Home / Music / Music Reviews: Spin, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Downslave, Powerworld, Varg, Ross the Boss

Music Reviews: Spin, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Downslave, Powerworld, Varg, Ross the Boss

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This week is going to be a tad more eclectic than of late. Not the power-metal, heavy column, this one has lashings of blues and pop rock.

Spin: Believe

This one almost didn’t make it because it’s so poppy and catchy. Something in my intial listen must have intrigued me because I returned to it several times. The band strikes me as Queen (in their least symphonic version) being fronted by Rick Springfield. “Left Behind” is a good example of that sort of catchy pop hard rock that Queen became so famous for. Then again, “Believe” is straight Springfield circa “Jessie’s Girl”, a good tune but amusing for old enough to remember the heartthrob at his height.

“Over and Over” is a keyboard heavy single, if it were another era. Catchy chorus with a bit of Cars-esque keys in the background, this whole album seeps of 80s rock and rock/pop. It flows out of your speakers and makes you think it belongs on the Miami Vice sound-track. It’s great stuff for a long drive or a warm-weather holiday. The retro-goodness is everywhere on this release. If you are of the right age, you will hear all sorts of music of old.

Might not be metal or sleaze-filled angst hard rock, but there is nothing not to like about this lot.

Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughan: in Session

Many Steve Ray Vaughan and Albert King fans will not have to read anymore than the title to want to grab this. The fact it’s these two giants of blues trading licks before their mutual demises is a treat hard to pass up. When you hear they do justice to the SRV classic “Pride & Joy” that should tweak your interest further. This set also includes a DVD with several tracks that were not on the original release including “Born under a Bad Sign” and “Texas Flood”.

There are really no reasons I can think for a blues fan not to buy this album. The DVD makes it worth it, even if you bought it before. The on-stage chatter between the two guitarists is fascinating and telling. King tells the story of how he met a skinny kid who wanted to play guitar that morphed into Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are interesting liner notes about the sessions from several writers that add to the overall charm.

Into every rockers life there must be an occasional influx of pure-bred raw blues. This release will satisfy that itch in droves. You could do far worse than get this for the gift giving season and give it to your fave rocker.

Downslave: Cost of Freedom

No kidding, straight ahead, thrash metal that is in your face and completely unapologetic. No modern sound for this lot, it’s more Exodus than modern thrash. It’s so simple and straight ahead it works brilliantly. Not trying to be overly clever, just play some damn good thrash with everything hanging out. They even managed to find a vocallist in Brad Parker who can do the aggression with his voice, but his voice never gets irritating. Unlike many new thrash bands, the vocalist has the chops to pull it off.

Old school thrashers will be able to find all sorts of hints at bands of their day. There are touches of Bay Area thrash, including Fates Warning and Metallica, but also some of the East Coast raw stuff. It seems that Knoxville, Tennessee is the perfect place for all the varities of old school thrash to meet and mix in this band. There is a touch of theme on here, no less on the song “Price of Freedom”.

It’s tight, head-down thrash done by a bunch of guys who love what they do. Well worth the price of admission to scratch that thrash itch.

Powerworld: Human Parasite

Well, they claim to be melodic metal but power metal would be a tad more accurate. Featuring ex-Freedom Call guy Ilker Ersin this lot peddle a similar type of metal. From the track “Cleansed by Fire” you know you are in for a rather catchy power metal treat. Vocalist Andrew ”Mac” McDermott has the vocals to be able to pull this stuff and clearly was not an afterthought as you sometimes find in such bands. Oh, and the fact he is able to sing in English helps as well, none of the comical pronounciations that pop up with some bands. Then again he did used to front Threshold.

There is a quite a fine line in catchy choruses and tunes here. Unlike many bands in the genre, there is a lot of quality in the song-writing. This is a lighter end of power metal, with its keyboards and multi-layered choruses. However when it’s delivered with this sort of quality it works rather nicely. There are times when Saxon come to mind. “Evil in Me” especially evokes that particular vibe.

A quality release from a good band. If they can keep this line-up together we can expect some great things from this bunch. Definetely a release that deserves some ears.

Varg: Blutaar

So called pagan metal and named for the word “wolf” in both Swedish and Norwegian many might mistake them for death metal. However the subject matter, if you understand it, is very pagan rather than death. Besides songs like “Viel Feind viel Her” are much too catchy for your nomal death metal fare. Those with a bit of patience who don’t mind tracks in languages other than their own will warm to this release. Well a slight warming with a bit of time.

It took me a few tries to get into it, but overall it is aggressive, seriously heavy metal. This was released by the backers of both Paganfest and Heidenfest festivals as their first effort at album production. This might have resulted in a bit of a samey feeling about many of the tracks. There aren’t lots of changes on here.

That said some reviews think this band has missed the mark a bit and I have to agree. There are times when you wonder if they want to go down the pagan party metal route or stay the death metal in all but name route. It would be cool if they were to go more for their jaunty side and less bog-standard metal. That said this is decent first effort that shows some promise. A band to watch for certain, just not quite there yet.

Ross the Boss: Hailstomr

Ex-Manowar man attempting to forge a career as a solo artist. His debut album was pretty good, as he took up where he left off with Manowar when he left them. I am not quite sure if this album does anymore than rest on those laurels. If you are into Ross the Boss’ time in Manowar then you will probably like this. Then again with Patrick Fuchs on vocals, there is a strong taste of Accept as well, especially on songs like “Crom”.

This is very sword and sorcery metal, the type that goes down well in Germanic countries. There is nothing inherent wrong with it, but to many it’s as cheesy as the band Europe at the height of their pomp. Ross the Boss is clearly trying to stake his claim at the top of the fantasy metal horde and dethrone his old band from their camp metal glory.

Not quite sure why, but this release left me rather cold. It’s not a bad album, it just doesn’t send me and leap out of the speakers like a good cod metal album should. It should make you want to raise your fist and hail. A Ross the Boss album shouldn’t leave a feeling of “meh” and this one does for the most part. Fortunately the title track does a bit to save the day.

Well on that pomp metal note it’s time to wish you a safe and rocking week.

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About Marty Dodge