• Halestorm - INTO THE WILD LIFE

    Image: Halestorm, Into The Wild Life, Pitriff, heavy metal, reviews, interviews Halestorm
    INTO THE WILD LIFE

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    With the release of THE STRANGE CASE OF…, I fell in love with Lzzy Hale. So much so, in fact, that I jokingly got down on one knee and asked her to marry me at Rock On The Range two years ago (a proposal that she didn’t flat out turn down, so maybe there’s still hope!!). Let’s be

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  • Marilyn Manson - THE PALE EMPEROR

    Image: Marilyn Manson, The Pale Emperor, Pitriff, Modern Metal, Reviews Marilyn Manson
    THE PALE EMPEROR

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    Let’s just call it the way it is. It’s been a very, very long time since Marilyn Manson recorded a really good, memorable release that any of us still listen to on a regular basis. To many, the would probably says that it’s been since MECHANICAL ANIMALS back in 1998. For me personally, I’ll be a bit more

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  • Black Star Riders - THE KILLER INSTINCT

    Image: Black Star Riders, The Killer Instinct, Review, Classic Rock, Pitriff Black Star Riders
    THE KILLER INSTINCT

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    When Black Star Riders made their decision to record under a new name instead of as Thin Lizzy, it was met with a lot of opinions. For most, I would assume they were happy that they decided to move away from the name they had been touring under. For many, I'm sure there was a lot of

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  • Lynch Mob - SUN RED SUN

    Image: Lynch Mob, Sun Red Sun, George Lynch, Classic Rock, Reviews Lynch Mob
    SUN RED SUN

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    On THE CLASSIC METAL SHOW, George Lynch is regularly a topic of conversation. Maybe that has to do with the fact that Neeley is a personal friend of Don Dokken and I work for Don on his website, but I like to believe that he becomes a topic because, first and foremost, we are big fans of the

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  • Karma To Burn - ARCH STANTON

    Image: Arch Stanton, Karma To Burn, Pitriff, Stoner Metal, Reviews Karma To Burn
    ARCH STANTON

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    There are those of us who know. We will forever be known as the "fortunate ones". There are those of you that have no idea. You will be known as the "unfortunate ones". What is it we know that you don't? We know the sheer greatness of Karma To Burn. For those that are unfortunate ones, let me

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  • U.D.O. - DECADENT

    Image: U.D.O. - DECADENT, Classic Metal, Reviews, Pitriff U.D.O.
    DECADENT

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    I'm sure I'm not in the minority here, but I'm glad that we now have a killer version of Accept with Mark Tornillo as well as the continuation of U.D.O. with Udo Dirkschneider. In short, it's led to both bands stepping up their game and creating great music. While neither side will admit competition with the other band, the fans certainly

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  • Sweet & Lynch - ONLY TO RISE

    Image: Sweet & Lynch, Only To Rise, CD Review, Classic Metal, Pitriff Sweet & Lynch
    ONLY TO RISE

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    Being completely honest here, I really didn't expect a whole lot out of this. I'm not the biggest Stryper fan in the world by a long shot, and the truth is that I just never could fully get into Michael Sweet's vocals. There's just always been something about him. I'm not sure what it is. I guess

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  • AC/DC - ROCK OR BUST

    Image: Rock Or Bust, AC/DC, Chris Akin, Pitriff, Classic Metal, Review AC/DC
    ROCK OR BUST

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    In a year that has see a foundational piece of AC/DC succumb to a debilitating illness and another to his own personal insanity, AC/DC emerges after seemingly forever away with ROCK OR BUST. To be fair and truthfully honest, expectations on this release were pretty low. I know that AC/DC is a band that's been in business almost 50

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  • Whitesnake - BACK TO THE BONE

    Image: Whitesnake, Back To The Bone, Pitriff, Chris Akin Whitesnake
    LIVE IN '84 - BACK TO THE BONE

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    David Coverdale and company have had a very long and successful history that started even before he formed Whitesnake. There's no denying the legacy here. Coverdale has had a fantastic career with Whitesnake, and his time in Deep Purple was every bit as strong to that band as a Sammy Hagar was to Van Halen

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Image: Blackberry Smoke, Leave A Scar, Pitriff, Review, RockBlackberry Smoke
LEAVE A SCAR - LIVE IN NORTH CAROLINA

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Right up front, Blackberry Smoke is not a metal band. They are a southern-rock band, in the classic, original sense. These days, the term "southern rock" has been applied to everybody from Black Stone Cherry to Nashville Pussy to Crowbar, all sounds that would be alien and extreme in the days of Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet. Atlanta's Blackberry Smoke, on the other hand, would have fit comfortably in that era. In fact, in 2014, their music sound more like hard, modern country music than anything you would hear on rock radio. The band seems to know this, and in the years since their 2003 debut, Bad Luck Ain't No Crime--produced by Jackyl's Jesse Dupree, who more or less discovered them--they seem to have steered their music in that direction. To that end, they've worked with hot Nashville producer Dann Huff (a reinvented rocker himself, formerly the lead singer and guitarist for the band Giant), and sanding away the rough edges of their music and lyrics.

