DVD Review: The Who – Live at Shea Stadium 1982

DVD Review: The Who – Live at Shea Stadium 1982
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

The Who - Live At Shea Stadium 1982
The song it seemed was over for The Who. Internally, the bickering had intensified. Pete Townshend was struggling with his inner demons and seemed to be off tending to his solo career at the expense of the rest of the band, who were not at all happy about his moonlighting.

And there was a growing feeling that Kenney Jones was all wrong for The Who, that his drumming style was a bad fit for a band that never really recovered from the death of Keith Moon. Perhaps a bit rashly, The Who embarked on a 1982 farewell tour, when really all they needed was a good, long break from each other, seeing as how they would do a reunion tour seven years later. Saying goodbye with some sense of finality has always been hard for them.

On their North American jaunt that year, supporting the album It's Hard, The Who played two massive shows at New York's Shea Stadium, the second of which occurred on Oct. 13, 1982. Eagle Rock Entertainment recently issued the first official filming of performance No. 2, with restored footage and newly mixed sound in DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats, in a package titled "Live At Shea Stadium 1982" that includes informative, in-depth liner notes and is expertly filmed from a multitude of camera angles to capture the triumphant power and radiant glory of one of the greatest live acts ever.

Under an enormous structure spelling out WHO in bright lights, Daltrey, Townshend, John Entwistle and Jones give as good as they get on this captivating evening, responding to the fervent energy of the crowd in kind throughout and drawing blood with taut, sharp versions of "Substitute" and "I Can't Explain" for openers, with "Sister Disco" hitting just as hard. Gripping and enthralling, "See Me Feel Me" and "Love Reign O'er Me" build to dramatic crescendos that explode like well-choreographed fireworks displays, and a stirring "Baba O'Riley" is equally bombastic – all of it leading to a raucous finale of "Love Live Rock" and an embittered "Won't Get Fooled Again," as well as a lively encore of covers that saw them rip through The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and roll over combustible and bludgeoning takes on "Summertime Blues" and "Young Man Blues." And yet The Who treat lesser-known songs, such as the contemplative "I'm One" and "Drowned," with just as much importance – the furious extended jam that concludes the latter barreling down on everyone with locomotive propulsive.

Clean cut, with Townshend jumping around in striped pants and a beat-up brown leather jacket and Daltrey – ever the golden god – looking resplendent in his silver suit, this is The Who in their 30s, still young enough to be brash and bold, but less incendiary, more pristine sounding and also on the verge of losing their relevancy and becoming a nostalgia act. Reactions to It's Hard upon its release were mixed and it hasn't aged all that well, and it would be the last Who album with Entwistle and Jones, the former dying in 2002 and Jones eventually getting the heave-ho from the group. There are bonus tracks taken from The Who's first night at Shea stuffed into "Live At Shea Stadium 1982," and it's clear this release, with its imagery boasting a glossy vintage sheen, ought to be considered an indispensable document of a tumultuous period in the band's history, with the quartet tackling songs from It's Hard that they'd rarely, if ever, play live again. In the case of some, like the exceedingly dull "Cry If You Want" and the hardly memorable "Dangerous," that's just as it should be.
– Peter Lindblad

The rise of Battlecross

Thrash outfit is a testament to the power of positive thinking
By Peter Lindblad

Battlecross is Don Slater, Tony Asta,
Alex Bent, Kyle Gunther and
Hiran Deraniyagala
Rugged thrash-metal crusaders Battlecross hail from Canton, Mich., located just a few miles west of Detroit.

Emblematic of the tough, blue-collar environment that birthed them, the indomitable quintet of guitarists Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala, bassist Don Slater, drummer Alex Bent and vocalist Kyle Gunther has just released its third album, Rise To Power.

Out via Metal Blade Records, the punishing effort – the follow-up to 2013's War of Will – is a roiling cross-pollination of intense, blistering thrash and bone-crushing death-metal, as Battlecross hums along as a well-oiled machine that runs hot on scorching riffs, heavy grooves, powerhouse vocals and searing guitar harmonies that fly as close to the sun as possible.

Spouting a never-say-die philosophy that refuses to wallow in defeatism or self-pity, Battlecross chooses to concentrate on touting life-affirming values and living in the moment. And Rise To Power is their most aggressive stance yet, a battle cry that's uplifting, while acknowledging what difficult obstacles pain and frustration are to overcome.

Gathering momentum, after playing Metallica's Orion Fest and going out on the Mayhem Festival with the likes of Mastodon, Amon Amarth and Rob Zombie, Battlecross is on the verge of big things. Asta recently took time out to talk to All Access about the making of the band's new album and its attitude toward life in general.

