Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jupiter in Velvet-The World Didn't Start With U

Free 2b Free Records

Look! Up there in the sky! Is it a bird? No! Is it a plane? Nope! Is it a band? Kinda. You're getting closer! Well then, is it a man who happens to be a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and electric rock and roller? Yes, you finally nailed it! It's Jupiter in Velvet!! Born and raised here in the U.S. (and now calling London his home base of operations), Jupiter in Velvet is a out of this world musician with a grand total of four albums to his credit. First sighted in 2012 (by way of Jupiter in Velvet's critically-acclaimed debut album, "Screaming the Love Behind the Scars"), Jupiter in Velvet has grown stronger with each new release and now this US/UK singer/songwriter looks to take things even higher with album number four. Last week I covered this album's title track and lead single, "The World Didn't Start With U" and now I'm happy to report that the rumors are true. It might seem impossible (or at the very least improbable), but "The World Didn't Start With Us" is one of 2015's best "rock" recordings and there is actually physical evidence available to back up that wild claim! What kind of evidence is there you might be asking? Well, by clicking on this link you can actually go and stream this album and hear it all for yourself! That's right! There's no need to be a Doubting Thomas when you can just go directly to the source and play "The World Didn't Start With Us"! All I ask is that you please wait on doing that until the ride comes to a complete stop. You wouldn't want to miss any of sights would you? I didn't think so. Where were we then? Ah yes, Jupiter in Velvet circa 2015. Reportedly this is the "heaviest" recording of his career. Or was it the most aggressive? It's certainly the most ambitious one to date. Beyond that I honestly cannot remember which one it was. Not that it really matters if you are new to this band. And if you are? Well, first things first then. When it comes to this underground rocker it's worth mentioning how Jupiter in Velvet has been (vocally) compared to the likes of David Bowie and Paul McCartney and that he has a PhD in Finance. So, not only is he musically skilled, but Jupiter in Velvet is also highly intelligent. Both ideals play towards the absolute strength of this album. As far as that first part goes one need not look any further than "Martini Rock" for David Bowie and "Dive In2 My Seas" for Paul McCartney. There are other tracks that fir those molds, but those two numbers spring to mind so I went with them. And the second part? Well, that's the album as a whole. Other than "When Love Rules The Day" (which sounds suspiciously like INXS) this album is chock full of clever ideas and infectious material. The individual songs that make up "The World Didn't Start With Us" are intelligent, well-structured, and challenging. Genre-wise there is something for everyone. At it's heaviest there are songs that cut a path between post-grunge and (goth-infused) nineties alt. rock. At it's lightest there are psychedelic like moments that hint at what The Beatles would have sounded like if they were still together in the eighties. In-between all of that you'll find fuzz-heavy electro rock that is honest and optimistic. Of the twelve tracks on "The World Didn't Start With Us" only "When Love Rules The Day" struck me the wrong way. That's just one out of twelve! Highlights for me would be too many to count, but the album kicks off with the tile track first, swings into "Alpha Me Omega U" and then moves through key moments like "The Beauty of U", "No Matter Where U Go", "The Everything & The Nothing", "Eat Your Fear", and the aforementioned "Dive In2 My Sea". Looking over my physical notes I see that I wrote down and then underlined phrases like 90's alternative rock, bass-heavy, and fuzz-tastic(!) and then I jotted down bands as diverse as Cracker, Gin Blossoms and My Bloody Valentine. Besides the fact that I need to do a better job of making sure that my notes are better worded(!) the key thing to take aware from all of that is the diversity of this album and the fact that it reminds me of a better era (as far as great rock/alternative rock is concerned!). For what's it's worth this album also reminds me of a show that my daughter and I have been binge watching on Netflix. Try not to laugh, but Jupiter in Velvet's "The World Didn't Start With U" brings to mind Buffy the Vampire Slayer's TV soundtrack! That's actually a positive note as the former CW horror TV show featured TONS of amazing underground/up-and-coming indie/alternative rock acts and it had a dark and mysterious vibe to it. While Jupiter in Velvet isn't exactly dark there is a little bit of mystery to all of this and one could favorably compare the two separate, but equally enjoyable features. But yet again why not stream it for yourself? Now that we're all wrapped up be sure to head here and hear what all the fuss is about! I can't see how you'd regret it!

PS-I'm loving how this album brings to mind so many great bands and acts! I pick up on everything from "Achtung Baby"-era U2 to a David Bowie-lead N.I.N. (that is if N.I.N. grew up on/was more influenced by psychedelic garage rock and shoegazing!).

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Interview with Lipstick's Greg Troyan

The "colorful" Greg Troyan

For those of you who might not be familiar with the name yet (and the key word there is "YET"!), Lipstick is a up-and-coming glam rock/pop metal band from Nashville, TN. Just recently I had the pleasure of covering the re-released/expanded edition of their (funky fresh) self-titled debut album and you can read my review of it by heading to the link at the bottom of this page. As a follow-up to my review I had the golden opportunity to sit down and talk with band founder, front-man, guitarist/keyboardist and part-time bass player Greg Troyan. I want to thank Greg (who BTW is also super-friendly and extremely cool!)  for taking time out of his crazy busy schedule to stop by and answer our questions. I would encourage each and everyone of you to check out his sweet band Lipstick and then by extension the group's fun and uplifting self-titled debut! It is every-bit as colorful and whimsical as Greg himself and it can be purchased for the reasonable price of $10(!) by heading over to the band's merch section. It's well worth every penny you'll spend and as always friends be sure to keep it LOUD and PROUD !!!!

Andy-It's nice to meet you Greg. Could you introduce your band and tell our readers who is who in Lipstick?

Greg-Gladly. I'm Greg Troyan, the lead singer of Lipstick. In the studio I've played both guitar and keyboards for Lipstick, and live I've played occasional bass for the band, but for the most part I'm the lead vocalist and front-man for the group. I formed the band and wrote most of the material on the first album and am the leader of our ragtag group of misfits.

Stephen Smith is the bass player for Lipstick. He is my creative partner in the band; he writes a lot of our material, comes up with a lot of our creative concepts, and he also does lead vocals on a few of our songs. But, most importantly, Steve is my best friend (not counting my fiance). Steve is someone who has been there for me through my ups and downs, and it's an honor and a privilege to be able to make music with my best friend.

In many ways, Lipstick is like P-Funk.The band is led by a couple principal creative forces but has a large rotating lineup of excellent contributing musicians. We still have great relationships with former Lipstick members, and a lot of them appear as special guests at shows and on our albums, so in a lot of ways, it feels like they've never really left the band. They may not be able to play with us full-time anymore, but they're all still a part of the family, and we're glad to have so many talented and wonderful friends.

Right now, we've got two new members of the family who are truly excellent. Casey Horn is our new guitarist. He's the guy in the sunglasses and the black fedora in our video for “The Conan Song”. He's a great guitar player with a very Jimmy Page/Ace Frehley kinda style. He's also an excellent singer and a great songwriter in his own rite, so we're honored to have someone so talented join our team. We also have a brand new drummer with Jack Stark, a kid from Kansas who is easily one of the most talented and versatile drummers I have ever worked with. We're super excited to be playing with Casey and Jack and we feel that Lipstick has never sounded better.

Andy-Lipstick has roots in Cleveland correct?

Greg-Correct. Lipstick is a band that I founded, and given than I'm from Cleveland, it's pretty easy to say that the band has roots in Cleveland. [laughs]

The band started off with one of my high school bands, which was called Dyslexia. It was a four-piece glam rock band, very similar to Kiss: two guitars, bass, drums, and everybody did lead vocals. I was the Paul Stanley of the group: rhythm guitar and front-man. The bassist of the band was the guy who formed the band, and initially, it was his band. He wrote the songs and came up with the band's image and wanted to be the front-man, but slowly I started to take center stage as more of my material ended up in our set. It wasn't because I was trying to take over the band, but it just sorta happened that I usurped him as front-man because the crowd responded better to me than it did to him. The band broke up after a few months, but then mysteriously reformed under a different name with a different rhythm guitarist, and mysteriously the band only had one vocalist: the bass player. It felt very uncool that they did that without even talking with me about it, but I still remained friends with the guys and supported their new band, even though I was now left without one.

