Album Review- Ross The Boss: By Blood Sworn

 

Image result for ross the boss by blood sworn

Ross Friedman is a guitarist who needs no introduction. Being a member of the highly influential Power Metal group Manowar through their golden era in the 80’s and eventually his own solo career, Ross The Boss always dominated a high macho guitar sound that most others would kill for. After touring relentlessly with a solid backing band performing some of the best Manowar songs, Ross comes back in 2018 with another solo album featuring a lot of original material to dig into as well as a couple bonus Manowar covers.

Opening with the title track, the band go right for the epic mid paced sound of Manowars classic days. It is quite refreshing to hear as it has a good catch to it. The production definitely reminds me on this album overall of the first Manowar release. It has that Power Metal feel definitely but the sound is a lot more raw and unfortunately in some aspects the guitars feel a bit buried at points. However, besides a few nit picks most of the songs presented here are catchy, true gritty classic Heavy Metal! The next song “Among The Bones” has one of the most infectious main riffs to any song I have heard this year so far. The chorus comes in very strong as well it is definitely one of the highlights among many others. “This Is Vengeance” is the obvious epic speed metal piece presented and is just as glorious as ever. This track really showcases the raw power of Marc Lopes vocal style from his high screams to his low almost extreme growls from time to time. Even the bonus Manowar tracks he handles perfectly just as he does live with them. Even a track like “We Are The Night” he is able to perfectly balance melody and intensity throughout. But overall, the album presents a lot of fantastic riffs that don’t feel stale. The softer and more acoustic/piano driven “Faith Of The Fallen” is a nice change of pace as well and is definitely a song that I feel would work terrifically live. Another favorite is the almost Ted Nugent-like “Devils Pay” that is a really simplistic catchy rocking tune. The more simplistic songs are the best I feel because they really show off the chemistry of the band and the solid groove they have. Most of the later tracks such as “Lilith”, “Play Among The Godz” and the really upbeat “Circle Of Damnation” which is just a pure dirty hard rock song, all have something different to offer and in a fresh yet familiar way.

This album is really one that gives and keeps on giving, showing the Boss has not lost his step at all. If you are an old school Manowar fan, you will not be disappointing with this album. From the dirty Hard Rocking tunes to the epic Power Metal moments, this album will surely satisfy any classic Heavy Metal fan or anyone who is a fan of Ross The Boss. Now hopefully he brings some of these songs on tour soon enough.

9/10

 

Album Review: Redd Barron- The Barron’s Here To Rock

 

 

So many bands over the past decades have been lost to the sands of time with their numerous demo’s and unreleased songs being forever lost and unknown to would be fans. Redd Barron are a perfect case as their early 1990 demo’s could be found with a search on the internet but never given a proper release. For a long time I suppose they were just another Chicago band lost in time. I had heard of these guys roughly around a year ago after a long night researching long time Chicago acts and found their brand of melodic Hard Rock very enjoyable and catchy. Minus the rough production, these guys could well Rock! However, we finally see with their announcement of a reunion at this years Legions Of Metal, a proper release of all their material compiled into one album via the terrific Heaven & Hell Records.

 

Opening with the title track, right away you can get the exact sound these guys were going for. That melodic Hard Rock sound that, in 1984, could’ve catapulted these guys to an actual album deal.  The album overall is very consistent sticking with the same style throughout and many catchy songs. Songs like “Living Our Life For Rock” I could have seen on MTV in the early 80’s easily. Another favorite early on is “Dow Jones” which has some very heavy guitar melodies that carry the song through and make for a nice gem of a tune. “Blind Date” also has some nice aggressive yet simplistic guitar playing as well. Vocalist Brian Lee really completes the band and his vocals coupled with the simplistic mid paced Hard Rocking instrumentation almost give off like a working man version of Dokken. Essentially without all the flash, that is what these guys remind me of which isn’t uncommon as a lot of the bands from that time sounded similar. “Burning Cities” is where the band go more into a straight Heavy Metal mode and play it off well. This is another song that again if it were ever given a chance with a more sleek production, it would be massive sounding.  This is also the track where the album is in it’s other batch of demo’s but besides production being a bit more rough, these tracks work well enough with the original six tracks. Tracks like “Shadows” and “Search For Love” definitely show the band really had chops and rightfully deserved a spot in the scene. Finally we see the finale of “Kill Or Be Killed” which is one of the most anthemic songs on the album and one I can’t wait to hear live as well.

