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

Buckcherry - Buckcherry
(Dreamworks)

Yeah, yeah, buzz band and all that. But it just goes to show how regressed the mainstream ear has become when it comes to metal, Buckcherry being a Black Crowes/Nashville Pussy hybrid with no good songs, just this bland, obvious, stiff, formulaic hard rock that gets signed because good olā boys and their classic rock stations still live. The other one of these is Loudmouth, same band, same major label way of imagining the return of hard rock. But what they say goes, and likely both of these perfect back-up bands will happen, despite their awful force-feed to a demographic gone flabby after eight years with no metal. I wanted to care. Iād be the first in line to support new mainstream hard rock. And I do, except all the bands are on Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast.
Rating 4

PC69 - Electrified
(Digital Dimensions)

German-based act PC69 (formerly Pink Cream 69) have been pounding the boards to moderate success for eight records now, intitially fronted by Helloweenās Andi Deris and as of recent, Brit David Readman. But after an ill-received experimental detour along the way into alt.metal, the band returns for their first US release ever, Electrified riding those same razor-sharp rails as Helloween and Gammay Ray, although scooping up an odd assortment of tricks from Accept, Scorpions and various hair bands along the way. Bathed in the splintered light-refracting light of 1999ās many metal flavours, you wouldnāt necessary psyche this as House Of Lords revisited, but it is, and thatās a good thing. High vocals, higher harmonies, slick production, and a general joyous chrome that welds Joe Lynn Turner to nimble Slip Of The Tongue-era Whitesnake add that Purple touch to a healthy marriage between Hamburg and Hollywood. Classic rock to all those whose preferred classics hail from the '80s, saved and elevated by Readmanās multiple vocal touchstones and those very electric guitars.
Rating 8

Alice Cooper - The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper
(Warner)

All I can say is: wow. I mean, the box set is an area major label budgets can really be put to good use. And this time, out came both the brains and buck. Above all, this thing is an orgy of good reading and good pictures, every track dealt extensive discography-meticulous credits plus pointed words of wisdom from Alice and other important parties to the crime. And let's face it, part of the crime is how bad some of the material is here, Alice not afraid to suck the tailpipe of trend like a mangy mutt misguidedly after a sugar fix. Too many henchmen and too many tugs of the buck make this thing a walk through Sodom. But it's all seen through the lense of wit, and each era of Alice has its focal tracks, all arranged here from the early Kinks-to-Zappa rock, through the golden era, the sodden era, the new wave era, re-bar metal era and finally the decent and thoughtful latest post-trend inward Alice spoo. But like I say, while you are alternately getting misty-eyed and blinded by distaste, there's a whole novella of great Alice history, peppered with previously unpublished photos galore. The rarities are many, but mainly soundtrack songs and demos (fave: Respect For The Sleepers), but there's four discs providing hours of enjoyment and or rock 'n' roll study. Which is the bottom line: this is not just for Alice fans, but those who want to experience rock culture history from a wink-of-the-eye distance. Now back to the text. School ain't out until the thin lady sings. Uh, OK math class, lessee 6 for technical merit, 10 for presentation, that makes . . .
Rating 8

Cathedral - Caravan Beyond Redemption
(Earache)

Like a red-headed stepchild in ill-fitting trousers, chopped haircut and runny nose, Cathedral poke along. No longer a thick doom act hacking out a new genre, Cathedral quietly toil at legend status, letting their eccentricities flap in the wind, Dorrianās bark bisecting strange commercial melodies still Sabbath-steeped but now recorded plaintively. He even tries singing on here, Kaleidoscope Of Desire sounding like unplugged Kiss, while the recordās second oddest tuneless tunefulness is found within that rattling Freedom passage, next in line, the warbled chorus to Captain Clegg. Strange record this one, one that contains many tracks sampling and pillaging as much contemporary US retro as older, obscure hippy rock and Cathedral itself. Is it a Cathedral parody or a statement that stoner rock has spun off the road? Whatever the case, Dorrian has taken his handful of rules and tried to stuff them out the smokehole into the real world, resulting in an ill-composed and ill-sequenced album that pokes too much fun at itself and its makers, but is still the act of a wondrously strange franchise.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Part 2