Saturday, December 13, 2014

Harem Scarem - 'Thirteen' Interview with Guitarist Pete Lesperance, Nov. 2014

Harem Scarem - 'Thirteen' Interview with Guitarist Pete Lesperance, Nov. 2014
Last month, I had the pleasure of talking with guitar virtuoso Pete Lesperance about the new release, Thirteen, from melodic Arena/AOR rockers Harem Scarem. This new disc has a full, multi-layered sound where Hess’ gritty but melodic vocals and Lesperance’s guitar work are focal points in each of the songs. Hess’ vocals fall somewhere between that of Ray Gillen (Badlands/Black Sabbath), David Coverdale and Ted Poley and Lesperance’s guitar work ranges from groove-oriented 90’s alt-rock (“Early Warning Signs”) to a soaring power-ballad (“Whatever It Takes”) to bordering on the edge of power metal (“Stardust”).

I talked with Pete about Harem Scarem's reunion after a six year hiatus, the new disc and the band's plans for 2015. We also talked about Harem Scarem's experience during the era of grunge, the origin of the band's name and more.

Harem Scarem

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wizard Rifle (Stoner/Noise Rock) - 'Here in the Deadlights' CD Review (Seventh Rule Recordings)

Wizard Rifle - 'Here in the Deadlights' CD Review (Seventh Rule Recordings)Portland-to-Los Angeles three-piece Wizard Rifle released their second disc, Here in the Deadlights, in October (Seventh Rule Recordings) and this new five song disc combines sludgy stoner rock with muscular garage punk along with some elements of free-form jazz. In terms of comparisons, the sludge of Melvins, the bluesy stoner-rock of Mudhoney and the destructive garage punk sounds of any of the early AmRep bands (i.e. Halo of Flies) immediately come to mind but Wizard Rifle’s music is also cross-cut with the free-form unpredictability of no-wave punks like James Chance and the Contortions. All of the songs clock in around the six minute mark and they are highlighted by excellent production, which clearly brings the band’s sonic wall of sound to the forefront. Here in the Deadlights was recorded at guitarist Max Dameron’s Breakfast Studios and mixed by Billy Anderson (Sleep) and Jesse Johnstone.

The disc starts with “Crystal Witch”, which combines the swirling psychedelia of early Pink Floyd with stoner sludge and a big, muscular guitar sound. This is a high-energy number with building guitar riffs and tom rolls over which Dameron and drummer Sam Ford sing in a bluesy, hoarse rasp. This number immediately flows into “Buzzsaw Babes”, which is a garage/blues number that features a twisting guitar line, a big bottom-end bass and pounding drums along with fuzzed out vocals. “Paul The Sky Tyrant” is more of a heavier song with its grinding, groove-based riffs and marching beat. The (mostly clean) vocals on this number are beneath a twisted guitar line and the music is more bluesy than fuzzy. “Psychodynamo” is the longest track on the disc, clocking in at almost nine minutes, and this number starts with minor key, atmospheric, space-rock and spoken word vocals that build and eventually pick up speed , taking the song to an old-school hardcore ending. The disc closes with “Beastwhores”, which starts as a post-punk free-form jazz number that morphs into stoner psychedelic sludge.

What is fitting, given the sound of this band, is that Seventh Rule has pressed a limited edition vinyl version of Here in the Deadlights on “Deep Purple” Color-in-Color Vinyl (ltd to 100 Copies). Buy this through the label’s mail order shop before you have to pay eBay collectors’ prices.

Wizard Rifle has shared the stage with the likes of Yob, Church Of Misery, Black Cobra, Arabrot and Rabbits and the band was recently in town for a show at St. Vitus. In an era where almost every concert is recorded, I couldn't find any live footage from the band's recent fall tour so - here is a video from Wizard Rifle's 2012 show at The Acheron.

