CD Review: Billy Sherwood – Citizen

CD Review: Billy Sherwood – Citizen
Frontiers Music srl
All Access Rating: A-

Billy Sherwood - Citizen 2015
Filling the shoes of the late, great Chris Squire as the bassist in Yes is an almost impossible task. And yet, Billy Sherwood – handpicked by Squire as his replacement in the legendary progressive-rock outfit – isn't shying away from taking on other herculean projects, such as his latest LP Citizen.

Like all the scripts from "Quantum Leap" all rolled into one sprawling concept album, the Frontiers Music srl release Citizen imagines "a lost soul reincarnated into various periods of history" that isn't Scott Bakula. Still, the cast of Citizen is impressive, as Sherwood draws on the talents of prog-rock innovators Geoff Downes, Steve Hackett, Steve Morse, Rick Wakeman and Jordan Rudess – just to name a few – to bring his vision to life. What's more, Squire actually plays on the triumphant and expansive title track, thought to be his final recording.

Sherwood's "citizen" finds himself either caught up in a series of cataclysmic world events, such as the Great Depression and World War I, or witnessing the birth of paradigm-shifting scientific discoveries, once as a friend to Galileo or another time as an assistant to Charles Darwin. All the while, Citizen's sweeping, slow-developing melodies, layers of harmonies, soft instrumental interplay and breathtaking, cinematic beauty seem attuned to the surreal artwork that graces its cover in standout tracks "No Man's Land," "Just Galileo and Me" and "The Great Depression."

More watery and ominous, "Empire" turns starry and its choruses grow wider, while "Trail Of Tears" – a song about the forced migration of Native American peoples in the U.S. – is an edgier puzzle of sharp confusion sussed out in a manner signifying rage at the ruinous cruelty and injustice of such a monstrous policy. Lighter and more lively, with some splashes of funk thrown into the mix, "Age of the Atom" practically dances about, as Sherwood's bass lines, so plush everywhere else, offer contrasting melodic forays, but in the end, it's the accessibility and drive of "Man and the Machine" that wins the day. Not so different from the music of Yes, the compositions here, while cut from the same cloth, are more lush and elegantly designed, even if Citizen does tend to infuriatingly dawdle at a somewhat leisurely pace. That won't matter to those with a lot of time on their hands; their patience will be rewarded with an immersive experience, both lyrically and musically. If Citizen is any indication, Squire has left Yes in good hands with his protege.
– Peter Lindblad

The stars are out for Martin Turner

Wishbone Ash founder talks new studio album, making of 'Argus'
By Peter Lindblad

Martin Turner
Feet still firmly planted in the rich, fertile ground of progressive-rock, Martin Turner also has his head in the stars these days.

A founding member of Wishbone Ash, one of the U.K.'s most internationally renown prog-rock acts of the '70s, Turner was the band's lead vocalist, bassist and songwriter. Instrumental to the band's success, Turner's seductively melodic bass lines and intelligent, deeply philosophical lyrics were just as distinctive as Wishbone Ash's innovative and beautifully sculpted twin-guitar leads and vocal harmonies.

Turner's artistry was a crucial factor in the success of such classic early '70s LPs as Wishbone Ash, Pilgrimage, Wishbone Four and There's The Rub – not to mention 1972's crowning achievement Argus, still considered one of the touchstones of Britain's progressive-rock movement. Experiments in musical direction and personnel changes occurred, stunting Wishbone Ash's momentum. Finally, things came to a head in 1980, when – under pressure from the record label to make more commercial music – three of the other members told Turner they wanted a new frontman, leading to a divorce between Turner and the group he'd started.

All these years later, Turner has released a new studio album entitled Written In The Stars, an album full of astronomical allusions and beguiling, shape-shifting melodies that he seems to have snatched from the heavens. Working off the templates he drew up for Wishbone Ash way back when, Turner and company have crafted an appealing set of diverse and engaging songs that merge elements of folk, classical and rock into a sound that's both fresh and familiar.

After spending so much of his time recently on the road performing the music of Wishbone Ash with his touring band, consisting of guitarists Danny Willson and Misha Nikolic and drummer Tim Brown, Turner seems reinvigorated on the Cherry Red Records release Written in the Stars, and he was eager to talk about his latest record and his days in Wishbone Ash in this interview.

I know you've been touring the classics of Wishbone Ash recently. How did that influence the making of this album?
Martin Turner: Well, really I’m just doing what I’ve always done. I mean, in the ‘70s, I was the main songwriter really and singer, so what I’m doing now really is just more of the same – especially, for instance, the harmony guitar thing, which was one of Wishbone Ash’s identifiable … well, they call it a signature sound, don’t they now? The sound you recognize immediately. Because I was brought up on classical music, it was very easy for me to sing what I call pseudo-classical melodies, which if you sang sounded good with harmonies. But if you transposed it onto guitar and then put together and sang harmonies to it, and then transposed that onto guitar, then you ended up with the harmony guitar that Wishbone Ash was known for, which was very distinct. It wasn’t what a guitar player would normally work out. And the reason for that was because it started out as a vocal melody. And you know, we still do that now really.

Martin Turner - Written in
the Stars 2015
Just listening to this album, and Wishbone Ash’s stuff was always this way, too, do you feel like this album has a real accessibility to it, along with some of the complexities you’re known for?
MT: What, the album? I don’t know. The press has been good. Everyone’s been making fairly positive comments. Some people love the album. What it is is another thing which is in the Wishbone Ash tradition as an album, where you’re not recording a couple of songs that are maybe singles and then you’ve got a bunch of filler. All the songs are decent songs. I’ll put it that way. You know, if people like it, great. Good for them. I can’t make that happen, but if they do, then I’ll be very happy.     

Did making this album remind you of making any of the Wishbone Ash albums?
MT: Well, they’re all different really. I mean, they were all made in different locations. We were all over the place, sometimes in America and sometimes in Britain. Yeah, if you remember back in the olden days, as my children call it (laughs), there was something called a record and actually a record is quite a good title for it because it’s a record of where you’re at at that time and what’s going on at that time and given place. With this album, because I’ve got a band and we’ve been for the last God knows how many years playing mainly the Wishbone Ash catalog and there’s a lot of songs to choose from, any song that we had a look at we seemed to be able to make it work. So, I kind of made the mistake of thinking of these guys as performers primarily – not so much as creative people. But when we got down to it, I was amazed that between my drummer (Tim Brown) and Danny Willson, one of the guitar players, they really surprised me with their creativity. And when you’ve got that going on as a band, it’s great because you’re feeding off each other and inspiring each other. And the process really worked well.

It sounds like a lot of these songs came together in the studio then?
MT: No, I think with Tony and with me and the other guys, too, we tend to make what we call sketches. It’s like a pre-drawing, and then when you go into the studio, you want to make it into a full Technicolor, stereophonic experience. So, yeah, you can do that on anything really. You can do that on your iPod, a cassette machine, a small, multi-track recorder – that’s the way I tend to work. The other guys they’ve got little 8-track recorders that will fit in your pocket just about. So everyone makes sketches, brings them into the studio, and then we take it from there really – see what everyone can contribute. And the process on this album was very raw, which is why we want to get back into the studio and do some more.

I wanted to ask you about some of the songs on the album, and one that I really liked a lot was “Lovers.” It’s really a nice folk-pop song. How did that one come about?
MT: Well, that one was written about my current wife (laughs), who at one stage … well, we kind of fell in love. The problem was I was already married to someone else. I asked her to leave me to sort my life out. And she got shacked up with another musician (laughs), quite a well-known one. I best not mention who. No, she’ll be angry with me, but I would still see her now and again – you know, check on her to see how she was doing. Make sure that this dude was looking after her. And basically, that’s what the song is about, while all the time, I had this feeling we were meant to be together, and that’s the way it turned out. She’s sitting in the next room right now. And we’ve been together a long time.

How about making “The Beauty of Chaos”? That has a real Western feel to it.
MT: Yes, really I wanted to try and imagine a kind of musical interpretation of the heavens, the stars. You see these phenomenal pictures that they come up with nowadays, astronomical arrays that are looking up at the heavens. I mean, when you look at some other galaxy where stars have exploded and there’s this huge wave of gas in the air and fragments … I mean, from where we’re looking at it, it looks absolutely beautiful. But if you were actually in there in the middle of it, it would be complete chaos. The juxtaposition of that really, how beautiful it looks from a distance and how crazy it must be if you’re in the middle of it. So, what I was trying to do was create a musical interpretation of that, as the kind of opening of the album.

