by Shane Copher
Sponsored In Part By
Coal Chamber-COAL CHAMBER
Coal Chamber's debut is a rhythmic but pounding excursion into
semi-industrial grindcore. "Loco" kicks it off in gritty splendor,
following by another 13 tracks, including all 3 cuts from their '96
demo. The CD boasts a cleaner and more effective production than
the demo but avoids polishing all the rough edges that help to make
this pulsate. A solid effort from this "up and comer."
Special Leadhead's Lounge Concert Review:
Country Concert '97 at Hickory Hills Lake, Ohio, July 11-13, 1997
This three day country extravaganza began with a talent round-up,
with nine "local" bands, sponsored by area radio stations.
Diamondback (T-102) played an impressive set which included
mainstream country, along with "Swing Like That," a rousing number
Bob Wills could've been proud of.
Flatland Posse (WBTU) displayed a knack for mellow country ballads.
The Carol Chaney Band (WKKO) was in the "pop" vein, while Crosstie
Walker (WXT) delivered a polished set of modern honky tonk. Sheila
Stevens (WKKG) was hot! and my pick of the lot, though the judges
disagreed. She was followed by Nuthin Fancy (WPFB), whose strength
was in their great harmonies.
Tony Stone (WVLK) played a bluesy set, while the eventual winners,
Southern Grace (K95) had the dance oriented crowd locked up.
Millstone (WITL) performed some very impressive originals to round
out the competition.
The remainder of the weekend was a who's who of country's
brightest, including Bryan White, Vince Gill, Martina McBride,
Trisha Yearwood, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart, Charlie Daniels, Sammy
Kershaw, Trace Adkins, Toby Keith, Billy Ray Cyrus, Leann Rimes,
Sawyer Brown, Blackhawk, and living legend Tom T. Hall.
This is one of country's hottest weekend festivals, and I'd highly
recommend you check it out next summer!
NOTE: Due to space constraints, the following reviews were not included in the
print edition of the RENEGADE. They are only available here in the online edition.
I'M'L-INSTIGATING THE MEAN & LOUD
This powerhouse from Canada comes out smokin' and never looks back.
Fast, furious hard rock with plenty of talent and decibels to
spare. The tracks range from heavy rock anthems to out and out
thrashers. Solid rhythms, strong vocals, and above average fretwork
make I'M'L instant contenders. They compliment themselves by
avoiding any strict categorization and thus open the market for
Six Feet Under-ALIVE AND DEAD
Metal Blade Records
The latest from Chris Barnes and company includes two new tracks,
"Insect" and "Drowning," along with a brutal cover of Priest's
classic "Grinder" that does just that. Also included are four
killer cuts recorded live on last year's "Haunted" tour. Although
released as a "pacifier" for fans awaiting the next album, don't be
fooled into overlooking this EP, as it positively rips and is a
much better investment than most of the "clone" bands have to
offer. The live version of "Lycanthropy" is worth the price alone.
Jack Ingram and the Beat Up Ford Band-LIVIN' OR DYIN'
Rising Tide Records
I've always had a soft spot for "ture" songwriters, and Jack Ingram
is one of those. In the tradition of Steve Earle, who produced
along with Ray Kennedy and Guy Clark, the cuts on LIVIN' OR DYIN'
aren't so much sung, but shared. Real blood and guts songs that hit
home. Jack's vocal style is in the same vein. He ain't the most
talented you'll ever hear, but it sure sounds honest. 14 tracks, 8
self-penned, of pure unadulterated country. This is the real McCoy.
For those unfamiliar, Helloween has been played heavy metal in the
"British tradition" for a decade and a half, and, unlike many of
their counterparts, they've never really changed with the times.
This double live CD, recorded on last year's tour, showcases their
straightforward style to good effect. Yeah, it's a live recording,
so the sound isn't perfect, but it ain't bad. Plenty of headbanging
fare included here that fans of Maiden, Priest, and Saxon should
eat right up. Top notch packaging, along with a 20 page booklet,
makes HIGH LIVE a heckuva bargain for 'bangers everywhere.
Machine Head-THE MORE THINGS CHANGE...
The long anticipated follow-up to '94's brilliant debut, BURN MY
EYES, was well worth the wait. Machine Head left nothing on the
table with their latest effort and has managed to toss in some
extra elements that were missing from their debut. They've included
a "progressive" metal epic, "Violate," and a hardcore laced burner,
"Struck a Nerve." Brutal and brilliant, this band's appropriately
titled sophomore release is another instant classic.
Thin Lizard Dawn-THIN LIZARD DAWN
Thin Lizard Dawn utlizes the power of alternative, the bizarre
instrumentation of sixties psychedelia, and the harmonies of early
British pop, with the end result being an entirely original form of
modern rock. There is a wide range of ground covered on this, their
debut release. The songwriting is above par, and musically, the
band is able to hold its own. The end result is a wildly different
but enjoyable sound... worth looking into.
