Friday, June 16, 2017

Motörhead - Overnight Sensation (1996)

Take a good look at that boring cover art, what does it tell you? Besides from the obvious parts, that it is boring, unimaginative, colorless, and boring, there is something, or rather someone, missing. You guessed it, we are missing the beloved mascot Snaggletooth, who for the first and only time is not in a Motörhead album cover (and for those who say that he is not present on "Ace of Spades", look closer please). While all of the band members tries to evoke the same furious attitude that the untamed beast possesses, Phil, Mikkey, and Lemmy (minus the mutton chops) just are not good enough replacements.

Fortunately, these guys do not work as models, their job is delivering some kick ass heavy metal, and "Overnight Sensation" is not much different from any other Motörhead album. The only real difference is that the band at this point in time has reverted back to a three piece band, after Würzel left between this album and "Sacrifice", so they did not replace him, and just went on with it like this until the very end. To be honest, I do not notice any major difference, but that could be because the band is still as even as always, that one less cog does not stop the machinery from rolling on.

The sound does sound a little heavier than usual though, displaying some really tough songs here and there. Starting with "Civil War", this song sets the tone instantly with its loud drums and ultra heavy guitar riffs, showing that these guys are not getting softer with age. And it is not the only really heavy song in here, it is in good company with "Shake The World", "Eat The Gun", and especially the excellent "Them Not Me", a song that blends both speed and heaviness with great success, but thanks to Lemmy's characteristic vocals, it sounds like he is singing "Enemy" instead of "Them Not Me", which ultimately sounded kind of weird, but still cool in some odd way.

Don't fear though old time Motörhead fans, this song still contains a good amount of classic Motörhead, with both speed and catchy choruses, just like it should be. "Crazy Like A Fox" is standard stuff all around, it is just a groovy ass song with a kick ass chorus, and a really nice delivery. Oh, and it does have a harmonica solo too! "Broken" is another one that has more of the classic sound in it, a nice rhythmic song that is easy to like, and so is "Murder Show" with its groovy groove.

"Overnight Sensation" is certainly not an overnight sensation, it is a really stable album that may be a little bit heavier than the average Motörhead record. It got a good pack of enjoyable songs, and the performance is nice as well, but we are reaching the point in our discography review series in which we almost expect these sort of things from the band. This is nothing new, it is quality work that does not really add anything different to the legacy. So at the end of the day, I am a little split, because this is a good album, but it might be one that I will not remember further down the road. Oh well, it does its job, and it does it real good, it is the least you can expect.

Songs worthy of recognition: Crazy Like A Fox, Broken, Them Not Me

Rating: 7/10 Murder Shows

More reviews of Motörhead
Ace of Spades
Iron Fist
Another Perfect Day
Rock 'n' Roll
March Ör Die

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Tankard - One Foot In The Grave (2017)

There are a lot of likenesses between the American big 4 of thrash, and the German big 4 of teutonic thrash, because even if the sounds are fairly different, we still got 4 different personalities within each group. We got the famous group that steals most of the headlines (Metallica and Kreator), the underdog that always works in the shadow of the headliner (Megadeth and Destruction), the heavier alternative that has a core audience of their own (Slayer and Sodom), and then we have the oddball of the groups, the one that you cannot really take seriously, but still love them no matter what. The Americans have Anthrax, and the Germans have the drunken maniacs known as Tankard.

Say what you want about Tankard, but you cannot deny that they are pretty persistent, thrashing and drinking their way in over 30 years without losing a beat. The quality these guys put out may not be as prolific as in the hey days, but it is still of great quality, and their 17th record is no different, even if the title "One Foot In The Grave" would suggest that they are almost at the end of their rope.

Listening to the title track, it is from a different perspective the band sees it from instead. Yes, they realize that they are not any young bucks anymore, but just because they have reached a certain age, they will still rock out, drink beer, and head bang, with or without any pension or leather diapers (eww...). It is classic Tankard humour at its finest, and while they are not singing a hell of a lot about beer and partying in this record, it still got that gleam in the eye that melts your heart.

I do have to admit though that the Germans are taking on a bit more serious issues in this record, which is not something new per se, but it still feels pretty off. Take "Arena of The True Lies" for example, a fairly laid back track with some neat riffs and interesting flow, talking about how we are more and more engulfed in the internet and its skewed media view. I like it better in the opening track "Pay To Pray", a song about religious cults stealing your wealth, but unlike "Arena...", it delivers a more direct punch and some catchy lyrics (and a nice build up at the beginning as well).

And the band is at their best when they are turning up the speed, heading in head first into the battle. I just love the title "Don't Bullshit Us!", and it delivers what you would expect, a mauler that does not take shit from anyone. "The Evil That Men Display" and the previously mentioned "Pay To Pray" are two other great fast pieces that certainly spices up the album well, and the final song "Sole Grinder" has its great speedy moments too, however I feel like the silence and the... bar chanting(?) at the end takes away a lot from the song, and gives the album a weird ending.

