by Jenn Carbaugh
- Columnist –
Glenn Hughes, the voice of rock, has quite the reputation in the music world, but he has been able to be somewhat off of the radar. Now sober and ready to conquer the music world, Hughes has released Live in Wolverhampton. He is known for his work in Trapeze, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. This album is fairly special, because it was recorded over two nights in Hughes’s hometown of Wolverhampton back in 2009. The two-CD set was released by the bassist in February.
The first disc includes cuts from Hughes’ time as the lead vocalist in Deep Purple. Tracks like “Crave,” “Muscle and Blood,” “Don’t Let Me Bleed” and “Mistreated” are all in homage to those glorious days. The second disc is Trapeze themed and contains tracks such as “Touch My Life,” “Black Cloud,” “Coast to Coast” and “You Are The Music.” Trapeze band-mate, Mel Galley, recently passed away, so this was a fitting tribute.
This double set of music mastery is more than just a look at the past. These songs capture the love and history of Glenn Hughes beautifully. There is more to than this collection than riffs and a hard rock feel. There is a soul and funk texture that showcases the talents. Glenn Hughes does a fine job of combining his solo work with the classics. He is a musical freak of nature in the highest regards, and this set of albums does not disappoint the listener.
Genre: Rock, Soul
Glenn Hughes – vocals, bass
Steve Stevens – drums
Jeff Kollman – guitar
1-01. Muscle and Blood
1-02. You Got soul
1-03. Love Communion
1-04. Don’t Let Me Bleed
1-05. What’s Going On Here
1-08. Hold Out Your Live
2-01. Way Back to the Bone
2-02. Touch My Life
2-04. Coast to Coast
2-06. Good Love
2-07. Your Love is Alright
2-09. You Are The Music
Label: earMusic, Armoury Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10
On February 12, 2013 Live In Wolverhampton, a 2CD set from bassist Glenn Hughes will be released (earMusic/Armoury Records). [MSRP $17.98].
Recorded in June 2009, this two-night celebration of Glenn Hughes’ music took place in his English hometown of Bilston, Wolverhampton. These nights were packed with hits and favorites culled from his rich musical career. Read more
by John Kindred
- Publisher –
Live From Mohegan Sun is the first official live album released by Staind. The CD was recorded in November 2011 at the Mohgan Sun Casino in Montville, Conn. The experience also was captured on film and subsequently has been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Eagle Rock Entertainment. The concert was recorded during their first tour stop supporting the self-titled seventh studio album.
After the departure of drummer Jon Wysocki earlier in the year, Staind returned to the road. The lineup featured new drummer Joseph “Sal” Giancarelli, along with Aaron Lewis, Mike Mushok and Johnny April. The live album features 16 songs, and even though it was the first show of the tour, the band seems to be in good musical form.
The band’s modern metal approach is built around down-tuned guitars and bass riffage. And while it might make it easier for a vocalist to sing over, if he doesn’t have a great vocal range, it doesn’t make the music any heavier. Oftentimes, the presentation is a muddy indistinguishable mess, especially live. The fact is that heaviness can be created with slower, plodding tempos. While most metal usually is tuned down a half step to E-flat; tuning to D or C tends to make the music sound sloppy and loose.
Staind likes to tune down, and the singer likes to try and be death metal with attempts at guttural vocals. Within the context of their plodding modern metal tunes, this type of vocal delivery doesn’t work. Lewis has a voice that appeals to “regular Joes;” it’s nothing spectacular. But his voice has an emotional appeal that works when he sings at a quieter volume or performs in an acoustic, unplugged setting.
Sonically, the band sounds pretty tight, and the music is mixed fairly evenly. They open with “Eyes Wide Open.” On the CD, there is no introduction of the band, with no fanfare at all. The heavy tune is a bit jarring as it leaps at you out of the blue. The heavy music Staind performs doesn’t compare to their more emotional songs; it’s as if they are trying too hard. The hits “For You,” “Right Here” and “So Far Away” have a radio-friendly familiarity theme. It seems like the music shines when they add the textures of acoustic-electric guitars and quiet verses with powerful heavy, anthem-style choruses.
