Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HOODLESS "Music For Jerks"

(c) 2010 Too Big To Fail

  1. Touch & Cry
  2. Waiting
  3. Innocent
  4. Down
  5. GAPO
  6. Say It Loud
  7. Run Away
  8. Be My Whore
  9. Underground
  10. Why So Serious?
Paul Alan--Guitar
B Lee--Bass, Vocals

I have been sitting on this review for a little while now simply because I am not really sure how I would go about categorizing or characterizing the sound of Hoodless.  Sent to me by a friend overseas, I had never heard of this CD...or even the I did a bit of research to see what I was dealing with.  A couple of places said that these guys sounded a lot like Guns N Roses, so I was like, "Alright!  This will be right up my alley!"  I popped the CD in...then immediately did another internet search to see if the people who said Hoodless sounds like GnR had been arrested for possession of drugs or maybe checked into rehab because they sound NOTHING like GnR...period.  They are not even in the same universe, soundwise.  Hoodless has a much more modern production sound, and a far more alternative vibe, than GnR ever had.  On top of that, Twon sounds nothing like Axl Rose...and I mean nothing like Axl, no matter what register he is singing in.  I really don't get the comparison between bands at all, so I'm just going to pretend it doesn't exist out there in cyberspace and I suggest anyone seeking out Hoodless doesn't use the GnR reference when looking to pick up this CD because they will be sorely disappointed.

I keep trying to come up with someone that this band reminds me of, and the closest two comparisons I can come up with are going to be a bit obscure for some people.  For anyone who is a fan of Liberty N Justice, the song "Snake Eat Snake" (found in acoustic form on Independence Day and then plugged-in on Chasing A Cure) is a very good cross-reference to Twon's vocal style, at least on several of the songs, but the music doesn't match LnJ's melodic hard rock.  Interestingly, Twon also reminds me of a lower-register Jani Lane at times. I say this is interesting because musically, if there is anyone who bothered to pick up Warrant's Ultraphobic album, there are some similarities to the bizarre althernative slant that Warrant took there, but this disc is not a Warrant album by any stretch, either.      

The album opener, "Touch & Cry", is about as modern as it gets in everything from the downtuned, somewhat fuzzy guitars to the stop-and-go song structure to the production quality.  This song is something of an oddity, however, as it is not really representative of the entire album and may give first-time listeners the wrong impression of where the band is at.  I say this because the band doesn't stick to this style even on the next song.  "Waiting", the second track on the disc, is more of a sludgy, yet still melodic song...but this isn't who or what Hoodless really is, either.  Track three, "Innocent" takes yet another angle and heads off into a very alternative-sounding direction, giving us three songs with three very different feels overall.  However, it is the third, more alternative-yet-melodic sound that Hoodless seems to prefer for the majority of their songs.  There are a couple of numbers where they are a bit heavier than on others, with "Be My Whore" and "Why So Serious" both being pretty heavy songs, but I think Hoodless is at their best when they keep things more melodic, such as on the album's strongest cut, "Down".  "Run Away" is another good example of their alternative take on melodic hard rock.      

One thing that disappoints me is the fact that this band has two guitar players yet they rarely use this to their benefit.  There are no great lead-over-rhythm guitar parts that really hook the listener in.  There are solos, yes, but they are rather subdued for the most part and never really grab you by the ears and shake themselves into your head.  The band is tight, there is no question, but lacking any real punch to most of the songs.

The packaging is incredibly basic, with no lyrics, thank you's, or really any information other than the very basics, to be found anywhere.  It is also a dreaded digipack, which... say it all together, readers...I HATE, but these things are likely due to budgetary restrictions on this independent project. 

Overall, it's really hard for me to get a feel for where this album is going most of the time.  Are they hard rock?  Are they alternative?  Do they want to be heavy?  Do they want to be melodic?  All in all, I think fans of the late 1990's heavy alternative scene will likely find a lot to like about Hoodless and Music For Jerks, but it is a bit out of place in 2011.  The overall lack of a consistent musical direction hurts a bit, but I think the band has talent and potential if they could just figure out what they want to sound like and stick to it.  I can't honestly say, however, that this is an album that I, or many of the other readers of Glitter2Gutter, are likely to pull out and play very often.  

Rating:  Rock this at 5.5.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

RANSOM "Ransom"

(c) 1991 Intense Records/2010 Intense Millenium Records

  1. Lasting Love
  2. Rumors
  3. Memories Of You
  4. Fool That I Am
  5. Break Into Darkness
  6. Tonight
  7. Etched In Stone
  8. Fallen Angel
  9. Your Broken Heart
  10. I'll Never Leave You
  11. When I Die
  12. Sticks & Stones (I.M. Bonus Track)
  13. Sin Killer (I.M. Bonus Track)
  14. To Be Like You (I.M. Bonus Track)
  15. All My Heart (unlisted I.M. Bonus Track)
Lisa Faxon--Vocals
Tony Ortiz--Guitars
Michael Ciado--Bass
Randy Kantor--Drums

Ransom was, quite likely, the best of the fully-female fronted Christian bands of the "hair era".  Not only did Lisa Faxon have some incredibly strong vocals, the band, as a whole, was very talented, with guitar player Tony Ortiz being one of the better axe slingers you have probably never heard.  Ciado and Kantor are no slouches on their respective instruments as well, and, as a result, Ransom the band put out a very good album in Ransom...the...uh...album.

Stylistically, the album is very much in the vein of the Sunset Strip bands of the time, often compared with bands like Ratt or even Dokken at times, and when they are rocking out they are considerably more powerful than a band like Vixen or Femme Fatale.  Personally, I think the band's sound is far more in line with a band like White Lion than anyone as they are extremely melodic and Ortiz has a definite Vito Bratta feel to his playing.  This is evident right from the start with the very hook-oriented "Lasting Love" which, after a keyboard intro, sets the album off rocking right from the start.  There was actually a video that was recorded for this song (I think it can still be found on YouTube) that I think would have been a nice addition to this package, but that is of minor importance.  What is important is the energy that this band put into the music here, with Ortiz ripping off a very catchy lead and Lisa's vocals searing their way through this excellent opener.  "Rumors" is another great rocker that I think a lot of people will swear they have heard before, especially when the guitars kick in, as it is an excellent song that really encompasses the entire Hollywood sound.

The next track is an anti-suicide ballad called "Memories Of You".  The song has a very powerful message that Lisa really wraps her silky vocals around and, as per usual, Ortiz layers in an excellent, emotional solo.  "Fool That I am" does just that...fools the listener into thinking they are getting another ballad with the intro, but it eventually kicks into a song that, at least based on the intro and guitar lead-in, will have people thinking they are hearing White Lion's "Wait".    

