BRAND NEW SIN
Recipe For Disaster
Century Media Records

Sophomore outing Recipe For Disaster take the Syracuse-based ruffians from independent outlaws to established hard rock heroes. Priding themselves on their Southern-influence (right down to the “Hell Yeah” intro in “The Loner”) the burly tattooed five-piece come close to COC meets Pantera territory with their skull crushing anthems like “Black And Blue”, “Arrived” and “Dead Man Walking”. Talking a no-nonsense approach BNS keep their songs short and sweet with plenty of guitar – three to be exact, and a punishing rhythm section. Vocalist Joe Altier picks up his growl off the bar room floor and nails everything from the Spaghetti-western “Gulch” to the barbaric “Fright Train”.

With influences from Slayer and Skynyrd to Black Sabbath, Brand New Sin keep from being painted in a corner by digging a little deeper musically and lyrically. “Wyoming” rings like a church bell in a ghost town while “Running Alone” takes an acoustic two-step and brings a little Merle Haggard into the mix. Be it slide guitar or twin sledgehammer harmonics these boys find the lost art of hard rock and give it swift kick up the ass. Production snippets between tracks are examples of the band’s earthy approach. And through they might seem to be all attitude, they are actually damn good songwriters carefully constructing passionate rock. Find your salvation in “Another Reason” and “Once In A Lifetime”.

Website:
Brand New Sin, Century Media

XCARNATION
Grounded
Muse-Wrapped Records

First to catch our attention with Grounded were the eclectic credits which included Kip Winger, Rod Morgenstein (Winger / Dixie Dregs / Steve Morse), Reb Beach (Winger / Dokken / Whitesnake) and Pat Mastellotto (Mr. Mister and King Crimson). Born in Istanbul, Turkey Cenk Eroglu became involved with music at a very young age. His father was a renowned conductor, arranger and jazz pianist and obviously had an influence on his son. Cenk spent his teenage years writing, playing and recording music and released his first solo album in 1991.

He has since made a name for himself producing a number of artists in Turkey and became himself a renowned composer, guitarist, arranger and producer. His forte, as of late, has been to combine heavy rock, synthesized and electronic sounds with Eastern and Western music. Much of Grounded follows suite with Cenk writing, arranging and producing. Guest musicians are included and in part sounds very King Crimcon-like (Cenk actually worked with the members of King Crimson, Pat Mastelotto, Robert Fripp, Tony Levin and Trey Gunn on a project called BPMM in 2001). The disc begins with the very industrial-sounding “Personal Antichrist” and has a tendency to dance close to a melodic Nine Inch Nails, a trend that does become a bit distracting.

The record find’s itself in “Everlasting” and “Lucky Day” which, though heavily layered are wonderfully arranged with clever pop hooks. Kip Winger’s backing vocals are a refreshing addition to the harmonies and flushed out songs like “Desperately Sad” and the two Kip-penned tracks “Reason To Believe” and “Willing To Wait.” The Beatle-esque “Without You” and calming “Pictures” are almost meditative. The addition of Turkish musicians keeps the whole thing exotic yet tangible.

Website:
Xcarnation, Muse-Wrapped Records

STEVE WALSH
Shadowman
Muse-Wrapped Records

The last solo effort by Kansas vocalist Steve Walsh (Glossolalia, Magna Carta 2000) had a heavy industrial edge to it. So much so that it was almost too intense. Shadowman continues to experiment with layered sounds, vocal effects and sonic progression but is much easier to embrace. In it we hear an ever-expanding musician pushing the confines of his own universe. Joined by drummer Joe Franco (Twisted Sister, Magellan), guitarist/bassist Joel Kosche (Collective Soul) and former Kansas violinist David Ragsdale, Walsh integrates everything from Native American beats and psychedelic haze to pure heavy metal density.

Traditional Kansas fans may find some of Shadowman tough to digest but with repeated listening the double-kick bass in “Rise” or the elaborate orchestration of “After” will become quite thrilling. A master craftsman, Walsh extracts prime talent from today’s market including Symphony X mastermind Michael Romeo for elaborate layered fusion. The riffing “Davey And The Stone That Rolled Away,” the blues-vibe of “Keep On Knockin” and the techno-tinged "Hell Is Full Of Heroes" finds Walsh committed to his hard rock roots bellowing over the discs major players. Title track “Shadowman” both lyrically and musically lends itself closest to mid-80s Kansas and is prime for Classic Rock radio, while “The River” finds a bit of gospel in the disc’s closing moments. The disc is only eight tracks deep but houses enough charismatic charm and pure rock to make it a must.