During my time in Dyslexia, I wrote a bunch of songs that would eventually become Lipstick songs. I didn't submit most of that material to the band, because the bassist would turn down a bunch of it or insist that it be reworked. There was a song I wrote about following your dreams called “Let It Burn” that got turned into a horror-fantasy song called “Demon Door”, at the request of the bass player. So, I wrote songs like “We're Here To Rock You” and “Rock N Roll Forever” during this time-frame. I was writing a lot of material, but I didn't submit a good chunk of it to Dyslexia because I was writing three or four songs a day, so a lot of it sat of the shelf until I could find the proper way to release it. After leaving Dyslexia, I decided I wanted to form another glam rock band, so the creation of Lipstick really started after that band broke up.

I wanted Lipstick to be a little bit more unique than Dyslexia, so I spent some time honing my skills as a songwriter and I spent a few years backing off from being in bands as I developed the sound and the image for Lipstick. I wanted to blend my various influences of things like The Beatles, Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Alice Cooper, Slade, Jim Steinman, Van Halen, Styx, etc. into something that was unique, and Lipstick is a result of that process. There was a long period of trying to develop my own unique songwriting and image style, as opposed to just copying my heroes to a tee. There was a lot of thought put into how the songs would be arranged and what the overall style and feel of Lipstick would be.

Andy-How did you end up working with Billy Morris?

Greg-I met Billy when I was 16, so I actually met him a little bit before Dyslexia formed. I met Billy at a backyard barbecue party, and Billy was jamming with some friends at the party. He noticed I was wearing a Poison t-shirt, and he asked me if I wanted to sing a Poison song with him and the band. I jumped onstage and sang a few tunes with them, and he was really impressed with my charisma and stage-presence. He kinda mentored me for a little while, giving me some tips and advice, and he'd invite me onstage at various shows of his to perform a song or two.

After years of developing the Lipstick sound, I finally felt I was ready to start recording in late 2009. I found a producer, I found some studio guys and we started working on the songs, but nobody involved in the project really understood what I was going for. When they played “We're Here To Rock You”, it sounded like a ska song. Those guys had no understanding of what I was going for, so I ended up firing all of those musicians and the producer, and gave Billy a call asking him if he wanted to play guitar for me. He said that not only would he play guitar for me, but he'd also record the album and act as co-producer for me.

Andy-What about Stephen? How did the two of you meet? 

Greg-Steve and I met at a place called Cafe Coco, which is a cool little 24 hour coffee shop in Nashville. It's one of the coolest places in town, and there's actually a picture of Steve and myself up on the wall there, alongside all kinds of great musicians like Bob Marley and Louis Armstrong, which itself is a huge honor. But I'm getting ahead of myself- Steve and I first met at Cafe Coco in 2013 at one of their open mics.

Steve was playing an instrument he invented called “The Abomination”, which is a short scale bass that uses three guitar strings and one bass string. The Abomination is tuned to D D A D, which means that Steve can use nothing but power chords and play both the bass and guitar parts for any given song at the same time. He was playing this weird instrument and playing really weird songs about aliens and time travel, but the songs were insanely catchy, and Steve impressed me with his stage presence.

I picked up his solo CD because there was a song on it about the sitcom Red Dwarf, which I'm a huge fan of. For those not familiar with the show, it's a British sci-fi comedy, kinda like Star Trek as a sitcom. Anyway, I was blown away by the CD because it was one of the best albums I had ever heard in my entire life. It easily competed with anything that my favorite bands had ever done: It was that good. It was so good I was actually a little intimidated to ask Steve to be in Lipstick, because I thought he wouldn't be interested, but I ended up asking him to join and he quickly understood what we were all about and jumped right in. I'm so glad that I asked him to join, because not only did I gain an excellent creative partner, I also gained one of the greatest friendships of my lifetime.

Greg's bassist and tag-team partner Stephen Smith

 Andy-Let's talk about "Lipstick" the album. What made you decided to re-release it with bonus material?

Greg-The Lipstick album was something I spent a lot of years working on. From writing the songs to developing the image to recording with Billy Morris, there was a long process and a lot of hard work put into developing that material. Even though it was a demo, it was a demo that a lot of effort was put into. Originally, it was meant to be a demo, something to pitch to other musicians who may want to join my project and something to pitch to various labels and record companies, but the fans at our shows kept asking us to buy our album, and we quickly pressed it in a digi-pack form with minimal packaging, because it was “just a demo”.

But it's more than just a demo. Once you put something out there, it becomes your baby. I didn't want our first album to be something that we just rushed out to make a quick buck: I wanted to put out something of quality. I love owning albums, looking at the artwork and liner notes, and I knew that this album deserved a proper release, because it is such a good record. I also love classic rock bands, and the standard in the 70's and 80's was to release an album per year, and I didn't want there to be a year where we didn't release anything, so that led into us deciding to do the special edition.

I wanted to re-release the album as a special edition with proper packaging, but we knew we couldn't justify asking people to buy the record again without offering more than just cool artwork and liner notes, so that's where the bonus tracks came in.

We had an alternate mix of “Having Fun” that was way better than what was on the original album. I uncovered that version in digging through my archives and I knew that it had to be properly released.

We've added a lot of Steve's Regdar material to our set, so it made sense to add a couple of the songs as bonus tracks. Those songs are from his solo CD that I bought (“Spoiler Alert”), which I consider to be one of the best albums ever made, so adding them as bonus tracks greatly increased the quality of the album because there were two other really great songs added to an already great album.

And as far as “I Want The World To Know” is concerned, that was a song that was difficult to record because it was so different than the rest of the material, and it was difficult to know how to approach the song both from an arrangement perspective and from a vocal perspective. I felt the emotion of the song got lost in the original version and thought we could do it better with just piano and vocals, to help show how great that song really is, and a lot of critics have given us a lot of praise on that track in particular, so I'm very glad re-recorded it and gave that song a second chance.

Andy-One of the things that I really like about your debut album Greg is it's positive outlook. Is there a secret to that?

Greg-I had a bit of a rough childhood. I got raped at a young age by my stepfather, who was also physically abusive to my mother and myself. I attempted suicide when I was nine years old and ended up in an asylum for a little bit. I was a very depressed kid with low self-esteem, and I was surrounded by negativity in the media, at least in music. I grew up in the 90's, so it was grunge and nu metal saying, “Your life sucks, your life is always going to suck, go kill yourself” and that just perpetuated the situation.

After my mother left my stepfather, my life improved greatly, and I experienced freedom and safety for the first time in my life, and that was around the time my biological father took me to a Kiss and Poison concert. I was 14, and I was exposed to music that was happy and optimistic, songs that said, “Yes, you can follow your dreams. Life is what you make it. You can be happy and you deserve to be happy.”

I thought to myself, “If someone had told me that when I was a kid, maybe I would have fought back sooner and maybe I would have gotten out of that situation sooner,”

After that concert, I became a rock n roll fan, and I noticed that positive, uplifting music about chasing your dreams and believing in yourself wasn't really being made anymore. There was a void, and I decided that someone needed to fill that void, and that's why I started doing music, in hopes that some kid out there who needs to hear something positive hears my stuff, and it helps that kid get through whatever they need to get through.

I've never been into the sleazy sex songs by rock bands, and I'm straight-edge, so drugs and alcohol never appealed to me. The Beatles are my favorite band, so I try to approach songs more from a romantic, loving perspective than a sleazy and sexual perspective.

It's taken a lot of years to get over the stuff that happened in my childhood, and my relationship with my fiance has helped me more than anything else. Finding another human being who authentically loves you, scars and all, is the thing that helps heal scars the most. I've found a lot of therapy through my music and my friendships, but she has helped me do so much healing, and I hope as a songwriter my journey can be heard through the music I produce over my lifetime, and people can understand my story and hopefully get some guidance on their path through life.

