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Saturday, September 26, 2015


(c) 2015 UDR

  1. Victory Or Die
  2. Thunder & Lightning
  3. Fire Storm Hotel
  4. Shoot Out All Of Your Lights
  5. The Devil
  6. Electricity
  7. Evil Eye
  8. Teach Them How To Bleed
  9. Til The End
  10. Tell Me Who To Kill
  11. Choking On Your Screams
  12. When The Sky Comes Looking For You
  13. Sympathy For The Devil 
Lemmy Killmeister--Lead Vocals, Bass
Phil Campbell--Lead Guitars, Piano on "Sympathy For The Devil"
Mikkey Dee--Drums

Additional Musicians
Brian May--Guitars on "The Devil"

I'm going to contradict myself right from the start, so bear with me.  With Motorhead you are generally either a fan or you aren't.  There really isn't much middle ground.  I think of them very similarly to how I view AC/DC; you know pretty much exactly what you are going to get, as neither band has ever really wavered all that much from their tried and true formula.  Now, about that contradiction.  I AM in that middle ground.  I have never been a fan of the band, but I also never really dipped into the "hate pool" for the band, either.  I own exactly four Motorhead records, so I can't say I am overly well-versed in the band, but most people consider the four in my collection to be among their best:  Ace Of Spades, Orgasmatron, 1916, and Aftershock.  But as a band in general, I just kind of nothinged Motorhead, to be honest.  Their punk-infused style of gruffly snarled and distorted music has never been my cup of tea (please note the British nod there...), but I also never went out of my way to avoid them.  I don't love them...I don't hate them.  Like I said, when it comes to Motorhead, I kind of nothinged them.

Nothing has changed my nothingness of the band with the new album, Bad Magic.

Motorhead is still Motorhead, although in a lot of spots on Bad Magic they don't seem to have quite the angst or fire that they used to.  Now, that can be somewhat expected after 40 years of recording, I would guess, but I always saw Lemmy Killmeister as the tireless, ageless sort of front man that would scoff at exhaustion, laugh at death, and have a drink with the devil himself.  But with his recent health issues, it seems that even the mighty metal godfather has been taken down a notch or two on this recent effort. Perhaps his creative juices weren't flowing as freely on this album, as at 13 tracks it really feels about 6 tracks too long for me.   That is not to say there are no modern classics from this legendary trio, because there are some great moments, especially if you fall into the "Fan Camp" I mentioned earlier.  Even a "nothing fan" like myself found myself snapping my neck furiously to the best tracks here, namely the lead-off track, "Victory Or Die", the crushing "Thunder & Lightning", "Shoot Out All Of Your Lights", which features some excellent drum work from Dee, and even the Rolling Stones cover, "Sympathy For The Devil", although I am sure there are a LOT of Motorhead fans who will cringe at the inclusion of this fairly bizarre choice of covers.  "Fire Storm Hotel" reminds me of the material from one of the two Motorhead albums I actually own, 1916, and "The Devil", which features guest guitar work from none other than Brian May of Queen fame, is another track which I actually found myself hitting repeat on a couple of times due to its unusual catchiness.

But outside of these 6 tracks, I find myself unable to really pull anything else from this record that I would consider memorable, original, or really all that interesting.  I'm not particularly enamored of the acoustic ballad, "Till The End", which I have at least a suspicion that Lemmy wrote about himself and his recent health issues.  It's not terrible, but it's not really interesting, either, at least musically, although the lyrics did grab my attention a bit.  The album's lead single (why is Motorhead releasing "singles"?), "Electricity" isn't particularly electric in its execution, and sounds like so many other Motorhead filler tracks to me.  "Choking On Your Screams", whether intentional or not, sounds like Lemmy actually IS choking throughout much of the vocals, as I have a very difficult time making out what he is saying and it is really distracting for me.  "Evil Eye" just kind of spins for me, doing nothing but making Motorhead-like noise.  Sure, it's fast and furious, but to what end?  The same can be said of "Teach Them How To Bleed"; it's metal as all get-out and the band come across as the speed-freaks they are regularly portrayed as, but after 40 years and 22 albums of material that sounds EXACTLY like this, I'll stick with "Ace Of Spades", "Metropolis", or any of the countless other Motorhead classics that would populate a best of disc if I was inclined to make such a thing.

I'm not here to run down this legendary bands, and let's face it, Motorhead doesn't give a flip about my thoughts on their latest effort.  And that's fine.  They're Motorhead and they do what they do.  I just don't think they do what they do to their best on Bad Magic.  If, by some chance, you are new to this band, I would strongly urge you to go back to their classic album Ace Of Spades, their career pinnacle (in my opinion) in 1916, or even more recent efforts such as Aftershock from just a couple of years ago.  If you are a longtime fan, I would imagine you will end up filing this album somewhere near the 12-15 range as far as its ranking on your personal "Best Motorhead Album Ever" list.  And if you aren't a fan at all, why are you even bothering to pick it up?

As for the handful of people in the hard music world who, like me, "nothing" this band, you'll most likely pluck a few tracks out as good-to-really good tracks, but will not find anything legendary or can't-live-without moments, and probably feel like you've heard a good chunk of this record before on other albums from the past.

If this is that last album that Motorhead ever records, it sadly isn't a particularly triumphant close to a legendary career, but it isn't a full-on whimper, either.  That being said, of all the people...and all the the metal world, Lemmy and Motorhead are toward the bottom of the list of acts I would choose to count out and leave for dead.

Rating:  Rock this at a middling 5.5...and I may be even nudging that a bit high simply because of the god-like status of the band in the history of metal.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

VIA "Sanitize This"

(c) 2015 Pavement Music

  1. Why Do You Play God?
  2. Uncle Sam
  3. The Color Snow
  4. Shroommates
  5. Red Room
  6. Closets
  7. ...To Those Of You With A Guilty Conscience
  8. Come Find Me
J--Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitars
Evo--Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals
Sam--Bass, Backing Vocals

VIA is a relatively new band, having only been formed in Minnesota in 2013, yet they have already garnered themselves a decent internet following and a record deal.  Having never heard anything from these guys, I had no idea what to expect, although I was fairly sure we would be treated to some Octane-friendly modern hard rock.  

Not really.

To my ears, VIA has far more in common with one of my favorite 90's hard alternative bands, LIVE, than with anything currently garnering airplay.  J's vocals have the same edge that LIVE frontman Ed Kowalczyk used to such great effect, especially on that band's first three or four albums, and the off-kilter rhythms, fuzzed-up guitars and overall tone only serve to add to this comparison.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the band incorporates a few songs from Throwing Copper or Secret Samhadi into their set, in fact.

Things start off rather aggressively with the first two tracks, which are both hard rockers with an alternative bent to them.  While neither "Why Do You Play God?" nor "Uncle Sam" are overly memorable, they both showcase a tight band, especially in the rhythm section of Ben and Sam, and a penchant for discordant guitars.

"The Color Snow" is probably the most interesting track here, with it's bizarre stop-start rhythms and the previously mentioned phrasing and vocal stylings that are so reminiscent of LIVE for me.  "Shroommates" is another solid, yet odd, song, even briefly injecting a humorous circus march into the mix, to help move the song forward.  But, that odd twist aside, there is nothing particularly memorable about the song.

"Red Room" is just so repetitive and lacking in any kind of solo, breakdown, or unique instrumentation, that it resembles audio oatmeal to me:  bland, grey, and tasteless.  Sure the band picks up the pace a bit for the last half of the track, and there is an angry edge to J's vocals here, but it's just not moving for me at all.

"Closets" steps things back up a bit, and finds J in full-on Kowalczyk mode as far as his phrasing and snarl goes, and it works very well here.  If forced to pick, I think that "Closets" would probably be my favorite song here.  A rather dark song, there are some interesting lyrical phrasings and turns that catch your attention, as well as a musical urgency not found on several other tracks.  

"...To Those Of You With A Guilty Conscience" is another fairly color-by-numbers 90's alt-rock number that doesn't find the band taking any musical chances.

"Come Find Me" closes things out on something of a high note, as the band alters their approach slightly, utilizing quieter guitars, more sparse musical segments, and some big, thundering drums to let the song develop its own identity.  Couple with J's typically angst-ridden, emotive vocals, and things start looking up for VIA at precisely the same time the album comes to an end.

Every time I played this record, both prior to and during my writing of the review, I felt like I was back in my college apartment, trying to get my homework done, while the college radio station chewed away at my ears with all the angst-ridden alt rock and grunge of the time.  VIA really does have that 90's sound down pat, no question.  Whether that is their intent or not may be a different story, as there really isn't much of a market for that style of music now.  And maybe that's okay.  Maybe VIA is just being who they are and playing what they love.  If that's the case, that's great, and I applaud them for their desire to play what they love and to wear their influences on their musical sleeves.  Now, they just need to inject their OWN personality into the mix, and maybe they will have something more than a nostalgia trip in store for their listening base.  As it stands, I feel like the band is playing things too safely for rock n roll, if you know what I mean.  It is clear these guys have musical talent, but it feels like they are just trying so hard to make an impression that as a result the music suffers at times from a generic lack of personality.  Given more time and experience...and experimentation with styles and sounds...perhaps VIA will find a niche in the current hard rock/alternative market.  Here's hoping for better things in the future from this young, upstart act.