I suppose the same could be said of “Vapor Trail” and “The Lonely Star,” these very celestial songs.
MT: Yes, this again. I mean, the thing with “The Beauty of Chaos,” a couple of people walked in the studio and one guy said to me, “The guy who’s playing that guitar sounds like he’s drunk,” which is exactly what I asked the guitar player to do. I went, “No, no, no … it’s all about chaos.” (laughs) Sorry, you asked about “Vapor Trail” and “The Lonely Star.”

MT: Well again … I mean, “The Lonely Star” is an instrumental, and it’s a song that mainly came from Danny. It’s a song but an instrumental, too. It’s a tie-in with the rest of the album, just on the star theme really. And the great thing about it was that as he was putting the thing together, and … because it was an instrumental and there were no vocals, he just wanted a little bit of speech in there somewhere saying, “The lonely star.” And he was at home actually, my guitar player Danny, trying to put it together and couldn’t get it to sound right, and then his little lad walked in. He’s 7 years old and asked him what he was doing. He said, “I’m saying, ‘The lonely star.’ I tell you what. Why don’t you have a go?’” And he did. The boy spoke it kind of low, he kind of whispered it. And we heard it, and we stuck it on the track. It sounded like it really fit it. And that’s the only vocal on it – three words (laughs).

Martin Turner was a founding member of
Wishbone Ash, serving as the lead
vocalist, bassist and songwriter
It sounds like the making of this was a real collaborative process.
MT: Yeah, yeah, yeah … it was a delight. You know, hard and long … I think getting all the songs together and the recording process, because I wanted to try a live room, and we did that, and it sounded okay. But we wanted to try another way to see if it would sound better, so we transferred to a radio stage studio room. And we changed the mic-ing of the drums, so that we recorded the drums as kind of one big piece, rather than trying to individually mic everything. And that changed the equation and made it sound good, but the whole thing was nine months. It’s a bit like having a baby, sort of like having a baby.

You mentioned your guitar players. In what way do they remember you of when you heard Andy (Powell) and Ted (Turner) for the first time play together?
MT: Well, you know the world is full of great guitar players. There’s so many of them around, and they have a little bit of a tendency to be technicians. They’re performers, but if you can find the guys who can get creative and have got the patience for it, the ability to do that, which the two guys who are with me now … Danny and Misha (Nikolic), they’re both what I call creative musicians. They can think in terms of the song and what’s right, rather than trying to play a bunch of licks. But, the world is full of good guitar players. There’s so many of them out there.
What was the most important factor in Wishbone Ash’s ascent in the early ‘70s?
MT: It was partly the time. We were all young lads. I think we were fairly unusual. We were signed to an American record label, Universal in Los Angeles. And, indeed, we had an American manager (Miles Copeland III). He lived in England, but he was very much an American. So from day one, we went backwards and forwards and worked our way up from ground zero to becoming successful in both the European market and also in the States. In fact, in the early days in America, I can remember a lot of people thinking we were an American band. And then with me talking to them, they realized we were English (laughs). But, it was the time. We were young guys. We didn’t have kids or mortgages and were free to work all hours of the day and night, which we did – we regularly did six-week tours in America.

And I think we accomplished a lot by playing live, really. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a tour in the U.S., but you’re talking six weeks where you’re playing virtually every night. And, when you’re in a new city each day, you fly in and all you really see is the airport, the hotel and the gig. I mean, you end up not knowing where the hell you are (laughs). It’s quite … you know, you have to be the kind of person who can deal with that. Some people walk into a hotel room and they can’t figure out how the bloody tap works, and it freaks them out. Other people like me, I’m getting down on my knees and trying to figure out how is this designed? This is interesting (laughs). So, you know, it varies. We were very good at that, the original band with Ted Turner. I think we had – what would you call it? – a newness, a freshness about our approach to music. We dabbled a lot in folk music, especially jazz but mainly rock, and we had a great time doing it. And really, the Argus album that went out in 1972 was very popular. I think it got “Album of the Year” award in Britain. People loved that album, and they’ve bought it ever since then.

Was that the most fully realized version of what Wishbone Ash was all about?
MT:  Yeah, it’s probably the most loved album of ours, and the sales reflect that really.

A shot of Martin Turner
performing live
Was it an easy album to make? Did it come together smoothly?
MT: It was a strange one. I spent a lot of time working on it, and there were big, big themes – struggling with the concept of time. We live in a world that’s confined by time and space. "Sometime World," "Time Was" … these things. And then the idea of war – young men. Why is it that these old warmongers seem to be able to harness the energy – what I call “kill-f**k” energy – of young men and cause wars all over the place? I wrote the song “Warrior,” which was very much about that. And being a typical Libran, I thought, “Well, wait a minute. People will think I’m advocating it. I need to write another song to counter-balance it. So I got stuck into "Throw Down the Sword," which is kind of a peace song really, and the two of them fit together like a glove. And “The King Will Come,” that was another peace song which is basically pretty much straight out of the Bible and a Muslim book – not word for word, but the idea of a savior coming to rescue the world. So that was the idea.

Again, I’m not advocating it or saying it must be right. I’m just putting it out there as an idea, and then the song that probably was the most commercial-sounding tune was a song called “Blowin’ Free,” which I’d actually put together the lyric in the ‘60s, late ‘60s, about a Swedish girl I’d met. And we were kind of fascinated by each other, but it was like she’d come from another world to me. I mean, I was like a little rock ‘n’ roll rat, staying up half the night, diving in and out of clubs and bars. She was a healthy Swedish girl with beautiful hair and skin, who went riding, and her dad was a professor – you know, it was like, “How the hell did we ever get together?” (laughs) And I wrote this strange song about it called “Blowin’ Free,” but the thing of it, the mood of it, was celebratory, it was up … you know, it was a joyous little anthem. And that had quite an impact on everyone else. Incredibly, when we were in the studio and we were putting all this stuff together, we tried to record that song a couple of times before, and I couldn’t get it to sound right. And finally, we recorded it on the Argus sessions, and you can hear if you listen to the bass on it, it is so pushy. It’s like an engine. It’s kind of saying, “This song will bloody well work this time.” I’m really pushing the song along, and it sounded really good. And the producer said to me, “Martin, listen, we’ve been traveling about this tune, and it’s really good, but it doesn’t really belong on the album.” And I said, “What?! You’ve got to be joking.” And he said, “Well, the other stuff is serious … you know, ‘Warrior,’ ‘Throw Down the Sword,’ ‘The King Will Come’ and this one is a totally different mood.” And I said, “Yeah, well, that’s exactly why it needs to be on the album. It’s not all serious. It’s like a counter-balance. It’s a bit of a relief.” So I had to fight to get it on the album. I said, “It’s going on there.”   

