July 31, 2009 by Publisher
July 17, 2009 at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ.
by Steve Trager
The annual summer caravan simply known as The Vans Warped Tour recently has celebrated 15 years as one the longest running festivals with more than eight hours of endless performances on multiple stages throughout the entire day. This year, some veterans returned such as NOFX, Anti Flag, and Bad Religion are among the long list of new additions to the lineup. It is also nice to have metal bands thrown into the mix alongside the punk and emo-screamo bands featured year after year. Even with just one main stage this year, the Vans Warped Tour still gives the music-obsessed fan the best opportunity to catch up-close performances of their favorite bands all day long, even though for the last several years there hasn’t been a bunch of “A” List band(s) placed somewhere on the roster. This type of momentous event still seems to be the best for your dollar. With not only bands performing, but there are meet and greets, BMX competitions on the half pipe and endless tents with rock wardrobes to fit any style.
As always you can’t actually see every band over the course of the day. However, Black Tide was enjoyable to watch, performing some great Metallica covers during their set. In This Moment, who toured with OzzFest in 2007, was enjoyable as well. Escape the Fate, who has performed on a few past Vans Tours, were great to see live. A new Band called Versa Emerge sounded great with a hot chick at the wheel.
The Good: The Newcomers; Black Tide, Versa Emerge, In This Moment, and The Main. Veterans; NOFX, Bad Religion, Anti Flag and Flogging Molly.
The Bad: There were long lines at the concession stands and over-priced food and drinks, which included bottled water. However you actually price it, it was still a day out that you’re going to shell out some bucks if you didn’t want to die of starvation and become dehydrated for hours on end. There also were overlapping stage performances. Every stage was going all at once, and heavy rain fell toward the later part of the evening. The circle pits, crowd surfing, and the bored fans in between sets were tossing filled bottles toward the stage like torpedoes (where you might get hit in the head if you weren’t looking ). And lots of roaming from stage to stage made you feel like you were ready for an endless hike across America.
Overall, for what the Vans Warped Tour is worth for the hard-working dollar these days, we, the fans, are still getting a decent-priced ticket, a full day of music, loads of ear – piercing decibel guitars and a fun day out.
12:55 Devil Wears Prada
1:55 Anti Flag
4:55 Less Than Jake
5:55 Flogging Molly
6:55 Bad Religion
Vans Warped Tour 2009 Photo Gallery
by Jay Villain
One word that can be used to describe Marilyn Manson’s latest release, The High End Of Low, is ambitious. It is a good CD; however, it’s not his best work. Ambitious comes to mind because it’s clear he is still committed and cares about the product he’s producing. Marilyn Manson hasn’t sold out by aborting his musical style, but it’s obvious that he is experimenting with some different elements within the disc.
The High End Of Low offers a semi-diverse selection of 15 songs. Having too many songs on one disc sometimes can be detrimental. Whenever an artist releases that many songs on one CD, it’s not likely all of them will be hits, although there are some that stand out. The CD doesn’t start off very strong at all. “Devour” gets the ball rolling and seems to crawl to a climax. Guitar with distortion and drums don’t kick in until two minutes and 35 seconds into the song and only lasts for about a minute before going back to the crawling intro. Luckily, things start looking up with “Pretty as a ($),” which musters all the hatred one would expect from Marilyn Manson. “Leave A Scar” is a groove-oriented song with a catchy and very memorable chorus.
For something completely different, there is the very unique “Four Rusted Horses.” The use of acoustic guitar throughout gives this song the feel of a gothic western. Maybe Manson is onto something here. “Arma-Godd**N-Motherf**kin-Geddon” is perhaps the peak of this CD. This song is written with all the elements that we’ve come to expect from Manson. Reflecting back to his classics, “Arma-Godd**N-Motherf**kin-Geddon” has a nice hook, and it’s heavy and full of groove.
“Blank And White” maintains the aggression and brings us to something unexpected: “Running To The Edge Of The World.” This is a song that takes the listener back to the great power ballads of the ‘70s, not the ‘80s. With an acoustic guitar, “Running To The Edge Of The World” is mood setting and nicely structured. Unfortunately, things start going downhill from here.
“I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies” starts off with a very attractive bass line, but the song seems to be a bit droning, especially after nine minutes. When, in fact, the point could have been made in half the time. “Wow” is definitely the lowest point on this CD. It comes across like a pseudo-rap song with a hideous programmed disco clap throughout. “Wight Spider” and “Unkillable Monster” aren’t nearly as questionable, but they still don’t make you want to go back and hear them again and again.
What saves the end of this CD is the punk-influenced “We’re From America.” This track maintains its energy from start to finish and sounds even better when played loud. “I Have To Look Up Just To See Hell,” “Into The Fire” and “15″ aren’t very strong following “We’re From America.” Overall, The High End Of Low isn’t very shocking coming from someone who’s known for shock rock. Diehard fans will embrace this CD, but it’s not likely Marilyn Manson will gain any new fans from this effort.
2. Pretty As A ($)
3. Leave A Scar
4. Four Rusted Horses
6. Blank And White
7. Running To The Edge Of The World
8. I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies
10. Wight Spider
11. Unkillable Monster
12. We’re From America
13 I Have To Look Up Just To See Hell
14. Into The Fire
Hardrock Haven rating 5/10
July 30, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Derric Miller
Tango Down guitarist Scott “Rif” Miller checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about their recent festival slot at Dakota Rock Fest; their brand new studio release called Damage Control; how the band welcomed in new lead singer Alex Barbieri; how the songwriting process works in the band; upcoming tour plans; and a whole lot more.
Damage Control is the sophomore effort from Tango Down, and they are a little less polished, a little meaner, yet still held on to the mammoth melodies that everyone loved from the debut, Take 1. Tune in now to get to know Rif, and then pick up Damage Control immediately thereafter.
(If the embedded player doesn’t populate, click here to stream in a stand alone player.)
July 30, 2009 by Publisher
by Alissa Ordabai
Andreas Kisser’s upcoming double album Hubris I & II is Sepultura guitarist’s first solo effort, and it shows. The variety of styles, genres and approaches on this mulligan-stew of an album couldn’t have been wider, even if diversity was the actual purpose behind this release. But it wasn’t. All ideas, experiences, and moods that Kisser has been privately musing on while presenting a perfect image of the ultimate metal god in Sepultura, have finally, in one way or another, found an expression on this impressively varied yet cohesive solo debut.
The first disk of this release was meant to be all about the electric guitar, while the second one – an acoustic opus. However, both bleed into each other, showing that for Kisser’s guitars – be it electric, acoustic, steel-stringed or nylon-stringed – are simply a means of expression, not a categorized set of gear that he keeps apart in separate tool boxes.
To prove this point and to defy the initial concept of separating of the two, there is plenty of acoustic guitar on the first disk, and some indelible electric guitar on the second. In fact, the opener of the first disk, “Protest,” is an exquisitely wrought acoustic number that channels Jimmy Page’s late ‘60s instrumental wizardry and mixes it with ethnic chanting. “Euphoria / Desperation” that follows takes the vibe further into the direction of heavier but no less colorful ethnic romps underpinned by metal riffs.
The result is a haunting, multi-layered, irresistible atmosphere that sets the mood from the word go, as this rich exotic vein continues throughout the record, at times joining hips with contemporary Brazilian popular music and, at times, gives way to straight-up metal.
In an interview with Hardrock Haven, Kisser admits that the second disk, which was meant to be acoustic, was far more challenging to make than the first part of this album. And the first track proves this point perfectly. “Sad Soul” is a melancholy number in which classically-bred acoustic guitar lets its younger electric sister run atop of its rigorous arpeggios to create an exquisite layered dissonance of traditions and purposes and then magically transforms into a prism through which you can see the essence of Kisser’s message on this album – the interaction between the old and the new, between rigour and abandon, between the earth and the stratosphere.
(If the audio player doesn’t populate, click here to stream the interview in a stand alone player.)
July 29, 2009 by Publisher
by Justin Gaines
Just when you thought Steel Panther was the ultimate hair-metal parody band, here comes Top Johnny, a tongue-in-cheek send up of the big-hair days. Come on, what’s more hilarious than a rap-infused mash-up of Limp Bizkit and Poison?
