ORANGE
Take A Look On The Inside
XTC Productions

Drenched in pop hooks, sonic feedback and dynamic – almost ethereal soundscapes is the music of Orange. Granted, one of the most appealing things about this Swedish duo is their flare for artistic melody – much of which is reminiscent of early to mid-70s California rock. Take for instance “How Long”, a lush, primordial composition that reflects a certain Neil Young/David Gates aura especial as it spills out of the timbre voice of Kent Wennman. His John Lennon side is just as poignant when applied to “Walk In My Shoes”.

Multi-instrumentalist Sampo Axelsson makes up the other half of this remarkable combination. His distinct tuning can be heard in the acoustically biting “Immigration Man”, the Hendrix influenced “Celebrate My Life” and the riff-heavy “Hello (Take A Look On The Inside).” Yet it is the mix of Wennman and Axelsson that gives the whole thing balance. Their air of political spirit is also convincing when it spices up songs like “Why Is It So Hard To Give”, and “Another Song For The Poor” – an eloquent nod to classic CSNY.

From the liquid fusion of “You Knew” and the bass-laden “Let It All Out” to the delicate piano of “Peter’s Basement” and “Come Cry On My Shoulder” the duo reach a distinguished balance of memorable songs - songs that dig deeper in the soul while swaging with the beat. This is not your standard sing-songwriter piece. It is expressive, ageless and worth seeking out.

Website:
Orange

DANZIG
Circle of Snakes
Evilive Records

You never know with Glenn Danzig when or if he will ever come out with another record. After the blazing success of his self-titled debut (1988) Danzig, the band, delivered a string of near-classics including Lucifuge (‘90), How The Gods Kill (’92) and Blackacidevil (’96). However is was in the mid-to-late ‘90s that Glenn’s comic company took top priority. In fact it was rumored about that he’d quit the rock world to forge his entrepreneurial wake in publishing.

Yet, with Danzig’s seventh release, I Lucifuge, (2002) he proved he was back on the stage for another round - and the critics responded with praise. Now, two years later, Circle of Snakes joins the ranks of the Danzig illustrious catalog. Glenn’s habit of changing band members for each record is still noticible. Replacing guitarist Todd Youth is Tommy Victor (ex-Prong) who certainly keeps it heavy in a funeral-dirge sort of way. Missing is some of John Christ’s signature solo stamps – however the band sound cohesive and on the title track, “Hell Mask” and “Skin Carver” match past glories.

Danzig seems completely unaffected by current trends in metal sticking to his tried and true format – nestling right in with Slayer and Pantera. Though his vocals are suppressed in the mix, Glenn makes full effect of his Jim Morrison-like baritone most noticeable in the plodding “Skull Forrest”, the seducing “When We Were Dead” and the spine-chilling “My Darkness”. Part of this record comes off like old COC, especially in the riff sector however, Danzig’s ability to pen a catchy chorus over an intensely heavy backend is just as poignant as ever. Standouts include “”Nether Bound” and “Black Angel, White Angel”.

Website:
www.danzig-verotik.com

ICARUS WITCH
Roses On White Lace
Independent

Nice to hear there are still bands out there that remember the muscular frame work of stadium metal. Icarus Witch live, eat and breathe Iron Maiden – without sounding too much like ‘em. Actually you might hear a number of influences that range from Helloween and Accept to Metal Church and Testament. Icarus Witch sew together a twin-guitar sound over a thundering bass/drum assault. “Curse of the Ice Maiden” is just the ticket and will easily catapult you back in time – operatic vocals and all.

As a quartet from Pittsburgh, vocalist Mathew Bizilia, guitarists Steve Pollick and Greg Gruben, bassist Sin and drummer J.C. Dwyer make for a highly efficient wreaking crew. Building a rhythmic guitar super-structure the disc twists mystical imagery, pounding backbeats and a mind-blowing vocal range (a la Rob Halford) into 100% pure ear candy. Title track “Roses On White Lace” takes no prisoners with a galloping bass-line and a thick, chunky hook. Guitarist Pollick and Gruben lock together with titanic force bringing texture and melody in a vintage Priest sort of way.

The epic “Halcyon” opens up “Winds Of Atlantic” giving Bizilia plenty of room to explore his vocal prowess before Pollick and Gruben duke it out in a solo death match. “Dragon Ryder” etches a forceful riff with a devastating rhythm section and at times is reminiscent of Steel Prophet. Through Roses On White Lace is only five songs deep – sometimes five songs is all you need when they are this good.

Website:
Icaruswitch.com

DISENGAGE
Application For An Afterlife
Fractured Transmitter Record Co.

Recommended as one of the hottest bands coming out of Cleveland, we thought we better take a closer look at the phenomena that is Disengage. Their first full-length, Obsessions Become Phobias (2000), on the now defunct Man’s Ruin label was given praise as upbeat Fu Manchu with a health dose of Led Zeppelin thrown in for texture. The same holds true for Application For An Afterlife however there is a drift toward Alabama Thunderpussy and even vintage Soundgarden.

Jason Byers gives the band its distinctive growl and puts a solid hardcore/punk delivery to his vocals. Guitarist Jacob Cox is right next to him layering stoner fuzz with a cavalcade of vicious-chord progressions. Second track in “University of Texas Militia” is baptism by fire with unearthly heaviness and politically stained lyrics that demand attention. That’s just in the first five minutes - wait till you get to the lethal “In Touch”, “Bruise” and “Death Threat”.

Rhythm section Sean Bilovecky (bass) and Jonathan Morgan (drums) are all over this mother. It’s Morgan’s led foot that ushers in the Fu Manchu incrusted “Pharmacyland”, the sonically captivating “Give Thanks” and the sledgehammer instrumental of “We Were The Ogre Of Brucewood”. Bilovecky’s bass sets the tone for “Love Letter Rough Draft”, thunders through the amazing “Los Angeles” and eats it’s way into your brain in the lethargic closing of “Left Without A Voice” This record is never leaving my CD player.

Website:
www.disengage.net

THE LIZARDS
Cold Blooded Kings
Hyperspace Records

It’s great to see New York-based The Lizards getting their due on their new Cold Blooded Kings CD. After making the rounds with singer John Garner
(Sir Lord Baltimore), the Lizards have recruited Long Island native and current Riot vocalist Mike DeMeo to their line up. With his soulful approach and the permanent addition of BOC drummer Bobby Rondinelli, the band’s ‘70s hard rock sound will comfortably find a home along side Deep Purple, Rainbow and even Zeppelin.

Long-standing guitarist Patrick Klein wastes no time establishing his presence as the lazar cuts through Cold Blooded Kings’ “The Opal Crest Of Zed”. His blues-soaked wails with Randy Pratt’s bass in hot pursuit clearly sets to the tone for the nine-track disc. Taking full advantage of their trademark DeMeo follows suit boasting “Cold is cool, the lizards rule” in their funky title track (Cold Blooded Kings). But it’s in the heavy-handed “Down”, the Zeppelin-inspired “Magic Cloud” and the Heart-like essence of “Take A Ride” that give the whole thing presence.

Leaning on their collective years as songwriters the quartet use the center of the record to inject a little Allman Bros shuffle with DiMeo manning the keyboards on “Rising Star”. They even come close to Foghat in the shadow of “Hyperspace”. Yet, not taking themselves to serious is the soldiering march in “We Are Dinosaurs”. The Lizards will be supporting legendary ex-Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes on his winter 2005 tour. The tour begins Feb. 11 in Dudley, UK and takes both bands through Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Russia.

Website:
www.thelizardswebsite.com

ELECTRIC EARTH
Organic Songs, Volume One
Phantom Music

Finding inspiration in bands as diversified as Black Sabbath, Pearl Jam and The Cult the Swedish icon that has become Electric Earth is one of the best finds of 2005. The band are not only well rehearsed and incredibly tight but gifted songwriters. “Platonic,” the first track on Organic Songs, Volume One pulses from the speakers as vocalist Peter Gottlieb does his best Chris Cornell. In fact there are several places where Soundgarden could be mentioned including “Nowhere Fast” and “Sanctuary”.

Electric Earth’s bio states the group was originally conceived by drummer Lars Berger and guitarist Tommy Scalisi then added singer Peter Gottlieb and bassist Lyris Karlsson to create “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” - a noble statement that almost comes into vision on the forceful “Space Mammoth” the MC5-styled “Detroit Destroyer” and the chopper-fueled “D.W.B.”

Somewhere between garage-fuzz rock and straight up in-your-face metal drips from “Superseded”, “Sin of the Century” and “Manic Hate”. However it’s the crystal clear production the band are able to achieve that make the biggest impact on the disc. As a bonus, Electric Earth throw in an invigorating cover of Iron Butterfly’s classic "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” which is so heavy and stoned out that it pales the original.

Website:
www.electricearth.org

CINDERELLA
Rocked, Wired & Bluesed
Mercury Records

Very few of the hair bands that ruled the mid to late ‘80s have weathered the storm of post-millennium slap back. Gone are the glory days of Ratt, Warrant and even Great White. However Philadelphia-natives Cinderella have remained surprisingly active. Riding a wave of package tours has helped keep the band’s name and memory from fading while quality songs have attracted a younger audience-base. Mercury records have just released the second “best of” package for the band entitled Rocked, Wired & Bluesed (the first was 1997 Once Upon A…).

