Friday, February 16, 2018

Would Kiss have "made it" if not for their makeup and live show?

                                         Kiss, rare picture of the group sans makeup in the Seventies. 

Among the criticisms from the people who hate/dislike Kiss that's postulated very often is the assertion that, given that much of the popularity of Kiss comes from their "live act" and in particular, their makeup and costumes, that they would've never reached the heights awarded to them if they were just a regular "rock band" in the seventies, some going so far as to say they never would've made it to being an international act!

If one is to believe this assertion, then one has to immediately go to their music and analyze them in the context of seventies hard rock and metal acts who were their contemporaries. Also, we need to look at the building blocks of their music, and the fact that this is a lot of what people (often) ignore.

Culled from interviews, various other sources, and the band from their autobiographies, the band's influences and the musical (non theatrical) stamp they were trying to create is passed over by people who concentrate on the gimmicks that the band utilizes.

The band, self admittedly, were a confluence of 4 major musical stylistic influences.
One, there was the influence of Stones influenced Garage Rock and Shock/Glam Rock bands ranging from New York Dolls to Alice Cooper.

 Also, there is an influence of more basic rock bands coming from such bands as Free. This is reflected in many of the more basic songs on the first three albums, and also influenced the refinement of the other styles I will mention.

Thirdly, there was the traditional hard rock/early heavy metal influences like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Black Sabbath, bands that members like Paul Stanley or Ace Frehley especially mention.

The fourth influence on their music is something that is little mentioned and is an obscure one. The influence of early power pop on Paul Stanley cannot be underestimated. Bands like Big Star or The Raspberries feature heavily in his autobiography, and can be felt/heard in songs ranging from Strutter (even if some of it was a Simmons riff) to the songs on his first solo album or on Unmasked. Gene Simmons always cites the early Beatles as a huge influence on his music, and of course the power pop bands share this.

It's with the conjunction of these four major influences I am basing my hypothesis on, that contemporary and later critics, if not for the impression in their mind based on the "gimmicks" and stage show, that they would have been much more accepting of Kiss on their musical basis alone.

Also, I have another theory about the band that may be more tantalizing. And this theory is based upon the first three albums and Alive, because these albums were coming from a more purely musical basis, since much of the material was pre-makeup and even written or recorded by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons with prior bands (such as Wicked Lester).

 Subsequent albums like Destroyer were musically and lyrically influenced much of the time off of their stage show, whether consciously or not, and songs like God Of Thunder (even though originally written by Stanley, with a few lyrical and musical revisions became a signature track for Simmons) were prime examples of this.

If they never put on the makeup, Kiss may had gone in a different musical direction and may had even not done albums such as Dynasty, which caused a lot of consternation with their original fanbase.

 They may had gone into complete musical directions than they did, and had been able to keep their reputation intact in the eyes of the public (and even much of the critics).

But what would've been their reputation, what heights would they have achieved from a historical perspective?

This is actually easier to answer than first assumed, because in my opinion, they would've still maintained a level of success, and (with the last analysis in mind) maybe even been more respected by critics later on.

Kiss were second or third generation Hard Rock/Heavy Metal- not quite in the second generation like bands such as Uriah Heep (though album wise Heep may belong to the first), but not quite seen in the same light as bands like Aerosmith, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, or Motorhead were as far as trajectory time wise.

Based on musical merits, they would've maybe been seen in almost in the same category (As far as being second or third tier to the Led Zeppelins or Black Sabbaths of the world) as bands like Blue Oyster Cult, UFO or Grand Funk Railroad (Note: I am not talking about a subjective perspective of such bands, after all, I personally like bands like UFO better than Led Zeppelin, but more from a perspective of influence, reputation, and historical perspective), and musically, their reputation may had followed suit.
 If not for the perception of Kiss, they may had, after all, gotten more deeply indebted to the nascent heavy metal genre, and gone off to a totally different path.

Conclusion: I will use a hypothetical alternate timeline to further demonstrate these ideas.

In the alternate timeline that I theorize, the one in which Kiss never puts on makeup or has quite the same live show, the band still releases Alive, and their success still happens. I use Alive as a starting point, because the album is both the culmination of their early albums, but also a benchmark as far as playing and performance goes. It's heavier and more intense interpretations of the songs were what initially brought the band chart success, and this is an important point to be made (as well as using it as the point of departure).

