Film Review: Metal Lords (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

I really wanted to like Netflix’s attempt at appealing to the metal community with this new teen comedy/drama. But while the film is harmless enough, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling there was just something missing from it the whole time.

The plot follows high school outcasts Kevin (Jaeden Martell) and Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) as they navigate through bullies, parents, and trying to find a bass player for their would-be metal band in order to play their school’s “battle of the bands” contest. They eventually find some camaraderie via an equally awkward social misfit (Isis Hainsworth), but not before some predictable “but she’s a girl!” arguments first.

While the music is spot on and the metal references are heavy, nearly everything feels driven by cliche and predictably. Not even some cameos (and some fairly bad acting) from metal greats Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Scott Ian (Anthrax), Kirk Hammett (Metallica) and, um, Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) can save things in the end.

Is Metal Gods a bad movie? No. But is it really anything we haven’t already seen before? Not really. In the end, it really is “just there,” and the world would not miss a beat with or without its existence.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Book Review: Fathers, Brothers, and Sons: Surviving Anguish, Abandonment, and Anthrax By Frank Bello with Joel Mciver (Rare Bird Books)

By: Jesse Striewski

I’ve been fortune enough to cross paths with Anthrax bassist Frank Bello more than once at this point in my lifetime; in 2010, I was able to photograph each and every one of his manic mannerisms on stage with his band. Then in 2019, I was even luckier to have the chance to speak with him on behalf of Rewind It Magazine. And just last month, I was finally able to take my wife and son see him and Anthrax perform at Welcome to Rockville in Daytona Beach, FL.

Already having a pretty good idea of what he’s like as a person firsthand, I can honestly say his life story reads as though one is having a direct conversation with him. Author Joel Mciver does his best to keep Bello’s often-jumpy thoughts in line, while the one and only “God of Thunder” himself, Gene Simmons of KISS, offers his most sincere thoughts on Bello in a heartfelt forward that sets the tone nicely early on.

Sure, I could see Bello’s often brash, street-wise (perhaps even “too blunt” at times) dialogue here definitely being a turn off for some. But if you can get over that (and the book’s lengthy title), chances are you might not only like Fathers, Brothers, and Sons…, but possibly even take something from the wisdom Frank tries to pass down to readers. From one bassist (and now father) to another, my respect for Bello has always been up there. But the more and more I learn about him, the more that respect grows even further.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Metallica and More at Welcome to Rockville 2021 in Daytona Beach, FL By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

For the first time in its ten-year history, the massive Welcome to Rockville music festival came to the International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL for four straight days and nights from November 11-14. And with press credentials extremely limited for the event, it did not look likely that Rewind It Magazine would be able to make it. But as luck would have it, our very own photographer Brooke Striewski managed to pull off winning four day passes from local rock station WJRR.

Each night featured an array of different bands on the stage (and to anyone that was able to make it all four days and survive, I applaud you), and having just acquired wristbands the day of the first show and having numerous prior engagements, there was no way we would be able to make much more than the headlining acts. But photo passes be damned, we were still determined to get in as much as possible, and see as many friends of the extended family also attending as possible (including Mike Jones, Josh Kelly, and Rewind It Magazine contributor Shawn McKee).

Although I’m ninety-nine percent sure the first band we saw onstage upon entering that first night on Thursday, November 11 was indeed Brass Against, we did not witness the now-infamous “peeing” incident from lead singer Sophia Urista (shame, I know). Our first “real” introduction to the music was via A Day to Remember, a band I first saw back in 2011. Can’t say I was ever a huge fan of theirs, but songs like “Mind Reader,” “Resentment,” “All Signs Point to Lauderdale,” “Brick Wall,” and “All I Want” were all decent enough live numbers.