Wizard Rifle

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stabbing Westward: Christopher Hall and Walter Flakus Reunite in The Dreaming / 'Rise Again' CD out Feb. 10th

Stabbing Westward: Christopher Hall and Walter Flakus Reunite in The Dreaming / 'Rise Again' CD out Feb. 10th
The Rising's new album Rise Again, which will be released on February 10, 2015 via Metropolis Records, is deliberately pointed in its name. The band, which is a reunion of Stabbing Westward's founding members Christopher Hall (lead singer) and Walter Flakus (keyboards, programming), makes no attempt to hide their plans. The Dreaming intend to deliver an album that brings back the early Stabbing Westward sound that fans have been asking for.

Although the name Stabbing Westward is now dead and buried (they disbanded in early 2002), Hall and Flakus are ecstatic to return with the intense and haunting music that made them multi-platinum artists. The Dreaming is rounded out with guitarist Carlton Bost (Orgy, Deadsy), bassist Brent Ashley (Static X) and one-time Stabbing Westward drummer Johnny Haro.

Hall and Flakus were renowned for their songwriting during the 1990s, mostly through Stabbing Westward's massive radio hits, yielding two gold records. A total of six Stabbing Westward songs landed in the Top 25 of the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, including three in the top ten: "What Do I Have To Do?", "Save Yourself" and "Shame". Visually, the band also took advantage of the video world, becoming internationally mainstays on MTV and other music channels . As a testament that their music wasn't just suited to the studio, the band proved their musical prowess by sharing stages with such luminaries as Depeche Mode, Sex Pistols, Kiss, Killing Joke, Front 242, Placebo and The Cult.

Emerging from Stabbing Westward's break-up in 2002, Hall formed The Dreaming and released its debut album Etched in Blood in 2008. After some heady reconciliation, Flakus rejoined his former bandmate and brought the musical partnership back full circle. The resulting album Rise Again reignites spark of their original band, as evidenced in its first single "Alone".

The Dreaming

Harem Scarem - 'Thirteen' CD Review (Frontiers Records)

Harem Scarem - 'Thirteen' CD Review (Frontiers Records)
Canadian band Harem Scarem isn’t (yet) a household name in the US but that hasn’t stopped them from putting out a number of melodic hard-rock discs that really should be staples of FM radio. For anyone not familiar with Harem Scarem, the band was formed in 1987 by guitarist Pete Lesperance and singer Harry Hess. The band hit its commercial peak in 1993 with their second album, Mood Swings, and sadly got pushed to the side by grunge. After a dozen studio albums, Harem Scarem called it a day in 2008 with the release of Hope but got back together last year to re-record Mood Swings (as Mood Swings II) and decided kept the band going.

Harem Scarem’s newest disc, Thirteen, came out this past Friday on Frontiers Records. It is obvious that the band still has a strong and loyal fan base as the band launched a pledge campaign to support the making of their new studio album and reached their goal in less than 24 hours.

Harem Scarem has a full, multi-layered sound and Hess’ gritty but melodic vocals and Lesperance’s guitar work are focal points in each of the songs. Hess’ vocals fall somewhere between that of Ray Gillen (Badlands/Black Sabbath), David Coverdale and Ted Poley and Lesperance’s guitar work ranges from groove-oriented 90’s alt-rock (“Early Warning Signs”) to a soaring power-ballad (“Whatever It Takes”) to bordering on the edge of power metal (“Stardust”).

This new 10-track disc (39 minutes) starts with the song “Garden of Eden”, which sets the tone for the rest of the disc. This number is a mid-tempo rocker with a big melodic chorus that is complemented by Lesperance’s fret work, which includes a nice solo and some memorable riffs. There is a bit of a flavor of Southern rock on “Live It” and the band starts to shift gears on “The Midnight Hour”, which is an 80’s style AOR number that includes both piano and some nice solos from Lesperance. After the power ballad “Whatever It Takes”, the band gets back to where the disc started and kicks it up for the shredding rocker “Saints and Sinners”. “Troubled Times” falls somewhere between 90’s ‘modern rock’ and the better side of Bon Jovi and the disc ends on a strong note with the big arena rocker “Stardust”, which features some heavy, distinctive guitar riffs that build to a big chorus.

For the collectors, there is a bonus track with an acoustic version of “The Midnight Hours” on the Japanese release and there is also a Japanese SHM-CD version that includes a second disc of the band playing live in Japan in 2013. On the European release, the bonus track is an acoustic version of “Garden of Eden”.