I believe this is to be a digital-only release, at least initially, and will be available through Pavement Entertainment on August 21, 2015.

Rating:  Rock this at 5.5

LOVEWAR "Soak Your Brain"

(c) 1993 Word Music

  1. Soak Your Brain
  2. Golden Rule
  3. Take Me
  4. Welling Up
  5. Space And Time
  6. You Win
  7. Keep Your Hands Off My Stuff
  8. In The Sea
  9. Just The Same
  10. You Are Not Alone
Tim Bushong--Lead Vocals, Guitar
Greg Purlee--Drums, Backing Vocals
Rick Armstrong--Bass, Backing Vocals

Every now and then, I like to go back and review something considerably older.  There are a couple of reasons.  The first is to see how the music has held up over the years; to see if I still enjoy...or despise...something now as much as I did when I first started listening to it.  Secondly, of course, since this is a review site, I like to expose the readers to as much music as possible, so they can make their own decisions about a band or album.

2015 marks the 22nd anniversary of the release of Soak Your Brain from Indiana-based rockers, Lovewar.  I remember buying this album when it first came out and not really knowing what to make of it.  I was really starting to get into thrash and speed metal at the time, and Lovewar is...well, definitely NOT thrash or speed metal.  As a result, I traded my cassette (remember those?) off, only to re-acquire it just a couple of years later, this time on CD.  Soak Your Brain is one re-acquisition I am definitely glad I made, as I have enjoyed this album considerably for twenty-plus years now.

It's funny to me now, because I remember Lovewar was labeled as the Christian answer to Pearl Jam or Nirvana, as grunge was dominating everything by the time this album was being pushed by their label, and it seems like EVERY band was supposed to be the "answer" to this grunge thing that was taking over the music industry.  Thing is...Lovewar sounds NOTHING like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, or any of those bands.  Not even remotely!  

Lovewar is a three piece melodic hard rock band very much in the vein of Extreme, with hints of Mr,. Big, King's X, Galactic Cowboys, and eventual label-mates, Guardian, thrown into the mix.  Tight vocal harmonies, big, guitar hooks, intricate bass rhythms, and strong song crafting are the key elements of this band, with catchy melodies sticking in your head for days and insightful lyrics requiring a degree of thought not necessary for "mosquito/libido" ramblings from Seattle's favorite sons.

The album starts off with the funky title-track, "Soak Your Brain", and immediately the Extreme comparisons should become obvious.  Slightly dischordant guitars and thumping drums kick the track off before the funky bass line bumps its way in and gets the song off to a bouncing start.  Bushong's mid-tenor vocals are perfectly complimented by the harmonizing of Purlee and Armstrong on the catchy chorus, which also gives the band a bit of the Fire And Love-era Guardian feel I mentioned, as well.  The same can be said of "Golden Rule" which incorporates several sparse musical moments during the verses with some subtle effects used on Bushong's vocals, before ramping the energy up into the chorus.  "Take Me" again finds the band mining similar territory, spinning off a bouncy, fun track with a throbbing bass line, strong harmonies, and simple yet catchy guitars.

"Welling Up" slows things down a bit, although we still don't hit what I would consider to be ballad territory.  No, "Welling Up" is more in a bluesy vein than true balladry, but it is still a solid track that really shows the musical scope of the band.  One thing that strikes me here is how similar the harmony vocals sound to Enuff Z'Nuff when that band is on top of their game.  Really good stuff working on this song.

"Space and Time" and "You Win" both pick the pace back up with solid rockers, and "Keep Your Hands Off My Stuff" may be my favorite track of the album, with a funky bass line, some of the edgier guitars on the album, and very reminiscent of the type of music Extreme released on Pornograffitti a few years earlier.  Having been a fan of that album when it came out, I was very happy to hear this song...and this entire album, to be honest.

"In The Sea" starts off with a slow, plodding guitar riff, but it is mere trickery, as again, this is not a ballad at all and is more of the same upper-mid-tempo music that Mr. Big and Extreme were using to such good effect.  This is the longest song on the album, surpassing the six minute mark, which is odd to me as it never feels like it drags although it does have an EXCELLENT, extended guitar solo from Bushong running from about 2:32 until 3:28 or so.  There is also a slight Middle Eastern influence to the last ten or fifteen seconds of the solo, which is pretty cool buried in the middle of this song.  Good, good stuff here.

"Just The Same" is probably the hardest hitting song on the record, at least as far as the intro guitar riffs go, but it still never hits "metal" territory, and has a pretty jangly guitar line throughout the verse sections.  The album closes with "You Are Not Alone", yet another rocker featuring a really nice guitar solo, more of those killer harmonies, and funkified bass work.

Produced by brothers John and Dino Elefante of Kansas fame, the sound is bright and polished, but not a sugar-coated as some other Elefante material, which is a very good thing here as the music is interesting and unique and doesn't get glossed over.  The album packaging is a relatively simple 8 page booklet with full lyrics, thank you's, credits, and a single band picture.

Due to the uniqueness of the style...face it, there weren't a lot of bands doing the hard rock/funk fusion that Extreme, and to an extent Kings X and Galactic Cowboys did...and the excellent musicianship of these three men, Lovewar's Soak Your Brain is an album that I still turn to on a fairly regular basis.  To these ears, the album and style don't come across as dated because it is unique enough that it was never overdone or overplayed, so it sounds fresh every time I spin it.  Personally, I would say that Lovewar was every bit as talented as their counterparts, both musically and vocally.  I think the Christian label may have hurt them as far as marketing goes, but even then, there is no chapter-and-verse Biblical quoting going on here, just strong, positive, uplifting lyrics about human relationships and social ideas.  

Long out of print, this album can generally be found for under $5.00 on eBay, Amazon, and other on-line sources, so reach out and grab this great piece of music.  I am confident you will enjoy what you hear.

Rating:  This one holds up well over the years, and remains crankable.  25 years later, Soak Your Brain is still a solid 7.5 in my book.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

THE SPACEBITCH "You Should Have Been In My Shoes Yesterday"

(c) 2001 Independent Release

  1. Life Ain't Funny
  2. So Messed Up
  3. God Damn
  4. Little Psychopath
  5. Nothing Makes Sense
  6. What's The News
  7. I Know The Score
  8. Here Today, Gone To Hell
  9. E.G.O. Mind
  10. Damage
  11. Never Ever Be Like Me
  12. Last Resort
Jackie--Bass and Backing Vocals
Stophe--Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Crille--Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals, Percussion, Piano

Every now and then when doing a review site such as Glitter2Gutter, something is sent to you that you have no idea about.  You have no idea about who the band is.  You have no idea how the CD was sent to you.  You have no idea about why the band thinks they are, in fact.  Perth, Australia's Spacebitch is one such band, on ALL accounts.  I have never heard of them, I cannot find any information about the band (even the website has been taken down), I have no idea why or how the CD was sent to me...14 years after it was released...and I have no clue why these guys recorded a CD.  Simply put, this is NOT very good stuff at all and the only reason I am reviewing it is because...well...because I want to prevent anyone from seriously hurting themselves by seeking out this record and playing it.

You Should Have Been In My Shoes Yesterday is garage sleaze punk in its purest, most raucous form.  The disc starts off with a parental warning, which is mildly humorous...and then it goes straight downhill.  Played as loudly and as fast as possible, this CD is made up of 12 songs that COMBINED clock in at less than 27 minutes, with half the disc's songs coming in at 2:04 or less.  The "epic" here, "Never Ever Be Like Me" is the real clock-burner, checking in at 3:39, while "Nothing Makes Sense" spins the hands 3 times as well.  Otherwise, the band keeps most of this noise mercifully short, which I guess I can thank them for.

Hoon's vocals are gritty and more spit out than anything; he never approaches anything resembling singing, which is just as well as most of the lyrics are so mind-numbingly repetitive and inane that being able to understand them all might make my head explode.  The drums are equally repetitive and simple, and the rhythm and bass lines are pretty much just up-and-down grinding of the instruments' respective strings, albeit at a fast pace.  The lead guitars aren't horrible, I suppose, and actually show a bit of promise musically if Stophe could manage to break away from this trainwreck of a band and end up in a good rock act of some type.  Again, considering this showed up out of the blue some 14 years after its release, maybe he has managed to find a solid band...or managed to find full-time work in the sanitation industry...who knows.  

Song-wise, there is really very little I can say here.  I guess the piano is an interesting addition to "Nothing Makes Sense", although even that is little more than in-tune-and-tempo banging on the keys.  Other than that, there is virtually no variance in pace, tempo, style, or sound between any of these "songs".

