THOR
Thor Against The World
Smog Veil Records

We had a lot of feedback to our feature on the mighty Thor in issue # 60. Many were glad to hear Jon Mikl Thor was back at it – stronger than ever. With the recent Smog Veil release, Thor Against The World, it’s time to seriously take notice. Easing off on the straight metal angle, Thor (with the writing and production team of Bruce Duff and Frank Meyer) has delivered a near classic Detroit rocker which fans the flames of Stooges nastiness. The quality in songwriting is up a notch with catchy hooks and big, beefy guitars. Thor’s voice is in fine form and he attacks anthems like the title track, “Thor Against The World”, “Creature Feature” and “Megaton Man” with plenty of muscle.

Adding keys/piano courtesy of Brian Kehew gives the record a pop friendly edge as does the retro drum sound of Chris Markwoo. The production puts it somewhere between old school Kiss, Alice Cooper or AC/DC especially on “Serpents Kiss” and “Long Time.” The harmonica friendly “Hard To Cry” takes its fuzzed out guitars back to Thor’s earliest influences around the garage rock glory days of ’68 or ’69. The psychedelic “Turn To Blue” and apocalyptic closer “The Coming Of Thor” complete a well-laid retrospective and yet a re-birth as such. Returning to punk, garage roots makes Thor a valid landmark for metal’s past.

Website:
Thor, Smog Veil Records

MIKE CAMPESE
The New
Guitar Nine Records

Guest columnist for Guitar Nine Records Mike Campese returns with his fourth solo CD entitled The New. Unlike many of the guitar shredders that send their records our way, Campese has a keen sense of melody and conservative dynamics. Straight off, the disc has an old world spell to it. Song titles like “Misty Seas,” “The Unknown” and “Sonata” create a feeling of European mystique. Second track, “All Or Nothing,” is graceful yet aggressive putting things in perspective with a dash of Ritchie Blackmore and a swash of George Lynch. The shred-heavy “Before A Strom” will also satisfy progressive metal-heads keeping it heavy, melodic and lyrical.

Campese takes complete ownership of his 18 compositions featured here. He writes, produces, plays and sings. Seven have him contributing vocals the other eleven are top-notch instrumentals ranging from bluesy “Swing Thing” to the orchestrated “Crying For Freedom.” For guitar enthusiast’s songs like “Mission Mars,” the acoustic layering of “A Cry With No Tears” and the gorgeous “Majestic Rays” not only highlight the guitarist as a performer but actually transport the listener to a cerebral sphere where the music becomes all consuming. The tracking order balances the record keeping the ebb and flow exciting and exhilarating. The New is a well-crafted piece open to a wide range of musical enthusiasts.

Website:
Mike Campese, Guitar Nine Records

AMERICAN DOG
Foamin’ At The Mouth Live
American Dog Records

After releasing four slamin’ hard rock classics our favorite dawgs from Columbus, Ohio commit fourteen crowd favorites to one live disc. Archie from QFM 96 introduces the band to a packed studio where the recording takes place. In clarifying why the band chose a studio rather than some seedy bar, the liner notes read, “Why take all that expensive recording gear out to a club full of drunks when you can bring the drunks to the expensive recording gear?” So there you have it, clear crystal sound in an intimate sweaty room, kickin’ out the best of AD to 80 lucky fans.

Chalk full of blue-collar rock, Foamin’ At The Mouth Live showcases just how good this band has become over the last five years. Mike Hannon’s bass is as thunderous as ever and together with drummer Keith Pickens they make a mighty rumble. Steve Theado’s superhuman guitar playing is stunning as he wails and cranks his way around “Another Lost Weekend”, “Shitkicker” and the monster “Got You By A Chain.” His solo in “Too Damn Sober” and “I’ll Drink To That” extends past the LP version for a thrill a minute. Just to show he’s not one-dimensional Theado whips out the slide and tears it up on “DNF.”

Self-declared bastard sons of Motorhead and AC/DC, the band pay tribute in a rough and ready version of the “Bomber.” The track is one of the few, if only, non-drinking song in the mix, but firmly establishing the trio as metal rock band. Newish song “D-N-D” decorates the closing moments of the disc in poor drunken brawl style. Listening to it fall to pieces is all that is hysterically enjoyable about this band. They only take three things seriously: sex, beer and rock n’ roll. That’s what we love about ‘em.

