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: