Outlaws’ ‘Legacy Live’ Is One Of 2016’s Top New Live CD Recordings

Courtesy: Steamhammer/SPV

Courtesy: Steamhammer/SPV

Veteran county music act The Outlaws recently announced that it will release its new live recording Legacy Live next month.  The recording, the band’s fourth live recording, will come four years after the release of the band’s most recent full-length studio recording, It’s About Pride (2012).  There is plenty to say to the positive about this latest live effort from the Florida-based band beginning with its set list.  That will be discussed shortly.  The band’s stage presence throughout the course of the concert is just as important to discuss.  Last but hardly least of note in the record’s presentation is its audio mix.  It rounds out the record’s most important elements and is just as important as the show’s set list and the band’s performance thereof.  All things considered, Legacy Live shows itself in the end to be one more of this year’s top new live CD recordings.

The Outlaws’ new live recording Legacy Live is one of 2016’s top new live CD recordings.  That is due in no small part to the concert’s set list.  The twenty song set list is spread across two discs and totals 117 minutes.  That is just under two hours worth of Outlaws hits on two discs live.  The set list reaches all the way back to the band’s 1975 self-titled debut album and as recent as It’s About Pride, the band’s most recent full-length studio recording.  The band’s debut is one of the most heavily represented albums in this concert with five songs being pulled from that record.  The band’s sophomore record, Lady in Waiting (1976) gets a fair share of nods, too with four of its nine total songs being pulled for the show’s set list.  Hurry Sundown (1977), the band’s third record is represented by a trio of songs. It’s About Pride sees four of its songs featured in the show’s set list.  Some material from band member Henry Paul’s solo work is even featured in this set list including the title track from the band’s album Grey Ghost and the song ‘So Long.’  Obviously not every one of the band’s 12 total albums could be represented here.  That would dramatically increase the show’s length and likely would have caused legal issues with performance times for the band, etc.  However, the fact that so much of the band’s history is presented throughout the nearly two-hour set helps the concert’s title live up to expectations.  It truly does present a healthy portion of the band’s legacy.  Keeping this in mind the album’s set list clearly proves to be of the utmost importance to its presentation. It is not the recording’s only key element, though.  The band’s stage presence throughout the concert is just as important to note as the show’s set list.

The set list that is featured in this recording is in itself a clearly important portion of the concert’s presentation.  That is due to the quantity of the band’s work that is represented throughout the body of the show’s twenty-song set.  The set list reaches all the way back to the band’s 1975 self-titled debut and as recent as its 2012 album It’s About Pride with a number of albums in between represented along with one of Henry Paul’s solo records, too.  As important as the set list proves to be to the record’s presentation, it is not the recording’s only key element.  The band’s stage presence throughout the concert is just as important to note here as the show’s set list.  Audiences will be pleased to know that from beginning to end, the band’s members let their performances do the talking for them.  Little to no time is wasted between songs with banter between the band and audience or even between the band members themselves.  The energy exhibited throughout each member’s performance shows that the band gives its all throughout the recording, too.  Considering the fact that the band started recording and performing together some four decades ago (and has gone through a number of lineup and label changes since that time) the energy and chemistry exhibited—even in an audio-only setting—shows that the band is still well at the top of its game in this performance.  This is something that audiences new and old alike will appreciate.  Even with this in mind, the band’s stage presence throughout the concert is still not the last element to note in its presentation.  The concert’s audio mix is its finishing touch.

The set list that makes up the body of Legacy Live and the band’s performance thereof are both key elements to consider in this new Outlaws live recording.  While both elements are clearly important to the recording’s presentation, they are not its only key elements.  The concert’s audio mix is the recording’s finishing touch.  The audio mix is relatively stable from beginning to end.  Given, in the very rare moments when Henry Paul does take a moment to just talk, the audio is a little bit softer than that in the band’s overall performance.  But those moments are so rare that it becomes something of a non-factor.  This means that audiences will very rarely find themselves having to adjust the volumes on their radios (or whatever audio delivery system they may use) when experiencing this concert from beginning to end.  Considering this, it strengthens the recording’s presentation even more.  When it is set against the remainder of the discussed elements, the whole of the recording proves ultimately to be a presentation that is one more of this year’s top new live CD recordings.

