As sales of this eighteenth studio album show Judas Priest has lost none of its popularity making top five in both the USA and the UK. However, while it’s a new recording the band have made it public that some of the tunes have been waiting in the wings for a while. Certainly the album has pretty much all the attributes of classic Judas Priest and the band is back with a vengeance.
Opener ‘Firepower’ will hit you like a mallet. Driving rhythm that demands a hammerfist pump coupled with that unmistakeable Halford ‘Bond villain’ diction and tone which has lost none of its spitting venomous power. While there’s a trace of influence from symphonic metal in the next track ‘Lightning to Strike’ this recording shows a band who have not forgotten their roots. Glen Tipton’s illness may explain a little less of the famous twin guitars, but you can still hear it and bearing the band’s challenges in this respect you would never know there was a problem from the recording itself and there’s no shortage of vital guitar shredding on tracks like ‘Flamethrower’.
Prepared to get on those leathers and studs and get all of that aggression garnered from the morning commute out in the healthiest of ways to ‘Traitor’s Gate’. Priest the ultimate in Stress Relief! There’s a little of the fantasy in ‘Spectre’ and ‘Necromancer’ all the better once all that pent up energy is spent to going back to your cup of tea and tv. Judas Priest fans in general being some of the most well adjusted nicest people you could meet having no need for actual aggression in the real world after a couple of hours in the pit with ‘Halford & Co.’ ‘Never the Heroes’ can’t be listened to without thinking of the way the media wrongly painted the band after the completely unfair ‘do it’ reverse message trial in which with all divine justice the band were vindicated. When I hear ‘Evil Never Dies’ as a track on this new album I have no doubt that the band’s stance is a force for good.
Whilst Shakespeare it is not, thank god the band avoided any real temptation to ‘reinvent themselves’ taking the best modern production can offer but having helped to define heavy metal decades ago will never be afraid of who they are or try to rewrite their history as a British institution. Not updated, not improved, just more of what you have come to expect and love. Loud and Proud! Some things are not meant to be messed with. Judas Priest is one.
Lee Aaron, Diamond Baby Blues
If you count the Lee Aaron Project this is Lee Aaron’s twelfth studio album. She is famously a fan of all types of music, but those who admire her rock projects most will be glad to known this is a solid blues/rock album dripping with class.
‘Diamond Baby’ is a song of independence, empowerment, self worth and can apply to anyone who finds themselves abused by any one or any system any where and votes with their feet. Showcasing that Aaron still has a crackin and expressive voice it is thankful that modern production is now able to capture the power of her voice that she demonstrates live. Armed with all of this she is courageous enough to tackle ‘Mistreated’ and change it a little to make it truly her own and an awesome version. Backed by great musicians, (who else could take on Blackmore) Aaron has learned to take charge of her output so she can be sure everything is just as she would want it to be. ‘The Best Thing’ and ‘Hard Road’ deal with the fact that she has been through some less than ideal situations in the music industry, but like the smart cookie she is she has overcome and grown better from every scenario.
‘American High’ is a seemingly light song about enjoying life, but it also takes a crack at an unsatisfactory political system in the USA which seems to satisfy no-one. ‘I am a Woman’ based on Koko Taylor’s version of the Bo Diddley classic rooted in the wonderful world where the rock and roll riff was a new and marvelous thing and manages to revive that magic while delivering a message that is as Lee Aaron as if she wrote it herself. She does indeed write most of her material and always has, however covers sometimes show just what she can do by performance alone while never compromising the message she wants to send.
‘In the Bedroom’ manages to be sexy and empowered at the same time a trait which Aaron has always managed to have. No one pushes this lady around, but she also known how to be a real female. She has always been a little wild, but is also a wife and mother now and ‘Cut Way Back’ deals with that evolution beautifully. ‘My Baby’ shows that underneath everything she is both unconventional and traditional, possible and something she shares with another female icon Marilyn Monroe.
Aaron was famously misrepresented by management in her early days. Take a fresh look at a mature, serious and wonderful talent with a great deal to say.