From there it was on to catch hip hop icons Cypress Hill, who just about any middle/high school misfit in the ’90s will remember as the go-to stoner group. Along with Public Enemy’s DJ Lord in tow, the group actually started off somewhat promising with tracks like “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That,” “When the Shit Goes Down,” “A to the K,” and “Hand on the Pump.” But as soon as they did “Pigs” and started preaching their hypocritical anti-law enforcement rhetoric from their oh-so protected stage (From what again? That’s right, law enforcement!), they began to lose us. More stunning achievements in songwriting followed, such as “Bilingual,” “I Wanna Get High” (where a nearby fan became falsely excited, mistaking it for another, similar sounding song), “Dr. Greenthumb,” and “Hits From the Bong.” By the time they reached their biggest hit “Insane in the Brain,” we were already making our way over to the main act of the night.

Slipknot are one of those rare exception, nu metal acts that I can actually tolerate. and having previously photographed frontman Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root on stage with Stone Sour for another magazine at Earthday Birthday back in 2013, I was actually intrigued to finally see them behind their “other” faces. They were also our fifteen year old son’s favorite act of the entire festival, so to be able to watch them alongside him was no doubt a special moment for me. They definitely did not disappoint, coming out strong with somewhat newer track “Unsainted” before finally launching into the likes of “Before I Forget,” “The Heretic Anthem,” “Psychosocial,” “The Chapeltown Rag,” “Wait and Bleed,” “Vermilion,” “All Out Lie,” and “Duality.” At some point during the night, Taylor also took a minute to address the recent tragedy at Astroworld, forging a moment of honest solidarity between band and audience.

Slipknot headlining the first night of Welcome to Rockville on Thursday, November 11, 2021.

Night two was definitely a step up, and one to remember. By the time our crew arrived this time around, Chevelle (another band I once photographed at EDBD, but in 2012) were mid-way through their set. Although more up my son’s alley once again, hearing tracks like “The Clincher,” “Send the Pain Below,” and “The Red” took me back to another, more simple time.

Social Distortion has been a band on my list for some time now, and although I’ve had close calls of seeing them in the past, I was finally able to catch them this past Friday night. Tracks like The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb,” “Ready For Love,” “California (Hustle and Flow),” “Far Side of Nowhere,” “Lude Boy,” “She’s a Knockout,” “The Way Things Were,” “Story of my Life,” “I Was Wrong,” “Ball and Chain,” “Don’t Drag Me Down,” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” were all powerful in a live setting (although I would have liked to have heard just a little more older stuff, like maybe “Mommy’s Little Monster” at the very least). The laid back demeanor of founder and lone original member, frontman Mike Ness (now joined by former U.S. Bombs/Youth Brigade guitarist Johnny Wickersham in place of the late Dennis Danell since 2000) was a stark contrast to Cypress Hill’s set the previous night around the same time frame, and just echoed an overall coolness.

Former White Zombie frontman Rob Zombie was up next, and like Slipknot, was playing his final show of 2021. Although there’s still plenty of visuals to behold throughout his shows via videos of everything from clips of his films, to half naked go go dancers, I remembered not being all that impressed the last time I caught him live in 2006, either. Now joined by not one, but two former members of Marilyn Manson (guitarist John 5 and drummer Ginger Fish), Zombie and his crew made plenty of noise with tracks like “The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition),” “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown,” “Superbeast,” “Living dead Girl,” “The Eternal Struggles of The Howling Man,” “Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a UFO,” “More Human Than Human,” “House of 1000 Corpses,” and “Thunder Kiss ’65.” A quick solo from John 5 followed before closing things out with “Dragula,” but overall, it was not much more than simply a pretty “meh” performance.