Legacy Live, the latest live recording from veteran country music outfit Outlaws, is one of this year’s top new live CD recordings.  That is proven in no small part through the extensive twenty-song set list at the center of the recording.  The band’s performance of that set list is just as important to note as the set list itself.  The high quality production values presented in the recording are the final touch to the recording. They leave listeners to very rarely have to adjust the volume on their music delivery system at any point throughout the nearly two-hour concert.  That solidifies the concert’s presentation and proves once and for all why this concert is one of this year’s top new live CD recordings.  Legacy Live will be available in stores and online on Nov. 18 in the U.S.  More information on Legacy Live is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.OutlawsMusic.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/outlawsmusic

 

 

 

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Prong’s Latest LP Is “Absolutely” One Of 2016’s Best New Hard Rock And Metal Albums

Courtesy:  Steamhammer/SPC

Courtesy: Steamhammer/SPC

2015 was quite the busy year for the hard rock and metal community. From the year’s opening to its end there was little downtime for hard rock and metal fans. New albums from the likes of Slayer, Sevendust, and Between The Buried and Me, and new EPs from the likes of Amaranthe, The Devil Wears Prada, and Adrenaline Mob kept those noted audiences entertained. And they are just a small sample of all of the hard rock and metal albums that were released last year. Now with the New Year upon us the hard rock and metal community have picked right back up where they left off last year. Already new releases from the likes of Primal Fear, Dream Theater, Anthrax, and Megadeth are set to be released in the next few weeks or so. Even Metallica allegedly has a new album in the works. Though at the time of this post it has no set release date. So while the weekly sales ads from Best Buy and Target are typically bare around this time of year in terms of new music releases, that emptiness is deceiving at least to a point. There are already plenty of records due out before the usual March push. One of those records not already noted comes from veteran guitarist/vocalist Tommy Victor. The album X – No Absolutes is Victor’s latest release under the Prong moniker. The album bears an ironic title. That is because it is absolutely a great start to 2016 for Victor and his current band mates and for the hard rock and metal community in whole. The main reason that this record is such a great start to the year both for Prong and for the hard rock and metal community is the album’s musical content. That will be discussed at more length shortly. The lyrical content presented throughout the thirteen-song record is just as important to the record’s whole. Victor presents some interesting concepts in each of the record’s compositions in terms of their lyrical content. The combination of both noted elements makes X – No Absolutes a record that is absolutely some of Tommy Victor’s best work to date as the lead creative force behind Prong. Of course they are just part of what makes this record so impressive. The album’s overall sequencing rounds out its presentation. The solid sequencing will keep listeners engaged from start to finish. That is thanks to the fact that the album’s energy barely lets up save for a couple of points. That will be touched on at more length later. All things considered X – No Absolutes proves in the end to be a record that is absolutely one of Prong’s best records to date and one of the year’s absolutely best new hard rock and metal albums.

Prong’s latest full-length studio recording is an aptly titled album. That is because despite its title, it is a record that is full of absolutes. It is absolutely one of the band’s best albums to date. That is thanks in large part to founding member and front man Tommy Victor’s attention to detail. Being absolutely one of the band’s best albums to date, it is also an absolutely easy choice for any critic’s list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums even though the year has just started. The main way in which it proves itself to be such an impressive new album is its overall musical makeup. Whether or not audiences are familiar with Prong’s extensive body of work–front man/founder Tommy Victor has released ten full-length albums, one cover album, at least two live recordings, and any number of singles and EPs–they will find that in terms of its musical makeup there is plenty to like about the album’s musical content. From start to finish, this record is loaded with plenty of old school thrash riffs a la Anthrax, Metallica, and Megadeth. There is also a more modern sound somewhat akin to perhaps that of Fear Factory in the form of ‘Belief System.’ Listeners will note that similarity thanks to the song’s heavy, crunching, down-tuned guitars and equally pummeling drums and bass line. For all of the full-on energy presented over the course of Prong’s new album there is at least one moment that stands out here. That moment comes in the form of the album’s mid-point ‘Do Nothing.’ In comparison to the rest of the album’s offerings, this melodic hard rock piece is reserved in comparison to the rest of the album’s offerings and in comparison to every other song that Victor has composed for and included in Prong’s previous records. Considering this it could be said of this song that it is the most radio-friendly Prong song that Victor has ever composed. It could be the song that finally breaks Prong into the mainstream after so many years. Of course that is provided it gets the right support from rock radio programmers. The same can be said of ‘With Dignity.’ This song boasts a very mainstream sound unlike anything that Victor has composed for any of Prong’s previous albums. If the noted sounds aren’t enough for fans, there is still plenty more to like such as ‘Ice Runs Through My Veins.’ This song’s sound would make it a good fit on Prong’s 1996 album Rude Awakening.’ ‘Worth Pursuing’ takes listeners way back to the days of ‘Prove You Wrong’ and ‘Beg To Differ’ as will ‘Without Words.’ Regardless of which song(s) listeners choose as their favorite(s) from this record, it can be said of the album’s varied sounds more than make it an album that every Prong fan should have in his or her own music library. Collectively, the various sounds presented throughout this album prove to be just one part of what makes X – No Absolutes absolutely some of Tommy Victor’s best work to date and the album in whole one of Prong’s best albums to date. Of course they are just part of what makes it such an impressive album. The album’s lyrical content is just as important to its overall presentation as its musical content.

