Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Five of the Greatest Love Songs of All Time

A good love song grabs your heartstrings, making you yearn even more for that special person you're in love with. The best love songs are the ones that perfectly convey the feelings between two people in love ... both the elation and uncertainty of the emotions involved. There are thousands of love songs out there and Whitney Houston could put a greatest hits package of love songs together, but these five great love songs are among the best ever.

The Rose - by Bette Midler

"The Rose" has been covered several times, but Bette Midler's version from the soundtrack to the 1979 movie The Rose is far away the best. Written by Amanda McBroom, the track wasn't originally intended for the movie, but Midler chose it out of 30 other songs. Lyrically the song is a well-crafted tale of loneliness and inspiration to find love "far beneath the bitter snows". Midler's voice is absolutely perfect, while the song starts off quietly with only a piano. Then it builds with a string section while Midler takes it to another place with a beautiful, soaring harmony during the crescendo. If the final 1:20 doesn't give you goosebumps, you aren't feeling anything.

Thank You - Led Zeppelin

From the great Led Zeppelin II record, "Thank You" had Robert Plant writing the lyrics, writing about his then-wife, Maureen. It's a beautiful song about endless love and devotion, through thick and thin. Jimmy Page composed a lovely acoustic passage on a 12-string, while John Paul Jones' work on the organ reminds us of a wedding and a joyous celebration. You won't find "Thank You" on many love song lists, but it deserves to be among the best, and certainly it's one of the most unheralded love songs.

When I'm With You - Sheriff

"When I'm With You" is a song that garnered a lot of airplay in Canada in 1983, after being recorded for the Canadian band's only album Sheriff, which came out in 1982. In 1983, it went to the Top 10 in Canada, while being only a minor hit in the US (No. 61). But in 1989, it rose to the top of the US Billboard Charts after a Minneapolis radio station starting playing it again. It's a power ballad penned by Sheriff keyboardist Arnold Lanni that's backed by a stellar vocal from singer Freddy Curci. Lyrically the song conveys the feelings of being love: "I never cared for nobody, like I care for you" and "I get chills when I'm with you". The universal power of love in a nutshell.

Without You - Harry Nilsson

"Without You" wasn't written by Nilsson, a fine songwriter in his own right, but his version is the most memorable. It was penned by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of British band Badfinger and described by Paul McCartney as "the killer song of all time". Nilsson's version went to No. 1 in many countries in 1971-72. The lyrics deal with the anguish of love lost, while the narrator doesn't want the relationship to end. When he sings the chorus, it almost sounds like Nilsson is crying as the sings. It's a heart-wrenching track that is certainly among the greatest love songs ever written.

Love Hurts - Nazareth

While many think Nazareth wrote the hit "Love Hurts", it was penned by the Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, then recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1960. Covered by the likes of Roy Orbison and Jim Capaldi, Nazareth's power-ballad rendition (from 1975's Hair of the Dog album) was the most popular, peaking at No. 8 in the US. in 1976 and No. 1 in Canada and several other countries. As the title suggests, love hurts and that's all part of the emotions you feel when you're in love. Vocalist Dan McCafferty's rasping vocals perfectly carry this song and the sentiment of the lyrics.

Check out Five of the Saddest Songs ever written.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Five Best Ozzy Osbourne Songs with Randy Rhoads

Randy Rhoads’ time in the spotlight as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist was oh so brief, but in the two records he recorded with the former Black Sabbath frontman, Rhoads left an indelible impact thanks to his phenomenal, neo-classical guitar style. Rhoads single-handedly helped spawn the neo-classical metal genre, while also influencing thousands of guitarists after his death (in a plane crash) in 1982. Here are five of the best songs Rhoads recorded with Ozzy from the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of Madman albums.

Suicide Solution

“Suicide Solution”, off the Blizzard of Ozz record, features Rhoads churning out one of his finest, angry-sounding riffs. With a solid backbeat from bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake, Rhoads is free to incorporate his signature screams and bends, giving the track added depth. Suicide Solution has become one of Ozzy’s trademark songs over the years. For a really amazing version, check it out live on Ozzy’s Tribute album to hear how Rhoads really flexes his guitar muscle. It’s the track that saw Ozzy getting sued in 1986 by a California family after their son committed suicide while listening to it. The case was dismissed in 1988.

Mr. Crowley

If ever there was a song that can be described as neo-classical heavy metal, it’s “Mr. Crowley” from the Blizzard of Ozz album. The keyboard intro lays down the mood, while the lyrics about Aleister Crowley, who was denounced as a satanist and would surely have been denounced as a heretic in the Middle Ages, add to the aura of the song. Rhoads main riff is intertwined with bursts, string scratches and fills, while the solos are stellar. The mid solo reminds one of a violin virtuoso playing lead guitar. The outro solo is Rhoads using trills, runs and lightning-fast picking. Amazing stuff. Again, the Tribute version kicks ass.

I Don't Know

The opening track from Blizzard, this would have been everyone’s first listen to Randy Rhoads, and he made sure people knew he meant business, laying down a blistering opening riff, then throwing in a classic little run at the 0:28 mark. With that 30 seconds or so, Rhoads announced to the world he was onto something. The song blends heavy power chords with a jazzy interlude in the bridge. Then the solo takes it to another level as Rhoads dazzles with de-tuned phrasings, runs, his classic deep bends and speedy hammer-pull combos. For an Ozzy song, I don’t know is a thrill-a-minute ride on the crazy train.

