Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hair Apparent: Vain

(Editor's note: This is the latest installment in a series about albums that don't quite qualify in the Lost Classics category, yet still warrant a closer look.)

Vain, No Respect (Island, 1989)

The Big Idea: Glam rock gets mean, down and dirty

Choice Cuts: "Secrets," "Beat the Bullet," "No Respect" and "Without You"

Sonic Brethren: Spread Eagle, Skid Row and Guns N' Roses

Fun Fact: Davy Vain is the cousin of metal songstress Lana Lane

Like many bands from the era, San Francisco's Vain should have been more popular than they were. Charismatic frontman Davy Vain got his start as a producer on Death Angel's first album. But his eponymous outfit had nothing to do stylistically with the Bay area thrash sound. Instead, Vain offered a tough yet accessible mainstream sound that focused on hooks, while visually going for a dark glam image.

No Respect rips out of the gates like a winner with the first cut, "Secrets." As a brutal and jagged rhythm guitar riff erupts out of the right speaker, Vain himself starts cooing before abruptly erupting into a scream ("Nah-nah-nah-no secrets") as the rest of the band's syncopated slamming begins. This is raw, energetic rock from a band that sounds like it's been in the gutter for ages.

How do you follow-up an opening salvo like that? With "Beat the Bullet," the disc's first single. "Bullet" opens with a rumble of bass and slashes of wah-wah guitar, the interplay of guitarists Danny West and James Scott recalling that of Guns N' Roses axemen Slash and Izzy Stradlin.

By the time you get to the seventh cut -- the title track -- Vain are really hitting their stride and stretching out to encompass more sonic textures. "No Respect" opens with an element of mystery as chiming harmonics and somber acoustic fretwork obscures cryptic whispering. But the unplugged intro is just subterfuge; the song locks into a blasting guitar-and-drums groove soon enough and Vain's vocal delivery goes from hushed to dark and urgent. This is one vocalist who has a great command of dynamics.

Another nuanced vocal (and band) performance comes in "Without You." The only bona fide ballad on the album, "Without You" is also the longest cut on No Respect. Vain milks his voice for emotion, while the band adds a touch of orchestration for dramatic effect. But what it takes nearly six minutes for the act to say a better group could probably pull off in little more than half the time. The lyrics (see below) might be a little forced too, but they're very right for the time period.
"Like a candle in the wind / I'm easy to put out / Like the picture through your window / You see right through my heart"
Any momentum that might be lost on "Without You" is regained on the disc's final track, "Ready." At two minutes, 59 seconds, "Ready" is a punk-fueled romp through the "Johnny B. Goode" riff. It's a crucial cut that extols the virtues of partying and rock & roll at 140 beats per minute. This track would have made a great set closer in concert, with guitarists West and Scott trading off wild, reckless licks as the rhythm section kicks the tune into double time for a breathless finish. A perfect end to an almost perfect album.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Vintage Ozzfest Picture

I snapped this one in 2000 in Holmdel, N.J. Pantera's Phil Anselmo was a wild man and put on a great performance.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Europe's Secret Society CD review

Here's a track-by-track review of Europe's forthcoming Secret Society album. The disc hits stores Nov. 7 via Sanctuary Records.

"Secret Society"

The first words out of Joey Tempest's mouth on this album (literally) are "Runnin' against the line / against the time" delivered in a sing-songy a capella refrain before the tune kicks in. Indeed, those lyrics are something of a metaphor for this album as a whole. Secret Society finds the band bucking the trend of '80s bands reuniting to rehash the musical past; instead Europe go all guns blazing into uncharted sonic territory on this new album.

"Secret Society" is marked by an Eastern flavor, with Tempest using his voice as an instrument to deliver melodic wails like a mystic communing with God. The track is anchored by the Audioslave-like riffing of John Norum. The guitarist spices things up with some very trippy leads in the vein of Steve Vai or Joe Satriani. Dynamics are the key to this cut, with the music making sudden stops and starts that allow Tempest's vocals to feel very expansive.

"Always the Pretenders"

This tune is the disc's first single, but doesn't expect some light fluff. "Always the Pretenders" would be at home on the airwaves of any rock radio station that values chunky guitars, memorable hooks and meaningful songwriting. The tune is angsty and edgy, while not losing sight of the melody. Norum rips into a tense solo that just heightens the drama. Best of all, this song has what I like to call iceberg lyrics -- those words that hint at just enough for you to create a narrative, but never fully reveal what lies beneath. Here's a sample of what I mean, culled from the refrain:

"All I can remember / All I can recall is you / Telling me there's been an accident / Always the pretenders / Always thought that love would do / Everyday I miss your innocence"

It all adds up to a very cinematic listening experience. It's been said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture. Well, I'll one-up that and say that if "Always the Pretenders" were a movie, it would be a nail-biter like Memento.

"Love Is Not the Enemy"

This is one for the real riff freaks among you, with its overtones of the Gothenburg sound. Of course, we're not really talking melodic death metal here; instead this is just a finely crafted pop tune with a riff that could almost pass for one from In Flames.

"Wish I Could Believe"

Now we arrive at the first mid-tempo song of the bunch. It's like a power ballad with keyboardist Mic Michaeli gently caressing his ivories and providing some synthesized orchestration. If I'm not mistaken, Norum also plays slide on this tune making it a little reminiscent of something off Queensrÿche's Hear in the Now Frontier. Lyrically, Tempest details what sounds like either a crisis of faith or a failed relationship: "Wish I could believe in God / So I can move ahead." Definitely one of the most existential tracks on the album.

"Let the Children Play"

This song really encapsulates a lot of what makes this album so unique. First off, the riffs: they're rhythmic, angular, choppy and very modern. They do just about everything to distance themselves from the standard '80s sound that is possible. But they work because they lead into hooks that are built on familiar chord changes. Secondly, Europe aren't afraid to take a chance when songwriting. On this cut, that means including a children's choir to startling effect. Is this the best tune on the album? No way, but it really helped me gauge the kind of adventurous songwriting the band is practicing these days.

"Human After All"

Don't be fooled by the classical orchestration that fades in at the start of this track. This is one of the grittier numbers on Secret Society, both in terms of lyrics and overall sound. Tempest's vocals have a bluesy, tight feeling as if he's almost choking back some of the lyrics for dramatic effect. This is a rhythmically driven, bass-heavy cut that's highlighted by the orchestral strains of Michaeli's keyboard.

"Getaway Plan"

The riff here with its disjointed phrasing conveys a lot of tension and excitement. Couple that with the lyrical description of a man on a mission and "Getaway Plan" feels like it belongs in a James Bond movie. At first I thought this tune might be the nadir of the album because it feels a little too sonically similar to "Human After All" and comes right on the back of that song. But now I'll say that this is just another rocker that lays down a thick groove and should appeal to fans of Norum's meaty and mighty six-string attack.

"A Mother's Son"

After the frenzy of "Getaway Plan," the band kicks it down a notch with this song. It's very ballady, very dark and very morose. This is a particularly downbeat moment before the tempo picks up again for a trio of tunes that ends the album.

"Forever Travelling"

This song seems to be Europe's tribute to San Francisco. We're not talking sonically -- this ain't no thrash metal monster -- but rather lyrically. Tempest sings "Somewhere in my mind I'm under the Golden Gate / Somewhere in my heart I'm in the city by the bay / Sometimes I can feel the wheel in [the] sky, it's still turning" right before the solo. Perhaps the last line is a reference to "Wheel in the Sky" by Bay area band Journey?

