• Wretch - WARRIORS

    Image: Wretch, Warriors, Review, Power Metal, Chris Akin, Pitriff Wretch
    WARRIORS

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    There's an unwritten rule that I rarely follow here in Cleveland. That rule is that if a band is from Cleveland, I'm supposed to write all glowing things or else be called a hater by the local community. It's sad that it's like that, but the truth is what it is. For years I've lived with that stigma, to the point

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  • Machine Head - BLOODSTONE & DIAMONDS

    Image: Machine Head, Bloodstone & Diamonds, Pitriff, Review, Thrash Metal Machine Head
    BLOODSTONE & DIAMONDS

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    What happened to Machine Head really is a crime. Unfortunately for them, it's a crime they perpetrated upon themselves. With a mistake so many made in their youth, this band singlehandedly torpedoed themselves from ascending to the heights in metal held by only the select few like Metallica and Megadeth before them. After THE MORE THINGS CHANGE came

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  • Nashville Outlaws - TRIBUTE TO MOTLEY CRUE

    Image: Nashville Outlaws, Motley Crue Tribute Nashville Outlaws
    A TRIBUTE TO MOTLEY CRUE

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    With the music industry pretty much dead anymore, nothing really comes off as shocking. After all, you have very desperate companies trying to hang on and make money from an industry that has about as much relevance today as the typewriter ribbon makers of the world still do. The current trend for the last half decade

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  • Texas Hippie Coalition - RIDE ON

    Image: Texas Hippie Coalition, Ride On, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Review, Classic Metal Texas Hippie Coalition
    RIDE ON

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    I tell this story often, but it's one of my favorites of the past year. I had the chance to interview the Texas Hippie Coalition earlier this year at Rock On The Range in Columbus, Ohio. I was in a small tent with a bunch of photographers. The tent was fairly quiet really, as the much bigger adjacent

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  • Sammy Hagar - LITE ROAST

    Image: Sammy Hagar, Lite Roast, NonMetal, Review Sammy Hagar
    LITE ROAST

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    I get it. You are Sammy Hagar. You've seen huge success in virtually every world you've entered. In music, he was the main focus of Montrose. He parlayed that into a very successful solo career. That wasn't enough, so he joined the world's largest band at the time (Van Halen), and took them to commercial heights that even they

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  • Cavalera Conspiracy - PANDEMONIUM

    Image: Cavalera Conspiracy, Pandemonium, Pitriff, Death Metal, Review Cavalera Conspiracy
    PANDEMONIUM

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    There's always good news and bad news whenever Max Cavalera gets busy with new music. The good is that you get a whole lot of new music, seemingly all in a very short time. The bad news is it's generally spotty at best, because he simply writes and releases too much music at the same time. His band Soulfly released

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  • Slipknot - .5 THE GRAY MATTER

    Image: Slipknot, .5 The Gray Matter, Pitriff, CD Review, Modern Metal Slipknot
    .5 THE GRAY MATTER

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    With a ton of speculation and even more wonderment on this band's ability to continue on without founding members Paul Gray and Joey Jordison, Slipknot has returned after far too long of a layoff with .5 THE GRAY MATTER. I've listened to this release multiple times a day for the last week or so that I've had it,

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Gamma Ray - EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD

Image: Gamma Ray, Empire Of The Undead, Pitriff, CD Review, Power MetalGamma Ray
EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD

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My affinity for Gamma Ray really predates the band itself, as it's much more of an appreciation for the vocal work of singer Kai Hansen. Be it with Gamma Ray or his legendary work with his previous band Helloween, Hansen has always been not only one of the most elite vocalists in power metal in my eyes, but one of it's greatest writers. Recent releases like TO THE METAL really missed the mark for me, which is pretty surprising as much as I'm a fan of just about everything Hansen has ever done. with EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD, the band has righted itself somewhat, although this is far from classic Gamma Ray material that you would want, or even expect.

The best thing about EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD is that it's a return to the heavier, thrashy sound that seemed to have evaporated on TO THE METAL. Songs like "Demonseed" have some of the crunchiest guitar work ever shown off by the band, with Kai Hansen and Henjo Richter just slamming through the song with a thick, piercing aggressiveness that just makes the song sound epic and huge. Vocally, Hansen is at the top of his game throughout. He leads the truly brilliant opener "Avalon" with a soaring vocal performance that's as good as anything he's done in the past. The two players are perfectly complemented by bassist Dirk Schlachter and drummer Michael Ehre. They work brilliantly a cohesive unit on "Master Of Confusion" and the speedy, best track on the release, "Seven". For the most part, this is the Gamma Ray of old that I have loved for a long, long time.

While there's a lot of good here, there's some really clunky moments on EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD. Songs like "Pale Rider" are a prime example of it. This may sound stupid coming from a person like me who's well known for profanity, but this songs use of profanity just feels forced. It's also beneath the more cerebral lyrical approach that he's highlighted throughout his career. In short, it just feels like the hook was too short so he threw it in to fill the rhythmic lyrical gap. It doesn't work here. Another song that really grinds me is "Time For Deliverance". This song almost sounds like a compilation of other songs and bands that are out there. I'm not sure if it's showing influences or just blatantly nicking parts, but this one is almost annoying. The song opens with a Y&T-like guitar open, before going into an Iron Maiden meets Queen sound that's really quite distracting. Listening to it over and over, I spent more time trying to figure out just what Queen song it the orchestration feels like, before settling on a close similarity to "We Are The Champions". Sadly, this is not the first time Gamma Ray has done this, as the Maiden sound has crept into several songs over the last few albums.

PITRIFF RATING - 81/100 - When it's good, it's about as brilliant as this band gets. It's diluted with some less than stellar moments, but it's hard to imagine any fan of classic, traditional power metal wouldn't be happy with this release. EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD is a solid power metal effort with some truly great moments.

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.

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

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

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