Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Twisted Christmas

Post #47
For this year, I'm reviewing Twisted Sister's "A Twisted Christmas" for the Holidays.

I first saw this CD while shopping the after-Christmas sales last year. It was 60% off in the holiday music section at Target. My first thought was, "Twisted Sister recorded a holiday album, this is nuts!" However, being a fan of Heavy Metal music as I am, I couldn't pass up this CD for such a great price.

This album, recorded in '06 (after their last "reunion" tour) is quite a curious effort from this band of 80's hair-metal pioneers. I must admit upon listening to it for the first time I laughed out loud practically through the whole thing. Truth be told, this is probably half the intent of this recording. However, for any heavy-metal fan looking for a Christmas CD beyond the catalogue of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, this might be worth checking out.

The CD starts off with a soft sounding, acoustic guitar and trumpet (poorly-played, but it turns out to be in jest) version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". The band breaks off in mid-melody for a 'dramatic' dispute of song-stlye. They proceed to re-start the song, but playing it TWISTED!!! (i.e. with full TS distorted guitar and power-chords), and just before the final verse they step it up even more with a double-time tempo. In spite of the rough edge to their sound, TS manage to pull off some catchy interpretations of some holiday classics on this CD. My favorite moment has to be "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", which is nothing more than "We're Not Gonna Take It" with the lyrics from "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" sung to the beat of the Hair-Metal anthem.... You have to hear it to believe it, but they fit the song's melody surprisingly well!

The rest of the album will continue to surprise you with its catchiness, while you laugh at the stylistic clash in the same breath. You have to give Twisted Sister credit for having a sense of humor about themslves enough to tackle a project like this, and never stray from their trademark sound throughout.

My recommended songs:

-Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
-Oh Come All Ye Faithful
-Silver Bells
-Deck The Halls (the melody of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is thrown into this song during a "breakdown" segment)
-Heavy Metal Christmas (this is "The 12 Days of Christmas" with TS's unique, and somewhat cliche, alternate choice of lyrics)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fight: K5-The War Of Words Demos

Post #46
When I first saw this CD while I was browsing, I thought, "Another collection of demos?!?"-it seems that many bands from the 80's-90's are dredging up their dusty demos and putting them on a CD just to have something new on the market. However after purchasing this CD of demos, I'm likely to raise my standards when it comes to demo recordings...

The first detail that caught my eye with this demo recording was the fact that it included several previously unreleased songs- always a plus in my book. Plus I'm a huge fan of Rob Halford- either with Judas Priest or his solo material. I think he has one of the greatest voices in heavy metal.

The liner notes are great, too. They tell the story of how Rob set out on his first solo project after leaving Judas Priest. In his own words, Halford tells you his vision of what he wanted from the first Fight album. He held the project so close to his heart that he insisted on keeping his own copy of the original demos, and that is more or less what K5 is.

As this CD began to play I was instantly impressed with the sound quality. The opening track, "Into the Pit", kicks off with an ascending drum beat that quickly explodes into the feast of metal riffage that Fight were known for. The next few tracks on the CD follow suit. At times it seems as though Rob is in the room right next to you wailing his lungs out. You can hear the echos and a bit of feedback from the amps in a couple places. The vocals are sometimes easier to make out compared to the refined studio album, but in other cases more difficult -it depends on the effects employed in the particular song. It is unrefined qualities like these that make a recording of demos worth listening to.

Experiencing these songs as Halford originally intended them is a truly unique experience. I also dug out the original "War of Words" album from '93 and listened to it again to get a good comparison. There are a few songs on the original recording that are absent from the demos. Perhaps these were composed later on, or maybe written primarily by a collaborator. Whatever the reason, it means you have to hear both versions of this album to get the full experience!

Looking back at this period of Halford's career, it seems he was creating a tougher sounding kind of metal, coinciding with the rise of Pantera's international success, whose influence may be apparent in Fight's material. If you're a fan of the "Painkiller" Judas Priest album, you should enjoy Fight's music (Halford brought Priest drummer Scott Travis along with him into the "Fight" club). However you look at it, K5 provides a new perspective on this segment of Rob Halford's recording career.

In recommending songs, I'll make notes after each song as to which version I prefer. In the end I must say that both versions should be considered "essential" for fans of "The Metal God"...

From K5-The War Of Words Demos ('08)
-Into The Pit*
-Nailed to the Gun*
-Now You Die (exclusively on this version)
-Beast Denies (this is an early version of the song that became "Reality: A New Beginning". The lyrics are completely different, but my favorite part is the clean-guitar breakdown segment that was cut from the final version of this song.)
-Psycho Suicide (this was originally found as a hidden track on "A Small Deadly Space"- Fight's 2nd full-length album.)
-War of Words
-Down (exclusively on this version)
-Laid to Rest
-For All Eternity*

From War Of Words (original '93)
-Into The Pit
-Nailed to the Gun
-Immortal Sin (exclusively on this version)
-Little Crazy (exclusively on this version)
-War of Words*
-Laid to Rest*
-For All Eternity
-Reality: A New Beginning* (of all the songs I'm recommending in this post, this one is my #1 suggestion. In fact, it is one of my favorite heavy metal songs of all-time!)

(*- denotes my preferred version of the song)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

James Hetfield: Heavy Metal 107's 1st President.

Post #45 [Poll winner: Heavy Metal Election '08- Favorite lead-singer.]

James Hetfield's inauguration:

James would first like to thank all those who voted for him. Democracy is a wonderful privelage, and in the presence of so many deserving candidates, is humbled to be the choice of the people. Heavy metal will never die. Hetfield will try to represent this music with dignity & respect in the years ahead. Remeber that the empty can rattles the most, so he will lead by example and let the music do most of the talking.

His theme song for his 1st term as president shall be...

"...And Justice for All"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cliff & Flea: A Tie for Favorite Bassist Poll!

Post #44
Since they tied for most votes in the "Favorite Bassist" poll, I'll review both Cliff Burton and Flea's contributions to the art of bass guitar.

Cliff Burton: Cliff is a true tragic hero for bass guitar in heavy metal. Having lost his life in a bus accident while on tour at such a young age, it is hard to speculate how much more he could have brought to the world of heavy metal with his bass guitar. Even in his short career with Metallica, he contributed significantly as a song-writer and made his unique bass-playing style prominent on many tracks. To hear some of the best work of this master of bass listen to:
-Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) This instrumental from Metallica's first album, recorded in one take, showcases Burton at his best!
-For Whom the Bell Tolls

Flea: Flea has made the tonality and technical playing of his bass guitar a signature trademark of the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. From funky, slapping bass techniques, to melodic strings of notes, Flea can play bass as good as the rest. For some Chili Peppers songs that highlight Flea's bass try:
-Higher Ground
-Soul to Squeeze
-Animal Bar

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Heavy Metal 107: Quotes of the Month (Feb-Oct '08)

Post #43
Below is a summary up to this point of the monthly lyric quotes of the month that I started in February of this year. They are meant to be entertaining, thought provoking, funny, or just cool. No offense is meant to anyone who reads this blog. If you have a favorite lyric you'd like me to feature as a lyric-of-the-month, just post a comment on any post and suggest it.

