Best of 2014 in Metal and Hard Rock – Part II

Counting down the top five albums of the year
By Peter Lindblad

Crowbar's 'Symmetry in Black' is
our pick as the best album of 2014
No where in the Farmer's Almanac did it forecast heavy landslides of sludge or days of darkened, apocalyptic skies portending doom.

Such conditions were prevalent in the world of heavy metal, however, what with the blackened, cataclysmic audio devastation wrought this year by the likes of Obituary, Yob, Goatwhore, Eyehategod, Wo Fat, Crowbar and Corrosion of Conformity.

Old reliable alternative-metal punishers Prong brought forth another blistering, hard-hitting screed on the ugly state of the world, while one of the band's former guitarists, a veteran sideman named Monte Pittman who's played with Madonna, of all people, released a solo album that not only showed off a diverse set of chops, but also had some solid songwriting to boot.

And then there were the '80s artists that somehow succeeded, against almost insurmountable odds, to recapture the magic of yesterday, like Winger, Tesla, Sebastian Bach, House of Lords, Rubicon Cross and their frontman C.J. Snare of Firehouse fame, and Red Dragon Cartel, featuring the long-exiled Jake E. Lee.

Whittling the best of 2014 down to a final five was no easy task. Without any more delay, here then are the top five albums of the year:

Tesla - Simplicity 2014
5. Tesla – Simplicity: Trends come and go. Tesla remained steadfast in its adherence to the basics on Simplicity, choosing good, solid songwriting and well-executed, tasteful musicianship over flashy playing and experimentation. Gnarled, passionate, blue-collar anthems for "Freedom Rock" holdouts mingled with heartfelt, torn-and-frayed ballads – cobbled together with a mix of electric and acoustic instrumentation – that soared made Simplicity a welcome throwback to their salad days, while the sunny Southern rock charm of "Cross My Heart" made it one of the best songs of the year. Keep it simple, Tesla.

Winger - Better Days Ahead 2014
4. Winger – Better Days Ahead: Nobody's laughing at Winger anymore, or at least they shouldn't be, not after striking musical gold on two strong LPs in a row. Building off the melodic complexity and surprisingly heaviness of Karma, Better Days Ahead showed even more diversity and maturity, positioning Winger as the most progressive and daring pop-metal band to survive the hair-sprayed glamour of the '80s. Time hasn't diminished their chops, and with Better Days Ahead, Winger combined power with precision on the rugged "Rat Race," while embracing funk on a bright, bouncy title track and swimming in the psychedelia of "Be Who You Are, Now." This is who they are, for better, not worse.

Goatwhore - Constricting Rage of the
Merciless 2014
3. Goatwhore – Constricting Rage of the Merciless: Ferocious death metal with undercurrents of Southern boogie grooves – Constricting Rage of the Merciless is a holy terror of an album, as comfortable riding blazing-fast, charred thrash metal as it is crawling through thick, tar-like sludge with an evil grin on its dirty face. Highly combustible, brutal riffs are the order of the day, and they look to brawl with anybody that crosses their path of destruction. And for those who have the stomach for it, Goatwhore paints in bloody language grim scenes of torturous violence and horrific end-of-life struggles. Their rage is contagious.

Mastodon - Once More 'Round
the Sun 2014
2. Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun: Conceptually speaking, this isn't Leviathan. Aiming for more accessible and immediate rewards, Mastodon tightened up its song structures considerably and crafted big, muscular hooks for the vibrant, yet still intricate and massive Once More 'Round the Sun. They took a lot of heat for its video for "The Motherload," what with all that twerking going on. And not everybody's onboard with the band's sound evolving to become increasingly more radio-friendly. All that aside, Mastodon is still Mastodon, their mighty riffs are still enormous and blustery, Brann Dailor's drumming remains astoundingly intricate and powerful, and their guitar architecture, as always, is awe-inspiring.

Crowbar - Symmetry in Black 2014
1. Crowbar – Symmetry in Black: Underestimate Crowbar at your peril. This chugging behemoth, once a bit of a one-trick pony, has expanded its sludge-metal repertoire, thrashing with fierce intensity while also constructing mammoth, churning riffs that build slowly and grow to enormous tsunamis of doom. Expertly plotted, intricate movements crawl like primordial creatures, before evolving into thick, crushingly heavy monsters. What's surprising is how listenable it is. Calling it "melodic" might be a stretch, but every track is compelling in some way, hiding brawny, slow-developing hooks within its deeply blackened, impenetrable great walls of sound. What symmetry, what balance, what provocative lyrics – Crowbar has brought forth its masterpiece. Now go ahead and crown them kings of 2014.

CD Review: Monster Magnet – Milking the Stars: a reimagining of Last Patrol

CD Review: Monster Magnet – Milking the Stars: a reimagining of Last Patrol
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: A-

Monster Magnet - Milking the Stars:
a reimagining of Last Patrol 2014
Dave Wyndorf must have his reasons, although a remake of Monster Magnet's space-rock epic Last Patrol, one of the best albums of 2013, seems completely unnecessary.

Then again, Wyndorf is a maverick, artistically unpredictable and full of sonic mischief. He doesn't have to explain himself to anybody. He just does the unexpected and then wonders why everyone makes such a big damn fuss about it.

Wyndorf did that with Last Patrol, summoning forgotten tones and archaic, alien sonic transmissions from resurrected vintage gear to create brilliant, tripped-out aural carnivals of cinematic, swirling, retro psychedelia traveling through the deepest recesses of the universe to entertain misanthropic, burned-out cosmic cowboys with cynical hearts and sinful natures. This, however, is an even riskier venture.

On Milking the Stars: a reimagining of Last Patrol, released by Napalm Records, Wyndorf takes a stab at redesigning these playgrounds, and the alterations – most of them of the "tripping balls" variety – are more than cosmetic. Take "Let The Circus Burn" and "Mindless Ones '68" for example, the latter a more hallucinogenic reinterpretation of Last Patrol's title track that burrows deep into a very warped subconscious, as only Hawkwind could. "Mindless Ones '68," on the other hand, nicks hypnotic organ sounds out of the very hands of The Doors' Ray Manzarek and seems to swirl weightlessly into the harrowing oblivion of a black hole, losing its moorings in an LSD-induced nightmare.

While the production of Last Patrol was scrubbed pretty clean, Milking the Stars is a wild and woolly ride,  "No Paradise for Me" sounding more corrosive and cosmic than the original "Paradise" and the driving "End of Time" coming in hot at a lower elevation, hitting the runway with compromised brakes, Evangelical fervor and strong gusts of B-3 organ. And while most of Milking the Stars is spent looking for a empathetic guide to help it through what is surely a terrifying acid trip, it contains a howling version of "Hallelujah" – titled "Hellelujah (Fuzz and Swamp)" – that is a bluesier, more organic stomp raised from the Mississippi Delta. Clearly, some deal between Wyndorf and the devil has transpired.

Next time, maybe he can tackle an even bigger job, like repainting the Sistene Chapel.
– Peter Lindblad

R.I.P. Joe Cocker

Distinctive U.K. singer dies at age 70
By Peter Lindblad

Joe Cocker - Mad Dogs & Englishmen
"Often imitated, but never duplicated" is one phrase that comes to mind with regard to the life and career of rock and soul singer Joe Cocker.

When he sang, he sounded as if he was gargling gravel. To some, his disheveled appearance was off-putting, and his spastic stage movements made you concerned for his well-being. "This man is obviously having a seizure. Why isn't anybody helping him!?" That's what I thought to myself when I first witnessed Cocker onstage in all his glory.

The truth was, he was helping us. No singer was more affected physically by the material he was interpreting than Cocker, the son of a civil servant born and raised in Sheffield, England. His delivery on a re-calibrated version of The Beatles' classic "With a Little Help From My Friends," which soared to No. 1 in the U.K. in 1968 and led to his seminal performance at Woodstock, made audiences believe he had no chance of getting by without the assistance of those closest to him. Cocker did the impossible. He actually improved songs by The Beatles. later remaking "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Something" with the blessing of Paul McCartney and George Harrison and giving them some grit and raw emotion. It was "With a Little Help From My Friends" that made him a star, though. Watch the video below. It'll send shivers up your spine.

