SLOUGH FEG
Hardworlder
Cruz Del Sur Misic

An epic return to good old fashion rock and roll is what we have rolled up in Slough Feg. The San Francisco based four-piece once known as The Lord Weird Slough Feg wear their leather by recreating a mix of Thin Lizzy meets The Good Rats in a pub friendly mesh of prog metal, dual guitar chops and bottom heaviness. Distinguished as a prime force in folk power metal, the band can trace their roots back to the mid-nineties and their native Pennsylvania. After a couple cult classics they hit pay dirt with the 2003 release Traveller and solidified their claim with ‘05’s Atavism. Yet it’s Hardworlder that strikes gold with a new(ish) line up, a love of Schenker-era UFO and chugging mayhem that UK metallers Tank would be proud of. Prominent is Michael Scalzi gruff vocals sounding remarkable similar to Peppi Marchello of Long Island pub band The Good Rats. There is a great interplay between he and guitarist “Don” Angelo Tringali. They center around folk-inspired melodies with storytelling lyrics for outcast heroes. Intricate solo patterns can be heard in “Tiger! Tiger!” “Hardworlder” and “Frankfurt-Hahn Airport Blues”

“The Return of Dr. Universe” gets the record going in typical style with a frantic instrumental. Here we are introduced to a central theme that makes several appearances both in melody and lyrical content as the record progresses. Through “Tiger! Tiger!” the dirge of “The Sea Wolf” and on into “Hardworlder” marches the Celtic melodies often associated with the band. The songs are sewn together in tight, rhythmic succession showcasing superior craft even among unusual time changes and wayward melodies. They deserve huge praise for resurrecting Horslips’ “Dearg Doom” and splicing it between the Maiden-esque instrumental “Galactic Nomad” and the galloping “Insomnia.” The plodding, Sabbath-like dirge of “Karma-Kazee” is all consuming as Scalzi howls, “Throwing corpses on the fire/burning cross in your mind” bleed out into the third instrumental on the disc “Whirling Vortex”. Manila Road’s “Street Jammer” may have been an after thought as it doesn’t fit in with the record’s universal theme. Yet, it’s certainly fun to have on board.

Website: Slough Feg

Y&T
Live, One Hot Night
Locomotive Records

Bay area metal legends Y&T have assemble a landmark “Live” DVD for their longtime friends and fans…and what a trophy it is. Recorded last year at the Netherlands Bang Your Head Festival the 2-disc set is an impressive souvenir. With a song list that covers everything from their earliest club years to their big arena days, the 20-tracks hit all the highlights. Formerly known as Yesterday and Today the group’s humble beginnings started way back in 1973 with blues-rock guitarist Dave Meniketti, rhythm guitarist Joey Alves, bassist Phil Kennemore and power-house drummer Leonard Haze. After years of running around the local circuit opening for Journey and the Doobie Brothers they final hit with the hard rock classics Earthshaker (1981) and Black Tiger (1982). It is on the back of these two monsters that the DVD pulls half the setlist. Favorites like “Hurricane”, “Dirty Girl”, and “Rescue Me” stand along side “Open Fire”, “Black Tiger”, “Wind Of Change” and “Barroom Boogie” in a fitting tribute.

The band has changed their lineup slightly with guitarist John Nymann and drummer Mike Vanderhule keeping it tight and energetic. Meniketti yanks and pulls on his guitar switching from Les Paul to Fender and power riffing through old school favorites “Mean Streak” and “Lipstick and Leather”. His voice is a bit rough through the first ten minutes, then evens out into perfect timbre for “Surrender”, “Eye Of A Stranger’ and “I’ll Cry For You”. It’s also interesting to note how impressively strong Nymann voice as he steps up for vocal harmonies. All albums from Earthshaker to Ten are represented with only the last two, Musically Incorrect and Endangered Species getting snubbed. Don’t know why they still do “Summer Time Girls” as most fans consider this a major blemish on their otherwise powder-keg career. However, they toughen it up a bit more on this live version.