You want to know the hell of it, though? They are super-talented musicians and songwriters. If you like classic southern rock, or even stuff like the Black Crowes without the sophistication or irony, it's impossible not to root for Blackberry Smoke. They've done it the hard way, by relentless touring and toiling in relative obscurity for over a decade, before being signed to Zac Brown's Southern Ground label and enjoying a modicum of success.

Now it's time for their live double CD and DVD package, Lave A Scar: Live In North Carolina. You get twenty-two songs, spanning the band's three and a half albums so far (eighteen songs on the DVD). The band plays every song from its 2012 release, The Whippoorwill, but still has plenty of time for older (and often harder-rocking) favorites like "Sanctified Woman," "Up In Smoke" and 'Shake Your Magnolia." The band is tight like only a band that plays constantly can be. The musicianship is excellent, the songs are catchy and fun, and the crowd is fired up.

So why am I underwhelmed? The answer, I think, likes more in the overall feeling of the show, rather than any faults of the musicians. For starters, most live albums feature more energized, fiery performances than what you hear on studio releases. On the other hand, Blackberry Smoke sound very laid-back after the first couple songs. Many of the tunes actually seem a bit SLOWER than their original versions. Then there's the guitar sound. It's like both lead singer Charlie Starr and guitarist Paul Jackson are playing on the neck pickups of their instruments, pretty much the whole time, and there just isn't very much bite to their sound. It lends the music a muffled quality. Maybe it's just that I, as a metalhead, am used to a sharp, cutting guitar tone on modern live albums, but I found myself constantly repositioning my headphones and fiddling with the equalizer on my stereo, trying to get the sound dialed in right. Even songs that sound like they should really roll, like "Leave A Scar" or "Shake Your Magnolia," sound flat and mild. Adding to the nagging boredom is the fact that so many of the songs from The Whippoorwill are on the slow side. Not ballads, exactly, but they just kind of mosey along, and the band is occasionally given to meandering jams that really get the mind wandering. Then there's that keyboard player, tinkling along on the piano or warbling along on the organ, further blunting the band's sound.

When it works, though, it works well. Muddy sound notwithstanding, the opening uptempo one-two punch of "Shakin' Hands With The Holy Ghost" and "Sanctified Woman" get things off to a head-bobbing start. The two songs from the band's pure-country EP, New Honky Tonk Bootlegs--"Son Of The Bourbon' and "Lesson In A Bottle"--are really nice, and work better than some of the middle-of-the-road country rock of more recent material. Charlie Starr sounds exactly like somebody named Charlie should sound--a little rough and raspy, but capable of pulling off some stunningly clear harmonies with Jackson when you don't expect it. Not a silky-voiced country crooner, even when he tries to be.

I also give the band points for still occasionally steering clear of the skull-hammering lyrical cliches of current country music. On their first album, they sang about running off with bad women, and a girl who dumps you to peddle her ass in New Orleans, but on later releases, they seemed to consciously sanitize things a bit. That gave us songs about wanting to drink a beer after work before listening to the wife's litany of complaints, letting off steam by driving around and going fishing, and the like. Even so, they refuse to sing about how wonderful small-town life is. "One Horse Town" portrays Charlie as "an old married man at twenty-three, with two little boys on the baseball team, 'cuz that might be their only ticket out." Their bittersweet songs are often tinged more heavily with bitterness and regret in this way. Their fun songs tend to be a bit raunchier than your typical country fare as well. "Shake Your Magnolia" is clearly a strip-club anthem, while "Up In Smoke" hints at on-the-road debauchery. Even the requisite country checklist/backwoods party song, "Good One Comin' On," gets a bit naughty. Onstage, Charlie swaps in a new line, "Skinny-dippin' in the Chattahoochee ..." to which the audience gleefully responds, "Got my finger in your sister's coochie."

PITRIFF RATING - 68/100 - I wanted to give Leave A Scar a higher rating. I swear I did. Blackberry Smoke are great at what they do, and I'm glad for the success they're finally starting to achieve. I can't even really blame them for selling out somewhat to Nashville; clearly, they would never be welcome in today's rock environment. They're too good a band not to be popular. I would've rated this CD higher if they had done something about that toothless guitar sound, and maybe cut out some of the more boring, easygoing songs that just sap the energy of the set.

And lose that fuckin' keyboard player!

Image: Cause/Effect Metallica, Chris Akin

A look at one of the most polarizing, iconic and best selling albums of all time from author, rock critic and shock jock radio host Chris Akin.

CLICK HERE to learn more about CAUSE/EFFECT: METALLICA.

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Image: Little Victories, Book, Chris Akin

The shockingly honest and emotional first book from radio personality and rock critic Chris Akin.

CLICK HERE to learn more about LITTLE VICTORIES.

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Read Reviews and Excerpts from LITTLE VICTORIES: A TALE OF DIVORCE, DEBAUCHERY AND FINDING HAPPINESS HERE!

Available January 13th in Paperback and Digital Formats on Amazon and iTunes.

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