I want to say a big thank you to my fiance for all the healing she's helped me with, but also to Steve, because not only is he my band partner, but he is a great friend who has helped me with a lot healing too. So a big thank you to both of them for healing me, and a thank you to my music for helping guide me to them in the first place.

Andy-Thank you Greg for sharing all of that personal information with us. It certainly makes me appreciate the lyrics on your debut album even more. I'm glad that you have found peace after such a terrible beginning and I hope that you will continue to heal with each new day. Please know that I will be rooting for you and I know that many others will be as well.

I'm going to be changing gears somewhat here Greg, but I read somewhere that Lipstick has certain routines that it plans to follow with each album. Would you like to share those with our readers?

Greg-The first album had three songs with rock in the title, and our second album (called “Lipstick II”) also has three songs with rock in the title, so it looks like that is a Lipstick tradition. We love rock, and we write tons of songs about how we love rock, and we still actually have a bunch of songs with rock in the title that we've written that we'll probably slowly release. Someday, we'll do a set composed entirely of songs with “rock” in the title.

The first album had two “long songs” clocking in at over seven minutes, and on “Lipstick II”, we have one “long song” called “Love of Some Kind”, which is a song that Steve and I wrote that I used to propose to my fiance. It's one of the best songs I've ever written, and one of the most important in terms of changing my life.

I love Christmas songs, and we've decided that each Lipstick album should have a Christmas song, so we're going to have a Christmas song on “Lipstick II” also.

Andy-Coolness! So, what is a "typical" live show like for Lipstick?

Greg-Well, we have standards that we play at most shows. We almost always open with “We're Here To Rock You”, which was kinda inspired by the way that Poison always opens with “Look What The Cat Dragged In”.

We do “I Like The Way I Rock” at a lot of our shows, and during that song I usually run out into the crowd and perform in the middle of a sea of people. I have a wireless microphone and I like to run into the crowd during that song, and I usually jump offstage and slide on my knees after the guitar solo. Steve has a wireless bass, so he likes to run into the crowd too.

We usually play “Cha La Head Cha La”, which is a song we're recording for “Lipstick II”, and it will probably be the lead single off that album. “Cha La Head Cha La” is a song from the TV show Dragonball Z and it's a fan favorite. People love our version of the song and it's a song where if we don't play it, people will come up to us after the show and tell us that they were disappointed in us not playing it. So that one is a concert standard.

During “Having Fun”, we usually bring out Mr. Cool, our lovable cat mascot, onstage. We also throw tons of balloons into the audience and the room turns into a gigantic party. Also, live, Steve sings partial lead on this song, which adds a fun dynamic to the live version.

We often play a song called “Stop”, which is one of our more popular songs. That song is probably the catchiest song I've ever written, and everybody gets to the front of the stage and sings along with it when we play it. That's another one going on “Lipstick II”.

Our newest concert staple is a song called “Gotta Eat When You Can”, which will also appear on “Lipstick II”. It's a fun song about food, and during the song we throw candy into the audience. It's a real crowd pleaser.

We'll usually have Steve sing a song or two in the set, like “Illium” or “Fight Club”, and he has a song called “Teenage Girlfriend” that he originally recorded with Regdar and the Fighters that we're re-recording for “Lipstick II”. I usually walk offstage during that time and let Steve front the band.

“Rock N Roll Forever” is usually our closing song. It's an anthem, and we really get the crowd worked up during this one. We go out on a high note with a big arena rock ending.

The rest of the set varies from show to show, and we like to incorporate theatrical elements and stories into our shows. For example, at our Halloween show last year we had a super-villain destroy all guitars in existence, so Batman invented an instrument for Steve to play so that the show could be saved. We like to have fun with stuff like that, and we hope to do more of it in the future.

Andy-Your live shows sound as if they are not to be missed! Do you have any tour plans for the rest of 2015?

Greg-We recently got asked to be in a film called “God Gave Rock and Roll To You”, and so between that, our prior local show commitments, and recording our new album, we honestly won't have any time for out-of-town shows for the rest of the year, simply because we're already booked up. 2016 is a year I see some potential touring. We do well at anime conventions, so we'll probably do a few of those and try to book some dates around our convention dates, and we may be doing a bit of European touring depending on how a few things pan out. There aren't really any plans for a tour of North America at the current time, but we'll see what opportunities arise.
Andy-All I can say Greg is WOW! It sure does sound as if your schedule is jam packed!! Let's rewind a bit then. You've been around for awhile now so who are some of the bands that you've shared the stage with? And then I guess to go along with that question Greg let's look ahead. If you had your chance to put together the ultimate showcase who would Lipstick play alongside of?

Greg-Fable Cry is the first band that comes to mind. They're a very theatrical band and have a lot of visual similarities to Lipstick, but sonically they are more of a horror-punk band with a strong European folk influence. We're all good friends with the guys in that band: Zach Ferrin is a guy who I consider a musical brother in a lot ways, because we see eye-to-eye in a lot of things including theatricality and work-ethic. Josh Dent is a cellist who played on “Love of Some Kind”, and after I moved out of Steve's place (we were roommates for a while) Josh became Steve's roommate, so we've hung out quite a bit and developed a strong friendship. Scott Fernandez, Fable Cry's bassist, is another guy I've known for years. Scott's a real cool guy, the type of friend who you loan video games back and forth between. He had my copy of Final Fantasy VIII for the longest time, but I just got it back and am super pumped about it, but that's a whole other story. But yeah, we love the guys in Fable Cry, so those guys would definitely be on the showcase with us because they fit so well.

As far as other bands, well there are so many. I love The Slants and I have enormous respect for Simon Tam, so they'd be another band on the short list. I love Kazha, Funkhammer, Black Shag, Tall Dark Stranger...there are so many great bands we've played with and I could go on and on. I've never played with Hessler or The Protomen, but those are bands that I think would also go well with us.

If I had to put on my ultimate Lipstick show, though, it'd be something with Fable Cry, and probably something involving Jeremy Asbrock and Phil Shouse. Jeremy plays with John Corabi and Phil plays with Rodney Atkins. Those guys are two of my favorite guitarists in Nashville, and I met them at my first show in Nashville, and they've been cool friends throughout my experience here. So, Lipstick, Fable Cry, and something with Jeremy Asbrock and Phil Shouse.
Andy-I'd go to that showcase! It sounds as if it would be a lot of fun. And speaking of fun, when can fans expect "Lipstick II"?

Greg-“Lipstick II” should be done by the end of this year and should be out early next year. The only reason for delay on that would be negotiations with record companies, which may push the release date into the summer of next year. We're planning on shopping it around, but if we can't find a deal that we like, we'll self-release it early 2016.

Andy- What does the future hold in store for Lipstick? Where do you see this band in five years? How about 10?

Greg-Iron Maiden is a band that played clubs for over a decade before finally getting a record deal, and even then they still had to work their way up to becoming the band they are today. We're hoping that 2016 changes a lot of things for Lipstick, so that five years from now we could headline a successful tour. Ten years from now, I expect to have a plethora of quality albums under our belt by that point. I expect in ten years, no matter what else happens, we'll have a lot of really great albums for our fans to listen to, record deal or no record deal, I can say with absolute confidence we'll create a lot of really great music.

Andy-That sounds good to me Greg. As we wind down I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with. I always let artists have the last word so is there anything that we might have missed that you'd like to talk about Greg? Do you have a favorite story you want to share? Whatever it is the mic is all yours!

Greg-I have tons of great stories, so it's hard to think of a story to share. So, instead, I'll just share some thoughts:

The Beatles are the greatest band of all time.

Jim Steinman is really, really cool.

Naruto is probably the greatest fictional story ever written. Naruto, as a main character, is also pretty much me.

Everything in life can be understood through Dragonball Z terminology and comparison.

Frozen is really, really good.

The best video games ever are definitely from the Super Nintendo and Playstation 1.

I've seen over 30 Sylvester Stallone movies.

Thin Lizzy is probably the most underrated classic rock band.

