Kingdom Come to 'Get It On' again with 'Outlier'

Lenny Wolf’s maturity shines on diverse new album
By Peter Lindblad

Kingdom Come's Lenny Wolf - 2013
Even now, after all these years, the furor over “Get It On,” that mysterious single leaked to radio in 1988 that was thought to be the work of the mighty Led Zeppelin, leaves Lenny Wolf with mixed feelings.

It all unraveled so fast for Kingdom Come. A year earlier, Wolf, having signed to Polydor Records, had recruited all the band’s original members. They’d hit the studio with producer Bob Rock, who would later work with the likes of Metallica and Bon Jovi, to record their debut LP.

Out of nowhere, the swaggering single “Get It On” made its way onto radio stations across the United States, but there was a great deal of uncertainty as to where it came from, even though it sounded remarkably like Zeppelin – heavy and bluesy, even Wolf’s vocals were eerily similar to those of Robert Plant.

And everybody wanted so badly to see the return of Led Zeppelin, who had been dormant since the 1980 death of John Bonham, that they seized upon the idea that it actually was Zeppelin. 

But it was somebody else that made “Get It On.” It was Kingdom Come.

At first, Wolf loved the comparisons, although he was a bit befuddled by them. And the meteoric AOR success of “Get It On” fueled sales of Kingdom Come’s self-titled debut album, which was afforded gold status upon it being shipped and eventually rose all the way to No. 12 on the U.S. album charts.

“In the beginning, it was a blessing, because people took notice who had never heard of us, and of course, we were flattered and hallelujah,” said Wolf, who has once again revived the Kingdom Come machine for his most recent album Outlier, released on May 7 via Steamhammer/SPV. “And being a big Zeppelin fan myself, I thought, ‘What the hell they were talking about.’ But hey, what do I care? Thank you very much. It’s nice to be compared to them, and it gives you a good amount of adrenaline, so I thought, ‘Okay.’”

Everything was more than just okay for Kingdom Come in the immediate aftermath. Comprised of guitarists Danny Stag and Rick Steier, drummer James Kottack, and Johnny B. Frank on keyboards and bass, Kingdom Come was tapped for the North American Monsters of Rock tour in 1988, opening for such legends as The Scorpions, Van Halen, Metallica and Dokken. Up to that point, Wolf had played guitar in all the bands he’d been in. He gave it up for Kingdom Come.

“Oh, God, it was so beautiful,” said Wolf. “It was just an unbelievably strong concentration of – not just beautiful ding-dongs – but beautiful and nice people in general – like before the show, after the show, etc. Because it was such a big production that we carried around, we very often had two or three days off before the next show. So we’d get into the town a day or two in advance, and we just hung out, and because there was some big press stuff going on – Yay! The Monsters of Rock are here for our big stadium tour – people were recognizing us and inviting us to all kinds of things.”

Wolf once got a birds-eye view of the whole Monsters of Rock experience away from the stage.

Lenny Wolf enjoyed the
Monsters of Rock experience. 
“I mean, taking a helicopter around for a tour of the town and leaving a trail of people on the ground, which was a very big f- -king concept for a guy who likes breaking all the laws in the town. That was fun,” Wolf laughed. “I mean, I wasn’t flying around with the sheriff (laughs). But he actually took us to a fairly big home and was so sweet – I mean, all over the States, whether we’re talking Pittsburgh or wherever, it was great. That’s why I can’t point out one particular thing, it was just an overall fantastic experience and one I’m very grateful for.”

Although, Wolf would have appreciated a later time slot for Kingdom Come. They usually went on a little early for his liking.

“It was almost like a secondary thing at the end, because we’d only play 45 minutes, but travel around with the whole circus for … well, I don’t know, how long did it last? I don’t know, four weeks or something?” said Wolf. “We had a lot of time on our hands, you know. So, yeah, I wasn’t too thrilled about having to sing my ass off at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I had to learn our catalog on the plane in, because I’m a night owl, and I only start functioning at 7 p.m. So that was hard, singing the blues at that time. But hey, no complaints … it is what it is, and hallelujah.” 

Up to that point, Wolf had played guitar in every band he’d been in, but he gave it up for Kingdom Come. Still, Wolf had a great deal of influence on the musical direction of Kingdom Come, as did Rock.

“The bottom line was, he was not one of those control freaks who are going to make it theirs or make it their mission,” said Wolf, referring to the acclaimed producer. “It was mainly, ‘How can I get the best out of them and finding their uniqueness, their tone – just improving it, and like I said, getting the best out of you in terms of character and just the way we got along, it was fantastic. I mean, I would love to work with him anytime again – very professional, very nice, very cool. It is like, why do you love a particular woman, rather than any other adult? It is hard to put your finger on it sometimes – one can cook and the other will give you something else, but in the end, you love her. But he was one of those guys ... I just thank God for having met him and worked with him, just like he actually made Metallica. Otherwise, they do not become as huge as they are.

Kingdom Come had its time in the sun, too, although it ended all too quicklyWhile Wolf and Kingdom Come were having the time of their lives with the Monsters of Rock, their reputations were taking a beating in the press. Critics were lining up to bash their first record as a slavish rehash of everything Led Zeppelin had already done. And one of Wolf’s heroes was adding his voice to chorus of jeers directed at Kingdom Come.

Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was quoted in 1988 as saying, “Obviously it can get to the point where it gets past being a compliment, and it can be rather annoying, when you’ve got things like Kingdom Come, actually ripping riffs right off, that’s a different thing altogether.”

Hearing Page call out Kingdom Come and accuse them of theft was difficult for Wolf.

“What made me very sad is that one of my biggest idols, namely Jimmy Page … I was kind of disillusioned by a living legend,” Wolf said. “To even be annoyed by mentioning it, I thought that was very sad, because he should be above it all and just smile at the whole blah, blah, blah blowing up, if you know what I mean. That was what Robert Plant did when I saw Robert Plant in London. He was joking. He was just like goofing around. He didn’t care. He was like, ‘No, I’m a living legend. Who the hell is Kingdom Come?’ And it was like, ‘Okay, yeah. You’re right.’”

Had everybody in Kingdom Come taken the criticism leveled at them in stride, perhaps it all would have blown over. Understandably though, they got defensive when bombarded with questions about whether they had, indeed, stolen their sound from Led Zeppelin.

“In the end, unfortunately, [that was] due to a mistaken remark from Denny Stag, our former guitar player, who was so annoyed by being confronted with that question all the time, and at a coffee shop said, ‘Who’s Jimmy Page?’” said Wolf. “Of course, it was an ironical statement, but some writer overhead it and they made a big fuss over it. The majority of the press was jumping on the same train as he did and basically wrote the same bullshit without even knowing what was going on. But then, of course, people get like, ‘Well, holy Zeppelin … how can you?’ And blah, blah, blah … everybody who has seen Kingdom Come from long ago knows that I am one of the biggest Zeppelin fans around.”

