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STRYPER
The Covering
Big3 Records

Christian glam metal band Stryper return with their 9th album and this time it’s a set of covers reflecting their heavy rock influences. It’s been three years since Murder By Pride and honestly, this one’s a better record. The original lineup return with vocalist Michael Sweet, drummer Robert Sweet, guitarist Oz Fox and bassist Tim Ganes. Production is handled by Michael Sweet who gives the whole thing a nice shine. A risk one takes when putting together a cover record is measuring up to the originals. Stryper come close a couple time but most performances are sub-par. The strengths lie in the guitar work of Oz Fox and the thunder rhythm section of Ganes and Robert Sweet. Stryper’s strength was always in their musical abilities and that is showcased well here – especially in Ozzy’s “Over The Mountain” and the Kiss cover “Shout It Out Loud.” Michael sticks to songs that match his natural vocal range which is somewhere in the stratosphere. He sounds most comfortable with Scorpions “Blackout” and the Kansas hit “Carry On Wayward Son.”

A few of the other songs succeed more on the strength of the song. Even a cover band can do a respectable job if the song is good. They carry off “Highway Star” (Deep Purple) and “Breaking The Law” (Judas Priest) but it’s only because UFO’s “Lights Out” and Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” are such monster tracks that the band just squeak by. Honestly those songs are just too big for then to pull them off – don’t know if anyone could really. Setting aside their Christina tag it is nice to hear them admit to being influenced by Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden, two bands they toured with in the eighties creating quite a controversy. Oz really rises to the occasion when it comes to taking on Van Halen’s “On Fire” matching EVH note for note. A real accomplishment for an Orange County native that grew up with Van Halen heralded as the gods of California. Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” lacks true conviction, though it’s played well, there no soul and it’s missing that blue’s element. The record closes with original track “God” penned just for this record. Honestly, it’s the best track on the disc (aside from the lyrics) with a killer guitar tone and encompassing all that Stryper were/are good at - high-octane ‘80s metal.

Website: Stryper

JOHN ELEFANTE and MASTEDON
Revolution of Mind
Big3 Records

We have always been big fans of Mastedon, not to be confused with the Atlanta, Georgia based outfit spelled Mastodon but the Christian rockers led by brother Dino and John Elefante. Revolution of Mind is the same record that was released in 2009 under the title Mastedon – 3 on Italian label Frontiers. The band has always been seen as a bunch of friends getting together for a studio project. Starting in 1987 the band has featured Dave Amato (Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon), Stef Burnbaum (Michael Bolton, Y&T), John Pierce (Pablo Cruise, Richard Marx), David Pack (Ambrosia) and Kerry Livgren (Kansas). After branching out into production both John and brother Dino became renowned producers (mainly in the Christian market) primarily working with Petra. Their love of hard rock music returned them to the genre with the appropriately titled supergroup Mastedon inspired by their last name. They released four albums from 1987 to 1990, took ten years off and retuned with Revolution of Mind (or 3). This album was a reunion of sorts between John Elefante and former bandmate Kerry Livgren, both were members of Kansas.

For Revolution of Mind, the line up is John Elefante (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Kerry Livgren (guitar), Anthony Sallee (bass), Dave Amato (guitar), Dino Elefante (guitar, backing vocals) and Dan Needham (drums). The records crowning achievement is its title track “Revolution of Mind” a glorious slice of classic melodic rock. As expected, there are shades of Kansas throughout but it distances itself just enough to stand on its own. Much like Steve Perry or Brad Delp, John’s voice is made for AOR. His layered harmonies give tracks like “Nowhere Without Your Love” and “You Can’t Take Anything” a huge identity. Amato’s guitar is bold and ever present. When the two come together it’s like the best of ‘70s era rock radio, think Boston, Journey and Toto. The ten-minute “One Day Down By The Lake” progs out into expanded Kansas territory but is so good it’s easy to forgive the indulgence. “Water Into Wine” really stands out with a scratch riff and beefy bottom end that is almost metal. One of our favorites is “Lying,” with its stellar hook and chorus that recalls the glory days of stadium rock. The disc is a joy from beginning to end – welcome back!

