CD, Concert and DVD reviews


Blood In, Blood Out

Nuclear Blast Records

7 out of 10

Exodus has always been underrated in my book on every level: song writing, musicianship, vocalists, ‘frontman’, live show, the band, as a whole deserves more credit and certainly more album sales than they’ve ever received.

It may stem from the fact that the band has had a very long on again off again status as well as changing vocalists more than I change my overly ripe shorts. We’re talking starting off with the vocal stylings of the Mad Russian Paul Baloff (RIP) then moving on to Steve Souza, back to Paul Baloff, back to Souza, off Souza, back to Souza, off to Rob Dukes, and now finally (hopefully FINALLY) back to Steve Souza again. Time will only tell, it’s always been a tenuous relationship between Steve and the band to begin with.

Coming back from one of their many hiatuses the band with Souza as frontman released Tempo of the Damned. A solid ridiculously brutal album that should have seen them rise to the stratosphere… but the rise was short lived as tensions rose faster than the album sales and Souza was done touring yet again. In comes Dukes for three albums that were good, but never really accepted as real Exodus by many fans. Souza and Baloff had a very similar style and sound which was very distinct, Rob came in and his style and sound was something completely different, dry, raspy, growly, but not in the ‘traditionalExodus sound. It’s never been explained completely to the masses why Dukes left, but nobody was surprised that Souza was once again in (his 4th stint in the band now).

When Exodus started out in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 80’s they were gods among men. Their shows were legendary, their crowds were rabid and brutal and unforgiving to any other band on stage (including Metallica). It was Exodus or it was shit. And if you weren’t an Exodus fan and you happened to be in the pit… may the metal gods have mercy on your soul because you were going to leave bloody and battered.

The pits at the band’s shows were so legendary that they even wrote a song about it called the Toxic Waltz. Their pits rival Slayers and would exceed theirs if their core audience were larger.

Their music has run the gamut of Thrash Metal stylings from balls out bay area thrash to the more tongue in cheek metal with a sense of humor to the head scratching wtf were they thinking (late 80’s early 90’s) musings that eventually were their downfall. After a short break of about 4 years the band reunited and broke up again. In 2001 the band reformed as most Bay Area Thrash bands did for the fabled Chuck Billy Benefit Show with Paul Baloff who died shortly afterwards and in came Souza. They finally put out Tempo of the Damned in 2004 and myself and many others thought they were well on their way finally in a clear direction with a monstrous album full of enough riffs, piss, and venom to take on the entire world. And then Souza left…. Again.3 Albums with Dukes later, Gary Holt has been performing with Slayer in the absence and (sadly) eventual death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman (RIP). And many wondered if Exodus were again done.

But in early 2014 rumor of a new album rose and as the album was about to be announced the band revealed the departure of Rob Dukes and yet another stint with Steve Souza.

And here is where I think the album suffers a little.

It is chock full of traditional Gary Holt riffs and pissed off lyrics that will satiate any staunch Exodus fan, but where Tempo was an education in brutally via metal, Blood In, Blood Out feels rushed and slightly incomplete. Maybe working together another few weeks on it or giving the material the time it truly needed it would have gelled a bit more and truly been a contender for the throne of ‘best Exodus album ever’. However Blood In, Blood Out comes across as a poor attempt at greatness.

Let’s hope Souza is on board for the long haul this time. They deserve better and so do we.

All that being said, this is still a good Exodus album. It is better than the last three, and it is a damn sight better than Force of Habit or Impact is Imminent. The title track is a good crowd chant along cut, Collateral Damage shows some great chops from drummer Tom Hunting, Salt the Wound is a stellar cut on the album and features Kirk Hammett on a wicked guitar solo. And Chuck Billy himself is featured in BTK.

Blood in, Blood Out is everything that is right and wrong with Exodus. That said it is a great album and better than most ‘metal’ being released this year. There is no doubt this album will be on my Top of 2014 albums list. I just expected the proper follow up to Tempo of the Damned that we never got.

Blood In, Blood Out comes out next Tuesday! Go get it and thrash on… you’ll thank me later, and your neighbors will hate me.

Stevie Nicks 24 karat GoldStevie Nicks

24-Karat Gold – Songs From the Vault

Warner Bros Records

9 out of 10

Stevie Nicks had some down time between her last tour cycle and Fleetwood Mac’s new tour with the recently reunited Christine McVie, so she decided to go through her gigantic catalog of demos over the last 30 years and pull a collection together highlighting the best of those that didn’t quite make the cut over the years.

24-Karat Gold may just be the album every Stevie Nicks fan has been waiting 20 years for. I mean if we must get right down to it, it has been a very long time since the Great Laced One has released a solid album. The only exception to that is Trouble In Shangri-La. That album is outstanding and the production top notch. Sheryl Crow was able to bring out something in Stevie that had been missing for some time.

2011’s In Your Dreams was decent and is still in heavy rotation on my iPod, but it isn’t a Stevie Nicks album as much as it is a Stevie Nicks and Dave Stewart album. His influence is heavy on that album and since he played and co-wrote (lyrics aside) almost every song on the album it stands to reason that his influence would be felt and heard heavily throughout. That doesn’t make In Your Dreams a bad album, but it, to me, makes it a duo album more than a Stevie solo album since the sound and the feel of the album is less Stevie than it is Dave.

Which brings me back to 24 karat Gold. Again, this is the album all Stevie Nicks fans have been waiting years for. The sound…. The song writing… the vocals… the music. It is classic Stevie Nicks. Which makes sense considering some of these songs are 30 years old or more. That being said, this album doesn’t sound dated by any means. The songs still resonate today and are as powerful as they were the day they were written. Dave Stewart’s production can only be felt in just that, the production that is flawless. The broad scope of sound from the delicate acoustic guitar strummings in Twisted to the bottom heavy thumping bassline opening of the title track, and even in Stevie’s vocals themselves. They aren’t overly processed; they aren’t hidden in the tracks or too stark and naked. They are perfection. Simple, elegant, and pure Stevie.

The whole feel of the album could and should be a little disjointed since the songs were all written over such a long time span, but the reality is, the entire album feels as if it could sit somewhere between The Wild Heart and The Other Side of the Mirror. In fact considering how disjointed and ill sounding Rock a Little is, this probably should sit right between those two albums in sound, and texture. The album as a whole is surprisingly cohesive and flows well from song to song.

As a long time fan and ardent collector, I’ve had most of these songs in their original demo forms for many years. And I am happy to report that even though the songs were recorded in such a short span of time they’re true to the demos and time they represent. So if you’re concerned that say, Cathouse Blues (one of her first songs if I remember correctly) lost its swagger, or Lady loses the intimacy of Stevie and her piano.

Just rerecorded, updated a bit, and polished nicely.

Sure many of you have heard these songs over the years; sure you may have two or three versions of most of these lying around somewhere like I do. But to hear them in all their crystal clarity is nothing short of outstanding and magical.

Mabel Normand and Belle Fleur are the stand out cuts for me. From the basic autobiographical nature of Mabel Normand and the gritty tone and lost oasis magical landscape of Los Angeles in Belle Fleur they both smack of pure unadulterated Stevie Nicks and you wonder why they never made the cut the first time around? Then there’s cuts like All the Beautiful Worlds and I Don’t Care, and Blue Water, and If You Were My Love, and on and on and on… that just blows you away over and over again, song by song. And you can’t ever imagine these songs sitting on the cutting room floor somewhere.

And then you silently thank Ms. Nicks for going back, rescuing these gems, and giving them the treatments they deserve and sharing them all with us.

Stevie Nicks 24-Karat Gold Songs from the Vault is currently sitting now at #2 on my top albums of 2014. And that’s saying something considering what’s been released this year.

24-Karat Gold is out now. Go ahead, you know you want to go get it… go ahead; you’ll thank me later. And enjoy All the Beautiful Worlds.

Godsmack, Seether, Skillet, Pop Evil
Charter Amphitheater – Simpsonville, SC
Show Review: Sherry Pendleton

Uproar in Simpsonville, SC was what you would expect from a summer music festival in the south…HOT!

The afternoon was a humid 93 degrees with the sun blazing down on the main stage. Many of my current rock favorites were on this talent-filled bill. The ROCKSTAR Energy main stage would feature; Pop Evil, Skillet, Seether, and headliners, Godsmack.

Godsmack 24aug14Pop Evil set the tone for the night with a heavy set right out of the gate. Leigh Kakaty’s vocals fired up the anticipating crowd.

Christian rock band, Skillet, hit the stage next. Their passionate influence certainly flows through their music. John Cooper’s lyrics had the crowd on their feet, while Jen Ledger had everyone moving to the beat with her superior drumming.

Seether took over with a vengeance soon after. Opening with Gasoline, Fragile 2001, scorching the stage with their usual demanding presence. Slowing things down around mid-set with fan favorite, Broken, Disclaimer 2002. The band finished their time with cleverly chosen, Remedy, Karma and Effect, 2005.