How do you think the first two albums, Wishbone Ash and Pilgrimage, prepared you to make Argus? Was there a progression with those two?
MT: Yeah, I think we were working with a producer called Derek Lawrence, who – I don’t know if you remember a song from the ‘60s called “Hush”? That was a song by Deep Purple, it was a single, a pop song really. We did a gig in the very early days supporting Deep Purple in England, and I noticed Ritchie Blackmore was really checking us out. He was watching the band for a long time. Never said anything, but clearly, he liked the band because he rang up his producer, Derek Lawrence, and told him we were a really good band and to check us out, and he loved the band and said he knew a guy in L.A. who was looking to sign bands out of A&R for MCA/Universal, and that’s actually how we got our record deal. So Derek was written in on that, and he produced our first three albums. And we also used the same engineer, who went on to become a producer in his own right. That was Martin Birch. And they basically were a really, really good team. And we worked together great with them, and that team did the first three albums. And then we did everything differently on the fourth album, which sounds poor. Although it sounded great in the studio, when it finally came out on record, it lacked balls and sounded very small for some reason. I think the engineer made a mistake there somehow. But yeah, it was a good team in the early days.
With your bass playing you’ve always had a really melodic style. Do you think that’s a lost art among bass players these days?
MT: Yeah, I, as I said to you earlier, if you’ve been brought up on classical music and that sort of thing, and then singing in the choir as a lad, it gives you a very strong sense of melody. To me, music, if it’s going to last, if it’s going to have any longevity, any long-term appeal, it needs to contain memorable melodic content. I don’t know. I mean, I’m analyzing it, but when I write music, that sort of thing just seems to come naturally. It’s just something that I do, and with my bass playing, it’s the same way. I don’t know if it necessarily needs to be a melody on its own, if you know what I mean. But sometimes if I’m stuck for a bass line, I’ll resort to again singing it, working it out vocally and then figuring it out on the guitar. You know, everyone has their own way of doing things. That’s what I do.
The last question I have for you. What worlds are left for you to conquer in music or maybe outside of music?
MT: Well, one of the reasons I got into music in the very, very days is because I wanted to see the world, and I’ve certainly done that, because I’ve traveled the world and played North America, South America, Mexico, Japan, Australia, all the countries of Europe – except I’ve not been to Russia yet. I was in Moscow airport en route to somewhere, but I would like to see Russia. It’s such a huge country in the world and I particularly would like to shore up on Russian music – Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff. I’d love to go there one day and check them out. So that’s an important thing for me, and still today, I love traveling. We were just in Holland last week, and we had a great time out there, great to meet the local people, make contact. It was lovely. That’s the main thing, and then obviously, as much as I like getting out on the road, I’m also a big-time studio man. I love working in the studio. I did it for years and years when I was off the road, and that’ something that’s really important to me. But, away from music, I have other interests. I like car racing. I like reading books.

I’ve got a couple of fantastic old 17th century books that I bought years ago that were written in Old English about the history of the kings and queens and the courts in England ... they’re a heavy go. Love reading stuff like that. And other stuff, like I’ve become fascinated, and maybe this had an impact on me with this Written in the Stars album, [with] astronomy and all the incredible things they’re finding out with the advent of incredible telescopes and everything they can send up, this huge array of dishes … they found out a lot of stuff, and it’s really fascinating the way our universe works. When I say Written in the Stars, I think that everything in written in the stars – the fate of our planet, our solar system – well, we know that one day that the star that keeps us warm and gives us light and energy, that will one day grow huge and then collapse. So that’s going to be a big change, and on the same level, on an individual level, for our little life spans 70 years or more, there’s a blueprint that’s written in the stars. We have choices to make, as we go along our spiritual journey, physically. But also, it’s all written in the stars (laughs).      

Short Cuts: Clutch, Black Stone Cherry, The Rolling Stones

CD Review: Clutch – Psychic Warfare
Weathermaker Music
All Access Rating: A

Clutch - Psychic Warfare 2105
Psychic Warfare is real. Neil Fallon says so on a fantastically frenetic "X-Ray Visions," and the battle is joined, Clutch working itself into a swarming, groove-powered lather. Fallon's skirmishes of the mind are soundtracked with momentum-gathering riffing and hooks as tight as balled-up fists in a song that goes from a rolling boil to a tension-packed simmer as Fallon makes band introductions based on astrological signs before Clutch again blows the lid off the place. It's as if an invading army is overrunning an enemy territory, setting off another equally delirious, earth-scorching conflagration called "Firebirds." Clutch is just beginning to show its hand, and it's an unbeatable one, as Fallon's oddly compelling tales of the weird ("Decapitation Blues" tackling the subject of reanimation and all) are couched in unstoppable, hard-rock fury ("Sucker For The Witch"), cinematic Western noir ("Our Lady Of Electric Light"), nasty, cat-scratched funk ("Your Love Is Incarceration") and sizzling blues ("A Quick Death In Texas"). After hitting an all-time high in delivering an agile and sinewy Earth Rocker LP in 2013 with hooks that killed, Clutch simply refuses to rest on its laurels, the hardscrabble, haunted blues of "Son of Virginia" rising into a thunderous closing epic as Clutch declares war on mediocrity.

CD/DVD Review: Black Stone Cherry – Thank You: Livin' Live, Birmingham, UK October 30, 2014
Eagle Vision
All Access Rating: B-

Black Stone Cherry - Thank You:
Livin' Live, Birmingham, UK
October 30, 2014
A simple "Thank You" from Black Stone Cherry will suffice, as these post-grunge sons of the South rise again in a country that has embraced with open arms. Their third album, 2011's Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, hauled ass all the way up to No. 1 that year in Great Britain, and Black Stone Cherry hasn't forgotten that. With a raucous, high-energy performance at Birmingham's LG Arena – now available on DVD, Blu-ray or as a CD/DVD combo entitled "Thank You: Livin' Large, Birmingham, UK October 30, 2014" – just over a year ago, they showered the audience with appreciation and stomping, sleazy riffs dug out of Nickelback's homogenous compost heap and recycled under a different brand. Though shot professionally in high-definition, the sparkling clean camera work isn't very imaginative. Neither is Black Stone Cherry's generic music, which has always been willing to rinse itself free of grit and earthiness for a glossy shine. Still, the photography does manage to heighten and add fuel to Black Stone Cherry's fiery passion, plainly evident in swaggering, arena-sized rockers "Rain Wizard," "Me and Mary Jane" and "White Trash Millionaire." And the crowd is clearly with them, singing in unison with every word to almost every number. Youthful exuberance and full volume only go so far, however, as Black Stone Cherry suffers from occasional bouts of off-key singing, bland guitar work and loose drumming – the hot messes that are "Bad Luck and Hard Love" and "Holding On ... To Letting Go" being the most egregious crimes. On the other hand, more poignant material such as the soaring "In My Blood" and "Things My Father Said" forms a strong bond between crowd and the performers, making the concert feel like a family reunion. And for fans of Black Stone Cherry, this is a nicely arranged package, as live material and interview footage from a performance at Download Festival are nice additions, even if the lack of liner notes is glaring.

2 CD/DVD Review: The Rolling Stones – From The Vault: Live In Leeds 1982
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+
The Rolling Stones - From the Vault:
Live In Leeds 1982

The Rolling Stones had miles to go before they slept. Their 1982 European Tour in support of their 1981 release Tattoo You would be their last for a stretch of seven years, but before unexpectedly going dark for such an extended break, the Stones had to attend to one more piece of business: a daytime show on July 25, 1982 at Roundhay Park in Leeds, England, now available in digital formats or as a 2-CD/DVD package that also comes in Blu-ray. For all its clarity and glossy definition, the cinematography is rather odd, employing an overabundance of fairly extreme facial closeups – the most awkward of which focus on Bill Wyman's vacant expression – in some weird shuffle. At the same time, it highlights the Stones' outlandishly gaudy fashion sense and intently studies the instrumental flair of Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards, while drinking in Mick Jagger's excitable onstage charm. Another in an ever-expanding "From The Vault" series of classic, previously unreleased concert material, this set is an uneven affair. As tired and disinterested as they appear early on during "When The Whip Comes Down," "Going To a Go Go" and "Shattered," the Stones are revived by the bluesy "Black Limousine," a rough-and-tumble cover of Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock" and a rip-roaring, ramshackle version of "Little T&A." Perfect on a summer day, with a massive crowd in attendance, their breezy, blissful version of "Just My Imagination" is sunny and soulful, and on "Tumbling Dice," "Miss You," "Beast of Burden" and "Brown Sugar" they seem to savor every delicious note. Well-written liner notes give necessary context to this historic performance, the last for piano player Ian Stewart with the Stones, in a nicely designed booklet that rounds out what is, for the most part, a solid live release. Just please leave poor old Bill alone.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Metal Allegiance – Metal Allegiance

CD Review: Metal Allegiance – Metal Allegiance
Nuclear Blast Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

Metal Allegiance - S/T 2015
The army of mercenary artists assembled for Mark Menghi's Metal Allegiance has a history of violent aggression and sonic brutality. Their mission: Go forth and shred, and do whatever's necessary to keep metal alive and vital.

Assembled by Mark Menghi, the all-star project – established in 2011 – unites a veritable "Who's Who" of metal and hard-rock notables in a rather large and seemingly unwieldy musical collective with a revolving cast, although the core of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Alex Skolnick (Testament) and David Ellefson (Megadeth) is unchangeable. And Menghi is the ringleader, making a foursome that created the original material for this record.

