The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
King Lizard Gamma Ray Player Krokus The Blackout Lordi Tomahawk Bon Jove CD Reviews

 

KING LIZARD

A NIGHTMARE LIVIN' THE DREAM

2013

 

THE SAVIORS OF DIRTY ROCK 'N ROLL?

 

After a first album that promised so much built from songs tried and tested over the years it’s always interesting when a band comes up against that brick wall called ‘difficult second album’. Well on the evidence of this album we’re convinced that King Lizard may well be the statutory successors to the Kingdoms of Guns n’ Roses and Skid Row… Interested now?

 


Track Listing


1. Come Get Some
2. Kneel To The King
3. I Can’t Be Your Lover
4. Hair Of The Dog
5. I Want You To Want Me
6. If It’s A Sin
7. A Nightmare Livin’ The Dream
8. Just To Hear You Say It
9. This Ain’t Love
10. Hard To Get
11. Down
12. Waterloo Ratz

 


Let’s start with a bold statement: If I hear a better album than this all year I will be a very happy man. King Lizard has arrived, and their arrival is a gloriously sleazy one.

 


If you loved the first outing by this London band then spending some time with this one you will realize that not only have they surpassed their first outing but they have also grown in confidence, and with that confidence comes an album without a weak track.

 


Wearing influences on their sleeve is always something bands shy away from, but when your influences are as great as King Lizard’s and you realize that you can capture their essence without falling into the trap of parody or pastiche then why not?

 


‘Come Get Some’ is a great opener, gloriously sleazy and direct it sets up the album as a whole before ‘Kneel To The King’ pushes the button marked ‘classic Guns ’n Roses’ and weighs in with about the catchiest chorus of the year. ‘I Can’t Be Your Lover’ has an intensity about it that surpasses almost everything on the debut; whilst ‘Hair Of The Dog’ is a song made to be listened to on ‘10’ and heard live. By the time we reach ‘I Want You To Want Me’ you’ve already had your money’s worth. This is starting to look important.

 


Now there are some great, sleazy bands out there who at times manage to recapture that sound of the Strip in the late eighties but to be honest very few who can sustain that for the duration of a long-player. These guys are the exception: ‘If It’s A Sin’ is both King Lizard’s best song to date and also one of the best rock songs I’ve heard in a long time.

 


The second half of the album is equally as good: the title track bursts out of the speakers before another highlight: the wonderful ‘Just To Hear You Say It’: a slow burning ballad/rocker. ‘This Ain’t Love’ takes on a cool melody, while ‘Hard To Get’ rocks it up again like bands like Sweet FA did back in the day.

 

We close fittingly with two rockers ‘Down’ has that Gunners vibe again, while “Waterloo Rats’ gets in the final sneer before the dirty boot. It’s refreshing to see bands like King Lizard doing it as well as they did back in ’87.

 


If you love your dirty Rock and Roll and can cast you sights a little further than Sweden you’ll find King Lizard flying the flag equally as high as the best Scandinavia has to offer.

 

 

MARK DIGGINS

 

 

 

STRYPER

SECOND COMING

FRONTIERS RECORDS

2013

 

THE RETURN OF THE YELLOW AND THE BLACK

 

‘Second Coming’ sadly isn’t perhaps quite what you might expect based on the title. It isn’t a self-proclaimed return from the wilderness for Christian Metal’s best known band, but rather a re-recording of 14 of their finest, with a couple of new ones tagged on the end.

 


Most bands rerecord for all the wrong reasons, or you might argue exactly the right reasons – money and reclaiming their catalogue from whomsoever might own it. Others rerecord to update the sound of the originals for the present day audience.

 


In this instance it seems that Stryper has chosen to tick all of the above boxes,  the lack of focus on the new tracks though leaves you wondering whether that’s just a ploy to get you to re=purchase these or the band sticking a toe in the water to see how they are received. To be honest if it was the latter I would have liked to have seen the tracks more prominent in the track-listing rather than tagged on the end.

