Monday, September 30, 2013

Episode 104 - Buried Treasure


The average music fan these days tends to enjoy a band while they are "in fashion" and on the charts. Unfortunately, that's a passing thing and what goes up, must come down. It seems that the instant that a band falls out of favor with the general crowd, it becomes the majority's modus operandi to mock said artist for a short while and then, worse, ignore them completely. This usually leads to the artist working twice as hard to put out quality material (sometimes too hard in the case of trend following) and typically continued to be ignored by the mainstream listening audience. It's a sad state of affairs where nobody wins. The artist doesn't win due to their hard work not getting recognized and the music fans don't win due to not being aware of the material being released by the artist due to flavor-of-the-week favoritism.

This week, Aaron and Chris set out to introduce your ears to some gems that were lost on overlooked and ignored albums by bands/artists that had already seen their "better days." Tracks by artists such as David Lee Roth, Enuff Z'nuff, Hanoi Rocks, The Doors, Alice Cooper, Hanoi Rocks and more highlight this episode as we unearth "Buried Treasures."

Enuff Z'Nuff - Tweaked, "Life is Strange" (1995)
Poison – Crack a Smile – “Shut Up, Make Love” (2000)
The Doors - L.A. Woman, "The Changeling" (1971)
Badlands – Voodoo Highway – “The Last Time” (1991)
Black Label Society - 1919 Eternal, "Demise of Sanity" (2002)
Hanoi Rocks – Street Poetry – “This One’s for Rock and Roll” (2007)
Pearl Jam - Riot Act, "Get Right" (2002)
David Lee Roth – Your Filthy Little Mouth – “She’s My Machine” (1994)
Warrant - Ultraphobic - "Undertow" (1995)
Alice Cooper – DaDa – “Pass the Gun Around” (1983)

Buy Music!

Enuff Z'nuff - Tweaked
Poison - Crack A Smile...And More
The Doors - L.A. Woman
Badlands - Voodoo Highway
Black Label Society - 1919 Eternal
Hanoi Rocks - Street Poetry
Pearl Jam - Riot Act
David Lee Roth - Your Filthy Little Mouth
Warrant - Ultraphobic
Alice Cooper - Dada

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Slash Kills Axl Dead - Album Review (2010 Solo Release)


Summary:  Highlights of the greatness of Slash's 2010 release and the lackluster followup Apocalyptic Love.  Written with a questionable sense of humor. 

I put Slash's most recent Slash album last week on my commute featuring Myles Kennedy, Apocalyptic Love,  and reconfirmed it's failure.  

Street Value:  $4 

Top Hat Worthy:  Standing in the Sun, You're a Lie, Shots Fired, Anastasia.

Flush Twice:  The Rest

 The rest of the album is packed with completely forgettable songs.   This was a huge disappointment after seeing Slash with Myles kill it live twice prior to album playing a setlist of Slash solo and choice GNR.  For evidence, check out the great 2011 double album Slash Live. 

This inspired me to revisit Slash's superior 2010 album, Slash, and make the decision of spending my valuable time writing this review. 

What do you call a rock album that starts with the lyrics "Kill the ghost, that hides in your soul" and ends with the lyrics "I'm gonna pee on the ground, then I'm gonna jump around." You call that album Slash.
The song "Out Ta Get Me" was about Axl's fear of plastic surgeons and hair implants. His paranoia was justified.
Since 1994, after Guns N' Roses disbanded acrimoniously, Slash has released several solo albums, two Velvet Revolver albums, and guested on multiple artist's albums. During that same time, Axl built an underground lair, played hopscotch with imaginary circus midgets, invested in ginger colored dreadlocks, spent $15 million on Chinese Democracy and has started every concert at 3am.

While none of Slash's efforts have matched up to the songwriting genius of Appetite and Illusion, they have all had some great jams, riffs, and solos. Bands are always the sum of their parts, and Slash was always the soul of G'nR. That being said, Slash's 2010 self titled collaboration with 12 different singers Kills Axl Dead.

At first look, setting up this guest singer extravaganza seems like an evil idea from a label executive to duplicate the sales success of Santana. And you know what? It probably was. This helps explains why Fergie is on the album. Is it Guns N' Roses? Hell no. But by Slash co-writing with various artists, he has made his most consistent post-G'nR album with just as much focus put into the actual songwriting as the guitars and the production is nearly identical to Appetite and Illusion.

Here's the highlights:  

Ghost- Ian Astbury: The lead singer of the Cult sings, as previously mentioned, -"Kill the ghost, that hides in your soul - Rock and Roll." I can understand why you would kill the ghosts in Poltergeist - and Casper for just being fucking annoying- but a ghost named Rock and Roll? That just sounds like a dude I would sit down with and share a pint. Regardless of Ian's misplaced aggression, the songs riff is instantly memorable and it's a great opening track.  

Crucify the Dead - Ozzy: The first couple times I heard this slow burner, I thought that Ozzy was mumbling about corpses, trains, black magic, etc. You know, the usual topics. Then I heard the line "a loaded gun jammed by a rose." I pulled up the lyrics online and discovered that this is Slash's love letter to Axl delivered by non other than the godfather of metal.  

The thorns are not around your head 
Your ego cursed you till you bled 
You cannot crucify the dead. 
To me your dead.

Slash is rock's Tony Soprano. "Axl? He's dead to me.


Back From Cali- Myles Kennedy: When I first glanced at this title I thought this was going to be a cover of LL Cool J's "Goin' Back To Cali" and I imagined what Slash would look like wearing a Kangol. It's actually an original song, one of the best on the album with Myles Kennedy on vocals.  Unfortunately they couldn't pull off a whole album together with Apocalyptic Love. 

