Sunday, February 24, 2019

FOREIGNER "The Greatest Hits Of Foreigner Live In Concert"

(c) 2019 Trigger Productions

  1. Head Games
  2. Feels Like The First Time
  3. Cold As Ice
  4. Hot Blooded
  5. Double Vision
  6. Dirty White Boy
  7. Urgent
  8. Juke Box Hero
  9. Waiting For A Girl Like You
  10. Say You Will
  11. Long, Long Way From Home
  12. I Want To Know What Love Is (New Recording with Shriner's Hospital Kids)

Mick Jones--Lead Guitar, Keys, Backing Vocals
Kelly Hansen--Lead Vocals, Percussion
Jeff Pilson--Bass, Backing Vocals
Tom Gimbel--Guitars, Saxaphone, Flute, Backing Vocals
Michael Bluestein--Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Bruce Watson--Lead Guitar, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Chris Frazier--Drums, Percussion

Curse you, Foreigner!  You did it to me again!  Every time you put out a new "best of" or new "live" record, I say to myself, "Arttie, you have 8 greatest hits packages and about a dozen live albums, so you don't need this new one!"  Of course, I always lose this argument with myself if I think there is even the slightest reason to pick up said "new" recording, as Foreigner is so firmly entrenched as one of my all-time favorite bands that I can't seem to help myself.  And dang it if Foreigner didn't go ahead and give me a reason to pick this album up, as it is a fundraising effort for Shriner's Hospital For Children.  Additionally, the band took things one step further and re-recorded one of their biggest hits ever, "I Want To Know What Love Is" with a backing choir made up of Shriner's Hospital kids. 

The press for this album states that these are new live recordings, but a handful of them sound like they may have been taken from the Can't Slow Down...When It's Live release from back in 2010.  I got a bit suspicious when Hansen addresses the Tennessee crowd during "Cold As Ice".  If that is the case, this is a condensed version of that live show, as that double album had 16 live tracks, as opposed to just 11 here.  Even if it is the same show, it is fun to hear the nearly-13 minute long jam session that "Juke Box Hero" turns into, and the 7+ minute extended versions of "Hot Blooded" and "Urgent". 

As I have stated many, many times, here and in other places, my beef with the current version of Foreigner isn't that they sound bad, because they don't.  They are extremely competent at playing these songs live, and each player here is a talented musician in their own right.  But when people say that Kelly Hansen sounds as good...or better...than Lou Gramm ever did, it drives me up a wall.  It is simply not true.  Hansen is a very good singer, but he simply does not have the same soul and passion for these songs that Gramm had.  And why would he?  He's not as invested in them, as he didn't write them.  In fact, none of the songs from only Hansen-fronted studio album made the cut here, which I think says something.

So, if the album is not the original band, and if these song are versions you likely have already heard (and possibly already own), the only real reason to own this record then, would be the remake of the 1984 classic "I Want To Know What Love Is".  As many fans know, Agent Provocateur, the album "I Want To Know..." came from, is considered to be something of the fracturing point between Gramm and Jones, but the fact that "I Want To Know..." remains the only Number One hit for the band in the US and UK cannot be overlooked.  The song was a monster hit and is a staple of their live performances.  On this album, the Hansen-fronted version of the band went into the studio to re-record the track, with the assistance of a backing choir of kids from the Shriner's Hospital.  Musically, the song is almost note-for-note the same as the classic version, and I'll be honest...I wonder if Hansen simply sang over backing tracks of the original version.  Doesn't matter, I guess, as his vocals are different enough from Gramm's that you can tell it isn't the same identical version.  The children's choir is added into the chorus sections, and while it does add a sweetness to the song, it really doesn't do anything to improve upon the song, so much as it does something to further differentiate it from the original. 

