Releases from the first 5 months still took a lot of my time along with a lot of 80s music.
For single song releases, Machine Head dropped their “Civil Unrest” single with the songs, “Stop The Bleeding” (featuring Jesse Leach) and “Bulletproof”.
“Stop The Bleeding” is a great song.
The riffage, the punk like feel in the chorus and the lyrics, “Beating after beating, throat choked under knee, help me please because I can’t breathe, just stop the bleeding”.
Will anything really change in the long run to stop the bleeding?
Free Spirits Rising released “Landing In Heaven” and that 2 minute outro.
Gathering Of Kings released a super catchy melodic rock album called “Discovery” and Mike Tramp dropped an excellent rock album called “Second Time Around”.
Tramp told us how he sold his heart and soul for rock and roll in “All Of My Life” and how “The Road” broke him, made him, turned his tears to smiles and brought him home again. It’s the road he never wants to end.
He also saw life come and go so fast on the “Highway” as he went for a ride and never looked back, finding love, finding heartache, finding highs and crashing lows.
A new band on Frontiers called Passion released their self-titled album. They basically cover most of the 80’s/early 90’s sounds.
Kiss. Its covered. Keel. It’s covered. Ratt. Its covered. Skid Row. Its covered. Hurricane. Its covered. Winger. It’s covered.
And the album that reigned supreme for me in June is “Palimpsest” from Protest The Hero.
The cover of the raging bull with the American flag draped over its horn, tattered and torn, really got my attention. It’s a great piece of art.
I had to Google what “Palimpsest” meant. Which is, “a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on the erased earlier writing.”
Another definition which breaks it down further is, “something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.”
Like history. It’s been rewritten that many times that the truth is somewhere there but it’s not visible.
Protest The Hero can play their instruments.
Their music moves between technical metal with textures from a lot of different genres.
So they really earn the “progressive metal” title.
The cover of the raging bull with the American flag draped over a horn, tattered and torn, really got my attention. It’s a great piece of art.
I had to Google what “Palimpsest” meant. And it means, “a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on the erased earlier writing.” Another definition which breaks it down is, “something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.”
Protest The Hero can play their instruments. Their music moves between technical metal with textures from a lot of different genres. So they really earn the “progressive metal” title.
A Metal Injection review said, “the bands Queensryche meets Between The Buried And Me approach makes albums like 2013’s “Volition” indispensable amalgamations of conceptual grandiosity and technicality”.
And if you want a killer review of the album that I agree with, then the metal injection one is it. This album will be streamed for a while.
Landing In Heaven Free Spirits Rising
About landing in a place in the afterlife and not knowing you are there.
And the best bit is when it changes half way through to a massive 2 plus minute outro section.
I guess “until it’s time to meet again, I’ll be here waiting”. There is an instrumental version of the song as well.
Beyond Your Limits Long Distance Calling
There album dropped recently and I’ve added all of it to my July playlist. From Germany, I am a fan of their instrumental rock grooves and I am hearing some vocals on this album.
The last three minutes.
The moods that deconstructs and reconstructs the song. Brilliant.
Then that last 30 seconds with that emotive lead break.
So I press repeat to listen again.
Back To Life H.E.A.T
From the bands website: “In the new world order, we find ourselves in a position where we can’t go on tour, we feel we have a duty to bring some vibe to the summer of 2020. So kick back, grab a drink, make your backyard a festival area and let us bring you back to life.”
And that’s exactly what I did, in the winter of 2020, Australian style.
Blood From Above Stryper
From the upcoming “Even The Devil Believes” album, which will surely get the clergy into a mess. Its classic Stryper. Here is a review from a blog that I follow which I totally agree with.
Cradle Rock Joe Bonamassa
When Bonamassa rocks out like he does on this one, I’m all in.
And the title hooked me in straight away because it reminded me of “And The Cradle Will Rock”. There is even a small section in the lead break, that brings back memories of Van Halen.
After A Few Another Lost Year
I feel a bit tipsy after a few and I’m ready for a party, but in this song, they take it too far and make it way too hard to move on, after a few drinks.
A great listen.
That bass riff to kick off the song sounds dangerous as we are told to take off the blinders that cover our eyes.
Hot Damn White Flame
That funky groove. Hot Damn.
Dead Elysium Vanishing Point
From Melbourne, Australia and one of the best progressive metal bands out there.
It’s been six plus years since they released the excellent “Distant Is The Sun” and in between they have had their setbacks in getting this album done, especially around vocalist Silvio Massaro and his throat infections and respiratory illnesses.
If you like bands like Evergrey, then there is no way you can’t like Vanishing Point. Guitarist Chris Porcianko is an excellent song writer, creating intricate and syncopated riffs. And the dude can shred and be emotive as well.
This is the title track of album number 6.
The haunting piano kicks it off, and then that syncopated riff comes in, which reminds me of “The Masterplan” and “A Touch Of Blessing” blended together.
Shine On Adelitas Way This Means War Aware At Last featuring Adelitas Way
“Shine On” is a good song. Reminds me a lot of Tesla and the “Forever More” album.
And it’s virtually ignored.
The YouTube video dropped a few days ago and it has less than 5000. It doesn’t even rate in the Top 5 listened songs on Spotify.
But it should.
Break Still Breathing Taking Dawn
They started off as “7th Son” in tribute to their favourite Maiden album. Signed to Roadrunner and then neglected by Roadrunner.
This one is from their “Dawn Of The Demos” album released during COVID-19.
London 1666 Alcatrazz
There best known phase was with Malmsteen on guitar. “No Parole From Rock N Roll” and “Live Sentence” are good metal albums.
Fast forward 30 plus years later and Yngwie devotee Joe Stump is on guitar. He riffs and shreds like Malmsteen and Alcatrazz haven’t sounded this good for a long time.
The intro riff could have come from the “Marching Out” album. And Graham Bonnet, he might not look like a stereotypical metal singer, but he has the pipes for it.
So far they have dropped two songs from the upcoming “Born Innocent” album and I am liking.
When Ignorance Turns To Bliss Good Days, Bad Days Eric Steckel
I was searching the blogs for blues rock guitarists to sink my ears into that have come out in the last 15 years. And it wasn’t a simple search. I was going in deep, reading reviews of albums and various blogs and what not. Like the good old days of searching vinyl.
