glen drover

REVIEW: Hollywood Monsters – Thriving On Chaos (2020 Japanese/bonus track)

HOLLYWOOD MONSTERS – Thriving On Chaos (2020 Voice Music, Japanese import)

Supergroup?  Or just a good time?  Singer/guitarist Steph Honde, drummer Vinny Appice, and bassist Ronnie Robson gathered a load of friends and recorded a fun heavy metal album of originals and covers.  There is also a healthy helping of Canadian content (such as Robson in the core trio)!

Opener “A Scream Looking For a Mouth” is a raging heavy metal track along the lines of vintage high-voltage Motorhead.  Hell of an opener.  Add Deep Purple’s Don Airey on guest Hammond organ solo, which just hits the right spot amidst all that raging.  “Speak of the Devil” continues the heavy, though not the speed, thankfully, or you’d be seeing a chiropractor from all the headbangin’.  A catchy chorus and solid riffing make it another instant winner.  Solid metal.  A chunky riff kicks off “Something Wicked”, a really fun uptempo rocker.

Things get slower and darker on the monumental “Running Up Hill”, which is instant hit material.  Ted McKenna on drums.  Instant classic, with a chorus that kills.  Regardless of the daily struggles we face, Honde reminds us, “Never surrender!”  It’s a message of positivity, and the best track on the album.

“Numb” is another good one, grinding out a riff slow an’ easy.  The added keyboards provide texture.  Even better is the beautiful acoustic ballad “In This House”.  Honde has an excellent acoustic album called Empire of Ashes, and this track easily could have fit on it.  Though he’s a rocker, he is exceptional at tender acoustic ballads.

The first cover is “I Don’t Need No Doctor” featuring Jim Crean on backing vocals.  It kicks all the expected asses, and Honde’s guitar soloing is tasty as hell.  Next up:  Canadian content with the Goddo cover “Drop Dead”, featuring Greg Godovitz on co-lead vocals and Tommy Denander on lead guitar.  It smokes, and that lead solo?  Set phasers to stun!

“Thriving On Chaos” is another impressive original.  It has a slow, dramatic riff that is somehow familiar.  Excellent songwriting, and hard to pigeonhole.  It’s followed by a very Maiden-esque song called “Fortune Teller”, which has a vibe very similar to some of the tracks on Fear of the Dark.  Fred Mika plays drums on this tempered-steel monster.

The final cover (and Canadian guest) is the Thin Lizzy cover “Cold Sweat”, as sung by Danko Jones.  Danko is the perfect guy for it!  He nails the Phil vibe, yet with his own snarl.  And the Steph Honde guitar solo?  Call the fire department!  This alchemy of Jones/Honde/Appice/Robson is pure combustion.  You can seldom go wrong with a Thin Lizzy cover, but here everything goes so, so right.

Always a surprise when the Japanese bonus track is one of the highlights.  The heavy, thumping “I Am the Best You Can Get” slays!  “Heavy” is an understatement!  Vocalist Steph Honde goes from scream on the verses, to growl on the chorus.  The droning chorus is the best part!  This one features (Canadian) Glen Drover on lead guitar and Alexis Von Kraven on the relentless drums.  The Japanese CD even comes with a printed interview with Steph Honde – though I cannot read Japanese!

Pick it up – shell out for the Japanese if it’s within your means.

4/5 stars


REVIEW: Russ Dwarf – Wireless (2013)

The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2
 Mike and Aaron will be doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!

Aaron’s review: Russ Dwarf – Wireless

RUSS DWARFS – Wireless (2013 Smoothline)

I don’t know where Aaron finds this stuff up in Owen Sound, but here is a pristine digipack CD of Russ Dwarf (of Killer Dwarf) and friends doing acoustic versions of old Killer Dwarfs classics.  Wireless is a great name for such a venture, and the friends list includes Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses) and Glen Drover (ex-Megadeth).  Holed up in a studio in Newmarket, Ontario they laid down some pretty cool acoustic renditions of these numbers.

