Saturday, January 29, 2011

RANSOM - RANSOM remastered

Southern California hard rock act Ransom released two acclaimed albums in the early 1990’s. With a sound not unlike Heart, Stryper or Lita Ford; Ransom delivered a solid ball of rock that could compete with the best of them.

Intense Millennium have remastered and re-issued their debut album with several bonus tracks. Songs such as Lasting Love, Rumors, Etched in Stone, and Break into Darkness sound better than ever. With some really strong performances from Tony Ortiz on lead guitar, Michael Ciado bass guitar and Randy Kantor on drums the foundation was laid for Lisa Faxon’s smoky vocal to soar over the top.

Ransom had a strong knack for writing catchy melodies that really stuck with you. Whether it was the above named songs or tracks like Fallen Angel, Fool that I am and Your Broken Heart the hooks dug in deep. It really is one of those albums that get better the more you listen to it.

The remastering brings great dynamics and depth that simply wasn’t there before. The Frontline studios (aka Mixing Lab A & B) often got good sounds, but many times the dynamics were overlooked and the finished product ended up sounding flat. Steinhaus studios again provided stellar work to make a rough gem sound pristine.

If you were a fan of Crystavox back in the day or Shout, but you overlooked Ransom now is the time to take a second look. You even get three bonus tracks, all from the bands three song demo. Sin Killer, Sticks n Stones, and To Be like You. There is also a hidden track (which isn’t so hidden now is it!) I’ll let you discover it for yourself. Why the track from Cal Metal Two isn’t here, a cleaner version of Sin Killer is unclear.

Some extra liner notes would’ve been nice as to see how the members of the band are doing now, but that is just a small negative on an overall great package. Fans of melodic hard rock/metal should grab this album and play it loudly. It’s definitely worth the money you spend.

8 axes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


In the fleeting moments of 2010 I received an album from Oklahoma’s Crossfire. Entitled A World in Flames, Crossfire delivers a high energy rock n roll circus. At times influences such as AC/DC, mid era Bride and Main Line Riders come shining through like a freight train.

With this straight ahead sound Crosswire have put together a nice 10 song package. What they are short on originality they make up for in intensity. Starting things off with the raucous Rich Man the way is paved for the rest of this album. Can’t Stop Us Now, Done With You, World in Flame are designed to blow you down and rip the roof off.

A slightly more bluesy influence becomes evident on tracks such as Desert Eagle Blues and Miles to Go. The music is fun and straight ahead, not overly complex but hints at potential for even higher quality in the future.

It must be pointed out however that sometimes vocalist Seth Copeland strives for octaves slightly beyond his range. His style is still developing, despite an obvious Dale Thompson influence.

There is some good stuff here. The production is a little rough, but it’s not a distraction in the least. Many times an independent release suffers from a lack of adequate production; fortunately that’s not the case here. The brothers Copeland did an satisfactory job.

I would probably given this release a 6 axe rating (average) because it is a little predictable, but the energy quotient and potential is off the chart with this release. 7 axes (good) are awarded to a band with quite a bit of future ahead of them if they continue to do the hard work of growth. Thumbs up!

7 axes


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


INTENSE MILLENNIUM RECORDS is happy to announce the signing of Maryland based hard rock / metal band UNDER COMMAND.

More than a band, the continuing musical journey of Wayne and Julie Johnson strives ahead. At the heart a ministry that isnt held in place by titles of was is or what should be or this is what is. Acoustic praise and worship, all out metal crush to solo speaking or musical appearances, its all the same deal: GOD To be glorified.

So begins the story..... A LOVE OF GOOD MUSIC - Just one of the things that make up the Maryland based heavy rock band UNDER COMMAND.

Starting around November ..98, drummer Steve Songy and guitarist Wayne Johnson jammed in a 5x5 storage shed. Enduring the change of seasons and temperatures they created the ten songs that would become their debut release, the 1999 hard rocking CD, SECRET PLACE OF THUNDER.

Playing concerts over the mid-Atlantic area out to the mid-west and as far as California, they come out hitting hard and heavy. An unmistakable sound and energetic live show make Under Command a crowd favorite sharing the stage with such great bands as Disciple, Skillet, Seventh Day Slumber, Kutless, Stryper and Pillar. At this time, the group was featured on several compilation CDs, all of which became international sellouts.

At the end of 2001, the band teamed up with the on-line record label, Fight Cloud. They released a project called DAMAGE CONTROL. It featured ten songs of over an hour of music, a thing that the group would become known for. By early the next year Fight Cloud closed it's doors, ending DAMAGE CONTROL's availability.

