Friday, September 20, 2013

Slantpiece Get You Some

Slantpiece plays metal, period.  That’s what they do and it’s what they do well.  Kearney Nebraska is home to this 4 piece outfit.  Well you know this because you hang on my every word right?  In July, I was fortunate to be able to give my opinions on the first two offerings from Slantpiece’s upcoming EP entitled Get You Some.  At the time, they were headed to Lincoln to complete their EP with Producer Michael Beck.  Well, ladies and gentlemen, the results are done, they are here and soon, the finished product will be in your hands.

The opinions I held in my previous review of this band have been cemented.  The band has finished their 6 song EP and in that time, have managed to wring out more aggression, melody and precision than many of their peers in the Genre.  The music is heavy and precise and at the same time, melodic and shows adept songwriting skills. 

Each track has it’s own identity, which is rare in today’s music world.  Most projects are either a single driven by a bunch of filler to make the single stronger, or 10 variations on the same riff and vocal.  With Slantpiece, you get none of the above.  Each song on this project is strong and deserves to be listened to over and over. 

Sequencing is important when making music.  You want to keep the listener engaged the entire time without playing all your cards in the very beginning.  Each track on this project stands well on it’s own but the sequencing on this project is guaranteed to keep your fist in the air the entire time.  The band know that change from track to track as important as changing up the riff in a song.  Get you some is an engaging project that starts off with a roar and only gets heavier.  The tracks themselves will be sequenced as follows: 

War Cry
Demon Mind
Muddy Water
World of Chaos
Back Against The Wall
Act of Betrayal

Of course you should listen to this and make up your own mind, but trust me when I say that this is music that metal fans have been dying to hear for a long long time.  You don’t have to go to major acts and major labels to get it either.

Let’s dig into these tracks and experience just a taste of what Slantpiece has in store for you. 

The EP opens up with War Cry.  This piece, like Muddy Water feels a bit blues influenced to me.  Immediately it is reminiscent of Attika 7.  It is a heavy, sludgy, bluesy riff that has enough swagger and groove to make you an instant fan.  This track features a more melodic singing voice from guitarist, vocalist Derek Johnson, which advances the track nicely.  The song contains heavier elements too, but they are used to increase the overall ferocity of the track by only being used when necessary.

Demon Mind is a track that immediately reminds me of early mid tempo slayer songs in the intro without attempting to gallop along once the intro is done.  There is double bass work here that is used to add punch to the track.  Drummer Bill Sabah’s drumming adds what is needed for the track without going over the top.  There are a lot of todays metal and metal-core drummers who could learn a lot from how he approaches his instrument.

I have had the privilege of reviewing two of the tracks on this album early on.  You can find the review here:

Because I have expressed my opinions on these songs already, I will be including excerpts from that review as well.

Muddy Water shows another dimension of this band.  The guitar riff, while heavy is more melodic and feels a bit blues influenced.  Listening to this one, I am instantly reminded bands such as Down, Attika 7 and Biohazard.  Johnson’s vocals are a bit more melodic, with less of a rough edge to them, though adding screams at just the right times to punctuate the heaviness of the song.  This one gallops along and does not let up.  The drumming takes a back seat to the riff in this song and allows the guitar work to really shine of this track.  Note pinches at the end of some of the guitar lines are reminiscent of Zaak Wylde’s work for Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society. 

Likely the heaviest track of this set is entitled World of Chaos.  This song starts off with a scream and doesn’t let up.  The riff is intricate and well played and, while very heavy, almost ventures into progressive metal as much as it does thrash.

Back Against The Wall opens with a big fat bass groove that quickly layers up with crunching guitars and drums.  The track is a mid tempo track that is sludgy and heavy.  The vocals are done in a spoken style which fit the track perfectly.  This is a track to go to when you are looking for a great classic metal sound that is not afraid to be both retro and modern at the same time.

Act of Betrayal is a mid-tempo, heavy piece of work with a lot of aggression to offer.  The riff opens with a roar.  The bass work follows the lead riff closely and adds ferocity to it.  The drumming on this track is solid and accomplishes both driving the song as well as adding to the anger of the vocals.  The vocals on this track are throaty growls but not the typical RAWRROARLETSSEEHOWFUCKINGANGRYICANBEROAAARRRRR!!!  Johnson’s vocals are unique in that while they are heavy and angry, you can understand every word and he sings on key with the song rather than just a single note like so many of the bands that you hear today.  You honestly don’t hear musicianship this accomplished with bands who have honed their craft for years.  This is notable because this band got it’s start at the beginning of 2012. 

In short, friends, this is a heavy band making heavy music.  If you are a true metal fan or even a casual observer, get this.  These are real people making real music and they are representing metal in the midwest, and keeping heavy alive.  Support them by going to shows and getting the shirts, but most of all, make sure to tell your friends so they can support good local homegrown music as well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Slantpiece -Aggression in the Midwest

Kearney Nebraska to most is a small sleepy town in the middle of the state if you know of Kearney at all.  Home to The University of Nebraska at Kearney and not much else.  When you think of new music, I would be willing to bet that Kearney isn’t in your top 1000 cities...yeah, I can’t think of 1000 cities either, but before Kearney you’d think of Omaha simply because of bands such as 311 as well as other artists who have had some success such as Matthew Sweet and Conor Oberst and his band Bright Eyes.  

If you were to travel to Kearney and look for good local music, you would find a resurgence in metal,  I’m not talking teased hair glam metal.  I’m talking about sludgy, heavy metal made by guys who know how to play and also know how to wring every bit of anger and aggression out of their instruments.  

The band that comes to mind immediately is a 4 piece band called Slantpiece.  Featuring the talents of Derek Johnson on vocals and guitar, Derek Tavis on lead guitar, Wryan Carpenter on bass, and Bill Sabah on drums, Slantpiece is a heavy band playing straightforward metal with influences ranging from Black Sabbath, Black Label Society, Clutch, Metallica, Slayer and Corrosion of Conformity.  

This band specializes in dark, heavy, brooding riffs, that while they are sludgy, they are very technical and precise.  They are currently working on their debut EP in Lincoln Nebraska. The EP will be titled ‘Get You Some’ .  Working with producer Michael Beck, who’s clients range from Chiamera, Soilwork, Knights of the Abyss, Marilyn Manson,
Ke$sha, Kill Hannah, Black Dahlia Murder, Badlands and Death, who are quite arguably the most notable death metal band on the planet.  

The band has recently made two songs, “Muddy Water” and “Act of Betrayal” available to listeners on the reverbnation website.  You can find these songs by going to www.reverbnation/slantpiece.  

So let’s dig into these tracks and see what makes them tick shall we?  The first offering is a track called “Act of Betrayal”.  This piece a mid tempo, heavy piece of work with a lot of aggression to offer.  The riff opens with a roar.  The bass work follows the lead riff closely and adds ferocity to it.  The drumming on this track is solid and accomplishes both driving the song as well as adding to the anger of the vocals.  The vocals on this track are throaty growls but not the typical RAWRROARLETSSEEHOWFUCKINGANGRYICANBEROAAARRRRR!!!  Johnson’s vocals are unique in that while they are heavy and angry, you can understand every word and he sings on key with the song rather than just a single note like so many of the bands that you hear today.  You honestly don’t hear musicianship this accomplished with bands who have honed their craft for years.  This is notable because this band got it’s start at the beginning of 2012.  

The second track, which in this reviewer’s opinion is the strongest of the two offerings is called “Muddy Water”.  
This song also shows another dimension of this band.  The guitar riff, while heavy is more melodic and feels a bit blues influenced.  Listening to this one, I am instantly reminded bands such as Down, Attika 7 and Biohazard.  Johnson’s vocals are a bit more melodic, with less of a rough edge to them, though adding screams at just the right times to punctuate the heaviness of the song.  This one gallops along and does not let up.  The drumming takes a back seat to the riff in this song and allows the guitar work to really shine of this track.  Note pinches at the end of some of the guitar lines are reminiscent of Zaak Wylde’s work for Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society.  

