Red Dragon Cartel
RED DRAGON CARTEL
Jake E. Lee - where have you been for the past two decades? Calling it the way it is, Jake E. Lee was one of the most recognizable sounds in hard rock/heavy metal for about five or six years. His work with Ozzy Osbourne on BARK AT THE MOON and THE ULTIMATE SIN were signatures to the Prince Of Darkness' biggest commercial success. He then moved onto Badlands, which is one of those bands that never got huge even though most now agree that it was one of the very best and most timeless bands of the late 80s and early 90s. In both cases, it was Jake's HUGE sound that propelled these projects. After that though, he was gone. Sure, there was the occasional sighting, like his solo A FINE PINK MIST release and then a somewhat surprise appearance on Enuff Z'nuff's DISSONANCE release, but ultimately the question of "where is Jake E. Lee" became one of folklore in the hard rock and heavy metal community.
DELIVERING THE BLACK
There are so many great bands out there that don't get nearly the credit they deserve. At the top of the list of those power metal bands without their just credit is Primal Fear. Since the late '90s, Primal Fear has been delivering powerful collections of iron that has been overlooked by the mainstream, but has hit the mark repeatedly to us old schoolers who wanted something new, yet cut from the same cloth as the great Judas Priest. While they have never put out a bad release, the last two or three have strayed away from the vintage sound they started with and looked to find a bit more mainstream crossover. That seems to have been pushed away this time though, as Primal Fear has reverted back to the classic sound of their first 3 releases. Without question, DELIVERING THE BLACK is the best release the band has done since then...maybe ever. In short, DELIVERING THE BLACK is as close to a perfect metal release as it gets. Welcome to 2014, folks!
Fist Fight In The Parking Lot
YEAR OF THE OX
Wow, here's one that's unexpected. With a name that sounds like one of these bad emocore bands of the modern day, Fist Fight In The Parking Lot is a deep, heavy and damn near perfect doom metal band that breaks the mold by adding a female vocalist to the front of their thick, heavy sludge. There's a lot to say here, but the main word that keeps coming to mind is, simply, "wow"! As we march our way into 2014, it's clear that Fist Fight In The Parking Lot are the first new band to land on my radar for the upcoming year. YEAR OF THE OX just flat out rocks!
RAISING MY OWN HELL
I can't tell you the number of strange looks I've received over the years when I claim two of my top five hair bands of all time to be Love/Hate and Little Angels. The overwhelming look of confusion is only equaled by the number of people that simple say, "who the fuck is that?" Little Angels was, without question, the single most underappreciated band of the hair band era. In a time that saw Def Leppard become one of the biggest bands ever, it simply should have been Little Angels. They were better musicians. They wrote much stronger songs than Leppard did with HYSTERIA on forward. They didn't sell out to make it. Most importantly, their singer Toby Jepson was just flat out better. I've always felt that "Don't Pray For Me" and "Broken Wings Of An Angel" are two of the very best ballads ever recorded in an era where careers were cemented based on a solid ballad (Motley Crue, Poison, Mr. Big, Warrant, Skid Row all found their groove based on huge ballads). It's been a lot of years since then, and big success always eluded Jepson and Little Angels, but RAISING MY OWN HELL proves that nothing has been lost with this vocalist.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have a bias toward supporting anything that says "Love/Hate" on the cover of it. Without any question, Love/Hate was my favorite band of the entire 80s "hair metal" era. Not Motley Crue. Not Warrant. Not Winger. Not Cinderella. Not those poseur bitches in Poison. Love/Hate was the band for me, and the reasons were very obvious. Of all the hair farmer bands, Love/Hate was the band that sang about things that were closer to where I was at the time. While the other bands were focused on sex and the party, Love/Hate was a lot more street level and focused a lot more on the boozing and pot early on...which is where I was at. "Fuel To Run", "One More Round", "Wasted In America" - all these songs hit home for me in the early '90s when they came out. Interestingly though, as the project became much more of a Jizzy Pearl thing than the original lineup, the music has matured and has stayed in sync with how I've grown as a person. His solo albums have produced songs like "Hit And Miss' that are relatable to me, as are other songs like "Do You Believe In Miracles" from LET'S RUMBLE as the career has progressed. Back with an EP called CRUCIFIED, Pearl and the formerly named Love/Hate has stayed in step with my musical taste.
Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock
BRIDGE THE GAP
Michael Schenker is one of those guys where you either are 1000% in,or you really don't care at all about what he's doing. To me personally, I've just never understood the incredible amount of hype surrounding him. I get that he made a huge mark on the rock world with UFO and a somewhat less statement with Scorpions, but in the end, I can listen to either of those bands or anything since and really not hear anything earth shattering on guitar. Eddie Van Halen he's not. Still, there are tons of people that worship him, so good for him for finding such a strong allegiance.
DARKNESS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT
Fates Warning are a band that has a ton of talent, but it's never been realized by the masses for one reason - they were always a bit too crafty for their own good. In many ways, they remind me of a better musical version of bands like Rush or Dream Theater. While the band is clearly filled with musicians that are as talented as any that are working today, they almost always over-extended their chops both musically and in writing material to a point that the masses just couldn't easily consume and "get" what they were about. The result is that they never got big while other bands raced to the top of the niche they fall into. The results have been releases like AWAKEN THE GUARDIAN, DISCONNECTED and A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY; albums that their core audience love, but just didn't have any real "hit" potential to break them past their niche audience. DARKNESS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT is their most straightforward effort since they debuted in the 80s, but it's a little too late at this point. That said, this is a seriously solid Fates Warning album.
IN THE MINDS OF EVIL
Am I the only one that remembers when Florida was THE place for brilliant death metal? That is definitely a ghost from the past, as the major players from that era have seemingly all faded away (or, at a minimum are putting out subpar material). One of those bands that was considered a leader of that pack was Deicide, and much like your Morbid Angels and Obituarys of the Florida world, their music has become little more than tired, regurgitated crud that will draw people to the clubs based solely on their past instead of anything they are doing now. IN THE MINDS OF EVIL feels like a glass of drinking water that you know was recycled from your neighbor's toilet. It may have the feeling that it's refreshing, but you just sense that it's not truly fresh.
LIFE, LOVE & HOPE
Boston is one of those bands that, as a fan, has just been one of the most frustrating to follow. Their career has been so sporadic musically and so infrequent release-wise that they literally tanked their career for the sake of the creative musings of their leader, guitarist Tom Scholz. To be pretty honest, they haven't done anything that's been that great since the THIRD STAGE release, which came back in 1986. Following the death of vocalist Brad Delp, they seemed like they may just be over, but were resurrected in the live setting by Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet. Sweet has since left, but new vocalist Tommy DiCarlo seems to be a pretty good clone of Delp sonically. So, onward does the Boston spaceship sail.
THE FINAL REVOLUTION
In almost every subgenre of heavy metal, there's a band where you just know what you are going to get before you ever listen to a note of new music from the band. In hard rock, it's AC/DC. In modern rock/metal, it would be Disturbed. In death metal, you could point to Six Feet Under, Cannibal Corpse or just about anyone else. In hardcore, it's definitely Pro-Pain. Before ever playing a single note of THE FINAL REVOLUTION, I had the strongest idea of what was coming. Needless to say, my hunch was correct. THE FINAL REVOLUTION is exactly as advertised. It's violent. It's a clear spit into the face of authority. In short, it's Pro-Pain.