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Monday, May 30, 2011

Album Review: Duff McKagan's Loaded - Sick Reissue

Duff McKagan's Loaded - Sick Reissue
2011 Armoury Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Ah, the exuberance of living in the moment. Case in point, the critical stylings of a young, drunk Brit exiting a 2008 Duff McKagan's Loaded gig with the audacious declaration that Duff and his rumble posse out-do Iggy Pop on their cover of The Stooges' trash classic, "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

Now, there's something to be said for the euphoria of scratch-up, rowdy rock 'n roll and of course, many an incredulous thing has been said and done while under the influence. Sorry, although Slayer might gets dibs for the best Stooges cover, there's just no substitute and it's crass to say otherwise. Yet you understand why people were so caught in the moment after checking out the live DVD accompaniment to this reissue of Duff McKagan's Loaded's debut album, Sick.

While the live concert presented here is so-so overall and the intercut segments of backstage fart games and hangouts with punk legends makes for fun nyuk nyuks, it all comes dwindling straight back to the core album itself for analysis. It's a giddy thing to see Duff McKagan prove that Buddy Holly horn rimmed glasses and trenchcoats is sudden stage rock chic (actually, thank Bono and in some part Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky" video for this dusty dweeb look) and certainly Loaded comes to the table ready to go. By the end of this DVD (which includes webisode segments and the promo video for Loaded's "No More"), the exuberance is shared by the band as much as its fans. While allowing themselves to be ribbed and teased and torching themselves for "sucking" onstage, the final note by reecently-departed drummer Geoff Reading serves as understated excitement Duff and the boys shared at their live performance at The Glasgow in the UK. Tour buses instead of slate gray vans help them enjoy the ride.

As Loaded returns this year with a new studio album The Taking, right on its heels is a retrospective look back at the group's 2008 release, Sick. Between the two albums, one might conclude that Duff McKagan is absorbed in fundamental grease rock and lofty Beatles melancholia reflecting his contributions to Guns n' Roses and Velvet Revolver. Frankly, when Loaded lets their pistons fly, you just know the rock gods are guffawing at the irony. Guns n' Roses is left in a singlehanded limbo courtesy of Axl Rose, who might as well be considered the Citizen Kane of the rock world. Shame, because you know input from his foundation Guns guys would make a reunion venture the rock 'n roll event of the next few years.

Yes, this statement was similarly posited by this writer in a recent review of Loaded's The Taking, but damnation, take a listen back to some of Sick's more adrenalized tracks such as "Sleaze Factory," "I See Through You" and "Forgive Me." It's Sunset brought back to its proper throbbing stature. Nostalgic, of course, but pure rock legends such as Duff McKagan not only realize the importance of the vibe to their longstanding fans, they're slave to them.

The thing with Sick, however, is you get to hear Duff McKagan lose himself in this band. As his 1993 solo album Believe in Me was largely a one-man show that was lost on many people, Velvet Revolver stoked his creative fires and restored Duff's confidence in working with a unit, lest he dwell in isolation like his one-time singing partner.

As with The Taking, not every tune on Sick is a bona fide gem, but it does flow with juice for most of the album, dwelling yet again lyrically between angry relationships, drug confessionals ("The Slide" is a particularly shivery haunt) and cures for the rock 'n roll blahs. On the front, the midtempo grind of "No Shame" rings like a smackdown against Axl--and it likely is. "Flatline" might be the poppiest and yummiest-sounding breakup song in years. This one is for strutting your way out of a bad union if there ever was one. Then there's the downright morose "Mother's Day," which is both Duff's personal apology and revelation of a fractured upbringing that ends well for nobody in the end. Talk about a haunt.

McKagan's confidence in his band, however, is what makes Sick a really enjoyable ride despite a few rough edges left for intent of rock legitimacy. Handing the vocal reins over to bassist Jeff Rouse on the sweet and sugary pop rocker "Translucent" is a cool gesture. As you see on the live DVD, Duff and Rouse switch instruments on this tune as well. Remember, Duff plays guitar in Loaded. As interchangeable a player as they come in rock, Duff McKagan lets "Translucent" roll with its hooks and background "oohs" and it's one of Sick's calling cards. A little extra thickness could've made this one a minor radio hit.

At the end of the day, Duff McKagan's Loaded is a harmonious sanction of like-minded rock ruffians who blast off when they open their thrusters yet show through two albums they have mixed results on their lesser-charged tunes. This reissue of Sick comes bogged with goodies including two bonus songs, "Roll Away" and an acoustic version of "Wasted Heart," indeed making it worth the investment if you're a fan of Duff McKagan. If your heart still lingers for the days of plastic fantastic, then of course, Sick is your beta blocker.

Rating: ***1/2

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Enslaved - The Sleeping Gods EP

Enslaved - The Sleeping Gods EP
2011 Scion A/V
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Talk about acts of international goodwill...

It would seem unfathomable for a band to release new material so quickly on the heels of a full-length album still in the healthiest phase of its promotion cycle. Unfathomable except for Enslaved, now the most ingenious black metal-rooted band on the planet since Emperor. Nachtmystium, Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch and Xasthur (now officially at his end under this creative moniker) remain nearly equal to the task in broadening black metal's more expressionistic possibilities. Yet after Enslaved's late 2010 magnum opus Axioma Ethica Odini (winner of Metal Album of the Year from this writer) has increased their legend, they have taken yet another step in heightening said legend.

The Sleeping Gods could be viewed upon sight as a quick capitalization and that might hold true if Enslaved were in the higher tiers of metal popularity. For all of their sonic might and triumphant artistry, Enslaved sadly remains a cult act. The Sleeping Gods EP being released as a surprise to their listeners would be suspect if not for the fact Enslaved was giving it out online for free.

Yep, free, people. This is a band who hardly needs to pull such a stunt, but in partnership with Scion A/V (a media sublet of the car engineer, of all things), Enslaved is gifting their fans with a pretty nifty half hour of fresh material.

Assuming you've not wholly engaged coldwave and electro ambient maneuvers, only the whispery and reverential "Synthesis" is going to catch you off-guard on The Sleeping Gods. Having personally written up more coldwave album reviews in my career than I care to admit, I can say that it takes a broad-minded metal act like Enslaved to get it right. "Synthesis" is the bridge of aquatic quietude between a total five songs of variation and yet again Enslaved proves they have evolved as a brainiac form of rock-meets-metal hinting at even more limitless parameters.

"Heimvegen" might be the most traditional Enslaved song on The Sleeping Gods with its strident march and mid-paced gallop (more like a trot) before "Alu Misyrki" picks up the pace with a banging snarl. "Heimvegen" rides on the cadence of Grutle's cleaner vocal section for much of the journey before the demon takes over and he rasps the second half of the song in accordance to a grinding rage cued by the band's transitional songwriting. Wait for the echoing dub layers creating a grand, ephemeral texture that has become Enslaved's mark of advanced intelligence.

Almost as much of a surprise as this release itself, "Alu Misyrki" is an old-school declaration of aggression, worthy of Enslaved's earlier albums such as Vikingligr Veldi, Eld and Blodhemn. You can also hear some vintage Darkthrone in sections. Still, there's no cheating to "Alu Misyrki." It could've gone down simply as a blazing jagged pill as Grutle yowls the verses amidst prototype shredding, yet this is a band far too accelerated for that. The choruses and bridges of "Alu Misyrki" allow Enslaved to decorate their thrash with uplifting aesthetics and a classic rock hammerdown outtro filled with sparkling solos. Truly this is black metal for the new millennium.

The instrumental "Nordlys" is perhaps the most rhythmic piece on The Sleeping Gods with its tempered melody and groove which makes a strange bedfellow in front of the thrumming title track finale, chanted by Grutle in native tongue. "The Sleeping Gods" builds upon a base of tribal drumming and escalates into a morose yet captivating alms-giving which grows emotional in spots.

It's enough that Enslaved has given the metal world its caliber of dedicated experimentalism from Isa on through. Not everyone's appreciated the territories Enslaved has charted out, particularly since this band has opted not to settle for the laze-about two-chord churning and self-inflicted wallowing that marks yeoman black metal. Easier to don the ghoul paint and rip your spleen out in protest against the Christian world at decibel's yielding point instead of putting some actual depth into your craft.

Ihsahn is likewise condemned by many black metal pundits, but where would this subgenre be without his gutsy measures of elaboration? Bathory is no longer with us. For better or worse, neither is Jon Nodtveidt and Mayhem's Euronymous. Say what you will about any of them, most black metal disciples have been chasing after their chewy, maligned bequests while Ihsahn and Enslaved have staked out a brand new, far more substantial one.