All in all, this is simply another repackaging of a band that has been repackaged more times than any band that I can think of off the top of my head.  There are positives to take away, however, as this is a single disc version of some of the best Hansen-era live material that I have come across.  As I already mentioned, there are some very good, extended jam versions of three classic tracks that are worth giving a listen to.  And, the album is a fund-raiser for a very, VERY worthy cause, which is always a good thing.  For people who want everything the band has ever recorded in the studio, this album is an important one, as outside of Can't Slow Down, and the single new studio track, "Save Me", from the 2011 re-recordings package, Juke Box Heroes, this is a rare studio track from Hansen.  And, of course, for the completist, it is a must-own, for obvious reasons. 

I know this is available on Amazon, and I have been told it is exclusive to Wal-Mart, as far as in-store purchases go, but I am not sure if that is accurate.

So now, I am going on record as stating that unless they release a new studio album OR a live album from their recent run of shows with the classic line-up of Gramm, McDonald, Elliott, Wills, Greenwood, etc., I will NOT be picking up any new Foreigner packages....

....unless I do...

Curse you, Foreigner....

Rating:  As I regularly say about these live packages, the performance is still crankable, so I give it a 7, but there is literally no reason to own this record other than to support the Shriner's Hospital (which is a good enough reason on it's own).

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

FEAR NOT "For The Wounded Heart"

(c) 2019 Roxx Records

  1. Don't Want None (Come Get Some)
  2. Shadows Fade
  3. Carry Me
  4. Love Is Alright
  5. Shipwrecked Hypocrite
Eddie Green--Lead Vocals
Larry Worley--Guitar, Vocals
Chris Howell--Lead Guitar
Rod Romero--Bass
Gary Hansen--Drums

Perhaps the band should be called Believe It Or Not, because that is honestly how I felt when I heard that Christian hard rockers, Fear Not, were returning after 25 years.  And not only is the band back, but all four original members are back, as well!  Worley, Howell, Romero, and Hansen all made a pretty significant splash on the Christian hard rock scene in the early 90s, but like nearly all bands of the time, they were swept away in the alternative/grunge tsunami that would wipe away pretty much the entire hard rock/hair metal scene of the time.  But, a Roxx Records reissue of the band's self-titled debut album apparently sparked a desire for the band to give it another run.

On this new, 5-track EP, the band brings in Eddie Green to handle the lead vocals, with original vocalist, Worley, moving to backing vocals and guitar.  I have been asked why Worley is no longer the lead vocalist, and I do not have an answer to that question...yet.  Perhaps I will get a chance to talk some trash with Larry at some point and get that answer.  For now, however, know that the lead vocals have been left in good hands with Green, who has a deeper, richer tone than Worley typically employed.  But don't think that the band has changed all that much as far as their style and approach, as Fear Not is still, first and foremost, a hard rock band.

The EP kicks off with a big drum intro from Hansen, as "Don't Want None (Come Get Some)" comes crushing out of your speakers!  Edgy guitars from Howell and Worley join the fray, as does Romero's rumbling bass, before the newbie is allowed to utter a sound.  But, when Green breaks his silence, he comes out swinging!  Again, singing in a lower register than Worley used, Green's vocals carry an urgency, an angst, that really powers this track.  The chorus sections are complete with big, gang shouted backing vocals that sound a bit as if an angry mob, rather than a group of musicians, were rioting in the background.  Howell rips through a tasty solo before the final chorus kicks in, and by the time the track wraps, a feeling of "whoa...yeah!" sweeps over me.  This is impressive; what have you been waiting for?!

"Shadows Fade" steps a bit back from some of the modern rock hints that were thrown into "Don' Want None", and sounds a bit more like classic Fear Not, musically.  It is on this track that I finally realize that Green reminds me a lot of the vocal style of Ken Tamplin, both in the range he works in as well as the emotion he packs into his words.  Once again, Howell flashes his guitar talents with an excellent solo, and Green showcases his lung capacity when he holds one particular note coming out of Howell's solo for an extended period of time.  Swirling guitars churn their way throughout the whole song, and again, the drums and bass are huge support structures for this great, great rock tune.

