||FROM THE VAULT
DAVID “ROCK” FEINSTEIN
Bitten By the Beast
It’s a shame Ronnie James Dio can’t be here to enjoy his cousin, David “Rock” Feinstein’s new-found success. After all, the two started playing heavy rock in the late sixties when guitarist Feinstein joined Dio’s Electric Elves. The band went on to regional fame after shortening their name to Elf and opening for Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and the Faces among others. Elf disbanded in 1975 with Dio singing for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Rock forming heavy metal band The Rods. Dio, of course, went on to fame and fortune in Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio and Heaven & Hell. He remained a world-class singer until his untimely death last May of stomach cancer. Rock and The Rods metaled through the eighties releasing seven classic LPs. As a solo artist, Feinstein has released two critically praised discs including One Night In The Jungle (2000) and Feinstein’s Third Wish (2004). It was during the process of writing The Rods comeback record with original drummer Carl Canedy and bassist Garry Bordonaro that Rock simultaneously began working on what would become Bitten By The Beast.
Bitten By The Beast is Feinstein’s third solo effort and certainly his most encompassing. In essence, after forty years as a professional musician, he’s found his sweet spot. An ambitious undertaking, Rock plays every instrument (except drums) and sings lead vocals on all but one of the record’s nine tracks. The single song where Rock shares the microphone ends up defining the album. The track is “Metal Will Never Die” and is sung by none other than Ronnie James Dio. Evidently the two had planned to do an Elf reunion, but due to time constraints Dio opted to lend his voice to a couple metal songs “in progress” with Canedy and Bordonaro. The result is a thunderous tune laid down in pure Dio/Feinstein fashion stripped of glamour and overloaded with testosterone. It’s a miracle we even have this song and it rocks to the core! However, if this was the only song worth raving about one would think Rock was capitalizing on his good fortune. Not so the whole record is blinding starting with the pounding “Smoke On The Horizon” featuring one of Rock’s best riffs, through the chugging “Break Down The Walls” to the Elf flashback “Rock’s Boogie.”
The credits list Feinstein as the sole producer, which explains his bare bones approach to the record’s sound. It’s dry with a no-nonsense plug and play attitude. It hearkens back to The Rod’s pre-Arista release Rock Hard with a kill or be killed driving force. The drums are handled by Nate Horton, a local Cortland session player that completely understands where Rock’s coming from. His fills give “Evil In Me” a rapid-fire stutter and hands “Give Me Mercy” its one-two punch. The production does favor Rock’s guitar above everything else and this slab is a grade-A riff-fest. Every song has that signature munch, crunch and power chug. “Kill The Demon” and “Run For Your Life” are lessons in keeping it simple and meaningful while “Gambler, Gambler” is old school Ted Nugent-meets-Phil Campbell. The tasty “Rock’s Boogie” is a charmer with the guitarist’s taste for Texas two-steppin’ up front and center. As for Rock’s vocal, yeah there’s better (Dio is a case in point) but there’s such honesty in his delivery - whether he’s growling, prowling or putting his emotions on display. It all adds up to a welcome return of a familiar family name. To read our interview with the one and only David Rock Feinstein click here.
Website: David ‘Rock” Feinstein, Niji Entertainment
Breaking the Silence
UK-based four-piece SKIN came to prominence in the early 1990’s the old fashion way ready to rock! Built from of the ‘80s NWOBM scene, they attacked rather than waiting around to be introduced. Their singer was Neville MacDonald of Welsh band Kooga. He was joined by guitarist Myke Gray of Jagged Edge, Andy Robbins of Tokyo Blade and drummer Dicki Fliszar of Bruce Dickinson’s solo band. Before Kerrang! went extreme metal, SKIN filled the British magazine’s pages which heralded them as the new giants of arena rock. Indeed the group showed promise when their self-titled debut hit the street in 1994. Produced by Keith Olson (Scorpions, Whitesnake) the record was a sure sale preceded by hits “Look But Don’t Touch” “Shine Your Light” and “House of Love” before “Money” and “Tower of Strength” fueled the fire. The band toured relentlessly first with Little Angels, then Thunder and closed the year playing before a sea of humanity at Donnington’s Monsters of Rock. Grunge was all the rage in the US, but the UK still loved their rock and SKIN provided it.