Up to this point, Metal Allegiance's activities have been limited to live performances on boat cruises and special events like NAMM, but in September, their self-titled debut LP – released by Nuclear Blast Entertainment – dropped from the sky like a burning asteroid of furious, full-on thrash (meaner than hell on "Can't Kill The Devil" and the anthemic "Pledge of Allegiance) that satisfies and more traditional metal swimming against periodic melodic tides. In "Destination: Nowhere" and the rumbling, action-packed "Scars," with its scissoring, serrated guitars and the contrasting vocal textures of Cristina Scabbia and Mark Osegueda, Metal Allegiance toggles between barely harnessed rage and bittersweet ruminations, but the searing opener "Gift Of Pain" is the gift that really keeps on giving. A relentless, slamming juggernaut of grinding guitars, "Gift Of Pain" sets a blistering pace, its momentum only temporarily stalled by a swinging bridge that almost cracks under the weight of its ponderously heavy riffs, as Lamb Of God's Randy Blythe growls with malevolent intent.

Weighed down by deep melancholy and trudging along, "Dying Song" is just the opposite, a thick, gothic slice of metallic Southern-rock frosted by Philip Anselmo's hoary utterances and struggling to hold onto its bruised and battered soul. There are complex progressive instrumental parts that hijack "Wait Until Tomorrow" and the multi-part, technically brilliant "Triangulum," which suffers from self-indulgence and boring, masturbatory jamming. On the whole, however, there is a surprising cohesiveness to Metal Allegiance that allows for the occasional head-scratching departure, such as the beautifully rendered Spanish guitar interlude that breaks up "Let Darkness Fall" – otherwise a fine specimen of solid, lively hooks and propulsive energy. While the standard version of Metal Allegiance keeps to nine tracks, the digipak edition adds a faithful and thrilling version of Dio's "We Rock," as singers Osegueda, Chris Jericho, Alissa White-Gluz, Chuck Billy, Steve "Zetro" Souza and Tim "Ripper" Owens pay homage to a metal icon with a variety of interesting singing styles.

The project's list of contributors reads like a veritable "Who's Who" of metal heavyweights, its vast Rolodex including ex-Pantera bassist Rex Brown, Exodus and Slayer guitarist Gary Holt and Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, just to name a few. Still, what keeps this alliance together, whether on record or onstage, is a common vision and a healthy respect for metal's glorious past and its promising future.
– Peter Lindblad

DVD Review: The Scorpions – Forever And A Day

DVD Review: The Scorpions – Forever And A Day
Specticast and Tempest Films
All Access Rating: B+

The Scorpions - Forever
And A Day 2015
All that retirement talk was a bit premature. Billed as their farewell tour, 2011-2012's "Final Sting" was going to close the book on The Scorpions, one of metal's most enduring outfits. That final chapter has yet to be written.

Eons ago – actually 50 years – in their hometown of Hanover, Germany, the fun-loving Scorpions came to life, and they are still going strong, having given no indication that the end is nigh. Things looked very different, however, a few years ago when renowned director Katja Von Garnier signed on to document their last days on the road. Part free-flowing tour diary, part stodgy history lesson, "Forever And A Day," soon to be available in DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats as its theatrical run comes to an end, is ultimately an engrossing study of a band trying to come to grips with its own mortality, only to find themselves reinvigorated by the experience.

The elephant in the room in the well-paced, good-natured "Forever And A Day," it's the overriding issue that drives a story with many sub-plots, as The Scorpions discover the fountain of youth in the form of infectiously enthusiastic crowds greeting them as conquering heroes. Performing a complicated balancing act, Von Garnier deftly intersperses rousing, arena-rock concert clips of The Scorpions performing songs like "Crazy World," "The Zoo" and "Big City Nights" with loads of intimate, behind-the-scenes footage from the "Final Sting" tour in taking viewers on a whirlwind journey across the world. At the same time, a makeshift video scrapbook emerges from candid, vintage still photos and home-movie footage of their formative years that leads to warm reminiscing about The Scorpions' past.

There were gigs at Liverpool's famed Cavern Club, and the story of how finishing second at a "battle of the bands" contest actually resulted in a record contract, while the documentary also touches on why it was so important for them to sing lyrics in English, rather than their native tongue. What makes "Forever And A Day" more compelling, though, is its examination of the relationship between Meine and guitarist Rudolf Schenker, as talk about their shared ambitions, their artistry and Schenker's visionary leadership. Disappointingly, "Forever And A Day" glosses over the crucial contributions of guitar masters Uli Jon Roth and Michael Schenker. On the other hand, it redeems itself with a deeply insightful look at The Scorpions' historic 1991 meeting at the Kremlin with Mikhail Gorbachev, who appears in the movie, and the socio-political impact of their hit single "Winds Of Change," as well as providing a detailed explanation of why the transition to Matthias Jabs made perfect sense for a band that made no secret of its commercial aspirations.

For the most part, the film transitions seamlessly from curating an informative biography to hurriedly catching up with The Scorpions wherever their victory lap happens to take them. Given seemingly unlimited access, Von Garnier unveils both the good and the bad of their trip, including how Klaus Meine's vocal troubles momentarily jeopardized the whole enterprise. How long The Scorpions continue will depend greatly on the most fragile of instruments, the human voice. Meine and company aren't naive enough to think this will last forever, but it's clear from "Forever And A Day" that they and their fans are going to enjoy the ride until the very end.
– Peter Lindblad

DVD Review: Taste – What's Going On: Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970

DVD Review: Taste – What's Going On: Live At The Isle of Wight 1970
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A

Taste - What's Going On: Live
at the Isle of Wight 1970 2015
The simmering tension had finally boiled over. In a van, on their way to play the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, Irish guitar hero Rory Gallagher and his two bandmates, drummer John Wilson and bassist Richard McCracken, decided that Taste was done. Somehow, they'd just have to smile and muddle through the biggest gig of their lives as if nothing had happened.

Or, they could go out in a blaze of glory, which the bluesy rock 'n' roll outfit did, burning the place to the ground with an electrifying set that won over an apathetic daytime crowd that practically yawned at their introduction. They were so good, in fact, that they decided afterward to carry on, however briefly. Soon, though, Taste would ultimately reach the end of their rope.

The thrilling action was filmed by Academy Award winning Director Murray Lerner, whose spontaneous cinematic instincts, an eye for action and drama and a gutsy appreciation for the raw, combustible energy burning uncontrollably in front of him threw gasoline on an already raging fire. And it serves as the centerpiece of a new DVD from Eagle Rock Entertainment named "What's Going On: Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970," containing all the tracks from the 1971 Polydor LP and a few more, as the trio stomps all over "Sinner Boy" and "Catfish Blues" in riveting fashion. At one point, as Taste is storming through the heavy blues of "Sugar Mama," Gallagher pumps his fist at Wilson, who reacts enthusiastically by pushing harder and more violently. Seeing Gallagher's slide-guitar work in "Gambling Blues" is a revelation, his soulful soloing a mixture of finesse and daring skill that's simply breathtaking. And when they launch into "Same Old Story," Taste's engine roars to life, their muscle and barely harnessed intensity coalescing into a rip-roaring show of strength and unity.

Preceding this tour de force is an unflinching, well-constructed documentary on Taste that doesn't succumb to banal sentimentality, and yet it speaks in awed wonder of their uncanny musical brilliance. From Taste's origins in Cork, Ireland, through management-inspired lineup changes, financial disputes, touring with Blind Faith and that fateful drive to the Isle Of Wight Festival, the tale of Taste is told with warm memories and genuine honesty, reflecting – through insightful interviews with, among others, Queen's Brian May, U2's The Edge, Bob Geldof and Rory's brother Donel, who also served as the band's road manager – on what made the volatile chemistry of Taste work and how Rory and his sublime talent transcended the sectarian unrest of his native land.