Overall, while the music isn’t completely original nor complex, this is a fantastic collection of catchy written melodic Hard Rock that I guarantee a lot of Heavy Metal/Hard Rock fans haven’t heard. It is also a great album to have for anyone interested in the Chicago metal scene as well. Redd Barron have taken flight once more and it is great to see their music properly see the light of day!

Heavy Load have released a teaser of new song “Walhalla Warriors”

 

After Heavy Load announced their return to the music scene, many wondered if they would ever produce new music. Well the wait is over as the band have released a demo of the first half of the track “Walhalla Warriors” off of an upcoming album due in 2019. It definitely has a good heavy mid pace and feels like the production for the demo anyway is similar to their albums way back when. However, it is just nice to see such a cult band come back to life. Check out the new song above!

Show Review: Judas Priest at Grossinger Motor Arena, Bloomington IL 04/08/18

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Heavy Metal in Illinois was alive and proud and a bit grey on the Night of April 8th, 2018 in the heart of Bloomington. I had taken a near two hour car ride to stay down there for the weekend hoping the trip was worth it for the show.  Considering I had never heard of the venue I was curious because I’ve been to some I’d never been to and they were absolutely terrible. However, space wise they didn’t even use the whole arena and almost smacked the stage right in the middle. Either way it was a good call considering no matter where you sat or stood it was a fantastic view of the stage. Besides the halls becoming a little crammed it wasn’t too bad of a venue.

Black Star Riders

First band up for the night was Black Star Riders who are essentially Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy fame’s solo band. Their sound meshes that classic whole vibe of classic Thin Lizzy all the way to their vocalist having a similar style to Phil Lynott’s. While I am not a gigantic BSR fan, They are an enjoyable band enough live and their songs definitely are more lively and heavier in a live atmosphere. Mostly, I am happy to see Gorham still up there doing it and seeing them pull out “Jailbreak” was a nice little throwback. Besides the shoddy feedback that seemed to resonate from time to time, I’d say they were a reasonable and energetic opener.

Saxon

How many times can I talk about Saxon this year? Seriously especially since this was my second time seeing them this week. However, for this show I was in the seats even though I really wanted to be back down in front like the week before. However, I found the most enjoyable part just seeing the band play on such a large stage in America, and the crowd turn up for them wasn’t bad either! However, after their set I was still pleased to have seen them do an intimate show on this tour considering this set was mainly an abridged version of the week before. Nearly same songs(take away a few) and some numbers cut in half like”Denim And Leather”. However, seeing them get a relatively healthy reaction from the crowd at the closing notes of “Heavy Metal Thunder” made me happy to witness these British metal legends. Seriously seeing Saxon live will never get old, even after four times I feel they almost always outperform the show previous.

 

Judas Priest

Finally, as the current fell over the stage, it was time for the almighty Judas Priest to take the reigns much more. This was my second time seeing the band since 2015 and I have to say holy hell they sounded a lot better this time around. Now don’t get me wrong, the band was very hot on the Redeemer of Souls tour and pulled an impressive setlist that time around. But the band overall sounded very alive and were mixed better here than when I saw them at Rosemont. The biggest drawback obviously was not seeing Glenn Tipton on stage. To me he is the real icon of Priest and it was weird just not seeing him up there but I have to commend Ritchie Faulkner for really taking the reigns. He has proven himself to be one of the most vital members in Judas Priest history. He essentially saves the band and Im sure if he wanted to, he could take over all solo guitar duties. However Andy Sneap I feel did a stand up job and felt really tight and gelled well with Ritchie on stage. While richie took some of the most well known solo’s such as the middle segement in “Sinner” and all the part on “Painkiller”, He did duel with Sneap on songs like “The Green Manalishi” and “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”. He even pulled off the solo’s in “Electric Eye” and “Hell Bent For Leather” very well. The stage set even felt super 80’s and even looked like something out of the “Turbo” tour which I really dug as well instead of just big screens. Halford holy hell, he sounded way more lively than the last tour as well even pulling deep cuts like “Saints In Hell” show just how well is voice has still aged. And finally, the setlist was about as solid as can be. While I would have liked to see some more cuts from Defenders on this tour or even Turbo or Ram It Down considering they are celebrating anniversaries, it was very solid with cuts like “Grinder”, “Bloodstone”, “Running Wild”,”Sinner” and plenty of others including three cuts off the new amazing album “Firepower”.

