The Book Of Heavy Metal
Century Media

Three records and one EP into the Power/Heavy Metal genre Swedish band Dream Evil have perfected their skills as a true resurgent in the remaking of all things bombastic. Claiming their right to the prize, the five-piece forge their names into “The Book Of Heavy Metal” with a platter that rings forth the best of ‘80s classics. Calling from his picturesque farm in Sweden, producer and band guitarist Fredrik Nordstrom sates, “We all love the metal from the ‘80s from Iron Maiden to Accept to hard rock bands like Sweet and Europe.” That sentiment is heard from the searing cry for “Metal” as vocalist extraordinaire Niklas Isfeldt kicks the record off on the CD’s title cut and remains firmly stated throughout 12 relentless metal anthems.

Nordstrom, who’s production credits range from In Flames and Dark Tranquility to Hammerfall, spent weeks layering the Dream Evil sound in an effort to recreate the quintessential sound the individual band members were influenced by. “Gus G. (the band’s wiz-kid Greek guitarist) loves that Thin Lizzy twin-guitar sound,” says Nordstrom. “He brings a lot of texture to the band which allows us to work in solo breaks and guitar crunch to perfection.” It is that signature “riff” dialog that moved DE past the run-of-the-mill tribute bands to a true innovative force in current rockdom.

King Diamond drummer Snowy Shaw and bassist Peter Stalfors are essential to the records titanic thunder with the pounding groove of “Into The Moonlight”, “Only For The Night’ and the records tour-de-force “Unbreakable Chain”. Named after Dio’s third record, Dream Evil merge elements of Scorpions, Uriah Heep and even Abba (“Chosen Twice”). Complete with galloping bass-lines, pitch-perfect solos and dueling guitar harmonies; Nordstrom and company may soon rise as the Mozart of modern metal. “We want to bring back the voice of what rock music meant to us,” says Nordstrom. “Dream Evil is the perfect vehicle to do it.” Highlights are the Ozzy-inspired “M.O.M” and “No Way” to “Crusaders’ Anthem” and the perfect stadium rocker “Let’s Make Rock”.

Website: Century Media Records

Demonophonic Blues
Lava Records

Some would call Tony C & The Truth the Vin Diesel rock of the new millennium. Steeped in bass-heavy and low rider thump, the Brooklyn boys bring every ounce of sex, rock and urban slang to the game. With his Tom Waits voice and his Kid Rock delivery Tony C has fine-tuned hip-hop hard-rock with a snarling, steady, street swagger. Raised on three chords and an Elvis picture book, Mr. C has found camaraderie with a subterranean group of city thugs that knocked around quarter-house beats with AC/DC riffs. The autobiographical tale of “Who I Am” sets the record on course as C’s thick voice unapologetically echoes, “I fought the demon and I wear the scars and who I am is who I are.”

In fact, inner-city, home spun lyrics fills every inch of Demonophonic Blues with such classic quotes as “I’ll be talkin’ trash while I’m smackin’ that ass,” and “the pussy always comes when I call” (Little Bit More) – making for some gritty party music with a nod to the playful. Yet it’s the band’s ability to change gears from the truck-driving Southern grove in “Get It Made” to the full on metal cover of the Beastie Boys “Fight For You Right”. Bar room moments like the Latin-tinged “Good Lookin’ More” and the Skynyrd “One 4 The Road” break up the Country slag that seems to permeate each ballad from “No Pain” and “Gravity” to the intro to “Ball & Chain”. An innovative offbeat record that once it finds its way into your player may stay a long, long time.

Website: Lava Records, Tony C & the Truth

The Art of Dying
Nuclear Blast Records

About damn time. It’s been 14 years since DA have rattled the rafters of your local town hall. But once the fully-amped dose of “Thrown To The Wolves” hits your speakers it will remind you of just how potent this band was – even as teenagers. Pioneers of the Bay-area thrash metal movement during the late Eighties, Death Angel’s fame and fortune came early on. How early, drummer Andy Galeon was only 14 when they signed with Restless Records. Because they were so young it’s amazing to note the band are still only in their early 30’s while Megadeath, Metallica and Exodus are all in their early 40’s.

