Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011

Hello there fellow music lovers. We are closing the chapter of our lives known as 2011 and beginning a new one with 2012. It seems as if everyone comes up with some sort of “Best of” or “Worst” list for the year and yes, I am no exception. Here are my Top 10 Favorite Albums that were released in 2011. It’s not based on popularity or overall sales or any kind of survey. This is just a list of what moved me in 2011 and let me tell you, it was hard narrowing it down to 10.

10. Peter Gabriel – New Blood: This album contains orchestral re-workings of songs spanning Peter’s career. The songs really take on a whole new life with this rich production and help to re-emphasize how prolific of a songwriter Gabriel really is.

9. Five Finger Death Punch – American Capitalist: Ivan and the boys returned with a huge album this year as it entered the Billboard Top 200 in the Top 10. Of course, there with many who cried “sell-out” when this album was released and it appealed to the masses. I think there is still plenty of aggression there on many tracks just like in earlier releases. Maybe it’s the fact that there are two songs that would fall under the “ballad” label. Regardless, these guys have worked very hard to get to the level that they are at right now and deserve the success they are experiencing.

8. The Foo Fighters – Wasting Light: What a huge year for the Foos! A huge album, a successful tour that included playing alongside many of their idols including Alice Cooper, Roger Taylor of Queen, Joan Jett and John Paul Jones, just to name a few. They received 6 Grammy nominations too! Earlier in the year, they were the musical guests on SNL and Dave even appeared in one of their skits.

7. Sixx A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt: Nikki’s “side project” just seems to keep getting bigger and bigger. The follow-up to the hugely successful Heroin Diaries came blazing out of the starter’s gate and hasn’t slowed up. “Lies of the Beautiful People” was a huge hit and got the fans clamoring for a tour, even though Nikki has stated that the band is not suppose to be a touring band. I guess time will tell!

6. Anthrax – Worship Music: 1/4th of the Big 4 and one of the pioneers of thrash metal who have been an active force in music for almost 30 years. 2011 saw them release what many have called their defining album. Worship Music saw the return of Joey Belladonna and a return to more of their trademark, classic sound. The band sounds fresh and refocused and their album was met with raving reviews from fans and critics alike. They also played 2 US dates with the Big 4 including a show at Yankee Stadium. The band then ventured out on a very successful headlining tour with Testament as support.

5. Shinedown – Somewhere In the Stratosphere: The band released this as a 2CD/DVD combo with one CD/DVD being an all electric show and the other CD/DVD being an all acoustic show. It was also released in a single CD/DVD combo so the customer could choose which show they would rather have. I love both shows, but the acoustic show is just something magical. Lead singer Brent Smith introduces each song and tells the origins of how the song came about. To take these songs and to strip them down acoustically just shows how special these guys truly are. The music is amazing, but this allows the storyteller side of Brent to truly shine.

4. Adele – 21: Although radio overplayed “Rolling in the Deep” to the point of over toleration, I am still a huge fan of this album. I was sold on Adele with her first album 19 and this just made me an even bigger fan. Her cover of the Cure’s “Lovesong” is just incredible. She appeared on the David Letterman show earlier this year and I was totally blown away with how powerful her voice was live. It was a bit alarming when I heard that she was undergoing throat surgery this year. I mean she is just in her twenties and shouldn’t be having such problems at an early age. All that smoking must have really taken its toll on her! She ended the year by releasing a CD/DVD combo Live at the Royal Albert Hall that really showcased just how special this talented singer truly is.

3. Warrant – Rockaholic: The “down boys” returned in a major way with their first album since Born Again in 2006 and with a new vocalist too. Former Lynch Mob vocalist Robert Mason took over vocal duties on this one and it was a great fit for everyone. The album was reminiscent of that old 80s sound, complete with power ballads, but it still managed to sound current. The first single “Life’s a Song” got the attention of quite a few fans, both young and old. The band didn’t commit to a full tour in 2011, but they did play quite a few live dates.

2. Kopek – White Collar Lies: This Irish trio came out of nowhere in 2011 and created a major buzz. Their debut album White Collar Lies is good, ole fashioned rock and roll and blues with catchy riffs and choruses and meaningful lyrics that show this band is far beyond typical or predictable. They released videos for the title track and “Love is Dead” that were soon all over the internet and other video outlets. They secured the opening spot on the Hinder/Saving Abel/My Darkest Days tour early in the year. Even though they played to venues that were only half full at the most given their early slot, they won crowds over on each stop of the tour.

1. Duran Duran – All You Need is Now: The Wild Boys, minus Andy, returned with an album that saw them return to their old school sound thanks to the production efforts of Mark Ronson. He has been a fan of Duran for a very long time and wanted them to record the “Son of Rio”. The album definitely had that classic Duran vibe to it with John Taylor’s trademark bass providing the backbeat and Nick Rhodes’ countless layers of synth melodies. The band released it exclusively on iTunes for a few months before releasing a physical copy to the retail stores and online. The album debuted at number one on the iTunes charts all around the world. The band went out on a successful tour only to be cut short when Simon suffered from a throat ailment. The band later returned to make up the dates that were cancelled. They even performed a highly viewed concert broadcast on VEVO that was directed by the renowned David Lynch. The second single and video released, “Girl Panic”, caused a bit of a media sensation as it starred several iconic female supermodels that each portrayed a different member of the band. The video was even banned in certain markets for being “too sexy” if you can believe that! The guys have proven that they still have plenty of creativity in them after 30 years of creating countless classics.

So, there you have it! My personal Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011. You may agree with some and you may disagree too. If you haven’t heard any of these, then I encourage you to take a little time out of your busy schedule and stop and listen to them. Who knows, you may actually get turned onto something that at first you thought you would never like. I hope to see you back here in 2012 to see what that year brought us in music!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Papa Roach Pledges Their Rock Allegiance

The Rock Allegiance Tour is a new tour package this year featuring a bunch of old
friends and touring mates. It also features quite a bit of familiar “radio
hits” for a rock show. Papa Roach is one band responsible many of them. Jacoby
and the boys are co-headlining the tour with Buckcherry. I was fortunate to
catch lead guitarist Jerry Horton in between a meet and greet with fans and
dinner at a show in Winston Salem, NC recently. Jerry caught me up to speed
with the goings on in the world of Papa Roach.

Hey Jerry, thanks again for taking the time this afternoon to talk to us. I know things have been a little hectic with the meet and greet and sound check and
everything. I am sure that not every day on the tour is this hectic. How have
things been so far?

Yeah, today has been a little hectic! I just met someone at the meet and greet who is coming to see us seven shows in a row. That’s amazing! The tour has been going really well and we have been playing to about 5000-6000 fans each night. We’re good
friends with all the bands on the tour and it’s been a lot of fun. This is the
first time that we have actually been able to have a set on stage too. The
feedback is that overall; it’s a really good show.

You guys are still touring off of Time for Annihilation. Have you begun to look forward to the next album?

Oh yeah,this is the last tour for this record cycle and we are going to take a month
off and start writing for the new record. We will probably take about six
months to write and record this time. We usually take about three months for
the entire process, but we’re going to take our time and make sure everything
is right.

Do you have a time frame that you are shooting for as far as a release goes?

We are hoping to have it out by fall of next year. That’s what we are shooting for.

This tour is a new package deal this year. Do you have any say so on a package like this or do you just go where the suits tell you to?

We have a little say so on something like this. There are the people who own the rights to the name of the tour and they did approach us and asked for our input on who should be on it. I think this tour is an amazing package; there are a ton of
radio hits up and down the entire package.

You guys are alternating with Buckcherry on closing the show each night, so you guys both get an hour. How tough is it to pick a set list when you only have that short of an amount of time?

It’s basically all of the radio songs; that’s what it ends up being with a short set
like that. Obviously, it’s a lot better when we have time to do a full set, but
it is what it is.

You guys tour like crazy when you release an album and you seem to stay on the road forever. What are the best and worst parts of being on the road?

The best part is the show and the worst part is being away from family.

What about the food? You guys seem to be in great shape and that has to be tough with eating on the road.

Yeah, the food can be quite treacherous at times. You have to try and be choosey, but
it’s not always an easy thing to do. I have a weakness for cheesecake and
Reeses peanut butter cookies. I definitely need to stay away from the dessert

You have been out with Buckcherry several times in the past and there seems to be a great family type atmosphere to things. What’s it like being out with those guys?

We’re all really good friends and get along great. It’s funny because we keep saying that we all wouldn’t mind not seeing each other for a while. We do love being on the
road with them, but it would be nice to tour with someone else (laughs) for a

I have a few questions that the fans sent me to ask you. What’s your favorite 80s metal/rock album?