And finally, after waiting forty years (the age of both myself, and the band themselves), I was able to come full circle and complete seeing the last missing piece of the “Big Four” of thrash metal that also includes Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. It was truly surreal to hear Metallica tear through “Whiplash” off of 1983’s Kill ’em All album, before going into “Ride the Lightning” from the album of the same name. More classics new and old followed, including “Harvester of Sorrow,” “Cyanide,” “The Memory Remains,” “One,” “Frantic” (yes, from 2003’s St. Anger album, which lead singer/guitarist James Hetfield even poked a bit of fun at), and “Moth Into Flame.” More classics like “No Leaf Clover,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Whiskey in the Jar,” “Fade to Black,” “Master of Puppets,” “Fight Fire with Fire,” “Fuel,” and “Seek and Destroy” followed. But I also noted how, curiously, nothing from The Black Album was performed, and I would indeed find out why soon enough (stay tuned). Although packed in like sardines in one of the largest crowds any of us have ever been in, it was truly an unforgettable experience to have together.

Having already seen the majority of bands on Saturday night’s roster – including The Offspring, Staind, Lamb of God, and Gwar – and having previously committed to the third annual Stogies and Spirits event at Henry’s Depot in Sanford, FL (where we watched local cover act Skin Deep perform instead) we wisely took a night off from Rockville and waited until Sunday to return, which was a gamble that paid off perfectly. Upon arrival on Sunday afternoon, the weather had cooled down considerably, and the all-female trio The Warning were well into their set. Not only were some pretty faces a welcomed addition after staring at nothing but dudes for days now, the girls actually rocked pretty damn hard, too…

…Yet not as hard as the mighty Anthrax. The last time I saw them back in 2010 (where I photographed them at Hard Rock Live along with Megadeth and Slayer), they were full of energy, and absolutely tore up the stage. And despite a member change since (Shadows Fall guitarist Jonathan Donais has since taken over for Volbeat’s Rob Caggiano), the band still had it. Staple tracks like “Among the Living,” “Got the Time,” “Caught in a Mosh,” “Madhouse,” “Finale,” “I am the Law,” “Anti-Social,” and “Indians” still all sounded crushing live, making Anthrax easily one of my favorite bands of not only the night, but the entire weekend as well.

Former Escape the Fate frontman Ronnie Radke’s band Falling in Reverse were next up. Although another of the many bands I photographed at the three consecutive Earthday Birthdays I covered (I believe it was 2012 this time around), the appeal has definitely worn off for me, and is once again something more appreciated by my teenager. Still, it was interesting hearing “The Drug in Me is You” again alongside newer tracks like “Believe in Me,” “Drugs,” “Just Like You,” and “Popular Monster.”

Mastodon were up next, and admittedly, we only caught a glimpse of their set due to it being time to find some grub. But we filled our bellies just in time to catch a reunited Mudvayne, who, despite their laughable costumes and makeup, did not cause anyone to lose said dinner. I can’t say I was ever a fan of Mudvayne, or vocalist Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett’s other band HellYeah, who once again I photographed at – you guessed it – Earthday Birthday! The only songs I even recognized in their set were the early 2000’s hits “Not Falling” and “World So Cold,” and after listening to Gray struggle to hit the right notes (to be fair, I understand he may have recently recovered from a case of Covid), we began making our way to the next stage.

Legendary southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd have somehow also managed to escape from my radar until now, but it was totally worth the wait, even with virtually no original member present at the time (sole surviving member Gary Rossington was out due to recent medical issues, leaving long time vocalist/younger brother to late original vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, Johnny, and guitarist Ricky Medlocke, who played briefly with the band in the early ’70s and has been back with them for a good twenty five years now, as close as it gets). Still, this did not stop them from bringing the house down.

Lynyrd Skynyrd performing the final night of Welcome to Rockville on Sunday, November 14, 2021.

Thin Lizzy/former Brother Cane guitarist Damon Johnson took over duties for Rossington with ease and enthusiasm, and the band opened their set admirably enough with “Workin’ For MCA.” More classics like “I Ain’t the One,” “Saturday Night Special,” “That Smell,” “Gimme Back My Bullets,” “The Needle and the Spoon,” “Simple Man,” “Gimme Three Steps,” and “Sweet Home Alabama” followed before ending with an epic, ten-plus minute rendition of “Free Bird” (all these years of hearing it yelled at concerts, and we finally heard it live). Skynyrd’s set was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the night, and the entire weekend.

