I’m a big, big fan of Machine Head. Even when they took huge missteps in their career with THE BURNING RED and SUPERCHARGER, my fandom never waned. I just took a few years to listen repeatedly to THE MORE THINGS CHANGE and BURN MY EYES until they rebounded. Over the last few years though, the band has changed a lot. There’s been a lineup change, a somewhat lousy single release with “Is There Anybody Out There”, and a change in Robb Flynn to where he’s been sucked into the vacuum of social media and feels like his social justice views are now something that has to be expounded all the time on social media, in his music, and wherever else anyone will listen to it. To his credit, he stands by his own convictions on everything, which is admirable. That said though, infusing it into Machine Head has been a mistake.
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SINS OF GREED
More and more, I’ve been paying a lot less attention to the established bands. Instead I’ve been listening to a lot more of the smaller, somewhat independent bands that are out there. While the established acts seem content to record just enough decent material to tour on, the bands that haven’t broken through seem a lot hungrier and driven to find their core audience. One band that came across the computer screen recently was Madman’s Lullaby. Hardly a new band, they have a few releases on Spotify, but as of yet have never caught on. While they aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here, SINS OF GREED is a pretty strong rock record that’s worth of a listen for people that like barroom rock with far better than average vocals.
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ROAD RAGE, huh? Sounds more like GARAGED WHIMPER. My god is this pathetic. There is nothing at all on this release that will remind even the most casual fan of Quiet Riot. In fact, this is more likely to be mistaken for a band like Steelheart than Quiet Riot. That is, if Steelheart abandoned all sense of songwriting talent and studio prowess and released some songs they jammed and recorded on a boombox on the first day of a writing session. These songs are dreadfully weak, and pushed even lower into the depths of sewage rock by the ridiculously bad production showcased on this release. Add into that a vocalist that does not give the slightest inclination of any part of this band’s 3+ decade history, and you’ve got the formula of something that is just ridiculously bad.
You really have to feel bad for James Durbin. The kid clearly has a big voice, but the best he could find to further his career in the public eye is lending his talent to a “band” with no original members on an album that sounds like what you’d expect from a live karaoke contest. Durbin has a big voice, but hearing it on “Getaway”, and you might wonder if you accidentally started listening to a bad Firehouse demo tape somehow. Simply, I can’t get past the production on this thing. Whoever acted as producer on this won’t be using it as a resume builder to gain new clients. That’s for sure. Every aspect of it is bad. The guitars sound thin as can be. The bass has no bang to it. The drums sure do...too much as they are so far out front of everything else that they are annoying. Frankie Banali has decided that it’s better to just be a John Bonham carbon copy on songs like “Roll This Joint” than creating something that’s his own or, well, something that will remind anyone that they are listening to a Quiet Riot record. Lyrically, ROAD RAGE is just a bag of shit as well. By the time you get to the song “Freak Flag”, your head will hurt if you have any sort of musical taste at all from all the deficiencies...let alone hearing a band made up of guys nearing retirement age singing about getting their freak on.
PITRIFF RATING - 8/100 - It’s been awhile since something this bad was released by a band with significant history. Lousy songs, worse production, and a sound that has nothing to do with the history of the name written on the cover, I simply don’t believe or consider this to be Quiet Riot. Find 10 casual people that don’t follow this kind of music closely, play them any song from this release and ask them what band it is. Not a single one of them will name Quiet Riot. Not one. Embarrassing.
There are some bands that just never seem to get that much needed break. One of those bands is Ektomorf. For years, they have been making music that sounds similar to Soulfly. In most cases, their music has been stronger than what Soulfly was putting out. While you wouldn’t expect them to get past a legendary performer like Max Cavalera, you would expect a band that’s this consistent with a sound that so many metal fans like to, at least partially, take hold. It’s just never happened with this band. In a lot of ways, they remind me of how Skinlab was a great second version of Machine Head and never got any solid run. Regardless of who’s noticing though, I’ve been for years. Ektomorf has been killing it with a catalog of music that’s incredible (for those of us that have noticed). WARPATH finds them performing at the Wacken festival in 2016, and they are as awesome as always.
Through this 47 minute, 11 song set, Ektomorf came to Wacken with a singular intent - to destroy the thousands of people in front of them. Mission accomplished. Songs like “Move On” and “Ambush In The Night” are simply fierce, leaving your head banging as they rage throughout the set. Band leader Zoltan Fargas is a dead on clone of Max Cavalera vocally. He brings that same type of energy we’ve experienced for several decades now with Cavalera, although he’s a bit more tight in his presentation. Here in the live setting, on songs like “Fuck You All”, he brings the crowd into the mix before destroying them with an almost punk/thrash hybrid attack.
PITRIFF RATING - 92/100 - The only bitch I have on this is the guitar sound is a bit muddy, but I suspect that comes from being forced to perform early in the day. No matter. Ektomorf has always been brilliant, and WARPATH proves that hasn’t changed. Go get it today!
