Thursday, May 27, 2010
Break Out! is the title of Pastor Brad’s debut album for Roxx Records. Pastor Brad if you are not aware has been putting out 80’s inspired hard rock/metal since 2003. Lyrically very bold in content there is no doubt as to where his heart and his mission lies. His music is very much ministry oriented material with a desire to reach the non-believers with the message of forgiveness through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Brad also runs a website entitled GuitarJams.Net where you can learn guitar theory/licks ECT; as well as devotional material for one’s spiritual walk. Brad’s sincerity and passion are evident immediately. With that no one can find any fault because it’s obviously apparent this isn’t about glorifying Brad.
With that said I was really looking forward to hearing this release from Roxx Records. With a guest list of special vocalists such as Ski from Faith Factor, Ken Tamplin of Shout fame, Chaz Bond courtesy of Jacob’s Dream, Les Carlson from Bloodgood and David Meriwether of Stricken I was anxious to spin this one.
The first thing that struck me was the production factor; it feels much more like a demo then a label release. The clarity is disappointing as the drums are buried in the mix with little definition. You know they’re there, but from the twin guitar passages and vocals the drums are sacrificed. At times it feels as if this was recorded on a four track machine, (I don’t know how it was recorded, but through my experience this is the feel I’m left with) and in this era of computer recordings even an analog recording will sound better.
Vocally aside from the songs sung by the special guests mentioned above, it seems that things fall into disarray more often than not. What really got my attention was the title song, once Rachel Anne started to sing a harmony part was added that sounds horribly out of key. Whether it’s actually out of key or the harmony is just muddied from the mix that could be open for debate, yet it left me feeling like I was listening to Stryken’s debut, yuck. This same unfortunate thing occurs on the song ‘Gethsemane.’
On several occasions the vocal melodies seem to get cluttered with too many words, so as to disrupt the melodic flow of certain vocal passages. Prime historical examples of this were Rez Bands songs Autograph and White Noise or Barnabas tune ‘Northern Lights, Brad on many occasions uses a break down in a song to provide a spoken vocal passage that just seems out of place. This arrangement occurs on the first two songs ‘Break Out’ and ‘In Your Lovin Arms.’ Please understand this isn’t a criticism of what is said, but a critique of the performance given.
The songs that are the strongest include the trifecta of ‘Turn up the Light’ with Ken Tamplin, ‘Cold Blooded Killer’ featuring Ski and ‘We Win’ which includes the vocal talents of Chaz Bond. The melodies and vocal performances stand head and shoulders above the rest of the album. The closing song with David Meriwether of Stricken on vocals shines as he executes with a powerful metal flair.
Pastor Brad is a talented guitar player and has the ability to write some good material; again there is no doubting the heart of the man or his passion. Yet on this release I found the production and at times the performances to be substandard with a few gems amidst the many compositions penned for this album. If you’re already a fan of Pastor Brad you’ll probably still pick this up, but if not I just can’t give a good recommendation this time.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
It's really difficult to believe that Mortification has been around for 20 years. Yet that is the case and as such, Nuclear Blast wanted to make sure that we were all aware and have provided a double disc to commemorate the occasion.
The Mort fan is treated to five re-recorded classics and disc one, “Nocturnal,” “Grind Planetarium,” “Impulsation,” “Hammer of God,” and “The Majestic Infiltration of Order.” All of the new recordings are strong and powerful. The guitars provided by Mick Jelinic are saturated with energy and heaviness; drums provided by Adam Zaffarese deliver the driving punch they’re supposed to. Steve sounds great just slightly more mature and raunchy vocally. His bass soaring like it should.
“Grind Planetarium” and “Hammer of God” enjoy the greatest benefit from these newly re-recorded tracks.
Disc two offers us the Live Planetarium album, which has been out of print for quite a while. It’s not clear if any re-mastering was done as no credit was given. Not owning a copy of the original I can’t really compare, but to have it here is a great touch.
The other material on discs one and two represent a collection of live material taken from the many different stages along the journey of Mortification. From their first concert in 1990 to 2007’s Nordic Fest appearance, a wide swath of performances are presented. Yet the actual audio quality at times is a little suspect. Most of these performances are true bootleg quality. The clarity at times is a little disappointing, but I also remember in my tape trading days I would’ve salivated all over stuff like this. It’s raw, imperfect, and for that reason alone these are for the collector who must have everything.
The performances presented range from Mexico City 2004, New Zealand 1996, Australia 1990 & 1995, and Norway 2007. There is also an acoustic performance from Dutch radio in 2001. How do you do acoustic Mortification? Just listen to this, unique and different.
