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Hard (American Dog/Colonial Canine)
Hacking themselves out a niche in what I would call "the new classic rock" (a Randy Pratt/Lizards missive), American Dog keep cranking out the tasty biker metal, deceptively easy, yet upon closer inspection, welled up with details, most coming from the tradition-deep skills of Steve Theado who puts on a hard as nails blues clinic here approaching Billy Gibbons levels, way past the well-chosen vocabulary of Ted Nugent, but more in that butt-shakin' beard-pulling realm. Bassist and vocalist Michael Hannon is huge as well, his smiling scowl cackle of a vocal used in the service of wisdoms gained while bottles get drained. And what is Hard like compared to the band's previous rock solid records? Well, it's heavier and faster, more riffy and less southern-tinged, but still in total drawing upon the tiny band's many tall strengths. Faves would be 'Hypnotized', on which Steve turns in a riff that would make Joe Perry proud, drummer Keith Pickens supporting with his usual throbbing sense of groove. Expert acoustic enters the ray mid-album, and then 'Beaten, Broken, Etc.' offers a smart boogie with an elevated, complicated melody. 'Rock-n-Roll Dog' is another fave, the Dogs going Stonesy, but electricity-drenched in their well-recorded, time-honoured tradition, the oaken whiskey barrel sounds emanating from all corners of this terrific trio's teepee. 'Little Short' offers something new... not sure if this is too trite or a full-on fantastic success. All I know is that I'm drawn to this one, Michael's vocal menacing o'er a track scarred up and down the tracks by Steve soloing his ass off. Closer 'Magnificent Bastard' supports this idea that large metal riffs define this album, and also the idea that gorgeous little guitar parts are there to discover, this one reveling in no less than a textured sort of twin lead, some Peverett-proud slide, and an extended ambitious jammy close that again, finds American Dog reaching for additional vibes to add to the heady froth rock they bash out so effortlessly.
O3 A Trilogy - Part 2 (InsideOut Music)
Charlie Dominici's claim to fame is as the singer on Dream Theater's debut album When Dream And Day Unite, back in 1989 before James LaBrie capably took over the helm. He was also part of pre-Dream Theater band Majesty, as well as Frankie & The Knockouts, for which he played guitar and provided backing vocals. He's laid pretty low, even leaving the music biz, until the first part of this projected trilogy was issued in 2005. Part 2 is the true coming out party though, Charlie working with a flash bunch of progressive metal purists in construction of a dizzying, hard-hitting record as note-dense and rhythmically complex as any traditional Dream Theater rave-up. The story revolves around the pursuit of a sleeper terrorist in the US in possession of a dangerous biological weapon, a complex tale well suited to Dominici's versatile yet gutsy, earthy and often quite metal vocals. Additional spice comes from the various keyboard moves, which, in their snaz and pizzazz, recall the work of ex-Dream Theater maestro Kevin Moore. Still, some of the lyrics are a little awkward, and that rough New Yorker accent as a newscaster just doesn't ring true - it's like they cheaped out. As well, this band's going to have a hard time shaking the Dream Theater clone talk. The surprise ending for the last 30 seconds of 'A New Hope' sets up Part 3 to be quite the ride indeed.
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