Oh wait, these guys are serious. Damn. If this isn’t some kind of Meta/ironic joke, then it’s a sad, sad excuse for a rock album. Apparently, this band thought dumbing down Poison-style lyrics and adding funk and rap elements was just what the rock world needed. There’s nothing wrong with innuendo-laden sleaze rock if it’s done well. Dirty Penny and Crashdiet are proof of that. At least their brand of “cock rock” is fun. This is just embarrassing.
It’s a shame the album is so God-damned dumb because the band actually has the potential to make a decent cock rock record. T.J. Star has a solid, steady voice, and the guitar hooks and solos (Star again, plus Izzy Slater) are pretty sweet. There are even a couple of better-than-average rock songs, such as “Your Love Is Killing Me” and “Feel So Alive.” Unfortunately, they’re way overshadowed by inane rap-rock numbers such as “Bustin’ Loose” and “We Are Live” and just plain bad rock songs like “Bad Boy (For Loving You)” and “My X-Tasy.”
Sorry, but this is just painful. Go out of your way to avoid this one.
T.J. Star – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Synths
Karo – Bass, Vocals
Izzy Slater – Guitars, Vocals
Hitman – Drums
1. Bad Boy (For Loving You)
2. Bustin’ Loose
3. Your Love Is Killing Me
4. Keep It Real
5. Out of Control
6. Love You Like an Animal
7. The Edge (Is Where the Action Is)
8. Feel So Alive
9. My X-Tasy
10. This Time
11. We Are Live
12. Ready 4 U
HRH Rating: 2/10
by Derric Miller
The sophomore effort from Tango Down is a step in a sonically rougher direction, and that’s a great thing. Their debut, Take 1, was overly-polished, and part of that reason (besides pristine production efforts) was because of former frontman Phil Naro. If you’ve heard Naro, you know he’s a massive talent, but also, he doesn’t just sing … he vocally glides. His smooth-as-hell style is better suited to a more Classic Rock format, like Cheap Trick, and this time out on Damage Control, Tango Down is bringing the heat. So, in steps the new voice of Tango Down, Alex Barbieri, and he conveys a lot more sleaze and grit to parallel the band’s heavier direction.
Damage Control’s opener is “Empty Hole,” and it takes about one second of guitarist Scott Miller’s (Adriangale) riffing to understand they took some musical HGH this time out. Barbieri slays on the chorus, “I’m gonna run you through, I might take from you, I’m gonna make you mine … I’m gonna take it!” With mammoth backing vocals and a searing guitar solo, “Empty Hole” is an eye-opener.
“I Can’t Wait” will remind fans of Firehouse mixed with a little Skid Row. They have a bit of a formula down—keep it around 3-4 minutes, make it radio friendly, and make it memorable with the lyrics and melodies.
When Tango Down played at Dakota Rock Fest recently, they opened their set with “All Fall Down.” It’s got the kind of grind that works well in a strip bar, a pummeling rhythm with sing-song lyrics like, “Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, singing ashes ashes, all fall down!” The sleaze drips from Barbieri’s vocals, and the band even does a bit of a shout-out to Judas Priest on the “Turbo Lover” like passage, “You don’t see me, but you’ll feel me around …” Besides the semi-goofy lyrics, it’s another killer composition.
“I’m Done Lovin’ You” is one of those perfect Hard Rock songs, a track that should be spun on any Rock station around the nation. Knowing that won’t happen because radio is dead and convulsing, it’s unfortunate thousands may not have the opportunity to hear how stellar this Ratt and Firehouse-like anthem truly is.
Out of all the covers you’d think Tango Down would tackle, a John Waite track probably isn’t mentioned in the narrative. But they do cover “Change,” and inject with enough steroids to harden it while keeping the sensational melodies alive and pumping. Great cover …
The one time they sort of get back to a song you could have heard on Take 1 is “Radio.” This is sheer fun, a fast-paced pared down burner, reminiscent of Cheap Trick. In fact, it’s got a little Ramones in it with the simple punk-infused gang vocal shouts. “I just can’t stay here long without my radio on, cuz I really want it, I really want now!”
If you are looking for that “ballad,” it raises its head on “The Light.” After all the high-energy tracks before, Barbieri sounds a little breathy during the verses, although he strengthens during the chorus.
The best slow-paced song is “Intoxicated.” It’s not really a ballad, but an acoustic song, complex and almost Beatles-esque. The two-part harmonies draw you in on the verses, and chorus is pretty heady for a song about boozing. “Intoxicated … never want to feel this way again. I’m slowly fading, fading into someone else’s head.” You will dig this mellow song as much as the heavier ones like “Empty Hole.”
Tango Down hasn’t let any of their fans down on Damage Control, unless the lovely lass on the cover is a huge Naro fan and is taking gas and a sledgehammer to the band’s car (and those inside) in protest. They still have the sticky pop Rock songs, but their heavier songs work better with Barbieri’s vocals. All in all, it’s time for you to get damaged, in a controlled way, of course …
Label: Kivel Records
1. Empty Hole
2. I Can’t Wait
3. All Fall Down
4. I’m Done Lovin’ You
6. Step By Step
8. The Light
9. Waiting for You
10. I Wanna
HRH Rating: 8.1/10
July 29, 2009 by Publisher
by Justin Gaines
There’s not a lot of meat on Infected, the five-song single/EP by the diminutive ex-Accept front man Udo Dirkschneider and his band U.D.O. The EP was intended to drum up interest in the band’s upcoming Dominator album, which is where the title track “Infected” comes from. Like most U.D.O. singles, there are a few surprises on the 24-minute release for the serious fans. Here’s the track listing:
“Infected” – A wickedly fast, full-on metal assault leads things off. If Judas Priest had written a song for Udo during the Painkiller sessions, it would sound like this. If the rest of Dominator is this good, we should be in for something special.
“Systematic Madness” – This studio number is exclusive to this EP. It slows down the pace a bit from the title track, but it’s every bit as heavy.
“Bodyworld” – This is the most Accept-sounding song on the EP, and that may not be a good thing. It just sounds dated in a way that most U.D.O. songs manage to avoid.
“Platchet Soldat” (Remix) – This is a very folksy Russian version of the Mission No. X song “Cry Soldier Cry.” It’s an abrupt change of pace from the previous three blazing metal songs, but it’s very memorable and effective.
“Poezd Po Rossi” (Live) – The EP closes with a live version of the Thunderball track “Trainride in Russia.” The performance was recorded live in Moscow, and Udo does his best to sing the entire song in Russian (hence the Russian title). It’s a lively number with a lot of audience participation, and it should entertain even those who don’t typically enjoy live recordings.
Infected succeeds in building interest for next month’s Dominator full-length CD, and offers some nice extras for the die-hard U.D.O fans as well. It’s worth noting that at most of the (legal) download sites, you can purchase the songs on Infected individually, so if you only want the studio B-sides or live material, you can get it rather cheaply.
Udo Dirkschneider – Vocals
Fitty Weinhold – Bass
Igor Gianola – Guitar
Stefan Kaufmann – Guitar
Francesco Jovino – Drums
2. Systematic Madness
4. Platchet Soldat
5. Poezd Po Rossi
HRH Rating: 7/10
by Deb Rao
During the heyday of metal in 1989 Boston, one band that ruled the Lansdowne area metal clubs such as Axis and Bills Bar was Wicked Witch. The golden vocals of Zak Stevens and catchy in-your-face guitar-driven melodies earned the band a loyal following with metal fans in the Hub.
They say what comes around goes around, and 20 years later Wicked Witch has taken on a second name, Machines of Grace, which features Zak Stevens (vocals, Circle II Circle, Savatage), Matt Leff (guitars), Chris Rapoza (bass), and Jeff Plate (drums,Trans Siberian Orchestra, Savatage, Metal Church.
Machines Of Grace has just released its debut self-titled album, which features renditions of the early Wicked Witch’s catalog plus some new songs, too. Opening Wicked Witch song, ”Just A Game” sets the tone for this guitar solo-oriented album, featuring melodic vocals and love-gone-bad lyrics.
One of the hardest driving songs is “Psychotic,” which unleashes schizophrenic guitar riffs and furious drum beats. Twenty years later and a bit more seasoned than their Axis days, Machines Of Grace breathes new life into the songs that once roared on Lansdowne Street.