Stryper, God Damn Evil, Frontiers
Stryper’s twelfth studio album is the controversially titled ‘God Damn Evil’. While the title could be taken different ways and the band insists it is a plea for God to eradicate the evil in the world, this has not prevented outlets like Walmart refusing to sell it. Still controversy never usually hurt album sales and Stryper fans are likely to love the album itself.
‘Take it to the Cross’ is surprising in that it is clearly a much heavier approach particularly vocal wise for the band. However, catchy hook laden ‘Sorry’ made into a panoramic video and chosen as first single is likely to please even the most rigidly trenchant fan who would rather the band didn’t change. Tracks like ‘Lost’ are full of great guitar playing and the highest falsetto proving vocalist Michael Sweet can still deliver in that department and any experimental elements are entirely voluntary and not caused by physical restraints. It is essential for musicians to develop and grow to remain satisfied and the album is a great marrying of the old and the new. Bass duties were carried out by John o’Boyle (Sweet) as Perry Richardson the new official bassist was not free in time for the recordings.
‘God Damn Evil’ the title track is one of the best tracks on the album and should become an anthem for Christian rock if people should perchance to understand rather than rush to judgement. ‘You Don’t Even Know Me’ is very apt given the misunderstanding the band quite often encounter from retail outlets and on social media. However despite everything the band carry on with their heads held high as well they might. The album is undeniably Christian in outlook and execution for those who care and choose to see (see Devil Doesn’t Live Here’) and quotes from the Bible abound for example in ‘The Valley Way’. However, for those who don’t give a toss about Theology it’s still a great set of metal songs for your collection. There’s even a couple of tracks that could simply be taken as love songs (Beautiful and Can’t Live Without Your Love) something to which everyone can relate.
Stryper continue to release high quality albums, seemingly never running out of ideas and energy. It warms the heart to see bands like this refusing to rest on their laurels, unafraid to cross a few boundaries, but still delivering for their fans.
LA Guns, Made in Milan, Frontiers
Recorded at the 2017 Frontiers Music Festival in Italy this live album/DVD comes at an important point in the history of LA Guns when Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns are reunited in a powerful duo that reaches its apotheosis in a live setting. Because of that it is a fantastic time to release this recording just after the triumphant latest studio album ‘ The Missing Peace’.
And the tracks on the album include ‘Speed’ a cracking new track from the new album which on its own proves that the band is back to its original and powerful intensity. Whilst the running order is mostly made up of classic tracks and old favorites the reinvigoration the band feels on being reunited and producing a stormin new album communicates itself right through the older material and from the start of ‘No Mercy’ this is a band on attack. There’s nothing old and tired about this band or its delivery and they are deadly serious and playing no quarter. Don’t bother putting seats in any venue for this one!
And it’s an honest recording too. It’s obvious the vocals are not overdubbed and we are getting the raw band and that is why it’s a great live album. It’s not the studio recording and it’s not meant to be. If you have seen the band especially lately you will understand. This is LA Guns not the Royal Philharmonic and without the rock n roll delivery which demands spontaneous style half the magic of LA Guns would be gone. The recording captures the natural energy and charisma of the band and does not make the mistake of trying to tame the untameable. It also contains features such as Tracii Guns solo spot with a bow which you would never get on a studio recording.
The DVD contains the extra track ‘Bitch is Back’. Otherwise the running order is the same.
LA Guns are a band who have retained their cool as fuck image through a hell of a lot of shit. That’s because they have real passion for what they do. And as that’s most obvious in a live setting, look no further than ‘Made in Milan’.
The Dead Daisies, Burn It Down, Spitfire
This is the Fourth Dead Daisies album, the third with John Corabi and they continue to produce quality commercial hard rock tinged with whisky laden blues.
‘Rise Up’ has something of an anthemic quality to it well suited to Crabby’s voice with Doug Aldrich throwing just the right amount of guitar hero into the mix. And while this album like the track ‘Burn It Down’ is more of a slow burn than a firecracker it has heart and soul with well seasoned crafted songs and killer solos. ‘Judgement Day’ starts off very much in the ‘Forevermore’ era Whitesnake mould and is richer for that indeed Aldrich taking his fine work from that band to this. Marco Mendoza also formerly of Whitesnake gets his turn to show off his cojones in the deep funky vibes of ‘What Goes Around’.
