KISS in concert at Comcast Center (Mansfield, MA) – 8/7/10

I went to see my favorite band, KISS, in concert Saturday night at the Comcast Center…..this made the 17th time I have seen the band live. What made this concert special was that my wife, my two daughters, my two best friends and my best friend’s son were there to tailgate in the parking lot and enjoy the show. Everyone had a good time in the parking lot, especially my daughters, take a look at a few pictures from our tailgate…..we stopped a few fans that dressed up for some pictures.

The opening bands were The Academy Is and The Envy but there was also a third opener from Boston called Switchblade Suicide that won a Guitar Center contest to open the show. We didn’t bother going in for the openers so the kids wouldn’t get too tired, plus we had no idea who any of these bands were. Normally I am in the arena for all the bands but I’m going to see KISS again on 8/19 at Mohegan Sun so I will see some of them at that show. We got in, got all the tour shirts and got to the seats.

KISS setlist:

Modern Day Delilah
Cold Gin
Let Me Go Rock ‘n’ Roll
Firehouse  (with Gene Simmons breathing fire)
Say Yeah
Crazy Crazy Nights
Calling Dr. Love
Shock Me  (Tommy Thayer lead vocal)
(Guitar & Drum solo from Tommy Thayer & Eric Singer)
I’m An Animal
100,000 Years
(Bass solo, blood-spitting and flying from Gene Simmons)
I Love It Loud
Love Gun
(Guitar intro/solo from Paul Stanley featuring ‘Whole Lotta Love’)
Black Diamond (Eric Singer lead vocal)
Detroit Rock City

Beth (Eric Singer lead vocal)
(Donation check presentation for supporting our troops followed by the Pledge of Allegiance)
Lick It Up
Shout It Out Loud
I Was Made For Loving You (with Paul flying stunt)
God Gave Rock ‘N Roll To You II
Rock And Roll All Nite

We were about 30 rows from the stage, great seats. My oldest daughter was pumped up because she is now a Rock concert veteran having seen KISS in Boston last October and Twisted Sister last November. My wife hadn’t seen KISS since 2004 when they toured with Poison but the night belonged to my youngest daughter going to her first Rock concert. There was no one more excited than her to see KISS but when the first concussion bomb/firework went off, she was done. That was enough for here… song and out! My wife anticipated this so she took her to the grass lawn but by the end of ‘Cold Gin’ they were on their way to the car for a rest. I was a little disappointed because there were younger kids there but you never know how children will react to anything. Unfortunately, they missed a great show (my wife insisted my oldest daughter and I stay) but my youngest daughter was satisfied, she had seen KISS come out on stage and play a song. My wife was lucky because she heard the entire show from the parking lot because we were parked close to the arena. Aside from my daughter’s reaction, all went smooth for the show. My oldest daughter and I had a blast. My best friend and his son were two sections to my right and my other best friend bought his ticket that morning and was in the 9th row! We were six rows behind the soundboard and the mini-stage that Paul Stanley flies to during ‘I Was Made For Loving You’, dead center, so we had awesome seats. As far as the arena went, you could see that the lawn seats and grass lawn were spotty but it looked like the seating under the pavilion was packed, I estimate that they played to about 9000 fans, maybe 10,000…..not a sellout but a solid crowd.

The last tour was the ALIVE 35 Tour but this was THE HOTTEST SHOW ON EARTH Tour so the setlist was changed a little: the band played 21 songs total and only 11 were in the previous tour’s setlist. There were three new songs from their latest record SONIC BOOM (‘Modern Day Delilah’, ‘Say Yeah’ & ‘I’m An Animal’) and they dusted off ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’, ‘Shock Me’ and an acoustic version of ‘Beth’ with both Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer handling the lead vocals very well. I was at the CRAZY NIGHTS show in Providence, RI way back on 12/12/1987 so it was a real treat to hear ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’ after 22+ years and it’s also my daughter’s favorite KISS song so you know how she reacted. The band sounded great and I’m not just saying that because I’m a KISS diehard, I really thought that this lineup with Eric and Tommy put on a solid show musically and visually. I’m a KISS fan that prefers the makeup stay on Ace Frehley and Peter Criss but Tommy and Eric do a solid job, especially on the vocals! I thought that adding ‘Shock Me’ and ‘Beth’ (both Ace & Peter’s signature songs) were a huge mistake and sacrilegious but both members did a good job living up to the standard both Ace and Peter have set. Also, I thought that Eric did a solid job in singing ‘Black Diamond’ and the joint guitar/drum solo was one of the better ones I have heard in all my years of going to see KISS. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were right on the money as far as their performances and I thought that they were definitely better and more energized than when I saw them last October. At the ALIVE 35 Boston show, Paul’s voice sounded strained and hoarse but this time around he sounded a lot better. There were a few rough spots on the higher notes but the guy has been one of the better, and underrated, Rock singers for about 36 years…..I hope I move and sound that good when I am 58 years old!

There were a ton of highlights in the set…..I thought the three new songs were great live and it was good to hear people around us singing along. Paul Stanley was able to give the album a funny plug before ‘Say Yeah’ as “being available at Wal-Mart”. There were a lot of KISS klassics like ‘Firehouse’, ‘Deuce’ and ‘Black Diamond’ but the highlight of the show for my daughter and I (aside from ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’) was the triple attack of ‘Lick It Up’, ‘Shout It Out Loud’ and ‘I Was Made For Loving You’. There is something uniquely satisfying about your daughter singing every word louder than you! If my youngest daughter had made it through the show there is no doubt in my mind that the whole family would have sung along together because these are the tunes they know by heart. As I mentioned before, we were 6 rows from the mini-stage that Paul Stanley flies to so when he came out for ‘I Was Made For Loving You’, both my daughter and I got an up close performance… wife would have loved that too. You also can’t have a KISS concert without their signature song and ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ brought the house down with all the confetti, fireworks, lights and special effects…..a truly visual experience! I had a blast, my daughter had a blast and, when we got to the car, we found out that my wife and youngest daughter had fun too. All in all, it was a great night for the family.

Here is some footage I found on Youtube to give you an idea of what the show was like.

Wig Wam – Non Stop Rock ‘N Roll (2010)

Wig Wam – Non Stop Rock ‘N Roll (2010, Frontiers Records)

  1. Do Ya Wanna Taste It
  2. Walls Come Down
  3. Wild One
  4. C’mon Everybody
  5. Man In The Moon
  6. Still I’m Burning
  7. All You Wanted
  8. Non Stop Rock ‘N Roll
  9. From Here
  10. Rocket Through My Heart
  11. Chasing Rainbows
  12. Gotta Get It On (bonus track for U.S. & European digipak)

Band Lineup:
Age Sten Nilsen – Vocals
Trond Holter – Guitar
Bernt Jansen – Bass
Oystein Andersen – Drums

Producer: Trond Holter

Country: Norway

Total Time = 44:31

Wig Wam
Wig Wam MySpace page
Frontiers Records

Norwegian hard rockers Wig Wam have come back after four years to release their new album of ’80s inspired party rock, NON STOP ROCK ‘N ROLL. Technically, this is the band’s 5th release but their 3rd studio album. Wig Wam debuted in 2004 with 667…THE NEIGHBOUR OF THE BEAST and an appearance in the 2005 Eurovision Song contest. Shortly after, the band re-released the debut with some bonus tracks as HARD TO BE  A ROCK ‘N ROLLER (2005) and even that has been re-named a couple of times depending on the region! I had heard about the band from various message boards and I took a chance on their second studio album, WIG WAMANIA! (2006). Add the Japanese exclusive live album, LIVE IN TOKYO (2007), and now this new album and we should be up to 5 records now…..get all that?