"Break Into Darkness" is another stand-out track featuring some killer double-bass by Kantor, and "Etched In Stone" has a scorching guitar rhythm and a pretty heavy bottom end that really grabs the listener.  Both also give Faxon a chance to add a bit of snarl to her voice, which is pretty cool and gives her a more distinct sound than anything Vixen ever put down.  The same can be said of "Fallen Angel", which is another good, up-tempo rocker, although it is a bit more in the classic hard rock vibe than the more metallic approach taken on other songs.  Meanwhile, "I'll Never Leave You" is a ballad that has that real lighter-in-the-air feel that would have gone over extremely well live, I think.

There are a couple of minor misses here.  "Tonight" is just too sugary for me musically, (think "Honestly" by Stryper...same icky, syrupy feel...including the tinkling keyboards) but it does feature some very strong Christian-themed lyrics that don't venture into the preachy territory that many secular fans would turn off immediately.  "Your Broken Heart", while not bad, doesn't do a lot for me and sounds like the most obvious stab at radio, although it does contain another KILLER solo by Ortiz.  "When I Die" is another strong song lyrically, but it is something of a throw-away track for me as it is completely acoustic and is very...VERY...short, at just over 2:30 on the clock.     

The best part of the re-issue is the bonus tracks which were taken from the 1988 demo Once And For All.  In all honesty, these four songs are the strongest that Ransom ever recorded, in my opinion, and it is very easy to see why the band got signed based on the strength of this demo.  "Sin Killer" is a full-bore rocker that really showcases Faxon's vocals.  "Sticks And Stones" has an incredibly catchy chorus and some very strong fretwork from Ortiz, however there is a bit of tape warble that comes from the tape that this was taken from.  It does not make the song unlistenable, and actually adds a bit of charm to it for old-school fans like myself, but it is too bad that a more pristine copy of the demo couldn't be found for remastering.  "To Be Like You" is a ballad that, as with "Sticks And Stones" suffers from the source tape, but again shows an extremely talented band that, with more label support, likely could have gained airplay at the time.  The last song on the album is an unlisted demo track called "All My Heart".  Taken from the pre-Ransom days when the band was called First Aid, this is a mid-tempo rocker and is of much better source quality than the previous two songs.  It is an acoustic-based number at the start, leading the listener to believe they are in for another ballad, but the juice kicks in and Lisa and the Boys set to rocking again, albeit never cranking the tempo up full-bore.  I am not sure why this track is not listed on the disc or the tray insert...I really should ask my friend Bill Bafford of Roxx Productions who was one of the executive producers on this disc.    

Incidentally, for collectors who may seek out the original 1991 version, the cover artwork is identical, minus the "20th Anniversary Edition" banner that runs across the lower right-hand corner.  Howver, I would STRONGLY encourage you to pick up the reissue.  The eleven songs have all been remastered and have far superior sound, plus the addition of the demos is a great touch.  The of both have the lyrics to all eleven of the originals, and each has one picture not found in the other (the reissue has a black-and-white band picture, the original has full-color individual pictures).  The reissue does not include any of the thank you's, old fan club information, or booking information.  Those things would have been nice to include, but are not essential.  Some folks may also be turned off by the fat that the new version doesn't have any songwriting credits, but people, let me help you out:  Lisa wrote nearly all the lyrics and Ortiz most of the music, with a couple of credits also going to Ciado for the music.  Overall, this is an excellent album that not enough people have had the opportunity to hear.  The most unfortunate thing about how good this disc is how much of a letdown the follow up is...but that's for a later review.

Rating:  Crank this to a very solid 8!

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    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    VARIOUS ARTISTS "Reborn In Sleaze: Tribute To Dave Lepard"

    (c) 2011 Street Symphonies
    1. Knokk 'Em Down (performed by Midnite Sun)
    2. Riot In Everyone (performed by Speed Stroke)
    3. Queen Obscene (69 Shots) (performed by Skull Daze)
    4. Breakin' The Chainz (performed by Peep Show)
    5. Needle In Your Eye (performed by Superhorrorfuck)
    6. Tikket (performed by Ragdolls)
    7. Out Of Line (performed by Cyanide 4)
    8. It's A Miracle (performed by DNR)
    9. Straight Outta Hell (performed by Hell In The Club)
    10. Back On Trakk (performed by Shining Line)
    11. Lost Horizons [bonus track] (performed by Black Rain)
    It's hard to believe we are coming up on the sixth anniversary of the death of Dave Lepard, the charismatic original lead vocalist of Crashdiet.  January 20, 2006 seems like a long time ago in some respects, and yet it seems not all that long ago that Crashdiet was bursting onto the scene and playing a massive role in the explosion of the Swedish sleaze scene.  Following the well-received, self-titled EP that the band released in 2001, they EXPLODED with the amazing Rest In Sleaze album in 2005, the last with Lepard as the vocalist.  It is from this record that this tribute album is created; this tribute is a complete track-for-track re-creation of Rest In Sleaze with bands who were contemporaries of Crashdiet or who burst through the door that Crashdiet had kicked open.

    Due to the fact that most people who are going to purchase this album are already fans of the band, I am not going to really get too deeply into the style and sound of each song, unless it is significantly changed by the contributing band.  Rather, I intend to speak more to the performance of each band and the overall feel of the album and I will attempt to give each track at least a cursory rating on an individual basis.

    Things start off with Midnite Sun, a relatively unheard of band, tackling one of the band's better known songs, "Knokk You Down".  While the music is extremely faithful to the original here, I can't say I am a big fan of the vocals, especially on the chorus.  The lead singer sounds like he is being strangled a bit as he tries to produce extra power on some of the higher notes here.  Is this the usual sound of Midnite Sun?  I can't say, as I have never heard these guys before.  Track rating:  6.5

    Next up is Speed Stroke's take on "Riot In Everyone", which has always been one of my favorite Crashdiet songs.  Speed Stroke is again very faithful to the sound of the original, but I want to comment that the guitar work on the solo here is excellent, and the bass work is phenomonal!  I really like the way the band put this song together and the vocalist is far more than simply competent here.  I will be tracking this band down to hear how they sound on their own material, as I was very impressed here.  Track rating:  9

    Skull Daze, a band which I have liked for quite some time, lends their considerable talents to "Queen Obscene/69 Shots", which is, once again, one of the best scorchers that Crashdiet has recorded.  The vocals here are closer in attitude to what people expect from the first Crashdiet record and the music, while a bit simple, is still pretty faithful to the original overall.  There are no suprises here, but it is still a fun listen.  Track rating:  7.5

    Peep Show is another band that I am not overly familiar with, but they do a solid job with "Breakin' The Chainz".  My main complaint here is the guitar solo is changed up quite a bit from the original and the gang vocals are missing.  To me, this detracts quite a bit from the feel of the song.  I am not looking for a complete clone here, but those big vocals are part of what I love about this song.  The lead singer is definitely good and he has a lot of snarl and attitude to his voice, which I love.  I will also be tracking this band down soon...  Track rating:  7

    Superhorrorfuck...well, they are a band that is kind of in their own league, and I was frankly surprised to see them on this tribute.  It's not that they can't perform this style of music, as they actually do a credible job overall, but these guys are more known for their horror-punk style than the sleaze they contribute here with "Needle In Your Eye".  Lead vocalist, Dr. Freak, uses his lower, snarling register to good effect here, and I like the pounding drums which are especially evident at the end of the track.  This is one of the more groove-based songs from the original album, but Superhorrorfuck dismisses a bit of that style for a more straight-forward sleaze sound that works pretty well.  Not as faithful musically as some tracks, but a pleasant surprise, nonetheless.  Track rating:  8.

