CD Review: Vanilla Fudge – Spirit of '67

CD Review: Vanilla Fudge  Spirit of '67
Cleopatra Records
All Access Rating: B+

Vanilla Fudge - Spirit of '67
Slowing the Supremes' hit "You Keep Me Hangin' On" to an agonized, lysergic crawl was a stroke of genius for Vanilla Fudge, as it dragged their eponymous debut collection of heavy, acid-rock covers of Beatles' classics and '60s R&B remakes up the charts in 1967.

All these years later, a reinvigorated Vanilla Fudge seeks to recapture the Spirit of '67 with a similar approach on a lively and refreshingly reverent album of reworked versions of some of that year's most popular and enduring classics.

Sounding rich and vibrant, Spirit of '67 – out via Cleopatra Records – serves up the strong, signature vocal harmonies, thick Hammond organ swirls, altered arrangements and thundering drums of Carmine Appice Vanilla Fudge is known for, as the Who's "I Can See For Miles" morphs into a dynamic, psychedelic funk workout, the Doors' "Break On Through (To The Other Side)" is perfumed with the exotic, Middle Eastern tones of Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and "Gimme Some Lovin'" becomes a bluesy stomp. And yet, what's missing is that sense of originality and innovation that made that first Vanilla Fudge LP such a breath of fresh air, the gloomy temperament of the band's work of yesteryear having mostly dissipated. Fudge's moods on Spirit of '67 are as varied as the uniquely different passages they carve into these well-loved songs.

Still sunny and radiant, though less joyful and buoyant, the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" brakes to more of a mid-tempo groove, while "Ruby Tuesday" And "Whiter Shade of Pale" assume different shapes, trading haunting atmospherics for more powerful, fleshed-out instrumentation. In "The Letter," lush piano parts give way to a more raucous mid-section, channeling the raw emotions of its lyrics. The spirit is still willing with Vanilla Fudge.
– Peter Lindblad 

CD Review: Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints

CD Review: Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Frontiers Records
All Access Rating: A-

Revolution Saints - S/T 2015
A star is born, in this case the particularly luminous ball of gas being Deen Castronovo, drummer and backing singer for arena-rock stalwarts Journey.

Playing matchmaker again, Frontiers Records President Serafino Perugino sought to find an appropriate vehicle for Castronovo to display his talents as a lead vocalist, ultimately surrounding him with former Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich and Night Ranger bassist/vocalist Jack Blades in a trio called Revolution Saints.

With a slight rasp in his powerful throat, Castronovo is a poor man's Steve Perry, his soaring, expressive vocals carrying the band's uplifting motivational messages and yearning romanticism skyward. Revolution Saints is the album Journey fans have been waiting for since Escape, its bold, high-energy rushes of melodic hard rock as infectious and galvanizing as its power ballads are heartfelt and impassioned.

Tightly constructed, with generous hooks and big choruses planted throughout fertile ground, "Back On My Trail," "Turn Back Time" and "Dream On" are bright, punchy pieces of guitar-driven pop-rock, the kind that would have been surefire hits back in the '80s. So would the softer stuff, like "Don't Walk Away," "Way to the Sun" – with Neal Schon helping out on guitar – and "You're Not Alone," featuring some backup vocals from Arnel Pineda. Here, gentle piano and acoustic guitar intros lead into big, sweeping, slow-moving waves of guitars and yearning emotions, eventually yielding once again to dramatic, tension-building rockers like "Strangers to the World" and "Better World" reminiscent of Survivor.

Some might take Revolution Saints to task for its formulaic songwriting, predictability and saccharine, banal sentimentality, but to do so would needlessly throw a dark cloud over something that exudes a great deal of light and would undoubtedly resonate with the masses if this was a different, less cynical age. Aldrich's guitar solos are fiery, compelling and a good fit for the songs. There is unabashed joy and exuberance coursing through its veins, they know what their audience wants, it's not arty for the sake of being arty and Castronovo rises to the challenge, smartly avoiding tricks and modulations and just letting his natural ability shine through. People get ready, these Saints are marching in.
– Peter Lindblad

Capricorn Records - The Rise and Fall of One Man's Dream

Capricorn Records

In the 1970s Capricorn Records became well known for representing Southern rock bands like the Allman Brothers Band and Marshall Tucker Band.

Located in Macon, Georgia it was started by Phil Walden, Alan Walden and Frank Fenter in 1969 and by the mid 70s had quite an impressive list of artists including; The James Montgomery Band, Elvin Bishop, Wet Willie, Sea Level, Jonathan Edwards, Kingfish, Captain Beyond, White Witch, Grinderswitch, Cowboy, Hydra, Kitty Wells, Dobie Gray, Alex and Livingston Taylor, Travis Wammack and Stillwater.

