The big story surrounding Arch Enemy's ninth studio album is that the band has done the impossible. They replaced their lead singer calmly, quietly, and without anybody knowing about it until it was already done—and somehow didn't miss a beat in the process. It's hard enough to replace a singer just once, but Arch Enemy has done it twice, and while there are still some people bellyaching over the loss of original vocalist Johan Liiva, it's safe to say Angela Gossow left a much bigger footprint on the band, and on metal in the new millennium. With her at the mic, Arch Enemy were one of the bands responsible for popularizing so-called "melodic death metal," if not in the mainstream, at least outside of the dank sub-basements of the underground. Plus, she reminded a new generation of female headbangers that you didn't need to be an opera singer, a goth chick, or a bassist to find a place in extreme metal.
It definitely sucks when you watch a band that you are REALLY a fan of implode. For me, that's just what I had to do with Black Country Communion. As the band that I think a lot of people compared head to head with Sammy Hagar's supergroup Chickenfoot, BCC stormed out quickly and recorded three tremendous releases. Still, as quickly as they came up, they imploded. Guitarist Joe Bonamassa's ego seemed to clash with vocalist Glenn Hughes', and before long you had half the band (Bonamassa and keyboardist Derek Sherinian) on one side, and the other half (Hughes and drummer Jason Bonham) on the other. The side most people will care about, Hughes and Jason Bonham, have returned with a new band name, a new guitarist and a slightly different sound from what they were doing. The sound may be a bit different, but it's clearly lost none of it's punch.
One of the hardest things I'm tasked to do when reviewing bands is to look past the individual history of the members when a new project pops up. Many times, you really can't help but to think about a guy's past work in another band. That's especially true when the guy is the singer. MuckRaker is one of those bands for me. Vocalist Will Price's previous band, Boiler, was not only one of those underground bands that I caught and love to this day, but comes with a sentimental amount of favoritism from me as well as they were the first national band I ever booked to play a show. So I do have a connection, which I will say is one of the main reasons I would have ever even listened to MuckRaker. But, if I'm going to keep my integrity as a writer, I have to look past that and judge this project on it's own merits and not against Price's past.
REDEEMER OF SOULS
Judas Priest has a lot to atone for in the eyes of all fans except for Jim "Nostradamus" Bartek. Given the fact that Bartek's 524 day listening streak to NOSTRADAMUS probably doubled the count of the rest of the Priest fanbase combined, it's clear that the once Mighty Priest needed to do something very, very metal this time around or it might just be time to call it a day. Not only was NOSTRADAMUS a bomb, but it also marked the moment that the dynamic duo of Tipton and Downing split in half, as KK decided to take his skills to the golf course and leave the band behind. With that said, and given that Priest fans have gone 9 long years without a good Judas Priest release to listen to, there's a ton of expectation on REDEEMER OF SOULS.
I'm generally excited when Jizzy Pearl fronts any band. He's one of my favorite singers out there from the classic metal era; a distinct sounding guy who has proven to be a chameleon while maintaining a sound there is no mistaking. Jizzy joining Quiet Riot was a welcome thought to me, personally. While I've never been a huge Quiet Riot fan, I've always found Kevin Dubrow and Frankie Banali to be good at what they do. When Dubrow died, they went through a few singers looking for the right fit before Pearl took the job most recently. To be honest, it's surprising (at least to me) that they decided to record so quickly after Pearl joined the band. The resulting work is 10, the new album of sorts from the current lineup of Quiet Riot.
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.