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Hinder – Welcome to the Freakshow [Review]

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Hinder – Welcome to the Freak Show
2012, Universal Republic Records

1. “Save Me”
2. “Ladies Come First”
3. “Shoulda Known Better”
4. “Freakshow”
5. “Talk to Me”
6. “Get Me Away From You”
7. “Is It Just Me”
8. “I Don’t Wanna Believe”
9. “See You In Hell”
10. “Anyone But You”
11. “Wanna Be Rich”

Band:
Austin Winkler – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Joe Garvey – Guitar
Mark King – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mike Rodden – Bass, Backing Vocals
Cody Hanson – Drums

Producer: Kevin Churko & Cody Hanson

Hinder won me over with Take It to the Limit and I became a full-fledged fan after All-American Nightmare but after listening to Welcome to the Freak Show, it’s obvious the band is trying to reclaim the commercial success they had with Take It to the Limit and their debut Extreme Behavior.

This album is full of safe laid-back almost country-sounding pop ballads and “rock” songs that would sound better on a pop station than a rock radio (“Wanna Be Rich” is pretty much dance pop). It’s not that this is a bad album. Hinder is very good at writing slick commercial hard rock songs but this isn’t what I was hoping for after All-American Nightmare. I really thought the band was coming into their own with that release, sounding freer, more melodic and fun than most modern rock bands. I remember that with the past two releases, the band talked about how they were being more like themselves. Well, I guess that’s all out the window now because this is a cash-grab.

There are a number of songs here I enjoy but nothing here packs the same punch as previous songs like “Striptease”, “Use Me” or “Up All Night”. The evolution of this band has been interesting. They seemed like they were going from a generic post-grunge act to becoming more of a modern sleaze rock band than anything else but Welcome to the Freak Show sees them regressing back into post-grunge while throwing in some country/pop and rock/pop for good measure (the lead single “Save Me” even features some rapping). This album is the sound of a band trying to regain a following by any means necessary.

Though a shameless attempt at revitalizing the band’s career, it’s a decent album; just not a memorable one.

Highlights: “Save Me”, “Freakshow”, “Talk to Me”, “Anyone But You”

http://www.hindermusic.com
http://www.facebook.com/Hinder

Buy the album at Amazon

My Darkest Days – Sick And Twisted Affair (Album Review)

My Darkest Days – Sick And Twisted Affair
(2012,  Mercury Records)

1. Sick And Twisted Affair … 3:41
2. Save Yourself … 3:43
3. Casual Sex … 3:16
4. Stutter … 2:45
5. Nature Of The Beast … 3:03
6. Perfect … 3:51
7. Again … 3:38
8. Gone … 3:33
9. Love Crime … 2:59

Band:
Matt Walst – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Sal Costa – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Brendan McMillan – Bass
Doug Oliver – Drums, Percussion
Reid Henry – Keyboard, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
John 5 – Guitar (“Casual Sex”)
Barry Stock – Guitar (“Again”)

Producer: Joey Moi

Well, when something is working, why change it? Just like My Darkest Days’ self-titled debutSick And Twisted Affair has he same producer (sans Chad Kroeger), guest musicians and dirty catchy club-worthy hard rock numbers that deal with sex.

There is a deluxe edition that features extra tracks a few alternate mixes and the same cover art but colored differently (I prefer the deluxe edition’s color scheme). I haven’t heard the deluxe edition but I’m really loving the fact that there’s only 9 songs on the regular edition. Always leave ’em wanting more, never overstay your welcome. Helps to cut down on filler too.

Speaking of filler, the only track I would consider to be just that is the band’s cover of Joe & Mystikal’s “Stutter”. I loved their take on Duran Duran’s “Come Undone” on the last album but this one doesn’t work, IMO.

So getting to what does work, let’s start off with the lead single “Casual Sex”. Definitely the follow up to “Porn Star Dancing” and meant to appeal to the club scene but that’s okay because it rocks at the same time (and just like “Porn Star Dancing” there are pop and rock mixes available). With that song and others, I’m noticing keyboards being used a lot more. There’s very much a synth sound found on Sick And Twisted Affair”, “Love Crime” and “Again” where the band comes across like a sexier version of Orgy (not that orgies can’t be sexy).

More in the typical modern hard rock style there is “Nature of the Beast” which I would place as the weakest original track on the album.