October '08: "I walk the corner to the rubble that used to be a library. Line-up to the mind cemetery now. What we don't know keeps the contracts alive and movin'. They don't gotta burn the books, they just remove 'em." from"Bulls On Parade", by Rage Against the Machine

September '08: "Bury your anger and bury your dead or you'll be left with nothing and no one." from "The Ultimate Sin", by Ozzy Osbourne

August '08: "I've got to stop living at a pace that kills before I wake up dead." from "Life Loves a Tragedy", by Poison

July '08: "You and me we'll all go down in history with a sad Statue of Libery and a generation that didn't agree." from "Sad Statue", by System of a Down

June '08: "I'd rather be a free man in my grave than living as a puppet or a slave." from "The Harder They Come", by Joe Jackson

May '08: "I don't mind stealing bread from the mouths of decadence. But I can't feed on the powerless when my cup's already overfilled." from "Hunger Strike", by Temple of the Dog

April '08: "It brings upon us more of famine, death and war. You know religion has a lot to answer for." from "For the Greater Good of God", by Iron Maiden

March '08: "Find a little evil perpetrator and feed him to the hungry alligator." from "Beethoven's C***", by Serj Tankian

February '08: "It's always funny until someone gets hurt, and then it's just hilarious!" from "Ricochet", by Faith No More

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Quick Look at Alice Cooper.

Post #42 [Poll winner: Vincent Furnier is the real name of which heavy metal icon?]
Alice Cooper: the original Shock-Rocker, was once a regular guy by the name of Vincent Furnier. After he started a rock band in the late 60's he wanted to give it a name that sounded nice, but contrasted with the band's "shock-the-people" approach to their stage show. "Alice Cooper" could be the lady who lives down the street, but this band made a new image for that name. Vincent actually took the name for himself (or at least his character in the band). When the band broke up in the early 80's, Alice continued seamlessly on with a solo career.

He's had his share of ups and downs, but over the years Alice Cooper has made a fair amount of memorable rock and metal music. Weather he was protesting war or domestic violence in the 70's, providing songs to 80's horror movie soundtracks, or in more recent years embracing the influence of nu-metal, there will always be a few good tunes by Alice Copper to bang your head to.

If you're new to Alice Cooper you might want to look for one of these hit collections (also my specific recommendations):
Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits
-I'm Eighteen
-School's Out
-Billion Dollar Babies
-No More Mr. Nice Guy

Alice Cooper-Classicks
-Hey Stoopid
-Feed My Frankenstein
-Stolen Prayer

And a couple spooky songs just in time for Halloween from the Constrictor album...
-Teenage Frankenstein
-He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Heavy Metal Campaign '08!

Post #41
Feeling anxious about the '08 Presidential Election? Relieve some of that stress by casting your vote for your favorite Heavy Metal vocalist right here on this blog! This election is purely for the fun of it, and has no consequences. The winner of this "election" will serve a 2-year term (December '08-November '10) as a symbolic "President" of this blog. Now, here are your candidates and their reasons they want your vote:

Ozzy Osbourne (Birmingham, England) Often referred to as the Godfather of modern Heavy Metal, other times called "The Prince of F***ing Darkness", Ozzy has always been at the top of the list of true Heavy Metal Icons. From his days in Black Sabbath, to his solo career, to consistently holding his own with all of metal's new bands at Ozzfest, to entertaining reality-show viewers with "The Osbournes"; Ozzy has always made the entertainment of his fans a top priority. Though he may owe a great deal of his success to the top-notch management by his wife Sharon, perhaps not enough of us ask where Sharon might be if there were no Ozzy? Ozzy asks for your vote because without him, where would heavy metal be?

James Hetfield of Metallica (San Francisco, California) James has been the leader of Metallica since its inception in the early 80's. In their prime, Hetfield's voice & Metallica's sound became almost synonymous with Heavy Metal itself. When the 90's came around, Metallica were brave enough to experiment with new styles of metal. After perservering through line-up changes and rehab, Hetfield & Metallica have re-emerged with a new album that harkens to their thrash metal roots, and are once again on top in the world of metal music. James asks for your vote, because right now there is no heavy metal band as big as Metallica!

Rob Halford of Judas Priest (Birmingham, England) With his band, Judas Priest, Halford has endured much controversay in his Heavy Metal career. In their early years Priest followed in the footsteps of Black Sabbath and quietly forged a unique Heavy Metal sound for themselves that has proven to be among the most classic of Heavy Metal. In the mid 90's, Halford left Judas Priest after going public about his homosexuality. He launched many solo projects (Fight, Two, and Halford) before at last returning to Priest in '04. Halford is know as "The Metal God" to his die-hard fans. He asks for your vote to support the enduring metal style of both Judas Priest and his solo efforts. He also has perhaps the widest vocal range in Heavy Metal.

Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden (Nottinghamshire, England) Bruce joined the ranks of British metal titan Iron Maiden for their 3rd album, The Number of the Beast. He quickly won over the band's fans and helped Maiden achieve major international success. You can argue there was no Heavy Metal band as consistent throughout the 80's than Iron Maiden. In the early 90's Bruce left the band over creative differences and started a solo career. After some success in this vein, Bruce eventually reunited with Maiden in 2000 (and brought one of his guitarists with him). Bruce is asking for your vote because Iron Maiden still write some of the most significant Heavy Metal music after nearly 30 years.

James LaBrie of Dream Theater (Ontario, Canada) Dream Theater was started by a group of students at Berkley College of Music. They had an ambitious musical vision, and after their first album, began looking for a new lead singer. James LaBrie answered the call and has proven ever since that he has the pipes these guys were looking for. Often composing progressive-metal songs in excess of 10, 20, or even 40 minutes in length, Dream Theater endeavor to prove they are the best at what they do; blending thrash metal with progressive rock. James wants your vote to prove this band's ambition is worth your while.

Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour (Des Moines, Iowa) Whether he's fronting the shockingly horrific Slipknot, or the more down-to-earth but still hard & heavy Stone Sour, Corey Taylor takes being a Heavy Metal singer very seriously. By listening to the 2 extremes of his vocal style in each of his respective bands, you can easily hear the versatility of his voice. Corey has also proven to be open-minded and helpful to several other acts in metal music, having appeared as a guest vocalist on Apocalyptica's "I'm Not Jesus", as well as working closely with Anthrax on their up-coming album. Corey asks for your vote as he carries ever-onward in the world of Heavy Metal.

(British candidates in red, North American candidates in blue)

Friday, October 17, 2008

King Diamond- The Graveyard

Post #40
Every year around Halloween, I like to dig out the spookiest, creepiest heavy metal music in my vast collection and really get into the Halloween spirit. Being a long-time fan of bands like Kiss & Alice Cooper gives me much to choose from in this category. This year I'm going to review one of my favorite albums from King Diamond; Denmark's evil, dark lord of Heavy Metal.

King Diamond's work outside of his original band, Mercyful Fate, has become a creative outlet for the singer's concept-themed musical projects over the years. In many of the albums under the "King Diamond" moniker a very detailed plot of some sinister subject matter or other is developed in the style of a heavy metal rock-opera. King Diamond uses the many pitches of his unique voice to sing several different characters' parts throughout.

On "The Graveyard", King Diamond tells a dark tale of a madman who exercises revenge against a pedophile. Told from the madman's perspective, this eye-for-an-eye tale follows his plot of revenge as he kidnaps mayor MacKenzie's daughter and holds her hostage... in a graveyard. MacKenzie was the true abuser of his daughter; a crime he framed the narrator for. By the end of the album it's clear that nobody wins, and suffering abounds. If you're feeling like a metal album that tells a haunting tale along the lines of Kiss the Girls, then give The Graveyard a listen.

-Black Hill Sanitarium
-Trick or Treat
-Up From The Grave

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

One Year and Counting...

