Alcatrazz, V (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Los Angeles metal band Alcatrazz returns with their fifth long-player, simply titled V.

Alcatrazz started almost forty years ago in California. Its first phase lasted from about 1983 to 1987 when a hiatus ensued, but not before the band released three albums. Picking back up in 2007, a touring incarnation was in place for a few years. Most recently, Alcatrazz came together again on the edge of the pandemic, putting out the well-received Born Innocent album in 2020. And now, in rapid succession, we have V. The band is Jimmy Waldo (keyboards), Gary Shea (bass), Doogie White (vocals), Joe Stump (guitar), and Mark Benquechea (drums).

The opening song “Guardian Angel” has a real Iron Maiden feel to it, and I mean that in a good way. The delivery lays over on the radio-ready side, even with the ripping guitar shreds. The music is heavily layered and produced, resulting a very polished final product. It goes down smooth. A fine way to start the album.

The keyboards have a large presence throughout the set and they work well with the vocal style. In some ways it is like the second phase of Deep Purple except, again, more in the pop lane. The singer Doogie White is well known, after all, for his vocal performances with Rainbow and Rising Force (among others) so you recognize his signature sound immediately and the compositions are designed with synergy in mind. For me, the music is solidly created and the existence of big lead breaks makes every song worthwhile. Witness “Nightwatch.”

While the music does operate in a definable universe, it offers considerably variety, too. One of my favorite songs is the bluesy “House Of Lies,” and then there is the solemn heavy ballad “Dark Day For My Soul.” Rollicking tunes abound as well as in “Blackheart” and “Target.” There is an old school sensibility here that is tuned into a contemporaneous awareness that results in a new and unique sound. Recommended.

The new album is out now through Silver Lining Music in digipak, digital, and streaming formations.

Band photo by Alex Solca.

Links.

Alcatrazz website, http://www.alcatrazzofficial.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/alcatrazzband

Silver Lining Music, http://sl-music.net/en/releases/259-artists/releases-alcatrazz/984-v

Alcatrazz, V (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Void Vator, Great Fear Rising (Ripple Music 2021)

The new set from Los Angeles metal masters Void Vator will shake the winter off you and get you reaching for the moon and stars.

Stranded came out in 2019 and I knew immediately this was a band I needed to keep track of. The music was crisp and piercing, fast and ferocious, and wrapped up in a delivery system that went straight into your bloodstream. “Put Away Wet,” “Everything Sucks,” “Monster” … one song after another a festival for your ears, and endless reservoir of adrenaline. The music is up-tempo metal fearlessly riffy and recklessly speedy on the curves.

“I Can’t Take It” is a disruptor, the perfect attention-getter. What’s this, you think, and it gets you walking that way. “I Want More” is second on the album and if anything it is a notch up on the frantic. A more urgent clip, a tenser atmosphere. The vocals are stabbing in the verses and salving in the chorus. The lead break is a blur or whirling blades. “There’s Something Wrong With Us” is Caesar crossing the Rubicon. There’s no turning back after you hear it.

“Great Fear Rising” strikes a monumental accord while “MacGyver’s Mullet” is a clipper cruising down country roads in the summertime steam. Something here for everyone – “Poltergeist” has an eerie story with a sinister feel and “Infierno” feeds into delirium like Act II of Peer Gynt. There are all manner of shades and tints on the album and for me nothing to dislike. I would call it a step up from the previous record even though I don’t have any serious criticisms about that earlier one, either. What you get here is great hard-hitting music flowing from every opening and crack.

Out now from Ripple Music, Great Fear Rising will sign you up to the Void Vator legion forever. Recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://voidvator.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/voidvator/

Void Vator, Great Fear Rising (Ripple Music 2021)

Dirty Honey, The Dirty Honey Album (2021)

The long-awaited debut album from Los Angeles blues-rock band Dirty Honey is out this week.

Marc LaBelle (vocals), John Notto (guitars), Justin Smolian (bass), and Corey Coverstone (drums) are Dirty Honey, a 1970s-influenced hard rock band that blends blues stylings seamlessly into their music. I saw them live several times in 2019 and the show they put on was always a highlight of any music festival.

The band has previously released an EP in 2019, and two of the singles from it were big hits, “Rolling 7s” and “When I’m Gone.” They find a way in every song to get your attention, sometimes with a big front and sometimes with a subtle insinuation. Every track’s a keeper and they all make you feel like being outside and living life whether the story the song tells is raucous or sad.

The first single off the new album is “California Dreamin’” and it is a goodtime rocker with catchy hooks and a great lead break. Opening the album as it does, it’s your first pass at LaBelle’s voice and it is at once lyrical and forceful, insistent and understanding. All the pieces of the band match up in rare ways that create consistent appeal to rock fans across a wide range of inclinations.

Other favorites of mine include “Tied Up” and “No Warning” because of the rhythm and the way elements land – all the separate parts can be heard on their own and when your brain puts them all together there is synergy. Of the eight songs on the album, seven of are up-tempo, straight-ahead rock songs. The closer is “Another Last Time” and while it is a little more on the somber side than the others, it has a big lead break and it is a powerful send-off for the set. I’d be glad to hear all of these songs live and I hope we get the chance to do that later this year. Recommended.

The Dirty Honey Album is out on Friday, April 23rd. Get your summer started early – music and merch can be found at the link below.

Live photo by Wayne Edwards, 2019 Sonic Temple Festival.

Links.

Dirty Honey Website, https://www.dirtyhoney.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/DirtyHoneyMusic/

Dirty Honey, The Dirty Honey Album (2021)

Terror, Sink To The Hell (War Records 2020)

Four songs is all it takes to make this Terror EP a must-have for 2020.

Terror is a hardcore metal band from Los Angeles who enjoy well-deserved stature in that music scene. Fast, loud, and off center, their music always gets a rise out of fans. Sink To The Hell collects songs that have been released individually this year as singles so you can have them all in one place.

This music comes from excavating material that had been recorded in the past but never released to the public. Here are the details from the press release: “‘Sink To The Hell’ and ‘The New Beginning’ were resurrected from the Live By The Code sessions, ‘Don’t Need Your Time’ is from the Keepers Of The Faith demo sessions – with new vocals recorded in 2020 to complete the track and featuring Jesse Barnett of Stick To Your Guns – and ‘You Lost All Respect’ is also from the Keepers Of The Faith demo sessions with updated drums, additional guitars, and vocals.” So it is not just a couple of songs scraped from the bottom of the can. These four were curated and finished to the same level as the rest of the band’s music.

All the songs rip, but my favorite is “A New Beginning” – I just love the opening riff and the cunning vocals. Each piece is in the two minute range so they crack then get the fuck out. I can’t believe these almost didn’t see the light of day. If it hadn’t been for what’s been this year, these might have remained where they were. Something good came out of 2020 after all. Recommended.

Sink To The Hell is available right now at Bandcamp and all the regular places. Check out the War Records website for all sorts of variants, additional music, and merch.

Band photo by Becca Lader.

Links.

Terror, https://www.sticktight.la

Terror Bandcamp, https://terror.bandcamp.com/

Terror Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/terrorhardcore

War Records, http://www.war-rec.com

War Records Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/WARRECORDS.HC

Terror, Sink To The Hell (War Records 2020)

System of A Down, Protect The Land single review (2020)

After fifteen years, new music from System of a Down appears via the single Protect The Land.

To get an idea of the motivation behind the release of these songs, here is an excerpt from the band’s press release.

We as System Of A Down have just released new music for the first time in 15 years. The time to do this is now, as together, the four of us have something extremely important to say as a unified voice. These two songs, “Protect The Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz” both speak of a dire and serious war being perpetrated upon our cultural homelands of Artsakh and Armenia.

We’re proud to share these songs with you and hope you enjoy listening to them. Further, we encourage you to read on to learn more about their origins and once you do, hope you are inspired to speak out about the horrific injustices and human rights violations occurring there now. Most importantly and urgently, we humbly implore you to donate, in sums small or large to help those adversely affected with what are ever growing accounts of crimes against humanity.

There is a lot more to it, and you can read about at on the band’s Bandcamp page, Facebook, etc. Links below.

L-R: Daron Malakian, Serj Tankian, Shavo Odadjian, John Dolmayan

The two new songs are well in line with the signature sound of System of a Down. “Protect The Land” starts with a heavy guitar riff to establish the tone. The lyrics follow the message noted in the press release and the vocals are melodic and insistent. “Genocidal Humanoidz” has a much more frantic tempo demonstrating the hysteria the title portrays. The songs are very different to each other, showing separate musical sides of the band.

The single is out now. Give it a listen for the music and donate to the cause if you want to. I saw System of a Down a couple years ago at Aftershock in Sacramento and even without new music for such a long time, the show was just amazing. It is nice to have these two new songs, and I hope there will be more on the way in the coming months. But even if they never released another note, I would still go see them whenever I could. Recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://systemofadown.bandcamp.com/

Website, https://systemofadown.com/#home

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqmknZNg1yw&feature=youtu.be

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/systemofadown

System of A Down, Protect The Land single review (2020)

Armored Saint, Punching The Sky review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

For more than thirty five years, Armored Saint has been banging eardrums. They are back to do it again with Punching The Sky.

“March of the Saint” is the first song on the first album in 1984, March Of The Saint. It starts like a coronation march; a grand entrance. Then the guitars roll out and the 1980s metal vocals hit. That song has a fast tempo and a snappy lead break. What a great way to get started, and “Seducer” is on that album, too – one of my all-time favorites from Armored Saint. The band released three more albums through 1991 before taking a break for a while. They returned in 2000 with Revelation and formally reformed in 2006, releasing La Raza in 2010 and Win Hands Down in 2015. They have updated their sound over the years with new recording technology and so on but the heart of the band never strayed, and neither did their dedication to the idea of heavy metal.

The band for the new album is original members John Bush (vocals), Joey Vera (bass), Phil Sandoval (guitar), and Gonzo Sandoval (drums), who are joined once again by long-time guitarist Jeff Duncan. They lay down eleven big tracks for Punching The Sky, starting with “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” which has the album’s title in the refrain. The music is vigorous, infused with loud attitude to go along with the rumbling riffs and roaring lead guitar splits. “Bubble” is a contentious number with a more serious tone than many of the other songs, while “Lone Wolf” has a clandestine opening riff and “Fly in the Ointment” is more reflective. At every turn, Armored Saint delivers heavy music longtime fans will embrace and that will catch the attention of new listeners as well. Recommended.

Punching The Sky is out Friday, October 23rd from Metal Blade Records, where you can get merch bundles. Bandcamp is the quick way to grab the digital download.

Links.

Band website, http://armoredsaint.com

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/thearmoredsaint

Bandcamp, https://armoredsaint.bandcamp.com/

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/us/

Armored Saint, Punching The Sky review (Metal Blade Records 2020)