Website:
American Dog

EROL SORA
Demented Honour
Duration Records

Canada has given us some of the best melodic hard rock in the last 25 years and Erol Sora is no exception. There is a lot of Aldo Nova in Erol’s debut, Demented Honour, especially in the title track, “Guilty.” Maybe it’s the way the big, chunky riff freight trains into a mind-blowing chorus, or the rock-star guitar presence in the solo with a rhythm section that’s well-oiled and ready for anything. One thing’s for sure, that voice takes complete control with honesty and passion. Not many can pull it off this well, but Sora has hit a winner with meat and potatoes rock that tastes mighty good going down.

From the Golden Earring inspired licks in the mammoth, “Highway To Nowhere” to the ‘70s inspired “Piece Of Paper” the pacing of Sora’s ten original compositions are amazingly well schooled. There is the twin guitar harmonics of “Barstool Corner” that may remind some of Thin Lizzy with a melodic lead run and an infectious set of verses. Unafraid to merge the strumming of an acoustic guitar to build an anthemic ballad, Sora gives “NYC” and “Along The Way” a generous Gordon Lightfoot approach, becoming more of a poetic commentary than sappy love song.

Yet, two tracks reign supreme here. The mammoth “One Way Ticket” is a heavy hitter with a rumbling bridge that sets up for a wailing solo and a fist-pumping chorus. This song is so full of chills and thrills they spill right off the track into the Deep Purple-esque “Broken Dreams.” Then there’s the gorgeous “Rain” which could easily sit on Triumph’s Allied Forces. Emotion-stirring piano sets the canvas with mood and color while a flamenco styling moves straight into some of hottest guitar since Walter Rossi. This record will easily find it’s way to the top of your play-list.

Website:
Erol Sora

This just in from Erol. "The CD is going to be officially released by MTM Music Feb 24th under the name: SORA-Demented Honour." It will feature new cover art which we posted above. Support this record. It is a classic!

F5
A Drug For All Seasons
Deadline/Cleopatra Records

Brainchild of Megadeth bassist David Ellefson, F5 combines the talents of drummer Dave Small and native Minneapolis vocalist Dale Steele, with the blazing guitar work of Steve Conley and John Davis. Together the five have set out to re-write modern commercial rock that clearly out does their contemporaries on the FM dial. “We never really had a direction per se,” says Ellefson. “We just started sending demos back and forth and when John joined – with his modern guitar crunch we new we’d found our sound.”

Ellefson, considered to be one of the pioneering thrash/speed metal musicians, has taken a step back to evaluate what works best for the band. “Among the five of us, we naturally gravitated toward catchy melodies and big fat guitars,” says the bassist. “We wanted our music to sit comfortably with the older crowd but also be new and fresh.” An example is the band’s reworking of Edie Brickell (and the New Bohemians’) hit “What I Am.” Almost disguised in an aggressive assault, the guts of the song reemerge with a metallic passion.

Branding themselves with the same term used by meteorologists for the highest-level of tornado warning, Ellefson admits it’s a name to live up to. “We wanted to call ourselves something without limits, yet was still forceful. Something with impact representing the ‘Force of Five.” Current single, “Faded” may draw comparisons to Disturbed with the occasional bouts of Living Colour tossed in. As with the record’s title cut "A Drug For All Seasons" and the thumping “X’d out,” Ellefson’s extraordinary bass has a distinct presence but never seems to overpower the record’s mood. Interesting to note; closing track “Forte Sonata” was entirely composed and played on his 12-string bass and can sound like guitar, violin and cello with uncanny presence.

“There are so many heavy bands with ‘cookie-monster’ vocals,” continues Ellefson. “Dale Steele (Sick Speed) stood out as someone who could sing over chords – could be tough and edgy but also carry a tune.” Comparisons to Anthrax singer John Bush have been made about Steele’s ability to manipulate a song. “Bleeding” puts that to the test with a heavy riffing verse powering up to an anthem chorus. “Hold Me Down” with its Maiden shadow also run a good vocal/guitar punch touching on a number of musical genres.

Keep in mind this is a guitar-fed band. Davis and Conley are all over the place from the blitz of “Dissidence” and “Defacing” to the acoustic melody that haunts “Look You In The Eyes” and the middle-eastern flare of “Fall To Me.” A rewarding listen for those looking for a modern metal record with the teeth of metal roots still intact. Aside from F5, Ellefson is in high demand as a session player both in Nashville and LA and is currently playing along side ex-Megadeth alum Jimmy DeGrasso in the current incarnation of Montrose.