 


Whether you have been a fan of the band sonically, and putting aside your stance on the lyrical content seems pertinent here as you all know the score, this re-recording exercise is one that has worked. Comparing the rerecordings to the originals you come away feeling that Stryper has added something rather than simply re-done or gone through the motions.

 


This album is heavier than the originals, and the recordings sound in many ways way better than the originals and not too many bands manage to capture that intensity even with the benefit of modern recording techniques.

 


In short if you love Stryper you’ll love what they’ve done with their back catalogue, though the two new songs ‘Bleeding From the Inside Out’ and ‘Blackened’ I think actually ice this particular cake, especially the laid back, muscular and very catchy ‘Bleeding..’ put out any more music like this and they just might convert me to the yellow and black!

 

 

MARK DIGGINS

 

 

 

GAMMA RAY

MASTER OF CONFUSION EP

2013

 

METAL THE WAY GAMMA RAY KNOWS BEST

 

When the laws of Metal were written you can’t help but think that Gamma Ray were towards the back of the congregation and missed a lot of the sermon. As a result they are pretty literal and loyal in their interpretation of things and that of course is EXACTLY why we love them.

 


This new EP adds four new songs: the breakneck speed of originals ‘Empire of the Undead’ and the title track  plus  two covers one ‘Lost Angels’ (originally by Sweet) is a real gem, and Holocaust’s ‘Death or Glory’.

 


Add to that 6 bonus live tracks of Gamma Ray’s best known tracks and you have about the best value EP out there with over 60 minutes of music. While we are still hanging out for the delayed live album this is a great stopgap.

 

 

LESLI PHILLIPS

 

 

 

NOW

BOHEMIAN KINGDOM

ESCAPE MUSIC

MARCH 2013

 

HEAVENLY MELODY

 

NOW plays melodic rock that sounds like it came straight from the early eighties but with a huge fat sound that could only come with modern technology. Opening track ‘I’m Alive’ sprints from the box with power and passion so if you like your melodic rock with the ‘up-tempo’ button set to ‘severe’ you’ll be pleased with this.

 


If you loved their debut and its Foreigner meets Journey vibe then this is a far better and more polished release that takes the hooks, choruses and layered guitars to another level.  

 


Tracks like ‘I Feel Divine’ are simply empowering, colossal songs that can’t help elicit an emotional response; ‘Strong Enough’ takes it back a little and nails the Foreigner vibe with Philip Bardowell voice excelling amongst some lovely guitar.  

 


Elsewhere tracks like the ‘Mary-Ann’ show a lighter side to the AOR and there’s even some wonderful sax in there (anyone not afraid of the sax in melodic rock wins huge points especially when it fits so well). ‘Don't Go Now’ and ‘Tonight is the Night’ are cast from a similar mould and both standout before we reach the heart-wrenching ‘No One Can Feel It's Over ‘ which found its inspiration from the death of a young friend: it’s a beautiful and understandably emotional close.

 


At only ten tracks we want more!  

 

 

JO ROCKPIT

 

 

 

THE BLACKOUT

START THE PARTY

2013

 

HIGH ENERGY HIGH JINK POP PUNK PARTY MUSIC...

 


...from Wales.

 

Some albums just do what the title suggests and The Blackout have crafted here what is essentially and up-beat, high tempo pop-punk party rock album, and good it is too.

 


If you love yourself a bit of that then the catchy choruses of songs like “Start the Party” and “Sleep When You’re Dead” will allow you ample time to shake your ass before we get to the more recognisably Blackout songs towards the middle of the album. There’s only one real miss-step on here the ballad ‘You’ which drowns where it’s placed, and to be honest isn’t great anyway, it would have been far better tagged on as a bonus track.  Otherwise nice job.

 

 

LESLI PHILLIPS

 

 

 

 

KROKUS

DIRTY DYNAMITE

2013

 

IF AC/DC WERE SWISS THEY'D BE KROKUS

 

How long after you hear the word Krokus do you think ‘Headhunter’? For me it’s about a couple of nanoseconds – like a game of word association these Germanic Mettalers have now become so synonymous with their high-watermark that it’s always on the tip of the tongue.