    Speaking of horror-punk, Ragdolls are up next with "Tikket".  If you go back and re-read my review of this band's album, everything I said then still stands true now.  The talent is definitely there, especially musically, but Vikki Violence's voice just lacks a lot of emotion or inflection, so it kind of falls flat on this song.  Musically, the band absolutely shreds this song to pieces and I really like what they are attempting to do here.  I'm not going to skip the effort by any means, but I just wish Vikki did more with his vocals than growling and snarling in a "hey, I just gargled with glass" kind of way.  Track rating:  6.5

    "Tast of cyanide" is part of the chorus to the song "Out Of Line", so perhaps it comes as no surprise that Cyanide 4 takes on this song.  As such, these guys turn this song into more of a straight-up hair metal song than a sleaze song, which should be expected by anyone who has heard this very good, very talented band before.  The solos are a bit cleaner than the sleaze-drenched sound Crashdiet utilized on the original, and the vocals are definitely smoother, but the band makes it work.  This is the closest any of the bands really comes to changing the overall feel and sound of a track, and they do it well.  I like what Cyanide 4 has done here.  Track rating:  7.5

    I don't know anything about DNR, but they contribute to this tribute with "It's A Miracle".  This is easily my least favorite effort on the album as it sounds like it was rushed a bit.  The vocals are off, for a lack of a better word, and the backing vocals are out of tune in spots.  The lead guitar player shows some flash and flair on a very short solo here, but overall I am just not impressed with this effort.  Track rating:  5

    Hell In The Club has really made a name for themselves over the past couple of years and they contribute one of the top songs to this disc.  These Italians do an excellent job with "Straight Outta Hell", adding a bit more distortion to the guitars and vocalist Dave Moras lends an edge to his otherwise generally smooth vocals to really nail this song.  Hell In The Club is hitting on all cylinders on this track and it is definitely a worthy contribution.  If you haven't done so yet, you should track this band down as soon as you can...really good stuff.  Track rating:  8.5

    Shining Line is yet another band I know nothing about, but I will be seeking them out because they have obvious talent.  Once again, a bit more of a hair metal band than a sleaze band, but they do a very good job with original album closer "Back on Trakk".  The vocals lend themselves more to the style of a Ron Keel than anything that comes immediately to mind, but since I love Keel, that's not a problem at all!  The guitars are very good, if a bit simplified on the solo, and the band has a very solid feel overall.  Definitely a band I want to hear more from and a good one to include here.  Track rating:  7.5 

    The closing track is a bonus track by Swedish veterans, Black Rain.  "Lost Horizons" is a song that can be found on the Crashdiet Unreleased Demos compilation, and it is easily one of my favorite songs these guys ever recorded.  Why it didn't make it onto an album, I am not sure.  Black Rain absolutely nails the feel and emotion of this ballad, which is not surprising as I think Black Rain is quite possibly the reigning kings of the Swedish glam/sleaze scene now.  This is a killer, killer song that wraps up this very good tribute in excellent fashion, and it also gives casual fans a song they may not have heard previously.  Track rating:  solid, solid 10.

    Overall, this is an excellent tribute to a voice that was silenced far too soon.  While I have enjoyed every Crashdiet album that has been released, both with and without Dave, there is something about Rest In Sleaze that always calls me back in a way that the others don't (with the exception of the equally excellent Generation Wild album).  Reborn In Sleaze is not only a great way to remember Dave and his music, but it is also a chance for people to hear some new bands doing songs they may already be familiar with.  Street Symphonies did themselves and the memory of Dave Lepard proud with this tribute, and I strongly suggest sleaze fans track this down.

    Rating:  Tributes are tough to rate as a general rule, but I would strongly recommend cranking this one to 7.5, which is just a notch or two below what I give the original!  (by the way...pull out a calculator and do the math...7.5 is almost EXACTLY what the track average is!  Just sayin'....)

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    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    SCORPIONS "Comeblack"

    (c) 2011 Sony Music

    1. Rhythm Of Love (new)
    2. No One Like You (new)
    3. The Zoo (new)
    4. Rock You Like A Hurricane (new)
    5. Blackout (new)
    6. Still Loving You (new)
    7. Wind Of Change (new)
    8. Tainted Love (Gloria Jones)
    9. Children Of The Revolution (T. Rex)
    10. Across The Universe (Beatles)
    11. Tin Soldier (Small Faces)
    12. All Day and All of the Night (Kinks)
    13. Ruby Tuesday (Rolling Stones)
    Klaus Meine--Vocals
    Rudolph Schenker--Guitars, Vocals
    Matthias Jabs--Guitars
    James Kottak--Drums
    Pawel Maciwoda--Bass

    Why?  That is really the only question I can ask when I listen to the "new" album by the supposedly-retiring Scorpions.  Why would you take some of the greatest songs you have ever recorded (at least from the casual fan's perspective) and re-record them, then toss in a rather odd selection of cover tunes?  The ONLY thing I can think of is that this is a contract fulfiller for the band, officially getting the last album of a deal with Sony out of the way or something similar.  Otherwise, there is really no reason for this record to even be made.

    Is it terrible?  No, not necessarily.  The re-recordings are fine musically, with Schenker and Jabs still showing their considerable skill on the guitar, and the new rhythm section of Kottak and Maciwoda is definitely solid and tight, giving these songs some killer foundations.  Even Meine sounds to be in pretty good form, although I think he has lost just a tiny bit of range which leads some of these songs to sound like they were recorded in a lower register, and the guitars downtuned a bit to match the vocals.  Again, these re-recordings aren't terrible, but to clarify the issue I have with these new recordings, as I was sitting here listening to the songs as I started sketching out my thoughts, my wife who is no more than a casual fan said to me, "why are you reviewing this?  I'm sure it's been reviewed a thousand times....".  What did she mean?  She thought the songs were the SAME RECORDINGS!  There is not enough of a difference musically to really distinguish the older recordings from the new.  Really the two main differences are: 1)  the production on a song like "The Zoo" or even "Hurricane" is quite a bit cleaner and beefed up a bit due to newer studio technology, and 2) the previously mentioned lower-register vocals employed by Meine.  Really, that's just about it for differences, which takes me back to my original question of "why?".