It is impossible to describe a band’s sound in a review.  The best way to hear a band’s talents are to hear them for yourself.  The sound of these two songs is clear and dynamic.  The songs are heavy and loud, but the sound is not brickwalled and hard limited such as most albums are nowadays that fall victim to the loudness wars.  It’s clear this band knows what they want and how they want to sound and will not compromise on that.  There are a lot of nationally known bands that could learn a lesson or two from the studio work of Slantpiece.  

Overall, this is work that should not be ignored.  This band is making good music and it should be heard, hopefully on a national level. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ghost B.C. Infestissumam

Ghost B.C. - Infestissumam

When listening to an album, what makes it better than others?  What makes it good at all?  Is it musicianship that is far superior to others?  Complete virtuosos of their craft?  Soaring vocals that rival that of some of the worlds most renowned and accomplished vocalists?  One could say that these things could be taken to mind when trying to identify a good album, but if this were the only criteria, there would be very few albums that would qualify. 

To me, creativity, musicianship and playability play a huge part of rather an album is good.  Is it an album that can be played all the way through with no filler or is it a singles collection stuffed to the gills with fluff enough to make a full length album? 

Today, I am speaking to a small group of people and after you have read this, you can decide if you are one of these people.  Today’s album is Infestissumam by Ghost B.C.  The band hails from Sweden, home of black metal, though this is no black metal band.  For those who know and love their hard rock and heavy metal, take Danish metal band Mercyful Fate, the vocals qualities of Blue Oyster Cult and the doomy riffing of Black Sabbath.  Add an organist and give them a creative angle and you have Ghost.  Worldwide Ghost is know as Ghost, and only in the US are they Ghost B.C. because of the existence of another band already named Ghost. For the convenience of typing, I will refer to them as Ghost as that is how they are known world wide.  

Infestissumam translates to ‘hostile‘ for you language buffs and trivia addicts.  The album is the sophomore effort by this band.  Their first album Opus Eponymous was released in Europe to critical acclaim.  It took the dark and doomy sounds of Black Sabbath and added vocals that were on par with Blue Oyster Cult’s in their classic Don’t Fear the Reaper, meaning clear clean lyrics sang rather than growled or screamed.

Infestissumam has divided the bands following.  This release is arguably less heavy than the first record, however the things that made Opus Eponymous so great are still here along with some new surprises.  

I mentioned that I am speaking to a select group of people who can appreciate this release.  Before reading further, ask yourself, can you separate from reality?  Can you listen to an album, enjoy it for it’s sound and put aside the band’s message?  For fans of bands such as Slayer and Marilyn Manson I still have your attention.  If you are unable to do this, Please put this away and read no hard feelings....I mean’re staying?  Ok, thanks for hanging on my every word, Ha!

Let’s talk first about the music of this album.  Hailing from Sweden people expect this band to be a black metal band.  They are a very theatrical band, choosing to let their music speak for them rather than their personalities.  The band collectively refers to themselves as “The Clergy”.  They play as faceless ghouls.  Six masked performers take the audience through their shows.  Five of the members play in black cloaks with black masks on their faces.  The leader of the band is a man known only as Papa Emeritus.  He dresses in a Cardinal’s outfit and a skull mask hiding his features as well.  

The album opens with the track Infestissumam which is completely in Latin and sounds very much like beginning of a heavy metal mass.  The song fades directly into drums, bass and guitar riffing of “Per Aspera Ad Infiri” translating to “the hard road to hell”.  Each song on this album is catchier than the one before it.  A rather vaudevillian organ glosses over the top of the album giving it a dark and sinister feeling.  The album then goes to the first single titled secular haze.  If you have not hear this band before, this is a good starting point.  Beginning with a circus-like organ that is then combined with the rest of the band, you will find yourself singing along rather you know the words or not.  The vocals are thin but they are richly complemented with harmonies.  

Ok, let me say that while this album was rated as one of the top 10 albums to hear of 2013 by Spin magazine, let me tell you the only questionable thing about this album is the lyrics.  This is why I made mention of being able to separate the overall sound of an album from their message.  The lyrics all revolve around Satan and Satanism, not in the LaVeyan sense but rather in the horror movie sense of the coming of Lucifer’s son to destroy the earth and reward his followers.  I might mention here that the band’s ultimate goal is to make a horror movie in the form of an album.  I doubt they are any more serious about this than the actors in Roman Polanski’s brilliant film Rosemary’s Baby.

The entire record follows a theme which is a continuation of the previous album, but a completely different style.  This album is rich in creativity and catchy as can be.  You will find yourself humming the choruses of each song all the time rather you want to or not. 

I do not in any way condone the lyrical content of this band, however, I find them no different in content than Marilyn Manson, Slayer,, Black Sabbath or any other band that is a common name today.  This band is resurrecting the classic sound of heavy metal from the 1970’s rather than the galloping guitars, blast beats and RAWRGROWLHOWLGRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWLLLL!! that has become common in many bands today.  These bands are sort of dime a dozen to me and sadly when you have heard one, you’ve heard them all.  This is just my opinion, however.  I am sure that others would disagree.  What I do know however is that this band has a retro sound that also sounds completely modern.  The playability and creativity is there rather they focus their talents on a message that you agree with or not.  This may just very well be the album of the year for me, although there are several months to go before my final list will be complete.  

Lets talk tech specs of this album.  There are several versions available.  There is a 10 song cd, a deluxe edition containing two additional songs, one of those being a cover of I’m A Marionette by fellow Swedes ABBA (who knew that when the disco was removed, there was a good song in there?!!?!?!?!).  There is also a vinyl version available too.  
For those familiar with the loudness wars, the cd versions as well as the MP3 are bricked and hard limited with no dynamics.  The vinyl is cut from a different master and is dynamic and clear.  In the US, is pressed on standard weight red vinyl with one of the album labels being the uncensored art that many disc makers would not press.  

Overall, this is a solid release showing growth and change from their debut album.  This is not a sophomore slump by any means.  It’s theatrical metal.  This could stand on it’s own as a very good horror movie, but decide for yourself.  Pick this one up and give it a listen.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Puscifer - Donkey Punch The Night EP

Ahh, good independent music.  Something that doesn't come around very often.  Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle understands good independent music by way of his least commercial group Puscifer.

Maynard James Keenan is the only permanent member of the group, however his road band often includes members of A Perfect Circle. Last year, the group released the fantastic Conditions of My Parole marrying rock to electronica in a way that few other groups could do.

Puscifer is back for 2013 with a new EP called Donkey Punch the Night.  The 8 song EP will be released on Tuesday in the US, but for now, you can hear it streaming on many music sites. 

After one listen, I can say that I am impressed.  This collection follows in the footsteps of Conditions of my Parole only in that it still blends rock with electronica, however this time around, Keenan and company take a different approach in the types of songs.  The Project opens with a cover of Queen's ambitious Bohemian Rhapsody.  This track finds Maynard stretching his vocal range singing all parts.  While he doesn't have the vocal range that Freddy Mercury had, it is very close.  The track does little to make it a complete original, instead trying to stay close to the original. 

8 tracks total on this project go from hard core keys and bass of the second track, to the 1980's feeling percussion of Dear Brother.

The project is satisfying from beginning to end.  This shows yet again, that while Puscifer is a vent for some of Keenan's more avant garde work, it is not a collective for releasing throwaway tracks from Tool or A Perfect Circle.  This group has it's own feel and it has it's own identity that is just as original as any of the bands that share Keenan as a member.

If you are looking for pure guitar driven rock, you might be better off looking elsewhere.  What you will find here is great music.  It is driving and sonically thunderous, but not because of screaming guitars, bass and drums.  That is all there, but this project shows Keenan as a singer in a way that his other projects just don't do.

Besides Bohemian Rhapsody, which is present in two different mixes, a very 80's new wave take on Accept's classic rocker Balls To The Wall is also present.  The arrangement remains closely in tune with that of the origial, but layering of vocals over synthesizers make it a track of it's own.   Anyone familiar with Keenan's covers should expect this however by way of A Perfect Circle's eMOTIVe album which contained covers from Marvin Gaye, Depeche Mode, Elvis Costello and others.

This project will best be received by fans who enjoy remix projects that contain multiple versions of tracks.  Two versions of each of the songs appear.  4 tracks with a remix of each. 

Overall this is a solid project and it belongs in the collection of any Puscifer fan.  Check it out.  You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Newsted Metal

Newsted - Metal

If you have not been living in a cave for the past 30 years, you will know who Jason Newsted is and his importance to Heavy Metal Music.  Jason's beginnings were with a little thrash band called Flotsam & Jetsam.  He has also played on multiple albums by Voivod as well as countless side projects ranging from sloppy (IR8) To just downright terrible (Echobrain).

Newsted's most important musical contributions came when he became the fan who joined his favorite band as their bass player.  Jason joined Metallica shortly after the death of bassist Cliff Burton, staying on with the band through several albums for a career spanning 14 years with them.  In 2002, Jason announced his departure from Metallica and for a while faded into obscurity.  He worked on his various side projects, Echobrain being his most well known.  He had bad blood with his former band mates and Metallica's fans found themselves in yet another split over who was a better bass player.

2013 finds Jason with a new band bearing his name and a new 4 song EP out today aptly titled Metal.  There are many things that this collection will be, unfortunately, Vinyl is not one of them.  This project was released directly to iTunes for 3.99.  It is a worthwhile purchase.

The name of EP sums it up perfectly.  It is metal, pure metal and nothing but metal.  There is no Voivod, Flotsam & Jetsam or Metallica here.  What you have is Jason on bass but fronting his own band with vocals. Jason's voice is good, his lyrics are a little difficult to digest on this album.  They're not complex, they're just not exceptional.  The songs on the EP average about 5-6 minutes each

4 songs is all we get to base our judgment of this band on.  Ultimately this gets the nod from me.

The album opener Soldierhead starts out with a galloping speed riff followed immediately by rollling toms.  The drumming on this track is primarily blast beats though played a little slower than you would think.  A better drummer would be an asset to this band, but the timing is solid.  Lyrically it's about a soldier in a war torn place looking back on his life trying to determine how he got to where he is.

Track 2, Godsnake begins with slow big riffs for the intro, settling with a slow sludgy chug chug riff.  It's not bad.  It's heavy and fun.  Again, nothing groundbreaking here.

Track 3, King of the Underdogs starts off with a bass guitar intro that is mimicked immediately by a lead guitar.  After the first 3 or 4 sung lines, the main riff takes off and the track shows itself for what it is.  It is arguably the best song of the 4.

My least favorite is the 4th and final track, Skyscraper.  The song has a bouncing bass guitar line that seems just a little too commercial and overdone, still, in the overall flow of the songs, it fits well.

So there it is, I've sat with this project all day and listened to it several times before judging it all.  It's a solid project and I would definately want to hear more by them in the future.  It's good to hear Jason singing and playing.  It left a rift with some of Metallica's fans, however, I hope they find their way to 'Metal' and let this band be what it is and not overshadowed by the biggest metal band of all time, that he just happened to be part of for a time.

Happy Listening

scrap224; Rush- HEMISPHERES

This is a Journey into Sound.....

Rush's 6th studio album, released in 1978 was a concept album like their critically acclaimed masterpiece 2112 but not quite as successful.
Following themes going back to Rush's second album, Fly by Night, on Hemispheres lyricist Neil Peart continues to heavily utilize fantasy and science fiction motifs. Similar to their 1976 release, 2112, Hemispheres contains a single, epic song broken into chapters as the first side of the album ("Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres") while the second half contains two more conventionally-executed tracks, "Circumstances" and "The Trees."
The album's final track, the ambitious nine-and-a-half-minute "La Villa Strangiato," was the band's first instrumental release. According to Peart the band spent more time recording "La Villa Strangiato" than they did recording the entire Fly by Night album.
All that time and effort were worth it after just listening to this album once.
The album contains examples of Rush's adherence to progressive rock standards including the use of epic, multi-movement song structures, complex rhythms and time signatures, and flexible guitar solos, like those found in "La Villa Strangiato." In the 2010 documentary film Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, the band members comment that the stress of recording Hemispheres was a major factor in their decision to start moving away from suites and long-form pieces in their songwriting. That change in philosophy would manifest itself in the band's next album, the considerably more accessible Permanent Waves.
For a short period of time, the album was available in Canada also as a red vinyl LP in a gatefold sleeve with poster (catalogue number SANR-1-1015), and as a limited edition picture disc (catalog number SRP-1300), both of which have become much sought after collector's items. I own the picture LP version!
Side A or the Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres side is 18:08 in length & broken up into 6 movements;
I. Prelude
II. Apollo (Bringer of Wisdom)
III. Dionysus (Bringer of Love)
IV. Armageddon (The Battle of Heart and Mind)
V. Cygnus (Bringer of Balance)
VI. The Sphere (A Kind of Dream)
This epic song deals with the story from Cygnus X-1 on the album A Farewell to Kings. It uses the Greek Mythology of Apollo, the god of Reason, and Dionysus, the god of Love. The followers of Apollo believe straight logic can lead them while the followers of Dionysus believe that love will lead them. Civil War ensues until the adventurer from Cygnus X-1 comes across this world. Since traveling through Cygnus X-1, a black hole, his body has been destroyed but he can still see and think. He becomes upset with the war and cries out to the people, Apollo, and Dionysus. The people hear his cry, stop fighting, unite, and proclaim the hero Cygnus, the god of Balance. Pretty heavy stuff if your so inclined to think while listening to music. Besides I have always considered Rush to be the thinking mans band.
The other songs on the album include CIRCUMSTANCES (Geddy sings some in French on the heavy track). THE TREES (whether Neil Peart knew it or not, I have always considered this a song about the haves & the have nots) & LA VILLA STRANGIATO (an exercise in self-indulgence). This track is over 9 minutes in length. It is broken up into differing movements like that of the first track.
I. Buenos Nochas, Mein Froinds!
II. To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...
III. Strangiato Theme
IV. A Lerxst in Wonderland
V. Monsters!
VI. The Ghost of the Aragon
VII. Danforth and Pape
VIII. The Waltz of the Shreves
IX. Never Turn Your Back on a Monster!
X. Monsters! (Reprise)
XI. Strangiato Theme (Reprise)
XII. A Farewell to Things
This album is a monster start to finish. This is considered by many fans & Rush themselves to be the last of their EPIC songs in terms of length. They so far have remained true to that pledge. HEMISPHERES represents the end of the beginning 'golden' age of Rush & the turning of the page to something different. I love this album. Spin It.

The Main Event! The Big Ticket!!!

Hello Sports fans!  Welcome to the big event! The votes are in and the ballots have been counted.  2012 was a hit and miss year for music with a lot of albums that just weren’t that great.  But in the midst of all the mediocrity, 11 albums made the top of the heap. 

It is now time for your humble writers here at ana-logs to post the albums that we feel in our opinions were representative of best of the year. 

Below you will find my top 10 along with Scrap224’s top 5.  Each album in the top  5 has been reviewed by each of us.  believe me when I say that while we can agree on music, our tastes are very different so you will be able to see differing viewpoints on almost everything.  Take our words and get some of these albums for yourself and make your own decision.  

While we tend to endorse vinyl, these are also available on cd and in digital markets. Pick them up in any format you listen to your music and just enjoy

Scrap224's Top 5
5. ZZ Top - La Futura
4. Jack White - Blunderbuss
3. Soundgarden - King Animal
2. Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth
1. Rush Clockwork Angels

Your humble narrator’s top 10
10. The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
9. Ministry - Relapse
8. The Man With the Iron Fists Soundtrack
7. Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth
6. Down IV - The Purple EP
5. Rush - Clockwork Angels
4. Dr. John - Locked Down
3. Soundgarden - King Animal
2. Testament Dark Roots Of The Earth
1. Jack White - Blunderbuss

1. Jack White - Blunderbuss

Jack White - Blunderbuss

Occasionally there is an artist who has either the luck or the talent to make anything they touch a project that will garner both public and critical appeal.  Jack White is one of these artists. 

