Monthly Archives: December 2009

Review: Jeff Scott Soto – One Night in Madrid [2010]

Heavy metal vocalist Jeff Scott Soto conjures up the double live disc One Night in Madrid for Jan. 2010. The ex-Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist and current Trans-Siberian Orchestra singer rips through tracks from Beautiful Mess and also offers a wild finish that features a medley of covers saluting rock and funk royalty.

My personal favorite performance from the live album is the rendition of “Stand Up” from the Rockstar Soundtrack. Soto’s live scream at the beginning is purely astounding.

One Night in Madrid demonstrates that JSS has a very loyal fanbase and much larger audience in Europe than the U.S.  His loyal followers rock along hard to the songs as Soto diligently leads the band.

Soto’s backing band is very tight and spot on, however some guitar tones seem like they could have been strengthened, particularly on the clean funk channels.

This live album will please Soto’s fans and is is good for what it is. Soto always flew under the radar throughout his long career and will continue to do so following this release.

Track Listing:

  1. “Intro”
  2. “21st Century”
  3. “Colour My XT”
  4. “Soul Divine”
  5. “Our Song”
  6. “Mountain”
  7. “Eyes Of Love”
  8. “Testify”
  9. “Broken Man”
  10. “Hey”
  11. “Frozen”
  12. “Crazy”
  13. “If This Is The End”
  14. “Holding On”
  15. “Nobody Said It Was Easy”
  16. “4 U”
  17. “Just Between Us”
  18. “Gin & Tonic Sky”
  19. “I’ll Be Waiting
  20. “Stand Up”
  21. “We Will Rock You”
  22. “I Love Rock & Roll”
  23. “Funky Medley: We Will Rock You/I Love Rock & Roll/Play That Funky Music/Jungle Boogie/The Roof Is On Fire/Brick House/Shake Your Booty/Kung Fu Fighting/Yo Baby Yo/Macho Man/The Right Stuff/Ice Ice Baby/Stayin’ Alive/Another One Bites The Dust/Walk This Way”

One Night in Madrid on AmazonJSS Official SiteWikipedia

Year In Review: Top 10 Songs of 2009

1.  “Head Crusher” Megadeth – Endgame: The first single from Megadeth’s recent release contains a devastating intro featuring Dave Mustaine thrashing on the low E string while Chris Broderick shreds the octave riff on the high e. The opening instrumental “Dialectic Chaos” contains some very similar thrash metal magic. “Head Crusher” is a punishing number and a great way to introduce the feel of Endgame to the masses.

2.  “Rite of Passage” Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings: There is no better lead guitar-drum combo in progressive heavy metal today than John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy. The drum production (0:38) on this track is the best that you will find from 2009. In addition to the production and triumphant riffs, the tune is marked with haunting licks (4:33) and an some 80’s thrash influence (4:56).

3.  “Death To All But Metal” Steel Panther – Feel The Steel: Whether Steel Panther is mocking metal or worshiping metal is irrelevant. This song is pure lyrical genius in a similar manner to early Eminem, except these guys can play instruments and play them just as well as any metal band out there. From the “Live Wire” inspired riff, to the shout outs to Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe, to the nasty and highly inappropriate shots at Kanye West and Madonna, it’s just brilliant.

4.  “Hate Worldwide” Slayer – World Painted Blood: This Slayer track proves to be the best fist throwing and hard stomping pit-pleaser of the year. Check out the nasty breakdown points for more info. What makes “Hate Worldwide” so great is how it alternates between aggressive speed riffs and its powerful groove. It is real difficult to not enjoy this one especially with the brutal guitar work from Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman.

5.  “Bible Black” Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know: Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio delivers this evil gem in a purely sinister manner, that is an instant classic, and melts your face with its gloomy rhetoric and riffs of impending doom…like I said purely sinister. The opening acoustic guitars with the melodic lead set the tone perfectly for the heaviness that soon kicks in, and kicks your ass.

6.  “Heaven is Gone” Seventh Void – Heaven is Gone: Earlier this year, Big Vin Records released this hard and heavy riff-fueled tune by Kenny Hickey and Johnny Kelly from Type-o-Negative, aka Seventh Void. One of the best features of this band is that the dark sound is a little rough around the edges, which means there is no useless over-production here. A very refreshing release that did not receive nearly enough credit this year.

7.  “Check My Brain” Alice in Chains – Black Turns To Blue: Seattle rock pioneers Alice in Chains came back with their first studio album in 14 years and since the death of frontman Layne Staley in 2002. This track demonstrates everything we would expect from AIC: Sludgy riffs from Jerry Cantrell and very dark vocal harmonies. I must admit, this was a pleasant surprise this year.

8.  “On and On” – The Answer – Demon Eyes: There are several good bands out there in, what I like to call, the “neo-classical hard rock” genre and one of the best ones is The Answer. “On and On” provides a hard edged rock and roll boogie that honors rock royalty, from Black Sabbath to Queen. Just a great feel-good track. If you enjoyed Airbourne’s album from last year then you will dig these guys too.

9.  “Whatever Gets You Off” – The Last Vegas – Whatever Gets You Off: “Whatever Gets You Off” works the same way as “On and On” above, except The Last Vegas has more of a trash and glam feel. This is another fine example of ne0-classical hard rock music done right. The key ingredients: sleazy lyrics and way, way over-the-top energy.

