Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Roxx Records has delivered up another offering of metal mayhem, The Sacrificed. This trio from Florida has just unleashed their first album for Roxx, entitled 2012. Some have described their music in comparison to Sacred Warrior and Queensryche.

Not really hearing those comparisons myself, aside from vocalist Eli Prinsen, I hear them more akin to a strong mix of classic and modern metal, which at times has an alternative structure with brutal guitar. Heavy Metal ala Switchfoot??? Listen to such tracks as ‘Believe’ or ‘Saved’ and you tell me. It goes from the very heavy to slightly more commercial, without loosing its passionate metal footing.

2012 gets things into high gear with the blistering title track. High energy metal with crushing power and soaring vocals, you’ll be screaming along by the end or spinning your own windmills. The advance single ‘No Promise for Tomorrow’ explodes with loud power chords and bombastic rhythm section. Songs such as ‘The Path of Righteousness’ and ‘The Return’ follow in the metal footsteps of those who’ve tread the metal path in earlier years.

Eli Prinsen, Jay Williams and Johnny Bowder have developed, in some regards, a rather unique sound; dependent on tones an atmosphere, not just bombast. Melodies abound amidst the tapestry of musical tones, the landscape is varied and in depth. Lyrically many familiar concepts are covered but again with a slightly different perspective in how ideas are presented.

The production is solid, yet the guitar is a little to enamored with reverb. It took a little getting used to, as sometimes a ‘big sound’ can leave things cluttered or obscured, there is a lot going on and I like to hear it all. Guitar solos appear on various tracks but not on all, which I found to be effective.

If you were one of the lucky 100 to pre-order you were also treated to The Sacrificeds previous material, The Davinci Hoax as well as two demo releases, The Davinci Hoax in particular is another spectacular assortment of metallic bombast.

The Sacrificed have created a niche, by taking modern sensibility combining it with a classic metal assault that will leave one simply stunned. The variety of tempos and arrangements mixed with Eli’s fantastic vocal performance deliver on many levels.

Grab your leather or denim jacket, bring your own neck brace and prepare to be driven to a musical land of metal wonder. This album has earned its 8 axes which is to say 2012 is a very good album. Don’t miss this one especially if you love something a tad different, with plenty of classic moorings. Prepare to be stretched musically, but you’ll think you’re in familiar territory.

8 axes


Saturday, June 26, 2010


Stairway comes from the land of Saxon and Iron Maiden, the country of England. Interregnum is the title of their latest album, which by all accounts is their fifth release and the first collection of compositions in four years. Stairway has been built a lasting fan base since their debut, which seems like eons ago, in 1993.

Of immediate notice to me is the vocal prowess of Graeme Leslie. He has just enough grit and the ability to deliver a vocal line with smooth strength. He sings unlike so many other vocalists today who can’t hold a tune and hide it by screaming/gurgling their vocal lines.

On Interregnum Leslie and crew continue in the vain of traditional metal that they have become known for. You won’t find any trends or flavor of the moment trappings on this disc. This is straight out traditional heavy metal with some melodic trappings. In addition to those rich vocals Graeme handles the bass playing, Pete Jennens seems to be on a mission out to destroy his six string axe by setting his fret board on fire. His soloing falls into a somewhat neo-classical style. Andy Edwards rounds out the trio on drums.

Opening with a mid tempo pounder entitled ‘The Suffering Servant’; you immediately are introduced to the style of metal Stairway play. Straight ahead with minimal frills in the arranging department, just lots of metallic mayhem that would entrap any unsuspecting listener.

‘I’m Calling,’ ‘Ride the Wind,’ ‘Enter the Light’ all deliver a biting crunch that will get your head swaying. You’ll find good melodies offered with passion and authenticity. They will snatch you and find a place within your metal atmosphere.

I will say though, it does seem at times that the songs have a sort of ‘samey’ feel. Upon closer inspection, I believe that happens because many of the songs have the same tempo. The arranging could be part of the issue as well, the songs are not bad, but at certain points it starts to feel a bit tedious.

