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”
1. Deep Purple – “Smoke on the Water”
2. Nazareth – “Razamanaz”
3. Motorhead – “White Line Fever”
4. Def Leppard – “Rocks Off”
5. Rainbow – “All Night Long”
6. Status Quo – “Roll Over Lay Down”
7. Whitesnake – “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”
8. UFO – “Lights Out in London”
9. Gillan – “Unchain Your Brain”
10. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”
What a brutal album cover that totally screams “heavy metal”. I picked this one up on vinyl in great condition for only $1 at a local flea market annex shop called Fort Walton Beach Vintage Records. Live and Heavy is a compilation put out by the British label NEMS that, unsurprisingly, features live tracks by UK rock bands. Had this been released a year or two later, I’m sure it would’ve been full of NWOBHM bands but instead we get bands that are more closely associated with ’70s hard rock and heavy metal.
This compilation has a killer line-up: Gillan-era Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, UFO (“Lights Out” is titled “Lights Out in London” on this release), Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, Motorhead… some of the very best heavy rock bands England has to offer. Even Def Leppard makes an appearance. Pretty good deal for such a new and young band (at the time) to get a track compiled with a number of other legendary bands.
Had this been a compilation of studio tracks, I probably would’ve passed. I’m not big on live album but for a collection of live cuts from these specific bands, I figured it was worth a buck.
The inner sleeve lists the various dates and venues these tracks were recorded. Always good to have that info. I was afraid this was going to be a super low-budget compilation that wouldn’t even bother.
This is a good pick-up for fans of hard rock from the 1970s and early 1980s.
Highlights: “Smoke on the Water”, “All Night Long”, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”, “Lights Out in London”
Sweet & 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
10. Strength in Numbers
12. Only to Rise
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”
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 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.)
Guns N’ Roses
Scorpions – Return to Forever
Venom – From the Very Depths
W.A.S.P. – Golgotha
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”
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
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
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”
Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album
1. Hell Raising Women
2. Sound of the Loud Minority
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
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]
2015, Eleven Seven Music
Buy the song
1. All Bad Things
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 & Crue, Saints 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
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
Jens Börner – Vocals, Guitar
Alex Hilbert – Guitar
Rikki Mannhard – Bass
Bubu Brunner – Drums
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”