Let's see...positives, positives, positives...  Well, I guess the production isn't terrible and someone with at least some skill recorded this as it doesn't sound like it was recorded on a boombox or in a basement.  Apparently the guys all showed up with instruments.  Someone knew how to turn the power on.  So, yeah...there you go...

I am sure these guys' friends think they were the best unsigned band in Australian history, and there is likely a punk aficionado that will absolutely love this record.  For me however, I can categorically state I will never...EVER...put this in my CD player or computer again and thank the Divine intervention that gave me the wisdom of not ripping this to my iTunes so that I didn't have to waste the time removing it.

By the way, I had to work WAY TOO HARD to get the "album cover" (its computer printed and folded in half...nothing inside) put up, as even my scanner didn't want to touch the thing and there are ZERO images that I could find on-line.  Also, it was STUCK inside the plastic sleeve, so  I ended up taking a picture with my phone (sorry about the flash) and emailing it to myself.  That's how much I care about YOU never buying this by accident!

Rating:  Just turn it off.  I'll give them...or whomever sent this to me...a 1 for the time and effort. 

DAMN DICE "The Great Unknown"

(c) 2015 Independent Release

  1. Power
  2. What Now?
  3. Driven
  4. Down
  5. The Way To Go
  6. Caught In The Ride
  7. Words
  8. Bang Your Head
  9. No Fear
  10. Take The Fight
  11. Rock (Like You Mean It)
  12. Home
Alex--Lead Vocals

Damn Dice return with their first full-length album, The Great Unknown, after having gone nearly three years since the release of their debut EP, Wild N Ready in 2013.  The line-up for this London-based band remains intact, although their sound is beefed up a bit, given a heavier, more bottom-ended thump, and grittier production.  The songs themselves are more aggressive, feeling somewhat akin to heavier Skid Row in their approach, although the vocals are NOTHING like those delivered by Sebastian Bach.  In fact, at times, Alex sounds more like Nitro's Jim Gillette than he does anyone, singing in something of a forced falsetto for about 1/3 of the record, although he never approaches glass-shattering range with his screams.  In fact, it is these moments that actually cause me to mark this album down a bit because the vocals are almost too much to take in spots.  Maybe it's a London thing, as the Darkness is another great example of a band that I would really love to get into, but the vocals just destroy the band.  Here it isn't quite as bad because the other 2/3 of the time, Alex uses a solid, controlled, and relatively strong mid-range tenor that suits both him and the rest of the music very well.  My one hope for the band is that they stick with this style of vocals for their next album and leave the falsetto behind.  

Musically, the band is very tight on this record, with solid, aggressive riffing and confident, if not flashy, solo work from Wallis on guitars.  A perfect example is the excellent solo on one of the best tracks here, "Down", which finds him really delivering on a solid 80's-inspired run, but the mix keeps it from being so out-front that it doesn't detract from the rest of the song.  The bass, as previously mentioned, is definitely a solid part of the mix on all of the tracks here, and the drumming is creative, especially for this style of music, keeping the band on a solid tempo at all times.  I really don't have much in the way of complaints about this band musically, as all are competent musicians that handle their roles well.  

Standout tracks are hard to pick, because there is so much good stuff here, and even the iffy moments don't really sink all the way to the bottom to "bad" territory.  As I stated above, I think "Down" is a very good song, and a prime example of the songwriting and musicianship of the band.  "The Way To Go" is another really good, hard driving song with solid guitar work, nice backing vocals, and only a few spots where Alex breaks into that annoying falsetto.  "Take The Fight" really grabs my attention because of the great use of the gang-shouted vocals contrasting with Alex's falsetto...which actually works on this song and doesn't grate on my eardrums for some reason.  "Bang Your Head" is the fastest track here and is just blistering hard rock n roll with sharp drums, some aggressive bass work, and really nice guitar work, all intermixed with some gang-shouted vocals.  Again, a bit too much falsetto from Alex, but yet again I manage to overlook that on this number.  Album opener, "Power" is a nice, hard rocking track as well, and "Rock (Like You Mean It)" is just a flat-out ball-busting number that lays waste to pretty much everything else on this album...or a LOT of albums of this style to come out in the last few years.  I LOVE this song and have moved it onto one of my gym mixes as it has a great tempo, a thumping bass and drum line, gang shouted backing vocals, NO falsetto voices, and excellent guitar work.  In fact, as I look back on this last section, it is safe to say that Damn Dice is at their absolute best when they are grinding though their heavier, punchier material, not trying to be anything that they are not, and just smacking you in the mouth with aggressive hard rock.  That being said, "Words" is a GREAT power ballad, and album closer, "Home" is also a kick-ass track that finds the band effortlessly moving from softer, acoustic based balladry to electrified, crunchy rocker, all within the same track.  Alex also really gets a chance to showcase his more emotive side vocally, which is a good thing.  

As you may have noted if you paid close attention, the best stuff, by and large, for me is at the end of the album, with the opener and a couple of middle tracks comprising the really good stuff here.  I don't know if that was by design, but it reminds me of the approach a lot of rock bands took back when vinyl ruled the day...front loading with a great song on Side A, finishing Side A with a solid rocker, then starting Side B with another good track before closing out with two or sometimes three really solid songs, and burying the other, lesser tracks, somewhere in the middle of each side.  If this CD was put onto vinyl and the A/B split was between tracks 5 and 6, this would be an almost perfect example of an album layout, in my opinion.

If I had any complaints, other than the falsetto in spots, I would say the album is two or three songs too long. To remedy that, one of two things could be done.  The tracks from the EP could have been left off, but you would lose three of the best songs here, as "Down", "Bang Your Head" and "Take The Fight" are carryovers.  If I HAD to drop one of these, it would be "Down", but that's a tough call. The other option would be to drop "What Now?" and "Driven" which are the only two so-so songs for me.  Don't mistake this for me saying they suck or anything, because that is not my point.  They just aren't all that memorable for me at all and lack the real hook that keeps a song in your head for long periods of time.

My only other complaint is this band LOVES their intros.  Sound effects preface several of these songs and waste the listener's time as these intros really don't add anything but length to the tracks.  Sure, they allow for some separation between all the up-tempo numbers here, but they are unnecessary in my opinion.  Of course, anyone who regularly reads this site knows of my disdain for intros and outros, so this minor gripe shouldn't shock anyone.

Overall, Damn Dice have a winner on their hands with The Great Unknown, which comes out on August 24. Hit the band's website at to pre-order the record, snag the previous EP and other merch, and to check out a few of the tracks from this album.  For my money, Damn Dice is one of the truly good hard rock bands coming out of the European scene, which is saying quite a bit considering the talent they are competing with.  

Rating:  Definitely a CRANKFEST here!  Easily an 8.5!

Monday, August 3, 2015

TAD MOROSE "St. Demonius"

(c)2015 Despotz Records
  1. Bow To The Reaper's Blade
  2. Forlorn
  3. Where Ignorance Reigns
  4. Remain
  5. Black Fire
  6. Day Of Reckoning
  7. The Shadows Play
  8. Darkness Prevail
  9. Fear Subside
  10. Dream Of Memories
  11. The World Is Growing Old
  12. Your Own Demise
Ronny Hemlin--Vocals
Christer "Krunt" Andersson--Guitars
Kenneth Jonsson--Guitars
Tommi Karppanen--Bass
Peter Moren--Drums

Swedish metalheads, Tad Morose, is a band that I have always hear OF, but have never heard until this album.  I'm not really sure why I never looked into them, but their latest album, St. Demonius, which will be out in late August, will definitely having me seeking out some of their catalog material.

I've often heard the band compared to Iced Earth, which I can hear a bit, as Hemlin does have a Barlow/Owens quality to it, although he doesn't sound like either man, at least in the clone sense.  And, much like Iced Earth, there is a speed element at play on many of these tracks, and the powerful drumming is reminiscent of IE as well.  But the comparisons end there, at least for me, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Tad Morose has more tempo change within songs that is typically found in most Iced Earth songs.  Take for example the opening track, "Bow To The Reaper's Blade".  Within this one song we have multiple time changes as the band comes out full-speed ahead, with blistering double kick work going on and some fret-melting rhythm guitars as well, but even before we hit the minute mark on the track, the pace slows WAY down to a plodding pace, allowing Hemlin's vocals to powerfully soar across the chorus, only to find the track kick-starting itself in identical fashion to how it initially started.  It's never speed-for-speed's-sake here, although that doesn't mean the songs lack in speed, power, or heft in any way.  "Black Fire" would never be mistake for a speed metal track by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a power and diversity in the song that reinforces the creativity behind this band.  Perhaps this is a by-product of several members coming from other European power metal bands and bringing their own individual style and sound with them, then pouring it into the smelting pot so that a different type of power metal can be poured out.  "Day Of Reckoning" is another track that utilizes slower, yet crushingly powerful chords in an almost doomy fashion, without ever becoming bogged down in the sludge of too much down-tuning in the guitars or mind-numbingly slow riffing. 

Secondly, the lead guitar work is more interesting overall in Tad Morose, at least on this record (which I have also been told is one of their heaviest).  I like what Iced Earth does, and there is no denying that Jon Schaeffer is a MONSTER on rhythm guitars, but I have to admit to feeling that, at times, the leads lack a lot of creativity, and serve more as a way to get from chorus to chorus so that the pure aggression of Schaeffer can rear its metallic head.  Not so with Tad Morose.  Each of the tracks on St. Demonius has a carefully crafted guitar lead that sears through the middle, along with some scorching outro work as well.   Look, I'm not taking anything away from IE here, as I love that band for what they do, as they do it better than pretty much everyone:  they rip your face off with speed and aggression in the rhythm guitars, while whatever power-screamer they have incorporated into the band chews away at what is left of your eardrums.  And I love it!  But with Tad Morose, you get a similar ability to charge through a metallic storm, such as in the scorching "The Shadows Play", but a bit more musicality is put on display AROUND the bursts of break-neck speed shredding.  

One nice thing here is that none of these songs comes across as bloated...often labelled as "epic" by people who really want to say, "this song is way too long!".  With the shortest track clocking in at 3:08 and the longest topping out at 5:03, the majority are in that comfortable 4 to 4:30 range, giving the songs time to develop and strengthen before they turn into unwanted house guests that simply won't leave!  Also, there are no wasted "intro" or "outro" tracks, which typically bore me to tears, so Tad Morose gets a kudo for that (can you get a single "kudo" or does it have to be "kudos"?)

There are several stand-out cuts here, with a handful of them being mentioned already.  "Darkness Prevail" features some of the most interesting drum work on an album filled to the brim with top notch skin work.  "Fear Subside" is another faster track, although not full foot-on-the-floor speed is utilized here as the band throttles back ever so slightly from the previously mentioned "The Shadows Play".  Astute metal fans are likely going to point to "The World Is Growing Old" as having a "...And Justice For All" Metallica feel to the guitars, and they would be right in making that assertion, but this is a whole different animal once you get into the track, and Hemlin's power metal vocals lay waste to what remain's of Hetfield's voice at this point.  

The production is top notch here, which I was a bit worried about being on such a small, unknown label as Despotz Records.  The mix is very clear, and there is excellent separation between the guitars so that you can hear what each is doing and they don't muddle the sound of the other.  The drum work here is excellent, and the bass lines, which I have previously neglected to mention, are big, thick, and powerful.  My guess is that it takes a pretty good sound engineer to keep the power of the bass chords from drowning out the vocals in a live setting.

My review copy is a digital download, so I cannot make any statement about the packaging of the album.  I have no idea if lyrics are included, but I can assure you that Hemlin's vocals are easy to understand and the lyrics are not hard to decipher in any way.

Again, I want to state that this is my first exposure to this band, but it will not be the last, based solely on St. Demonius.  I am that impressed.  And, again, I want to reiterate that I am NOT suggesting that Tad Morose replace Iced Earth atop the speed/power metal heap in your individual collection...but you definitely need to clear some space next to IE if you keep all the good stuff on the same shelf!!

Rating:  Very much a crankable record...spin the knob to 8 here!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

BOBAFLEX "Anything That Moves"

(c) 2015 BFX Records

  1. Burn Them All
  2. Start A War
  3. Lose Control
  4. Dry Your Eyes
  5. Mama (Don't Take My Drugs Away)
  6. A Spider In The Dark
  7. Show Me
  8. Objectified
  9. Turn Me On
  10. You Don't Want To Know
  11. Pray To The Devil
  12. End Of The World
  13. Forgiven
Shaun McCoy--Vocals, Guitars
Marty McCoy--Vocals, Guitars
Tommy Johnson--Drums
Dave Tipple--Guitars
Jymmy Tolland--Bass

It has only been two short years since Bobaflex released Charlatan's Web, but in that time, not only was a tour completed and a new album written, but two new members joined the Bobaflex fold, as well.  Anything That Moves is the first album to feature new guitar player, Dave Tipple, and new bassist, Jymmy Tolland, and while some may argue that the two latest additions have sparked a new intensity in the band, don't expect anything drastically different from the modern rockers.As with their last couple of efforts, Bobaflex's sound continues to be driven by their occasional usage of spaghetti Western-styled musical interludes and imagery ("Bury Me With My Guns On"), unique rhythms, and darkly humorous lyrics ("I'm Glad You're Dead"), all while keeping their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks with a wicked grin spread across their collective faces.  Don't come here looking for synthesized string sections, huge breakdowns, or dub-step styled backing tracks, as you will be sorely disappointed if that is what you are after.  However, if you are after a hard-rocking, hell-raising good time from some of the nicest (sorry to ruin the image) guys you will meet in the business, then Bobaflex and Anything That Moves will be right up your alley.

The new record starts off with a throw away intro...we all know I hate intros...but at just 30 seconds, "Burn Them All" isn't an overly huge annoyance at the outset of this new record.  Things really get going in a big way as soon as "Start A War" kicks in with crunchy modern hard rock guitars, a catchy, sing-along chorus, and those brotherly harmonious vocals that make Bobaflex's sound unique.  "Lose Control" follows up nicely with another rocker, before one of my favorites here kicks in, with "Dry Your Eyes".  If you were a fan of that Western-styled approach I mentioned before, a la "Bury Me With My Guns On" (which is my favorite 'Flex track ever), you are likely going to dig "Dry Your Eyes" as that same approach is used, yet the song does not come off as a clone.

The album's lead single is the humorously (at least to me) titled "Mama (Don't Take My Drugs Away)", which is a solid mid-tempo rocker that has a big hook and more of those harmonies from the McCoy brothers that are such a trademark part of the band's sound.  While not necessarily my favorite 'Flex track, it is definitely a very good one that will likely find its way up the hard rock charts at both satellite and terrestrial radio.  "A Spider In The Dark" has all of the moody creepiness that the title implies and is another of my faves here.

Things hit a bit of a "samey-snag" on the next couple of tracks, as both "Show Me" and "Objectified" feel like album cuts from records past, and while neither is horrible, they don't really do anything to push the album forward, either.  The last three tracks are nearly as solid as the first three (again, excluding the intro), and round out the record in solid fashion.

It's hard for me to believe this West Virginia band has had seven albums now, but even with the line-up changes I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the McCoy Brothers and company show no signs of slowing down.  Anything That Moves isn't earth-shattering, but it is a lot of fun, and minus a couple of semi-off moments, may just be the best these guys have put out, even with the changes.

If you get the chance, check them out live, as they put on a heck of a performance, regardless of the venue size and, as I mentioned, are very nice guys to meet.  Hopefully, I will get the chance to take in a show with the new members soon, and I look forward to the inclusion of "Mama", "Start A War", "Dry Your Eyes", and probably "Forgiven" or "End Of The World" in the live show!      

Rating:  Crank this to a fun 7.5!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

SCORPIONS "Return To Forever (Japanese Blu-Spec Edition)"

(c) 2015 Sony Music Germany/Sony Music Japan
  1. Going Out With A Bang
  2. We Built This House
  3. Rock My Car
  4. House Of Cards
  5. All For One
  6. Rock N Roll Band
  7. Catch Your Luck And Play
  8. Rollin' Home
  9. Hard Rockin' This Place
  10. Eye Of The Storm
  11. The Scratch
  12. Gypsy Life
  13. The World We Used To Know (Bonus Track)
  14. Dancing With The Moonlight (Bonus Track)
  15. When The Truth Is A Lie (Bonus Track)
  16. Who We Are (Bonus Track)
  17. One And One Is Three (Japanese Bonus Track)
  18. Crazy Ride (Bonus Track)
Klaus Meine--Lead Vocals
Rudolf Schenker--Guitars
Matthias Jabs--Guitars
James Kottack--Drums
Pawel Maciwoda--Bass

I'm a bit late on reviewing this album as I was waiting for the Japanese special edition to be released, since I had read it would have at least two bonus tracks not available in America.  (it actually came out LATER than the American release!  When does THAT happen?)  Additionally, this was the first chance I had to actually pick up one of these extremely high-quality Blue-Spec Editions, which feature cutting edge sound quality, so it was worth the wait and...*gulp*...the additional $25 to get it.  

For those of you who may keep track of such things, the Scorpions were actually supposed to be done by now.  They went on a farewell tour, released their "final album", etc., etc., and were supposed to ride off into the German sunset.  But a funny thing happened while on that final tour...they fell in love with performing once again.  They found an energy that Schenker and Meine have both said was missing from the last couple of Scorpions releases, and they also found that they still enjoyed performing together despite the fact that the Scorpions have now existed (in one form or another) for  FIFTY YEARS, with Schenker and Meine having been musical brothers since 1970!  That's an insanely long time to go without killing each other!  Jabs, by the way, has been there since 1978, so that trio right there has been spearheading the Scorpions for 37 years, allowing for a largely consistent sound throughout the band's history...with just a couple of hiccups along the way.  

