Heat, Into the Great Unknown, earMusic
Heat set themselves an ultimatum not to do any more live shows till they had a new album and this is the result of a trip to Thailand to record in the studio. Amazingly enough despite the distractions they pulled it off. After this group’s history of strong melodic hard rock albums it is perhaps not surprising that this their fifth studio album continues their fine legacy while going somewhere new.
Starting with ‘Bastard of Society’ the lyrics are designed to shock and since the song is about staying off the treadmill of 9 to 5 and shakin society up a little it is designed to have that impact. It has great energy and pace, soaring vocals, singalong chants, driving riffs and a good guitar solo. ‘Redefined’ and ‘Time On Our Side’ are about a love plateau and how to overcome it once the first phase of love is over, they are soft rock tracks but with clever structure, rhythms and rhyme it’s quality songwriting with some beautifully sung high notes.
‘In the Eye of the Storm’ is an epic song about the quiet periods between fights for a volatile couple with some operatic and fine vocal work it’s emotional stuff. ‘Shit City’ is about a rough period for the band, kicked out of their rehearsal space, sewage drowned their gear in a new one and just at the start of their self imposed live exile to try to concentrate on the new album. So there’s an angry energy about the song and some passionate Viking screams. Sometimes bad things lead to creativity. ‘Best of the Broken’ is about how rough the music industry can be. With rougher vocals than the usual smooth aor approach to match it is also an outlet for explosive energies. ‘Blind Leads the Blind’ has some apocalyptic keyboards and is about the world going to hell. Passionate guitar playing and vocals lead a challenge to the human race to wake up and change. ‘We Rule’ is a song about brief liaisons on tour that another place and time could be love, but because of circumstances never will be anything but a memory. It’s written in a grand ballad style that reminds a little of X Japan and got that band legions of young female fans. ‘Do You Want It?’ another song about sex has an unusual melody and was apparently was inspired by an incident in Thailand. Experiences are one thing recording there is good for no doubt. Final song ‘Into the Great Unknown’ has a double meaning of the human race about to become an interplanetary species and the band seeking to do something new and not just make the same albums again. Is it the end..or just the beginning? This is a fine album and we are sure it’s just the end of the beginning.
From the topics of these songs this has not been an easy period for Heat, involving a lot of soul searching and analysis of their situation. One thing for sure out of bad situations comes growth and the band have produced a worthy album and achieved their goal of taking a step forward rather than staying in the same place.
Mr Big, Defying Gravity, Frontiers
Recorded in six days in Los Angeles by all original members, Eric Martin, Billy Sheehan, Paul Gilbert and Pat Torpey (albeit that Pat had a little help on the drums due to his recent diagnosis of Parkinson from Matt Starr) its great to see Mr Big back and having so much fun in the videos for the singles for the album (both drummers interchanging which while necessary doubles as an entertaining video gimmick). In this their ninth studio album the band have proved they can still come up with the goods even if they set themselves an extremely tight schedule in the studio. The deluxe version of the CD comes with a DVD of the making of the album bringing the process of making the album alive for fans.
