Category Archives: Albums

The Dictators – The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!

Crazy
Crazy

Do you ever want to write about or review an album and just feel unequal to the task? I feel that way about The Dictators Go Girl Crazy! The New Yorkers’ 1975 debut album has got so much going on. It was a critical success and commercial failure and manages to be classic and overlooked at the same time.

I’m not really comfortable talking about its supposed punk influence either, given I’m not a big punk fan. This always just sounded like fun, back-to-basics rock n’ roll to me: Louie Louie riffs, The Who and The Beach Boys with teenage, street level attitude and a ton of pop culture references thrown in. It’s an album that I love but I’m reluctant to recommend. Especially if, like me, you came at this from a Manowar direction and want to hear where guitarist Ross the Boss started out. After hearing the lamentable cover of I Got You Babe and the silly Back to Africa you’re going to wonder what the hell is going on. (Anyone reading this for Manoreasons should probably check out The Dictators’ third album Bloodbrothers first. It’s quality muscle rock!)

But from the “let’s go” of the fourth track Master Race Rock on, this album is a veritable blast. Two Tub Man, (I Live For) Cars and Girls and Weekend all put such a joyous spring in your step that you wish every rock album was like this. It’s so quirky, arch and fresh. The occasional vocal interjections of “secret weapon” Handsome Dick Manitoba add to the fun too. The album’s second side is so perfect it makes you forget the first one ever happened.

And… Ross the Boss. Fingers and steel, baby! The man is a legend.

So, like I said. I’m not equal to the task of covering this great and weird album. But never mind… with my financial holdings I could be basking in the sun in Florida. This music-writing lark is just a hobby for me! Nothing, ya hear? A HOBBY!

[The Dictators – Two Tub Man]

Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force – Marching Out (Review)

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Check this shit!

Guitar magazines would have you believe that Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force was THE ONE, which is fair enough given its classic feats of guitar mastery like Black Star and Icarus Dream Suite Op. 4. Those are rightfully legendary instrumentals and justify the album’s status as a guitar classic. But Yngwie’s debut fell down a bit on the actual song front and the band’s stiff delivery of the vocal numbers. If you’re actually just wanting a fuck-off classic METAL record, follow-up Marching Out is the music of the Gods.

Guitar fanatics needn’t worry, there’s still plenty of heroic guitar acrobatics from Yngwie but the whole band ups their game here. Fleet-fingered keyboardist Jens Johansson gives God’s guitar teacher a right run for his money on the widdle front and the whole band is more driving, less ploddy than on the debut. But the star here is Jeff Scott Soto. He totally finds his voice on this. His passionate delivery on tracks like Soldier Without Faith and I Am a Viking is absolutely infectious. Try not to join in, tankard raised, with the chorus to Anguish and Fear. You can’t. Not if you’ve got blood in your veins. I am a Viking, I’ll walk all over you. Triumphant, warfaring power metal. That’s what I’m talking about!

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5

[Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force – Anguish and Fear]

Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance

Have at you. I'm invincible!
Have at you. I’m invincible!

I’ve been getting into this album way more now than I did when it came out. There were loads of great albums out in 2013 and this one just got lost in the stampede. I’d have rated a good 5 or 6 albums above this back then but I’ve not gone back to any of that year’s albums as much as this one. I attribute its staying power to its classic none-more-metal power. I did think some of Fenriz’s tracks were a bit cartoonish when I first got it but really he’s just going for broke in a way too few metal acts do anymore. Endearing enthusiasm and naivety. His three songs here are just an absolute hoot. And on the remaining three, Nocturno Culto delivers the type of frosty misanthropy that he is still the master of. Genius, biting riffs and his incredible decayed growl. Darkthrone totally understand the execution and the spirit of 80s metal. NWOBHM, speed, 1st wave black… the kind of stuff that never gets old. And if it’s not totally perfect? Who needs perfect when you can have awesome?