The second disc is seasoned with backstage footage, a photo gallery and outtakes. However, the real spice is in the soundcheck sessions where they put together chilling versions of “Ten Lovers” (from Ten), “Sail On By” (from Endangered Species), and “Midnight In Tokyo” (from Mean Streak). Having had Open Fire (the 1985 live record) seared into our brains during high school it would have been nice to add “25 Hours a Day” from the old London Record days - but that’s being trivial to an otherwise healthy set. It’s hard to tell why Y&T never hit Dokken or Ratt big. They certainly had the songs, the swagger and the musicians – sometimes it just comes down to luck. Yet, no matter who they’ve toured with, be it Kiss, Motley Crüe or Heart they’ve cooked as a live band and that’s what makes this show standout – warts and all.

Website: Y&T

JOB FOR A COWBOY
Genesis
Metal Blade Records

The first thing that attracted us to this Glendale, Arizona quintet was the stunning artwork of Dennis Sibeijn of monumentstudio.com. On the CD’s cover is an eerie almost gruesome depiction that unifies the record to its predecessor, a cow-skull EP, and hails back to the haunting images of photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. Yet, after multiple listens it’s obvious the artist and the musicians converged on a single synergy that makes the entire listening experience enlightening, mysterious and unique. Contrary to their country-twanged name, Job for a Cowboy (JFAC) are a serious extreme death metal band that bask in complex time signatures and overtly distorted rhythms. 20-year old singer Jonny Davy catches your attention right off with his powerful growl and angst-ridden delivery. His ever-encroaching vocals rumble through “Reduced to Mere Filth” and nearly bleed in “Martyrdom Unsealed” especially in the higher harmonies. The aggressive, angular playing of 19-year old guitarist Ravi Bhadriraju and Bobby Thompson move at a punishing pace with bassist Brent Riggs and drummer Elliott Sellers launching erratic beats at warp speed.

Relentless touring with last year’s Sounds of the Underground tour and the Steers & Beers jaunt with Cattle Decapitation fine-tuned the relatively young band into peak artistic performers before entering Blue Light studio in Phoenix. Under the watchful eyes and ears of producer Cory Spotts and mixer Andy Sneap (Opeth, Megadeath) the five pulled out a visceral laden set that not only sweats and pounds but accelerates around every corner. There should be a warning sticker posted, “strap in ‘cause these ten come at you fast and furious.” Lyrically the record finds itself relating a tale of biblical proportion complete with elements of the Omen and Sam Raimi’s “Army of Darkness.” From the birth of the demon spawn in “Bearing the Serpent’s Lamb” the imagery is vivid and morbid as guitars intertwine liked twisted steel. “Altered from Catechization” and “Embedded” have Sellers engaged in a stunning foot dance that it so fast, it’s like the disc is skipping. Slowing down a bit is the melodic instrumental “Upheaval” and the atmospheric “Blasphemy” both designed to create mode and catch your breath - the later leads into the mammoth Sabbath-dirge of “The Divine Falsehood”.

Website: Job for a Cowboy, Metal Blade

FUELED BY FIRE
Spread the Fire
Metal Blade Records

Moving through a rotating roster that’s lasted five years, the California quartet Fueled By Fire have finally settled down long enough to record a reputable long player. The sticker on this 2007 debut claims “Authentic Thrash Metal” which caused a bit of a chuckle for us here. Being connoisseurs of said genre we approached Spread the Fire with some skepticism. Yet, it only took the laser to find, “Striking Death” and we were fully on board. The band is run by four Latinos: Carlos (drums), Gio (guitar/voice), Rick (guitar) and Anthony (bass). Their attention to everything thrash from the Anthrax “Spreading the Disease”-like cover art to the fan pictorial collage in the booklet and the mouth-agape posturing puts them well schooled and less likely to fumble in their claims. Plus they’re signed to Metal Blade, one of the first labels to promote thrash from the beginning. Hit “play” and the band poke fun at the ‘80s Ernest (Jim Varney) series in the instrumental “Ernest Goes To Hell” then follow up with their confident “Thrash Is Back” doing a commendable Testament-meets-Overkill assault including dirty chugging riffs.

