Retiring my Motley Crue t-shirt

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Well, it’s had a good 10 year run, but it’s time that I retire my Motley Crue shirt that I picked up on the band’s Carnival of Sin tour back in 2005. Over the years, the shirt became one of my favorite shirts to sleep in but it’s become too ripped and ratty to continue on. It’s become pretty faded as well but that doesn’t bother me as much as the large holes in the armpits!

Sweet & Lynch – Only to Rise [Review]

61lIvlJe4+LSweet & Lynch – Only to Rise
2015, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. The Wish
2. Dying Rose
3. Love Stays
4. Time Will Tell
5. Rescue Me
6. Me Without You
7. Recover
8. Divine
9. September
10. Strength in Numbers
11. Hero-Zero
12. Only to Rise

Band:
Michael Sweet – Vocals, Guitar
George Lynch – Guitar
James LoMenzo – Bass
Brian Tichy – Drums

Producer: Michael Sweet

Sweet & Lynch is supergroup in a long line of supergroups put together at the request of the Italy-based melodic rock label Frontiers Records. The difference this time is that I can actually pronounce the names and know who all of these guys are! Also, in contract to many of Frontier’s other all-star projects, Michael Sweet offered to take over as producer and he and George Lynch co-wrote all of the songs. Generally, for these label projects the album would use outside songwriters and producers.

Looking at the band roster I have to say that Sweet & Lynch is as strong of a rock supergroup as there has been in awhile. While Stryper’s Michael Sweet and Dokken/Lynch Mob’s George Lynch are obviously the focal point, the names of bassist James LoMenzo (White Lion / Megadeth / Black Label Society) and journeyman drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake) should be recognizable to more than a few hard rock fans.

As for the music, Sweet Lynch stays within the realm of what made them popular. I wouldn’t put this album on the level of the last few Stryper & Sweet solo albums, but fans of Stryper, Dokken and/or Lynch Mob, should find no trouble enjoying this melodic hard rockin’ album.

Highlights: “Love Stays”, “Time Will Tell”, “Me Without You”, “Recover”, “Only to Rise”

Metal Excess Awards: The Best of 2014 List

Okay, I’m calling it. I tried to listen to as many releases from 2014 as I could by the end of January 2015 in order to make my best of list. There’s still a number of albums I want to listen to that were released last year, but I’m pretty confident in the list I’ve come up with. If you want more details on the albums, click on the link!

Top 15 Albums of 2014
1. Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls
2. Steel Panther – All You Can Eat
3. Allen/Lande – The Great Divide
4. Riot V – Unleash the Fire
5. Wolf – Devil Seed
6. Ace Frehley – Space Invader
7. Michael Sweet – I’m Not Your Suicide
8. Edguy – Space Police: Defenders of the Crown
9. AC/DC – Rock or Bust
10. Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
11. Bloodbound – Stormborn
12. Loudlion – Die Tough
13. Winger – Better Days Comin’
14. Mike Tramp – Museum
15. Fozzy – Do You Wanna Start a War

Best Live Albums
1. Scorpions – MTV Unplugged
2. Whitesnake - Live in ’84: Back to the Bone
3. Dio – Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993

Best EPs
1. Buckcherry – Fuck
2. Buckcherry – The Covers: Volume I
3. Skid Row – Rise of the Damnation Army: United World Rebellion, Chapter Two

Best Compilation/Cover Album
Various Artists – Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life

Most Anticipated Releases of 2015
(Bands confirmed or rumored to be releasing new music.)
Alice Cooper
Anthrax
Black Sabbath
Bon Jovi
Def Leppard
Guns N’ Roses
Megadeth
Metallica
Motley Crue
Scorpions – Return to Forever
Stryper
Venom – From the Very Depths
W.A.S.P. – Golgotha
Whitesnake

AC/DC – Rock or Bust [Review]

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AC/DC – Rock or Bust
2014, Columbia Records
Buy the album

