Sunday, December 30, 2012

HappyHeadbanger's Exit Interview with Michael Kirby of Mortal Wrath

Post # 225
As tradition continues for the 'Independent Band of the Year' contest for this blog, I try to give last year's winner a final interview before the torch is passed on to the new winner. So I took a few minutes to send some questions to last year's champion, Mortal Wrath. The band's guitarist/songwriter Michael Kirby sent me his responses during some down-time he had over the holidays recently. Here's what he had to say:

HappyHeadbanger: Every musician discovers their love for playing music in different ways. Who inspired you to play music?

Michael Kirby: My father-Dave Kirby, Steve Vai, Kiko Loureiro, and Rob Jarzombek.

HH: How did you meet and decide to form a band?
MK: I met my drummer in August of 2008, through a mutual friend. 20 minutes after our 1st jam I was on the phone to quit the other 2 bands I was in at the time, to the birth of Mortal Wrath!

HH: Where did the band's name come from? (I seem to recall the phrase 'Mortal Wrath' in a Dream Theater song I've heard recently...)
MK: The name did indeed come from a spoken passage from the Dream Theater song "Octavarium".

HH: What is your favorite song to perform live?
MK: Probably "Law Under Grace" or "The Single Projection"

HH: What is your favorite band(s)?
MK: Pagan's Mind and Dream Theater
HH: I've actually been on a big Dream Theater kick lately- playing a CDR I made of "The Twelve-Step Suite". Other favorite bands of mine: Megadeth, KISS, Black Sabbath.

HH: What is your favorite movie?
MK: Walk Hard!
HH: For me, I like thriller with a great twist: Se7en, Memento are a couple of my favorites.

HH: What is your favorite book?
MK: The Bhagavad Gita
HH: I'm always reading some kind of fiction. Really loved Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles (The Name Of The Wind and The Wise Man's Fear). Can't wait for the 3rd and final book: The Doors of Stone.

HH: How has 2012 been for you, and what's in store for 2013?
MK: In 2012 the band had taken a pause to take care of our families but still keeping our chops up in our home studios. Myself, I've been playing more guitar than ever; learning excessively with countless ideas in my memory bank for albums worth of new material. The summer of '12 was indeed fun on my land in the mountains 7 miles from town, Marshall amp outside, feeling the acoustics of raw amp slap back off the trees... Countless hours of outdoor jamming! Entering 2013 with a new frame of mind and a new musical approach I want to experiment with. Expect one hell of a band return this summer!!! Back to music-life...

HH: Thanks again, to Michael Kirby, for giving us that update on this past year. Although it is time to pass the title of Independent Band of the Year on to the new winner, Fist to the Sky, remember that I keep up with all past winners of this contest. And as soon as Mortal Wrath are ready to deliver new music, you can rest assured you'll hear about it here first!

And remember to follow them at their main website as well:

Happy Headbanging...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Wishes from Fist To The Sky, and the HappyHeadbanger

Post #224

Not long ago I received a holiday postcard from the new Independent Band of the Year, Fist To The Sky. I'd also like to take a moment to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year. Thank you again for all your support throughout another rockin' year of heavy metal appreciation. Keep following us in 2013!


The HappyHeadbanger

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Shop ROCK AMERICA this Holiday Season!

Post #223
As one final reminder, I want to mention that ROCK AMERICA have been an incredible sponsor for the 'Heavy Metal Madness 2012' contest that has been going on throughout 2012. One lucky winner of that contest will receive a $25 gift card to Rock America. In the meantime, they have tons of cool merch for the Heavy Metal music can on your holiday shopping list this year.

Here are just a few samples of what you can find at either of their locations at Gurnee Mills or Woodfield shopping centers in the north Chicago suburbs. I'll use the Final Four of Heavy Metal Madness as examples:





Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Congratulations FIST TO THE SKY!

Post #222
On Nov 30th, the polls for 'Independent Band of the Year' closed and Fist To The Sky became the new champion. Beginning on January 1st, they'll take over the side-bar link that's been occupied by Mortal Wrath for 2012. Fist To The Sky ran a successful campaign, recruiting their fans to vote them to the win. For a while the competition heated up when Indolent pulled ahead mid-way through the contest, but Fist To The Sky reclaimed the lead in the end.

I want to take a moment to thank all the bands who agreed to participate this year. Collectively they introduced to over 400 new fans. Thanks to this year's field of independent bands: Shield of Wings, Tetrarch, The Atrocities, BaleScream, In Serenity, Indolent, and of course FIST TO THE SKY.

Watch for frequent new content about Fist To The Sky; including reviews, interviews, announcements of upcoming shows, and breaking news of their forthcoming EP...

For now, you can check them out at their upcoming all-ages show, opening for Janus at Another Hole In The Wall in Steger, IL THIS SATURDAY, Decemeber 15th at 7pm. Tickets: $12 at the door. 9 bands performing! For more info click here

Congratulations again, Fist To The Sky! Looking forward to good things from you in 2013...

Happy Headbanging!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Heavy Metal Madness: Elite Eight Summary, Part 2

Post #221
On November 19th, the second half of the Elite Eight of Heavy Metal Madness 2012 came to a close, and the FINAL FOUR of this tournament have been determined.

The Classic Rock bracket had predictably come down to Black Sabbath (#1 seed) and Led Zeppelin (#2 seed). It was a very close race throughout the month, and the 2 bands swapped the lead several times. The final vote was 21-19 in favor of Led Zeppelin; a decision truly decided by a single voter's opinion, since Sabbath held the tie-breaker. If one person had changed their mind in favor of Black Sabbath, then they would have advanced instead.

In the Alternative/Grunge/Punk bracket, it was a more surprising Elite Eight showdown: Alice In Chains (#5 seed) vs Soundgarden (#7 seed). However this match was far less of a contest, as AIC dominated their fellow Seattle-ites 28-7. Alice In Chains ties System of a Down for the lowest-seeded band to reach the Final Four.

Once again, your FINAL FOUR are as follows:
METALLICA (#1 seed)
LED ZEPPELIN (#2 seed)
SYSTEM OF A DOWN (#5 seed)

Will top seeds dominate? Will chance favor the underdogs?!? We will find out by New Year's Eve! Vote for your top 2 of the Final Four. Voting is open until midnight, December 31st. So, cast your votes, share this site with your friends, and campaign one last time for YOUR favorite bands!

Now, the recommended songs for the bands now eliminated:

Black Sabbath-Black Sabbath

Soundgarden-Been Away Too Long

Friday, November 30, 2012

Approaching Dawn (A.D.)-Evolution of Reality (2012)

Post #220
It seems there is never a shortage of talented local metal bands in Chicagoland. Approaching Dawn (A.D.) are a new band from the far-northwest suburban area that are tearing things up as of late. A recent top-three contestant in the Eff'n Rock Radio battle-of-the-bands, they are out to make a name for themselves in the Chicago music scene and beyond.

Their self-produced debut album, Evolution Of Reality, is now available for purchase at A.D. hit you instantly with 100% aggressive metal on the lead track, '21st Century Darkside', and there's no letting up from there. Their style is a purist form of hard-edged thrash metal, very much akin to the likes of Lamb of God or DevilDriver. The tempo and riffs they employ are so tight you practically find yourself headbanging without noticing you had even started.

Vocalist Keroin Dawn emulates the style of Lamb of God's Randy Blythe, delivering lyrics with a rage held in perfect check. Though delivered with hardcore aggression, melody is not forgotten. Just when it seems the music is destined to be a one-dimensional riff loop, the band cuts to a melodic chorus. A.D.'s lyrics focus on themes that reflect on current times, and the struggles they provide. Whether the conflict is an internal struggle, or a venting rage at society's imperfections, you always feel the emotion behind the words.

There are a couple songs where A.D. take a few minutes to provide a melodic intro, before they return to their heavy, groove-driven formula. 'Copy of a Space', my favorite track, is one such song. Another is 'Madness Fable'. In any case, Evolution of Reality is a good collection of aggressive, riff and groove driven metal. Check it out on their Facebook Page and download it for yourself.

Recommended tracks:
-21st Century Darkside
-Evolution of Reality (This one has a breakdown riff that reminds of Pantera's classic 'A New Level')
-Victim Farm (Great guitar soling on this one!)
-Copy of a Space (Really cool intro. My favorite track!)
-Madness Fable (Another more melodic intro to a great, heavy song)
-Syndrome (Speedy, metalcore riffage here. Reminds me a bit of Bullet For My Vaneltine, or A7X)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Black Tide-Post-Mortem

Post #219
Black Tide have been on my radar since long before their first album, Light From Above, even hit the market. I was lucky to see them on Ozzfest 2011 as a main-stage opener, and count myself a huge fan ever since. You may recall from my review of their first album that I thought they were a very talented, young band that needed perhaps a bit more direction to their style. What direction that might be was anyone's guess.

