New Hampshire quintet Gravehaven are a prog rock meets post punk troupe along the likes of Cave In or Dredg whose latest seven-track affair is an overwhelming effort chock full of bells and whistles. But don’t let the band’s adventurous overtones a la Rush or Muse deter you, as CALICO contains just as many memorable moments (“If You Can, When You Can”) as it does superfluous shredding. Resonating with a Mars Volta meets Protest the Hero versus Coheed and Cambria ripple, there’s a slew of excessive musical interplay featured on this disc (“Burning Dollars”), almost as much as the amount of intriguing songwriting twists and turns (“Lunatic”) which require repeated listens to fully absorb. Cranially complex yet not completely incomprehensible, Gravehaven have presented a weighty album laden with rhythmic shifts and far away soundscapes yet still bring home an air of catchiness to satisfy all fronts. www.gravehaven.com -Mike SOS
Queensrÿche is back with the conceptual release American Soldier,which fuses some awkward modern rock elements (“Middle of Hell”) with their progressive hard rock edge (“If I Were King”). Many of the tracks begin with or contain interludes of army veterans telling their war stories. The highlights of the record consist of the dramatic ballad “Home Again,” featuring the vocal talent of Geoff Tate (that would make him suitable for a Broadway lead), and the heavy groove prominent on the power hungry “Man Down.” Queensrÿche did not create the greatest concept album of all-time but one worth giving a shot, despite its gawky moments.
Queensrÿche is Geoff Tate (Vocals), Michael Wilton (Guitars), Eddie Jackson (Bass), & Scott Rockenfield (Drums).
More American Soldier Reviews:
Swedish melodic death metal such as At the Gates undeniably had a profound effect on Ohio quintet Brother Von Doom judging by their 10-track release RELENTLESS. Properly titling this debut effort, there’s no question this squad maintains a firm grip on producing technically sound songs completed by an ample array of blistering riffs and pounding drums (“Blood on the Betrayer,” “Judas Kiss”) at a frantic pace, truly leaving no room to catch a breath (“Eater of Days,” “Norse Demise”). What they gain in firepower though this unit loses in lack of variation and originality, as midway through the album everything (especially the skilled yet exchangeable guitars) starts to sound a bit similar to many of its peers, even though it maintains its ravagingly brutal delivery. A few composition tweaks and some time spent on the road however and Brother Von Doom may be able to shed that skin, but for now this band’s debut provides a solid listening experience that would appeal mainly to those unscathed by melodeath’s rampant oversaturation. www.deathcoterecords.com -Mike SOS
After waiting in line at Game Stop, with 16 other metal geeks, for the stroke of midnight, Guitar Hero Metallica for the Nintendo Wii was finally in my hands. Following reckless speeding, hours of late night gaming, bleeding, sweating, and joyous tearing, it became clear that this is the best of the franchise to date.
Why is GH Metallica better than World Tour? One area of improvement can be seen in “career” mode where you can play one song at a time instead of being forced into five songs per gig, which is time consuming if you only have, say, 10 minutes to play. The game screen also contains a new star ranking meter that displays how many stars you have earned while playing the song, rather than waiting for the song to be completed. “Quickplay” mode is fairly identical in format except the song selection is far superior to World Tour—there is not a bad song on the song list—no boring and wasteful bands such as Interpol, Coldplay, and Oasis. Instead the loser bands have been replaced by Slayer, Machine Head, and Corrosion of Conformity to name a few. You can also play as Lemmy of Motörhead and King Diamond!
Double-bass drum option: In “expert+” mode, you can now perform the faster thrash tracks on the drums, the way they are meant to be played. Remember how awkward performing “Pull Me Under” was in World Tour? The second bass drum pedal (sold separately) remedies this issue, however it does take some time to get used to this option for us non-drummers. Read how to set them up here.
Portrayal of the Metallica culture: Career mode begins with Metallica walking to the arena stage with “Ecstasy of Gold” pumping in the background, adding to the anticipation of the band’s performance. You then perform two songs as Metallica before the story begins. Basically, you have to prove yourself a worthy opening act for Metallica, while the devil tries to strike a deal with the Hall-of-Fame legends. You play tunes from Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Thin Lizzy as you earn stars to achieve the Metallica level. The detail of the band is another highlight of the game. From the band’s live mannerisms, stage setup, classic tours, and the authenticity of the instruments (such as the hysterical ping sound on Ulrich’s snare drum during “Frantic”), to the head banging signature “scary guy” on the load screen, the game-makers did it the right way!
The Flaw: There was a lot of Internet talk about the band’s decision to not include legendary bassist Cliff Burton and former bassist Jason Newstead in the game. It is still disappointing, but I still have confidence that they will one day create the characters for download, but I am a wishful thinker.