Since they are less of a spectacle, they may had acted on entirely different impulses when it came to their music. They may had even become heavier earlier on (doing a Creatures of the Night style album during the time the NWOBHM was rising in popularity), or followed a different musical path entirely.

In their subsequent career trajectory, their respect and place in history among the public is somewhere in betwen a band like Blue Oyster Cult and Aerosmith.

They still have a cult-like status about them, but people focus more on their musical accomplishments more than the "novelty" of the stage show, makeup, and personas.

Alive is still listed by bands and musicians as something that influenced them during their starting foray in music, though not to the level that in OUR timeline/reality is because of less attention given to it overall (because of the live show spectacle).

They would be loved and respect and maybe even hated for entirely different reasons.

Since they wouldn't be seen as pompous or pretentious, outlets like Rolling Stone magazine may had even seen them as a missing link between the New York Dolls, 70's Heavy Metal, and (even) Punk Rock (since it shared a lot of the Garage Rock roots) and even gained their respect, even if not so much lyrically (though maybe some would see it as satire or befitting of working class affectations) since they would focus more on the music rather than (their perceived) cynical motivations.
Who knows, they may even had toured with acts like the Ramones, rather than just Black Sabbath or others.

Critics would be softer on them as a result, and this may even had helped their success and not hindered it among those said critics (and helped with their success in general).

Overall, Kiss is listened to, not watched. People like the music because of timeless songs, not Gene Simmons' makeup. If they had never put the makeup on or done as much pyro in the first place, albums such as Alive would probably still be highly regarded. They would follow a different path more than likely, with all the pitfalls that a successful seventies band faced. Their music may have turned out quite different, but they nevertheless would have been a success for writing timeless songs.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Review: War Gods of the Deep - Robots, Rockets & Rampage

Recently, I have discovered a new band which delves into some interesting concepts, War Gods of the Deep. Their new EP, Robots, Rockets & Rampage has been released and its an interesting listen.

The Band is named (Seemingly) from a 1965 movie with Vincent Price, (which went by City under the sea in non US countries). In it,
The plot concerns the discovery of a lost city beneath the sea off the coast of Cornwall. Price is the captain overseeing a group of sailors who have lived there for more than a century where the peculiar mix of gases has allowed them to extend their lifespan.
The band, which lists Kiss, Queen, Van Halen, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Boston, the Eagles, Prince, Def Leppard, and Journey among their influences, as well as comics, science fiction, fantasy and pulp magazines, as well as Star Wars (tastefully and gratefully mainly the Original Trilogy :) ) has definitely a unique and fresh sound going for them. 

Upon listening to the first track, "Vasnetov", I was reminded a little bit of the militaristic vibe of bands like Sabaton, whom I like. Doomy riffs with almost chanted vocals spacey keyboards and super heavy guitars, almost Hetfield style vocals.
The keyboards (and other effects) add a great atmosphere. 

I've become spoiled at keyboards in metal. What was once controversial at the dawn of its onset of the beginning has become almost a standard and essential part of Metal music making, at least in my opinion to make things interesting. 

In the song melodic riffs alternate with near dissonant sections and the song almost reminds me of some space war chant in general with it's background vocals. 

The guitar solo is a bit dissonant as well.
It's not super shreddy, but does resolve at a melodic peak well.

On the release overall, the guitars are brutal and have great tone that others may envy. 

The second song"Mortal Cage" is a bit more traditional metal leaning, but that is not a bad thing, as the riffs are still dark
the vibe of vocals on this one almost
remind me of someone  like James Hetfield meets Nick Holmes of mid nineties era
Paradise Lost. 
This is not a knock as it makes the music heavier without going into super extreme metal territory. I would almost say in a way, that this band makes me think of Metallica if they made The Thing That Should Not Be extended to a concept
and template for a Metal subgenre.
 Epic, doomy, near progressive at times riffs that are heavier than a mack truck carrying nothing but Osmium, Diamonds and Steel, crushing all in it's path. 

It is too organized to be sludge metal, but it does have the heaviness of sludge metal at times, and the vocals are hooky but definitely not some type of pretty power metal wailer style. 

I like the ultra heavy yet somewhat airy production that the addition of keyboards and somewhat choir sounding vocals gives it.

 "This Evil" is the third song of the bunch and is also the heaviest and the most proggy with its odd timings.Circular evil
almost maze like riffs that take you on a journey as far as the music goes makes this song my favorite of the three. 