Promise- Chris Cornell: It wasn't too long ago that Mr. Soundgarden thought it would be a splendid idea to collaborate with hip-hop producer Timbaland and released the worst CD in the history of recorded music .... or the greatest comedy album of all time. It sold 17 copies, all used as gag gifts.

The album was called Scream which was exactly what everyone did when they listened to samples on iTunes. While the song "Promise" is a return to form, I would still like a legal document from Mr. Cornell with a promise to stay at least 300 yards away from Timbaland.  

By The Sword-Andrew Stockdale: This was the first single, features one of Slash's best solos, the lyrics are nonsensical babble ( about swords, I think), and sounds like everything on Wolfmother's latest solid release Cosmic Egg. In other words it sounds exactly like White Stripes, Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath.

Doctor Alibi - Lemmy: If anyone needs medical attention it's Lemmy. This is a man whose face looks like the surface of the moon and has conducted a 40 year case study on what smoking 17 packs of Marlboro Reds and having a quart of Jim Beam for breakfast on a daily basis does to a man.

He is told by a doctor - that apparently enjoys malpractice lawsuits- "You'll be alright, just keep doing what you love, every single night." What's more shocking than this advice is that it's one of my favorite tracks.  

We're all going to die-Iggy Pop: I don't know that much about Iggy except that he really enjoys starvation, leather pants, and doesn't own a shirt. "Hey, I really like you're tits, I'll say anything that fits." This poetry, rivaling the work of Henry David Thoreau, leads to Iggy singing about pissing on the lawn, dancing a jig, and opting to not pay his bills. This and Lemmy's track are the sleaziest and most G'nR-sounding on the album.

Bottom line is this is a great rock album.

 Pick it up and be very happy with some straight up Rock and Fucking Roll. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Devil Made Me Do It


In my ongoing quest to discover great new hard rock and heavy metal music a regular practice of mine is trying new things.  Sometimes chosen by the cover art, the name of the band, the band members, the producer or any other variety of criteria that strike my interest.  Sometimes the album you've just chosen to bring forth out of obscurity is mediocre or even bloody awful, but every once and a while you come across a hidden gem with an album that rocks from start to finish.  This was the case with Brand New Machine and The Devil Made Me Do It.

Brand New Machine began in 2009 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but the departure of two members prompted a re-location to Dallas, Texas.  Founder and vocalist Brantly Thompson has been joined by Seven Antonopoulos on drums, Wiley E Oliver IV (anyone else immediately think of the coyote from Roadrunner?) on bass and Michael Thomas on guitar to form the current incarnation of this gritty rock band.  Brand New Machine began to make a name for themselves playing shows with Lynch Mob and Faster Pussycat and appearing on Rockin' The Red Carpet with Vince Neil and The War of Rock reality TV show with Slaughter.  They also appeared with Guns and Roses opening shows for them in India.  Following up on the self titled EP from 2011, thier first full length record, The Devil Made Me Do It, dropped in July of 2013.

The album opens up with "Here I Am", a fist pumping high energy rocker, setting the tone of the album.  I was hooked already, but the next track blew me away!  "Girls Like You" is an anthem, dripping with sleaze, check out the video below.  From there we get the album's title track in "The Devil Made Me Do It", keeping the tempo and pace of the record flowing along nicely.  "Dust The Sky" delivers an infectious, radio friendly, catchy chorus and would not surprise me to see it released as a single.  "Here and Gone Today" tapers back on the fist pumping anthems with a little softer sound, but still rocking all through.  The softer pace is maintained through "Living For Another Day", but the gritty rock ramps up again with "Always On The Run" leading us into the stellar "Blackout Overdose".  Another stand-out, fist pumping, anthem track is served up next with "Lettin It Roll" followed by "What Do I Gotta Do".  Closing out the 35 minute roller coaster ride of rock thrills is "Let Me Go" leaving the listener on a high note, feeling a little like you just got your ass kicked!
Self described as straight up American hard rock, Brand New Machine's dirty, rough, gritty kind of gutter rock is just my style.  I may have discovered this release a bit late, but "Here I Am" joining the party now!  The Devil Made Me Do It is a "must-have" for all rock fans, trust me, you won't be disappointed here.


The Meister

Friday, September 27, 2013



A couple week's back the Decibel Geek Podcast was reliving the "BEST OF BONN SCOTT", lead singer of Aussie Rock Gods AC/DC, and the 'Original' BAD BOY!! During Bonn's short, but hit filled stint with the Aussie Lads, he recorded several songs that would later become future 'blue prints' for how to construct timeless, bad-ass rock and roll. During this week of tribute, we focused on favorite songs, and songs that well, just rocked and ROCKED HARD.

'Touch Too Much' is on the last AC/DC with Bonn Scott 'Highway To Hell', which was released in 1979. This was the album that featured the vocal styling a of Scott, who died the following year. But it was this album, that set the guys on the way to further fame and triple size worldwide fan base.
This not your average AC/DC song. This song has POWER!  From the first guitar strum, and first set of lyrics, you know this song is going to be one WILD RIDE. Let me explain. In the lyrics you pretty much figure Bonn's out being a typical male, and he's trying to scratch on somethin. From the strum of the guitars and bass, you can also tell, this chick is not any ordinary chick.