That’s a really tough one. I would probably have to go with Metallica And Justice for All. That’s the album that got me into playing guitar.

Favorite guitarist?

I can’t name just one. If I had to pick a couple it would have to be James Hetfield and Jimi Hendrix.

Favorite drummer?

I would have to go with Abe (Cunningham) from the Deftones.

Most underrated band of any era?

Kings X, without a doubt. I have a funny story about Doug (Pinnick) from Kings X. We played at this place called Warehouse Live in Houston and our tour manager was outside where everyone was lined up. He did like a double take and saw Doug in line for the show. They know each other and he yelled at him and asked him what he was doing and Doug said, ‘I’m going to a rock show!’ Then our manager jerked him out of line and let him in. He was just going to buy a ticket like an average Joe and see us play. That was a huge honor for us!

What about any guilty pleasures that you can share?

I am obsessed with cars to the point that it’s like porn for me. I can tell you just
about anything about the. I’m a gear head because my dad did drag racing when I
was younger and it just worked its way into my brain.

If the band gave you the chance to cover any song on the next album, what would you choose to do?

We have talked about this before. We have tossed around the idea of covering “Thunder
and Lightning” by Thin Lizzy. I think I need to learn that solo in order for
that to happen. John Sykes is a force to be reckoned with.

Wow, that would definitely be awesome to hear. I hope you get that solo nailed so that it sees the light of day. I guess we should wrap this up now so that you guys can get ready. Thanks again for your time Jerry. I can’t wait to see you guys tear it up tonight!

Josh Todd of Buckcherry Talks Rock and Roll and Fried Chicken

The Rock Allegiance Tour rolled out onto America recently with a lineup worthy of a very long night of maximum rock. Buckcherry is co-headlining the tour with Papa
Roach. The tatted bad boys from L.A. have been bringing their style of slick
and sometimes raunchy rock each and every night and exciting crowds across the
US on this tour. I caught up with front man Josh Todd before their set in
Winston Salem, NC recently. We talked about AC/DC, opening for KISS and fried

Hey man, I want to start off by saying thanks for taking the time to do this interview. The Rock Allegiance tour is a new package this year. How have things been so far?

It’s been going great! We’ve been touring for our record All Night Long since July of last year, so this is just a small leg of our tour for that album. We’re about 200shows deep. We’re a little tired, but other than that, the shows have been going awesome.

You guys are like a touring machine after you put an album out. You seem to have that old school mentality of hitting the road and staying on it seemingly forever after you have a new album drop.

Yeah, that’s how we built our fan base and our reputation off of the live show. That’s how real rock bands do it; you go out and play live.

So, after this tour end, you guys will be taking part in the Ship Rocked cruise. What can you tell us about that?

We’re doing like three shows or maybe more. I really don’t know that much about it other than it goes on annually and they have been doing it for a while now. They have
been after us to participate, but this is the first time that it actually
worked out with our schedule. It’s going to be a mess; people just hammered

How did signing with 11-7 Music change you guys? Did it free you up and give you more creative control? What was behind the decision to go with them?

11-7 was actually created for Buckcherry. We were the first band to be on it so that we could put an album out. Our manager created it because at the time, nobody
would sign our record 15, which was our highest selling record of all that we have put out. It’s a great story because since we couldn’t get a proper record deal in the states, he started a record label for us. We were the first record and the rest is history. Now, there are all sorts of great bands on the label. It’s just so good to be independent. Basically, a major record label is really just a bank. If you are just starting out and don’t really have a fan base built up yet, a major label can get you on a bill and get tour support. Once you’ve established that base, the way to go is independent. You have more control over everything.

You mentioned All Night Long, which came out in 2010. Are you guys writing or working on any new material yet? With all of your touring, have you even had any time to do so?

We’re thinking about doing a concept record, so we have some ideas in the works.
We’ve been writing some songs, but we have to see how it’s all going to come
out. I think it’s going to be really cool.

Wow, a concept record? That definitely has my curiosity peaked. I can’t wait to hear that. Speaking of curious, I wanted to ask how it was opening up for KISS back in 2009.

It was amazing! That was actually the second KISS tour that we got to go on. We got to open up for them in Europe on our first record. We did a whole tour with them,
24 dates, when they decided to put their makeup back on. We were a brand new
band, we had never been on arena stages and we had never been to Europe. It was
very intimidating, but we had such a good time on that tour. KISS is really
cool because they support real rock and roll bands and they were very cool to
us. They took us under their wing back then and we really appreciated it. Then,
we got the privilege to do it again on here in the States.

I know you guys caught a lot grief for the language that you use during your shows on that tour. I mean, it’s a Buckcherry show and it’s expected. You guys stayed true to yourselves and didn’t change.

Yeah, we did have a lot of problems with the profanity issue on that tour. I mean, I get it because a KISS show now is a family affair. We did our best to clean it up
some, but some of our songs do have profanity in them. I guess it’s just not
acceptable for us to be using it.

You have an hour to play tonight. How tough is it to trim your set list down to fit that time frame?

It is pretty tough because we just finished up doing headlining shows in July and August. Now, we have to condense it down quite a bit because we can’t play as long as
we would like to. The first week or so it takes some getting used to, but now
we’re having a blast out there.

A fan sent me a question to ask you. Are you listening to anything music that may surprise your fans?

I listen to all sorts of stuff. I just like good songs. I like music that
will motivate me. I like Neil Diamond. I just went through a major 70s Bruce
Springsteen phase. I am addicted to his song “Rosalita” right now. I’m really
into Rival Suns. They have two or three records out and they sound like a young
Led Zeppelin and they are awesome.

Here are a few other questions for the fans; best 80s metal/rock album?

AC/DC’s Back in Black; that album changed my life!

Most underrated band?

Do you mean right now or ever? There was a band that came out called Love/Hate and they were amazing, but they never really got a shot. They put out a record called Blackout in the Red Room. For me that record is right up there with Back in
Black and Appetite for Destruction for me. That’s one if you really love rock, then you should really visit that record. They deliver that stuff live perfectly. Jizzy Pearl, the singer, was such an influence on me early on. I would go to LA and see shows when I was like 16 and I had never seen a rock band. I mean, I never really go the glam bands like Poison and all those kind of glammy hair bands I never really got. Then, I saw Love/Hate and I thought this stuff is amazing. Jizzy was rad and he
still is.

Favorite food while you’re out on the road?

I really love fried chicken and I know that it’s probably going to kill me at some
point, but if I can find some good fried chicken, I’m going to go get it. I ate
at Bojangles because it was close to here and I just had to do it. After I’m
done, I’m like man I shouldn’t have done that.

Favorite drink?

Jack and coke.

I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this interview than with a great drink! Thanks for the chance to talk with you and I can’t wait to see you guys out on the stage tonight putting on a show like only Buckcherry can do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

80s Metal Goddess Still Throwing Horns After 25 Years

The 80s saw metal explode into the mainstream and take over the radio airwaves and MTV. It was a period dominated heavily by androgynous men and very few women. The few women who did venture in this genre were seen more as eye candy or a novelty act. It was hard for a woman to be taken seriously as a musician during this time.
Germany brought us a heavy metal band by the name of Warlock and was fronted by a blonde warrior by the name of Doro Pesch. Although she was a beautiful woman, she also had a very strong and aggressive nature to her that has allowed her to endure for over 25 years.

Due to legal reasons, the band changed its name in 1989 and released its fifth album as Doro. She received a great deal of exposure on MTV and many of the metal magazines of that era including Metal Edge, Circus and Kerrang. Her album that was produced by Gene Simmons of KISS also garnered quite a bit of attention. Over the last two decades, Doro has continued to record and tour and has even ventured into acting.

This month sees the release of a special 2DVD/CD package entitled 25 Years in Rock. It’s a commemorative package of Doro’s 25th anniversary show from 2008 when she played the ISS Dome in her hometown of Dusseldorf, Germany. It was the 2500th show in her career and a very special day to all of those involved in her career. We recently caught up with Doro who told us all about the new release and reflected on her long career.

Doro, it’s awesome to be able to sit down and talk to you. Your must be very excited about your new album that’s about to come out. Can you give us some details?

Thank you for wanting to talk to me! I am so proud of this album that is coming out. The show is 3 ½ hours long and there are so many guests on there. Klaus and Rudolph from the Scorpions were there and Jean Beauvoir. We also have a lot of the great ladies of metal including Liv Jagrell, Jackie Chambers and more. The show is huge and it took 10 months just to build the stage. It is a visual treat; it’s the home of Warlock. You know how Iron Maiden had Eddie? Well, we had a huge warlock built that rose up behind the drum set. It had lights and smoke coming out of it and it actually scared some people.

I also read that you were going to be doing a few dates here in the states for the release?