Website: John Elefante and Mastedon, Big3 Records

BRIAN ROBERTSON
Diamonds and Dirt
Steamhammer Records

Welcome back Brain “Robbo” Robertson! During the ‘70s there were few guitarist that met their expectations head-on as did Scottish-native Robertson. At the tender age of 18 he built his chops within the infamous Thin Lizzy camp standing alongside Scott Gorham providing a critical part of Thin Lizzy's signature sound. Together they created the lethal “twin guitar attack” and went on to record such classics as Nightlife (1974), Fighting (‘75), Jailbreak, (’76), Johnny the Fox (’76), Bad Reputation (’77) and the quintessential Live and Dangerous (’78). Robertson left Lizzy to form Wild Horses with Rainbow’s Jimmy Bain and after a couple records signed on with the mighty Motörhead recording Another Perfect Day (1983) and No Remorse (1984). After a brief stint with Gary Barden’s Statetrooper in the late ‘80s Robertson went into relative obscurity until 2009 when it was reported he was working on a solo album. We are please to announce that Diamonds and Dirt is more than worth the wait. The gorgeous melody lines and scorching leads are still there and though the record was pieced together from found tapes (literally), it still stands as a work of art.

Featuring drummer Ian Haugland (Europe), bassist Nalle Pahlsson (Therion/Treat), vocalist Leif Sundin (MSG) and Liny Wood, the record was assembled in Stockholm and produced by Robertson, Soren Lindberg and Chris Laney. Of the 13 songs on the record, Robertson’s originals mix with his Thin Lizzy co-writes and covers by Frankie Miller and Jim White. For most of us, the Lizzy covers, Nightlife’s “It’s Only Money” and Jailbreak’s “Running Back” will peak interest. The performances are rock solid, though even Robbo can’t compete with the originals. Personal favorites are the Frankie Miller covers “Mail Box,” “Do It Till We Drop (Drop It!),” and “Ain’t Got No Money,” with Rob Lamothe (formerly of Riverdogs) doing vocals on the latter. Robbo played on Frankie’s Dancing In The Rain (1986) record and actually sent the songs to Miller for his approval – which he returned with high praise. The notable “Blues Boy” was a previously unrecorded Phil Lynott / Robertson co-write that allows Robertson to delve into his passion for the electric blues. Alt-country jaunt into Jim White’s “10 Miles To Go On A 9 Mile Road” adds a certain balladry to the disc while the tasteful guitar playing of “Passion,” “Texas Wind” and the tormented “Devil In My Soul” proves Robbo’s still got it!

Website: SPV/Steamhammer Records

RORY GALLAGHER
Irish Tour (1974) CD, DVD & Blu-ray
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Coming out as a major treat for fans of the Irish blues-rock legend Rory Gallagher, comes a fresh dusting off of Irish Tour (1974) on CD, DVD and Blu-ray formats. The story behind the record and the movie, filmed by Tony Palmer (famed British film director) comes into clear focus when one understands 1974 was a dangerous time to be touring in Ireland. The IRA was tearing Northern Ireland apart and most artists refused to play Belfast concerned about the all too frequent violence that could erupt. Says the Belfast daily news, “Rory Gallagher never forgot Northern Ireland, he returned throughout the 70’s when few other artists of his calibre dared not come near the place.” No wonder Gallagher’s playing is so inspiring – a timeless masterpiece created from ashes of political unrest, the most humble of equipment and a beat-up Stratocaster.

Originally released as a live double-album to promote (and accompany) the Palmer film, the CD is compiled from recordings made at January ’74 concerts at Belfast Ulster Hall, Dublin Carlton Cinema and Cork City Hall. “Back On My Stompin´ Ground (After Hours)” was taken from a jam session during the tour on the Lane Mobile Unit. Key tracks include the brilliant “Tattoo Lady” a stirring version of “A Million Miles Away” and the adrenaline pumping “Who’s That Coming?” The closing instrumental, “Maritime” was named after a Belfast club owned by Van Morrison and became Gallagher’s pad when staying in town. The remasetered disc has an improved sound and dynamic very similar to it’s Japanese counter part released a few years back. Eagle has used the US art (never popular with the fans) but does add brief liner notes by Shu Tomioka and Charles Stanford.

The DVD is identical to the “Irish Tour 1974” film Eagle released in 2001 yet “lovingly restored and remastered from the original footage” and for the first time available on Blu-ray. In 1974, director Tony Palmer (who had worked with the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix and The Who) followed Rory Gallagher and his band on their tour of Ireland. The subsequent movie was released in cinemas to great critical acclaim and has gone on to be accepted as one of the great rock films. There is a massive improvement in both sound and picture quality over the original DVD release and includes bonus features such as a 30-minute RTE Music Maker documentary - not previously available to own - an audio commentary, plus some of the Japanese Tour 1974 Home Movie Footage. The film has a different running order from the CD and includes “Hands Up” from Gallagher’s self-titled 1971 release and live favorite “Bullfrog Blues.” If there is one film to see about Rory Gallagher, this is it. His playing is at the top of its game and his band was never tighter. The documentary follows Gallagher through the tour giving the viewer an intimate look at the legendary artist.

Website: Rory Gallagher, Eagle Rock Entertainment

JEFF HEALEY BAND
Get Me Some
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Healey’s untimely death in 2008 left many bewildered. The Toronto-based blues/jazz/rock musician succumbed to cancer at the young age of 42. Discovered by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Healey rose to international acclaim with the release of his 1988 See The Light album and its hit single “Angle Eyes.” The next year for Healey is what dreams are made of when Hollywood called and cast he and his band in Roadhouse starring Patrick Swayze. The movie became a cult hit and along with massive MTV exposure, catapulted the Jeff Healey Band (JHB) into stardom. After a successful ten-year run with Arista records JHB switched to Eagle records for what would become the groups last blues-rock disc Get Me Some originally released in 2000. Lack of sales saw the album quickly going out-of-print where it sat in the vault until now.

Get Me Some was the fifth studio album and the last before Healey headed off into a jazzier direction. The thirteen-track CD is rock solid with hooks and elements of blues and boogie even drifting into pop. Healey is an expressive singer and brings many moods to his music from smoky bar room seduction to sentimental crooner. His solos are passionate and propelled by the robust rhythms of bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen. The CD opens with the hard hitting “Which One,” followed by the spirited “Hey Hey,” Both “Love Is The Answer” and “My Life Story” are reflective, the latter having a more vigorous beat. “I Tried” is a slow mover with piano and strings added while “The Damage Is Done” and “Feel Better” benefit from a catchy chorus and foot-stomping beat. Both bear repeat listening. The soulful “I Should Have Told You” tells an interesting story with a mid-tempo county flair and along with “Macon Georgia Blue" is a nice blend of blues and melody. The sizzling “House Is Burning Down” is a real rabble-rouser countered by the beautiful ballad "Rachel's Song” – an emotional song about being a dad.

Website: Jeff Healey Band, Eagle Rock Entertainment

SIN-ATRA
A Tribute to Frank Sinatra
Armoury Records

Ah, this is a strange one – sometime working, other times crashing in a blazing fireball of awful. It’s one thing to appreciate Frank Sinatra, its another to pump-up the man’s signature work with a host of aging rockers. Sin-Atra is more about songs and singers – and trying to match the two, more than anything else. Produced by the retro-compilation master Bob Kulick with Brett Chassen, Sin-Atra tries to pull off a sleaze metal fest tribute to old blue eyes. The band consists of guitarist Kulick, drummer Chassen with bassist Billy Sheehan and special guest Ritchie Kotzen. Some of the better voices in ‘70s - 90’s rock and metal add their spin to the cherished classics. “That’s Life” sung by a drunk Jani Lane, “Strangers In The Night” with Joey Belladonna and “Witchcraft” featuring Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens succeed to various degrees.

There are some surprises in the lot. Dee Snider handles “It Was A Very Good Year” with died-in-the-wool New Jersey charisma. And Dug Pinnick (King’s X) does an admirable job with “I’ve Got The World On A String.” However Devin Townsend’s clean-to-death metal vocals thoroughly trash “New York, New York.” Glenn Hughes covering “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” does little for the singer’s style and might have been better on another track. But the two BIG disasters are Geoff Tate’s “Summerwind” and Robin Zander’s butchering of “Fly Me To The Moon.” Unlistenable! The band is pedal-to-the-metal full on with all the guitars, drums and bass you could want – not always necessary for the song. An interesting mixed bag and more of a novelty than anything of substance. Will we ever listen to it again – probably not.

Website: Armoury Records

LEZ ZEPPELIN
I (One)
Pie Records

There are cover bands and then there are cover bands! Lez Zeppelin is one of those cover bands that actually do justice to the original in fan-faire and talent. These four girls hail from NYC eating and breathing Zeppelin  - and with their sophomore record, they prove it. It’s a stunner from beginning to end. Having seen this band live a couple times they prove to be a wonder. They have the clothes, the moves, the sound and the poses down. As musicians, their skill and talent lend legitimacy to their art capturing the mood and texture of the original band.  Joe Perry says it best, ” I have never heard it done better. Their attention to sounds in the studio, energy and playing has put them as one of the first to capture the overall vibe of the original.” We will add - they capture the full sex appeal of the original as well. Just check out the cover of their new disc. This is exactly what Jimmy Page proposed for the original cover but was rejected by the label, proving the girls have respect and insight into the original concept.

Lez Zeppelin I mimics the 1969 original to a tee. The tracking order is identical as are the fades and subtle nuances in the music. They have obviously spent as much time playing this record as we have spent listening to it. The band, with producers Perry Margouleff and William Wittman, wanted to remain true to the sounds and textures of the “vinyl” version of the record and capture that ‘tight-but-loose’ intensity in the moment. Recorded at Margouleff’s Pie Studio’s, a world class analog facility, the band employed all of the same vintage equipment used by Zeppelin in 1968 – from the ’50s era Les Paul and Telecaster, to the Supro amp, 60’s era compressor, Hammond organ and Fuzzbender stomp box -- working fastidiously to recreate the incredibly complex layers of the album with a dedication that has never before been demonstrated by any band of this type in the history of the rock world.

“Good Time Bad Time” is spot on, the only giveaway is Shannin Conleys’s rasp that’s close but not Plant. However, she captures the mood and sizzle that bring a naughty boy to full attention. Guitarist Steph Paynes is a freak she’s so good. How can anyone play Pagey better than her – no one! Check out the riff in “Dazed and Confused, ” the weight of “Communication Breakdown” and the beauty of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” Capturing the thunderous rhythm of John Paul Jones and the mighty John Bonham is nearly impossible but bassist Megan Thomas and drummer Leesa Squyres do it. Don’t know how, but checkout the groove in “Your Time Is Gonna Come” and “Black Mountain Side.” Stunning simple stunning. If you’re a Zeppelin freak you must check this out, If you want to see the best, literal interpretation of the original go to their website and check them out. No one does it better!

Website: Lez Zeppelin

DUFF MCKAGAN’S LOADED
The Taking
Armoury Records

We love this band. More because they tend to dance closer to punk than sleaze but carry with them a certain edge missing from other GnR alums. McKagan started in the Seattle punk scene with a band called The Living, we actually saw them open for Mother Love Bone in the early ‘80s. McKagan went on to fame and fortune but always retained that street-sass punk edge. With his own band Loaded, Duff pulls from his Seattle roots giving the band a healthy, rounded attack. Since forming in 1999, the band has produced three studio records, The Taking is the most recent. Written on the road (mostly during soundchecks and down time) caused the ideas and riffs to grow quickly. The record was written and recorded in less than a month and on a shoe-string budget, but sounds bigger, badder and more explosive than anything else the band has previously done. Joined by drummer Isaac Carpenter, bassist Jeff Rouse and guitarist Mike Squires, the group gel into a tight unit most notable on the amplified “Lords of Abbadon,” the alternative “She’s An Anchor” and the feedback giant “Follow Me To Hell.”