10.  “Babylon’s Burning” W.A.S.P. – Babylon: Blackie Lawless has shown that he can still put out great material. On this song you are dealt 5 minutes of classic 80’s sounding riffs with demonic gallops and “666” lyrical madness. This entire album was a late surprise from 2009.

Note: The 10 tracks above are based on pure opinion, obviously, and you probably completely disagree. These are tunes that have grown stronger with more listens as the year progressed. Basically, I have yet to grow tired of them. Comment below and let me know your favorite songs of 2009.

Review: Wyldsky – Wyldsky [2009]

Los Angeles-based hard rock outfit Wyldsky offers this 10-track debut, delivering a feast of vintage tones and catchy hooks that make this disc a stereo staple.

Rocking songs such as “Next World” and “Dog Daze” feature powerful drumbeats that at times summon the legendary John Bonham, or on a much lesser note, Stillwater’s “Fever Dog” from Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous.

The vocals of Tyler Nelson set most of the tunes on fire, particularly during the choruses, providing an aggressive Skynyrd feel.

Not all of the material is hard and heavy on this album. “Rendezvous” is a power ballad that features an epic guitar solo from Nelson and “Holding On” emanates a jazz-rock fusion vibe that you would expect from a Satriani or Vai track.

“My Baby” carries bluesy keyboard riffs a la Great White to make the ladies dance, while the acoustic dominance of “Goodbye, Good Riddance” and “Where You Belong” will make the ladies cry.

Between the thunderous drums, skillful lead guitars, and powerful vocals, Wyldsky produces a fine sound that is worth giving a listen. If you are a fan of 80’s hard rock, you will definitely love this disc.

Wyldsky is Tyler Nelsom (Vocals/Guitars),Chad Quist (Guitars), Doug Richardson (Bass), Chris Turbis (Keyboards), & Mike Lesniak (Drums).

Track Listing:

  1. “Next World”
  2. “Holding On”
  3. “Dog Daze”
  4. “Rendezvous”
  5. “My Baby”
  6. “Comin’ On”
  7. “Wild Honey”
  8. “Nightmare and a Dream”
  9. “Where You Belong”
  10. “Goodbye, Good Riddance”

Amazon.comOfficial SiteMySpace

Year in Review: Top 10 Albums of 2009

1. Slayer – World Painted Blood: “You would think that even a pioneering thrash metal band would evolve and head in a different direction at some point during a career that spans nearly 30 years. Not Slayer. On World Painted Blood, Slayer is just as devastating, fast, and angry as they were in 1986…delivers thrash perfection offering musical aggression at its finest…World Painted Blood is flawless and immaculate, a 5-star performance, and the album of the year” (Full Review).

2. Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue: “DuVall’s vocal performance proves to be an adequate replacement for Staley, exceeding expectations of quality, capability, and image. He is no Brian Johnson to Bon Scott, but he does make the group better for what they are today. As for the rest of the band, Jerry Cantrell reclaims his throne as a guitar god and great vocalist, Mike Inez rocks the bass as if he is still in his 20’s, and Sean Kinney is the premier drummer he has always been. The survey says: Black Gives Way To Blue was worth waiting for. In other words, this record makes Chinese Democracy eat sh*t” (Full Review).

3. Megadeth – Endgame: “Dave Mustaine and company are back with an even thrashier and, once again, unapologetic lyrical effort on Endgame. The guitars of Mustaine and Chris Broderick prove to be the best work since Rust in Peace and arguably the most compatible in Megadeth’s history. Tracks such as “How The Story Ends” and “Head Crusher” unleash the classic headbanging euphoria that cannot be mistaken for any other group…another fine moment in thrash metal history” (Full Review).

4. Kiss – Sonic Boom: “Raise up your horns kiddies and let the ol’ Knights in Satan’s Service take you on a nice and rockin’ ride! Sonic Boom reinvents Kiss and brings a whole new respect for the band. They follow the formula that best suits them: Keep it Simple, stupid! Tracks like “Never Enough” and “Stand” make me forget that its 2009 and feel like im listening to the vintage Kiss records of the 70’s…Sonic Boom is the best stuff the originators of the rock n roll circus have to offer in merely two decades” (Full Review).

5. Mastodon – Crack The Skye: Whether you love or hate Mastodon, you cannot deny the success and attention that Crack The Skye has garnered for the band and the heavy metal genre this year. Since tearing up the main stage at last year’s Mayhem Festival, the band has grown stronger and more powerful than anybody ever expected of them. The release of Crack The Skye offers satellite radio gems “Divinations,” “Oblivion,” and the title track. If you appreciate metal, you can appreciate this album.

6. Pearl Jam – Backspacer: “Once again Pearl Jam takes the unpolished rock and roll approach, a page directly from the holy book of The Ramones. For most of the record, Eddie Vedder shows he has no shame in allowing his voice to rip and roar in a slew of continuous streams while leading us all to the chapel of rock…While this is not the greatest record in the band’s repertoire nor does it offer a stunning new direction, it is always refreshing to hear rock music that is done right” (Full Review).

7. Dream Theater – Black Clouds and Silver Linings: “What better way to begin a record with the words “Black Clouds” in the title than to include a disturbingly haunting intro on the first number — think stormy earth like the opening to “Black Sabbath” and combine that with the spooky keyboards of Jordan Rudess that would make the Cryptkeeper grin. After the opening horror show, John Petrucci shifts gears with a heavy riff for James LaBrie’s vocal entrance. Mike Portnoy’s double bass drum playing during the first movement is as fast and devastating as ever…The lyrical melody combined with the progressive groove is purely exhilarating” (Full Review).

