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Saturday
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Friday
Jan082016

Rock Music Star - Top 10 of 2015

As the time came upon us, once again - here at Rock Music Star - to compile our Top 10 (rock) music releases of the year, we noticed one startling fact about our own website.  We noticed that we did not have ONE CD review posted on our site in 2015.  While the omission of CD reviews was certainly not completely intentional, it did make us ponder on how this actually came to be. 
 
Looking back, one of the reasons why we decided on not posting reviews on some of the releases we really enjoyed in 2015 was simply due to the fact that many of the interviews we conducted with the artists coincided with their release of their albums.  Considering we thoroughly discussed the albums during the conversation, it seemed kind of redundant and overkill, to post a separate CD review.
 
Aside from that, 2015 was a pretty lackluster year for Hard rock music.  It seems as though the amount of rock releases has really dwindled and some of the more solid stuff, really flew under the radar.  So we really had to go back and check, and double check the list of what came out in 2015, and revisit some of these CDs, in order to come up with this year's, "Rock Music Star Top 10 Rock Releases."
 
1. Def Leppard - 'Def Leppard' - At the top of the heap is the only band from the 1980's that started out as part of the NWOBHM and transformed into one of the biggest 'hair metal' bands of the same decade, without ever really getting lumped in with the rest of the genre.  Perhaps the band's ability to transcend genres and successfully fight the tag of being a 'hair band,' is what has helped give them the longevity they have achieved and has allowed them continued success throughout the 90's and even 'til this day.
 
Their self-titled 2015 release is an extremely solid, 14 track album of songs.  With great production by Ronan McHugh, one would have to agree with the band's assessment of the album, as they refer to it as their "everything" record.  As vocalist Joe Elliot put it, 'Def Leppard' features "every single aspect of anything we've ever wanted to put out - acoustic, heavy, soft, slow, fast - it's there."  In addition, Elliot stated, they were successful in being "capable of coming up with vastly different kinds of songs."  While it would have been easy for the band to release a paint by numbers 'Hysteria' sounding record, while all the signature Def Leppard sounds are present, they really pushed the envelope in going in various musical directions, with terrific songs like, "Man Enough," "Invincible," "Wings Of An Angel" and "Sea Of Love."
 
2. Marilyn Manson – ‘Pale Emperor’ – This certainly could be the comeback release of the year.  The aging shock rocker joined forces with Grammy award music composer, Tyler Bates, for a mature, raw, and unique 13 track southern-goth flavored masterpiece. Tracks such as “Deep Six,” “The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles,” “Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge,” certainly made Marilyn Manson a relevant artist again in 2015.
 
3.  Ugly Kid Joe - 'Uglier Than They Used ta Be' - One of the last true 'rock bands' to come out in the 90's, playing heavy music when it wasn't cool to be heavy and playing grunge rock before "grunge" existed.  It's ironic that some people say the opening track of 'Uglier Than They Used ta Be,' "Hell Ain't Hard To Find," sounds like a lift from Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters' song, "Learning To Fly," as Ugly Kid Joe sounded like the Foo Fighters before there was a Foo Fighters.
 
The album is just full of great new songs by UKJ, like "Let the Record Play" & "Bad Seed," and the 2 covers, "Ace Of Spades" (Motorhead) and the Rare Earth song, "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" (featuring the Australian sensation Dallas Frasca) are simply brilliant.
 
4. Devil City Angels - 'Devil City Angels' - In 2015, an unlikely "supergroup" of sorts was formed, comprised of hard rock's 'unwanted' side-men.  Put together by the sidelined Poison drummer Rikki Rocket and one of the best 80's guitarists - who can never seem to hold down a gig - Tracii Guns, along with bassist Eric Brittingham - of Cinderella fame (who's main band is also in limbo due to their lead singer pursuing a solo career) and rising upstart, vocalist Brandon Gibbs, the Devil City Angels put together one of the most solid albums to come from the hard rock genre this year.
 
