Check out some of the releases that are coming out today:
Queensryche – The Verdict
Like most, I was thrilled in the direction Queensryche took once Todd LaTorre took over on lead vocals. The band had been lost since Chris DeGarmo left after Hear In The Now Frontier, don’t get me wrong there were glimpses here and there, but mostly missteps. I still don’t understand how they didn’t have Ronnie James Dio use his “maniacal” voice when portraying Dr. X. Most of their career post DeGarmo felt like a lot of season two of True Detective, and what I mean by saying that, we heard pieces that made us think “ok, it’s safe to come out and play again”, there were signs that this was the band that put out Rage To Order, Operation Mindcrime and Empire. But much like the Medellin trailer from Entourage, any movie can be edited to a thirty second trailer and look great. It’s the other three hours of movie you have sit through that kind of suck. I’m not saying that anything Queensryche has released has outright sucked, but it surely didn’t hold my attention like previous albums, there were a lot of just ok moments, where if it were another band, I may have bailed, or not given them a chance. In 2013 the band released their first album with LaTorre, the self-titled Queensryche, which was the band showing they could still hang with their former selves. Then came 2015’s Condition Hüman, which saw the band experimenting a little, while still following that early Queensryche blueprint. The Verdict is an amalgam of both, in the sense that they’ve spread their wings a little more, yet they are still delivering what made us fall in love with them in the late 80s and early 90s. However, I will say that I think this is the most solid release with LaTorre in the band. I like the previous two, but they both have tracks that I skip over when listening to. The new album doesn’t have any of those moments, I feel that it is their most solid release since Promise Land. It feels like they took more time crafting all of the songs on the album, instead of a producer or label saying “we need one more”. It really feels like they took their time to ensure every song on the album was as strong as could be. Tracks like “Blood Of Levant”, “Man The Machine”, “Dark Reverie” and “Light-Years” put the album over the top. To the point where I’ve been playing several of these songs consistently these last few days. And with all of the talk about Scott Rockenfield not being on the album, LaTorre has done a great job filling in, is there any musician in the band that he can’t mimic? You may not share my opinion on the album, but I do think long time fans of the band will not be disappointed.
Mark Morton – Anesthetic
This has been a long time coming, since the collaboration with Dez Fafara on a project that never went past the demo stage, to Morton tweeting about different things he was into that had nothing to do with what he’s known for in Lamb Of God. So I’ve been eagerly awaiting for this release for some time. Then I read the list of people involved, and I thought, this could be great, or could really suck. The smartest thing they did was release the track “The Truth Is Dead” with Randy Blythe, and Alissa White-Gluz first, it’s the closest thing to Lamb Of God on the album, given that Blythe is singing on the track, and the Arch Enemy vocalist lends her guttural vocals stylings to the song as well. Then they went with the rumored Chester Bennington track, “Cross Off”, which again, was a brilliant move, showing the contrast in styles throughout the album. It seemed before there was confirmation, sites were already making assumption about who, and on what Morton had worked with on the album. Especially given the direction Linkin Park went in over the years. This prompted Morton to stand up and confirm his collaboration with Chester, with little hesitation. The album is very diverse, no two songs sound alike, which I absolutely love. What became laughable to me was how sites known for how “metal” they are are couldn’t come to terms with there being various elements of hard rock and metal present on the album. I’ve read one review that said “it sounds like two albums a Lamb Of God album and a blues album”. Yeah, I don’t hear the Mississippi delta on this one, sorry. The closest thing to flat out blues is “Axis” which has a ton of acoustic guitar and features former Screaming Trees’ vocalist Mark Lanegan on it. But that track is more of a cross between Johnny Cash, and Everlast, than Buddy Guy, or Robert Johnson. Look, all things rock are based in the blues, so even the heaviest of metal borrows something from the blues. But the track “Blur” with Mark Morales of the band Sons Of Texas is the best Dokken song released in ages! I’m not sure if Morton is a fan of George Lynch, but I do know he’s a fan of Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page’s open string playing, something Lynch kind of made his own over the last few decades, and well his playing sounds like him on the track. Then you have “Imaginary Days”, which based on the fact that there are no guests mentioned on the track, seems to be Morton singing lead on it. This track is also very cool, and has a very 80s hard rock sounding as well. There is no shame in that, or this album at all, I listen to it and feel as if Morton didn’t care about anyone’s opinion, he just wanted to do an honest album that he wanted to hear. So if you like the heaviness of the album, cool, if you like the more hard rock aspects, awesome, if you like all of the twists and turns, great. As I alluded to above, the album is full of guests, that although I may not be a fan of their normal band, I really enjoyed their contribution to this album. It, in my opinion has lived up to the hype, and is one of my favorite things to come out so far this year.
