This time we have got another load of discs; all those review discs that I listened to on my nine day honeymoon in sunny, or at least some of the time, Cancun. It ranges from pure blooded down-home blues to the electronic manifestations of Jesus and Mary Chain obsessed Poles. Let’s get at it shall we?
Blueganu: Running with the Herd
Tongue-firmly in cheek for most of this stuff but it just washes over you like a pleasant shower. It's blues-folky rock that just puts a smile on your face no matter how grumpy you might be. This lot even get a way with a twee entitled/lyrical "Sugar" with its infectious tune and cheery lyrics. There are odes to Memphis on here, "Take Me Back To Memphis," and the mountains, "Man of the Mountains," naturally.
This is not the music for racing down the motorway but a disc for when the weather outside is rubbish, you got a glass of jack in your hand, and you just want to listen to some aural fun. Imagine a less stoned Grateful Dead and a less pretentious Fish with a dash of ole’ school blues. And I would be shirking my duties if I did not say the playing on here is first rate.
Megadeth: United Abominations
Dave Mustaine is back with his all new Megadeth and what a difference it makes. While their last album was decent this is excellent in extremis. This is by far the best thing Mustaine has been associated with in over a decade, if not more ( I liked his Dan Huff produced output. It just wasn't Megadeth). The sober, mildly religious Mustaine, who seems to have used Alice Cooper as a template, is just as opinionated as ever while being far more focused. The title track is a screed against the UN that hits all the right buttons and makes all the right points. The spoken word parts are quite poignant as are his observations on jihadism on "Amerikistan."
There is a new version of "A Tout Le Monde" featuring Lacuna Coil’s lead siren Cristina Scabbia. He rants against the state of the world in all his norm. Mustaine even quotes 24’s hero Jack. If you thought Megadeth was a spent force in metal… think again. Metallica can only hope they produce anything this good with their next release. Has Mustaine had the last and best laugh?
Alabama Thunderpussy: Open Fire
Losing your lead singer for any band is a tough thing but for AT it seems to have taken a bit of wind out of their sales. While Kyle Thomas has a good voice it seems to be a bit the same throughout the CD. There is not the variety needed in today’s metal world. This is a good album, no doubt, but it seems to be a bit transitional as the band gets used to their new reality.
It lacks a certain fire and pathos to makes you stand up and say “yeah!” Never the less, if you like a combo of Molley Hatchet and Metallica this lot produces some decent redneck metal. Tracks like "Whiskey War" and the title track emphasize the point. This is pretty good album, just not as good as you would expect from such a band. Think of it this way though, this lot were doing it long before supergroup upstarts "Hell Yeah."
Guy, McCoy and Torme: Bitter & Twisted
A supergroup of sorts, this lot has played with far more people than this column has room to list. Their resumes would make most musicians weep with frustration. There are a couple bands that have clearly influenced the sound on here however… those being Ozzy and Desperado. There is a strong hint of the attitude of Ted Nugent on this album as well, which is a very good thing indeed. There is also a Thin Lizzy vibe here because of the hint of Irish. Two of this lot met while in Gillan.
If you like your hard rock with lots of whiskey and grit then this is album for you. Just take a listen to "Rocky Road (from Dublin)" or the title track. This is cracking heavy rock, played with talent, ability, and a dose of attitude… what else do you need really?
Vader: Kingdom EP, Darkest Age Live ‘93 & Live in Japan
A whole mess of heavy from this trio of Vader re-issues. Metal Mind is doing a good line and helping the rest of us discover bands we might have missed the first time. This lot is no exception. They are dark and brutal as hell but willing to try new things. Check out the re-mix bonus track on Kingdom called "For Eternal Darkness," it's heavy and grim but still danceable. Live in Japan features a video clip of the track "Kingdom." This lot was formed in 1986 in Poland, while it was still behind the Iron Curtain, and is still going strong today.
One of the earliest Eastern European breakouts, this lot were trailblazers for all the heaviness that has followed both before and after the fall of the wall. Vader is an integral part of metal history and these three albums provided a bit of background to it all. If you are getting one of the live albums, I would recommend the more modern Live in Japan naturally.
Kamelot: Ghost Opera
The first thing that struck my wife and I about this one is it sounds a lot like a very heavy version of Phantom of the Opera, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Now it might shock many to hear this but I find this no bad thing. If symphonic metal bands can be operatic and musical, but leave off the heavy cheese, then by all means do so. Kamelot are quite a stunning band, it has to be said, using all elements to create a wonderful collection of tracks.