Rating: ****

To download The Sleeping Gods for free:

Friday, May 27, 2011

DVD Review: AC/DC - Let There Be Rock

Let There Be Rock
2011 Warner Home Video
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

We are living in a golden age of reissue packaging. While the current economic climate has prevented many record labels from dressing up their re-releases despite noble interests of heritage preservation and digging up new fan interest, the flipside is a grand-scale overhaul such as Warner Brothers' treasure trove reboot of AC/DC's 1980 concert film, Let There Be Rock.

One might ask what the delay has been in bringing Let There Be Rock to DVD and Blu Ray. Of all the AC/DC video packages in the past decade, only Plug Me In has truly served the longtimer fans (i.e. Bon Scott disciples such as this writer). Not to crack on Brian Johnson, who has helmed AC/DC for more than three decades, but seriously, Scott is the original mack of heavy metal and hard rock. It's been rather unjust his fans be denied a full glimpse at his prowess captured long ago by Eric Dionysius and Eric Mistler in Let There Be Rock, a truly electric parade of distortion and swagger. Now the wait is over and the homecoming bash for Let There Be Rock the film comes bundled in a tin collector's edition with extra party favors we all get to dally with to the hum of "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Girls Got Rhythm."

Is there a bar band on the planet that has received more outrageous fortune than this one? When you break AC/DC down to its basic nexus, they are what Chuck Berry might've been if the genuine King of Rock 'n Roll succumbed to demonic possession. Historically AC/DC has been likened to devil's music. In fact, they're the poster children for Satan, not just because of the cheeky obviousness on the artwork of Highway to Hell. Hardly Satanists, AC/DC has understood long before anyone else that the devil is a cartoon figure. Why else would Angus Young come trucking out onstage wearing a ball cap with silly horns on his head? Why else would he stage his notorious "Bad Boy Boogie" strip tease that sheds his schoolboy alter ego and devolves into the penultimate dirty boy? AC/DC's outrageous fortune comes from mechanizing the meanest riffs on the planet and for having a rhythm section tighter than an accountant's asshole. It comes from having empathy for the working class, a mass sect of people divided between churchgoers and those who shirk their weekend obligations.

AC/DC says it's okay to rock to "Walk All Over You" on a Sunday morn instead of droning "Lift High the Cross" in church. If there's anything satanic about that ideology, then most of us are damned to Hell along with AC/DC. At least they understood the joke and have been riding the punchline for nearly 40 years.

Let There Be Rock is perhaps one of the first authentic concert movies as we know them today. Sure, you had the glorious Woodstock film long beforehand and both The Rolling Stones and The Who put out incredible music films. Let's not forget The Beatles' gleeful and bemusing A Hard Day's Night, Led Zeppelin's near-claustrophobic The Song Remains the Same and Pink Floyd's mindraping visualization of The Wall. Still, there's something about Let There Be Rock the film that forever changed how the medium would visualize big-league rock 'n roll. A success of its time only for those who attended Dionysius and Mistler's movie back in 1980, Let There Be Rock is precursor to MTV and the global fascination of chumming down with major rock gods.

As the first 5-10 minutes of Let There Be Rock is focused upon the erection of AC/DC's mammoth stage, the you-are-there backstage fascination posited would become a blueprint for many future metal and rock videos, even on the singles front. There's something aesthetically arresting about the presentation of the rock show which intrigues us and Let There Be Rock piques our interest in the most simplistic manner it possibly can. You suspect AC/DC are aloof and damn if they aren't at this point in their careers, this being their 1979 Highway to Hell tour, which fatefully marked Bon Scott's final one.

Like most rock stars in history, AC/DC pretends they're not affected by all of the big to-do with cameras up their schnozzes and a deep-throated narrator slipping them random questions--sometimes with deliberate attempts to undermine their credibility. The boys play into the scheme and make themselves look like dolts before they ever get onstage. By now, history has proven AC/DC to be smarter than the average roughneck and it's all painfully obvious looking at Let There Be Rock in 2011 that they've long capitalized greatly on their rock 'n roll swindle.

Even Bon Scott pretends to be oblivious to all of the fanfare, going to so far as to huff out dismissing jokes about his celebrity. He equates the "star" factor to his character as what swirls about him on a daily basis in his perpetual state of inebriation. If Scott makes an honest statement about himself, it's playing into the stereotype that eventually killed him. "Highway to Hell" was very much Scott's autobiography swelled into a three-minute jam and you can tell in this film that he knew he was a goner. Even the playful side footage of Scott and Cliff Williams goofing around in an airfield rings a silly air of boredom. Scott comes off a bi-plane ride and it's painfully obvious he'd rather get to his fifth than do a stupid tapdance for the cameras trying to force a rock icon into mugging it up like a Monkees comedy hour.

Bon Scott wasn't so much a pure singer as a man with the capability of scatting with style. Anxiety and nerve went behind his charismatic delivery. Scott sang in the hot seat as much as he was the epitome of frontman cool. In Let There Be Rock, he's naturally the show-stealer, even as Angus Young thrashes his head, duck-walks in tribute to Chuck Berry, thrusts a fist out every other second while twinkling his fingers on the frets. You know, the usual. Phil Rudd is nearly superhuman in his unwavering 4/4 hammer-downs. It's amazing his forearms didn't rival Popeye's with all the punishment Rudd subjected himself to. Meanwhile, Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams scoot back and forth from the rear of the stage where they hold the endeavor on lockdown, then strut forward to their mikes, gurgling like drunken alley cats behind Scott. That's always been their shtick; as God-awful a backing vocal section as Malcolm and Cliff are, it's also been a long-running gag.

With slits in his jeans and a shag coiffing over his mike, Bon Scott is the conduit as AC/DC rips through "Shot Down in Flames," "Sin City," "Bad Boy Boogie," "The Jack," "Girls Got Rhythm," "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Let There Be Rock." Though AC/DC is dreadful coming out on "Live Wire," (no intentional rubes this time) they shake their dogs loose and bring everything together into a throbbing pictorial of bratty blues rockers who know how to blow the rafters apart, even arena-size. It has a dated feeling, but the raw power in AC/DC's performance here is undeniable.

Let There Be Rock comes loaded with featurettes bristling with commentary by Lemmy Kilmister, Matt Sorum, The Donnas, Scott Ian, Rick Allen, Billy Corgan, Pauley Perrette and journalists Eddie Trunk, Susan Masino, Anthony Bozza and Lonn Friend. A lot of the featurettes are anatomical breakdowns from a musician's standpoint along with near-anthropological dissemination of AC/DC's legacy. Of course, Lemmy gets the quote of the whole package with "Loud is better. Trust me kids, it's true. You won't be sorry."

For the true AC/DC geek, this tin-cased edition of Let There Be Rock also comes with a guitar pick, booklet featuring a hefty chunk of Anthony Bozza's book Why AC/DC Matters and ultra-schway collector cards featuring color and black and white film stills. There's a particularly badass shot of Bon Scott trapped in both a stupor and a glaze of euphoria as he yanks the cord of his mike like silly putty. It's absolutely endearing. Don't be surprised if an enterprising buck strikes a deal to streamline this image into a mass-produced post card for art houses and rock museums.

To say the new edition of Let There Be Rock is spectacular is sufficient enough praise. The bigger statement would be: it's about goddamn time.

Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Poll Question: Do "Hottest Chicks" Awards Have a Place in Metal?

I have to wonder where we are in metal today when vanity award categories such as "Hottest Chick" and "Tattooed Goddess" make their way into the culture.

Musically-speaking, metal has evolved triplet beyond anyone's expectations. As one of the most fundamentally-sound and expressive forms of music out there today, metal still finds itself struggling for overt acceptance from mainstream audiences and contemporary music journalists.

Perhaps one of the reasons has to do with jughead popularity votes in crowning the most beautiful women in this scene. One of the key criticisms of metal back in the eighties had to do with misogyny (and androgyny if you're to bring up the glamour boys of the day).

In the eighties, very few women were involved in the scene, much less performing in it. For those ladies who were legitimate metalheads (and I'm not talking about the backstage party girls who kept the upper tier bands happy from night-to-night), they were dismissed by bullheaded cock rockers as "skanks." Looking back upon it, that was grossly unfair, since no idiot in his right mind would ever declare Doro Pesch to be a skank, albeit Wendy O. Williams suffered such a tag in her day. Of course, Williams paraded her sexuality with fearsome bravado while Lita Ford and Vixen gradually did the same, albeit with the benefit of glossy good-time rock at their dolled-up backs. Williams often had a brutal sound (except for the Kiss-ified pop makeover of her W.O.W. album) and only after her death did Williams receive her due as an artist.