Clichés abound in the almost humorous eleven-track opus with songs like “Massive Execution”, “Metal Forever” and “Put to Death”. The title track “Spread the Fire” is an ominous plea to resurrect the tangible medium of thrash with a bass/drum intro before guitars come galloping into the first verse. The tempo picks up and right on cue (after the chorus) treat us to a toxic solo lifted from the Slayer textbook of face-melting shred. By “Betrayal” they’ve reached full speed and are moving across the landscape like a Panzer tank. The acoustic prelude to “Massive Execution” might come close to Rainbow but ultimately hails the spirit of Metallica’s “Whiplash”, while the before mentioned “Metal Forever” raises horns high as singer Gio shouts out “The birth of metal can not be tamed…Slayer to the weak, you are next.” Personal favorite, “Command of the Beast” fills its stock with Priest riffage and twin guitar harmonies all moving at light speed. Combine it with “Dream of Terror” and you’ve got a classic return of the finest order.

Website: Fueled By Fire, Metal Blade

THE HEART ATTACKS
Hellbound and Heartless
Hellcat Records

Turning the tables on garage rock punk are five schoolboys from Atlanta, GA. The story goes after they released their independent debut they tried desperately to get snagged for that year’s Warped tour (‘05). Rejected from the lineup they packed their van and followed the tour anyway setting up a makeshift bar every night in the parking lot. Rancid’s Tim Armstrong came out for a pint, hooked up with the Atlanta punks and recruited them for his Hellcat rooster. That’s roughly where we get the gospel according to the hellbound in a timewarp classic with just enough punk history to keep you listening for days. Hellbound and Heartless isn’t all newbies; much of its muscle comes from the 2005 indy Heart and Scissor Killers including the underground hits “Guilty”, “Fast Times Attached”, “Heart Attack” and “City Sickness”.

Tanked up Johnny Thunders’ riffs and a bottle of whiskey the five make a go of it in the sonic disorder of “You Oughtta Know by Now” which mixes the frays of New York’s Heartbreakers with a Brooklyn Beastie Boys vocal. Sewing it all together is a fist-pounding organ that finds its way through the whole record in some very unusual places. Produced by Rancid vocalist/guitarist Lars Frederiksen it’s no surprise “Summer of Hate”, “Widowmaking” and the Hellacopter-infused “Runnin’ with a Gang” are sizzling rockers that do justice to the Dead Boys, New York Dolls and D Generation. Even the CCR “Travelin’ Band” gets a Sex Pistols work up. Adding a touch of old school glam are “Eyes” and “Hellbound and Heartless” – both turn out blues stained Ramones meets Hanoi Rocks. The ‘60s tainted “Tearstained Letters” takes it up a notch as singer Chase Noles teams up with Joan Jett for a Ronettes-type duet that not only sparks vocally but proves the band’s range. Granted it’s a road well trod but The Heart Attacks do convey real emotion and a cock-sure presence.

