Rocker’s Debut LP “Hard To Bleed” Is Hard To Hate

Courtesy:  Phill Rocker

Courtesy: Phill Rocker

Late last month Phill Rocker (yes, that’s really his name) released his debut album Hard To Bleed. The independently released album boasts fifteen tracks all of which are a good fit for any fan of big riffs and even bigger hair. From start to finish Rocker exhibits influences from the likes of Judas Priest, Poison, Ozzy Osbourne, and so many others from that bygone era of rock. There are even some old school style power ballads thrown in for good measure to round out the record. The combination of those ballads and the album’s more up-tempo pieces makes Hard To Bleed a record that is hard to hate.

Phill Rocker’s debut album Hard To Bleed is a record that is hard to hate. Yes, that bad pun was fully intended. The fifteen-song record (there is also a deluxe edition that includes two bonus songs) is so hard to hate because over the course of its roughly sixty-seven minute run time it offers rock purists plenty to appreciate what with its classic rock sound and equally interesting lyrical content. The album is anchored by the album’s up-tempo, near mid-point ‘Burning in the Fire.’ It has already been noted that the songs featured in this record boast a noticeably old school rock sound. The sound in question takes listeners back to the days of big riffs and even bigger hair. That is no different in the case of ‘Burning in the Fire.’ Rocker and company waste no time getting things moving in this song. They jump into it right from its opening measures. Drummer Brian Tichy (Something Unto Nothing, Velvet Revolver, Ozzy Osbourne) is on point in his time keeping here. The dual guitar attack of Ricardo Fernandes and Miguel Aguiar adds even more impact to the song. That is because it instantly conjures thoughts of classic Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, and even Judas Priest. Rocker’s own vocal delivery here boasts just as much power as those that have come before. The song’s musical side is just one part of what makes the song a solid anchor for Rocker’s new album. Rocker wrote the song’s lyrics as well as handling vocal duties. Rocker’s lyrics come across as a commentary of sorts as he sings in the song’s lead verse, “Can somebody hear this scream of mine/Is the world goin’ blind/Hard to carry on/Without wiseman guidance/Can’t see/Nothing but dreams of foregone times/Facing the final frontier/I’ve faced this road before/Innocence calms down/Before the storm/The hurt I know is true.” Later in the song’s run Rocker asks, “Will I/Who else can I call/What’s done is done/It’s written in the stars.” In examining the song in whole Rocker comes across as making a statement about staying strong even in the most uncertain times with such lyrics. Of course that is just this critic’s own interpretation. It could be completely off the mark. Hopefully it isn’t. but the possibility is there. When that possibility is coupled with the song’s forward-driving musical content, the two together really build their own fire that will spread to listeners when they hear the song for themselves. Keeping that in mind, it is clear in the end why ‘Burning in the Fire’ is this record’s anchor. It is just one of the many songs in this album that can be cited as an example of what makes Rocker’s debut album hard to hate. The ballads that are included in this album do just as much to make it worth at least one listen. That is exemplified even later in the album’s run in the form of the bass-driven ballad ‘How Does It Feel.’