Wig Wam makes no excuses when it comes to making music, they are definitely and directly influenced by ’80s styled, MTV hyped and spandex tight Hard Rock/Sleaze/Glam. Think mid to late ’80s Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Poison and any other “hair” band you can think of with huge multi-tracked harmonies, party vocals and plenty of hooks that get you singing along. It’s as if the band entered a time machine, went back to 1986 and made this record, then came back. Mind you, I’m not complaining, this is the kind of music I grew up with in the ’80s but some rockers are going to find the cheese factor higher than the sleaze factor! Right off the bat, ‘Do Ya Wanna Taste It’ moves into a Poison groove with a Vinnie Vincent song title and Def Leppard harmonies…..get the picture? It’s a formula that works because ‘Do Ya Wanna Taste It’ sticks in your head and you start singing along by the second chorus.

‘Walls Come Down’ gets a little faster and harder while ‘Wild One’ is another party anthem that could have easily made FM radio back in the day. ‘C’mon Everybody’ gets heavier but retains that party feel but the chorus is a bit weak, this marks the first chink in the armor. It’s not that the song is bad, it’s pretty good actually, but you get the whole idea right away: Wig Wam is going to go back and forth between all out Hair Metal worship and dirty Hard Rock.

Thankfully the band throws out a curveball to break up the party a bit with the power ballad ‘Man In The Moon’ and the power AOR sound of ‘Still I’m Burning’ and ‘All You Wanted’. The ballad is solid but I was hoping the band would branch out a little after I heard some Journey-esque keyboards in ‘All You Wanted’ but, once the harmonies kick in at the chorus, it’s back to the same Hard Rock formula. The title track gets a little faster and heavier and ballad #2, ‘From Here’, does what it’s supposed to do by breaking up the party with it’s sincere songwriting and performance. Wig Wam is known for their party rock but their ballads are very well-crafted tunes, some of the best on the album! The beginning of ‘Rocket Through My Heart’ is purely influenced by Bon Jovi and it follows through with each verse, the chorus is more of the bombastic kind that’s been all over this album…..’Chasing Rainbows’ starts with a quick drum intro and moves into KISS territory circa 1976-78 until the chorus, which sounds completely familiar but I can’t place it. The bonus track for the first pressing in the U.S. & Europe is ‘Gotta Get It On’ and it’s really one of the weaker songs on the album.

Bottom Line:
So what have we learned here? Well, we know that Wig Wam is heavily influenced by Hard Rock’s mid-80s glory years and they do a good job creating good time party rock. We know that there are few different styles mixed in to break things up, especially the ballads, and we know that if you want to have a good time then this is the album for you. The real question is can you take listening to a lot of similar sounding party rock anthems for 10 out of 12 songs? If you’re like me, then you can easily listen to this album over and over. I’ve had this album since it was released and I still haven’t taken it out of my weekly playlist. Some fans of harder Rock/Metal might not like the overt Glam-ness of the album but it works extremely well. If you like the big hair bands of the ’80s, then this new Wig Wam record is definitely worth checking out.

Favorite Songs:
‘Do Ya Wanna Taste It’, ‘Walls Come Down’, ‘Wild One’, ‘Man In The Moon’, ‘Non Stop Rock ‘N Roll’, ‘Rocket Through My Heart’

Michael Schenker Group (with Sister Sin) in concert at Showcase Live (Foxboro, MA) – 7/27/10

It’s been a few months since I caught a live concert but it was definitely worth the wait because, after years of waiting, I finally got to see the Michael Schenker Group in concert! Michael Schenker has been one of my favorite guitarists for years but I always seem to come up short when he comes close to the New England area. I’ve had a couple of opportunities to see him in New York on the last couple of tours but something always came up to stop me from going…..this time around I wasn’t going to miss the show, billed as the MSG 30th Anniversary World Tour. The Showcase Live is about 15 mins from my house so I bought a ticket as soon as the show was announced. The venue is located in the Patriot Place complex that surrounds Gillette Stadium (home of the New England Patriots). I have never been in the Showcase Live but I have heard it was a cool place for a show.

I got to the arena around 7:30pm (showtime was 8pm) and it was nice to see plenty of people hanging around outside with a wide range of MSG and UFO tour shirts. Once I bought my tour shirt ($25 is more than reasonable!) and went in I was a bit shocked to see a real large crowd that got bigger as the night went on! Foxboro, MA is about 20 minutes from Providence, RI, about an hour from Boston, MA  and Hartford, CT so it is an ideal venue smack in the heart of New England. I talked to a lot of people and it turns out that people came from a lot of other states like Maine, New Hamphire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania…..this was a serious event! The opening band was a newer act from Sweden, Sister Sin. As I would find out later, Sister Sin has been around since 2003 but they got worldwide exposure with the release of their second full-length album SWITCHBLADE SERENADES in 2008. The band opened pretty much on time and ran through a 7 song/30 minute set that was full of energy and plenty of Metal that reminded me of a combination of early Motley Crue with a NWOBHM influence. I was impressed with the performance and it was nice to meet up with the band after the concert at their merchandise table.

Michael Schenker Group setlist:

Armed And Ready
Cry For The Nations
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Ready To Rock
I Want You
A Night To Remember
Carmine Appice drum solo
Into The Arena
Lost Horizons
Rock My Nights Away
On And On
Lights Out
Attack Of The Mad Axeman

Ride On My Way
Rock Bottom

2nd Encore:
Doctor Doctor

Are you kidding me?! What a setlist! I knew that the band was going to concentrate of the first couple of albums with Gary Barden but I had forgotten just how powerful these songs are…..they have more impact now that I have heard them live. It was great to finally hear classics like ‘Armed And Ready’, ‘On And On’ and ‘Attack Of The Mad Axeman’ in concert but I was also glad to hear the band play a few newer songs from IN THE MIDST OF BEAUTY (2008) like ‘A Night To Remember’ and ‘I Want You’. I thought the newer songs fit right in with the classics and I heard more than a few fans singing right along word for word. It was good to hear the classic Schenker/Barden team on stage and Carmine Appice added a thunderous drum sound to the performance. You could tell that the band were having a good time playing both the old and the new and there was a real good energy coming from the stage. Unfortunately, there was a bit of trouble with the sound because there were times that Gary was completely lost in the mix, couldn’t hear him at all near the bar area, but things got a little better as the show moved on. Of course, the highlights were the classics and the crowd got louder for the UFO songs, especially as Gary Barden introduced “a song that is Michael’s legacy”…..’Lights Out’. I had secured a good spot for Sister Sin in the bar area near the soundboard, a perfect view, but I needed to get closer to see Michael. As the show progressed, I was able to make it up front to Michael’s side of the stage so I could see the man work his magic up close. Truly amazing! I was able to make it up to Michael’s side by ‘Lights Out’ and I was blown away. Same thing for ‘Rock Bottom’ during the first encore, watching Michael play that classic solo was one of the best live moments I’ve seen in 25 years of attending concerts. I honestly thought the night was over but the band returned for one last song, ‘Doctor Doctor’ and that brought the place down! A truly classic show from the arena, to the setlist, to the performance! Definitely worth the wait.

Here’s a video from the show that I found on Youtube of the set opener ‘Armed And Ready’:

Please visit the official Michael Schenker website for more tour dates and information.

Ozzy Osbourne – Scream (2010)

Ozzy Osbourne – Scream (2010, Sony/Epic Records)

  1. Let It Die
  2. Let Me Hear You Scream
  3. Soul Sucker
  4. Life Won’t Wait
  5. Diggin’ Me Down
  6. Crucify
  7. Fearless
  8. Time
  9. I Want More
  10. Latimer’s Mercy
  11. I Love You All

Band Lineup:
Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
Gus G. – Guitars
Blasko – Bass
Tommy Clufetos – Drums
Adam Wakeman – Keyboards

Produced by: Ozzy Osbourne & Kevin Churko

Total Time = 49:08

Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne MySpace page

I’m going to be extremely honest here…..I wasn’t really excited about a new Ozzy album. His last two studio albums, DOWN TO EARTH (2001) and BLACK RAIN (2007), left a lot to be desired with their modern Metal/Black Label Society sound and I didn’t like them at all. Then you have the controversy of Ozzy & Sharon Osbourne letting Zakk Wylde go, ending a 22-year musical partnership, and bringing in new guitarist Gus G. (Firewind, Dream Evil, Nightrage). Nothing against Gus G. because he’s a solid guitar player, and I’m a fan of his, but the Ozzy/Zakk Wylde era is just as revered as the Ozzy/Randy Rhoads era. Even if the last few Ozzy records were more like Black Label Society records, it’s Zakk Wylde! Then there’s the constant blitz that is the Ozzy Osbourne brand whether it’s on television, public appearances, promotional gimmicks or product branding…’s total overkill! Sharon Osbourne has taken a page right out of the Gene Simmons playbook and has made Ozzy a household brand name just like KISS! I wasn’t impressed with Ozzy showing up at a Dodger game to lead the crowd to the longest & loudest scream record… was about promoting SCREAM and wouldn’t have been done otherwise even though it did happen during the Dodgers’ third annual “ThinkCure! Weekend” for cancer. Needless to say, the “Prince of Darkness” is not the same ominous, crazy Metal musician I remember him being when I was growing up in the ’80s and my desire to hear new music from him is at an all-time low. I picked up SCREAM because I had hope…..

