Metallica – S&M2

It isn’t easy being a Metallica fan – ride or die. For every fan who loves the latest record, there are a loud contingent of fans who will scream “Only the 80’s albums!”. Or even more specific, “Only the Cliff Burton years!”. So, it goes, so it goes. As for me, I think there are things to appreciate in each Metallica album – even Lulu, their oft derided 2011 collaboration with the iconic Lou Reed. In fact, the 2017 show I saw in Seattle was one of the best stadium shows I’ve ever seen – family friendly even, if you can believe that. We aren’t in 1986 anymore, fellas. They are – to quote Grand Funk Railroad – an American band. And perhaps history will view them as one of the most successful bands in history. They’ve long since transcended the heavy metal tag.

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A.M. Mills – Angel Eyes

Moving from Washington State back to Pennsylvania after almost 2 decades was a transition that was jarring in many ways. Add in the stress of moving cross country during the worst pandemic in 100 years, you can imagine that I turned to music for solace. One of the finest records that has been on repeat has been Angel Eyes by A.M. Mills (disclosure: I played trombone with band founder Drew Mills throughout middle school). The album gave me a sense of nostalgia – sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place on a David Lynch soundtrack as filtered through a Philadelphia sensibility. Basically, where I was in life when this album came out. Uncanny.

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Darren “DPaul” Wise – God Only Knows

In a previous life I was only into guitar heroes. Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Vinnie Moore, Joe Satriani, Vito Bratta – just a few guitarists who’d I listen to for extreme riffs. And if there were vocals, fine – but everything was an avenue to get to the solo or some refrain that sounded impossible to pull off. Dallas based guitarist Darren “DPaul” Wise fits in with the aforementioned guitarists. His new single God Only Knows showcases his new relationship with Gibson Guitars. Now, we have the best of both worlds here – the rounded tones that Gibson is known for along with some serious musicianship. Not just an exercise in masturbatory shredding (ahem, Yngwie), this is a fully realized song that taps into an emotional resonance for the listener. In fact, I can’t even imagine vocals with this particular song. A melodic heavy metal jam, the song allows for room to breathe – resulting in some impressive techniques from Wise. A wise man, indeed. The song and video is out now (embedded below). I’d recommend it even if instrumental music isn’t your normal vibe.

Verdict: Excellent!

For Fans of: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Gary Moore, White Lion, Blue Murder

Melvins / Mudhoney – White Lazy Boy

2020 has been a challenging year for almost everyone I know – probably an understatement for most folks reading this review. Pandemics, economic distress, political unrest, police brutality – and we are still in July. As for me, I haven’t avoided the curse of 2020, but onward life goes. Fortunately, Melvins / Mudhoney have provided a short soundtrack to the chaos of the year. That’s right – two pioneers of grunge have combined into one force of nature to deliver a powerful 4 song EP.

White Lazy Boy was originally released in June of 2020 on an almost instantly sold out CD (snagged it) followed by a vinyl release in July of 2020 (missed out). It features Mark Arm and Steve Turner from Mudhoney along with King Buzzo, Dale Crover, and Steven McDonald from Melvins. Two originals / two covers, two sung by Mark / two sung by King Buzzo. My War is a fitting way to kick off the EP – Mark Arm screaming his way through a cover of the Black Flag classic. The Melvins / Mudhoney lineup bring a garage rock sensibility to the song and gets your heart racing. Exhilarating! Walking Crazy follows with King Buzzo on vocals. This tune feels closer to a Melvins song, imbued with a sludge layered sense of doom. Black Sabbath worthy riffs galore. Killer tune. 10 Minute Visitation is sung by Mark Arm and might be my favorite song on this release. Mudhoney’s rawness combined with the Melvins’ riffs & stoner grooves makes for an intoxicating brew. Drive Back originally appeared on Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Zuma – considered by some to be an influence on the grunge era. Here, the song is given a harder edge with King Buzzo delivering a fine vocal performance. Guitars swirl, white noise overwhelms, and…silence. A perfect ending to a perfect EP.

You can pick up the release here and stream below. Absolutely recommended.

Verdict: Grunge Deluxe

For Fans of: Mudhoney, Melvins, Nirvana, Green River, Alice in Chains, Neil Young

Memory of a Melody – Burn Alive

Memory of a Melody hail from San Antonio, TX. A band that is true to its Texas metal roots, it also brings a melodic side to their crushing anthems, hence their name – it isn’t just a clever moniker. The early 00’s saw multiple releases from the band that steadily increased their profile before they went on hiatus. 2020 heralds the return of the band and their first release in over 7 years. The band’s full throttled attack features Mario Galdos on vocals, Wade Sigue and Roel Castillo on guitars, Joel Martinez on bass, and Robin Lopez on drums. Layers upon layers of instrumentation make for an appealing heavy metal brew. The new 3 song EP is a stunning return from the band and a reminder of what makes them so great.

The Burn Alive EP is a stunning return, 3 tracks of raw energy that is inspiring. It sounds heavy, melodic, and sounds wholly original. Mary Go Round kicks the proceedings off with a slice of prime metal, thrash alternating with emotional longing. A System of a Down vibe with this track which is only a good thing. Burn Alive is my favorite song on this release. It has a lighter vibe that harkens back to the balladry of the 80’s. Lyrically wise, this is a tale of longing and what could have been. I’d be remiss to not mention that the song has a killer guitar solo and again hints at thrash. The song ends in epic fashion, the music building an epic symphony of noise. Rise Up closes out the EP in a glorious wave of thrash metal. It is a fitting end to an exhilarating 3 track EP.

The Burn Alive EP is available here and comes highly recommended. It is a stunning debut and a sign of good things to come.

Verdict: A Welcome Return

For Fans of: System of a Down, Ozzy Osbourne, GNR, Skid Row, Lita Ford