Yes, there are two dates with one being 9/9 in New York City and one on 9/11 in Chicago. Those are two of our favorite places to play and we’ve always done really well there. Hopefully, we will be doing many more dates in the US after the new album comes out.

Your career is in its third decade. You have to have a lot of great memories along this crazy metal ride that you have been on?

Wow, there are so many of them. Where do I start? One would be playing with Megadeth in 1986 on the Monsters of Rock. Touring with (Judas) Priest in 86 is another and our 1987 tour with DIO. Then there was our first tour of the US with Megadeth. I loved recording my album in 1990 that Gene Simmons of KISS produced. He has been the best producer that I have ever had. He was a great motivator and he pushed me to achieve more. Did you know that Tommy Thayer, who is in the band now, was my co-producer on there? He also played a lot of the solos too. Gene brought me a demo of a song called “Unholy Love” that he was singing on and told me that he really wanted me to record it.

There weren’t too many women in metal when you started. The few who were seemed to be more eye candy or seen as a novelty act. Do you think you may have broken down a few doors for some of the women in the field today?

I really don’t know if I knocked down any doors, but I may have taught them how to always be a fighter. My fans have always said that my heart beats for metal. The people out there know I love doing this. The truth has always been in my music and it shows. Nowadays, there are so many more great women out there making music and it has brought more of a balance to the field.

You are and definitely always have been the real deal. How else would you still be doing this after over 25 years? How do you stay inspired? What keeps you motivated?

The fans always have and always will motivate me. I have a great fan base and I live for them. That’s one reason that I have never been married because of how important they are to me. I always have them in my heart and in the back of my mind.

Speaking of your fans, when can they expect some new material from you?

I am hoping, fingers crossed, to have my new studio album out next year. We already have been performing one song from it called “Raise Your Fists” which we opened Waken in Germany with it and the fans loved it. We have been writing for it and it’s going to have all the ingredients; heavy, hardcore, speed and lots of anthems. We will then be here in the states touring as much as we can and hitting as many markets as possible.

That sounds awesome and we can’t wait! Doro, thanks again for taking the time to chat with us. Here’s to 25 more years and a 50th anniversary DVD to come out in the future.

Talking Music With John Corabi

John Corabi is one of those guys that everyone has heard of, yet nobody knows who he is. Well, don’t take that quite literally! John had been in numerous bands and projects, such as The Angora and The Scream, before landing his biggest mainstream gig as lead singer in Motley Crue. His stint with the Crue back in 1994 is still a controversial subject amongst the ranks of Crue fans.

John went on to form Union with Bruce Kulick, former KISS guitarist and also be a part of ESP: The Eric Singer Project which also included Kulick. John has been busy this year touring with Cinderella and performing a one-man acoustic show. This is to coincide with the recording of and eventual release of his first acoustic album. I had the chance to catch John’s acoustic set in Charlotte, NC and I got the opportunity to speak with him backstage afterwards about all things Corabi.

Hey John, it’s great to see you man. That was one amazing set that you just performed out there. You are one of those rare exceptions where a singer’s voice is actually better live than on the album. It has that rough edge to it, but is full of raw emotion. A very interesting set list too.

Thank you so much, I really appreciate that. Yeah, the set list is ever changing. I have so much that I can choose from. I want to throw in a Scream song and something from Union and of course the Crue. I also try to do a song or two from my upcoming acoustic album as well and some covers of songs I love.

Can you tell us more about the acoustic album that you’re working on?

Definitely! I am having a blast putting it together. It’s going to include acoustic versions of my old stuff and there will be about 5 or 6 new songs on there too. I was hoping to have it to sell on the tour, but it may not happen. I am doing this one by myself including releasing it because I have no label right now. The industry is going through such a crazy period right now that this seemed the best way of doing it.

What do you have lined up after the acoustic album comes out?

After I get the acoustic album finished in Nashville, I am going to work on putting out a regular, electric album with the band I am using. I have to work on that between my gigs this summer and hopefully have it out early next year.

I had the opportunity to interview Bruce Kulick at his BK3 release party at the KISS Coffeehouse. We talked about your collaboration on “No Friend of Mine” and the possibility of a full scale Union reunion.

I would love for us to get together and do something. It’s just tough to get all four of us free at the same time. I’m doing mine thing right now and Bruce is busy with Grand Funk Railroad. Jaime and Brent are busy guys too, but I am open to it.

Union put out some amazing music. Do you think the timing was wrong because of what was going on in the industry?

Maybe so because Union seems to have taken on a life all its own. I have had so many people come up to me and tell me how much they loved us. It seems to have grown over the years, almost like becoming a cult favorite. Maybe the market just wasn’t right for what we brought to it.

Almost like the album that you recorded with the Crue! There seems to be a line drawn in the sand when it comes to that album. You have one side saying it was the worst album that they ever recorded, yet the other side stands by it as their best album ever. Personally, I love it and think it’s some of the best material that they ever recorded and definitely some of the best songwriting.

Thanks man! It’s good to hear that from the fans because it seems as if Nikki just wants to forget that album even happened. It’s like they are sweeping it under the rug like there’s this big cover up. They don’t even include it on some of the greatest hits compilations that they put out.

I have to ask you John; you looked like you were having a blast up on that stage tonight. There you were with just the mic, your barstool and your acoustic guitar. You are so vulnerable up there in that type of situation. A few songs into your set and you had the crowd eating out of the palm of your hand. Was it as much fun for you as it appeared to us in the crowd?

Oh hell yeah! That’s what I love, that’s what I live for. I don’t think I could do a normal 9 to 5 job!

I think I can speak on behalf of all of the fans and tell you that we’re all glad that you don’t work 9 to 5.

Cinderella and John Corabi Deliver An Awesome Night Of Music

There was something special in the air that night in Charlotte. You could just tell it was going to be a magical night. The Cinderella tour had pulled into town and the line outside started forming early in the afternoon. The small club was a far cry from “back in the day” when stadiums and huge arenas were being packed. Cinderella is celebrating their 25th anniversary on this tour and they prove that they haven’t missed a step.

The show started with John Corabi (Union, The Scream, Motley Crue) opening up for the band and getting the crowd warmed up. That’s a tough thing to do when all you have is a mic, a barstool and an acoustic guitar. Well, that an amazing passion for the art that you create. Corabi opened with “Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)” from his former band Union which included former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick. He also included a couple of Scream songs including the amazing “Father, Mother, Son” which received a huge response.

“Hooligan’s Holiday” was next from his much underrated and sometimes missing in action album that he recorded as lead vocalist of Motley Crue. He also included a very of the Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” that was so heartfelt and full of emotion that it was truly moving. Corabi’s set was just that; it was real and genuine and from the heart. He shared great stories with us and brought the entire club together for his short set.

Cinderella stormed the stage next and ripped into “Once Around The Ride” from their debut album Night Songs”. This was the first time that I had seen the band since lead singer Tom Keifer’s throat surgery. His voice did seem a little strained at first; as if he didn’t take the time to warm up, but all that soon changed. “Shake Me” was next and the crowd’s reaction was as if gas had been poured on a once small fire. Their biggest hit being played two songs into their set has to speak volumes. Everyone knew at that point why there was something special in the air that night. We were about to be blown away by a band whose decade is seen as one full of bad songs and bad fashion choices.

The set list for the remainder of the night read like a Cinderella’s greatest Hits album. “Somebody Save” me brought back memories of watching MTV to see the great music videos that Cinderella always made. I have to add that the songs did not sound dated; they had a very fresh sound to them and the boys delivered a solid performance on each and every one. Tom commanded that center stage and kept the banter to a minimum, but the rock and roll output to a maximum.

The stage went dark and the roadies rolled out a beautiful piano and the lighters went up in the air. Yes, a few cell phones did too, but it doesn’t compare to a sea of lighters. The crowd knew that Cinderella’s power ballad “Don’t Know What You Got (Til It’s Gone)” was next and it was such a great moment when Tom sat down at that piano and began the song. The band left the stage, but returned a short time later to the roar of the frenzied crowd. “Long Cold Winter” and “Shelter Me” were the encore song choices and the band then did a bow to the crowd and thanked them for 25 years of good times.

What we saw on this special night was not a band just going through the motions. They seemed hungrier than I remember when I saw them open for Bon Jovi back in 1987. It was a show heavy in substance and light in style. One problem with so many bands from that era was that they were just the opposite. Cinderella did have a great lightshow that night, but there were no props used that night. It was a night of pure musicianship and talent.