In short, go see this tour if you havent bought tickets for future dates. the band is still as hot as ever and still dish out these songs with faith and plenty of fury live. With new blood brings new life and Judas Priest in 2018 have entered a new era that keeps them running strong and this show proved just that.

Show Review: Saxon live at Reggies, Chicago IL 04/01/18

Saxon 2018

Banging drums, soaring guitars and…..Candy? That’s exactly what we got at the Saxon show on Easter Sunday in Chicago! First of all this goes with saying, this show was already going to be killer from the start. Considering two of my favorite Chicago bands were included along with one of my all time favorite bands of all time, this was an easy show to say yes to.

Shokker

Opening the show was Chicago’s own Shokker. They were definitely a good band to open up the show with their powerhouse sound that recalls the classic era of Heavy Metal. Casey Tremont’s hard hitting guitar playing was terrific along with vocalist Rachl Quinn’s soaring vocals. Easily one of the best female vocalists I’ve seen live in terms of range and charisma. The whole band overall was very tight and energetic pulling songs from their terrific debut “III” and even a blistering faithful cover of “Bark At The Moon”. I honestly would have loved to see them higher on the bill and hope to see them many more times.

Pipe

Pipe were up next and definitely had the most “interesting” stage setup with bong props and marijuana flags draped over their equipment which I felt was a bit overkill. The overall sound of the band was very simplistic hard rock akin to 90’s groups like Godsmack. However, I feel like they didn’t fit with this bill much and personally, I feel they played way too long. They just had a somewhat dull sound to me it just didn’t have the energy every other band clearly had in spades. Just not a good fit to the bill in my opinion.

Scars of Armageddon

This was my third time seeing these guys rip it up on stage and they never disappoint. their brand of epic progressive metal is done so well in the sense that it doesn’t get too repetitive or dull live and they know how to keep the energy up. However, the only thing that sucked about this performance was that they were only able to play three songs but I feel they made their point perfectly as much as they could in that short time slot.

Saxon

And finally, it was time for the Brits to invade Chicago once again. I have seen Saxon twice before in a large venue and small venue and I have to say this was the best they’ve sounded and played thus far. The sound even up front was super crisp with Nigel Glocklers tight drumming blending perfectly with both guitarists as well as Biff who was in top form singing every high and low note with ease. The only casualty was Paul Quinn bleeding almost the whole set all over hist strings but he played it off all night quite well even if he was more focused on playing than anything. Nibbs Carter I will always consider Saxon’s second front man as he is just as energetic as Biff perhaps more. The band played a wide range of songs with the new album being a large focus with I believe at least half of it being played. Where with some bands this can be way over doing it, Saxon are not afraid to let new songs shine and every song sounded as classic as the classics themselves. One of the biggest highlights was the band doing “Predator” with Nibbs handling the death metal growling vocals it was great to see them bring that one to stage. The band of course played all the classics (Power and The Glory, Dallas 1PM, Wheels of Steel” etc.”) and played an impressive two hour set that only they could match. The best moment personally was watching Biff wear my vest during Denim and Leather. It was just one of those moments as a fan that I’ll personally never forget.

Overall, this was a no brainer show for me personally and easily the best show i’ve seen them put on as well as the bands mentioned above(well mostly). Saxon always put on the great live show and even if you aren’t a huge Heavy Metal fan, they are just a great band musically to see live. The energy, the history and the whole vibe that carries on through their performance spanning forty years of hard hitting music really is worth it. Even when the band throws candy into the crowd at the end as a little easter joke, it is just a funny memory that adds to a great evening of music.

Album Review: Judas Priest- FirePower

 

Judas Priest are a band that need no introduction. They are one of the most revolutionary acts in both Rock and Heavy Metal music as we know it today. And here we are with the band actually nearing their 50th anniversary since formed(although no members from that line up exist at this time) and they are pushing out their 18th studio album entitled “Firepower”. A very anticipated record indeed since the release of their 2014 cut “Redeemer of Souls” which I still enjoy to this day even though the record felt a bit bloated and inconsistent with production in spots. However, with classic Priest producer Tom Allom and Accept revivalist Andy Sneap at the helm, can they bounce the band back to sounding like absolute monsters once again?

