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IRONWEED
Indian Ladder
Small Stone Records

The foot-stomping funk beat of Indian Ladder might come as a surprise to those familiar with Ironweed’s former incarnation as Greatdayforup. After the demise of GDFU, Mike Vitali (guitar), Brendan Slater (bass), and Jim Feck (drums) began the rebuilding with ex-Held Under vocalist Jeff Andrew and Ironweed began to take shape. It’s surprising how much the vocals can change a band as Ironweed is a completely different animal. Stripped down to basic 4/4 time signatures, ripe and pounding drum/bass interaction and a lust for dirty, raw, distorted guitar would put these guys somewhere between COC, Motörhead and Faith No More. Andrews has a penetrating growl that’s both pissed off and blood curdling which brings a huge dose of metal to these eleven southern riff rock gems. Deeply impressionable are the molten eruptions of the twisting “Penny for Your Prayers” and the doom-filled “Lifeless Coil” with it’s hell-chanting taunt “Can you hear the angels laughing at you? / Can you feel the pain?”

The Albany, NY quintet finds a certain chemistry stemming from Slater’s bass swagger. The songs have a serious hook and in places become quite addicting. There is the head bopping action that kicks in with “Lost and Forgotten” where the thump of the bass is king. “Disconnect” chugs along with a serpentine guitar winding its way on top of a soul-scabbing doom riff. A Saint Vitus or early Entombed influence surround “Thorn” where once again the bass and drum drive the song as it walks dangerously close to death metal. Andrew’s “metal” voice could not fit more perfectly and proves to be the key to sculpting the Ironweed sound. His ability to stab the song with a vocal line that screams, growls and is intensely throaty while still remaining melodic and hook-friendly is his calling card. Like GDFU, the guitars truly motivate this beast - densely heavy, stunningly creative and never overdone. Adding guitarist Ryan Rapp really beefs the crunch factor making way for lots of layered harmonics and mind-blowing solo runs. Recommended cuts are “This Faithless Will”, “Rid the Earth” and “A World Away”.

Website: Ironweed, Small Stone Records

SKINTIGHT JAGUARS
The Curse
Zodiac Killer Records

We’re adding an amazing new punk label to our review stable called Zodiac Killer Records. Based out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, these guys have a real lust for riff rock and are fast becoming one for our favorite independent record companies. They are currently unearthing tons of cherry punk from around the globe and making it available to the masses at dirt-cheap prices. No big company bullshit here just solid rock and roll that begs to be played loud. First on the deck are the Skintight Jaguars fresh from their UK tour with the Backyard Babies. Says their press release, “they’re loud, snotty and combine punk with sleaze in a way best described as decadently apocalyptic. They play with a garage rock mentality and a modern edge flare.” Their hit, the bass-driven “Joey Ramone Won’t Leave Me Alone” is already making waves and has made it onto at least one porn video. The band boast a killer guitar tone and though easily compared to the Pistols and Clash have their own version of spit and swagger. The eleven tracks that make up The Curse are rapid-fire wind-ups that will obliterate anything in their wake. The mix is a little off kilter and the drums have that hollow echo but it all adds up to a band doing it for the passion and not perfection. Classic moments are the guitar speedfreak “Kill You In Your Sleep” the head-pounding “I Am The Wolf” and brilliantly-penned “Dead From The Face Down” with its verbal onslaught and intoxicating chorus. Get it!

Website: Skinttight Jaguars, Zodiac Killer Records

SONIC NEGROES
Honky Bastard Blues
Zodiac Killer Records

Some bands stick to ya because they have a cool name and just the right look. That’s the way it started with the “negroes” - and in light of US politics this ain’t a bad way to go. The band hail from the very fertile soil of Sweden and join the ranks of the similar sounding Hellacopters, Electric Frankenstein and The Supersuckers. They play fall-down-drunk rock and droll with a hybrid of the MC5, Stooges and Sonic Rendezvous Band. Sure they kick you in the teeth with big chucks of high-octane guitar over a punishing back-beat but it’s the frantic piano that seals the deal. “Sonic Young Boy” with it’s fuzzy vocals, “Kicked Around’s” blazing guitar and the bass rumbler “Evil Sweat” are a good place to start with the band’s debut Honky Bastard Blues. There’s plenty of Mooney Suzuki in “Thrill Kill” the double guitar layering of “Come On” and the throbbing “Sweet Jayne.” They feature the occasional hand clapping here and there which gives a nod to Detroit and then kicks you in the balls with a harmonica and tambourine in “Uh-huh, Oh Yeah.” Four bonus tracks are added with a tougher sound and raw, beefy guitars. Must be b-sides or outtakes but “Liquid Inspiration” is a break out hit.

