Category Archives: CD Reviews

Various Artists

Album Artwork by Mark Sasso

Album Artwork by Mark Sasso

Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life by Various Artists (Rhino Records)

Ronnie James Dio went from clean-cut boy band to hard rocking singer for the likes of Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own band Dio.  His multi-octave singing and fantastic and humanistic lyrics always thrilled and comforted.  Dio may have left this plane in 2010 but his spirit lives on in the talents of thousands of musicians and the hearts of fans the world over.

Ronnie James Dio – This is Your Life begins with the fist-raising juggernaut Neon Knights.  Anthrax don’t hold back and Joey Belladonna knows how to belt and though he doesn’t hit the notes up high, his powerful vocals give tribute to the man that paved the way for him.  While anyone that knows Tenacious D is well aware of their absolute adoration of RJD, their cover of Last In  Line is rather odd with Jack Black’s vocals mixed too far above the rather generic metal instrumentation, making the song seem like karaoke, yet one with great vocals and a strange flute solo. It grows on you though.   I confess to knowing nothing of Adrenaline Mob but their take on Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules is killer.  I mean, this song wails, kicks ass, all those metal clichés.  The song was Sabbath’s attempt to remain relavent in the punk era is clear in the fast pace and raw power and the suitably named band distill all the fury of the original and spit out flames. Amazing guitars at the end too. Slipknot and Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor bellows like a titan along with Steel Panther guitarist Satchel and Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga for a stunning cover of Rainbow in the Dark.

Along with raising money for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund listening to this tribute album should make some new fans for the respective musicians.  Case in point, Pennsylvania Grammy winners Halestorm.  Led by singer Lzzy Hale and drumming brother Arejay, on Straight Through The Heart the band hit all the notes with muscle and ease, playing close to the original yet showcasing the epic guitars and voice of Lzzy as a fresh new voice in metal. “Unleash the hounds!” Indeed.  Some guys named Lemmy and Saxon‘s Biff Byford follow with Biff and Motorhead‘s take on  Rainbow’s Starstruck, the titans trading lines like lions fighting for dominance of the pride, with that electrical wall of sound Motorhead are famous for.  Scorpions make  Temple of the King their own, sounding exactly like themselves, with soulful guitars and a nostalgic feel, as fantastic as when it first came out on Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow’s S/T debut in late 1974.  Doro and band put their own stamp on Dio’s Egypt (The Chains Were On), making a mysterious and powerful song even more epic with her beautiful and muscular delivery and the dense instrumentation of the band. Visions of Doro as an armored and sword-wielding warrior come to mind.  You don’t have to be a fan of Killswitch Engage to appreciate their buzzing and brash version of Holy Diver.  Except for the breakdown the song would seem right at home if played on the Sunset Strip in the mid-80′s.

Former Deep Purple and Black Sabbath singer Glenn Hughes, along with former Dio band members drummer Simon Wright, guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Rudy Sarzo and keyboardist Scott Warren perform a super soulful and quietly powerful rendition of  Catch the Rainbow from the Richie Blackmore’s  Rainbow album.  Current Dio Disciples and former Lynch Mob singer  Oni Logan, former Dio bassist  Himmy Bain,  former Dio and current DC4 guitarist Rowan Robertson and drummer Brian Tichy (Foreigner, Whitesnake) take on Black Sabbath’s “I” as a gritty, bluesy bonfire, putting their own modern touch on an already excellent song. Rob Halford’s growl and roar is always a thrill to hear with Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren, all former members of Dio ripping it up on The Man on the Silver Mountain, from Rainbow’s debut, the roaring guitars as well as Appice’s thundering drums more than a match for Halford’s energy.  In the first fiery chords of Metallica‘s Ronnie Rising Medley you’ll be yelling “hell yes!” They sample from A Light In The Black, Stargazer, Tarot Woman and Kill The King proving they still have that metal fire in them, sounding fresh and going for broke.  Closing the album is Mr. Ronnie James Dio himself, performing This is Your Life.  A tear-jerking piano ballad, strings swell, Dio singing  “This is your here/ This is your now/ Let it be magical”.

Listening to  Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life you’ll understand Dio’s message was always one of hope, faith and friendship, of perseverance in the face of adversity, of beauty and inclusiveness.  He was the Godfather of Metal and has touched so many lives.  So sing along with these songs and remember, the best days are still ahead. Raise the metal “V” and rock on.

