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Like a Storm – Awaken the Fire
Crikey. What to say about this New Zealand band’s sort of 3rd studio album, Awaken the Fire? It’s OK. Sounds a lot like, well, sounds a lot like a previous album of theirs, Chaos Theory, Part I, because all but four songs on this new one come from Chaos Theory.
But Like a Storm also sounds like a lot of other bands on the market right now in how they creatively mosh just about every style of so-called metal together to make their songs. But just like with similar bands, this style of music all too often creates identity issues that are hard to overcome. What you have is a musically talented band that just can’t seem to figure out who they want to be. Should we be Thrash metal? Heavy metal? New metal? Rock-n-roll? Top 40? So instead of picking one – of which they would probably be great – they throw it all in a blender and there you have it. Perhaps we could add a new style to the genre called, “Formula” metal?
For me, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Most songs on Awaken the Fire are musically tight and will provide you with quite a few new metal head-banging-ish opportunities. I couldn’t really pick one over another to highlight because they all sound kind of the same to me. Again, not bad, just not great. Personally though, I prefer songs like “Southern Skies,” which showcases a stripped down version of the band without all of the metal hoopla. What we get in return is a good, honest rock-n-roll song. Same goes for “Ordinary.” It may be a little bit Nickelback-esque but it proves that Like a Storm has the potential to not be so ordinary after all.
Saving Abel – Blood Stained Revolution
With Scotty Austin taking over lead vocals from founding member Jared Weeks, I’m sure a lot of fans were a little leery of what to expect from Saving Abel on their latest album, Blood Stained Revolution. In situations like this, you will always have some fans who are happy with the new direction and some fans who are sad. As such, I found the album to be somewhat bipolar – but not in a depressing way.
There is a bipolar spectrum that runs from depression to normal to mania. Sounds pretty rock-n-roll to me, right? Most of the songs on Blood Stained Revolution are definitely hovering way beyond normal and much closer to mania. The first three songs on the album, including “Ready to Burn,” all kick ass musically but vocally and stylistically seem a little bit forced – as if Austin felt compelled right off the bat to differentiate himself from Weeks and maybe tried a little too hard. In those first three songs (“15 Minutes of Fame” and “Love like Suicide” included), it is obvious that Austin has a really unique voice but it’s not until the 4th song and title track, “Blood Stained Revolution” that we find out he has a great voice, too.
In songs like the title track as well as “With You” and “Memphis,” Austin’s voice is a little more controlled and stripped down and honest and suits the music so much better. And the songs are still kick ass. If this represents the new Saving Abel then all fans old and new should be thrilled.
If you are still not convinced, then listen to the last song, “Side Road,” which leans more towards the other end of the bipolar spectrum but also showcases Austin’s range and a musically tight and mature band.
Kid Rock – First Kiss
“My name is Kid…. Country!” Wait? What?
From Jesus and Bocephus to beer and bibles to whiskey and cheap wine to Johnny Cash and white trash, Kid Country…er…Kid Rock drops just about anything and everything he can into his lyrics to attract the good ol boy dollar bill.
It’s clear from the start that each song on First Kiss was carefully crafted to ignite that stereotypical rebel flag cigarette lighter held high by fellas named Junior with long mullets and big beer bellies and their proud chicks in denim crops and muffin tops. Every song wants so badly to be a redneck anthem – from the heart-warming memory of drinking your first beer with your old man to the bittersweet “FOAD” message born of the heartbreak of a failed relationship. Problem is, every song falls as flat as a 3-day old keg of beer.
And here’s the part I always dread to write…That being said, I’m sure there are some folks who might actually like First Kiss. Lynyrd Skynyrd be danged, they are likely the same folks who yell out “Free Bird” at every concert they go to and think it the funniest most original thing ever. But, hey, just because she’s your cousin doesn’t mean she ain’t cute, right?
Kid Rock? Hardly. I’ve heard some people call it “hard country” but the only thing hard about this album is trying to listen. Country Crock is more like it.
Papa Roach – F.E.A.R.
So I’m wondering why Papa Roach decided to call their new album F.E.A.R? Do they fear fans will realize that all of the songs essentially sound the same? Do they fear that they might lose their so-called “nu” metal card? Do they fear that they’ve lost their identity?
Those are the fears I realized after listening to the California band’s 8th album, F.E.A.R. I mean, for the record, it’s not a bad album – but it’s not great. It’s OK and I think that if you are a card carrying member of the Papa Roach fan club then you probably will think F.E.A.R is at the very least OK. Some might like it a lot. All depends on how big a fan you are and how willing you are to disregard its shortcomings.
For me, every song seemed to blend into the other with none managing to stand out above another. The first song, “Face Everything and Rise” is OK and probably the best song to kick off the album but it, as well as the others, seems rather formulated to me – like they dropped some lyrics into a computer, clicked the “nu metal button” and out popped this album.
I think it’s very easy these days to lose sight of what “metal” really is. You can’t just slap on some tattoos, leather, and some well-placed heavy guitar riffs and call yourself “metal.” It’s a state of mind…not a state of electronics. The boys in Papa Roach are talented. Lead singer, Jacoby Shaddix, can really sing but as a “Last Resort” (hint, hint) I think they need to do a little soul-searching and try to get back to their roots.
President FDR once said, “The only thing we have to fear is F.E.A.R itself.” Well, he kinda said that. While I don’t think you need to fear F.E.A.R, I do think you should be a little leery of it.
Motor Sister – Ride
Before I review, Ride, in stores March 10th on Metal Blade Records, It’s important to give you the history of the band, Motor Sister. The story of how the band evolved is about as great as the music. The name Motor Sister comes from a song called “Little Motor Sister” by a band most people have never heard of – Mother Superior. Los Angeles based rockers, Mother Superior, were around through most of the 90’s into the late 2000’s. While they may not have been a mainstream success, they did release 8 studio albums and worked with many renowned artists including, Henry Rollins, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, and Queens of the Stone Age just to name a few.
But their biggest fan very well may be Anthrax guitarist, Scott Ian. To make a long story short, Ian orchestrated what is essentially an all-star tribute band that includes original Mother Superior lead singer Jim Wilson, Ian on guitar, Joey Vera (Armored Saint/Fates Warning) on bass, John Tempesta (White Zombie/The Cult) on drums, and Ian’s wife, Pearl Aday, with harmonies and background vocals. Ian hand-picked his favorite Mother Superior songs, they played an impromptu gig at his house, and the rest is rock-n-roll history.
After listening to their debut album, Ride, I thought Motor Sister would be in good company if I compared them to a modern day version of Bad Company. The songs brought me back to the 70’s with their blues infused, hard rock riffs and strong vocals that work with the music rather than trying to overpower it. Songs like “A Hole,” “This Song Reminds Me of You,” and “Head Hanging Low” are rooted in old-fashioned classic rock while showcasing the contemporary metal edge that each all-star brings to the table. “Fool Around,” my personal favorite, is a fun song with some bluesy weight and tempo changes that highlight the versatility of the band.
Wanna know what the heart of rock-n-roll sounds like? Get in line now to pick up a copy of Motor Sisters’, Ride. It was born out of love for rock-n-roll and raised by proud rock-n-rollers who want nothing more than for rock-n-roll fans to appreciate it for what it represents. Classic rock.
Knowing that Ride was recorded live in studio in two days and less than two weeks after the band was created makes it all the more impressive.