"Brave and Beautiful Soul"

A lot of people say it's hard to take rock artists seriously these days. I think the opposite is true. Whether it's Tom Morello, Serj Tankian or Bono, everyone seems to have a political or humanitarian cause they support. They all want to be taken too seriously.

Well, count Europe among those who also seek to move hearts and minds with their music. But Tempest & Co. aren't self-righteous about their beliefs. It's hard to say exactly what cause or injustice "B & B Soul" addresses, if any. I could speculate that the song is about third world debt, Darfur or AIDS in Africa. After all, the lyrics are printed on top of artist Dan Abbott's sketch of the continent featuring a woman's face near South Africa.

But really "B & B Soul" is a song is about letting yourself care about others, and seems to be one of the more personal songs on Secret Society. Opening with a very crushing and modern riff, Norum's guitar work again has something of the Gothenburg sound here.

Meanwhile, Tempest isn't afraid of critics who think rockers should just shut up and sing. In fact, he has a pointed message for them: "Well here's to you all cynical / Here's the ammunition that you need / Here's another song about empathy / Please yourselves think what you will." Later he gives us a real chestnut of wisdom from the heart: "An emotional response [is] sometimes better than an intellectual one." Sing on, Joey.

"Devil Sings the Blues"

At last, the final countdown is over and here we are at the end of the album. "Devil Sings the Blues" opens with an arpeggio that sounds almost drop-tuned in the vein of grunge rock or Black Sabbath.

The opening line -- "Today I'm the dirt beneath your feet / at your beck and call" -- has shades of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Actually, Tempest's lyrical persona bears a lot of similarity to that of the Good Gray Poet himself. The singer is on a quest for unity with all things. And judging by the lyrics -- "And my heart is open / and my eyes are open / today I give my life to you / and my arms are open / and my faith is open / today the devil sings the blues" -- it sounds like he's found it.

This track is the longest on the album, checking in at five minutes, 24 seconds. It's the closest thing to an epic we get on Secret Society. Norum's axe is the last sound we hear as he rips a guitar hero worthy solo that goes for nearly two minutes before the tune fades off into the sunset. A great finish to a great album.

Whatdya Mean I Don't Support Your System

. . . I Go To Court When I Have To!

After spending Monday and Tuesday serving jury duty, I now hope to return to semi-regular posting. Look for that Europe review shortly.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Final Countdown to Europe's New Album

I'm listening to an advance of the new Europe CD, Secret Society, and have to say it might be my favorite album of 2006. This is a truly modern effort -- this ain't your father's Europe -- but it has a really strong emphasis on good hooks. The subject matter is mature and the songwriting memorable and emotional throughout. A full track-by-track review will be posted in the coming days. The disc hits stores Nov. 7 via Sanctuary.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Metal God Readying New Solo Material

While work on the new Judas Priest album continues, Rob Halford is readying new material from his solo band. A new Halford track titled "Forgotten Generation" will hit iTunes on Nov. 21.

According to a press release, writing sessions for a new solo album titled Halford IV currently are underway. In addition to "Forgotten Generation," those sessions have so far yielded another new tune called "Drop Out." Both "Forgotten Generation" and "Drop Out" will be available on the forthcoming compilation Halford - Metal God Essentials - Volume 1. No word yet on a release date for the MGE platter.

In other news, Halford has tapped two new members for his solo group: guitarist Roy Z. and bassist Mike Davis.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Anthrax Guitarist To Open Nightclub

Bringing the Noise to the New York Nightlife Scene

The New York Post is reporting that Scott Ian plans to open a nightclub in New York's Chelsea district on Halloween. The Anthrax guitarist reportedly has christened the club Retox with business partner Mike Diamond, who has launched several other successful nightspots in the Big Apple.

Rap group Cypress Hill is slated to perform during the Oct. 31 opening, while Ian himself will take the stage with Five for Fighting sometime next month. How's that for an odd juxtaposition?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Skid Row's Revolutions Per Minute CD review

Here's a track-by-track review of Skid Row's forthcoming Revolutions Per Minute album. The disc hits stores Oct. 24 via the SPV label.


Opening with some discordant riffing and the first of many screams courtesy of frontman Johnny Solinger, there's no doubt that this record is an aggressive affair. But will it have the melody to make it memorable? Only repeated listens will yield that answer. For now I can say the guitar solo here is sludgy and heavy on the wah-wah in a Jerry Cantrell kind of way. In fact, think Alice in Chains and you'll have an idea of what's going on in this opening cut.

"Another Dick in the System"

This track is likely to be a cool one in concert. It's a no-nonsense hard rocker that ends with a "Hey . . . hey . . . hey" chant that should get audiences pumped to sing along. Guitarists Dave "Snake" Sabo and Scotti Hill trade some unique licks with a Nashville twang/rockabilly feel in the solo.

"Pulling My Heart Out From Under Me"

Here is really the first time we get a taste of the slightly gothic vocal style Solinger is rocking on this album. His deep baritone complements this dark tale of love lost. Just as you tire of his voice creeping along like a convalescent, he rips into some throaty screams. His nuanced vocal performance is the highlight of this cut.

"When God Can't Wait"

An absolute raucous two minute, 13 second blast of melodic punk energy and one of the best tracks on the disc. It sounds like a cross between vintage Misfits and an Irish pub rock act such as the Pogues. This cut will be remembered as a latter-day Skid Row classic.

"Shut Up Baby, I Love You"

The punk rudeness continues on yet another tale of scorned love. I'd have to say this tune bears the most similarity to some of the harder-edged Skid Row material of the Sebastian Bach days. Perhaps it's the riotous gangs vocals, which scream the title during the chorus, or the bass-heavy groove, but "Shut Up Baby, I Love You" should definitely appeal to fans of old-school tunes like "Piece of Me" or "Slave to the Grind."


This cover of the Alarm classic is a bit left field, but one of the more memorable tunes on the album. "Strength" boasts an anthemic and uplifting message of survival and is the longest cut on the disc at just over five minutes. Hill and Sabo get into some great slurred harmonics on the verses. I believe "slurred harmonics" is the correct name for the guitar technique. But if not, think about the trickling guitar sound on the title track of Iron Maiden's Killers once that tune kicks in and you'll know what I'm talking about.

"White Trash"

The lyrics to this tune have the kind of tongue-in-cheek irony that a lot of early Black Flag had. As such, it picks up on the punk rock thread that runs through RPM. Musically, this is short and concise, with Solinger delivering most of his lines in a kind of talking blues format. This song even features a mean harmonica solo to boot! Yet because the lyrics are (intentionally) silly, I'll have to say this is my least favorite cut on the album.

"You Lie"

Here's where Solinger -- a Texas native -- really lets his Lone Star roots hang out. "You Lie" is outlaw country music through and through. Solinger hurls curses and other invectives at an unfaithful woman, while the band twangs away with a four-on-the-floor pattern. Just when you think there's nary a distortion pedal to be heard, the song takes a metalized turn -- right after a very vintage rockabilly-style guitar solo. From country to metal in under three minutes, that's quite a journey!

An alternate country-fried mix of "You Lie" -- replete with added harmonica and pedal steel guitar -- is offered as a bonus track on the version of RPM that I have.


The search for a bona fide '80s anthem stops here! "Nothing" has all the harmony and hooks of a Bach-era outtake -- and that's a good thing. And that guitar solo: short but absolutely blazing with all the melody that characterized the band's most memorable leads. Put this one on repeat.

"Love Is Dead"

Just in time for Halloween, the Skids get into a little Type O Negative/Bronx Casket Company groove. The riffing takes lurching stop and starts, while Solinger's voice delves into the deeper registers again for this spooky tune. Right around the two-minute mark, the group works in a breakdown that sounds quite similar to the one in the title track from Ozzy Osbourne's No More Tears. "Love Is Dead" would fit well on the soundtrack of a B-movie horror flick.

"Let It Ride"

Solinger & Co. end the album on a hard and heavy note. "Let It Ride" seems to be an ode to life in a rock & roll band. It boasts another ripping guitar solo, but otherwise this track is mediocre. Thankfully, it's in and out in under three minutes.

"You Lie" (Bonus Track)

See comments above in the "You Lie" entry.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Early Thoughts on New Skid Row Album

I have been quite busy this week, but I wanted to post some preliminary thoughts about the new Skid Row album, Revolutions Per Minute, due Tuesday via SPV Records. I have an advanced review copy and have listened to it once, so my commentary is likely to change when I post a full track-by-track album review shortly.

First off, this is a much different band than the one that recorded Skid Row or even Slave to the Grind. It's not simply that Sebastian Bach is gone and has been replaced by Johnny Solinger. The band no longer seems to want to focus on incorporating melodic riffs into their songwriting. Instead much of the album is garden variety '90s nü-metal aggression. More often than not Solinger is screaming instead of trying to get an '80s-like sheen to his voice. It's a matter of taste really, but my initial impression is that it doesn't work for me.

One of the great things about 2003's Thickskin was the sheer number of melodic, sing along moments. There's not one to be found on RPM, unless you count "You Lie," which is a very country-music inspired ditty. A few of the better moments on RPM include "When God Can't Wait," which sounds like a rowdy, Irish punk bar anthem and "Love Is Dead" (if I remember correctly) which sounds a little gothic, almost in the vein of Type O Negative. Full report to come . . .

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hair Apparent: Two-Bit Thief

(Editor's note: This is the fourth installment in a series about old albums that don't quite qualify in the Lost Classics category, yet still warrant a closer look.)

Two-Bit Thief, Another Sad Story . . . In the Big City (Combat, 1990)

The Big Idea: Former crossover act tries to re-invent itself as edgy hard-rock band

Choice Cuts: "Desperado," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Broken Hearts" and "Hard Times"

Sonic Brethren: Circus of Power, Junkyard, Manitoba's Wild Kingdom

San Francisco is best remembered for its thrash-metal scene, but the city also yielded some great bands in other genres. Two-Bit Thief was among the non-thrash acts that called the Bay area home. The group's debut disc, Another Sad Story . . . In the Big City, showed a lot of promise, but never amounted to much for the band.

Much like Junkyard or Manitoba's Wild Kingdom, TBT featured musicians who came up in the punk rock scene and wanted to explore a more commercial hard rock sound. Indeed, vocalist Andy 'Airborne' Andersen, guitarist Chris Scaparro, bassist Rick Strahl and drummer Eric Brecht all recorded with the crossover act Attitude Adjustment. The only "new" member in TBT was guitarist Ron Shipes.

Despite the group's roots, the only remnant of hardcore music is the shouted gang vocals that adorn several of Another Sad Story's 12 tracks. Otherwise, this is (mostly) straight-up gritty hard rock from the gutter, with an occasional thrash riff worked in for good measure. Bouts of slide guitar give the record a rootsy feel in a few places, while Brecht conjures up the specter of Guns N' Roses' Steven Adler through the liberal use of his cowbell.

The self-righteous social consciousness of thrash seeps into the lyrics of "Industry" and "Crime," but otherwise Another Sad Story is an unrepentant 42-minute joyride that revels in the vices of urban decay. Standout tracks include "Desperado" and "Folsom Prison Blues." The former is a tale of gambling that provided the likely inspiration for the album's cover shoot. Meanwhile, the latter is an ingenious re-working of the Johnny Cash classic that draws equally from punk rock, metal and rockabilly all in the space of two minutes and 40 seconds. It's nice to see a band cover someone other than the usual suspects. Not quite as inspired is the album's closer, a cover of Rose Tattoo's "Remedy."

Another Sad Story ultimately didn't have the commercial muscle the band had hoped. Regardless, this is a strong effort and a pleasant departure from the standard Bay area sound.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Happy Birthday to David Lee Roth

Editor's note: In honor of the ex-Van Halen singer's 53rd birthday today, Metal-Mixtape revisits his least appreciated album.

David Lee Roth didn't stand a chance when he released Your Filthy Little Mouth in 1994. The real problem wasn't that the shredding licks of ailing ace guitarist Jason Becker were gone. It wasn't that the epicenter of the music industry had shifted from Los Angeles to Seattle, nor that he tapped longtime friend/Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers to help him go pop. It wasn't even that Roth's trademark mane had been toned down in favor of a sedate shoulder-length coif for the album.

The true dilemma was a severe crisis in the songwriting department. Your Filthy Little Mouth suffers from the lack of focus that arises when artists try to borrow from too many musical styles. Tunes like "Cheatin' Heart Cafe" (featuring country star Travis Tritt) and "Hey, You Never Know" are nods to Nashville-fried honky tonk, while "No Big 'Ting" features Jamaican rapper Mitchielous in a lame attempt to tap into the world music market. Then there's "You're Breathin' It," a funk-heavy tall tale about urban living that mixes its metaphors by featuring some very rural harmonica playing. To make matters worse, the song gets the "Urban NYC Mix" treatment at the end of the album. When was the last time you bought a David Lee Roth record to hear a remix?

While dross dominates, there are some redeeming moments. "Big Train" is perhaps one of Tyrannosaurus Roth's finest latter day compositions and hits with the visceral impact of an early Van Halen boogie. Meanwhile, Diamond Dave's cover of "Night Life" by Willie Nelson has all the slow and gritty grace of a Motown soul ballad. But in the end, Your Filthy Little Mouth became Roth's swan song. It was the last platter he recorded for a major label. Worse still, it marked the end of a 16-year partnership with the Warner Bros. Records family that dated back to the first VH album. What started as a valiant attempt to expand his audience resulted in Roth dropping the ball altogether.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Twisted Sister: Yule Hear It First

Frontman Dee Snider & Co. Ready Christmas Album

Twisted Sister plan to celebrate the holidays with the October 17 release of A Twisted Christmas through Razor & Tie Records. The seasonal platter will feature 10 tracks that marry Christmas songs with stylistic nods to specific heavy metal bands. "I think I made the comment that we should do a Christmas record," guitarist Jay Jay French tells Billboard. "And [frontman] Dee [Snider] said, 'You know, "Come All Ye Faithful" is actually "We're Not Gonna Take It." I think I subliminally stole the melody.' So we recorded 'We're Not Gonna Take It' and put 'Come All Ye Faithful' in, and it worked with some changes."

The six-stringer also notes that the Twisted version of "Come All Ye Faithful" will feature "a Black Sabbath version of 'Hava Nagilah' at the end of the song." In addition, Lita Ford will join the band on a version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

Log on to Twisted Sister's official website to hear clips from the upcoming album and check out the full track list.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Kiss of Death Latin Lingo Revealed!

No, It Doesn't Say 'Dr. Rock Is Going To Shoot You Full of Rock N Roll!'

I recently posted the Latin inscription that graces Motörhead's Kiss of Death CD booklet on a Latin forum. One kind soul responded to my query about its meaning. Below is the translation I received.
"Born as conquered, all will die
Believe in no-one (This should be nemini), go freely
to walk through the ocean of very many souls, he barely wets his feet (I think there is a mistake in the Latin here)
Whatever you are doing, we have done first and better"

Once again, here's the original Latin inscription from the CD booklet:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Skid Row Line Up Gratis Gig

Event To Celebrate Release of Upcoming Album

Skid Row have announced an October 29 record-release party at New York's Hard Rock Cafe. Frontman Johnny Solinger & Co. will take the stage to perform selections from their upcoming album, Revolutions Per Minute, along with greatest hits from the band's glory days. The event will also double as radio DJ Eddie Trunk's annual Halloween bash. Admission is free.

Revolutions Per Minute is due out October 24 on SPV/Steamhammer. Meanwhile, a full-fledged tour in support of the disc will kick off October 31 at a venue still to be announced.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Slash Shills Cars and Guitars

Live and Let Ride

Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash (pictured right) is among the rockers set to appear in upcoming ads for a new partnership between guitar maker First Act and auto manufacturer Volkswagen. Drives who buy or lease one of six Volkswagen cars will receive a First Act GarageMaster electric guitar customized to match the color of their new ride. The axe also will be co-branded with the VW logo. Spinal Tap character Nigel Tufnel (aka actor Christopher Guest) is among the other personalities also slated to appear in the forthcoming sales campaign.

Meanwhile, Slash and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen will join Los Angeles all-star jam band Camp Freddy when the group performs Thursday on NBC's Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Slash & Co. will play a version of Cheap Trick's "Surrender."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Should Great White Make a Comeback?

Great White recently announced they're preparing to cut a new album and return to the road. Guitarist Mark Kendall tells the Associated Press he believes there's a lot of popular support for the band to resume normal activities after the 2003 fire in a Rhode Island nightclub that killed 100 people. "These people [in the club] were like friends to us, not just rock fans," he reveals. "There's a fellowship with the surviving victims. ... We all get together, we hug, we cry. For the majority of the people, they all want to hear the band play."

Do you think Great White should return to doing what they do best after the tragedy?
1) Yes, Great White made some amazing hard rock music and it's time to put the Rhode Island tragedy behind them.
2) No, the band should show their remorse by hanging up their instruments -- permanently.
3) Write in here with your own response.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Vintage Anthrax Picture

Keep It in the Family

While attending a recent wedding on my wife's side of the family, I had the pleasure to chat with her older cousin Anthony S. Fiore, Jr. It turns out cousin Tony is a lifelong photographer and metalhead, so he and I had a great time talking about '80s metal. He told me he had some old-school pics from a record signing Anthrax did at the now-defunct Rock N' Roll Heaven record shop in Clark, New Jersey. The store was owned by John and Marsha Zazula of Megaforce Records fame and apparently counted ex-Overkill guitartist Bobby Gustafson among its employees.

I recently stumbled across the picture he was talking about on Anthrax's website. Cousin Tony is flanked by Charlie Benante, Joey Belladonna and Scott Ian. His brother, cousin David, is seen on the righthand side of the image throwing up the horns and nearly cuckolding Ian in the process! Cousin Tony also shot the band at a 2005 fan-only event in Sayreville, New Jersey. Some of his other music-related pics can be found here. I hope to be able to post other vintage metal pics from the Fiore archives in the future.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Randy Rhoads Vs. Randi Rhodes

What's in a Name?

Have you ever wanted to rename yourself after a dead rock star? That's exactly what Randi Rhodes (pictured right) did. Born Randi Bueten, the talk show personality hosts her own program on Air America Radio.

She rechristened herself in honor of the late guitarist Randy Rhoads (pictured left) of her own volition, not because of some dubious decision thrust on her by management. "I named myself after Ozzy Osbourne's guitar player," Rhodes recalled last year in a C-SPAN transcript. "And people think they're making some joke when they say, 'Oh, your named after' -- I did it on purpose . . . I thought of Randy Rhoads, who was a consummate professional. He had long blonde hair like me . . . He always practiced. I mean, he practiced eight hours a day. He lived to be the best. So I just loved his legend and I loved his professionalism and I loved Ozzy and I loved everything about that band. So I named myself Randi Rhodes."

In other bizarre metal moniker news, there's apparently a man impersonating Bruce Dickinson from his pre-Iron Maiden days. He goes by the name Bruce Bruce -- just as Dickinson did during his Samson years -- and was last seen perfecting a stand-up routine at comedy clubs across the country!

Europe Start Their Own Secret Society

Joey Tempest & Co. Ready New Release

Europe have announced their new album, Secret Society, will hit stores Nov. 7 through Sanctuary Records. Secret Society features the band's original lineup -- singer Joey Tempest, guitarist John Norum, bassist John Leven, keyboardist Mic Michaeli and drummer Ian Haugland. The album's cover art was created by legendary graphic artist Storm Thorgerson, the man behind famous Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Helloween and Bruce Dicksinson covers.
Do you think this Europe cover ranks among Thorgerson's classics?

1) Yes, it has all the elements that make his art so arresting.
2) No, he really dropped the ball on this one.
3) I could care less. I never thought Europe had cool covers anyway.
4) Write in with your own response!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hair Apparent: Great White

(Editor's note: This is the third installment in a series about old albums that don't quite qualify in the Lost Classics category, yet still warrant a closer look.)

Great White, Hooked (Capitol, 1991)

The Big Idea: Blues-rockers make a (mista) "bone"-afide grab for arena-rock stardom

Choice Cuts: "Call It Rock N' Roll," "The Original Queen of Sheba," "Desert Moon" and "Afterglow"

Sonic Brethren: Kix, Cinderella, Tesla and AC/DC

It's nearly impossible to talk about Great White these days without mentioning the 2003 fire in a Rhode Island nightclub that killed 100 people. Yet while the focus understandably remains on the tragedy, people have nearly forgotten about the great blues-based hard rock once made by the Los Angeles quintet.

Hooked was frontman Jack Russell & Co.'s fifth full-length studio album and aimed to recapture the success of the band's double-platinum breakthrough effort, 1989's . . . Twice Shy. While it never matched it predecessor in sales, Hooked remains one of Great White's better efforts.

The platter kicks off with the four-on-the-floor stomp of "Call It Rock N' Roll," the disc's first single. Russell addresses the censorship of parent groups like the PMRC with the lyric "There's trouble all around/Trouble with the PTA/Tell me whatcha gonn do?/Takin' all our highs away" while guitarist Mark Kendall cuts loose with some tasty licks in the vein of Chuck Berry. The next track, "The Original Queen of Sheba" is built on a hook with a lot of down-home twang -- so much that it even bears a strong resemblance to "Gyspy Road" by Cinderella!

But Great White are capable of more than just straight-up rock. "Lovin' Kind" is a piano ballad that anticipates the unplugged direction the band would take on their rootsy 1994 effort, Sail Away. While never released as a single, "Lovin' Kind" would have been a good candidate to capture some of the market dominated by keyboard-laden tunes toward the end of the hair metal movement.

The remainder of the album displays a variety of styles from the hardest-rocking cut "Desert Moon" to the expansive swamp boogie "Congo Square," the latter checking in just shy of seven minutes in length. Laidback acoustic guitars dominate cuts like the lazy, back-porch jam "South Bay Cities" and an album-closing cover of the Small Faces' "Afterglow."