8. The Last Vegas – Whatever Gets You Off: “If you are down with the classic hard rock sound of Airbourne and The Answer, then you will adore the trash glam band, The Last Vegas from Chicago. Whatever Gets You Off features plenty of obnoxious headbanging cuts and power ballad blitzes that will blast you back to the Sunset Strip circa 1982. There are plenty of catchy hooks on this record that will stick to your thick-ass skull for weeks…The Last Vegas brings an updated and fresh vibe to the 80’s glam culture” (Full Review).

9. Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot: “The supergroup concoction of legendary hard rock frontman Sammy Hagar, guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith offers an eleven trackself-titled debut that confirms some recent speculation: “Satch” is the best guitarist to ever play alongside Hagar… For best results, find an open highway just before dusk, preferably along a coastal landscape, hit the pedal, crank it up, and cruise the lonely gray pavement into the pitch-dark sky” (Full Review).

10. Queensrÿche – American Sodier: “Queensrÿche is back with the conceptual release American Soldier, which fuses some modern rock elements with their progressive hard rock edge…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” (Full Review).

Runners-Up: Heaven & Hell The Devil Knows Your Name, W.A.S.P. Babylon, Ace Frehley Anomaly, The Answer Everyday Demons, Otep Smash The Control Machine

Editor’s Note: The Top 10 Albums of 2009 list was compiled and based on the official Gears of Rock reader’s poll.

Breaking Metal News: Kerri Lee from "That Metal Show" Found Dead

Updates: Kerri Leigh Tucker, a Cleveland native, was only 27 years old at the time of death. Funeral services are 2:00 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 12 in the chapel of Fike Funeral Home. Cause of death still unknown.

Click here to learn about the new Miss Box of Junk, Jennifer Leah Gottlieb.

____________________________

There have been several rumors circulating the web today that Kerri Lee (Kerri Leigh Tucker), also known as Miss Box of Junk on VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, was found dead in her apartment last night.


At this time there is not much information but several sites including Maximum Threshold and Lee’s page at  ModelMayhem.com have reported and referenced this unfortunate event.

Photojournalist Rob Klein, who has worked with Lee in the past, left the following comment on her profile:

“O.M.G. REST IN PEACE KERI LEE… I loved working with you and you were just about to LIVE YOUR DREAM… too soon, girl! We will all miss you!”

So far, there are no comments regarding this matter on the websites of Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine, and Don Jamieson, the hosts of That Metal Show.

However Trunk’s Twitter.com page showed the following message several hours ago:

“Woke up in LA today to hear the horrible news that Kerri Lee, miss box of junk on TMS, has passed away. More news when I get it.”

Kerri Lee Tucker won the honor of “Box of Junk Girl” and made her debut on the first episode of season two.

Our thoughts, wishes, and prayers are with Lee’s family in this very difficult time.

____________________________

Gears of Rock Store

SOS Metal Reviews: Austrian Death Machine "Double Brutal," Whiplash, Evile, and more…

AUSTRIAN DEATH MACHINE: DOUBLE BRUTAL

When will it end? Tim Lambesis returns with his brand of Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation metal with Austrian Death Machine’s double album aptly titled Double Brutal. The first disc contains 13 new metal jams served with a wink and a nod thanks to the subject matter and the rapidly getting stale Ahhnold vocalizations while the second disc tackles a slew of material from bands such as Megadeth, Metallica, and The Misfits. Supercharged with a slew of guest guitarists whose spicy solos downright save this beaten to death formula of dreadful skits in between songs with paint yourself in a corner topics, the time is ticking on the relevance and overall funniness of this project, yet it does manage to illicit a couple of chuckles in between flashes of crossover metal durability (“Who Told You You Could Eat My Cookies?”). Despite exhibiting twice the muscle and might as the last disc, Austrian Death Machine’s tired act is growing staler by the minute and losing steam just as fast. amazon.comwww.metalblade.comMike SOS

DIE HARD: NIHILSITIC VISION

From the opening “Hail Satan” invocation heard on “Into the Desolate Halls of Death,” Swedish trio Die Hard showcases that they don’t mess around while maintaining a solid old school death metal vibe which effortlessly revisits mantras and tones from the left hand path’s most incendiary offerings. Channeling the likes of Celtic Frost to Entombed on the 10-track Nihilistic Vision, this disc strikes with straightforward battering ram percussion (“Fed to the Lions”), crushing guitar riffs and a gruff vocal evilness, shaping this excursion’s descent into the abyss to be palatable for those who choose darkness. Yielding a raucous array of metallic fury that gets the blood pumping and the axes swinging (“Bloody War,” “Death Chasing the Flock of Mortals”), Die Hard follows the glory days of death metal template to perfection to create an unholy direct line from old to new. www.agoniarecords.comMike SOS

