HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

The Lizards - Against All Odds

I finally broke through this band's projecty feel and their kitschy name and graphics into a sublime enjoyment zone, and thanks for that. Yes, Lizards leader Randy Pratt has coined the sound of this band and other old guys making vibrant, vibrational and phat new songs "new classic rock." Totally. Put rampant musicologist Pratt together with tasty but unknown axeman Patrick Klein, and you've got two guys toiling for a love of being... classic. A two-fold raising of the stakes comes first with drummer Bobby Rondinelli of Sabbath, Rainbow and Blue Oyster Cult fame. Listen to Can't Fool Myself if you want to hear the greatest performance of the man's career. Not the mysteriously deceased Phil King, rather, he is the fill king. Second and last revealed embarrassment of richness comes with vocalist Mike DiMeo, who, like Russell Allen outside of Symphony X, leaves the restrictive metal pomp of Riot for what is HIS greatest record performance. Basically, all over this warm, rhythmic, varied, funky, charmed record, he is the sass of all of Jordan, dovetailing plushly with a gusting and guesting Glenn Hughes. And I'm sure it is the hopeless music expert ravaging (or more than likely alphabetizing, then reshuffling by producer, genre, year, label etc.) the lives of this collective that has decided to mix it up, dare, be progressive, bluesy, hard, and mystical of an almost pastoral and glammy nature come Ariel and My Dark Angel, while The Arrival Of Lyla is like a head-swimmingly invitational Babys song, with a lyric that will send a tingle up your spine. In any event, I've always liked The Lizards 'til now, but never took them seriously. Within Against All Odds, new classic rock lives and rings bells, as it does within Pratt's other recent credit Cactus, more so within Carmine Appice's Ultimate Guitar Zeus thing, and even more so, and most so, in the goddamned lovely four records from Deep Purple since Steve Morse joined the band.
Rating 9

Unleashed - Midvinterblot

Unleashed were in danger with their last couple of records - especially Hell's Unleashed - of becoming just too damn smile-cracking and fun, a Witchery for the Entombed set. Personally, I was on board with every metaller-than-thou ironic bit, as well as the band's simplified cutting to the hook-bound chase. Midvinterblot is a different kettle of fish though. Recording more viciously, playing faster, and putting more Viking elbow grease into the riff-writing, this is the work of an Unleashed looking for an extra tenner of cred. Check out 'We Must Join With Him' and 'The Witch' for the cogent balance of sophistication and irresistible headbanging groove one expects (and gets) out of Amon Amarth. But elsewhere, speeds are Slayer-esque, fast but old school and smoothly executed due to superior drumming firepower. Johnny Hedlund's still a crack-up though, just not as often. The choruses of 'This Is Our World Now' and 'We Must Join With Him' possess all the charming plainspeak we expect from this neo-Viking mead-guzzler, who actually has one of the great extreme metal voices currently belting out sea shanties on the longship of life.
Rating 8.5

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