Duff’s vocals have improved considerably and his writing is less mainstream. One can’t help but wonder if the five months in Jane’s Addiction (2010) had more than a little to do with the chord structure of “Wrecking Ball” or the whimsical nature of “Indian Summer.” The fully produced version of “Executioner’s Song” is a real gem as the tune has been kicking around for a couple years as an acoustic bootleg. “We Win” has been used by ESPN and ML Baseball since the fall of 2010 and “Dead Skin” stands out as the most easily digestible and obvious pick for the first single. The band filmed the entire recording process to be released as a feature with the record as its soundtrack. This could explain some of the record’s unevenness. Filmmaker Jamie Burton Chamberlin says of the film, “it will be like Hard Days Night meets Song Remains the Same. Whacky with aspects of documentary, music video, and live performance, all interconnected.” Our favorites include “Cocaine,” “Easier Lying” and “King of the World.” Check out Loaded’s interview with Rockline by clicking here.

Website: Duff McKagan’s Loaded, Armoury Records

JEFF BECK
Rock ‘n’ Roll Party
Honoring Les Paul
Eagle Rock Entertainment

To celebrate the life work of guitar icon Les Paul, the concert part of the disc (featuring 27 songs!) takes place at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, the same Times Square nightclub that Les Paul played every Monday for 14 years. Jeff Beck gushes from the stage telling the audience, 2010 would have been the pioneering guitarist’s 95th birthday and calls him a friend and mentor. Beck is joined by The Imelda May Band and mesmerizes a star-studded audience with a tour de force performance of classics that Paul recorded with Mary Ford, including Beck personal favorite “How High The Moon,” “Vaya Con Dios” and “Mockin' Bird Hill,” along with rock standards “Twenty Flight Rock” and “Walking In The Sand.” Beck’s playing is extraordinary, especially his picking style, as he easily moves through jazz, blues, swing and rockabilly. This is not a rock ‘n’ roll revival for fans of Blow By Blow or Wired, this is Beck paying homage. Special guest that join him on stage include Darrel Higham, Brian Setzer (“Twenty Flight Rock”), Gary U.S. Bonds (“New Orleans”) and Trombone Shorty (“Shake, Rattle & Roll”).

The bonus section proves to be some of the most captivating and personal ever made with Beck. Notorious for being illusive and avoiding indepth interviews, here we see Beck completely open sharing insight and passion for all things guitar. The bonus features are absolutely brilliant and are what make this DVD set. In the interviews, Beck describes his first exposure to the “twangy” electric guitar whom he later discovered was produced by Les Paul, but then goes on to uncover many of the recoding innovations Paul created. Beck discusses how he put together the show’s set list selecting eight songs of Paul’s that best characterize his playing techniques and why he chose other early rock ‘n’ roll classics that were influenced by Paul’s style. Says Beck, “these are the songs I would have played for him.” Another interesting moment was listening to him comment on America and how the 1956 comedy musical film The Girl Can’t Help It changed his life because it incorporated many of the rock ‘n’ roll up-and-comers of the day. A real treat is a walk through Beck guitar collection, hearing the stories and watching him pick up and play the guitars to explain why he liked that particular sound. There are also “behind the scenes” and a “blues jam” that is incredible. A must!

Website: Jeff Beck, Eagle Rock Entertainment

BLINDSIDE BLUES BAND
Smokehouse Sessions – Volume Two
The Blues IS Evil
Grooveyard Records

Those that haven’t been turned on to Mike Onesko and the Blindside Blues Band need to stop right now and check these guys out. We raved about their first Volume One opus and now comes the killer Volume Two packed with tough-edge, raw and gritty electric blues rock. Bassist Fletch Little and drummer Emery Ceo are the perfect bedrock rhythm section for Onesko multi talented style and gives the power trio its concrete density. Ten tracks fill this disc with a nice mix of originals and covers. Willie Dixon’s “Evil” starts the record off with demonic possession and is a wicked pace setter. A Howlin’ Wolf-like voice cackles through the speakers like a ghost from the past as Onesko’s guitar burns a new page in hard rock blues playing. The Hendrix classic “Hear My Train A Comin” has a special vibe with a lower tuning keeping it dark with a more menacing groove. Onesko’s whiskey soaked voice embraces the song flowing seamlessly with the guitar. Dixon gets another tribute with “I Ain’t Superstitions” where the band lunge into a big Zeppelin-esque interpretation of the song. The drums are especially heavy-handed with Bonham-like flare and a stomping bass kick.

