W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint brought their show to middle Ohio on the first day of December and Versailles will never be the same.
Celebrating forty years of musical mayhem, Los Angeles metal band W.A.S.P. is on a tear. Fronted by Blackie Lawless, W.A.S.P. has released some of my favorite metal albums over the years, including The Last Command (1985), The Headless Cross (1989), and The Crimson Idol (1992). In the ensuing decades, many more albums emerged – some that took big chances, as in K.F.D. (1997), and the two-part concept album, The Neon God (2004). Through it all, the musical mastery of the band never waned. This show is a big deal for fans especially because W.A.S.P. has not toured in the US for ten long years. It has been a grueling wait, but our patience was rewarded by an incredible spectacle on Thursday night.
The venue was BMI Event Center in Versailles, Ohio. By the way, in the Buckeye State they pronounce the ells in Versailles. The facility is an indoor speedway, but I know it best as a facility to host concerts. It is a unique place with a 1,500-seat capacity, including 300+ balcony seats. For this show, seats and tables were placed in the main floor area, with risers in the back offering good views of the stage from every angle.
The opening band was Armored Saint, another legendary LA metal band also celebrating their fortieth anniversary this year. These two are a great match for each other, and they came together synergistically for an exceptional show. Armored Saint’s most recent album is 2020’s Punching The Sky, an excellent record we reviewed positively here at FFMB.
Armored Saint played songs from across their many albums, starting with “Reign Of Fire” and ending with “March Of The Saint.” We did get to hear music from the latest, and they played “Symbol Of Salvation” from the album of the same name – one of their most recognized works. Cheers all around.
The headliner was next. Blackie Lawless and crew took the stage, which was itself adorned with carnival-style posters, some of which recalled songs from W.A.S.P. albums. They opened with a medley of hits, and, with few pauses, ran through most of the songs I had on my mind from “Inside The Electric Circus” to “Chainsaw Charly” to “Wild Child” and “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast).” While there was a notable focus on music from The Crimson Idol, which was fine by me, Lawless did not neglect other fan favorites. The band sounded excellent, and the energy was crackling from the stage and out into the crowd. It was a fantastic show.
W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint have a few more dates remaining (at this writing) on the US leg of the tour, so see them while you can. Beginning next Spring, W.A.S.P. will be in the UK to keep the music rolling when they kick off their European tour. Here’s hoping they never stop.
Michael Schenker’s 50th Anniversary Universal world tour made a stop at Piere’s last week in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Michael Schenker is a guitar legend. From his earliest work with the Scorpions (along with his brother Rudolf and Klaus Meine) and, more significantly, UFO, Schenker has been a non-stop force in hard rock for decades. He originally put together the Michael Schenker Group initially in 1978, and it has drifted apart and reformed a few times over the years. The current tour is in support of the band’s latest album, Universal (Atomic Fire 2022).
The show opened with Images of Eden, a metal band from Pennsylvania. Supporting their current EP, Weathered And Torn, Gordon Tittsworth and company performed a style of music that is a combination of classic metal and modern rock that relies heavily on the impassioned vocal delivery the band has become known for.
Eric Martin of Mr. Big fame had the middle set. On the current tour, Martin plays acoustic guitar and sings songs that are a little bit dialed back from what Mr. Big fans might be used to hearing from him. His set was excellent, performing with veteran musicians and interacting with the crowd at Piere’s.
Michael Schenker’s set started with him walking out on stage and announcing the first song, “Into the Arena,” an instrumental opener that sparked a fire. Schenker then introduced front man Ronnie Romero who took the stage and led with “Cry For The Nations.” The combination of Romero and Schenker is formidable to say the least. The show was amazing, and my favorite part was hearing all those UFO tunes live once again. The Michael Schenker Group is one of those bands I never get tired of seeing.
Michael Schenker Group is on tour for the rest of the month and into November in the US – check out the tour poster for cities and dates. Also look for more photos of all three bands in the coming days at FFMB. Links to the photo galleries will be added in this article as they each go live.
Purpendicular release a new album, their first in five years: Human Mechanic.
The band was started in 2007 by Irish singer Robby Thomas Walsh as a Deep Purple cover band. Since then it has evolved quite a lot. Ian Paice joined in along the way, and the new record has all original material that, while it might be reminiscent of some Deep Purple music, is definitely not a copy. Walsh and Paiuce are joined by musicians Nick Fyffe (bass), Christoph Kogler (keys), and Herbert Bucher (guitar).
“The Nothing Box” swings open the door with a slow build. You hear effects and then separate instruments – Hammond Organ, guitar – before they all come together in a bluesy construction that is irresistible. The vocals, keys, and guitars take turns at the front of the stage, and they all make lasting impressions. “Ghost” lays down a strong yet low-key tone and has nice funky moments, as well as an ethereal lead guitar break, that help propel it to the next level. “No One’s Getting Out Alive” is a radio-length song that crackles with energy and simmers with subdued enthusiasm.
This albums rocks, and while it does put you in mind of the original inspiring source, the music has its own place in the world. I especially appreciate the depth of the title track and its many callbacks. “Made Of Steel” is beautifully quiet song while “Four Stone Walls” gets right in your face and shakes you up. The final track of the set is “Passing Through,” and it begins on notes of solitude. You can take away many different things from this short instrumental piece, ranging from sadness to inspiration. For me it is a nice cooldown to an excellent album. Recommended.
Human Mechanic is out through Metalville Records on Friday, September 23rd.
Satan’s follow-up to 2018’s Cruel Magic is a speeding vortex that raises the flag even higher: Earth Infernal.
Satan is a band from Newcastle that formed around 1979. They were part of the actual New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, they have laid down five full-length albums – six counting the new one – and a truckload of EPs, compilations, and live albums. The group has gone through many changes over the years, more than you might even expect even for such a long-lived band. Notably, they changed their name several times (Pariah, Blind Fury), disbanded and reformed. They re-solidified in 2011 and, starting in 2013, released three monstrous albums in a row, Life Sentence (2103), Atom By Atom (2015), and Cruel Magic (2018). Earth Infernal stretches the string winning albums to four in a row. The band is Brian Ross (vocals), Russ Tippins (guitar), Steve Ramsey (guitar), Graeme English (bass), and Sean Taylor (drum).
The metal is high-energy and clocks in at pace. “Ascendancy” pierces the veil with a rowdy, driving rhythm and eager guitar passages. “Burning Portrait” mixes the pace a little, and then “Twelve Infernal Lords” ratchets up the drama and mystery, recalling often returned-to themes. I could say that some of the music is reminiscent of this or that band but of course it is the other way around, isn’t it – Satan is an original.
There are some quiet passages, but they are mood-setting and don’t last long. For example, “Mercury’s Shadow” has a soft opening but in less than a minute the metal takes a swing on this reflective instrumental track. For that matter, “A Sorrow Unspent” has an airy casualness when it begins but soon turns toward a swirling attack of unhesitating, pulsing guitars.
Side Two has just as much innovation and transforming musicality as the first half. “Poison Elegy” is a good example, and one of my favorites from the entire set. It has drama, tempo changes, fantastic soaring vocals, and guitar work that comes at you from every angle. Throughout the album, the pairing of guitars is unique and compelling, sometimes tag-teaming individual passages and at other times playing in unison. “Earth We Bequeath” has the final say on the record, and it seals the deal. This is another great Satan album. Recommended.
Earth Infernal is out on Friday, April 1st through Metal Blade Records. Check out the links below for vinyl variants and other versions.
Hard rock legends Scorpions have a new studio album out, Rock Believer.
I write a lot about the early days of my heavy music listening, but the hard rock avenue is one I have spoken less about. The three bands in this lane that meant the most to me back in the day where Judas Priest, Scorpions, and Thin Lizzy (they put out a couple of hard rock albums there in a row). Phil Lynott was lost first, and so Thin Lizzy. Judas Priest had a few rough years but they are still tearing up the stage today. Scorpions were more famous by far than the other two, and they had some killer albums I still listen to like Lovedrive (1979), Animal Magnetism (1980), and Blackout (1982). But really, it weas the earlier albums that made the biggest impression on me – Fly To The Rainbow (1974), In Trance (1975), Virgin Killer (1976), and especially Taken By Force (1977). I even have affection for the sometimes-maligned Lonesome Crow (1972). These first few albums were raw, drawn straight from the core of the musicians’ hard rock hive. The later albums are more polished and, as time went on, they became increasingly designed for a broader audience. To me, every album, all nineteen of them, sound like Scorpions music, and on that level I like them all.