The musical content presented throughout the course of X – No Absolutes is an undeniably important part of the album’s overall presentation. There is material that will take audiences back to Prong’s earlier years alongside more modern, mainstream material. There’s even plenty of old school thrash metal for listeners regardless of their familiarity with the band’s body of work. All of that material gives listeners more than enough to appreciate about this album. Of course it is just part of what makes X – No Absolutes an absolutely impressive new album from Prong. The album’s lyrical content plays just as important of a part in its presentation as its musical makeup. That is evident right from the album’s opener ‘Ultimate Authority.’ In terms of its lyrical content, it comes across as something of a socio-politically charged piece. That can be argued thanks to Victor singing in the song’s chorus, “The consequences of the will of the right/Disharmony within the law of the light/Deserving everything that you’re owed…The ultimate authority/Correction that is due.” He goes on to sing in the chorus’ reprise, “Ultimate authority/You’re exceptions to the rule/Ultimate authority/Corruption that is due/Ultimate authority.” While these aren’t the song’s only lyrics, they do paint a picture that is vivid enough to leave listeners talking. The picture in question definitely seems to lean in the direction of it being that of a commentary. That is just this critic’s own interpretation of course. So it should not necessarily be taken as gospel. It could easily be centered on another topic. Regardless, the fact that Victor could craft such a thought-provoking set of lyrics here is more than enough proof of why its lyrical content is just as important to the song (and the album in whole) as its musical content.

The lyrical content behind ‘Belief System’ is another example of why this album’s lyrical content is just as important to its overall presentation as its musical content. Musically speaking, this is a heavy song very much in the vein of Fear Factory and other acts of that ilk. The song’s lyrical content sees (or hears) Victor singing, “The will to survive/Ever striving/The will to succeed/Forever climbing/Never arriving/To fulfill my need/There’s no defeat/There’s no retreat/I must to succeed/No compromising…something to believe in/There’s no retreat.” This is just one part of the song’s lyrical make up. but it leaves little to no doubt as to the message that Victor is trying to get across here. It is a message of self-determination. It tells listeners to never give up in life no matter what. There is always something to believe in. Such a positive message coupled with equally fiery musical content makes this song an even harder-hitting piece that is certain to be a fan favorite.

‘Belief System’ and ‘Ultimate Authority’ both show in their own way why the lyrical content presented throughout Prong’s new record is such an important part to the album’s overall presentation. Both take on different topics. And both do so in relatively clear fashion, too. It shows that Victor doesn’t stick to just one topic or another at any point throughout the album. This remains the case throughout the record, too. ‘With Dignity’ proves that. Victor sings in this song, “Somehow I will find a way/Somehow I will find escape/I’ll find a way/Won’t attach myself again…I’ll find a way not to entice myself again/Somehow I’ll find a way…How do you summarize/That you’ve been living a lie/Walk away with dignity/It’s best to step aside/Fight for a better life/And reappear/Walk away with dignity.” These deeply introspective lines alone are certain to generate their own share of discussion among listeners. Is this Victor coming from some personal experience or is it something else? He goes on to sing, “Right here I hope to remain/Right here I am not afraid/Hope to remain in a place that will amaze/Into a place that we came/Replacing all that you say/I hope to remain in a state that’s self-contained.” These lines make this song come across as a rather personal composition. It would definitely be interesting to hear from Victor himself to learn the exact topic at its center. It almost comes across as Victor writing (and singing) about having been in a very tough place in life at one point and just needing to step away and gather himself before making his return. Once again, this is only the interpretation of this critic. It does not mean that this interpretation is the right or only interpretation. With any luck it will prove to be the correct interpretation. Regardless, the fact that it is such a deep piece in terms of its lyrical content shows once more why the album’s overall lyrical content is just as important as its musical content. It is hardly the only remaining example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content, too. Any of the other ten songs presented in this album could be cited as examples of the importance of the album’s lyrical content, too. Together with the album’s musical content, both elements show clearly why X – No Absolutes is absolutely an easy, early pick for this year’s best new hard rock and metal albums and why it is also absolutely one of Prong’s best records to date. Of course it still is not the only remaining element to note in the album’s presentation. The album’s sequencing is just as important to note as its musical and lyrical content.