‘Bitch’ gives a harder edge to The Rolling Stones classic, more Rock than their Roll. ‘Set Me Free’ has a slower more soulful approach with some great feelin communicated through the guitar Mr Aldrich knowing just when to show restraint and when to let fly. ‘Dead and Gone’ has an anthemic chant ideally suited to this bands killer live show which like all truly great bands is built around their audience never forgetting who provides their pedestal and with that humility garner absolute devotion from their faithful. The album closes with a joyful cover of the Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ reinforcing the beautiful hippy side to this band that wants to see a better world.
I don’t think this is my favorite Dead Daisies album, but it is certainly another quality offering from a band that is starting to gel into a stable line up, hopefully with many more albums to come.
This fifth album from this outfit (featuring Stuart Smith (known for playing with glam band Sweet) and the originator of this project back in 1999) is an accomplished beast. Heaven and Earth knows why this band is not better known based on this excellent classic rock output. Retaining faultless antenna for the super addictive melody, excellent production and a modern approach takes that stomping heritage and couples it with drive and finesse of a veteran album maker.
‘Hard to Kill’ gets down to business with a racing intro and into an accomplished rich bluesy vocal from Joe Retta keeping the momentum of say ‘Speed King’ with matching organ flourishes galore until we break out into that anthem ‘whoah’ which taps right into all that infectious 70s glam history. There’s a fighting spirit about this album, dripping with experience the lyrics speak to a life well lived and problems we can all relate to, but relates how the human spirit can conquer all. The super expressive vocals are genuine and authentically heart felt. ‘Walk Away’ is straight into an anthem refrain. Somehow they seem to take the heart of Deep Purple, but make it far more commercial crossed with pop sensibilities Purple never had. This combination of the credibility and heritage of Purple means there’s no trace of the superficiality sometimes associated with pop rock of the more glam kind, but we get a knockout when it comes to a melody that drills into the brain. ‘The Game Has Changed’ is a stompalong with real impetus and live potential with social comment marking classic rock as a place for expression and release.
‘Anthem’ as it says on the tin has another mammoth very British chorus and is a call to arms appeal to the crowd in keeping with the metal spirit and positioning H&E as a working man’s band in the spirit of Slade. ‘Hellfire’ reminds of ‘Laughing in Heaven’ from Gillan’s solo period in its storytelling approach and taps the same way into 50s rock n roll.
‘Monster’ and ‘Beautiful Monsters’ remind of 90s hard rock band Skin with its slightly funky approach and vocal with that Jimmy Barnes feel, although the latter breaks into a organ passage at one point which is pure Purple. Bad Man has a real statement bluesy guitar start conjuring up a gunslinger and with a great atmospheric sound with vocals dripping with RNB heritage ( but somehow they still pack that Hammond in).
‘LA Blues’ reminds us that this band are LA based despite the British roots of Stuart Smith remaining indelibly on the sound and taps into Chicago blues for some swagger and roll. There’s also some honky tonk on ‘Till it’s over’ and elements of a Skid Row type ballad on ‘Bleed Me Dry’.
It’s tempting to say ‘Heaven and Earth’ wouldn’t exist without Deep Purple such is the influence of that band on the sound. It’s well known how Purple took Stuart Smith under their wing. But coupled with an unerring commercial sensibility and a crowd singalong chant never present in Purple’s sound ‘Heaven and Earth’ are cutting their own hybrid sound and mass appeal approach and have produced a really memorable album which combined with other influences is by no means a repeat of anything others did.
Warrior Soul, Back on The Lash
This eighth studio album from Warrior Soul is all out metal punk with punch you in the face guitar, nihilistic lyrics that fans of the first few albums will recognise (before record company politics led the band to self sabotage and, arguably they were blown off course for a while). The original focus of the band is back, producing an album which is all killer no filler from start to finish.
