Saturday, January 19, 2008

Some New Reviews, Baby!

KEVIN K & THE HOLLYWOOD STARS – “Cool Ways” CD ’08 (Rankoutsider, US)-
KEVIN K – “Hollywood” CD ’07 (Full Breach Kicks, US) –
KEVIN K – “Mr. Bones” CD ’05 (RealKat, US) – At some point, there is a very real, very true and basic natural fact that needs to be addressed about rawk music. It needs to be fun. Oh sure, it can be powerful, it can make a statement, it can be challenging, argumentative, violent, intelligent, snotty, and vile. It can be inspiring, repulsive, exploratory, tenacious, etc. But to be rawk, to be RAWK, it has to be fun. That’s not to say that Spongebob Squarepants has to come out with Patrick and make a Cartoon Network Movie out of it. But, the thing is, brother, at some level, you’ve gotta be able to shove the motherfucker in the tape deck in the Camaro, twist the knob to 11 and go roaring down the road, pounding on the dashboard and enjoying the living shit out of it. If you can do that, then it’s RAWK, got me? Here’s the deal. KEVIN K is RAWK. With a capital R. Now, some people are going to listen to KEVIN’s 2005 release “Mr. Bones” and say, hey man, this is ‘80’s metal. Then you’re going to get your dudes who’ll spin “Hollywood” or “Cool Ways” and say, “that’s some bitchin’ power pop, there, chief!” But make no mistake about it. Whatever this guy touches (everything I’ve heard so far) has the feeling of “rawk” jammed right up to it because of the attitude, the geetar crunch and above all, people, the SONGS! Let us go over this routine all once more, with feeling, because that’s the name of the game. I’ve stressed it on here before, I’ve expounded upon it in emails to various individuals and I’ve spoken about it in person with people until I’ve been blue in the face and they’ve gotten sick of my sermons…but…I feel a fever comin’ on and, yes, the only prescription is more cowbell and…great SONGS. Put in any of these 3 discs…and listen to tracks like “Story Of A Girl,” “You Tonight,” “Another Pretty Face,” “Crackhouse” or “With You.” This is the work of a man who not only knows the nuts and bolts of writing good hooks and then melding them into killer songs. It is also the story of a man who pours his heart & soul into that very same work. Just listen to this stuff, damn it, you can’t help by be affected by it and the reaction is to put your foot to the floor, pump your fist in the air and sing along. What more do you fucking need?! Just buy!!!
NOTE: KEVIN K’s stuff can be bought at so, get there get that plastic out, peeps!
NOTE: Interview with KEVIN K coming on this very site! Stay tuned!

WISHBONE ASH – “Power Of Eternity” CD ’07 (Talking Elephant, Eng) – Funny about WISHBONE ASH. Of course, no one in their right mind who loves hard rock, twin guitar harmonies & amazing blended vocals could fault anything they did in the early ‘70’s. From their self-titled debut right up through 1974’s lovely “There’s The Rub,” they put on a virtual clinic, with main man Andy Powell at the helm. Then, unfortunately, things went awry with a series of mediocre releases that lasted through the ‘90’s until, wonder of all wonders, they released “Bonafide” a few years back, marking a true return to the “…Rub” days. A couple really great tours followed, and now we have another studio effort, “Power Of Eternity.” Once again, Andy & crew come up aces with a superior display of styles ranging from the always ASH-like “Hope Springs Eternal” & “”Northern Lights” to the more accessible yet purely great cuts like “”In Crisis,” yielding a look to genres as widespread as country & blues. Kudos to Powell & especially co-guitarist Muddy Manninen, now a songwriting force himself for continuing the awesome resurrection of this great band.

ALCHEMIST – “Tripsis” CD ’07 (Relapse, Australia) – I have really enjoyed the previous work by these extreme metal men down under and “Tripsis” is no exception. While they surely play what the uninitiated may write off as death metal, there’s a whole lot more going on in the work of ALCHEMIST. Listen to the Voivod-ish chordal moments in things like “Tongues & Knives” and just the purely unusual arrangements of numbers calling themselves “Grasp The Air” or “God Shaped Hole.” Maybe ALCHEMIST aren’t completely re-inventing the wheel, but they are surely putting a pretty nice new set of mags on it. Try this for a real breath of fresh & deathly air!

PRIMODIAL – “To The Nameless Dead” CD ’07 (Metal Blade, Ire) – Ireland is forever to be known as the land of Thin Lizzy. That’s as it should be. After all, Philo & Co. are one of Ray’s 2 all-time favourite bands & therefore, that’s all that matters. Uh…yeah, right. Anyway, PRIMORDIAL are from Ireland & have been plying their trade for awhile. They do not sound like Thin Lizzy, except for having guitars, bass & drums….and that’s ok. What they do play is a sort of highly-dramatic, battle metal, laced with vocals exploring the roots of their national pride and draped with vocals that often teeter on the brink of the deathly vomitorium but never tumble in. This is a good album that, on the occasion, tends to get a trifle “samey” yet still manages to flow nicely from beginning to end. A nice break for fans of the extreme end of the metal spectrum who’d like something a bit different and yet not shockingly so.

