- I'll Be Your Hero
- Where Dragons Fly
- Rain of Fury (Live)
- The Courage To Forgive (Live)
- The Wind, The Rain and The Moon
- Senza Un Addio
- Sin Un Adios
- La Force de Me Battre
Overall, Perfectly Preserved is an excellent return for a band that many had considered dead and gone. While the music may be a bit more modern hard rock than Nu Metal, there is still plenty for both Korn and older Love And Death fans to sink their teeth into, while also allowing for newer fans to access the band and jump on board, perhaps discovering the older material along the way. If pressed, I think I would actually say I prefer the songwriting and overall performances on Perfectly Preserved, even if I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the intensity of "Chemicals" or "I W8 4 U" from Between Here And Lost.
Rating: Extremely crankable! Rip the knob up to 9 and let's hope that the world rights itself enough for us to perhaps get the chance to see Love And Death on the road at some point in 2021.
"Raised In Hell" is up next, and while it dials back the punk just a tinge, the attitude and sneer of the sleaze rock these guys revel in just surges to the forefront even more. Laggy, the band's new guitar slinger, absolutely shreds on an all-too-short solo and his dirty rhythms chug and churn throughout the track, while Snake Bite Whisky co-founder, Jay R, spits and snarls his way through the verses before getting a bit of help on the gang-shouted chorus sections. Two tracks in and I'm already looking for Clorox wipes to try to clean the filth that is oozing out of my speakers away so that I can proceed.
As to the Outlaw country? Well, you need venture no further than track three, "Creep Show" to get your first taste in the form of the vocals on the verse sections of this otherwise full-throttle sleaze punk track. Particularly noticeable here is the rumbling from the bottom end where Stacii Blake's bass is hard at work, providing a solid foundation for Laggy to absolutely chew his guitar to shreds on the solo, and Sharkz rapid-fire drumming is spot on, as well! This is a tight, tight band despite the fact that only Jay R and Stacii have been around since the start of the band. Filthy, nasty, and raunchy, the music here is absolutely in your face and raw, played with an attitude that is just not present in so much of the modern hair/sleaze genre. Seriously, this is not 1987 Headbanger's Ball-or-radio-ready sleaze, a la LA Guns or Faster Pussycat; this is punch-you-in-the-face-just-to-watch-the-blood-and-snot-leak-from-your-nose type of sleaze that would likely not have been allowed to see the light of day in 1987! Full throttle and never letting up, "Creep Show" is the kind of song that is going to either completely turn you off of the band or that is going to gear you up to hear what's next.
And what is next? More of the unexpected, to be honest. Following a rumbling bass opening, a guitar riff very reminiscent of Guns N Roses churns to the surface, only to be met by lead vocals from Jay R that come in somewhere between Layne Staley of Alice In Chains and Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots...if they were both trying to imitate the lower range of Axl Rose. Somehow, it works though, and "Choke" is one of those tracks that you seem to keep returning to again and again, even if you aren't 100% sure why. Laggy again unleashes a frantic fret run before the final verse section, and this rapid fire number just blazes away until it finally burns out.
"Bones In The Fire" is early Alice In Chains worship, from the sludgy tempo to the grungy, down-tuned rhythm guitars, to that previously mentioned Layne Weiland-style of vocals. Somewhere in the mix, Laggy drops a nifty, sleazy solo upon the unsuspecting listener, but overall, this is more early 90s Seattle than mid-to-late-80s Hollywood, but if you ask the guys, I'm sure that the members of Snake Bite Whisky will tell you they don't really care what you call it because they play what they feel. For what it's worth, I think "Bones In The Fire" is one of the best tunes on an album that sports more than a couple strong tracks, and I find myself thinking I could go in for a full album of this type of track.
"Reload, Aim, and Kill" picks things right back up into high-speed territory, with more gritty rhythm guitars and thick, heavy bass work before a false ending sets up a straight-up punk rendering of the song's title, while "Sweet Cocaine" comes across as a musically nastier/less accessible narcotics-worshipping cousin of Buckcherry's "Lit Up" with an even faster tempo and more sleaze and punk than spit and polish.
Lead single "Hammered" follows, again showcasing Stacii Blake's bass kickstarting things before Laggy's rhythm guitars and Jay R's snarling vocals launch themselves upon the track. You know what, rather than try to explain it to you, I'll just let you check it out for yourself. So, give yourself about 4 minutes of free time and check out "Hammered" below.... I'll wait for you...
The drum work from Sharkz is on full display on "Dead By Dawn", which also utilizes a decidedly "You Really Got Me" guitar riff throughout the track before giving way to an absolute string-melting solo from Laggy. The suitably-titled "End Of The Line" closes things out in fine sleaze rock fashion, with Jay R f*bombing his way through the track as Laggy blazes through one last screaming solo, while Blake and Sharkz hoist the whole thing up on their backs and power the track home. Really a fun way to close out a surprisingly fun listen from start to finish.
The production is as raw and dirty as a band like Snake Bite Whisky would require, but it is an intentional, professional mix and production quality here, not something you would get if you set up a boom box in a bar and listened to the band riff away. Plenty of life and voice is given to Laggy's guitar, with good reason as the man is an absolute beast in this type of musical setting. Sharkz and Blake are a formidable rhythm section, and Jay R, despite his Sunset Strip blonde mane, is a spitting, snarling force to be reckoned with on vocals, though admittedly he will not likely be everyone's cup of tea. The end result is Black Candy, a full-on sleazy/punky blast of heavy rock from Down Under that will have your head banging and your fists pounding from the moment the amps are kicked on.
Rating: Black Candy is impressively crankable from a band I have never heard of! Crank this to 7.5!
There are a couple of exceptions, however, where the band seemed to spend more time developing the songs creatively, not relying solely on breakneck speed. Take for example "Demon Hunter". Yes, speed is a huge factor, and Rincon and drummer Martinez both get the spotlight shone on them as they exhibit bursts of speed that seem superhuman, but there is also a good deal more creativity, not just in the guitar work...with Rincon delivering possibly his most creative solo of the record...but in the overall song structure, which shows tempo changes and subtle shifts in style throughout. Likewise, the instrumental track, "Iron Pact" shows some impressive work from Rincon, both on rhythms and leads, and bassist Adriana Lizcano gets the chance to step into the spotlight for a bit, as well. Again, this song is more about musicality and texture than it is about blazing a metallic path through your ears, as this song never moves past mid-tempo but still manages to hold the listener's attention throughout. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that these two tracks are near the top of my favorites list on the album.
Also vying for favorite status is the oddly-titled "Margaret", a full-force metallic assault that has Kill 'Em All influence dripping from the strings of the rhythm guitars! Martinez opens the song with massive drum intro, and his double kicks dominate the bottom end of the track throughout. For the most part, Sanchez reigns himself in on vocals, spending most of the time in the lower, snarled end of his range, although he does rip into a couple of glass-shattering wails that I really and truly could do without, but they don't do enough damage to keep me from really enjoying the old-school attitude and approach of this proto-thrash monster. I could really find myself getting into an album filled with speed/thrash of this style. I also find myself drawn to the track "Witch Hunt", with its tempo changes, machine gun drumming, and insanely fast rhythm guitars all supporting the most controlled vocal work that Sanchez puts forth here. And then there's the NWOBHM influenced "Forces Of The Night" that utilizes some guitar tones on the solo that are not found anywhere else on the record, while also delivering some of the strongest bass lines on the album. Once again, Sanchez maintains a firm grip on his vocals here, and Rincon delivers a far-above-average guitar solo here that really makes me wish the entire album was crafted the way tracks 5, 6, and 7 were. These three songs form a back-to-back-to-back stretch that is absolutely punishing and really fun to listen to!
"The Beginning And The End" is an instrumental piece that closes the album proper, and features some haunting guitar from Rincon as a seemingly dark wind blows in the background. Its a nice piece of music, but it has nothing to do with the rest of the album, stylistically, and I'm not really sure what the point of this couple of minutes is. Being at the end of the album I don't skip it, I just let it bring the album to a close and move on, plain and simple.
"Justicia y Venganza" is listed as a bonus track and sounds all the world like a demo to me. The production is considerably different than the rest of the album, and the lyrics are all in Spanish, which was not the case for the bulk of the record. Upon further research, I discovered this was the very first single recorded by the original version of Witch Hunt, clear back in 2007, hence the sonic differences in the material. I'm not 100% sure who the band is comprised of at that time, although there seems to be no doubt as to the vocalist, as Sanchez is running pretty free with those King Diamond-esque wails, which I have no use for, and overall this track seems like it was tagged on simply to extend the length of the record, perhaps part of the deal when it was picked up for American distribution. Not a track I spend any time with, honestly, and if I decided I wanted to burn the CD for personal consumption, I'd honestly give this track the axe and stop at just nine songs.
So, if it sounds like I enjoy Rock N Roll Possession for the most part, that is because I generally do. I honestly really enjoy a lot of what this band brings to the table, and Rincon and Martinez, in particular, show some real skill on their instruments for playing this type of metal. There are a couple of weaker tracks here, sure, but there are also stretches of surprisingly good material, as well, particularly on the second half of Rock N Roll Possession. Overall, there is a lot to like about this record musically.
That being said, whether or not you find yourself enjoying Witch Hunt is going to depend largely upon your tastes, and therefore your tolerance, of Sanchez and his vocals. Personally, I could never get into the high-pitched wailing of Mercyful Fate or Grim Reaper, even when I found myself impressed with their musical prowess, and a couple of tracks here are borderline ruined by this type of ear-piercing vocal work. This is going to be key for people seeking out Witch Hunt, as the vocals of Sanchez are all over the place, ranging from snarling, not-quite-death growls to piercing wails that will startle sleeping dogs throughout the neighborhood. And while the falsetto-screamed vocals are not my thing...at all...I will say that the vocal performance from Sanchez is strong, with seemingly no issues as he moves from style to style and rides the elevator up and down his range. Likewise, the production on the vocals is very clean, and at no point to I feel like the vocals were buried in the mix or too heavy-handed and out front.
In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by Witch Hunt, and I think a lot of old school metalheads will take an instant liking to this Colombians band. If you can get past a couple of iffy vocal spots, and you can accept a few speed-over-substance guitar solos, Rock N Roll Possession may be exactly what fans of early speed/thrash metal are looking for. And while not an album that will ever be a frequent player for me, as I have largely moved on from this style, Witch Hunt has a definite skill and passion for this style that translates into a far more enjoyable listen than I would have ever anticipated.
Rating: Surprisingly, I found myself cranking this to 7!
In 1994, one of my all-time favorite bands released what I have always considered to be one of...if not THE...last great albums from one of the members of the so-called "hair band era". Never really fitting in with the Hollywood hair scene (probably because they were from Philadelphia), Cinderella was still lumped in with the Poisons and Warrants of the world, much the same way Great White and Tesla were. Sure, they had long hair...heck, they pretty much had the whole "hair metal" look down...but Cinderella (and Great White, Tesla, etc.) had far more blues rock to their sound than glam pop, and generally rocked a lot harder, also. In the end, genre-splitting was going to make very little difference, as by 1994, the whole "hair band" scene had imploded and been replaced by grunge and hard 90s alternative rock, and most 80s bands were forced underground if they were allowed to survive at all. And while a lot of those bands tried to bend with the times and eke out an existence by distancing themselves from their past (such as Warrant did...), Cinderella refused to play the game, releasing Still Climbing, which, as I stated above, I truly believe to be one of the last great albums from those 80s bands. And if that doesn't strike you as a bold enough statement, I'll throw another one at you; this is the best album in Cinderella's catalog. BOOM! Take that!
After bursting onto the scene in 1986 with their multi-platinum debut, Night Songs, Cinderella reeled off a couple more albums, including the Billboard Top Ten album, Long Cold Winter, which also eventually went triple-platinum, and 1990's Heartbreak Station album, which while decidedly less "hairy" or "glammy", somehow managed to sell a million copies and crack the Billboard Top Twenty by landing at #19. Years on the road had taken its toll on the band members, with LaBar reportedly falling deeply into alcoholism, Coury feeling like a hired-gun (he had only actually performed on one album), and Keifer essentially losing his voice, so Cinderella stepped away from the scene from 1991 to 1993 to regroup and recover. Of course, during that time, the music world was put on its ear, and it seemed there was little room for...or interest in...Cinderella by the time Still Climbing was released in late 1994. In fact, to this date, the album still has not gone platinum (a million records sold), which is a true pity, as Still Climbing takes the best of all the Cinderella albums and blends it into an absolutely killer hard rock record.
Checking in at 11 songs, Still Climbing has no weak material from start to finish, and in fact features some of the best songs Kiefer has ever written...but not all of them were new tracks. A couple of older non-album tracks from the band's heyday are dusted off, beefed up, and fine tuned for this record, and both serve Cinderella well. If you ever track down a bootleg of some of the band's older live shows, there is a chance you might hear a slightly different version of "Talk Is Cheap" in the set, but this version is far superior, with Tom's sassy vocals and biting, sarcastic attitude on full display. It's also worth noting that "Freewheelin'" is an older track as well, and there is a bootlegged version of this track in its pre-Night Songs version floating around out there if you desire to search for such things. More than any other track on Still Climbing, "Freewheelin'" definitely has that earlier, "hair metal" sound, and is fast and aggressive on this record, but still manages to fit into the tracking order nicely. Seriously, if you have the time, compare that track to something like "Push Push" or "Once Around The Ride" from Night Songs, and I think you will hear some definite similarities in style and sound. And, as most fans of the band likely already know, "Hot & Bothered", which is the only track that drummer Fred Coury performed on, had appeared on the Wayne's World soundtrack in 1992. That means of the 11 songs that made the cut for Still Climbing, only 8 were new tracks.
As far as new material goes, the album is filled with some of the hardest-hitting tunes Cinderella ever recorded, while still managing to keep the bluesy swagger that they had started implementing in a big way with Long Cold Winter. From album opener, "Bad Attitude Shuffle" to the soaring "All Comes Down" to the title track, there is more punch and more grit to this record than anywhere else in their catalog. "Blood From A Stone", which features some great Hammond organ on the intro section, may be the best song the band has ever recorded, and "Easy Come Easy Go" is a barroom-blues rocker that will flat out stomp a hole in a sawdust-covered floor if given the chance. And don't let the acoustic intro of "Road's Still Long" fool you into thinking this number is a ballad, as you will likely be smacked upside the head by the punch of the drums and the the thunder from the bass as this mid-tempo rocker builds to a snarling, gritty peak with Keifer at his absolute vocal best.
For the casual fan who fell in love with the band based on the monster ballad "Don't Know What You've Got (Till It's Gone)", or perhaps that song's older predecessor, "Nobody's Fool", you need look no further than the two MASSIVE ballads from Still Climbing to find something to sink your teeth into! "Hard To Find The Words", a ballad written from Tom to his mother, is a true gem and should be played every Mother's Day by every guy in the world! Tom pours his heart out on this remarkable track, apologizing for who he was and crediting Mom for who he has become. Poignant, but never sappy, "Hard To Find The Words" is truly top-notch songwriting at its best. Not far behind is the equally powerful, "Through The Rain", another inspired piece of balladry that had all but died on rock radio by the time the album was released.
The production on Still Climbing is the best of the band's catalog, as well, with the drum sound, in particular, being excellent, with a lot of punch and a nice, tight sound to the snares. The guitars, from the rhythms to the leads to the slide solos, are just spot-on perfect, and a couple of years off had given Tom the strongest, richest sound from his voice that he had achieved on record since Long Cold Winter for sure, as he was able to hit the raspy highs and the cleaner lows, seemingly with ease...even though Kiefer has gone on record stating that the album was a vocal nightmare for him to make. You'd never know it to hear Still Climbing, as he sounds truly incredible from note one. Sadly, the vocal issues would return in some subsequent shows...of which I attended more than a few...and Tom would have troubles in the live setting for a few years. Thankfully, he has been able to return to singing in recent years with a couple of solo albums, including the really strong The Way Life Goes, and the live videos I have seen of his solo act seem to indicate a lot of his vocal struggles are behind him at this point in his career.
If you have never given this record a chance because of the timeframe it was released it, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Don't assume you are getting Warrant's Ultraphobic or Dokken's Dysfunctional, as there is not a single attempt at grunge or alternative on Still Climbing. All you get is good, hard, blues-based rock that rattles the windows and shakes the floor, regardless of what radio stations and critics were clamoring for at the time. No label support, no official videos, no airplay. None of it mattered, as the band just did what the band wanted to do with Still Climbing. As a result, although they didn't know it at the time, Cinderella brought their career to a close at an all-time high, which is what we should aspire to.
Rating: Such a crankable record, even 27 years later! Crank this to 9.5, as it is darn near perfect and, to state it one more time, possibly the last great record of the hair era!