Website:
Steve Walsh, Muse-Wrapped Records

DORO
Classic Diamonds
Locomotive Music

What a tragedy this amazing talent it’s better known outside her native Germany. Hailed as the goddess of metal, Doro Pesch has had a long and illustrious career climaxing with her first #1 single on the German charts this year. Twenty years ago she got her start as the focal front for thrash metal outfit Warlock, then quickly adopted a solo career. The mid-‘90s saw her set up shop in Nashville and work with several legendary musicians and songwriters including Gene Simmons. Her staying power is attributed to her hard work, persistence and dedication to her craft. Much like Joan Jett and Pat Benatar she continues to maintain a strong fan base due to the quality and excellence in her work.

Doro (who uses her first name as her professional marquee) recently combined talents with the exceptional Classic Night Orchestra for a run through a number of her “Classic hits” with a few surprises thrown in. The obvious secret in pulling off orchestrated performances of metal work is in the arrangements. “I Rule The Ruins”, “Metal Tango” and stadium anthem “All We Are” work well in the format. However, the real diamond is the Priest cover “Breaking The Law” with a guest appearance by Accept vocalist Udo Dirkschneider. The use of stings is dynamic and poignant - reminiscent of Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture.

The single from the set, a tearful love ballad “Let Love Rain On Me” has found instant success in Europe and has seen the singer join the ranks of the massive Wacken Festival. Doro has a tremendous command of English yet, a real power lies in her emotional love songs sung in her native German. The disc does a fine job blending quite love songs like “Fur Immer” and “Tausend Mal Gelebt” with the English “I’m In Love With You”, “Love Me In Black” and the Spanish-styling of “Undying.” The disc is uniquely special with a fine polish of Doro/Warlock arrangements – defiantly a mood setter.

Co-released with Classic Diamonds is Classic Diamonds the DVD. The disc features two performances recorded last year including the Wacken festival where Doro performed for an audience of 50,000 people, backed by the Classic Night Orchestra. Guest appearances include Blaze Bailey on a killer “Fear Of The Dark” and Udo Dirkschneider for “Breaking The Law”. Additional footage from a concert in Hamburg is included, as well as interviews, TV performances, and a tour documentary.

Website:
Doro, Locomotive Music

DECEMBER WIND
Second Wind
Strong Wind Records

Second Wind is the sophomore release from this Akwesasne Mohawk Nation six-piece. Way back in issue #43 we reviewed their debut Sacred Voices finding it an exciting leap forward in Native American folk rock. Continuing in the same tradition, Second Wind finds the group expanding the nuisances of their music. From the acoustic strumming of “Butterfly” and “Images” we hear an offering of both poetry and prayer. Lyrical traditions play out with earth song sweetness and the emphasis of pow-wow percussion gives the whole disc authenticity.

60’s styled folk songs are easily saddled in December Wind’s native elements. The Neil Diamond-like “One And Two” or the folky “Dance To The Sun” conjures up a passion for yesteryear. Even the beat-driven “Ghost Dancers” uses native chants in a catchy almost hypnotic pictorial. “Fly With Me” rings of early April Wine with vocalist Atsiaktonkie sounding a bit like Myles Goodwyn and is accentuated by the twin guitars of Donnie Sharrow and Randy Furnia. Harder rocking “Custer’s Greed” and the blues edge of “Captain” keep the focus on groove whereas the funky psychedelic “Pretty Girls” is a jump into garage rock with a biting guitar tone and great layered leads. Some would say there is foundation of Pretty Things buried under the cover – as if they were influenced by S.F. Sorrow.