    As to the covers, well, I guess you could say at least they aren't the tried-and-true covers that everyone has done to death.  The best two, in my opinion (and that is why you are reading this, correct?) would be the cover of the Kinks classic, "All Day And All Of The Night", and the Stones' "Ruby Tuesday", but even these sound a bit tired in the execution.  "Children..." has always been one of my favorite T. Rex songs, and while the Scorps do a credible version, it lacks that glammy sound and energy that the original had.  "Tainted Love" isn't terrible, but it really doesn't do anything to substantially upgrade the song and is kind of, well, flat as far as energy.   "Across The Universe" is just one of the most grating Beatles songs I have ever heard (sorry to all Beatles fans out there) and I skip this cover every time I hear it.  The Small Faces cover of "Tin Soldier" is just kind of there, not really bad but not overly good, either.  It seems like the band could have done more with this song, but I'm so jaded by covers now that they have become the "in thing" for bands to do that I really just don't find myself overly moved by ANY cover song I hear now, with the exception of a couple of Stryper's efforts and a small handful of others.  (On at least a semi-ironic side note, Stryper's cover of the Scorpions' "Blackout" is one of the best covers on THAT band's disc....)

    So, after reading through the entire review do you see my point?  Why bother recording this album?  The covers, while decent, aren't overly inspiring in the performance, and the re-recordings don't do anything to substantially separate themselves from the originals.  So, in essence, I am sitting here with an album that is half greatest hits, half covers, and wholly a waste of recording time for a band that really could have gone out on a high note with their last studio effort, Sting In The Tail.  I'm still guessing that we are going to hear a new Scorpions disc in the not-so-distant future, but they will be on a different label and we will find out, as I have speculated, that this is simply a contractual obligations killer of an album.

    Rating:  Rock this at a pretty average 6...nothing terrible, nothing special.

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    RED ROSE "Live The Life You've Imagined"

    (c) 2011 Barkerteam/Scarlet Records

    1. Turn Back The Time
    2. Name On The Stone
    3. The Last Drop
    4. Gone With The Sunrise
    5. Live The Life You've Imagined
    6. Dreamer
    7. Tough To Love
    8. When The Sun Goes Down
    Leve Laiter--Vocals
    Elnur Aliev--Guitars
    Deion Kristen--Keyboards
    Eli Reeve--Bass

    Hailing from Israel, Red Rose, to my ears, is a bit more progressive, AOR-ish version of Helloween, incorporating big, soaring vocals (that sound more than just a little like Helloween's Michael Kiske), melodic-yet-powerful keyboards, and some excellent guitar work.  In fact, it is the guitars of Elnur Aliev that really keep my interest here, as if it wasn't for the harder edge that his axe brings to many of these songs, I fear the project would have drifted off into a keyboard-burdened progressive/AOR fluff album that reeks of potential but never delivers.  That is NOT the case here, as Aliev saves the day on numerous occasions and helps this young band deliver an album that is reminiscent of the late 1980's fledgling power metal scene combined with an arena rock sensibility.

    Admittedly, I was a bit fearful upon hearing the very first track, because if the rest of the album had been this heavily dominated by keyboards, I would have shelved it without hesitation.  "Turn Back The Time" is not a poorly written song by any means, it is just done in a style that holds absolutely zero interest for me as it is just too keyboard-driven and, for some unknown reason, Aliev's guitars are relegated to little more than rhythm playing with no discernable solo to enliven the track.  Yes, folks...I was VERY worried about this album after this song.

    "Name On The Stone" went a long way to disspelling those fears, however, as Aliev's chugging guitar work on the song kicks in instantly, giving a completely different sound and life to this song that that of the previous track.  "The Last Drop" is a bit more mid-tempo, but it is another solid song with an excellen guitar solo which I found very reminiscent of the solo on W.A.S.P.'s song, "The Crimson Idol".  It is not a rip-off, but it has a very similar feel...which, trust me, is a very good thing to my ears, as that is one of my favorite guitar solos in all of hard rock and metal.  "Gone With The Sunrise" is another edgier, harder rocking track with some very nice guitar work and some solid bass and drum work in the background, and once again, the Helloween similarities are glaring to me. 

    The title track veers almost fully into 80's AOR/arena rock territory, leaving behind the power metal stylings of the first handful of songs, and it works very well.  In fact, this is a style that I think fits the band very well, with the music reminding me a bit of Pretty Maids from that same late 80's/early 90's era.  Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the album was produced by none other than Tommy Hanson, producer of what many consider to be the Pretty Maids' definitive album, Future World, along with guessed it...Helloween!  Sure, there is still a keyboard flourish here near the end of the track, but overall, this is a much more straight forward rocker that I wish the band would have used throughout this disc.

    From here we go back into quasi German power metal mode with "Dreamer", which again reeks of Helloween worship.  "Tough To Love" is a short but gritty number that takes us back to more of a straight ahead classic metal feel, although we now have a bit of Hammond organ-sounding keyboard mixed in along with some great rhythm work from Aliev.  The album closes with an acoustic song, which I honestly felt should have been left off the album as it doesn't fit anything else the band recorded here.  Now, if there were two or three more tracks to follow, I wouldn't have had an issue with the inclusion of "When The Sun Goes Down", but to close an otherwise fairly hard rocking album in such a bland fashion is a considerable let down, especially considering how short the album is.

    With just 8 songs here which add up to just a hair over 35 minutes, this album can't afford to have throw away songs.  Unfortunately, I find myself skipping both the first and last tracks when I put this album in, which cuts down on my enjoyment of the album.  Still, I am left with six tracks of solid German-inspired metal that has Tommy Hansen's production skills just dripping from them, which is a good thing for fans of Pretty Maids, Helloween, PC69, Jorn, etc.  If Red Rose can take what they have learned here, come up with a solid ten or eleven songs, and really let Aliev's guitars come rocking through at full-force, this band is on to something, even if that something is not overly original or ground breaking.  A solid debut effort with just a couple of hiccups; unfortunately, those hiccups come at the very beginning and very end of the album, which is a distraction, to say the least.

    One note to those seeking out Red Rose:  this is an album which I have only found on import CD sites and it is rather costly, sometimes fetching between $30 and $40.  Keep this in mind when hunting down an album of such short playtime....  Check out their stuff on YouTube or elsewhere on the 'Net before you drop any serious coin on this disc.

    Rating:  Rock this at a very promising 6.5 and keep Red Rose on your list of bands to watch out for in coming years. 

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    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    NICKELBACK "Here And Now"

    (c) 2011 Roadrunner Records

    1. This Means War
    2. Bottoms Up
    3. When We Stand Together
    4. Midnight Queen
    5. Gotta Get Me Some
    6. Lullaby
    7. Kiss It Goodbye
    8. Trying Not To Love You
    9. Holding On To Heaven
    10. Everything I Wanna Do
    11. Don't Ever Let It End
    Chad Kroeger--Lead Vocals, Lead and Rhythm Guitar
    Ryan Peake--Lead and Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
    Mike Kroeger--Bass
    Daniel Adair--Drums, Backing Vocals

    The Kroeger Brothers and their little band called Nickelback are...umm....back, so let the cat-scratching and hair-pulling begin!  Seriously, there is no doubt this album is going to be slagged on by half of the rock world and absolutely adored by the other half, and the two groups basically can't find middle ground.  I do not know if there is a more polarizing band in hard rock right now, and I really don't get it.  People who think that Nickelback can't rock out with the majority of the modern era of hard rock bands most likely have never heard anything other than the radio singles (of which there are several here), or they have never listened to anything mellower than Slayer, Overkill or old-school Metallica.  The whole "post-grunge" label that is stuck on the band is outdated and irrelevant, as, for the most part, Nickelback left that sound behind several albums ago and have come out the other side as pretty much just a straight-up hard rocking band that releases albums featruing absolute rockers, a couple of ballads, and one or two "party" type songs.  This is especially true of 2008's Dark Horse album and now this new offering, Here And Now

    This new album starts off on a definite hard-rocking note with "This Means War", a driving, up-tempo number that sounds like a direct continuation of the sound that was used on the hardest numbers on Dark Horse.  Kroeger (Chad that is...) rips through the vocals here in semi-angry fashion, especially on the chorus, and the guitars rip things up nicely here. 

    Follow-up track, the rock-radio single "Bottoms Up" slows things down just a bit, but not into ballad territory or anything like that.  The song features pretty much your standard hard rock style with some more snarling guitars, a drinking theme, and even some retro guitar effects being used, which really gives the listener the feeling that Nickelback is going out of their way to completely shed that stupid post-grunge tag, going for a far more straight forward sound, which works very well.

    "When We Stand Together" is pretty much the type of pop-radio track that just gives Nickelback bashers fodder for their cannons, but damn if it isn't catchy with it's danceable drumbeat and group "hey-ey-ey-yeah's".  Lyrically, the track features a solid message, much like their previous "If Today Was Your Last Day" effort.  Haters will hate it, lovers will love it...period. 

    The album kicks back into overdrive with the smoking "Midnight Queen", and several more hard-rockers that follow such as "Gotta Get Me Some", which reminds me a lot of "Shakin' Hands" from Dark Horse albeit just a tad slower. "Kiss It Goodbye" is another pounding rock number with a huge arena feel to it that will have fans singing along instantly.  "Everything I Wanna Do" is like "Animals" on steroids, although it is done in a sleazier, groove-driven way that is a hard rock sexual soundtrack.  While managing to keep the lyrics PG-13 (suggestive but never filthy), the band leaves no doubts as to what they are hinting at here.     

    There are also a couple of blatant radio stabs, which I think people have to expect from Nickelback.  "
    "Trying Not To Love You" and "Holding On To Heaven" both have Top Ten written all over them and will likely be video hits as well if the band chooses to release them.  But is the fact that these songs are mid-tempo or ballad material that teens and women are going to love a good enough reason to hate this band?  I don't think so...not at all.  Remember the power ballad era of the late 80's?  Who do you think those songs were written for?  Why do you think they were released as singles?  To get the women to the shows and to get the bands airplay.  Hey, it's a formula that has proven to work, so if it ain't broke, as they say...

    Is this the best Nickelback album ever?  That depends largely on what you like from the band.  If you are after the harder sound of Dark Horse, or even the harder edges of All The Right Reasons then Here And Now may be the best of this style the band has offered thus far.  If you are more inclined toward the "post-grunge" (what does that even mean?!) of Silver Side Up or The State, you are likely to be disappointed.  And, if you are someone who just wants to bag on anything and everything this band will have plenty to work with because this is a 100% Nickelback record.  They don't try to be someone they are not and Chad's vocals are exactly what they have always been...which is good, or bad, depending on your slant.

    Rating:  You're gonna hear it here, first....crank this to 8.5 and let the hating begin!

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    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    SLASH featuring Myles Kennedy "Live--Made In Stoke 24/7/11"

    (c) 2011 Armoury Records

    CD 1
    1. Been There Lately
    2. Nightrain
    3. Ghost
    4. Mean Bone
    5. Back From Cali
    6. Rocket Queen
    7. Civil War
    8. Nothing To Say
    9. Starlight
    10. Promise
    CD 2
    1. Doctor Alibi
    2. Speed Parade
    3. Watch This
    4. Beggars & Hangers On
    5. Patience
    6. Godfather Solo
    7. Sweet Child O' Mine
    8. Slither
    9. By The Sword
    10. Mr. Brownstone
    11. Paradise City
    I am not really much of a live CD fan, to be honest.  Generally, I think that most of these CD's leave me wanting for one reason or another.  Either the mix is bad, the performances are bad, or it is painfully obvious that the music has been over-dubbed or touched up in the studio to the point that the music no longer sounds live.  Additionally, most live CD's leave out the songs I really want to hear in favor of the "hits", which is, to be fair, the obvious move for artists and labels who are trying to move product.  I am happy to say that, for the most part, Slash's new live CD surpasses my expectations in pretty much every area and that I found myself really enjoying this 2-disc live set which features Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge on lead vocals.

    With so much material to comb through, I think Slash did a pretty good job of including something from just about every album he has ever done, regardless of the project.  "Ghost", "By The Sword", "Promise", and of course the Kenneydy co-writes "Back To Cali" and "Starlight" are all taken from his recent solo effort, "Slither" comes from the first Velvet Revolver album, "Been There Lately", "Mean Bone", and "Beggars & Hangers On", are all Snakepit songs, and the rest...well, anyone who doesn't recognize the tracks from the GnR catalog probably won't bother picking this live set up anyway.  I do think a couple more Velvet Revolver songs could have been included, especially "Fall To Pieces", which I would have loved to have heard Myles tackle, but there are going to be favorites of everybody's that are left off, right? 

    The GnR selections are particularly strong, and it was interesting to hear Kennedy's more traditional, blusier singing style as opposed to Axl's trademarked screeching howl on songs like "Nightrain" and "Rocket Queen".  Not surprising, however, was the way that Kennedy was able to take on a song like "Patience", or even "Mr. Brownstone", as both of these songs lend themselves more to singing, at least in my opinion.  Of course, "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Paradise City" had to be included, and Kennedy pulled both of these classics off well. 

    Much to my surprise, Disc One starts off with a song a lot of fans probably don't even know, as it is a much underrated Snakepit song called "Been There Lately", which I think really showed the strength of the entire band right from the start.  Jumping right into "Nightrain" was probably a good idea as this gave the crowd something extremely familiar following something maybe half of the audience knew well.  From there, Slash and Co. jump back into lesser known material, either with new stuff from his solo album, or with Snakepit songs.  "Civil War" was an interesting choice of Guns songs to include, in my opinion, as I always felt that Axl's attitude and vocal approach were a huge part of this song.  Myles does a very good job of taking a powerful song and adding to it, especially when he uses his lower register vocals.  An unexpected inclusion here turns into quite possibly the best song on Disc One, although the extended "Rocket Queen", "Ghost", and "Starlight" are all done very well, also.  

    Disc Two is the stronger of the two, in my opinion, as Slash spends more time on classics and less on the newer stuff.  A huge part of this is the whistle-free "Patience" (Myles tells the crowd to whistle if they want to because he can't...), the only Velvet Revolver track, "Slither", and the two biggest songs in the GnR catalog, "Sweet Child" and "Paradise City".  This disc also features the MONSTROUS guitar clinic Slash puts on for the listener, but more on that in a bit.  I was glad that he found a way to incorporate "Beggars & Hangers On", as I have always felt that this was one of the best Snakepit songs on record and I always wished that Guns N Roses would have had the chance to record it live.  While this is not GnR, it is really cool to hear this track in a live setting and I think Myles nails the vocals.    Now...about that guitar solo....  Guitar enthusiasts will probably really find themselves utterly drooling over the 10:31 long "Godfather Solo" that flows right out of "Patience".  There is very good reason for this slobberfest amongst listeners, as Slash really runs the gamut as far as styles and sounds on this solo. Long bluesy sections, short bursts of frenetic speed, and some flat-out rocking sections (which include the full band at times) really make for an interesting listen here that is leaps and bounds better than so many of the "hey, look at me run the fretboard"-types of solos that we are exposed to on live albums and in concerts.

    One thing to note is that just because you have heard most of these tracks, especially the GnR and VR songs, a thousand times does not mean that you can predict 100% accurately how they are going to come off in a live setting, as Slash does not stick to the tried-and-true solo in each of these.  This is particularly evident in "Rocket Queen", for example, where he deviates considerably from the solo that is on the record.  In fact, very few times is the song performed to the exact note the way that it was originally put to tape, so I get the feeling that a lot of this is actual concert material and not studio overdub.  There are a couple of spots where it sounds so clear that I have my doubts as to the "live" nature of the song, but not many, so I am pretty pleased with that much of it.

    One thing I don't like is when lead singers "take a break" and let the audience take over the vocals.  Kennedy does this...a LOT...especially on the Guns tracks here.  I do understand why, as the people love these songs and they love to sing along...we all do it at concerts.  However, if a band knows they are recording live, I wish the singer would do the majority of the singing, even on crowd favorites.  This is a relatively small point, however, but when you have a singer of Kennedy's ability, I really want to hear him sing and not Drunk Joe and his 18 buddies that are able to scream louder than anyone else around in the crowd, know what I mean?

    The liner notes, while fairly extensive, aren't really all that interesting, but I guess they are a good read one time.  There are a couple of pictures included as well.  There is an import version of this set available that also comes with a DVD, but as someone who is not a fan of watching his music (I've said this many times...), I don't feel compelled to track it down.

    All in all, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with this package, at least musically, and I think there is a good chance that I will pull this out more frequently than the live Guns N Roses album from several years back.  It's a relatively inexpensive set if you look around (I've found it for under $12.00 in a couple of places), so fans of Slash, Guns, or just live albums in general would do well to pick this up.

    Rating:  Crank this to 7, which is pretty high praise for me when rating a live disc.

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    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    VAIN "Enough Rope"

    (c) 2011 Music By Mail

    1. Greener
    2. Triple X
    3. Hot Stage Lights
    4. Stray Kitten Burns
    5. Cindy
    6. Treasure Girl
    7. Enough Rope
    8. Solid Gold
    9. Distance Of Love
    10. vain
    11. Worship You
    Davy Vain--Vocals, Guitar
    Danny West--Guitar
    Jamie Scott--Guitar
    Ashley Mitchell--Bass
    Tommy Rickard--Drums

    Additional Musicians:
    Fraser Lunney--Bass
    Louie Senor--Drums

    At first it was just the name acts from the 1980's that were making, or at least attempting, comebacks.  I'm not talking the Great Whites, Dokkens, Scorpions, or any other band that never truly went away.  I'm talking about those who were several years or multiple line-up changes between know, top-notch bands like Ratt, Winger, Night Ranger, Warrant, etc.  Then, second tier bands like Keel, King Kobra, Nelson, and recently Bang Tango, got into the mix, which was actually really cool because so many of these bands were seriously underrated.  But now, it seems like ANYONE who put out ANYTHING in the hair era is trying to jump on the reunion bandwagon or at least get in on the nostalgia shows.  I mean, Little Caesar?  And now Vain?  Is there no stop here?  Or, is the question "should there be a stop?"  Is it really such a bad thing that smaller bands are trying for one last stab at glory...even if they never really had any glory to begin with?   Well, if you read this blog with any regularity, you already know what I think of the atrocious Little Caesar return, but what about Vain's latest effort?  I mean, Davy and Co. put out several albums, although Vain was never exactly a household name and the only truly notable album the band ever released was No Respect, and that album came out 22 years ago!  What can we really expect from a band like Vain if they release something new?

    The answer is...apparently quite a bit!  In many ways, Enough Rope is the follow-up that No Respect should have had in the first place.  This is a very solid, very entertaining piece of music which is saying quite a bit because, honestly, I have not liked much of anything Vain has done since 1989.  Sure, there were songs here and there, but as a whole, there is not a single Vain album I have liked in its entirety since No Respect until this new album.

    The first thing that stands out is that it is amazing to me that Davy sounds almost exactly the same here as he did 20-some years ago.  Not a lot of singers can say that.  I'm not saying that lead singers sound bad after all that time, but very few sound the same...know what I mean?  Davy sounds almost identical to how he sounded on No Respect, and that's a very good thing.  His voice remains powerful, snide in spots, and still drips with the attitude that his vocals have always carried.  This is especially evident on the album opener, "Greener", which slips perfectly into that sleazy mid-tempo groove that Vain used so well all those years ago. 

