Black Utopia Re-Issue Another Hit For Sherinian

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Derek Sherinian’s second solo album Black Utopia is an interesting work from this world renowned keyboardist.  There is so much to say about this record and not enough space or time to go into everything.  So instead of rambling, we’ll hit on the main points of what makes this album just as enjoyable for Sherinian’s fans the second time around as it was in its original release.   The first aspect of this album that makes it so enjoyable is its sequencing.  That is to say the order of the songs.  The second factor that listeners will appreciate (especially those that might be hearing the album for the first time) is the A-list guest stars that agreed to be a part of this album.  The third factor in the success of the album’s re-issue is the reworked liner notes.  All three of these factors together make Black Utopia an album that any Derek Sherinian fan will appreciate just as much in its new re-issue as they did in its initial release some ten years ago.

The success of Black Utopia is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The album’s sequencing greatly exhibits the understanding of and appreciation for music possessed by both Derek Sherinian and co-producer Simon Phillips.  The pair treat Black Utopia as if they were creating a set list for a live show.  The energy of the songs rises and falls just enough throughout the course of the album’s nine tracks to keep listeners fully engaged.  That energy rises and falls just enough within the context of the songs themselves to make the energy in the transitions between songs even more impactful.  It shows on a deeper level, the pair’s understanding of and appreciation for their craft.  The resultant effect is one the makes this album one of those rare albums that listeners will want to take in from start to finish without skipping even one song. It’s just the starting point of the album’s success, too. And that’s saying something.

Black Utopia’s success is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The sequencing of the songs would be moot without the music crafted by Sherinian and the guest musicians that make appearances on this album.  That is the second factor in this album’s creation that makes it a success.  Sherinian invited some of the biggest names in the business to join him on this record.  And it’s a good thing they accepted his invitation.  Among those major names are the likes of Simon Phillips (The Who, Judas Priest, Gary Moore, etc.), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Al Di Meola (Return To Forever, Chick Corea), Yngwie Malmsteen, Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) and others.  Their talents are well shared throughout the record.  The whole group teams up on the album’s opener for what is without a doubt one of the album’s absolute best works.  Malmsteen puts on a virtual clinic with his shredding, while Sherinian himself manages somehow to mix in a touch of jazz/fusion at one point, adding even more flare and substance to the song.  And the combination of Zakk Wylde, Simon Phillips, Tony Franklin and Jerry Goodman on ‘Nightmare Cinema’ is incredible.  Sherinian’s etherial keyboard part set against Phillips’ drumming early on perfectly illustrates the song’s title.  It establishes quite the eerie vibe.  The eventual addition of Wylde on guitar adds even more depth to the song as it progresses.  It is simply something that must be heard in order to be fully appreciated.  The same can be noted of the album’s remaining tracks.  Sherinian  and his fellow musicians come together on each song to show just why their addition to Black Utopia is such an important part of the album’s overall success.

The who’s  who of musicians recruited to record Black Utopia alongside Derek Sherinian is just as important to the success of the album as its sequencing.  Without the talent of the musicians in question, the sequencing would not be all that important to discuss.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case here.  And because it wasn’t the case, it leaves only one remaining factor to note of this re-issue.  The factor in question is the updated liner notes included with the album.  This time out, Black Utopia includes an article crafted by journalist Joe Lalaina, of Guitar World magazine.  Lalaina outlines the album in his own words.  Sherinian’s own thoughts on Black Utopia are also included as a follow-up to Lalaina.  Listeners will take special interest in Sherinian’s comment about working with Brian Tichy (Something Unto Nothing, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol).  He notes that it was his friendship and working relationship with Tichy that led the pair to work together on this album.  There’s also mention of his excitement of working with both Yngwie Malmsteen and Al Di Meola.  One of his comments in particular regarding this can’t be repeated here.  But it will most definitely have listeners laughing.  It’s the finishing touch to an album that any hard rock fan should hear at least once now that it has been re-issued by Armoury Records.  More information on this and other albums from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.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.

Armoury Records Gives Sherinian’s Latest Solo Effort A Proper Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Every year, consumers see any number of albums re-issued from a variety of artists, groups, and bands. The reasons for those re-issues are as varied as the re-issues themselves. It goes without saying that among that annual mass of music, some of it is worth the purchase, while some of it is not as worthwhile. Keyboardist Derek Sherinian saw all of his solo releases re-issued this week. Those albums are among the re-issues that are worth purchasing. This is especially the case for those that are long-time fans of his music. Sherinian proved throughout each of his solo releases that he was just as good on his own as he was with any of the bands and artists with whom he had already worked over the course of his career. One of the best examples of that talent is his 2009 release, Molecular Heinosity.

Molecular Heinosityis the fifth and most recent of Sherinian’s solo releases. As with his previous four solo releases, this record is largely an instrumental release. The sole song on this album that includes any lyrics is one of two pieces he recorded with long-time friend and Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde. The song in question is ‘So Far Gone.’ Audiences will also be interested to note that Brian Tichy joins Sherinian on this track. Tichy has also played drums for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, and Zakk WYlde on Wylde’s 199 release Pride& Glory. Most recently, Tichy played with the hard rock supergroup Something Unto Nothing. So it goes without saying that there is a certain level of familiarity between the trio. And it shows in this song, too. The trio–along with fellow musicians Tina Guo (cello) and Tony Franklin (fretless bass)–come together to make this one of the album’s best pieces. Wylde proves once again on this song why he is one of the most revered guitarists in the music business. And Tichy’s timekeeping is rock solid despite the various time signature changes throughout the song. Sherinian’s work on the keys is not to be ignored, either. Whether by himself, partnered with Tina Guo’s performance on cello or even the semi-call and response with Wylde in the song’s bridge, Sherinian shows time and again in this song why he is such a sought after musician even after so many decades in the business. This isn’t the only point at which he exhibits such talent on this record. Another of the album’s high points comes in the album’s second track, titled ‘Ascension.’

‘Ascension’ is one of this album’s high points especially in that it boasts something of a similarity to the music he wrote with his former band mates in Dream Theater. To be even more precise, it sounds stylistically like the music that he wrote with his now ex-band mates for the band’s 1997 album Falling Into Infinity.  What is most interesting of all in this song is just how much is going on within the context of the song’s near three-minute run time.  That’s right.  This song comes in at less than three minutes in length.  To be more exact, it clocks in at two minutes and fifteen seconds.  That’s pretty short.  Yet, the way that it gradually builds, from start to finish makes it so interesting.  Making it even more interesting is what would appear to be Sherinian mimicking a guitar part with his keyboard in this song.  If that is indeed the case, he is to be even more highly commended.  That’s because that part could easily pass as a guitar.  And it shows even more his understanding of and appreciation for his instrument.  The song’s musical effect overall shows his knowledge of music and his talent just as much.  All of that together makes this song all the more enjoyable.

The songs that comprise Molecular Heinosity each have their own musical identity.  Collectively, they make the entire album one that any fan of Sherinian will enjoy.  Now that it has been re-issued courtesy of Armoury Records, the music is just part of the album’s success.  Just as important to this re-issue is the new companion booklet.  Most people don’t pay too much attention to the liner notes that come with albums in their physical form.  But as audiences will see in the album’s new liner notes, there’s plenty to take in.  This album for instance gives listeners a bio of sorts on Sherinian and his career.  It goes all the way back to his days playing with Alice Cooper and Billy Idol as well as a little surprise background on his departure from Dream Theater.  This critic was surprised to learn that he didn’t leave Dream Theater, but was in fact let go from the band.    Along with the semi-career bio, Armoury Records also included background notes from Sherinian on a handful of songs.  That background info gives extra insight into said songs.  It’s too bad that more bands, artists, and musicians don’t do this.  It’s one more reason that the physical object will never be fully replaced by the digital.  Little things like background notes on songs as art of the liner notes serve to enhance one’s listening experience.  And this album is no exception to that rule.  The bonus liner notes and bio included in this new re-issue are wonderful compliments to the album’s music.  Together, they make the whole product again, one that any fan of Derek Sherinian will want to add to their library especially if they do not already own this record.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Derek Sherinian’s official website at http://www.dereksherinian.com/merchandise.htm.  More information on this and other releases from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.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.

Black Label Society Tapped To Headline Revolver Golden Gods Tour

Courtesy: eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Veteran hard rock band Black Label Society has been tapped to headline this year’s annual Revolver Golden Gods Tour presented by Epiphone.  The announcement comes only weeks after the announcement that the band—fronted by legendary guitarist/vocalist Zakk Wylde—will release its latest album Catacombs of the Black Vatican April 8th.

This year’s Revolver Golden Gods tour presented by Epiphone spans thirty-two cities.  It kicks off Wednesday, April 16th in Seattle, Washington and winds down Saturday, June 7th at the home of Black Label Society, Los Angeles California.  The complete Revolver Golden Gods Tour presented by Epiphone schedule is listed below.

Wed/Apr-16  Seattle, WA @ Showbox Sodo
Thu/Apr-17  Portland, OR @ Roseland
Fri/Apr-18  Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory Concert House
Sat/Apr-19  Missoula, MT @ Wilma Theater
Mon/Apr-21  Billings, MT @ Shrine Auditorium
Fri/Apr-25  Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave
Sat/Apr-26  Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works
Tue/Apr-29  Ybor City, FL (Tampa) @ The Ritz
Wed/Apr-30  Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues
Fri/May-02  Birmingham, AL @ Iron City
Sun/May-04  Silver Spring, MD @ Fillmore
Mon/May-05  Clifton Park, NY (Albany) @ Northern Lights
Wed/May-07  Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory
Thu/May-08  Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
Fri/May-09  Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
Sat/May-10  New York, NY @ Best Buy Theater
Mon/May-12  Norfolk, VA @ Norva
Tue/May-13  Stroudsburg, PA @ Sherman Theater
Thu/May-15  Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
Sat/May-17  Ft. Wayne, IN @ Piere’s
Mon/May-19  Sioux Falls, SD @ The District
Tue/May-20   Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
Wed/May-21  St. Paul, MN (Minneapolis) @ Myth
Fri/May-23  Grand Prairie, TX (Dallas) @ Verizon Theater
Tue/May-27  New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
Wed/May-28  Houston, TX @ House of Blues
Sun/Jun-01  Denver, CO @ Ogden Theater
Mon/Jun-02  Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex – Rockwell
Wed/Jun-04  Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theater
Thu/Jun-05  Las Vegas, NV @ Brooklyn Bowl
Fri/Jun-06  San Francisco, CA @ Regency Ballroom
Sat/Jun-07  Los Angeles, CA @ Fonda Theater

Along with its upcoming headlining spot on the Revolver Golden Golds Tour presented by Epiphone, Black Label Society will also present its own thirteen-city Canadian tour.  That tour will feature the band performing some somewhat stripped down versions of its hits as well as songs from Wylde’s solo album, Book of Shadows.

‘My Dying Time’, the lead single from BLS’ upcoming album, can be downloaded now via iTunes.  It can be downloaded at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/my-dying-time-single/id798941029.  The album in its entirety can be pre-ordered via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/catacombs-black-vatican-deluxe/id799689367?ls=1.  The album’s track listing is available below.

01. Fields Of Unforgiveness
02. My Dying Time
03. Believe
04. Angel Of Mercy
05. Heart Of Darkness
06. Beyond The Down
07. Scars
08. Damn The Flood
09. I’ve Gone Away
10. Empty Promises
11. Shades Of Gray
12. Dark Side Of The Sun (bonus track)
13. The Nomad (bonus track)

More information on Black Label Society’s upcoming album and tours is available online at http://www.zakkwylde.com, http://twitter.com/zakkwyldebls, http://www.facebook.com/zakkwylde and http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety.  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.

Black Label Society Releases Album Art, Track Listing For Upcoming LP

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Zakk Wylde and his Black Label brethren have released the official track listing and album art for the upcoming Black Label Society album, Catacombs of the Black Vatican.  Also released is the album’s lead single, ‘My Dying Time.’  The single is available now online via iTunes.  The track listing for Catacombs of the Black Vatican is available below.

01. Fields Of Unforgiveness

02. My Dying Time


03. Believe


04. Angel Of Mercy


05. Heart Of Darkness


06. Beyond The Down


07. Scars


08. Damn The Flood


09. I’ve Gone Away


10. Empty Promises


11. Shades Of Gray


12. Dark Side Of The Sun (bonus track)


13. The Nomad (bonus track)

Catacombs of the Black Vatican will be available in stores and online via eOne on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014.  It is first full length studio album from Black Label Society since 2009’s Order of The Black, which debuted on the Billboard Top 200 Chart at #4.  The band’s most recent recording, Unblackened, was released in 2013 on both a double-disc CD set an Blu-ray. The performance taped for that live performance was recorded at L.A.’s Club Nokia.  Two live dates are currently planned for the band this Spring. The first of those dates is on May 16th in Columbus, Ohio.  The other, a performance at the annual Rockfest festival, is scheduled for May 30th.  More information on the band’s tour schedule, its upcoming schedule and more is available online at http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety and http://www.blacklabelsociety.com.  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.

Zakk Wylde Releases Teaser Trailer For Upcoming BLS Album

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Media outlets across the country have already started releasing their lists of the year’s most anticipated albums.  Bands the likes of Slipknot, Tool, Mastadon, Down, and so many others have found themselves on the lists of so many writers.  Now Black Label Society founder and front man Zakk Wylde has thrown his band’s name in the ring for a spot on those lists.  Wylde released a semi-cryptic video today via YouTube announcing the upcoming release of BLS’ upcoming new release. Audiences can check out the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN13Pp5EJWs&feature=youtu.be.

Catacombs of the Black Vatican is currently scheduled to be released April 8th, 2014.  It is the band’s first new full length studio release since 2009’s Order of the Black and will be the band’s ninth full length studio release.  Order of the Black debuted at Number Four on Billboard’s Top 200 Chart in its original release.  The band’s most recent release is 2013’s live recording, Unblackened.  That recording was released separately on double-disc CD, DVD, and Blu-ray.  It saw Wylde and company performing last year, a much more toned down set than that for which they are known to hold.  It was recorded at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, California, BLS’ the territory of the BLS home chapter.

Long time BLS fans know the “Black Vatican” to be Wylde’s recording studio.  It is where some of BLS’ best music has been recorded and produced.  That knowledge serves to build even more excitement over the upcoming record. More information on Catacombs of the Black Vatican is available online at http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety, http://www.facebook.com/zakkwylde, http://twitter.comzakkwyldebls, and http://www.zakkwylde.com.  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.

Bearings Is A Beautiful Musical Eulogy For A Great Guitarist

Courtesy:  Alien Echo Music BMI/RoMoCo

Courtesy: Alien Echo Music BMI/RoMoCo

Guitarist Ronnie Montrose was one of the music industry’s busiest individuals during the course of his life.  Montrose, who died last year of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, was one of the most respected guitarists in the music industry.  Despite the respect that he earned among his fans and fellow musicians, he never gained the level of fame that those musicians gained.  It had been known that he had been suffering from depression at the time of his death.  So it is perhaps no wonder that the music on his final recording, Bearings, is in large part, very reserved.  The fourteen total tracks that make up the album are so painful yet just as beautiful in their emotional depth, too.  Of course for all of the reserved emotion displayed throughout most of this album, there are more upbeat songs, too.  One of those more upbeat songs is the album’s opener, ‘All Aboard.’

‘All Aboard’ is a prime example of Montrose’s exemplary talents right from its opening seconds.  The song comes in at just under three minutes in length.  In the course of that three minutes, he showed in this song that his talents were right up there with the likes of Zakk Wylde, Steve Vai, Steve Morse, Joe Satriani and so many other equally talented guitarists.  What makes this so interesting is that this song actually bears more of a country/bluegrass vibe about it than that of a rock song.  It would be so easy to see Ronnie sitting on the back porch of a large house somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, playing this piece.  Just as interesting to note on this song, is that Montrose also covered the song’s mandolin part, and the equally driving bass.  The layering of the three parts, which was also largely handled by Montrose let each part come through just enough to give a full assembly effect.  In turn, what listeners get in ‘All Aboard’ is a solid ad aptly titled opener to this record.

‘All Aboard’ is impressive to say the least.  It is impressive because of the talent displayed by Montrose both as an instrumentalist and as a producer.  He showed that he more than knew his stuff.  Just as much an example of his talent (and that of his fellow musicians) is the album’s fifth track, ‘Morning.’  Just as ‘All Aboard’ was aptly titled, so is this near five-minute song.  Ronnie was joined by percussionist Michele Graybeal and keyboardist Ed Roth for a song that stands out in so many of its own ways.  The gentle strains of Montrose’s guitar set next to Roth’s role on piano give this song so much life.  Graybeal is not to be left out either.  The use of what is either a small bongo drum or even a tabla is a subtle addition.  But it is just enough to add a certain extra something to the song.  One can close one’s eyes, and see the sun slowly coming up over a mountain range perhaps after a late night thunderstorm.  Others might see something else in hearing this song.  And they would be right, too.  That’s the beauty of completely instrumental music. It is one hundred percent open to interpretation.  And it’s just one of many songs that will lead to any number of interpretations on Montrose’s last recording.

The songs included in Bearings could be interpreted in so many ways.  That has already been noted.  No one interpretation would be wrong, either, regardless of who is interpreting the song.  One more example of that ease of interpretation comes in the form of the album’s penultimate piece, ‘Lighthouse.’  The song’s very title invokes images of a lighthouse set on a cliff.  The music itself feeds an even richer vision.  This critic alone sees images of said lighthouse overlooking a calm ocean on a warm summer night.  The sun is setting off in the distance.  The gentle fade of the music in the song’s closing seconds sees the sun setting below the horizon and the moon and stars taking over in the sky.  Again, this is just one critic’s view of this beautiful work.  Others might have their own visual interpretation of the song.  And those interpretations would be just as right.  Much the same can be noted of the album’s other songs, too.  That is exactly why any true music lover will want to hear this record at least once.  It not only displays a late musician’s talents once more, but also displays said musician’s ability to evoke so many different emotions among his audiences.  The album is available now online.  It can be ordered direct from the official Ronnie Montrose website at http://www.ronniemontrose.com/merchandise/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=65&products_id=237&zenid=2f9f4e8f36f439800dd5f1b97f4131fb.  More information on other Ronnie Montrose releases is available also available at http://www.ronniemontrose.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.

Wylde & Co. Shine Again On Unblackened Blu-ray

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Entertainment One

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Entertainment One

Black Label Society’s Unblackened is not the first live recording released by the band.  It is however a recording that any true society dweller from any chapter will want to include in their own Black Label library.  As front man Zakk Wylde notes in the recording’s bonus interview segment, the performance contained on this recording is not an acoustic show.  It is by and large a selection of songs altered from their original state.  In some cases, the songs have been toned down from their originals.  In other cases, the songs have just been altered and made even more beautiful and moving than before.  That’s just one part of what audiences will appreciate from this new live recording from Black Label Society and Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The performance itself is noteworthy.  That’s because unlike most normal Black Label live events, this one is itself toned down.  Audiences will also appreciate the bonus material included with the recording.  Already mentioned is the bonus interview.  It is the highlight of the bonus features.  There is also a home movie of sorts included from HM Prison in the UK.  It’s a great opportunity to see Wylde sitting down and performing by himself.  These two additions and the bonus music video for ‘Losin’ Your Mind’ complete the presentation and make it another must have for any true BLS fan.

The first thing that audiences will appreciate from Unblackened is the presentation of the songs that make up the show’s set list.  Longtime BLS fans that recall the band’s 2011 semi-acoustic release, The Song Remains Not The Same will get a pretty good idea of what to expect from this show in listening to that record.  Much like with that release, the songs included in the set list for this show are not acoustic.  Rather, they are toned down by and large from their heavier original forms.  In other cases, the songs have been re-tooled and made even more beautiful and moving from their already “slower” state as Wylde himself stated of them in the recording’s bonus interview.  Wylde said himself in an interview some years ago that a song doesn’t have to be heavy and crunching to be heavy.  He has proven that time and again since then.  This latest performance is just the latest way in which he has proven that, too.  They also prove that it’s okay for even the toughest people to have a softer side.  Speaking of that softer side, the show itself presents a softer side of both Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society.  It’s another reason for any BLS fan to check out this live DVD and Blu-ray.

The songs chosen for the set list in this show are a big reason for the show’s success.  But there is still more to take into consideration in evaluating this recording.  The show itself is another factor to take into consideration.  Just as the songs in the show have been toned down and re-tooled, so has the show itself to reflect that altered vibe of the songs.  Just as Wylde and company prove that songs can be heavy without being HEAVY, the set itself proves that a show can be powerful without pryo, and all of the other standards that go with typical hard rock shows.  It’s really a wonderful experience to behold even in watching from home on DVD or Blu-ray.  That’s especially the case in watching the emotion in Zakk’s eyes as he sings ‘In This River’ and ‘I Thank You Child.’  The home video that accompanies this song makes it an even more emotional moment.  Watching Zakk’s reaction to seeing his younger self with his daughter will bring a tear to anyone’s eye.  It’s just one of so many wonderful moments shared throughout the concert.  And it’s just one more reason that this is such an incredible performance.

The songs and the overall concert itself are both factors that make Unblackening a must have for any BLS fan.  Fans will also appreciate the bonus interview and solo performance from Zakk included in the recording.  The interview is broken up into short segments that are bookended by mini-segments of the main concert.  The “interview” segments are so enjoyable because fans get to see just how down to earth Zakk is.  This critic has had the honor of personally interviewing Zakk many years ago.  And the man presented in these segments is the man that this critic interviewed.  He is easygoing.  None of his comments are meant to be taken with much seriousness.  It’s a great chance for fans to see this side of Zakk especially if they hadn’t seen this side of the veteran guitarist and vocalist before.  The home video of his solo performance at HM Prison in the UK is just as enjoyable as his “interview” segments.  It is a home video of sorts.  So audiences shouldn’t expect the audio to be expert level.  But it’s still a wonderful experience because it shows just one more side of Zakk that perhaps audiences might not usually get to see.  Together with the aforementioned “interview” segments and the main feature, it makes the whole of Unblackened another great live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Black Label Society.  It is available now on CD, DVD, and Blu-ray.  More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.eaglerockent.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt.  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.

South Of The Earth A Welcome Return From Iron Man

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

The Baltimore, Maryland based four-piece known as Iron Man has been making music for a number of years, flying just below the mainstream radar all along.  The band has been classified as a “doom rock” band for most of its career. However, its new album, South of the Earth is more akin to the sludge rock sound of Black Label Society, Brand New Sin, and the band’s label mates in Horisont.  The only real link to the “doom” genre would be the lyrical side of the band’s new album.  That being the case, this new nine-track release is one that any purist metal head will enjoy no less with each listen.

South of the Earth opens solidly with the album’s title track.  Whether one is familiar with the band’s sound or not, it is a powerful first impression from the band on this record.  Front man Screaming Mad Dee’s vocals sound like a cross between King’s X vocalist/bassist dUg Pinnick and legendary Black Label Society front man/guitarist Zakk Wylde.  That is quite the statement for anyone that is familiar with either singer.  For those that aren’t so familiar with either vocalist, suffice it to say that Dee is a powerhouse vocalist.  That his voice can go from almost guttural depths to ear-piercing screams in the blink of an eye without sounding like so many cookie monster growling figures makes an even bolder statement.  Bassist Louis Strachan and guitarist Alfred Morris III add even more punch to this song with their full-on one-two attack.  Morris’ solos in this song are the stuff that young guitarists dream of doing one day.  And drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann’s performance behind the kit shows such control in this slower song.  That show of control also shows just how much talent he boasts.  And along with his band mates, the whole unit makes the album’s opener one that will have listeners’ horns high instantly.

The energy doesn’t let up once the album’s opener ends.  The band picks right back up and keep things moving in the album’s second track, ‘Hail to The Haze.’  When Dee sings in the song’s chorus, “How much longer/How much longer/How much longer inside/Can this monstrosity hide/How much longer/How much longer/How much longer/Must I wait/To release my hate” the power in his voice does quite the job of exhibiting his subject’s personal inner struggle.  Again, add in the musicianship of his band mates, and listeners get what is one more shining gem off of South of the Earth.

South of the Earth is loaded with songs from start to finish that any true metal head will appreciate.  It boasts, as noted, both slower, heavier songs and pieces that are more up-tempo.  For all of its hard-hitting songs, there is one song that stands out among them all.  That song is the instrumental break that is ‘Ariel Changed The Sky.’  This roughly two-minute plus acoustic piece is a total contrast to everything else on this record.  It is a gentle, airy opus that gives listeners just enough time to catch their collective breath before the band launches into its full-on musical assault again on the record’s second half.  It is a perfectly placed break.  And it is equally beautiful.  It’s one more show of talent from the band, and one more example of what makes South of the Earth a record that any purist metal head will appreciate no matter how old.

South of the Earth is available now in stores and online on Metal Blade Records and Rise Above Records.  The band will be playing a hometown show next Sunday, October 13th in support of its new album.  It will be performing at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore alongside St. Vitus, Pallbearer, and Hookers.  The band has more dates to follow.  Fans can check them out on the band’s official website, http://www.ironmanband.com.  Fans can also get more information from the band on its official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iron-Man-Band/146118265408361.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facbeook.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.

Unblackened Is One Of BLS’ Best Live Releases

Courtesy:  EOne Music/Entertainment One

Courtesy: EOne Music/Entertainment One

Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society brothers are back once again with a brand new live release.  Unblackened is another impressive live release from Wylde and company.  Whether one has had the pleasure of attending a BLS show live or not, it serves as an excellent example of what audiences get with a live Black Label show.  This live recording is something extra special for Black Label fans.  It is something extra special first and foremost because unlike with previous live releases, it is being released both on CD and on DVD and Blu-ray.  Audiences will appreciate the audio quality from the CD portion of the recording.  On a related note, the review for the video (Blu-ray) portion of the recording will come at a later date.  The audio mix on the CD was very well balanced, adding to the overall enjoyment.  One more reason fans will appreciate this latest release is that also unlike previous live releases, Zakk and his band mates were extremely selective in their set list for this show.  All of these factors taken into consideration, they make Unblackened a contender for one of 2013’s best new live recordings.

Unblackened, as noted, is an easy contender to be named one of the year’s best live recordings.  It earns this honor first and foremost as it is presented both with an audio and video portion.  This is different from previous live Black Label Society releases.  Previous live Black Label Society have been put out solely on CD (E.g. Live Brew-tality) or specifically on DVD or Blu-ray as in the live release, Boozed, Bruised, and Broken Boned.  This is a rare treat for long-time Black Label Society fans, to be able to take the recording with them anywhere that they want, including their vehicles.  Even with the audio and video portion being kept separate from one another, fans receive a treat as it allows audiences to decide which side of the show they want to get.  This is good in that maybe a given fan has the DVD or Blu-ray side of the show, but not the CD.  The CD could be purchased separate by said fan’s family or friends as a gift for a birthday.  Or since the holidays are right around the corner, said fan’s family or friends could purchase the CD as a gift idea without worrying about whether or not said fan already has the audio half of the concert.  Sure, it would be just as great to have both the audio and video portion of the show together.  But it’s just as good to have them separate.  The hypothetical situation noted here is just one example of why this is the case.  And it is for this hypothetical situation that Entertainment One’s staffers are to be commended for making the choice to present the show on separate formats.

The ability of fans to choose whether they want to take in Unblackened in its audio or video format or both is a major boon to any Black Label Society fan.  It’s just one positive to this new upcoming live recording.  In looking solely at the recording’s audio (CD) side, the CD’s audio mix is solid.  Believe it or not, there are some cases in which the audio mix of a live recording can turn out to be somewhat muddy to put it politely.  This is not one of those cases.  Those responsible for mixing the concert for home release did their jobs with expert precision.  The end result is a live double-disc CD release that will leave fans wanting the concert’s video side in the best possible way.  But alas, that is a review for another day.

The overall presentation of Unblackened is the biggest portion of what makes this live recording a candidate to be one of the year’s best live recordings.  The audio mix was finalized expertly on the CD.  And the very fact that fans can choose between the CD and DVD or Blu-ray (what BLS fan wouldn’t want both sides of the show?) makes it even more impactful for fans.  There is one more factor which fans should consider in this new live release.  That final factor is the show’s set list.  The set list makes the concert stand out from previous BLS live releases in the fact that it is much more album specific.  It pulls a song here and a song there from The Blessed Hellride and Mafia.  But the majority of this concert’s set list was pulled from Wylde’s older solo material and from BLS’ acoustic album, Hangover Music Vol. VI.  That album in question received mixed reception from both fans and critics alike.  Put into a live format as it is here though, many of the songs from that album are given a whole new life.  Perhaps after hearing the songs from Hangover Music Vol. VI in a whole new setting, fans that were critical of said album will gain a whole new appreciation for the record.  Older tracks such as the show’s opener, ‘Losin’ Your Mind’, ‘Sold My Soul’, ‘Road Back Home’, and ‘Sweet Jesus’ make the concert even more special.  That’s because these classics are far less visible on Zakk’s previous live recordings.  They show a side of Wylde with which many audiences might not be so familiar.  It proves, as Zakk said in one interview years ago, a song can be heavy without being heavy and crunching.  Fans that accept this will enjoy every minute of this recording when it is released on September 24th via EOne Music.  Fans will be able to purchase the double-disc in stores or order it online via iTunes at http://www.itunes.com/blacklabelsociety.  In the meantime, audiences can keep up with all of the latest BLS news on the official BLS Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety and its official website, 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.

Black Label Society Debuts Song From Upcoming Live CD/DVD, Blu-ray

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Entertainment One

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Entertainment One

Zakk Wylde and his Black Label brethren have released a new song.  The song, titled ‘Ain’t Not Sunshine When She’s Gone’ is a mournful bluesy type of song.  It was originally written by blues legend Bill Withers.  The entirely acoustic piece is one of two cover songs that will be included on the upcoming Black Label Society CD/DVD, Unblackened.  The song is streaming online now at Rolling Stone magazine’s website.  Fans can listen to it now at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/black-label-society-cover-bill-withers-sunshine-song-premiere-20130809

Unblackened will be available Tuesday, September 24th.  It will be distributed through the band’s current label, Entertainment One.  Along with its CD/DVD release, Unblackened will also be released on Blu-ray.  The double-disc CD release of Unblackened will contain six tracks not included on the DVD, including acoustic takes of ‘Queen of Sorrow’ and ‘Won’t Find It Here’ and covers of Leon Russell’s ‘Song For You’ and the aforementioned Bill Withers cover. 

Unblackened was filmed and recorded earlier in 2013 at Los Angeles’ Club Nokia.  It features performances of some of the band’s most well-known hits stripped down in an acoustic setting.  The DVD and Blu-ray will include as bonus features:  an interview with Zakk Wylde, a photo gallery, a music video for the band’s song, ‘Losin’ Your Mind’ from Zakk’s Pride and Glory solo record, and a feature with Zakk making a visit to the British prison, HM Prison Stocken. 

The DVD/Blu-ray and CD track listings are available below.

DVD/Blu-ray Track Listing

1.) Losin’ Your Mind
2.) The Blessed Hellride
3.) Sold My Soul
4.) Road Back Home
5.) Spoke In The Wheel
6.) House Of Doom
7.) Queen Of Sorrow
8.) Machine Gun Man
9.) Sweet Jesus
10.) In This River
11.) Throwin’ It All Away
12.) Takillya (Estyabon)
13.) Won’t Find It Here
14.) Rust
15.) Speedball
16.) I Thank You Child
17.) Stillborn

 

CD Track Listing

Disc I

1. Losin’ Your Mind
2. The Blessed Hellride
3. Sold My Soul
4. Road Back Home
5. Spoke In the Wheel
6. House Of Doom
7. Queen Of Sorrow
8. Machine Gun Man
9. Sweet Jesus
10. In This River
11. Throwin’ It All Away

 

Disc 2

1. Takillya (Estyabon)
2. Won’t Find It Here
3. Rust
4. Speedball
5. I Thank You Child
6. Stillborn
7. Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone (cover)
9. Lovin’ Woman
10. Queen Of Sorrow (unplugged)
11. Song For You (cover)
12. Won’t Find It Here (unplugged)
13. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

BLS fans can keep up with all of the latest from Zakk and company online at http://www.facebook.com/zakkwylde, http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety, http://www.zakkwylde.com, http://www.blacklabelsociety.com, and http://twitter.com/zakkwyldebls.

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