Well, Angus Young has always been a power charge for the guys, but on this song, it seems to be an "all out effort!" The song starts out strong, with Angus and Malcolm Young and bass player Cliff Williams getting the dirty vibe started. These three together are like three seasoned generals going to war, they're prepared for anything and everything. The rhythm section on this song is so strong, you feel it pulsate thru your veins as it mixes within the bloodstream. It should be illegal how the guys mixed everything together. Soon, you hear the snarl of Bonn's Scottish voice as he begins to make his plea for the affection and touch he longs for from the woman of his affections.
When you listen to it, it sounds like Bonn is making a plea for this woman and her...well sexiness to hurry up and "touch" him. But it sounds like after a few bars in that Bonn has decided that he can't handle her or her sex appeal...I'M GUESSING...but knowing who is singing this song, it's probably a safe bet to say, but again, I'm only guessing on this.

Bonn's raspy vocals with the Young brothers guitar work definitely make the song not only enjoyable, but as always ,they add a extra grit and grime to the song. This was, and still is one of AC/DC's many hidden gems. It really didn't catch on when the album came out, but now, because of next generation fans and the joy of the internet music stations (such as Decibel Geek Podcasts), this song, like 80% of AC/DC musical catalog has new life. One thing can be said about AC/DC and Bonn Scott that still holds true today...THE GUYS CAME TO ROCK AND THEY ROCKED BALLS OUT, GO HARD, NO SURVIVORS!!!

Bonn Scott's death was way too soon. He created a legacy for not just AC/DC, but those that came after him. There's no telling what else Bonn was capable of, what other records would the guys have shattered with Scott's styling? One thing is for sure, BONN SCOTT helped take AC/DC TO THE NEXT LEVEL OF ROCK. HELL HE WAS HARD ROCK, AND TAUGHT ALOT OF US JUST HOW LONG OF A WAY IT IS, IF WE WANNA ROCK N ROLL.

Heavy Metal Music


Attention all old school metal fans!  Last month Chris and Aaron devoted an episode to thrash metal posing the question who would be a part of the "Big 5" if there were such a thing.  This prompted me to re-visit some of my musical collection and directed me to Metallica's former bass player Jason Newsted and his latest effort released in early August.  I already had the album in my collection, but somehow it became rather overlooked until this prompted my re-visit.  Since then Newsted's Heavy Metal Music has been in regular rotation on my mp3 player.

Like a sucker punch to the gut, robbing you of the ability to intake a breath, Newsted’s Heavy Metal Music serves up exactly what the title suggests.  Jason Newsted has nothing to hide and is keeping things plain and simple this time around.  His new band is called Newsted, the original EP was called Metal, the full length début is entitled Heavy Metal Music and all are as advertised, delivering a “Heroic Dose” of old school metal music.

Becoming interested in music in his youth at around the age of fourteen, Jason Newsted soon discovered Metallica who quickly rose through the ranks and became one of his favourite bands.  Four years later saw the Battle Creek, Michigan born bassist strike out from then home town of Kalamazoo, Michigan bound for California, loaded with dreams of starting a band.  Landing in Phoenix, Arizona he formed Flotsam & Jetsam, taking on the creative role of songwriter for the début album, Doomsday for the Deceiver, as well as the bass guitar.  With the tragedy of Cliff Burton’s death creating a vacant spot in Metallica in 1986, Newsted left the promising Flotsam & Jetsam behind to join his music heroes.  Jason went on to spend some fifteen years with the “Big 4” band, appearing on some of the best selling albums of their career, before departing in 2001.

Post Metallica saw him concentrating on his own project, Echobrain.  Arising out of a Superbowl party at Newsted’s where they met in 1995, the trio of Newsted, Brian Sagrafina and Dylan Donkin finally came to fruition as a band in 2000.  After one Echobrain record Newsted went on to join Canadian thrash metal outfit Voivod, recording three albums with the Canucks, 2003's Voivod, Katorz in 2006 and 2009's Infini.  You may have also seen Newsted on the reality television program Rock Star’s second season where he joined forces with Gilby Clarke and Tommy Lee in the search for a lead singer.  With Lukas Rossi being chosen as the new front man for the super group they recorded one album, released in 2006 entitled Rock Star Supernova.

By late 2012, Jason Newsted had formed a new band simply going under the moniker Newsted.  The band, comprised of Newsted on bass and vocals, drummer Jesus Mendez Jr. and guitarist Jessie Farnsworth, recorded an EP entitled Metal in early January 2013.  The compositions were written and produced by Newsted and the EP was released on his own Chophouse Records label.  With the addition of Staind guitarist Mike Mushok in March they were set to record the full length album.  Heavy Metal Music was unleashed in early August 2013 featuring two tracks from the Metal EP and nine new compositions.  "Soldierhead" and “King of the Underdogs” are the two EP tracks, the former getting the video treatment prior to the release of the Heavy Metal Music album.  The video for "Above All" also preceded the album's release and links to both videos appear below.

Blasting off with “Heroic Dose”, a straightforward old school rocker, the record gets its hooks into you early hitting full steam right away and never easing up on the throttle!  Some stand out cuts include the aforementioned “Heroic Dose”, “…As The Crow Flies” (probably my favourite on the CD), “Above All” and “Kindevillusion”, but there’s not a bad track found here.  Jason Newsted and company are a band to watch out for in the future.

Photo by The Meister @ Sweden Rock
The 'Ole Meister even had the chance to catch Newsted live back in June.  I was fortunate enough to be able to trek from the Great White North of Toronto Canada and head out to Sweden to take part in the Sweden Rock Festival in June featuring 83 bands.  Yep, that’s what I said…..83 bands!  At the time I had only spun Metal once or twice, acquiring it only a few days before my departure to Scandinavia, so I was not overly familiar with the Newsted tunes, but I assumed that there would be some Metallica in the mix and planned to catch their set on Friday June 7th.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it I suppose) I was absolutely smacked-in-the-face overloaded with rock at June’s Sweden Rock Festival and let’s face it, rather well lubricated with beverages.  As a result I only caught a short portion of the Newsted set taking in the two songs "Long Time Dead" and "King of the Underdogs".  I now wish I’d paid more attention to Newsted’s show, especially after hearing the new full length album, Heavy Metal Music and will make it a point to take in their live show at my earliest opportunity.

