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!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bon Jovi Vs. The Black Crowes

New Jersey Rockers Shake Things Up On "Wildflower"

After seeing a recent Bon Jovi concert with my wife, I decided to pick up the band's latest effort, Have a Nice Day. I am now listening to it for the first time and can't help but note a lyric that's almost "borrowed" directly from the Black Crowes.

Bon Jovi’s “Wildflower” features the line, “Well, she’ll tell you she’s an only child until you meet her brothers.” The lyric seemed strangely familiar to me the moment my brain processed it. After searching my mind for a few seconds, I realized I’d heard the line before in the Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels,” off their 1990 debut, Shake Your Money Maker. In the Crowes song, frontman Chris Robinson sings, “Yes, she’ll tell you she’s an orphan after you meet her family.” In the first verse, no less. Now, I'm not trying to disparage the Bon Jovi record. In fact, I'm greatly enjoying it. Just couldn't help pointing out the obvious lyrical similarity!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lost Classics: House of Lords

The first review in a series dedicated to forgotten classics of the genre

House of Lords were the first act signed to Gene Simmons’ Simmons Records imprint and released their self-titled debut in 1988. The Kiss singer-bassist’s relationship with HOL keyboardist Gregg Giuffria dates back to the ‘70s when the latter was a member of Angel. Simmons discovered Giuffria's proto-hair metal act and got them signed to Casablanca Records. The shared history between the two men made for a great working relationship on House of Lords; the album is a fine, albeit forgotten platter from the heady days of the hair-metal revolution. Simmons serves as executive producer on the disc.

“Pleasure Palace” kicks the album off in a regal style befitting the House of Lords name. An extended keyboard intro announces the major role Giuffria plays in this quintet, while guitarist Lanny Cordola vies with him for primacy by squeezing nasty pinch harmonics out of his axe during the tune’s catchy refrain. The most overtly commercial moment on House of Lords follows with “I Wanna Be Loved.” A natural choice for a single, this song boasts a huge, vocally driven “woah, woah, woah-a-woah” chorus and verses in the Whitesnake vein, with frontman James Christian at his sultry best.

House of Lords is dominated by two types of songs: mid-tempo keyboard-driven numbers that show off the band’s dramatic instincts and go-for-the-throat shred fests that spotlight Cordola’s inspired fretsmanship. In the former category we have slower, deeply thespian numbers like “Edge of Your Life,” “Love Don’t Lie” and “Jealous Hearts.” Falling into the latter group are relentless riffers such as “Slip of the Tongue” (Whitesnake anyone?!) and “Lookin’ for Strange,” which features a boozy, barroom piano intro that can’t obscure the fact that it’s the hardest-rocking track on the disc.

Other album highlights include two amazingly anthemic tunes: “Under Blues Skies” and “Call My Name.” In both theme and sound, “Under Blue Skies” loosely fits with Van Halen’s “Dreams” and Steve Stevens’ “Top Gun Anthem” in a sort of triumvirate of ‘80s rockers written about the joys of flight and other uplifting experiences.