Mickey Straight

REVIEW: Max the Axe – Trillion Dollar Threats (2010)

MAX THE AXE – Trillion Dollar Threats (2010 Mutant Music)

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 ElectricTrillion 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.

3/5 stars

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CONCERT REVIEW: Max the Axe and guests, Dec 8 at the Boathouse + CD GIVEAWAY!

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!

4.5/5 stars

 

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.

Good luck!

*Disclaimer:  Canada Post is on strike and we can make no delivery guarantees.