The Meister

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kiss 2.0? - I AM A KISS FAN!

all photos by Wally Norton
I love being a KISS fan! That's really the point here, quite honestly there really isn't much use in reading any further. I love KISS, always have, always will. From the moment I walked into my cousin's room and laid eyes on the ultra-cool KISS poster above his bed, I was mesmerized. I would spend hours looking at his KISS trading card collection while I listened to Dressed to Kill and Destroyer over and over again on my orange Fisher Price record player. They were larger than life super heroes that played guitars and to my impressionable six year old mind, there was nothing cooler. The makeup and image grabbed me by the imagination, it was truly genius.

Throughout my teenage years KISS remained strong and true. The fact that they washed off the face paint and continued on with other members was really of no consequence to me. They were still putting out great albums, still putting out great live shows and they were still KISS. I supported every genre and member and welcomed them to the family and truly there isn't a KISS record I dislike.

As an adult, I am able to remove myself from the situation and look at things from other perspectives. I understand to some KISS is contrived and calculated and that goes against the true "artist" mindset. I understand that KISS is a business as much as it's a band. That said, I remember an interview picture disk I had back in the day where Gene and Paul said "if you take away all the extras, the bombs and the fire and the costumes and the like than what you are left with is songs" and they are right. I am the first to admit that it was the makeup that grabbed me, it was the image that drew me in, but, it was the music that kept me a KISS fan for the years that followed.

What has always annoyed people about KISS is their honesty about this business. Suffering for their "Art" was never part of their plan and using makeup and effects was dismissed as gimmicky and even silly. The music they create is meat and potatoes rock n roll, this is not a five star dining experience, it's a Big Mac with large fries but you know what? McDonald's has done alright with that recipe. I laugh when I hear people denouncing their music as basic pop rock songs, that's exactly what they were going for and to be honest it's also what the Beatles (insert collective gasp) were going for when they got together too. Don't get me wrong I am not trying to compare KISS to the Beatles, but on second thought, yeah I am! Beyond the surface they are both simply successful rock and roll bands whose music made some people very happy and infuriated others.

Let's be honest here, the lyrics for "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" was just as much about "gettin" with the opposite sex as the more blatant "Uh! All Night" just a different era people. The Cleaver parents slept in single beds yet Wally and Theodore were still conceived and "Gee Ward, you were kinda rough on the Beaver last night" was still the most erotic thing spoken in TV at the time, but I digress. No pop song has ever or will ever change the world, it's entertainment people. Maybe to be taken seriously KISS should have broken up the day Peter Criss left the band, personally I disagree. Anyone remember Peter Best?

A number of years ago the topic of KISS 2.0 came up. A possibility of KISS continuing on without Gene and Paul in the band and at first I laughed but then I stopped and though about it. From a business "lets keep the paychecks coming in for Paul and Gene" standpoint I certainly wouldn't be surprised if something like this were to happen.

This of course brings us to the now, and I must apprehensively open the nasty can of worms that plagues Kiss fans today. The whole Tommy Thayer/Eric Singer "FAKE" Ace/Peter war that continues to polarize Kiss fans. I would have loved the original lineup riding into the sunset together, but it didn't happen that way for a million reasons. I don't want to get into this battle again, from what I understand, the fact is Peter sold his makeup design back to KISS and Ace has licensed his back to KISS. So Paul and Gene are calling the shots, if it wasn't Eric and Tommy it would be someone else and I do feel Eric and Tommy bring great energy to the band.

This dilemma of separating the player from the character or should I say not being able to separate the is really quite amusing to me. Ace Frehley is the guitar player in KISS, Ace Frehley is also the "Spaceman" from the planet Jendell. Kiss is the only band that has created such a thing and it's only because of the makeup that we are talking about this. I have made this analogy before but nobody has ever accused Ronnie Wood about being the "FAKE" Brian Jones, its simply because Tommy has been given Ace's character that has everyone in an uproar.

If that's what it takes to still have KISS around than I for one am going to accept and enjoy it for what it is. If Journey tours through my town and I catch the show I wont be there to slag Arnel Pineda as the "fake" Steve Perry, I am going to enjoy the music and the show that they can still deliver with Arnell at the helm. Recently I was lucky enough to see Quiet Riot and they put on an amazing show. Honestly, in the year 2013 to have these bands still around and making music is a blessing and I will continue to support and enjoy the music they created because I love it, its that simple.

So on to KISS 2.0, when I first heard the idea it sounded ridiculous, who would pay for that? Paul and Gene kept the band alive but, the uniqueness of this band opens up the possibility. Like no other band, the makeup and characters they have created would allow for "others" to jump in and deliver a worthy spectacle. How this would be delivered to the fans is the real question. I do not see it as a recording, touring entity as Kiss exists now but there are certainly ways in which a KISS 2.0 could be marketed successfully. Maybe a Broadway type of experience? It certainly worked for Rock of Ages and Tommy and it would be a way to keep the music alive.

I love being a KISS fan and all that it entails, through all the eras and styles and twists and turns, I am all in. Their music has always been a positive influence for me and their live shows have always been amazing to behold. If it comes down to a KISS 2.0 vs. a world without KISS, I am probably going to check out KISS 2.0 and enjoy the music probably while eating a Big Mac and large fries :)

Cheers, KISS Army!

From the Mouths of Madness Comes a Heavy Slab of Traditional Doom Metal With a Classic 70's Feel


Having never heard of the band Orchid before, I picked them to review on a whim. What made me pick them, was their name, Orchid. There has to some sort of Black Sabbath influence there, so how could I go wrong? I have to say I nailed it on that one! These guys not only sound like Sabbath but they really embody 70's heavy classic rock not only in sound, but style as well.

Now this version of Orchid hails from San Francisco, but not to be confused with the screamo band from Massachusetts with the same name. They are all about traditional doom metal with a heavy, and I mean heavy, influence from Black Sabbath.  They were formed in 2007 and so far have released 2 EPs and 2 LPs. Due to the popularity of their first EP, The Devil's Doorway and Capricorn, their first full length effort, they were picked up by the much bigger distributed record label, Nuclear Blast. Their first release for Nuclear Blast was the EP Heretic in 2012, which was a taster for this year's full length release, The Mouths of Madness. The band is comprised of Theo Mindell on vocals, Carter Kennedy drums, Mark Thomas Baker guitar, and Keith Nickel on bass.

As for the album, if you are looking for originality you are going to be hard pressed to find it here. When I said they were heavily influenced by Sabbath, I meant it. "Marching Dogs of War" think "Behind the Wall of Sleep", "Silent One" think "Lord of This World", "Leaving It All Behind" think "After Forever"so forth and so on. Hey, you know what you are going to get with these guys, and since Black Sabbath is one of the greatest bands of all time, who can blame them for wanting to sound like that? With that being said, some of these sounds are really similar. To me, the best song on the album is "Mouths of Madness". I like the opening chord progression and this song has one of the album's best solos. Another cool thing about this album is that the band uses a lot of different instruments. There's piano on "Mountains of Steel", you get harmonica on "Marching Dogs of War", and I do believe I hear cowbell on "Mouths of Madness". The band also does a good job with time changes. This is especially true of the album's epic closer "See You On the Other Side".

Overall, if you are in a 70's metal mood, Orchid's Mouths of Madness is for you. If you are looking for ground breaking, inventive traditional doom metal you need to look elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bobaflex - Charlatan's Web - Album Review: Buy Immediately, if not Sooner


Summary: Bobaflex's new album Charlatan's Web is one the best hard rock releases of 2013.
Nine lean, muscular and melodic tracks clocking in at just over 30 minutes = or > than their last release Hell in my Heart. There's no "value-added" bullshit to be found cluttering up the mix and infecting your hard drive; its solid to the last second leaving you addicted, sore and aching for more.

Gateway Drugs: Bad Man, School For Young Ladies, I'm Glad You're Dead, Never Coming Back 

Street Value: $10 for 9 tracks and a cool intro that all qualify for "I'd buy that for a dollar!" status.


I'd buy that for a dollar! Also, the new Robocop is going to suck.  

"It's over! It never began. An intelligent person would just give up. Keep dancing in the gutter you scumbags, it's where you belong" - Love Letter from a Booking Agent (Charlatan's Web Intro)

Despite difficult challenges with management, their record label going bankrupt and just trying to survive in today's music industry, Bobaflex has continued to push through and released their best album to date, Charlatan's Web. And their resilience and pure lust for rock shines on every track.

Bobaflex's latest album, Charlatan's Web, has been in continuous rotation since it was released a few weeks ago. If it was a cassette it would already be reduced to static.  I first discovered Bobaflex last year at Rock on the Range, an annual fest in Columbus, OH that features about 50 bands on 3 stages in 2 days. Typical of fests, the lineup poster lists bands in a "seeing eye chart" style with the lesser known acts in decreasing font size. Researching the bands in tiny print prior to the show is key as the roster is chock full of steaming turds on your journey to the headliners and if you don't plan ahead, you are in for a long day.

This research usually ends in me weeping openly about the current state of music but I've found several great new (new at least for me) bands from past Rock on the Range lineups including  
Danko Jones, Black Stone Cherry, Heaven's Basement, Charm City Devils, The Sword, Volbeat... and Bobaflex. 


Let's be honest, all the good band names are gone but at first glance Bobaflex sounded like a Creatine-based supplement at GNC or Mike Tyson's answer to the question "What's your favorite Star Wars character?"

Favorite Band?  Kith.  Star Wars Character?  Bobaflex.
Favorite Band? KITH.  Star Wars Character? Bobaflex.
Body by Bobaflex.  Nightmares by Carrot Top.
Body by Bobaflex.  Nightmares by Carrot Top
I pulled up the album Hell in My Heart. The cover looked like Screamo or Death Metal.

I hit play to confirm I would be avoiding Bobaflex at all costs and found a band that, according to number of plays on iTunes, was one of my favorites of 2012 . An intro almost as badass as "In the Beginning" from Crue's Shout at the Devil kicks in and leads into "Chemical Valley" and "Bury Me With My Guns On."  Holy Fuck! The album continues to be killer up to "Last Song" (strangely not the last song) and a cover of "Sound of Silence" that somehow makes Simon & Garfunkel sound like the original Metal Gods.

The lead vocals are shared between brothers Shaun and Marty Mccoy and often the verses are sung in harmonies with the entire band contributing.  And don't think this is all studio wizardry, not only did they prove they can pull the music and vocals off live as I witnessed at Rock on the Range, they also brought an insane amount of energy and shuffled around as if the stage was made of hot coals.

I mention their previous album Hell in my Heart because it's the blueprint used for Charlatan's Web. Unlike most bands that attempt to stick to a winning formula but end up with diminishing returns, their latest builds on that foundation bringing their songwriting, performance and production to the next level.  Mutt Lange and Dr. Feelgood-era Bob Rock would be proud.  The bridges, vocals and other little touches elevate every track and the streamlined arrangements add power as no song ever wears out its welcome.  Even the album cover is an improvement.  A silhouette of a hot spider chick with red eyes inviting me into her web?  Sold.