What would the ‘80s be without a power ballad? Here is where the Savatage influence comes into play with the heart-wrenching, love-gone-wrong ballads, ”This Moment,” and “This Time.” Zak Stevens bleeds his heart out with the acoustic finger picking of Matt Leff.
For those of you that like your metal a little bit heavier, Machines Of Grace does not disappoint with the Metal Church hard driving resemblance “Bleed.” The band also tries to pull off what Dokken did on “Hell To Pay” delivering two great versions of the same song; one acoustic and one with the band on the final acoustic track, “This Time.”
Overall, if you love the ‘80s era and Savatage, you will enjoy the debut of Machines Of Grace. It is good to see a band have a second chance in the industry after Grunge took over the city. The renditions of the Wicked Witch songs soar with the melodic vocals of Zak Stevens and guitar melodies of Matt Leff.
1. Just A Game
3. Fly Away
5. The Moment
6. Between The Lines
7. This Time
9. Soul To Fire
12. Better Days
13. This Time (Acoustic)
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10
by Justain Gaines
For an up-and-coming band in an increasingly crowded genre, making your debut with a covers album is more than a little risky. Choosing to do a covers album that is dedicated entirely to the influential New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) movement of the early 1980s is riskier still, but it definitely works as an attention-grabber. If you’re a fan of the NWOBHM scene (and if you’re into metal in a serious way, you should be), you can’t ignore Roxxcalibur, the German traditional heavy metal band comprising members of Viron, Abandoned and Child in Time, and their debut album NWOBHM for Muthas.
With its gorgeous Rodney Matthews (Diamond Head, Praying Mantis, Tygers of Pan Tang) cover artwork and a title that’s homage to the legendary NWOBHM compilation Metal for Muthas, NWOBHM for Muthas is the largest collection of NWOBHM covers since Metallica’s Garage Inc. The best part – well, aside from the fact that the band did a NWOBHM covers album in the first place and totally nailed the spirit of the original material – is that Roxxcalibur went for some seriously deep cuts here. They could have gone the easy route and covered Iron Maiden, Saxon, early Def Leppard and Diamond Head. Instead they went deeper; not just Jaguar, Savage, and Witchfinder General deeper, but obscurities like J.J’s Powerhouse and Jameson Raid. Even the most dedicated NWOBHM aficionados will have to do some research when they see this track listing!
Beyond the truly impressive track listing, Roxxcalibur really executed these songs well, combining that unmistakable German metal precision with a genuine appreciation (reverence, even) for the source material. Even the production on NWOBHM for Muthas, which is totally modern, manages to come close to the rough, do-it-yourself sound of those early NWOBHM recordings. Highlights of NWOBHM for Muthas are Jaguar’s “Axe Crazy,” Dark Star’s “Lady of Mars,” and the closing double nod to Steve Grimmett (Chateaux’s “Spirit of Chateaux” and Grim Reaper’s “See You In Hell”), but the whole album is a love letter to one of metal’s most important scenes.
With NWOBHM for Muthas, Roxxcalibur has proven they have the talent and inspiration to play traditional heavy metal with the best of them. The only question now is whether their songwriting skills are up to the task. Hopefully, the band won’t make us wait too long to find out.
Roger Dequis – Guitar
Andreas Neuderth – Drums
Alexander Beisswenger – Vocals
Eric Kaldschmidt – Guitar, Vocals
Mario Long – Bass
1. Big Ben
2. Running for the Line (J.J.’s Powerhouse)
3. The Gates of Gehenna (Cloven Hoof)
4. Seven Days of Splendour (Jameson Raid)
5. Rainbow Warrior (Break House)
6. Axe Crazy (Jaguar)
7. Lady of Mars (Dark Star)
8. Destiny (Trident)
9. War of the Ring (ARC)
10. Witchfinder General (Witchfinder General)
11. Let It Loose (Savage)
12. Angel of Fear (Radium)
13. Spirit of Chateaux (Chateaux)
14. See You In Hell (Grim Reaper)
HRH Rating: 8/10
by Justin Gaines
It’s hard to believe, but British melodic hard rock band Praying Mantis celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The band was an early, important player in the now-legendary New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) scene, appearing on the legendary Metal for Muthas compilation alongside Iron Maiden and Angel Witch. Since the NWOBHM days, Praying Mantis has weathered changing musical climates, label changes and more lineup turnover than most bands could imagine, developing along the way into one of the better (if consistently overlooked) melodic rock bands around.
In late 2008, Chris and Tino Troy – the band’s only permanent fixtures over its 30-year history – recruited members of their local pub band Paddy Goes to Holyhead for a new incarnation of Praying Mantis. They traveled to the U.S. to record under the guidance of producer/engineer Andy Reilly, who had previously worked with Bruce Dickinson, FM, and Asia. The result of those sessions is Sanctuary, Praying Mantis’s latest album, and easily their best release in years, if not decades.
We’ve all heard apathetic, status quo albums from veteran artists that sounded like they were phoning it in. Sanctuary is the exact opposite. Sanctuary sounds like the work of a hungry band with something to prove and the talent to back it up. It’s an extraordinarily vital and energetic melodic hard rock album. All the stars seem to be in alignment with this album. The new lineup sounds like they’ve been playing together for ages, and the songwriting is inspired. The melodies are utterly captivating, and the production job is first rate. And then there’s the vocals; Mike Freeland’s voice may not be as recognizable as Dennis Stratton’s or Doogie White’s, or as powerful as Tony O’Hora’s, but it perfectly suits the band and these songs, whether he’s belting out heavy rockers such as “In Time” and “Threshold of a Dream” or ballads such as “Turn the Tide.” Speaking of which, even the most jaded ballad-hater ought to get chills listening to that one!
Praying Mantis has really outdone itself here. With any luck, Sanctuary will be the album that finally gives Praying Mantis the wider audience its music deserves. If you’re a fan of high-quality melodic rock along the lines of Place Vendome, Sunstorm, Hardline, Starbreaker and Pink Cream 69, do yourself a favor and check out Sanctuary.
Chris Troy – Bass, Vocals
Tino Troy – Guitar, Vocals
Mike Freeland – Lead Vocals
Andy Burgess – Guitar, Vocals
Benjamin Reid – Drums
1. In Time
2. Restless Heart
3. Tears in the Rain
4. So High
5. Turn the Tide
6. Touch the Rainbow
7. Threshold of a Dream
8. Playing God
HRH Rating: 8.5/10
July 27, 2009 by Publisher
July 24 & 25, 2009 W.H. Lyon Fairgorunds, Sioux Falls, SD.
by Derric Miller
4:00 pm JUKEBOX ZEROES
5:00 pm GOODBYE THRILL
6:00 pm TALON
7:00 pm ESCAPE
8:00 pm FAR CRY
9:00 pm DRAW THE LINE
10:00 pm HEAD EAST
11:15 pm APRIL WINE
10:00 am PAISTY JENNY
11:00 am APPETITE FOR DECEPTION
12:00 pm ESCAPE
1:00 pm TANGO DOWN
2:00 pm ENUFF Z’ NUFF
3:05 pm BOMBAY BLACK
4:10 pm L.A. GUNS
5:25 pm DRAW THE LINE
6:30 pm FIREHOUSE
7:45 pm DOKKEN
9:00 pm SKID ROW
10:15 pm BRET MICHAELS
The second annual Dakota Rock Fest—aka Eastern South Dakota’s Biggest Rock Formation—stepped up its draw this year by bringing one of the hottest musicians/TV stars on the planet to Sioux Falls, S.D. Bret Michaels closed the festival on Saturday night, and his star power brought tens of thousands of spectators—those who love him for his numerous hits as Poison’s frontman, and then, those who want to do more than love him for his cable TV smash hit “Rock of Love.”
Like last year, Dakota Rock Fest 2009 featured area acts (Jukebox Zeroes and Nebraska’s Paisty Jenny), new Hard Rock bands carrying on in the tradition of Poison, Motley Crue, Ratt, etc. (like Tango Down, Bombay Black, Far Cry) and then multi-platinum ‘80s giants like Dokken, Firehouse, Skid Row, and Bret Michaels.
The promoters also signed on tribute bands for Aerosmith, Journey, and Guns and Roses. By far, the GNR tribute band Appetite for Deception lived up to their namesake, with the other two struggling to mirror their heroes.