Bonus footage of Taste performing three songs on the German TV series "Beat Club" and videos for "I'll Remember," "What's Going On" and "Born On The Wrong Side Of Time" only enhance the value of a nostalgic package augmented by concise, informative liner notes and great photography. One little Taste is all one needs to be hooked on Rory and company forever.
– Peter Lindblad

Short cuts: Mark Lanegan, Martin Turner, Neil Finn + Paul Kelly

Box Set Review: Mark Lanegan – The One Way Street
Sub Pop Records
All Access Rating: A-

Mark Lanegan - One Way
Street 2015
Near and dear to Mark Lanegan's world-weary heart, the subject of loss often drops by to visit the writings of the former Screaming Trees' lead singer. Those affected by the prolonged absence of some of Lanegan's most cherished works might be tempted to buy a round for the house when they hear the news: Vinyl editions of Lanegan's first five solo albums on Sub Pop Records – some of previously out of print, others never-before-released via this medium – will be available, thanks to the release of The One Way Street, a new box set. That rich, weatherbeaten baritone of his, perfectly calibrated for boozy, late-night meditations on loneliness, sin and salvation, feels like a warm, if scratchy, wool blanket on recordings that till the fertile soil of traditional country, blues and folk. An outlier of sorts, but only because it's a covers LP, 1999's I'll Take Care of You finds Lanegan giving spare, haunting acoustic readings of Tim Hardin's "Shiloh Town" and The Gun Club's "Carry Home," while Brook Benton's "I'll Take Care of You," Overton Vertis Wright's "On Jesus' Program" and "Creeping Coastline of Lights" by Leaving Trains are awash in ominous noir atmospherics. Field Songs, Lanegan's fifth and final solo LP for Sub Pop, offers swirling psychedelia ("No Easy Action" (featuring Wendy Rae Fowler), a shimmering instrumental ("Blues for D") and confident country swing ("Don't Forget Me"), but it's the growing unease and thorny beauty of "Resurrection Songs" that creeps into your subconscious like a dangerous squatter. Making up a trilogy of sorts, 1990's The Winding Sheet, 1994's Whiskey For The Holy Ghost and 1998's Scraps at Midnight drives deep into the dark heart of Americana, as occasional angry, distorted outbursts such as "Borracho" and the agonized sawing of violins in "Carnival" break lush reveries of full, rich instrumentation and inky blackness of "Hotel," "Praying Ground," "The River Rise" and "Kingdoms of Rain" – just a few of the noteworthy tracks from an exhaustive collection. Much of this material was nearly lost to time, but it's been found. Some of the troubled souls in Lanegan's songs wish for a similar recovery.

CD Review: Martin Turner – Written In The Stars
Cherry Red Records
All Access Rating: A-

Martin Turner - Written in
The Stars 2015
Turning his gaze skyward for inspiration, Martin Turner – bassist, lead singer, main songwriter and co-founder of U.K. progressive-rock innovators Wishbone Ash – conjures Written In The Stars, a heavenly clutch of songs with diverse, celestial melodies and fresh uses for old, familiar tricks. Trotting out the curving twin-lead guitar forays on an urgent, pulsating title track and "The Lonely Star" that made Wishbone Ash a sensation in the early '70s, Turner creates tuneful passages with delightfully unexpected twists and turns in "Lovers" – a charming, romantic folk-pop ditty reminiscent of George Harrison and the Traveling Wilburys – and "Vapour Trail," with its bright, twinkling guitars. Nods to Turner's classical influences are found in the bombastic orchestral intro "The Big Bang (Overture)," the wondrous closer "Interstellar Rockstar" and "For My Lady," with its English folk traditions giving way to a crashing crescendo. Mixing acoustic and electric guitars to create starry harmonies in "Falling Sands," Turner also wanders the desert in the instrumental "The Beauty of Chaos," with its sweeping, Western soundscape. Written in the Stars is a spellbinding listen.

CD Review: Neil Finn and Paul Kelly – Goin' Your Way
Omnivore Records
All Access Rating: A

Neil Finn + Paul Kelly - Goin'
Your Way 2015
With Crowded House and Split Enz, New Zealand's Neil Finn earned critical adoration and worldwide fame for crafting elegant, dreamy pop-rock that's open-hearted and full of romantic insight. Known for his eclectic taste and poetic lyrics, Paul Kelly is one of Australia's greatest musical exports, an everyman and that rare breed of singer-songwriter that happens to be Finn's equal. Bound together by a mutual admiration, they toured Australia in 2013 with a band consisting of Kelly's nephew, Dan, on guitar and Finn's son, Elroy, on drums, as well as Zoe Hauptmann on bass. Their glorious performance at the Sydney Opera House was recorded and released Down Under that year, cracking the Top 5 on the charts on its way to becoming a gold record. Until now, the only way to get it outside of Australia or New Zealand was to buy it as a pricey import, but in December, it'll become available the world over, thanks to Omnivore Recordings. And what an absolute treasure it is, impeccably recorded with crystalline sound to bring out the glow and sparkle of these exquisite 29 tracks, as well as the cheery enthusiasm of a crowd that had clearly fallen in love with Finn and Kelly all over again. Cleaved into two discs, this impressive set, which mines both of their collective back catalogs, exudes charm, as the bright, buoyant "For The Ages," "Careless" and "Leaps and Bounds" step lively with tight hooks in hand around the flowing, stylish and darkly luxuriant rushes of "Four Seasons In One Day," "Winter Coat" and "Fall At Your Feet" – all of them not-so-distant cousins of the captivating Crowded House smash hit "Don't Dream It's Over," also beautifully rendered here. Strummed guitar harmonies, rolling piano and easy, melodic rhythms that never leave the pocket galvanize "Dumb Things," "Better Be Home Soon," "Before Too Long," "Distant Sun" and "To Her Door," as the wistful jangle of "Deeper Water" sighs with satisfaction. A summit of brilliant songwriters, Goin' Your Way finds two old friends who are fascinated with each other's songs, intent on discovering new and interesting things about them that they are eager to share with the rest of us. Hopefully, Finn and Kelly are Goin' Your Way. If so, catch a ride.
– Peter Lindblad

DVD Review: Lynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounced 'Leh-nerd Skin-nerd' & Second Helping: Live from Jacksonville at the Florida Theatre

DVD Review: Lynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounced 'Leh-nerd Skin-nerd' & Second Helping: Live From Jacksonville at the Florida Theatre
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Pronounced
Leh-nerd Skin-nerd & Second Helping:
Live from Jacksonville at the Florida
Theatre 2015
The material is strictly "Old Testament" Lynyrd Skynyrd, timeless scripture from the rowdy Southern-rock rogues' first two albums.

Over two shows earlier this year at the Florida Theatre in the band's hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., the congregation in attendance saw a glorious revival of the band's self-titled debut, subtitled "Pronounced Leh-nerd Sky-nerd," on one evening and its sophomore effort Second Helping the next night – the joyous, engaging performances filmed brilliantly for a new live release available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats, as well as a DVD/2 CD set available at Wal-Mart.

Both seminal LPs from the early '70s are played with red-blooded passion and carefree panache by the current version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, led by lone original member Gary Rossington, singer Johnny Van Zant – younger brother of Ronnie Van Zant, who died in a tragic 1977 plane crash that decimated the band – and Rickey Medlocke, the blazing guitarist who co-founded Blackfoot.

From the wistful drawl and affecting melancholy of "Tuesday's Gone" and a nostalgic, affecting "The Ballad of Curtis Loew" to rambunctious hell-raisers "Gimme Three Steps" and "Call Me The Breeze," Skynyrd treats these songs as if they were treasured family heirlooms, dusting them off and making them shine and sparkle in an environment that's warm and vibrant. Smooth flowing camera work draws out the strong, defiant personalties and smirking charm always inherent in Skynyrd, no matter the era. Professionally done, albeit with an adoring admiration for Skynyrd's instrumental fire, shots frame and articulate the searing fret work of Rossington and Medlocke, catch Michael Cartellone in the act as he bashes away on the drums and follow the rollicking piano runs of Peter Keys until the party comes to a crashing end. There is cantankerous defiance and sincerity in "Don't Ask Me No Questions," "Simple Man" and "Sweet Home Alabama," and "Free Bird" sounds as transcendent as ever, while rarely performed tracks like "I Need You," "Mississippi Kid" and "Poison Whiskey" are welcomed like prodigal sons reappearing again after long absences.

