To start this review with an introduction is total overkill and if you have no knowledge of Ace Frehley, you don’t deserve one because Kiss should count as common knowledge these days, no matter if you’re a fan or not. Old Space Ace has had a roller coaster of a career and almost every downfall has been due to his own fuck-ups, because if there’s one word that sums Ace’s life up, it’s fuck-up. Alcoholism, drug abuse, car crashes, internal band fighting, bad business decisions that has almost lead to bankruptcy – Ace has been there and done that. Musically, his career has been on the edge many times and the quality of his records hasn’t always been top-notch – in fact, on too many occasions, his music has been total crap. While in Kiss, Ace wrote many brilliant tunes and I don’t think Kiss ever recorded one bad Ace Frehley song. Think about it – “Cold Gin”, “Parasite”, “Strange Ways”, “Getaway”, “Shock Me”, “Rocket Ride”, “Save Your Love”, “Hard Times”, “Talk To Me”, “Two Sides Of The Coin”, “Torpedo Girl”, “Dark Light”, “Escape From The Island” and “Into The Void” were all his and they are still brilliant. He also took The Rolling Stones’ “2000 Man” and made it his own on Dynasty (1979). Fact is, there’s a lot of people out there that actually believes that it is an Ace tune. His solo album from 1978 is considered by many to be the best of the Kiss members solo efforts and it is today hailed as a true classic. But things turned sour when he tried to get a solo career going. Marked by drugs and alcohol, he had big problems getting a deal and when he did he used poor judgement when it came to picking material for the albums. His self titled debut album by his band Frehley’s Comet in 1987 was a long-awaited album and all of us who hade all those brilliant Kiss tunes and his solo album mind, expected greatness. Well, what we got was an uneven album of brilliant songs mixed with fillers and pure crap (“Something Moved”). If that wasn’t enough, the follow up Second Sighting (1988) was rushed by his record company and thereupon the album was a big pile of crap. That was the end of Frehley’s Comet. Frehley’s first album, under his own name came out in 1989 and was called Trouble Walkin’, was a big step up from the last debacle, however he had recorded a version of Kiss’ “Hide Your Heart” (also covered by Bonnie Tyler, Robin Beck and Molly Hatchet) that was completely redundant.
In the history of rock there has always been those bands that never made it, but damn well should have. I have a bunch of bands like that in my record collection, but one band that really are the text-book example of that is Kix. Why on earth this band never made it huge in the late 80’s is beyond me. It seems to beyond everyone I know that has heard the band as well. Kix’ brand of music – bluesy, groovy rock and roll with a swing that could make a paralyzed person get up and dance and those melodies that could make people like Desmond Child and Diane Warren green with envy, kinda like a AC/DC with a nice dose of pop thrown in – was made for both charts and stages. Kix was formed back in 1977 by lead singer Steve Whitman, guitarist Ronnie Younkins and bassist and main song writer Donnie Purnell as The Shooze, but they changed their name to first The Generators and then to Kix back in 1980 and by then drummer Jimmy Chalfant and guitarist Brian Forsythe had joined the band. Kix’ first three albums, Kix (1981), Cool Kids (1983) and Midnite Dynamite (1985) were some uneven stories, but they still managed to get some recognition. Their biggest success by far is 1988’s Blow My Fuse, their best album, in my opinion, that shipped platinum overseas (1 000 000 records), much to the fact that they managed to get a hit with their anti-suicide ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes”. But the release of the follow up, the brilliant and oh so underrated Hot Wire (1991), failed to match the sales of its predecessor, it only sold some 250 000 copies.
I have never liked E.P.’s. I remember when I was a kid and some band had decided on releasing an E.P. instead of a long player, it would piss me off big time. I mean, why would you want to buy a record with five songs on it when you could have the double amount? To this day, I hate E.P.’s. When I read that some band will release an E.P. to raise the interest for their real product, I couldn’t care less. Many are the E.P.’s out there that I have missed because I turn quite obstinate when I have an idea planted in my head. Today, some bands has gotten it in their minds that E.P.’s are the way to release music if you want to release an actual piece and not only mp3 files (which are even worse!). Because, they say, people can’t handle more songs than, like, five, anyway, these days. What a load of a crap! Sure, people can, but ok, many kids are just downloading songs – not albums – when they want their music digitally, but if that’s the case then it doesn’t matter if you release 10 songs or five. Anyway, Skid Row are one of those bands, but even if the format itself pisses me off, the only way to get hold of any of their new music is to get hold of their damned E.P.’s, so it’s either that or no Skid row music at all. When it comes to the first two Johnny Solinger fronted Skid Row albums Thickskin (2003) and Revolutions Per Minute (2006) – knowing what I know now – I would actually had been better off not listening to them at all, because quite frankly, they both blow dog! But things changed last year when they released the very underrated United World Rebellion : Chapter One, a five track album that took Skid Row back to their roots.