‘American Idol’ is more of an extended intro than a song and is full of attitude and let’s you know this album is designed to kick your ass. ‘I get F’d up’ is, in fact, about despair about the way the world is going rather than a party song, but it’s right on the money with superb rock n roll guitar and is much cleverer than the title suggests. In fact, as the politically orientated artwork for the album shows there’s a lot more to the album than titles such as ‘Back on the Lash’ suggest and they all have super punching power and remarkable energy and accessibility, reminding of earlier rather than later Warrior Soul. Kory Clarke’s voice still has a recognisable distinct timbre all his own. It’s rough, but it is right for the material and still more than carries a tune and live, the songs coupled with his undeniable charisma, fit right in with the old classics more than pulling their weight. ‘Thrill Seeker’ has long passages of passionate blistering riffs that give the material a youthful tone. The professionalism is veteran no doubt, but the enthusiasm seems like they are just out of the traps on a race to oblivion.
‘I’ve Got the Rock’ and ‘That’s How We Roll’ appear on first listen to be basic rock n roll anthems, but they’re memorable and full of strut and pose. Arguably this album looks deceptively simple at first sight, but its cunningly brilliant, in that it’s not just a great rock n roll record full of devil may care lyrics, it’s also incredibly worldly wise.
Released to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary this fourth studio album is ten brand new songs written by the all original members and it’s pleasing to report this is an album which will keep old school fans of the band very happy indeed. Melodic hard rock in the tradition of Y&T, big energy, Bay Area sound, if you are going to wait this long for a band to bring out a new studio album it helps if it is this good and true to the original sound.
‘Crash and Burn’ has an insistent urgency about it, the subject matter being a car chase. It’s a high energy start, but with tracks ‘Fool on Fire’ and ‘Tears’ we know we are back with the Babylon AD of old as the slightly slower tempo allows all the nuances of Derek Davis’ voice to reassuringly show themselves in the emotion of the song and extended guitar solos give us all the elements of what made the band originally great. ‘One Million Miles’ is a love song subtlety wrapped up in a catchy radio friendly sound. ‘She likes to give it’ is a fantasy song dressed respectably as a song about the girl at home, but the throbbing pulse of desire written right through it illustrates the eternal dilemma of the travelling man. Babylon AD have always taken an uncompromising look at the price to pay for anything at the end of the day perfectly exemplified by ‘Rags to Riches’. It’s not a world of fairytale endings, but that why there’s always been more depth to their songs than your average party style sunset strip band. ‘I’m No good for You’ is about the human propensity to want the opposite of what is good for them and the haunting and unusual guitar melodies show us just how good Babylon Ad are, not only in lyrics, at putting their finger on the agony and ecstasy of human existence also with the atmosphere their music creates. Even their party song ‘Saturday Night’ sees through to the core of what is really going on. ‘Don’t Tell me Tonight’ is about how corruption even for the sweet is inevitable in our modern world. If you don’t like your truth sugar coated, but prefer the grit of the streets, this is for you.
While their first album is still my favourite and has a special place in my heart it is great to see the band enhancing their name with a sterling effort adding positively to the band’s legacy and ensuring a healthy vibrant touring future.
Consisting of two CDs, this release from Alice contains twelve new songs, two of those performed live by the original Alice Cooper band and six live bonus tracks of classics from his touring band. It took us a little while to get into the studio recordings on this release, but after a few listens we really began to appreciate it as a fine album. It is more like Alice of the ‘Steven’ era than of the ‘Poison’ era, perhaps unsurprising due to the presence of the original band, but with the same fine axemanship we have come to associate with him due to the parade of great guitarists he has now had in the band. Featuring special guests such as Billy Gibbons and Roger Glover, it is also peppered with stardust throughout.