Since the band decided NOT to hang up their six strings, drums, bass, and microphone, they did the only real thing they could do; they headed back into the studio to record Return To Forever, the band's 19th album.  (Their first, by the way, was 1972's Lonesome Crow...check it out sometime...)  Now, the band has been very upfront about the fact that several of these songs are, in fact, older songs from the recording sessions of the band's two biggest records, Love At First Sting and Blackout, as well as left-over tracks from Crazy World and Savage Amusement, and a couple of other later albums.  There are, however, several new songs, as well, giving this album a true "across the decades" perspective that only a band of this vintage could do.  To help give the reader an idea of the new material versus the older stuff, I'm going to break this review up and separate the new tracks from the old...just to shake things up a bit.  


"Going Out With A Bang" (a foreshadowing title?) is one of the new songs written for this album, and it starts the album out in classic Scorpions fashion, albeit with an updated production sound.  It's funny, because to me this sounds like a song that may have been written in the 90's, when it is actually one of the newest tracks on this album.  A big, catchy chorus, smooth production, and a nice hook drive this song and really gives the album a jump start.      

"We Built This House" is "the philosophy of the band" according to Meine, and "basically tells our story".  Despite the fact that it was written for this record, it is undeniably classic Scorpions material, sounding very much like something that would have come out of the mid-to-late-80's musically.  Sure, there is an updated approach to the way the chorus is structured and how the vocals are layered over the instrumental track here, but for me, this is the best of a batch of good-to-great new songs and is the style of song I would love to hear utilized on a full album's worth of material.

"All For One" is a song that reminds me a lot of the Humanity Hour I era of the band, utilizing a smoother guitar tone on the intro to the track, and Meine's more updated vocal phrasing.  His voice still sounds almost EXACTLY like it did clear back in the 70's, which is amazing, but the way he phrases things has changes slightly as his grasp on English has improved (at least somewhat) throughout the years.  A solid rocker, if not an amazing one, that shows there are still signs of life in this dinosaur of a band.


One thing I want to point out is that these are NOT simply remixed versions of songs that were left on the cutting room floor, nor are they crappy left-overs that the band decided to add here to milk some more cash out of the Scorpions fan base.  These songs were, from my understanding, never fully recorded, nearly always missing lyrics, and often nothing more than a riff or a solo idea that was shelved due to lack of album space, album continuity problems, or what have you.  

Upon listening to several of these songs, it will be pretty obvious to most Scorpions fans what time frame they were written in.  For example, the excellent "Rock N Roll Band" was written during the Love At First Sting/Savage Amusement period, and features that signature Scorpions guitar tone and the tandem guitar riffing that were so distinguishable during the band's heyday period.  "Catch Your Luck And Play" is another excellent rocker that also originates from this same time period, carrying the same guitar tone as songs like Savage Amusement's "When Passion Rules The Game".  The guitars are big, the vocals have that powerful layering that the Scorps and so many other bands utilized in the mid-to-late 80's, and the drums are big and bold without burying the rest of the track.  "Rock My Car" also comes from this same time period, and musically it is a strong track, although lyrically, it is one of those Scorps tracks that comes across as uber-cheesy due to the band members' difficulties translating lyrical ideas into English.  As such, the chorus is extremely simplistic and one-dimensional, filled in with "whoaaas" and several "rocks!", apparently as space savers.  Despite this, a GREAT guitar solo carries the frantic track and actually transforms it into a fun top-down-summer-driving song.   

"House Of Cards" reminds me of "Send Me An Angel" from Crazy World, in the way the song is structured and performed, which leads me to believe it is also a mid-to-late 80's tune.  A very solid Scorpions ballad, it doesn't have quite the urgency of "Still Loving You", but the understated acoustic guitars allow Meine's still-strong vocals to really carry the song.  I really like that there are no overwrought strings or keyboards included here, as so many bands would likely be tempted to layer in, as this song is solid proof of how a well-crafted song and an impassioned performance can say plenty on their own.  Really a high point for me here.  

While not necessarily "classic", a couple other records have unreleased material represented here.  "Gypsy Life" feels eerily like the classic Scorpions ballad "Still Loving You" melded with a bit of "When The Smoke Is Going Down" from Blackout.  Originally written for Acoustica, this track was never released, which I think is a shame, as it is pretty darn good and is yet another excellent ballad that really showcases the band's understanding of this style of song.  "Eye Of The Storm" was originally intended for Humanity Hour I, but didn't fit the flow of that record, largely due to the number of outside writers that were brought in to work on that album.  It has been reworked a bit and included here, fitting in relatively well, even if it is the least "classic Scorpions ballad" sounding effort on this disc.  


The bonus tracks are songs that I know virtually nothing about, as far as when they were written.  Their style and sound gives me some inclination that none of these are overly old, as they have more of the smooth approach utilized on the more recent albums.  

"The World We Used To Know" honestly reminds me a lot of a Men At Work song, if you can believe that!  If you were to swap Meine for the singer of that band (Colin Hay...I looked it up), I think it might be tough to distinguish the two...seriously.  This song is so laid back, with such a simple rhythm and song structure, that never does it really feel like a Scorpions song.  It's not bad, just very 80's synth-pop feeling...but I still get the feeling this is a newer song.

"Dancing With The Moonlight" really allows the bass to shine, especially at the outset of the track.  Returning to more of an aggressive song structure, this is still a song that is definitely from the newer end of the band's songwriting spectrum.

"When The Truth Is A Lie" features an odd acoustic guitar line mixed into an otherwise rocking song, and really showcases Meine's still-strong vocals.  As I have said before, the guy doesn't sound like he has aged vocally at all, which is amazing after all of these years, albums, and shows.  The track is catchy, but not necessarily overly-memorable or typically Scorpions material, which is likely why it was relegated to bonus track status.  Definitely not a skipper, however, and my second favorite of the bonus cuts.

"Who We Are" is yet another undeniably Scorpion-esque ballad, and is performed very well.  Acoustic guitars intro the song, which is accompanied by some luxuriously layered backing vocals.  It never really builds like an 80's power ballad does, and it is a bit lyrically repetitive, but not a bad song, and a decent ballad to be included in these bonus songs.

"One And One Make Three" comes out smoking with rapid-fire guitars and charging guitars on this Japan-only bonus.  Lyrically, it makes very little sense (at least none that I can decipher thanks to these Japanese lyric sheets!), but, again, it's a decent enough song styled along the lines of the band's Humanity, Pt. I material.

Disc closer, "Crazy Ride", features more traditional-era sounding guitars and that familiar song structure from the 80's (I'm guessing this was a left-behind Savage Amusement track, or perhaps Crazy World, based upon the sound...).  Not as urgent in feel as some of the songs this was likely written alongside, but definitely a throwback to the band's most popular period, and my favorite of these add-ons.       
One interesting thing of note is that nearly all of the new songs were written by Meine along with "Nord" Andersson, and Martin Hansen (or some combination of the three), who both helped with a lot of the songwriting on Humanity Hour I.  Schenker's name is nowhere to be found on any of the newer tunes (nor is Jabs, who is not given writing credit on ANY song here).  On the flip side, the majority of the "classic" tracks were written musically by Schenker and lyrically by Meine.  And, with only one or two exceptions, it is pretty easy to tell the "classics" from the "currents" if you have been a fan of the band for any stretch of time.

As far as I can tell, there are FIVE different versions of this album:  the regular release, the deluxe American edition, the deluxe European edition, the Japanese import version, the Japanese Blu-Spec version (mine).  I have also heard there is a two-disc version of this album, but I have never seen it.  Each version has the basic 12 tracks that start off the disc, but depending upon which version you purchase, the bonus tracks are different on each.   For the money, I would probably tell most people to get the regular Japanese edition, which contains the final two bonus tracks here.  The Scorpions completist, import collector, or people with stupid amounts of money will want to seek out this Blu-Spec Edition, not only for the extra three European tracks, but the exceptional sound quality.  Yes, you can definitely hear the difference on this Blu-Spec Disc, as it is a VERY clean sound, with virtually no hiss or static between tracks or during the softest moments of the ballads.  Much like a Blu-Ray Video, you may not really notice how crisp and clean this is unless you get the opportunity to compare it side-by-side with a standard release, but if you get the chance, I can almost guarantee you will notice the difference.  Now, is it worth the extra money?  Probably not, and  I kind of doubt this ever catches on in the US where record companies are trying to go all digital download, but man, I wish they would find a way to drop the price (like Blu-Ray Videos have), as these suckers are really that SHARP sounding!  By the way, you don't need a special CD player of Blu-Ray player to play them, which, honestly, was a fear of mine...

So, is this the end of the Scorpions?  Honestly, I kind of doubt it, as the band seems to be having a lot of fun, and I have to believe that with a history as long as theirs, there is even more material they could plumb from the depths of the vaults and restructure/rebuild and present as new material, much like they did here.  And that would be fine with me, as this is an excellent effort from a truly classic band that, realistically, has shown no signs of slowing despite the massive number of years under their belt.