1. “Rock or Bust”
2. “Play Ball”
3. “Rock the Blues Away”
4. “Miss Adventure”
5. “Dogs of War”
6. “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder”
7. “Hard Times”
8. “Baptism by Fire”
9. “Rock the House”
10. “Sweet Candy”
11. “Emission Control”

Band:
Brian Johnson – Lead Vocals
Angus Young – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Stevie Young – Guitar
Cliff Williams – Bass, Backing Vocals
Phil Rudd – Drums

Producer: Brendan O’Brien

Wow. Despite the major success of Black Ice, which proved the world that AC/DC was still commercial force to be reckoned with and just as popular as ever, the band has had some tough times lately. Firstly, it was announced in September 2014 that founding member & rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had permanently left the band and retired from music as he is battling dementia in addition to recovering from lung and heart operations he’s had in recent times. It was initially reported in the spring that he was taking a break from the band, but in the fall it was made official that he has retired.

Despite this, the band decided to continue on. I really assumed that if one of the Young brothers ever had to leave the band for whatever reason, then the band would retire. I kind of admire Angus for wanting to continue on. Apparently, all of the songs for Rock or Bust were already written by Angus & Malcolm by the time it was first announced Malcolm was taking a break. I figured this would at least delay recording but their nephew Steve Young stepped in to play rhythm guitar on the album and he is now Malcolm’s official replacement. Steve is no stranger to the band; he filled in for Malcolm on tour in 1988 while Malcolm was dealing with alcohol issues.

But it if that wasn’t enough, just before the release of this album, longtime drummer Phil Rudd’s house was raided in November 2014 and he was charged with “attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill, possession of methamphetamine and possession of cannabis”. The attempt to procure a murder charged was dropped but as of this writing he is still facing the other charges. It is not known at this time whether he is still a member of the band but recent band photos have not included Phil Rudd. Angus seems willing to give Phil a chance to deal with the charges but has stated someone will be drumming for them when they go on tour in the spring of 2015.

This is the first “new release” of a vinyl album I’ve ever bought. While I have a decent size CD collection, these days I mostly listen to music digitally. When I saw that this album wasn’t up on Spotify and that it was $10-13 for either the digital album or the CD, I figured I might as well pay another $10 for the vinyl/CD bundle. I ended up buying this at Barnes & Noble of all places. I think all vinyl releases should include a CD copy. So now I have a vinyl copy, a CD copy and a copy burned to my computer/iPod. The vinyl cover is 3D lenticular artwork and features the AC/DC logo breaking through. The packaging is well done. One sleeve for the CD and booklet featuring photos, one sleeve for the record. It all has an old school look to it. They even used the old Columbia Records logo.

So how does the music fare? Well, it’s AC/DC. If you like AC/DC, you’ll like this album. We already know they have a formula and they’re going to stick with it. I’ve spun Rock or Bust a number of times already (it’s easy to do when the album is only 34 minutes long) and I definitely like it. I don’t think it’s as good as Black Ice, but “Rock or Bust”, “Play Ball” and “Miss Adventure” are very good tunes with the first two definitely having that classic AC/DC feel to them. “Rock the Blues Away” is another good one that I can see going over well in concert. With further comparison to Black Ice, I think Brian Johnson’s voice actually sounds better on this album.

While the album may not go down as an all-time classic in the band’s catalog, it’s certainly a “good” album that beats out stuff like Stiff Upper Lip and the band’s output from ’83-’88. If Rock or Bust is to be the last album the band ever records in the studio (I’m assuming there will be a live album to chronicle the Rock or Bust world tour), then it’s a strong note to go out on.

And, hey, selling 500,000 copies and going gold in the U.S. within two months of being released is good note to go out on as well. Not bad for a rock band in their fifth decade, especially considering the state of the music industry.

Highlights: “Rock or Bust”, “Play Ball”, “Rock the Blues Away”, “Miss Adventure”

Allen / Lande – The Great Divide [Review]

PromoImageAllen / Lande – The Great Divide
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. Come Dream With Me
2. Down from the Mountain
3. In the Hands of Time
4. Solid Ground
5. Lady of Winter
6. Dream About Tomorrow
7. Hymn to the Fallen
8. The Great Divide
9. Reaching for the Stars
10. Bittersweet

Musicians:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Russell Allen – Vocals
Timo Tolkki – Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Jami Huovinen – Drums

Producer: Timo Tolkki

I was late to the show on this one. The Great Divide was released in October 2014, but it took me until late January 2015 before I got around to listening to it. What a mistake to wait that long!

I’ve been familiar with Jorn Lande for years and I’ve been aware of Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen (mainly through his association with Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia) for awhile as well but I’d never listened to anything from their Allen/Lande project over the years. The Great Divide is their fourth album of coming together to share vocal duties.

Previous efforts featured current Primal Fear guitarist Magnus Karlsson as songwriter, producer and musician but The Great Divide finds former Stratovarious guitarist Timo Tolkki filling those roles. From what I have read, this release is a slight departure in sound from the three Karlsson releases. Notably, many other reviewers are stating the production is a notch below Karlsson’s and the vocal performances, while still spectacular, aren’t as “intense” as they were on the previous releases.

I have no qualms with the vocal performances of Jorde Lande (one of my favorites) or Russell Allen. I’m fine with the production as well. I guess the earlier Allen/Lande albums must have really set the bar high. That means I’ll have to check them all out at some point.

As it stands, The Great Divide is a fantastic slab of melodic hard rock & heavy metal. So many great tracks here. The music doesn’t sound too far off from what you might hear on a Jorn solo album, although I can’t help but hear bits of House of Lords when listening to this as well.

There’s not a dud track to be found but the album gets really, really good towards the end. It’s the last four tracks that truly shine. “The Great Divide” sounds like a melodic rocker from the 1980’s (but not in a “look at us, we’re being retro” kind of way) and “Bittersweet” is an amazing heavy metal power ballad. Just fantastic tracks.

I can’t speak on behalf of Russell Allen fans and fans of the previous Allen/Lande albums, but this is definitely a worthy pick-up for fans of Jorn Lande. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few more Allen/Lane albums to listen to!

Highlights: “In the Hands of Time”, “Solid Ground”, “Hymn to the Fallen”, “The Great Divide”, “Bittersweet”

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways [Review]

Foo_Fighters_8LP_Sonic_HighwaysFoo Fighters – Sonic Highways
2014, RCA Records/Roswell Records

1. Something From Nothing
2. The Feast and The Famine
3. Congregation
4. What Did I Do?/God As My Witness
5. Outside
6. In The Clear
7. Subterranean
8. I Am A River

Finally! An album with only eight tracks! Dave Grohl gets it. He’s kind of an old school guy when it comes to rock, so I’m not sure it he did it on purpose but to release only 8-10 tracks on your album seems like a throwback idea to me (and always a good one). I’m always wary of any band that wants to put 15 or 17 songs on an album because you know just there’s going to be tons of filler.

Plus, as I’m getting older, I’m finding I’m unfortunately devoting less and less time to listening to music so it’s nice to see a fairly short album. Okay, so there’s only one song clocking in at under four minutes (just barely, and the longest song is seven minutes long), but it’s still nice to not stare at a wall of track list.

Sonic Highways almost seems more like a project in a way, rather than a band album. Does it sound like the Foo Fighters? Yes. But it’s different in that the album was recorded in conjunction with a HBO series and each song was recorded in a different city with various special guests. The guest list includes Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielson, Zac Brown, Joe Walsh and band-mates from Grohl’s ’80s band, Scream.

Not as star studded (IMO) as the Sound City: Real to Reel album, but in a way, Sonic Highways seems like an expansion of Grohl’s Sound City documentary/album project.

As I said, the songs still sound like Foo Fighters, despite the fact “Something From Nothing” lifts from Dio’s “Holy Diver”! The rest is what you’d expect from the Foo Fighters from this point and it stands as a worthy addition to the band’s catalog but I think it falls short from being as good as 2011’s Wasting Light.

