Monday, July 21, 2014

LOVERBOY "Unfinished Business"

(c) 2014 Loverboy Music

  1. Fire Me Up
  2. Counting The Nights
  3. Ain't Such A Bad Thing
  4. Come Undone
  5. Slave
  6. What Makes You So Special
  7. War Bride
  8. Doin' It The Hard Way
  9. You Play The Star
  10.  Crack Of The Whip
Mike Reno--Vocals
Paul Dean--Guitar, Vocals
Doug Johnson--Keyboards
Ken "Spider" Sinneave--Bass
Matt Frenette--Drums

Everywhere you look today, classic 80's bands are reuniting to record new albums, join festivals, or go on tour.  There seems to be no limit to which bands are going to attempt some form of comeback or another, whether taking a serious run at rejuvenating a career or simply going back to doing what they love, these bands have met with varying degrees of success.

Loverboy is no stranger to the reunion thing, having released a new studio album, Just Getting Started, as recently as 2007, in addition to their combination re-recordings/new recordings album, Rock N Roll Revival, from 2012.  With Unfinished Business, Loverboy gives its fans an album of new "old" material, with some of these songs having been written almost 40 years ago, with others scattered throughout writing sessions from the past couple of decades.  Many of these songs were partially recorded from sessions for the band's first few albums, some to a larger extent than others, so in some instances you get songs that are half 1980's/half 2014 as far as performance goes.  

4/5 of the original line-up remains intact (long-time bass player, Scott Smith, died in a freak boating accident in 2000), and it is obvious the band was intent on giving the fans and album that is still 100% Loverboy, for the good or the bad.  Not attempting to sound modern, making no excuses for their past (or for Reno's infamous headbands!), and pouring themselves completely into the music that they love and are known for, Loverboy actually pulls off one of the more surprisingly enjoyable reunion discs I have listened to in some time, even if it isn't made up of new material.  I say "surprisingly enjoyable" because I really lost touch with Loverboy after the first four classic records, Loverboy, Get Lucky, Keep It Up, and Lovin' Every Minute Of It.  After that, starting with Wildside, I just felt the band lost a lot of it's edge, became too poppy and too concerned with Top 40 hits, and I just never really bothered going back.

Unfinished Business intrigues me because of its different approach.  From the opening notes of "Fire Me Up", I just sensed that the band felt like they had bullets left in the classic era's guns, and set out to deliver on unfinished promise with a couple of these tunes.  A few sound like they were possibly even radio-worthy back in the day, while a couple probably should have been left in the Loverboy vault or mixed into a Loverboy boxed set if such a thing ever surfaced.  

On the good end, we have songs like the previously mentioned "Fire Me Up', which is a great example of a song that has pretty much everything going for it, as far as Loverboy fans would be concerned, and I really don't know how this song didn't make an album.  Reno sounds great, Dean works some nice guitar magic, and the keys are nicely placed between the guitars and the solid rhythm section, giving it a truly classic 80's feel.  I'm even more surprised that the following track, "Countin' The Nights" didn't make it to the radio, or at least to a movie soundtrack, because it really is that good to these ears, with crisp production and some great guitar tones.  "What Makes You So Special" is another solid 80's rocker with the classic guitar tone of that era, and is easily one of my favorites here, and again I have to wonder why this track missed the cut for Get Lucky or possibly Keep It Up, which are the albums I'm guessing this was likely recorded for.  "Doin' It The Hard Way" is a song that is pure Loverboy all the way, and again, is one of the stronger songs here, and album closer "Crack Of The Whip" sounds like something from the Lovin' Every Minute Of It sessions, with a solid mid-80's sound that works pretty well here, especially when juxtaposed with "You Play The Star" which sounds like it came straight off the first record.