Harem Scarem

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Big Quiz Thing presents: 2014 Flashback Trivia-O-Rama at Littlefield on Dec. 17th

The Big Quiz Thing presents: 2014 Flashback Trivia-O-Rama at Littlefield on Dec. 17th
The Big Quiz Thing presents: 2014 Flashback Trivia-O-Rama, a great way to wrap up 2014. Touching on 2014’s most memorable events, personalities, entertainment and more, TBQT will present six rounds of live, multimedia trivia including the Lightning Round, the Text Message Challenge and the Buzzertastic Three Way Finale. Through boggling video and audio puzzles, and sponsored prizes at stake, TBQT guarantees an engaging night of entertainment. “Smart-Ass Points” will be awarded for wrong but funny answers, so non-geeky audiences are not left out!

TBQT was recently featured on the NYC Life network and is hosted by comedian and former editor for Rolling Stone and Time Out New York, Noah Tarnow. Noah has been a regular guest on NPR's Ask Me Another and has been dubbed “a geek savant” by Gawker.

Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door; doors are at 7PM.

The Big Quiz Thing

Yes - 'Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome' CD Review (Frontiers Records)

Yes - 'Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome' CD Review (Frontiers Records)
The latest album from Yes, Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome, was recorded this past May during the band’s “triple header” tour where the band played 1971's The Yes Album, 1972's Close to the Edge and 1977's Going For the One front to back during its shows. I have mixed feeling about this new live album as it comes right on the heels of 2011’s In the Present – Live from Lyon where the band played three of the six songs from The Yes Album and this recording only includes The Yes Album and Going for the One sets.

Before getting into the album, I should note that I never got around to listening to Yes’ latest studio album Heaven & Earth so this live show was my first exposure to vocalist Jon Davison and, vocally, he is more of a dead ringer for Jon Anderson than Benoit David was. Now for the show – the mix on this recording is extremely crisp and the contributions from all the members of Yes are clearly captured. Across the disc, Steve Howe’s guitar work and Davison’s vocals, along with some strong keyboard and piano flourishes from Geoff Downes, drives all of the songs.

When describing the impetus behind the ‘triple header’ tour, Steve Howe told Billboard: "We wanted an easy time and a hard time -- in other words, we wanted some challenges to rise to make the three-album concept work…So 'The Yes Album' is kind of the easy stuff because we've played a lot of it pretty regularly. And the challenges were bringing back 'Close to the Edge, which wasn't too tricky, and then doing 'Going For the One' really did give us some challenges because 'Turn of the Century,' 'Going For the One' (the song), 'Parallels,' those are formidable arrangements and (songs) we haven't done for a long time. We seem to have radically upped the game."

The positive side of this disc is that only a small handful of tracks from Going for the One have been included on previous live albums so it was great to hear this album performed live. Some of the highlights from this set are Howe’s flamingo guitar work on “Turn of the Century” and Downes’ piano/keyboards on “Awaken”. The negative side of this disc is that most of the tracks from The Yes Album have been on numerous other live discs from Yes and the ‘definitive’ live versions of these songs can be found on 1973’s YesSongs. Also, now that there is a well-established expectation for what these songs should sound like live, sluggish tempos on some of The Yes Album songs on this new live recording make these versions sound somewhat disconcerting (i.e. the transition as “Your Moves” shifts into “All Good People”). On a positive note, slower paced numbers like “Perpetual Change” sound brilliant with Davison’s soaring vocals and Howe and Downes put down some great jazzy licks on “A Venture”.

The Bristol Post covered this show live and here is a link to their review:


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gang of Four Announce New Disc (First w/o Jon King) 'What Happens Next' / Show at Irving Plaza on March 7th

Gang of Four Announce New Disc (First w/o Jon King) 'What Happens Next' / Show at Irving Plaza on March 3rd
UK's legendary post-punk Gang of Four will release a new album, What Happens Next, on February 24, 2015 on Metropolis Records in the USA and Canada, and Membran in Europe. The follow-up to the band's 2011 album Content, What Happens Next features collaborations with Alison Mosshart from The Kills, Robbie Furze from The Big Pink, Gail Ann Dorsey, German superstar Herbert Grönemeyer and Japanese superstar Hotei. Gang of Four's lineup for this album is Andy Gill (guitar), John "Gaoler" Sterry (vocals), Thomas McNiece (bass) and Jonny Finnegan (drums).

