Album Review: Enforcer – Live by Fire II (Nuclear Blast Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

I’ve been saying this for years now; Enforcer are hands down one of the best modern metal acts around today, and their live show is comparable to such classic metal titans as Iron Maiden, Megadeth, or Metallica. And like their first live album, Live by Fire II truly captures the band doing what they do best in their own element.

Recorded in Mexico City in 2019, the seventeen track set list is not too far off from what it was when I personally saw the band live in October of that same year. Tracks like “Searching For You,” “From Beyond,” “Zenith of the Black Sun,” “Live for the Night,” and “Take Me Out of This Nightmare” all showcase what these guys do best, and complete with full crowd participation. Concerts like this might still be rare to come by these days, but Live by Fire II perfectly captures everything that Enforcer has to offer.

I can’t stress this enough, Enforcer are the type of band for those – young and old – who still have metal running in their veins. They’re much more deserving to be at the forefront of the scene than what mainstream metal continues to shove down the throats of the masses (I’m looking at you, Godsmack). If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and check these guys out.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast)

By: Jesse Striewski

When Rob Zombie first dropped the single/video for “The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition)” last year just before Halloween, I wasn’t expecting to feel like that 14-year-old kid just getting into albums like Astro Creep: 2000 all over again. But that’s exactly what happened when I finally sat down to listen to his latest solo album (his seventh overall), even if said initial single didn’t peak my interest all that much at the time.

The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy plays just like one of those old White Zombie records, with seventeen (usually) equally long-titled tracks that range from odd samples, instrumentals, ’70s acid trips, and menacing metal riffs. One thing’s for certain, there’s definitely no shortage of eclectic sounds to be found from start to finish.

Tracks like “The Ballad of Sleazy Rider,” “The Eternal Struggles of the Howling Man,” and “The Satanic Rites of Blacula” are all straight-forward, disco rock hybrids, while “Get Loose,” “Boom-Boom-Boom,” and “Shake Your Ass and Smoke Your Grass” are near tailored made stripper tunes. But the true highlight comes in the form of the doom-y single “Crow Killer Blues;” not only does it feature an appropriately bleak music video, it also contains some of the best work from (former Marilyn Manson) guitarist John 5 to boot.

There’s no doubt that Rob Zombie’s warped world is not for everyone. But even the most casual of listeners may be able to appreciate what he’s put together here, which is easily some of his best work in years.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Alice Cooper – Detroit Stories (earMUSIC)

By: Jesse Striewski

Alice Cooper has become far more than just an average rock musician at this point; he’s a flat out institution, as American as beer or baseball. And on his twenty-first studio effort, he knocks it out of the park once more, surpassing his last outing, 2017’s Paranormal album, by a longshot.

Detroit Stories starts off strong with a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll,” and doesn’t let up once from there. Tracks such as “Go Man Go,” “Drunk and in Love,” “I Hate You,” and the single “Social Debris” all showcase Cooper’s love for versatility, stretching from everything from rock, blues, jazz, and punk across fifteen total numbers.

There’s a decent amount of Detroit-based covers as well, including The MC5’s “Sister Anne” and Bob Seger’s “East Side Story.” But hands down the best tracks here come in the form of the ones with a bit of a message behind them; “Hanging On By a Thread (Don’t Give Up),” “Wonderful World,” and “Shut Up and Rock” all offer a slice of real insight into Cooper’s true feelings towards the outside world, but without ever getting preachy (something he has always strayed far away from).

If Cooper has ever been your cup of tea, then Detroit Stories should be right up your alley. Whatever you do, don’t pass up this one.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Moonspell – Hermitage (Napalm Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Now and then, I tend to forget just how much I still need some melodic gothic/black/doom metal like Moonspell in my life from time to time…at least until they go ahead and release new material like this. On their latest studio effort (their twelfth overall), the band is indeed on top of their game once again.

Opening with a one-two punch with a couple of the album’s stronger tracks, “The Greater Good” and “Common Prayer,” Hermitage never really falters (although the two seven-minute numbers, “All or Nothing” and “Without Rule,” aren’t quite as epic as the band was probably going for). Other highlights include “Entitlement,” “The Hermit Saints,” and the title track. The tranquil instrumentals (and dare I say, borderline trippy?) “Solitarian” and “City Quitter (Outro)” are also worthy of mentions.

It’s clear the band’s sound has evolved at this point since their Wolfheart days (still a modern metal classic). If you’re anything like me, this will leave you wanting to revisit the band’s older music once you’ve finished listening, and now is as good a time as any to do so.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Dio – Holy Diver: Live (BMG)

By: Jesse Striewski

Ronnie James Dio might be gone, but the music he left behind across multiple decades and via numerous staple bands (including Black Sabbath and Rainbow) will forever live on. This latest reissue of a 2008 Dio show is a perfect example of just that, showcasing the immense talents of one of the greatest frontmen in rock to ever step up to the microphone.

Originally recorded live at London Astoria, this collection contains not only all nine tracks from the original 1983 masterpiece album of the same name (as it’s title suggests), but a number of other essential cuts from throughout Dio’s career. Classic’s like Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” and Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain” help make up this seventeen track collection. And even the physical editions come with some cool perks, including an album-sized, 3D lenticular art piece with the vinyl version.