(by Bret Miller)

Buy Ronnie James Dio – This is Your Life on Amazon



bookletI Döden by Skogen (Nordvis Produktion)

I Döden by the prodigious Skogen is their fourth dark and melancholic magnum opus, a wondrous collage of sonic artistry that is sure to intrigue the metal masses all across the world. Based out of Sweden, Skogen present thrilling tapestries that will stir the senses and set your imagination in flight. With a striking combination of Black and Folk Metal, the soundscapes found within are nothing short of mesmerizing.

The adventure commences with a brief yet ominous introduction entitled Vargher, setting the stage for the triumphant reveries ahead. The majestic title cut I Döden then crashes through your senses, sweeping you away for the journey of a lifetime. När Himlen Svartnar continues the intensive path into Northern darkness, grim and icy to the core. Solarvore is lush and dynamic with its exhilarating atmospherics sending this track into the stratosphere.

skogen2013A somber reprieve arrives in the acoustic instrumental refrains Livets Ruin, followed by the spiraling inflections of Griftenatt. Midvintergraven pummels the senses with its chilly intensity raging out, meshing superbly with clean singing, haunting chants, and ferociously unclean vocal inflections. Svartskogen arrives with its melodic overtures enveloping the frozen recesses of your mind. The grand finale Sleep clocks in at over 13 minutes, an all-out epic exhibiting Skogen at their most resourceful and ambitious.

With a running time of one hour in length, I Döden by Skogen leaves an indelible impression on all whom encounter this obscure yet captivating masterpiece. The musicianship found within Skogen is visionary and immense, featuring the grand participation of Joakim Svensson on bass, guitar and vocals, Mathias Nilsson on guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals, and L. Larsson on drums. Fans of bands such as Agalloch, Kampfar, or Drudkh should uncover the astounding mysteries contained throughout I Döden and prepare to be dazzled by a true genre classic!

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Erebus Enthroned

templeof1Temple Under Hell by Erebus Enthroned (Séance Records)

Erebus Enthroned is based within the vast wasteland of Sydney, Australia, and their music is just as expansive and spiraling as their country. Their recently unveiled Temple Under Hell album enraptures the listener with its thrilling reprieves and fiery lyrical content. With all the makings of a genre classic, the imagination and intrigue found within Temple Under Hell is sure to captivate minds all across this expiring planet.

The journey into the Temple Under Hell commences with the diabolical Sorathick Pentecost, a blackened doom song of epic proportions. Trisagion continues the bleak yet erebusent1intensive madness into the feral abyss. Crucible of Vitriol pummels the senses with a relentless ferocity, pushing further into the depths of madness and malevolence.

Black Swords cuts through your soul with its wickedly piercing reverberations. Void Wind unleashes a punishing gust of torment and despair that is wondrous to behold. The grand title cut The Temple Under Hell is nothing short of mesmerizing, showcasing the Erebus Enthroned clan at the very height of their wicked virtuosity. And then closing out the recording on a staggering note is the mighty Return, leaving an indelible impression destined to plague your psyche for the metal ages ahead.

The musicianship found within Erebus Enthroned is stellar beyond compare, featuring the rabid participation of N on voice, D on guitar, A on bass, and M on drums. Expect Temple Under Hell to establish Erebus Enthroned as one of the modern day Black Metal elite. A magnificent triumph to be sure – destined to become enthroned within the confines of your stereo system.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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ResistXResist by Hundredth (Mediaskare Records)

Resist is the second chapter within a two-disc combination that commenced with last year’s mighty assault to the senses known as Revolt. And while Resist may be a bit more on the melodic side of the spectrum, the intensity is in full force, with spiraling melodies and impassioned vocals sending the entire project into the stratosphere. Resist presents Hundredth at their very height of their creative energies, and the result are nothing short of profound.

After a calm yet ominous introduction entitled Wake, the disc launches into the ferocious strains of Shelter. “Separation from everything” the opening lyrics scream with a mesmerizing degree of conviction. The darkness and desolation found within Shelter is sure to intrigue the listener to follow the path for the sonic confrontations ahead. The title cut Resist then follows, relentlessly tearing through the heart of the matter with its intoxicating reveries.

hundredth1No one can save me from my demons!” vocalist Chadwick Johnson screams like a man possessed on the startling Demons. Manifest then arrives, unfolding further stark introspection unto the world at large. The disc then closes with euphoric Wage, a spoken word reprieve about the human condition ending the album on a cautiously optimistic note.