The first album without vocalist Jon King, What Happens Next refers to both the outside world and the band itself: an emphatic commitment to the future. "The focus is more on universal issues, like how individuals behave in certain ways or how our world is constructed, than local issues or current affairs," says founding guitarist and songwriter Andy Gill. "Gang of Four is anything but parochial." When King left the project, a reinvigorated Gill seized the opportunity to re-imagine Gang of Four from the ground up. The new album is an unexpected twist that still operates as the next logical step for the legendary post-punk band.

Sandwiched between Joy Division's landmark album Unknown Pleasures and Led Zeppelin's iconic IV, Gang of Four's debut Entertainment! sits at #8 on Pitchfork's Top 100 of the 1970s, proclaiming it "caustic and bursting with disgust for unethical capitalism, opportunist politicians and consumer society, among other things, but it's also crafted with amazing pop sensibility - and is, of course, remarkably danceable." Earlier this year, that same album was found on Kurt Cobain's handwritten list of favorite albums. Echoing the singular importance of the band's impact on music, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello told Rolling Stone this past July 2014 that "there's no one more influential on my guitar playing than Andy Gill." Having been named a massive influence by many artists including Bloc Party, R.E.M., The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, The Rapture, Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem, among hundreds of others, Gang of Four's legacy continues not by being frozen in a moment in time, but by constant evolution while remaining true to the original spirit of the band.

The band will tour in North America in March 2015 - current tour dates follow:
03-03 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
03-04 Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of Living Arts
03-06 Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
03-07 New York, NY - Irving Plaza (Tickets are $35)
03-09 Toronto, Ontario - Lee's Palace
03-10 Cleveland, OH - Grog Shop
03-12 Minneapolis, MN - Varsity Theater
03-13 Chicago, IL - Park West
03-14 Nashville, TN - Mercy Lounge
03-15 Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse
03-17 Houston, TX - Warehouse Live Studio
03-18 Dallas, TX - Trees
03-23 San Francisco, CA - The Independent
03-24 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre
03-25 Solana Beach, CA - Belly Up Tavern
03-28 Santa Ana, CA - Burgerama @ The Observatory

Gang of Four

Animal Years (Brooklyn Roots Rock) Open for Robert Randolph and The Family Band @ Brooklyn Bowl on Nov. 28th

Animal Years (Brooklyn Roots Rock) Open for Robert Randolph and The Family Band @ Brooklyn Bowl on Nov. 28th
Brooklyn’s Animal Years play indie roots rock with influences ranging from early Kings of Leon and My Morning Jacket to Young The Giant and The Avett Brothers. The band is the brain child of Baltimore-to-Brooklyn transplant Mike McFadden (lead vocals, guitar, and banjo), who adopted the moniker Animal Years to break out of the solo singer/songwriter category. McFadden is backed by Anthony Saladino (bass) and Anthony Spinnato (drums) and this three-piece lineup released their debut record, Sun Will Rise, in May which Deli Magazine described as "anthemic and powerful; a passionate work of thrilling crescendos fueled by bright and expansive guitar".

Animal Years is filming a song for Live on Tuesday, Nov. 25th. This taping is at 1PM @ 10 Jay Street, Suite 206 and the website to RSVP is CHARGED.FM/LIVE. The band is then opening for Robert Randolph and The Family Band at Brooklyn Bowl on Nov. 28th. For the Brooklyn Bowl show, advance tickets are $20. Doors are at 6PM and the show starts at 8PM.