If at times it seems as if Skynyrd is not as tight as they should be or they're low on fuel, their energy level noticeably waning, none of that detracts from rock 'n' roll that has a pure heart and that is as intoxicating as moonshine and just as potent.

– Peter Lindblad

John 5 and his monster's ball

Rob Zombie guitarist ready to hit the road with The Creatures, Doyle
By Peter Lindblad
John 5

John 5 has always had a thing for monsters.

His youthful infatuation with old horror movies continues unabated to this day, and the kid in him still worships at the clawed, platform-soled feet of KISS, whose Kabuki-inspired make-up and carnivalesque stage theatrics never fail to amaze and delight the ex-Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie guitarist, known for creating his own creepy facial masks.

In a matter of days, John 5 and his band The Creatures – with Rodger Carter and Ian Ross – will kick off the "Mad Monster Tour" with a special show in Ramona, Calif., on Nov. 4. To get tickets, go to Some of the dates will be supported by Doyle, the band led by former Misfits member Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein.

Remarkably versatile, with audacious fluency in a variety of genres – having recorded everything from bluegrass and country to Flamenco music and metal, rock and pop – John 5 is a demon on guitar, an incredibly smooth player whose speed is almost supernatural. Along with scoring the Rob Zombie film "The Lords of Salem," John 5 has collaborated with a wide range of artists, working alongside everyone from Ricky Martin to Rod Stewart, David Lee Roth and Lynyrd Skynyrd, in addition to his more well-known gigs with Manson and Zombie.

Since 2004, John 5's burgeoning solo career has yielded eight diverse studio albums spotlighting his virtuoso skill. On "The Mad Monster Tour," John 5 and company will be promoting an upcoming greatest hits album, paired with a live DVD of John in concert. Three brand-new singles will be released, a series that began this month. Recently, John 5 took time out to talk about the tour, how the new Rob Zombie material is coming along and a career that has taken him further than he ever thought possible. (Tour dates follow the Q&A).

How did the tour with Doyle and his band come about and what are you looking forward to most about it?
J5: Well, I always thought Doyle was like a real-life superhero, and I just really think he’s amazing. He looks like a real-life superhero, like he could fly over a building and knock it down. You know, he’s got the guitar and he grabs it, and he’s a great, great musician. So, I always wanted to do something with him; he was my first choice for someone I wanted to do a tour with. And I just said, “Hey, are you available around this time?” And he said, “Yes,” so it came together pretty easy and we start the fourth in Ramona, Calif., which is the San Diego area. And then it’s the Whisky in L.A. So it’s going to be a blast running through these shows, because it’s all my crazy instrumental stuff and it’s crazy and it’s fun, and we’ll just go nuts.  

Mad Monster Tour poster
When were you introduced to the Misfits and what were your initial impressions?
J5: Well, it was, like for everybody, just a natural thing. Everybody loves the Misfits and punk rock. Everybody was just into them. It was just the thing. It was just how it was. And I loved the horror-rock thing. I’m so into that as well. So it’s just the perfect fit and yeah, with Alice Cooper and The Misfits and Ozzy, I love that stuff. It’s fun. It’s a blast. And KISS, of course. KISS, yeah. It was like monsters with guitars, and when I was 7 years old, I was just blown away. This was just the greatest thing ever.

Reading your bio, you talked about where you grew up and being the lone rock kid, but did you have friends who felt the same way?
J5: Oh sure. I was always the one that had the stuff. Like, I had the first Van Halen when it came out, KISS Love Gun … I was that kid that had the stuff. So I think I showed it to a lot of people, but I remember someone bringing over Kill ‘Em All by Metallica. I listened to that, and I go, “Oh, wow!” I remember having times in my life where friends brought over music, and I remember it. I remember it so vividly, because it made such an impression on me.

Was there one that made the biggest impression?
J5: Well, obviously, KISS and Van Halen, because I remember I got the KISS album in the early years when I was super young. I think Love Gun had just come out. And I was shocked because I loved that Monsters of Filmland magazine. And then I loved The Monkees and “Hee Haw,” but when I saw the monsters of guitars in KISS, I was blown away. I was just like, “Oh my God. Here we go.” So it just changed my life, and then I remember my guitar teacher brought over Van Halen I, and it was just another epiphany. It just changed my life completely.

Kirk Hammett I know has a massive horror collection. Do you collect horror movie memorabilia?
J5: No, mostly I just collect guitars … Telecasters. I’m really into that kind of thing, really into loving my “Teles,” but there’s so much. I mean I have a lot of horror stuff, but it’s mostly stuff people have given me. And I like that stuff from the early- and mid-‘60s and ‘70s, when the monster boom really, really happened. So I like a lot of that stuff. And you know fans give me stuff, so I have quite a collection, but nothing, nothing, nothing in the world of Kirk Hammett, of course.

Have you ever seen his collection?
J5: I haven’t, but me and Kirk talk, and he’ll tell me stuff, and I’m like, “Jesus,” you know? And he always says, “You’ve got to stop over and check it,” and all that stuff. Hopefully, one day I’ll get there.     

I wanted to talk about other stuff going on with you, and you have a greatest hits album coming out. Did you ever think you’d have a greatest hits album and what goes into making one? Is there more to it than people think?
J5: Well, yeah. What it is really is just a collection of my favorite songs. Not one of them was a hit, but it’s a collection of my favorite songs that I’ve recorded over my catalog of doing instrumental stuff and the fans’ favorite songs. So I put them all together, and then I put a DVD with it, which is so cool. The DVD’s really great, and I’m going to be selling that at the shows, so people at the shows will be able to get the CD and DVD. And then after the tour you’ll be able to buy it on my website, and also it’ll be on iTunes, but you won’t be able to get the DVD, obviously.
So much has happened over the span of your life to bring you to this point, but I wanted to ask you, where does the open-mindedness with music come from? Because you do country, you do all kinds of things. Does that come from your family?
J5: You know, for some reason, I’ve always appreciated someone who does something really, really well. And it could be someone that rides a bike and is a bike expert, or juggles or … I just always appreciate someone who does something so well, because I know how much dedication and practice it takes. So when I hear some Western swing music or bluegrass music or great, great, great, great horns, I’m like, “Wow! That’s amazing.” So I appreciate all of that stuff. I’m so inspired by anyone who does something really, really well and who is an expert and at the pinnacle of what they do. And I totally, totally appreciate that. So that’s where I think a lot of that interest comes from, that they can actually … you know, the greats. I just am really influenced by people like that.

Is there a style of music you haven’t worked with yet that maybe you’d like to?
J5: You know, jazz is such a huge thing, but I’ve never really studied, studied, studied jazz. I don’t know why. It just hasn’t bitten me yet, but it will. I will get into it. I think I really love the really super, super fast, aggressive stuff. Like the bluegrass stuff is so fast, you know. It’s like Slayer with no distortion. It’s crazy with bluegrass. And then the same thing with flamenco music, it’s a Spanish style of music. It’s so fast, you know? It’s like Slayer on acoustic. It’s that kind of thing, and I really enjoy that stuff, but also I’d like to get into jazz at some point, I believe.

Could you do a bluegrass version of “Welcome to the Violence”?
J5: Well, that might be tough (laughs). Yeah, that’s possible.

What impresses you most in a guitarist or a live performer?
J5: Someone that is fluid and clean and no effort. It’s just like drinking a bottle of water. It’s effortless, and there’s a small amount that are really effortless. If you ever see a classical violinist or piano player, it’s just effortless, you know? I appreciate that, but I also appreciate any guitar player also getting up there on the stage and doing a great job, because it’s a lot of work and a lot of stress and a lot goes into it.

What goes into your live performances? You’ve got the makeup and everything going on. What’s the day of a performance like for you?
J5: Well, the whole day is about the performance. The whole thing is prepping. It’s getting your fingers warmed up, it’s doing meet-and-greets and meeting people, and making sure everything is right. Sound checks … the day all leads up to the show. It’s very important. I just want to give fans the best show we can, so it’s just playing, warming up, making sure the playing is right, getting ready and giving the best show we can. It’s very important to us with Rob just getting just a great show together, and then we always talk about the show after the show – make sure this is right, that is right, how we could make it better. So, it’s great. It’s a great life. I cannot complain. 

