By Bob Nalbandian

Waters Rising
Locomotive/Screaming Ferret

This New Orleans band has undergone several lineup changes during their 20-year plus career enduring the '80s and early '90s hair-day. But like so many bands that have (admirably) tried to sustain their career over these past turbulent decades Lillian Axe seem to be somewhat perplexed regarding their musical direction. Trying to keep in tune with the ever-changing times while staying true to your art can be difficult and surely becomes obvious in times of musical desperation. In the case of this group's latest CD, Water Rising, which includes new tracks as well as rerecorded songs from their previous, hard to find 1999 release Fields of Yesterday, Lillian Axe aimlessly attempt to please the alt-metal masses yet fail to keep the listener focused or entertained. Like so many of today's modern rock bands that get away with writing a few catchy riffs and/or a clever melody here or there (and many bands do get away with that these days!) it's few and far between you'll find a band that can actually write a "good" song. Unfortunately this stands true for Lillian Axe...good riffs, decent melodies, credible musicianship...but the songs simply don't stand out on their own. The CD starts off relatively strong with the opening title-track tastefully mixing classic hard-rock with nu-metal. This is followed by perhaps the strongest cut off the record, "Antarctica," which features a great slow-grooving riff that unfortunately goes nowhere, repeating itself throughout the entire song (up until the last 20 seconds when the riff finally builds momentum then abruptly ends). The third track "Become A Monster" proves the band has insight not only because it's a heavy, witty-riff but the fact that the band (or label?) sequenced the 3 strongest songs at the beginning of the CD before it becomes overwhelmingly monotonous...that is, until the last two songs come into play; the interestingly dark "Deep In The Black" and the impressive instrumental closer "5." In closing, I'm sure longtime Lillian Axe fans won't be disappointed (since all their previous albums I've heard seem to suffer in a similar way) as new vocalist Derek Lafevre, who replaces Lillian mainstay Ron Taylor, does a fine job without altering their sound much (which may or may not be a good thing) and duel guitarists Sam Poitevent and Steve Blaze (who also did a fine job producing this CD) along with bassist Eric Morris and drummer Ken Doudelka certainly deliver the goods in the musicianship department. But as far as the songwriting department, Lillian Axe definitely needs to rethink their strategy.

Blowin' Up The Machine

Sweden's Meldrum, the female metal band helmed by guitar maestro Michelle Meldrum, has recently released their second full-length CD entitled Blowin' Up The Machine on the Italian based label Frontiers (distributed internationally through Locomotive/WEA). This is the brilliant follow-up to their independently released 2002 debut Loaded Mental Cannon that, although released only in Sweden, garnered the band critical acclaim internationally. Blowin' Up The Machine shows a vast improvement in the band's songwriting and performance skills, add that with the sharp production of Toby Wright (Korn, Fear Factory) you have one helluva potent metal record! The core of the band, Michelle along with vocalist Moa Holmsten and bassist Frida Stahl, are joined in the studio by drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan (Strappin' Young Lad, Death, Dark Angel, Testament) who coincidently played with Michelle in the band War God back in the early '80s when both were in their young teens. Linda McDonald (the Iron Maidens) also performs drums on a few tracks (she also was a former band-mate of Michelle's in the LA hard-rock band Phantom Blue). Not only does this CD display incredible musicianship from all the members involved, the songwriting is also of high standard. "Purge" kicks off with a pulverizing riff leading into "Down Your Throat," a song that is pretty self-explanatory. The band even venture into pop-metal territory with the song "Another Kind" which features an ultra-catchy chorus delivered brilliantly by vocalist Moa Holmsten. Other tracks worthy of mention are the semi-ballad "Get Me Outta Here," the alt-metal rocker "Get Yours," the Sabbathy "Creme de la Creme" and the ball-buster "Bit The Pillow."

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