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

Album Review: AC/DC – Power Up (Columbia)

By: Jesse Striewski

AC/DC were one of the pivotal bands that introduced me into rock n’ roll. Their massive 1980 effort Back in Black was, to the best of my knowledge, the second rock album I ever owned. And in 1996, they became the first band I ever saw live when a group of friends and I drove down south to West Palm Beach to catch them in concert. But in all honestly, the band hasn’t released anything that’s really excited me since 1990’s The Razor’s Edge album…until now anyway.

Power Up is the first studio album from the band since original founding guitarist Malcolm Young, sadly passed in 2017, and serves as a tribute to him. However, his presence is still greatly felt; co-founder/brother Angus Young complied each of the record’s tracks from non-recorded material the two had previously worked on together, while their nephew Stevie Young once again steps in in Malcolm’s place. The permanent returns of vocalist Brian Johnson, bassist Cliff Williams, and drummer Phil Rudd give the album a sort of ‘comeback’ feel as well.

“Shot in the Dark” served as an appropriate first taste of what was to come from the Power Up. Other numbers like “Demon Fire,” “Systems Down,” and “Witch’s Spell” are reminiscent of 1981’s For Those About to Rock… album (still my personal favorite release from the Johnson era). Make no mistakes about it; AC/DC are back, and with a roar.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Marilyn Manson – We Are Chaos (Loma Vista/Concord)

By: Jesse Striewski

Although I’m far from the Marilyn Manson fan I might have once been when I was fourteen, there’s still that part of me that will always be intrigued by what Manson does these days. I’m glad I took the time to listen to the band’s eleventh studio release, We Are Chaos, which sees them taking some surprisingly interesting new avenues with their sound.

One thing that has been disappointing about Manson in more recent times is the fact there’s no real “band” to speak of anymore, rather just random, faceless musicians that come and go through the fold. But despite this, Manson finds songwriting help via collaboration with Shooter Jennings, who definitely helps add new dimensions here. The two manage to unleash some dark, Bowie-inspired numbers in the form of “Broken Needle,” “Keep My Head Together,” and the title track.

But the standout here hands-down goes to “Don’t Chase the Dead,” which not only echos early ’80s Ministry, it also features a sleek music video featuring The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus and photographer Lindsay Usich. I always say to go in to things with an open mind, and the same applies with everything here. Give it a chance and you might find something you like.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: The Damned – The Rockfield Files EP (Spinefarm)

By: Jesse Striewski

My first introduction to The Damned back in the day came via their 1980 effort The Black Album, so the lineup my mind forever goes to is the one on that album, consisting of Vanian/Sensible/Scabies/Gray. Although it’s still not that exact same lineup here, having bassist Paul Gray back in the fold, as well as recording in the same place as said record (and its two follow-up releases), does give The Rockfield Files a hint of nostalgia to it.

“Keep ’em Alive” starts off this four track EP promising enough, but ultimately gets lost in its own repetitiveness. But “Manipulator” quickly puts things back into the right direction, while “The Spider the Fly” and “Black is the Night” each hearken back to the band’s most goth days, with the latter being the overall standout.

The Damned’s music may not be for everybody, but those familiar with their stuff should be able to appreciate something here. And having seen the band live a couple of times myself (the last time being well over 15 years ago now), it would definitely be interesting to see this lineup go out on the road, whenever the world finally gets back to those days.

Rating: 3/5 Stars