Josh Todd – Lead Vocals
Kevin Roentgen – Guitar
Stevie D. – Guitar
Kelly LeMieux – Bass
Sean Winchester – Drums
Producer: Mike Plotnikoff
Twenty years into Buckcherry’s recording career and now on their eighth studio release, lead singer Josh Todd is the last man standing from the band’s original two-album run (1999’s Buckcherry& 2001’s Time Bomb).
Founding lead guitarist Keith Nelson left the group in 2017 from conflict with Josh Todd over the direction of the band. Longtime drummer Xavier Muriel (who debuted in 2005 on the band’s comeback album 15) exited at the same time for the same reason. These events left Josh Todd to soldier on with longtime rhythm guitarist Stevie D. & bassist Kelly LeMieux, recruit Kevin Roentgen (formerly of American Pearl who released one excellent album) as lead guitarist, and go through two more drummers. Sean Winchester played drums on this album and did a few live shows with the band after Muriel left, but then Winchester himself left and has been replaced by Francis Ruiz (who apparently was briefly in Great White in the early ’00s!).
Curiously, the band led with a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like A Hole” as the album’s first single. I mean, I guess the song is okay, but didn’t Buckcherry do an EP of cover songs a few years ago? Not sure this was really necessary here. Sadly, the song “Closer” is not another NIN cover. Now THAT would have been interesting to hear and seems like it could’ve been an appropriate cover song for the band. Continue Reading
Lizzy Borden – My Midnight Things
2018, Metal Blade Records Buy the album
My Midnight Things
Obsessed with You
Long May They Haunt Us
The Scar Across My Heart
A Stranger to Love
The Perfect Poison
Run Away with Me
Our Love is God
My Midnight Things (Reprise)
We Belong to the Shadows
Long May They Haunt Us (Reprise)
Waiting in the Wings (2018)
Band: Lizzy Borden – Vocals Ira Black – Guitar Marten Anderson – Bass Joey Scott – Drums
Producer: Lizzy Borden & Joey Scott
For myself (and probably most listeners), Lizzy Borden peaked with the brilliant Master of Disguise. Nothing the band did before or since has come close that to album for me… until My Midnight Things.
While not as good as Master of Disguise, My Midnight Things seems to take its inspiration from that album. Both albums take on a theatrical and very melodic direction with moments that are decidedly un-metal, such as this album’s haunting acoustic cover of the classic Christmas carol “Silent Night”. Why the band chose to include this on the album, I have no clue, but it works given the style it’s played in. After hearing this, I’d be very interested in hearing a full album of Christmas songs by Lizzy Borden!
Other songs such as “Obsessed With You”, “We Belong To The Shadows” and “Long May They Haunt Us” (of which the band also includes a great acoustic version) are absolute ear candy to me in the same manner that “Love Is A Crime” and “Sins Of The Flesh” are. It’s all so completely infectious.
The band makes the comparison to Master of Disguise even clearer with a new version of “Waiting In The Wings”. It’s an interesting listen with its techno and industrial vibe, but doesn’t come close to the original in terms of quality.
Fans who are wanting the power metal of the band’s earlier days or expecting something similar to later efforts Deal With The Devil and Appointment With Death will be in for a surprise. I know I was. I know this album already has a reputation of being “light”, but it should please anyone that is a fan of the melodic theatrics Master of Disguise.
Highlights: “Obsessed With You”,” Long May They Haunt Us”, “We Belong To The Shadows”, “Long May They Haunt Us (Reprise)”, “Silent Night”
Riot V – Armor of Light 2018, Nuclear Blast Records Buy the album
End of the World
Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign
Burn the Daylight
Heart of a Lion
Set the World Alight
Caught in the Witch’s Eye
Ready to Shine
Todd Michael Hall – Vocals
Mike Flyntz – Guitar
Nick Lee – Guitar
Don Van Stavern – Bass
Frank Gilchriest – Drums
Producer: Chris Collier
The band Riot has such an interesting and sad history. Their style of music varied throughout the years, as did the band’s line-up (most notably lead singers), and they never received the attention and success in their ’80s heyday that I feel they should have. The only constant was the band’s founder and lead guitarist — Mark Reale. Passing away in 2012 at the age of 52 due to complications from Crohn’s disease, Riot was disbanded. A “new” band featuring Riot members Mike Flyntz, Don Van Stavern & Frank Gilchriest was formed to pick up the sword (and tequila) operating under the name of ‘Riot V’.