Guitar Hero Metallica is the best of the GH franchise because of the improvements in game-play, double bass drum playability, and the song list, however, the lack of Burton and Newstead prevent the game from achieving total perfection. A
Track your stats on the Guitar Hero Community and challenge other gamers like me. C’mon bring it!
Last night’s episode of That Metal Show, starring hard rock DJ Eddie Trunk, and comedians Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson, featured special guests, Rob and Lips of Anvil.
The hosts discussed the degree of cheesiness of hair metal bands, and provided a comparitive analysis to today’s hip-hop and pop music, which ended with a fiery declaration from a turtle neck-sporting Florentine.
Rob and Lips from the band and rockumentary, Anvil: The Story of Anvil served as this week’s guests and focus. The episode featured several clips of the movie displaying the hardships of the band’s touring.
Buckcherry’s Black Butterfly was “The Pick of the Week” because of their modern interpretation of the classic hard rock sound. This was a disappointing choice because the host’s should be acknowledging more exciting bands such as Airbourne and The Answer, both of which do it much better.
“Whatever Happened To” concerned the whereabouts of the members of Savatage who are essentially the Trans Siberian Orchestra.
Randy Rhoads battled Eddie Van Halen in “The Throwdown.” Jamieson, Rob, Lips, and the audience sided with Rhoads. Once again Trunk chose the unpopular side. My take is that Rhoads is clearly more important to Heavy Metal than EVH, but EVH is still important to Hard Rock.
Next week’s guest is Duff McKagan and features an interview with Lemmy!
Watch full episodes of That Metal Show on vh1classic.com.
Presenting their first new album in almost six years, the German metal troupe Sinner bust through the gates with CRASH AND BURN. This 11-track offering renders a no-nonsense fist-pumping heavy metal vibe that falls somewhere in between fellow countrymen Accept and Scorpions in terms of fluidity and tenacity. Tracks such as “Revolution” adds a touch of Sunset Strip shimmy to the mix while “Break the Silence” hits hard with a simple yet crunchy riff that nicely melds melody and bite. While this disc would’ve been a can’t miss smash 25 years ago, Sinner’s latest manages to properly recreate heavy metal’s days of yore with dignity fully intact. www.candlelightrecordsusa.com -Mike SOS
By Mike SOS
Self-professed proprietors of “dirt rock,” three out of the four members of Long Island rock unit John Wilkes Booth (vocalist Kerry Merkle, drummer Christian Horstmann and guitarist Jason Beickert) sounded off on a number of topics, from how they chose their intriguing moniker to their new disc SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS, to where they fit within the grand scheme of the NYC rock scene in a candid and sometimes tongue in cheek email interview.
SOS: How did you come up with your band’s name?
CH: It was easy to remember.
JB: We’re racists.
KM: Other choices were Bukkake Orange, Twinks & Bears. We liked JWB best and no we are not rascists.
SOS: What sets your band apart from other bands?
CH: We play different songs then they do.
JB: Merkle and his lyrics.
KM: We don’t create music for any one specefic “scene” we write for ourselves. I feel many bands have lost the quest for their own sound. Seems like so many bands are trying to sound like each other.
SOS: How has living in NYC/Long Island impacted your music?
CH: Makes it tough, everyone’s a rock star here.
JB: We take pride in being an antithesis to the typical LI/NY music scene. Seeing what’s out there, it’s not pretty sometimes. Along with the bands we most often jam with (Borgo Pass, 12 Eyes, Wormsmeat, Maegashira… and im sure others we have yet discovered) we hope to bring back some respectability to the scene.
KM: Nobody supports original music so it has made us bitter angry musicians.
SOS: How does a JWB song get written?
CH: Three of the four members agree its good enough, about 80%.
JB: Some songs are written off an entire jam and are completely oprganic,while others are more structured in sort of a reductionist kind of way, but all in all it’s a collective effort. Some take a few weeks, others linger for years.
KM: There are different types of processess but usually we jam on a riff and amp—work and re-work it for months.
SOS: How would you describe your music to someone who never heard you before?
CH: It sounds like Dirt Rock.
JB: It’s like leftovers. May not be exactly what your looking for, or it’s something you could’vebeen longing for all day… but either way you get there, it’s completely satisfying…In a re-heated kind of way.
KM: Dirt Rock.
SOS: When I’m not in JWB, I’m…?
CH: Running my business, playing drums or masturbating.
JB: Being a sad but optimistic NY Islanders fan.
KM: An unemployed union carpenter.
SOS: Who are some of your musical influences? Any we’d be surprised by?
CH: Melvins, Clutch, Kyuss,Swing and Big Band, Jazz
JB: Slash, Chris Haskett, Chris Whitley, Jimi.