Post #39
I can hardly believe it's already been a full year I've been writing this blog; there's so much great Heavy Metal music I haven't gotten to yet! I'll continue to write posts about both current favorites of mine, as well as many of my favorite bands from years past. As always, I'll use the monthly reader's polls to gauge the interest of my regular readers (thank you for reading this blog!) I'm always keeping my ear open for a thought provoking, funny, or otherwise interesting lyric for the monthly quote... however let me take a moment to remind you all that I'm open to suggestions on the Lyric-of-the-Month if you have one in mind.

Besides my "Coming Soon" topics, I'm plotting out the next month's poll to imitate an election format (it will involve your favorite lead singer). After that I was thinking to have a series of polls about Aerosmith albums (favorites from each decade...) After that I'm sure I'll come up with more ideas.

I will get to a summary of polls & quotes very soon. After one year of blogging seems a good time to summarize!
Read on everyone! Halloween-themed post coming very soon!

later for now...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Serj Tankian-Elect the Dead

Post #38
After headlining Ozzfest '06, System Of A Down went on an indefinite hiatus. Free from the burden of obligations and egos involved with a band, the creative minds of Tankian & Malakian were given free reign to launch their own solo-projects and escape the inundating expectations that System's success had begun to bring upon them. Serj's self-titled project was the first to release an album: Elect the Dead.

As a huge System of a Down fan, I wasn't sure what to expect from Serj without Daron. Should I expect it to sound just like a System album? Would it be so far removed from the band that I'd be disappointed? My apprehension was lessened upon hearing "Empty Walls", the debut single. I had a gift card to Best Buy handy, and decided to use it to pick up Elect the Dead. After hearing the whole album, I was glad I did.

Serj's songwriting style is mostly on par with the work of System of a Down. The main difference I find is that Serj incorporates a lot of piano & keyboard instrumentation, and the electric guitars, although still present, are pushed to the background a bit. When the lyrics come around, however, you can tell this is still the Serj from "System". Serj Tankian, as always, pulls no punches with political or social issues he feels strongly about, and there is plenty of commentary throughout "Elect the Dead". Don't worry though, the quirky, strange, out-of-left-field lyrics that at first make you scratch your head are still present too.

If you're a "System" fan and for some reason haven't picked up "Elect the Dead" yet, then you're missing out. If you need more convincing, check out these songs:
-Empty Walls
-Sky Is Over
-Honking Antelope
-Lie, Lie, Lie
-Beethoven's C***

Rush-2112, a True Rock Gem from 1976...

Post #37
In 1976, many rock bands seemed to be inspired to create some of their best work of the times. As I mentioned a few posts ago, there were numerous rock albums notable for having some of the best work of many bands' careers. I thought it the ideal topic for a truly challenging reader's poll, and it was a tight race down to the finish. That being said I was still a bit surprised to see that Rush's 2112 came out on top.

2112 didn't particularly have any of Rush's biggest hits from the 70's, but it did carry the most cohesive concept of any other music released that year. On this album, Rush tell a story set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic, Star-Trek-ish setting, where a "Solar Federation" has supreme control over all knowledge and has humanity living an extremely sheltered existence. If it were told in a novel format it would fit right in with similar stories by the likes of Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, and Orson Scott Card.

2112 chronicles the story of a person who discovers an ancient, mysterious thing- a guitar. Compelled to share this wondrous thing with the rest of humanity, he brings it before the high priests, who promptly discourage the idea, saying it was a part of what led to the destruction of the "ancient race". The ensuing struggle between authority and the inherent belief that the music is right is told through the music of "2112". The main plot of the concept is mainly told in the multi-part title-track, and the remaining songs seem to connect to the theme in vague, generic terms.

All-in-all this a well-executed musical project, and even in the thick of grandiose concepts told through rock music, this album ranks up with some of the best.

From "2112" I recommend:
-2112 (specifically parts I, II, & III)
-The Twilight Zone
-Something for Nothing

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

All Things Unforgiven

Post #36
As the release of Metallica's Death Magnetic approaches, I can't help but to reflect on my history of being a Metallica fan, as well as the role Metallica's music has played in my life. I've shared many memorable moments with friends and family while listening to Metallica, or discussing their music. One such conversation is actually how I met my wife.

It was my senior year at college, 1998. Another friend and I had just gotten our food trays and were looking for a place to sit in the cafeteria. We saw a large table that had a mix of familiar and new faces and decided to join them. This was in the first couple weeks of a new school year, and as is habit this time of year, we introduced each other to all the new people. I recall I actually shook the hand of a girl behind the back of my friend sitting on my right-and that girl is now my wife.

The topic of conversation at the table in question happened to be Metallica, and their newest single (then, The Unforgiven II). Many at the table were fans of Metallica's Reload album, and interested in how the rest of those at the table compared the new song to the original Unforgiven from Metallica's land-mark "black" album. "Which version of The Unforgiven do you like best?" was the question going around the table in between bites of tator-tot casserole (or some similar cafeteria entree/staple). The young lady whom I would soon take a keen interest in said she liked the lyrics of the new version, and that they seemed an appropriate continuation of the theme of the original.

I felt I had the perfect curve-ball comment to throw into this conversation, so at the next lull in the dialog, I spoke up, "Well, personally I prefer the strings version of "The Unforgiven".

"There's a strings version?" someone asked.

"Yeah", I said, "It's done by Apocalyptica. They have an album where they cover Metallica songs on four cellos."

"Metallica played on cellos? Sounds cool!", said the beautiful young lady.

"If you like, I could bring it over for you to borrow later tonight?"

"Sure, sounds great." she said.

And so began our friendship, that quickly grew into a romantic, long term relationship; and later, our engagement and marriage. That time was approximately ten years ago this month. We've been happily married the last six of those years, and remain fans of both Metallica's and Apocalyptica's music. Very soon, we'll be able to renew that old argument again, as Metallica have a song titled, "The Unforgiven III" on their newest album. Check back later to see what we think!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Megadeth vs. Metallica??? (a shift in the tide)

Post #35
Up until now, at least on this blog, I've been relatively pro-Megadeth, while practically ignoring Metallica until they won the recent poll. This is by no means to imply that I'm anti-Metallica (or anti-any Heavy Metal band for that matter). I've simply been more captivated by Megadeth's strong return-to-form album, United Abominations. Over the years, as a fan of Metal music, I've always been indecisive over who I like more between these two thrash-metal titans. I believe I've mentioned previously that I tend to side with whoever has the newer album at any given time. For that reason, you may expect to see alot more of Metallica talk on this blog and a bit less Megadeth, as Metallica's new album, Death Magnetic, comes out in a matter of days. Keep in mind if I hang on the Metallica bandwagon for awhile, it is simply because I dig the new album. Everything that goes around, comes around on this blog. I'll always try to keep up with the new material of all my favorite bands, but also get back to the history of heavy metal as well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Judas Priest: Nostradamus

Post #34
When Judas Priest decided to record the follow-up to their reunion album, Angel of Retribution, they chose to record a type of album that was altogether a new thing for them-a concept album. The subject of this album: the life of the great seer, Nostradamus. Following many of the controversial moments of his life, and interpreting many of his prophecies, the Nostradamus album spans 2 CDs, and provides about 140 minutes of metal music to become immersed in. One really must immerse themselves in this album too; there's so much to take in that a single listen doesn't do the album, or its namesake inspiration, any justice.