Cocker belted out lyrics with every fiber of his being, his whole contorted body shaking as if he were possessed by demons and was conducting an exorcism right there where all could see. And he played air guitar, if you can believe it! Right there, onstage. Cultivating some flashy image was the furthest thing from his mind. He was completely lost in notes, wandering around melodies, just living inside songs and finding whatever was beautiful and human about them and translating it for tone-deaf listeners who either didn't speak the same language or couldn't see exactly what it was he'd found.

Cocker was a wild man. So was John Belushi. In some ways, they were kindred spirits. Maybe that's why Belushi's impersonation felt so right. It wasn't that he simply mimed Cocker's movements or sang just like him. Belushi captured his spirit, and he was able to do so because he, too, was untamed, unkept and out of control.

There was only one Joe Cocker, though. His death today at age 70 following a fight with cancer has left a great void. Another voice of Woodstock has been silenced. This was a working-class hero capable of taking a glossy schlock-fest like "Up Where We Belong" down into a smoke-belching factory or a garbage-strewn gutter and giving it to the downtrodden, to the hopeless romantic who experiences indignity after indignity on a daily basis and still hopes for better. And he won a Grammy with it and somebody named Jennifer Warnes.

When Cocker, so loveably gruff, grabbed hold of something like Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful," which rose to No. 5 in the U.S., he sounded vulnerable and tough, completely disarmed and at the same time protective of his fragile heart. Beloved and respected by other artists, Cocker performed with many of the greats and added a unique touch to stunning covers of handpicked songs that he could mold and shape into something he took ownership of, at least temporarily.

So play Mad Dogs & Englishmen to your heart's content today. Put on "Unchain My Heart" or any of the other myriad Cocker classics. Lift a glass to one of the most soulful and expressive Brit vocalists to ever get on a microphone. The world has lost one of the good ones.

CD Review: Sodom – Sacred Warpath

CD Review: Sodom – Sacred Warpath
All Access Rating: B+

Sodom - Sacred Warpath 2014
With an agonized scream, Tom Angelripper and Sodom launch into "Sacred Warpath," the only new track on a four-song EP out via Steamhammer/SPV designed to whet appetites for more sonic brutality to come from the German thrash-metal terror.

Available on CD and as a 10-inch clear vinyl single, of which only 1,000 copies were made, Sacred Warpath finds Sodom girding its loins for what's ahead. Breathing mouthfuls of fire in spewing forth a message full of anger and violence on the song of the same name, Sodom paints a hellish nightmare of human savagery, splashing bloody lyrics of a world gone mad all over galloping drums, evil bass, raging guitar complexity and demonic, throat-shredding vocals.

Even the richly melancholic acoustic breakdown midway through seems to portend more misery for mankind, the relentless groove, dark atmosphere and ferocity of "Sacred Warpath" make all of its 5:47 compelling stuff, indeed.

Listeners may want to steel themselves as well, as Sodom sets off a trio of raw live sonic incendiary devices to round out Sacred Warpath. Tearing into the ubiquitous surf classic "Surfin' Bird" from The Trashmen with fiery punk glee, Sodom then delights in sinks its teeth into a muscular "The Saw is the Law" and finds the meat delicious. Sated, Sodom charges headlong in typically hard-hitting fashion, unleashing rampaging versions "Stigmatized" and "City of God," the latter the most satisfying of the two, with its steadfast hooks and a swelling, pulse-pounding ending that rises to the occasion.

Sodom has a lot more to say, and Angelripper is on the warpath. God help whoever gets in their way.
– Peter Lindblad

Best of 2014 in Metal and Hard Rock – Part I

Starting a countdown of the best albums for this year
By Peter Lindblad

Separating the wheat from the chaff from 2014's heavy metal and hard rock is not really difficult, demanding work, but it does call for the kind of stupid courage that comes from drinking heavily.

These are dangerous times in the blogosphere, a wild west where expressing a harmless opinion is likely to set off gunfights of moral outrage and blistering condemnations. This is music, though, a thing that is said to soothe savage breasts and all that. Of course, talking about it can be akin to conversations about politics or religion.

In the spirit of throwing gasoline on a fire, here's a best albums list for 2014, starting with Nos. 6-10. The rest come later. You've been warned.

Cavalera Conspiracy - Pandemonium 2014
10. Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium: What do you want from Max and Igor Cavalera at this point? A reunion of the classic Sepultura lineup? Jake E. Lee has a better chance of getting Sharon and Ozzy to give him writing credits on "Bark at the Moon." Just give Cavalera Conspiracy's Pandemonium a chance. It is devastatingly violent aural chaos, a mad, multi-layered symphony of thrash-metal ferocity and rusted-out, punishing industrial grind for frustrated children of the digital revolution that'll make your head explode.

Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls 2014
9. Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls: Not ready just yet to fly off into the sunset on sad wings of destiny, Judas Priest confounded expectations with this monstrous beast of a record. They sound as hungry as ever on Redeemer of Souls, an unholy communion of epic, expansive melodies with menacing, rugged riffs and electrically charged solos and dual-guitar flights that scream like tortured souls bound for hell. God bless this Priest.

California Breed - S/T 2014

8. California Breed - California Breed: Nobody knew Andrew Watt from Adam before hitching his wagon to Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham – the drummer having bailed on the project just as it was gaining traction, only to be replaced by former Queens of the Stone Age punisher Joey Castillo –  in the vibrant new power trio California Breed. A young guitar slinger with great feel, fiery versatility and raw ability, Watt is the partner Hughes has been waiting for all these years, able to wring out soulful leads, tough riffs and blazing solos with ease on a debut album that pays off with surefire hooks, lean and mean Zeppelin-like stomp and swaggering groove, and some of the best singing of Hughes' career.

KXM - S/T 2014
7. KXM – KXM: Another trio, this one a supergroup made up of King's X front man dUg Pinnick, former Dokken axe man George Lynch and Korn drummer Ray Luzier, KXM came out swinging on their emotionally powerful eponymous debut. Just as happy grinding out rough-and-tumble, slow-burning riffs as he is reeling off sizzling solos, Lynch seems comfortable in the grungy world of KXM, where Luzier's complex drum patterns and Pinnick's grumbling bass provide a pulpit for spiritual profundities, damaged introspection and sharp socio-political commentary.

Revocation - Deathless 2014
6. Revocation – Deathless: Immensely talented, the technical death-metal outfit Revocation upped the ante with Deathless, showing off dizzying musical chops on a record that was both frenzied and brutally heavy. And yet, amid the controlled chaos there are strains of melody that somehow survive all the destruction and carnage going on around them. Down the line, they'll be using the word "seminal" to describe Deathless.

CD Review: Rated X – Rated X

CD Review: Rated X – Rated X
Frontiers Records
All Access Rating: B

Rated X - Rated X 2014
The old Blue Murder rhythm section is back together, only this time they're backing former Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner in a new supergroup called Rated X.

Cobbled together by Frontiers Records' Svengali Serafino Perugino, old partners Carmine Appice (drums) and Tony Franklin (bass) join Turner collaborator Karl Cochran – a guitarist known best for his work with Ace Frehley – in doing much of the heavy lifting on what is a fairly straightforward, thick-bottomed set of good, solid melodic hard rock that's often both blustery and ballsy, but can also transform into something more expansive and smokey.

At times reminiscent of full-throttle Deep Purple, with an organ spewing out swirling clouds of exhaust, this eponymous release roars out of the gate with "Get Back My Crown" and slams into the rebellious declaration of self-actualization that is "This is Who I Am," before gathering itself for another barreling charge through "I Don't Cry No More." Smoldering darkness creeps into "Lhasa" and "Maybe Tonight," two slow-burning relics from Turner's days in Rainbow that suggest his recent stated interest in a reunion with Ritchie Blackmore is to be taken seriously. And in the transcendent "You Are The Music," Rated X are awed by life's mysteries and the boundless capabilities of the human spirit in an uplifting piece of music carried on choral vocals and soaring guitars.

The musicianship is stellar, as one would expect with Appice's powerhouse drumming, Franklin's thick bass groove and Kochran's searing guitar work, not to mention Turner's still dynamic and expressive singing. Unfortunately, the songwriting is not always up to snuff, as the amalgam of tough melodies, dull hooks and faceless riffs doesn't leave much of a lasting impression. For all the sublime talent gathered together here, Rated X is missing whatever sort of glue or chemical element it is that makes for a cohesive, well-coordinated and energized unit, as Rated X plods along looking for a spark and fails to find one. There nothing terribly embarrassing about it, except for some cliched lyrics, but on the other hand, there's little here that generates much excitement either.
– Peter Lindblad

Judas Priest's 'Defenders of the Faith' gets deluxe reissue treatment

Remastered package includes complete live recording from 'Defenders' tour

Judas Priest from the 'Defenders
of the Faith' era
Judas Priest was on a roll. After birthing the classic 1980 album British Steel, the U.K. metal gods upped the ante two years later with the juggernaut known as Screaming for Vengeance

So, what did they do for an encore? Defenders of the Faith was the response, another platinum effort that spawned legendary tracks such as "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll," "Love Bites," "The Sentinal," "Freewheel Burning" and "Jawbreaker." And they incurred the wrath of the Parents Music Resource Center with "Eat Me Alive," a song which will live in infamy as one of the "Filthy Fifteen." 

On March 10, 2015, Defenders of the Faith gets the deluxe expanded reissue treatment, with a three-CD extravaganza from Columbia/Legacy that collects the original ten-track album remastered by producer Tom Allom, as well as a complete live recording from the "Defenders" tour, recorded at the Long Beach Arena in California, on May 5, 1984.

Cleaved into two discs, the 21-track concert recording combines what was then new material from the band's ninth studio effort with Priest gems like "Electric Eye," "You've Got Another Thing Coming," "Metal Gods," "Breaking the Law," "Sinner," "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)," and "Victim of Changes," among many others.

As the band states in the liner notes to the reissue, "It's 30 years since we released 'Defenders of the Faith' – we're very proud to say it has become a classic that's beloved by Priest fans throughout the world."

Still out there wreaking havoc, Priest released its 17th studio LP, Redeemer of Souls, in 2014. The album debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, Priest's best-ever showing. Interestingly, the band is performing a number of tracks from Defenders of the Faith on its current tour.

And soon, fans will get a chance to re-experience vintage Judas Priest, with the 'Defenders of the Faith' reissue. Here's a track listing:

CD1 'Defenders of the Faith' Re-Mastered 

1.   Freewheel Burning
2.   Jawbreaker
3.   Rock Hard Ride Free
4.   The Sentinel
5.   Love Bites
6.   Eat Me Alive
7.   Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
8.   Night Comes Down
9.   Heavy Duty
10. Defenders of the Faith

CD2 Live at Long Beach Arena, California 5th May 1984 

1.   Love Bites
2.   Jawbreaker
3.   Grinder
4.   Metal Gods
5.   Breaking the Law
6.   Sinner
7.   Desert Plains
8.   Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
9.   The Sentinel 
10. Rock Hard Ride Free

CD3 Live at Long Beach Arena, California 5th May 1984 

1.   Night Comes Down
2.  The Hellion
3.   Electric Eye
4.   Heavy Duty
5.   Defenders of the Faith
6.   Freewheel Burning 
7.   Victim of Changes
8.   The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)
9.   Living After Midnight
10. Hell Bent For Leather
11. You’ve Got Another Thing Coming

New supergroup Revolution Saints unveils first video

Group features former and current members of Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Journey
By Peter Lindblad

Forming supergroups seems to be all the rage these days, with Revolution Saints being the latest to make some noise in the form of a new video released today for the song "Turn Back Time," which we have to believe has nothing to do with Cher.

Comprised of former Dio/Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich, Night Ranger's Jack Blades and Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, Revolution Saints is due to release their self-titled first album on Feb. 24 in the U.S., and it promises to be one hotly anticipated dose of soaring, uplifting melodic hard rock.

The brainchild of Frontiers Records President Serafino Perugino, Revolution Saints will spotlight the lead vocal talents of Castronovo, with Blades on bass and helping out with some singing. And then there's Aldrich, whose fiery, bluesy guitar should add plenty of electricity to what is already a pretty potent lineup.

So, without further ado, here are the Revolution Saints doing "Turn Back Time." Let us know what you think:

For more on the Revolution Saints and their initial shot across the bow, check out this electronic press kit:

DVD Review: Eric Clapton – Planes, Trains and Eric

DVD Review: Eric Clapton – Planes, Trains and Eric
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

Eric Clapton - Planes, Trains and Eric 2014
Japan won't be seeing much of Eric Clapton anymore, that is if the blues-rock guitar legend sticks to his plan to retire from touring when he hits 70 years of age next spring.

Worn out from the rigors of traveling across the globe and performing in far-flung locales for years, Clapton has earned some much-needed rest, and if that means the end of playing in perhaps his favorite place on earth, so be it. Clapton will miss the Land of the Rising Sun, though.

That much is apparent from "Planes, Trains and Eric," an intimate and revealing new documentary film from Eagle Rock Entertainment that follows ol' "Slowhand" on the Far and Middle Eastern leg of his 2014 World Tour, a bittersweet sense of finality hanging over the proceedings.

During an incandescent acoustic reading of "Layla," one of 13 live full live performances of Clapton favorites included here, Clapton expresses his fondness for Japan, adding, "I've been coming here since before some of you were born." His deep respect for the kindness and integrity of its people shining through in reflective and unguarded interviews with Clapton, with much attention paid to his enduring friendship with his concert promoter in Japan, Mister Udo, who Clapton says helped him through "the dark days."

These are happier times for Clapton, who leads his band here through a vigorous, stirring rendition of "Pretending" that simmers and smolders, while "I Shot the Sheriff" protests peacefully and quietly, "Wonderful Tonight" glows and sparkles, and rollicking versions of "Tell The Truth," "Crossroads" and "Key to the Highway" swing and roll with bluesy abandon – all of it played with both a freewheeling, if also somewhat restrained, spirit, an undeniably strong group chemistry and sunny warmth. At times, Clapton seems to turn the stage into a homey back porch, just strumming and picking away at his guitar in front of a circle of friends, but there are other moments where he is still electrifying, displaying that deft, lightning-quick touch and preternatural feel that still leave worshippers slack-jawed.

The rest of "Planes, Trains and Eric" is as much an artfully pieced together tour diary as anything else. There are brief snippets of rehearsal and sound-check footage, meaningful behind-the-scenes interaction, informal presentations related to Clapton's 200th show in Japan – as well as a mention of his 86th performance at Budokan, the most ever by a foreign artist – and scenes from cars, airports and train stations that help the narrative flow. Candid interviews with drummer Steve Gadd, Hammond organ player Paul Carrack, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Chris Stainton and backing vocalists Michelle John and Shar White reveal much about the inner workings of Clapton and those musicians in his employ, adding rather wistful commentary on the possibility that this just might be it for him.

Blind Faith, Cream, The Yardbirds, Derek and the Dominos, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, not to mention his own multi-platinum solo work ... that's an impressive musical history to say the least. "Planes, Trains and Eric" doesn't get into all that, nor does it delve into those scandalous "dark days" Clapton spoke of to provide some sense of context for those words, choosing instead to stay in the moment and give a sense of what it's like for an aging superstar to let go gracefully, with dignity and good humor.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Emigrate – Silent So Long

CD Review: Emigrate – Silent So Long
Spinefarm Records
All Access Rating: B+

Emigrate - Silent So Long 2014
In danger of being forgotten, having sat idle since launching their self-titled debut album all the way back in 2007, Emigrate has emerged from a long exile to release Silent So Long, another fine example of slick alternative-metal engineering masterminded by Rammstein guitarist Richard Kruspe.

The impact of the Emigrate's sophomore record is felt immediately, as Kruspe and company load Silent So Long with enough pulsating punk energy, misanthropic electronic menace and industrial, metallic crunch to excite and unnerve even the most stoic and cynical of scene observers.

Clean, urgent and modern, Silent So Long is bolstered by the contributions of several big-name guest vocalists. On the sexy and seductive "Get Down" the always provocative Peaches slithers over throbbing, creeped-out cyber funk that somewhat resembles Massive Attack's "Angel" and the whole thing explodes when the bombing campaign of crashing guitars is initiated. With Korn's Jonathan Davis' subversive intonation, the closing title track is just as sinister, as dub undercurrents quietly rumble and roll in the song's deep recesses. And then there's the gravelly voice of Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister adding grit to the racing, but almost weightless, "Rock City" flying down musical straightaways.

Somewhat innovative, although not a great leap forward in that respect, Silent So Long is, nevertheless, a modern-rock, radio-friendly monster, the big, irrepressible hooks and heavy, driving momentum of "Rainbow" and "Giving Up" tailored for such programming. In a perfect world, so would the swaggering opener "Eat You Alive," featuring a devilish Frank Delleti, from the popular German band Seeed, on the mic and giving '70s glam-rock stomp a futuristic makeover.

Emigrate's first album cracked the Top 10 in Germany, and it's not a stretch of the imagination to believe this one will, too. While it could be the soundtrack to some sci-fi film noir experiment, the multi-layered Silent So Long is, at its core, an album based around strong beats, surging rock riffs and impenetrable song structures, and that's always an appealing formula for luring listeners.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: New Model Army – Between Wine and Blood

CD Review: New Model Army – Between Wine and Blood
earMusic/Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A

New Model Army - Between
Wine and Blood 2014
The risks taken on the adventurous and inspired Between Dog and Wolf paid off big for New Model Army, garnering the veteran post-punk rabble-rousers some of their best press in years.

Emboldened also by the record's strong chart action in the U.K. and Germany, the Justin Sullivan-led outfit embarked on an ambitious European tour, but blood clots found in the leg of Michael Dean cut the campaign short and clouded their immediate future. There was a silver lining, however.

Relegated to the sidelines, Dean, responsible for creating the varied and gripping rhythmic gyrations of Between Dog and Wolf, made himself useful by collaborating with Sullivan on a captivating and diverse six-song EP of new material that fills up half of New Model Army's latest two-CD release, Between Wine and Blood – the other contains 11 compelling live cuts, most of which energetically and artfully revisit Between Dog and Wolf's innovation and dark beauty as if trying on old clothes and finding them an even better fit than before.

Performed with a raging fire in the belly and a good feel for the changing moods of the material, "Storm Clouds" slashes and burns, "Seven Times" gallops like a thoroughbred, "Horseman" rings in the apocalypse and the galvanizing "Between Dog and Wine" sweeps you up in its fervor – these concert versions running the gamut from quiet introspection to glorious populist awakenings.

As for the new stuff, there's nothing about Between Wine and Blood that sounds tired or stale. Instead, there is purity and clarity of vision, a batch of well-developed, sweeping melodies and sure hooks, anthemic choruses, evocative lyrics delivered with passion and a poet's soul, and supple, rich instrumentation. Almost unbearably tense and bracing, the pulse of "Angry Planet" races – angry, distorted guitars bounding across a bleak, shadowy landscape, as New Model Army takes Radiohead and Muse on the ride of their lives. "Guessing" is just as vigorous and propulsive, while "According to You" and "Devil's Bargain" empathetically couch probing questions and concerns in brooding, gently rolling melodic waves and "Sunrise" is carried by a generous chorus and taut momentum.

Still savagely critical of humanity's self-destructive drive, Sullivan can also paint beautiful imagery and balance his pointed political commentary with personal reflection amid the stormy rumbling of New Model Army's insurgent, grasping punk aesthetic. Blood still courses through their veins.
– Peter Lindblad