“Keep the Spirit Alive” remains irresistible today in acoustic form.  That’s because a good song has a lifespan.  A great chorus and memorable lyrics plus a pinch of magic made “Keep the Spirit Alive” a minor hit.  It’s one of the most purely enjoyable Dwarfs tunes and works well as an acoustic spirit booster.  Russ can still hit all the notes.  From the same album (Stand Tall, 1986) comes “Stand Tall”, which also makes the acoustic transition successfully.  A pretty incredible guitar solo (it’s not clear who is playing what) ensures this isn’t just “KD Lite”.

1988’s “I’m Alive” was an upbeat morale booster in its band arrangement.  Acoustically it’s the campfire version of the same thing.  The musical arrangements on Wireless do not deviate very far from the originals.  There are no radical re-imaginings.  What makes Wireless special for fans is Russell Graham’s earnest and still strong vocals, and of course the impressive six-string slinging of Drover and Bumblefoot.  The harder rock songs transition into an acoustic versions well enough, but ballads like “Doesn’t Matter” really shine.  A touch of piano and a vintage Russell vocal are the perfect topping.  A lot of this sounds live in the studio.  It doesn’t sound like a lot of time was spent mucking around fixing things in the mix, or sweetening things up.   What it sounds like, more or less, is Russ singing live in your living room.

The one thing that I did not think would work acoustically was “Comin’ Through”, the angry barnstormer from Dirty Weapons (1990).   It exists acoustically as a semi-epic and righteous twister through the plains of Canada.  “Crazy fuckin’ people living in the past, can’t you see that ain’t gonna last?” sings Russ with all the grit of the original.  Whatever Mr. Dwarf is doing to maintain his voice…well, good on you sir!  “Dirty Weapons” itself is mournful and slow rather than aggressive.  Interestingly, Russ arranged this album in chronological order.  The last three songs are from the final Dwarfs studio album Method to the Madness (1992).  That puts a nice bow on it, serving as a reminder that the Killer Dwarfs were still writing great tunes right to the end.  I can’t think of a better tune to end with than “Driftin’ Back”.

I quite liked Wireless and recommend it to any fan of the mighty mites known as Killer Dwarfs who wants to check out some quieter versions of their best material.  No new songs, sadly.  That would have been bitchin’.

3.5/5 stars

Spot the Mitch

Spot the Mitch

UPDATE: Two Queensryches? F***!

(Above: Sarzo)

The “real”Queenryche:
Eddie Jackson (bass), Scott Rockenfield (drums), Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren (guitars), Todd La Torre (new singer)

Geoff Tate’s new “second” Queensryche:  Rudy Sarzo (bass, ex-Dio, ex-Quiet Riot, ex-Ozzy, ex-Whitesnake), Bobby Blotzer (drums, Ratt), Glen Drover (guitars, ex-Megadeth), Kelly Gray (guitars, ex-Queensryche) and Randy Gane (keyboards, ex-Myth).

Getting (Canadian!) Glen Drover is a huge coup.  Sarzo’s history speaks for itself. Gray is no surprise, at least to me.  But “Da Blotz” Bobby Blotzer on drums?  Seriously, Geoff?  That’s…uhhh…an interesting choice for a new Queensryche.  What, was Frankie Banali unavailable so next on the list was Da Blotz?

My initial impressions are as follows:  Drover’s brilliant but this new patchwork Queensryche smells like the new Guns N’ Roses.  Blotzer is a choice that just boggles my mind.  I guess we’ll see how it goes, but my money’s on the old Queensryche.   Still can’t believe the fans have to deal with two Queensryches, now.  Hopefully the courts will put this to an end in 2013 and rule that the guys who booted Geoff out by  majority vote have the rights to the name….

This is just getting stupid.  Geoff, stop being a douche!

If you like Queensryche, check these out:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV