February 2015 New Releases

Butch Walker – Afraid Of Ghosts
Released: February 3, 2015 (Dangerbird Records)

I have a great deal of respect for the career that Butch has carved out for himself as a musician, songwriter, and producer, particularly given his hair metal roots. He constantly takes chances. This album is almost entirely driven by acoustics, sounding like very mellow Rolling Stones from the 70’s. The entire album is meant as an exercise in coping with the recent passing of his father, which makes for some pretty thoughtful and haunting songs. Problem for me is that it’s doesn’t stir me much as a listen. Well crafted, but not something I care to revisit often.
PRO-1, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-2, MIS-1. *** 6

Chip Z’Nuff – Strange Time
Released: February 3, 2015 (Deadline Music)

I’m not really sure what to do with this release. Chip Z’Nuff is a pretty limited vocalist, and they do everything they can to hide that fact with as much studio muckery as possible. The songs are kind of interesting and there’s a nice vibe to the whole thing, but it’s also just a little, I dunno, weird? The usual Beatles-via-Cheap Trick playfulness abounds, but man, he really needs Donnie Vie to make it work.
PRO-1, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 5

Colin James – Hearts On Fire
Released: February 3, 2015 (Universal Music)

First time I’ve given his gritty Canadian blues a serious listen in about 20 years, so of course it sounds fresh to me once again. Nothing earth shattering, but I love his voice and there are a couple of tunes on here which really stand out.
PRO-2, VOC-2, MUS-1, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

Bonafide – Denim Devils
Released: February 5, 2015 (Off Yer Rocka Records)

Start with a base of AC/DC inspired riff-rock, mix with a little American suvvern rock, and maybe add a dash of SRV inspiration and you get… well, you get Junkyard. Which is essentially what this is, except European, because I don’t know what I’m doing. Not quite as grimy as it should be, which is why it’s not likely to be heard much by me.
PRO-1, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-0, MIS-0 *** 3

Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses
Released: February 10, 2015 (New Rounder Record)

Old school southern rock that leans a little more country and rootsy than it does bluesy. Reminds me a lot of country band Blackhawk, who were themselves formed from the ashes of the Outlaws. Tons of great tunes, held back only slightly by the fact that the twangy vocals get a little annoying after a while.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-2, MIS-2 *** 9

The Dreaming – Rise Again
Released: February 10, 2015 (Metropolis Records)

Third album of dense, angsty “industrial” metal from the former lead singer of Stabbing Westward. There’s little or no discernable difference from his old band, and in truth I’m not sure much of a noticeable growth from album to album, but whatever, I like it. Not nearly as experimental or noisy as say Ministry, and in truth they don’t really belong in the same category, but I don’t know what else to call it. Very much the pop end of the industrial genre, if such a thing can be said.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

Colin Hay – Next Year People
Released: February 17, 2015 (Compass Records)

Full disclosure: Colin Hay is my girlfriend’s favorite artist, so my exposure to his solo work is both recent and somewhat compromised. Very laid back, very stripped down, I like his lyrics, but his vocals take some warming up to. Just not enough emotional kick for me from song-to-song. Need more time with this one.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 6

Imagine Dragons – Smoke & Mirrors
Released: February 17, 2015 (Kid In A Korner/Interscope Records)

I loved the their debut album so much that there was bound to be a letdown on the sophomore effort. This could bump up over time as the songs settle in more with me, because right now I don’t hate anything I hear but I haven’t had enough listens to really let it marinate.
PRO-2, VOC-2, MUS-1, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

The Wind + The Wave – Covers One [EP]
Released: February 17, 2015 (RCA Records)

Given what it is – a 7 song EP of cover tunes, this is as good as it gets. They make the songs their own, which means the tunes I don’t know sound altogether new, and the ones I *do* know at least sound interesting, if not necessarily an improvement on the original.
PRO-1, VOC-2, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

Kid Rock – First Kiss
Released: February 20, 2015 (Warner Bros. Records)

