Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pure Gold For The 18th Time!

KEVIN K – “Deutschland” CD ’09 (Kicking, US) – Damn, this is good! I mean, Goddamn, this is good!! Should that be a friggin’ surprise? I mean, go back & read the reviews and interview I did with this dude in the January/February ’08 blogs. I was impressed as shit then and man, am I even more impressed now because it’s clear to me, after about 10 trips through this spiffy little disc that Mr. K has just delivered his best record (# 18 in his career!) thusfar. This album is amazing because of the blinding dichotomy KEVIN has been able to achieve in it’s creation. If you talk to this man for awhile, you’ll become very aware of the special relationship and feelings he has for the city of Berlin. It’s the kind of thing I realize I can’t fully appreciate as, unfortunately, I’ve never been there yet, but at the same time it’s a vibe communicated in vivid, living colour by this killer release. The tear sheet accompanying this release throws some hefty names around: David Bowie’s “Heroes,” Iggy’s “Lust For Life.” Those are things you don’t mention unless you’ve got a pretty wicked-assed album on your hands and KEVIN K has just that in “Deutschland.” Now I’ll go back and refer to the dichotomy I mentioned before. Somehow, KEVIN and his band (Ritchie Buzz, Ricky Rat & Fabien Tolosa) manage to take the dark timeless feel of the city and put that straight into the heart of hard-rawkin’ power pop songs that include some of the deepest hooks you’ll ever get lodged in your brain. There’s top-shelf quality everywhere you turn on “Deutschland,” from “American Sector” through “Kim” & “The Red Haired Girl” this is music that gets into your head and, more importantly, your ass. Yeah, baby, you’ll pause and consider the personal struggles on offer here all the while riffing up those sweet chords on your air Les Paul or banging on the coffee table. It all ends somewhat somberly with the title cut but not before you’ve fallen in love with this sterling slice of pop-infused rock pie. The icing on the whole thing is KEVIN K’s voice, the irresistible melodic edge of which is wrapped securely around an inner raw street knowledge that’s been honed to a razor edge over the years. Yeah, it’s true, I’ve never been to Berlin. But I kinda like the music! 9.5

ROSS THE BOSS – “New Metal Leader” CD ’08 (Candlelight, US) – Well, well if it isn’t good ol’ Ross Friedman, aka Ross Funicello. That is, he of Dictators, Shakin’ Street & Manowar fame and here we find him in the full-on ROSS THE BOSS mode of the latter. Heck, even the cover artwork of this disc looks like something those dastardly loin-clothed warriors would have given us circa. 1985. Here’s the skinny. This is a decent metal album, consistently-driven by mid-paced to fast rhythms and, as you might guess, titles replete with terms like “Blood Of Knives,” “May The Gods Be With You” and “We Will Kill.” ROSS’ guitar playing is solid as always (he never was a flashy player, leaving that to people like Joey DeMaio), and the production of the record is crisp & clear. It does verge uncomfortably close at odd moments to more current European power metal, due in chief to the vocals of Patrick Fuchs. Still, when you consider the fact that the last few Manowar albums have consisted of little more than one over-blown intro after another, this is worth a listen. 6.0

THE BAKERTON GROUP – “El Rojo” CD ’09 (Weathermaker, US) – You know, it’s awfully hard to find groovin’ heavy rawk records any better than the last few by Maryland’s CLUTCH. Whether it’s the riffs of Tim Sult swinging like a heavy barn door, the mega-organic rhythm undulations of Jean-Paul Gaster & Dan Maines or the endearingly puzzling bluesy vox of Neil Fallon, you simply can’t rock much better. With THE BAKERTON GROUP, CLUTCH takes on an alter-ego that finds them in all-instrumental territory, with Fallon eschewing his pipes to concentrate more on sparring with Sult. The results are an excellent albeit jazzier style that stretches out into jammy creations such as “Chancellor,” “Last Orbit” and “Peruvian Airspace.” The only problem I see with this incarnation of the 4 CLUTCHMEN is that without Fallon’s quirky lyrics & vocal mile markers, the songs here aren’t going to stick to your ribs as well as those produced by their day job. Still, a fine listen especially late at night or early in the morn.

RUMPELSTILTSKIN GRINDER – “Living For Death, Destroying The Rest” CD ’09 (Relapse, US) – If I hadn’t already had this band’s previous release, I’d probably be surprise to find out there was a metal band dwelling in the state directly north of me who was trading riff-spars with Kreator, Exodus & the like. That’s right, our friends in Pennsylvania have birthed this bunch who go by the unlikely moniker of RUMPELSTILTSKIN GRINDER and, while the name may indicate a joke band, I can assure you they’re not. Simply put, this is prime aggressive thrash metal that holds it’s own with any of the modern day output by the aforementioned units, in addition to others like Sodom, Destruction, etc. So, understand what I’m saying: this is not on the level of the formative albums of this genre from days gone by. You’re not going to be trading in your dog-eared copy of “Bonded By Blood” or “Pleasure To Kill” for this one. Then again, you won’t be doing that for “Shovel Headed Kill Machine” either and you still jam out to that, don’t you. Pretty good stuff. 7.0

SERPENT THRONE – “The Battle Of Old Crow” CD ’09 (Vessel, US) – I always find it interesting, how people come about finding good records. Hence, I always enjoy stories about that kinda thing. You may not. If that’s the case, not sure what to tell you so here goes Ray’s sorry ass again on the story-telling bandwagon. See, me and my old buddy Andre’ got together not long ago. Went out to Hooters, ate some freaking awesome wings & burgers and then made a night of going through every bin at Record & Tape Traders in Towson. I know, I know. Boys-nights-out when you’re 51 get pretty damn lame. But listen, I did go to that Pentagram show last weekend. Still anyway, I digress. During our foray through the CD bins, I was knee-deep in the metal section when I stumbled upon this disc. Honestly, the cover woulda never made me stop but what did was the sticker that said “For fans of Sabbath and old Scorpions.” Now, the Sabbath reference wasn’t a clincher by any means. Let’s face it, how many times have bands been compared to the Sab-4 over the years. But “old Scorpions?!?!” How often do you hear that?! So, I plunked down $12 in my devil-may-care chance-taking mode and made it for home & the headphones. The hell with my buddy Andre’, I had jams to check out! Well, not really, I did at least give the cat a ride to the nearest bus stop but that’s another story. Thing is, when I did listen, my findings were that while “old Scorpions” was not the first thing that jumped out at me here, so many good things did that I’m now officially in love with an instrumental metal band. That’s right, SERPENT THRONE (from the heart of our northern neighbor Philly) operate sans vocalist. While some of you may be cringing, thinking in horror of Satriani-ish leads, swirling keyboard flourishes and songs that…um…aren’t songs so much as exercises, put those worries in a fucking rowboat and cast ‘em out to sea. SERPENT THRONE are one serious kick-ass hard rock/metal unit who, in the way of ‘70’s masters, put so much time & thought into their mountains of riffs that you never miss all the yellin’. Guitarists Don Argott & Demian Fenton not only create rhythms that grab you by the balls & don’t let go. They also are masters of the time-honoured Ray-loving dual harmony guitar shit that endears me to those like Wishbone Ash, Maiden, Lizzy and Valkyrie. Sure, numbers like “Speed Queen,” “Red Moon Harvest” & “Thirteen Mountains” may not feature a multi-octave human voice, they speak volumes with double lead axe, bass & drums. This is truly excellent stuff and I can also highly recommend their almost-as-good debut record “Ride Satan Ride” from a few years back. Moreover, it might behoove you to check out SERPENT THRONE live as I found out they’re pretty damn kick-ass in that format too, as their set at the Pentagram show proved. Now, where the hell did Andre’ go? 9.0

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