Website:
F5

TOKYO DRAGONS
Give Me The Fear
Escapi Music

Real rock albums don’t have singles - they had power cuts. And the new record by Tokyo Dragons delivers eleven such gems ripe and ready for the pickin’. There’s a sticker on the Dragon debut (Give Me The Fear) that claims the band has “more hooks than a Norwegian Whaling fleet.” True to form, this London-based foursome rip-off every Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, AC/DC power chord known to man and crank it out with bell-bottom conviction. Following in the heels of The Darkness - Steve, Phil, Mal and Ade grind out sweat-soaked biker rock with a BIG middle finger to a stale record industry poisoning itself to certain death.

Fueled by dozens of high-energy club shows over the past three years and building what we call ‘a ‘legitimate fan-base’ the boys sink their teeth into some hard rock cherry. We have the School’s Out sound-alike “Teenage Screamers,” the Nazareth inspired, “Ready Or Not” and the sweeping anthem, “What The Hell.” No, there’s no marketing ploy to move this batch of finely crafted headbangers on to the FM dial. Just songs you want to hear loud as you’re racing down the highway - just you and your buddies crankin’ to TD.

Bands need time to grow, get better at writing those memorable licks that make them classics. TD’s got some growing to do but they have what it takes. It may not happen on this disc or the next one, but if they last, they will write a monster – guaranteed. They come close with “Do You Wanna?,” a sticky little number that has you humming along to ‘let’s go and get high.’ “Come On Baby” soaks up the floor with Nugent pacing in the lyric ‘stranglehold’ and the tag chorus “come on baby, shake that ass.” Fans of the Datsuns will hear a ring or two in “Get ‘Em Off” With a fresh face painted by producer Pedro Ferreria (Darkness) this slab is cock-sure and ready to blow.

Website:
Tokyo Dragons, Escapi Music

HURRICANE MASON
It’s Only Miles
Cast Iron Constitution

Independent release

Hurricane Mason come to us from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They play rough and dirty blues rock with a fair share of southern country swagger in the mix. They have a couple records out on their own label and play a steady string of dates throughout the mid-west. The band were kind enough to send us review copies so we started our education with Cast Iron Constitution, their 2002 debut. A raw production gives songs like “Head Up In The Clouds”, “Hell Bent And Glory Bound” and “Don’t Shame Me On” a rugged live feel. If that was all they offered they’d be lumped in with a million other pub bands, but straight away you can hear a certain finesse.

It first hits you in the acoustic mandolin of “Against The Crooked Sky,” before the guitars storm into a thundercloud of feedback. The juxtaposition of acoustic vs electric bring dynamic texture to the trail song “Before It All Begins.” Add in the occasional harmonica and guitar/vocal fuzz effects and you’ve got the building of an original sound along the lines of Crazy Horse, The Band – even The Black Crowes. Quickening the pace is the Scorpion-esque “Killing Machine” right next to the Allman Bros-styled jazz number “Space Change.”

Their sophomore outing, It’s Only Miles (2005) proves that constant touring elevates song writing. Remaining a power trio, Matt Mason (g/v), Ron Martin (b/v) and Shawn Montgomery (d/v) still shoot from the hip but the groove sticks like glue. Mason’s guitar finds its way around memorable licks found in “Nasty Rock-n-Roll”, “Girl Across The Street” and the Neil Young-ish “Between The Night.” The lyrics dig a little deeper while the introduction of the Hammond B3 and Piano keep the songs engaging.

The record treads close to the band’s influences. “BCRO” reeks of Black Crowes, “Painted Smile” has that Billy Gibbons’ blues edge and then there’s “Angus Young” which has Mason doing his best Brian Johnson. Much like their previous collection, It’s Only Miles, showcases the diversity of a band that can move from the hard rock of “Newsman” to the boogie of “Little Drops Of Rain” and still tackle Warren Haynes’ (Govt’ Mule, Allman Bros) “Soulshine.” A right talented bunch worth checking out.

Website:
Hurricane Mason

PHIL VINCENT
Unknown Origin
Independent Release

Phil Vincent has been around for a number of years producing, recording and playing his own brand of slick AOR hard rock. He definitely has a flare for ‘80s-era Dokken/Scorpions/Triumph, yet brings it up to modern standards. Some might remember his years with Song Haus Music where he released the dynamic, Thunder in the East, Tragic, and Circular Logic. Prior to that he released four records on New Tomorrow Music, the best being, Calm Before the Storm (1997) with several highlights off Life is a Game, (1997) and No Turning Back (1998).