While the members of DCA refer to their sound as "modern vintage," you can definitely hear the culmination of their influences throughout their 10 song debut.  From the classic rock stylings of Aerosmith and Billy Squier, to more recent sounding blues-rock like the Black Crowes, the band hits all the marks on almost every song, with the only dud being the song, "All I Need," which for some reason, wound up being the 2nd single from the CD being pushed by the label.
 
'Devil City Angels' features, perhaps, Rikki Rocket's most inspired sounding drumming since Poison's 'Crack A Smile' CD, definitely bringing that funky side of Poison to the table, as Tracii Guns shows what a diversified guitar player he can really be, when put in the right situation.  While Gibbs vocal delivery can sometimes be on the vanilla side of the musical palate, the guy's got great tone and his youthful energy is exactly what this band needs in order to have any hope at longevity.
 
5. W.A.S.P. - 'Golgotha' - Founder, and the only remaining original member, Blackie Lawless has pretty much, turned his group, W.A.S.P., into the theatrical rock version of AC/DC, as with every release Lawless has put out in the past 20 years essentially sounds like he's been re-writing the same song(s) over and over.  However, for the 2015 rendition of Blackie's "ghoulash," it seems as though he got all of the ingredients in the right order this time, as 'Golgotha' may be the best album he's released since 1992's, 'The Crimson Idol.'
 
6. Motorhead - 'Bad Magic' - With the death of Motorhead leader, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister,  'Bad Magic' serves as a fitting swan song of an intense and groundbreaking 40 year career.  All 13 tracks on this release are noteworthy, with "Til The End," "Victory or Die" and the closer, a cover of the Rolling Stones' classic, "Sympathy for the Devil," as the highlights.  Every fan of metal and hard rock needs this album in their collection.
 
7. Scorpions – ‘Return to Forever’ – German hard rockers celebrate their 50th anniversary with their 19th studio release.  ‘Return to Forever’ consists of vintage Scorpion rockers and power ballads.  Interestingly, 12 of these tracks were unfinished demos from the 80's, and early 90's, which the band members finished for this release.  Time will only tell if this is the band’s final release.  If so, it is a fitting end to an illustrious career.
 
8. Tommy Henriksen - 'Tommy, Tommy, Tommy' - One could easily describe Tommy Henriksen's style as: the Cars meets Kraftwerk, Bruce Springsteen with a backbeat, an acoustic Iggy Pop or even Lou Reed on a loop, once you get past the culture shock of all of his combined musical influences and really delve into the music, you realize Tommy Henriksen has successfully created his own unqiue sound and flavor, providing the listener a great musical journey throughout, 'Tommy, Tommy, Tommy.'
 
More 'Nu Yawk' than the Jets and Giants combined, while you could imagine the songs were written somewhere in the East Village, the majority of the tracks are surprisingly upbeat, in a pseudo-sarcastic, punk rock-ish type way.  Whether it's Henriksen channeling his inner Alice Cooper/Iggy Pop on "Teenage Kicks Part 2" or paying homage to all of his musical influences (by mentioning them by name) in "All My Heroes," it's just fun, uplifting music, with choruses that will stick inside your head, having you singing them for days.
 
9.  Beauvoir-Free - 'American Trash' - It's rare when you find artists who aren't phased by musical trends or fads and no matter what the consequence, continue to write the style of music they truly love.  A perfect example is Jean Beavoir.  The former Plasmatic, aka 'the black guy with the blonde mohawk,' is not defined by the color of his skin, the style of his hair or whatever genre you wish to categorize his music as.
 
In 2015, Beauvoir reunited with long-time musical partner, guitarist, Micki Free, as Free was once a member of Beauvoir's continuing Crown of Thorns band, and considering the group still exists today, albeit with a different lineup, the duo went with the Beauvoir-Free moniker, as not to confuse any fans into thinking Free rejoined the Crown of Thorns lineup.
 