And even if the classic stuff is the ones that works the best, I still hear a lot of interesting new stuff in this album, Tankard is certainly not sitting on their asses and relying on their well used techniques. Guitarist Andy Gutjahr is trying more epic melodies in several places in this record, especially in "Secret Order 1516", a personal favourite of mine that just feels right, with its neat premise, cool instrumentation, and harmonizing chorus. A sure stand out that shows that Tankard is still evolving, even if it is not in a revolutionary way.

Ultimately, "One Foot In The Grave" is Tankard to the core, it is a fun thrash experience that goes perfect together with some friends, and a lot of beer. While this album may not be the most intoxicating one during the German's massive career, it definitely serves its purpose, holding a quality that is quite astonishing considering how old these guys really are. They may be close towards being buried, but be sure that they will keep on rocking and drinking until Death himself knocks on the door, telling that it was the salmon mousse that killed them.

Songs worthy of recognition: Don't Bullshit Us!, Pay To Pray, One Foot In The Grave, Secret Order 1516

Rating: 8/10 Sole Grinders

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Motörhead - Sacrifice (1995)

We are on the 12th album in the Motörhead discography review series, and so far I have felt that it has been fairly easy to classify albums into a specific mood, or a certain personality trait that just makes sense. "Sacrifice" however, is a different story. It is not that this album lacks personality, it is just that it confuses me of what that personality really is. My best guess (judging by the cover), is that it is an album that reeks death over any nation, collecting souls while blazing fast, heavy, and loud metal as the sound of the apocalypse... while also doing some oral necrophilia (WITH THAT MAGNIFICENT TONGUE!).

There really is only one thing we need to know about "Sacrifice" though, and that is if it sounds like a Motörhead album, which not surprisingly, it does. It is actually more of the older Motörhead, the more care free and less serious band that we got to know in the beginning. You will not find any emotional ballads here, only good old fashioned fun, which means sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, something that is perfectly displayed in the 2 minute song "Sex & Death", which the band apparently just threw together in a short time at the end of recording.

"Sacrifice" was a little hard to truly take to my heart in the beginning though, for various reasons, one being that I think the songs just does not stick with me all that easily. The album certainly has a good pack of songs, and the opening title track is a stellar song with some fantastic instrumentation (especially Mikkey Dee's drumming is mesmerizing), but they just did not stick with me for very long. They were fine and all, but left me with little impressions. Another problem I have with this record is that it is so short, only 36 minutes long, despite containing 11 songs. It really flies by if you are not paying attention, and is over before you know it.

It does give me more chances to listen to it though, and after a while, it did grow on me, even if it did not become a giant or so. And as stated before, there are some neat little songs in here that does not go to history as some of the finest Motörhead songs, but they do their job really well. They help making "Sacrifice" a really smooth experience all the way through, either with some fine tuned groove ("Over Your Shoulder" and "All Gone To Hell"), some good old 50's swing ("Don't Waste Your Time"), or pure brute force ("War For War" and "Order/Fade To Black"). And while the lyrics do not leave all too many impressions, there is still some laughs to be had as always, like in "Dog-Face Boy", a song about Phil Cambpell (wonder if he knows that...).

I ultimately think that it is the instrumentation in "Sacrifice" that deserves the most credit, another example on that the band has stepped up their game since the arrival of Dee. Some riffs in here are just extremely memorable, like in "Over Your Shoulder" and "All Gone To Hell", driving the songs just the right way to make them better, a good effort from both Campbell and Würzel (who makes his last appearance). Mikkey himself does another great performance as well, pummeling on in his own pace.

So in the end, while "Sacrifice" was kind of hard to get into from the start, I eventually budged to its pressure and felt its heavy glory all over me. It is still too short and it is missing a true stand out song, but the collection of good reliable songs more than make up for it. Basically, this is a Motörhead album. It is even, fast, loud, heavy, and witty, just the way you would want it.

Songs worthy of recognition: Sacrifice, Over Your Shoulder, Dog-Face Boy

Rating: 7/10 Orders

More reviews of Motörhead
Ace of Spades
Iron Fist
Another Perfect Day
Rock 'n' Roll
March Ör Die

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Adrenaline Mob - We The People (2017)

When drummer Mike Portnoy left Adrenaline Mob back in 2013, he stated that one of the main reasons was that the band did not move fast enough, which has always seemed like an odd explanation to me. I mean, the band did release two EPs and an album during those first two years, and the following two after Mike's departure, the band released another full length record and a cover/acoustic compilation. These are only speculations, but I might think the real reason to why Mike left was that he knew where the band was heading, and he did not like the sight of that future, not one bit.

You see, Adrenaline Mob looks like a pretty interesting new power house on the surface, and the debut "Omertá" delivered some promise, but when you take a closer look, you will see that this is the reincarnation of nu-metal, only with older guys at the helm, together with an attitude that would make Limp Bizkit look like they had no self esteem (something the sophomore effort "Men of Honor" showed more than enough). It is a band that has parents trying to play the music that their kids are into, and it is pretty obvious how that ends up sounding like.

Which leads me to their third release, entitled "We The People", an album that is more of the things that has made Adrenaline Mob what they are today. It got attitude, crunchy Mike Orlando riffs, a soaring Russell Allen, and a mixed bag of lyric messages, from political criticism to... waving hands like we just don't care? Just wow there. It is easy to say from the start that if you found their previous two efforts obnoxious, then you will not change your mind over this one.

To be honest, even if you did enjoy the last two albums, you might have a hard time swallowing "We The People", because it is jam packed with 13 songs that spans just over an hour of play time. This is a type of music that is at its best in small sample sizes, some edgy cockiness is actually pretty from time to time, but too much of it can do a lot of harm, like turning you into an asshole. So be careful if you are going to listen to this album in its entirety, take care.

Okay, I should go back to being a nice reviewer now, but it is hard to find good things in an album that is made by great musicians playing music that just is not worthy of their talent. Mike Orlando is a fantastic shredder and knows how to work that guitar, but he feels a little sloppy here, recycling several riffs from previous AM songs. And Russell Allen, oh god how the mighty have fallen. He do deliver some great vocals here, but it just feels so wrong to see him sing (with passion) to this music. In fact, it seems like he is more committed to "The Mob" than to Symphony X at the moment, which there could be other reasons to why (heard that guitarist Michael James Romeo is planning a solo record), but it is still weird.

As for the songs, there are few positive stand outs, despite there being 13 of them. I really like "The Killer's Inside" though, it got some killer riffs and a nice, smooth flow to it, while "Chasing Dragons" is a pretty nice song about drug addiction. "Lords of Thunder" is interesting as well, having some calmer bits to show some variety at least. There are still far more lows on "We The People" though, like the overly macho opening track "King of The Ring", which is basically a bragging song, with small snippets from previous Mob songs. Then we have "Raise 'Em Up" and "What You're Made of", two very cheerful songs that does not seem to fit at all in the album (and no, it is not because they are of high quality, that is not the case). Finally, somehow the band found a way to cram in a meaningless cover of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell", a good song that is not getting the respect it deserves here.

So despite all of the negative things I have said about "We The People", I still think it is a more consistent record than "Men of Honor", which barely makes it better. I say barely because I think "Men of Honor" had some more memorable tunes, something the band could have continued building on, which they did not. The ultimate question I have though is if we really need an Adrenaline Mob today? Not really, both Mike and Russell have other projects that are simply better, and there are tons of other artists and albums that are both deeper and more interesting. So Portnoy might have made a smart move when leaving, because The Mob certainly does not rule.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Killer's Inside, Chasing Dragons

Rating: 4,5/10 Bleeding Hands

More reviews of Adrenaline Mob
Men of Honor

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Jorn - Life On Death Road (2017)

The band Jorn has been on sort of a mini hiatus these last couple of years, but that does not mean that the main man Jørn Lande has been sitting on his couch and chugging beer after beer. He has been releasing two albums during this time, one in a side project together with guitarist (and fellow Jorn member) Trond Holter called "Dracula - Swing of Death", and another one together with Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob singer Russell Allen, in their project Allen/Lande, called "The Great Divide". And besides some obvious touring, he has also lended his vocals to Avantasia, Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall, Oceans of Time, and the fictional League of Legends band Pentakill. Oh, and last year he did release a cover album called "Heavy Rock Radio", classic Jørn stuff really.

The Norwegian power house is now back though to present his 9th studio record (not counting cover albums and 3(!) compilation records), and it seems like his nostalgia nerves were not fully satisfied on "Heavy Rock Radio", because "Life On Death Road" feels more like classic 80's rock than Jorn has ever sounded before (even have a track that is named "Man of The 80's"). It is still Jorn to the core though, so fans will recognize everything in this record, but just by looking at his trusty crow mascot, who looks like a discount Tom Cruise in this cover art, you know that you are in for a trip down nostalgia lane.

As always, it is Jørn himself that lifts the music to a whole new level. His voice is one of the strongest in the business, capable of handling all of the various obstacles that a normal immortal vocal cords might not withstand. Just hearing that manly, raspy vocal take on those high notes brings a great chill down my spine, leaving me speechless. The other main guy Trond Holter gets some moments to shine as well, with really solid guitar playing all around, and some kick ass solos here and there. These two got a fantastic chemistry, and they can truly create some great stuff.

Here is the thing though, Jorn albums have a tendency to be right at the "good, but not great" level, having excellent musicians that makes music that seem to feel nice in the moment, but far from memorable after some time. Could be that the nostalgia does not bite too much on me for being born in the 90's, but I really do not care, when a song is good, it is good, no matter if it tries to emulate a time that is long lost or not. The point is, Jorn rarely makes music that can stand up against today's competition.

There is still some great songs to be found here though. The title track feels like it would fit in the movie "Top Gun" nicely, being sort of a little brother to the Kenny Loggins classic "Danger Zone", but the solo makes sure that it stands out on its own without Maverick looking over its shoulder. "Love Is The Remedy" is also a nice one, a good single with a strong chorus sung with an even stronger voice. We also got a nice ballad in "Dreamwalker", where Trond turns on the early Dream Theater filter on his guitar, and lets it fly towards the heavens. Together with other worth while songs such as "The Slippery Slope (Hangman's Rope)" and "Devil You Can Drive", there is surely enough goodness for all to go around. Still not sure if any of these songs will stay with me in the future, but they have a shot at least.

Personally, I could be without the ultra cheesy nostalgia known as "Man of The 80's", but other than that, I would say that "Life On Death Road" is a really solid effort from Jorn, an album that holds up from first second to last with its excellent quality and familiar sound. Sure, it is not any "top of the year" material or anything, but it has a mission, and completes it with great marks. Fans of Jorn will absolutely love this record, and so will those who wants their heavy metal to be simple and effective, with great musicianship behind it. So ride on Jorn, ride down that road made of rock, and do it with pride and joy for all the fans around the world.

Songs worthy of recognition: Life On Death Road, Dreamwalker, The Slippery Slope (Hangman's Rope)

Rating: 7,5/10 Blackbirds

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Scale The Summit - In A World of Fear (2017)

Imagine yourself being outside, around a bunch of mountains in the middle of nowhere, being one with nature and all of the animals that live there. You take a deep breath, smelling the fresh air that breezes with its cold touch, coming from a nearby lake. Are you done visualizing? Congratulations, now you know how it feels to listen to an album that is made by the instrumental trio known as Scale The Summit, you can now celebrate with a quiet stroll in the woods, without looking for Pidgeys and Weedles on your Iphone/Android/Nokia 3310. Go ahead, I'll still be here when you come back.

Now that you have gotten your daily dose of reality, let us get back to the topic of this post, the examination of Scale The Summit's 6th full length release "In A World of Fear". The title might speak truer to founder and guitarist Chris Letchford more than one would believe, because he now stands as a lone founder, with two brand new members by his side, and releasing this record without the help of a record label. Just another example on that the music industry is a tough one.

Fortunately for Chris, he is not alone in this new journey. Besides his two new recruits, we have a bunch of guest artists throughout the record, including Scott Carstairs (Fallujah), Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Conquering Dystopia), and Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry). Knowing these guys and their main bands, you would think that Scale The Summit would turn up the heavy on their music in this album, but nope, they do not. Besides from solos and interludes here and there, I simply cannot tell that a particular song has had any influence by a guest artist, which just makes it all a missed opportunity. We do get some great Per Nilsson magic in "Goddess Gate", but only for two short moments, then it is back to the typical Scale The Summit calmness, and it makes you think why Per was even used in the first place.

Now, I am not saying that I want the band to play heavier, that is simply not a part of its personality, but I would love to see some new inputs here and there, something that shakes things up a bit. It definitely feels like the band is comfortable in their style, because even if they technically are doing different stuff in here, it all is on a similar level, making it feel way more boring than it should. They are almost being lazy in their comfy couch, relying all too much on those earthly tones. It sounds good and all, but it is too shallow, not enough depth to make it stick with you.

It is when you compare this album to previous efforts where the flaws are becoming even more obvious. Previous albums such as "The Migration" and "Carving Desert Canyons" are way more dynamic, bringing a whole different level of excitement to the table, while "In A World of Fear" is just a big blob of forgettable tunes. It tries to bring some diversity here and there, but it just is not enough for it to go around, making it really hard to separate the songs from each other. I guess "Astral Kids", Witch House", "Cosmic Crown", and "Opal Bones" are some songs that do stand out, even if they are not strong enough to stand on their own.

Although, I still enjoy listening to this album in a very casual way. Just like any other Scale The Summit album, "In A World of Fear" is probably at its best when you are laying in a hammock and taking in that summer sunshine, maybe even get in a nap or two. This is a chill prog record that may not stay with you for the future, but it is with you in the moment, and it takes quite good care. However, it does not move me emotionally, and it does not really bring anything new to the table, despite all of the guest artists and new members. It is a disappointment for sure, so let's hope the band comes back with a much stronger record when the chaotic dust has settled down.

Songs worthy of recognition: Witch House, Astral Kids, Cosmic Crown

Rating: 6/10 Opal Bones