A couple of songs don't work as well as the best material here.  For instance, I really am not a fan of the ballad, "Come Undone".  First of all, it sounds like it is still in demo form, which is an instant annoyance for me.  Secondly, there are just some weird keyboard effects here that remind me of so many bad 80's songs (and laser sound effects!) that I somewhat cringe when I hear them.  "War Bride" has a lot of potential, but this is an example of one of the tracks that I think the band just didn't really ever finish, and finds the band trying to get too deep lyrically and totally missing the mark of what Loverboy is best known for.  Reno sounds very strong, and the keyboards have an electric piano, rather than cheesy 80's synth sound to them, and even the bass line has a cool throb to it, but it just kind of goes nowhere and is really about two minutes too long (it clocks in over 6 minutes total).   Some judicious editing would have helped "War Bride" a lot, in my opinion.  "Slave", which features some great guitar work from Dean, sounds like an odd "Hot For Teacher"-meets-spaghetti-western-guitar combination that I just don't get.  For his part, Franette pulls off some slick double-time drummin here, but it can't save this odd track.

The main problem I have with this album is in the production.  At times you can hear static in the tracks, and the mix is just a tad muddy in places.  For example, "Ain't Such A Bad Thing" is a pretty good rocker with a catchy chorus and nice guitar work, but you can hear hiss and crackle throughout the song.  Now, I don't know if this was an intentional attempt to give the album an 80's feel, as this is definitely not crystal clear, crisp 2014 production at all, but if it was intentional, it was not a good idea.  It definitely doesn't make the record unlistenable by any means, but to deny that there are some production issues would be dishonest.

The band, and especially Reno and Dean, are in mostly excellent form here.  Mike Reno's vocals are spot on, sounding like not a year has passed since he was singing about "Lovin' Every Minute Of It", or "The Kid Is Hot Tonight", and the guitar work on the best tracks here is excellent.  I have long thought that Dean didn't get the amount of respect as a guitar player that he deserved, largely because he was overshadowed by Reno and because videos of the band's songs just never really showcased Dean (check out his solo album if you can find will hear his talent in full force).  Due to the old-plus-new format of the tracks it is a bit difficult to know what is recently recorded and what is original instrumentation, but it doesn't matter much because nothing is glaringly bad, although the keys do really date the sound of some of these tracks.

I think with a bit bigger budget (this record was apparently all self-compiled and released on Loverboy Music) and perhaps a bit more care in cleaning up the production on the older portions of the songs that the band chose to leave intact, this album could have been even better.  As it stands, it is a solid listen, especially for long-time fans of the band.  It won't likely convert a lot of people to join the church of Loverboy, but it's not likely there are a lot of 18-25 year olds out there seeking what a band like Loverboy has to offer, either.

Rating:  Rock this solid effort to a very respectable 6.5, but I hope the band is done combing through the leftovers for material, because I'm betting this is the cream of the crop.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

GUARDIAN "Almost Home"

(c) 2014 G-Man Records

  1. Boom She Said
  2. The Real Me
  3. Little Things
  4. Wonderful
  5. California Rain
  6. Show Us What You Got (Interlude)
  7. King Of Fools
  8. The Calling (Interlude)
  9. Paranoia Kills
  10. Price We Pay
  11. Free
  12. Requiem Calavera (Interlude)
  13. Almost Home
Jamie Rowe--Vocals
Tony Palacios--Gutars
David Bach--Bass
Karl Ney--Drums
Jamey Perrenot--Guitar

Guardian returns with their first full-length album in SEVENTEEN YEARS, with the Kickstarter-funded Almost Home.  There have been teaser releases prior to this, most notably Three To Get Ready, a three-song EP that came out in 2011, but little to nothing had come from the Guardian camp in so long that most people had assumed the band was dead and buried, especially with front man Rowe now reunited with his other band, AdrianGale.  

Dead and buried, they are not. Guardian is definitely alive, and mostly well.

I say "mostly well" because while there are things to like about Almost Home, there are things that I think will frustrate all but the most ardent supporters of the band. 

Let me start off by saying that for anyone who is looking for another Fire & Love or Miracle Mile, there is very little here that is going to satisfy your palette.  In fact, nothing here has the "hair" feel to it, although there are a few melodic rock moments.  Instead what we are given with Almost Home is a collection of songs that range from the modern hard rock feel of "Boom She Said" to the bluesy-yet-still-modern lead single, "The Real Me" to the straight up acoustic ballad, "Almost Home"...and a bit of everything in between.  I'm not sure "eclectic" really covers the overall feel of this album, as I felt somewhat jerked all over the place as I listened to this record the first several times, never really given a chance to find a groove to set my attention into.  For some that's a great thing; for some a distraction.  For me, it was mildly annoying at first, mostly because I spent so much time searching for the Guardian of my youth, but never really found it (though it does come close in spots).  That irritation dissipated after a time once I figured out where the best tracks were located and filtered out those elements that really do nothing for me.  