They couldn't have known it at the time, but Great White's interpretation of "Afterglow" ends the album on a somewhat prophetic note. Though Hooked would hit the gold mark shortly after its release, none of the band's subsequent albums would ever go gold or platinum again. Hooked's sales of 500,000 copies was like a brief coda to the two million-deep sales of . . . Twice Shy. Afterglow, indeed.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Queensrÿche Show Review

Handguns and heroin. Anarchy, religion and prostitution. Revolution, revenge and redemption. These are just a few of the elements that figure into Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime and Operation: Mindcrime II. Lead singer Geoff Tate & Co. rolled into New York's Nokia Theatre in the heart of Times Square last night to perform both albums back-to-back -- a mammoth task that few bands could tackle. For anyone who missed last night's show, the group will be playing again tonight.

Half of the fun of last night's performance was seeing live actors up onstage fleshing out the storyline. The original Sister Mary -- singer Pamela Moore -- reprised her role and brought her usual thespian touch to the character. Tate, meanwhile, variously portrayed both Dr. X and Nikki at different points in the storyline. I'm not sure of the name of the fellow who also portrayed Nikki during other parts in the production, though I'm fairly certain the same actor also handled those duties in the Mindcrime tour of a few years ago.

As for the musicians, they were extremely tight and came very close to recreating the studio sheen heard on the Mindcrime albums. My only criticism would be of guitarist Mike Stone. While I've really come to appreciate Stone over the last couple of years, I can't help but think he's always a little off with his renditions of Chris De Garmo's guitar lines from the first Mindcrime album, but that's a minor quibble at best.

Following the performance of the original Mindcrime, Queensrÿche took a 20-minute intermission before returning to begin the sequel. The high point of the Mindcrime II set undoubtedly came during "Murderer?" as Tate wrestled with the agonies of a man torn between revenge and forgiveness. It is at this point that he must decide whether or not to slay the blindfolded and beaten Dr. X.

I won't ruin the surprise for those of you who have yet to see the show. However, if you listen to the track on the album there's a subtle audio clue as to the outcome of action at approximately 4:04 or 4:05. I had the good fortune to interview Tate about the album some months ago and he revealed that tidbit to me. At the time, it didn't make much sense. But having now seen the show, it seems almost obvious in retrospect.

Hearing both albums in their entirety was a real treat, but Tate & Co. also played a two-song encore featuring "Walk in the Shadows" and "Jet City Woman." How many bands half the age of Queensrÿche could deliver a 34-song set with such ease? And right about now they're getting ready to do it all over again tonight!

Check out some exclusive pictures from the gig below.

Queensrÿche at New York's Nokia Theatre 09.21.06

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

KingoftheHill: The Disregard of Timekeeping?

Punching the Clock . . . Into a Bloody Pulp

I recently found a used copy of KingoftheHill's 1991 self-titled debut (yes, apparently the band's name is written as one continuous word). The St. Louis quartet -- led by blonde frontman Frankie Muriel -- was signed to SBK Records, the label home of Vanilla Ice, Selena and others.

"I Do U," one of the disc's singles, has a funky, horn-drenched sound that earned Muriel & Co. a reputation as a poor man's Extreme. Meanwhile, another single called "If I Say" is an acoustic-based ballad that's similar to likeminded material from Poison or Firehouse.

I find it difficult to recommend this album; it's a bit too faceless and anonymous with little to distinguish it. In fact, one of the most remarkable things about the platter is a shameless marketing ploy used in the liner notes. "If I Say" is listed as being three minutes and 72 seconds long. I mean, come on, as if a radio or video programmer isn't going to notice the blatant attempt to come in around the three minute mark -- even though the real length is four minutes and 13 seconds! Likewise, "Place in My Heart" checks in at three minutes and 85 seconds in the track listing. That's four minutes and 27 seconds for those of you who don't speak metric.

I guess you can't fault a band for trying anything to get their songs played, but I've never seen this particular ploy before. Do a radio edit, for crying out loud! Putting out mediocre hair metal is one thing. But to add insult to injury by also violating standard rules of time calculation is just unacceptable.

(Editor's note: Incidentally, "Place in My Heart" is in a similar vein to "If I Say" and is the best tune on the album, in my estimation)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lost Classics: Nelson

The Timotei Twins Strike Again!

Nelson, After the Rain (Geffen, 1990)

The Big Idea: The spawn of a late teen pop star churn out fluffy pop metal

Choice Cuts: "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection," "After the Rain" and "Tracy's Song/Only Time Will Tell"

Sonic Brethren: Winger, Bon Jovi, Slaughter

First off, let me say that I know this is a much maligned album. However, I believe it's one of the stronger efforts in the commercial metal genre. If you like your metal with pop hooks, Nelson are a sure bet. Consider the band's pedigree for a moment. As the twin sons of '50s teen star Ricky Nelson, singer/bassist Matthew and singer/guitarist Gunnar had ample opportunity to study up on pop songwriting from their father's catalog of hits, which included "Travelin' Man," "Poor Little Fool," "Garden Party" and more.

But while their old man's connections may have helped them secure a record deal, Matthew and Gunnar's music succeeded on much more than nepotism alone. The material on their After the Rain debut married a strong Top 40 vocal presence with pop-metal production values and blazing guitar solos courtesy of Bret Garsed. And let's not forget the role their image played in their initial success -- those boyish faces framed by straight blonde hair earned them the nickname the Timotei Twins in the European press (after a popular Swedish shampoo that featured a female look-alike in its commercials).

The band's first single, "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection," builds from a beautiful acoustic guitar pattern topped by the brothers' mellifluous vocals into a pop confection with sugary hooks. I'd say 'saccharine hooks,' but the connotation is disingenuous. Call me a fool, but I find Nelson believable when they perform their songs. This tune, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1990, is said to have been developed from a riff Matthew came up with while looking at a photo of Cindy Crawford in Vogue magazine.

Meanwhile, the disc's title track benefits from sparkling keyboard flourishes courtesy of piano man Paul Mirkovich, additional vocal and instrumental expertise from six-stringer Joey Cathcart and a rock steady groove laid down by ex-Vinnie Vincent Invasion drummer Bobby Rock. While "After the Rain" is a mid-tempo rocker, "Only Time Will Tell" is a true power ballad in every way: Mirkovich dominates with a piano-based arrangement; the hook kicks in with a swooning string section; and the tune is even preceded by a classical guitar intro titled "Tracy's Song" in honor of Matthew and Gunnar's sister Tracy. Need a quick primer on every glib power ballad cliché in the book? Look no further than "Only Time Will Tell." But that's precisely why we love the Timotei Twins -- they give their fans what they want.

I believe Nelson fans suffer from the same affliction that strikes Spice Girls or New Kids on the Block lovers: Though these are all multiplatinum acts, you can't find a single person who'll fess up to having bought a copy. Well, I'm proudly announcing myself as a Nelson fan and consumer, albeit 16 years too late. (Though I would never pay full price. I found After the Rain used for $1 at a local record shop!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hair Apparent: Kik Tracee

(Editor's note: This is the second installment in a series about albums that don't quite qualify in the Lost Classics category, yet still warrant a closer look.)

Kik Tracee, No Rules (RCA, 1991)

The Big Idea: Dana Strum protégés deliver nuanced, ballad-heavy hair metal

Choice Cuts: "You're So Strange," "Big Western Sky," "Lost" and "Fade Dunaway"

Sonic Brethren: Slaughter, the Cult and Guns N' Roses

1991 will long be remembered by '80s metal aficionados as the year Nirvana arrived to sound the death knell for hair metal bands. It also happens to be the year that Los Angeles quintet Kik Tracee released its debut disc, No Rules. At the time, Kik Tracee and No Rules had a lot in their favor: big hooks, great songwriting, management courtesy of Sharon Osbourne and a celebrity metal supporter in Slaughter bassist Dana Strum, who produced the disc.

