At BraveWords we’re doing our annual look back on the year that was, with each scribe offering up their respective lists of Hots and Nots of 2015. My rundown is available below; the original version along with links to the other members of my BraveWords family can be found here.
Top 20 Albums Of 2015
1) QUEENSRŸCHE – Condition Hüman (Century Media)
2) CRADLE OF FILTH – Hammer Of The Witches (Nuclear Blast)
3) KAMELOT – Haven (Napalm Records)
4) CHILDREN OF BODOM – I Worship Chaos (Nuclear Blast)
5) SYMPHONY X – Underworld (Nuclear Blast)
6) DANKO JONES – Fire Music (Bad Taste)
7) GRAVE – Out Of Respect For The Dead (Century Media)
8) DEAD LORD – Heads Held High (Century Media)
9) CHRIS CAFFERY – Your Heaven Is Real (Metalville)
10) SLAYER – Repentless (Nuclear Blast)
11) HELLOWEEN – My God-Given Right (Nuclear Blast)
12) NONEXIST – Throne Of Scars (Mighty Music)
13) FEAR FACTORY – Genexus (Nuclear Blast)
14) STRYPER – Fallen (Frontiers)
15) CIRCLE II CIRCLE – Reign Of Darkness (earMusic)
16) THE V – Now Or Never (Frontiers)
17) STRATOVARIUS – Eternal (earMusic)
18) ANNIHILATOR – Suicide Society (UDR)
19) LEAVES’ EYES – King Of Kings (AFM)
20) MOTÖRHEAD – Bad Magic (UDR) Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Some folks might remember Mötley Crüe frontman Vince Neil’s debut solo album from 1993, Exposed, put together after he ditched the band. It was a scorcher featuring Neil backed by the likes of Phil Soussan (ex-Ozzy Osbourne), Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees) and Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) as songwriters and / or players, pretty much stomping on everything the Crüe did following Dr. Feelgood (which still holds true to this day). Former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach’s new solo record, Give ‘Em Hell, is similar in that he’s surrounded himself with greatness and coughed up music that stands at least toe-to-toe with his previous outing Kicking & Screaming, if not crushing it entirely. Time will tell.
Fact is a lot of people thought Bach was screwed after firing guitarist Nick Sterling, one of the main songwriters on Kicking & Screaming. Instead, he and his backbone – producer Bob Marlette and drummer Bobby Jarzombeck – went into the studio all guns and speed dial blazing, calling on Duff McKagan (ex-Guns N’ Roses / bass), Steve Stevens (guitars) and John 5 (Rob Zombie / guitars) to join the party. As a result, Give ‘Em Hell is ballsier, more aggressive and much darker than Kicking & Screaming, with more than a few eyebrow-raising moments thrown in to induce shit-eating grins amongst the diehard fans.
You’re not going to find anything as over-the-top and raging as ‘Slave To The Grind’ on Give ‘Em Hell, but there’s no shortage of fireworks. Opening track ‘Hell Inside My Head’ is distinctly Baz and perfect for the jump start, but it’s the Subhuman Race-era Skid Row-ish tracks ‘Harmony’ and ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ (the demented sister of ‘Eileen’) that set the tone for the album. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
With a library of albums under his belt – from Sodom in the early ’90s to Powergod, The Traceelords, and a few solo outings since then – vocalist/guitarist/producer Andy Brings seems to have finally found a place to call home.
Double Crush Syndrome is his new lease on musical life, a three-piece band hinting of everything from The Ramones to Baz-era Skid Row to The Mamas & The Papas. Yep, pretty basic three chord punch on the surface but big on the singalong hooks, with tracks ‘Yeah! Pain!’ and ‘She’s A Pistol’ sucking you in from the start even though you might be of a mind to dismiss it as pap. The You Filter is in fact a reminder that the Keep It Simple Stupid formula does work. ‘Blood On My Shirt’ and ‘Fuck You IS My Answer’ see DCS channeling Skid Row – ‘Get The Fuck Out’ and ‘Riot Act’ come to mind – while ‘I’m In Love With You’ and ‘With Me’ go in the opposite direction as two ‘60s cheese-flavoured tracks that deftly (thankfully) avoid the Travolta / Newton John Grease trap. An impressive collection of garage-band-with-skills songs, middle finger anthem ‘Die For Rock N’ Roll’, ‘We Cannot Be Ruled’ and ‘Blood On My Shirt’ coming in as the faves of the moments, all shred and attitude served up old school with choruses that stick. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Maybe it was a full moon, the previous evening’s entertainment, or a case of pre-flight jitters, but my first run through Kicking & Screaming left me cold and underwhelmed. Bach’s voice was shot full of holes, the songs were toothless, and there were too many damn ballads to be take the album title seriously. The 21-year-old fanboy rattling inside my brain was having none of it, however, and for the next month at home in Toronto the album received regular airplay on a set of cheap-ass portable iPod speakers (due to a bizarre gardening accident involving the car stereo). Slowly but surely, Kicking & Screaming revealed its true self. By the time it hit the big metalhead approved junk-in-the-trunk office sound system, there was no choice but to drown those first impressions.
Putting the bottom line before wiseguy prose, this is the album Skid Row wishes they could cough up. Call it shades and reflections of the Skids’ classic first two albums (the self-titled debut and Slave To The Grind). And while there’s no ‘Youth Gone Wild’, ’18 & Life’ or ‘Monkey Business’ to be had after a dozen listens, it far surpasses anything Baz’ former bandmates have done since Johnny Sollinger was tapped to try and follow the Bacharoo Banzai Show.
The jury is still out on whether it overpowers Bach’s previous ton of bricks, Angel Down, as Kicking & Screaming is a grower that has to be absorbed over time rather than pounded back like a free Jäger shot. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
I recently caught up with Danko Jones to discuss his new album, Below The Belt, and because he and I both call Toronto home conversation invariably turned to Canadian metal – past and present – and growing up on the local scene back in the day. One topic of discussion was vocalist Sebastian Bach, easily the loudest personality of that era. Baz was also the man that put Skid Row on the map back in 1989 and took the band’s voice, face and fame with him when he got the boot in 1996. Danko, an admitted Bach fan, toured with him on the January 2010 Canadian leg of the current Guns N’ Roses tour, an experience he would be only too happy to repeat. He looks back on sharing the road with his fellow former Willowdale native… ironically, the same part of town where I grew up. It’s a small world.
Danko: “Growing up in Toronto and going to shows, my biggest goal was to play the Concert Hall because that where all the shows I went to were. That level of band to me was ‘You made it!’ If you could get on a tour and be the first of three bands on a night, you were in. I remember seeing Testament, Savatage and Nuclear Assault there; Nuclear Assault were first up and for me it was like ‘Aw man, they made it!’. So sometimes when we get on those tours where we’re first of three I have to remind myself that that’s what I wanted (laughs).”
Part 2 of my 2005 coverage of SAIGON KICK drummer Phil Varone’s fall-from-grace documentary Waking Up Dead featuring an interview with the man himself, originally published by BW&BK. Call it a dose of “rock star” reality…
Phil Varone entered the heavy metal arena in 1991 with Saigon Kick, a little known band from Florida that would go on to become a cult favourite on the metal scene before imploding in the mid-90’s. Varone would take part in a Saigon Kick reunion tour in 2000 – reportedly where his troubles with drugs began in earnest – and would eventually resurface with Skid Row, going on to record on their comeback album, Thickskin, in 2003. The tour that followed and the addictions that went with it ultimately brought Varone crashing to earth. He’s clean now, however, focusing on his second chance at life.
“I’ve been off drugs for a while now,” Varone says. “I go to my cardiologist regularly, I go the gym six days a week, I have a trainer, so I’ve really done a 180 with my life and I feel great. I’ve never felt better, to be quite honest with you.”
According to Varone, it took leaving Skid Row and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle behind to bring about the change in his lifestyle.
“Basically, my doctor said that if I went back out on the road I was going to die” he reveals. “I made the decision at that point to quit what I was doing and clean up. I went through some mild heart attack situations on the road that we actually have on tape, got close to overdosing a couple times, all that shit. Bottom line is that the music industry and being on the road exposed me to a lot of things. My decision to stop touring was for health reasons, and because I also have children that I need to take care of, to be around. When we decided to do this movie and we had all this interest in it, I saw that I could help people with it. Waking Up Dead is part of my rehabilitation.” Continue Reading