Eric Steckel and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram are two blues rock dudes that have come out of this search and I have gotten into.
And man, they can play and they can sing.
Eric Steckel reminds me of what Jake E. Lee was trying to do with Badlands crossed with a bit of Bad Company. Steckel can be emotive, bluesy and if needed, he can metal it up and shred.
“Good Days, Bad Days” is my favourite of the bunch. It’s a subdued and melancholic, rhythm and blues rock tune with a killer emotive lead break.
Stop The Bleeding (featuring Jesse Leach) Bulletproof Machine Head
“Stop The Bleeding” is a great song. The riffage, the punk like feel in the chorus and the lyrics, “Beating after beating, throat choked under knee, help me please because I can’t breathe, just stop the bleeding”.
The whole world is aware but will anything really change in the long run.
Like the lyrics in “Bulletproof”, “The rich mad with power, the poor left to bleed”. And its these people and the organisations they represent that will do whatever it takes to keep their power and all their multiple zeroes in their bank accounts.
As Y&T sing in “Masters And Slaves”, “there’s only kings and queens and you’re a pawn in their game” and “like masters and slaves, we are divided that way”.
Beautiful Bodies For The Bones Die Trying featuring Shaun Morgan Sweet Forgiveness Art of Dying
These songs are from their “Demos and Rarities” lockdown release. I’ve been in and out of love with this band.
“Beautiful” is in the similar vein to their “Vices And Virtues” album in sound and theme. It’s the style I like.
“Bodies For The Bones” is super down tuned for heaviness. I don’t like this style. While the music sits super low which I’m not a fan of, the vocal melodies sit in the upper registry and drive the song.
“Die Trying” is one of my favourite cuts. This one features Shaun Morgan from Seether. Remember them. Seether came onto my radar almost 15 plus year ago when they did a song with Amy from Evanescence for “The Punisher” movie. A ballad called “Broken”.
“If it takes forever I would die trying”
The ethos of a lifer trying to make something from their life, to meet their definition of success and happiness.
And that’s the important element here, it’s your definition, that defines you. Don’t try to fit in to other people’s definitions.
“Sweet Forgiveness” has a haunting acoustic riff.
“Come take me out of here, I’m at the end of my rope, there’s nowhere to go”
There is always somewhere to go. Pick up the phone, talk to someone, catch up for a coffee and keep talking. There is always someone who wants to listen.
Darker Thoughts Ghosts Ending Days Paradise Lost
This one-way street you’re on You’ll never be fulfilled And this one way street you’re on Is gonna get you killed
That vocal melody. It’s haunting.
With inner peace gone, you pray All those darker thoughts are coming back to stay With inner peace gone you’ve paid All those darker thoughts are coming back to stay
And then the violins kick in, over a grinding dirgey riff, while the “Godless are sworn to kill, Annihilation” is barked out.
Let’s chuck in an emotive pentatonic minor lead to finish it off.
On The Run Again Chrome Division
The way this song starts off with the acoustic delta like blues riff, which morphs into a head banging distortion riff. It’s been played before, it’s been heard before, but I still like it.
Dual (featuring Matt Guillory) Ultra City Andy James
Instrumental music at its best.
In the 80’s, it got to a stage where the instrumental songs would be just a power chord and a million notes in the bar. Then another power chord and then another million notes. There was hardly any riffs and it became pretty bland. Because once you’ve heard one artist doing it from Shrapnel, you would have heard em all.
But these days, the instrumental players, write a song first, with awesome riffage and then decorate it with great melodic lead breaks.
Andy James is up there for me, with players like John Petrucci, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, George Lynch, John Sykes, Yngwie Malmsteen and Marty Friedman.
Leave It Alone Signals Gone Blacktop Mojo
This band deserves more attention. One of the best hard rock bands out there at the moment.
Far Enough Away Trapt
They are doing Daughtry better than what Daughtry is doing right now. There is something special about an acoustic guitar, drums, bass and a good vocal melody, with some synth strings thrown in.
Death Diviner Soilwork
A cross between “Schism” from Tool and Soilwork’s signature groove.
Bjorn Strid takes the clean melodic highway on vocals and a classic Soilwork song is born.
The riff again.
Press play and enjoy.
When All Is Said And Done Aldo Nova
I didn’t expect this kind of cut from Aldo Nova.
And I like how artists can still surprise me.
This is bluesy, groovy and heavy. If you like the work that Glenn Hughes did with Black Country Communion, then you will like this.
Revelation Riders Of The Light Highway To Paradise Lorelei From A Whisper To A Scream Final Hour Gathering Of Kings
This band’s new take on an old sound is just to my liking. This is album number 2.
“Revelation” sets my mind time machine to 1984/85 and that beautiful melodic rock coming from an excellent band called Y&T.
And if you like tunes like that, then you’ll like this project, a gathering of Nordic musos who want to create.
All Of My Life The Road Highway Between Good And Bad When She Cries Mike Tramp
I’ve always enjoyed Mike Tramp’s voice. With the last few solo releases, his lyrics are exceptional and they resonate on this album, “Second Time Around”.
He sold his heart and soul for rock and roll in “All Of My Life”.
He looked ahead on “The Road” that broke him, made him, turned his tears to smiles, brought him home again and the road he never wants to end.
He saw life come and go so fast on a “Highway” as he went for a ride and never looked back, finding love, finding heartache, finding highs and crashing lows.
Loving You Is A Dirty Job Easy Come Easy Go Intensity Lost In The Dark Back Victims Of Desire Built To Please Passion
Passion covers most of the 80’s/early 90’s sounds and releases from bands.
Kiss. Its covered.
Keel. It’s covered.
Ratt. Its covered.
Steelheart. Its covered.
Skid Row. Its covered.
Hurricane. Its covered.
Winger. It’s covered.
The whole album is stellar.
It gives me this feeling of when I listened to Bad Company, Rainbow (Dio fronted), Led Zeppelin, Scorpions, Deep Purple (Coverdale/Hughes version), Whitesnake and Black Sabbath (Dio fronted).
Each day is a different favourite.
“Ride Like The Wind” reminds of “Gates Of Babylon” from Rainbow. That’s my favourite today.
Yesterday, it was the Bad Company sounding “Hell and High Water”.
The day before it was the “Bad Boys” sounding “Light Up The Sky”.