    Another really cool thing to hear on this album is the guitar work of West and Scott (and, yes, Davy plays guitar also...).  Whether these guys are ripping through the high-speed raunch-and-roll of "Triple X", the groove-heavy "Stray Kitten Burns", or the sludgy-yet-sassy "Cindy", the guitars are extremely strong and right out front in the mix to be easily heard.  Want something bit more radio-friendly and a bit less sleazy?  Check out the classic rock feel of "Vain", the hard rock of "Solid Gold", or even the bottom heavy, mid-tempo groove of the distinctly 80's sounding "Distance Of Love". 

    There are a couple of tracks that are not quite up to the level of the best stuff here, but they aren't terrible at all.  "Treasure Girl" doesn't really do it for me, and the album's closer, "Worship You", while definitely a full-throttle rocker, is a bit too punkish and simplistic for the rest of the album, at least to my ears.  Again, not a terrible song by any means, but it doesn't have the same feel as the rest of the album and kind of sticks out a bit.  The production on this song also seems a tad bit muddy and maybe even over-modulated on the vocals, which gives it kind of a buzzing sound in spots.  Perhaps this was intentional given the punkish feel I alluded to before, but again it just makes the song seem to stick out that much more.

    I don't know that Vain's latest effort is going to cause any rumblings in the hard rock world, but I am sure that if the younger generation of sleaze fans give it a chance to bend their ears they are going to definitely be impressed.  Perhaps it will give some people, both new fans and old, a reason to dig around and find No Respect and breathe some new life into that sleaze classic as well.  If this ends up being the last thing that Vain releases, it will be a perfect bookend on a career that was so promising in 1989 but seemed to lose steam and fizzled in the early 90's.  Start with greatness and finish with greatness and a lot of the mediocrity of the middle will be forgotten...or at least forgiven...right?

    Rating:  Definitely crank this to 7.5, folks....

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    BANG TANGO "Pistol Whipped In The Bible Belt"

    (c) 2011 78 Productions

    1. Dick In The System
    2. Suck It Up
    3. Our Way
    4. Bring On The World
    5. Have You Seen Her
    6. Live Life
    7. I Like It
    8. Boom Box Seance
    9. Drivin
    10. Pistol Whipped in the Bible Belt
    Joe Leste--Vocals
    Scott LaFlame--Guitars
    Lance Eric--Bass, Guitars, Backing Vocals
    Trent Anderson--Drums

    Additional Musicians:
    Alex Grossi--Guitars
    Drew Fortier--Guitars, Backing Vocals
    Darryl Coutts--Keyboard, Piano, Hammond B3 Organ
    Lisa Beery--Backing Vocals
    Nick Beery--Backing Vocals
    Kevin Rodgers--Backing Vocals
    Max Lewis--Backing Vocals

    Bang Tango, at least Joe Leste and the band he calls Bang Tango, is back with their latest studio effort, Pistol Whipped In The Bible Belt.  Not gonna expectations were fairly low for this album as I thought the last two BT efforts, especially From The Hip, were barely average at best, near-torturous to listen to at the worst.  To put it bluntly, they were not Bang Tango at all and fell well short of the mark established by Beautiful Creatures. Leste's (and bassist Lance Eric's) other band.  So, with the band strapping themselves in for another go, I found myself asking, "Why bother?" 

    Well, I'm glad I bothered, at least to a degree, because it gives me some hope that Bang Tango can return to their previous level of performance on the next album they attempt.  Pistol Whipped didn't quite get there, but it got a lot closer than the last couple of albums.  Tracks like "Dick In The System", "Suck It Up" and "Our Way" really had me hoping that the band had fully come all the way back, as they seemed to find a bit of the sleaze magic they had once infused into their sound.  Bang Tango was a very original sounding band in the late 80's/early 90's, and these first few tracks really seemed to be headed in the right direction.  However, the fact that there is still very little in the way of the funkiness that Bang Tango once employed to such great effect keeps this from being a top-notched Bang Tango effort.  Sure, a song like the weird, trippy "Boom Box Seance" is cool and kind of teases you with what Bang Tango used to be about, but other songs, like "Drivin", for example, sound more like they belong on a classic rock radio station than on a Bang Tango disc.  Another track, "Have You Seen Her", sounds like a second-rate Guns N' Roses cover that was inspired by the GnR cover version of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" (got all that?  If you hear the song you will understand, trust me...).

    Leste's voice is still there, and the playing isn't bad, it just isn't Bang Tango.  I think the fact that Grossi is no longer a full-fledged member of the band is a real detriment to the overall sound of this effort.  Grossi does make an appearance on my favorite track here, a song he co-wrote called "Suck It Up", which contains the best solo on the album, as well.  The other guitar players here are competent, but competent isn't creative or amazing or awe-inspiring.  I'm betting they pull off classics like "Wrap My Wings" or "Dancing On Coals" very well live, but these players just don't inject anything overly special in this new batch of songs.  As a result, other than the first three songs, "Boom Box Seance", and the title track, nothing really jumps out at me as being potential Bang Tango classic material.  As a matter of fact, I would be somewhat surprised if more than a couple of these songs even find their way into a current set-list.

    All in all, this is a much better effort than the last couple of discs as far as the quality of the songwriting goes.  I just wish the execution of these songs was a bit more energetic and the guitar work, in particular, left me a bit flat with a couple of exceptions.  On the plus side, the production is surprisingly good for a small indie label that I have never heard of.  The artwork say the least.  And, as I said, fans of Leste's vocals and delivery style won't be overly disappointed as he still sounds to be in pretty good shape.  Not a home run, by any means, but also not a strike out.

    Rating:  Perhaps if the Beautiful Creatures' discs hadn't been so solid this would have come off as being even better for me, but as it stands, I wouldn't rock Pistol Whipped In The Bible Belt at more than a 6. 

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    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    SHIT RAVE "Shit Rave"

    2011 Independent Release

    1. Right Line
    2. When You're Livin' Alone
    3. Suicide Superstars

    Hmmmm....well, when a band calls themselves Shit Rave, you kinda have to wonder what exactly you are getting into when you decide to give their album a spin.  I mean....Shit Rave?  Well, I think this may be one of those cases where a name sounds cooler if you are from a non-English-speaking country, as is the case with this five piece sleaze outfit from Kaliningrad, Russia (never even heard of the place, so I Googled's a Russian seaport city, so there's your geography lesson for the day!).  Shit Rave (man, I feel stupid typing that name...) lists bands such as Skid Row, Guns N Roses, Hardcore Superstar, Pantera, Sex Pistols, and Mars Volta as influences.  While I can tell you there are DEFINITE Skis, GnR, Pistols, and Hardcore Superstar sounds here, I'm not so sure about the Pantera or Mars Volta stuff...but it's their band, so they can be influenced by whomever they choose, right?

