LEAVE A SCAR - LIVE IN NORTH CAROLINA
Right up front, Blackberry Smoke is not a metal band. They are a southern-rock band, in the classic, original sense. These days, the term "southern rock" has been applied to everybody from Black Stone Cherry to Nashville Pussy to Crowbar, all sounds that would be alien and extreme in the days of Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet. Atlanta's Blackberry Smoke, on the other hand, would have fit comfortably in that era. In fact, in 2014, their music sound more like hard, modern country music than anything you would hear on rock radio. The band seems to know this, and in the years since their 2003 debut, Bad Luck Ain't No Crime--produced by Jackyl's Jesse Dupree, who more or less discovered them--they seem to have steered their music in that direction. To that end, they've worked with hot Nashville producer Dann Huff (a reinvented rocker himself, formerly the lead singer and guitarist for the band Giant), and sanding away the rough edges of their music and lyrics.
UNITED WORLD REBELLION, CHAPTER 2
Part two of the three part Skid Row series known as UNITED WORLD REBELLION has been unleashed. Dubbed as RISE OF THE DAMNATION ARMY, UWR2 picks up where the first EP left off. There's simple math here. Over the course of these two EPs you have 14 songs. If you put the two together, you've got a really good full length release. That's definitely a testament to Skid Row, who have seemingly found their way back on course following a decade filled with a couple releases even their most hardcore fans (of which I think I'm one) had trouble supporting. Let's face it - REVOLUTIONS PER MINUTE was atrocious, and THICKSKIN had a few moments but was far too much of a sellout of their core sound to be appreciated. Thankfully, they have found their direction once again.
As a fan of Downset, I wasn't really surprised when the band split up in 2009. They claimed that "the band has run it's course". As a fan, I believe that. They definitely had a huge influence on a lot of the bigger nu-metal bands of the 2000s. Certainly, anyone that heard releases like DO WE SPEAK A DEAD LANGUAGE knew the band was onto something good. There were a small number of bands that had a minute, but ultimately didn't last though. Downset was clearly one of them. To be honest, as a fan, I think I was OK with them ending the band when they did. Their last release, UNIVERSAL, was completely unmemorable, and most of the bands of the time had developed the sound far past the Biohazard-influenced material they had always showcased.
As a total fan of hardcore metal, it's a genre that doesn't always make a lot of sense. Certainly, there's no real questioning why a band like Agnostic Front is the "Black Sabbath" of the genre. Equally, it's not much of a surprise that Biohazard was so well regarded as they broke the style into the mainstream with the big budgets that record companies put into a few of their early releases. What is surprising though is the almost complete lack of respect that Madball has always received. Now 20 years old, Madball is the single most consistent band of the genre. Each and every album has achieved a level of excellence that only a select few has come close to achieving. With that said though, they just never became one of those elite bands. No matter though, because those of us that know realize just how incredible this band truly is. HARDCORE LIVES just keeps the train of excellence rolling.
Accept continue to rage on. Since his debut with the band, it's as clear as can be that vocalist Mark Tornillo has completely revitalized this band. His first two discs with the band, BLOOD OF THE NATIONS and STALINGRAD, were both masterpieces that sit near the top of the Accept catalog...regardless of who the singer is. This is not to say that Tornillo is better than Udo Dirkschneider or David Reece or anything like that. Instead, it's just a testament to how one guy can completely change the energy for a band in a positive way. Back again quickly for a third time, Accept continue their trend of greatness for a third straight release. While this release is not quite as good as the past two, there's no denying the real, powerful energy that Accept continues to create once again.
For many of you, the name John Garcia doesn't mean a whole lot. I get that. For some of us - people that have long loved the world of Stoner Rock and Metal, John Garcia is every bit the musical God that people like Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson are in the world of "classic metal". With Kyuss alone, Garcia quite literally defined exactly what this genre is supposed to sound like. His post-Kyuss projects all ventured in slightly different directions and showcased an uncanny ability to add more and more to an already brilliant musical style. For the first time since Kyuss, Garcia seemed to truly put every creative thing together perfectly with Vista Chino. Much like artists do though, he immediately ventured away from that to do something again a bit different and much more personal to him. That project is the simple, self titled JOHN GARCIA. While it's not quite as accessible as Vista Chino was to the every day fan, this might just be his best work yet. The legend continues.
I must be getting old, because recently, I've noticed my attitude softening toward the dreaded "nu-metal" bands of fifteen years ago. Maybe it's just nostalgia for what I now perceive (incorrectly, I'm sure) as a simpler time, but the burnout and disinterest I felt circa 2002, the year I quit seriously listening to mainstream rock radio has mellowed of late. Don't get me wrong, I still won't go out of my way to listen to Creed (for just one example), but maybe I'm not going to dive through a glass door to get to the tuner to change the station before Scott Stapp's droning vocals start.
More singers should try to have their wives killed if the resulting project to come from that nightmare sounds like Wovenwar. Holy shit is this project great! Being perfectly honest, I wasn't much of an As I Lay Dying fan, so hearing that the surviving members were forming a new project and carrying on with a new singer and new name didn't exactly have me waiting by the email box for a download link. In fact, the music sat in my cloud about 3 weeks before I even gave it a listen. Big mistake. WOVENWAR is one of the most appealing modern metal releases of the last year; a flurry of modern guitar, great vocals, and catchiness that avoids so many of today's bands. Simply put, this disc rocks.
WHITE DEVIL ARMORY
Holy shit! Who saw this coming? In an astonishing detour off the band's well-trampled musical path. Their latest album ventures into heretofore uncharted territories, embracing such unexpected sonic offshoots as Eastern-tinged black metal, polka-dotted folk-metal, and, in what is sure to be a harbinger of trends to come, Tuvan throat-singing.
Nah, just fuckin' with you to see if you were paying attention. This kind of journalistic red herring is second only to starting off an Overkill review by talking about the band's remarkable consistency.
DO YOU WANNA START A WAR
All the stars are aligned for me to be an absolute worshipper of Fozzy. And yet, I'm just not. It's not that I don't want to be. I'm a huge fan of the WWE, which is where Chris Jericho calls home professionally at least part of the time. To that fact, I'm a fan of Chris Jericho in wrestling, as his in ring mic skills and his wrestling ability are far better than 9 of every 10 people in the sports entertainment world. Fozzy guitarist Rich Ward is one of my favorite guitarists of all time. I was always a gigantic supporter of his band Stuck Mojo, and his solo release (The Duke - MY KUNG FU IS GOOD) never goes more than a month without me rockin' out to it. Drummer Frank Fontsere also comes from Stuck Mojo, and I truly enjoyed hanging with him and Rich on many occasions outside in their camper at Ron's Crossroads in Akron before they played gigs there. And yet, for whatever reason, Fozzy releases disc after disc that just don't do it for me.