Unbreakable Takes Audiences Back To The 80s On Its New Album

Courtesy: Dark Star Records

Courtesy: Dark Star Records

German rock band Unbreakable released its new album this week.  The album, Knockout, is a work that will instantly transport listeners back to the days of big rock and even bigger hair.  That musical trip back in time starts right from the album’s outset and trudges on nonstop throughout the eleven tracks that make up this record.  Throughout the course of the album, audiences will hear clear influences from a number of the biggest acts of the 80s including names such as: Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Whitesnake among so many others.  From the raucous opener that is the album’s title track to the more subdued sound of ‘In Your Heart’ to the full on rocker  that is ‘Game of Life,’ and more, fans of the 80s rock scene will find plenty to like about this record.

Unbreakable wastes no time on its new album, grabbing its audiences’ ears, and showing them what’s in store from this musical trip back in time courtesy of the album’s title track/album opener.  Front man Al Crespo’s vocals and the talents of his band mates—Martin Ries (guitar), Pascal Alles (guitar), Alex Ries (drums), and Lukas Mittler (bass)—instantly transport listeners back to that age of pomp and bombast in this song, with Crespo singing about having woken up next to a woman he had met the night before, not remembering a thing.  It is classic big rock fare.  Crespo sings in this throwback piece, “Who’s this girl/Next to me/In my bed/I lost my mind/Can’t remember where I’ve been/Just drunk too much/Too much in me/She looks real hard in my face/She demands/She demands me/My head explodes/But I’m happy what I see/She looks real great/She’s a knockout.”  This is classic big hair lyrical fodder at its finest. And there’s plenty more of that to come after this song, too. Case in point, the more subdued ballad-style song, ‘In Your Heart.’

‘In Your Heart’ is a classic 80s style ballad that fits just as well on this record as any of the album’s other songs. Crespo sings in this song, “Wait/Why don’t you come back to me/I’ll love you forever/Don’t leave/There’s some work/I’ll make it right.” His delivery in the case of this song really is what makes the song so powerful. He already proved his prowess on the album’s previous songs. This includes the album’s opener. He shows his ability to really interpret the lyrics and get the most emotion out of the song. That one line is just a tiny part of the song in which he exhibits that talent, too. Of course that isn’t to discount the talents of his band mates. [Martin] Ries and [Pascal] Alles add their own share of emotion to the song. Even drummer Alex Ries’s talents on the drums add their own something extra to the song to make it even more hard hitting. That deep emotion makes this song even more reason for fans of classic 80s style rock and roll to check out Knockout.

Both ‘In Your Heart’ and ‘Knockout’ are prime examples of what Unbreakable has to offer 80s rock fans on its new album. They both show the band’s versatility or lack of better wording. Just as much of an example of that versatility is ‘Game of Life.’ ‘Game of Life’ is more classic 80s style big rock from Unbreakable. The comparison is especially easy thanks to its musical side. Any number of big hair bands could be referenced in terms of this song. Lyrically speaking, it comes across as another song centered on personal relationships. But it comes from a different angle, as audiences will hear. Crespo sings here, “The day begins/I open my eyes/And think of what I can do/For you in life/Never stop giving up on me/I tried to please you/And change my ways/Open my eyes to see/Welcome to the game of life/I’m going to touch your inner light/Welcome to the game of life.” At one point, when Crespo hits the high notes in this song, he actually sounds a little bit like Dream Theater front man James LaBrie. The guitar work of Ries and Alles gives the song something of a Scorpions type of vibe for fans of that band. It’s just one more way that the band impresses audiences of that old school sound with this new record.

The songs noted here are only a few examples of what audiences can expect from Unbreakable’s new record. Anyone that is a true fan of the classic sounds of the 80s will want to check out the rest of this album along with the songs noted here. Knockout is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded now via Amazon and iTunes or at the band’s upcoming shows later this fall. The band’s German fans can also pick up its new album when it performs this November. The band is scheduled to perform live November 1st and 8th in Burgberghalle and Kult respectively. More dates will be announced soon. Fans can keep up with those upcoming tour date announcements and all of the latest news from the band via its official Unbreakable website and Facebook page. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog.

 

 

Red Sox-Yankees Rivalry Rolls On Sunday Night On ESPN

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN continues its 25th season of Sunday Night Baseball this weekend when it comes live from Fenway Park Sunday night.

Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell will broadcast live from Fenway Park this Sunday night beginning at 8pm ET.  Sunday’s game features what is just the latest round in one of the most storied rivalries in sports history. As the Red Sox host their hated rivals, the New York Yankees. Sunday night’s game will be the third in the three-game weekend series between the Yankees and Red Sox.  Dan Shulman and John Kruk will call the game live from atop Fenway’s famed Green Monster. They will be joined by MLB Insider Buster Olney throughout the game. Olney will have reports on the game from the field throughout the game.

Boston currently sits in last place in the American League East and has struggled going 2-8 in its last ten games at the time of this post while the Yankees are third in the division, going 5-5 in their last ten games. Audiences will be able to catch Sunday night’s game through a number of platforms from ESPN on television, online and on the radio including: ESPN, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio, and WatchESPN.

