Saturday, March 27, 2021

LOVE AND DEATH "Perfectly Preserved"


(c) 2021 Headdog Music/Blind Tiger Entertainment

  1. Infamy
  2. Tragedy
  3. Down
  4. Let Me Love You (feat. Lacey Sturm)
  5. Death Of Us
  6. Slow Fire
  7. The Hunter
  8. Lo Lamento
  9. Affliction
  10. White Flag
Brian "Head" Welch--Vocals, Guitars
J.R. Bareis--Guitars, Vocals
Jasen Rauch--Bass, Vocals
Isaiah Perez--Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians
Lacey Sturm--Co-lead Vocals on "Let Me Love You"
Keith Wallen--additional guitars on "The Hunter"
Ryan Hayes--Vocal bridge on "White Flag"

It had been eight full years since the release of Love And Death's first album, Between Here And Lost, a full five years since we had heard even a new song from Korn guitarist, Brian "Head" Welch's "side" project, and more than a decade since Welch released his initial Christian project, Save Me From Myself.  Indeed, 2016's "Lo Lamento", which is also included here, was believed by many fans to be the swan song of what looked to be a promising band, as there hadn't even been rumors or rumblings coming from the L&D camp in years, thanks in large part to Head returning to his "day job" as the guitar player for Korn.  

And then the world went sideways...

Whether of not Covid had anything to do with the resurrection of Love And Death, I am not certain, but it would seem to be EXTREMELY coincidental that Love And Death suddenly seemed to be a machine on the move once touring was cancelled across the country/world, and bands started recording new material as an outlet and a way to generate some income.  Regardless of the reason, with a new rhythm section in place, Head and J.R. Bareis have returned with Perfectly Preserved, a brand new, full-length album from Love And Death.  

The temptation here is to refer to Love And Death as something of a supergroup now, as all of the members have a background with other significant acts.  The obvious here is Head who, whether you like Korn or not, has to be considered one of the more influential guitar players of the past few decades as that band was at the forefront of the down-tuned Nu-Metal movement.  Bareis was a relative unknown on the first Love And Death album, but he has gone on to work with notable the Christian hard rock/modern metal group, Spoken.  As to the newcomers, Rauch is not only a well-respected producer, but he is also the guitar player for Breaking Benjamin and was a member of Red on two of that band's albums, as well.  And while Phineas may not be a household name to many people, Perez's drum work for that metalcore band, as well as his time spent in Righteous Vendetta, is well-known in modern metal circles.  Even the guest musicians lend a "supergroup" mentality to Perfectly Preserved, as metal siren Lacey Sturm, formerly of Flyleaf, joins the band for a song, as does Rauch's Breaking Benjamin bandmate, Keith Wallen, on guest guitars, and Righteous Vendetta's Ryan Hayes on vocals, as well.  Through all of this "star power" however, a cohesive sound still emerges on Perfectly Preserved, with a natural growth from the previous record both evident and understandable.  Yes, Perfectly Preserved still sounds like Love And Death, but this is a more mature Love And Death musically, a more accessible Love And Death, for the most part.  This album still rocks plenty hard, and even dips its hand in the Nu Metal pool from time to time, but there are definitely some changes on Perfectly Preserved that let you know this isn't simply a retread of the first album.

The album starts with an oddity of a track, as the moody intro song "Infamy" features far more piano than anything else, and I have to admit to being a bit thrown as I had heard the lead single "Down" already, and it had NOTHING to do with this type of music. Dark and melodic, "Infamy" clocks in at less than two minutes, however, and features the album's title in its lyrics, and while it isn't a precursor of things to come musically, it certainly carries the angst of much of the rest of the track, especially when Head's roaring vocals can be heard beneath the much smoother vocals of Bareis, who does a good share of the vocal work on this record.

Once "Tragedy" roars to life, the oddity of "Infamy" is quickly forgotten and the listener is just as quickly reacquainted with the old friend that is Head's snarling voice and down-tuned guitar style.  It is immediately obvious, however, that something is subtly different this time around, however, as there is a melodic sensibility to this track that never really appeared on Between Here And Lost.  Indeed, the chorus is far more sing-along here than at any point on the last album, a point of emphasis in more than one place on Perfectly Preserved.  It is the interplay between the heavy aggression of the riffs and verse sections and the more melodic moments during the chorus that we find the growth of this band, both as performers and songwriters, a growth which will recur throughout the record.    