Website: Sonic Negroes, Zodiac Killer Records

LUXURY PUSHERS
Welcome To The Party, Traitor
Zodiac Killer Records

From the first Van Halen-esque guitar run in “3 Minute Manifesto” to the knit-tight rhythm section in “Just In It For The Fuckin” the Pushers are an instant favorite here at the TCE office. The Dayton, Ohio four piece formed from the ashes of several local glam/punk/rock bands primarily the Mystery Addicts who made it into a couple underground compilation before releasing their one and only LP Unluck and Shame. Jamy Holliday brought his guitar over to Eric Purtle’s place and the two started writing punked-up Stones songs, got Chris Wright to shred some mean and nasty solos and sat Mystery Addicts drummer Bryan LaBonte on the stool to pound out some intensely heavy tom-toms. After a couple years they were superstars of the local bar circuit. The band's 2003 EP "Eat It" was used in its entirety for director Guy Capo's adult feature “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll" and garnered a 2004 AVN-award nomination for Best Soundtrack.

The evolution has continued to build like a half-shot van with suspect brakes descending down the steepest of grades. The collision has sent sparks flying with the release of Welcome to the Party, Traitor. The band fend off the usual references to the The Dead Boys, the New York Dolls, the Hellacopters, etc. This sort of thing is inevitable when you attempt to encapsulate everything that's currently right about rock 'n' roll. Double-barrel guitars hurl through the mega anthem “Lil’ A-Bomb” putting a righteous swagger into the band’s post-trash American punk. Songs like “Make It Up As You Go,” the addicting “Just Like Faye Dunaway” and “Strictly Low Rent” capture the boys snarling attitude as they spit and shake with volcanic bursts of rock and roll eruptions. Think old school Hanoi Rocks, Back On The Juice-era Dog’s D’Amore with the Backyard Babies salute to the almighty riff. Oye favorite “On The Mend” is a speed demon with a kick in the teeth at warp drive complete with a handy chorus and vocals straight from the State Penitentiary. A five-star if there ever was one.

Website: Luxury Pushers, Zodiac Killer Records

THE LORDS OF ALTAMONT
The Altamont Sin
Gearhead Records

A classic return to 60’s garage rock complete with biker-style cover art. For their third long player the LA five piece prove they know how to put a record together, from the artwork to the ride inside. Rumor has it this was actually released on vinyl first. Very cool indeed! With emphasis on their street names like Max “Sicko” Eidson on drums, Johnny “Stiggs” DeVila and Shawn “Sonic “ Medina on guitar and Jake “The Preacher” Cavaliere on Organ/Harp, The Altamont Sin takes immense pride in welcoming legendary bass-player Michael “Mad Dog” Davis from the MC5 to fuel the band to a thicker raunchier sound. Sticking to a low-fi delivery where the vocals are pushed way back in the mix and the guitars, drum and bass brought up front lend itself to a uniquely retro sound. So it is that the guitars lead the way from the chunky riff of “Gods and Monster” and Ramones-ish “Driving Too Fast” to the urgency of “Going Nowhere Fast” where the countdown to the solo is priceless. Sticking to what they do best is evident in the Go-Go beat of  “Make Out Doll” and the anarchy in “Livin Hell” where the vocals are just beneath a thumping backbeat.