Website:
December Wind, Strong Wind Records

CHIMAIRA
Self Titled
Roadrunner Records

For their third release under the Roadrunner stamp, Chimaira have reached a new, almost personal level of savage brutality in the Metalcore genre. Beginning with a cover that showcases the art of Garrett Zunt (very much in the Joel-Peter Witkin school of the macabre) Chimaira shed much of their past waffling and go straight for the throat. Opening cut “Nothing Remains” bleeds in cinematic staging complete with a Middle Eastern flare. Since it was written the day after Dimebag Darrell was murdered, it becomes a banner for anger, frustration and pain. Right from the start Mark Hunter, the band’s forceful singer, is raging setting the tone for the next nine tracks.

Kevin Talley’s hyper-speed drumming and the twin-guitar assault of Rob Arnold and Matt Devries rip through “Comatose”, “Pray For All” and “Save Ourselves.” Where Pass Out Of Existence (2001) had undertones of nu-Metal and The Impossibility Of Reason (2003) proved to be a bit too ambitious for fans, the band hits a home run with Chimaira. The darker, death metal edge of the band is still intact but never endangers the melody. Chunky riffs are the name of the game. “Inside The Horror,” the dynamic “Left For Dead” and open chord “Bloodlust” anchors the whole thing down without overpowering their sledgehammer edge.

Feeling comfortable in their own skin, the Ohio-based six-piece take on more atmospheric presence in the grandiose “Salvation.” A song that pits Priest licks against Dream Theater texture, making it one of the groups’ more accessible tunes to date. Not to be overlooked is “Everything You Love” which combines a catchy hookline with bone crushing majesty. “Lazarus,” written about a friend’s suicide, shows us a very personal side of Hunter and his ability to tap into meaningful lyrics pulled from the soul.

Website:
Chimaira, Roadrunner Records

OPETH
Ghost Reveries
Roadrunner Records

I knew this was a special release when I got an email from the A&R guy at Roadrunner saying this was the best record he’d heard all year – and a landmark for Sweden’s elect Opeth. A prog-rock death metal band of sorts, the five-piece continue to expand the boundaries of hard rock with layered textures and emotional time changes. Ghost Reveries marks their eighth notch on the metal totem. Dynamic, exhilarating and unrelenting can only begin to describe what you will hear once the laser hits the disc.

Eight songs, half of them past the ten-minute mark move with uncanny grace as fluid elements of goth, jazz and classical collide with black/death metal in a tympanic cacophony. Beware of the lull of “Ghost of Perdition,” the opening cut, as an acoustic interlude slams into violent guitars and growling vocals – then, just as abruptly, mellows into a delicate refrain. Astounding is how all five musicians bounce off each other with mesmerizing dexterity.

Vocalist/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt has one of those unique voices that can be gruff as sandpaper yet melodic as a summer’s breeze. When extended over the thrilling “The Baying Of The Hounds” or the Rush-like “The Grand Conjuration” we hear full-scale vocal development in the arrangements. Nothing is off limits with this band, drummer Martin Lopez may stomp with ferocious intensity then switch to bongos or other percussion. “Beneath The Mire” has Per Wiberg using the keyboards to create atmosphere, which throughout the disc move from organ, Hammond, piano to what sounds like a harpsichord – sometimes all in one song.

The artistry of Akerfeldt and guitarist Peter Lindgren is awe-inspiring. Having seen the two guitarists go at it ‘live’ in both acoustic and electric settings gives a whole new meaning to dueling guitars. The Middle Eastern influence of “Atonement” is almost hypnotic as the combined forces of guitars and bass fuel the composition. ‘70s inspired “Reverie/Harlequin Forest” hints at the band’s admiration of Deep Purple Amon Duul II and Pink Floyd while the eloquent “Isolation Years” and “Hours Of Wealth” prove the band are comfortable in calm waters.

Website:
Opeth, Roadrunner Records

NASHVILLE PUSSY
Get Some
Spitfire Records

It’s been a busy year for Blaine Cartwright. Both his bands, Nine Pound Hammer and Nashville Pussy, have high-octane records out this month. The mid-West will remember the Indiana-born Nine Pound Hammer and the mayhem that ensued from 1990-1996. Mulebite Deluxe, a 15-song collection of rarities and gems with two new songs and a Dwight cover, will surely bring back memories. As for the new NP opus Get Some, it crackles and burns like a house ‘a fire. The addition of new-found bassist Karen Cuda is immediately noticeable. Joining forces with long-time drummer Jeremy Thompson the rhythm section is back to its old luster. Not to say x-Wives bassist Tracy Almazan didn’t add a few classic bits but Corey Parks was certainly missed. Not so in Karen. The claws are out and this kittens ready for action.