 

So how to newcomers to Krokus do you describe an album that sounds so like AC/DC but is actually better and more enjoyable than that band’s recent output. And that is the dilemma here. It’s impossible to go past the obvious sonically similar qualities of Krokus and AC/DC that we just won’t bother to go there. The one thing you have to take into account with Krokus though is that they have been out there doing this since 1974 – just a year less than their antipodean contemporaries.

 


17 albums in and this is a great party record, it may be simple in execution but that simplicity belies a great set of songs from the opening notes of ‘Hallelujah Rock and Roll’ to the end of ‘Hardrocking Man’ you’ll be hooked and if you haven’t checked out their back catalogue yet there’s a lot of depth to discover and enjoy.

 


As albums go if you love the taste of bluesy, down-and-dirty rock and roll without any frills then Krokus are for you. The ballad-style cover of the Beatles ‘Help’ is even quite interesting, well as interesting as it is out of place in this collection!

 

 

LESLI PHILLIPS

 

 

 

LORDI

TO BEAST OR NOT TO BEAST

2013

 

OH LORDI! - IT's LORDI AGAIN...

 

When does a gimmick that to some was pretty much ‘done already’ by the time Lordi hit the scene become and anchor round the neck? I think we’ve just found out. If you like Lordi then this is an album I imagine you will enjoy, if you don’t there is nothing here that will change your mind. But hey if the guys are happy with the formula good luck to them.

 

Conversely Mark tells me this is their best album to date.

 

LESLI PHILLIPS

 

 

 

TOMAHAWK

ODDFELLOWS

2013

 

SUPERGROUP OR GRUPER SOUP?

 

There are too schools of thought about Mike Patton: one that he a creative genius with a delightfully ironic sense of humour who over the years has created some truly remarkable music, the other is that he is a bit of a pretentious dick who lives largely up his own arse. I sit more towards the arse-dwelling territory which I assume therefore makes me incredible uncool and I’m sure therefore I must be missing the ‘artistic’ point entirely.

 


Recorded at Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Studios in Nashville where Tomahawk’s 2003 sophomore album Mit Gas was recorded Tomahawk’s latest all sounds a bit punk meets latter day Faith No More to me. There is some jazz detected but that distraction is largely offset by a bass sound that is both warm and soulful something I’d never detected on a TH release before.

 


Overall we didn’t enjoy this one there’s an aggressive streak that just sounds clumsy at times like on “The Quiet Few” or “South Paw”.  That’s not to say it isn’t without redeeming features: “Stone Letter” the first single has that light and shade; aggression and calm balance just right and a massive chorus.

 


We can also manage the intriguing “A Thousand Eyes” and actually really like ” “Choke Neck”, but the rest we can pretty much live without. Seeing them at Australia’s Big Day Out earlier in the year we can pretty much do without them live too…

 

LESLI PHILLIPS

 

 

 

BON JOVI

WHAT ABOUT NOW

2013

 

BON JOVI PHONE IT IN...

 

It’s been years now since the news of a new Bon Jovi album rocked our world and gave us sleepless nights of anticipation, and only a few years since we had nightmares about ‘Lost Highway’…

 


‘Because We Can’ the opening track and first single from ‘What About Now’ starts off like the most contrived horrible country rock sing-along you will ever hear and as a result you will be singing it for days. With lyrics like ‘I Ain’t a Soldier but I’m Gonna Take a Stand’ it is again clear that despite his desires, Jon is not the heir to Bruce Springsteen’s empire.

 


The album isn’t really that bad though, and despite the fact that you will feel that you will have heard every song here somewhere before (the mark of genius or something else?) this is Bon Jovi with all their trademarks polished and given a brand new pop gloss. Think Bon Jovi plays Matchbox 20 and you sort of get the vibe.

 


You can’t help but imagine these days that Bon Jovi albums are put together with the help of ‘focus groups’ and the like, and they may well be, sadly it’s ever harder to imagine the guys doing this to satiate an artistic need, more to keep the $$$ rolling in.  Even Jon’s famously trite song writing seems more recycled and by-numbers than usual and when you lay that on some rather prosaic and equally recycled music you are at that strange crossroads where the result isn’t exactly offensive but all of the spark and charm that was once there is long gone.