Tomorrow it could be “Shout”, which reminds me of “Slow And Easy” on steroids, with a driving beat. Especially that section after the solo, when it’s just drums, and Romero is singing, “Get Up And Shout”. Even “I Love It Loud” comes to mind.
There is the “Fool For Your Loving” inspired “Shitstorm” with a David Coverdale like vocal that has been my go to track.
Or the Richie Blackmore inspired “Shadows Of The Night”.
“Let It Rain” reminds of Bonfire.
And my favourite track “Skyfall” closes the album.
And apart from the excellent riffage and song construction, the lead breaks are superb, song within song moments.
The war was on, as rock bands, especially hard rock bands who got classed as hair bands started to fight for survival against the flannelette armies of Seattle and the changing A&R personnel at the labels who wanted to cash in on the Seattle tide.
To understand how quickly the support for hard rock music was abandoned, White Lion was given a million bucks to record “Mane Attraction” and after it was released, some more money was spent on a few music videos and the album didn’t set the charts alight and when the band decided to call it quits, there was nothing from the label. Not even a phone call. Except for Vito, who got an offer for a new project, but after demoing some material, the offer also disappeared.
But there was rock music. It wasn’t as polished as some of mid 80’s albums, but the roots of this rock music was with the classic 70’s.
Number 1 Remedy The Black Crowes are still at Number 1. The chorus lyrical message of looking for a remedy to fix our worries resonated with everyone on the planet old enough to remember this song, even though the verse lyrics are pretty silly about a dead bird from the window sill and why can’t his girl sit still.
And their Grateful Dead jam ethic had them record this album over a weekend, and you can hear the fun and the love in the notes and the space and the performances.
Number 2 Under The Bridge The Jimi Hendrix influenced guitar intro got a lot of people, like me, interested and the lyrical message of addiction and homelessness under an catchy vocal melody, took this song to the top. Actually, it took me a while to get used to the voice of Anthony Kiedis and I’m glad I did.
By the way, John Frusciante is also another underrated guitar hero. You don’t need to play solos with your head looking at the heavens to be a good guitarist. You need to be able to write riffs, memorable ones at that, and this dude could do that with the Peppers.
Both of the songs have gospel like backing vocals, which enhance em nicely.
Number 3 Road To Nowhere Ozzy and Zak are still riding high on the back of the “No More Tears” album, with their Southern Rock anthem sitting pretty. I like this song more than “Mama I’m Coming Home”. The opening arpeggios and Zack’s pentatonic Skynyrd solo is brilliant.
And those opening lines;
When I was looking back on my life And all things I done to me
If we just did the same abuse to someone else’s body that we gave to our own bodies, we would be locked up as it would be borderline criminal.
The wreckage of my past keeps haunting me It just won’t leave me alone
Sometimes our past deeds supersede our current deeds. There is no redemption from them, even though people say there is.
Because it’s impossible to be liked by all.
And for the haters and the ones who believe they were wronged, the past is never forgotten.
Number 4 Make Love Like A Man It’s not the best Def Leppard track, but they had enough goodwill because of their first four albums that we still gave them a lot of love for “Adrenalize”.
I think they tried to re-write “Pour Some Sugar On Me” with this one.
Musically the song works, but I can’t say I am a fan of the lyrics. But then again Def Leppard was allowed to get away with this kind of cheesiness because of the first four albums.
Number 5 Sting Me To show how powerful a jam album became in the charts, The Black Crows have another song in the Top 5.
The album showcases a band in love with the blues, grooving and jamming their way to the top of the charts and our minds and our hearts.
And it also shows an audience who was sick of the over polished sounds of hard rock and the generic sound-a-likes.
If you feel like a riot, then don’t you deny it Put your good foot forward No need for heroics I just want you to show it Now’s the time to shine
I have no idea what the overall song is about, but the opening four lines connected immediately especially the call and response vocal line, where Chris Robinson sings the first and third lines and the backing singers sing the second and the fourth lines.
And that verse riff which moves between the G chord, to the F, to the C and back to the G chord is excellent, as it doesn’t follow the usual power chord route, and instead it moves along with single notes and arpeggios.
Number 6 Living In A Dream Arc Angels They made no dent in Australia.
Which was strange for a Geffen act, as Geffen was renowned for its scorched earth marketing policy.
Especially for a group that was sort of like a super group. It had two individual guitarists/singers fronting who had decent solo careers and the rhythm section of SRV’s “Double Trouble”.
This song has that “When The Levee Breaks” feel in the music and of course, the singing is a cross between Robert Plant and Chris Robinson.
Number 7 Come As You Are Another Geffen act, Nirvana already smashed the charts with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and they starting coming for a little bit more.
For me, it’s that dropped D, chromatic riff, over a ringing A pedal point which sets the ominous feel.
Number 8 57 Channels And Nothing On Bruce Springsteen
I’m not a fan of the song, but I do like the message, that we pay to surround ourselves with crap.
The song starts off with two people buying a large place in the Hollywood Hills and connecting a Pay TV service to the house.
I know when I had my Pay TV subscription, I would scroll through the “scheduled” programming and I couldn’t watch anything.
Imagine if I had the choice to select what I could watch, instead of waiting for the allocated timeslot. But innovation was too hard for the Pay TV corporations and then they cried foul, when Netflix came and blew away their business model.
Number 9 Life Is A Highway Tom Cochrane won big with this song. He is still doing victory laps from it, as it’s licensed everywhere from commercials to movies to TV shows.
When I googled “life is a highway lyrics”, it came up with the Rascal Flatts version.
What happened to Tom Cochrane?
Life’s like a road that you travel on When there’s one day here and the next day gone
No road trip is ever the same and no day you live is ever the same. What is certain, is that the day comes and then it goes. You can’t get it back.
Life is a highway I want to ride it all night long
It was the message of freedom. That is what getting a drivers licence meant. A ticket to travel wherever you wanted to.
Number 10 Even Flow I didn’t like “Alive” and “Even Flow” in the beginning. For me, “Jeremy” and “Black” sealed the deal. Afterwards I went back to listen to the other songs.
But that was many years later.
Number 11 Girlfriend Matthew Sweet I’m not a fan.
Number 12 Now More Than Ever John Mellencamp
The song is nothing like the classic Mellencamp songs, but the message in the lyrics resonate. And people were looking for these kind of messages.