There are a lot of bands out on the road these days who act as if we, the fans, owe them something. They stand on the stage like mannequins and they seem like they are bored. These are both young bands and bands who have been around long enough to know better. Today’s economy stinks and for some of these people to fork out money for a concert ticket and not get their money’s worth is downright disrespectful. With that being said, I feel like I owe John Corabi and Cinderella more than what the ticket sold for because that was a steal!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

L.A. Guns: Still Sleazy After All These Years

L.A. Guns burst upon the metal scene in 1988 with their self titled debut album. There were plenty of pretty boy metal bands around, but L.A. Guns were different. They were cocky and sleazy and didn’t want to fit the mold of the bands who were garnering plenty of airplay. That debut, featuring the video hits “Sex Action” and “One More Reason”, was certified gold with sales of 500,000 copies and the band had made an impact on the music scene.

1988 saw the follow up Cocked and Loaded released and it went on to be certified platinum with sales of one million copies. It also featured the bands only Top 40 hit “The Ballad of Jayne”. Their third album, Hollywood Vampires, was released in 1991 and then things started to turn sour.

Grunge started to infect the industry and that movement became the new “favorite” and it seemed as if that was the prime focus of the industry. Internal problems saw numerous personnel changes and soon the band split into two separate entities, but both using the name L.A. Guns. One version featuring founder Tracii Guns and another featuring lead singer Phil Lewis continued to tour abroad.

I was fortunate to talk to lead singer Phil Lewis before his version of L.A. Guns took the stage in Winston Salem, NC before a packed house of rabid fans.

Hey Phil, it’s awesome to be able to finally talk to you. You guys are out playing dates and showing a whole new generation of kids why you guys were the masters of sleaze rock. How’s this tour going so far?

Well, this is not really like a tour; at least not by the conventional definition of preconceived notion of what a tour is. I mean, we don’t all pack up on a bus and travel the road going from city to city. We mostly play Thursday through the weekend and then we fly back home and sleep in our own beds. I think we have become the poster boys for South Western Airlines! It’s really hard to find a decent show during the weekdays, so we focus on the weekend. With that being said, we have been having a blast. Detroit was awesome and so was Chicago, but there were a few shows in Dakota that weren’t very good. We’ve always done really well in Virginia and North Carolina, so we are glad to be coming back to play. It’s definitely been a while since we played here.

There certainly seems to be a lot of young people at your shows. I think some may be kids of parents who grew up on you guys, but a lot of them just absolutely love that era.

Oh, absolutely! That era, the 80s, was such a fun time. We were all playing dress up and guys really wanted to be in a band and the girls wanted to be with those guys! Then, grunge came along and killed it all. I mean, who still listens to grunge anymore? The young people out there don’t want to hear about all that doom and gloom. They want to have a good time!

Ok, let’s just jump right into this. I have been seeing a lot of posts when L.A. Guns dates are posted. It seems one of the first questions is ‘Which version is it? Is it Phil’s or Tracii’s?’ I have to ask because so many fans want me to ask you. Where do things stand with Tracii?

Tracii walked out on us, he quit, during a photo shoot for Waking the Dead. He left because of his side project, Brides of Destruction with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue. Tracii seemed to think that was going to lead him to becoming the Crue’s lead singer. We decided to move forward. We recorded three more records and toured for them. The whole thing has worked for us in a way because it has created a sort of curiosity factor. We don’t want Tracii back, we are doing just fine doing things our way. I do wish him well and I wish that he would do something. His last version of the band was playing a lot of covers of Hendrix and Zeppelin material. We tend to play all L.A. Guns material; we primarily focus on the first four albums.

I have read the message boards online when it comes to you guys and the fans do prefer “Phil’s version” as they tend to call it. Your current lineup with Scott (Griffin), Stacey (Blades) and Steve (Riley) have such great chemistry together. Is there any chance of new material from you guys in the near future?

The industry is so different right now and it’s in such a state of change. There has been so much irreparable damage done and it’s ongoing. I really don’t see us putting out a new album anytime soon because it just costs so much. There’s very little money being made by selling CDs these days. It’s very hard as an artist to pour your heart and soul into making your music and then have it leak out early and people get it for free. After it does come out, you can download it for a buck or two, which is crazy. I see these bands selling a song for 89 cents and to me that comes across as a little needy and desperate. The money these days is on touring and that’s what we will focus on until the market picks up. Don’t get me wrong, we would love to release some new material, but we just can’t justify it at the moment. I am hoping that vinyl makes a re-emerge and it looks like it slowly is. There is a whole generation who has missed out on that. Vinyl was such an experience.

I can totally relate to that! There was a smell to vinyl and to have that big piece of art in your hands. It was not uncommon to spend hours in a great record store discovering things.

Exactly! That is lost on the youth of today. They can download an album to an MP3 and there is no cover, no liner notes, no artwork, nothing but the music. They are missing the total experience.

So, with all of these changes in the industry, how do you keep motivated and focused after doing this for over 20 years?

Well, all I know is that we have a great band right now and we’re having a blast. The audience loves it and the turnout at our shows keeps growing. That’s inspiring to us. We are seeing two generations and sometimes even three at our shows! I love traveling with these guys too. You can call it what you want. Call it hair metal, sleaze rock, cock rock, whatever, but you have to have a sense of humor about it. I mean, we’re not trying to be Phish out there. The day that it stops being fun, that’s when I will call it quits.

I have two quick questions from the fans if you don’t mind. The first pertains to your classic power ballad and one of my all time favorite songs ‘The Ballad of Jayne’. If you look it up online and research it to see who it is about, on sites such as, you will see that most people say it’s about Jayne Mansfield. I don’t think it is at all. Can you clear this up?

That’s silly; it’s not about her at all. It’s about a fictitious character, but I based it on so many of these young girls who leave their small towns and go out to LA to become a star. I went into a coffee shop and up on the wall were all of these 8x10 headshots of people who you have no idea who they are. They all came in there with their bags packed and a dream of making it big. For most of them, it didn’t work out. That’s what the song is really about. I did re-write the lyrics a bit after our friend Jani Lane passed away and played it at a few shows in his honor. I called it ‘The Ballad of Lane’.

One last question, do you have any guilty pleasures that would surprise even you most hardcore fans?

Well, I guess it would be that I like going to cat shows. I just recently rode my bike down to Santa Monica and went to one. There are all sorts of types of cats there and cat toys. The people there are pretty great too. I had a great time there.

So, when it’s all said and done, what do you want people to look back and remember you for?

I was a working class kid who came from nothing and made it. I had no musical background and I made something of myself in the music business. I don’t have a big mansion or a fancy car because I don’t care about all of that. I’m the real deal.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bulletboys Refuse To Phone It In

The Bulletboys emerged on the metal scene in 1988 in a sea that was oversaturated with bands. The guys did stand out from the crowd. They did have the hair and the attitude, but the makeup was minimal. They also had a sound that stood out from the rest and a charismatic lead singer who would start drawing some unwanted comparisons.

The band’s debut self-titled album was released in 1988 and came out of the gates blazing. It contained two huge MTV hits (yes, back when you actually could see music videos on the channel) “For the Love of Money” and “Smooth Up in Ya”. The combination of being produced by Ted Templeman of Van Halen fame and the on-stage comparisons of lead singer Marq Torien to David Lee Roth lead to an unfair stigma. The band was quickly labeled as a Van Halen clone and that seemed to follow them wherever they went.

The band saw many lineup changes throughout the 90s, but Marq was determined to keep the band going and he kept marching on. The band has continued to record and tour throughout the years. Now, with a new generation hungry for the sound and feel of the 80s, the Bulletboys are gaining a whole new audience. I had the privilege of sitting down to talk with lead singer Marq Torien after a hot and sweaty show in Roanoke, Virginia recently.

Hey Marq, how’s it going man? That show tonight was just amazing. You guys looked like you were having a blast up there on stage and it was very infectious to us in the crowd.

Thanks man! We were having fun up there; that was genuine. There are too many bands out on the road today who just “phone it in”. They either try to fake it on stage or they stand up there with a major attitude and act like you owe them something. That’s just not us man. I am doing this for my kids, so I can leave some type of legacy for them. It’s been pretty tough her of late with Jani (Lane) passing away and all. That really hurt, it hit me pretty bad. I mean, we’re all getting a little older and you look up and see that one of your fellow rockers has passed away. Amy (Winehouse) passed away too and she was such a good gal. She loved my voice. We had a couple of really cool chats. These artists get ridiculed all the time now. We use to revere our artists and that’s not happening anymore.

There seems to have been a lot of greats in the industry who have left us too soon in the last few years. How do you keep it together and keep marching on?

