Friday, February 26, 2016

ADELITAS WAY "Getaway"

(c) 2016 

  1. Bad Reputation
  2. Getway
  3. The Good Die Young
  4. Low
  5. Put You In Your Place
  6. I Get Around
  7. Filthy Heart
  8. Harbor The Fugitive
  9. Sometimes You're Meant To Get Used
  10. Shame
  11. Deserve This
Rick DeJesus--Lead Vocals
Trevor "Tre" Stafford--Drums
Robert Zakaryan--Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals
Andrew Cushing--Bass, Backing VOcals

Adelitas Way finally returns with a new album...sort of...after a long-delayed, fan-funded project.  No, there's nothing shady going on here...life just got in the way.  And, as to the "sort of" comment in the opening of this review, well, five of these songs were previously available on their Deserve This EP that came out almost exactly a year ago, and which we reviewed here in March of 2015.  Those five songs are tracks 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11 on Getaway, so I won't retread much of the review with those songs, although I still believe that "I Get Around", "Filthy Heart", and especially the wickedly melodic and somewhat funky "Harbor The Fugitive" are three of the best tracks on the full project, just as they were on the EP.

With the new material we find Adelitas Way returning to the modern hard radio rock approach that has worked so well for them over the past decade.  Rick DeJesus remains a strong songwriter with a soulful voice when he chooses to sing, and a powerful snarl when he decides to get a bit rough with a certain song.

The album kicks off with "Bad Reputation" which has a decidedly danceable, almost disco feel to the way the opening chords are structured, although the gritty guitars and DeJesus' attitude-infused vocals jump into the mix.  Catchy as anything, the track definitely gets the head nodding and the feet moving right from the start, setting the stage for what long-time fans hope have been clamoring for, which is a solid return effort from Adelitas Way.

With the title track, a nice hard radio thumper, "Getaway", finds the band doing what they do best, as  a ringing guitar intro and solid, driving rhythm section propel this track that I anticipate will end up all over rock radio this spring and summer.

"The Good Die Young", while a cliche as far as titles go, is a really nice, slower tempo rocker with a heavy blues vibe running throughout it.  "Low" picks the pace of the album back up with another catchy, hard rocking number that really gives Cushing a chance to stretch his strings, as the bass work is particularly strong here (and on "The Good Die Young" as well, for that matter).  Stafford does a great job emphasizing the tempo changes in this song as it goes into the pre-chorus...and the following shift once the chorus actually hits...giving "Low" a feel unlike anything else on the record and is yet another track that I would imagine will blow a speaker or two this summer.  

"Put You In Your Place" starts off on a melancholy vibe before a Zeppelin-esque vibe comes thundering forward in the heaviest, angriest, darkest track on the album.  F*bombs abound, as DeJesus clearly has a bone to pick with someone and he spares no venom in his musical tirade that also showcases more typically strong skin work from Stafford and just a killer guitar tone from Zakaryan.

The last new track on the record is slipped in amongst the EP tracks, and it is a dang fine track and easily one of the best 3 or 4 in this collection.  Bluesier and dirtier than the rest of the material here, "Shame" just oozes sweat and smoke and cheap barroom bourbon, finding DeJesus really wringing the emotion out of his words here.  I dare say I think I would like to hear the band actually tackle a full blues-styled record full of tracks such as "Shame" because they nail this song in a BIG way, with big credit going to Zakaryan and his handling of the blues licks on this track!

It was a long wait, to be sure, so was it worth it?  I think so, as it really sounds like the band put a lot of thought and work into these new songs and they really work well with the material they had previously put out there for their fans on the EP.  This is an album that you can put on, kick back, and just let run from end to end, as there really isn't a weak song here, and no two songs have that heard-it-already feel to them that make so many albums feel like they are just one or two songs bleeding into each other on repeat.  Far more musically inventive and expressive than anything in the band's catalog, Getaway showcases Adelitas Way really expanding upon what they have already done very well and getting comfortable with themselves as musicians and songwriters.

My copy is a digital download as I was a Pledge Music sponsor of the album, so I cannot comment on packaging at this time.  The mix is solid an the production is top-notch, with the new material and the older material blending together flawlessly.

Rating:  A solid, solid return from a band that has truthfully been a bit hit-and-miss for me in the past.  Crank this to 8.5!

Back To Reviews Index

EMPIRES END "Empires End EP"

(c) 2015 Independent Release

  1. Broken Man
  2. Wasted Words
  3. Undone
  4. One Day
  5. I, Alive
  6. Rising
Chad Biggs--Guitar, Vocals
Wryan Carpenter--Guitar, Backing Vocals
Josh Chapin--Drums, Backing Vocals
Logan Policky--Bass, Backing Vocals

Apparently there is more to Nebraska than just corn and cattle, as yet another Cornhusker State metal project has found its way into my hands, and it is yet another solid offering from a band that most people outside of the Midwest metal scene have likely never heard of.  That situation will hopefully remedy itself as Empires End delivers a very strong debut with their self-titled EP which will be released to the public this month (February, 2016) in their hometown of Kearney, NE.  If that town rings a bell with some readers here, it is possibly because this is also the hometown of the band that owned our number 19 album of the year for 2016, Slantpiece.  In fact, Empires End and Slantpiece share Wryan Carpenter who performs admirably here on guitar and backing vocals (he is the bassist for Slantpiece as well).

Aside from Carpenter being in both bands, don't expect tons of cross-over in terms of style and sound, as Empires End is much more straight forward in their attack, combining elements of classic metal and thrash, leaving out the doom/stoner/sludge sounds of their distant cousin.  This is immediately evident when "Broken Man" kicks the door in to open this EP.  The guitars fade their way in to get things going, and almost immediately the powerful drums of Chapin are set off and a throbbing bass line from Policky begins to churn like a moshpit, laying down the platform for Biggs to come bellowing through on the verse and chorus sections.  There are some nice machine-gun styled drums here, as well as some Zakk Wylde-inspired guitar effects and EXTREMELY tight rhythm guitars shredding through the middle of this track, although there is never what I would really call a "solo", per se.  There is some really strong guitar work here, however, just never an actual solo.

"Wasted Words" has a VERY thrash-styled interplay between the drums and the rhythm guitar to open the track, which then morphs into a hardcore-styled song structure reminiscent of the stuff done by Six Feet Deep and similar bands.  In fact, if I was to compare Empires End to any band it would be this fairly obscure thrashcore band from the early 90's, as the music, and even Biggs' vocal style is relatively similar in nature.  Funny thing is, I highly doubt these guys have ever even heard of Six Feet Deep, as they were on a small, independent Christian metal label and received little to no attention on the national scene.  But that's for another day and another review...

"Undone" carries on the tradition of angst-filled, aggressive metallic throat punches, with even more solid drum and bass work and that relentless rhythm guitar assault that Empires End utilizes to such great effectiveness.  Trust me when I say that there are seasoned bands out there with many years more touring and recording experience that lack the overall tightness that these four Nebraska boys possess.  Chunky, crunchy, and tough, "Undone" has one of those swirling-type of rhythms to it that you know will whip up a churning moshpit behind those headbangers who are content to windmill their hair and give themselves whiplash on the railing!   

"One Day" slows things down a bit...at least temporarily...as it starts off with some really cool, laid back guitars and a simple drum track, before Chapin drops in a nice bass groove and the relative calm of the song starts to come undone about 45 seconds in as the pace picks up moderately and Biggs' snarl comes barking in.  A cool song that just BEGS for a ripping guitar solo, but one that is is still solid in its current form, especially with the really nice intro and outro guitar efforts.  The guitar line throughout the main course of the song does get a bit repetitive, but not distractingly so, and the slow-burn of aggression on this song keeps it from dragging into a state of sameness.

"I, Alive" battles with "Broken Man" for my favorite track on the record and sports a massive bass/rhythm guitar line that is just pummeling in its approach.  There are some nice guitar tones throughout this track and a really cool stop-start rhythm that doesn't follow typical patterns, keeping the listener's attention focused throughout.  There is a breakdown of sorts before the final chorus that, once again, feels like it is waiting for a solo to come screaming in, but it is short and there are harmonic elements to the guitars here that provide a nice dynamic in the absence of a true solo.

"Rising" closes things out, and once again, Biggs' aggro vocals are particularly strong, and there is some really cool drum work from Chapin here.  An aggressive chugga-chugga guitar section and some thunderous double bass from Chapin thrust the song through an extended bridge, before the final chorus burst from Biggs, a quick false ending, and then a crushing blow to slam the door shut on this sonic assault.       

All in all, a really solid debut effort from a band that has not been together all that long and is still honing its craft and sound.  The rhythm section is extremely tight, with Chapin flashing some nice machine-gun snare and pulsating double bass in several spots, and Policky utilizing some atypical patterns and bass runs to keep the songs driving forward while also maintaining interest in the areas that really, in all fairness, could use some additional support from a lead guitar.  In fact, that would be my only real complaint here, as everything else about this debut is solid.  The rhythm guitars are crisp and crunchy, the drum and bass lines catchy, and Bigg's vocals carry a nice, lower-end angst that serves his aggressive vocal approach well.  The song-writing is above average with some very catchy songs here, and the production and mix are spot-on, thanks in large part to the band's decision to utilize Michael Beck (Red Dragon Cartel) as the mixer as well as the man to master the entire project.


Packaging is simple here, with the insert being a single-fold sheet with a band photo, line-up info, production credits, and a thank-you list.  Lyrics are not included, but Biggs is easy enough to understand throughout the project.

Hopefully Empires End continues to move forward and to hone their skills, as there is a lot of promise in this band and I enjoy this punchy EP from start to finish.

To order the CD, contact the band directly through Facebook, as I don't know that it is available anywhere else at this time.

Rating:  Crankable!  Dial it up to a 7!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

LACEY STURM "Life Screams"

(c) 2016 Followspot Records

  1. Impossible
  2. The Soldier
  3. I'm Not Laughing
  4. Vanity
  5. Rot
  6. You're Not Alone
  7. Feels Like Forever
  8. Life Screams
  9. Faith
  10. Roxanne (Live)
  11. Run To You
Lacey Strum--Lead Vocals
Josh Sturm--Guitars
Ben Hull--Bass
Drew Rodaniche--Drums
Jordan Sarmiento--Piano/Keys

It's been nearly four years since Lacey Sturm stepped away from the highly successful crossover Christian band, Flyleaf, leaving behind the chart-topping albums, large tours, and screaming fans.  That doesn't mean, however, that Sturm was sitting idly by, as she kept herself busy writing her quasi-autobiography, The Reason (check our review here), as well as lending her powerful shrieks to fellow Christian rockers, We As Human on their hit, "Take The Bullets Away".  She has also done a good share of motivational speaking to teens and young adults across the country, so its not as if she wasn't doing things.

Apparently she was also preparing to rock again!

Sturm shows that the time away has done little to quell the power in her emotionally-charged screams, nor has it tamed her passionate singing voice, as this album comes out swinging from track one.  Now, to be fair, that opening track does tease the listener a bit, as the song opens with some very laid back, chanted "ahhs" from Sturm, not sounding anything like what "Impossible" will morph into in mere moments.  Co-written by Skillet's Korey Cooper, the album's lead single features a somewhat dub-step styled drum pattern which drags the song forward through the first verse, allowing Sturm's lungs to expand adequately to unleash her instantly recognizable vocals once the chorus hits.  Whether she is singing with that slightly odd, vibrato infused warble or tearing her vocal chords to shreds, Sturm's voice is one that sounds little like anyone else, and Flyleaf fans...especially those unhappy with that band's current vocalist and direction...will be happy to hear Lacey back in the vocal saddle, doing what she has always done.  

In fact, it's fair to say that much of the material here sounds like it could have been a new Flyleaf album, and I think that's at least partly the plan here.  Granted, Sturm did a lot of writing in her old band, so it is only logical that her style and sound might be relatively similar, but the band that she has assembled really executes the songs well here, which, let's be honest, is not always the case when a singer puts together a "solo band".  Lacey's husband, Josh, handles the guitars here with a large degree of success, but for me, the real heart and soul of this assemblage of musicians is the bass work of Hull and the drumming of Rodaniche.  Take for example opening lines of "The Soldier", where Hull's bass line instantly sets the tone for this mid-tempo rocker, or the way the rhythm and bounce of "I'm Not Laughing", sets the stage for an impish rocker that is every bit as catchy in its approach as the bass and drum line on Green Day's song, "Longview".  

Track 4 is a throwaway intro that is two people arguing for nearly two minutes, setting up the powerful rocker, "Rot", which is one of my favorite songs on the album.  A haunting guitar chimes in, with Hull's urgent bass line propelling the song forward as Rodaniche's drums build up to a thunderous, pulsating stomp, setting the stage for some of Sturm's most angry sounding vocals on the record.  

"You're Not Alone" is a positive, up-tempo number, and Skillet's Cooper co-wrote "Feels Like Forever", which, while solid, is not quite as strong or impactful as "Impossible", in my opinion.

The band has a few slower moments to alternate with the speaker-rupturing rockers, with the best being the album's title track, "Life Screams", which really allows Sturm to showcase her singing (rather than screaming) in a positive, uplifting track filled with emotional, breathy moments, and some nice piano layered in the background to add depth to this balladesque track.  The album also closes on a very quite note, with "Run To You" not even really turning the amps on until about 3/4 of the way through the song.  Again, Sturm shows that there is a lot more to her vocally than just the shrieks she has become well known for.

One real surprise here was the decision to tackle the classic rock staple, "Roxanne", by the Police...and to tackle it in a live format, no less.  Shedding the rather reggae approach of the original, Sturm takes the song to a darker place, musically, slowing the tempo down significantly, beefing up the guitars and bass, mixing in some heavy drums, and then drenching it all in her sass-filled vocals, particularly on the chorus, where her yowl on the word "light" is unmistakable.  I wasn't sure how I would feel about this song at first, and while I'm not going to say that it supplants the work of Sting and Company, it is definitely not a case of a band just taking a song and playing it as closely as possible to the original.  This is a band taking a well-known song, stripping away virtually everything except the lyrics, and then rebuilding it in a way that redefines the track.  Bravo to the band for the daring to do such a thing.

The production is very well done, with no glaring weaknesses, which can be a concern on an  independent release, but probably shouldn't come as a shock considering Sturm's stature in the rock community.  The packaging is a tri-fold cardboard slipcase, which also includes a lyrics sheet, writing credits, thank-you's etc.  The lyrics are somewhat difficult to read as they are hand-written in appearance and are accompanied by the doodles and drawings that Sturm scattered throughout her book, but you can make them out, especially if you are listening to the songs as well.  Also of interest to some of her fans will be the inclusion of "The Flyleaf Family" in Sturm's list of thank-yous.

A very solid record and an excellent solo effort for Sturm.  I would imagine that several songs here will find their way up the modern and Christian rock charts as long as programmers are not put-off by the split with Flyleaf, which they really shouldn't even consider as an issue.

Rating:  Considering I was never a Flyleaf fan, per se, I found myself really enjoying this record.  Crank it to 7.5!


Back To Reviews Index  

Monday, February 15, 2016

CARL PHELAN "One Bad Pig Forever" (Book Review)

(c) 2016 Melviney Press


2016 is shaping up to be an interesting year for Christian skate punk/thrash pioneers, One Bad Pig.  Not only are there rumors of a new record and a summer tour of sorts, but 2016 also sees the release of the long-rumored, LONGER awaited One Bad Pig biography, One Bad Pig Forever.  I have been a fan of this band for close to 30 years now, and as such, I can't even begin to tell you how long I have waited for this book to come out.

Ultimately, I wish the author had taken a bit longer and kept me waiting a few weeks or months more.

While I understand that an undertaking of a book such as this a huge project, it is one that should be done as professionally and meticulously as possible, in my opinion, as books about bands such as One Bad Pig are so preciously few and far between that you want them to be great when you finally get them.  This book does not reach the level of greatness.  However. to be fair, it is also not a biography in the traditional sense, so much as it is a fan-memoir of the band.  As such, it gets more of a passing grade, although I am not going to lie and say that I do not still have areas of disappointment, mostly due to a personal love of the band.

For starters, I hate the format.  I'm sorry, I just do.  I don't like books of ANY kind that are the big, cumbersome 8 x 10 format, especially if they are paperback, as this size just begs for damage to be inflicted upon the cover or pages.  The pages are too floppy at this size, again an even bigger problem in paperback format, and the size isn't conducive to taking the book along with you to sneak a few pages' worth of reading when you have a spare moment.  But this issue is minor.

I don't know if budgetary restraints were an issue, or if it was the lack of a big-name publisher, or some outside force that I am unaware of, but there is a serious problem with the editing of this book.  There is, quite literally, no flow in how the book jumps around at times.  As an example, on page 113 of the book, under the chapter sub-title of "OBP Extends Their Punk Rock Music Endeavors", the author is talking about the band's 1986 touring schedule.  

"In June 11th, 1986 'One Bad Pig' played at PORK AID at The Ritz Theater in downtown Austin with 'Criinal Crew', 'Strapedos', and 'Last Will'.  It starts at 9:00 P.M.  What better way to spend a Wednesday?"

Now, aside from the bizarre use of single quotation marks...or ANY quotation marks, for that matter...around proper names of bands, and the strange way the date is represented (IN June 11th, 1986???), this isn't a horrible introductory paragraph.  It flows fairly well.  But the VERY NEXT paragraph makes a time-shift jump forward that would make Michael J. Fox proud in Back To The Future II.

"In 2013 a 'JCHC Slam and Dance Show' was presented by Grok Talk Radio..."

Huh?  Where did those 27 years go?  How long was this tour?!  Well, the answer is nowhere, because two paragraphs later...

"On September 24th,,1986 a fund raiser was held for the ACAA Messenger at the Christian Coffee House at The Tabernacle of the Congregation Church at the corner of South 1st street and Stassney Lane.  Featured bands will be 'Alliance', 'One Bad Pig', 'The Larry Perry Band', 'Paul Q=Pek Band' and 'Rapture'.  All the money donated at the Benefit will be used by The ACAA to print and distribute the Messenger Newsletter."

All punctuation, capitalization, etc., is straight out of the book, including the odd quotation marks again, the double commas, and the strange decision to incorporate an address.

I know, I know...this sounds like I'm nitpicking, and I might be...except this display of a lack of any kind of editing occurs all throughout the book, as do the time frame jumps, repetition of the same facts in multiple places (sometimes SEVERAL places), misspellings, and odd exclusions.

Another point of serious contention that I have is the way the book references ITSELF in places, making this feel less like a completed project and more like an outline.  Example from page 137:

"In late Fall of 1991 Paul Q-Pek moved to Nashville, TN.  He continued to perform with OBP, sometimes he would drive to their concerts and on a few occasions he would schedule a flight.  Later in 1992 Paul Q-Pek left OBP to pursue a solo career.  He stayed in Nashville until 2000 when he moved to California.  The rest of Paul's story will be in the Auto Bio section of this book."

Okay, again ignoring the poor grammar and editing, this auto-referencing is at least odd, and at worst, a huge disruption to any type of reading flow.  Again, I do understand that this is not a traditional biography, so some of this needs to be given a pass, but it does make it a bit difficult to read when it recurs repeatedly.

The book is listed as having 28 chapters total, but some of these "chapters" are no more than one paragraph (Chapter 11, for example, is one paragraph on page 147, and Chapter 16 on page 157 is TWO SENTENCES!).  The book starts with "Chapter Zero", which is a seemingly random collection of autobiographical submissions from present and past band members, fans, and others associated with the band.  Not necessarily bad things to have included, but probably not at the start of the book (the first 94 PAGES of the book!), and probably not without some sort of formatting so that we get more uniformity in how these autobiographical snippets are included, as they range from a few paragraphs to a few pages, all depending upon who submitted what, apparently.  There is also nothing from, or about, bassist Brian "Streak" Wheeler included in the biography/autobiography section, either, which I found odd, but there's a whole section about The Band In Black, a Johnny Cash tribute band that a couple of members/former members of OBP play in.  Just...so...random.

Now, not all is horrible with this book, as there are several cool photos included (although NONE are color), some interesting information about the band, their interaction with Johnny Cash and Bob Hartman (of Petra), and some nice concert stories.  The concert flyers and posters are a nice inclusion as well.  And, as odd as they are in length and randomness, the bios do provide some pretty cool information and background about members, one-off players, and contributors to the band.  But I question why people like the legendary Phil Keaggy, or Hartman, or Dann Huff, or any of about a dozen big name artists who have been involved with the Pig throughout the years, were not interviewed...or even mentioned, in some instances.

The author, Carl Phelan, is, by his own admission in HIS autobiographical entry, 86 years old.  He has, as far as I can tell, written exactly one other book...when he was 83...about the Christian rock band Flyleaf entitled Flyleaf Spreads Their Wings.  Perhaps...and I'm totally surmising here...his knowledge of research for a project such as this is relatively limited, so not all stones were left unturned.  Speaking of "relatives", from what I can gather, Phelan is the grandfather of one of Flyleaf's guitar players, Jarrod Hartmann, and I have to believe he is also related to (father of, perhaps?), one of the original members of One Bad Pig, Kevin "Squealin'" Phelan, although that fact is never really laid out anywhere, unless I missed it somewhere.  Again, this is HIS memoir and HIS labor of love for the band, which I completely understand, but if he has such a perfect and unique insight into the history of the band as to have had a relative play in it, I wish he would have connected the dots and tied it in for me.  I can be kind of thick-headed at times, and the history teacher in me always wants sources....

It pains me to write a review about this project in such a manner because I absolutely LOVE this band, as anyone who knows me would attest to.  I have corresponded with band members, I have all of the albums, several bootlegs, and a video, and I have collected memorabilia through the years. I even have the band staring down at me as I type this...granted, it's an autographed 8x10 photo, but still...I LOVE this band.  But I don't love the book.  I don't hate it by any means, I just don't love it and feel that it could've been so much more.  As I've mentioned it's very incomplete feeling, and very difficult to read at times in book fashion.  I'm glad I have it for what it is, and I have zero desire to get rid of it, but I truly feel it could've, and should've, been so much more.  

To order the book, you can go to Amazon, or you can order from the author directly at www.onebadpigforever.com and receive a copy signed by Mr. Phelan.

Melviney Press
224 pages
Paperback

TALKIN' TRASH WITH....ROBBY LOCHNER of JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE



Robby Lochner has seen and done...well, a lot.  No, he probably has not done it all, but he's been around the block a time or two.  He's played alongside two of the better vocalists in hard rock/heavy metal history.  He has won guitar "shred" contests, released a solo album, spent time on the radio...heck, he's even the descendant of a classical music bigwig that you've probably studied if you took any kind of music appreciation class in high school or college.  And now, Robby can add Talkin' Trash to his list of accomplishments, as the current lead guitar player for Jack Russell's Great White took the time to chat with us about all of these things, and several others....


*******************************************************

G2G:  Robby, thanks for taking the time to be our first interview of 2016!  I hope you had a Merry Christmas, and it looks like your New Year's was a busy one...

Robby:  My pleasure!  My Christmas was great, but it went too fast...  Hope your Christmas was great as well.

G2G:  It was, but as you said, it went by too quickly.  So, 2015 is officially in the books, but looking at your schedule, it seems there's no immediate rest of the weary, is there?

Robby:  And there are even more dates coming in!  So, no...no rest at all!

G2G:  Being busy is a good thing though, right?

Robby:  It is, definitely...

G2G:  Do you have any idea how many dates you played with Jack Russell's Great White last year?  It seemed like I was always reading a show review or a concert listing for you guys.

Robby:  I think it was between 60 to 70 shows.

G2G:  So, if you're playing 2 or 3 times a week, you're out there the better part of a year, with travel and everything.  Is it still exciting for you?

Robby:  The playing part definitely is, but the travel, not so much.  We are usually home every week and then out most weekends, so there is a lot of travel involved.

G2G:  Speaking of "we", who's currently with you in Jack Russell's Great White...well, besides you and Jack, of course.

Robby:  Tony Montana, Dicki Fliszar, and a to be determined bass player.  We've been playing shows with different guys and have it pretty much figured out.  Our other bassist moved to the east coast and it became an issue to keep him...

G2G: How long have you been with Jack, now?

Robby:  It was 4 years in December, so I'm just starting my fifth year now.

G2G:  How has the reunion been with Tony?  Has the transition from him being a bass player on some of the band's most well-known classics to a second guitarist and keyboard player been a comfortable one?  I personally thought it was great seeing him back in the band again.

Robby:  It has been really good.  I like him in the guitar position better, and it has come in handy when checking out bass players, for sure.

G2G:  Do Tony and Jack have some crazy stories to tell sometimes?

Robby:  They do, but mostly it's Jack.  I think when they played together back in the day, Tony was a bit more reserved than Jack (laughs).

G2G:  (Laughs)  How has it been for you being the guy that is now at Jack's left side on stage, rather than Mark Kendall?  Do you get people..."fans"...trying to tell you how Mark would play something, or how things used to be?

Robby:  So far, not even once has that happened.  I do play the parts correctly according to the studio recordings, but I take liberties in areas.  I have written intros and endings to the majority of the songs in the set, which has helped with a more interesting and dynamic set for us..  Most of the people who are coming to the shows know what to expect, as they now have seen us.  Usually, first-timers are happy to hear Jack sing and take to the rest of the guys pretty quickly.

G2G:  That's awesome to hear, as I know sometimes...and it's usually more aimed at lead singers...fans are less than willing to accept perceived stand-ins.  Now, I know you toured with Rob Halford in Fight at one time.  Did you catch much flak there if you guys didn't play a bunch of Priest songs?

Robby:  No flak there at all, as we DID play Priest songs!  We did the entire War Of Words record, and then I think there were seven Priest songs, as well.

G2G:  Did you have a favorite Judas Priest song to play?

Robby:  That's a tough one.  There's so many to choose from.  I had played every Priest song Rob had in the set when I was in bands before I played in Fight, so it was surreal the first time playing the Priest songs with Rob.  I'd look out and see Rob singing songs I grew up on and thin, "am I really
doing this?"  (laughs)

G2G:  Jack and Rob are a couple of the bigger voices of the 80s hard rock and metal world.  Different styles, sure, but both are well known and well regarded.  Is there anything about the two that you could point to and say, "this is why these guys are so great"?

Robby:  Well. other than the fact that they can both sing, I think it's more intangible.  I'd say it's that "x-factor" thing...that "it" people talk about.

G2G:  Alright, so I did some internet snooping...err...interview prep, and I read that you have a rather famous musical relative.  A great, great, great grandfather, I believe?

Robby:  Robert Schumann, yes.  Not quite Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart, but people in the classical world...or in Germany...will probably know who he is.  (laughs)
(Any family resemblance?)

G2G:  I remember him from Music Appreciation class in college, but I like a lot of classical music as well.  Anyway, so would you say you came from what you might call a musical family, then?

Robby:  Not really, no.  Not a musical family, though I did learn to play from my brother, Charlie.  But other than Charlie, I am a self-taught musician.

G2G:  How old were you when you decided you wanted to play?

Robby:  I think I was eleven or twelve, though I don't actually recall.  I do remember my brother, Charlie, having a couple of my brothers and some friends from the neighborhood sitting down and learning, "Train Kept A Rollin'".  The next morning I got up and played again and again.  Some of the other kids ended up playing, too, but not as much.

G2G:  Do you recall your first guitar?

Robby:  I do!  It was a guitar my brother gave me.  An Ibanez Les Paul copy, sunburst.  They became known as the "lawsuit model".  I loved that guitar but being young and dumb, I thought I needed a real Les Paul, so I traded it in and threw in some extra cash for the real Paul.  The real Paul, however, didn't play as good or sound as good.  I ended up trading that in and I got a G&L.  I still have the G&L and never relinquished another guitar again!

G2G:  Well, since you're on the subject of guitars, I always get blasted if I don't ask what kind of guitar and set-up you play now.

Robby:  I have an array of guitars for the studio, bur for live I use my Gelvin guitar and my Baker.  I use them both in the studio as well, but it depends on what I'm tracking.  I'll try several different guitars until I get the right sound.

G2G:  Speaking of the studio, Jack Russell's Great White released it's first single since the split of the band/brand, with "Hard Habit".  Did you contribute to the writing of that song?

Robby:  I did, but a smaller contribution.  The next track is Jack and I and a little bit of Jack's wife, Heather, on some lyrics.  The following release after that will have a small contribution from me again, then the next three and just Jack and myself.

G2G:  So the plan, as I understand it, is to release a few singles, then package them all together as a new CD, correct?

Robby:  That is the plan...

G2G:  Is that the state of the industry now?  Has digital media made making records or CDs more of a luxury, or even a shot in the dark...to use a Great White pun...than it was in the past?

Robby:  It has.  It's all about singles and downloads.  CDs will be great to sell at live shows, though.

G2G:  Well, hold onto one for me!  (Laughs)  What do you think of that situation, then?  MP3's weren't even a thought when you were in Fight, I don't imagine, so as an artist, how does it feel to see your work reduced to a 99 cent item?  I think I'd be frustrated...

Robby:  I think the downside is lots of people would rather download for free than pay even that 99 cents.  So, our thought is to make it easy.  Put it where they can get a good copy for free and if they're feeling generous, spend the 99 cents.  The thing is, people have been fudging record sales for years.  When SoundScan came in, bands' numbers were dropping because the 50 Billboard writers across the country were abolished.  People still figure out ways of fudging the numbers, but it became more difficult.  Now, with downloads, it kind of is what it is.  Times always change and its a question of adapting or being a dinosaur.  I hear lots of artists complaining "nobody buys CDs anymore", which is true, but people are still selling music.  It's now kind of like the really big artists and the rest, and no middle class.  Yes, I'd rather see it how it used to be, but since it's not, I don't get frustrated.  I just think we need to be creative to get our new music out to the masses.  Meanwhile, as long as we're having fun writing, performing, etc., than I really have no complaints.

G2G:  That's a positive way to look at it.  Now, with "Hard Habit", were you able to get much in the way of airplay, at least on progressive classic rock stations that include older artist's new music?

Robby:  We did get airplay.  I'm not sure how much, but there was definitely some plan and I expect it will build more for the new song, and each one after that.

G2G:  Do you think the two Great White situation ends up hurting BOTH bands, whether it's because of individual loyalties of fans, or confusion...or whatever?  I know there's not necessarily a massive market for "new" classic rock/80s hard rock, but I can't think it's helpful.

Robby:  It probably hurts us a little, but we still do 60-80 shows a year, and we've gotten bigger
(Outdated photo of Jack's version, but you get the idea.)
shows and better guarantees every year since we started Jack Russell's Great White.  It for sure has to hurt them more, as they were out performing shows while Jack was laid up with health issues, though when Jack was ready to come back they turned on him.  They said he couldn't sing and wasn't ready for the rigors of the road.  Here we are, going into year five, so...  For me, though, whatever bad blood they have is between them.  I don't know what went on the years leading up to the split, and I really don't care.  It's none of my business.  My concern is our band, Jack Russell's Great White, and keeping the hunger, energy, fun, and growth continuing on an upward trajectory.

G2G:  Shifting gears, do you get the chance to get out and see other bands?

Robby:  Some, but not a ton, since we are playing most weekends...

G2G:  Did you get to see Motley Crue on their farewell tour?

Robby:  I didn't.

G2G:  Do you plan to try to see the reunited Guns N Roses?

Robby:  (Laughs)  No plans, per se, but you never know.  I sure hope they have Steven Adler, though.  He's such a genuine guy and I love his playing.

G2G:  Who, if you could choose, should get together for one last tour or album?  I know people always scream for Zeppelin, but I just don't see it.

Robby:  Well, if we're dealing in fantasy, then the Beatles.  But, if we're talking guys alive, I think I'd also have to go with Zeppelin.

G2G:  Is it funny that I'm NOT a Zep guy, but that I LOVE the Great White Zep tribute album?

Robby:  Nice!

G2G:  (Laughs)  Okay, a couple more questions for you...SPEED ROUND STYLE!  Are you ready?

Robby:  (Laughs)  Sure...as ready as I can be...

G2G:  (Laughs).  Okay, here we go.  What song do you NEVER get tired of playing?

Robby:  "Sonata In C" by Mozart.

G2G:  What riff should all guitar players STOP playing?

Robby:  I can't think of any, I guess...

G2G:  Interesting.  A lot of guitar players tell me things like "Smoke On The Water" should just be banned...(laughter)

Robby:  I love "Smoke On The Water", and if it's played correctly, it's way cool.  And, of course, it's a great riff to learn as a beginner.

G2G:  Best guitar player you've ever seen or heard.

Robby:  Wow...there are so many players I like for different things, so that's a tough one.  One that comes to mind is Brad Paisley.

G2G:  Brad Paisley is awesome...so is Keith Urban on the country side of things.

Robby:  Yep...bad asses...

G2G:  Will we see a solo record from you in the future?  Or is the band your main focus now?

Robby:  Probably.  I have lots of material complete already, just sitting in my studio.  It's pretty eclectic. I would probably group the like songs together and release them.

G2G:  Well, I'd buy it for sure!

Robby:  Good to know!  There's one!

G2G:  Robby, how do fans keep in touch with you, with the band, etc.?  How can they find out where you will be playing next?  Are you a big social media guy?

Robby:  I pretty much only do Facebook, so for me, Robby Lochner on Facebook.  For JRGW, Jack Russell's Great White Facebook page, and also www.jackrussellsgreatwhite.com 

G2G:  Excellent!  Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Robby, and I can't wait to hear the new single and the album.  Hope to catch up with you again in person sometime this year.  Thanks again, Robby.

Robby:  Anytime.  Thanks, Arttie.

**********************************************

So there you go, folks.  Truly a great guy to talk to if you ever get the chance to meet him...exceedingly humble and down-to-earth, and very cool with his fans.  Also, a truly under-appreciated talent on the guitar.  Glad that we had the chance to get together to bring this interview to light.

LOVE AND A .38 "Nomads"

(c) 2016 Independent Release

  1. Oh My God
  2. Just Like Regret
  3. Went Away
  4. Abre Los Ojos
  5. Big Leg Betty
  6. Holy War
  7. I Won't Wait
  8. Not Coming Home
  9. Born To Make Me Die
  10. Get It Right
Ryan Hudson--Lead Vocals
Domo Domaracki--Guitars
Justin Emrod--Bass
Clark Skelton--Drums

Love And A .38 is a Los Angeles-based hard rock band in the simplest, purest form.  They are not metal.  They aren't punk.  They aren't prog, thrash, modern alternative, or any other label you want to put on them.  With Love And A .38, you are simply treated to straight forward, from the gut, rock n roll played with a raw, snarling emotion and a simple game plan: pick it up, plug it in, let it rip, and see what comes out.  Slightly sleazy in places and gritty in every aspect of the word, this could best be described as hard street rock, unpretty and to the point.  There is no window dressing here, nothing hidden behind a curtain....just four guys with a desire to do things one way, and that's their way.

I hesitate to use the comparison, because people are going to think about it in the wrong way, but I can't help but compare these guys to Guns N Roses in their earliest days.  Tons of attitude, lots of sweat, booze-fueled swagger, and a desire to kick you in the teeth with their music.  Do they sound like GnR?  No, that's not the point.  It's that unabashed all-for-one attitude that GnR presented when they were young and hungry that I feel present in Love And A .38, as well.   

Take one listen to the album's opener, "Oh My God", and you will hear what I am talking about.  Straight-up bad-assery is what you get here, as the band comes kicking in with a simple stomp-along march cadence, started first with just drums, then accompanied by a matching bass and guitar line.  But it's when Hudson's vocals spit their way into the track that you realize this band isn't kidding around here...they're going for your throat, and they are attacking through the ears to do it (which would be one incredibly painful way to go about things if you think about it!)  Domo allows a tasty solo to slither into the mix, slinking in unannounced, but making sure you take notice before he slips out the back door and dives right back into the mix.



"Just Like Regret" is another catchy, guitar-driven rocker with a straight-from-the-barroom beat that is catchy as heck and yet so simple you wonder why other bands haven't come up with a song like this before.  "Went Away" follows suit, packing true punch into the rhythm that starts the track off, with Hudson's scratchy-throated wailing on the chorus delivering an emotive punch that the "listen to me whine" vocals of so many rock bands today simply fail to capture.  Again, its not some incredibly intricate musical approach that drives this song home, but the raw, unfiltered emotion and the blood that is left on the strings and the skins that let the listener know that these guys mean what they play and are in it for the music and for the listener, not for the dollars.

One of my two absolute faves on the record, "Abre Los Ojos" teases a ballad at the beginning, but the driving, impassioned rock oozes up from beneath the simple guitar riffs and bass line that open up this powerfully emotive song that also showcases Hudson's ability to sing, not just snarl.  Some awesome lyrics can be found in this one as well, as Hudson intones, "I'm a bastard, I'm a liar, I'm a thief who will conspire...to steal all your desire...", and "ain't no sunrise when you wake up all alone, right back at the start".  Just some great songwriting on this one, to be sure.

"Big Leg Betty" slams a dose of raunch-and-roll into this track, with big, loud guitars and a catchy, surf-rock styled rhythm guitar line, along with yet another crisp guitar solo from Domo.  The catchy, jangly riff of "Holy War" will instantly draw you in and sets the stage for more of Hudson's gritty vocals and a very cool, yet not flashy, guitar solo that are balanced perfectly atop the incessant drive of Emrod and Skelton.

"I Won't Wait" is pure sass and adrenaline, and easily the fastest number on the album.  Kicking in with a simple cymbal rhythm, the song charges ahead for a few seconds before backing off to be mostly drums and Hudson for most of the verse, before again launching itself into a hard-charging, full-throttle rocker, again complete with a Guns N Rose's styled, ripping guitar solo that really allows Domo to stretch the strings and showcase his obvious skill.   

"Born To Make Me Die" has a total spaghetti western feel to the intro, and its easy to envision dust and tumbleweeds blowing across the stage as the guys launch into this tune.  Domo's guitar tones are absolutely haunting here, and the galloping cadence of Skelton's drums is accentuated by the rumbling bass line Emrod hammers into place.  Probably my favorite track of the record, this song gets put on repeat a couple of times when I spin Nomads, as it is just so dang catchy that I can't help myself!

The album closes with yet another fist pounding, head banging rocker, as "Get It Right" packs an unpolished wallop at the end of the record, from the muffled thud of the kick drums, to the buzzsaw rhythm guitars, to the bloodied-throat rasp of Hudson's vocals.  Emrod gets into the action as well, laying down a cool bass groove during the bridge section, which allows Hudson to work his way up from a near-whisper to a full-on yowl before charging back into the final simple-yet-catchy chorus.

If you are looking for big hair, big reverb, or big polish on a record, look elsewhere, because it ain't gonna be found on Nomads.  Similarly, if you are looking for tons of programming and effects, you had just as well skip right on past this record because none of that will be found anywhere near Love And A .38.  But if you are looking for a truly in-your-face, raw, hard rocking record, then Nomads is going to fit that bill perfectly for most people.  This band has the potential to be a game-changer in the rock scene, so jump into the game now and hear what the next big thing just might sound like!

Man, I dig this record!

Rating:  Crankable, without a doubt.  A solid 8.5!


Saturday, February 13, 2016

**RETRO REVIEW** ONE BAD PIG "Swine Flew"

(c) 1990 Myrrh/Word Music

  1. See Me Sweat
  2. Altar Ego
  3. Hey Punk
  4. Red River
  5. Bowl Of Wrath
  6. Big Stomach
  7. Christmas Time
  8. Judas Kiss
  9. Desperation
  10. Thrash Against Sin
  11. Swine Flew
  12. When Your Love Died
  13. We Want You
Carey "Kosher" Womack--Screams, Vocals
Paul Q-Oek--Guitars, VOcals, "Kiss"
Phillip Owens--Drums, Vocals
Streak Wheeler-Bass, Vocals

Additional Musicians
Bob Hartman--Guitar solo on 8
Phil Keaggy--Guitar solo on 9
Dann Huff--Guitar solo on 2
Dale Oliver--Guitar solo on 6
Jimmie Lee--Bass solo on 9
MC Tommy Sims-Rap vocal on 9

Guest backing vocals:  The Pig Pen (David Mullen, Billy Smiley, Lee Groitzsch, JAG, Jeff Barkley, John Kunz)

Every now and then I like to dust off a favorite of mine from my youth and give it the G2G treatment, hoping to possibly expose readers to something they may never have experienced previously.  So, in that spirit, allow me to present to the uninitiated masses one of my all-time favorite bands:  ONE BAD PIG!

Without delving too far into their storied past, One Bad Pig is a skate punk/crossover thrash band from Texas, formed in the early 1980's by Carey "Kosher" Womack and Paul Q-Pek.  The band released one demo, the humorously, yet aptly, titled A Christian Banned, before a couple of line-up changes and getting signed to a recording contract and releasing their first proper album, Smash.  (For more history, you can check out the brand new book, One Bad Pig Forever, which is available at Amazon.com, and www.onebadpigforever.com among other places.)

This album, Swine Flew, was the second label release for the oinkish punks, and for most fans...myself included...represents the most complete album in their catalog.  The band had started to experiment with more thrash (and other sounds) in their music by this time and had taken a small step away from the break-neck, sometimes sloppy but always fun pure punk of their debut album.  While this alienated the punk-only crowd to a degree, it actually opened up the gates for the band, allowing them to reach even more people and to broaden their musical scope without sacrificing who they were or what they enjoyed doing.  On a side note, this is also the last album featuring this line-up, as Streak Wheeler would leave the band and be replace by Daniel Tucheck.

The album is a collection of largely full-throttle cross-over thrash tunes, similar in style and approach to what secular bands such as D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies were doing at the time.  The blistering speed of "See Me Sweat", "Bowl Of Wrath", and "We Want You" was on par with the string-shredding songs of the Pig's contemporaries, with "Hey Punk" and "Thrash Against Sin", possibly going even faster than just about anything out there at the time, blurring the lines between punk and metal, and blurring the vision of anyone who tried to keep up with the speed of Owens' drumsticks or Q-Pek's pick!

But, not ones to be pigeon-hold, the band broke away from their tried-and-true mold on a couple of occasions on Swine Flew.  "Red River" starts off with some rather haunting, atmospheric sounds from Q-Pek's guitar, before settling into a Billy Idol-styled rocker that sounds to be a distant cousin of Idol's "White Wedding".  "Desperation" finds the band incorporating...GASP...rap into their sound, as they brought in MC Tommy Sims to deliver a true 80's rap bridge into the song, as he lays down his verses over some truly funkified bass courtesy of Jimmie Lee.  Definitely not my favorite moment on this otherwise stellar record, but kudos to the band for doing something Anthrax had toyed with a couple of years prior, but had done with only band members and not with the recruitment of an established rapper.  The title track has a swinging swagger to it that provides a bit of a respite from the blistering speed of the rest of the record, but it is definitely not a slow number by any means.  For that you would have to wait a few tracks, as the also attempted their first true "ballad", if you want to call it that, as "When Your Love Died" incorporates some 80's New Wave sounds into a heart-felt song about the crucifixion of Christ.  Wheeler sets a simple cadence for the song, as his bass line is prominent throughout, and Kosher proves there is more to his vocal approach than just churning his vocal cords into so much raw meat.

The band also throws in a couple of cover tunes for the fans, with back-to-back Pig takes on LArry Norman's "Christmas Time" and Petra's "Judas Kiss", even managing to score a guest guitar solo from Petra founder, Bob Hartman.  I think I can safely guarantee that Hartman had never before, and probably never since, played as fast and furiously as he did on the Pig's version of the classic Christian rock staple.

Want humor?  The Pig has that in spades, whether hearing Kosher squeal quotes from "Gone With The Wind" in the song "Big Stomach" ("Miss Scarlet, Miss Scarlet, I don't know nothing 'bout birthing no babies!"), or listening to the band name drop several the big CCM artists of the time in the great, anthemic album closer, "We Want You".  

There can be no denying that in the annals of Christian hard music, there is one undisputed champion of skate/thrash/punk, and that champion is One Bad Pig.  As ridiculous as it may sound to outsiders or people who are not familiar with the quasi-underground Christian hard rock/metal scene of the 80's and 90's, One Bad Pig are indisputable legends among their peers, both Christian and secular, revered for their no-holds barred stage antics almost as much as they are admired for their uncompromising lyrical stance in an genre that is more commonly associated with rebellion and anti-religious statements.  One look at the names willing to be associated with this band, both here and on the follow-up record, I Scream Sunday, and you will see that despite how much fun the band had, they were serious about what they did and others wanted to be involved.

The CD features full lyrics, which gives the listener a chance to see the blatant, proudly bold Christian stance the band takes on each and every number here, no matter how irreverent the music may sound to some.  A black and white photo of the band, as well as a color band photo of the band are included, as are the typical thank-you's and credits.

Never officially disbanding, and still popping up from time-to-time, there are rumors of a new One Bad Pig surfacing in 2016, and I can guarantee that this guy will be near the front of the line to pick it up if it sees the light of day.

 Rating:  I have never stopped loving this record and still pull it out on a semi-regular basis as my children now love the Pig!  Crank this classic to 9 and squeal along!

Friday, February 12, 2016

SUICIDE BOMBERS "The Sex Tapes"

(c) 2015 Independent Release

  1. Intro: The Sex Tapes/Tokyo, Japan--Midnight
  2. Bladerunner (Tokyo Nights)
  3. Intro: Los Angeles, California, USA--21:20
  4. iKill (Suicide Romeo)
  5. Intro: The Orion Nebula--06:15
  6. Planets Collide
  7. Intro: Oslo, Norway--19:32
  8. X.I. Thing
  9. Intro: Moscow, Russia--11:59
  10. Boyfriend (Sha-la-la)
  11. Intro: Backstreet Island--The Night Before
  12. Devolicious Boys
  13. Outro: The Sex Tapes/...Over and Motherf**king Out
Chris Damien Doll--The Sleaze Fuhrer--Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Lazy Leather--The Sex Gunslinger--Lead Guitars, Vocals
C. Slim--The Thunder Mechanic--Bass, Vocals
T-Bone--The Outlaw Groover--Drums

Norway's sleaziest export, The Suicide Bombers, come oozing back for a second round of unadulterated gutter rock.  I mean, what else could you expect from an album called The Sex Tapes?  If you were looking for high brow material here, you came looking in the wrong place, as Suicide Bombers take you on a tour of the seedier side of hard rock, complete with snarling vocals, some excellent guitar work, suprisingly top-notch production, and exceedingly solid songwriting.

Ranking right up there with the best of the New Wave of European Sleaze and Hair Metal, as far as I am concerned, The Sex Tapes may be the best EP you haven't heard in a LONG time, and it is more than a step or two above their previous effort, which is saying something considering Criminal Record was a Top 25 record for G2G just a couple of short years ago in 2012.  

Retaining 3/4 of the line-up from Criminal Record surely helped the band to retain the style and sound they were after, with new bassist, C. Slim, being the newcomer to the insanity, and  slipping right into the mix seamlessly.  In fact, I think the bass work on this record is more solid than on the debut, as Slim is lock-step with the rhythm guitar and drums throughout much of the record, yet there is enough personality in the performance to keep it from sounding like the work was phoned in.

Skipping the intro for now (much more on this later), the album kicks into high gear with "Bladerunner (Tokyo Nights)", which is a relentless, no-holds-barred sleaze rocker right from the word "Go!", with a full-force rock anthem that reminds me a lot musically of some of Ratt's best early work in the guitar tones, but with a bit of Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction thrown into the mix as far as the way Doll attacks the microphone.  This approach works so darn well, the band carrys it over to the following track, "iKill (Suicide Romeo)", complete with some ripping guitar work from Leather (who looks like C.C. DeVille and Zakk Wylde's lovechild...wearing Slash's hat!) and a kicking vocal approach from Doll that reminds me so much of the way Warrior Soul, or the previously mentioned Zodiac Mindwarp, sounded many moons ago:  gritty, angry, and packed with attitude.  The rhythm section is just so tight on this track that it punches you in the face right from the start, then grabs you by the throat and drags you along for a ride!  If I was forced to pick a favorite track from this album, "iKill" would be the one I would point to, which is tough where there is nothing I don't like here as far as the musical tracks go.

"Planets Collide" slithers back to a slightly more mid-tempo number, but it rocks hard nonetheless.  Doll's vocals retain that snarling grit, with the rest of the band contributing a bit cleaner, yet shouted, backing vocals on the chorus.

"X.I. Thing" picks things right back up with another sleaze-anthem in waiting, as Doll turns up the innuendo in the lyrics and Leather's guitar slinks and slides all over the place, screaming for the listener's attention, but not at the expense of the other performances here.

"Boyfriend (Sha-la-la)" has a definite Hanoi Rocks-meets-T. Rex feel to it, which believe me, is a good thing!  Again, a really nice, yet not over-the-top guitar solo fits the song's style and approach perfectly, as do the 70s inspired handclaps and the "Sha-la-la" tag.  The band backs off the throttle a bit here, but if you are questioning if the band slides into ballad territory here, the answer is definitely no. Very cool stuff, indeed!

"Devolicious Boys" rounds out the musical portion of the album...and was, interestingly, the lead video for the record...and is very reminiscent of the Faster Pussycat approach to sleaze, mixing just enough of the catchy Hollywood hairspray approach into the sound to keep it just accessible enough to the average hard rock fan, while also keeping the sexuality, sass and attitude firmly in place so that hopefully Suicide Bombers will be able to continue to grow their fan base among both the hardcore sleazers and those who want their sleaze with at least a small dose of sugar.  For the musically astute, you may recognize this as a cover of a song by the fairly obscure band, the 80s/90s Norwegian sleaze rockers Backstreet Girls, but Suicide Bombers kick the snot outta the original here, totally owning this song and making me wonder why anyone would want to seek out the original if they hadn't already heard it.



Now, I know what a lot of people are going to ask about...all the intros and the outro.  I have made it VERY well known that I am NOT a fan of such things, and my opinion stands firm.  However...I do have to admit that when listening to this record AS A WHOLE, they are not nearly as obnoxious as the majority of intros, drop-ins, and outros that are incorporated by bands that are desperately trying to sound clever or catchy.  That is NEVER the feeling here.  The Suicide Bombers seem to be attempting to create a "sound movie" as much as anything, and the intros actually succeed in adding to the overall experience...WHEN LISTENING AS A WHOLE.  Now, if you are planning to take this record and put it in a random mix with your other sleaze faves, you are going to want to rip the tracks individually and leave these out, as they would definitely be out of place with any other piece of music they may bump up against.  But you know what?  Unlike some other recent "concept" albums (ahem, P.O.D.), Suicide Bombers does the listener a favor and makes these intros SEPARATE tracks so that you can skip them when necessary!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  So, do I love them?  I wouldn't go that far, but I get why they were put in place, and they are short, to the point, and provide the only real break in the action, as the rest of the album is pretty much a full-throttle, balls-to-the-wall sleazefest, with only minor shifts in tempo on tracks 3 and 5. 

Overall, this is one heck of an enjoyable record and one that I find myself returning to time and time again.  Excellent songwriting, top of the heap performances, tons of swagger, and exceedingly professional production make this one of the best releases of 2015 that I DIDN'T get the chance to review in time for our end-of-year list.  If I had, I can guarantee it would have cracked the top ten...it's that dang good!

Yet again, another prime example of a band from Europe...and quite frequently from Norway, it seems...that should be getting much more attention in the global hard rock scene, and one that is so, so worth tracking down!  Hit up at their website to order the CD's, which the band will even send to you with their names scribbled on them if you ask nicely!

Rating:  Ekstemt crankable, which is Norwegian for extremely crankable...I think!  Blow your speakers out with this one at 8.5!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

IN THE VERSE "Hostage"


(c) 2015 In The Verse

  1. Disaster
  2. Hostage
Noah Hulbert--Vocals, Guitar
Dave Hanson--Guitars, Vocals
Chris Certius--Keys, Programming, Vocals

As readers of G2G know, I don't normally review singles, but I do make exceptions from time to time, especially if the single is exceptionally good...or exceptionally bad.

This one is the former.

In The Verse is a three man Christian hard rock project out of Wisconsin that has already managed to garner a good deal of attention, getting airplay on Sirius/XM's now defunct Christian hard rock/metal show, The Message Amped, as well as on numerous streaming and terrestrial radio stations across the country...all despite being together for just over a year, not having a drummer or bass player, and only having two songs available to the general public.  Not bad...not bad, at all!

"Disaster" kicks off this 2-song release with a nice piano intro from Certius, before some programmed elements and fuzzed-up guitars come buzzing into the track, along with the stop-start-stop-start styled production used to such great effect by bands like Skillet, Red, and Disciple (all of whom are listed as influences of the band).  Hanson's chug-chug-chug guitar style fits this driving modern rock number especially well, and Hulbert's vocals are easily understood over the bed of atmospheric electronic elements in the background.  Harsher, screamed backing vocals during the chorus also serve to really enhance Hulbert's more melodic approach throughout the rest of the track.

"Hostage" is a slightly more straight-up hard rock number, relying less on the electronic ambient backing element and more on straight forward hard guitars, albeit with modern production altering the tones somewhat.  Big drums kick the song into gear before the snarling guitar lines take over.  Once again, the song is uptempo and aggressive, with hard-charging rhythm guitars and pounding...and programmed...drums, with Hulbert's vocals easily understood and ringing with clarity above the fray.  A straight-out-of-the-70s-styled KEYBOARD solo pours forth at about the 2:20 mark, which adds a completely different element to this track.  Its an interesting curve ball and shows the band is willing to be experimental with their sound while retaining the modern hard rock approach that the guys obviously gravitate toward.

The packaging, while simple, is complete, with full lyrical listings for both songs, pictures of the three members of the band, and a thank-you list.  My copy is autographed, as well, since I ordered straight from the band.

I have a STRONG suspicion we are going to be hearing a lot more from this band in the very near future, and I am excited to hear what they come up with next.  In The Verse is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to help them put together and release a full-length album in the near future, and last I checked they had managed to secure enough funding for a long 7-track EP, but were continuing to push forward to try to fund another 3 or 4 songs.  If you are interested in the project, the GoFundMe page is here.      

Oh!  And it appears the new effort will have a full-time drummer as a member of In The Verse, as photos on the GoFundMe page, as well as listings on Facebook, show Devin Shumski as the band's drummer now.  Things are definitely looking up...

Rating:  Again, I don't rate singles, but I will say that I am very impressed with what I hear, and I have actually purchased the project on CD, as well as digitally...AND funded the new project.  I guess you could say I am a fan and a believer in In The Verse!



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

MADYSIN HATTER "Lose Your Mind"

(c) 2015 Independent Release

  1. Its All Good
  2. Black Velvet Snakebite
  3. Rocky Road
  4. Lose My Mind
  5. Pretty Little Fool
  6. Jukebox Jive
  7. Never Knew
  8. Gypsy Rock
  9. Lightning Strikes Twice
  10. This Last Time
Madysin Hatter--Vocals
Brad Allen Williams--Guitars
Bob Lanzetti--Guitars
Michael League--Bass (3, 5, 8, 9)
Grant Zubritsky--Bass (1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 10)
Cooper Heffley--Drums
Justin Stanton--Keys (3, 5, 8, 9)

For astute readers of Glitter2Gutter, you probably remember Madysin Hatter as the creator one of our favorite EPs to come out a couple of years ago.  That EP, Pretty Little Fool, combined heavily-70's-influenced hard rock with some pop songwriting elements to create a sound that we absolutely fell in love with here.  As such, I was anxious to hear what Ms. Hatter would come up with next, as she had informed me that a full-length record was in the offing, and that she would send it to me as soon as it was ready.

Lose Your Mind is that record, and it is a really nice continuation from Pretty Little Fool.  In fact, all four songs from that EP are contained in this new record, albeit in a different order and interspersed throughout the album.  In addition, six new tracks are included here, all continuing in a similar hard rock vein but generally coming across as a bit more 80s in the approach to the songwriting, which gives the flow of the album a very nice back and forth, yet never coming across as sounding dated in any way.

The album opens with the uptempo rocker, "Its All Good", a good-time party anthem with a simple, yet catchy guitar hook, some big, pounding drums, and an easy, sing-along chorus.  While catchy and effective, "Its All Good" is almost immediately dropped from memory when the sassy, attitude-laden "Black Velvet Snakebite" comes slinking out of the speakers,  Hatter allows her vocals to ooze their way back into a Stevie Nicks-esque posture, which is where her voice works is best, in my opinion.  Again, solid work from the backing band here really serves the song well, particularly in the bluesy edge supplied to the guitars.  An excellent track here, it is only my third favorite on the record yet it still sets up the rest of the album with rather high expectations from this independent artist.

"Rocky Road" is a plaintive, stark ballad that appeared on the Pretty Little Fool EP previousely, but is one that I am very glad made it here, as I find myself liking it more and more with each listen.  The track kicks off with just Hatter and an acoustic guitar before a really nice electric blues riff come smoldering through atop a simple drum line and rumbling bass work.  One of my top two or three songs on this effort, "Rocky Road" is a very well-crafted song that highlights Madysin's unique high-end-yet-bluesy vocals and superb songwriting skills.  I truly wish more current artists would remember there is more to putting together a good song than massive walls of guitars and thundering drums, because the relatively stripped-down approach of this song speaks volumes about how, while those things are nice, they are not the be-all, end-all of songwriting.

The sort-of title track, "Lose My Mind" continues in the more laid back style of "Rocky Road", although it ups the tempo ever so slightly.  A Zeppelin-inspired guitar riff sets the tone here, with Hatter again reaching into the upper range of her gritty-yet-vulnerable vocals to deliver another neo-70s rocker that also sports a solid, if too short, guitar solo and some very good bass and bottom end drum work.



"Pretty Little Fool" is an INSANELY catchy 70s styled track which was pulled over from the previous EP, setting up another of my favorites here, the new new number, "Jukebox Jive".  A distorted blues guitar riff come shuffling straight out of the roadhouse to open this boot-stomper, which has 70s Aerosmith written all over it in so many ways.  Again, Hatter's vocals manage to slink their way into and out of the guitar riffs that just scorch their way throughout this track.  Love, love, love this song and would honestly like to hear an entire album of this style of hard 70s blues rock, as I think this is where Hatter and her band really excel.

"Never Knew" has the 80s acoustic lead-in ballad down pat, a la Warrant's "Sometimes She Cries", and is a track that really showcases Hatter's more melodic vocal approach, as opposed to the bluesy rasp she drops into a track like "Jukebox Jive".  Madysin REALLY soars vocally (you have to hear her wail at about the 3:20 mark!!!) on a track that I truly believe would've pulled radio airplay in 1988 or 89, as it is really well-written and performed.

"Gypsy Rock", another holdover from the EP, is so heavily Stevie Nicks influenced that it sounds to me like it incorporates a couple of different Fleetwood Mac songs all into one track.  A really, really good guitar solo is also found in this retro rocker, which is still my favorite from the EP.  "Lightning Strikes Twice" is another EP holdover featuring a heavy Zeppelin vibe, with the slow build and burn of "This Last Time" being the album closer and the final new song on the record.

The mix is solid, and the production is above average for an independent project.  Do I think some high dollar knob turner could beef up the sound a bit?  Sure, but the overall feel of the album is a deliberate throw back, as Hatter states in the liner notes that "Lose Your Mind is a hand-crafted record; an analog recording and mix of a band playing and recording songs in one studio together, captured on the finest magnetic tape.  We felt strongly that the music benefited from this approach.  To achieve the type of fearless performances and big, bold sound Madysin Hatter was after, we didn't want or need a lot of post-production flexibility.  The optimal technology was a great band, a great analog studio, and a few reels of tape."  Retro, indeed!

The packaging is well done, with no fewer than 9 pictures of the striking singer, along with performance credits, writing credits, a brief thank-you list, and a few other notes.  Lyrics are not included.  The album is available in digital format if you prefer, or CD's and other merchandise can be ordered from www.madysinhatter.com.

A solid leap forward for a talented group of performers and musicians, Lose Your Mind is well worth seeking out if you are a fan of solid 70s inspired hard rock with 80s influences, while not looking for a band that sells its soul and sacrifices its sound in an attempt to gain popularity.  Madysin Hatter is who they are.  Uncompromisingly so, in fact.

Rating:  Definitely a crankable record.  7.5 on the knob for this one!

Back to Reviews Index