Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

Martin Popoff is the author of The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal (previously known as Riff Kills Man!), now a 540 page, 600,000 word compendium comprising 3,700 heavy metal record reviews. Also included are rock lists, a glossary of terms, a concise listing of almost 500 9's and 10's, plus a roll-call of non-metal faves. New to this edition is an exclusive 19-track sampler CD from premiere metal label Century Media. The book is now in its second pressing. For more information, visit the book website or contact martinp@hardradio.com


Fresh Metal

The Angels - Skin & Bone
(Axe Killer)

So durn glad to hear The Angels (Angel City to us North Americans) are still churning the creamy blues metal. These guys were such a hot property in their day (anybody remember Face To Face and Darkroom?), and now Doc Neeson and co. have another enigmatic batch of old man music (that's meant in a good way), Skin & Bone combining the band's usual AC/DC-style truck-riffing with a laid-back Nazareth or Quo vibe (there's the old man bit), not out to metalize heavily, finding deep, boogie metal grooves with tight, safe production values which are perfect for the band's hypnotic vibe. Lyrics are as dagger-smart as usual, Doc slicing with the wisdom of untold rock years over a Brewster Bros. twin guitar dialogue that is the missing link between the Stones and all those Gunners solo spreads. While AC/DC bashes us with this same type of music, delivering only the highs, their crazy, less well off cousins dig into rock history and lace that same dueling drive with maturity, risk-taking and eccentric surprise. Aw heck, but it's still the raucous rockers that work that Angels magic, Northwest Highway, Wasteland and Call That Living just balling the chain like your faves from the low '80s. Now come tour my neck of the woods. I promise you a few brain cells will be sacrificed in celebration. Note: obviously this came out in the band's down under homeland, but you're probably more likely to find the French Axe Killer issue. Email Eric Coubard at the label: ericaxe@pratique.fr (plus it's hard to imagine the Aussie version looking nicer than this one).
Rating 9

Great White - Great Zeppelin: A Tribute To Led Zeppelin
(Axe Killer)

Ooh boy, I know I've slagged these guys over the years, having been stung immediately after the hope of that first indie EP, after which it was downhill all the way to taco town. But I thought surely, a band who professed to know the roots, with a singer like Jack Russell (one of the few positives within this franchise), surely, they could make this an exciting proposition. Nuh-uh. Even though this professes to be some sort of live situation, that old blood-sucked Great White sound is firmly in place, throwing loaves of bread everywhere until we're smothered, fat and full. There's one positive here. Jack sounds like Percy. They have the same voice. It is there. But he does nothing with the oportunity, playing the straightman all the way, more than acceptable but no overwhelming shivers. The rest of the band is even less imaginitive (as are the song choices, save for surprise opener In The Light). All the guitars sound limp and dead predictable, and Audie Desbrow's drum performance would make Bonham cry like a fat bearded baby. He does nothing here you or I wouldn't have thought of first time through. Nothing. And since it's Great White he's way too loud and quite processed (or whatever, the snare sound is horrible, just like on all the studio albums). 'f**k, this is a classic, man.' That's how Jack introduces 'Stairway To Heaven.' Great.
Rating 5

Alabama Thunder Pussy - River City Revival
(Man's Ruin)

Other than a cool rarities pack from Fu Manchu, Alabama Thunder Pussy could be considered the mud-caked jewel of the Man's Ruin catalogue. This sophomore is a collided slo-mo blast of stoner rock with a dangerous, unhurried, impure neo-southern vibe zig-zagged from the Nola bunch (Crowbar, Eyehategod, Soilent Green, COC). No commercial fuzz for these dirt-heads, ATP is all about the spontanaeity of the early grunge-oids. Surprise cover: Rockin' Is My Business from redneck legends The Four Horsemen (and don't think I don't hear that botched snare whack).
Rating 8

Cage - Cage
(Axe Killer)

Packaged very much like an alternative album (dumb photo of a cute pig), Cage is in fact new life for minor hair metal icons XYZ, one half of the band, bassist Pat Fontaine and more importantly, vocalist Terry Ilous, signing on for a rich and varied spread of organic, combative classic rock, not without most of the good habits of their ex-band. Call this one Ratt or Tyketto crossed with Zeppelin (lots of twisty middle eastern riffs, both power chorded and acoustic), lubed by the spirit of grunge (y'know, filtered smartly like those last few highly under-rated Warrant albums: I kid you not). Great vocals, no pictures, but I can hear the hair, which is also a good thing, because that also means I can hear the effort.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Part 2