Opening song ‘Let It Die’ sounds like a holdover from the BLACK RAIN sessions with it’s very thick modern sound and processed vocals. One of my biggest complaints about the last couple of Ozzy records were the effects put on his voice and here they are again! Just let the man sing…..if he can. This song is a slow dirge that picks up around the chorus with guitar lines that sound like Zakk Wylde’s. Gus G. wasn’t around in time to add to the songwriting on the album so he’s basically playing what he’s told to on all the songs, the only time I hear him stretch out is on the solos. The solo section on ‘Let It Die’ is a pace-changing instrumental and it helps the song not be a total loss for me. ‘Let Me Hear You Scream’ is the lead single and video from the album and it’s a song that sounds most like old school Ozzy. This is going to be a monster track in concert with its pounding rhythm and it’s obvious “crowd participation” style. Seeing that both Blasko and Clufetos were in Rob Zombie’s band, you can hear the Industrial beats driving the song along a very Wylde main riff. The song takes off for me with the catchy lyrics and the solos/runs Gus G. puts on top of that main riff, definitely one of the better songs on the record.

The original title for the album was going to be “Soul Sucka”, the Ozzy camp even announced the new title on Ozzy’s website, but fan outrage over the Hip-Hop styled title made them change it quickly to SCREAM. The song ‘Soul Sucker’ is another sludge-fest that gives off more of an Industrial/Nu-Metal sound with effects again on Ozzy’s vocals. The song actually sounds like a cross between Black Sabbath and Black Label especially at the solo/instrumental break, the best part of the song that actually saves it. If they had just followed that instead of the processed and repetitive “soul sucker” lyrical dirge. Moving into more familiar territory, Ozzy and company create the best sounding ballad he’s done in years with ‘Life Won’t Wait’. It has a clean sound, Ozzy sounds in good voice and the guitar is really good. It has a retro sound to it and could easily fit on NO MORE TEARS (1991) or OZZMOSIS (1995) and it sounds unlike the rest of the album so far because it’s not as distorted and down-tuned. You’d be hard pressed to distinguish Gus G. from Zakk Wylde because he plays exactly like him, hopefully Gus can stretch out a little on tour. The acoustic opening to ‘Diggin’ Me Down’ caught my attention immeadiately and I had a Randy Rhoads flashback, that is definitely something I could hear coming off the first two Ozzy records. After the intro, the song kicks into a heavy Sabbath groove with a touch of older Metallica in there too. The main riffs sound too much like Zakk Wylde but there is a huge drum sound and Ozzy’s voice really cuts through with the lyrics challenging Jesus. I like the song because it’s very heavy and sounds more akin to the Ozzy records from 1988-1995, again fitting on any of the first three albums with Zakk Wylde.

‘Crucify’ is an obvious title for an Ozzy tune and the similarities to ‘Diggin’ Me Down’ are also obvious, I would almost call this a continuation of ‘Diggin Me Down’. ‘Crucify’ isn’t as heavy as ‘Diggin’ Me Down’ and there are some cleaner guitar parts that you can idenitfy as not too Wylde so the song isn’t a total loss. ‘Fearless’ returns to a heavier uptempo sound with a thick sounding rhythm section and some good guitar fills but the chorus leaves a lot to be desired and I get this “I’ve heard this before feeling”. It definitely sounds like an unfinished idea and screams filler. Ballad #2 is ‘Time’, a song very similar to ‘Life Won’t Wait’ in that it has the best old school Ozzy sound and that the “Prince of Darkness” really has a good touch when it comes to the softer side of Metal. Gus G. gets a good solo section in the song and there is a Beatles influence that makes this very melodic (Ozzy is a huge Beatles fan) so I would definitely consider this another of my favorites. ‘I Want It More’ goes for the slower Metal groove of Black Label but the chorus is melodic enough to save the song from being a complete dirge copy. The main riff is heavy as hell and the solo section is great with the keyboards really fleshing out the sound and adding a distinct layer but the chorus really sets the song apart from the music and gives it an originality. ‘Latimer’s Mercy’ is an ominous song that sounds a little like ‘Soul Sucker’ in some parts and like late ’90searly 2000s Alice Cooper in others. The song doesn’t work for me even with it’s buzzsaw main riff and thick backline, there’s something missing. Same thing goes for the last song ‘I Love You All’, there’s something missing… most of the song! ‘I Love You All’ is basically one minute long and consists of ballad style music and Ozzy singing to the fans that he thanks us for standing by him through the years and that he loves us all. Definite throwaway track and a waste of time, if you’re going to have eleven songs on an album at least make them eleven FULL songs!

Bottom Line:
SCREAM is a tough album for me because I am battling my loyalties to the Ozzy Osbourne I grew up with from 1980-1995 against the new millenium Ozzy that is trying to keep up with the bands playing with him on Ozzfest. On one hand, I really want to like the album because it’s Ozzy. On the other, I’m waiting to be disappointed because that’s exactly what Ozzy has done with his last two studio albums. I have given this new album a lot of playing time since it came out a couple of weeks ago and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s definitely better than both DOWN TO EARTH and BLACK RAIN. If we throw out ‘I Love You All’ and go with the ten full songs, I would say that I really like six of them and two of those are the ballads. SCREAM is a heavy album with enough modern Metal, Black Sabbath styled riffs and the trademark  Ozzy sound to satisfy a lot of fans, I think Ozzy has finally found that elusive mix of being current while trying to retain his classic sound. SCREAM isn’t going to rank up there with BLIZZARD OF OZZ (1980) or DIARY OF A MADMAN (1981) but it has enough of the classic Ozzy to make me forget about the last two studio albums. This isn’t the best Ozzy record but I can hear this growing on me the more I listen to it. What I am looking forward to is the live performance at Ozzfest with Gus G. on stage, I’d like to hear if he gets to stretch out of the Zakk Wylde mold he was forced to fill on the record and, hopefully, the next album will feature more of Gus’ original Euro-Metal playing. SCREAM isn’t a full comeback but it’s a start.

Favorite Songs:
‘Let Me Hear You Scream’, ‘Life Won’t Wait’, ‘Diggin’ Me Down’, ‘Time’, ‘I Want It More’

Accept – ‘Teutonic Terror’ video (2010)

This is the brand new Accept video for the first single, ‘Teutonic Terror’, from the upcoming new studio album BLOOD OF THE NATIONS (Nuclear Blast Records). Accept have a new singer, former TT Quick lead singer Mike Tornillo, and the band are moving forward to continue the Accept legacy. BLOOD OF NATIONS now has a tentative North American release date scheduled for September 14th.