Website: The Heart Attacks, Hellcat Records

SUPERSTACK
Self-titled
Independent release

Who would know you can find this kind of southern rock in the Northeast? Superstack based out of Sudbury, Ontario might be young but they have done their homework. Raiding Dad’s Allman Brothers, Skynyrd and Trapeze collection has filled these boys with a set of hot licks and bellbottoms that strut ‘70s hard rock. Plugged into old vintage amps we hear the band’s declaration in the opening track “Here I am, I’m ready to groove / Lose yourselves and get on the move” from the throaty baritone of Scott Donnelly. His guitar works a Hendirx-like riff while bassist Greg Mihajic and drummer Brian Lahaie keep it warm and seductive. They find the funk in “Kick It on Down” and bask in the prog/stoner groove of “Rain Dance” before unleashing the hard rock of “Sold for a Song”. The Allman Brother influence can be found in all four comers. There is the acoustic-based “The Pie Lady”, the balladry of “Fingers & Thumbs” and the lumbering mid-tempo rumble of “The Breadheads”. As a power trio they keep is simple with the occasional break out jam like the one found in “Red Light” which comes complete with a building guitar solo. The more aggressive numbers primarily “Till I Arrive”, “High Again” and the bluesy “True Love” take on a Gov’t Mule edge with a nod to Bronco or Potliquor. Country-tinged guitar finds the story in “Road Tales and The Love Lost” an interesting crossover with a well rounded edge.

Website: Superstack

TED NUGENT
Love Grenade
Eagle Records

Celebrating his 59th year, the Nuge pulls no punches about sex, war and rock n roll in his current headbanger, Love Grenade. Already ruffling feathers with its controversial cover, the disc is pure Michigan-bred funk and soul with a truckload of attitude. For a while Ted had relocated to Texas, an arrow’s throw from the Prez, for officially training elite troops in wildlife survival. The job took him to the Middle East where he entertained the US military and picked up a few song titles along the way. There is of course “Love Grenade”- a rock-em-sock em riff that boasts “I’m a dangerous weapon baby, your machine gun man…I’m comin’ in / pull the pin.” He follows it up with a hammerjack ode to the critics called “Still Raising Hell.” At this point in his career, Nugent isn’t about pleasing the mass – it about preaching the religion of Ted. So we get the double entendre “Funk U” and the ZZ Top inspired “Girl Scout Cookies”. The latter of which actually rises as one of the true standout tracks with a Motor City groove that swaggers through classic Nugent lyrics. Side one ends with a reworking of the Amboy Dukes’ only hit “Journey to the Center of the Mind” now approaching its 40th year.

Side two is Nugent’s self-indulgent side. Some of the songs are typical funk bruising like “Geronimo and Me,” the face-pealing instrumental “Eaglebrother” and “Spirit of the Buffalo” featuring Jack Blades of Night Ranger/Damn Yankees. Others are more metallic reflecting the grit of Weekend Warriors and State of Shock. “Aborigine”, “the clever “Bridge Over Troubled Daughters” and the fist-in-the-air “Broadside” get their power from the rhythm section of UFO/Dokken bassist Barry Sparks and Rob Zombie/Alice Cooper drummer Tommy Clufetos. The two work together as a dynamic counterpart to Nugent’s rapid-fire Les Paul. Pile driving licks keep the disc soaked in guitar-laden amplitude that helps hide some of the more sophomoric lyrics. However, the more enjoyable parts of the album are the loosely constructed jams and extended elements found when the Madman guitarist really stretches out such as in the Mountian-ish “Lay With Me” that takes a slow plodding, almost stoner dirge and molds it into a powerful blues grinder. No new ground here, just the same old Ted we’ve all come to love adding a few more songs to his ever-bulging resume.

Website: Ted Nugent, Eagle Records

MAEDER
Self-titled
Locomotive Records

Australian export Maeder is currently making serious waves with their self-tilted debut on Spain’s Locomotive records. A couple years ago brothers Nic (guitar) and Sebastian (vocals) Maeder teamed up with drummer Travis Dragoni and bassist Kit Riley for their Business in Me EP which ignited a bonfire in their home country hitting the top 30 National chart and dominating the #1 slot on the Independent charts. Their knack for writing catchy hooks landed them a day job as jingle writers where they penned “Another Thing Comin’” for the Australian Football Grand Final. The song was picked up as a single and its video can be seen on the band’s website showcasing a no-nonsense delivery with plenty of gusto to back ‘em up. After stirring up a number of alt mid-tempo tunes mixed with several rapid-fire stompers, Maeder was ready to record their first long player. They teamed with drummer/producer Patrick Aeby (Krokus) which took the group to Switzerland resulting in 12 tracks of Cheap Trick / ACDC melodic fury that critics are comparing to fellow Aussies Jet.