‘Burning in the Fire’ is a solid anchor for Phil Rocker’s debut album. That is thanks to the combination of its classic rock-influenced sound and its equally thought-provoking lyrical content. As solid as it is in the grand scheme of the record it is only one example of what makes it a *rock* solid record. ‘How Does It Feel’ is another good example of what makes Rocker’s new album worth hearing. Unlike ‘Burning in the Fire’ this song is a classic ballad style composition. From Rocker’s own vocal delivery to Ricardo Fernandes’ gentler melody to [Brian] Tichy’s own work behind the kit, this song is a direct throw back to the power ballads of the late 80s and early 90s. In regards to its lyrical content, the song’s lyrics will have listeners just as engaged. Rocker writes in this song, “This conspiracy doesn’t help to see my destiny/Fighting this battle/I’m more than you can be/Psycho maniacs/Rule what you can/Ask for what you need/That’s where I begin/Straight to the unknown.” This comes across as someone dealing with some inner personal issues. And the song’s chorus would seem to hint even more at that as Rocker writes, “Paranoia/In a troubled mind/Agonized by a wounded heart/Self-inflicted victim/In this unfair world/Is it real/What’s going on/How does it feel to walk away/How does it feel to taste the pain/How does it feel to go away/One more day.” The song’s final verse is just as intriguing as Rocker writes about a figure suffering from a number of emotional issues that have essentially crippled said figure. It is definitely an interesting piece that is certain to leave listeners talking just as much as ‘Burning in the Fire.’ Audiences can hear the song for themselves now via Rocker’s official website at http://www.phillrocker.com. It’s just one more example of what makes this record a record worth hearing at least once. It still is not the final example of what makes the album stand out. The album’s opener, ‘Wasted Generation (In Me) is one more example of what makes Hard To Bleed hard to hate.

Phil Rocker offers quite a bit for rock purists in his debut album; so much so that the album proves rather hard to hate. That is obvious in the album’s hard rock anchor ‘Burning in the Fire’ and its polar opposite ‘How Does It Feel.’ While both songs are clear examples of what makes this record worth hearing they are not the only songs that could be cited as examples of the record’s strengths. ‘Wasted Generation (In Me),’ the album’s opener, is one more of the album’s strengths. Much like ‘Burning in the Fire’ Rocker and his fellow musicians waste little time getting things going here. There is a little bit more set up here but very little at the most. Luckily for listeners it isn’t one of those “slow boil” setups that takes its time building up to the song’s real body. Far too many bands today take that route. And it is anything but original or enjoyable. Keeping that in mind, the overall musical composition of ‘Wasted Generation (In Me),’ by itself makes the song both an enjoyable work in itself and an equally solid first impression for Rocker. The song’s lyrical content is just as important to its overall composition as its musical side. Rocker writes in the song’s second verse, “Confused and alone/Left on my own/I can’t find a place to rest/My mind’s so stressed/In between now and then/Yeah, here I am/I feel that I am always somewhere.” He goes on to write, “Come and have a look/Seek what you want/Come and have a look/Seek what you need/Come and have a look/You will find/A wasted generation in me.” The song feels, at least in regards to its lyrical content, as if it comes from the point of someone in a difficult emotional spot. It is almost as if the figure in this song is looking back on certain events of the past and comparing those events to the present, thus leading to the revelations presented here. What is really interesting about all of this is that when set against the song’s musical content there is quite a separation between the two. One would expect considering the song’s lyrical content that this song’s musical content would not have as much fire as it does. Yet somehow in its own way it proves to work just as well alongside that content. Because it does (and surprisingly so) it proves in the end why it is yet another solid first impression for Rocker and another example of what makes his debut worth the listen. Together with the previously noted songs, all three offerings show collectively that not only is this record just worth the listen but they also make this record hard to hate. They are not the only songs that could be used to prove that argument either. There are twelve other songs include in this record that could be cited in making both arguments. Audiences can hear every one of those songs for themselves when they order Hard To Bleed for themselves.

Hard To Bleed is a good first effort from Phill Rocker. The album proves this time and again throughout the course of its fifteen songs and sixty-seven minutes. From the hard rocking anchor that is ‘Burning in the Fire’ to the more melodic classic ballad style ‘How Does It Feel’ to the equally solid opener ‘Wasted Generation (In Me)’ there is plenty for any purist rocker to enjoy. That includes the other dozen songs not directly noted here. All things considered Hard To Bleed proves in the end to be a good first effort from Phill Rocker and an album that is both worth hearing at least once and in turn hard to hate. It can be ordered online now via Rocker’s official Bandcamp website at http://phillrocker.bandcamp.com/releases. More information on Hard To Bleed is available online now along with music videos, news, and more at:

Website: http://www.phillrocker.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PhillRockerMusic

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Black Sabbath Announces Additional Dates For Its Farewell Tour

Courtesy:  Republic Records/Live Nation

Courtesy: Republic Records/Live Nation

It looks like the end is not as close as was previously thought.

Black Sabbath has announced that because of the popularity of its career-ending tour it has extended the tour well into 2016. The band announced Monday that it has added yet another run of North American dates that will see the band performing well into next fall. The new schedule kicks off August 17th at Jones Beach Amphitheater in New York and includes dates in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto, Detroit, and Dallas. The whole thing winds down September 21st at Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, Arizona. Audiences can check out an updated video announcement about the additional dates online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6lYClpPGLw&feature=youtu.be.

Courtesy:  Republic Records/Live Nation

Courtesy: Republic Records/Live Nation

The band’s updated tour schedule is listed below complete with its newly announced North American Fall 206 dates.

BLACK SABBATH’s 2016 Tour Dates are as follows:
NORTH AMERICA
 
Wed
1/20
Omaha, NE
CenturyLink Center
Fri
1/22
Chicago, IL
United Center
Mon
1/25
Minneapolis, MN
Target Center
Wed
1/27
Winnipeg MN
MTS Centre
Sat
1/30
Edmonton, AB
Rexall Centre
Mon
2/1
Calgary, AB
Scotiabank Saddledome
Wed
2/3
Vancouver, BC
Rogers Arena
Sat
2/6
Tacoma, WA
Tacoma Dome
Tue
2/9
San Jose, CA
SAP Pavilion
Thu
2/11
Los Angeles, CA
The Forum
Sat
2/13
Las Vegas, NV
Mandalay Bay
Mon
2/15
Denver, CO
Pepsi Center
Wed
2/17
Kansas City, MO
Sprint Center
Fri
2/19
Detroit, MI
The Palace of Auburn Hills
Sun
2/21
Hamilton, ON
First Ontario Centre
Tue
2/23
Montreal, QC
Bell Centre
Thu
2/25
New York, NY
Madison Square Garden
Sat
2/27
New York, NY
Madison Square Garden
 
AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND
Fri
4/15
Perth, AU
Perth Arena
Sun
4/17
Adelaide,AU
Entertainment Centre
Tue
4/19
Melbourne,AU
Rod Laver Arena
Sat
4/23
Sydney,AU
Allphones Arena
Mon
4/25
Brisbane, AU
Entertainment Centre
Thurs
4/28
Auckland,NZ
Vector Arena
Sat
4/30
Dunedin,NZ
Forsyth Barr Stadium
 
EUROPE
Wed
6/1
Budapest,Hungary
Groupama Arena
Wed
6/8
Berlin, Germany
Waldebuhne
**Sat
6/11
Donington, UK
Download
Mon
6/13
Verona, IT
Arena Di Verona
Wed
6/15
Zurich, Switzerland
Hallenstadon
**Fri
6/17
Dessel,Belgium
Grasspop
**Thu
6/23
Halden, Norway
Tons of Rock
**Sat
6/25
Copenhagen, DE
Copenhell
Tue
6/28
Vienna, Austria
Stadthalle
Thu
6/30
Prague, Czech Rep.
02 Arena
Sat
7/2
Krakow, Poland
Tauron Arena
Tue
7/5
Riga, Latvia
Riga Arena
**Thu
7/7
Helsinki, Finland
Monsters of Rock
**Sat
7/9
Stockholm, Sweden
Monsters of Rock
Tue
7/12
Moscow, Russia
Olympisky Arena
**Denotes festival appearance
NORTH AMERICA
Wed
8/17
Wantagh, NY
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
Fri
8/19
Philadelphia, PA
Susquehanna Bank Center
Sun
8/21
Washington DC
Jiffy Lube Live
Tue
8/23
Holmdel, NJ
PNC Bank Arts Center
Thu
8/25
Boston, MA
Xfinity Center
Sat
8/27
Uncasville, CT
Mohegan Sun Arena
Mon
8/29
Toronto, ON
Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
Wed
8/31
Detroit, MI
DTE Energy Music Theater
Fri
9/2
Indianapolis, IN
Klipsch Music Center
Sun
9/4
Chicago, IL
Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Wed
9/7
Dallas, TX
Gexa Energy Pavilion
Fri
9/9
Albuquerque, NM
Isleta Ampitheater
Sun
9/11
Salt Lake City, UT
USANA Ampitheater
Tue
9/13
Portland, OR
Sunlight Supply Arena
Thu
9/15
Oakland, CA
Oracle Arena
Sat
9/17
Las Vegas, NV
MGM Grand Garden Arena
Mon
9/19
Hollywood, CA
Hollywood Bowl
Wed
9/21
Phoenix, AZ
AK-Chin Pavilion

Information on tickets, VIP packages and more for the band’s upcoming North American dates is available online now at http://www.Livenation.com. More information on Black Sabbath, its upcoming tour dates, and more is available online now at:

Website: http://www.blacksabbath.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BlackSabbath

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blacksabbath

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The End Is Coming…For Black Sabbath

Courtesy:  Republic Records/Live Nation

Courtesy: Republic Records/Live Nation

The end is near. No, not armageddon. Legendary hard rock act Black Sabbath made the announcement today that Black Sabbath will embark on its farewell tour next year.
Black Sabbath–Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Tony Iommi–announced today that it will hit the road next January for its final tour. Audiences can see the announcement for themselves online now via Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYCvRV5ME3w&feature=youtu.be.

Courtesy:  Republic Records/Live Nation

Courtesy: Republic Records/Live Nation

The band’s current schedule sees it opening its tour on January 20th in Omaha, Nebraska and running through February 25th at New York’s famed Madison Square Gardens. From there the band will take some time off to recharge before hitting the road again down under beginning April 15th in Perth, Australia. The band’s current slate of dates is listed below. It is only the current schedule. More dates will be announced next month.

Photo Credit: Mark Weiss

Photo Credit: Mark Weiss

North American Tour Dates
1/20 Omaha, NE CenturyLink Center
1/22 Chicago, IL United Center
1/25 Minneapolis, MN Target Center
1/28 Saskatoon, SK Sasktel Centre
1/30 Edmonton, AB Rexall Centre
2/1 Calgary, ON Scotiabank Saddledome
2/3 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena
2/6 Tacoma, WA Tacoma Dome
2/9 San Jose, CA SAP Center
2/11 Los Angeles, CA The Forum
2/13 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay Events Center
2/15 Denver, CO Pepsi Center
2/17 Kansas City, MO Sprint Center
2/19 Detroit, MI The Palace of Auburn Hills
2/21 Hamilton, ON FirstOntario Centre
2/23 Montreal, QB Bell Centre
2/25 New York City, NY Madison Square Garden
Australia/New Zealand Tour Dates

4/15
Perth
Perth Arena
4/17
Adelaide
Entertainment Centre
4/19
Melbourne
Rod Laver Arena
4/23
Sydney
Allphones Arena
4/25
Brisbane
Entertainment Centre
4/28
Auckland
Vector Arena
4/30
Dunedin
Forsyth Barr Stadium

Fans can get information on tickets, VIP packages, and more for the North American leg of the upcoming tour online now via Live Nation’s official website at http://www.Livenation.com. More information on Black Sabbath’s tour is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.blacksabbath.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BlackSabbath

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blacksabbath

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Devil City Angels Debuts New Single

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Rock and roll super group Devil City Angels will release its self-titled debut album this fall. In anticipation of its release, the collective of veteran talents—Rikki Rocket (Poison), Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake), and Brandon Gibbs (Cheap Thrill)—has debuted the latest single from its upcoming album.

