Sunday, June 30, 2013

Episode 91 - Best of Solo Albums Post 1978


Seasons Greetings Geeks!

Welcome to our annual KISSMAS in JULY celebration. We devote our show/site/facebook/twitter etc. to the Hottest Band in the Land for the entire month of July. There's even more reason to celebrate in 2013 as July has 5 weeks this year!

This week we kick off KISSMAS with some of favorite tunes performed by past and present KISS members outside the confines of the band.

In this episode, you'll hear a track of our choosing from the career of each member of KISS spanning their 40 year career.

Aaron and Chris made their member selections draft-style and we start things off with Chris' choice of Gene Simmons. While Gene has only released one full-length album in the post-1970's (2004's Asshole album), Chris dug up an interesting demo that can only be found on the lunchbox version of 2003's Sex Money KISS audiobook.

Aaron chimes in with his first song choice and it's from the current catman in KISS; Eric Singer. From the 1999, self-titled ESP album, we check out a scorching cover of a SWEET classic.

Up next is Chris' choice of Bruce Kulick. Bruce has released a number of solid solo albums but he really stepped up his game with BK3, his most recent release. It was a difficult choice in what song to play but this track featuring vocals from The Knack's Doug Fieger, is a power pop monster.

It's hard to believe that Eric Carr left us 22 years ago. In his void, a few projects have been released in his memory. One such project was 1999's Rockology; an album that featured songs Carr was working on before his death.

Band mate and friend Bruce Kulick helped flesh out and complete the songs for this release. Aaron's song choice is a great testament to the talent of The Fox.

After the break, we return with Chris' choice of a track by, arguably, the most polarizing member of KISS ever. Vinnie Vincent seems to elicit passionate opinions on both sides of the fence. Chris' selection of a young Vincent taking on the lead vocal from an early demo showcases what might have been had Vinnie not preferred the helium-induced singing style that was so popular in the 80's.

Peter Criss has released a handful of solo albums spanning three decades. Aaron decided to go back to the beginning with a troublesome track from his 1980 solo debut Out of Control.

Mark St. John was very much a man of mystery outside of KISS. Aside from the short lived White Tiger project, St. John's releases were largely ignored; even by KISS fans. Chris found a real gem of a ballad from his Mark St. John Project album featuring former Criss front man Phil Naro.

Like Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley has only released one solo album since the 1970's. Released in 2006, Live to Win featured strong songwriting and a modern-day production. While many KISS fans were a bit let down by the new-school sound of the album, Aaron spins a track that still has a strong rock and roll heart.

Chris' next choice is from Tommy Thayer. This is a bit of a cheat as Thayer has never released any solo material but we wanted to have all members represented. It's no secret to many DBG listeners, that neither Aaron nor Chris are very big fans of Black N Blue. For the sake of the show, Chris delved into their catalog and found a pretty strong track from the 1988 In Heat album.

We close out the show with Aaron's pick of Ace Frehley. With a solid string of releases from Frehley's Comet all the way to 2009's Anomaly album, there was a lot to choose from. Aaron chose a lesser known diamond in the rough from the Live +1 album that was released by Frehley's Comet.

That's week 1 of KISSMAS in JULY down. 4 more to go!

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Gene Simmons
Eric Singer
Bruce Kulick
Eric Carr
Vinnie Vincent
Peter Criss
Mark St. John
Paul Stanley
Tommy Thayer
Ace Frehley

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Anybody Listening? Geoff Tate's Queensryche Comes to Nashville

I'll be honest, the limit of my Queensryche fandom lies in the early material up through 1989's Empire album. I've dipped my listening toe in for some of the later releases but those albums never gripped me like the material from their glory years. I would probably be described as a "fringe fan" at best. So, with that said, it doesn't take much digging to become aware of the painful soap opera that has played out over the last year between Tate and the rest of the band. While all this drama makes for good internet fodder, I've tried to remain open-minded about the music that is coming out of both camps.

I've only heard clips of the Wilton et. al. version of the band and I've enjoyed what I heard and plan to buy the album in the next few weeks. I have listened to the majority of Geoff's Frequency Unknown album and, while it doesn't really carry the Queensryche sound that I dug back in the day, it's a definite improvement over Dedicated to Chaos and some of the albums preceding it. It's also been common knowledge lately that the Tate-led version of the band has been consistently changing members. I'm not going to speculate on the reason for this but I was actually pretty interested in checking out this lineup as they rolled into Nashville recently.

I arrived at War Memorial Auditorium with a faithful Decibel Geek listener joining me for the night's festivities. We were both interested to put all of the rumors and innuendo about Geoff aside and focus on the evening's performances. Could this new version of Queensryche (featuing brothers Rudy & Robert Sarzo, traveling skin basher Brian Tichy, guitarist Kelly Gray, keyboardist Randy Gane and Canadian songstress Sass Jordan performing the Sister Mary parts) stack up to the originals? We'd soon find out.

Upon entering the main venue about 10 minutes before the band hit the stage, one fact was painfully clear; Nashville was NOT overly interested in seeing this version of Queensryche. There were, maybe, 200 people in the auditorium at show time.
The Turnout

The other 'Ryche played a much larger venue a few months ago to a full house. I will admit that there was little to no promotion for this concert and it was on a Thursday night. Plus, I have seen images of decent-sized crowds at other stops on this tour so maybe those are valid reasons.

Regardless of the sparse turnout, this new version of Queensryche put on an absolutely great performance. Celebrating 25 years of Operation Mindcrime, the band played the entire album from front to back. Standout songs included Revolution Calling, Spreading the Disease, Suite Sister Mary (featuing Sass Jordan) and main set closer Eyes of a Stranger. Also during the main set was Brian Tichy performing a slamming drum solo that left me awestruck. This was NOT your typical pee/beer break drum solo. Instead, Tichy played some inspired beats that showed a definite Peter Criss/John Bonham influence; going as far as playing a section with his hands!

Brian Tichy, Robert Sarzo, Kelly Gray
The band came back out to perform a six song encore that featured the premier of Frequency Unknown single 'Cold,' 'I'm American' from Mindcrime II, and a few tracks from Empire. The only downer of the night performance-wise was the performance of 'Silent Lucidity.'