[Darkthrone – The Ones You Left Behind]

Here’s the best, and most fun, song on The Underground Resistance. Totally boisterous, simple and… check out that bridge riff.

 

Manowar – Hell on Wheels (Review)

“Ladies and Gentlemen. From the United States of America… all hail… Manowar.”

Being a Manowar fan brings with it both agony and ecstasy. Ever since their debut Battle Hymns in 1982, the New Yorkers have pounded out albums where epic, awe-inspiring classics have been accompanied by unwelcome bass solos and monologues. So the question that always has to be asked of any new Manowar release is: does the filler outweigh the killer?

Arguably, the band’s golden-era ended with 1992’s Triumph of Steel so the release of their first live record Hell on Wheels in 1997 seemed a bit belated but also had a tantalising wealth of material to draw from.

The album kicks off in thrilling style. Orson Welles heralding the band’s arrival on stage for their signature tune, Manowar. The album does a fine job of capturing Manowar’s punishingly loud live sound, vocalist Eric Adams fighting to be heard amongst the din. Unfortunately, the momentum created by the strong opening is damaged by the ill-conceived grouping of a guitar solo, piano interlude and the ballad, Courage, which creates the feel of a last dance too early in the album’s running time. Blood of my Enemies and Hail and Kill close off the first disc and should be the album’s centrepieces but their effect is neutered by the poor pacing.

Thankfully the second CD is slightly more even. Once again it opens well and although Joey DeMaio’s bass solo Black Arrows is well played and varied, it’s too long and Fighting the World struggles to restore the excitement levels. The back end of the album is over-weighted with newer material from 1996’s disappointing Louder Than Hell but the songs are more convincing live than in the studio and the final stages of Hell on Wheels are great fun, culminating in the moving Battle Hymn.

Ultimately, what should have been the definitive statement of Manowar at their absolute best is hobbled by the inconsistencies that often dog their studio output. You can press “skip” or stick the kettle on and this is a great live album, but victory is barely snatched from the jaws of defeat and I expect more from the Kings of Metal. Thankfully, Manowar had now developed a taste for the live album. There would be more… and they would be better.

HMO Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Dissection – Live Rebirth (Review)

Swedish Black Metal legends Dissection had only released two studio albums before they embarked on the “Rebirth of Dissection” tour that kicked off with this show in Stockholm (listed on the LP jacket as September 2004 but it other sources suggest that the show was actually in October!).

The band had disbanded in 1997 following the imprisonment of guitarist/vocalist Jon Nödtveidt as an accessory to the murder of an Algerian man in Sweden. Upon his release in 2004, Nödtveidt quickly assembled a new line-up of Dissection for the tour captured on Live Rebirth.

For a band with only two albums of material to draw from, this is an exceptionally strong set of well-written and passionately performed tracks. The atmosphere and excitement at the show is well captured. The taped intro of instrumental track At the Fathomless Depths combines with the enthusiastic crowd cheering to build the excitement level for the first track proper Nights Blood so the feeling of being at the gig is palpable from the offset. In fact, the opening song is exciting and epic enough to be worth the price of admission alone.

Dissection’s take on extreme Metal is grounded with a strong grasp of songwriting and pacing. There are stunning, memorable riffs in abundance here and, although the hoarser vocals and dark atmosphere may be off-putting for some, there is much to love here for fans of the NWOBHM era and other older acts like Mercyful Fate.

Highlights for me include Where Dead Angels Lie and Maha Kali (the only new track here). These are absolutely thrilling and timeless, both delivered with an enigmatic folky lilt. Maha Kali also builds to a fantastic climax with its exotic feel bolstered by female Hindi vocals. The Somberlain evokes Iron Maiden with its melodic guitar harmony lines and there is also an excellent cover of Tormentor’s Elisabeth Bathory. Another band for me to check out!

Overall, this is an incredible Metal live album and is right up there with the best of them. It’s dripping with atmosphere, epic in scope and there is not a single track on here that is anything less than incredible. For such a short-lived band to have created a set like this is pretty remarkable. Jon Nödtveidt would commit suicide in 2006.

