He was the "metal" in Metallica for years and years. He added credibility to a pretty much dead band like Voivod, as well as finances so they could produce a couple of fine albums along the way. Hell, he was the creative force behid Flotsam & Jetsam; a band that I love but clearly wasn't the same after DOOMSDAY FOR THE DECEIVER when he left. And yet, with all his heralded accomplishments, Jason Newsted somehow finds himself at a crossroads where he has to come out and prove himself and his metal merits once again. Newsted told me last month that he keeps the mindset always that he's only as good as his next record, no matter what the past has proven. Clearly, this is one guy that could rest on his laurels and his mountain of money and do whatever he wants. With all that said though, he returns with a simply smoldering EP that's as strong as anything he's done in the past.
THE SAVAGE PLAYGROUND
For 80s metalheads, there are two types of people. There are the type that stand firm by the explosion of Nirvana onto the scene as the moment when all future music stopped being good, and there are those that are always looking for new and exciting music that maintains that melodic, fun spirit that the 80s produced. For me, I fall into the latter category. Any band that's trying to recapture that fun, rockin' spirit that the 80s unleashed on the world will always get my ear. There's good and bad for these newer bands. On the bad side, there's always the old bands that prove that they've hung on too long, or new bands that poorly recreate the look and don't have the music to back it. Then there are some really good bands out there that really capture it without becoming a spoof band like Steel Panther. Crashdiet are one of those bands that get it. While many wrote them off with the death of vocalist Dave Lepard, this band has really put it back together. Their latest, THE SAVAGE PLAYGROUND, is about as solid a classic metal sounding release as you will ever hear.
Blue Sky Riders
The term "supergroup" is thrown around very loosely these days. In the most general terms, most people associate that term with a collection of "name" players. By name, we generally mean famous. Certainly, if a band was formed featuring Mick Jagger, Joe Perry, John Paul Jones and Neil Peart, that would qualify in the broadest terms as a "supergroup". That said though, peripheral fame is all relative, while a collection of unquestioned talent that has had tremendous success in the music industry should also be considered as a "supergroup". For many reasons, Blue Sky Riders are a musical supergroup. They do have a very name player in Kenny Loggins, but probably more impressively they have a unheralded in public yet legendary songwriter in Country Music Hall Of Famer Gary Burr, and a tremendous, well heard songwriter who's written massive hits for other artists in Georgia Middleman gracing this group.
Soundgarden were one of those grunge bands that really just "got" it. Unlike bands like Nirvana who put their desolate life imagery in front of their music, Soundgarden was always musical first, attitude second. Without question, vocalist Chris Cornell portrayed a lot of pain and passion in his soul, but he also was quickly regarded as one of the best vocalists of the era. While they were always pretty good musically, they were a band though that was erratic at best in the live setting. I saw the band at least 12 times, and I'd say they were 50/50 good to bad live. They played masterfully at the greatest concert of my lifetime (Day On The Green '91 with Faith No More, Queensryche and Metallica), and they played absolutely horribly at times (most notable - Lollapalooza tour). Still, even when they went away, their albums BAD MOTERFINGER. SUPERUNKNOWN and DOWN FROM THE UPSIDE have stayed in fairly recent rotation in my iPod.
ALL OUT WAR
Any time you put the "Cavalera" name on a project, I'm always going to be willing to give it a chance. Sure, I know that this is not Max or Igor Cavalera, but it's still a Cavalera, and metal with that name on it has yet to truly disappoint me. Max Cavalera's son Richie has emerged with the band Incite - a band that's been given every break the Cavalera tree can give it in order to gain some traction in the underground world. While I'm yet to see any real buzz come of that, it's very clear that growing up as part of the Cav Clan has shown young Richie just what it takes to create powerful modern extreme metal. ALL OUT WAR is a solid collection of tunes, and a good sophomore effort for a band that's going to have to overcome the stigma of association with a metal legend in order to make their own mark. So far, so good.
Without question, Ektomorf's last two albums, BLACK FLAG and THE ACOUSTIC, are the one-two punch of disappointment that makes me really hate when bands forget what made them good in the first place. To be clear, I'm well aware that this is a band that's never been big and never will be, but every decade I tend to latch onto a few bands that never make it big but just kick my ass each and every time out. Bands like Skinlab and Stuck Mojo have filled that void previously for me, and up until recently, Ektomorf was one of those acts. They were my favorite Soulfly sounding band that filled the rare void between Cavalera albums. THE ACOUSTIC was a disastrous mistake in my opinion, as Ektomorf is just one of those bands that you don't want to hear play acoustically. Back to being heavy with BLACK FLAG, it's apparent there weren't a lot of fresh ideas this time around.
MUSIC FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION
I think I waited just long enough to review this album. My initial reaction to MUSIC FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION was one of absolute hatred. Once again, as Aerosmith has done for me every single time since PUMP, they claimed their album to be something that it just didn't live up to. This time, it was six months of claims that they were returning to their roots and writing a new ROCKS or TOYS IN THE ATTIC. What they delivered was, once again, a lot closer to GET A GRIP or NINE LIVES. It was certainly disappointing, as Aerosmith is much like Metallica in my book - a band who's music I actually WANT to like, but far too often don't.
MACHINE FUCKING HEAD LIVE
Machine Head is one of the most intense live metal acts out there today. To me, they have filled the void that was vacated by Pantera's demise and the softening of Metallica as a live act. While this band is the single most plagued band on the planet healthwise, when they do hit the stage they are as intense an experience as you can ever witness. Additionally, they have a catalog that has a lot of brilliance in it, and for the most part they pull primarily from the better stuff when they take to the live stage.
You know, I regularly get my ass kicked by readers and friends for claiming that Kid Rock is the most talented, and best artist out there today that's making music. That's fine. I know that as primarily a metalhead, I'm supposed to loathe what Kid Rock stands for. Let's face it, he did make his mark as a rapper, and then sold that out to do what he actually wanted to do, which was make primarily rock music. I guess I see that. I also guess I don't care. I thought he was really good as a rapper. I think he's better as a modern day classic rock artist. The one thing that's never changed with Kid Rock has been his attitude. He's done whatever he wanted from day 1, and he's made it big in spite of the expectations that people in the industry throw on him. Every album now comes with a heavy dose of "fuck you" combined with a side order of "you don't know shit" that he happily throws in the face of an industry that's hellbent on defining trends instead of listening to fans and their desires. Thank God for Kid Rock.
In Alcatraz 1962
Standby Records is one of those labels putting out modern metal where they are pretty much hit or miss with me. They have put out some bands like Hopes Die Last, Modern Day Escape and Davey Suicide who's music I have completely dug. Then again, there are other bands like Blessed By A Burden or Emergency 911 that have just sucked balls. With that label, there really is no middle ground. Add In Alcatraz 1962 to the "completely dug" list. THE DRIVE is a fairly simple, extremely punishing and yet sonically excellent dose of hammer smashes to the face. Without question, THE DRIVE is one of those releases that leaves me thinking there is hope for the next generation of metal bands.