The band slows things a bit for "Carry Me", which hints at being a power ballad, but perhaps with a bit more "power" than "ballad".  Again more in the vein of classic Fear Not, "Carry Me" is a moving song about never having to walk alone when you walk with Christ.  The song, to me, is a rocker's update of the classic Footprints In The Sand poem, and it is executed perfectly.  Green pushes his upper range a bit more here, but more in a rich tenor than in a rafter scraping scream or wail.  Worley's backing vocals are very evident on this track, in particular, and they add a great deal to the feel of the song.  I would imagine this will be released as a single at some point, as it is a song that melodic rock stations, whether terrestrial or Internet-based, will definitely want to add to the mix at some point.  

A bit of aggression returns to Green's vocals on the thumping "Love Is Alright", and he takes on a sound that is close to that of EZ Gomer from Jet Circus, if you understand that early-90s Christian metal reference.  Howell blazes through a killer solo here, complete with all the fret board antics one would expect from an axe slinger of his talent.  But as great as these things are, it is the bottom-heavy groove of the track that gets stuck in your brain on this extremely catchy track that has to be in the live set.  It just has to.

"Shipwrecked Hypocrite" closes out this all-too-short EP (just 20 minutes total) in excellent fashion.  The rhythm guitar line is a bit quirky, which I like, and Green again is offered an opportunity to explore his range a bit in this track about living your life without the guidance of Christ to help you set your course as you navigate the waters of life.  Before closing, Howell cuts loose one final time on a truly impressive solo, and once again the interplay between Green and Worley vocally is a treat to hear.  

I will be honest, I was very leery of another singer fronting this band that I have followed since 1991 when 3/4 of the guys were in LoveLife (minus Chris Howell on guitars).  And while there is a difference to the could there not be?...the addition of Green does not alter who Fear Not is or what they do.  This is an impressive return for a band that has been almost completely inactive for more than 25 years, and I get the impression that this is not a one-and-done deal.  The band has said that they plan to hit the road in 2019, and I wouldn't be surprised if there is more to come from these guys.  Again, I don't know the status of Worley doing any lead vocals on the classic material live, but I would definitely go check them out regardless if Fear Not is anywhere near your neck of the woods.  If what they bring to the table live, and in any future recordings, is anything close to the quality of the material here, it just may turn out that it was worth the wait.  

Top notch production, a thick, bold sound, and spiritual-without-being-preachy lyrics...For The Wounded Heart is a winner in a big way to start 2019!  Due out in March, you can pre-order your copy through Roxx Productions for just ten bucks!

Rating:  Crankable in a big way!  For The Wounded Heart hits 8 on my rock Richter Scale!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

IRON SAVIOR "Kill Or Get Killed"

(c) 2019 AFM Records

  1. Kill Or Get Killed
  2. Roaring Thunder
  3. Eternal Quest
  4. From Dust And Rubble
  5. Sinner or Saint
  6. Stand Up And Fight
  7. Heroes Ascending
  8. Never Stop Fighting
  9. Until We Meet Again
  10. Legends Of Glory
  11. Sin City
Piet Sielck--Lead Vocals, Guitars
Joachim "Piesel" Kustner--Guitars
Jan S. Eckert--Bass
Patrick Klose--Drums

Consistent and relentless.  In my mind, no two words better describe the band Iron Savior and the music that it makes!  While I am not a power metal guy, per se, Iron Savior is a band that I fanatically seek out when I hear of new music being released, because it just resonates with me so strongly.  To my mind, there is no more consistent power metal band out there than these Teutons, with no disrespect intended for bands such as Blind Guardian, Helloween, Primal Fear, or even Sielck's other band, Savage Circus, or any of the other truly great power metal bands of the scene.  But, when you pick up an Iron Savior album, you know exactly what you are in for, and with the release of Kill Or Get Killed, their 11th original studio recording, the band seeks to capitalize on that consistency and remain at the top of the European power metal heap.