 


If you like Bon Jovi then this isn’t as heavy as ‘The Circle’ or ‘Have a Bice Day’ which is a shame as they at least had a spark, whereas ‘What about now’ is rather flatter sonically, all mid-tempo and ballads that you will have trouble picking a favourite from as to be honest there are no standouts here: listen to any track and you'll instantly know if you like the album.

 


Ask yourself this question – if you put a million monkeys in a room with instruments and pro-tools would they come up with a Bon Jovi or a Kiss album first?

 

 

MARK DIGGINS

 

 

 

PLAYER

TOO MANY REASONS

FRONTIERS RECORDS

2013

 

COME TO THE LIGHT SIDE

 

Set aside all you might know about Player, especially if they are the two facts that might lead you to give this one a wide berth. Yes, Player was the band behind the syrupy seventies MOR hit ‘Baby Come Back’ and yes they do in 2013 feature the talents of ex-‘Bold and Beautiful’ star Ronn Moss.

 


Warning over, Player’s ‘Too Many Reasons’ is actually a very accomplished album for those that love the softer side of AOR, and don’t mind that laid back, soft wind through lace curtains West Coast feel.

 


Opening track though is full of thrust and guitar – ‘Man on Fire’ has probably the hardest edge of the album and together with the best sing-along chorus it’s the perfect song to grab the attention of those who may have been wavering simply because of the package contents…

 


We get immediately mellower with the light and almost trippy ‘Precious’  but its abundantly clear that these guys have lost little over the years crafting an album of fine tunes that walk the softer line of AOR and at times stray into bolder territory.

 


If you like your AOR built to sing to try out tracks like the title track: ‘Too Many Reasons’ which we love in all its sing along and weep glory or even the revamped 2013 version of ‘Baby Come Back’. That’s not all there is to the album though: songs like ‘I Will’ you could imagine Rick Springfield recording in his lighter moments and indeed there is a bit of Rick in Peter Becket’s voice.

 


Come to the light side people!  

 

 

MARK DIGGINS

 

 

 

SAXON

SACRIFICE

2013

 

 

A RETURN TO FORM

 

Now that we have just about forgotten the taste that Saxon’s last outing ‘Call to Arms’ left in the mouth along comes another long player from the band in rather quick time…. Maybe they were listening?

 


Saxon of course have been around since Saxon times, well sometimes it seems like it anyway, but let’s just say they have a certain ‘pedigree’ and with any band of a ‘certain age’ comes that expectation that either they recapture the glory days or retire. Forgiving my pet hate – brief musical openings masquerading as tracks, the title track is pretty weighty and pretty damn good and I’m happy to report it doesn’t stop there making ‘Sacrifice’ Saxon’s swift and welcome return to form after a truly horrible ‘Call to Arms’.

 


It’s easy to spot the improvement – we’re back to what Saxon does best – the meat and potatoes of Metal: “Made in Belfast” is catchy enough and replete with ‘surprise instrument of the week’ – a mandolin it certainly ups the ante early on. There are moments of slight unease along the way though, despite a driving rhythm “Warriors of the Road” does sound a little clichéd, but it’s more than made up for by the eastern promise of  the storming mini-epic “Guardians of the Tomb.”

 


And thankfully unlike ‘Call to Arms’ this one doesn’t trail off: indeed things just get better -  “Stand Up and Fight” drives us on and is a great song, as is “Walking the Steel” a slower number with some great guitar.

 


And the rest pretty much ticks all the boxes that will please the Saxon faithful from “Night of the Wolf” with its acoustic interlude to “Wheels of Terror” another hard driven song and perhaps our favorite here, though the final track – the AC/DC like “Standing in a Queue” gives it a ru for its money.