Originals “Mojo Highway” and “Bad Woman Blues” equally hold their own. Slow, chugging, barn-burners, they take the 12-bar shuffle, plug it into a cement mixer and crank out a mind-numbing dirge. Personal favorite, “Whiskey Man” comes across as a mash-up between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Free. Sledgehammer drums introduce the piece followed by Onesko ripping lead. The riff in a plodding first-pumper with all the gusto of an iron-clad steam engine. Songs like this are what power trios are built for. The thick interplay and full expression of each instrument is not only remarkable but fiercely heavy. They even capitalize on early ZZ Top with “Smokehouse Shuffle.”  A real surprise is the metallic “King Of The Sky” featuring Jay Jesse Johnson where the guitar gets full amplitude to the point of distortion and combined with a driving bass and drum make it the hardest track on the disc. The band slow long enough to bring out the sizzling “Working So Hard” and a cool unplugged “To The Station.” The artwork, with its flaming guitar and skeleton filled vision of hell captures the music perfectly. As always, stick around for the hidden bonus instrumental track – it’s a smoker.


BLINDSIDE BLUES BAND
Rare Tracks
Grooveyard Records

To supply the demand, Grooveyard records has put together this 14-track compilation highlighting some of the best moments of the Blindside Blues Band’s from 2004-08. Rotating between originals and cover tracks is a fantasy set list of what could be the ultimate BBB line up. A cover of the Hendrix masterpiece “Freedom” kicks the disc off as guitarist Mike Onesko embodies the spirit of the afro genius. Bill Gressock lends a hand as the two ‘light-it-up’ with both guitars a blazing. Originals, “Good Lovin’ Man,” “Jack Daniels Weekend” and “Sabbeck” see the band in full flight as they power through a juggernaut of blue-rock, ‘70s-style. A funk tour de force “Sweet Young Thang” struts the prowess of bassist Muddy Dixon while “Crossing Jupiter” takes a psychedelic curve with amps at full volume. Deep cut late ‘60s-70’s rock is well represented in the Frankie Miller / Robin Trower penned “I Can’t Wait Much Longer” (from the essential 1973 Twice Removed from Yesterday) the massive Leadbelly tune “Black Betty,” Grand Funk’s “I’m Your Captain” and the glorious Zeppelin monster “No Quarter.” Old school blues are explored in “Too Tired” and “You Don’t Love Me” while the ‘60s folk classic “Morning Dew” gets it’s spotlight at the hand’s of this talented three-piece. This disc is an excellent way to feed your head with a massive sampling of all that is the Blindside Blue Band.

Website: Blindside Blues Band, Grooveyard Records

THE HOLY GOATS
Self-titled
Frontal Groovity Records

We were so knocked out by this band’s sophomore album Next Round that we had to track down their self-titled debut. We were not disappointed! These New Jersey-natives know ‘70s rock like no one else and are masters at replicated the sound and spirit of that era. Led by vocalist/guitarist Todd McCullough the four-piece move through 11 solid self-penned tunes including the southern-fired “Keep It Rollin,” the Humble Pie-inspired “Satisfied” and Zeppelin-meet-Black Crowes “Same Old Line.” More southern rock than Next Round, the group inject plenty of texture into their hot licks. They can easily move from “Presence of Mind” with its acoustic, laid-back summer-time weave to “Rock N’ Roll Thru My Head” dripping with good ol’ honest sweat. The nearly seven-minute epic “I’m Still Missing You” defines the album with its acoustic build into an electric crescendo of Mountain-like proportions. The Stones classic “Stray Cat Blues” fits nicely into the mix sounding just as fresh and inspiring as it did on Beggars Banquet. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s influence sneaks in with “On Your Knees” where Free pops up in the groovy  “If I Could Speak My Mind,” especially in the Andy Fraser-like bass groove. They are at their best when jamming out twin guitar harmonies in “Nothing To Lose” or embracing the swampy blues of “Clear” and the country-picking jam of “See The Light.”

