DREAM EVIL
The Book Of Heavy Metal
Century Media

Three records and one EP into the Power/Heavy Metal genre have Swedish band Dream Evil perfecting 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 states, “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” as well as “Crusaders’ Anthem” and the perfect stadium rocker “Let’s Make Rock”.

Website:
Century Media Records

TONY C & THE TRUTH
Demonophonic Blues
Lava Records

Some would call Tony C & The Truth the Vin Diesel rock of the new millennium. Steeped in bass-heavy, 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

DEATH ANGEL
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 the band's sinister, gravel-voiced icon. Rich in texture and viscerally committed to his lyrics, he is as welcomed back as Rob Halford was for Priest, in that he establishes 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 Records, www.deathangel.com.

MUSHROOMHEAD
XIII
Universal Records

Signed in the wake of theatrical trendsetters like 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, Mushroomhead 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

GUITAR SHORTY
Watch Your Back
Alligator Records

Possibly one of the most dynamic blues record this year, 65 year old David “Guitar Shorty” Kearney gives Buddy Guy a run for his money in his latest flash of blues genius called “Watch Your Back”. Blazing with sizzling hot licks, a la Stevie Ray Vaughan, and old school swagger the man lights ‘em up with “I’m Gonna Leave You,” “Get Busy” and the fiery “It Ain’t The Fall That Kills You”

Known as much for his gymnastic stage performance (flips, somersaults and headstands) as his playing, Shorty unleashes a savage burst of whiskey soaked blues with a hard rock two-step. Aerosmith would do well to take note of the wide-open lick on “Old School” or the sassy lyrics of “What She Don’t Know”. Then there’s the Free-like “I’ve Been Working”, a song just begging for Paul Rodgers.

In 1957, under Willie Dixon’s watchful eye, Shorty mastered the art of meaningful blues that start from the soles of your feet and work their way out in the strings of your guitar. True to form, his remake of Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation” returns the song to it primal roots and bakes it in the Memphis heat. However, it’s two tracks, “Let My Guitar Do The Talking” and “Right Tool For The Job” that completely capitalize on Shorty’s stock-in-trade. Both share and an intensity for flare and with Jesse Harms (on loan from Sammy Hagar) helping out with the writing they are destined to be classics.

”It Ain’t the fall that gets ya, it’s when you hit the ground.”

Website:
Alligator Records

GLUECIFER
Automatic Thrill
SPV Records

One of our favorite Scandinavian rock outfits returns with magnificent opus having just completed a European tour with Jersey stoners Monster Magnet. Picking right up where last year’s Basement Apes left off this Oslo, Norway quintet rip through eleven highway cookers confirming their rightful placement as one of the most heroic guitar-fueled bands alive. Wasting no time they supercharge into the album’s title track “Automatic Thrill” capturing the perfect drum intro to carry us through.

Chalk-full of densely laden guitars, bigger than life choruses and Stooges/MC5 song-structure, Gluecifer are content to borrow from the best in slaughtering the masses. There is the Alice Cooper tribute in “Put Me On A Plate” and the Turbonegro-tainted “Here Come The Pigs” currently featured on the band’s website. While you’re there check out the very cool “A Call From The Other Side” – an absolutely killer song that has been all the rave long before this CD saw US distribution.

When it comes to delivering open-chord riffs, this band is one of the best. Check out “Take It”, “Car Full Of Stash” (yes, it’s exactly what you think it’s about) and the “Dingdong Thing”. Don’t pass up “Shaking So Bad” where drummer Danny Young and bassist Jon Average meet headlong in frantic fusion. Guitarist’ Raido Useless and Captain Poon nail the muscle while vocalist Biff Malibu has one of those voices you could listen to all day.

Websites:
www.gluecifer.com, SPV Records

LORD STERLING
Today’s Song For Tomorrow
Small Stone Records

Jersey sludge kings Lord Sterling return with their fourth outing since forming in 1995. Part of the Red Bank crowd which includes Monster Magnet and splinter groups like Gallery of Mites, Lord Sterling have been simmering in a sea of garage-soaked feedback coming closer to Pink Floyd than Black Sabbath. Today’s Song For Tomorrow maybe considered their most diverse yet oddly cohesive effort to date.

The tuned-down “Pivotal Planes” oozes out the first track with eerie moog synthesizer painting a haunting background behind Robert Ryan’s cosmic vocals. It also introduces the electric sitar, which takes the song in a rather unusual direction. Jason Silverio’s heavy pounding brings out “This Time It’s For Real,” a Fu Manchu sound alike with a dense guitar chug – then comes the electric sitar again.

“Hidden Flame” and “Poison Lips” do as much for the band’s Detroit flare as the 11-minute “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” does for their stoner fans. Then there are also the slow, meandering, almost country “Thread Will Be Torn” and “Password” - a veritable theme park for bassist Jim Baglino. But, the real prize-winner is “Evaporate,” an almost Live (band) sort of thing with beautiful guitar melodies and dynamic song structure.

Website:
Small Stone Records

PIDGEON
From Gutter With Love
Kosher Records

Pidgeon are an eclectic bunch combining elements of pop, metal, and subsonic chick music – sometimes all in the same song. The San Francisco quintet boast three lead singers, two from the Motorhead/Kronos school of rock and one (Valerie) taking notes from Delores O’Riordan of the Cranberries. When combined they can create an ungodly sound like the metal-make over of “Strelnikev” or prove rather adept at moving a song toward commercial trends as in “Six Minutes In The Sun” or the rather charming “Powerful”.

Micah and Stick keep the guitars thick and chunky with a flare for twin-harmonies while Troy and Mikey compete for lord of the bottom end. Be aware of the occasional surprise attack when the laser hits the overly slick “Fallout,” the bizarre “Fiona” and the slightly ska “Sty”. With lyrics as strange as their genre merging 16 tracks gets a bit much. Sometime you may wonder if their taking the piss especially when Micah screams so bad his voice drops out. This one may best be digested in small doses.

Website:
www.pidgeonsf.com

SAN DIMAS
Self-titled
Massacre Records

Originally calling themselves Mud Slick, this Swiss metal/rock quartet has been together over ten years. During that time the band has seen a steady rotation in lineups with only guitarist/producer Serge Christen and drummer Heinz Baumann remaining from the original incarnation in 1993. Their well-crafted rock assault comes closest to Bon Jovi meets Alice In Chains with a bit of Matchbox Twenty thrown in. Touring with such bands as Bon Jovi and Billy Idol has help San Dimas develop into a certifiable force.

Guitarist turned singer Stämpf holds down the vocals and is showcased on the records lead track “New Dimension” as well as the brilliant “Fade Away”. His style is reminiscent of Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies and is bolstered by the impeccable songwriting in “Way Back To Life” and “I’d Lie.” The singer is supported by Serge Christen whose guitar fills the record’s 13-tracks with power riffs and musical muscle. From “ Mr. Millionman” to ballads “ For You” and “Soon” his tone is fluid and sets the signature for the record. His skill as a producer also comes to the forefront giving the disc a thick, modern sound without losing the plot.

Bassist Yves Fontana and drummer Heinz Baumann also strut their stuff in the dense “Adrenaline” and “ Release Me”. Their precision playing opens up some fresh air giving the mid point of the CD a swift kick in the ass. The band’s sound is slick and polished as layered guitars lead to soaring chorus. Influences like Three Door Down and Seven Mary Three can be heard throughout allowing for a bit of today to mix with the past.

Unfortunately Massacre Records has no US distribution but they do have a very attractive website. Their entire product line is available online so let your fingers do the shopping.

Website:
Massacre Records

SCOTT CELANI
Saturday
Independent Release

Usually when we get sent an independent release that contains the words “singer/songwriter” we whence a bit. The garage is full of such CDs. That’s not to say they’re all crap, but 80% come damn close. When we heard from New York native Scott Celani we were a bit leery at first but after several back-to-back sessions with Saturday we can boldly go on record as saying, “for a singer/songwriter this one kicks ass.”

Whether it’s Celani’s ‘70s style of writing, his strong use of vintage keyboard/piano/organ or his ability to capture soulful, melodies, Saturday harkens back to a time where songs lasted. Falling somewhere between Rupert Holmes in “Long Road To Nowhere”, the Doobies in funky “Saturday” and Jimmy Buffett in “Dalhi,” Celani builds on his backbeats then fully delivers during the chorus.

As a guitarist he moves with ease through mid-tempo rockers “In Spite Of Me” and the drum-heavy “Tell Me It’s Over”. The piano-based ballad “Smile While You’re Crying” reaches out to mid-‘80s John Waite while the stripped down “Stand Up” makes the most out of an acoustic framework. The record benefits from a tight production courtesy of Brent Bodrug (Alanis Morissette) and puts Celani’s smooth tenor up front where it belongs.

Website:
www.scottcelani.com.

CLARENCE BUCARO
Sense of Light
Rounder Records

Ohio native, Clarence Bucaro returns for his second full-length release entitled “Sense of Light”. The record finds the young-bluesman moving into a much more jazz centered environment than his previous alt-country blues debut on Burnside records. Switching labels to Rounder seems to have given Bucaro a greater sense of presence (hence the title) and confidence as a singer.

“Of A Trade” opens the record with a smooth Wilson Picket-like delivery. For a white guy Bucaro sure can sound black with soul and passion wrapped around a subtle melody. The introduction of horn arrangements filters into “Sugar Maples” giving the song the Michael Bolton treatment especially during the sax solo. By the time “Father Of Our Nation” kicks in Bucaro’s band is in full ‘Booker T and the MGs’ mode.

The Boston Phoenix calls Bucaro “…the roots-bound offspring of Jackson Browne and Rickie Lee Jones” primarily due to his elegant combination of acoustic guitar, gentle percussion, and accented horns all underneath a budding social conscience. The second half of the disc reflects the singers more acoustic style. Here his lyrics switch their focus from reflective to a wistful love.

Among the most enjoyable of this set are the Salsa-spiced “Light Me A Candle”, the soft shuffle of “All Living Things” and the acoustic vibrancy and absolutely gorgeous “Carolina Moon.”

Website:
Rounder Records

DIVISION OF LAURA LEE
Das Not Compute
Epitaph Records

How different two years and a razor-sharp production make. Following the heals of Black City (2002) Swedish garage-punk DOLL fine-tune their assault with meaty hooks, fuzzed out guitars and walls of feedback. Awakened within the quartet is the cold fusion of pop harmonies and retro distortion. Right from the get go the first three songs, “Does Compute,” “We Are Numbers” and “Endless Factories” come straight out of the box burnin’ rubber.

Much more techno than their native brothers Hellacopters or Backyard Babies, these guys swim in a environment far more musically altered yet still under control. There is the Gothic “Breathe Breathe” reminiscent of My Dying Bride or Sisters of Mercy. The country tinged “To The Other Side” and the Detroit balls-to-the wall “Dirty Love” (featuring the Cardigans' Nina Persson) and “Sneaking Up On Mr. Prez”.

Assembled from spare parts of Sweden’s hardcore music underground. vocalist/guitarist Per Stålberg, guitarist David Ojala, bassist Jonas Gustavsson, and drummer Håkan Johansson push the confines of their own musical box. Their success is embedded within the ‘70s-styled “Loveless” and the slamfest of “Q2” – hypersonic Stooges with wah wah. Yet, the band save the best for last when they end the record with “There’s A last Time For Everything” – a monster that builds with a pop hook over a hard rock backbone.

Website:
Epitaph Records