To explain the two words I chose to describe the band, let's start with consistent.  The band's lineup remains the same following the excellent Riding On Fire: Re-Forged, a 2-disc release of re-recorded classic material.  As such, drummer Patrick Klose is the the newest member of the band, working on his first original studio album, while Kustner and Eckert have been with band founder, Sielck, since at least 2000.  Once again, it is this consistency in the core of the band's lineup that helps to keep the songwriting and the performances spot-on, with the band always sounding like Iron Savior.  Throughout their 20+ year existence, you cannot pick out a single album from their catalog and say, "that doesn't sound like Iron Savior", because everything they have done sounds like Iron Savior.  A lot of that, of course, has to do with the unmistakable vocals of Sielck, who is once again in top-notch form here, with his melodic snarl soaring over the top of these eleven slabs of molten power metal.  Not the high, wailing, ear-piercing type of vocalist that so many speed/power metal bands routinely employ, Sielck stays more in the lower tenor range, but his vocals burst forth with power and clarity, depth and angst, and the layers of backing vocals employed only serve to bolster his already near-perfect performances.  In fact, for me, the backing vocals the band always employs, are one of the keys that truly separate Iron Savior from so many of its peers.  They are always an absolute match for the aggressive style of power metal the band plays, whether using the higher-pitched, soaring styles used on tracks like "Heroes Ascending", or the angrier, darker, nearly-shouted style utilized on "Stand Up And Fight".  Plus, the guitar combination of Sielck and Kustner...who had the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Kai Hansen back in 2000, is on a level that is nearly unmatched in the metal scene today.  While never mentioned in the same breath as legendary guitar tandems, Sielck and Kustner lay waste to anything standing in their way, with powerful rhythm lines and searing solos, while the rumbling of Eckert's bass melds perfectly with the crushing percussive performances from Klose, who was the perfect find for the band when longtime drummer, Thomas Nack, vacated the kit in 2017.

Relentless is the other word I chose to describe Iron Savior, and Kill Or Get Killed is, like all of the band's releases, relentless in its energy and aggression from start to finish.  Nowhere is this more evident than on the lead single from the album, "Eternal Quest", which comes ripping out of your speakers like a Berserker unleashed!  Kustner leads the attack, his rhythm guitars charging to the front, with Klose following in lockstep behind, his galloping drums driving the pace, as Eckert's bass rumbles forward as well!  Sielck's alternately smooth-then-snarled vocals rally the troops, sounding the battle cry, accompanied by the previously mentioned power backing vocals, delivering a nearly perfect metal anthem.

If the crushing metallic assault of "Eternal Quest" is to your liking, there is nothing here you will not find equally appealing.  The title track features some of the fastest rhythm guitar on the album, along with some seemingly impossible double-time drumming, while "Roaring Thunder" backs that up with a slightly slower (slightly!) tempo, but a darker rhythm guitar tone, with wailing guitar effects backing those up.  "From Dust And Rubble" starts off with some programmed synthesizer elements, before building into something of an 80s-inspired heavy metal song with a big, chant-along chorus that will have fans thrusting their fists in the air in concert.  "Never Stop Believing" has a more melodic metal approach, especially on the guitars, but doesn't lack for power because of the slight style change.  The bass is particularly strong on this track, also, and Sielck counters the smoother guitar with an edgier vocal tack than he takes in some of the other songs here.  It's a nice juxtaposition of sounds and styles and the result is a really, really strong song.  "Sinner Of Saint" has a Judas Priest feel to the guitar line, which is pretty darn cool, and Halford's vocals actually leak into my imagination for a moment, wondering how he would sound on this rocker.  Of course, Sielck has practically nothing in common with the siren that is Halford's voice, but his aggression and edge are the perfect sound for Iron Savior, and this tasty power metal track is a great representation of what Iron Savior does so well.  The guitar solo here is also not to be missed!  The onslaught continues through all ten tracks of the album proper, with album closer, "Legends Of Glory" nearly matching the opening title track in terms of speed and ferocity in the guitars, as well as in the sense of urgency in Sielck's vocals.  

