By Bob Nalbandian

Nuclear Blast

Part-time Metal Church guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof has released his debut solo record in the US via Nuclear Blast (I believe this CD was released in Europe on SVP a couple years back.) Much more impressive than Kurdt's previous solo project Hall Of Flames, and a helluva lot more inspiring than this last Metal Church record (which was crap!), this CD offers something musically unique in this day and age. Vanderhoof, the band, display a refreshing retro-'70s acid-groove-heavy sound that is far more creative and original than the slew of new-breed stoner rock bands who merely come up with less-improved ways of re-writing old Sabbath riffs. Vanderhoof obviously seem to draw their influence more from Purple and Heep, with Hammond organist Brian Cokely churning out some of the most impressive B-3 sounds I've since Jon Lord in his heyday!

"Bleed" opens the disc with a cool laid-back, progressive groove that is highlighted by the remarkably soulful vocals of Damon Albright. "Machine" follows with a cool Purple-ish organ/guitar riff. "Take to the Sky" kicks the CD into full gear in classic Uriah Heep fashion, giving me flashbacks of Look At Yourself (Heep's best album.) Check out the amazing organ solo on this track and the ass-kicking drumming from Metal Church skinsman Kirk Arrington.

Other standout tracks include; "40 Days Down," "Beg," "Game Is Played," and "Out Alive," the best track on the disc, highlighting Damon's sheer vocal power and Vanderhoof's mean-ass guitar riffs! The band even do a respectable cover of Deep Purple's "Burn" (almost as good as Glenn Hughes' version.) I highly recommend this CD to any fan of classic metal as it displays great musical talent, well-crafted songs and a unique retro-style.

An Education In Rebellion

After listening to the short intro and the three songs that followed, I could have sworn I was listening to Powerman 5000! Just as I was about to eject the disc, track 5, "Until You Crack," came on and raised my interest. This band shows obvious influences of Zombie, Powerman, Alice In Chains, and STP. Nothing original by any means, but interesting enough to keep me listening, mainly due to the cool grooves, loud guitars and heavy production (compliments of mix-master Brendan O'Brien.)

Led by the San Antonio based vocalist/guitarist Bryan Scott and guitarist Patrick Kennison, who also co-produced the record, this album actually gets much better as it goes, beginning with track 8, "Revolution Man," probably the strongest cut here, displaying a great chorus and heavy R.A.T.M. influenced riff. The two tracks that close the album, "Bitter" and "The Friend Song," are great punk-fueled metal tunes that should have been the opening tracks.

All in all, a somewhat impressive debut coming from the revamped Portrait label-the home of '80s washouts Ratt, Great White, Poison, and Cinderella. This is an obvious attempt by Portrait to cash in on the current metal trend, which I actually find to be a wise move for the least, it's a helluva lot wiser than trying to cash in on a Stephen Piercy-less Ratt!

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