In addition to ABB and MTB, Capricorn also managed the solo efforts of Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Chuck Leavell and Butch Trucks. In the late 70s and seemingly overnight, Capricorn went bankrupt and closed it’s doors.

The influence that the label, the Walden brothers and it’s artists had on the industry and specifically Southern rock is quite amazing for an independent music label.

Phil Walden

Phil Walden grew up in Macon, Georgia and started his forays into the music business while attending Mercer College where he booked bands for local high schools and fraternity parties.  Walden opened his first office as a sophomore and started expanding his services all over the southeast. One of his first clients and relatively unknown at the time was Otis Redding. It was at Redding’s suggestion that he establish himself as a manager and before too long his client list read like a who’s who of some of the country’s finest rhythm and blues performers including Percy Sledge, Sam and Dave, Clarence Carter and Joe Simon.  As his client roster grew, it looked as though Walden’s focus would be firmly planted in the R&B industry – until Otis Redding’s untimely death in 1967.

With his experience in R&B along with his passion for music and the south, he approached Atlantic Records vice president Jerry Wexler with the idea of building a studio in Macon. After several ideas were presented and scrubbed, it was agreed that Atlantic Records would fund a record label to be based in Macon, Georgia. Walden and Wexler named the label Capricorn. So with a $70,000.00 advance from Atlantic, Walden set out to recruit rock and roll bands and build his Macon empire.

One of the first musicians to catch Walden’s attention was Duane Allman, who at the time was a session guitarist at Muscle Shoals Studios, but by 1969 Walden had worked his magic and The Allman Brothers Band was formed and would later become the cornerstone of Capricorn Records. While Phil was managing the Allman Brothers Band, Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie and Elvin Bishop, his brother Alan was managing ZZ Top, The Charlie Daniels Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s not surprising at all that each of these bands’ influenced each other with the deep rooted southern rock sound.

Walden’s pioneering spirit and determination to be all things to all artists led to the formation of various music business related ventures including;  Phil Walden & Associates, The Paragon Agency, No Exit Music, Rear Exit Music and numerous other non-music related businesses. He was building his empire, fast and steady – some say too fast but it was the 70s and it was rock and roll.

As amazing as Capricorn’s rise had been, it’s demise in 1979 was fast and furious ending in bankruptcy and sent Walden into a personal downward spiral as well. He rose from the ashes and a decade later made a fresh start after several attempts to get things going again; in the early 90s resurrected Capricorn but this time in Nashville. Walden was back, albeit with a humble start but with newly forged relationships, a new location and a growing client list including; Widespread Panic, Cake and 311. And like a broken record, it happened again and Walden was forced to sell off most of Capricorn’s assets – including the classic back catalog.

Phil Walden died in his Macon home in 2006, but his legacy and the history of Capricorn label is still very much alive and present.

"Phil was one of the preeminent producers of great music in America," former president Jimmy Carter said in a statement at the time of Walden’s death. Walden's work with Redding, the Allmans and others, Carter said, "helped to put Macon and Georgia on the musical map of the world.” Walden was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1986.

In March Backstage Auctions will host a historical event showcasing memorabilia featuring the artists that defined the Southern Rock and Soul sound of the 1960s and 1970s. The auction will be live and open for bidding from March 14 - 22, 2015.

For more information on the auction and to register for a VIP All Access Pass click here:  Auction

CD Review: Ruthless – They Rise

CD Review: Ruthless – They Rise
Pure Steel Records
All Access Rating: B+

Ruthless - They Rise 2015
Out of an unmarked grave dug deep in the dark recesses of the 1980s Los Angeles metal underground scene, the raging inferno known as Ruthless arises, releasing their first album in 29 years via Germany's Pure Steel Records label.

The long wait was worth it for the cult that grew up around the 1984 EP Metal Without Mercy and 1986's Discipline of Steel LP, two records of uncompromising, hard-bitten heavy metal that reek of death and decay.

Produced and engineered by Bill Metoyer (W.A.S.P., Slayer, Armored Saint), They Rise is the mean and rugged product of an unlikely reunion between vocalist Sammy D, guitarist/vocalist Kenny McGee, guitarist Dave Watson, bassist/vocalist Marc McGee and new drummer Jason Van Slyke – an old-school, blood-and-guts metal album that's vicious and fast and sounds as if it was recorded in dirty, abandoned factory and left there to die by Blackie Lawless.