‘Open your Eyes’ reminded us in style of recent well crafted songs by Richie Kotzen who did, of course replace original member Paul Gilbert for a while in this band and this first track reveals a slew of influences from soul and funk behind the scenes (Billy Sheehan now, of course, plays with Richie in the Winery Dogs with strong similar influences). However, the solo from Paul Gilbert is pure metal shredding making sure the track stays firmly labelled rock. Title track ‘Defying Gravity’ is even more diverse introducing middle eastern style melodies and syncopation similar to those used recently by Kip Winger and House Of Lords and, certainly keeps things interesting. The chorus of this track, however, is pure straight down the line infectious aor. ‘Everybody needs a little trouble’ has a little bit of jazz and swing, in the rhythms, but nothing serves to supplant Mr Gilbert’s rock style solo we are pleased to see. “Damn I’m in love again’ is an acoustic number in the skiffle tradition and is the closest to the ‘To Be With You’ era so far on the album. ‘Mean To Me’ about a ball breaking female is nice word play with ‘mean’ also meaning cruel in the context of the song and has some complicated jazz style playing behind the simpler main melody. ‘Nothing Bad (Bout Feelin Good)’ has the feel of a song you’ve heard before as it is so easy on the ear, but it’s just a feature of how well the song is written with some nice sixties style harmonies in the chorus. ‘Forever and Back’ is a big sounding ballad with nice Brian May style guitar breaks. ‘She’s all coming back to me now’ is an easygoing number with chart sensibilities with another excellent Queen style guitar solo. ‘1992’ about the time of the huge success enjoyed by the band has some musician’s musician type playin sitting as a sophisticated layer behind a sixties/seventies influenced commercial chorus. ‘Nothing at all’ is a funk influenced track with a Beatles influenced chorus and some blues guitar. ‘Be Kind’ is a nod to the fifties big band vocals wise but this is combined with a Zeppelinesque guitar twist, a blues guitar interlude, some Robert Plant style seventies vocals mid track and ends in a free for all jam. Nobody can say this album does not pack it all in!
Like a lot of top class musicians Mr Big clearly are interested in many forms of music, they have, however, successfully synthesised these influences into an album aimed at their longstanding fans without plowing furrows where they have already been. The result is fresh without being too much of a shock to the system for loyal fans.
Andrew the Axeman checking in:
Talk about a band who was late to the party - the Krayola Kids came on to the sunset strip scene in Hollywood with the right kind of attitude and the right kind of songs to take it by storm, but too bad it was 1991 already when they formed. But now, thanks to FnA Records, much of the material that would have been on their record 'The House that Glam Built' is available - but it is limited to 100 copies, so once you are done reading this, act fast!
The opening track "Krayola Rock n Roll" is their anthem and sets the tone for the rest of the record - this band was all about the fun of it all, having a good time and it shows. A really cool note is that Poison guitarist CC Deville was a big mentor to the band, helping them with their sound and their image. They definitely wear those influences on their sleeve - you can hear the rawness of Poison's early years, the hook-filled prowess of Pretty Boy Floyd and the trippiness of Enuff Z'Nuff at certain points throughout. The Z'nuff comparison is very evident on the track, "Sweet Pea". Songs like "Bitches N Ladies" will be stuck in your head for days and ballads like "Havin' a Friend" and "Without Your Love" could have been all over the radio. Rockers like "Don't Be a Fake" is also a favorite and rounds off the record with a bang by way of "Big Shot".
Vocalist Krayola Kelly, guitarist Pepsi Pop, bassist Holly Daze and drummer Tommi Tune lived and breathed the glory days of the strip and it is captured perfectly on this release. For all you 'hidden gem' collectors out there like me, the Krayola Kids are calling your name!
Radiation Romeos, Self Titled, Frontiers
Fronted by Parramore ‘Perry’ McCarty (Warrior, Atomic Playboys) on vocals with Dag Hayne (guitars), Jogi Spittka (bass) and Gereon Hofmann on drums this is another Frontiers super project aimed at the classic rock/eighties market and it’s an album we enjoyed as they do this sort of thing really quite well.