Honestly, fans of Staind will like Live From Mohegan Sun. But their music is jarring and indecisive and non-fans will be confused about the identity of the band, just from this live album alone.
Genre: Modern Heavy Metal
Aaron Lewis (vocals, guitar)
Mike Mushok (guitar)
Joseph Giancarelli (drums)
Johnny April (background vocals)
01. Eyes Wide Open
03. Right Here
04. Throw It All Away
08. So Far Away
10. For You
11. Paper Wings
13. Not Again
14. It’s Been Awhile
16. Something To Remind You
Label: Armoury Records / Atlantic
Hardrock Haven rating: 6/10
by John Kindred
Formed in New Jersey in 1972, under the moniker Silver Star, the band aspired to be Jersey’s answer to the New York Dolls. Taking on the name Twisted Sister in ’73, the band was a revolving door of musicians banging out their existence by playing the local club circuit. Jay Jay French signed on in ’72, and Dee Snider became the band’s vocalist in ’76. Although the band developed a strong following in the Tri-State area, label interest was nonexistent. The band started its own independent label and released the singles “I’ll Never Grow Up Now” / “Under the Blade” in ’79 and “Bad Boys (Of Rock & Roll)” / “Lady’s Boy” in ’80, with Eddie Kramer producing.
Still unable to garner interest from any recording labels, the band pulled up stakes and headed to the United Kingdom. Finally, in April of ’82, Secret Records, with a primary focus of releasing music from the punk genre, signed the band. To heighten interest in the band, the label brought in UFO bassist Pete Way to produce the debut album. With the bands line-up in place, Dee Snider – lead vocals, Jay Jay French – guitars, Eddie Ojeda – guitars, Mark Mendoza – bass and A J Pero – drums, and a recording contract attained, Twisted Sister recorded and released its first album, Under the Blade in 1982.
Flash forward nearly 30 years, and the band remains intact, touring and creating mayhem. The album that launched their career, Under the Blade, has been repackaged, remastered and re-released as a CD / DVD Special Edition package by Armoury Records. Set to drop May 30, the CD features four tracks from their Rough Cutts EP and live version of “Shoot ‘Em Down” from the Reading Festival in 1982. The album’s original running order and original artwork has been restored.
The bonus DVD contains the entire previously-unreleased concert performance of Twisted Sister at the 1982 Reading Festival. Performing the music from their yet-to-be released debut album, the band takes on the unsuspecting British audience. Their performance includes a jam with UFO’s Pete Way, a reunited Fast Eddie Clark (former Motorhead) and Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead on the Rolling Stone classic “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll.” The DVD also includes interviews with the band members who reflect on the creation of the album and their experiences at the Reading Festival.
The music on Under the Blade is raw and edgy, much like the band’s live performance. The guitars are not loaded down in effects or multi-tracked into oblivion. The vocals are approached the same way. Snider’s performance on the album is the same as you expect to hear live. Again, he is not hiding his voice in effects. The drums sound tight, and the kick drum and snare are audible and prominent, making them feel real. The bass guitar pummels, pushes and drives the music forward.
Angst and rebellion, no matter the year, decade or millennium, is always there in the heart of the young. Twisted Sister unleashes it, lives it and is it. Age isn’t a restriction for the message that they lay out before you. There are great songs on Under the Blade, from the title to track to the brooding “Run for Your Life.” The inclusion of the songs from Rough Cutts EP is really cool. And the Reading Festival video performance is over the top. This is a very cool release for Twisted Sister fans. It’s certainly a must-have CD / DVD package.