Buying Note: This full gig is available on DVD as Rebirth of Dissection and also available as Live in Stockholm 2004 on CD and LP but that version has some tracks removed and some are shortened. This edition, released in 2010, by the excellent High Roller Records has the full set intact.

HMO Rating: 5 out of 5

Sammy and the Wabos – Live Hallelujah (Review)

I’m not the biggest Sammy Hagar fan in the world but I particularly enjoyed the period that followed his (initial) acrimonious split from Van Halen in the mid-90s. Having put together a great backing band called the Waboritas he proceeded to bring out a trio of  joyous Rock albums – Red Voodoo, Ten 13  and Not 4 Sale. With the Waboritas, Sammy had also become a formidable feel-good live act too and following a very competitive jaunt with Dave Lee Roth (the Sam and Dave tour) it was decided to capture the fun on CD.

The first thing that has to be said about Live Hallelujah is that it is LOUD. I actually can’t think of a live album that sounds more like being in the front rows of a concert than this one. Sammy’s older tracks are bristling with the kind of unhinged guitar assault that would make Ted Nugent proud and the Van Halen-era tracks are feel-good bliss (some featuring a speaker-rattling Michael Anthony and When It’s Love features Gary Cherone). Although Sammy and Vic Johnson are fine players they sensibly chose some of the least flashy Van Halen tracks which means they sit more comfortably alongside the non-VH songs. The newer tracks like Shaka Doobie, Deeper Kind of Love and Little White Lie are also strong, fitting in perfectly with the old favourites like Three Lock Box and Heavy Metal. In fact, one of the great features of the album is how it assimilates material from a long and varied career into a really cohesive set.

This has obviously never become a classic of any description but I really enjoy this and it actually served as a gateway for me to get more into Sammy’s and Van Hagar’s albums. Overall, if your ears can take the remorseless pounding of the production, this is just great fun and one of the best examples I can think of where a live album manages to evoke the excitement and vibe of a being at a really entertaining Rock show. If I’m looking for an album to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step this would be a strong contender and there can’t be a higher recommendation than that.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

W.A.S.P. – Live… in the Raw (Review)

 

Live… in the Raw 1997 Reissue

Many of the great live albums functioned as “end of an era” releases. They documented a period of a band’s career and placed a full-stop on it before evolving into something new.

Ever since the release of their debut single (Animal) Fuck Like a Beast, controversy had dogged W.A.S.P. and they soon became a prime target for the PMRC, while also experiencing death threats and even assassination attempts. The stress had tired the band, causing tensions in the ranks but also galvanising band leader Blackie Lawless who felt that the focus on the band’s image and antics had meant their musical merits were under-estimated.

Live… in the Raw was recorded over three dates on their successful world tour promoting their third album, Inside The Electric Circus. Opener Inside The Electric Circus is thrilling and has some great sawing guitar riffs. The band proceeds to tear through a taut, muscular set that mixes classics and new tracks alike. In fact there are three tracks on here that would have previously been unavailable: two excellent live tracks Harder Faster and The Manimal and one studio track Scream Until You Like It recorded to promote the Horror sequel Ghoulies II.

2011 reissue of Inside the Electric Circus relegates Live… in the Raw to mere bonus disc.

Like many of the best live albums, some of the songs here enjoy their definitive performances on this album. Inside The Electric Circus, L.O.V.E Machine, Wild Child and 9.5.-N.A.S.T.Y. are all superb. The only thing that stops Live… in the Raw being all the W.A.S.P. you’ll ever need is the notable omission of (Animal) Fuck Like a Beast (although they would atone for this with the release, in 1988, of the Live Animal EP).

Live… in the Raw would prove pivotal to the band’s career. It boosted the profile and legitimacy of their catalogue and functioned as a historically important “end of an era” release. The album would provide a full-stop on the sex, parties and gore period of their career. From now on, W.A.S.P. were going to get serious!

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5