To strive to be Christ like, which is to be charitable, loving and forgiving of others, is something that I think people of all faiths can strive to be like.

I love my friends and family.

I like T. Rex a lot, but it's hard to listen to them in large doses because a lot it sounds kinda samey.

It's hard to forgive others, but it's even harder to forgive yourself.

Also, if you're ever in Cleveland, go to Shark's Seafood and Deli. It's delicious.

Thanks for checking out the interview, everybody! Lipstick loves you! Thanks for having us, guys! We appreciate it!
As promised this is my recent review of "Lipstick".

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Free Metal Monday: Former Angels-Live at The Zoo


Released back on June 21st, "Live at The Zoo" is (ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!) full-length album from Australian hard rock/rock 'n' roll band Former Angels. Recorded live at The Zoo in their hometown of Brisbane by Jesse Nikolic, "Live at The Zoo" features the killer live sound of a real  rock 'n' roll band and it is nothing short of criminal that Former Angels are essentially giving something as good as this away for free! Influenced by the likes of AC/DC, Guns 'N' Roses, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Wolfmother, Stonefield, and Jimi Hendrix, Former Angels are every bit as good as other so-called "name brand" acts if not a million-billion times better!! Someday (hopefully soon) somebody is going to catch on to this band, scope them up and then sign them because talent like this just doesn't come strolling along everyday! Offered as a name-your-own-price download, "Live at The Zoo" is for all you lovers of raw rock and roll and barroom-worthy hard rock! 

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Free Metal Monday: Listenable Records Sampler

Listenable Records

This is a 18-track sampler from French label Listenable Records. It was released over the summer and it features a great deal of variety as far as metal genres go. You've got everything from Loudblast (death/thrash) to the Motörhead-infused Sticky Boys (their song "Bad Reputation" makes me want to hear more from this punk-like hard & heavy band!) and it's free to download by heading here.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jupiter in Velvet-"The World Didn’t Start With U" Single

Free 2b Free Records

With a release date of October 16th, "The World Didn’t Start With U" is the lead single from the forthcoming Jupiter in Velvet' album of the same name. At some point down the road I plan to cover that particular full-length feature in it's entirety, but for the moment we're just going to be discussing the album's title track and then by extension it's official video which can be previewed below. Now, for those of you who might be new to the name and/or wondering just what exactly a Jupiter in Velvet is supposed to be (which were two  separate train of thoughts that (until just recently) I was stuck on!), Jupiter in Velvet is a indie pop-rock/electro-rock singer- songwriter with four albums to his name. OK, "The World Didn’t Start With U" will actually be his forth album, but for this multi-talented singer-songwriter (who actually has a BA in marketing and an MBA in finance!) it's all good in the hood and it sure does look as if it is only going to get better for the main man himself with each new twist of the knob! With "The World Didn’t Start With U" we're talking about a guy who shares vocal similarities with David Bowie(!) and while that in and of itself is pretty righteous there is something even more positive in regards to actual structure of this single. On "The World Didn’t Start With U" we find Jupiter in Velvet playing gritty electronic guitar rock that falls somewhere between "Achtung Baby" U2 and the early punk/new wave-infused rock sound of Billy Idol! Of course those Bowie-ish vocals do give the whole affair a "spacey" vibe and it's not anywhere near as cut and dry as a U2 meets Billy Idol comparison would suggest, but stylistically this single is as cool as you can get  without breaking any local laws! We'll have to wait and see if the whole album flows as easily as this title track does, but from where I'm sitting I would have a hard time picturing Jupiter in Velvet as a one and done kind of solo artist!


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Warfield-"Barrage Fire" Single

IMM Records

Active since 2012, Warfield is a five-piece thrash metal band that currently has one demo ("Killing Ecstasy") and one EP ("Call to War") to it's name. Released in 2012 and 2014 respectively, Warfield's previously-released recordings have been well-received by not only the general public, but by critics and fellow thrash bands. With their latest single, "Barrage Fire" this Kindsbach/Kaiserslautern, Rhineland-Palatinate-based band continues upwards in their journey towards the top of class and thanks to a terrific mash-up of classic bands like Slayer, Anthrax, Testament, Exodus, Kreator, and Sodom and newer acts such as Legion of the Damned and Suicidal Angels these Teutonic warriors are closer to that goal than ever! For Warfield (who should not be confused with the four or so other metal bands sporting that moniker) it's all about the THRASH and that starts up front with lead vocalist Johannes Clemens and then runs straight on through to the drumming of Dominik Marx! In-between all of that metal madness you've got the shredtastic(!) performances of guitarists Matthias Clemens and Dominic Potts and the hotter than hell heaviness of bass player Ethan Stokes! The five members of Warfield (who incidentally seem to range in age from 18 to 22!) have more than enough talent to go around as heard on this new single, but please don't just take my word for it! Click on the video below and see/hear for yourself why the Germany's thrash scene just keeps on getting better and better! You can find and then follow Warfield online by heading  here and then you can download the band's latest EP, "Call to War" off of iTunes or Amazon.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015


HWY 61 Records

HUGELarge is one guitarist/vocalist and one drummer. That's a set up that has been put to tape before and chances are that it will be done plenty of times after this. But, that's where we're at with this self-titled release from the pair of guitarist/vocalist Robert Malta (Pawpawblowtorch…) and drummer Matt Norelli (American Music Club…). Admittedly I'm all but burned out on these kinds of garage rock recordings* and truth be told I dragged my feet as far as getting to this one was concerned. While I'm not going to say that I was wrong when it came to my preconceived opinions of two-piece bands I will acknowledge the positive aspect of this CD. It might just be stripped down rock n' roll, but at least this is primarily a cover's project.  As I like cover songs and I really love cover albums I went ahead and pulled out my red sharpie and awarded this album bonus points for that decision. The fact that "HUGELarge" gathers up classic songs from the sixties and the seventies was not lost on me so I even went and stuck a big shiny happy face sticker on the collection! After all the sixties and the seventies did give us some of the greatest rock and roll of all time!  Right? Right!!!! As for the who, what and where of the cover tracks? Well, I'll mention some highlights and then I'll let all of you take it from there. It's actually the last track on this collection, but I really liked this band's cover of  "96 Tears". I also appreciated HUGELarge's covers of  "A Little Bit Of Soap", "Codeine", "Born To lose", "Motivator", "Poison Ivy", and "No Fun".  Along with "Born To Love" (Johnny Thunders!) and "Codeine" there is also the choice gem that is "Have Love Will Travel". I like what HUGELarge does with this song by The Sonics as well as what they do with the previously mentioned ones. All told there are 15 cover songs here with the duo's lone original number, "D.O.G." thrown  for good measure. For what this is (cover songs occasionally re-worked and/or re-imagined) it's not bad. That doesn't mean that it is a must- buy or anything.  More than anything it just is what it is and in that regard it does a decent enough job. Even if this all sounds harsh it isn't meant to be taken that way. If you are into the whole guitar and drums only scene then have at this! Chances are you'll really like it. Especially as there is a lot of talent behind HUGELarge. No one can deny that. In the end though it's simply a matter of personal taste. And for me I've heard far too many bands doing this in the past 30 something years and frankly-speaking I need some bass in my rock and roll! But again, that's just me. Maybe you're different? 

*Way back in the day (and we're talking late eighties/early nineties here) I remember seeing bands with no bass players. Whether it was because they couldn't find a decent one or it was by choice I just don't know, but they were there all the same. For the life of me I can't remember the group's name (they were local and never put anything to tape), but one three-piece band had a singer, one guitarist and a drummer. They were like a poor man's Dinosaur Jr. only without that level of talent and/or skill. It was all very sloppy and drenched in feedback, but it was stripped down rock and roll all the same. Over the years I heard other bands without a bass player so when the "sound" eventually came into style I wasn't overly surprised. For every good band I heard (The White Stripes and Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival come to mind) there were 4 or 5 ones that sounded hollow/empty. They thing to remember is that when you go into things without a four-string member of your band then you better be able to write catchy and highly memorable music. Otherwise all people will remember about your band and your music is how boring it was. 

