Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Spastic Hearts
self-titled


I'll be honest, I didn't know jack shit about the whole Ramones-core/pop punk movement and just how spread out it was globally until these cats I knew started rocking leather jackets and cramming as many two-minute songs and three-chord variations onto recorded tracks and into live sets.
I was too busy trying to find the next band that sounded like AC/DC when out of nowhere these frenzied and frantic rock 'n' rollers started throwing suburban house parties with cheap swill, cheap equipment and cheap high school chicks. Add about 50 pairs of Chuck Taylors and you had the recipe for teenage suburbia — Youngstown, Ohio style. 
It's all rock 'n' roll, obviously, which as the lot of us got older found out — even if we worshiped at different altars.
The Spastic Hearts are a fresh take from road-worn and weary rockers who toured two continents in Johnie 3 and The Hi-Life, not counting of course God knows how many other one-off groups prior.
And while the Hearts are still firmly rooted in the lessons of Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, they nod a great deal more towards Pink Spiders, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Huntingtons, 50s doo-wop and Chuck Berry.
Of course it's all been done before and everyone says it's stupid until the record comes out and 100 high-as-a-kite kids cram into the local dive. Then everyone wants to be as stupid as the band on stage which is how the whole damn movement started in the first place.
But make no mistake, the Hearts self-titled debut album is no paltry affair. Far from it.
"Gimmie Gimmie," "Rock 'N' Roll," and "What's Your Name," and "Rocket Ship" are fast-paced, addictive, punk rock anthems.
No self-respecting pop-punker would leave out odes to girls, either, and you get plenty of that all over the place here — "Colorado," "Kiss You," "Wait A Little Bit," "I Know," "Without You."
Perhaps the album's best song and certainly radio-friendly rocker is "Just For You." Hell yes it's about a girl again, but it's slowed to mid-tempo with an absolutely massive chorus hook and layered backing vocals that takes the Hearts to heights the group's previous bands never quite achieved.
You wouldn't want everyone at the party to look the same which is what makes rock 'n' roll beautiful, baby. There's lookers of all types, sizes and styles. It's eye candy, and the Hearts are supplying the soundtrack. 
That mix of speed and the willingness to stretch the pop-punk envelope beyond the "1-2-3-4" and leather, however, is what makes the Hearts the hottest chick at the party.
Appropriately the record ends with "Getcha Outta My Head," which like "Just For You" slows things down to a solid 4/4 and again sports the ingredients that make the Hearts the spastic rockers they are — Chucks, girls, guitars, gang vocals and great songs. 9/10 - B.J. Lisko

Friday, December 07, 2012

Flash Metal Suicide: Predator


PREDATOR
Easy Prey
1985, Metal Blade

Predator was one of the great 80’s metal mysteries. Well, maybe not great, but certainly mysterious. Their outrageous looking album dropped unceremoniously into the metal bins in 1985 with no fanfare or press, at least that I remember. Metal Blade Records was still in its juggernaut phase, due mostly to the success of Slayer, and began tossing lots of weird stuff on to the market (Pandemonium, Thrust, Mark Edwards), correctly assuming that metal addicted teenage Sleazegrinders like myself would snap up anything with the crude Xerox  sword Metal Blade logo. This one sold itself on pure audacity, though. The cover of Easy Prey featured a curvy blonde in a bikini, strolling down the beach, while a barefoot guy in a shredded t-shirt, with what looks like a condom stretched over his head, hides under the pier, ready to pounce on her. Crazy, right?

There is no subtext or subtlety to this image. It’s cheap and phony and suggestive of nothing other than male dominance and the will to provoke. In these strange and censorious times, the cover of “Easy Prey” simply would not fly. It’d be banned and burned and rightwing radio show hosts would bark like angry dogs about the impending fall of society, thanks to the wicked heathens in their black marble towers at the Metal Blade offices. But this was 1985, and we really didn’t give a fuck about any of that. We just thought it was funny, and kinda sick, and there was a hot, blonde, Californian chick on the cover, and that was all we really needed.

By the way, the back cover reveals the expected ending to the cat and mouse game on the front. Tattered t-shirt guy, now free of his mask and sporting surferboy golden locks, marches back under the pier with the unconscious girl slung over his shoulder. In his hand, a bowie knife. Just what the fuck is he gonna do to that girl, anyway? Ah, who cares, man. Rock n’ Roll!

