AC/DC – Rock or Bust
AC/DC is a reviewers dream. For over 40 years reviewers have properly used “high-voltage” catch phrases and lyric clips supplied by the band to describe AC/DC’s music. It’s practically expected – if not required – and one of the few times in which clichés are excused. In the spirit of Rock-n-Roll, and in honor of the band, I am going to do what is NOT expected and try my hardest NOT to use a single cliché in my review of AC/DC’s 15th studio album, Rock or Bust.
Rock or Bust. Rock or Bust. Hmm. Kind of sounds like a bumper sticker, right? I took that as a sign and decided to listen to the Aussie bands latest creation in my minivan on my way to the office.
Clichés aside, I’ll get straight to the point: Rock or Bust is a classic AC/DC album. In the first 10 seconds of song number one, “Rock or Bust,” Angus Young hits us so hard with his patented riffs that I nearly forgot his brother, the great Malcolm Young, was no longer able to play. But his heart and soul and rhythm guitar are well-represented throughout the album by his nephew, Stevie Young.
In fact, every song on Rock or Bust has that familiar AC/DC feel to it that we’ve come to know and love. Songs like “Play Ball” and “Baptism by Fire” rock like any AC/DC song you’ve ever heard as do “Sweet Candy” and “Rock the House.” Perhaps there is an ever-so-slight sense of “maturity” in just how hard lead singer Brian Johnson and the boys are rocking on this album but don’t let that discourage you. Just like the rest of us, they are getting older though it’s nothing a couple of pain pills (OTC, of course) and a fiber drink can’t fix.
If I had to complain about anything, it’s that this album is too short! Under 35 minutes! But I’ll take quality every time.
So for those about to rock AC/DC’s new album, Rock or Bust, I salute you!
All That Remains – Order of Things
Your first order of business: Whatever you do, don’t label All That Remains a “metalcore” band. It’s just wrong, man. They are so much more than that and it’s genre-crushingly clear on Order of Things, the bands upcoming seventh studio album.
Order of Things represents the progression of a band that has never been afraid to step outside of the box they’ve been dropped into in order to showcase the type of musical growth and maturity that all great bands go through, regardless of classification.
Every song on Order of Things is a gobstopper that reveals the layers of their metal range. The first song and single, “This Probably Won’t End Well” starts off hauntingly then quickly explodes into a stylish metal blast that exemplifies the band’s surge in recent years.
Old schoolers will be thrilled with “No Knock” as lead singer Philip Lebonte reaches back into his repertoire and pairs his familiar screaming and growling with the thrashing guitar riffs and thumping drum patterns that drew fans to them from the beginning.
But it’s songs like “Tru-KVLT-Metal” and “Criticism and Self-Realization” among others that boast just how far All That Remains has come. Lebonte infuses his vocal styles in surprising and refreshing ways that, together with the classic guitars and the drums (and even a piano here and there), pulls us up to an elevated level of metal that any fan should appreciate.
Your second order of business: Get ready for All That Remains’ new album, Order of Things, set to drop on February 24th, 2015 on Razor & Tie Records.
Charm City Devils – Battle
Here’s a BOLD prediction: Assuming they haven’t already sold their rock-n-roll souls to the devil himself, then the Baltimore, Maryland hard rock band, Charm City Devils, could be a really big deal.
After listening to the first song, “Tear it Apart,” from their third studio album, Battle, Charm City Devils brought me back to the mid-eighties and now defunct legendary clubs like Washington D.C.’s The Bayou and Baltimore’s Hammerjacks – where bands like Kix, Poison, Ratt, and even Guns N’ Roses all once played. That being said, I was not surprised to learn that Charm City Devils front man, John Allen, was formally the drummer of Child’s Play who also rocked the Hammerjacks stage back in the day.
On Battle, Charm City Devils travel back in time to rip the essence from those hard-working, hard-rocking bands of the eighties and drive it head first into our rock-n-roll guts. But don’t worry folks, it’s a much healthier version. Still that great hard rock punch but 100% Glam-Free and easily digestible thanks to a variety of power-packed songs accentuated by John Allen’s unique voice.