This is in no way a reflection on the musicianship of the band; it’s quite obvious that they are accomplished players in their own right. Graeme even adds keyboard parts in places, most noticeably on ‘New Life.’ This slight change of pace does mix things up a bit which brings some freshness to this release.

The production is average, yet it feels at times that the rhythm guitar gets lost without clarity. Whether this was an issue of tone or engineering is unclear to me, it strikes me that perhaps some breathing room would help.

On the whole this is a solid heavy metal album with everything a discerning metal head could hope for. Good songs, blistering solos and great vocals. If you’re a fan of 80’s heavy metal such as early Saxon, Iron Maiden, Riot you’re probably gonna want to check it out.

7 axes


How does one come to review a rather eclectic collection of songs which range from bluesy hard rock to more progressive sounds, funk even and at the same time hearing very familiar guitar parts from a myriad of musical influences? (ie. Montrose, Petra, Mylon, ect.) A demanding proposition to be sure, the challenge gets larger when one realizes that there is a generational influence to be sure…

Steve Yost has delivered just such a quandary to my doorstep. His double disc release entitled Behold takes one on a musical journey that not only includes various musical genres, but is also one where the mans spiritual heritage is put on display as well. How can you possibly critique/review that!?!?!

The answer is you can’t; what I’m able to do is make some cursory observations in regards to the musical output Steve has provided here. In respect to Steve's musical acumen it should be noted that he is an accomplished studio musician having been around the musical landscape for many years.

Behold is broken up into two parts of the same whole. Disc one is entitled ‘The Hope’ and Disc two is christened ‘The Prophecy’. It strikes me that disc one is more a homage to his musical legacy while the accompanying platter is devoted to the spiritual.

As we look at the performances musically Steve Yost is no slouch when it comes to handling the instruments he’s played on this release, he plays most of them. You’ll discover some very energetic and gritty guitar playing with plenty of crunch.

Opening with a straight ahead rocker in ‘The Answer’ he moves into ‘Walking in the Light’ with a strong ode to Mylon and his version of ‘Gospel Ship.’ These songs represent some of the more straight ahead bits of whimsy found here. However that begins to change when you start listening to ‘We Can Do,’ there are enough parts and melodies that could be make into at least 2 different songs. Trying to follow along did present some challenges, for some reason the lyrics to this song do not appear in the booklet.

Montrose’s ‘I’ve got the Fire’ is a prime influence during Behold the Lamb. Yet this song again has so many different parts it’s hard to follow, only because it starts off as a straight ahead rocker (and only clocks in at 3:45) but varies widely. This seems to happen often throughout the album. It would seem that perhaps a producer might’ve helped with making the songs tighter and more effective.

Yet as I continued to listened I wondered if Queen and the rock opera concept would be more appropriate. After all how many different movements are there in Bohemian Rhapsody? With that thought in mind, 70’s hard rock is probably a more appropriate description and makes a lot more sense with that mindset. I don’t remember seeing that in the promotional material, alas perhaps I missed it.
However with that thought in mind the rest of this release comes into focus.

If you’re a fan of this style of rock n roll, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy what you hear on disc one. ‘Roll My Blues Away,’ is one of my favorites with a satisfying guitar solo. The funk inspired ‘Seek Out’ hides a tremendous solo by Steve. The nine minute acoustic epic ‘The Olympian’ strikes me as a combination of 70’s art rock with Petra type vocal harmonies.

Disc two is more of a tribute to Steve’s spiritual heritage through various songs and spoken tracks. It is a pretty amazing endowment to be sure. Again more 70’s inspired art rock is performed more as a background. The production aspect has changed from disc one. Steve on one of the spoken tracks shares his testimony and discusses how this collection had been put together over the years and recorded in various studios along the way.

One of the musical highlights for me was ‘The Race is Almost Over.’ Opening with a Pink Floyd style guitar intro that just screams! At the mid-point the music starts to give way to clips of Steve’s own Pastor. Floydian styles permeate this song.

This album isn’t necessarily for everyone, harkening back to the earlier days of CCM this album finds its contemporaries. However Steve Yost gives us a glimpse into his spiritual heart, with heart wrenching emotion combined with a musical fanfare this will please the most ardent fan of CCM.