'American Trash' is a very enjoyable 11 song album, mostly killer, with very little filler.  Songs like "Angels Cry," "Shotgun To the Heart" and the Journey-esque, "She's A KO" are great melodic rock songs that deserve to be heard, no matter what decade they were released in.
 
10.  Bumblefoot - 'Little Brother Is Watching' - From Guns N Roses, to David Bowie, to Queen, to the Sex Pistols - and that's only the first song, "Clots," from Ron Thal's aka Bumblefoot's 'Little Brother Is Watching' CD.  Rounding out our "Rock Music Star Top 10 Rock Releases" of 2015, this album from Bumblefoot is by far, the most eclectic release on the list.  And that's a very good thing!
 
Not only is Thal a very underrated guitar player (best described by Guitar Network Magazine as Ridiculous... in a good way"), but he's a very solid lead singer and his vocal abilities shine throughout 'Little Brother Is Watching.'  Whether he's channeling David Bowie on songs like "Argentina," Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) on "Don't Know Who To Pray To Anymore" or replicating harmonies which would make the Beatles envious throughout the disc, Bumblefoot treats his voice just like the six string instrument he has mastered for so many years.  Looking forward to many more great releases from Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal in the future... 

 

Thursday
Jan152015

Rock Music Star - "Top 10 Rock releases of 2014"  

 
1. Sister Sin - "Black Lotus" - Taking the number one slot of 2014 is Sister Sin with "Black Lotus."  The fact that a band so early in their career can deliver earth shattering metal of this magnitude is simply astounding.  Even within their Euro-metal style, they show the ability to be diverse on "Black Lotus" with killer tracks like the acoustic driven, "The Jinx."  While each of our "Top 10" have great songs and other musical merits, this 'rookie' band amongst it's group of 'veterans' are taking the torch of metal by demand, proving that they are the front runners of the future of this genre.

2. Body Count -"Manslaughter"-  Ice T shocked the metal community in 2014 with the return of Body Count by releasing the best album of their career with "Manslaughter."  Whether it's their remake of Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized" or the advance single, "Talk Shit, Get Shot" this album is real deal metal and Ice-T's vocal delivery is beyond words.  A beginning to end master piece that came completely from left field in 2014.

3. Sebastian Bach - "Give Em Hell"- One of the biggest singers from the 80's that seems to have a love/hate relationship with the metal community, and at times, his own fan base, continues to prove to his critics that he can still deliver the goods.  "Give 'Em Hell" is the perfect example of taking a classic hard rock approach and adding nu-school metal production values, giving the listener a solid body of work and something really enjoyable and 'new' to listen to.  While there are a few clunkers on "Give 'Em Hell," the ones that rock, REALLY kick ass.  Steve Stevens guitar playing on "Gun To a Knife Fight" is the worthy of the number 3 spot alone.

4. Slash - "World On Fire"-  Finding a comfort zone between a current hard rock sound and the Guns N Roses type riffage, which attained the guitar icon the legendary status which he possesses, Slash and his Conspirators have truly set the "World on Fire" with it's 2014 release.  Again, demonstrating a real 'band feel' on this album, "Word on Fire" is not a record the average listener can digest in a single listening, as this 17 song opus clocks in at just over 77 minutes of music.  The amount of classic sounding GNR type licks are unreal and his soloing is as about as perfect as you can get from Slash.

5. Sixx:A.M. - "Modern Vintage"-  Motley Crue mastermind Nikki Sixx's side-project, Sixx:A.M., which oddly enough was never intended to be a 'band,' shows growth once again, as this rising phoenix continues to spread it's wings and shows it's musical expansion on their 3rd full length release, "Modern Vintage."  Although, the band has moved away from some of their signature musical stylings, the core has been left intact, which is great song writing by Sixx, vocalist James Michael and guitarist DJ Ashba, which there is plenty of on "Modern Vintage."