Criticisms? Well I would say if I have any, it's that the keyboards could be louder in the mix. I can think of albums like the classics by Devin Townsend that had expansive atmospheres mixed with crushing guitars. This may be a personal choice, but I think it makes it easier to get lost in the music when keyboards are raised. Overall, this is a promising new band with a very unique sound, I am looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the future, and by the way, their album cover art is incredible as well.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: Henry Metal- Deadlift Cowboy

Does humor belong in music? Frank Zappa once asked the question many years ago, and with him, it was almost more of a statement than a question, because obviously with his music it was a “yes”. Granted, his was often the biting type of satirical and sardonic humor that was incisive towards the mores and values of the day. The question also then arises to “does humor belong in metal”?

Metal has often been maligned as being either unfunny or extremely unintentionally funny, as any fan of the film This is Spinal Tap, or even Beavis and Butthead can attest. 

There have been gems of comedy scattered within the metal scene though, whether it'd be Scatterbrain who appeared in the 80's, Tenacious D's flirtations and appreciation of the metal idiom, Mr Bungle or Primus's careening towards the metal genre, or the underrated project Crotchduster from the early 2000's (featuring a certain Richard Chirsty on drums) or even comedian Brian Posehn's metal songs. 

Metal has had humor in it for many years, but only recently has it been acceptable to be into metal without being ironic but also be able to laugh at it (or yourself if you're into it). You can add Henry Metal to the list, who's new album, Deadlift Cowboy is a celebration of the absurd and the funny in the world, but done in a metal fashion.  

So, does humor belong in Metal? Yes!

Henry Metal is a multi-instrumentalist and producer based in LA and purportedly this project started in spring of 2017 and is on the 7th album already (gasp)!

Before we begin with the lyrical content, let's begin with the music first. One thing that struck me, to paraphrase the long departed Euronymous from the Black Metal band Mayhem, is that there is no core (as in any kind of metalcore) and no trends inherent in the release. In some ways, it reminds one of the aforementioned Tenacious D, but I can also hear bands ranging from Queen to Megadeth to even Ugly Kid Joe in there as well. 

The guitars aren't extreme metal heavy, but veer between hard rock and thrash metal at times, with some virtuosity but without an overemphasis on it. 

The vocals have the comedic element in tact, but are adequate enough at delivering the melodic hooks as well. The album begins with the Queenlike “Here Come the Injuns”, an epic track featuring some terrific piano accents and lyrics like “I have heard that cowboys like to eat baked beans but they only had pan and fire no oven or other means".

The next song is a slightly punky and grungy groovy thrash song (the sort of “title track”) "Deadlift", which extols the exercise in the title (I should try it at the gym sometime myself instead of sometimes wasting my time with the other exercises, which the song also mentions).

"Motivation" is a (somewhat) mellower fist pumper that features some tasteful keyboards and even more tasteful soloing. It features lyrics about, what else (?), motivation, especially at the gym!

"Indoor Scooter Man" is a groovy latter day Megadeth sounding song that puts the image of a decrepit looking guy riding a scooter in a mall, it would make for a totally tasteless but hilarious video!

Wild West” reminds me a bit of the theme of Manowar's infamous “Outlaw” song, but this time it's meant to be funny.

Idiot” is a ballad of sorts, and “Smooth Metal” contains sort of a mellow early 80's R and B vibe...until the awesome neo-classical guitar runs begin.

Sexual Harassment" is a song with very current subject matter, perhaps both commenting and at least in part satirizing the #metoo moment. Some more awesome thrashy neo-classical influenced soloing prevails in the second half as well, which I enjoyed.

Overall, this project is an excellent find, and
speaking of funny, the album cover art is a hilarious parody of Job For A Cowboy's style of artwork and logo, however, I must say I think Deadlift Cowboy is a far superior band (sorry JFAC fans).

I would highly recommend this band to anyone who's a fan of humor in music, or Metal, and the man behind the project also knows how to write hooks and riffs that get stuck in your head. Fans of everyone from Megadeth, to Freak Kitchen, to Tenacious D to Brian Poeshn may get something out of it. Looking forward to more releases in the months ahead. Who knows, maybe their discography will exceed 20 more albums in 2018!

All I know is that I'm definitely going to keep following the project in the future, as it will likely continue to deliver.

