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

 

Such a lot of great music in the backlog but also some real stinkers! Who'd have thought that one of the best albums of the year and one of the worst would drop by in October!

 

ALTER BRIDGE
III

 


I always had a soft spot for Alter Bridge, a band which on paper should tick none of my usual boxes, but there was always a certain honesty in their music. Creed’s reunion took up most of 2009 and then with Myles hooking up with Slash for a tour and also working on his own solo album, it was a bit of surprise to see this one out.

 

ABIII is a fine album, melancholic, melodious and more than a little dark around the edges. ‘Isolation’ the lead single certainly rocks well enough and will sound ultra-cool live. Really though it’s the finely-crafted ballads that dominate proceedings: “Ghost of Days Gone By” and “All Hope is Gone” both deliver with equal measures of hope and despair. It’s ‘Wonderful Life’ though that wins in these stakes, a truly beautifully constructed song.

 

Elsewhere tracks like “Breathe Again”, “Coeur D’Alene” and “Words Darker Than Their Wings” all rock. Well worth a listen…

 

Mark

 

 

ARTREYU
COVERS OF THE DAMNED

 


Never a big fan of the band at all, but this EP of covers ranging from Aerosmith and Thin Lizzy to everyone’s current cult-favourites Volbeat proves that they at least must listen to some decent stuff. Hearing ‘Bobcat Goldthwait’ chime in on vocals every now and again though for me has me hitting the ‘eject’ every time.

 

Oh if you want to hear the worst vocals ever on a Thin Lizzy cover check out ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ which is a shame as the ‘normal’ vocals and music are great.

 

Mark

 

 

BRETT MICHAELS
CUSTOM BULIT

 

Brain haemorrhages and Celebrity apprentice wins aside, here musically is the proof that Brett Michaels is a shallow as a saucer of milk. The fact that he seems to treat his fans with such disrespect in treading over the same material and repackaging it again and again is reprehensible. If this is ‘Custom Built’ you’ll be taking it back to the store next week – lemon of the year.

 

But hey if you really need some Miley Cyrus in your life (‘Nothing to Lose’) and a country version of the most overrated two-chord song ever ‘Every Rose’ then be my guest…

 

Hey I had to listen to it, but thankfully you don’t have to.

 

Mark

 

 

 

CIRCLE II CIRCLE
CONSEQUENCE OF POWER

 

One of the best Power Metal bands around? Certainly in my book they are; and from the off you will be impressed. ‘Whispers in Vain’ really encapsulates the album: old school metal before thrash, nice and heavy, great guitars and fine vocals. 


There are elements of the classics here and by that I’m talking Maiden rather than Vivaldi. So here we are five albums in and the CIIC sound is a little leaner than before, a little less keyboard, a little less ‘Prog’, and much more direct. It works well.


Check out: ‘Consequence of Power’, ‘Mirage’, ‘Redemption’ and the classic power-ballad ‘Blood of an Angel’. For me this runs a close second to Armored Saint in the running for metal album of the year.

 

Mark

 

 


DRIVE BY TRUCKERS
THE BIG TO DO

 

Drive By Truckers is what? The King of deconstructed Southern alt-country blues Rock? The King of the jam bands? It doesn’t really matter what I say as it certainly won’t be cool enough for the cognoscenti who think they own this band. To me these guys are just a good honest, salt-of-the-earth down-home rock band. They remind me of a much more sophisticated Jayhawks/Soul Asylum grafted to the trunk of the Black Crowes/The Band tree.

 

If you can’t stray away from the hard rock eighties template then this won’t be one for you but if you love a bit of variety and appreciate really good guitar music then these guys are well worth checking out.

 

Patterson Hood as some will already know is a living legend and this is very much his baby, big healthy and already thirsty. Every track on here is special from the understated and incredibly catchy opener ‘Daddy Learned to Fly’ to closer ‘Eyes Like Glue’ though the strongest songs are loaded at the front end. Favourites include: ‘Fourth Night of My Drinking’, ‘The Wig He Made Her Wear’, the quite-frankly magnificent ‘Drag the Lake Charlie’ and a pair supplied by Mike Cooley ‘Birthday Boy’ and ‘Get Downtown’

 

Maybe not quite as good as their last offering 2008’s ‘Brighter than Creation’ but close in the main.

 

Mark

 


 
ED KOWALCZYK
ALIVE


 

So after a luke-warm last couple of records by the band ‘Live’ here we have the best Live album for a while delivered as singer-songwriter Ed Kowalczyk solo album. Just to add to any possible confusion it’s also called ‘Alive’. It’s not a live album you understand but rather a ‘Live’ album… Glad that’s all clear now.

 

There’s not a lot more to say really than if you like Ed’s previous band’s output you will like this, both sonically and lyrically it treads the same ground, repeats the same patterns and in almost equal measure succeeds and fails to meet the standards set in the past. Ed has certainly grown more astute over the years and he writes a more consistent song, but somehow always seems to fall short of recapturing the rawness of some of the most poignant and heart-wrenchingly emotive moments of the benchmark ‘Throwing Copper’. In that respect it fails for me.

 

Best songs are certainly ‘Drive’ the album opener which does enough to recapture Live at their best; also ‘Stand’ and ‘Drink’ (despite it’s lyrical nonsenses).

 

Better but not great.

