Avex Inc. (JAPAN)

Metal guitarist She-ja is as diverse as they come. Starting his guitar education in the spotlight of 80’s thrash-rockers Gargoyle the gun-slinger made the jump to a popular animated series where he wrote and arranged its theme song. Animetal was the working title as it culminated the use of animation with a metal soundtrack. Volcano was formed first in the early Nineties where they released several singles, then again in 1999 with one essential ingredient: balls of steel.

The group’s ex-Aion vocalist Vov, Youthquake drummer Katsuji and bassist Akira joined She-ja with the idea of merging death metal riffs with hooks from hell. The two converge perfectly on the bands debut Violent. Produced by Sweden Metal extraordinaire Fredrik Nordstrom (In Flames, Arch Enemy) the group’s sound comes through as very European with a highlight on some monster guitar playing. Putting the record together inside of a month elevated the frantic pace of songs like Kill All Of Me, Brain Dance and Devil-May-Care-Boy. Fear Of The Scarlet breaks in midway with a wonderful piano refrain before returning to the crunch.

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They Came Over...
Necropolis Records

Epic performance in the vein of Iron Maiden and Manowar, Philip von Segebaden’s Defender is a tribute to big scale, lights and smoke metal mayhem. The clash of guitars and thunder of pounding hooves move this Necropolis release with the roar of the Apocalypse. Accompanying the music are two basic themes: Medieval majesty and tribal Tibet the later of which Von Segebaden dedicates the album.

The title implies the need to defend – “defend the legacy left from the masters of the past,” writes Von Segebaden in the liner notes. “Let this record stand as a monolith to all the great Metal gods of the past as well as pointing the way ever onward.” The eight-song platter is more of a solo Von Segebaden outing than an actual band. Joining the troop (at least on celluloid) is vocalist Michael van de Graaf and drummer Peter Nagy; von Segebaden plays everything else. The Siege Of Armengar, High Himalayan Valley, City In The Clouds and Nomads Of The Stars host wicked guitar interchanges and a signature vocal style perfect for the genre. Adding dimension is Dragon, with its tasteful acoustic intro.

Website: Necropolis Records

Butterfly Joe
Razler Records

This quirky local act has gained much of its notariety through vocalist Joe Genaro and drummer Dean Sabatino. Fans of the Dead Milkmen will recognize the sound quicker than the names. Like the Milkmen, Butterfly Joe have a charming sense of zaniness about them. Most of the lyrics are penned by Genaro reflecting his humorous way of peering out at the world; My boyfriend he hurt me/ And he hurt me bad/ He threw a brick at my head/ Lucky for me he missed/ And then he tied me to a tree/ And tickled my wrists.

The quintet was reduced to a quartet when marimba player Randy Rudolph left the band (though he does appear as a guest on the CD). Says Genaro, “After lugging his marimbas up three flights of stairs in a bar in Manayunk for a 20 buck split five ways, he called it quits.” The two Dead Milkmen are presently joined by bassist Joe Quigley (Lisa Loeb band) and guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Andy Bresnan of The Big Mess Orchestra. A name had to be linked to their 17-song debut and since Genaro was moonlighting as ‘Butterfly Fairweather’ one of the cabaret singers in The Big Mess Orchestra, it only made sense.

Website Butterfly Joe

Grande Rock
SubPop Records

One of the brave few tracing the steps of raunchy biker-rock and bringing it to the masses. This band of unwashed Europeans eclipses the alternative scene with their third CD, Grande Rock. Claiming The MC5, Kiss and the Stooges as their chief influences, the Hellacopters have been press darlings and club favorites in Europe since 1995.

Their first two albums Supershitty To The Max (1996) and Payin’ The Dues (1997) leaked over to the US as high-priced imports and planted the seed to what’s become a significant underground following. The band’s 1998 coast-to-coast tour of the US gave fans the chance to see the rockin’ Swedes, which fueled their popularity.

Grande Rock, the first Stateside release from the group, benefits from the band’s spicy production work primarily on Action De’ Grace, Move Right Out Of Here and Welcome To Hell. Their tribute to Kiss (who they opened for in Europe -1996) is proudly noted with the fifth track entitled, Paul Stanley. The record also has them moving closer to the tougher realm of Steppenwolf/Thin Lizzy/UFO territory with sophistication and dynamic precision. A great party album and one to play very LOUD!

Hellacopters or SubPop Records

Natural Born Boogie
Fuel 2000 Records

Let’s skip the history lesson here. If you don’t know who Humble Pie is – why bother – they were only one of the all-time greatest blues-rock bands. Here they are recorded live at the BBC from 1969 to 1973. The tapes have been cleaned up a bit actually giving the ten tracks a fine edge. Kicking off is a gritty version of Natural Born Boogie from 1969. The harmonies of Frampton and Marriott are chilling. Sad Bag of Shakey Jake, Heartbeat and Desperation all come from the same session. The Big Black Dog and 4 Day Creep came from 1970. Rolling Stone and The Light from 1971, Black Coffee and I Don’t Need No Doctor came from two different sessions in 1973.

Big Black Dog clearly shows Marriott’s switch from aggressive pop to hard rock boogie. Marriott was blessed with a set of lungs that could belt out original material and interpret classics alike at full thunder. Working with Alexis Korner on Rock On boosted their blues rock edge heard here on Rolling Stone to a classic darker sound. Live, Pie was nearly unstoppable and often unbeatable. Their success with Live At The Fillmore lay testament to that. To add this enjoyable live set to the Pie collection is a must.

Website: Humble Pie or Fuel 2000 Records

Cross Purpose
Ruf Records

Thirty years running since this combination of stellular musicians first recorded It’s All About Time, for Bell records. A lot has changed in music but Cross Purpose reminds us that there’s still a lot that has stayed the same. Good songs don’t fade.

Reunited for the first time in 25 years the original Spooky Tooth, Luther Grosvenor (g), Mike Harrison (vo), Mike Kellie (d) and Greg Ridley (b) bring their R&B influence back on deck for ten shining moments. Putting together such a feat was an immense challenge as each member of the band had professional careers, families and different musical tastes. The group’s focus was to honor the past, yet write contemporary material reflecting who they are now.

Rehearsals led to the reworking of That Was Only Yesterday (Spooky Two) and the haunting Love Is Real (pre-Spooky Tooth when they were Art). Adding to the feel of their initial direction were Sam Cooke’s Send Me Some Lovin’ and Little Richard’s I Can’t Believe. Throw Me A Line is brilliant complete with Harrison’s thick soulful vocals. Much of the record easily picks up from where the band left off so many years ago. Most present is the finesse of a very fine band.

Ruf Records