While this song has never been a favorite of mine, it was only made worse in concert due to cameos onstage by Jimmy Wayne and former Rockstar Supernova winner Lukas Rossi. While Wayne did okay on his verses, Rossi was just unbelievably hard to listen to as he attempted to croak out the chorus of the song while a puzzled Nashville audience looked on. It only strengthened my opinion that reality television is not a guarantee of talent.
Rudy Sarzo

After a bit of a wait, those of us with passes were allowed to enter the main room again to mingle with the band during the meet and greet. I have nothing bad to say about any of these people. The entire band, Geoff Tate included, were truly gracious and could not have been nicer.
Sass Jordan
I especially enjoyed talking to Brian Tichy and Sass Jordan as we talked KISS (I know, not a surprise) and Brian let me hear a bit of he and Sass's version of 'I Stole Your Love' that will be included on the soon-to-be-released World With Heroes tribute album that's being facilitated by good friend of the show, Mitch Lafon.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable night of music. The band played a tight, energetic set and Geoff Tate seemed to be in good spirits considering the circumstances. I do have to wonder, however, how sustainable this version of Queensryche can be. As I said earlier, there was very little promotion and it looks like some of the other shows had decent turnouts. I guess only time will tell if there's room in this world for two Queensryches.

- Chris Czynszak

All photos by Billy Hardaway & Chris Czynszak

More Photos:

Meister Music #10-Dancing Wickedly With Sister Sin


Photo credit - Wench Wendy
Hello and welcome to my new segment called Meister Music.  I often get new music cross my desk from record companies or from my own personal musical searches and adventures.  I thought that this would be a good place to review and post my thoughts on some of this music, maybe turning you onto some new bands or reminding you about some old favourites.  Some of the albums may not always be to my specific taste in music, but I'll give you my honest opinions.  Some of it may not even be the most current as I try to introduce you to some lesser known bands that have crossed my path and become favourites of my listening rotation.  Like what I say or think I'm an idiot?  Please feel free to leave me comments and suggestions as you see fit, it would be great to start a discussion of some of these albums.

MEISTER MUSIC #10 - Sister Sin's Dance of the Wicked

Way too late in joining this party I discovered Sister Sin only late last year when I checked out some you-tube videos of their stuff, trying to get a feel for them as they were slated as the middle band in a trio of female fronted rock acts for Doro's North American tour including a stop in Toronto in February.  Those couple of you-tube videos led me to purchase the Switchblade Serenades CD and shortly afterwards True Sound of The Underground.  I was sucked in by the aggressive flavour of the music, the riff-laden tracks and sing along choruses, feeling the hunger that this band had.  Front woman Liv Jagrell's haunting, throaty vocal styling seethed venom and attitude that was hypnotising, bringing the music to life.  Unable to satisfy my voracious appetite for their music, I impatiently ticked the days off my calendar until their third CD, Now & Forever, was released.  I had the opportunity to interview Liv via email as I reviewed the Now & Forever album (Now & Forever/Liv Jagrell Interview) and then again, meeting her in person at the Toronto show (Toronto Show Review/Liv Interview).

Just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to leave my Canadian homeland for a whirlwind trip to Sister Sin's homeland of Sweden and attend the four day festival Sweden Rock Festival 2013.  Watching them perform there in their home country was simply magical that day and they all really brought it to the show, playing hard with fury, passion and anger, one of the best sets I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot!) (Sweden Rock First Day (Sister Sin Review).  The good folks over at Victory Records had provided me with an advance copy of Dance of the Wicked, originally released independently in 2003, some time ago and it served to be a soundtrack for my journey, only just now days after it's release have I had the time to sit down and note my thoughts.  I had hoped to meet up with Liv and the band in Sweden or even a phone interview afterwards to include here with my thoughts on Dance of The Wicked, but I just haven't had the time to put it together, so hopefully we can get to that in the near future.  Right now Sister Sin is busy with summer festivals throughout Scandinavia and Europe
Sister Sin at Sweden Rock 2013
Opening up sounding like someone is tuning in a radio station to a live performance and then opening out into the beginnings of another song rich with the distinctive Sister Sin sound I've come to love.  The inclusion of cowbells are a nice touch on Dave Sundberg's part as the anthem chorus of Kiss The Sky will have you singing along.  The Swagger of the title track, Dance of the Wicked oozes from the speakers for the next cut followed by Fall Into My Dreams.  The latter is one of my favourite tracks on this record with it's tempo and melodies and I ask you: what guy wouldn't want to fall into front woman Liv Jagrell's dreams, named one of the hottest women in metal by Revolver Magazine?  The haunting, just over a minute long instrumental End of The Beginning appears next with Liv showing her vocal prowess on the melodic slower Love Lies after that.  That brings us to the perhaps oddly titled Dirty Damn 1 and I can't quite make out the lyrics to the chorus, but is a fast paced rocker with the punk influences showing through.  Often when a band does a cover of another artists song they stick to the original as close as possible, but that's not the case here.  Liv leads her
Liv at Sweden Rock 2013
boys through their version of The Rolling Stones classic Paint It Black in which they really make it their own.  Tragedy Loves Company has a kind of lighter contemporary flavour and feel to it and is another catchy composition.  The demo, Minor You (Major Me), could easily have been included on their latest release, Now & Forever, perfectly matching the feel of that album.  Writings On The Wall, another demo rocks fast and hard, another stand out cut in this old school metal assault.   Head Over Heels (demo) is trademark Sister Sin, jam packed with riffs and the piss and vinegar attitude.  The last selection on the CD is their Motorhead cover of Rock 'N Roll featuring Doro Pesch.  This track was originally released in 2011 for download only and has a great video to match (Rock 'N Roll Video)

This may be re-masters of their earlier work and while you can hear the progression of the song writing and the maturity that has obviously set in with later works, this is still a rockin' album start to finish and fits well into the Sister Sin repertoire.  Pick it up at I-tunes or Amazon or through Victory Records (Victory Records/Sister Sin) and do us all a favour and crank up the volume when you listen to it...this CD as do the other Sin releases deserves to be listened to at an intensely high volume.

As the song from the Now & Forever CD says I am In It For Life and have been studying my "in progress" full sleeve tattoo (the line work is complete and colour starting soon) which is a guitar case that has travelled the world and has the stickers of band logos for my favourite bands on it, trying to figure out just where I can fit the Sister Sin logo in!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Now Hear This: Heavy Pettin' - Lettin' Loose


     Heavy Pettin' formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1981 when singer Steve Hayman and guitarist Punky Mendoza teamed up with the disenchanted members of a band called Weeper: guitarist Gordon Bonnar, bassist Brian Waugh and drummer Gary Moat. Things came together quickly for the freshly augmented band and within a year they had released a single on legendary metal label Neat Records. 

     With a little help from Def Leppard manager Peter Mensch the band soon found themselves signed to Polydor records and ensconced in a studio in London recording their debut album with Queen guitarist Brian May producing. Some members of the band were reportedly less than enthusiastic about the highly polished album May delivered but I think it's freakin' awesome, one of the best and catchiest albums to come out of the NWOBHM. The album opens with a killer melodic metal song called "In and Out of Love" which predates the similarly titled Bon Jovi tune by a couple of years.

     The second song on the album is a pop metal classic called "Broken Heart." When the song kicks into gear resistance is futile. The song was definitely worthy of massive airplay and could have (should have) made the record a hit.

     The third and possibly best song on the album is a monster tune called "Love Times Love," which was originally on the b-side of the Neat single.

     Side One closes out with an epic stormer called "Victims of the Night." Oh how I wish I could have seen this group live at the time. These are inspired songs indeed.

     Side Two opens with a song called "Rock Me." At certain points the song is very reminiscent of Def Leppard but it's also a highly original, creative piece of work, far more imaginative than its title might suggest. These guys had heart and energy and it shows, "Rock Me" is awesome. A+.

     Next up is another generic title, "Shout It Out," but this time the song lives down to its name, it's probably the worst song on the album. The band makes up for it with the next track, "Devil In Her Eyes," a glorious exercise in pop metal grandiosity.

     The album closes with a hyperactive rocker called "Hell Is Beautiful," not a bad song at all (well, there are those lyrics) but a tad generic.

     Lettin' Loose was reissued in 2003 and included a very cool bonus track called "Shadows of the Night."

     The band toured with Whitesnake, Kiss and Ozzy Osbourne to support the record but it failed to take off the way Pyromania did for Def Leppard the same year. The band released an overproduced follow-up album in 1985 called Rock Ain't Dead, the songs were still strong but the sound and presentation of the record was unfortunate. Lettin' Loose had made it clear that the band had huge, huge potential. Perhaps if the listening public had given them the support they needed at the time they wouldn't have strayed too far in the wrong direction trying to get their attention. Rock Ain't Dead is a fun listen but Lettin' Loose is a work of art.

     In 1987 the band recorded a terrible song they didn't write called "Romeo" for entrance in the Eurovision song contest. Big mistake. The band released one last album in 1989 called Big Bang. And that was that. 

     Lettin' Loose was released as a self-titled (Heavy Pettin') record in the U.S. with different cover art. Keep your eyes peeled.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nothin' Quiet 'Bout This Riot


The Canadian Decibel Geek duo of Wally Norton and Rich Dillon were on the move again last week, taking in another awesome concert show at The Rockpile Bar & Nightclub in Etobicoke, Ontario.  The Rockpile have done an incredible job of bringing in some bigger name acts to their relatively small venue and have done an awesome job of creating a local scene here.  The Rockpile is becoming a destination, boasting such names as Faster Pussycat (many times), Helix, Kill Devil Hill, Drum Wars, Jack Russell's Great White, Stryper, Y&T, L.A. Guns, Dio Disciples, Brighton Rock and many more past and future.  (ROCKPILE on FACEBOOK) (ROCKPILE WEBSITE) Their latest attraction for us was Quiet Riot.

Photo taken from The Rockpile Bar & Nightclub Facebook page

Everyone has heard of Quiet Riot, being the first heavy metal band to have a top five charting song with their cover of the Slade track Cum On Feel The Noize and the first heavy
metal début album to reach #1 on the Billboard charts.  Their songs are also featured at sporting events on a regular basis.  For those more in the know, Quiet Riot also housed guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads (future Ozzy band member) in his early days in the business.  The distinctive vocal styling and sounds of Mr. Kevin DuBrow led the charge on most (Paul Shortino appeared on 1988's QR also known as QRIV) of the Quiet Riot albums.  Sadly in 2007 this rock and roll icon passed away.  At the time Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot's long time drummer) issued a statement basically saying that like his best friend in the whole world, Quiet Riot would be laid to rest.  That all changed with the blessings of Kevin's mom and in 2010 Frankie assembled a great band for the re-birth of Quiet Riot.  On bass is Chuck Wright, who has long been involved with Quiet Riot, appearing on the albums Metal Health 1983, QRIII 1986, Terrified 1994 and Down to the Bone 1995.  Alex Grossi wields the guitar and originally joined the band in 2004, appearing on 2006's Rehab album, the last with Kevin DuBrow.  Many have said that it's not Quiet Riot as only Frankie remains from the original band and things of the like.  Well, for everyone's information Frankie Banali is not an original member either, missing Quiet Riot 1977 and Quiet Riot II 1978.  He did come in time for 1983's Metal Health and the most commonly known or popular line-up of the band.  Chuck Wright as you can see above has been involved off and on with Quiet Riot since
1982 and guitarist Alex Grossi since 2004.  That to me says that these boys have the credentials and are as much a part of Quiet Riot as Rudy Sarzo and Carlos Cavazo.  Chuck actually played bass on the songs Metal Health and Don't Want To Let You Go and backing vocals on Thunderbird as well as on the Metal Health follow up record, Condition Critical.  While Kevin is no longer with us, the new vocalist, Scott Vokoun has a similar sound to his pipes and is an excellent performer as we discovered and I can't wait to see them again aboard Monsters of Rock Cruise in March 2014.  Join me there (MONSTERS OF ROCK CRUISE WEBSITE)

I had seen Quiet Riot once before, so long ago that I hardly remember it.  I did however find my ticket stub, something that is harder and harder to come by these days, often having to pay a delivery surcharge for that little souvenir.  A bunch of us had gotten the tickets for free as we were leaving a dance club the night before (hey, it's where all the girls were!).  I remember loving the show, but not much else aside from that, so I was pretty pumped up to see Quiet Riot tonight after hearing rave reviews from someone who caught their Las Vegas performance back in March.

We arrived early as usual, greeting friends and staff.  We grabbed a burger and caught up with each others recent events and life altering adventures.  The first band took the stage at 8:30pm and were a four piece unit.  They were a little screamy and high pitched for such a big guy on vocals.  With the veins popping out in the bald singer's head their third song was a cover of one of their major influences, Dream Theatre, with Under A Glass Moon.  The fourth and last song (they were rather lengthy compositions), Breaking Free included band introductions for Third Dynasty.

After Third Dynasty, while The Rockpile's excellent sound man assisted in getting the next act ready to roll on stage we noticed that there were several "Crooked Zebras" t-shirts floating around.  They must have quite a following and I had heard of them before as a friend often sings their praises, well I think he knows someone in the band, so he may be biased.  A good majority of the shirts said "with Quiet Riot on the Crooked Zebras party bus" a good and safe way to get your local fans to the show by providing transportation.

Soul Heavy was the next band to take The Rockpile's carpeted stage.  They consisted of five members and the guitarist sported a mohawk while the singer a bushy red beard taking on a character all it's own.  Much like Third Dynasty they were a little screamy and had an alternative, heavy, modern style of sound.  I caught the title of one song, Head Rush, before they introduced the band.  During the final cut the guitarist with the mohawk broke two strings.

A group of Bramptonites all between the ages of 15 & 17 called Revolution were the next victims in the revolving roster.  I couldn't even understand the vocalist when he was talking normally, it was very muffled and he did not annunciate well.  They had a bit of a muddy sound which is highly unusual for The Rockpile, so I assume it must be the band itself.  They performed a tribute to Randy Rhoads with a version of Ozzy's I Don't Know and without being mean here, I'll just say stick to listening to the original version.

I couldn't help but think how none of these bands tonight were a particularly good fit on a bill with Quiet Riot.  We moved closer while waiting for Crooked Zebras to start their set, taking up residence in our normal position leaning on the stage to the left side.  Once we got up front we noticed the stacks of amps.......there will be nothing quiet about this riot indeed, they must think it's still 1986!

At 10:45pm Crooked Zebras took the stage and were a much more suitable opener for the 80's metal legends.  They powered through a decent cover of Rage Against The Machine's Bulls On Parade as the drummer gulped down a long swig of Smirnoff Ice.  From Rage they burst into A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles classic and absolutely nailed it.  I now get it!  All the buzz that my friend had been filling my head with about Crooked Zebras, you have to see these guys to understand.  What I believe was an original song, appearing on the set list as Black Cloud Bastard contained good riffs with a great energy and sound.  The lead vocalist thanked the Crooked Zebra fans for making the trip as I looked around noticing that we were rather swarmed with the Crooked Zebra t-shirts.  I'm a lover of Billy Idol's Rebel Yell record (no judging please), but the Zebras ramped it up for their version of the song Rebel Yell and I'm not sure it's ever sounded better than that.  We were informed that their next song was entitled Gone Wrong and will be on their forthcoming album (which I will certainly be on the lookout for) and that was
followed by A Girl Like You, originally by the Smithereens.  It was awesome to hear this song live as it's always been a favourite of mine since I first heard it on a dock rock type of radio station at a friend's cottage many, many years ago and was shocked to find out that Wally had never heard of it before.  The next appearance on the set list for those that were following along such as we were would have been Buckcherry's Lit Up, but it was omitted, presumably due to a time constraint and they soldiered on with Ain't Talking About Love.  The vocalist even sounded a little like David Lee Roth on this Van Halen classic.  I was left feeling glad that I had caught their set and they were a great stage setter for the Metal Health head liners although I would have preferred that they had skipped the Bulls On Parade as opposed to Lit Up, but one thing's for sure, these guys definitely deliver great party music with their infectious cover versions.

Always one to help out, I trotted off to the bar when bassist extraordinaire Mr. Chuck Wright leaned down to us and asked one of us to get him a beer, charging Wally and Brian to "be big" as they held my position whilst I obtained the goods.   Queen's We Will Rock You served to set the scene for the intro music as 2013's Quiet Riot flooded the stage.  As they opened up with Run For Cover from the iconic Metal Health record I was struck by how much this guy even sounded like Kevin DuBrow.  Before they got into their next song Frankie requested more volume and sound in his monitor announcing "I fuck louder than that, thank you."  Slick Black Cadillac assaulted us next and I was singing along with every word.  Condition Critical's Slade cover Mama Weer All Crazee Now sat in the third position while
Sign of the Times from the same record followed.  Frankie Banali looked almost angry as he pounded hard on his kit playing with force and passion and intensity.  I played the Metal Health record, yes actually the 33rpm vinyl record, religiously as a kid, loving it so much along with  QRIII right behind and maybe I'm a bit over dramatic here but I felt that my life had been enriched by seeing Quiet Riot this night and it was only halfway through the show.  Love's A Bitch from that soundtrack of my youth was next and the facial energy and intensity on Chuck Wright's face was amazing to watch as Wally studied his dancing bass fingers.  Condition Critical from the Metal Health follow-up record of the same name led us to Put Up Or Shut Up,
the first representation from QRIII.  By the time they got to Put Up Or Shut Up they had taken no little breaks between songs, just barraging us with one Quiet Riot classic after another.  Frankie now stretched his legs rising from behind his kit and taking the mike at centre stage to dedicate Thunderbird to Randy and also to his best friend in the entire world, Kevin Dubrow.  Chuck's fingers continued dancing over the bass strings as they soldiered through into Breathless,  The Wild & The Young following close behind.  Let's Get Crazy including a short guitar solo was next to slap us in the face, now
having played almost all of the iconic Metal Health album by this point with the title track and Cum On Feel The Noize sure to come soon.  My deductive reasoning powers were right on track, although I had hoped for a couple more first as they blasted into Cum On Feel The Noize, the crowd singing along.  Quiet Riot left us with Metal Health, known more commonly perhaps as Bang Your Head and indeed there was a ton of headbanging taking place at The Rockpile tonight!  After the show we were able to chat with Chuck for a few minutes (watch for Wally's interview with him coming soon) and Frankie also circled the crowd meeting and greeting fans and taking tons of photos with them.  The Monsters of Rock Cruise Facebook page does a countdown to the next cruise with cruisers getting involved and taking photos with bands and friends counting down the number of days until the next voyage.  Here's my countdown shot with Frankie:
Take my advice and get past the stigma of original members and get out and see Quiet Riot, you'll thank me for doing so!  Here's a fan made video I found on you-tube from the show at The Rockpile and the song Metal Health (METAL HEALTH at ROCKPILE)


The Meister

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

League of Rock - "I Loved The Shine!"