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Good Guy Dies-"Restart" Single


Based in London and comprised of  (absolutely amazing!!!!) lead vocalist Cherry Makej and guitarist extraordinaire Joe Hodgson, Good Guy Dies is a buzz-worthy indie project that has previously been covered here at Heavy Metal Time Machine. For those of you might not remember that special occasion (and it really was a special time seeing as it served as my first introduction to this up-and-coming/must-hear electronic rock duo!) then let's play catch-up before we drive on forward. Once upon a time I covered this band's (domestic abuse awareness) single, "Hit Me Back" and I thoroughly enjoyed not only the positive message of the track, but the way in which it mixed together the best parts of classic rock, electronica, and punk-pop! That thought-provoking single was a slam dunk moment for the pair of Cherry and Joe and it showed just how far you can get when you work hard and are dedicated to the to the task at hand! It was all at once enlightening and energetic and for Good Guy Dies a smash hit in the making like "Hit Me Back" should have been the perfect launching pad to finally get this (deserving) dynamite duo from point B to point A (with point B serving as the group's initial formation back in 2012 and point A representing wide-spread praise and admiration!). For whatever reason that didn't happen so the logical question is where do you go from here if you are Good Guy Dies? The answer seems simple enough. You head back to the studio and get hard at work on a proper follow-up. And that is where "Restart" comes into play. In some ways "Restart" is just like "Hit Me Back" in that it combines large amounts of classic rock and electronic rock with tiny flakes of punk-pop. It is also lyrically-deep and thought-provoking and just like it's 2014 precursor this image-rich single is dripping with passion. The raw emotion on display here is right in line with where "Hit Me Back" left off.  Even so these two singles are like night and day. Whereas "Hit Me Back" was powerful and got right in your face with a positive message this forthcoming single is much more angry and confrontational. For "Restart" lead vocalist Cherry Makej and guitarist Joe Hodgson added industrial rock elements to the studio mix as well as some slight instances that could be construed as alternative rock. While it still sounds like Good Guy Dies it is a bit more temperamental and it comes across as edgy. But then again so is the video for "Restart"! You can check that out below this article and you can find Good Guy Dies online here.With a scheduled release date of September 28th, "Restart" goes a long way towards showing the full-extent of this duo's talent and just how all-encompassing their music can be. They may have been absent for way too long (again, it was almost a full year in-between the sweet "Hit Me Back" and the equally awesome "Restart"!), but Good Guy Dies is back all the same. And I for one couldn't be happier!!!!

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Free Metal Monday: Over the Top (Various Recordings)


I've got Paul Rote to thank for this band. He aptly described this San Antonio, Texas band as The Godz meet Black Sabbath and as I type this up small piece up I've got "Trailer Park Queen" playing in the background and man alive(!)  I just can't get enough of these stone cold rockers! Why am I only now hearing about this band? And what's more why isn't this band a big hit? This is retro-hard rock/stoner doom rock at it's absolute best! A four-piece band lead by bassist/vocalist Jason Chapman and featuring the mad skills of guitarists Jeff Nettles & Matt Brown and drummer Ryan Gonzales, Over the Top not only offers cool original material for free over at their Bandcamp page, but the group also does a bang-up job covering "Strange Ways" by KISS! Originally appearing on KISS's 1974 album, "Hotter than Hell", "Strange Ways". was written by Ace Frehley and it sounds groovy as F**K in Over the Top's hands! As with Over the Top's original compositions it's free to download and it makes for a nice listen on this Monday morning. Enjoy!

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Free Metal Monday: Schism-Schism EP


This 4-track EP comes courtesy of my friend and fellow blogger, Strappado. Or at least indirectly it does seeing as I follow Strappado on Bandcamp and all. But anyway, Schism here hail (or hailed as they might be no more?) from Florida and they are (per the description): "Influenced by bands ranging from hard rock classics to the metal gods of the 80's to the titans of modern metal, Schism's music reflects the best elements of each era: crushing riffs, intricate harmonies, and a focus on melody". Whatever the case you can find the digital EP here and it's free for the taking.

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Friday, September 18, 2015

French Metal Friday: Gang-Live Is All

Underground Investigation

Active since 1990, Gang is a heavy metal/thrash band that hails from Fismes, Champagne-Ardenne and is currently comprised of Bill (lead vocals), Steve (lead guitars), Biggy (lead guitars), Philty (bass guitar), and Malo (drums). As of this writing this veteran French group has six full-length albums, a EP of covers, and one additional live recording  ("Heavy Metal Road 666 - Live in Fismes 2012") to their name with LP number seven planned for sometime in 2016. This particular live release was recorded during the SOS Festival 2014 in Manchester, Radcliffe, UK. The set list for this live recording featured new material off of Gang's latest full-length release, "Inject the Venom" (which I covered here ) such as "All the Fool Around",  "Chaos for Glory", "Primal Reign", "All of the Damned", and "The King Becomes A God". There is also some older material such as "Believer / Betrayer" and "Skull's Out of Genocide" from 2010's "V" and a obligatory cover track in "Total Eclipse" (Iron Maiden)! The full track list appears below this review, but let's just say that Gang put together a nice assortment of material for this live release! Fans of this French hard & heavy thrash outfit should appreciate "Live Is All" if for no other reason than the fact that it sure seems to be a fair representation of these merchants of metal in the flesh! With a run-time of something like 40 minutes this upcoming release makes you feel as if you were right there in the crowd and a part of all the action! I can't begin to tell you how nice it is to hear a live album that actually sounds as if it came from real live event. There's nothing fancy about this one and it's quite obvious that nothing has been "touched up". With Gang what you see is what you get and just like the great wine that their home country is known for this French band has only improved with age! As it is due to drop in October Gang fans will have to wait just a little while for this release. In the meantime be sure to follow the band's Facebook page and while you're at it why not head over to be Gang's online site to hear sample bits from this disc? I've also included a link below* for another review that I did for this French band. Unless I'm mistaken (which happens a lot for me now that I'm getting that old "Touch Of Grey") it is also the first album that I ever covered from Gang.

"Live Is All" Track List:
1. Behind the Gate
2. All the Fool Around
3. Chaos for Glory
4. Believer Betrayer
5. Total Eclipse (Iron Maiden)
6. Primal Reign
7. Skull’s out of Genocide
8. All of the Damned
9. Make Some Noise for the Froggies
10. The King Became A God
11. Back to Asylum

*My first taste of this French band came by way "1993". Titled after the year in which it was released, "1993" was the band's debut album and even though it might not sound like it from my review I have come to enjoy the album extended EP quite a bit for what it is.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Into Darkness-Sinister Demise

Rising Nemesis Records

Pure unfiltered death metal. There's nothing quite like it is there? I mean talk about a thirst quenching thing! It sounds so good right now doesn't it? Well, that's exactly what you get when you down a tall cool glass of Germany's Into Darkness! When it comes to skillfully-played and expertly-executed KICK ASS death metal it seldom gets any better than a fist-banging/face-crushing beast like this album! So, let's just call it like it is my friends and fellow lovers of all things loud, proud and BRUTAL! Why mince words when you can just swing on past GO and collect your prize in the form of "Sinister Demise"! Right? Exactly! Need a bit more though? OK. Formed in 1995 (which means this three-piece old school death metal band has lasted longer than my ill-fated marriage did!), Into Darkness is lead by Sebastard (Sebastian Längerer) who is not only the group's front-man and guitarist, but (from the looks of it) the sole original member left since first coming together all those years here. Despite numerous line-up changes and a scene that has had more than it's fair share of ups and downs the band Into Darkness has stayed true to their original calling and with bassist Andreas Lego (ex-Deathtrap, ex-Agoraphobia) and drummer Robert Witzel (ex-Boiling Blood) currently rounding things out this group seems set to keep the wheels of destruction rolling for a long time to come! Just released last week (!), "Sinister Demise" does feature a few special guests on lead guitar such as Hannes Grossmann, Quinho, and Alexander Siedler but as to who plays what on which particular track I can't be sure. Not that it actually matters. The only thing that really matters is heading here so that you can hear this bad ass recording for yourself! If you're a death metal fanatic then all I have to ask is why are you still reading these words when you should be looking into "Sinister Demise"? Go now! You can thank me later!!!!