Steeped in hard rock blues, the band made significant inroads with radio hits “Shake Me” and “Nobody’s Fool” off the band’s debut. MTV got a hold of them and played both around the clock. Missing from the first compilation but included here is the darker title track, “Night Songs”. The number sets the tone for RWB which is less of a glam effort and more aimed at a their blues-base. Sure the hits are there, but so are the unapologetic “Bad Seamstress Blues”, “Long Cold Winter” and “If You Don’t Like It”. The latter sealed the deal on their Aerosmith comparison with its chugging guitar, cowbell and Tommy Keifer’s throaty vocals.

Who can forget those nights at the Troc watching a sweat-soaked Jeff LaBar (guitar) light his solos on fire? Or the time Keifer climbed on stage at the Camden Event Center and jammed a rousing “Sweet Home Alabama” with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Drummer Fred Curry and bassist Eric Brittingham were always at the peak of their game. Granted, Cinderella was an energy-packed live band that always delivered – at least to their hometown. Rocked, Wired & Bluesed is a reminder of just how good they were.

Website:
www.cinderella.net

AMERICAN DOG
Scars-N-Bars
Outlaw Records

A return to basics complete with an album recorded on two inch tape - which bassist Michael Hannon claims is “even older school,” American Dog unleash the fourth record of their six-year history. Titled, Scars-N-Bars, the record picks up where 2003’s Red, White, Black and Blue left off - indeed this is an adulterated amalgamation of beer, sweat and tattooed hard rock frenzy. Composed by Hannon, guitarist Steve Theado and drummer Keith Pickens, American Dog lunges for the jugular with barnstorming feedback, titanic riffs and muscle-bound rhythms.

Cut from the same cloth as Ted Nugent, Blackfoot and Motörhead, this band’s swagger is like a Saber-tooth tiger in heat. “Working Man” sets the tone with a screech and a howl from the primal jungle of rock bars everywhere. Then, bathed in blood, comes the open-chord of “Fade”, a tune that stands toe-to-toe with AC/DC’s “High Voltage” in sheer magnitude and visceral force. The lyrics set the tone, “Nothin’ here that’s new / It’s all been done before…Faded, outdated, still alive, faded, outdated, watch me shine.”

In the nine songs that follow, there’s plenty of tried and true chemistry, hence the backbone of AD’s success. There is the blazing solo in “Conviction”, the wailing intro to “Got You By A Chain” and the thump of “Burnin Yesterday”. Yet, never one to forget texture, the bluesy intro to “Lucky 13” and “Sunday Buzz” is pure George Thorogood and the piano in “She Ain’t Real Pretty” is picture perfect for a Stones getaway. In our recent conversation with Hannon he explained their old label (Outlaw) has closed down, so they’re selling the record through their website and on CD- Baby.

For whiskey slurred, good-time rock, give this Columbus, OH trio a whirl.
Website:
www.americandog.us

BOTTOM
Your Next
Small Stone Records

Absolutely no fat on these Bottom girls - just dense swamp-water riffs seeped in old-school Sabbath with a ring of Cathedral/Trouble on the lower end. Super heavy on both bass and feedback, the New York-based trio grind this mother into the ground like a plow eating asphalt. Check out the dirge courtesy of bassist Nila in “Testimony of the Mad Arab” with the apocalyptical ring of a military transport chopper flying overhead. For an instrumental, it certainly sets the mood for the next 50-minutes.

“By A Thread” has elements of Sab’s “Planet Caravan” in mood and reflection before Sina’s voice comes roaring forth unleashing a banshee’s fury. Her delivery is similar to another siren of a bygone era – that of Détente’s Dawn Crosby. Yet, that voice can be deceiving as we hear her subtle beckoning in “The Same”, and “Nana Del Rio” right before it rips the cover off your speakers. Groove is essential throughout especially when they converge on the mouth-watering “Requiem” and “The Traveller.” Clementine’s drum is brought to the forefront over a Gregorian chant in the darkest way. Brilliant!

This is Bottom’s first post-Man’s Ruin release and breathes new life for the road-worn band. Delivering 300+ shows a year has made them an extremely tight outfit. Yet, never afraid to stretch out as heard in “Distordo II”, the thick “Memories of Orchard Street” and the power mad “Bushmills Jimmy” make the most out of an arsenal of three. Whatever you do, don’t cut this cherry short before “Two for the Road” rolls into “Rainy Day Blues”. Pulling off a jazz/blues tempo switch not only keeps the record interesting but wonderfully fulfilling.