IMPOSTER SYNDROME: ROSE COLORED SABOTAGE

Resilient NYC rockers Imposter Syndrome continue the daunting mission of churning out edgy tunes brimming with grace on Rose Colored Sabotage. This five-track presentation illuminates this quirky quartet’s superb command of the signature jagged melody over sinewy groove concoction while Kristen Persinos’ silky smooth vocal style alluringly delivers intricate interpersonal lyrical content with arresting conviction (“Rose Colored Sabotage”). Possessing the comfort zone to crank guitars up and dig into a grunge groove (“Plastic Wrap”) as easily as slip back into an alt-rock meets Pink Floyd smorgasbord (“Black, One Sugar”), Imposter Syndrome’s shadowy aura and impressive musical dexterity fosters the lost art of organic composition that sets them apart from the pack, as this release aptly displays the tools necessary to build sturdy songs that progress to satisfying ends. www.impostorsyndrome.netMike SOS

KIRBY KRACKLE: KIRBY KRACKLE

Kirby Krackle is a niche band of the highest order, sitting on the tip-top of the pop culture bubble with their knack for developing songs custom made for geeks of the globe to break hearts and save damsels in distress to. This self-professed delicious nerd rock duo joins forces to rid the world of evil with a top-secret blend of acoustically driven adult alternative rock for the sci-fi sect. Fueled by an unbridled passion for the worlds of both comic books (“Marvelous Girls”, “One of the Guys”) and video games (“Naked Wii”, “Up, Up, Down, Down”), this Pacific Northwestern tandem’s whimsical delivery and comical tones assists the good time feel to sustain through this entire 10-track affair. While this eponymous offering is sure to go over the heads of those not in the know (the lyrics are teeming with insider references galore), Kirby Krackle have put together a smart and fun album meshing the wares of Barenaked Ladies, Bowling for Soup, Weezer, and Sugar Ray for fanboys and industry folk alike to sink their teeth into. www.kirbykracklemusic.comMike SOS

WHIPLASH: UNBORN AGAIN

The best thrash didn’t always come from the Bay Area, as cities both home and abroad also had a stake in the white high top and bullet belt game as well. Count New Jersey metal trio Whiplash in as one of the acts that walked amongst regional heavyweights like Overkill and Anthrax back in the day who have returned after a long hiatus armed with a 10-track release that makes references but doesn’t relive their salad days. While Unborn Again doesn’t aim to replicate the golden era, it does contain a solid array of catchy tracks that fall in line with the output of similar bands from the old school who’ve returned after a considerable length of time. Trading in trademarked white-knuckle velocity for newfound groove-laden crunch on cuts like “Swallow the Slaughter” and “Firewater,” Whiplash takes it down a notch with a simplistic and direct approach packed with an organic feel and a genuine snarl that many modern bands have a tough time establishing. Coming back to the scene with some alterations to their sound yet still able to summon the chops to throw a breakneck tempo down when necessary (“Pitbulls in the Playground,” “Feeding Frenzy”), the latest release by Whiplash may not be your older brother’s thrash metal, but it will do the trick for diehards who remember the band from their early days.  www.pulverised.netMike SOS

TEMPLE OF BAAL: LIGHTSLAYING RITUALS

Nine blasphemous blasts of charred metal arrive via French veteran troupe Temple of Baal on the unit’s latest offering Lightslaying Rituals. Exhibiting a primitive and punishing aggressiveness necessary to be considered lethal (“Vectors to the Void”) and a dastardly demonic wrath that effortlessly emits an authentically heartfelt sense of hatred (“Death Cult”), this disc dexterously melds black metal atmosphere and death metal brutality with flashes of thrash metal tumult to create a contemptuous sonic whirlwind glacially steeped in ‘90s extreme metal notoriety (“Black Sun of the Damned”). While those who’ve been around the block have heard the likes of this before from everyone from At the Gates and Entombed to Absu and Celtic Frost, the expert production, contagious songwriting (“Hate is My Name”) and overall disdain carried across the album captures a modern misanthropist vibe for the new age of underground to feast upon. www.agoniarecords.comMike SOS

LYE BY MISTAKE: FEA JUR

Ironic how an album that virtually transcends metal’s hardline traditional nuances in nearly every capacity winds up on one of the globe’s premier metal labels, yet such is the case with the latest offering by St. Louis outfit Lye By Mistake, the unit’s first without a singer. By opting to go the instrumental route, this technically proficient trio’s sophomore effort channels expected progressive metal with shards of Dream Theater, Rush, King Crimson, and Death amongst others fingered and deciphered from chaotic cacophonies like “Stag”. Yet this band is not in the least bit content with merely replicating glories of their peers, as the jaw dropping prowess, surprising sense of malleability and blistering playing ability showcased throughout the course of its eight-track duration veers into uncharted areas on numerous occasions without trepidation, pulling hunks of heavy higher minded goodness out along their free form fusion discovery mission (“Vanguard to Nowhere”). While the unconditioned may receive an instant migraine upon impact, Fea Jur is an album custom built for the listener prepared to explore and be taken aback with the virtuosity of three musicians at the top of their creative and performance peaks. www.metalblade.comMike SOS

FURIA: GRUDZIEN ZA GRUDNIEM

Polish black metal troupe Furia unleash a sinister seven-track affair whose blistering black metal assault is peppered with elements of forward-thinking metal to create a subversive musical entity whose merit lies far beyond their demonic inclinations. Equipped with rounds of angst-stricken vocals (with lyrics strictly in Polish) reminiscent of fellow purveyors of expansion Shining over atmospheric interludes, glacial guitars directly stripped from the works of the masters of the genre, foreboding militaristic marching rhythms, and an overpowering sense of bleakness oppressing the entire collection, Furia’s genuine disdain for mankind ascends from the catacombs long enough to obtain the required amounts of fresh blood to carry out evil’s bastardized biddings. www.lettheworldburn.orgMike SOS