For many, "Heroes Ascending" may be the pinnacle of the record, with its unique rhythm guitar-and-drum patterns, huge, sweeping guitar solo, and massive hook, all backed by a soaring backing vocal section that rips through the sing-along chorus parts!  For me, however, the real diamond here, amongst an album full of gems, is the epic "Until We Meet Again", a huge, nearly 8 minute long track of galloping, mid-tempo pomp and power.   There are some uncredited synth elements here that add to the overall atmosphere of the track, and the soaring vocals that Sielck utilizes on the chorus really speak to his range as a vocalist.  At a little over halfway through the song, there's a softer section, basically the programmed synth elements and Sielck's vocals taking on a whispered, almost spoken-word style, before a massive guitar solo erupts, building in power and intensity, before returning to the main riff of the song and ushering in the final verse and runs through the chorus.  The multiple styles that Sielck utilizes on this track really add to the overall depth, with verse sections that reminds me a lot of the harder-hitting material Pretty Maids has released, while the vocal phrasing on the chorus, reminds me a LOT of Dio, to be honest, especially as the album closes.  Such a great, great song, I really hope this song finds its way into the live set of the band, although its sheer length and scope may make that a difficult task. 

"Sin City", the eleventh track on the album, is a bonus track that was not included with my review copy.  I have been told that it is a cover of the AC/DC song of the same name, which I find a bit odd, as my brain can't really combine the two styles.  I will have to hung down the song to hear it, of course, and I am trying to gain confirmation that it is indeed a cover song.  I will update this review when I have further information.

As is frequently the case with Iron Savior records, Kill Or Be Killed is something of a concept album, although the songs are strong enough to stand on their own.  According to Sielck, the primary songwriter for all Iron Savior releases, the album was inspired by the book, The Star Of Pandora, a sci-fi book about the destruction of human civilization when it is overrun by alien invaders.  With that in mind, "the never give up, never say die" attitude of tracks like "Kill Or Get Killed", "Stand Up And Fight", "Never Stop Fighting", and "Legends Of Glory" are given even more context, although none was really required.

Chock full of metal anthems, Kill Or Get Killed is guaranteed to be a massive player for me in 2019, and is, as of this very moment, one of the two or three best releases of the young year.  More than half of this record will be going into my workout mix (which is more than 25% Iron Savior as it stands!), with numerous tracks likely to make the "best of" lists of longtime fans of the band.  Kill Or Get Killed is a superb metallic reminder of how great music should be made, with a consistent level of excellence demanded of the band, and a relentless drive from that band to always meet that demand!  This is the definition of Iron Savior for me!

Is this the best Iron Savior record the band has made?  Likely not, but then again, there is no such thing as a bad Iron Savior record, so ranking them is rather difficult for me.  I would say this is top five, to be sure, with Condition Red, Titancraft, Dark Assault, and the reissued Megatropolis 2.0 also competing for Top Five slots!  And that excludes great stuff like Battering Ram and The Landing!  So much greatness to be considered.  Quite the problem to have, eh?

Rating:  Metallic excellence!  Crank this to 9!

Friday, February 8, 2019

TORA TORA "Bastards Of Beale"

(c) 2019 Frontiers Records

  1. Sons of Zebedee
  2. Giants Fall
  3. Everbright
  4. Silence The Sirens
  5. Son of a Prodigal Son
  6. Lights Up The River
  7. Let Us Be One
  8. All Good Things
  9. Rose of Jericho
  10. Vertigo
  11. Bastards of Beale
Anthony Corder--Lead and Backing Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Keith Douglas--Lead, Rhythm, Acoustic Guitars
Patrick Francis--Bass
John Patterson--Drums, Percussion

It's sometimes funny to me how the bands that didn't break big manage to stay together and still get along, while the bands that enjoyed huge success can't seem to stand one another and splinter, fracture, of flat out break up within a couple of albums.  Tora Tora falls into the first category, as all four members of the band continue to perform together 30 years after their A&M Records debut album, Surprise! Attack, which, in my opinion, should have been a much bigger album than it turned out to be.  And even if that album didn't have what it likely took to break big, their follow up, Wild America, should have been massive, as it is an excellent record that I feel is highly underappreciated!  Regardless, the band struggled to find success, and their third album, the once-shelved/long-bootlegged/finally-released Revolution Day was the last we would hear from the band outside of a trio of FnA Records releases of demo material from the first two records.  