After the mega-hits and mega-stardom, the world at large heard less and less about Scorpions music, but fans could tell you that the band continued to produce albums on a regular, but less frequent, cycle all the way through. It has been seven years since Return To Forever, so the universe is more than ready for Rock Believer.
The line-up is Rudolf Schenker (guitar, backing vocals), Klaus Meine (vocals), Matthias Jabs (guitar), Paweł Mąciwoda (bass), and Mikkey Dee (drums). Schenker and Meine, of course, go back to the earliest days, and Jabs has been there since the seventies. Mąciwoda seems almost like a newcomer, even though he has played with the band for nearly two decades. Legendary drummer Mikkey Dee joined a few years back after Lemmy’s passing saw the end of Motörhead. A formidable group of musicians if ever there was one.
As soon as the needle drops on “Gas In The Tank” you know you have stepped into Scorpions world. Layered guitars, catchy melodies, sharp leads, and the unmistakable voice of Klaus Meine, sounding fantastic. “Roots In My Boots” has the raw energy so much in evidence on the Blackout album, updated and refined, while “Knock ’em Dead” is a new creature altogether. There is a lot going on with the new album.
The singles released in advance of the album were the title track and “Peacemaker.” Fans have probably heard these already. The album overall leans a little more toward the “Peacemaker” kind of song with all its raucous energy. There are a few introspective, rock-ballad-type songs (and passages within songs) that serve to balance the music out – something that Scorpions have always been expert at achieving.
Nineteen is a lot of albums, but fans will always clamor for more. This one is a very good one. Recommended.
Rock Believer is out now through Spinefarm Records. You can get it everywhere. Check out the links below, and look for the deluxe edition with additional songs.
The fifth album from The Neptune Power Federation is the best one yet: Le Demon De L’Amour.
I thoroughly enjoyed the previous album from The Neptune Power Federation, Memoirs of a Rat Queen (2019). Indeed, that one was the first I had heard from the Australian heavy rock band and it turned me all the way around. I vowed at the time to see them live as soon as humanly possible and I still haven’t done it yet – any US dates coming up? The music is an energetic hard rock that has some retro components but lives firmly in the here and now. The stage names of the musicians in the band are Screaming Loz Sutch (vocals), Search and DesTroy (guitar), Inverted CruciFox (guitar), Jaytanic Ritual (bass), and River Sticks (drums).
The song you might have heard already is “My Precious One” as it is the advance single and there is a video of it floating around YouTube. If you haven’t heard it yet, drop everything and listen now – it’s a banger. If that song doesn’t make you want to listen to the rest of the album then I don’t know what. Fast, hooky, with a great guitar in the riff and lead, and the fiercely emotive vocals combine to make this a radio hit (if there was still radio). It is a great song, and I would recommend the album on the strength of it alone, but there is more.
Le Demon De L’Amour is a set of eight hard-edge, deep-cutting love songs. While on the surface that might not sound so great for a metalhead like me, the actual music is incredible. Filled with heavy psych, hooks and breaks, and deeply soulful vocals, The Neptune Power Federation is taking the love song back for the heavy music crowd.
The album begins with the eight-minute epic “Weeping On The Morn.” It is a massive rock and roll homage that dips into many corners. The single “My Precious One” cracks next and then the funky “Baby You’re Mine” struts out. There are so many great looks in just the first three songs it is hard to count them all. All the tracks are up-tempo, and each one has its own intrigue. “Stay With Thee” is one of my favorites, “Madly In Love” appeals to my contrarian side. My full list of favorites would be eight songs long so I’ll just leave it there.
If you don’t know about them yet then you need to get your life together and listen to The Neptune Power Federation. Highly recommended.
Le Demon De L’Amour is out on February 18th through Cruz Del Sur Music. Bandcamp is the easy way to get it in the US.