I was reading about your history and you were robbed in L.A. when you first moved there. Did you ever come close to giving it up?
J5: No, no … never did. I was so determined and I was so driven and determined. Just imagine, you get to L.A. when you’re young. I was so young. I didn’t know anything, and then the first night I got all my money stolen. I didn’t know what to do. I was lucky I knew one other person, and anybody else; most people would have just gone home and said, “Let me try this in another couple of years.” But no, I was so driven.  

By the same token, was there a moment when you felt, “I’ve finally made it”? Or were there many moments like that?
J5: I mean, yeah. You know, I’m just happy to be playing guitar and making a living, but I never wished to be a known guitar player. I just wanted to be a session musician, and this is all just an incredible, incredible gift, because it was too far away. I never really thought I’d be able to do this, because it was just so like wishing you were Superman or something. It just seemed so unbelievable. So I really appreciate it and love it, because it just happened. I’m so happy it happened, because it was never my goal, it was never my thing to become a famous rock guitar player.

What influenced you most as far as stage shows and how you make up your face? Was it a love of KISS or was it more than that?
J5: I use myself as the audience and what the audience would like to see. I think the audience wants to see a show, they want to see a … it’s called entertainment. So they want to be entertained, and it’s just if you put on a show like that – meaning you’re not going to walk around the streets like that, but if you’re onstage, you’ve got to give them something to look at. And when we go into our dressing rooms, we’re in our normal clothes, there’s a couple of camera flashes and stuff like that, but when we come out of our dressing rooms, when we’re all made up, you can hardly see where you’re walking because there are so many flashes, because we’re all made up. Would you want a picture with Ace Frehley with his make-up off or in his whole get-up? You’d want it in his whole get-up. So that’s why. It’s just a couple things I think about to say, “Okay. This is what make sense,” because some people take a different course about it.

Why does it work so well between you and Rob?
J5: I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. I really look up to him a lot, because he does so much. Now a lot of people can do a lot of things, but to finish them and to make them really great, that’s the hard thing. And that’s what he does. Whatever he starts, he finishes, and I really like that. He’ll start something and then he’ll finish it. And that’s what I really like. He’s always finished it, and I really respect that. We really enjoy the same things. We love the Universal Monsters. We have such a love for those Universal Monsters, those monster movies, so that’s a great thing. We both have the same hobbies. We love music and movies, so it’s just like being in a band with your best friend. It’s amazing.   

In what ways were your experiences with Marilyn Manson and Rob similar?
J5: Well, they’re both two different animals, of course. With Manson, it’s different every day and every night, so you never really know what’s going to happen. With Rob, everything is scheduled – we’re going to meet here, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that, and we’re going to be on the bus and here we go. So, with Manson, you don’t know if we’re going to be backstage until three in the morning and if we’ll make it in time for the next show. It was that kind of thing. You know, both are amazing artists, both are amazing performers, so that’s how they’re similar.

Did that chaos with Marilyn translate to the live show and make that a different experience?
J5: Absolutely. Sometimes, we’d play only three songs and we’d be done. Sometimes you wondered how long you were going to play. 

What was your greatest moment with Marilyn and then with Rob?
J5: Well, that’s really, really tough. You know, the greatest moment between those two, there’s some many, great, great, great moments that have happened with both bands. Getting a No. 1 record with Manson, that was a great moment. Doing the "MTV Video Music Awards," that was a great moment. That was my very first gig with Manson. Getting awards and getting to play all these great places, and then having your friends at these great moments, and getting to travel the world and playing the greatest venues, having great records that come out and having these great friendships that will last forever. There are so many great moments, you can’t just limit it to one, because there are so many and I’m lucky for that. 

Of all the projects you’ve done, was there ever one you went into thinking, “I don’t know about this,” and then it turned out to be a better experience than you thought?
J5: Well, no, because I tend to be pretty careful about what I take on. You know, I’m very, very careful about the reputation of my name, so it’s not like I’ve ever gotten into a situation where I'm like, ”How am I going to get out this?” No, I’ve never done that. 

I know so many people have helped you along the way. Rudy Sarzo played a big role in helping your career. What do you remember most about meeting him that first night?
J5: Well, meeting Rudy helped me tremendously. He introduced me to Irving Azoff, who is a master in the music business, and a manager of record people and taught me this, that and the other thing about the business ... He let me into his home. He helped me out, and he’s a wonderful, wonderful talent, and taught me a lot of things. So I owe a lot to Rudy Sarzo.

And you’ve stuck with people and worked with them over your entire career, like your producer Bob Marlette.
J5 : Yes. You know, it’s funny. Everybody I’ve worked with I’m pretty much still in contact with. Everyone … because they’re good people, and I never leave anything on a bad note, where it’s like, “Screw you!” So it’s good, because you see everybody because it’s such a small, small world, and you don’t think you being in this world of, “Oh, I’ve seen this person. I’ve seen this person. I’ve seen this person.” It’s wonderful, and I’m so happy that I don’t have any bad blood.

You’ve worked with some amazing guitar players, too, including Lita Ford. That must have been a blast for you.
J5: Yeah, it was a blast. I see her every once in a while and she’s such a great, great, great talent. And she’s a great songwriter, great performer and singer … luckily, I had the privilege to play with her and play some songs with her. I really respect her. She’s great.

Probably underrated as an artist …
J5: Oh sure, she’s great. And she’s been doing this forever. I mean, The Runaways? Come on … just awesome. She’s so great. And then all of her solo stuff – what a career.

How did you get this band The Creatures together?
J5: Well, I was recording my instrumental stuff. I had recorded so many records, but I never played live shows. The drummer that I use said, “You should do some live shows.” And I said, “Well, it’s tough. The Zombie schedule is so busy,” but I said, “I’d love to do it. We’re going to have to get somebody. Let’s do it. Let’s do some shows.” I was really nervous because I’ve never done these kinds of shows. I didn’t know if people would show up, I didn’t know if people were going to care, I didn’t know anything about it. But we went out there, and it was such a huge success, and I was so happy. It just really changed my life, and we just said, “All right. Let’s do this.” And it’s so much fun. I’m so happy that the drummer, Rodger Carter, kind of pushed me to do this. And it was wonderful. It really changed my life.

Does it continue to evolve, this project you’ve got?
J5: Yeah, absolutely. We’re doing another tour starting in November … we’re just going to keep doing it, keep doing it, and whenever I have time away from Zombie, I’ll be able to do this.

What did you enjoy most about working on the last record working with Rob? Was it different from any other records you worked on with Rob? Or did you like the songs better and do you think he’s underrated as a songwriter?
J5:  Well, the record we have coming out with Zombie now, that will come out next year, it is so good. We went up to his place, and it is very secluded, and there’s nothing out there. There are no distractions – really, really a great place to make great music, and you really have the time to live with it. And that’s what I think is very important, because you have the time to say, “Oh, let’s change this or make this better, or I can play it like this.” And I think that’s important, because a lot of bands they do these records and they have to deliver them at a certain time. We took our time and this record that’s going to be coming out … I mean, the songs are amazing. It’s great, it’s heavy and it’s just … you know, I was a Zombie fan before being in the band and this one’s going to be great that’s coming out.

Do you remember hearing White Zombie for the first time? What did you think of them?
J5: Well, yeah, it was seeing the video of “Thunder Kiss ’65” … yeah, that was rad. It was the look, it was the sound and it was just cool. It was just something that you saw that made you say, “That’s got something special to it.” So, yeah, it was just a great, great, great thing.