Title track ‘Radiation Romeos’ comes out of the trap with strong riffs and vocals, a big catchy chorus and shredding solos with ticks in all the boxes. ‘Ocean Drive’ is a highly produced road song designed to inspire a convertible ride down the Pacific Coast highway with your hair flyin in the wind and it has the desired feel good factor. ‘Bad Bad Company’ is heavier with a grittier vocal.’Mystic Mountain’ is a little Dio-like in themes and intention although the guitar work is its best feature. ‘Like an Arrow’ is a ballad lighter in tone and is rescued from saccharine sweetness by some excellent searing vocal work and some Dire Straits style atmospheric licks. ‘Promised Land’ is quite House Of Lords with a pomp and majesty feel and diverse cultural influences. ‘Castaways’ has a singalong traditional English feel a bit like some recent work from ‘Ten’. ‘Ghost Town’ has nice harmonised guitars and a good guitar solo, but is one of the weaker songs on the album. ‘Til the end of Time’ doesn’t set the album alight either and maybe should have hit the cutting room floor too. However, closing tracks ‘On the Tight Rope’ and ‘Monstertraxx’ raise the bar again with some inspired vocal work or shredding and stronger songs
Overall a pretty good album with quite a few tracks that might make your digital music collection edit. A strong debut with some material we really liked. Not every track’s a stunner, but it’s a high average score and certainly worth a good long visit.
Janet Gardner, self titled, Pavement
Not constrained by the history of Vixen, Janet Gardner has released this her first solo album with a slightly heavier more modern direction reminiscent of Halestorm. Janet is still very much a part of Vixen and their much loved sound, but in the medium of a solo album she has been able to express other parts of herself. It is fresh and exciting and, while we would also love to hear a new album from Vixen, this will do very nicely in the interim! Reinvigorated by her marriage with Justin James she collaborates with him on this record, created while Vixen were on hiatus due to a line up change. We are glad she seized this opportunity to produce this awesome new album!
An immediate in your face metal chant, it’s a take no prisoner attitude from the first with storming first track ‘Rat Hole’. The lyric ‘dirty motherfuckers’ tells you immediately that this is a new approach from the beautiful foxy lady as she shows you her teeth and why she has such a reputation for her powerful voice. A heavy chugging riff indicates the masculine presence of Justin James with slight thrash influences, but the chorus is pure get under your skin 80s commercial hard rock. ‘Hippycrite’ opens with a heavier guitar riff and has a pop influenced chorus and drum machine style beat set against a lyric with a streak of anger and 80s style guitar shredding that makes it undoubtedly rock and likely to appeal to all of Janet’s previous fans. ‘If you want me’ combines a lighter well crafted vocal melody which is quite Vixen in approach with a driving grinding riff and an 80s style guitar break in a genius something for everybody combination. ‘Candle’ is more of a ballad and love song and could easily have been a Vixen record were it not for a Steve Stevens style interlude where Justin James intercedes with a bit of testosterone fuelled fast paced burst of pure ‘look at me’ guitar energy. ‘Your Problem Now’ is a strong hard rocker with Janet singing at full throttle reminding of Smashed Gladys, Saraya and Lizzy Hale who can belt a tune out to rival the boys anyday. ‘Let it be Over’ is an anti war song with an awesome passionate guitar solo like one of those in a great Michael Jackson song (in the days when guitar heroes lifted Jackson’s songs) and strikes a great balance in the vocals between gentle and peaceful to suit the message, but with a moment of Janet letting rip with full force to indicate the anger against the senseless waste of life.
The apocalyptic guitar passages in ‘Lost’ give this track a nineties edge while retaining a strong 80s sensibility in the vocal delivery. ‘The Grind’ has Janet catching the 90s groove for parts of the vocals taking the cue from the heavy bass line, with some lighter 80s style vocals thrown in for contrast. “Best Friend’ is a pretty acoustic ballad and an indication of the happiness and bliss of new love. ‘The Good or the Bye’ is a good little barnstormer with a witty lyric and southern rock influence executed with rock n roll style guitar a la Junkyard and whisky laden vocals a la Britny Fox or classic Cinderella.
Janet has delivered an album taking some of the great aspects of Vixen, but combined with the masculine energy of her husband has resulted in producing something palpably different. Refreshing and new, while we can’t wait for the next Vixen album, we loved this opportunity to see this particular vixen with a small ‘v’ produce something with a little more bite.
Pre-order via iTunes right here and get the new single 'Rat Hole' - officially out on August 18th.