Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Great White Infests Roanoke Bike Show

There was something in the air last month on April 10. Maybe it was all those exhaust fumes from all the motorcycles gathered for the Blue Ridge Bike Festival at the Roanoke Civic Center. Then again, maybe it was aroma of aqua net and spandex that gathered outside waiting for the doors to open. The scene outside was almost like a time warp: excessively teased hair, over applied eyeliner and very tight pants. Actually, that was just most of the guys!

That night's entertainment saw two of the best "hair bands" from the eighties on the same stage as Great White and Dokken were there to rock the crowd. Great White's career has been all over the radar throughout their thirty plus year career. The band gained national exposure in the late 1980s with several MTV friendly videos and songs that rode the "hairband" wave of popularity. Their popularity declined a bit in the 1990s but they continued to tour strongly and release new material. In 2003, they received national exposure again, but for all the wrong reasons. A club that they were playing at in West Warwick, Rhode Island caught fire due to a deadly combination of pyro that the band were using and foam soundproofing material that was behind the stage. 100 people dies in that accident including the band's guitarist Ty Longley.

Most of Great White's "classic lineup" is still intact with Jack Russell on vocals, Mark Kendall on guitar, Michael Lardie on guitar and keyboards, Audie Desbrow on drums and Scott Snyder on bass. The show was definitely a stripped down version of their eighties tours with less lights and no pyro techniques at all. This allowed the focus to be on the music: less style, more substance.

One couldn't help but notice that lead singer Jack Russell came out on stage on crutches and sat on a stool for most of the band's performance. In a meet and greet with the band after their set, Jack told me, "I just out of the hospital a few days ago from back surgery. I figured, going out on the road and performing for our fans was going to be more fun than some morphine drip!"

Jack didn't let his setback hinder his vocal performance. He may not look the part that he did in the 1980s and 1990s, but that voice of his is still just as magical. The band has been known for its bluesy style of metal and they haven't lost a step.
The band ripped through such classic cuts as "Rock Me" and "Call It Rock And Roll". A personal highlight of mine was "Save Your Love" during which Jack's vocals were insane! This man still has a set of pipes on him! The band was very tight and proved why, after 30 plus years of touring and recording, that they are still around.

The crowd was very into the band's set from the beginning through the "who would have guessed it?" encore of "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and actually were hungry for even more! It's always great to see bands like this who resist to roll over and play dead just because their style of music isn't the flavor of the week. Great White does this because they love to do it, not because it's the cool thing to do. That's why the industry today has too many "here today, gone today" artists. Great White is a rare breed that is true to its calling....true rock and roll pioneers.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ashes Of Erin Scorches The Arizona Desert

The sun in Arizona is known to be smoldering hot and not much can grow in its desert like conditions, until now. Ashes of Erin, a group a five separately influenced individuals with a common motive: to create a sound unlike anything they had ever heard before. The band consists of Jenna Slate on lead vocals, Bryan Diehl on guitar, Josh Rafferty on guitar, Drew Alnas on bass and vocals and Andy Schroeder on drums. The band was named after a friend of theirs named Erin who was a huge supporter of their local scene early on. She died of cancer in 2007 and her husband suggested to Bryan, as they were spreading her ashes out in California, that they should name the band after her. They all agreed that it would be a great way to honor her for her support.

Ashes Of Erin began forming back in the summer of 2007. Josh and Bryan were in a band together and decided to leave to start forming their own band. Drew and Josh had been friends for a very long time and had even played together in another band. The guys saw Jenna performing with a friends band and asked her to come down and audition. She then proceeded to belt out the heaviest of all the songs that the band had and they knew then that they had found their new lead singer. They found their solid foundation in November of 2008 when Andy answered an ad that he saw on My Space.

I spoke with Jenna and Bryan to learn more about the group and how they got to where they are now. "The recording of this Cd was a nightmare....Ha ha! Seriously though, we started recording the album with some of our old members. It was almost finished by the time that Andy joined the group, but we decided that the sound had changed drastically just from him joining. So, we thought that it would be best to scrap that recording entirely and start over. we re-recorded everything at the beginning of 2009. Those sessions were a lot of fun though. Byron, who recorded the album, was a blast to work with and we worked very hard with him to achieve the sound we wanted on the album."

The five members of the band bring a very diverse mixture of styles and influences, from the Human waste Project to eighties rock to death metal, that mesh together to help form a unique twist to the common metal core style. Jenna's vocals run the gauntlet from gut wrenching growls to a very melodic vocal styling. One moment she sings to steal your heart away and the next she's screaming like she's going to rip it out of your chest! The band's music style also crosses back and forth across the "typical" metal core stylings. The band mixes aggressive, fast paced lines with slower, more melodic ones, henceforth creating a style that is very unique to this growing style.

Their CD entitled "This Somber Eve" is an assault on the ears of mind. The opening title track is an instrumental that kicks the door down at the end and explodes into the song "I". Jenna vocals run all over the board her ands sets the pace to let the listener know to expect the unexpected.Other standout cuts include "Abnormal Drifter", "One Pill Kill" and my favorite "Denounce The Air", which I think is Jenna's stellar vocal performance. "'Distorted Revelation' is probably our most "radio-friendly" song we have on the album. It is my favorite because of the meaning behind the lyrics. Most of my lyrics are fictional stories but this one was based off a traumatic event that happened to me so I think I'm more emotional when I sing it," stated Jenna.

"I think Distorted stands out a bit from the rest because of it's mainstream sound. But my personal favorite is probably Dead Fish. That one is just so brutal and fun to play," responded Bryan.

The musicianship in the band is also top notch. Bryan and Josh definitely trade off some intense guitar licks. In the meantime, the back beat propelled by the rhythm duo of Drew and Andy help to maintain that driving aggressive attitude that is expected from this band.

As my last question, I always ask the bands that I interview what CD they would want with them if they were trapped on desert island. Jenna replied with, "It would be 'E-lux' by the Human Waste Project. Seriously, one of the best Cd's that I have ever heard. I totally wish they were still around."

Bryan said, "That's a tough one! I think I'd have to take a Pink Floyd album, maybe 'The Wall', since it's a double disc."

"This Somber Eve" is a CD that will certainly appeal to lovers of the metal core style of music, but it is also diverse enough to cross over that line to appeal to fans of other stylings of new rock. It is fast, furious and in your face metal. Be prepared when you push will grab you by your neck and demand your attention through it's entirety. It is most definitely a workout of epic proportions on your senses.