EVILE: INFECTED NATION

UK thrash metal upstarts Evile’s sophomore effort Infected Nations is an undeniable nine-track homage to the Golden Age of thrash that digs deep to excavate inspiration from some lesser known acts besides the Rushmore-esque Big Four. There’s a hearty smattering of Annihilator, Kreator, and Bay Area bashing that you can almost swore you heard from the likes of Vio-lence or Forbidden before pervading through the brazen Megadeth-like twin guitar explorations (“Now Demolition”, “Devoid of Thought”) as well as a discernibly thicker sound and slower pace than previously employed by the band (“Metamorphosis”) that manages to keep the head banging and the attitude intense while the band forges into a different subset of thrash metal waters. Rendering a mixed bag of B-list influences and lengthy tracks whose running times lend to spells of atmospheric meandering, this disc is a far cry from their debut yet definitely puts the band into a whole new light, fortifying their latest metallic mission with ambition that helps to fuse the elements together as well as help their thrash under the microscope approach escape full collapse. amazon.comwww.earache.comMike SOS

THE GATES OF SLUMBER: HYMNS OF BLOOD AND THUNDER

The Gates of Slumber’s spot on presentation of the NWOBHM and doom style shines on their fourth release Hymns of Blood and Thunder. This Indiana trio skillfully channels the creeping vibes of Candlemass, early Trouble, and St. Vitus to create a viscous wall of sound complete with brooding guitar solos (“The Doom of Aceldama”), thunderous drums (“Beneath the Eyes of Mars”), and a vocal warble that trembles with an authentic dollop of old school grit. Showcasing a dastardly sense of dynamics, this unit convincingly pours out hypnotically thick riffs and calculated rhythms a la Cathedral (“Descent into Madness”) yet can still break into a balls out heavy dirge a la anything Wino (“The Bringer of War”) a Dio-era Sabbathian double time chugger (“Chaos Calling”) and veer into ‘70s classic heavy metal territory without losing an ounce of gloom (“Age of Sorrow”). If you have a hankering for a solid slab of despair, this monolithic 10-track cornucopia of calamity may sound at times like a repeat but ultimately is a hard album to beat.  www.metalblade.comMike SOS

A STORM OF LIGHT: FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES

Bombastic and brainy, A Storm of Light’s sophomore effort Forgive Us Our Trespasses yields an intriguing potpourri of dynamic post metal nuances for those who enjoy latter day Isis or the galactic side of Mastodon. This Brooklyn unit’s sci-fi heavy headphone friendly 10-track offering supplies a wealth of epic and ethereal vibes thanks to a masterful balance of bold instrumentation and spoken word interludes a la Today is the Day, adding rich keyboard overlays and female vocals into their stoned and sprawling monolithic compositions, allowing them to unravel in the name of righteous exploration, not self-centered exploitation. Painting a picturesque model of an apocalyptic future while a host of special guests from the avant-garde metal sect make their impact via cameos (Jarboe, Lydia Lunch), ASOL’s unorthodox sense of ambiance could benefit from some self-editing down the road, but it does develop an advanced approach to gloom and doom metal that is downtrodden enough to fit in yet distinct enough to branch past the norm. www.neurotrecordings.comMike SOS

SHRINEBUILDER: SHRINEBUILDER

The term supergroup is tossed around these days like a football during a tailgate party but if there’s one band that deserves the moniker, it has to be the fearsome foursome known as Shrinebuilder. This top-secret quartet comes into the light and features the talents of Wino, Scott Kelly, Dale Crover, and Al Cisneros. If you are unfamiliar with any of these guys and their pedigree, please stop reading this now and bone up on your history. For those who vigilantly follow metal’s underground scene, this is your go-to mini-album of the year, an eponymous five-track offering reportedly recorded in three days whose imminent strike and psychedelic overtones take on a life of its own without abandoning the roots from which it came, sounding as if four admirals have taken equal charge on one massive battleship’s course through the seas of an alternative world. Chock full of doom metal lethargy, swirls of stoner rock goodness, and oodles of avant-garde metal ambiance, this unit has made an album that transcends the usual bullet points and can be summed up in one word: awesome. Get this now and become enchanted with your new favorite band. www.neurotrecordings.comMike SOS

HELLBASTARD: THE NEED TO KILL

Unapologetic crust punk attitude colliding with raging old school thrash metal is what rejuvenated UK troupe Hellbastard bring to the table on their latest release The Need To Kill. Throw an unorthodox sense of whimsy and a steadfast metallic assault into the picture and watch the cacophony of crossover chaos commence, complete with the occasional oddball banjo interlude trapped inside a tumultuous Exodus-esque groove dripping with plundered punk charm just for the hell of it. Keeping the listener on their toes with flurries of rapid-fire riffs and blasting rhythms channeling the vibes of Entombed, Suicidal Tendencies, Sacred Reich, Discharge and The Haunted, this disc provides a shining example of unsanitized underground metal at its most boisterous and visceral. amazon.comwww.selfmadegod.comMike SOS