So as I write this, I am riding the Toronto Subway home from the Hideout. The Hideout is a live music club here in downtown Toronto. Now most often I would be writing up a review of a band that I just witnessed but tonight was a little different.

For those that have been following along with my league of Rock series, you already know that I am now halfway through on this most interesting experience, living the dream of being in a rock n roll band.

So tonight after four weeks spent in the bunkers of the Rehearsal Factory, we geared up for our very first "performance" playing in front of people. All five bands that make up this session of the League of Rock were scheduled to play their set, live without a net in a real rock n roll bar. Wow, the training wheels are really off now!

Feeling some major butterflies I headed down to the club early for some dinner and a cold glass of courage. Since I most certainly can't review my own show, my esteemed Decibel Geek colleague and good friend Rich Dillon joined me for support and quite possibly to heckle my band.

Before long the club was filling up with fellow League members lugging guitars cases ready to rock. I have to say, the excitement turned to nervousness and as I waited I had fears of forgetting our songs. "How do we start?, how do we end?, fear was certainly an emotion I was dealing with. Rich laughed as I ordered a plain coke because I was drinking faster out of sheer nervousness and figured that guzzling alcohol might not be the best idea for me.

My band mates arrived and soon the club was buzzing with League Members and lots of guitar cases lined the walls. Before long the order sheet of which band was going on and when was posted. Part of me wanted to be first to get it over with, the thought of more time for my nerves to boil over wasn't comforting but maybe seeing some of the other bands might relax me or at least take my mind off things. Reading the sheet, we were the fourth band on the list. So I finished my coke (that's cola! Geesh, it's not 1988!) and ordered a cold beer.

Watching the other bands was probably a good thing. All played great, some really good song choices. This gave me  time to be a music fan instead of a shaking mass of nerves. You could see that others were nervous too but they soldiered on and played great. When the first band broke into Pat Travers'  "Gimme Three Steps", I rocked out. Great song choice!

The second band up, Lucidity had me rocking with some Black Crowes that sounded great. These bands had worked hard to be as solid as they could for our first show. This was fun!

We got news that one of the bands weren't able to make it and that we were up next! This got the adrenaline pumping as I grabbed my gear and headed for the stage. This was very different than the rehearsal factory, within moments I gave our drummer Jim a look that hopefully hid I was crapping my pants and Scott ripped off the intro to Wildflower on his Gibson SG and four bars later The Shine kicked in and my mind was racing.

A combination of adrenaline, euphoria and nervousness flowed through my body. It was a strange sensation as flashes of panic and doubt were balanced with a complete rush of excitement. One moment I would be nervously counting the bars making sure I wasn't missing a change and other times I got lost in the song as we caught a groove. It was intoxicating.

Did we play a flawless set? Not a chance, I know I sure missed some notes here and there, cringing when I did but we made it through unscathed. In fact, I feel we did a pretty solid job and in the words of John Mellencamp (when he still carried the "Cougar" monicker) it was "close enough for rock n roll"!

In the blink of an eye it was over, I unplugged my bass and realized I was still trembling from all the adrenaline still coursing through my veins. We were instructed to follow our coach to the back room for a "band flogging" from Mr. Colin Cripps. Colin, a guitar player/songwriter/producer has worked with the likes of Bryan Adams, Junkhouse, The Headstones and Crash Vegas.

Colin gave us some great feedback telling us what to work on during our next practice session and he strongly recommended the song he felt was the one we should take into the recording studio on week nine. ACDC's "Whole Lotta Rosie", was his pick and his reason was that according to him we had made that song our own. We still need to polish it more, get it tighter for the next showcase which is our next focus.

From there we went out to enjoy the last few moments of the final band and finally relax and take a breath. As I shared another cold beverage with Rich, the highlight of my night occurred.  Tony Springer walked over to me and said "I loved The Shine!". For those that have never experienced Wild T and the Spirit, go look them up. Tony is a monster on the guitar and I am a big fan. Surreal? F' ya!

Check out some Wild T here!

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Canadian Decibel Geek in Sweden - Day #5 & 6-June 8th and 9th, 2013

Well this is the account of my last day at 2013’s Sweden Rock Festival and what an experience it’s been.  So many great bands here, some I've been very familiar with and some that I've seen before, but there’s also a lot of new music to be discovered here.  Bands like Imber, Days of Jupiter, Satan and Bloodbound among others that really impressed me with their live sets.  So, even though this is a bit late in posting let’s get down to it with my last day of "A Canadian Decibel Geek in Sweden".

Saturday June 8th, 2013

Satan (UK)
12pm-I really have no idea what I did before this, but I'm sure there was a little food, a freezing cold shower in the shower trailer (although I'm glad I discovered the trailer, I almost wonder if no shower would be better than the frigid ice water that's provided here!) and some time in the press tent in the morning.  Noon finds me at the Sweden Stage for the first show of the day with Satan, that’s a band, not who I was hanging out with!  They hail from Newcastle, UK and I’d checked out some of their stuff before leaving Toronto.  Being a part of the NWOBHM movement I enjoyed their style immediately, purchasing some CD's.  After a rather long synthesiser intro Satan took the stage and the first song was familiar, but the title eludes me at the moment although it is quite good.  The sun is blisteringly hot again when it peeks out from behind the clouds, but the wind is downright chilly.  Blades of Steel was announced as the next song and was followed up by A Time To Die from the new album, Life Sentence.  They were holding my attention fairly well and the next song was "about the future, but from the perspective of a guy who’s looking back because he’s already past that point", sounds deep and it’s called Twenty Twenty Five we were
told.  “From the newest, we’re going back to the oldest” the singer proclaimed as they played Oppression next.  He seems to have a kind of an Ozzy look going on about him and it works well.  Next from the Court In The Act album, which I have, we got Break Free and I was suddenly struck by this thought:  Quite often the bands here at Sweden Rock have been introduced by a pair of guys who I assume are radio DJs or TV personalities here in Sweden.  It’s all spoken in Swedish, but there’s one phrase that the guy says every time “Satan’s people” referring to the audience and festival goers.  Well here it’s an appropriate statement as I'm being won over by this band called Satan.  Another new one with Incantations was up next followed by their closer of Siege Mentality also from the new record.  A very good set despite the weaker early day time slot.

12:50pm-after Satan I did some wandering of the grounds inside and outside of the compound, choosing to take a break from the bands, not being overly interested in the ones performing right now anyway.  I did some shopping, checked the bus schedule about getting myself to the train station in time to make my way to Copenhagen airport for my flight home tomorrow (way too short of a time here in Scandinavia) and returned to DBHQ.

1:50pm-Checking out the backstage bar to see who’s around and get myself a beverage.  Mille from Kreator was being interviewed by the “Satan’s people” DJ and I heard him say that he was excited to see Rush, my fellow countrymen.  I tuned out, but lingered enjoying the beer and relaxing from the past few days of my whirlwind trip to get here.

3pm-after some work in the press tent, I needed some water as I find the press tent swelteringly hot and stale with little air movement.  They should really put a fan in there.  I cannot believe it!! The VIP bar is out of still water, in this heat that’s not a good thing! 

4pm-I can hear the Quireboys on the festival stage quite clearly from the tent.  They are doing an acoustic set, so there’s no need for me to rush over there, not being a huge Quireboys fan, nor a fan of acoustic performances.  I have heard such rave reviews about them from the Monsters of Rock Cruise last year and did plan to catch them here as I missed them aboard ship, but the acoustic turns me off.

4:15pm-The Black Star Riders press conference was taking place now in the press tent and I listened in from my work station, trying to note my adventures of the last few days and also pay attention to the conference.  There seemed to be more buzz and journalists here than there were for Doro and there were many questions, but here’s a few that stuck out in my head:

Q: Why change the name from Thin Lizzy as you've been playing under that moniker for some time now?
A: It’s been 30 years since the last Thin Lizzy record and 26 years since Phil’s passing, it just wasn't right and we all felt it.  With the new name we have more freedom to explore and experiment with music while sticking to the Thin Lizzy formula at the same time.

Q: Where did you get the new name from?
A: We always watch the Kurt Russell movie Tombstone in the tour bus and it’s mentioned somewhere in the movie, but it needed something else.  You go through a ton of suggestions when trying to name a band and a lot gets thrown out.  We added Riders to it because we all like westerns and the whole rider gang mentality.  We just do it with guitars instead of horses and guns.

Other topics covered saw them very proud of the new record and saying that they already have 10-12 songs written for the follow-up.  They're all committed to this and are willing to take it wherever it goes.  Also covered were some stories of the road seeing as how many of them had also played at one time or another in Alice Cooper’s band.

4:40pm-it’s time to get out of this sweat box of a press tent, I'm getting sleepy in here.  I wandered past the Festival stage and saw The Quireboys finishing up with their signature song 7 o'clock.   I didn't stop as they were almost over and I was on a mission to get to Bloodbound, who I’d probably never have the chance to see again and were already half over.  I can always catch Quireboys on the next Monsters of Rock cruise as well. 

Bloodbound (Sweden)
4:45pm-refuelled with Sofiero, I was at the Rockklassiker stage for Bloodbound and they had a good crowd as I walked up.  I was not familiar with the song they were belting out during my approach to the stage, but I had only briefly listened to them back in Canada.  I will definitely pay more attention to their music going forth in the future.  Their heavy progressive mix was working well and had the crowd clapping along with the next song In The Name Of metal.  I could see heads bobbing and “devil horns” held high near the front as I looked on from near the rear of the throng.  Metal Monster became the next treat, but alas, my tenure here with
Bloodbound was cut short as the need to make room for more Sofiero became pressingly urgent.  Choosing to avoid the port-o-let/street urinal combo that had so offended my nasal passages the other day, I headed off to the larger wash room facilities between this stage and the Rock stage.  As I came out of the wash room I could still clearly hear them as I was grooving away to Metalheads Unite while I hung at the back of the crowd assembled before the Rock stage waiting for Kreator and I made a note to give their CD’s a proper listen upon my return home.

Kreator (Germay)
5pm-I had seen Kreator previously about a year ago on the Teutonic Terror tour with Accept in Toronto and they are not particularly my musical preference, but I've broadened my horizons since then, so I was ready to give it another go.  Some of my friends would be so proud of my progress here this week, but just in case, let’s just hang out near the back…lol.  Kreator took the stage and instantly drowned out Bloodbound with Phantom Anti-Christ which not only did I recognise, but actually quite enjoyed!  My mother would call it “screaming devil chainsaw music” and it’s actually starting to grow on me!  From Flood Into Fire was the next selection and it’s usually not the music that turns me off, but the “Cookie Monster”  (you know, the character from the kids TV show Sesame Street?....It’s probably a Canadian thing), vocals that ruin it for me.  I like to hear the lyrics and chorus, not just guttural, throaty growls.  “Sweden Rock are you ready?”  came the question posed by vocalist, Mille.  “Yeah” was the
unified response of the huge crowd.  “Then let’s get this mosh thing going down here,”  he answered pointing in front of the stage as they tore into a fast, heavy song, called Warcurse which musically I liked.  At it’s conclusion he requested that the audience split in two down the middle and start the biggest mosh pit that Sweden has ever seen.  I didn't catch the name of the next track, but it was heavy and a little “Cookieish” for me, so absolutely perfect for moshing I expect, but after that came what I think was titled Pleasure To Kill and I skirted the outer fringes of the crowd, making my way over to the “Official Merchandise" booth. 

5:30pm-after agonising and justifying and restraining my self for the last few days I finally made my t-shirt purchases.  I was originally coveting eight shirts, but cooler heads prevailed and I chose two that likely wouldn't be on tour in Canada any time soon with Hardline and Krokus.  It did help that some of the bands had removed their swag as they had left the park, moving on to the next show or back home as the case may be, this alleviated me from obtaining Saxon, Scams and Bullet t-shirts.  The others were bands that I knew I’d see in Toronto again, so I passed them up……fool, who doesn't need more black heavy metal t-shirts to add to their wardrobe that’s already overfilled with nothing but? 