Dakota Rock Fest went even farther back than the ‘80s, closing out Friday night with Head East and April Wine. It was obvious that Saturday’s/Bret Michaels’ crowd was a bit more spritely than those who stayed to see April Wine on Friday.
The organizers (Leisinger Entertainment) welcome feedback and actually listen to their customers, so this year’s VIP access was even better than last year. For $150, it’s all you can drink and eat, while having access to mingle with the bands in the VIP area. It’s by far one of the better priced festivals in the nation.
For some reason, the bands that truly seemed hungry and happy to be playing this year were the lesser-knowns, like Far Cry, who blew the crowd away with their songwriting, musicianship and live energy. Tango Down did the same, offering up a mix of Firehouse and Ratt-like compositions that pulled the crowd in even if they didn’t know the songs. As always, Bombay Black owned the masses with their blend of infectious, snarky, heavy and fun Hard Rock. Paisty Jenny one-upped them all, bringing on three gorgeous bikini-clad women (see pictures below) to dance around and wake up the crowd as they sang “Jack/Coke a little bit of Bud Light!” on the track “Take It Like a Shot,” while their somber “Better Man” showed another facet to this talented foursome.
Unfortunately, maybe because of a tech glitch at the start of their set, the band who seemed the most uninterested was Dokken. They opened with “Breaking the Chains,” and lead singer Don Dokken stopped the set and said, “Trust me, this song sounds a lot better when you can hear the guitar.” While he tried to slough it off, professionals have short fuses, and by the time the guitar was back in the mix, Dokken was forced to nix a song or two from their set. After that, Dokken seemed comfortable singing an entire octave below the original melody line on some of the songs, making them sound droning. Without Jeff Pilson in the band to match the harmonies and backing vocals the great Dokken hits mesmerized with, and with Don himself comfortable sleepwalking through the harder vocals spots, Dokken as a band struggled mightily, and the crowd echoed the lack of energy accordingly.
The biggest surprise was L.A. Guns, who now have Jizzy Pearl on lead vocals. Just thinking about it, Pearl makes sense. Forget his hired-gun status in Ratt; Pearl sang the best drinking song of all time, “Black Out in the Red Room” with his band Love/Hate, and he’s the perfect mix of sleaze, grit and melody to replace Phil Lewis. They played a new original song, and it may have been the highlight of the set, although “Ballad of Jane,” “Sex Action,” “Show No Mercy,” etc. were all highlights. Traci Guns is a talent, and with Pearl able to once again record new music, look out for the newly invigorated L.A. Guns.
Bands like Skid Row and Firehouse are incapable of playing a bad live set, no matter the circumstances, and the crowd ate up their stage time. Enuff Z’Nuff, while excessively talented and armed with some of the most melodic Hard Rock you’ll ever hear, followed the combustible Bombay Black, so their set lacked a bit of energy in comparison.
By Saturday eve, the crowd seemingly doubled in size from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and a large number of those attendees were female. If you needed proof that Michaels’ name alone can fill up a festival, well, should have been there. Regardless of how you feel about Michaels, he is a performer first and foremost. He mixed his set with hits from his new solo album and of course the Poison mainstays. He always lays it out for the crowd, he’s a consummate showman, and his set capped off Dakota Rock Fest to perfection.
Dakota Rock Fest 2009 Photo Gallery
Photos by John Kindred/Derric Miller.
Dakota Rock Fest 2009 Video Gallery
(Congratulations to Leisinger Entertainment for another successful Dakota Rock Fest and thanks for bringing quality Hard Rock outdoor entertainment to Sioux Falls.)
by Ken Mac Vicar
The pericardium is a thin double-layered sac which encloses the heart. Fluid is contained within the layers and lubricates the constantly rubbing surfaces. Much like their namesake, the band Pericardium is constantly rubbing and mixing different surfaces of the rock genre in attempt to create their own distinct sound. Based out of San Francisco, Pericardium was formed in February of ’06 with the intent of fusing everything from jazz to hip hop to metal. The quartet consists of Mike Black on guitar, Sean Sullivan on vocals, David Marshall on bass and Luis Munoz on drums
The band’s second offering, the mini album Salutary sees the band attempting to define its sound while retaining the disparate elements they have been trying to fuse The result: Salutary is an album of politically fueled progressive alternative rock that has touches of jazz, psychedelia and metal. It mixes such elements as virtuosic lead guitar, spacey atmospheric instrumental work, and a solid groove throughout the album.
Overall, it’s an ambitious work that doesn’t always hit the mark, but certainly contains moments of brilliance, which perhaps can be refined consistently with some maturity and experience. While comparisons to another San Fran based outfit Green Day and their modern masterpiece, 21st Century Breakdown, would be unfair given that band’s maturation to stardom, it would not be unfair to say that Salutary contains some fine moments that would fit right at home on 21st Century Breakdown. In particular the lyrical content of Salutary is both challenging and at times politically charged and while there are musical highlights, the band needs to further define who they actually are before such ambitions can realized.
Salutary opens with the title track “Salutary,” a Pink Floyd like dreamy landscape of acoustic guitars and piano with a bluesy guitar riff. That dreamy like atmosphere is quickly slashed on “A Hymn for Doves to the Rhythm of Hawks,” perhaps the most appropriately titled song you have heard. The track kicks in with a metallic guitar line over a driving rhythm section before settling into a groove filled heavy riff punctuated by some excellent soloing. The high end almost dreamy vocals provide the song with its light and dark counterpoints, belying the cynical nature of the lyrics.
That hard driving sound gives way to a more laid back approach on “21st Century” where the band sounds more like a jazz trio than a rock band. It’s a compliment to the band’s excellent rhythm section that they are able to pull this off with out a hitch. However, the great guitar work that made the previous tracks so good is missed. That lighter sound is kicked up just a bit on “Unattainable” which starts out with a Maroon Five-ish guitar riff that would feel right at home on any Adult Contemporary radio station. The song manages to rise above such light contemporaries through the post chorus bridge, featuring some excellent guitar work and the consistent rhythm section of the M & M boys, Marshall and Munoz.
“Ecliptic Corridor” is a mid tempo instrumental track that moves the band back into harder territory, opening with more Floyd inspired riffing that’s punctuated by an excellent bass line. The drum work is simple and effective, always complimenting the sound while never dominating it. The song breaks stride at about the four minute mark speeding up the tempo and adding some keyboards to create a psychedelic effect. The track blends seamlessly into the opening of “Ataraxia’s End” another mellow track that provides a pleasant kick in the ass. The guitars take center stage after the opening verses to help create a great modern rock sound. The song slows again for the additional verses before firing up a hard hitting solo that ends the song on a high note. Sullivan’s vocals finally take center stage on “The Mist of May” as he stretches his range to deliver some much needed emotion. The song is highlighted by some excellent guitar work that plays well off the intensity of the vocals before closing in an almost spoken word fashion.
The album closes with “Neverending” one of the more mainstream accessible tracks on the album with its simple rhythm and keyboard work. Sullivan’s vocal stylings work best with this lyrical and musical approach and closes out the album in fine if quiet fashion
Bottom Line: A narrower focus could help them gain a broader appeal.
2) A Hymn for Doves to the Rhythm of Hawks
3) 21st Century
5) Ecliptic Corridor
6) Ataraxia’s End
7) The Mist of May
HRH Rating: 6/10
by Franco Wissa
As moody sounding releases go, Oceans of Night’s The Shadowheart Mirror can certainly keep up with the best of them. With lingering, winding musical passageways, complex keyboard and guitar laden choruses all drive home tracks rich with elements of the mystical, the dark and the supernatural.
Built around a fuzzy, distorted sound that is reminiscent of The Gathering’s latest kick ass release, West Pole or Riverside’s bassist’s Mariusz Duda solo project, Lunatic Soul, Oceans of Night’s principal songwriter, Scott Mosher uses the sounds and instruments available to him with full force. The musicianship is technical, precise and extremely well defined. Listening to track 4, “What’s Left of Me,” shows that this is indeed a complex bit of songwriting.