Accused of heresy, Kingdom Come began experiencing darker times. Although their second single, the power ballad “What Love Can Be,” received a great deal of airplay and their first album reached platinum status, the growing backlash from “Get It On” was hitting them full in the face. And even though they were chosen to be the support act on The Scorpions’ “Savage Amusement” tour after their Monsters of Rock triumph, Kingdom Come was about to get a dose of reality.

Their second album, 1989’s In Your Face, didn’t even go gold. Later that year, Kingdom Come, as they
Kingdom Come - Outlier 2013
were originally configured, was no more, having disbanded due to personal reasons. Left to his own devices, Wolf kept Kingdom Come alive, releasing 11 albums in the years between In Your Face and Outlier.

The name of Kingdom Come’s latest record holds special significance for Wolf. It was a suggestion from a family member.

“I was thinking back to my childhood, and now musically, once again, taking a different route stylistically, it just made perfect sense,” said Wolf. “So I fell in love with it.”

Rather gloomy and atmospheric, Outlier is, nonetheless, a fully realized Kingdom Come record, with big, flowing melodies, well-constructed, powerful songs ensconced in a variety of sonic moods and textures, and even some rich electronic flourishes to flesh out pieces like “Rough Ryde Rally.”

“Actually, there was no master plan,” said Wolf, referring to creative process that resulted in Outlier. “When I get in the studio, I’m like a 5-year-old sitting in a candy store, like plucking at a guitar chord, hoping to get a hot line to the almighty – or the cosmos or whatever you want to call it – and just trying to pick up something more interesting or cool.”

A track like “Skip the Cover and Feel,” with its raucous, blues-driven stomp and ‘70s classic-rock architecture, wouldn’t sound out of place on Kingdom Come’s debut LP, however.

“That song, ‘Skip the Cover and Feel,’ offers something different from the rest of the songs [on Outlier],” said Wolf. “It was one of the songs I definitely could have written in ’88 or whatever, definitely. And that shows once again that I’m still attached to some of the good old vibes Kingdom Come used to offer and still do, but then at the same time, I’m trying to build a bridge [between the old Kingdom Come and the new one]. The hardest part about the two songs you mentioned was not to overproduce them, which is difficult to do when you’re in the studio and you get very creative, you know what I mean? So just leaving them alone and rocking out was the main mission, and I think we did it.”

And if the skies of Outlier don’t exactly seem sunny, that just reflects Wolf’s personality.

“I think that’s just basically me, but I’m glad you brought it up,” explained Wolf, a native of Hamburg, Germany. “It’s a big part of me. No, seriously, I’m a guy from the streets. Growing up in the big city, you get a little bit of that street-wise guy attitude. It’s hard to put into words. But certainly, I’m more into the heartfelt, dark side of moody, emotional … blah, blah, output, you know? Kingdom Come is not really a party band. There’s nothing like ‘Cherry Pie,’ let’s party, let’s all get wasted … blah, blah, blah. It’s something to do at the right time, but it’s not exactly what Kingdom Come is all about, even though we do have a few songs which simply rock out and you can have a good time. But that’s not exactly my musical fulfillment. I like the deep shit (laughs), and I’m just hoping to do enough to get at people’s emotions and their hearts, and hoping for them to enjoy the ride.”

There’s plenty of philosophical musings on Outlier, the successor to 2009’s Magnified, to placate intellectuals – “God Does Not Sing Our Song,” for one, is a sharply worded treatise on the all-too-human failings of organized religion. An epic in every sense of the word, it’s indicative of the fresh, revitalized approach Wolf took to making Outlier. With the exception of a few guitar solos by Eric Forester, Wolf recorded all the instruments himself at his Hamburg studio, dubbed the Two Square Noise Factory, and produced, engineered, mixed and mastered the new record completely on his own. For all intents and purposes, this is who Wolf is as an artist.

“I’m not stuck in the past, you want to put it that way,” said Wolf. “I do love ‘60s and ‘70s hard rock, with The Beatles, Hendrix, Zeppelin, AC/DC – of course, I love that stuff. I still listen to it a lot, but I also get like a second heart beating in me which is stuck very much in new sound elements, if you want to put it this way. I mean, our hearing habits have changed over the years. Once again, we don’t have any master plan or commercial interests or whatever. It’s just that we’re bloody kids at work hoping something cool comes out.”

Outlier is cool, and it’s different. The songwriting is mature, producing epic songs that are dark, deeply personal and gripping in ways that the old Kingdom Come could never imagine, even if some of the past seeps into Outlier and reminds everyone why “Get It On” found such a receptive audience. And it wasn’t just the Zeppelin-esque sound.

“I can’t really change my vocal cords, so the basic tone, the basic height is still there,” said Wolf. “I started realizing, about 12 years ago, that my vocal cords had gotten a bit rougher, which I actually like. We all have done some maturing. It’s called growing up, I guess. So I think you can hear that right away when compared to the old records. There are some parts where it sounds rather cute and not like rocking or whatever, but that’s just part of growing up. I think the basic emotional output, to put it this way, it still kind of remains the same, but the packaging, of course, is what makes a product different, especially when it comes to any changes in audio packaging. You know, basically, it’s just like building frequencies and like gluing them together, and it can go from very poppy to a little bit aggressive; it could be good. And I think we’ve reached a much, much more mature approach now than we had like in the early ‘80s, not like when you’re 22 and the hormones are really getting in the way.”

Having sown his wild oats a long time ago, that’s no longer a problem for Wolf. 

DVD Review: Judas Priest – Epitaph

DVD Review: Judas Priest – Epitaph
Legacy Recordings
All Access Rating: A+

Judas Priest - Epitaph 2013
It’s the end of the line for Judas Priest, or so they say. Their days of grinding it out for long stretches on the road are reportedly over. No more massive, globe-trotting tours, like the 50-week “Epitaph World Tour,” which started in the summer of 2011 and lasted well into 2012. 

Having reached a certain age, as most of the men of Priest have, the hours spent traveling and then performing for hours on end can be extremely hard on the body – even if on “Epitaph,” the blazing new live DVD from Priest, they seem just as full of piss and vinegar as they were in their youth.

No gold watches were handed out at this retirement party, as “Epitaph” – available on DVD and Blu-ray – captures in breathtaking fashion Priest’s final concert from that worldwide death march, a 23-song slog through their mountainous catalog at London’s HMV Hammersmith Apollo on May 26, 2012 that scorches the earth they have trod for years. Well aware of the historical significance of this show, Priest takes off on a cattle drive across a set list that includes a song from every one of their 14 studio albums and they attack them all with equal intensity and fervor.