And so it goes. The music inside was not nearly as reckless or wild as the cover, but it did the job. The band was led by one Jeff Prentice, a white-hot shredder and a full-moon howler, and Predator’s sound mixed his razzle-dazzle riffery with chunky Brit-metal, ragged punk, and the occasional proggy flourish. Musically, they were not far removed from labelmates Savage Grace, another band that liked to feature half-naked women in peril on their covers. The only difference was that we all knew who Savage Grace were, because they had that one picture disc where they dressed up like Robert Palmer and held a couple of titty-girls on leashes like dogs. Besides the girl snuffer on the cover, there were no photos of the band anywhere. There was an insert, but it was just the lyric sheet (sample: “Little lady, drive me crazy/She’s hot n’ nasty/I don’t mean maybe”) and a thanks list. The thanks list was heavy on Hawaiian metal scenesters, but nothing about Predator suggested a Polynesian background. For hardcore metal completists like me and my idiot teenage friends, it was all very frustrating.

But not that frustrating, really. I mean, we had a lot of material to work with back then. The first Sodom EP came out a month or so after Easy Prey, so it’s not like we didn’t have anything else to listen to. But I’ve always kept a copy of Easy Prey around, if only to show off to people. It truly is one of the most iconic looking albums of that weird decade.
Still, I always wondered what the story behind Predator was, so I went on a manhunt for Jeff Prentice.  I found him in Los Angeles, still working in the music industry in various projects, including the Survivor-ish rock band Outland. I was thrilled when he agreed to answer all my questions about Predator, and help me solve the 20 year mystery of the guy in the condom and the girl he abducts.

When did the band get together, and where?

Jeff Prentice: Well, the band actually got together after the record was completed. The record came to be because of a demo I did with a previous band called "Aggressor". A small label called “Azra” wanted to do a record with us and by the time they contacted me, the band had basically broken up, but of course I wanted to do the record, so I borrowed some cash and went into the studio with the drummer from Aggressor and did the record playing everything else myself. His name is Joe Aghassi and he went on to do some stuff with a band called “Axehammer”. The actual names on the record are the band I had together at the time, but none of them played on it.

Was it the first band for everybody, or were you all rock vets? If so, what other bands were you all in?

It was my first label band. I was in a couple of local bands here in L.A. Most notably “Agressor” and another semi successful band called “Deceiver” from which I pillaged a couple of members for Predator later on.

Did you tour at all? What other bands did Predator used to play with?

We toured a little. Mostly just in the western U.S. We toured with Flotsam and Jetsam back when Jason was still in the band, and with Bloodlust. We played shows with bands like Dark Angel, Slayer, Sin, Lizzy Borden, Malice, Armored Saint, and other local metal bands of the day.

Any notable "Gigs from Hell" back then?

Phoenix AZ with Flotsam and Bloodlust was pretty bad. The soundman got us and Bloodlust a horrible sound which miraculously became crystal clear for the local boys Flotsam. We also basically had to threaten the promoter’s life to get paid.

 How did you end up on Metal Blade?

The record was finished and the Azra thing didn’t materialize, so I just started sending samplers of the record out to the metal labels and the fanzines and started a bit of a Buzz. Brian from Metal Blade called me and asked for a promo pack because he wanted to see a picture of the band, which at that point was just me, so I got together a few of my long haired friends and had my girlfriend snap a picture. They signed the “band” the next week. Quite funny actually. I couldn’t believe I pulled it off.

So, the cover for "Easy Prey" is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Who's idea was it?

It's amazing alright!  (laughs) Again, that was really thrown together. We basically walked down to Hermosa Beach Pier, which I lived 2 blocks from at the time and shot the photos. A childhood friend of mine (Harlan Glenn, who later went on to sing in a Texas band called Juggernaut) and I came up with the concept in about 10 minutes and grabbed a camera and went to the beach. He shot the photo if I remember correctly. It’s funny, if you look near the center of the album cover, you can see a spare roll of Fuji film lying in the sand.

Who's the girl? and the guy?

