House of Lords – Indestructible
2015, Frontiers Records
1. Go to Hell
3. Pillar of Salt
5. Call My Bluff
6. We Will Always Be One
7. Die To Tell
8. Another Dawn
9. Eye of the Storm
10. Ain’t Suicidal
11. Stand and Deliver
James Christian – Vocals
Jimi Bell – Guitars
Chris McCarvill – Bass
BJ Zampa – Drums
House of Lords are on a roll. Just last year they released the excellent Precious Metal and now the band is back with Indestructible. Last year’s release saw my faith being renewed in the band after what I felt was a disappointing release (Big Money) and their latest and tenth release only solidifies my confidence in the band. I have to wonder if parts of Indestructible were at least written, if not recorded, at the same time as the Precious Metal sessions.
Just as Precious Metal delivered a few new classics to the House of Lords catalog, so does Indestructible. “Another Dawn” and “Eye of Storm” are killer tracks. Both songs embody what House of Lords are all about — amazing production, incredible melodies, some heaviness and big choruses. Meanwhile, the band is delivering some of their hardest material in years with tracks like “Go to Hell”, “Ain’t Suicidal” and “Stand and Deliver” while still delivering on great ballads (“We Will Always Be One”).
What else is there to say? If you like House of Lords, you’ll like (and probably love) Indestructible. It’s amazing that one band has been able to stay so consistent in quality throughout their career.
Highlights: “Die to Tell”, “Indestructible”, “We Will Always Be One”, “Another Dawn”, “Eye of the Storm”, “Ain’t Suicidal”, “Stand and Deliver”
Wolfpakk – Rise of the Animal
2015, AFM Records
Buy the album
1. Rider Of The Storm
2. Sock It To Me
3. Monkey On Your Back
5. Black Wolf
6. Somewhere Beyond
7. Running Out Of Time
8. Grizzly Man
9. High Roller
10. Rise Of The Animal
Michael Voss, Mark Sweeney, Michael Kiske, Andi Deris, Ted Poley, Joe Lynn Turner, Rick Altzi, David Reece, Charlie Huhn, Don Dokken, Marc Storace, Michaela Schober, Jean-Marc Viller – Lead Vocals
Michael Voss, Bob Daisley, Al Barrow, Barend Courbois – Bass
Jeff Watson, Ryan Roxie, Bernie Torme, John Norum, Doug Aldrich, Axel Rudi Pell, Martin Rauber – Guitar
Mike Terrana, Mark Schulman, Simon Philips, Chris Slade, Gereon Homann – Drums
Chris Ivo – Keyboards
Producer: Mark Sweeney & Michael Voss
Wolfpakk is an all-star melodic hard rock/metal project put together a few years back by vocalists Mark Sweeney (ex-Crystal Ball) and Michael Voss (ex-Casanova). I won’t repeat all of the musicians involved but Rise of the Animal features an exceptional line-up of guest musicians like Doug Aldrich, Joe Lynn Turner, David Reece (!), Don Dokken, Michael Kiske, Axel Rudi Pell and Bob Daisley.
Honestly, I checked out this album based on the cover art and the band name (another ‘Wolf’ band!) alone. I didn’t realize until reading up on Wolfpakk that they are more of a project than a legit band. Or if they are a band, you can distill it down to simply Sweeney & Voss (who write the songs as well) as the guest musicians change from album to album.
So, for an album that includes such a large guest list, the cohesiveness of the album is very impressive. Not even the different vocalists take you out of the moment. It all works. Rise of the Animal flows together as a great collection of melodic hard rock and melodic metal, great guitar solos and soaring vocals with large catchy choruses.
Rise of the Animal is a powerfully and skillfully made block of melodic metal and rock that won’t disappoint you if you’re a fan of the artists involved. The album was a very pleasant surprise to me that seemingly came out of nowhere.