Accept 2010 is:

Wolf Hoffman – guitar
Peter Baltes – bass
Herman Frank – guitar
Mark Tornillo – vocals
Stefan Schwarzmann – drums

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010)

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010, Napalm Records)

  1. Lost Forever
  2. To Sing A Metal Song
  3. One To Ten (featuring Victor Smolski from Rage)
  4. I Am Human
  5. My Voice
  6. Rebellion (featuring Chris Boltendahl from Grave Digger)
  7. Last Night Of The Kings
  8. The Tribe Of Force
  9. Water Fire Heaven Earth
  10. Master Of Puppets
  11. Magic Taborea
  12. Hearted (featuring Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica)
  13. Frodo’s Dream

Band Lineup:
Inga Scharf – Lead Vocals
Philip Dennis “Sly” Schunke – Lead Vocals
Stefan Schmidt – Lower “Rakkatakka” Guitar Vocals, “Wahwah” Solo Guitar Vocals
Ross Thompson – Higher “Rakkatakka” Guitar Vocals
Ingo “Ike” Sterzinger – Lowest “Dandan” Voice Chords (Bass Vocals)
Bastian Emig – Drums

Producers: Stefan Schmidt & Charlie Bauerfeind

Country: Germany

Total Time = 55:13

Van Canto
Van Canto MySpace page
Napalm Records

Every once in a while something unique comes along and grabs my attention. A few weeks ago, I received a press release promoting Van Canto’s third album, TRIBE OF FORCE, and the band’s innovative style of A Capella Metal. A Capella music is group vocal music and/or singing without musical accompaniment from instruments…..the first thing that comes to mind is barber shop quartets, doo-wop groups and choirs. A Capella singing in Heavy Metal? No instruments? I was skeptical but I read the press release and saw that it included a link to a video of the band covering Manowar’s ‘Kings Of Metal’ (from their second record HERO). I was impressed with the cover, especially with how I forgot that the only instrument used was the drums!

Based on their ‘Kings Of Metal’ cover, and their cover of Metallica’s ‘Battery’, I decided to give TRIBE OF FORCE a try figuring that at least it would be a change of pace if the concept of vocalizing the guitars, bass and keyboards didn’t work. The first single from the new album is ‘Lost Forever’ and it is a perfect way to kick start the album with it’s Power Metal style and superb vocal harmonies. At first I wasn’t too sure because the harmonized vocal intro had me thinking that this was going to be a less aggressive project but, once the drums kicked in, Van Canto really go for it! Frist the lead vocal trade-off between Philip and Inga is excellent, both have great voices with plenty of range, and the male/female co-lead vocal adds an extra dimension. Inga’s operatic style easily puts her right up there with some other female vocal heavyweights in Metal like Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and Simone Simons (Epica). The cool thing is you can also hear some Medieval/Rennaissance style like Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night) in her delivery as well. What is most impressive is the guys doing the bass and guitars…..Stefan, Ross and Ingo do one hell of a job sounding like their instrument counterparts that you sometimes forget that it’s really just singing. Listen to the guitar solo, that’s Stefan singing the solo, not a guitar!

Needless to say, I was impressed. Van Canto continues in the same Gothic/Power Metal direction with ‘To Sing A Metal Song’, ‘One To Ten’ (featuring Victor Smolski of Rage), and ‘I Am Human’. The vocals are excellent and the vocal instrumentation is excellent but it’s at ‘My Voice’ where I start to get that “I’ve heard it before” feeling. ‘My Voice’ is a good original song with plenty of layers and tempo changes but I get the point and I am now listening for the guitars. Track six is a cover of Grave Digger’s ‘Rebellion’ (from 1996’s TUNES OF WAR) and features Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl on lead vocals. Normally I don’t welcome covers but this is a nice way to break the album up, especially with Boltendahl guesting. If you compare this version to the original, it’s a pretty good rendition and it is amazing to hear the band vocalize the instruments. Listen again for the guitar solo by Stefan! The second single and video is ‘Last Night Of The Kings’ and it is a ballad with a Medieval/Rennaissance sound. This song could easily fit on the first two Blackmore’s Night albums and the a capella singing fits perfectly.

The title track sounds a little more laid back, more commercial but ‘Water Fire Heaven Earth’ stands out with Inga’s operatic vocals. It’s more of a Gothic Metal mid-tempo song and it’s very good due to the beauty of the lead vocal, Inga rivals her peers and is definitely a superb operatic vocalist. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of a spotlight on Inga in the future, although Philip has a great voice too and the vocal trade-off is a perfect match. The second cover on TRIBE OF FORCE is Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’…’s not a bad cover and I actually like Van Canto’s interpretation, I prefer the original but it’s a fun comparison piece. ‘Magic Taborea’ starts off kind of slow and subdued but, as the song progresses, the tempo picks up and it has an epic sound to it. What impresses me here is the quick keyboard vocalizations, they are like the guitar solos, very impressive. Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica guests on the faster ‘Hearted’ and I like Van Canto’s addition of some harsh vocals to the arrangement to make things more interesting. Last song is ‘Frodo’s Dream’ and it’s another epic sounding song but I’m just not getting into this one at all.

Bottom Line:
I have to admit that I was skeptical that Van Canto could pull off an A Capella album of heavy Metal songs but they are all talented vocalists and they do a superb job on each and every song. Let me add that drummer Bastiam Emig puts in a stellar performance over the entire record and really drives the songs. Being the only person playing an instrument, his performance needed to be great and it was. Overall, I liked the album, even the cover songs but, after multiple listens, I started to lose some interest. I have played TRIBE OF FORCE to death so I could really focus on those layers of vocals and the vocal instrumentation but I found that I was looking for the real thing after a while so I needed to give myself a break and come back to it with fresh ears. That doesn’t diminish the talent and solid performances because there is a lot of quality work on this album and Van Canto isn’t the novelty act that people might mistake them to be. These musicians are all extremely gifted and they do a great job creating interesting and enjoyable songs. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this somewhere in my year’s best list for 2010 and I am definitely going to check out the band’s first two records.

Favorite Songs:
‘Lost Forever’, ‘To Sing A Metal Song’, ‘Rebellion’, ‘Last Night Of The Kings’, ‘Water Fire Heaven Earth’

Krokus – Hoodoo (2010)

Krokus – Hoodoo (2010, Sony Music)

  1. Drive It In
  2. Hoodoo Woman
  3. Born To Be Wild
  4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Handshake
  5. Ride Into The Sun
  6. Too Hot
  7. In My Blood
  8. Dirty Street
  9. Keep Me Rollin’
  10. Shot Of Love
  11. Firestar

Band Lineup:
Marc Storace – Lead Vocals
Fernando Von Arb – Lead Guitars & Background Vocals
Chris Von Rohr – Bass & Background Vocals
Mark Kohler  – Rhythm Guitars
Freddy Staedy – Drums

Guest Musicians:
Kenny Aronoff – Drums
Mark Fox – Vocals

Producer: Chris Von Rohr

Country: Switzerland

Total Time = 42:54

Krokus MySpace page

Krokus have been making their own special brand of boogie woogie, AC/DC styled Hard Rock for 34 years…..that’s one hell of a long time to keep doing the same thing over and over, album after album! Krokus burst onto the ’80s Metal scene with albums like METAL RENDEZ-VOUS in 1980, HARDWARE in ’81 and ONE VICE AT A TIME in ’82 closely following the Hard Rock formula laid down by AC/DC in the ’70s with Bon Scott on the mic, Krokus lead singer Marc Storace’s voice having an uncanny resemblance to the late Scott. I discovered Krokus between ONE VICE AT A TIME and their breakthough record HEADHUNTER (1983) when the band was getting a ton of press in magazines like Hit Parader and Circus and videos played on MTV.

The band was pretty successful and even scored a couple minor hits but the problem for Krokus has always been that they get criticized for everything: from their sound, to their outfits, to their choice of using cover songs as lead singles. As quick as they rose, they fell just as quick. By 1988, lineup changes and questionable musical directions splintered the band and they couldn’t keep up with the rest of the Metal scene. Over the years, integral members like Storace, guitarist Fernando Von Arb and bassist Chris Von Rohr have left and comeback again making the Krokus lineup as unstable as any in the Metal world…..the band’s last album, HELLRAISER (2006), only featured Marc Storace! That’s why HOODOO is such an important release, not only is it a reunion of the classic early ’80s lineup but it is also a return to the gritty Hard Rock that rivals the masters in AC/DC and sits well alongside other Aussie barroom bangers like Rose Tattoo, The Angels (or Angel City depending on what name they are using this year!) and newcomers Airbourne. Hard to believe Krokus is from Switzerland and not Australia!