Hailing from Detroit Michigan, White has released albums under The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather.  As a solo musician, he has collaborated with Beck, The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Alicia Keys, Bob Dylan, Electric Six, Wanda Jackson and Loretta Lynn.  It is apparent that Jack White has a passion for music that is not seated any Genre.  His Nashville record store and label, Third Man Records, boasts a recording studio, performance venue, vinyl pressing plant and store and is constantly turning out collectables under their slogan “your turntable is not dead!”  White’s releases are released specifically to vinyl with cd’s and digital copies being an afterthought, which seems to be the exact opposite that other labels think.

On to the meat of this album, which hands down is the album of the year.  The title of Jack’s first completely solo project is called Blunderbuss,  It is experimental and diverse into almost all genre of music.  Occasionally, it treads on familiar territory such as the White Stripes feeling single Sixteen Saltines.  With it’s catchy yet simple riffing, it displays all the characteristics that The White Stripes held dear.  If this album simply repeated the format, it would be a good record, but would only be a one trick pony and not the album of the year.  The album opens with a simple electric piano opening into the track Missing Pieces.  Following soon enough are drums, guitar and bass.  This song sounds nothing like Jack’s previous body of work, yet it doesn’t feel alien to his voice as he manages the vocals with dexterity.  Freedom of 21, the album’s third track opens with whining steel guitars and strings and clearly feels that it could belong on an old country troubadour record, however it is completely modern and feels equally like a rock song. 

It would be easy to go through the tracks one at a time and provide a little background of each, but this would rob you, the listener, of experiencing this record as it should be, and that is with no preconceived notions. 

There are some additional gems that should be mentioned such as the side 2 opener, I’m Shakin', which is a feel good 50’s era blues rocker with female backing singers.  It is indeed too fun to miss, as well as Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy which would take an amazing amount of willpower to not dance to in your chair or at least smile and hum along. 

The vinyl itself is made by a label that loves vinyl and puts great care into releasing a package that carries a greater value than the cd.  The vinyl is a single LP 180 gram pressing in a gatefold cover. The outside cover features a picture of White on the front with a large black bird on his shoulder.  The back is a picture of the Nashville Electric Service.  Inside the Gatefold, there is artwork as well as an insert featuring the artwork from the cd booklet as well as a download card to get a free copy of the entire album in 320 KBPS mp3’s for your portable player. 

To me, there’s no question that this record is album of the year.  It’s a very diverse album with absolutely no filler tracks.  Each time you listen, you will hear something new.  While some songs will stand out as favorites, there is no doubt this album can be played from beginning to end each and every time.

2. Testament Dark Roots Of The Earth

Testament - Dark Roots Of The Earth

There are few bands who still play honest to God thrash metal anymore, choosing instead to include some thrash elements into Metal Core. These bands, however, lack the ferocity and overall sonic aggression that thrash bands have always had.  

The best thrash bands out there have been honing their craft for decades.  The Big 4 (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax) all still carry the thrash flag as do Brazilian Death Metal pioneers Sepultura, however, what about the L.A. based band that should have insured there was a Big 5 of heavy metal instead of 4, but just couldn’t seem to get out of the huge shadows cast by their peers?  The band in question is an excellent outfit called Testament.  2012 saw the release of their 10th studio album called Dark Roots of the Earth.  Released on Nuclear Blast records, this album is an all out sonic assault spanning 12 tracks on the vinyl, 13 tracks on the deluxe cd and 14 tracks on the iTunes version.  This album sees Testament performing at a level that has not been seen since 1991’s masterpiece Souls of Black.  

The musicianship of this album is solid and tight, going anywhere from delicate picking of the title track to the bone crushing gallop of Rise up and True American Hate.  Alex Skolnik provides most of the writing for guitar on this album and rounded out by rhythm guitarist Alex Peterson.  Skolnik was a student and Protégé of guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani.  The drumming duties on this record left me nervous before I heard the finished product.  Rather than waiting for longtime drummer Paul Bostaph, who has been recovering from an injury they recruited Gene Hoglan.  Hoglan  is best known for his work with acts Dark Angel, Death, Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend, Fear Factory, Opeth, Unearth and most recently Dethklok.  When it came time for the recording of the album, Bostaph stated he was not ready to record or tour.  Rather than wait for him, the nod was given to include Hoglan in the lineup.  His drumming on the album far exceeded my expectations giving them speed and urgency that haven’t been part of the band in a long time.  The drumming punctuation on lines such as “God of war, fire born, crown of thorns, no remorse” add ferocity to the lyrics that has long been missing in Testament’s recorded work.  What sets Testament apart from their peers is their unapologetic lyrical delivery.  Chuck Billy has been the voice of Testament for it’s entire recording career.  His gruff vocals and earth rumbling growls feel like home on this album.  The lyrics of the album range from political and social rage post 9/11 in the track True American Hate to the plight of the American Indians in the US in the stellar Native Blood to fantasy lyrics that would find themselves at home in any of Peter Jackson’s intricate Lord of the Rings movies by way of the title track Dark Roots of the Earth.

For those who are unfamiliar with Testament’s work, they provide a level of guitar technicality  on par with Metallica and Megadeth, but can dissolve into speed of light thrash familiar to fans of Slayer and Sepultura.  They are a band who should have achieved greater commercial success in their nearly three decades playing music, but just were never able to capture the appeal that many of their peers have enjoyed.  This in no way means that they do not enjoy successful album sales and sold out shows.  They are a staple in the European touring circuit and enjoy a loyal and rabid fan base in their United States.

This album boasts 12 tracks that in no way require any skipping to get to the next track.  This was an album meant for the vinyl format, with a solid listening experience from beginning to end. 

The vinyl itself is a standard 120 gram LP in a double gatefold cover.  The vinyl itself is a greenish gold color with black streaks coming from the center.  The coloration itself is almost identical to Anthrax’s 2011 release Worship Music.  The album’s lyrics are printed on the LP sleeves in the gatefold as well full color artwork and band photos in the inside of the gatefold.  For those who got rid of their turntables years ago or aren’t old enough to see them other than a cool throwback novelty, the deluxe cd includes an additional track and a DVD featuring concert footage of the band throughout the years. 

The iPod generation will also enjoy an iTunes exclusive track featuring Chris Adler from Lamb of God on drums. 

Overall, this record ranks at #2 of the best releases of 2012 to me.  This is a solid release that has gotten better with every single spin.  This is a rarity in an album these days since the a la carte song at a time iTunes generation has made this unnecessary.  Pick this one up, you won’t regret it.

3. Soundgarden King Animal

Soundgarden - King Animal
“I’ve been away for too long!” After an intro of familiarly crunchy guitars and that all too familiar voice, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden vocalizes the sentiment that his fans have been thinking for the past 16 years. You see it had been 16 years since fans had a Soundgarden Studio album in the form of Down on the Upside. 

Soundgarden were one of the legendary 4 grunge bands who represented the Seattle Sound to the world along with fellow bands Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana.  In every group, there’s distinct personalities and this crop of bands were no different.  They were all young and idealistic, but from very different musical influences.  Nirvana brought a punk aspect to Grunge, Alice In Chains brought more of a heavy metal vibe during a time when metal was losing ground, Pearl Jam brought commercial appeal and a willingness to reinvent themselves at every turn and Soundgarden were arguably, the artsy, experimental of the big 4 of grunge.  They brought sludgy guitars courtesy of Kim Thayil, over the top drums courtesy of Matt Cameron and of course Chris Cornell’s vocals going from melodic to high pitched scream with ease. 

2012 saw the release of King Animal, riding the heels of 2010’s greatest hits package, Telephantasm featuring an unheard song from the Badmotorfinger sessions called Black Rain, and a live set in 2011 called Live on I-5. While these were albums welcome to the catalogue, fans still wanted new music.  Two years prior, Alice in Chains did the impossible and reformed, toured and released an album even in the void left by the late Layne Staley. 

In the fall, fans received exactly what they were hoping for.  King Animal is 13 tracks of absolute Soundgarden.  It feels new and contemporary but it has that unmistakable vibe that only a Soundgarden album can offer.  To me, this album is not as good as Badmotorfinger, but that album will forever be my favorite album of not only the band but of the genre.  I can safely say, however that this reformed and refocused band has released the second best album of their career.  Despite the age, the music sounds young and fresh.  Only in the lyrics do we glimpse into the years that have slipped by and the age that has weighed down on the shoulders of the band members.

