|AXEL RUDI PELL
The Ballads III
Sadly, most in the US have no idea who Axel Rudi Pell is. Having never toured or officially released a single record in the States, its a wonder his fan-base claims so many of us. At least we have the internet. The ex-Steeler guitarist has been pumping out solo records for almost 15 years now. Compared to the likes of Blackmore and Malmsteen, Pell has retained his German roots and puts his own stamp on classic hard rock. Bundled within each annual release, Pell sticks to the formula of a good mix of ballads and rockers. Over the years the ballads have gained notoriety; hence the reason we now have three ballad discs to choose from.
The Ballads III pulls from the guitarist last three long players including The Masquerade Ball (2000), Shadow Zone (2002) and Kings And Queens (2004) also adding three new numbers: Dont Say Goodbye, an acoustic version of Forever Angel and a brilliant cover of Rainbows The Temple of The King. Supported by Hardlines Johnny Gioeli (vocals), Mike Terrana (drums), Volker Krawzcak (bass) and Ferdy Doernberg (keys), Pell create some engaging moments well worth the investment.
Dont Say Goodbye is straight out of the Scorpion power-ballad book, massive hooks, swelling chorus and emotionally driven lyrics. Both versions of Forever Angels have their charm the acoustic being a bit more raw allowing Gioeli to soar. The muscle in Sea of Evil is magnificent as it brings power-hungry riffs to an otherwise subtle sea shanty. Theres also the rough and ready The Line fully fueled with Pells heavy hand and overlaid with acoustic lace. The star is clearly The Temple of The King a masterpiece if ever there was one.
Website: SPV Records, Axel Rudi Pell
Lots of folks are breathing a sign of relief as the laser makes its way through Billy Idol first proper release in 12 years. Many wondered if this day would ever come as Idol claimed to have made his way through years of drug and alcohol addiction a lethal mixture that almost claimed his life twice. One has to wonder if it was Idol himself that brought the man back or the shear distain of an aging punk rocker for the industry that shunned him.
One things for certain, it helps having Steve Stevens back in the copilot chair ready to whip some fury into Idols immensely recognizable voice. After several plays its fair to say Devils Playground falls more in line with octane-fueled rock than Punk-edged sauce. Sure theres plenty of swagger but its controlled, methodic and looking for a comeback. It also doesnt disappoint. Lead single Scream is a white-knuckle joyride back to beefy guitar glory and leather pants. Fitting for a cover that sees Idol ripped, in full sneer and ready to bite.
Stevens guitar chops its way through Idols retrospective, Super Overdrive, bows to the 80s heyday in World Comin Down and takes another swing at Eyes without a Face in the acoustic-driven Rat Race. Midway in we get Yellin at the Xmas Tree which sits as an odd ditty better reserved for a closing or hidden track. Romeos Waiting and Body Snatcher spring back to life with chainsaw riffing and self-assured metal drumming. Thankfully this is nowhere near his pop past, instead we get treated to the mature Doors-esque Evil Eye, the country-tinged Lady Do or Die and Neil Diamond-infused Cherie before closing out with the drifting-to-crescendo Summer Running.
Website: Sanctuary Records, Billy Idol
Sense Your Darkness
Fueled by the voice of ex-Firewind vocalist Stephen Fredrick and guitar powerhouse Corbin King, Kinrick fuse together as true heroes of majestic rock. Sense Your Darkness adds to the long history of Leviathans quality releases and, on many levels, is representative of Graham Bonnet-era MSG wicked guitar weaving through a monster voice with a dynamo backend. With gargantuan licks we have the theatrical equivalent to a raging blockbuster as the record moves through arena anthems like Throughout All Time and the fist pumping Dressed Up as God with ease and confidence. Then there is the title cut, Sense Your Darkness which not only defines the record, but reminds the listener of a bygone era that begs revisiting.
Considered somewhat of a label Super-group, Kinrick, with bass duties by James Martin (Zanister) and drums by Stian Kristoffersen (Firewind), bring a formative element to a genre that for years has been dominated by their European contemporaries. That original stamp can be heard in Stand up and Fight and the memorable Make Me a Man where retro-metal meets the nimble fingers of Kings Slayer-like density. Flashes of Malice, Rough Cutt and even Dio reach in and twist a stranglehold on The Empire Falls Again, I Fight Alone, and Call of Honor in tone and delivery. The combination is intoxicating as they hail all thats pure in powerful rock sledgehammer riffs, tasteful solos, stunning vocals and one of the best drums sound yet.