Resist is a short yet thoroughly satisfying release with a ton of heart, unleashing an ultimate sense of hope and healing that is wondrous to behold. The resourceful Hundredth lineup includes the participation of Chadwick Johnson on vocals, Blake Hardman on guitar, Andrew Minervini on guitar, JP Gressman on bass, and Matt Koontz on drums. Recorded with noted producers Bill Stevenson (Rise Against, Black Flag) and Jason Livermore (Stick To Your Guns) at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado, Resist exhibits a thrilling 18-minute journey through the perilous consciousness and ultimate triumphs of the human spirit that is not to be missed.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Ruins of Elysium

ruinsofe1Prince EP (Part 1) by Ruins of Elysium (Loudr)

With members based out countries such as Brazil and Norway, Ruins of Elysium present an exotic take on the world Symphonic Rock and Metal scene that is absolutely wondrous to behold. Their ambitious first effort is entitled Prince EP, part 1 of a future second act, showing a collective at the very height of their creative energies.

Comparisons to acts such as Rhapsody, Kamelot or Dark Moor may come to mind, but the various musicians within Ruins of Elysium possess a sense of imagination and intrigue rendering the material absolutely captivating and unique. The Prince EP is a vast and glorious effort that should enrapture all types of music aficionados looking for an epic sonic adventure.

ruinsof2014The sweeping majesty commences with the stratospheric sounds of the title cut Prince, where the glorious inflections from tenor Drake Chrisdensen are gorgeously enhanced by the impassioned performances of all musicians involved. The Chronicles of Mist is then unleashed with its cinematic reverberations, thrilling the listener with its rapturous classical overtones and passionate vocals. Sentinels of the Starry Skies then lifts you off the ground and into a world of enigmatic splendor with its magnificent power balladry and poignant refrains.

The Ruins of Elysium lineup is unequivocally first rate, featuring the participation of Drake Chrisdensen on tenor vocals, Claus Hetfield on guitar, Lucas Negrisoli on guitar, Izabela Alvarenga on bass, and Iana Domingos on drums. With such a radiant introduction, it will be exciting to see what musical paths Ruins of Elysium journey upon in future days. They promise a bit of mystery and darkness to enfold within the next chapter of Prince, so judging by what’s already been unveiled, the further adventures from Ruins of Elysium should be another prodigious treat to the ears.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Words Once Spoken

envyep1Envy EP by Words Once Spoken (Self-released)

Hailing from various parts of Southern California, Words Once Spoken is an ambitious post hardcore collective more than ready to make a name for themselves on the national music scene. With influences such as Memphis May Fire and Crown The Empire, Words Once Spoken is still sharp enough to bring their own sense of vision and originality to the table. Envy EP is their first effort, a grand DIY undertaking possessing a great deal of promise.  This impressive collection of songs will surely garner Words Once Spoken a good amount of admiration from fans looking for passion infused with a massive jolt of sonic intensity. Keep this up, and Words Once Spoken may find themselves signing to a label in no time at all.

The EP kicks off with the powerhouse refrains of The Hopeless, where thrashing guitars merge into a gigantic chorus that is instantly memorable. This first song alone is enough to hook the listener in for the adventures ahead, and it clearly shows the band has a lot of convey with its wildly infectious lyrics and resourceful musicianship.

Alex Mendizabal of Words Once Spoken - Photo Credit: TeeJay Zeigler

Alex Mendizabal of Words Once Spoken – Photo Credit: TeeJay Zeigler

Our Calling then assaults the senses with empowering lyrics such as “Pick yourself up, you know this isn’t the end,” driving home the message with a massive amount of sincerity and conviction. Rise (A New Beginning is an ominous instrumental reprieve before the band launches into the reflective yet pummeling So They Say It Ends This Way. “You look so beautiful when you hate the fucking world,” the lyrics scream out at the song’s devastating finale – a catch phrase which could be associated with this band for the many months ahead.