As with their past they use female vocal dueting when it fits. I predict this album will eventually be done in its entirety live. It flows together as if it’s a concept album while at the same time having songs that stand perfectly alone. There are no stand-out tracks on here. It's all very good, catchy, powerful, heavy and symphonic in its entirety. While retaining its power metal styling one still finds oneself, and any other singers in the room, singing along on the second chorus during the first listen. This is, by far, Kamelot’s most consistent release and marks a new high for the band that improves with every release.
Don Mancuso: D Drive
You might not have heard of him but the likes of Lou Gramm of Foreigner and Phil Naro of Talas were willing to come along to sing for him and co-write the tunes. The music on here is bluesy hard rock with a smirk and swagger. Just listen to "Down, Rotten and Dirty" or "Can’t Dig Your Way Out." Some would say this has an 80's rock pop feel to it. Think Poison with some talent or Tesla at their best.
“Wait till the Sun goes Down" sounds a bit like Foreigner if they were jamming with Collins-era Genesis at their least cheesy. It's good to hear Gramm cranking it out after his health problems. This is a great sleeper of an album that, like many such outings, will get under your skin and stay there. Oh yes, Mancuso plays with some bloke named Hendrix who is the brother of that Hendrix. Well worth seeking out this hidden gem.
Darryl Dodson: Reality Check
This CD/DVD set sees DD doing his best avant-garde noodling. His guitar work is heavily influenced by Hendrix at his most flamboyant and "Voodoo Child" gets an airing on this nine track CD. This is out there stuff on the guitar. Really bit guitarists will love it, no doubt. Not exactly what you would put on in the car for a good listen but quite good nonetheless. The DVD is handy for those of you who are guitarists who want to figure out what exactly this bloke is doing. Not for everyone, but a quality release nonetheless.
Sirrah: Acme & Did Tomorrow Come…
Re-releases by Metal Mind of Polish band Sirrah’s late 90s releases, there is a difference between them. The band has ceased to be but these are two examples of Polish metal’s rise post-Communism. Acme is textured with female vocals and is a far more trad metal style while Did Tomorrow Come is far more experimental and drifts into electronica/goth metal territory. As a result the second album is a bit less focused than the first one.
Members of these bands have gone onto to greater things such as The Man Called Tea. It might interest some to know that the latter album has retained its previous title with the MFN change dropped. Not exactly essential, that is for sure, but an interesting insight into the Polish metal scene.
Crushed: My Machine
Mike Clink produced modern sounding metal with a touch of funk ala Red Hot Chili Peppers. This is melodic modern metal that never veers into the boring territory. "Leaving" clearly demonstrates all these influences yet retains that certain bit of individuality you really want. There is enough on here to satisfy mainstream tastes but enough to peak the interest of the modern metal crowd as well.
There are even touches of metalcore on here as well as alternative touches (like "Follow You Down" with a hint of Morrissey vocal warbling) that would please the college crowd. If anything is wrong with this CD, it's that it can be a bit too eclectic at times. You are actually not sure what you are going to get next. There is a lack of overall style. There is a clear stream of talent here and one could see them doing really rather well indeed. A bit more focus on the next CD might help though.
Ghost in the Machine: The One Within
With a name like Ghost in the Machine, you would not be shocked to hear this lot do electronic goth now would you? Not another bunch of Trent Reznor inspired wanna-bes, this lot strives to do something different with the genre. It's very much catchy and dance oriented; you can truly imagine the goth kids dancing madly to this at your local goth club. True, their predecessors on the dark edge are hinted at but then so are bands like Dead or Alive and even a hint of Erasure’s dead cert catchiness.
The band has licensed music to the Sci-Fi channel, MTV, Nike, VHA, and Spike TV so you may have already heard from them. Then, of course, they end the trip into their world with a frankly bizarre, but truly great, cover of "Sharp Dressed Man" by those Texan bearded blues goons ZZ Top. If you thought that electro-goth had hit the buffers in terms of originality think again. Think Ghost in the Machine.
Well that is your lot for this week. I still got a whole mess of CDs to get through, as well some interesting prog DVDs to take a gander at, including the likes of Rick Wakeman. I promise the next column will be sooner and shorter.
As always stay safe and rocking. Check out live music, whenever and where ever you can.