That all changes in 2019.

Bastards Of Beale finds the full band reuniting for a brand new album for Frontiers Records.  Due out in late February, this new album brings together everything that fans of the band, or their style, would want out of Tora Tora.  Sounding more cohesive, and with more upbeat tracks, than Revolution Day, the new record sounds like it could have been the logical follow-up to Wild America.  Chock full of Memphis rock-n-blues, Tora Tora pulls no punches on this new record, hitting hard with the rockers and getting soulful on the slower numbers.

The album kicks off with the gritty, nearly sleazy guitar sounds of "Sons Of Zebedee", which finds the band right back in the form they left us in back in 1992.  Corder sounds almost identical to how he sounded on Wild America, with just enough gritty edge added to his otherwise smooth tenor to really drive the bluesy vibe of the track.  The guitar work is solid, and the drums fit the style perfectly, with no extra flash or unnecessary odd timings thrown into the mix.  This is just a straight ahead rocker that fans of Tesla, Tangier, Tattoo Rodeo and the bluesier side of Great White will instantly grab hold of.  But those same fans may not want to get too grabby too quickly, as the best is yet to come!

The next two tracks, "Giants Fall" and "Everbright" both pull in a distinct Zeppelin vibe to the guitars, with a dirty, hard-edged blues sound, and solid rhythm work from both Francis and Patterson.  These are the kinds of songs that Corder's voice was made for, as he seemingly effortlessly delivers a soul-drenched performance on each track.  "Giants Fall" hits hard with that blues rock vibe that Zeppelin did so well, with an undeniably catchy hook, sing-along (wail along?) chorus, and a deep groove that you simply can't get out of once you step into it.  "Everbright" continues that Zep feel, with a sassy swagger that simply isn't found in much music today.

"Silence The Sirens" continues the top-notch blues rock, and it is a sleeper for best track on the album.  The rhythm section here is particularly punchy, especially Francis' bass work, and the sparsity during the first part of the verse sections makes Corder's vocals sound even more haunting than they might otherwise.  When the intensity kicks up, so does the overall feel of the song, and the moaning wail of Douglas' guitar as he exits the chorus sections is spot-on perfect.  Again, an easy-to-sing-along chorus is a big bonus here, and I can envision fists in the air when Corder hits "Silence the sirens!" in a live setting.  The guitar solo here is a big string-bender, also, and there simply isn't anything bad to be said about this song.

A few people may be turned slightly off by "Son Of A Prodigal Son", as there is a definite country nod here, but think more alt-country or Red Dirt country than the slick product that flows out of Nashville these days.  No, Bro Country this is not...classically, Steve Earl ("Copperhead Road") comparisons make sense, or more modernly, a band like American Aquarium ("Burn.Flicker.Die" comes to this band, by the way...) might be a good line to connect dots with.  Bottom heavy, dirty, gritty, with a cool groove and a tinge of Southern twang in Corder's voice make this another instant favorite of mine...maybe even stealing song of the album honors.  As I have mentioned before, I worked for many years in country radio, and when bluesy, swampy country rock is done right, it is an awesome thing to hear, and Tora Tora NAILS it here!     

"Lights Up The River" is the album's big ballad, very much in line with the best the band recorded all those years ago.  If you found yourself hitting repeat on tracks like "Phantom Rider" from the debut, "As Time Goes By" from Wild America, or "Shelter From The Rain" or "Candle And The Stone", two powerful ballads from Revolution Day, then you are going to absolutely love this six minute-long track!  Heartfelt, soulful, bluesy, and stark, the track spends the first minute and a half as an acoustic track before the juice is turned on, and the power of the track hits just that much harder.  In many ways, it reminds me of something like "Song And Emotion" by Tesla, which is one of the more underappreciated tracks in that band's catalog.  Songs like this really make me wish more people would take the time to actually construct songs these days, because when a song is done really well, it doesn't matter the genre (at least to me), it's just a good song.  "Lights Up The River" is one such song.

"Let Us Be One" is a dirty rocker, with a filthy groove to match, and it is the perfect track to ring out of the speakers following something as soulful as "Lights Up The River" was.  Follow that up with the barroom boogie rock of "All Good Things", and this album has already done more work taking the listener from one style to another, without forgetting who the band is musically, than probably 2/3 of the stuff that crosses my desk.  This is what I think Revolution Day was missing to a degree; the up and down, faster then slower moments that found the band exploring various tempos and textures within a given style.  Bastards Of Beale has this quality in spades.

I thought "Rose Of Jericho" would be another ballad, but it is more of a throwback rocker than anything, name-dropping Elvis (well, the "king of Tupelo", anyway), and Tina Turner (albeit as the "queen of Nutbush") across another catchy, bouncy rhythm, with some more solid bass work from Francis, before a scorching solo from Douglas rips through the midsection of this track that also features a rhythm guitar riff that would likely make ZZ Top proud.  Good stuff here.

"Vertigo" is an instrumental number that just rips.  Douglas sounds like he is having a blast on this straight-up hard rocker, that reminds me of some of the stuff that Van Halen was playing around with during the Hagar years.  The drums are excellent, the bass tight and fluid, and Douglas is simply in the zone throughout!  Normally, instrumentals in the middle of an album...well, the annoy me, to be honest...but "Vertigo" was a dose of fun I did not anticipate.

The closing track, which is an odd place to put the title track, is another good rocker, coming as close to the Sunset Strip sound as anything here does, but that is largely due to the guitar solo Douglas chooses to treat the listener to.  Otherwise, this is more of a classic rock-styled track, albeit with Tora Tora's southern sensibilities thrown into the musical mix, as well.  It is a fine closer to an album that I was honestly a bit leery about when I first heard it mentioned.

Twenty-five years is a LONG time to go between albums (1994 is when Revolution Day was originally recorded, never mind when it was released, and I was curious where the band would find themselves.  Thankfully, they found themselves pretty much where they left us.  Unfortunately, you aren't likely to hear anything from this record on any radio...satellite or you're going to have to track the album down  But, once again, Frontiers has found a quality band to resurrect, and I doubt most fans of the band from 30 years ago are going to find anything to complain about here.

Rating:  A step up from Revolution Day, but perhaps still a step behind Wild America, Bastards Of Beale is crankable, nonetheless!  Crank this to 7.5!

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Friday, February 1, 2019

SILVERTUNG "(But, At What Cost??!)

(c) 2019 Thermal Entertainment

  1. Dodging Bullets
  2. Feeling Inhuman
  3. World Gone Mad
  4. Wise Up
  5. Black Sunset
  6. You're Fine
  7. Done My Best
Speed--Lead Vocals, Guitar
Codey--Lead Guitar
Sam Sour--Bass

Baltimore, Maryland isn't exactly a hotbed for the hard rock/metal industry, but Silvertung is doing their best to change that impression.  In fact, they have been doing so for some time now, as (But, At What Cost??!) is the band's fifth release in six years, and they have placed at least three tracks in the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, with "Face The Music" being the one that sticks out in my mind the most.  They've also garnered stage time with some serious heavyweights of the hard music scene, with opening slots for Godsmack, Anthrax, and Shinedown.  And now, with (But, At What Cost??!), the time may be now for this band to step fully into the spotlight.