Website:
www.BOTTOMMUSIC.com, Small Stone Records

SONS OF OTIS
X
Small Stone Records

Toronto’s Son’s of Otis return with a seven tracker throbbing with juicy, fat and plodding minor chords perfect for a night of stargazing. The trio’s wicked spaced-out jams rumble through the seven-minute “Way I Feel” to the 14-mintue psychedelic thriller “Liquid Jam” with cerebral numbing. Consisting of Frank Sergeant (bass), Ryan Aubin (drums) and Ken Baluke (guitar, vox), the three harness the power of the cosmos, drop into a hypnotic haze and push forward with a pulsating rhythm that is equally dense and mesmerizing.

Throughout the record Baluke’s vox is pushed to the back and affected with plenty of echo while his guitar weaves in and out from bone-sapping sludge to aerial bombs that drop in for maximum impact. Both “Relapse” and the hardly recognizable Steppenwolf cover, “The Pusher” benefits from Baluke’s tear-drop guitar in such a way that the stoned-out ‘70s come more alive here than the original. “1303” is one of those slow, burning numbers that gets in your head and stays for days. Brutally heavy, it sets sail on an endless voyage with piercing guitar feedback that sews the whole damn thing together with a silver lining.

“Help Me” has a similar feel as the riff finds a fussy groove and the bass locks in on a crushing backbeat. Baluke’s voice hails from the distance while the guitar becomes the engine that moves the song through rhythmic mire. Darkness falls as “Eclipse” reaches out from a nebula behind the son. Arid and spacey, the track moves through a series of echoes and montage of hallucinogenic sounds capes. Then comes the feedback to carry you away on wings of atomic haze.

Website:
www.sonsofotis.com, Small Stone Records

RED GIANT
Devil Child Blues
Small Stone Records

Returning with their second opus in six years, Red Giant continues to mix heavy-handed straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll with liberal doses of fuzz and feedback. Right out of the box they get busy with “White Mom” boasting rapid-fire titanic riffs with fists-of-fury drums. Main voice man Alex bellows out “the death-rattle blues” with strained intensity sounding remotely similar to Pepper Keenan of COC fame. They say that rust never sleeps and neither do rock purists bent on salvaging what is left of spacey, drowned-out metal.

Hitting their stride by “Jetpack” the band storm through low and to the ground with the lead guitar rumbling while the bass follows like an afterburner. Then finish it off with and burning solo that Hawkwind would be proud of. Breathtaking – and that’s only the second track in. Title song “Devil Child Blues” and “I Breathe Fire” are so slow and dirty they will scare the Voodoo right out of New Orleans where “Hoping for the Golden BB” and “Go It Alone” throw down with quintessential Motörhead.

Have no fear there’s plenty of Sabbath meets old-school Fu Manchu in “(How Ya Doin' on That) Time Machine” and “John L. Sullivan” Both grinding out seriously dense lead while dragging ass. Amidst it all they still leave a signature sound distinctly heard in “Drip” and “Millenium Falcon” before delivering a rippin’ rendition of the Stooges “Funhouse”. Though the Cleveland foursome have seen their share of sold-out local appearances among the ranks of Alabama Thunderpussy, Fu Manchu, Nebula and Clutch they have their sights firmly aimed at world domination. Devil Child Blues just might be the ticket.

Website:
Small Stone Records

IMPELLITTERI
Pedal to the Metal
SPV Records

There was a time when Impellitteri could have been the next Dokken. It’s funny how 20-years later, they are still sounding like Dokken and Dokken is moving further away from their trademark sound. Impellitteri is all about guitar wiz Chris Impellitteri, who returns to his classic hard rock roots on Pedal to the Metal. Having spent the greater part of his career signed to record deals in Europe and Japan (with very little US interest) it’s no wonder he has perfected power-metal infused with melodic rock especially since he is now backed by new singer Chris Skelton, who at times sounds an awful lot like Eric Martin (Mr. Big).

Out of ten songs, nine have balls of steel. From the shredder “The Iceman Cometh” and “The Kingdom of Titus” to the moody Nightmare on Elm Street-like “Dance with the Devil” and blistering “Judgment Day,” the aim is clear. Even the funky “Propaganda Mind” holds strong as the guitar hammers out a mighty catchy hook. If that were where it ended the record would be right on track raising the hair right off your arms.

As diverse a record as Petal to the Metal is, “Punk” stands out as a major circus act. It even starts with a funky Faith No More comedic intro, but quickly derails as lyrics slam Eminem, Jay-Z, Dre, and Snoop in a very awkward Anthrax kind of way. No ideas why it’s here other than it brought roars of laughter from the control room. It’s dead in the water and should be dumped immediately. Thankfully the band’s foray into Nu-metal in “Hurricane” and the tempo-altering ”Destruction,” complete with keyboard interchange regain some respect.

Website:
SPV Records, Official band site.