It was actually Galeon’s near-fatal tour bus accident that put an end to the quartet’s momentum on their critically claimed Geffen debut Act III in 1990. Yet, one listen to “5 Steps of Freedom”, the thundering “Thicker Than Blood” and the brutal “Never Me” off Art of Dying and you realize Galeon is rightly back on the stool just as ferocious as ever.
The masterwork of guitarist Rob Cavestany is also center stage moving effortlessly from the dynamic acoustic architecture of “Word To The Wise” to the fret-flying dexterity of “Prophecy”. Newcomer Ted Aguilar steps in to lend admirable support in a twin-guitar thrashathon.

Singer Mark Osegueda remains just as sinister as the band’s gravel-voiced icon. Rich in texture and viscerally committed to his lyrics, he is as welcomed back as Rob Halford for establishing the sound of a legendary band. Bassist Gus Pepa leaves his personal insignia throughout but none more so than on “Spirit” and the amazingly constructed “Land Of Blood”. However it is “The Devil Incarnate” that fuses the DA of yesterday with the 2004 version including all the ingredients that make a song landmark: an incredible building of emotion and heart stopping riffs grinding their way through six-minutes of eternal bliss. If old school thrash is missing from your daily diet The Art of Dying” is highly recommended.

Website: Nuclear Blast, www.deathangel.com.

Universal Records

Signed in the wake of theatrical trendsetters Slipnot and Mudvay Cleveland’s “mask-rock” bandits Mushroomhead return with their fourth outing to date. Originally built from several high-profile local bands, the quintet adopted masks to keep from being recognized. They learned early on that creating a local buzz was the best way in securing a record deal and a powerful fan-base. Classified as “alternative metal” and blending elements of goth rock, industrial loops, hip/hop, punk and techno the band stagger even the callous of listeners.

Taking their queue from a myriad of influence as diversified as Ministry and Bauhaus to Rage Against The Machine, the band orchestrate cinema-like song structure, as in “Sun Doesn’t Rise”, “Destroy The World Around Me” and “Mother Machine Gun,” and turn them into virtual soundscapes. Though firmly grounded in alt-metal there is certainly an element of ‘70s rock extravaganza. For instance there is the Bowie-like treatment of “Nowhere To Go”, The Kiss-inspired “Almost Gone” and the Pink Floyd-ish “Our Own Way”.

Not quite a quirky as Marilyn Manson, Mushroomhead center around the grind rather than the shock appeal keeping the recording well crafted and building on a Varity of musical instrumentation and melodic swells. Highlights include the duet-of-sorts with Meshuggah vocalist Jens Kidman on “The Dream Is Over” and the countering “One More Day” featuring Devon Gorman, an attractive piece that pitches acid-bathed guitars against delicate piano and cello.

Website: Mushroomhead, Universal Records

Long Handle
Arclight Records

These good ol’ boys from the Lone Star state are all about the groove. They play down and dirty, bloodthirsty rock ‘n roll with the muscle of a stampede and the venom of a sidewinder. “Black Angus” jumps out as the most refined of the record’s nine tracks. Full throttle at it’s best which drops like a two-ton hammer leaving a wake of sawed-off guitar and devastating bass in its path. There is a slight hint of Nashville Pussy, Bad Wizard and even ZZ Top in songs like “Get Your Hands Off My Neck”, “Waxahachie” and “Il Gigante Reptil” where the riff leads the song and drags the rhythm section behind kickin’ and screamin’ Neanderthal-style.