Right off the bat, we see the title track coupled with “Lightning Strike” showing that Priest sound heavy and fresh on record again. The guitars are extremely crisp with the low end really holding down the songs creating an all around bigger sound. Ian Hills bass on the record as a whole is a lot more present but not overwhelming as it should sound. Halford, what can you say. He sounds fresh and full of life especially on songs like “Evil Never Dies” with some very evil and shrill vocals styles throughout the chorus. Some of the songs presented on this album are just as good as cuts on Painkiller. Songs like the epic almost power metal-esque “Traitors Gate” show Priest at their absolute best. Even songs like “Spectre” which even has a bit of a “Ripper” feel to it but still feels fresh and energetic. The album does have a modern feel throughout with songs like the heavy and very catchy “Necromancer” and the more hard rocking and almost sludgy sounding “Lone Wolf”. However, the classic sounds are still present with songs like “Never The Heroes” which could have been on “Ram It Down” or even “Flame Thrower” which sounds like a cut off of “Defenders Of The Faith”. However, the biggest and greatest fact about this album is that these songs, coupled with the absolute lively and sleek yet organic production really give Priest a fresh sound they need this far along. The band sounds ten times more powerful and alive than they did four years ago. Even on slower mid paced songs like “Children Of The Sun” and “Rising From Ruins” coupled with the excellent and emotional opening instrumental “Guardians” really hold their own as well with such power and emotion conveyed through them. Another favorite of mine is “No Surrender” which has a very up beat rocking feel and is one of the most energetic songs on the album. Even the album closing ballad “Sea Of Red” is a fitting end to this juggernaut of a record. Simply put, there really are no bad songs on this album. Through my near twentieth full listen, no song has grown tired for me. The soloing is lively and even with Faulkner’s solos feeling a lot more organic on this record and Glenn still giving it all he’s got this late in the game it really is a feat considering his recent decision to cut out touring(instead we will see Andy Sneap slinging his axe on stage). It really is sad to see but if this is the last record from the almighty Priest, then it is possibly the best way the band could go out.

Overall, I have to say that this album is easily an early contender for album of the year. This is easily the best modern Priest album and although it  honestly is more of just straight forward Heavy Metal with no real surprises, the music that is presented has so much life and substance to it with the band really giving it their all. Don’t miss out on this record and even though we won’t see the same line up as presented here, the shows will still be great and hopefully they pull a lot from this record, it is a beast!

Album Review: Sacred Leather- Ultimate Force

Sacred Leather

This album has been heavily anticipated for me ever since I first saw the band back at Legions of Metal last year. With their brash, very macho and very faithful sounding brand of heavy metal, I was really curious how they would bring that to their first full length record. Simply put, they deliver in spades.

With the blistering and anthemic opening title track, the band brings their A game both i  production and playing. The production is raw but with the right amount of shine to keep the album sounding muddy or unfocused. Next comes the very Mercyful Fate-ish “Watcher” that’s very catchy with a chorus to be reckoned with. One of my favorite tracks on the album “Power Thrust” is a mid tempo, dirty rocker that just screams the mid 80’s in both structure and sound. The lead breaks almost feel like Glenn and KK from Priest in their hey day it is that faithful sounding. It is also another tune that is catchy as well with dirty low backup vocals that further amplify hows badass this song is. Next is the more serious toned ballad “Dream Searcher” which is performed in good taste with a lot of melody throughout. It is a nice change of pace and shows the band exploring some more somber sounds. Although this song is a lot longer, I could have seen it being a tune to rival a lot of Power Ballads in the 80’s. Next up is the incredibly upbeat “Master Is Calling” which has a really nice build to it.  This shows the band firing on all cylinders especially with the blazing guitar soloing throughout. Next up is undoubtedly my biggest highlight on the album “Prowling Sinner” which is the most energetic track on the album easily with its galloping rhythm and huge yet simple chorus. This is the one song that if I had to recommend any from the band, this would be it. Finally, the band caps the album off with “The Lost Destructor/ Priest Of The Undoer” which is definitely the most one of the more complex songs on the album. Being more mid tempo, this track still manages to be catchy and heavy as well as a decent closer with some somber moments toward the end to mix it up a bit.

Overall, this is a solid offering of American forged classic Heavy Metal in the modern day. As simple as the album is, it is hard to deny the charm it has with the band really nailing that very sleek yet raw sound of the early to mid 1980’s especially in the guitar soloing and intense vocals that never let up. The musicianship is spot on and simply put, its Heavy Fucking Metal and if that is your thing, you should have this album in your collection. Sacred Leather is a band I would like to see stick around for a long time as this is easily one of the best of the year, 9/10.