The album's two singles -- the rambunctious, forced bravado of "No Rules" and the slower, dreamier "You're So Strange" -- are a study in contrast. It's as if frontman Stephen Shareaux & Co. didn't know whether they wanted to rock or croon ballads. The latter tune manages a bit of both: it opens with a beautiful reverie of an arpeggio that dominates the tune's verses, while the chorus delivers a radio friendly hook that rocks within moderation. In a metamusical moment, Kik Tracee use the same arpeggio to end the album in "Fade Dunaway." The brief tribute to movie queen Faye Dunaway leaves you with a tantalizing taste of golden Hollywood as its fades off into the sunset in just 41 seconds.

Some of the best material on No Rules is the lighter, more balladic fare. While "You're So Strange" was the most commercial of the disc's dramatic ballads, "Big Western Sky" and "Lost" also benefit from slower tempos, acoustic fretsmanship and introspective lyrics.

It's on the hard-edged material where Strum's production really takes the spotlight. The rocker-cum-producer sets the tone for Kik Tracee's unique take on Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" with nearly a minute of atmospheric air raid sirens ("War Pigs," anyone?) and machine gun fire sound effects as the tune builds up. Likewise, "Trash City" uses touches of helicopter and police siren sound effects to set a narrative mood. As a tale of urban decay, "Trash City" is a fitting companion piece to, say, Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" or Babylon A.D.'s "The Kid Goes Wild."

Much has been written comparing Kik Tracee to GN'R. I believe the comparison -- which probably stems largely from Shareaux's penchant for nasally vocals à la Axl Rose -- isn't wholly accurate. In fact, the darker edge of the band is more in line with goth-inspired rockers the Cult. Witness "Velvet Crush" as Shareaux does some distinctly Ian Astbury-like wailing.

There's no debating that Kik Tracee wears its influences on the sleeve. After No Rules, they completely revamped their sound for their final recording, the 1992 Field Trip EP. Would Shareaux & Co. have continued their sonic explorations and developed a sound all their own on subsequent releases? We will never know.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Video of the Week: Bullet Boys

Marq Torien and the Boys Prove They're Regular Eisensteins

It's not often that highbrow art and lowbrow schlock combine, but I'm happy to say I've belatedly discovered the Bullet Boys managed to pull it off back in 1991. Thanks to YouTube, I've been able to watch uncut '80s videos that I had long forgotten about or never saw in the first place. One of my recent discoveries has been the Bullet Boys' video for "THC Groove," a cut off their sophomore album, Freakshow. Frontman Marq Torien & Co. open the video with a tribute to the famed 1925 silent film The Battleship Potemkin by Russian auteur Sergei Eisenstein (shown above).

The most famous sequence from Eisenstein's film depicts an advancing army marching down a flight of steps and exterminating civilians. In the midst of the onslaught, the camera follows a runaway baby carriage down the stairs.

The Bullet Boys -- in their infinite knowledge of Russian silent cinema -- begin the "THC Groove" clip with grainy, black & white footage of a carriage tumbling down a set of stairs -- an obvious tribute to The Battleship Potemkin scene. When the carriage comes crashing down at the bottom, there's a sense of drama and breathless anticipation -- you simply must know if the baby survived the perilous descent. But instead of seeing a baby, the camera zooms in on Torien as he pops his head out of the carriage and announces "Teatime!" as the tune's nasty groove kicks in. What a moment! The band is then seen (now in living color) performing the song on the steps. Of course the Eisenstein homage was likely the idea of the clip's director, but kudos nonetheless to the Bullet Boys for this clever video.

Click here to watch now.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Male Objectification in Heavy Metal?

While recently listening to Kik Tracee's No Rules to determine if it fits into the 'lost classic' category, I was struck by a song called "Tangerine Man." Below is an excerpt of the lyrics:

"Burn the eternal flame, but you'll never catch my name/
You're burnin' out, I ain't your fireman of fantasy/
Blue oyster boy don't stop until he's hard as rock/
He's comin' on, raging bull won't ever stop

I'm going a la carte, blue oyster missed his mark/
Couldn't read the signs, exit only/
Listen to serenades, selling his lemonade/
Turn around and take it to another place"

Plenty of metal songs have been written as a come-on to some lusty lady of the night, but this one bears the distinction of being deliberately written to ward off a homosexual advance. In the '80s, metal was bashed for its portrayal of women, but I argue that male objectification is even more rampant in the genre -- from Judas Priest singer Rob Halford's gay biker look to Vinnie Vincent Invasion/Nelson drummer Bobby Rock's Chelsea boy physique (seen here) to the infamous codpieces of WASP's Blackie Lawless or Kiss' Gene Simmons.

And what of female homosexuality in metal -- are there any sapphic six-stringers out there? It's difficult to deny that there's a strange kind of homoeroticism in metal, perhaps more so than in other segments of the culture. As to why this is, well that's for the sociologists to ponder, but feel free to write in with your thoughts.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Axl Rose Makes a Quiet Riot at VMAs

I Wanna Hear You Scream!

The Guns N' Roses frontman introduced a performance by modern rockers the Killers last night at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. Meanwhile, Rose revealed to MTV's John Norris that Chinese Democracy is still scheduled to drop this year (yeah, right!) and the band will kick off a U.S. tour in late October. Click here to watch the backstage interview.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pick Your Poison (Frontman)

Who Will the Cat Drag In Next?

Recent reports suggest that the members of Poison are looking for a new lead singer to replace Bret Michaels. Skid Row frontman Johnny Solinger (himself a replacement for Sebastian Bach!) is rumored to be the frontrunner. With that in mind, we'd like to ask who you'd like to seeing fronting Poison.

1) Tuff's Steve Rachelle
2) Great White's Jack Russell
3) Nelson's Gunnar or Matthew Nelson
4) Slaughter's Mark Slaughter
5) Skid Row's Johnny Solinger
6) Write in with your own favorite not listed here!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Metal Goes Political -- Again

Left, Right or Center?

Heavy metal music is often accused of being apolitical. Yet many of the genre's biggest names have released albums that owed a heavy lyrical debt to political themes. With Megadeth prepping the overtly political United Abominations for a February 7 release, the venom and vitriol is set to fly again. So we'd like to ask you the following question:

Which politically minded album is your favorite?

1) Warrior Soul's Last Decade Dead Century
2) Metallica's . . . And Justice For All
3) Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime
4) Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy
5) Megadeth's Rust in Peace
6) Write in with your own selection not mentioned here!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hair Apparent: Frank Gambale

(Editor's note: This will be the first in a series of posts about albums that don't quite qualify in the Lost Classics category, yet still warrant a closer look. It's dedicated to those efforts that aspired to greatness, but only barely grazed it -- the "hair apparents" of the metal world.)

Frank Gambale, The Great Explorers (JVC, 1993)
The Big Idea: Jazz-fusion meets the lighter side of '80s metal

Choice Cuts: "The Great Explorers," "Duet Tuet" and "She Knows Me Well"

Sonic Brethren: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Gary Hoey, Van Halen

Frank Gambale is perhaps best known for playing with jazz fusion piano master Chick Corea, but his melodic shredding has a lot of '80 metal crossover appeal. Gambale's The Great Explorers is one of the most rocking platters in his discography. In keeping with the album title, he is pictured on the cover looking like an intrepid adventurer, posed with his choice tool of conquest -- an Ibanez guitar. He covers a lot of sonic territory with that celebrated instrument -- both on the album as a whole and on the microcosm of the three featured tracks -- so let's begin.

