Up All Night With
Gearhead Records

Psychobilly was never really our cup of tea but with the voluptuous image of Eva Von Slut falling out of her leather laced corset, who could resist. Actually this slab of San Francisco plastic is more West Coast bad-ass rock n’ roll than anything else. Some may be familiar with Von Slut’s work in Maxim, Skin and Ink magazines but less acquainted with her vocal prowess. For baptism by fire, drop the disc in and go straight to “Mercy, Mercy,” a full-throttle, cranked up bastard of a song featuring Slut’s growling larynx as she begs for well…mercy. Next, jump to “Wicked Ways” for a second dose and let her raspy voice gurgle its way into your heart. Out of this world guitars spank this bad boy. The mix between punked-up riffing in “Suicide Mission” and the throbbing bass of “I’m Not Sorry” bob and swirl, chug and rumble, through a roller coaster ride of quintessential combat-boot rock. 

But hold on to your seat. We haven’t even got to the drums yet. Where did they get this guy? From the opening cut, “You Never Were” the drums are in-your-face with magnetic frills, double kick bass and hi-hat frenzy – all delivered at warp speed. The rat-tat-tat in “Reckless” lays the foundation for what becomes a ripping romp through street hustler heaven. Mixing in a couple different guitar tones keeps the whole thing fresh and exciting, even reminiscent of Pat Todd and his boys in The Lazy Cowgirls. The guitars stir it up in “How High” with a Misfit’s vibe and chorus chant. Solos dive-bomb in with erratic precision following a simple blues pattern of open-chord, solo fill, open chord. Check out how that power structure is used in “Never Enough”. Slut keeps her lyrics simple and mostly autobiographical like the humorous “Champagne & Cocaine” and “Life Ain’t Fair”. Of course the crowning achievement must be the closing track “Drank Myself Back (To You)”, a muscled up banger so punk, so rough and ready, so perfect for closing the bars.

Website: Gearhead Records

Liberty or Death
Locomotive Records

No, not the monster truck. Grave Digger are ‘80s German power metal giants who’s back catalog spans from 1984’s Heavy Metal Breakdown to last year’s greatest hits 25 to Live - 16 records in all. Originally appearing on the metal landscape at the height of the NWOBM, the band had a knack for storytelling and unleashed pure adrenaline-soaked slabs going toe-to-toe with UK bands like Saxon and Iron Maiden. Their sound was more raw, more European with harsh drums and chainsaw guitars. A number of line up changes plagued the group throughout the next decade. However, even when their brand of rock fell out of fashion they produced some of the most dynamic, pulsating and, over all, solid records of their career including such classics as The Reaper (1993) and Knights of the Cross (1998). The new millennium has seen the band surge in activity releasing nearly one album a year since Y2K.

Just out on Locomotive Records, Liberty or Death is lead singer Chris Boltendahl’s ode to freedom, a familiar topic, reflective of 1996’s Tunes of War. In fact, songs like “Highland Tears’ and “Shadowland” seem to almost continue the saga in musical majesty and lyrical content. Inspired by a Cretan book of the same name, Boltendahl’s lyrics tell the tale of how liberty is built on death. The record is more Judas Priest in structure driven by addictive, supersonic hooks like those found in “The Terrible One”, “Silent Revolution” and “Ocean of Death,” crowned with a rumbling production. Though the gallant chants of dying for liberty, defending the innocent and a host of noble call-to-arm wears thin, “Until The Last King Died”, “March Of The Innocent” and “Forecourt to Hell,” certainly have a entertaining edge. No one can accuse Grave Digger of re-writing the book on power chords however, what they do – they do well. Enjoy.

 Website: Locomotive Records

Edge of Sunrise
Independent Release

We had some time over the holidays to go through the boxes of independent releases sent to us over the last year. Some made our regular play list - we just never had the time to give ‘em a proper review. Kill Van Kill was one of those lost treasures. Named after the water channel that separates Staten Island from Jersey, The NYC five-piece have resurfaced after twenty-something years to reclaim their youth dishing out tasty blues rock. Originally formed in 1983, the band developed a significant fan-base even playing for the Lamours/CBGB crowds. After relocating to LA they completely fell apart only releasing a 4-track EP for all their years together. In 2006 the three founding members Rick Cabrera (vocals), Billy Cardinale (bass) and Vinnie Raschella (drums) teamed up with Alex Mahoney (sax, guitar) and Al Anzalone (lead and rhythm guitars) for one more run at the gate. With just enough metal to make it interesting, Edge of Sunrise bites down hard on tracks like “Through The Night’, “Rock It Steady” and “Hot Daze”. The riffs might bring back memories of Skid Row, Ratt or LA Guns. Rick Cabrera’s vocals have that memorable Deep Purple/Dio edge falling somewhere between Gillian and Coverdale. There’s even a bit of Rods in “Kick Em and Smile” and the bass-heavy “Hell From Above.” Mixing it up is the horn-fueled ZZ Top number “Sweet Summertime” and Alice In Chain retro-motivator “On The Run”.

Website: Kill Van Kull, CD Baby

Milk and Honey
Independent Release

A refreshing alt-country rock disc, Milk and Honey plays out like an old Woodstock-era post Dylan jam session complete with acoustic strumming, traditional drum fills and the sound of harmonica dominating the room. The LA-based foursome hearken back to roots-driven songwriting led by brothers Judd (vocals, guitar) and Eric David (guitar, harmonica). Their first single “Commotion” doles out a hypnotic strum built around Ivan Demaria’s bass with Sean McKinney’s drums kicking it into gear. The guitars eventually take over the track in a nice set of leads breaks sure to raise a few goose bumps. Judd’s voice does justice to many of the record quirky lyrics using voice inflection that add character to the Band-like “Good Morning”, the barfly “Bang Our Glasses Again” and pleasant balladry of ‘For A Nickel In The Road”. Elevating the temperature are a couple real barnburners in the Talking Heads cover “Psycho Killer” and twangy ripper “Sinners, Saints and Accidents” where the guitar work is stellar and the pacing blinding. Tracking order keeps the disc breathing easy as it moves from the laidback elements of “Calm Me Down” and the humorous lullaby “Good Respiration” to the finger-pickin’ pub rocker “Waiting for Tonight”.

Website: Stampead

Nova Records

Power trio Chicken Legs Weaver sail all the way over from Sheffield, England to sink their talons into the electric delta blues. Merging deep blues with punk, the three find themselves compared to The Black Keys, a bit of Beck and classic John Lee Hooker. Recorded in up-state New York and produced by Johnny Dowd, Nowhere is a stunning plate full of grit, gravel and intensity - somewhat shocking, I must say, considering these guys look all to be in their late forties/early fifties. Andy Weaver the voice and guitar of the band looks the part of a bas ass motherfucker just as keen to rip out your throat as sing a few bars. His gruff voice matches his persona at times nearly talking his way through the song. “In The Ground” a song about burying the dead, Weaver becomes quite menacing. Most of the record hovers around strained blues chords with “Billboard Queen and “Howling Road” as true standouts. Bassist Norton Lees and drummer Mik Glaisher merge as a tightly wound steel cable laying down a sinister hollow backbeat. The recording is completely raw with only a few minor effect merely used to make it even rawer. “Sheol Station” could have been recorded in an old wooden shack and probably was. Personal favorites “Desert Rose”, “Your Enemy Cannot Harm You” and “A Mile out Of Town” crank up the volume with rudimentary, fuzzed-out guitars and liberating feedback reminiscent of Brit distortion experts Ten Benson. Gut-wrenchingly superb.

Website: Chicken Legs Weaver, Burnside Distribution

WALTER TROUT and Friends
Full Circle
Ruf Records

Taking us back trough time and revisiting with some of his old friends, musicians and acquaintances, Walter Trout returns with his fifteenth release in 16 years. A reflective mood overtakes Full Circle as the “big man with the big sound” sits down with renewed collaborative zeal and pens 13 originals with many of his buddies in tow. Claimed to be recorded as first takes, without rehearsals and with no guitar fixes, the record captures an air of spontaneity showcasing the true talents of many of America’s finest players – spotlighting Trout himself.  The energy in the slow burner “She Takes More Than She Gives where he trades vocal chops with John Mayall is just the sort of power we’ve come to expect from Trout. He attacks the boogie-filled “Highway Song” (also with Mayall) in much the same way. Blues rockers will gravitate to the fiery “Working Overtime” (with Jeff Healey), the chugging “Who’s Listening’ In” (with Coco Montoya) and the blistering “When Will It Ever Change” (with Bernard Allison). Yet, just as endearing are the laidback acoustic moments in Eric Sardinas duet “Firehouse Mama”. Quotes the disc’s liner notes, “It’s about breaking down barriers between blues purists and blues rockers …and acknowledging that the blues is alive, vibrant, and not held hostage by critics who want to brand, label and limit its expression.”

Website: Walter Trout, Ruf Records

Guitar Noir
DanceTone Music

Ray DeTone is a man on a mission. Accomplished in a myriad of guitar-based genres, he has bundled them all together in Guitar Noir and lets the listener decide which they like best. Having cut his chops with ‘80s melodic rock band Drive, She Said DeTone spread his metallic wings in Paul Dianno’s Killers then switched over to backing Ronnie Specter and finally landed in the orchestra pit for Jesus Christ Superstar. Prog Rock is DeTone’s self declared favorite stating, “I love it because it doesn’t have the same emotion and texture throughout the entire piece.” Aside from his previous records Once More...With Feeling and Strange World the guitarist has recently immersed himself in studio and soundtrack work. The diversity has sharpened his playing with hooks ‘o plenty and an ever-broadening canvas. Beginning the disc with the atmospheric “Lights Down” he paints a gentle musical landscape before stretching out into the thundering “Sexy Heavy.” Picking out an acoustic intro in “Guitar Suicide,” the New York native then tackles an array of directions, each breathing excitement and vitality through his passionate playing. There is the easy-listening “Tequila Funk” and exotic “La Bomba Beauty” to the more aggressive “Funk You Too!” Late night jams pop up in “Jazzy Blues Bop” followed by an ode to progressive meanderings in the fuzzy “March of Grind.” Both “Dirty Sabbath and “Zak Label” bring metal to the mix, then it all shifts over to a refreshing splash of fun in the flamenco-styling of “Spanish Gypsy” and the dusty trails of “Spaghetti Score.”

Website: Ray DeTone

Bezerk 2.0
WTO Records

Never in a million years did we ever think we would see the return of ‘80s Glam metal band Tigertailz. Stunning the new millennium, the Cardiff, Wales four-piece capitalize on the Bezerk LP (which hit the UK Top 40 in 1990) by retuning with Bezerk 2.0. The line up brings together Kim Hooker (vocals, guitar) Jay Pepper (guitar), Matthew Blakout (drums) and bassist Pepsi Tate - who last appeared in an interview with Setting the stage for the reunion was last year’s re-issue of 1991’s Banzai!, Bezerk and earlier recording Original Sin to CD format. In their heyday the quartet made their living with sleazy LA riffs, whiskey-soaked choruses and a high-octane party attitude. Nothing’s really changed here – except that the guitars are heavier. The disc kicks off with the Priest-like instrumental “Bezerk” giving the illusion the band abandoned their big hair and make up for straight ahead metal. Not so, “Do It Up”, “One Beat Of Your Heart” and “Sugar Fever” sandwich them somewhere between Warrant and Poison. Flashbacks of the late ‘80s continue in the gospel-tinged “I Believe” and pseudo-power ballad “Annie’z Gone.” All is not lost in a sea of retro oblivion, the more mature “Make Me Bleed” and “Get Real” boast a larger set of balls as does the astounding “Dirty Needlez” considered the best cut on the record. A couple surprises creep in with the tribal beats in “Falling Down” and the shear power behind “For Hate’z Sake.” The disc closes with a 12-minute Spinal Tap-like interview with the whole band - some very funny moments.

Website: Tigertailz

The Diabolic Procession
Cruz Del Sur Music

Chicago’s Bible of the Devil release their fourth slab of Maiden meets Thin Lizzy rock with the mighty The Diabolic Procession. Surprising is that it’s a concept album of sorts. From the liner notes we read, “Perhaps the most bizarre and tragic fable passed down the annals of Christendom is that of the Children’s Crusades.” The lyrics tell of mass march on the holy land made up of innocent children with the band penning the soundtrack. It helps to know a bit of the story, which is printed under the back jewel case. It adds to the intensity of the whole thing. Since abandoning their punk metal roots for a more traditional twin-guitar fury, the wooly quartet have been passionately embraced by legions of hardcore fans. With Diabolic Procession the focus has migrated from a UFO/Lizzy gallop to an all out Maiden attack. Harmonized guitar abounds from the chainsaw entry of “Ecclesia Novorum Innocentium” through the darker drumbeats of “Orphans of Doom” to the metallic genius of “Heinous Corpus.” Mark Hoffmann’s vocals remain slightly buried in the mix – a stylistic decision to increase the ferocious nature of the guitars and jackhammer bass. However, songs like “Sepulchre” and “Millenialism” benefit as much from the pounding drums as their classic riffing. Two tracks absolutely catapult this record past a sea of major label mediocrity – “Legions of the Oriflamme” and the brilliant “Judas Ships.” The guitar muscle is stellar – true to the foundation of the genre they sustain.

Website: Bible of the Devil

Against All Odds
Hyperspace Records

From the Rondinelli drum splatter that kicks this disc off to the retro Humble Pie meets Zeppelin riffs, The Lizards prove they are at the top of their game with Against All Odds. This, their fifth album since forming in 1999, is stabilized by Riot vocalist Mike DiMeo who came on board last year and brings with him some serious R&B chops. BÖC/Sabbath/Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli continues to join forces with bassist Randy Pratt and guitarist Patrick Klein in an effort to not only resurrect the classic sound of bands like Purple, Zeppelin, Cream and Mountain but push the envelope of old school rock to its ultimate edge. The wisdom of adding DiMeo speaks volumes as “I’m No Good” plays out like a Led Zeppelin outtake complete with big chugging guitars, synchronized drums and bass. DiMeo manhandles the lyrics with chest out dominating his multi-octave timber. The only thing that could embed these 12-tracks deeper into rock history would be to add the ‘voice of rock’ himself…and that they do just that as Glenn Hughes steps up to take the mic four separate times.

Hughes’ familiar R&B funk does more than hover in the background, he duets with DiMeo in the eight-minute funk jam “Take The Fall,” the slow grinding, Free-inspired ”On A Wire,” the disco “Up The Stairs” and the balladry “Revelation No. 9.” His presence is almost mystical, yet permeates each song with melodic beauty. The other eight compositions stand well enough on their own. A flurry of shred guitar ignites the groove in “Can’t Fool Myself.” It seeps in deep with an organ undercurrent and a Thin Lizzy chord progression. Solos are plenty in this nine-minute opus complete with drum, organ, guitar and an extended jam for completion. A harmonica-laced “Planck Time” makes for a tasty instrumental jam while darkness swirls around the eerie harpsichord/piano “Ariel.” Prog rock lives and breaths in “My Dark Angel” and the rather self-indulgent twins “Revelation No. 9” and “Take the Fall.” Then there is “The Arrival of Lyla” coming in as the most bizarre relationship song we’ve ever heard.

Website: The Lizards

Apriatels Music

Bulgarian guitarist Dimitar Nalbantov may work as an art teacher by day but his true passion for the guitar unleashes a storm on his debut instrumental CD Universe. Nipping at the heels of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, the progressive playing of Nalbantov is remarkably stellar considering he is self-taught. Studying as an art student, the musician was forced to abandon painting after his entire body of work was stolen from his studio. Devastated, he turned to guitar as an outlet and rapidly developed some staggering professional chops. Somewhat trigger-happy, he gets the momentum going in “Purely and Simply.” His warm tone and ear for melodic composition keep the song hooky and pleasant. Hard rock tendencies fill “HyperSonic” and “Not a Game” with chugging rhythms and exceptional fretwork - all aided by drummer John Wooten. The acoustic layering of “End of Summer” and “Elegance by Soul’ is reminiscent of classic Steve Vai complete with fluid time signatures. It seems all guitarists have the need to throw in a Middle Eastern/Indian opus and Nalbantov follows suite with “Orpheus” a mid-tempo soundtrack to Deli. Standout tune “The Wide,” though a bit cosmic, puts power behind scaled frills with a thick bottom end and a tasteful bridge that links to a textured romp.

Website: Dimitar Nalbantov

Countdown to Infinity
Leviathan Records

Unleashing a flurry of guitar frenzy, David T. Chastain returns to what he does best with what must be his eleventh or twelfth solo CD. The guitarist rose to prominence in the early ‘80s with his Cincinnati-based CJSS and the leather-clad Chastain. Hailed as a guitar God on the level of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, the six-string maestro colors his musical pallet with an array of textures, tones and melodies. He also has the uncanny ability to name each track by its sound which adds dramatically to each composition. Therefore “Rambunctious Delicacy” is just that, heavy-handed metal a la Michael Schenker with a sonic undercurrent laid down by drummer Mike Haid. In fact much of Chastain’s playing is remarkably similar to Schenker with a more Americanized slant to composition. That being said there is a wide range of emotions within each song almost as if he is dividing the record by musical decades with lots of room for improvisation.

“Attack of the Mechonrites” has this modern angle to it with a flare for Celtic noodeling while “Sky Is Melting” has these distinct Yes moments. “Demonic Harmonic Justice” could easily have come from ’77-era UFO complete with chunky riffs and stellar solos without over shredding. “Hands of Time” has this cool Robin Trower groove that lays out the melody allowing Chastain to finger dance through the middle section and jazz it up at the end. “Movegroovestew” also allows the guitar player to bring in his late night jazz wizardry to give the track a shade of blue – then metals out with big sonic chords. Highlight track “Temptress of Illusions” is classic blues Chastain – full throttle hard rock with a meaty 12 bar swagger – very metallic without the shrill factor. Says Chastain referencing to the album’s title Countdown to Infinity, “I have reached a point in my career where there are no boundaries for me commercially. So it’s really a countdown to no limitation or external determination in what I want to do musically. Just plug in and play.”

Website: Leviathan Records