The musical and lyrical content presented over the course of Prong’s new album are both key elements in the album’s overall presentation. While they are both important to the album’s presentation in their own way, they are just part of the album’s presentation. Its sequencing cannot be ignored in a close examination. As previously noted, Prong offers something old and something new in its new album both in terms of its musical and lyrical content. That mix of material is balanced quite well from beginning to end, too. The balance of the album’s heavier, more adrenaline-fueled musical content to its more ” reserved, mainstream” sound keeps the energy at just the right levels throughout. The lyrical content presented in each song will keep listeners just as engaged. That is because Victor tackles so many different topics from one song to the next, never sitting too long on just one topic. Because he doesn’t, he leaves listeners waiting to hear what is in store next. In turn, listeners will remain just as engaged as they will with the album’s musical side. Keeping all of this in mind X – No Absolutes presents to listeners an album that is almost unlike anything that Tommy Victor has ever presented under the Prong moniker. That is not a bad thing, though. It is an album that presents the band at its most focused point. That focus reveals an album that is one of Prong’s best records to date and a record that is absolutely an easy, early pick for this year’s list of the year’s best new hard rock and heavy metal albums.

Tommy Victor and his current band mates in Prong have crafted in its new album X – No Absolutes a record that is rather ironically titled. That is because it is an album almost unlike anything that the band’s fans have ever heard from Tommy Victor. That is just as obvious in the album’s musical content, which presents familiar older sounds as well as more modern and even mainstream, radio ready songs throughout its thirteen-song body. The album’s musical content gives audiences something relatively new, too. That is because the topics presented throughout the record run the gamut from seemingly very personal (as in ‘With Dignity’) to the socio-political in the album’s opener ‘Ultimate Authority’ to the positive in ‘Belief System’ and points in between along the way. The sequencing of all of this material rounds out the record’s presentation. The album’s solid sequencing keeps the album’s energy expertly balanced from one song to the next. That applies mainly to the album’s musical content. The album’s sequencing even plays into the album’s lyrical content. The topics that are presented and their energy will keep listeners just as engaged as the songs’ musical content. The end result of that attention to detail results in an album that will keep listeners engaged from beginning to end. In listening to the album all the way through, listeners will agree that regardless of their familiarity with Prong’s body of work, this work is some of the band’s best work to date and absolutely one of the year’s best new hard rock and metal offerings. X – No Absolutes will be available Friday, February 5th. More information on the album is available online along with all of Prong’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.prongmusic.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/prongmusic

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.

Alpha Tiger Leading The Pack Early With Its Latest Full-Length LP

Courtesy:  Steamhammer/SPV

Courtesy: Steamhammer/SPV

2014 was a great year for the worlds of rock and metal acts. Major names the likes of Exodus, Machine Head, Judas Priest, and Black Label Society all released new albums alongside a number of equally impressive up-and-coming bands the likes of The Amsterdam Red Light District, Zodiac, Royal Blood, and others. Now with 2015 not even a full month old, this still very young year is already looking just as good for the metal masses the world over. One sign of this is the upcoming new release from Germany’s own Alpha Tiger. Alpha Tiger will release its new album iDentity in the United States next Tuesday, January 20th. The album, the band’s third is a solid follow-up to the band’s 2011 debut Man or Machine and its followup, Beneath The Surface. The band wastes no time re-introducing itself to audiences on its new album. The band launches into things right off the top in the full throttle, socially conscious ‘Lady Liberty.’ The song is a commentary of sorts on the current state of things in America. On the other end of the spectrum, the band offers an uplifting piece in the positively-charged ‘Closer Than Yesterday.’ The album’s lead single ‘We Won’t Take It Anymore’ is just as powerful a song with its driving guitar riffs and powerhouse vocals from front man Stephan Dietrich. It is another very socially conscious piece that is sure to become a fan favorite if it isn’t already. It, along with the other noted songs are just one part of the whole that makes iDentity a great start to 2015 for the metal masses. The other tracks not noted here each play their own part in iDentity’s enjoyment. Together with the compositions noted here, all ten tracks that make up Alpha Tiger’s new album prove it to be a solid new album and a good start to 2015 for the metal masses.