It’s really hard to pick the best tracks because I find myself repeating each song 2 or 3 times. On this day alone I think I’ve listened to this album 6 or 7 times total. Virtually every song will stick in your head and take up space. There’s so much single potential here. “Love Crime”, “Again”, “Save Yourself” and “Gone” are ready for rock & pop stations. “Save Yourself” and “Gone” are the two ballads on the album, great songs and I can definitely see them blowing up big on the pop stations.

As with the debut, this album is going to be one of my favorite of the year. Great collection of hard rock that has broad appeal. If you were a fan of My Darkest Days’ first album, you’re going to be a fan of this one as well.

Highlights: “Sick And Twisted Affair”, “Save Yourself”, “Casual Sex”, “Perfect”, “Again”, “Gone”, “Love Crime”

http://www.mydarkestdays.com
http://www.facebook.com/MyDarkestDays 

Buy the regular edition at Amazon.com Buy the deluxe edition at Amazon.com

Cold – Superfiction

Cold – Superfiction (2011, Eleven Seven Music)

1. Wicked World … 3:36
2. What Happens Now … 3:42
3. American Dream … 3:38
4. The Break … 3:45
5. Welcome 2 My World … 3:30
6. Emily … 3:36
7. The Crossroads … 4:18
8. Delivering the Saint … 4:24
9. So Long June … 4:41
10. The Park … 3:40
11. Flight of the Superstar … 3:30
12. The Ballad of the Nameless … 3:29

Band:
Scooter Ward – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Zac Gilbert – Guitar
Jeremy Marshall – Bass, Backing Vocals
Sam McCandless – Drums

Producer: Jeremy Parker & Kato Khandwala

Apparently at some point Cold broke up after their last album (2005’s A Different Kind of Pain). After being disappointed with the average Year of the Spider (2003), which came after the great 13 Ways to Bleed on Stage (2000), I decided to sit out A Different Kind of Pain. From most accounts, I didn’t miss much. Oh, and for the record, their self-titled debut is terrible.

Now it’s 2011 and Cold has reformed and released brand new album that sometimes sounds like what I’ve come to expect from Cold and sometimes not. Even Scooter Ward’s vocals change from song to song. Listening to the debut single and opener “Wicked World” (which sounds like a song that could’ve been on 13 Ways…) it’s the Scooter we all know but then “What Happens Now” and “Welcome2MyWorld” are so different I’m questioning whether it’s even Scooter singing. Not to mention neither song particularly sounds very much like the Cold of old and “What Happens Now” kind of reminds me of 30 Seconds to Mars. Unfortunately, there are no band credits for some reason anywhere in the booklet other than “All Songs Performed by Cold”.

The third song on the album (and second single) is yet another departure in sound with Scooter’s vocals on “American Dream” falling somewhere in between those he did on the two previous tracks, fitting a much more generic “let’s get this on radio” post-grunge vocal style. The song itself reminds me of a band like Daughtry and is the most commercial track on the album.

By the way, I need to point out one really annoying thing on this album — the drums. It sounds like a drum machine was used for some of these songs and it really bugs me as it just seems to loop the same exact repetitive beats on a number of the songs. It just sounds so lame and limp. If in fact a machine was not used, maybe it’s time for a new drummer.

Though certainly not an uplifting or hopeful album, Superfiction is not as dark, angry or aggressive as previous releases. It shows the band moving more towards the typical post-grunge hard rock sound that radio deems permissible. Ward’s vocals are much more melodic and he does not scream or sound as angry as he has in the past. Even when he says “fuck you” on “The Crossroads” there doesn’t seem to be much conviction behind it though I think musically this is one of the few songs that somewhat reminds me of what I’ve come to expect from the band.

I gave this album a shot out of nostalgia and because it could be picked up at a low price. It’s not a bad album at all. The band is still in emo mode but they are a bit slower, softer, more melancholy and more in line with current hard rock trends than I would have liked. I don’t think the album will gain any new fans (“American Dream” didn’t even chart) but longtime Cold fans like myself will find enjoyable moments on this album even if it those moments aren’t worth getting excited over.

Highlights: “Wicked World”, “What Happens Now”, “American Dream”, “The Crossroads”, “So Long June”, “The Park”

http://www.facebook.com/coldofficial
http://www.coldarmy.com

Buy ‘Superfiction’ at Amazon.com!