Battle Cross - Rise to Power 2015
While touring in support of War of Will, you guys played Metallica's Orion Fest, the Mayhem Festival and the Download Festival. What lessons did you take away from those experiences and did they, in any way, influence the making of Rise To Power?
Tony Asta: The summer of 2013 was insane. Right of the bat… meeting James Hetfield, a personal idol of mine, was definitely a high point in my life. We shook hands and talked before we hit the stage and then he and Robert introduced us. It was unbelievable. The roar of the crowd and the intensity in the air was electric. That was the beginning of a long, hot, sweaty summer full of big crowds and insane mosh pits. The following summer we jumped the pond to Europe for the first time in our lives and experienced the old world, rich with history. We had the honor of touring with some phenomenal bands and every experience proves always to be learning experience. Soaking in the sights and sounds on the road can do a lot to someone, but overall, it has helped season us beyond our green days of the past. Rise To Power takes on new life with a rejuvenated confidence pulsing through every note. We’ve really done A LOT the past five years, and I am so proud of my bros and so thankful for our fans.

Describe what was happening during the writing sessions for Rise To Power. Why do you think they produced music that was even aggressive than previous efforts?
TA: Looking back, the writing process was much more fluid this time around. I approached writing with a relaxed but confident state of mind, which allowed the creativity to flow a little easier. I’m usually stressed out over everything band related, but something happened over time that really changed my perspective on things. It helps me rest easier to not take things too seriously or govern the day to day too militantly. I vividly remember the times we felt we’ve hit rock bottom – stranded, screwed over or broke, or whatever the situation may have been. It reminds me it could always be worse and to never sweat the small stuff. I’m then immediately so thankful for how far we’ve come. I think this attitude shines on this record. It’s that confidence and focus you have to possess to execute what we do. It may come off as more aggressive, but that’s up to the listener to decide. There are only two rules when it comes to what we write: No. 1 it has to kick you in the ass and No. 2 we won’t write the same album twice.

Do you think this album turned out heavier? If so, when did you realize that was the direction the record was heading in?
TA: What’s heavy to me may not be heavy to someone else, and vice versa, but I can say there are definitely some crushing tunes on this album. However, I can’t say if or when I realized the direction of the album because I didn’t really look at it that way. We approach each song as its own individual piece and deciding how each song fits with the other is sort of “after the fact." The only direction I can say it had to go was UP!

Talk about the differences between you and fellow guitarist Hiran Deraniyagala. You seem to have differing styles. How does that help shape the sound of Battlecross in general and this record in particular?
TA: I myself and Hiran have different styles, but I think we complement each other in a creative way. Hiran is a very aggressive player and his riff writing is somewhat linear in a traditional thrash metal or Slayer-esque style. He also brings a more brutal/extreme influence to the songwriting, and his down-picking is unmatched. On the other hand I dabble with syncopated rhythms, melodies/harmonies, and compositions. I like to think I have an ear for what sounds good, and I do a lot of the arranging. Don (Slater) also writes for the band. He brings a middle ground that really fills in the gaps with a lot of majestic ideas and riff writing. The combination we have helps create the sound we have. To our fans we’re holding down the foundation of what makes metal, metal, and to our critics maybe we’re too generic. But that’s fine because we’re doing what we love.

Alex Bent appeared on record for the first time with Battlecross on drums. How did his playing affect how Rise To Power turned out?
TA: Alex brought the glue and established a great flow for each song. He is a very talented and diverse drummer, and together we were able to do things this time around that broadened our horizons. We prefer not to be boxed in as just a “thrash metal” band because we really aren’t one. There is a lot to offer on this album, and Alex helped bring it to life.

Talk about working with producer Jason Suecof. What made him the right choice to produce this record?
TA: Jason has an amazing mind and a great ear. He’s unlike anyone we’ve worked with before. Jason is also a super shredder on guitar and had a lot of great ideas. I admit he’s a little unorthodox compared to prior experiences, but I absolutely love the guy. From the beginning we knew we wanted to return to Audiohammer studios and work with Mark Lewis. Mark mixed and mastered Rise To Power and between the two of them the production is far beyond our expectations. It’s absolutely crushing.

In what way does Rise to Power differ for you from War to Will? Does it seem more focused and tighter to you?
TA: Rise To Power is more focused than our previous albums. It isn’t any less aggressive or brutal, but it is more mature and less juvenile. What I mean by that is it’s not all over the place. You can really dig in and jam to it. It is tighter as well. The recording is captured at the best we can be, which is great for us because it absolutely helps set the bar for us as musicians. We have to play tight live, it pushes us to perform at our best.