Amid shooting plumes of smoke and fire, with a stage awash in vivid, colorful lighting and backed by a wide projection screen, Priest goes for broke, aggressively charging into killer classics like “Painkiller,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” and “Electric Eye” with utter abandon. Working in tandem with exuberant new guitarist Richie Faulkner, whose volcanic shredding make for simply scintillating entertainment, Glenn Tipton’s staggering riffs and searing leads are positively rabid, as “Night Crawler” – from the Painkiller LP – and “Never Satisfied,” off 1974’s Rocka Rolla, growl with primal menace. That magnificent wail of Rob Halford’s shows no sign of wear, as he nails the famous scream at the end of “Beyond the Realms of Death,” from Stained Class, with deadly accuracy. And with the crowd in a lather, Priest races through “Turbo Lover,” exhorting an energized fan base to fill the venue with their full-throated roar – as they do on “Breaking the Law,” where Halford turns over the vocals to the people and lets them have their day.

Punishingly heavy, “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)” and the bulldozing “Prophesy” – the mammoth centerpiece of 2008’s Nostradamus – still surge with unrelenting power long after the band expends a great deal of energy plowing through Painkiller’s “Battle Hymn” and British Steel’s “Rapid Fire” and “Metal Gods” at the start of the evening. Priest is tireless, and although K.K. Downing is missed, Faulkner’s vibrancy is incredibly infectious. And when Halford, stalking the stage with purpose and looking every bit the Metal God he purports to be, brings the Harley onstage for “Hell Bent for Leather,” as is the custom with Priest, the place predictably goes ballistic, making it all the more sad that this may be it for them as a touring beast.

What a spectacular sendoff “Epitaph” is, though, exciting from beginning to end and amazingly filmed. Shot from a seemingly endless variety of angles and edited sharply, the visuals are stunning, making the pace of the two-hour show somehow faster and more thrilling than it ought to be, thanks to Alex Walker’s smart, dynamic direction. It’s not a stretch to say this might be one of the finest live concert movies ever, as evidenced by a willingness to actually have it shown in movie theaters.

At the fiery conclusion of the show closer “Living after Midnight,” Halford waves goodbye, and it’s a wistful moment. Faulkner, on the other hand, raises his guitar in triumph, as the band persuades Halford to come back for one last bow. Nobody wants it to end, but it must. For one night, however, they raged against the dying of the light and beat it back.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: dUg Pinnick – Naked

dUg Pinnick – Naked
RockArmy Records/MVD
All Access Review: B+

dUg Pinnick - Naked 2013
Going into deep self-analysis, dUg Pinnick, the heart and soul of King’s X, takes stock of his life on Naked, his latest solo album. A record with such a title would imply that its author is willing to leave himself vulnerable, exposed, and his defenses are down on Naked. Laying his soul bare, Pinnick has penned some of the most relatable and intensely therapeutic lyrics of his career, and they are couched in angry, downcast music that seems born of dark days, indeed.

Slaying those inner demons, an edgy Pinnick – who wrote everything on Naked, played everything on Naked, recorded it himself and produced it all by his lonesome at his own dUgtone Studio – unleashes gnarly heavy-metal storms like “That Great Big Thing,” the bruised, yet mellifluous, “I Hope I Don’t Lose My Mind,” and the ponderous, grunge-like stomp of “What You Gonna Do” that release powerful, bottled-up emotions. These are somewhat depressing, suffocating sonic environments – dreary motel rooms, where bottles of pills and booze are strewn about, but there’s a Bible on the nightstand and hope for a better life cutting through the gloom of the drug-sick psychedelia of “The Point,” one of the strangest tracks on Naked.

And there are some odd passages on Naked, including the shambolic breakdown of “I’m Not Going to Freak Out” and the stuttering “Take Me Away From You,” with its ill-conceived proggy keyboards providing a distracting kaleidoscopic background. More soulful, with a thick guitar roar, “Courage” growls at  and then mauls to death whatever fears it confronts, while “Ain’t That the Truth” rolls out satisfying, hard funk grooves and the urgent “Heart Attack” tears the newspaper off the windows, letting some radiant guitars, optimism and the will to carry on into what has been a dank, dirty basement of a record up to this point.

Possibly the most affecting track on Naked is “If You Fuk Up,” a heartfelt, slow-building ode to self-reliance in the face of crushing doubt and despair that artfully weaves together different voice threads that carry Pinnick’s pleas for salvation and his semi-formed survival plan. Less reliant on whimsical Beatlesesque harmonies and the melodic ingenuity of King’s X’s greatest achievements, although not so different from their early work, Naked is spiritual in its own way, but it has a tough skin and a serious aspect. It’s a crumbling old church in a bad neighborhood with an idealistic priest who tries valiantly to shepherd his flock, despite the temptations and desperate hardships its congregation faces every day. Pinnick will clothe himself and fight on, shouldering his burdens and seeking redemption wherever he can find it. Maybe Naked will convince others to do the same.
-        – Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Kingdom Come – Outlier

Kingdom Come – Outlier
All Access Review: B+

Kingdom Come - Outlier 2013
He is, in essence, now a lone Wolf – that’s Lenny Wolf, as in the mastermind behind Kingdom Come. As in the band that was first mistaken for Led Zeppelin in 1988 and then savaged by critics for sounding a little too much like them on the single “Get it On,” as well as on the self-titled debut album from whence came the track in question. As in the band that some waggish scribes dubbed “Kingdom Clone” and was taken to task by none other than Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page as rip-off artists and forgers.

That was a quarter century ago, and while they still unapologetically wear their ‘70s hard-rock influences on the project’s tattered sleeves, Kingdom Come – basically, a solo project for Wolf these days, seeing as how he produced, engineered, mixed and mastered Outlier, in addition to playing all the instruments, with the exception of Eric Forster’s guitar solos – isn’t inextricably bound to them. Wolf has come into his own as a recording artist, becoming more assured as a songwriter and sonic architect. And his designs are more dramatic and impactful than ever.

Dark and moody, with Wolf often looking inward for lyrical inspiration and his passionate, slightly worn voice a blazing beacon, the sprawling Outlier – out now on Steamhammer/SPV – is awash in murky atmospherics, its expansive soundscapes stretching out far and wide on “Don’t Want You to Wait” and “When Colors Break the Grey.” The sweeping epic “Rough Ride Rallye” practically lives in Wolf’s shadowy synthesizers before growing in a full-blown supernova. Another silvery, cinematic production, with tendrils of distortion floating through the air, “God Does Not Sing Our Song” is similarly cast, enveloped in billowing guitar blackness and angelic melodies. Far more rugged, though just as starry and cosmic, “Running High Distortion” drives on through the night with drums bashing away and guitars flashing like lightning. These are beautiful sonic constellations, almost divine in their own way.

However, there is no God in “Let the Silence Talk” or the slow-burning, ballad-like “Holy Curtain,” both of them constructed according to more standard, earthbound metal blueprints. And with “Skip the Cover and Feel,” Wolf decides he can no longer keep his love for Zeppelin hidden, turning a gritty blues riffs inside-out, much as Jimmy Page once did, before a melodic flood rushes in. Outlier is a stylish album – even heavy, hook-filled hitters like “Such a Shame” and “The Trap is Alive” have their moments of dreamy transcendence, although the verses of the latter are somewhat clumsy in their movements.

