Midnight Syndicate – Halloween Music Collection [Review]

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Midnight Syndicate – Halloween Music Collection
2010, Linfaldia Records
Buy the album

Dark ambient, neoclassical, dark wave, Gothic, orchestral, symphonic, “soundtracks for the imagination”… It doesn’t matter how you want to categorize or describe Midnight Syndicate’s music. What matters is whether you’re a fan of fantasy & horror because if you can’t check off those boxes then the music of Midnight Syndicate is not for you.

Based out of Ohio and founded in 1996 by composer/filmmaker Edward Douglas, Midnight Syndicate basically creates what I would describe as soundtracks or scores for horror/thriller/mystery movies that don’t exist (and some that do). They’ve also done an officially licensed soundtrack for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The group’s music is mostly instrumental with the rare occurrence of a voice or sound effects being used. Some songs are big and bombastic while others a low-key and haunting.

Halloween Music Collection is exactly what the title implies — a collection of music for use during the Halloween season. Specifically, this a compilation album that pulls songs from the group’s past efforts. Those songs were specially remixed by the group for this compilation. As a starting point and introduction to the group, you can’t find a better album than this. This album sets the exact tone I want during the Halloween season. Even though I live in the Florida heat, this eerie collection of music whisks me away to a place that actually gets cool autumn weather where I imagine a cool breeze on a dreary day and having a nice seasonal-scented candle (pumpkin!) lit. Each song here conjures up an image whether it be some psycho-killer stalking through a forest, a creaky old dark house, the Phantom of the Opera, some cult about to offer a sacrifice, Hammer horror or a graveyard filled with fog.

 Halloween Music Collection is the perfect Halloween soundtrack to play while having a Halloween get-together or on an evening when you feel like you need an injection of the Halloween spirit. For added spookiness, try listening to this album when you’re alone! This album is definitely a new standard for me when it comes to the Halloween season.

Ace Frehley – Space Invader [Review]

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Ace Frehley – Space Invader
2014, eOne Music

1. Space Invader
2. Gimme A Feelin’ [Radio Edit]
3. I Wanna Hold You
4. Change
5. Toys
6. Immortal Pleasure
7. Inside the Vortex
8. What Every Girl Wants
9. Past the Milky Way
10. Reckless
11. The Joker
12. Starship

Musicians:
Ace Frehley – Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Matt Starr – Drums
Chris Wyse – Bass

Producer: Ace Frehley

There was a sticker on the wrapper that said “Space Ace has out KISSed KISS. This may end up the best KISS album KISS never recorded.” Relax, dude.

Of course, Ace being Ace, you can’t help but pick out the classic KISS sound on a few of these tracks. It’s a part of who he is as a musician. That classic KISS sound couldn’t have existed without Ace playing lead. “Toys” and “Inside the Vortex” have that classic KISS vibe. And “Inside the Vortex” actually sounds like something that fits right alongside “Modern Day Delilah” and “I’m An Animal” from KISS’ Sonic Boom album. “What Every Girl Wants” isn’t a standout track but it has a KISS vibe as well.

It’s the first four tracks that I find to be the best. “Space Invader” is some of Ace’s best guitar work in decades. “Gimme A Feelin'” and “I Wanna Hold You” are kinda like amped up ’50s/’60s rock. Very catchy. Especially “I Wanna Hold You” (which is tied with “Space Invader” as my absolute favorite song from the album). “Change” reminds me of something we might’ve heard from Frehley’s Comet back in the late ’80s.

Maybe it requires further listening but “Restless” strikes me as a bit of filler and Ace’s cover of the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” is most unwelcome. Not because of Ace’s performance but because the original song itself is terrible.

Ace closes the album with an instrumental called “Starship”, which is worthy successor to the “Fractured” series of instrumentals and done in the same vein. I would not be mad if any and all future Ace albums continued to feature “Fractured”-like instrumental. It would be nice to have a compilation of all of these instrumentals. I’m sure something like that will pop up on YouTube eventually if it isn’t already there. I would have to listen back to know for sure but off the top of my head the song “Immortal Pleasures” (which is not an instrumental) seems reminiscent of the “Fractured” instrumentals.

