Bon Jovi – Burning Bridges
2015, Mercury Records
1. A Teardrop to the Sea
2. We Don’t Run
3. Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning
4. We All Fall Down
5. Blind Love
6. Who Would You Die For
8. Life Is Beautiful
9. I’m Your Man
10. Burning Bridges
Jon Bon Jovi – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Backing Vocals
David Bryan – Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Accordion
Tico Torres – Drums, Backing Vocals
Hugh McDonald – Bass, Backing Vocals
John Shanks – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Lorenza Ponce – Viola, violin, cello
Mike Rew – Backing Vocals
Burning Bridges is an interesting project. It’s the band’s thirteenth studio album, yet the band is already working on a fourteenth “full-scale” studio release and there seems to be very little promotion for this album coming from the band. True, they did release “We Don’t Run” as a single and will presumably be featuring that song on their upcoming international tour, but the band’s official website, Facebook and Twitter pages make no mention of Burning Bridges. You can’t even buy it from the band’s official merchandise website.
Jon Bon Jovi has been quoted as saying this album is “for the fans”. Not sure what that means exactly or how that is. Burning Bridges is a collection of “songs that weren’t finished, that were finished, a couple of new ones,” according to Jon. From little information is out there about this album, these are songs that the band had worked on over the last 10 years. I’m not sure how much of a part former guitarist Richie Sambora had in this album. He’s credited with a co-write on “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” but I’m not sure if a single note of his is used on this album or if Jon called in the likes of touring guitarist Phil X or producer/songwriting partner John Shanks to fill-in.
Despite the oddness surrounding this album and the sadness that this is the last Bon Jovi album that Richie Sambora is going to have a part in (well, for now at least…), the songs are quite enjoyable. In the last 10 years, three of the four albums the band has released have been extremely bland and boring modern rock, IMO. So it’s surprising that I’m enjoying so many of these songs since their origins go back to a few of those albums, apparently.
For the last few years, I’ve found myself enjoying the modern Bon Jovi sound more and more. I still don’t care for Have a Nice Day, The Circle or Lost Highway, but What About Now was very good and I really liked the new songs that were included on Greatest Hits. Even those some of the songs from Burning Bridges must originate from some of the sessions of the albums that I don’t like, Burning Bridges itself is a very enjoyable effort as long as you can get past the fact that this band will never write another “Bad Medicine” or “You Give Love a Bad Name”. Most of the album is a fairly mellow affair full of ballads. The album even opens with a ballad! “We Don’t Run”, “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” and “I’m Your Man” are the only truly rambunctious songs on the entire album.
Oh, and about that cover? You’d think it would be a natural for it to be released on vinyl, right? NOPE. It’s available only on CD or digital download. WTF? Maybe at some point later it will be, but I doubt it. The CD comes in a cardboard slipcase and that’s it. There’s the track-listing on the back and that’s it. There’s no pictures, no printed lyrics, no insight as to the unique nature of this album or the songs, no band credits. It’s a bare-bones and, frankly, sad way for a multi-platinum act such as Bon Jovi to leave their record label of 30+ years. Jon has a few things to say about Mercury Records on the album’s last track (turns out Burning Bridges isn’t a reference to Richie Sambora at all) with a loose, rowdy acoustic sing-along number that has a vibe like Great White’s “Wasted Rock Ranger”.
Despite the odd treatment this release has been given by the band and (soon-to-be former?) record label, Burning Bridges is a very strong release for the band. The mood of the album may be a bit dour, melancholy and cynical and it could use a few more rockers (and Richie) but Burning Bridges is a great release for the year and gives me hope for what the band can accomplish with an all-new release in 2016.
Highlights: “A Teardrop in the Sea”, “We Don’t Run”, “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning”, “Blind Love”, “Who Would You Die For”, “Fingerprints”, “Burning Bridges”
A Light in the Black: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio
2015, Massacre Records
1. Sacred Heart
2. Kill the King
3. Evil Eyes
4. Heavy Metal Will Never Die
5. I Could Have Been a Dreamer
6. King of Rock ‘n’ Roll
7. One Night in the City
8. Neon Knights
9. Stand Up and Shout
1. A Light in the Black
2. Don’t Talk to Strangers
3. The Sign of the Southern Cross
4. Hungry for Heaven
6. The Last in Line
7. Time Machine
8. Kill the King
9. Holy Diver
10. Caught in the Middle
Five years after his passing, Ronnie James Dio’s presence in the world of heavy metal is still felt and heard via the endless live albums and tribute releases that arrive every year. While I think the releases of live material needs to be given a rest for a bit, I’m still interested in the tribute releases. It’s hard to fault anyone who wants to pay their respects to metal’s greatest vocalist. By my count, this is the fourth notable Dio tribute album with the previous ones being Jorn’s Dio, last year’s Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life and Joey DeMaio’s Magic: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio (which does not have Wendy Dio’s blessing).
Jorn’s tribute is my favorite of all the Dio tribute albums. This Is Your Life was pretty good (but had some bad moments), but I think A Light in the Black is a much more solid release than what was put together last year. This Is Your Life relied on star-power, and it was a great idea, but this is cool in that it’s a bunch of more obscure metal bands (all signed to Massacre Records) not straying too far from the script. I won’t list every band here but a few such as Crystal Ball, The Order, Circle of Silence, MessengeR, Gloryful and Rebellion make more than once appearance. I have no clue what any of these bands sound like when they play their own original tunes but they did a good job covering Dio’s career and it makes me want to check out their discography and see what their own stuff sounds like.
Well, except for Burden of Grief’s version of “Neon Knights”. Wow. That’s metal-core/death metal terrible. Couldn’t even finish that one. The music was fine, but those vocals… Arrrgh. Nor do I like Rebellion’s take on “I” which is more of the same, vocally. Shame since that’s one of my favorite Black Sabbath songs, ever. Though do a better job with their cover of “Kill the King”, though. Yes, there’s TWO versions of “Kill the King” here; MessengeR takes a crack at the song on the first disc.
This album covers all of Ronnie’s metal career (although it’d be nice if someone through in a metal version of his doo-wop days sometime): Rainbow, Sabbath and Dio. What’s interesting is the inclusion of David Feinstein’s “Metal Will Never Die” (covered by Gloryful), a sung which Ronnie guest spotted on for Feinstein’s Bitten By the Beast album, which I believe was the last song Ronnie ever recorded.
You don’t have to know any of these bands featured to enjoy this album. If you love the music of Ronnie James Dio and are interested in hearing how other vocalists do when tackling some of his classics, A Light in the Black is definitely worth a listen.
Highlights: “Sacred Heart” (Crystal Ball), “Kill the King” (MessengeR), “Evil Eyes” (Gun Barrel), “I Could Have Been a Dreamer” (The Order), “A Light in the Black” (Iron Fate), “The Sign of the Southern Cross” (Crystal Ball), “The Last In Line” (The Order)
Avenged Sevenfold – Hail to the King: Deathbat
2015, Warner Bros. Records
1. Andronikos Theme
2. Nightmare Theme
3. Unholy Theme
4. Bat Country Theme
5. Babylon Theme
6. Afterlife Theme
7. Heaven Theme
8. Wicked Theme
9. Warrior Theme
10. Andronikos Theme – 8-Bit
I typically don’t care about video game soundtracks but given that this is credited to Avenged Sevenfold (I’ve yet to play the game for myself), I decided it was worthy of a review. While the band’s last album, Hail to the King, was pretty lame, I’m still enough of a fan of the band (thanks to their self-titled release and Nightmare) that I found it interesting and worthwhile to check out a video game soundtrack that they were credited with.
Basically, if you’re a fan of video game soundtracks, I can’t imagine you not enjoying Deathbat. It totally reminds me of the type of RPG scores you’d hear from the the Final Fantasy games from the Super Nintendo or Sony PlayStation. The video game has actually gotten some decent reviews. I guess it’s kind of a dungeon crawerl/Diablo-type game. I plan on buying it at some point.