In 2002, Under Command released its second CD SEEING RED, a more aggressive project that featured thick guitars, chunky grooves and more harmony vocals. Lyrics described as real, positive and spiritual speak to the listener in an honest way. With the Seeing Red sessions 90% done, they started a third project, A.E. THE ACOUSTIC EXPERIENCE. An idea that originally was to be an all-acoustic EP turned into a full-length 12-song release. Using a different writing formula, they created stripped down songs with few guitar solos and more sonic texture. Acoustic Experience became the calm to Seeing Reds storm. This sister CD was released a year later.

2003 saw Under Command participate on another compilation CD, this one being for Compassion International, an outreach that helps sponsor needy children all over the world. The compilation CD, Together with Compassion, is a double CD with all sale proceeds going to the outreach program, and can be purchased at all Under Command concerts.

The Band returned to the studio after several years of constant touring and personnel changes. Julie Johnson moved from just background vocals to the bass guitarist slot with Nathan Johnson taking over the drum throne. They started a project called UNDERCOVER an eight song release with 4 original songs and 4 cover tunes, hence the cd name. Before the release of that project talks began with the start up label and that prompted the band to reenter the studio and begin work on the new all original project BACK IN THE THICK in 2008. The heaviest most aggressive project to date with a backbone of riff and groove.

Now it's 2011, and Under Command is ready to rock once again with a brand new full length album, and the full support of Intense Millennium Records. In January the band released their first single from the yet titled upcoming album titled, "My Madness". The band is currently in the studio finishing up the album, expect it's release mid-2011.

UNDER COMMAND is the second officially active band to be announced as signing to Intense Millennium Records. Intense Millennium Records is the partnered label to Frontline Records, and is distributed nationwide via Infinity Distribution.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

BRIDE - LIVE TO DIE remastered

Of the first three Bride albums Live to Die was this band at its zenith, hands down. As part of Retroactive’s series of albums entitled The Originals, Live to Die deserves not only to be resurrected this way but also revisited for its impact.

1988 was a year of Christian Metal madness. Debut albums from Sacred Warrior, Vengeance, and Shout along with new releases from Saint, Bloodgood and Barren Cross all peppered the landscape. However, one of those summer albums which just took everyone by storm was the sophomore release from Kentucky’s Bride. Live to Die had a cleaner sound production wise than their debut release, Show No Mercy. Perhaps the most ironic thing was amidst all of the descriptions for Bride musically was perhaps one of their most enduring qualities, they just don’t really sound like anyone else. They definitely were not a ‘hair metal’ outfit at this time, even if some of their stage garb reflected some of that. Bride had more in common with Savatage than Def Leppard; they were a straight up metal act with that already had developed a rabid fan base. This album also featured some of the most intense vocalizations from Dale Thompson ever.

Lyrically they weren’t a ‘Jesus Saves’ band. They were evangelistic, but not in the same way as say a Stryper. Although a Christian worldview was present, each song was not a three evangelistic tract. Personally I believe that is why these albums hold up so well.

This remastered version simply screams, Fire and Brimstone, Whiskey Seed, Live to Die, Heroes and Hell No never sounded this heavy, or this powerful. All the energy that was poured into the original recording is finally given a chance to shine, with all the warmth and strength that a modern mastering job can do.

The increased bass response fills out the overall sound and provides solid bedrock for the rest of the music. The midrange tones that almost sound shrill (hi-hat) are given their due but put in their appropriate place. The guitars receive a great boost which makes the album just sound harder.

Listening to the intro to album closer Heroes is even more eerie. One thing that Bride never can be accused of is failing to create an atmosphere. Subtleties throughout this release are heard with even more precision, they’re not nebulous quiet parts but elements of the album that deserve to be heard.

Live to Die was one of the best albums of 1988, and Bride were one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. I had the privilege of seeing their first West Coast performance, not only did they not disappoint but they tore the roof off the place. It was incredible.

This package is a six panel digi pack; Troy Thompson provides some nice reflections of the period.

If you can’t figure out which of these Bride discs to get first, this one is it. As pivotal as Snakes in the Playground would be in several years, Live to Die is one of the high points for this band metal missionaries. A pure heavy metal classic which should be heard and enjoyed.

10 axes

Friday, January 14, 2011



Retroactive Records



#3 REINXEED - MAJESTIC is-entitled.html

Liljegren Music



Wednesday, January 12, 2011


1986 was a tremendous year for Christian Music. One of those albums which have withstood the test of time is Undercover’s album Branded. This quartet from Orange County was one of the earliest purveyors of the new wave/punk sound from a Christian point of view. Their earlier material was more surf punk with a light new wave sheen. However this release was a change into a darker, deeper direction.