Rating:  A lot of crankable fun here!  While it doesn't displace ...Sting, ...Amusement, or Blackout, it definitely cranks at 8 for me!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TALKIN' TRASH WITH....Rex Carroll of Whitecross/King James!

Whitecross founder and axe-slinger, Rex Carroll, is one of the most talented guitar players to run the fretboards, not only in Christian hard rock and metal, but in hard rock period.  But a lot of people don't realize there was life BEFORE Whitecross...and AFTER as well!  Rex was kind enough to open up on a number of topics with me in this extensive interview, which was conducted over the course of a few days.  Find a comfy chair, grab something cool to drink, and settle in as we talk some trash with Rex Carroll!
G2G:  Rex, it's great to get a chance to catch up with you again!  On social media it seems like you are a man constantly on the go.  How have you been, my friend?

Rex:  Arttie, my friend, it's always good to chat with you.  Yeah, I'm busy, but I'm good, thank you.
Rex and I clowning around at SkullFest in 2013

G2G:  There has seemingly been a lot of renewed interest in Whitecross lately.  I saw a new poll about the band's Top 10 songs on Facebook the other day, and threads pop up on The Christian Metal Realm and various other sites from time-to-time.  How does it feel to still be in the minds and hearts of people after all theses years?  What do you attribute your longevity to in an industry where, let's be honest, not a lot of bands survive?

Rex:  I am continually grateful and humbled by the Grace of God, who used whatever we did to reach people for His purposes.  I don't think of us as "spiritual giants" or anything like that, but I can tell you that in spite of all the many mistakes we made collectively, at the core we were truly about serving the Lord and we were, and are, excited about ministry.  For whatever reason, people made a connection to our music and I'm thankful for however God has used us, un any small way, to impact somebody's life in a positive direction.

Not trying to dredge up any old memories or hard feelings, if they still exist, but what exactly led to your leaving Whitecross?  Was it the musical direction, wanting to get off the road, wanting to do something new...?

Rex:  Back around 92 and 93, we toured...A LOT.  Now, I love touring, I really do.  However, we got caught in a situation where our fans expected a big show with big production, but we never made enough income to really afford it.  So eventually, we were just losing too much money.  After a time of no income for Scotty or myself...on the one hand, we just couldn't do it any more.  On the other hand, Scotty and I have never gotten along all that well; we're just different people and we both have differing ideas about how to go about doing things.  So the tipping point came when my daughter required a major medical procedure.  I wasn't able to support the band, and the band was more or less just angry with me.  And, I realized that was not where I needed to be.  You could say we jumped the proverbial shark and I needed to reset and regroup.

G2G:  Stryper is still going strong...Petra is back playing shows again...Bloodgood and Guardian did new records recently, so I ask you, why not Whitecross?  Any chance of a new record at any time in the near future?

Rex:  I love how Stryper has been able to keep going.  That is fantastic!  As far as the music industry and music business is concerned, as soon as somebody makes a legitimate offer to make a new record, it's easily doable.  What I'm NOT interested in is a situation where a small label says, "you make the record at your own expense and take all your own time, we will sell it and then we're not going to pay any royalties anyways!"  I can assure you, I've done that enough already!  (Laughing)  So THAT is not happening any time soon.  But, any serious offers and of course we're interested in it.
Whitecross debut

G2G:  Your last band effort, 1987, was basically a remake of the debut, self-titled album and the highly sought after "Love On The Line".  I'm going to be very honest with you, my friend...I was VERY happy the ballads were left off of 1987, as they always lacked something without you tearing up the fretboard, at least for me.  Was there a specific reason the ballads were left off?

Rex:  Hmmm...I'll give you a very political "answer without answering response".  There was a collective discussion, and the collective thinking was that it would be fabulous to have a new recording of "Love On The Line".  (Laughing)  I hope that helps!  (Laughing)  In all seriousness, I've heard from people who were actually UNhappy with us not including the ballad.  I guess you can't please all the people all the time.  I'm jut happy we did the record at all.  I really like it, speaking for myself...
1987 re-record of debut record

G2G:  I like it a lot as well.  Let's switch gears for a second because Whitecross is certainly not the only thing you have going on.  You have another really good band called King James that is actively recording new albums.  I actually have the newest disc, Maximus, playing in the background as we chat.  I have to tell you, the more I listen to this record, the more I love it.  The song, "Waiting For The King" is just AMAZING in my opinion.

Rex:  Thanks, Arttie.  I think you are correct...the more you listen to this album, the more you realize it's pretty amazing.  There are several reasons for this.  Some really great songs, yes.  Fantastic musicians and singer, yes.  Hey!  I'm not being egotistical, I am really speaking the truth here.  The support we received during the recording process totally helped, also.  Having the GREAT John Lawry assisting us in the studio...yes and yes again!  But, most importantly, there was a decision made at the very start of the record that we were going to honor God, honor each other, honor the songs, check all of our egos at the door, and we were going to treat each other with respect, love, and doing what was best for the album, as well as doing things in as Godly a way as we knew how.  For all of these reasons, we made what is undeniably a great album!  As you can tell, I'm extremely proud of the guys and of the record.

G2G:  You just recently released a new video for the album, correct?

Rex:  Yes, that's correct.  In January, we went to Nashville and filmed two music videos for the Maximus album.  I could not be happier with the videos.  They're pretty awesome.

G2G:  Have you ever taken King James and Whitecross out at the same time, one opening for the other, for example?

Rex:  Yes, actually, we have done that a couple of times.  There was a festival in Switzerland that liked the idea of having King James on Friday night, and Whitecross on Saturday night.  It went great and everybody benefited.

G2G:  What would you say are the key differences between working in King James and working in Whitecross?

Rex:  That's a difficult question to answer, because there are so many differences!  Where to start...

In the Whitecross albums, it seems like the various record label people always wanted to get involved, so you see on the different albums where there are guest musicians, studio musicians, songs written by people who are not in the band, all kinds of things.  To be fair, sometimes we NEEDED the help.  But it also became a pain in the rear end, too.  And everybody wanted to take the credit!  (Laughing)  At times, it became a big corporate production where the band is just one element and there are WAY too many people having too much input.  I can't say that was all necessarily a bad thing....I would have to admit, I like it when there's a big fuss being made about the band.  But, it's not healthy when other people are deciding who plays on the album and who doesn't.

The first thing to my mind in regards to King James was the desire to put an end to the Merry-Go-Round.  We are actually a band of four guys who work together, and do things together as one unit.  I know, I know, basic stuff, right?  But here's the thing...the same guys who are in the picture are the same guys who play on the record, are the same guys who play at the gigs.  I believe that one reason it's hard for new bands to succeed is this: when you fall in love with a band, you have to make an emotional commitment to the songs, the sound, and the guys in the group.  Think about it.  If the Beatles show up to perform and casually say, "Oh, George couldn't make it tonight...we have a fill in...", yes, there will be a riot in the street!  If Led Zeppelin shows up and says, "oh, Robert Plant isn't here, so we have so-and-so to sing tonight..." (Laughing)  That doesn't work, does it?  So my point is we really wanted to make sure that King James is a band that will be around for a long time.  Unlike previous situations, it's a real band that you can sink your teeth into and we do what we want as a group.  I'm a fan, too; once I latch onto a group that I like, I want that group to be there for me.  So that's probably the single biggest difference from Whitecross to King James, the stability of the line-up.

G2G:  That being said, the two bands are actually the same now, only with different lead singers, correct?

Rex:  Yes, and there you go.  There's a reason why I work with the guys I work with.  Michael and Benny are some of the best musicians in the world, and it took a long time to find them and get a chemistry together.  My desire is to keep a core band together for the long run.  We actually took our time and spent a lot of effort, time, and money to make sure we had the right lineup for King James.  As it so happens, there is a continuity from Whitecross to King James.  But, don't comfuse things by saying, "same band/different singer".  The mindset, the musical goals, the way we go about doing things....all very different.

G2G:  Rex, let's go back a bit, if you don't mind.  A lot of people probably don't realize there was life before Whitecross for you, correct?

Rex:  (Laughing)  Yes, there was me and my guitar...

G2G:  Let's talk a little bit about Fierce Heart, a band that I really like, but that disappeared almost before you even really had a chance to get started.

Rex:  (Laughing)  What a mess.  First, let me start off by saying this isn't just me and sour grapes.  People will probably say, "Oh, Rex is just pissed off at Larry," but there is so much, and it's all true.

G2G:  Larry refers to the singer, Larry Elkins, correct?

Rex:  Yeah.  He was a trip and a half.  I mean, Larry always needed two limos when we went for him and one for his ego.  (Laughing)  They had to widen all the doorways at Unique Studio just to fit his head through!

G2G:  Ouch!

