CONSTRICTING RAGE OF THE MERCILESS
Here's one for the stout of heart and strong of neck: New Orleans's Goatwhore have just barfed up their sixth album, and if you liked the last few releases, Constricting Rage of the Merciless is sure to appease your charred heart. If you haven't been following along, Goatwhore is sort of a supergroup, if having members of Soilent Green and Acid Bath in the ranks qualifies for that designation—and maybe it doesn't, given the incestuous nature of that city's metal scene. They started out playing pure black metal in the Norwegian style, complete with cumbersome, English-as-a-second-language song titles, but over the ensuing fifteen years, their sound has evolved to include healthy doses of thrash and death metal, and even an almost rock 'n' roll swagger here and there. As a result, when you see news items about them on websites like Blabbermouth, they tend to have laughably long descriptors. Stuff like, "New Orleans hardcore blackened-thrash death 'n' roll sludgemeisters."
It's not a secret that this whole retro movement in the worlds of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal has been an absolutely God sent for my musical palette. For so many years now, probably 20 or more, the ONLY band I've had to hold onto when I wanted new music from a band who's influences were steeped into the days of the late '60s/early '70s "war anthem" hard rock sound has been The Black Crowes. Every disc from them has been welcomed because it always accurately captured that spirit from a time that's long gone in music. Lately though, there's been a great many bands that have emerged and just have made my own personal listening experience better than it's been in years. SpiralArms and Scorpion Child were, without question, my favorites last year. Here at the halfway point of 2014, the runaway winner is Blues Pills. This soulful rock record is the very best thing to come across this desk this year, as it's as close to flawless as a disc can be.
Retro has become in these days, and there are more and more bands creeping up that have harkened their sound back to a time that left well over 30 years ago. The last 2 years have seen an influx of bands reaching back to the '70s. Bands like Blues Pills, Vista Chino, Scorpion Child and Rival Sons have all emerged with killer throwback vibes that are impressive. There's been a few bands that have come forward a little bit to the '80s, and have had varying success with that. So along comes Unbreakable; a band produced by Scorpions' legend Herman Rarebell that seemingly listened to a lot of '80s metal along the way. While I will say they are interesting, there's just something not fully clicking with this band. It's hard to put my finger on it, but there's just something not quite there.
RUNNING WITH THE DOGS
Admit it: you've just about given up on England when it comes to producing quality rock 'n' roll. The land that brought us the Beatles, the Stones, Zeppelin, and of course the revered NWOBHM--in the past twenty-five years, what have they given us? The Wildhearts? Come on. The Darkness? Come the fuck on!
The Treatment are a five-piece band that hail from that benighted former bastion of rock supremacy. Their 2011 independent debut, This Might Hurt, caused enough of a buzz to earn them a support slot for Van Halen's European tour (while we Yankee pigs were stuck with Kool and the Gang). Now comes the band's second album, Running With The Dogs.
The big story surrounding Arch Enemy's ninth studio album is that the band has done the impossible. They replaced their lead singer calmly, quietly, and without anybody knowing about it until it was already done—and somehow didn't miss a beat in the process. It's hard enough to replace a singer just once, but Arch Enemy has done it twice, and while there are still some people bellyaching over the loss of original vocalist Johan Liiva, it's safe to say Angela Gossow left a much bigger footprint on the band, and on metal in the new millennium. With her at the mic, Arch Enemy were one of the bands responsible for popularizing so-called "melodic death metal," if not in the mainstream, at least outside of the dank sub-basements of the underground. Plus, she reminded a new generation of female headbangers that you didn't need to be an opera singer, a goth chick, or a bassist to find a place in extreme metal.
It definitely sucks when you watch a band that you are REALLY a fan of implode. For me, that's just what I had to do with Black Country Communion. As the band that I think a lot of people compared head to head with Sammy Hagar's supergroup Chickenfoot, BCC stormed out quickly and recorded three tremendous releases. Still, as quickly as they came up, they imploded. Guitarist Joe Bonamassa's ego seemed to clash with vocalist Glenn Hughes', and before long you had half the band (Bonamassa and keyboardist Derek Sherinian) on one side, and the other half (Hughes and drummer Jason Bonham) on the other. The side most people will care about, Hughes and Jason Bonham, have returned with a new band name, a new guitarist and a slightly different sound from what they were doing. The sound may be a bit different, but it's clearly lost none of it's punch.
One of the hardest things I'm tasked to do when reviewing bands is to look past the individual history of the members when a new project pops up. Many times, you really can't help but to think about a guy's past work in another band. That's especially true when the guy is the singer. MuckRaker is one of those bands for me. Vocalist Will Price's previous band, Boiler, was not only one of those underground bands that I caught and love to this day, but comes with a sentimental amount of favoritism from me as well as they were the first national band I ever booked to play a show. So I do have a connection, which I will say is one of the main reasons I would have ever even listened to MuckRaker. But, if I'm going to keep my integrity as a writer, I have to look past that and judge this project on it's own merits and not against Price's past.
REDEEMER OF SOULS
Judas Priest has a lot to atone for in the eyes of all fans except for Jim "Nostradamus" Bartek. Given the fact that Bartek's 524 day listening streak to NOSTRADAMUS probably doubled the count of the rest of the Priest fanbase combined, it's clear that the once Mighty Priest needed to do something very, very metal this time around or it might just be time to call it a day. Not only was NOSTRADAMUS a bomb, but it also marked the moment that the dynamic duo of Tipton and Downing split in half, as KK decided to take his skills to the golf course and leave the band behind. With that said, and given that Priest fans have gone 9 long years without a good Judas Priest release to listen to, there's a ton of expectation on REDEEMER OF SOULS.
I'm generally excited when Jizzy Pearl fronts any band. He's one of my favorite singers out there from the classic metal era; a distinct sounding guy who has proven to be a chameleon while maintaining a sound there is no mistaking. Jizzy joining Quiet Riot was a welcome thought to me, personally. While I've never been a huge Quiet Riot fan, I've always found Kevin Dubrow and Frankie Banali to be good at what they do. When Dubrow died, they went through a few singers looking for the right fit before Pearl took the job most recently. To be honest, it's surprising (at least to me) that they decided to record so quickly after Pearl joined the band. The resulting work is 10, the new album of sorts from the current lineup of Quiet Riot.
Black Stone Cherry
Well, they finally did it. After nearly a decade of being hailed as the new kings of southern rock, and receiving favorable comparisons to Zeppelin and Skynyrd, western Kentucky's Black Stone Cherry have released an album that's worthy of all the praise.
I've always liked the IDEA of Black Stone Cherry. I mean, what's not to like about a bunch of good ol' (young) boys flying the rock 'n' roll rebel flag? I was a bit lukewarm on the band's actual music, though. BSC always sounded more like Alice In Chains with a twang than any of the classic-rock heroes people seemed so eager to compare them to. Southern-rock poured through a thick filter of down-tuned grunge. Black Label Society minus the showy guitars and pretend biker-gang ethos, if you will, or maybe Stone Temple Pilots dressed up in overalls and a stars-and-bars shirt (that analogy owing in part to Chris Robertson's drony Weiland-like vocal style). I wanted to like BSC, and checked out every new release, waiting for them to break out. If they could just put together a whole album of songs like "Hell And High Water," "Soul Creek" or "White Trash Millionaire," we'd be in business.