Highlights: “Rider of the Storm”, “Sock It to Me”, “Black Wolf”, “Running Out of Time”, “High Roller”, “Rise of the Animal”, “Universe”
Whitesnake – Live in ’84: Back to the Bone
2014, Frontiers Records
Snakeskin Boots: The Best of the Bootlegs
2. Guilty of Love
3. Love Ain’t No Stranger
4. Slow An’ Easy
5. Walking in the Shadow of the Blues
6. Ready An’ Willing
7. Guitar Solo
8. Crying in the Rain
9. Soldier of Fortune
Super-Rock Japan ’84
10. Love Ain’t No Stranger
11. Ready An’ Willing
12. Slow An’ Easy
Jon Lord’s Final Whitesnake Performance (Medley)
13. Gambler / Guilty of Love / Love Ain’t No Stranger / Ready An’ Willing
David Coverdale – Vocals
John Sykes – Guitar
Mel Galley – Guitar (Track #13)
Neil Murray – Bass
Cozy Powell – Drums
Jon Lord – Keyboards (Track #13)
Richard Bailey – Keyboards (Tracks #1-12)
Producer: David Coverdale & Michael McIntyre
OH MY GOD. This is the fourth live Whitesnake album in three years. ENOUGH. I love this band, but ENOUGH. Just put out the new studio album already! Truth be told, Live in ’84 was released as a DVD/CD combo package but all I have to go buy is the digital version of the CD. The DVD features more performances than the audio version.
I’m not really sure what’s going on with this release anyway. Did we really need two live versions of “Guilty of Love”, “Slow an’ Easy”and “Gambler” along with THREE live versions of “Love Ain’t No Stranger” and “Ready an’ Willing”? I don’t get it. And there’s not much information about these tracks or this album in general other than they are bootlegs from 1984 that have been cleaned up by David Coverdale & Michael McIntyre.
From what I’ve pieced together by researching online, tracks 1-9 are random bootlegs (presumably the best) that Coverdale was able to track down from various dates of Whitesnake’s 1984 Slide It In world tour. Tracks 10-12 are from August of 1984 at a festival called Super-Rock, which was held in Japan. Bon Jovi, Scorpions, The Michael Schenker Group and Anvil also played at the festival. Tracks 1-12 feature the band as the four-piece of Coverdale, Sykes, Murray and Powell. Guitarist Mel Galley had broken his arm and sat out the rest of the tour while Jon Lord had already left the band. Richard Bailey toured with the band as keyboardist and played off-stage.
Finally, there’s track 13, which is a medley that features Jon Lord’s final performance in the band before rejoining Deep Purple.
This live version of “Crying in the Rain” is particularly notable. Despite the professional bootleg quality, it’s a much stronger sounding song than the studio version. Look, all of the music here is good. Live Whitesnake is always good. I just question their rapid-fire delivery of live albums and the repeating of songs on this DVD/CD. Seems like something more appropriate for a box set. Had the track list varied, I’d look more favorably upon Live in ’84. This is a decent album but I recommend it only to die-hards.
Highlights: “Guilty of Love”, “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, “Slow An’ Easy”, “Crying in the Rain”
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”
Kip Winger – Lead Vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards
Reb Beach – Guitar, Backing Vocals
John Roth – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rod Morgenstein – Drums
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”
Steel Panther – All You Can Eat
2014, Open E Entertainment
Buy the album at Amazon.com
2. Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World
4. Bukkake Tears
5. Gangbang at the Old Folks Home
6. Ten Strikes You’re Out
7. The Burden of Being Wonderful
8. Fucking My Heart in the Ass
10. You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk
11. If I Was King
12. She’s On the Rag
Michael Starr – lead vocals, backing vocals
Satchel – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Lexxi Foxxx – bass guitar, backing vocals
Stix Zadinia – drums, percussion, piano, backing vocals
Vivian Campbell – Guitar (“Gangbang at the Old Folks Home”)
Steel Panther continues to prowl the streets with their special satiric blend of heavy metal, melodic rock, sex and gross-out humor. All You Can Eat delivers some of the band’s best songs to date with some interesting musical choices. “Pussywhipped” begins with an acoustic intro that sounds a bit ominous, I half expected the band to break out into 1980s-era thrash song while the keyboards portions used in “She’s On the Rag” sound like they could have very well come from a Lady GaGa song.