 

Mark

 

 

 

STONE TEMPLE PILOTS
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS

 


For me STP was always the absolute best example of a band that proved the law of diminishing returns, their albums just got worse with each release. To me the pinnacle was always the first ‘Core’ but by ‘Purple’ they were past their sell-by. Hey but that’s just me. Oh and did I mention that I thought that Scott was probably not the best choice for Velvet Revolver? No?

 

So here we have the new album and to be honest it really surprised me. Not just for the fact that it doesn’t really sound too much like a STP album but for the fact it’s so damn good! ‘Between the Lines’ that opens sounds like Dylan playing hard-rock-pop, very nice indeed.

 

There’s plenty to like here but I particularly like the very Bowie ‘First Kiss From Mars’ and the very different, almost Lou Reed sounding ‘Hickory Dichotomy’. Favourite tracks though are: ‘Fast as I Can’ and ‘Hazy Daze’ which are probably as good as anything they’ve done in years.  

 

Overall the album benefits greatly from what in essence seems like a big ‘seventies injection’ it’s added a new layer, and it sounds good.

 

Mark

 

 

 

THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM
AMERICAN SLANG


 

Most bands these days would kill for the buzz and hype that follows these guys around wherever they go. Do they deserve it? To these ears the answer is not particularly, though in places I kind of get it. But having a few big name fans doesn’t cover up the fact that in places this album is pretty threadbare.

Yes I hear the Clash, I hear Mr Springsteen and certainly Tom Petty there in the grooves but to me everything about these guys is incredibly self-conscious from the sounds they make, to the titles of the tracks. It’s like they are desperate to be the next biggest coolest thing till the next… Maybe I’m too cynical…

Anyway if you listen to it there is stuff to like here: ‘The Queen of Lower Chelsea’ is OK and ‘The Spirit of Jazz’ is a bit more upbeat: a kind of  Elvis Costello meets Springsteen at a New Wave disco vibe going on.

Not as good as say Butch Walker, and certainly not as essential as the trendy press would have you think.  

 

Mark

 

 

THE GRACIOUS FEW
THE GRACIUOS FEW

 

Containing ex-members of Ed Kowalczyk’s band ‘Live’ and the vocalist and second guitarist from ‘Candlebox’ you might expect this to sound more or less like a heavier version of Ed’s latest but boy would you be wrong.

What can I say – this album is just so cool! In fact I’m prepared to say that it could become a classic. Who’d have thought that hiding behind that band from Pennsylvania was a powerhouse that can channel Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Sabbath in equal measures!

Listen to the first single ‘Honest Man’ and opener ‘Appetite’ and tell me that your walls aren’t covered with the remnants of an explosion of classic rock. There are some mighty big riffs on offer here, some great hooks and powerful vocals.  
But there’s plenty more: ‘Nothing But Love’ is all class; ‘Guilty Fever’ timeless 70’s soaked hard rock and ‘What’s Wrong’ has that bluesy feel of early Black Crowes at their best. 

Top five of the year? For sure and it’s almost October.

 

Mark

 

 

THUNDER
LIVE AT THE BBC

 

Great for the fans, but far too much to eat, let alone digest, in a single sitting. If your world needs a Thunder banquet then stick this on order, but if you have all the live recordings of the band you need then really why bother?

 

As a completist I had to have it and I’m not sorry I did as there is some sparking stuff on here. Not only that: it does take me back to the live shows which we always so great. The fact that I’m in the crowd on three of those recordings gives it some extra meaning too.

 

If you are thinking of buying then be warned a lot of this has been available before. Not only that, with the number of live shows spread over the six discs you do get a fair amount of repetition.  The Hammersmith show from 1990 that opens the set is as good as you’ll hear and takes me back to when I first saw them supporting Aerosmith on the ‘Pump’ tour. Then follows shows from Wembley, Donington (1992) and Def Leppard’s old stomping ground the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, before we are back to London at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. All great shows but really?

 

It’s the final disc that peaks the interest collecting as it does various in-house BBC live acoustic sessions, including one for the Friday Night Rock show with the late great Tommy Vance. Even here though you get three different acoustic versions of ‘A Better Man’ ‘Low Life in High Places’ and ‘Backstreet Symphony’.

 

As box sets go it’s not the best, to fans though that will matter little. In my opinion I would have much preferred to have seen this with a disc from the final tour, but as we have found out, you can sell those separately…

 

Mark

for the fans

for the casual observer

for value for money

 

WIDESPREAD PANIC
DIRTY SIDE DOWN

 


I have a confession to make until this CD dropped on me I had only ever heard of Widespread Panic but never actually listened to their music and boy do I feel like a fool as I hastily trawl e-bay to amass what I’ve been missing! It has after all only been 25 years since they formed.

 

This is an album of bluesy barroom Southern rock, with the focus squarely on roots rather than hard rock. We move from the haunting opener ‘Saint Ex’ which I particularly enjoyed to the more straight-forward rock of the title track.  Live favourite ‘Visiting Day’ gets a studio work-out and works well, ‘Jaded Tourist’ goes all New Orleans Voodoo; but it’s the mournful duo of ‘This Cruel Thing’ and the steel guitar on ‘When You Coming Home’ that win the day for me, the former a particularly wonderful song.

 

11 albums in and sounding strong.

 

Mark