From the ring of the pinball machine in “Pussy Time” to the cowbell in “Snowblind” the bite is back. Produced by Daniel Rey (White Zombie, Ramones) the Atlanta-based foursome stick to what they know best with an added bit of spit-shine. For guitarist Ruyter Suys this may be her finest hour as she blazes through “Come On Come On” the real anthem here, “Lazy White Boy” and the solid southern rock classic “Hate and Whiskey.” Cartwright’s tongue-in-cheek humor pours out like moonshine in the Kentucky backwoods. Double-entendre swarm around “Good Night For A Heart Attack”, “Meaner Than My Mama” and the AC/DC meets Ted Nugent “One Way Down.”

A certain white-trash southern funk and soul finds it’s way into the mix. It may at first seem odd but once embraced is the secret ingredient that separates Get Some from the last couple NP records. A live favorite, the Ike and Tina Turner classic “Nutbush City Limits” is finally included. Remaining true to their roots, Suys claims it’s because “It’s the first song Brian Johnson played with AC/DC.” Kind sweet in a rock ‘n roll sorta way.

Website:
Nashville Pussy, Spitfire Records

MAMBO SONS
Racket Of Three
Independent

Racket of Three is the third recording for Mambo Sons since their inception in 1999. As the title suggests, they are big fans of Humble Pie, T-Rex and The Small Faces. A lighthearted trio, they employ Tom Guerra on guitar/ vocals, Scott Lawson on bass/lead vocals and Joe Lemieux on drums. Their disc starts out sounding a bit like Jet (who in turn sound like The Kinks) with a great ‘60s garage riff in “Play Some Rock & Roll.” Adding a slice of barroom-boogie piano punches up the slick pop tune and accompanies a signature Guerra solo. Genuine and flirty, the 12 songs here attach themselves closely to catchy hooks and tasty melodies.

An honest production showcases a band in fine form. From the sweetness of acoustic numbers “Safe With Me” and “Valentine” to the CSN-like texture of “Brandy On The Shelf” and Beatle-esque “You Broke My Mind,” we hear technically proficient musicians with a wide range of influences. Most of the record sticks with a ‘60-70’s era SoCal sound mixing country roots and rock senilities. “Man Of Steel” and the bluesy “Delta Slide” are prime examples of their using slide guitar, lap steel and Hammond B-3 to full effect.

Most thrilling is when the Mambos turn it up a notch kicking out the speakers with electric swagger. “Been Out Of Touch” runs a great beat and “Sidewinder Walk” hits the nail on the head with a strutting bass-line, an infectious chorus and a ripping guitar lead. “Mr. Rebound” does justice with a souped-up reggae beat Jimmy Buffet would be proud of. In the end, Racket Of Three feels like an undiscovered classic in the basement bin of your local record store. Dust it off and give it a whirl.

Website:
Mambo Sons

ORANGE SKY
Upstairs
Granite Records

Orange Sky is a Trinidad-based quintet that delivers high-energy rock with a dash of Caribbean and reggae influences. The combination is perfect for fans of that memorable island beat with a bit of Slayer thrown in. Produced by Jeff Glixman (Kiss, Kansas, Black Sabbath and Ludacris), the disc showcases a refined band comfortable in their element and proficient at delivering the goods. Word has it they’ve already sold 10K locally and bagged the opening slot for the upcoming Yngwie Malmsteen tour.

Created by brothers Nigel (g/vo) and Nicholas (b/vo) Rojas, the older Nigel teaching Nicholas guitar chord by chord, Orange Sky began to take shape in songs first. Drummer Obasi Springer and keyboardist Richard Hall later helped in flushing out the band’s sound sticking primarily to Calypso and traditional island flair. With the addition of Adam Murray, Orange Sky became much heavier. The pounding “Angels,” menacing “Dogs” and grinding “Tug of War” demonstrate their harder melodic edge.