The seemingly intimidating amount of music there is on this album is probably its only down-side. I have listened to it all the way through several times now, and I find it continues to grow on me. There is a strong presence of synthesized guitars on this album, more so than on any previous Judas Priest album, but they are present to bring the concept into an appropriate musical and emotional context. Fans of previous Judas Priest music will find that Downing & Tipton's dueling guitar solos & riffs retain enough of the classic Priest sound that the album will not disappoint. The killer guitar solos on "Revelations" are a prime example.

As a point of stylistic reference, I might say the Nostradamus album follows in the wake of songs like "Angel", "Eulogy" & "Lochness" from their previous Angel of Retribution album. Although the 1st single from Nostradamus is the heavy, thrashing title-track, I caution you not to expect too many songs like it on the rest of the album. Though there are many heavy passages, only "Persecution" matches the tempo of "Nostradamus". This is somewhat the opposite reaction I had when Angel of Retribution was first released; the 1st single from that album, "Revolution", was a low-key, moderate tempo anthem, while much of the rest of the album approached Painkiller-esque speed and intensity.

Overall, I find Nostradamus satisfies the long-time Priest fan in me, and if you've been a fan of them yourself, then you should enjoy this album as well. Just be sure to give it a chance to grab you. You may find your favorite songs on your first journey through the life of Nostradamus are replaced by others when you hear them a second time. My current recommended songs:
-Dawn of Creation
-Future of Mankind

Monday, August 18, 2008

Evanescence/Amy Lee

Post #33
Evanescence hit the music scene in 2003 with a huge debut hit, "Bring Me To Life". The mainstream American radio audience was taken aback by the blend of heavy riffs, dark melody, and soaring female lead voice- provided by Amy Lee. Many new fans (myself included), were totally unaware that they basically followed the same formula of some European bands- most notably Lacuna Coil, who had already been playing this style of metal since the late 90's. Nevertheless, Evanescence have taken advantage of their new found niche, and remain a popular artist on most hard-rock radio stations, in spite of some line-up changes in their young career. No matter what difficulties the band has had, no one can argue that Amy Lee has an excellent voice, and with it, makes heavy metal music all the better.

My recommended tracks from Evanescence's "Fallen":
-Going Under
-Bring Me To Life

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Poison: Live, Raw & Uncut- with Sebastian Bach!

Post #32
The following is my concert review for Poison on tour with Sebastian Bach, Summer 2008.

It was a perfect summer afternoon in July when my brother & I hit the road for Peoria, IL to catch Poison live in concert with Sebastian Bach, from Skid Row, as the opening act. With a 3+ hour drive ahead of us, we stocked up our relevant CDs for music for the road, and set out on our journey...

Between the 2 of us, I was more of a Skid Row fan back in the early 90's, while my bro was the big Poison fan. That being said we spent much of the drive down there listening to albums from both artists, and mixing in a few others for good measure (we're also seeing the Metal Masters tour later this summer, so we threw some Judas Priest & Black Sabbath into the mix).

I knew that Bach had a new CD released recently, and I had one song from it on a recent sampler CD from a heavy metal magazine. My brother & I both enjoyed that one, and we were both familiar with Skid Row's oldie-but-goodie hits from their hey-day: Youth Gone Wild, 18 & Life, etc... Alternately, when we switched to Poison's material, we focused mostly on their later and more obscure material. Turns out that Poison have had a few CDs come out more recently that I never got around to ever hearing (Crack a Smile, Power to the People, Hollyweird). We also listened to a couple alternate, acoustic versions of Stand and Something To Believe In (with alternate lyrics) from the "Best of Ballads & Blues" compilation.

We arrived in plenty of time to find our seats and browse the memorabilia before the show kicked off. It was nice to take in the wide variety of fans that showed up for this show: teenagers, college kids, parents and their kids. Generally speaking I'd say the majority of the crowd were middle-age women; in other words, the same majority of fans Poison had in the 80's. There were still enough guys at the show that we didn't feel out of place. It was a little funny seeing hip-looking, teenage tough-guys sporting tee-shirts with the logo of one of the biggest hair-metal bands there ever was, but it goes to show a little of the staying power of simple rock-n-roll music.

We were sitting in our seats conversing about some random topic, and then the lights went down...

A guitar riff rings out loudly from the amplifiers, accompanied by a steady snare & bass drum beat. The rhythm builds, the volume steadily increases... My brother looks my way with a quizzical look on his face, and says, "Is this 'Back In The Saddle'?" And sure enough, it was "Back in the Saddle", a cover of the classic Aerosmith song we had just heard in the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith game. We would later find out that Sebastian has a recording of this song included on his new CD, "Angel Down".

Sebastian continued his opening set with a healthy mix of his new material and Skid Row classics. I was really enjoying this part of the concert. I had actually seen Sebastian in concert at this same venue 10 years earlier, when he opened for Anthrax & Pantera; and I've also seen Skid Row without Sebastian when they opened for Kiss on their "farewell" tour in 2000. Sebastian's current band played all the old songs as well, or better, than both of those previous acts. Most importantly, his unmistakable voice sounded as good as ever! And his band sounded very heavy, like "Slave to the Grind"-era Skid Row.

As his band closed their set with the unforgettable hair-metal anthem, "Youth Gone Wild", he reminded us to get ready for Poison. And so we did, our anticipation began to build again...
15-20 minutes later, the video screen lit-up with a Poison logo, and shortly later a disclaimer was projected on the big screen: "Caution: The show you are about to witness contains material of an adult nature. ...Would you expect anything less?"

A few minutes later Poison took the stage, opening their set with a brief instru-medley intro that quickly morphed into "Look What The Cat Dragged In". And just like that the whole stadium was rocking-out to Poison like it was 1988 and nothing had changed as they played almost every one of their big hits from the 80's & early 90's!

My brother commented that he was surprised when they played "Ride The Wind". This was one of his favorite songs, but it was never as big as many of their other hits. I, on the other hand, was impressed when they played "Cry Tough", their first song from their first album, and also their first-ever single. Accompanying this song, they also played the music video for it on the huge video screen behind the stage. It was an interesting, contrasting view to see the present-day band playing a perfect rendition of this song, while the 22-year-old music video displayed what was probably the peak of the Glam/Hair Metal scene as they played. At one point Bret Michaels walked up to the cat-walk and sang a verse essentially super-imposed over the biggest fashion statement his band ever made in the 80's. As the song's message filled the arena; "You gotta cry tough out in the streets to make your dreams happen. You gotta cry out, out to the world to make them all come true." We really got the impression that this band has truly come full-circle. They bought into (if not invented) one of the biggest fads from the 80's, lost a lot of ground when the music scene drastically changed course in the 90's, had break-ups, solo efforts that fell short, a revolving door of members for a few years, and finally a reunion, and have persevered by coming back to the sound they were first know for (but also leaving the dated Hair-metal image rightfully in the past!)

It wasn't until the last portion of the show when they finally brought out some hits from their second album, "Open Up and Say... Ah!" When they began to play "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", the crowd reacted enthusiastically. And when they closed the number, Bret told a little story about the only guitar lesson he ever took in his life, in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania for $12.00: the first 4 notes he ever learned to play on the guitar... are the same 4 notes as the grand finale of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"-possibly their biggest hit... and then he strummed the final chord.
I was slightly disappointed when they were playing "Fallen Angel", my personal favorite, and CC's guitar pick-up gave out during the guitar solo. He quickly swapped guitars with a stage-hand, and finished the song in good fashion, except my favorite guitar solo, from my favorite Poison song was skipped in the process! I didn't let it bother me though, as the next song was the finale: "Talk Dirty To Me". For the whole 3 or 4 minute duration of this classic Poison anthem, the stage was bombarded with every variety of bra imaginable, and a few panties too. Well, you can't blame them, they did warn of "content of an adult nature". And besides, it's Rock N' Roll!

