Archive for July, 2015

George Lynch – Shadow Train – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , on July 22, 2015 by novametalreview

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Those that know me in person will attest to the fact that I am a big fan of George Lynch and have been ever since I was knee-high to a Marshall stack. In fact I was such a fan that the only ‘guitar tuition’ videotape I ever bought featured George Lynch. I think the booklet that accompanied the tape was almost worn to shreds (and I still have it and got it signed by George a couple of years back). It is true that the “Tooth and Nail” Dokken era is still perhaps my favorite, but George has managed to keen his wits about him and has continued to put out some great music over the years.

Most recently I think the Sweet & Lynch album “Only To Rise” was a masterpiece and something I should have reviewed. May be I can find time to backtrack to that one. Of course there was also the Lynch Mob recording “Sun Red Sun” which was also an excellent release (late in 2014), albeit only seven tracks long – I suppose that was closer to an extended EP – but the new Lynch Mob release, “Rebel”, is due out in a few short weeks. George has been a busy boy recently.

So, the Shadow Train release is supposed to be the musical accompaniment to the Shadow Nation, which is a documentary about the Native American Indians in the modern world today. I’m not sure when that is due for release, or exactly what drove George to pursue that, but he did make the following comment on Blabbermouth: “I’ve spent over four decades of my life pursuing elusive musical aspirations. But for even longer than that, I’ve cared, studied and thought deeply about the human condition and how we interact with each other and the world around us. Fusing these two aspirations into one has been a challenge for me throughout my creative life. This is my attempt at bonding the music and the message into one cohesive whole.” Right-o. Now we know….

The Shadow Train album actually stretches to eighteen tracks, across two CDs, which is quite a mammoth offering. It seems that the first tracks recorded were the nine tracks that are included on CD number 2 in the set, so the presentation is actually chronologically reversed, and in my opinion the tracks on CD#1 are more accessible, which may be a result of the players becoming more familiar with each other. As for the line-up here we rather obviously have George Lynch on guitar, while on vocals we have Greg Analia, Gabe Rosales on bass, Donnie Dickman on keyboards, and Jimmy D’Anda on drums. Perhaps I’ve led a sheltered life, but I’m not familiar with any of the other players listed here, and certainly each does a fine job, but I would be hard pushed to say any one of them stands out as exceptional, at least within the constraints of this release.
So turning to the album itself, CD#1 opens with “Vulture”, which kicks things off with a pretty crushing riff, however the verse takes things in a bit of a different direction, perhaps more in-line with something from the “Souls of We” record from 2008. Once the track gets to the solo section, it’s clear this is a more restrained George Lynch and perhaps it’s less about the guitar, than the song itself.

The second track, “Currency Of Lies”, seems to take a more familiar path and I swear there are times when I could mistake the vocals for Oni Logan (Lynch Mob). This is definitely a track I could have seen making it on to a Lynch Mob record. With that out of the way, up next is perhaps my favorite from the eighteen included here – “Power And Resistance” – and it is one of those Lynch songs that gets inside your head and has you coming back again and again. The chorus has a great hook, and the verse a neatly melodic riff. This is right there in “the zone” that draws me to so many George Lynch records.

The following track, “Now It’s Dark”, is what I call a “plodder” in terms of pace, but…! That chorus vocal melody… this is another track that is hard to skip and digs its way into your subconscious.

Now the rest of the record actually does a bit less for me. I don’t want to imply there’s anything ‘wrong’ with what follows, but in the “CD in the car” test, this record fails – despite having this CD for nearly a week now, it has failed to inspire me to burn a copy and swap out any of the CDs currently sitting in the CD changer (yeah, up to date I am not…). Track 7, “Ghost”, has a sort of spoken/rapped vocal line, which again sort of reminds me of the “Souls Of We” record for some reason, but as things move on I’m less engaged with the album.

Moving on the second CD, there seems to be more of a blues influence to the tracks included here, which is certainly no bad thing, and the opening track “Believe” has a nice bluesy, almost Gospel vibe to it, and is really the first time I noticed the keyboards. The second track “Blinded” is definitely a blues stomp, and while there’s nothing ground breaking here it’s a track I want to hear again. This groove is carried into the next track, “Fallen”, but from here out I’m less enthusiastic; track 5, “Prayer Mechanism” comes across as a bit of dirge to me, while “Soux Wake Up” probably works in the context of the movie I’m sure, but this message laden track is probably the one I’ve skipped more times than I’ve felt compelled to listen through. May be I’m just missing the point here? I think this same comment also applies to the next track, “Trail Of Tears”, which carries a definite Native American Indian atmospheric vibe, but it’s a little heavy.

The final track, “World On Fire”, draws us up out of the funk that I can’t help feel from the previous four tracks, and get’s things rocking again with some nice melodic guitar work buried into the very frame of the track.

