This is roughly the scale I use when reviewing:
***** = Classic
The Killers time as pop superstars is probably over after this album, a kind of level off after substantial hits on each of their three previous releases. It might not seem that way at first, “Flesh and Bones” sort of being a battle march the way Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen would do it, before leading into lead single, the borderline anthem “Runaways.”
However, this just doesn’t have the haunting or the beauty of all The Killers best tracks. Sure, they’re more or less a singles based band, but this doesn’t really give them any room to transcend to anything else. A lot of this is decent mellowed out rock that doesn’t really catch any attention.
Some material, like the title track or “A Matter of Time” have good feels to them, but nothing matches up to previous hits like “When We Were Young,” or “Mr. Brightside,” nor does this materialize as an album.
Down IV, Part 1 – The Purple EP
The longest running, and arguably best, Pantera offshoot, Down now has an established mode of songs, something which makes this Phil Anselmo fronted outfit a little bored as of late. Still, the ingenious guitar work of Corrosion of Conformity’s Pepper Keenan helps the case somewhat.
This is actually a pretty solid release. Beginning with the cliché of a rising guitar sound on “Levitation,” the band keeps things tight and heavy, if not always original, throughout most of the six track EP (overlong closer “Misfortune Teller” is the weak link.)
There’s plenty of crushing metal here, particularly the single “Witchtripper” and the riff wizardry of “The Curse,” which could well have been a Black Sabbath song. However, Anselmo & crew show they haven’t forgotten the power of a slow-crusher. Always the dealmaker on groove metal albums, this extended player’s fit in the genre is the strong “Open Coffins.”
Still though, there’s something good but generic about this release; any Pantera or Down fan should be sure to check this out.
Aftermath of the Lowdown
Whoddathunk? Golden Age Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora can not only stand on his own, but put up a hell of a fight.
A treasure trove of blues, rockers, and ballads, Sambora’s newest release is such a breath of fresh air partly because of how completely unexpected the thing is. Sambora, after all, is not a household name, though he is a major writing force for the group.
Sambora’s success then, comes from a couple things: primarily it’s his hidden talent in guitar, vocals, and even songwriting, but also that he isn’t clamoring for a hit, he’s just writing music like he knows how, and for himself. The result is a surprisingly honest and powerful coherent set of eleven songs.
Furthermore, Sambora knows how to kick things off, pulling out all stops on “Burn That Candle Down,” a must for blues rock fans. Yet what’s even more incredible is that, while most albums released in the digital age tend to start strong and finish weak, Sambora keeps his effort concentrated and consistent throughout the entire length of the disc.
Whether it’s the gentle balladry of “I’ll Always Walk Beside You,” the soaring “Every Road Leads Home To You,” or rocker “Nowadays,” Sambora has crafted something truly extraordinary here, something that deserves as many listeners as it can get.
Zeppelin revivalists with a thing for riffs, the Rival Sons have not only been productive since their 2009 debut, but have made a name for themselves amongst the dwindling hard rock crowd. The previous Pressure and Time sounded at times as if it came right out of the 70’s, but their third seems more to hail from the 80’s.
Let me explain. In the late 80’s, hard rockers Whitesnake took the hair metal formula but pumped up the blues-rock to the max, starting the tirade of bands with “Bad-Zeppelin-isms,” such as Kingdom Come and Blue Murder. These groups had some good material sure, but they also had the tendency to sound like a watered down Led Zep.
That’s exactly what the third Rival Sons album is. After sounding like Zeppelin themselves on the second, the third has great riffs and energy (check out “Keep on Swinging” or “Wild Animal,”) but also has bloated pieces like the two part, overlong, “Manifest Destiny.” Overall, it’s a mixed release for the group and a bit of a step backwards for them.
Folk metal’s pretty much the most intriguing metal subgenre (unless you’re counting it’s offshoot, Pirate Metal,) but the weird thing, is there is no band that stands out as the triumphant champions of the genre, except maybe the more hard rock Flogging Molly.
This new Ensiferum album’s no different. While it shines with an epic air over it, this record never materializes to anything, often sounding like tired metal music with odd instrumentation thrown in to some effect.
There’s also a substantial death metal and power metal influence on them, but this isn’t the best result I’ve seen of mixing the three. While there’s nothing awful about this, it’s just dull and little stands out one way or another.
Very ‘Eavy Very ‘Umble
In modern day, the cobweb encrusted David Byron on the cover is an appropriate metaphor for Uriah Heep’s dusty, rusted debut, an oft overlooked release which should be standing on the same platform as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin, who forged the fires of heavy metal in the pioneering year of 1970. Undeniably, this was more of an influence on the onslaught of heavy metal acts of 1971-1975 than say, Led Zeppelin I, and even with its Deep Purple imitation act, Heep set the foundation for the progressive metal that would later be pioneered by Rush with releases like 2112, and Heep themselves on the four or so follow-ups to this. But this isn’t a progressive record on its own; nor is it a heavy metal record.
In fact, it’s not much of anything, basically failing to attain the cohesiveness of In Rock or Black Sabbath, or the hits of the first two Led Zeppelin records that would make those three remembered as Gods, while Heep is rarely brought into the conversation when discussing the beginnings of heavy metal.
Even with all its dated production values and discombobulated structures, Very ‘Eavy Very ‘Umble still
rocks as a very heavy, very powerful record, well worthy of consideration as one of the first three of heavy metal.
Just listen to the loopy beginning to opener “Gypsy,” whirling in proggy glory before stabilizing on an intense study in early metal riffing. This is just the beginning of a tour de force that provides a forcable blueprint for heavy metal. “Walking In Your Shadow” channels the blues while “Dreammare” is a progressive and psychedelic monster.
Other highlights include riff-rockers like “Real Turned On” or “I’ll Keep On Trying,” as well as bonus track “Born In A Trunk” or “Lucy Blues,” a track that would foreshadow their later work.
The main attraction, however, is probably the monstrous “Bird of Prey.” Chugging and shrieking its way through the intro, “Bird of Prey” is a song that intensifies throughout, making it perhaps one of the most overlooked songs of early hard rock and metal music, much like the album in general.