Solidly built and ambitious, Outlier has a smoky quality and pulse-quickening tempos that make it perfect for moonlit caravans in fast convertibles. In the harsh light of day, few of its tracks beat their chests and demand to be singled out, but Outlier certainly is pretty and full of meaningful reflections on life and love. The echoes of past criticisms aimed at Kingdom Come are starting to fade.
-        – Peter Lindblad 

CD Review: Rob Zombie – Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor

Rob Zombie – Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor
Zodiac Swan Records/T-Boy Productions/UMe
All Access Rating: A-

Rob Zombie - Venomous Rat
Regeneration Vendor 2013
Translated from some weird lost language that only Rob Zombie understands, “Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga” probably has some fiendishly obscene meaning, especially considering that in the pummeling chaos of the track – off his latest album, the awesomely titled Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor – he’s heard exhorting anyone within earshot to “rally round the girl with the skull on her ass.” Either that or Zombie has suddenly begun speaking in tongues.

Another seething, all-consuming cauldron of mind-bending heavy metal riffage, dizzying dance beats, industrial brutality, electronic unease and Zombie’s demented fantasies all mashed together, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor might be his most visceral and entertaining album to date. Amplified by massive, full-throated production values, it’s an aural carnival of cartoonish horror and rip-roaring debauchery, with mean, explosive rock ’n’ roll freak shows like “Behold, the Pretty Filthy Creatures!,” “White Trash Freaks,” “Lucifer Rising”  and “Trade in Your Guns for a Coffin” getting right up in your face and spitting in it. They roar out of the speakers like runaway freight trains. At the controls, Zombie is the mad conductor, but it’s his equally demented assistant, that clever boy John 5, who churns out riff after heady riff, each one more insanely dynamic and unexpectedly potent than the last and seemingly packed with enough dynamite to blow a mile-wide hole in a mountain of rock.

While Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is capable of generating awesome power, Zombie and his evil henchmen aren't satisfied with simply throwing their impressive weight around, even though the stomping opener “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy” is one of the heaviest tracks ever committed to a Zombie record. Updating The Doors’ “The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)” for the new millennium, the swinging “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown” – thrown around by swirling organ and crushed under the heel of Five’s grinding guitars – swaggers like a drunken cad, spilling his drink and eyeing up easy girls. And then there’s something insidiously infectious sweeping through “Rock and Roll (in a Black Hole)” like a full-on pandemic, the spare electronic beats giving way to a raging, head-spinning cyclone of raucous metal energy.

Again, Zombie loves to draw the most ludicrously evil images with words, including this little nugget of wisdom from “White Trash Freaks”: “She’s a Warhol painting heading west/I love Ringo across her breast/covering a nasty pitbull scar/life ain’t shit/if you ain’t a star.” And he relishes taking on absurd new identities, like “dirty pig alley Dan” and “King Kong raisin bran” in “Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga.” A literary Salvador Dali, Zombie’s writings often sound as if they are the product of terrifying acid trips. He does come down to sleepwalk his way through a rather nondescript and tepid reading of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band,” but the rest of Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is a delicious descent into madness, a hell ride of crazed, breathtaking intensity and almost manic mood swings. Buy a ticket to the show. You won’t ask for a refund. (
– Peter Lindblad

Doro ready to raise her fist in the air

German metal queen has big plans for 2013
By Peter Lindblad

Doro Pesch performing live 
Some women give themselves over to God and become nuns. Doro Pesch had a different calling. 

Devoting her life to spreading the gospel of heavy metal to every corner of the earth, the German-born artist is a true believer, a warrior for the cause. She’s bled for it and sacrificed, even going so far as to quash any possibility of having a family or a spouse. Doro is the Metal Queen, and she takes that royal title seriously.

So when Pesch, a fearless trailblazer for women in a genre traditionally ruled by men, demands that you Raise Your Fist, as she does on her latest album, as a fan of metal, you pull on your patch-covered battle jacket – no questions asked – and go to war against whatever forces are conspiring against the music you love. Yes, like your good ol’ Uncle Sam, she wants you, and Raise Your Fist – her 17th studio album overall and running the gamut from traditional metal to glorious power metal and balls-out thrash – is her newest recruiting endeavor.

Positive messages abound, as Doro espouses a “never give up” philosophy on Raise Your Fist, released last fall on Nuclear Blast. Doro never did, not even when she had tuberculosis as a child and had to actually stave off death. She would go on to help found the German metal band Warlock as a mere teenager, with members of the bands Snake and Beast. Warlock toured with such metal heavyweights as W.A.S.P., Judas Priest, Dio and Megadeth.

Warlock recorded four albums, including their 1987 breakout hit Triumph and Agony. It went gold in Germany and landed at No. 80 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. Their videos for the singles “All We Are” and “Fur immer” were afforded heavy rotation on MTV’s “Headbangers’ Ball.” But, when Doro decided to settle in America, Warlock disintegrated and the band Doro was born. Since then, she’s continued to record and tour with a relentless energy few can muster, becoming a role model for other females in metal.

2013 promises to be a big year for Doro, and she talks about what’s coming up and her amazing history in this recent interview.

How was the most recent tour?
Doro Pesch: It was a wonderful tour. It was awesome. The weather was so severe. There was lots of snow, though, and lots of snowstorms, and oh man, in some cities, there was so much snow and ice, we were afraid that nobody would show up. But, it was always packed, even though it was cold out.

Do you think the material off Raise Your Fist was well-received?
Doro - Raise Your Fist 2012
DP: Yes, yeah. It was great. And you know, it was great, and I think it fit right in with all the classic songs. What is this, record No. 17? Yeah, it mixed in really good and “Raise Your Fist” … actually it reminds me of “All We Are” and it made people so happy, and I always asked them to show me your fists before we played the song, and oh, it was so great. So “Raise Your Fist in the Air” was definitely one of the highlights. And “Revenge” was especially for people who like old-school metal, and there was a lot of metal in that and everybody was head-banging. And one of my favorite songs, “Hero,” I sang it every night, and I dedicated it to Ronnie James Dio, who I loved so much. And that was definitely one of the highlights. And then every night we played different songs off the new album. Sometimes we’d put in “Cold Hearted Lover” and other stuff. It’s hard to choose a set list because there are so many records we try to highlight, and then every night we try to change it for those who come to see it a couple of times, so everyone gets new songs. Yeah, yeah … the new record was received very well. We were happy.