Proving themselves to be more than a one-off tribute project, Armor of Light is Riot V’s second release. It arrives four years after the release of Unleash the Fire. Even more more surprising, there are no personnel changes within the band! It’s practically a Riot tradition to trade out your drummer, singer and/or bassist with each release!
Though I hadn’t paid a whole lot of attention to new music in 2018, once I settled in and listened to Armor of Light a few times, there’s some really good stuff here. Stylistically, the album is the same type of power metal that Riot has generally played throughout its long career. Furthermore, vocalist Todd Michael Hall continues to prove himself as a more than worthy successor to longtime on again/off again Riot vocalist Tony Moore.
Speaking of Tony Moore, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Thundersteelalbum, the band includes a new version of the song “Thundersteel”. I guess it’s nice to hear the latest iteration of the band cover the song. They didn’t stray from the original. The only member remaining in the band from the original recording is bassist Don Van Stavern.
Overall, Riot V continues to serve well the legacy of Riot and Mark Reale and I think Armor of Light is one of the best albums of 2018.
Highlights: “Victory”, “Messiah”, “Burn the Daylight”, “Caught in the Witch’s Eye”, “Ready to Shine”
Mannheim Steamroller @ Saenger Theatre Pensacola, Florida November 14, 2018
A week after attending an Ace Frehley concert, I returned to the beautiful Saenger Theatre in Pensacola, Florida for a Christmas concert! Mannheim Steamroller has been a holiday favorite of mine for many, many years. If you’re not familiar with the group, they play instrumentals of neoclassical/new age/progressive music. My earliest memory of them is hearing their classic Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album from 1984 while at a family gathering over the holidays back in the late ’80s. In the last 10 years or so, I’ve reconnected with their music and they are constantly in rotation alongside other favorites like Bing Crosby, Trans-Siberian Orchestra & Frank Sinatra.
They’ve been coming to Pensacola during the holiday season fairly regularly the last few years, but I could never get any family or friends willing to go with me. This year I decided to take the plunge and go on my own since everyone else wants to be a Grinch or Scrooge! I had an orchestra seat this time. The building was packed and was probably 99.97% full from what I could see (there was a seat open next to me).
Like TSO, there are two touring groups during the holiday season in order to cover as much of the country as possible. There is the Red touring cast and the Green touring cast. This show was part of the Green tour, but Mannheim Steamroller leader and founder Chip Davis was in the building and walked out on stage to say a few words at the beginning of the show and came out at the end as well. According to the program guide, Chip Davis is conducting the musical version of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ at Universal Studios Orlando this season, so I’m assuming that’s why he was able to put in an appearance in Pensacola, since it’s only 8 hours away.
There were a few non-holiday songs such as the intro of “Aire On a G String” and “Escape from the Atmosphere” (complete with NASA footage and space images on the large screen behind the group) to start the evening. Kind of an odd inclusion for a show being promoted as a “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas”, especially when this is what you’re opening the show with. It wasn’t bad, just felt a bit out of place for what was being promoted as a holiday show. Plus, even though they aren’t strictly a holiday musical group Mannheim Steamroller has like 50 holiday albums of music to choose from. I personally would have preferred they filled the show with seasonal music. The show would again divert from holiday music with the inclusion of “Four Rows of Jacks” and “Toccata” in the second half. I really enjoyed “Toccata”, but again, there’s so many holiday songs to pull from the group’s albums to easily fill an entire night’s performance.
I was very pleased with the holidays songs the band did play as they played four of what I would consider my top five songs from the group: “Deck the Halls”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Rock)”, “Faeries” & “Carol of the Bells”. The only other song I came into the show hoping they played was “White Christmas”, which is from their 2001 Christmas Extraordinaire album.