Label: Armoury Records
Dee Snider – lead vocals,
Jay Jay French – guitars
Eddie Ojeda – guitars
Mark Mendoza – bass
A J Pero – drums
CD Track Listing:
01. What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)
02. Bad Boys (Of Rock ‘n’ Roll)
03. Run For Your Life
04. Sin After Sin
05. Shoot ‘Em Down
07. Under The Blade
08. Tear It Loose
09. Day Of The Rocker
10. What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You) (Ruff Cutts Version)
11. Shoot ‘Em Down (Ruff Cutts Version)
12. Under The Blade (Ruff Cutts Version)
13. Leader Of The Pack (Ruff Cutts Version)
14. Shoot ‘Em Down (Live At Reading)
DVD Track Listing:
01. What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)
02. Sin After Sin
03. Bad Boys (Of Rock ‘n’ Roll)
05. Shoot ‘Em Down
06. Tear It Loose
07. Under The Blade
08. It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10
by Derric Miller
With the obscene amount of success Duff McKagen has experienced in his career — with both GNR and Velvet Revolver — it seems only fair that Duff McKagen’s Loaded is just good, but not genre-defining. And maybe that’s all he is going for anymore …
Like Dave Grohl stepping out from behind the drum kit and handling lead vocals and rhythm guitar, McKagen forfeits bass duties in Loaded, instead playing rhythm guitar and also manning the mic on the band’s third studio album, The Taking. Opening with the noisy and ridiculously catchy “Lords of Abaddon,” you will feel where this album is going to take you, and that’s on a caustic, Punk-edged and repetitive journey all the way through.
The first single, “Dead Skin,” is the band’s best attempt at a hit, perhaps next to “We Win.” The great thing about “Dead Skin” is the honesty and anger Duff sings with. Although he is limited as a vocalist (but certainly no more so than Scott Weiland) this is one of the songs that captures both his attitude and the melody he can bring to the forefront. The chorus, “You peel off all that dead skin … you can leave it all behind” makes it one of those “Phoenix from the ashes” songs, refusing to give up when life clubs you like a baby seal over and over again. It’s a perfect Hard Rock song.
“We Win” is a tad more cheesy, although some may hear it as uplifting. After the acidic opening tracks, hearing the repetitive “We win, we win, we win, and we win” numerous times in the track becomes either grating or jarring, depending on your vocabulary.
For sheer fun, “She’s An Anchor” needs to be heard. Duff channels the ‘80s pop music scene here on the verses, although the chorus gets back to a dirtier grind. It’s almost like the weirder Loaded gets, the better they are. Whether that holds true across the board remains to be seen, but this is right up there with “Dead Skin” as the best track on The Taken. Just listen to the quirky guitar solo; it must have been a hell of a lot of fun to write this track.
This is far from a pop Rock album, though, in case you are confused. The song “King of the World” is almost unmelodic, just Punk riffing and unyielding pounding that never allows you to breathe. As you can guess by the title, “Follow Me to Hell” is another blazing, barb-wired composition that sees Duff shouting the lyrics in true Punk fashion. The weird rhythm on the choral lyrics, “Follow me to hell” is also cool as all get out.
It’s not like Duff has the ability to write a bad song; he’s written enough timeless ones or been part of those classic tracks enough that it’s sort of like Hugh Hefner picking up another young, gorgeous blond. No one is doubting you anymore, Duff and/or Hef, and no one is surprised when it happens. Loaded seems to be an outlet for the kind of music Duff likes to make, and you can hear it in every note the band plays and he sings.
01. Lords Of Abaddon
02. Executioner’s Song
03. Dead Skin
04. We Win
05. Easier Lying
06. She’s An Anchor
07. Wrecking Ball
08. King Of The World
10. Your Name
11. Follow Me To Hell
Duff McKagan – vocals and guitar
Mike Squires – lead guitar
Jeff Rouse – bass
Isaac Carpenter – drums
Label: Armoury Records
Genre: Hard Rock
Hardrock Haven Rating: 7.2/10
by Justin Gaines
If you’re a fan of the old school European progressive power metal sound, there’s no bigger development so far this year than the birth of the new supergroup Symfonia. The band features a trio of the biggest names in the genre – guitarist Timo Tolkki (ex-Stratovarius, ex-Revolution Renaissance), vocalist Andre Matos (ex-Angra, ex-Shaman) and Uli Kusch (ex-Helloween, ex-Masterplan) – plus bassist Jari Kainulainen (ex-Stratovarius, ex-Evergrey) and keyboardist Mikko Harkin (ex-Sonata Arctica). Just looking at that lineup brings two observations to mind. The first is that with this kind of pedigree, you simply have to pay attention to this band. The second is that with this many exes, Symfonia really should have gone with Doesn’t Play Well With Others as the title of their debut instead of In Paradisum.