So, in summary, not a total success, at least in my book. There’s a part of me that wants to blame the length of the whole thing on my funk here, but that’s not really it. I can’t help but think there was more rockin’ going on here and less intellectual posturing, the overall vibe would be more upbeat, but the bottom line is this just isn’t a record that I feel I will be reaching for to often, unlike the Lynch Mod, Sweet & Lynch or T&N albums which I continue to spin with great anticipation. All-in-all, I would say this is a record that hard-core Lynch fans will embrace, but otherwise there isn’t a great draw here. My score overall here is a muted 7.5/10

Raven – Extermination – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 15, 2015 by novametalreview

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The band Raven represent one of the foundations of much of what we regard as “heavy metal” these days, but sadly, many fans of the genre simply don’t understand just how influential Raven were when they broke into the mainstream in the early 80’s. I have previously written about my first Raven gig at Brighton Dome back in early ’82, which was the only full UK tour Raven carried out before leaving for the USA in ’83. That gig will always remain as one of my most enduring early metal smashing experiences… three impossibly young looking lads, creating such a powerful sound and doing it with so much passion and fun. The first two albums, “Rock Until You Drop” and “Wiped Out” remain favorites of mine to this day.

After arriving in the US they toured with Metallica as their support act… the history of the band in the following years can be left to the reader as homework, but some of the record company-led decisions in retrospect probably did the band less good than might have been otherwise, however there is still great music to be found in the Atlantic-era album releases, in particular “Life’s A Bitch”.

There is one thing that seems to have been missed by many so called ‘fans’ – Wacko (Rob Hunter) left the drum-stool back in 1987… Joe Hasselvander has been the permanent drummer ever since, which clocks his membership within the ranks at 28 years. I still cannot believe how many times I’ve seen people act surprised that Wacko isn’t with the band any more. Come on people – 28 years!

There is a dark period in the history of the band; In late 2001 Mark Gallagher suffered a very serious injury to his legs following the collapse of a wall at a construction site, that left him lucky to have not lost at least one of his legs. Despite contrary opinion from several doctors, Mark showed incredible will and fortitude, and was back performing with the band from a wheelchair in 2004 and then back on his feet! The album that followed this, released in 2009, “Walk Through Fire”, the title of which is perhaps a reflection of the trials the band has suffered, was a beaut and brought back the raw energy that the band delivers every time they hit the stage.

Now, admittedly there is a good long time between 2009 and today, but 2015 brings the release of the latest Raven album – Extermination – and it might just be the best ever Raven album… Sure, I am getting ahead of myself, but it really is a massively great piece of heavy metal music. Another quick note – production duties were once again awarded to Kevin Gutierrez of Assembly Line Studios, who was also at the helm for the previous record, and this album is another killer job. The production is crisp, heavy and alive with groove – avoiding the all to common-these-days ProTools flatness. Nice job Kevin!

So, turning now to focus on Extermination, the album opens with a short 42 second piece called imaginatively “Intro” which flows directly into the opener, “Destroy All Monsters” which is a double kick-drum fueled thrasher –the opening guitar riff is annoyingly catchy and the vocals announce themselves by tearing themselves out of the speakers with what I can only call “The John Gallagher Scream”. This track is a masterpiece of power through the verses, coupled to a hook-melody in the chorus that you can’t forget. There isn’t anything you could point to here and change for the better. This is heavy metal at it’s best. Exterminate!

Now I’m not going to run through this track by track, so don’t imagine for one second any that I skip over are any less worthy – I can only afford to spend so much time on this review – but the following are perhaps my favorites.

“It’s Not What You’ve Got” – This is a mid-paced stomper of a track, but with one of those “oh, shit, I can’t get this out-of-my-head” vocal melody lines, particularly in the verses. This track also has a short-but-sweet signature Mark Gallagher going nuts on guitar solo.

“Battle March/Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red)” – What a crushing riff! And again John on vocals sounds in tip-top form. This track allows Mark to cut loose through an extended solo section, and it really shows what a unique approach he has to tearing the frets off his guitar.

“Thunder Down Under” – A fitting and well executed tribute to Bon Scott. Just a great heavy metal song, that cleverly rolls in so many classic AC/DC song titles. With a great overdriven bass intro into the solo section.

“Malice In Geordieland” (bonus track) – A celebration of John and Mark’s roots. Just magic stuff… of course being from the UK, despite being from ‘down South’ I can understand what this song is all about, but some may struggle!

Overall this is a slice of heavy metal that deserves to be bought by every single fan of heavy metal, heavy rock, thrash metal, you-name-rock-metal-whatever! Raven have captured all the power and energy that comes with a Raven live show and shoved it into the bits encoded on the CD or in the wiggly groove of the LP if you happen to be a vinyl addict. This may be the 41st anniversary of the bands formation (yes, they formed back in 1974…), but this is as fresh sounding and power-driven as you could ever wish. A cracking good album and easily worthy of a 10/10 score.