Opener ‘Paranormal’ is an atmospheric start, a slower track punctuated with riffs, it’s a creepy number about a voyeur. ‘Dead Flies’, almost more spoken than sung, with some masterful guitar playing, is a warning about just how rotten human society can be. ‘Fireball’ is a 70s style rocker with emotionally charged guitar, vocal effects and an organ contribution by Producer Bob Ezrin. ‘Paranoiac' is very typically Alice on the subject of mental illness it has that opinionated intense urging typical of his live vocal work and some haunting guitar. ‘Fallen in Love’ has a southern rock swing with Billy Gibbons easily recognisable by the boogie woogie feel of his work. ‘Dynamite Road’ is a fast paced rock n roll tale of a party on the road gone bad. ‘Private Public Breakdown’ would be a straightforward soft rock number, but the subject matter, delivered with the insouciance of the insane gives it that Alice edge. ‘Holy Water’ has the feel of the Hollywood Vampires material Alice did with Johnny Depp and with a horns section has a bit of a feel of a Movie Soundtrack. ‘Rats’ is more typical rock n roll number with that ambivalent relationship that Alice has with his audience written through it like a stick of rock. The last studio track ‘The Sound of A’ is a real surprise with a strong Pink Floyd narcotic influenced feel.
Bonus CD starts with the two new tracks played by the original band. ‘Genuine American Girl’ is a parody of the American cheerleader culture and could easily have been a Rocky Horror Show track.
‘You and All Your Friends’ is a cheerful sounding song about the power of the disenfranchised exercised through violence with Alice, master of the uncomfortable subject matter going close to the bone as usual. These first two tracks with the original band are a little less metal than ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’, ‘Under My Wheels’, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, ‘Feed My Frankenstein’, ‘Only Women Bleed’ and ‘School’s Out’ the classics from the 2016 touring band that follow. While it’s nice to have these excellently executed (geddit!) live tracks this release is really all about the new material. Back with this really quite diverse album Alice shows he’s not quite the one trick pony he’s sometimes painted.
Wraith - Revelation
Ice Rain Records / Cargo Records
As record reviewers, it's our honour to receive a far amount of stuff, usually far ahead of release dates so that we can do our thing and write something about them, hopefully leading to people wanting to buy said records based on our words.
Upon receiving this one, it sat in my downloads for a while due to me thinking it was a thrash oriented release. It was only upon finally hearing this record did I discover just how woefully wrong I was. This is hard rock of the highest order!
From the opening riffs of first track 'Lifeline', you are put on notice that gem is here to kick you right in the fun bags! It's riffs and vocals galore, a literal hard rock feast of sounds. Almost immediately, one if reminds of bands like RATT, Y & T, Accept, and UFO.
'Dream Steeler' is the first of the tracks that will remind one of classic era RATT. 'Under The Hammer' is a monster cut that has classic Michael Schenker style riffs throughout it. It also features Pete Way on bass. 'Leaving Me Again' slows things down just a bit for a power ballad (the key word here being POWER), as it still a huge sounding tune with a ripping guitar solo.
'No Respect' is a heavier cut built around a raging bass line and some heavy duty drumming. Singer Coggin really shines here with some big time vocals, as well.
The tune 'Invasion' could easily have been a classic cut on any RATT record from the past as it has all the great elements that make them such a classic band. One could easily hear Stephen Pearcy singing this one. Singer Ryan Coggin was one considered for the lead singer position in RATT but decided to join this band instead.
'Revelation' is a short theatrical spoken word piece that serves as the intro for 'Human Hater', the heaviest tune here, reminding one of something you might hear on an Accept or Judas Priest record. It's a big, brutish tune with double time rhythm and vocals that could near melt iron.
The record wraps up with the tune 'Hunted', another tune that screams classic sounding RATT mixed with dashes of Y & T.
After repeated listens to this record, there's not a band tune on this record. This record is an amalgamation of everything that is great about hard rock. This thing is built to be played at maximum volume. It's 40 minutes of wide open, foot on the throttle rock n roll that is steeped in ripping guitars, thunderous rhythms, and vocals to die for.
This is easily one of the best records this year and maybe even the past couple years. If you're a fan of hard rock, there is absolutely no excuse not to have this in your collection. It's really THAT good. I'm still kicking myself for taking so long to get around to listening to this.
5 stars (out of 5!)
CJ “Music God” Plain of Auditory Riot Radio