If you believe Won’t you please raise your hands Let’s hear your voices Let us know where you stand
Remember when artists used to take stands on issues, like Dee Snider standing against the PMRC and censorship. In the process, he got ostracised by the metal community for being a glory seeker.
And MTV cashed up the labels, and the labels used that cash to sway the artists and in the process, the artists became further slaves to the machine. The days of Roger Waters or Jim Morrison, telling the label to go and shove it, became a page in history.
Now more than ever The world needs love
This was relevant back in 1992 and 28 years later, it’s still relevant today. I am working from home because of COVID-19.
I’m not panic buying and I’m trying to do my best to help. But I put on the news and I’m not seeing the same.
Now more than ever I can’t stand alone
We live in tribes. No one wants to be ostracised. So that scaffold support network is super important. And we need to remember that others feel the same way, so you are not alone.
Number 13 Tangled In The Web Lynch Mob
This song is one of George Lynch’s best songs.
His guitar tone, which isn’t as heavily distorted like his Dokken days, is quality, the Gm riff is bone crunching and swingy at the same time and those brass instruments just add to the quality.
And Keith Olsen (RIP) did a stellar job in the production, even bringing in the brass instruments.
Number 14 Make You A Believer Sass Jordan It made no dent on the Australian charts and the first time I heard this song was today, when I put it on the Spotify playlist.
Number 15 Love Is Alive Joe Cocker His abrasive yet melodic vocals are really good and this bluesy rocker works.
You can see quite a few songs on this list have lyrical messages of love, loving each other, finding love and what we need is a little bit of love to share around and make the world a better place.
Number 16 One U2 This is a big song and the way “The Edge” just keeps decorating the song is brilliant.
Plus Bono with his vocal melody and the message of one life, one love and how we need to care for it, share it and make the world a better place.
Number 17 What You Give It aint whatcha give, it’s how you live is the catchcry here. And Tesla was on their way to another successful album and tour, against the grain of the market forces.
Number 18 Every Time I Roll The Dice Delbert McClinton
Never heard of Delbert, but his derivative version of “Old Time Rock’N’Roll” which is also a derivative version of standard blues is cool to listen to.
Number 19 Mama Im Coming Come Ozzy Osbourne I really like the music written by Zak Wylde here. That whole Southern Rock crossover with Heavy Metal works and Lemmy really nailed the lyrics on this one.
Plus did I mention that the guitar solo is pretty awesome.
Number 20 You’re Invited But Your Friend Can’t Come Vince Neil What does Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades and Vince Neil have in common?
It’s a killer song title, as good as “You Give Love A Bad Name”, “I Love Rock And Roll” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. And the song is probably the best Motley Crue song that wasn’t written and released by Motley Crue that featured Vince Neil on vocals in the 90’s. Then again, I am a fan of “Primal Scream” and “Angela”.
Let’s get into the time machine and go back to 1992.
In the magazine, it was announced that Vivian Campbell joined Def Leppard.
White Zombie was in the “Fresh Flesh” section even though the earliest incarnation of the band had been doing the rounds since 1985. It’s a long way to a major label deal and an even longer way to mainstream success.
“Invincible she devils from the fifth dimension, living aliens and warped sexual experiments” was how “La Sexorcisto: Devils Music Vol. 1” was explained/promoted.
The “Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert” got a five skulls out of five skulls review.
Kiss was promoting the “Revenge” album by saying “We’re Kiss and That’s The Revenge” which got a four skull out of five review. So did “The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion” from The Black Crowes who also had a tour on the cards.
Meanwhile Slaughter’s “The Wild Life” and Twisted Sister’s “Big Hits And Nasty Cuts” both got three skulls.
And Body Counts self-titled album and Iron Maiden’s “Fear Of The Dark” both got five skulls.
I guess you know which albums I got during this period. Anything with three skulls and above.
Geffen Records was hedging it’s bets by promoting Guns N Roses, Nirvana, White Zombie and Roxy Blue all on one ad, with the slogan “HIT someone you love with metal”.
And the HM editor spent six days on the road with Metallica and the best quote from the interview came from James on Lars traveling drum kit:
I find it silly. As much as he wants to be in the spotlight, he also gets to move around. He’s basically a front man on drums.
Speaking of drummers, Motörhead sacked Philthy Phil (again) and hired Mikkey Dee from Don Dokken’s solo band. Dee was also helping out World War III because Vinny Appice left to rejoin the revamped Black Sabbath.
Wayne’s World became part of popular culture and L7 was getting heavily promoted in Australia.
Motley Crue still hadn’t announced their vocalist. Maybe because Sebastian Bach was still auditioning. This is what John Corabi’s Scream band mates had to say:
I guess the dedication from Corabi didn’t come through and those cool cats on vocals to replace John Corabi also didn’t come through for The Scream.
And the song “Young And Dumb” from The Scream appeared on the Encino Man soundtrack, but it was Vince Neil who took top billing. How fitting.
It’s June 1993 and I am flicking through the new issue of Hot Metal Magazine, which at the time was Australia’s premier metal and rock magazine. For $3.50 it was an excellent alternative to the overpriced American and British magazines.
On the cover there was the John Bush fronted Anthrax. Three members are wearing white t-shirts with blue Jeans, and two members are wearing black t-shirts with blue jeans. It was a sign of the changing times as publicists and record labels pushed their artists to have a more grungy look.
“The Sound Of White Noise” got 5 skulls in the magazine review, which equates to ‘KILLER’. A few months after it’s release the album was certified GOLD. This is probably the album that Scott Ian was referring too when he made his comments that in the past they would sell a shitload of albums.
It was a hungry album. John Bush’s transition from a struggling band to a major label act was the catalyst. It was an album chock full of metal “hits”. “Only” comes to mind straight away. Even James Hetfield called it the perfect song. “Black Lodge” didn’t sit out-of-place with the current crop of chart toppers in Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. Credit producer Dave Jerden who produced both “Dirt” from Alice In Chains and “The Sound Of White Noise”. It was the last good Anthrax album and it is not even up on Spotify. Actually none of the John Bush-era of Anthrax is on Spotify which is a shame.
And the critics that said “Worship Music” is a great album cannot understand why it didn’t resonate with the audience. Look at the top ten songs on Spotify for Anthrax. Not one song from “Worhsip Music” is on the list. Same goes for YouTube.
Then you have the bloodbath from the Eighties scene.
Jani Lane (RIP) and Warrant had split and both acts had their contracts reduced to demo deals. So even though you had three albums that had moved 500,000 plus units each, they still ended up on the scrap-heap. Kik Tracee also split with vocalist Stephen Shareaux (bet he wished he tried harder for that Motley Crue vocalist spot) and both of them had been reduced to a demo deal. Looks like all the promo to sell the act just didn’t connect with the audience because in the end the songs where rubbish.
Meanwhile Rowan Robertson from “The Lock Up The Wolves” Dio era inked a deal with Atlantic Records for his new band that had Oni Logan from Lynch Mob on vocals. We all know that this didn’t end up going anywhere.
While, Roberston’s former employer, Dio (RIP) was working with WWIII guitarist Tracy G after his “Dehumanizer” venture with Black Sabbath went sour. These sessions would go on to create the “Strange Highways” album while Jake E.Lee was working with WWIII singer (and i use that term loosely) Mandy Lion.
Reports coming through at that time spoke about the new Bruce Dickinson solo album being an “updated, toughened up Santana vibe with a heavy leaning towards Peter Gabriel type atmospherics and experimentation.” That album would become “Balls To Picasso” and apart from the song “Tears Of The Dragon” which sounds like an Iron Maiden song the rest of the album was a listen best avoided.
On the drug front we had David Lee Roth getting busted in New York after purchasing a $10 bag of weed. Seriously, for someone like his stature surely he could have done it more discreetly or gotten that $10 bag delivered to the studio. However, Roth is Roth and he decided that he should go out into the town and look for a dealer. On the other drug front, there was news that started coming out about Tim Kelly (RIP) from Slaughter who was alleged to have been involved in a major drug smuggling ring that was busted after a five-year investigation by the F.B.I.
Then we had the Motley Crue vs Vince Neil shenanigans.
The Vince Neil “Exposed” album got a good review in the magazine. I suppose it was inevitable that the solo album from Vince Neil would sound a lot like Motley Crue, even though NIkki Sixx insisted that Vince Neil had nothing to do with the creation of the songs in Motley Crue or the Motley sound. I think Nikki Sixx missed the memo that the actual voice plays a big part in the sound. Credit music business vet Phil Soussan for delivering a stellar performance in the songwriting department that helped kick-start Vince’s solo career.
Then on the other side you had “The Scream” with new singer Billy Scott battling to get their album done in time so that they can tour with Motley Crue as part of the singer transfer deal. For the uninitiated John Corabi from “The Scream” replaced Vince Neil in Motley Crue. However, the Crue’s album was REJECTED by Elektra Records. It wouldn’t be until the following year that the self-titled Motley Crue album saw the light of day. And within 6 months it disappeared from the public conversation and the tour got reduced from arena’s to theaters to getting cancelled.
Finally Pride and Glory was still on hold while Zakk Wylde worked with Ozzy Osbourne on the follow-up to “No More Tears”. Producers John Purdell and Duane Baron took over from Michael Wagener (who produced the first few songs and was then retained to mix the album until Micheal Beinhorn got involved). James Lomenzo was being used as a bass replacement for the recording sessions. The album that would become Ozzmosis would take another two more years before it saw the light of day and the style of the songs would be re-imagined into the modern sound of the day.
In the end the majority of artists mentioned above are still part of the music business in some way. And for the ones that aren’t, only death could separate them from the music world.
I have been re-reading a lot of the magazines I have accumulated during the Eighties and the Nineties. I just finished reading a story about Metallica from the Australian magazine “Hot Metal”. It is the June 1992 issue.
The article is written by Robyn Doreian, who was the editor once however when this story hit the press, she had moved on to Metal Hammer. The story was a combination of two days she spent with the band, plus separate interviews with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.
The first part that got me interested was the following answers from James Hetfield;
RD – First up, I ask him about the new stage design, which not only challenges conventional rock shows but also has consider-able advantages for the fans.
JH – “We sat down and talked about what we wanted to do. For instance, Lars has his travelling drum kit that was all his thing. I have to make that clear,” he scoffs, “because I find it a little silly. As much as he wants to be in the spotlight, he also gets to travel. He’s basically a front man on drums. We should have thought of it earlier in our careers, I guess.”
“The snake-pit was a combination of ideas from band members and management. Initially that hole in the middle of the stage was meant to be a special effects area, with things like little crosses rising up, or a blow-up ‘Justice’ lady or something.” sniggers Hetfield.
“We said no’ Why not put some kids in there, some fans. That would be cool. We usually put between 40 and 90 kids in there, depending on each city’s fire regulations and stuff.”
RD – What about the area set aside for taping?
JH – “Fans have to buy a special ticket for the tape section. It’s like five bucks more, and there are like 20 or 30 kids who can get in there and video, audio or whatever they want to do. It’s a cool thing to do, to flood the market with bootlegs. And it makes it a little more personal.”
The above got my interest for two reasons;
1. The stage design.
First, the stage design. The grand stage design that is seen in the movie “Through the Never” was conceived back in 1991 for the tour in support of the Black album. Of course, an idea is just an idea until it is executed and with the exponential rise of technologies, that idea finally came to fruition in 2012.
The point of this is that no one should ever give up on an idea. If it doesn’t work at a particular given point in time, keep it filed away as it could work at a later time.
Second, the bootlegs. The Black tour did something great for the hard core fans that no other band had really done up until then.
Any violation of copyright laws may result in severe civil and criminal penalties. Violators will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible.
Compare the above to the comments from Hetfield. What a difference between Metallica and the Metallicorporation? This is why Metallica messed up big time with Napster by handing over names of fans at the Senate Hearings.
Next up in the interview was Lars Ulrich. Knowing what we know now, words from the past is always interesting.
RD – Seizing the opportunity I ask him whether, seeing as Metallica have now been so firmly embraced by the mainstream, it’s possible that they are becoming what they once rebelled against.
LU – “I don’t disagree with that, but we were always more into doing our own thing, never about being shocking for its own sake or pissing people off. You should always be yourself.”
Lars admits that he and Metallica are becoming the entity that they rebelled against. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. Can a band remain the same after they accumulate millions? No chance.