With the full fusion of rock runnin’ in their veins they are compelled to kneel at the alter of primitive kings Motorhead, Sabbath, MC5 and Blue Cheer. “Fountainhead” and “Fourteen Wide” take it back to basics with a plodding dirge. The mix is spot on with each instrument clearly marked and the vocal dead center. Blaine Cartwright (Nashville Pussy, 9 Pound Hammer) would be proud as Hognose knocks back the whiskey and belches out a throaty rasp that keep the devils music in the right courtyard. “Slow Mutant Ride” kicks up the speed racing through the night with a thundering roar. When the band branch out into the funky “L.T.D.” and the Southern-style powerhouse opening track “Sneech” it’s like taking on a well worn leather jacket and give it the stench of sweaty nighclub. Something you want to hear over and over again.

www.hognose.net or www.arclightrecords.com

Pound For Pound
Independent Release

Zero Down’s only been together less than two years but their hard-hitting amplified rock is like a lead pipe to the face. Well-crafted songs built on big hooks and crashing guitars put this Seattle, Wa outfit in the forefront of a new generation of LOUD bands. Infusing their punk, hard rock, and metal influences Lenny Burnett and Mark “Hawk” Hawkinson find common ground in the addictive strain of crunchy guitars, rumbling bass and earth-shaking drums. Hawk takes the mic and chokes the life out of the six hardcore classics on this self-financed EP.

The band, complete with second guitarist Fred Speakman, drummer Tyler “T. Rex” Lindsley and bassist Ron E. Banner come out like a ‘70s street gang bent on kickin’ ass and taking no prisoners. “Kick It Down” hits hard and fast with both guitars blazing and the rhythm rolling in like a clan of mad Scotsmen. “Bronson” matches the movie icon with all the blood and guts Inside Out beats it’s chest with primal where “Disgrace” throws in a vintage hardcore in like a killer production and Bulletproof is straight out of ‘80s European metal complete with chugging guitar tasty solos. These guys give metal a fresh set of balls with intensity and massive songs and a conquering attitude.

Zero Down

Hot Damn!
Independent Release

Creating a sound uniquely their own, Tampa Bay’s greasy voodoo rock n’ rollers Mojo Gurus are at it again. Hot Damn! The band’s third disc, fine-tunes their TexMex swagger with razor-sharp surf guitar, jumping jive rhythm and Stray Cat strut. Led by singer/songwriter Kevin Steele, whose sardonic humor weaves its way through the records 10 tracks, is at the top of his game with cunning precision. Combine that with his “partner in crime” guitar axe-slinger Jeff Vitolo, and you have what makes “Race With The Devil”, the records first cut, so damn charming.

With drummer Tommy Weder and bassist Vinnie Granese stoking the fire in the engine room “Bumble Bee”, the hard rockin’ “Black Cat Blues” and “Clarksdale” rise to the surface as primo hillbilly blues complete with sizzling slide and a two-step ass-kicking. Boogie piano is scattered throughout “You’d Have To Tie Me Up (To Tie Me Down)” and the Jerry Lee Lewis – “Great Ball’s Of Fire” sound-alike “Two Too Much”. The tinkle of the ivory gives the whole thing a pub rock flare merging the traditional with the dynamic modern.

Adding more to the mix is the killer horn arrangement that thickens up the New Orleans spark in “Spoonful”. Let’s not forget the girls. The ZZ Top charm of “Linda Marie” and “Raylene” coax even the shyest wallflower to the floor with Weder’s toe tapping drumming and hip shaken’ rhythm. Surf standard “Long Hard Road” brings it all back around for these bayou boys. Take our word for it, this CD smokes from top to bottom. Get it on the band’s website.


Leviathan Records

Continuing as part of the Guitar Masters series from Leviathan records comes the dominant guitar shredding of Corbin King. The axe-wizard hails from the ranks of Vainglory, a Georgian outfit with a knack for orchestrated metal with an epic background – their last outing, 2050 hailing the return of musical Sci-Fi fairytales. Corbin chops embrace a myriad of influences from hard rock to heavy blues to straight ahead metal. With Destination Corbin was given a handful of basic tracks and challenged to paint a canvas using his guitar prowess…all in one take.