Highlights: “Something From Nothing”, “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness”, “Subterranean”

Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx [Review]

Crazy-Lixx-Crazy-Lixx-01

Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. Hell Raising Women
2. Sound of the Loud Minority
3. Outlaw
4. Girls of the ’80s
5. I Missed the Mark
6. All Looks, No Hooks
7. Ain’t No Rest in Rock N’ Roll
8. Call to Action
9. Heroes Are Forever
10. Psycho City
11. Wrecking Ball Crew

Band:
Danny Rexon – Lead Vocals
Andy Zata – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Edd Liam – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jens Sjoholm – Bass
Joel Cirera – Drums

Producer: Danny Rexon and Andy Zata

I love this album’s cover art. How awesome would it be to have that on a vinyl sleeve?

This self-titled effort is the Swedish band’s fourth release (third on the Frontiers label) and delivers more of the sleaze ‘n’ glam metal goods. I’ll admit, it took me a few spins before some of the songs really started to click with me but “Girls of the ’80s” was an obvious standout for me from the get-go.

I’ve seen a number of people comment that “Psycho City” reminds them of KISS… Not getting that at all, although I do think the song is one of the best from the album. One song that does remind me of a band is “Ain’t No Rest in Rock N’ Roll”, which has the band sounding a bit like an AC/DC clone.

Other highlights for me are “I Missed the Mark” and “All Looks, No Hooks”. Great melodic hard rock that at times reminds me of Danger Danger, just not as polished.

I heard all three of the band’s Frontiers Records releases. While I don’t think the band has delivered a knockout release just yet, all three have been good. Nothing here matches the intensity and catchiness of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” or “Church of Rock” (both from Riot Avenue) but this may be the band’s most consistent album yet.

 Highlights: “Hell Raising Women”, “Girls of the ’80s”, “I Missed the Mark”, “All Looks, No Hooks”, “Call to Action”, “Psycho City”

Motley Crue – All Bad Things [Single Review]

motleyMotley Crue – All Bad Things [single]
2015, Eleven Seven Music
Buy the song

1. All Bad Things

Band:
Vince Neil – Vocals
Mick Mars – Guitar
Nikki Sixx – Bass
Tommy Lee – Drums

While I’ve never truly believed Motley Crue’s “final” tour is really the final tour (comments from band members have now stated they’ll still occasionally record or do live performances), I was hoping a new tour might bring about some new music. It’s been too long since the band released a follow-up album to Saints of Los Angeles. I think the idea for any future new Motley music is so to either attach the songs to soundtracks, EPs or release them as singles, but it’s been announced that some type of Motley Crue release is in the works that will include the band’s latest single and the one new track they are playing on their farewell tour, “All Bad Things”.

Whatever the project is, it’s being called “the ultimate collector’s album package” (by Motley’s press release). I’m guessing either another greatest hits collection or another box set. I’d rather get a whole new album.

To the music at hand, when snippets of this song first appeared online in the form of a teaser for the tour, I liked what I heard. Live recordings popping up on YouTube weren’t that great so I’ve been impatiently waiting for MONTHS for a proper release of this song.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the new music Motley Crue has made since 2005. It’s the perfect marriage of the Motley Crue sound and modern hard rock. I loved the few new tracks they did for Red, White & CrueSaints of Los Angeles was good and I liked the band’s previous single, “Sex”. If you’re a fan of their newer stuff, you’ll like “All Bad Things”. It sounds like something that could’ve been on SOLA and it’s a step up from “Sex”. I would love to see both of those songs get a proper physical release so I’m hoping whatever album is in the pipeline, both of these songs will appear on it.

It’s Crue, it’s good, check it out.