Finally the moment I had anticipated all day! It was time for Godsmack! Showing film of the band from the past on a white curtain was the perfect build up for this long awaited tour as the new album, 1000hp just released on 8-5-14. The title track of the same name is the first single from the newest installment in the Godsmack discography.

The curtain dropped to an incredible stage set, complete with those eyebrow singeing pyrotechnics rock fans get fired up for. The band started their energy-filled set with Generation Day from the new album. Let me just say, WOW, I was captivated from the first note. Godsmack doesn’t just perform on a stage, they own it. Robbie Merrill (Bass) and Tony Rombola (guitar), were rock n roll perfection. The sound couldn’t have been anymore dialed in. Not wasting any time they pumped the crowd up with the in your face, Crying Like a Bitch, The Oracle 2010. The set list was a combination of classic Godsmack, which put them in a class of their own, as well as the newly released tunes. Something New, 1000hp 2014, which Sully (lead vocals) revealed will be the next single, was a highlight for me. This song truly is something different from Godsmack. I feel it gives Sully an opportunity to demonstrate his powerful, yet versatile vocals. I personally dig the hell out of it!

I felt like the band had hit me in the face with a non-stop energy like no other! The drum duel between Sully and Shannon is always an anticipated feature for any seasoned Godsmack fan. Major kudos to the expertly skilled, Shannon Larkin (Drums). This provides him an opportunity to showcase his incomparable talent! I am hypnotized by what this man can do behind a drum set.

Keeping the audience involved and connected, Sully threw beers out to the crowd. Then finishing the set with 1000hp! I couldn’t find one fan in this crowd not engaged for this rock-fueled song! They absolutely slayed the new single before our eyes and ears! The crowd-demanded encore was, I Stand Alone, Faceless 2003. As the band cleared the stage all I could say was INTENSE! These guys played that show as if they were trying to top every gig they’ve ever performed! If they set out to blow minds, they succeeded!

I had the honor of chatting with Shannon Larkin after the show. What an incredible person. He spoke to me as if he had known me for years. If you’re expecting some ego tripping rock star type, you will not get it here. As a seasoned and successful rock star Shannon seems to be as grounded as they come. He seems to be enjoying being back on tour. Sharing his passion with the fans suits him well.

The band gave their all on the stage for this show, and gave every fan in attendance an unforgettable show.

Set list for Simpsonville, SC 8-29-14
Godsmack-021. Generation Day
2. Cryin’ Like a Bitch
3. What’s Next
4. Locked and Loaded
5. Keep Away
6. The Enemy
7. Something Different
8. Straight Out of Line
9. Awake
10. Speak
11. Voodoo
12. Batalla de los Tambores
13. Whatever
14. 1000hp
15. I Stand Alone

For more pictures from Sherry’s Uproar review CLICK HERE.

Check out for upcoming dates and tickets.
For more information on the individual bands and merch, click on over to their official websites.

SOR_NAD_CoverSaints Of Rebellion – New American Dream – High Volume Music

 Reviewed By – Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall

 Rating – 8 Out Of 10

It’s always great to see the 80’s influenced hard=rockers making a go at the ring 20-years after their relevance has come and gone.  That said, this is not a smoke screen to promote the music I love most in this world, it’s simply an FYI for those who still give a shit, which, to my current knowledge, would include every writer on-staff here at Away-Team and quite a few more fans who continue to pay prime prices to go see KISS, Foreigner, Styx and even Whitesnake and a few other hair variety bands who still seem to make a living touring and pimping their wares.

So, with bands like TNT, Tiger Tailz, Danger-Danger and Bulletboys making a run for the stages that will allow them these days, Saints Of Rebellion finds a nice, cozy place in my iTunes library currently based on the strength of Love/Hate inspired tracks like “Gasoline”, “Get You Some”, and “30 And A 5th”.  Sliding easily between G’N’R melodic brilliance mixed with modern day HINDER-meets-Black Stone Cherry (two of my FAVORITE bands out these days), the aforementioned “Get You Some” is probably my favorite track of the bunch, but I’m here to tell you, there’s no better album to spin while you’re throwing back a few Buds in the backyard during the neighborhood Barbecue!  SOR are pretty cool looking dudes that don’t look like old fucks trying to keep the flag flying, on the contrary, they are pretty young looking dudes with a cool look to them which ups the level a few notches for me to being with.

Stand-out tracks are definitely “Get You Some”, ” Wine, Women And Song”, “30 And A 5th” and “Rise”.  The whole album stands head and shoulders above their counterparts like CrashDiet and even Blackberry Smoke.  An incredibly solid first effort from a band I think we’ll be hearing a lot about over the coming months. Highly Recommended!


BlueStahli Blue Stahli – The Devil (Chapter 2) – FIXT Records

Reviewed By – Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall

Rating – 10 Out Of 10

I’m very lucky to have made some great contacts in the music industry over the past gazillion years and it’s always cool to know that when a P/R pal sends you a press release on a band he/she is working and you respond with; “Dude, it’s a busy week and I’ve got shitloads of stuff to review. Is this really fucking worth my time?”…and they send you such a simple, but jarring response; “It’s the coolest project I’ve ever worked!” Trust me, you kinda sit up in your chair a bit! Such is the case with Blue Stahli. With nary a question in my mind, I let the proverbial needle drop on The Devil (Chapter 2), which is basically an EP of two songs being put through demented remixes that are surprisingly not rehash cash grabs. What I got as track one, “The Beginning”, a two-minute introduction to the auditory alchemy to follow, painted an industrial vibe dripping with the scent of early Celldweller and, at times, dare I say Dope. Already I could feel a little excitement start to build as the album’s first single, “Ready, Aim…Fire” got the pace moving exactly where I was expecting it to go, and most importantly, where I WANTED it to go! This guy is amazing!!! I’m not even really sure what the reason for releasing only two songs and like 8 different remixes, but for some crazy reason, it totally works. “Enemy” sounds like Trent Reznor during one pass and then like Prince on the next. Truly an incredible journey of insane yet blissful monotony that I suggest everyone reading this at least experience once. Never, and I think I’m actually saying this from the heart, never have two songs not only kept my attention for so long, but damn near also changed my perception on the old cliche, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Truth be told, I’d never had questioned my P/R buddy’s email pimping this project if the name hadn’t have conjured up a cheesy, coffee-house acoustic act. Boy, was I surprised! Color me red with embarrassment and my blood pressure nailing stroke level as I bounced my head for two hours straight listening to this maniacal slab of edgy synth-laden, industrial rock genius! Highly, highly recommended!

Fozzy-Do You Wanna Start A War CoverFOZZY


Do You Wanna Start A War


Century Media Records


Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Reviewed by: Jay Rybak


Before we start a war, I must start with a confession.  FOZZY, the band fronted by WWE Superstar Chris Jericho and consisting of members of Stuck Mojo, is one of the rare bands that provokes a humble admission from this critic- I was late to the party!  Let me explain; I was first introduced to the music of FOZZY back in 2010 (a mere 11 years after they got their start) when my friend Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall gave me a copy of the band’s 2010 album, Chasing The Grail.  You see, it wasn’t that I hadn’t heard of them, it was rather more admittedly that because in 1999, when FOZZY first made their debut, the times were different.  New music was much less accessible without plunking down $15 and not being sure what you were going to get, especially for a college kid without a pot to piss in who knew exactly what he was getting when he plunked down $15 for a case of beer.  Call it misguided priorities, or simply call it being cheap.  Whatever you wanna call it I missed the train back then, and thankfully 11 years later I had a friend reach out his hand and pull me on.  Fast forward 4 years later and the ride continues with FOZZY‘s latest album, Do You Wanna Start A War, and the riders on this rock n’ roll locomotive won’t wanna get off.

The opening seconds of the album, and the air raid sirens of the title track almost serve as a warning; get ready because we’re about to launch an all out assault on your eardrums!  The next track, “Bad Tattoo” showcases the guitar prowess of Rich Ward and Billy Grey backed by the killer double bass of Frank Fontsere, and is highlighted by a Zeppelin-esque bridge that would make Jimmy Page blush.  Follow that up with the Ozzy-meets-Filter sound of the current single “Lights Go Out”, and we’re well on our way to one of FOZZY‘s best albums to date.

Now that they’ve gotten your attention, the boys throw us a curveball with the Sick Puppies sounding ballad “Died With You”, which shows Jericho‘s vocal range is much more than people give him credit for.  Traveling even further outside the norm, comes the pleasant surprise that is “Tonight”.  This upbeat rocker features a vintage 80’s sound with poppy overtones, so it should come as no surprise that they enlisted the vocals of Steel Panther’s Michael Starr to help out on this one.

