Album Review: Skull Fist -Paid in Full (Atomic Fire Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Four long years since their last album, the mighty Skull Fist are back with their fourth full-length record. This time around, the thrashers are out to prove their rightful place among the upper echelon of modern metal, and they more or less prove it here.

I wasn’t even initially that impressed by the first single, “Long Live the Fist,” but Paid in Full contains eight tracks of intense top-notch metal that’s hard to ignore. Starting off appropriately enough with the title track, there’s very few moments where things let up here, with brilliant Maiden-inspired guitar riffs that lead the charge all the way (even though the presence of now-former guitarist Jonny Nesta is slightly missed).

Things reach their peak in the form of “Blackout” and “Madman,” two epic anthems worth turning up to eleven. All in all, Paid in Full is a relentless assault on the senses that never fully lets up, and a worthy effort that should not be overlooked.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Unlimited Love (Warner)

By: Jesse Striewski

Like many, I got into the Red Hot Chili Peppers “back in the day” at the peak of their mainstream success in the early ’90s. But when their sound started changing and becoming more mellow by 1999’s Californication album, I began losing interest…at least until I finally saw the band live in 2017 that is, and my faith in them was more or less restored.

Unlimited Love is not only the band’s twelfth studio album, but their first with former guitarist John Frusciante since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, and having his energy back in the fold is a definite asset to the band’s sound. With Frusciante back in tow, the guys offer up seventeen new tracks and some of their best work in years here.

We were first introduced to the album via the single “Black Summer” in early February, and said track also kicks off the collection of songs here. Along the way there’s plenty of funky numbers (“She’s a Lover,” “Whatchu Thinkin'”) and just straight cool tracks (“Here Ever After,” “The Heavy Wing,” “Tangelo”), with really only a couple of duds (“It’s Only Natural,” “Veronica”) thrown in. Also worth checking out is the new video for latest single “These Are the Ways,” which finds frontman Anthony Kiedis fleeing from cops in a wild, fast-paced chase through various suburban settings.

This is the album that this band has needed to record and release for some time now; not perfect, but just strong enough to bring a waning fan such as myself back into a category that finds me caring about their music again.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Cobra Spell – Anthems of the Night (Self-Released)

By: Jesse Striewski

From the moment I first heard/saw the video for Cobra Spell’s “Addicted to the Night,” I knew they had won me over as a fan (and it’s not just because three out of five of the band’s members are attractive young females – lead by former Crypta guitarist and knockout Sonia Anubis – though that certainly doesn’t hurt anything!).

Said first single also kicks off this four song EP, which, if you couldn’t already tell based off of its cover alone, echos back to rock’s ’80s heyday. “The Midnight Hour” and “Accelerate” are each layered with thick guitar work and seem destined to rock many a kegger or strip club, while “Steal My Heart Away” is a tad more on the softer side, reminiscent of early Bon Jovi, among others.

Some say this current wave of throwback rock/metal bands is just another trend that will come and go, but there’s a reason why it’s so popular again. Too much of what passes for music today is just soulless, and those of us who can see through it want more than simply what’s feed to us via mainstream media. It may take a little more effort to seek out a band like Cobra Spell versus finding the new mediocre Pop Evil album, but the payoff is much more worth it in the end.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Tears For Fears – The Tipping Point (Concord)

By: Jesse Striewski

I really had not anticipated to be reviewing all new material from ’80s pop rockers Tears For Fears in 2022, but here we are. And with nearly two decades in the making since their last studio album, one would think they would have reached total perfection by now.

The Tipping Point (the band’s seventh album for those of you keeping track) starts off with the aptly-titled “No Small Thing,” then progresses nicely with the title track (which also features a music video to go along with it). Other songs like “My Demons” and “End of Night” inject some interest as well, but unfortunately many of the other tracks are subdued enough to induce sleep at times.