Over The Mountain

The first song from the Diary of a Madman record, Over the Mountain sees Rhoads showing his rhythm chops with the chugging main riff, interspersed with his usual phrasings. Ozzy’s in fine form, singing about altered reality and getting high. Then the solo is one of Rhoads’ most memorable, marrying a harmonized passage with a series of partially slurred whammy bar phrases for a strangely unsettled vibe that’s almost like two solos in one. The epic string scratch that caps the solo off nicely carries back into the final verse and riff.

S.A.T.O.

One of the most unheralded of Ozzy’s songs, S.A.T.O. (from Diary of a Madman) is one of those tracks that carries you off on a journey, not across the sky, but across the ocean. To that end, most people think S.A.T.O. stands for Sailing Across The Ocean, however, Sharon Osbourne has said it actually stands for Sharon Arden Thelma Osbourne. Sharon is Ozzy’s current wife, while Thelma is his ex. In terms of the music, it’s a tour de force, giving you the feeling you’re stuck on ship, getting tossed about in a heavy storm. The solo is simply phenomenal — a two-part session of amazing lead fretwork from Rhoads. And the final verse carries the song to its climax, with Rhoads using the wah pedal to take it to another level. S.A.T.O. is one of Ozzy’s best songs, period.

Check out why Sharon Osbourne is the biggest bitch in rock.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Life & Times of Guitar God Randy Rhoads

It's been 34 years since virtuoso guitarist Randy Rhoads died in a plane crash, yet his legacy is stronger than ever today.

Rhoads never did many interviews (everyone wanted to talk to Ozzy) during his brief time in the spotlight as Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist from late 1979 until his death on March 19, 1982, but, by all accounts, Rhoads was a super nice, quiet-spoken and down-to-earth person.

Unlike most of his peers at the time, Rhoads didn't drink much and never used drugs - a rarity in 1980.

The single, driving force in Rhoads' mind was to always become a better musician and guitar player, a principle that guided him even when he was a kid, learning his craft as a seven year old at the music school in North Hollywood (called Musonia) founded by his lat mother, Delores. He was trained early on in folk and classical guitar, and soon got interested in electric guitar.

His schooling on the electric six-string came from an instructor at Musonia named Scott Shelly. Shelly soon approached Delores and told her that he could no longer teach Randy, as Rhoads' knowledge of the electric guitar had surpassed his own. That shows how dedicated he was to playing and constantly striving to learn more and get better. Rhoads, who grew up in Burbank, Calif., also received piano lessons from his mother to build his understanding of music theory.

His quest for knowledge, no doubt imparted on Rhoads by his mother and father, who was also a music teacher and left when Randy was a year old, led Rhoads to want to teach music to others and share his knowledge.

So when he was 16, Rhoads started teaching at his mother's school and also formed a band that would become the first incarnation of Quiet Riot.

Quiet Riot became a successful band on the L.A. music scene, releasing two albums in Japan, but they didn't land a recording deal in the U.S. when Rhoads was in the band (they would eventually with CBS in 1982). Quiet Riot's failure to land a recording gig in the States was frustrating for Rhoads and part of the reason he ended up in Ozzy Osbourne's band.

From Obscurity to Blizzard of Ozz

In Sept. 1979, Osbourne was in the process of forming a new band after he was booted from Black Sabbath. Bassist Dana Strum (future Slaughter bass player) was helping Ozzy find a guitar player and asked Randy if he wanted to audition for the Ozzy gig. Randy said yes and got a call to meet Ozzy in his L.A. hotel room on the day before the former Black Sabbath frontman was scheduled to fly back to England.

The story goes that Randy showed up to audition with his Les Paul and a tiny practice amp. Rhoads began warming up, while a wasted Ozzy couldn't believe what he was hearing. Ozzy recalls saying: "Either this is one of the best things I’ve ever heard in my life or these drugs are really good'. The drugs were good and so was Rhoads, who was only warming up for two minutes, according to Delores.

Back in England, Osbourne met former Rainbow bassist Bob Daisley, who would be a key songwriter on Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, in a pub. The two got on really well and decided to record together. Ozzy's label, Jet Records, wanted an all-English band and were against having the American Rhoads join the quartet, which was called Blizzard of Ozz, no doubt in homage to Ozzy's penchant for white powder. Ozzy insisted on Rhoads as his guitarist and manager Don Arden finally gave in. With drummer Lee Kerslake in the fold, they recorded 'Blizzard' and then 'Diary', the only two studio albums Rhoads would work on with Ozzy.

Despite becoming a renowned guitarist and making it big on the music scene, Rhoads didn't want to be that guy. He didn't enjoy playing metal music (even though when you watch him live with Ozzy, he is carrying the band and absolutely into what he's doing). In fact, after the Diary of a Madman tour, Rhoads had planned on quitting. Not only did he want to go back to California, make solo records and teach guitar, he was also disillusioned with Ozzy's new manager, Sharon Arden (whom Ozzy subsequently married), the daughter of Don Arden.

After the band recorded Diary in 1981, Sharon promptly fired Daisley and Kerslake, a move that angered Rhoads who was close with both of them.

And just before his death, Randy told many people he was going to leave the band and get his Masters Degree in music and become a teacher.

But it all ended for Rhoads at age 25, when he was a in a small Beechcraft F35, single-engine plane piloted by Ozzy's tour bus driver Andrew Aycock in Leesburg, Florida. Makeup artist and seamstress Rachel Youngblood was also a passenger as Aycock tried to 'buzz' Ozzy's tour bus. He succeeded in making two close passes, but botched the third attempt. At about 10 am, after being in the air for approximately five minutes, one of the plane's wings clipped the top of the tour bus, breaking the wing into two parts and sending the plane spiraling out of control.