Lonewolf – Cult of Steel [Review]

Lonewolf_CultOfSteel_Cover

Lonewolf – Cult of Steel
2015, Massacre Records
Buy the album

1. The Cult of Steel
2. Hordes of the Night
3. Werewolf Rebellion
4. Blood of the Heretic
5. Hell’s Legacy
6. Funeral Pyre
7. Force to Fight
8. Open Fire
9. Mysterium Fidei
10. The Grey Wolves
Bonus Digipak Tracks:
11. Made in Hell
12. Children of the Unlight

Band:
Jens Börner – Vocals, Guitar
Alex Hilbert – Guitar
Rikki Mannhard – Bass
Bubu Brunner – Drums

Producer: Lonewolf

With a history dating back to 1992 and seven albums under their belt, Lonewolf are a French heavy metal outfit that plays in the traditional heavy/power metal style.

What initially grabbed me about this album was the cover art. It’s an excellent piece of work. I don’t think I had ever listened to Lonewolf before this album. There’s a couple of other ‘wolf’ metal bands out there (Powerwolf, Wolf) and I haven’t followed any of them too closely so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Lonewolf. Judging by the band name and album title, I was hoping for a traditional heavy metal/power metal sound and that’s exactly what they deliver, though their sound leans more towards power metal rather than old school heavy metal.

Cult of Steel is a melodic metal affair full of everything you’d expect from the power metal genre: galloping drum beats and speedy riffing and solo work. Jens Börner growly vocals give the band’s sound a bit of an edge. Don’t worry, he’s actually a good singer and a good fit.

My complaint about this album is that many of the songs sound too similar. I had to check iTunes to make sure the song wasn’t set on repeat. Those galloping drums and speedy guitars don’t really change tempo at too much. That’s a shame because when the band decides to play things slightly different, the album gets interesting with songs like “Mysterium Fidei” (well, at least with the song’s intro) and “Funeral Pyre”.

Lonewolf could benefit on the next go around by trying to get each song its own identity and not playing ‘Power Metal 101′-type songs but this is a solid slab of metal and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled and ears open for what this band comes up with next.

Highlights: “Cult of Steel”, “Funeral Pyre”, “Open Fire”, “Made In Hell”

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators – World on Fire [Review]

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Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators – World on Fire
2014, Dik Hayd Records
Buy the album

1. “World on Fire”
2. “Shadow Life”
3. “Automatic Overdrive”
4. “Wicked Stone”
5. “30 Years to Life”
6. “Bent to Fly”
7. “Stone Blind”
8. “Too Far Gone”
9. “Beneath the Savage Sun”
10. “Withered Delilah”
11. “Battleground”
12. “Dirty Girl”
13. “Iris of the Storm”
14. “Avalon”
15. “The Dissident”
16. “Safari Inn”
17. “The Unholy”

I came into this album expecting more of the same from Apocalyptic Love. That is, an album that is solid but uneventful and not memorable at all. In fact, with 17 tracks and 77 minutes of music, I’d actually been putting off listening to this album for quite some time. I didn’t want to devote the time to something I was afraid wasn’t going to make a lasting impression anyway. You may ask yourself, “Why even bother listening to it at all then?” Well, because it’s Slash. That’s why.

Okay. So, my thoughts? Well, the album is indeed too long. All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine stated that the band “gives the impression that they continue recording because they simply don’t know when they’re done”. He’s not too far off the mark. I’m a big proponent of albums being 10-12 songs long. Once you’re beyond that, in most cases you’re really just putting down filler and that’s the case here.

Luckily, the thing about an album that’s 17 songs long is there’s has to be a few good ones in there somewhere and there are. The first three tracks are pretty good until the album ventures into the land of Generica, then album comes alive again with “Too Far” and “Beneath the Savage Sun”. Unfortunately, not much rest on the album has made an impression on me.

Personally, I’m still hoping that someday Velvet Revolver reunites or that Slash will go back to working with a different singer on each song just as he did on his self-titled solo debut from 2010 because I found all of that much more interesting and varied than what’s been going on when Myles Kennedy is featured (as great of a singer as he is).

Highlights: “World on Fire”, “Shadow Life”, “Automatic Overdrive”, “Too Far”, “Beneath the Savage Sun”

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