For my money, Steel Panther is one of the best rock/metal bands around. Not only are they funny but they are great musicians and songwriters. Pop, heavy metal, glam… it doesn’t matter. They do it and do it well (and I’m not just talking about having sex). Though the band already has some great songs in their catalog, this is probably their best record to date. I can’t get “The Burden of Being Wonderful”, “You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk”, “Bukkake Tears” or “She’s On the Rag” out of my head. In fact, I’ve had to correct myself at work because I’ve found myself mumbling the lyrics on a number of occasions. And trust me, “Bukkake Tears” and “She’s On the Rag” are two songs you don’t want to sing aloud unless you want a visit from HR!
Even so, “Bukkake Tears” and “The Burden of Being Wonderful” are two of my favorite songs of the year. They are nothing short of modern pop-metal masterpieces. I realize some people many not be accepting of that given the lyrics, but that’s how I feel. If these guys toned down the humor for one album, they’d probably deliver one of the best hair metal albums of all time. Even with the humor, they are still delivering some of the best hair metal albums. Filler tracks here would be “B.V.S.” (which stands for Big Vagina Syndrome) and “Ten Strikes You’re Out”.
All You Can Eat is an extremely fun album with great riffs and catchy choruses for days. Gonna be tough to beat this one at the end of the year.
Highlights: “Pussywhipped”, “Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World”, “Gloryhole”, “Bukkake Tears”, “The Burden of Being Wonderful”, “You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk”, “She’s On the Rag”
KISS – Crazy Nights [Remastered]
1998, Mercury Records
Originally Released: 1987, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com
1. “Crazy Crazy Nights”
2. “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”
3. “Bang Bang You”
4. “No, No, No”
5. “Hell or High Water”
6. “My Way”
7. “When Your Walls Come Down”
8. “Reason to Live”
9. “Good Girl Gone Bad”
10. “Turn On the Night”
11. “Thief in the Night”
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Phil Ashley – Keyboards
Producer: Ron Nevison
KISS were no strangers to experimenting with pop music in the past (Dynasty, Unmasked) and Crazy Nights is a culmination of the lighter metal sound the band had started with Asylum. “Crazy Crazy Nights” immediately sets the pace, it’s drenched in keyboards has a high cheese factor. So, of course, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. And “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”, “My Way”, “Reason to Live” and “Turn On the Night” continue to work the keyboards into overtime.
The band was obviously in trend-chasing mode as bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Heart were huge acts in the late ’80s with their very polished hard rock/pop sounds. In fact, they recruited just the right producer if slick rock/pop was their goal as Ron Nevison was quite in demand, having recently worked with such acts like Ozzy Osbourne (The Ultimate Sin), Heart, Survivor and even on the soundtrack for the first Karate Kid movie.
At one point, both Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley denounced this album as a mistake, but apparently their stance softened a bit because just a few years back “Crazy Crazy Nights” made an appearance in their set list while they were touring in support of Sonic Boom over in Europe. “Reason to Live” is the big power ballad of the album. It’s very much of its era and features Paul in his element. He was made for this type of stuff. It was released as a single and it’s surprising that the song wasn’t a big mainstream hit for the band.
Just like “Crazy Crazy Nights”, this entire album is a guilty pleasure album. It’s glossy but it’s not without a little bite. “Bang Bang You” is a solid oversexed polished rocker that would’ve sounded fine right next to “Let’s Put the X in Sex” and “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” on Smashes, Thrashes and Hits. “No, No, No” is frenetic and features some great guitar work from Bruce Kulick. “Good Girl Gone Bad” is a mid-paced rocker that’s one of Gene’s better songs from the 1980s.
I initially didn’t like this album but I’ve come to love it. It was given to me as a graduation present from my girlfriend at the time. I popped it in my car as we were driving somewhere and she immediately apologized for giving me a bad graduation gift! It wasn’t what I was expecting but I told her she did good. After all, I was trying to complete my KISS collection and, bad or not, I wanted the album.
If you’re a fan of glossy commercial hard rock from the 1980s, Crazy Nights is sure to please.
Highlights: “Crazy Crazy Nights”, “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”, “Bang Bang You”, “No, No, No”, “My Way”, “Reason to Live”, “Good Girl Gone Bad”, “Turn On the Night”
House of Lords – Precious Metal
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com
2. I’m Breakin’ Free
4. Live Every Day (Like It’s the Last)
5. Permission to Die
6. Precious Metal
7. Swimmin’ with the Sharks
9. Enemy Mine
11. Turn Back the Tide
12. You Might Just Save My Life
James Christian – Lead Vocals
Jimi Bell – Guitars
Chris McCarvill – Bass
BJ Zampa – Drums
Producer: James Christian
Though I gave it high praise at the time, Big Money was ultimately a forgettable album by House of Lords and was a step down from Cartesian Dreams. Luckily, that’s not the case with Precious Metal. I’m not sure what happened but songwriting is inspired. From the cover art to the title of the album itself, I think the band is back on track and more in line with their catalog than Big Money was.