Parts of the record could fit comfortably on MTV’s new band buzz. “Never Last”, “Future Story” and “No Grass Is Greener than Your Own” run an interesting combination between Alter Bridge and Fallout Boy with a tinge of Guns and Roses around the vocals. Against the harder-edged “Business in Me” and “It’s All Good,” there could be a bit of identity crisis among newer fans. Piano ballad “Night and Day” goes for the heart with chamber strings and acoustic harmonies. The song is well-crafted but is over-powered by the more muscular “You’re A Freak”. Ronnie Van Zant once quoted, “the hardest thing for a rock band to write is a strong ballad.” The rock stuff comes easy here but bringing the ballad in as competition – well it needs to be really special to work. However, “You Make Me Die” and “Piece of Me” have that single quality to them with a memorable riff and sticky chorus. “White Pillow” throws in a modern country-twang ala Bon Jovi then closes with the aggressive pop song “Give Away.” The record is a solid effort with meaningful intentions – we’re just lost between the really great songs and the mediocre.

Website: Maeder, Locomotive Records

THE DONNAS
Bitchin’
Purple Feather Records

The Donnas might have fallen out of favor with Atlantic records but with their first post major label release Bitchin’, they prove to be a better band for it. Much like Get Skintight or Turn 21, the four Bay area chicks return to what they do best in an unbroken pattern of ripped of riffs and rhyming freshman lyrics. The cover hearkens back to mid-eighties Girlschool and exploited Go-Go’s New Wave but under the hood the retro kicks into high gear. The sounds of sirens fire-up “Bitchin” in an ode to Kiss with bassist Maya Ford setting a thick foundation for whiz-kid guitarist Allison Robertson to flash about her George Lynch meets Steve Clark chops. Vocalist Brett Anderson sings how they’re gonna “take ya over” and leave us wanting “more, more, more” - and oddly enough that’s exactly what happens. From the Joan Jett blast of “Don’t Wait Up For Me” to the Def Leppard “Save Me”, the band takes a classic ride through every single band that’s influenced them, pulling out the best parts and making them their own.

Slick and polished, the 14-tracks purr like a pure pop metal V8 Charger– a guilty pleasure but one so fun and effortless that it’s actually enjoyable. Sticking together since high school has gelled the band into a tight working outfit and when they come together for rock n’ roll ditties like “Wasted” and “Girl Talk” it’s nothing but pure delight. The Donnas have always had a way of taking a male dominated genre, embracing the testosterone, then throwing it back out as true queens of cock-rock. Clever twists on the Wasp title “Like an Animal” has the band singing “Don’t bother sayin’ please if you want to ravage me, yeah!” Party songs “Here for the Party,” “Better Off Dancing” and “Smoke You Out” flip rejection into a primal force with hammering guitars, blistering solos and a rattling rhythm from drummer Torry Castellano. The overtly sexual “Love You Till It Hurts” “Give Me What I Want” and “Tonight’s Alright” put the girls on the prowl as aggressive lionesses easily able to take on the likes of Motley Crue. Confident, tongue-in-cheek and full of sass, the Donnas pay tribute to the past while keeping their own vitality intact.

