The following reviews are for albums released during the 2016 calendar year that I was simply unable to get around to before the year came to an end. These brief thoughts on each disc are so that I at least get to weigh in on what I thought of them.
Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper
Walking In The Shadows
Dissonance Productions - 2016
While only singer Steve Grimmett remains from the band's lineup, the old school heavy metal vibe is alive and well with 12 tracks of electrically charged anthemic rockers. The 12 tracks on the disc have a uniformity of direction with all songs having been written by Grimmett and guitarist Ian Nash.
Grimmett's vocals still contain plenty of melodic touches, something you might not expect given the visuals conjured up by the band's name. There's no real let down in the album's pacing. The slowest song on the disc is "Thunder" and it is still pretty rocking.
The track "I'm Coming For You" sees Grimmett reaching for a higher than usual vocal register and not being entirely successful at it. At times it sounded as if he was preening more than singing as he tried to hit the higher notes.
Otherwise, the material here should thrill old school metal fans. Songs like the title track, "Call Me In The Morning" and "Reach Out" are pure adrenaline. And the opening song on the disc, "Wings of Angels" is killer from start to finish.
Concord Records - 2016
It took me a while to get around to listening to this album because the band essentially released a disc with 2 new songs on it. Yes, there are 7 other tracks but they are reworked editions of previously released material.
The saving grace of those particular tracks is that none of them do anything to dampen the love of the original versions. In fact, 2 of the songs are actually quite noteworthy. "One Word" is a simple enough track, but I've always loved the smooth and easy was the song flowed and it does so here once again. Meanwhile, the song "City's Burning" is seemingly even more heavy than the original cut and this really appealed to me.
While the title track is a song that was released on the Best Buy deluxe edition of the band's Fanatic album, I didn't hear it because I just had the standard version. So when I heard the song on this disc (featuring a guest vocal from Metallica's James Hetfield, who co-wrote the song as well), my immediate reaction was that it was the highest quality hard rocking type of song that Heart had done in years.
As for the two new tracks, "Two" is a slow ballad that was generally effective. I wouldn't say I completely loved it but I didn't hate it either. I did, however, love the song "I Jump". It starts off with a smooth and easy feel but grows into a thumping rocker. It was just a really good track.
I've been kind of down on the Heart studio releases lately. They just haven't felt as if it was the best the band could do. I am still slightly peeved at another disc that has material that is previously released, but Beautiful Broken was otherwise rather enjoyable.
Frontiers Records - 2016
The new Glenn Hughes solo CD finds the British singer in fine voice. Full of the elasticity that allows him to range from funky rhythmic sounds to full on powerful roar, Hughes rips through each track with a deft touch.
He can rock out on songs like "Heavy", "My Town" and "God Of Money" and the turn on a dime and pull just the right strings to give more emotional heft to tracks like "How Long". The latter track starts slow but builds towards a huge crescendo.
I don't know if it was coincidence or not but at times the material comes off sounding as if he's back in his Deep Purple days. The keyboard sound of "Steady" (Oddly, a song I didn't particularly enjoy) instantly made me think of Jon Lord. Even the color scheme of the album design seemed to scream "Deep Purple". This isn't a bad thing because the material is generally outstanding, but I did find it a bit striking.
There's some real noteworthy guitar work on the album. The gritty riff powering "Flow" set the song apart for me. I loved "Stumble & Go" as well. The flat out rocker grabs you immediately. Hughes also has plenty of that funk inspired inflection in his vocals, the entire groove on closing track "Long Time Gone" helps sell the song like you wouldn't believe.
It should be noted that my favorite two tracks on the disc, "Heavy" and "Long Time Gone", are the only two cuts that feature longtime Hughes musical cohort, drummer Chad Smith.
Overall, despite my initial misgivings about the songs I heard online prior to the release of the album, Resonate did quite the admirable job of living up to its title. Glenn Hughes continues to surprise and delight.