The bass-driven “Lightning Strikes” is accentuated by the haunting organ courtesy of “The Preacher” hammering out his own brand of religion. The keys add a lot to the vibe of the disc giving it a classic edge without compromising the integrity of the guitars. There is the blues-wailing title track that has Detroit written all over it with a classic Iggy/Ron Asheton smash up while “Faded Black” captures the thunderous stutter of the New York Dolls. Rarely do the thirteen tracks exceed three minutes and even when they do on “Lightening Strikes” and “Going Nowhere Fast” it’s only to build a groove so infectious one would be hard pressed to cut it short. The Altamont Sin never lacks of texture or wildly nuances. “A Gun Called Justice” caresses it’s fuzzed-out tone while “Don’t Slander Me” takes the feedback and twists it into a thick cow-punk riff that makes for a perfect soundtrack to the Altamont 5. If slashing guitars, ferocious drumming and thumping bass make your day complete – this is the one for you.

Website: The Lords of Altamont, Gearhead Records

RANDY PIPER’S ANIMAL
Virus
Locomotive Records

The last time I heard guitarist Randy Piper’s name was after he fucked my boss. It was the late ‘80s, Wasp was in town and Piper was on the prowl. I was working at the local record store when the band came in and did an impromptu signing. Piper hit it off with my (female) boss. The next day the store was all a buzz about the shagathon the night before. So here we have Piper’s second solo record. The first one (Violent New Breed) came out a couple years back and was positively awful even with a Chris Holmes guest spot. Virus is a much better offering, although vocalist Rich Lewis tries a little to hard to be a tamer Blackie Lawless complete with vocal inflections. Reading about the band through various websites, it looks like Piper got fired from Wasp in ’86, joined Alice Cooper for a minute, left his wife Bella (she tragically hooked up with Michael Schenker – a whole ‘nother story) and last year, started touring Scandinavia. Animal now includes Piper, vocalist Rich Lewis, bassist Chris Laney, bassist Nalle "Grizzly" Påhlsson and drummer Johan Koleberg. They were a smash at this year’s Sweden Rock Fest and now unleash Virus on us all.

I know it’s’ hard to climb out from underneath the shadow of Wasp, or more particularly Blackie Lawless but Piper still links himself to his former band. The riffs are similar, so is the song writing. Even the logo borrows from early Wasp records. But if that’s what you like then Virus will make you grin from ear-to-ear. The music is solid hard rock with sophisticated lyrics and melodic time changes. For all my comparisons, Lewis is a dynamic and powerful singer while Laney did a fine job nailing the groove and production helm. Piper, himself, does return to his former Pete Townsend like playing especially in “Don’t Wanna Die” - less of the “angry” modern licks and more focused on catchy hooks and chord structure. “Cardiac Arrest” kicks the whole thing off with a great Priest-like riff and a huge chorus. The re-interpretation of The Cranberries “Zombie” may seem an odd choice but actually works well in this framework becoming a big powermetal track. Other highlights are “Shoot To Kill” and the sinister Dio-esque ballad “Lust”. Piper might carve his own niche yet.

Website: Randy Piper’s Animal, Locomotive Records

ZZ TOP
Live From Texas
Eagle Records

Titan Texan-boogie band ZZ Top arrive with their first live record since 1975’s Fandango! (there was the second half of XXX but this is much better). The disc accompanies their first ever-live DVD of the same name. Recorded in Dallas, TX in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd the three-piece deliver all the hits (mostly from Eliminator) with the occasional walk down memory lane. We’ve always been partial to the older stuff “Tush”, “La Grange” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” which is all there as well as “Cheap Sunglasses”, “Gimme All Your Lovin” and “Sharp Dressed Man”. The sound is remarkably clear and Billy, Dusty and Frank seem to be having a great time. After nearly 40 years the tree-piece are now approaching legendary status – and rightly so as they still maintain their live raw edge even on the slick ‘80s hits. Case-in-point is the dirtied up version of “Legs.”

Billy Gibbon’s treats the arena like a smoky club bantering with the audience and calling out the tunes. His sense of humor is in fine form as he discusses the need for jewelry prior to “Pearl Necklace” and how his girl friend stole his jeans in “Blue Jean Blues” eventually stating, “She looked mighty fine in MY blue jeans.” As a blues guitar player, Gibbons sounds like no other. His tone is dry and deep much like his voice lending greater depth to radio hits “Got Me Under Pressure” and the delta-soaked ballad “Rough Boy.” Noticeably, each song is slowed down locking in on the groove and milking out each note. Beard’s drum sets the beat with Hill’s bass holding down the band’s signature swagger. Mostly is captures the band at their finest – barebones and live, without the cheesy synthesizers of the past. If you get the DVD you can watch the band chatting about their history over a game of poker. They also run through a cover of Hendrix classic Foxey Lady” done ZZ Top style.

