Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Overkill - "The Grinding Wheel"

Overkill - The Grinding Wheel
2017, Nuclear Blast

1. Mean, Green, Killing Machine
2. G*****n Trouble
3. Our Finest Hour
4. Shine On
5. The Long Road
6. Let's All Go To Hades
7. Come Heavy
8. Red, White, and Blue
9. The Wheel
10. The Grinding Wheel
Bonus Track:
11. Emerald

So as is sort of becoming an annual tradition, I've been trying to catch up on some of the albums from last year that have made various people's lists. Overkill's The Grinding Wheel was one of them. I've never gotten into them even though they've been around for a long, long time. The Grinding Wheel definitely delivers a pummeling thrash experience with a nice thick, meaty guitar tone and some infectious riffs. Yes... the guitar-work here definitely made me smile. However, there were a couple things that I had an issue with. First, the vocalist is... kind of strange. It doesn't always work for me - especially his higher range. My wife and Lexi say he sounds like a Dalek from Doctor Who. Truth be told... he... kind of does. Sometimes I'm not sure whether this is a plus or negative. Also, some of the lyrics are odd. I can't explain it but something just seems off about some of them. "Someone left the cat out in the rain" from "Shine On" is a particular favorite. Despite these niggling little things I really do like The Grinding Wheel but I don't think I'm going to be an Overkill die-hard soon.

Useless Fact: I've heard they have sort of a rivalry going with Avenged Sevenfold due to the similarity of that band's logo with theirs.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Guardian - "First Watch (Legends Remastered)"

Guardian - First Watch (Legends Remastered)
1989/2017, Retroactive

1. I'll Never Leave You
2. Mystery Man
3. Livin' For The Promise
4. Miracle
5. Saints Battallion
6. Kingdom of Rock
7. The Good Life
8. One of a Kind
9. World Without Love
10. Rock in Victory
11. Hyperdrive
12. Marching On
Bonus Tracks
13. Spiritual Warfare
14. Marching On

I never got to hear First Watch the first time around. I remember my cousin got it and listened to it. She didn't think it was that great. Based on her word I never gave it a second thought... that is until last year's reissue. I got it in my head that I needed to hear it and I'm glad I did. It's really good, actually. Take that cousin from thirty years ago! Being produced by Oz Fox this album has a little bit of Stryper in it. Mostly, though, revel in the sweet guitar licks of Tony Palacios. He actually reminds me a little bit of Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme. So... solid hooks, great riffs... pretty much great all around.

Except the vocals. Let me be clear - the vocalist isn't bad. He's not. It's just... I've heard Jamie Rowe. He's got such a distinctive and powerful voice it's hard not to listen to this album and wonder how much his presence could have elevated it. Now, it's not the band's fault, Rowe just wasn't around but it's definitely a handicap for a listener who started with Fire and Love. Paul Cawley's clear, slightly nasally tone just doesn't hold up. It doesn't make this album unlistenable - I'm really glad I got to hear this. I just wanted to note the trouble I had because I think not a few listeners will have the same problem.

Finally, Retroactive has really been knocking it out of the park with these reissues. It's got everything you could want, liner notes, an interview with bassist David Bach, lyrics. It makes me happy. Also, I pre-ordered so mine came with an album cover card signed by Bach.

Useless Fact: Apparently the label held on to this album for a year and made the band tour to generate interest.

Monday, February 5, 2018

X-Sinner - "Get It"

X-Sinner - Get It
1989, Pakaderm

1. Medicine
2. Steppin' On Toes
3. Hearts on Fire
4. No Way In
5. Get It
6. Accountable
7. Walking Evil
8. Lift Him Up
9. Kick 'Em Out
10. Livin' On The Edge

I remembered more about the circumstances of my borrowing this album from my cousin than I did the album itself. It was a Wednesday night and my first real girlfriend had her friend call me a couple hours before church to break up with me. Not my first experience with heartache, but it still stung. I then got to watch her at church that night fawn over some other guy the whole time. Fun. Oh! and also the U.S. began Operation: Desert Storm that same day. January 16th, 1991 - I know this because there's a Fluffy song about it called "1/16/91." I mostly remember listening to this album with that weird hollowed-out feeling you get when an important relationship ends.

Where was I? Oh, yeah! The album! It's pretty much Christian AC/DC, right down to the vocalist who does a spot-on version of Brian Johnson. Seriously, if you played "Medicine" for someone not in the know they'd think it was some lost AC/DC track from the Back In Black sessions. Or maybe The Razor's Edge sessions. I mean... it's AC/DC, does it really matter? To the band's credit, they do a pretty good job with solid hooks and interesting riffs. "No Way In" is notable in that it backs off the AC/DC for a second to be its own thing. Also, "Livin' On The Edge" sounds a bit more Def Leppard than AC/DC. This album is way out of print as of now - even the reissue is pricey.

Useless Fact: Main man Rex Scott was also the main man of Zion - another Christian metal band with some AC/DC type influences.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

D.O.G. (Disciples of God) - "Unleashed"

D.O.G. (Disciples of God) - Unleashed
2017, Roxx Productions

1. No One Rides For Free
2. Seeking Your Face
3. Pay the Piper
4. Into Thin Air
5. Aliens and Strangers
6. Armageddon
7. Life or Death
8. Hey You

I heard about D.O.G. from Scott Waters' You Tube channel. I was pretty sold on the samples I heard. D.O.G. play a brand of old-school heavy metal that sounds not unlike Motorhead or Kill 'Em All-era Metallica. It's pretty stripped-down and no-nonsense. Maybe a little too stripped-down, though as there definitely seems to be something off with the mixing and mastering. I'm not sure if these are demo tracks Roxx decided to put out as is but it definitely sounds like it's maybe not mastered properly? I don't know. Maybe it's just the speakers in my car. Anyway, don't let that stop you as it's not unlistenable and the rough production actually feels genuine to the sound. I'm hoping these guys get a chance to do a full studio album as I think Unleashed shows some great potential.

Useless Fact: D.O.G. features ex-Holy Soldier drummer Terry Russell on drums and vocals. You'll remember Terry is the one who did one of the best drum solos at a concert I've ever seen.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ransom - "Soul Asylum"

Ransom - Soul Asylum 
1992/2017, Roxx Productions

1. Soul Hymn
2. Exit (Euthanasia)
3. Windows of My Heart
4. The Lies
5. Prayer Asylum
6. Only the Just Let Go
7. Not That Kind of Girl
8. Watching Over Me
9. Higher Ground
10. Sister Blue

For Ransom's second album the trade in the shiny, metallic sounds of the debut for something a bit more earthy, organic, and bluesy. It leans a little more towards the hard rock side than the metal side. This is not a negative however as the slight shift gives vocalist Lisa Faxom even more room to shine. She was truly one of the hidden gems of the Christian rock scene. I don't think she ever got the kudos she deserved. I have grown to prefer this album over their first. Soul Asylum was the band's last album. A I think if there was a band that could have still sounded good during the alternative days it's this one. This edition is a reissue from Roxx Productions with lyrics and liner notes and everything. Good job, there! I always like when reissues have the whole package. I guess this one was strictly limited to 300 copies - mine is #74.

Useless Fact: Not really a fact... more a question. What ever happened to Lisa? We've got some recollections from bassist Michael Preciado but I'd hate to think that she stopped singing after Ransom ended.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Xalt - "Dark War (Retroarchives Edition)"

Xalt - Dark War (Retroarchives Edition)
1988/2017, Retroactive

1. Ariel
2. The Cross
3. God In A Box
4. Where Victory Storms
5. Angry Fire
6. Ready For The Fight
7. A Warrior's Honor
8. Looking Down a Loaded Gun
9. Palace Daydream
10. Soldiers in the Mist
11. Dark War
Bonus Tracks:
12. Under the Ruins (Demo)
13. Wounded Heart (Demo)
14. The Kingdom Within (Demo)
15. Lift Him Up (Demo)
16. The Fortress (Demo)
17. Through the Night (Demo)

I'm mostly familiar with Xalt through their third album, History, and the totally awesome cover art for Under the Ruins. I was aware of Dark War mostly because of its cool cover art and the fact that it was never released on CD. I never saw this album around anywhere either. Though I think this was more of an independent release before the band was signed to Pure Metal. Well, unlike more pop/hard rock direction of History, this album is well... pure metal. It's one of those albums where the passion of the players shines through the rough production. You can tell this was a labor of love with every note. It also helps that the songs boast some impressive guitar work along with Scott Doerfler's soaring, clear vocals. I keep coming back despite the all the tape hiss (hey... you can only do so much when putting a tape on CD, y'know?). This edition comes with some demos for Under the Ruins. They kind of got me hoping Retroactive is planning on reissuing that album as well.

Useless Fact: In the liner notes, guitarist James Erdman admits that "Looking Down a Loaded Gun" sounds a bit too much like Dio's "Straight Through the Heart."

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Seventh Angel - "Demo Collection"

Seventh Angel - Demo Collection
2017, Bombworks

Red Demo:
1. Heed the Warning
2. In the Name of Christ We Rock
3. Betrayer
Rehersal Demo:
4. Dr. Hatchet
5. Divine Takeover
6. Betrayer
7. Locked Up in Chains
Heed The Warning Demo:
8. Forbidden Desires
9. Seven Angels Parts I and II
10. I of the Needle
11. Heed the Warning
Dust of Years Demo:
12. Lamentations
13. The Turning Tide

The Demo Collection is just what the label says - a collection of the band's first three demos with a couple from The Dust of Years as a bonus. The sound quality is pretty decent for being demos and it's kind of cool to hear a couple tracks the band never released on a studio album. The best of the bunch remains the Heed the Warning demo. Of course we already got that with the previous demo collection. I'd say this is mostly for avid fans and collectors like myself. The package is pretty cool - a big fold out digipak - with some notes on each demo by Ian Arkley.

Speaking of which, he says in the notes for the Rehersal Demo that he hates the lyrics to "Dr. Hatchet" which he calls, "a song about big subjects written by someone with infantile opinions." He goes on to say that no matter what one's stance on the issue there are better ways of expressing it. I just think it's pretty interesting he would say that. As my own opinion on abortion has changed. I mean... I still hate it. Hate it. But instead of yelling at people about how bad it is I am much more of the mind that we should listen and help. Don't tell an person wanting an abortion that they are evil for wanting one. Offer to help. Make abortion the bad choice by creating better choices. Yelling at people and shoving ghastly imagery in their faces had been tried and it has not been successful. Perhaps we should try something different, yes? So I guess I agree with Mr. Arkely - like the song, but the I'm definitely not as wild about the lyrics.

Useless Fact: Not a fact about the band, but "Seven Angels" is one of my favorite Seventh Angel songs. Too bad it never saw an official studio release. Also... if I didn't say this already "Heed the Warning" and "Seven Angels" appeared on the compilation Last Ship Home. A comp I want just for the Rodney Matthews cover art.