Alien Alright’s ‘The Exodus Is Here’ is ‘exciting progressive rock’

Posted in Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock with tags , , , , on August 5, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail

Written by James Wall

Alien Alright

The Exodus Is Here

“The Exodus Is Here” isn’t quite the extraterrestrial rock that you’d expect from the album’s title and the artist’s name; however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t strange. If Faith No More had existed in the ’70s, they would’ve produced music not too far off (and definitely far out) like Alright does here. For example, the opening cut “Vintage Music” is all over the map, switching from headbanging metal to English art rock to pseudo-rapping before Alright kicks into Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” WTF? Indeed.

But there is a method to the madness here. Alright is looking back to the days when rock had no rigid boundaries, an attitude only a few contemporaries such as System of a Down and Radiohead share. However, Alright’s mixed bag of stylistic detours isn’t some high-brow statement; you can tell that he’s just cutting loose, enjoying the creative freedoms of being your only bandmate and not having a record label to push you around. The result is exciting progressive hard rock with a definite blues base (check out “Underdog Appeal,” “Unsigned and Proud,” and “Record Store Blues”).

Throttlecaster delivers thinking man’s heavy metal on ‘Restless Journey’

Posted in Grunge, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal with tags , on July 10, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail

Written by James Wall


Restless Journey

For Throttlecaster lead singer/guitarist Erko Nomm, the Restless Journey of the title is a personal one. The lyrics on the album reflect his experiences living under Soviet rule in Estonia. Knowing this trivia adds depth and context to Nomm’s songs. Even a track as seemingly superficial (yet quite entertaining) as “Traffic” can be interpreted as Nomm’s newly found freedom after having relocated to Canada.

Like Metallica or Queensrÿche, Throttlecaster are a thinking’s man heavy-metal band. “Late at night I look at the stars/I wonder what it’s like on the other side,” Nomm sings on “Chrome and Steel,” and you can easily imagine it from the perspective of a teenager in Estonia fantasizing about a better life in the West. Without getting too caught up in the sentimental or introspective aspects of Throttlecaster’s songs, the music is intensely melodic hard rock with ear-grabbing riffs throughout the whole CD. The heaviest might be “Iron Fist” with its pulverizing machine-gun rhythms while the Metallica punch of “Deep Down” and the bass-booming “Mortal Man” will keep you headbanging until dawn.

The Veins throb with the ‘hellbound guitars’ of Alice in Chains

Posted in Grunge, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail

Written by James Wall

The Veins

The Price of Blood and Gold

One hopes that hard rockers the Veins don’t get confused with Next Big Thing flops the Vines, which the media and critics tried to pump up as the Second Coming of Nirvana nearly a decade ago. The Veins are nothing like them. Although the influence of Seattle grunge is just as apparent, the Veins look more to Alice in Chains’ axe man Jerry Cantrell for inspiration than the late Kurt Cobain. Like Cantrell’s work, the leads here are thick with drama and ominous, pulsating riffs, a lava-hot marriage of blues and metal. The incendiary “Surfin’ On Gasoline” is fueled by slamming, explosive guitars that would easily receive a thumbs up from Cantrell. Unlike poseurs such as Godsmack and Creed, the Veins have pinpointed what made Alice in Chains such a remarkable band. It wasn’t the intensity of Alice in Chains that made them classic; it was their ability, especially Cantrell’s, to reign in the noise with melodic swirls of hellbound guitars.

However, The Price of Blood and Gold isn’t just about worshipping at the altar of Alice in Chains. “Paper Dollar Empire” echoes the Beatles-kissed Britpop of Oasis while acoustic riffs give “Common Cold Remedy” a surprisingly rootsy, Americana feel. But for those with an insatiable appetite to rock, the Veins deliver numerous times. If you don’t think the soloing on “Lonely as a Gun” doesn’t smoke, then your speakers must be busted.

Crown of Mercy: Progressive Metal for Jesus

Posted in Metal Interviews, Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock with tags , , , , , on May 9, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail

Written by James Wall

There are some people who still believe that Christian metal is an oxymoron or even blasphemy. But to the Indiana-based Crown of Mercy, their spiritual faith is profoundly linked to their love of rock music. In this case, their progressive metal stylings is their way of pronouncing their religious beliefs. If you don’t share their Biblical leanings, don’t let it bias you before you hear their music. Crown of Mercy’s album New Beginnings has the guitar wallop of prime Blue Oyster Cult with the dreamy majesty of Queensrÿche.

James Wall: The whole idea of Christian metal is often misunderstood and not always accepted by the spiritual community because of certain hard rock groups’ association with Satanism and witchcraft in the past. Has Crown of Mercy experienced any resentment from conservative Christians because of metal’s notorious reputation?

Crown of Mercy: Hopefully, we can change that stereotype. We just want to use the humble gifts we have to glorify God. There will always be people who don’t like what we do. We can’t focus on that. We have to play what we feel in our souls. We pray that we touch and reach people for Christ. That’s all.

Wall: What secular metal or progressive rock bands do you think come closest to the philosophies that Crown of Mercy embodies?

COM: I do not believe any metal or progressive rock bands come close to our “philosophy.” Our focus is to tell the world about Jesus Christ and his grace. Crown of Mercy’s philosophy is to love God, love others, and all else follows. That is the only real philosophy that we follow. We speak with our music.

Wall: What artists were particularly influential on Crown of Mercy?

COM: (Dirk Werner) Lynch, Schenker, Satriani, Pettrucci, Van Halen, Brad Gillis. (Rick Johnson) Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, Journey with [Steve] Perry, Kansas, Night Ranger. (Mike Reed) Dream Theater, Rush, Kansas, Return to Forever and Spyro Gyra. (Jeremy Richardson) Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Godsmack, Disturbed, Tool.

Wall: The group Stryper were probably the most famous in using heavy metal to deliver Biblical teachings. Do you feel any kinship with them on a musical level?

COM: Not really. We’re both categorized as Christian rock bands but that is about the only thing that is similar about us. Their style leans more to “hair metal” whereas we follow more of the progressive rock sound. I will admit that Michael Sweet has a great voice. I like their music; they are a good band, and I wouldn’t mind hanging out with them.

Wall: How did Crown of Mercy get together?

COM: God said “Dirk call Mike and Rick and start a band.”

Wall: Did you grow up in a Christian family? How did they feel about you listening to heavy metal? Were there any problems?

COM: (Rick Johnson)  Crown of Mercy is a perfect example of God’s love.  We all came from different backgrounds but ended up on the same mission. Were there any problems? Of course there were, for example Mike’s mom bought him Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog thinking it was a Christian album; Dirk heard “turn it down” a lot; Jeremy’s mom didn’t want him listening to hard rock, Mike helped change that, and Rick’s mom punched him in the mouth. None of these problems were too big for God.

Vera Zero conjures the witty punk energy of Superdrag

Posted in Grunge, Punk Rock with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail

Written by James Wall

Vera Zero

War & Peace

Remember Superdrag? Unloved in their time because they didn’t subscribe to Kurt Cobain’s personal anguish and instead brought a witty, energetic take on the punk sweepstakes, Superdrag were admired by a devoted indie cult and a handful of music critics, only to see their underappreciated sarcasm and charm taken to the top of the charts by Harvey Danger. Well, Vera Zero definitely remind me of Superdrag. Songs such as the rave-up “Around the World” and “So What?” are party anthems of the most infectious kind.

So hard to find a band these days that not only rocks but isn’t afraid to show off their bubblegum side. Some of the best punk acts of all time, such as the Buzzcocks, were able to achieve that delicate balance between melodicism and abrasiveness. Even when Vera Zero kick out the jams on the title track, they never lose their sense of rhythm. They even have a soft side as eloquently expressed on “The Heart of Midlothian.” File this with Superdrag, Weezer, and mid-’90s Green Day in your iPod.

‘The Tim Tully Show’ recalls the pop-punk heyday of Green Day’s ‘Dookie’

Posted in Punk Rock with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail

Written by James Wall

Tim Tully

The Tim Tully Show

Those with a nostalgic sweet tooth for Dookie-era Green Day will greet The Tim Tully Show with unrestrained affection. What people are just now starting to realize, with Green Day mostly smoothing over the rough edges of their songs and blatantly exposing their yen for the Beatles’ boyish melodicism, is that they were a pop band at heart. That’s “pop” in the ’60s sense of the word, not the cookie-cutter manufacturing and artificial thump of today’s Top-40 chart hits. With Tim Tully, though, you understand this right away; while his vocal delivery and the jagged guitars of his group may scream punk, the hooks are pure pop. 

“The Way You Look” crackles with spine-tingling drums but it’s the sugar-sweetened ’70s harmonies and punk riffola which take center stage. “Happy” is probably the most Green Day-esque of the bunch, and it’s quite fun as it picks up steam. Every track on The Tim Tully Show is crying to be liked and most of the time I found myself utterly entertained and wanting to spin it again.

‘No Air Guitar Allowed’ is painfully funny guide for concertgoing metalheads

Posted in Metal Books with tags , , , , , , on March 23, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail


Written by James Wall

Steve Weinberger with Sarah Torribio

No Air Guitar Allowed

I am of the firm belief that the only people who should write about heavy metal are metalheads themselves. Like horror films, metal is a genre that isn’t penetrable by critics, especially the elitist mindset that many of them subscribe to. We want to be entertained; we’re not looking for the meaning of life. Although he doesn’t explicitly say it, first-time author Steve Weinberger is a metalhead. His true colors are plasted everywhere on the LOL concert tutorial, No Air Guitar Allowed. In his introduction already, Weinberger talks about seeing Ted Nugent and KISS concerts. No legitimate music reviewer will ever confess to watching Nugent and KISS. From that point on, Weinberger has our attention and an instant approval; he carries our badge with pride.

