Scattered Hamlet - Swamp Rebel Machine
Let's get right to it. Scattered Hamlet are great. They don't have bad music at all, so this is no slag on their previous work, but Swamp Rebel Machine is it. IT! This album screams, “Scattered Hamlet have arrived!” What a focused, concise slab of southern rock goodness. Fasten your seatbelts, Fuckers.
Scattered Hamlet are Adam Joad on vocals/guitar/harmonica, Richard Erwin on the bass, Jake Delling Le Bas pounding the drums, and Adam Newell slinging lead guitar… and they ARE southern rock. Now, some bands say they are southern, but growing a beard and reversing Sabbath riffs in a down-tuned, bendier fashion ain't gonna get you there. S.H. are the real deal. They are the spirit of the classic 70's southern sound with a new heavy turn that put them at the forefront immediately.
Swamp Rebel Machine is heavy, and yeah - we all love that… but what sets this record apart and makes it so fun to listen to is its diversity, boogie, and blues. Look no further than tracks like “Four Barrel Mojo”, “Battle Hymn”, and “White Trash”.... and the punk tinged sing-a-long chorus of “Green Bastard” (with hype man Johnny T Crash) with an egyptian flared solo run that screams diversity! The last track "The Lesson" is just that: at almost 8 minutes long it demands your attention, and points out the pitfalls of Nashville and what it means to be honest and live simple. Giving shout outs to Cash and Skynyrd the S.H. boys put a smack down on the slick, homogenized sounds of today's bro-country.
Swamp Rebel Machine will easily make this rock writer’s albums of the year. Joad’s clear, but gruff and masterful vocals, combined with smart song crafting - and insane performance by the rest of the guys make this album an epic journey through all things pure, honest, and badass. Look out cause here they come!
Black Stone Cherry - Kentucky
Black Stone Cherry are back with a blazing new album, simply titled "Kentucky". Sure, we just did a review of their live album not that long ago, but deal with it. We love this band so much; we can't stop writing about them and hoping that people will start seeing this band for the masters they are. Drop all your diet radio drivel and come to BSCville… at once!
"Kentucky" is an album I had hoped these guys would finally make. It’s amped up with a bit more of an epic vibe and an obvious progression. There are no "White Trash Millionaire" or "Blame It On The Boom Boom" type songs on this one, and not that those are a bad thing. We all need to have fun and let loose, but it’s just refreshing and satisfying to see BSC take risks and move up that ladder. If there is any song off of "Kentucky" in that vein, it would be "Cheaper To Drink Alone". and that’s a rifftastic anti-slouch of a song. Dig it.
Songs like "Soul Machine" and a cover of Edwin Starr's "War" showcase the Cherry's diversity and vocalist Chris Robertson's rich, passionate, southern deilvery. "Rescue Me" is a metallic anthem with a crazy Beach Boys-esque vocal intro. Lyrical content is also something of mention all throughout this album. These songs really reflect what’s going on in the world right now, and can only make you question the absurdity of the powers that be and the dangers that could follow.
Rounding things out are Jon Lawhon on bass and Ben Wells on guitar intertwining perfectly around the insane drumming of John Fred Young. They stomp through "Way Of The Future" and "In Our Dreams" effortlessly. “The Rambler” is a soft, sad number with a clever fiddle, acoustic guitar and colorful lyrics that put the song right there in your living room.
Again, if you haven't gotten into Black Stone Cherry, now is the time. A timeless album by a rocking, smart, no frills hard rock band… it’s really all you need.
Killswitch Engage – Incarnate
The early 00’s brought around the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. You had 5 main bands: Shadows Fall, Unearth, God Forbid, Lamb Of God, and Killswitch Engage. The Shads and God Forbid have fallen by the wayside. Unearth is a powerhouse, but the big 2 that remain are LOG and KsE. These guys have blown up and evolved into titans… Titans! When the Metallcas and Iron Maidens of the world shove off, these will be our headliners, so thank Lemmy they don’t suck; especially Killswitch Engage.
Killswitch Engage are always anthem like, uplifting, yet pummeling and “Incarnate” is no different. It serves up a huge plate of their modern metal goodness, that dare I say, might have to be consumed in parts. 15 songs. 15 slabs of riffs, screams, solos, breakdowns, hooks… it’s a lot. Honestly, these guys could have shortened it to 10 songs and still had an epic, badass album. In any case, let’s get into this record and see what we see.
Incarnate is such a Jesse D. Leach showcase. Since his return to KsE, he has proved to be one of the tightest, most formidable modern metal frontmen out there. He can scream, growl, wail, and then 10 seconds later sing like an angel. His true talent is definitely at home and welcome with Killswitch Engage. The production and riffs are crystal clear as well… concise and polished without sounding forced, or cheesy. Adam D. masterminds this album to true metal perfection.
Hate By Design has a sweet hook over a hardcore stomp that can’t be denied. Embrace The Journey…Upraised is a signature Killswitch anthem; while Cut Me Loose is a face-biting bruiser of a tune with probably the most caustic outro I’ve ever heard from these guys. It seriously has to be heard to be believed. Also, the last song, Loyalty is seriously one of my favorite songs on the record. Dime and Vinnie would approve the song’s intro tenfold. Killswitch Engage are back again and showing why they matter, and how they are going to expand their metal empire. Don’t get left out!
Megadeth – Dystopia
For us here at Thunder Underground, there is no bad Megadeth album. Sure, there are ones that stand out more than others, or albums that this guy loves and the other guy doesn’t and so on, but really we’re such huge fans that for us, Megadeth is like pizza; even when its bad, its good. Dystopia is one of those peaks for sure. We’ve patiently waited quite awhile for this release, so let’s get right down to it.
With Lamb Of God’s Chris Adler and wizard axeman Kiko Loureiro, Megadeth kick it off with a pulsing and focused “The Threat Is Real.” This track really steers you in the direction of the whole album and shows you where to go. The title track is next, and this one is just the first of many face melters on the album. Its got hooks, and wacky time changes going on… just classic ‘deth. The gems continue all the way through. I think you can tell… we dig this disc!
“The Emperor” is a track that grabs you from the get go. A staccato vibe that stomps its way into a early 90’s style chorus makes this a great tune to listen to over and over. “Post American Vibe” could have been on “The World Needs A Hero” and that’s not a bad thing. It broods and creeps through your earholes and paints a somber picture of how crazy our country is going, and look around people, Mustaine has a point. Definitely pay attention to this one.
“Bullet To The Brain”, “Fatal Illusion”, “Lying In State” - it’s all deadly. I could go on and on, but don’t you think you should get down to the store and pick this one up already? Do it. Lastly, let’s not forget that no matter what turmoil or changes are going down in the Megadeth camp, the talent and musicianship is always at a very high high… so you know the new blood that Dave and Dave Jr have recruited is stellar as hell. Chris Adler kicks and tears his way through this version of Megadeth and puts the drum throne under some legit new management. Kiko Laureiro breathes new life into the sound, twisting and spooling around the songs with tasty, smart guitar lines and wreckless abandon. Play it loud, and play it often. 2016 is the year of the ‘deth!!! --- Jason
Black Stone Cherry – Thank You: Livin’ Live
Black Stone Cherry has always seemed on the cusp... of something. Since they first hit the scene, it seems…. people dig them. They garnered enough attention to hop on radio festivals, or open for whatever watered down radio rock band is taking the sheeple by storm lately, but they have never truly been in the conversation. Truly. In America at least, and this confuses me. They have a classic spirit with a modern edge. They are heavy and riffy for us hard rock nerds, and melodic and “everyman” enough for the casual listener…. so why haven’t they made that jump to the headlining position? It seems the European fans HAVE included these guys in the conversation, and especially in the UK, which completely leads us into why they recorded their new live album, “Thank You: Livin’ Live” in Birmingham in October of 2014. These crowds get it. They love the classic vibe with the heavy spirit, and the southern bluesy colorings that the Brits seem to love. Come on, America…. we’re waiting!
That aforementioned love is none more evident with tracks like “In My Blood” and the insanely tearjerking “Things My Father Said” that is seriously sung by the crowd. Yup…. every word. What emotion and devotion. I could feel the soul stirring right out of my speakers. Vocalist Chris Robertson literally didn’t sing one word…. and its reasons like this that make this live album a treat to listen to, and mind you…. this is coming from a guy that has only really liked a couple of live albums that much over the last 20 years or so. Yeah…… ya'll might wanna pick this one up.