7 axes

Saturday, June 12, 2010


In the early to mid 1980’s the Christian music scene was dominated pretty much (and still is) by a select few artists with a clean and ‘safe’ radio sound. Yet that didn’t stop a bunch of artists from making inroads but in more underground way. The band Vision was one of those rock bands.

If you’d been lucky to seen them live I’ve been told it was a treat, you’d have been just as fortunate to stumble across their albums. Born Twice Records a division of Retroactive will be re-issuing all three of their hard to find and long out of print releases.

Their first two albums Mountain in the Sky and their self titled debut for Heartland Records will be released first.

Featuring two former members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Powell on piano and Leon Wilkeson on bass guitar respectively, Vision really seemed to be the brain child of Rocco Marshal. A good guitar player and solid singer, Rocco truly was the point man of this band.

Mountain in the Sky was their first release and was originally self-titled, but titled for this re-release. On this album there is a definite southern rock vibe, which sometimes reminds me of 38 Special, yet there is also a progressive sound at times which reminds me of Kansas. Just listening to the opening song ‘Mountain in the Sky’ is a seven minute romp which moves effortlessly through different movements and instrumentations.

Yet listening to ‘Lord is my Joy’ or ‘Dynamos’ there is no mistaking the element of Dixieland which shines through. Enormous energy and fire with a fabulous melody, hymns for the rocker in all of us. When I hear a song like ‘Coming Soon’ with its combination of blues and synth rock, my memory harkens back a harder edged AD (Kerry Livgren from Kansas’ rock band in the Christian market).

The production is a bit more raw and unrefined, but still of good quality. You’ll play this one loud. With short testimonies from Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell that are short but insightful. A rockin’ album of inspiration and hope which is just what the doctor ordered.

The self titled album ‘Vision’ was released on the short lived Heartland Records. This album has a more polished sound which is immediately noticeable, but not at the detriment of the force of the songs.

What is evident here is that many of the songs that appeared on ‘Mountain…’ appear here as well but in a cleaner and brighter format. The production is better with a crisper sound; yet don’t deceive yourself into thinking that means a ‘wimpier’ sound. Far from it, the immediate tri-fecta of re-recorded material of ‘Dynamos,’ ‘Lord is my Joy’ and ‘Old Man’ are made to be played loud! WOW!! A great swath of high energy rock n roll, the southern fried influences still abound. So much joy and power here you must stand up and sing.

‘Standing on the Rock,’ which my contemporary Doug Van Pelt of HM stated as “one of the absolute best Christian rock songs of the era,” from the liner notes appears here and it rocks no doubt about that. Billy Powell provides some superb ivory contributions that just kick. However I think I’d tip my hat to ‘Lord is my Joy’ over the aforementioned song.

There is also a more subtle side as well, with the introspective Psalm 23 and Soldiers Song. Both of which would find a place in any radio station playlist, if anyone would listen.

Closing the album with two mesmerizing rockers in ‘You Are My Only Lord’ and ‘You’re The One’ the end comes in grand style. This is one of the summer time albums that deserve to be played loudly as you drive across some sunshine filled country side. The time will pass and you won’t even know it.

Rocco Marshal plays some tasty guitar licks and the violin provided by Leonard Jones add the appropriate touches through out. The southern vibe doesn’t totally disappear, but in the end is some fabulous hard edged rock n roll.

To quote the back cover, “The first time I heard VISION, I walked into a rehearsal studio and saw that it was Rocco, Billy and Leon. I went back outside to my car and thought, “Vision – I don’t need no stinking vision. I’m blind as a bat as it is…. But this old bat has great hearing! Wow and that’s all you need to know with these guys!” a quote from Steve Holland founding member of Molly Hatchett.

I think I‘d agree. If all you want is hard pounding metal then these albums aren’t for you, but you enjoy hard edged rock n roll with a touch of southern fried jamming then do your self a favor and snatch ‘em up.

8 axes for both albums....