Website: The Donnas

BLUESTONE CO.
Self-titled
Big Stone Records, Japan

This retro-hippie jam band plays authentic, southern rock soaked in the blues. Their bayou shuffle echoes roots in the murky swamps of Mississippi, but their bio claims the foursome were born and bred in Osaka, Japan. Some many know them as The Savoy Truffle, their previous incarnation and the name they toured the States under the past several years. Attracting the attention of Texas guitar slinger Chris Duarte, the band were invited to join him for several dates and the friendship spilled over into Duarte’s involvement on their Bluestone Co. debut. The name change gave the band a chance to break free of their traditional blues and move further into jazz, Americana roots and rock. Duarte, a Stevie Ray Vaughan emulator sings on five of the record’s seven tracks as well as lending out his guitar chops. Touring with The Black Crowes, Gov’t Mule and Sister Hazel have developed the band’s musicality into an inspired romp of collective genre’s and melodic passages starting with the stirring epic “Silver Horse.”

The only song on the disc to come in under five-minute, “Silver Horse” rides the rails of a fundamental blues-rock instrumental with swagger guitar and cracking bass lines. Its solo section grows from a Hendrix-inspired shuffle to a blistering attack with the rhythm section racing alongside. Duarte’s vocals, which occasionally sound like David Lee Roth, added harmonious texture to acid rockers “In the News Today” and “Carnal Assets”. Both showcase the more aggressive side of the quartet with emphasis on a hooky beat and searing guitar flurries. “She Cries” is a slow grinder with an emotionally dense vocal and a winding guitar build that approach old school Deep Purple. The Roth comparison bears weight in “Luck Shine on Me”, a mid-tempo gem that harkens back to the Hunter/Bissonette era Little Ain’t Enough. A bongo-powered shuffle follows “Me N’ You” through a ‘70s west coast pop ride - almost Pablo Cruse in nature, it captures a sun-soaked goodtime vibe. The disc closes with the instrumental “Valle Colorado” which is noticeably Tommy Bolin in structure and could stand along Zephyr’s proudest moments.

Website: Bluestone Co., Southbound Beat

FREEWAY
The Ultimate Free Tribute Band
Independent Release

Considered by many to be the ultimate FREE experience, the North Eastern foursome Freeway have been making their way around the UK paying tribute to one of the primary founders of British blues rock. Many forget how fundamental, inspiring and absolutely essential Free was to the music of the late sixties and early seventies. Pioneering the way for Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie and Trapeze, Free never gained the recognition they deserved in the US.  However, across the pond they are still revered with immense respect. Freeway, whose members include John Buckton (guitar), Rick Hunt (bass), Rob Dunn (drums) and vocalist Bob Davidson not only dress the part, but sound remarkably similar to their heroes. Both Andy Fraser and Simon Kirke have praised the band, the latter sitting in on several of their gigs and even soliciting them to back his recent UK tour. Years on the retro circuit have fine-tuned the group to the point they sound like the real thing and are comfortable enough to release a sampling of their wears.

Simply titled Freeway, the disc celebrates nine classic tracks including “Walk in My Shadow”, “I’m a mover”, “Wishing Well” and the unmistakable “All Right Now”. The musicianship is crafted with careful precision, yet still leaves room for individual interpretation. “Little Bit Of Love” may be tougher than the original, but singer Bob Davidson nails Paul Rodgers’ gruff delivery. His real challenge follows with “Be My Friend” where he finds the soul in the song and carries it through with confidence. Guitarist John Buckton has the intimidating job of capturing Paul Kossoff’s unique vibrato and push-pull phrasing. He does so with amazing dexterity especially on the earlier material “Woman” and “Walk in My Shadow”. The country shuffle of “Muddy Water” and “Ride on Pony” gives the rhythm section plenty of strut while still echoing Music from Big Pink even from this vantage point. Recently the band has recruited ex-Backstreet Crawler vocalist Terry Slesser, giving credibility to an already accomplished band.