Website: The Holy Goats, Grooveyard Records

V8 WANKERS
Iron Crossroads
Steamhammer / SPV

Greasy German punk ‘n’ rollers V8 Wankers release their sixth album Iron Crossroads this month, and this time it will finally reach North American shores. After recording a ass-kicking debut in 2002 called Blown Action Rock, the band went on to rape and pillage with Automotive Rampage (2003), Hell On Wheels (2007) and last years Foxtail Testimonial (2010) complete with its highly offensive cover. Iron Crossroads sees the five-piece working with producer Tommy Newton (Helloween, UFO) giving the group a sonic facelift and compressing 14 songs into a tight, lethal killing machine. Having toured with Australian brawlers Rose Tattoo, the V8’s learned a thing-or-two about turning their show into a wrecking ball of fists, guitars and fury. Chanting “swore to fun, second to none,” this high-energy disc begins with the one-two punch of a chugging “Winner” roaring into the riff fest that is “Lone Wolf No Club.” Singer Lutz Vegas has the best of Blackie Lawless in his pipes and with the twin guitar attack of Schmuddel and Blind Ferenc, they come across like a biker version of W.A.S.P.

Tours with Turbonegro and Motörhead improved their songwriting as “Your Name,” “I Am The Kind Of Guy Who Gets Away With Murder” and “SBM (Stop Bugging Me)” are larger-then-life anthems. They even expand into layered textures with the title track “Iron Crossroads” and the passionate banner “Live By Rock 'n Roll - Die By Rock ‘n Roll.” Bassist Marc DeVil gets his spot to shine in the cascading “Sweet Blood” followed by the thunder sticks of drummer David Green. The song is instantly catchy and tributes AC/DC with the lyrics “I’m lovin’ all those women / ‘cause I’m a dirty old man.” They even have a track titled “Dirty Old Man” with a massive riff and a killer groove. V8 don’t hold back when it comes to tender relationship songs. Ya gotta love titles like “You Hate Me, I Am So Glad,” “Give It To Me” and “Ride The Rocket.” All the tenderness you can get with a wretch and 5,000 watts of power. “Gone Electric,” our favorite in the batch, is two and a half minutes of ball-bustin’ attitude at full amplitude. This disc closes with an ode to Motörhead in “My Motor Burns.”

Website: V8 Wankers, Steamhammer / SPV

NAZARETH
Big Dogz
Eagle Records

Never ones to compromise, ‘70s icons Nazareth return with a textured slab of classic hard rock that goes right back to their roots. A Scotch powerhouse, the four-piece roll out the goods in the title track “Big Dog’s Gonna Howl” a retro-flashback to 1975 when Hair of the Dog ruled the airwaves. The track rolls into a steady groove with original bassist Pete Agnew and his drummer son Lee Agnew laying it down thick and heavy. Guitarist Jimmy Murrison, who joined the band in 1994 replacing Billy Rankin (who replaced original Manny Charlton) perfectly captures the band’s vibe injecting just enough riff rock without going metal. Naz were never metal just pub rockers with a knack for writing guitar-driven anthems. With Big Dogz we not only get anthems but eleven songs that are uniquely distinct and enjoyable on their own. There is the slow burner “When Jesus Comes To Save The World Again” with its ghostly melody and haunting vocals. Where as “The Toast” is a drinking ditty just for the fans, “if you enjoyed yourselves tonight / half as much as we did…then I really must make a toast.” They even check ”Love Hurts” with a whole new meaning.

The life and soul of the band is vocalist Dan McCafferty. A voice like no other, his rasp can capture a blues grinder like “Claimed” or the stirring ballad “Butterfly” with a range equal to Joe Cocker in his finest moments. The singer holds nothing back when he reflects, “Where does the time go?” in the Celtic-inspired “Time and Tide” or moans at the moonlight in rocker “No Mean Monster.”  One gets a sense the band is coming full circle in their 40-year career. The lyrics in “Radio” sums up their reflection with “Songs that take you back / Songs that turned your life around / that pulled you from the brink.” They do add the occasional world perspective in “Watch Your Back” and even get tangled up in the web of big government with the cleverly penned “Lifeboat.” With Big Dogz, Nazareth do what they do best, simple guitar structure, bottom heavy rhythms and whiskey-soaked vocals over a scorching view of life’s many lessons. Our favorite track is closer “Sleeptalker” with its Aerosmith-like swagger and no-nonsense delivery. They may be geezers, but these dogz can still howl.

Website: Nazareth, Eagle Records