I don’t know what kind of workplace books Max the Axe and Nancy Vicious and the Nasty Bitches for their office Christmas party!? The kind I want to work at, obviously. Here’s Max’s lead singer Uncle Meat with the lowdown.
The first weekend of August is a long weekend in Ontario. It’s called the Civic holiday, but people in retail still have to work it. I did, almost every single year at the Record Store. This year we spent the holiday at the lake, where I secretly began work on the next review series here at mikeladano.com. With the encouragement of my good buddy Superdekes, two posts were completed at the lake, on the front porch. You couldn’t have asked for a better setting.
As usual I’ve assembled a video of some of our weekend fun, all to the tune of Max the Axe (“My Daddy Was A Murderin’ Man”, and “Call of the Wild”). Check out crystal clear waters, mountains of food, and rock and roll. And of course that sneak preview for our next review series!
The ever-prolific Max the Axe has plenty of CDs under his belt, but the 2008 EP Overload is one of his most pleasing. Featuring vocalist Terry Guirey, Overload has six rocking tunes, clocking in at roughly 18 minutes. No fuss, no muss, no fat to be trimmed.
Opener “Overload” (heard in the video below) begins quiet and ominously enough, but just when you’re expecting a Scorpions power ballad to start, in comes the heavy! “If I told you once, I told you over and over,” sings Guirey over a simple grungey punk riff. “‘Cause I’m prone to overload…” he says, so stand back. No guitar solo, just punk rock heaviness.
A jolt of feedback in “Blood Runs Red” illustrates the rawness of the recording. All you need is a riff and a melody, and Max serves it up blood-raw. He’s also not content to only give you just one riff per song! That’s also the case with “Labyrinth”, which settles into a nice groove.
If “River Grand” sounds familiar, it should. 10 years later, it was re-vamped with vocalist extraordinaire Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller on the Status Electric album. While the Meat version is superior due to a tour-de-force vocal performance, the original still rocks with a grungier flavour.
A pair of Max favourites closes the CD. “Livin’ the Country” and “Mexican Standoff” have to be heard live to fully appreciate them. The CD will have to do for now. “Livin’ the Country” is like Paranoid-era Sabbath, loosely riffing your balls off. Stand by for a unique, patented Max guitar solo. Then “Put your hands up!” for the “Mexican Standoff”. If you live to tell the tale, you’ll want to hear it again.
Max should consider re-recording some more of these songs with Litwiller. Max has the goods on Overload, an excellent primer for what was yet to come.
Music by Max the Axe.
“Overload” from the CD Overload (2008)
GETTING MORE TALE #754: High Steaks at Huron Lake
A lot changed in 10 months.
We haven’t been to the lake since last July. Then Jen’s mom got sick and we spent the rest of the summer driving to and from Toronto, and in hospitals. Then before we knew it, she was gone.
As part of the healing process, Jen and I have been aching to get back to the cottage. Her mom loved it here, and she never made it again, though she really wanted to. We’d drive up with her mom in the back seat reading a book. Every once in a while, I’d look in the mirror and see her, eyes closed, snoozing in the back. Or so it appeared.
“Jen, look. Your mom’s sleeping.”
Then suddenly before Jen could see, Mum’s eyes would open. “I can hear you Michael and I’m not sleeping. I’m resting my eyes.”
Finally we were going back. We packed our bags for the lake, and I spent an hour or so loading music onto a flash drive for the ride. Specially curated of course, and including the newest hits like Flesh & Blood by Whitesnake. I have so many flash drives, however, that I made the mistake of loading the one with the little Autobot symbol. I should have thrown out that flash drive a long time ago. It works on a computer but not in the car, not since it fell in a puddle a while ago. We were forced to listen to another random flash drive that I had in the car, which turned out to be serendipitous.
The only album on this specific flash drive was Alice Cooper’s A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris. Our first concert together happened to be Alice Cooper, so at least it was something we’d enjoy. “Hurricane” Nita Strauss is phenomenal on it, so I was really tuned into the guitar playing. Jen was just rocking out and singing along.
But things sure do change in a mere 10 months, the last time I was driving those particular roads. There is a new Tim Hortons, a few improved roadways, and some traffic lights where there were none before.
By the time Alice Cooper informed us that school was indeed out for summer, we were past Lucknow and well into the windfarms. That meant the lake was close. Again we laughed. Jen’s mom hated those windfarms. “A Liberal financial disaster,” she called them. We tried to count the windmills on the way up and it’s all but impossible.
Finally we arrived at the cottage and smelled that country air. A mix of pine, rain and earth. I was napping within hours of arrival! I knocked out good.
