Friday, April 18, 2014

KXM - KXM

KXM
KXM
Rat Pak Records

KXM is a new ‘supergroup’ of sorts, comprising of King’s X bassist/vocalist Dug Pinnick, ex-Dokken/Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch and ex-David Lee Roth/Army Of Anyone/Korn drummer Ray Luzier, who have been generating quite the buzz amongst fans since revealing their plans to record an album midway through 2013. Fast forward almost twelve months later, and KXM (Whose name derives from the member’s full-time outfits - K from Korn, X from King’s X, and M from Lynch Mob) have finally delivered their eponymous debut album.
There’s no denying that all three members of KXM are talented in their own right. But the question has to be asked if those individual talents can be pooled together to create something that gels in the musical sense. It’s a fair question, because on paper you would be hard pressed to find three musicians from more vastly different musical backgrounds. But after giving the album plenty of spins, fans can rest assured that that the hype leading up to the release of KXM’s album is well and truly justified.
The trio get things off to a driving start with the opening track ‘Stars’. With clinical precision, the band perfectly blend percussive tribal-like heavy rhythms, tight knit groove based riffs and underpinning bass lines to create a huge sound that is reminiscent of the members’ individual outfits – and yet sounding fresh enough to be called something new. As expected, Pinnick shines with his soulful and commanding voice and delivery of memorable melodies, but the real stars here are Lynch and Luzier. Producer Chris Collier has made sure that Luzier’s contributions to the band aren’t overshadowed in any way, with the drums, the guide - the band follows, in the sound sense. As for Lynch, his guitar work here is quite understated in parts, but comes out in full force when it needs to be. In short, the production and mix is really quite impressive, and designed to allow all three to shine.
‘Rescue Me’ (Which is the first single from the album, and reprised at the end of the album in edited form as a bonus track) and ‘Love’ are obvious stand out cuts on the album with their King’s X sounding strong sense of groove and uplifting choruses, while the band deliver something quite the opposite in ‘Never Stop’, which is a convincing detour into acoustic southern rock in the ballad vein. It’s a sound that was completely unexpected, but it’s a sound the band delivers to perfection.
Experimentation is something the band aren’t afraid to use to their advantage, with the King’s X sounding ‘Faith Is A Room’ and ‘Human Friction’ proof of the band thinking outside the box in terms of fusing Pinnick’s vocal melodies and Lynch’s guitar riffs and tones, while traces of Poundhound’s funk and Dokken’s keen sense of melodic rock is evident throughout ‘Do It Now’.
On the heavier side of things, ‘Gunfight’ and the percussive heavy ‘Burn’ are particular favourites, while Pinnick’s autobiographical tale of domestic abuse on the slow burning ‘Sleep’ is a trip down darker territory, and one of Pinnick’s strongest moments on the album.
Finishing up the album is the instrumental piece ‘Tranquilize’, which sounds like a studio outtake of the band jamming. But while it sounds like a leftover from the recording sessions, it’s actually a great track, and gives listeners an idea of what the band are capable of when they’re in the same room. In other words, despite their various musical backgrounds, KXM has a sound that works.
There was a lot of hype in the lead up to the release of KXM’s debut effort, and I had my reservations given those involved in the group. But overall, the album exceeded all my expectations, and will most likely end up earning top spot on my list of favourite albums for 2014.

For more information on KXM, check out - http://www.facebook.com/kxmofficial

© Justin Donnelly

Jizzy Pearl - Crucified

Jizzy Pearl
Crucified
Independent Release

Back in the early ‘90’s, Californian outfit Love/Hate were hailed as the next big thing. Their debut release ‘Blackout In The Red Room’ (Released in 1990) was immediately hailed as classic and their follow-up release ‘Wasted In America’ (Released in 1992) only reinforced the band’s status as one of the ‘90’s hard rock scene’s rising stars. But as fate would have it, internal tensions within the band, ongoing label issues and the changing music scene would have an adverse effect on the band, with all subsequent releases failing to hit the heady heights of their first two releases. Not surprisingly, Love/Hate eventually disbanded by the time the millennium arrived.
In the meantime, vocalist Jizzy Pearl has kept himself in the spotlight with stints in L.A. Guns, Ratt, and Adler’s Appetite. And in more recent times, the new front man for Quiet Riot. And then of course dotted throughout his gigs with other bands, Pearl has also managed to release some solo efforts, and author no less than three books. Although Pearl’s career has been quite scattered, he at the very least has kept himself busy.
Which bring us to the present day, seeing Pearl return with a new release in the form of a new E.P. ‘Crucified’.
Originally billed as a new Love/Hate release, Pearl changed it to his own name after former Love/Hate guitarist Jon E. Love threatened with a lawsuit. Obviously keen to avoid legal costs involved with court proceedings (And not to mention confusion amongst fans considering Pearl is the only member of Love/Hate on the recording), Pearl decided to change the credit of the E.P. recording to his own name.
Pearl and his band (Which includes Paul Gilbert bassist Mike Szuter on guitar, ex-Burning Tree bassist Mark ‘Muddy’ Dutton and ex-Bang Tango/Beautiful Creatures/Ace Frehley drummer Matt Starr) launch this six song effort with ‘Hanging You Out To Dry’, which is by far the rawest and fastest tune on the E.P. One part punk, and the other dirty rock ‘n’ roll of the Motörhead vein, ‘Hanging You Out To Dry’ is a little rough sounding and unrefined, and maybe a little too under-produced to really stand out as a true favourite here. Pearl’s vocals are as harsh as ever, and the lyrics are as quirky as ever, but the song manages to achieve its objective of announcing Pearl’s return in a loud and brash manner.
The follow up track ‘Sunny Day’ is a complete change of direction for the band, with shades of ‘90’s grunge and psychedelia coming through the guitars on the slower paced track. Szuter’s lead work is a real stand out here, while Pearl’s performances add a bit of an eastern flavour (Via Led Zeppelin) to the overall song.
While ‘You’re Making Me Nervous’ is one of the E.P.’s catchiest efforts, the raw production and uneven mix of vocals and music inevitably lets the song down. That coupled with Pearl’s rather awkward lyrical efforts gives the song a real incomplete demo-like feel. It’s a shame, because with a little more work, this song could have easily been the E.P. highlight.
The acoustic rocker ‘I Don’t Want To Be Your Baby’ is a great track, and reminds me of his efforts in L.A. guns (1999’s underrated ‘Shrinking Violet’), while on ‘Love Is All’, Pearl further explores the eastern influences hinted at on ‘Sunny Day’ to create a hybrid mash up of Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. Rhythmic, atmospheric and well constructed, this is by far the strongest and more memorable efforts to be found on the E.P.
Finishing up this release is ‘Too Late’, which is a blues-like laid back rocker. It’s one of Pearl’s better lyrical efforts (Pearl is quoted as saying ‘The song is about someone near and dear to me who fucked up’), and musically a great fit for Pearl’s unique raspy vocals. In other words, it’s one of the E.P.’s stronger efforts.
Like most of Pearl’s output, ‘Crucified’ is a mix of the great, and the not so great. But despite its inconsistent mix of tunes, it fares a whole lot better in the long run as a Pearl release rather than a Love/Hate release.

For more information on Jizzy Pearl, check out - http://www.jizzypearl.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Comeback Kid - Die Knowing

Comeback Kid
Die Knowing
Victory Records/Rocket Distribution

For a band that initially came together as a side project while Figure Four took an indefinite hiatus, Canadian (Winnipeg, Manitoba) based outfit Comeback Kid has taken on a life of its own that none of its participants could have predicted or anticipated.
Over the course of their fourteen years together, the band have grown in strength and stature within the hardcore/punk scene with a string of consistent releases and lengthy stints on the road in support of their album releases, despite a number of line-up changes (Which included a change of lead vocalists at a critical point of their career).
Four years after the release of ‘Symptoms + Cures’, and after spending time focussing on side projects, Comeback Kid regrouped and are back once again with something new in the form of ‘Die Knowing’.
While the band have always managed to maintain a high standard on their former releases, most fans consider the band’s first two releases (2003’s ‘Turn It Around’ and 2005 ‘Wake The Dead’) with vocalist Scott Wade as their strongest releases to date. But with the release of their fifth full-length effort ‘Die Knowing’, it would appear that Comeback Kid (Who currently comprise of lead vocalist Andrew Neufeld, lead guitarist/backing vocalist Jeremy Hiebert, new rhythm guitarist/backing vocalist Stuart Ross (Who was previously a member of Misery Signals and Living With Lions), bassist/backing vocalist Matt Keil and drummer Kyle Profeta) have finally managed to put together an album that rivals the band’s critically acclaimed early work.
The album starts off with the title track ‘Die Knowing’, which is a pensive and crushing slow burning introductory track that has Neufield screaming with plenty of passion, and provides the album with the perfect build up to the carnage that follows on in ‘Lower The Line’. Fast, intense and yet quite inventive on the guitar front, ‘Lower The Line’ is Comeback Kid at their best, without rehashing the past in order to do so.
After the duality of tempos and styles from the opening pair on the album, the band continue to shake up the formula and keep things moving along with the catchy and groovier based ‘Wasted Arrows’, all the while maintaining a vicious and aggressive feel throughout, while tracks such as ‘Losing Sleep’ (Which features guest vocals from Pauly Correia), ‘Beyond’, the chugging brute force delivery of ‘I Depend, I Control’ and ‘Full Swing’ (Which boasts a return of original vocalist Wade singing alongside Neufield) are by far the album’s hardest and fastest hardcore sounding tracks.
But what really gives ‘Die Knowing’ an edge over the band’s last couple of releases is the diversity of sounds on offer throughout the twelve tracks. Both ‘Should Know Better’ and ‘Didn’t Even Mind’ (The first single lifted from the album) are without a doubt the album’s catchiest and punk-edged sounding efforts, while the scathing ‘Somewhere In This Miserable…’, the sparse and anthemed ‘Unconditional’ and the triumphant hard rocking punk tinged closer ‘Sink In’ prove that when push comes to shove, Comeback Kid can think outside the box and deliver songs that stand alongside their earlier efforts – without rewriting the same thing over and over again.
I’ve always liked Comeback Kid, whether it was Wade or Neufield fronting the band. But as consistent as the band’s releases have been, 2010’s ‘Symptoms + Cures’ left me feeling a bit disappointed. I can’t really put my finger on the reason why, but it was missing something. But with the release of ‘Die Knowing’, Comeback Kid have well and truly returned to form, and sounding better than ever!

For more information on Comeback Kid, check out - http://www.comeback-kid.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Def Leppard - Slang (Deluxe Edition)

Def Leppard
Slang (Deluxe Edition)
Bludgeon Riffola Ltd./Mailboat Records Inc.

Following on from the success Mercury Records has had with deluxe reissues of ‘Pyromania’ (1983), ‘Hysteria’ (1987) and ‘Adrenalize’ (1992) in recent years, it’s not all that surprising to see Def Leppard’s sixth full-length album ‘Slang’ (1996) being given the deluxe treatment.
Of all of Def Leppard’s nine studio efforts, ‘Slang’ is without a doubt the band’s most controversial release. Despite the divided opinions the album conjures up amongst fans, and the lack of success the album enjoyed upon its initial release (The album was modestly successful, particularly in Japan, Asia and Europe, but was considered a spectacular failure in the U.S.), Def Leppard has put together their own deluxe edition version of ‘Slang’ some eighteen years after its first release.
But while the band (Who comprise of vocalist Joe Elliott, guitarists/vocalists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, bassist/vocalist Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen) claim that this new rerelease of ‘Slang’ is a deluxe version of the album, I can’t help but feel a little short changed with what’s on offer.
The first disc of this two disc set obviously begins with the album itself. After the multi-platinum success of the above mentioned albums, fans were somewhat taken aback with what the band had to offer on ‘Slang’ when it was first released in 1996. And it’s not all that surprising given the circumstances. Any band who enjoyed phenomenal success in the ‘80’s knew that with the onset of the ‘90’s, times were going to be different. Def Leppard anticipated this, and decided to shake up the tried and true formula of the past, and try something new. And one of the big changes was selecting Pete Woodroffe (Who previously worked with the band as engineer/mixer on 1993’s ‘Retro Active’) to take on production duties instead of opting to utilise long time producer/collaborator Robert John “Mutt” Lange. This allowed the band to find a far more organic sound, and push beyond the boundaries of their past to reinvent themselves in a musical sense. And the band truly achieved what they set out to do.
From the moment ‘Truth?’ starts, it’s clear that ‘Slang’ was far from the typical Def Leppard album. ‘Truth?’ sees the band experimenting with Middle Eastern influences, distortion and heavy guitars and drum rhythms, but with the multi-layered production of old stripped away enough to reveal a far rawer and organic Def Leppard at heart.
Much like the opener, ‘Turn To Dust’ fuses Middle Eastern sounds/loops with clutches of heavy guitar tones, but boasts the band’s trademark harmonies in full force, while the title track ‘Slang’ is the perfect amalgamation of classic Def Leppard song writing and modern production and experimentation.
But ‘Slang’ wasn’t all about pushing the envelope in the song writing sense. The slower ballad-like efforts ‘All I Want Is Everything’, ‘Breathe A Sigh’, ‘Blood Runs Cold’ and ‘Where Does Love Go When It Dies’ showcase a more stripped back, serious and mature sounding Def Leppard (Which isn’t all that surprising given what the band members themselves were going through at the time), which gives the album an honesty and genuinely human emotion (Especially from Elliott) that was sometimes masked during the band’s heyday by Lange’s over the top production multi-tracked vocals.
Elsewhere, Campbell well and truly earned his place in the band after producing an absolute gem in the form of the edgy rocker ‘Work It Out’, while the grittier and darker ‘Deliver Me’, the fast paced and high octane anthem ‘Gift Of Flesh’ and the atmospheric slow burning closer ‘Pearl Of Euphoria’ round out the album in somewhat different fashion usually accustom to Def Leppard’s efforts in the past.
In terms of extras, the first disc is fleshed out with some b-sides from ‘Slang’ singles. There’s the soulful laid back rocker ‘Move With Me Slowly’ (Which was the Japanese only bonus track), an original version of ‘Truth?’ (Which is interestingly different from the version that appeared on the album), the heavy handed rockers ‘Burn Out’ and ‘Worlds Collide’ (The former is a less than serious throwback Def Leppard anthem, while the latter is in line with ‘Slang’. But interestingly enough, both tracks didn’t emerge until 1999, where they were released as b-sides to singles released from ‘Euphoria’) and the simple acoustic based ‘Can’t Keep Away From The Flame’ (Which is another real winner).
While the first disc will no doubt appeal to those who are newcomers to ‘Slang’, long time fans will already be familiar with the bonus tracks. But with the second disc boasting a collection of fourteen tracks that have never been previously released, it’s safe to say that it’s the second disc on this reissue that will appeal to everyone.
The opening track ‘Turn To Dust’ and the closer ‘Gift Of Flesh’ are interesting, if only to hear Collin provide the lead vocals in these early versions of the songs, while ‘Raise Your Love’ provides a fascinating insight to the development of the title track ‘Slang’. It may have the same general structure musically, but the song really is quite different from its final version, which makes it a real standout.
Unfortunately, hidden diamonds in the rough on the second disc are somewhat of a rarity. For the most part, the second disc offers up rough mixes/early drafts of songs that appear on ‘Slang’. While interesting, most only had minor alterations before being laid down in the studio for their final form, which means that after a cursory listen, you’re unlikely to revisit the songs after an initial listen through.
The tracks worthy of inclusion here include the rough mix of ‘Deliver Me’ and ‘Anger’ (Which is an early version of ‘Deliver Me’), ‘Black Train’ (Which is an early take on ‘Gift Of Flesh’), ‘All On Your Touch’ (A Campbell penned track that remained unfinished until Elliott finished the vocals a couple of years ago) and ‘Move On Up’ (A rather rough and ready Campbell penned/sung demo).
Overall, the first disc is great, even if there’s no indication of whether ‘Slang’ has been remastered or not, with some rarities to make it that much more appealing than a simple rerelease. And while the second disc is patchy and forgettable in places, it does boast some unreleased material that appeals to true diehard Def Leppard fans.
But what’s really disappointing is what’s not included in this deluxe package. And that’s some of the other b-sides to some of the ‘Slang’ singles. The two Jeff Beck covers (‘Led Boots’ and ‘Cause We Ended As Lovers’) and the two Elliott tracks from the film ‘When Saturday Comes’ (‘When Saturday Comes’ and ‘Jimmy’s Theme’) are only available on the iTunes version of the deluxe reissue (Which also includes an additional four early versions of songs from ‘Slang’). As far as I’m concerned, a true deluxe edition version of ‘Slang’ would have been expanded to three discs to include these tracks, as well as the five acoustic tracks recorded live in Singapore (‘Acoustic In Singapore’), which were included on the initial limited edition version of ‘Slang’ back in 1996. Why these weren’t included is anyone’s guess. But given that this version of ‘Slang’ is really going to appeal to diehard fans (Let’s face it, this rerelease isn’t likely to attract a whole new audience for the band is it?), it seems a shame to short change fans with a two disc deluxe edition over a far superior and comprehensive three disc version. And as for the packaging – Well I would have liked to have seen some more detail in the liner notes as well. The small piece from Elliott is cool, but the lyrics have since been substituted with a bunch of photographs from the era. Another squandered opportunity as far as I’m concerned.
In the end, this revamped and expanded version of ‘Slang’ is a solid rerelease, and should appeal to those who are chasing down some of the hard to find b-sides, or may have avoided the album purely based on the backlash the band received when the album was released. In all honesty, ‘Slang’ may be one of Def Leppard’s most daring and different sounding albums, but it’s also one of their strongest.
Personally, I would have preferred the band to give ‘Slang’ the justice it so richly deserves and give fans a truly deluxe version of one of their most misunderstood and maligned albums to date.

For more information on Def Leppard, check out - http://www.defleppard.com/

© Justin Donnelly