JOHN WILLIAM GORDON: TECHNOT

Calling his modern blend of music “mutant jazz”, acclaimed San Francisco guitarist John William Gordon contrives a fiery fusion that deftly combines jazz and rock auras on latest release Technot. This 10-track eclectic exhibition throws down a dazzling and dizzying instrumental smorgasbord showcasing both Gordon’s smoking six-string benedictions with the rest of his trio’s solid chops propelling a smoldering experimental take on traditional standards and practices. Imparting a world music exercise for outer space, Gordon and crew consistently display a vigilant virtuosity that commands attention while their free-form jams like “GVOL” and “Back Room Flow” convey the proper atmosphere needed which increases the headspace in order to wander.  www.johnwilliamgordon.comMike SOS

EASTER MONKEYS: SPLENDOR OF SORROW

A reissue of Cleveland cult post punk unit Easter Monkeys and their seminal album Splendor of Sorrow comes courtesy of Smog Veil, whose 15-track release digs deep to unearth as much of this revered squad’s recorded history as possible. Featuring a host of bonus tracks and a DVD of a performance taken from a 1982 show at the Agora, this band’s unique darkened no frills punk rock approach and pomp-less and meandering yet hard hitting psychedelic fits featured a pre-Pere Ubu Jim Jones (who really stands out here) and truly showcased a band whose imbued underground status and trailblazing scope definitely deserves a spin or two for the subversive rock lover in us all. www.smogveil.comMike SOS

MOJO RISING: FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL

Aussie dance-rock team Mojo Rising meld the best elements from both the excessive ‘80s commercial front a la INXS and Duran Duran and the manufactured funk-driven thump of bands like Maroon 5 and the cheeky balladeering of acts like Hootie and the Blowfish together to form this duo’s five-track offering Feel What You Feel. Decorated with a dash of blue-eyed soul worthy of more than a good night out on the town that helps an overall sense of authenticity to peak out from the Pro Tools sanitizer, this slickly produced effort makes up for its near deal-breaking lack of lyrical depth with a slew of dynamically charged grooves inside of well-arranged compositions bound to make a dance floor hopping. Mojo Rising’s blend of middle of the road rock and pop goes down smooth and keep spirits high for certain, but for those who keep a keen interest in the mainstream music machine, this disc is bound to sound all too familiar to make it worthy of spins beyond a random good night out on the town. www.myspace.com/mojorisingband.comMike SOS

ELDER: REFLECT

Post-hardcore trio Elder makes a passionate return with their latest six-track endeavor Reflect. This Philadelphia-based troupe once again provide the proper balance of lush loud-soft dynamic shifts and old school DIY hardcore awareness on songs like “Friendly Fire” yet demonstrate an abrasive edge in 1:27 with the scalding tune “Vultures”. Throw a pinch of posi-core posturing, a dash of cosmic math-rock riffage and a hearty hunk of purposeful yet slightly grating screamo vocals into the mix and this squad’s boisterous bevy of fluid fluctuations are bound to score big with both the disaffected youth of today who happily lap up third-hand experience along side disillusioned adults who never let go of the underlying principles. amazon.comwww.forgeagainrecords.comMike SOS

MONGREL: REVENGE

Mongrel reveals a no nonsense raucous punk/metal dimension on their five-track excursion Revenge. Brimming with street punk savvy and dripping with inner city contempt, this Massachusetts quartet’s aggressive attitude is reminiscent of a hybrid of Circus of Power, Scatterbrain, and Black Flag, as they maintain a melodic side while spewing venom with reverence to the early days of the punk and hardcore scene on cuts like “Butterknife Suicide” and  “Catharsis.” Direct and to the point, Mongrel’s frantic pace with attention to hooks projects a rowdy and rebellious aura perfect when elevating the level of madness is at the top of the to-do list. www.mongrelband.comMike SOS

GAZA: HE IS NEVER COMING BACK

Utah noise metal mavens Gaza return with a crushing 14-track sophomore effort entitled He Is Never Coming Back. Scouring the bottom of the metal barrel, this sludge-infused squad lay down a relentless barrage of disfigured rhythms, heaving vocals, and viscous dissonant riffs that protrude from the speakers like molten lava from a volcanic eruption. Unsettling and downright ugly at times, this disc melds the abrasiveness of Unsane with the technical prowess of Today is the Day to comprise a caustic metal cacophony armed with an authentic sense of anger and dread that will leave even the most hardened metal listener a bit shaken up. www.blackmarketactivities.comMike SOS

THREAT SIGNAL: VIGILANCE

Even though Canadian modern metal crew Threat Signal have undergone a significant amount of lineup changes within their relatively short life span, it has served as merely a minor deterrent from releasing their self-produced sophomore effort Vigilance. This 13-track juggernaut endorses the piledriving and ultra-pasturized processed sound of bands like Fear Factory (whose Christain Wolbe Olders produced their first album) and Soilwork with loads of Swedish death metal elements a la In Flames and American metalcore structures from the likes of Shadows Fall (“Another Source of Light”) and Killswitch Engage (”Through My Eyes”) strewn in the mix with a smidgen of melodic nu-metal providing the arena-filling sing-along choruses that assists this band’s crossover appeal (it doesn’t hurt that lead singer Jon Howard bares an uncanny vocal similarity to Chester from Linkin Park either, depending on who you ask). There’s no question that Threat Signal is a talented band with a penchant for writing a catchy song that packs a damaging heft behind it (“In Repair”), but attentive metal fans have repeatedly heard much of the excellently executed brazen attack heard on Vigilance before from numerous other acts in not so different forms, rendering this disc as a solid yet non-essential album.www.nuclearblastusa.comMike SOS