Animal Years

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Los Campesinos! (Indie/Twee Pop) Announce New Festive EP 'A Los Campesinos! Christmas'

Los Campesinos! (Indie/Twee Pop) Announce New Festive EP 'A Los Campesinos! Christmas'
Effervescent malcontents Los Campesinos! have temporarily removed themselves from the balmy fireside to release this limited edition slice of hot seasonal wax, A Los Campesinos! Christmas. The EP and 12-inch feature five Los Campesinos! carols, as well as a cover of Mud's #1 holiday hit "Lonely This Christmas." Produced by Tom Campesinos! and mixed by long-time collaborator John Goodmanson, A Los Campesinos! Christmas is an instant classic, ready-made to enter the limited canon of great seasonal releases.

Track List:
1. When Christmas Comes
2. A Doe To A Deer
3. The Holly and The Ivy
4. Kindle A Flame In Her Heart
5. The Trains Don't Run (It's Christmas Day)
6. Lonely This Christmas

A Los Campesinos! Christmas will be in select record shops beginning December 8th via Turnstile/Heart Swells, or available to pre-order direct from the band at from 2pm ET. All pre-orders from Los Campesinos!' site will come with an especially designed Los Campesinos! Christmas Card, hand-signed by the band.

Los Campesinos! have a handful of UK gigs scheduled this month into next:
*with support from Trust Fund

Los Campesinos!

X-Drive - 'Get Your Rock On' CD Review (Frontiers Records)

X-Drive - 'Get Your Rock On' CD Review (Frontiers Records)
When I was growing up, 80’s arena rock was the staple of FM radio so it was very easy to enjoy the debut release from California’s X-Drive, Get Your Rock On (Frontiers Records), The band’s sound is comparable to Night Ranger and both the Paul Rodgers and Brian Howe fronted lineups of Bad Company – most of the disc is comprised of bluesy hard-rock songs with melodic hooks, killer guitar solos and big harmonies on the choruses.

X-Drive is the brain child of previously unknown guitarist Jeremy Brunner and he has brought an all-star cast of musicians along to the party. The other members of X-Drive are vocalist Keith St. John (x-Montrose, Quiet Riot), bassist James Lomenzo (both he and St. John were in Lynch Mob at the time they came on-board) and drummer Fred Fischer (from the grunge band Midline). The disc was co-produced by Andy Johns (along with Brunner), who is well familiar with the sound of this era having produced/engineered bands that ranged from Led Zeppelin and Free to Van Halen and L.A. Guns.

The disc starts with a swaggering, hard-rock number “Love’s A Bitch” where St. John’s vocals bear more than a passing resemblance to Paul Rodgers and Brunner tosses off licks that sound like they could have come out of Eddie Van Halen’s playbook. Changing the groove a bit on the third track, “Steppin’ On The Rock” is a darker, grungy song whose sound falls somewhere between Krokus and Alice in Chains.

X-Drive switches gears with the obligatory rock ballad, “Baby Bye Bye”, which, thankfully, still has a bit of ‘teeth’. “Baby Bye Bye” is a breakup song which features emotive vocals from St. John along with a nice guitar solo toward the end of the track and sounds a bit like something Bon Jovi would have written. Bringing the tempo back up, this number is followed by the disc’s first single, “California”. This track is a laid-back, ‘summer’ number which prominently features big, big hooks and melodic vocals with big harmonies on the chorus (you’ll likely be thinking of Night Ranger after listening to this one).

The back-half of the disc picks the pace back up with some hard-rockers that bring to mind bands such as Whitesnake, Foreigner and Bad Company. Some of the highlights include the power ballad “Fly Beyond the Angels”, where Brunner’s soaring guitar line and St. John’s emotive vocals carry the song. “Just Can’t Stay” is a Whitesnake style blues-rocker with a slow, driving beat which are broken up by tempo changes on the chorus. The disc ends with the wailing blues rocker, “Love Breaks the Fool”, which brings to mind old-school Bad Co.

It is somewhat funny to think that that – 30 years after the fact – someone (Brunner) could solidly nail the sounds of 80’s arena rock. James Lomenzo said “It was such a pleasure to contribute to Jeremy's effort! He has written and crafted an incredible homage to the style of the 80's rock, a style that I cut my teeth on back in the day…His love for the era and style really comes through in a surprisingly satisfying way.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Red Fang Releases Animated Video for "Crows in Swine" / Show at Terminal 5 on Dec. 18th with Opeth and In Flames

Red Fang Releases Animated Video for "Crows in Swine" / Show at Terminal 5 on Dec. 18th with Opeth and In Flames
Last week, Red Fang premiered their new video for “Crows In Swine,” the third single off the Portland-based rock group’s critically acclaimed third album Whales and Leeches (Relapse).