Most people into this style of music have likely heard the lead single, "Down" by now, and it is a really good representation of what to expect from Perfectly Preserved.  Haunting clean vocals intro the song with its chorus, before the down-tuned, buzzsaw of guitars roars to life accompanied by the heavy drumming style that Perez brings to the project.  Head handles the lead vocals here, both the clean, more melodic lines and those that sound like a wounded animal yowling in pain, and he does an excellent job.  It is clear why this song was chosen as the lead single, and it has been hanging around the top of the Christian Hard Rock and metal charts for a couple of months now, pushing its way toward number one on a couple of them.  Honestly, the fact that secular outlets (ahem, Octane) have ignored this track is exceedingly frustrating, not only because of the star-quality of the band, but also because there is nothing "religious" or overtly "Christian" about this song.       

I've heard a lot of complaints about the cover of Justin Bieber's "Let Me Love You", and honestly, for the life of me, I don't understand it.  Sure, it comes out of left field a bit, but did you honestly expect L&D to cover "Whip It" on the last record?  Bizarre is what Head does!  Frankly, I think the vocal pairing here between J.R. Bareis and scream-queen, Lacey Sturm, is spot-on, and with Head ruminating angrily in the background with his snarls and growls, I love how the song works, overall.  Bareis has an excellent melodic vocal style...the guy is a really good singer...and Sturm uses both her breathy, clean vocals and her out-of-her-mind-with-rage vocals, both to excellent effect.  The guitar tone is excellent, the drums are still aggressive and punchy, and Rauch's bass is utilized to great effect, so I'm honestly not really sure what the problem is here.  This is a song that is perfectly positioned to crossover a bit, and I highly anticipate this track hitting radio this summer, with it being the kind of song that even Octane might jump all over, further exposing Love And Death to a bigger audience.

"Lo Lamento" is a re-recording of the track from five years ago, and it is in superior form here (although I really like both versions).  Fans of modern heavy rock are going to find themselves drooling all over the riffing, and the various vocal styles utilized throughout the track give this song a truly distinct style.  "The Hunter" is filled with chunky, crunchy goodness from the guitars while also utilizing some very clean, truly sung vocals on the verses, while Head interjects an uber-catchy "and they told another lie, and they told another lie..." into the mix on the first verse that just churns through my brain for hours after hearing it.  

The last two songs on the album seem to form a bridge between the Love And Death world and the Korn world for Head, as far as musical styles go.  While the vast majority of the album is more modern radio rock, these last two songs take on definite Nu Metal tendencies that will likely have Korn fans begging for more.  "Affliction" utilizes some interesting guitar tones to intro the track that is probably the closest to a Korn song on the entire album, especially the way Head handles the pre-chorus in very Jonathan Davis-style.  The interplay between Head and Bareis on the chorus sections is excellent, and there is a bestially-roared vocal bridge that is simply inhuman, coming momentarily close to death metal in its approach.  Obviously a song that is important and special to Head, "Affliction" is all about addiction and recovery, which so much of the album covers, to be fair.   

On "White Flag", the majority of the song is very much in line with the rest of the record style-wise, especially on the clean chorus sections and the haunting atmospheric tones used in the background throughout the song.  But then there is a bridge section where the vocals turn exceptionally harsh, the tempo kicks things up a couple of notches, and we are back in full-on Nu Metal territory for several moments.  Ryan Hayes, from Righteous Vendetta, absolutely tears into the vocals here, creating an even more aggressive vocal approach than even Head's most angry snarls.  Easily the "heaviest" track here (what does "heavy" even mean to people now?), "White Flag" is perfectly placed at the end of the album, not because it is a bad song...not at all...but because it is so starkly different for those crushingly heavy moments, that it doesn't disrupt the flow of the overall album.

Overall, Perfectly Preserved is an excellent return for a band that many had considered dead and gone.  While the music may be a bit more modern hard rock than Nu Metal, there is still plenty for both Korn and older Love And Death fans to sink their teeth into, while also allowing for newer fans to access the band and jump on board, perhaps discovering the older material along the way.  If pressed, I think I would actually say I prefer the songwriting and overall performances on Perfectly Preserved, even if I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the intensity of "Chemicals" or "I W8 4 U" from Between Here And Lost.

Rating:  Extremely crankable!  Rip the knob up to 9 and let's hope that the world rights itself enough for us to perhaps get the chance to see Love And Death on the road at some point in 2021.

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Monday, March 15, 2021



(c) 2021 Sliptrick Records

  1. Thunderbird
  2. Raised In Hell
  3. Creep Show
  4. Choke
  5. Bones In The Fire
  6. Reload, Aim, Kill
  7. Sweet Cocaine
  8. Hammered
  9. Dead By Dawn
  10. End Of The Line
Jay R--Vocals
Stacii Blake--Bass
Dan "Sharkz" Weldon--Drums

Australia's Snake Bite Whisky is not a band for the feint of heart, to be sure.  Combining an updated take on sleaze metal with a heavy dose of punk, a dash of Outlaw country, and chaser of grunge, Snake Bite Whisky is unlike any band that has crossed my desk in recent memory.  Gritty, snotty, grimy, and dripping with sleaze and sludge, Snake Bite Whisky may look like they could have ran the streets of Hollywood in 1988, but it would have been because they were being chased by a dozen cops for publicly unrinating on the fire they had just set to the stage they were playing on!  No, these guys are not Monster Ballad darlings of the video era by any stretch, but they may try to do monstrous things to the bands who were! 

From the moment Laggy's guitar screams to life on "Thunderbird", it is evident these guys are here to kick ass, plain and simple.  Reminiscent of the early, hungry, punkish sleaze of LA Guns, this sub-2:30 scorcher sets the stage for the ten tracks of pure adrenaline-infused, heavy sleaze rock that make up Black Candy.     

"Raised In Hell" is up next, and while it dials back the punk just a tinge, the attitude and sneer of the sleaze rock these guys revel in just surges to the forefront even more.  Laggy, the band's new guitar slinger, absolutely shreds on an all-too-short solo and his dirty rhythms chug and churn throughout the track, while Snake Bite Whisky co-founder, Jay R, spits and snarls his way through the verses before getting a bit of help on the gang-shouted chorus sections.  Two tracks in and I'm already looking for Clorox wipes to try to clean the filth that is oozing out of my speakers away so that I can proceed.

As to the Outlaw country?  Well, you need venture no further than track three, "Creep Show" to get your first taste in the form of the vocals on the verse sections of this otherwise full-throttle sleaze punk track.  Particularly noticeable here is the rumbling from the bottom end where Stacii Blake's bass is hard at work, providing a solid foundation for Laggy to absolutely chew his guitar to shreds on the solo, and Sharkz rapid-fire drumming is spot on, as well!  This is a tight, tight band despite the fact that only Jay R and Stacii have been around since the start of the band.  Filthy, nasty, and raunchy, the music here is absolutely in your face and raw, played with an attitude that is just not present in so much of the modern hair/sleaze genre.  Seriously, this is not 1987 Headbanger's Ball-or-radio-ready sleaze, a la LA Guns or Faster Pussycat; this is punch-you-in-the-face-just-to-watch-the-blood-and-snot-leak-from-your-nose type of sleaze that would likely not have been allowed to see the light of day in 1987!  Full throttle and never letting up, "Creep Show" is the kind of song that is going to either completely turn you off of the band or that is going to gear you up to hear what's next.

And what is next?  More of the unexpected, to be honest.  Following a rumbling bass opening, a guitar riff very reminiscent of Guns N Roses churns to the surface, only to be met by lead vocals from Jay R that come in somewhere between Layne Staley of Alice In Chains and Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots...if they were both trying to imitate the lower range of Axl Rose.  Somehow, it works though, and "Choke" is one of those tracks that you seem to keep returning to again and again, even if you aren't 100% sure why.  Laggy again unleashes a frantic fret run before the final verse section, and this rapid fire number just blazes away until it finally burns out.

"Bones In The Fire" is early Alice In Chains worship, from the sludgy tempo to the grungy, down-tuned rhythm guitars, to that previously mentioned Layne Weiland-style of vocals.  Somewhere in the mix, Laggy drops a nifty, sleazy solo upon the unsuspecting listener, but overall, this is more early 90s Seattle than mid-to-late-80s Hollywood, but if you ask the guys, I'm sure that the members of Snake Bite Whisky will tell you they don't really care what you call it because they play what they feel.  For what it's worth, I think "Bones In The Fire" is one of the best tunes on an album that sports more than a couple strong tracks, and I find myself thinking I could go in for a full album of this type of track.

"Reload, Aim, and Kill" picks things right back up into high-speed territory, with more gritty rhythm guitars and thick, heavy bass work before a false ending sets up a straight-up punk rendering of the song's title, while "Sweet Cocaine" comes across as a musically nastier/less accessible narcotics-worshipping cousin of  Buckcherry's "Lit Up" with an even faster tempo and more sleaze and punk than spit and polish.

Lead single "Hammered" follows, again showcasing Stacii Blake's bass kickstarting things before Laggy's rhythm guitars and Jay R's snarling vocals launch themselves upon the track.  You know what, rather than try to explain it to you, I'll just let you check it out for yourself.  So, give yourself about 4 minutes of free time and check out "Hammered" below....  I'll wait for you...

The drum work from Sharkz is on full display on "Dead By Dawn", which also utilizes a decidedly "You Really Got Me" guitar riff throughout the track before giving way to an absolute string-melting solo from Laggy.  The suitably-titled "End Of The Line" closes things out in fine sleaze rock fashion, with Jay R f*bombing his way through the track as Laggy blazes through one last screaming solo, while Blake and Sharkz hoist the whole thing up on their backs and power the track home.  Really a fun way to close out a surprisingly fun listen from start to finish.

The production is as raw and dirty as a band like Snake Bite Whisky would require, but it is an intentional, professional mix and production quality here, not something you would get if you set up a boom box in a bar and listened to the band riff away.  Plenty of life and voice is given to Laggy's guitar, with good reason as the man is an absolute beast in this type of musical setting.  Sharkz and Blake are a formidable rhythm section, and Jay R, despite his Sunset Strip blonde mane, is a spitting, snarling force to be reckoned with on vocals, though admittedly he will not likely be everyone's cup of tea.  The end result is Black Candy, a full-on sleazy/punky blast of heavy rock from Down Under that will have your head banging and your fists pounding from the moment the amps are kicked on.

Rating:  Black Candy is impressively crankable from a band I have never heard of!  Crank this to 7.5!

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Sunday, March 14, 2021

WITCH HUNT "Rock N Roll Possession"


(c)2021 Rata Mutante Records/Dead Center Productions

  1. The Inquisitor
  2. Demon Hunter
  3. Iron Pact
  4. Hijos Del Fuego
  5. Margaret
  6. Witch Hunt
  7. Forces Of The Night
  8. Rock N Roll Possession
  9. The Beginning And The End
  10. Justicia y Venganza (Bonus Track)
Luis Sanchez--Lead Vocals
Robinson Rincon--Guitars
Adriana Lizcano--Bass
Jhonathan Martinez--Drums

Hailing from Bogota, Colombia, Witch Hunt is an old school speed/thrash band that wears its 80s musical influences on its denim jacket with pride.  There is little doubt that the basements and garages of these four metalheads were strewn with records and cassettes from Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, Slayer, King Diamond, Onslaught, Grim Reaper, and even old-school Helloween...not to mention a worn out copy of Metallica's Kill 'Em All! there are pieces of each of these bands stitched together to create this metallic monstrosity of a band that, despite their musical preferences, has only been around in its current form since 2016.

Musically, this is old school speed metal with tinges of thrash throughout the album.  From the opening guitar riffs of "The Inquisitor", it is apparent this band is very tight and very proficient on their instruments.  With only one guitar player credited, I'm assuming Rincon handles both lead and rhythm guitars, and he handles both with exceptional skill.  The rhythm riffing throughout the album is tight and aggressive, and the lead work is strong with flashes of creativity in the solos on a handful of songs, but nothing that is going to be mistaken as overly original or inventive.  Keep in mind, however, that this is music that is all about speed and aggression, and Rincon has that in spades as he runs the frets with deft skill that is truly incredible to hear.  Again, one needs to look no further than "The Inquisitor" to find examples of mind-numblingly fast solo work that finds Rincon using the typical speed metal scale runs to very good effect, showcasing an ability to nimbly run up and down the strings at high rates of speed, but without showcasing any real flash or flair.   This theme is echoed throughout the record in song after song, as speed is the focal point of pretty much every track here. The title track, "Rock N Roll Possession" is another great example where the song structure is solid, and headbangers are going to absolutely snap their necks to this blistering scorcher, but the solo work is rather bland, overall, and the lyrics are pretty cheesy, to be honest.  But hey, this is speed metal, right?  This is pretty much par for the course as far as the speed metal genre has gone throughout the years.