Website: ZZ Top, Eagle Records

      

JEFF BECK
Live At Ronnie Scott’s
Eagle Records

Ronnie Scott’s is one of those old, inner-city, brick and mortar clubs that regardless of its size, pub environment and lack of showboating actually sounds amazing. Popular as more of a jazz club, the London’s Soho venue has been home to many a jazz and blues purists since it opening nearly fifty years ago. It’s no wonder Beck pushed for this live release. The sound is absolutely superb. Live shows can be tricky but here Beck shines, not only as a performer and wizard of the freeboard but crafts a mesmerizing set that showcases his forty-year as a virtuoso talent. The clarity of Truth’s “Beck’s Bolero,” the unsung signature live opus “Stratus” and There & Back’s “Space Boogie” resonates from the stage with bassist Tal Wilkenfeld and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta locked in for a playful yet fine-tuned rhythm section. Beck even takes a step back to make room for Wilkenfeld’s thumping solo in “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers”. Since most of the set stems from Beck’s 70’s material the inclusion of keyboardist Jason Rebello lends a distinct atmospheric presence that ranges from pub rock boogie to Deep Purple-like majestic swells.

This is the first live “Greatest Hits” package Beck has put together in…well, ever. His playing is instantly recognizable, subtle and flawless, occasionally holding back just enough to allow the band to build around him. One would expect technical perfection and that too is here, clean, precise and occasionally overdriven. Guitar Shop’s “Where Were You” bleeds with passion while Wired’s ”Led Boots” is almost metal with that Trower-like echo humming through the amplifier. An all time favorite from Blow By Blow “Scatterbrain” moves from its rockabilly, southern-fried roots to jazz and prog rock within seconds all in a blur of flesh and wire. The Reggae beat of “Behind The Veil” and the eloquence of “Angels (Footsteps)” celebrate the man’s diversity while his noted covers bask in the warmth of a band that does them equal justice to the originals. The Beatles “A Day In The Life” is as eerie and haunting as it is expressive and poetic with the ghost of George Harrison lingering in the closing fade. But it is Beck’s ability to interpret the blues that is unique to him. That is the common thread that sews together his fan-base and Wired’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat / Brush With The Blues” is as close as we get to real magic.

Website: Jeff Beck, Eagle Records

BLACK MANALISHI
Trailblazer
Independent Release

It’s been a real pleasure watching this band develop into a superior rock act. Adam Ward, their vocalist has been sending us their demos and independent releases for several years and we can unequivocally say, “Trailblazer is a monster!” From the eye-catching graphics and photos to the professional sound of the disc, one can easily feel this group’s confidence and passion. Immediately a handful of songs spring from the disc including the funky Stones-meets-Hendrix “On Attack,” the metallic swagger of “Snakeskin Boots” and the dirty blues of “Mine’s A Whiskey”.  True, some of the songs have been featured on other of the group’s outings, but here they get the full work up. The UK four-piece has been compared to everyone from Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Fleetwood Mac (from where they take their name). Yet, it’s their appreciation of well-crafted songs tossed in with a mixture of 70’s style hard rock that makes the whole thing so damn enjoyable.

Their timing couldn’t be better as Black Manalishi join the recent crop of related artists celebrating the classic rock sound including Jaded Sun and Electric Mary. Diggin’ their heels in deep, Trailblazer breaks out with the sonic thunder of the title cut, a rip-snorting arena-ready, foot-stomper that chugs along with plenty of steam. The acoustic interlude that leads into “Hard Blown Away” is pure ’74-era Doobie Brothers. It beckons just enough before a stampede of galloping guitars unleashed guitarist Nathan Moore. It’s as if these guys jumped straight out of the movie Almost Famous with their ringing hooks and swamp rock. “Clapped Out Jimi” adds another layer as it starts out like an old 78 blues record then jumps into a sizeable riff, catchy melody with the perfect amount of grit to keep it interesting. The disc’s ten tracks benefit from the quartet’s phenomenal musicianship, whether its brief interludes of acoustical layering, or nail-biting metallic guitars that leave your hair blown back and your face a little tighter.