Opening track ‘Drive It In’ is vintage Bon Scott-era AC/DC with it’s driving rhythm and slick vocals. Right away you can hear the old school Krokus from back in the ’80s because the music sounds so dated (in a good way) and Marc Storace sounds like he hasn’t aged 28 years since ONE VICE AT A TIME. The first single from the album is basically the title track, ‘Hoodoo Woman’. For my money, I might have released a different song as the first single because ‘Hoodoo Woman’ is not your signature Krokus style song, it is like a Krokus/ZZ Top hybrid with Von Arb & Mark Kohler combining to do their best Billy Gibbons imitation. Now I’m not saying that ‘Hoodoo Woman’ is a bad track, it’s just a little out of place and that’s always been one of Krokus’ problems. I actually like the song and I applaud the band for straying a little from the AC/DC vibe and using a Southern Rock style boogie instead, it breaks things up a bit from the usual fare.

Of course no matter how promising a Krokus record is, they find a way to follow the trends that hurt the band so much in the ’80s by including a cover song. Over the years, krokus has unfortunately treated us to more than a few cover songs on their albums: The Guess Who’s ‘American Woman’, The Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out’… it’s Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’. Do I really have to get into this? Aside from my hatred of cover songs on studio albums, Krokus has unfortunately committed this crime way too many times over the years. ‘Born To Be Wild’ is your basic cover of the original but the main riff also sounds similar to AC/DC’s ‘Shoot To Thrill’. Is this a Krokus-fied similarity or has the original Steppenwolf version always sounded like that? I can’t believe I’m caring so much!

Back to doing what they do best, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Handshake’ sounds a little weird lyrically but it’s a very catchy song and ‘Ride Into The Sun’ showcases the band’s balladeering ability similar to their 1983 hit ‘Screaming In The Night’. I would put ‘Ride Into The Sun’ as one of the top tracks on the album because it shows that Krokus can do a lot more when they move out of the Rose Tattoo worship (I got sick of comparing them to AC/DC, same thing though!). The opening to ‘Too Hot’ reminds me of ‘Hot Blooded’ by AOR legends Foreigner but as you move into the middle of the song you can hear a bit of KISS in there as well. I’ve read a few reviews online that mentioned this odd pairing of influences and I sat back at listened closely, you hear the Foreigner thing right away but it leaves just as quick. The ‘Lick It Up’ sound is subtle in the middle of the song, just a couple of quick licks but you can definitely hear it. That said, ‘Too Hot’ is an infectious song with a solid hook in the chorus to get you singing along right away and one of my favorites on the album. ‘In My Blood’ picks the tempo up a bit with a serious chug on par with similar AC/DC nuggets complete with the sleazy Bon Scott vocalization.

Every Krokus album has a surprise track that really stands out and the one on HOODOO is ‘Dirty Street’, a bluesy rocker that has a ton of grit and a slight Aerosmith influence if you listen really close…..definitely an album highlight! Revving things up a notch, ‘Keep Me Rolling’ takes us out of the Blues and back into uptempo Angus Young riffery but the cool part is the underlying bass groove by Chris Von Rohr. I was going to lose my mind when I saw ‘Shot Of Love’ in the tracklisting because I thought it was a second cover song of AC/DC’s ‘Shot Of Love’ from THE RAZOR’S EDGE (1990) but I was thankfully wrong. Krokus’ ‘Shot Of Love’ is AC/DC influenced but it’s an original and blends in well with the overall sound of the album. The last cut on the album is the fast and heavy ‘Firestar’, another surprise track that proves to be a standout and sounds a little like the classic ‘Headhunter’ (from 1983’s HEADHUNTER) in some parts but less metallized. A great way to end a solid record!

Bottom Line:
I was expecting a lot from Krokus because they are one of my favorite bands. I know I say that about a lot of bands but, back in the ’80s, I was the only Krokus fan in my area. I tried like crazy to get my friends into Krokus but none of them ever did…..Krokus has always been one of my bands, ones of those gems you keep for yourself. With the announcement of the reunited classic early ’80s lineup, and a return that era’s sound, I expected a classic Krokus record and that’s what I got. Krokus is always going to have the stigma of being AC/DC clones by many fans but is it really a stigma if Krokus does it better than the masters themselves? I really enjoyed this album from the start (except the cover song) and I compared it to the last AC/DC record, BLACK ICE (2008), and I like HOODOO a lot more. I’m not bashing AC/DC, I’m praising Krokus. To have so much turnover with the personnel over the years, a reunion is a definite shot in the arm and Krokus has taken that shot and created an album that is on par with some of their best work. I would rank HOODOO right up their with the classic albums of the 1980-1984 era and I am positive that this record will be one of my top albums of 2010.

Favorite Songs:
‘Drive It In’, ‘Hoodoo Woman’, ‘Ride Into The Sun’, ‘Dirty Street’, ‘Keep Me Rollin’, ‘Firestar’

Acrassicauda – Only The Dead See The End Of The War (2010)

Acrassicauda – Only The Dead See The End Of The War (2010, Vice Records)

  1. Message From Baghdad
  2. Garden Of Stones
  3. Massacre
  4. The Unknown

Band Lineup:
Faisal Talal Mustafa – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Tony Yaqoo – Lead Guitar
Firas Abdul Razaq – Bass
Marwan Hussein – Drums

Producer: Alex Skolnick

Country: Iraq

Total Time = 20:49

Acrassicauda MySpace page
Vice Records
Heavy Metal In Baghdad

Acrassicauda is the Iraqi Metal band featured in the 2008 DVD documentary Heavy Metal In Baghdad and they have finally found safe haven and released their first official E.P., ONLY THE DEAD SEE THE END OF THE WAR. After watching the documentary a few times, Acrassicauda became one of those bands that I would often do Google searches for more information. Unfortunately, with the Iraq conflict raging and the band (and some of their family) trying to escape the violence, not much information has been put out there. I tracked the band’s journey over the last couple of years that has taken them from their Iraqi homeland to Syria, on to Turkey and then finally gaining asylum in the United States. Vice Records signed the band (based on Vice Magazine’s spotlight coverage on the band) and the now New Jersey based Thrash group has their first professional recording out there.

What you basically get here is a pure Thrash attack with harsh vocals, blistering guitars and bass and plenty of pounding double kick drumming. Sounds like your basic Thrash doesn’t it? Well, you’re right! Acrassicauda doesn’t stray too far from their obvious Metallica, Slayer, Testament and Iron Maiden influences to keep the music sounding like ’80s Thrash. I grew up when the Bay Area Thrash movement began in the early to mid ’80s so this influence is fine with me but fan of today’s Thrash and Metalcore scenes might find the vintage sound a little boring. ‘Message From Baghdad’ has a heavy Slayer and Testament influence with some great solos and ‘Garden Of Stones’ has an early Metallica sound with Mustafa trading his Chuck Billy styled vocals for more of a James Hetfield. Both songs are heavy Thrash, ‘Message From Baghdad’ utilizing pure speed and ‘Garden Of Stones’ going for a mid-tempo crunch…..the standout of the two is definitely ‘Garden’ with it’s strong hook around the chorus and it’s duelling guitars. The guitars are central to the overall Acrassicauda sound and the band adds a little Middle Eastern flavor of their homeland in the solos.

‘Massacre’ continues the slowed down Metallica worship but it includes a quick couple of lines at the beginning in, what I will assume, is Iraqi Arabic and some of the faster moments border on Metalcore/Black Metal racing speed. ‘Massacre’ is the second longest song on the E.P. but it’s 5:51 performance seems a little longer because of the different tempos and the extended solos. Final track of the E.P. is ‘The Unknown’, the longest song on the CD, and includes a very “marching” type main riff throughout along with duelling guitar solos. The drumming here sounds more basic in the performance, again more of a steady “march”, and the entire song sounds more like an instrumental outro than a full song.