RD – Do you ever think that in years to come there is a danger of Metallica being viewed as a dinosaur band, some sort of corporate rock giant similar to what happened to bands like Zeppelin in the 70s?
LU – “I think there are a lot of people in the States right now who, simply because we have gained confidence in what we’re doing, are saying that we are doing the same arena rock clichés that these other bands were doing. My attitude is basically that if people come and see us and think its arena rock crap then that’s fine. It doesn’t affect me; because I know what we’re doing is distinctly different from what everyone else is doing.”
RD – With Grammy awards, cumulative record sales in the millions and adulation the whole world over, what is there left for the band to achieve?
LU – “Staying power. In terms of numbers, it’s not going to get much bigger but its important not to burn out. A lot of bands don’t have the confidence for a long term career, so they try and milk everything while they can. We plan to be around for quite a while, so when this tour is over we’re going to have a long period of inactivity.”
The above is interesting to me for the following two reasons;
1. Be Yourself / Stay true to yourself
2. Staying Power
I was a fan of Metallica coming before the Black album came out. It was “Ride the Lightning” that did it for me. I cannot recall how many arguments I got into over what is the better album between “Master Of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning”.
Then the Black album comes out and I really liked it. I thought it was perfect. The songs hammered the ear drums from start to finish and the groove was undeniable. Metallica wrote and recorded an album that they wanted to write. It was never designed to have a hit single whereas “Load” and “Reload” to me, feels like Metallica had that single idea in the backs of their mind.
The comments about staying power ring true. As Lars said, in terms of numbers, it wouldn’t get any bigger than the Black album. However reaching the top is not the end of the journey. That is when a new journey begins.
Twisted Sister failed after “Stay Hungry” exploded.
Motley Crue fired Vince Neil after “Dr Feelgood”.
Guns N Roses became Adler-less after “Appetite for Destruction” and after “Use Your Illusion,” Guns N Roses became an Axl Rose solo project.
Motorhead had Fast Eddie Clarke play on one more album (“Iron Fist”) after “Ace of Spades.”
Skid Row got one more album out in “Subhuman Race” after the massive “Slave To The Grind” and disappeared.
Van Halen released “1984” and then fired David Lee Roth. They are one of the rare bands that changed lead singers and went on to bigger success, with the Van Hager era.
Poison got “Flesh and Blood” out after the mega successful “Open and Say Ahh” and it was curtains, even though “Native Tongue” with Richie Kotzen was a great album.
White Lion never recovered from the mega success of “Pride”.
Warrant released the excellent and heavy “Dog Eat Dog”, however it was no “Cherry Pie” and they got dropped after Jani Lane left.
Also when a band reaches the top, it opens up the opportunity for some time off. Metallica had been on an album and tour cycle since “Kill Em All” was released in 1983. After 11 constant years, by 1994, they had some time off, before they regrouped for the “Load” albums.
Vito Bratta is one of the most searched artists on the internet, especially around what he is doing right now. Like me, thousands of other people that visit this blog, can’t believe that a talent like Vito, just walked away from it all.
In order to understand why Vito Bratta walked away from it all and stopped writing music, I went back into the past and I started re-reading a lot of the interviews I have from him.
THE STATE OF SONGWRITING
In a “Guitar World” interview from July 1991, Vito had the following to say on the state of his guitar playing vs. song writing.
“A weird thing happened to me this year I started thinking less in terms of guitar and more about song writing. I’ve never been the kind of player to showboat, but more and more I’ve been concerning myself with structuring and orchestrating.
On the last record, everyone commented on my playing, but hardly anyone said anything about the songs. That really bothered me. This year people have been saying. “Man, that song killed me.” which I prefer. When I heard the last Van Halen record, my comment was. “It’s not Eddie any more, but the songs sure are great.” That’s the way it should be.”
Vito thought he needed to change to accommodate the expectations of the fans and the label. In the end, the fans didn’t want him to change. We loved him exactly as he was. His guitar playing made the songs.
So Vito changes the way he thinks around songwriting. The results don’t generate into sales. In 1991, success in the music business was relative to the sales of the record. The confidence and the self-doubt that comes with disappointment is enough to kill a career.
Brad Tolinski, the person who was conducting the interview mentioned to Vito that it seemed that he made a conscious effort to play differently on “Mane Attraction” and that there are less broken arpeggios and other styling’s that Vito is renowned for.
Vito answered that with the following words;
“I don’t play like myself on this record. My sound is much heavier. For example, the lead break on “The Warsong” marks one of the first times I really explored what I call those “Zakk Wylde Pentatonic’s” and “Ace Frehley Bends”. It was just a mood I was in. While on tour with Ozzy last year, we started feeling like we weren’t the hard rock band that we used to be. On this record I just wanted to rock out.”
Remember back in 2007, when Vito appeared on the Eddie Trunk show. One of the comments he made on that show, was that he realised during the “Big Game” tour, that White Lion need heavier songs that worked more in a live setting. So instead of having a mindset about writing songs, Vito now has a mindset that he needs to write better songs, heavier songs, rockier songs and songs that work in the live show.
Vito’s whole thought process is now putting unwanted pressure on the song writing process, which to me should be natural and not forced.
In the “Guitar World” interview from July 1991, Vito also said the same when Brad Tolinski mentioned, that he could understand why Vito is frustrated as the tonal subtleties of his best work, like the solos in “Wait” and “Little Fighter,” tend to get lost in an arena.
Vito responded with the following; “Yeah, I agree. But I think “The Warsong” will kick ass in any situation. The real subtle tasty stuff seems to get lost outside the studio, and that’s a real problem.”
This is an important distinction to make between bands that have gone through the stratosphere and bands that stagnated.
On the Justice tour, it was noted that Metallica fans were seen yawning during the longer complex songs from the Justice album. So what did Metallica do next? They released the monster known as the “Black” album. Shorter songs, less complex and songs that rocked hard.
All the Classic Rock bands used to perform their songs live before they recorded them. That is why all of those albums from the Seventies had songs that rocked hard in the studio and in the live arena. In the end a musician’s level of success depends on their ability to entertain. It is never about their level of technical proficiency. Bands like Kiss, Motley Crue, Metallica, Van Halen and Bon Jovi are mega successful in the business because they can entertain. Are they the most virtuosic bands out there. Of course not, however they have had a career at a level that the most virtuosic artist out there dreams to have.