Given Tolkki’s post-Stratovarius work in Revolution Renaissance and the fact that he did most of the songwriting for this album, it’s not really surprising (though it is perhaps a bit disappointing) that In Paradisum sounds exactly like the albums he wrote for Stratovarius (think Visions and Infinite). This is great if you love the Stratovarius formula and want to hear Tolkki’s signature melodies and intricate solos, keyboards clearly modeled on Jens Johansson’s style, and that icy cold Finnish production. It just feels like these songs were written with Tolkki’s old bandmates in mind, and don’t fully capitalize on Andre Matos and Uli Lusch’s formidable talents. Speaking of Matos, the vocalist does an impressive job here, and it’s always good to hear his unique voice in a progressive power metal setting. Tolkki’s production job doesn’t do him the same justice that Sascha Paeth would.
Familiar as it is, In Paradisum is still a strong album with some memorable songs. The best Stratovarius albums always opened with an unforgettable anthem, and Symfonia gets off on the right foot with the stirring “Fields of Avalon,” which sounds like “The Kiss of Judas” with a bit of Angra’s “Angels Cry” coming from Matos’ vocal performance. The ultra-melodic “Forevermore” is another great song, and one that really showcases Uli Kusch’s drumming. There are no real epics here (the 6-minute ballad “Alayna” is the album’s longest song), so the instrumental passages never get too self-indulgent.
Given Tolkki’s history and very public split with Stratovarius, it’s almost impossible not to compare In Paradisum with Strato’s new album Elysium. Tolkki has probably written a more traditional Stratovarius album here, but Elysium showcases a band that’s moving forward, and not just treading the same path over and over again.
If you’re a fan of the early Stratovarius and Angra albums in particular and the early European progressive power metal sound in general, you have to check out Symfonia if for no other reason than to hear Andre Matos and Timo Tolkki on the same album. As long as you’re not expecting anything new, you’ll probably be satisfied with In Paradisum. Still, you can’t help but wonder what this band could do if they really challenged themselves.
Genre: Progressive Power Metal
Andre Matos (v)
Timo Tolkki (g)
Uli Kusch (d)
Jari Kainulainen (b)
Mikko Harkin (k)
1. Fields of Avalon
2. Come By the Hills
6. Pilgrim Road
7. Rhapsody in Black
8. I Walk in Neon
9. Don’t Let Me Go
Label: Eagle Rock/Armoury Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10
by Mark Allen
Note to all the metal guitarists of the world: just because your wife is pretty as an angel does not mean she can actually sing like one. It’s a note that Polish axe-slinger Maurycy “Mauser” Stefanowicz needs to be sent ASAP, before his wife Aya’s banal vocals butcher another batch of otherwise solid songs.
For the uninitiated, Mauser scorched the strings for a time with Polish death metal mavericks Vader before parting company with them to form Unsun with his wife, Aya. Rather than the extreme metal from which he had emerged, Mauser and Aya steered their conjoined careers in the gothic/symphonic metal direction. Their debut was a rather lackluster affair marred by muddy production values, but now they have returned with their sophomore album, Clinic for Dolls, and while it is a major step up in the production department, it still suffers from one glaring flaw: Aya’s vocals.
It’s not that the Polish beauty sings badly, it’s more that her voice is far too weak and fragile for the beefy metal backing her. She seems to be striving for the epic approach of Amy Lee (Evanescence) but lacks the power to reach such euphoric heights. Her husband unleashes thundering riffs, the drums double-kick like a miffed mule, and polished heaviness abounds, but at the forefront are these rather heavily-accented vocals that possess all the strength of a cobweb. It’s a jarring mismatch, one that all the slamming power chords, sonic bombast, and slick atmospherics cannot overcome. Sure, she’s easy to look at—most women chosen to front rock/metal bands are—but music is about the ears, not the eyes, and it is preferable to listen to a pug-ugly girl sing well than listen to a pretty girl sing poorly. Unfortunately for Unsun, Aya falls into the latter category.