Full disclosure here - I’m not the biggest Alice Cooper fan in the world. Lord knows I’ve tried to “get it”. I won’t say that I don’t like any of his music, as that wouldn’t be fair. I appreciate the hits and don’t turn them off if they come on some classic rock radio station. I’ve literally researched enough to listen to each and every album in his overly expansive catalog now, and really don’t have a ton of releases that I love. BRUTAL PLANET is probably my favorite, followed by WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE, THE LAST TEMPTATION and ALONG CAME A SPIDER. As for the old stuff - it just isn’t for me. Maybe the problem is that the first albums of his I owned were TRASH and HEY STOOPID; two albums that fell right in the middle of his down period. Maybe I’m just not into what he does. I’m not sure. What I do know is that listening to PARANORMAL, I’m not moved an ounce toward Mr. Cooper’s work.
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THE RISE OF CHAOS
The creative and powerful outpouring of music from the revitalized Accept continues. Mark Tornillo has almost singlehandedly recharged this band that was, for all intents and purposes, dead when Udo left the band again to do U.D.O. full time. Since 2010 though, they have released 4 albums that have just been awesome. Other than the most hardcore purists (and even many of them, actually) have claimed some of the work with Tornillo to be the best of Accept’s historic career. Count me in on that. BLOOD OF THE NATIONS was pretty incredible, while BLIND RAGE and STALINGRAD were excellent as well. With THE RISE OF CHAOS, the band has returned with two new members, but no lost momentum. This is a killer release that you just can’t help but enjoy if you are a fan of this kind of metal.
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There are plenty of people out there that bitch and moan about today’s metal. Fair enough. The overall direction of this next generation of metal may not be for everyone. I certainly can understand that people who came up on NWOBHM bands might not dig Killswitch Engage, Asking Alexandria or any of the Screamo Emo bands of the latest generation. That’s fair. Aside from them showing respect to Dio, is there really any way to compare Rainbow to Killswitch Engage? Probably not. This said though, those that spend their time endlessly bitching about the new era of metal almost universally DON’T support those bands that keep the traditional sound alive. This is most prevalent in the thrash world, where bands like Havok and Warbringer brilliantly carry the torch and are virtually ignored by fans that can’t move past AMONG THE LIVING or BONDED BY BLOOD. The same in the more traditional metal. If you love straight up metal, then you should be almost required to support Night Demon.
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DON’T LET UP
I have been listening to this release for a few weeks now, and I really was struggling on the words to say about the latest release, DON’T LET UP. As I do on occasion, I googled the record and read a couple of reviews to see what other people were saying. Then I found the one that seemed to awaken me to writing. Spill Magazine’s Aaron Badgley reviewed DON’T LET UP pretty accurately, although something he said didn’t jive with what I’ll assume is the intended goal of this release. He talked about how DON’T LET UP will do nothing to win new fans. On that, I think he missed the obvious. At this stage in the game, after 35 years, I don’t think Night Ranger is looking to win any. They are still creative guys, but in the end, they are making music to appease their tried and true, longtime fans that still come to the casinos to see them and have been since 1982 when DAWN PATROL came out on LP, cassette and 8-track. New fans? I think they’ve had several runs at that (albums like FEEDING OFF THE MOJO, NEVERLAND and SEVEN) all failed and forced them into “heritage band” status. They are officially what they are...and new music is simply to feed their creative need and the hardcores that feel like music stopped being cool with the release of 7 WISHES.
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Let’s just be honest here. The record labels put these reissues out, almost universally, as a cash grab. It’s certainly unlikely that someone is discovering Accept for the first time in 2017. The more than likely scenario is that old metalheads like myself have CD or vinyl versions of these releases that now skip, and will at some point buy this material again. So we are faced with a choice. We can merely listen to them on Spotify and have something defective in our collection on the wall that will drive us nuts, or we can buy these again and get a little extra something (a song or two here and there) if we drop an extra couple of bucks for the “platinum reissue”. And we’re all old and stupid, so we’ll just spend the money. Am I wrong? Of course I’m not.
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MADE FROM FIRE
There’s a tendency at the end of each musical era for fans to bitch that there’s nothing “new” to listen to. Almost universally, that’s false. Reality usually proves that there’s plenty of music within just about any style that has once found success. It’s just not spoonfed to the masses the way it once was, to where you have to dig a little deeper to find it. There were millions of people that quite literally worshipped the emo-industrial rantings of Marilyn Manson two decades ago. There were equally as many that were into the horror-industrial uptempo vibe that Rob Zombie was creating after disbanding White Zombie. Those fans now all cry that there’s nothing new to listen to. Wrong. Davey Suicide is on his 3rd release that should fulfil the musical needs of any fan of either Manson or Zombie...that is, if you can stop waiting for the radio to tell you the material is good.
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