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Bootlegs-Ekki Fyrir Viðkvæma

Minotauro Records

"Ekki Fyrir Viðkvæma" (Not for the sensitive) is the third full-length release for Iceland's Bootlegs. Chronologically it follows a 2007 live CD (the cheekily-titled "Live" which was actually recorded way back in 1998!) while also serving as Bootlegs first batch of new studio material in 25 years! The band's last studio album was "Bootlegs" and that came out in 1990! As I had previously covered the 2014 re-released version of not only "Bootlegs", but also the group's 1989 debut album, "W.C. Monster" I was eager to see how new Bootlegs material would hold up next to the older stuff. I'm happy to report that it sounds great and for all of you who loved this band's early crossover/thrash style I think you will be pleasantly surprised by just how well this band has aged! On Bootlegs latest release (which was incidentally recorded at Stúdió Óskars og Jóns) we have a line-up featuring guitarist/vocalists Jón Símonarsson (Junior), guitarist/vocalist Jón Örn Sigurðsson (Nonni), bassist Ingimundur Ellert Þorkellsson (Elli), and drummer Kristján Ásvaldsson (Stjuni). Having now been active since 2012 or so the current version of Bootlegs seemingly picks up where things left off with 1990's "Bootlegs" with the only slight difference between then and now likely taking place in the lyrical department. One could easily make the argument that this laid-back Icelandic metal band (having now "matured") is better suited to write deeper & more socially-conscious material. It's just a naturally progression especially seeing as "Ekki Fyrir Viðkvæma" plays like it's more grounded and serious. But then again there are only a couple of tracks here in English so maybe it's all in my head? Whatever the case might be, "Ekki Fyrir Viðkvæma" is nothing if not (groovy!) fresh thrash and it cruises effortlessly along with companions like (crunchy) hard rock, straight-up METAL, and old school crossover* riding shotgun! The songs on studio album number three for the Bootlegs lads are actually catchy and these four guys have the whole hooks that kill angle down pat! Frankly-speaking I can't think of a single reason not to snag and bag the latest Bootlegs release and as far as come-back albums go this one gets the golden star of appreciation! It's been a long time that fans have had to wait for these Icelandic warriors to release fresh material, but the wait has resulted in a real bang 'em/slam 'em kind of LP. Available as a digital download from the last link posted above, "Ekki Fyrir Viðkvæma" can also be picked up on CD by heading over to following page in Minotauro Records' store (and that would be right here ladies and gents!). You can also find Bootlegs online by visiting the band here at their Facebook page and I really should mention the fact that Minotauro Records offers a nifty bundle package with all three studio albums from this Icelandic metal band. If you are new to this thrash band that might be the best route to take and it does seem to be rather reasonable at just over forty two dollars.
*For the kids out there who are not enough to remember what that term used to truly mean we're talking about snarly punk, street-legit hardcore, garage heavy metal and raw underground thrash that has been smashed & bashed together with super glue and duct tape being the only things that are keeping it from falling apart

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lipstick-Lipstick (2015 Special Edition)


Originally released independently in late May of 2014 (with this special edition version seeing the light of day back in June of this year), "Lipstick" is the full-length debut album from the theatrical glam rock/sleazy hard & heavy band of the same name. Based in Nashville, TN (by way of Cleveland, Ohio and Canada*!) Lipstick began life as a studio project between Greg Troyan (vocals) and former Warrent and Quiet Riot member Billy Morris (bass and guitar). A studio demo was recorded by Greg and Billy and due to fan interest and/or persistence that 12-track recording (which Greg didn't exactly want to officially release to the public at hand!) would eventually turn into the original version of Lipstick's debut album. While all of that madness was going on it turns out that Greg Troyan (vocals, keyboards and occasional bass) meet future band member Stephen Smith (bass guitar) by chance and (long story short) Lipstick would enviably transform into the wild and crazy outfit that stands before us now! While there are other (official?) contributing band members to the project and this particular (expanded) album (as well as a long-list of guest musicians/artists who help out on "Lipstick" including the aforementioned Billy Morris**) it sure does seem as if it is Greg and Stephen who are driving this easy & sleazy hair metal party wagon so we'll concentrate on them first and foremost! With Greg you get a front-man who dresses up in lace and lipstick (no pun intended!) and his "lovely" appearance is obviously a throw-back to the old Sunset Strip days. There's a lot of make-up involved with his get up, but voice-wise his style of singing is closer to garage rock than glam metal. Admittedly he is a tad "rough" around the edges and there is no way that you would ever mistake Greg for someone like Brett Michaels, Jani Lane or even Vince Neil. If anything Greg sounds like an older rocker whose sought-after voice has been hit hard by years and years in the business. Despite that admission, "Lipstick" does work with someone like Greg Troyan on the mic. And the reason why it works is fairly simple and straightforward. It works because it gives the dolled-up sleaze material here more of mean face. For all of the hairspray and make-up going on it manages to make Lipstick seem more gritty....almost punk rock if you will. Not that there is anything legitimately punk rock about a release like this mind you! After all we are talking about a band that piles "it" on deep (and by "it" I mean the gloriously cheese factor that was and still is at the heart of many a great glam metal/pop metal band!) by way of influences like Kix, Winger, Nitro, Poison ("Look What The Cat Dragged In"-era), Faster Pussycat, Kiss (the glam metal version of Kiss that is!), Warrant, Alice Cooper (his 80's pop metal days!), and Pretty Boy Floyd! Just going by the first two songs alone ("We're Here To Rock You" and "I Like To Rock"!) you should have no problem seeing where this album is heading, but if you still need help then consider the fact that there are three songs (that's right there are THREE!) with rock in the title! Nine times out of ten (with the tenth one being the sweet enough to eat "The Flash"!) this expanded edition album is cheesy glam rockin' pop metal and it offers no excuses as to it's behavior! But then again why should it? If you love what you're doing and you are good at it then why not highlight those wicked skills of yours and crank it up as far it will go? Lipstick obviously loves the look and the sound of sleaze and glam so they do what God put them here to do and they ROCK IT like there is no tomorrow! Even if it seems a tad silly at times (what with all the songs with "rock" in the title!) "Lipstick" is a fun ride and that has everything to do with the fact that Lipstick are obviously in on the joke! Don't think for a second though that Lipstick is a joke band. Far from it! These guys know how to write catchy material with sweet sing-along verses and their songs have a crap-load of rock and roll appeal! Between lead singer Greg and bass guitar player Stephen Smith (ex-Regdar & The Fighters) a band like Lipstick has more than enough energy and enthusiasm to go around and even with all of the cheese here on their re-released debut album you can't help but smile and groove along to the music!! Normally a band like Lipstick would not be my cup of tea so that says a lot about their ability to draw listeners in. There is something inviting about their music and I guess you could say that the group's "band down the road" charm goes a long way as does Lipstick's casual nature. The guys in Lipstick seem as if they would be cool to hang with and this band's recognizable lack of over-inflated ego makes you want to invest more of your time in their company. In spite of all of that I do realize that Lipstick‘s debut album won't be for everyone. For one thing if you are not into glam rock and sleaze metal you might as well keep on walking. If hair metal is too fluffy for your tastes then peace be with you but it's time to go. But for everyone who has stuck it out this far the expanded-edition (see track list below) album that I got in the mail from the band members themselves is definitely worth a listen. There is one last thing that I should touch on. Even though you have silly numbers like "The Conan Song" (where the band sings about how much they want to be on The Conan show!) there is a positive vibe going on with "Lipstick". Lyrically-speaking this is not your typical hair metal/sleaze metal release. There are no cat-calls and odes to drugs. And there isn't a shout-out to a some red guy with horns. Thankfully the optimistic "Lipstick" skips all of that noise and instead focuses on the joy of rocking out. That means you can actually blast this one loud without making your teenage daughter give you that "Really Dad?" look! And lord knows I see that look enough as is! So, if catchy, up-beat and actually positive(!) hair metal glam is something that you have been looking for then there is no need to look anything further! Lipstick should be just what the doctor (Dr. Rock!) ordered!!!!