The story for Skin ended far too soon. After only four studio records the group disbanded in 1998, frustrated over music fashion and the lackluster support for rock music in general. Eleven years later, an invitation to play the 2009 Download Festival (the original Donnington) brought the band out of retirement. Breaking The Silence is their proper comeback album. Gone is the lucid production and middle-eastern psychedelia that plagued the final chapters of Experience Electric (1997), back is the raw nature of the beast that first attracted the attention of Iron Maiden’s management team. Recorded on a shoestring budget, the disc smolders with pure intensity, basking in big hooks and a bone-shaking bottom end. It comes down to the songs and this record piles them up in heaps. Leading the pack is “Good To Be Back” an obvious tribute to the group’s dedicated fan base. With a power chord opening and a dry drumbeat, the band roar back into action giving real meaning behind their one-two punch when they sing “I’ve been away for much too long, now that I’m back I’m gonna sing my song.”
It’s as if no time at all has passed when the familiar tones of “Stronger,” “Bad Reputation” and “Can You Feel It?” remind us just how great these guys are when their four worlds collide. Guitarist Myke Gray is still writing the majority of the songs with riff rock as his first priority. His six-sting chops prove to be just as poignant and massive as they are lethal. Nev MacDonald, one of the best ‘Classic Rock’ voices out there, is still hitting the high notes and capturing hearts in ballads “When I’m With You” and the emotional “Redemption.” Colin McLeod returns playing all keyboards as well as wearing the producer’s hat giving the record a clean, muscular sound without too much polish. The Celtic “Book of Your Life” and James Bond-inspired “Trigger Inside” showcase the power and finesse bassist Andy Robbins and drummer Dicki Fliszar can pack into a song. The reunion has also given us “Indestructible,” the heaviest song the band has ever written and the larger-than-life anthem “Born to Rock ‘N’ Roll.” This album goes well beyond expectations giving us the chance to appreciate true greatness. Check out our interview with SKIN guitarist Myke Gray by clicking here.
Little Immaculate White Fox
Pearl is one of those rock and roll phenomenon’s that’s needed to kick the whole music industry in the ass. Combining the talents of LA underground kings Mother Superior with the stunning vocal prowess of Pearl Aday (Mötley Crüe, Meat Loaf, Ace Frehley) and tossing in Scott Ian of Anthrax, gives us a mixture of high-voltage rock that’s as fresh and exciting as Janis Joplin, Ike and Turner and Melissa Etheridge all rolled into one. The origin of the band is a little unclear. There were several parties and hangout sessions before the ink was put to paper. Mother Superior, led by guitarist/singer Jim Wilson and including bassist Marcus Blake and drummer Matt Tecu were on hiatus when Aday (a fan of the band) approached the group asking if they’d consider working with a female singer. Several sessions later, and with the addition of Aday’s husband Scott Ian, they had enough material to go out on the road in 2008. The response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. By ’09 the group entered the studio to record their debut, Little Immaculate White Fox with producer Joe Barresi (Kyuss, Coheed and Cambria, Bad Religion).
The disc kicks off with “Rock Child” a tribute to Aday’s childhood as stepdaughter to famous father Meat Loaf rumored to have used a guitar case for her cradle. The song rolls out with a thundering drumbeat locking on to a catchy hook with Aday’s gruff vocals snagging the listener into a fist pumping salute. Having sung backing vocals for Meat Loaf, Ace Frehley and Mötley Crüe, Aday’s voice is built for classic rock but with emphasis on snarl and grit rather than sex appeal. That kind of conviction allows her to take on Tina Turner’s, “Nutbush City Limits” without missing a beat and engaging Ted Nugent in the chugging “Check Out Charlie.” Though most of the songwriting is split between the band, it’s Aday who’s credited with the lyrics. Her most sincere and heartfelt lyrics seem to come in the Allman Brother meets Black Crowes “Mama,” which bakes a sizzling blues Cajun riff with the singer echoing “I’m just a baby, but I feel old enough to die today.”