Branded showcases tightly refined melodies with punchy rhythms and crunchy guitar. It also features the vocal debut of Sim Wilson. His staunch baritone adds a very different vibe to Undercover, almost a Goth type sound to these ears. Well in 1986 this was a very different atmosphere for Undercover, an almost stark contrast to what had come out before.

A dark broody album awaited us then and with this 25th anniversary re-issue put out by Intense Millennium you can enjoy this masterpiece as well. I know I’m the ‘metal guy’ but Undercover has always had a special place in my heart. I was fortunate enough to see them three times back in the day and each time they rocked.

The albums following Branded went in a more hard rock direction, like The Cult, which are fabulous if you can find them. However Branded still had some of those quirky new wave moments, Ojo’s bass keyboard being the most prominent. Having been recorded at Pakaderm Studio’s the quality of the sound has stood the test of time and this remastering has not only brought more definition to the music, but allowed it to breath in maturity. Ojo and the rest of the band oversaw the remastering themselves in order to get the sound they wanted.

They’ve included some nice bonus tracks, a few live renditions and a demo of the albums most enduring track I’m Just a Man.

This isn’t a new wave or Punk album but an album of transition. Most of the slogan songs are gone having been replaced with lyrical concepts that at times are deep, dark and depressing. Yet that is part of the life we walk and Undercover took the brave step to bring a more mature lyrical stance into their music. Personally I’m glad because it is due to this move that has allowed this album to age gracefully.

How can you forget a song like I’m Just a Man, Where Can I Go, Cry Myself to Sleep, Come Away or the heart wrenching Pilate. These songs are still just as haunting as they were in 1986. Ojo and company wrote an edgy and honest work of art. Gym’s hard edged guitar adds that ‘metallic’ bite that always caught my ears. The drumming of Gary Olson is also top notch.

Perhaps you missed this album back in the day or you’re just heard of Undercover for the first time. Branded is a great album of highly memorable whimsy that will stick with you without the clich├ęs of typical Christian music of the period. This is a highly recommended album that will enjoy a prominent place in my listening rotation once again.

9 axes

Saturday, January 8, 2011

BRIDE - SHOW NO MERCY remastered

One of the most popular bands in the history of metal has just had their first three albums remastered and reissued. That band is, of course, Bride. Before everyone knew their name or found a snake in the playground, we learned to follow our heart through the thunder in the city. Bride’s first album Show No Mercy is pure heavy metal, perhaps along the lines of Savatage or Crimson Glory.

Show No Mercy has a gothic in feel with crunchy guitars and pounding drums, but perhaps even more so is the soaring vocals of Dale Thompson. No one sounds like Dale and no one really sounds like Bride for that matter. The remastering process has done wonders for the clarity and heaviness of this metal classic.

The original album issued from Pure Metal in 1986 suffered a bit sonically from a muddied sound and lack of proper mastering. Guitar parts were buried and forgotten, not mention any subtleties in the acoustic guitar department, vocal harmonies? HA. Steinhaus has performed a miraculous transformation, with this release. The guitars are clear and crunchy with a bass guitar that suddenly has greater definition and the drums simply kick butt.

Classics like Thunder in the City, No Matter the Price, Follow Your Heart, Fly Away and the raucous title track shine like never before. This is 80’s heavy metal, not thrash or pop metal but heavy metal that grabs you by the throat and delivers the goods. Steve Osborne’s solo on Now Matter the Price sounds simply stellar.

There really quite a bit of maturity in the songwriting on this album. A three chord chug chug chug affair this isn’t. Those elements are present, but Bride does offer more than that to the listener. Lyrically not as obvious as some would like, but that was part of the mystery and part of the appeal.

For me however, the apex of this album has always been Follow Your Heart. Chunky heavy metal, with a great hook and a vocal performance that gave me chills then and now. This cleaner version brings out so much that was buried in the previous releases, very nice indeed.

This remaster comes as a 6 panel digi pack with new liner notes by Troy Thompson and some new photos of that time period. Bride may feel that they recorded this album on a shoe string, but I think it holds up pretty darn well.

Show No Mercy is part of Retroactive’s ‘The Originals’ series, albums that have been unavailable but are being released in the form of their original issues. No bonus material is included but when the original material sounds this stellar and strong, I could care less. Pick up Show No Mercy and prepare to be impressed.

8 axes