There’s no doubt that Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith – the band’s long time core masterminds – have a lifetime’s worth of experience and talent in their field that most would be envious of. But I think staying out of the public eye for so long may have had some damaging effects on them in more ways than one. But despite the time that’s passed, it’s clear the bond the two musicians share is a unique one none the less.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Scorpions – Rock Believer (Spinefarm)

By: Jesse Striewski

Up until semi-recently, the Scorpions were still one of those bands I didn’t put all that much thought into to be honest. But in the past decade or so, I’ve revisited a good amount of their classic material, which contains far more gems than simply “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”

On the band’s nineteenth studio record, the guys immediately bring the heat, opening with the high-octane “Gas in the Tank.” Sure, there’s a dud or two along the way (namely “Roots in my Boots”), but bombastic tracks like “Knock ’em Dead,” “Peacemaker,” “Shoot For Your Heart,” and the title track, more than make up for it.

There’s even a tender moment or two, including both electric and acoustic versions of their latest single “When You Know (Where You Come From),” which echos the likes of past power ballads like “Winds of Change.” Rock Believer might not be the strongest effort in the band’s impressively long catalog, but it might just help create a new one or two.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Thunderor – Fire It Up (Boonsdale Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Something about Canadian rock and metal seems to just always hit the spot, and in the grand tradition of classic and modern power trios from the great north such as Rush, Exciter, and Cauldron, enter Thunderor (okay, so maybe the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but here me out here!).

Formed by Skull Fist drummer JJ Tartaglia (who also serves as vocalist here) and former guitarist Jonny Nesta, the two ex-bandmates are joined by bassist Oscar Rangel (who also briefly did some time with fellow canucks Annihilator). The chemistry of these three rockers combined gives off an undeniable, contagious energy that shines through their music.

The moment I first heard “How We Roll,” I knew I was in trouble…and instantly hooked. Other numbers like “All or Nothing,” “On the Run,” “We Can Make It,” and the epic title track, infuse multiple sub-genres like thrash, power, and synth metal, and are the type of adventurous anthems that make life still feel like it’s worth living even on its darkest of days.

Being more on the pop side, I can see how the more “brutal” metalheads might put their noses in the air to this. But if you’re able to just open your mind and embrace it, you might just have yourself some fun, and what’s so bad about that?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Billy Idol – The Roadside EP (Dark Horse Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

I’m admittedly late in checking out this latest EP from legendary rocker Billy Idol (his first collection of new music in seven years), and even debated if I should still review something as “old” as it is (it dropped a whopping month and a half ago this past September!). But I was so glad I decided to still give it a listen once I heard how surprisingly good it is. It also helps that Idol is once again joined by longtime guitarist/companion Steve Stevens.

Sure, at just four songs, The Roadside EP is no doubt a short listen. But each song has its own place, starting with the first single, “Bitter Taste.” Inspired by Idol’s near-death motorcycle accident he track is an effective haunting number that’s accentuated with a black and white music video, which gives off a neo-noir type of vibe. I quickly feel in love with the song, and legitimately couldn’t wait to hear what else was in store.

“Rita Hayworth” echoes back to Idol’s early Generation X days, while “U Don’t Have to Kiss Me Like That” maintains that cool swagger found on previous hits like 1990’s “Cradle of Love.” Everything is finally book-ended neatly with “Baby Put Your Clothes Back On,” another banger, as they say in Idol’s homeland.

It’s both tragic and frustrating that the format of modern radio stations is to play a classic artist’s “hits” into the ground on a daily basis, while ignoring any and all new material they release; this is the reason why ignorance runs so rampant among “fans.” Far too often they have no idea that artists like Billy Idol are still even releasing new music based on what’s being presented ted to them, causing them to not know any better (of course there is always the option of seeking out the information themselves, but perhaps lack the motivation to do so). Sadly, there’s so much great music that continues to get overlooked out there on a yearly basis; do yourself a favor, and don’t let this be another case of that.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: KK’s Priest – Sermons of the Sinner (EX1 Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Originally I had debated reviewing a certain other metal album that also came out last week, but swiftly decided I’d rather spend my time on some good, non-preachy metal that’s not actually lead by some delusional, hypocritical tool (sorry, Al). I’m beyond glad I went with KK’s Priests’ Sermons of the Sinner instead, which reaches epic proportions in no time.