Overall, the musicianship was top-notch and the program handed out that night thankfully provides the names of the musicians. Roxanne Layton was especially fun to watch. She was very energetic and was center stage playing recorders and all kinds of percussion instruments. The drummer Logan Penington was great as well.
I had a good time and would see them again if they return to the area. This is a must-see event for any fans of holiday music.
Green Tour Cast: Becky Kia Mills – Violin, Conductor Jed Moss – Piano, Synthesizer Andrew Malashock – Guitar, Bass Edward Berry – Harpsichord, Synthesizer Roxanne Layton – Percussion, Recorder Logan Penington – Drums & The Mannheim Steamroller Orchestra
Set List: “Aire On a G String” “Escape from the Atmosphere” “Deck the Halls” “We Three Kings” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” “Catching Snowflakes on Your Tongue” “Away In a Manger” “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” “The Little Drummer Boy” “O Holy Night” “Angels We Have Heard On High”
“Joy to the World” “Greensleeves” “Felliz Navidad” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Rock)” “Christmas Lullaby” “Four Rows of Jacks” “Toccata” “Faeries from ‘The Nutcracker'” “Hallelujah” “Good King Wenceslas” “Carol of the Bells”
Ace Frehley – Spaceman
2018, Entertainment One Music
Without You I’m Nothing
Rockin’ With the Boys
Your Wish Is My Command
Pursuit of Rock and Roll
I Wanna Go Back
Mission to Mars
Off My Back
Ace Frehley – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals
Ronnie Mancuso – Guitar
Gene Simmons – Bass
Alex Salzman – Bass, Backing Vocals
Scot Coogan – Drums, Backing Vocals
Matt Starr – Drums
Anton Fig – Drums
Producers: Ace Frehley, Alex Salzman, Warren Huart
Spaceman is Ace’s 8th solo album and his fourth release in the last 9 years. Anyone who enjoyed Anomaly and Space Invader should enjoy this release as well. It is undeniably Ace and like those previously mentioned albums, it is reminiscent more of ’80s hard rock rather than the ’70s hard rock of KISS or Ace’s 1978 solo album.
At least, that’s the way I interpret these three albums, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. “Rockin’ With The Boys” is a prime example of what I mean. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was a Frehley’s Comet song. It would sound complimentary in concert or a compilation album right next to “Rock Soldiers”.
For this recording, Ace recruited former band mate Gene Simmons to help co-write two tracks (“With You I’m Nothing”, “Your Wish Is My Command”) and play bass on one track (“Without You I’m Nothing”).
As usual with an Ace album, there’s a cover song and there’s an instrumental. The cover song is “I Wanna Go Back” by Billy Satellite and I honestly that it was an Ace song at first until reading more about the album. It’s a solid tune. As for the instrumental, “Quantum Flux” is the fifth entry into Ace’s “Fractured” series of album-closing instrumentals following 1978’s “Fractured Mirror”, 1987’s “Fractured Too”, 1989’s “Fractured III”, and 2009’s “Fractured Quantum”. I like this track as well. It fits right in with the rest of the “Fractured” songs.
Clocking in at about 32 minutes with only 9 tracks, this album is the perfect length for me. I don’t have the time or attention span to devote an hour to 15+ tracks. If it was up to me, it would be a law that no album can exceed 10 tracks! The album is brief but it packs a punch and plenty of hooks. Ace doesn’t wear out his welcome and there is no filler here. Of Ace Frehley’s recent releases (all of which are good), this very well may be the best.
Highlights: “Without You I’m Nothing”, “Rockin’ With the Boys”, “Your Wish Is My Command”, “I Wanna Go Back”
@ Saenger Theatre
November 8, 2018
This was my first time visiting the Saenger Theatre in Pensacola, Florida. Every concert I’ve been to in Pensacola has always been at the Bay Center. It’s a beautiful little venue that opened in 1925 and they often host musicals and plays. Now that I’m aware of, and enjoyed, the Saenger experience I’ll definitely be on the look out for more shows at this venue.
