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Music CD/DVD Reviews: Black River, Steve Morse, Tristania, Lillian Axe, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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It’s been an interesting week all around in matters non-music. “Interesting” in the Chinese curse sense mind you. It’s great to have some quality heavy rock to keep me rocking.

CD Reviews

Black River: Black n’ Roll

A bunch of black and death metal guys produce a heavy rock record. The results could have been horrific, and not in a good sense. Worry not, this is one heck of a good album. It’s a bit Danzig at times, combined with a touch of Black Label Society and the howls of Ian Ashbury, shoved through a European sieve and recorded. The members of Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir and Neolithic must be having a freaking blast.

You can just imagine that members of these bands go hang out in seedy rock clubs after shows and get dragged up on stage to jam. This music sounds like a bunch of guys at the top of their game having some fun and stretching their wings. This CD would warrant your attention if it were a bunch of nobodies. It’s their second release and you really hope they plan to tour with it. As an extra bonus there is “Free Man” from their debut.

Side-projects can so often be a load of self-indulgent dross. Instead this is a proper album filled with great tunes. It might have been created by a bunch of black metallers, but the spirit of the Sunset Strip exudes from every track.

Steve Morse & Sarah Spencer: Angelfire

Steve Morse of Dixie Dregs and Deep Purple fame (who has actually been in Deep Purple now longer than Ritchie Blackmoore whom he replaced) has released one of the mellowest releases of his career. This is not heavy stuff and were it not he on the guitar, it would not have made this column. However since it does involve on of the most underrated talented guitarists in heavy rock, it’s worth a listen.

Sarah Spencer has a very “pure” voice that is ethereal, but not light and strained. She effortlessly sings the tunes on this CD. Morse said that he would listen to the tracks on here as therapy and a break from his normal fare. Recorded over two years whenever Morse was able, this is collection of tunes that never sounds rushed.

What does strike me as amusing is that some of the tracks drift into the realm of Blackmore’s Night material. In fact fans of that Blackmore’s post-Purple band at their mellowest would love this CD.

Tristania: Rubicon

Every since my dear friend Birger, who grew up in the same town in Norway as this lot, tipped me off, I have been quite fond of this lot. While they do the female-led, gothic-symphonic metal bit, they are less frock metal than say Within Temptation or Delain. In fact, on some tracks like “Protection” they use “rough” death metal vocals and a counter to the female vocals. “Clean” male vocals are used as well. There is a touch of “all in” vocals here that sometimes reminds of Therion, if not ever as mind-blowing over the top epic as that band.

One thing that is great about a Tristania release, especially this one, is there’s a decent amount of variety to prevent it sounding rather samey. One song that particularily interested me is “Patriot Games” and not because of the name. The catchiness of the chorus really grabs you the first time round.

A Tristania release is something which I want to stay with a long time. As with any quality review disc I have forsworn reviewing this title at least two weeks in a row as an excuse to have to listen to it more. Yes, it is that good. So I think its clear by now I rate this album and recommend it to anyone that likes a bit of gothic symphonic metal.

Lillian Axe: Deep Red Shadows

This is a very much a stop-gap release with very few new songs and a bunch of reworkings of stuff from previous releases. Some fans are pretty annoyed by this release and have reacted a bit harsher than it deserves. The acoustic tracks show just how good a song-writer Steve Blaze. The stripped down version of “Sad Day on Planet Earth” and the “The Day I met You” are gems. As many have said, it ain’t a real song unless you can play it with just a guitar and vocals.

However, if you were expecting a whole bunch of garish rockers, you might be a bit shocked. This is a bit like Tesla’s “Five Man Acoustic Jam” for the Lillian Axe. There is nothing exactly mind-blowing about the new tracks, still not sold on “47 Ways to Die”. That said this is not a bad album, by any means and could be a good way of introducing all sides of the band to newcomers.

Those who know the band need to know it’s a mixed bag of acoustic tracks, reworked old songs, and a smattering of new material. Of course, this also marks the final album with Derek LeFevre, who has chosen to bow out due to unwillingness to tour. You have to wonder what Lillian Axe is going to be without his tones combining with Blaze. Then again LA has always been able to evolve with the changes, we shall see what comes out the other end.

DVD Reviews

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Damn the Torpedoes

This is yet another one of those “Classic Albums” that reminds certain rock fans just how old they are. For many this album — a staple of rock radio then and classic rock radio now — rather summed up much of their teenage angst. Then again the band looked young, especially Tom Petty, in his pre-Travelling Willburys before he started hanging out with the rock elite days. This is the album where it all came together for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Considering the fact that one of the huge tracks of this album was almost left off, saved by an assistant who liked the track, shows what an impressive collection it is. Not all classic album releases are this good, partly because members of the band featured are either dead or refuse to participate. None such problem here, and it makes for a fascinating diary of the creative process of an underrated band.

Needless to say fans of the band or the series would be well advised to pick this up. As with all these releases there is a good collection, 42 minutes worth, of extra material ranging from a guitarist-friendly bit on the 12-string Rickenbacker to the TV commercial for the album. It’s a classy release from a classy band.

Well that is all for this week. A varied bunch of music, for sure, but something for every rock taste. Stay safe and rocking out there.

About Marty Dodge

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