To be fair, this is a band that has morphed (some say matured) with every release since Rowe replaced Paul Cawley after the oft-forgotten debut record, First Watch.  Guardian has gone from the hair metal of Fire & Love to the more melodic hard rock of Miracle Mile, to the largely acoustic Swing, Swang, Swung, to the modern rock of both Buzz and Bottle Rocket, so for the band to shape-shift once again didn't come as a huge surprise to me.  However, to find the band trying to cover SO MANY bases all in one record was a bit of a shock to the system.  

"Boom She Said" kicks things off with a funky little bluegrass-styled guitar intro and NASA control tower recordings before punching you in the face with a massive modern rock guitar riff and thundering drums, pulling Rowe's raspy vocals into the fray in a frantic rocker that had me nodding my head and grinning from ear-to-ear.  No, this wasn't hair metal, but dangit, these guys still HAVE IT!  

The next track, "The Real Me" still rocks to a degree, but it is more in a bluesy-yet-still-uptempo style that I wasn't prepared for following "Boom...".  To be completely honest, I don't particularly care for this song and generally skip it, largely because of the way the song is structured and Jamie's use of the "aahh" sound that drives me nuts.  Petty?  Probably, but I really just don't like this song and would NOT have used it as the lead single because I don't think it really reflects the rest of the album that well.

"Little Things" starts quietly, building volume, if not intensity, as it follows a simple drum and bass line placed just below an equally simple acoustic guitar riff.  Rowe's vocals are powerful and emotive here, taking us through the first chorus before a slide guitar shimmies in for a brief appearance, then disappears just as quickly.  The song is nearly half-over before the "electricity" is added to the song and the track comes alive.  With its somewhat 90's alternative meets 80's ballad approach, this is easily one of my favorite tracks, as it really shows the musical skill of this band when it is firing on all cylinders.

"Wonderful" continues the alt-rock sound, especially in the tone of the guitars, reminding me of the Newsboys to a degree.  Rowe's vocals are spot-on once again, and the music, while not full of screaming guitars, rocks enough to satisfy the melodic rock crowd, yet maintains enough pop sensibility in its richly layered vocals and a song structure that borders on modern praise-and-worship, to keep the mellower crowd engaged.  Again, a top five track for me.  

(If you are keeping score, three of my personal favorites are found in the first four tracks...)

"California Rain" is next up and it sounds like a Santana song to me, complete with Spanish guitar and a 1970's flavor that is unmistakable.  While musically on target, this is a style that does nothing for me, and I honestly skip it now.  

"Show Us What You Got" is an all-too-short little shred fest from Mr. Palacios that leads nicely into the other true rocker on this album, "King Of Fools".  This track is as close to "old" Guardian as the record ever gets and it is a great track.  Palacios goes off on a great solo run after the second chorus, and Ney and Bach are amazingly solid in the rhythm department on this song.  Edging slightly past "Boom She Said", this, for me, is the pinnacle of the album, and, as I said before, I would have been perfectly happy with an entire album full of this 90's-era Aerosmith-inspired guitar rock.  

Another interlude follows, but it is a complete waste of time for me, as it consists entirely of a phone call on an answering machine.  Auto-skip would be a great invention for me at this point, as I would program that sucker to blitz right past this every single time.

"Paranoia Kills" is the last of the big rock numbers on the record, and it is another decent modern rocker with a snappy beat and distorted guitars and vocals, with some effects thrown into the mix for good measure.  This track reminds me a lot of the sound the band was chasing on Bottle Rocket, mixing guitar rock with modern instrumentation and production.  An excellent song that I would say is probably my third favorite here, just behind "Boom..." and just ahead of "Little Things".

"Price We Pay" is another great song that also slots in with the best of the songs here.  More of a mid-tempo melodic rocker, this song and it's successor, "Free", finish off the best of the record for me.  In fact the six songs I've indicated as my personal favorites would have made for a KILLER EP, with the interlude "Show Us What You Got" being tossed in to take up space.

The final interlude here is another total waste of time and disc space for me, and once again, I immediately skip it.

Album closer, and title track, "Almost Home" is a great acoustic track that finds the band in contemplative mode, reminding me a lot of Extreme's "Hole Hearted" in some ways, and is an excellent way to round out the record.

As a Kickstarter backer of the project, I have the digital download version AND the CD version of this album, so I am able to comment on packaging as well.  We have a digipack here (the norm now), with a 12 page booklet filled with band member photos, lyrics, and credits.  The production is top notch, with Perrenot (who has been a band member since 2008) doing an excellent job of keeping the record fresh and crisp sounding with no muddiness or loss of voice for any of the instruments.  Kudos, Jamey...

As I said way back at the beginning of this review, the record is mostly good.  If I could, I would drop "The Real Me", "California Rain", and two of the three interludes, which I think would leave me with a neat-and-tidy 8 song record with everything being very good to great.  As it is, the record isn't horrible by any means, but it is likely not what Guardian fans of old thought they were going to get.  I like it, but I honestly prefer the recent AdrianGale album, Sucker Punch, to this one.  Given more time, and some subtle use of the skip button, Almost Home may grow on me further.  As it stands, it is a top 5 Guardian disc for me, ahead of both Bottle Rocket and Buzz, but in no way threatening Fire & Love or Miracle Mile for catalog supremacy.

Rating:  Crank this to a 7 and let's hope this isn't the last we have heard from this talented band that can still bring it when they want to.

Friday, July 11, 2014

RONNY MUNROE "Electric Wake"

(c) 2014 Rat Pak Records

  1. Burning Time
  2. Ghosts (featuring George Lynch)
  3. Electric Wake
  4. Turn To Stone
  5. My Shadow
  6. Not You Not Me
  7. Pray
  8. Ritual Damage
  9. Sleepless Mountain
  10. The Others (featuring Dave Rude and Pamela Moore)
  11. United
Ronny Munroe--Lead Vocals
Stu Marshall--Guitars
Jeff Baker--Bass
Rick Ward--Drums

George Lynch--Guitar on 2
Pamela Moore--Vocals on 10
Dave Rude--Guitars on 10

Current Metal Church frontman, Ronny Munroe, has released another solo CD upon the metal masses, this time bring along with him fellow Rat Pak Records alums George Lynch, Dave Rude, and Pamela Moore for added effect.  Using a straight forward metal approach, similar to what recent Metal Church releases have employed, Munroe really doesn't stray too far out of his comfort zone for the majority of this record, instead choosing to tread familiar waters.  The problem with treading water is that while you manage to stay afloat, you don't really go anywhere.  Electric Wake struggles with this, just like a swimmer in the deep end does.

The album starts off well enough, with "Burning Time" being a strong opener that really focuses the listener's attention on the powerful, throaty range of Munroe, who truly has one of those "metal" voices.  Never sing-songy, never whiny, yet never lacking in emotion, Munroe spits and snarls his way through this very Metal Church feeling track.  In fact, were the song to feature a stronger guitar solo and a bit chunkier rhythm section, I would have guessed this to be a Metal Church song that would have fit along with anything that has been released in the band's Munroe years.  

"Ghosts" was teased in several places on the internet, largely because of the inclusion of Mr. Scary, George Lynch, putting his signature on the guitar solo for this track.  Oddly, this song's main guitar riff sounds so much like Kreator's "Golden Age" that I nearly checked to see if it was given credit somewhere in the album notes!  We are talking almost note-for-note riff lifting here!  Again, the song is solid and Lynch does what Lynch does best, making "Ghosts" one of the two or three really good songs here, even if it isn't overly original.  As far as Munroe's contribution here, he sounds a LOT like David Wayne (another previous Metal Church singer, for the uninitiated) here, and the song is better for it!   

"Turn To Stone" is another solid metal number that doesn't take any real risks, but it will satisfy the metalhead that just wants to thrash around and throw his fist into the air.  Decent guitar work and a solid rhythm section here, as well, and "Pray" is another strong effort that really shows Munroe's range not only in pitch, but also his range in handling different vocal approaches.  Within this song he goes from high pitched screaming to singing in almost a whisper at times.  This track also has one of the strongest guitar solos (outside of Lynch's work), and it is a fairly well crafted song all the way through.  I could hear Metal Church grabbing hold of this track and beefing the sound up a bit and making it something that old school fans of the band would really enjoy.

"Ritual Damage" isn't bad, as it features some solid chugga-chugga rhythms and aggressive guitar work throughout, with another nice, if short, solo thrown in the mix.  Again, this feels like it might be left-over Metal Church material that didn't make the cut on a band album.  It's not bad at all, it just seems to be missing "something".  

"Sleepless Mountain" feels like a lesser Iron Maiden track, with the galloping 80's sounding guitar riff that opens the song and carries on throughout.  Not great, but not horrible.  The same can be said of "The Others", which also has that Maiden feel to it with its guitar tone and musical phrasing.  Pamela Moore adds her vocal talent to the effort here, but the effort is largely wasted as the lyrics are pretty lame, to be honest, sounding like something Manowar penned...and later rejected.  As I stated, Moore is musically very talented, but this isn't the type of song her skill set works best on.  This is more a Doro Pesch type of song than a Pamela Moore song, and I doubt even Doro would throw in with this song.  Rude is given a good chance to show off his skills with the guitar, and he impresses, but, like Moore, can do little to save this song.

"United" closes out the album in pure Metal Church fashion and it is probably my favorite track from the record.  It's just too bad it is buried at the end of the record because I question how many people will actually get all the way to this song before giving up on the record as nothing more than background noise, or just turning it off altogether and moving on to something else.  That's too bad because metalheads, and especially Metal Church fans, will likely really enjoy this driving, metallic track and Ronny puts his all into the vocal performance on this song.

My version of the CD does not include the two bonus tracks, "Tainted Nation", and the Iron Maiden cover "Total Eclipse", so I can't speak to the quality of those songs.  

As for the remaining tracks, they are simply filler material to my ears.  Not horrible, but really not memorable at all.  "My Shadow", "Electric Wake", and "Not You Not Me" are all given fair shots by Munroe, but the music falls short of the effort he puts into each song, and, quite frankly, the songs just fall flat.  

The problem on the record isn't Munroe's vocal performance, as that is strong throughout.  I think a pretty solid EP could have been crafted out of this record, with "Ghosts", "Pray", "United", "Ritual Damage", "Burning Time", and "Turn To Stone" all being solid, if sometimes not overly amazing, songs.  But if you do the math, that's only 6 out of 11 tracks included on this record, meaning barely half of the disc lives up to what I had hoped Munroe would deliver on this, his third solo outing.  As such, the final rating is going to reflect that percentage.  

Rating:  Rock this at a 5.5, or, better yet, carve out the weakest material and make a decent little mini-album on your iPod or mp3 player that would probably rock considerably harder for you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


(c) 2014 RSM Records

  1. Rock In Peace
  2. Bang For Your Buck
  3. Backside Of Water
  4. Back On You
  5. Band Down
  6. Dogbone Alley
  7. Put Up Or Shut Up (live)
  8. Free (live)
  9. South Of Heaven (live)
  10. Rock N Roll Medley (live)
Jizzy Pearl--Lead Vocals 1-6
Kevin DuBrow--Lead Vocals 7-10
Alex Grossi--Guitars
Frankie Banali--Drums
Chuck Wright--Bass

Additional Musicians
Tony Franklin--Bass
Rudy Sarzo--Bass

10 is the first album to be released by the legendary Quiet Riot since founding member, Kevin DuBrow, passed away in 2007 (has it seriously been 7 years already?).  Taking the microphone stand, apparently on a permanent basis, is former Love/Hate frontman (and Ratt fill-in), Jizzy Pearl.  I say "apparently", as Pearl is now the fourth singer to front the ever-revolving carousel of band members since DuBrow died.  However, Pearl is the first to actually record anything with Banali and the current line-up, so it seems this is the line-up that will be moving forward...but you never know.  After all, there have been more than 20 different versions of the band since it first appeared in 1975, and more than 15 versions since the band broke big with Metal Health way back in 1982.

Things start off in great fashion, as "Rock In Peace" (R.I.P, anyone???) is a true Quiet Riot rocker of the highest level, and Pearl even has the feel of DuBrow as far as his delivery goes, and if you pay attention, you can even catch a few Metal Health lyrics in this album opener.  Grossi rips through a nice solo, and Banali's thundering drum style is evident throughout.  The mix is a bit muddy and subdued, but the sound actually gives the song even more of a throw-back quality to it.  

"Bang For Your Buck" is a pretty solid rocker, complete with a cool slide guitar and some great shouted vocals on the chorus, but the production is getting harder to listen to, especially with the guitar solo sounding like it is set a bit too far back in the mix, which is disappointing because Grossi does some very solid work here.  Pearl's vocals step back just a bit from the previous track in terms of sounding like DuBrow, but his snarling delivery fits the music very well.  Banali and Wright are in perfect sync here, and the band sounds like it is hitting on all cylinders at this point.  

"Backside Of Water" is another formidable rocker and is one of my two or three favorites on the disc.  Once again, Grossi tears through an absolutely scorching solo and the band is in great form throughout, with Pearl charging out front like a mad-metal-man possessed!  Color me impressed, at this point.

"Back On You" sounds more like something from the Condition Critical era of the band, or perhaps even QRIII, than Metal Health, but it is definitely a Quiet Riot rocker and is possibly the best song here.  I really, really like this song and Pearl does great service to the band with his efforts here.  Oh...and did I mention what a great guitar player Grossi is on this disc?  No?  Well, he is...

"Band Down" finds the band struggling a bit, in my opinion.  To be honest, this track would have been cool if the previous singer had been in charge, but not with Pearl out front.  Oh...and by the way, I don't mean DuBrow, either, when I mention previous singers.  "Band Down" is a song that Paul Shortino would have NAILED on the love-it-or-hate-it Quiet Riot album from 1988.  Grossi lays down some inspired, bluesy guitars, and the harmony vocals are excellent here.  To give him credit, Pearl sings his heart out here, but this is material that Shortino would've just owned with little to no effort.  Not a skipper, but not the top of the heap as far as overall execution goes. (Musically, it might be my favorite track, however.)

"Dogbone Alley" finds Pearl once again channeling his inner DuBrow, as the band recovers from it's minor slip on the previous track, and the band easily handles this QRIII-styled effort.  Again, not the absolute best track out of the new material, but definitely a Quiet Riot track.

At this point, the album switches to live material recorded with DuBrow out front.  Honestly, I wish the band would have just released a 6 track EP or found another couple of songs to record, because the live section leaves a lot to be desired.  While it's cool to hear the lesser-known "Put Up or Shut Up" in a live setting, DuBrow's vocal performance is certainly not of the highest quality, with numerous spots where his vocals break noticeably.  "Free" and "South Of Heaven" are both songs taken from the little-known Rehab albbum (no, this isn't Slayer's "South Of Heaven" done QR style...), and few but the true Quiet Riot die-hards probably even know what these two songs are.  The performances on these heavier, more bottom-ended songs are solid, but don't add a lot to the legacy of the deceased front man.  The medley, for me, is nearly ten minutes of wasted time, as none of the band's most well-known songs are included.  In fact, my gut said that Banali simply included this medley as the album closer since DuBrow brags on the drummer a bit at the beginning of the track.  In all honesty, after completing my review, I plan to cut out all the live material from my iPod, keeping only the new material.

The production and mix leave quite a bit to be desired in places, but overall, the new material is honestly some of the best Quiet Riot material to be put out since the Shortino-fronted disc, in my opinion.  Nothing here would have made it onto Metal Health or Condition Critical, most likely, but all the new songs are better than anything found on Down To The Bone, Guilty Pleasures, or Alive And Well.         

As to the live material, look...I get that DuBrow was a band founder and the leader of the band through the highest points in a storied career.  But why tack sub-par live material onto an album that features a NEW singer that you hope will lead you into the future?  Just like there shouldn't be two or three live Randy Rhodes cuts put on every album that Quiet Riot releases, there is no need to put DuBrow on new Quiet Riot albums, either, especially if he is used as a marketing tool or as an afterthought.  The record would have stood up just fine on it's own without the DuBrow tracks.  In fact, it would have stood up BETTER for this listener.  

UPDATE:  This album has been pulled from all digital outlets and is no longer available.  Additionally, it was never released on CD or vinyl, according to Frankie Banali, so if you buy it ANYWHERE, it is a bootleg or a radio/media preview copy (mine came in a blank paper slipcase with no artwork at all).  Buyer beware.

Rating:  Rock this to a 6.  The new material is pretty good if the mix were better, but the inclusion of the live material really damages an otherwise solid effort.  

ROCKSTARS ON MARS "Rockstars On Mars"

(c) 2014 Dirty Slut Records

  1. Tequila N Gin
  2. Road Of Freedom
  3. Fancy Panoucha
  4. Bleeding Heart
  5. 2 Kool For Skool
  6. I Want You
  7. Headbone
  8. Shelter
London LeGrand--Vocals

Apparently, all it took for London LeGrand to be able to shake the moderate disaster that befell him after the Brides Of Destruction fiasco was to another country....on another continent.  After all, it was LeGrand, not crappy songwriting or big egos, that tore Brides of Destruction apart, right?  To hear and read what some in the media had to say, it would certainly seem so.  I, on the other hand, found LeGrand's vocals to be one of the better things about Brides of Destruction, and I always wondered if the former hairdresser would land on his feet somewhere.

Well, the answer is, yes, he did land on his feet.  In Sweden.  After heading across the ocean with a batch of songs, LeGrand found himself in Gothenburg, Sweded where he assembled a new band in Rockstars On Mars, a talented and snarling group of sleaze merchants (in)conveniently located in the death metal capitol of the world!  While it may not seem to be the ideal place for LeGrand to find a group of like-minded musicians, from the moment LeGrand's vocals come screeching out of your speakers (or headphones), it is evident he found kindred musical spirits with the same sound and style in mind.  Equally obvious is the fact that this band, and this album immediately blows either one of the Brides of Destruction albums straight outta the water!  Seriously.  There is no comparison other than the inclusion of one member: LeGrand.

Rockstars On Mars, the album, is a punishing sleazefest filled with screaming vocals, equally screaming guitars, rumbling bass lines, and thunderous drums.  While the songwriting may not be overly inventive in places (there is a fair amount of repetition when it comes to the choruses of most of these tracks), there is a sincere hunger and urgency in the music that cannot be missed, whether you are listening to the album for the first time or the fiftieth.  

To be fair, five of these songs come from the band's previously offered Demo 1, but they have been repackaged and professionally released here, along with three new tracks.  Of the older material three songs really stand out for me.  "Tequila N Gin" teases you with an acoustic guitar opener before LeGrand threatens to blow your speakers up with a mighty howl as the now-amplified band explodes into a full-fledged headbanger, and it is a GREAT way to kick things off here.  "2 Kool For Skool" (not the Roxx Gang song of the same name), is a truly 80's-inspired rocker that is performed to sleaze perfection, and "I Want You" has a hint of pop to the songwriting, with LeGrand restraining his vocals just enough to maybe garner the band some airplay in a nation that still plays great hard rock.  

As far as the new material goes, there is no doubt for me that "Bleeding Heart" is the cream of the crop, and you can just feel the pain in LeGrand's vocals dripping off of each screeched word.  A dark, emotive ballad, this song, above all others, showcases a band that knows how to craft a song!  "Headbone" is catchy and humorous ("she broke my heart, so I broke her headbone") with a guitar vibe that reminds me a lot of the 70's arena rockers that I grew up with in my youth.  I have no idea what "Fancy Panoucha" means, but this is the third new track to be included here, and it is my least favorite, although it does give LeGrand a platform to showcase the full range of his vocals, starting off on the bottom end before swelling up into that high pitched screech he utilizes so well throughout the rest of the album.  The rhythm guitars on this track are pretty simple and fairly repetitive, but there is a pretty solid solo in the middle that shows Johnny's skill in ripping through a lead.  

The mix is rough, but not in a bad way, rather serving to capture the band in a live-sounding, urgent state.  Martin Sweet of Crashdiet does a great job of  not overly producing or heavily mixing this record, instead letting the instruments each carry their own vibe and life on this album.  I'm willing to bet that what you hear on this disc is very similar to what you will hear if you are able to catch the band live.  

Rating:  I love the raw energy and emotion of this album, and hope that a disc full of all-new material comes quickly on the heels of this effort!  Crank this "official" debut release to 8, and forget all about Brides of Destruction!