"Leadhead's Lounge"

by Shane Copher

Sponsored In Part By

Try Me?


Roadrunner Records
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.


DeRock Records
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 their music.


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.

Helloween-HIGH LIVE

Castle Records
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.


Roadrunner Records
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.


RCA Records
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 huge.


Overture Records
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!


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.

Migraines-SHUT UP

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!


RCA Records
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.


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.


Castle Records
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.


RCA Records
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.


Overcore Records
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.


Capitol Records
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.


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.


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!


BNA Records
"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.

Living Sacrifice-REBORN

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...

Mercury Records
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!


BNA Records
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.


Mercury Records
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!


Mercury Records
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.


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!


MIA Records
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 Gothic underground.


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!


Jive Records
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.

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