RAISING MY OWN HELL
I can't tell you the number of strange looks I've received over the years when I claim two of my top five hair bands of all time to be Love/Hate and Little Angels. The overwhelming look of confusion is only equaled by the number of people that simple say, "who the fuck is that?" Little Angels was, without question, the single most underappreciated band of the hair band era. In a time that saw Def Leppard become one of the biggest bands ever, it simply should have been Little Angels. They were better musicians. They wrote much stronger songs than Leppard did with HYSTERIA on forward. They didn't sell out to make it. Most importantly, their singer Toby Jepson was just flat out better. I've always felt that "Don't Pray For Me" and "Broken Wings Of An Angel" are two of the very best ballads ever recorded in an era where careers were cemented based on a solid ballad (Motley Crue, Poison, Mr. Big, Warrant, Skid Row all found their groove based on huge ballads). It's been a lot of years since then, and big success always eluded Jepson and Little Angels, but RAISING MY OWN HELL proves that nothing has been lost with this vocalist.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have a bias toward supporting anything that says "Love/Hate" on the cover of it. Without any question, Love/Hate was my favorite band of the entire 80s "hair metal" era. Not Motley Crue. Not Warrant. Not Winger. Not Cinderella. Not those poseur bitches in Poison. Love/Hate was the band for me, and the reasons were very obvious. Of all the hair farmer bands, Love/Hate was the band that sang about things that were closer to where I was at the time. While the other bands were focused on sex and the party, Love/Hate was a lot more street level and focused a lot more on the boozing and pot early on...which is where I was at. "Fuel To Run", "One More Round", "Wasted In America" - all these songs hit home for me in the early '90s when they came out. Interestingly though, as the project became much more of a Jizzy Pearl thing than the original lineup, the music has matured and has stayed in sync with how I've grown as a person. His solo albums have produced songs like "Hit And Miss' that are relatable to me, as are other songs like "Do You Believe In Miracles" from LET'S RUMBLE as the career has progressed. Back with an EP called CRUCIFIED, Pearl and the formerly named Love/Hate has stayed in step with my musical taste.
Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock
BRIDGE THE GAP
Michael Schenker is one of those guys where you either are 1000% in,or you really don't care at all about what he's doing. To me personally, I've just never understood the incredible amount of hype surrounding him. I get that he made a huge mark on the rock world with UFO and a somewhat less statement with Scorpions, but in the end, I can listen to either of those bands or anything since and really not hear anything earth shattering on guitar. Eddie Van Halen he's not. Still, there are tons of people that worship him, so good for him for finding such a strong allegiance.
DARKNESS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT
Fates Warning are a band that has a ton of talent, but it's never been realized by the masses for one reason - they were always a bit too crafty for their own good. In many ways, they remind me of a better musical version of bands like Rush or Dream Theater. While the band is clearly filled with musicians that are as talented as any that are working today, they almost always over-extended their chops both musically and in writing material to a point that the masses just couldn't easily consume and "get" what they were about. The result is that they never got big while other bands raced to the top of the niche they fall into. The results have been releases like AWAKEN THE GUARDIAN, DISCONNECTED and A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY; albums that their core audience love, but just didn't have any real "hit" potential to break them past their niche audience. DARKNESS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT is their most straightforward effort since they debuted in the 80s, but it's a little too late at this point. That said, this is a seriously solid Fates Warning album.
IN THE MINDS OF EVIL
Am I the only one that remembers when Florida was THE place for brilliant death metal? That is definitely a ghost from the past, as the major players from that era have seemingly all faded away (or, at a minimum are putting out subpar material). One of those bands that was considered a leader of that pack was Deicide, and much like your Morbid Angels and Obituarys of the Florida world, their music has become little more than tired, regurgitated crud that will draw people to the clubs based solely on their past instead of anything they are doing now. IN THE MINDS OF EVIL feels like a glass of drinking water that you know was recycled from your neighbor's toilet. It may have the feeling that it's refreshing, but you just sense that it's not truly fresh.
LIFE, LOVE & HOPE
Boston is one of those bands that, as a fan, has just been one of the most frustrating to follow. Their career has been so sporadic musically and so infrequent release-wise that they literally tanked their career for the sake of the creative musings of their leader, guitarist Tom Scholz. To be pretty honest, they haven't done anything that's been that great since the THIRD STAGE release, which came back in 1986. Following the death of vocalist Brad Delp, they seemed like they may just be over, but were resurrected in the live setting by Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet. Sweet has since left, but new vocalist Tommy DiCarlo seems to be a pretty good clone of Delp sonically. So, onward does the Boston spaceship sail.
THE FINAL REVOLUTION
In almost every subgenre of heavy metal, there's a band where you just know what you are going to get before you ever listen to a note of new music from the band. In hard rock, it's AC/DC. In modern rock/metal, it would be Disturbed. In death metal, you could point to Six Feet Under, Cannibal Corpse or just about anyone else. In hardcore, it's definitely Pro-Pain. Before ever playing a single note of THE FINAL REVOLUTION, I had the strongest idea of what was coming. Needless to say, my hunch was correct. THE FINAL REVOLUTION is exactly as advertised. It's violent. It's a clear spit into the face of authority. In short, it's Pro-Pain.
WAITING FOR THE END TO COME
For a lot of people, the second they hear that a band is "death metal", they will exit the conversation. Their loss, I guess. Kataklysm are definitely a death metal-like band I guess, but in many ways the continue to remind me of their slightly less heavy former enemies Devildriver. To be certain, there's nothing here at all resembling anything but the most heavy of music that has ever been created, but there's always that slight bit of melody in the music that has long separated Kataklysm from the myriads of Cookie Monster sounding gurglers that clog the "death metal" world today with what is, basically, average music that plays more to it's genre's stereotype than it does to anything creative. While not the best release Kataklysm has ever done, WAITING FOR THE END TO COME continues the tradition the band has established and ran with for two decades.
Some bands just don't get the love they deserve from metal fans around the world. One of those bands is Benedictum. In a large way, I put them in the same bucket as an artist like Jorn Lande. Musically, they are continually stronger than most of the trendy dreck that's out there, but they are constantly overlooked for reasons that are just not fair to them. With Lande, he's got the stigma of sounding like Dio (which, to be fair to the metal fans out there he helped to perpetuate) which has led people to not take him as seriously as an individual artist as his music demands. With Benedictum, I'm quick to believe that the imagery of the beautiful and voluptuous Veronica Freeman does more harm than good, as the dumb metal stereotype of "chicks don't rock" will cause some to not give Benedictum a fair shake. For those metalheads, I can only say, "your loss, dumbass". As a band that simply gets better with each and every effort, Benedictum has created their best release yet with OBEY. Full of speed, heaviness and frenetic energy that is far above their previous releases, OBEY has high jumped the bar the band previously set with DOMINION, and cleared it by a mile.
Back in 2009, there were a lot of us that were less than thrilled with Metal Church announced they were disbanding. While not for all fans, there's a lot of people out there that considered their LIGHT IN THE DARK release to be one of the best in the history of the band. And while other releases in the Ronny Munroe era of the band have been hit or miss, they brought it strong in the live environment. Further, releases like WEIGHT OF THE WORLD and THIS PRESENT DARKNESS were not bad efforts per se. They just weren't as good as LIGHT IN THE DARK or the classic era material. Having seen the Munroe led version of Metal Church a few times, it was really disheartening to hear they had broken up. Thankfully though, they have brought the band back together after a few years away to regroup, adapt to the business model of modern recording, and just recharge the batteries. The resulting GENERATION NOTHING is a very, very strong effort from the mighty Metal Church.