Today, it's hardly a shocker that the ladies make up a generous portion of the acts and audience in metal today. They are as literate as their male counterparts, many are prolific artists and women have brought an entirely new dimension to the genre, whether you're talking about a classically trained mezzo-soprano like Epica's Simone Simon or a hellagood six-string crusher like Laura Pleasants of Kylesa. Let's not discount the sexy-tough shredder of Warface, Laura Christine. Seldom few raise eyebrows and hormones like guitar expert Ruys Suyter of Nashville Pussy, a woman as downhome and down-to-earth as they come.

Doro Pesch remains the female figurehead of metal and yes, she's still gorgeous. Simone Simon is breathtakingly beautiful. Tattooed devotchka Maria Brink of In This Moment could be considered metal's answer to Gwen Stefani. Liv Kristine Espaenes Krull of Leaves' Eyes carries an angelic demeanor and backs her appealing facade with a mixture of soothing and powerful operatics. In her own way, Karyn Crisis radiates a sizzling ideal of metal hotness, particularly with those floor-dragging dreads. Then you have the chic choices amongst young male headbangers, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil and Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow.

In the end, though, so what?

Are we to judge these ladies for their physical contributions to metal that have nothing to do with musical craft? When we have "Hottest Chicks" awards in this scene, does it not speak of misogyny in itself? At the end of the day, if we're to hold a beauty pageant for metal, then something's gone back to the primitive and not in the way Max Cavalera intended it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a man, I'm hetero and I certainly make no qualms in stating I find Doro Pesch and Simone Simons to be two of the most alluring human beings on the planet. I'm also high on Wata of Boris and Doris Yeh of Chthonic. There's something about Holy Moses' Sabina Classen that rocks on the front as much as her ralphing thrash vocals. Mary Zimmer of Luna Mortis is an attractive young lady from a Goth standpoint, but I got more out of my actual conversation with her.

As a teenager, I held a wild crush on Doro Pesch and admitted it to her the first time I interviewed her. Thankfully, Doro was such a sweetheart about it and granted me even more interviews afterwards. The reason being, I treated her like a musician, not a sex object. I still think Doro's the most heavenly woman in metal, but it also has to do with her professional candor, her powerful vocal aesthetics and her genuine love for her fans. Back to Karyn Crisis, there are seldom few outside of Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke who has challenged me so intellectually in my numerous chats with her--ditto for her ex-bandmates in Crisis.

Okay, so I've picked Jane Seymour two years running as my "Hottest Celeb in Hollywood" recipient in my annual Up to the Minute Awards. You know why? Because she is a lovely, graceful woman who doesn't get caught up by all the flamboyant fashionista wars that frankly turns my stomach. My choice of Seymour is snarky commentary as much as an acknowledgement of generally-unheralded beauty.

So let's hear your take on this, readers. Do "Hottest Chicks" awards have a place in metal?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 5/25/11

Greetings once again, readers!

I'm in a bit of a somber mood watching all of these awful tornadoes rip up the country. Yet again Nature proves to be the great equalizer over the industrial world. Prayers out to all those affected by these brutal storms.

Stay tuned this week at The Metal Minute for a look at the new Enslaved EP, the latest from Death Mental, the reissue of Sick from Duff McKagan's Loaded and the faboo new tin case re-release of AC/DC's concert film Let There Be Rock.

Though I'm not really into celeb worship and shows that pander to the already famous, congrats to Hines Ward for taking Dancing With the Stars. Steeltown, represent! A bigger congrats to Kirstie Alley for showing that a 60 year old woman has the power to dig deep inside and pull off what she did. I was in awe of her. And where will you be today, when Oprah signs off? Me, I'll be working.

Forevermore, thank you for being here, people...

Def Leppard - High 'n Dry
Zombi - Escape Velocity
Zombi - Surface to Air
American Heritage - Sedentary
Sepultura - Kairos
Windmills By the Ocean - s/t
Voivod - Infini
Elvis Presley - Elvis is Back! Legacy Edition
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise
Nazareth - Big Dogz
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Axis: Bold as Love
Thin Lizzy - Johnny the Fox
Iggy and the Stooges - Raw Power Legacy Edition
Rolling Stones - Let it Bleed
Warsawpack - Stocks and Bombs
Nightmare Revisited
The Return of the Living Dead soundtrack
The Nazz - Open Our Eyes: The Anthology
The Who - The Who Sell Out
Genesis - Abacab
Genesis - Selling England By the Pound
Bonnie Raitt - Luck of the Draw
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Album Review: Zombi - Escape Velocity

Zombi - Escape Velocity
2011 Relapse Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

One of the biggest paradoxes in the music scene has to be the fact that synth proggers Zombi holds a captive chokehold over metalheads, their least likely candidates were we still gauging music by eighties' standards. If you lived the original metal scene, keys and synths were taboo, even though Rainbow, Deep Purple, Rush and UFO could shake the earth with them. All of these groups being more rock and prog-oriented, they, like King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, have been adopted by the metal community. This is a far smarter metal community that has rebuked the schmaltzy synths of Bon Jovi and Warrant and understands the capacity for new frontiers that can be staked when keys are used for explorative measures instead of endearing them to the teen and tween girlie population.

Thus, Pittsburgh's Zombi has been the toast of the metal and horror circuit, even when their latest album Escape Velocity is more in the heart of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Vangelis than Rush. It becomes strangely logical that Zombi find its home on a record label catering specifically to metal and art noise sanctions.

While Zombi's previous album Spirit Animal suggested a transition towards heavier extremes with thickening guitar grooves, as of Escape Velocity, consider Zombi back in a Blade Runner-Krautrock mentality. With more emphasis on a dabbed-out "Midnight Special" synth-dance hum, Escape Velocity is the soundtrack to a hopeful retro action vehicle instead of the Romero-esque splatter scapes Zombi created on Surface to Air and even Cosmos.

With virtually no guitars this time around, Escape Velocity is the least metal-friendly, but do remember Zombi aren't headbangers on the front. Rather, they cater to their own whims which share a few similar spaces where metalheads congregate. This includes horror, cyberpunk and sci-fi realms, which is really where Escape Velocity chooses to operate. If you're savvy enough to take their trip with them, be your hair long or short, that's to the good. Damn good, in this fact, because Zombi proves yet again there's no limit to their craft, even when cultivating the past for their own transcendental purposes.

Even the cover artwork suggests a postmodern throwback, a visual alterverse scoped out somewhere between Tangerine Dream, Robert Palmer, Pink Floyd and Barbarella. The title track and "Shrunken Heads" both throb like adrenalized chase sequences in some as-of-yet-unmade futuristic vigilante romp. The smartly-mapped "DE3" likewise builds into a climactic swoosh of aeronautic synth rock that had this writer thinking about the short-lived comic book series Hex. Said DC Comics series from the eighties found western bounty hunter Jonah Hex improbably swept into a Mad Maxian hellhole with blazing laser pistols instead of silver six shooters. Oddly enough, Escape Velocity's slow-strutting finale, "Time of Troubles" rings like a final stanza comeuppance for a far flung antihero left at the crossroads to clean up or clean house. Theme from an imaginary space western, as it were.

Steve Moore and Anthony Paterra bring their entire schism down on this album. While Spirit Animal remains their most decorative album to-date and Surface to Air their most atmospheric, Escape Velocity slips back into the stripped cadence of Cosmos and almost reboots their entire enterprise accordingly. Paterra largely stamps out the album's tempos in a primary sense ("Shrunken Heads" holds to a steady, machinated groove) delivering only scattered bits of polyrhythm. For instance, he lays a double-timed march overtop the singular drive on "Escape Velocity." In all, Escape Velocity averts from the Peart-esque rapid tom rolls, instead keeping a virtual pulse ala Kraftwerk, even if Paterra does hammer down thunderous snare strikes and double-backed bass rolls on the 2:51 (a yawn in time for these guys) "Slow Oscillations."

This strategm allows Moore to concentrate largely on the keys instead of worrying so much about guitar and bass. While there remains a Goblins-loving swoon to Moore's playing, the effect is dramatically changed on Escape Velocity as he sets his sequencers loose to loft out the album's sense of freefalling. As if the duo had a binge reading session of Heavy Metal the magazine, Zombi takes their listeners on yet another entertaining instrumental journey through portals that remain channeled through the late seventies and early eighties.

