TIME TRAVELERS & BONFIRES
Sevendust are really a band for the fans, and the fans are definitely always there for the band. Case in point - their latest release TIME TRAVELERS & BONFIRES. This release is one paid for by the latest trend hitting the music business, pre-funding by the fans to pay for a project. The band asked for a lot for this campaign, and got 245% funding from their fans in return. So what did Sevendust do with that money? Well, they created a very cool release that, while different from anything they've ever done studio-wise, is about as good as anything they've created to date. An acoustic release featuring fix new tracks and acoustic reworkings of some of their most popular material, TIME TRAVELERS & BONFIRES connects on every level with the established fanbase. For a band that gets so much from their fans, that's just what you would expect.
RONNIE JAMES DIO: THIS IS YOUR LIFE
As much as I want to take this at face value, it's hard to not at least wonder just how many times Wendy Dio is going to visit the Dio well and mine more material culled from his past work. There's already been multiple live releases, deluxe reissues, an officially sanctioned band playing the music of Dio...and now second tribute collection of music from people other than Dio performing his work (the first being Jorn Lande's DIO release). I'm almost expecting a release of special rare interviews or voice mails to come at this point. Still, it's their business what they put out, and ours to merely judge it. So that said, we now have RONNIE JAMES DIO: THIS IS YOUR LIFE. While it has some real heavyweights performing on it, it's pretty much like every other tribute album you'll get. It's a hodge podge of covers. Some are good. Some aren't. Big surprise, right?
It's not very often that a band that has zero backing behind it sweeps in and just monopolizes my listening time. Generally, bands like Red Reign get 30 seconds as I quickly scan through their music and I'm on to something else that I'm getting pressured to review by a publicist. For Red Reign, I was asked to review this as a favor for my Classic Metal Show co-host Neeley, which quite honestly is the only reason this one ever hit my player in the first place. Good call on his part though, as it's been the only disc in my player for days now. CHASING SHADOWS is a hard rocker full of nasty guitar driven metal that falls somewhere between the heavier Van Halen songs and a bunch of the better modern metal stuff out there today. Red Reign has quickly become a band that I need to know more about.
ALL YOU CAN EAT
They certainly are the joke that just keeps on being retold and being funny, now aren't they? I'm sure there's a lot less people that remember them as Metal Shop, Metal Skool or even way back to the Danger Kitty days, but a whole lot more people have discovered this band since they adopted the name Steel Panther. Having now honed their mock 80s craft as well as their lyrics about fucking stupid chicks, Steel Panther have returned with their most developed, best musical and yet still ridiculously silly lyrical experience to date. In the same fashion they have always chosen, ALL YOU CAN EAT goes to the most outlandish places to talk about getting pussy as it was experienced in the 80s "rock star" scene. Once again, it just works for these guys.
GIVE 'EM HELL
It seems like every time Sebastian Bach releases new music, the first thought that comes to my mind is "this dude comes off like a douchebag ALOT in interviews, but he just kicks ass musically." Amazing how that comes back around. Baz is back, and he's been saying some interesting things in recent interviews. Yet, just ignoring that silliness and digging into his latest, GIVE 'EM HELL, he hits the proverbial musical home run. Easily the best release of his solo career and only topped in my eyes by SLAVE TO THE GRIND from his era of Skid Row, GIVE 'EM HELL is a blistering yet surprisingly melodic hard rock/heavy metal release. Not that I'm surprised since I pretty much loved ANGEL DOWN and KICKING AND SCREAMING, but this is still about five steps beyond those releases. Fans of Bach are sure to be VERY well entertained.
EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD
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.
Adrian Vandenberg and Jake E. Lee have seemingly the same career path. Both were great in super huge bands (Vandenberg in Whitesnake, Lee in Ozzy), recorded even better material when they broke away (Lee with Badlands, Vandenberg with Manic Eden), and then both walked away and just left music behind for awhile. Now, both are back. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel is pretty solid, but it doesn't hold a candle to the new release from Vandenberg's MoonKings. Sort of a hybrid between 80s metal and 70s blues rock (think Zeppelin or even some Rolling Stones), this release comes as quite a surprise to people that are thinking they would find another big Whitesnake sounding album has been brewing with Vandenberg as he sat in seclusion for almost 20 years. In short, this release is probably not for the younger generation at all, but that takes nothing away from it. For those of us with a more classic rock slant to our musical taste, this is about as good as it gets.
II: VOID WORSHIP
In the epic world of doom metal, there are a lot of pretenders. There are only a few that are truly authentic though. Pilgrim is one of the most authentic I think I've ever heard. Their grinding, slow moving sludge is such from which legends put on this Earth to slay anyone or anything in it's path. Made up of The Wizard on vocals, guitars and bass and Krolg (Slayer Of Men) on drums, PILGRIM have created an behemoth of a release that's almost too heavy to listen to in a single sitting. From start to finish, the tempo of VOID WORSHIP rarely changes. It's slow, methodical and constant. If you took a regular song, hooked an anchor to each band member, and had them drag it around as they played it, this is what it would sound like near the end. Take that as a good thing, because the material fits this tempo. Tracks like "Void Worship" and "The Paladin" are intense listening experiences which simply grind out awesomeness from start to finish.
NO HOPE, NO ESCAPE VOL. 1: WELCOME TO MY WAR
Being from the Cleveland area, I've seen a lot of bands get ignored for whatever reason. On the national side of things, most people look at bands north of Columbus as being from "Cleveland". Unfortunately though, that's not how it works. For as long as I've been in this scene, there were Akron bands and there were Cleveland bands. Even though it's only about a 30 mile drive, they have long been separated. That may not seem like a big deal, but when you factor in the difficulty to get the more quality gigs and exposure from Cleveland vs. Akron, you ended up seeing a lot of bands from Akron that just didn't get the appropriate amount of love on the national level. Looking back a decade or so when both scenes were both thriving, bands like Spawn, Funny, Funnel and NDE all failed to find record deals when they were superior to a good amount of those that did find success at that level. Hatecore Inc. is another that falls into that category.
Some points of clarity before I write a single world about the new project KXM, in order that this review is understood and evaluated fairly by anyone reading it. This project features three guys - Dug Pinnick of King's X, George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, and Ray Luzier who is currently the drummer for Korn. Out of fairness, I'll allow the following for this review. First, I'm not a fan of Dug Pinnick's music at all. I've interviewed him several times (I think five times, actually), and he's a super cool guy, but musically I've just never, ever gotten King's X as much as I've wanted to understand why so many just worship them. In many ways, King's X falls into that category that Dream Theater does for me - that I just don't understand the appeal of. As for Lynch, again putting it out there, I work for Dokken as their webmaster and also for current Dokken guitarist Jon Levin as his as well. That said, I think Lynch has the distinction of not only recording some of the best music of the "hair era and beyond (because LYNCH/PILSON was by far his best recorded work), but he's also recorded two of the worst albums of all time in my ears in Dokken's SHADOWLIFE and Lynch Mob's SMOKE THIS. I haven't liked much of Lynch's work in a long time, as Microdot, Souls of We and other stuff I'm sure I'm missing have just not been very good. As for Luzier, I think I met him once at a David Lee Roth show in the late 90s, enjoyed the DLR Band album he played on, like Korn, and also remember that he had some sort of association with Darren Householder from one of my favorite bands that never made it big, Love/Hate. So there, it's on the table.