I liked his last record a lot, which probably explains why this one falls a little flat for me. Some artists are just around too long and I can only get into random releases, as opposed to just appreciating everything they do. There’s probably nothing wrong with this disc, nor is it even all that different from the last, but I don’t find myself caring as much this time around.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

Red – Of Beauty & Rage
Released: February 20, 2015 (Essential Records)

Taking the polished hardcore/emo sound and going even deeper into “craft”, these guys have added a great deal of theatricality to this record, using extended orchestral pieces to try and flesh out something epic, at least within the genre. Songs still don’t leap out at me, but it’s an interesting listen, kinda like last year’s Starset project. I suspect it’s probably a concept record, but I haven’t looked into it.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 6

Furyon – Lost Salvation
Released: February 23, 2015 (Dream Records)

Kind of a weird meeting point between recent Def Leppard and 90’s Adrian Smith led project Psycho Motel, yet trying to be something a little more modern than either. Some good crunch rock, bordering on actual metal. Has enough of a unique sound (thanks mostly to the vocals) to rise it above generic nu metal of the day, but the songs lack a bit.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

All That Remains – The Order Of Things
Released: February 24, 2015 (Razor & Tie Entertainment)

I wrote this off after the first listen for reasons that now escape me since it’s a pretty killer record, particularly for a genre that I’ve slowly grown weary of. Yeah, still too much screaming in place of singing for my tastes, but the singing when it’s normal is top notch. Plus the songs really grab, with lots of interesting passages and just a general sense of energy and dynamic. Modern metal the way it should be.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-2, MIS-1 *** 8

Black Star Riders – The Killer Instinct
Released: February 24, 2015 (Nuclear Blast Records)

Album #2 from this hard rock supergroup delivers another batch of Thin Lizzy inspired British guitar rock. Same band, same sound, so the songs need to keep things fresh in order to rate as high as the debut, and so far they don’t.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

Eclipse – Armageddonize
Released: February 24, 2015 (Frontiers Records)

I loved the band’s 2012 album Bleed And Scream album so much that it was going to be virtually impossible for this one to live up to it. They’ve retained their sound, which is great, but I’m just not hearing the kid of catchy tunes that the last one delivered. Each listen makes me feel like I’m getting close to breaking through with this album, but something always seems to be missing. Not sure what.
PRO-2, VOC-2, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 8

Issa – Crossfire
Released: February 24, 2015 (Frontiers Records)

Third album of poppy melodic “rock” and nothing’s really changed. Her vocals are still way too thin and the music behind her lacks conviction or any really flavor. It’s all kind of catchy in a non-memorable way, with the whole endeavor reeking too heavily of a marketing ploy just because she’s pretty to look at. I kind of feel like she’d be better off just going full-on Miley Cyrus if she wants to be a success, although being non-American/English probably kills any chance of big time fame. Whatever.
PRO-1, VOC-1, MUS-1, SNG-0, MIS-1 *** 4

Like A Storm – Awaken The Fire
Released: February 24, 2015 (Another Century)

Really gonna need a few more listens to really absorb this, but there’s something a little more interesting than the usual nu metal genericness going on here. Too much Autotune is a turn off though. Still, I like the energy and the guitars are big, so it’s got a solid base. Ask me again later.
PRO-2, VOC-1, MUS-2, SNG-1, MIS-1 *** 7

Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Released: February 24, 2015 (Frontiers Records)

This is basically a new Journey record, except it’s not. Current Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, with his Steve Perry-ish vocal stylings, joined up with Night Ranger bassist/vocalist Jack Blades and former Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich to record a whole bunch of very Journey-esque, very good songs. Aldrich in particular plays the role of Neal Schon to perfection. Docked a point because they could have done more with the dual vocalist dynamic and there’s just something a little too formulaic about the project. Outside of that though, simply one of the best melodic rock records of the year.
PRO-2, VOC-2, MUS-2, SNG-2, MIS-1 *** 9

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