Thursday, August 27, 2009


Imagine a dark stormy night during the winter, rain and wind and the temperature is on the cold side. Got the vision in your mind? Ok that would describe the mood and feeling of the latest Retroactive Records release by Hero. Entitled “Immortal” this album has a very haunting and ‘dark’ feel to it. The rich purple and red cover (courtesy of Liza Rock Designs) caught my eye because there are butterflies on it…. Haunting

It’s heavy and brooding, but has melodies that just find a way to crawl under your skin and get their hooks in deep. I’ve listened to this album over half a dozen times already and each spin it gets better. At first I was skeptical, because the tempo and structure of many of the songs seemed ‘samey’ to me. As I’ve listened and sifted through the layers a very fine album of brooding metal from Sweden has found its way to the surface.

‘Blood Red Roses’, ‘Immortal’, ‘Gasoline’ and ‘Funeral of Death’ have such a moody melodic feel they’re infectious. Definitely heavy, definitely catchy and you’ll be humming those chorus’ before the end. Listen to ‘R.I.P.’ and I can see the windmills moving to the haunting powerful rhythms and surging chorus.

Michael Hero proves he does indeed know how to write a very catchy melody. It’s also his baritone lead vocal that adds to the atmosphere of Hero. Michael and Bjorn Sundstrom show they’ve got the chops with crunching guitar tone and some very melodic playing. They’re complemented by Dannie Boy on drums and Mauritz Vetterud on bass. Johan Adler adds a melancholy keyboard that is the finishing touch on a very cool sound.

From the bands MySpace page they describe themselves this way.

“HERO means Heavy Songs that appeals to more than just “Metal Heads”. The recipe for HERO is: heavy groovy guitars, Thundering bass, bombastic drums, melodic baritone vocals and strong melodies.”

“Immortal” was mixed by Torbjorn Weinesjo long time guitarist from fellow Swedish headbangers Veni Domine. If you’re a fan of Veni Domine you’ll probably hear the similarities, but where Veni Domine is more progressive as it were, Hero is more commercial and more accessible.

The promotional material describes them along sides Veni Domine, HIM, Savior Machine, Lacuna Coil and but with a classic metal twist. I would agree. I might also add Undercover to that list, the 'Balance of Power' era specifically. I understand they played Cornerstone Festival in 2008, that must’ve been a powerful show.

They aren’t trying to be the fastest or the heaviest, but an artist that pulls you in and won’t let you go. Your first listen might prove unfruitful, but keep listening and soon you’ll be rewarded. Sometimes the albums that demand you listen more than once are the ones that last the longest.


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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Coming from Czechoslovakia is Kreyson, “the first Christian metal band from the heart of Europe.” For many this will be their first exposure to this heavy metal juggernaut, even though the band has been around for 20 years. The reasons being only two of their previous releases were in English and they were never officially released here in the US. (If you can find them they would command a pretty penny I’m sure)

Appropriately entitled “20 Years of Kreyson” the bands first US release is a compendium of songs written over the bands entire career. Solid heavy metal from beginning to end. Kicking it off with the up-tempo “Judgment Day” and closing with “Warrior Angel” Kreyson show they mean business. Reminiscent of Armored Saint, Saxon and Barren Cross in the heaviness department this is heavy metal in the traditional ‘bang yer head’ fashion, yet retaining some ‘commercial’ sensibilities. There is a european flavor here that simply must be tasted.

I mention those band references in particular because all of them have written some fabulous melodies and Kreyson is no slouch in that department. Just a listen to “Endure the Night”, “Mary” or “Stay” and you’ll know what I mean. “Endure the Night” demands an immediate second listen, it’s encouraging lyrics and solid melodic foundation will have you humming and singing before long.

I’ve always been a fan of more upbeat and fast metal material. On this front Kreyson deliver, not speed metal or thrash but just up tempo material. “Warrior Angel”, “Cry Out”, “The Lord Will Come” fills that void nicely.

Many times I would hear reviewers say ‘melody’ and immediately I think of overtly commercial and rather weak songs. That is not the case here. The guitars are solid, with some excellent solos courtesy of Radek Kroc. Zdnek Pradlovsky (drums) and Ludek Adamek (bass) provide the backbone in the rhythm department. To these ears the vocals of Ladislav Krizek at times remind me of Ulf Christiansson from Jerusalem.

