Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week, we’ve reissues from the likes of Virgin Steele, an album that has taken 20 years to get a release, some prog metal noodling and a book about Zeppelin’s final tour.
Words: Malcolm Dome
Virgin Steele have often suffered from being seen as Manowar without the bombast and furry pants. But they’ve always been more than that. The reissue of 1988’s Age Of Consent (SPV/Steamhammer) proves that they really did have their own sub-operatic and epic approach, Not many laughs here, but some damn fine music.
From a little earlier, it’s good to have the debut Witch album The Hex Is On (FNA Records) available again. Now called The Hex Is On…And Then Some, not only do we get the original 1984 album of prime, high energy and aggressive LA trash, but also tracks recorded 13 years later, featuring guest appearances from Slash, Steve Stevens and…Keith Emerson. This actually all underlines that cult heroes Witch should always have been a lot bigger. And the more recent stuff is very stylish, mature AOR.
Roxx Gang were never really part of the big hair movement, but were always unfairly dumped into this category. However, the Florida band had the vigour, dynamism and thrust to stand apart, and deserved to be a major force. The three disc set Boxx Of Roxx (FNA Records) proves the point. There’s a CD of previously unreleased stuff, a live CD and a DVD with all their promo videos Proof of what might have been.
Vega are a British melodic hard rock band who stand apart from most in this vein, because not only do they write melodic songs, but they’ve a significant depth. Debut album Kiss Of Life (Frontiers) shows enough talent and cohesion to suggest a big future awaits.
Royal Blood were being touted as potential players at the start of the 90s. Their melodic hard rock was deemed perfect to make them superstars. Then along came grunge and burst the dreamy bubble. So, 20 years later we finally get to hear the debut album, Thanks Seattle… For Killing My Band And My Dream! (FNA Records). Originally due out in 1992, it features guitar virtuoso Alex Masi and former MSG bassist Rocky Newton. You know what? It sounds impressive. If you can imagine Rival Sons with a bit more Motley or Poison influence, then you’re on the mark. Shame they never got much of a chance all those years ago.
Astrohenge class themselves as metal, but on second album Astrohenge II (Eyes Of Sound), they display something of a penchant for complexity that puts them more firmly towards the progressive bracket. It’s a fun piece of avant-garde extremity, with some fine musicianship. They could become cult heroes very quickly.
Exit International are a Welsh trio with two bassists. They like making a noise on Black Junk (Undergroove), but it’s never atonal or dysfunctional, and the music mighty blare in a jammy fashion. But it has distinct disciple and focus. It almost sounds like early Napalm Death meets Sunn 0))).
Finally a book on Led Zeppelin. There’s hardly a dearth of such books on the market, but Led Zeppelin – Death In The Wind Over Europe 1980 (Tight But Loose) is an exhaustive look at the band’s final tour. It’s been compiled by Dave Lewis, who does an excellent job in bringing together facts and memories.
Tags: Alex Masi, Astrohenge, Exit International, Keith Emerson, Led Zeppelin, Manowar, Motley Crue, MSG, Napalm Death, Poison, Rival Sons, Rocky Newton, Roxx Gang, Royal Blood, Slash, Steve Stevens, Sunn 0))), Vega, Virgin Steele, Witch