The Devil Rides Out
AFM Records - 2016
From straight out of the starting gate, Herman Frank's The Devil Rides Out is a hard nosed unrelenting slice of pure balls out heavy metal.
The former Accept guitarist barely slows down going from track to track with a clearly defined path of metallic anthems. He wrote the music by himself for nearly every song (as well as produced the album and wrote the lyrics for the heavy rock stomping song "Ballhog Zone") while singer Rick Altzi wrote nearly all the lyrics.
The limited edition version of the ablum contains a bonus track and much like the rest of the album the aggressively fast paced music gives the listener barely enough time to catch their breath before another riff launches a new musical journey.
The slowest track on the album is "Stone Cold" and even that is still pretty much a straight up rocker track, just not quite as fast as the rest of the songs. The rapid fire delivery of the lyrics from Altzi on "Run For Cover" is a fantastic showcase for his powerful yet gritty and raspy vocals.
There's a great line in "License To Kill" that struck a chord with me: "I live in solitude, I always knew I would". The song is another heavy stomper. Meanwhile, there's just a hint of an Udo vocal sound on the take no prisoners "Run Boy Run". I don't know if it was intentional or just something my own ears picked out but it really worked with the song. Even more aggressive in the execution is "Can't Take It" and "Shout".
There's really no bad song on this album as Frank and his cohorts delivered one of the highest quality offerings the metal community could've wished for. Hell, even the packaging is outstanding. The Devil Rides In is just what metal fans are looking for; an all out assault on the senses with top quality songwriting and an amazing musical performance from all involved.
Ian Hunter & The Rant Band
Jesse John Music LLC - 2016
With a bold statement of the album being "dedicated to the dedicated", Ian Hunter's latest release is surprisingly spry and lively affair. I picked this album up by taking a flyer on it after reading a rather interesting interview with the singer in a magazine and I found myself richly rewarded for the effort.
Fingers Crossed finds the 72 year old singer in fine voice both vocally and as a lyricist (Hunter wrote all the songs). There's a real gritty yet powerful feel to his vocal performance. It grabs your ear and hooks you with an intensity you might not be expecting.
While Hunter's lyrics don't always gravitate towards his age, there's an undeniable sense of his perspective now when said lyrics do grow nostalgic. But it is not something he wallows in to the point of distraction. There's a limber feel to the music that makes for some lively rocking tunes. Hunter may not be writing about boy-girl stuff like he did in his younger days, but there is fun to be had here.
The album opens with "That's When The Trouble Starts" that kicks things off nicely. He pays tribute to David Bowie on "Dandy" and imparts a great line about him with "You're the prettiest star, there ain't no life on Mars, but we always thought there might be".
In fact, it is Hunter's continued ability to spin a lyrical line or full on story through his lyrics that really caught my ear the most. And the range of material is amazing. From those jaunty rockers like "Long Time" where he sings about being "old enough to know better, young enough to join in" to heartfelt ballads like the title track, there's nary a false step in the selected material.
There's a catchy hook in "White House" and there's even a nod to the first British police organization in "Bow Street Runners" which manages to convey the history of the group inside of an uptempo track with a great vibe. Perhaps the best lyrical line because it instantly made me think of my favorite TV show (though admittedly the song has no connection to said TV show that I know of) is "Let me unveil - A soberin' tale, bought my spaceship second-hand, should'a known better - the steering jammed, lookin' all over for a place to land" from the song "Stranded in Reality".
I may have picked up this album on based off my own internal monologue of checking it out because of an interview I read, but the payoff was a rich full musical experience from an artist that still has plenty of music to give. Ian Hunter and his Rant Band turned in a finely crafted album and it shouldn't be overlooked.
I have the Ian Hunter album and the Heart album. I'm pretty much in total agreement with your assessments of both albums.
Thanks for reading the piece and for the feedback. I'm listening to the Ian Hunter CD as I surf the net and promote the article.