The tone of Weinberger’s writing – tongue firmly in cheek yet incredibly insightful – is reminiscent of the beer-soaked gonzo days of Creem magazine in the ’70s. For those who aren’t familiar with the long-gone Boy Howdy period, Creem was Rolling Stone‘s bastard classmate, unruly, sarcastic, and funny as hell. No Air Guitar Allowed is definitely unruly, sarcastic, and funny as hell. Weinberger looks fondly back at three decades of going to concerts and describes the wild and wacky people who attend them, creating names for them (i.e., the Beer Whoo Crew, the Supportive Girlfriend, the Indie Guru, etc) and describing their features and antics. One of my favorites is the Rastafari Man, who is so high that he is oblivious to James Hetfield’s guitar prowess at a Metallica show: “Fueled by medical grade marijuana, he is having visions of old James bedecked with a halo and angel wings, while a blown-away Jimi Hendrix keeps whispering ‘Wow!’ in his ears.”

What had me cracking up so much about No Air Guitar Allowed is how true it all is. And nobody should take offense at the less-than-flattering representations here. Face the truth, folks, because Weinberger does so himself. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we are denying ourselves one of life’s greatest treasures.

Canada’s Sterr deliver melodic hooks in post-grunge sound

Posted in Grunge with tags , , , on March 15, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail

Written by James Wall


Better Now

Sterr occupy the more melodic side of the post-grunge population, less edgy and dissonant than their Emerald City ancestors (I feel like I’m a dinosaur now having lived through that era in my twenties) but far better than poseurs such as Nickelback. Hailing from Canada, Sterr specialize in straightforward, radio-friendly guitar rock; if you like their compatriots Our Lady Peace, then you will dig these chaps, too. Lead singer Kris Dueck aims for hard-rock oomph while also channeling Radiohead’s Thom Yorke’s yearning croon when he hits a few of the stadium-made choruses.

“Wishing Well” and “It’s Ok” offer hook-heavy alternative pop/rock with pristine production and catchy, toe-tapping riffs. If they’re not blasting from Canadian rock stations already, then they should be. “In All of This” cranks it up a notch with Dueck’s vocals thrust to the front along with the raging guitars and pounding drums. Oddly, “Ever Done Before” recalls British shoegazers Catherine Wheel with its blistering wall of riffs. Readers of this site will probably gravitate to the metallic clang of “Still Waiting” before learning to appreciate the rest of this very good album.

Ken Snyder CD booms with ‘tremendous, Earth-shattering power’

Posted in Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock with tags , , , , on March 14, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail

Written by James Wall

Ken Snyder

Progressive by Nature

Ken Snyder doesn’t need Harry Potter’s knowledge of magic because his wizardry requires physical skill and intellectual depth, not mumbo-jumbo witchcraft. And while he can’t make people morph into spiders (unless you’re on some funny substances while listening to this record), Snyder can easily throw you under his spell. I hear the influences of four decades of rock & roll on Progressive by Nature. Besides the obvious spiritual fingerprints left by Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, Snyder plumbs the nearly the entire history of whup-ass rock, from the pile-driving stomp of Metallica (“Pitch Black”) to the downbeat grunge of Alice in Chains (“Time Passages”) to the space worship of Dark Side of the Moon-period Pink Floyd (“Equinox”). It’s quite breathtaking.

The energy of Snyder’s performances is awe-inspiring. The opening KO of “Pitch Black” and “From the Shadows” explode with tremendous, Earth-shattering power. Snyder’s solos are never excessive, which is shockingly rare in this genre; he gradually builds up to them, making these instrumentals feel like real songs and not just exercises in shredding. One of the best tracks is the title cut, which opens with moody, dreamy acoustics until the electric riffs coming storming in. It’s a deliciously thrilling moment, among many on this remarkable disc.

Rating: 10/10

Comber rocks with brains and balls

Posted in Grunge on February 12, 2008 by hellhoundonmytrail


Written by James Wall



Just when you think the future of alternative music is uncertain arrives a band like Comber to remind you what attracted you to the genre in the first place. Those who were raised on modern-rock radio after the post-Nirvana revolution will recognize the familiar elements of Comber: the Billy Corgan-esque sonic peels on “The Shame”; the Pixies-worshipping loud/soft menu in “Struck By All”; and the Alice in Chains darkness of “Rip Tide.” If I was to compare Comber with any group, it’d probably be the band Hum, who took the Smashing Pumpkins’ arena-filling riffs and gave it a more transcendent rush.

However, the readers of Metal Wasteland will just want to know one thing: Does it rock? Indeed it does, especially the flamethrower guitars of “Candor & Pragmatism” and the breathless pulse of “Turning Point,” wherein the group sounds like they’re about to blow up. I’ll pitch this to the more intellectual crew as this is not mindless noise. Comber is rock with a brain – and balls.

Rating: 9/10