Key Tracks:

I'm Glad You're Dead:  "My heart glows, as you decompose." The best combo of tongue in cheek humor and genuine hatred since GNR's "I used to love her."  This song simply destroys.  I dare you to not keep replaying the Beatles inspired "I'm gonna have a party 'cause your gone" section.

School For Young Ladies;  This song is so over the top its genius.  A cheerleader sung chorus, a"Christine Sixteen"-ish spoken section from Principle Mccoy, and a girl named Candy Sexton who "walks down the hall always winking at her teachers, she'll let you see her panties when she's walking up the bleachers." Think classic Bob Ezrin-era Alice Cooper in scope with a side of Meatloaf.

Bad Man:  The first single and the most classic rock sounding one of the bunch with a great riff and solo. Vocals are a bit lower in the mix vs. the rest. If you are thinking of applying for the Bad Man position, here are the minimum qualifications:

  • Turn glass houses into sand with snap of fingers 
  • Exorcise demons with back of hand 
  • Make mountains tremble, part oceans when walking by 
  • Shell shocked eyes (not required but preferred)

Buy this album immediately, if not sooner and go see them live.  You'll thank me later. 


Now Hear This: Bullet Lavolta - Swandive


     Bullet Lavolta formed in 1987 in Boston and consisted of singer Yukkie Gipe, guitarists Clay Tarver and Corey Brennan, bassist Bill Whelan and drummer Chris Guttmacher. The band built a loyal following on the Boston club scene before releasing their debut EP and LP in 1988 and 1989 respectively on local indie label Taang. In 1990 the band signed with RCA and recorded their major label debut with producer Dave Jerden, who was fresh from working with Jane's Addiction and Alice In Chains. Swandive was released on October 9, 1991.

     The album blasts off with a caustic tune called "Rails," a punky song with a very melodic chorus. 

     A bleak exercise in quasi-thrash called "My Protector" is followed by the album's title track, a blistering dose of hard rock which, like the album itself, displays a cobbled together patchwork of influences, from the sixties, seventies, eighties, you name it.

     Next up is one of the poppier moments on the album, an excellent song called "Between the Lines." After a battering ram of a verse comes a nice moment of clarity called the chorus.

     Side One ends with a slightly boring dirge called "Blizzard" but Side Two opens strong with two great songs, probably the two best songs on the album, an anthemic rocker called "Sunshine" and the album's most melodic tune, an obvious potential lost hit single called "Before I Fall." (Links below)

     The last three songs on the album maintain that consistent quality, making this a very good record all the way through, and Bullet Lavolta were in the right place at the right time, that's for sure, considering Swandive was released on the very same day as Nirvana's Nevermind and the band played shows with Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins before either band broke, but RCA/BMG was a notorious label for dropping the ball when it came to marketing and promotion and Bullet Lavolta got very little. 

     Swandive without a doubt was a potential hit album in the wake of the success of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, not to mention those other bands Dave Jerden had produced, Jane's Addiction and Alice In Chains. A video was made for "Swandive" but the label apparently never sprang for a video for "Before I Fall," which was a huge mistake. That song was the key to the band's success, and it languished on Side Two, track 7. What a shame. The band, probably disgusted and dejected, never made another album, breaking up in 1992.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Start @ One - Dwarfs Frozen In Carbonite.


From north of the border they descended like another "hostile hoser" takeover. The Killer Dwarfs are back, out on the road delivering rock and roll madness like only the Killer Dwarfs can. For those that have bared witness to a KD show, I challenge you to remember it and not smile. Pretty much impossible to forget the high energy, tricycle riding, head standing, clothing optional kind of madness that these guys bring to their fans.

Not only are they back on tour, they are actually out to support a new record, well sort of a new record, let me explain...

To completely understand the new Killer Dwarfs "Start @ One" album lets rewind the clock a little to a time of musical disarray, 1993. Grunge had taken hold, and like a steamroller was sucking everything fun out of rock music. The eighties were being erased in a sea of depressed flannel shirts and boring ass stage shows and because the records were selling, the record companies were surfing the waves of green.

Left, right and center former platinum selling artists were frantically trying to find their way. Many bands tried desperately to change their sound in an attempt to stay vital. Sometimes the change worked well but most often it came off as dishonest and the fans weren't buying in. For a fan of the 80's Sunset Strip party rock it was a dark time to be a music fan.

It was 1993 that the Killer Dwarfs called it a day. After 1992's amazing Method To The Madness album the band was dropped by Epic records as overnight it seemed to become "uncool" to be having fun playing rock and roll.

What most of us didn't realize was that before calling it a day, the Killer Dwarfs had pretty much completed a new album. Recorded in 1993 at Powerlines Studios in Toronto ON and produced by Fred Duvall these tapes were safely put away and possibly frozen in carbonite to keep it safe from the evil grunge empire.

Fast forward a mere twenty years and these tapes have been re-born and digitally remastered with the help of original producer Fred Duvall to become "Start @ One". So essentially what we have is a time capsule, a truly "lost" Killer Dwarfs album that is both 20 years old and yet brand spanking new. The best part is, it's unleashed in a musical climate far less hostile than when those flannel loving monsters ruled the airwaves.

The album opens with "Lonely Road" and the familiar sound of Russ Dwarf's vocals has me grinning ear to ear. "Start @ One" contains nine tracks for your dining and dancing pleasure. Some real highlights include the somewhat moody "Adalina", the hard driving "Sky Is Falling" (damn, Darrell is hitting them hard!) and my personal favourite (at least for the moment) the sleazy rocker "Down In Hollywood".