Don’t let your guard down just yet, just around the corner is one of the highlights of the album in the form of the thrash rock face-melter “Brides Of Fire”.  I’d love to know how many drum skins met their untimely death on this recording!  Follow that up with yet another favorite in “One Crazed Anarchist”, Jericho‘s vocals backed by Ward‘s growling chorus put us right in that basement as the lunatic plots his evil plan.  Yet another that is sure to set the circle pits into rotation.

Take 5 parts FOZZY and mix in one part Christie Cook, and what you get is “Unstoppable”.  A catchy rocker that beckons comparisons to Halestorm, not simply because it features a female vocalist, but because it features a female vocalist with pipes on par with those of Lzzy Hale backed by a monster band with a catchy hook that leaves you begging for more.  Bring on the doom and gloom of “Scarecrow”, perhaps the only dud on the album.  Not that it’s a BAD song by any means, it’s just not a GREAT song in comparison to the rest of the album, not to mention it’s odd placement betwixt two high energy rockers.  Fear not my friends, “No Good Way” picks up the energy with a Shinedown-meets-Godsmack reflection on life and death that is sure to be a staple at rock radio for years to come.

Nothing can prepare you for what happens next…“S.O.S.”… a cover song… originally done by… ABBA!  I know you’re probably thinking “Fucking ABBA!?”, among other choice words, but there are two reasons to choose your words wisely: First, the song is an absolutely brilliant rendition that is in itself a perfect reason to own this album, and it  is guaranteed to be a favorite by anyone with a pulse.  Second, Chris Jericho can kick your ass!  Finally to end the album, FOZZY get back to their roots with “Witchery”; a song that begs comparisons to early All That Remains and when it’s finished makes you put down that pinky finger, take your hand out of the air, and while keeping that index finger extended, press repeat!

All in all, Do You Wanna Start A War is a must own, and comes highly recommended!!!  I waited WAY too long to get on the FOZZY train, don’t be like me!  Head out to your local record store now (yes, they do still exist), or if you can’t wait click here and purchase the album!  All Aboard!


Framing HanleyFraming Hanley – “The Sum Of Who We Are” – Imagene Records

Reviewed By – Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall

Rating – 9 Out Of 10

So here’s the deal on Framing Hanley, on first listen, they’re clearly a very solid, Modern Rock band whom one could easily put them on a stage opening for some of the biggest Arena Rock artists on the charts.  However, it’s very unsafe to stop there and dismiss this as a band that culls the melodic tricks of their counterparts The Exies and a more beefed up Bowling For Soup.  Oh no, BIG MISTAKE!  So, knowing this, I hit “repeat” and listen to The Sum Of Who We Are again.  This is when album opener “Criminal” sounds completely different than it did my first pass.  Being the radio single, I expected to like it because I know it was crafted for that reason, to make me want to hear more.  What I didn’t expect was, I would fucking LOVE it!  Oh yeah, this is as good as they come, folks, a song with all the balls and bombast necessary to get asses out of the seats, a chorus with a hook so big it could land a shark, and lyrics that mean something.  Surprise!  It’s 2014 and here’s a band that actually brought their A-Game!!!  Vocalist, Nixon, is a little bit of a name in the industry and for more reason than he actually has a set of pipes, no…this kid is looked up to.  Where the aforementioned Bowling For Soup and old-schoolers Fountains Of Wayne failed me with their quirky, sorta gay style; Framing Hanley has a cool, sharp looking and “Skater Punk GQ” frontman who not only gets the job done, but delivers a line with such a solid punch he, at times, seems to summon the ghost of Saving Abel‘s Jarrod Weeks.  You feel like getting a little deep with your listening experience?  Dial up “Streetlights And Silhouettes” and let that one take you through the paces of Nixon’s solid-yet-comfortably-lazy vocal acrobatics!  The whole experience of listening to The Sum Of Who We Are is just that…an EXPERIENCE!  When’s the last time you had that from listening to an entire album?  Maybe Tool‘s Latterallus?  Yeah, what; ten fucking years ago?  Please!  This is an entire album full of great tunes that all cohesively weave into one story; your own personal story!  Look, this is one of those bands that I’m sure you know very little about, you’re gonna have to trust us on a leap of faith here; buy this album!  Not Metal in any way, but just a damn good Rock record!  Plain and simple.  Isn’t that what Rock-N-Roll is all about?

Pillbuster - BrothelPILLBUSTER – “Brothel” – Stonekill Records

Reviewed by:  Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall

Rating:  9 Out Of 10

It’s always nice to see old friends make a mark in the music business and do it in such a way that you know you won’t be the only one to notice. Pillbuster are not newbees to the scene. Hailing from Virginia Beach, VA and making their rounds through the N.C. circuit, I happened to catch them when they breezed through the Raleigh/Jacksonville areas and have found myself a fan ever since. Here’s the deal; the band comes off like gangbusters on record, but like Clutch, Slayer, Van Halen and Iron Maiden…this band has to be seen in a live setting to be truly appreciated. There’s no denying it. What we have here, however, in “Brothel” is a 4-song E.P. that damn near captures that experience to perfection. I don’t know if it’s just the right amount of doom and sludge in my diet that this small dose just hit the spot; or if it’s really that “A Parting Gift” may be the coolest song I’ve heard since Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”! So unique and brooding in its attack and yet just amazingly beautiful on a whole melodic level that my mind can’t even begin to dissect. This is just brilliant writing with soulful performance! Totally better with a few bong hits, but even distinguished enough for the Grey Poupon pallets. “Brothel” is the real deal! Go give Brett, Chris, Joe and Dougie some love: Very, Very Highly Recommended!!!

These Raven Skies

THESE RAVEN SKIES – “S/T” – Blackstream Records

Reviewed By:  Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall

Rating:  8 Out Of 10

Calgary Canucks These Raven Skies comfortably mix a wide range of easily recognisable roots headfirst into a fiery brew of heavy rock guitar, Bonham-inspired skin pounding and a singer that can easily bridge the gap between Judas Priest and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Whether instantly drawn to the light of perfectly mastered slide-guitar courtesy of “Come Sit Next To Me” or the eerie attack of Perkins’ (yeah, he’s kinda doing the first name only/Sting thing) dead-on Rob Halford (ala: “Deliver The Goods”) approach to “Are We Having Fun Yet?” the boys are making noise and it sounds pretty damn awesome. Stellar production makes up for some of the weaker tracks, and yes, there are a couple: “Emily And Alick” and “Open Road”. (Stick to the rockers, fellas!) Overall, a nice run at the bulls and extremely welcome in this world of cookie-cutter radio rock bands. Most promising is the fact that I treated it just like my first copy of Zeppelin “I”, I listened to the whole thing, all the way through in one sitting….and then hit repeat immediately. Good sign? I should say so. Very Highly Recommended.

Islander album art

Islander – “Violence & Destruction” – Victory Records

Reviewed By – Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall

Rating – 6 Out Of 10

This was totally one of those albums that I knew I was going to hate just by the cover.  Stupid thought process, I realize, but what a way to look like one of my parents’ old, early-70’s vinyl record selections. I can totally hear shades of Glen Campbell radiating from within.  Geez!!!  But since I did go to college to learn such wonderful cliches as, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, I put  my studious mind on sleep-mode and dropped the needle.  What I got?  Well, that was a nice little surprise in the form of crushing breakdowns, metallic guitars, syncopated drum noodling and strangely melodic and very tasty vocal hooks.  Not a bad deal, to say the least.  The real news is, my seasoned, more mature listeners; Islander is one of those bands that you’d probably never…no, make that, you would NEVER just pick out and listen to the whole album, front to back.  It’s one of those little moments when they pop up in your iShuffle, you grab for your player to check and see who it is because it’s kind of kicking your ass at the time.  We all need a band like this, so basically, the album works well for me, in small doses.  The main reason is that, any more than that and I’m hearing the same trick bag over and over and over.  It becomes obvious that a limited vocabulary sounds like you’re repeating the same thing every 2-seconds.  My vote is that they should have just packaged up “Coconut Dracula”, “Cold Speak”, “Side Effects Of Youth” and the punchy title track and offered us a flawless E.P.  Easily an 8 Out Of 10 on  my scale.  But, you keep letting me hear you lean on the same intro and use that scream/sing thing as a constant crutch to bridge the verse and chorus, and I promise you, I’m hitting fast-forward quicker than this one will land in the cut-out bin (that’s the “Please fucking steal this CD” section of your non-existent local record store).  Sorry I can’t be a decent party host on this one, but monotony is not one of my stronger suits.  Use my EP idea next time, fellas.  I’m sure there will also be some better photo ops for a slight upgrade on your cover art as well.


Kix Rock YFO album artKIX – “Rock Your Face Off” – Loud & Proud Records

Reviewed By –  Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall

Rating – 10 Out Of 10

Obviously, I couldn’t rate this album lower than a perfect score for so many reasons, none of which I even feel compelled to explain (my age, the impact this band had on my childhood, the impact drummer Jimmy Chalfant had on my early drumming career, the fight, the drive, the angst to become the biggest Rock band out of my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland…), yeah, we’ll leave those details on the sly…the truth is, the world’s been waiting for a new KIX album and if August 5th, 2014 has any say in the matter, THIS may be their strongest grasp at the brass ring they’ve ever taken.

Equipped with strong hooks, massive guitars and….well….and then there’s singer Steve Whiteman…you know, there’s THAT!  This album couldn’t fail even if producer/songwriter and previous KIX co-writer and producer, Taylor Rhoades wasn’t on-board…however, he is!  So, then there’s THAT!  Add to the mixture tracks as good-time bangin’ as first single, “Love Me With Your Top Down“, the Cooper-AC/DC infused “You’re Gone”, barn blaster “Rock-N-Roll Showdown” and the down home, backyard sleezefest of “Rollin’ In Honey”, Whiteman, Chalfant, bassist Mark Schenker and guitarists Ronnie “10/10″ Younkins & Brian “Damage” Forsythe are poised to do exactly what they promise in the title!  Excitingly playful, devastatingly performed and perfectly written and produced, it’s a damn shame they didn’t release this in 1988….maybe the Rock Gods would have spoken differently and our unsung heroes would be just phoning it in nowadays.  Not likely, but just trying to add a human element to an otherwise, superhuman group of musicians.



Starset cover art STARSET – “Transmissions” – Razor & Tie

Reviewed By – Craig “Bam-Bam” Stegall

Rating – 9 Out Of 10

I’m sure I speak for every music fan in the world when I say that it’s about damn time bands like Nothing More are making a youthful and energetic impact across radio dials and weekly album sales charts.  Add to that short-list of talent, STARSET.  “Transmissions” is just one of those albums that cannot be turned off!  You literally put it on and let one of the most uniquely complex Pink Floyd-ian stories unfold before your ears.  Smartly resembling a beautiful accident between My Chemical Romance’s “The Black Parade”  as it purposely falls headfirst into the orchestra pit madly flailing away at “2112: A Space Odyssey” with Korn bassist, Fieldy, filling in for the oboes.  Produced flawlessly with intermittent, real time space satellite transmission narratives that create the breath of tension between such monster attacks on the senses as, “Halo”, “My Demon” and “The Future Is Now”.  It’s just one of those records!  Strangely perfect in every way, sans the one, outcast stinker of the bunch; “Carnivore”.

Long story, short; another huge victory for the next generation leading the Active Rock charge into this 21st Century.  STARSET could not be more proof that heavy music and intelligence are neither dirty words…or impossible anymore!

Nothing More ST Album Cover



Nothing More


Eleven Seven Music


9.5 out of 10


Release Date: 6/24/14

Every year a new band bursts unto the scene and takes the rock world by storm. In 2014 it’s nothing less than inevitable that the head-turner will be Nothing More.  For proof of that one need look no further than their forthcoming eponymous debut.

The album opens with “Ocean Floor” (or as radio listeners know it, the intro to “This Is The Time (Ballast)”), building with each note until plunging us headlong into the first single “This Is The Time”.  Now that the blood is pumping, enter the Escape The Fate-meets-My Chemical Romance sound of  “Christ Copyright”, and you’ll surely sign on the dotted line!  Buckle up kids, the roller coaster ride is just beginning.  “Mr. MTV” and “First Punch” show no mercy before the instrumental olive leaf that is “Gyre”.  While not a huge fan of instrumentals, this is one that could easily be placed on Metallica‘s …And Justice For All, and none would be the wiser.

The album’s second half is a true testament to the band’s diversity.  From the contrasts of the hard hitting “The Matthew Effect” to the radio friendly ballad “I’ll Be OK”, we can easily see why frontman Jonny Hawkins stepped out from behind the kit despite having what he described to me as an “atrocious” voice.  The anthemic “Here’s To The Heartache” continues the journey through the album’s third quarter, until we reach two of my favorites, “Jenny” and “God Went North”.  These are two songs that are not only a microcosm of the entire album, but the most powerful in their meaning.  “Jenny” is one of the rare songs where you can actually “feel” the music from the moment it hits your ears, in fact I challenge anyone to sit completely still while listening to it.  You’ve got better odds of seeing Charlie Manson in a church choir.  Speaking of church, “God Went North” is an ode to Hawkins‘ mother’s final year and her increasing religious beliefs, that draws from his emotional depths to bring us the softer side of Nothing More, before closing out with another instrumental in “Pyre”.

From the opening track “Ocean Floor” to the pounding rain of “Pyre”, this album is a non-stop onslaught of prog-rock perfection.  The only thing keeping this album from garnering a perfect score is my personal adversity to instrumentals.  All in all the self titled debut from Nothing More is nothing less than one of 2014’s best albums.  This album comes extremely highly recommended!

Well, what are you waiting for? “This is the time” when you make your ears happy and click here to pre-order 2014’s Top Album Contender! And don’t forget to check out Nothing More on Tour this fall with Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, and Hellyeah!

Drill 187-From The Ashes Of Man Album CoverDRILL 187


From The Ashes Of Man


Turkey Vulture Records


10 out of 10



When Drill 187 took the Carolina metal scene by storm in the early 2000’s they quickly and effortlessly ascended into the ranks of rock royalty.  Despite all of the accolades and notoriety amongst the industry elite, Drill‘s biggest hit was to that of their fanbase when they decided in 2005 to take an indefinite hiatus.   Suddenly, and all at once, the world was left to wonder if there would ever be another to so swiftly and aggressively take the throne and become metal monarchy.  While many have tried, the answer was a resounding “No!”  Fast forward to 2014- Fear not, loyal subjects, the King has returned!

The royal ascension begins with what is perhaps one of my favorites, “More Than Man”, a gritty Alice In Chains-meets-Anthrax neckbreaker highlighted by the dynamic vocals of singer Jason Lilley and the crushing guitars of Ron Dalgo and Carlos Ameri.  Let the comparisons stop there, ask me who Drill sounds like and I’ll proudly tell you “Nobody!”, it’s refreshing to see a band with such talent that literally fucking rips off nobody!  Speaking of crushing, the next track “Crush” leaves nothing on the table for drummer Bobby Stansbury; two words for this one, Holy Fuck!  Follow that up with the radio friendly rocker and upcoming first single “Crucified”, and you see the kingdom rising before your very ears.

You want more? Be careful what you ask for.  The second half of the album takes no prisoners!  From “Hate Smiles”, to the SiriusXM Octane destined “Wake”, the energy builds; culminating in the air drummer’s ultimate stick breaker, “Rise”.  (No shit, I broke like 6 “drumsticks” and pulled a couple muscles rocking out to this one! Not to mention that I probably looked like a priest in a porn shop while doing it!)

“From Ashes To Man”, the latest album from a newly reformed, and reenergized Drill 187 shows that while they may have been gone, they could never be forgotten!  This album comes very, very highly recommended and is a front runner for 2014’s “Best Album”!

Now get your ass over to Amazon and prepare to be ruled with an iron fist!


Blatant Disarray - HarbingerBLATANT DISARRAY

The Harbinger

Dirt Records

10 out of 10

Several years ago I dubbed Blatant DisarrayThe New Princes of Thrash‘. Their sound back then was pure Bay Area Thrash performed with a precision that was beyond compare. They had some great riffs and kick ass hooks but their songwriting might not have lived up to their ability to shred your face right off at the time.

Enter The Harbinger and forget everything you’ve ever heard or thought of Blatant Disarray. Their second full-length album leaves their former song writing back in a high school locker in some deserted and desolate hallway.

The new album shows a marked maturity in almost every area. From the song writing and lyrical content to the vocals and performance. Granted the band is 50% new members since the last album but that’s a positive step even if the reasons for some of the personnel changes are quite dark (all will be revealed in an upcoming interview on

Mike Schaefer’s vocals have grown and filled out quite nicely since the release of their debut album Everyone Dies Alone. It could be the fact that he oversaw the entire recording process himself as Producer and finally found ‘the sweet spot’ for his voice in the studio, it could be the drama of the past three years adding layers of maturity, or it simply could be that he’s come into his own and found his voice.

The addition of Trey McLamb on the drums is the second biggest change behind the balls to the wall vocals. Where the former drummer Tim Worrell was an insane timekeeper and precision personified, Trey brings a completely different energy and looseness to the Blatant sound now. I’m not talking sloppy loose like yer aunts ragged aged cunt, I’m talking allowing the drums to be just that, drums, a sense of percussion, a thrash vibe to them as opposed to the technical virtuosity of Tim. It truly adds a new depth to the band’s sound live as well as in the studio.

The stand out track here that really sets the bar at a ridiculous height is There will be Pain, a fast paced thrashfest that has one of the heaviest riffs I’ve heard in some time. Mike’s vocals are simply beyond anything he’s ever done before, and the drums and bass line are something straight out of 1986’s San Francisco if you catch my drift.

How are Ryan Johnson’s solos you ask? Forget about it! Simply stellar and mind crushing. The man could play a solo only using slices of cheese cut in the shapes of the 50 states and it’d still be fifty times better than one hundred percent of the shit that is out there today.

Eviscerate might actually give There Will Be Pain a run for it’s money as it gallops along at a breakneck speed. And again, Ryan’s guitar solo is spot on. Thankfully I gave up playing guitar long ago, because listening to these monstrous riffs and solos would utterly crush my soul. I’d have to put on track # 8 Quench, slit my wrists from hand to elbow and slip slowly into the warm water of my tub and the sweet release of death.

Quench, as well as Rust are quite the dirge filled sonatas. I had the privilege of hearing a working version of Quench a couple months ago and wasn’t that impressed. I was told there were several guitar parts missing and that once done, it would be pure Blatant Disarray epicness. And not only is it nut pulverisingly heavy and epic, it went from my least favorite song of theirs to rising just behind Pain. The subject matter may be tough for the band to deal with, and in a way, it may be the only way they can deal with the loss of their former drummer. Knowing its origin doesn’t make listening to the song any easier, and even a casual fan that hears the song for the first time has to get the chills while traversing through the 8-minute requiem.

The Slayer-ish Born In a Body Bag clocks in at a mind-numbing 2:29 minutes as a fitting brutal ending to a record that takes no prisoners from the opening notes to the frenetic end.

Blatant Disarray’s The Harbinger is out today via Dirt Records and you can pick it up on amazon or iTunes now.

The Harbinger stands alone atop my possible best of 2014 records and it is only May.

Go pick up a copy for yourself and see why, you’ll thank me later.

And if you’re in Raleigh, NC this Friday you can see Blatant along with Jonin and Broadslab at the Lincoln Theatre for their record release show.

WhiteNoiseOwl-EP Album CoverWHITE NOISE OWL


Until We Meet Again-EP


Away Team Music


Rating: 10 out of 10


Rarely does a supergroup team with a super-producer and have it result in a finished product that lives up to expectations, but rarely does not equal never… When I first got word last year that former Columbia Recording artist Chris Shy (Aurora Sky/Fear The Clown) would be teaming with Lo-Pro/Ultraspank frontman Pete Murray, I was cautiously optimistic, as we’ve seen these things crash and burn before with even the greatest of musicians.  But there was something different about this pairing, having known Shy‘s penchant for hearing things that take most others a second listen to grasp I was confident that Murray would be the man to take this thing to the next level.  Little did I know that the two would be adding the talents of bassist John Fahnestock (Snot/Amen) and drummer extraordinaire Will Hunt (Evanescence/Device) to the fold, and converging on the famed EastWest Studios to add the final piece of the puzzle in GRAMMY-Winning super-producer Ben Grosse (just about every great artist under the sun); the spawn of this musical marriage becoming White Noise Owl

Bandmembers often say that their band is their family, now I ask you to picture never meeting your family until you were about to be introduced, as a whole, to a worldwide audience.  Sound crazy?  Well as crazy as it sounds, all of this mastery was created by a group of guys who, for the most part, had never even met until they were in the studio!  We always hear of “the band that never was”, in a sense, White Noise Owl is really “the band that never wasn’t”!

Needless to say, I had been eagerly awaiting the final product, and it was well worth the wait!  From the opening chords of “Feed”, we can begin to see what this band is about, a perfect conjugation of early Filter-meets-STP.  Thought we had that already?  Think again!  This would be what we’d get if Army of Anyone had a “do over”.  Murray‘s vocals, combined with an ingenious riff that would make the DeLeo brothers quiver are all you need to beg for them to “Feed” you more! An appetite that is further prompted with the second track “Bomber”, another rocker that displays the mighty talents of these four, all the while wondering if Ben Grosse is having flashbacks to his “Title of Record” sessions. 

Enter “End Over End” and “Are You Breathing”, the final tracks off the EP and one is left with two questions, How the fuck did I not realize what a great set of pipes Pete Murray has until now? And when does the full length album come out?!

As I said before, rare does not equal never; rare is reserved for things like perfect scores on album reviews, happy neighbors of Justin Bieber, and Blue Moons, and it’s only appropriate this Blue Moon has an owl sitting under it, a White Noise Owl!  Mark your calendars for March 11, 2014, the Day of the Owl.

For more info on White Noise Owl visit the band’s Official Website.


Devour The Day-Time & Pressure CoverDEVOUR THE DAY

Time And Pressure

Fat Lady Music/Caroline Music

Rating: 10 out of 10

The past year plus has been very kind to the rock world.  We, as critics, have seen an unprecedented amount of high scoring albums pass through the pages.  Even the harshest of critics [read myself] have been generous with the scores, in contrast to previous years.  Enter 2014; nothing has seemed to change.  Although Time and Pressure from Devour the Day was released digitally in 2013, the band has just released a revamped edition that is available in CD format at all major retailers, and with that garnered themselves a first in this critic’s career, and a feat rarer than a Cubs Championship (sorry guys)… two consecutive perfect scores!!!

Many of you who know me, know that I have been a huge fan and supporter of Egypt Central for some time now.  A fact that was further emphasized in 2011 when the band released “White Rabbit”, and earned one of the few perfect scores I had ever given out at the time.  So it goes without saying that disappointment was an understatement for the way I felt when I heard that the band had broken up after their most successful album.  There  was a silver lining, however, when I learned that Joey “Chicago” Walser and Blake Allison would continue to make music together in the form of Devour The Day.

When I first received the album advance, I was hesitant to open it.  I didn’t want that silver lining to turn to tin foil.  Not that I didn’t have faith in Blake and Joey, after all they are both tremendous musicians in their own right, but let’s be honest with ourselves, many a time bands have broken up and reincarnated with the uber-talented drummer stepping out from behind the kit to become the front man, and it can either go the way of the Foo Fighters or (gulp)  Methods of Mayhem.  Let’s just say I’m thankful that, although it’s not a bad consolation prize, Blake probably won’t be making any sex tapes with Pamela Anderson any time soon!

From the opening seconds of the album we are fully aware of what we are in for.  “Respect” gives you all you need to hear to know that this album’s a winner.  It’s a right out of the gate sampling of Blake’s dynamic vocals, Joey’s blistering guitar, and a seizure-inducing drum track.  Somebody pinch me…

As if it couldn’t get any better, the debut single “Good Man” (which I might add is an acoustic bonus track on this version) immediately springs the most stoic out of their shells into a vocal eruption of “Is there any good left in… meeeeeee…”.  There is no doubt that with all of the sore throats, beverage sales will double after this song is played live (or if you’re like me, anywhere alone).

From there we “Blackout” on a killer blend of Walser and Allison‘s musical mindtrip with a hint of punk.  Highlights along the way include the new single “Move On”, which Allison wrote about the day he was left standing in the Chicago streets after being betrayed by his wife, and his former friend and frontman in a matter of minutes; one that is sure to hit home with Egypt Central fans, both musically and sentimentally.

“Oath”, which has the qualities that you’d expect to hear in a pro sports television lead-up, is a slightly industrial based track that has a backing track reminiscent of Tool‘s version of “No Quarter” and makes for the perfect lead-in to “Reckless”.  This track is that one that every great album has, which masterfully treads that ever-so-fine line between commercial appeal and sellout, and is sure to garner attention from a widespread audience.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention “Handshakes To Fistfights”, along with the questions that it garners for the hardcore EC fans.  It’s a musically brilliant, cryptic betrayal anthem that gets the inquisitive wheels turning, and more importantly, the heads banging.

Lastly the album’s signature ballad, “The Drifter”, a killer track in it’s own right, sets us up to have our asses kicked one last time with the brand new addition to the album “Check Your Head”.  A fitting end in that it’s exactly what should be done to all who do not buy this album!  I can honestly say there is not one hiccup on Time and Pressure, perserverence has paid off and the boys from Devour The Day have hit a home run!  Very Highly Recommended!!!

For more information on Devour the Day, including Tour Dates and to purchase music and merchandise visit the band’s  Official Website.

Hello Ladies and Gents, it is that time again for everyone’s ‘Best Of..’ list and I’m not going to be left out. It’s been a great year for all kinds of music. You just had to go and look for some of it. Some of the selections on my list are predictable but I think there are a few on here that may surprise many of you too. So let’s kick off Slim Jim’s Top 13.5 (I’ll explain that later) Best Albums of 2013.

13 – King 810Midwest Monsters EP
king810Wish Korn would go back to being Korn and still putting out music as powerful and brutally painful as their debut self titled album? Don’t we all?
King 810 isn’t Korn, they might be the poor man’s Korn, or they may just be brutal and murderous without having the mommy and daddy issues of Jonathan Davis (or maybe more issues than Davis??). They aren’t quite as strong musically as Korn either. Every song sounds similar to the one before it. The only thing that seems to change is the breakdown of each song and the vocals/lyrics.
I swear this is a Best Of.. list, and King 810 are part of it despite how it sounds so far…
Instead of screaming and crying about mommy/daddy/molestation/etc ala Korn they are more about murder/death/mayhem it seems. I’ve seen them labeled ThugCore (that’s a new one to me), and the lyrics support the label. They paint a bleak portrait of life in the bowels of a hellish American City (the band hails from Flint, Mi) and the attitudes, antics, and dealings done to simply survive (or not survive as the theme of some of the songs go. 
With titles like Murder Murder Murder, The Death Posture, KIA, and Dragging Knives (see the common theme?) this isn’t feel good metal at all. But the cathartic nature of it, after 25 minutes of crawling through the dregs of humanity portrayed in this EP you can’t help but feel reborn, renewed, and whatever bullshit you carried with you before you put the disc on all fades away against the abrasive, concussive, sludge of inner city hell portrayed by KING 810.
Song of Note: K.I.A.

12 – QueensrycheQueensryche
queensryche - queensrycheQueensryche for many years was pretty much my second to third favorite band (1. Metallica 2. Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac). But over the years I had a hard time supporting them as each new album came out. Their EP, The Warning, Rage For Order, Operation: Mindcrime, Empire, and Promised Land were all exceptional albums but from there on it was all down hill. American Soldier was decent, and Operation: Mindcrime II was a valiant effort but it wasn’t enough to really be a good album. I won’t even go into the covers album.
And then the shit show started. The very public, very dirty, very scandalous breakup began. And so now you have two versions of the once mighty Queensryche touring and recording. Just to fuck with the public some more. Regardless what side of the fence you fall on this one, you must admit that of the two Queensryche albums that were released this year, only one sounds like the real Queensryche. If left simply to public opinion and album sales (which is a direct reflection of public opinion if you ask me) there is no mistaking that the Geoff Tate-less Queensryche, the Queensryche with new singer Todd La Torre is by far the reigning version of Queensryche.
The self titled album featuring the new singer is the bands best effort in recent years. The sound falls somewhere between Empire and Promised Land. They say it harkens back to the original Ryche sound of the first 4 albums, and while it is close, there is a little missing from it to be truly from The Warning ‘era’.
Todd’s voice is remarkably Geoff Tateish. Think Judas Priest with Ripper Owens, and had the band been able to go on after firing Geoff and just be ‘the’ Queensryche then there is a real chance that they’d be on their way back up the charts, and back into the arenas again. His voice is that strong and that ‘Tateish’ that if you just put the album on, and didn’t know the line up change, you’d never know that Tate wasn’t singing.
The album is solid, and because it is a step in the right direction and is completely listenable on it’s own even if it isn’t missing it’s ballsiness somewhere along the way, it limps its way into my top 10 list of 2013.
Again, this is more Empire than Rage for Order or The Warning, and while there isn’t anything wrong with that, I don’t think it is enough of a departure from the last few Ryche albums to really be a great album. I’ll take Empire era Queensryche over Hear in the Now Frontier era, but if I had my druthers, you can give me Rage era Ryche any and every day thank you very much.
This being the first album without Geoff wrangling the writing or pawning the writing off on third parties (depends on whose story you believe), it shows enough promise to give us long time Ryche fans hope that the forthcoming music from the band will continue down the path they’ve begun to go.
Song of Note: Open Road

11 – Deep PurpleNow What?!
deep purple - now whatWithout going on a tirade against the R&R Hall of Fame here… It is a travesty that Deep Purple has once again been overlooked by them. While I’m glad that they didn’t get in based solely on the fact that this year marked the death of the greatest keyboard player ever, Jon Lord, It pains me to see pop artists get into the Hall before one of the most influential bands ever (and arguably the first band to create the ‘heavy metal’ genre just a couple of years before Sabbath).
That aside, Deep Purple has had a rough couple of years in the quality of the recordings they’ve been putting out. They’ve admitted as much themselves in recent interviews.
And while they can never return to the strength and might that they were with Jon Lord, the current line up with Don Airey at keyboards has finally captured the sound and vibe that is at the core of any great DP recording. 
Now What?! bears a striking resemblance to Perfect Strangers which in my opinion is the last good album they’ve put out as well as possibly their greatest album ever.
It sees the band in grand form and Ian Gillan while somewhat restrained here vocally still delivers a great performance.
If you’re looking for a good strong Deep Purple album that harkens back to their better songwriting days and performances, this is the one for you.
Song of Note: Vincent Price

10 – TriviumVengeance Falls
trivium - vengeance fallsI had to put Trivium on this list. I’ve tried liking their previous albums. I enjoy them to a certain extent but they just seemed to be missing something. Then I saw them live, and I understood what Trivium was all about. It’s been said a million times, and I’ll say it here because still holds true… There are live bands and there are studio bands. Some bands shine on a stage and their albums are just so so, others make killer albums but they just don’t come across right on stage. Trivium for me is the former. Until the release of Vengeance Falls. I don’t know if their writing has improved, if changing producers and having David Draiman helped, I don’t know if it just sonically sounds better than the other albums, or it is just lighting in a bottle, but the band has finally released an album that represents their sound onstage properly.
The band took a lot of heat for having Disturbed’s David Draiman produce the album from the ‘all knowing’ sheeple out there. But having a new set of ears listen and help pull out the best possible performance out of the band seems to have worked. This is the first album from Trivium I can listen to front to back. And because of that, because it is such a strong album, because it is the hardest and heaviest album to come out this year, because the band is such a great live band, they deserve to be in my top 10 list this year.
Song of Note: At the End of this War

9 – Five Finger Death PunchThe Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Vol 1
FFDP - the wrong side of heavenWhen this album came out I wanted to dislike it just like I did their first three albums.
Look, their sound is ok, the songwriting is ok, and while the band seems to have a lot of fun on stage performing, the lead singer Ivan Moody seems to posture just a little bit too much for my taste. Their breakout song (a cover of Bad Company’s ‘Bad Company’) was a cover that ranks up there with Shinedown’s Simple Man as the top covers that never should have happened.
The fact that the general public ate up both of those shitty versions of great songs irritated the fuck out of me and so I take it out on the bands and refuse to like/listen to them.
So FFDP comes out with the first of two albums dropping this year and damned if the first one isn’t chock full of killer guest vocalists. We’re talking Rob Halford, Maria Brink, Max Calavera, and Jamey Jasta here. That’s enough to make me give the disc a good solid listen. At least one good listen.
I’ll be damned if the album isn’t really fucking good. Again, a total surprise here and even more so that this band ended up on my top 10 list!
The title track is a stellar song that, had they released it 5 years ago it would have been a weak muddling milquetoast abortion of a song. But they have clearly matured in their songwriting and it shows here.
The disc kicks off with the infectious Lift Me Up featuring Rob Halford and it is this song that kept me intrigued enough to keep listening.
Moving through the various tracks they all have their high points and keep the album moving along nicely. Until you get to what may end up being my third grossest mistaken cover song ever. FFDP and Tech N9ne cover LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out. At face value it could be a really strong cover. The original song was done by LL Cool J with a full band supporting him on it. So it isn’t too far of a stretch to see a metal band cover it. But the execution is less favorable than chowing down on a three month old abortion. It should have never been done.
the first half of Diary of a Deadman continues to push the suck factor here. Think Metallica’s To Live is to Die but in reverse. Had the instrumental been ALL of the song it would have been a solid song. But if you skip both of those songs the rest of the album is a great solid metal album.
Look, no one is more surprised than I am that this album is in my top 10 list. I almost feel the need to apologize for it. But the majority of the disc is so strong and so surprising to me that I feel it is worthy to be here.
The second album (Volume 2) is really more of the same. It isn’t bad, it isn’t better, it is missing the guest vocalists, and it carries it’s own shitty cover version of House of the Rising Sun.
Maybe FFDP should stick to having guest vocalists and not doing ANY covers (because they all come out shitty). To be fair House of the Rising Sun is a lot less shitty than Mama Said Knock You Out. So they’ve got THAT going for them.
Song of Note: Wrong Side of Heaven

8 – NewstedHeavy Metal Music
Newsted - heavy metal musicAfter leaving Metallica Jason Newsted has been in a lot of projects to keep himself busy as he properly recovered from the neck/back injury that forced him out of the worlds biggest metal band (well, that and the all the inner turmoil bullshit going on at the time. See: Some Kind Of Monster). From performing with Ozzy, Voivod, Echobrain, etc, etc. to finally starting his own band Newsted it’s been a long journey.
Jason plays bass and sings/growls vocals and does an admirable job singing. It’s a bit one dimensional but it does work. And even after listening to the whole album it doesn’t grate on me. I usually prefer a little more depth in the vocals but this works and works well.
I think because the music behind it is so Motorheadishly groovetastic that the vocals lends itself to the grittiness of the sound.
And that is the biggest compliment you can pay this album. For that is what it is to the T. It is Motorheadishly groovetastic. Think Lemmy and Co. thrashing it out instead of Punking or Rockabillying it out. And that is where Neswsted sits. Motorhead with thick as fuck Thrash riffs and chops.
The biggest surprise here isn’t Jason singing… it has to be Staind’s Mike Mushock’s performance on the disc.
This isn’t Staind’s emo metal whiney baby bullshit, this is Mike unleashing heavy metal mayhem riffs all over the album. Kudos to Mike for finally showing the world his metal chops. They are a true treat and joy to behold.
Song of Note: King of the Underdogs

7 – VolbeatOutlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
volbeat - outlaw gentlemen and shady ladiesLuckily I was turned on to Volbeat a few years ago by a good friend. And have been a fan ever since. I mean what’s not to like here? You like Hard Rock? You like Rockabilly? You like Danzig? You like Elvis? Well, let me introduce Volbeat to you.
They are all the above and a little bits of all the above. The bastard son of Elvis and Glenn Danzig singing 50’s era Rockabilly with a 2000 twist mixed with great hooks and enough swagger and hair gel to put the sleaziest greaser to shame; add in exceptional songwriting and you have Volbeat.
The most notable difference between Outlaw and the albums before it is the addition of Robb Caggiano. I think that is what sets this album apart and above its predecessors. With Robb in role of producer the album is more straightforward Hard Rock(abilly) than a mish mash of Metal(abilly) and so the sound is more coherent and fluid.
If I had a complaint it is that there is a certain sameness to each and every song they do. If the songs weren’t so good it would be a little off putting and dull. I think it lies in the vocals of Michael Poulsen. While they are unique and undeniably good, they don’t have much range, so each song sounds like the last. The exception being Room 24 which features King Diamond and has the older thrashy Volbeat sound to it. Past that, the album kind of comes off as a 45 minute song with different passages throughout it. Not sure how you change that, as it is really the main part of their signature sound.
The Hangman’s Body Count has a great riff running throughout it chugging along like a juggernaut and the soloing is top notch.
Lonesome Rider has the rockin’ist Rockabilly/Country/Metal vibe of them all. It doesn’t hurt that Sarah Blackwood is singing in the worlds thickest twang on it and what a trippy song it is. You have to hear it to understand all the elements at play in this song.
Song of Note: Doc Holiday

6 – Monster MagnetLast Patrol
monster magnet - last patrolMonster Magnet is a band that should be much bigger than it is. But because they don’t write radio friendly hard rock or are perceived to be something they aren’t they don’t get the respect they deserve.
They’re mostly known for their one hit Space Lord and their great video for it. But take a listen to the rest of that album or any track on this album and you’ll find that they have so much more substance than that one song.
Ask me what Last Patrol sounds like and I’d be hard pressed to tell you. It’s epic. That’s the one word that comes to mind. Fucking EPIC. It is truly a journey of an album. It takes you for a ride and you end up in places you’d never think you’d go from a band like Monster Magnet.
Let’s just give them their own genre and call it Space Rock shall we? Because that’s what this is. It’s the closest I can come to ‘naming’ the sound. There’s acoustic shit in there, spacey jams, middle eastern tinges mixed in, and it isn’t until you get to Hallelujah almost halfway through the disc that you get to what you’d call a straightforward rocker. 
And that is what is so great about this album. That is all part of this journey. The music is heavy as hell. And not in the traditional sense of heavy metal, think Muse but a lot more restrained and laid back.
This is a groove heavy album. Maybe that’s what I missed. The album grooves deeply. It doesn’t go so deep as to be sludge, but heavy on the groove factor here. Every song whether slow, low, or jukin’ and jivin’ all have their own fat groove to them. EPIC GROOVE SPACE ROCK.
There you go.
Now, go get it. You’ll thank me later.
Song of Note: Paradise

5 – Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsPush The Sky Away
nick cave - push the sky awayHas Nick Cave ever released a bad album?
Fuck no.
Has he released albums that fail to live up to the Nick Cave standard? Yes, but then a Nick Cave album is a lot like fucking. Even if it’s bad fucking it is still fucking.
Nick Cave has gone back and forth over the last few years releasing albums with and without the Bad Seeds and has even done some ‘side projects’ (how you do a side project from yourself I have no idea), and it is my opinion that the best Nick Cave is the Nick Cave that is backed by The Bad Seeds.
The opening cut We No Who U R sets the mood for the disc with a ethereal and bleak sound. This isn’t the aggressive Nick Cave set to a cacophonous wall of noise. Think more Leonard Cohen and less The Birthday Party.
Wide Lovely Eyes continues the stark ethereal sound while Water’s Edge still keeps the minimalist theme going musically but steps the tempo up. You feel the song building, restrained, strained, pulsing, waiting to tear loose, only to be tamped down suppressed and leaving you edgy and wanting more.
It’s only when Jubilee Street starts that you get a full band sound, or traditional band sound. The electric, eclectic, ethereal sound gone but the morose lyrical vibe maintains its hold. The irony being the title of the song comparative to the overall feel of the song.
This is Nick Cave’s best work in a long time. I’ve followed the man for a long time, and this may rank right up there as his 3rd best album behind Let Love In and The Murder Ballads. That’s enough to ensure his place in my top ten of 2013.
Song of Note: Water’s Edge

4 – GhostInfestissumam
Ghost - album coverHail Satan!
Hail Satanic Metal!
Hail Satanic Circus Music!
Hail Satanic Psychobilly!
The second album by the enigmatic Ghost may not be as straight forward in the metal vein as their first album Opus Eponymous but it is still a great album that has so many subtle layers to it. And I think that’s why so many people seem to like the first album more.
But what Ghost brings to the Satanic Metal genre is something that one would never have though possible… FUN!
Yes Satan can be fun. Who knew?!?!?!??!
Give Infestissumam one listen and you’ll agree. Worshipping Satan and glorifying the great evil one can be fun.
The track Per Aspera ad Inferi sounds like some kind of psychedelic 70’s hard rock groove song until you catch the lyrics… ‘Oh Satan Devour us all Hear our desperate call’.
I’ve always wanted to start a band that plays music in the vein of Barry Manilow but has lyrics so dark and fucked up that people upon first listen give you the puzzled dog head cocked to the side expression.. ‘HUH?
This isn’t quite Barry Manilow music but is is close in idealism.
This isn’t Black Metal. This isn’t Satanic Metal. This isn’t King Diamond or Slayer by a long shot. But it is good solid hard rock/heavy metal that is a trip to listen to.
So put your sullen and brooding Black/Death/Satan Metal away, put on your clown pants and rock the fuck out to Good Friendly Fun Satanism!
Song of Note: Year Zero

3 – Micheal MonroeHorns and Halos
michael monroe - horns and halosHanoi Rocks was poised to be the biggest band in the world. The year was 1984, they had just released their best album to date, Two Steps From the Move, they had taken Bowie’s and the New York Dolls’ and MC5’s drag/androgynous look and glommed the fuck right out of it and had invented what became Glam Rock. Motley Crue, Ratt, hell ALL of the Sunset Strip bands of the 80’s stole or adopted the look from the originators. And Guns & Roses would have never been the Guns & Roses we knew if it weren’t for Hanoi Rocks. G&R even rereleased all of Hanoi Rocks albums on their own label as a tribute to them to show the world what they may have missed.
That all changed when Vince Neil got behind the wheel of his Pantera one night highly intoxicated and took Hanoi Rocks’ drummer Razzle on a liquor run. He ended up running head first into a Volkswagen Bug seriously injuring the occupants of that car and killing Razzle instantly. The death of Razzle effectively put an end to Hanoi Rocks.
And the world was a much worse place for it.
Michael Monroe went on to a successful solo career but never reached the heights that Hanoi SHOULD have.
Hanoi Rocks reformed a few years ago and put out a couple of really good albums but things ran its course and Michael once again has gone out on his own.
His latest disc is Horns and Halos and it is the strongest album he or Hanoi has released in 20 years.
This guy is 51, his voice is stronger on this album than in the last 20-25 years easy. The songs are well written and more tight and cohesive than in previous recent efforts. The playing is mush stronger and well written also.
This may be the best Michael Monroe album he has ever put out.
The albums starts off with the bombastic TNT Diet that sets a solid rollicking pace for an album that doesn’t let up once. There are 13 cuts on this album and everyone of them shines in its own way.
Ballad of the Lower East Side is probably the truest Hanoi Rocks style song on the album. The swagger and sleaze running off this song harkens back to the early 80’s not to mention the lyrics are singing of the glories of the Lower East Side of NYC in the 80’s with its pushers, pimps, and whores.
Horns and Halos is a straight out cock rock song that may be the jewel of the disc. 
The more I listen to the album the more I hear Social D or TSOL vibe running through it more than Monroe’s normal glam rock sheen.
And this may be why the album works so well. It may be the most mature album he’s ever written. Throwing nods in it to his roots, as well as his influences, but the new ‘sound’ lies less in the glam rock we’ve come to love and expect and more in just great Rock & Roll songwriting.
Nobody writes a better hook than Michael Monroe, and every song on this album has a great hook that instantly sinks into you and pulls you right to the end of the song and deposits you squarely on the other side wishing the song wasn’t over. That is until the next song sets in, drops it’s hook in your face leaving a big mushroom stamp on your head and dragging through it’s glory and deposits you once again on the far end wishing your could hit replay and dig the song over an over again.
That to me is the sign of a great song. As soon as it ends you want to go back and listen to it again. When every song on an album does that to you… you have a great album!
And this friends and foes, is a great fucking album.
Song of Note: Ballad of the Lower East Side

2 – Scorpion ChildScorpion Child
scorpion childHoly Fuck. I hate kicking myself for missing something. We get tons of Press Releases that cross our desk every day for a million bands you’ve never heard of and probably never will, let alone the ones you wish you never did. Scorpion Child PRs were coming at me fast and furious this past spring/early summer and I read a couple and just moved on. And THAT is what I thought of Scorpion Child. Read and dumped the PR without a second thought. I have to thank Sirius/XM for actually opening my ears and eyes to the wonder that is Scorpion Child and showing me what I was missing.
Think Robert Plant meets Rainbow who goes in a back alley and has a 17way with David Coverdale, Deep Purple, and Fastway is standing there circle jerking all over the place. THAT is what Scorpion Child is. Yet they are so much more.
I always tread lightly when I say a band has a sound from the 70s/80s/particular band name here because I don’t want you to think they’re some kind of rip off or retro sounding band for a goof (think Steel Panther). The above mentioned bands are nothing more than influences on what Scorpion Child bring. They take those influences and churn out something old and familiar feeling but with a new twist and spark of life that should propel them into the stratosphere.
There are a million ‘new’ bands out there vying for your attention, but this one right here stands head and shoulders above them all.
Their sound may not be as diverse as Led Zeppelin‘s were from album to album, but there is enough diversity here from song to song while still holding the primary Scorpion Child sound to entertain and enthrall one and all alike.
Song of Note: Polygon of Eyes

1 – ClutchEarth Rocker
Clutch - earth rockerA few years ago Clutch released what many consider to be their best album ever, Blast Tyrant.
Well the Maryland band have not only matched the excellence that is Blast Tyrant, but they may have even surpassed it with their latest opus.
Earth Rocker does just what the title suggests… It rocks.
Out of all the great music that has been released this year, this is the album that has received the most listens in my iPod.
This is just a ridiculously good album. Sonically, musically, lyrically, and vocally. The sonic part makes sense because Machine produced the album, the same genius producer behind Blast Tyrant.
Clutch has experimented the last couple of albums and have had mostly missed in my opinion since Blast Tyrant, but Earth Rocker takes off right out of the gate and only slows down for the Gone Cold haunting ‘ballad’ only to rev right back up and shake the foundations with ‘The Face’ and the band doesn’t look back.
There isn’t a bad song on this disc. There isn’t a bad moment on this disc. There isn’t a bad note on this disc. The only complaint would be that they could have added 5 more songs or so as it seems to end way too quickly for me.
The tracking of Earth Rocker is to be lauded also. Starting with the title track, and accelerating with Crucial Velocity, right into Mr. Freedom, and without blinking you’re thrown into D.C. Sound Attack. Each song building on the tempo of the previous, each song propelling your forward until it explodes with Unto The Breach. 
The aforementioned Gone Cold cools us off long enough to catch our breath and begin the crazy ascent again with The Face, Book Saddle & Go, all they way through to the finale The Wolfman Kindly Requests… .
This is the only album I’ve given a 10 out of 10 on in a very long time. I don’t think last year’s number one album In This Moment’s Blood received 10 out of 10 from me (yeah I’m too lazy to look it up, it MAY have…) But that means out of all the albums released since THAT album dropped (we’re talking hundreds of albums people [ok thousands, but for all intents and purposes hundreds that would/could be worthy of being in my top 10]) only Earth Rocker has again received a perfect score. Hence the top spot this year.
Song of Note: Unto The Breach (but it is really hard with this album to pick just one song from)

So that’s my top 10… er… 13.
Almost. I decided to go to 13 this year because there were so many good albums I couldn’t stop at 10. I have one more I’d like to add, as an Honorable Mention. It was originally in my ‘long list’ of top 10 albums of the year. But once I finished compiling all the great albums released this year, it just wasn’t as strong as the rest of them. But after writing up my Best Of… list I couldn’t just let it go to waste. The material is that strong in my opinion. So here is the 13.5 Best Album of 2013.

Natalie MainesMother
natalie maines - motherSo I purchased Mother by Natalie Maines because, well, as a person and artist I respect who she is and what she has done (former Dixie Chicks), and I heard her perform the Pink Floyd cover on Howard Stern one day and loved it. She does a great job on the song keeping most of the original arrangement together in her version retaining the feel of debilitating maternal oppression while changing it up just enough with a glorious Hammond B organ to put her own mark on it.
I was excited to hear the rest of the album after about 5 spins of Mother alone. And came away pleasantly surprised. Between Mother, and her take on Jeff Buckley’s Lover You Should Have Come Over (back to back those two songs will push any mortal person so far into a melancholy stupor that you need to make sure there are no sharp objects near with which to slit ones wrist with) along with her original songs Free Life, Vein in Vain, and Take it on Faith one comes away from the album with the impression that Ms Maines is the perfect woman to compliment Morrissey. The two of them could crush the world with their combined melancholy and infinite sadness.
There are a couple of decent rockers on the album that harken to Bonnie Raitt just a little less bluesy.
Overall this is a great album. Skip past the opening track, and enjoy the hell out of an album that should have come packaged with it’s own razor blade to open your veins as the disc ends.
Song of Note: Mother (Duh)

Ok, as a chid raised on Thrash Metal in San Francisco I’d be ashamed if I didn’t address two great Thrash bands that released albums this year. Metal Church reformed this year and released Generation Nothing and Death Angel released The Dream Calls for Blood. I’d love to have included them in my list this year, but sadly, they just weren’t up to snuff for me. I really wanted Metal Church to come back strong and hard, and unforutnately Generation Nothing did just that for me… nothing.
Death Angel‘s release was a little better but the weakest album they’ve released in since they reunited a few years ago. Both albums are ‘by the numbers’ Thrash and that just isn’t good enough with all the great music out there today.
So kudos to Metal Church for reuniting and let’s hope they put out better stuff soon. And the same goes to Death Angel. I want to root for you guys, I want you to be huge, I want to be blown away by your stuff again. So please… let’s just do that in 2014 shall we?


Scorpion Child

Nuclear Blast

10 out of 10

When was the last time a debut album topped your best of the year list?
When was the last time a debut album grabbed you by the balls and made you sit up and pay attention the first time it was played for you?
Well, that time is now, the band is Scorpion Child, and the album is their self titled debut album on Nuclear Blast.

Austin Texas has put out a ton of great bands in the last few years. Most notably The Sword (in my book anyway) and now another epic sounding band that reminds you of Led Zeppelin on steroids. I hate comparing any band to Zep but when the lead singer, Aryn Jonathan Black, sounds like a young hungry Robert Plant and the rest of the five piece band comes off as the be all end all of 70’s super groups it is very difficult to not make that comparison.

There seems to be a resurgence of that epic hard rock sound from the 70s coming back. I for one am all for it. But this is no novelty act. This is the music that could very well save Rock & Roll (and FUCK FALL OUT BOY for even tongue in cheek insinuating it could) and put it back in the forefront of popular music.

Part hard rock riffs, melodic rock vocals, prog rock noodling wall of sound, and psychedelic pop sensibilities Scorpion Child is is nothing short of mesmerizing. If there is a single flaw on the album it would be that there are only 9 songs on it. And in this day and age of bands rethinking the full length album and releasing two very strong songs with 10 cuts that are glorified b-sides, Scorpion Child comes out swinging for the moon with a full album of great songs that should put every band bemoaning the current state of the music industry on notice that if you put out a full length album of quality songs and not just filler that it will be received and heralded as a full length album worth owning and listening to in its entirety.

Scorpion Child doesn’t miss a beat here. There isn’t a bad song on this album.

If you don’t run out and purchase this right now… There is no hope for you or Rock & Roll. Because this is the PERFECT ROCK & ROLL ALBUM.

Get it.
You’ll thank me later.

And I predict this album will be on almost everyone’s top ten list and should be most of their #1 pick.