Some of the real beauty of the writing structure shines on “Break Free,” a ballad that echoes early Horselips with the delicate use of mandolin and slide complementing the song’s phrasing. It all ends in a muscular rev-up that’s positively sublime. The steady bass of Carl Traynor and drums of Ben Egan are essential to the power and universally thick rhythm that carries songs like “In This Room” and “Down We Go” into a whole other league. One can easily understand why the band is often compared to Free as they focus on simple, unique burst of energy with Ward’s raspy, soulful voice tying it all together. Trailblazer closes with the acoustic poetry of “You’ll Ride”. Sitting somewhere between Bronco, Buckingham Nicks and the Byrds, the tune’s enchantment comes from its spontaneity and folk-base while giving the listener the added treat of one last hook to remember them by.

 Website: Black Manalishi

HELLTRIP
Saranas Rojas
Independent Release

Ah, the beauty of myspace.. Helltrip is another cherished find through the wonders of the Internet. The quartet hail from Asturias on the northern coast of Spain and seem to have discovered their deep sense of purpose after listening to lots of Alice Cooper and AC/DC. They’ve also added plenty of Scandinavian rock to their turntable with elements of Turbonegro, Hellacopters and Backyard Babies in their assortment of influences. Usually dressing in red and black (except in the video for their song “Six Years” where their wearing all white and performing on a red carpet), they celebrate urgent power-chord garage rock with tambourine and boogie piano for color. Songs like the fiercely addicting “Seeing Green” and Foo Fighter-ish “All Destroyed By Love” are ripe and ready for huge arenas and festivals everywhere. With their anthem guitars and hook-filled chorus there’s no doubt they will soon carve out their own chunk from rock’s Gibraltar.

The group go by funny Spanish mafia-type names. There’s Mr. Hernmann (drums), Mr. Mad Lolo (guitar), Mr. Good Man (vocals, guitar) and Mr. Touched One (bass). They work a keen sense of classic rhythm that goes the rounds for a knockout every time. The thick baseline in ”Hell On Earth” is particularly excellent as is the bombastic drums of “I Always Listen To You When You Don't Speak” Plenty of chucky guitars sauce it up with a flare for the dynamic in “Eating Pains” (weird title but great sonic riffing) and the old school metal of “Johnny Crow” – which, in it own twisted way sounds like early 80s Riot. “Six Years” and it’s video comes on the disc’s flip side. One look/listen and all your friends will be converted – it’s that good. “Animal” is sung in Spanish and with it’s punked up flare gives off a retro vibe similar to the UK’s Gypsy Pistoleros – a street gang knocker with slahing guitars and cocksure attitude. “Break It Up” has its western twang with a set of whiskey vocals bellowing out, “It’s time to flow with rock and roll…” The track beats you senseless and exits with some of the finest piano playing you’d ever expect to hear on a high-energy rock record.

Website: Helltrip

BIBLE OF THE DEVIL
Freedom Metal
Cruz Del Sur Music

This Chicago-based four-piece have returned with their fifth installment of Thin Lizzy-meets-Iron Maiden inspired hard rock. Freedom Metal is like a tidal wave of volume with chainsaw guitars, bludgeoning bass and heart-pounding drums. “Highjack The Night” gets things going with a typical 80’s metal riff, stacked up harmony guitars and a hooky chorus. The band has become extremely skilled at balancing complex time signatures with tight melodic phrasing. “Night Oath” backs it right up with chugging guitars. It kicks off with full attention on the bass, lots of thunder in the engine room and a host of sing-along-bits. Taking ques from the New Wave of British Metal the band are ripe with galloping rhythms, layered solos and an energetic celebration of what thrills us about rock and roll. Teaming up on twin leads is the framework of “The Turning Stone.” A big showcase for singer/guitarist Mark Hoffmann whose tenor range combines the best of TNT’s Tony Harnell and Maiden’s Paul Di’Anno.

