Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week’s tasty selection includes the Foo Fighters, Ken Hensley, Brian Setzer and Pure Reason Revolution. It’s all about prog, metal and good ole rock ’n’ roll. Which covers all the bases nicely.
Words: Malcolm Dome
It can’t be easy when you’re the Foo Fighters. Living up to the past, while also being expected to push on. So, every time the band release a new album they face the inevitable moans from some about rehashing the past, and from others for changing. Therefore Wasting Light (Roswell) has been getting a mixed response. The truth is that it owes sufficient to the band’s heritage, while not being tied to it. There’s also a sense of urgency and fire here that perhaps has been missing on recent albums. It suggests they’ve got back the desire.
You always know what you’re gonna get from Virgin Steele. They’ve long had an epic approach to their operatic metal. This style was established on 1986’s Noble Savage (SPV/Steamhammer). Their third album, it’s been reissued here with extra tracks. Listening now, it’s clear they tread a thin line between the grandiose and bombastic, occasionally veering too much towards becoming a self-important parody. But for the most part, it’s impressive stuff which the band have rarely matched since.
France’s Loudblast celebrate their 25th anniversary with the rather engaging Frozen Moments Between Life And Death (XIII Bis Records). While the band’s death/thrash roots are still clear, this moves them somewhat further towards power metal. It’s among the best of all Loudblast’s albums.
Ken Hensley is either hailed for his pioneering work with Uriah Heep, or derided for helping to ruin southern rock masters Blackfoot (check out the Siogo album for proof of the latter). Now fronting Ken Hensley & Live Fire, the man’s ability to write good, melodic songs is still intact on Faster (earMUSIC), even though he sometimes lets the keyboards take too much of a prominent role. Still, it’s good to hear Hensley once more proving his worth – and on his own terms. Of course, he will never be fully forgiven for Siogo!
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead actually released seventh album Tao Of The Dead (Superball) a little while back. But it’s worth recommending now, as the Texans are currently touring the UK. This has a stripped down sound, with the guitar very much at the forefront. But also has a warming complexity. It also really needs to be listened to as a whole, rather than cherry picking tracks. In that respect it harks back to early 70s and bands like Pink Floyd or Yes. A triumph on every level. Even the packaging is complex and artistically detailed.
Brian Setzer goes all instrumental on the appropriately titled Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL! (Surfdog). It’s a combination of covers and originals, all done in a style fans of Setzer will recognise. The man is a genuine musical talent, and this is entertaining but also has depth and creativity.
The excellent Pure Reason Revolution have become one of the most enlightened bands in this era of prog rock vibrancy. You can see and hear the quality on the DVD Live At Scala. Filmed last year at The Scala in London, it showcases beautifully yet unpretentiously the band’s ability to match musical dexterity with dance and electronic rhythms. Find out more at www.myspace.com/purereasonrevolution
Finally, if you’ve not heard of US band Stone Axe then this oversight should be immediately corrected. I was fortunate enough to see them at The Unicorn in Camden Road, one of the best venues in London (it’s also free to get in), and they were sensational. The sound is very much early 70s American hard rock, with southern and stoner undertones. They’re from Port Orchard in Washington and the music’s worth checking out at www.myspace.com/stoneaxe