Soaring out of Greece arrives Innerwish, power metal with soaring vocal melodies, driving rhythms and a message of hope. This is the bands first release for the Swedish label Ulterium, also the home of Sinbreed and Audiovision. Not having heard Innerwish prior to the release I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The album is entitled No Turning Back

What I discovered was that Innerwish are quite capable musicians who handle their instruments with precision. The vocals provided by Babis Alexandropoulos are phenomenal, able to hit the high end of the register and provide the grit and power needed to cut through the musical barrage.

Listening to No Turning Back I was struck at how similar in style Innerwish is to Rob Rock. The song structures and arrangements take their cue from Rock’s later material. That’s not saying this is a Rob Rock clone, not at all, you might not even hear it, but to these ears it’s there like a ghost in the machine.

The authoritative guitar playing provided by Thimios Krikos and Manolis Tsigos is dominant throughout. Upfront and demanding of your attention they create the bedrock by which everything else is built upon. You can’t escape it, much like Indiana Jones in the snake infested Egyptian tomb, your only escape is through the wall and you don’t have a statue to pull down. However why would you want to?

A wide assemblage of power metal awaits the listener here. ‘Sirens,’ ‘Chosen Ones,’ ‘Save Us,’ are just a small sampling of the compositions here. Guitar solos, subtle keyboard arrangements and the forceful rhythm section guide one along the path that is No Turning Back.

There are several good songs and memorable melodies, yet at times the songs feel a little indistinguishable, especially on one’s first listen. As proficient a musicians as they are it seems that a bit better arranging would’ve helped the overall feel of the album. Coupled with a slightly biting midrange that has one reaching for an equalizer control (especially in my car stereo) it detracts from what could be a fine album.

This is a release that will take some effort to gain your appreciation, but that doesn’t make it all bad. If you’re a power metal aficionado you’ll want to add this to your sprawling collection I’m sure. A seven axe review because it is good, I just think it could’ve been great.

7 axes

Friday, June 11, 2010


It’s amazing to me that throughout the world AOR or Album Oriented Rock continues to thrive and flourish within the musical community. Certainly it doesn’t command the same attention it has in the past but the fan base is still there. The continued presence of websites such as Melodic Rock.Com attests to that. Not to mention the success of tours by Journey and Foreigner in previous years.

So one must ask why can’t music executives in the United States put out this type of stuff instead of more over produced over sexed divas that can’t sing and can’t even write their own material.

The latest album by Giant entitled Promise Land is a testament to perseverance and professionalism. 13 well produced and well executed arena rock treasures provide musical enjoyment for anyone with an appreciation for good song writing. Without worrying about a corporate sponsor as such Giant hasn’t given a flavor of the moment but they continue to do what they do best.

Opening with two exceptionally radio friendly songs in ‘Believer’ and ‘Promised Land’ you realize that talented musicians and composers have put together songs of melody and hope. Continuing this focus throughout the album, they don’t break new ground per se but is that what I buy these albums for? No, I want something I can sing along to and feel good about. Promised Land delivers in a big way.

Dann Huff whose guitar heroics were featured on previous Giant albums doesn’t play here, in favor of John Roth(Winger), yet Huffs songwriting credits are throughout the album so his influence is very much present. His brother David continues to play drums and share producing credit with bass player Mike Brignarndello.

It’s just a shame that such a fine piece of work as this release probably won’t receive all the attention it deserves. For my tastes I usually enjoy the slightly more edgy material I find on albums of this sort, ditties such as ‘Prisoner of Love,’ ‘Two Worlds Collide’ and several others; ‘Complicated Man’ also comes to mind immediately with it’s boogie influenced riff and catchy chorus.

Terry Brock delivers an excellent vocal performance that compliments the musical attack with a smoky whisp of mystery. Continuity of performance is what really makes this disc tick and Terry shines.

Lyrically a Christian view point is presented, not preached or blatantly spoken but it still shines through in the worldview. Very thoughtful and can be internalized by everyone.

Frontier Records of Italy shows that not all hope is lost when it comes to labels putting out new music; it’s just a hope of mine that an American renaissance of this type will hit the music executives in North America. In the mean time don’t miss out on an exceptional release of arena rock excellence.

7 axe