With tracks like “Battle”, “Swimmin’ with the Sharks” and “Permission to Die”, James Christian has delivered one of the heaviest albums House of Lords albums yet. The keyboards have taken a backseat all throughout this album and I’m completely okay with that. While House of Lords is one of the few melodic rock bands to use keyboards and not actually sound wimpy this is a good hard rock sound, though temporary, I’m sure. As with every House of Lords album, the production is fantastic as is Christian’s voice. He’s easily one of my favorite rock vocalists of all-time.
And the hooks and melody are still here. It took me a few times to get into Big Money, but with Precious Metal I was instantly pulled in to songs like “Battle”, “Epic”, “Enemy Mine” (which is the most “modern” sounding track on the album… like something My Darkest Days would do) and “Precious Metal”. My favorite tracks are the aforementioned “Permission to Die” and the excellent power ballad “Precious Metal”. I also enjoy the lyrics on both of these songs.
Precious Metal finds the band not relying on keyboards as much but it’s still undoubtedly a House of Lords album that I think any fan will enjoy.
Highlights: “Battle”, “Epic”, “Live Every Day (Like It’s the Last)”, “Permission to Die”, “Precious Metal”, “Enemy Mine”
Reckless Love – Spirit
2013, Spinefarm Records/Universal Music
Buy the album
1. Night On Fire
2. Bad Lovin’
3. I Love Heavy Metal
4. Favorite Flavor
5. Edge Of Our Dreams
6. Sex, Drugs & Reckless Love
7. Dying To Live
8. Metal Ass
9. Runaway Love
10. So Happy I Could Die
11. Hot Rain
Olli Herman – Lead Vocals
Pepe Salohalme – Guitar
Jalle Verne – Bass
Hessu Maxx – Drums
Producer: Ilkka Wirtanen
Reckless Love is one of the better bands from the current crop of the glam/pop metal scene. For the record, they refer to themselves as “merry metal”. Spirit continues to prove the band’s worth as they continue to offer up their own blend of ’80s glam, heavy metal and danceable pop tunes. Unfortunately, it took me awhile before I could listen to this album. It was released in the summer of 2013 but the CD has only been available in the United States as an import and it isn’t being offered digitally in the States either.
Reckless Love’s last album, Animal Attraction, saw the band going in an even poppier direction but Spirit features a few more bare-knuckle rockers. “Bad Lovin”” is a sleaze rocker, “I Love Heavy Metal” is an ode to all kinds of ’80s hair metal hits and bands and “Metal Ass” is the heaviest song the band has recorded yet. Maybe opening for Black Veil Brides inspired these guys to get a little dirty.
That’s not to say the band has adopted a completely heavier style. “Night On Fire” is a great example of what the band is all about — big pop hooks, guitars, huge gang vocals and a beat you can dance to. Fans of the band’s first two albums will not be disappointed by Spirit.
Highlights: “Night on Fire”, “Bad Lovin'”, “Edge of Our Dreams”, “Sex, Drugs and Reckless Love”, “Runaway Love”, “So Happy I Could Die”, “Hot Rain”
Quiet Riot – QR III
1986, CBS Records/Pasha Records
1. “Main Attraction”
2. “The Wild and the Young”
3. “Twilight Hotel”
4. “Down and Dirty”
5. “Rise or Fall”
6. “Put Up or Shut Up”
7. “Still of the Night”
8. “Bass Case”
9. “The Pump”
10. “Slave to Love”
11. “Helping Hands”
Kevin DuBrow – Lead Vocals
Carlos Cavazo – Guitar
Chuck Wright – Bass
Frankie Banali – Drums
John Purdell – Synthesizer
Producer: Spencer Proffer and John Purdell
QR III is actually the band’s 5th album but I guess they aren’t counting their first two albums that were released only in Japan in the late 1970s.
