After listening to this every day for about a month, it's finally come time to write something about this latest effort from Scorpions. As a giant fan of the band, I firmly wanted to like this release, but after at last 20 listens, it's just not clicking with me. There's just something about it that feels wrong. The arrangements are a bit too happy and fun, for one thing. For another, the edge that made Scorpions one of the best bands of all time, even in their down years, is completely removed from this effort. I've seen a great many reviews out there stating that MTV UNPLUGGED is a must have for a diehard fan. That's untrue though, because as a diehard fan, this has almost no use for my collection. Long story short, I love Scorpions as much as the next 40 something that found them at any point in their historic career...but I have no need to hear these watered down versions of these songs.
SALVATION OF INNOCENTS
I know that I have a pretty distinct label on me of what most people think I like to listen to. I believe that most people think that I'm a classic metal fan whose musical taste basically goes from 80s hair metal bands to Bay Area Thrash. I can't lie - I do love that style a ton...probably the most of anything I do listen to. When it comes to heavy music though, I think many would be very surprised that a close second for me is '90s/'00s era hardcore. Simply put, I'll take albums by the Spudmonsters, Agnostic Front or Hatebreed over anything that the likes of Korn or Disturbed ever delivered. One of my favorites has always been Earth Crisis. With the core of the band intact, Earth Crisis came back from the dead five years ago and have been putting out some of the best material of their career. SALVATION OF INNOCENTS continues this trend.
LIFE & DEATH
Sometimes you hear a band, you can define their intention from the second you hear them. For some, you know they are looking to make as large a statement against anything mainstream as they can. For others, you can just sense the desire for radio airplay and mainstream success. With Blowsight, there's very little doubt that this band is looking for airplay. While that's not my hot point, there's definitely no denying that what they are doing can work if the right ears hear this. Listening to LIFE & DEATH, you can't help but hear this mixed into modern rock radio playlists.
With the overabundance of traditional and power metal bands out there, it's not surprising how many of them just sound the same. Without question, Finland's Battle Beast takes their influences from the classic tones of power metal. Unfortunately for them though, they take a bit too much influence without incorporating much of their own style into it. After multiple listens to BATTLE BEAST, I'm yet to find anything at all that separates them from the bulk of the European metal bands that are finding their way to our shores these days. While there's nothing terrible here, there's not a single "wow" moment either. In short, BATTLE BEAST is the kind of release you listen to in between bands that you just like better.
Red Dragon Cartel
RED DRAGON CARTEL
Jake E. Lee - where have you been for the past two decades? Calling it the way it is, Jake E. Lee was one of the most recognizable sounds in hard rock/heavy metal for about five or six years. His work with Ozzy Osbourne on BARK AT THE MOON and THE ULTIMATE SIN were signatures to the Prince Of Darkness' biggest commercial success. He then moved onto Badlands, which is one of those bands that never got huge even though most now agree that it was one of the very best and most timeless bands of the late 80s and early 90s. In both cases, it was Jake's HUGE sound that propelled these projects. After that though, he was gone. Sure, there was the occasional sighting, like his solo A FINE PINK MIST release and then a somewhat surprise appearance on Enuff Z'nuff's DISSONANCE release, but ultimately the question of "where is Jake E. Lee" became one of folklore in the hard rock and heavy metal community.
DELIVERING THE BLACK
There are so many great bands out there that don't get nearly the credit they deserve. At the top of the list of those power metal bands without their just credit is Primal Fear. Since the late '90s, Primal Fear has been delivering powerful collections of iron that has been overlooked by the mainstream, but has hit the mark repeatedly to us old schoolers who wanted something new, yet cut from the same cloth as the great Judas Priest. While they have never put out a bad release, the last two or three have strayed away from the vintage sound they started with and looked to find a bit more mainstream crossover. That seems to have been pushed away this time though, as Primal Fear has reverted back to the classic sound of their first 3 releases. Without question, DELIVERING THE BLACK is the best release the band has done since then...maybe ever. In short, DELIVERING THE BLACK is as close to a perfect metal release as it gets. Welcome to 2014, folks!
Fist Fight In The Parking Lot
YEAR OF THE OX
Wow, here's one that's unexpected. With a name that sounds like one of these bad emocore bands of the modern day, Fist Fight In The Parking Lot is a deep, heavy and damn near perfect doom metal band that breaks the mold by adding a female vocalist to the front of their thick, heavy sludge. There's a lot to say here, but the main word that keeps coming to mind is, simply, "wow"! As we march our way into 2014, it's clear that Fist Fight In The Parking Lot are the first new band to land on my radar for the upcoming year. YEAR OF THE OX just flat out rocks!
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.