Last but not least, after 5-10 minutes of a roaring crowd, they came back on stage and played "Nothin' But a Good Time" as their final encore. I was a little surprised to see that they never played any of their own newer material. The newest song they played was a cover of "What I Like About You" originally by The Romantics, from their '07 cover album, "Poison'd". That being said, the show was still a great Rock N' Roll concert. Even if it was mostly to feel nostalgia for the music of the 80's, it was great fun!

The setlist for both artists was as follows:
Sebastian Bach
Back In The Saddle
Slave to the Grind
Stuck Inside
18 & Life
American Metalhead
(Life is a) Bitchslap
By Your Side
Monkey Business
You Don't Understand
I Remember You
Youth Gone Wild

Look What The Cat Dragged In
I Want Action
Ride The Wind
I Won't Forget You
What I Like About You
Cry Tough
Something To Believe In
Your Mama Don't Dance
Unskinny Bop
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Fallen Angel
Talk Dirty To Me
Nothin' But A Good Time

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

State of the Blog Address

Post #31
It's been several months now that I've been writing on this blog, and I thought now is a good time to just say what's on my mind about it. I've greatly enjoyed putting my opinions of Heavy Metal music in writing, and hope you have found some entertainment in the reading of my posts. I plan to continue this trend of reviewing Heavy Metal music one artist or album at a time, but also expanding the style of the blog a bit.

The monthly poll is a great vehicle to keep a new topic on the horizon for me, as well as making sure it's music at least some of you are interested in. (You'll find that I always review the poll winner within a month of the closing of the poll, and label that post as a "poll winner"). The poll topics themselves may change in the coming months; as I begin run low on ideas, I might occasionally simply use a trivia question as a monthly poll. So polls of this nature would actually have a correct answer, and not be solely based on readers' opinions.

For those who are relatively new to this blog, I was going to write 2 simple posts in the near future just summarizing the previous "Lyric Quotes of the Month" up to the present, as well as the history of the monthly poll-winners (including my personal vote and my reason for that choice).

I was also considering writing concert reviews from concerts I have attended both past and present. I've given a bit of a taste of this when I've reviewed artists I've seen at Ozzfest (see the posts labeled with "Ozzfest"). Basically, I'll go one step further and review the entire show and highlights from the set list for a given concert, bringing more of a narrative to this blog.

Last but not least, I have a plan to write another "Music Mix" post that will be a "Best of Heavy Metal 107: Volume I". I plan to fill an 80-min CDR with one or two songs from each post on this blog in chronological order and see how far I get. Periodically I'll add a "Volume II" & "III" etc... as the posts on this blog continue to grow! In the end it should amount to a pretty unique mix of Heavy Metal music!

Another small point: you may find that I sometimes add artwork to a post several weeks after I post the text. This is simply a matter of me getting the free time to track down some artwork and uploading it to the blog. So if you go back and check out the same post at a later date, it may look different.

That's about all the thoughts I have for now. I'll update you again as I get new ideas. In the meantime you can always see the "Coming Soon" section to see the music I'm listening to & composing my thoughts on for future posts.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Kings of Thrash Metal...

Post #30 Poll Winner: Favorite Thrash band

Well, I guess it was only a matter of time before I got around to writing about Metallica. In a way I'm glad they won the "thrash" poll, it forces me to work a Metallica review into my plans more quickly. Otherwise I might not have gotten around to it until their new CD is out.

It's no surprise that Metallica won the "Favorite Thrash Band" poll. One could even argue that the whole Thrash/Speed/Power Metal conglomerate would never have made it off the ground if it weren't for Metallica. Factor into the equation the fact that Dave Mustaine only formed Megadeth after being ousted from Metallica, and you might be looking at the history of Heavy Metal without 2 of the biggest titans in the Thrash genre. In short, we might owe more of metal's legacy to the existence of Metallica than we think!

During the early 80's the thrash metal bands formed in the wake of the influence of the (New) Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). [from this point on I'm dropping the "new"; I mean, come on, the late 70's & early 80's aren't "new" anymore, are they?] Thrash took many aspects of classic heavy metal to new heights. The speed, crunch, distortion, and overall intensity seemed to jump a couple notches each year from about 1982-1987. Metallica were at the forefront of this movement every step of the way. Their albums spread like wild-fire in the heavy metal underground. They stole the show repeatedly from Ozzy Osbourne when they opened for him on his '86 tour. And when they decided to film a music video for their song "One" to air on MTV, doors were blasted open for all of thrash metal.

When they recorded their self-titled "Black" album in 1991 they exhibited a significant phase-shift in their songwriting, as a few songs on the album were notably softer than most of their previous material. After years of touring in support of the "Black" album, Metallica took a thuroughly deserved hiatus, and wouldn't release a new recording until 1996. Thrash-metal as we knew it from Metallica had come to an end. The band has gone on to ever greater success since, but has continued to experiment and expand upon their sound over the years, leaving an ever-growing legacy that few heavy metal bands may ever equal.

Here's a very brief list of recommended songs by Metallica. Eventually I'll write a more in-depth review of their music and highlight my favorite songs album-by-album, so watch for that in the future. For now, try...

-(Welcome Home) Sanitarium
-Holier Than Thou
-King Nothing
-Phantom Lord
-Fight Fire With Fire
-Fade To Black
-No Leaf Clover
-Am I Evil?
-The Unforgiven

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Patriotic Rock for the 4th!

Post #29
Every 4th of July when we celebrate our national independence, I can't help but to make a point to listen to a few hard rockin' renditions of patriotic songs. Here are some of my favorites to listen to this time of year:

-Star Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix
-4th of July by Soundgarden
-Light Up The Sky by Van Halen (this one isn't really about patriotism, but I like it because it makes me think of fireworks displays!)
-In America by Britny Fox
-Star Spangled Banner by Kiss
-Star Spangled Banner & Declaration Day by Iced Earth
-Rockin' In The USA by Kiss
-American Girl by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
-Pink Houses by John Mellencamp

Friday, June 20, 2008

HappyHeadbanger online radio premiers!

Post #28
Hey there readers, tired of browsing through my endless babble of heavy metal in dull, boring silence? Well, now those days are over! To hear free, online radio, with a play-list modeled after my own suggestions, simply click the link at the bottom of this blog and click "play this station". You may need to create a free account with in order to hear the music, but at least now you can all bang your heads while you read.

I plan to continue to add all my suggested artists, albums, and songs to the play-list over the next few weeks. Keep listening as HappyHeadbanger Radio evolves! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

1976: The Greatest Year in Rock!

Post #27
I'll admit I'm a bit biased about the year 1976 (being that it's the year I was born), but the more I consider the lasting power of much of the rock music that came out that year, I find it harder and harder to argue there was any other year that produced as many great rock songs. Whether you grew up in the 70's or discovered the music of that era as you tracked down the influential artists of many of today's rock bands, you may be surprised at how many essential rock songs were first heard in the year 1976.

Consider for a second a world of rock music without some of these songs; Hotel California (Eagles), Don't Fear the Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult), Detroit Rock City (Kiss), Hurricane (Dylan)... all from 1976. And there's more where those came from, not to mention several other great songs from the albums those songs came from.