I don’t feel bad that Ace is not in KISS anymore. He signed his rights away to the character he created and left the band on at least two different occasions of his own freewill and I think he can be just as much of a flaky, egotistical trash-talker as Gene, Paul and Peter can be. I’m saying this to show that I’m not an Ace fanboy and while I thought Anomaly was good, I was only mildly interested in this CD as I figured Ace probably didn’t have enough in the tank to even match the quality of that album. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised to be wrong! This is a great album and blows Anomaly away. Space Invader easily trumps everything, except Ace’s first solo album way back in 1978.

Highlights: “Space Invader”, “Gimme A Feelin'”, “I Wanna Hold You”, “Change”, “Inside the Vortex”, “Past the Milky Way”, “Starship”

 

Dio – Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993 [Review]

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Dio – Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993
2014, Eagle Rock Records

Disc 1:
1. Stand Up And Shout
2. Strange Highways
3. Don’t Talk To Strangers
4. Evilution
5. Pain
6. The Mob Rules
7. Children Of The Sea
8. Holy Diver
9. Heaven And Hell
10. Man On The Silver Mountain
11. Drum Solo
12. Heaven And Hell (reprise)

Disc 2:
1. Jesus Mary & The Holy Ghost
2. Hollywood Black
3. The Last In Line
4. Rainbow In The Dark
5. We Rock
6. Here’s To You

Band:
Ronnie James Dio – Lead Vocals
Tracy G – Guitar
Jeff Pilsen – Bass, Backing Vocals
Vinny Appice – Drums
Scott Warren – Keyboards

Live in London was recorded on December 12, 1993 and is the Dio band’s third live release that’s been pulled from the archives since the passing of Ronnie James Dio in 2010. The set list isn’t all that dissimilar from what the Dio band has always played: a mix of their own material plus cuts from Ronnie’s run in Black Sabbath with the occasional Rainbow tune thrown in.

For this album, the band was touring for the release of Strange Highways and the set features no less than six songs from that album. It’s an album I own not but something I was ever too impressed with. The songs really don’t sound too different from the darker and angrier music Ronnie made with Black Sabbath on 1992’s Dehumanizer, just less memorable. In this live setting, I can appreciate the “Strange Highways” track much more. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Dehumanizer or even Heaven & Hell’s The Devil You Know.

This was also the era when the controversial Tracy G played guitar in the band. Honestly, I’m not sure why people say he wasn’t a good fit. He looked like your typical metal-head and is obviously a gifted guitarist. I think maybe he caught all of the negativity just because he was the guitarist for two albums (Strange Highways and its follow-up Angry Machines) that were musically and lyrically darker affairs from what Dio usually put out. All you have to do is check out his guitar solo on “Pain” and you’ll know this guy was worthy of following in the footsteps of

Here’s where I would put out that even in 1993, Ronnie James sounds just as powerful as ever, except you can say that for every year he was on the planet up until he started getting ill! The guy was truly the most gifted rock/metal vocalist of all time. Never lost a step no matter the year, no matter the song. Amazing to think he never had to warm-up either. Simply legendary.

If you’ve kept up with the last two Dio live releases, this isn’t essential listening but fans of Strange Highways will probably want to hear songs from that album performed live (or even buy the DVD or Blu-ray of this concert).