Civil War (Sweden)
5:45pm-Civil War were already in progress on the 4Sound Stage and they had the biggest crowd draw that I’d seen for this venue as of yet.  Maybe it was due to lack of options at this time or people just killing time until Black Star Riders came on the nearby Sweden stage.  I had never heard of them, but they actually sounded pretty good with their power thrash elements as I caught the songs Gettysburg and First to Fight before moving on.  Upon returning home I discovered that Civil War is comprised four former members of Sabaton and two others.  I returned to DBHQ and stowed my fresh t-shirts into my backpack, heading back again to the press tent, basically I'm exhausted and need a place to sit (and have a beer to perk me up).  I wanted to catch Black Star Riders, but until then it was hard to focus my attention on any of the bands currently on the stages. 

Black Star Riders (US)
7:15pm-I'm getting really drowsy again in the press tent, they should really put a fan in there, or maybe I should just get some sleep and stay out of the draining sun!  Only when Skid Row entered for their press conference did I realise the time and that Black Star Riders had almost finished.  I rushed over there and caught Whiskey In The Jar, a Thin Lizzy song covered years later by Metallica.  I wasn't getting too close to the stage, but that’s OK as they did say in their press conference that they’d be touring North America, so hopefully a stop in Toronto makes the cut of cities to visit.  Kingdom of the Lost was the next cut from the new Black Star Riders CD All Hell Breaks Loose.  While they were sounding great I had missed most of their set and was determined not to make the same mistake with Accept due up soon, so I headed off.  My exit song sounded a lot like the Almighty, but that could just be the carry over of Ricky’s voice.  I'm also a big Ricky Warwick fan, loving his former band The Almighty and I was so happy to finally hear (I can’t say see because I was a resident of the nosebleeders) him perform with Thin Lizzy (now Black Star Riders) in Toronto a couple of years ago on the Judas Priest Epitaph tour.

7:30pm-I'm off to check out the Accept scene for their 7:45pm start.  By 7:35pm the crowd started amassing around me and filling in all the holes and spaces.

Accept (Germany)
7:45pm-promptly the "German Teutonic Terror" stormed the stage tearing into Hung Drawn & Quartered from the 2012 Stalingrad release.  They were spot on and playing with real fury and
passion in their eyes.  Hellfire was the next cut and I thought to myself that I would be just as happy if they only played the last two albums, the Mark Tornillo era of the band.  This era has rejuvenated them and are some of the best releases of Accept’s career in my opinion at least.  They did mix in some Accept classics as I knew they would and that was not at all a disappointment.  Restless & Wild was next up and Mark sounded friggin’ amazing on it with the crowd singing along making great back-up vocals for the chorus.  With new blood often comes new life, that is often the case and Accept is no exception.  The intensity on Mark’s face contradicted with the goofy expressions on guitarist Wolf Hoffman’s and was a good counter balance and showed the fun and seriousness of the new breath in Accept’s life.  The overhead clapping of the crowd started off another classic with Losers & Winners.  They are ripping it up just like they did in Toronto in Aug 2012, almost a year ago when they opened the stage for fellow Germans, Kreator and I still say it should have been the other way around with this German dynamic duo.  Mark addressed the audience, many adorned in varieties of Accept wear, new
and old, saying that when they were here (in Sweden) 2 years ago they were without Herman Frank who was in hospital, but he’s here with us tonight.  The title cut from Stalingrad assaulted us now as the smoke machines billowed out their hazy fog.  An early Accept composition of Breaker fit it’s way into the set list and then it was back to the newer material for Shadow Soldiers which Mark dedicated to the military forces around the world.  Bucket Full of Hate followed and I was happy to hear it as 2010’s Blood of the Nations, the first with Mark Tornillo finds it’s way into my top 10 albums every time I name them.  The next song was a bit of a surprise for me as Bulletproof attacked my ear drums and during the cut Wolf and Peter Baltes (bass) have a duelling solo of sorts.  OMG!! Pandemic, the highest energy driving rocker from Blood of the Nations came next with little to no breaks during the chosen set list treats.  Back to the classics for Princess of the Dawn which featured a short Peter and Stefan (drums) duet with
Wolf joining in shortly afterwards.  At the end of Up To The Limit, Peter and Wolf make like they are stabbing Mark with their guitars before the “Hidey hi-ho” recorded intro announced the coming of the speed metal pioneer Fast As A Shark.  The follow up to their iconic Balls to the Wall record was Metal Heart and it’s time that the metal heart beats again which is quite clearly the case as they ripped through the title cut from that release, including a short solo from extraordinary guitar player, Wolf Hoffmann.  Teutonic Terror, another new selection came before the closer of Balls to the Wall which had the crowd jumping to this 80’s metal anthem loaded with power riffs.  That was the way a rock show should be, one and a half hours straight of solid music, no muss, no fuss all rock, no time wasted with encore cheers and the like.  Mark Tornillo has certainly breathed new life into the German metal pioneers and the metal heart does indeed beat again, quite strongly in fact.  If you’re interested to read my review on 2012’s show in Toronto, please check out this link: (The Metal Heart Beats Once Again)

Rush (Canada)
9:35pm-still reeling from Accept’s performance, I made my way over to the Festival stage for Rush.  I was a bit late in getting there as I had to make a pit stop back at DBHQ for a sweater, I can’t believe
just how cold it gets here at night, quite a contrast to the heat of the day.  With being late I missed the little movie or skit that Rush often lead off their shows with, hearing parts of it as I re-entered the grounds.  From there they were into Subdivisions as I made my way through the back of the crowd.  A guy stopped me and said something in Swedish, which of course I couldn't understand at all.  I apologised in English and just as every instance prior, he comfortably switched languages for me, stating “I only said that maybe no sunglasses tomorrow.”  I felt the top of my head and realised that the sunglasses in question were perched there, obviously exposing the raccoon sunglasses tan that I must have been sporting to illicit such a comment.  He used my camera to take a quick photo for me to see.  As we both laughed, he also asked me where I was from.  On my response of Toronto, Canada he looked shocked and patted his heart saying “and you came all the way for the festival?” seeming incredibly honoured that I would do so.  Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart were pumping out Big Money now as I tried to creep a little closer.  The crowd was big, but there was some creeping room and I could comfortably see the two giant screens in the meantime.  As I got quite close to the stage Grand Designs was their next choice and I know
that my Rush loving friend back home would certainly be right up front for this event.  Limelight followed and then from the Signals album we got Analog Kid.  My favourite Rush album, one of the first I acquired in Roll The Bones was represented next with Where's My Thing? And then it was Far Cry from the Snakes & Arrows CD.  While I love Rush, my interest was waning and I decided to check out Skid Row as I can’t remember when they were last in Canada and Rush plays there all the time, being as it’s their homeland, just the same as me.  In fact they are from and I think still live in the town next to mine about five minutes down the road.  And Rush plays 1 hour longer as well, so I can still come back to catch the rest of their set.