For the most part, the record stands up to others who have attempted the same complex experiment including Michael Harris (Hurricane X) and Joe Stump (Armed and Ready). “Mind Games” cuts out of the gate like an untamed bull. King’s figures are flying, as his frets must have bust into flames. Not once in the song’s six and a half minutes does he lose the plot. The same stands true for “Hot Nights” with the warning “this is not for the faint-hearted”. These two song clock in at over six minutes are packed with more notes that ten CDs. “Prisoner Of Time” pulls back a bit, finding a rock solid blues riff and remaining expressive and passionate.

With “Day Of Doom” King digs up some old Black Sabbath-type licks to give the song a stoner feel. He does a fantastic job firing off shards of notes into the belly of the lumbering beat. Extremely well done! As with Michael Harris, King hits his stride with “Hurricane X”. Latching onto a melody as he pushes and pulls the song in a number of different directions, pacing it just right and bringing in a blinding finish. A tad bit of Hendrix haunts “Chasing Rainbows” as the guitarist works off the drum and bass line to fuses in a healthy foundation of groove. Both “Armed and Ready” and “Destination” embrace a heavy blues vibe. They build slow with a thick bottom end before becoming a lethal hard rock monster. A very nice addition to the series.

Leviathan Records

New World Flamenco Jazz
Starland Music

Combining his Flamenco guitar with Latin grooves and crossover jazz elements, Tomas Michaud has beautifully crafted a truly mesmerizing instrumental record. A master guitarist, composer and producer, Michaud takes his audience on an exotic ride through picturesque melodies and emotional passages that uplift and soothe. After graduating from California State University at Hayward, Michaud expanded his musical influences by traveling to Spain, Puerto Rico, Mexico and South America. His life experiences have both enriched and influenced his playing.

The lush “Seville” gets the disc running with a mid-tempo melody that is intoxicating as well as intriguing. The use of the congas, sax and second guitar (played by Obie Butterworth) give the song added texture and mood. Essential to his instrumentation, Michaud never pushes the song beyond its natural ability. Therefore the romantic ballads “French Kiss” and “Beautiful Little Moment” create their own atmosphere away from the Latin heavyweights “Moroccan Lullaby”, “No Reason Why” and “Whisper of Paradise”. Michaud credits Ottmar Liebert for inspiration, and rightly so as his influence can be heard in the guitar’s phrasing and the diversified arrangements.

“Awakened By Angels” and “Winds of Time” are two of the more vivid ballads breathing in a gentle refrain before finding their way to a rhythmic groove. Also the funk in “La Vida Maravillosa” and the blues in “Hoping and Wishing” accentuate Michaud’s wide range of musical prowess with subtle changes in tempo. The disc closes out with the passionate “Eyes Like The Moon and Stars” which makes full use of an embracing piano foundation and “Voodoo Love” a hypnotic, lucid composition fully capable or arousing the smell of a tropical summer breeze.


Your Superhero In That Bar
Unsmashable Records

Aptly named, The Riffbrokers frame their songs around the quintessential power chord. Less in your face and move structured on amplified crafty country hooks, the band from Seattle come closer to Social Distortion, The Beat Farmers and Del Lords than Corrosion of Conformity. That’s not to say they don’t pack a decent punch. “Hatcheted Heart” is full-blown American rock in the Springsteen/Cougar vein with a wide-open riff plowing over a dense rhythm section. “Bland Predictable” follows suit with echoes of Elvis Costello woven into the verse and Billy Bragg in the chorus.

The dark, twangy “Stockton Gala Days” brings a bit of Johnny Cash to the mix - a sign of the kids early Boise, Idaho days when Nick Millward (guitar) and bassist Heather Burnett formed the band and trounced it around to all the local watering holes. Relocating to Seattle introduced the duo to drummer Dustin Miller who certainly makes his presence known in the garagy “Remind Me To” and the sonic (and humorous) “Parking Fine”. ‘70s brit-pop oozes from the well built “Homespun” the slick, infectious “Eighty-sixed” and the upbeat “Attractive Nuisance” exposing the band’s deeper influences as well as their guilty pleasure.