There are a couple of exceptions, however, where the band seemed to spend more time developing the songs creatively, not relying solely on breakneck speed.  Take for example "Demon Hunter".  Yes, speed is a huge factor, and Rincon and drummer Martinez both get the spotlight shone on them as they exhibit bursts of speed that seem superhuman, but there is also a good deal more creativity, not just in the guitar work...with Rincon delivering possibly his most creative solo of the record...but in the overall song structure, which shows tempo changes and subtle shifts in style throughout.  Likewise, the instrumental track, "Iron Pact" shows some impressive work from Rincon, both on rhythms and leads, and bassist Adriana Lizcano gets the chance to step into the spotlight for a bit, as well.  Again, this song is more about musicality and texture than it is about blazing a metallic path through your ears, as this song never moves past mid-tempo but still manages to hold the listener's attention throughout.  Perhaps it should come as no surprise that these two tracks are near the top of my favorites list on the album.

Also vying for favorite status is the oddly-titled "Margaret", a full-force metallic assault that has Kill 'Em All influence dripping from the strings of the rhythm guitars!  Martinez opens the song with massive drum intro, and his double kicks dominate the bottom end of the track throughout.  For the most part, Sanchez reigns himself in on vocals, spending most of the time in the lower, snarled end of his range, although he does rip into a couple of glass-shattering wails that I really and truly could do without, but they don't do enough damage to keep me from really enjoying the old-school attitude and approach of this proto-thrash monster.  I could really find myself getting into an album filled with speed/thrash of this style.  I also find myself drawn to the track "Witch Hunt", with its tempo changes, machine gun drumming, and insanely fast rhythm guitars all supporting the most controlled vocal work that Sanchez puts forth here.  And then there's the NWOBHM influenced "Forces Of The Night" that utilizes some guitar tones on the solo that are not found anywhere else on the record, while also delivering some of the strongest bass lines on the album.  Once again, Sanchez maintains a firm grip on his vocals here, and Rincon delivers a far-above-average guitar solo here that really makes me wish the entire album was crafted the way tracks 5, 6, and 7 were.  These three songs form a back-to-back-to-back stretch that is absolutely punishing and really fun to listen to!

"The Beginning And The End" is an instrumental piece that closes the album proper, and features some haunting guitar from Rincon as a seemingly dark wind blows in the background.  Its a nice piece of music, but it has nothing to do with the rest of the album, stylistically, and I'm not really sure what the point of this couple of minutes is.  Being at the end of the album I don't skip it, I just let it bring the album to a close and move on, plain and simple.  

"Justicia y Venganza" is listed as a bonus track and sounds all the world like a demo to me.  The production is considerably different than the rest of the album, and the lyrics are all in Spanish, which was not the case for the bulk of the record.  Upon further research, I discovered this was the very first single recorded by the original version of Witch Hunt, clear back in 2007, hence the sonic differences in the material.  I'm not 100% sure who the band is comprised of at that time, although there seems to be no doubt as to the vocalist, as Sanchez is running pretty free with those King Diamond-esque wails, which I have no use for, and overall this track seems like it was tagged on simply to extend the length of the record, perhaps part of the deal when it was picked up for American distribution.  Not a track I spend any time with, honestly, and if I decided I wanted to burn the CD for personal consumption, I'd honestly give this track the axe and stop at just nine songs.

So, if it sounds like I enjoy Rock N Roll Possession for the most part, that is because I generally do.  I honestly really enjoy a lot of what this band brings to the table, and Rincon and Martinez, in particular, show some real skill on their instruments for playing this type of metal.  There are a couple of weaker tracks here, sure, but there are also stretches of surprisingly good material, as well, particularly on the second half of Rock N Roll Possession.  Overall, there is a lot to like about this record musically.