The production is strong and clean. Myself I coulda handled the guitars being a bit more upfront in the mix. In comparison to the other Kreyson releases I’ve heard this one had a slightly different feel and sound. Not as much of the ‘big sound’ but that doesn’t deter from the material.

What isn’t clear to me is whether this is actually new material or re-recorded material. Having checked track lists off of their English language releases I do not see any of the same song titles, so perhaps these are songs from their Czech releases. I understand these were fan favorites, picked for this release.

Another item to point out is the inclusion of a video clip for the song 'Salome'. A very cool slow song and a nice video presentation makes this a really nice addition to an already solid offering. (thanks to Matt for pointing out my neglect! argh...)

If you’re looking for some good heavy metal with the ability to sing along and have a chorus stuck in yer head this be the disc!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


There is a fine line between homage and parody. That is, many bands who flout their influences do more to damage their own reputations (as unoriginal rip offs) anyone remember Kingdom Come? On the other side however are those who take those influences and make‘em their own.

On this the 2nd release of Delaware’s MainLine Riders we have the later. The Riders bring us a sound akin to Rose Tattoo, AC/DC, Angel City (the Angels) and a little George Thorogood for measure. Cliffy and crew have put together a great collection of driving hard rocking gems. From “It All Ends Tonite” to “It’s a Revolution” this disc is made to be played LOUD.

The guitars are placed well in the mix, right in the front which just drives this whole project along at a solid clip. Matthew Kenenske and Cliffy get the groove happening and you can’t help but start tapping your foot or swinging your head, back and forth….. Even busting out the ole air guitar. Mike Walter and Adam Dee provide that solid rhythm section without a lot of excess that doesn’t fit this style of rock n roll.

I myself was weaned on the boyz from Down Under. Having been a listener since 1980 onwards and I hear some of the ‘Dirty Deeds’ and ‘Let There Be Rock’ era AC/DC influence on some of these tracks. When Shawn Browning starts to crank those vocals out it’s a mix of Bon Scott and Taime Downe from ‘Faster Pussycat’. It fits the sound perfectly. The production is clean and crisp and one thing I really like (which is from the mastering phase I believe) is that there is very little time break between songs, they just flow right into each other.

“Hell Ain’t a Good Place to Be”, “Power Surge”, “Chrome & Steel”, “Rhythm-N-Blues” are the highpoints for me. Energy, power and great hooks. When I heard “Hell Ain’t a Good Place to Be” I ‘bout fell over. A combination of several influences that came out sounding like gold. Don’t misunderstand there isn’t one weak song on this disc, the Tesla sounding ballad “Coming Home” even rings true. This is really what my friends and I call ‘driving music’, put this bad boy in turn it up and just DRIVE! Like the first Montrose album or AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood You’ve Got It”. Great song order that demands a 2nd and 3rd listen. Tell me you can’t listen to “Power Surge” and just press replay on your IPod or CD player.

Lot’s of great anthems and those come from great lyric writing and great melodies. It looks like Shawn Browning might’ve written most of the lyrics and cheers to him for the lack of cliché’s. Truly more Christian anthems without the overused phrases are needed and there are several on this disc. Imaginative lyric writing that makes this album the complete package, we’re not talking Shakespeare but simply well written and thought out material.

I sense a lot of heart and blood and sweat on this release; it’s my hope that this is a bright beginning for MainLine Riders. Are there any t-shirts available as I’d wear one proudly.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009


The latest offering from Ultimatum is a collection of heavy duty compositions entitled ‘Lex Metalis’ latin for “Metal is the Law.” These metal merchants from New Mexico have given us an insight into their musical past as this disc is a ‘covers’ album. 13 songs that have inspired and motivated them to play the type of music that they do. In the extensive liner notes vocalist Scott Waters explained how difficult it was to condense the huge list of possible selections for this recording. (If you want to know how difficult you’ll have to buy the CD!). One thing I will point out and Scott points out as well, they didn’t want to cover the typical songs most bands will cover. I applaud them for this choice.