THE PROBLEM WITH OVERTHINKING
Brad Tolinski mentioned that the “opening track, “Lights And Thunder,” is interesting. It’s epic in length and structurally complex, yet the solo is relatively simple and minimal.”
Vito responded with the following; “The lead part is simple, but I think it fits. When I was listening to some of our old records, I noticed a few lead breaks that struck me as being inappropriate. It’s not that they were bad; in fact, most of them were melodic and performed well. But in retrospect, some of them struck me as being too busy or ornate. When I first played the lead to “Lights And Thunder,” I thought, “God, I can’t play that. It’s bullshit. It’s too easy.” But everybody in the studio loved it and told me to sleep on it and listen to it again when I was fresh. The next day I came in and thought, “It still doesn’t sound like anything I would play, but it sure fits the bill.”
He is not sure and he is doubtful. He is over analysing his past work. It is all counter-productive. The interview with Guitar World was in the issue from July 1991. By September 1991 it was all over. When you overthink things too much, you second guess everything you do and in the end, you lose your fire, the motivation that kept you hungry.
THE STATE OF HARD ROCK MUSIC
In the June, 1989 issue of “Kerrang”, Vito states the following on his views of the current state of hard rock;
“I know a lot of bands who’ll write a song and their guitar players will say I’ve got to do a lead break here, I’ve got to let rip there. It’s an ego thing. When I write, I say well, the song will sound better if I have an acoustic here or a clear sounding guitar, maybe no lead. I think it’s really annoying when a melodic song is ruined by a guitar player blasting away, it grates on my nerves.”
In an issue of “Guitar World”, dated July, 1991, Bratta more or less stated the same view point as he did a few years ago.
“You can see the guitarist thinking. “Forget the song, forget the band, I just want to get my name in Guitar World.” That’s not where it’s at anymore. Everybody can play these days.
While I was living in L.A. last year, I went into a local music store to pick up an issue of your magazine, and I heard this incredible guitar player. It turned out to be some little kid with his dad! I mean, he had twice the chops I had. He came up and asked for my autograph, and I said, “Sure, one minute.” Then I snuck out the back door before he had a chance to ask me to jam.
I’ve run into kids that can play “Wait” better than I can, but what’s the point? Being a technician is only part of the equation, and I’m trying to study the other half: song writing.
I hate it when people say things like, “I know you write songs that are heard by millions of people, but are you really happy?” I mean, yeah. Don’t be absurd. I want as many people as possible to hear the band. I’m convinced that the reason people like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton and the reason why they have endured is that they have composed memorable songs as well as solos.”
I have always said that Grunge didn’t kill the hard rock / glam rock movement. The rock movement killed itself. Hard Rock in the Eighties started off with the first wave of L.A bands. Then the second wave of L.A bands came along with the Classic seventies rockers who started to rebrand themselves to fit the scene. Then the third wave came and the fourth and the fifth further diluting the pool. Every two years, new cities got identified as the next big hub. So the Record Labels swarmed and so many inferior derivative bands got signed, that in the end, it all imploded. The real good acts couldn’t be heard from all the noise of the crap acts.
The current state of affairs in the music business bothered Vito. It played on his mind. He was a technician trying to find out how he fitted into the current climate. Should he write they way he also had or should he change and adapt so that he can meet expectations placed on him.
Unfortunately, Vito gave in to the expectations. He gave in to all the leaches that made multiple millions from his hard work.
VITO BRATTA RIG 1991
The “Mane Attraction” record was done with his trusty Steinberger guitar. In the “Guitar World” interview from July 1991, Vito said that he was planning on using something different when White Lion goes on tour as the Steinberger was starting to bother him because it was almost too easy to play.
“I’m not fighting for the notes anymore and I miss that tension. This may sound bizarre, but if you give me a Les Paul or a Strat I’m lost, and that bums me out. Lately I’ve been using an old ESP Strat that I’ve had laying around, just to get me back in shape.”
His amplification was basically the same system he has used for the last few years. The heart of Vito’s rack consists primarily of three units: an ADA MP-1 preamp, a BBE 422A Sonic Maximizer and a Digitech DSP 256 multi effects processor. The system is powered by a Carvin FET Series amplifier, and a Rocktron Hush keeps the lid on any excess noise.
“It’s a relatively simple rig, but it’s very effective. I put it together with Michael Wagener, who produced Pride and Big Game.”
THE GUITAR WORLD REVIEW
Mane attraction is Top 40 stuff, for sure. But not quite as gooey as the usual radio fare more like what the Baby’s used to do. Except White Lion has Vito Bratta. Though you have to wade knee-deep through patently clichéd arena rock-ioms for that Bratta burn, when he does cut loose it’s worth turning up the volume knob a decibel or three. But in bands where song writing is the chief concern, really exceptional guitarists always end up getting be shrouded like a lace covered end table. Your little sister is gonna buy it, so borrow it when she’s watching Dance Fever. And try to figure out how Vito manages to retain his credibility.
It’s funny reading the Guitar World interview first and then the review (They both appeared in the same issue). In the interview, Vito is talking about how he wants people to say that the song knocked them out, and then you have the reviewer saying that you need to “wade knee deep through patently clichéd arena rock-ioms for that Bratta burn.”
TRIBUTE TO SRV
In the same Guitar World interview from 1991, Vito commented on his tribute to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“”Blue Monday” was my way of paying tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan. I’m not really a lyricist, but I figured I could try to express my gratitude to him through my guitar. To this day I can’t even figure out why Stevie meant so much to me. He was just a guitarist, but his playing destroyed me. He was probably my favourite. You don’t really hear him in my playing, but I could listen to him night and day. I wasn’t trying to show off my blues chops. It was just a simple memorial to someone I admired very much. I don’t care if people think it’s the worst thing they’ve ever heard. It was my tribute to a great man.”
“I had made a public statement that I was not willing to talk about all this anymore, and I don’t know what he is doing, but as far as Vito the guitar player and Vito the songwriter and musician, he was in a calibre all by himself. It shows in his great solos, and so many people love the way he played like Eddie with the hammer-ons and all that stuff like the Van Halen solo on “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love.” I just love the way Vito played solos on “Wait” and “Little Fighter” and some of the others. He was like Mozart.