His new opus, Unknown Origin, stands out with a curious sense of urgency. The guitars are more aggressive and noticeable right from the opening riff in Thanks for Nothing. Vincent handles most of the instruments himself but the disc does see the addition of guitarist Paul Colombo giving the whole thing that wall-of-guitar sound. Check out the grinding metal in Make no Mistakes with its YES - Owner Of A Lonely Heart riff or the massive chug of  Goin’ through the Motions, Fight From the Inside, and Fatal Love, to fully appreciate the one-two-punch of layered guitars.

Amidst the hooks are Vincent’s trademark keyboards and, dare I say, synthesizers. One of the few who can actually pull off the addition of drippy, almost dated keys, Vincent explores their presence in his compositions, Dear Friend, and In the Blink of an Eye. However they are subtly applied throughout the disc sounding a bit retro, but consumable.

Vocally, Vincent’s upper octave timbre is comparable to Kip Winger or Triumph’s Rick Emmett. There are even moments the record comes close to both bands in delivery and passion. Originality still shines through in the pop flare of All I Need, the voice augmented, Shotgun Messiah, or rumble of Never gonna Let You Go, where a fuzz is thrown over the guitar sound for that dirty stoner effect. Have no fear, hair metal is still alive and thriving in the Vincent studios. The songs are well crafted, catchy and immaculately played. Even the emotional ballad, Faithless holds up with remarkable presence.

Websites: Phil Vincent, CD Baby

SLIDESHAKER
In The Raw
Bad Afro Records

A classic mix of ‘60s garage rock, blues, soul and tasty R&B fuzz greets your ears when you plug in In the Raw by the Finnish trio Slideshaker. Much like their label mates Sweatmaster, their sound is remarkably similar to The Black Keys only with added keys – they’re dirty, gritty and full of vibrations. The band claim to be very much influenced by the blues, but play it in a trashy way with punk attitude. That attitude comes full force on the second track The Last Straw. Highly addictive and packed full of raunchy three-chord power riffs, the song charges in like a Rhino in heat. Then comes the retro organ blowing in a gust of furious rhythm and blues.

Bones is the first single off the disc spinning a tale of love lost that sounds 40 years old. The confident drive of acoustic and electric guitars mixed with a hip grinding horn section eats a hole right through your brain. Capturing the garage rock vibe is the band’s use of handclapping in nearly every song – it’s even included in the instrument credit list. Better Version Of You has a ruckus mid-tempo swagger, yet the record takes a more rural form in songs like Easy Street and No Love Lost with their southern, laidback mood reminiscent of Blind Mellon.

There’s even a bit of Stones influence in Unfortunate Son and Train Slowing Down, which could be a product of their workman-like chord structure or the sweet simplicity of a three-piece. Noisy feedback wraps Her Sun Going Down in a warm wooly blanket while Heartbeat Baby sounds like it could be the soundtrack for the next Volvo commercial. From cowbell to horn arrangements to the quick slice of razor-sharp solos Slideshaker have fully embraced a direction they are completely comfortable with and prove they can pull it off without a hitch.

Websites: Slideshaker, Bad Afro Records

IAIN ASHLEY HERSEY
The Holy Grail
Lion Music LTD

For fans of classic ‘70's hard rock this is a rare find indeed. Hersey, whose first disc, Fallen Angel brought him notoriety as a student of Trower, Travers and Blackmore, moves into his own with new opus, The Holy Grail. The title is a fitting one as this may be just the answer many have been looking for. Here is a superbly crafted blues rock menagerie with memorable hooks, thick bottom end and a pure spirit of anthem rock. Hersey is on his game, throwing power riffs like Zeus, the God of thunder himself. Gigantic comes to mind listening to “To the Sea” or the dense, "Walking the Talk,” featuring none other than Sir Graham Bonnet.

Yet, all Hersey’s rifforama would be for naught if it weren’t for the interpretation of his singers, including the undiscovered but impressive David  ‘Swan” Montgomery. At times he can nail a young James Dewar especially in the Hammond-driven, “In the Light” or the lead track, “Blood of Kings.” There’s no hiding a Deep Purple/Rainbow wash that bathes the whole record. “Blink of an Eye” and “Empty Planet” are Blackmore/Turner Rainbow ’81 complete with massive melodies and piecing soloing.

“Lost and Foolish” and “Calling the Moon” reach back to Dio-era Rainbow with keyboardist Harlan Spector doing his best Tony Carey. As mentioned before, Graham Bonnet steps in for three numbers including a killer version of Don Nix’s blues standard “Going Down.” Title track, “The Holy Grail” rolls out all the moves with everything big – big guitars, big drums, keyboards reaching up to the rafters and Bonnet singing like a real champion (excuse me while I wipe a tear). Two instrumentals also grace the record including a roaring version of Bach’s Toccatta in D Minor and Auf Wiedersehen.  Seek this one out and find it!

Website: Iain Ashley Hersey, Lion Music LTD

THE RIBEYE BROTHERS
Bar Ballads and Cautionary Tales
Times Beach Records

Our favorite Jersey duo are at it again. Tim Cronin (vocals) and Jon Kleiman (guitar), both from the early incarnation of Monster Magnet, have finally made their garage rock monster. The Ribeye Brothers are just one of the many bands the two front at any given time. Bar Ballads and Cautionary Tales is their second full-length release and surprisingly much more true to the mark than their first effort, If I Had a Horse (Meteor City 2000).

It must be noted that these guys love the messy fuzz of a guitar, a hollow drum and the shaking of tambourines. They claim the obscure Swedish rock icons Union Carbide Productions are the Holy Grail and worship all things psychedelic and punky. Cronin’s voice and passion are the link to making this hodge-podge assortment work. And even though he’s not known outside the tri-State area, Cronin can certainly carry a tune. Backed by MM drummer turned guitarist, Jon Kleiman, keyboard man Matt Forman, bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Neil O’Brien, the five-piece spit out Nuggets-era ‘60s rock with lots of attitude and grease.

“Roberto Duran” gets the record going with its retro-organ, vocal echo and tasty guitar solo. Praise be to the high standards of recording which keep the dirt in “Buffalo”, “Lonesome Rhodes,” the Stooges-styled, “Electric Chair” and the muffled, “Working Men are Dead.” Cued in from their debut outing, outlaw country makes its way through half the record with the bass riff in “We became Snakes,” the acoustic bar tale “From the Floor,” and the Nashville guitar romp of “Find Yer Own.” The country edge is just enough to make it interesting - never overbearing, so the sludge of thick garage rock can flow into its own sticky puddle.

Websites: Ribeye Brothers, Times Beach Records

KAMCHATKA
Kamchatka
Grooveyard Records

This is our first submission from Rochester, NY-based Grooveyard Records and what a powerhouse it is. Kamchatka take their name form the volcanically active Russian peninsula that divides the Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, and on first listen you’d swear you’d unearthed an early ‘70’s Robin Trower classic. The Swedish trio have not only perfected gut-wrenching blues-guitar riffs that erupt spontaneously, but back them up with one of the heaviest rhythm sections of the decade.

Breaking it down into equal parts, we start with singer/guitarist Thomas Andersson, a student of all things graceful and fluid in blues-soaked guitar. Unafraid to amp up a Hendrix chord progression as in “Out Of My Way,’ or shoot for a more Stevie Ray Vaughan drive in “No,” Andersson caresses each note – one at a time and lives through its distinctive sound. Then there’s the voice; guttural and gruff, but smooth like Irish whiskey.

Bassist, Rojer Ojersson adds his voice both figuratively and physically in the Sabbathy “Squirm,” the massively heavy “Mnemosyne Waltz” and the straight ahead Stoner Rock, “Sing Along Song.” His interplay and dynamic tension roams from intricate Jazz jams to plodding, lumbering footsteps in the wake of Sir Lord Baltimore or live Mountain. “Seed” is his shining moment as he gallops around a Memphis groove giving lots of room for Andersson and drummer Tobias Strandvik to build a skull-crushing monster.

Raw, frantic and dense is the only way to describe Strandvik’s drumming. From the southern-fried Johnny Winter cover “I Love Everybody” and subtle frills of “Daddy Says” to the all out shed of “Spacegirl blues,” Strandvik makes his presence known. He locks in with Ojersson’s bass giving the songs a concrete backbone that never gets lost in Andersson’s supernatural playing. The collection runs 14 tracks of hard-hitting, tasteful guitar rock and deserves to sit beside the greats of your vinyl collection.

Website: Grooveyard Records