I tend to think of Quiet Riot just as I think of Twisted Sister: both were solid metal bands, both had singers with powerful voices and both bands had great commercial success fairly early and then saw those sales fizzle out pretty quickly with each subsequent release. Also, when the going got tough, both bands tried using a much lighter sound in an attempt to stay commercially relevant (it still didn’t help).
Well, like I said, after the multiple platinum success of Metal Health and the disappointed of Critical Condition (it “only” went platinum), the band went with much lighter and more commercial sound in order to increase sales. This new synthesizer-heavy/AOR sound is none more apparent than on the opening track, “Main Attraction”. The first notes you hear on this album are not provided by guitar, drums or even by a bass guitar but by keyboard! The song is actually a great piece of cheesy pop-metal but I can imagine that it did the band no favors with all of the fans that bought Metal Health back in ’83.
“The Wild and The Young” is a more like the Quiet Riot of old but then “Twilight Hotel” moves back into AOR territory and sounds nothing like the band at all. “Still of the Night” is another slow melodic rock number that makes you wonder how this is Quiet Riot, but I think it’s another excellent song. “Slave to Love” is another AOR-style song but again, I like it, though I will admit the female vocals really seem out of place on a QR song!
“Bass Case” is a cool bass instrumental performed by Chuck Wright. Rudy Sarzo, the band’s bassist from the “classic” line-up had left the band in early 1985 after growing tired of Kevin DuBrow’s ego & attitude.
“Put Up or Shut Up” is a rocker that could’ve fit in on the two previous albums while “Down and Dirty” and “Rise Or Fall” could’ve been two really good hard songs but they are cut off at the knees by synthesizers and an overly polished production.
There is one song on this album (“The Wild and The Young”) that I would put up there with the rest of Quiet Riot’s signature songs. The rest is good, cheesy ’80s melodic rock. It’s not what anyone expected or wanted from this band and sure you could throw the “sell out” label on them for releasing these songs but I find QR III to be a guilty pleasure melodic rock album. The album probably deserves another look from people who stuck their nose up at it the first time around.
Highlights: “Main Attraction”, “The Wild and The Young”, “Twilight Hotel”, “Down and Dirty”, “Still of the Night”, “Slave to Love”
King Kobra – II
2013, Frontiers Records
1. Hell On Wheels
2. Knock ‘Em Dead
3. Have A Good Time
4. The Ballad Of Johnny Rod
5. Take Me Back
6. When The Hammer Comes Down
7. Running Wild
8. The Crunch
9. Got It Comin’
10. Deep River
11. Don’t Keep Me Waiting
12. We Go Round
Paul Shortino – Vocals
David Michael-Philips – Guitar
Mick Sweda – Guitar
Johnny Rod – Bass
Carmine Appice – Drums
Produced by David Henzerling, Carmine Appice & Paul Shortino
This is King Kobra II. It comes 25 years after King Kobra III. It is the band’s seventh studio. Are you following me? Well, after Carmine Appice reformed the band a few years back and they released a self-titled album in 2011, this is the sequel. So naming it II kinda makes sense because it’s in reference to being the follow-up to the self-titled album.
I’ve listened to this album a few times. It didn’t grab me initially like a few tracks from King Kobra automatically did. It’s still done in that same 1980s bluesy hard rock/metal meets 1970s bluesy classic rock style of the last album. Honestly, I just really wasn’t impressed with the lead track “Have a Good Time”. It just seems a bit generic to me. I’m not sure where I would rank this album in the band’s catalog but I’m seeing a surprising number of people saying it’s the band’s best album. I don’t agree with that because Ready to Strike is just too much of a classic but if you’re a fan of the band’s 2011 album, you’ll like II. You couldn’t classify this album as heavy metal but it seems like their hardest rocking album to date.
Shortino’s voice is still in great form and Carmine is just killing it on the drums. Great production here as well. After giving this album more of my attention, I would place it on level with their 2011 self-titled album. This is fun no-frills blues hard rock with a vintage sound that will make you forget it’s 2013.
Highlights: “Hell On Wheels”, “Take Me Back”, “When The Hammer Comes Down”, “Running Wild”, “Don’t Keep Me Waiting”, “We Go Round”