By Bob Nalbandian

Get 0ver It

After a helluva long hiatus, Billy Sheehan and the boys are back again, this time around with new axe-slinger Ritchie Kotzen (replacing Paul Gilbert.) It's evident upon first listen that this band has truly lost their balls. The typical, uninspired blues-rock riff in the opening track "Electrified" was a clue to what was to follow. And that cheesy, weak-ass chorus is about as electrifying as Pat Boone singing the blues! The second track, "Static," picks up the pace a bit. It's got a cool, R&B style riff. Sounds definitely Kotzen influenced. Unfortunately Pat Regan's thin production doesn't do the song, or the rest of the record, justice. With the vocal combo of both Eric Martin and Ritchie Kotzen (a brilliant vocalist as well as guitarist), one would think that the vocals on this CD would be powerful as hell. Listening back to some of Kotzen's solo efforts like Wave of Emotion, it's definitely apparent that this man is one soulful mutha of a vocalist. Kotzen could have easily given this band a rightful, much needed, kick in the nuts, but fails to do so.

Most the other tracks on the album display a rehashed '70s-blues-rock ala Humble Pie/Faces with a semi-southern-tinged flavor similar to Black Crows (but with half the energy and drive.) And, we all could have done without the lame-ass ballads "Superfantastic" (a huge hit in Japan...go figure) and "My New Religion." Face the facts, "To Be With You" worked once...and only once! (Thank the Lord!)

It's no wonder why less talented and less original artists such as Buck Cherry are climbing up the American charts while Mr. Big are wallowing in pathetic ballads and poor sales (outside of Japan.) The reason...because Buck Cherry play with BALLS! If Mr. Big can re-energize their sound, they might have a fighting chance here in the States. Otherwise, my advice is to milk the Japanese for what it's worth, because success in the Orient only lasts so long...

Stronger Than Death

Stronger Than Death is Zakk Wylde's second release with Black Label Society (not to be confused with Zakk's other side project with Marky Mark.) Much like the B.L.S. debut, this album is chock-full of over-the-top riffs and blistering solos. If you're able to stomach the muddy, monotone production and overlook Zakk's cheesy, white-trash vocals and lyrics, this album offers brutal metal riffs at it's heaviest. The opening riff to "Phony Smiles" alone is enough to raise the hair on your ball- sac!

Zakk has ditched the southern blues-edge of his previous band Pride & Glory and has opted to a strict diet of alcohol fueled riff-heavy metal. And, much like the mighty Nuge in his heyday, Zakk carries the Republican blowtorch igniting over-indulgent guitar solos and machosterone fueled lyrics. Other highlights include "Ain't Life Grand," and "Counterfeit God." But, to be perfectly honest, none of the songs really stand out...only the riffs do. And, there's no denying that the riffs are brutal! But, what about song-structure?! Zakk should know by now that it takes more to make a great metal record than just riff after killer riff. Hopefully next time around Zakk will focus as much on the production, vocals, and lyrics as he does on writing riffs and solos.

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