Things could have easily ended there and been just fine. But instead, Metallica had to play a second show of the weekend, and it was immediately apparent the energy of Friday night’s show just wasn’t quite there this time (from both band and audience), and opening with the semi-newer track in the form of “Hardwired” was a clue of what was to come. Things did actually pick up briefly though, as the guys dove through a couple of classics (and two personal favorites of mine) “The Four Horsemen” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).”

But then, the unexpected happened; they started playing The Black Album (remember what I had said about Friday night’s set?), and to top it off, backwards. That’s right, the most boring album in Metallica’s “classic” era catalog, was played from “The Struggle Within,” all the way to “Enter Sandman.” I get that it’s a milestone for the band and recently just turned thirty years old, but I could have easily lived without hearing every moment from it (and judging by the crowd’s reaction, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way). The Black Album was actually the first Metallica album I ever owned, and it did little to nothing to win me over as a fan; it took going back to their earlier efforts to finally win me over.

Although the band did briefly redeem themselves afterwards by ending with “Damage Inc.” and “Creeping Death,” it still did not measure up by any means to their Friday night set. But I think it’s safe to say that all those who attended and lived through the incredible, exhausting experience that was Welcome to Rockville 2021 will surely have many a story to tell for a long, long time.

Film Review: Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes (Cleopatra Entertainment)

By: Jesse Striewski

Those who know me well, know what a huge fan of ’80s metal veterans W.A.S.P. I’ve been since day one (frontman Blackie Lawless was even the first major interview I ever conducted as a professional journalist more than a decade ago). Guitarist Chris Holmes no doubt played an enormous role in their early sound, yet never really got his just due…until now.

Following heavily in the footsteps of Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Mean Man is the ultimate underdog story that finally answers the question (one that I’ve even been asked a time or two over the years) “Whatever happened to Chris Holmes?” perfectly (for those who don’t know, he now resides in France these days with his wife, still making music albeit on a smaller scale).

Current and archive footage, as well as interviews with numerous musicians including Scott Ian of Anthrax, Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, and Holmes’ own former bandmates Johnny Rod and Stet Howland, help tell the tale of this once revered guitarist, who no doubt got the raw end of the deal from his former band mate Lawless.

I only wish more of Holmes’ former bandmates might have been included, especially early (and somewhat elusive) members like Randy Piper or Tony Richards, or even Lawless himself for the sake of transparency (although I knew going in the likelihood of that wasn’t very promising). Still, this quite possibly might be the closest the world is ever getting to a straight forward W.A.S.P. documentary, and I can live with that.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Queensryche and Fates Warning at The Plaza Live on 3/2/19 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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Unlike other bands from their era simply running off nostalgia (Ratt, Quiet Riot, etc…), bands like Queensryche are still releasing more-than-respectful material, and not relying solely on their past. And while they may still be largely ignored by modern radio these days, bands from said era such as them (along with Iron Maiden and Megadeth, among others), are still just as strong as ever. After catching them live this past weekend for the second time, there’s no denying these bands are still able to pack a house.

Fates Warning have always been somewhat of interest to me, especially since Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax bassist Joey Vera first came aboard. And with a solid lineup that also includes original guitarist Jim Matheos, joined with other longtime members Frank Aresti (guitars) Ray Adler (vocals), and current Sebastian Bach drummer Bobby Jarzombek, I was looking forward to actually seeing what they could do on stage when they opened the first night of this current tour. But for the most part, they focused a tad too heavily on their (not so) new album, 2016’s Theories of Flight, performing “From the Rooftops,” “Seven Stars,” and “The Light and Shade of Things.” The furthest the band even went in their own catalog was “Life in Still Water” from 1991. While it’s understandable they had limited time to work with (only able to squeeze in eight tracks) this is one case where it would have been nice if they dug just a little further back in time (at the very least 1988’s “Silent Cries” should have still found its way in the set list somewhere).

