Trident Wolf Eclipse
Let’s be honest, if your idea of Black Metal aligns with bands like Bathory, Satyricon, and Mayhem, then there isn’t a whole lot of “pure blood” left out there. Thankfully, Watain is still around to scratch that itch (as is 1349 and Khold), bleeding their own brand of rawness onto the masses since 1998. Notorious for their blood-soaked, ritualized live performances, the band returns with their first studio album since 2013’s The Wild Hunt.
While I really enjoyed The Wild Hunt, Trident Wolf Eclipse is a whole other level of raw power. “Nuclear Alchemy” kicks off the album with a fury that you don’t hear much these days. The band lays waste to all naysayers from the very beginning, offering brief periods of Black and Roll for you to catch your breath before the next explosive round. “Furor Diabolicus” is another excellent moment here with a raw chorus enhanced by some tight playing. The layered vocals help give it a more demented sound as well, reminding me a good bit of what I loved so much about the early Khold albums.
“Antikrists Mirakel” is a dark and brooding example of Watain’s brilliance. It’s buzzsaw guitars doom stomp their way through the end of the album while muffled narration twists together with veiled Black Metal noise and painful screams lay just under the surface. It warps itself up with acoustic guitars, distortion, and ringing church bells. Call it “classic” or “traditional” if you want, but realistically it’s the sonic atmosphere that it makes it feel so important. It’s cold and dark and charged, causing you to leave the album feeling abandoned and hopeless.
Overall, Watain is still one of the very best their genre has to offer. This isn’t for everybody and if your Black Metal preference revolves around Dimmu Borgir and last decade Cradle of Filth (which are both excellent in their own right), then this might not be your thing. If you like your catalog a little darker (think Khold, Old Man’s Child, 1349, and early Gorgoroth) then you probably already dig Watain. If not, be sure to start here.
Reviewed by mark1340
A New Reality
In the interest of being honest, I have not been a fan of this trilogy. As a lifelong Geoff Tate fan, I have faithfully followed along and waited for a payoff that I felt would probably never come. While I respect Tate trying to expand his musical horizons, most of it has fallen flat in my opinion. Which brings us to A New Reality, the final album in the Operation: Mindcrime trilogy and the completion of the overall project. Well, my friends, Tate has certainly saved the best for last!
A New Reality isn’t the perfectly progressive Hard Rock juggernaut longtime fans are clamoring for, but it’s a tremendously well thought out album. It’s much more musically dynamic then it’s predecessors and offers a lot more of the energy that this trilogy has sorely lacked, with the riff-laden “Wake Me Up” leading the charge almost from the get-go. On this song Tate sounds like his old self and it features an explosive chorus that really takes you back to the sound he pioneered with his former band.
There are a few highlights here in my opinion. The darker, almost world-beat driven “The Fear” is unquestionably one of them. It takes a while to get going, but it kind of sounds like what I imagine the bastard son of eighties Yes and The Choir would be like musically. Tate experiments a bit vocally here, but it works well because he takes a break every few lines and let’s us have his true voice for a moment. It’s a fascinating vocal approach and adds a lot to the song.
The instrumental ballad “A Guitar in Church” is another moment I really dig. Normally, I’m not much for instrumentals but the synthesizers remind of eighties Yes, one of my favorite eras of that band. It sets the stage for the epic “All For What” very well and the song follows the progressive nature of it’s predecessor. “The Same Old Story” takes the album out on a reflective note, incorporating some Blues and Jazz elements, albeit still through a progressive lens. Tate doesn’t seem to have much to say lyrically on it, but he sounds the best that he has in years, so I’ll take it.
Geoff Tate’s post-breakup output has been sporadic, poorly-produced, and directionless at best. A New Reality isn’t any of those things. In my opinion, this is the best thing Tate has done in his solo career, though I’d still hesitate to call this a classic in his overall catalog. A New Reality offers enough solid evidence that Tate still has some gas in the tank to keep me on board. If you have given up, you may want to visit this album. I doubt you’ll regret it.
Reviewed by mark1340
The Missing Peace
For L.A. Guns die hard fans, the reunion of Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns is certainly a day they thought they would never see. The two last played together 14 or so years ago and their very public issues with the band’s moniker are almost Spinal Tap level in scope. But, for now, all that is in the past and bygones are left to be bygones. For now, the Sunset Strip is resurrected with The Missing Peace.
I have to be honest, I really didn’t like this album much throughout the first couple of spins. The production is very thin and, in my opinion, Phil Lewis is way too loud in the mix and sounds like he’s trying too damn hard. Somewhere midway through the third or fourth listen, I found myself humming a couple of the tunes throughout the day and then it started to click (especially musically).