We tried to do new White Lions with Warren DeMartini and Paul Gilbert and all these others, and no one wanted to do Vito. He was unlike anyone else, he had his own way of doing thing, and plus he was a great songwriter. Had he remained in the business, Vito would have been bigger than Steve Vai and all those types of guys. With him the melody came before anything else, and that’s nothing but the highest praise. I loved the sound of his guitar and I loved writing songs with him and stuff like that, but we had nothing else in common, unfortunately. There isn’t any bad blood between us. It’s just frustrating that I’ve had to carry on White Lion all by myself 100 percent. I just want to set in on record once again: We were White Lion once, but never again. But as for Vito, I am surprised he isn’t a million percent bigger in the music business. I don’t have an answer. No one ever will.”
Could you imagine White Lion with Warren DeMartini on guitar or Paul Gilbert? Great players, however as Mike said, they wouldn’t touch Vito. He was better then all of them and the above words from Mike prove that. The difference between them is the mindset. Vito confused thought process with what was expected of him, instead of what he expected of himself. That is the difference between followers and leaders.
It’s 1991 and Vito Bratta is doing the rounds for the Mane Attraction album. White
Lion needed Mane Attraction to be rock solid, as the previous effort Big Game was classed as a disappointment by fans and critics. In order to understand the pressure that Vito placed on himself, we need to go back to 1989. This is what Vito Bratta said in the June 1989 issue of Kerrang magazine.
“I hate recording. I can’t stand it. I cant stand the pressures of writing and recording a record. If they told me tomorrow that i was going to go out on tour for fives years, i’d say, fine, i love it. Playing every night is what i love.”
When Vito did the Eddie Trunk show in 2007, he had this to say about the expectations placed on them by the Record Label;
“So the record company’s saying we need another Pride. I say, Ok, so what exactly does that mean? The label goes we need the hit singles… I go listen the songs we gave you, on “Pride” weren’t hit singles written purposely to be to be hit singles. They were just songs that became hit singles and they were just songs we wrote. Now you’ve got somebody telling you now you have to purposely write a hit single. Now how do you do that? How do you purposely write a hit single, I mean there are people out there that do that…”
It is clear that Vito hated this extra pressure layer that now existed in White Lion. So for Mane Attraction, Vito and singer Mike Tramp locked themselves in a small apartment and held marathon writing sessions. The idea was to escape all the distractions of managers, record labels and MTV.
In a Guitar World interview from the June 1991, Brad Tolinski asked Vito if Mane Attraction was difficult to make.
“In a way it was. It was the first time I ever felt real pressure. When we recorded our first record, Fight To Survive, we were real naive and just happy to have a deal. Our next record, Pride, was also very relaxed. It was written over a period of three years, so we had plenty of time to compose and experiment. Pride went double platinum, which was both good and bad. When we went to record the follow-up. Big Game, everyone told us, “Don’t worry, whatever you write will sell a million.”
The feeling was too good on Big Game, and I think the album was soft. There wasn’t any real fire or hunger on that record. We were playing arenas, getting big checks in the mail, getting calls that we were going platinum, and so on. The vibe was too relaxed and it showed. On top of that, we had convinced ourselves that we had to write hit singles in order to maintain our popularity, and in the end. Big Game was too contrived. It didn’t sell as well as Pride, because people knew something was lacking. It was a valuable lesson to learn.
White Lion and Dream Theater had similar time frames for their breakthrough second albums. When you have time to fine tune the arrangements without any pressure, greatness will ensure.
So the buzz from Pride is dying down and the label wants another album. They tell the band that whatever they write, it will sell millions. It was a false reality. To me Big Game is a good progression from Pride, however I understand the comments that Vito made about the album and how the songs didn’t translate will in the live arena. In the end, all rock bands are live performers. This is what Vito had to say on the Eddie Trunk show;
““Big Game” was a setback for the Label. It didn’t sell as many. We were doing a headlining tour of Europe by ourselves for the Big Game album and they (the Label) said, “wouldn’t it be great if we played at Wembley with Motley Crue and Skid Row?”
Skid Row went on and they were just killing the place. And Motley Crue had a great show and here we are sandwiched in between.
We realized, that night, on stage at Wembley that these songs from the Big Game album aren’t translating well in the live show because when you’ve got tens of thousands of angry British rockers out in the audience and if you don’t have a certain type of music; it just wasn’t working. So we all looked at each other on stage and said we need to throw in some of our better stuff in here. I was like what better stuff. We need to write more for who we are because these songs are not translating.
Then we went back to the States and we told the record label, no more tours on this album. We are going to do the album that we want to do. And they said well considering how the last album went, they said “go ahead”. They gave us unlimited funds. Mane Attraction was a half a million dollar record. They just said go and do everything that you want.”
In the same June 1991, Guitar World interview, Vito goes onto say that the real pressure on Mane Attraction didn’t come from trying to write hit singles, but from wanting to find their original source of motivation and creativity.
“By coincidence we write songs that can be singles, because we’re still big fans of bands like Boston and Journey. But we wanted to let that other side through, the more experimental side that his its roots in music by Robin Trower, Frank Marino and Rush.
Right when we were finishing this album, the record company came to us and said, “Can you guys write another single for us?” Mike and I got so crazy that we wrote “The Warsong,” which is about as far away from a single as you can get. “
Vito put everything he had into Mane Attraction. He believed in it. He created the songs that he wanted to create. He made it clear that the band’s creativity wasn’t stifled in any way by the record label. So when it failed to connect with a large audience, I believe he threw his hands up in the air and just gave up. There was nothing more that he could give.
Going back to Vito’s comment about trying to recapture the original source of motivation and creativity.
When bands come out with ground breaking albums, they do so because of motivation. Motley Crue got sober and detached themselves from the LA scene, by moving to Vancouver. They were motivated to make a big statement. The end result was Dr Feelgood.
Metallica had a reputation as a live band and they were motivated to make an album that captured that live energy. The end result was the biggest Soundscan album.
I am not sure that music is the same if you’re popular. With success and money, comes baggage. The baggage adds an extra layer of pressures.
Music was once everything to Vito and somehow music become a pressurized boiler room that he couldn’t stand anymore.
That is why I don’t believe that Vito will write any new music.