You can find out about Deadlift Cowboy from the following links,

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: Song Of Love- Babylon (Single)

It's not every day that you're sent a roughshod demo song to review, and a bit more of a challenge to do so than a finely honed product. Up until now, I have reviewed mainly professional releases, but was asked to do this, and will oblige. 

It's hard to describe Song Of Love, other than an amalgamation of hard rock and metal and progressive, their demo song "Babylon", is actually a charming number, while as rough and imperfectly produced as I described. 
Being a fan of diverse productions like the ones by artists even such as GG Allin or a lot of the more "Necro" Black Metal bands, I can deal with a rough production.

The song is an instrumental. The beginning parts of the song remind me simultaneously of Led Zeppelin but also latter day free jazz influenced Black Flag. It is followed by some progressive Maidenish melodic riffs, with some very odd timings done by the drummer. Then some more odd timed riffs embellish the songs and it picks up pace before going to a full on balladic part. Then it's on to more odd timed riffs, I didn't like this following part because it seemed shoehorned in, but then back to the "chorus" of the song which is admittedly catchy. 

Some soloing then comes in, and this is supported by some very good bass playing. Then it's back to those Flag style riffs again (if there is any doubt by the reader of this comparison, I suggest you listen to the instrumental songs off of Family Man or the Process of Weeding Out).

Then it's onto more classical sounding parts, probably the best part of the song. 

The song ends on that note.

I liked the song. I thought some of the performances could have been tightened up, and for what they were going for, the production could have been as well. 

The instrumental flowed well for the most part though, and I enjoyed where they were going with the song. I like instrumentals and also think instrumentals can really boost a project and also that in the music scene we could use more instrumental projects in general.

Overall, I think this is a promising start to a promising project. Once they get their kinks worked out, I think there is enough creativity to do something spectacular. 

You can find more info on this band at the following links:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: phoenix/NEBULIN- Mainframe

                                       Review: phoenix/NEBULIN- Mainframe

phoenix/NEBULIN is a musical outfit who has been recording professionally since 2003, and on their latest release, Mainframe, they definitely reflect a seasoned expertise that permeates with both the songwriting and production. Being as I had never heard the band before, I had a fresh slate to take in all the elements that they are trying to get across, and absorb them. The band I would describe as a amalgamation of metal, EBM or Industrial, the dark themes of Gothic Rock (particularly eminent in the chorused guitars of songs like Alone), and somewhat more mainstream rock. 

I was taken aback immediately by Phoenix Doval's hearty vocals, which at times remind me, and I'm sure she's heard this before, of a young Pat Benatar. In this age of autotuned sterile sounding “singers” littering the landscape, her soulful vocals are extremely refreshing (and of course since Pat Benatar has always been one of my favorite singers, a definite plus in my book).

The programmed, electronic part of the music has a great atmosphere and is all encompassing, with spacey synths and adept sampling that makes for a bleak, dreary, and cybernetic landscape. 

Lyrically, they run the gamut, from the more Sci-Fi of Purge Destroy Create Rebuild to the sardonic questioning of Professional Liar. The Rock/Metal parts of the sound are especially obvious on tracks like Shadow Wolf, which features great and cutting groove riffs. 

Overall, I can see fans of everything from Scar Symmetry or Soilwork to Front Line Assembly to Evanescence liking this band, and continued listens will reveal more elements to unwrap. The production/sound is of note as well, as the clarity and depth are outstanding, and as someone who hears a lot of albums during the course of a week, this is definitely something worth mentioning.

The members of phoenix/NEBULIN are:

Phoenix Doval- Vocals/Songwriter/Artistic Director

Armando Doval- Songwriter/Music Production/Live Drums

You can find out more about them at the following links:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: IDEK- Approaching Storms (Single)

IDEK is a band I covered on this very blog awhile back. I reviewed their last release, and the new single, Approaching Storms, is slated for release on February 2nd 2018.

What I did not expect from the band though, is how much they have progressed in such a short time. Their last release, was a good slab of modern metal with many influences, ranging from Djent to Dillinger Escape Plan. 

The upcoming single  "Approaching Storms", is in a way, a more streamlined approach, but in this case, it's a good thing in that the influences have congealed in a way that is accessible without being compromising.
To me, just this song alone blows away the previous release right out of the water.

 Rather than taking aspects of the various styles and mixing them with overtly commercial elements, it's more like they took the various elements and made a real fusion of them all, that by default, is more streamlined, but in an excellent way that is still challenging musically.