Space is not necessarily the final frontier...

Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Metal Louvre: AC/DC - If You Want Blood...

For the hard rockin' gorehound inside ya, was anything more satisfying than this hilariously nasty cover?

Doesn't seem like a big deal for today's generation, but if you owned a record store back in the early eighties, you either displayed AC/DC's If You Want Blood... front and center like a trophy or you directed any inquiring customers to its hiding spot in the A's.

I personally remember being fascinated to bloody pieces (pun intended) at age 11 by Angus Young's sleight of hand self-impalement gag when I ventured into a local record shop that did put If You Want Blood... on the wall behind the counter. I also vividly remember the clerk winking at me as I stared incredulously at the album and saying "I'm still trying to figure out how he did it too."

There's a reason record stores have a special vibe you can't get anywhere else.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Album Review: Nazareth - Big Dogz

Nazareth - Big Dogz
2011 Eagle Rock Entertainment Ltd.
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If there's any band in the hard rock ranks who deserves an overdue comeuppance, it's Nazareth. These scruffy Scots have a sizable catalog of recordings in four decades, yet it's Hair of the Dog which has only made a global dent outside of eastern Europe. It's a bit unfair that most of the world only knows this album and its two monster hits, the brash throwdown title song and Nazareth's titanic, heart-scraping interpretation of The Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts."

While Nazareth's early seventies' body of work (i.e. Exercises, Razamanaz, Loud 'n Proud and Rampant) established the group in their own native lands and the UK, Dan McCafferty and his mongrel squad have kept the rockin' faith through the years with a hiatus now and then. On the heels of their well-received 2008 album, The Newz, Nazareth takes another shot at reaching the rocking free world with their latest output, Big Dogz.

Before Brian Johnson, there was Dan McCafferty. At this point in time, you could probably switch Johnson and McCafferty between Nazareth and AC/DC as a cheeky put-upon their fans. While Nazareth has hardly found the same worldwide stature as AC/DC, it's sufficient to say Nazareth has given it all they have like Uriah Heep and Rose Tattoo, other heritage rockers who never got their proper due over the years. Add the return of The Rods to this list, even if The Rods never had the chance to fatten up their catalog.

You'll have to overlook the dreadful cover of Big Dogz, assumedly inspired by the three-headed dog "Fluffy" from the realm of Harry Potter or by ancient mythology, because then you'll skip what's beneath. While Big Dogz isn't exactly a monster jam like some of Nazareth's previous albums, it is a fascinating listen.

Most of Big Dogz plods along like it has snot glued up in its muzzle. This is not a fast-paced album, but it is heavy in the classic sense of the word. Songs like "Time and Tide," "No Mean Monster" and "The Toast" shamble and groove along in retrospection for what McCafferty and company have seen over the years. These songs sum up the rock life, particularly from the viewpoints of guys who've learned to embrace their modest rocker status.

Having settled for the club circuit at this point, their outlooks aren't so much jaded as they reflect an unbroken will to keep pushing for a lifestyle that's a part of them. "No Mean Monster" speaks about the burning fire in their hearts and the ceasless itching in their pants as the music scene grows stuffed with newbies. "The Toast" steps up the tempo and talks about being in a band such as Nazareth who lives on the strange legacy of one hit album out of a tremendous body of work. Slainte mhath, McCafferty growls after literally spitting out the verses, while mocking commentary rolls at his side. The song especially benefits from a peppy melody amidst its inherent sarcasm and ends up being a real hoot. To your health, lads...

As Nazareth is one of those European-based acts who've always understood how American piss rock and Southern boogie operates, Big Dogz picks up the sticks on the loud and sudsy "Watch Your Back," "Sleeptalker" and the chunky knuckle-dragger, "Claimed."

Nazareth does keep their eye on social issues such as gang wars in "Watch Your Back," government corruption on "Lifeboat" and religious proseltyzing on "When Jesus Comes to Save the World Again." There's not much Nazareth speaks of on these tunes that hasn't already been voiced by metal and punk bands, but Nazareth always was a working class roots operation and it'd be unfashionable for them not to keep a keen ear on what matters to people. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nazareth gets nostalgic on "Radio," which could be a yeoman's summary of their career, while "Butterfly" is a downright weepy love letter that whittles down McCafferty's gruffness to a near-optimistic young buck.

Big Dogz is likely not the album that's going to fill Nazareth's coffers, but it will fill their pint glasses a few rounds as this is a band boasting a larger cult following than you realize. This is a more mature Nazareth less concentrated on ripping their own amps apart than they are making a subdued statement in reverie about who and what they are. Regardless, don't go messin' with these sons of bitches...

Rating: ***1/12

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Album Review: Sepultura - Kairos

Sepultura - Kairos
2011 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Sepultura has always been a strange cosmos unto itself. When in their zone, this is one of the most volatile and bombastic bands mankind has ever seen. Creatively-speaking, however, Sepultura has been both graced and cursed with a host of talented musicians who all have had varying visions for the band's direction. Whether you're talking pure speed metal on Arise, anthropological excavations on Roots, a plethora of styles and vibes on Against or musical interpretations of literature on Dante XXI and A-Lex, Sepultura has never been afraid to explore their potentials, regardless of the cost.

Personally-speaking, I've always found Sepultura to be one of the bravest metal bands the genre hosts. I'm honored to have sat down with Max Cavalera three times in my career, Andreas Kisser twice and even once with Derrick Green. Each gentleman has been candid, friendly and insightful in their own ways. Sepultura is blessed by each of their former and current inputs. Sadly, the focus in the eyes of most metal fans has been the roster shakeups in Sepultura, in particular the (now pointless) debate over Derrick Green's value in place of Max Cavalera as frontman of this crown jewel band. Their loss, because even though Sepultura took a couple albums with Green to find their stride, their most recent efforts have been stellar. Many metal and punk bands have dabbled with the concepts of Dante's Inferno and A Clockwork Orange, but few have expressively put a start-to-finish representation with as much artistry as Sepultura has achieved.

Even though Sepultura today is only represented by two founding members, i.e. Kisser and Paulo Jr., there's been no slouching in the heaviness department. Yes, there's a cadence lost by the departure of Iggor Cavalera and assuredly Jean Dolabella has felt the pressure to succeed in such a demanding position. Each man has his own style and while the insane tom-snare rolling imprints Cavalera leaves behind presents a challenge, Dolabella has been up to the task in creating the verve Kisser (as primary songwriter) is seeking at this point for Sepultura.

Kairos is the band's 12th album and the core concept is based upon "Kairos," a Greek word for time and transcendentalism. Sepultura's latest album is even segmented by farflung years in the track listing: 2011, 1433, 5772 and concluded with a question mark disippation date of 4648.

While loosely adhering to this quasi-concept, the bigger picture to Kairos is its back-to-basics crunch 'n munch feel. Recorded by legendary producer and guitarist Roy Z, Kairos isn't a glossy overhaul of Sepultura's past and present motifs. Instead, Roy Z was summoned down to Brazil to work with the band and the key operative was to record Sepultura live for much of the ride.

Thus Kairos has an intentionally stripped aura about it. Riffs, singular drum strikes and bulldog woofing with occasional percussion supplements is what drives this album. Kisser and Sepultura allow themselves to get into the spirit of their Cavalera-free alliance and just rip. Kisser himself notes that recording Dante XXI and A-Lex presented more structure than he wanted to contend with this time around, those albums being based upon literary bodies of work.

A somewhat shorter album than Sepultura has wielded of late, the intent of Kairos is to paint a picture of what has been and what can be. When they hail back to Chaos A.D. on "Spectrum" and "No One Will Stand," they do so simply to nod back to one of the band's most successful eras, yet it's handled with dignity instead of flagrancy. The riff-o-matic chugs of "Spectrum" draws the listener straight into Sepultura 2011's web of crunk, while "No One Will Stand" (one of Kairos' most elaborately-penned tunes) is damned near breathtaking.

Mixing up the schemes between mid-tempo stamps and blunt thrash, Kairos is going to have many of the old guard smirk and nod along. Kisser is a madman of shred on "Structure Violence (Azzes)," "Seethe," "Born Strong" and the appropriately-titled "Relentless." As always, his solos are like blistering magma. If metal still has any macho left to it in a subversive culture far more gender-diverse today than it was 25 years ago, "Born Strong" is the flexive man-jam filled with speed and struts. Even Derrick Green's growl-raps on "Seethe" have a manly puncture to them you could even see UFC fighters come skulking to the ring with this booming tirade of a tune overhead.