There’s even another Dio reissue being released in tandem with this one, Evil or Divine: Live in New York City, but Holy Diver: Live is definitely the strongest of the two. But if you’re even half the Dio fan I am, you should be able to appreciate either of these collections.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Album Review: The Pretty Reckless – Death By Rock and Roll (Fearless Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

I’m not going to lie, aside from a handful of acts (Sixx A.M. and Chevelle are a couple that come to mind) modern mainstream rock bands like The Pretty Reckless are far from my usual cup of tea. Not to mention the whole put-a-hot-chick-in-front-of-some-generic-dudes-in-a-band gimmick has worn slightly thin at this point. But I’ve got to be honest, after giving their latest effort a listen, I discovered it wasn’t half bad.

Admittedly, the album’s initial single/title track didn’t do much to stir up a lot of interest for me – and that still hasn’t really changed. But once one digs a bit deeper, there’s a lot more that the band has to offer. Sure, there’s some definite filler tracks here, but there’s also a fairly large, eclectic mix of tracks; “Only Love Can Save Me Now,” “My Bones,” and “Witches Burn” all feature some heavy blues and/or doom-inspired riffs, while “Got So High,” “Rock and Roll Heaven,” and “Harley Darling” each sound like something straight out of the ’90s. There’s even a ballad of sorts in “Standing at the Wall.”

Am I a die hard fan of The Pretty Reckless after listening to their new album? Hardly. But I think it’s fair to say I’ll probably give further releases by them more of a chance now (and might even consider seeing them live should the chance ever present itself) after allowing Death By Rock and Roll my full attention. Give it a try, and maybe you’ll agree.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Paul McCartney – McCartney III (Capitol Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

For just the third time in his career (and first time since 1980’s McCartney II), legendary Beatles singer/bassist/songwritter Paul McCartney has written and recorded an album full of compositions penned and performed entirely by him. And for someone pushing eighty years old, he’s still got it.

The album starts off with a near-jam piece in the form of “Long Tailed Winter Bird,” by far one of the strongest tracks found here. Unfortunately, it’s followed by a number of mediocre tunes before finally picking back up again. Luckily, things are redeemed by the edition of “Lavatory Lil” and “Slidin’,” which sound as though they would’ve both been able to fit in the White Album-era Beatles catolog.

Even if you were drawn more towards Lennon’s work in The Beatles (as I personally was), there’s no denying McCartney’s influence in the rock and pop worlds. We should all be thankful he’s still here and producing new, positive music at a time when the world truly needs it the most.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: My Dying Bride – Macabre Cabaret (Nuclear Blast)

By: Jesse Striewski

This short, four track EP from U.K. doom masters My Dying Bride serves as a fitting compliment to the band’s recently-released full length effort, The Ghost of Orion. Here the band expands on some of the very same themes from said album.

The opening/title track is an epic, ten minute long opus, with a detailed music video to accompany it. Other tracks like “A Secret Kiss” are far more stronger then it’s title might suggest, while “Orchestral Shores (Buiksloterkerk Cathedral Mix)” is as effective as it’s original version, “Your Broken Shore.” The weakest link by far though is “A Purse of Gold and Stars;” although it’s threaded together well sonically, lyrically it falls a tad short.

Although I tend to forget about them these days, there was a minute when I was still in high school that doom/goth metal acts like My Dying Bride, along with the likes of Paradise Lost and Moonspell (among others) were much more at the forefront for me. But I’m always glad when bands like them come back on my radar; it’s rare that I ever regret re-visiting their older material, and discovering their new music.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Hatebreed – Weight of the False Self (Nuclear Blast Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s been four years since hardcore heavyweights Hatebreed unleashed new material upon the world, and if 2020 needed anything, it was new music from them. On their eighth full-length effort, the band have perfected their own unique style of metalcore that they started so long ago.

True to form, Weight of the False Self is instantly relentless, with “Instinctive (Slaughterlust)” kicking things off as brutal as ever. From then on, it’s one unforgiving track to the next. Numbers like “Set It Right (Start with Yourself),” “Cling to Life,” and “This I Earned” are testaments to inner strength, while “Wings of the Vulture” and “Invoking Dominance” are among some of the band’s best work in years.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Hatebreed live, and equally lucky to even (briefly) meet frontman Jamey Jasta. Hatebreed are undoubtedly a breed all their own, and should not be taken lightly; proceed with caution in the best way possible.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: L.A. Guns – Renegades (Golden Robot Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

When listeners got their first taste earlier this year of what the Steve Riley-led version of L.A. Guns were up to via the hook-laden track “Crawl,” they were given a fairly accurate idea of what was to come. But with follow-up single “Well Oiled Machine” failing to generate as much excitement, I was concerned they may have peaked early. But aside from a filler track or two, for the most part I was wrong.

Subsequent third single and title track “Renegades” is a blues-ly self portrait that paints a perfect picture of the band’s current status. Other tracks like “All That You Are,” “Lost Boys,” and the power ballad-ish “You Can’t Walk Away” are all worthy contenders from this version of the band.

You can close off your mind and scoff at the notion of there being two versions of L.A. Guns. Or, you could choose to look at things the way I do; we’re lucky enough to be living at a time where we not only have the option to be a fan of one or the other (or both/neither), but we have twice the music from one great band! Choose wisely.

Rating: 3/5 Stars