With release of Post-Mortem, they give us more direction. Listening to this album I can tell these guys have been spending time on tour with bands like Bullet for My Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold, Escape the Fate, Seether, and All That Remains. In the vocal department, Black Tide embrace a harsher approach on many songs. Hardcore screams are much more prominent on this album compared to their debut. Bullet for My Valentine's Matt Tuck even appears as a guest vocalist on the song 'Ashes'. However, melodic singing has not vanished either. A melodic vocal style is present in every song to maintain the band's catchy style they were so known for on their debut.

Not to be overlooked, they also add a few ballads on this album. Sometimes these are like a modern power-ballad, like 'Fight 'Til the Bitter End'. Others, like 'Take it Easy' are simply a romantic melodic metal song. The closing number 'Into the Sky', although the softest offering on the album, is really about mourning the loss of a loved one. A touching way to close another solid effort by these young metal-heads.

In any case these softer songs add a much-needed sense of variety into the mix for this album. Combined with the harsher elements in the vocal style, this is practically an all-together new formula for this young band. As I mentioned earlier, they may have been under the influence of their recent tour-mates while writing this album. Black Tide's sound has become more trendy as a result. While they might adhere more succinctly to the melodic-metalcore genre with this album, it comes at the expense of some of the originality they displayed on their debut. As hard as it is to survive in the music industry these days, I give Black Tide props for finding a niche they seem well-suited for. Still, I hold to my belief that they have not yet reached their full potential. This is truly a band to watch closely over the next several years. They could linger in this comfort-zone for quite some time, but they are equally capable of giving us something new and different, or old-school and classic on their next album. Wherever they may go, it is certain that Black Tide are well on their way to becoming a significant metal band of the current generation.

For now, lets enjoy the highlights of Post-Mortem while we can. Here are my favorites:
-Ashes (Featuring Matt Tuck from Bullet For My Valentine)
-Bury Me
-Honest Eyes (My true favorite on this release. Cool guitar effects, heavy and catchy)
-Fight 'Til the Bitter End (A heavy ballad. This song is so catchy it would make a great Bullet For My Valentine song, but Black Tide wrote it first...)
-Walking Dead Man (The heaviest song on the album. They're really taking a page from some of their peers on this one!)
-Into the Sky

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Heavy Metal Madness: Elite Eight Summary, Pt.1

Post # 218
In Heavy Metal Madness 2012, the FINAL FOUR is just around the corner! Last month the first half of the Elite Eight was decided, and the second half is currently open for voting. Two more excellent bands were eliminated as two others punched their ticket to the Final Four...

The Classic Metal/Thrash bracket had come down to Metallica and Megadeth. Is it poetic, that Metallica- perhaps the most iconic band from the 80's thrash-metal scene, and Megadeth- the band founded by original Metallica guitarist, Dave Mustaine, clash once again for bragging rights in this tournament? It may have been a golden opportunity for payback for Megadeth, but it wasn't in the cards, at least not this year. Metallica won a decisive victory 20-15.

In the Hardcore/Metalcore bracket, a different story had unraveled, as many projected favorites had been slowly eliminated, sometimes by surprising upsets, as each round progressed to the next. It was down to Disturbed and System of a Down. Disturbed looked poised to make the Final Four, after eliminating a formidable opponent in Avenged Sevenfold. System of a Down had become something of a giant-killer, eliminating the likes of Korn and Tool by close margins. This time System of a Down pulled out a close match, again! Final vote tally: System of a Down 17, Disturbed 14.

Once again, I honor the fallen bands with a selected song from each...

Megadeth-Sweating Bullets

Disturbed-Inside the Fire

Keep voting! We'll who the next 2 bands to reach the Final Four will be next month...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

GIGANTOUR 2012: Lacuna Coil, Volbeat, Motorhead, Megadeth

Post # 217
On February 12, 2012, it was time to hit the road for another great rock n' roll/heavy metal show... Our destination this time: Milwaukee's Rave/Eagles Club for Megadeth's GIGANTOUR!

We were cutting it a little close for our arrival time, rushing into the venue as we heard music blaring already. Lacuna Coil had already taken the stage! We arrived in the actual music hall in time to catch most of their set. My favorite part of their set came between Fragile and Kill the Light, as Cristina looked up the the lighting tech-booth and said, "I think it's time we Kill the Light..." She likes making plays on the words of their song titles. I thought it was clever, and the song was awesome!

Lacuna Coil delivered an excellent set, culminating with their hit 'Spellbound' from their Shallow Life album a couple years ago. During the intermission, we edged our way in a little closer, and segments of the crowd shifted either for drinks or the rest rooms. We agreed to repeat this practice between each band through the evening to see how close we could get by the time Megadeth came on.

But next up was Volbeat! From Denmark, Volbeat are a metal band not quite like any other. They are heavy, sure, but they blend in a lot of old-school rock n' roll (almost the likes of Elvis Presley), resulting in a heavy, melodic, and catchy style of metal that's almost impossible not to dig. Currently they are getting a lot of air-play on hard rock radio with their hit 'A Warrior's Call'.

It may be no surprise, then, to hear that they opened with that very song. The opening lyric, "Let's get ready to rumble!!" almost made it feel like we were at a WWF event, but the music was much louder and heavier! Volbeat had it cranked up pretty loud, and their choice of songs displayed their versatility. Their softer side came across best on the tune 'Fallen', which has since become a frequent radio hit for them as well. Check that one out if you haven't... it's a great song!

Just as they were about to wrap things up, in the middle of their last song, they broke into the main riff from Slayer's 'Raining Blood'. So the crowd whipped back up into a true frenzy just as they closed their set. Now we were totally amped for Motorhead...

During the intermission, my buddy and I again crept slightly closer to the stage. Better view, more centrally located within the venue, alright!

Motorhead came out to the stage in a nonchalant sort of mood. Lemmy Kilmister simply walked up to the mic and asked if we were ready for some rock and roll. Then he let us have it, Motorhead were off and rolling... or perhaps rumbling is the better word. Drummer Mickey Dee was like a machine, driving the locomotor-sized engine of the rock'n'roll-meets-metal beast that is Motorhead. Their set was mostly composed of older songs that are fan-favorites, but they did play 'I Know How To Die' from their most recent album, The World Is Yours.

Lemmy was the classic business-like front man, keeping any intros between songs very short in favor of getting to the music quickly. The only down side may be that their set flew by pretty quickly, with the exception of Mickey's drum solo. They closed with two of their best-known songs, 'Ace of Spades' and 'Overkill' before leaving us to gather out breath for Megadeth...

Megadeth took the stage to near-deafening cheers. By this point we had secured a spot on the floor much closer to the stage. We braced for some furious thrash-metal... and once the drums started to thunder, indicating the beginning of the first song, 'Trust', we became engulfed in a throng of moshers. The mosh pit had started in earnest now, and we to a few minutes to fight our war into a spot to stand. Cramped and sweating with the raw energy, we locked in and pumped our fists to some of Megadeth's classics, like 'Hangar 18' and 'Wake Up Dead'.

Unlike the last time I saw Megadeth, back on American Carnage, this time they mixed up their set with several of their more melodic-metal songs. As the opportunity was here, Dave Mustaine invited Cristina Scabbia to join him to sing the duet-version of 'A Tout Le Monde'. The more obscure song 'Foreclosure of a Dream' was played as well. They also performed a string of 3 tracks from their new album 13 before closing with the encores 'Peace Sells' and 'Holy Wars'.

What an incredible night of metal mayhem!
The set lists for each band were...

Lacuna Coil
-Our Truth
-Kill the Light
-Trip The Darkness

-A Warrior's Call
-Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
-The Human Instrument
-Sad Man's Tongue
-Hallelujah Goat
-Who They Are
-The Mirror and the Ripper
-Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza
-Still Counting (Raining Blood)

-Damaged Case
-I Know How To Die
-Stay Clean
-Over The Top
-The Chase is Better Than the Catch
-The One to Sing the Blues
-Going to Brazil
-Killed by Death
-Ace of Spades

-Wake Up Dead
-A Tout Le Monde (w/ Cristina Scabbia)
-Hangar 18
-Foreclosure of a Dream
-Dawn Patrol
-Poison Was The Cure
-Head Crusher
-Public Enemy No.1
-Who's Life (Is It Anyway?)
-Guns, Drugs, and Money
-Symphony of Destruction
-Peace Sells
-Holy Wars... The Punishment Due

Monday, October 15, 2012

'Independent Band of the Year' Reader's Poll 2012!