Highlights include the harmonica-laced “Crucify” that will have you stomping a hole in the floor, “Want” – what a song might sound like if a Rolling Stones tune and an AC/DC ditty had a baby – and “Rich and Famous,” a road anthem and, perhaps, a glimpse into Charm City Devils promising future? Who knows?
When all is said and done, can anyone really predict who will make it big and who will not? If I could then I would be driving a much better car and wouldn’t have a copy of Ugly Kid Joe’s “America’s Least Wanted” in my music collection. But that won’t stop me from sticking with my original prophecy: Charm City Devils are the modern version of old-school rock-n-roll and they are due!
Lenny Kravitz – Strut
Lenny Kravitz is so smooth I bet he never wears out a pair of shoes…he just glides across his universe that is sex and soul and funkadelic rock-n-roll.
As I listened to Kravitz’s latest album, Strut, I indeed found myself strutting (I’m not smooth enough to glide) along to a collection of powerfully funky and fun songs that display a level of musical maturity that I found quite invigorating. While the theme of love remains central throughout his musical career – Strut included – Kravitz continues to evolve rather than, to the chagrin of some, remain stuck in a relationship that goes 26 years back to the good old Let Love Rule days.
Just as sex is a great way to start the day, “Sex” is a great way to start Lenny Kravitz’s tenth studio album in which he plays most of the instruments. If this song doesn’t make you want to get up out of your seat and get funky, well, you need to check your pulse because you might just be dead. It only gets groovier with pulsating songs like “The Chamber,” “Strut,” and “I’m A Believer.”
And just when your pulse has reached its limit, Kravitz eases you back down with sweet and soulful songs like “She’s A Beast” and “I Never Want to Let You Down.”
The last song on the album, the cigarette after some good sex, is a cover of The Miracles 1965 hit single, “Ooo Baby Baby.” Here’s a fitting end to an excellent album about the ups and downs of love and, for me, elevates Lenny Kravitz to a level that would make Smokey Robinson proud.
Nickelback – No Fixed Address
I’m not going to lie. When I was asked to review Nickelback’s new album I was not overcome with excitement and I did not jump for joy. Then again, I wasn’t exactly upset either. I felt indifferent but I wasn’t sure why. Truth is I didn’t know much about Nickelback so I gave it some thought and came up with a list of everything I did know:
Nickelback is a commercially successful Canadian rock band.
They had a popular song called “Rockstar” some years back.
They made a video for “Rockstar” that was probably better than the song itself.
They are often in the conversation as the most hated band in the world.
Did I mention they are Canadian?
So that’s my list and what really stood out for me was the irony of being the world’s most hated commercially successful rock band. How could that be? Successful yet hated? I had to find out for myself so I doubled up on my long johns, laced up my hiking boots, and headed out into the Great White North and Nickelback’s 8th studio album, No Fixed Address.
When I emerged days later I was cold, slightly disoriented, but no worse for wear. What I discovered is that if you are a fan of Nickelback then you won’t be disappointed with this album. There is no “Rockstar” but it’s got all of the ingredients that likely attracted you to them in the first place – a collection of catchy, pop rock-worthy tunes that might make you tap your feet, break out your thumb drums, and even bob your head if you’re not careful.
Of course there will be those diehard Nickelback fans (every band has them) who were “there” in the dive bars of Hanna, Alberta, back in ’95 who will only ever like their first two albums. They will certainly question the techno enhancing of lead singer Chad Kroeger’s voice in “Million Miles An Hour” or the guest appearance of rapper, Flo Rida on “Got Me Runnin Round.” Although those songs are not bad, it’s hard to argue with those Nickelback purest as the songs feel a little too contrived.
As for me, I’m still indifferent. Call me neutral, like Canada. Although I have a new found understanding of Nickelback, on a Saturday night I’d prefer an ice cold Molson Golden and a good hockey game. But if a song from No Fixed Address came on between periods I certainly wouldn’t hate them for it and I might even break out my thumb drums.