Throughout the drums are deep, heavy and loud, coupled with commanding guitar work, layered keyboards, and vocals that all carry the tunes to points beyond. It must also be pointed out that the talents of multi-instrumentalist Scott Mosher with the phenomenal voice of Scott Oliva can not be overlooked. The lyrics are thoughtfully written that don’t meander with needless words or silly clichés. The CD highlights, “Away From You,” “A Violent Reflection,” “Two Worlds Apart,” “Living in the Past,” “War Inside Myself,” and “New Machine,” will instantly remind one of the musical approach of Tiles, Riverside or Dead Soul Tribe, mixed with the rich textile layering of Sylvan and No Man and the melodic, progressive hard rock of O.S.I.
Mosher has linked the sounds of progressive, metal, hard rock and the orchestral. The music heard here is rich and forceful with the harmonies laying an attitude that towers over the music that is only because of the commanding vocals of Scott Olivia.
It is a hope that in releases to come the band even further experiments with new sounds, pushes the envelope to even newer boundaries and continues to dig deep to bring to the table a CD that explodes with the progressive metal that this band is certainly capable of both writing and playing.
Away From You
Living in the Past
What’s Left of Me
The Shadowheart Mirror
The Last Goodbye
Two Worlds Apart
War Inside Myself
Scott Mosher – guitars, bass and keyboards
Scott Olivia – lead and harmony vocals
HRH Rating: 8.5/10
by Franco Wissa
While The Veer Union’s debut, Against the Grain may not cause the rock world to spin on its head banging heels, the boys do a strong job throughout each of these 12 tracks keeping the listener’s attention. Conceivably not enough to propel them into superstardom as it is pretty standard fare, or at least not yet, for this is little here that would make this a standout in today’s hard rock market.
The guitar hooks are huge and do an admirable job in keeping a good accompaniment and the guitar solos, while brief, do show a flair for the 6-string. The rhythm section is just loud enough to drive the music forward, without ever getting in the way and vocalist Crispin does a good job in his attempt to communicate with the public. Time and again it actually sounds like he is spreading a message. While his voice really isn’t that different from many a front man who can be heard today, it must be pointed out that he can sing. And does so well. The sound of the CD is crisp, and the band has done a good job in mixing a blend of both ballads and hard rockers. The lyrics come across as nothing to deep or controversial but they do get their messages across.
Comparisons to Nickleback have been mentioned, and be that as it may, it is obvious that the boys of The Veer Union have tried hard to show the rock world that they are determined, and capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with anyone. CD highlights, “Seasons,” “Youth of Yesterday,” “Final Moment,” “Where I Want to Be,” “Over Me,” and “What Have We Done,” are all examples of this.
That having been said, it is a hope however that the boys of The Veer Union break away from the pack and formulate their own sound, for there is an audible talent here – the band just needs to reach deep within themselves, and find out they are capable of doing more. Sadly a lot of bands, of both today and the past are becoming all too complacent, with each release sounding much like the previous one. And much like other bands of the same sort. Talent is one thing, but a drive to be the best is something different entirely.
While The Veer Union certainly has shown they have the talent and promise, let’s pray that a drive to be the best continues to be heard. A read of the band’s myspace page shows they came by their name from the word “Veer,” meaning “….to change direction from one course to another…” Let’s indeed wish for that, but at least it can be said that they are on the right track.
Label: Universal Records
Youth of Yesterday
Darker Side of Me
Better Believe It
Into Your Garden
Your Love Kills Me
I’m Breathing In
Where I Want To Be
What Have I Done
Crispin – vocals
Eric – guitars, vocals
Fid – guitars
Roots – bass
Neil – drums
HRH Rating: 7.5/10
by Jay Villain
Paying tribute to our forefathers of thrash and power metal, Fool’s Game’s Reality Divine is metal to the core. This CD delivers something for everyone. It has well-structured songs, double bass drums, harmony guitar solos and lots of melody.
Musically, Reality Divine is quite dynamic, and nothing is too loud and overplayed. The production is fat and chunky, while still remaining clear and audible; every instrument can be heard clearly without the listener having to struggle. With that being said, the overall sound would benefit by adding a bit more bass guitar in the mix.
Reality Divine comes out of the gate running with “Mass Psychosis,” A mid-tempo song that clearly illustrates to the listener the conviction and quality musicianship they’re about to behold. Vocalist Lars F. Larsen projects his voice with great strength and clarity. Reality Divine delivers a blend of very melodic vocals combined with just a bit of the guttural vocal technique that’s commonly used in death metal, showing great discipline and judgment.
The skillful guitar playing by Matt Crooks and Matt Johnsen are a perfect combination. Their harmony guitar solos are written with specific intent and are superbly executed. This duo puts emphasis on the songs, and they only solo when the songs call for it. Speaking of solos, it’s nice to hear a keyboard player that can hold his own. Nick van Dyk makes his presence known throughout Reality Divine, by bringing to the table melodic progressions such as the intro to “Prelude To The Fair,” which is an instrumental, and some very nice keyboard soloing as in “The Conqueror Worm.”
One reason these musicians are able to shine is, in part, because of the rhythm section. The bass was performed by Matt Crooks, one of the guitar players, who does a great job holding down the low end and also brings the bass to the foreground from time to time to add even more flavor. Last and definitely not least, to put it simply, John Macaluso is a drummer that most musicians would just about kill for to play with. Combining interesting patterns, flowing drum rolls and his use of double bass kick drums make Reality Divine the strong CD that it is. One of the many highlights on this disc is “As The Field Of Dreams Was Abandoned.” It’s a brisk up-tempo song that sums up Reality Divine with the stamp of metal dominance.
If you’re a fan of metal, this CD is a fine addition to any collection. And if you’re not a fan of metal … Reality Divine just might change that. With this current lineup, Fool’s Game is a band that is sure to deliver high-grade metal for many years to come.
1. Mass Psychosis
2. When The Beginning Meets The End
3. Sowing Dead Seeds
4. As The Field Of Dreams Was Abandoned
5. The Conquerer Worm
6. Prelude To The Fair
7. She Moved Through The Fair
8. The Wild Swans At Coole
9. On Endless Planes Of Ignorance
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10
July 22, 2009 by Publisher
by Joe Mis
Baker’s Dozen is the second release by guitar master and Michigan native Sean Baker. Fans of instrumental guitar rock are in for a real treat. Thirteen tracks comprise Baker’s Dozen and vary in style from shred metal to classical and almost anything (and everything) in between.
Sean Baker has stocked the band with fellow guitarist Cmak Ashtiani, bassist David Donigian and drummer Lawrence Wilson. Mix in a few guests, and you have the makings of every guitarist’s fantasy.
“Dukes Of New York” is a real rocker with a great rhythm line, some blindingly fast guitar work and prog-metal style tempo changes. Flashes of Lynch, Metallica and Megadeth abound. “Pummel U” also is an intense high-speed track with a grinding rhythm line and lyrical guitars, reminiscent of Racer X and Yngwie Malmsteen. Baker and Ashtiani really give themselves a chance to show off their chops. “Ballvice” drops the tempo a bit, but not the intensity. This piece channels the spirit of David Chastain and melds it with a real Racer X rhythm line.
Guest guitarist Joe Stump joins SBO on “Neo-Classical Gas” – yes, it is definitely a classically tinged track that would make Malmsteen or Paganini proud. “7/24/04” is a sweet and smooth acoustic song, although the transition from the high-energy stuff to a simple acoustic guitar piece is a bit jarring. “Steve’s Blackout” turns everything back up to 11 with an almost industrial metal riff and some really heavy contributions from bass and drum, although some of the riff work becomes a little repetitious along the way. Racer X alum Bruce Bouillet joins the band for a shred showcase in “Playing Opossum.” “Poindexter” has a great groove with some classical overtones. “Highway Star” is the true highlight of the album – the guys from Deep Purple would be proud. “Mike Varney’s Mexican Vacation” mixes a little flamenco with a little shred – must have been a good trip. “Whichway To Radioland?” and “Verbal Skillz” (with guest guitarist Rusty Cooley) are more conventional rock instrumentals with great rhythm lines and solid solos. The acoustic Bach’s “Two Part Invention In C Major” is a great way to wrap up the disc; it’s well done, soft and mellow.
Occasionally, it seems that Baker and crew fall back on the old shredder’s mantra of, “If you can’t play good, play fast,” and that is a bit sad since, in this case, it is totally unnecessary. Everything they play is good, yet occasionally a well-structured song turns into a blistering barrage of notes as if they were doing “speed for the sake of speed.” The members of this four-man “orchestra” are all incredibly talented and have no need to rely on the old crutches. They need to distance themselves from the clichés and focus on defining their own identity as a group.