For every middle-aged hard rock fan from Sweden, Helix means one thing for the most part: “Rock You”! Back in 1984 we only had one TV show that played rock videos and that show – Bagen – broke Twisted Sister in Sweden alone by pumping their videos. It also made Canadian rockers Helix superstars for a couple of years in our country. I knew about Helix before that because they supported Kiss on their 1983 Lick It Up tour – a concert I missed – but musically I knew little about them. I had heard “Heavy Metal Love” from their second debut album (Helix had two independently released albums out, Breaking Loose (1979) and White Lace & Black Leather (1981)) No Rest For The Wicked (1983), their first album on a major label, Capitol, before and I thought the song was ok, but apparently not good enough to check out their album. But that night in front of my TV changed all that with a simple “Gimme a R!”. After that, the song was all over radio and in everyone’s Sony Walkman and even the people who wasn’t into hard rock and metal dug it. Of course, that made their album Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge (1984) sell shitloads of quantities. The follow up single “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” also became a hit, but not as big as “Rock You”! Me, I bought both that album and No Rest For Wicked the day after “Rock You” had premiered and I cursed myself for not picking up on the band before that. I mean, I was the one who spread the gospel of Twisted Sister at my school before no one – and I mean literary no one – knew who they were. Now they became superstars and I could say I was first – well one the first, anyway – Twisted Sister fans in Sweden (well, at least around where I lived…), but with Helix, I was simply one of those who found out about the band by the video that made them big. A follower. Oh, the shame! But the love affair between Sweden and Helix ended after the follow up, Long Way To Heaven (1985), a much stronger album than its predecessor, in my opinion and a successful tour.
Sometimes writing reviews is a really good thing. A while ago I got an e-mail from one Rob Town, who thanked me for my review on Winger’s latest album Better Days Comin’ (an album every rock fan should own) and posted a link to an album with another one of his bands – apparently he works with Winger – and would I check them out and write a review on their new album? Being a guy that likes to check out new bands, I gladly accepted and got the album. The band in question is BlackWolf, a five piece from Bristol, England, that has just released their debut album The Hunt (they released an EP, Taking Root in 2012). The band, formed in 2010 and likes their rock raunchy and rocking with a great deal of attitude. They have opened up to bands such as Voodoo Six, Electric Eel Shock and Voodoo Johnson, if you know them, but their biggest achievement to date must be that they attended the biggest biker festival in the world, the Bulldog Bash, in 2011 that drew some 40 000 people.
Back in 1990, Judas Priest released Painkiller. Fresh from a minor fiasco with the half arsed Ram It Down (1988), they had decided to make their heaviest, hardest and fastest record of their career and with that they succeed. I’m a big Judas Priest fan, but I have always found Painkiller somewhat overrated, but the fact is that the album was a tremendous success and today it is looked upon as one the band’s best releases ever. When we wrote 1992, Judas Priest were huge and that’s why it came as a big surprise / shock that lead singer Rob Halford decided to leave the band to concentrate on his side project Fight (that also included Priest – drummer Scott Travis and guitarist Russ Parrish, today more known as Sachtel in Steel Panther), a more modern sounding and looking band than Priest, Pantera were a band they drew a lot of influence from. Fight made two albums before splitting up and Halford started another project – Two – a despicable useless industrial band that included future Marilyn Manson / Rob Zombie guitarist John 5 that almost bedraggled Halford’s good name. Priest, with the home bound Travis back on drums, released two miserable records with singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, Jugulator (1997) and Demolition (2001) before the inevitable happened. Priest were on an all time low, playing clubs and not selling any records and Halford did the same, now with this own band Halford. With his solo career, Rob Halford had found his way back to heavy metal again and his two solo albums sounded so much like Judas Priest that it was obvious that something was missing in his life. So they reunited in 2005 nd released the great Angel Of Retribution, an album that had the sound of a classic Priest album.
Have you ever picked up a new metal album, played it and went: “yeah, good one, but metal was better before. Like in the 70’s”? I have. That said, I have also picked albums up and pointed out that everything wasn’t better before. However, if hard rock and metal of the late 70’s / very early 80’s is your thing, then The Dagger just might be the band for you. Formed by three members of Swedish death metal outfit Dismember – drummer Fred Estby, guitarist David Blomqvist and bassist Tobias Cristianson – who hired former Sideburn vocalist Jani Kataja to form the kind of heavy metal band they just couldn’t seem to find anywhere. In later years there has been a somewhat renaissance of young guys playing what is knows as NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) and bands like Enforcer, Portrait and In Solitude goes all in to get the sound of early Iron Maiden, early Saxon and more obscure NWOBHM-bands like Angel Witch and Mercyful Fate. That scene has dried out a bit so therefore it feel refreshing to make acquaintance with The Dagger.
