Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Izzy Stradlin - 117 Degrees
Timeless rock n' roll can always go two ways: you care or you don't; it's universally relevant or it's thrown to the pedestrian pile. Izzy's still trying to make Rolling Stones records, or John Mellencamp records, or Keith Richards solo records, but he's also branching out into Texas twang and country, offering at least a full tour of Americana. Whether you'll allow him (C)reedence is another thing though. I mean, this can very easily be an empty experience, maybe just the first of the next wave of GN'R solo records, maybe the best so far, but we said that about all of em. So are you hollow, bored and cynical, your collection already overloaded with roots rock, or can Izzy's fervent Quo-table, Hanoi Rocking, Thoro-ly-good Mex-boogie get you line-dancing? He does does a reverent, seemingly educated job of it. Maybe you should let him live.
Rating 7

Soulfly - Soulfly
So Sepultura splits, ex-leader Max Cavalera bolting, along with wife/manager Gloria, who turns out to be a big cause of said rift. One can only shake one's head at this destruction of one of metal's most promising franchises. Anyhow, while the Seps plan their next move, Max strikes back with a record that sounds like Roots out-takes, Max taking his old band's Brazillian thrash hybrid into a rougher, rawer, more dope part of the world. So strip Roots of its majesty, send it back to the brash garage, sprinkle liberally with hip-hop samples, effects and other kitschy rap-derived signals, and Soulfly emerges, way heavier than the moniker might suggest, but definitely less Slayer and more ethnic street. Bottom line: this is an offshoot of an amazing record; lesser, trendier, more flippant, but still derivative of a great thing; more daring but somewhat less creative, annoying in its tireless novelty, inspiring in its Sepultura glow.
Rating 7

Sacred Steel - Reborn In Steel
(Metal Blade)
Oooh boy, when does a cutting edge micro-trend turn on itself and bite arse? Right about now, Sacred Steel being one of a handful of metal acts unabashedly reviving 80s metal. But this just seems all wrong. First and foremost, the band is fronted by a guy who sounds like a Shrapnel/Mausoleum reject, said metallion's Virgin Steely yelp being used for platitudes straight outa Manowar until we're all supposed to be, uh, reborn in glory, or metal, or iron or tin. Musically, full kudos for sounding underground and not full-on like clean Maiden (Hammerfall take notice), but this is just infinite ironic layers causing cultural confusion. Too many Korn bands for you? Well, these guys may be the first of too many traditional metal vikes.
Rating 7