• Wretch - WARRIORS

    Image: Wretch, Warriors, Review, Power Metal, Chris Akin, Pitriff Wretch
    WARRIORS

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    There's an unwritten rule that I rarely follow here in Cleveland. That rule is that if a band is from Cleveland, I'm supposed to write all glowing things or else be called a hater by the local community. It's sad that it's like that, but the truth is what it is. For years I've lived with that stigma, to the point

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  • Machine Head - BLOODSTONE & DIAMONDS

    Image: Machine Head, Bloodstone & Diamonds, Pitriff, Review, Thrash Metal Machine Head
    BLOODSTONE & DIAMONDS

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    What happened to Machine Head really is a crime. Unfortunately for them, it's a crime they perpetrated upon themselves. With a mistake so many made in their youth, this band singlehandedly torpedoed themselves from ascending to the heights in metal held by only the select few like Metallica and Megadeth before them. After THE MORE THINGS CHANGE came

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  • Nashville Outlaws - TRIBUTE TO MOTLEY CRUE

    Image: Nashville Outlaws, Motley Crue Tribute Nashville Outlaws
    A TRIBUTE TO MOTLEY CRUE

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    With the music industry pretty much dead anymore, nothing really comes off as shocking. After all, you have very desperate companies trying to hang on and make money from an industry that has about as much relevance today as the typewriter ribbon makers of the world still do. The current trend for the last half decade

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  • Texas Hippie Coalition - RIDE ON

    Image: Texas Hippie Coalition, Ride On, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Review, Classic Metal Texas Hippie Coalition
    RIDE ON

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    I tell this story often, but it's one of my favorites of the past year. I had the chance to interview the Texas Hippie Coalition earlier this year at Rock On The Range in Columbus, Ohio. I was in a small tent with a bunch of photographers. The tent was fairly quiet really, as the much bigger adjacent

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  • Sammy Hagar - LITE ROAST

    Image: Sammy Hagar, Lite Roast, NonMetal, Review Sammy Hagar
    LITE ROAST

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    I get it. You are Sammy Hagar. You've seen huge success in virtually every world you've entered. In music, he was the main focus of Montrose. He parlayed that into a very successful solo career. That wasn't enough, so he joined the world's largest band at the time (Van Halen), and took them to commercial heights that even they

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  • Cavalera Conspiracy - PANDEMONIUM

    Image: Cavalera Conspiracy, Pandemonium, Pitriff, Death Metal, Review Cavalera Conspiracy
    PANDEMONIUM

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    There's always good news and bad news whenever Max Cavalera gets busy with new music. The good is that you get a whole lot of new music, seemingly all in a very short time. The bad news is it's generally spotty at best, because he simply writes and releases too much music at the same time. His band Soulfly released

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  • Slipknot - .5 THE GRAY MATTER

    Image: Slipknot, .5 The Gray Matter, Pitriff, CD Review, Modern Metal Slipknot
    .5 THE GRAY MATTER

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    With a ton of speculation and even more wonderment on this band's ability to continue on without founding members Paul Gray and Joey Jordison, Slipknot has returned after far too long of a layoff with .5 THE GRAY MATTER. I've listened to this release multiple times a day for the last week or so that I've had it,

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  • Opeth - PALE COMMUNION

    Image: Opeth, Pale Communion, Pitriff, Review, Progressive Metal Opeth
    PALE COMMUNION

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    Opeth simply fails as a band, at least to me. While I'll admit to never fully understanding the amazement and awe so many have for this band, I've appreciated them from afar. I've listened, and I've at least wrapped my head around what they were trying to do. Their fusing of death metal with progressive elements always made for an

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  • Cannibal Corpse - A SKELETAL DOMAIN

    Cannibal Corpse, A Skeletal Domain, Review, Death Metal Cannibal Corpse
    A SKELETAL DOMAIN

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    So really, what does anyone expect when you get a Cannibal Corpse release handed to you? Ballads, love songs and fun? Not hardly. There's an expectation of severe brutality which the band delivers time and time again. Certainly, it comes with different levels of acceptance to one's ears, but ultimately the only thing that matters if it says

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  • Exodus - BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT

    Image: Exodus, Blood In Blood Out, Pitriff, Review, Thrash Metal Exodus
    BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT

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    Unless you call Testament a "thrash band" (which I don't personally), Exodus would rank as my favorite true Thrash band of all time. They have had good times and bad. Occasionally, like on FABULOUS DISASTER, they have misstepped along the way. But overall, they are one of the true powerhouses in the history of thrash metal. Since 2004

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  • Mr. Big - ...THE STORIES WE COULD TELL

    Mr. Big, The Stories We Could Tell, Reviews, Classic Metal, Chris Akin, Pitriff Mr. Big
    ...THE STORIES WE COULD TELL

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    As a fan of Mr. Big, I can't honestly say that many people thought that their reunion was much more than a cash grab opportunity for the guys in the band who, while immensely talented, failed to find solo success to match their collaborative efforts. It was never a question of if they could still play.

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Black Stone Cherry - MAGIC MOUNTAIN

Image: Black Stone Cherry, Magic Mountain, Classic Metal, Review, PitriffBlack Stone Cherry
MAGIC MOUNTAIN

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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.

With their fourth album, Magic Mountain, Black Stone Cherry have finally made the record I'd been hoping they would. The band's essential sound hasn't changed: the guitars are still tuned low, and Robertson's voice is still a deep baritone. But the band has managed to convey a real sense of fun and tunefulness that was sometimes lacking in earlier material. And they're able to maintain that spirit and high level of quality throughout Magic Mountain. The melodies are stronger, the songs are catchier, and the overall performance is just better than on any previous release. You listen to the guys harmonize on a song like "Peace Pipe," the thick, soupy guitar leads of "Holdin' On...to Letting Go," or the heavy thump of leafy-green celebration "Me And Mary Jane," and it just restores your faith in this band, and of young people (i.e. my age or younger), who came of age in the postgrunge era, to make rock that really rolls, without sounding self-consciously retro. Even the dreaded Fucky Effect can't derail a pounding party anthem like "Fiesta Del Fuego." On the mellow side, "Sometimes" goes beyond the trite shrink's-couch whining of their contemporaries, and the predictable together/forever, remember/December lyrics of their own past ballads, instead reeking of genuine emotion.

There's really only one stinker in the bunch, and it comes in the form of "Hollywood In Kentucky," an attempt at a lighthearted "country checklist" song. This is a trope well-known to listeners of pop-country, but may not be as familiar to hard-rock listeners. Basically, it's just a rhyming list of all the things you might see and do outside the city-limits sign. Food, front porches, outdoor recreation, pickup trucks, and church usually figure prominently in these kinds of songs, as well as a kind of defensive belligerence. Like, "You think yer better'n me?!" They're predictable and stupid, but a certain type of person never seems to tire of them, and so Nashville keeps barfing them up. Black Stone Cherry knows this, but they do one anyway, and even include a line about how we all need to lighten up. But I don't wanna lighten up about a song that contains lines like these: "You'd open up a truck door takin' out your lover / She might be your cousin but she wouldn't be your lover." So what are they saying, that incest is preferable to homosexuality? And later, "Every pair of boots would get a little muddy / Your ass would get a job if you ran out of money / ... if Hollywood was in Kentucky." Note to BSC: research the percentage of your home state's population collecting some form of welfare. (Hint: it's pretty high, as states go.) But you wanna know the weird thing? As pandering as the lyrics are to the lowest common denominator, it's still an enjoyable little tune musically, and when they kick into a triple-time jam at the end, like bluegrass played with hard-rock instrumentation, you can't help but smile.

PITRIFF RATING - 88/100 - It's so nice to be pleasantly surprised by a new release. You check it out for the four or five good songs, and it turns out, almost the whole damn thing is a good listen. Black Stone Cherry seem like a totally likable bunch of guys who came up the hard way, and it's hard not to root for them. I'm glad to say Magic Mountain is the album I'd always hoped they would make.

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A look at one of the most polarizing, iconic and best selling albums of all time from author, rock critic and shock jock radio host Chris Akin.

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The shockingly honest and emotional first book from radio personality and rock critic Chris Akin.

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