Battlecross has a simple
message: live life while alive
What messages did you want to get across to listeners with this record?
TA: Our message is simple: live life while alive, and don’t let anyone hold you down. Crush those who oppose and rise above to conquer the ultimate goal. Life’s too short, take chances, trust in yourself … that type of positive mentality.

Talk about some of the individual songs on this record and your impressions of them, starting with "Blood & Lies" …

TA: I really prefer the listener to have their own interpretation of our material. I’ll have some fun with it though. Although each song was influenced by different specific things, "Blood & Lies," "Not Your Slave" and "Bound By Fear" have a similar root meaning. These songs touch on the “culture of fear,” and the notion that we are all slaves to something. It almost like Kyle is reiterating “F&% the Man!” but in a poetic way, haha. I think the important message to get from these songs is whatever the listener takes from them. It may mean something different to me than it does to someone else.

"The Path" …
TA: "The Path" is definitely a flagship song for us because it carries that strong message of perseverance no matter how long or hard the obstacles may be. This is one of my favorites.

"Absence” ...
TA: Kyle wrote this song about being on the road away from his son and absent from his life in a way. The important message is Kyle is leading by example and reaching for his dreams. Kids learn from that; they may not do as you say, but they will certainly do as you do. Absence touches on the rough times of being away from home while on the road, but the payoff of being on stage and reaching that high will keep him coming back for more. We do what we love because we love what we do.

You guys really carry the flag for thrash, and many have talked about how Battlecross is bringing a new energy to the genre. In what ways do you think you've helped to rejuvenate thrash? And what are your hopes for the genre as a whole going forward?
TA: Thanks for saying so. We really hope to leave a long lasting impression as we are here to stay. I can’t say if or how we’ve rejuvenated thrash, but I think having something more to offer keeps us out of that "box" and helps us cross over into other sub-genres of metal. I consider Battlecross to be a metal band first and foremost, but people can call us whatever they want. Metal continues to be alive and well because metal fans are the most loyal fans on the planet. I can’t see that ever changing so the future is always bright.

CD Review: Lamb Of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang

CD Review: Lamb Of God – VII: Sturm Und Drang
All Access Rating: A-

Lamb Of God - VII: Sturm Und Drang
His harrowing prison ordeal in the Czech Republic behind him, having been at least legally acquitted of manslaughter, Randy Blythe returned to Lamb Of God uncertain of his own future, as well as the band's.

Blythe talked about taking a good, long break and wrote a book about his experience, but just two years after his acquittal, the Richmond, Va., thrash-metal juggernaut emerged from a self-imposed exile with VII: Sturm Und Drang, the raging follow-up to 2012's rather toothless and uninspired Resolution. Where its predecessor quickly ran out of fresh ideas and energy, VII: Sturm Und Drang offers both in abundance.

Frenzied, propulsive stampedes "Embers," "Footprints" and "Delusion Pandemic" attack with focused precision and furious speed, while "Erase This" is a circle pit of nimble moves, with some surprising guitar effects thrown in for good measure. Fast, chugging riffs heighten the seething tension of "Anthropoid," and when Blythe lets out a roar as opener "Still Echoes" explodes as if it stepped on a land mine, it's a primal scream of relief that sends shivers down the spine. Containing lyrics Blythe wrote while jailed in Eastern Europe, the spiritual darkness he encountered while incarcerated hangs over VII: Sturm Und Drang like angry clouds – the contemplative, melodic gloom of "Overload" laden with heavy choruses before transforming into a volcanic eruption of crazed riffage and the mysterious and unsettling "512," Blythe's cell number, overcome by waves of powerful emotions and riffs.

Fears that Blythe had abandoned his trademark guttural screams and growls in favor of clean vocals can be put to rest. In contrast to comments that he was no longer interested in such exaggerations, VII: Sturm Und Drang finds Blythe as animalistic as ever. What's even more satisfying is that Lamb Of God's seventh album – eighth if you count Burn The Priest – is visceral and exciting, its changing tempos, searing guitar work and tenacious hooks grabbing hold in tracks like "Engage The Fear Machine," even as these veterans of metal savagery occasionally happen upon spacious pockets of decayed beauty. A product of production that perfectly harnesses Lamb Of God's intensity and renewed vigor, VII: Sturm Und Drang is a surprising return to form, a throwback to their classic ethos. The old tricks still amaze, even if learning new ones might bring them to even greater heights. Just be glad that Blythe is still around to remind us how precious freedom is.  
– Peter Lindblad

Just who was Kelakos?

Unknown '70s band reintroduces itself
By Peter Lindblad

Kelakos - Uncorked: Rare Tracks
From a Vintage '70s Band
Massachusetts was a dead end. Burning up the club circuit in the Bay State five and six nights a week wasn't getting '70s rockers Kelakos anywhere.

Going on the idea that location is everything, they relocated, thinking they were more likely to be discovered in New Jersey, given its proximity to record labels in New York City. They didn't fully realize what they were up against.

"At that time, it was really heavy music or it was disco," said Carl Canedy, the drummer for Kelakos. "It was right at the onset of disco, and we were neither."

Even worse, they were trespassing on the home turf of a man known as "The Boss," and they soon found out where they stood in the pecking order of the New Jersey music scene.

"When we played, we played a place called the Drift Inn," recalled Canedy. "It's in New Jersey, which was across the street from the Stone Pony. So, the first time we played the Drift Inn – I think we played Tuesday nights, we had a regular gig there, Tuesday nights at the Drift Inn in Asbury Park – and we were playing along, and it's a Tuesday night. There are people in the club, but not a ton of people – 75 people maybe. All of a sudden, they just start running out of the club, just running out of the club."

Needless to say, Kelakos was taken aback seeing an audience fleeing from their set as if someone had yelled, "Fire!" Bassist Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., for one, wasn't sure what to think.

"You see people talking, and suddenly, they run out of the club, and Linc leans forward to me and said, 'Wow, I guess these people just don't get us. This really sucks,'" recounted Canedy. "So the same thing happened two more times that we played there. It was crazy. We didn't know anyone, and finally, we just asked someone, 'What's going on?' And we found out what was happening was – which we were unaware of – that Springsteen was sitting in with Southside Johnny at the Stone Pony, and the word would be out in the club and people would run to see Bruce Springsteen, which seems so silly when they could have stayed and watched Kelakos (laughs)."

All the complications and frustrations involved in chasing the elusive dream of rock 'n' roll stardom eventually wore thin for Kelakos, which included Canedy, Bloomfield, singer/guitarist George Michael Kelakos Haberstroh and guitarist Mark Sisson. Incidents like the one at the Stone Pony didn't help.

"Those are the 'Spinal Tap' moments for the band, where we didn't know what was up and our feelings were pretty hurt the first couple of times until we found out," said Canedy. "But it was tough in New Jersey because of things like that."


The recent unveiling of Uncorked: Rare Tracks From a Vintage '70s Band aims to reintroduce the music of Kelakos to an audience that, in all likelihood, has never heard of them. A surprisingly diverse set that runs the gamut of Southern-fried boogie to prog-rock and Beatlesque psychedelia, as well as boasting compact jams of blues, country and rock ingredients born of that time, this 15-track effort never stays in one place too long, as evidenced by tracks such as "Gone Are The Days," "Boogie Bad Express," "How Did You Get So Crazy" and the ambitious epic "Frostbite Fantasy," as well as the never-before-released "In The Sun."

That willingness to explore may have cost them in the end.

"I think that's one of the things that may have been a downfall for us at the time," said Canedy. "You know, Linc, George and I were the songwriters ... we had no boundaries. It was the '70s. We had been influenced by The Beatles ... so we wrote what we wanted. We never looked at it as well, should we be grape jelly or should we be tomato soup? We were like, 'Screw it.' We'll just be like stew. We'll just have carrots and onions, and we'll do whatever we want to do. We had no label. We had no guidance."

Perhaps best known as the drummer for '80s metal bashers The Rods, Canedy also later made a name for himself as a producer, working on albums by the likes of Anthrax, Overkills, TT Quick, Exciter and Possessed, among others. Over the years, he's served as the archivist for both The Rods and Kelakos.

"I've maintained and stored all these tapes, these recordings for years," said Canedy. "And Linc and I were having a discussion one day. He was putting together his Pro Tools studio. And we were talking about the fact that in this day and age, transferring from analog to digital it just makes life easier because you don't have the studio costs and so on, which we obviously had in the old days."

Shipping off some transfers of the material to Bloomfield, Canedy waited for him to work on the mixes. The results were stunning.

"With each successive recording, the mixes just sounded ... we were like, wow!" said Canedy. "It was like blowing off the dust on a painting that was actually very nice."

Knowing full well the project would be a money pit, they carried on, and Canedy believes it was all worth it.

"When we recorded this, one of the things I remember saying was, 'Let's continue,'" said Canedy. "Even though we were spending a lot of money mixing, and we were concerned we were just never going to break even on the project, my thought was, 'Someday, we'll be glad we did this, we'll be proud of it. So let's make it as good as we can.' And I have to say, those words kind of came true, because now, at this point, for me having done so many things – produced so many albums and having been a part of The Rods and done so many projects – the Kelakos thing something that wasn't really on the radar ... we were proudest of this discography, and I'm really glad people get to hear this because it's really something to be proud of."

Trials and tribulations

Before Canedy came along, Bloomfield, Sisson and Haberstroh had formed a band as teenagers living in Cohasset, Mass.

Sisson had moved there from Seattle with his electric guitar, hooking up with Haberstroh, a singer who later took up the instrument as well. Since grade school, Bloomfield had played the sousaphone, but he learned electric bass, and the trio formed Emergency Exit, employing others on keyboards and drums and using that moniker throughout their high school and college years.

In the early '70s, they were rechristened The Criminals, their music inspired by artists such as Eric Clapton, Todd Rundgren, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Johnny Winter, The Who and Led Zeppelin. Crisscrossing New England, performing at clubs and schools, the group went full-time in 1974.

Miles away, in upstate New York, Canedy was honing his talent as a drummer and making contacts with music industry professionals in places like Ithaca, Elmira, Cortland and others, before heading out to see what the rest of the world had to offer.

"I had left bands that were successful club bands," said Canedy. "I kind of wanted a band that was a national recording act. So I said, 'Well, I'll strike out and see if I can find this type of thing. And I'm just really looking to have a major label deal.' So I went to San Francisco. I went to L.A. I went to New York City, and really, just nothing was a fit for me. So, as a last resort, I said, 'I'm going to try Boston and see what's in Boston."

While there, Canedy sat in with a cover band, " ... a 10-piece horn band and show band, and the musicians were phenomenal. They were all Berklee, Boston, music grads. They were phenomenal musicians, and the guys taught me a lot. The horn players were great and helped me so much."

However, Canedy thought the band leader " ... was a jackass. He was a tyrant, and he wasn't very talented and he was, by far, the weakest link in the band."

Feeling miserable, and wondering if Boston was just another unfulfilling stop along the journey, Canedy eventually met his future bandmates, just as he was planning to move on. "And they came and said, 'Just come and stay with us for a few days and see what happens before going back," said Canedy.

That was 1974, and soon they began writing together. Taking the name Kelakos, in reference to George's family heritage, they made the ill-fated move to New Jersey a year later, barnstorming clubs throughout the central part of the state, the Jersey shore, New York and Long Island after finding that Massachusetts had little to offer them.

The next year, they decamped to Ithaca, N.Y., which became their headquarters. Between 1976-1978, Kelakos spent whatever time they could in the studio, working on 15 original songs.

In 1976, Kelakos released their first single, "There's a Feeling/Funky Day." Two years later, they had recorded an album's worth of material.

"We actually recorded the album over a period of time," explained Canedy. "And I think at that point we were playing five and six nights a week, and it was just a question of time factors, and we were paying $60 an hour for studio time. That was a lot of money back then for musicians not making a lot of money. And I also think it was getting the material together and ready to record."

Getting that single out gave Kelakos a sense of accomplishment.

"There was just a period of tome for us with that first single, but I remember getting the jukeboxes ... they were 45s, and I was so happy because we found a place that manufactured jukebox name tags, in the little pink and red or whatever they were," said Canedy. "I thought that was just so cool that we were able to get them in jukeboxes."

Gone Are The Days came out in 1978, with the title track and "How Did You Get So Crazy" pushed as singles. It didn't quite measure up to their raucous live shows.

"We were a pretty high-energy rock band," said Canedy. "George was a fiery soloist and a very charismatic guy. We were pretty intense live. Not everything on the album reflects that, because it was about songwriting on the album."

Perhaps knowing subconsciously that this was their one and only shot at fame and glory, Kelakos pulled out all the stops, even going so far as to add horns and strings.

"It was just crazy what we did in terms of no boundaries, musical boundaries," said Canedy. "We just went for it as if it as if it were Sgt. Pepper's."

Put up or shut up

There was a lot on the line, however, for Kelakos with that record. The club scene and endless touring throughout the Northeast hadn't led to a breakthrough or a major label deal. And perhaps, they were grasping at straws throughout the making of it.

"It was a lot of fun," said Canedy. "There was also pressure. I think we each kind of produced our own songs, because we didn't have a producer. So sometimes there was a little bit of a lack of direction or somebody really taking the reins, and that was a new experience for us. And I don't recall anything really bad. I think we had a lot of fun doing it. I think the tension really came from the financial aspect, because if someone was spending a lot of time on the minutiae – you know, little parts and things and really racking up the bills – I think everybody got a little tense about that. Overall, it was a fun experience. It was certainly interesting, and for me, having always been interested in production, I was able to watch a lot of times, and I learned a lot."

Canedy wasn't the only one getting an education. The engineers who worked on the record went on to do big things. Les Tyler, who worked on the 1976 single, operated various audio technology companies, including DBX. Alex Perialas, producer and owner of Pyramid Sound Studios in Ithaca, N.Y., would become an associate professor of Performance Studies at Ithaca College. And finally, there was Tony Volante, an engineer for Steely Dan's Donald Fagan who has worked for the cream of the crop as far as studios go, including Sound Lounge in New York City. That's where Volante is engaged in TV and movie post-production.

As for Kelakos, that album was a "pass/fail" test. If it had brought them the attention they needed to attract the labels, they might have kept going.

"When the band comes together, and they decide to do that original thing and are going to make that leap, I think it becomes a 'do or die' and I think, at some point, if you were to make it happen, then you could continue on," said Canedy. "But if you don't make it happen, you kind of realize it's pretty much the end of the road. Then you go back to playing clubs again. Are you going to be happy doing that? It's probably time to move on."

And that's just what they did, breaking up after a short tour of New York state.

"We had radio ads, and it was okay, but it was not a label," said Canedy. "And things are different now for people, looking at how the music business is today. Back then, it was a bottleneck. You had a major label deal or you couldn't get your music out. Today, you can get your music out, and of course, there's a lot of music out there. It's hard to rise above the noise that's out there, with all the product, but you can do it. Back then, no. If you didn't get that major label deal, it was going to be very tough to do anything, because it was tough to get distribution, tough to get promotion and without the approval of the record machine behind you, we were basically done. So we kind of realized, without the support, it wasn't going any further and it kind of wound down."

And so Kelakos scattered to the four winds, splitting amicably but knowing they'd come to the end of the road. All four continue to be involved in music and entertainment in one way or the other, but Kelakos will always be something they can look back on and be proud of what they accomplished. And now, maybe the rest of the world will discover what made them special as well. Visit  https://www.facebook.com/KelakosUncorked to learn more about them.

CD Review: Lynch Mob – Rebel

CD Review: Lynch Mob – Rebel
Frontiers Music srl
All Access Rating: B+

Lynch Mob - Rebel 2015
What exactly is Lynch Mob rebelling against? Like Marlon Brando in "The Wild One," Oni Logan and former Dokken shredder George Lynch might answer, "Whaddya got?"

On their upcoming release, the ruggedly heavy, riff-mongering Rebel, Lynch Mob comes out fighting against social and economic injustice, as Logan pulls no punches in fiery diatribes against "Dirty Money" and the "Kingdom of Slaves" such inequality creates. His heart is in the right place, as he passionately pounds the pulpit to deliver these righteous tirades with a husky, bluesy wail that's soulful and commanding.

Those rough-and-tumble vocals get a workout in Rebel, brawling with and sweating through the sunny, metallic funk of "Pine Tree Avenue" and "Jelly Roll" in sweltering, grungy Southern-rock heat – all of which is also found in the snaking grooves of "Dirty Money." The slow boil of opener "Automatic Fix," an ode to the spiritual power of rock 'n' roll, heats up Rebel, before Lynch Mob gets down and dirty in the burning blues of "Between The Truth and a Lie."

On the other hand, the dark carnival of "The Hollow Queen" is rather dreamy and surreal, revealing a more gothic side to a quartet that includes the veteran rhythm section of ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Slash). Similarly cast, "The Ledge" is unexpectedly lush and pretty, standing as a contrast to the weighty, ponderous stomps of Rebel and its occasionally awkward and mechanical labor. Nevertheless, Rebel is good and meaty rock 'n' roll with strong songwriting that is doing more than merely getting by on its attitude, honesty and heart. And it doesn't hurt that Lynch clearly isn't resting on his laurels, his searing soloing as razor-sharp as ever and his inventive riffs gassing up Rebel, due out on Frontiers Music srl, for a hell of a ride.
– Peter Lindblad

Black Sabbath's 'Sabotage': Anger is an energy

Classic album from metal pioneers hits a milestone
By Peter Lindblad

Black Sabbath's sixth studio
album 'Sabotage'
Nobody's going to lie about Sabotage's age. The sixth studio album by heavy metal godfathers Black Sabbath did, indeed, turn 40 last week in late July, but it's hard to imagine Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi throwing a party in its honor.

Born out of anger and frustration over ongoing litigation with former manager Patrick Meehan, 1975's Sabotage, perhaps the most underrated of Sabbath's acclaimed "first six" albums, was recorded at Morgan Studios in London. The whole soul-sucking process seemed to take an eternity, as Ozzy would lament in his autobiography, saying that "Sabotage took about four thousand years" to make. Ozzy got so fed up by the whole experience that the singer, who rarely wrote lyrics for Sabbath, penned what amounted to a scathing "diss" track with "The Writ," which asked if Meehan was actually Satan or a man and posited the confrontational query: "What kind of people do you think we are? Another joker who's a rock and roll star for you/Just for you." It was a rhetorical question for Ozzy.

Hyperbole aside, the interminable sessions for Sabotage, only made more exhausting by the band's legal entanglements, caused no shortage of headaches. Butler is quoted in the liner notes to Reunion, the band's 1988 live album, as saying that "music became irrelevant to me." And yet, it's clear from listening to Sabotage, even all these years later, that Black Sabbath put a great deal of care into making it. Although intent on continuing down a primrose path that would lead them further into prog-rock temptation – "Supertzar" is practically a choral piece, with grand arrangements and the London Philharmonic Choir wailing and moaning in sinister fashion in chasing a striking Iommi riff like spectral hunting dogs – Sabotage is a record that has a hot temper, the very title suggesting that Sabbath was sick and tired of being screwed over. And raw emotions have often fueled great rock 'n' roll.

Frayed nerves and all, and perhaps on the cusp of a collective nervous breakdown, the original Sabbath lineup muddled through Sabotage's difficult birth and, in the process, broke new ground in terms of songwriting structures and musical innovation. Although not exactly immediately accessible, Sabotage has endured, slowly becoming a fan favorite, even as everyone laughed at its ludicrous album art and Bill Ward in his red tights. An arty concept gone horribly wrong, although, to be fair, this seemed to happen a lot with Sabbath, the cover of Sabotage ranks right up there with those of Paranoid and Never Say Die! for sheer absurdity.

 It's a journey with odd detours, including the completely out-of-character synth-pop flatulence of the universally hated "Am I Going Insane." Thankfully, it's the only real misstep here, although another confounding turn takes place after the opener "Hole In the Sky" essentially draws up the blueprints for stoner metal, with its heavy swing and charged, churning riffage. In a bizarre bit of sequencing, an instrumental titled "Don't Start (Too Late)" follows, allowing Iommi to display his prowess on acoustic guitar, as he pieces together complex little puzzles with an easy, smooth dexterity that proves, once and for all, that he's more than just a master of riffs. Which is great, except that any momentum gained from "Hole In The Sky" is stalled momentarily for an interlude that probably should have arrived in the middle of Sabotage, rather than at the beginning.

Enter "Symptom of the Universe," the proto-thrash beast that seeks and destroys, inspiring Metallica and the rest of its ilk to rise up from the gutter and revolt against everything '80s glam-metal represented. Trace the origins of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and here is where you end up, and yet, somewhere along the way, Sabbath decides the track needs a jaunty acoustic jam that seems to fly directly in the face of its evil, menacing riff.

All of this kind of works in a weird way, but upon its release, Sabotage must have been somewhat off-putting, although the forceful, straightforward push and solar-powered flashes of "The Thrill Of It All" and "Megalomania" seem to suggest a more grounded Sabbath that has freed itself from the shackles of doom and gloom. And then there's Ozzy's blazing vocals on "The Writ," so powerful and commanding. Of course, Sabotage precipitated a sad decline, their creative powers eroded by drug use that was the stuff of legend. They would recover, but not until Ronnie James Dio arrived. Sabotage was then, in some regard, a link to past glories, a life line for fans who wondered afterward if the old Sabbath was ever coming back. These days, even if it's not on the level of say Masters Of Reality or Vol. 4, it's damn close.
– Peter Lindblad

Short Cuts: Rivers Of Nihil, Battlecross, Cattle Decapitation

CD Review: Rivers Of Nihil – Monarchy
Metal Blade Records
All Access Rating: A

Rivers Of Nihil - Monarchy 2015
Adopting a terrifying god complex, Jeff Dieffenbach loudly roars the declaration, "I am the sun/I am the moon," his bellowing rage cutting through the dizzying maelstrom of complex riffs, blast beats and melodic grandeur that is "Sand Baptism." Here's where the world of Monarchy, the sprawling, ambitious new concept album from progressive death-metal architects Rivers Of Nihil, begins to turn. Religious tyranny is established amidst beautifully orchestrated sonic chaos. The new inhabitants of a desert-like earth, stewards of a planet barely worth saving, are divided into classes and their mutual destruction seems assured. Monarchy is Rivers Of Nihil's 2112, an epic dystopian tale brutally told that spills out in great sonic floods, exploring labyrinths of dark, astral melody as sonic devastation of biblical proportions occurs below in the furious grooves and violent intensity of "Ancestral, I" and the surging, explosive dynamics of "Perpetual Growth Machine" and "Reign of Dreams." What stunning, chimerical crescendos emerge from the post-rock tumult of "Circles In The Sky" and the instrumental ebbs and flows of "Terrestria II Thrive," and just when it seems Rivers Of Nihil couldn't possibly outdo themselves, the heavens open in the cinematic, ever-evolving closer "Suntold" and you're left speechless by its blinding brilliance. God save this Monarchy.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Battlecross – Rise To Power
Metal Blade Records
All Access Rating: A-

Battlecross - Rise To Power 2015
Taking no prisoners in their Rise To Power, thrash-metal's greatest hope for a glorious rebirth returns leaner and hungrier than ever. Going back to work, lunch bucket in hand, these angry boilermakers with their blue-collar ethos – coming off 2013's impossibly fast and furious War of Wills – have sharpened their visceral attack, growing ever more aggressive and vicious in doing so. From the one-two punch of a stampeding "Scars" on through "The Path," with its unpredictable mix of soaring, melodic twin-guitar leads, rampaging riffs and Van Halen-like swing, Battlecross lands a flurry of knockout punches on Rise To Power. Sounding more ferocious and tighter than on previous outings, there is ruthless efficiency and superhuman dexterity in their playing. Taking a page out of Pantera's playbook, these Michigan-based malcontents carve red-hot, irresistible grooves into "Not Your Slave," "The Climb," "Bound By Fear," "Despised" and "Blood and Lies," and for all the whiplash dynamics they employ here, these writhing, crashing tracks should come with a cervical collar. Classic thrash elements are thrown into a blender by Battlecross on Rise To Power with thermonuclear guitar solos and different vocal textures that growl and lash out like rattlesnakes, and what comes out is a fresh, combustible racket intent on leading a thrash revival.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Metal Blade Records
All Access Rating: A

Cattle Decapitation - The
Anthropocene Extinction 2015. 
Subtlety is not Cattle Decapitation's strong suit. Take the gruesome cover art of its latest extreme-metal manifesto, The Anthropocene Extinction, for instance, depicting ecological catastrophe so severe that earth has become a lifeless wasteland strewn with mangled corpses. And the title of this apocalyptic horror show suggests the planet itself is already in its death throes, choking on the polluting behavior of humanity. If that is, indeed, the case, Cattle Decapitation is going out with guns blazing, these angry giants constructing colossal sonic thrill rides to oblivion and delivering fiery, tempestuous sermons of judgement and recrimination tossed about by massive, pummeling riffs, crazed drumming and a variety of seething vocal textures that spit venom and hoary rage in exciting, sensory overloads "Mutual Assured Destruction," "Not Suitable For Life," and "Apex Blasphemy." The sheer brutality, calculated aggression and chaotic math of "Manufactured Extinct" are awesome to behold, as is the all-consuming closer "Pacific Grim" – its menacing, heavy chugs, widescreen guitars and machine-gun rhythms creating an overwhelmingly intense aural experience that is not for the faint of heart. And such is also the case for "The Prophets of Loss," where one Philip Anselmo lends a hand with vocals, and "Plagueborne," with its neck-breaking tempo changes, as the breathtaking violence and enormity of The Anthropocene Extinction leaves one dazed and disoriented, with the unexpected shifts of "Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)" and the blazing solar storm that is "Circo Inhumanitas" sucking all the air out of your lungs. What's truly chilling, however, is the funereal acoustic dirge "Ave Exitium," as hopeless and forlorn a eulogy as you're likely to ever hear. There are about a thousand different maneuvers taking place within the stretched boundaries of every track, and each one will send jaws plummeting to the floor, and the crazy thing is, for all the surprises they spring, they all make perfect sense. Even a few compelling strains of melody can be gleaned from the madness. A nominee for album of the year, without question.
– Peter Lindblad