I feel very fortunate and very blessed. God has blessed me and people can say what they want, but he has enabled me to carry on with what I love doing. I’m a musician man and I think that if you are able to bring something musically that’s relevant and people want to hear it, then you keep going. I love our audience and it’s not a fan thing anymore because these people are our family. I get a chance to see people that I have been seeing for years and I have seen them grow up and get married and have kids and now their kids are fans too. We’ve always been a kind of underground hard rock band. I mean, we’ve sold millions of albums, but we never made it to that next level. We didn’t follow trends. We were never a ballad band even though it seemed like every band from that era was doing ballads. That was purposely done on our part because we were against those bands that did those just to get signed.

Let’s talk about those early days because I have always wanted to ask you about this. The whole “Van Halen Junior” label or clone or whatever you want to call it. How unfair was that?

Well, it was great working with Ted. That cat had worked with the Doobie Brothers and Van Halen and Van Morrison and he taught us so much stuff. I mean, we were young teenagers and out of control and he just kind of let us do out thing. The Van Halen comparisons were really appreciated and we threw our arms around it and loved it, but it was a double edge sword for us because we were not that. We were this aggressive, piss and vinegar rock band that hated the Sunset Strip. We wanted nothing to do with that! We played the Troubadour and that was our home. We were a different band. We were a mix of a lot of things. Here is this R&B, hard rock soul singer and surfer/skater type guy with Lonnie, here’s Nick who loves metal, but can also write a pop song and here’s Jimmy who is hardcore. You mix all of that up and we had a unique sound. We were way less of a hair band and more like this weird cartoon character coming to life.

I agree with you because your sound did have a different edge to you that was unlike anything out there. Your voice was very distinct.

Thanks man! I wasn’t that typical rock and roll screamer guy. I have a Motown base to my sound. I worked, at an early age, with a Benny Medina and Kerry Ashby Gordy, who was Berry Gordy’s son. I met some amazing people and worked with some great people in the Motown family and not too many people in my genre can say that. They taught me to be humble with my talent and I wish I would have done that more in my early career.

You had copies of your 10cent Billionaire CD here tonight. That thing seems to be taking on a second life. I think it’s one of your best and definitely much underrated.

Thanks man! It’s a bizarre story behind it. I was signed with the label and when the recession hit the poor guy’s company went down and he couldn’t get behind it and push it. The record basically went away. We are resurrecting this record, with help from friends and family, and people seem to be loving it. People are just starting to hear it now. It’s been out for over a year and a half and got shuffled to the side. We had some people who were coming out to the last tour who were practically begging us to play some material from it. So, we did and people were singing along with it and actually knew all of the words. The reaction was so strong and we looked at each other and especially Lonnie was like ‘We need to go out and do this record. Let’s forget the old and move forward.’ So, that’s what we did. Even the response tonight was great to the songs we played off of it. We’re basically dusting it off and making people more aware of it again.

There seems to be a hunger for the 80s and the music from it. It was such a fun period that gets raked over the coals, but here we are 25 years later and a lot of these bands are finally getting some props. Have you noticed that while out on the road?

Yeah, I think a lot of times people think of our genre with a lot of contempt. I look at it as something that will never, ever happen again. Everybody was their own person. You had Axl Rose, Sebastian Bach, Mark Torien, Taime Down, Phil Lewis. We all had our own vocal style. That small bit of time carries on until this day and a lot of people still are into that music. People really want to hear rock; real people singing it and playing it. I think you notice that in popular music too. Lady Gaga, a brilliant lady who is so full of love and her music is just amazing. She has guitar players ripping real solos up there and that’s rock and roll. She doesn’t use tapes, she is a real artist. People don’t want to hear tapes and pre-recorded stuff, they want the real deal. That’s what we were and continue to be to this day. Yeah, I may miss a note every now and then and somebody may ask me why I didn’t tune up. I mean, did Keith Richards tune up? Hell no! That’s rock and roll man! Don’t phone it in man. Like tonight, my guitar strap completely fell off! Nowadays, kids panic on-stage when that happens, but you have to roll with it. If it’s too real and polished, then it’s not real rock and roll.

So, what’s next for you guys?

We are going to be doing more shows here in the states and then over to Australia by the end of the year. I’m excited because I have never been there. I hope it works out because there are a lot of fans over there with a lot of love in their hearts for us. I am also looking at making some additions to the band. I may add some back-up singers and maybe a keyboardist. You have to constantly re-invent yourself.

I have to tell you Marq, the show was awesome and this interview has been a blast. I can’t wait to see and hear what you guys have lined up for us next. Is there anything you to say to your fans to wrap this up?

I feel great that the fans give me a chance to be out here still doing what it is that I love to do. It’s been a wild ride and I am glad it’s not ending. We’re out driving 10-12 hour drives between cities to these shows, but I love it. There are a lot of people out there who want to see the band and I want to reach them all. Thank you for wanting to see us after all of these years.

UPDATE: There have been a few major things that have happened in the world of the Bulletboys since this interview. The band lost a former band mate and friend in August when former drummer Johnny G. was killed in a car accident.
On a lighter note, the Bulletboys just released a covers CD entitled Rocked and Ripped.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In This Moment: Closing The Chapter On The Star Crossed Wasteland Tour

In This Moment is a band that doesn’t just sit back and relax after releasing an album. They have that old school mentality of proving yourselves life. Each release sees the band hit the road and tour endlessly. The have played everywhere from the Garden in New York City to quite a few “dumps” as they pursue their dream.

The band has played festivals such as Ozzfest and Mayhem that you would easily associate them with. In 2009, the band decided to try a different approach to touring and signed on board for the Vans Warped Tour. A brave mood on their part considering that they stood out like a snowflake in the summertime compared to the majority of the bands there. It was a smart move and gave them major exposure to a lot of people who may not have listened to them before or even those who had no clue as to who they were.

Well, the summer of 2011 saw the band take that same approach as they geared up for the first All-Stars Tour. One look at the roster and many were thinking the inclusion of In This Moment was a typo. Their style of music is a far cry from the “breakdown, breakdown, scream, scream, breakdown” style of many of those on the bill. Yet, it was another similar opportunity to expose their music to a new audience. We caught up with Chris Howorth and Travis Johnson on their stop in Charlotte, NC to talk to them about the tour and what’s ahead for In This Moment.

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: The tour has been going on for a few weeks now. I guess you’re about 2/3 of the way through it. What are your thoughts so far?

In This Moment: This tour seems to have been going on for a long time. It’s 36, 37 days; it’s like a mini Warped Tour. There are a lot bands, a lot of activity, a lot of disorganization and stuff. It’s definitely been hectic for us, but it’s also the ending of the tour cycle too, so we want to give it the best we can. Richmond (Virginia) was a great show, probably one of the better shows. The East coast has been ruling over the West coast on this tour. Well, we haven’t actually hit the West coast but the mid west and Texas and places like that are usually good for In This Moment. With this tour, it’s a different lineup of bands and we really don’t fit in that much with them. We’re really the odd ball on the whole tour, but we noticed that on the East coast that doesn’t matter at all. We’re being very well received by all the people there.

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: What about Detroit the other day? Doesn’t seem like there was a lot of love in the house for you guys at that show. Do you want to talk about that?

In This Moment: No, it’s cool. We can talk about it. Like I said before, we’re definitely the odd ball band on this tour and it’s a “scene” type of tour where by “scene” I mean these kids are really young and they like what their friends like. If you’re not the bands that they like with the breakdowns, then they don’t want to support the show. They don’t want to give you applause or anything. They just want to stand there and be mean until the band that they want to hear comes on. Detroit was one particular show where Maria got particularly fed up with it and told the whole place to “F” off. It does get annoying and we do apologize to our fans because we have our fans that come out to all of the shows. Some of these places it seems like our fans are dwarfed by the scene kids. Now, she’s giving a speech every night now about supporting the whole tour. We come from the hard rock, heavy metal world and those people come out and support the entire show and even if the band isn’t their favorite band, they won’t be rude to them.

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: You guys get roughly 30 minutes to play, which averages out to about 5 songs. How hard is it to narrow it down to just 5?

In This Moment: It can really be a pain in the butt sometimes because everyone has what they think will be the best for this particular type of audience. Throughout the history of the band, what I think and what Maria thinks has been two clashing things. We also play a few shows and see if we need to make any modifications to the list also, but we’ve pretty much had the same set list on this entire tour.

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: What can you tell me about the new CD that you’re working on?

In This Moment: We’re just writing and doing little demos here and there. We got into the studio in January. We’re just preparing as much stuff as we can now before we go in. Kevin Churko is locked in again and we’re just looking at sticking to the same formula that we have been using, but we still want to grow so that it’s not the same record again. We’re shooting for a summer release in conjunction with the Mayhem Festival. We’re putting it out there pretty strongly because we really want to do that again.

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: I saw online that Soundwave is cancelled. I guess that frees you guys up. What’s on your agenda?

In This Moment: Yeah, I was really bummed that it got cancelled. All of our Australia and Japanese plans are out the window now. All it really means for us is that we are really going to focus on the new record and make sure it has the best songs possible. The only other thing we have lined u is the Shiprock cruise in November.

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: So Chris, are you going through gaming withdrawal on this tour?

In This Moment: I usually get some gaming time while we’re out on the road. The last three tours that we did I had my X-box with me and we had a different crew on those tours too. They were some of my gaming buddies and some of them aren’t here anymore. I could have brought my X-box with me this time, but I just chose not to. I love it though; I’m just going to wait until I get home. We can’t get online on the bus and I like to do the on line gaming more than the regular kinds, so I’m not going through withdrawals too bad.

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: Is there anything else that you want to throw out there for the fans?

In This Moment: We’re just looking forward to going back into the studio in January and start recording. We will probably be doing some touring in the spring before it comes out and then hooking up on a big, juicy tour like Mayhem hopefully. We loved doing it last year and we had a great experience. It’s definitely our audience!

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: That would be great to see you guys on there again. We will definitely put the word out there and keep our fingers crossed that it works out!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Earth Crisis Proving They Still Have A Great Deal Of Thrashing To Do

Earth Crisis have been around and creating music on the hardcore scene for many years now. There are a lot of members of bands on the scene now who were still wearing training pants when these guys started creating music. Earth Crisis have been very influential to a lot of new bands, even while not obtaining the broad commercial success and acceptance of a band such as Hatebreed.

The guys emerged in the early 90s and their 1995 debut album Destroy the Machines put them on the map. They gained some mainstream attention for their vegan, straight edge life style along and views, with theses beliefs being spread through their music. The band were creating a buzz and gaining a loyal following with such killer releases as the epic Slither before disappearing in 2001. The guys reunited in 2007 and released their comeback album To the Death in 2009. The sound had evolved quite a bit from the early days in the 90s, but it was still Earth Crisis.

This brings us to their new album Neutralize the Threat and the current state of Earth Crisis. The song writing on this release takes a bit of a different approach for the band. The theme seems to be less of the vegan, straightedge vain and more about vigilantism with such pop culture figures as Bernard Goetz and Black Panther Flores Forbes being referenced. The album kicks off with “Raise”, although short in length at well under two minutes, its chugging bass line hooks you immediately.

Karl Buechner brings his “A game” to the table on this album. This guy is relentless on each and every track with his brutal, guttural growls. Speaking of brutality, even though it is here in abundance, the band seems to have maybe toned it down just a slight bit as heard on their 2009’s To the Death. This not necessarily a bad thing as it does help to keep the songs sounding fresh. The title track and “Total War” are excellent examples of this.

Erick Edwards and Scott Crouse definitely show no signs of rust after all this time. The riffs that they provide are in no short supply as they chug along from track to track, yet not sounding repetitious. Don’t you just hate when some of your favorite guitar slingers start to do that after playing for so many years? It’s not like the fans won’t notice that the riff on track two sounds just like the riff on track four.

The standout tracks on this album far outweigh the ones that fall short of knocking it out of the park. “Askari” may be the strongest track on here. The brutality and intensity is there along with the songwriting. The riffs are jarring and fresh. This track may get stuck on repeat until intensity splits your skull, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There are so many bands around today who owe a lot of what they are doing to bands like Earth Crisis. A band should give credit where credit is due and in way too many instances it doesn’t happen. We learn from our past and we are influenced in many ways by our past. This band has deserved such props for some time now and hopefully Neutralize the Threat will help them get that respect. If it’s aggressive, skull crashing, intense hardcore that you want, I think you will be pleased by this new album. I am sure there will be some “old school” Earth Crisis fans that will yearn for the “good old days”, but bands learn and grow and mature with the times. Check it out and let the skull crushing begin!

Arch Enemy Unleashes Chaos On It's Fans

There are many one word labels that come to mind when discussing Swedish death metal veterans Arch Enemy: aggression, brutality, extreme. One word that pops into my mind would be “consistency”. The band has released nine studio albums beginning with their debt in 1996 Black Earth, and has consistently delivered to their fans impressive bodies of work. They have evolved and grown as a band, yet remaining true to a sound that converted many listeners into fans.

Their newest studio album Khaos Legions definitely ranks up there with the best work that they have created to date. The album kicks off with a short instrumental, the first of three, but really gets things charged up with the second track and first video “Yesterday is dead and gone”. An adrenaline charged assault of aggression on which the Amott duo shines. These guys pack a one, two punch of shredding wizardry that commands the listener to bow in their epicness.

Fans of Arch Enemy are expectant of the delivery of aggression from the band and this album is no exception to that rule. That element of the band shines through on songs such as “Vengeance is Mine” and “Cult of Chaos”. They remain true to the trademark sound of Arch Enemy, yet they manage to raise the bar with the technical riffs and hooks on both of these. A band has to continue to grow in order to thrive in this tumultuous industry and Arch Enemy proves that on this album.

There are two standout tracks in my opinion on this release. I absolutely love “Cruelty without Beauty” in all of its glory. Sharlee is a beast on this track and brings his drumming to a new level. The Amott’s are shred worthy gods on this one. These guys are not afraid to flat out wail away on the guitar. I also love the addition of the synthesizers on this track as they raise the bar and add a rich layer to this song. They are very effective, yet without becoming overkill. “Through the Eyes of a Raven” is similar in ways to “Cruelty” as it is an adventuresome song with many layers to it. The aggression is still there in full force and the hooks definitely pull you in and refuse to let go. The shredding is even bigger than the hooks on this one. A complex song that is full throttle from beginning until the acoustic conclusion, which definitely catches you off guard.

There has been a lot said as far as the vocals of Angela Gossow. I have read on fan boards that she is a “one-trick pony” and that the band relies on her too much to get attention. I am sure that most female fronted bands have gone through this, especially in the “metal” genre. I think her screams can be as fierce as any man in this genre, if not more. Is the complaint a fair one in this genre? I don’t think I have heard of a male singer who is told he needs to “scream it down a little” and show some versatility.

Overall, this new album was well worth the four wait. The band sounds tighter than ever and the song writing is top notch. The three instrumental tracks on here really don’t do much for me, but maybe other fans will like how they tie the songs together. Angela proves on her that she is not just “eye candy” and that she is a strong front woman and deserves some credit. I think her growls are gut wrenching and brutal.

I don’t know if you consider them extreme metal or melodic death metal, but the band are bringing their sound to the stage in the states for a series of dates. I encourage you to check out their new album Khaos Legions and try to catch their live show and see how this band can truly melt your faces live.

The Air I Breathe Come Out Swinging On Debut

The music industry has always been a breeding ground for below par bands to jump on the coat tails of a popular genre and bleed it for all its creative worth until everyone is sick of hearing it. It happened in the 70s with disco. It happened in the 80s with hair bands. Now, the metal core scene needs to be aware of how history is prone to repeating itself. Yet, once in a while, a glimmer seems to shine through the sea of mediocrity.

A group of guys from New Jersey calling themselves The Air I Breathe have recently unleashed their debut album Great Faith in Fools onto the metal core scene. They have definitely created some waves in this somewhat stagnant pool of imitators. While not necessarily recreating the genre, TAIB show signs of uniqueness and creativity that are needed to keep the metal core scene thriving and fresh.

The opening track “The Inevitable” is a short track whose intro is an odd subway conjuring sound. The only line in this song pretty much sets the tone for the album, ‘When the world turns its back on you, turn your back on the f’n world”. That leads into “Take This to Heart” which begins with Tony Dougard’s guttural growls and the one-two guitar punch of Jesse Butler and Cam Baptisa. This song grabs you by the jugular and refuses to let go.

There are plenty of the quote unquote “traditional” elements of metal core throughout the album. The riffs are heavy and there are plenty of breakdowns to be found so as not to disappoint the enthusiasts. Yet, Cam’s blistering finger work is refreshing to the ear and a style that will surely elevate him to a higher level of guitar hero worthiness.

There are quite a few standout tracks on here. “The Life I Promised” and “Here’s To Letting Go” are two great examples of how this band is much stronger than what you usually get from a group’s debut effort. The guitar work is insanely solid and Tony does a great job mixing in clean vocals on the chorus to compliment the aggressiveness of his growls. “XIII” is a song that proves size doesn’t matter. It clocks in at less than three minutes, but it proves to be a song small in quantity, yet heavy in quality. If this doesn’t get you head banging, then there is not much hope for you and maybe you need to get back to your Top 40 fluffy songs.