This is a difficult juggling act to do, as many bands do attempt streamlining their sound with disastrous results. 

But for every Motley Crue Theater of Pain, Megadeth's Risk or Morbid Angel's Illud Divinium Insanus, 
 (or hell, let's just throw Metallica's Black Album (as controversially that's a sacred cow in there as well while we're at it), there's also an Anathema Judgement, Amorphis Elegy, or Opeth Blackwater Park - albums that retain the innovation and musical challenge of albums past but mixing it with a refined sensibility
That is pure catchiness.

I was also taken aback by the eerie and almost chamber music like melody the song had, and the very effective vocal lines in the song. 

A few parts at least melodically, even reminded me a little bit of the underrated Canadian Metal act, Unexpect, or there may be a little bit of modern Ihsahn or Leprous in there too.

Don't worry though, for all the talk of melody, the heaviness is still intact, but it's combined with an infectious style that draws upon the more progressive aspects of modern metal.

Overall, the single shows a lot of promise, and I am looking forward to an upcoming longer release!
You can check out IDEK from the following links:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Review: Scandic Tribe- Light at the End

Scandic Tribe are a new rock band from Norway,
according to them, the upcoming album, Light at the End is a concept one, and is slated to arrive on vinyl, which is great, in March of this year.
I dug the first song, Dusty Sunrise, which reminded me a bit of a lighter take on something that wouldn't sound out of place on Judas Priest's Point of Entry album, with a slight AOR touch as well.

The second song, Only Time Will Heal, is a more bouyant and funky song, that has some vocal harmonies that recall classic Kings X a little bit.

The third song (Fourth if you count the intro), Heaven, kind of reminded me of Dokken a little bit, and this was pretty cool.

Revolution of Confusion follows, and almost sounds like a modern version of something that would be on one of Deep Purple's Coverdale era albums, a slower, bluesy ride with a few moments of bombast thrown in.

On Life is Good, the album takes an unexpected turn. I wasn't really anticipating this, so it came as kind of a shock. The song has that 90's half ballad vibe that recalls some of the Jangle Pop/Jam Rock hits like those of Gin Blossoms or Counting Crows! Yes, it might be a weird comparison, but this actually continues in the latter half of the album. I am sure though, just to note, that because the band has overt 70's rock or (possibly) folk rock influences, that they share those with the aforementioned bands more than likely, rather than being (necessarily) influenced by the ones mentioned earlier.

The next song also continues the about face that this album has taken, but with a better vocal delivery than the prior one. Even if sometimes the vocals seem a bit overwrought on the mellower numbers, it works a lot better in this particular song.

Angel is an instrumental that has a bit of a mellow Hendrix vibe, a few of the previous songs have a bit of this, but on this track it's full on, intermixed with some 70's prog rock style volume swells that intermix with cool guitar harmonies.

My Sweet Baby Valentine continues in this vein as well, but to me is the weakest song on here, I don't think the vocal style works within the context of this song, and even though there are cool guitar parts as well as some strings, a more laid back vocal with more subtlety would have worked a lot better here. The slight neoclassical guitar solo bits are cool though

Heroes has that mellow vibe In the beginning but brings back the rock full on in it's second half. It's probably one of the best songs that has a triumphant vibe and lyrical vibe about it. I was reminded a bit of the band Ten (hard rock band) in the second half, and I enjoyed this quite a bit. The vocal delivery in the first half is exactly what was missing in some ways on the prior track.

Sad Time is a bit of a downer to end the album, it's another one in the style of the mellow tracks on here, and it doesn't stand out in the way the prior track did other than maybe a bit of a change of pace with a Saxophone part.

Overall, the band has potential, and unique qualities that make them stand out. The main contentions I have is that the band almost seems schizophrenic in a way, with the heavier, nearly metal tracks in the beginning and then going to a mellower style, this could confuse people in some ways, and could be better balanced in between these two styles.

The heavier tracks could use a few more solos (as the guitarist is definitely capable of) as well. My main criticism though is with the vocals. The vocalist has technique and style, but seems to be in “overdrive” throughout the whole thing. He does some terrific vocal harmonies and parts, but the caterwauling style used on the mellower tracks could be tamed to fit those songs better, while the heavy songs obviously fit this style perfectly.
The album's production is clean, and being assisted by the legendary Roy Z, is certainly something to note. 

You can get information on Scandic Tribe utilizing the following links: