Without question, Ektomorf's last two albums, BLACK FLAG and THE ACOUSTIC, are the one-two punch of disappointment that makes me really hate when bands forget what made them good in the first place. To be clear, I'm well aware that this is a band that's never been big and never will be, but every decade I tend to latch onto a few bands that never make it big but just kick my ass each and every time out. Bands like Skinlab and Stuck Mojo have filled that void previously for me, and up until recently, Ektomorf was one of those acts. They were my favorite Soulfly sounding band that filled the rare void between Cavalera albums. THE ACOUSTIC was a disastrous mistake in my opinion, as Ektomorf is just one of those bands that you don't want to hear play acoustically. Back to being heavy with BLACK FLAG, it's apparent there weren't a lot of fresh ideas this time around.
MUSIC FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION
I think I waited just long enough to review this album. My initial reaction to MUSIC FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION was one of absolute hatred. Once again, as Aerosmith has done for me every single time since PUMP, they claimed their album to be something that it just didn't live up to. This time, it was six months of claims that they were returning to their roots and writing a new ROCKS or TOYS IN THE ATTIC. What they delivered was, once again, a lot closer to GET A GRIP or NINE LIVES. It was certainly disappointing, as Aerosmith is much like Metallica in my book - a band who's music I actually WANT to like, but far too often don't.
MACHINE FUCKING HEAD LIVE
Machine Head is one of the most intense live metal acts out there today. To me, they have filled the void that was vacated by Pantera's demise and the softening of Metallica as a live act. While this band is the single most plagued band on the planet healthwise, when they do hit the stage they are as intense an experience as you can ever witness. Additionally, they have a catalog that has a lot of brilliance in it, and for the most part they pull primarily from the better stuff when they take to the live stage.
You know, I regularly get my ass kicked by readers and friends for claiming that Kid Rock is the most talented, and best artist out there today that's making music. That's fine. I know that as primarily a metalhead, I'm supposed to loathe what Kid Rock stands for. Let's face it, he did make his mark as a rapper, and then sold that out to do what he actually wanted to do, which was make primarily rock music. I guess I see that. I also guess I don't care. I thought he was really good as a rapper. I think he's better as a modern day classic rock artist. The one thing that's never changed with Kid Rock has been his attitude. He's done whatever he wanted from day 1, and he's made it big in spite of the expectations that people in the industry throw on him. Every album now comes with a heavy dose of "fuck you" combined with a side order of "you don't know shit" that he happily throws in the face of an industry that's hellbent on defining trends instead of listening to fans and their desires. Thank God for Kid Rock.
In Alcatraz 1962
Standby Records is one of those labels putting out modern metal where they are pretty much hit or miss with me. They have put out some bands like Hopes Die Last, Modern Day Escape and Davey Suicide who's music I have completely dug. Then again, there are other bands like Blessed By A Burden or Emergency 911 that have just sucked balls. With that label, there really is no middle ground. Add In Alcatraz 1962 to the "completely dug" list. THE DRIVE is a fairly simple, extremely punishing and yet sonically excellent dose of hammer smashes to the face. Without question, THE DRIVE is one of those releases that leaves me thinking there is hope for the next generation of metal bands.
KINGS AND THIEVES
It's weird going into a record from someone you actually like but fully expecting it to suck. That is the case with KINGS AND THIEVES, the latest from Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate. Having not been a fan of his last two Queensryche albums as well as remembering how abysmal his last solo album was a decade ago, there was a lot of thought that KINGS AND THIEVES would be a train wreck. Add to that all the drama that's been going on with him being ejected from Queensryche, the legal stuff that has followed, and now his all star band that he's calling Queensryche, and you can imagine that thoughts of anything good coming from this solo album were few and far between.
AFTERMATH OF THE LOWDOWN
Richie Sambora is an amazing talent who has wasted so much of that talent by toiling away in Bon Jovi for so many crummy, formulaic albums that followed KEEP THE FAITH. Those albums just seemed like lame, adaptive releases that packed little excitement or energy like the original Bon Jovi albums did. For Sambora though, his work outside of the framework has always been underappreciated by the masses, but consistently excellent. Both STRANGER IN THIS TOWN and UNDISCOVERED SOUL showcased not only a different side of Sambora as a player, but absolutely impressive lead vocals that were worthy of heading up a major rock band all by himself.
30 YEARS OF HEL
After 30 years, you could safely assume that a band still existing but having never had mega-success might just be a tired shell of their former selves. We've all seen these second tier bands reunite and embarrass themselves from time to time because it becomes more about hanging with their buds than it does to being serious about their music and their craft. After 30 years though, it's clear that Helstar might actually have more direction and aggression than they ever exhibited before. Led by diminutive vocalist James Rivera, the ferocity of Helstar is definitely far greater now than it was at any time in their long career. With the release of their new live collection 30 YEARS OF HEL, Rivera and company have proved that they were not only a great band back in the day, but still continue to bring it as strong as any thrasher band out there today.