Upstairs moves from Ozzy to Bob Marley to Burning Spear. Tougher songs like “Falling” and the riff-fueled “Beautiful Day,” capture the sense of urban aggression, yet are curved with “happy” island lyrics. It’s no surprise Cat Stevens’ classic “Peace Train” finds its way to the record’s lineup. It fits nicely with the snappy ballad, “It’s Over” and the standout track, “Escape.” Black guys with guitars, writing pop rock songs - a new direction for hard music, all working just like it should. The CD ships with a DVD entitled “Live In Trinidad” - a perfect way to appreciate how the band reached its astonishing cult status.

Website:
Orange Sky, Granite Records

W.C. CLARK
Deep in the Heart
Alligator Records

Most striking when listening to W.C. Clark’s Deep in the Heart CD, is his warm, soulful and occasional R&B delivery. A charismatic voice, Clark can move from tough to tender, pain to passion, confidence to caressing. For his second record with Alligator Records, Clark has again hired accomplished horn player/producer Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff. His presence is immediately heard as a succession of big-horn arrangements decorate Clark’s “Jaded Lady,” Otis Redding’s “You Left the Water Running,” and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Okie Dokie Stomp.”

Original compositions “Cold Blooded Lover”, “My Texas Home,” and the visceral “Promises” solidify Clark as Austin’s Godfather of the blues. His phrasing and finesse on the Les Paul reflects 40-years of playing with a long list of top musicians including the Vaughan brothers. Amid the originals, there are a number of covers showcasing Clark’s unique ability to interpret carefully selected material. He tries his hand at Joe Tex’s “I Want to do Everything for You,” Otis Clay’s “I Didn't Know the Meaning of Pain,” and John Hiatt’s Gospel-tinged, “Tip of My Tongue.” The mix is an impressive array as Clark tackles both vocal and lead guitar duties.

Longtime friend and cohort, Marcia Ball adds some backing vocals and duets on “You Left the Water Running,” and “Soul Kind Of Loving.” Her voice works nicely with Clark as they trade off a musical dialog like a seasoned married couple. Standout track, the up-tempo Fabulous Thunderbird cover, “Twist of the Knife” is a rockin’ little number guaranteed to keep your toes tapping. If you’ve never heard W.C. Clark work his magic, Deep in the Heart is a great start. Listen to the subtleties, the dynamics and the emotion of a master bluesman.

Website:
Alligator Records

BLACKBERRY SMOKE
Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime
Independent

Within the music industry there is currently a serious buzz about this Atlanta-based foursome. Friends of the Black Crowes, these boys were raised on bluegrass and are touring the country selling their brand of honky-tonk southern hard rock to the masses. “I grew up on bluegrass,” claims singer Charlie Starr. “It’s a very disciplined type of music and sounds really cool turned up.” Blackberry Smoke, whose name is credited to Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson, spent this fall as special guests of the Easy Rider’s coast to coast bike tour. The built-in audience gave them the opportunity to mix in originals from their newest LP Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime with the roadhouse standards.

“Our influences are big stadium bands like Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones,” chimes in second guitarist and vocalist Paul Jackson. “But we add in bluegrass, some hillbilly pickin’ and boogie piano. We also use a lot of harmonies and a good-ol’-boy sense of humor.” The band, which also includes the bearded rhythm brothers Richard (bass) and Brit Turner (drums), have just recorded 18 new tracks in Nashville with session keyboardist Joey Huffman (Matchbox 20, Collective Soul) and Pedal/Lap Steel player Dan Dugmore (Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Neil Diamond). Writing with country hit-maker David Lee Murphy has opened up a deeper outlaw edge to their music. They plan to showcase this winter and have a new record out in the spring.

Until then fans can check out eleven barnstorming essentials off Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime including the rollicking “Sanctified,” the hard rock “Train Rollin,” and the live cover of Jimmy Martin’s “Freeborn Man” also made famous by the Outlaws. The musical interplay between Starr and Jackson as they duel guitars and swap vocal leads keeps the record fresh and exciting. There are some very country moments in the swagger of “Testify” or the acoustic refrain of “Another Chance.” Big fans of the London Quireboys and Faces, the boys find a useful measure of southern elements including country, folk and blue-grass. Pay particular attention to “Angeline” and “Sure Was Good.”

Website:
Blackberry Smoke