The girl is my future (at the time) and ex-sister in law who just happened to be coming over to go to the beach that day. I’m the idiot with the sock on his head and the bad shirt with the holes freshly cut in it. Ha ha.

What did you think of the cover when you first saw it?

I laughed my ass off that they actually used it. Talk about low budget!

Did it get banned anywhere? Did reviews of the album mention the cover alot at the time?

I don’t think it got banned anywhere. It was all in good fun.  Nowadays the politically correct liberal fucks would be all over it. Heh heh. It did get voted the “worst album cover of all time” in some sort of Rock Encyclopedia type book my Mom owns. My big claim to fame!!

How well did Easy Prey sell?

About 40,000 world wide. I hear we did really well in Poland and the Czech Republic.

What sort of influences did you have when writing the songs on the album? What bands, but also, what about the lyrics? What was the inspiration for Hawk Mistress, Siberia, and Demon Witch?

It’s strange, but my musical influences aren’t really metal bands. I just always ended up in metal bands back then because there were a lot of them around and a “scene” here in L.A. I was more into bands like UFO, early Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, even Journey and Styx. I was really into Michael Schenker and Uli Roth as guitarists so that probably shows on the record. About the heaviest bands I was into were Priest and Maiden. So it’s probably modeled somewhat after them as well.

Musically, Siberia is probably the best song on that record. It’s certainly Thin Lizzy influenced. Demon Witch, I remember was built around that intro which I came up with while trying to figure out how to play the Hammond Organ part from Yes’s “Roundabout” on guitar. I think Hawkmistress was just an excuse to play a lot of lead guitar. That’s what I was into at the time. I was 20 years old and wanted to solo as much as possible.

The lyrics were basically something to put in between the lead guitar. I wrote stuff that I thought sounded “Metal” but in hindsight was mostly just pretty bad indeed. I tried to sing like Rob Halford, but didn’t quite have the same pipes.

So, what happened afterwards, did the band break up soon after the album came out?

The band was together with various members for a couple of years after that, but I couldn’t keep a solid lineup together. I’ve basically been a guitarist for hire guy ever since, making my living playing in Wedding Bands, Corporate Bands, Tribute bands, doing sessions, etc. Whatever I get calls for. I currently am producing a CD for a local Metal Band called “9th Circle’ in my home studio. I hope to do more of that sort of thing in the future.

Are you still in touch with anybody in the band? Did everybody continue to play music? 

Yes a few of them. One of our drummers, Andy James, went on to play with Savatage for a while, and is now a successful session guy in the Pacific Northwest. Angelo, one of our Bass Players, went on to play in a band with David Wayne from Metal Church. The name escapes me at the moment.

Oh, and please, tell us about your new project.

My new project “Outland” is more like the music I’ve always been into. More AOR-ish stuff with lots of keyboards and big vocal harmonies. We’ve been compared to Bon Jovi and Survivor. It’s more of a project than an actual band because it’s just 2 of us. Rob, my partner in the band is a high up guy in Hoshino corp which is basically Ibanez Guitars and Tama drums. We hire drummers for each record and do the rest ourselves. Pat Torpey from Mr. Big played on our last one, and Pete Holmes from Black and Blue and currently in M.S.G. just laid down half the tracks for our new work in progress. We have deals in Japan, Europe and South America. We sell the CDs in North America and the rest of the world ourselves from our website at www.outlandmusic.com  

There are some Outland reviews at: www.melodicrock.com as well.

- Sleazegrinder

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Wolfsbane
Wolfsbane Save The World
Self-released

Album Review by Alex Eruptor




Back in the late 1980s, Tamworth terrors ‘The Mighty’ Wolfsbane scored a major record deal with Rick Rubin’s Def American label and in 1989, 1990, and 1991 released a string of stunning albums which meshed commercial hard rock, outrageous heavy metal and streetwise punk rock.  