I'll let this post serve as foreshadowing of an upcoming poll question. It's certain to be the toughest poll yet! So study-up on your music collection form '76- it'll help you decide which album to vote for next month...

Some notable releases from 1976 that might be included in the poll:
Eagles-Hotel California
Bob Dylan-Desire

And don't worry, there's more where those came from! Good luck and happy listening

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

KISS Unplugged-The KISS Reunion Captured Live!

Post #26 Poll Winner-Favorite 'Unplugged' album far as "Unplugged" albums go, I love how they almost always provide a thurough glimpse of a different side of an artist we don't usually see. When you add to this an unexpected reunion with former or original band members, it becomes even more special. With KISS' Unplugged album, you get both sides of this experience.

More than at any other point of their career, MTV Unplugged is a crossroads in KISS' history. It is a one-time performance where their past met their present, and re-routed their future. For much of the performance, it was a simple setlist performed by the KISS line-up that had been intact since '92, although many of the songs were old, rare tunes that were scarcely (if at all) performed live before. Then, just when the show seemed to be winding down, Paul announces that they "Have some members of the family here tonight... and I'm not talking about Mom & Dad."

For however many of the faithful followers of KISS who happened to be watching this performance, what happened next was the shock of any rock-music fan's life... Ace Frehley & Peter Criss, the original members of KISS, strolled onto the stage and finished the rest of the show along side Gene, Paul, Bruce Kulick, & Eric Singer.

This unique 6-member line-up performed the final four songs of the show and added a new twist to each one. I'll never forget seeing that show, and how it set the stage for the reunion of the original KISS, and their return to their trade-make make-up & stage show. It was only after the KISS reunion that I ever got to see them in concert, and I've managed to see them 3 times.

My picks for this one-of-a-kind Unplugged album...
-Comin' Home
-Goin' Blind
-Rock Bottom
-2,000 Man
-Nothin' to Lose (This one is really special. Taken from their 1st album, the original 4 members belt it out like never before!)
-Got to Choose (DVD only, or else you can find it on the KISS Box Set.)
-Beth (This arrangement & performance is the best recording of this classic ballad. Having 3 guitars to interpret parts of the song originally played by an orchestra brings the song to new heights)

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Bargain Hunter's Finds (More Iced Earth!)

Post #25
My music collection is always growing. I occasionally sell back some titles at used CD stores, but it's a rare occurance. Mostly, I find the used music market is always the best place to find those elusive recordings that I missed out on when they were 1st released. Truthfully it's only a handful of times a year that I even buy a music title new from a retailer (and often I redeem either coupons or gift cards to do so!) The used market is much easier on the pocketbook too! Aside from that I also utilize the Audio-visual section of my local library to keep up on hot, new rock music artists.

One of my favorite used CD stores places to frequent is Half Price Books. HPB is a chain in the midwest. You can find their nearest location to you at their website: I recently found some great deals on heavy metal CDs there...

First, by random luck, while browsing through the "I"'s I ran across Iced Earth's "Days of Purgatory" 2-CD set... for $7.98!!! I couldn't pass this up. A collection of their early material re-recorded with Matt Barlow on vocals. A really great find.

Later that same week, I was out visiting family and we decided to go out shopping and we checked out another HPB location. At this one I restricted myself to the clearance section for music. I still couldn't escape without a great find as I ran across Iced Earth's 4th album, "The Dark Saga" for a mere $2.00!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say I was quite satisfied with these finds for the week, and managed to fill in a big chunck of my Iced Earth collection for under $10.00. I've given them a fair amount of listening already, and can give you some recommended tracks:

From "The Dark Saga"
-Dark Saga
-The Hunter
-Slave to the Dark

From "Days of Purgatory"
-Angels Holocaust
-When The Night Falls
-Desert Rain
-Travel in Stygian

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Music Mix Mania! (pt. 2) Metallic Catastrophe

Post #24
Sometimes I find that I've collected a vast amount of excellent, shredding metal music in a relatively short period of time that I have difficulty thoroughly enjoying each title. Sometimes it's moments like these that drive me to burn another good mix CD, allowing a balanced sampling of newly acquired music. This was the case when I compiled "Metallic Catastrophe!"- A really rippin' mix of some excellent (mostly) new heavy metal tunes.

Here's an annotated list of the songs I chose for this mix:

1-Bruce Dickinson-"Abduction" This is from Bruce's most recent solo album, "Tyranny of Souls". I have this song on a sampler CD I got in Classic Rock magazine. I've yet to collect the whole album, but if "Abduction" is any indication of the rest of the CD, then I'm missing out on some good metal!

2-Black Tide-"Shockwave" I've said plenty about Black Tide already on this blog, the reason I've included this song on this mix CD should be obvious... this song kicks ass!!!

3-Trivium-"Anthem (We Are The Fire)" I'm still listening to The Crusade 3-4 times a week. I had to put a song from this album on this mix. "Anthem" is true to it's name; an anthem for heavy metal. You feel an urge to scream along, "We are the Fire!" when you're hearing this song!

4-Avenged Sevenfold-"Chapter Four" This is one of the older songs on this mostly brand-new song collection. From Waking the Fallen, this is probably my favorite song.

5-Megadeth-"Gears of War" From their newest album. I could have easily chosen "Washington Is Next!" or "Sleepwalker", but I think I chose "Gears of War" because I had a lyric from this song in my head while I was making this mix. The lyric... "Smart bombs, precision guided armaments. A more sophisticated way to end up dead!"

6-Serj Tankian-"Sky Is Over" I got Serj's Elect The Dead CD as a gift this past Christmas. This song jumped out at me after my first listen. I still think it's one of the best songs on this solo project from the System of a Down front-man.

7-Iced Earth-"The Clouding" I mentioned this song in my Iced Earth post. I include it on this mix for the same reasons; it's a great epic song that transforms from melodic to thrashy about halfway through. I placed it in the middle of this mix because of its length (if not, I fear I'd run out of room on the CD!)

8-Trivium-"Becoming the Dragon" Another Trivium song. I'm still very into this CD! I couldn't help but to put another selection from "The Crusade" on this mix. I chose this particular song for the intentional play-on-words I utilized with the following song...

9-DragonForce-"Through the Fire and Flames" Wow! How can I describe DragonForce? I'll have to figure it out before I complete my upcoming post on them. I chose this song to put on this mix because it's not only their best know song (with their performing & promoting it on their Ozzfest appearance, as well as its appearance in the game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock), it is also a great example of Herman Li & Sam Totman's unfathomable lead soloing skills. You'll find about 2 minutes worth of non-stop guitar soloing in this song!

10-Lordi-"The Kids Who Wanna Play With The Dead" It's almost unfair to any song I would have follow a DragonForce song. However, since I elected not to have DragonForce as the closing song, someone had to follow. I really dig Lordi. Their horrific visions depicted in their lyrics are very entertaining. Again, you have to keep a horror-movie frame of mind while listening to Lordi. "Kids" is also a great rocking-metallic song.

11-Dokken-"Drown" Of all the songs on this mix, this one is the curve-ball. "Dokken?" you may ask? But trust me, this one is worth a listen. It comes from one of the better of their many come-back efforts throughout the late 90's- "Erase the Slate". This also features the great Reb Beach on lead guitar, replacing George Lynch. Reb brought his intense ripping lead guitar style into the Dokken sound quite smoothly. And Don's songwriting wasn't so bad either. "Drown" features a dark and haunting riff that really stuck in my head...