The production and engineering are very good, and the guitars are obviously highlighted. Sean baker gets production credit, with Bruce Bouillet lending a hand at the mixing board. The sound is very balanced across the entire album, and the technical proficiency (and raw enthusiasm) of all of the players really shows.
If you like guitars, this one is for you. If you are looking for deep meaning and angst, look elsewhere. This album was done with no apologies by a guitar freak for fellow guitar freaks, so crank it up!
Label: Lion Music
01. Dukes Of New York
02. Pummel U
04. Neo-Classical Gas
06. Steve’s Blackout
07. Playing Opossum
09. Highway Star
10. Mike Varney’s Mexican Vacation
11. Whichway To Radioland?
12. Verbal Skillz
13. Two Part Invention In C Major
HRH Rating: 8/10
July 21, 2009 by Publisher
by John Kindred
Proving that longevity can exist on the backs of hits forged long ago, Ted Nugent continues to be musically and politically relevant. In an age where ‘70s rock mega-stars are moving towards becoming the dinosaurs of rock, they battle impending extinction. If not for the current wave of unsatisfying self-indulgent, posturing posers currently paraded to the masses, their fossils would have long since been buried deep within the earth.
Still their voices call from the past and remind us that, at one time, these dinosaurs ruled the world.
With a career spanning 40 plus years, Nugent delivers his 6000th concert to 20,000 faithful fans. Recorded for DVD, Blue-ray and CD formats, the concert was captured on Independence Day in ’08 at DTE Energy Music Centre in Detroit, Mich.
Nugent’s three-piece band features Mike Brown (Dokken, Lynch Mob) on drums and bassist Greg Smith (Rainbow, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult). On this night, Nugent brought out his guitar teacher, Joe Podorsek, who performed on the song “Honky Tonk.” Johnny “Bee” Badanjek of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels joined the group on the classic “Jenny Take a Ride.” And the heralded return of Derek St. Holmes, who was part of Ted’s solo band, took the stage performing “Hey Baby,” “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold.”
Motor City Mayhem follows up last year’s live DVD release Sweden Rocks and is a far superior performance. Motor City Mayhem lacks any bonus features, which will come as a disappointment to fans. From a visual stand point, multi-angled cameras present the concert in easily viewable presentation. The production team shied away from parlor tricks and delivered a suitable visual experience. More importantly, the audio is clear and well mixed.
While poking fun at Ted with all the “dinosaur” references, one cannot escape the musical and political influence that the man will leave after he is long gone. That can’t be said for many of the new fly-by-night acts that are here today and gone tomorrow.
DVD /Blu-ray/CD Track Listing:
1. Star Spangled Banner
2. Motor City Madhouse
3. Wango Tango
4. Free For All
6. Dog Eat Dog
7. Need You Bad
8. Weekend Warrior
9. Love Grenade
10. Honky Tonk (with Joe Podorsek)
11. Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
12. Baby Please Don’t Go
13. Geronimo And Me
14. Jenny Take A Ride (with Johnny “Bee” Badanjek)
15. Soul Man
16. Hey Baby (with Derek St. Holmes)
17. Cat Scratch Fever (with Derek St. Holmes)
18. Stranglehold (with Derek St. Holmes)
19. Great White Buffalo
20. Fred Bear
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10
by Deb Rao
HRH: Frankie, Thank you for checking in with Hardrock Haven. Freakshow recently unleashed their debut album on Retrospect Records. How has the response been so far for the band and the release?
FRANKIE: The critic reviews have really been wonderful and positive. Listener response has been tremendous, which is really gratifying to hear for a new band these days.
HRH: How did Freakshow come to fruition? I know you toured with Cinderella and Jeff in the past, but how did you meet the rest of the band?
FRANKIE: Oddly enough, it didn’t have anything to do with me knowing Jeff or having toured together, though I love Jeff’s playing and had hoped to work with him for many years.
Markus Allen Christopher called me, explained who he was and that he wanted to know if I would be interested in recording with him. I told Markus that I would have to hear the material first to decide if I was the right drummer for the songs. We talked over a period of time, and he sent me a four-song demo, which was very well done. It was obvious that he could write great rock songs and record them well, could play great rock-crushing guitar, and could sing as good as any of the majors within the genre. We talked on the phone a number of times, and I decided that I might be a good fit for the songs with my particular style and drum sound.
HRH: Freakshow is made up of some of the best talent in the business. Every musician in the band has made an impact in music today. How did each musician’s style reflect in the making of the new Freakshow release?
FRANKIE: Everyone, I think, just played and recorded the parts that best fit the type and styles of songs that made up the entire Freakshow CD. It’s easy to record great songs; it’s difficult to make songs that are just OK into a great song. Everyone did their best to leave their individual style on each of the tracks.
HRH: You are greatly influenced by the late John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. How did this play a major factor in the recording of the Freakshow debut?
FRANKIE: It neither did nor didn’t. There are some tracks like “It’s Really Over” and “Mistreat Me” that lend themselves to that style, a somewhat common thread to the style of Led Zeppelin and the great John Henry Bonham, and that is a great comfort zone for my style of drumming. That also applies to the track “Welcome To The Freakshow” to a lesser degree. Then there are tracks like “Ripper,” which is by and large very removed from a Zeppelin-esque style of songwriting and drumming.
HRH: The music industry has changed so much since the the ‘80s. Tell us the story behind the signing of Freakshow to Retrospect Records.
FRANKIE: We signed on to Retrospect Records after shopping the major labels, none of which are really signing rock bands of this genre to any great degree. I feel sorry for bands now trying to get a real record deal with an advance because they rarely, if ever, exist anymore. It was easier to have Retrospect release the Freakshow CD than it was to self-release it, but the end results, as far as exposure, are about the same.
HRH: What was the vibe in the studio like working with Jeff, Tony, and Markus?
FRANKIE: The entire “band” was never in the studio at anytime. We sort of worked on shifts. First, I went in with Markus, then Jeff and finally Tony. Markus had thought that he and I would do pre-production for two or three days, then take four days to record the drum tracks. He played me the additional six songs that I had not heard when I arrived at his house with just a guitar in San Jose, and I gave him my suggestions and ideas. We went to the studio that same night, and we ran down all the songs with me behind the drums, and we fine-tuned it. That was the extent of the pre-production. It was just a handful of hours in one day.
We then went into the studio the next evening, set up the drums, got drum sounds, and I recorded the drums to six of the songs in one six-and-a-half-hour session, came in the next day and tracked the following four in two and a half hours. So, all in all, it was less than three days to rehearse and track the drums. The eleventh track, the acoustic “Mistaken” was something that Markus sent me as an MP3 demo after I returned to LA. I liked it so much that I booked a small studio in LA, recorded percussion to it, timpani, shakers, conga and cymbals and sent Markus a data file of the tracks and gave him the option to use the percussion or not. He decided to use them.
HRH: Tell us about the songwriting process for the band? Did each member contribute to the writing of the Freakshow release?
FRANKIE: Actually, you would have to ask Markus about the music and lyrics since he is the primary writer of these songs. The music and lyrics, for the most part, were already well on their way to completion when I got involved. The six he and I worked on when I first arrived for the sessions were sorted out rather easily, and Markus felt that the contributions that I made on “It’s Really Over” and “Four Leave Clover” were above and beyond what I had done on the recordings overall and merited songwriting credits on my part, and therefore I am a co-writer on those two songs. It was great that Markus appreciated and understood the value of my input on those two tracks in particular. The bottom line is that I treated the drum parts to each song so that they would complement the feel of each song to the best of my abilities.
HRH: How did the band come up with the name Freakshow?
FRANKIE: One day, Markus had an addiction to sending me text messages with a variety of different names. I reciprocated by sending him back some text name ideas. At one point, he texted me something, I don’t remember what it was, but it triggered something in my mind. That something was “Freakshow,” and he loved it. No hidden meaning, no brew-ha-ha!
HRH: Every member of Freakshow has their own accomplishments. What was your goal when putting the band together? Did every member want to create a sound that was different from their previous bands?
FRANKIE: The Freakshow songs just happen to be a great vehicle for each of our individual styles. Since we all came from different backgrounds, the sound is different from what each of us has done in the past, yet there is still a thread of each of our musical histories without the loss of the essence of what each of us brought to the songs stylistically or individually.
HRH: The marketing and launching of a new band have changed so dramatically since the ‘80s. Now, newer bands today have MySpace and iTunes versus MTV. What are your thoughts on this?
FRANKIE: MySpace is great to have, but I think of it as more social than business insofar as exposure on a professional or industry level, though they are immediate and far reaching nonetheless. ITunes and Amazon, in a way, fill the void of all the record stores and outlets that have simply ceased to exist.
HRH: Speaking of iTunes, the new Freakshow release is on iTunes, correct?
FRANKIE: Yes, they are indeed. Start your Freakshow shopping engines now!
HRH: Back in the ‘80s, there was vinyl. What are your thoughts on all the new technology that has been developed since the heyday? What are some of the pros and cons of vinyl versus digital?
FRANKIE: The only “pro” is that the audio quality of the CD product is excellent. The disastrous “con” is that, unlike the sound issues with vinyl and the generational audio loss on cassettes, a CD is representative in audio quality of a “master” recording. This and the advent of home recording, copying of released CDs has killed the music industry by providing a “product” that can be copied, shared and illegally downloaded over the Internet. The labels make less money, and the artists make even less than ever. This has a stifling effect on every aspect of the music industry. There is no secret that there is barely a music industry that is active any longer, or active as we once knew it. It is becoming increasingly impossible for bands to tour these days and make any sort of living doing it.
HRH: Frankie, you are one of the most influential drummers in the business. What drew you to working with bassist Tony Franklin?
FRANKIE: Thank you, but I don’t know about being an influential drummer; I certainly try hard! As for Tony, it’s a well-known matter of record that he is entirely my favorite bass player to work with. We’ve recorded together on more records than I can recall, starting with the Gary Hoey “Animal Instinct” in the mid ‘90s and as recent as a few weeks ago on another session. I can’t say enough great things about Tony, both as a person and as a musician. Top shelf in every respect.
HRH: What has the highlight been for you in launching your new band project Freakshow?
FRANKIE: That we made a great rock record when many are not bothering with the genre anymore. The Freakshow record stands on it’s own.
by Justain Gaines
Newly signed to the Frontiers label and fresh from a breakout performance at 2008’s ProgPower USA festival, Italian progressive metal band Pathosray is back with Sunless Skies, the eagerly anticipated follow-up to their 2007 self-titled debut.
Of course, the bigger names in the Italian progressive metal scene are Vision Divine and Labyrinth, and Pathosray’s debut was all the more noteworthy for not sounding like a carbon copy of either band. Instead, they developed a sound that was as melody-oriented as it was technically progressive. This approach helped generate interest from melodic rock circles as well as the traditional progressive metal fan base.
Unfortunately, Sunless Skies does not quite live up to the quality level of the band’s debut. Instead of carving their own path, Pathosray seems content to follow the Dream Theater model, emphasizing technicality and a more modern overall sound. There also are more aggressive elements on Sunless Skies. In particular, at times, it sounds as though vocalist Marco Sandron is trying a bit too hard to emulate Evergrey’s Tom Englund that just doesn’t suit his voice. None of this is a slight against the band’s considerable talents. If anything, the musicianship is better on Sunless Skies (it’s certainly more proggy) than it was on the debut, and the vocals remain (mostly) impressive.
So what exactly is missing from Sunless Skies? In a word – melody. Maybe the band felt it had to up the aggression factor or focus more on technical instrumentation, but the end result was to decrease the amount of melody – the very element that made the first Pathosray album stand out from the very crowded progressive metal pack. It’s not surprising that Sunless Skies’ best tracks are the more melodic songs at the heart of the album like “In Your Arms,” “Sons of the Sunless Sky,” and “The Coldest Lullaby.” The female vocals definitely help the latter in terms of melody.
On its own merits, Sunless Skies is a perfectly solid progressive metal album with all the requisite boxes checked. However, compared to the debut album, Sunless Skies feels like a step in the wrong direction. Pathosray is still a very talented band that bears watching, but this isn’t likely to be considered their crowning achievement.
Fabio D’Amore – Bass
Marco Sandron – Vocals
Alessio Velliscig – Guitar
Gianpaolo Rinaldi – Keyboards
Ivan Moni Bidin – Druma
1. Crown of Thorns
2. Behind the Shadows
4. Quantic Enigma
5. In Your Arms
6. Sons of the Sunless Sky
7. The Coldest Lullaby
8. Perpetual Eclipse (Interludium)
10. For the Last Time
HRH Rating: 6/10
by Justain Gaines
The warriors descended, hammers held high and screaming their dedication to Odin, from the frost-covered plains of …Toledo, Ohio? When in Hell did Middle America become home to epic Viking metal? Well, you can’t say the boys in Hammer Horde don’t take it seriously. With their grim, bearded demeanors, black outfits (complete with animal skins and capes) and Thor’s hammer pendants, they certainly look the part of modern day Vikings. Does the music on their debut album Under the Mighty Oath hold up to their European brethren? Read on.
Under the Mighty Oath is a black/death/pagan metal hybrid that recalls the titans of the genre, owing much to bands like Amon Amarth (naturally), Ensiferium, and, to some extent, Turisas and even Borknagar and Children of Bodom (sans keyboards). As soon as the obligatory instrumental introductory track concludes, the album launches into a series of blood-drenched odes to battle and glory that seamlessly weave crushing death metal heaviness, blistering black metal ferocity and pagan metal melodies and instrumentals. Most of the songs on Under the Mighty Oath feature harsh, screamed vocals, but the occasional clean vocals add diversity and make you think of Vintersorg trading vocal lines with Alexi Laiho! The lyrics to these battle anthems are positively crammed with Norse lore, and they reflect just how dedicated Hammer Horde is to authenticity and the true spirit of their chosen form of metal.
You can’t help but raise a toast (preferably a tankard of mead) to Hammer Horde for embracing this distinctly European style of metal so enthusiastically, while at the same time putting their own stamp on it. If you’re a fan of Viking and/or pagan metal, you would do well to give Under the Mighty Oath a listen. If songs like “Pierced By Odin’s Spear,” “Triumph of Sword and Shield,” and the nine-minute epic “Seafarer” aren’t enough to convince you that Hammer Horde is the real deal, you may want to turn in your war hammer.
Tom Sturniolo – Vocals
Ryan Mininger – Guitars
Derik Smith – Guitars/Vocals
Ben McGeorge – Bass
Jayson Cessna – Drums
1. Storm of Pagan Skies
2. Pierced By Odin’s Spear
3. Under the Mighty Oath
4. In the Name of Winter’s Wrath
5. Howl of Himinbjorg
6. Farewell To the Fallen
7. Triumph of Sword and Shield
8. Through Celestial Seascapes
9. Of Legends and Lore
HRH Rating: 7.5/10
July 17, 2009 by Publisher
by Joe Mis
Unreal is the third album by the French progressive rock band Spheric Universe Experience.
Initially formed in 1999, Spheric Universe Experience has undergone a number of changes in both name and lineup to bring them to their present state. Founding members John Drai (bass) and Vince Benaim (guitar) have been joined by Fred Colombo (keyboards), Christophe Briand (drums) and Franck Garcia (vocals) to form a solid progressive quintet.
The CD opens with the moody and driving “White Willow.” This mystical track is one of the heaviest on the CD and sets the tone for the entire disc. Benaim lays down some nice riffs and a decent solo, while vocalist Garcia shows off his range singing of life, death and beyond. The paranormal and mystic themes pervade the rest of the album – reincarnation is the topic of “Down Memory Lane,” and is supported by some great keyboard and guitar work, and spooky background vocals. “Lakeside Park” follows with strong rhythms and excellent musicianship from all members of the band, and Garcia’s vocal power (but somewhat limited range) shines.
By the time “3rd Type” lightens the lyric tone, the listener probably will begin to realize that the real musical star of the album is keyboardist Fred Colombo. He manages to provide the drive to almost every song without dominating the music, and he provides a welcome musical contrast to Benaim’s raspy rhythm guitar sound. This point is further emphasized by the haunting keyboard instrumental “Near Death Experience.”