Since the recording of the Envy EP, there have been a few membership changes within the ranks. One powerful aspect which remains are the expressive clean vocals of their charismatic front man Alex Mendizabal. Already on the verge of recording new material with a revamped lineup, Words Once Spoken has left an indelible impression with the Envy EP. It will be exciting to see what this band achieves in future days.

The current Words Once Spoken lineup is Alex Mendizabal on vocals, Alex Beaubien on drums, Rolando Munoz on guitar, and Johnny Igartua on guitar.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Words Not Spoken on Bandcamp
Words Not Spoken at Warped Tour Battle of the Bands



nothing guilty of everything coverGuilty of Everything by Nothing (Relapse Records)

I am often interested in learning the past accomplishments of bands, especially when their current sound is vastly different than earlier in their career.  Domenic Palermo, vocalist for recent Relapse signees Nothing, previously fronted hardcore group Horror Show that put out a few albums/EP’s on Deathwish Inc. You can watch a set with Palermo and Horror Show from 2012 HERE.

Nothing is an altogether different endeavor in that Palermo and band are clearly enamored by such bands as Slowdive, Ride and My Bloody Valentine in their use of lush guitar textures and barely intelligible yet pretty vocals.  Searching back to their 2012 Downward Years to Come EP, you can hear the band’s evolution, involving the layered dissonant guitars in particular, the arrangements on Guilty of Everything are tighter and harder hitting emotionally.  Nothing‘s music is rich and subtle, songs to play loudly to catch all the melodic guitar interplay and keyboards swimming through the mix.

Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill

Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill

Opening track Hymn to the Pillory gets better after each listen, starting pretty and quiet,  Kyle Kimball’s drums come pounding in and the band gets epic on your ears, for maximum emotional uplift.  First single Dig takes the hardcore dissonance and puts it behind a wall of big drums, guitar fills and cavernous vocals.  Bent Nail is the most rhythmically propulsive song on the album, leading you to bang your head to the fast beat and distorted dual guitars.

The final third will have you blissed out at the beautiful noise Nothing blasts into the air.  Somersault‘s spacious mix helps showcase the dramatic guitar work of Palermo and Brandon Setta.  The song starts out all shimmery, a twangy guitar melody and drums kick in, Kimball sets his sticks to cymbals and the song slowly builds to a blistering climax, Palermo and Setta stomping on their pedals and pulling out some powerful chords to make your ears ring and your soul sing.  B&E goes all out in the thrash department, beginning in a pleasant mid-tempo, their wall of sound getting knocked down to an anxiously mellow segment reminiscent of Pink Floyd‘s Animals album before tearing into their instruments for a heart-wrenching finale that will leave you gasping for breath even as you’re reaching for the repeat button.

(by Bret Miller)



The Glitch Mob

Glitch mob coverLove Death Immortality by The Glitch Mob (Glass Air Records)

On Love Death Immortality, the trio of ediT (Edward Ma), Boreta (Justin Boreta) and Ooah (Josh Mayer) have punched up the more visceral qualities of their past efforts, bringing to mind big beat giants The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and Crystal Method.  If you hear the young punk vitality of Howlett, then the trio are doing something right.  The Glitch Mob want you to dance and nod your head.

Mind of a Beast opens the album with guitar slashes and skittering piano & synths then lively drums kick in.  A hard-edged synth line takes you by the ears and throws you into the mosh pit.  Nico Vega vocalist Aja Volkman adds her impassioned voice to Our Demons which starts soulful then becomes something epic, speeding up to a fast pace, dropping out and getting ever bigger, those itchy synths grinding into your psyche. Skullclub will get you dancing uncontrollably with a brilliant blend of rock and electronics.  The lead synth lines become The Glitch Mob’s signature sound on the album, taking the place of lead guitar.  

glitch mob skullsCan’t Kill Us is an industrial stomp with hard-hitting drums and metallic synths slicing and sawing away with a little soulful break just so you can catch a breath.  On I Need My Memory, Back Volkman’s vocals are chopped up for the Mob’s nod to Daft Punk, lighter drums and looser synths are set to a funky beat that will get your hands in the air and a goofy smile on your face.  One of the most captivating songs on the album is Fly By Night Onl,y which features Yaarohs’ lovely vocals.  This dancefloor filler best utilizes the guest vocals, letting her flow direct the song more than the beats.

Love Death Immortality’s closing track Beauty of the Unhidden Heart features the vocals of Sacramento duo Sister Crayon‘s Terra Lopez.  Her quivering and emotional delivery is backed by spacious ambience, chiming strings and booming percussion, a powerful meeting of talents.

Love Death Immortality is a big leap forward for The Glitch Mob.  These new tracks are made to be heard live where the speakers can vibrate the air of a large room.  See them on tour this Spring. They will play Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles on May 10, 2014 with Ana Sia and Penthouse Penthouse. Wear your dancing shoes.

(by Bret Miller)



Deadly Carnage

deadly_manthe_lowManthe by Deadly Carnage (ATMF Records)

Based out of Northern Italy, Deadly Carnage presents post-black / doom metal in its most desolate and imaginative form. Manthe is the name of their latest magnum opus, an absolutely stunning collection of dark hymns that will transport the listener to the most uninviting and inspiring of places.

It is easy to become swept away by the absorbing reveries Deadly Carnage bestows upon the world at large. Released by the always innovative ATMF Records, Manthe is an exquisite work of artistry that should chill the ears of serious music connoisseurs all over this fading planet.

The journey into the abyss of sorrow commences with Drowned Hope, demonstrating both the sheer melancholy and sonic intensity of the Deadly Carnage experience. Dome Of The Warders is a highlight of majestic proportions – where wide eyed shoegaze and foreboding doom soundscapes collide with magnificent results!

deadlycarnage2013Carved In Dust is like a nightmare set to music, thoroughly intriguing while ultimately possessing a relentless bleak underscore throughout. Beneath Forsaken Skies sweeps through your psyche with its cosmic sense of claustrophobic doom permeating throughout the poisoned air.

Il Ciclo della Forgia sludges on with its austere reprieves followed by the unsympathetic waves of Electric Flood soaking the listener to the very core. And then closing out the disc on a staggering note is the mighty title cut Manthe – an epic 14-plus minutes of captivating misery showcasing Deadly Carnage at the very height of their creative prowess.

The musicianship found within the membership of Deadly Carnage is first rate, featuring the wondrously resourceful inventions of Marcello on vocals, Alexios on guitars and synths, Dave on guitars, Adres on bass, and Marco on drums and percussions. Manthe by Deadly Carnage is an enigmatic gem to be found within the obscure recesses of the metal underground, a masterwork whose elusive tapestries will enchant and haunt listeners for the depressive dark ages ahead.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Burdened Hearts

lostinmyself1Lost In Myself by Burdened Hearts (Self-released EP)

Burdened Hearts unleashes a breathtaking brand of spirit-filled metalcore that fans of acts such as Fit For A King and Mouth of the South will surely enjoy. Their debut EP is entitled Lost In Myself, an ambitious collection of heavier-than-hell hymns that should ignite hearts and minds, as well as mosh pits all across the country.

A record label such as Solid State or Facedown could surely take notice of these talented Baltimore-based musicians, judging by the testament of faith heard on this five song EP.  Your time to discover this vibrant up-and-coming entity however, is now!

The EP launches into the stratosphere with the spiraling sounds of Make Your Mark, instantly leaving an indelible impression on the listener with its stark sense of urgency. Make Your Mark is destined to be a massive crowd favorite when performed live.

Release is thrilling and cathartic – a relentless cut that is sure to cast out even the most ferocious of demons. One By One then assaults the senses with its super-intensive breakdowns, magnetic guitars, and aggressive vocal performances.

burdenedhearts1Temptation shows Burdened Hearts at their most determined and imaginative, filling your speakers with a pulsating wall of sound. And then at the conclusion of Lost In Myself, one encounters the pummeling strains of Who We Are, the type of memorable anthem that really garners a band a good deal of admiration.

The musicianship is tremendously tight and intensive, featuring the participation of Nicholas Reardon on vocals, Caleb Rodriguez on guitar and clean vocals, Tyler Mazza on guitar, Mickey Basil on bass and backing vocals, and Casey King on drums. When spirituality and sonic devastation collide, Burdened Hearts will be there guiding the way with their wondrously exhilarating tunes! Be sure to check out Lost In Myself and prepare to be thoroughly enraptured by what this promising new collective has to offer.

(Review by Ken Morton – Photo by Travis Marshall)

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