That said, the music itself is actually pretty good. Mauser knows how to play, and while his skills here are more about hard rocking riffs than technical showboating, those riffs are delivered with above-average talent. The solos don’t exactly melt the flesh from your face, but they’re more than serviceable, and work well within the somewhat narrow confines of the goth-metal genre. The bass booms prominently, maintaining a thick bottom end that the production caters to, a common trend in today’s metal scene. The drums pack a punch, the pounding rhythms impacting with a plethora of power.
The tracks themselves range from terrible (“Clinic for Dolls”) to decent (“Mocker”) and everything in between. In terms of song structure, the band fails to find good chorus hooks most of the time, and that, combined with the weak vocals, seriously hamstring the enjoyment factor of this album. About the only demographic that may be satisfied is the youthful and typically less-discerning Hot Topic crowd who believe that anything goth is automatically cool. The lyrics certainly cater to them, with lines like “What can I say when I’m out of breath / Unable to find the key to cheat death” and “Hell was too cold / Love’s gone away / Ultimately slain.” If dark and brooding is your lyrical tone of choice, then Unsun has you covered like a bandage over a freshly-sliced wrist.
In the end, what you have here is some pretty cool music and superb production sullied by weak singing and boring choruses. If Mauser dusts off this band for a third outing, perhaps he should consider making it an instrumental album, because when you hear Aya’s overwrought, lackluster vocals, you’ll wish that Unsun was unsung.
Genre: Gothic/symphonic metal
Mauser (guitars, samples)
1. The Lost Way
2. Clinic For Dolls
5. Not Enough
6. The Last Tear
8. I Ceased
9. A Single Touch
Label: Armoury Records/Mystic Production
Hardrock Haven rating: 5.4/10
by John Kindred
Polaris is the twelfth studio release from the Finnish power-prog-metal band Stratovarius. Battling through turmoil in recent years, the band finally has overcome the demise of Sanctuary Records and the volatile Timo Tolkki. With the “monkey off their back,” the current lineup of Timo Kotipelto (v), Jens Johansson (k), Jörg Michael (d) and Lauri Porra (b) have welcomed guitarist Matias Kupiainen to the band.
Going into seclusion in the fall of ’08, Stratovarius was reborn. Together, the group spent nearly a month writing and preparing their creative ideas for Polaris. Soon, their new musical collaboration’s found life as they recorded the album at Hästholmen and 5by5 studios in Helsinki, Finland. Working with Mikko Karmila, who mixed the album, the new music encapsulates the band’s rebirth.
Polaris comprises 11 songs and continues with the band’s signature keyboard-laden arrangements. Produced by Stratovarius, the music represents the talents of each individual contributor, molded into sum of the band’s overall sound. The album features lavish vocals that, along with the music, create a wall of sound.
The overall sound of the music has a soaring, almost epic feel. Stratovarius play it smart by not extending the music into eight-minute epics, therefore keeping the listeners from getting lost within the confines of overly complicated musical arrangements. The addition of a new guitarist doesn’t shack up the trademark sound of the band either. In fact, longtime fans should be happy with the way Polaris has shaken out.
The interplay between keyboardist Johansson and guitarist Kupianen works as well as former Tolkki. The compositions move from speedy power-metal numbers to more progressive climatic songs. If there was any weakness to the new album, it may fall at the feet of vocalist Timo Kotipelto. At times, his accent and almost false-falsetto timbre glaringly present themselves. It’s not enough to make you cringe; it’s merely an observation.
Label: Armoury Records
Timo Kotipelto (v)
Matias Kupiainen (g)
Jens Johansson (k)
Lauri Porra (b)
Jorg Michael (d)
1. Deep Unknown
2. Falling Star
3. King Of Nothing
5. Winter Skies
6. Forever Is Today
7. Higher We Go
8. Somehow Precious
9. Emancipation Suite Part I: Dusk
10. Emancipation Suite Part II: Dawn
11. When Mountains Fall
Hardrock Haven rating: 7.3/10