"The Mad Monster Tour" dates:
Nov. 4 – Ramona, CA @ Ramona Mainstage
Nov. 5 – Los Angeles, CA @ Whiskey A Go Go**
Nov. 6 – Las Vegas, NV @ Count's Vamp'd**
Nov. 7 – Phoenix, AZ @ Marquee Theater**
Nov. 8 – Ventura, CA @ Discovery**
Nov. 10 – San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge**
Nov. 12 – Orangevale, CA @ Boardwalk**
Nov. 13 – Fresno, CA @ TBD
Nov. 18 – San Antonio, TX @ Sam's Burger Joint
Nov. 19 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
Nov. 20 – Tyler, TX @ Click's
Nov. 21 – Houston, TX @ Scout Bar

** Dates with Doyle

Short Cuts: Killing Joke, Huntress, Grave Digger

CD Review: Huntress  Static
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: A-
Huntress - Static 2015

Behind the scenes, Jill Janus is dealing with some pretty serious shit, including a cancer diagnosis and myriad mental health issues. She seems to be gaining strength from that which seems hell-bent on destroying her. An imposing female presence in the dark, mysterious underworld of occult-inspired heavy metal, Janus has emerged from the shadows with her band Huntress with the wrathful Static, a Napalm Records outing that's a lean, riff-hungry animal on the prowl for mean hooks, clearly articulated song structures and sinister, gloomy melodies. Taking full advantage of her four-octave range, Janus sings with fierce, commanding strength through heavy, menacing crawls like the title track, "Brian" and the record's smoldering centerpiece "Mania," while "I Wanna Want to Wake Up" grabs hold and doesn't let go and the fast-paced "Sorrow" loves the thrill of the chase. Graduating from the Tony Iommi school of riff creation with honors, Huntress unloads a truck full of them here, all simple and effective, driving such tracks as the awesomely titled "Harsh Times on Planet Stoked" and "Fire In My Heart" straight through hell without stopping. All hail the Huntress!

CD Review: Killing Joke – Pylon
Spinefarm Records
All Access Rating: A

Killing Joke - Pylon 2015
For some, the recent appearance of the so-called "Blood Moon" brought with it a dark foreboding and dire predictions that the apocalypse was nigh. Maybe they were just sensing that a new Killing Joke record was on the way. The four horsemen of metallic post-punk – including shamanistic front man Jaz Coleman, bassist Youth, guitarist Geordie and drummer Big Paul Ferguson – haven't diluted their ominous, fire-and-brimstone warnings in the slightest. An immersive experience layered with electronica and industrial sonic debris and enveloped in the all-encompassing glow of thousands of burning embers, the thrilling Pylon is angry and spiritual, urgent and expansive with deep, echoing vocals and tribal rhythms establishing a connection between the primitive, the divine and a confused, violent modernity. At times an enormous monster intent on devouring whatever gets in its way, Killing Joke's engrossing 16th studio album urgently stampedes through "Delete" and "Autonomous Zone" with slashing guitars and a rapid, pounding heart rate. The thundering intensity of an engorged "Dawn of the Hive" channels its rage through insistent, pummeling drums, and a giant wall of guitars is furiously erected in an icy "New Cold War" that explodes in a feverish crescendo, the track's starry atmospherics mirroring those of an infectious, racing "Euphoria" and the arresting beauty of the cinematic "Big Buzz." Slick and hypnotic, "War On Freedom" drives on with a relentless will, while "New Jerusalem" sets its hooks with slow deliberation, savoring its heavy riffs and menacing grooves. Repent now, humanity.

CD Review: Grave Digger  Exhumation: The Early Years
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: B+

Grave Digger - Exhumation: The
Early Years 2015
The past is the past, and there's no sense trying to relive it. That is, unless you're German speed-metal champions Grave Digger, who decided to remake some of their '80s classics for a new collection entitled Exhumation: The Early Years. Unremittingly fast and aggressive, Grave Digger charges almost blindly forward with renewed vim and vigor, unwilling or unable to apply the brakes to a runaway train of razor-sharp riffs, searing guitar solos and rhythmic rampages. Old favorite "Headbanging man" sets a violent tone, thrashing about with white-hot intensity. Following suit, "Fire In Your Eyes" and the teeth-gnashing "Witch Hunter" are fast-moving conflagrations that sweep across the land with destructive power, while galvanizing anthems "Heavy Metal Breakdown" and "Stand Up and Rock" and their shouted choruses take unabashed delight in espousing somewhat tiresome metal cliches. Running on pure adrenaline, marauding charges "Get Away" and "Enola Gay – Drop The Bomb" are just as furious and the galloping "Here I Stand" has all the grit and rawness of early Iron Maiden. Although by this time, even the slightest shift in gears or a melodic interlude would be a welcome relief. Running with a pack of contemporaries such as Helloween, Sinner, Running Wild and Rage has kept Grave Digger from growing complacent, as Exhumation: The Early Years illustrates in convincing fashion.  
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Live at Montreux 1997

CD Review: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Live at Montreux 1997
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Live at
Montreux 1997 2015
Directionless and not at all compelling, Black Moon is hardly memorable, a mere footnote in the remarkable career of progressive-rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer. And its successor, 1994's In The Hot Seat, was an even bigger farce.

The result of an early '90s reunion, these two albums pale in comparison to the inspired genius and audacious virtuosity of seminal prog works Brain Salad Surgery and their self-titled debut, when they concocted a dynamic blend of heavy riffs and classical influences that defied logic and actually made commercial sense.

It's little wonder then that nothing from Black Moon or In The Hot Seat made the set list for ELP's dazzling and edgy, if utterly self-indulgent and irritatingly dissonant, Montreux performance on July 7, 1997. Eagle Rock Entertainment has seen fit to issue an audio-only release of the show on 2CD and digital formats for the first time as a companion piece to the DVD made available in the past. From a lovely reading of the eternally wistful "Lucky Man" and the soft, melodic – if somewhat off-kilter – drift of "Take A Pebble" to the swirling, exuberant camp of "Karn Evil" and the mad energy, rolling propulsion and arty ambition of a 20:50 "Medley: Tarkus/Pictures At An Exhibition," Live at Montreux 1997 showcases the elegance, the barely controlled chaos and insanely epic showmanship of a trio that always possessed incredible instrumental chops.

Rollicking piano and dancing organ salvos firing from the fingers of Keith Emerson abound, but it's the energetic rarity "Creole Dance" – a piece never available on an Emerson, Lake & Palmer studio release – that's the most stunning here, as his sheer speed furiously builds a beautiful nest of notes. The triumphant synthesizers, building drama and flashes of brilliance of "Fanfare for the Common Man" kick off a rousing closing medley of that work along with " ... Rondo / Carmina Burana / Carl Palmer's Drum Solo / Toccata in D Minor" that brings the house down. Montreux seemed to bring out the best in them.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Sevendust – Kill The Flaw

CD Review: Sevendust – Kill The Flaw
7Bros. Records
All Access Rating: A-

Sevendust - Kill The Flaw 2015
Sevendust was built for the long haul, and so are their ardent admirers. A model of consistency, they cultivated a loyal following most bands would sell their souls for, and there's no reason for the long-running hard-rock quintet to give up the ghost now, especially not after just unleashing what might be their finest work in their 18 years together.

Kill The Flaw is the 11th studio album from a hard-rock quintet that could easily have burned out quickly in the '90s after a string of gold albums and incessant touring. There's something to be said for the kind of longevity Sevendust has achieved. Even more noteworthy is that, after all this time, they're still pushing themselves creatively to grow and mature, without losing their identity – a tricky balancing act some of their peers never managed to pull off.

As floods of expansive, winding melodies that no dam could hope to hold wash over the self-produced Kill The Flaw, where thick carpets of heavy guitars and surging, sculpted grooves decorate mansions of sound, it's the emotionally powerful vocals of charismatic front man Lajon Witherspoon that give each place its heart and soul. Calming the thunder somewhat, Sevendust allows the complex dynamics of "Forget," "Cease And Desist" and "Not Today" to sink their firm hooks into an audience already reeling from the rapturous, ever-widening epics "Thank You" and "Death Dance." The dark crunch of "Letters" plumbs the layered, atmospheric depths of The Deftones, while "Silly Beast" evokes comparisons to the slick, majestic sonic designs of Muse and "Peace And Destruction" and a gripping title track deliver their sincere messages with fierce urgency and strong riffing from guitarists Clint Lowery and John Connolly. Hearing these songs is like being swallowed by an easy chair and drowning in its plush cushions.

Signs of progressing artistry are found all over Kill The Flaw, but it's the easy flow, the clarity and definition of the songwriting here that raise the bar, making for memorable experiences that should absolutely soar in live environments, where Sevendust really shines. Whatever "flaws" there are here are mostly submerged, and if Kill The Flow doesn't break any new ground, it does suggest that Sevendust isn't willing to compromise its vision. And that is why their fan base sticks around.
– Peter Lindblad