 


While it’s great to see Saxon so soon back in the studio ‘Sacrifice’ while good, won’t be taking its place among the classic Saxon albums, but it is a huge step forward (even if it’s a relatively short step at just 10 tracks) from last time round. Some versions of the album too have a bonus 5 tracks packing in some new versions of ‘classic tunes’ – very nice indeed. Welcome back boys.

 

 

MARK DIGGINS

 

 

 

 

DE LA CRUZ

STREET LEVEL

FRONTIERS RECORDS

2013

 

 

80's BY NUMBERS

 

With a cover that presumably is homage to both Motley Crue’s debut and Poison (how else can you explain the horrible colours) De La Cruz aren’t going to leave you wondering.  Now on one hand that is all well and good – play to your strengths, play to the market; on the other it falls straight into the trap that critics constantly set for anything that sounds remotely like late eighties ‘Hair Metal’ excess.

 


Personally I loved music in the late eighties, at the time it was as close as Rock ever got to Pop and everyone knew what they were going to get: party songs, guitar solos and the ubiquitous ballad or two: things were so simple then! So taking a rather cartoonified version of that eighties rock template, with far more emphasis on style over substance and cheese over meat, Australia’s De La Cruz has landed a release on our favourite melodic rock focussed label Frontiers. 

 


Opening track ‘Street level’ loads on a lot of the clichés, from the Motley meets Skid Row vocal and simplistic chorus to almost Def Leppard backing vocals and chant. To be honest if this was all I was presented with I’d be placing De La Cruz sight unseen as a mid-B-level band from the late eighties, the song just isn’t catchy enough or original enough to bear repeat listens.

 


Sadly things don’t get immediately better either: ‘Girls Go Wild’ sounds like a million throwaway songs from the era they are trying to replicate, with a riff you’ve heard a thousand times before, but with a very lazy chorus (repeat ‘where the girls go wild’ ad infinitum) that makes it hard to love.

 


‘Turn It Up’ ups the Def Leppard quotient but with a rather nice and dirtier vocal. It’s a step in the right direction but again suffers from that ‘lowest common denominator’ chorus (repeat ‘everybody turn it up’ ad infinitum). At this point I’m tempted to skip through the rest of the album but as these are fellow countrypersons I resist the temptation.

 


Now I’m not entirely sure what Frontiers is looking for from De La Cruz – maybe their own Reckless Love? ‘Legions of Love’ starts promisingly and has elements of bands like that in their but all gets a bit muddled in the translation and ends up sounding like a bad Tigertailz B-side.  I do rather love the guitar though I must admit. ‘Cherry Bomb’ another in a similar vein is actually pretty enjoyable though.

 


The Def Leppard fixation continues with songs like `Gimme Love`. Now I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but style and substance are what makes memorable songs and capturing a ‘sound’ is only half the job. De La Cruz does half the job very well indeed. Conversely ‘Invincible’ again sonically reverberates as a faithful ‘Leppard’ rehash but this is a track that does hit the spot squarely on the chin, proving what De La Cruz can achieve when they get it right.

 


The album’s largely understated Crue fixation comes across in ‘S.E.X.’ and there’s even AOR in the slower `Dreaming’ which if anything gets smothered a little in the ‘Def Leppard’ backing vocal.

 


It’s largely too late but as the albums nears the end we do get a glimmer of greatness: ‘Set the Night’ has hooks that do work and it would be a great song in any era, ‘Worlds Collude’ sticks out as it manages to capture the sound of the late eighties but without sounding like a pastiche, (If pushed I would say it was probably the best song here) and the ballad ‘Shine’ is just something that works for them.

 


You can’t deny the love here and both the guitars and the production are top notch, maybe if you are a huge Def Leppard fan you might see this in a kinder light too as despite what you will read elsewhere they are definitely the primary influence at play. Sadly with a few notable exceptions you can’t help but feel if this had been released back in the day it would have disappeared without a trace.

 

 

 

LESLI PHILLIPS

 

KING LIZARD STRYPER GAMMA RAY NOW THE BLACKOUT LORDI TOMAHAWK

KROKUS DE LA CRUZ SAXON PLAYER BON JOVI CD ALBUM REVIEWS 2013