Opening with the high octane thrash of Metal Church’s ‘Ton of Bricks’ and closing with Overkill’s ‘Powersurge’ this album is simply fabulous. A huge smorgasbord of metal influences from several different era’s of metal are represented. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal comes in with songs from Motorhead ‘Iron Fist’, Iron Maiden ‘Wrathchild’, Saxon ‘Denim and Leather’. I’d heard the Maiden cover on their previous disc ‘Into the Pit’ and thought it was great so when I heard the cover of ‘Denim and Leather’ I was doing cartwheels in my front yard. Simply a ripping version of that song…!‘Iron Fist’ by the ‘Head is another recognizable but not often covered song. This high energy early punk/thrash style tune that Robert Gutierrez’s guitar tone just spearheads the way. “The devils grip THE IRON FIST”!

Judas Priest is given their due with a powerful tune from their British Steel album, ‘Steeler’ is a highly underated and neglected song from their catalog, Waters vocals power the assault with the rythym section of Rob Whitlock on bass and Alan Tuma on drums barraling along for support. Songs by Megadeth “Moto Pyscho”, Twisted Sister “Sin After Sin” are reproduced in excellent fashion.

Hearing versions of several Christian Metal classics always peak my interest as often times I bought the originals when they first came out. In this case Vengeance Rising’s ‘Can’t Get Out’ really shreds and as does Robert on lead guitar! The lyrics to this song are hilarious and when Scott belts it out his annunciation is really rather good, as opposed to Roger Martinez whom if you didn’t have the lyric sheet you were completely lost. (I loved and still do the first two Vengeance albums). Songs by The Moshketeers ‘Locked In Chains’ (whom I’d not heard before) and Mortification ‘Gut Wrench’ are done with passion and intensity.

For me the highlights on this disc are Metallica’s ‘Creeping Death’ a vastly underated and often forgotten song in their catalog. I loved that song when Ride The Lighting came out in 1984, even bought the 12” picture disc with the songs from Diamond Head and Blitzkrieg on the backside. One of the best thrash songs ever and Ultimatum NAILS IT!!!!! Unmistakable energy and power, a pure piece of metal excellence. The second highlight comes from one of heavy metal’s true anthems Quiet Riot’s ‘Metal Health’. That was the first song by Quiet Riot I’d ever heard back in ‘83 and I had to buy that album immediately. That was way before their cover of Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ hit. To me ‘Metal Health’ is right there with ‘Balls to Wall’ as an anthem that every headbanger knows even if they don’t own the albums, they know those songs…. Amazing.

An album like this should accomplish several things, First it should make you want to listen to it again as the band hopefully have put their own stamp on the song. Second if you’re already familiar with some of the songs it should knock you up the backside and you think “That Was a GREAT song!” and you go and pull out the original version. Thirdly if you’re not familiar with a certain artist/song hopefully the version does justice and you think to yourself “How did I miss that?!?!”

The production is solid and clean. A very nice gem case for packaging with a cool 8 page booklet.
Buy this and turn it up because all men play on ten. Cheers!

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Friday, August 7, 2009


After a self imposed 16 year hiatus Believer have returned with a Masterpiece. End of review.

Just kidding! When I had heard that Believer was going to re-unite and put out a new disc to say I was excited would have been an understatement. I've been a fan ever since they sent a demo to the White Throne offices back in the late 80's, I was anxiously anticipating this release. Honestly I was hoping this would bowl me over like the first time I heard a pre-release of the debut album ‘Extraction from Mortality’.

When I heard the first single ‘Focused Lethality’ I was nearly banging my head into my desk and computer. Yet when I heard the second single ‘Stoned’ I wasn’t so sure at first. I shouldn’t have worried a bit.

Kurt Bachman and company have come up with a fabulous slab of progressive/technical/intense/thrash infectious metal. With his (in my mind) trade mark brutal guitar tone Kurt has really put it all out there on this one. Joey Daub is back with some pretty amazing drumming.

I can say that for me listening to this album is sorta like watching a Stanley Kubrick film. If you’ve ever seen any of Stanley Kubricks films you know exactly what I mean. Whether it’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘The Shining’ or ‘2001: A Space Odyssey” you know there is layer upon layer of intricacy and depth. In this case Believer starts things off with the 7 minute tune ‘Medwton’ and the table is set. There is alternate strumming and upbeat and downbeat changes, whispers and background mythical sounding voices, keyboard samples for effect. It’s fast and off beat.