LACUNA COIL: SHALLOW LIFE

Italian Goth-metal troupe Lacuna Coil scoops the remaining portion of their original sound out of their repertoire and inserts a streamlined pop-metal sheen a la Evanescence in its place on the squad’s latest album Shallow Life. Produced and co-wrote by song doctor extraordinaire Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte), this collaboration results in decisively less metal with an upgraded electronica-like façade firmly in place where vocals (mainly Cristina’s) are the order of the day. As for the rest of the music, it may as well be damned, as the overall sanitized presentation sans an incessant use of keyboard and space filling synth elements used for Hollywood movie soundtrack atmosphere barely allows guitars enough room to flesh out colossal choruses heard on cuts like “Not Enough.” Championing a subdued and simplified form of songwriting to appeal to a broader audience, Lacuna Coil’s latest endeavor is far from a departure for the band and actually can be argued as a logical step in the band’s sound, but buyer beware; it abandons the band’s intrinsic sense of darkness in favor for a glossy and overpowering beam of bright light, leaving the unit to merely mingle in the shadows when they formerly ruled the roost. amazon.comwww.centurymedia.comMike SOS

BLACK SKIES: HEXAGON

North Carolina’s Black Skies summon the might of Southern sludge metal on the trio’s aptly titled six-track sojourn Hexagon. This squad’s undeniable admiration for Black Sabbath also weighs heavy on their multi-influenced yet easily pegged mix of steamroller swing, as gloomy guitar crunch a la Trouble, filling-rattling bass explosions, tasty yet durable percussion, and a grizzled vocal delivery not unlike High on Fire round out this outfit’s stoner rock on steroids aura. Supplying a cavalcade of gigantic grooves and lumbering rhythms oozing with the kind of hypnotic riffs that sound so familiar yet still warrant multiple hits of the repeat button, Hexagon is a perfect addition to your collection of molasses-infused metal, best propped alongside the likes of Alabama Thunderpussy, labelmates Eyehategod and Weedeater for logistical reasons. www.imbetterthaneveryonerecords.comMike SOS

PERE UBU: LONG LIVE PERE UBU

Cleveland, OH avant-garde garage punk pioneers Pere Ubu made the type of music that bucked trends, shunned spotlights, and kept the mainstream as far away as possible throughout their career of cult status and latest offering Long Live Pere Ebu is no different. This unit, formed back in 1975, is an acquired taste for certain, as the music of Pere Ubu is an ever evolving medium that consistently presents a challenge to the ears, exploring art punk’s outer most reaches with innovative arrangements, quirky vocals, oddball instrumentation and an absurdist’s viewpoint at the forefront, This time around, the band comes full circle, interpreting the much-maligned Alfred Jarry surrealist play they take their name from into a working musical form, a task which renders an off-kilter old time serial radio version of the production (which Pere Ubu brought to life in a UK theater) chock full of David Thomas and company’s trademark protean fractured musical detachments and provocative audio juxtapositions. Best experienced uninterrupted in its entirety and definitely not for the easily offended, Pere Ubu’s tackles this ambitious and somewhat nostalgic endeavor with an ambient panache as only a band of their caliber can muster. www.smogveilrecords.comMike SOS

3: REVISIONS

Cleaning out closets and revamping older works, the Woodstock-based prog rock troupe 3 trudge their poppier side through modern sensibilities and the outcome is Revisions. While this band is usually known to champion a hybrid style that works from a progressive rock foundation and branches beyond usual limits, this release relies on a laid back borderline coffee house aura throughout its duration, definitively applying a contemporary stamp on these 11 tracks, some of which date as far back as 1998. Acting more to tie loose ends together to help early works sound more relevant, while 3’s musicianship (especially Joey Eppard’s breathtaking fretwork) is unquestionably masterful, this offering of alterations seems as more of a contractual obligation than a proper disc, making this incongruous step for the band a treat to appease longtime fans as well as a chance to reel in those who prefer the unit’s softer side. www.metalblade.comMike SOS

THE NETWORK: BISHOP KENT MANNING

Produced by Kurt Ballou, the sophomore effort by New Hampshire’s The Network meld noise metal and mathcore mayhem on the 10-track Bishop Kent Manning. This coarse and caustic collection of tracks string together a tale of a televangelist on his death knell, yet the suffocated and strained screams and strangled vocals barely reveal anything but utter chaos, further backed by a dastardly attack of thunderous percussion, granite smashing bass, and abrasively angular guitar work. Channeling unbridled rage like many of the bands who have graced the God City complex before them, The Network’s furious and ferocious assault does let up in spots to issue a quick breather (“Corpse Paint”), but overall bestows an oppressive sonic crush where barrages of brutal and belligerent modern hardcore converge. amazon.comwww.blackmarketactivities.comMike SOS

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Mike SOS is a frequent contributor and great friend to the Gears of Rock. Be sure to check out Mike SOS’ bands Seizure Crypt and SOS. They will rock your balls off!

