SKELETONWITCH - "Beyond The Permafrost" CD '07 (Prosthetic, US) - Ohio used to have a good rep back in the '70's with monsters like Poobah & Morly Grey hailing from there. SKELETONWITCH are rumbling down the same interstates these days, but with a musical pedigree that is a bit different from bluesy '70's hard rock. If you think in terms of technical-yet-powerful Bay Area thrash, add in a generous dollup of head-turning double lead guitar work and finish it off with vocals that sound like a completely insane person locked in a rusty cage without food or water for a day or two (um...that's a good thing), you may end up somewhere "Beyond The Permafrost." What I especially like about these guys is the fact that while they really know how to play their asses off from a technical standpoint, they also cut right to the chase and blast out songs that are all real immediate. No wandering down 10 minute blind alleys for these skeletons, they take care of business in highly memorable 2-4 minute bursts. Ripping stuff!
TRETTIOARIGA KRIGET - "I Borjan Och Slutet" CD '07 (Mellotronen, Swe) - To begin with, TRETTIOARIGA KRIGET is from Sweden. And, no, they are not black metal nor are they sleaze rock nor do they sound like HELLACOPTERS (R.I.P.). They have been around since the '70's and they also have a band name, the pronounciation of which may leave most readers scratching their heads. What they additionally have, however, is quite a nice little album here. Now, if you're familiar with this band's early works, let me say this straight out: "I Borjan..." is not the frenzied, fuzzed-out, proto-metal-psych guitar shred of the past. In actuality, it's a powerful work by a super-impressive bunch of veterans who still have more creative fire and lust for playing that a lot of newer bands will never know. Broken down into sections that are then composed of 12 cuts, this album brings the feel of the heavy European progressive scene of the '70's straight thru to '07 and does so with great aplomb. Whether it be the liquid Strat tones sliding effortlessly from rhythm to lead, the bubbling keys or the insistant bass & drum interplay, this is a wonderfully organic recording, fueling cuts that vary in volume but never in intensity. If you miss the days when names like Jane and Nektar sat proudly in the bins of real record stores, TRETTIOARIGA KRIGET is for you.
TOKYO DRAGONS - "Hot Nuts" CD '07 (Escapi, Eng) - My first impression upon looking at the cover of this 2nd disc by England's TOKYO DRAGONS was "Damn, they've turned into the freaking Scorpions!" I mean, hey, you've gotta give me a break as those age-old computer-style letters were part & parcel of those wacky German's hey-day. But, if you've ever heard the DRAGON's debut opus, "Give Me The Fear," you should probably know better. Simply put, this bunch of English blokes are everything that's great about the term classic rock. I mean, only the best have ever been able to take three or four chords & constantly re-arrange them into an endless array of songs so catchy that the neighbor's dog could remember them 3 years later. And then there's the matter of being able to write lyrics that matter, not because they are trying to save the world or the harp seals or be transcendental or some such shinola but because they're cool. AC/DC did it, STATUS QUO did it, SLADE did it...and hey, I'm not ready to put TOKYO DRAGONS in that kind of company just yet, but grab a listen to this sophomore effort & don't expect no slump. Cuts like "On Your Marks," "Rock My Boat" & "If I Run, You Run" call to mind names like early Kiss (especially notable this time around), Thin Lizzy & even melodic Metallica, all being influences, not copies. Sure, there are a lot of bands cropping up flying the "classic" flag, but TOKYO DRAGONS are one of the few really putting the "rawk" in it.
MOUNTAIN - "Masters Of War" CD '07 (Big Rack, US) - Leslie West & I go way back. See, when I was first trying to play guitar back in about 1971, I stumbled upon a bootleg 8-track (yup, I said 8-track) of "Flowers Of Evil" in a bin down in Ocean City. Not knowing a thing about MOUNTAIN, but feeling kinda risky, I plunked down the $3 it cost and then proceeded to play that ghastly-sounding nth-generation recording into submission, sitting in my room & learning "Dreams Of Milk & Honey" till my fingers were raw. Shit, I even went so far as to post a "Best Guitarist - Vote For Clapton or West" poll in the hallway of my high school Sadly, The Great Fatsby took a serious ass-whuppin'. Now, 37 years later & a truck-load of Les Paul Jr.'s lighter, Mr. West (along with his constant drum cronie Corky Laing) continues with the name MOUNTAIN & it's all good, people. This time around, Leslie & Co. opt to lend their wares to a collection of cuts by the folk-rock bard Bob Dylan. A bevie of cool selections ensue, with some special guests showing up in the form of Ozzy on "Masters Of War" & Warren Haynes (Gov't Mule/Allmans) on "The Times They Are A-changin'" and the seething "Serve Somebody." I must admit that Laing's vocals/drum rap-style "Like A Rolling Stone" was probably an ill-advised idea but overall, this is a nice & surprising treat from the big man & as, Billy Gibbons would say, damn that boy can play! Squawking false harmonics & big, phat-assed riffs coupled with vocals, the underlying sensitivity of which belie their gruff exterior make this a winner.
LUCIFER WAS - "The Divine Tree" CD '07 (Transubstans, Swe) - There are bands who like to play like they understand the past. And...there are those precious few that actually feel it in their soul and let it guide them into a completely vital & original future. LUCIFER WAS is (was is?)...yes, IS one of the latter. Some 4 albums into their career, these Swedes have come up with yet another corker. While the last LW effort, "Blues From Hellah" was a clear tip of the hat to decidedly bluesy rock of the '70's, this one sees them return with a much more metallic edge once again, akin to their 2nd killer, "In Anadi's Bower." Now, when I say metal & Swedish, don't be thinking black metal. No, think about something like Tull's massive "Aqualung" platter. And, brother, if you don't call "My God" or "Wind Up" metal, then pity the fool! LUCIFER WAS takes super-catchy heavy-assed riffs & then stretches 'em over pure, organic production that'll remind you of the 2 words everyone should have on their mind at all times, Roger Bain. Check out "On Earth" or "Determination." Who comes up with riffs like that? Well, Iommi did on Sabbath's first album & Randy Palmer did in Pentagram...pretty nice company. Thore Engen is the axe-meister here and he also goes ahead & overlays some extended Blackmore-esque leads to tracks like this. Additional instruments like Mellotron, Hammond, flute, etc. colour & shade things nicely and it all culminates in the 11 minute "Crosseyed." I doubt the little girls understand, but I know LUCIFER WAS does.