Post #216
It is time once again for the most anticipated reader's poll of the year! The contest where YOU decide which independent rock-or-metal band will become the next 'Honorary Vice President' of this blog, and reap the benefits of that title; including music reviews, interviews, event promotions, and possible live show reviews. Once again I have gathered a very talented set of seven unsigned, independent hard rock/heavy metal bands from across the country and around the world to compete for your votes.

This year's contestants are...

Fist To The Sky (Chicago, IL)
(Melodic Metal)
A thrash-inspired, melodic-metal band from the Chicago music scene. It is easy to hear the influence of artists like Avenged Sevenfold and Metallica in their sound. Winning a couple battle-of-the-bands contests recently, these guys are on the rise...
Check out 'Down Into Hell' or 'Another Lesson Learned' on their facebook page:

Indolent (McHenry, IL)
(Classic Metal/Thrash)
This band provides a good shot-in-the-arm of metal's timeless core elements: shredding riffs, classic guitar solos, dominant vocals and good 'ole aggression. When asked about their influences, they simply say 'the greats...'
Check out 'Undone' or 'Left Behind' or on their facebook page:

The Atrocities (Kenosha, WI)
This punk/metal/ska quartet from the remote suburban sprawl between Chicago and Milwaukee brings cutting-edge and confrontational lyrics into play with a classic hardcore-punk rock sound. Bringing anti-racist and anti-sexist messages to their growing fan-base is their mission.
Check out 'Martyrdom Superstardom' or 'Comfortable When Dead' on their facebook page:

Shield Of Wings (Chicago, IL)
(Symphonic Metal)
Ever hear of Nightwish? Epica? Well, they better watch out for Shield of Wings! Soaring, operatic female vocals, tempered with occasional death-metal backing vocals, this band truly knows how to fuse the beautiful  elements of metal with the brutal ones!
Check out 'Solarium' or 'Carnival Mirror' on their facebook page:

Tetrarch (Atlanta, GA)
This band can shred with the best of them! Furious tempos, heavy riffs, a blend of hardcore and melodic vocals. Imagine the riffs of Trivium with the vocals of Bullet For My Valentine. Your bones will resonate!
Check out 'We Are The Hunters' or 'The Will to Fight' on their facebook page:

In Serenity (St. Louis, MO)
(Female-Fronted Metalcore)
This band incorporates technical guitar work and keyboards along with a mix of melodic and hardcore vocal elements to get their signature sound. Picture the best parts of In This Moment and Halestorm, fused at the core perhaps...
Check out 'Ghost Town' or 'Blackheart' on their facebook page:

BaleScream (Newcastle, Australia)
(Melodic Death/Hardcore/Thrash)
These guys may be the heaviest contestant this year. A thrashy, melodic death-metal band from down-under... That's right, I'm featuring an independent band from Australia for the first time! Bone-crushing riffs and aggressive vocals galore!
Check out 'Kusanagi' or 'Cyclonic Terror' on their facebook page:

So there you have it! This year's field of contestants. Check out each one, and vote for your favorite in this month's reader's poll.

Good luck to all the bands. May the best band win!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

None The Wiser: 2 Years of Sutured Psyche!

Post #215
On January 28th, 2012, Sutured Psyche returned to the Elbo Room, in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood to celebrate their 2 year anniversary as a band... This show was a special occasion as they chose to invite their fans to bring their own video-recording devices to film the show for a DVD. I took advantage of this opportunity, and filmed my own video that I contributed to their archive for this project. As luck would have it, I was one of very few who managed to capture the full show before running out of storage space or batteries (I barely made it on battery life!)

To be sure, film or no film, Sutured Psyche put on an excellent show! They knew tonight was their night and played with as much fervor as ever...

The show was typical balls-to-the-wall energy on display for Sutured Psyche. Their regular following has probably grown accustomed to their style of play over the last 2 years, but for the occasional new member of the audience catching their show for the first time, it's sure to win some new converts to Bastard Nation (the band's pet-name for their faithful following.) Those in the front row were likely to receive a sprinkling of hard fought sweat from cheesecake (, I mean guitarist!), Ryan Reilly.

The band delivered a great set, featuring several songs from their 6-track EP Bastard Nation, some older original songs of theirs, and a couple newer ones. They even pulled out a cover of 'I Ran' by 80's pop-rockers Flock of Seagulls. The crowd loved every minute of it. By the end of the night, footage had been saved on several hand-held electronic devices, and arrangements were made to get them to the band.

True to his word, band spokesman/guitarist Ryan Reilly gathered all the contributed video clips of the show, and mixed them with the master audio from the show, and has delivered a Live DVD/CD combo pack that is available to all their fans and Bastard Nation at large. It is a really sweet package, too! Not only does it contain a DVD of the full concert, and an audio CD of the set, but Ryan went the extra mile and threw in a ton of extra features. (one might say he ran... he ran all night and day... etc...)

The first treat is the opening track: an animated video of their song 'The Leap' (quite appreciated by die-hard fans, as this song was not performed as part of the live show!). Following the concert footage, there are some documentary-style Bastard-Grams. These were the band's special way of promoting the release of their EP, as they hand-delivered them, along with a message, upon request for any number of occasions.

Some highlights from the show itself:
Crecy. The opening number features an extended bass-guitar intro. Great tone-setter as the band eases into their groove.

Belbo's Stomp. This song sees Sutured Psyche get some of their aggression out. Band members are jumping around the stage, playing off each other's energy. Some of the fans get into the spirit too, as some creative camerawork comes into play. At one point during this song, the camera slowly inverts, so that it seems Dr. Piamon is screaming at you from the ceiling!

Steven. As Adrian Mann joins the band midway through the show, initially disguised as 'Dirk Dastardly'. Immediately before the song starts he says to the audience: "My Brothers, let us play the music of our people." All things considered, this moment seems to sum up the crux of Sutured Psyche and their beloved Bastard Nation... A camaraderie shared through the emotion of the music and lyrics of this band. You feel that Sutured Psyche has a tribal quality to it, and you feel a part of that tribe. The song they proceeded to play was 'Steven', a fan-favorite and one of the band's best known songs. It is a melodic number at the start, and cycles between heavy segments and melodic phrases throughout. The memorable, Shakespearean line of the chorus: 'I demand... I demand my pound of flesh from you.'

Codependent. This song has remained a 'classic' in the eyes of fans. A demo of it was made in the band's early days, but it didn't make the cut for inclusion on their EP (to the dismay of some fans). Well, there is some redemption for it now, since there is now this live version of the song. The band really delivers on this number, perhaps the best performance of the night!

I Ran. The Flock of Seagulls cover. The crowd reaction to this one says it all. Just watch the DVD, or listen to the CD. This was all of Bastard Nation letting loose and havin' a good time! William breaks into an ad-lib salutation to the audience and their faithful support towards the end.

Check out today, and get your copy!

Complete Set List from the show is as follows:
-Ma Gavte La Nata
-Belbo's Stomp
-I Ran
-Trickster, Part 1

Monday, October 1, 2012

Heavy Metal Madness: Sweet Sixteen Summary, Part 2

Post #214
Last month's set of readers polls saw the elimination of 4 more bands in this year's one-of-a-kind tournament. And 4 other bands got ever closer to the coveted title of 'Best Band of All Time' (at least for this blog). Without you making your opinions known with your votes, this blog would just be me picking my favorites all the time, so THANK YOU!

Before I break down all the details, let me say that last month's results were not without controversy! For the first time in this tournament, I had to invoke the tie-breaker rules I laid out in post #166 last October. In that post I stated that in the event of a tie, if the contest has not reached the Final Four, the band with the higher seed within their bracket advances. For the first time, one of the polls last month ended in a tie: Soundgarden and Foo Fighters both gathered 20 votes. Therefor Soundgarden (#7 seed) advanced over Foo Fighters (#11 seed). My apologies to all the Foo Fighters Fans out there who voted, but rules are rules. Next time, remember to get more of your friends to vote, and maybe we can avoid ties in the future? The last thing I'll say on this issue: Voting in the polls is pretty. Voting in the polls is good. All that the Foos needed was one more vote. This is a call to all my past blog-poll voters- come back, vote again, and spread the word!

Now, for the rest of last month's results:
In the Classic Rock bracket, Black Sabbath beat Kiss 33-8. Led Zeppelin beat AC/DC 28-13.
While in the Alternative/Grunge bracket, Alice In Chains upset Nirvana 22-19, and Soundgarden... well, I already told you how they got past Foo Fighters.

