Sunday, January 26, 2014

EMPERORS AND ELEPHANTS "Devil In The Lake"

(c) 2014 Pavement Music
  1. Bring It Down
  2. Who You Are
  3. Your Will
  4. Man Of God
  5. Locust
  6. Hit Of Red
  7. Deep Sleep
  8. Change
  9. Wicked Game
  10. Ghost In The Mirror
  11. You And I
  12. Man Of God--Dupermang Remix
Jesse Andrews--Vocals
Jason Meudt--Drums
Jeph Stiph--Guitars
Randy "The Arsonist" Cooper--Guitars
Ron "Stoppable" Vanders--Bass
Emperors And Elephants is a new-to-the-scene modern hard rock group that obviously grew up in the Sevendust school of rock, as the stop/start crunch of that band is evident in the stylings of many of the songs here.  Not surprisingly, a bit of Randy Cooper's old band, Texas Hippie Coalition, can also be heard in the aggressive nature of these songs, with his axe work particularly strong in tracks such as "Man Of God", "Locust", and "Bring It Down", although he shines in various spots throughout.  "Deep Sleep" is another powerful rocker that will be a contender for satellite radio airplay, I would suspect.  But there is more here than the standard modern rock fare, with a definite post-grunge feel to a few songs, such as "Ghost In The Mirror".  Equally intriguing is the remake of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" which has some really heavy bottom end to it to keep things pulsing along nicely while the buzzsaw guitars of Cooper and Stiph go to work throughout the rest of the track which is not really all that recognizable if you don't catch the lyrics and the hook of the 80's original.
While much of the record has that really heavy vibe to it, every now and then a song will jump up and surprise you.  "Hit Of Red" is just such a track, incorporating a much smoother, mellower vibe that reminds me of Soundgarden to a degree.  However, I will go on the record and state that I will take Andrews' vocals over Chris Cornell's any day of the week, as I think Andrews has an amazingly powerful delivery that more bands would be well-served to listen to.  He doesn't have to bark every song or scream his vocal chords into bloody masses to get his feelings across.  "Change" is another more laid back track that gets this point across very nicely, and "You And I" is a piano-based acoustic number which showcases the band's depth as well as serving to give the listener a break from the otherwise punishing riffage that is found throughout this record.
One thing I do have to mark the album down for a bit is the fact that a lot of the music here, while nicely executed, has a definite "heard this before" quality that prevents a few of the songs from really distinguishing themselves.  Case in point is the previously mentioned, "Locust".  This is easily one of my favorite songs here, but if the vocals were being handled by Lajon Witherspoon instead of Jesse Andrews, I think the average listener...and even many seasoned listeners...would have a hard time distinguishing the rest of the band from Sevendust in spots. This is the case in a couple of other spots, but it doesn't destroy the album, although I wish a bit more originality could have leaked through in a place or two.   
That is not to say the band's members are lacking in talent, because they are definitely not.  Of particular note here is the exceptionally strong backline of Vanders and Meudt, who deliver some crushing rhythms upon which the band builds their brand of hard-but-still-radio-friendly rock.  Definitely one of the more talented and interesting bands I have heard in this style, I am impressed enough with this debut to keep it spinning for the past week and a half, and I suspect that it will survive my unofficial "three month test" for whether or not an album has the strength to become a long-term listener.
Rating:  So much better than most of the Sirius-XM Octane crowd, Emperors and Elephants gets a crankable 7.5 on their debut.  Let's hope they keep progressing and let their originality shine through even more on the follow-up!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

PAMELA MOORE "Resurrect Me"



(c) 2013 Rat Pak Records

  1. Acquiescent
  2. Melt Into You
  3. Paranoia
  4. We Are Damaged
  5. Resurrect Me
  6. The Sky Is Falling
  7. Awakening
  8. Breaking Down
  9. Desperate By Design
  10. Wide Awake (Phoenix Rising)
Pamela Moore--All female lead vocals, backing vocals
Michael Posch--Guitars, Bass, Keys, Orchestration
Brooke Lizotte--Piano, Orchestration ("Breaking Down")
Jeff Loomis--Guitar solo on "Awakening"
Chuck Macak--Drums

Additional Vocals:  Ralph Scheepers ("Sky Is Falling") 

Backing Vocals: Ralph Scheepers, Aury Moore, Patrick Moore, Brenda Kashmir, Randy Piper, Scott Bowen

For those who put this CD in without knowing who they are listening to, they are likely going to say to themselves, "Man, I KNOW this voice!"  Of course, that is going to be a definite possibility if that fan is even a casual fan of metal, as Moore is most famously known as the voice of Sister Mary on the epic Queensryche album, "Operation: Mindcrime", and its less-than-epic follow-up, "Operation: Mindcrime II". Moore has also seemingly cast her lot with the Tod LaTorre-fronted version of the fractured group, as she can be heard singing on that Queensryche's new, self-titled album on the song "A World Without".  

Her involvement with Queensryche aside, Moore is notable because she does, in fact, possess an incredible voice.  Additionally, she is no stranger to recording, as this is actually her fourth solo record (not counting 2004's release, A Retrospective), and she has also fronted other bands and performed on numerous other albums, so it is very likely that you have heard her voice in numerous places and simply not realized who it was you were listening to.

2013 saw Moore move her talent to Rat Pak Records, which is also the home of George Lynch, John Corabi, Dave Rude (Tesla), Metal Church, and several other name acts.  For this album, Moore enlisted the musical aid of Michael Posch, who performs nearly every instrument on the album except for drums, which are handled by Chuck Macak.  Additionally, several friends are called in for support, including Ralph Scheepers, Jeff Loomis, Randy Piper, and Scott Bowen, to name a few.  

The music on this album is not overly far-removed from that of her work with Queensryche, as it tends to be in the heavy-progressive vein, with heavy guitars, sweeping orchestration, and some keyboards added in for filler effects.  

The main problem I have with this album is NOT the talent level, the production, the mix, or anything like that, as all are really and truly top notch.  The guest list is impressive, as well.  No, the problem I have is the songs themselves are not that memorable.  I'm not saying they are terrible, because they aren't.  They just don't jump out and grab hold of me, with the exception of "Awakening", which sounds very reminiscent of a Queensryche song, and the album's closer, "Wide Awake", which I think is a truly amazing piece of music.  Other than that, while there is nothing horrible at all on this disc, there is just nothing that sticks with me for an extended period of time.  It's a disc of 90% background music and a couple of songs that will suddenly grab your attention, only to be lost again a song or two later.

The production is top-notch, the musicians are of excellent caliber, and Moore's vocals are clean and powerful and very emotive...the songs just lack that hook that snags you and keeps you hanging around for more.  Not a trash bin album, but also not one that will find its way into my player with any great frequence.

Rating:  Rock this at a 5, simply because the musicianship is so good I really WANT to like it!

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