KINGS AND THIEVES
It's weird going into a record from someone you actually like but fully expecting it to suck. That is the case with KINGS AND THIEVES, the latest from Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate. Having not been a fan of his last two Queensryche albums as well as remembering how abysmal his last solo album was a decade ago, there was a lot of thought that KINGS AND THIEVES would be a train wreck. Add to that all the drama that's been going on with him being ejected from Queensryche, the legal stuff that has followed, and now his all star band that he's calling Queensryche, and you can imagine that thoughts of anything good coming from this solo album were few and far between.
AFTERMATH OF THE LOWDOWN
Richie Sambora is an amazing talent who has wasted so much of that talent by toiling away in Bon Jovi for so many crummy, formulaic albums that followed KEEP THE FAITH. Those albums just seemed like lame, adaptive releases that packed little excitement or energy like the original Bon Jovi albums did. For Sambora though, his work outside of the framework has always been underappreciated by the masses, but consistently excellent. Both STRANGER IN THIS TOWN and UNDISCOVERED SOUL showcased not only a different side of Sambora as a player, but absolutely impressive lead vocals that were worthy of heading up a major rock band all by himself.
30 YEARS OF HEL
After 30 years, you could safely assume that a band still existing but having never had mega-success might just be a tired shell of their former selves. We've all seen these second tier bands reunite and embarrass themselves from time to time because it becomes more about hanging with their buds than it does to being serious about their music and their craft. After 30 years though, it's clear that Helstar might actually have more direction and aggression than they ever exhibited before. Led by diminutive vocalist James Rivera, the ferocity of Helstar is definitely far greater now than it was at any time in their long career. With the release of their new live collection 30 YEARS OF HEL, Rivera and company have proved that they were not only a great band back in the day, but still continue to bring it as strong as any thrasher band out there today.
THE VERY BEAST OF DIO 2
We all recognize the greatness of Dio. There is no denying the fact that he is, arguably, the best metal vocalist in the genre's history. I'm pretty sure that almost any metalhead, be they fans of hair metal or death metal, would ever have a problem hearing a Dio tune cranked up and rockin' their surrounding area. Clearly, he's one of the most missed singers to have passed on.
Talk about your throwback to the 1960s or very early '70s! LEGEND is one of those albums that if you don't listen closely, you might mistake for a long lost '70s Black Sabbath demo had Ronnie James Dio been auditioning for the band that far back. While it doesn't pack the punch of the great Black Sabbath, the vibe and the aura of doom metal is all over this record. To say the least, Witchcraft is not merely a copycat band though. They have their own vibe that gloriously waves the influence of Black Sabbath on it, but also features a more straight forward rock sound that will make you 80s rockers jump for joy. LEGEND is a very cool release.
BLEED & SCREAM
While most bands mellow like wine with age Sweden's Eclipse have followed a different trajectory becoming heavier over the course of their thirteen year career. Bleed & Scream, the band's fourth release, showcases these stellar musicians at the apex of their creativity and aggression. Having slowly shed the melodic hard pop of their early days, this album is pure unadulterated metallic rock of the classiest variety.
Each song glimmers strongly with its own unique identity proving the Swedes have worked hard at evolving their craft rather than finding a "formula" and riding it out. Stand out tracks like "Bleed & Scream" "SOS" "Wake Me Up" & "A Bitter Taste" are as different from one another as they are from any other bands in the melodic metal scene. After a decade of writing, this skill deserves more applause than it gets.
IV: PART 1, THE PURPLE EP
Of all the guys from Pantera, it really is surprising that Philip Anselmo was the one to emerge and find the most success after that band. We all know what happened to Dimebag, but Vinnie Paul's decision to join an average to below average Supergroup and Rex Brown's recent move to the decent but not going anywhere band Kill Devil Hill leaves Anselmo as the lone guy still making music that a lot of the Pantera fans actually love and respect. Returning from the great but disappointing album OVER THE UNDER (disappointing because the production was so God awful), Anselmo and his southern fried project Down are back with the first of a multi-installment set of releases. THE PURPLE EP is exactly what you would expect from Down, especially if you were a fan of DOWN II: A BUSTLE IN YOUR HEDGEROW.
It's been a long road for Dokken. They have had more than their share of turmoil throughout the years. The feud between Don Dokken and George Lynch is one of the most famous feuds in the history of rock music. They've had great albums, and let's be honest, they've had a couple of true duds as well. The band "Dokken" now only contains namesake Don Dokken (and sometimes Wild Mick Brown) from the original band. Don has toured relentlessly for over 30 years now, and that once crystal clear voice has lost it's top end now. So, clearly, the deck is stacked against Dokken now to produce a solid collection of musical hits.
BEST IN SHOW
Jackyl is just one of those bands that you pretty much have to love, aren't they? They really haven't done a damn thing different in 20 years. There's not a note of music on the latest album, BEST IN SHOW, that wouldn't have fit perfectly on their debut album...or any of the other ones for that matter. In short, Jackyl have had a nice career being the poor man's, southern fried version of AC/DC. Some may find that to be insulting, but my bet is that if this review finds it's way to Jesse James Dupree, he'll just smile, snicker and go, "fuck yeah. He gets it."
DIG IN DEEP
Tyketto is one of those bands from the 80s that I always liked, but really never caught on very much. They had a couple hits that were cool, but even their best songs like "Forever Young" and "Seasons" were marginally successful at best. The band was a highlight reel for former Waysted vocalist Danny Vaughn, who shined and ended up building a solid solo career outside of Tyketto in the AOR world when Tyketto disbanded.
They are back with the original lineup I'm told, and interestingly, DIG IN DEEP is exactly what they've always produced. It's an album full of solid tunes that aren't especially memorable, yet feature some great playing and even better vocals. Simply put, Vaughn is a great singer. His voice is pretty much a mish mosh of Survivor vocalist Jimi Jamison and Thunder lead man Danny Bowes. He sounds great as always here on songs like the mid-tempo, yet punchy "Here's Hoping It Hurts". The thing to remember though is that while Vaughn is a great singer, he never has a distinctive moment like either Bowes or Jamison do to separate their vocals from the music. Vaughn is certainly clear vocally and clean throughout, but there's no memorable or emotional moment where you latch onto any song on the disc. Songs like "Love To Love" are nice songs, but really fall into the unmemorable category five minutes after listening to them.