Lastly, my recommended songs for those bands now eliminated:
Kiss-War Machine

AC/DC-Hells Bells

Nirvana-All Apologies

Foo Fighters-This Is a Call

...Until the next tournament update, keep voting, and happy headbanging!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Megadeth- Th1rt3en

Post #213
Megadeth. In all practicality, they are perhaps my favorite metal band. They are certainly one of the bands I review most frequently, if you've been following this blog, and with their newest release, Th1rt3en, they give me 13 more reasons to affirm that opinion. In fact, I've probably been playing this album more thoroughly than I've played any Megadeth album since Rust In Peace. If you've been reading my Megadeth posts since the inception of this blog, then you know that's saying a lot!
Th1rt3en is an album that maintains a balance of rhythmic and melodic elements like the band used to do back in the mid 90's. One reason for this familiar vibe is that a couple of the songs were actually written back in that era, but never were selected for an album until now. Die-hard Megadeth fans will recognize these songs since they have appeared as bonus tracks on the Megadeth remasters as 'previously unreleased demos'.

In spite of the fact that almost a fourth of this album's songs were refined from previous demos or B-sides, the way they're interspersed amongst the new material yields an impressive final product. Several of the new songs fit in well with Megadeth's recent work, as Dave Mustaine keeps his unyielding attitude and politically critical tongue focused on more current events. This time around, Dave seems to get this out of his system relatively quickly, as most of these politically-themed songs appear on the first half of the record. Other songs are based on more neutral themes you can bang your head to, even if you haven't been reading the headlines. In both cases, the songs are driven by powerful and intricate riffs; ranging from slow, methodical classic-metal to the ripping and shredding of traditional thrash.

Th1rt3en sees Megadeth literally fusing pieces of their past with the present. This fact is also relevant in the band's line-up, as former bassist David Ellefson returned to Megadeth prior to recording this album. Some of those songs that are reworked demos even list former band members Marty Friedman and Nick Menza as co-writers. However, I shouldn't take away any credit from the newer members: guitarist Chris Broderick, and drummer Shaun Drover, who both execute this collection of technical thrash metal with the utmost perfection that Megadeth have become known for.

Now comes the hard part: picking songs to recommend from Th1rt3en, and narrowing it down to the best of the best... I must reiterate: this is probably the best album Megadeth have done since Rust In Peace. It simply keeps growing on me each time I listen to it. It'll be hard not to recommend the whole album, but still, I will try. Be prepared for a long list...

-Sudden Death (OK, originally this song appeared in the Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock game. Dave said he wanted to write a song that "Challenged the limits of guitar-playing." Fast riffs and furious soloing ensues...)
-Public Enemy No. 1 (My first taste of this song was when Megadeth played it live at Mayhem Fest, before the album's release. It's been a favorite of mine ever since.)
-Never Dead
-New World Order (This one was previously available as a demo/bonus track on the remastered version of Youthanasia. It has one of those unique riffs that Mustaine is known for. Great, heavy tune.)
-Fast Lane (You might guess, with the word 'Fast' being in the title, that this is one of the faster selections from this album. You would be correct! A true highlight.)
-Black Swan (Another song that had already been out there... as a 'pre-order' bonus track on United Abominations. Here it becomes available to everyone, and it deserves high marks. Catchy, killer riffs and lead guitars.)
-Millennium of the Blind (Again, a previous version of this song was on the remastered Youthanasia, but it was only half as long, and didn't contain most of the lyrics found here in this 'complete' version. Dave has truly polished this one into a fine gem of melodic heavy metal!)
-13 (Like he once did with the song 'Victory', back in '94, Dave again gives us an auto-biographic song. This one sets a new standard. More melodic in parts, but at the same time dark and heavy.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cinderella, with Sebastian Bach (7-27-12)

Post # 212
Cinderella were one of those 'Hair Bands' that were really big for a short stretch of time, and it happened to be around the time I was getting into music for the first time. Long Cold Winter was their second full-length album, and featured several hit songs when I was just getting into rock and metal music. I saw the videos for 'The Last Mile', 'Coming Home', or 'Gypsy Road' on MTV almost every day. I collected their cassettes Night Songs and Long Cold Winter rather quickly. Suffice to say, Cinderella were a regular listening experience for me for a few years between 1989 and 1991.

After their 3rd album, Heartbreak Station came out, the band began to run into a few problems. There was the issue of the 'Hair/Glam' metal scene losing it's popularity, which affected many of the 'Hair Bands', but even more detrimental and serious was vocalist Tom Keifer's vocal paralysis. He lost his voice to such a degree it required several surgeries to repair. At this point I thought my chances to ever see him perform live with Cinderella might be gone forever. But Tom fought through it all, went through some therapy to learn how to sing again, and in recent years Cinderella have been touring again. This show was my first Cinderella concert. It's been a long time coming, and hopefully it will not be the last!

The first opener was Chicago's own Hessler. As chance would have it, I had seen them not long ago, also opening for Bach. This time I went along with a friend from Chicago. We were looking forward to a good show...

Unfortunately, Hessler were already in the middle of their set when we arrived, but the songs I heard were more familiar this time around. We got there just in time for them to play 'Shark Attack', already a favorite of mine. They incorporated synchronized  headbanging as part of their performance of this song, and Igz Kincaid rocks his shark-bodied guitar. Just like before, they were energetic on the stage. More than just playing their songs, they look to put on a good show. They closed their set with the Chicago-crowd pleasing 'Windy City Wild Child'.

After a few minutes, where we had a chance to chat with some friends from Deadmanswake whom we bumped into between sets. It was nice to catch up and discuss music for a bit, but then it was time to track down some drinks and get ready for Sebastian Bach...

He wasted no time getting straight to the metal as he opened with the thrasher 'Slave to the Grind'. The friend I brought along was also a big Skid Row fan, and we were enjoying this part of the show all the more. Overall, I found his set list to be very similar to when I saw him several months ago, but a bit shorter. Understandable, since this time he wasn't the headliner, but still, I would have liked at least one or two songs I hadn't heard before. Nonetheless, he put on a killer performance of the songs he did play. The only hitch was where he stopped the show to kick a guy out from the crowd (again, just like last time!) My other friends who were closer to the action said the guy was directing rude gestures toward Sebastian Bach, and he apparently was not going to take that.

The show went on, and he played all the classic Skid Row stuff ('18 and Life', 'I Remember You', 'Youth Gone Wild'), plus a few songs from his 2 recent releases Angel Down and Kicking and Screaming. Like I said, it was a great performance from Bach. His voice is every bit as good as it ever was. One of the best vocalists from the 'Hair Metal' era, bar none!

Then we mingled during the intermission while the stage was prepared for Cinderella...

When Cinderella took the stage it felt like years were rolled back. 20 years after the last time I bought one of their albums, and I was finally seeing them live! They opened up with an older, heavy song- 'Once Around the Ride'. After a couple songs form the Night Songs album, they mixed it up with a little blues, playing 'Heartbreak Station'. They played a bunch of songs from their first two albums for the majority of the show. Mainly, I was relieved to hear that Tom Keifer's voice was still there- almost as good as I remember from my CDs.

He proved he was a versatile musician as well, playing electric and acoustic guitars, piano, and even saxophone at different stages of the show. I really hope he can continue performing for many years to come. It was a nice bit of nostalgia, but if Cinderella get around to making new music again, I'll be first in line to hear it!

Here are the set lists from the various performers:

Setlist HESSLER:
-Waste Away
-Who Will You Run To
-Rising Sign
-Shark Attack
-Last Alive
-Windy City Wild Child

-Slave to the Grind
-Kickin' and Screamin'
-Dirty Power
-Here I Am
-Big Guns
-Stuck Inside
-Piece of Me
-18 and Life
-American Metalhead
-Monkey Business
-I Remember You
-Youth Gone Wild

-Once Around The Ride
-Shake Me
-Heartbreak Station
-Somebody Save Me
-Night Songs
-The More Things Change
-Comin' Home
-Second Wind
-Don't Know What You Got (Til It's Gone)
-Nobody's Fool
-Gypsy Road
-Long Cold Winter
-Shelter Me

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Heavy Metal Madness: Sweet Sixteen Summary, Part 1

Post #211

In mid-August, another round of polling closed and your votes have determined who won and who lost in the first half of the Sweet Sixteen of Heavy Metal Madness! It was exciting to see the results unfold, as once again there were upsets, and close matches that came down to the last couple votes on the last day of polling.

In the Classic Metal/Thrash Block:
and MEGADETH came from behind to beat JUDAS PRIEST 27-25.

While in the Hardcore/Metalcore Block:
TOOL failed to hang onto their lead in the last day of voting as they lost to SYSTEM OF A DOWN 23-26,
and DISTURBED pulled a dominating upset against AVENGED SEVENFOLD 26-18!

Don't miss your chance to vote in the next round!

Now, the recommended songs for those bands now eliminated:

Iron Maiden-2 Minutes To Midnight

Judas Priest-Painkiller


Avenged Sevenfold-Welcome to the Family

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Books that Rock: Drinking with Strangers

Post # 210
Butch Walker-Drinking With Strangers: Music Lessons From a Teenage Bullet Belt
When I received a copy of this book, I had not heard anything about it, nor did I know who Butch Walker even was. I read the back cover and found out he's a songwriter/produced for pop artists like Pink and Katy Perry, to which I said 'ho-hum, maybe I'll get to this book a little later...'. When I finally cracked the book open, the dedication caught my eye right away: "... I dedicate this book to Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley." Now, I was MUCH more curious to read this book. Anyone who would dedicate their book to the 4 original members of KISS had already won me over in part by simply being a kindred spirit of the KISS Army ilk. So now I began to read, wondering what the life-story behind this Butch Walker guy was like. I already wished I hadn't waited so long to read this book...

Turns out that Butch Walker was much more of a rocker and metal-head in his past. Like myself, he grew up as part of a generation and culture (small-town America), where the only way to get into music was through listening to the radio and watching MTV music videos (which USED to be on-air daily during prime-time and those couple extra hours between getting home from school and 'uh-oh, Mom and Dad are home!'). His love for rock music grew into the desire to play and write music, and later he yearned to 'make it!' in the music industry.

With mixed blessings and curses, Butch persistently pursued his dream to make it in the music scene. He had a couple not-quite successful bands; the first being the 'hair-band' Southgang, the next was the 'number-band' Marvelous 3. Though neither of these bands led to lasting success, neither did they trap him in America's memory, forever tagged to a passing trend in music. Is his book he describes this as 'Falling backwards up the ladder of success.' A fitting analogy, as each endeavor brought small degrees of larger success.

For Butch Walker, this was a long, slow, and far from steady rise. While he may have had shady record deals, or botched tour promotion strategies, he always seemed to learn from his experiences. Personal hardships have played a role is some of his major set-backs, but he shows remarkable resilience to keep working at his craft through thick and thin. He does not come across as an ego-maniacal Hollywood celeb, but rather a home-town guy you can identify with as he tells his tale.

Whether it's recounting 'dead-dog-sledding' while on tour in China, catching helicopter rides in Hollywood backyards, watching people country line-dancing to Nine Inch Nails, or meeting guitar-god Yngwie Malmsteen years after his heyday, Drinking With Strangers is sure to prove an entertaining read. Some parts of this book are so funny you'd think they were thought up by the likes of some humorous writer, like Christopher Moore. However it's actually non-fiction, hard as it may be to believe at times. As Butch himself reiterates many times, he couldn't make this stuff up if he tried!

Over the years, as he has matured, Butch has learned several valuable lessons from his experiences- both positive and negative, in the music industry. Butch Walker truly has developed a musician's broad appreciation for several genres of music and a personal drive to create music from the heart that has true meaning and doesn't depend on mindless promotion and marketing. His purpose in writing this biography seems to be as a guide for those interested in a career in music. He is putting his experiences out there for others to learn from.

Check out this book, and see how Butch has gotten to where he is. It may prove invaluable to future aspiring musicians.

Lastly, feel free to enjoy this promo clip of the book, including Butch Walker's parody of the 'Reading Rainbow' commercial theme-song:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shop Rock America! (Dark Horses in Heavy Metal Madness)

Post # 209

Hello heavy metal fans! I wanted to take a minute here, while there are still a couple days left to vote in the first half of the Sweet Sixteen of Heavy Metal Madness to remind you that Rock America is a sponsor of this contest. There is a gift card prize for the entry that finishes first in the poll, so let me remind you to keep voting! Even if your favorite picks are eliminated, some of your next-best choices could sway the final results one way or another.

As a way of thanks to Rock America, I will again recommend some of their merchandise from bands in this tournament. This time I've decided to select products from the lowest remaining seeds from each quadrant of the bracket- the Dark Horses in this race. These are the lowest ranked bands that still have a shot at being crowned 'Best Rock/Metal Band Ever'! (Based on popular vote... that means YOU!)

From the Classic Metal/Thrash Block: #7 seed-JUDAS PRIEST

From the Metalcore/Hardcore Block: #5 seed-SYSTEM OF A DOWN

From the Classic Rock/Hair Metal Block: #5 seed KISS

and From the Alternative/Grunge Block: #11 seed FOO FIGHTERS

I hope everybody can find something at Rock America that fits their interest. As a reminder, they are located at Gurnee Mills, and Woodfield shopping malls in the Chicago suburbs. Stop by and check them out today!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Heavy Metal Madness: Second Round Summary, part 2!

Post #208
Back on July 20th, the Heavy Metal Madness 2012 Tournament officially reached the 'Sweet Sixteen', as 8 more bands were eliminated as the second round polls closed. The results for last month's voting were as follows...

Megadeth beat Motorhead 25-11,
Judas Priest upset the #2 seed Slayer 21-14,

Nirvana beat Rob Zombie 21-15,
Alice In Chains dominated Lacuna Coil 30-7,

AC/DC beat Queen 23-14,
Led Zeppelin edged out a close match with Ozzy Osbourne 20-17,

Tool came from behind to beat Bullet for My Valentine 23-12,
and System of a Down won a close match with Korn 18-15.

With these results in the bag, it is now on to the Sweet Sixteen! The first half of this round is now open for voting through August 19th. Cast your votes in the right hand column before then. >>>>>>>>

Now let's reflect a moment on the bands who were just eliminated. Here's a recommended song from each of them:


Slayer-South of Heaven

Rob Zombie-American Witch

Lacuna Coil-Trip the Darkness

Queen-Bohemian Rhapsody

Ozzy Osbourne-No More Tears

Bullet for My Valentine-Scream, Aim, Fire

Korn-Another Brick in the Wall

Until the next round summary... Happy Headbanging!

Remember to keep voting....

Friday, August 3, 2012

MAIDEN ENGLAND TOUR 2012: Iron Maiden celebrate '7th Son' anniversary on tour with Alice Cooper

Post #207
(Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper concert review from 7-5-12 at the First Midwest Bank Ampitheater in Tinley Park, IL.)

In regards to Iron Maiden's music, I was late to discover them. 1995 was the first time I actually started to buy some of their albums on CD. Although The X Factor was the newest release at the time, the first studio album I collected was Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. That album was the one that planted the seed of Iron Maiden fandom in me, and I have always enjoyed listening to it. Many songs were instant favorites of mine, while others grew on me over the years.

Seventh Son was Iron Maiden's first 'concept album', and it told an intriguing tale of prophecy, fate, psychic power, corruption, and the classic struggle between good and evil. It is based on the mythology that a seventh son of a seventh son would be born with great psychic powers. When writing music for this album, Iron Maiden's bassist Steve Harris was inspired by Orson Scott Card's novel Seventh Son, which deals with the same concept.

Why all this talk about Seventh Son? Because on the Maiden England tour, Maiden decided to pay tribute to this album; resurrecting or re-inventing many of the stage sets, props, and imagery from the Seventh Son tour. They played a set list that also focused primarily on songs from that tour and the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album, making for the most unique and memorable 'nostalgia tour' I've seen yet!

Not to be overlooked, Alice Cooper was the opening act, and he also filled his stage show with some of his classic props, accessories, and role-playing to interpret many of the lyrics. Always a theatrical rock performer, Alice Cooper made a perfect pairing with Iron Maiden on this exciting night of classic heavy metal.

As the sun was beginning to set, and the crowd was buzzing in the early July heat, the stage became the focal point as sound began to roll out of the speakers. However there were no guitars or drums... yet. The sound that welcomed us to this night of gruesome and theatrical heavy metal was a snippet of spoken dialog. It was taken form Alice's 'Welcome to My Nightmare' album, and it proved to be the intro to 'The Black Widow'.

Now, 'The Black Widow' was a pretty obscure track to kick of a show, and I was loving it, but then it got even better. As Alice began to sing, he raised his arms to reveal he actually had 8 arms! (Actually, it was 6 prop-arms, but they were strung like a marionette's arms so that their movements synchronized with Alice's real arms.) What a cool stage-effect to start the show! Next song was the title-track from the Brutal Planet album, perhaps the heaviest song Alice has ever recorded. It seemed he was hand-picking songs for a metal audience tonight.

Alice proceeded to offer a variety of his best-known hits from the 70's, 80's, and 90's. A memorable moment came when he performed 'No More Mr. Nice Guy' with a live boa constrictor 'round his neck, and for proper context, he change a line to 'My snake bit me on the leg today...' There was also a giant Frankenstein's Monster that came out on stage during 'Feed My Frankenstein'. There was a spotlight guitar solo, featuring Orianthi, who now plays lead guitar in Alice's band. She was phenomenal, but that's to be expected from a prodigy such as she.

The most shocking portion of Alice's show, both for song selection, and theatrics, was when he played 'Wicked Young Man'- a song with lyrics that deal with the psychological mind-set of school shootings. As the antagonist of the song, Alice was apprehended by 3 skeletal figures at the end of the song, placed in a guillotine, and decapitated! While this transpired, the band faded into the song 'I Love the Dead'.

When Alice returned to the stage a few minutes later, it was to perform the anthem 'School's Out'. It got the crowd going again, and back into the spirit of rock n' roll, rebellion, and empowerment. The band even gave the song a unique twist, as they shifted gears and played a refrain from Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall Part 2' in the middle of the song. All-in-all it was a fantastic set, and Iron Maiden was still to come...

Once the stage was changed over, and the anticipation was again becoming tangible, the UFO classic 'Doctor Doctor' began to play over the PA; the tell-tale sign that Maiden were nearly ready to hit the stage...

"Seven deadly sins, seven ways to win. Seven holy paths to hell and your trip begins..."
The spoken intro of Iron Maiden's classic album washed over a hushed crowd. The same crowd soon began to invigorate as the tempo and energy of 'Moonchild' soon reached full speed. While the band was firing on all cylinders, Bruce made his energetic entrance, running to center stage right as he started singing the first lyrics of the song. Iron Maiden were off and running (literally in Bruce's case), and we were in for a truly special night of epic heavy metal!

'Can I Play with Madness' was the next song, another selection from Seventh Son, and I was again being taken back in my mind to the first time I heard Iron Maiden's music. This song has always been one of my favorites! After that, the set-list slipped into a collection of songs mainly focusing on pre-Seventh Son-era material, with the exception of 'Afraid to Shoot Strangers' from Fear of the Dark. I was into this show like no other. I was living in the moment, even if that moment was 25 years ago. I felt like I was getting a rare opportunity to hear what Maiden were like back in the days before I had even become a fan of theirs. This was an opportunity you don't get with every band you see these days. Maiden were giving me that chance.

Some lesser played songs like 'The Prisoner' and 'Phantom of the Opera' were dusted off and played to perfection. Other classics like 'The Trooper' and '2 Minutes to Midnight' were simply too good to be omitted, and though the band has probably played them thousands of times, they still played them with enthusiasm and 110% effort. Sure, I was lucky enough to have seen Iron Maiden 2 summers ago, but there were people in the audience seeing this band for the first time, and they would not be let down! True to form, Bruce carried a battle-tattered Union Jack flag during the aforementioned 'The Trooper'. At one point he dangled the flag back and forth over guitarist Janick Gers' head during his guitar solo.

This was already an excellent show, but for me it was about to get even better. The stage lighting dimmed, parts of the stage-set shifted around, and a huge pipe-organ was raised of the right side of the stage as the song I had been looking forward to hearing live for 25 years began to play: 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son'. This song, which tells most of the story behind the concept album, is over 9 minutes long. It is hard to fit such a long song into a set list when you could probably play 2 other songs in its place. Hence its perpetual absence from live shows since the first time Iron Maiden toured in support of Seventh Son...

But tonight was the exception to the rule. On a tour designed to revisit this specific album, the title track became the centerpiece of the concert. 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' is a progressive metal masterpiece, often overlooked in favor of other progressive songs Maiden have written over the years. 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' comes to mind as perhaps the 'Critics' Choice' among Iron Maiden's collection of 'epic' songs. However, the way 'Seventh Son...' ties together the story line for a concept album makes it well worth exhibiting live in concert. What made the experience even more memorable was the giant Eddie, designed after the Seventh Son album cover, complete with the unborn 'Seventh Son', struggling within the placenta during the performance.
The next song was also from Seventh Son: 'The Clairvoyant'. This is another personal favorite, and my appreciation for hearing so many tracks from this classic album was beyond measure. I may have missed the last couple 'nostalgia' tours from Iron Maiden, where they've revisited other 'classic' tours from their past, but I'm so glad I caught this one. In many ways, it has brought my Iron Maiden listening experience full-circle.

The band's performance was top-notch throughout the entire concert. Weather they were playing the vintage classics, the deep tracks, or some fan-favorites, they performed them with near perfect precision. The current 3-guitarist line-up of Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers is always a treat to behold, and on this night they brought new life to a previously dormant section of Iron Maiden's classic past. They also played 'Fear of the Dark' as another post-Seventh Son fan favorite. They closed the main set with the song 'Iron Maiden', but as one would expect, they returned for an encore- which included 'The Evil That Men Do', as one last track from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

"Seven are your burning fires... Seven your desires."

-The Black Widow
-Brutal Planet
-I'm 18
-No More Mr. Nice Guy (with Boa Constrictor)
-Hey Stoopid
-Orianthi Guitar Solo
-Billion Dollar Babies
-Feed My Frankenstein
-Wicked Young Man
-I Love the Dead
-School's Out

-Can I Play With Madness
-The Prisoner
-2 Minutes to Midnight
-Afraid to Shoot Strangers
-The Trooper
-The Number of the Beast
-Phantom of the Opera
-Run to the Hills
-Wasted Years
-Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
-The Clairvoyant
-Fear of the Dark
-Iron Maiden
-Aces High
-The Evil That Men Do
-Running Free

(Photos courtesy of JP Soule of DEADMANSWAKE)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Judas Priest: The 70's

Post #206
It is clear that heavy metal music has its roots in the late-60's and early-70's. However, it is truly the 70's where the course of metal music as a genre found its footing and began to branch down different paths of development. One of the most crucial bands in establishing metal's stronghold is Judas Priest. They had two very talented guitarists in KK Downing and Glen Tipton, but even more significant was their one-of-a-kind vocalist- Rob Halford. Halford had a vocal range of about 4 octaves, which is among the widest vocal ranges in metal music. Very early in their career, Judas Priest began making the most of these coveted talents, and helped launch a new era for the heavy metal genre which is still going strong today.

Priest released their debut album, Rocka Rolla, in 1974. Compared to most of the rest of their albums, this one is a little rough around the edges. Perhaps a bit before Priest would truly find their signature sound, this is still an interesting recording. Here you'll find a band existing somewhere between psychedelic rock and the heavy-blues rock from which metal would soon sprout.

My top picks from Rocka Rolla:
-One for the Road
-Rocka Rolla
-Cheater (on the compact disc this is part of medley also featuring- Winter, Deep Freeze, and Winter Retreat)
-Diamonds and Rust (an early version of their Joan Baez cover that would also appear on the Sin After Sin album a few years later, this song was added as a bonus track after remastering in the 80's)

With their second album in '76, Priest delivered a true classic. Sad Wings of Destiny still stands the test of time as a crucial album in the early landscape of heavy metal. No less than 4 tracks from this album have become concert set-list favorites over the years: 'Victim of Changes', 'The Ripper', 'Tyrant' and 'Genocide'. This is the album where Judas Priest really began to find their signature sound.

Sad Wings of Destiny is more than a keystone album for Judas Priest, it has been a major influence to the entire heavy metal genre since its release. Many of today's prominent metal bands still refer to Sad Wings when recounting the days when they discovered a love for heavy music. Particularly thrash metal owes a great deal to this album, for it's where many of the key elements of thrash were first revealed.

My picks from Sad Wings...
-Victim of Changes
-The Ripper
-Island of Domination

1977's Sin After Sin was Priest's first album for CBS Records (which would morph into Columbia Records in due time). With support from the record company Judas Priest by now were able to tour in the US, broadening their audience significantly. More importantly, they were carving their own niche as songwriters and had truly begun to pave a significant road for Heavy Metal music. One fact that illustrates this album's significance might be that thrash titan Slayer chose to cover the song 'Dissident Aggressor' from this album. It remains a concert favorite for both bands.

My Picks from Sin After Sin:
-Diamonds and Rust (The famous Joan Baez cover)
-Last Rose of Summer (This song shows the softer side of Judas Priest as well as any song they've ever written. Clean, melodic ballad showcases Halford's true vocal talent as well. Perhaps the last song by Priest that really sounds more psychedelic rock than metal.)
-Dissident Aggressor

-Race With the Devil
-Jawbreaker (Live)

Stained Class was released in 1978, and this is the album I have come to call my favorite among Judas Priest's work from the 70's. I rank it among my top-5 favorite albums from Priest overall. This album again features many songs that get repeated inclusion in concert set lists and compilation albums. 'Exciter' and 'Stained Class' being the heavier offerings on this album, but to my ears, the most memorable song here is 'Beyond the Realms of Death'.

'Beyond the Realms of Death' was the most unique song Priest had recorded by this point in their career. Primarily driven by melodic guitar phrases, and a somber minor-key tone, the chorus kicks into a heavy riff, and Halford's voice converts from soft vocal melodies to more aggressive screams. This song has even been referenced by Metallica as being a key to their pursuit of the clean/heavy/clean song structures they developed in the mid-80's.