Ballads “My Heart Isn’t In It” and “Anything” move the group into a more country rock flare with shadows of English ‘70s outfit Bronco and Vinegar Joe. There’s even a hint of Elkie Brooks in Aday’s timbre. It’s also nice to hear a bit of guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s (Alice in Chains) noodling through the smoldering embers of the haunting “Anything”. The soul-fused “Nobody” showcases Wilson, Blake and Ian’s ability to write compelling, engaging, arena rock. The verse brings out the best in the band as they move from a moody intro into a bridged chorus that sticks like glue. For the money, the Wilson-Ian solo duel is mind-blowing. From the Mother Superior back-catalog comes “Whore” taking on a whole new life out of the lungs of Aday. Its churning rhythm section and frantic delivery borders on Detroit punk. There is a certain retro nature to Pearl. They come from the old school of Bad Company in “Worth Defending” and Humble Pie in “Love Pyre” yet can still knock heads with modern rocker “Broken White.” Easily one of the best records this year. Check out our interview with the band by clicking here.
The Demon Dance
Sideburn’s third opus The Demon Dance is one of those volume 11 stunners that hold you captive from the first cymbal crash to the acoustic outtro. In the thirteen years they’ve been together their hair has gotten longer, the beards are bushier and they’re still committed to celebrating the holy triad of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple in their music. Pushing the boundaries of power trio the band have moved from a traditional stoner outfit to a heavy rock group full of finesse and technique. Third track in “Song For Hope” is the clearest example as it brings in a nice symphonic element reminiscent of Trampled Under Foot with a gorgeous mid-section. Guitarist Morgan Zocek exudes riffs ‘o plenty going from the darkest dark in “Doomherren” to the melodic strains of “Rainy Days.” Making comparisons to Spiritual Beggars and The Quill in their respect for ‘70s rock, we would add Bigelf into the mix as their use of organ increases their wall of sound. Bassist Martin Karlsson handles the keyboards giving songs like “Wings of Sorrow” and “Hold Me In Your Light” its mammoth presence.
Singer/guitarist Jani Kataja has one of those swelling melodic voices that’s not quite Plant but leans toward both Glenn Hughes and Dream Theater’s James LaBrie. “Fallen Sun” seems to be where he shines with his Dio-era Sabbath take on life’s pain-filled journey. The bursting “Dyin’ Day” follows with a surging push built on a driving riff while the title cut “The Demon Dance” stokes a rhythmic bass line that crashing into a Slayer-like chugging guitar. When Kataja bellows “Another people dieing sleeping in their sorry souls /never more to wake up /all grown cold” the group make the transition from good to great! Another Zeppelin moment comes in the 7-minute “Shapes” where the band plays acoustic against electric with a Kashmir feel in color and texture. The more they extend this piece- the cooler it gets. Personal favorite is the bluesy “Shinning” with its Free-like groove, kinda like Woman with a quicker tempo. The guitar sound is dirty with little-to-no feedback, just straight into the amp with all the power of a charging rhinoceros. Brilliant!!!
Check out our feature on Transubutans Records/Record Heaven by clicking here.
Website: Transubutans Records, Record Heaven
Dom Feta Åren är Förbi
As the Hellacopters were taking a break after two years of touring in support of their critically acclaimed 2002 By The Grace Of God LP, lead guitarist Robert “Strings” Dahlqvist expanded out into a solo side project known as Thunder Express. The band consisted of Dahlqvist as guitarist and singer, second guitarist Robert Pehrsson (Death Breath), drummer Jesper Karlsson (Diamond Dogs) and bassist Jens Lagergren (Hello Saferide). The band’s name sprang from the group’s love for the MC5 and their 2004 debut included 10 tracks reflecting a healthy dose of ‘the 5’, Stones, Cheap Trick and Faces influence. Though the disc gave Dahlqvist a musical outlet during the Hellacopter’s downtime, it was seen as a one-off project done primarily for fun. In 2007, after another extended Hellacopter break following the ’Rock & Roll Is Dead’ tour, Thunder Express resurfaced with record number two Republic Disgrace, proving the band were now a serious venture. The record continued in the same vein as the first, though with a bit more Kiss in the writing style and included the exotic vocal pipes of east African born singer Jaqee.
A year later Dahlqvist was operating the group under the Swedish name Dundertåget (a rough translation of Thunder Express). The line up remained the same and several songs from the earlier TE albums were re-recorded in Swedish for the Dundertåget debut Skaffa ny Frisyr. For the conservative English, a switch to Swedish rock ‘n’ roll maybe a leap, but for the adventurous, the musically soundscape is not only rewarding but magical. This year, 2010, Dundertåget release their most accomplished work to date under the heading Dom Feta Åren är Förbi. The record is more ambitious but deeply ingrained in 70’s West Coast rock. It’s not a far leap from Lindsey Buckingham’s pre-Fleetwood Mac Buckingham Nicks. There’s even a gorgeous ballad, “Vingars Brus,” that features a duet with Dahlqvist and Electronica goddess Nina Ramsby. Singer/songwriter Stefan Sundström, who penned several songs on the band’s debut, also lends a hand here rounding out the rough edges and injecting traditional elements of folk rock into songs like the above mentioned “Vingars Brus” and guitar-driven “Dom Feta Åren Är Förbi.”
Dundertåget played Sweden Rock this year opening the festival’s second day. Amidst wind and drizzling rain, the band delivered an hour-long set of revved-up scorchers proving Dahlqvist can easily lead a high-energy show. They not only kept a fevered pitch through songs like “Full Kalabalik,” the piano-tinged “Förvånad, Hånad Och Kränkt” and blistering “Här Har Vi Allt Som Du Behöver” but created a wave of tears in the emotional ballad “Vingars Brus.” The highlight of the show was the closing jam when the three guitarists lined up near the front and, after taking aim over the crowd, lifted their instruments high in the air as the feedback resonated for a good five minutes after each left the stage. Sometime later, huddled near the backstage bar, we grabbed Dahlqvist for a quick chat to catch up on old times and talk about the future. Read our interview by clicking here.
Phoenix Musik Group
Formed from the ashes of Norwegian titans Gluecifer, comes Oslo’s own Bloodlights. Simple Pleasures is the band’s sophomore outing, following their critically acclaimed self-titled debut that landed in ’07. Led by ex-Gluecifer guitarist/singer Captain Poon, the disc showcases the best in Scandic rock with wide-open riffs, punchy solos and a pummeling rhythm section. Where the band’s first disc promised potential in tracks like the rapid-fire “Addiction,” the galloping “Hammer and the Wheel” and the band’s theme song “Bloodlights” (the phenomenon of seeing red flashes right before passing out after consuming too much ‘of everything’), Simple Pleasures easily capitalizes on the momentum. Joining Poon is guitarist Howie B., bassist Ron Elly and newly recruited drummer Nicovon Schafer. It’s evident from the first song “Blasted” that the four have bonded over the last couple years. The bass and drum set the pace with a cow-punk 50’s swagger before the guitars turn it in wrecking ball of anthemic rock.
Years of experience have taught Poon how to write perfect three-minute foot-stompers that get the head bangin’ and the fists in the air. He may borrow a bit from AC/DC, Cheap Trick and the Ramones but there’s still a tinge of metal and punk attitude that shapes what he does into it’s own vibrant entity. Take the frantic “Perfect But The Opposite” with its Paul Cook-like cage drumming while twin guitars buzz through the chorus. Poon’s voice echoes his post-Gluecifer reflection, “I’m getting in when I should get out / Making decisions when I’m filled with doubt…All I care about is things I can’t have.” To lend a hand is Hellacopters Nicke Royale playing the outro lead. It’s also Royale’s voice that backs up the pop charmer, “Never Built To Last” a track that has a ‘90’s Smashing Pumpkins vibe. The band are at their best when they pound out gritty Detroit rock as in “City of the Dead” where the boogie piano makes the tune one of the record’s true gems.
Title track, “Simple Pleasures” is just that - charismatic with a tasty riff and Kiss hook. Poon’s voice rolls out thick and sticky as the band surge into the chorus. Here’s where the record turns bringing the band into clear focus and shedding ghosts of the past. Twin guitars hammer “Just One More” and “The Thief,” the closest the band gets to Hellacopter territory, but with their own streetwise sneer. The songs embrace all that’s become a Scandinavian rawk ‘n’ roll trademark seasoned with sleaze, power-chords and high-energy. Lizzy-inspired, “Wipe It Off,” the Motorhead-ish “Off The Track” and cocksure, “Ultimate High” featuring backing vocals by Henning Solvang (Thulsa Doom) reminds us of the fluidity in which this band plows through their influences. The record proves to have passed the sophomore slump with flying colors. For Poon and his band of minstrels, rock stardom is right around the corner. Check out our exclusive interview with Bloodlight's Captain Poon by clicking here.
