One of the most disrespected singers in all of heavy metal, Ronny Munroe has more than ably fronted Metal Church for a decade now. Fronting Metal Church since 2004, the band has been a touch inconsistent (A LIGHT IN THE DARK and GENERATION NOTHING being great, WEIGHT OF THE WORLD and THIS PRESENT WASTELAND being a bit forgettable), but that inconsistency really can't be blamed on Munroe. Having seen him a couple of times with Metal Church, he honors the work of Both David Wayne and Mike Howe without being a mere copycat clone of either. In short, he's taken the reigns of a legacy position and rode it ably into the future. Still, every time Munroe opens his mouth, there's some assclown on Blabbermouth screaming that he's not Wayne or Howe. No shit, Sherlock! His solo efforts though have been his places to shine on his own, and he's been especially strong there. ELECTRIC WAKE is definitely a strong metal effort. While not the best thing Munroe has done, it's a far cry from the worst.
TIBI ET IGNI
I could write all kinds of stuff about how Vader are the icons of Polish Death Metal. I could put all kinds of praise on them, and talk about how they and Behemoth are the trendsetters that allowed people to understand that Poland had some death metal brilliance coming out of their country. I could talk for a long time that they are playing faster than ever before. Or I can give you a fascinating fact about the new Vader release, TIBI ET IGNI. I'll go with that. There's a soft, slow part on TIBI ET IGNI. That's right! Are you surprised? For almost two minutes at the start of "Go To Hell", you get lulled in with a creepy, haunting and yet very soft and docile opening movement. Amazing, right? Don't be fooled though. From there, you are launched into what Vader does best - destroy you with a furiousness that only the most elite of the old school death metal bands have ever been able to offer. TIBI ET IGNI is an old school release, and much like their previous effort WELCOME TO THE MORBID REICH, it just flat out crushes.
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.