When Kevin DuBrow bit the dust at the age of 52 from av cocaine overdose in 2007, everybody and me included thought that Quiet Riot were no more and never to be again. But drummer Frankie Banali wanted differently. Probably totally in denial of the fact that the last time Quiet Riot tried to make a career without any original members, things went down shit creek really fast, despite the fact that the album, Quiet Riot (1988, also under the name QR) was a damn fine record. Then the band consisted of Frankie, guitarist Carlos Cavazo, bassist Sean McNabb and the awesome singer Paul Shortino, today with King Kobra and the band split almost immediately after that album was released and flopped. Now Frankie has recruited singer Jizzy Pearl (ex – Love/Hate, Ratt, L.A. Guns) and the rest of the band are Chuck Wright (ex – House Of Lords) on bass who has been and out of the band several times during the years and Alex Grossi (ex – Bang Tango, Beautiful Creatures, Love/Hate, Adler’s Appetite) on guitar. Alex has been with the band since 2004 and one must admit that he’s really good. When I heard the news that Quiet Riot would continue, I really thought it was a joke. I’m not sure if the reason was the old cliché “because that’s what Kevin would have wanted”, but if it was, I’m not sure Kevin would not have wanted this because in my opinion, this has nothing to do at all with Quiet Riot. Also, the title 10 implies that this is their 10th album, which is also kinda disrespectful to the both the band’s name and Kevin, who started the band. This is the 10th album since Frankie joined for the brilliant Metal Health (1983), but the fact is, Quiet Riot released two albums prior to that, Quiet Riot (1977) and Quiet Riot II (1978), both featured Randy Rhoads who later got the job as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist and song writer. So, there were a lot of negativity surrounding this album – and the band’s being – before it was even released, but that doesn’t mean that there are any reasons at all to pre judge it. This album was listened to with an open mind, because frankly, projects like this has a tendency to surprise you for the better.
Old Robert Zimmerman once sang “The times they are a-changin'” and while I’m aware of that Bob Dylan has fuck O to do with the diamond king, he sure had a point. When I think about the fact that King Diamond, a well-known Satanist who plays a pretty extreme form of heavy metal, had just played Gröna Lund’s big stage makes me smile. Here King Diamond was, playing an amusement park on a summer night where the smell of popcorn, hot dogs and cotton candy lies thick, where children are riding rollercoasters and carousels, where families are strolling around. A contrast of huge, I’d say. When I think back to the days of the 70’s and 80’s, when I went to Gröna Lund for fun, there was no way in Hell someone like King Diamond would play that stage. Sure, both Kiss, Sweet and Runaways played there in the mid 70’s, but only because they were huge at the time in Sweden, but ever since The Sweet tore the place apart, heavy rock bands has been extremely rare there. In the 80’s when W.A.S.P. caused a shit storm at large in Sweden, all hard rock and heavy metal bands were considered dangerous, a guy like King Diamond had problems getting into the country without all hell breaking loose. But nowadays, King Dimond doesn’t even kick up dust and it wasn’t long ago that Slayer stood on the same stage. For people half my age, the fact that King Diamond played an amusement park might not be a big deal at all, but to me and many people my age, this is almost surreal.
The fact that Väsby Rock Festival announced their second coming was really good news. Last year, the attendance rate could have been higher, but since it was the first year the festival no one could really have expected that it would draw thousands and thousands punters to the game. Still, they did a good job with booking some really cool bands and the whole thing ran pretty smooth when you consider the tight economic situation. How much money that the arrangers lost on that festival is not anything I want to speculate on, but that there wasn’t a profit is pretty clear – they only drew 1500 attenders after all. This year, everything about the festival had improved. First, it was decided that the festival would run for two days instead of one – a good choice, in my book. What wasn’t a good choice, though, was to only sell tickets for two days – something that changed the same week the festival would take place. Yes, the price for a ticket wasn’t that high, but it doesn’t really matter because if you only have the possibility to attend one day, you don’t want to pay for two days, no matter how low the ticket prices are. The risk you run by doing so is that you might lost an attendee completely instead of having him / her there one day. Also, the festival starts on a Friday which means that some people might work that day. Well, the good news is that the started to sell one day tickets after a while so I guess all that sorted itself out. Other than that, I have no complaints at all, except for maybe a toilet or two more for the VIP area. This year, the whole festival area was a lot bigger than last year’s, with more food stands and places for buying cold beverages. When it comes to the beer that was being sold there, maybe an additional label or two would be a good idea as the Norrlands Guld (a real gross Swedish “beer”) is more or less undrinkable after two days. The cues to the food, drink and merch stands were also short so that the cue time were close to minimal. Kudos to the arrangers that were visible out on the festival area through out the whole festival and despite at tight, and I guess, a pretty stressful schedule never said no to exchange a few words to the audience – everything done with a smile. Applause for that.