Is “Hero” one of your favorite songs off the new album?
DP: It is, and it’s one of the most important. It was Track 1 that I wrote for this record, and I just kept saying I want to give honor and respect to Ronnie. We got the chance to tour together a couple of times. My first time was actually in ’87, and one of the great times was in 2000 in America. We had a long tour and then we became really great friends, and it was so much fun. And I know how much Ronnie means to all the heavy-metal fans. And I feel the same. So when I heard that he was in heaven … oh God, it was so devastating. A couple of weeks later, I wanted to go to bed, and I almost fell asleep, and then this melody comes out and the lyrics and the chorus was exactly there as how you hear it on the record. And then I finished the verses a little bit later with a friend of mine, Joey Balin, who did [Warlock’s] Triumph and the Agony with me and the Force Majeure record [her first solo album], and I called him up. And I said, “Joey, I have a song  that’s very important to me. It’s for Ronnie and every word has to be perfect,” so he said, “Let’s do it.” And he knew Ronnie, too, because we toured together in ’87. Joey was on the tour, but back then I couldn’t speak English that well, so the conversations between Ronnie and me were limited to, “Hey, have a great show,” and “you did great.” But in 2000, we had long conversations and great laughs, and it was awesome. We became really great friends.

A couple of really big powerful anthems on the record are “Raise Your Fist in the Air” and “Victory.” I know you stated in the press material that when you played the Wacken Open Air Festival, those songs just made the whole place shake. What was that experience like?
DP: Oh, it was the ultimate. Actually, Wacken is one of my favorite festivals in the world – not because it’s in Germany but because it’s for all the metalheads all over the world. It’s definitely one of the best festivals. That’s what so great about the festival is that it’s definitely a festival for the fans. So these two guys, I played them the demo for “Raise Your Fist.” It was a couple of years ago, and then they said, “Oh, you’ve got to play these at the Wacken festival.” And I said, “No, it’s not done. It’s just a demo. We want to record it. We want to put it eventually on the new record.” They said, “No, play it, please.” And I said, “Are you sure?” And they said, “Yes.” And then I played it and actually, it was not even finished, but we played it. I always could open up the Wacken festival. I sing the Wacken anthem, and then I did either “Oh Yeah,” but in that case I did “Raise Your Fist” and it was great. And then I knew, “Okay, this song will definitely make the record, too.” And then we recorded it and the title was Raise Your Fist; it was actually the record title. And so this year, I have my 30-year anniversary coming up, and we want to play all over the world, and do a couple of really, really special shows, with great guests and lights and sound and the whole spectacular things. And in Wacken, that’s actually the first time we will celebrate it at Open Air, and all this. So definitely “Raise Your Fist” will be in the set. And I want to do it in London and Paris and New York, and we’ll see after we talk to the touring agents. But I want to celebrate it big for the 30th anniversary, yeah.

It seems like only yesterday you had your 25th anniversary.
DP: You’re right. It totally feels like a couple of weeks ago. Yep, yep, but times flies, and I toured with my first band when I was 16 years old.

You have another duet with Lemmy on the new record on “It Still Love Hurts.” Tell me what that was like and if you have a favorite Lemmy story, as everybody seems to have?
DP: Yeah, yeah. I do have, actually, many Lemmy stories, but I can tell you the first one. It was in the very early ‘80s, and I’ll tell you, I don’t think Lemmy remembers it, but I remember it. When you drink whiskey cola with Lemmy, you know, it is 90 percent whiskey and 10 percent Coca Cola. It was the first time I got invited to go to London, to England, by a magazine … that was very important. It was Kerrang magazine, and it was before I had even gotten an American release. And back in the day, it was like you had to do really good in England to get a chance to go to America. So it was a very important day. I got invited by the Kerrang people to a party. And they said, “Well, can you play a couple of songs.” I said, “Okay,” but the record company said just one person goes over from Warlock, and I said, “Well, okay.” So, I went over and they put together a band for me, like a couple of other musicians, and we were doing sound check and it was maybe ’82 or ’83. And yeah, and then we were rehearsing, it sounded really good. I covered a couple of Free songs and they sounded good, but the pressure was on. I was so stressed out. I thought, “Oh God, I’ve got to represent well for the record company, for the magazine people,” and there were tons of press there.

And then, to kill some time after sound check, I went around the corner to get something to eat or to get something to drink, and I went into this pub. And then I saw somebody who was standing there, and I thought, “Is that Lemmy?” And then I walked up to him and said, “Are you Lemmy?” And he said, “Yes. Are you Doro?” And I said, “Yes.” And I thought, “Oh, that’s great,” but I couldn’t speak English at all. I had no idea what he was saying, and I said, “Do you wanna have a drink – whiskey cola?” And I thought, “Oh yes, yes.” And we smoked some cigarettes, and it was one whiskey cola after another. And when you drink whiskey cola with Lemmy, you know, it is 90 percent whiskey and 10 percent Coca Cola. So, I had a couple of drinks, and I wouldn’t want to say, “No,” because I didn’t want to chicken out. So I had a couple more, and I thought, “Oh my God.” And he said, “Dora, don’t you have to do a gig?” I said, “Oh, yeah.” And then I walked out of the pub. I couldn’t even … I think I was probably shaking. I didn’t even know where I was going. So I found the club where the party was supposed to be, and then people were saying, “Doro, you have to jump onstage. Your show …” And I went onstage and I couldn’t remember the lyrics anymore. I couldn’t stand up, and then I was sitting on the drum riser, and then I waited until the band was finished. And then I walked off. And the record company and everybody were in shock. They said, “What happened to you? What happened?” And I said, “I met Lemmy.” And then everybody started laughing. They said, “Okay, little girl. Now that’s a good excuse.” And that’s how we got our record deal in America.

So that was my first time meeting Lemmy, and ever since we’ve become real good friends, and we actually did great stuff together. Two years ago, we did the tour with Motorhead. We opened up for Motorhead in Europe and Lemmy did two songs with me on the Call of the Wild record in 2000 and on this record, yeah, I wrote “It Still Hurts” with a great friend of mine who is the ex-guitar player of (Sisters of) Mercy, Andreas Bruhn, and then we were working on the song, and then I said, “Andreas, somehow I feel this calls for a duet.” And then he was singing the male part, and I said, “You know what, in the back of my mind, I hear Lemmy singing the song.” And he looked at me and said, “I made you a rock mix. You want to send it to him?” I said, “Oh, yes.” And then I sent it to Lemmy, and he said, “Oh that sounds great. Let’s do it.” And then we did it on the same day when I did “That Metal Show” with Eddie Trunk. Yeah, and then at night, I went to the studio and Lemmy sang his part for “It Still Hurts,” and I was so happy. It was great. It’s one of my favorite songs on this record, and it’s always a great honor to have Lemmy sing something.

My favorite song on the record is “Little Headbanger.” I wanted to ask you where that song came from.
DP: Yeah, I wanted to write like a real old-school metal song, like something that’s good to head-bang to. And actually, I had this idea and I did it with Andreas Bruhn as well, and I said, “Andreas, we need the real ‘80s – a no bullshit sound, not ‘90s. I want to have it ‘80s style.” Yeah, and that was the last song on the record, and then I squeezed in some little German words. But, it sounds cool, it’s great. And there are a couple of little German things, and it’s a song about a real headbanger, and actually, on the last tour, we had these t-shirts for kids, and they had “Little Headbanger” on them. So all the people when they’re buying little t-shirts for their little girl or boy … I’ve gotten tons of pictures [sent to me] where it says, “Our little headbanger” on them, and they’re so beautiful, and they say, “Now they’ll be a little headbanger when they grow up.”