Paradise Pawned Vol. 1
Times Beach Records

Current darlings of the English press (due to their indulgent tour of the UK), GCG lean heavily on The Vines, Strokes and Hives with a little MC5 added for good measure. The four Detroit natives grind out Stones riffs loaded with feedback, well-schooled songwriting and a handsome face or two. Primary composers in the band are guitarist Steve Zuccaro (guitar) and Prince/Donnie Vie (Enuff Z’Nuff) soundalike Eric Hoegemeyer (vocals, piano). Together with drummer Michael Ealzon and bassist Dino Zoyes they create an intoxicating mix of crunchy power pop in the mold of Cheap Trick and Badfinger.

The first tracks to take root in your brain will be the monster “Vultures” and the Aerosmith-fused “Same Old Blues” both taken straight out of the Perry/Tyler notebook on stadium hits – and they pack it all in there from great licks to rock-star delivery and swagger – lots of swagger. Others are more subtle, like the current hometown hit “Diamond Mind”, a keyboard driven top-forty slot and the heavy, Prince-inspired “I Know”. Yet, there is also the country-ish metal interlude “Spaced Out” and the mixed bag of “Time To Go”, a track that keeps your attention long enough to see what part of your CD collection they will play next.

Lambasting into “The World In My Head” it easy to believe their press release, which claims the band locked themselves in the studio for two straight weeks capturing their intensity in it purest form. There are times the disc plays like a who’s who of ‘70s rock. There is the Traffic-influenced “Hard Times”, the Aerosmith: Sweet Emotion-like “Isolation” and the roots blues of “Let It Go”. With the vibrancy and diversity of Paradise Pawned Vol. 1 one is reminded of the Faces debut – an attractive blending of country, blues and rock equally balanced between visceral drive and acoustic melody. They truthful embracing of the Detroit sound: soulful, funky, tenacious and bombastic.

Website: www.goldcashgold.com

Start Something
Columbia Records

Welsh rockers Lostprophets hit back with their second major label effort Start Something. Writing hook-friendly songs, adding some guitar aggression and a bit of studio wizardry find the boys in league with bands like Hoobastank, Incubus and Linkin Park. Selling their souls maybe alright for the Cardiff bunch as they scream out “It’s to LA / Don’t Live Your Life/ To Hell We Ride,” in their ode to teenage disillusionment. Amid their titanic clash of guitars, vocalist Ian Watkins still rises as the star of the band with his brutal scream juxtaposed to his Robbie Williams balladry. For keen examples listen to current single “Last Train Home” and “Goodbye Tonight”

It’s obvious a great deal of effort went into the production led by Eric Valentine of Good Charlotte/ Queens Of The Stone Age fame. The polish takes some of the honesty away from songs like “I Don’t Know” and “Last Summer” and makes them sound a bit stale and cookie-cutter. However, the wall of sound in “Make A Move” is brilliant and gives the song a sonic punch built for stadiums. Taking their raw talent, the band continue to crafting elements of progressive metal, puedo-punk and funk/ska into a tight package that becomes more addicting with each listen.

Competing with the likes of A.F.I., 311 and the Deftones it’s nice to hear some original UK influence in tracks like “Hello Again” and “Sway” which reek of Feeder with a brit-pop flare embedded deep in the grooves. The full scale – almost epic “Start Something” is an ambitions step as is “A Million Miles”. Both make for cinematic songwriting with an equal amount of push and pull. The guitars make a tough stand while the rhythm section batters away at the front door. Complete with layered orchestration the Lostprophets may find themselves the Def Leppard of this generation.

Lostprophets or Columbia Records