    With only three songs on this newly released EP, the band doesn't waste any time with intros or ballads or anything like that.  These guys simply kick the door in, plug in, and immediately start tearing things up with their punked-up sleaze assault!  This is some seriously aggressive music here and it is played with a surprising level of skill.  Considering they have only been a band since 2010, it would seem these guys have spent a lot of time playing and gigging together as they are a very tight unit with a great sound.  The twin guitars of David and Michael are a perfect tag team, and the backline of Romich and Dima rumble and pound their way through each of these high-octane tracks.  Paul's voice has a certain snarl to it that I can't quite put my finger on...he reminds me of someone, but I can't tell you exactly who.  He sticks to an upper-tenor register for the majority of the material and, as he does on a couple of occasions on "Right Line" he is perfectly capable of ripping into a sleaze-infused falsetto screech which serves to accentuate the sound.

    I am not sure who plays lead and who is the rhythm guitarist here, but there are KILLER solos in each of these tracks, with the lead in "Right Line" being one of the better solos I have heard in 2011...seriously.  There is a lot of nimble string-bending going on with this track.  While all of the tracks here are up-tempo rockers, "When You're Livin' Alone" takes things a notch higher, kicking things into more of a punk pace, especially at the outset.  Don't let that fool you, however, into thinking that this is a sloppy song, because it is not.  There are numerous places where the guitars drop in and rip off mini leads, and there is a really cool break-down in the song's tempo at about the 1:45 mark where the entire band slides into a really cool groove and Paul let's his vocals stretch and skate over the top of the funky track.  This is a seriously cool song that has immediately found its way onto my personal mp3 player already...I LOVE this track!  "Suicide Superstars" is another cool track but I think there is some difficulty in lyrical translation on this one as some of the words don't really seem to make sense, at least what I can make out.  I would love to see a lyrics sheet on these songs because, for the most part, the band seems to have a pretty good grasp on English but something sounds off here.  Lyrical problems aside, this is another great, sleazy track that features a simpler, understated solo and some excellent drum work.

    Three songs...two solid efforts and one contender for song of the year for me (I just love "Whe You're Livin' Alone"!).  This is a great start for an extremely promising young band.  Much like the release by John Galt, you would have a very hard time convincing me that this is not a Swedish sleaze band...or even an American Sunset Strip band from back in the day.  Once again, the production on this independent release is excellent with a nearly perfect mix, not allowing any instrument to dominate and not drowning anyone out.  Outside of the possible lyrical misinterpretation, and the really bizarre band name, I have nothing negative to say about this release other than the fact that it is not even 10 minutes long.  If these guys can come up with four or five more tracks of this quality, and maybe work up a seriously kickin', attitude-infused ballad to throw in for the ladies, I think you could be looking at one of the hottest bands of the recent sleaze infusion from Europe!

    Rating:  No reason not to crank this to 9, even if it for only a few minutes!

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    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    JOHN GALT "First Run"

    (c) 2011 Independent Release

    1. Intro
    2. Riot Radio
    3. White Widow
    4. Bad Brotherhood
    Ostap--Vocals, Guitars

    I have to admit, one of the greatest things about doing a blog like this is the chance to get to hear music I might not otherwise hear.  Sometimes it isn't great...other times it is very, very good.  The music on this little EP from the Kharkiv, Ukranian band, John Galt, falls in the latter category.  Taking their name from Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" (they all claim to have read the book), Joh Galt set out to, in their own words, "to be loud, drink till we drop and get the best chicks around!"  While I cannot guarantee those things happening, I am going to guarantee that anyone who gets the chance to hear this little slab of music is going to be impressed. 

    When the band contacted me and asked me to review their EP, I will admit I was not overly keen to do so, as it was released independently and was from the Ukraine.  Now, I'm not being some sort of elitist snob who shuns bands from outside the normal hotbeds of hard rock and all of its sub-genres, but of hands...who can name three huge name bands from the Ukraine?  TIME'S UP!  That's right...none of you could.  I couldn't either.  So, once again, I wasn't expecting a whole lot.  As such, I was pleasantly taken aback by just how good this indy project is!

    For starters, there is virtually no way that even a semi-serious fan of the New Wave of Swedish Sleaze and Hard Rock (I should copyright that name...) could tell me that John Galt was not from Sweden, Italy, or England based on their style and sound.  These guys are that good and have the sound down that perfectly.  In fact, were it not for some slight differences in the vocals, I would have guessed that these were some unreleased tracks from the first Crashdiet album. 

    Skipping the intro, which is just 45 seconds of sound effects and sirens, the band rips right into things with "Riot Radio".  A simple, yet pounding drum intro and some rumbling bass chords get things going before the guitars and Ostap's vocals kick in.  I am not kidding when I say that Ostap sounds a LOT like Crashdiet on this track, not only in tone and sound quality, but also in the way he delivers a line.  It's also nice to hear a foreign band that has at least a grasp of the English language, and there are no glaring mis-steps from a lyrical standpoint.  Some great gang-shouted "hey's" lead up to a nice guitar solo about 3/4 of the way through the track.  Good stuff to be sure!  

    "White Widow" delivers more of the same, with guitars that ooze with the kind of sleazy attitude that makes you believe that the strings have to be de-greased after every performance! Here Ostap's vocals take on just a hint of Ratt's Stephen Pearcy in tone, and the lyrics become a bit "f*bomb heavy", which seems to often be the case with foreign bands for some reason.  Once again, however, there are no glaring lyrical mishaps as far as understanding the language goes, at least that I can pick up on.  The rhythm section is again tight and throbbing, giving this song a solid backbone to work around.

    The EP's closer, "Bad Brotherhood" is more of the same:  Swedish-inspired sleaze with Ostap again channeling Pearcey and his ilk, and the band incorporates probably the strongest guitar solo of the mini-album.  Really good stuff here that makes me very anxious to hear what these Ukranians come up with next! 

    While not always the case with indpendent releases, the production here is very crisp and clean, but not overly polished, allowing the band to keep their attitude and edge intact.  I have no idea about the packaging or anything like that as this is, as far as I can tell, a strictly for download album.  This also means I don't have the lyrics to the song, which I really like having, but this is a minor point.  First Run is free to the public and can be found at .  Do yourself a favor and check this out and see if you don't get the same great vibe from this little tease of an album that I got!  While short on playtime (just over 15 and a half minutes), this band has the chance to go places with their high energy, full-throttle, Swedish-inspired brand of sleaze!!! 

    Rating:  While short on length, this EP is definitely a cranker!  Crank it at 8!