Track Review: Charred Walls of the Damned "Ghost Town" [2010]

The sickest metal track to hit the airwaves this week is “Ghost Town” by Charred Walls of the Damned. The band features the vocals of the legendary Tim “Ripper” Owens and the blistering drums of Howard Stern Show personality Richard Christy.

Owens always delivers to an astronomical level, but one would think Christy would have lost some thunder, or at least be rusty, after spending recent years acting like a complete jack ass for the Stern Show.

Christy’s drumming is phenomenal between his double bass technique, exciting rhythm changes, and heavy ass breakdowns (2:25). In fact, Christy is the back bone and the main reason “Ghost Town” is awesome.

Death metal producer Jason Suecof provides the shred work utilizing guitar harmonies and rapid-fire licks that you would expect from John Petrucci.

Honestly, this song took me by complete surprise this week. Perhaps my expectations were too low or I have been starving for some great new metal; anyways, I am officially looking forward to the full self-titled album from Metal Blade Records in February –Meds

Charred Walls of the Damned is Tim “Ripper” Owens (Vocals), Jason Suecof (Guitars), Steve Digiorgio (Bass), & Richard Christy (Drums).

Official SiteWikipedia.com

Review: Living Sacrifice – The Infinite Order [2010]

Christian metal veterans Living Sacrifice return with a devastating assortment of thrash, death, and groove on The Infinite Order.

The guitar riffs of Rocky Gray and Bruce Fitzhugh gallop with the raw power that we used to worship Pantera for, while also offering a speedier as well as a more alternative feel. It is unfortunate that the younger bands these days can’t pull this off correctly, or at least to a satisfactory level.

The more sentimental tracks “God is my Home” and “Love Forgives” contain great feel-good tones while tracks like “Overkill Exposure” and “Organized Lie” kick your teeth in without remorse.

Fitzhugh leads this multifaceted God-fearing madness with beautifully orchestrated Max Cavalera styled death grunts and bassist Arthur Green flawlessly lays down the low end.

Most of the tracks feature brief guitar solos that alternate between traditional shredding, dual harmonies, and even clean breakdowns (“The Training”).

Drummer Lance Garvin adds little metallic percussive nuances on several tracks such as “Nietzsche’s Madman” that advance the overall listening experience.

It is very clear that the guitar riffs are the strongest component of Living Sacrifice’s latest affair which make the album worth checking out alone. Add the solid rhythm section, courtesy of the thrash percussion, and the hardcore leadership and you have the first solid metal album of 2010 –Meds

Living Sacrifice is Bruce Fitzhugh (Vocals/Guitar), Rocky Gray (Guitar/Vocals), Arthur Green (Bass/Vocals), & Lance Garvin (Drums).

Track Listing:

  1. “Overkill Exposure”
  2. “Rules of Engagement”
  3. “Nietsche’s Madman”
  4. “Unfit To Live”
  5. “The Training”
  6. “Organized Lie”
  7. “The Reckoning”
  8. “Love Forgives”
  9. “They Were One”
  10. “God Is My Home”
  11. “Apostasy”

Amazon.comOfficial SiteWikipedia.com

Concert Review: Rob Zombie Live at Hammerstein Ballroom December 1, 2009

“Rock Mother Fucker, Rock The Mother Fucker, Rock Mother Fucker, Yeah,” howled Rob Zombie, while charismatically leading thousands of loyal fans through new song “Sick Bubble Gum,” at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom last night. Whenever Rob Zombie performs, one thing is always for certain, you will experience a big epic rock show, the way concerts are meant to be.

With oversized screens and monitors depicting Zombie’s art work (“American Witch”) and film scenes (“House of 1,000 Corpses), serial killers (“Scum of the Earth”), and classic horror movie imagery, Zombie’s band tore through 16 tracks including two from the upcoming Hellbilly Deluxe 2 album.

Guitarist John 5 continues to be the best addition to Zombie’s crew over the last three years as he effortlessly blazes through the classics, even providing an intoxicating extended solo during “Thunder Kiss 65,” and adding brilliant shreddage to the new stuff.

At times the crowd seemed more reserved than at past shows, which Zombie acknowledged during his stage banter early in the set. He later reserved the center of the floor for all of the ladies in attendance prior to “Living Dead Girl.” Surprisingly, the girls broke out into a mosh pit frenzy (you just gotta love the power of rock n roll) once the song kicked in.

“That’s hysterical,” commented Zombie in the middle of the chorus.

The only bad thing about the show was the poor scheduling. To arrange a concert for a Tuesday night in New York City is not the best move and could explain why the venue was not completely packed, as well as the few mellow moments in the mosh pit.

All in all, Zombie delivered another sick show. If you are a fan of big stage metal performances then catching Zombie live should not only be a priority, but mandatory.

Setlist:

  1. “What Lurks on Channel X”
  2. “Superbeast”
  3. “Super-Charger Heaven”
  4. “Living Dead Girl”
  5. “Demon Speeding”
  6. “More Human Than Human”
  7. “Sick Bubble-Gum”
  8. “House of 1000 Corpses”
  9. “Never Gonna Stop”
  10. “Scum of the Earth”
  11. “What?”
  12. “American Witch”
  13. “Thunderkiss ’65”
  14. “Demonoid Phenomenon”
  15. “Lords of Salem”
  16. “Dragula”

P.S. Opening act and Danish psychobilly veterans Nekromantix ripped up the stage. Check them out. Added bonus: the drummer is smokin’ hot.