When guitarist K.K. Downing originally left Judas Priest in 2011, I was legitimately disappointed; in my book, he was the driving force behind the band, and as irreplaceable as Keith Richards is to The Rolling Stones. But I was glad to hear of this new project of his called KK’s Priest, which also features one time Judas Priest frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens on vocals. To say what K.K. has assembled here is a winning combo would be an understatement.

Like the last effort from counterparts Iron Maiden, unrelenting guitar riffs and empowering lyrics are immediately in full swing here, even with album opener “Hellfire Thunderbolt” being one of the weakest numbers throughout. Tracks like “Raise Your Fists,” “Metal Through and Through,” and “All Hail the Priest” reawaken that primal, youthful spirit in a way that only metal truly can.

Is it perfect? No. But Sermons of the Sinner is without a doubt the Judas Priest album I’ve been hoping for for years now. And if the two factions can’t find a way to ever merge forces again, I suppose this really is the next best thing.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Debbie Gibson – The Body Remembers (Stargirl)

By: Jesse Striewski

I wasn’t exactly a Debbie Gibson “fan” during her ’80s hey day. I was certainly aware of her presence thanks to MTV, but in my young mind, she was just something for my older sisters to listen to, not me. But with age comes wisdom, and my appreciation for all genres of music has grown exponentially over the years. Not to mention the moment I first saw Gibson scantly slinking around in her recent video for “One Step Closer,” I knew she had me hooked.

The Body Remembers contains fifteen cutesy pop tracks that often sound comparable to many of the current hits heard on modern radio today. Along the way, there’s contributions from the likes of Sixx: A.M./former Guns N’ Roses guitarist DJ Ashba and Cinderella drummer Fred Coury. There’s even a duet with Joey Mcintyre of New Kids on the Block, appropriately titled “Lost in Your Eyes, the Duet,” though said track is not as strong a ballad as probably hoped for. But the main overall highlights here are definitely the title track, and “Dance 4U,” the latter a seemingly perfect strip club anthem.

Okay, so I probably won’t go out of my way to listen to The Body Remembers on a regular basis any time soon. But you know what? I’d rather have my kid listening to something like this than the garbage that passes for music these days that was on full display at the V.M.A’s the other night. It’s a shame that someone with actual class such as Gibson’s doesn’t get the type of attention that the masses so blindly hand over to far less talented artists; if for no other reason, give her new disc at least one spin.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Iron Maiden – Senjutsu (Parlophone/WMG)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s been six years since Iron Maiden released their last studio album, 2015’s The Book of Souls. At the time, Rewind It Magazine still didn’t even exist (although I did review the album for another publication at the time), nor did half of the lunacy that has since plagued humanity. But leave it to good old reliable Iron Maiden to stick to their guns and continue to grow their metal catalogue with ease in a way that only they know how.

Senjutsu (their second double album, and seventeenth overall), is just as epic as anything the band has released yet. The eight minute long title track starts the record off promising, but things really pick up by “Stratego,” a rallying battle cry reminiscent of the band’s 1983 classic “The Trooper.” At no point does Maiden disappoint or let up, continuing to get deep and explore multiple themes on tracks like “Lost in a Lost World,” “Days of Future Past,” “Darkest Hour,” and “Hell on Earth.” The only “complaint” one might be able to find here (if looking for one) is the actual length of many of its songs.

Those who “get” Iron Maiden will always understand their genius. They’re not some washed up nostalgic act forced to rely on their material of yesterday, as so many acts from their era so often do. After years of admiration, I was lucky enough to finally see them live in 2011 for The Final Frontier tour; to this day, it remains one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended, and I would go see them tour for Senjutsu in a heartbeat as well. We’re beyond lucky to still have them around, and at the top of their game at that.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars