardist Marta Ruiz that steels the spotlight in every song. Her organ playing conjures up the best of Question Mark and the Mysterians, the Sonics and Jon Lord all in one phrase. She seduces with languid intoxication in “Something For Real” and paints an ethereal ‘80s pop hook in “I Enjoy the Forbidden.”

Rhythm section Javier (bass) and Roberto Lozano “Loza” (drums) stoke the boilers especially on Speedkings’ (2001) metallic master “Red Ones” and the wild ride of “Jet Sam.” They have a knack for keeping the songs frantic right up till the fade out. Vocalist Miguel Pardo (yes, brother to guitarist Fernando) is most closely compared to Iva Davis of Icehouse or Peter Hoorelbeke of Rare Earth with a tangible frailty to his voice that is as manic as it is powerful. Footstompers “Landlords,” “Streetfight” and the chunky “Wassa Massa” allow Miguel to strut his range rolling out guttural licks that break into arena-sized chops. Theirs is a celebration of rock spanning three decades and landing squarely in the 21st Century. On their MySpace page they post, “If Spain is the R'n'R desert, these are five nomads of the sands who want to take you on their acid R'n'R trip.” Check out our candid interview with keyboardist Marta Ruiz by clicking here.

Website: Sex Museum, Locomotive Records


MARCH 2008

JORN
Unlocking The Past, The Gathering
Locomotive Records

The last couple of years have been a very prolific time for Jorn Lande. Since releasing the highly acclaimed The Duke, the Norwegian singer has released two retrospective solo albums (Unlocking The Past, The Gathering), a live 2-disc set (Live In America) and two projects with Symphony X frontman Russell Allen appropriately called Allen/Lande. The Duke (2006) established Lande as a powerhouse singer and songwriter capable of crafting a wealth of classics that give a nod to the past while still blazing ahead to the future. Aiding him along the way is a dynamic set of musicians including the thunder twins bassist Morty Black and drummer Willy Bendiken, with guitarists (Jorn) Viggo Lofstad and Tore Moren giving the songs that added crunch. Both Unlocking The Past and The Gathering were released simultaneously last spring as imports and are now seeing the light of day here through US distribution channels. Together they are an excellent source for discovering why this prestigious song minstrel is quickly becoming the vocal giant of our time.

Unlocking The Past plays host to 10-influential tracks that gave Lande the “fire-in-the-belly” to forge his own path as a rock singer and he makes no bones that Gillian, Dio, Rodgers and Coverdale are part of his DNA. Fans of Jorn’s “Snake” days will appreciate the Whitesnake classic “Fool For Your Lovin” and Deep Purple’s “Burn” and “Perfect Strangers.” He also does a rousing rendition of Dio-era Sabbath in “Lonely Is The Word / Letters From Earth” and Rainbow’s “Kill The King.” But it’s the ripping MSG “On and On,” Thin Lizzy’s Cold Sweat” and Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” that really set this disc on fire. Lande’s vocal prowess and strength is found in his stunning range and control. He breathes new life into the originals and makes them his own with emotion and sonic class while the band stokes the engine’s furnace. Two surprises Kiss’s “Naked City” and City Boy’s “The Day The Earth Caught Fire” prove the singer has a broader understanding of what makes a good song than just whipping out run-of-the-mill standards.

The Gathering is more of a “greatest hits’ package from the last several Jorn records and his past involvement with other groups. Some of the songs are re-worked, dusted off and polished with Tommy Hansen beefing up the production. The disc is packed solid with 16 top-notch songs including the best of Jorn’s first three solo records (six coming from “Worldchanger” alone) then a sprinkling of past band’s starting with Whitesnake clone The Snakes, Millennium, prog band Ark, and the Allen/Lande project. Missing are highlights from the Helloween side project Masterplan of which there are a number of gems. Could be a label thing but certainly does not distract from the quality of this piece. Closely compared to David Coverdale, Lande delights the ears with the chunky “Something Real,” the massive foot-stomper “Gonna Find The Sun” and seductive “House of Cards.” He then takes a darker turn with the melodic crunch of “Bridges Will Burn,” Dio-era Sabbath in the “Abyss of Evil” and the cinematic Viking lore of “Tungur Knivur.” Every track deserves high praise as each magnifies a singer of staggering proportions. Check out our exclusive interview with Jorn Lande by clicking here.

Website: Jorn


FEBRUARY 2008

IRON MAIDEN
Live After Death (DVD)
Universal Music Group

Sadly, many of the younger generation missed out on the rise of NWOBM. It was during those formative years the true metal was forged and the band that held the banner highest was Iron Maiden. Theirs is a story of epic proportions, of struggle and near demise to the ‘call to irons’ and complete world domination. To tell the story right requires an immense amount of preparation, skill and foresight. All of which are present on the sensational and utterly astounding Live after Death DVD released February 5th, 2008. Immediately apparent is the time and care in the package design and interface layout. Dusting off the original 1985 Long Beach, CA show, project producer Dave Pattenden paid careful attention to every detail bringing not only a visual carnival but an explosive burst of 5.1 surround sound out of the speakers. Along with the legendary concert, the package boasts a 2-disc, 5-hour plus cavalcade of vintage footage and rarely seen highlights including the History of Iron Maiden, part 2 documentary.