6. Overkill - "White Devil Armory"- Another band that refuses to sell out or alter it's sound, are the New Jersey kings of Thrash Metal, Overkill.  Releasing perhaps the best and most consistent album since 1996's "Killing Kind" CD, "White Devil Armory" is the most convincing, old school sounding metal album I've heard in years.  Songs like "Bitter Pill" are pure riffing genius and the Metallica influenced "Where's there's Smoke" sounds like it could have come right off of "Master of Puppets."

7. Accept - "Blind Rage" - Since the reformation of Accept in 2009 by original members, Wolf Hoffmann and Peter Baltes, this band can do no wrong. This is Accept's third release with vocalist, Mark Tornillo, and they just keep getting better and better with each record. Brutally intense riffs with screaming banshee vocals are mixed together, resulting in an anthematic metal masterpiece.

8. Dave Constantino Band - "Touch"- Buffalo, NY music legend, Dave Constantino, triumphantly returns with his second solo release. 'Touch' is a ten-song, blues-rock masterpiece, with incredible musicianship that features well-crafted, late-night bar room rockers, fueled by a unique and uncompromising nasty guitar tone that would warrant the attention and admiration of any guitar-loving fan. This is a release that deserves to be heard over and over again.

9. Red Dragon Cartel - "Red Dragon Cartel"- After decades in obscurity, ex Ozzy/Badlands guitarist, Jake E. Lee, returns with an ambitious new band. But, its Lee's amazing guitar that is still the focal point on this diverse and impressive release. Interestingly, Lee utilizes five guest vocalists, which include Robin Zander, Maria Brinks, Paul Di'Anno, in addition to full time singer-Darren Smith. The first single, "Feeder," which features Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), has a bit of a modern edge, and was well received. However, songs like the riff-heavy, Black Sabbath-influenced, "War Machine," are the style of songs that fans of Jake E. Lee desire the most.

10.Tesla - "Simplicity"- Jeff Keith and the boys are like a late 80's version of AC/DC.  Never straying from their signature sound, and in 2014, they released another album of the signature Tesla brand of 'straight ahead rock and roll.'  While some of their recent releases have been better than others, "Simplicity" definitely falls into the "better" category.  While "Simplicity" didn't deliver another "Modern Day Cowboy" or a "Little Suzi," this release is solid from beginning to end and rightly deserves to be part of our "Top 10" for 2014.

Monday
Oct202014

Roxie 77 - "Ameriswede" EP 

By John Jeffrey
 
Take some 90's power pop, mix it with some 70's garage rock, and sprinkle in some 50's do-wop, and you'll have a pretty close recipe to Roxie 77's "Ameriswede" EP.  Ryan Roxie has been at the helm of the number one guitar slot in Alice Cooper's solo band for the better part of the past 20 years, and has figured out what Kane Roberts, Vinnie Moore, Al Pitrelli and a slew of other guitar shredders could not.  Being the lead guitar player in Alice Cooper's band is not about cramming as many notes as possible into eight bars of a classic Cooper track or figuring out what the mode of the month is, but it's about being authentic and playing for the song, which is exactly what Ryan Roxie does on the "Ameriswede" EP.
 
While the material on Roxie 77's follow up to their 2009 release, "Two Sides To Every Story," is definitely guitar driven, it's certainly not shredder fodder and Ryan knows exactly where to throw in tasteful leads where it counts.  And any guitar lover will appreciate Roxie's homage to Judas Priest's "Turbo Lover" guitar solo in the standout track, "The Solution."
 
The "Ameriswede" EP features 6 new songs from Roxie & Co, with 2 different mixes of each song. This release was pressed exclusively on vinyl, but when you buy the vinyl, you receive a digital download and a CD copy. Although the band originally formed in 2002, when Ryan moved to Sweden in 2006, he assembled the current lineup, which features Anton Korberg (drums), Magnus Wikstrom (Bass) and Eric Rydman (guitar/saxophone/keyboards).
 