Website: Leviathan Records
Readers of our site will be well schooled in the legend that is Joe Stump. Having appeared on a number of records over the past 15-years, the man has certainly left his signature on the world of thundering shredders. Note: this is not for the lighthearted this IS a two-fisted, double-barreled shred-a-thon with more notes coming at you than a Spanish inquisition firing squad. Disc 1 collects some of Joes most intense guitar work from his past studio recordings including the all out assault of In For The Kill on the Guitar Dominance LP (1993) and The Sorcerers Apprentice from Night of the Living Shred (1994). There are plenty of lighter, intimate moments as well including the tender Jetaime and the melodic Hurricane X.
Several tracks sandwiched together, work intensely well theres personal favorite Demons Eye moving into the Golden Earring-like R.B.N.C.S.F. No II, also the surrealistic Rapid Fire Rondo and Pharaohs Delight, the former awash with texture-building keyboards. Interesting to hear Stumps many different guitar sounds which become quite alluring over the course the discs 15-tracks. Bonus track The Drill has a spontaneous basement feel almost liked a demo capturing the guitarists true speed.
Disc 2 is a live outing from what is billed as the Midwest Shred-fest. It is here Joe struts his live chops flawlessly. The excellent choice of Demons Eye to begin the disc stretches out to seven and a half minutes, which is actually par-for-the-course through the redcord's eight tracks. The power-metal Wrecking Machine follows with the more melodic and chunky Paganinis Revenge classic speed at its most ferocious. The magnificent ten-minute Thrill of the Chase is straight from the racetrack, while the blacker The Dark Gift wonders close to old Candlemass. Of course there is a jam as the CD fades sonic guitar wizardry at full tilt short, sweet and to the point.
Website: Leviathan Records
|ELECTRIC EEL SHOCK
Top ranking Japanese garage band Electric Eel Shock sum up their western invasion in the song, S.O.S. off their US debut Go USA! Im sorry, I cant speak English well/But I wanna sing this song for you guys, screeches guitarist/vocalist Akihito Morimoto. While a grin may grow across your face, EES are the real deal. Raised on a diet of Sabbath, Ramones, Fishbone and Wishbone Ash this earthy trio plug in and let the feedback do the talking.
Tight, compact, and Detroit purists Akihito Morimoto (v,g), Kazuto Maekawa (b) and Tomoharu Gian Ito (d) create a universal language singing in both English and Japanese all the while their dingy 60s guitar and heart thumping rock rakes through Japanese Meets Chinese In USA, the squealing My Tiger and the wake-up-call of Punctured. What English they do muster is repeated in short phrases and sometimes really all you need. Suicide Rock N Roll and Waaaa are among the most dynamic where lyrics are cosmetic to the giant wall of sound hurled from the speakers.
14-solid rockers fill this disc right to the top. Vintage Stooges riffs converge with chunks of metal to alter the pace between bloodthirsty numbers like Do the Metal and Puma with the garage infested Rock N Roll Can Rescue the World and the hammering Vegas Night. Gearhead continues in the tradition of finding off shore imports and exposing them to the masses this is one not to be missed.
Website: Gearhead Records
Amsterdams veteran rockers NRA prove punk isnt just a young mans game. At it since 1989, the gutsy four-some illuminate energetic, heart stopping ditties in much the same way as their US comrades The Lazy Cowgirls. Packing catchy hooks, memorable choruses and clever/funny lyrics keeps the band charming and addicting. Made for radio N28 has a slight Green Day feel to it complete with grinding riffs and should be the next FM hit. Missed my Slot which sounds a lot like Missed My Slut takes a humerous spin depending on how you hear it.
11 out the sixteen songs on Machine finish under 2-minutes keeping the pace anxious and power-packed yet, NRA keeps it interesting with the occasional tempo change. Shot One snags a bass-easy groove with the drums upfront while Machine finds its voice in a steady guitar grumble. The frantic Bang Bang, Knife and intro track Why Did I Listen to You fall in line as Ramones tributes with vocalist Rzizs barnstorming baritone. Reviewer favorites include the erratic Lines with big, beefy open chords, the garage-centered Wasted My Life with its Smithereens edge and the hammerhead Friend. Essential.
Website: Gearhead Records
This is an insanely hyper four piece from Tokyo proving that punk chicks can muscle up serious chops while still keeping it seductive, pop-friendly and fun. Gitogito Galore is six songs all under three minutes, one just as catchy as the next. Muscle Body Ecstasy burst forth like a raging storm proving that good things do come in small packages. Keeping 60s pulp shtick as a relevant factor in their music, any one of these retro-songs could work in a Bond film. Both Ambition with its GoGos beat and Melon Sherbets snake-charming Dick Dale surf riffs prove these girls are doing their homework.
Hyper is the most exhilarating of the set with its tin-drum intro and swashbuckling guitar, followed by a sugary-sweet chorus a bit like a bubble-gum commercial really. Sunflower is pure Slade complete with a driving lick, swelling harmonies and that killer backbeat. All this pop punk adds up to Natural Love Love Star a quick cab ride through neon strip clubs and karaoke bars. Lots of flash, flailing guitars and seat drenched drums.
Website: Gearhead Records
Mr. Hughes is extremely comfortable in his own skin these days. Soul Mover has been a long time coming emotionally for him but hes definitely hit his groove and wants to exorcise his musical union with Red Hot Chili Peppers Chad Smith. Joining Hughes and Smith are long time collaborator JJ Marsh (guitar), Ed Roth (organ) and special guests Dave Navarro who also makes an appearance in the video of the albums title track. Like all Hughes solo outings, this one is diversified - full of soul, rock and groove.
Soul Mover, the song, is quintessential hard rock as only Hughes can do it - heavy, distinctive and catchy as hell. Navarros contribution is lasting as he uses tone and texture to paint versatility into the songs rock structure. High Road has a similar effect with Smiths in-your-face drums locking in with Hughes bass for an infectious foot-stomper. The record then takes a lighter more experimental turn for its mid-section. True, Orion packs a punch with some nice riffing but here Hughes moves in instrumental soundscapes to add to his palette.
The lighter moments of Change Yourself, Let It Go, Dont Let Me Bleed and the rockier Isolation embrace Glenns soulful voice almost moving into a 70s Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Ambrosia realm. Yet, for those who ever doubted his ability as a singer will be mesmerized by his magnificent range and emotion. Never to far from his funk roots Hughes pours into Dark Star and Land of the Livin with Hendrix-powered groove. Hughes proves hes just hitting his stride in creating gorgeous harmonies, emotional fantasies and passionate chart toppers. Stay tuned.
Website: Sanctuary Records, Glenn Hughes
Theres something to be said about Sabbath never sitting down to sort out a new record. With no immediate plans it frees up everyone to pursue solo projects. If everything comes in on time Bill Ward will have his record out in June, Tony Iommi and Glenn Hughes in July, Ozzys box set is still hot on the shelf and on May 10th this monster, from GZR will hit the streets in brutal fashion. Geezer Butler has long been heralded for his immense contribution to the Sabbath sound. With the release of Ohmwork, he continues his long association with legacy while voyaging toward a new breed of heavy metal.
Ohmwork is the third GZR record, the first in eight years, and without a doubt the strongest of the suite. Where before the Sabbath veteran seemed disjoint and almost reduced to guest spotlight on past GZR releases, here we see the bass master take complete control and breathe fire into the wonderfully heavy Misfit, Pardon My Depression and Pull The String. Not to be considered Nu Metal, it certainly shows Geezer is listening to the radio especially P.O.D.
Butler is joined by vocalist Clark Brown and guitarist Pedro Howse - long time collaborates - and new drummer Chad Smith (not the Chili Pepper).
The four bring a spirit of spontaneity to the records 10 songs, which are highlighted, in the single, I Believe a melodic acoustic-based scorcher. Thundering Dogs Of Whore and the chain saw buzzing Dont You Know are shear metal delights feeding off classic Ozzfest staples. Funny how the only track remotely considered stoner is the spaced out Alone.
Website: Sanctuary Records, Geezer Butler
One, Second To None
Brennus Records (France)
Who would think one of the best southern rock outfits on the books today are from western France. True story. Let us introduce Wild West, an amalgamation of Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tesla and Aerosmith. If you think about it its not so strange. Some of our best westerns were filmed in Italy (hence the term Spaghetti Westerns) and also Spain. Actually there are parts of Spain that look more western than New Mexico. Note: the bands shots of Wild West were shot in Spain. Guitarist Erik Dominech, bassist Stephan Dugue and drummer Deny Felicite merged with vocalist Andre Fuciarrelli in May of 1998 to record One a record that would launch their western forte.
Considering Wild West had only been playing a year, One is remarkably cohesive. Boothill opens like a Clint Eastwood movie, complete with an old church bell and wind-swept, sagebrush infested, landscape. 45-seconds later Outlaw swaggers in with Dominechs guitar coming in chunky and thick while Felicite sets a fierce drum beat. Straight away there are similarities to Riot and Van Halen, even some Headpins in the guitar sound, yet most noticeable is the quality as the musicians gel. Riff-centered, chorus-ridden and extremely catchy see Freewheelin, Fist In Your Face and Headhunter stand out. Power-ballads make a comeback in the Bon Jovi-styled Rocky Mountain and Marys Song.
Working with producer J.F. Moreau on the bands sound album Second To None gave Wild West a more heavier, conceptual sound. This time we hear more 80s metal under their broad-brimmed hats. Unleash The Beast is straight out of the Kix camp where Dokken and AC/DC can be heard in Cross Bones Banner and the Black Velvet-imitation Spread Your Wings. Fuciarrellis vocals come into there own especially on Calico, Desert Plains and Loneliness Of The Wolf sounding slightly like a combination of DADs Jesper Binzer or TNTs Tony Harnell. Wild West picks up where Phillys Tangier and LAs Tattoo Rodeo left off, keeping the vibe of southern rock alive and well.
Website: www.recordheaven.net, Wild West, Brannus Records
Liquor and Poker Records
Its interesting to note that though this is an American band from Detroit the record has been out in Europe for almost a year. Produced by Paul Ebersold (3 Doors Down, Saliva) Strange Generation does not have your typical Stooges meet MC5 sound weve come to expect from the Motor City. On the contrary, here are four guys more akin to Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad and Blue Oyster Cult than the White Stripes and Kid Rock. Focusing on 70s guitar sound and Kiss-like choruses, the band put 13 of their best on celluloid to prove that Detroit still makes relevant rock and roll.
Guitar-master Jeff Piper and Paul Stanley-sound alike Myron lead the way with bassist Pete Bever and drummer Jeremiah Pilbeam. All prove ready for balls out, high-octane rock. When No Rest comes thumping from the back of your Camaro, you get it right away. Guitars a-blazing take us straight into Strange Generation the fuzzy Burn You Down and the distortion of Control. There are times the band crosses into a more stoned-out sphere like the moody, Doors-inspired Dead Man and the drifting Time In Space which could easily be a Monster Magnet track. But thats not all - for your money you get plenty of cowbell, head bangin bass/drum rhythms and hum able tunes bouncing around in your brain. As a bonus you also get the country acoustics of Deep End. Yee haw!
Website: Liquor & Poker Records, Dirty Americans
|THE HIDDEN HAND
Mother, Teacher, Destroyers
Southern Lord Records
Led by the heroic doom-figure of Scott Wino Weinrich, Hidden Hand releases their third long player since forming in 2002. Slightly more focused than Divine Propaganda, Mother, Teacher, Destroyers seems to have found the bands true niche. Sure the Stoner/Doom element is still there (it must be, it has to be, ed.) but this time its special, really special. There is a new sound rising in songs like Currents and Half Mast where the melody is crossing into 70s California rock. Then theres Travesty As Usual, and the Bruce Falkinbergs bass spotlight Coffin Lily as well as The Crossing which could easily be what Jethro Tull would sound like if they were a contemporary stoner band.
Its texture that separates this record from other doom slabs. Black Ribbon is so refreshing with its sweeping intro, converging guitars and Dave Hennessys subtle percussion roll. This one is a chiller from the first listen. And Winos voice never sounded better moving from Ozzy to Roger Waters. Dig into Desensitized and Sons Of Kings to feel the depth of the reverberation producer J Robbins is able to pull from this impressive trio. Spacey, psychedelic elements still abound as in Draco Vibration and The Deprogramming of Tom Delay, but the way they progress into heavier funeral dirges is impressive. By far the best thing Winos been associated with.
Website: Southern Lord Records