Saving Abel – Miss America

Saving Abel – Miss America (2010, Virgin Records)

1. “Tap Out” … 4:07
2. “Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)” … 4:19
3. “Contagious” … 3:37
4. “The Sex Is Good” … 3:31
5. “Bloody Sunday” … 3:47
6. “I’m Still Alive” … 3:48
7. “Mississippi Moonshine” … 3:13
8. “Angel Without Wings” … 4:16
9. “Miss America” … 3:40
10. “I Need You” … 3:47
11. “Hell of a Ride” … 3:44

Band:
Jared Weeks – Lead Vocals
Jason Null – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Scott Bartlett – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Eric Taylor – Bass, Backing Vocals
Blake Dixon – Drums

Producer: Skidd Mills, Marti Frederiksen

Even if you are only vaguely aware of the current hard rock scene, it’s hard not to know who Saving Abel is. Their 2008 self-titled debut featured that ‘girl-in-tight-denim-with-a-tramp-stamp’ album cover which helped to get them noticed (which I know caused me to physically pick up the album and look). It was hits “18 Days”, “Drowning (Face Down)” and the platinum-selling single “Addicted” (which my ex-girlfriend had as her ringtone) that pushed that album to 500,000 copies sold.

While I have never listened to that self-titled debut in full, I did catch the band in concert once (as openers on a bill that included Buckcherry, Avenged Sevenfold and Papa Roach) and Miss America seems like more of the same: melodic post-grunge with a touch of southern rock. It’s all easily digestible for mainstream rock radio, not necessarily bad but not necessarily noteworthy either. It’s All-American Nightmare-era Hinder but without the hooks, aggression or attitude. While “Addicted” ending up wearing out its welcome (at least to my ears) it was at least catchy for a good while and I don’t hear anything on Miss America that grabs you like that song did.

I do happen to like “Tap Out”, seems like it would be a good choice to open a live show. It’s actually the intro to the song that holds the most promise though, as if it was a sign of something heavier coming but no such luck. “Contagious” rocks a tad bit harder and “The Sex Is Good” is a cool acoustic-based rocker that at least thematically continues on with the tradition of “Addicted” (Nickelback would be proud!). “I’m Still Alive” is the type of up-lifting anthem that is ready-made for radio. “I Need You” is another feel-good anthem, the better of the two I have mentioned and probably my favorite track on the album.

When it’s all said and done, Saving Abel is maybe playing it a bit too safe on their sophomore effort but it’s still well within the confines of what will please any fans that the band amassed with their debut. For myself, as I said before the entire album is easily digestible but perhaps it’s also easily disposable.

Highlights: “Tap Out”, “Contagious”, “The Sex Is Good”, “I’m Still Alive”, “I Need You”

http://www.facebook.com/savingabel
http://www.savingabel.com/

Buy ‘Miss America’ on Amazon.com

Sick Puppies – Tri-Polar (Deluxe)

Sick Puppies – Tri-Polar (Deluxe) (2011, Virgin Records)

Disc 1
Tri-Polar
1. “War” … 3:13
2. “I Hate You” … 3:28
3. “Riptide” … 3:11
4. “You’re Going Down” … 3:07
5. “Odd One” … 3:47
6. “So What I Lied” … 3:42
7. “Survive” … 3:12
8. “Should’ve Known Better” … 3:52
9. “Maybe” … 3:29
10. “Don’t Walk Away” … 3:48
11. “Master of the Universe” … 3:33
12. “In It for Life” … 4:05
13. “White Balloons” … 3:39

Disc 2
Polar Opposite
1. “You’re Going Down” [Unplugged] … 4:09
2. “Riptide” [Unplugged] … 3:21
3. “Maybe” [Unplugged] … 3:30
4. “Odd One” [Unplugged] … 3:44
5. “Don’t Walk Away” [Unplugged] … 3:42
6. “All the Same” [Unplugged] … 4:16
7. “White Balloons” [Unplugged] … 3:24
B Sides
8. “Dead Space” … 3:12
9. “The Pretender” … 3:08
10. “Til Something Breaks” … 2:47
Bonus Track
11. “Monsters” … 4:08

Band:
Shimon Moore – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Emma Anzai – Bass, Backing Vocals
Mark Goodwin – Drums, Backing Vocals

Producer: Rock Mafia, Ross Hogarth

Tri-Polar (Deluxe) is a two-disc reissue of the band’s 2009 album Tri-Polar on Disc 1 with Disc 2 holding 2011’s Polar Opposite unplugged EP and a handful of B-sides.

I wasn’t too familiar with Australia’s Sick Puppies before listening to this album. I really one remember them from a blurb in UK’s Classic Rock magazine awhile back. In regards to the current hard rock scene, I know the praise about them has generally been positive and they’ve had a number of U.S. rock radio hits but the only song that rang a bell with me was “You’re Going Down”. “You’re Going Down” is a decent radio-ready tune but didn’t knock my socks off and I was expecting more of the same from this album. Rock radio is full of that generic post grunge guitar crunch and I was thinking that was going to be the case here.

When I finally had the chance to sit down and listen to this album, I was very happy to hear there is a much softer, melodic and introspective side than a song like “You’re Going Down” would have you believe. Not that this isn’t a hard rock album — it is! It’s just that there are so many catchy moments throughout the album with lyrics that I find easy to relate to.

“Odd One”, “Riptide” and “Maybe” were great choices as follow-up singles from the original album but “I Hate You”, “So What I Lied” and “Should’ve Known Better” also had hit potential to my ears. Based on Disc 1 alone, I am now a Sick Puppies fan.

Onto Disc 2, the Polar Opposite portion is acoustic-based with some orchestrations thrown in on a song such as “White Balloons”. These stripped down numbers only further show that Sick Puppies have more to give than angry hard rock tailor-made for radio. It’s a deeper, more thoughtful side that I hope they continue to explore. All of the Polar Opposite tracks come off just as well as their Tri-Polar counterparts (“All the Same” comes from 2006’s Dressed Up as Life) and it’s interesting to hear a different take on them.

As far as the B Sides go, those are fairly enjoyable as well with “The Pretender” really standing out as something that should’ve been on the album itself. The bonus track “Monsters” is a moody rocker that I also enjoy.

While comparing Sick Puppies to bands such as Hinder and Avenged Sevenfold is like comparing apples to oranges to pineapples, this group really shows a lot of promise for a long and fruitful career. Like those bands I am glad they have more to offer when it comes to their albums and they seem like they are not afraid to grow and offer up something different. Tri-Polar (Deluxe) shows a band that rocks hard, writes songs that can stand on their own when stripped down and they can also produce thoughtful tracks such as “Odd One” and “White Balloons”.

What a great young band.

Highlights: “I Hate You”, “Riptide”, “You’re Going Down”, “Odd One”, “So What I Lied”, “Maybe”, “Don’t Walk Away”, “Master of the Universe”, “The Pretender”, “Monsters”

http://www.sickpuppies.com/
http://www.facebook.com/sickpuppies

Buy ‘Tri-Polar (Deluxe)’ on Amazon.com!

SALIVA – Under Your Skin

Saliva – Under Your Skin (2011, Island Records)

1. “Badass” … 3:05
2. “Better Days” … 3:40
3. “Nothing” … 3:07
4. “Hate Me” … 4:02
5. “Never Should’ve Let You Go” … 3:33
6. “Prove Me Wrong” … 3:30
7. “Burn It Up” … 2:57
8. “Toxic Suicide” … 2:45
9. “Turn the Lights On” … 3:49
10. “Spotlight” … 3:11

Band:
Josey Scott – Lead Vocals
Wayne Swinny – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Dave Novotny – Bass, Backing Vocals
Paul Crosby – Drums

Producer: Howard Benson

With the band seemingly topping themselves with each new release, when I found out a new Saliva album was underway, I took notice. Cinco Diablo was easily the best of the band’s catalog so I was pretty interested in hearing this one. I first got into the band when most people did — with Every Six Seconds. Though I don’t think the band has ever delivered a knockout album, everything they *have* released has at least qualified as good.

I was kind of disappointed when I read some statements from Josey Scott where he talked about going back to the rap metal that the band originally was so fond of. Sure, it was fine for the time but it just seemed like an unnecessary step back as I don’t think the nostalgia factor has kicked in yet for that subgenre. Hopefully it never will and luckily this album isn’t really to relive 1999 or 2001. “Badass” and “Burn It Up” are really the only two songs that retread Saliva’s earlier sound and they are fine for what they are. They sound like Saliva.

As much as I liked Cinco Diablo, I like Under My Skin that much more. This is the band’s finest moment. For my money, the band has turned in their best effort yet. 10 songs and very little filler here. Whether it’s the bravado chest-thumping “Badass”, rock radio ready songs like “Nothing”, “Better Days” & “Spotlight” or the ballads “Never Should’ve Let You Go” & “Turn The Lights On” (Saliva has always done very well with their ballads), the album has stuck me and I can’t get it out of my head. “Toxic Suicide” is another favorite of mine, it has a slightly darker edge to it than the rest of the songs.