As rabid and raw as ever, their tense, serrated guitar riffs cutting like a saw, Ruthless thrashes through the toxic waltz of the title track with tight energy, charges into "Defender" like a soldier full of blood lust and unleashes pent-up emotions in the stampeding "Frustration," with the heavy, thudding grooves of "Out of Ashes" infected with a delicious and gripping nastiness that's missing from today's well-manicured and overly fussy metal.

Solid, rugged and exciting from the electrifying opening power chords, They Rise isn't most imaginative offering to the metal gods, nor does it have the ambition to reach for grandiose heights. Nevertheless, it burns hot, although the chilly, darkly melodic intro to "Laceration" – a track that later explodes with thunderous sturm und drang – and the melodic "Circle of Trust" and "Time Waits" provide rare moments of rough, calmer beauty. Sammy D.'s screams are devilishly evil, and so is the bullish, radioactive riffage and the occasional interwoven dual-guitar leads, all of it reminiscent of early Iron Maiden. They're still Ruthless.
– Peter Lindblad

Scanner: 'The Judgement' day has arrived

German power/speed metal outfit has something to say
By Peter Lindblad
The German power/speed metal
group Scanner

Nobody can accuse Scanner of shying away from controversy. Serious subjects are addressed on The Judgement, the blazing new thrill ride of a record from the veteran German power/speed metal juggernaut that raises heart rates to dangerous levels.

From ecological devastation to genocide, corruption and greed in the financial markets and political arenas and the continued erosion of ethics and morality, Scanner has much to say about the deteriorating state of the world and they do it without sermonizing.

Opting instead for rich, imaginative storytelling, Scanner – its love of science fiction imagery splashed all over the record's attention-grabbing cover art – couches its political passions in intelligently designed, fast-paced, charging metal that's incredibly taut, sleek and arranged with ever-evolving complexity and interesting dynamics. And yet, it feels like a return to Scanner's intense late '80s and early '90s work, its explosive, overdriven guitars and punishing rhythms creating a wildly exciting and aggressive listen.

Once known as Lions Breed, releasing a 1985 album under that banner called Damn The Night on the Earthshaker label, the group soon took the name Scanner and released Hypertrace in 1988, followed by 1991's Terminal Earth, 1995's Mental Reservation, 1997's adventurous Ball of the Damned and 2002's experimental Scrantopolis. Despite having toured with the likes of Fates Warning and Omen and a show-stopping performance at Wacken Open Air Festival in 1997, label problems and personnel turnover at various points in the band's history undoubtedly slowed their momentum, but with The Judgement – out on Massacre Records – and some stability at lead vocalist with Efthimios Ioannidis, Scanner sounds more powerful than ever.

Guitarist Axel A.J. Julius took some time recently to talk about the making of the band's new LP.

If you were to compare The Judgement to any past Scanner albums, which one would it most closely resemble and why? 
Axel A.J. Julius: I think The Judgement definitely is the next door neighbor of our first four albums. That is what we intended also. After the experiment of Scantropolis we wanted to make clear again where our roots lie. We attempted to receive and revive the sound and the spirit of our '80s and '90s releases and we were guided by our old stuff from this time. And therefore the album sounds old school metal by default. If somebody likes Hypertrace he won’t hate The Judgement, that’s for sure. But you should never expect a copy of another Scanner album from us; I mean we would be bored by doing that.

Scanner - The Judgement 2015
Describe the creative process that led to the birth of The Judgement. Were there more difficulties than usual? Did obstacles crop up? Or did it go smoothly?
AJ: After a few years playing live primarily and having fun on the road, the record industry could not get us into the mood to record a new album. But we wanted to write new songs and build our own sound studio. Then when everything felt good for us it was the first time that we could pre-produce, record and mix the entire album in our brand new studio and you can say this was a more direct approach than with the other albums. You can determine all the schedules by yourself and you are independent. This has advantages. However, it can also tempt you to stretch the periods, which you must counteract with discipline then. So the process itself was smooth. Let's put it this way: For The Judgement we have cut off from the outside world and did exactly our thing. And we did not mind what was modern today. This was our main intention for this album: 100 percent Scanner. And I tried to let the album breath and sound more direct and raw by using again our own drum sound, for example, instead of using triggered samples for the album as done and heard on thousands of productions nowadays. It did not take us 12 years to make the album, but the motivation to do it just rose initially in 2012.

The riffs on this album are striking, especially on the title track and “Warlord,” a song that’s really heavy in parts and thrashing, but the mood and pace changes so frequently it’s dizzying. Talk about the writing and recording of that song in particular. Was it a complicated process? 
AJ: Oh dizzying? Ok, but for me it is not dizzying. It’s exactly my style of composing and I like the counterparts in a song, like fast and slow, loud and quit, etc.. Since Heavy Metal is hardly compressed music you often miss the dynamic expression a classical orchestra always has, for example. That’s one reason why rhythm changes are a part of my expression I use in a song. And "Warlord" is special because of its idea behind it. The song is about Africa and especially the genocides in Rwanda and Nigeria, Boko Haram and the Warlords and our ignorance about the coherences of our western governments and their world trade partners and beneficiaries in this area. So the theme does not really fit to a steady groovy, and sing-along track, I thought. So "Warlord" is a more sophisticated song. But the recording process of this song was not complicated because I’ve had a plan.