Edel America Records
Proudly wearing a world of influences on their sleeves but steering
clear of becoming a copycat band, London's Skyscraper has recorded
a hard rock masterpiece with the release of SUPERSTATE. The vocals
are exceptional, with strong guitarwork and a rhythm section that
can pulsate one moment and pummel you the next. The songwriting is
fabulous, the production strong, and the music both intense and
extremely fresh. This is an album and a band that is destined to be
Extremely solid drumming sets the stage for underGrind's "grunge-
like" hard rock, shakin' the room from the opening cut. The rest of
the outfit is impressive, as well, with sturdy guitarwork,
throbbing bass, and vocals that fall somewhere between Alice in
Chains and Pearl Jam. The tracks are well-penned and delivered with
conviction. "Godspeed" and "Tapped Out" are personal favorites on
a disc that shines!
GWAR-CARNIVAL OF CHAOS
Metal Blade Records
This is a definite diversion for these mutants, as they dabble in
everything from country to lounge singing on CARNIVAL OF CHAOS.
Fans don't need to worry; there's still plenty of the usual lewd
and aggressive material, as well. GWAR has chosen to "branch out,"
to prove their talents and provide a few new outlets for their
adolescent humor. I haven't a clue how the hardcore fans of GWAR
will accept this latest offering, as I have never been counted
among their ranks. And though I still don't care for this, I will
give them credit for expanding their horizons, allowing us critics
to slam them in a whole new light. They still suck, but, now, in
different musical categories.
One Foot Records
Hilarious punk with a "pop" mentality and hardcore riffing.
Musically, the Migraines are solid. Really hook-laden, with a fast
pace and tight execution. Lyrically, they're a laugh a minute, and
I mean that in a good way. From the album opener, "I'm a Wuss," to
the brilliantly observant "Mall Hair," this band's got something to
say about everyone. "Venus Sex Fiend" is an R rated romp through
LOVE CONNECTION, while "I Wanna Kill Elvis" is self explanatory. 12
tracks of early eighties style punk, with biting satire and a great
sound. This is a fun record!
Guy Clark-THE ESSENTIAL GUY CLARK
20 classic cuts, from one of country's most legendary songwriters.
Helping to define the "Texas" sound and later propelling the
"outlaw" movement, Guy Clark has influenced everyone from Vince
Gill and Kathy Mattea to Lee Roy Parnell and Steve Earle. Many of
the tracks included here were chartbusters for a variety of the
biggest names in Nashville. While his own vocal range shows the
same limits as, say, Kristofferson, the heartfelt honesty of his
songs really shines when he's at the helm. Truly classic.
Metal Blade Records
Following last year's "thrash-terpiece," POWER OF INNER STRENGTH,
Grip Inc. displays a new found maturity and diversity that was
lacking on their debut. The addition of some weighty hooks, along
with the use of keyboards, insures that NEMESIS will appeal to a
wider audience without leaving the thrashers out in the cold.
"Pathetic Liar," "Rusty Nail," and "War Between One" prove the band
still packs plenty of punch, but a much improved direction allows
them to stand out from the rest.
Fates Warning-A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY
Metal Blade Records
This is a progressive metal masterpiece! It's one track, nearly an
hour in length, that showcases the band's strengths in several
different areas. Ray Alder's vocals have always been among the best
in metal, and this is no exception. The addition of former Armored
Saint bassist Joey Vera beefs up what has always been a strong
rhythm section. In addition, Dream Theater's Kevin Moore was
recruited to handle the keyboards, which stand out more than
anything else on this epic. Combined with the stellar production of
Terry Brown (Rush), A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY should takes its place
among prog-rock's best, WISH YOU WERE HERE, 2112, and the like.
Chris Holmes reunites with Blackie Lawless on W.A.S.P.'s latest,
and the result is much closer to the band's early efforts than
recent releases. They've returned to the "shock" metal that made
W.A.S.P. a prime target for the PMRC (remember them?). Tracks like
"Kill, Fuck, Die" and "The Horror" are pure '80s W.A.S.P. The
addition of industrial elements is the sole reminder that this is
a new release. Not as impressive as STILL NOT BLACK ENOUGH, their
last disc, but better than the bulk of their '90s material.
Flotsam and Jetsam-HIGH
Metal Blade Records
Along with Savatage, Flotsam and Jetsam are the best that metal has
to offer these days, but this record doesn't match the pinnacle
they reach with QUATRO and DRIFT. The blame lies not with the band,
which is positively brilliant here, nor the songs -- they're
killer. The drawback lies in the production. Bill Metoyer is at the
helm, and HIGH lacks the "crisp" sound that Neil Kernon provided on
their last two LPs. The mix is muddier, and it softens F&J's
impact. Still head and shoulders above most of today's metal, but
not the giant it SHOULD be.