Disc one kicks into high gear with the complete concert footage of the much bootlegged and out of print Long Beach Arena show originally released on VHS in ’85. This is the second date of a four night sold-out run and is slightly different than the double-album including the omission of the records fourth side. Recorded during the group’s World Slavery (Powerslave) tour it includes the best of the best with established classics “2 Minutes to Midnight,” “The Trooper” and “Run To the Hills.” The band is in fighting form after spending the past eight months on the road. On film they are strutting their wears as a fine oiled machine – proof of their footing on the pinnacle of metal stardom. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson is in fine voice hitting on all cylinders and particularly chatty between songs as the dual guitar orchestration of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith is executed in a refined and precise manner. Founding bassist / lyricist Steve Harris gallops along, mouthing every lyric and bouncing from one end of the stage to the other. And… save for the ridiculous outfits of the day including drummer Nicko McBrain’s red spandex unitard…the band could not be stronger.

The second DVD is packed with extras. As mentioned previously, there's a 60-minute documentary The History of Iron Maiden Part 2, which chronicles the making of the Powerslave album and subsequent tour. There's another near hour-long documentary Behind the Iron Curtain shot during Maiden's 1984 tour in Poland and other Iron Curtain countries during the height of the Cold War. It includes performances of 7 different live songs from that tour. A real bonus is the band’s performance at the 1985 Rock in Rio festival in front of 300,000 fans. Eight songs from that set are included here. You also get 15 minutes of interviews and live performance from a 1983 show in San Antonio, Texas along with other photo and video extras. There are the expected sound pits that drop out here and there. The tapes are twenty years old so some of that is expected… however; for the most part they stand pretty well. Fans will cherish this flashback as a moment in time when metal ruled supreme. In conjunction with this release Iron Maiden have recently announced that they will be touring the US calling it the “Somewhere Back in Time” tour. It will begin in San Antonio May 21 and run through Seattle June 2.

This just off the wire from Iron Maiden’s current sold-out Sydney (Australia) show, “The band did not disappoint. It was more a military attack than a concert with the band spraying the crowd with metal pellets in the form of ‘greatest hits’ with punishing precision…After 33 yrs together, Iron Maiden still sonically soar higher than most.”

Website: Iron Maiden


JANUARY 2008

RICHIE KOTZEN
Return of the Mother Head’s Family Reunion (Japanese release)
Go Faster (US release)
Frontiers Records (Italy)

After nearly 30 records and over 20 years in the music business Philadelphia native Richie Kotzen has returned to the rock / soul roots that inspired him to pursue a career as a professional musician. Return of the Mother Head’s Family Reunion (titled Go Faster for the US release) picks up where the original Mother Head’s Family Reunion left off in 1994 with a full band contribution including Kotzen (vocals/guitar), Franklin Vanderbilt (drums), Arlan Schierbaum (keyboards) and Virgil McKoy (bass). The disc was written, arranged and produced by Kotzen following his successful opening for The Rolling Stones 2006 Bigger Bang Japanese tour. Changing his one-man band approach with his long list of solo records, Kotzen hand selected individual musicians noted for their dexterity and compositional strength. The result is a stunning array of soulful groove that hearkens back to 70’s hard rock with a splattering of Hall and Oats AOR.

The disc kicks off with the powerful foot-stomper “Go Faster” (also the title of the US release). Kotzen voice is well textured reminiscent of an early Paul Rodgers or a young Daryl Hall with his signature Fender embracing, pushing and electrifying the song. Expanding his traditional trio approach, Kotzen makes room to layer harmonies, fire guitar barbs and extend his staccato playing. The band embraces the funk as they pump up “You Know That” with Arlan Schierbaum going absolutely psycho on the keyboards. “Bad Things” and bonus track “Drift” lock in on a bluesy groove that makes good use of Virgil McKoy’s bass and Franklin Vanderbilt drums. Continuing to build around the rhythm section is the Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired “Dust” featuring some of the best riffs Kotzen’s played in years.  Hot on its Heels is “Do It Yourself" a sobering hard rocker that’s immediately addictive with a tasty chorus.

The band slows down for a lovely ballad in “Faith” with the organ backing Kotzen’s emotional vocal performance. The solo break is simple and controlled never growing bigger than the song. “Fooled Again” has to be the crowning glory on the disc; tough and passionate with a huge memorable chorus that illuminates the fat guitar muscle. Stretching out to eight minutes, the track features the band in perfect synch while giving way to Kotzen’s massive solo. Known for his ability to cross genres Kotzen easily drifts into Euro-pop in “Chase It” and ZZ Top-Texas boogie in “Can You Feel It.” Yet it’s the Deep Purple-meets-JLT-era Rainbow that takes “You’re Crazy” from a mid-tempo rocker to an absolute classic complete with style, grit and melody. Of the two FM heavyweights Kotzen played with in the last decade, Poison and Mr. Big, Return of the Mother Head’s Family Reunion comes closer to the latter. It’s mature, well constructed and hopelessly addicting. Check out our indepth interview with Richie Kotzen by clicking here.

Richie Kotzen’s Go Faster record release party is Friday (Jan 25, 2008) at the Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd. Hollywood, CA (www.viperroom.com)

Website: Richie Kotzen


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