To me, the Dwarfs really matured into their sound on the Dirty Weapons album and that continued with Method. It sure seems that back in 1993 the Dwarfs had no intention of changing that formula. The songs show a progression and growth from the previous album but remain completely true to the Dwarf sound. Big Guitars, big drums, big melodies and big, BIG vocals and from a bunch of Dwarfs no less!

On a serious note, which is tough when talking about these fun loving rock pirates. Start @ One is a melodic hard rock record that deserves a look and more importantly a listen. Real rock songs that you can sing along to, performed by real musicians that actually enjoy performing. What a concept! I can't wait to hear some of these songs live, stay tuned for a review of next Friday's Killer Dwarfs show coming soon to the Decibel Geek website. Until then, Happy Hunting...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sacrifice & Sin-Eagles Over Toronto

The long wait was finally over and the day was upon me.  I've been looking forward to this event since June.  One of my top five all time favourite bands was coming to Toronto.  It is this band that I have to thank for re-awakening the monster, my passion in heavy metal music and the live performance.  Two years ago I got wind that the "Barnsley Boys" of Saxon would be thundering through Toronto on the Call To Arms World Tour.  I hadn't been to see a concert for several years, never finding anyone to go with.  I wasn't going to let that stop me and I headed out solo for Saxon's first time in Canada in some 27 years and it was like being re-born for me.  Probably I have gone a bit overboard since then, taking in sometimes 2-3 shows a week, but hey, I have a ton of catching up to do as these bands are getting back out on the road and making Toronto a stop along the way.  Not one to be held back, I also began to travel to see shows like heading down to Memphis,
Tenessee or two voyages of the Monsters of Rock Cruise and my first European rock festival with Sweden Rock.  It was during these trips that allowed me to see Saxon three more times (twice on the cruise) and the first on a large stage with the full "Heavy Metal Thunder" production at Sweden Rock.  They have never failed to disappoint and this tour supporting the latest release, Sacrifice, was no exception.

I was floating on air all day and had to restrain myself from letting out sporadic "whoops" of joy in the anticipation leading up to the show.  For the event I had also opted for the "Meet & Greet" which was available at an additional cost of $50 US.  I probably didn't need the "Meet & Greet" after I had the awesome opportunity to share a night of drinking with vocalist Biff Byford, guitarist Doug Scarratt and drummer Nigel Glockler during the cruise last year, but it's a great way to support the band at a very reasonable fee.  I've seen bands charging up to $1000 for "Meet & Greets" and are just ripping off their fans.  Arriving early at the venue with instructions to meet the representative, Penny with the BRIGHT BLUE hair, I ran into a friend who was also waiting for the "Meet & Greet".

Penny led us inside via the rear entrance and gathered us by the merch tables in the smaller room off to the side of the concert hall.  She then gave us devastating news.  The tour merchandisers had severely underestimated the demand for Saxon swag in Canada and had not sent enough stock with
the band when they rolled into Montreal the night before.  She had been able to hold back some shirts so that at least we would be able to get something and anything else she would take our name and address and have it shipped out as soon as possible at no extra charge.  While we all milled about in the room as Penny rushed in and out and back and forth keeping as organised as possible, she breezed back in announcing that we were welcome to watch the sound check as the band was just getting ready and then we would meet them after.  The band were all on stage and just waiting for Nibbs when we walked in and he joined them shortly afterwards.  They ripped into a segment of "Sacrifice" and OMG was it thunderously loud!  This was gonna be friggin' awesome!  All of the band were obviously enjoying themselves and having fun as broad smiles adorned all faces and inside jokes were shared amongst themselves.  With directions from the sound man they tweaked a few things and treated us to the chorus of "Made In Belfast", with Biff's voice sounding clear and strong as it ever has at his 60 plus years.  That was the end of the sound check, a very quick one compared to some that I've seen, but Saxon is of course an international and professional act, probably travelling with their own technicians.

We adjourned back to the little room where a caterer was setting up chaffing dishes of hot food......perhaps we are also getting lunch, at least
my rumbling stomach sure hoped so.  Each person (there were probably about 15 of us) had the chance to mingle, take photos, have autographs signed and chat with each and all band members.  As Nigel made his way down a line of several of us, shaking hands, he smiled as he approached me in clear recognition.  "Ahhhh Graham Bonnett I presume?" I greeted him with a running joke from the cruise.  A guy had come up to him aboard ship insisting that he was Graham Bonnett, even though Nigel attempted to set the gentleman straight, denying the claim.  The guy persisted and the
kicker was, Nigel told me, was that the guy had been wearing a Saxon shirt......what a goof, I laughed remembering how animated Nigel had
been telling me the story over a few beers that night aboard ship.  Nigel was able to chat for several minutes as he asked me how I was keeping and I replied that I had been working at the restaurant a lot.  He seemed surprised that writing was not a full-time gig for me, although I do wish that it was and his whole face lit up when I told him it was a Southern BBQ restaurant specialising in smoked ribs, wings and pulled pork.  Too bad you're off to Pennsylvania tomorrow morning or I'd say come by for dinner on me. Nigel moved on to a couple of guys eagerly awaiting him to sign their stuff and I spoke to Nibbs for several minutes.  He talked about the evils of long overseas tours where he was away from family and making phone calls to the kids and things with the time differences.  I was able to get an individual photo with each of the "Barnsley Boys" and also a group picture with the whole band.  These "Meet & Greets" are awesome and affordable, on one hand I just wish they were more widely promoted, but then again they are more private this way....I guess I just have to keep my eyes open better for them.
Now as the boys attacked the buffet table, Biff and Nigel leading the charge the minute that the last group photo was taken, it was clear that we would not be offered the wares contained in the steaming silver chaffing dish warmers.  So, with time to kill I headed out to a pub up the street (actually in the basement of the hotel I had selected for the evening's residence) with a newly made friend and Saxon fan from the "Meet & Greet".  The waves of the emotional high of just having hung out with some of my rock heroes was now topped off by the refreshing coolness of a frosty adult beverage.......I was going to be out of control later this evening, I could just sense it already.  We chatted about bands, finding out that he was a KISS fan as well, as the stories flowed eagerly from both of us.  What a better time than this to promote, so out came the Decibel Geek cards, to which he responded "I've heard of this.  They did a KISS album war thing, didn't they?"  Shortly after we were joined by his brother and another friend, the brother I found out was a member of the band Razor from Guelph, Ontario, a thrash metal outfit from the 80's releasing several albums.  Just as it was time to head back to the venue two friends of mine arrived and I was able to say a quick hello, promising to meet up at the show later.  They both appraised my Saxon tour shirt and the minute I spoke of sell-outs they were thrusting cash at me to get them shirts while they ate dinner.  Alas by the time I got back there the shirts were indeed sold out, but I supplied my mailing address for the boys and they would just have to make do.

