Album Review: Courtney Gains -Safe Haven (Fake Fangs Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Until semi-recently, I honestly had no idea that actor Courtney Gains, who is perhaps best remembered for appearing in such classic ’80s flicks as Children of the Corn and The ‘Burbs, was also a talented singer/songwriter/musician. But such is the case indeed, and thankfully it’s a welcomed surprise.

Admittedly, it took a minute for a few the songs from this new six-track EP, Safe Haven, to grow on me. But after a few spins, I finally began to appreciate what Gains has created here, a sort of hybrid rock that’s somewhere between the ’60s anthems of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the ’90s’ answer to hippie rock, Blind Melon.

From the opening title track, to closer “Good Times,” and all of the interesting moments that are found in between, there’s no shortage of bright spots (“Look Out” has quickly risen as my favorite tune on the record) that I hope to be able to hear live in the near future. I was also lucky enough to even catch up with Gains recently over the phone for a brief interview; be sure to “look out” for that piece to post soon on Rewind It Magazine!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Dethklok – Deathalbum IV (WaterTower Music)

By: Jesse Striewski

There was a certain excitement when I first learned that Dethklok – the fictional metal band from Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse series – were returning for a new album, and full length feature, simultaneously.

The second “Gardener of Vengeance” started to kick in, I immediately started getting late-2000’s vibes all over again (a.k.a. my single dad days). Other tracks like “Aortic Desecration,” Mutilation on a Saturday Night,” and “Murmaider III” are all destined to be eaten up by fans of the show, and said new film, Army of the Doomstar.

Mastermind Brendon Small is still pulling the strings behind the scenes on the project (with drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan still adding the backbeat), and what they’ve achieved is nothing short of epic. Raise the horns, my rock brethren, and behold the mighty Dethklok are back with a vengeance!

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Caivano – Self-Titled (Self Released)

By: Jesse Striewski

Longtime Monster Magnet guitarist Phil Caivano recently released his first solo album, and it’s a mini masterpiece in its own right of gritty, spaced-out hard rock that’s impossible for fans of Caivano’s long-standing band not to fall in love with.

The opening track “Come and Get Me” says it all, and invites listeners to take this wild trip with him. From then on, numbers like “Now is Forever,” “Talk to the Dead,” “Fun & Games,” and “Face the Music” highlight the rest of the ensuing madness.

There’s definitely no shortage of musical influences that can be spotted throughout here either. From the likes of Black Sabbath to the Ramones, to even Pentagram and of course the obvious, Monster Magnet, there’s plenty of fast, doom-y riffs to keep fans of almost any of the above-mentioned bands pacified. So if you’re clamouring for some new rock music, consider giving Caivano a try over say, the latest Godsmack album.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Richie Ramone – Live to Tell (Cargo Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Unfortunately the world is never going to see another true, bona fide, “new” Ramones album. But thankfully, there’s alumni like Richie Ramone still putting out respectable material in the spirit of the band.

When I interviewed Richie for Rewind It Magazine back in 2018, I could hear the enthusiasm and pride in his voice as he spoke of his former band. That love for his former group has without a doubt transpired over into his solo work, and what he’s created is no doubt a breath of fresh air for die hard Ramones fans.

Prime examples; “Not Afraid,” “When the Night,” and “I Sit Alone (Yeah Yeah)” sound as though they would’ve fit flawlessly in Too Tough to Die-era Ramones, and you can nearly hear the same intensity vocal-wise on these tracks that Richie also supplied on “Wart Hog” back in the day. There’s even a surprisingly banging cover of “Cry Little Sister,” which in all honesty I wasn’t expecting much from when I first saw it on paper.

The Ramones may be no more, but the music will forever live on, and thanks to former members like Richie – so will the heart of the band; God bless ’em for it.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Raven – All Hell’s Breaking Loose (Silver Lining Music)

By: Jesse Striewski

In all honesty I actually want to like Raven, and was hoping for some promising metal from them after seeing the comic book-inspired cover of their latest release, All Hell’s Breaking Loose. But there’s just something off about them that seems to be holding them back that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I tried to give the album an honest try, but really struggled to find anything to hold much attention here. Listeners are instantly greeted with the corney-ness of “Medieval,” and it doesn’t get much better from there. Many tracks like “Surf the Tsunami,” “Turn of the Screw,” and “Go For the Gold” might contain the occasional decent guitar or drum riff, but are usually overshadowed by juvenile lyrics and weak vocal performances that unfortunately come off as not much more than a poor man’s King Diamond in most cases.

Many of the previously-mentioned numbers also have videos to go along with them, which do little to no justice for the songs themselves. In fact the only track I can really even give an honest recommendation for would be “The Far Side,” which actually finds each member of the band firing on all cylinders, and contains a catchy chorus for once.

While I appreciate a band with some slight, tongue-in-cheek humor (see, Anvil), too much of it can sometimes be a bad thing for sure. I wish with Raven they could have perhaps taken a different, more serious approach seen from such fellow contemporaries as Iron Maiden or even W.A.S.P.; maybe then this would have been a much different kind of review.

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Metal Church – Congregation of Annihilation (Rat Pak)

By: Jesse Striewski

It has no doubt been a trying couple of years for Metal Church, first with the passing of lead singer Mike Howe in 2021, and more recently, classic era drummer Kirk Arrington also passing away just this past month.

Alas, the band have forged on gracefully with new frontman Marc Lopes at the helm, and his first effort with the group, Congregation of Annihilation, is no doubt a worthy one. It’s clear right off the bat the band hasn’t missed a beat, with “Another Judgement Day” setting the tone for the rest of the record.

Tracks like “Pick a God and Pray,” “Children of the Lie,” and “These Violent Thrills” are as in-your-face and upfront as can be, with metal guitars played the way they should be. Make no mistakes about it, thirteen albums in, Metal Church are still very much alive and well…despite the never-ending tragedies that seem to plague them.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Therapy? – Hard Cold Fire (Marshall Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

One of the hardest questions I’m often asked is who my “favorite” band actually is, and when it does come about, the rolodex in my mind typically tends to stop on Therapy? (I’m sure this is probably not the first time I’ve made such bold statements about them in print before, either).

Having to wait five years in between albums was completely worth it the minute “They Shoot the Terrible Master” kicked in, and it was abundantly clear this was old-school, punk-inspired Therapy? Sure there might be a throwaway track or two (see “Mongrel” or “Two Wounded Animals”), but the tracks that work here, really work.

Numbers like “Woe,” “Joy,” and “Poundland of Hope and Glory” are all catchy enough, and songs like “Ugly,” “Days Kollaps,” and, perhaps my favorite of the bunch, “Bewildered Herd,” already feel like “classic” Therapy? to me despite being completely new. To still be composing music this damn good all these years in is a testament to what an absolute brilliant band Threapy? are.

Do yourself a favor and give Cold Hard Fire a listen instead of selling yourself short with something like say, the new Godsmack album; I promise you it’s absolutely worth it.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Enforcer – Nostalgia (Nuclear Blast Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s been four long years since the last time fans have had some new material from N.W.O.T.H.M. titans Enforcer. There’s since been some changes in band personal since 2019’s Zenith album, with Garth Conduit now taking over for longtime bassist Tobias Lindqvist, yet that hasn’t slowed them down one bit.

The instrumental “Armageddon” opens Nostalgia up with hauntingly beautiful dueling guitars that segue directly into “Unshackle Me,” and from then on listeners are demanded to come take a ride of epic proportions with the band, with “Coming Alive” quickly following and launching one brutal attack of the senses after another.

“At the End of the Rainbow,” “Metal Supremacia,” “Keep the Flame Alive,” and “When the Thunder Roars (Crossfire)” are all more examples of what the band is capable of. The only time listeners are really even given a chance to catch their breath at all is during the title track, a ballad of sorts that finds frontman Olof Wikstrand pouring his heart out (curiously he is the only member of the band featured in the song’s video).

All in all, Nostalgia is thirteen tracks of pure metal at its finest. Make no mistakes about it, Enforcer are at the top of their game (and genre), and surely to remain there for a long time coming.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Overkill – Scorched (Nuclear Blast Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

For whatever reason, I tend to forget just how great a metal band Overkill really are from time to time. But then a reminder comes along in the form of an album like Scorched, their twelfth full length studio effort and arguably one of their best releases in years.

The instant the twin guitar attack of the title track kicks off the record, it’s clear that listeners are in for some truly worthy thrash metal. While the intro is a definite highlight, there’s plenty of other moments that come close to duplicating it’s greatness; “Goin’ Home,” “Wicked Place,” “Won’t Be Comin’ Back,” and “Bag o’ Bones” are just a few of the numbers I wouldn’t mind personally hearing in the band’s set list should I ever see them live again.

While Overkill emerged from the same scene and era that spawned the likes of Metallica (who also just recently dropped a new album) all those years ago, their style still remains much more true to form. Overkill might not necessarily be the be all end all of their respective genre, but they certainly have earned a level of respect few others in the scene can match equally.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: L.A. Guns – Black Diamonds (Frontiers Music s.r.l.)

By: Jesse Striewski

The moment “You Betray” kicks Black Diamonds – the latest from ’80s hard rockers L.A. Guns – into high gear, it’s apparent the guys have still got plenty left in them, and more than plenty to prove here.

Said intro track instantly brought me back to another album opener, “Face Down” from the band’s 1994 Vicious Cycle record (which ironically was my “true” introduction to the band all those years ago). This is followed up with “Wrong About You,” which features mammoth lead-off guitar riffs from Tracii Guns and Ace Von Johnson that seem primed for cruising the strip on a Saturday night.

“Diamonds” shows the band’s abilities to still maintain a softer side, while “Shattered Glass,” “Gonna Lose,” and “Like a Drug” all echo respective ’70s punk and/or Led Zepplin vibes. Sure there’s some clunkers (see; “Shame”), but that’s to be expected. Overall, this is worthy of putting alongside any of the band’s classic material; shame indeed it will likely fall under the radar like most “new” music from its era does.

Rating: 3/5 Stars