That being said, whether or not you find yourself enjoying Witch Hunt is going to depend largely upon your tastes, and therefore your tolerance, of Sanchez and his vocals.  Personally, I could never get into the high-pitched wailing of Mercyful Fate or Grim Reaper, even when I found myself impressed with their musical prowess, and a couple of tracks here are borderline ruined by this type of ear-piercing vocal work.  This is going to be key for people seeking out Witch Hunt, as the vocals of Sanchez are all over the place, ranging from snarling, not-quite-death growls to piercing wails that will startle sleeping dogs throughout the neighborhood.  And while the falsetto-screamed vocals are not my all...I will say that the vocal performance from Sanchez is strong, with seemingly no issues as he moves from style to style and rides the elevator up and down his range.  Likewise, the production on the vocals is very clean, and at no point to I feel like the vocals were buried in the mix or too heavy-handed and out front.  

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by Witch Hunt, and I think a lot of old school metalheads will take an instant liking to this Colombians band.  If you can get past a couple of iffy vocal spots, and you can accept a few speed-over-substance guitar solos, Rock N Roll Possession may be exactly what fans of early speed/thrash metal are looking for.  And while not an album that will ever be a frequent player for me, as I have largely moved on from this style, Witch Hunt has a definite skill and passion for this style that translates into a far more enjoyable listen than I would have ever anticipated.

Rating:  Surprisingly, I found myself cranking this to 7!

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Friday, March 12, 2021



(c) 1994 Mercury Records

  1. Bad Attitude Shuffle
  2. All Comes Down
  3. Talk Is Cheap
  4. Hard To Find The Words
  5. Blood From A Stone
  6. Still Climbing
  7. Freewheelin'
  8. Through The Rain
  9. Easy Come Easy Go
  10. The Road's Still Long
  11. Hot & Bothered

Tom Kiefer--Lead Vocals, Guitars
Jeff LaBar--Lead Guitars
Eric Brittingham--Bass

Additional Musicians
Kenny Aronoff--Drums on 1-10
Fred Coury--Drums on "Hot & Bothered"

In 1994, one of my all-time favorite bands released what I have always considered to be one of...if not THE...last great albums from one of the members of the so-called "hair band era".  Never really fitting in with the Hollywood hair scene (probably because they were from Philadelphia), Cinderella was still lumped in with the Poisons and Warrants of the world, much the same way Great White and Tesla were.  Sure, they had long hair...heck, they pretty much had the whole "hair metal" look down...but Cinderella (and Great White, Tesla, etc.) had far more blues rock to their sound than glam pop, and generally rocked a lot harder, also.  In the end, genre-splitting was going to make very little difference, as by 1994, the whole "hair band" scene had imploded and been replaced by grunge and hard 90s alternative rock, and most 80s bands were forced underground if they were allowed to survive at all.  And while a lot of those bands tried to bend with the times and eke out an existence by distancing themselves from their past (such as Warrant did...), Cinderella refused to play the game, releasing Still Climbing, which, as I stated above, I truly believe to be one of the last great albums from those 80s bands.  And if that doesn't strike you as a bold enough statement, I'll throw another one at you; this is the best album in Cinderella's catalog.  BOOM!  Take that!

After bursting onto the scene in 1986 with their multi-platinum debut, Night Songs, Cinderella reeled off a couple more albums, including the Billboard Top Ten album, Long Cold Winter, which also eventually went triple-platinum, and 1990's Heartbreak Station album, which while decidedly less "hairy" or "glammy", somehow managed to sell a million copies and crack the Billboard Top Twenty by landing at #19.  Years on the road had taken its toll on the band members, with LaBar reportedly falling deeply into alcoholism, Coury feeling like a hired-gun (he had only actually performed on one album), and Keifer essentially losing his voice, so Cinderella stepped away from the scene from 1991 to 1993 to regroup and recover.  Of course, during that time, the music world was put on its ear, and it seemed there was little room for...or interest in...Cinderella by the time Still Climbing was released in late 1994.  In fact, to this date, the album still has not gone platinum (a million records sold), which is a true pity, as Still Climbing takes the best of all the Cinderella albums and blends it into an absolutely killer hard rock record.

Checking in at 11 songs, Still Climbing has no weak material from start to finish, and in fact features some of the best songs Kiefer has ever written...but not all of them were new tracks.  A couple of older non-album tracks from the band's heyday are dusted off, beefed up, and fine tuned for this record, and both serve Cinderella well.  If you ever track down a bootleg of some of the band's older live shows, there is a chance you might hear a slightly different version of "Talk Is Cheap" in the set, but this version is far superior, with Tom's sassy vocals and biting, sarcastic attitude on full display.  It's also worth noting that "Freewheelin'" is an older track as well, and there is a bootlegged version of this track in its pre-Night Songs version floating around out there if you desire to search for such things.  More than any other track on Still Climbing, "Freewheelin'" definitely has that earlier, "hair metal" sound, and is fast and aggressive on this record, but still manages to fit into the tracking order nicely.  Seriously, if you have the time, compare that track to something like "Push Push" or "Once Around The Ride" from Night Songs, and I think you will hear some definite similarities in style and sound.  And, as most fans of the band likely already know, "Hot & Bothered", which is the only track that drummer Fred Coury performed on, had appeared on the Wayne's World soundtrack in 1992.  That means of the 11 songs that made the cut for Still Climbing, only 8 were new tracks.  

Big deal...  

As far as new material goes, the album is filled with some of the hardest-hitting tunes Cinderella ever recorded, while still managing to keep the bluesy swagger that they had started implementing in a big way with Long Cold Winter.  From album opener, "Bad Attitude Shuffle" to the soaring "All Comes Down" to the title track, there is more punch and more grit to this record than anywhere else in their catalog.  "Blood From A Stone", which features some great Hammond organ on the intro section, may be the best song the band has ever recorded, and "Easy Come Easy Go" is a barroom-blues rocker that will flat out stomp a hole in a sawdust-covered floor if given the chance.  And don't let the acoustic intro of "Road's Still Long" fool you into thinking this number is a ballad, as you will likely be smacked upside the head by the punch of the drums and the the thunder from the bass as this mid-tempo rocker builds to a snarling, gritty peak with Keifer at his absolute vocal best.

For the casual fan who fell in love with the band based on the monster ballad "Don't Know What You've Got (Till It's Gone)", or perhaps that song's older predecessor, "Nobody's Fool", you need look no further than the two MASSIVE ballads from Still Climbing to find something to sink your teeth into!  "Hard To Find The Words", a ballad written from Tom to his mother, is a true gem and should be played every Mother's Day by every guy in the world!  Tom pours his heart out on this remarkable track, apologizing for who he was and crediting Mom for who he has become.  Poignant, but never sappy, "Hard To Find The Words" is truly top-notch songwriting at its best.  Not far behind is the equally powerful, "Through The Rain", another inspired piece of balladry that had all but died on rock radio by the time the album was released.   

The production on Still Climbing is the best of the band's catalog, as well, with the drum sound, in particular, being excellent, with a lot of punch and a nice, tight sound to the snares.  The guitars, from the rhythms to the leads to the slide solos, are just spot-on perfect, and a couple of years off had given Tom the strongest, richest sound from his voice that he had achieved on record since Long Cold Winter for sure, as he was able to hit the raspy highs and the cleaner lows, seemingly with ease...even though Kiefer has gone on record stating that the album was a vocal nightmare for him to make.  You'd never know it to hear Still Climbing, as he sounds truly incredible from note one.  Sadly, the vocal issues would return in some subsequent shows...of which I attended more than a few...and Tom would have troubles in the live setting for a few years.  Thankfully, he has been able to return to singing in recent years with a couple of solo albums, including the really strong The Way Life Goes, and the live videos I have seen of his solo act seem to indicate a lot of his vocal struggles are behind him at this point in his career.

If you have never given this record a chance because of the timeframe it was released it, do yourself a favor and pick it up.  Don't assume you are getting Warrant's Ultraphobic or Dokken's Dysfunctional, as there is not a single attempt at grunge or alternative on Still Climbing.  All you get is good, hard, blues-based rock that rattles the windows and shakes the floor, regardless of what radio stations and critics were clamoring for at the time.  No label support, no official videos, no airplay.  None of it mattered, as the band just did what the band wanted to do with Still Climbing.  As a result, although they didn't know it at the time, Cinderella brought their career to a close at an all-time high, which is what we should aspire to.  

Rating:  Such a crankable record, even 27 years later!  Crank this to 9.5, as it is darn near perfect and, to state it one more time, possibly the last great record of the hair era!

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