Saenger has about 1,600 seats but the venue wasn’t even half-full for this show, unfortunately. I had balcony seats and was one of the first people to enter the balcony and was told by the ushers that I could move up to the front row of the balcony. I ended up having to move to the third row because the actual ticket holder of my seat showed up (45 minutes into the set!) but, hey, I got to upgrade my seat for free regardless! And the crowd that was here was very energetic and appreciate of Ace.
The show itself was great, if a little short. No opening act and the band played for only about 90 minutes. I was little disappointed with that. I didn’t expect Ace to play a full three hours but he could’ve easily pulled off a two-hour show if he had pulled songs from his Frehley’s Comet days in the 1980’s (I was hoping to hear “Rock Soldiers”, “Into the Night” and his version of “Hide Your Heart”) and Anomaly or Space Invader. Instead, the set focused on early Ace-signature (or Ace-penned) KISS tunes and songs from his 1978 solo album. Only one track (“Rocking With The Boys”) made it from Spaceman, his latest album.
And it all sounded so good live! The songs were very heavy and energetic, especially coming from Ace’s backing band. Apparently there was some drama regarding these guys because Ace dropped the backing band he’d been using for years in order to use these guys who had also played as Gene Simmons’ backing band on Simmons’ recent solo tour to promote his Vault solo box set. I’m sure Gene is getting a cut or taking some type of finder’s fee for putting Ace with these guys!
But they were all great players and singers. Drummer Matt Star did a great job handling lead vocals on “Love Gun” and did guitarist Jeremy Asbrock on “Strange Ways”. I’m not
Ace was his usual quirky, charming self between songs. In typical Ace fashion, he almost tripped over a stage monitor while doing his solo. Later, he forgot how his solo for “Detroit Rock City” and the band was in a holding pattern for about 10 seconds or so until it finally clicked in his brain. Honestly, that just adds to Ace’s charm. He’s not perfect, he’s not all there, and that’s fun. I like seeing live mistakes like that. Maybe the guys on stage don’t, but I think flubs like that are a cool moment in time. Other than that, Ace himself sounded great vocally and on guitar.
Despite the show being a bit shorter than I would’ve liked, it is honestly one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I’ve always been a fan of Ace, but hearing a lot of these songs have given me an even greater appreciation for his work. I’m a bigger fan of Ace leaving this concert than I was going in.
BTW — I knew Ryan Cook’s name sounded familiar. While doing research on the backing band I discovered he was in Hair of the Dog!
Ace Frehley – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Jeremy Asbrock – Guitar
Ryan Cook – Guitar
Phillip Shouse – Bass
Matt Starr – Drums
“Love Gun” (w/ Matt Starr on lead vocals)
“Save Your Love”
“Rocking With The Boys”
“Rip It Out”
“Strange Ways” (w/ Jeremy Asbrock on lead vocals)
“New York Groove”
Ace Frehley guitar solo
“Cold Gin” Encore:
“Detroit Rock City” (everyone sharing vocals)
“Deuce” (everyone sharing vocals)
Avenged Sevenfold – Black Reign
2018, Warner Bros. Records
Not Ready to Die
The band’s first studio EP is a collection of songs they have recorded for the Call of Duty: Black Ops series of video games. “Mad Hatter” is a new track for 2018’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 game while the other three songs appeared in the game series from 2011 to 2015.
The standout track is “Carry On”, which was first released in 2011. It has the same vibe of the music from the band’s self-titled release from 2007, which is my favorite album from this band so far. “Not Ready to Die” strays too far into the band’s earlier screamo-emo stuff with M. Shadows’ vocals, which isn’t my scene, but there’s enough there that I like to redeem it.
“Jade Helm” is an instrumental that sounds like selections of music pieced together. Like, music that was used on one of the game’s menu screens or a cut scene. In that way, it’s a bit disjointed. Just a lot of pounding drums to different rhythms. It’s cool that it was included, but it’s a throwaway track.
Back to the new track, “Mad Hatter” is more in line with what the band has been doing the last few albums. It’s got Soundgarden vibe to it at times while still sounding like A7X. It isn’t harsh and aggressive like “Carry On” and “Not Ready to Die”. It’s a good melodic track.
Black Reign is a solid EP that should be of interest to all Avenged Sevenfold fans. It’s nice to get these songs collected together.