The posted set-times showed a start for Halcyon Way at 8pm, but they were already under way during my 7:50pm entrance.  I was quick to pick up on the fact that there were only four band members present on stage, accessing my memory banks way back to the U.D.O. show (REVIEW) in April where they opened and had at least 5 members on stage.  I also noted that they were not as bad as I remembered from that previous show and the song "Desecration Day" stuck out in my head as they closed out their set.  A trip to the bar was in order and once again the lovely Priya Panda, lead singer of Toronto's own Diemonds was slinging the suds.  This discovery would certainly not assist in slowing up my beverage consumption.  Laughs and jokes were shared with fellow "Geek" Kate and friends while awaiting Fozzy, several folks commenting on my newly acquired Saxon shirt with obvious bitterness at the sell out.  Perhaps I should put my sweater back on before I get jumped for the shirt!

It was soon time for Fozzy and I had not much previous knowledge of their music, but did note that they had quite the fan base (also a "Meet & Greet" earlier in the day).  I am already prejudiced towards them, knowing that they are led by a wrestler and that their name is Fozzy!   Isn't that a bear on Sesame Street or the Muppets or something?  "Fozzy
Wozzy was a bear, Fozzy Wozzy had no hair"......  Chris Jericho bounded out onto the stage in true wrestling style decked out in a gold sequinned jacket.  With several more trips to visit Priya and more beverages completed by this time, Fozzy ripped through their first two tracks and sounded better than I had expected.  Their third choice of song was the absolute Krokus classic "Eat The Rich", Marc Storace he ain't, but they did a decent job at the track.  They continued throughout the set with what I believe were all their own compositions and while it was a little too modern for me they were loud and heavy in my drunken ears, so not too bad and I will definitely check out their recordings.

It was finally time for the event that I'd been awaiting for months now.  I love these guys and I was so pumped (and rather drunk) as they came out to the recorded intro entitled "Procession" which leads off the latest album, Sacrifice and rolled right into the title track.  I was singing at the top of my lungs, probably to the extreme annoyance of everyone around me, but my caring level was minimal at this time, floating on air.  "Wheels of Terror" followed up, also from Sacrifice before they started into the classics with "The Power & The Glory".  In this day and age the set list now always shows up on the internet and sometimes it's hard not to look at it even if you don't want to as it get's posted on friend's walls from shows they've seen in other cities.  But Saxon always keep the crowd guessing changing it up every night sometimes, unlike other bands....(take note KISS) and as Biff quipped in the "Meet & Greet", "No presents before Christmas" when asked what the set list for the evening would contain.
These first three tracks are the same for every show that they've played so far on this more than a month long North American Tour (as far as I know), but then the changes flow rampant.  For us in Toronto on Sunday September 15th we were treated to "To Hell & Back Again" as the next selection, followed by "Made In Belfast" (again from Sacrifice) which we'd already had a preview of during the sound check.  The opening riff to "Dogs of War" sent me jumping into the air once again, all the while singing in my drunken tone deafness at the top of my lungs, elated to hear this 90's Saxon gem, a favourite of mine.  "Motorcycle Man" and "Rock & Roll Gypsy" followed, leading us into "Guardians of the Tomb", another excellent cut
from Sacrifice.  The Saxon classic and fan favourite "Dallas 1PM" concerning the assassination of JFK enticed more than just me into singing by now as I reminded myself that there is a reason that Saxon is tattooed on my arm....they're incredible!  Next was a première on this tour with the first time they had played "The Eagle Has Landed", I decided to adjourn to the rear of the crowd before I hurt myself, of course passing by Priya again on the way.  My foray into the rear of the crowd did not last too long as "747 (Strangers In The Night)" was up next, driving me back into the throng in front of the stage.  "Denim & Leather" shut down the regular set before the three song explosive encore of "Wheels of Steel", "Strong Arm of the Law" and "Princess of the Night".

Saxon never cease to amaze me and this fifth time I've seen them in a live setting was no exception, unfortunately by this point (as I had foreseen earlier in the day) my beverage consumption had gotten the best of me and I do not remember leaving the club whatsoever.  I awoke the next morning in my hotel room, afraid to move at first as I tried to remember where I was.  With my tour shirt missing and my pockets empty the last thing that I can clearly remember is begging for change in a McDonald's as I was hungry and wanted a Big Mac!  A great night with a great band.....I can't wait to see them again, I sense travel in my future, but until then I'll leave you with some fan made videos of the Toronto show that I found on you-tube.


The Meister
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