Other notes of significance on Stained Class: It is the first album to feature Les Binks on drums. Binks also is credited as co-writing the aforementioned 'Beyond the Realms of Death' with Halford. It is also the first album to feature the now-classic Judas Priest logo. The album artwork (by Roslav Szaybo), seems to depict the famous head-injury suffered by Phineas Gage in 1848, although the angle of the rod-through-the-head is a little bit off.

My top picks from Stained Class:
-Stained Class
-Saints in Hell
-Beyond the Realms of Death (DO NOT MISS THIS ONE!)
-Heroes End

-Fire Burns Below
-Better By You, Better Than Me (Live)

1979 brought Hell Bent for Leather to the metal masses. Judas Priest were growing in popularity with each release at this point. This album is a great example of the band maintaining their grip with accessible, radio-friendly heavy rock, as it contains a few songs that are best described as anthems, while still pushing the edge of heavy metal. 'Rock Forever' and 'Take on the World' are those anthem type of songs. Conversely they still had several songs on the cutting edge of heavy metal, like 'Hell Bent for Leather' and 'Running Wild'. Keep in mind, however, that this was the 1970's, and the only way to achieve success was through radio air-play, so music couldn't get as aggressive as it can today and still survive.

Overall, the direction of this album would be right on par with much of the material Priest would write throughout the 80's, making Hell Bent for Leather a true classic of heavy metal.

My favorite tracks from Hell Bent for Leather:
-Delivering the Goods
-Rock Forever
-Hell Bent for Leather
-The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown) (A cover of a Fleetwood Mac song, and Priest make this one their own as well as they did on 'Diamonds and Rust')
-Running Wild
-Before the Dawn (Again, I recommend the softest track on the album. I can't help enjoying a band that maintains their versatility through the years.)

-Fight For Your Life
-Riding on the Wind (Live)

By 1979, Judas Priest had been touring the world with growing success for well over 2 years. They chose to close the decade with a live album documenting their well earned status as one of the best new heavy metal bands in the world. Unleashed in the East was that album, and it remains one of the best live albums by any metal band in the 70's.

When the Judas Priest albums were remastered in 2001, 4 bonus tracks were adding to this release. Also recorded live from the same tour, these extra tracks make this album and even greater masterpiece.

My top picks from Unleashed in the East:
-The Ripper
-The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)

-Rock Forever
-Delivering the Goods
-Hell Bent for Leather

Monday, July 16, 2012

Remembering Jon Lord (1941-2012)

Post # 205
Today, the world of Heavy Metal music, Rock N' Roll, and music in general, lost an iconic musician. Jon Lord, keyboardist for Deep Purple, passed away. He was 71 years old. His career in Heavy Metal spanned nearly 5 decades. The music he created or helped create is beyond measure. The bands he played in, or worked with, all feel this loss today. Rest In Peace Jon Lord. Fans of your music everywhere are thinking of you today!

Here's one of my favorite songs featuring Jon Lord on keyboards:

Who Cares-Out Of My Mind

Friday, July 13, 2012

Heavy Metal Madness-Second Round Summary: Part 1

Post #204
With the second round of Heavy Metal Madness, the choices got tougher, the votes got closer, and all-in-all the excitement multiplied as more bands were ultimately eliminated from this competition. As the polls closed, 8 more bands got one step closer to the championship of heavy metal.

Here's how the first half of the 'Sweet Sixteen' was decided...
In the Thrash/Classic Metal bracket:
and IRON MAIDEN beat PANTERA 30-15
This sets up next month's match between Maiden and Metallica, one that I think might just determine the eventual champion, but the only way to know for sure is to keep voting...

In the Alternative/Grunge bracket:
...Two very tight matches right up to the end!

In the Classic Rock bracket:
BLACK SABBATH dominated RUSH 35-9
and KISS (#5 seed) beat MOTLEY CRUE (#4 seed) 30-12, a close match in seeding, but an upset nonetheless.

And finally, in the Hardcore/ Death Metal bracket:

The second half of this round is underway now! Keep the votes coming, and check back later to see who has advanced.
The first half of the Sweet Sixteen round begins on July 20th!

My suggested songs for those bands eliminated this past month:
Anthrax-I'm Alive
Pantera-Mouth For War
Rage Against The Machine-Bulls on Parade
Pearl Jam-Spin the Black Circle
Rush-Working Man
Motley Crue-Dr. Feelgood
Killswitch Engage-The End Of Heartache

Happy Headbanging...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Rock Bottom Remainders at ALA 2012 (6-23-12)

"It's Past Our Bedtime Tour" -Anaheim, CA
Post #203
On June 23rd, 2012, at the ALA (American Library Association) Annual Convention, history was made as a unique band gave their final performance together. The band was called The Rock Bottom Remainders. Their legacy: the greatest rock band ever comprised of best-selling authors. (Perhaps it's more accurate to call them the greatest writers ever to form a rock band?) You heard me right: award-winning, best-selling, chart-topping novelists, writers, authors who at one point in the early 90's were drawn together and asked if they would play in a rock band together. The idea was proposed by publishing consultant/author Kathi Kamen Goldmark, and embraced with enthusiasm by the various writers whom thence became a part-time rock band. They have played together over the years, raising money for charity. Tonight was no exception, benefiting the ProQuest Scholarship, though this night was to be their final performance together.

The evening began to unfold as hundreds of librarians and convention-goers proceeded to the top floor of the convention center. We gathered in the main ballroom, where the stage was set to capture a farewell performance unlike any other in the history of Rock n' Roll music. I count myself as VERY lucky to have been among this crowd, another of a long list of benefits of being married to a wonderful librarian. My legs may have been tired from hours of walking the convention floor and gathering books, but I still chose the standing-room-only portion of the floor for this one-of-a-kind concert. Dozens of other librarians were packing the open space right up to the front of the stage. Whatever stereotypes you may have in your mind about librarians, forget 'em. This crowd was buzzing with energy, and you could feel the anticipation building up by the second. This crowd knew the significance of the rock show that was about to unfold.

The first band member/author to come onto the stage was Roy Blount, Jr. He then introduced the rest of the band, one by one. Over a dozen well-known authors and 2 professional musicians (Josh Kelly on drums and Erasmo Paolo on saxophone) filled the stage and prepared to rock the joint. In no particular order, the authors in the band were (to the best of my recollection) as follows: Stephen King, Mitch Albom, Greg Iles, Ridley Pearson, Dave Barry, Sam Barry, James McBride, Amy Tan, Matt Groening, Mary Karr, and Scott Turow. Other guest singers and musicians included Janine Sabino, Kathleen Enright, and Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee and original member of The Byrds- Roger McGuinn. (There may have been a couple other Remainders or Remainderettes whose names I can't recall, and if so, I apologize. By all means feel free to notify me of any other names I should mention. This blog is not beyond the power of revision ;-) )
Josh Kelly clicked his drum sticks in the air to set the tempo, and the next thing we knew the House was A-Rockin' (literally and figuratively, as they opened with Stevie Ray Vaughan's '89 classic, 'The House Is Rockin'). The crowd got into it immediately, jumping up and down in time with the music. The opening song was an all-out jam. Everybody on-stage was singing the lyrics and/or playing their instruments and giving their all. Next they hit us with an appropriate, literary-themed song- 'Paperback Writer' by The Beatles. Again this song was vocals-by-committee, as various authors took turns singing the verses, while numerous background singers filled in all of The Beatles' catchy, 4-part harmonies right on cue.
The Rock Bottom Remainders carried on with their set, giving us a healthy dose of rock n' roll classics from the 50's and 60's. They had a great sense of showmanship as well. Every member of the band had a unique personality, and a charisma they brought to the stage. Many times they incorporated a skit to act out some of the lyrical themes. Scott Turow was introduced while wearing a hot-pink wig. Roy Blount Jr. was sporting a Blues Brothers-esque black hat and shades. Stephen King was wearing a Boston Red Sox t-shirt ('Of course!' I thought to myself.), but a closed look revealed it to be a Gilead Gunslingers shirt, in the style of the Red Sox logo. Also, where the baseball team's logo has a pair of red socks, in their place were two revolvers (with sandalwood grips I'm willing to bet). Matt Groening periodically put on rubber Halloween masks of various Simpson's characters. But perhaps the most flamboyant stage presence was owned by Amy Tan.