As for the soundtrack? Well, it’s good. I guess it’s what you’d expect from this genre of video games. Honestly, while the soundtrack was obviously inspired by Avenged Sevenfold, I’m not sure if they wrote this themselves though. It was released through Warner Bros. Records, the band’s label, but the band’s Wikipedia website doesn’t mention it at all. Not that Wikipedia is the end-all, be-all of information, but usually someone is on there making sure things are up to date and accurate.
Obviously, Hail to the King: Deathbat is only of interest to hardcore fans of the band and/or album. It’s more orchestral in arrangement than hard rock or heavy metal (it’s all instrumental as well) but it’s not bad as background noise for fans of video game music.
2015, Frontier Records
1. Back on My Trail
2. Turn Back Time
3. You’re Not Alone
4. Locked Out of Paradise
5. Way to the Sun
6. Dream On
7. Don’t Walk Away
8. Here Forever
9. Strangers to This Life
10. Better World
11. How to Mend a Broken Heart
12. In the Name of the Father (Fernando’s Song)
Deen Castronovo – Lead Vocals, Drums, Backing Vocals
Doug Aldrich – Guitar
Jack Blades – Bass, Backing Vocals
Arnel Pineda – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – Guitar
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Revolution Saints is another band in a long line of super-groups assembled at the request of Frontier Records, an Italian music label that specializes in melodic rock. As an American rock music fan, I find the names in this project to be a bit more interesting than the usual various European musicians that Frontier often employs. Night Ranger vocalist/bassist Jack Blades, former Whitesnake/Dio guitarist Doug Aldrich and Journey drummer Deen Castronovo sound like a good line-up to me.
When I first read who was in the group, I assumed Jack Blades would be singing, but not so. He does have co-lead vocals on a few songs and sings backing vocals but the majority of the album is sung by Castronovo as label president Serafino Perugino had been wanting a project with Deen on lead vocals for quite some time. Deen’s fellow Journey bandmates Arnel Pineda and Neal Schon also lend their talents to the album.
Revolution Saints is chock full o’ uplifting melodies and big vocals. A lot of that is thanks to in-house Frontier producer/songwriter/musician Alessandro Del Vecchio. As usual with these for-hire projects, the assembled players didn’t actually do much of the writing. Jack Blades, who I assumed would also be the creative force behind the band, only gets one co-writing credit. The rest of the songwriting on this release was done by Alessandro with assistance from others, such as W.E.T.‘s Erik Martensson.
I feel like Doug Aldrich is wasted to some degree playing melodic rock. The guy can shred and write some great riffs. His run in Whitesnake made me a huge fan, so it’s sad that he didn’t have much hand in what he’s playing here. Not that this is a sappy, slick and polished album. I would categorize Revolution Saints as a mix of melodic rock and melodic hard rock (yes, I think there’s a difference). While the styles of the individual players may not shine through in the songwriting or playing, this is still an album worth checking out for fans of melodic rock.
Highlights: “Back On My Trail”, “You’re Not Alone”, “Way to the Sun”, “Don’t Walk Away”, “Here Forever”
Sammy Hagar & The Circle – At Your Service
2015, Mailboat Records
1. There’s Only One Way to Rock
2. Rock Candy
3. Good Times Bad Times
5. I Can’t Drive 55
6. Mikey bass solo
7. When It’s Love
8. Whole Lotta Love
9. Little White Lie
10. When the Levee Breaks
11. Jason solo/Moby Dick
12. Why Can’t This Be Love
13. Finish What Ya Started
14. Heavy Metal
15. Vic guitar solo
16. Best of Both Worlds
17. Right Now
18. Rock and Roll
Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Vic Johnson – Guitar
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Jason Bonham – Drums
Yet another “and friends”-style release from the Red Rocker (see Cosmic Universal Fashion, Sammy Hagar & Friends and Lite Roast). Or is this a super group? I don’t know. The guy is obviously just killing time at this point in his career and doing whatever he thinks is fun. Live albums, acoustic cover albums, supergroup projects… whatever. The line-up here is actually pretty good: guitarist Vic Johnson (from Sammy’s The Waboritas backing band), Chickenfoot/ex-Van Halen bassist Micheal Anthony and highly respected journeyman drummer Jason Bonham.
At You Service is a live release recorded throughout 2014. I never knew these guys played together until this album came out, but apparently The Circle group was a small tour and this album is compilation of the dozen or so shows they did. I’m sure Sammy simply recruited whomever he felt like playing with. The set list focuses mostly on Hagar’s career (Montrose, Van Halen and solo work) but also features four Led Zeppelin songs. I’m quite sure that Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s son being in the band influenced that decision. The only portion of Hagar’s career that isn’t reflected is Chickenfoot.
All told, this isn’t a bad album if you’re a fan of live releases. Myself? I could take ’em or leave ’em but considering the line-up here, I was interested in hearing this one. Despite their ages, the voices of Hagar & Anthony don’t seem to show wear or tear. The Led Zeppelin numbers are done quite well, too. If Jimmy Page ever considered going out and doing a bunch of Zeppelin songs without Robert Plant, Sammy Hagar would be a pretty solid choice as the vocalist… certainly a much better choice than Steven Tyler!
Fans of Hagar’s entire career (and Zeppelin) should find plenty to enjoy here and hopefully this will lead to an original project from these guys.
1. Win Hands Down
3. An Exercise in Debauchery
4. Muscle Memory
5. That Was Then, Way Back When
6. With a Full Head of Steam
7. In an Instant
9. Up Yours
I started this review weeks ago and it’s gone nowhere. Why? I think I’ve been wrestling with burn out and writer’s block but, honestly, I don’t have much to say about Armored Saint in general. My opinion of the band is that they are fine, but not one of my favorites. Having said that, I’ve always though Symbol of Salvation was excellent. More recently, I was really disappointed with La Raza. It wasn’t bad, but I thought it was bland, boring and totally forgettable. Fortunately, Win Hands Down doesn’t suffer from the same sense of banality. With only nine tracks, the album is short and to the punch. John Bush’s voice is just as great as ever and the riffs and solos really have a classic metal feel to them.
As someone who seemingly has less and less time on his hands to listen to music, I’m actually really thankful this album comes in at only 9 tracks. It always seems like such a daunting tasks to get through any album that has more than 12 tracks. Keep it between 9-12 songs and you’re good. Anything else, you’re just putting out filler.
Okay, so that was my rant on filler tracks but luckily Win Hands Down doesn’t ever have that problem. Five years in between album’s did the band some good because there’s not a single throwaway songs here. Ultimately, I guess my thoughts on this album are the same as my thoughts on the band — this is an enjoyable and solid release that deserves no real criticism but no high praise either. That’s not to say this album isn’t worth checking out though as it’s way better than La Raza.
Highlights: “Win Hands Down”, “Mess”, “Muscle Memory”, “Dive”
1. Monsters of Rock
2. No Except to the Rule
3. Shotgun Symphony
4. Back to the Roots
5. No Way Out
6. Danger Zone
8. Deaf, Blind and Dumb
9. Forever Metal
10. Children of Desperation
11. Hold Your Head Up High
12. Making Magic
13. The Reactor
14. Rock City
Paul “Shorty” Van Camp – Guitars, Vocals
Ken “Jakke” Van Steenburgen – Bass, Vocals
Ivan “Vanne” Opdebeeck – Drums
Killer (not to be confused with Paul Dianno’s Killers) is a Belgian metal band that formed in 1980. They released four albums throughout between 1980 & 1990 and then were reformed by founding guitarist/vocalist Paul “Shorty” Van Camp in 2002. Monsters of Rock is the band’s seventh studio release. I didn’t know anything about these guys before checking this album out. I happened across this release but I saw it mentioned on a very detailed list of metal albums released in 2015; I had never heard of them before that.
For anyone who is into old school headbanging, this is an album that’s worth listening to. In fact, when I first heard it and before I had done any research on the band, I assumed this watch a retro metal band hitting all the ticks mark. Good to know that Killer is the real deal wrapped in the genuine black leather! Vocalist Paul Van Camp has a rough voice but it works for this meat & potatoes style of metal that could be compared to the likes of Anvil and definitely Motorhead. I can even hear a Tony Iommi influence in some of the riffs and the solos are just great, such as on the intro of “No Way Out”.