Devil City Angels debuted its latest single ‘All I Need’ this week and is currently streaming the single online via Revolver Magazine. Audiences can hear the song now at Revolver’s website at http://www.revolvermag.com/news/devil-city-angels-premiere-new-song-all-i-need.html. Audiences that are fans of the rock sound of the late 80s and early 90s will enjoy this song with its lighthearted sound. Its debut follows the premiere of the video for the album’s lead single ‘Boneyard,’ which can be seen online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjrB0N6aBvY&feature=youtu.be. The video is a direct throwback to the classic rock videos of the 80s complete with footage of the band performing and of course the mandatory female dancer.

Devil City Angels will be available in stores and online on Friday, September 18th via Century Media Records in a variety of bundle packages as well as by itself. Pre-orders for the album begin tomorrow via iTunes and Century Media’s online store. Those choosing to pre-order the album via Century Media’s online store can do so online at http://www.indiemerch.com/cmrecords/brand/devil-city-angels. Those that pre-order the album via iTunes will get both ‘All I Need’ and ‘Boneyard’ as instant grat racks. It can also be pre-ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Devil-City-Angels/dp/B01169B5NY.

More information on Devil City Angels is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at http://www.facebook.com/DevilCityAngels. 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

UDR’s New Rhoads Tribute Record Pays Proper Respect To Guitarist’s Memory And Legacy

Courtesy:  UDR

Courtesy: UDR

Cover albums and tribute records are a dime a dozen. It would be no surprise if it turned out that there are more covers albums and tribute records churned out every year than albums of actual new material. Considering the number of covers albums and tribute records churned out each year–most of which are little more than contractually obligated space-fillers–it means that most of the noted compilations will either sit on store shelves and fade into obscurity or they will just end up being shipped back to the record companies from whence they came. So that leaves the question as to which compilations are worth at least one listen. This past March, UDR answered that question at least to a point with its new tribute to the late guitarist Randy Rhoads Immortal Randy Rhoads – The Ultimate Tribute. The eleven track disc is one of those records that is worth at least one listen if no more. It features covers of some of the most famous songs on which Rhoads performed before his untimely death on March 19, 1982. That is just one of the reasons that audiences will want to give this record at least one listen. The lineup of artists tapped to re-work Rhoads’ songs is another reason that audiences will want to give this record at least one listen. And then there are the disc’s production values. Grammy award-winning producer Bob Kulich manned the boards for the project. Listening to the balance of each part within each song, it’s no wonder that the album’s production values are so noteworthy. All three elements on their own are worth their own share of attention. Combined, they show that Immortal Randy Rhoads – The Ultimate Tribute, while not immortal itself, is a compilation that fans of Rhoads’ work will want to hear at least once.

Immortal Randy Rhoads is not the only collection of songs co-written at least in part by Randy Rhoads and recorded by Rhoads. Despite this, it still stands as a collection that fans of Rhoads’ work will want to hear at least once. The main reason for this is the fact that the eleven-track disc, which comes in at a total of fifty-two minutes, focuses not just one Rhoads’ short-time with rock legend Ozzy Osbourne, but on his career at large. Yes, the majority of the record’s body is composed of songs that Rhoads co-wrote and recorded with Ozzy. But, there is also a pair of songs featured here representing his time with Quiet Riot in the form of ‘Back to the Coast’ and ‘Killer Girls.’ Producer Bob Kulich heading the whole project, one can only imagine that he had a hand in the sequencing of the songs that make up the compilation. While there are only two songs representative of Rhoads’ work with Quiet Riot, they change things up just enough to keep listeners engaged. The same can be said of the overall mood of the songs in whole. The mood changes with each song just enough, too to keep listeners engaged. Both the changing mood of the songs and the compilation’s sequencing overall make for a solid foundation on which the rest of the record’s elements rest, thus making plenty of reason within itself for listeners to check out this compilation.

The songs that make up the body of Immortal Randy Rhoads – The Ultimate Tribute make a solid foundation for the record. Their sequencing and the overall changing mood of the songs from one to the next will encourage listeners to give the record at least one listen. The artists that were tapped to re-work the songs make for just as much reason for audiences to check out this collection of songs. Famed singer Tim “Ripper” Owens (Iced Earth, Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen) handles vocal duties for much of the record save for just three songs–‘Crazy Train,’ ‘Mr. Crowley,’ and ‘Back to the Coast.’ Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, Kill Devil Hill) shares drumming duties with fellow veteran drummers Brett Chassen and Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot) while Ozzy’s latest axe-man Gus G. shares duties on the guitar with Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Night Ranger), Doug Aldrich (Revolution Saints, Dio, Whitesnake), Brad Gillis (Night Ranger, Ozzy Osbourne, Rubicon), Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom) and even Bob Kulich himself. Dweezil Zappa joins in on bass on one song while Rudzy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake) handles bass duties on a number of the disc’s songs. There are other names included in the collection’s lineup. These are just some of the figures tapped to record and perform Rhoads’ songs. It’s not just a bunch of no-name individuals, either. It is a who’s who of rock’s past present and future. Some of them were friends of Rhoads. Others were closely familiar with his work. Such closeness with Rhoads and his work means a certain level of respect for both, which in turn leads to the product presented on this record. It isn’t just a bunch of material slapped together haphazardly save maybe for the disc’s opener. That one is self-explanatory. Other than that moment, the rest of the material presented in this record by the A-list of musicians shows true respect for Rhoads and his legacy. It translates clearly through to listeners, too. And in translating so well, it shows once more why this collection is worth at least one listen.

The songs that make up the body of Immortal Randy Rhoads – The Ultimate Tribute and the artists tapped to re-works Rhoads’ classic songs are equally important to the success of this record. Considering their importance, they would not be worth even the slightest mention without a mention of the work put in behind the glass during their recording. Grammy award-winning producer Bob Kulich is to thank in large part for making the songs sound as good as they do. Listening to the songs and hearing their balance, audiences will be pleasantly surprised at how well each song is balanced. The balance allows for every one of the superstars featured in each song to get his moment. Not only that but it allows for the full body of each of Rhoads’ songs to come through. The result is eleven tracks that sound equally solid from one to the next and ultimately eleven tracks that will keep listeners fully engaged from the collections’ first song to its last. In giving each song a chance and considering each of the noted elements, every listener will agree once again that among all of the covers albums and tribute records out there, this is one that deserves at least one listen rather than being left on store shelves.

Hopefully it has been proven by now that among all of the covers albums and tribute records that are churned out every year, UDR’s recently released tribute to Randy Rhoads, Immortal Randy Rhoads – The Ultimate Tribute is one that is deserving of at least one listen; this despite the fact that it is not the only tribute to Rhoads that has been released so far this year. It is not one those records that was just tossed together to make a little money for the label. That is made clear through the record’s collection of songs, its all-star cast of performers, and its production values. It is a record that Rhoads’ fans of all ages will appreciate. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from UDR is available online now at:

Websitehttp://www.udr-music.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/UDR.music

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 news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Gus G.’s Solo Debut A Record That Every Rock Purist Should Hear

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Guitarist Gus G.’s solo debut I Am The Fire is an album that any hard rock and rock purist must hear at least once in 2014.  This record exhibits elements of the award-winning guitarist’s entire career over the course of its dozen total tracks.  From more modern sounding material similar to the likes of Three Days Grace to older classic Iron Maiden style shredding to anything in between, G. (a.k.a. Kostas Karamitroudis) offers his listeners a musical melting pot on this record.  Add in guest appearances from fellow greats such as Billy Sheehan and David Ellefson among many others, and audiences get a record that more than deserves a spot on any critic’s year-end lists of the best new rock and/or hard rock records.

I Am The Fire wastes no time grabbing the attention of its audiences.  That is exhibited in the album’s opener, ‘My Will Be Done.’  The song’s first few bars hint at what’s about to come before it really launches with its full, driving energy.  And the vocals of singer Mats Leven (Therion, Krux, Candlemass) add even more of a punch to the song.  Leven sings against G.’s full throttle guitar work, “I hit the gas out on the road/And I don’t care about tomorrow/I see the places that you don’t/I will command and you will follow.”  Those first few lines are classic rock anthem in every sense of the term.  And they perfectly complement the song’s energy.  They exude the attitude and energy of so many classic anthems that have come before.   Leven goes on in the song’s chorus singing, “Why not get on it/Life depends on it/I’m gonna survive /I felt your disgust/In myself I trust/I am right/You are wrong/My will be done.”  That presents even more of that defiant, self-assured attitude exhibited in so many far more classic rock songs.  And it doesn’t stop there, either as listeners will hear throughout the song’s remaining verses.  Having that attitude and energy exhibited so expertly throughout this  song makes ‘My Will Be Done’ the perfect choice with which to open I Am The Fire.

The classic rock and roll attitude and energy crafted and released in the opener of I Am The Fire made that song the perfect choice with which to open the album.  Just as welcome an addition to this album is the first of the album’s two instrumental tracks, ‘Vengeance.’  Coming less than halfway through the album, Gus G. really gets the chance to shine in this track.  Audiences can take their pick in terms of comparisons.  The veteran guitarist shows why he is more than deserving of having his name next to any number of other guitar greats.  He shows just as much why he was the obvious choice to take over guitar duties for Ozzy Osbourne on his 2010 album Scream.  Audiences will especially enjoy this song because it bridges so well, the classic shredding style of so many veteran guitarists and that of more modern rock.  It is one more well-chosen addition to the record as a whole.

For all of the intense energy contained throughout the songs on I Am The Fire, Gus G. does give listeners some more pulled back moments, too.  Case in point: ‘Long Way Down.’  Eyes Set To Kill vocalist Alexia Rodriguez handles vocal duties on this far deeper and emotional song.  If one were to hear this song without knowing Rodriguez was handling vocal duties, one would almost swear it was Evanesence singer Amy Lee with Gus G. and the rest of the musicians on hand for the song sounding like the rest of Evanesence.  She does quite the job of capturing the song’s emotion as she sings, “Nobody’s perfect/Is it really worth it/To let this go to waste/Just let me break away/Break away/Release my tension/Nothing left between the ledge and the ground/Take away/Take away/My regression/I’m on the edge/Another step/It’s a long way down.”  Obviously, these lyrics are meant in an entirely metaphorical sense.  She’s not actually singing about a subject jumping to one’s own death.  Most people likely would already know this.  But sadly, there are those that take things far too seriously even today.  So it necessitates that being pointed out.  The lyrics, it would seem, are meant to illustrate one’s own personal inner turmoil and how that turmoil is ripping said subject apart inside.  Yes, it’s a standard lyrical topic.  But the manner in which Rodriguez and Karamitroudis capture the song’s emotion is what makes it well worth the listen.  It is of course just one more of so many songs on I Am The Fire that makes this album one that every rock and hard rock purist should experience at least once before 2014 ends.  Gus G.’s European fans will get to hear his new music live as he kicks off his “”Unity 1” tour tomorrow, March 7th with Uli Jon Roth, Jorn Lande and Mats Leven.  The six-date tour begins in Kerkyra, Greece tomorrow and winds down in Athens next Wednesday, March 12th in Athens, Greece.

The “Unity 1” tour winds down a little less than a week before the release of I Am The Fire.  Fans don’t have to wait to get the album, though.  It can be pre-ordered online now via Century Media’s online store at  http://www.centurymedia.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=715.  Fans can get more information on I Am The Fire, tour dates and more online at http://www.gusgofficial.com and http://www.facebook.com/officialgusg.  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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.