Highlights: “Stand Up and Shout”, “Strange Highways”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “The Mob Rules”, “Heaven and Hell”, “Man on the Silver Mountain”, “The Last In Line”, “We Rock”, “Here’s to You”

Skid Row – Rise of the Damnation Army – United World Rebellion: Chapter Two [EP Review]

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Skid Row – Rise of the Damnation Army – United World Rebellion: Chapter Two
2014, Megaforce Records
Buy the album

1. We Are the Damned
2. Give It the Gun
3. Catch Your Fall
4. Damnation Army
5. Zero Day
6. Sheer Heart Attack
7. Rats in the Cellar

Band:
Johnny Solinger – Lead Vocals
Dave “Snake” Sabo – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Scotti Hill – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rachel Bolan – Bass, Backing Vocals
Rob Hammersmith – Drums

Skid Row is back with the second installment of their United World Rebellion series of EPs, which I think is meant to be a trilogy. Personally, I think this is a great way for bands to go about releasing music — a steady stream of EPs and then maybe do a double or triple disc compilation later down the line.

Not sure why it took these guys seven years before they released new music but a fire has certainly been lit under them. I never bothered with Thickskin or Revolutions Per Minute because both albums were reviewed by mostly everyone as being poor or mediocre, but the United World Rebellion series shows the band still has a snotty punky attitude and continues to show why they were one of the heaviest of the “hair bands” back in the early 1990s. “We are the Damned” is a true headbanger and the best track on the album. Though I enjoyed the first United World Rebellion, I was caught off guard by how good this track is.

The band wraps up the second chapter by superbly covering a few Queen and Aerosmith classics. If you’re looking for something the band to try to recreate the past with some glossy hair metal, you’re not going to find it on these recent EPs but what you will get is good solid heavy metal and hard rock. If this is the type of music the band continues to release, I don’t have any interest in ever seeing them reunited for a nostalgia run with Sebastian Bach (who I happen to like as a solo artist anyway).

Highlights: “We are the Damned”, “Catch Your Fall”, “Zero Day”, “Sheer Heart Attack”, “Rats in the Cellar”

Scorpions – MTV Unplugged [Review]

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 Scorpions – MTV Unplugged
2013, Sony Music
Buy the album

Disc 1:
1. Sting In The Tail
2. Can’t Live Without You
3. Pictured Life
4. Speedy’s Coming
5. Born To Touch Your Feelings
6. The Best Is Yet To Come
7. Dancing With The Moonlight
8. In Trance
9. When You Came Into My Life
10. Delicate Dance
11. Love Is The Answer
12. Follow Your Heart

Disc 2:
1. Send Me An Angel
2. Where The River Flows
3. Passion Rules The Game
4. Rock You Like A Hurricane
5. Hit Between The Eyes
6. Rock ‘N’ Roll Band
7. Blackout
8. Still Loving You
9. Big City Nights
10. Wind Of Change
11. No One Like You
12. When The Smoke Is Going Down

Band:
Klaus Meine – Vocals, Guitar
Rudolf Schenker – Guitar, Vocals
Matthias Jabs – Guitar
Pawel Maciwoda – Bass
James Kottak – Drums

Sometimes referred to as MTV Unplugged: Live in Athens or MTV Unplugged in Athens, the band’s own website refers to this album simply as MTV Unplugged, so that’s what I’m going with. The concert has been released on DVD/Blu-ray as well.

For a band that was retiring the Scorpions have been very active. They’ve been touring for the past 4 years on a “farewell” tour and MTV Unplugged is the band’s second release since 2010’s Sting in the Tail (which was intended to be the “last” Scorpions album) with 2011’s Comeblack being the other release. And like I figured, just a week or two before writing this review, the band announced they were canceling their retirement plans and going to release a new studio album (of re-worked unreleased “classic” era material à la Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth) in 2015.

A lot of older metal-heads and classic hard rock fans often cite the band’s early years with Uli Jon Roth as their best. I’ve never felt that was the case. It’s undeniable that the band delivered some classic material with Uli but I prefer the more commercial hard rock approach the band took starting with 1979’s Lovedrive. No matter. Whichever era you feel is best, they are all represented on this album. Okay, maybe they ignored their techno pop/rock Eye II Eye era, but that’s a good thing!