Alpha Tiger’s upcoming new album iDentity is the band’s third full-length record in four years. Usually when an act releases so many albums in such a short amount of time, it can prove to be a bad thing. It can prove to be bad because in many cases there is a noticeable decline in the quality of said acts’ material. Said albums feel rushed for lack of better wording. In other cases, putting out albums so quickly also means that audiences can actually grow weary of said acts. This applies both to the bigger names in the music world and even to those signed to independent labels. In the case of iDentity, Alpha Tiger hasn’t suffered from any of those issues. The band impresses right off the top in its socially-charged opener ‘Lady Liberty.’ The very first thing that audiences will note in this song is the obvious influences from the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest on its musical side. The dual guitar attack of Peter Langforth and Alexander Backasch coupled with drummer David Schleif’s solid timekeeping and [Stephan] Dietrich’s vocal talents will easily fool audiences. Anyone hearing this song and not knowing it was Alpha Tiger would instantly think they were hearing either of the aforementioned greats. Lyrically speaking, it is just as much a solid opener with it’s seeming commentary on the current state of America. The seeming message in question comes across as Dietrich sings with obvious sarcasm in his voice, “Come on over hear the news/the day has come/Now we are free to choose/I Choose the path that’s best for me/Thank God to live the American dream.” The message is made even clearer later in the song as Dietrich sings, “I’m free to shoot a stranger down/I claim my right, He trod my ground/I’ll raise the flag of liberty/The lady on her hill will shine down on me.” It is only this critic’s own interpretation, but the line “I’m free to shoot a stranger down/I claim my right, He trod my ground” seems to make reference to the Treyvon Martin case and others like it. Regardless of the intended reference, such lyrics make for quite the indictment of a nation in whole. And they are sure to make quite the discussion. That discussion itself makes ‘Lady Liberty’ the perfect choice to open iDentity. The song’s musical backing makes even clearer why this song was chosen to open the album.

‘Lady Liberty’ was the perfect choice to open Alpha Tiger’s latest full-length release. It instantly grabs listeners by the ear with its fire and energy and refuses to let go. It boasts a lot of fire and energy both musically and lyrically. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alpha Tiger offers a different kind of fire and energy in the uplifting Closer Than Yesterday.’ This song is the polar opposite of ‘Lady Liberty.’ But it is no less powerful. This song offers a welcome ray of hope to anyone going through a rough time both musically and lyrically. The song opens with a solid, driving piano riff that eventually builds into a full on arena-style song, musically speaking complete with huge guitar lick. One could almost argue something of a Bon Jovi influence to this song when one really sits down and listens to it for its musical side. That’s not an entirely bad thing, either. Now are the song’s equally uplifting lyrics. Dietrich sings in this song, “So don’t say you try/Just say you will/There is enough you left behind/It’s time to live!” The control in his voice as he sings these lyrics is something special. That control and gentility in his voice as he sings is like getting a musical pat on the back, reminding listeners that as tough as life gets, everything will be okay. He even goes so far as to sing, “I will step into the great unknown/Where dreams are made to become real/Yes I know it’s still a long way to go/But I’m closer than yesterday.” He comes across as saying that we must embrace the uncertainties in life without fear. We must embrace it because with each step forward we are “closer than yesterday” to defeating those uncertainties that cloud our minds. It is quite the positive reminder to audiences of all ages. That it can reach audiences of so many ages makes it even more powerful and in turn one more way in which iDentity works so well.

Both ‘Lady Liberty’ and ‘Closer Than Yesterday’ show why iDentity is a solid new effort from Aplha Tiger. Both songs are key examples of what makes the album so enjoyable because of the power both in their music and lyrics. The album’s lead single ‘We Won’t Take It Anymore’ boasts much the same energy and fire in its music and lyrics, too. And as with those songs, it too exhibits an obvious influence from the great veteran metal acts that have come before in its examining its musical side. Looking at the song from a lyrical vantage point, there is just as much fire as Dietrich sings “You call us hopeless generation/’Cause we won’t play by your rules/Or it’s because you can’t control us/Like your money hungry fools.” The pure defiant and infectious energy exuded by the band here will have the song resonating in listeners’ heads long after the song has ended. This is proven even more as Dietrich sings, “We won’t take it/Take it anymore/’Cause we are sick of it all/We won’t take it/Take it anymore/We’ve had it up to here.” It’s one more strong statement from Alpha Tiger that is sure to have listeners singing along proudly, pumping their fists in the air. If such striking lyrics and powerful music haven’t already made this single a hit among the band’s European fans, it won’t be long before it is. And when iDentity is released in the U.S., audiences will agree with that sentiment. They will agree with the sentiment regarding not only this song but the others mentioned here and those not noted. In hearing all of the songs that make up iDentity American audiences will discover what the band’s European fans already know–Alpha Tiger is one of the leaders of the rock world’s pack this year.

iDentity is scheduled to be released in the United States next Tuesday, January 20th. It has already been released overseas. And the band is currently on tour in Europe in support of its new album. Audiences around the world can find out the band’s latest tour updates and news online now at:

Website: http://www.alphatiger.de

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

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.