We always arrive at the lake prepared to entertain ourselves. With a killer wi-fi connection (welcome to cottage life 2019) I was showing my dad scenes from Infinity War within minutes. I also copied that faulty Autobot flash drive over to a fresh one and tossed out the original. Won’t be making that mistake again, but recovered the Whitesnake album in the process!
I didn’t have much in terms of goals, except to relax and not let anything stress me out. One thing I was looking forward to was cooking, so I did up a couple steaks, hot dogs, and fish for the family. I wanted to try a couple new things this time. First, I wanted to do one of the steaks on a wood fire instead of the barbecue. We have not done them like that in over 25 years, but the smokiness of a real fire can add its own character to a good steak and make it perfect. That’s what happened this time. The steak cooked over the fire was the superior steak for flavour. I did it to a rare, which was something else I love. I did the fish over the wood fire too (using maple and cedar). I chose a nice fatty piece of salmon, and a cheaper but larger fillet of Lake Huron trout; both darker fish. I tried something different for them. I laid down a bed of lemon slices onto the grill, and then cooked the fish on top of the lemons. For seasoning I only used salt, pepper and a roasted garlic olive oil. The result was a juicy, perfect fish that took longer to cook than normal but acquired all that lemony goodness right into the skin. I added more salt as I went, then I finished them directly over the flames to get the crispy skin. Surprisingly, the lake trout was the superior tasting fish. I’m usually a salmon guy but I haven’t eaten a trout since I was a little kid.
We had a birthday party and cake for my dad, now young at 81. You know what my dad enjoyed more than any of that stuff? Going to a car dealership on a Sunday and help me pick out my next vehicle. I won’t reveal what I’ve chosen until I buy the car — stay tuned. We took my dad’s new car there, and he showed me all the latest gadgets that I’ll be getting too. I was impressed to see that he had three USB ports! I plugged my flash drive into one of them and treated him to some music. Max the Axe – “Next Plane to Vegas”.
“This is my friend Uncle Meat singing,” I told him.
He listened for a bit and said, “Your friend Uncle Meat can sing.” High praise from him!
The weather wasn’t the greatest, but we slept with the windows open and the lake air coming in — the best way to get a great rest. And rest we did. We ate some good cooking and came home with bellies full. Best of all, I have some ideas for the next cookout.
The May long weekend is the official ushering in of summertime. Welcome, summer 2019 – we’ve been expecting you!
Max the Axe’s stellar new album Status Electric didn’t pop out of thin air. Before he nailed it with that CD, Max had five prior releases. Status Electric included a couple songs from the previous album Trillion Dollar Threats. “River Grand” was vastly improved with Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller’s vocals. Though it’s no Status Electric, Trillion Dollar Threats is still an entertaining slab of rock.
Trillion Dollar Threats features a variety of players. There are several singers: Geoff Dyke, Ted Moore, John Kelly, Mickey Straight, Ted Guirey, and Eric Litwiller. That’s almost enough singers to staff the entire career of Black Sabbath! Over the 16 tracks, there’s not a lot of cohesiveness, but there is a lot of rock.
“Overload” is a heavy-as-fuck opener, 80s thrash metal through and through. It’s all about that chug, but the vocals seem like an afterthought. “Guns to Iran” takes a spoken word approach, over a heavy riff, but when the singer (Geoff Dyke) attempts to sing…it ain’t good. Mickey Straight improves things immediately on “Daddy Was a Murderin’ Man”. There’s some punk rock in Max the Axe and this is where it comes out (guitar solo notwithstanding). Maybe a little Faster Pussycat or LA Guns too.
Max is the master of the chugging heavy metal guitar. “Labyrinth” has that, before meandering around a few different bits. It’s a good groove that could use some editing. “I Don’t Advocate Drugs” has a good riff coupled with entertaining lyrics. For more amusement, there’s “Belljar Party”, the story of stuff going missing after a party. “Whoever it was, they took my Walkman too.” Other cool tracks include the spacey “Mutant Mind”, “Livin’ the Country”, and “Mexican Standoff”.
According to Litwiller, “Uptite Friday Night” is the exact same version as the one on Status Electric. That’s OK because the sloppy drunk vibe is perfect. The original “River Grand” has Terry Guirey singing, but although this is the blueprint the Litwiller version is clearly better. He took it in a more grungy Alice in Chains direction.