Standout tracks on this stellar set are the all out rocker “Been Away Too Long”, The slow and sludgy “Blood On the Valley Floor” and the nostalgic “Black Saturday” which has a feel similar to Cornell’s solo track Seasons from the movie Singles, which is where I really took notice of this band. 

There is no Outshined, Jesus Christ Pose or Birth Ritual here, but there is solid hard rocking from a band that helped forever cement Seattle Washington as THE place to pay attention to for music in the 1990’s. 

This is a must have album.  If you don’t know, find out.  If you have it already, spread the word.  Show them that their return is a welcome one and that just one new album won’t be enough because they have the strength to keep it going well into 3 decades.

4. Dr. John Locked Down

Dr. John - Locked Down

The sounds of birds and wolves along with rattling chains begin to swell in the speakers followed by a riff on a standup bass, followed guitar and drums, Fender Rhodes organ and a piano.  The piano sounds timeless and at the same time, so familiar and distinct, it could only be one man.  This year marked the release of another album by THE voice of N’Awlins boogie woogie piano.  Of course I’m speaking of Dr. John.

Dr. John’s newest album, Locked Down, features The Black Keys guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach at the control panel producing the album as well as taking up the guitar duties.  This is classic Dr. John, the vocals sound as though they belong to a much younger man than the 70+ Night Tripper delivering them.  The record is bluesy and fun, while completely dripping with New Orleans and all that the culture of one of America’s most history rich cities can muster. 

One thing is apparent from the first listen, is that while the musicians selected to play on this record are top notch, they all had to bring their A+ game in order to keep up.  There are a few highlights to the album, though, while this is not a concept album, it plays like one, keeping the vibe of the album through the entire album.  The opening title track features Auerbach’s most recognizable guitar work and gets the entire album on an upbeat tempo.  Walking bass lines present in the second and third track bring you to the next gem of the album, the percussion driven Ice Age. Some of Dr. John’s most pronounced electric piano work is present here along with a guitar riff that is reminiscent of 80’s pop group Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians.  The third gem on this album, and the one that pushed it to the top of the pile for me is the organ driven Kingdom of Izznes.  There is nothing I can say about this track that will it do justice, so dear reader, just pick it up and listen to it. 

Again, this review is written about the vinyl version of this album.  This LP was pressed on Nonsuch records, which is home to artists who think about their vinyl release first.  This one is pressed on 180 gram black vinyl as a single LP.  It includes an insert featuring Dr. John and Dan Auerbach in the studio as well as the lyrics for the album.  It does not include an mp3 copy of the album, however, the entire album is included as a cd as well so that it can be played in car stereos or ripped to mp3’s easily for use on portable system. 

There is so much more that could be said about this album, but it would just bias your opinion and there is so much music out there that needs to be both discovered and enjoyed without causing too much hype. This is one of those albums.  It’s great, but this is one you must sit with for a while and ease into. 

Get it, you won’t be sorry.  Happy listening.

5. Rush Clockwork Angels

Rush - Clockwork Angels
Canada...Our neighbor to the north that seems just a little too polite and somehow ends up being the butt end of jokes made in pop culture, from South Park’s rousing ‘Blame Canada’ from the Bigger, Longer, Uncut movie, to music that just seems to try but ultimately getting it wrong somehow.  This brings up images of 80’s pop singers such as Anne Murray and Bryan Adams.  I pause while you add your own jokes or defenses here.  

Regardless of how you view Canada, there is no denying that arguably one of the most musically affluent progressive rock bands of the 20th and 21st centuries hail from the Great White North as well.  Yes, boys and Girls, I’m speaking of Rush. 
I have never been anything more than a casual observer of Rush.  Usually I could take them or leave them, and in most cases I’d leave them.  Of course, there are legendary hits that no party would be complete without, for instance Tom Sawyer, Limelight, Fly By Night or Stick It Out. 

My dealings with Rush in my younger years were simply the songs above until my college roommate brought a copy of Rush’s Chronicles album back to school after his birthday.  From there, began an obsession lasting months on end of nothing but Rush.  His infatuation with Rush was the same as my own with Metallica so despite under breath grumblings from time to time, I ignored them as I found Geddy Lee’s voice to be whiney and harsh.  Something happened during those months though.  I started to pay attention and notice the absolute musicianship that Lee on bass, Alex Lifeson on Guitar and Neal Peart on drums possessed.  It was jaw droppingly beautiful at times while at others just good time rock and roll.  While I don’t celebrate the band’s entire catalogue, I took some new favorites from those marathon listening sessions. 

Still, time has gone by and Rush has never made the top of any of my lists.  2008’s release of Snakes and Arrows found a younger sounding band that, dare I say, was HEAVY!.  When I learned that Rush was recording a new album, I thought of two things.  1 was that friends who loved this band were sure to be excited, and 2. I hope the actual recording is better than the previous effort.  Rush, while being a musically proficient band, have suffered over the years with flawed recordings with Snakes and Arrows being the example I give as a casualty of the “loudness wars” plaguing music today, causing distortion and clipping. 

I decided to not complain about it and let artists do what artists do an I decided to put on my hat of professional critic AFTER the album was released.  A few weeks before the album was released, I heard the leadoff track of ‘Headlong Flight’.  It was clear and crisp as much of Rush’s music was, but it was heavy and angry and for Rush this is not the norm.  I liked it immediately and began to look forward to the release of the album.  There were rumors that this was going to be a concept album in the spirit of 2112.  When I saw the artwork and saw a red clock made of clouds and symbols with hands pointing at 9:12 (21:12 ), I took notice. 

Take notice please:  I LIKE THIS ALBUM FROM BEGINNING TO END!!!  This is not a sentiment I have had for a Rush album in the past.  The songs are epic in length, specifically Headlong Flight and the title track, Clockwork Angels.  They sound like a younger, hungrier band, who are making music for the love of music rather than just making music for the paycheck.  This is important no matter what type of music you are making.

The album is the first concept album since 1976’s 2112.  The lyrics, created by Neal Peart, chronicle a young man’s quest across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy as he attempts to follow his dreams.  Geddy’s vocals have matured over the years and have made him one of the more distinctive voices in rock and roll.  The overall music fits his voice perfectly.  The imagery is descriptive and is some of the best writing that I have heard from this band or any other prog-rock band in recent years, with only the possible exception of the stellar Mars Volta, who come in at number 10 on my list this year. 

This album is a gem in any collection of a true appreciator who likes music for the sake of it being creative and musical.  There are elements to enjoy in every track, and not a single track would require the listener to skip ahead.  Check this one out.  You won’t be sorry

Van Halen A different Kind of Truth Peer Review

Van Halen - A Different Kind Of Truth
What the hell am I listing to?  I have to admit this was my first thought when I heard Van Halen’s lead off single from 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth.  What exactly was this?  The voice was there.  It was David Lee Roth, the reason I loved Van Halen, besides Eddie’s shredding, but what was wrong with it?  It didn’t sound right.  It was  It was missing something and in my frustration of waiting for this album, I began to prepare being disappointed by yet another formerly great band that had tanked on their previous releases.  This has happened several times with the newest releases by Stone Temple Pilots, Lenny Kravitz and the Red Hot Chili I rambling?  Yes, so sorry, let’s pull it back and concentrate on the album at hand.

For over a year, I had heard reports online that Van Halen were in the studio with Diamond Dave at the helm once again.  The reports used phrases such as “younger and hungrier than ever”  “A REAL Van Halen album” and “It’s 1979 all over again”.  These are bold claims and if they could make any of them come true, this would be the best album since 1984.  I was never a fan of the Van Hagar years and I honestly stopped listening to them.  I did not like the overused hi-hats on every song and the ready for radio trendy chorus that Sammy Hagar was prepared to shovel out for every album, though he could invoke nostalgia like no other (hot summer nights anyone?)

Finally, the album date was here, and as I headed to the record store, I felt like I was heading to a funeral.  I thought that maybe Tattoo, the lead single might just be a fluke.  I reasoned with the cd case the entire way home.  “I could have bought any cd in the store and I chose you so please don’t let me down”.  Yeah, I actually had a conversation with a cd on the way home, don’t judge me.  But what you should judge is the music.  Once Tattoo was over, I heard the intro she’s the woman, a hard rocker starting out with Eddie’s shredding and a bubbling bassline by the youngest Van Halen, Wolfgang.  Being in his father and uncle’s band is his birthright and he is a natural born rock star.  Catchy hook but not overdone.  It’s memorable but doesn’t follow radio trends, instead letting the radio approach them. 

Ok, 1 bad and one really pretty good.  The next song was a number called You and Your  Blues. It starts out with an uptempo strumming with DLR’s lyrics making references to classic blues tracks such as ‘redhouse’ ‘stormy monday’ ‘midnight train to georgia’ ‘crossroads’ and ‘19th nervous breakdown”.  This was Van Halen!  The remarks that critics made in the music press started to make sense.  So far though there was still 10 tracks to go.  Up next was Chinatown, a speedy track that while it lacked the ferocity of Hot For Teacher, it matches the tempo easily. 

I wont spoil the album with a track by track other than to point out the two tracks that cemented this album into a classic Van Halen album for me.  “As If” starts with big 1980’s air injected drums and a slow, sludgy riff that squeals into note pinches at the end of every bar.  The track sounds heavy and almost evil, well, maybe not evil, but definitely angry.  The song then dissolves into arpeggios that only Eddie can truly do and then settles into the heavy mid tempo riff again.  This is young Van Halen with something to prove with Alex and Eddie and Dave at the top of their game.  There is absolutely no way that Sammy Hagar could have produced music this good with the late 80’s, 1990’s Van Halen

The most standout track, however is a traditional acoustic blues called Stay Frosty with Dave delivering a spoken word in a swing styls.  After this song goes for two short verses, the band kicks in with electric blues and drums and bass. 

After I listened to the entire album, I returned to the opening track Tattoo and while it’s still not one of my favorite songs, I appreciate it in the sequence of the album.

This is a stellar album, that just couldn’t make my top 5 list.  That’s not on account of the weakness of the album.  Instead it says volumes about the bands who put out original and worthwhile material this year.  I hope for another Van Halen album this good, but for now, we have a new Van Halen this good.  Get it, play it, love it, obsess over it.  ENJOY IT!!!

ZZ Top La Futura Peer Review

ZZ Top - La Futura

Three Guys, two beards, one mustache on a guy whose name is ironically beard. Southern rock representing the great state of Texas.  Sleeping Bag, Planet Of Women, Tush, Rough Boy, Sharp Dressed Man and of course Legs.  Does this sound familiar to you?  Unless you have been living in a cave or in cabin with no electricity for 30 years, you know ZZ Top.  ZZ Top are responsible for the songs above and many other in a career that is fast approaching 40 years of hard rocking blues riffs. 

Guitarist Billy Gibbons teamed up with THE Rick Rubin to deliver ZZ Top’s 15th studio album, Futura in 2012.  There is a lot of good on this album, though, I can’t say that it ranks as high to me as their earlier albums.  

The album opens with the hard rocker I gotsa get paid, a good time song, which gives the feeling that the band is just warming up.  Track after track, you get what you expect with this album, which is the voice and the riffs that made ZZ Top famous with big crashing drums in the background keeping the timing on the edge of controlled chaos.  The bass guitar provided by Dusty Hill is huge and driving, adding a heaviness that Gibbons guitar playing just doesn’t approach.  

Almost every album has at least one misstep and in this case, the misstep is an attempt a a ballad.  I’ve never been a fan of ZZ Top’s ballads.  Rough Boy gets skipped whenever it plays on any album or compilation.  Its just difficult listening to a band try to play something they are not capable of doing well.  The ballad on La Futura is called over you.  While musically, it feels like a 1960’s lament on lost love, Gibbon’s voice is unforgivably bad in the track.  He applies the gruffness that he does on all other songs.  In this case it feels forced.  This would be a great track for a guest artist to add vocals too.  Let Gibbons play the music that he is more adept at.  He knows how to throw a party.  He doesn’t have a clue how to sing about a broken heart and make the audience believe that there’s any pain in his voice.  This is forgivable, however because it’s the only low point to the album. 

Overall, the album is good.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call it great.  The riffs are solid, the bass is heavy, drums driving and solid, and of course Gibbon’s voice is timeless, but after 15 albums, there is not much here lyrically that can’t be found on other albums only done better. 

I would pick this one up and enjoy the ride, just don’t expect any life changing moments.  These guys have their share of them, changing the face of rock and roll a time or three themselves, but they have turned out an album that is better than 90% of the other musical offerings this year.

scrap224; Testament- DARK ROOTS of EARTH Peer Review

This is a Journey into Sound.....
(2012 top 5 peer review)

Ah Testament. This is one band that has been around awhile. I can honestly say that I have never been a huge fan of them. I like some metal. Not a big fat of speed metal but some of the slower stuff is just fine with me.
DARK ROOTS OF EARTH is Testaments 10th studio album.
This album is a good Testament album. Fast. Heavy. Melodic. It plays well. It starts off heavy, takes its listeners on a poignant journey of sound & sight. A thinking mans metal album?? A journey into war, politics & American life.
DARK ROOTS OF EARTH can occupy ones mind & time on different levels, all of which appear to appeal to a persons inner sense of social activism
The track listing for this album are;
1. ‘Rise Up’
2. ‘Native Blood’
3. ‘Dark Roots of Earth’
4. ‘True American Hate’
5. ‘A Day in the Death’
6. ‘Cold Embrace’
7. ‘Man Kills Mankind’
8. ‘Throne of Thorns’
9. ‘Last Stand for Independence’
10. ‘Dragon Attack’ (Queen cover)
11. ‘Animal Magnetism’ (Scorpions cover)
12. ‘Powerslave’ (Iron Maiden cover)
13. ‘Throne of Thornes’ (extended version)
14. 'A Day in the Death)
It's all hardcore & it's all good. A great choice to listen to if the mood hits you right. This is a worthy album of anyone's Top 10 list from 2012.

scrap224; Dr. John- LOCKED DOWN Peer Review

This is a Journey into Sound.....
(2012 Top 5 peer review)

Dr. John (Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr.) has been around along time like since the 1950's. his music is a combination & fusion of blues, pop, jazz as well as zydeco, boogie woogie and rock and roll. Not an easy combo to pull off.
His latest effort; LOCKED DOWN is a good effort.
It's fairly easy to listen to. Not to high, not to low. Not to loud, not to soft.
Honestly, Dr. John's music is not generally my cup of tea. It simply does nothing for me. However that is not to say that his latest effort doesn't have something to offer the casual listener. The albums track list is;
1. Locked Down
2. Revolution
3. Big Shot
4. Ice Age
5. Getaway
6. Kingdom of Izzness
7. You Lie
8. Eleggua
9. My Children, My Angels
10. God’s Sure Good
It's a good album so check it out.

1. Rush Clockwork Angels Repost from 6/20/12

This is a journey into sound.....

"IN A WORLD WHERE I FEEL SO SMALL, I CAN'T STOP THINKING BIG!" They are back & the band is Rush. Debuting in at #2 on Billboard & #1 in Canada is Rush's 20th Studio album CLOCKWORK ANGELS. The holy trinity from Canada are back. It's been 5 years since SNAKES & ARROWS was released & I feel CLOCKWORK ANGELS was well worth the wait.
Let's go back in time for a bit all the way back to 2010-2011. Rush was on tour, their Time Machine Tour. This was also the 30th anniversary of one of their defining albums MOVING PICTURES (which they played in its entirety live during this tour). Prior & during this tour Rush was already in the writing/recording mode. On June 1, 2010 Rush released two new songs; CARAVAN & BU2B (brought up to believe). These two new songs were heavy & pure Rush. Multiple time changes, solos & thought provoking lyrics. There was also something else. These two new songs seemed to be linked lyrically & not just two new isolated works. This gave to rise to rumors that were later confirmed to be correct that these two new songs were to be part of a total concept album. Even the stage set up reflected these new songs' lyrics; a Steampunk theme. On April 19, 2012 Rush also released the first 'official' single HEADLONG FLIGHT (more on all the songs later) At the conclusion of their Time Machine Tour the trio took a well deserved break then went back into the studio with SNAKES & ARROWS producer Nick Raskulinecz. The result is the singularity of this review.
Just recently released on June 12, 2012 CLOCKWORK ANGELS is a masterpiece & Rush absolutely demonstrates how they defy their years & mileage on it. An album, a concept prog album of the highest order. As one of my best friends said after he listened to it for the first time (and he is moderate Rush fan) CLOCKWORK ANGELS is like the best paintings ever created. Full of color, contrast & composition. As stated by drummer/lyricist Neil Peart stated: In a young man's quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life. In fact CLOCKWORK ANGELS is also being written into a novel by science fiction novelist Kevin J. Anderson, a long time friend of Neil Peart, announced that he would be writing a novelization of Clockwork Angels due out in the fall.
The album's cover art displays the time 9:12 or 21:12, in reference to the band's album and song titled 2112. The cover art was illustrated by graphics artist and long-time Rush collaborator Hugh Syme. The CD cover art & the vinyl cover art does differ with the red background. The CD is the red cloud vortex & the vinyl version is rippled water drops.
The band; Geddy Lee- vocals, bass, keyboards. Alex Lifeson- guitars. Neil Peart- drums, lyrics.
The songs; 1. CARAVAN- slightly reworked from the single version. It begins our tale. In my opinion a perfect Rush song. 2. BU2B- also reworked from the single version. The song now has a brief haunting acoustic intro. The second heaviest song on the album. 3. CLOCKWORK ANGELS- the title track. It has multi movements within it. It reminds me of a mini 2112 or a mini Hemispheres. It's multi-layered & and serves as the pivot point for the album. It is a song that is fast/slow & light-heavy. It's also the first of three songs on the album that clocks in at 7 minutes or longer 4. THE ANACHRIST-it's catchy. Nice groove to it. Speaks of a dangerous man in a controlled dystopian society. 5. CARNIES- its heavy. It speaks of an exotic carnival that the main character visits on his journey. It reminds me of the carnival scene in the film A.I. 6. HALO EFFECT- its simply beautiful. An absolute instant Rush classic. It's also short coming in about 3:14 or so. Ahh the heartbreak of falling in love with the wrong woman. 7. SEVEN CITIES OF GOLD- our heroes adventure continues in search of a lost legend ala Indiana Jones perhaps or even Cormac McCarthy's The Road. It's got a vintage killer Geddy bass groove as an intro. It's a rocker. 8. THE WRECKERS- its about a shipwreck that turns even worse as false safety rears its ugly head. This song also possesses one of Peart's most poignant choruses he's ever written; "All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary Of a miracle too good to be true All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary Everything in life you thought you knew All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary 'Cause sometimes the target is you". 9. HEADLONG FLIGHT- the second official single from the album. It is without a doubt the heaviest song on the album & maybe the heaviest Rush has ever written. It is the second song on the album that is over the 7 minute mark. It is my favorite song on this album. 10. BU2B2- a bit of a reprise. A sequel song to the original arcing track BU2B. It's only about a minute and a half long. It's very ethereal. Different lyrics. Different arrangement. It's like a brief intermission before the crescendo. 11. WISH THEM WELL- another classic. A musical journey. Turn the other cheek & move on. It's both heavy & mellow. 12. THE GARDEN- it's spiritual. It's beautiful. It's hopeful yet mellon-collie. Its the third song at the 7 minute mark. The summation of the protagonists journey. A reflection upon his adventures & travels. I obviously have a first edition/pressing of CLOCKWORK ANGELS on vinyl. Double disc LP. 180 gram & black. As a totally Rush touch, on each side of the two LP's center stickers there are no song titles written, just the clock logo used for the album. Four different ones in fact. One set at 1:00. One set at 2:00. One set at 3:00. And one set at 4:00 (for sides 1-4).
In conclusion, I love this album. Granted Rush is my favorite band so I am probably going to be a bit biased in the favorable category towards then. Don't take my word for it. Read other reviews in print or online. This is a killer album. Maybe their best ever.
We all know at this point in Rush's career they have many more years behind them than they do in front of them. All three members are all pushing 60 years of age as of 2012. If Rush decide that their Clockwork Angels Tour is their last tour/album, (God for bid) then CLOCKWORK ANGELS is one hell of a way to go out & say thank you to all of their fans world-wide for 40 years of glory.
If CLOCKWORK ANGELS is your first introduction to Rush or your a die hard like I am then this is the album for you.
Spin this over & over & LIVE IT ALL AGAIN!!!

This review was previously publised on 6/20/2012.  For more photos please see the original posting
Click Here:

2. Van Halen A Different Kind Of Truth Repost from 4/16/12

This is a journey into sound.....
(my 10th review)

...and then 28 years later Diamond David was welcomed back into the fold where he, Alexander, Edward, & Edward's son Wolfgang lived happily ever.
If there is a God & yes I do believe there must be, then some prayers are in fact answered, some fairy tales come true, world peace can be achieved, & Van Halen can have one David Lee Roth back as their frontman/singer. Sammy Hagar was a new singer for Van Halen. David Lee Roth is THE singer for Van Halen.
Back in 2007, the Van Halen Reunion Tour was alive & well. The original Van Halen line up was 3/4 intact & on tour (substitute Ed's son Wolfgang for long-time bassist Michael Anthony)
Fast forward to 2011-2012. Rumors began to swirl cyberspace that Van Halen could possibly be sort of back in the studio (5150) recording a new album. And then on January 12, 2012, rumor became reality when the first single off a yet untitled new album was released. TATTOO hit the world at large & the new/old Van Halen was off & running. By January 23, 2012, TATTOO was ranked #1 on Billboard's Hard Rock Singles chart, the #1 most played song at classic rock radio in its first week and #1 most added song at mainstream and active rock radio. TATTOO had mixed reviews. A wide range of opinions from love it to hate it. I didn't like it at first but have come to love it now. Then new rumors began to rise. TATTOO was actually based on a never released song called DOWN IN FLAMES. Then more rumors; was this seemingly mythical new album with Diamond Dave ALL old demos from the 70's that they did prior to 1984? In an interview, new/former lead singer Sammy Hagar said so, & for the most part he was right.
On February 7, 2012 all rumors were confirmed. A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH was released. 13 'new' tracks with David Lee Roth at the helm of the good yet plenty battered ship Van Halen. Now that Dave, Alex, & Eddie are all in their late 50's the kicks & jumps aren't as high. Dave's Jack Daniels stained voice doesn't quite have the same range as it used to but musically & lyrically the boys are in tip top form. Dave's singing his ass off. Eddie is not just playing his ass off he's again re-defining the rock guitar. Alex has been reborn again hard on the skins (perhaps because he is now an ordained minister) & Ed's pride & joy Wolfgang is dangerous on the bass & bonus, he can sing too.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH is the best of the re-worked past & the retro future all in the present.
The 13 'new' tracks I spoke of earlier are; 1. Tattoo. 2. She's the Woman. 3. You & Your Blues. 4. Chinatown. 5. Blood & Fire. 6. Bullethead. 7. As Is. 8. Honeybabysweetiedoll. 9. The Trouble With Never. 10. Outta Space. 11. Stay Frosty. 12. Big River. 13. Beats Workin'
All these songs have that retro feel to them & yet still manage to sound resoundingly new in my opinion. I have listened to this album in its entirety on numerous occasions & have yet to find any reason to not love this album.
Since A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH was released on CD in 2 versions (standard & deluxe) & online. I purchased the deluxe edition. That version came with two CD's. The standard album & a bonus disc (The Downtown Sessions) consisting of the band rehearsing acoustic versions of; Panama, You and Your Blues (Intro), You and Your Blues, and Beautiful Girls. A Collector's Edition vinyl album was also released. This double gatefold LP vinyl includes all 13 songs on two 180g LPs plus custom LP artwork done by David Lee Roth.
I have to admit the vinyl format is absolutely beautiful. The LP's are in a bright red color that matches the red color on the cover artwork. A silver/bronze Art Deco locomotive engine with the classic VH logo in the upper right hand corner. (speaking of which, is extremely similar to The steam locomotive featured on the cover artwork is a New York Central Railroad J-3A Dreyfuss Hudson. Aside from a reversed angle of the locomotive, the artwork appears very similar to the 1975 Commodores album Movin' On, released by Motown Records.)
The records are as flawless sounding as they are cool to look at. They are loud. They are clean. High's, mid's & lows are all in wonderful vinyl harmony. If you are a fan of Van Halen, especially the DLR era music this is definitely the album you've waited well over a generation for. That's the truth. The whole truth, & nothing but a different kind of truth. So help me God. Go Spin it.

This review is a repost from 4/16/12.  For additional artwork see the original post here:
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3. scrap224; Soundgarden- KING ANIMAL

This is a Journey into Sound.....

I do not own this album on vinyl. Hail to the KING baby! KING ANIMAL is the sixth studio album by American rock band Soundgarden, released on November 12, 2012 on Seven Four Entertainment and Republic Records. Produced by both the band and Adam Kasper, the album is the band's first in sixteen years, and the first not to be released on A&M Records since 1988's Ultramega OK.
Soundgarden reformed in 2010 after a 13-year hiatus. Following the success of the band's Telephantasm compilation release that year, Soundgarden had been working on a new album with an indefinite release date. The band went on an extended world tour between the release of Telephantasm and the summer of 2012 before word came out that a new Soundgarden album would be ready for a US fall release.
"Been Away Too Long" was the first single to be released from KING ANIMAL on September 27, 2012. On October 31, "Non-State Actor" was released through the official Soundgarden YouTube channel. The video for the song features an American flag waving back and forth with the King Animal logo replacing the stars. The week before its release, the album was streamed in its entirety for free on iTunes.
KING ANIMAL is a big, bright album, executed with precision and professionalism. The bandmembers sound older, not quite as loud, and possess a keener sense of good taste, and it sounds as if they've aged together, which is a testament to their innate chemistry. Simply put, Soundgarden sound like they belong together; Cornell sounds richer, fuller when anchored by drummer Matt Cameron, (who is now pulling double duty as fellow Seattle alumni bands Pearl Jams drummer as well) bassist Ben Shepherd, and the deceptively sinewy and brainy guitarist Kim Thayil, whose presence has sorely been missed over the past decade."
The Track Listing for KING ANIMAL is;
‘Been Away Too Long’
‘Non-State Actor’
‘By Crooked Steps’
‘A Thousand Days Before’
‘Blood On The Valley Floor’
‘Bones of Birds’
‘Black Saturday’
‘Halfway There’
‘Worse Dreams’
‘Eyelid’s Mouth’
The first track "Been Away Too Long" pretty much sums up my opinion of this album & Soundgarden in general. Sure Chris Cornell has tried some different things since Soundgarden last was together like, a James Bond movie theme & Audioslave to name a few but Soundgarden is different. I grew up with these guys. They have never been my all-time favorite Seattle bands. That distinction goes to Pearl Jam but they are close to the top.
This is a Soundgarden album through & through. Sounds retro heavy & modern cool at the same time. Great album. It won't disappoint.

4. scrap224; Jack White- BLUNDERBUSS

This is a Journey into Sound.....
I do not own this album on vinyl, i only have a digital copy. First off I'm not a giant Jack White fanatic. Is he talented, yes. Does he make good music, yes. Odd, strange, perhaps even a bit eccentric, I think so. But this album has forced me to re-evaluate him.
Blunderbuss is the debut solo album by Jack White, released on April 23, 2012 through White's own label Third Man Records in association with XL Recordings and Columbia Records. The album was released in mp3, compact disc, and vinyl editions. The album was written, recorded and produced entirely by White in 2011. The first single from the album, "Love Interruption", was released on January 30 through White's website and Third Man Records website. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 138,000 copies. The album received a nomination for Album Of The Year and Best Rock Album at the 55th Grammy Awards and the single "Freedom At 21" was nominated for Best Rock Song .
Blunderbuss has its roots in White's recordings with several artists including Tom Jones. White was in contact with Wu-Tang Clan member RZA and, when RZA couldn't attend the session, White felt bad since there was a band that travelled to Nashville for apparently no reason. White decided to record several tracks that he wrote in the last 6 months of 2011, with the band. The tracks would later develop into songs that appear on the album. This album also marked the first time that Jack wrote all the songs in one session, rather than writing the material separately. Jack White has stated Blunderbuss is a record he could not release until now. He went on to state, "I've put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas." To promote Blunderbuss, White performed "Love Interruption" and "Sixteen Saltines" on the March 3, 2012 episode of Saturday Night Live, with two different backing bands, one all-female and the other all-male. The studio version of "Sixteen Saltines" was subsequently released via White's YouTube channel on March 13. Promotional copies of the album, distributed to reviewers and radio stations, were sent as vinyl records to prevent leaks. The album leaked on April 15, nine days ahead of its official release. On April 16, Third Man Records streamed the album in its entirety on iTunes for free listening, 8 days before its release.
The Japanese edition of the album features two extra tracks - "Machine Gun Silhouette" and a cover of U2's "Love Is Blindness".
Rolling Stone named it the number 3 album of 2012.
The track listing for BLUNDERBUSS is;
1. "Missing Pieces"
2. "Sixteen Saltines"
3. "Freedom at 21"
4. "Love Interruption"
5. "Blunderbuss"
6. "Hypocritical Kiss"
7. "Weep Themselves to Sleep"
8. "I'm Shakin'" 3:00
9. "Trash Tongue Talker"
10. "Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy"
11. "I Guess I Should Go to Sleep"
12. "On and On and On"
13. "Take Me with You When You Go"
For my money, I love Sixteen Saltines. Best track on the album in my opinion.
This is an excellent alternative rock album. I do recommend this album to anyone who enjoys music in general.

5. scrap224; ZZ Top- LA FUTURA

This is a Journey into Sound.....

First off, I do not own this album on vinyl. I probably never will. Although I dig the rock/blues/southern rock that ZZ Top is know primarily for, this new album has elements of all that plus a lot of the synth work they became accustomed to back in the 80's.
La Futura was released on September 11, 2012. Four of the new tracks—“I Gotsta Get Paid,” “Chartreuse,” “Consumption,” and “Over You”—debuted June 5, 2012 as an iTunes-only collection titled Texicali, which met with strong sales and glowing reviews. Music Radar summed up the tunes as “ZZ Top crankin’ up some fresh, vital roadhouse blues.” Another track, "Flyin' High,” appropriately made its world premiere in space, when the then-unfinished song played on board a Soyuz spacecraft during its launch to the International Space Station in June 2011 at the request of NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, a long-time ZZ Top fan and friend. This is when I first became aware of the album.
its first in nine years, following Mescalero. La Futura was recorded at The Foambox Recordings in Houston, Texas. The album title and album art were released on ZZ Top's home page on August 3 at 11:45 a.m. The album contains 10 tracks. “We thought long and hard about what this album should be,” Gibbons says in a press release. “We wanted to recall the directness of our early stuff but not turn our backs on contemporary technology. The result of this melting of the past and the present is, of course, La Futura.”
The track listing is;
1. 'I Gosta Get Paid'
2. ‘Chartreuse’
3. ‘Consumption’
4. ‘Over You’
5. ‘Heartache in Blue’
6. ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose, Lose, You’
7. ‘Flyin’ High’
8. ‘It’s Too Easy Manana’
9. ‘Big Shiny Nine’
10. ‘Have a Little Mercy’
There is of course a Best Buy version that contains two bonus tracks which are;
11."Threshold of a Breakdown"
12."Drive by Lover"
I cannot tell a lie. This album is not ZZ Top's best work in my opinion. It to me at times is rough. Seems over produced. By the way La Futura was produced by the one and only Rick Rubin.
Make no mistake, this is clearly a ZZ Top album, it's them in all their guitar rock glory. I do recommend it. I do enjoy it. "The Future" is upon us, & a classic band we all know & love has reminded all of us of that.