While they can’t pull songs from every album, Scorpions did a solid job of bringing out the typical big hits for this acoustic occasion as well as mixing in numbers from In TranceVirgin KillerFly to the Rainbow and even Pure Instinct (which is represented by two tracks, if you can believe that)! They also found room to slip in two songs from 2010’s Sting in the Tail. What’s criminal is that LovedriveAnimal Magnetism and Humanity: Hour I are not represented here. I would’ve loved to have heard acoustic versions of “Love Will Keep Us Alive”, “Holiday” or “Always Somewhere”. “Steamrock Fever” would’ve also excelled in this acoustic setting.

Five new songs were written for the occasion: “Dancing with the Moonlight” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Band” are full songs. These songs are okay, but not highlights from the album and may possibly get full electric studio recordings for the new album. Then there is “Delicate Dance” (solo for Matthias Jabs), “Love Is the Answer” (Rudolf Schenker solo) and “Follow Your Heart” (Klaus Meine solo). The last three are mostly instrumentals and could’ve easily been left off the album, if not the concert.

The tracks that stand out most for me are the ones where the audience participates in singing along. Those songs would be “When Passion Rules the Game”, “Send Me an Angel” and “Wind of Change”. Powerful stuff.

The new stuff isn’t all that impressive but the rest of this show is good mix of the band’s output from the 1970s up to today.

Highlights: “Born to Touch Your Feelings”, “The Best Is Yet to Come”, “Send Me An Angel, “Where the River Flows”, “Passion Rules the Game”, “Still Loving You”, “Wind of Change”, “When the Smoke Is Going Down”

Buckcherry – Fuck [EP Review]

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Buckcherry – Fuck
2014, F-Bomb Records
Buy the album

1. Somebody Fucked With Me
2. Say Fuck It
3. The Motherfucker
4. I Don’t Give A Fuck
5. It’s A Fucking Disaster
6. Fist Fuck

Band:
Josh Todd – Lead Vocals
Keith Nelson – Guitar
Stevie D. – Guitar
Kelly LeMieux – Bass
Xavier Muriel – Drums

Fuck is Buckcherry’s first EP and their first release own their own record label, F-Bomb Records. So I guess after being on loan to Century Media Records for the release of Confessions, the band is officially off the Eleven Seven Music label. This album is available at all the usual places but if you donated through the band’s pledge drive on PledgeMusic, you could get the album signed or with a t-shirt or whatever. The band is also doing something exclusively on PledgeMusic called “The Singles Club” where you get six cover songs by the band spread out over six months. I had already pledged for that and then re-pledged to get a signed copy of this EP. I will probably review all “Singles Club” releases at the end of the year once they are all released. I wouldn’t be surprised if those songs end up getting their own commercial EP release at some point.

In regards to Fuck, unfortunately the band indulged in a practice that I hate by offering a bonus track via Best Buy if you buy a physical copy of the EP there. It’s a cover of Aerosmith’s “Mama Kin”. Shouldn’t the people pledging to the band get any bonus content as well? I feel a bit ripped off by that.

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My signed copy

Have you discovered any type of theme here with the album title, song titles and even the name of the band’s record label? Yes, Buckcherry is doing their best “fuck” everything in sight. It’s a gimmick for sure and maybe a bit crass, but as long as the music is good that’s what really matters.

So just how does the music hold up? Well, as you could safely assume, the music is full of the punky rock ‘n’ roll swagger middle-finger attitude that the band has proudly displayed for years. In fact, “Somebody Fucked With Me” calls out everyone (the media, our founding fathers, lawyers, religion, teachers, parents, etc.) as Josh Todd yells “fuck them all!”

“Say Fuck It” is a cover of Icona Pop’s big hit single “I Love It”. It’s been given a major makeover though as the band made some modifications to the song title, lyrics and added in AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” riff. I had no clue who Icona Pop were or anything about the original song before Buckcherry’s version came out but I’ve read it was gigantic hit. I definitely prefer Buckcherry’s version which makes the original sound pretty lifeless. Didn’t love this cover at first but it’s grown on me.