The title track was the first to really get stuck in my psyche. Lewis really calls on his eighties roots vocally and the keyboards add a depth to the song that much of the album doesn’t have. It reminds me of the original albums and, let’s face it, that’s what any fan wants from a reunion. The opening track, “It’s All the Same To Me,” is about as cock rock as they come with sleazy guitars, wailing vocals, ample innuendos, and a healthy dose of tambourine to round it all out. It’s a fun ride and one of the songs that seeps into your brain.
But it wouldn’t be a reunion without a country-tinged ballad from the boys right? Well, they got ya. “Christine” is quite likely my favorite song on the album. It’s acoustic base and big ballad feel is laden with steel guitars and a solid rhythm to keep it all on track. It’s as classic as “Without You” “Patience,” “Heaven,” or even “The Ballad of Jayne.” While I doubt that modern music will accept it as that, I’m telling you, it’s that good.
Overall, The Missing Peace is a grower. It takes a minute to get into the mindset that this album is born from. Also, once you have heard what Guns was able to do on American Hardcore, everything else feels like a step backward. There isn’t a lot of this kinda thing out there anymore. If you like the band’s original trio of albums then you will find a lot to love here for sure. The production value isn’t quite the level of those albums but the energy is there and that goes a long way in my opinion.
Reviewed by mark1340
Beyond the Rain
Wildestarr is the combined effort of guitarist Dave Starr (Vicious Rumors, Chastain), vocalist London Wilde, and drummer Josh Foster. Beyond the Rain is the third album and my first experience with their music. While reading over their bio and looking at their promo pics, I wasn’t really sure that this was going to be up my alley. Thankfully, the folks at Chipster PR know my tastes well and they weren’t wrong.
Beyond the Rain is a big ol’ slab of Hard Rock that dabbles in Progressive Metal here and there. “Crimson Fifths” is an excellent example of what I mean, the vocals are HUGE and the guitars wail from start to finish in a very Iced Earth sort of way. It’s as epic as they come, but Wilde’s vocals keep it accessible and melodic. “Rage and Water” is another standout. The song features a pretty wicked double bass kick off and Geoff Tate-esqe vocal work (Operation: MIndcrime era Tate, not FU era Tate) that dances around the lead guitars and rhythm grooves. “Double Red” has a more melodic AOR kinda sound that is pushed over the top by the high-pitched wails and held together by bluesy, twin leads in all the right places. The title track is similar in scope but equally as powerful. Truth be told, there isn’t a bad track on here.
Overall, there is a lot of great stuff on this album for fans of Hard Rock and NWOBHM to devour. London Wilde is a superb vocalist that sounds like Geoff Tate and Rob Halford in a blender. It’s the aggressive and melodic music that makes her shine though. Everything about this album, from the production to the songwriting is absolutely stellar. I highly recommend Beyond the Rain!
Reviewed by mark1340
Lou DiBello is an independent Hard Rock musician and this is his fourth release. Although, this is my first experience with his music it feels wonderfully familiar yet still original. DiBello is the type of all-purpose player that probably slides effortlessly into any band that would require his services. Heat Wave is a Hard Rock album at it’s heart but there are plenty of bluesy, progressive, and shredder moments. In many ways this reminds me of Chris Caffery’s solo albums, but it’s better produced and a bit higher energy overall. DiBello is joined on most tracks by vocalist Carsten Lizard Schulz, drummer Bobby Whiles, and keyboardist Tim Rixstine.
The album opens with spectacular instrumental tune, “Heat Wave”, which is part Hurricane and part Foghat. I rarely care for instrumental music, but DiBello actually plays a song that is well-written and is very melodic and engaging. It isn’t just shredding and noodling. After that it’s the big, slick anthems that really get me going. “Let Me Hear You Scream- Rock and Roll!” is a favorite for sure. This is a big arena rocker with just enough aggressive tones to keep it legit Rock and Roll. And the soloing? Pfffttttt…. There are hundreds of well to do musicians that aren’t half the musician this dude is.
“Blood on the Cross” has a bit of a darker feel to it and is the album’s lead single. It features Ross The Boss and Mike LePond (Symphony X) alongside the band. The darker feel makes it a bit more epic than the other tunes and it reminds me a lot of the material that Black Sabbath released with Tony Martin as their vocalist (The most underrated Sabbath era?). “The Meeting” has a similar feel, but it moves at a much faster clip and the vocals are a lot more aggressive. It’s another personal favorite of mine.
If the folks at Sirius are reading this, you need to include artists like this on Hair Nation and Ozzy’s Boneyard to keep things fresh! Lou DiBello’s Heat Wave is a really, really, damn good record. If you aren’t a “long hair” then maybe this isn’t your thing, but if you enjoy anything from Foreigner to Hurricane to Savatage to the Scorpions then you definitely need to give this one a try. You won’t regret it.
Reviewed by mark1340