Track List:
01. We’re Here To Rock You
02. I Like The Way I Rock
03. Alone
04. Merle
05. Having Fun
06. The Conan Song
07. I Want The World To Know
08. The Flash
09. Tonight
10. Love One Another
11. Rock N Roll Forever
12. It’s Christmas (And You Don’t Want Me Here)

Special Edition Bonus Tracks:
13. Having Fun (Alternate Mix)
14. Illium (Regdar And The Fighters cover)
15. Fight Club (Regdar And The Fighters cover)
16. I Want The World To Know (Alternate Take)

* Front-man, songwriter and part-time bassist Greg Troyan apparently hails from Cleveland, Ohio and formed his first band (Dyslexia) there. A four-piece high school act, Dyslexia was inspired by Gene Simmons and company with some of their Kiss-influenced music actually making it's way into what would eventually be Lipstick. Greg's partner in crime is of course Stephen Smith and this bassist, vocalist and songwriter is from Canada and his influences seemingly range from the Smashing Pumpkins to Weird Al! Besides being best friends with his fellow Lipstick founder this quirky bassist with a nerd punk background most definitely reminds me of Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen! While there is much more to this funky cool band (as can be seen in their bio) I will leave that as homework for all of you to do on your own. That said, Sleaze Roxx has a great interview with this band as seen here and seeing as I pulled bits and pieces from said page (or if you will background information) and the previously-mentioned bio section I would feel dreadful if I didn't link this review to their always informative site. 

**Billy Morris also hails from my home state of Ohio and his lead guitar work of a number like "The Flash" is pretty righteous! While he was involved with Lipstick in the early days (likely not only providing bass and guitar duties but worthwhile advice and guidance since he is a hard rock veteran and all) his family commitments (rightly) came first. When it came time to pack up everything and move Lipstick from Cleveland to Nashville Billy ended up staying behind. For more on that story be sure to check out the aforementioned Sleaze Roxx interview. 

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal and Community in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Heavy Metal Studies

Over the past couple of years I've been able to share such documentaries as "Madder Than A Full Moon Dog" and the "Inside Metal: Pioneers Of L.A. Hard Rock And Metal" series with our readers. Now it's my extreme pleasure to present "The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal and Community in Puerto Rico" to all of you. As the title clearly suggests this highly-informative (and downright entertaining!) documentary delves into the deep history of heavy metal in Puerto Rico and in turn it pulls back the curtain in order to show you the struggle and ultimately determination of metal-minded musicians. Cleverly filmed in black and white (which all but gives the film a wonderfully gritty/underground vibe) and featuring English subtitles, "The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal and Community in Puerto Rico" was directed by Osvaldo Gonzalezby and produced by Dr. Nelson Varas-Díaz, Eliut Rivera-Segarra, and Sigrid Mendoza. Dr. Nelson Varas-Díaz (who is a long-time heavy metal fan) is a Associate Professor at the University of Puerto Rico and under his direction this documentary traces the ups and downs of a largely overlook scene. Until now Puerto Rico's contributions to the fields of heavy metal, thrash and death metal have been tragically glossed over. Thankfully "The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal and Community in Puerto Rico" looks to right such a wrong and it does it in a manor that not only hits all the right notes (thrash metal band Cardinal Sin being one of many!), but actually covers a unexpected area that far too many critics and fans skip over and/or generally mock. And that would be Christian metal. Yes, that is correct. Amazingly "The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal and Community in Puerto Rico" not only acknowledges how Christian heavy metal in Puerto Rico helped out the early scene, but (rightfully so) praises their hard work and musical ability! It's weird to see a documentary that actually talks about Christian metal in such a positive light and for that I say kudos to all who were involved with this awesome documentary! My only complain in that area would be how this full-length feature film (by way of interviews with it's members) made me interested in the Christian thrash metal band Xacrosaint when I can't find any of their music online! Sure, there are videos of lives shows, but I'm dying to know if this band released any demos or what not! Any help in that department would be greatly appreciated! But anyway, Cardinal Sin was actually the first true metal/thrash band in Puerto Rico of note and it makes sense that this documentary starts with this overlooked gem of an act. Influenced by bands like Iron Maiden and the emerging thrash metal scene in the U.S. and South American, Cardinal Sin started the ball rolling with dreams of becoming the next  Metallica or Sepultura.When Cardinal Sin formed there were no clubs to play in and no real scene to speak of so this band (which incidentally formed in 1984 and released only to demos during their time together) had to make their own. Despite this the band would go on to achieve a great deal of local success with their first demo, "Infanticide" (1989), eventually influencing a generation to come! Said demo can be found on the excellent (and highly-recommended!) compilation album "Resurrection" and their song "Against the Waterfall" opens up the first CD of this DVD/2CD set. What? I didn't mention the two CDs that come with this killer documentary? How could I forget that? In addition to this informative documentaries must-see DVD (for which it's obvious a hell of a lot of research went into it's creation!) "The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal and Community in Puerto Rico" comes with two jam packed compilation CDs which cover material from the early eighties to 2014! Both CDs feature 15 different tracks from 15 different artists and with a run-time that is over 140 minutes you simply cannot go wrong with this collection! I mean we're talking 30(!) Puerto Rican metal bands which is kind of fitting as this documentary covers 30 years worth of metal! As it covers not only the music, but also the culture of Puerto Rico there is so much to love about this set and I highly-recommend it to everyone reading this review. Realistically-speaking there just isn't enough time for me to go into everything that this black and white film has to offer or even the amazing amount of information that it covers. But I will say that just between the interviews and live footage there is so much going on so you almost have to watch this one a couple of times through just to try to get a grasp on everything that "The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal and Community in Puerto Rico" tackles! For more information on this amazing (MUST-OWN!!!!) DVD/2CD set be sure to head over to the documentaries official Facebook page here.  Meanwhile be sure to check out the official trailer for "The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal Music And Community In Puerto Rico" below. While it gives you a tiny hint at to what's in store for you you'll just have to trust me here when I say that this documentary absolutely shreds!

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Fake Healer-Two Worlds


Just formed last year out of the ashes of Dust Devil*, Fake Healer is a new five-piece band from Florence, Italy and the self-produced "Two Worlds" is their full-length debut album. With eight tracks in all and a run-time that is over the 38 minute mark, "Two Worlds" was recorded at FP Studio Recording between December 2014 and March 2015 before seeing a official release this past July. Thanks to the kind consideration of Fake Healer member Leonardo Taiti (rhythm guitar) this new CD sits comfortably next to me and I've found myself deep in thought (or rather extremely happy!) as to the current state of Italian metal. With more and more (excessively talented) traditional/classic heavy metal bands like Fake Healer coming down the pipeline it certainly seems as if Italy is in no real danger when it comes to the horrible thought of heavy metal up and disappearing from said country. As the band is lead by none other than Alessio Taiti (Frozen Tears' one-time front-man and a all-around great singer!) and rounded out by musicians with ties to not only Frozen Tears and Dust Devil, but Juglans Regia and Dragonia (!) a group like Fake Healer obviously had a lot going for it even before they set foot into a studio. Unrealistic fan expectations alone could have easily derailed this five-piece metal act, but I'm here to tell you how satisfactory this album is in regards to (modern day) traditional heavy metal. This band's lead singer alone gives Fake Healer a leg up on the competition and yet that is just one piece of equation when it comes to the praise-worthy "Two Words"! How about killer influences like Iron Maiden and Dio? Or maybe some hard rock and eighties metal is in order? Perhaps a slick combination of all of the above is just what we need to keep things moving along? Yes, that's the ticket! Fake Healer's "Two Worlds" magically gathers together all these special elements (N.W.O.B.H.M., eighties metal, classic hard rock, traditional heavy metal, and much more!) and then packs it up with a nifty booklet with pictures and lyrics. The overall package is one that should put a nice smile on the faces of heavy metal fans both old and young alike. For more information on Fake Healer be sure to head over to their Facebook page and to hear this one for yourself click here.

*Dust Devil was more a less a side-project of Frozen Tears that released one EP in 2013 entitled "Riled Up". The band featured four former members of Frozen Tears (lead guitarist Lapo Torrini, rhythm guitarist Leonardo Taiti, bassist Massimiliano Dionigi, and drummer Giovanni Guarnieri) and was fronted by ex-Electric Fluid vocalist Leonardo Romeo. But whereas Frozen Tears was a traditional/European-style power metal band (and a well-known one at that!) the group Dust Devil played N.W.O.B.H.M.-influenced classic metal. Now featuring not only rhythm guitarist Leonardo Taiti and bassist Massimiliano Dionigi, but one other member with ties to Dust Devil (lead guitarist Simone Cocco who is also a former member of Juglans Regia ), Florence, Italy's Fake Healer is (none too surprisingly!) like Dust Devil in that they take cues from traditional heavy metal bands of the eighties as well as the N.W.O.B.H.M. scene.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Jokers-Hurricane


Rocking and rolling it's way into stores later on in September, "Hurricane" is the latest & greatest release from classic rock/hard rock band The Jokers. This UK band's third full-length album, "Hurricane" serves as the naturally follow-up to the 2013's critically acclaimed "Rock & Roll Is Alive" and this highly-anticipated release finds vocalist Wane Parry and guitarist Paul Hurst welcoming in new members Phil Hartley (bass) and Dan Evans (drums). Formed in 2006 (and veterans of the time honored game, "Good Bands with Bad Names!") The Jokers hail from the North West of England and have made a name for themselves thanks to not only top-notch recordings, but rambunctious live shows! Even still this four-piece band has come a long way since issuing their first album, "The Big Rock 'n' Roll Show" back in 2009. Musically-speaking The Jokers have evolved quite a bit if even between their last release and this forthcoming one. While I can still hear the likes of AC/DC, Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Who, Bad Company, Free, Mott The Hoople, and The Faces* here on their new album (and thank the gods of rock and roll for that!) we're also talking about a smooth yet swaggerlicious sound that has been highly enhanced  by way of bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones! So it's seventies hard rock riffs and sixties rock and roll vocal harmonizing to the rescue then? Why yes it is and I'm glad you asked! Well, I mean (obviously) there is a lot more to it when it comes to The Jokers. Don't (for a second) let me mislead you into thinking it's all as easy as that. There's classic rock, boogie rock and the blues. And you'll also find garage rock and even a bit of progressive rock on this LP. But for here and now and with time always being an issue, "Hurricane" really is the best parts of classic rock rock from the seventies and (amazing) vocal harmonizing as popularized by The Beatles! With that said, "Hurricane" never sounds stale or as if it is dated. If anything this new album finds these UK rockers all but taking over the whole modern day retro rock scene. The production helps push this fresh product right up to the front where it belongs and this band's successful ability as songwriters should keep them there. And since this record is every bit a "record" (as in it's a throwback to the days when LPs actually featured great material from start to finish and were not just a few key singles and filler junk!) fans and newcomers alike will have a whole album's worth of cool rock and roll to enjoy and share with others! With albums like this keeping real rock and roll radio alive the scene looks to be in good hands for the foreseeable future!   


*Read my review of "Rock & Roll Is Alive" (linked above) for more on this.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Orca-"Amber" Single


Formed in 2014, Orca is a five piece alternative metal/progressive rock band that is based around the South East of England and was originally started as an instrumental outfit. The band is comprised of members Matthew McGuinness, David Vezzoli, Christian Edwards, Nadav Brand, and Ben Murray-Smith and is influenced by the likes of Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Jeff Buckley, Biffy Clyro, Karnivool, Tool, Muse, and the Smashing Pumpkins. "Amber" is this UK band's forthcoming single and (lyrically) it is inspired by the "vast unknown nature of space, a voyage into the unknown, and the feelings of mystery, yearning, love, life & death." Despite all of that introspective "thoughtfulness", "Amber" is a harsh and heavy (and oft-times lovingly distorted in a kind of post-N.I.N. way!) metallic number that shifts back and forth between explosive content and hazy numbness! With a due date of September 28th, "Amber" offers a unique twist on progressive rock and it certainly makes one curious as to what a full-length release would sound like for Orca. As one is supposedly in the works it doesn't sound as if we will have to wait too long for an answer to that particular question!


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Monday, September 07, 2015

Ancient Spell-Forever In Hell

Minotauro Records

Tentatively scheduled for release tomorrow(!), "Forever In Hell" is Ancient Spell's sophomore album and the band's first studio recording on a actual record label. It serves as the follow-up to 2013's independently-released "Ancient Spell" and (seemingly) marks the arrival of a new lead vocalist in Donnie Marhefka*.  Also there are seven tracks in all on "Forever In Hell" .OK, I think that covers it. Unless I'm forgetting something? Well, I did forget to mention that this Los Angeles-based band was formed in August of 2012 and that Ancient Spell is made up of local musicians. Other than that little bit of information I believe we are good as gold. Still, I can't help but feel as if I'm missing one key piece of information. Let me dwell of this for a moment. Hmmmmm. Oh, now I remember what it was I wanted to talk about. In addition to being one of Minotauro Records best signings to date, "Forever In Hell" answers one of life's greatest mysteries. We've all wondered about it and FINALLY it's been answered! And that of course is "What would it have sounded like if Chuck Schuldiner's Death was more or less a (Black Sabbath as influenced by Solitude Aeturnus!) doom metal/death thrash band and said band was then filled out by members of Slayer?"! Now I know what you're thinking because I'm thinking the exact same thing. First, "Why did it take so long for this to come to fruition?" and then second "Is it every bit as awesome as we all dreamed it would be?". While I can't answer that first one the second part is easy enough. Yes, "Forever In Hell" is as FUCKING AWESOME as hoped for and as a follow-up to that question, yes, I did have wonderful heavy metal wet dreams the night after I all but destroyed my car's CD player (and by extension the car's speakers!!!!) by BLASTING this sucker on the freeway! "Forever In Hell"** is this generations' "Reign In Blood" and NO(!), that is not a comment that I use lightly! This beast of a release has everything going for it and that means A) It's a damn fine collection of songs that are well-structured and tech-savvy B) The musicians involved with "Forever In Hell" are all top-tier C) "Forever In Hell" features a perfect production where everything shines and D) The combination of traditional heavy metal, death thrash and doom metal on display here is arguably one of the best I've ever heard! What more is there to be said? Nothing really (I mean other than head here to buy this instant classic!). For more information of this L.A. doom/death thrash band (such as where you can and should catch them live!) be sure to head on over to the group's Facebook page. Otherwise enjoy the ride and always remember to keep it loud and proud by friends!

* Per the Metal Archives, Ancient Spell's self-titled debut featured a line-up of:
Conrad Viz-vocals/guitars
Jeff Clark-bass
Norm Rodriguez -drums

These days the line-up is:
Donnie Marhefka-lead vocals
Conrad Viz-guitar/vocals

Dan Rado-guitar
Jeff Clark-bass

Rob Thompson-drums

**I'm not sure where to add this so I'll just add it here. Besides the likes of Death, Slayer and those doom references (the whole Black Sabbath as influenced by Solitude Aeturnus part!) this awesome L.A. band takes special cues from a whole host of crazy characters! These influences (both listed on their Facebook page and actually head from listening to this bad ass CD!) include the likes of Saint Vitus, Candlemass, The Sword, C.O.C., (early) Exodus, Cloven Hoof, Venom, Possessed, Black Label Society, Metallica (up to and including "Master Of Puppets"), Forbidden, Pentagram, Eyehategod, Vio-lence, Pantera, Down, Toxik, Pestilence, (early) Death Angel and Lamb of God. Obviously that is a hell of a list, but then again this is one hell of a band!