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.
THE VERY BEAST OF DIO 2
We all recognize the greatness of Dio. There is no denying the fact that he is, arguably, the best metal vocalist in the genre's history. I'm pretty sure that almost any metalhead, be they fans of hair metal or death metal, would ever have a problem hearing a Dio tune cranked up and rockin' their surrounding area. Clearly, he's one of the most missed singers to have passed on.
Talk about your throwback to the 1960s or very early '70s! LEGEND is one of those albums that if you don't listen closely, you might mistake for a long lost '70s Black Sabbath demo had Ronnie James Dio been auditioning for the band that far back. While it doesn't pack the punch of the great Black Sabbath, the vibe and the aura of doom metal is all over this record. To say the least, Witchcraft is not merely a copycat band though. They have their own vibe that gloriously waves the influence of Black Sabbath on it, but also features a more straight forward rock sound that will make you 80s rockers jump for joy. LEGEND is a very cool release.
BLEED & SCREAM
While most bands mellow like wine with age Sweden's Eclipse have followed a different trajectory becoming heavier over the course of their thirteen year career. Bleed & Scream, the band's fourth release, showcases these stellar musicians at the apex of their creativity and aggression. Having slowly shed the melodic hard pop of their early days, this album is pure unadulterated metallic rock of the classiest variety.
Each song glimmers strongly with its own unique identity proving the Swedes have worked hard at evolving their craft rather than finding a "formula" and riding it out. Stand out tracks like "Bleed & Scream" "SOS" "Wake Me Up" & "A Bitter Taste" are as different from one another as they are from any other bands in the melodic metal scene. After a decade of writing, this skill deserves more applause than it gets.
IV: PART 1, THE PURPLE EP
Of all the guys from Pantera, it really is surprising that Philip Anselmo was the one to emerge and find the most success after that band. We all know what happened to Dimebag, but Vinnie Paul's decision to join an average to below average Supergroup and Rex Brown's recent move to the decent but not going anywhere band Kill Devil Hill leaves Anselmo as the lone guy still making music that a lot of the Pantera fans actually love and respect. Returning from the great but disappointing album OVER THE UNDER (disappointing because the production was so God awful), Anselmo and his southern fried project Down are back with the first of a multi-installment set of releases. THE PURPLE EP is exactly what you would expect from Down, especially if you were a fan of DOWN II: A BUSTLE IN YOUR HEDGEROW.