Search Still Got The Fever

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Avenged Sevenfold : Hail To The King review

They started out as metal heroes but, album by album, A7X have waded out into the mainstream until they’ve emerged dripping hard rock riffs.

So it is that Hail To The King finds the Orange County crew sounding less like themselves and more like the bands who inspired them.

This Means War is a close cousin of Metallica’s Sad But True, and there are more than a few nods to James Hetfield & Co in opener Shepherd Of Fire.

Elsewhere, Doing Time fair reeks of Guns N’Roses. Frontman M Shadows even summons up that trademark Axl whine from time to time.

Requiem, complete with mad monks (every metal album should have one, just ask Spinal Tap) is a Sabbath tribute and Coming Home old school Iron Maiden.

But, d’you know, they still rock.

It’s a great album to play in the car and crank up the volume. Sort of singalongamax volume.

The guitar shredding may have been toned down, the anger mellowed – finalĂ© Acid Rain is a power ballad, for goodness’ sake – but Hail To The King still motors.

Perhaps that’s why it beat Naughty Boy and Ellie Goulding to the top of the UK album chart.

And certainly A7X axeman Zacky Vengeance (naff name, sorry) is happy.

“It has been a hell of a ride thus* far,” he says. “Having our first No 1 album in the UK is a monumental achievement for our fans and us.

“I remember playing the 100 Club to prove to our fans that we were willing to start from the ground up again to earn your respect.

“Thank you for putting heavy metal back on the throne. We look forward to growing old with you.”

Avenged Sevenfold play UK dates at London’s Wembley Arena (December 1), The 02 in Dublin (December 3) and Birmingham’s LG Arena (December 5).

* Note: ‘Thus’ isn’t very rock and roll, mate.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Dream Theater legend Mike Portnoy back with three new albums including classic rock trio Winery Dogs

You can’t keep a good man down.

Even if he’s just the drummer.

Prog-rock virtuoso Mike Portnoy appears on not just one, not only two but THREE albums that have just been released.

First up he’s the driving force in The Winery Dogs, whose unashamed classic rock is winning rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.

The eponymous debut finds Portnoy reunited with longtime pal, bassist Billy Sheehan – and the power trio completed by sometime Poison axeman Richie Kotzen.

If you’ve been missing Audioslave since the supergroup went its separate ways, then The Winery Dogs fill that excess all areas gap.

Monster riffs? [Check].

Bombshell bass? [Check].

Levee-breaking drums? [Check].

Gravel grunge vocals? [Check].

Prepare for lift-off.

It’s old school rock from around the turn of the 70s, far removed from the guys’ usual virtuoso volley of notes and tricksy time changes.

Best are bass-driven We Are One, the slash and burn guitar of Desire, and One More Time, which could be a Skynyrd song.

Says Portnoy: “It’s very exciting for me to be in a solid rock trio. The bulk of my career has been spent playing progressive music, and this was an opportunity for me to do something more in the classic rock mould.

“At the end of the day, that’s what I grew up with, and that’s the biggest influence in my life.

“I’m just as at home playing on a four-piece kit doing a simple John Bonham groove as I am playing complex tempos on a giant kit. And that’s been a great breath of fresh air for me.

“This is a band in the true sense of the word. We were in the same room making music together. It wasn’t one of those ‘done by e-mail’ albums.”

Don’t get the idea, however, that Portnoy has turned his back on prog-rock.

He also appears on Live In Tokyo, a new double-CD by supergroup Portnoy, Sheehan, MacAlpine Sherinian.

Yes, it’s that Portnoy-Sheehan old pals act again, this time bolstered by Black Country Communion keyboardsman Sherinian and fusion guitarist extraordinaire MacAlpine.

The 15-song set draws on the back catalogues of each member, together with a cover of Billy Cobham’s barnstormer Stratus. Fans of Portnoy’s old band Dream Theater will lap up Acid Rain.

Last, but not least, Portnoy drums up a storm on the Flying Colors Live In Europe album, recorded last year.

This time he’s joined by Steve Morse, David Larue, Neal Morse and Casey McPherson for a setlist including back catalogue classics such as Dream Theater’s Repentance, Spock’s Beard hallmark June and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
Portnoy has won 26 awards from the Modern Drummer magazine, and remains he second youngest person (after Rush legend Neil Peart) to be inducted into the Modern Drummer’s Hall of Fame.

In September 2010, he announced that he had left Dream Theater after 25 years, and was replaced by Mike Mangini.

And did I mention that there’s a new eponymous Dream Theater album imminent, too?

It’s a wonder that Mike Portnoy’s not guesting on that one, too...

Tuesday 3 September 2013

The Rides : Can't Get Enough review and studio video from Stephen Stills supergroup

It’s like TV’s New Tricks, with veterans being dragged out of retirement to shed new light on cold guitar cases.

CSNY legend Stephen Stills, Electric Flag’s Barry Goldberg and relatively young blues guitar gunslinger Kenny Wayne Shepherd rock out on self-penned Mississippi Road House and unlikely covers of old mate Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World and The Stooges’ Seek And Destroy.

When they rock, there’s enough edge to keep things credible and, hell, they sound like they’re having a great time.

It’s when they slow down that, although the musicianship is impeccable, things start to get staid, showing their age.