Ok, so the southern ditty “Heat Feeler” is an interesting departure with happy-go-lucky acoustic foundation and more of a folk bluesy groove – something more akin to early Kings of Leon with mid-western tinged hook. But “Ol Girl” is back in familiar territory as a total metalled up tribute to Thin Lizzy, they even have Lynott’s rap down. The track is entertaining and genuine, capturing subtle nuances here and there. “Womanize” and “Greek Fire” are without a doubt the heaviest on the record as guitarist Nate Perry unloads his Sabbath inner child while drummer Greg Spalding and bassist Darren Amaya knock around an earthshaking beat. The guitars bounce back and forth from left to right, converging in the middle with a face melting solo. The four-piece end the disc with “500 More” sounding more Irish than Gary Moore. They even bridge with an acoustic Celtic refrain between guitar harmonies. Easily the best BOTD disc yet.

Website: Bible of the Devil

LOS VELLOCETS
Blancos Chacales
Perro Andaluz

Don’t know much about Uruguay? Here’s a good place to start. Raining down a volley of twin-guitar heroics and foot-stomping bass is Montevideo’s own Los Vellocets. After being referred to these guys from Argentina’s Satan Dealers we waited a good couple months for their CD to arrive…and it was defiantly worth the wait! Hearing the full production of songs like the hyper-sonic “Melissa,” retro-grooven’ “Phantom Blues” and Stones-soaked “Knife” make this a huge garage rock favorite. Having been together for only a couple years they have fine-tuned their delivery into a well-oiled machine. There are songs like “Lasher” and “Straight To Hell” which focus on a riff-assault that sears a permanent brand on your brain. Bulging bass beats, a catchy chorus and slash-and-burn guitar collide with a cyclone of drumming to produce a high-octane thrill ride. The vocals rise to a fever pitch pulsating through the intoxicating “Electric Charmer” with a frantic piano pounding out a bar room boogie while spicy leads rip through a haze of smoke and swirl around a shaking tambourine.

Their influences drip with Motor City sweat making the best of a Nugent / Stooges mashup. Throwing in a bit of MC5 irreverence and plenty of Detroit diesel lead the charge in “No Regrets.” The song packs a punch (complete with cowbell and piano) as it stagers out of the speakers more punk than straight up rock. Mixing it up comes the country, tex-mex swagger of “La Maldita”. “Wake up,” scream the lyrics, “Forget the world, forget your name, be yourself…that’s what it all about.” Pile that onto a chugging riff with a stripper backbeat and you get one of the sexiest song on the disc. “Quit” follows suite with a grinding bassline leading into a whipped up guitar duel. The slow blues burner “Shake My Soul” winds the whole thing up with an array of feedback before launching into a frenzied attack that guarantees we remember who they were and how hard they rocked us. Check out a couple of the band’s videos on YouTube and visit em’ on MySpace. Tell ‘em we sent ya. Also check out the Uruguay’s other main export, Silverados, the two could be lethal together.

Website: Los Vellocets

STEEL HORSE
Raise Your Fist E.P.
Independent Release

Spain, home of the mighty Baron Rojo, yield yet another landmark in old school metal. Madrid-natives Steel Horse hearken back to eighties power metal mixing elements of Judas Priest, Saxon and Accept into a cohesive ball of riffs and rolling thunder. The band rise from the remains of Dead End Road, consisting of Willy Gascon (guitars), Jorge Cortes (vocals), ex- Calibre Zero Ricardo (drums) and Javier (bass). The EP features four tracks beginning with the ringing guitar harmonies of “Sons of Fire” A solid piece of NWOBM, the song celebrates youthful energy and a flair for mystic folklore. Cortes proves to be a strong frontman with a dynamic range that carries conviction when he punches the sky in the anthem “Raise Your First.” The guitars are heavy and dense with a keen sense of melodic riffing. They also know a thing or two about well-constructed solos that stay within the bounds of the song. “Winds of Time” is their epic. A power-chord thrill ride with a chest-beating rhythm, the song brings back the whiplash of a good old fashion headbanging. An ode to Iron Maiden is carved into “Wild Power”  with a galloping row and full frontal guitars. The lyrics are typically metal and song in English. The production is very well done keeping each instrument distinct and clear while packing each track with plenty of gusto. Hail the nightriders!

Website: Steel Horse