At an Alice Cooper concert in 2013, Bellyache Records owner and Alice Cooper fanatic Scotty Hagen approached Roxie about the possibility of releasing a two-track 7” single on the label.  The project eventually blossomed into what has become "Ameriswede."  The EP features an “American” side mixed by fellow Alice Cooper guitarist Tommy Henriksen, and a “Swedish” side mixed by producer Jon Bordon.
 
The "American" side has a much more polished sound and the "Swedish" mixes of the songs have a much more raw sound, with an almost live/demo type quality to them.  Although the arrangements for both versions are pretty similar, I think prefer the mix of the "American" side.  Although, I do like the guitar tone more on the "Swedish" mix and the fact that Ryan went with an electric guitar on the "Swedish" version of "Anna" as opposed to the much too clean acoustic on the "American" counterpart.
 
With Roxie again on the road with Alice Cooper, continuing as the supporting act for Motley Crue’s farewell tour, fans have the opportunity to interact with Ryan as part of Roxie’s International Rock & Roll Parking Lot, his nightly pre-show meet-and-greet, where you can get your copy of the "Ameriswede" release directly from him or if you can't make it to one of the shows, you can order the vinyl (w/CD copy & digital download) directly from www.Bellyacherecords.com

Wednesday
Sep172014

Beasto Blanco‏ - "Live Fast, Die Loud"

by John Jeffrey
 
When speaking with one of the greatest drummers in rock and roll about the creative aspect of music - specifically regarding song writing - I learned that at times, there can be a tendency to wear your musical influences on your sleeve.  KISS drummer Eric Singer could not have been more right when it comes to his former Alice Cooper band mate, Chuck Garric, and his new band, Beasto Blanco.
 
When listening to Beasto Blanco's debut CD, "Live Fast, Die Loud" (Rat Pak Records), at first glance, some may easily dismiss Beasto Blanco as a Rob Zombie wanna-be, but when you peel away the layers and get to what this band is really about, you will discover "Live Fast, Die Loud" is really a beast(o) all of it's own.  While the White Zombie, Motorhead and post-2000 era Alice Cooper influences are all clearly audible, the strength of Beasto Blanco lies within the songs, as the assortment of tracks on "Live Fast, Die Loud" is one of the most consistent and cohesive records to come out in a long time.  This is due in large part to the excellent production work by Tommy Henrikson.  Henrikson created a strong, in your face sound, without over thinking things, and giving each song straight forward arrangements that don't sound pro-tooled to death, like a lot of other producers tend to do these days.
 
Garric tapped Cooper band mate Glen Sobel to lay down the drum tracks for the first three songs recorded for the "Live Fast, Die Loud" CD, which were "Freak," "Live Fast, Die Loud" and "Breakdown," which really set the tone for the rest of the album.  In addition to Sobel, the remaining drum trucks were provided by Tim Husung & Jonathan Mover.  The remaining cast of "Live Fast, Die Loud" features Jan Lebron (bass), Chris Latham (lead guitar), Tiffany Lowe (synth), Mr. Beasto Blanco himself - Chuck Garric (guitar/lead vocals) and Calico Cooper (backing and lead vocals during the breakdown of the song, "Live Fast, Die Loud").  Calico did a great job matching Chuck's intensity on this record, as her maniacal, twisted counterpoint backing vocals do a great job offsetting the testosterone driven guttural growls provided by Garric.
 
What really puts Beasto Blanco a step above most bands of their genre is the fact that they can pull off the sound of what they created on this record in a live setting.  In order to recreate all of the layering and synth sounds, most acts would require the use of pre-recorded backing tracks and canned vocals, but judging from what I've seen online of their recent performances, Beasto Blanco pulls it all off live, without any 'audio augmentation.'  Beasto Blanco is the real deal, and "Live Fast, Die Loud" is an album every rock music fan should own.