I was doing some research before the interview, and I didn’t realize that your first memory of listening to music hearing “Lucille” by Little Richard.
DP: Yes, I think I was about 3 years old – maybe 3 or 4 years old. I can honestly say I think I fell in love with music so hard because of that song. I loved music before, but when I listened to it, I didn’t even know who it was, but I was just old enough to make the record player play the same song over and over and over, and my parents thought there was something wrong. But I knew then that I wanted to become a singer, and then, later on, I grew up with it and bands like T-Rex, Sweet, Slade, Alice Cooper, and then later on, Led Zeppelin, but there was no heavy metal when I was 7, 8, or 9 years old. Then, when I was about 15, there was the beginning of the heavy-metal movement, but of course, there wasn’t any Internet in Germany. There weren’t really even any magazines. There were just maybe little fanzines coming out, and later, around ’82 or ’83, we founded Warlock, and we were in the right place at the right time, and we toured and played with great, great metal bands. And somehow, we thought, “Hey man, I guess we’re part of the heavy-metal movement,” but at first, we just did what we wanted to do and it sounded like what we loved, but we had no idea it was called “heavy metal.” But then, later on, yeah … we knew.

You were one of the few female voices in metal at the time. Did you experience any problems with that, or were you accepted from the start?
DP: Yeah, Peter, actually there were absolutely no problems whatsoever. I think the fans and the other bands … like when we opened up for other bands, everybody knew I was dead serious about metal. You know, I was dedicated to metal, and I think everybody knew it. So, there was not even a question if you were a man or a woman. They knew I had metal in my heart. And the fans … from Day One, there was a deep connection, and I love the fans. I get so much feedback from the fans saying it didn’t matter if you were born a girl or whatever … you have to work with what you have, but they were nice to me. It never mattered.

The only time it mattered was when we went to go to Japan in the ‘80s – especially the German metal bands were huge there. And then, we were talking to the record company. They were selling tons … just millions of records there, but then, like the promoter said, “No, we can’t go because Doro is a girl.” And I thought, “What?! What the f- -k is that?” I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. Then, in the year 2000, we were signed to another independent label. It was SPV. And then the record came out in Japan again. It was actually the Call of the Wild record, with the two Lemmy duets on it. Yeah, and then I talked to my product manager, and I said, “Well, it’s a huge success in Japan,” but he said, “You guys can’t go.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “It’s only because you are a woman.” And I said, “Oh, I can’t believe it. I heard that shit in the ‘80s, and it’s still that way?” But then actually I went to Japan now. I guess we’re lucky that times have changed, but yeah, for the longest time, that was the only, only time I heard something like that. Probably, it was one person who makes the decisions, you know, because we had tons of Japanese metalheads and metal fans, but that was the only time I heard something and it was a problem. But, sometimes, when there is problem, then you put even more energy into it to overcome the hurdle, or it’s a bigger challenge. But that was actually the only time that I heard something. Everything else, there was always great support by the other musicians and bands, and our first big tour was with Judas Priest in ’87 …

That must have been amazing. What was the highlight of that tour?
DP: Yeah, yeah. The highlight of that tour was actually when we got the tour, I quit my job. My manager called me and the place where I was working as a graphic artist and he said, “Are you ready to quit your job?” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “So you can go on tour with your favorite band.” And I didn’t really dare to think … and I said, “Who do you mean?” He said, “Well, your favorite band.” And I said, “Does he mean Judas Priest?” And I said, “No f- -king way.” Then I quit my job. I told my boss that I wanted to quit my job to go on tour with Judas Priest. He didn’t know what that was. I said, “They’re the biggest and the best.” And he said, “Is that why you’re always dressed like so funny, with the bullet belt and the studs?” I said, “Yes, yes. That’s why. That’s one of the reasons.” And he said, “Okay then, good luck. I know I can’t keep you here. I wish you good luck.” And then we toured and the last gig was actually in Scandinavia, and I didn’t know it, but usually on the last gig, the headliner always does something to the support band or the support band does something to the headliner. And then we were playing “Burning the Witches,” and it was the “Turbo” tour, and suddenly, all the pyro and the “Turbo Lover” – it was like this big kind of robot – went on. Like we got the whole pyrotechnics and fireworks, and at first, I was like shocked and surprised, and then actually they gave it to us, like the whole Judas Priest guys and the crew, the band, they said, “Let’s give them the full show.” And then we played “Burning the Witches” with the full Judas Priest show, which usually, the headliner is the headliner, and we got the full-blown pyrotechnics, lights … it was unbelievable, and it looked like a million bucks. That was one of many, many highlights.

Yeah, I bet.
DP: And then my second tour was actually with Ronnie James Dio, and there were so many highlights there, too, but it would take too long to tell them all. Every day was a highlight with Ronnie, of course, and Judas Priest, my favorite band, and then Ronnie James Dio, my favorite singer … so I can definitely say I’ve been totally blessed in the metal world.

Tell me about recording your debut album, Burning the Witches, with Warlock and your last studio album together, Triumph and Agony.  How would you compare the two?
DP: Yeah, let’s see, the first one actually we signed to a label, Mausoleum Records. That’s because [they had] the coolest logo. It looked like metal, and it had two drops of blood on either end, so that was already the decision. There was no legal advice for us – nothing. It was just … it looks like metal, so it must be cool. So we started writing the … Witches album, and actually, I had no idea then that you can record something many times over. So I did all my vocals in one take in a couple of hours, and then sometimes I didn’t say the right lyrics and stuff – I wrote it down somewhere, but the lyrics got lost. So I just sang it, and I said, “I hope nobody will hear it.” I had no idea that you could ask the engineer, “Can I sing it again?” I did it all in one take, one song after the other. And I said, “I hope nobody will hear that I sang a couple of times the same shit and all the mistakes,” but then nobody said a word. I thought, “Okay.” And then I was done.
We recorded the whole record in seven days, and the first mix was actually so awful I burned it and I fell down in tears, it was so awful. We remixed it again and I blew all my money on this record, and it was … yeah, that was the first record. And then we met somebody who actually did our Hellbound (1985) record and True as Steel (1986) record. His name was Henry Staroste. He actually saved the record. He was actually an artist at Polygram, and he helped us to make a nice mix on the Burning the Witches record. And he brought in his friend, an engineer, and his name was Rainer Assmann, and he was really good. So the record, Burning…, which sounded okay in the end, he said the recording is good, but not so great, but he said, “I think it was his first time in the studio, too.” So it was actually our first record, but it was such a surprise and totally unexpected, but it was a big success. We had no idea that people would even find out that we existed. It was great, and then the second record, actually, was on Polygram then, not Universal. And then it was not taking seven days; it was actually taking nine months and it was close to taking the whole year, and then I went to America. And I fell in love with America. I just went to New York for a little promotion tour, but the promotion lasted three days and after two days, I told everybody I want to stay. And then I stayed.

Then I got in touch with so many great people, and we recorded the Triumph and Agony album in actually the best studio in the world. It was called the Power Station back then, and that’s where it happened, at the great Power Station studio in New York City. And we had great people playing on that record. Cozy Powell played many of the songs on this record, and it was the time of my life. Just being in America, I loved it so much and we had so much energy and we were overflowing with ideas, and then with Joey Balin, who produced the record with me. I told him all kinds of ideas and he went, “Wow! That’s very interesting,” and my first song was “East Meets West,” because I told Joey how it is to play in an Eastern country. We went to Hungary and it was totally like you could smell the Cold War. It was so empty and because he was American, he had no idea what I was talking about. And then I tried to explain to him how it is there, and we came up with the song “East Meets West.” It was the first song and I played it for my manager, and he said, “That’s great. Go on. Do more stuff.” And then we did song after song after song, and then we recorded the tracks actually in the Power Station in New York and in Pennsylvania, at the Kajem studio. Yeah, and I felt it had magic, and I told everybody, “I know it will be gold, it will be gold.” And everybody said, “Aren’t you getting a little bit crazy?” And I said, “No, no, no.” And yeah, it was our most successful record. We did a one-and-a-half-year tour after this record, and it was my first long, big tour in America with Megadeth, and still to this day, I love this record so much. It had so much energy and the songs … “All We Are” was edgy and put on heavy rotation on MTV, and it was shot in a river basin where “Terminator” was shot. It was shot by a great guy. Mark Rezyka was the video producer, and he was the hottest video producer in the ‘80s, or one of the hottest. And then “All We Are” was on heavy rotation … I remember when MTV had “Headbanger’s Ball,” when I first saw “All We Are” on “Headbanger’s Ball,” I screamed so loud, it was like I just couldn’t believe it. And then the next time I saw “Headbanger’s Ball,” Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, they were hosting “Headbanger’s Ball,” and they said, “And here’s another band from Germany called Warlock and ‘All We Are,’” and it was just, “Oh my God …” I almost got a heart attack. It was too much.

What was Gene Simmons like to work with?
DP: Oh, I was a big KISS fan, and I introduced KISS in 1989 at the Monsters of Rock Festival in Germany. The promoter said, “Doro, I know that you are a big KISS fan. Would you want to introduce KISS live onstage?" I said, “Oh, it would be great.” So, I did, and that was my first time when I met the guys in KISS, and I went up and met Gene Simmons. Yeah, and he left a big impression on me, and I thought, “Ah.” And from that day on, I was always thinking of maybe covering a KISS song, or maybe do something with KISS, and then I called my manager. I said, “Do you think it’s possible to maybe get connected and stuff?” And my manager, his name was Alex (Grob), he said, “I don’t think so. They don’t have time for that.” And I said, “Well, check it out.” 

So a couple of weeks later – he was a great manager by the way; I worked with him for 17 years, Alex – and then, a couple of weeks later, Alex said, “Doro get dressed, and meet me at the Le Parker Meridien Hotel on 57th Street,” and I was living in the Village, and I said, “Why?” And he said, “Well, it’s a surprise.” And I thought maybe it was some friends of mine were coming to New York, and then I went to the Le Parker Meridien Hotel. It was actually the first hotel I ever stayed at in America, so I knew it well. Yeah, and then I met Alex, and I said, “Please, tell me who it is,” and he said, “No no. You’ll find out. It’s somebody really great.” And I said, “No way!” And he said, “Yes.” And I said, “No way. Why didn’t you tell me it was Gene Simmons?” And he said, “Because I wanted to surprise you.”

And I got like … I was so nervous, and I ran around the block three times, and in New York, it’s a huge block, and then after three times, Alex said, “Are you finished now? Are you ready to face Gene Simmons?” And I walked into the hotel, and Gene was sitting there. And he was very nice, very … you know, like very calm. And he said, “Well, what do you want to do?” And I said, “I thought maybe one song together?” And he said, “Okay. Let’s try it out. If nothing happens, that’s okay, but you know, let’s check it out.” So we worked together really well and we recorded the whole record in L.A. and Gene was the executive producer, and Tommy Thayer was the co-producer. And Tommy Thayer played many of the guitar solos, and it was a time when I had great producers …you know, it was awesome. He was very, very nice – very intelligent and very caring, just super.

Your records have a lot of positive messages, and your lyrics hit on themes of perseverance in the face of different things and determination. Do you get that from when you had tuberculosis as a child and you had to fight to really even stay alive?
DP: Yeah, maybe. Maybe that had something to do with it. If you’re really close to dying, something is changed. You are not anymore so … I don’t know. It’s definitely … yeah, I think it had something to do with it. And I always wanted to make people happy and give them something they can believe in, something that can lift them up. If somebody has a shitty day, just you know, I’d always say, “Put on a record or ‘All We Are’ and you feel better, you feel empowered.” And with the live shows, that’s what I always feel I can do best. I really feel I can give people good energy, and it goes by fast, so I hope those good feelings last. When I can touch their hearts and soul … God, that’s great. And in the same way, I always get energized by the fans, and that’s why I could do another 30 years, because the music business is rough. It’s always going up and down, and it’s really hardcore. So I always owe it to the fans that I can still do it and I cater to the fans and the music and that will never, ever change. I’m a hundred percent sure of that.

What’s next for you? What’s on the horizon? And what are your long-term plans?
DP: The “Full Metal Cruise,” that’s another cruise liner metal thing going in Europe. And then we want to do all the summer festivals and do some more gigs in the States. And keep touring for the rest of the year, and then I celebrate my 30th anniversary in music. And I want to do it a couple of times. I want to do it the first time at Wacken, at the Open Air festival in Germany in August. And then I want to do it once in New York and in Paris, and then probably do a great DVD out of it, because, of course, I want to do it great, with great guests and spectacular shows and the best pyrotechnics and whatever … it’s great, great, great. Yeah, and then doing a DVD – all of it. And then I just did the second part of [the film] “Anuk – The Way of the Warrior.” [In the first movie, released in 2006 with Krokus’s Marc Storache also acting in the film, she played the warrior Meha] We did the first part and now we’re doing the second part. I’m writing some more songs for the soundtrack, and I hope it will come out in 2013 or 2014. It always takes a little longer to break into the cinema, so probably the beginning of 2014, I guess. And then more touring and hopefully, another long American tour.

CD Review: Sodom – Epitome of Torture

CD Review: Sodom – Epitome of Torture
All Access Rating: B+

Sodom - Epitome of Torture 2013
War is hell, and the concept of it scares Sodom’s Tom Angelripper to death. To deal with his dread, he paints some of the most horrifying scenes of bloody carnage imaginable in the gory, death-obsessed lyrics smeared all over the bombed-out walls of Sodom’s catalog. His fears haven’t abated in recent years; neither has his seething anger.

There’s a bonus track on the limited-edition digipak version of the German thrash-metal juggernaut’s newest LP, Epitome of Torture, called “Waterboarding,” where Angelripper winces at just how far sadistic interrogators are willing to go behind closed doors. And then there’s the blistering “Katjuschka,” which finds Angelripper shaking his head in disgust over a Russian rocket launcher – responsible for death and destruction on a massive scale – that has the same name as a folk song about a young girl. Nobody’s laughing at the irony, especially not Angelripper, whose descriptive lyrics are as intellectually sharp as the point of a spear on the action-packed Epitome of Torture.

Fortunately for him, Angelripper has a vehicle for expressing his outrage, and that’s Sodom, whose latest album – quite possibly one of the hardest-hitting and most rugged of their career, sounding very much like Slayer in their prime or early Metallica – simply spits nails and inhales mustard gas like it was French perfume. “S.O.D.O.M.” and “Stigmatized” are particularly brutal and ferocious sermons of apocalyptic devastation and intensity, with new drummer Markus “Makka” Freiwald setting a frantic pace and throwing down a frenzied gauntlet of double-kick drum fury. And the title track jumps right into the fray, throwing brass-knuckled riff haymakers left and right – as guitarist Bernemann does throughout Epitome of Torture – and repeatedly thrusting its sharp bayonets into the song’s sinewy flesh. Perhaps inspired by Freiwald’s manic drumming, an energized Bernemann unleashes some of the most potent and rabid riffage of his career. And his solos are just as explosive.

Never taking a breather, although “My Final Bullet” and “Cannibal” have their melodic parts, Epitome of Torture is a wildfire that consumes everything in its path, though the songwriting is not quite as multi-faceted as that of their countrymen Kreator. The speed of “Shoot Today, Kill Tomorrow” is blinding, while “Invocating the Demons” flies around in dizzying fashion, like a nosediving fighter jet. And although Epitome of Torture often feels like it is constantly going 120 miles per hour, without ever slowing down, there are dynamic shifts in tempo and moments of crushing heaviness in tracks like “Into the Skies of War” and the closer “Tracing the Victim,” with its gripping, almost seductive hooks closing their fingers around your throat.

Mad as hell on Epitome of Torture, Angelripper is not going to take it anymore. His guttural growls and in-your-face rages demand your undivided attention as he regales you with tales of human depravity and callous disregard for the sanctity of life. It’s tough, hard-nosed and graphic, just like the over-the-top violence depicted on the Epitome of Torture cover, sort of a tamer, but more politicized, version of Cannibal Corpse artwork. Sodom will not be silenced, and with records like this, Angelripper’s roaring voice should be heard.

-        – Peter Lindblad  

CD/DVD Review: Rainbow – Live in Munich 1977

CD/DVD Review: Rainbow – Live In Munich 1977
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Review: A

Rainbow - Live in Munich 1977 2013
Ritchie Blackmore had run afoul of the law in Vienna, Austria, after attacking a bouncer and dousing him in beer because Blackmore didn’t appreciate the way he was manhandling the patrons. The only problem was his post-Deep Purple project, Rainbow, was supposed to head to Munich, Germany, for a highly anticipated performance that was going to be filmed for German TV.

While Rainbow’s people tried desperately to free Blackmore, they were able to reschedule the event for September 20, 1977, a day after it was originally slated to take place. After much legal wrangling and delays, Blackmore got out, and although he was late in arriving, the legendary guitarist finally made it, none the worse for wear. Motivated to go out onstage and channel any lingering frustration into a performance for the ages, Blackmore is simply mesmerizing on “Live in Munich 1977,” the only known live concert film featuring Rainbow’s Blackmore-Ronnie James Dio-Cozy Powell lineup.

Out now on a rather darkly filmed, yet absolutely captivating, DVD and released as both a double CD and two LPs, the archival “Live in Munich 1977” is dazzling, as Blackmore puts on a jaw-dropping display of technical brilliance, sounding remarkably soulful in parts – especially during a meditative, bluesy interlude in an otherwise explosive 16:25 version of “Man on the Silver Mountain” that blows your hair back – and electrifying in others. It’s not just his agility and quickness that astounds, but also his economy of motion and the sense of purpose in every searing solo or tasty riff. He’s like a calm sniper who never misses his target, and yet he’s capable of unpredictable, noisy outbursts that fuel the energetic, raucous romps through “Kill the King” and “Long Live Rock ‘n Roll” – fueled also by David Stone s boiling keyboards.

And he’s got amazing endurance. Not bound by time restrictions, Rainbow goes off on long, extended journeys through the 27:33 cathedral of sound “Still I’m Sad” and sets their controls for a cosmological, almost supernatural exploration of “Catch the Rainbow” that lasts more than 18 minutes – and not a second of either seems calculated or pretentious. Neither does their smoky treatment of the Deep Purple number “Mistreated,” which morphs from soulful,hard-hitting blues-rock into something more melodic and indescribably spiritual. It’s a devastating performance from Rainbow’s 1977 European tour, given to a frenzied, clapping, packed crowd that is on the verge of jumping out of its collective skin.

That’s the advantage of actually watching this concert, as opposed to simply experiencing it one-dimensionally with your ears. Despite the aged quality of the video, it holds up and the camera work is smart, capturing the intensity and spectacle of Rainbow live with warm, exciting imagery – made all the more colorful by the massive rainbow lighting rig hanging over the stage, washing it in bright neon. The close-up shots of a younger Dio savoring every lyric, shaping the words to his will like a sculptor and delivering them with such deep, almost shamanistic expression, are riveting, as are the images of Powell laying waste to his drum kit with complex, yet punishing, patterns and Blackmore blazing away.

An absolute barn-burner of a live set, “Live in Munich 1977” also carries with it historical significance, as Simon Robinson’s superbly written and well-researched liner notes so effectively illustrate. Augmenting the DVD release are vintage promotional videos of “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Gates of Babylon” and “L.A. Connection” – all of them indispensible pieces of heavy-metal nostalgia from a band at the peak of their powers – and in-depth interviews with Rainbow bassist Bob Daisley and tour manager Colin Hart. A fascinating feature titled “Rainbow over Texas ‘76” is also included that offers more in the way of incredibly raw and vital – although very poor quality – concert footage, as well as insightful commentary and more contextual artifacts for viewers to pore through. Powell’s manic drum solo and Blackmore’s violent mistreatment of his guitar are visceral delights.

Though it does not feature the kind of high-definition photography expected of live DVDs these days, “Live in Munich 1977” – filmed at Munich Olympiahalle – is stunning, an essential archeological treasure that’s been wonderfully preserved. Long live rock ‘n roll, indeed. (
-        – Peter Lindblad