Sunday night’s broadcast will be preceded by ESPN’s weekly pre-game show, Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown presented by Chevrolet. The pre-game broadcast will come live from Yawkey Way, just outside of Fenway Park. It starts at 7pm ET. Karl Ravech will host Sunday’s pre-game show. He will be joined by analyst and former Yankee Aaron Boone.

After Sunday’s game three against the Red Sox, the Yankees will head back to New York Monday night to host the Tigers on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball presented by USAA. That broadcast will begin at 7pm ET. Dave O’Brien will have the call. He will be joined by Aaron Boone and reporter Tim Kurkjian for the game.

More details on ESPN’s MLB coverage is available online through ESPN’s official website and the Baseball Tonight Facebook page. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog.

Rock and Roll Purists Will Enjoy Big Engine’s Latest LP

Courtesy:  Pavement Entertainment

Courtesy: Pavement Entertainment

Jacksonville, Florida-based rock band Big Engine will release its debut record for Pavement Entertainment August 19th. The album, Shot Like a Rocket, is an album that provided it gets coverage from radio programmers, will be rather aptly titled. The fourteen songs that make up this record are a good fit for anyone that is a fan of classic rock from the late 80s and early 90s. Right from the album’s opener ‘Party Like a Rock Star,’ the band will instantly grab audiences with its straight forward, driving sound and equally no nonsense lyrics. The equally rocking ‘Burn It Down’ will have listeners singing and clapping along just as much whether in their living rooms, cars or at the band’s live shows. For all of the energy exuded by Shot Like a Rocket, it also has its more subdued moments. One of the most interesting of those tracks is titled ‘Not Your Fool.’ This track is quite the interesting piece considering the juxtaposition of its searing lyrical content against its more subdued musical side. These songs and the remaining nine not noted here come together to make Shot Like a Rocket a musical ride that any rock and roll purist will enjoy with every listen.

The members of Big Engine give quite the first impression on its Pavement Entertainment debut. ‘Party Like a Rock Star’ is an infectious, full on rock and roll anthem that will be a favorite among audiences whether they’re listening to it in their car or home or singing along with the band’s legions of fans at one of its live shows. The band’s founding members—Tony Mikus and Hans Oellerich—sing about the rock and roll lifestyle here, singing, “I’ve been waiting/For the weekend/To chase these blues away/I’m gonna set my soul in motion/Forget all about these bills I’ve gotta pay/I’m gonna call upon my good friends/Say meet me downtown/No matter where I’m going/It’s time to shake it up/It’s time to get down/I’m gonna sing along/To every song/All night long/Dance on the bar/And play our guitar/And party like a rock star.” This theme of just letting loose after the rigors of the work week is one to which so many people can relate. And who hasn’t wanted to just go all out like that, singing their favorite songs, playing their air guitar? The ability of the band to reach its audiences here both lyrically and musically leaves no doubt that this was the perfect choice for the band’s very first introduction.

‘Party Like a Rock Star’ was a no-brainer for a first impression from Big Engine for its new album. It’s only one of the songs from this record that serves as a solid example of what audiences can expect overall. Another good example of what audiences can expect from this record comes late in the record in the form of ‘Burn it Down.’ This piece has much the same energy as ‘Party Like a Rock Star’ and much the same theme of just letting loose. Mikus and Oellerich sing in this piece, “It’s too late to turn around/Gotta keep my head above ground/Gonna get crazy tonight/No sleep/Runnin’ on adrenaline/I can’t stop/No, I won’t give in/Rockin’ is our policy/And I don’t give apologies/Yeah, we’re gonna party tonight/Well we get a little crazy/And we raise a little hell/then we leave this town/With a story to tell/Gonna raise our mugs/yeah, yeah/We’re gonna drink ‘em down/yeah, yeah/We’re gonna fire it up/We’re gonna burn it down.” This classic lyrical rock and roll theme goes on throughout the remainder of the song. And again, the imagery is classic rock and roll in every way. It would be so easy to see a video companion to this song, with footage of the band out in random bars, playing on stage to huge crowds, etc. Not only that, but it’s just as easy to see this song being as anthemic as ‘Party Like a Rock Star.’ It’s one more of so many songs on this record that any rock and roll purist will enjoy on this record.

Both ‘Party Like a Rock Star’ and ‘Burn It Down’ are good examples of just how much Shot Like a Rocket has to offer audiences. There is one more example of how much this record has to offer audiences in ‘Not Your Fool.’ The song centers on a bad breakup. But the juxtaposition of its lyrics against its musical side is really what makes it stand out. Most songs that are centered on breakups generally have a relatively emotional musical backing. This song is no different in that arena. However, listening to the song’s lyrical side, one can’t help but wonder why the band didn’t option for something more up-tempo, musically speaking, in order to match the song’s searing lyrics. Mikus and Oellerich sing in this song, “You’ll find somebody new/With sympathetic ears/And arms open wide/Yeah someone new to use/Say what they wanna hear/Tear them up inside/And there’s so much I could say/And we could scream and shout/You know I could go on and on but/I’m not your fool anymore/I’ve been there too many times/To pick you up and say/It’s alright this time.” There’s a certain sarcasm and cynicism about these lyrics. And that vibe makes one feel like the song’s musical side should have more power about it. Ironically enough, the more subdued sound that takes its place actually makes it just as impactful. That’s because it creates more of a sense of someone being completely fed up with a certain situation. The end result is a song that has just as much power as any standard breakup song if not more power. That power shows why this song is one more prime example of what makes Shot Like a Rocket an album that any rock and roll purist will enjoy.