12-Dream Theater-"Constant Motion" Dream Theater are such a great band. They're quite heavy but also are top-notch musicians, and it's apparent in their ambitious music. The only downside is probably that they almost put out albums faster that I can keep up with. I put a selection from their newest album, "Systematic Chaos" on this mix so that I can get some more exposure to their music. I can't wait to write a full post about them. It might take me awhile though...

13-Demons & Wizards-"Crimson King" A Stephen King inspired song (from The Dark Tower series!). This band is a side project from members of Iced Earth & Blind Guardian. This heavy and fast song comes from an album highly influenced by King's Dark Tower series. If you're a Dark Tower reader & enjoy this song, check out the album "Touched by the Crimson King"

14-Lordi-"They Only Come Out at Night" Another Lordi song. Again, it's filled with great haunting imagery backed by heavy rock guitar riffage!

15-Iron Maiden-"The Longest Day" I had to have at least one song from Maiden's "A Matter Of Life And Death" album, and this was my favorite at the time. Listening to this song always makes me feel like I'm watching the opening sequence of the film, "Saving Private Ryan"- where they're storming the beaches under heavy fire. I also like having Bruce Dickinson singing on the last song here; it book-ends this collection well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Black Tide: Light From Above

Post #23
Well, I promised I'd follow up with this band once I heard their debut album, and I'm pleased to say I've added it to my collection and I'm far from disappointed. I bought this CD the day it was released, so I've had several weeks to properly digest their debut material for this review. Black Tide more than live up to the expectations I had from seeing them at Ozzfest a year ago, and hearing their 2-song sampler distributed at Hot Topic. These guys really could be the future of metal (as "Ultimate Revenge Magazine" said in a quote on the promotional sticker on the CD). "Light From Above" is filled with classic metal riffs, melodic grooves, and ripping guitar solos that respectfully honor the band's many influences. The album is oozing with raw potential from start to finish.

The band's frontman, Gabriel Garcia, has proven he has some great song-writing potential, and he's so young (age 14 when they played Ozzfest!) there's no way he can do anything but improve. His voice is a bit reminiscent of the early days of Silverchair's Daniel Johns (I know it's weird I should make that comparison since Johns was also under 18 when he recorded the 1st Silverchair album, Frogstomp). But the rest of the band's sound seems to draw from many sources of inspiration. In addition to Megadeth, Metallica, & Guns N' Roses (all referenced in Spin's quote on the Promo sticker), there are distinct elements of Iron Maiden apparent in songs like "Warriors of Time", & "Enterprise". Black Tide also have a few songs that sound like they fit right in with some of their Ozzfest '06 tour-mates. The closing title track, "Light From Above" could sound like an Avenged Sevenfold song, and "Let Me" has an intro riff that betrays an influence from Black Label Society's (& Ozzy Osbourne guitarist) Zakk Wylde. "Show Me the Way" re-works a Megadeth riff from "The Conjuring", but it develops into a very enjoyable metal song. "Give Me a Chance" and "Live Fast, Die Young" are much more 'rock' oriented songs and less 'metal'.

And last but not least, I have to mention their cover of Metallica's "Hit the Lights". This was the 1st song I heard them perform live at Ozzfest, and was hesitant to recommend it on my first post because I wasn't sure they would record it for their debut album. However they did record it, and it is a near flawless rendition. I even went so far as to listen to both versions simultaneously. I was amazed to hear that the tempo and intensity of this cover was practically a perfect match. The only differences are 1: the guitar solos (obviously, soloing is the most artistic aspect of heavy metal guitar playing, and I'd have been a bit let down if Garcia just copied Kirk's solos note for note), and 2: the tempo of the "breakdown" segment. You'll find Metallica whip through that part a little faster than Black Tide, and you'll have to pause one CD player & let the other catch up. All things considered, they couldn't have performed it better. It's perhaps a bit symbolic that they choose this Metallica tune to cover. It was Metallica's first song on their first album, back when they hadn't truly established a direction for their own music (as they later did on their next 2 albums). It's a mission-statement song for metal if ever there was one!

All-in-all Light From Above is packed with a vast variety of rock & metal song-styles. It might be the only down-side of this CD, that there's too much variety. However if you're looking for a versatile new heavy metal band, then here's the band you've been waiting for. As young as they are, Black Tide have the potential to pull the heavy metal genre in their direction. I foresee that they will refine their sound & direction over 2-3 more albums as they continue to write music, possibly incorporating many of their apparent influences more cohesively into future songs. To paraphrase the lyrics of "Give Me a Chance"; we should give Black Tide a chance to figure out who they are. I'm sure we'll not be disappointed.

In addition to my previous recommendations (Shockwave & Warriors of Time) from my previous post on Black Tide, I recommend...
-Give Me a Chance
-Hit The Lights
-Light From Above

Friday, April 25, 2008

Nirvana-The 1st Name in Grunge

Post #22 (Poll Winner: Favorite Grunge Band)
That Nirvana won the "Favorite Grunge Band" Poll was a fact I probably could have predicted. You have to admit that the first song of the whole Grunge scene you can probably recall is "Smells Like Teen Spirit", right? And don't forget the video that was always playing on MTV.... the flannel wearing teens with the unkempt hair, cheering Nirvana in their high school gymnasium, while cheerleaders sporting tank-tops emblazoned with the anarchy symbol shook their ratty pom-poms... it was pretty much a snapshot of the image that became know as "grunge".

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the whole Nirvana phenomenon
is probably Kurt Cobain himself. He truly became the prototype
image of grunge. The scraggly hair, and scratchy-scream vocals he
provided to the music... these were aspects of grunge that were
endlessly emulated by the alt-rock bands that followed in the footsteps
of grunge. And lastly the fact that Cobain took his own life during the
peak of his band's career was sure to leave an impression on the
hearts of those who loved the grunge scene, and particularly fans of

Without further adieu, my picks from Nirvana:
-Heart Shaped Box
-Smells Like Teen Spirit
-Rape Me
-Big Cheese
-About a Girl
-Pennyroyal tea
-Something in The Way
-I Hate Myself & Want to Die
-All Apologies

-Do You Love Me (You can find this one on the Kiss tribute entitled "Hard to
Believe", it is a pre-Bleach recording by Nirvana)
-Jesus Don't Want Me for a Sunbeam
-The Man Who Sold the World
-Lake of Fire
-Where Did You Sleep Last Night (trad. also done by Bob Dylan & The
Grateful Dead)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Lost Disciples of Eddie Van Halen

...Or "The Unsung Guitar Heroes of the Hair-Metal Era."
Post #21

In the late 70's, a dude named Eddie Van Halen was developing some of the most revolutionary self-taught lead-guitar techniques. So much so, that before they had a recording contract, Eddie would play his guitar solos with his back to the crowd so nobody could steal his techniques. At one show, Gene Simmons of Kiss happened to be watching and immediately decided to fund a demo session for them. The demo quickly earned them a contract with Warner Bros. Records.
One day while Van Halen were recording their first album, their producer, Ted Templeton, happened to walk into the studio during Eddie Van Halen's 'warm-up drill', which he always did before a show or recording session. He asked, "Hey Eddie, what was that you just played?" "Nothing, really. I'm just warming up." he replied. "Can you play it again?" Ted asked, and pressed the 'record' button. Eddie replied, "Sure."

The resulting 1:42 of music was given a name (Eruption), and was made the 2nd track on VH's debut album in 1978. The world of electric guitar has never been the same since.
Eddie's revolutionary new sound & techniques quickly spawned a whole generation of guitarists that would fill the air-waves with a new sub-genre in rock & metal music. It has become know as Glam, or Hair Metal. Nearly every one of these bands had a phenomenal guitarist in their own right. However, when having an excellent guitarist is so common-place, not everyone ends up so well-remembered.

In the early 90's the Grunge/Alternative bands from Seattle hijacked the angsty hearts of the country's youth, and the Hair-Metal genre quickly had the floor drop out from underneath it. Flashy technical guitar solos were no longer 'in', and this whole generation of guitar phenoms was pretty much forgotten.

Here's a look at some of the better names from that era that may not be as fresh in your mind as Eddie Van Halen, but are still worthy of more respect than you might think. I'll let the music speak for itself, and recommend some songs from each artist that highlight their lead guitarist. So check them out. Here are the names you shouldn't have forgotten...

In roughly ascending order...

Warren DeMartini (Ratt) Ratt are best know for their only top-40 hit, "Round and Round". However, this band quietly had a lot of albums and singles through the 80's that filled rock-radio play-lists and video air-time on MTV. Some of Ratt's better songs that highlight DeMartini's skill as a lead guitarist are:
-Back for More
-Body Talk
-Giving Yourself Away
-Way Cool Jr.
-All or Nothing
-Nobody Rides for Free

CC Deville (Poison) The first name that comes to mind from the band Poison is probably Bret Michaels. He's back in the headlines lately, via his many Reality TV show appearances (Nashville Star as a judge, and VH-1's Rock of Love 2). However, you should keep in mind that he was a lead singer for a Hair Metal band 1st, and that's still his original claim to fame. Many of his songs are made memorable by the great guitar solos provided by C.C. Deville. Here are some of the best examples.
-Play Dirty
-Every Rose Has its Thorn
-Fallen Angel
-Your Mama Don't Dance
-Flesh & Blood
-Po' Boy Blues

Bruce Kulick (KISS) After Ace Frehley left Kiss in 1981, the band struggled to find a replacement who would fit. The first couple of replacements lasted for just one album with the band. Finally in '86, Kiss hired Bruce Kulick to fill the lead guitarist role... Even though the late 80's can probably be considered KISS' low-point of their career, Bruce made sure that most of these songs had at least a 30 second highlight... his guitar solos!
Bruce was a younger guitarist, bringing a fresh guitar style to the band. He was also a product of the Eddie Van Halen era. EVH's influence can be heard in Bruce's lead guitar style, most notably on the following songs:
-No No No (After hearing the intro to this song there's no denying Kulick was under the influence of Eddie)
-Love's A Deadly Weapon
-Crazy, Crazy Nights
-The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away

Stevie Blaze (Lillian Axe) Lillian Axe were one of the hair metal bands that really hit too late for their own good; their 1st major-label release coming in 1990 (at the tail end of the hair-metal era). While they quickly fell into obscurity after 2 semi-successful albums, those who took the time to discover them should have been impressed with Stevie Blaze's ripping guitar solos. If you missed out the first time around, check out these songs:
-Innocence (Awesome acoustic guitar solo on this one!)
-Dying to Live (Shades of Blue)
-She's My Salvation
-Stop The Hate
-The Needle & Your Pain

Vito Bratta (White Lion) White Lion thrived in the hair-metal era, and if their excellent lead-guitarist Vitto Bratta is guilty of anything, it may be sounding a little too much like Eddie Van Halen (Heck, he even looks alot like Eddie!) He was, however, vital to making many of Mike Tramp's catchy songs stand out from the hair-metal-crowded air-waves in the mid-to-late 80's. Some of his best guitar solos can be found on the following songs:
-Let's Get Crazy (Listen to this song, then pop in Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" and tell me you don't hear the influence of Eddie!)
-Little Fighter
-Radar Love (I know the true highlight of this song is the drum solo, but Bratta's guitar soloing throughout is pretty cool too!)
-When The Children Cry
-All You Need is Rock N' Roll (Live)

Reb Beach (Winger) Winger are a band that were cursed by the hair-metal era, for underneath the glammy appearance they had in their early years, they were great musicians. Their best material is found on their least popular 3rd album, "Pull". This effort fit into neither Hair-metal, nor the up-&-coming Grunge era of the time, but if you give it a fair chance you'll probably find you like it quite a bit. Kip Winger continued a trend of excellent songwriting into his obscure solo-career, but its the phenomenal talent of lead guitarist Reb Beach I'm keeping in mind with the following suggestions:
-Headed for a Heartbreak
-Purple Haze (Just attempting to cover a Hendrix song is risky, but Reb has the talent to both pull it off, and give it his own twist.)
-Baptized by Fire (It's the intro of this song that merits the recommendation, I wouldn't blame you if you stop it when Kip starts to rap)
-Spell I'm Under
-Junk Yard Dog (Tears on Stone) (This one is my all-time personal favorite from Winger)
-No Man's Land
-Black Magic (Reb's true masterpiece isn't found on any Winger album... To listen to this one you'll need to track down an old compilation CD by Guitar World magazine: Guitars That Rule The World. Others included on this great collection include Yngwie Malmsteen & Zakk Wylde, but I think "Black Magic" is the best track from the album, and certainly the best example of Reb's skill.)

George Lynch (Dokken) Dokken were one of the first hair-metal bands, but their members fell victim to the clash of their own personalities too soon to make it through the entire 80's hair-metal scene. Who knows how different their legacy might have been had they stuck together? All things considered, no one can deny Lynch's excellence as a lead guitarist. For some of the best guitar solos that sound somewhere between Eddie Van Halen & Marty Friedman, check out George's solos on these songs:
-Paris Is Burning
-Tooth & Nail
-Into The Fire
-Mr. Scary (For this one I mean the live version from the album "Beast From the East". Lynch's extended guitar solo precedes the band's performance of Mr. Scary. George does so much in this solo that in some ways it's unfair to compare him to any other guitarist!)
-Unchain the Night
-Kiss of Death
-Cry of the Gypsy
-Night by Night

Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) ...And last but far from least... Nuno! It's perhaps the biggest tragedy of all rock guitar history that Extreme couldn't salvage some success after the decline of the Hair-Metal Era. They're most well known for their hit ballad "More Than Words", but Nuno truly was the greatest player of 6-strings since Eddie Van Halen. Its a crime that more people aren't aware of this fact. That's what this post is for. If you choose only one of these artists to track down some of their music after reading this post, I hope its Extreme. You deserve to hear some of the fastest, coolest, shredding-est electric guitar showmanship there ever was in the 80's/90's. Some of the best guitar solos you may never have heard of before, simply because they were either never released as a single, or because they were hidden among many other great solos from this underrated era. For the best of Bettencourt, find these songs & listen to them:
-Mutha (Don't Wanna Go To School Today)
-Rock A Bye Bye (Though you may find this a slow & boring ballad, stick it out to the end where you'll find a great melodic electric guitar solo!)
-Play With Me (Made famous from the movie, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure: where Genghis Khan & co. ravage the San Dimas mall while Beethoven jams on electric keyboard; this is also the finale song from the game, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80's)
-Get The Funk Out
-Flight of the Wounded Bumble-Bee (this is an intro to the song, "He-Man Woman-Hater", and for all intents & purposes, this is Nuno's "Eruption")
-Song For Love (careful not to leave a half-full wine glass on you speakers during this song's guitar solo, the final note of the solo has shatter glass goblets.)

Enjoy these re-discovered guitar gods!