Skid Row (US)
10:15pm-On my way over to the Sweden Stage for Skid Row I saw my second Helix t-shirt of the festival.  I don’t even see that many in Canada unless I'm at a Helix show!  I made it over to the stage as they were into Psycho Therapy and then the hit I Remember You.  I have heard a ton of buzz and chatter that mostly says that it's not the same without original vocalist Sebastian Bach, but in my first experience with this guy I like him.  At least he sounded good to me after five days with little to no sleep, sun worn, filthy from the dust and maintaining a good beer buzz.  During the song breaks I can still hear Rush on the Festival Stage.  Dave "The Snake" Sabo took control of the mike saying, "we should have these festivals in America, what an awesome day."  I totally agree Dave, we just don't get it over here in the US and Canada, he followed up with another
 sentiment that I applauded and concurred with as well.  "Fuckin' Accept!  They killed it, fuck!"  From the second record it was time for Monkey Business and I remember when this first came out, my friends and I were certain that he says "moo cow" in the chorus, a classic case of mis-heard!  This live version included a Scotti Hill solo with Dave joining in and drummer Rob Hammersmith keeping the beat.  With this they left the stage, leaving the encore possibility looming for a few moments.  They did indeed return for Get The Fuck Out.  "You want one more?"  singer Johnny Solinger asked, stating that this was his fourteenth year with Skid Row.  A little KISS I Love It Loud tease started off their set closer of Youth Gone Wild.

10:45pm-time to refresh and replenish with a pee, beer and kebab and head back over to Rush.  They were well into The Garden when I returned.  This maybe sacrilegious as a Canadian Rock fan, but I have trouble getting into some of Rush's music.  There are just too many slow/prog rock, psychedelic plinky plink noises and weird tangents to hold my attention, unless of course they allow me to make the set list!  I still love them, but maybe I'm just too tired and beat up right now.  Red Sector A was the next selection and I decided that I could listen from the press tent for a while and have a drink and a seat, maybe running into someone even.  I lost track of a couple of songs, coming back into focus for Tom Sawyer and Temples of the Syrinx as they ended their long set.

11:45pm-it was now almost midnight and there were only two bands left playing on the stages, Avantasia and Paradise Lost, both of whom were due to start at 12am and I had some interest in both.  I lingered in the press tent, determined to finish and post the next instalment of my Swedish diary and enjoy the last couple of beers of the festival.

12:45am-I had already missed most of Paradise Lost and as much as I regret to admit it, I just didn't have the stamina.  I had to "tap out" here and head back to lie down, having to get up early to make my way to the train station to get to Copenhagen in time for my flight home.  I paused by the back of the crowd for Avantasia, but just couldn't find the power to remain.  I listened to the remainder of Avantasia from the comfort (insert sarcasm here) of my sleeping bag and tent as I rested for a few short hours.

Sunday June 9th, 2013
6:30am-wake and have a quick breakfast of left over bread and Nutella spread purchased at the Sweden Supermarket.  After considering a shower, but not being able to face the ice water, I got to work breaking camp DBHQ.  With everything again carefully stuffed into my large backpack I set out to catch the bus.

8am-The first bus would put me at the station about four minutes before the train leaves and that was just a little close for my comfort, so I thought to check out the taxi prices as well.  After asking a taxi driver and discovering that the price was 300SEK from Sweden Rock to the train station and nearly fainting at that, I resigned that the bus would have to do.  A smart entrepreneur taxi driver with a mini van approached the few people already assembled for the bus and made an offer of 50SEK per person for 8 people in his cab.  I jumped on this deal, as did 7 others.

8:15am-Solvesborg train station with about 45 minutes to spare.  I decided to have a nutritious burger for breakfast (also the cheapest and most easily recognised item on the menu).  I wandered to the platform to await the train and passed by a guy wearing a "KIX Blow My Cruise" shirt, but was too tired to strike up a conversation with this obvious fellow Monsters of Rock Cruiser.  The train arrived and was jam packed, standing room only most of the way to Copenhagen or CPH Lufthavn as the airport is called.

11:50am-there's a sports bar inside the Copenhagen airport once I passed through the customs check and the shoes on/shoes off routine, so I bided my time awaiting my flight with another burger and a Carlsberg.  After I ordered I decided to freshen up and used the airport washroom to wash my face.  OMG, how good it feels to have warm water and soap!

For those that read my first Canadian Decibel Geek in Sweden instalment and remember that I sometimes have ideas (like going to Sweden Rock) that more often than not get me into trouble and I nearly lost my job over this trip (well worth every second of it however!).  Well, I just had another one......perhaps I will embark on a festival tour next summer.  There are so many over here and I love the music and the travelling as well.  I'm for sure, come hell or high water, returning to Sweden Rock especially with W.A.S.P. already announced for 2014's roster, but I could also hit Download in the UK, Wacken Open Air in Germany, Hellfest in France, Rock am Ring in Germany, Copenhell in Denmark and so many more that I would have several choices each weekend.  I could even make myself a Decibel Geek Summer Festival Tour shirt incorporating the Geek logo, the Canadian flag and a list of the festival dates on the back, maybe some of the top band logos........hhhmmm I sense trouble brewing, anyone want to join my potential quest?

*****All photography (except the banner and logo at the top of the page) taken by The Meister on location in Sweden, June 4th - 9th 2013.*****

The Meister

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