Listening to “Eutopia,” the first thing I think of is Queensryche. It’s another multi-part song with melodic shifts and thought-provoking lyrics. Tell us what the song is about, what inspired it and how it came together.
AJ: Actually this song was planned to be our first video of the album, but because of our small budget we had to scrap this idea. The song is about a time-traveling guy with visions of a land called Eutopia. The idea came up after the financial crisis brought major problems to some countries here in Europe and the idea of a United Europe has threatened to fail more and more. So a United Europe is kind of a Utopia. This brought me to EUTOPIA. This dude in the song is not a time voyager really; finally, the story reveals he is on drugs. So his stories were a flight of fancy, like some ideas of our politicians here in Europe are as well.

What song on The Judgement affects you the most from a lyrical perspective? Is it the title track? 
AJ: Yes, it is the title track. Somehow it is the most emotional and summing track. It is about our moral values; our personal ones and those of our whole society. And it provokes questions about where we are heading to when we have blown off all the “angels.” I think our ethical and moral orientation should not follow the dictation of Wall Street. I'm not a fan of religion either, but I think that our society should come to an anthroposophical approach beside all religions and adjust our ethic values right again. There is something wrong with us when we allow for example the Kyoto Protocol to be ignored by important states, although it is dealing with our air we are breathing. Meanwhile multinational companies are increasing their profit and ruining our environment. My guitar used to be from mahogany, but that was never the reason for the cleared woodland and for the diminishing rainforest, if you know what I mean.

After all this time, what drives you to keep Scanner going? 
AJ: Well, for sure our fans all over the world and their feedback and faith and my resulting deep feeling of owing them something since our first releases. Honestly spoken the band was a bit unlucky from that moment on when we signed with the wrong company at the beginning of our career. This company made us lose two singers in a row in principle. And it was the reason we lost so much time researching for new vocalists. But our fans did not forget us even when there were longer breaks, nor when the bigger magazines did not give a dime on us anymore. The business is hard, but I do not want to complain. I’d rather have fun against all odds with people who adhere to us on our long time journey. And now we are back again… although we had never gone in objectivity. Let’s have some fun, mates.

CD Review: UFO – A Conspiracy of Stars

CD Review: UFO – A Conspiracy of Stars
All Access Rating: B+

U.F.O. - A Conspiracy of Stars 2015
Phil Mogg's toughness is legendary. He's never been accused of being soft as a lyricist either, as the pugnacious piece of work "Ballad of the Left Hand Gun," from the new UFO album A Conspiracy of Stars, so perfectly illustrates.

As Mogg sings about stepping over the prone body of a champ "past his prime," he still sounds as if he's ready to take on all comers and knock them flat on their sorry asses with sturdy, gritty tales about hardship, survival and the dark side of romantic attachment and emotion.

His lyrics are as sharp and pointed as ever, his economy of language and astute, if somewhat cynical, observations of human relations still jarringly poetic, as he talks of love and possession in the violent, well-structured opener "The Killing Kind," a song covered in melodic ivy hiding a rhythmic brick wall. The weatherbeaten "Devils in the Details" is similarly constructed, with A Conspiracy of Stars – out soon via Steamhammer/SPV and produced by Chris Tsangarides, once a 14-year-old studio trainee on the band's 1970 debut UFO 1– coming off as a series of bare-knuckled, bluesy hard-rock combination punches, the meanest being "Run Boy Run" and "Messiah Of Love," with their nasty grooves plowed into hard ground.

Nothing else on the occasionally generic A Conspiracy of Stars has the confident swagger and rough swing of "Ballad of the Left Hand Gun," although "Sugar Cane" comes awfully close, as UFO flexes its muscle with Paul Raymond's simmering, smoggy keyboards and Vinnie Moore's tastefully executed guitar leads menacing the rugged work of drummer Andy Parker and bassist Rob DeLuca. The hooks of A Conspiracy of Stars grab for a sure foothold, and more often than not, their grip is strong, as with "The Real Deal," which sounds a bit like the Rolling Stones of more recent vintage. Often, the record, so full of good, solid rock songs that consistently hit that sweet spot, has all the rush of a cocaine binge, and although it was recorded in Britain, it feels American, rough and ornery but also full of heart and the wisdom that comes with age.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth

CD Review: Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth – Brother Of The Sonic Cloth
Neurot Recordings
All Access Rating: A-

Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth -
Brother Of The Sonic Cloth 2015
A fraternal order even stranger and more mysterious than the Masons, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth are spearheaded by Tad Doyle, former leader of the demented, star-crossed grunge/metal woodsmen Tad – the same outfit doomed by an infamous trademark tussle with corporate soda giant Pepsi that, for intents and purposes. spelled the end of the band.

Doyle's latest doom-metal project, featuring veteran bassist Peggy Doyle and drummer Dave French (The Anunnaki), is about to unveil Brother of the Sonic Cloth, the first recordings released by Tad Doyle in 15 years, and what a welcome return from exile this Neurot Recordings offering is.

A trudging, mesmerizing journey through ruinous, dense soundscapes similar to those mapped out by label mates Neurosis, where a multitude of strange, tortured vocal manipulations are piled atop massive funeral pyres of thick, lugubrious riffs, Brother of the Sonic Cloth is texturally interesting and darkly atmospheric. Here, the icy, haunting post-rock world of Mogwai merges with corrosive, brutally heavy and occasionally crusty guitars in "Unnamed" and an astonishingly epic uprising titled "The Immutable Path" – a bonus track available on the CD version.

Where the punishing opener "Lava" insistently pounds on its wall of sound, like a prisoner who's reached his breaking point and cannot take incarceration one minute longer, what follows with "Empires of Dust" is a malignant, down-tuned force stirring in the bowels of the earth and birthed holding on to a slim rope of slowly evolving melody. Comprised of mediations on loneliness and existence, with the inevitability of mortality always on the horizon, Brother Of The Sonic Cloth is monstrous and fearsome, often going from quiet intros to mountainous power surges, although the fertile, bluesy crawl of "La Mano Poderosa" finds the trio mining more earthy territory with its heavy machinery. Join the Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth on this membership drive before the bandwagon is full up.
– Peter Lindblad

Grammys not showing their "metal"

Awards show gets it wrong ... again
By Peter Lindblad

AC/DC gave a commanding
performance at this year's Grammys
For just a second, let's forget about Kanye West and his weird obsession with getting Beyonce a Grammy. Can we talk about the Grammys and their "heavy metal problem?"

Why can't they ever seem to get metal right? Smartly, the Grammys kicked off their soul-sucking awards show with AC/DC doing "Rock Or Bust" and then following it up with a galvanizing performance of "Highway to Hell."

Katy Perry – yes, that Katy Perry – had plastic devil horns on her pretty little head and was flashing signs. Lady Gaga was losing her mind over it. Everybody was on their feet, from clueless industry executives to Dave Grohl, celebrating the survival of battle-scarred veterans rocked by a founding member's debilitating health problems and another's bizarre legal battles.

Oh, Grammys ... we knew you cared. This was a magnanimous gesture, one that would surely lead to peace between an institution that either had no clue about metal or was intentionally dismissive.

Metallica's ... And Justice for All
lost the Grammy to Jethro Tull
And then came the award for Best Metal Performance. The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences first recognized metal in 1989 with a category known as Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental. A lot of people forget that "Best Hard Rock" part, because that year, the Grammy inexplicably went to Jethro Tull's Crest of a Knave. over Metallica's ... And Justice For All.

The metal community has never forgiven the Grammys for that disaster. Still, there is that nagging feeling that at least they were taking into consideration the "Best Hard Rock" part of the equation in making the decision. Still, hardly anybody mentions Crest of a Knave anymore, except when people want to talk about how out to lunch the Grammys are when it comes to heavy metal.

Over the years, the title of the category has changed, and Metallica has ended up with their fair share of Grammys. Controversy has dogged this area, with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell wondering why Dokken was nominated in the heavy metal category a year later. Many, including yours truly, had a beef with Soundgarden winning a Grammy for "Spoonman" in 1995.

Here's the rest of the entrants that year: Rollins Band's "Liar"; Pantera's "I'm Broken"; Megadeth's "99 Ways to Die"; and Anthrax's groundbreaking collaboration with Public Enemy on "Bring the Noise." Little did Cornell know that he'd be living in a newly furnished glass house five years later when he made his remarks about Dokken.

Anyway, the point is, there have been good choices and not-so-good picks in the past 15 years, but surprisingly, the Grammys had generally avoided making complete fools of themselves in that time. That is until last year, when the show cut off a performance from Queens of the Stone Age, Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl and Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham before it was finished – a sort of musical coitus interruptus, if you will.

Reznor declared a self-imposed exile from the event forever. They were insulted, and it stands to reason that aside from Grohl, who always seems to want to play peacemaker, none of them will ever do the Grammys again. Black Sabbath's win aside, this was not a good moment for the Grammys and metal. This was Vladimir Putin defecating in Obama's corn flakes. And that doesn't even take into the Grammys' In Memoriam snub to Slayer's Jeff Hanneman, repeated again this year with its overlooking Gwar's Dave Brockie.

So, we come to this Sunday's event, filled with the usual ridiculous drama and lame thrown-together collaborations it's always had and awards handed out to the undeserving – Beyonce, I'm looking at you!

But here comes Best Metal Performance. In this category are Anthrax's "Neon Knights," Mastodon's "High Road," Motorhead's "Heartbreaker" and Slipknot's "The Negative One" – all worthy candidates. But, when that envelope was opened, the award somehow went to ... Tenacious D's remake of Dio's "The Last in Line."

Okay, Tenacious D are great at what they do, and Jack Black and Kyle Gass came up with an amazing version of "Last in Line," doing Ronnie James Dio proud. But choosing a slap-sticky acoustic comedy duo over four incredible bands like that? It's a, pardon the pun, joke ... and it smacks of the Grammys consciously and with malice of forethought again spitting on metal. What it comes down to is this: whatever you think of the Grammys, at the very least, they are supposed to recognize sublime artistry in music. By that yardstick, it's hard to even fathom why Tenacious D was nominated in the first place.

And lest you believe this is rampant paranoia or an oversensitivity as to how metal specifically is mistreated by the Grammys, do you think for a moment they'd ever choose somebody like Tenacious D over their precious Taylor Swift or Sam Smith in any other category? Not in this lifetime. This was a decision made carelessly and deliberately so, and because of that, it's a slap in metal's corpse-painted face.

I don't buy the notion that the Grammys are simply lorded over by old geezers who somehow just don't get metal and make decisions based on a lack of awareness. That argument didn't hold water then and it doesn't now. They've had all this time since the Jethro Tull debacle to figure out how to give metal the respect it deserves. And time and time again, they prove they just don't give a shit about it. This is the Grammys saying, "Hey, I've seen those guys in the movies. Forget all the rest of those clowns. Let's give it to them. I liked 'The Pick of Destiny.' Hell, 'Nacho Libre' was a work of cinematic genius!"

And if the Grammys really and truly were paying attention to metal, wouldn't they stop trotting out the same old acts to reward retroactively for sins of the past? Wouldn't they include newer acts in the Best Metal Performance category, like Revocation, Periphery, Animals As Leaders, etc., etc.?

Trashing the Grammys is dumb. It's like a vegan trying to get McDonalds to give up beef for tofu. They'll never change. I hate talking about them. And yet, here we are. Damn it, Grammys ... you've won again. Visit and tell 'em what you think. At least Brann Dailor got to show off that cool suit.

CD Review: Uriah Heep – Live at Koko

CD Review: Uriah Heep – Live at Koko
Frontiers Records Srl
All Access Rating: A-

Uriah Heep - Live at Koko 2015
Most of the face of that clock on the cover of Uriah Heep's upcoming two CD/DVD concert release Live at Koko is gone, revealing rusty gears and a shoeless man walking the rim, his arms mimicking the hour and minute hands above him and seemingly struggling against time like a mime pretending to be at the mercy of a strong wind.

One of the flagships of '70s progressive hard-rock, although they were actually formed in 1969 by guitarist Mick Box and vocalist David Byron, Uriah Heep has better things to do than count the days, weeks, months or even years until its certain end, as the invigorating and unbridled Live at Koko resuscitates their reputation as a driven and powerful concert act – no matter their advanced age.

While their middling 2014 studio album Outsider indicated that maybe they were running out of ideas, this career-spanning set from Frontiers Records Srl at the very least confirms the notion that Uriah Heep's combustible band chemistry has never been more dynamic – the pulse-pounding, one-two punch of opener "Against All Odds" and "Overload" hitting listeners right in the chops and buckling their knees. Their skillful brilliance is still miles ahead of most of the competition, with Box's solar-powered, squealing guitar forays and Phil Lanzon's smoldering, storming organ making roaring sonic furnaces out of "Between Two Worlds," "Can't Take That Away," "Free and Easy" and, of course, the driving, ever-popular closer "Easy Living."

"Sunrise" and "Stealin'" – the latter a major Top 40 hit in both the U.K. and the U.S. off 1973's Sweet Freedom album – emerge from their condition as slumbering legends and grow into tuneful awakenings in the this sultry London 2014 performance, raising up with sweet vocal harmonies and dewey, yearning melodies. On a quiet and calm "July Morning," the crowd can be hearing singing along joyously, just before the song surges with power, transforming into a fervent and glorious hymn. Poetic and deeply reflective, "Lady in Black," so beautifully written by former member Ken Hensley, drifts in next, with its infectious acoustic guitar strumming and expansive instrumentation enhancing the telling of this lyrical tale through the superb interpretation of vocalist Bernie Shaw, who is absolutely sublime here.

Contemporaries of iconic bands Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, the durable Uriah Heep never quite seems to get its due from critics and rock historians. The sweltering Live at Koko offers them a chance to reassess what has always been an underrated catalog, with few missteps.
– Peter Lindblad

Revolution Saints' second video sees light of day

Clip for 'Back On My Trail' unveiled
By Peter Lindblad

Revolution Saints - S/T 2015
Not everyone can be as clever or creative as Red Fang.

What the Portland metal maulers can do with a shoestring budget is genius-level stuff, as Red Fang has created some of the funniest and most imaginative music videos of this, or any, era – the big-budget days of MTV included.

Today, the newly formed supergroup Revolution Saints unveiled its second video in anticipation of the release of their debut self-titled album, which is happening Feb. 24 via Frontiers Music Srl. It premiered on

If you were expecting a grand cinematic masterpiece on the scale of something like "Citizen Kane," you reader have ridiculously high expectations. That said, while the video for "Back On My Trail" won't ever be a threat to take home an Oscar, it should generate excitement for one of the hotly tipped releases of 2015. Judge for yourself here:

The setting for basically what amounts to a performance clip appears to be a well-appointed home studio, where Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, Night Ranger's Jack Blades and former Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich are playing "Back On My Trail" with gusto – somebody off-camera having tuned them in via an old FM radio, after some compelling vintage knob-twiddling footage. Aside from that, it's a high-energy clip for a song with a bumper crop of melodic hard-rock hooks, with Castronovo – the band's singer – wailing about trying to belong somewhere in a confusing and often cold, cruel world.

Clear and masculine, with just a hint of vulnerability, Castronovo's powerful vocals are phenomenal, and finally, he gets to show off what are some pretty amazing pipes. There's a searing solo from Aldrich, with the cameras getting in there close to capture his dizzying finger work and everybody seems to be having a jolly time, a behind-the-scenes shots thrown in to capture the group's obvious joie de vivre.

Fast-paced and edited tightly to make the action come alive, the filming is actually rather stylish for what it is: a simple, unabashedly fun romp through a fairly cheesy, but nevertheless utterly infectious, '80s-style rock anthem and while it's not arty or challenging in any way, it'll be a crowd-pleaser of a song. Previously, the band released a video for "Turn Back Time," which, as it turns out, is not a cover of the glitzy Cher hit and it's somewhat more melodic, with sunsets and landscape shots interspersed throughout. It was directed by Devin DeHaven, who's credits include videos for Rick Ross, KISS, R. Kelly and Whitesnake. Expect more of the same from Revolution Saints.

Of the song "Back On My Trail," Castronovo said, "'Back On My Trail' was the first song I recorded drums and vocals on. It was a new experience for me and really was the beginning of Revolution Saints. I pulled no punches, and I hope everyone can hear the fire on that track."

Available for pre-order at Amazon in standard CD format at, with a deluxe version combined with a DVD available at Those who order the album digitally via iTunes at will get automatic downloads of "Turn Back Time," "Back On My Trail" and "Way to the Sun (featuring Journey guitarist Neal Schon).

To get familiar with the band and the making of the album, here's an EPK for the album:

DVD Review: Deep Purple With Orchestra – Live In Verona

DVD Review: Deep Purple With Orchestra – Live In Verona
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

Deep Purple With Orchestra -
Live In Verona 2014
Any list of the world's most spectacular outdoor concert venues would be woefully incomplete without an entry for Arena di Verona.

Originally built in 30 AD, the beautifully preserved Roman amphitheatre provided a dramatic and elegant backdrop for a glorious 2011 performance from hard-rock giants Deep Purple, backed on this enchanted evening by the full instrumental might of the Neue Philharmonie Frankfort and lushly filmed for a new DVD "Live in Verona" released by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

Lending added weight, complexity and richness to a set loaded with familiar classics, the orchestra – obviously relishing the moment, playing with both passion and precision – pushes and prods Deep Purple to go for broke and drive "Highway Star," "Strange Kind of Woman" and "Woman From Tokyo" like getaway cars used in a daring bank heist. It is, indeed, the thrill of the chase that still moves Deep Purple.

Quick cutaways make the action onstage come alive, the cameras expertly capturing Ian Gillan's expressive wails and honing in with artful subtlety on the virtuoso chops of guitarist Steve Morse, drummer Ian Paice, keyboardist Don Airey and bassist Roger Glover – Morse's fluid soloing brilliance drawing most of the attention, and rightly so. And while they plow through "Knocking at Your Back Door," "Space Truckin'" and "Smoke on the Water" with the usual organ-fueled horsepower of a dependable, rugged vehicle that has a lot of miles on it, Deep Purple is at its best here when swimming in the sonorous, mystic oceania of a breathtaking version of "Rapture of the Deep" and giving a soulful rendering of "When A Blind Man Cries." Bonus versions of "Hush" and "Black Night" make this a package worth getting.

Of course, this isn't the Deep Purple of old, some of the fire of youth having understandably diminished over time, although the visually stunning "Live In Verona" proves they're still eminently capable of burning this lovely setting to the ground when properly motivated. And they are in fine form here, even if the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, when it comes to seeing Purple once again perform with an armada of strings and other classical accoutrements.
– Peter Lindblad

'That Metal Show' announces first guests

Rush, Dream Theater fans ought to be excited
By Peter Lindblad

'That Metal Show' returns Feb. 21 with
hosts Jim Florentine, Eddie Trunk
and Don Jamieson
The waiting is over. "That Metal Show" returns Feb. 21 on VH1 Classic, and, drum roll please, who will be the first guest? Why it's none other than today's Tom Sawyer Rush's Geddy Lee!

It'll be his second appearance on the acclaimed hard rock/heavy metal program, hosted by Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine. Lee will be there ostensibly to promote this summer's highly anticipated Rush R40 Live 40th Anniversary Tour, a 34-city run through North America.

"Back when 'TMS' was first born Geddy & Alex were nice enough to fly to New York and be a guest in our very first season. I've always had a great relationship with the Rush guys and it meant so much to me they were willing to support something that I was doing that at that point hardly anyone had seen or heard of," said host/co-producer Eddie Trunk. "Amazingly, almost seven years have passed and we're now about to debut our 14th season of 'That Metal Show' and I couldn't be more honored to welcome back Geddy to the set to celebrate 40-plus years of Rush and the return of 'TMS'!"

There's another little surprise in store for viewers of the season premiere, as Dream Theater's seven-string virtuoso John Petrucci will make his inaugural appearance on the debut episode. Dream Theater is currently working on a new album, expected to be released later this year.

All the TMS favorite segments are back, including "Metal Modem," "TMS Top 5," "Rank" and "Take It Or Leave It," as well as "Stump The Trunk" and Ms. Box Of Junk, Jennifer.

Fans can watch previous episodes and other exclusive bonus clips at and the new VH1 app.

TMS debuted on VH1 Classic in November 2008. Check out That Metal Show's Facebook page for more information at

CD Review: U.D.O. – Decadent

CD Review: U.D.O. – Decadent
AFM Records
All Access Rating: B+

U.D.O. - Decadent 2015
Udo Dirkschneider is, once again, spoiling for a fight. Lined up in his crosshairs on Decadent, album No. 15 from his long-running post-Accept band of battle-scarred, traditional metal warriors, are greedy, cigar-chomping fat cats given to spitting on the less fortunate.

Waging class warfare with torrential, tight-fisted riffs, galloping rhythms and growling, impassioned, teeth-gnashing vocals, U.D.O. takes on corruption and Capitalism run amok, questioning whether societies with such wide divides between the rich and poor can, or even should, survive.

On point and on message, the team of Udo, Mattes and Fitty Wienhold – the same threesome that produced the titanic Steelhammer release a year ago – have a clear vision for Decadent. The thrashing toxic waltz of a racing "House of Fake" snarls and lashes out, while the rugged, down-and-dirty groove of "Breathless" is a caged animal pacing impatiently. An uprising of big hooks and bass thumping that sounds like cannons going off, "Pain" is melodically tumescent, its growth unchecked as riff blitzkriegs "Speeder" and the philosophical "Meaning of Life" – fast-fingered guitar leads flying underneath the tumult – carry the fight with focused aggression.

Oddities like the bi-polar, deliciously sinister and heavy "Mystery" and a directionless acoustic number entitled "Secrets in Paradise" are strangers in this land of U.D.O., but Decadent rarely deviates from its righteous path of honest indignation and designing sharp-clawed metal constructs that are so familiar, yet so undeniably compelling. Though a somewhat less powerful statement of purpose than Steelhammer, Decadent has more to say and it does so in a more varied manner. still slamming its battering ram of a head against the wall and hoping for the betterment of human kind. Let's hope U.D.O. won't ever water down its ideals or its sonic assault.
– Peter Lindblad