Even as a fan of Tesla, it's not hard to look at the band and find them to be somewhat less than energetic when it comes to putting out new music. They've now come forth with just their 7th studio album of new material since 1986. Let's be honest here, folks...that's not a lot of material over a VERY LONG period of time. Still, where they lack in over-productivity, they have always made up for it in quality. While fans and casual listeners may not love everything the band has done, there's really not a release in those seven where you go, "what in the fuck is this". To the contrary, when Tesla does decide to release a new disc, it generally comes with a certain certainty of what the listening experience will be. While SIMPLICITY has been beaten up a bit for being slower and lacking of the faster rock tunes of the past, I might argue that it's the closest to what this band has always wanted to be. A seriously strong release that fuses all the greatness of rock's history with that "Tesla vibe", SIMPLICITY is one of the stronger releases in the first half of 2014.
I really don't think that, of all the bands out there, Tankard could ever do anything I don't appreciate in some way or another. Let's face it, if ever there was a "Chris Akin" band, Tankard would be it. They make the kind of metal that is closest to my heart - Thrash with just a touch of melody to make it completely compelling. And all of their releases are themed around drinking, beer, drinking and drinking. If this band was renamed "The Chris Akin Experience" is about the only way I could like them anymore. For the last several years, Tankard has been cranking out some of the best music of their career at a furious pace. In fact, they have had a new release out every 2 years since 1998! That's golden if you are a fan of any band. Tankard simply gives you enough time to digest the last one before coming forth with a new dose of drunken debauchery.
Prey On The Fallen
PREY ON THE FALLEN
There's something to be said about persistence. Prey On The Fallen have been blowing up my email and Facebook for a few months to get me to review their CD. That's usually a formula for an instant discard of their music to be honest, but these guys did it with a politeness that's refreshing. The reality is that I've been buried in other projects, which is the only reason I didn't get to this one sooner. PREY ON THE FALLEN is not a release that will reinvent the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but if you are into chugging heavy metal with touches of 80s flair in it, then these guys will probably keep you very well entertained.
LIVE YOU TO DEATH 2: AMERICAN PUNISHMENT
There are some bands that just seem to live on and on. Like cockroaches, nothing can really kill them. Vicious Rumors is one such band. With a roster that now lists 34 current and past players in their history, there's just something that does not allow this band to die. That something is guitarist Geoff Thorpe. One of the most underrated in the thrash/power metal genre from back in the day, Thorpe has long kept Vicious Rumors not only alive, but creating killer releases that their small but loyal fanbase continues to crave. Last year's ELECTRIC PUNISHMENT was about as good a release as the band had ever done, and yet, even with that, the lineup was turned over by the time they got out on the road and began touring for it. Still, the band soldiers on and presents the most current lineup in the surprisingly crisp and biting new live release, LIVE YOU TO DEATH 2: AMERICAN PUNISHMENT.
Saints Of Rebellion
NEW AMERICAN DREAM
In a regular week, Pitriff receives about 50 emails from bands out there that are simply looking for exposure. They are all armed with their tales of concertgoer conquest. They all comes with lists of the greatest bands in the world with whom they've shared the stage. They all have their own story as to why they are the next big thing in the music world...if only Pitriff will be the online publication that puts them on the map with some attention. To be honest, I download about 1 out of every hundred releases that I'm offered this way. The sheer volume of music received from established acts just doesn't allow enough time to discover all these bands; even knowing that I'm probably missing a great one every now and again. Sometimes though, one of those requests pays dividends when I do give it a listen.
BETTER DAYS COMIN'
Of the bands that have come back into an active state from the 80s, it's hard to argue that any has created stronger music than Winger. Their IV and KARMA releases have been enjoyable to say the least, and have shown that there is still plenty of magic left when this collection of musicians gets together. While not as good as KARMA, BETTER DAYS COMIN' certainly won't offend any fans of the band. While not quite as heavy as it's predecessor, BETTER DAYS COMIN' is a cool release that showcases the melody and the musicianship that always set Winger apart from most of the other bands that were out there in 1989. It's not likely to win any new fans over, but that's probably not even a consideration at this point. BETTER DAYS COMIN' will feed those that always look for new releases from bands of their past.
Black Label Society
CATACOMBS OF THE BLACK VATICAN
When Zakk Wylde decides to release new music, the metal world definitely stops for a moment and listens. They may not like it all, but they do listen. It's a testament to how unbelievable the man is on guitar; a true legend who stands shoulder to shoulder with the Eddie Van Halen's and Dimebag Darrell's of the world of guitar playing. If Zakk has a habit though, it's to release an album that's dull every once in awhile. It doesn't happen all the time, but it certainly has been known to happen. SHOT TO HELL was pretty lame, and 1919 ETERNAL was a little too full of concept instead of substance. Still, the last two releases, ORDER OF THE BLACK and the acoustic THE SONG REMAINS NOT THE SAME left me thinking that Wylde was back to his creative best, and caused a lot of anticipation for his latest. Unfortunately, CATACOMBS OF THE BLACK VATICAN just doesn't measure up. Slow, plodding and mid-tempo, the word that comes to mind throughout is boring.
BROKEN CROWN HALO
It's not really much of a secret that two of my favorite bands out there today are fronted by ladies. Those two bands are Halestorm and Lacuna Coil. While it took me awhile to latch onto Halestorm, Lacuna Coil was a band that I latched on the very first time I heard them. I remember getting a sampler from Century Media that had the song "Heaven's A Lie" on it, and knowing this would soon be one of my favorite bands out there. I've seen the band several times, and they've gotten better with every tour as well. The combined male-female vocals of Andrea Ferro and the lovely Cristina Scabbia brings one of the most appealing sounds to the entire Goth Metal subgenre; a subgenre that overwrought with far too much orchestral crap and not enough straight up rock and metal. BROKEN CROWN HALO is certainly not the band's best work, but it works for them. It's good, not great. In many ways, it sounds like they may have just decided to play it safe and stay the course this time around. At least they chose a path that's been working.
TIME TRAVELERS & BONFIRES
Sevendust are really a band for the fans, and the fans are definitely always there for the band. Case in point - their latest release TIME TRAVELERS & BONFIRES. This release is one paid for by the latest trend hitting the music business, pre-funding by the fans to pay for a project. The band asked for a lot for this campaign, and got 245% funding from their fans in return. So what did Sevendust do with that money? Well, they created a very cool release that, while different from anything they've ever done studio-wise, is about as good as anything they've created to date. An acoustic release featuring fix new tracks and acoustic reworkings of some of their most popular material, TIME TRAVELERS & BONFIRES connects on every level with the established fanbase. For a band that gets so much from their fans, that's just what you would expect.
RONNIE JAMES DIO: THIS IS YOUR LIFE
As much as I want to take this at face value, it's hard to not at least wonder just how many times Wendy Dio is going to visit the Dio well and mine more material culled from his past work. There's already been multiple live releases, deluxe reissues, an officially sanctioned band playing the music of Dio...and now second tribute collection of music from people other than Dio performing his work (the first being Jorn Lande's DIO release). I'm almost expecting a release of special rare interviews or voice mails to come at this point. Still, it's their business what they put out, and ours to merely judge it. So that said, we now have RONNIE JAMES DIO: THIS IS YOUR LIFE. While it has some real heavyweights performing on it, it's pretty much like every other tribute album you'll get. It's a hodge podge of covers. Some are good. Some aren't. Big surprise, right?