Hammercult’s Sophomore LP Is An Intentionally Over The Top Slab Of Metal

Courtesy:  SPV/Sonic Attack Records

Courtesy: SPV/Sonic Attack Records

Anyone that keeps up with the news of the world each day knows that there is a lot of trouble going on in the Middle East right now. Tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis have really stepped up again in recent weeks as have the attacks. It’s really a sad state of affairs. For all of the negativity coming from that part of the world, at least one positive has come from that war-ravaged land this year. That one positive is the sophomore album from the Tel-Aviv, Israel-based band Hammercult. Steelcrusher, the band’s follow-up to its 2012 debut album Anthems of the Damned, is a full on assault on the ears that will make any purist member of the Metal Nation worldwide proud. The album’s songs are sung with tongue planted firmly in cheek. One look at the obviously intentionally over-the-top album cover, the cover photo on the band’s Facebook page and one listen through this album proves this to be the case. The band pokes fun at the stereotypes placed on metal and its legions of fans from start to finish. The end result is an album that will have audiences both laughing and rocking along throughout every song. One of the best examples of that satire comes in the form of the metal anthem ‘Metal Rules Tonight.’ There is also the full throttle song about the stereotypes of metal bands on the road in the album’s penultimate song ‘Heading For War.’ And then there is ‘Unholy Art,’ which seems to poke fun at the stereotypes of metal and hard rock in general created by certain groups. It’s one more example of the works on this record that will again, have audiences laughing and rocking along from start to finish.

Audiences will note in listening to Hammercult’s recently released sophomore album Steelcrusher, that there are some pretty dark sounding songs, lyrically and musically speaking. But the reality of the albums on this record is that they were obviously written with tongue planted pretty firmly in cheek. One look at the cover photo on the band’s Facebook page drives home the argument that the band is anything but the dark, evil entity that others such as perhaps Ghost, Emperor, etc. One piece of evidence in that argument comes in the form of the anthemic ‘Metal Rules Tonight.’ Not only does the band encourage the metal legions of the world to put their collective metal horns in the air, it also goes so far as to pay tribute to one of the biggest names in metal in the form of Metallica. Front man Yokir Shochat sings in this full-on anthem, “I’m so wasted/I can’t stand/Grab a *&$$%/Get some #&@%/Speakers blasting through the wall/Master of Puppets and Balls to the Walls.” He goes on later in the song singing to listeners, “Bang your head in full conviction/Raise your fists and show the horns/No remorse or lamentations/Play it loud/Or die/Metal rules tonight/Trends will come and fade away/Heavy metal is here to stay/We are damned but we are free/It’s our way of life/The way it should be/Metal!” That last line sort of echoes AC/DC’s ‘Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution’ in which front man Brian Johnson sings that “Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution/Rock and roll it will live on.” The song’s speed/thrash metal musical backing will have its fans putting their horns high in the air with pride as they sing along to this metal anthem.

‘Metal Rules Tonight’ is one of the highest of points on Hammercult’s new album. It is only one piece of evidence in the argument that despite the band’s speed/thrash metal sound and its seemingly dark lyrics, it should be taken with a relatively large grain of salt. Another piece of evidence in that argument comes late in the album in the song ‘Heading For War.’ Right off the top, Shochat makes that clear once again as he screams, “Thrashing hotels every day/Heads are banging/Ears are bleeding/Raise your hammers/Ready to explode.” He sings in another verse, “Racing to another city/Party hard tonight/Heavy drinking/Never stopping/It’s the only way we stay alive.” These two verses alone more than tell audiences everything that they need to know about this song. If that’s not enough, the song’s chorus makes painfully clear that there’s nothing evil at all about the band or its album. Shochat sings in the chorus, “Heading for the stage, heading for war/Yes, we live or the fight/And die for the cause we believe to be right/Giving it all with fury and force/Spreading the sound of destruction.” Shochat likens being on the road, performing on stage after stage to like being in a war. Though, interestingly enough, one could argue that there is a lightly veiled reference to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians there and the lack of sense in it. Instead of being involved in that conflict though, the band lives and dies for metal in that “battle” to spread metal’s word to the world. If that veiled commentary on the war in the Gaza strip is in fact there, then that double meaning in this verse makes the song in whole all the more interesting. And along with ‘Metal Rules Tonight,’ it makes the album in whole all the more worth the listen, too.

‘Metal Rules Tonight’ and ‘Heading For War’ are both prime examples of what audiences can expect from Steelcrusher. Both songs show that despite the album’s similarity to works from the likes of Exmortus, Arch Enemy, and others of that ilk, it actually stands out quite a bit from those bands. There is one more example of the band’s tongue in cheek delivery on this album. That example is the song ‘Unholy Art.’ The band’s commentary is perhaps at its strongest in this song as Shochat and company point the finger right back at those that would judge the metal community, singing, “The blackest hearts and darkest minds/You never know just what you will find/It’s not for the faint of heart/This is the Unholy Art/Dishonored/A branded kind/The masses will burn in the flames of our pride/We’ll rise to our own blackened skies/And devour the worlds/And we’re starting tonight. The band singing together, “It’s not for the faint of heart/This is the Unholy Art” is itself a sarcastic statement. It’s Shochat and his band mates almost laughing as they say, “oh it’s such evil stuff. It’s not for the faint of heart.” Again, it’s just one more example of how firmly in their cheeks the band members’ tongues are planted in this record. The statement of “The blackest hearts and darkest minds” is something of a statement against the stereotypes created by certain groups against the metal masses around the world. Those judgmental groups are so fast to throw the first stone even without knowing the full story or doing their research. It’s such searing commentary in so few words. It makes for one of the most powerful statements of the album’s entire body of songs. Of course together with the previously noted songs (and those not noted) it makes the entire collection of songs an album that any true-blooded member of the metal nation worldwide will enjoy and appreciate.

Steelcrusher is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded via iTunes and Amazon or purchased at the band’s next upcoming performance. The band is currently scheduled to perform live August 9th at Brutal Assault in Jaromer, Czech Republic. Audiences can pick up Steelcrusher at that performance, too. More information and tour updates are available online via the band’s official Facebook and Twitter pages. 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.

Gloomball Impressive On Its Debut Record

Courtesy:  SPV/Steamhammer

Courtesy: SPV/Steamhammer

Most people in the metal community have either heard of heard of Godsmack or heard them.  Mudvayne, Hellyeah, and Five Finger Death Punch are just as well known in the metal world.  So what if one were to take these bands, toss them into a pot and stir them all together?  One would get Gloomball.  This German five-piece is primed to be one of the next big acts in the United States, given the right support from rock radio programmers.  The band’s debut album, The Distance, is a solid mix of all of the aforementioned bands that at the same time it shows their influences, still manages to solidly maintain its own identity.  It goes without saying that this record is one of the year’s best of the hard rock and metal category.

The album’s opener, ‘Burning Gasoline’ is fittingly titled.  It’s a full throttle hard rock song that wastes no time getting listeners’ blood boiling.  The song’s chorus is just as high powered as the music itself from band members Bjorn Daigger (guitars), Danny Joe (drums), Basti Moser (Bass) and Jossi Lenk (Guitars).  Front man Alen Ljubic sings in the song’s chorus, “The more that you throw/I’ll be back for some more/I have told you before/I’ve told you/What I/Feel a-bout you/Just because/I Don’t see/The point/To help you/Anymore/You’re just gonna stay here/Progress/No less/Just like you were before/Overcome/I’m overcome.”  The somewhat syncopated style of the chorus is reminiscent of Godsmack front man Sully Erna’s vocal style from much of that band’s songs.

The ability of Ljubic to change his vocal style from one song to another on this album is interesting to say the least.  The same can be said of the band’s sound overall.  On the album’s title track, the band has gone from a heavy, up-tempo adrenaline racer to a more controlled piece that still has a certain heavy element.  It’s something more akin to something one might hear from Five Finger Death Punch.  The song’s lyrical side shows a very deeply emotional topic.  Ljubic sings in an almost mournful style, “This will be difficult/We all want things we cannot have/Don’t drown in disbelief/Control yourself/You learn it’s a lie/Don’t betray yourself/It’s just not there/Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” He goes on to sing “This distance makes the heart grow colder.”  This song’s subject is pretty obvious.  And the talent of Ljubic’s band mates to interpret the lyrics makes this one more piece of the whole that will make any rocker proud.

Save for the album’s closer—a cover of ‘Living Within My Tender Pain (from the Rocky IV soundtrack)—the album’s energy picks right back up after the title track from Gloomball’s debut record.  It carries listeners straight through to that much more subdued closer, leaving audiences completely breathless, even after this much more gentle moment.  As gentle as it is, its proof of Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde’s statement long ago that a song can be heavy lyrically and musically without heavy guitars.  The strains of the piano set against Ljubic singing, “I, I’m the only thing that’s real/Deep inside is where I bleed/Living with my tender pain/Ever since you’ve gone away/Why/Does it still feel like a dream/All my pain feels so unreal/And your shadow it will stay/Right beside me every day.”  Yet again, Ljubic has shown his talent with this piece.  Unlike so many other songs of love lost, the combination of his vocal tone expertly comes together with the sad sounds echoing from the piano to truly catch the pain one must feel in having lost someone close to one’s self.  Of course as already noted, its only one of two moments when the album slows down.  Those wanting something with more energy have plenty to choose from throughout the heart of The Distance.  And by the time that audiences have finished their musical journey with the band, they just might find themselves wanting to travel “The Distance” with this band again.  The Distance is available now in Europe and will be available in the United States on Tuesday, May 7th.  The band’s only current planned performance in support of the record is a release show in Mannheim, Germany on Friday May 17th.  Fans can check in on the band’s Facebook page and official website for all of the latest updates on its tour and more at http://www.facebook.com/GLOOMBALL and http://www.gloomball.com.

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Giant X’s Debut LP Is Giant Fun

Courtesy:  Steamhammer/SPV

Courtesy: Steamhammer/SPV

Giant X, the brainchild of Running Wild band members Rolf Kasparek and Peter J. Jordan brings back all the flare and bombacity of rock’s golden era.  Right from the first moments of the album’s opener, ‘On A Blind Flight’, audiences are instantly transported back to the days of big rock and in many cases, big hair.  ‘Blind Flight’ is a solid mix of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden with its solid driving guitars and soaring vocals.  The duo hardly let up from there as it launches into what is sure to be a fan favorite in ‘Don’t Quit Till Tomorrow.’  At this point, there are no plans for Giant X to tour.  But should the band ever manage to h it the road, there’s no doubt that this song would become an instant arena anthem for the band.  The song opens with the simplest of chants that conjures the image of a massive crowd singing along, fists pumping in the air.  Lyrically, this is an equally empowering song.  Kasparek sings near the song’s end, “When the times are getting crazy…don’t quit till tomorrow.  Raise your hands for rock and roll.”  Simply put, what is being said here is don’t let the tough times get you down.  Don’t give up.  Keep pushing through.  The positive message mixed with a solid rocking musical baking makes this one of the album’s best songs, hands down.  Things don’t let off here though.

As the last tones of ‘Don’t Quit Till Tomorrow’ fade away, listeners are able to catch their breath just enough to get ready for even more solid rock in the form of ‘Badland Blues.’  This blues based southern rock style piece is a rock song, plain and simple.  It’s just a great near five minute musical experience.  The only time that the record slows down any is on the semi-ballad, ‘Nameless Heroes.’  This one seems to be a tribute to the men and women in uniform the world over, as Kasparek and Jordan sing, “This goes out to all the nameless heroes/This goes out to all the ones that paid.”  The band leaves little doubt as to whom they are singing for here.  And it’s a fitting tribute to those individuals, too.  It’s one more that’s bound to be a fan favorite regardless of whether or not Giant X tours in support of this record.

‘Don’t Quit Till Tomorrow’ and ‘Nameless Heroes’ are both bound to be fan favorites from Giant X’s debut.  There is at least one more (if not more) that will be another fan favorite.  That song is the album’s very next track, ‘Go 4 It.’ It makes for a perfect transition from ‘Nameless Heroes.’  The song instantly kick starts its listeners after the more emotional ‘Nameless Heroes.’  The first thing that listeners hear from this song is a rather fast guitar intro that leads into Kasparek singing, “You feel the gasoline in your blood…You reek of gas/And you’re kickin’ ass/You are hell on wheels.”  There’s a certain something about this song that oozes the likes of Poison as an influence.  It’s just one more of so many tracks that any fan of big hair and big guitars will appreciate on this upcoming new album.  And for those wondering, Giant X’s debut album, I is due to be available in stores and online in the U.S. on January 22nd.  To find out if the band will be touring in support of its debut, I, fans need just go online to http://www.running-wild.net, and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Giant-X/176387661550

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