Robert Earl Keen-PICNIC
Arista Records Austin
This premiere release from the newly formed Arista Austin label is
a true gem. Robert Earl Keen's songwriting is superb, on the level
with the likes of a Dylan or Springsteen, but with a down home
flavor that you'll only find in Texas. The characters created and
the emotions displayed will surely evoke memories within every
listener. Robert's delivery is solid, and his backing superb,
including Tim O'Brien on mandolin and Margo Timmins (Cowboy
Junkies) on backing vocals. "Over the Waterfall," "The Coming Home
of the Son and Brother," and "Shades of Gray" are outstanding cuts,
along with the James McMurtry penned "Levelland" and a cover of
Dave Alvin's "Fourth Of July." Chalk this up as a perfect ten...
this PICNIC has no ants in sight.
Alabama-DANCIN' ON THE BOULEVARD
No doubt you've already heard the title cut to Alabama's latest, as
it's in heavy rotation on the local stations and CMT, as well.
Along with the hit "Sad Lookin' Moon," the boys from Ft. Payne have
another hit on their hands. This album has a very distinctive
"retro" feel as you sift through the eleven tracks. Sure, there are
the traditional country ballads this band is famous for, but
they've included several songs that conjure up images of the
"golden age" of rock, as well. Give a listen to "Hey Baby" or their
cover of Smokey Robinson's "My Girl," and you'll get my drift. This
isn't the best Alabama album by any means, but it has the potential
to be one of their most commercially successful, as every cut is
radio friendly, and that usually spells platinum.
Heavy, groove-laden rock, with the power of hardcore backing
classic rock rhythms. The vocals are raw but strengthy, while the
drums and bass thunder along. Plenty of tasty axework that enhances
without becoming the focus. DOPAMINE is an impressive release, with
"Leg" and "Holy Moses" leading the way. Two live cuts provide a
sneak peek at Workhorse on the road. Worth looking into.
Dave Mustaine and company have dished up another savory helping of
rhythmic metal, complete with the blistering guitarwork you'd
expect. Another strong album from a lyrical standpoint, proving
again that Megadeth is among the most intelligent bands going.
While not as ferocious as YOUTHANASIA, CRYPTIC WRITINGS does have
its moments. "Disintegrators" and "F.F.F." are perfect examples.
The first single, "Trust," and "Almost Honest" bring 'deth to the
mainstream without sounding like sellouts. Further proof that this
band is still among metal's elite.
Cheap Trick-CHEAP TRICK
Red Ant Records
The years haven't changed this band, who remains true to its
"British" pop roots on this self-titled release. Okay, there might
be a hint of alternative flavor, but the Beatles-esque sound of
Cheap Trick lies undisturbed. Robin Zander's vocals are as strong
as ever, and the band's infectious melodies remain intact. The real
trick will be locating the audience that didn't spend the last
decade standing still. Pure Cheap Trick.
Galactic Cowboys-THE HORSE THAT BUD BOUGHT
Metal Blade Records
A drastic change from last year's MACHINE FISH, the Cowboys have
dropped the metal edge and replaced it with alternative pop
sensibility, while retaining their heavy rhythm. The result is a
very commercial offering that's still head and shoulders above
modern radio's current fluff. The Galactic Cowboys may have a horse
of a different color, but it's still a thoroughbred!
Divine Regale-OCEAN MIND
Metal Blade Records
An excellent progressive metal release that lands somewhere between
modern Queensryche and early Triumph. Outstanding vocals, immense
instrumentation, and skilled production combine to create an
astonishing debut. Don't miss this one!
Jason Sellers-MUSIC THAT'S OUT OF THIS WORLD
"I'm Your Man" kicks off this 4 track promo in grand style -- very
catchy country tune with airplay written all over it. Jason's
vocals are reminiscent of Hal Ketchum -- smooth, relaxed, and very
"comfortable." His writing is equally impressive, having penned two
of the cuts included here. If the promo is any indication, Jason
Sellers' debut is going to be HUGE!
Thought Industry-BLACK UMBRELLA
Metal Blade Records
A suitable follow-up to last year's ...A MARTINI AWAY for this
avant garde outfit from Kalamazoo. BLACK UMBRELLA has thirteen
tracks filled with human emotions and pin point observations of
society as a whole. Their progressive/somewhat alternative styling
works best on "Tragic Juliet," "Edward Smith," and "Her Rusty
Nail." Bound to be another campus favorite.
Solid State/Tooth & Nail Records
Ultra heavy hardcore death with explosive rhythms and an ample does
of grinding axework. The vocals are just what you'd expect,
screaming, growling, and gargling, right in line with the industry
standard. Their writing contains just enough tempo changing to keep
it interesting without going overboard and losing the listener.