‘A Moment in Time’, ‘Redshift’, ‘A History of Decline’ all lend themselves to metal brutality that move and shift like chasing a vapor in a whirlwind blindfolded. Just when you think you know what’s coming it changes and the music path moves in another direction. ‘Redshift’ has a nice jazzy breakdown complete with piano, vocal samples, eerie keyboard samples just like your traveling through the depths of space itself. Yet again that fierce Believer guitar tone just tears it up. Heavy riffs and great songs make this a must get.
The more straight ahead thrash sounding material like ‘Focused Lethality’(a brutal slice of metal pie) and ‘Stoned’ (which itself has an off tempo piano component) are the odd pieces here because they are more straight through. These tunes will get the pit moving like a hurricane.

Jeff King (keyboards) has brought a new texture to the band. Don’t think I’m implying a heavy keyboard element I’m not. They add texture and depth, almost at times a gothic feel, to the material for the lyrical content. They also provide something else for Kurt’s vocal to belt over.

The last actual ‘song’ is ‘The Brave’ with Howard Jones from Killswitch Engage lending a hand on the vocal duties. Kurt sings in a cleaner style on this tune as well. There is a little more modern vibe to this tune. I like.

This is definately a musical progression from what has come before, but not unrecognizable to any previous fan of the band. Their trademark sound is intact but a 2009 version, not a rehash of what was given in the past. The lyrics are more obscure, but fit the musical passages they reflect. There are a couple of 'what the' moments after 'The Brave' that in the past would be called 'hidden' tracks. In the age of MP3's and ITunes there is no such thing.... oh well.

The production is fantastic with loud grinding guitars, smooth bass lines, and pounding drums. I gotta tell you that the more I listen to this album as a whole I enjoy it more and more. Gabriel is one of the most outstanding releases in 2009 so far.

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Get it !

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Here's another disc that came out in 2008, but I've only recently been able to pick it up. I have a copy of the original Driver demo that came out nearly 20 years ago and I played it to death then, It truly was a shame they weren't signed. Yet things change sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse (grunge????!)....

I'm not going to bore you with a rehash of Rob Rock's career exploits, I'm sure most of you are more than well aware of them. My bud Dave Johnson truly said it best in describing Rob as
"the power of David Coverdale and the delivery of Ronnie James Dio but somehow (he) outshines them both." Roy Z shines as the bands solo guitar wiz ( brilliant playing). Also joining them are original drummer Reynold "Butch" Carlson and new members (but hardly new to the metal scene) are keyboardist Edward Harris Roth and bass player Aaron Samson (formely of Odin).

Opening with the instrumental "Titans Of Speed" the band tears into a superb version of "I'm A Warrior". Yes it's appeared on Rob's solo stuff and an early Impelliterri disc but this version cranks just as well. All of the tunes from the original demo are here. "Hearts On Fire", "Only Love can Save Me Now", the aforementioned "I'm a Warrior", "Fly Away" (which appeared in a slightly different form on Rob's solo disc 'Holy Hell' entitled 'When Darkness Reigns'), "Tears That I Cried" and the ballad "I Believe in Love".

If you're at all familiar with the sound of Rob's solo material, the sound of Driver is very similar. An 80's flair but these songs are transendent of the time they were written. Driver's songs have good hooks/melody but the guitars are always UPFRONT and in your face. Keyboards are present but add to the textures of the songs and are not dominant. This is guitar driven Metal (Thank you Roy Z!) that is not afraid to be METAL, but Rob's vocal carry the melody that will stick in your head after it's over. Melodic METAL indeed!

Of the newer Driver tunes the title track 'Sons of Thunder' just rips it up. It's a fast paced concert opener if I ever heard one. It drives! With fabulous guitar playing. Smokin! ' Winds of March' has got that chuggin groove that just gets your head movin. Butch and Aaron lock in the rythym section and just groove, baby! Their playing on 'Winds' as well as 'Hearts on Fire' show how they lock together. Great musicianship.

Production is well, fabulous. Roy Z gets some fabulous tones that really puts the whole thing together. The drums pound, the guitar is screaming, the bass plows through with the appropriate amount of keys in the mix. Rob sounds wonderful.

Pop metal this ain't.... There is also an import version with 2 additional songs 'Thief in The Night' and 'Give Me Your Love'. These are 4 track demo's sound the quality is good but not the same as the rest of the disc.

Miss this disc at your own risk....

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