Tag Archives: hard rock

[REVIEW]: Kill Devil Hill – “Revolution Rise”

For a band that includes talent from Pantera, Down, Dio-era Black Sabbath, and Dio, Kill Devil Hill do not seem to receive as much recognition as other related “supergroups.” This is slightly disconcerting as this particular group has efficiently melded together the varying musical styles of the members’ previous endeavors. This is exhibited in Kill Devil Hill’s latest release, Revolution Rise.

While the band’s self-titled debut had some great tracks on it, Revolution Rise blows its predecessor out of the water.  It sounds like a glorious hybrid between Down and Heaven & Hell with a large sense of originality, leading to a deeply textured delivery.  Lead vocalist Dewey Bragg (Pissing Razors) often reverts the listener’s ears to an auditory memory of young Philip Anselmo.  However, Bragg showcases his unique vocal capabilities and wide range in the ballad, “Long Way From Home,” which tastefully breaks up the heavy rockin’ of the majority of Revolution Rise.

Overall, this new release is comprised of good, heavy rhythms, occasional guitar shredding, and catchy choruses. With the speed and precision on the kit, it can be easily forgotten that drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, Dio) is not in his 20’s anymore.  The same goes for bassist Rex Brown (Pantera, ex-Down).  With that said, both musical veterans continue the legacies they have constructed over their respective careers in Kill Devil Hill.

Focus tracks on Revolution Rise include “Crown Of Thorns,” “Why,” and “Long Way From Home.”


MusicTalker’s rating: 4.5/5


[REVIEW] Alter Bridge – “Fortress”

Continuing along the darkened musical venture forged by 2010’s AB III, 2013’s Fortress sees Alter Bridge maintain the heaviness throughout the entire album.  While AB III had several ballad-like songs, even the softer tracks featured on Fortress can rightfully be deemed heavy.  It seems as though lead vocalist Myles Kennedy and guitarist Mark Tremonti both brought back some influences from their recent side gigs to enhance this new Alter Bridge effort.  Perhaps, Kennedy’s stint with Slash and Tremonti’s metallic solo album played into the songwriting for Fortress.  Either way, the new songs are all clearly penned by Alter Bridge and no one else.

Tremonti handles lead vocal duties on “Waters Rising,” mixing up the typical Alter Bridge song format.  Then again, there is no real “typical” formula for Alter Bridge’s songwriting as many of their works break the norm, especially on Fortress.  This specific track portrays Tremonti’s versatility and talent in songwriting, guitar work, and vocal range.  With the proper execution of these abilities, this band has the potential to keep on rising up in the hard rock scene.  In fact, with a record like Fortress, there is nothing holding back the appreciation of a hard rock fanatic.

While this is an album worthy of a full, consecutive listen from start to finish, key focus tracks include “Farther Than The Sun,” “Calm The Fire,” and the title track.  The latter two are exceptionally well-written and contain great depth with multiple levels of sound.  In “Calm The Fire,” Kennedy delivers a catchy melody over a heavy and highly technical riff.  “Fortress” completes the journey of the entire album with a detailed musical story of its own.  As Tremonti’s incredibly precise and emotionally-supported guitar solo fades out, there is a moment of pause before Kennedy’s voice returns to close out the album over a heavy rhythm with the song’s chorus.

Alter Bridge have come a long way from being the side project of the guys from Creed.  They have created a household name of their own and have shown plenty of growth and maturity in the process. Fortress epitomizes this band’s talent and potential.


MusicTalker’s rating: 5/5

Artist of the Week [10/4/13]: Ra

Named after the Egyptian sun god, hard rock band Ra has been around for over a decade. Ra used to be somewhat of a household name for hard rock bands, but have since seemed to go off the map.  They are currently in the process of making their comeback.  Their new, fan-funded album, Critical Mass, is slated for an October 15th release.  The band previously released the album’s first single, “SuperMegaDubstep.”

Having owned all of Ra’s releases, with the exception of 2009’s digitally released B-side compilation, Black Sheep, since 2005 or so, it can be said that Ra’s music is well worth the financial investment.

It is very unfortunate that Ra essentially lost the fame they had gained over the lengthy span of their music careers.  However, it looks like they will fight for it back, and anyone who wants to win a war against the current state of the music industry should enlist on Ra’s side.

Anyway, the band is comprised of four very talented musicians, two of whom have kept very busy during Ra’s downtime.  Lead singer and band founder, Sahaj [Ticotin] released a solo record in 2012, titled Another Minute.  It was much softer and calmer than a lot of Ra’s material.  It leaned more toward singer/songwriter acoustic rock rather than hard rock/alternative metal. Sahaj also acts as a record producer, having recently worked with up-and-coming hard rockers Downstait.  As for the other members of Ra, guitarist Ben Carroll has his own side project called The Hollow Glow, who have seen moderate success among the underground rock scene.

Ra incorporate a variety of styles into their music, allowing for a diverse fan base.  For instance, on “Faulty Information,” from 2008’s Black Sun, Sahaj spits a brief rap during the bridge. They also provide an excellent cover of Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” on 2005’s Duality. With Sahaj’s unique and versatile vocals, Ra will be unstoppable once they resurface.  This should not be a problem, now that the original lineup is back in action together.

Fans of Shinedown, Alter Bridge, and Seether should definitely check out Ra.  Key focus tracks include “Faulty Information,” “Easier Than This,” “On My Side,” “Got Me Going,” and Ra’s cover of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.”  The first two tracks are off of Black Sun, “On My Side” is from 2002’s From One, and the last two are featured on Duality.

For more information on Ra, visit their website and/or Facebook page.

Cover Song of the Month: April 2013

Ronnie James Dio is known by many as one of the best metal vocalists of all time.  He was the lead singer for many groups, most notably of which were Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell, Elf, and his solo band, Dio.  Dio is the prime example of a musician working his way from the absolute bottom to the insurmountable sky of success.  Songs from his doo-wop days can be found on iTunes.

Anyway, Dio left behind a legacy when he lost his battle to cancer on May 16, 2010.  Modern hard rockers Downstait have honored that legacy with their cover of Dio’s “The Last In Line,” featured on their latest album, With You In Mind.

As Dio had a one-of-a-kind voice, Downstait lead vocalist Daren Zack Call and guest vocalist Sahaj Ticotin, of Ra, stick with their own vocal ranges.  As expressed in previous articles, it is always better to personalize a cover song with your own brand and style.  Your fans will appreciate when you do not deviate from your own sound simply to pay tribute.  More importantly, if you do a good job on a personalized cover, you may acquire some new fans.

This was definitely a ballsy decision, but Downstait pulled it off.  While still respecting the original version, they transformed it into a song that fit in perfectly with the rest of the material on the CD.  With the addition of Sahaj’s smoother, more versatile vocals, Downstait’s cover of “The Last In Line” is a respectable tribute to the great Ronnie James Dio.

It may not have Dio’s voice or fit into the category of heavy metal, but it is a great cover.  Sahaj’s voice both by itself and in harmony with that of Call makes it work vocally.  Combined with the spot-on guitar work, especially including the near-perfect solo, this version is worth at least two listens.

Check it out here: 

Dio’s version: 

With You In Mind was released on April 23, 2013.  For more information on Downstait, check out the band’s Facebook page.

Artist of the Week [4/26/13]: Black Water Rising

After first hearing them when MySpace Music was still a thing, it is exciting to learn that New York rockers Black Water Rising are continuing to implement their well-honed, personal brand of hard rock.  Prior to the 2008 independent release of their self-titled debut, I remember wearing out “Brother Go On” on the MySpace music player.  It wasn’t until 2010 when the album was officially released through Metalville/eOne Records.  It was previously only available digitally on iTunes.

Black Water Rising are planning to unleash their sophomore effort in July.  Currently, the new album has yet to bear a title.  The first single, “Show No Mercy,” is available on iTunes and can also be streamed via this Blabbermouth.net article.  “Show No Mercy” picks up right where Black Water Rising left off.  While it doesn’t sound like it could be featured on the band’s first album, it undeniably has Black Water Rising’s signature watermark on it.

As the band’s Facebook page notes, Black Water Rising play “No Frills, Riff Raging, turbo charged, wall of pure kick ass Power Rock.”  It is pleasing to hear and know that this description has not changed.  As sort of an underground super-group, the band is comprised of members from Dust To Dust, Boiler Room, and Stereomud (Blabbermouth.net).

Band founder, mastermind, and lead vocalist, Rob Traynor, definitely has a knack for quality rock n’ roll.  His voice embodies the epitome of the grittiness of hard rock.  With the addition of heavy riffs and groovy hooks, Black Water Rising create a sound refreshing to rock listeners everywhere.

Upon listening to Dust To Dust, Traynor’s previous band, it can be said that Black Water Rising might show more promise.  The former offered a nü metal-oriented sound.  Although it sounded pretty good, nü metal is extinct, with the exception of Korn and Slipknot, and that is probably for the best.  With that said, the music of Black Water Rising is much more aesthetically pleasing and will hopefully explode into a larger listening base very soon.

Fans of bands like Black Label Society, Sevendust, and Down should check out Black Water Rising.  Five focus tracks are “Brother Go On,” “The River,” “Rise,” “Tears from the Sun,” and “Show No Mercy.”

For more information on Black Water Rising, visit their Facebook page and/or their website.

[REVIEW] Can you feel that? It’s Clutch’s “Earth Rocker”!

If any other well-established hard rock/metal group were to title their ninth studio album “Earth Rocker,” it would be perceived that they had lost their inspiration and creativity.  However, taking into account Clutch’s sound and overall style, this is not the case with their latest release of that exact title.

While 2013’s Earth Rocker may not be up to par with 1995’s Clutch, not much else reaches that level of excellence.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque stoner rock style is not as prominent as it was in the band’s early years.  Clutch’s music has definitely evolved into something of its own, as heavily portrayed on Earth Rocker.

The opening title track sounds somewhat reminiscent of “Spacegrass” from the band’s aforementioned self-titled sophomore effort.  It begins with a soft, repetitive bass line accompanied by light high hat cymbal tapping and an eerie guitar groove.  All of a sudden, the heaviness bursts out to create a full-on rock n’ roll song.

“Crucial Velocity” is a bit more groove-laden and includes more melody in vocalist Neil Fallon’s singing.

Fallon exhibits his skill of easily adapting his voice to perfectly match the accompanying music throughout this record.  For instance, on fast songs like “Unto the Breach,” he fluctuates between speedy, melodic vocals to raspy shouts to slower, deep-toned singing.

One song that particularly stands out in terms of Clutch’s diverse sound as well as Fallon’s vocal skills is “Gone Cold.”  It sounds like a Classic Blues song with the chanted vocals on the verses and the very bluesy singing on the chorus in addition to the extremely bluesy bass line.

Overall, Clutch’s Earth Rocker is undoubtedly one of 2013’s best records so far.  For longtime Clutch fans, this is Clutch in top-form.

Cover Albums: Personalization Without Imitation

After performing amazing cover versions of songs like Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time” and Trust’s “Antisocial,” one would think thrash legends Anthrax would know a thing or two about doing covers.  That assumption is doubted by the band’s covers EP, Anthems.  While the instrumental portion of the band makes the songs heavier than their original versions, Joey Belladonna seems to weigh down their impact with his vocals.  That is not to say that Belladonna is a bad singer, because he’s not.  He has arguably one of the best voices in thrash metal, if not all of the metal sub-genres.  However, Anthems does not portray his unique vocal style.  Instead, he is found imitating each lead singer featured on the original songs.  For instance, on “Anthem,” originally performed by Rush, Belladonna distorts his voice into a very nasally falsetto to match Geddy Lee’s signature sound.  While that is probably the most obvious one, he does it with all the other songs on Anthems.

Unfortunately, Anthems sounds like something a classic rock tribute band would release, not an established thrash act simply performing some cover songs.  That is not the case with Adrenaline Mob’s Coverta, which was released a week earlier than Anthems, on March 12, 2013.  Coverta has Adrenaline Mob written all over it, despite the entire release being cover songs.

One stand-out track on Coverta is Adrenaline Mob’s version of “Barracuda,” by Heart.  Singer Russell Allen does not attempt to sound like Ann Wilson of Heart, because that would just be plain silly.  No, he hits similar notes in his own vocal range, and it works.  The whole band sounds great and maintains its style.  Another key track is Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song.” Again, Allen does not try to reach Robert Plant’s almost unreachable notes.  Also, the band maintains their heavy, rough-edged sound while still honoring the original version.  As for “Kill the King,” “Stand Up and Shout,” and “The Mob Rules,” Allen can handle a similar vocal range to that of the late Ronnie James Dio.  Therefore, he is able to excel on each of those songs.

Needless to say, Adrenaline Mob personalized their covers while Anthrax sadly went the “imitation” route.

Behind the Guitar: Shaun Anzalone of Sonic Titan

I recently decided to conduct a special interview segment for this blog to investigate the different roles of a typical, modern rock band and how they operate and function.  To kick off this segment, I talked to Shaun Anzalone of Marlborough, MA hard rock band, Sonic Titan via email.  As you will find below, I asked Shaun several questions regarding his dual role of lead vocalist/guitarist for Sonic Titan.  He provided some pretty interesting answers, several of which are quite humorous.