“The Motherfucker”. Great opening riff which kinda reminds me of Motley Crue. This is a typical Buckcherry rocker (which is to say it’s good) that would fit on any Buckcherry release. “I Don’t Give a Fuck” is a bit more laidback, groovy and funky. Nothing stellar to me but I’ve read other people are really digging it.

“It’s A Fucking Disaster” starts off like a ballad but then rips into a rocker and then continues to go back and forth with the tempo. It’s the most interesting song on the EP and my favorite.

The album closes with the punky “Fist Fuck”. There’s no room for subtlety here. Sounds like something that belongs on their debut release. Sounds like filler to me.

This is a fucking good EP for Buckcherry fans to pick up. It’s only a fucking few bucks so you can’t go fucking wrong by supporting one of the most honest and authentic groups of rock ‘n’ roll motherfuckers around today. If you don’t like it, get fucked.

Winger – Better Days Comin’ [Review]

winger_-_better_day's_comin'Winger – Better Days Comin’
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine”
2. “Queen Babylon”
3. “Rat Race”
4. “Better Days Comin'”
5. “Tin Soldier”
6. “Ever Wonder”
7. “So Long China”
8. “Storm in Me”
9. “Be Who You Are Now”
10. “Out of This World”

Band:
Kip Winger – Lead Vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards
Reb Beach – Guitar, Backing Vocals
John Roth – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rod Morgenstein – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Cenk Eroglu – Keyboards
Marco Giovino – Percussion
Paula Winger – Vocals

Producer: Kip Winger, Jason Green & Dan Hubp

Better Days Comin’ sounds right at home next to the band’s previous two releases: IV and Karma. I personally always felt IV was a bit too boring, progressive and serious, but Better Days Comin’ seems to capture the “mature” vibe of that album a bit better either musically or lyrically with tracks like “Storm in Me”, “Tin Soldier”, “Be Who You Are Now” and “Rat Race” (which is probably the album’s best rocker). Similar to Karma though, the band is interjects some good old-fashioned fun with sex-charged tracks like “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine” and “Queen Babylon”.

“So Long China” is probably my favorite track and it’s one that has many Winger fans calling for a Kip Winger AOR album. “Out of This World” is another exceptional track and “Ever Wonder” is a classic deep-track Winger ballad. “Better Days Comin'” is pretty interesting. It starts out kinda trippy and Kip reminds me of Chris Cornell, then it breaks down into a funky rocker with the chorus. “Tin Soldier” reminds me a bit of something that Dream Theater might do (with about 8 minutes shaved off).

One particular thing I’ve noticed about this album are the lyrics. I will have to go back and check out the lyrics on their earlier releases again, but some of the words on Better Days Comin’ have really struck a chord with me. “Ever Wonder”, “So Long China”, “Out of this World” especially hit home with me.

This is one of those times where I like realy the album, but I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it so if you’re a Winger fan, go out and buy it or do whatever you have to do to listen to it. You won’t be disappointed.

Highlights: “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine”, “Queen Babylon”, “Rat Race”, “Tin Soldier”, “Ever Wonder”, “So Long China”, “Be Who You Are Now”, “Out of This World”

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [Review]

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Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [Deluxe Edition]
2014, Epic Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

CD 1:
1. “Dragonaut” 4:26
2. “Redeemer of Souls” 3:58
3. “Halls of Valhalla” 6:04
4. “Sword of Damocles” 4:54
5. “March of the Damned” 3:55
6. “Down in Flames” 3:56
7. “Hell & Back” 4:46
8. “Cold Blooded” 5:25
9. “Metalizer” 4:37
10. “Crossfire” 3:51
11. “Secrets of the Dead” 5:41
12. “Battle Cry” 5:18
13. “Beginning of the End” 5:07

CD 2:
1. “Snakebite” 3:14
2. “Tears of Blood” 4:19
3. “Creatures” 4:25
4. “Bring It On” 3:18
5. “Never Forget” 6:25

Since the release of the somewhat controversial Nostradamus six years ago, we’ve seen Judas Priest go on a “farewell” tour and also lose founding member K.K. Downing (he didn’t die, he retired) under still not quite clear circumstances. Well, I, for one never believed Judas Priest was going to call it quits. Does anyone really, ever? Though I wasn’t happy that K.K. was leaving, I was hoping that the addition of 31-year old guitarist Richie Faulkner might rejuvenate the band much the same way Scott Travis did when he came on on as drummer in 1990.