Look at Trillion Dollar Threats as a stepping stone to Status Electric. All the band members (Max, Eric, Dave Haslam and Mike Mitchell) are there on one track or another. Status Electric couldn’t be as great as it is without Trillion Dollar Threats laying the groundwork. It needed to be cut down from 16 tracks (way too much for most albums), and some of the tracks need some tightening, but there is some decent rock on Trillion Dollar Threats. If you like metal in the retro style, there will be plenty of riffs here for you to digest.
Given everything that happened in 2018 (cancer, more cancer, death), I wasn’t as tuned-in to rock and roll as I normally would be. I missed a lot of new releases, some on purpose, others by accident. Therefore, this year I’m doing something different from my Top Lists of 2018. Before we get to the lists, let’s talk about the past 12 months.
2018: RELEASES IN A NUTSHELL
January saw new CDs by Joe Satriani and Corrosion of Conformity, finally reunited with Pepper Keenan on vocals. There was new Loudness, and a release by Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa. Def Leppard had a low-key EP exclusive to iTunes (The Lost Session). In February we got the return of the mighty Saxon. March was a big month, featuring Judas Priest, Stone Temple Pilots, Jack White and Myles Kennedy. The rock kept rolling in April. The big metal one here was Stryper‘s God Damn Evil, along with new Godsmack and Thirty Seconds to Mars. During this time I was personally only able to get the Stryper and Priest.
As temperatures warmed in May, Bad Wolves came out with their novelty cover of “Zombie” by the Cranberries which became a predictable hit. Frank Turner and Five Finger Death Punch also released new records in May. News in June was unfortunately dominated by Kanye West and Drake, but don’t forget Ghost, The Darkness (with their first live) and Nine Inch Nails! In July, Halestorm came out with the critically acclaimed Vicious. Alice in Chains made their long awaited return in August with Rainier Fog, an album I bought but have not yet fully penetrated.
Autumn began with the biggest name in rock and roll, Sir Paul McCartney himself. Slash, Paul Simon, Lenny Kravitz and Suicidal Tendencies had records out on the same day. VoiVod, Therapy?, Metric and even Rod Stewart returned in September as well. October featured two big soundtracks: Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star Is Born. Ace Frehley, Greta Van Fleet, and The Struts came out with new music the same month. In November we got Mark Knopfler, the Smashing Pumpkins, Ted Nugent and yet another live Beth Hart. The month closed with the latest Def Leppard best-of. December boasted Metal Church but not a lot of rock. Thank the Metal Gods that Max the Axe swooped in with Status Electric to save the year.
I spent most of 2018 checked out mentally. I missed most of the new releases and have a lot to catch up on. The summer was spent on Highway 401, and a flash drive loaded with music helped me survive it. New releases were not the be-all and end-all for me. Therefore, my Top Albums of 2018 list includes some oldies that just helped me get through it all. It seems right to do it this way, since I can’t really do a well-curated list of new releases without absorbing them properly.
TOP 10 ALBUMS THAT GOT ME THROUGH 2018
- Blotto – Combo Akimbo (1982)
- Max the Axe – Status Electric (2018)
- Ghost – Prequelle (2018)
- The Darkness – Live at Hammersmith (2018)
- Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)
- Blotto – Tonight At Toad’s (1982)
- Ace Frehley – Spaceman (2018)
- Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson & Steve Vai – G3 Live in Concert (1997)
- The Sword – Used Future (2018)
- Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978)
- Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe (2018)
- Hello Hopeless – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures (2018)
- Mike Slayen – Dude: A Guitar CD (2018)
TOP MOVIES OF 2018
Can’t do a movie list this year. Not possible. I didn’t see ’em all, but one movie blew away all the rest.
- Avengers: Infinity War
A PEEK AT 2019
What’s hot for 2019?
- Star Wars: Episode IX
- Motley Crue‘s long awaited movie The Dirt, and new songs too.
- Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
- Avengers: Endgame
- Queensryche – The Verdict
“Hey Winner winner, love that chicken dinner, put it in a briefcase to go!” – Max the Axe, “Next Plane to Vegas”
WE HAVE A WINNER the Max the Axe CD draw! Congratulations to…
LEAH from Waterloo, age 8!
Way to go Leah! She was even able to name Max the Axe by his real name, Mike Koutis! We’re not saying she had any help with this, but even if she did, it wasn’t against the rules!
Your Max the Axe Status Electric CD and Nancy Vicious button are on their way!*
* Mail strike notwithstanding!
The Boathouse was rocked again this past weekend as Max and his legendary Axe stormed the place with heavy riffing, some friends, and a brand new album called Status Electric.