MusicTalker: To begin, Shaun, what is it like playing a dual role (lead vocalist/guitarist) for Sonic Titan?
Shaun Anzalone: It’s fun when you do them both right!
MT: When did you start playing guitar and singing?
SA: Guitar when I was 10 and singing when I was 15 or 16.

MT: At what age did you begin singing and playing guitar at the same time? Is it more difficult doing both as opposed to doing one or the other?
SA: My old bands went through a bunch of singers and I had experience doing backing vocals, it came down to the neil peart like drummer and slap bass player couldn’t sing easily live so I took up lead vocals.  I got more confident once Sonic Titan got together, they dug my rock stuff..
MT: What do you focus on during live performances? Do you have to get in some type of “zone” to play the guitar and sing at the same time?
SA: Yeah, the zone of being really high and drunk

MT: Do you feel like you have control over the band, the crowd, etc. at a show? If so, what type of control is it and/or what does it feel like?
SA: It depends on the crowd I guess, getting people to participate is tough when you know 80% of them haha.

MT: What do you do to try to get crowd participation?
SA: I try to get them to clap their hands and scream at them. That’s even harder than singing and guitaring at once haha.
MT: As the lead singer and guitarist, do you tend to command a lot of the song writing or is it more of a group effort? Talk about that, if you can.
SA: It’s a group effort but it’s cool because I get to be the Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at once only when they combined the two they got slightly less talented and that’s me.

MT: I heard that Sonic Titan will be releasing a new song soon about a Kraken. What can fans expect from this new track?
SA: It’s like old Metallica meets old rush meets old zeppelin meets our lack of effort.  It’s pretty awesome

MT: Whose idea was it to write a song about a Kraken?
 fuckin Steve [McCaul] (Sonic Titan’s bassist).

MT: Thank you for your time and entertaining answers, Shaun.
SA:  Awesome man, any time haha

For more information regarding Shaun and his band, Sonic Titan, check them out on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/sonictitanma

[REVIEW] Shinedown – “Enemies” [MUSIC VIDEO]

Earlier this week, hard rock band Shinedown released a new music video for their song, “Enemies,” which comes off the band’s latest effort, Amaryllis.    This particular video was quite interesting.  While the song itself is a little bland yet still catchy, the accompanying short film maintains its grasp on the viewer, whether or not the viewer enjoys the song.

The video begins with all four band members entering a function hall-type room with four chairs set up in the middle of the room in a square format.  Once all four men sit in their respective seats, a subtitle saying, “BAND MEETING…2:15…MONDAY” pops onto the screen.  Once the lyrics kick in, vocalist Brent Smith starts yelling the lyrics at bassist Eric Bass while drummer Barry Kerch and guitarist Zach Myers watch.  Brent and Eric yell the lyrics back and forth for a minute or so before they start putting up their fists.  As soon as Eric smashes the coffee pot on Brent’s head, you know that it’s getting real.

Meanwhile, Zach is taking pictures on his phone of this fight and laughing at the other two with Barry.  Eventually, all four guys end up throwing fists at each other, along with objects like the chairs, the coffee pot, etc.  After the climax of this group-wide hysteria , the four friends/”enemies” get up off the floor, sit back in their chairs and shake hands.  As they exit the room, Brent pulls Zach aside and the screen fades to black as Brent starts to hit Zach.

This video was simple yet well-executed.  At one point, there is some awesome camera work with a spinning overhead shot of the room.  Other than that, though, the video production and editing was pretty straight forward.  However, it was not choppy and it looked very professional and aesthetically pleasing.

Check it out for yourself:

Artist Spotlight: Under the Flood

Under the Flood is a hard rock band that I have been following for a few years now.  They have put out three full-length albums, one of which is strictly in digital format.  This digital release is actually their most recent effort, titled A Different Light.  A Different Light was released online just a couple of weeks ago.

I currently own their debut album, The Witness, on CD.  I will definitely invest in their second and third records as soon as I  am able to scrounge up the small amount of money required.  However, the point of this post is not necessarily to write a review, but to honor the band for their talent, promise, and exceptional studio efforts.

Under the Flood’s lead singer, Dave Nadolski, may look like Chris Daughtry, but their voices are very different.  I personally love Daughtry’s voice.  At the same time, though, Nadolski has some pipes with a very unique timbre and strong vocal range.  When these guys finally achieve some exposure, it will be easy to differentiate Under the Flood from the rest of the mainstream rock landscape.

This band’s music is very powerful, both lyrically and acoustically.  It would definitely fall into the category of hard rock, but these guys are something else.  This band brings something very refreshing to the increasingly monotonous sub-genre of hard rock.

Formulate your own opinion:

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