Website: Freeway

MOS GENERATOR
Songs for Future Gods
Small Stone Records

Recorded in Port Orchard, WA the density of Songs for Future Gods will bury anything that gets in the way. Three veterans of the Seattle scene, Tony Reed (guitar/vocals), Shawn Johnson (drums), Scooter Haslip (bass) who form Mos Generator, have played in a diversity of bands ranging from punk to metal.  Their projects may not be well known, but they extend back to the mid-eighties and are considered by many as trendsetters. Their projects included Mind Funk, Treepeople and 12:30 Dreamtime to name a few. Mos Generator, however is a throwback to the seventies with a volley of hooks and a truckload of dirty rock that gives a nod to bands like early April Wine and Black Sabbath. Case in point, first cut “Silver Olympus” comes off like April Wine’s “Ladies Man” where as “Son of Atom Smasher” could have sat comfortably on Technical Ecstasy. In fact, every song on the disc drips of ‘70s hard rock. The band claims their hometown of Bremerton gave them their lust for heavy rock and an old mossy drum kit landed the inspiration for the band name.

Songs for Future Gods is the third release from the power trio. Though the guitar is the loudest, the bass and drums catch all the nuances. Tracks “NandV” and “Lumbo Rock” are meat and potatoes thunder rock where “Wizards of the Prophecy Pen” and “Into the Long Sleep” bring in elements of jazz ala King Crimson - a spill over from their concept disc The Late Great Planet Earth. Reed’s voice echoes that of Clutch’s Neil Fallon so there is a shade of southern ass-kicking in “Yes, My Lord” and “Sleeping Your Way To The Middle” with a funky Deep Purple in the bottom end. The biggest surprise is the disco pop of “Acapulco Gold.” Heavy on the Wurlitzer, it packs a punch mixing mirrored ball dance beats with crunchy guitar and blinding leads – Pablo Cruise meets Ted Nugent. The power chord riff of “Y’juana” tells us of a tantalizing Tijuana tale with a smooth groove and a catchy chorus. Bonus track “You Feel It Until You Can’t Feel Anything At All” is a 13-minute ‘live’ opus of classic desert rock. It’s primitive, raw and meaty with great guitar/ bass twists and turns while the crashing drums hammer away.

Website: Mos Generator, Small Stone Records

GREENLEAF
Agents Of Ahriman
Small Stone Records

It’s been a couple years since our review of Secret Alphabets (’03) but this Swedish five-piece and their on again/off again side project Greenleaf are back ripping out Kiss power chords with Deep Purple heaviness. Recently stoner head and Dozer guitarist, Tommi Holappa, has been hanging out with his buddies from Lowrider and Truckfighter. Together they have been logging some serious hours in the basement listening to their classic rock LPs. Just reading through the song titles is like flipping through album jackets, yet once the laser hits the disc there’s no question where they’re coming from. Opening cut “Highway Officer” has Jon Lord keys and Blackmore riffs that bulge at the seams. Then there’s the Budgie/Soundgarden-inspired “Ride Another Highway” and the layered BÖC manufactured “Alishan Mountain.” The guitar is thick and dense with a rumbling bottom end that actually shakes the car when fully cranked. Slice it up anyway you want, it’s still sonic hard rock with tasty licks.

The band doesn’t forget their stoner roots as they mix up psychedelic fuzz with Fu Manchu clarity. Tracks like “Treehorn” and organ-heavy “The Lake” have that melodic density of Hawkwind colored with shades of Steppenwolf. The amalgamation of singers, three in all, gives the band the luxury of matching the right vocalist to the song. That comes into great effect on the slow, progressive build in title track “Agents Of Ahriman” where the voice creeps up on a chanting bridge then launches into a choral wail with guitar, Hammond and drums pummeling away in the final moments. “Sleep Paralysis” is very similar in that it slithers through a bass-driven, ballad-like intro with Door’s like flashbacks (in the vocal) then cascades into an all out metallic crescendo. It ends the same way it started; bringing the bass back into focus followed by a cavalcade of instrumentation. Saving the best for last is the Kiss-meets-The Black Keys “Stray Bullet Woman.” An old time blues riff and garage drumbeat pick up where “God Of Thunder” left off as it explodes into massive arena rock at full tilt.

Website: Small Stone Records