Debut ‘Live Fast, Die Fast!’ contained tremendous songs and showcased the flashy guitar playing of teenage whizzkid Jase ‘The Ace’ Edwards and the future voice of Iron Maiden, Blaze Bayley.  It was, and still is, a great album.  Unfortunately though, Rubin substituted the fiery organic ‘live’ sound that the band had built their reputation on, and opted instead to remove most of the bass frequencies and to go with a drum sound that brought to mind ‘Made in Japan’ (and no, not in reference to the Deep Purple live album!) although over time this ‘dry’ mix has become part of its primitive charm.  Despite the support of the national music press and BBC Radio 1, Rubin’s label spectacularly failed to secure decent distribution or otherwise capitalise on the ‘buzz’ that had been generated: You might hear lead single ‘I Like It Hot’ on drive-time radio as well as on the dedicated rock shows, but you sure as hell couldn’t find it in the shops.

Lessons were learned and when Wolfsbane landed the ‘special guest’ spot on Iron Maiden’s tour at the end of 1990, future Pearl Jam producer Brendon O’Brien was brought in to handle the production of the awesome six track ‘All Hell Is breaking Loose...’ mini album released to coincide.  O’Brien also produced the follow-up ‘Down Fall The Good Guys’, but again, despite containing two singles ‘Ezy’ and ‘After Midnight’ that should have set the charts alight, mainstream success evaded Wolfsbane, who toured relentlessly around the UK and Europe gaining rave live reviews but never quite moving to the mega star status which their talent and work ethic deserved.

By the following year, Wolfsbane were temporarily without a record deal before signing to the Bronze label and demoing new material along the lines of the harder and heavier stuff in their back catalogue, which could stand up to the burgeoning new wave of alternative influenced rock.  A live album ‘Massive Noize Injection’ was their released first however and promised to capture the intense live experience which previous studio recordings had managed to gloss-over: It was a warts-and-all triumph.  

An eponymously titled studio album emerged shortly afterwards and it contained some brilliant music, perhaps their best, but alas, Blaze Bayley had already accepted an invitation to replace Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden and the band split up. 

After a few years in the wilderness Blaze, Jase, Jeff and Steve Danger got together for a few reunion shows, followed by a couple of tours opening for The Wildhearts and The Quireboys and most recently their own headline campaigns of the UK.  As well as remastering and reissuing their back-catalogue, Wolfsbane have recorded and released a new studio album entitled ‘Wolfsbane Save The World’ comprising eleven scorching tracks of melodious, hard riffing, and totally uplifting rock.

Kicking off with a biker anthem in ‘Blue Sky’, then two fiery rockers in ‘Teacher’ and ‘Buy My Pain’, it is clear from these opening numbers that all of the Wolfsbane ingredients are present and correct: Big choruses, great harmonies, and a larger-than-life sound which captures the ‘up and at em’ spirit which makes the live shows so great.  The overall vibe of the album is at times reminiscent of how the bands’ early, pre-‘live fast die fast’ demo tapes sounded, before the influence of the record companies.  At other times though you can hear where Wolfsbane have evolved to, the heavy riffing and intensity of the ‘white album’ that they signed-off with in the early 1990’s.  

Whether it quite reaches the dizzying heights of ‘All Hell Is Breaking Loose...’ is a matter of debate, but make no mistake: If you dig their previous work then you ought to own this album because it sounds exactly like pure, unadulterated Wolfsbane.  Naturally then, you will love this! To my ears, the two songs on offer here that are indeed most likely to save the world are the storming final track ‘Did It For The Money’, and the defiant ‘Smoke and Red Light’. The latter I played six times in a row when I first heard it, which by my reckoning is about equal to when teenage me first taped ‘I Like It Hot’ off the radio in 1990.  

It is damn good to have Wolfsbane back and such is my enthusiasm that it was pretty much a given that I’d be very excited and write a favourable review for their comeback album. But even when heard objectively, this is a fine slab of rock from start to finish, and now, more than ever, we need Wolfsbane to save the world.   


Alex Eruptor

Zen Motel
‘We Want Your Blood’
Under Dog Records

Album Review by Alex Eruptor




It has been a few years since I last heard anything new from this lot.  Plying their trade in heavy rock –meets- big melodies punk n roll Britrock, it was no surprise when CJ Wildheart hired Zen Motel to be the ‘Satellites’ in his ‘CJ & The Satellites’ project.  The favour is returned here with CJ providing guitars and vocals on three songs, namely: ‘Kill Your Radio’, ‘Death Rock City’ and ‘Bone Deep in Trouble’.  Yes, one thing you should know about ‘We Want Your Blood’ is that it contains some pretty awesome song titles.  Another thing that you should know is that the production is a more thought-through than you’ll find on your average ‘punk n roll’ type album.  There are some interesting sounds and subtle changes interwoven with the big riffs and sleazy beats, the overall effect is about as dynamic as you’ll get when self-producing, on an underdog’s budget.

After a curious intro, ‘Superhuman Colosseum’ turns into a heavy opener, worthy of its epic title.  ‘The Pit’ sounds like (and is as good as) Backyard Babies at their best, ‘Trust Your Leader’ brings to mind prime-time Crystal Pistol,  ‘Death Rock City’ is as cool a slice of low-slung scumbag rawk n’ roll as its title suggests, ‘Bone Deep in Trouble’ changes the pace a bit with acoustic guitars, keys and a beat reminiscent of LA Guns ‘Long Time Dead’, ‘Curse of the Girlfriend’ is cheesy horror with movie samples and lyrics so bad that they’re brilliant, and ‘I Will End This’ brings some modern shouty vocals into the mix and picks up where AWOL mid 2000s alt-sleazesters ‘The GaGas’ left off.

A damn fine album and the best yet from Zen Motel.  Wildhearts completists need this because of the CJ connection, but really ‘We Want Your Blood’ deserves to be judged on its own merits and demonstrates what can be achieved by underdog rawk n rollers willing and able to go the DIY route.  


Alex Eruptor

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing
‘This may be the reason why The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing Cannot be killed by Conventional Weapons’

Leather Apron Records

Reviewed by Alex Eruptor


Steampunk: I know what it looks like (biggles goggles, clockwork mechanisms, and dusty first editions of ‘around the world in 80 days’) but until now I had no idea what it might sound like.  Unlike its nemesis cybergoth, no one really made steampunk music that you could hear outside of Whitby Goth Weekend.    Until now.  Because The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing have brought the sound of steam punk kicking and screaming into the digital age using the novel new medium of the ‘compact disc’ and have, as such, defined an entire genre. 

I’d heard the rumours of musical saw players, sticks of rock, limited edition wax cylinder and gramophone releases, and no end of Victorian gimmickry.  I’d read reviews on other websites about how good they were.  But you see, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing have played a clever (or cheapskate!) game, issuing press releases and drip-feeding the odd demo track onto the internet, but for the most part eschewing traditional ‘CD wrappped up in a press release and stuffed into an envelope’ type mailshots.  So until now, I had no real idea what it all sounded like.

Well, after a most Churchillian introduction (perhaps a nod to Iron Maiden’s ‘live after death’ album?) it sounds like a whole bunch of different things and within the first four songs alone manages to tick a few boxes sure to appeal to ‘the punk kids of today’.  You want Zombie’s and a piss-take of British monarchy? Check out ‘Victoria’s Secret’.  Mythical sea creatures and all things nautical? Just listen to track three ‘Margate Fhtagn’.    Left-wing politics and thinly veiled criticisms of modern day tory government? Its all there in number four, ‘Doing it for the Whigs’.   Smutty Carry-On film-esque innuendo and ‘Flight of the Concords’ style musical comedy? I refer you to tracks 5 and 6 (‘The People’s Common Sense Medical Advisor’ and ‘Free Spirit’).

In true retro style the playlist is split into a traditional ‘Side One’ and ‘Side Two’, and after the strong start described above, I was pleased to discover that some of the best songs had been saved for the latter half of the album.  ‘Brunel’ is a catchy little number about one of the greatest of British engineers, and ‘The Great Stink’ is a tribute to the work of another, Sir Joseph Bazalgette,  who fixed the problems that London experienced one long hot summer as a result of using the River Thames as an open-sewer.   ‘Tesla Coil’ will make you laugh, ‘Mutiny in the Common Soldiery’ is as good an anti-war song as you’ll hear, and ‘Poor Georgie’ tells the tale of a poorly executed human taxidermy project.

So there you have it: Part comedy, part rabble rousing political punk, part history lesson, but all original and all entertaining.  It helps if you are aware of the historical reference points, but it works as a straight-up punk rock album too (and hey, you might learn something).

Alex Eruptor

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