Amy was The Rock Bottom Remainders' answer for Lady Gaga. She wore a blond wig, leopard-print blouse, tight leather pants, leather boots, and a pair of shades. She had been limited to background and harmony vocals for the first several songs, but when her turn came for lead vocals, she took her stage presence to a whole new level. She went back-stage for a second, and then returned with a leather whip and tight leopard print pants. Then the descending bass-line of a familiar song began to play... Next thing we knew, Amy Tan was playing the roll of a dominatrix while she sang lead vocals on the Nancy Sinatra hit 'These Boots Are Made for Walkin''. This was far from what one might expect from the author of The Joy Luck Club, but it just goes to show there is often more to a writer than meets the eye! My favorite part was when she turned to the crowd and said, "You've heard of '50 Shades of Grey'? This is 100 shades of TAN!", and then proceeded to whip the back-sides of all the guys in the band.

A few songs later the concert shifted gears again, as Roger McGuinn of The Byrds came onto the stage and joined the band for a portion of the show. They played several classic Byrds hits back-to-back, and it almost felt like we were at a real Byrds concert for a while. Eventually Roger did step back from the spotlight and the revolving door for lead vocalist resumed. He left the stage for quite a while, but would return later in the evening, helping out on rhythm or lead guitar as needed.
Another highlight of the evening was when Mitch Albom got out from behind his keyboard to play the role of front man. What's more is that he chose to do so in a memorable fashion. He had gone back stage and returned after a wardrobe change. He reemerged as 'The King'. That's right, he did his best Elvis Presley impersonation, complete with the Elvis wig and sunglasses! They played a couple Elvis tunes, 'Teddy Bear' and 'Jailhouse Rock'. Mitch hammed it up for all he was worth, and the crowd loved it. His wife, Janine Sabino, one of the Remainderettes, even joined him for a couple duets.
Scott Turow took the lead vocals on the Del Shannon hit 'Runaway'. On this performance Turow proved to be perhaps the best singer among this group of writers, hitting the high notes with surprising accuracy. This was followed by a 'comic relief' segment of the show, as Greg Iles played his original song 'I'm a Big Best-Seller, Baby'- a classic blues song with a tongue-in-cheek criticism of some fads and trends in the industry. The '50 Shades of Gray vs 100 shades of Tan' joke was reiterated here. After that, Amy Tan again took the lead on the song 'Leader of the Pack'. Her husband, Lou DeMattei, even came onto the stage, dressed like a biker, to play the role opposite Tan as 'The Leader of the Pack'. Dave Barry followed this up with his original, humorous song 'Proofreading Woman', which again featured many jokes and witty lyrics about the publishing industry.

The band was really having a great fun-loving time upon the stage, giving this final performance their best effort. They were living it up to the fullest. However the mood was about to turn to a more serious subject...

I previously mentioned that the whole idea for the Rock Bottom Remainders came from Kathi Kamen Goldmark. She was a participating member of the band as well. However, Kathi died of breast cancer on May 24, 2012, a mere month before this performance. It was a devastating blow to everyone in the band. It was a more significant tragedy for Sam Barry, her husband, and Dave Barry, her brother-in-law. Kathi herself was really looking forward to this show. She wanted it to happen. To honor her, and pay tribute to her and her vision, The Remainders pulled together and saw this event through to the end.

At this point of the show, Dave explained this situation to the audience. He got choked up toward the end of his speech, and we in the audience could see the tears welling up in his eyes. I thought back to some close friends and family members of my own who have had breast cancer recently. Some have beaten the disease, and others lost their battle with it. I tried to imagine what it must be like to perform live music in front of an audience, so close on the heels of a personal tragedy so close to the heart. I couldn't do it. I can't imagine how Sam and Dave managed to pull it off. I looked up at both of them and felt an intense mix of respect, sympathy, and admiration for them both. The entire show was dedicated to her memory. They even brought out Kathi's guitar and propped it up on the front of the stage, so a part of her was up there with them.
Roger McGuinn stepped to the mic, and they proceeded to play 'Turn! Turn! Turn!', a song whose lyrics speak for themselves. They played a couple other songs that were more serious and a bit somber at times. You could feel the emotion throughout the room as writers, librarians, readers, musicians, fans and friends all turned their minds towards a truly wonderful and inspiring woman with the remarkable vision to pull this band together. Sam Barry and Dave Barry put so much heart into their playing on harmonica and guitar, respectively, that they would fit in perfectly with another Sam and Dave of more musical significance. This was a performance of a lifetime. A crowning achievement, and a fitting farewell to a most unique collection of talent.

To remember the kind of humor that Kathi had, Kathy Enright performed a song that they had written together, 'Older Than Him (The Slut Song)'. This was a truly funny, slow-tempo, country-rock number about an older woman in a bar lusting over an attractive younger man. It roused plenty of laughter from the audience, and you could feel the mood lightening once again.

Then, to really get things back on track, Stephen King led the way on vocals for the up-beat 'Bird's the Word'. It was a surreal experience to look up at the master of horror, the writer of some of my favorite books, stuttering out the lyrics, "Papa-oom-mow-mow, oom mow mow..." A little out of context maybe, but it put smiles back on everyone's faces. After that song they took a bow and strolled off the stage...

...But true to form, just like real rock stars, they came back out for an encore a few minutes later. They gave us 3 more songs to rock out to: 'Wild Thing', 'Louie, Louie', and 'GLORIA'. I'll never forget how full of energy the room was. The crowd was possessed with a hybrid of Rock N' Roll Pneumonia and Boogie-Woogie-Blues. The floor was vibrating with the rhythm of several hundred librarians hopping up and down to the music. I let loose myself and did a bit of headbanging (go figure, huh?)

When the final song came to a close, they gave the audience a final farewell. Guitar picks, drum sticks, frisbees and kazoos were tossed into the crowd. Then it was time. It was, after all, 'Past Their Bedtime'. The Rock Bottom Remainders walked off the stage for the last time. 'Just a cover band?' you may ask. Not like this. Never before. And perhaps never again... Writers; sharing a love of music, sharing in friendship among themselves, sharing a love for reading, all in the name of Rock and Roll.

On behalf of the attendees of ALA 2012, we thank you all!

The Band:
Mitch Albom-Keyboards/Vocals
Dave Barry-Lead Guitar/Vocals
Sam Barry-Harmonica/Vocals
Roy Blount, Jr.-MC/Backing Vocals
Lou DeMattei-'Leader of the Pack'
Kathleen Enright-Vocals
Matt Groening-Cowbell/Backing Vocals
Greg Iles-Lead Guitar/Vocals
Mary Karr-Backing Vocals
Josh Kelly-Drums/Vocals
Stephen King-Rhythm Guitar/Vocals
James McBride-Sax/Vocals
Roger McGuinn-Guitar/Vocals
Erasmo Paolo-Sax/Vocals
Ridley Pearson-Bass/Vocals
Janine Sabino-Tambourine/Vocals
Amy Tan-Whip/Vocals
Scott Turow-Vocals

The Setlist (Lead vocalist indicated where appropriate):
(You'll find a couple of the songs below are linked to youtube videos that have been uploaded since the show. These will give you a glimpse of this historic performance. The event sponsors did have cameras filming the show, so perhaps there will be an official DVD coming soon...?  We can hope!)
-The House is Rockin'
-Paperback Writer
-634-5789 (Janine Sabino)
-Midnight Hour
-Believer (Albom/Sabino)
-Hey Baby (I Wanna Know If You'll Be My Girl) (Turow)
-Suzie Q (King)
-Mr. Tambourine Man (McGuinn)
-I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better (McGuinn)
-My Back Pages (McGuinn)
-You Ain't Going Nowhere (Pearson/McGuinn)
-Rock This Town (Paolo)
-Nobody's Fault But Mine (S. Barry)
-(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear (Albom-as Elvis)
-Jailhouse Rock (Albom-as Elvis)
-Da Doo Ron Ron (Sabino)
-Runaway (Turow)
-I'm a Big Best-Seller, Baby (Iles)
-Leader of the Pack (Tan)
-Proofreading Woman (D. Barry)
-Muskrat Sally (Kelly)
-Turn! Turn! Turn! (McGuinn)
-May The Road Rise (McGuinn)
-Older Than Him (The Slut Song) (Kathi and Kathy's song-Kathleen Enright)
-Keep Me In Your Heart (Pearson)
-Bird's the Word (Sufrin' Bird) (King)
-Wild Thing (Turow)
-Louie, Louie
-Gloria (D. Barry)

Recommended Reading:
Dave Barry-Dave Barry Turns 50, Peter and the Starcatchers (w/ Ridley Pearson)
Matt Groening-The Huge Book of Hell
James McBride-The Color of Water
Ridley Pearson-The Art of Deception, Peter and the Starcatchers (w/ Dave Barry)

I collected many photos throughout the show, and there were too many good ones to post them all within the review above. So here's a special treat: a slide-show of all the extra pics! Check out all the different shots of The Rock Bottom Remainders!