The excellent vocal work and good songwriting continue on with “Lost Ghost,” a track that shows hints of old school progressive metal and builds nicely on the slower foundation set up by the instrumental piece. “Dragged” is an odd song – parts of the opening riff sound like the old “Speed Racer” TV theme song, and, at times, Garcia’s vocals remind one of Scorpions’ Klaus Meine from the early albums and then twist into an almost Ripper Owens bellow. “O.B.E.” is another good instrumental (more modern jazz than rock almost) that leads into the finale, “Tomorrow.” This is a great way to wrap up the album as “Tomorrow” is an eight-minute opus that showcases the band at its best.
The production and engineering is well balanced, and the overall sound shows that Spheric Universe Experience is a veteran band. The only area of their sonic presentation that needs a bit more work is the guitar. Benaim’s riffwork is excellent and his solos solid, but from song to song, the rhythm guitars have exactly the same raspy, grindy sound. Unfortunately, this makes the album seem a little unpolished. Mixing up the effects or changing the guitar would have made for a more interesting album, but since this one is pushed along so much by the keyboards, it is not much of a problem. The bottom end provided by Briand and Drai is technically excellent and suits the music perfectly – both are outstanding at what they do.
Overall, Unreal is a very well done and enjoyable album from a region of Eurpoe that does not have a reputation as a hotbed of metal music. Almost any fan of hard rock will enjoy the “Experience” (pun intended), and for prog-rock fans, this is a must have.
Label: Sensory (worldwide) / Trendkill (France)
1. White Willow
2. Down Memory Lane
3. Lakeside Park
4. 3rd Type
5. Near Death Experience
6. Lost Ghost
HRH Rating: 8.5/10
July 17, 2009 by Publisher
by John Kindred
Do Watcha Do is the sophomore release from the Nashville quartet Cold Truth. Comprised of Thanes Shearon (v)(g), Kurt Menck (g), Abe White (b) and Matt Green (d), the band brings new life to the classic rock sounds that built the foundations of bands like UFO, Bad Company and Led Zeppelin. The band finds comfort in the raw, overdriven sound of electric guitars and gritty, edgy vocals.
Straight out of Nashville, Cold Truth returns after a six-year gap between studio albums. Do Watcha Do contains 13 songs, all of which highlight the vocal talent of Shearon. Comparisons can be made between Shearon’s voice and Sammy Hagar (Montrose), Paul Rodgers (Bad Company) and Phil Mogg (UFO). It seems that there are bits and pieces of each vocalist within the heart of Shearon’s vocal attack.
Musically, the band hangs their hat on crunchy, infectious grooves surely inspired by Bad Company. Plenty of melodies intertwine with free-flowing grooves that invite the listener into the confines of each song. The band unleashes a bluesy swagger within arrangements that embodies a classic hard rock vibe.
Elements of slide guitar, harmony vocals and solos make up the musical arrangements that lean heavily on the powerful rhythm section of White and Green. Together, they drive the music along as well build the foundation for Shearon and Menck to color each track.
Inspiring songs include “If That Ain’t Enough,” “Light My Way,” “Peace With Me,” and “Finding The Way.” Absolutely no filler songs can be found on Do Watcha Do. The music is wonderfully produced. The sound of the music is full and vibrant. The band marries each musical element into a cohesive presentation of classic rock.
Today’s American music scene leaves a lot to be desired for fans of guitar-driven rock and roll. Cold Truth provides the perfect remedy for those sick of the affliction of nu-metal-alternative-corporate-rock clichés. Face it, a lot of today’s bands provide little substance for music fans to latch on to.
Cold Truth delivers the best of ‘70s-inspired classic rock for today’s music fan.
Thane Shearon (v)(g)
Kurt Menck (g)
Abe White (b)
Matt Green (d)
1. Cold as Hell
3. If that ain’t Enough
4. Gimme Some
5. Set Me Free
6. Peace with Me
9. This Time
10. Finding the Way
11. Whisper to Me
12. Payin Dues
13. Light My Way
Hardrock Haven rating: 8.6/10
July 15, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Derric Miller
Mile Marker Zero bassist Tim Rykoski checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about their brand new, self-titled release; exactly where the band’s name came from; if the comparisons to Tool are a bother or a compliment; the band’s collective musical expertise; upcoming tour plans; and a whole lot more.
If you like Porcupine Tree, Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater and all of the above, Mile Marker Zero should bend your ear. Tune in now to get to know your new favorite band, and pick up their new CD immediately thereafter.
(If you cannot see the embedded player, click here to launch in stand-alone player.)
July 11, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Joe Mis
No Turning Back is an interesting chronological presentation of the veteran West Coast club band High Noon. Most of the recordings on this album were pulled from the band’s demos and the album as a whole paints an interesting picture of the evolution of a rock band.
High Noon was formed in 1989 by Ken Hitsman (guitar) and Sam Persons (bass). These two native Californians added New Jersey born drummer Mike Patterson and New York born vocalist Jim Zappa and hit the Southern California club scene in mid-1989. High Noon spent most of their time playing the usual Sunset Strip clubs (Gazzarri’s, The Whiskey, The Roxy, the Troubadour, etc.). They bounced all over the West Coast supporting a number of major acts until 1993, but were unable to land a record deal with their first demo.
The band hooked up with Great White’s Michael Lardie and later with veteran producer Michael Wagener to record and mix a second demo, which didn’t land them a record deal either. They did get some airplay though, and one of their songs, “Have My Heart”, landed in the top 10 in Belgium. Jaime Harris replaced original drummer Patterson in 1992, but the rise of the Seattle grunge scene drove High Noon out of the music business in 1993 – the same sad fate shared by many decent bands.
The CD opens with “High Noon” and “Bad Moon Risin,’” two songs recorded on an 8-track tape machine back in 1989. The sound is obviously degraded and thin, but not bad overall. You can feel the raw enthusiasm of the band, but Jim Zappa pushes his voice a bit out of his range and overreaches – particularly in “Bad Moon Risin.’” These tracks are about what you’d expect from a newly formed rock band, but you can hear the underlying talent.
“Rude Boy” and “Don’t Come Running” were recorded in a real studio and mixed by Michael Lardie. “Rude Boy” is really cheesy ‘80s/’90s “happy rock” but it has some nice guitar work. “Don’t Come Running” is a snappy blues rock tune with good musicianship all around. Michael Wagener pitched in on the next four tracks. “Have My Heart” is a great song, stylistically almost “Dokken-esque”.
“Skatin’ On Thin Ice” opens with a great riff but falls back into the bouncy “happy rock” category, albeit with solid guitars throughout. “When The Night Calls” and “Just Like A Woman” are solid bluesy groove numbers that sound like a mix of Great White and Dokken (not surprising considering the gentlemen behind the mixing board).
The next three tracks were recorded in the band’s rehearsal studio with decent equipment. “Who Do You Think You Are?” is another upbeat bluesy Dokken style song. “Around Midnight” and “Faith Hope And Love” have a touch of GNR attitude and swagger (and great guitars).
The remaining songs on the album are a bit different, almost experimental. New drummer Jaime Harris stepped in for “Bed Of Lies” and “Weight Of The World.” These two are really good blues rock tunes with outstanding guitar work – the latter being one of the strongest on the disc with lyrics still relevant today. Zappa and Hitsman recorded “House Of Glass” on an early home computer setup – only the synthetic-sounding drums spoil what is otherwise a solid song.
What really sets this album apart is not so much the music, but the chronological development of the band. Zappa has a great voice and Hitsman a fabulous guitar player. Persons, Patterson and Harris seem to be good musicians as well, but there is not a track on the disc that highlights their skills particularly well. Had the timing been different these guys might have made it big, but for now this album is a pleasant window to the past. Fans of late ‘80s or early ‘90s radio-friendly rock will enjoy No Turning Back.
Label: Eonian Records
01. High Noon
02. Bad Moon Risin’
03. Rude Boy
04. Don’t Come Running
05. Have My Heart
06. Skatin’ On Thin Ice
07. When The Night Calls
08. Just Like A Woman
09. Who Do You Think You Are?
10. Around Midnight
11. Faith Hope And Love
12. Bed Of Lies
13. Weight Of The World
14. House Of Glass
HRH Rating: 8/10