I bought this album to the day it came out and I must have listened to it nearly 10 times all the way through in that short amount of time. Some albums I listen to and even though I enjoy them I’m ready to move on to the next album but Under My Skin has stayed in my player for the majority of the week. I’m not getting tired of it and there’s no reason this album should not be a big hit. Well, other than the fact that the music industry has screwed itself to oblivion. So far, “Badass” and “Nothing” have been released as singles. I’m surprised neither has charted but I definitely think “Better Days”, “Turn The Lights On” and/or “Never Should’ve Let You Go” all deserve to get released to radio as well. Really, most of this album is radio ready though. The hooks, catchy choruses and melodies are all over the place.

Anyone who likes Saliva will like this album as well, I think. I guess Saliva is one of the more mainstream sounding rock bands that I listen to but they are so much more catchier than most of what makes it onto radio so that’s why I keep coming back for more.

Highly recommended, strong contender to make my Top 10 list for 2011.

Highlights: “Better Days”, “Nothing”, “Never Should’ve Let You Go”, “Toxic Suicide”, “Turn The Lights On”

http://www.saliva.com
https://www.facebook.com/Saliva

Buy Saliva’s ‘Under Your Skin’ at Amazon.com

My Darkest Days – My Darkest Days

My Darkest Days (2010, Mercury Records)

1. “Move Your Body” … 3:13
2. “Porn Star Dancing” (feat. Zakk Wylde & Chad Kroeger) … 3:19
3. “Every Lie” … 2:56
4. “Like Nobody Else” … 3:41
5. “The World Belongs To Me” … 3:42
6. “Save Me” … 3:41
7. “Set It On Fire” … 3:27 (feat. Orianthi)
8. “Come Undone” (feat. Jessie James) … 4:08
9. “Can’t Forget You” … 3:53
10. “Goodbye” … 3:59
11. “Porn Star Dancing” (feat. Chad Kroeger, Zakk Wylde, & Ludacris) … 3:55

Band:
Matt Walst – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Sal Costa – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Brendan McMillan – Bass
Doug Oliver – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Zakk Wylde – Guitar
Chad Kroegar – Vocals, Percussion, Acoustic Guitar
Ludacris – Vocals
Orianthi – Guitar
Jessie James – Vocals
Joey Moi – Percussion, Backing Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards
Ted Bruner – Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar
Scott Cooke – Backing Vocals

Producer: Joey Moi and Chad Kroeger

My Darkest Days is a post-grunge act. So why am I reviewing them? Well, I had read a few positive reviews on Amazon a few months ago and put the CD on my wishlist. I never got around to buying it but saw it at FYE the other week for $8 or $9 and knew it’d be cheaper to get it right then. If it sucked, well, I’d only be out a few bucks.

Does it suck? NO! This album is awesome and I can’t even explain why I like it! My Darkest Days is firmly entrenched in the radio-friendly post-grunge format but I think they are just a lot more melodic and hooky than most other “modern” acts and a bit more poppy. All of these songs are getting stuck in my head. There’s a good mix of the typical rock ‘n’ roll bravado with “Move Your Body” and “Porn Star Dancing” but I also dig the lovelorn moments like “Save Me” and “Can’t Forget You”, “Goodbye”. But never fear, there’s actually a POSITIVE love song called “Like Nobody Else”. I’m finding that I’m enjoying the lyrics to these songs as much as the music itself.

Here’s a fun fact: this group is apparently another pet project of Chad Kroeger (Nickelback). He co-produced and co-wrote all but three songs on this album. If I knew that before hand, I probably wouldn’t have bought the album. I’m not a Nickelback fan, they’re the #1 band to blame for the bland acts on radio these days and the last time I went for one of Kroeger’s “finds” it was Theory of a Deadman and they suck.

Kroeger definitely called in some favors for this album though. Lots of guest stars lined up for this one and I think that’s pretty cool. Zakk Wylde, Ludacris, Orianthi and Jessie James on the same album? What, is this a Slash record? With the guest stars, a cover of Duran Duran’s “Come Undone” and two versions of “Porn Star Dancing” it looks like the band is giving their all to become a success in the mainstream. There’s the “rock version” of “Porn Star Dancing” and then an alternative version featuring a part by Ludacris. It isn’t rap-metal or a hip-hop remake but I guess that version’s for the clubs or pop stations. There’s really only one dud in the whole bunch — The Police-influenced “Set It On Fire”.

This is definitely a band worth checking out for anyone who has a taste for modern hard rock that’s NOT influenced by the classic rock bands. I don’t really fit into that category but I’m enjoying it anyway so if you’re in the same boat as I am, you may end up enjoying this one too.

Highlights: “Move Your Body”, “Porn Star Dancing”, “Like Nobody Else”, “The World Belongs To Me”, “Save Me”, “Can’t Forget You”

http://www.mydarkestdays.com
http://www.facebook.com/MyDarkestDays
http://www.myspace.com/MyDarkestDays

Stereoside – Stereoside

Stereoside (2010, Bieler Bros. Records)

1. “Trailer Park Scum” … 3:45
2. “Risktaker” … 3:21
3. “Black Sheep” … 2:55
4. “Walk Alone” … 3:50
5. “By Now” … 3:17
6. “Get On” … 3:05
7. “Life Goes On” … 2:59
8. “Amazing” … 3:31
9. “These Bones” … 4:12
10. “Crazy & Paranoid” … 3:28

Band:
Jeff Shields – Vocals
Ben Foster – Guitar
David Oliver – Bass
Chris York – Drums

Producer: Matt LaPlant and Stereoside

The Ocala, Florida-based Stereoside is a band that I’m surprised hasn’t taken off on radio yet. They have a sound very similar to Shinedown or 3 Doors Down, coming across as a  “post-grunge” band with some southern rock influences, the only difference is for some reason I actually like Stereoside. And I discovered them purely by chance. I happened to be browsing through some music on Amazon and this album came up as a recommend. I checked out a few samples and really liked what I was hearing.

This is the band’s third album (second with singer Jeff Shields, who has an amazing voice) but it was just released in August so I guess there’s still plenty of time for this album to “blow up” as the kids say. Probably with some major label support they could garner a larger following but the radio ready songs are already here from the rockin’ “Trailer Park Scum” and “Risktaker” to the slower paced “Crazy & Paranoid” to the ballad “Walk Alone”. Those are the four standouts to me as far as a single goes. Living in the south and being familiar with what gets play at least in my area, I can definitely see Stereoside having a following around here if people were made aware of them. The whole album is full of songs that would be good to kick back, relax and drink some beers to… it’s just too bad I don’t drink!

From top to bottom, there’s really no filler here. I can’t explain it! Usually I wouldn’t give music like this a second thought but for some reason Stereoside has grabbed me and isn’t letting go. I ordered this used off Amazon  for only a few bucks just wanting to try something new but not really expecting much and I have to say this is one of the year’s best surprises for me.

Highlights: “Trailer Park Scum”, “Risktaker”, “Walk Alone”, “Amazing”, “Crazy & Paranoid”

http://www.stereoside.com/
http://www.myspace.com/stereoside
http://www.facebook.com/stereoside

FOZZY – Chasing the Grail

Fozzy – Chasing the Grail (2010, Riot Entertainment)

1. “Under Blackened Skies” … 5:32
2. “Martyr No More” … 4:37
3. “Grail” … 5:09
4. “Broken Soul” … 4:09
5. “Let the Madness Begin” … 3:47
6. “Pray For Blood” … 5:12
7. “New Day’s Dawn” … 4:34
8. “God Pounds His Nails” … 4:20
9. “Watch Me Shine” … 3:38
10. “Paraskavedekatriaphobia (Friday the 13th)” … 5:26
11. “Revival” … 4:47
12. “Wormwood” … 13:53

Band:
Chris Jericho – Vocals
Rich Ward – Guitar, Vocals
Sean Delson – Bass
Frank Fontsere – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Eric Frampton – Piano, Hammond Organ, Keyboards
Renny Carroll – Backing Vocals
Jeff Waters – Guitar Solos on “Martyr No More” and “God Pounds His Nails”
Mike Martin – Guitar (“Wormwood”)

Producer: Rich Ward

Five years after their last studio release, Fozzy is back with their fourth release which is similar to All That Remains in regards to the band playing it straight as a metal act that combines melody and heavy riffing. I do think this is a better effort than All That Remains was though and it’s certainly heavier.

They’ve shed the ’80s metal parody/tribute gimmick and for better or worse have an updated heavy metal sound. It’s funny because though they’ve left the 1980s behind, they seem to be embracing the early 2000s with downright nu-metal (“Let the Madness Begin”, “Watch Me Shine”, “Revival”) vibe on a few tracks along with post-grunge (“Broken Soul” could have come from any number of those types of bands) and I even hear bits of Black Label Society thanks to guitarist Rich Ward seemingly imitating Zakk Wylde.

Inspiration seems to be all over the place, which is surprising since Jericho is such an ’80s metal junky. I can’t help but get the feeling that the band is trying too hard to fit in with modern times though. They even took the time to come up  the nearly 14 minute progressive “Wormwood” that sounds like something you may hear from Avenged Sevenfold or Dream Theater with it’s shifts between tender moments, blazing solos and heavy riffs. It’s actually pretty good though, so who am I to complain?

I like this album a lot better than when I first listened to it, but like with their previous effort, there’s a lot of filler here and not a lot of focus. Seems like they want to sample a bit of everything. I guess it’s hard to expect a lot of focus from a band that is almost always on hiatus thanks to their lead singer being a full-time professional wrestler (or should I say “sports entertainer”?) who tours the world all year ’round .  They should pick one direction and go with it. To be honest, if Chris Jericho wasn’t one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, I don’t think I would have much interest in Fozzy. At this point, they’re really just “there” and don’t standout to me in anyway (I actually think Jericho’s vocals are kinda weak as well).

An okay effort that is probably only worth tracking down for Jericho and Stuck Mojo fans.

Highlights: “Under Blackened Skies”, “Grail”, “Let the Madness Begin”, “God Pounds His Nails”, “Watch Me Shine”, “Wormwood”

www.fozzyrock.com
www.myspace.com/fozzytour

Buy it at Amazon.com

HALESTORM – Halestorm

Halestorm – Halestorm (2009, Atlantic Records)

1. “It’s Not You” … 2:55
2. “I Get Off” … 3:04
3. “Bet U Wish U Had Me Back” … 3:43
4. “Innocence” … 3:16
5. “Familiar Taste of Poison” … 4:04
6. “I’m Not An Angel” … 3:15
7. “What Were You Expecting?” … 3:34
8. “Love/Hate Heartbreak” … 3:19
9. “Better Sorry Than Safe” … 3:12
10. “Dirty Work” … 3:17
11. “Nothing To Do With Love” … 3:32

Band:
Lzzy Hale – Vocals, Guitar
Joe Hottinger – Guitar
Josh Smith – Bass
Arejay Hale – Drums

Produced by: Howard Benson

I don’t listen to the radio, in fact, I try to avoid it all costs, but apparently Halestorm is an up and coming act and “I Get Off” has been a hit on rock radio. How I came across this band is thanks to Steve at Heavy Metal Addiction, who listed them as a recent purchase. Believe it or not, I’m always on the look out for NEW bands. The album cover looked interesting, so I hit up their MySpace page and I was truly impress by Lzzy’s (yes, there is no “i” in Lzzy) voice and “It’s Not You” and “I Get Off”.

I decided to hit up Best Buy to pick up a few other CDs and kept my eye open for this one. Unfortunately, it was sold out and was on sale for $7.99. I ended up picking it up at Walmart for $9 (and getting the other CDs cheaper there than at Best Buy anyway, so it all worked out financially).

The most impressive thing about this band is Lzzy’s voice. I’m usually not into rock bands with female lead singers, but her voice is just too powerful and awesome to ignore. If her performances on “It’s Not You”, “I Get Off” and “What Were You Expecting?” don’t give you chills, I don’t know what will. This is one of the best female rock voices I’ve ever heard.

As for the music, it’s a mix of some great ready radio hard rock, some generic “post-grunge” rock (complete with weak “hit” ballads) and a few songs that sound like something Kelly Clarkson would sing. Lyrically, there’s just enough sleaze and bravado (yes, all of it coming from a female) to keep things interesting. Nothing is too bad, half of the album is just average modern hard rock at best, but there’s enough great rockers to balance it out. This album is well worth the $9 or $10 most places are charging for it.

I’m not a fan of any of the slower songs, but if “Bet U Wish U Had Me Back” gets released as a single, I see that blowing up on the pop and rock stations.

Highlights: “It’s Not You”, “I Get Off”, “Innocence”, “What Were You Expecting?”, “Dirty Work”, “Nothing To Do With Love”

www.halestormrocks.com
www.myspace.com/halestorm

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