The disc's title track opens with a deceptive cadence: a few bars of clean, jazzy guitar work anchored by unorthodox drum patterns. The song's true character doesn't even emerge until a little shy of the minute mark. It's then that we first hear a cascading synthesizer riff that sounds like the lost keyboard work of Eddie Van Halen buttressed by blasts of distorted guitar and tom-tom rolls on the drums. The abrupt change leads into the song's main theme, with Gambale delivering an ultra-melodic melody that's repeated throughout the song.

The Van Halen influence continues through the next track, "Duet Tuet." Clocking in at a mere 43 seconds, this number is more like an unofficial intro to "She Knows Me Well" rather than a full-fledged song in its own right. The short tune allows Gambale and drummer Jonathan Mover to do some tandem shredding in the vein of the Eddie and Alex Van Halen's intro to "Hot for Teacher."

After the frantic fret and skins bashing of "Duet Tuet," "She Knows Me Well" offers a lush, romantic melody that meanders along at a reflective and dreamy pace. Guitarist Gary Hoey shares a co-writing credit on this tune, but it's Gambale's playing that takes it to another level. He caresses his guitar so tenderly that it's hard to imagine "She Knows Me Well" was inspired by anything other than the bittersweet experience of first love. Think about the soaring, emotional fretwork of Steve Stevens in the "Top Gun Anthem" and you can begin to understand the vibe of this tune.

While the remainder of The Great Explorers may be a bit too jazz fusion to appeal to most metalheads, these three tracks are worth a listen. I don't know if they're available on iTunes, but they'd definitely be worth the $2.97 if so.

Friday, August 25, 2006

More Motörhead Madness!

Lemmy and the Boys Go Latin!

The Kiss of Death CD booklet features the following Latin phrase splashed across several of its pages:


Are they any Latinists out there who can translate? While I can recognize some of the individual words, I can't piece it all together into anything coherent.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Let the Butchering Begin

Beatlemania Meets Metalmania!

Members of Motörhead, Queensrÿche, Dio, Whitesnake and more will lend their hard-rocking talents to the upcoming tribute album Butchering the Beatles, according to a recent press release. In honor of the news, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of famous Beatles covers done by metal artists. Which one is your favorite?

1) "Helter Skelter" by Mötley Crüe
2) Medley of "Day Tripper," "If I Needed Someone" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" by Type O Negative
3) "Eleanor Rigby" by Realm
4) "Come Together" by Aerosmith
5) Write in with your own selection not mentioned here!

Monday, August 21, 2006

CD Review: Motörhead's Kiss of Death

Here's a track-by-track review of Motörhead's forthcoming Kiss of Death album (Sanctuary Records). The disc hits stores Aug. 29.


Fading in with a few seconds of feedback, the band launches into a relentless power-metal gallop that doesn’t let up for nearly three minutes. Very much in the vein of “Ace of Spades” and “We Are Motörhead,” “Sucker” proves that you don’t have to get slower as you get older.

“One Night Stand”

The album’s first metallic boogie track, “One Night Stand” is a hard-hitting cut that celebrates the decadence of the rock & roll lifestyle and the art of the pickup. Singer-bassist Lemmy Kilmister sounds as hungry as ever while drummer Mikkey Dee beats the skins and guitarist Phil Campbell flails the strings.

“Devil I Know”

To every yin, there must be a yang. So it is with “Devil I Know,” which details what ensues the morning after a “One Night Stand”. Lemmy sings, “Ain’t gonna change a thing/Ain’t gonna change my ways/I don’t care where you been/I don’t care where you go/Going back to the devil I know.” Goodbye to romance, for sure . . . Of special note is the solo, which opens with some very deep tones from Lemmy for a few bars before Campbell doubles the harmony a few octaves higher. Nice touch.


This is the album’s most NWOBHM moment. It sounds like Campbell doubled his leads in the studio to give it some of that two-guitar attack so prominent in the music of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, et al.

“Under the Gun”

Lemmy once famously sang that “The Chase Is Better Than the Catch.” Well, “Under the Gun” allows Lemmy to have both. And he’s obviously a happy man for it - he implores his beloved, “We all live under the sun/But we don’t have to live under the gun.” Alice in Chains fans will be pleased to note that bassist Mike Inez lends his low-end skills to this track.

“God Was Never on Your Side”

The first (and only) bona fide attempt at a ballad on the album, “God” is a very dire and serious track that nearly feels like an epic but doesn’t quite make it. It both opens and closes with acoustic guitar before the full-on electric barrage commences. This lyrically hard-hitting track highlights Lemmy’s deistic beliefs with lines like, “Let the sword of reason shine/Let us be free of prayer and shrine/God’s face is hidden, turned away/He never has a word to say.” Features some ripping lead work from Poison guitarist C.C. Deville of all people!

“Living in the Past”

With one of the most powerful grooves on the record, “Living in the Past” is an extremely tight number. It also boasts the “youngest” vibe on the album (think “The Game,”) and would probably appeal to the wrestling-fanatic fanbase the band has cultivated over the last several years. Props to Campbell for his fantastic street lethal guitar solo.


One of the most immediately catchy tracks on the disc, “Christine” is another metallic blues boogie written about Lemmy’s pursuit of the opposite sex. Thematically it calls to mind Kiss’ “Christine Sixteen.” Seems like this would have been a more logical choice for C.C. Deville to guest on, but I like the band’s counterintuitive logic in sticking him where they did.

“Sword of Glory”

This is a very timely track considering all the fighting in our world. The tune boasts a catchy refrain (“Soldier, soldier”) that has the potential to turn into a cool call-and-response thing in concert. A great song with an even better message that lyrically is very much in sync with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” or “Wicked World.” My favorite solo of the album comes on this track. Witness as Campbell morphs himself into Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith at his prime.

“Be My Baby”

A very puzzling song – it wants to boogie, but it’s just too sinister to cut a rug. The lyrics seem to address the perils of the Internet and youth culture in general. Again, it sounds like Campbell is double-tracking his solos to give them a fuller, richer tone reminiscent of the NWOBHM movement.

“Kingdom of the Worm”

This is perhaps the most intense track on Kiss of Death. It takes quite a few listens to really understand what’s going on. Along with “God,” this is the other number that attempts some big, adventurous songwriting. Lemmy’s vocals almost sound incantatory during several parts, like a chant. Kudos to producer Cameron Webb (Monster Magnet, Social Distortion) for adding that element of mystery to this unique track.

“Going Down”

The last proper track on the album, “Going Down” aims to end Kiss of Death on a buoyant high note. It’s a simple ode to the pleasures of rock & roll, and it features a refrains that opens with “You can’t mess with Dr. Rock/So don’t you even try.” The song’s main riff – which is used in the intro, chorus and outro – is really early ‘80s inspired. “Going Down” is a pleasant, if overly simplistic, way to end the album.


At one minute and nineteen seconds, this is the shortest, punkiest cut on the album and it’s listed as a bonus track. Of course, it’s a reprise of a tune that originally appeared on the band’s celebrated 1991 album, 1916. A bit late for Ramones nostalgia perhaps, but Motörhead always mosh to the beat of their own drum.

One From the Archives: Hear 'n Aid

No contest today, just curious how many of these '80s rockers can you identify? Anyone recall what memorable event convened such a crowd?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Lost Classics: Britny Fox

Good Old Boys Revisited

When Britny Fox burst onto the scene in 1988 with their self-titled debut, they immediately garnered a lot of attention for their decadent Victorian glam look and back-to-basics AC/DC-inspired songwriting. Britny Fox nearly hit the platinum mark thanks to singles like “Girlschool,” “Long Way to Love” and “Save the Weak.” The early Britny sound was defined by leather-throated singer/guitarist “Dizzy” Dean Davidson leading the way over the tuneful riffs of onetime Cinderella guitarist Michael Kelly Smith.