Nostradamus isn’t a terrible album and it was a brave thing to do, but it was still a misstep and the band seemed to have lost themselves. Now, it’s possible that if Downing had stayed on then perhaps the band would’ve delivered an album similar to Redeemer of Souls, but who knows? All I know is that Richie gets a co-writing credit on all of the tracks alongside Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton. I’m glad he was allowed to jump right into the deep-end and contribute immediately, unlike how some “replacements” are treated. Tim “Ripper” Owens’ term in this very band comes to mind in regards to being creatively silenced or at least limited!

Whether it’s the fact that the band has new blood or whether it was a conscious effort to deliver a much more tradition Priest album, the band nailed it with Redeemer of Souls. This really is a culmination of many eras of the band and despite the fact that the deluxe edition has a total of 15 tracks, this album is lean ‘n’ mean. It’s a refreshing back-to-basics approach after the overblown and overproduced Nostradamus.

The deluxe edition includes a second disc that includes five great tracks and it is well worth picking up this version. “Snakebite”, “Creatures” and “Never Forget” should’ve been on Disc 1, but I could see how “Snakebite” wouldn’t fit. It’s a bit of a loose testosterone-fueled rocker; like a heavier Whitesnake.

Overall, Rob still sounds great and the new twin axe attack of Tipton/Faulkner is a powerful and worthy guitar duo to pick up where Tipton left off with KK Downing. I figured the album would be good, but not this good. Easily the best album the band has released since 1990’s Painkiller.

Highlights: “Dragonaut”, “Redeemer of Souls”, “Hell & Back”, “Cold Blooded”, “Metalizer”, “Crossfire”, “Secrets of the Dead”, “Beginning of the End”, “Snakebite”, “Creatures”, “Never Forget”

Saliva – Rise Up [Review]

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Saliva – Rise Up
2014, Rum Bum Records
Buy the album

1. “Rise Up”
2. “She Can Sure Hide Crazy”
3. “No One But Me”
4. “Lost”
5. “1000 Eyes”
6. “Redneck Freakshow”
7. “Choke”
8. “Army”
9. “Closer”
10. “In It To Win It”
11. “The Enemy”
12. “I Don’t Want It”

Band:
Bobby Amaru – vocals
Wayne Swinny – guitar
Dave Novotny – bass
Paul Crosby – drums and percussion

Producer: Bobby Huff

Saliva is one of a handful of “modern” bands that I follow. I wouldn’t say they are an all-time favorite but I do like them and I’ve been listening to them since the release of Every Six Seconds. I think they’ve done a great job writing singles throughout their career but it was the last two releases with former singer Josey Scott where I felt the band was finally getting more consistent in terms of writing a full album’s worth of quality material. When factoring in Scott’s departure and low sales for the last few albums, I figured it was going to a wrap for the band. Fortunately, that’s not the case as the band found a new vocalist and continued on.

Rise Up is technically Saliva’s second release with Bobby Amaru. In an odd move, an album called In It to Win It was given a temporary release in September 2013 but with the impending release of Rise Up, the album was eventually taken out of print and pulled from iTunes. Very strange because all of the songs on Rise Up were on In It to Win It and this album actually features three less tracks than In It to Win It had. So it’s not like the band went back into the studio to write and record new songs. It’s the same songs. The only change is they’ve shuffled the track list.

That marketing misstep aside, Rise Up is a worthy follow-up to Under Your Skin even if it the highlights here aren’t on pair with the highlights from that album. The songs still sound like Saliva (though they’ve completely dropped all rap-metal posturing) so anyone who has enjoyed the band in the past should like these songs. The only different is the vocals. Bobby Amaru is a good vocalist but fits much more in line with the generic modern alternative post-grunge whatever vocalist. Josey Scott stood out a bit due to his southern rock-style voice.

“Rise Up” is done in the typical Saliva anthemic style while “Lost” and “Closer” are exactly the type of ballads you expect from Saliva. Rise Up sees the band staying the course despite replacing singers and it’s worth at least one or two spins from anyone who likes Saliva.

Highlights: “Rise Up”, “She Can Sure Hide Crazy”, “Lost”, “1000 Eyes”, “Closer”

Sebastian Bach – Give ‘Em Hell [Review]

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Sebastian Bach – Give ‘Em Hell
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. “Hell Inside My Head”
2. “Harmony”
3. “All My Friends Are Dead”
4. “Temptation”
5. “Push Away”
6. “Dominator”
7. “Had Enough”
8. “Gun To A Knife Fight”
9. “Rock N’ Roll Is A Vicious Game”
10. “Taking Back Tomorrow”
11. “Disengaged”
12. “Forget You”

Musicians:
Sebastian Bach – Vocals
Devin Bronson – Guitar
Jeff George – Guitar
Steve Stevens -Guitar
John 5 – Guitar
Duff McKagan – Bass
Bob Marlette – Bass, Piano
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums
Franky Perez – Harmonica

Producer: Bob Marlette

The most recent outing from Sebastian Bach sees him recruiting a few other well-known musicians to help out. Steve Stevens, John 5 and Duff McKagan (who handled the majority of bass playing duties, I believe) all lend a hand in the recording and writing process of Give ‘Em Hell.

For the most part, this album continues down the path of modern hard rock & heavy metal that Baz has been walking on for quite some time. While Sebastian has publicly said he’d like to do a reunion with the rest of Skid Row, he isn’t spending his days as a solo act trying to recreate the vibe of his old band. Well, Skid Row was always heavier than the rest of the hair metal acts and heaviness is something Bach has retained as a solo artist but he’s not trying to put out new songs that sound like it’s still 1989.

In his mid-40s, Bach shows no sign of slowing down or softening up whether you’re talking about his approach to singing or the content of the songs themselves. Sebastian is a controversial figure at times due to his opinions but you can’t take away that he’s one of the best singers (if not THE best) of his generation. Bach is still going all out on vocals on this album and that’s a testament to his natural born abilities and training as a singer to still be able to do what he does after so many years.

As for the music itself, Give ‘Em Hell finds Sebastian doing exactly that — giving ‘em hell. I don’t think this album is as melodic as his last two albums were but this is the most consistently heavy album Bach has done yet (the heaviest solo song he’s ever done would still probably be Angel Down‘s “American Metalhead”). Bobby Jarzombek is still a monster on the drums and the album is full of crunchy riffs.

There are two occasions when this album lets up: the power ballad “Had Enough” and “Rock N’ Roll is a Vicious Game” (an April Wine cover). After Bach’s last two albums delivered exception ballads, I was really looking forward to what, if any, ballads would appear here. Unfortunately, “Had Enough” falls a bit short in comparison to the likes of “I’m Alive”, “By Your Side” and “Falling Into You” but it is still a fine track. The April Wine cover is a song I’m not familiar with and given the style of the rest of the album, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s not bad, just odd-sounding given that the rest of the album comes across as pretty modern rock/metal.

I have a big soft spot for Angel Down (that album still holds my favorite Sebastian Bach songs) but in addition to being consistently heavy, Give ‘Em Hell may be Bach’s most consistent album from a quality standpoint.

Highlights: “Hell Inside My Head”, “Temptation”, “Push Away”, “Dominator”, “Had Enough”, “Taking Back Tomorrow”, “Disengaged”, “Forget You”

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