Additional standouts are a clobbering drum interlude from the always badass John Fred Young, and the blistering “Death Letter Blues” leading right into an epic “Soulcreek” and really: how ballsy is it to throw “Layla” in the middle of “Blame It On The Boom Boom”? I think it's risks like these that attract some, but unfortunately turn off the safe, “diet rock” radio listeners. Cheers to BSC for bucking the trend and doing what they want. Take it from a guy that again, doesn’t dig on too many live albums…. .you’ll love this one. Hell, you’ll love all their stuff. Go get it now!
Huntress – Static (Napalm Records)
Huntress is a band that’s been on my radar for awhile now. Their last album was a formidable slab of metal for sure, and while I have heard them referred to as “retro” or whatever……I just don’t see it that way. This is just Metal. Metal. Meat and potatoes, chunky, gallopy metal. Bring it.
Produced by Fireball Ministry badass, James Rota…. Static is a step up. Jill Janus, Blake Meahl, and the rest of the Huntress crew have nailed it in my opinion. Smart guitar work, flawless execution, and a haunting, soaring, and at times beautifully violent vocal performance by Janus is everything us metalheads would want. The album blasts off with “Sorrow” which is probably my favorite…. it's scathing, fast and unrelenting. “I Want To Wanna Wake Up” and “Mania” are dastardly windows into the mind of Jill Janus, and the tribulations she has been through as of late. You can feel the pain and at the same time the victory in her voice. Machines, filters, and tuners don’t make this kind of emotion, people… this is real heart and soul. So welcome in today’s music world if you ask me.
The production on Static is nothing but stellar… the guitars are like cutting buzzsaws with a concise and complete rhythm section. The solos and runs are fresh and exciting while harkening back to the greats and giants of the genre. I’m big on efficiency and there is nothing on this album that shouldn’t be there. Voice, guitar, bass, drums - simple, but layered with emotion and drive... that you can pick up on that is a victory for Huntress right there. Don’t forget to crank up the epic “Four Blood Moons” What a perfect song for this time of the year and really setting a tone. Definitely a standout track for me. Huntress is killing it and with a tour later this year with the almighty Black Label Society, I only see their Blood Moon shining brighter and badder. Do not pass “Static” up!
Michael Monroe – Blackout States (Spinefarm Records)
Well, the new one by Michael Monroe came out today… so we’re already winning in my book. Monroe has been prolific as hell as of late. Sensory Overdrive and Horns and Halos were choc full of good times, anthems, and melodies galore. Blackout States just keeps that direction going, but maybe in a different vehicle. Monroe’s distinct voice and structure is tried and true, and while this album is his familiar sound, it swells, cruises and humps, if you will… .whereas the last two albums were so over the top and loud, but make no mistake… this is not a bad thing as Blackout States is full of memorable hooks and anthems.
“Going Down With The Ship” is trademark Monroe… there is no way you can not smile. “Good Ole Bad Days” is my personal favorite, Saxophone solo and all. I really like this about Michael Monroe. It brings back a genuine and traditional feel to his rowdy brand of glam punk. In a way its something I’d like to hear more of, but at the same time, I like that its unique to Monroe and something I can’t get anywhere else. “R.L.F.” will make you do just that… Rock like fuck…. WITH a harmonica solo!! Yes!!! “Old King’s Road” is signature Monroe with vivid lyrics that almost make you see the song right in front of you, if that makes sense.
Michael Monroe is a legend that more people should know of, period. I was admittedly late to the party. From Hanoi Rocks, to “Dead Jail, Or Rock n’ Roll” to Blackout States… Monroe is a purveyor of quality rock that people seem to be wanting, but aren’t willing to dig and turn off the radio and open up their brains. Well here he is people, he’s always been here and Blackout States will help you board that train.
Remember how you and your buddies would always sit around and talk about who each other’s dream bands would be? We all did it. “Dude… .I’d want Portnoy on drums, Ellefson on bass, Skolnick on guitar, with Anselmo or Jasta on vocals” Well, whaddya know… it actually happened and what a facemelter. A fucking facemelter.
Metal Allegiance is a super group, super album with Mike Portnoy, Dave Ellefson, and Alex Skolnick at its core. The list of guest vocalists and guitarists is out of this world impressive and basically cements this album as a must for any righteous, proper metalhead. In particular, what is really interesting is the pair-ups on this album. “Wait Until Tomorrow” features dUg Pinnick AND Jamey Jasta handling vocal duties. Don’t even question it - it slams! “Scars” has Mark Osegueda and Christina Scabbia trading off voices and is an insanely smart match. For this rock opinionist…. these are the favorite tracks that you can’t pass up.
“Gift Of Pain” shows off D. Randall Blythe of Lamb Of God, and is perfect way to kick this record off and smack you in the teeth. “Destination Nowhere” shines with vocals and guitar from Trivium’s own Matt K. Heafy. This guy grows vocally more and more as time goes on, and this song is no different. Instant classic. “Dying Song” shows Phil Anselmo getting back to that clean singing and distinct voice we all love and makes us feel at home. “Let Darkness Fall” is an instant odyssey featuring Troy Sanders, Rex Brown, and the Metal Allegiance secret weapon, Mark Menghi. You must wrap your ears around the numbing, swirling “Triangulum” An instrumental journey that pours Charlie Benante, Ben Weinman, Bumblefoot, Phil Demmel, and Heafy right down your throat while the Dio cover, “We Rock” boasts Tim “Ripper” Owens, Chris Jericho, Steve “Zetro” Souza and more going round and round vocally. From Andreas Kisser to Gary Holt to Chuck Billy and beyond, Metal Allegiance is stacked with names and talent, but also: smart, riffy, quality metal that will hopefully be anthems for years to come.
Battlecross – Rise To Power
Goddamn! Caustic! Do you hear me, people?! Caustic! Battlecross are not, repeat NOT fucking around here. I think I know why they wanted to title their new album “Rise To Power”…. because that is exactly what these Michigan metallers are doing. Sure, anything these guys have put out is immediately crankable, and worthy of our respect, but it’s like they knew they had to step it up or something on this one…. the riffage, the playing, the vocals. It’s all deadly and if you’re not listening, you’re simply gonna get run over. Hey, you only have yourself to blame.
10 solid songs clocking in at 35 minutes smacking you in the fucking face the whole time… does it get any better? The fat is trimmed and the metal is kept righteous. Battlecross are keeping the torch for the true and traditional going by giving us what we want. Not a lot of wankery and bullshit… they get in there, pound your cerebellum to mush and then get the hell out, which is what all great metal records should do. “Scorch” is like a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal riff, circa 1981, hopped up on crack. “The Path” is epic, yet smashing. “Absence” is a standout big time. Its got the speed, insane vocal prowess, crazy bass work, and blazing guitar wizardry that fans crave.
This is a perfect avenue for Battlecross. If “Rise To Power” is backed up with smart decisions and relentless touring, there is no doubt in my mind that these guys will see the same success as Lamb Of God, or Hatebreed. Good stuff doesn’t grow on trees anymore. Everything moves so fast and fickle these days, it’s hard to wade through the muck for a gem. Hard work must be put in, sacrifices must be made… no room for errors, and as it stands Battlecross is doing it right. If you haven’t checked out this album yet, you need to have your brain examined. Truth!
Nelson – Peace Out
Nelson came along at a key time in my youth. From say, ages 11-13, you are going from whatever pop is on the radio to figuring out what you individually, really dig. For me, I went right into hard rock so the glam bands were a whole new blazing world… and Nelson was right there. They had all the pop my young mind was used to, but with all the crunch and slippery solos my new ears were craving. I still am into it to this day, and that sound always brings a smile to my face.
Peace Out has landed and it is quite a formidable offering from Matthew and Gunnar. These guys have always been superb song craftsmen, and they will be damned if anything overshadows that. It doesn’t matter if every song on this new album is up your alley, there is no denying that the writing is strong and handled with care. Tracks like “On The Bright Side” or “I Wanna Stay Stay Home” are exact and radio-ready, if ya know, radio didn’t suck these days.
Let’s not forget though. the twins know how to rock with the best of them, and rock they do… nothing is left out here. “Hello Everybody” and “Back In The Day” are insane AOR face-melters that will light the room up and make you wanna go practice your guitar. Some of these solo runs… man, some great great guitar work.
“Rockstar” is one hell of a stand out on this album. An anthem to what we all really want to be, lets just face it. Sonically, this song has drums that slap you right in the balls with a stellar groove and catchy chorus. Don’t pass this one up. Don’t pass “Peace Out” up as a whole… I implore you: give it a spin. Super fun, super loud, and catchy as hell. What more do you need?
Night Flight Orchestra – Skyline Whispers
Night Flight Orchestra is back, and God, are we here at Thunder Underground happy. Their debut, “Internal Affairs,” was a masterpiece and was our 2012 album of the year. So now, to have another effort from these guys is nothing but awesomeness, as this band can do no wrong. No wrong.
If you’ve never heard of NFO, rest easy….we will get you up to speed. Bjorn “Speed” Strid and David Andersson of Soilwork joined forces with Sharlee D’Angelo of Arch Enemy and have created a rock n’ roll juggernaut that is nothing like their respective home bands, but still full of just as much power and confidence…..maybe in a different way, but that’s not a bad thing. Night Flight Orchestra is soaked in late 70’s, early 80’s arena rock. Dare I say, they do it better than even some of those bands did back then. There is no doubt in my mind, had this band been around in 1981, they would have ruled the stages and the charts. They would be a household name by this point.
I never was too huge on bands like Foreigner, Fleetwood Mac, and Journey. NFO takes the best elements from these acts and combines them, then adds their own modern execution and the results are colorful, loud, and sensationally bombastic. Being from melodic death metal bands as these guys are…..a high level of musicianship is key, and that mentality carries over into NFO to create a rock force that will demand your ear… from soaring vocals to anthemic organ runs and everything in between, “Skyline Whispers” is some seriously fantastic music. Period.
“Living For The Night Time” is probably my favorite song on the record. I just wanna get in my car and go on a drive through the city when this track is on. That’s the thing… each track on this record is superb at setting a vibe and conveying a feeling - there is no in between. So many pictures and themes come to mind upon a first listen. “I Ain’t Old, I Ain’t Young” is a stupendous journey that you expect Stevie Nicks herself to pop up and start singing on. “Lady Jade” is another biting track that blends an early Kiss-style intro with funk keyboards and some Eagles-ish slide guitar. Strid is a master vocalist that can bust out a powerful mid range grit and then go into a climbing falsetto that will knock you in the dirt.
I can only imagine this is a scorching live act, and as much as Soilwork and Arch Enemy are metal perfection, I hope Night Flight Orchestra keeps going. As stated earlier, these guys can do no wrong and lucky for you its all on record for you to hear. You’re welcome. - Jason
We Are Harlot – "We Are Harlot"
No risk, no reward. What a phrase, huh? Easier said than done, I think. Former Asking Alexandria vocalist, Danny Worsnop knows this all too well. To take a leap from an established, modern Metal outfit with multiple albums, and a rabid, rabid fanbase to a new, hard rock act competing in the mainstream rock radio market is bold as bold can be. Whats more is…. looks like he’s pulled it off.
We Are Harlot’s appeal is bolstered even more with splendid, un-yarly vocals and an international appeal that a lot of radio bands don’t get to experience…. thanks to Worsnop's stint in the internationally acclaimed british outfit, Asking Alexandria. The band’s self-titled debut is going to be a standout album of 2015. Sure to be on everyone’s Top 10 lists. Solid songs with hooks for days, and on more than one occasion, bright, boomy piano accompaniment gives this record a “good time” vibe without getting corny or overdone. Worsnop’s vocals are gravelly, soulful at times, and crafted to hard-rock perfection. This guy is no growler or screamer even though he probably could. Again, I can’t mention enough how ballsy it was to go from established Metal to the shaky world of hard rock…. as the latter is way more difficult to breakthrough to these days.
The album starts off with the single “Dancin’ On Nails,” which has a boiling intro leading into arena riffs and a chorus that will stick in your head for days. “DLT” is next and it pummels you into oblivion with its speed yet totally flips you over into one of the most memorable choruses that would make Andrew WK proud. The brightness and punchiness is just positive and fun and I dare you to NOT hit repeat on this thing. You can’t do it.
“Easier to Love” and “The One” are more solid standouts, along with “Denial” which is sure to be the next single. Live these guys are unrelenting and in your face. They have graced stages from Oklahoma to Italy and are winning crowds over in droves. I can’t wait to see what these guys come up with next, but hey….lets not get ahead of ourselves……lets enjoy this record and keep hitting repeat! - Jason