Great Faith in Fools is a very strong album by TAIB and is much stronger than the label “debut” usually implies. Is there room for improvement? I would have to make note of the song writing and hope for a little meatier content next time. I’m not asking to reinvent the wheel, but give me something with a little more substance.
The Air I Breathe is a band to get excited about. A young band that puts out a debut this strong is one to keep an eye on. I do highly recommend it and I hope people who may grown bored with the metal core genre will give it an honest listen. It may just kick start your hunger for this flavor that you’ve grown tired of.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Iwrestledabearonce Continue To Defy The Word Genre

Iwrestledabearonce, also known to their fans as IWABO, is one of those bands that come along every so often that you listen to and scratch your head in disbelief. You question yourself, “Did I just hear what I thought I heard?” The five members of this Louisiana based band have taken the word genre and ripped it into shreds, while laughing hysterically the entire time. With an EP and one full length CD, they have managed to make people completely fall to their knees and worship them. Yet, they have made others rank them right up there with a visit to the dentist and visiting the DMV as things that they hate the most.

Their newest release is entitled Ruining It for Everybody and it seems as if the band that people either love or hate are not straying too far from their formula of intention. The band seems to be a bit more focused on this effort as compared to their full length debut entitled It’s All Happening. That album saw the band involve everything including the kitchen sink to create a cluster genre arrangement that almost defied description.

Ruining It for Everybody is definitely a progression for the band in some ways. I don’t really want to say that the band has “matured” on this release because their trademark sense of humor shows up in full force on here. Titles such as “You Know That Ain’t Them Dogs’ Real Voice” and “Karate Nipples” are an indicator that their sense of humor is still intact.

There are several surprises on the album. First and foremost would be the performance of lead singer Krysta Cameron. Her screams and growls that fans have come to know and love are still there, but her clean vocals will truly amaze you. Her singing voice is such a contrast to the aggressive nature of her normal vocal delivery. It is somewhat relaxing and goes to show that this girls chops, not karate but vocal, have really come a long way.

On “Deodorant Can’t Fix Ugly”, the band has branched out and included a gospel type choir on the song and believe it or not, it really works on this song. For a complete 180, “Karate Nipples” has a disco/techno breakdown in it too! “This Head Music Makes My Eyes Rain” is probably the one track that will baffle the true IWABO fans. It is quite somber and could be categorized by some as a ballad. I don’t think this will settle well with most fans even though it really showcases Krystal’s singing voice.

I do believe that IWABO has stepped their game up somewhat on this new album. Everything that fans have come to love about them is still left intact, but some aspects are only in moderation. There are still plenty of breakdowns, growls, random noises and humorous interjections. There are a few songs on here that are very short in length and do feel a little bit like filler material. Overall, I think the fans will love this new album. With its new found focus, some of the previous “haters” may actually switch sides and become fans of this unique band.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Devin Townsend Project Completes His Quadrilogy Journey

Canada’s Robert Townsend was like many other teenage metal heads in Canada. One day, he wanted to be on that stage rocking the masses. Well, here we are some twenty odd years later and not only is Robert rocking the masses; he has become one of the most respected musicians in the industry today. A man of diverse styles and tastes with one thing in common: maximum rock.

Robert’s early days included being the front man and creative mind for The Strapping Young Lads, then getting the opportunity to sing with axe legend Steve Via and also playing guitar in the UK band The Wildhearts. Over his twenty year career, he has released a catalog that runs the gauntlet in styles and is always far from being boring.

His much heralded quadrilogy has finally been completed with the release of two new CDs; Deconstruction and Ghost. They follow up the first two installments which include 2009’s Ki and Addicted. Those two releases saw Devin run the gauntlet in styles and make major steps in his career. These two new releases seem to be keeping in that vain. Devin set out on this emotionally therapeutic ride after giving up drinking and smoking four years and realizing how he was restraining himself creatively.

Part three is entitled Deconstruction and it is a thunderous assault of metal and the insanity that comes along with a Devin at his finest. The all-star loaded “who’s who” list of guests include Oderus Urungus (GWAR), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah), Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan) and others.

Devin always loves to include his sense of humor in his recordings and the title track is one example of such. It starts out with the sound of someone straining and then followed by the sound of a fart, yes a fart. That is followed up by the chanting of “cheeseburger” and you can hear that he is in rare form. Let that not take away from the sheer epicness of this track. The riffs on this track are heavy and intense and the drums follow them up and add to the intensity. Urungus from GWAR has a great appearance on this track vocally that just fits like a glove.

One track that seems to be getting plenty of initial reaction is the almost seventeen minute monstrosity called “The Might Masturbator”. Devin does provide vocals on this one, along with Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan. There are so many twists and turns on this song, both musically and vocally. It is one of the more interesting songs on the album and one that only Devin could pull off.

Overall, the album is aggressive and does vault from one style to another, but the main, consistent element is that Devin ties it all together and it is intense. It has everything from a full orchestra to an all-star list of guests to a choir to Devi supplying some of his best guitar work to date.

So, let us now look at the fourth and final installment in the quadrilogy. It is entitled Ghost and it is the complete opposite of Deconstruction in style, yet remaining just as complex and ballsy. It seems as if the madman style is gone and the softer side of Devin has made its way to surface. The outrageous lyrics and screaming vocals are gone and in their place are a calming sense of tone and vocal delivery.

The album could be best described as a venture in new age or relaxation music. It is a beautiful recording, but the brutality of Deconstruction is nowhere to be found. The thrashing electric guitar licks have been replaced with flutes, acoustic guitars and there is even a banjo on one track. This would be a hard sell to most metal heads, but I have to admit that it is just as good as anything Devin has ever done.
Devin mentioned in a press release for the two new albums that there were four key emotional pieces to his growth after giving up smoking and drinking and this album may represent the calmer, softer aspect of those emotions.

The songs are somewhat epic in length as several clock in around eight minutes in length. The songs showcase a delicate side of Devin that is just as metal in one sense as anything else he has ever done. His guitar work sets a tone of calmness and it seems to flow that way from track to track. A few songs such as the title track seem to pick up the pace just a bit, but the album is somewhat uniform in style.

So, how can the Devin Townsend Project release two albums on the same day that are such complete opposites of each other? If the listener would take the time to give both of these an honest listen, they would be able to tell that they are very similar in many ways. Most diehard Devin fans will listen to both, but the sad thing is that the average metal head will probably ditch Ghost for Deconstruction. It’s a shame because both albums are equally amazing and worthy of being heard.

The Black Dahlia Murder Unleash Ritual

Detroit’s The Black Dahlia Murder first assaulted our senses back in 2003 with their debut album Unhallowed. The band began crafting and soon established their uncompromising style of melodic death metal with that release. The band is set to release their fifth full length album Ritual and to also take their game of melodic brutality to a whole new level.

The band lost longtime guitarist John Kempainen before the recording of 2009’s Deflorate and saw Ryan Knight join the ranks. While that album was an epic release for the band, I don’t think Ryan’s full impact has been felt until now. A respected musician in his own right, Ryan has pushed the band and gave them a sense of comfort to try some new things that have been mere thoughts and ideas up until this point.

Admit it, if you are a long time fan of The Black Dahlia Murder, did you ever think that you would hear a string section or a piano on one of their albums? Well, unless they were blowing it up or torturing it? The opening seconds of the lead off track “A Shrine to Madness” will have you thinking you popped the wrong CD into your player. It opens with a dark and somber string section that erupts into the brutality we have come to know and love. The second track “Moonlight Equilibrium” jumps back into more of the classic sound that the band has established for themselves.

“Conspiring with the Damned” is somewhat of an interesting track. It’s a bit more melodic for the band, especially with the breakdown midway through. “Carbonized in Cruciform” shows experimenting again and this time it’s with a piano intro. It is short and a bit odd, but it works. Don’t worry though; I think they destroyed the piano shortly after this intro for it is not heard anywhere else on the album.
My personal favorite track on the album is one that shows a lot of growth for the band and really opens the door for continued expansion. The song is “Malenchanments of the Necros” and it may be the most complex and progressive piece that the band has ever attempted up to this point. A melodic change of pace with some very interesting guitar work, yet it still remains true to the aggressive nature of their sound.

“Blood in the Ink” closes the album and it is another complex number. I think this is another standout number for the band in which they stretch and go just outside the box a bit without alienating their longtime fans. The string section, found in the opener “A Shine to Madness”, is back, but used in a different way. The strings are interwoven throughout the song and are beneficial to the song in a major way. It adds depth to the song and helps to transcend it to a new level and shows that the band is more than just one dimensional.

Is there anything that I can say negative about this album? Well, I am sure that there will be some hardcore fans who do not take to the introduction of a piano or a string section. I applaud the band for trying something new and I also think that it really adds to the songs. The dueling guitars of Ryan Knight and Brian Eschbach are tighter than ever and sound refreshingly hungry on this album. Drummer Shannon Lucas has stepped up his game big time and sounds better than ever. The underrated bass playing of Ryan Williams is just as solid as ever and Trevor Strnad’s vocals have not lost a step in their brutal onslaught.

Ryan Knight has definitely brought something to the band that has re-energized them, not that they needed it, and pushed them to a new level. It is more apparent on this release then 2009’s Deflorate and that may be because the band has been together longer in this formation and become tighter as a unit. Lead singer Trevor Strnad said in a press release that this album was “the most focused Black Dahlia Murder strike of all time” and one listen should prove that sentiment to all of the fans.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jaime St. James of Black N Blue: It May Not Be The 80s, But The Attitude Is Still The Same

The 80s were known as the decade of excess. It seemed as if everything was over the top; the fashion, the music and the attitude. Jaime St. James could have been the poster child for that decade. He and his band Black N Blue seemed to have it all together. They blazed out of the gate strong with their self titled debut in 1984 and seemed destined for greatness. Their next three releases seemed to falter and soon they were lost in the oversaturation of “hair bands” that were popping up everywhere.

The band went on hiatus and ventured into different projects. Jaime actually took over the lead singer role in Warrant and recorded “Born Again” with them in 2006, but left in 2008. The fans knew that there was unfinished business with Black N Blue and had been craving new material from them for years. Their prayers were answered in 2011 when Black N Blue reunited, minus Tommy Thayer, to finish recording Hell Yeah. I had the privilege to talk to Jaime about this crazy rock and roll road that he has been travelling for close to 30 years.

I have to tell you what a privilege it is to sit down and talk to you. Black N Blue are back and stronger than ever and I have to say that Hell Yeah is an amazing CD.

Jaime: Thanks man! The reaction to the new album has been amazing. We have been getting input on my website and my Facebook page, plus the band’s page. It has just been over the top positive. I would say 80% to 90% of the feedback has been favorable. 10% have been ridiculously positive saying it should be album of the year!

This album has been a longtime in the making. Can you catch us up to speed on how it all went down?

Well, first I got a solo deal and I started writing material. I wrote “Hell yeah” and “So Long”, which both ended up on this new album. Then, I joined Warrant and it all got put on hold. The Warrant gig lasted a few years and I left and decided to finish my project. Well, it actually turned into a Black N Blue deal. It took eight years from start to finish, but there were four years that we didn’t do anything with it. The actual recording part of it only took a couple of months. We never lost sight and the end product is how we really wanted it to sound.

This album in my opinion, along with many of your fans, should have been released back in the day. I think it would have pushed you guys to that next level. I have to ask you a question, on behalf of the fans. How much did the “suits” have to do with your sound being more polished and commercial after your first album was released? You guys seemed to lose your rawness on your second album. It was a great album, but it wasn’t true Black N Blue.

We chose to work with Bob Rock and Bruce Fairbairn on our second album. They seemed to be taking us in a different direction. We had some other material like “Swing Time” and “Blame It on the Neighborhood”, but they didn’t want it on there. I guess we were being steered by the people that we paid a lot of money to in order to tell us what we already knew in our own minds. You and the fans are right; this IS the album that we should have released back then.

Do you think that your new label Frontiers may have underestimated how this was going to sell in its first week? I read many comments online on the release date that said people were having a hard time actually finding it in the stores.

Oh, absolutely! Amazon sold out of it by 8:00 AM on the day it was released! I heard from many fans saying that they got the last copy at the store they went to. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Frontiers is a great label, but I think they underestimated our fans.

Can you tell me about Shawn (Sonnenschen), your new guitarist? How did you guys get together?

It’s funny because Shawn has been with us for eight years and he is still considered the new guy! Whoop (Jeff Warner) and Patrick (Young) knew him and Patrick had actually played with him. They told me that he would be a great fit for us and that he could do the job and I trusted the guys. It looks like they were right.

I read on your website that you actually played drums on some of the tracks?

That’s right; I did play drums on the basic tracks. Pete (Holmes) loved it and told me to keep it on there. I told him that he could rerecord it if he wanted to, but he told me that he would play them the same way. That was a huge compliment for me! I was a drummer up until Black N Blue; that’s when I decided to be out front and be a lead singer. I love drumming, but lead singers get laid more!

Do you have any personal favorites on the album? Is there anything that you are exceptionally proud of?

I pretty much love everything on there. I think “Monkey” is an excellent opener and it really kicks ass. There are also a few surprises in there. The guys really wanted to include stuff like “Jaime’s Got the Beer” and I was ok with that. I really do like the lyrics in “Falling Down”; I think they’re really killer. We opened M3 with “C’mon” and the crowd loved it. I think “Hail Hail” will be added to the live show eventually.

You brought it up before I could. I wanted to ask how M3 went.

It was pretty amazing! The crowd started chanting our name before we even hit the stage, so we knew it was going to be good. We could feel their energy and they were glad to see us. It was a 45 minute set and it felt really good. We sold out of the new CD in 20 minutes!

What are your plans for a first video from the album and touring in support of it?

There really hasn’t been talk of a video just yet; we’re just seeing how things go. Frontiers may decide that they want to do one, but for now we are going to let the album do its work. There have been some radio stations that have added “Hell Yeah”, but we will have to wait and see. We have some live plans that we can’t mention just yet. We are up to touring, but we’re not going to pile up in a van and play dirty little clubs.

The industry has changed so much since you guys started back in the 80s. What are your thoughts on the state of the industry today?

Well, people are going to continue to download for free and it makes it tough on us. That’s just what happens, but it’s not going to stop us. It’s 2011 and that’s the reality of it. I was talking to Juan from Ratt the other day and he told me that our new album will never sell what it could sell and he’s right.

So, when it’s all said and done and you have done your last encore and it’s time to call it a day, what do you want the legacy of Jaime St. James to be?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I guess I would want people to remember that I never gave up. I kept chugging right along and never quit. Our band has always been the underdog, but we never gave up.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today Jaime. We can’t wait to see you guys tearing it up live. Do you have any last words for all of your fans?

I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming response to the new album. If you don’t have it, go out and get it. Call your radio stations and request us too. The stronger the record gets, the more opportunities it creates.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mostly Autumn Says Goodbye To A Family Member

Mostly Autumn has been making a name for themselves since their debut album was released in 1998. The progressive rock band, influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd and Genesis, was blessed with the unmistakable voice of Heather Findlay who sang lead on many of their songs. Her voice, to many around the world, was Mostly Autumn. It came as somewhat of a surprise when she announced that she would be leaving the band to focus on a solo career. The band decided that a proper final show was in order for Heather and for her fans.

This brings us to the release of the live, double CD That Night in Leamington, Heather’s final performance with the band. It captures the April 2, 2010 show at the Leamington Spa; her final farewell. The CD spans their catalog with all studio albums being represented at this performance. One could say that it is almost a greatest hits show. The show opens with “Fading Colours” from their Passengers release. This may seem familiar to fans of the group as they used it to open most shows over the last few years.

Newer selections such as “Flowers for Guns” and standout track “Unoriginal Sin” follow. “The Spirit of Autumn Past” really allows the band to soar. There are quite a few songs that the band is playing for the last time. “Shrinking Violet” is one of those examples. She mentions that it is a very special song that has reached out and touched s many people. The connection between the artist and song is just too intense to let another singer take over the mic and start performing. It’s understandable, yet at the same time it is a shame because “Shrinking Violet” is one of the best songs that the band has ever recorded.

Disc two starts off with “Carpe Diem” from the Storms over Still Water release. It begins with a haunting, yet beautiful piano intro that continues until midway through the song. I think the second disc contains songs of a different nature as they tap into the emotional quality that Heather brought to the songs that will be sorely missed. It also features many of the older staples from the bands repertoire such as the epic 17:36 song “Mother Nature”, “Half the Mountain” and “Nowhere to Hide”.

The final three tracks close the set with, in my opinion, the best of the best. “Above the Blue” is a beautiful song and a very personal one for Heather about losing some of the people in her life that she was close to. This one, along with “Shrinking Violet” will not be played live again. It’s a song simple in arrangement, yet deep and complex in emotion. Two older songs, “Heroes Never Die” and “Evergreen”, finish us out and bring to a close a journey that started well over ten years ago.

Olivia Sparnenn, former backing vocalist for the band, has stepped up to fill the big shoes left empty by Heather’s departure. She is a very talented lady, but time will tell how well she is at filling such a big void being created by Heather’s solo venture.

This album is such a great farewell for her and for the fans. It creates a scrapbook of songs that hold great memories for all of the fans. The recording aspect of this album is top notch. The harmonies really reach out to the listener and help to breach that gap created sometimes between the band and the listener at home on a live recording. This is a great souvenir to all of the fans to capture a truly talented woman’s footprints in the world of music.