For this new animated video, Red Fang was looking to move away from doing the same type of clips they’ve been known for in the past and create something different this time around. For the “Crows In Swine” video, the group teamed with renowned animator Adam Avilla to direct. Adam came up with the barbarian concept and each band member came up with their own secret weapons for the clip.

“I am blown away by the video Adam made for us,” says Red Fang guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles. “It's brutally cute. I wish I was as cool as the character I am in it in real life. Recliners, sausage, guitars and kittens!!

Red Fang also announced they’ll join the “Communion of Sirens” tour with Opeth and In Flames and the tour will kick off December 3 in Chicago. The local tour stop is at Terminal 5 on Dec. 18th. Tickets are $35 and doors are at 6:30PM.

Red Fang Tour Dates:
*Dec 3 - 21 with Opeth & In Flames*

Dec 03 - Chicago, IL - Riviera Theater
Dec 04 - Minneapolis, MN - Mill City Nights
Dec 05 - Omaha, NE - Sokol Auditorium
Dec 06 - Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre
Dec 08 - San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theater
Dec 09 - Los Angeles, CA - Hollywood Palladium
Dec 10 - Tempe, AZ - The Marquee
Dec 12 - Houston, TX - Warehouse Live Ballroom
Dec 13 - Dallas, TX - Gas Monkey Live
Dec 14 - Memphis, TN - Hi-Tone Cafe (Red Fang only)
Dec 15 - Atlanta, GA - The Tabernacle
Dec 16 - Raleigh, NC - King’s Barcade (Red Fang only)
Dec 17 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory
Dec 18 - New York, NY - Terminal 5
Dec 19 - Worcester, MA - The Palladium
Dec 20 - Montreal, QC - Metropolis
Dec 21 - Toronto, ON - Kool Haus
Jan 01 - Leavenworth, WA - Timbrrr! Winter Music Festival

Red Fang

Militia Vox (Judas Priestess) Plays Black Rock Coalition Show at Littlefield on Friday, Nov. 21st along with Members of The Roots, Fishbone and Earl Greyhound

Militia Vox (Judas Priestess) Plays Black Rock Coalition Show at Littlefield on Friday, Nov. 21st along with Members of The Roots, Fishbone and Earl Greyhound
"Also known as MilitiA., this ferocious female is a solo artist, frontwoman of JUDAS PRIESTESS- the world's only all girl tribute to the metal gods Judas Priest, lead singer/songwriter of progressive hard rock band SWEAR ON YOUR LIFE, leading lady of DEE SNIDER's heavy metal horror orchestra "VAN HELSING'S CURSE" and known as the "Rock Goddess" of the Brooklyn based AFROPUNK movement." -- from Militia's bio.

Militia released an EP of covers last month, "Bait", that features reinterpretations of songs from artists that range from Ozzy and Nine Inch Nail to Tool and PJ Harvey. In a recent interview with Vents Magazine, Vox described "Bait" as "the 1st half of my concept project called “The Villainess.” Bait is my poison apple to the public, a way to entice and seduce listeners via songs and artists that they already know and love… As well being a form of flattery to the artists that I’ve covered and admire. I’ve been in original bands since 1997 and always had much more of a reaction doing covers, especially with Judas Priestess. So this is my way to warm up listeners to prepare for my next album (The Villainess) which is all originals. That’ll happen in 2015."

Militia Vox is playing the Black Rock Coalition showcase at Littlefield in Brooklyn on Friday, Nov. 21st. This show also includes The Dust Rays (Kirk Douglas, Mark Kelley and Ricc Sheridan) and Year of the Dragon (feat. Dirty Walt from Fishbone). Tickets are $12, doors are at 10:30PM and Vox takes the stage at 11PM.

Militia Vox