Greatest Hits - Remixed
TML Entertainment Inc.
Canadian rock legends, Triumph return from a long hibernation with the definitive collection of Greatest Hits (Remixed) and a stellar DVD combo that fans have demanded since 1989’s lackluster Classics. Remixed from the original tapes by long time friend, collaborator and fan Rich Chycki and under the direction of Triumph bassist Mike Levine, the CD portions of this deluxe package contains 13 of the band’s chart-topping favorites. The band also includes their new single, a cover of the Nazareth hit “Love Hurts.” Like many combo/deluxe packages of recent, the DVD portion is the real ticket here. Eleven of the band’s concert videos including “Lay it on the Line,” “Magic Power” and “Allied Forces” are included. Bonus features are “Child of the City,” a blinding “bootleg” of one of the band’s famous light shows and their Canadian Hall of Fame induction footage. A bargain at any price!
The best thing about this package is the care and attention to detail. Whether you’re a casual listener or a rabid fan, there is plenty of ear and eye candy. It’s also a vivid reminder of just how good this band was. Though time has clouded the memory, Triumph was one of the main arena acts of the mid to late ‘80s. They held their own with fellow Canadians Rush and Saga and were described as Emerson Lake and Palmer meets The Who, but more hard rock and much louder. They were so big that bands like Molly Hatchet, Bad Company, Mountain, and UFO opened for them. Formed as a three piece with drummer/singer Gil Moore, bassist Mike Levine and guitarist/singer Rik Emmett in 1975, they never played the support role. They headlined from their first gig at Simcoe High School through to the ’78 Canada Jam before 110,000 people and on to the 1983 US Festival with half a million in attendance.
Since eight of the band’s albums were certified gold or higher there is plenty of good material to chose from. As for song selection, there’s a bit of a give and take when compared to Classics. Greatest Hits (Remixed) leads the pack with the Gil Moore ballad “Just One Night,” the band’s greatest harmony classic “Never Surrender” and the blues monster “When the Lights Go Down.” Missing is “Tears in the Rain” from Sport of Kings (1985) and “A World of Fantasy” from Never Surrender (1982). Yet when it comes to sound, it’s no contest. To remix the songs, the original tapes were ‘baked’ (a processes of heating the original tape), transferred electronically and pieced back together using studio software. It allows the engineer to compose or alternate the master, changing equalization, dynamics, pitch, and tempo. None of the arrangements was tampered with and there is a tremendous boost in sound. It brings new life to “Fight the Good Fight,” “Follow Your Heart”, “Hold On” and many others that deserve to stand the test of time. Checkout our in-depth interview with Triumph bassist Mike Levine by clicking here.
Stone Axe II
Music Abuse Records
The first song on Stone Axe II, “Old Soul” puts the entire record in perspective. Formed in Bremerton, WA in ’07 from the shattered remains of Mos Generator and The Swinos. Stone Axe’s Tony Reed (vocals/guitarist), Dru Brinkerhoff (vocals), Mike DuPont (bass) and Mykey Haslip (drums) conjure up eerie ghosts of late ‘60s early ‘70s rock with uncanny precision. The group’s self-titled album stormed onto the scene in 2009 with a fresh take on classic Cream, Free and Thin Lizzy. With disc two they continue their tribute by bringing in textured nuances like the Sweet-inspired “We Know It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll” and Humble Pie-laced “On With The Show.” Reflecting the power-soul teams of Rodgers-Kossoff, Marriott-Frampton and Farner-Brewer, the Stone Axe pairing of Reed and Brinkerhoff build their own musical monuments to The Who, Mountain and Procol Harum. Though it may sound congested with a decade’s worth of influences, the band benefits from sparse, meaningful phrasing balanced with lots of breathing room.
Imagine an original group that could capture the vibe of the “classics” folder in your i-pod. That’s what Stone Axe does in ten stunning tracks. From the Uriah Heep infused “Chasing Dragons” where singer Dru puts on his best David Byron, to the Who-like acoustic sweetness of “One More Time Before I Die,” the group captures the sprit and soul of a timeless era where the chemistry was about memorable songwriting with stellar musicianship. “I feel more connected with the music that bursts from the post-blues boom in England than anything else,” Reed recently told us. “It grabs you, gets down deep in your soul and has a more committed listening experience.” It is from Reed that the fountain of retro-rock springs forth. His vision captures the Hammond-laced “Turn To Stone” and funnels in an acoustic backbone that sound like it came from Salty Dog-era Procol Harum. Even his voice colors the tune with a Gary Brooker edge.
As with the debut Stone Axe I, this disc also comes with plenty of Free-inspired blues groove. Reed’s not shy about his love of the British blues icon and puts heart and passion in the funky bump of “Live for the Day.” Even the lyrics brood under the weight of the bass and drum as Brinkerhoff moans, “Now do you see black clouds about to move on in / when the seas they swell and the sun’s blood red.” The guitar is chunky, steady and pulsates in short, tight bursts. Even the solo is conservative making each note all the more poignant. The bitter ‘break-up’ track “Ain’t Gonna Miss It” follows with a similar pattern as the naked drumbeat marches behind a driving bass line. The vocals get overtly cynical in the line, “I’m gonna back off a couple of screws you don’t use and pry that dyin’ soul away from you.” Nicely placed is the record one instrumental “One More Time Before I Die” proving Reed’s as much a musical architect as a multi-layered musician. Thin Lizzy tribute “Those Were the Golden Years” finds the band exactly where they want to be.
Check out our interview with Stone Axe guitarist, vocalist and composer Tony Reed by clicking here.
Website: Stone Axe
Sting in the Tail
One way to sell records in these thorny economic times is to get the word out that this is your last effort. In January 2010 long-time German rockers Scorpions announced Sting In The Tail would be their final recording followed by one last romp around the world with a three-year tour. Last winter, after finishing the album it was decided retirement was the best way to end an illustrative 45-year career that included playing the famed US Festival and Monsters of Rock, becoming the first German band to tour Russia, meeting Mikhail Gorbachev, playing the Rodger Waters extravaganza “The Wall” (celebrating the collapse of the Berlin Wall), recording with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, selling over 100 million records worldwide and amassing a string of hits including the number one whistling anthem “Wind of Change.” How do you end a career like that? For the Scorpions it was simple, write a set of classy songs, stick to their signature melodic hard rock formula and deliver a monster of a record.
Fully returning to the ‘80s sound that made them superstars, the five piece of Klaus Meine (vocals), Rudolf Schenker (rhythm guitar), Matthias Jabs (lead guitar), Pawel Maciwoda (bass) and James Kottak (drums) waste no time getting to it as they storm through the appropriately titled “Raised On Rock.” Already a runaway single, the song propelled Sting in the Tail to top charts in Greece, Germany, and the Czech Republic in its first week of sales. Second single “The Good Die Young,” with Tarja Turunen of Nightwish fame singing backing vocals, is already nipping at its heels with an infectious hook and guitar crunch. The band’s staple has always been their overdriven guitars. Schenker and Jabs do not disappoint as they unleash a sonic fury through the roaring “Spirit of Rock” and heavy-handed “Rock Zone”. Meine’s distinctive voice fills each song with surging emotion that fully absorbs the delicate power-ballad “Lorelei” to the augmented titled track “Sting in the Tail.”
Back is Jabs’ ‘talk box’, the effects device made famous in “The Zoo” that allows him to modify the sound of his guitar using his mouth. The anthemic “Slave Me” is the perfect vehicle for the effect not only giving Jabs the spotlight but granting him a song writing credit to boot. Drummer Kottack uses “No Limit” to indulge his animated playing with an Iron Maiden-like double kick bass that gallops along at full speed. As in the past couple records, Maciwoda is the only player that lacks personality. His playing is subtle and suppressed buried under the guitar barrage that seems to overwhelm him. He does surface on “Turn You On” with a thumping return to the Crazy World meets Face the Heat groove. Revisiting former glories Meine and Schenker pen “SLY” the tender story of a young girl named after the band’s mammoth ballad “Still Loving You.” Several outside writers also lend their hand including the album’s Swedish producers Mikael “Nord” Andersson and Martin Hansen with Fredrik Thomander (Backyard Babies, Gotthard) and Hooters main man Eric Bazilian on deck. They seem to all converge on promising “The Best Is Yet to Come.” The disc is a solid body of work easily living up to the group’s legacy. Check out our interview with Scorp’s guitarist Matthias Jabs by clicking here.
Carving out a niche in the Christian market as a blues artist is a tough job. Yet, Glenn Kaiser has been doing it for twenty years. His soulful voice and inspired playing, which incorporates a number of blues styles including gospel, is his trademark. Most remember his ‘70s outfit The Resurrection Band and the more turbulent Rez Band of the Eighties. With the dawn of the new millennium and inspired by Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Mountain, Kaiser formed his own power trio embossed with his original stamp calling it the Glenn Kaiser Band (GKB). Octane is the group’s fifth studio release and continues their faith-inspired blues with Kaiser’s distinct guitar phrasing and guttural vocal delivery. Joined by bassist/co-writer Roy Montroy and drummer Ed Bialach, the three pack a huge punch in the opener “Broken Love” with a riff that’s thick and heavy like SRV on steroids. The groove pumps fire into the engine while the guitar burns and scorches its way through a tale about the great deceiver meeting his match.
Octane sticks to what has made the group such a powerful force over the years. It’s meat and potatoes electric blues with Kaiser jumping on the harmonica for color. The driving R&B sidewinder “Streetcorner Blues” has a high-kicking two-step complete with sizzling pedal steel while “Trouble High Trouble Low” builds on a big open chord with a heart-pounding drum kick. Kaiser’s solos may not be picture perfect, but they are a unique expression of the man’s authenticity. There’s a lot of Walter Trout or even young Joe Bonamassa in tracks like the rollicking “Thick and Thin” and the swaying “Roller Coaster” with its suppressed funky bass. What the band may lack in originality they certainly make up for in proficient, passionate playing with a high level of energy. Even when they slow in the Rory Gallagher-inspired, “Depends On Where You Stand” they wrap a gorgeous swell around a moral lesson in prejudice to make it one of the record’s highlights.
There’s plenty of ZZ Top-like muscle that flows from “Young Man Blues” and the swaggering shuffle of “Bad Times” with Kaiser pushing the band into heavier rock. “U-Turn” even rumbles out of the garage like a vintage Harley. A master of slide, Kaiser takes full advantage of “What Can Be Shaken” to grind out some gritty delta blues with a hook that keeps the repeat button busy. His solo is emotive and loose with plenty of good ‘old sweat in the strings. We’ve actually seen Glenn use a wrench and socket set for his slide prowess. A cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” makes its way on the disc. Kaiser changes the words a bit while doing a stripped down, rootsy take on the original. The ballad “Stand By The Window” becomes far more meaningful when accompanied by the story of how it was written as Kaiser was finishing an exhausting day of construction on a women’s rescue shelter. The disc closes with a second ballad “This Race” as a deeply poignant take on life’s cluttered, oftentimes troubled journey. Once again, Kaiser proves to be a true six-string preacher of the blues. Check out our exclusive interview with Glenn by clicking here.
Website: Glenn Kaiser
MOUNTAIN OF POWER
It’s been three years since Volume One introduced us to the shear energy and guitar fury of Mountain of Power. A collaborative brotherhood between Sweden’s Janne Stark (Locomotive Breath) and Rochester, NY’s Joe Romagnola (Grooveyard Records), Mountain of Power continues to be a tribute to classic obscure 70’s heavy guitar riffage that’s stood the test of time. With Volume Two, it’s all about the rock as fourteen songs pull deep cuts from Sammy Hagar, Pat Travers, and Leslie West. Among the better-known songs are buried treasures like “Checkin’ It Out/Sister Madness” from the tragically underrated Ozz, “Monkey” by UK power trio Trapeze and the killer “Waves” by the classic Christian rockers, Resurrection Band. Notice, before the disc goes into the player the packaging oozes retro from the cover, with its erupting mountain of lava, to the worn-out vinyl image on the inside. Lift the disc to reveal a photo of amps, heads, and guitars bursting to get out. When the laser hits celluloid, the transformation is complete as a warm ‘70s production with a big bottom end greets the listener.
From the top, Janne Stark is in full overdrive as he takes on Hagar’s “Urban Guerilla.” The guitar tone is thick and chunky with a solo lead shredding over the rhythm. Cindy Weichman (Nail/Helix) does a superb job with the vocals adding her own style and presence while guests Romagnola (Character) and Jay Jesse Johnson (Arc Angel, Cannata) join Stark in radiant solo bursts. In fact, guests abound on this masterpiece bringing together some of the biggest names in thunder rock including Martin J Andersen (Blindstone), Sven Cirnski (Bad Habit/Truth), Clas Yngström (Sky High), Kjell Bergendahl (Thalamus) and Ty Tabor (King’s X). Each adding their own distinct carbon prints to these cherished gems. Several tracks amplify the originals as they come alive in the hands of the Swedish master. “Checking It Out/Sister Madness” (Ozz) features Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot) and is mind-blowing superb - much heavier than the original and putting great emphasis on open-chord riffing. Blackfoot’s “I Stand Alone” with Point Blank’s Rusty Burns and Craig Erickson adding guitar, breathes new life into vintage southern rock.
Several of the songs were custom built for this extensive and celebrated compilation. UFO’s “Reasons Love/This Kids” joins Pat Travers “Makin’ Magic/Makes No Difference” in an explosive surge of guitar power. That was one of the best double-headline tours of 1977-78. “Indian Dawn/Hellcat” not only tribute Uli Roth, but his idol Jimi Hendrix as does the Mahogany Rush “Talkin’ ‘Bout A Feeling” with John Norum lending six strings of sonic supremacy. A chain of blues-inspired hard rock swells the disc’s midsection from ZZ Top’s “Bedroom Thang” and Rory Gallagher’s “Bad Penny/Keychain” to the Leslie West Band’s “Money (Whatcha Gonna Do)” and Y&T’s “Struck Down/25 Hours a Day.” Singers Clas Yngström, Conny Bloom, Kjell Bergendahl, and Mikael Nord Andersen respectively, leave just as big of an impression as the guitar players. Two surprises caught us off guard because not only are they eclectic, but also they are phenomenally done. Trigger’s “Deadly Weapon” will make you wish you had bought the record the thousand times you passed by it in the bargain bin and the Resurrection Band’s “Waves” featuring Ty Tabor (King’s X) and Christian Liljegren will save your soul. This is an essential purchase for 2010!
Website: Grooveyard Records
HOUSE OF BROKEN PROMISES
Using the Useless
Small Stone Records
Oh, man this is one stone cold, bad-ass, hard rock record. Resurrected from the remnants of Unida (the John Garcia-fronted stoner band post Kyuss and Slo Burn) HOBP erupts in a cataclysmic blast of molten granite that easily stands up to its illustrious pedigree. The Indio, California-based power trio are heavy on riffs and down right mean on rhythms and they look the part too with guitarist Arthur Seay boasting the most righteous lamb-chop beard we’ve ever seen. Echoes of COC, Sabbath and Down fill the record’s eleven tracks with Eddie Plascencia straddling his bass and bellowing into the mic while drummer Miguel Cancino kicks the shit out of his kit. “Blister” is a wake up call as it gets the whole disc boiling. A sidewinding lick akin to Pepper Keenan’s thick squeal feeds into a pummeling backbeat and chugs it’s way through four and a half minutes of thundering bliss. The deeper meaning of the song’s lyrics “I’m about to drop this heavy load / I can’t keep this stench off of me / so obnoxious I can’t breath” are left to open interpretation.
Second track, and in our opinion a beaming beckon, “Obey The Snake” capitalizes on a sinister wicked groove. Just enough southern soul with a funky riff and foot-stomping beat ensures the track will weld itself to your brain. The searing solo, ghosted piano and screaming female orgasm work magnificently. Biker anthem “Highway Grit” and biographical “Broken Life” dig deeper into the band’s twisted psyche. Gnarled and scarred by life’s arduous path leaves the band plenty of fabric to sew in their lyrical metaphors. “Torn” comes off as their soundtrack with a chorus so damn big one can only hope it find it’s way to satellite radio. Hot on it’s heels is the countering “Buried Away” with a huge open chord and some of Seay’s best playing. The drums retain their intensity with the bass clamoring behind Plascencia howling vocals. The Spanish version of “Ladron” puts authentic muscle behind the Southern Cal rocker while “The Hurt (Paid My Dues)” is the record’s first video up on YouTube - and the song that will sell this mother through the roof. Couple trax to pay particular attention to are Machine Head-like “Physco Plex” and fuzzed out “Walk On By.” Both bare repeated listening for complete conversion. The awesome album art was done by Alexander von Wieding, whose other clients include Monster Magnet and Three Chord Society.
Website: House of Broken Promises, Small Stone Records
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