Bottom Line:
First off, any band that makes Metal, promotes Metal and lives Metal in a country where they are destined to be persecuted for it gains a lot of respect in my book. It’s not always easy being a Metal fan but, when your country is widely religious and torn apart from war, being a Metal fan, or a member of a Metal band, can be dangerous. The Heavy Metal In Baghdad documentary brought Acrassicauda out of the Iraqi Metal underground and brought them some exposure, this E.P. proves that the exposure was well worth it. Only four songs here but each one is a well-crafted and performed piece of old school Thrash. The songs reflect the band’s experiences in their ravaged country during the war but I would have liked to hear a little more of their culture’s influence in the music. Maybe Acrassicauda will use more Middle Eastern influences on future songs and give themselves more of a unique identity but I am definitely satisfied with the E.P. they’ve released. The band has a solid future ahead…..and, most importantly, a safe one.

Favorite Songs:
There are only four songs here and I like them all but the crown jewel is ‘Garden Of Stones’.

Keel – The Right To Rock (25th Anniversary Edition) (2010)

Keel – The Right To Rock (25th Anniversary Edition) (2010, Frontiers Records)

  1. The Right To Rock
  2. Back To The City
  3. Let’s Spend The Night Together
  4. Easier Said Than Done
  5. So Many Girls, So Little Time
  6. Electric Love
  7. Speed Demon
  8. Get Down
  9. You’re The Victim
  10. Easier Said Than Done (Remix version)*
  11. The Right To Rock (Reunion version)*

(* Bonus tracks)

Band Lineup:
Ron Keel – Lead Vocals & Guitar
Bryan Jay – Lead Guitars & Vocals
Marc Ferrari – Lead Guitars & Vocals
Kenny Chaisson – Bass & Vocals
Dwain Miller – Drums & Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Steve Riley – Additional Drums & Vocals on the original record
Geno Acre – Bass & Vocals on ‘The Right To Rock (Reunion version)’

Producer: Gene Simmons

Country: USA

Total Time = 40:39

Keel MySpace page
Ron Keel
Frontiers Records

Hot on the heels of a Keel reunion, complete with a new studio album titled STREETS OF ROCK & ROLL, Frontiers Records has seen fit to reissue Keel’s second album THE RIGHT TO ROCK. The original release was way back in 1985 on A&M Records/Gold Mountain Records and produced by KISS bassist Gene Simmons. The Gene Simmons connection was the main reason why I bothered to check out Keel because I figured if such an important rock star from my favorite band was producing, then it had to be good. Then I saw ‘The Right To Rock’ video on MTV and found Keel’s first album, LAY DOWN THE LAW (1984), and I was definitely hooked. As a young headbanger, Keel was one of those new bands that I pushed on my friends but no one really got into…..years later I’m still a Keel fan. This reissue is pretty much the same music as on the original album but with two bonus tracks: ‘Easier Said Than Done (Remix)’ and ‘The Right To Rock (Reunion Version)’. The remix of ‘Easier Said Than Done’ was previously released on the 2000 reissue of the album on Metal Mayhem Records and the new version of ‘The Right To Rock’ was recorded with the current Keel lineup that includes new bassist Geno Acre.

Back in the day, Keel rocked hard! ‘The Right To Rock’ was definitely a true Hard Rock anthem and ‘Back To The City’ had some blistering guitar…..for a band out of Los Angeles, these were heavy songs. Right away you could hear the power in Ron Keel’s vocals and the overall energy of the band. That energy is immeadiately destroyed by the band’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ classic ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’…..was this Gene’s idea? I remember hating this cover back in the day and fast forwarding my cassette everytime! You had the catchy hook of the Gene Simmons penned ‘Easier Said Than Done’ that should have been a hit single and the obvious KISS influence of ‘So Many Girls, So Little Time’. Not taking anything away from Keel with using Gene’s guiding hand, he can write and produce, and they do a good job on what sounds like an ANIMALIZE B-side. I give Ron Keel credit for doing his best Gene impressions vocally, especially on ‘So Many Girls, ‘So Little Time’. ‘Electric Love’ is a little more commercial like ‘Easier Said Than Done’ but the crunch is in the vocal, ‘Speed Demon’ is hard and fast with a NWOBHM feel to it, and ‘Get Down’ (the third song written by Mr. $immons) has that lumbering CREATURES OF THE NIGHT era sound with thick guitars and loud pounding drums. Read the lyrics to ‘Get Down’ and tell me that’s not pure Gene with some classic phrases…..another KISS-sounding track circa 1982-1984. ‘You’re The Victim (I’m The Crime)’ is a pummelling track that starts off with a quick drum solo intro and then chugs along with lightning power that rivals NWOBHM legends Saxon and puts Keel in a heavier class than their peers out of L.A. (Quiet Riot, Ratt, Motley Crue, etc.).

The bonus tracks are good but not spectacular. The remix of ‘Easier Said Than Done’ I already knew because I bought the Metal Mayhem reissue when it was released…’s a little different but not as good as the original. The new version of the title track is pretty good, obviously more modern seeing that the band has aged 25 years, and a little more gritty and raw. It doesn’t have the power and energy of the original but it’s cool to hear the band’s interpretation over two decades later and get a feel of how they sound now. Then there’s the packaging: the cover art is altered slightly to add the “25th Anniversary Edition” title at the bottom and the booklet includes all the original credits, the new credits, song lyrics and an essay by Eddie Trunk. A new promo picture of the current lineup is added in and a smaller promo pictire circa 1985 is added to the song credits page. The back of the album has the band picture from the original album.

Bottom Line:
As far as the music goes, THE RIGHT TO ROCK is still a solid album 25 years later. What impresses me now after all this time was how heavy Keel was in the early days…..’Speed Demon’, ‘Back To The City’ and ‘You’re The Victim (I’m the Crime) are pure Heavy Metal. I know Keel gets lumped in with all the other L.A./Sunset Strip bands that dominated FM Radio and MTV but they were definitely a Metal force…..maybe the Gene Simmons connection takes away from that too? As far as the reissue goes, it’s a good package that’s done very well. I wouldn’t have minded seeing some more vintage pictures of the band included and maybe some long lost demos or unreleased songs, that would have made this extra special. At least there were two bonus tracks to give this reissue a couple of extras. I like this reissue better than the Metal Mayhem version for the extended booklet with lyrics but, for comparison’s sake, the Metal Mayhem version is also an official reissue because Ron Keel himself endorsed it at the time and wrote a quick essay in the liner notes.

Favorite Songs:
On the original album I like every song except the cover of ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’. The highlights are ‘The Right To Rock’, ‘Back To The City’, ‘Easier Said Than Done’, ‘Speed Demon’ and ‘You’re The Victim (I’m The Crime)’. Of the two bonus tracks, I like the updated 2010 version of ‘The Right To Rock’ better.

Ratt – Infestation (2010)

Ratt – Infestation (2010, Roadrunner Records)

  1. Eat Me Up Alive
  2. Best Of Me
  3. A Little Too Much
  4. Look Out Below
  5. Last Call
  6. Lost Weekend
  7. As Good As It Gets
  8. Garden Of Eden
  9. Take A Big Bite
  10. Take Me Home
  11. Don’t Let Go

Band Lineup:
Stephen Pearcy – Lead Vocals
Warren DeMartini – Guitars  & Background Vocals
Bobby Blotzer – Drums
Robbie Crane – Bass
Carlos Cavazo – Guitars & Background Vocals

Producer: Michael Baskette

Country: USA

Total Time = 42:16

Ratt MySpace page
Roadrunner Records

It’s about time that Ratt got back together and released a new album! Since the band’s initial break-up in the early ’90s, Ratt has reformed, regrouped and changed members countless times but they haven’t really made much noise. The band did get together with original singer Stephen Pearcy in 1999 for a new self-titled album on Portrait Records and a prime opening slot on the Poison reunion tour but that soon fizzled out again. Drummer Bobby Blotzer and guitarist Warren DeMartini (the two original members left) went through more Ratt incarnations and continued the war of words with their former frontman but now Pearcy is back in the fold. Longtime bassist Robbie Crane is still with the band and former Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo is on board adding his slick guitar to the mix. The result? INFESTATION!

I have always been a big Ratt fan. Back when I was a young kid, I read about the Sunset Strip scene in fanzines and one of the names that popped up alongside Quiet Riot and Motley Crue was Ratt. I got into Ratt like most people did when FM radio and MTV started playing ‘Round And Round’ in their regular rotations, that’s when I ran out and bought OUT OF THE CELLAR (1984). I’ve always backed Ratt, even when the albums weren’t as good, because they were always a solid band and one of my favorites. Their reunion performance on the 1999 Poison tour was great and I thought they stole the show both times I saw it! The problem has always been that Ratt has fallen just a bit short compared to Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Poison so when I heard that INFESTATION was a return to the old Ratt sound, I was really looking forward to it.

I was hooked from the opening guitar of ‘Eat Me Up Alive’, a classic Ratt rocker that sounds similar to ‘You’re In Love’ (from 1985’s INVASION OF YOUR PRIVACY) but a bit faster. Now that’s the way to open an album…..start right away and go for the throat with a fast song that is guitar heavy. If that isn’t enough, the band follows up with a song that sounds like one of their big hits from the ’80s, ‘Best Of Me’. This track is clearly a return to the commercial melodic Hard Rock that the band became known for and it has a similar sound and tempo to the band’s 1988 hit ‘I Want A Woman’ (from REACH FOR THE SKY). One of the things Ratt did so well back in the day was incorporate the big hooks and the melodic choruses to get you singing along with them, their songs were just infectious and ‘Best Of Me’ follows that tradition. This song is the lead single off INFESTATION and it should definitely be played all over Rock radio, it was tailor made for it, but it’s 25+ years since the band’s heyday and it’s a crime that people won’t hear it.

Ratt always had a sleazy quality to them, maybe it was because of Pearcy’s unique voice or that Sunset Strip hedonistic mentality, but it’s definitely back again on songs like ‘A Little Too Much’, the swaggering ‘Look Out Below’ and guitar driven ‘Last Call’. These songs sound like classic ’80s Ratt, especially ‘Look Out Below with it’s ‘Way Cool Jr.’  strut (from ’88’s REACH FOR THE SKY)  and that isn’t only due to the recognizable vocals from Stephen Pearcy, it’s due to the guitars as well. Warren DeMartini has been in Ratt from the beginning and he has always been the band’s “guitar hero”, even when the late Robbin Crosby was sharing lead guitar duties, and his playing is still amzing both on lead and rhythm guitar. What sets this Ratt lineup and album apart from previous reunion tries is that former Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo is on board and he fits in perfectly. The problem with the 1999 self-titled album was that it was just Demartini on guitar, the classic Ratt sound was built on the DeMartini/Crosby twin guitar attack. Ratt has always maintained this in concert with former guitarists John Corabi and Keri Kelli but they never put it to a record. Adding Carlos Cavazo not only brings another versatile guitar player but also a songwriter, he adds his writing to four songs including ‘Eat Me Up Alive’ and ‘Best Of Me’.

There are more classic ’80s similarities like the ‘Lack Of Communication’ style on ‘Lost Weekend’ and the ‘Wanted Man’ grind on ‘As Good As It Gets’ (the band even name checks ‘Wanted Man’ in the lyrics!), these songs have a similar base compared to the classics but they stand on their own and aren’t cheap copies. It’s that familiarity that’s really hooked me in and makes the rest of the hard rocking songs like ‘Garden Of Eden’, ‘Take A Big Bite’ and ‘Don’t Let Go’ just as good. You kind of expect an ’80s Hard Rock band to have a ballad on a new album but the closest thing to a ballad is ‘Take Me Home’. I would call this song more of a combination of a hard mid-tempo (on the chorus) and a ballad (on the verses) with an updated sound. What’s throwing me off on ‘Take Me Home’ is that the rest of INFESTATION sounds so much like classic Ratt that the any updated sounds get lost. I like the string arrangement and the guitar solos but ‘Take Me Home sounds more like an idea that needs to be fleshed out a little more rather than a proper song.

Bottom Line:
Like I said before, I have always been a big Ratt fan so I was really looking forward to this new album. INFESTATION is exactly what an old school Ratt fan is looking for: a return to the classic sound. The band hasn’t released a proper album in eleven years so the classic sound is fresh to my ears where it may be dated to others, Ratt basically followed the same formula with great success for close to two decades. Having Stephen Pearcy back in the band makes a huge difference because his voice is the Ratt sound, kind of like Vince Neil is to Motley Crue, it’s hard to replace such a unique singer. Also adding Carlos Cavazo on guitar brings more energy and diverse playing to join with Demartini’s guitar heroics. INFESTATION is sleazy, slick and hard all at the same time and it’s definitely a classic Ratt record that you could put alongside OUT OF THE CELLAR, INVASION OF YOUR PRIVACY and REACH FOR THE SKY. This is easily one of the best Hard Rock albums I’ve heard this year and ‘Best Of Me’ is one of the best songs of the year so far! A great comeback…..

Favorite Songs:
‘Eat Me Up Alive’, ‘Best Of Me’, ‘Look Out Below’, ‘Lost Weekend’, ‘As Good As It Gets’

CD Scavenger Hunt – The Rock & Metal sale edition – 3/12/10

It’s rare that I have a Friday night off but my wife went to Connecticut to see Train in concert and I went out on a date with my two daughters. After a fun dinner I took them to Gamestop to buy them special video game presents. What was already a great night out with the kids got even better when I remembered that my local Newbury Comics was having one of it’s Rock & Metal special sales with tons of CDs specially sale priced between $7.99 – $11.88…..this is always a good time to stock up! I didn’t go overboard, and I forgot my want list again, but with the kids fed and bribed, we hit the record store! I will be hitting this sale again a few times before it ends the second week of April!

Acrassicauda – Only the Dead See The End Of The War (2010) – $5: I walked in the front door and found this CD right away! I have been following Acrassicauda since I saw the Heavy Metal In Baghdad DVD back in 2008. I remember hearing that the band’s first official album was being released but I completely forgot about it! This is a four song E.P. rather than a full-length record but with the band relocated to the U.S. and signed to a label, I expect more music from the band soon.

White Wizzard – Over The Top (2010) – $9: The new White Wizzard came out a couple of weeks ago and it was only one of two new releases I could remember from my want list! I definitely liked the old school Metal style of last year’s HIGH SPEED G.T.O. (2009) so I’ve been waiting for this follow-up. This CD was displayed right next to Acrassicauda so I was able to get the next to last copy ata great sale price!

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010) – $12: This is the second new release I could remember from my want list and this was a must have for me because of the video I saw on Youtube for the opening track, ‘Lost Forever’, from this album. I wasn’t sure of what to think about A Capella Metal but I was won over by the concept as soon as I heard the opening. This is solid Power Metal but without instruments except for the drums.

Mutiny Within – s/t (2010) – $10: I don’t usually buy into the hype on a new group right away but I heard one track by Mutiny Within and I figured it was worth taking a chance for the $9.99 price. Progressive Death Metal/Metalcore isn’t my genre of choice but I’m exploring different genres and why not try a new band? I noticed that Mutiny Within is coming locally with Sonata Arctica in a couple weeks so I might see the show if I like what I hear.

High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine (2010) – $8: Best price at $7.99 for a full length album. I’m a little late getting on the High On Fire bandwagon but I really wanted to pick this album up shortly after it was released. I’ve read a lot of good reviews so I’m looking forward to spinning it this week and maybe I can pick up a few other High On Fire albums that I saw on sale for $9.99 in the next couple of weeks.

Dream Evil – Gold Medal In Metal (2008) – $10: Best value for a 2 CD set for $9.99 on sale. I’ve been following Dream Evil since DRAGONSLAYER (2002) and I’ve been buying their albums right along as they been released…..actually, I just noticed that I don’t have EVILIZED (2003) in my collection! I remember checking this CD out when it was released a couple of years ago but the price was close to $20. Seeing that it was a live CD plus a rarities CD I wanted it but I figured I could wait for it until the price came down. I actually almost bought this just before Christmas when I saw the price lowered to $14.99 but even then I figured that was too much for a 2 year old release. The bargain hunter in me couldn’t pass up the deal at $9.99, I thought that would complete the Dream Evil collection through the new record, INTO THE NIGHT (2010), but now I realize I’m missing EVILIZED too.

I bought a few other discs in the last couple of days… I reported in my Hammerfall concert review, I picked up Powerglove’s two CDs for $17 total and I received Infinite Descent’s CD for free from the band. The only other disc I’ve bought is the debut album from Silent Lapse. I received an email promoting the album as a free download or a free CD…..I never pass up a free CD so I went to the band’s website and I ordered my free disc. It wasn’t completly free, I had to pay the $3 shipping charge so the Silent Lapse CD was $3.

Total = $74

Total (year) =$253

Total CDs (year) = 30

Total DVDs (year) = 1

Total LPs (year) = 1

Hammerfall (with Infinite Descent, Frozen and Powerglove) in concert at The Palladium (Worcester, MA) – 3/6/10

On Saturday night I made the 45 minute drive up to The Palladium in Worcester, MA to catch one of my favorite bands from the last 15 years…..Hammerfall!

I got into Hammerfall in late 1997 when I saw the GLORY TO THE BRAVE CD in the Import Section of my favorite record store and I took a chance. 13 years later…..I have bought every Hammerfall album (except 2008’s MASTERPIECES) and have hoped I would get the chance to see them in concert. Back in 2005, Hammerfall toured the U.S. including a stop at The Palladium but I missed it. At the time I was working at a new job and I hadn’t been there long so I probably didn’t go because I didn’t want to make waves asking for a night off to see a Metal show. This time around I took the day off way in advance! I hadn’t been to a show at The Palladium in years so I forgot what it was like…’s a great old theater with a general admission floor and it definitely gets all the good Metal shows regularly including the annual New England Metal & Hardcore Festival. I was flying solo so my plan was to get in, get a drink, grab my Hammerfall tour shirt and find a stool in the bar area to watch the opening acts from.

All the opening bands were local Massachusetts Metal bands and this was my first time seeing any of them so I was hoping to hear some cool music and maybe check out a CD or two. First band on was Infinite Descent and they played close to 30 minutes of some really good Progressive/Thrash/Death Metal that all I could immeadiately compare them to was Arch Enemy. A lot of that has to do with lead vocalist Olivia Berka being similar to Angela Gossow with her aggressive vocals but it was her mixing of the clean vocals that hooked me right away. The other cool thing was the band gave away inflatable swords that the kids on the floor used during their moshing battle. I was going to hit the band’s merchandise stand for a copy of their demo but guitarist Rob Gil was handing them out to the crowd after the band’s set…..a good way to meet some of the fans.

Next up was Frozen, another Progressive/Thrash/Death Metal band from Massachusetts that was very aggressive but also very eclectic. There were a ton of different styles the band threw out including modern heavy Rock and musical themes from ’80s Nintendo games so it was an interesting set. I was going to pick up a CD (the band has two releases) but I never made it over to their merch stand because I didn’t want to lose my prime viewing spot.

Last opener was Powerglove and they got the biggest ovation from the crowd. Powerglove is from the Boston area and they play “video game Metal”: the band takes video game music and creates a metallic version. (You may recognize their band name, taken from the old Nintendo glove controller, the Power Glove.) Songs based on Mario, Dr. Robotnik (from Sonic the Hedgehog), Power Rangers, Mortal Kombat, Tetris and Final Fantasy were featured through their set that also included stage props, full costumes and foam swords that they sold and threw into the pit so the fans could “do battle”. You would think that the previous two aggressive bands would get the crowd whipped to a frenzy but these guys were obvious favorites and they had a full floor area moshing, battling and banging their heads. I was completely taken off guard by how good the band was so I went over to their booth on the way out and paid only $17 to get both the band’s CDs. Definitely the most interesting and entertaining of all the openers but I’d say this was one of the better local lineups I’ve seen in a long time.

Hammerfall setlist:

Punish & Enslave
Crimson Thunder
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Last Man Standing
Blood Bound
Life Is Now
Heeding The Call
Rebel Inside
The Dragon Lies Bleeding
Between Two Worlds
Any Means Necessary
Stronger Than All

Riders Of The Storm
Let The Hammer Fall
Hearts On Fire

Like I said before, Hammerfall played The Palladium back in 2005 and I didn’t get to the show, there was no way I was missing the band this time around! Who knows if it will take another 5 years for them to return? My favorite Hammerfall album is their second, LEGACY OF KINGS (1998), so I was hoping to hear a few songs from that, as well as, some new songs. Old school Hammerfall (the first 3 records) is what I like best and I haven’t really focused heavily on a new Hammerfall record since their third with RENEGADE in 200, the subsequent releases were bought and listened to but I put them down quickly. On the ride up to Worcester, I listened to the new album, NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY (2009) and CRIMSON THUNDER (2004)…..the new album gets better everytime I hear it and I had forgotten just how good CRIMSON THUNDER was!

The venue was packed and the band came out to the heavy as hell ‘Punish & Enslave’ from the latest album…..from there it was full speed ahead! Every Hammerfall album was represented by at least one song in the 17 song set with the NO SACRIFICE album getting five played live. All the new songs fit into the set well around all the classic material and the highlights for me were all of them but the standout songs were ‘Between Two Worlds’ and ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’. The band played some classic songs from their earlier era, especially from the LEGACY album, and that had me completely psyched. I finally got to hear ‘The Dragon Lies Bleeding’, ‘Renegade’ and ‘Let The Hammer Fall’ live! Another 5 songs came from the 2004-2005 era, when the band last played the U.S., off CRIMSON THUNDER and CHAPTER V: UNBENT, UNBOWED, UNBROKEN (2005). I never really got into CHAPTER V but I had given it a re-listen a few days before the show and I was surprised at how good it sounded now so it was cool to get the first two songs off that album (‘Secrets’ & ‘Blood Bound’) live. The crowd went nuts the entire time, especially for the classics off the first three albums, but the intensity was at it’s highest for the CRIMSON THUNDER songs ‘Crimson Thunder’, ‘Riders Of The Storm and the set ending ‘Hearts On Fire’.

The band looked like they were having a great time on stage and they were full of energy, Worcester was the second show of the tour so they were probably pumped way up to be back in the U.S. Joacim Cans sounded so great live, his vocals were so good that he sounded almost exactly like the albums…..he has definitely moved up on my favorite singers list! Fredrik Larrson (who played bass on the first record) was back and teamed up superbly with drummer Anders Johannson while guitarist Oscar Drojnak had a blistering guitar and seemed to be having more fun than the crowd! Even though each band member was excellent I have to say that the newest member, guitarist Pontus Norgren, stood out the most aside from Joacim Cans. Many of you may have heard of Pontus through his solo work, his work with Jeff Scott Soto on his solo stuff and in Humanimal or through his various studio & production work. Needless to say, Pontus is a seriously talented musician…..he plays great guitar (very melodic) and his vocal harmonies are a perfect fit for the Hammerfall sound. I found myself watching him for most of the set to see how he would handle the older material vs. the new songs, I say he did an excellent job.

The band was so good, so passionate about Metal and the fans, that I left the show on a huge high note. You couldn’t help it after the band tore into ‘Hearts On Fire’ to end the set, they had the crowd so frenzied that they could have easily pulled out another 2 or 3 songs and it would have been even better. We got 17 songs that represented all their albums with perfect playing and respect for the fans…..that’s about all you can ask from a concert. If anyone has the chance to check out the Hammerfall tour, I fully recommend buying a ticket! The band kicked my ass back into gear and now I am ready for the next big concert and I’ve been listening to all sorts of Metal non-stop: no TV, no sports talk radio, no video games…..just Heavy Metal!