KM: I dig a lot of mellow indie rock. I am a huge fan of Pedro The Lion & Elliott Smith. I listen to a lot of jazz too.
SOS: Why should we see JWB live?
CH: ‘Cause we’re extremely sexy.
JB: You can throw things at us and hear us say “Fuck”.
KM: Because we will rock your face off.
SOS: What has been your best musical experience thus far? Your worst? The one you’ve learned the most from?
CH: Best – recieving oral while playing. Worst – forgetting how the song goes. Learned From – first time I was talked into playing with the flu and a fever.
JB: Best- high school variety show…it’s all been downhill since then. Worst- playing at an ice cream parlor and not getting any ice cream. I’m done learning from shows.
KM: Best- the completion of our cd. It was a long process but something we a most proud of. The worst- our West Virginia gig. It was like a 10 hour drive to play a “music festival” in someone’s backyard at 1 in the morning to a bunch of drunk rednecks. We learned to get more info on a gig before booking.
SOS: What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of being a NY band?
CH: All the hot women the fame and the money.
JB: Nobody comes to see you besides your family and friends. Dont get me wrong, friends and family rule, just that nobody goes to shows anymore. Nobody’s interested in any kind of music scene it seems.
KM: I really wish there was a supportive scene. The pay to play thing is just distgusting. There are many great bands that people are missing out on because they are the trend. NY is a rough place to be in a band.
SOS: Do you prefer the studio or the stage and why?
CH: Stage, all my fans can adore me
JB: I enjoy both for different reasons. Stage for the energy, studio for the ability to put something down on tape which you and your mates created that will last forever.
KM: Each have their own qualities. I love the stage for the energy excitement of performing but the studio is where things are created and that is exciting too. So I can’t really say I have a favorite.
SOS: What bands are you currently listening to?
CH: Clutch, Melvins, Kyuss and Big band drum battles.
JB: Clutch, Torche, random jazz, new Metallica, and the girlfriend is wedging Hot Chip in my ears consistently. Dont know if that’s good or bad.
KM: 31 Knots, Bill Frisell, Naked City, The Melvins, JUNO Soundtrack.
SOS: What are the plans for JWB in 2009?
CH: I’m not sure about the rest of the band, but I want to travel the world in search for the perfect taco.
JB: Record, some road trips, abroad??
KM: We have been working on new tunes & we are hoping to record them in 2009.
SOS: Any final words?
CH: My only regret is I have but one life to live for my band.
JB: Keep it Brown.
KM: It’s like screaming in forest and nobody hears you, but people really should pull their heads out of their asses and stop letting promoters take advantage of them. The only large descent sized venues on Long Island make band pay to play. It is a cancer that erodes at the culture of local music. Oh, and Sonic Youth rules.
Oklahoma City, OK act Bleed the Sky implement the emotions of enduring the endless rigors of being in a fledgling metal band just scraping by into an explosive 12-track album MURDER THE DANCE. Crossing metalcore anthem choruses with jagged shards of pummeling metal (“Sullivan,” “Slavior”), this act falls somewhere between Strapping Young Lad, VOD, Deftones and Kataklysm when applying a new school neck-breaking approach to savagery, propelling tracks like the spiraling “Morose,” the lung-tearing “Kettle Black” or the screeching title track to the forefront of ferocity. With a slew of suffocated rhythms and woozy dissonance floating in and out of chaotic tracks like “The Sleeping Beauty,” this band respectively place a sturdy smattering of modern metal pieces together to formulate a style which echoes their plight and struggles of climbing the ranks. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS
One of the greatest rock and roll bands from the early 90’s is undoubtedly Pearl Jam, featuring frontman Eddie Vedder, lead guitarist Mike McCreedy, the rhythm guitars of Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament, and drummer Matt Cameron. As part of their upcoming 20 year anniversary celebration, the Seattle rockers recently re-released their landmark record Ten Deluxe Edition with revamped mixes of all the classics. Long-time producer Brenden O’Brien offers a fresh remastering on classic cuts “Why Go,” “Once,” and b-side favorite “Breath” to name a few highlights. This is one of the few re-releases worth picking up. A-
Prepare to blast off into the galaxy with Elder and their eponymous five-track jaunt that reaches to infinity and beyond. Capturing the space rock vibe down to each throbbing bass note, stabilizing scrawl of feedback, and cosmic guitar riff, this nubile Massachusetts trio mold themselves after bands like Sleep and Electric Wizard, imbibing the magic seeds and elixirs of the likes of Sabbath and Yob to accommodate the outer limits funk on cuts like “Ghost Head.” Adorned with an abundance of swirling rhythms whose mammoth gravitational pull recalls the works of Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu, there’s a whole new world waiting for you once you strap yourself into this interplanetary album’s wild eyed ride. www.meteorcity.com -Mike SOS