One of my favorite tracks is the bluesy “Making Magic” which sounds like a hard rock song from the late ’70s. Love this tune.
Even though it was released in 2015, Monsters of Rock is definitely a fun album to listen to when you’re in the mood for some classic sound heavy metal!
Highlights: “Monsters of Rock”, “No Exception to the Rule”, “Back to the Roots”, “No Way Out”, “Danger Zone”, “Making Magic”
Whitesnake – The Purple Album
2015, Frontiers Records
2. “You Fool No One” (interpolating “Itchy Fingers”)
3. “Love Child”
4. “Sail Away” (featuring “Elegy for Jon”)
5. “The Gypsy”
6. “Lady Double Dealer”
8. “Holy Man”
9. “Might Just Take Your Life”
10. “You Keep On Moving”
11. “Soldier of Fortune”
12. “Lay Down Stay Down”
14. Lady Luck
15. Comin’ Home
David Coverdale – Lead Vocals
Reb Beach – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Joel Hoekstra – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Michael Devon – Bass, Harmonica, Backing Vocals
Tommy Aldridge – Drums
Derek Hilland – Keyboards
Producers: David Coverdale, Reb Beach & Michael McIntyre
After a steady stream of live releases, I was looking forward to hearing a brand-new Whitesnake studio album. I had known the band had been working on writing & recording tracks for the untitled album but I was assuming what they were going to give us would new and original Whitesnake tracks. Instead, when The Purple Album was announced, to say I was a bit deflated would be an understatement. For whatever reason, David Coverdale decided to have Whitesnake cover songs from his time in Deep Purple. Basically, the sounds have been record with a much beefier sound that’s very in line with what Whitesnake has been doing the last 10 years ago or so and some of the songs have been slightly re-worked.
In theory, I don’t have too much of a problem with any of this. I’ve read some comments online that consider it blasphemous that Whitesnake would record a bunch of Deep Purple songs and plenty of reviewers knocking this album and saying the band didn’t do a good job. Personally, I don’t care if Whitesnake releases an album of Deep Purple covers. But that’s just it. I don’t care. It just seems like a throwaway and irrelevant album to me, no more of less important than the various live albums they’ve released in the last few years. Having said that, being the Whitesnake fan that I am, I was always going to give this album at least one spin.
Now would’ve really made this album interesting is if Coverdale decided to record some songs from the Mark II line-up that featured Ian Gillan on vocals (at least as a fun bonus track). THAT would’ve made for a fascinating listen.
I’m really wondering what happened during all the time that Coverdale said they were working on the new album because I know they were at least writing material when Doug Aldrich was still in the band. What happened to that material? Was he only writing rearrangements for this album? And, oh yeah, Doug Aldrich is gone from the band. I’ve felt he was an essential part of the band since David brought Whitesnake back but the split seems amicable as Doug wanted to move on to new projects. His replacement? Night Ranger’s Joel Hoekstra. Okay. At least Tommy Aldridge has returned to the band and is still a monster on the drums.
While The Purple Album doesn’t seem all that necessary, when you get down to the music, it’s fairly enjoyable. In fact, I can digest some of these tracks much more easily now that they have been updated production-wise. Take Deep Purple songs, give them the production of Whitesnake’s last two studio efforts, Good to Be Bad and Forevermore and that’s The Purple Album. Coverdale’s voice is much more weathered by this point but I think that’s a good thing. He has more soul in his voice than he ever did and I think on some of these tracks it provides for a better vocal performance and feeling than what he could’ve provided in the 1970s.
At the end of the day, while I’m disappointed I’m not listening to new Whitesnake material, The Purple Album has turned out to be a pretty good album in it’s own right.
Highlights: “Burn”, “Love Child”, “Sail Away”, “The Gypsy”, “Lady Double Dealer”, “Mistreated”, “Might Just Take Your Life”, “You Keep On Moving”, “Soldier of Fortune”, “Stormbringer”
1. Angels Cry
2. Morning After
3. American Trash
5. Just Breathe
6. Shotgun to the Heart
7. Never Give Up
8. Cold Dark December
9. It’s Never Too Late
10. She’s a KO
11. There’s No Starting Over
Jean Beauvoir – Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Drums
Micki Free – Guitar
Being a fan of KISS, Jean Beauvoir is a name I’ve been familiar with for quite some time. He co-wrote a couple of songs with Paul Stanley back in the ’80s for KISS and was a member of the shock rock group, The Plasmatics, but that’s ALL I knew. Micki Free is another name I’ve read from time to time, but his name did not bring to my mind any particular project he ever worked on. After becoming aware of this album, I was surprised to find that Beauvoir worked a lot with the Ramones and that Micki Free was a member of the funk/soul group Shalamar. Kinda seems odd that these two would be involved in an melodic rock project for Frontiers Records but then again, more research told me these two previously formed a melodic rock group called Crown of Thorns back in the ’90s.
I came in with zero expectations and very little understanding of what the team of Jean Beauvoir and Micki Free had to offer. What they’ve delivered with American Trash is nothing short of a melodic hard rock gem even though the second half of the album fails to live up to the quality of the first half. There’s plenty of hard riffing going on overall and I really enjoy Beauvoir’s voice which at times reminds me of Lenny Kravitz. My favorite tracks are “Angels Cry”, which is a killer heavy song to open the album with and “Just Breathe” is one of the best power ballads I’ve heard in the last few years.
I’m not sure if American Trash is done in the same exact style as their Crown of Thorns group, but I’m thinking I need to check their old collaborations out and I hope there’s more to come from Beauvoir/Free.
Highlights: “Angels Cry”, “Morning After”, “American Trash”, “Just Breathe”, “Shotgun to the Heart”
Night Demon – Curse of the Damned
2015, Century Media Records
1. Screams in the Night
2. Curse of the Damned
4. Full Speed Ahead
5. The Howling Man
6. Heavy Metal Heat
7. Livin’ Dangerous
9. Run for Your Life
11. Save Me Now
12. Road Racin’
13. The Chalice ’15
Jarvis Leatherby – Vocals, Bass
Brent Woodward – Guitar
Dustin Squires – Drums
Night Demon, Roger Camero & Armand Tambouris
Confession: I bought this album by accident. While I still buy albums (vinyl, CD AND digital) I generally reserve my money for my favorite bands or when building up my vinyl collection. I came across a list of the top metal albums of 2015 so far and this album was on it. A lot of time I stream music from Spotify but since Century Media isn’t a partner with Spotify, that wasn’t possible for this release. I had some credit at Amazon.com to use on digital music and I accidentally bought the album when I was hoping I’d first be told how much credit was available to use.
Going by the awesome cheesy “evil” album artwork, I was expecting raw, nasty ’80s metal sound that probably focused too much on sounding “evil”. Well, while Night Demon is firmly planted in the new wave of traditional heavy metal category, they aren’t out to shock and offend. So don’t let the cover fool you — the band isn’t as dark, demonic and over-the-top as the artwork would suggest. It’s all in good fun. Sure, they have songs called “Curse of the Damned”, “Satan” and “Killer” but they also have songs titled “Road Racin'”, “The Howling Man” and “Heavy Metal Heat”.
This trio of California metal-heads cites UFO, Riot and Diamond Head as influences. Knowing that gives the listener a good idea of what they’ll be sounding like. The Diamond Head influence is readily apparent indeed. To my knowledge, Curse of the Damned is the band’s debut LP (a self-titled EP was released in 2012) and it’s a great score for them to have a European label deal with Steamhammer/SPV while being on the Century Media label in the U.S.
Night Demon’s Curse of the Damned is an enjoyable album that fans of the new wave of British heavy metal and the new wave of traditional heavy metal should be able to appreciate. I don’t think Night Demon is going to blow anyone away within the confines of the music they are playing but they’re sure to be appreciated by old school metal-heads.
Highlights: “Screams in the Night”, “The Howling Man”, “Heavy Metal Heat”, “Livin’ Dangerous”, “Save Me Now”