Britny Fox was, of course, shear genius. Yet the Philadelphia hair-metal act wasn’t able to sustain the initial success. The Fox’s 1989 sophomore effort, Boys in Heat, boasted a tougher, more balanced approach to songwriting, but it never translated into commercial success. All of which definitely qualifies Boys as a lost classic.

The sound of a revving motorcycle screeching off into the distance opens “In Motion,” the disc’s first cut. It’s a track designed to really entice you in as a listener, with drummer Johnny Dee’s double-time chops and Davidson’s triple-time motor-mouth delivery evoking the hectic pace of the rock & roll lifestyle. Surer, steadier grooves follow in “Standing in the Shadows” and “Hair of the Dog” - thanks to the rock-steady playing of bassist Billy Childs. The latter song is, of course, a brilliant cover of the Nazareth classic. It continues in the footsteps of Britny’s version of Slade’s “Gudby T’Jane” on Britny Fox. Power-balladry dominates on “Dream On,” while tracks like “Long Way From Home,” “Shine On” and “Angel in My Heart” offer just the right combination of gritty mess and radio-friendly finesse.

In an interesting coincidence, Boys also found Britny shedding their signature sartorial look in favor of a denim-and-leather wardrobe. Perhaps because clothes were so closely associated with the band, they lost a sizable portion of their fan base when they took the haute couture leap. What a pity. Their sophomore effort is a quality one.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lost Classics: YLD

Just Like Fools Paradise

Of all the great acts the ‘80s gave us, I have a particular soft spot in my heart for those that never really made it. Everybody has a favorite "wannabe" band, whether they want to admit it or not - you know, those third-tier talents that put out ragged little releases that were wholly ignored. Yet the heart and soul those maligned acts poured into their music lives on long after their chances at commercial success have died. Many bands fit this bill, but one of my personal favorites is YLD (pronounced “wild,” their name is written with a line over the “Y”).

In 1989, the quartet released its debut (and only?) album, Window Shopping in Fools Paradise, on the Absolute Records imprint. If you look closely at the cover, you’ll see that at least two of the band’s members are clearly wearing bolo ties – could it be that they hail from the Southwestern United States? We may never know. Here’s another brainteaser: While bands like Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, Queensrÿche and others used the umlaut to signify a menacing, Germanic quality, what are we to make of YLD’s diacritical mark of choice? Is it intended as a sort of Anglicized tilda to give the band’s name a vaguely Hispanic feel while still remaining firmly Anglo?

Enough about the album cover – let’s get down to YLD’s unique brand of bolo boogie. “Wild Girls” starts the album off in raucous style with frontman Kevin Mier Mellenbruch turning in a love-it-or-leave-it vocal performance that falls somewhere between Accept’s Udo Dirkschneider and Britny Fox’s “Dizzy” Dean Davidson. The band’s lumbering yet oddly invigorating stab at Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” follows, but Window Shopping doesn’t really get cooking until “The Distance.” This track is marked by vocal-driven, pop-indebted songwriting and guitarist James Bengston’s eager soloing, which conjures up shades of early Vito Bratta.

The album’s centerpiece is an uplifting cut called “Music Music” that pays tribute to the hardships and victories of life in a struggling band. Opening with a Bengston lead that sounds like an outtake from a lost ‘80s teenage flick, “Music Music” is saturated with tasty six-string escapades and heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics. When Mellenbruch sings, “On a skeleton crew, doing the graveyard shift/I was going nowhere/I took my MDR/of rock and roll/My radio blast/Guitar in hand/I lose control,” you just know he’s lived those lyrics. Call it cheesy if you must, but you can’t take the man’s honesty away from him.

Could YLD ever have made it big under different circumstances? Probably not. But I maintain that it's the C-list talents who really make the ‘80s metal world go round. After all, where would the megastars be without all the wannabes clamoring at their feet?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Autographed Bruce Dickinson Pic Contest Winner!

This photo of a mystery '80s rocker was a real stumper. It is a picture of bassist Irene Kuhl from a New Jersey band called Xenon. Though no one guessed correctly, I promised to “give the prize to the person who comes closest to the correct answer.” So I’ve selected Bruce @ Mindcrimes as the winner, because he was the only person to write in with the name of a U.S.-based female rocker (all other entries named U.K.-bred female rockers). Bruce, please get in touch with your mailing address!

A little background on the mystery photo: I received it back in 1989 from my cousin. The picture is optimistically signed, “Theo, See ya at Madison Square in ’90! Irene.” I don’t think Xenon ever got to play at MSG, even as a support act. While Irene was dreaming of the Garden, grunge rock was getting ready to take over the airwaves. This photo has a bit of that bittersweet, end-of-an-era kind of nostalgia.

Once again, congratulations to the winner. And in the words of David Lee Roth during his short-lived radio show stint: If you like us tell a friend. If you don't, tell an enemy!

One From the Archives: Slayer

Lord Have Mercy

With the recent release of Slayer's new album, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at an early press release (dated January 4, 1984) for their first album. Love that early Metal Blade logo!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lost Classics: Spread Eagle

Though rap and hip-hop are today synonymous with urban music, New York-based Spread Eagle were one of a handful of heavy metal acts who accurately depicted the grime and crime of city living more than a decade ago. The seedy songwriting and melodic metal riffs of their 1990 self-titled disc did a lot to raise their profile as the Big Apple’s answer to early Guns N’ Roses.

While Spread Eagle wasn’t an unabashed success in its day, it’s since been labeled a ‘classic’ by headbangers everywhere. However, the band’s follow-up, 1993's Open to the Public, is often criminally overlooked. With the recent news of the group’s upcoming reunion tour, it’s a good time to take a look back at Spread Eagle's underrated sophomore effort.

The songwriting on Public is less gritty and perhaps less focused than on its predecessor, yet it’s more expansive. Guitarist Paul DiBartolo ditches excess distortion in favor of clean electric tones on several songs, including “Fade Away” and “High Horses.” Meanwhile, frontman Ray West—noted for his usually bleak, nihilistic tales—gets an attitude adjustment on tracks like “Shine” and “Faith,” which find him exploring relationships and the lighter side of life. The latter track, in fact, is the real standout here with its warm Hammond B3 organ tones and gospel-inspired vocals. It's a perfect way to end the album.
One caveat about “Faith”: Despite the title, it is not a religious song. Instead it’s an upbeat paean to the dreamers of the world who transcend ugly reality. The refrain includes the lyrics, “Faith is gonna set me free/Faith is gonna let me be/When everything is falling down on me now/Well I sit here and dream, well I set myself free.” West & Co. craft the song with an uncommon attention to melody and detail, giving it all the emotion and beauty of a Motown ballad. It’s a fitting final statement from these gritty Big Apple rockers with even bigger hearts.

Note: See below to enter to win an autographed photo of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Who Am I? Part 2

Win an autographed photo of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson!

The first person to post the correct name of this female metal musician right here on Metal-Mixtape or e-mail it to will win an autographed promo picture of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson. Contest is only open to residents of the continental United States and ends August 14, 2006, at 10 a.m. ET. The winner will be announced that same day.

I believe this Who Am I? contest is much harder than the last one. But don't worry if you're stumped -- if there's no defintive winner, I'll give the prize to the person who comes closest to the correct answer, in which case my decision will be final. So guess early and often!