Demon Hunter – Peace
Demon Hunter – War
The Seattle band has been around for quite some time now, establishing itself as a band that has survived several metal trends that have consumed a lot of their contemporaries. This time around they have decided to release two albums, and much like their respective titles suggests, each album is a polar opposite from one another. The band has been seen by many as the American Soilwork, which is possibly why they ventured into releasing a double album. But when you look back at bands that have decided to release two albums at the same time, or relatively close to one another, how many times do you look back and say “wow, so awesome that we got all those songs from them” instead of “I wish they would have condensed this in to a single disc”. I’m sure die-hards are saying the former, while the more casual fans are saying the latter. And their off, the debate has begun, get ready for years of bickering among fans. Even before the release of the albums, metal sites have begun bashing Peace‘s lighter more mellow material, while loving War. Honestly this isn’t entirely shocking, given the fact that a lot of sites look over their shoulders before giving you their opinion to ensure that their still saying what visitors of their sites think is cool. In the end, if you love this band’s previous work, you’ll probably like these albums, if you’re on the fence or unfamiliar with them, stream it first, and pick up the album you prefer.
In Flames – I, the Mask
The band helped establish what became known as the Gothenburg sound, with those first few melodic death metal albums, but shifted their focus a few years after. Still putting out quality music over the years, albums like Clayman, Soundtrack To Your Escape, and Come Clarity immediately come to mind, heavy, punishing, yet melodic, and possibly classified by most as metalcore. But starting with A Sense Of Purpose the band began to shift their focus in a more commercial direction, getting a little more modern hard rock with each subsequent release. Along the way they’ve lost some key members of the band, most notably Jesper Strömblad and Peter Iwers, couple that with them signing to a management company that’s known for Papa Roach, Sixx A.M., and the like, and I think a lot of people started to see the band, and the album as a lost cause. Instead, the band promised, and has delivered, arguably their heaviest, and most guitar driven album in over a decade, since the aforementioned Come Clarity. That said, there will be a lot of purists that will still complain about the hard rock aspects of the album, but what I think the band has excelled at doing with this album is combining what they’ve done in the last decade, and given you a glimpses of the past without getting overly nostalgic. Could they do like Paradise Lost, and pull a 180, going back to their roots and deliver something closer to Lunar Strain or The Jester Race? Stranger things have happened, but given the trajectory of the last three albums, I kind of doubt it. None of the albums have been flat out bad, but I, The Mask, is definitely a push in a heavier direction, what most would consider an upgrade over the last few releases by the band.
Mike Tramp – Stray From The Flock
The former White Lion singer could easily do what so many of bands that reached notoriety in the late 80s have done, find a label to keep releasing nostalgic material that imitates and leeches off of his past. He could have bitched about grunge, and faded away getting an “everyday job” and not being heard from in years, only to come back for a cash grab, etc. We’ve all seen these cases, and hey, nothing wrong with that, sometimes you got to do, what you’ve got to do. But, Tramps seems to have carved his own route, instead of doing any of the things I mentioned, he released several albums with the band Freak Of Nature, and then began his journey as a solo artist. Along the way he’s done something atypical for people that had big hits like he did, and that’s put out his own music without purposely trying to find that radio hit that so many artists pine for. Along the way he’s varied styles, and looks, but done it all on his terms. Stray From The Flock is his 11th solo album, and as you can tell from the video “Dead End Ride”, has little to do with the band, or music that catapulted him to the top of the charts. From Mable, to White Lion, to his solo career, he seems to have forged his own path, and done it his way.
Backyard Babies – Silver And Gold
The Swedish rock scene has never had a shortage of great acts, Backyard Babies has always been considered one of Sweden’s premier acts. Silver & Gold marks the band’s 30th anniversary, The band had been known to deliver everything from hard rock to punk, to glam metal and flat our rock n roll. Hell the term sleaze rock was created to essentially describe them. Although the band had disassembled in the middle of the 2000s, they came back in 2015 with Four By Four, and are back four years later with Silver And Gold. With this album, they have released eight overall, six of which have landed them in the top three of their native Sweden.
Ron Keel – Fight Like A Band
The name Ron Keel has been around since the early 80s, he has been in Steeler with Yngwie Malmsteen, the band Keel, which is how most were first introduced to the name, Fair Game, the country project IronHorse, his solo work, and a quick stint in Black Sabbath. Fight Like A Band is Ron’s first release on David Ellefson’s EMP label, it is his fifth solo release, and his first since 2014’s Metal Cowboy. Always a great interview, and a great story teller, check out his Patreon if you don’t believe me, this album serves up all of Ron Keel goodness you’ve come to know all of these years.
Other releases that may interest you:
Blaze Bayley – Live In France
Bryan Adams – Shine a Light
Gary Clark Jr. – This Land
Gary Numan – I Assassin (Reissue)
Malevolent Creation – The 13th Beast
Nightwish – Dark Passion Play (Reissue)
Nightwish – Made In Hong Kong – And Various Other Places (Reissue)
Nightwish – Once (Reissue)
Rock Goddess – This TIme
Sisters Of Suffocation – Humans Are Broken
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – The Best Of Everything
Weezer – The Black Album
While She Sleeps – So What?