Opening the show was singer was former Max singer Mickey Straight (“from Guatemala” as he was introduced, but I think Guatemala is Toronto). Mickey has a rock star stage presence and together with Max the Axe, they played some of their oldies such as “Mutant Mind” and “Belljar Party”. Mickey played bass as a trio with Max and Dr. Dave Haslam on drums, which we quickly learned was going to be a common theme going forward.
Second up was the biggest surprise of the night: Nancy Vicious and the Nasty Bitches. Punk rock was expected, and punk rock we had (including some Pistols and Stooges with originals). On drums…the newly rebranded “God Damn Dave” Haslam. Guitarist Mike “Mitch Bitch” Mitchell surprised us by ripping off his shirt revealing a corset. But the real surprise was Nancy Vicious herself, a young powerhouse with lungs of fucking stainless steel. Classic punk mixed with new-breed bands like Dilly Dally. I learned that Nancy has been playing the bars for years, though only 19 years old. No CDs for sale unfortunately — Nancy told me their first album was “really bad” but that they are working on a second one with (hopefully) about 13 songs. They did have merch for sale in the way of stickers, buttons and postcards.
We were under the impression that the Hellen Keller Band had changed their name to the Delusionals. This was Fake News. What is the Hellen Keller Band? An instrumental trio led by Mike Mitchell on guitar, God Damn Dr. Dave on bass, and Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller on drums. Mitchell’s incredible picking was quite stunning to watch. He’s got chicken pickin’ going on, and plenty of ability. And it turns out Dr. Dave is even better on bass than he is on drums. This trio was plenty of fun to watch, as they mixed covers and originals. They closed the set with a blistering Dead Kennedys “Holiday in Cambodia”.
Finally the game of Musical Chairs came to the end when Max the Axe hit the stage. Lineup: Max on lead guitar, with Eric Litwiller’s voice, Dr. Dave’s drums and Mike Mitchell’s bass. He played his entire new album, the stellar Status Electric in sequence with a break in the middle. Now, we’ve been quite clear here how great Status Electric is. Hearing it played live for the first time? Brilliant.
Litwiller opened up his powerful lungs on “River Grand”, a grungy rocker. He blasted consistently through all of “side one” while Max ripped hot licks on his Axe. After the vocal tour-de-force “Sick of Living”, they played “Mexican Standoff” from Trillion Dollar Threats, some Black Flag, and then gave Litwiller a break as Mickey Straight was invited back for two oldies. “Daddy Was a Murderin’ Man” and “I Don’t Advocate Drugs” (also Trillion Dollar Threats) were a treat. The final side of the Status Electric album was then laid out, with “Gods on the Radio” and “Scales of Justice” being the obvious best tracks. Unfortunately by this time all four band members had already played full sets with other bands, and they flubbed a few lines in “Uptite Friday Night” and “Scales”. Not that this detracted from the show. It seemed everybody was aware of how hard these guys had been playing all night!
CD and MERCH GIVEAWAY!
WIN YOUR OWN COPY OF STATUS ELECTRIC! Bonus NANCY VICIOUS STICKER AND BUTTON!
How, you ask, do I win?
It’s simple! Just answer the easy question below by submitting it directly on the form. All correct answers will be put in a hat and one lucky winner will be drawn at random! Please remember to include your complete mailing address so we can send your prize!*
QUESTION: Name all four current members of Max the Axe.
This contest will run for one week, from December 10 to December 17, when we will draw the winner.
*Disclaimer: Canada Post is on strike and we can make no delivery guarantees.
Heed the “Call of the Wild”! Max and his legendary Axe are hitting the Boathouse in Kitchener TONIGHT (57 Jubilee Drive, Kitchener, Ontario) for the release of his sixth record Status Electric. Though a late arrival in 2018, Status Electric is so bloody good that it’s likely to (spoiler?) make our Top 5 of 2018 list. When nine songs get stuck in your head for weeks on end, that’s a good sign.
Opening acts include Mickey Straight (ex-Max the Axe singer), Nancy Vicious and the Nasty Bitches, and The Delusionals (formerly the Hellen Keller Band).
$5 at the door, $10 for a CD.
If you’re anywhere near the “River Grand”, you won’t need the “Next Plane to Vegas” to join Max the Axe at the Boathouse. Even “Randy” may be there, screaming the “Call of the Wild”. If you are “Sick of Living”, don’t go to “The Other Side”! “You Gotta” go to the Boathouse instead. If you had an “Uptite Friday Night” then the best cure will be to rock with Max on Saturday. Witness the “Scales of Justice” tip forever in Max’s favour.
At the very least, you’ll hear the cautionary tale of why “Only a fool owns a deadly snake, let alone two.” That’s how it goes…so go to the Boathouse and catch them live.