Rex: (Laughing)  I remember him and the drummer...they NEVER had any money.  (Rex talking in his redder-than-redneck southern accent) "Ray-ex, I GOT to go to the club me some money."  So, I'd pull out a five, knowing full well it's gone, and he'd look at me, "Ray-ex, man, that's not enough.  Make it a ten!"  Never once did he thank me.  It's interesting that he always thought of us as a group, except when it came to himself.  "We gonna be a super-group, Ray-ex!"

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  One thing he and Scotty (the drummer) both seemed fascinated by was the idea of firing people.  I remember one time, Larry was with Tom, the bass player.  "Now, listen, can either do it MY WAY or you can GO HOME!"  One time, he got about an inch away from my nose and said, "Now, Ray-ex, ah can it me anutha gitah playah, but you CAIN'T find anutha singah!"

G2G:  (Laughing)  You have to stop with the accent, Ray-ex!  

Rex: (Laughing)

G2G:  What do you think of the record, though?

Rex:  I'm disappointed with it, honestly.  (Laughing)  Now you got me going, man!  Here, let me give you some background.  Jim Delehart, the great A&R guru at Atlantic Records called me on the phone because I had sent in a cassette tape to the label.  I wanted to get an audition with Whitesnake, and he personally listened to my cassette.  When I realized who I was talking to, my while body started shaking uncontrollably and I dropped the phone...CRASH!!!...on the floor.  (Laughing)  I didn't have a singer, so Jim said, "let's build a band around you."  Mind blowing, right?  Or maybe really can't appreciate that unless you lived in the era where having a record deal with a major label actually meant something HUGE!

G2G:  I'm that old, Rex...I remember!  

Rex:  Jim Delehant, by the way, is the man who personally signed AC/DC to their American record contract.  He also signed Foreigner to the label.  One experience I'll never forget.  I was sitting in his office and he played the cassette tape for me of Foreigner rehearsing in Mick Jones' basement!  It was totally...unreal.  They were all playing and singing on the cassette tape, live, doing all the songs from their first album, and there was no AutoTune, no time-correction, no cut and paste, no ProTools....just 5 guys.  It was absolutely amazing.

G2G:  Wow...that would have been amazing!  Foreigner is one of my all-time favorite bands....

Rex:  Anyways, from the time he contacted me I was driving all over Chicago with the Illinois Entertainer "musicians wanted" ads in one hand, and my tape recorded in the front seat.  I never did find a pro-caliber singer the whole time.  Finally. Jim called me and said he had found Larry Elkins, from Virginia Beach.

G2G:  So the idea was to build around you, right?

Rex:  Pretty much, yeah.  So, once we had Larry, well...Larry assumed that the entire universe revolved around him "becuz I am the sangah!"  (Laughing)  You know, Larry used to lecture me about marriage.  (Laughing)  I've been married for a LONG time, but good ol' Larry made it clear to me, "Ray-ex, ah KNOW about mah-ridge.  Ah've been engayeged FIVE TIMES!"  (Laughing)  Then, him and the drummer would get into typical rock band conversations about girls they liked, and then he would say something along the lines of "oh, Ray-ex, y'all wouldn't know about THAT, now would ya?  You bein' the mahreed man and all..."  (Laughing)

So, anyway, once we had the deal in hand. Larry threw his weight around progressively more and more and more.  Finally, he made that comment to me about getting another guitar player.  But, I was young and, in reality, I had spent years of frustration actually trying to find a singer and couldn't do it, so it's partly my fault because I allowed it to happen.  I allowed him to get away with his "Larry-all-the-time-show" which I guess is the same thing as "enabling".  Anymore, I would just say, fine, whatever you need to do, you can pick up and go home RIGHT NOW if you think that's what you want to do.  But that's too logical, right?  (Laughing)  Besides, it doesn't make for a very good read, huh?  And, if there's one thing people want, it's drama.  Or even better, stupidity AND drama.  But, I digress...

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  Coming to New York to live in Times Square for eight weeks was an eye-opening experience.  I lived at the Edison Hotel, on the corner of the Square.  To get to the studio, all you had to do was cross the Square diagonally, walk one block, and take the elevator up to the 4th floor.  Our recording schedule was 11 to 11 every day, but it was PM to AM.

G2G:  Yikes!

Rex:  (Laughing)  So...the education of Rex continued.  Every...single...time...I had to cross the street.  Two hookers and three drug dealers and a couple of muggers would literally come out to meet me in the middle of the street, because why else would you be there at 3 am, right?

G2G:  I hate cities!  (Laughing)

Rex:  My Christianity was put to the test, early and often.  Somehow or another, I made it through all of that.  I guess God was with me!  Maybe that and the fear of "social diseases"!  (Laughing)

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  So, Jim Delephant and the mighty Chris Lord-Alge were the producers.  Chris did the mix on the record, and believe it or not, Tom Lord-Alge was the assistant.  Talk about the Council of the Engineering Gods, or something!  So, anyway, what they wanted me to do was record every song with multiple guitars.  No song had less than 32 tracks of guitar.  Some of them, I was required to play the solo 16 times in a row...and then they played them all back at the same time!  People walking into the studio would usually stop in stunned amazement.  My jaw was on the floor!  It was so...HUGE!  It was the most amazing thing I had ever heard in my life!  One song, I counted, had 164 tracks of just guitar!  It was just in different dimension altogether!

G2G:  That's like Blind Guardian kind of stuff!  (Laughing)

Rex:  And, to my everlasting disappointment, the biggest mistake of that record, probably, was the decision to mix all those guitar tracks down to two tracks.  A single track on the right and one on the left.  And then they did the typical 80's thing where the drums are the loudest thing on the record.  Larry, of course, sang his brains out, and you've got this never-before-heard sound that would have been just amazing, and they actually turned the guitars down kind of quiet, and ruined it, in my opinion.  Anyway...

G2G:  Wow...
Rex and Larry on the ORIGINAL album cover

ex:  The record was supposed to come out in October of 1984.  That fall, we go the call that we were booked to be the opening act for the Deep Purple reunion tour of 1985, which was huge!  But, then there was a problem with the cover.  And they didn't like the pictures, which didn't surprise me at all.  I thought the pictures were rather horrid, myself.  (Laughing)  So, they delayed the release until February of 1985....3 months...

G2G:  Ouch...

Rex:  ...and with that, we lost the shot at opening for Purple.  It just steamrolled from there.  The president of the label went and got a nasty divorce, our contract was sold to Polydor, things went downhill, and BOOM!...that was the end of that...  Scary how fast it all went in the toilet.

G2G:  (I show Rex a copy of the above picture)  Isn't the Internet a beautiful thing, Rex?  (laughing)

Rex:  See, told ya!  HORRIBLE picture!  However, the photo girl was waaaay into the guitar player!  (Laughing)  She kept going, "oooh, you look like Luke from General Hospital!"  I couldn't quite tell if she was hitting on me or if she was just trying to add some positive flow to the otherwise horrible photo shoot. (Laughing)  It didn't matter, anyway, because as you can see the picture sucked.  By the way, notice how Larry HAS to be in front in the picture?  Typical...

G2G:  Wow is about all I can think to say....

Rex:  I knew the photo shoot was a bad idea in the first place, but I didn't have the confidence to voice my opinion. let alone veto the cover photo idea...let alone insisting upon having actual input into the cover art.  I knew it was just all kinds of wrong, because anybody who looks at an album cover with only two guys on it knows immediately, "okay, this is not a REAL band", right?  This is why, in my opinion, the Black Keys...sorry guys, you can call it a band all day long, but no.  Sorry.  Number 1, you are disrespecting actual bands that work together, live together, fight it out together, and make it work with four or five people and personalities.  Number 2, you are nothing more than a duo, so in a sense you are somewhere on a scale between being disingenuous and out and out lying to the fans.  So, to recap, two people attempting to represent as a band...NO.  Glad to straighten that out for you.  (Laughing)

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  See, I knew these things instinctively, but at the time I didn't know how to speak up.  Too bad, because that picture cost us.  (Laughing)  One thing I CAN say is Larry did nothing but make me miserable, 24-7.  It was a living nightmare.  I was SO happy to get back into a Christian rock band, which was Whitecross.  And, everything that I learned about life, people, the studio, how to play guitar, songwriting...I mean EVERYTHING...helped me in so many ways that I was able to guide Whitecross, at least to the point of getting us through our first album.  And, if I hadn't had that experience with Fierce Heart, I'm, quite sure I wouldn't have been able to do the Whitecross band thing, no question.

I've honestly got a lot of Fierce Heart stories.  I've been trying to write them down in a book, you know, for the half-dozen or so people that are intrigued with this kind of stuff.  I know I am.

G2G:  I'd buy the book!

Rex:  Well, there's one...  (Laughing)

G2G:  So, Fierce Heart basically implodes, but you aren't ready to give up on music yet.  How is Whitecross born from all of this?  

Rex:  When Fierce Heart was done...well, we actually did four shows first...but when we were done, there was no clear path to move forward, so I just went back to guitar teaching, waiting for another opportunity.  One day, Scotty Wenzel came through my door looking to bone up on his guitar skills.  "Christian music" was such an underground thing at the time that you didn't talk about it much in public, but Scotty had a Petra shirt on, so that was the cue for me that it was okay to talk about it.  So, anyway, we talked a bit and I found out he had a group together jamming in his basement.  I suggested we should get together so I could hear him sing...boy, he resisted that idea!  He did NOT want to do it, and he cancelled out on me 3 or 4 times.  Finally, I nailed him down.  He claimed he was sick, etc., etc., but he finally opened his mouth and did a little bit of "Dust In The Wind".  (Laughing)

G2G:  Your first listen to Scott was some Kansas karaoke?

Rex:  I just wanted to verify if he could hit pitches, and then get an idea of the sound of his voice.  From there, I went to his band practice.  On the one hand, when I heard him at rehearsal, I knew, "yep, this voice will definitely work in a rock band".  But, on the other hand, the a mess.  It was about a twenty year process to get to where Whitecross is now with Michael (Feighan) and Benny (Ramos).  We didn't start at "zero"...more like from way behind zero....

Ratt's Pearcy
G2G:  One thing that always seems to come up with regard to Whitecross is you were so frequently labeled the "Christian Ratt".  (Laughing)  What do you make of that?

Rex:  Yeah, I heard that a lot.  I'll be honest...I used to sit around my trailer park home with my guitar and a Marshall half stack, tweaking the controls all day long, trying to get that Ratt guitar sound.  For weeks on end!  (Laughing)

Scott Wenzell of Whitecross
G2G:  I love Ratt, man...always have.

Rex:  Yeah, so did I.  You know what?  Whitecross and Ratt should swap singers for a month, just because!  (Laughing)

G2G:  Yes!  Finally, the Christian Ratt is a reality!  (Laughing)

Rex:  Scotty would come out on stage with Ratt and go, "are you ready to worship the Lord tonight!", and the crowd would be like, "What the...?!"  (Laughing)

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  Pearcy would come out with us and go, "How the 'F' are ya?!"  (Laughing heavily)  The Whitecross crowd would also go, "What the...?!"  But the singers are IDENTICAL, right?!  (Laughing)  Listen, I know Whitecross gets compared to Ratt.  Let me tell you, I've seen Ratt.  I get the impression that Stephen Pearcy has a two word vocabulary, and one of them is the "F" word.  I know it's hard to imagine, but there is a certain percentage of people that are not all that impressed.  I love the music, I just want to live for something larger than my own little kingdom of being a rock star.  But, other than the language, the vocal resemblance between Pearcy and Scotty is uncanny.

G2G:  Honestly, I never really heard it.  Some similarity, sure, but not like some people who made them out to be vocal clones...

Rex:  Thing is, Scotty actually had no idea who Ratt was.

G2G:  Really?

Rex:  Nope.  No clue.  But, I liked it when people compared us.m  I took it as a compliment, actually.

G2G:  I've heard that for all intents and purposes, you played virtually everything on that first Whitecross record...

Rex:  Not completely true.  I wrote most of the songs, arranged most of the parts, and ghosted all of the bass parts for the first two albums.  Then, starting with Triumphant Return, the record company
insisted on bringing in Rick Cua to play bass.  I resisted it at first, but I'm very glad it happened.  I ended up learning a LOT from Rick, and he's a really nice guy on top of that!

G2G:  That's funny to me.  I remember hesitantly liking Rick's song, "I Can, I Will", but not admitting to it because it wasn't hard rock or metal at all...

Rex:  Well, yeah.  (Laughter)  There's no question I pushed him HARD to bring out his rock side.  I think Rick is a guy who was a rocker at heart....don't forget he played in the Outlaws...but he wrote the kind of music that he felt he needed to do to sell the most albums at that time so as to take care of his family.  I don't fault him, or anyone else, for doing that.  But, like you, I'm not much of a fan of the AOR sound.  To put it differently, I like MY music, which ranges from hard rock to blues.  Some metal, but I'm not a "core" guy, either.  I like melody and soulfulness.  I LOVED the whole 80's/90's era Whitesnake vibe, for example.  Soulful vocals, melodic songs, incredible musicians, and guitars to melt your brain...and make you practice!  I'm also really into Stevie Ray Vaughn and blues in general.

G2G:  I've always been curious as to why there was a lyrical change in "Stoplight" from the Axemen compilation to the version on Triumphant Return.

Rex:  Is there?  (Laughing)  I don't know...

The Axemen cover
G2G:  Yeah, the line on The Axemen goes, "He said 'I am the way to God'", but on the album it goes, "'I am the way to God' he said..."  I always thought maybe someone was giving you or Scott flack for the phrasing...

Rex:  No, that would just be Scotty doing the things that he thought were important....

G2G:  Getting back to your statement about the record company telling you to bring in Cua...  Is there a lot of pressure to be Biblically sound and Scripturally accurate when you're on a Christian label like Pure Metal or Word, or were they really all that involved?

Rex:  It was a weird mix.  Yes, there was incredible pressure to be Biblically sound.  Way past the point of hypocrisy from the labels.  They put EXTREME pressure on the artists at all times.  Funny thing, though, whenever royalties are due, they (the labels) don't seem all that interested in stepping up.  Or, there are always "inaccuracies" that "will be fixed on the next statement".

That's a twisted, murky rabbit hole right there....the tightrope you try to walk representing CCM on the one hand, versus being real with all of your own shortcomings on the other hand.  But people don't want to see that.  They want to see perfection at all times...and, of course, inevitably you make a mistake of one sort or another and are revealed as who you really are...just another sinner who desperately needs the blood of Christ to cover a lifetime's worth of not making the grade.  In my case, it happens that my sins come with a skill to play guitar a little bit and a desire to at least point people in the right direction, towards Jesus. that I've put a flame thrower on the labels...(laughing)...I would say that just as the dog is the natural enemy of the mailman, the label is the natural enemy of the artist.  BUT...if I was a label, I also think I might say to an upcoming artist, "What?!  You want me to give money to a ROCK band?  What are you?  Crazy?"  (Laughing)  "You'll just blow the money on motorcycles or something!"  (Laughter)

But, back to your point...I believe that, by and large, we upheld the ideal that we wanted to make music that was solid spiritually and would give people something positive to hang on to.  We WANTED to point people towards Christ, so we put as much pressure on ourselves as anyone else, including the people at the labels.

G2G:  We've spent so much time in the past, I want to make sure people know what's going on with you now.  You have a pretty big event coming up, right?

Rex:  You mean Rock Academy?

G2G:  Yeah!  What is it?  Are we talking School of Rock kinda stuff here...?

Rex:  Rock Academy is an event I started a year ago to offer a chance for musicians to come together and get some incredible interactive master classes with top-level instruction.  The whole flavor of the event is guided by my ideas and philosophies, so that's why it's called the "Rex Carroll Rock Academy" as opposed to any other "school of rock" out there.

Last year was phenomenal for us, and this year I'm looking for the same.  If people are interested in direct learning for guitar, drums, bass, and voice, that's who Rock Academy is for.  Really, it's an even for your whole band.  That's one of the have the entire BAND making better music together.

G2G:  So, people are actually encouraged to participate as a band, if possible, correct?

Rex:  Oh, yeah...

G2G:  Who do you have participating as instructors?  I know you just announced Michael Feighan, right?

Rex:  Yep.  Benny will also be there.  Tamara Anderson is teaching voice this year.  She has a long list of successful students.  And then there's additional guitar instruction, not just from me.  Our local amazing prodigy, Straten Hammond, is gonna show us his Yngwie-like shred techniques...without the attitude (laughing).  And Peter Stenlund from Sweden is amazing at getting bands to play better and more as a unit, and he will be here as well.

G2G:  I know some people are going to ask, so I'll do it for them:  is this a Christian-only event?

Rex:  No, it's not.  It's a musical event.  (Laughter)  But, it is at the Christian high school in Kenosha, WI, so if that's okay, then we're good.

G2G:  So how do people find out more about the event, the activities, sign-ups, etc.?

Rex:  I need to do an update, but the basic rundown can be found at 

G2G:  Sounds like a lot of fun!

Rex:  It will be, should come.

G2G:  (Laughter)  Trust me, you don't want me singing or playing a guitar!

Rex:  (Laughter)

G2G:  Rex, this has been a lot of fun, and thanks for being so candid about things.  We need to do this again sometime...maybe when you...or WE...get done writing that book!  (Laughter)

Rex:  I'd love to, Arttie...  Thanks!


Well, there you have it, folks...  What a GREAT guy to meet and talk to.  Very humble, very down-to-earth, and also very honest and willing to talk a little "trash" when necessary.  Check out his website at and also check out Rock Academy at that same site.  You can also find him on Facebook, along with his bands, Whitecross and King James.

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