And finally, Queensryche took over. The last time my wife/photographer and I saw them live, they were still touring for their first album with current vocalist Todd La Torre in 2013. Since then, the band has released a couple of more albums, and were not swayed from playing material from any of them (despite knowing many likely still come to hear their Geoff Tate-era hits). One thing’s for sure, their stage/light show has definitely improved over time. However, it was somewhat disappointing to see original drummer Scott Rockenfield was not on board this time around, though Kamelot’s Casey Grillo filled in just fine.

Opening with “Blood of Levant,” the band continued with mostly newer tracks such as “I am I,” “Man the Machine,” and “Condition Human,”  but managed to throw one from their debut album, “N M 156” in there before finally breaking out with one of their signature “classics” (“Queen of the Reich”) six tracks in. “Selfish Lives,” “Open Road,” “Light-Years,” and “Eyes of the Stranger” all followed before the band took a quick reprieve.

It didn’t take long for the band to come back with a trio of their most well-known hits for their encore, including their biggest (and in my book, extremely overrated) power ballad “Silent Lucidity,” as well as “Jet City Woman,” and finally “Empire.” I say it all of the time; if ever you doubt the ability of a band that’s been around as long as Queensryche, wait to see them live before judging. These guys have been going strong since 1980, and it’s clear they don’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Fates Warning opening the show.

Interview with Anthrax Bassist Frank Bello Words and Photos By Jesse Striewski

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In 2010, I was fortunate enough to photograph thrash metal legends Anthrax live (along with two other fellow heavyweights in the field, Slayer and Megadeth). The end result produced some of the best live shots I have ever personally captured, largely attributed to the charismatic stage presence of Anthrax bassist Frank Bello (see above photo). So it was my pleasure when Bello recently took the time to speak to Rewind It Magazine while in Canada on their current tour supporting Slayer on their historic final outing.

Frank describes said current tour as the go-to event of the summer for metal fans. The tour also feature such metal giants as Testament, Behemoth,  and Lamb of God, which Bello says, “Is a great package, and for us, very family-like. We’ve literally grown up with a lot of these guys.”

The band also just released their latest live album/DVD, Kings Among Scotland. The concert itself was filmed at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow, which Bello praises; “We always have great shows there, and such great fans. But the footage really makes you feel like you’re there, and that’s what I really love about the DVD.”

Although the band performs the Among the Living album in its entirety on Kings (along with several other staple tracks), they don’t have as much luxury to do so on their current tour, sharing the stage with four other bands.  Bello explains, “We have forty minutes on the stage every night, so it’s really just hit ’em hard and leave. It’s been a really great experience though, most of these shows have been packed, if not sold out!”

I also couldn’t resist asking Bello if he and the band ever felt the urge to resurrect more obscure, almost forgotten numbers such as the Beastie Boys-inspired “I’m the Man” (or anything off of the band’s 1984 debut album Fistful of Metal, for that matter). Frank tells me, “The hardest part at this point is picking the songs and set lists. Everybody has their favorites, and that’s great, but it’s definitely hard to make everyone happy at the same time – but we try! You never know though, we like to mix it up and surprise people.”

Aside from Anthrax, Frank has also done some acting over the years, and he currently has a side project with Megadeth bassist David Ellefson dubbed Altitudes and Attitudes. Frank explains, “It’s a different side of Dave and I that a lot of people seem to really dig, and I’m really proud of it.” Expect a full length album from them by early next year.

With Frank’s own band mate Scott (Ian, Anthrax guitarist) having recently penned his own autobiography, I had to ask if he foresaw writing one himself someday. “Eventually one day I’m sure I will. There’s a lot of in-depth stories that I have, not only about the band, but my life in general.”

Keep up to date with the band on social media or Anthrax.com for show dates near you. Central, FL fans can catch Frank and Anthrax here next month at the Orlando Amphitheater on June 15.