Not to say Kairos is chauvenistic, let's not get too carried away here. Yet the album carries a heavy chip on its shoulder and it largely sacrifices flair for outright aggression. Paulo Jr. and Jean Dolabella enjoy a unique, rhythmic bond as the entire band adapts to Dolabella's less-is-more pounding strategm. The live capturing of Kairos does keep Dolabella honest, more so than everyone else, but damn if it doesn't give this album a natural air to breathe in accordingly.

While Sepultura needlessly covers Ministry's "Just One Fix" and if you pick up the deluxe edition, you'll get their hike on The Prodigy's "Firestarter," Kairos is still a beast that flourishes on its unyielding hostility. You can tell the difference between Kairos and A-Lex.

While A-Lex was largely brilliant, Kairos is well-unchained and you know who comes out a hero on this album aside from Andreas Kisser? Derrick Green. For the crosses this cat has had to bear in his long stead as Sepultura's vocalist, Kairos is tailored to showcase his prowess as much as the rest of the band and he seizes the moment, even when letting the instrumentation take headier sections. Green's discipline on this album proves why his bandmates have believed in him all these years and Kairos is as much his victory. Take that, naysayers...

Rating: ****

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 5/18/11

Hiya, readers, hope you're movin' and groovin' in these strange days.

Prayers out to the folks in cajun country who are getting washed away as sacrificial lambs in the Mississippi fiasco. My stepfather isn't creole, but he certainly learned how to cook in their ways and I relished the cajun chops he made for my birthday this past week, though I did keep the poor souls in the bayou in mind and heart.

We'll keep the maudlin to a minimum and I just want to say a big thank you to the overwhelming amount of birthday wishers at Facebook and elsewhere. A special shout-out to my office sista Jen for making me a hellagood strawberry shortcake with pudding on the actual day. I won't soon forget that gesture. Thanks to the wifey for her special lasagna on my day and of course, my little man for the card he made me. Thanks also to the Smithwicks bottles for still being in the fridge. Bless all of ya.

Coming up here at ye olde Metal Minute, more of the same madness you've come to expect including a look at the forthcoming Sepultura album, Kairos. Be there or be nowhere...

Zombi - Surface to Air
Byzantine - The Fundamental Component
Byzantine - Oblivion Beckons
Sepultura - Kairos
Sepultura - Chaos A.D.
Sepultura - Against
Sepultura - A-lex
Twisted Sister - Under the Blade Special Edition
Quicksand - Slip
Quicksand - Manic Compression
The Sword - Age of Winters
Artillery - My Blood
The Who - The Who Sell Out
Them Crooked Vultures - s/t
Southern Culture On the Skids - Dirt Track Date
The Cars - s/t
The Cars - Candy O
The Cars - Move Like This
Nazareth - Big Dogs
Sisters of Mercy - Floodland
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Mothers Milk
Red Hot Chili Peppers - One Hot Minute
Brian Setzer Orchestra - Songs From Lonely Avenue
Six Feet Under soundtrack
Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come
X - Los Angeles
X - Wild Gift
Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All These Years
Link Wray - Rumble! The Best of Link Wray

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Album Review: Artillery - My Blood

Artillery - My Blood
2011 Metal Mind Productions
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Danish thrashers Artillery couldn't have asked for a better comeback party with Metal Mind Productions as their hosts. 2009 saw the return of the Stutzer brothers with Artillery's When Death Comes, their first album in a decade since B.A.C.K. Unfortunately, B.A.C.K. was indicative more in title than in actual standing. Despite a pleasant critical reception, Artillery packed up their amps shortly after its release.

Talent has never been the issue with this band. If not for a flushing of their interests back in the early nineties, Artillery might've made more of a transcontinental impact. Fear of Tomorrow, Terror Squad and By Inheritance are likely albums you never got to hear the first time around, though Metal Mind has made sure you don't miss out this time with their reissues. You know all the fanfare Metal Mind has placed behind Artillery has been a bit of a pacification to make up for the lack of label support that did in these speedy Danes--along with the band's internal squabbles.

My Blood is Artillery's latest and honestly, if there's any complaint to the thing, duration is it. The songs are well-crafted and performed. Vocalist Soren Adamsen has been more than a catalyst for this band; taking the control helm for My Blood, he lends more than just professional singing graces to Artillery. His voice is highly welcome, he knows how to drag a long caterwaul without making it cheesy, and his pentameter is sharp as a cutlass. He also captures his compatriots with a solid ear for detail.

Describing My Blood as having "an almost rock 'n roll feeling in some of the songs," Adamsen isn't wrong. Bits of "Death Is An Illusion" and "Mi Sangre (The Blood Song)" actually deliver some hip-shaking groove when slowing the velocity down a tick. Then there's the melodic power anthem of "Ain't Giving In," which dabs and bobs with pure rock motifs on the verses before cutting loose on the thrash-minded choruses. Intricacy meets blunt force.

It's this rock 'n roll spice that creates a slightly new dimension for Artillery and My Blood. Frankly, the spirit of rock makes My Blood rather enjoyable at its core. Even the articulation Artillery tinkers with on My Blood is worth keying in on. The instrumental interlude "Prelude to Madness" is as progressive as anything from Yes or Testament, particularly when followed by the unapologetically fast "Thrasher." Listen for that rock 'n roll shake-up on "Thrasher's" breakdown segments. It's one reason the song kicks so much tail, aside from the reckless beat by Carsten N. Nielsen and the delicious shredding by Michael and Morten Stutzer.

The digipak edition of My Blood includes two bonus tracks, which means you're in for a treat if you're a big fan of this group. As it is, My Blood clocks in well past the 50-minute mark. Despite some nifty work from the band all-around, My Blood could've made a better impact if kept to 35-40 minutes. Why has Amon Amarth grown as artists? Shaking up their blistering songwriting schisms is one reason, which Artillery can likewise boast. A shortening of Amon's recent albums' playing time is a different key component altogether.

Certainly Artillery might feel a bit entitled to pelt out to their hearts' content. Their hiatus obviously festered some creativity, much less a desire to purge their beasts. Once again, there's absolutely no criticism of their work, per se. Artillery shows they have tons of metal heart and can stand in there with anybody. Perhaps the next go-round, they'll trim the fat a bit, or hold a few songs for yet another release thereafter. Create your own job security, gents.

Rating: ***1/2

Monday, May 16, 2011

Album Review: Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues

Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues by Devin Walsh
2011 Metal Blade Records
Devin Walsh

Between the Buried and Me always knows how to bring the heaviness, and their latest release, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues is no exception. Although it is only a three song EP, there is plenty of aggression and metal to make up for the lack of tracks. Plus, the three tracks make up 30 minutes of metal genius.

The album starts off with the track “Specular Reflection” which has one of the eeriest and most anticipatory intros I have ever heard. There is a basic low end piano part that is eventually accompanied by a higher piano part mixed with some chorus “Aaahs” and low end brass that make me feel like I am about to enter the world of the most insane horror movie. After the brief intro, the song kicks into high gear with very in-your-face drumming and guitar riffing that are matched with some intense screams. The song continues on like a relentless juggernaut, not giving you a second to breathe. These guys always go all-out with their songs and aggression and I feel this track is a great way to break you into the album. There are some brief interlude breaks that are still heavy, but offer a slight change of pace. Once they throw you off balance with these breaks, it’s right back to smashing your face.

The song breaks into a brief clean vocal section followed by a real progressive verse that is lead mainly by the bass guitar. The song quickly transitions into more dancing guitar work accompanied by heavy ass screams with intermittent clean vocals. This track is so good because the heavy elements alone are killer and enough to kick your ass. However, what I really dig is the band's ability to seamlessly transition into parts that cannot easily be executed, as they are so progressive and different, yet they flow brilliantly. Around the six minute mark the song segues into a Tool-esque part with a tribal type drum beat over some hypnotic clean vocals that make you feel like you are on a mind trip.

Some of their “lighter” parts are so good you almost forget this is the same band that just kicked your ass across the room. I really like the guitar work on the latter half of this track as it showcases more skill and technical song writing. Once again the song moves to a sort of almost Dream Theater breakdown that has staccato guitar and drums with brief piano parts woven in-between. And then once again they segue brilliantly into another aggressive riff with heavy vocals. The more I hear this, the more it really reminds me of the band Dog Fashioned Disco, who in my opinion, are very underrated. The song then proceeds into a strange break with a constant moving drum beat, but there are some off-time bass slides and guitar work that add a very chaotic element while remaining crisp and clean. The guitar work picks up with some great fretwork as the bass and drums stick together while the guitar leads are all over the place and remaining fluent. Finally around the 10 minute mark the song moves back into the cleaner chorus part that moves this opus to a smooth close. One song down and my brain feels like I just endured an insane journey that takes some bands an entire album to do.