Big Engine will release its new album Tuesday, August 19th. In celebration, it already has a handful of live shows scheduled for August. The first of those dates is a two-night stand at The Legendary Boot Hill Saloon in Daytona Beach, FL on August 22nd and 23rd. The band will be in Homosassa, Florida on August 24th and Sanford, Florida on August 31st. Audiences can keep track of Big Engine’s tour schedule and all of its latest news online now via its official website, Facebook page, Twitter page, and Reverb Nation page. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog.

Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 DVD Set Is Fun But Flawed Re-Issue Set

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Television today is a virtual wasteland of programming.  If one takes the time to examine the current programming lineup for the “Big 4” and even the cable spectrum reveals that dramas and reality shows are the biggest draw for most of those networks right now.  The comedies that are there sadly lack the heart of the comedies crafted from television’s golden era up until about the mid to late 90s.  They have all become oversexed and dumbed down.  And the news magazines all seem to be dominated by stories about murders.  Taking into consideration what has happened to television today, Mill Creek Entertainment’s re-issue of Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 early this year becomes quite the welcome box set.  Seasons 3 and 4 offer plenty more laughs for viewers.  For all of the enjoyment offered in the box set’s five discs, the set isn’t without one glaring fault.  It is the same fault that has hindered each of Mill Creek’s box sets.  Luckily, that one fault isn’t enough to take away from the one other positive to this season, which is the inclusion of a young Tony Shaloub to the show’s cast as well as celebrity appearances from members of the Cheers cast and other well-known figures.  The good and the bad taken together here, Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 proves to be an easy candidate for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets for grown-ups.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s release of Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 is an easy candidate for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets for grown-ups.  The main reason for that is the show’s writing.  The series, which was co-created and produced by Cheers staffers David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee, proves in its third and fourth seasons to still have more heart than any of the sitcoms currently on television today.  A look at the writing in these two seasons proves that.  The series’ writers managed to do something in these two seasons that few if any writers have managed to do in recent years.  They managed to balance the series’ story lines so as to not let its serial side overpower its standalone side.  That balance is just as visible in Cheers.  So it should come as no surprise that it is just as stable here.  In terms of the show’s more serial-centered side, the relationship between Helen and Joe will keep viewers laughing through every episode.  ‘Ladies Who Lunch” is one of the best of those episodes.  Helen and Gail, Joe’s ex and his current girlfriend hang out and end up becoming friends.  Ironically, Gail ends up breaking up with Joe in the process.  On the other side of things, there is the two-part story arc that sees Antonio trying to get his green card.  That arc is made up of the episodes “Marriage, Italian Style” and “Divorce, American Style.” The two episodes together make up what is a time honored storyline used in so many sitcoms before and after. As many times as it has been used even before this case, these two episodes are just as funny as those of any of those noted series. The ability of the show’s writers to balance the series’ serial elements with its standalone elements is just one part of what audiences will appreciate in its third and fourth seasons. Audiences will appreciate the writing itself in terms of its jokes and story lines.

The jokes and story lines incorporated in the third and fourth seasons of Wings should not be omitted in examining what makes these seasons work so well. Audiences will enjoy the writers’ homage to I Love Lucy in Season 4’s episode “I Love Brian.” Brian badmouths I Love Lucy because of the show’s writing. Yet he ends up taking part in an equally bird brained scheme in order to meet country singer Clint Black (who makes a guest appearance for the episode) and impress a woman. In “Goodbye, Old Friend,” Lowell loses a dear friend. Even in his grief, he provides his own share of laughs as he goes through the five stages of grieving in a matter of a minute if that. The timing of that moment along with Brian’s (Steven Weber) statement that Lowell would go through the stages over months makes it an especially lighthearted moment. At the same time though, Lowell is still struggling with his feelings at having lost such a friend. His final gesture for his friend makes the episode whole and will warm any viewer’s heart. These are just a couple examples of how the actual writing in Seasons 3 & 4 makes these two seasons even more welcome additions to the library of anyone looking for a break from all of the over sexed and overly violent programming out there today. Together with the writers’ ability to balance the show’s serial elements with its standalone elements, it is even more a welcome respite from those shows.

So much was done right with Wings in its third and fourth season n terms of its writing. For all of those positives, this recently released box set is not without one glaring fault. That glaring fault is the box set’s packaging. All five of this set’s discs are set one on top of the other on a single spindle inside the case. This creates a certain amount of difficulty in pulling the disc of choice by viewers. It also increases greatly the likelihood of the discs scratching themselves. This is a major issue that Mill Creek has yet to address even to this day. And until it fixes the problem, that poor manner of packaging is going to continue to cause Mill Creek to trail its “big brothers.” Luckily, it isn’t enough to take away too much from the overall enjoyment taken from the series’ writing or the last factor worth noting in this set. That last factor is the celebrity guest appearances made throughout Seasons 3 and 4.

The celebrity guest appearances made throughout the third and fourth seasons of Wings round out the package in whole and make these two seasons all the more worth the watch. Seasons 3 and 4 see some of the cast members from Cheers make appearances along with other celebs. Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth make an onscreen appearance as Dr. Frasier Crane and his wife Lilith in one episode, while fellow Cheers alumnus Kirstie Alley also makes an appearance alongside country superstar Clint Black in “I Love Brian.” Oliver North and William Hickey (Prizzi’s Honor, The Nightmare Before Christmas) also make appearances. The fact that the series could garner such star power was by itself a major statement of faith. It was a statement of faith in the series. That faith combined with the series’ solid writing to make it just as much a fan favorite then as it will be now in its latest re-issue by Mill Creek. And audiences will agree to all of that when they purchase this five-disc set themselves.

Wings: Seasons 3 & 4 is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered now direct from Mill Creek’s online store here. More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online through the official Mill Creek Entertainment website and Mill Creek Entertainment Facebook page. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog.

BLS, Judas Priest Tied For The Top Spot On The Year’s Top New Hard Rock, Metal Albums List

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Zakk Wylde and his Black Label brethren released early this year what is without a doubt one of the year’s most thought provoking albums.  Musically speaking, the album is classic Black Label Society from start to finish.  Lyrically, it proves to be a work that will most definitely have listeners paying close attention.  Those that have already picked up the album’s deluxe edition will understand why.  Throughout most of the course of the album, listeners are presented with songs centered on some rather deep themes.  By the time the album reaches its end in ‘The Nomad’ however, those themes have turned to a more positive light.  And it all starts with the album’s opener, ‘Fields of Unforgiveness.’  With its mix of heavy guitars and equally heavy lyrics, it makes for quite the opener to the record.  Things eventually take a sharp turn with the equally hard rocking yet rather angry song ‘Damn The Flood’, which seems to see Wylde writing about all the people out there that would try to spit lies as easily as a snake spitting its venom.  By the album’s ultimate end though, the outcome is more positive, with Wylde singing about moving on with life wherever it may lead.  Whether all of these songs came from a personal place or simply as a concept idea, they combine with the album’s musical side to make what is one of the most powerful records that Wylde and his band mates have written to date.

Catacombs of the Black Vatican opens on a powerful note in the form of ‘Fields of Unforgiveness.’  This first impression from the band is what leads one to wonder if this album is indeed a concept album of sorts or if it came from personal experience.  Wylde sings in this piece, “So you think that it’s over/So you think that it’s done/The fields of unforgiveness never die/They’ve just begun/You thought you’d elude life’s sorrow/emptiness and grief/The oceans of life’s contempt/Drown the liars and the thieves.”  That one line concerning liars and thieves is the center point of this song.  It almost comes across as addressing someone that has done something really bad.  The person in question thinks that he (?) has gotten away with said deed.  But as the chorus notes, it’s never over.  “The fields of unforgiveness never die.”  Such a searing indictment set against an equally hard rocking musical backing makes this song one heck of a first impression from the members of Black Label Society on its latest record.

As hard hitting as ‘Fields of Unforgiveness’ proves to be with its mix of Wylde’s trademark shredding and equally searing lyrics, it isn’t the album’s only heavy piece. Just as heavy and hard hitting is ‘Damn The Flood.’ With its equally driving sludge rock sound and its indictment of the proverbial snakes out there, this song stands out as one of the album’s most powerful moments. Wylde sings against the song’s solid, southern sludge sound, “This flood of snakes/The breeding lies/Existence of unjust/Spewing falsehoods as they crawl/Assassins of one’s trust…Poisoned blood manipulates/The bending of one’s will/Assassins of your sacred words/For trust it shall be killed.” These verses could be applied to so many situations. It could be applied to this nation’s political leaders. It could apply to an everyday basis in terms of those that call themselves friends, only to kill others’ trust once those backs are turned. As pessimistic as the song sounds, it’s actually positive as listeners will note in the song’s chorus. Wylde sings in the song’s chorus of dealing with those people and their evil ways. Yet again, it proves in the end to be one of the album’s best moments with that combination of musical and lyrical heaviness. It shows once more Wylde’s long ago argument that a song can be heavy without being heavy.

Through all of the lyrical and musical heaviness that makes up Catacombs of the Black Vatican, those that have the album’s deluxe edition will note that these is a message that through all of the negativity in the world, one can persevere through it all. He sings in ‘The Nomad’ of facing one’s past but moving on at the same time. As audiences will hear, he sings, “I’ve left the past behind/So much more to see/Like a feather to the wind/Wherever it may lead/Wherever it may lead/Where I’ll never know/For I can’t be tied down/I can hear it call.” He is singing about accepting the past and knowing it’s there, but not letting it weigh down an individual on one’s journey in life. Wylde and company exhibit such talent musically in this song. It isn’t the driving, hard rocker that the previously noted songs prove to be. It is more controlled. That more controlled nature makes this song a fitting end to an album that boasts just as much heaviness in its finale as in its beginning. That solid heaviness from start to finish both musically and lyrically prove why Catacombs of the Black Vatican is one of this year’s top two new hard rock and metal albums of 2014.

Catacombs of the Black Vatican is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded via iTunes here. It can also be purchased at any BLS live show including tonight’s show at the Vogue Theatre in Indianapolis, IN. The band’s current tour schedule and all of the latest news from the band are available online at http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety and http://www.blacklabelsociety.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Wovenwar Debuts New Single

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Wovenwar premiered its new single Monday.

Wovenwar premiered its new single, ‘Profane’ yesterday on the official website of Revolver Magazine. Audiences can stream the video now through the magazine’s now at http://www.revolvermag.com/news/wovenwar-premiere-new-song-profane.html. The single comes from the band’s upcoming self-titled debut record. The album will be released worldwide via Metal Blade Records next Tuesday, August 5th. After checking out the band’s new single, fans can also leave their thoughts on the song in the “comments” section of the site. Fans can also check out two other songs from Wovenwar’s upcoming album—‘All Rise’ and ‘The Mason’—and four In Studio videos filmed by the band through the band’s Metal Blade Records website, http://www.metalblade.com/wovenwar. Fans will get to hear the album in its entirety this Friday, August 1st when the album stream goes live ahead of its release in store and online.

Wovenwar is currently touring in support of its upcoming album alongside Black Label Society. That tour wraps next Monday, August 4th. After that, the band will take a couple of days off before playing a trio of album release shows August 7th and 8th. The third show will be at Phil Sgrosso’s new club, Brick By Brick. Fans that come out to that show will have the chance to hang out with the band, celebrate the album’s release, and even have the chance to win prizes provided by Wovenwar, Metal Blade Records, MotorCult, and Dirtbag Clothing. Fans that attend the band’s August 8th show at Soma can use those ticket stubs to get into the show at Brick By Brick for free. Others get in for five dollars. The Brick By Brick show is a 21+ show. The band will also perform Saturday, August 9th at the famed Roxy in Los Angeles, CA. The full schedule of performances is listed below.

08/07 – Anaheim, CA: Chain Reaction Tickets — Here

08/08 – San Diego, CA: SOMA (side) Tickets — Here

08/08 – San Diego, CA: Brick By Brick – **Wovenwar Album Release Party** Tickets — Here.

If fans aren’t able to make it to any of the shows noted above, they can still catch the band live at the famed restaurant Grill ‘Em All in Alhamba, CA. Details on that upcoming show will come soon. Fans will also get plenty of chances to see the band live as it tours in support of its debut album. It is currently wrapping up the North American leg of its tour. It will be in Indianapolis, IN tomorrow. That date will be followed with performances in Texas and new Mexico. It all wraps with the band’s upcoming shows in California. After that, the band will take some time to rest before kicking off the European leg of its tour on August 15th at the Pukkelpop Festival in Hasselt, Germany.

All of the latest tour updates, news and more from Wovenwar is always available online at http://www.wovenwar.com, http://www.facebook.com/wovenwar and http://twitter.com/WOVENWAR. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Battlecross Announces Tour With Machine Head, Children Of Bodom, Epica

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

The members of Battlecross announced Monday that the band will embark on a North American tour this fall in support of its latest album War of Will.

Battlecross will join Machine Head, Epica, and Children of Bodom beginning Saturday, October 4th in Denver, Colorado. Tickets for the band’s joint tour will go on sale this Friday morning at 10am ET. Battlecross guitarist Tony Asta discussed in a recent interview, his thoughts on touring alongside Children of Bodom and Machine Head once again and with Epica for the first time ever. “What an honor to be on this tour!,” he said. “We’re really stoked to reunite with Machine Head and Children of Bodom, both legendary bands and friends from last summer’s Mayhem Fest, and to see what Epica is all about. This is a tour with something for every metal head and we can’t wait to be bring it brutal throughout the USA & Canada, banging heads and melting faces from coast-to-coast.See you in the pit!”

Before Battlecross makes its way across America this fall, the band will join Black Label Society in Mexico City before performing a trip of dates with Killswitch Engage and Memphis May Fire in Brazil. Hiran Deraniyalaga, who also plays guitar for Battlecross, commented on the upcoming performances. “What a year this has been for us so far,” he said. “We’ve been to Europe twice and now we’re going to Mexico and South America! We’re so honored to be invited to play with Black Label Society in Mexico City. We have so many loyal rabid fans there and we finally get to play for them! After that we fly to Brazil for three dates with our good friends Killswitch Engage, who we can’t thank enough for always inviting us out for awesome opportunities like this one. Get ready to rage my friends! This will be one for the books!”

The schedule for Battlecross’ upcoming tour with Machine Head, Children of Bodom, and Epica is listed below.

Battlecross
Tour w/ Machine Head, Children of Bodom, Epica
10/04 Denver, CO @ The Summit Music Hall
10/06 Dallas, TX @ House of Blues Dallas
10/07 Houston, TX @ House of Blues Houston
10/09 Orlando, FL @ Hard Rock Live
10/10 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
10/12 Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory
10/14 Toronto, ON @ Sound Academy
10/15 Montreal, QC @ Metropolis
10/16 New York, NY @ Terminal 5
10/17 Worcester, MA @ The Palladium – Rock and Shock festival
10/18 Cleveland, OH @ Agora Theatre
10/20 Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
10/21 Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave II
10/22 Minneapolis, MN @ Skyway Theatre
10/23 Winnipeg, MB @ Pyramid Cabaret
10/24 Saskatoon, SK @ O’Brians Event Centre
10/25 Calgary, AB @ The Republik
10/26 Edmonton, AB @ Shaw Conference Centre
10/28 Vancouver, BC @ Vogue Theater
10/29 Seattle, WA @ Showbox SODO
10/30 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre
10/31 Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater
11/01 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Palladium
11/02 San Diego, CA @ House of Blues

Battlecross
Summer Headline Tour w/ IKILLYA
07/30 Reading, PA @ Reverb
07/31 Buffalo, NY @ Waiting Room
08/01 Hartford, CT @ Webster Underground
08/02 Albany, NY @ Bogies
08/03 Ottawa, ON*** @ Mavericks
08/04 Quebec City***, QC @ L’Agitee
08/05 London, ON*** @ Rum Runners
08/06 Syracuse, NY @ Lost Horizon
08/07 Pittsburgh, PA @ Smiling Moose
End tour
08/08 Louisville, KY** @ Expo 5
08/09 Birch Run, MI @ DIRT Fest
08/10 Libertyville, IL** @ Austin’s
** w/ Killswitch Engage
***w/ Crimson Shadows & IKILLYA
Battlecross
South American tour dates
w/ Black Label Society
08/20 Mexico City*** @ Jose Cuervo Salon

w/ Killswitch Engage & Memphis May Fire
08/22 Curitiba, Brazil @ Music Hall
08/23 Sao Paulo, Brazil @ Carioca Club
08/24 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil @ Circo Voador

All of the latest news and tour updates from Battlecross is available online at http://battlecrossmetal.com, http://www.facebook.com/battlecrossmetal, and http://twitter.com/battlecross. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Judas Priest Back In A Big Way On Redeemer Of Souls

Courtesy:  Epic Records

Courtesy: Epic Records

Judas Priest’s new album Redeemer of Souls is one of the top new hard rock and metal albums of 2014. As a matter of fact, it is, in this critic’s eyes (and ears) a contender for the top spot on said list. The only other album that can even come close right now to vying for that spot is Black Label Society’s Catacombs of the Black Vatican. What makes Redeemer of Souls such a top notch album despite its slightly touchy production is its mix of music and lyrics. Musically, this album has been likened to previous hit Priest albums including: British Steel, Nostradamus, and Painkiller just to name a few. That it could be compared in such positive light to so many other of the band’s releases is a statement in and of itself. Lyrically, it covers some interesting themes throughout the course of its thirteen tracks and sixty-two minutes. One of those themes is of standing up for what one believes. That topic comes in the album’s fourth track ‘Sword of Damocles.’ Another interesting topic is that of the tribute paid to the fans of sorts in the album’s lead single ‘March of the Damned.’ Late in the album, front man Rob Halford and his band mates cover an interesting topic in ‘’Hell & Back.’ The topic in question is one of the band’s survival through the years. Or it would seem so at least. Regardless, its lyrics and music together make for one more prime example of why Redeemer of Souls is one of this year’s top two new hard rock and metal albums. That argument is made even stronger through the two songs noted before it and through those pieces not noted. Altogether, this album is proof that Judas Priest is still one of the most dominant forces in the world of hard rock today.

Judas Priest has proven without a shadow of a doubt on its new album that it is still one of the most dominant forces in the world of hard rock today. It has done so through an album that is easily one of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums in Redeemer of Souls. One example of why this album deserves such recognition comes early on in the album in the form of ‘Sword of Damocles.’ Musically, it is a full on, rocker that comes across as being about false leaders and standing up for one’s own beliefs. As audiences will hear, front man Rob Halford sings here, “When men lead by words that are false as they preach/Fatality waits in the wings/Surrounded by fools behind walls that are breached/Beware of the jester that sings.” Right there, audiences are led to infer that Halford and company are singing about said false leaders. And those leaders don’t necessarily have to include religious leaders, either. They can include political leaders, too. Halford and company go on to sing, “Stand tall/Rise up/Stay strong/Fighting your enemies/Truth will find its reward/If you live and die by the sword/The whispers can’t hide when the tongues are let loose.” Listeners might get from this verse a message of not giving up against certain insurmountable odds. They come across as telling audiences don’t just give in like sheep to the words of those false leaders and to stand up to said leaders and those that would harass an individual for having views other than their own. This could very well be the wrong interpretation. It is merely the interpretation of one single critic. If it is at least somewhere in the ballpark though, it once again serves as solid proof of why this record is one of the year’s top two new hard rock and metal albums.

‘Sword of Damocles’ is just one many examples of what makes Redeemer of Souls one of the top new hard rock and metal albums of 2014. With its mix of adrenaline-fueled music and thought provoking lyrics, this song is an instant hit. The album’s lead single, ‘March of the Damned,’ is just as solid a choice for a single. As guitarist Glenn Tipton explains, this song is simply about the fans that come to the band’s shows. There’s no deep, hidden message for the religious right wingers to hunt for. It is for all intents and purposes a tribute to those fans. Halford sings against the song’s driving guitars and drums, “Can’t stop us/They don’t know why/They try/Can’t hurt us/We’ll never die/We are on the march of the damned…We know what’s at stake/Won’t take your mistakes/Won’t break us/We’ll never fall/That’s all/It’s over/Just watch us crawl.” Referencing Tipton’s statement about the song again, these lyrics illustrate quite well exactly what he was saying. They come across as a collective statement from the band’s fans saying that they don’t care what anyone says. They are fans for life. It is easy to see why this anthem was chosen as the album’s lead single. It’s a powerful statement from an album that could be the last from one of metal’s most legendary bands.

‘March of the Damned’ is a powerful statement from the members of Judas Priest. It puts expertly into words the devotion of the band’s fans regardless of their fans’ ages. It’s especially fitting that there’s no telling whether or not this will be the band’s last album, especially considering that some years ago, Halford and his band mates said they were through touring. Yet once more the band has in fact hit the road in support of another album. Speaking of being on the road, ‘Hell & Back’ will have audiences wondering if perhaps this tour will be the band’s last. Halford ruminates on the band’s past here, singing, “Still in the land of the living/Rocking the home of the brave/Staying alive and still kicking/Ain’t got no need to be saved/Out of the fire and into the black/We’ve been through it all/We’ve been to hell and back.” The song’s musical side is not the high-powered, straight forward piece that the previously noted songs prove to be. But set against the song’s lyrics, one can clearly see the song’s chorus and verses play out clearly in one’s own mind. That clarity will again lead one to wonder about the band’s future after this album and tour. If it proves to be the last for the band on both counts, then this song will have proven to be one more powerful statement from the band. And along with each of the album’s other songs—both noted and not—it is one part of a whole that is easily one of the top two new hard rock and metal albums of the year.

Judas Priest will kick off the U.S. leg of its tour in support of Redeemer of Souls this fall beginning Wednesday, October 1st in Rochester, NY. The band’s current tour schedule is listed online along with all of the latest news from the band at http://www.facebook.com/OfficialJudasPriest, http://twitter.com/judaspriest, and http://www.judaspriest.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Pop Ups’ Latest LP Is Fun For Children and Children Of The 80s

Courtesy:  Pop Up City Records

Courtesy: Pop Up City Records

Appetite for Construction, the latest new release from kindie-pop rock band The Pop-Ups is an interesting work. The twelve-track album from the Brooklyn, NY based band will take parents all the way back to the 1970s and 80s with its mix of sounds all while celebrating the joys of childhood with its lyrical side. That lyrical side will also entertain parents as it will take them back to their own childhoods with songs such as ‘Craft Night,’ ‘Costume Party,’ and ‘All These Shapes.’ That these songs and those not mentioned could reach audiences of so many ages and entertain them at the same time proves once more why children’s music can be and often is just as good as anything crafted specifically for grown-ups.

The Pop Ups’ latest album is such a joy for parents and children alike because of its ability to reach audiences of all ages. It reaches so many audiences thanks to a combination of music and lyrics that takes listeners back to the 1970s and 80s musically while celebrating the joys of childhood through various avenues. One of the best examples of that mix comes late in the album in the form of ‘Craft Night.’ The duo—Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein—sing about the fun of creating a picture collage. They sing about sitting at a table, taking those old tubes of glue, and gluing pictures to sheets of construction paper. Anyone that ever did this as a kid will understand and appreciate this song just as much as any child today provided schools still teach children about making collages. The men sing, “Can you find some macaroni/Glitter too/Find some pink construction paper and some glue/And you’ll make some beautiful things on craft night/Beautiful things that’ll make the world delight.” They go on to sing about cutting out a heart and combining that with the glitter and macaroni to make a child’s own work of art. From there, the pair sings about finger painting and other crafts. Any parent that ever took part in such craft making as children will be taken back in time thanks to such vivid imagery. And any children that actually still take part in such activities in schools today—apparently there are children that focus more on computer-based learning than on arts and crafts—will relate to it just as much. The addition of an old school 1970s/80s sound will entertain parents just as much. The end result is a song that as already noted, is just one prime example of what makes ‘Craft Night’ one of so many examples of the joy offered on this record.

Sitting down and making arts and crafts has been a time-honored tradition for children for generations. Hopefully it hasn’t become an entirely extinct tradition considering the increased emphasis being placed on computer-based learning in schools across the country. Just as much of a time-honored tradition among children is that of the costume party. Boys and girls alike dress up all the time. And their parents did, too. Such a tradition crossing generations, it makes for another great topic for a children’s song. Thus the aptly titled ‘Costume Party’ in which the duo sings of getting dressed up in different outfits. It’s one that both boys and girls will enjoy. That’s because there’s mention of girls getting dressed up in princess dresses and of boys getting dressed in a relative’s clothes. That set against the song’s 80s pop vibe will help the song to connect both with kids and their parents. Speaking of 80s pop, parents that grew up in the 80s will also appreciate the equally creative ‘All These Shapes.’ That song is one more piece from this album that serves as a solid example of what audiences have to expect from this record.

‘All These Shapes’ is another piece that is set against a 1980s era sound for all the grown-up children of the 80s out there. Stein and Rabinowitz sing in this song about all the possible things that could be drawn from the shapes. They sing, “What can you make with all these shapes/Little circle magnet on my fridge/Just like a baseball we could pitch/Round as an eye that you could wink/Or a head filled with a brain that thinks/Could be a planet or the moon/A floating helium balloon/Maybe a wheel to steer a car/Or the top of a big ol’ pickle jar.” Parents will appreciate how this song really encourages thinking and creativity. And they will also appreciate that in its own right, that emphasis on creativity makes the song itself creative. It’s just one more piece that shows the extent of creativity and originality that fills this record. There are nine other tracks that display that creativity and originality just as much as this song and those previously noted. Audiences will be able to hear those songs for themselves when Appetite for Construction is released next month.

Appetite for Construction will be available in stores and online Tuesday, August 19th.  It can be downloaded online via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/appetite-for-construction/id899582693.  The Pop Ups will hit the road in support of its new album beginning Wednesday, August 6th at 4pm ET at The Springfield Museum in Springfield, MA. From there, The Pop Ups will head to New York, New York for a performance at Riverside Park on August 7th. A complete listing of The Pop Ups’ current tour schedule is available online along with all of the latest news from the band at http://www.thepopups.com, http://www/facebook.com/thepopups, and http://twitter.com/thepopups. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

D-Day’s Sunken Secrets Is Another Important Chapter In The History Of WWII

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets is another invaluable program for anyone that has any interest in the history of World War II or in military history in general.  As informative as the program is, one can’t help but note that it perhaps could have benefitted from a different title.  That’s because most of the program focuses more on the operations of Operation Overlord than on the sunken remnants of the Normandy invasion.  That isn’t to say that that moment in time is completely avoided.  But it doesn’t focus on that aspect near as much as one might be led to believe by the program’s title.  That aside, it is still an interesting piece of World War II history that adds yet another chapter to one of the biggest operations in military history that might otherwise not have been known by some.  And that’s just the beginning.  Audiences will be interested, too to discover that the program’s narrator is himself a WWII veteran who was also there on D-Day.  And last to note is the use of vintage footage against modern video of Normandy today to help illustrate the story of what happened on D-Day and the days that followed.  Each factor plays its own important role in the overall success of this presentation.  Together, they make a program that while perhaps improperly titled, still is an important story that needed to be told.

The first aspect of NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets the fact that it reveals another chapter of sorts to the story of the D-Day invasion.  It reveals a part of that history that might not have otherwise been known.  Everybody knows about the initial invasion by Allied forces.  And sometimes discussed by historians is the immense planning that led up to the invasion.  However, many might not know that then general Ike Eisenhower actually wrote a letter taking full blame for the operation should it fail.  Interestingly enough, whether or not the initial operation actually failed comes up between a military veteran and a military historian.  The true irony is that the veteran, when posed with the question actually says that in his own view, the operation did in fact fail.  He notes that it failed in that the men that took the beachhead went without the air coverage or the planned naval coverage, either.  Add in changing tides, much like at Dieppe, and the argument is made that while Allied forces eventually took the beaches of Normandy, the operation was still a failure at least in its planning.  That argument actually makes sense.  Had those men had the planned coverage, it is possible that casualties would have been far fewer among Allied forces.  Just as interesting to note is that German U-boats were still patrolling the waters off of France’s coast even after the initial invasion, which led to its own share of sinkings.  There was also the failure of the “floating tanks” and much more discussed throughout the course of the program’s near two-hour runtime.  All of that and more will definitely keep audiences watching and wanting to learn more about what really happened on D-Day and the days that would follow.  It is but one part of what makes NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets another important addition to the vast history of World War II.

Another important factor to consider in the overall success and enjoyment of this episode is the use of an actual WWII veteran as the program’s narrator.  For that matter, the use of a veteran that fought at Normandy makes it especially interesting. Peter Thomas narrates the program. And while he does quite the job in his role, it is obvious that he does at times become somewhat choked up as he carries out his duty. It could very well be this critic’s own interpretation. But it certainly sounds like he does in fact choke up at times. If that is the case, it’s a welcome change from every documentary out there. It actually adds a certain realism to the program that is sadly lacking in those other programs out there. It adds a more human element for lack of better wording. That human element will pull in viewers even more and lead them to feel at least a modicum of the emotion felt by those that served on that fateful day. It’s one more impressive touch to this program that makes it another invaluable addition to the library of any lover of military history or history in general.

The use of an actual WWII vet that fought on Normandy and the inclusion of even more information on the history of that groundbreaking operation both are key to the overall enjoyment of NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets. The final aspect of the program that audiences will appreciate is the inclusion once again of actual footage filmed as Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. Just as much, audiences will appreciate the use of video illustrations outlining the movements of both Allied and German forces before and after the initial landing and battle to reclaim the beachhead. Viewers will be amazed at the CG recreation of the Allied forces’ man-made harbor and how it worked with the waters off the French coast. The bridges that were created were an engineering feat far ahead of their time. So, even those with an interest in engineering and construction will find something to like about this episode of NOVA. It’s the final touch to another overall impressive albeit slightly mis-titled piece of World War II history.

NOVA: D-Days Sunken Secrets is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34895296&cp=&sr=1&kw=d+day&origkw=D+Day&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline, http://twitter.com/novapbs, and http://www.pbs.org/nova. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.