ERA VULGARIS – “What Stirs Within” CD ’07 (Open Your Ears, Ire) – Let’s stick with Ireland, shall we?! And, yes we shall, when we get releases as good as these next couple! I like what this ERA VULGARIS bunch are doing. They’re a crew of young guys who are obviously really into metal. You get that just from the heavy sound & the song titles like “I Must Have Your Brain,” “Limb From Limb” & “Harmonic Discontent.” Still, don’t let that make you shrug and move on. These guys are not only intent on creating music that is heavy, but also works that are thoughtful and a damn site creative! Listen to the kinds of rhythm changes going on in a number like the aforementioned “…Brain.” That’s the kind of thinking that used to get me all fired up about bands like Fate, Cirith Ungol & early Savatage. Shit, some of it nearly has the aspects of jazz fusion involved. Now, of course, that kinda thing can get too out-of-pocket and render songs unmemorable, but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem for ERA VULGARIS. They seem to have a handle on what it takes to ensnare the listener. Just check out the double lead guitar parts sprinkled throughout this nice little surprise of a disc. That’s the work of people with melody on their minds. Here’s the skinny. If you liked ‘80’s metal, with a dash of death, a dollop of progression and a whole lot of enthusiasm, give these guys your money!

GLYDER – “Playground For Life” CD ’07 (Townsend Universal, Ire) – So, seems like a couple reviews ago, we were talking about Ireland and that Thin Lizzy crew that did some good stuff back in the day and…well, now here comes GLYDER with their 2nd release. The Lizzy conversation was surely on point when discussing this band’s debut disc from a couple years back. That circular 80 minute media definitely reflected the influence of Phil and the boys, combined with a keen NWOBHM sensibility that made for quite some listening around the ‘Realm. Now, with their 2nd effort, “Playground For Life,” GLYDER have really stepped up their game. Sure, there’s still some definite nods to Robbo & the rest of the gang on numbers like the opener “Gamblers Blues” and “Sweets,” with it’s devastating lead guitar blow-out ending. But move further into the depths of this 10 song affair and you’ll find a startling new maturity and a sense of artistic darkness that is truly gripping. I mean, check out “Walking My Own Ground,” “Dark Meets Light,” “The Merrygoround,” etc. This is music that keeps the base of rawk intact and yet moves into areas of light & shade that make one think as much of artists like Van Morrison or David Bowie as they do bar-room metal. Most importantly, they give GLYDER the identity of a band that is very quickly coming into their own on a level I honestly didn’t expect this early. Super stuff!

BLUE CHEER – “What Doesn’t Kill You…” CD ’07 (Rainman, US) – Man, has it really been 40 years since a thundering, scuzz-laden beast called “Vincebus Eruptum” lurched noisily out of the Bay Area and in a single gulp, devoured all the peace-loving, folk crooners of the day in one snarling twist of a Marshall volume knob? What the fuck-ever, now Dickie Peterson (bass/vox) is back with current guitarist Andrew “Duck” MacDonald & old buddy Paul Whaley (drums…although Joe Hasselvander sticks it up on several cuts). So you’re wondering…is this the heavy-ass BLUE CHEER or is this the West Coast psych version of the self-titled LP from years ago, etc.? Well, I could do either, being that open-minded kinda guy, but my testicles still yearn for a good ol’ testosterone romp & you get that here. Everywhere from the opening slide-scrawler of “Rollin ‘Dem Bones” to the gnarled riff machine of “Gypsy Rider” to the sprawling guitar showcase of the nearly 10 minute “No Relief,” it all works well, except, for me anyway, the grimace-inducing cover of “Born Under A Bad Sign.” Whatever Peterson was trying to do with the overdubbed multi-octave vocals here, well, it ain’t no DBC – “Universe,” that’s for sure. Anyway, is this going to make you throw your copies of “Vincebus…” or “Outsideinside” in the yard sale bin? Core snot, but it’s still a fun listen and a dang bit better than most younger guys are currently doing.

PLANETSTRUCK – “Mild Chronic Inflammation” CD ’07 (Private, US) – Having found this Chicago band’s earlier demo CD interesting, it’s time to see whether their dark musings can carry through to a full-length platter. Luckily, yes they do. While PLANETSTRUCK is a 2-piece unit (something of a common-place occurrence these days, particularly on the more mainstream side of the ball), it doesn’t keep their sound from being full and quite heavy throughout this 10-track disc. Most of the cuts here feature a sludge-laden slow-paced brand of music, but the occasional upping of the speed brings to mind a healthy thrashing aesthetic, verging between punk and a more garage metal feel. Cool band and nice progression. I’ll be watching these guys for future developments & imagine they’d be well-worth checking out live.


Michael said...

Yeah Kev K. gets me smilin' bigtime too, in a really good way. His rock is pure '78-'79, as if THE POP & CHEAP TRICK & THE RAMONES were still capable of sending little ripples up into the Top 40 . . .

Heavypsychman said...

Nice new page you got Ray

Best to you and ya Blogzine