Black Stone Cherry
Well, they finally did it. After nearly a decade of being hailed as the new kings of southern rock, and receiving favorable comparisons to Zeppelin and Skynyrd, western Kentucky's Black Stone Cherry have released an album that's worthy of all the praise.
I've always liked the IDEA of Black Stone Cherry. I mean, what's not to like about a bunch of good ol' (young) boys flying the rock 'n' roll rebel flag? I was a bit lukewarm on the band's actual music, though. BSC always sounded more like Alice In Chains with a twang than any of the classic-rock heroes people seemed so eager to compare them to. Southern-rock poured through a thick filter of down-tuned grunge. Black Label Society minus the showy guitars and pretend biker-gang ethos, if you will, or maybe Stone Temple Pilots dressed up in overalls and a stars-and-bars shirt (that analogy owing in part to Chris Robertson's drony Weiland-like vocal style). I wanted to like BSC, and checked out every new release, waiting for them to break out. If they could just put together a whole album of songs like "Hell And High Water," "Soul Creek" or "White Trash Millionaire," we'd be in business.
God bless American Dog! For fifteen years, a bunch of blue-collar working stiffs from Columbus, Ohio have been churning out their brand of greasy, grimy redneck metal, and doing it all themselves. You gotta respect a band with American Dog's tenacity, toiling away in obscurity while other, much lesser bands soak up the major-label success. Oh yeah, and the tunes are consistently great, too!
For their seventh full-length album, Neanderthal, the guys find room at the pound for another canine compadre, guitarist Vinnie Salvatore. After existing as a trio for so long, and with Steve Theado's guitar tone being so thick and beefy, you almost wonder what they need with a second guitarist, or if you'd even be able to tell. On listening to the record, you can tell all right, even though Salvatore's style matches the band perfectly. There's lots of left-channel/right-channel interplay that you just didn't hear when Theado was handling all the guitar duties. Otherwise, the band's sound has remained essentially the same: a thick, gloopy stew of '70's metal influences, with a few dashes of dirty punk and psychobilly. Throw Motorhead, Ted Nugent, Molly Hatchet and Thin Lizzy in a barrel, and mash it all up with the Supersuckers and Nashville Pussy, and you get American Dog. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
For so many people, they hear Gary Cherone's name and immediately think about the failed Van Halen album III that he fronted. I get it. How can you not? It was such an unbelievably bad effort, and really should never have had the Van Halen name on it at all. Unfortunately though, Cherone has always been the blamesake of that release, even though it's pretty much recorded history at this point that III was Eddie Van Halen's attempt at experimentation at the same time he was using or drinking himself into oblivion. Still, for most VH nerds, it's always impossible to admit that EVH could ever do anything badly. So blame it on the new guy, right? The sad truth though is that both before and after Van Halen, Gary Cherone has proven to be a pretty damn great frontman. I'm sure I'm near alone with this, but I look at PORNOGRAFFITI from Extreme as one of the top 10 albums of hair metal history. They followed with another brilliant release in III SIDES TO EVERY STORY, and then bested all of that with the widely underappreciated WAITING FOR THE PUNCHLINE (one of the top 10 albums in my entire collection). When Extreme reconvened, they put out another great release with SAUDADES DE ROCK. Simply put, Cherone has proven to be a great rock song writer over a long career.
STEELHAMMER - LIVE FROM MOSCOW
I really have no idea why U.D.O. is not a much, much bigger band than they are. Without question, everyone is all too quick to celebrate Accept, both with and without vocalist Udo Dirkschneider in the band. And yet, for all the love fans have for Dirkschneider's era of Accept, U.D.O. has really remained an afterthought instead of an equal to the current band that features Mark Tornillo on vocals. For the life of me, I don't understand it. U.D.O. has put out nothing but great to awesome releases The last decade has seen this band release six discs that have been absolutely awesome, without a bad one in the bunch. Still, U.D.O. stays more as the answer to the trivia question of "whatever happened to Udo Dirkschneider" than it does to a band being considered one of the elite in old school, traditional heavy metal. Maybe it's just me, but that's just criminal.
One of the most disrespected singers in all of heavy metal, Ronny Munroe has more than ably fronted Metal Church for a decade now. Fronting Metal Church since 2004, the band has been a touch inconsistent (A LIGHT IN THE DARK and GENERATION NOTHING being great, WEIGHT OF THE WORLD and THIS PRESENT WASTELAND being a bit forgettable), but that inconsistency really can't be blamed on Munroe. Having seen him a couple of times with Metal Church, he honors the work of Both David Wayne and Mike Howe without being a mere copycat clone of either. In short, he's taken the reigns of a legacy position and rode it ably into the future. Still, every time Munroe opens his mouth, there's some assclown on Blabbermouth screaming that he's not Wayne or Howe. No shit, Sherlock! His solo efforts though have been his places to shine on his own, and he's been especially strong there. ELECTRIC WAKE is definitely a strong metal effort. While not the best thing Munroe has done, it's a far cry from the worst.
TIBI ET IGNI
I could write all kinds of stuff about how Vader are the icons of Polish Death Metal. I could put all kinds of praise on them, and talk about how they and Behemoth are the trendsetters that allowed people to understand that Poland had some death metal brilliance coming out of their country. I could talk for a long time that they are playing faster than ever before. Or I can give you a fascinating fact about the new Vader release, TIBI ET IGNI. I'll go with that. There's a soft, slow part on TIBI ET IGNI. That's right! Are you surprised? For almost two minutes at the start of "Go To Hell", you get lulled in with a creepy, haunting and yet very soft and docile opening movement. Amazing, right? Don't be fooled though. From there, you are launched into what Vader does best - destroy you with a furiousness that only the most elite of the old school death metal bands have ever been able to offer. TIBI ET IGNI is an old school release, and much like their previous effort WELCOME TO THE MORBID REICH, it just flat out crushes.
Even as a fan of Tesla, it's not hard to look at the band and find them to be somewhat less than energetic when it comes to putting out new music. They've now come forth with just their 7th studio album of new material since 1986. Let's be honest here, folks...that's not a lot of material over a VERY LONG period of time. Still, where they lack in over-productivity, they have always made up for it in quality. While fans and casual listeners may not love everything the band has done, there's really not a release in those seven where you go, "what in the fuck is this". To the contrary, when Tesla does decide to release a new disc, it generally comes with a certain certainty of what the listening experience will be. While SIMPLICITY has been beaten up a bit for being slower and lacking of the faster rock tunes of the past, I might argue that it's the closest to what this band has always wanted to be. A seriously strong release that fuses all the greatness of rock's history with that "Tesla vibe", SIMPLICITY is one of the stronger releases in the first half of 2014.
I really don't think that, of all the bands out there, Tankard could ever do anything I don't appreciate in some way or another. Let's face it, if ever there was a "Chris Akin" band, Tankard would be it. They make the kind of metal that is closest to my heart - Thrash with just a touch of melody to make it completely compelling. And all of their releases are themed around drinking, beer, drinking and drinking. If this band was renamed "The Chris Akin Experience" is about the only way I could like them anymore. For the last several years, Tankard has been cranking out some of the best music of their career at a furious pace. In fact, they have had a new release out every 2 years since 1998! That's golden if you are a fan of any band. Tankard simply gives you enough time to digest the last one before coming forth with a new dose of drunken debauchery.