This maxi-EP (7 songs is pretty long for an EP, but not really enough for a standard LP) kicks off with the hard rocking, "Dodging Bullets".  An aggressive, modern rocker, with tight, swirling guitars and relentless drums, "Dodging Bullets" is the perfect stage-setter for this band, as it includes everything they are about.  Speed's snarling-yet-oddly-melodic vocals rise above the musical fray on this scorching affair that would be perfect for a WWE or UFC promo song!  It sounds to me like there are some keys, or some sort of electronic programming effects here that are uncredited on the promo release I received, but they merely add to the mix here, rather than detract, and the guitar solo from Codey is a rather impressive chunk of work.

"Feeling Inhuman" continues the aggressive groove, again with some electronic elements mixed into the undercurrent of a track that carries a bit of a nu-metal feel, especially in the down-tuned guitars and the way Speed echoes the song's title in the chorus sections near the end.

"World Gone Mad" is a definite contender for best track on the release, with a chugga-chugga guitar riff punctuating the verse sections, and Speed once again adding an element of melody to his otherwise sneering vocals.  Utilizing an interesting vocal bridge/breakdown section rather than a guitar solo, the song carries a bit of a Rob Zombie feel to it, but not so much as to come across as a rip-off of any sort.  Sour's bass is definitely a presence on this track, as well, and the sing-along chorus is just the hook to complete the package.   

"Wise Up" is probably the angriest of the songs here, and it works well.  I really felt like I had heard this song before, somewhere, but I think it's just the catchy songwriting approach used on the chorus that feels so familiar.  Speed's snarling, barking vocals, especially on the ultra-aggressive chorus, mixed with the discordant guitars that rip through the section between the last two runs through said chorus, really set this song apart from most of the rest of the album.  I have a feeling this may end up in my new workout mix.

For much of the track, "Black Sunset" is rather reminiscent of a big Godsmack arena rocker, and that's a dang fine thing!  Bursting at the seams with metal-tinged angst, "Black Sunset" is a crushing mass of vocal fury, with a big vocal breakdown, with all sorts of angry barking and fist-punching-the-air, "Hey! Hey! Heys!"  I dig this track, no question.

"You're Fine" is another solid rocker, although it is rather repetitive in the lyrics, and it seems the track is over before it ever really got things going.  Normally that would be a frustrating thing, but it gets us to "Done My Best" that much quicker, and that is a good thing.  

The lead single from this release, "Done My Best" has a metallic "swing" feel to it, with some excellent footwork from Danno really helping to set the tone here.  Lots of stop-start guitars in the verse sections, and some nice twin guitar work in the chorus really set this song apart from anything else here, as do the gang-shouted layers on parts of each of the verses. Despite its aggressive vocal delivery, its impossible to miss the big, catchy hook here, and this is a track that I think should see some rapid, upward movement on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, as well as on Octane, and open-minded terrestrial radio stations that don't bow down to what the corporate rock gods think people want to hear (do such stations exist?).  I would have loved to hear Codey unleash a blazing solo here, rather than the nu-metallish breakdown that is employed, but this minor deficiency does  nothing to damper my feelings for this song.  Definitely a winner of a track here, and probably my favorite, although both "World Gone Mad" and "Black Sunset" are also big songs for me, as is the blood-pumping crusher, "Wise Up".         

Plenty of heavy riffage can be found throughout the album, and the production from Steven Wright (Slipknot, Mars Volta) brings an edge to the band's sound that should help it to fit right in...without blending into the modern rock landscape of 2018-2019.  Each track here is crisp and tight, without tons of extraneous intro or outro monotony to wade through, with every slap to the face track clocking in at between 2:45 and 3:47.  Of course, if you do the quick math, you also understand that this album...again, I'm calling it a maxi-EP...hits the stopwatch button before half an hour has passed, which is a bit of a bummer, as I was just starting to feel like I was good and warmed up by the time "Done My Best" wraps things up.   

Overall, a really fine effort from the band and one that I hope gives them more than a passing glance from the modern rock community, even if it's just so Speed can buy a jacket with two sleeves (watch the video, you'll get what I mean...).

Rating:  A crankable way to start the new year for these guys!  Give this seven track effort a seven on your dial!