Friday, December 12, 2014

Witch Meadow - Cry of the Wolf

“You don’t know what the future brings,” sings Paul Wyrostek in “Time Will Tell.” However, almost two decades later, time did tell that Witch Meadow's hard rockin’ blues infested metal is timeless enough to be re-released on Divebomb Records. So now you can get every track from When Midnight Calls (1995) and Down Eternity’s Hall (1996) on one CD and remastered to boot. How’s that for a blast from the past? Now let’s shed some light on the music itself.
Hotwired and primal, sole guitarist Bryan Martin’s riffing style brings to mind early Mötley Crüe and Black Sabbath, his leads bluesy and often blistering. All the while Dennis Stimpert’s sure-fire interlocking bass lines, and dare I say ‘polite’ fills, embrace the songs with a sentinel like presence. Equally significant is the spirited drum work delivered by Mel Taylor on the tracks from When Midnight Calls and by Norm Wrigley on the tracks from Down Eternity’s Hall. On top of all this Paul unveils autumnal lyrics with reach for the sky Dickinsonesque vocals.
Of the songs themselves, arpeggios often begin the balladic and mid-paced rockers as in “Chasing the Pain,” - the definitive lighter in the air ballad in this collection. While “Do You Want to Live Forever” is a bluesy number with a moody prog-like atmosphere, the type of song that begs to be *experienced on headphones in the dark. Right after you’ve listened to the soulful ballad “Kiss of Beltaine” of course.
On the heavier end of the spectrum we have “Wings of Steel,” a pulse quickening headbanging romp recounting World War II pilots flying off to war (one of my personal faves). When lo and behold, the howling crunch of “Cry of the Wolf,” the angry groove-trippin’ “Hypocrite,” the reoccurring escalation of “Soldier of Fortune,” the gripping mysterious ride of “Hell’s Hollow” and the unique twisted burn of “The Gift” are all enough to keep you under the spell of nostalgic headbanging fist-in-the-air metal-dazed recollections. And that’s not all!
There are four more thaumaturgical tracks to encounter in this retrospective cauldron of melody and riffs. “Bitter Trials” is a straightforward hard-rockin’ reflection all us earth dwellers can easily relate to. By contrast, “It Can’t Be Me” initially embraces the melancholic, then a few whiskers later picks up the tempo. Stirring up the cauldron more we find the heartfelt melodically sensible “Room Without A View” brooding thoughtful as it speaks of the war in Bosnia. Last up for a laying on of words is “Waiting For You,” a song you can hold your loved one to. Well, at least until it gets faster and you find yourself with that irresistible headbanging impulse. Heck, you could even end up moshing to it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Son of Eric - Epiphany (Self-financed)

Hard biting classic rock from central Minnesota, the Son of Eric is the new band from Torok lead vocalist Bryan Erickson. Bryan not only sings on this release but plays all the rhythm guitar, bass and piano/synth parts.

Guest guitarists include Mike Torok the original Impaler lead guitarist (who recently rejoined the impaling ones), Shrapnel recording artist Todd Duane, Matt Graunke from Minneapolis’s Menace and John Lyell. Drums are credited to session drummer Greg Marrow though once in awhile you get the feeling that there is a drum machine behind the songs, most notably on “Black Rain Falls.”

The production is thin and snappy with slightly too much midrange warmth EQ’d out, not unlike the 80’s Shrapnel releases. However, the bottom line is that if you dig traditional mid-paced hard rock you will more than likely enjoy Epiphany. It’s decent and it does in fact rock - just don’t expect any surprises.

The touring band will include Epiphany co-producer Mike Jezmer on bass and his younger brother Mark Jezmer on drums.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hammer - No Way Out (self-financed)

Originally formed as Hellrider, Hammer had the goal of creating a “pure English style rock and roll group.” Well, true to their desire they have succeeded. The ten tracks presented here rock as hard as you’d expect a “pure English style rock” to rock. Nevertheless, the demo quality production and the moderately high raspy vocals initially give the impression that this band is simply a Motorhead lite. However, repeated listens enlighten you with their rough-n-ready underdog charm, revealing the bands obvious love for what they do - rock and have fun. If you’re looking for originality you’ll have to go someplace else, but if you’re simply looking for an album to get completely hammered to, then No Way Out may be the perfect release for your next gathering of local headbangers.

Darklight - Light from the Dark (Fuel Records)

“The Beginning” begins this swirling progressive affair of melody, riffs, atmosphere and splendid male and female vocal harmonies. Basically mix your old Dream Theater with your current era Nightwish and Blind Guardian and you should get a rough idea of what this sounds like.

The overall conception of this album is good and even at times exceptional. The guitar playing top notch. However, the lack of true dynamic contrast brought about by not having a full band and the ‘off’ mix as well as effects that are too processed sounding hamper what could be an excellent album.

There is a very distinct impression that Light From The Dark was rushed as the album screams with potential yet consistently fails to demand repeat listens. This could be remedied by
  • More time spent editing songs.
  • More time spent getting sounds right
  • A band. This level of concept requires more people/minds/talent to pull off.
  • Both the mix and the final mastering need to be fine-tuned more carefully.

John B. - Row (Secret Port Records)

If you enjoy solo albums by the likes of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and so on, then you will probably appreciate this release as it falls into the same realms of melodic shredding. So as I’m sure you have already guessed, the guitar playing is fantastic. But what you might not have guessed is that John not only wrote all the music here, but played all the instruments as well. This includes keyboards which add atmosphere and feeling proportionally and appropriately. However, the eleven individual instrumentals aren’t even named, just listed as roman numerals.

All in all, I can’t say I’d recommend this flight of fancy to anyone but shred metal aficionados; unless of course, you like really great background music. Personally, I believe John would be better off trying to get this mood music used in cinema, where at least it would have the possiblity of having some kind of profound impact.

Mutala - Cloning Wicked Minds (Sweet Poison Records)

They describe themselves as “mediterranean death metal.” A fitting description for these Italian metal men. Though if the vocals were more a bit more decipherable this album would fit right into the 80’s and 90’s thrash genre as the guitar playing is typical of thrash’s carefully controlled carefree riff attacks - quick, energetic and imbued with an ironic sense of fun. Be that as it may, I find the best part of the album to be the short instrumental “In My Temple.” It stands apart from the rest of the album with its ballad like nature, and is a much needed relief from the tiresome death vox. For fans of Arch Enemy and death metal in general.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Burning Black - Prisoners of Steel

Classic power metal in the most respectable sense. Well played and overall well recorded, Prisoners of Steel, the Italian bands first full-length after forming in 2004, holds high the values and traditions of true metal in the truest trueness possible. That said, some of the vocal lines don’t seem to work; or at least I can imagine them being done better. The only other problem I can foresee is the California band with the same name. For fans of Judas Priest, Manowar and Accept. On Sweet Poison Records.