The end of the previous song segues very smoothly into the next track, “Augment of Rebirth.” The song starts off with their classic heavy vocals and intense drumming and guitar work that immediately get your head moving. The track moves into a really cool part with very fast drum work played along with a smooth bass line that all transitions effortlessly into a fast-paced aggressive verse. After even several listens of this track, I keep noticing new little things going on in the background that keep it fresh and innovative. These guys are masters of having heavy, fast- paced parts going on with slower and more open verses simultaneously. Just like the first track, this one is all over the place, but in a good and successful way again. I find it almost exhausting to listen to this as I truly feel like I’m being lead on an intense, twisting and turning adventure.

Eventually the song moves into another tribal-sounding drum section that has guitars moving well overtop as it transitions into more aggressive and intense screaming and fast playing drums. There is also some great lead guitar work around the five minute mark as the solo fits the vibe so well and adds a nice break from all of the chaos. Out of chaos comes order, and then back into chaos. The next section has some incredible technical guitar and bass work which moves into an almost funny sounding interlude. The interlude has a real “oompah” sound to it due to the accents and sounds like some eastern European folk song. I love it. I never saw it coming, but I also didn’t not expect it.

At the risk of repeating myself, these guys are so good at moving all over the place in the same song, but it just fits so perfectly and you don’t even consciously notice the transitions – it’s just so damned smooth. As with the previous song, there are some great bass guitar driven parts that have some nice textured guitars overtop to add to the atmosphere. Finally at almost nine minutes, the guys break into a little slower-paced part that has clean vocals and lets your head come back to earth after being rocketed into the stratosphere at lightspeed. Just when you finally catch your breath again, the song wraps up with some great heavy technical skills that really encapsulate all that these guys can do.

The final track is “Lunar Wilderness” and starts off with some ambient cymbal work and clean guitars that move right into another bass-driven verse. The bass work is not something you hear every day in other death metal type bands, but then again Between the Buried and Me are not just another death metal band – they are that and a bag of chips. The real smooth bass-driven verse leads into a heavy guitar part that still maintains great bass work going on in the background. This all segues smoothly into clean vocals that immediately jump to heavy screams, all the while still having great bass work woven in with technical guitar skills. The song quiets down once again as there is some incredible clean guitar sweeping going on that is played flawlessly. This fantastic guitar work moves onto heavy technical guitar work without a hitch. These guys are so good at letting you calm down for just the right amount of time right before kicking you in the ass and sending you back into chaos. The song continues to a close with more brilliant bass guitar work and technical guitar playing.

The album is now over, and as I said before, I feel exhausted. I will admit, I’ve always known about Between the Buried and Me and I have heard their stuff before, but never really to this extent. I am blown away and am pleasantly surprised. I really can’t say enough about the musical journey I was just taken on. Where do I start? The heavy ass vocals and guitars? The technical and proficient guitar work? The incredible bass? I just don’t know. What I can say is that this was an awesome listen and I am really glad to have had the chance to review this. It looks like it’s time for me to delve into the catalogue of Between the Buried and Me and really get acquainted with them because after just this one record, I can call myself a fan!

Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Album Review: Twisted Sister - Under the Blade Special Edition

Twisted Sister - Under the Blade Special Edition
2011 Armoury Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Hoo mama, is this going to be considered the be-all Twisted Sister reissue package. As if the 25th anniversary edition of Stay Hungry wasn't enough of an event, Armoury Records, who have been re-releasing Twisted Sister's back catalog, now saves the best for the best.

While Dee Snider and parts of Twisted Sister may not hold the candle for their debut album Under the Blade as high as their fans, it does remain a vital album no hard rock and metal fan should be without. Indisuptably the group's heaviest output from start-to-finish, Under the Blade is a whopper and a chopper of a pure heavy metal record. "What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)," "Tear it Loose," "Sin After Sin," "Shoot 'em Down," "Destroyer," put them up against their competitors of 1982 and these booming jams stand tall.

Assumedly every true metal fan knows Under the Blade from each jagged corner, but seldom few own the original Secret label pressing--this writer once did on vinyl and stupidly sold it in a bulk package deal. For the newly-initiated, the quick lowdown about Under the Blade was that it broke Twisted after years of slugging it out in Long Island and northeastern clubs. As much as Dee and the boys hustled every American record label rep into their gigs who would accept the invite, no domestic record deal came to Twisted Sister. Thus they migrated to the UK, laid down a metal classic and instantly sculpted their legacy.

What Armoury Records gives the worldwide SMFs with this special edition of Under the Blade is one of the hottest, fan-conscious products ever conceived. Not only do you get the original artwork for Under the Blade, not only do you get the songs in their original Secret label running order, not only do you get a crisp remaster of this album, you get more. A hell of a lot more.

This CD/DVD combo pack of Under the Blade includes Twisted Sister's very first EP, Rough Cutts. Seldom seen on the market, the four track Rough Cutts, featuring demo versions of "What You Don't Know," "Shoot 'em Down," "Under the Blade" and their Shangi-La's cover, "Leader of the Pack" (which would later re-emerge in another take on Love is For Suckers) presents a historical overview of Twisted Sister when laid out behind Under the Blade.

The real treat of this special edition is the accompanying DVD of Twisted Sister's famous (and infamous) 1982 performance at the Reading Festival. This entire set is your proverbial money shot, because it makes this reissue of Under the Blade an absolute must-get.

Twisted Sister are dolled-up fireballs at the '82 Reading Festival. With makeup so garishly caked they remind you of Darryl Hannah as Pris from Blade Runner, Twisted Sister's blazing energy onstage is enough to behold itself. Watch for trash, fruit, bottles with piss and other debris being hurled at the band during their set. In the interview section following the Reading concert, all the band members note there was even a baggie with fresh excrement being thrown at them. Dee pauses at the end of a number to call out the trash pelters, branding them wimps and inviting them for a dukeout after their set. It's all so ballsy and brash nobody had the testicular fortitude to take Dee up on his challenge. Instead, his incense noticeably bonds him and Twisted to the 30,000 British revelers. While many fans showed up in support of Twisted Sister, the hurtling flotsam (which is later explained as a routine part of English concertgoing at the time) tells the ugly side of the story in the show's first half.

While Twisted are pouring their guts out into "What You Don't Know," "Bad Boys (Of Rock 'n Roll)," "Tear it Loose" and "Under the Blade," it's the finale to their ripping cover of the Rolling Stones' "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" that helped create their legend. Pete Way, "Fast" Eddie Clarke and Lemmy Kilmister all join Twisted Sister onstage during the tail end of "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" and it's pretty sick stuff to watch, even in 2011. With Clarke having split from Motorhead at this point in time, to see him and Lemmy reunited onstage with a front-and-center Pete Way bopping just need to see it to wholly appreciate it. Three bassists, Way, Lemmy and Twisted Sister's Mark "The Animal" Mendoza, three guitarists with Clarke next to Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda and Jay Jay French all in a line... Dee Snider going out of his skull onstage with the same fury as the surprised Reading audience... Again, you have to see it.

Followed by 40 minutes of interview segments as all five members of Twisted Sister recount their early years in the UK, the Under the Blade Special Edition is a monster treasure. Learning much of the album was recorded in a barn in proximity to where the Battle of Hastings was fought is definitive information about the band, along with anecdotes on the food and living arrangements Twisted Sister slogged through in the early eighties. To think in a couple quick years from the time Under the Blade was released, Twisted Sister would be free of these salad days (pun intended) and ruling the world.

To sum up the Under the Blade Special Edition in one word: mandatory.

Rating: *****

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Album Review: Lekamen Illusionen Kallet - The Second Wind by Devin Walsh

Lekamen Illusionen Kallet - The Second Wind
2011 Eisenwald
Devin Walsh

Feeling depressed? Pop in this one. The newest release by Lekamen Illusionen Kallet is a downer of a record – musically speaking, that is. These Swedes play an ambient rock style that has a real stoner/depressive mood.

The album starts off with the track “The Other Realm” which really sets the mood for the whole album. The music is almost hypnotic as the Peter Steele-styled vocals sit on top of some rock/bluesy guitar lines. My favorite aspect of the album is probably the production, and this may come across as sort of strange once you hear it. The production, while good, is not top of the line, but it is very organic. I love how the drums come through as an actual drummer as opposed to a sampled computerized machine. The vocals also have a real evil vibe to them like they are subliminally infiltrating your brain.

“Death Breeder” kicks in with a faster-paced guitar riff that has the tone and vibe of a 70’s metal band – almost like Black Sabbath. The singer’s voice is nothing to spill your coffee over, but it fits real well with the feel of this band. It has a real raw and true sound to it as it drones on with the continual depressive feel. The drums, as I said before, come across as an actual drummer playing, although they are nothing really to brag about in terms of finesse, but they fit the music very well. Not every instrument always has to be flashy to be good, and the drums on this album are just that – not flashy, but they fit in the pocket very well.

“Ed Anger” is yet another track that makes you want to sit in a dimly lit dark room burning incense. I can really hear old school Black Sabbath in a lot of this with not only the production, but just the raw evil feel. As with the previous tracks, and the rest of the album, the vocals are a bit more monotone, but really portray the atmosphere these guys are after. The guitar riffing is pretty straightforward but written well enough to not be the same thing over and over and they keep your attention for the most part.

The next song is “The Delusionist” which I feel could just be part 2 of any of the other songs. It flows very well from the previous song, but maybe too well as it’s not that different. It continues on with the downer sound that Lekamen Illusionen Kallet does so well, but can easily bore the listener if you are not into this type of music. In the middle of the song there is a bit more of an open feel as chords ring out over the flowing drums, but still nothing that is going to make me come back for a second listen.

“A Filthy Ride” is one of the better songs in my opinion as it has a real killer guitar riff that is very reminiscent of riff-oriented metal like Judas Priest. I could even almost see this riff being in the catalogue of one of the metal gods. As the song progresses I keep getting thoughts of Neil Young. Something about this song keeps me wanting to keep on rocking in the free world.

All in all, Lekamen Illusionen Kallet is a band that can play downer metal pretty well. It’s not my particular cup of tea, but I can appreciate it for what it is. Each member can certainly play their instruments efficiently, but nothing has stuck in my head. I walk away feeling a bit more depressed, but at least I don’t regret listening to it. If you like the old school metal vibe that evokes lots of feelings of negativity, you very well may like this. The songs are written and played well, but it fails to inspire me and make me want to hear more.

Rating: **1/2

Friday, May 13, 2011

AC/DC's Let There Be Rock 1979 Concert Film Comes to DVD and Blu Ray

BURBANK, CA (April 13, 2011) – The tragic death of Bon Scott, AC/DC’s flamboyant front-man in early 1980 sent shockwaves throughout the rock music community. At the time no one could imagine a 1979 Paris concert would be the last filmed live concert of the hallowed singer’s career but he left the stage that night with the rest of the band leaving it all out there as he had done so many times before for millions of fans. Now for the first time ever on Blu-ray and DVD, Warner Home Video (WHV) is getting set to celebrate one of the greatest performers and legendary rock bands of all-time by releasing AC/DC – Let There Be Rock on June 7, 2011 to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the theatrical release. This legendary concert film showcases the power and precision the group brought to the stage that night during the Australian hard rock band’s “Highway To Hell” tour. AC/DC: Let There Be Rock DVD will be available for $21.95 SRP and AC/DC: Let There Be Rock: Limited Collector’s Edition will be available on DVD for $39.99 SRP and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack for $44.98 SRP. Order due date is May 3, 2011.

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock is fully remastered and available on DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time with all 13 song performances, including classics such as “Whole Lotta Rosie”, “High Voltage”, “Highway To Hell”, and the epic anthem “Let There Be Rock”. Lead guitarist Angus Young takes center stage in his trademark school-boy uniform and captures the audience with his energetic antics and frenetic solos. The film contains interview segments and humorous backstage footage of these hard rock pioneers, especially those last interviews with Scott. This DVD release will be a great opportunity for fans of all ages to relive one of the greatest performances by one of the most decorated rock bands in history.

The Collector’s Edition, limited at only 90k copies, comes in a collectible steel case, includes keepsake premium items and contains over an hour of newly added bonus features. Celebrity interviews include Rick Allen (Def Leppard), Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses), Scott Ian (Anthrax), Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins), The Donnas, Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead) and more.

“AC/DC is one of the most iconic bands in rock music history and WHV is proud to showcase their legendary 1979 Paris concert on Blu-Ray and DVD for the first time ever,” said Rosemary Markson, Vice-President of TV and Special Interest Marketing. “Warner Home Video is thrilled to bring this incredible show to AC/DC and rock fans, including a special limited collector’s edition version with over an hour of never-before-seen bonus features and much more.”

DVD Track Listing :

• “Live Wire”
• “Shot Down In Flames”
• “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be”
• “Sin City”
• “Wall All Over You”
• “Bad Boy Boogie”
• “The Jack”
• “Highway To Hell”
• “Girls Got Rhythm”
• “High Voltage”
• “Whole Lotta Rosie”
• “Rocker”
• “Let There Be Rock”

Collector’s Edition Bonus Features:

• AC/DC: The Bedrock of Riff: No one has mastered the basic DNA of Riff Rock as successfully as AC/DC. Explore Angus and Malcolm Young’s telepathic groove and the four-on-the-floor swing of Phil Rudd.

• Angus Young: A True Guitar Monster: Angus Young’s transformation from diminutive schoolboy to raging rock monster electrifies the masses. Find out what makes this time bomb tick.

• Bon Scott: The Pirate of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Bon Scott was the ringleader of the AC/DC show, balancing his screaming sexuality with a rakish charm. Get a glimpse into the life of a classic Rock 'n' Roll pirate.

• AC/DC: A Rock Solid Legacy: From bar band to arena rock, AC/DC stuck to their guns and shot their way to the top. Fellow rockers and journalists chart AC/DC’s ascent into the Pantheon of Rock Gods in rock ‘n’ roll history.

• Loud, Locked & Loaded: The Rites of Rock: Seasoned rockers, actors and journalists recollect their rite of passage as early witnesses to the raw, bone rattling rock of AC/DC.
• 6 Song-Specific Interviews

• Blu-ray Playlist: Your favorite performances in your favorite order (**BD Only)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 5/11/11

Howdy, peeps, so tomorrow I turn forty-freaking-one. Glad to have made it this far, but jeez, when you start grumbling quietly when your birthday comes 'round, well, you're not long for the geriatric clan.

Seriously, though, I'm happy to be 41 with the passions that I do and the drive to keep plugging in an ever-changing society. Success is defined by yourself, not others, and I'm damned proud of what I've accomplished to this point. Sky's the limit at this point, I've proven myself in my endeavors and my family obligations. Only finances dictate my necessities and certain life decisions that have to made from this point forward, but I feel 41 will be the mojo, the catalyst, the oddball magic number to lead me to the destination I've been traversing for decades. Hope ya'll be there along for the journey.

K, enough sappy shit. Devin and I both have reviews coming yer way, so dial up, dial in, crank your faves of the week and drop me your playlist. As always, thanks for being here, va-voom!

Montrose - s/t
Pentagram - Last Rites
The Cars - Move Like This
Bad Religion - Suffer
Bad Religion - No Remorse
Bad Religion - Recipe for Hate
Bad Religion - The Process of Belief
Motorhead - Another Perfect Day
Brian Robertson - Diamonds and Dirt
Evergrey - Monday Morning Apocalypse
Evergrey - Torn
THEHEAVY - The House That Dirt Built
Puscifer - "V" is for Vagina
Puscifer - "V" is for Viagra - The Remixes
Heart - Dreamboat Annie
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
The Cramps - Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits
Emigrate - s/t
The Mooney Suzuki - Electric Sweat
Brian Setzer Orchestra - Songs From Lonely Avenue
The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed
The Fixx - Reach the Beach
The Sugarcubes - Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week
Ani Difranco - Dilate
Roberta Flack - The Best of Roberta Flack
Fishbone - s/t EP

Monday, May 09, 2011

Metal Louvre: Thor - Triumphant

If you spent your teen years devouring Conan the Barbarian pulp novels like I did (until I got a girlfriend and got out of my bedroom), and more importantly, if you did so while cranking out some heavy metal, then you fully "get" what Canadian powerhouse Jon Mikl Thor was setting out to accomplish in his music and in particular the cover art for his Triumphant album from 2002.

This album cover is straight out of the L. Sprague de Camp years of chronicling Conan's hack 'em 'n stack 'em lore. Jon Mikl Thor's physical prowess and feats of strength has always been a part of his shtick, along with his clunky, powermad style of gladiator metal. Thor can pop your head like a grape, as would be indicated by the cleaving mayhem on Triumphant's fantasmagorical artwork. Yet he is one of the genuinely nicest guys in the business. I had a terrific hour-plus with the man back in 2004 that later culminated in one of the sweetest package deals I've ever obtained.

On this album, Thor belts out some of his best material such as "Viking's Funeral," "Everybody Needs a Hero" and "Call of the Triumphant." It also features the strangely funky "Hail Steve Reeves," an ode to the herculean Superman of yesteryear.

Strange how the times have passed; we now have a big screen version of Thor in theaters that could've gone to Jon Mikl Thor by birthright had the same technology been available to match the strapping physique of this world bodybuilding champion in his youth. Hell, when the dreadful Hulk meets Thor t.v. film from the eighties came out, someone shanked in the casting department by overlooking this very worthy Thor. No insult intended whatsoever to the equally masculine Chris Hemsworth, but it seems a bit unfair Jon Mikl Thor has remained a cult figure whose film credits mainly include Rock 'n Roll Nightmare. That's Hollywood for you.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Album Review: Pentagram - Last Rites

Pentagram - Last Rites
2011 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

First things first: Pentagram's Day of Reckoning ought to be in every respectable metalhead and doom connoisseur's collection. K, with the obvious out of the way, let's move on.

It's argued in some minute corners that Pentagram should be crowned the forefathers of doom metal and not Black Sabbath. By now, such arguments become petty in light of the latter's doomtown-boomtown success, while Pentagram, like Saint Vitus and Cathedral after them, have been left to hold their ground as ambassadors for what a proper doom unit should sound like. Vitus and Cathedral are kinda-sorta retired or about to be, while Pentagram shows up now and then for another plod through voluminous fields of distorted dirge.

Held together through four decades of arcane gloom, power riffs and never-say-die yowling from founding principal Bobby Liebling, Pentagram in this day and age are a facsimile, albeit still a formidable one. Their newest offering ushered to the metal altar, Last Rites, isn't quite the dark messiah most listeners are hoping it will be. Last Rites is entertaining enough, but that's as far as we can praise it.

For Pentagram's eternal standing in the grand scheme of metal, Last Rites is one meter of maudlin after another. Yes, that's precisely the deal with this band. Still packing a potent aresenal, Liebling and Pentagram do what they do. Their work is not supposed to be flamboyant, nor overtly expressive. When they're on, they can stand in there and decimate ear canals. Thus Last Rites accomplishes its mission with a dossier of doom shtick that seldom few can replicate to full measure.

It's all about the buzzsawing chords, the panting tempos, the shrieking guitar pulls and Liebling's barely-harnessed vocal huffs on "Treat Me Right," "Nothing Left," "Into the Ground," "American Dream" and the picked-up jive of "Call the Man." When stripped down to an acoustic hum on "Windmills and Chimes," there's still a burning ember emitting from Liebling's stirred vocal ashes. At times, Liebling wallows, but given all the debauchery he's subjected himself to over the years, it's impressive he still has the chops.

Last Rites schleps on occasion (even by doom standards) and there is some redundancy to contend with, but it has its heavy heart pumping in the right place. Or is it rite place?

Rating: ***1/2

Friday, May 06, 2011

Album Review: Brian Robertson - Diamonds and Dirt

Brian Robertson - Diamonds and Dirt
2011 SPV/Steamhammer
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Whether you're aware of it or not, Scottish axeman Brian Robertson has left an imprint upon the scene by association of his time during the seminal years of Thin Lizzy as well as his demonstrative work on Motorhead's criminally overlooked Another Perfect Day.

Lemmy Kilmister once spoke of adversity with "Robbo" in the Motorhead camp, in particular Robertson's flashy guitar wizardry, pop rock sensibility and anti-grimy stage garb. Still, Another Perfect Day is a loud sock in the puss, yielding a hint of culture clash (for Motorhead in 1983, that is) with Brian Robertson on lead guitar. As far as this writer's concerned, "Die, You Bastard!" remains one of Motorhead's fiercest tunes from top-to-bottom. Robertson's soloing and shredding had oodles to do with it.

You're talking about a cat who laid down licks on Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, Vagabonds of the Western World and Nightlife. It can be argued that ol' "Rob" or "Robbo," if you will, has benefited from an instinct to surround himself with hard rock greatness. You might remember the short-lived Balaam and the Angel and Wild Horses, whom Robertson has likewise played with.

For his solo enterprise, Diamonds and Dirt, Brian Robertson corrals a few nuggets from the Lizzy catalog, a handful of cuts written by Frankie Miller (with whom Robertson played on Miller's 1986 album, Dancing in the Rain) and a slew of personal basement tapes unearthed for a modern touch-up.

It's this reason Diamonds and Dirt has a classic radio rawk feel for much of the ride. Robertson makes a humorous to-do about his original songs on this album being first recorded on cassette tapes. It's why the title track emerges in 2011 feeling like a lost Foreigner cut and "Devil in My Soul" is like much of what you would've heard in the late eighties from mainstream heavy rockers dabbling in country-blues. Followed by the co-written "Do It Till We Drop (Drop It!)" (also borrowed from Dancing in the Rain) which could serve as a vintage bar jam you'd be grinding ass with the nearest willing filly to, Diamonds and Dirt is perhaps what Lemmy feared would've befallen of Motorhead if he hadn't given Robbo the gate.

This isn't to say Diamonds and Dirt is a hopeless case of Headbangers Ball nostalgia, even if it partly is. Much of Robertson's endeavor is to clean up a few closet tracks for a new lease while attempting to gloss up some of his past in a less-constrained fashion.

Assuredly his studio time accenting the drag of Thin Lizzy's "Blues Boy" and "Running Back" had to have been less of a pill today than it might've back in the seventies in the court of major label production. "Running Back" is an appropriate choice for Robertson to cover, and it's more a case of jamming some old Lizzy for the sake of jamming, versus the more ballistic approach Robertson takes with "It's Only Money." Brian Robertson really rips his guitar solos on "It's Only Money" while dressing it with his own down-tempo keys and bass. Loud it may be, it still carries a minimalist vibe, given a touch of soul by Liny Wood's cooing background vocals.

A red-hot commodity in Scotland and her surrounding territories, Wood helps Robertson carry his retro blues rock mission by heaving and cawing extensively through "Mail Box," "Diamonds and Dirt" and "Passion."

Aside from Liny Wood, Brian Robertson recruits Europe drummer Ian Haughland and former Michael Schenker Group vocalist Leif Sundlind amongst other guests to his time capsule cracking--Rob Lamothe on the mike for "Ain't Got No Money," for example. While Diamonds and Dirt is hardly urgent, that is precisely the point of the album. Nobody is asking Brian Robertson to reinvent the wheel, least of all, himself.

Some of the songs on Diamonds and Dirt could use a little more giddyap. "10 Miles to Go On a 9 Mile Road," for instance, could've been left on the shoulder of a desert highway, despite some cool quick-shot soloing. On the flipside, the self-penned "Texas Wind" is a hell of a good rock show with a tapping rhythm, confident front and back vocals, a gnarly set of riffs and best of all, wailing guitar solos. In the end, Brian Robertson has asked nothing more of his album and his listeners than to take a casual drift to the old school and ride free.

Rating: ***

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 5/4/11

Greetings, cats, a hectic 'n harried week for your truly, keeping production down a bit here at The Metal Minute, but I'm receiving your emails off-site and I can never say it enough, but thanks, thanks, thanks for your support.

The big whirlwind news, of course, is the death of Osama Bin Laden. I have no comment to offer, honestly. The celebration of a killing leaves me cold, even if this killing was done in the name of countless passed souls attributed to one man's deeds. If his execution brings about world peace, then fate has done its will.

While I'm starting to get the shits of this constant rain, I will again be thankful for having a roof over my head and offer my continued prayer to those around the entire world who cannot say the same thing.

Hang tight here at The Metal Minute and we'll bop and bang away true. Savvy...

Brian Setzer Orchestra - Songs From Lonely Avenue
The Rods - Vengeance
Pentagram - Last Rites
Megadeth - The System Has Failed
Rory Gallagher - Crest of a Wave: The Best of Rory Gallagher
Grace Jones - Warm Leatherette
Mountain - Climbing!
Paul Simon - So Beautiful Or So What
R.E.M. - And I Feel Fine: The Best of the IRS Years 1982-1987
Shonen Knife - Let's Knife
Thievery Corporation - The International Sound
Thievery Corporation - The Mirror Conspiracy