"Sell Out" and "Liar" are among the best tracks on a very powerful,
if slightly predictable, release.
Tooth & Nail Records
After last year's hardcore masterpiece, FRICTION, I was expecting
a big letdown, but lo and behold, ABSOLUTES is every bit as solid
as this band's debut. Not knocking the band's musical talents, but
it's the composition that makes Stavesacre such a monster in the
hardcore alternative circle. Killer tracks with cool rhythms,
fierce hooks, and intelligent lyrics -- this is another winner,
worlds above their competition.
Billy Ray Cyrus-THE BEST OF...
After four albums, I guess the greatest hits package was
inevitable. Whether or not these songs were actually "hits" is a
debate I'll leave to some other journalist. Despite that, this is
a good collection of songs that goes a long way to showcase what
Billy Ray has to offer. His vocal stylings remind me of Meatloaf in
a Stetson, which is NOT meant to be a slam but a compliment to the
emotion he pours into his music. There are three new cuts included,
along with a decent sampling from his past LPs. Unfortunately, a
"best of" collection had to include that "Achy Breaky" crap, but at
least the power that be placed it at the end of the album, making
a bypass of this track very convenient. Thanks!
A strong second effort, with crystal harmonies, great contemporary
country arrangements, and a crisp production. Lonestar's debut
boasted plenty of chartbusting singles, and this album's just as
potent, setting the boys up nicely for the long haul. This one's a
sure fire hit.
Toby Keith-DREAM WALKIN'
Toby's latest -- and quite possibly best -- offering, with a great
blend of honky tonk, hillbilly humor, and heart twisting ballads.
There are plenty of strong musical arrangements, mature
songwriting, and Toby's smooth vocal delivery. Sting makes a guest
appearance on "I'm So Happy...," providing both vocals and bass, a
sure sign that today's country music is a far cry from the corn
feed your parents were raised on. This is a solid effort that may
not contain as many top ten tracks as earlier album, but, on the
whole, it's a lot more satisfying. A winner!
John Anderson-TAKIN' THE COUNTRY BACK
Another solid offering from one of country's true traditionalists.
Pure hillbilly/honky tonk, the kind that's great for suckin' down
brews on Saturday nights. Great production from Keith Stegall and
strong tracks throughout. From the humorous "Somebody Slap Me" to
the sad echoes of "The Fall," John leaves no stone unturned and,
indeed, is TAKIN' THE COUNTRY BACK.
Exhibit Eight-EXHIBIT EIGHT
New West Records
A very clean and extremely impressive blend of seventies "arena"
rock and modern metal, Exhibit Eight offers four blistering cuts
that are sure to please! "Raw Deal" opens this package with an
aggressive style, melodic vocals, and killer leads, and from there,
this album gets even better. The writing is splendid, the vocals
are crisp, and the music is heavy as hell, but not at the expense
of melody. Throw in a touch of harmony, a rhythm section that is
thundering, and plenty of great guitar licks. Snatch this up, slide
it in, and turn it up! This EP kicks!
Avernus-OF THE FALLEN
Progressive, Gothic doom, with excellent instrumentation and
unusually clean vocals. From the album's opener, "Blood Gathers
Frost," to the final chords of the closer, "Still Warm Ashes,"
Avernus packs this album with emotional echoes that span the
spectrum of modern day metal, from spirituality to desperation.
Tasteful synth and keyboards help to offset the fiery axework and
massive rhythms. There's nothing here for the die-hard thrash fans
but plenty to satisfy fans of other hard rock genres. "By Loves
Will... Chaos" and "Ghost" are outstanding examples of Avernus'
style, and this is a band that should catch on quickly with the
Tooth & Nail Records
Fresh alternative/pop from Mike Lewis, former lead vocalist for For
Love Not Lisa. This has a slightly more aggressive edge than his
former band, but the same excellent writing skills are displayed,
along with the contagious "top 40" rhythms. This is sure to catch
on with the college crowd, and the album is full of radio friendly
cuts such as "Super Size It" and "Back & Forth." This album has a
knack for sticking with you long after the initial spin, and that
usually spells BIG TIME -- we'll wait and see; they've definitely
got the tools for the job!
KRS-One-I GOT NEXT
This album is quick becoming a hip-hop favorite, though I'm at a
bit of a loss to explains why. With the exception of "Step Into a
World (Rapture's Delight," this album sounds a bit on the "safe"
side to me. Following the familiar and formulaic pattern that is
hip-hop today, KRS-One makes little attempt to stray from the fold.
There is such an array of new rap bands invading record stores
these day, I'm surprised that there was little attempt on this CD
to break new ground, but what do I know? He's selling records,
while I'm just writing about them. Not bad, just a bit typical.