Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Post #119 Poll Winner: Favorite Independent/Myspace band (2010).
As you may already know, DEADMANSWAKE are a local band in the Chicago/suburban area that are making a name for themselves in the last couple years. They've been around for a few years, as early as '03, then called Dead Issue. They've also gone by the name Encircled before finally changing their name to DEADMANSWAKE. A couple changes in personnel over the years have solidified the band's creative core: JP Soule & Josh Barker on guitars, Troll on bass, and lead vocalist Kryssie Ridolfi.

In the last couple years they've opened for the likes of Scar Symmetry, Eyes Set to Kill and A.D.D. as well as other female-fronted metal bands such as In This Moment and Epica. They were also featured in Chicago's Dame Nation and Dame Nation Redux shows (a multi-band concert that features female-fronted Chicago-area metal bands).

It Comes To This is the self-produced debut album from DEADMANSWAKE, the 2010 winner of this blog's myspace-bands reader's poll. After having a chance to hear this album in its entirety, let me say, WOW! This band delivers some great metal music! Their sound reflects strong influence from the classic NWOBHM and Thrash-metal scenes. Heavy riffs are the backbone of most of their songs, but they do change it up with plenty of melodic, clean-guitar passages here and there. Kryssie's bluesy voice keeps a melodic element at the forefront of the mix, delivered with great enthusiasm & emotion. Josh & JP trade back & forth on their guitar solos so smoothly you'd think they've been playing together for a decade. The drum & bass rhythm section keeps a heavy groove driving the music onward.

DEADMANSWAKE establish a trademark sound of melodic metal that's easy to sing along to, while still providing plenty of energy that lends itself well for emotional venting. This formula, combined with the immense talent that is aparent on this recording, leads me to say these guys will soon find themselves playing bigger & better shows if they stick with it.

The band already have plans in the works for an EP of cover tunes. I can't wait to hear what suprises they have lined up for that project. For now, I'm quite pleased with It Comes To This. I also plan on seeing a few of their live shows over the next couple years. I hope many of you will do the same. From now until next year's Myspace-band reader's poll, I intend to keep promoting DMW's shows through this blog. Watch for these upcoming shows right here at happyheadbanger!

For now, I'll leave you with my recommended tracks from It Comes To This:
-Amy (First track-a real fast-paced thrashy song. Always good to hear a band kick off their album with one of their best songs!)
-Back to Blood (Another thrasher. Love the lyrics. This song is quoted on the band's T-shirt, which you can buy directly from their website!)
-Far Be It From Me (Here is where DMW lighten up & show a little of their softer side. A great power-ballad of sorts.)
-Flowers (Stand Between Us) (Another good song with heavy sound and very catchy melodies. Lyrics use the line ' comes to this', making it somewhat of a pseudo-title track)
-Why Didn't You Say So?
-Homeless (This one is an acoustic bonus track. Shows the band's versatility.)

Don't forget to visit the band's websites for streaming music, merchandise available for purchase, and upcoming shows!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Catch DEADMANSWAKE Live in Milwaukee!

Post #118
This Sunday, November 28th, DEADMANSWAKE will be part of a huge show at The Rave in Milwaukee, WI.

DMW, along with other local rock bands, will help build up the intensity for a great night of heavy metal mayhem, headlined by Epica! Other bands on the bill include: Scar Symmetry, Blackguard, and The Agonist.

Show starts at 6pm!!! More details in the link below:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The New Czars-Doomsday Revolution (2010)

Post #117
The New Czars may be a new band, but they could be considered a supergroup in a sense. The members of this 3-piece band are actually veteran producers & songwriters who have produced music for an impressive variety of big-time artists: from the likes of Alice Cooper, Bruce Dickinson, & Puddle of Mudd, to Pink and Lita Ford.

With some other material they had composed independently, they decided to try their hand at being rock stars instead of just working for them. After whittling down their numerous compositions from more than 30 to 16, and reworking some tracks to incorporate more vocals, they ended up with Doomsday Revolution, an impressive debut hard-rock album.

The New Czars incorporate an ecclectic range of inspiration into a well-refined, almost methodical hard rock sound. Singer/guitarist Greg Hampton has a bit of a throw-back vocal style. On some tracks he sounds like he'd fit right in with some of the most popular late 80's pop-metal bands, while on others he brings a melodic post-grunge vibe. In every instance, though, they deliver the music so cohesively, you'd think they've been playing together for years.

Here are my top recommended tracks from Doomsday Revolution:
-Keep on Going (A great heavy track kicks of the album! I love the mantra: I'll keep on going... wonder what makes me tick?)
-Why Do U Have 2 Lie (One of the ballads. They show their versatility on tracks like this.)
-Brush with the Devil (Another heavy tune, perhaps my favorite of them all!)
-Abstract Prague (This one's instrumental, and almost reminds me of Soundgarden sometimes.)
-Doomsday Revolution (It's the title track, and another great, heavy-rock song.)
Check out some of these songs on their myspace webpage:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Judas Priest-Hell Bent For Leather

Post #116 Poll Winner: Favorite Judas Priest album from the 70's.
In the late 70's one of the most important movements in heavy metal developed: the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. One band that was quite instrumental in the development of this style of metal was Judas Priest. Starting as a heavy, blues-based rock band, in much the same was as Black Sabbath did, they took the style to a more technically advanced level.

With the combined talents of Glen Tipton & KK Downing trading guitar solos, along with Rob Halford's amazing vocal range, the heavy metal genre was given a new path down which to grow & develop. Over the course of a few years, multiple British bands took inspiration from Priest's sound and helped further expand this movement within heavy metal.

Hell Bent For Leather (titled Killing Machine in the UK), was released in 1979, and is now viewed as Priest's crowning achievement from that inspiring decade. By this time, Judas Priest had developed a versatile formula, composing songs that were often heavy and fast paced, but also featured some tunes that were more melodic or anthemic. These were elements they would perfect further in the coming 80's.

My top picks from this classic album:
-Delivering the Goods
-Hell Bent for Leather
-Burnin' Up
-The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown) [Originally a Fleetwood Mac song, Judas Priest perform it so well that many don't realize it's a cover]
-Running Wild
-Before the Dawn

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Congratulations, DEADMANSWAKE!

Post #115

In appreciation of the unprecedented and overwhelming response to the recent reader's poll, I would like to thank all of the bands who allowed me to feature them and their web page in this poll: Smash Corps, Third Law of Motion, Killcode, Skank, Sutured Psyche, Inn Cinema, and the winner: Deadmanswake!

Over the course of this blog, I've been keeping track of the reader's polls each month. Prior to this year's 2nd annual independent/myspace bands poll, the record for reader response in a poll was 56 votes. This poll has shattered that record with an amazing 1156 votes!

Same as last year, the winner will have a full-length review coming soon. However, as further thanks for all the votes & new readers brought to this blog by the poll-winner, they will soon be featured in a link on this blog for 1 year as 'Honorary Vice President'. I will also try to keep up with their scheduled shows, and mention them ahead of time here in the blog. So keep an eye out for great local shows!

Not to be overlooked, the rest of the poll contestants are likely to be reviewed at a later date. Several of them helped to make this the most competitive reader's poll yet, and a few of them had even held the lead before Deadmanswake pulled ahead at the end.

Again, thanks to all who participated, voted, & rocked out to great new music! I hope you continue to support independent music & local bands!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

KOPEK- White Collar Lies

Post #114!/kopek Kopek are poised to hit the mainstream rock-music market with riffs, melodies and attitudes reminiscent of the roots of hard rock. A 3-piece band from Dublin, Ireland, inspired by classic artists like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, Kopek are out to show the world that they have what it takes to succeed in the music business. More than that, if the collection of songs on their debut album, White Collar Lies, is any indication of what they're capable of, they'll be around for quite some time!

They may be young, but that hasn't stopped them from winning their fair share of contests- including the Global Battle of the Bands ( Maybe it's the luck of the Irish, but I'm betting there's something more tangible behind their rise to success. Songs like 'Love is Dead', their debut single, rock out with socially conscious lyrics and grab the listener with thought provoking messages. They have a cool video for it too: Other songs, like the title track, 'White Collar Lies', take a more melodic and soft approach with the music, while the lyrics seem to provide sharper, straight forward criticism of current events.

So many aspects of this album really brought me back and reminded me why I came to love hard rock music in the first place. It is that intangible essence of good rock music that Kopek have tapped into. They seem to have the right frame of mind to hold true to their ideals, both musically and lyrically. Even more important, they have the talent to deliver these aspects efficiently on their debut album.

Singer Daniel Jordan has the type of scratchy voice that is a perfect fit for an edgy hard-rock band. At times he reminds me of Buckcherry's singer, Josh Todd, while other times he seems more like a Jack White (of The White Stripes). In spite of these similarities, Kopek have plenty of unique elements that make them worth checking out.

Here are my picks:
Cocaine Chest Pains (A great hard-rockin' tune, gets the album off to a great start!)
White Collar Lies (The title track is a softer number, but the sharp criticism of government policies and corruption makes it one of the most memorable songs on the album)
Love Is Dead (Simple lyrical format, but thought provoking in a nearly ingenious way)
Floridian (A genuine ballad. Kopek display another side of their talent on this one)
Bring it on Home (This is the song that made me draw some comparisons to The White Stripes)
[WHITE COLLAR LIES is due for release in MARCH 1st, 2011]

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Heavy Metal Campaign '10!

Post #113
Your Heavy Metal 107 Candidates:

James Hetfield (Metallica)

James runs for re-election because Metallica is still one of the most successful metal bands in the world. The successful Death Magnetic album may only be a sign of what's to come from this band over the next two years. Voting for him wouldn't hurt the chances for a State-side Big-4 tour either! Re-elect James Hetfield!

Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden)

After finishing a close second in the 2008 election, Bruce is again seeking your vote for president of this blog. Iron Maiden's latest album, The Final Frontier, stands as the latest testament to their iconic legacy in heavy metal. Does the title suggest the band might be hanging it up soon? Or are they just toying with us? Either way, they still have it after 30 years. Scream for me blog readers! Vote for Bruce!

Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)

Having directed Megadeth's music back to the speed-driven thrash style that was their trademark in their early years, Mustaine's band has been on plateau over the last couple years, recapturing the metal hearts of their faithful fans. Megadeth have also been honoring the 20th anniversary of their landmark Rust In Peace album by playing it live on tour this year. Dave himself has even released his own autobiography earlier this year, giving fans a chance to hear his life story in greater detail than ever before. Calling all Droogies! Vote for Mustaine!

David Draiman (Disturbed)

David Draiman contends for president this term behind the strength of Disturbed's latest album, Asylum. Here again, we see Disturbed both maintaining their strengths, and stretching their talents of songcraft in heavy metal. Asylum touches on several issues relevant in the world today, in the midst of all it's changes. Stop corruption and vote for David Draiman!

Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath)

Ozzy has long been associated with the earliest days of heavy metal, having been a founding member of the legendary Black Sabbath. Now, with his new album Scream showing that he still has some fight left in him, Ozzy makes another run for this blog's symbolic president. Ozzy also has a recent autobiography out at bookstores everywhere, inviting fans to hear the story of his unparalleled career, complete with every controversy! Ozzy wants to hear you SCREAM! Vote OZZY!

Corey Taylor (Stone Sour/Slipknot)

Corey Taylor also returns to challenge all candidates this term. He has proven repeatedly that he can front some of the best metal bands, either extreme (Slipknot), or more mainstream (StoneSour). Though the tragic loss of their bassist, Paul Gray, may leave some questions of how Slipknot will continue their career, Stone Sour are back with a new album, Audiosecrecy, and are ready to take it to the metal masses. Here's another Mission Statement: Vote for Corey Taylor!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ace Frehley-Anomaly

Post #112
The "Space-Ace", original guitarist of KISS, has returned with Anomaly, his first solo-album in 20 years, and eleven years since his last recording with KISS. Whether intentional or coincidental, it came out at almost the same time as KISS' latest, Sonic Boom. From my point of view it doesn't matter if Anomaly was supposed to compete with Sonic Boom, or simply re-establish Ace Frehley in the hard-rock music scene. It sounds like a classic Ace solo-album and holds up to the standards of his previous work, and in my opinion, that's all I could have hoped for.

Long overdue though it may be, Anomaly is the Ace Frehley album fans have been waiting for. In spite of two decades passing since 89's Trouble Walkin', Anomaly sounds like it hasn't missed a beat. With classic-rock riffs and a bit of blues, Ace digs into his roots with this release, and captures the true essence of his Space-Ace persona. He even gets the Sci-fi theme involved on the track "Outer Space". Not to be overlooked, he also offers essentially 3 instrumental tracks (one of them has a few lyrics, but it's a one-line refrain that only comes around during breaks in the instrumental jam session). Those who think Ace's best work is in his instrumental songs will not be disappointed with these either.

Oh, and before I forget to mention it, Anomaly has the most unique packaging I've ever seen for a CD! Once you pull off the slip-cover, the CD is held in this weird little paper-board contraption, and there's a slip of paper with 'assembly instructions'. After following the 'fold here' & 'insert tab here', step-by-step instructions, you end up with a nifty little cardboard pyramid displaying Anomaly's groovy cover art! It looks nice on a shelf sitting next to an Ace Frehley action figure...

As a long-time KISS fan, as well as an Ace fan (for he was my favorite of the original line-up), I'm tempted to say Anomaly tops Sonic Boom as the better album. Part of me feels that Sonic Boom may be a more balanced album, but the best parts of Anomaly leave Sonic Boom's best songs in the dust! My advice to the old-school KISS fan is check them both out & make your own call. Without a doubt though, these are both great albums.

My top picks from Anomaly:
-Foxy & Free
-Outer Space (The best track on the album in my book. Possibly the best song Ace has EVER written!!)
-Pain in the Neck
-Fox on the Run (Cover of the classic 70's hit by Sweet!)
-Genghis Khan (This is the mostly-instrumental song I mentioned earlier. Just one line of lyrics to break it up & give is some structure. A great jam!)
-Change the World (A little bit of a softer tune from Ace. A song about bettering one's self and making a difference.)
-Fractured Quantum (Hoped for, expected, or even predictable, here's another instrumental track that continues the themes of Ace's previous instrumentals; 'Fractured Mirror', 'Fractured Too', and 'Fractured III'.)

KISS-Sonic Boom

Post #111
KISS! The make-up clad hard-rockers emerge from an eleven year studio retirement with Sonic Boom, a hard-edged rock n' roll album that finds the band returning to their roots. Although this album has been well received by many fans and critics, there have been many changes within the band in the years since Psycho-Circus. Some fans may hold some reservations because of these circumstances, but in the end they are moot points at best. As should always be the case with rock n' roll, the music speaks for itself on Sonic Boom.

The first single, "Modern Day Delilah", get this come-back album off to a great start. Catchy hard-rock riffs are abundant on Sonic Boom, and it is these riffs around which the album is built. Gone are the days when KISS would emulate current trends in music. Here they stick to their strengths: rock n' roll riffs, catchy hooks, melodic and classic guitar solos. Gene and Paul trade off on lead vocals throughout the album while both Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer take lead vocals on one track each.

For those concerned about how Tommy & Eric fit into this formula, keep in mind both of these guys have been with the band before. Eric as drummer after the tragic death of Eric Carr from '92-'96; and Tommy as a collaborator and guitar tech as early as the late 80's. What surprised me most was how well these two captured the classic KISS vibe on most of this album. Tommy's leads really are written to sound like classic Ace Frehley leads. Half the time he was soloing I was doing double-takes thinking I was listening to albums like Hotter Than Hell or Dressed to Kill. Eric's drumming likewise focuses on the rhythm styles of their early days. You can tell the band really studied their early material when composing Sonic Boom. If you're a KISS purist, then this really is the album you've been waiting for, in spite of the absence of Peter & Ace.

Sonic Boom ends almost as strongly as it started, with the track "Say Yeah". Simple title, but catchy like classic KISS songs should be. It was also a featured song on their last 2 tours. Also, as great as the album itself is, the full experience doesn't end there. With this release, KISS include a bonus CD and a bonus DVD!

The CD is KISS Klassics; a collection of 15 of their hits and fan favorites from the 70's & 80's, re-recorded by the current band line-up. There are some pros & cons to re-recording old songs, but I suspect it was done primarily to cut back on royalties to their previous label, Mercury Records, since they are now using their own label, KISS Records. The songs themselves are sometimes better than the original recordings, sometimes not. Having cranked up the original versions for years on-end, they are the versions I mostly side with. There are a couple where I feel the emotion is missing, that sound like cheap imitations of the originals. Most are generally interchangable with the old versions. The few exceptions where I feel the new take is an improvement can be found below in the 'top-picks' section.

The DVD is a real treat! It features a few live performances from their recent tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Like several other rock & metal bands have found, KISS take advantage of the extreme enthusiasm fans display at live shows in South America. Have you ever seen a South American Futbol (Soccer) match? Well, they treat their rock concerts pretty much the same way! On this DVD you'll hear the fans singing along with every word, and many of the riffs! Of course, KISS put on a great performance with all their theatrics & pyro-technics as well. The six tracks are: "Deuce", "Hotter Than Hell", "C'mon and Love Me", "Watchin' You", "100,000 Years", and "Rock and Roll All Nite".

Here are my top picks from Sonic Boom:
-Modern Day Delilah
-Russian Roulette
-Hot and Cold
-All for the Glory (Here's where you can hear Eric Singer on lead vocals, very similar to Peter's voice.)
-When Lightning Strikes (Tommy's lead vocal track. Sounds eerily like an Ace Frehley song, both in the vocals and music style.)
-Say Yeah

...and top picks from KISS Klassics:
-Hotter Than Hell (This one benefits from the modern re-recording. Sharper & fuller sound than the original!)
-I Was Made for Lovin' You (Although this still has the disco-beat feel as always, the new recording brings a whole lot more out of the guitar tracks. The result is a heavier feeling song. More along the lines of how they play it live!)
-I Love It Loud (Don't get me wrong, the original version is great too. In fact the whole 'Creatures of the Night' album is still one of my favorites. However, the new recording of this song benefits from a stronger & better defined backing vocal track, the 'Yeaaa-aaa-aa-aaah-Yeah!' part sounds so much better here!)
-Black Diamond (I'm really torn between this new recording and the original. What I like about this one is another chance to hear Eric Singer's lead vocals. But I don't dis Peter Criss' vocals on the original, I just mean you should hear them both!)
-Rock & Roll All Nite (Again, not necessarily better than the original, but this is one song they never do a bad job of playing. Either live or in-studio!)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Karnivool-Sound Awake (2009)

Post #110
Karnivool are a new band out of Perth, Australia, and anyone interested in the cutting edge of rock and heavy music should pay attention to them. These guys blend elements of rock, metal, progressive, alternative, and psychedelic rock in ways I've never heard before. They employ ambitious musicianship to create such moods and ambiance that you can't help being sucked into their new album Sound Awake like it was a black hole.

A brief sampling of a song or two is not enough to truly experience Karnivool's Sound Awake. This is more than a simple collection of 11 songs, it is a genuine listening experience, a journey into sound. The first track, 'Simple Boy', fools you with a few quiet notes of a synthesizer before giving way to a drum roll and heavy bass guitar riff. Just when you think the bass overtones are about to cause your speakers to implode, contrast is brought in with melodic lead guitar and vocals. Karnivool's vocalist, Ian Kenny, brings the final, perfect ingredient to the musical formula, tugging your mind along the path of their progressive rock music.

'Sound Awake' is an appropriate title. Open to interpretation, but accurately capturing the crux of this album however you read it. This band takes full advantage of a huge spectrum of sound through their music. Progressive rock is the backbone, the primary element consistent in each track. The sound of the music can range from heavy riffs, to smooth melodies, but always building layer upon layer of sound. The result is an epic masterpiece of heavy, progressive rock.

Each successive track continues to introduce new combinations of their ambitiously conceived sound. I'm alternately reminded of Tool or Pink Floyd or Dream Theater throughout the course of hearing this album. Ultimately, in the end, it is all Karnivool. By the time the last track, 'Change', finally draws to a close with a cacophony of drums lingering after the other instruments have silenced, I conclude that Karnivool are in a class of their own. Young, new masters of this genre they could redefine in the years to come.

Here are some highlights from Sound Awake:
-Simple Boy (The opening track. Keeps growing on me each time I hear it. Heavy, melodic, mind-blowing!)
-New Day (My personal favorite. Easy to see why they named their recent US tour after this song. Simply epic!)
-Set Fire to the Hive (A harder-edged number. Rough-edged tones, with some aggressive emotion in the vocal delivery)
-All I Know (Another favorite of mine. Like so many other songs on this album, I like it more every time I hear it!)
-Deadman (Another perfect example of their progressive, thematic song-craft. An epic piece of music that clocks in at 12 minutes.)

Hear some of these songs for yourself at the band's website:

or on their myspace page:

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Post #109
Ozzy Osbourne has had one of the longest running careers in Heavy Metal music. Over the years he has been fortunate to be a part of several legendary partnerships in music. He was a founding member of Black Sabbath along with Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and guitar legend Tony Iommi; resurrected his career as a solo artist with guitar legend Randy Rhoads; carried on his solo career after Rhoads' tragic death with the likes of Jake E Lee and Zakk Wylde. Now, 41 years after his debut with Black Sabbath, Ozzy finds himself in a new collaborating partnership, as Firewind guitarist Gus G hops onto Ozzy's never-ending crazy train of a career.

Earlier this year, Ozzy released his latest album, 'Scream', with massive and unique promotion. The track, 'Let me Hear You Scream', was featured in an episode of CSI. ( Ozzy himself helped attempt to set a Guiness World record for longest scream by an arena crowd (, and also promoted his album by joking with visitors of a wax museum while posing as an exhibit of himself (

Once all the hoopla was done and 'Scream' itself hit the streets, Ozzy's fans finally got to hear the beginning of the latest chapter of Ozzy's career. The buzz generated beforehand was enough to push it to #4 on the Billboard charts, making it the 7th top-ten album for Ozzy. Scream is deserving of this status as well, with songs that deliver all the key elements of a great Ozzy album: heavy riffs, a variety of tempos, great guitar soloing (thanks Gus!), a couple semi-biographical ballads, and even a bit of neo-classical inspiration can be heard.

I only wish Gus G had had a larger hand in the writing of this album . We'll have to wait for Ozzy's next album to hear his contributions in that respect. For the most part, this album was co-written by Ozzy Osbourne and his producer Kevin Churko (and Adam Wakeman on a few tracks), prior to Gus G's joining the band. Churko also received co-writing credit on Ozzy's previous album, Black Rain, perhaps explaining how the new album remains so consistent.

My top picks from SCREAM:
-Let It Die (a slow-tempo, heavy number. Classic Ozzy!)
-Let Me Hear You Scream (first single, and a real thrasher for Ozzy)
-Soul Sucker
-Life Won't Wait (One of the ballads, Ozzy hasn't lost his touch with this kind of number either)
-Diggin' Me Down (Here's my personal favorite! Melodic guitar intro brings back memories of Randy Rhoads' neo-classical days!)
-I Want It More

Saturday, September 18, 2010

AC/DC-Highway to Hell

Post #108 Poll Winner: Favorite AC/DC album from the 70's.

AC/DC, one of the preeminent influences of hard rock & heavy metal music, established themselves in the mid-70's. Taking a strong inspiration from early blues & rock and roll bands from the 50's and early 60's, and mixing it with the harder-edged sound of other early-70's era bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who, they quickly became a major force of 70's heavy metal.

With each album, their popularity grew. Within a couple years they were touring outside their native Australia, and had become a global phenomenon. Their music appealed to a whole generation of teens, who craved this old-school rock & roll with a dark side. Their singles became top hits on almost every continent.

They closed out the decade with their best album yet, 'Highway To Hell'. Though they were still a band on the rise, this would be their last album with Bon Scott as their singer. He tragically died in early 1980 at the age of 33 after passing out after a night of heavy drinking. The legacy he left behind is one of the most memorable in heavy-rock music. Your choice of Highway To Hell as your favorite AC/DC album from the 70's is further evidence of that legacy.

Now, here are my favorite tracks I recommend from this album:
-Highway To Hell
-Girls Got Rhythym
-Shot Down In Flames
-If You Want Blood (You've Got It!)
-Night Prowler

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Second Annual Myspace-Bands Poll

Post #107
In the world of online music and streaming mp3's websites like have become more than simply a way to get your music heard; they've become the standard for much of the music industry. Not only will you find your buddy's garage band from around the block with their own myspace-page, but every major recording artist now has at least a couple songs available for free sampling at

To celebrate the spirit of independent music, the Happy Headbanger's blog is once again featuring seven of these up-and-coming bands in a reader's poll. To allow you faithful readers sufficient time to hear a little of each of these bands, and decide on a favorite, this poll will have an extended voting window! Typically I utilize a 30-day polling window, but for this one you'll get no less than 45 days. Use them wisely!

Now here are your contestants
Female-fronted metal with lots of balls!
Check out the song "Amy"

Great heavy-metal with a thrash-hardcore vibe!
Check out "The Machine"

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
Post-grunge inspired alternative rock, with mainstream-friendly hooks.
Check out "Golden Age"

A great New York-based band blending a classic-metal sound with a bit of southern rock.
Check out "Truce"

A little melody, a bunch of hard-core riffs, and of course a little sleazy. These guys rock!
Check out "No Love Lost"

These guys can be intense with a furious metalcore edge, then lighten up to show a melodic side.
Check out "Save Me"

"Music for Bastards!"
Melodic hard rock, mixed with a bit of alternative metal, and catchy grooves in every song!
Check out "The Leap"

Keep in mind, the winner of this poll will get a full-length review within a few weeks of when the poll closes. Not to mention more exposure to the online community, and circulation of their myspace page!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier Tour (w/ Dream Theater) 7-18-10

Post #106
On July 18, 2010, I attended my first-ever Iron Maiden concert. Long overdue, I know, but better late than never, and well worth the wait! Here's my review of the show...
On a warm July afternoon I made my way to the First Midwest Bank Ampitheater once again to catch what promised to be a memorable heavy metal concert: Iron Maiden, with Dream Theater as the opening band. This was an excellent combination, I felt, since I'm also big fan of Dream Theater. I could not wait for the show to start.

I didn't have long to wait, as I barely made it to the venue before showtime. I had just found my section and was making my way to my seat when stage lights came on, and John Myung of Dream Theater emerged from the smoke that had filled the stage, playing one of his classic, melodic bass-guitar riffs. The song was 'As I Am', and Dream Theater's set was off to a powerful start!

For a band known for their epic-progressive, and very, very long songs I was a bit concerned that Dream Theater wouldn't get to play too many numbers as an opening act. I was pleasantly surprised, however, as it became apparent they were focusing on their heavier (and for the most part shorter songs). Admittedly, the thrashy side of Dream Theater has always been my favorite. They were able to squeeze in 6 selected songs, closing with their classic 'Pull Me Under'.

Then there was a bit of a break as the stage crew went to work preparing for Maiden. I took the opportunity to head out to the vendors, grab myself a tour T-shirt, a drink, and return to my seat. It also made for less waiting time. I was ready for Iron Maiden.
They opened their set with 'The Wicker Man' from their reunion album Brave New World. A great thrash number to get the crowd pumped off the bat. When the vocals kicked in, Bruce sprinted from the back-stage area, hurdled a row of monitors, and began belting out the song with such energy as I had rarely seen in any rock show! He was sporting a simple black T-shirt which read 'PSYCH WARD' across the front, and his energy continued as such for most of the show.
I was a little surprised how heavily Iron Maiden favored their newer material (i.e. since their reunion in 2000). They did play a few older tracks, but easily two-thirds of their set was selected from the albums Brave New World, Dance of Death, or A Matter of Life and Death. This was fine by me, as I've become a huge fan of these albums. I think Iron Maiden are arguably better now than they have ever been.
One of my favorite moments from the show was when Bruce took a few moments between songs to remember the late Ronnie James Dio. He shared a little story with us of a time he was on tour with Dio and heard him complaining about the song 'Rainbow In The Dark'. Ronnie had said that he hated that song, that he was sick of it. "Well, why do you play it all the time then?" asked Bruce. "Because the fans want to hear it." Dio replied simply. And that was what was always important to Ronnie James Dio, giving the fans what they wanted to hear. For a moment I wondered if they were going to play 'Rainbow in the Dark'. Though they did not, they did dedicated the next song to Ronnie, 'Blood Brothers'.

Maiden continued through a fantastic set, as I've mentioned focusing mainly on their newest 3 albums prior to The Final Frontier. A giant Eddie came out a stalked the stage during 'Iron Maiden', dueling with Janick Gers for a bit. Then when it seemed the show was over, they came back out for an encore, and played three of the greatest classics: 'The Number of the Beast', 'Hallowed Be Thy Name', and 'Running Free'.
The set list from this memorable night of heavy metal legends:
Dream Theater
-As I Am
-A Rite of Passage
-Constant Motion
-Panic Attack
-Pull Me Under

Iron Maiden
-The Wicker Man
-Ghost of the Navigator
-El Dorado (the only song from their new album, which had not yet been released.)
-Dance of Death
-The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
-These Colours Don't Run
-Blood Brothers
-Wildest Dreams
-No More Lies
-Brave New World
-Fear of the Dark
-Iron Maiden

-The Number of the Beast
-Hallowed Be Thy Name
-Running Free

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Bargain Hunter's Finds (Part 2, Creeping Death EP, Etc...)

Post #105
I'll take a moment here to re-focus on my primary means of reviewing so much essential heavy music: bargain hunting! I've said before that if it were not for inexpensive means of hearing music (online sampling via band-websites & online radio, redeeming coupons at major retailers, 2nd-hand music acquisitions like garage sales & used music retailers, and of course visiting the Audio-Visual section of my local library), I would not have the chance to hear much of the music I've already shared with you.

Now let me document a few of my recent finds, beginning with one that is a rare find indeed, for it is no longer in print: Metallica's early EP, 'Creeping Death' (which includes the original 'Garage Days Revisited' and the single for 'Jump In The Fire'). [$7.98 (+10% off) $7.18 final price]
What an excellent find this was! It is probably the only time I've ever even seen this recording in CD format, and now I'm lucky enough to own it. This item was found at one of the Half Price Books locations I frequent, as well as the next item...

Dream Theater-Greatest Hit (...and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs) [2-disc compilation: $7.98 (+10% off) $7.18 final price]
This one I had already checked out from my library a couple times before I found it at Half Price Books. I was in no hurry to buy it right away, since I have all of Dream Theater's albums from which the songs are selected. However I should point out that 3 of the tracks are remixes (the 3 taken from the Images and Words album), and I wanted to have these alternate versions in my personal collection. Was it necessary for Dream Theater to remix these songs? That is perhaps up to the listener to decide. I, for one, appreciate the new mixes. They sound more crisp than the originals.

From Best Buy: Apocalyptica-7th Symphony [Special Edition w/ Live DVD, 2010] $14.99 + portion of $10 Reward Zone certificate: $6.65 final price!
With Apocalyptica, I've been a fan since their first CD, 'Plays Metallica by Four Cellos'. I've tried to keep up with each release over the years, so naturally I was looking to get this one as well. Having $10 worth of Best Buy Reward Zone coupons burning a hole in my email helped make it an easy decision.

From Half Price Books (during the 20% off Everything Labor Day Weekend sale)
Bloomingdale, IL location: Killswitch Engage-As Daylight Dies (Special Edition w/ bonus tracks and DVD w/ 3 videos & 'making of' documentaries, '07) [$9.98 -20% off = $7.98 final price]
Shadows Fall-Threads of Life ('07) [$7.98 -20% off = $6.38 final price]
Geoff Tate (Self-titled solo recording from lead singer of Queensryche, '02) [$5.98 -20% off = $4.78 final price]
Nevermore-dreaming Neon black ('99) [$5.98-20% off = $4.78 final price]

Palatine, IL location: Soundgarden-Louder Than Love ('89) [$5.98-20% off = $4.78 final price]
Unearth-Our Days of Eulogy ('04 w/ bonus disc of 9 other Eulogy Records recording artists) [$2.00 clearance -20% off = $1.60 final price]
Mushroomhead-Savior Sorrow ('06) [$2.00 clearance -20% off = $1.60 final price]
Machine Head-The Burning Red ('99) [$2.00 clearance -20% off = $1.60 final price]
Flyleaf (Self-titled debut '07) [$2.00 clearance -20% off = $1.60 final price]

To summarize this successful scavenging expedition, over the course of 2 weekends;
Total CD count: 13 (plus 1 bonus CD and 2 bonus DVDs)
Grand total: $56.11
Average cost per CD: $4.32

These are the kinds of deals I'm accustomed to finding. I admit that occasionally there is an essential new release that I will sometimes bring myself to spend $12-$15 on, so that I can have it to enjoy right away. However these cases are relatively few and far between for me. Over the course of the last couple years of reading other music-lovers' blogs, I've found a few who like to document their collection-building shopping sprees in a similar fashion as I just did. Often times, the amount of money they spend makes my budget-conscious mind cringe. Perhaps this will open their eyes to the kinds of bargains that are out there to be had.

For these purchases I didn't even need to utilize the internet, where great prices on music are often found from people selling their CDs second-hand. I simply browsed my local used-music retailers, and even there I'm always sure to peruse the clearance section. Also, I took advantage of rewards programs available at primary retailers. It's fun being rewarded for being a frequent shopper.

So go out there and find yourself some great heavy metal music, but also keep in mind that these kinds of bargains are probably easier to find than you think. It just takes a little dillegence and sometimes a bit of patience.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Alice Cooper-School's Out

Post #104 Poll Winner: Favorite Alice Cooper album from the 70's.
The 1970's were a formative era for the genre of heavy metal. Several hard rock bands from this time would become primary influences for almost every heavy metal band that has folowed since. This was a time of pioneers. Rock musicians who began making music in the late 60's would slowly begin to emerge from the haze of psychadelic rock and hone in on other elements of style. One such artist would be Alice Cooper.

Alice Cooper became famous early in their career for the theatrical elements of their stage show. Hence, Alice became known as the founder of 'Shock-Rock' (dubbed for the shocking elements of their music and performance). At about the same time, the band started producing some genuine hit songs that helped define the generation.

School's Out is perhaps the best example of Alice Cooper's rock-anthem capabilities. To this day the title track to this classic album is cranked up to 10 for many high-schoolers during summer break. This song gave a generation of teenagers a rally cry in the 70's.

You chose this album as your favorite from Alice in the 70's,
My picks from School's Out:
-School's Out (of course!)
-My Stars
-Public Animal #9

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sutured Psyche Rocks Chicago's I AM Fest (7-23-10)

Post #103

On the local, independent rock music scene in Chicago, there has been a series of 'Battle of the Bands' style shows this summer. One band featured in this competition has been on my radar for a while now: Sutured Psyche. On Friday, July 23rd I was finally able to make it to one of their shows, and it was well worth the wait.

As part of the Independent Arts & Music Fest (I AM Fest), they played a show at the Elbo Room on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. It was a small venue, in the basement below the bar, and a little short on air-conditioning. All things considered, the crowd was still ready to rock, and with potent enthusiasm. The crowd seemed to be perpetually revolving, as people kept retreating to the upstairs area where the AC was working much better. There also seemed to be a trend of each band pulling in its own crowd that didn't always stick around for the whole evening.

For those who stuck it out for the penultimate band, Sutured Psyche, they were rewarded with a great set of in-you-face hard-rock music! As the individual members ran a final sound-check with the venue sound-staff I was getting psyched (pun intended!) Suddenly, it was SHOW TIME!
They hit the ground running, opening their set with "Clarity", a song that quickly showcased much of the band's signature sound. Hard rock riffs are the driving force behind Sutured Psyche's music. Catchy melodies are abundant throughout as well. Clean-guitar progressions balance a heavy rhythm guitar as a tight drum & bass guitar combo holds everything together. However, the most unique element of this band may be their lead vocalist. Singer William Pekoc IV has a deep, throaty voice that reverberates throughout the room. This facet of the band's formula is the reason behind a few hinted comparisons to Tool.
Pekoc's commanding vocal delivery, along with the band's slick image (dressed in matching black suits-at least at the start of the show), and stage craft make for a highly entertaining rock show. Follow this band with their myspace page:, and try to catch one of their shows on Chicago's north-side. You won't be dissapointed.

For now I'll leave you with the set list from this show:



50th Percentile

Luck of the Draw

Much More Than I've Lost

Inherit the Earth (A great fist-pumping anthem, with crowd-participation opportunities!)
The Leap (this one has quickly become a favorite track of mine, having sampled it frequently on their myspace webpage)
Teen Angst (a rare cover-originally by Cracker)

[Sutured Psyche will also be featured soon in this blog's 2nd annual Myspace/Independent bands' reader's poll. Coming feature in October this year...]

Thursday, July 29, 2010

KISS-Alive 35 at the United Center, Chicago

Post #102
[This is a concert review from the show on 11-6-2009 at the United Center, Chicago, IL] Living Legends of rock n' roll, and my long-time favorite band, KISS are back on the road in support of their come-back album Sonic Boom. Last fall I made it to one of their shows. They had taken a few years off recently, so it was a nice opportunity to see this band that I had thought were retired.

Granted this is not the original line-up for KISS, despite the deceiving use of the original make-up designs. Eric Singer (who had been in KISS from '92-'96) is the drummer behind the 'Cat-Man' make-up, while Tommy Thayer (who had been a collaborating musician for the band, off and on, since the late 80's) is now the full-time guitarist as the 'Space-Man' (note I didn't say 'Space Ace'). Regardless, this is a very talented line-up, and they proved more than capable of putting on a phenomenal vintage-style KISS show!

For this show I brought a friend along, who I had just introduced to the music of KISS a couple months before. This friend was a fan of several similar-sounding bands from the 70's and 80's, like AC/DC & Guns N' Roses, so it was somewhat easy to convince him to come along.

Not to be overlooked, the opening band was Buckcherry. Often compared to Guns N' Roses and other late-80's glam-bands, Buckcherry had gotten the show off & rolling with a great attitude of straight forward, hard-edged rock n' roll. They included several of their well-known hits, like 'Lit Up', and 'Crazy Bitch', but also included a great cover of Deep Purple's 'Highway Star'. Though we were a little late and didn't catch the beginning of their set, what I heard was enough to sway me further into their fandom. Shortly after the tour, Buckcherry also released their first live CD, Live & Loud, which closely mirrored the set they played on this night.

However, the best was yet to come, as the crowd now sat in eager anticipation of KISS...

Eventually the familiar intro boomed out to the audience, "All right Chicago! You wanted the best, you got the best! The hottest band in the world, KISS!!!" The curtain fell as the band kicked off the set with 'Deuce'. The show continued from there, with song selection heavily favoring their 70's material. Understandably so, given this was a tour honoring the 35th Anniversary of the album KISS: ALIVE! They didn't play the entire track list from ALIVE!
That would have been very cool, but also taken up almost all of their set-time. Enough of their early classics were included that you could tell they were focusing on delivering a performance true to that classic, first live album of theirs.

They did include a few songs from the 80's and one, 'Modern Day Delilah', from their new album Sonic Boom. After Gene's bass solo, during which he spat blood & 'flew' up to the rafters on his demon's wings, the band played 'I Love It Loud'. Each member took a solo at some point during the show. Eric Singer's drum-solo was played while the drum kit was lifted and spun around. Tommy Thayer shot several fireworks off the neck of his guitar during his guitar solo, and Paul Stanley played a few extended riffs as part of a solo, before soaring out to a central platform among the crowd along a gondola cable, where he then performed another song up close with a part of the audience who previously had a poorer view of the show.
Top notch pyrotechnics we employed during the encore, and tons of confetti was spewed across the crowd during 'Rock & Roll All Nite'. All-in-all a great KISS show. As good as any of the other times I'd seen them (I may review those shows later on as well). As a long-time fan, I'm glad they are touring again. Hopefully, if they continue touring, they'll plan a tour that would include a better-rounded set-list. I feel they have too many good albums that are always under-represented in their choice of set-lists. Time will tell.
Last but not least, one of the coolest features of this concert was the fact that you could buy THAT NIGHT'S PERFORMANCE, on CD or mp3, immediately after the show! I took advantage of this opportunity and got a copy. Amazing how far technology has come! Sure enough, I had the first half of the concert in my hand when I left the show, the other half was sent to me in the mail after redeeming an online voucher.
From this night of rock & roll music from Buckcherry & KISS here's a rough list of the songs:
-Tired of You
-Next 2 You
-Out of Line
-Broken Glass
-Lit Up
-Rescue Me
-Highway Star
-Crazy Bitch

-Let Me Go, Rock N' Roll
-Hotter Than Hell
-Shock Me
-Calling Dr. Love
-Modern Day Delilah
-Cold Gin
-100,000 Years
-I Love It Loud
-Black Diamond
-Rock And Roll All Nite
Shout It Out Loud
Lick It Up
Love Gun (w/ part of 'Stairway To Heaven' as an intro)
Detroit Rock City

Friday, July 23, 2010

RUSH 2112- A masterful dystopian concept album.

Post #101 Poll Winner: Favorite RUSH album from the 70's.
Hailing from Canada, Rush firmly established themselves as one of hard-rock's most creative bands in the mid-70's. During this era, they became master musicians of progressive rock, composing multi-part, epic rock songs that often took up half the playing time of some of their albums. The album that might be the best example of this style: 2112. For the second time, you have picked Rush's 2112 album as a favorite in reader's poll.

In the mid 70's Rush had really hit their stride. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, & Neil Pert had become a formidable songwriting team. Neil Pert cites his inspiration for the lyrical themes as Ayn Rand, for the philosophies of objectivism & individualism in her novels. Rush had borrowed inspiration from Rand previously with the song "Anthem", inspired by Ayn Rand's novel of the same title.
The story of 2112 is a futuristic vision of society strictly controlled by the Solar Federation. The track 'Discovery' (as part of the epic title track), depicts the discovery of an ancient musical instrument- a guitar. The unnamed protagonist, whose eyes we see the world through, brings this object & the discovery of music before the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx. It is here that the conflict of ideals manifests and is narrated throughout the rest of the album.

Once again let me mention that 2112 is a true masterpiece of 70's hard rock. To be properly appreciated, you must hear it in its entirety. Here is the track listing:
-2112: I-Overture, II-The Temples of Syrinx, III-Discovery, IV-Presentation, V-Oracle: The Dream, VI-Soliloquy, VII-Grand Finale
-A Passage to Bangkok
-Twilight Zone
-Something for Nothing

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bullet For My Valentine

Post #100
More and more bands are emerging in the heavy metal scene with clear influences from classic early 80's metal bands apparent in their music. Bullet For My Valentine, from Wales-UK, are one them. They've been thrown into the 'melodic metalcore' sub-genre since they first came out, largely due to their use of hard-core screaming vocals, but have said in interviews that they're a hard-rock band with metal influences.

However you wish to categorize them, they clearly have influences from thrash, hard-core, and melodic rock in their sound. The main appeal for me is the thrash sound in their guitar-work, as well as the mixed vocal style, which is always switching back and forth between melodic and screaming vocals. They can play a mean guitar solo too, and I've said several times that great guitar solos are the best way to win me over with heavy metal. Bullet For My Valentine have done so.

Here's a look at their career so far, album by album:

Hand Of Blood ('05) [in UK: Bullet For My Valentine ('04)]
Their debut EP gives a good introduction to this band's sound & formula: fast-tempo thrash inspired riffs, therapeutic rage-filled screaming vocals contrasted with melodic vocal passages, and talented guitar solos in abundance.

My picks:
-4 Words (To Choke Upon) (a new addition on the US release, or a bonus track on the UK version)
-Hand Of Blood (this one plays out like the band's theme-song as the lyrics depict a doomed relationship ending in bullets & bloodshed)
-Just Another Star

The Poison ('06) SPECIAL EDITION
On their first full-length album Bullet For My Valentine deliver a much more polished effort. In addition to the inclusion of several tracks from the Hand Of Blood EP, they have a few power-ballads on this album, as well as more thrashers. However, the BFMV power-ballad almost always has a dark side, and shreds with ferocious intensity before it's done. The 'Metalcore' element of harsh, screamed vocals has a strong presence on this album, though it is broken up nicely by the frequent use of melodic singing too. There is even a guest appearance by Apocalyptica on the intro track (which they also co-wrote). What's more is that The Poison is available as a special edition with bonus tracks and a DVD of some early concert footage & videos.

My picks:
-Intro (featuring Apocalyptica)
-Her Voice Resides
-Tears Don't Fall (perhaps their best-known song, a killer power-ballad!)
-Suffocating Under Words of Sorrow (What Can I Do)
-Cries In Vain
-Spit You Out (great fast-paced, thrash-influenced song)
-The End (Such a dark, evil sounding song. Probably my favorite. Melodic for the most part, but trashes with true fury at well-timed moments!)
---Bonus Tracks---
-7 Days
-Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (An excellent cover of the classic Metallica song!)
-Tears Don't Fall (Acoustic version- just as good as the original, just a different flavor...)

Scream Aim Fire ('08)
On this album, Bullet For My Valentine seem to smooth out the rough edges of their formula a little more. The result is that this album seems more accessible to mainstream acceptance. By this time, the band had really begun to ascend the ranks within the metal scene, earning a main-stage slot on Mayhem Fest '09 among other popular metal tours in the US & Europe. Though the songs may seem a bit formula-driven, they still get the shred out like no other. My only point of criticism is that I feel the ending of the last track, Forever & Always (a power-ballad), seems to drag on way too long. Overall, this album maybe shows off more of their 'thrash' side than their 'metalcore' sound on the previous works...

My picks:
-Scream Aim Fire
-Eye Of The Storm (This one really pushes the tempo about as fast as I've heard from this band. Enough so that I would compare it to songs by DragonForce!)
-Hearts Burst Into Fire (probably the best power ballad on this album...)
-Waking the Demon
-Say Goodnight (best mix of melody & thrash, clean & heavy, on this album)
-End of Days

FEVER (2010)
Bullet For My Valentine's newest album again sees them perfecting their niche within heavy metal even more. You can hear them keeping elements from all their previous works alive in their music, although I would probably say it's closest in sound & style to the Scream Aim Fire album. All the facets of their music you may have grown to love by now are present on this album, and in perfect balance. Their masterful power-ballads keep this album highly accessible for the mainstream-metal audience, but they also make sure to incorporate enough of the metalcore-screaming vocals to keep that portion of their following faithful as well.

My picks:
-Your Betrayal
-A Place Where You Belong (this is one of the ballads, and my favorite one on this album)
-Pleasure and Pain
-Begging For Mercy

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Led Zeppelin-Physical Graffiti

Post #99 Poll Winner: What's your favorite Led Zeppelin album ('69-'79)?
Led Zeppelin were one of the defining hard rock bands of the 70's. Rising from the ashes of The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page enlisted lead singer Robert Plant, and the formula for this band was established. They gave rock n' roll the heaviest sound it had known, yet still wrote memorable songs year after year.

They were versatile in their songcraft as well, mixing acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, and a variety of song styles over the course of their career. Perhaps no album of theirs captured as much of their versatility as Physical Graffiti did. It was their only double-length studio album. That in itself is testament to their prolific creativity. However, the volume of material included on this release does not subtract from the listening experience. Rather, it makes for the most all-encompasing album from one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti contains many well known classic songs, like the epic 'Kashmir' and the up-tempo 'Trampled Under Foot', but it is probably treasured as much for several of its unreleased songs as for those big hits. Songs like 'The Rover' capture their well-known, heavy-riff, blues-inspired rock; while others like 'In The Light' showcase the best elements of their psychadelic rock sound. As you listen, each song sounds clearly different from the previous. You can't help but respect Led Zeppelin, as they not only make each song work, but make it memorable and lure you to crave more...

My top picks from this epic masterpiece:
-The Rover
-Houses of the Holy
-Trampled Under Foot
-In The Light
-Ten Years Gone
-Boogie With Stu

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jackie Bergjans of Strych9hollow proves she really plays guitar

Post #98

Here's a little preview of one of the hottest independent metal bands from the underground scene in St. Louis, MO. Before long I'll be posting a full review of their debut album, "Dying for a Dream". For now, enjoy this clip.

You can also sample some of their music at:

(They were also included in the 'myspace-bands readers poll' from last fall.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Five Finger Death Punch-War Is The Answer

Post #97
Here's a newer band I recently discovered thanks to my local library: Five Finger Death Punch. I had heard of this band before, from one or two songs on the radio, but never bothered to check out one of their albums until now. I think I may have shied away from them before because they have 'Death' in their name and I thought 'death-metal'. But I had heard their cover of Pantera's 'A New Level' on a free CD from Metal Hammer magazine and liked it, so when I was browsing through my library's AV section and saw their album, War Is The Answer, I decided to give it a listen. I am sure glad that I did!

These guys are a great metal band! The influence from Pantera is evident in their sound. At their most intense moments they could be categorized as 'hard-core' metal, but they incorporate a number of melodic elements, both in vocals and guitar-tone, enough that some of their songs could fit comfortably in the 'alternative' genre. War Is The Answer is this band's second album, and it proves to be a great headbanger's listening experience.

As soon as the first track began to play the immediate comparison I made in my mind was to Stone Sour. The guitar tones, bass drums, deep-growled vocals. Trust me, if you've enjoyed Stone Sour from one of my older posts, then you'll want to check out Five Finger Death Punch. Also in similar fashion to Stone Sour, 5FDP quickly throw in some clean melodies as the album plays on.

Their debut single, 'Hard to See', which I think I had heard once or twice on my local rock radio station, is a perfect example of the current hard rock/metal mainstream trend. Primarily melodic vocals are supported by a heavy groove maintained by the rhythm section, and a great tone is brought to the song by way of the lead guitar interspersed throughout.

This band is no one-trick-pony, as the styles of songs present on this album cover a wide spectrum from post-grunge acoustic ballad, to heavy instrumental, to heavy groove-metal thrasher. Not to be overlooked, they also include another cover song, Bad Company's namesake song, which they manage to make their own without much tampering of the song's original arrangement.

My top picks from Five Finger Death Punch's War Is The Answer (2009):
-Dying Breed
-Hard to See
-No One Gets Left Behind (perhaps the best anti-war metal song since Black Sabbath's War Pigs!)
-Far From Home (a surprisingly soft song for this band: acoustic guitar and strings arrangements give this one a very full sound)
-Canto 34 (an instrumental track, several good lead guitar solos and a melodic break at the end as it fades out)
-Bad Company (cover of the classic rock hit by the band of the same name, probably the biggest 'must-hear' on this album!)

Visit their website:

or hear some samples on myspace:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pantera: In Concert (w/ Special Guest Anthrax) From 1-14-98

Post #96 Poll Winner: 'Which concert should I review next?'
In January 1998, I planned to attend my 2nd heavy metal concert: Pantera!!! I had been a fan of Pantera since '94, when Far Beyond Driven became the first metal album to debut at #1 on the Billboard charts. A couple years later, while in college, I began attending rock concerts. Generally I would wait until one of my favorite bands would come around on tour, then see if some of my friends were interested in joining me (if they didn't invite me first).

Pantera had just released their first live album: Official Live: 101 Proof (100% Against the Grain American Metal). When they announced the tour in support of this live album, Anthrax was billed as the opening act. I was instantly hyped! I had also been a fan of Anthrax for several years. So here was the opportunity to see two huge thrash metal bands at once. I had to go!

Finding a few friends to go with was no problem. This was when Pantera's popularity was at it's peak, so I knew plenty of other fans. By the time the show date was approaching I had confirmed a few friends on campus were attending as well as a friend from another college who would meet us at the venue. Our plans were set for a promising night of Heavy Metal Mayhem! Little did we know the mayhem we were in for.

The day of the show came and our group hit the road for Peoria, IL to see Pantera. The weather forecast: freezing rain! Leaving a little ahead of schedule, we quickly encountered dangerously icy road conditions and were forced to drive at what seemed a snail's pace for most of our journey. Though we had departed with plenty of time to spare, I now wondered if we would even make the show on time...

Meanwhile, my friend from a different part of the state was facing the same problem. At one point he spun-out at high speed on the interstate, but luckily came to rest in a ditch unharmed. Determined to make the show as well, he eventually maneuvered his vehicle back onto the highway by driving it up & down the slopes of the ditch like it was a snowboard in a half-pipe until he had enough momentum to escape the ditch.

Once we arrived at the venue (remarkably, on time!) we exchanged our stories of the treacherous drive, then made our way inside, determined to make our troubles worth it. We found our section, took our seats, and waited for the show to begin. We had lower level tickets, and had a good view of the standing-room/floor area, as well as the stage to our left. The floor was about 1/4 filled and I began to wonder if the weather had kept some from attending this show. However, at one point a couple sneaky 1st level ticket holders made a mad-dash for the floor and jumped the barricade. This transformed into a mini-avalanche of people, as it became apparent there was not sufficient security to prevent the inundation. One of our party followed suit, but would return at some point later in the show, since we were also his ride home.

In a few minutes the house lights had gone down and the first opening act was announced. To our surprise there was a 3rd act on the bill, as the show was being kicked off by Sebastian Bach, former singer of Skid Row! He had released a new solo album recently at that point and played a couple tunes from it, but primarily used Skid Row songs to fill his set. At one point he mentioned the terrible weather, and how it wasn't enough to stop the rock n' roll show. I remember hearing a few songs from the Slave to the Grind album, including Riot Act & Mudkicker. He also covered the Kiss song, Parasite, but closed his set with the Skid Row anthem, Youth Gone Wild.

At this point the venue had pretty much filled up and the crowd was primed for Anthrax! Before long the stage was changed over and the backdrop revealed Anthrax's mascot, Not Man, driving a toy car. A few seconds later a blaring heavy chord rang out, making your head feel like it was vibrating from the inside. Then it repeated, and repeated again.... (chug-chug.... BLAAAARE, chug-chug.... ) and before you knew what had happened we were ALL CAUGHT IN A MOSH!

Anthrax gave us a great set of thrashers. Going back and forth between their material with Jon Bush from the albums Sound of White Noise and Stomp 442 (their newest at that point), and their classics from the Joey Belladonna era. I had been curious to hear how those older Anthrax tunes would sound with Jon Bush on vocals, and they were awesome! During a break between songs they made mention of the weather outside that evening and again gave the crowd credit for making the show happen. They closed their set with the anti-censorship anthem 'Startin' Up a Posse' followed by the rap-thrash crossover hit 'Bring the Noise'.

Before the headliners took the stage there was an interesting event that transpired as an introduction to the show. Suddenly ZZ Top's 'Tush' began to blare from the PA sound system. This was followed by a gigantic inflated penis that was tossed into the crowd. It was bopped about like the oddest concert body-surf episode I had ever witnessed. The crowd had a lot of fun with it, manipulating it in a variety of creative gestures as 'Tush' played through, then gave way to Pantera's own 'Good Friends & a Bottle of Pills' (still over the PA system; the band had yet to take the stage). Once the song finished, there was a silence of peaked anticipation that began to build...

Then it was was the best-saved-for-last. The most powerful metal band of the 90's! The original Cowboys From Hell: PANTERA! The crowd may have seemed moshed-out after the Anthrax set, but as soon as the heavy-as-hell riffs began to pump out of the amps, they got intensified once again. 'Mouth For War' was their opening number, and to hear that classic Pantera song kick off a live show was one of the best heavy metal concert experiences of my life.

PANTERA's set seemed to go on forever. It was heavy-metal bliss! This was Pantera in their prime. They played memorable songs from each of their four albums since Cowboys From Hell. It seemed they played every song I may have considered a favorite over the years. There were also a few that I may not have expected, but enjoyed all the same. Then, just when it seemed the show was over, they came back for an encore.

They teased us a bit by playing the opening riff of Black Sabbath's 'Symptom of the Universe', but instead went on to play 'Planet Caravan'. Lastly we were treated to 'Fucking Hostile' as the last song of the evening. I had an ecstatic feeling that fell over me as we began to head to the exits. A part of me knew I had just beheld a masterful performance by one of this generation's Guitar Gods in the person of Dimebag Darrell.

It is one thing to be a fan of a certain musician through their recorded music, but there's nothing to compare to the first time you see them perform live. There's an unspoken understanding that they're putting on a show for you as a fan while expressing a part of their own soul at the same time. Knowing they play the way they do because they were once the fan of another musician, the way you are now a fan of theirs. I had no way of knowing that this was to be the only show I would ever see Dimebag Darrell play.

This concert serves to remind myself that life should always be lived to the fullest. Every time I think back to it, or listen to songs that I heard played on that night, I step back to appreciate whatever it is I may be doing. Any of you reading this should do the same. If you're lucky enough to have tickets for a live show, remember it could always be a once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy it to the fullest extent possible! No matter if it's a local band in your hometown bar, or the Rolling Stones, it's always rock & roll. It's there for you and because of you.

Here's the set lists as best as I can recall:

Sebastian Bach
-Piece of Me
-Riot Act
-Slave to the Grind
-18 & Life
-Monkey Business
-Youth Gone Wild

-Caught in a Mosh
-Room for One More
-Among the Living/Indians (Played as a medley: they jumped straight into 'Indians' at one of the chorus breaks of 'Among the Living')
-Got the Time
-I Am the Law
-Startin' Up a Posse
-Bring the Noise

(played as intro)
ZZ Top-Tush
Pantera-Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills

-Mouth for War
-5 Minutes Alone
-Sandblasted Skin
-A New Level
-Suicide Note (pt 2)
-Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks
-This Love
-I'm Broken
-Cowboys From Hell (played with a riff from 'Cat Scratch Fever' thrown in!)

-Planet Caravan
-Fucking Hostile

Rest In Peace Dimebag!