It should probably be remembered that the underground has not been known for perfection. So this retrospective does have an underground feel. A great booklet is also included, 28 pages of photos and a great retrospective by Steve is presented here. It would've been great if there had been some live color photos. Maybe a journalistic point of view could have been included as well.
I found for the most part, this double disc set to be quite enjoyable, however I would say if I already owned the Live Planetarium album, this album could be passed over. Maybe some live video clips or studio video material could've been included as well. XX Years in the Underground is what this compilation is entitled. The underground is where Mort has shined all these years here’s to hoping that Mort still has more music to give. Any Mort posters?
Thrash metal loud and heavy is what Grave Forsaken delivers on their latest album ‘Fight to the Death.’ Grave Forsaken continue to offer their style of Bay Area Thrash and on this release it seems to me that the recipe is even better than on their previous stab at musical whimsy.
Make no mistake that the guitar is what propels this machine and we can hear it right from the first. It seems to me that a more mature and driven fellowship has emerged within the Grave Forsaken camp. Before this release there was some good solid music being produced, yet on ‘Fight tot the Death’ it feels invigorated and re-energized.
The first single and video entitled ‘War is Hell’ is prime example; depth of performance has improved along with the production values. It seems readily apparent that the vocals of Vaughn Gregory are more biting and intense. His attitude is one of absolute urgency and the delivery shows. The vocal effect at the end of the ‘War is Hell’ is genius as far as I’m concerned. All of the vocal melodies are not just mimicking the rhythm of the guitars but have taken a life of their own, which in turn opens the way for memorable songs.
“Fight to the Death,” “Black Sunday,” also give evidence of an improved style of songwriting that elevates Grave Forsaken into the realm of contenders. “Destruction Comes” barrels like a bat outta hell with deadly force. A set opener one must wonder. A powerful chorus and this composition has nailed it.
Lyrically Grave Forsaken has not left their purpose, which is evangelism through music. Taking current events and incorporating a Christian perspective is difficult without coming across as judgmental. These guys are upfront but not a total downer, at least from my perspective.
For me the only actual low point is the song 'Call me a Dreamer.' It feels outta place, a ballad or perhaps the one song that doesn't blow the doors off the hinges. I found it to be a little disappointing amidst all of the other strong performances.
If you gave Vaughn Gregory and company a shot before and were left wanting, give ‘Fight to the Death’ an opportunity. With better musicianship and better songs this flight of fancy moves like a Saturn V rocket that has left the launch pad, you’d better get in or get enveloped in the blast. Make sure you save me a place down front…
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Say the name Rex Carroll and most fans of melodic pop/metal will remember him for his guitar virtuosity during the late 80’s early 90’s rockers with rockers White Cross. It will be remembered that Rex flashed like Rhodes, DeMaritini and Van Halen as he assailed his fret board with frantic intensity. Many fans will also remember White Cross for their Stephen Pearcy styled vocalizations courtesy of Scott Wenzel. Rex’s affiliations with King James and Steelheart not withstanding.
However the album that has captivated my attention these last many days is the Retroactive release of ‘The Rex Carroll Band.’ With a brilliant mastering job courtesy of J. Powell at Steinhaus, this self titled album takes the listening experience to the bayou’s and back. However with a decidedly Cajun flavor. If you like blues oriented southern fried rock n metal… This album is the one. Hooks galore and plenty of guitar wizardry to keep the air guitar busy and satisfied.
Rex and company provide a superb offering of bluesy guitar oriented rock n roll. This is an album that might be overlooked, especially amidst all of the super heavy stuff and alt rock that seems to be flavor of the moment, however this disc, it seems to me, has the attractiveness of a bright shiny new automobile. Turn the key and hit the gas, this album smokes. 8 bar, 12 bar, smoky back room flavor with lots of feel and vocals courtesy of Rex himself.
Stevie Ray Vaughn and Billy Gibbons would be proud of the guitar oriented material Carroll delivers here. “Working Man Blues,” “Delta Memories,” “Find a Way,” all up beat rockers and of course there has to be a slow bluesy number which ‘Rock my World’ brings. This album reminds us all why blues oriented hard rock is one of the most infectious styles of music around.
The production values are top notch with lots of punch and attack. Good tones across the board with a masterful sound that just deserves to be played loudly. This is not White Cross mark two, not at all, and that I will say is a good thing. The Rex Carroll Band is a decidedly different animal all together.
This is another great album which will see the light of day courtesy of Retroactive Records. Smooth, going down like a sunset along the Mississippi coastline. The Rex Carroll Band has provided a stellar performance which has been introduced to a new generation of fans. Can we all stand up and applaud? I’m standing on my seat.