The initial impact with the bus caused Rhoads' and Youngblood's heads to crash through the plane's windshield. The plane then severed the top of a pine tree and crashed into the garage of a nearby mansion and burst into flames. Keyboardist Don Airey was the only member of the band to witness the crash, because the rest were asleep in the bus. Rhoads was killed instantly, as were Aycock (36) and Youngblood (58). All three bodies were burned beyond recognition, and Randy was identified by dental records and personal jewelry.

Rhoads Legacy Lives On

Despite his oh-so-short time making records, Rhoads' legacy is still so strong today

His style of playing basically ushered in a new brand of heavy metal that drew plenty of its inspiration from his interest in classical guitar, blending classical modes with an aggressive rock sensibility and very advanced technical ability. Aside from 'Diary' and 'Blizzard', Randy's playing on the live Tribute record truly showcases his wizardry.

While Rhoads was especially influenced by David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, he has influenced several generations of guitar players including Zakk Wylde, Tom Morello, Dimebag Darrell, Buckethead, Paul Gilbert and Mike McCready, to name a few.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lars Ulrich's Take on Aging and Playing Thrash Music

Age is the one thing that creeps up on everybody, and for Metallica's Lars Ulrich, he worries about Father Time taking a toll.

In an interview on CBC Radio show 'Q', Ulrich wondered out loud if he and rest of the band will be able to hammer out some of their faster songs as they age into their 60s and 70s.

"Whether we can do the 'Fight Fire's' and the 'Battery's' and the 'Master Of Puppets' and all that in our mid-60s and our early 70s remains to be seen," said Ulrich, who turns 53 on Boxing Day.

"And there's kind of a second part to that, which is that if… I mean, we may be able to still play them — do you know what I mean? — but whether we can bring the weight and whether we can bring the energy and whether we can bring the attitude that those songs deserve in our 60s to 70s, I have no idea," Ulrich continued. "Hopefully we'll have enough clarity to be able to tell if it's not working, to walk away from it graciously and respectfully. But right now we're fine, and we've played some of our best shows in the last couple of years, and I think there's still a bit left in the engine. But whether we can do it in our 70s… hopefully we'll get a chance to find out."

Drumming Takes a Physical Toll

Metallica fans will note that, over the years, Ulrich's drum kit has gotten smaller and smaller. When playing live, he certainly doesn't throw in all the drum fills from the recordings, instead focusing on keeping time.

Not many bands have 70-year-old drummers. Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones comes to mind, and he's 75. Now Watts isn't pounding out 200 beats per minute, but you get the idea that a drummer must be physically in-shape to play.

In fact, part of the reason Rush retired from touring was because drummer Neal Peart suffers from chronic tendonitis and shoulder problems, making him unable to properly play the complex parts he wrote as a younger man.

Ulrich noted he wants Metallica to go on for as long as possible, but can't predict the future.

"When people ask me to look into the crystal ball into the future: 'What do you think? Are you still gonna be playing…?'" he said. "It's the great, big unanswered question. Mentally, creatively, spiritually, aesthetically, we'll go for another hundred years [and] we're fine. Physically, obviously, it's the big question.

When touring, Metallica employs a couple of physical therapists to keep the band going.

It's actually kind of pathetic. People come backstage [and ask], 'Where's the Jack Daniel's?' There's no Jack Daniel's. It's brown rice and nasty protein shakes and a couple of trainers that are stretching us and stitching us back together again after the show," said Ulrich. "But at least we're still playing, and at least we're still functioning, and at least it still has some of the weight that it used to. So, so far so good, so we'll see where it takes us."

One drummer who comes to mind that's still playing at a frenzy is Iron Maiden's Nicko McBrain, who is now 64 years old, and never misses a fill.

Only time will tell how long Ulrich can keep it going. You've gotta figure he's got at least another 10 years in him.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Five of the Best Metal Christmas Songs

Since it's just a few weeks until Santa comes to town, we decided we'd have a ourselves a heavy metal Christmas. That means checking out five of the greatest metal Christmas songs ever recorded. So here they are, in no particular order, including a classic from Christopher Lee, the actor who played Saruman in Lord of the Rings.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi take this 1760 carol and turns it into a metal masterpiece that's found on the 2008 We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year album. That's Rudy Sarzo on bass and Simon Wright playing drums. Dio's delivery is amazing, and Iommi's guitar is thick and haunting, reminiscent of his sound on The Mob Rules.

Run Rudolph Run

This version of "Run Rudolph Run" also comes from the We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year record. Lemmy sounds like he was into the Christmas spirits and probably had about 10 or 12 pints in him when they recorded the track. Dave Grohl pounds the kit, while Billy Gibbons brings that bluesy, rocking guitar tone. You can imagine those three having a great time recording this Christmas standard. Turn this one up!

No Presents For Christmas

Trust King Diamond to lull us all to sleep at first with this song, which opens with elevator music renditions of Christmas carols, then kicks into high gear with his piercing, evil laugh. All hell breaks loose from there as the riff cranks in definitive King Diamond fashion. A highlight of the song comes near the end when the band starts playing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" and King Diamond sings "I'm dreaming of a white Sabbath". Classic stuff. The song was released on Christmas Day in 1985 as a single, the first with his new band after Mercyful Fate broke up. You can find "No Presents For Christmas" on the re-issue of his Fatal Portrait album.

The Little Drummer Boy

Seemingly from out of left field, the late and acclaimed English actor Christopher Lee put out a metal Christmas EP in 2012 called A Heavy Metal Christmas. The man who played Saruman in Lord of the Rings delivers a stellar blast of chugging riffs and heavy drums with his baritone voice for this Christmas classic. Turns out Lee, who died in 2015 at the age of 93, was a huge metal fan dating back to the 1970s when he heard Black Sabbath. He also recorded several traditional heavy metal albums of his own.

Red Water (Christmas Mourning)

A song many may not have heard before, Type O Negative's "Red Water (Christmas Mourning)" is a classic, gothic track from the Brooklyn band off their October Rust album. Late vocalist Peter Steele delivers this song of Christmas mourning with his typical dark rumbling, while the lyrics speak of a bleak, black Christmas that's anything but joyous. "The stocking are hung, but who cares" and "Goddamn ye merry gentleman" are a couple of snippets speaking to the depression of the narrator during the most wonderful time of the year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Five of the Greatest AC/DC Songs with Bon Scott

Let's face it, selecting five of the best songs from the AC/DC canon during the Bon Scott era is a tough task, especially considering they are all good tracks. Pretty much every song off those first six studio records is very good. Over time though, some songs, like "Highway To Hell" are overplayed to death. Others, like "It''s a Long Way to the Top (if you wanna rock 'n roll)" get kinda boring after all these years. As an AC/DC fan since 1984, these songs are five of the best they recorded with the great Bon Scott on vocals and writing the lyrics.

Gimme A Bullet

From the 1978 masterpiece Powerage record, "Gimme A Bullet" features a great groove and Bon Scott wailing about a lost love. The way the verses flow with the song is amazing: Don't need no drink, don't need no drugs. Don't need no sympathy. Sooner or later, send me the bill for what she's doing to me. Operator long distance lips on the telephone" are vintage Scott lyrics with this smooth delivery. An interesting aspect of this track is there's no guitar solo.

Down Payment Blues

Boasting one of Malcolm Young's finest riffs, "Down Payment Blues" is another stellar track off the Powerage album. Again, Scott delivers some classic lyrics like "I know I ain't doing much. Doing nothing means a lot to me. Living on a shoe string, a fifty cent millionaire. Open to charity. Rock 'n' roller welfare." But what makes it such a great song is the way it builds from verse to verse, then getting more and more intense after the middle break, until the final stanza features Scott wailing, while behind him, the band is absolutely cranking it out.

Whole Lotta Rosie

A staple of AC/DC's live shows since it emerged on the Let There Be Rock record, "Whole Lotta Rosie" is a tour de force, especially the live version off If You Want Blood, You've Got It. The riff absolutely churns in a non-stop frenzy, while Scott stretches his vocal chops singing about sex with a larger woman. Face it, most of us have converted 19 stone to pounds (266 lb.).

Live Wire

"Live Wire" is probably one of the first AC/DC songs many people heard back in 1976, as it featured on their first international album release High Voltage, and was usually the opening track for all their shows during the Bon Scott era. It's a classic AC/DC song with the bass intro, slow riff opening, then it kicks into high gear when Phil Rudd's drums kick in. Naturally, Scott provides some hilarity in the lyrics: "Go stick this in your fuse box".

Love Hungry Man

Certainly one of the band's most unheralded songs (and probably the first time it made a "Best of List"), "Love Hungry Man" really shows the influence Highway To Hell producer Mutt Lange had on the band where the gang vocal on the chorus plays a prominent part in the song. It also showcases Scott's voice hitting the highest notes in his vocal range, especially in the final 40 seconds of the song, when Scott is literally screeching. In fact "Love Hungry Man" and "Night Prowler", the final two tracks on Highway To Hell, are two of the best on that album.

Check Out How Bon Scott got his raspy voice

Thursday, November 24, 2016

How Slippery When Wet Took Bon Jovi To The Top

What do you do when you're a hard rock band in the mid 1980s making decent music, but no one's buying it?

You bring in a guy with a proven track record for writing hit songs, along with a producer who can get you a radio-friendly sound for your hard rock anthems. And that's just what Bon Jovi did for their monster 1986 album Slippery When Wet.

After the lackluster reception for 1985's 7800° Fahrenheit, despite touring, along with some video and radio play for "In and Out of Love" and "Only Lonely", Jon Bon Jovi, the rest of the band and the record company felt they could do better and take it to the next level.

So their label, Mercury Records, decided to bring in noted songwriter Desmond Child to help Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora pen a few tracks. Child had helped KISS pen their disco hit "I Was Made for Lovin' You", as well as "Heaven's on Fire".

Additionally, Bon Jovi sought out Canadian Bruce Fairbairn to produce the record after loving the sound of Fairbairn's work on Black 'N Blue's "Without Love". At the time, Fairbairn was a relatively little known producer who had worked with Blue Oyster Cult, Prism and Loverboy.

When working on Slippery When Wet at Vancouver's Little Mountain Sound Studios, Fairbairn had his protege, none other than Bob Rock, handle the engineering and mixing duties.

So Jon Bon Jovi, Sambora and Child hunkered down in the basement of Sambora's mother's New Jersey home and ultimately crafted four tracks for the record, including the bands breakthrough single "You Give Love A Bad Name", the huge "Livin on a Prayer". Both of those songs would shoot up the charts to No. 1, making it the first time in history a hard rock band would have two consecutive No. 1 hits on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Interestingly, Jon Bon Jovi didn't think "Livin' on a Prayer" should be on the record, while Sambora lobbied heavily for it, knowing it would be a hit. The other two songs written with Child were "I'd Die For You" and "Without Love".

In terms of the other songs on the record, the writing collaboration of Bon Jovi and Sambora found a new groove on one of the band's best songs "Wanted Dead or Alive", the third single released, and "Let It Rock", another stellar track. They also perfected the art of crafting power ballads with the soppy "Never Say Goodbye", which has become a staple at high school graduation dances.

Slippery When Wet: Homage to a Vancouver Stripclub

Slippery When Wet was recorded in the spring of 1986 and when they weren't grinding it out in the studio, the band, naturally, partied hard and frequented the local establishments in Vancouver, including some well known strip joints. Their favourite was the No. 5 Orange Stripclub, where the girls would get soapy on stage. That club became the inspiration for the album title.

In terms of sound, Slippery When Wet boasts a distinct low end, while the drums sound rather tinny, especially the snare sound. The keyboards are at times too loud in the mix, which is otherwise very good. The big gang vocals found on many of the songs' choruses were all the rage in the mid-80s (hear Def Leppard) and this record features plenty of that. Overall though, it was the sound of radio-friendly hard rock in the mid-80s.

Propelled by the hit singles and almost a year and a half of touring, Slippery When Wet easily went platinum in the U.S., and has gone on to sell some 15 million copies worldwide, putting it among the best selling hard rock albums of all time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Five Hottest Women in Heavy Metal & Rock

While the world of heavy metal and hard rock music is male-dominated, there are many, many talented women and female bands cranking it out there as well. And most of them look good doing it. From the days of Wendy O. Williams to Joan Jett to Lita Ford up to right now, where artists like Maria Brink and Cristina Scabbia are big names, rock 'n roll women are kicking ass. Check out our top five hottest women in metal right now.

Maria Brink from In This Moment

Unquestionably one of the best looking and most talented woman in metal today, Maria Brink is the frontwoman of In This Moment, a band hailing from Los Angeles. Brink is a multi-talented artist, acting as the band's principal songwriter, while also being a very competent piano player. The 38-year-old has also been a featured vocalist on an number of songs by other bands, including Five Finger Death Punch's "Anywhere but Here", and "Gravity" by Papa Roach.

Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy

Alissa White-Gluz has taken over the vocal reins from former Arch Enemy frontwoman Angela Gossow (who tabbed White-Gluz as her replacement) and run with them. With her girl-next-door looks and metalcore vocal delivery, White-Gluz, a Canadian who hails from Montreal, has done a superb job as Gossow's replacement. You'll find her work on Arch Enemy's War Eternal and the Stolen Life EP. She is also the band's main lyricist and recently signed a deal with Napalm records to release a solo album that's due out sometime in 2017.

Heidi Shepherd & Carla Harvey from Butcher Babies

Harvey (the brunette) and Shepherd (the blonde and sometimes redhead) are co-vocalists for the Butcher Babies (taken from a Wendy O. Williams song), a thrash metal band out of L.A. Both lovely ladies boast the caustic metal growl, while describing their music as "slut metal" as a means to get across that they're doing what they want, when they want. O. Williams is a major influence, while other influences like Joan Jett and Gwen Stefani are two women who have defied male dominance in music. Over the years they've changed their look, but have kept the music heavy and kicking ass.

Simone Simons from Epica

Simons brings an amazing vocal range to Epica, a symphonic/gothic metal band from the Netherlands. Simons, a beautiful redhead, is a classically-trained vocalist who has been with Epica since they formed back in 2002. Simons is a rare breed in the metal world since she has vowed never to get a tattoo of any sort. Among her various list of influences are Mozart, Nightwish, and Lacuna Coil. Epica recently released their newest album The Holographic Principle.

Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil

When you watch Cristina Scabbia sing, there's something inherently appealing about her. Maybe it's the intensity of her singing combined with her jet-black hair and stunning brown eyes. Anyways, the 44-year-old from Milan, Italy, certainly deserves to make the list. Scabbia boasts an impressive vocal range in Lacuna Coil, a band that mixes melodic metal with chugging riffs and soaring choruses. And the band has a large following these days, with their latest record Delirium going to No. 1 on the iTunes charts in the metal category and No. 10 overall.

Check Out five of the best Metallica songs co-written by Cliff Burton

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dr. Dre: Hip Hop's Revolutionary and Visionary

Few people in the music industry have made an impact on a specific genre like Dr. Dre did with rap and hip hop.

His real name is Andre Romelle Young and he's the guy who brought ghetto street rap to the masses thanks to his ear and ability to produce amazing grooves.

Rap music basically hit big in May, 1986 when New York's Run D.M.C. released Raising Hell, a record that would quickly reach No. 2 on Billboard in the United States, propelled in part by Run D.M.C.'s collaboration with Aerosmith on the hit "Walk This Way".

But Raising Hell is mostly a rap record that featured the hits "It's Tricky" and "My Adidas", among others and helped put rap on the mainstream map.

Now the sound of the album is fairly bombastic, with uber producer Rick Rubin having a hand in the production. It doesn't have lots of funky grooves or harmonies. It's your basic, early rap record.

A year after Raising Hell was released, Dr. Dre was working in Compton, California with N.W.A. on their big release, Straight Outta Compton, which came out in 1988, and spawned the Gangsta Rap genre, with lyrics glorifying murder, guns, drugs and disrespect to women. It became popular and Dr. Dre began the process of honing his techniques behind the board.

It was on N.W.A.'s final release, 1991's Niggaz4life, that Dre really let the groove do the talking on the songs, adding in plenty of percussion into the mix. Just check out "Real Niggaz Don't Die". Dre also started incorporating background harmony and catchy, repetitive keyboard sounds, that had more of today's hip hop vibe.

Dr. Dre Finds Himself with The Chronic

After Dre left N.W.A. in 1991 after a dispute with Eazy- E, he went on to Suge Knight's famous label, Death Row Records and released his trademark album The Chronic in December 1992.

The Chronic is where Dre put it all together with the phenomenal grooves and a feel that took hip hop to another level entirely, while clearly defining the West Coast sound and his own G-Funk subgenre. Dre successfully incorporated massive, funky bass grooves and beats with earworm synthesizers like on "Fuck wit Dre Day (and Everybody's Celebratin')", all blended in with catchy harmonies. These were not elements found in old school rap records.

A listen to his collaboration with Snoop Dogg on "Nuthin' But A G Thang", with its smooth groove will quickly convert most music fans to Dre's brand of hip hop.

Kanye West said it best when he said in Rolling Stone that The Chronic "is still the hip-hop equivalent to Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life. It's the benchmark you measure your album against if you're serious."

Dr. Dre: Producer Extraordinaire

With his M.O. firmly established, Dre, a six-time Grammy winner including Producer of the Year in 2001, would go on to work with some of hip hop's biggest names, putting his production talents to work. Dre is known as a perfectionist in the studio and workaholic, and his attention to detail is something that helped him produce some of hip hops biggest artsist and turn them into superstars.

Dre produced Snoop Dogg's 1993 debut Doggystyle, which sold millions of copies.

Dre was also the man responsible for unleashing Eminem (also a studio perfectionist) on the world after signing the Detroit rapper to his Aftermath label in 1997. He was executive producer on Eminem's The Slim Shady LP, a record that debuted at No. 2 on Billboard and has become of the masterpieces of hip hop. Dre additionally helped out on The Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show, Encore, Relapse, and Recovery.

In fact, Dre met Eminem after the latter placed second in the 1997 Rap Olympics, and someone sent a copy of the Slim Shady EP to Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine, who played it for Dre. Dre recalled in Rolling Stone "In my entire career in the music industry, I have never found anything from a demo tape or a CD. When Jimmy played this, I said, 'Find him. Now.'"

Dre has also worked with 2Pac, Mary J. Blige, Warren G, Gwen Stefani, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, and many others.

Even today, Dre still has his hand on the pulse of the music world, with his protégé Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City being one of the finest hip-hop albums of the last few years.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

James Hetfield Wasn't a Fan of Metallica's Mid-'90s Look

When Metallica fans purchased the Load album in 1996, they were probably shocked seeing what the band looked like in the liner notes.

They went from scruffy rockers to short-haired, makeup-wearing, leather-clad rock stars. And it turns out frontman James Hetfield wasn't a fan of the short hair and makeup, either.

Hetfield told Team Rock that not only did he not like Metallica's look, but late bassist Cliff Burton would have agreed with him and fought the record company about how the band should appear.

"I would certainly think that the ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ [era], I would have had an ally that was very against it all – the reinvention or the U2 version of Metallica," said Hetfield, adding he wasn't comfortable during the Load-Reload era but liked the music. "There’s some great, great songs on there."

Indeed. Despite how the band looked and their more hard rock vs. thrash sound, some of Metallica's best tracks including "Bleeding Me", "Outlaw Torn", and "Thorn Within" are on those albums.

Hetfield added if Burton were still alive back then (he died in a bus crash in 1986), things probably would have been different with how the band sounded.

"Well, I certainly would have thought there would have been some resistance, for sure," said Hetfield, who also hated both the Load and Reload covers. "I think Cliff would have probably interjected some different stuff, getting his bass heard and some more musically challenging things, probably."

"But my opinion is that all of the imagery and stuff like that was not necessary. And the amount of songs that were written was… it diluted the potency of the poison of Metallica. And I think Cliff would have agreed with that," Hetfield noted.

Certainly, many Metallica fans jumped off the bandwagon in anger when Load was released, but at the same time, they captured new fans with their look and grungier sound.

With their 10th studio album, Hardwired ... To Self Destruct set for release on Nov. 18, it sounds like James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo are getting back to their earlier roots from the mid 1980s, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.


Check Out The Top 5 Metallica Songs Cliff Burton Co-Wrote

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Five of the Saddest Songs Ever Written

Elton John famously sang that "Sad songs say so much" and it's true, even though that song is too chipper sounding to make this list. When you're down or unhappy, a sad song can sound so good and speak to what you're feeling. Many of the most famous songs of woe include lyrics about a real-live event or tragedy, which make them even more poignant. Check out our list of five of the saddest songs:

"Everybody Hurts" - R.E.M.

R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" is a song urging someone not to commit suicide, backed by mournful verses, strings and an organ that sounds straight out of a funeral parlour. While the overall tone of the 1992 track is desperately depressing, the chorus is one of hope and inspiration. As guitarist Peter Buck said of the song, the lyrics are very straightforward because they wanted the song to resonate with teenagers - the group that has the highest suicide rates. This amazing track was used in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.

"The Grace" - Neverending White Lights (Vocals by Dallas Green)

Written by Canadian Daniel Victor and sung by fellow Canuck Dallas Green, "The Grace" is another song about taking one's own life. The narrator has lost hope in life and love, and begins wondering if dying is a positive thing given all the negatives surrounding him. It's a sorrowful song where the narrator does end up committing suicide. Green's vocal performance is nothing short of stunning. He adds the perfect inflection to the lyrics, as if he wrote them himself.

"All of My Love" - Led Zeppelin

Taken my most to be a love song, "All of My Love" from 1979's In Through the Out Door is in fact a tribute to Robert Plant's son, Karac, who died in 1977 when he was just five years old. He likely dies of stomach enteritis. Knowing the song's subject matter turns it into a father mourning his dead son and the lyrics take on a new life. Plant, in interviews, calls the song one Led Zeppelin's "finest moments".

"Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)" - Elton John

"Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)" deals with the 1980 murder of John Lennon, who was good friends with Elton John and Bernie Taupin, who wrote the song's lyrics. John was even named godfather to Lennon's son, Sean, in 1975. The melancholy music is perfectly suited to the words of the song as Elton struggles to comprehend the suddenness of Lennon's passing after being murdered by crazed superfan Mark David Chapman. Over the years, John has rarely played this song live because the memory of Lennon's death is too painful.

"Tears in Heaven" - Eric Clapton

"Tears in Heaven" is a Clapton acoustic ballad about the death of his four-year-old son after falling from the window of a New York high rise in 1991. It was co-written with Will Jennings. Clapton, who said writing the song helped him heal, wrote the words for the first verse, and urged Jennings to come up with the release ("Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees ..."). The track was featured in the 1991 movie Rush.

Bonus: "Nutshell" - Alice in Chains

When an artist foretells his or own death in a song, it really hits home after the fact. That was the case with Alice in Chains' "Nutshell" and vocalist Layne Staley, who died of a heroin overdose in 2002. Not only is the tone of the song about as sombre as it gets, lyrically Staley warns of fighting "this battle all alone. No one to cry to, no place to call home." He sticks to the song's mantra that "if I can't be my own, I'd feel better dead." And that was the case with Staley, who slowly became more and more reclusive after Jar of Flies was released in 1993 until he was found dead in his Seattle apartment.

Check out our look at 5 of the hottest women in heavy metal and rock today


Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Look at Powerage - AC/DC's Most Underrated Album

With a vast catalogue of 17 studio albums, AC/DC's Powerage is a record that goes largely unnoticed. It certainly doesn't get the accolades of Highway To Hell or Back in Black, but when you look at the Aussie rockers' body of work, Powerage stands out in a big way.

In fact Powerage, released in 1978, is the record that made people, including AC/DC's record label, Atlantic, stand up and really pay attention to the grubby misfits. Because after Powerage gained the band more attention and sales in the U.S., Atlantic executives got AC/DC to bring in uber producer Mutt Lange for the follow-up, and we all know how good Highway To Hell is, thanks in large part to Lange's work in the studio.

For Powerage, which was hot on the heels of 1977's Let There Be Rock, the band used the same producers, Harry Vanda and George Young, older brother to Angus and Malcolm Young.

But, unlike its predecessor, which is a phenomenal, raw record, Powerage brings an entirely different feel to it - a warmer sound thanks to a better mix. The band spent three months in the studio (one more than they did for Let There Be Rock) recording and mixing, and the extra time really paid off.

Powerage was the first AC/DC album featuring bassist Cliff Williams, who replaced Mark Evans after he was fired in May, 1977. However, Evans has said publicly some of his bass playing is on the album.

AC/DC had vibe in studio on Powerage

According to Williams, a big reason why the album is so good is the vibe the band had recording it, which was pretty much live in studio.

"The guys had already been in the studio for a while and we went in to do what turned out to be the Powerage album. Great work environment. Albert Studios there in Sydney was a great little rock and roll room...Great producers," said Williams in a Bass Frontiers interview. "Obviously a lot of chemistry there being brothers. Just a real fiery, energetic work environment. It was really a tremendous experience."

The album opener, "Rock 'N' Roll Damnation" shows the band flexing their muscles in a new way with a heavy dose of maracas providing the extra feel.

Then there's "Gone Shootin'", a slower tempo track where the band lets the fantastic groove do the talking.

You'll notice "Up To My Neck in You" sounds more like the songs on "Let There Be Rock" and that's because it was started during those recording sessions.

"Gimme A Bullet" and "Down Payment Blues" are two of the best songs AC/DC have ever recorded, but like the rest of the album, they are definitely underrated in the canon of the band's legacy.

Heck, the album even got a ringing endorsement from Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards, who said it's his favourite AC/DC record.

Check Out how Bon Scott got his unique voice

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Top Five Feuds Between Rock Band Members

Much like a family, members of rock bands don't always see eye to eye and often aren't shy about venting their feelings and frustrations towards each other. Since the late 1960s, there have been plenty of in-band feuds that have gained headlines. Here are the top five feuds between members of the biggest rock bands in the world.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Jagger and Richards have been at odds since the mid 1970s, but things really came to head in the 1980s when the Glimmer Twins barely talked to each other and the Rolling Stones nearly broke up for good after releasing Dirty Work in 1986. That's because Mick reneged on his promise to tour behind the album, angering Richards. At the time the two didn't share the same vision for the direction of the Rolling Stones, especially Mick, who wanted to distance himself from the band and focus on his solo work and touring.

Richards was pissed Mick wanted to become a pop star outside of the band, and did some solo work of his own, taking shots at Jagger in the process with a song off his Talk Is Cheap record called "You Don't Move Me" with lyrics directed squarely at Jagger. But the two, for the greater good of the band and no doubt the money, got it together to record and tour for 1989's Steel Wheels album. Interestingly, on "Mixed Emotions", Richards maintains he sings "Mick's Demotions" during the chorus.

And, just when the two had been regularly recording and touring, the dormant feud erupted again when Richards took a shot at Jagger's "tiny dodger" in his 2010 memoir Life. Mick wasn't amused and demanded - and got - an apology from Richards. In that same book, Richards sums up his long relationship with Jagger: "How can you describe a relationship that goes that far back? Best friends are best friends. Brothers fight."

Liam and Noel Gallagher

The English brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher have no doubt been at each other's throats since they were kids, but as members of Oasis from 1991-2009, they engaged in one of the nastiest, most physical feuds ever by band members, most of them alcohol fueled. On their first tour of the U.S. in 1994, band vocalist Liam got a kick out of changing various song lyrics so they were derogatory to both Americans and his brother. This didn't sit well with Noel, who tossed a chair at his brother after one concert and a major brawl followed.

Then, while recording their second album (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, the brothers got involved in another brouhaha, this time with a cricket bat being used as a weapon after Liam invited everyone from the pub back into the studio while Noel was trying to work. This became the norm for the feuding siblings until 2009, when Noel finally had had enough. After yet another physical altercation with Liam, the band cancelled a show at the last minute on Aug. 28, 2009 in Paris. That night, Noel confirmed he was leaving the band because he "simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer."

Roger Waters and David Gilmour

Far more tame physically than the Gallagher brothers' feud, the animosity between Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters and guitarist David Gilmour was more a beef about power within Pink Floyd than anything else. After reaching the top of the mountain with "Dark Side of the Moon", Waters began to take more control in terms of the band's songwriting and indeed, wrote most of the material from Animals, The Wall through The Final Cut. In the process, Water was writing darker, more political material. Waters argues Gilmour wasn't bringing any songs to the table, so he wrote the tracks, getting publishing royalties in the process - more than Gilmour was taking in.

The band broke up after the Final Cut and, in 1985, Waters famously declared Pink Floyd was a "spent force creatively" and left the band. Gilmour, who wanted to keep Pink Floyd going, won a lengthy legal battle (Waters wanted to completely dissolve the band) to carry on under the Pink Floyd brand, releasing two so-so albums 1987's Momentary Lapse of Reason and 1994's The Division Bell.

Axl Rose and Slash

The two most prominent members of Guns 'N Roses have mended their fences for the current reunion tour, but there was 20 years of animosity between the two after Slash left the band in 1996. In his 2007 biography, Slash stated he left Guns 'N Roses because of Rose's constant lateness to concerts, the alleged legal manipulation Rose used (since denied by Rose) to gain control of the band, and the departures of original drummer Steven Adler and guitarist Izzy Stradlin.

For his part, Rose stoked the fire with some nasty words in a 2009 interview, saying "Personally I consider Slash a cancer and better removed, avoided — and the less anyone heard of him or his supporters, the better." No doubt Rose knew Slash had lost his mother to cancer and the comments didn't sit well with the guitarist.

Rose also told Billboard in 2009 (when there was talk of a GNR reunion back then): "What's clear is that one of the two of us will die before a reunion and however sad, ugly or unfortunate anyone views it, it is how it is."

Looks like a lot of dollar bills have soothed any lingering acrimony between Slash and Rose. We'll hold our breath as to whether or not they record another GNR record together.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney

The two best known members of the Beatles saw cracks in their writing partnership emerging after Beatles manager Brian Epstein died suddenly in 1967. After that it was a slow dissolution of the Lennon/McCartney partnership that included Lennon feeling like his songs weren't getting their due over McCartney's tracks. McCartney noted he and Lennon were openly critical of each other's songs around the Abbey Road sessions. Also McCartney wanted to tour with the band again, but Lennon wanted none of it and he was tiring of McCartney's bossiness in the studio. These things, and others (Yoko Ono), created friction that ended with Lennon leaving the band in 1969.

But the Lennon/McCartney feud didn't end when the Beatles broke up. They wrote songs on their solo albums taking jabs at each other.

Lennon's Imagine album has a song called "How Do You Sleep?", which is directed squarely at McCartney with lyrics like "You live with straights who tell you was king. Jump when your momma tell you anything. The only thing you done was yesterday. And since you’re gone you’re just another day. A pretty face may last a year or two. But pretty soon they’ll see what you can do. The sound you make is muzak to my ears. You must have learned something in all those years."

McCartney took a shot at Lennon and Yoko Ono on the track "Too Many People" from the Ram record. The lyrics "Too many people preaching practices" and "You took your lucky break and broke it in two" are directed at Lennon.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Why Sharon Osbourne is the Biggest Bitch in Rock n' Roll

If there's one person on the rock world who is the least deserving of anyone's respect, it's Sharon Osbourne.

Simply put, the wife of Black Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne is a bitch of the first degree.

While she may now be the star of X Factor and other lame reality/TV talk shows, her negative influence in the rock world shames her and removes any credit she should have.

Who else but a total, greedy fool would have two of the finest hard rock albums ever (Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of Madman) featuring the late, great guitarist Randy Rhoads, re-recorded with new bass and drum parts after losing a songwriting credit lawsuit?

Sharon.

The idea being if the albums were recorded again, original bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake wouldn't get future royalties for the songwriting they did on the records, but never originally got credit for (which led to a 1986 lawsuit against Jet records, owned by Sharon's father, Don Arden - won by Daisley and Kerslake).

So Sharon decided (she claimed it was Ozzy's decision, which he totally disputes in his autobiography) to redo the bass and drums using then Ozzy bassist and current Metallica four-stringer Robert Trujillo and drummer Mike Bordin. The albums were released again in 2002. It was blasphemy.

Naturally fans went ballistic at the move and, in 2011, a 30-year anniversary of the records was released with the original recordings.

Sharon became Ozzy's manager in 1981, right around the release of Diary and then they were married in 1982, upon when she basically starting telling Ozzy what to do, when to do it and how high to jump. For some great insight into the recording of Blizzard and Diary plus his thoughts on Sharon Ozbourne, check out Bob Daisley's recounting of those days.

And in keeping with being the ultimate shyster, she lied to former Ozzy Guitarist Jake E. Lee when he joined Ozzy to record 1983's Bark at the Moon.

According to Lee, he was promised credit for helping write on the album, but as soon as he'd finished the last track, Sharon offered him a contract that stated Ozzy wrote everything and would get all the publishing royalties.

Here's what Lee said on Eddie Trunk's show, talking about the contract: "And I looked at it. I’m looking at Sharon, and I said, ‘This is not what you told me before.’ And she says, ‘No, it isn’t.’

"‘Why do you think I’m gonna sign it?’" said Lee.

"‘Because if you don’t, we’ll give you a plane ticket, you go back home and you stand in line and you sue us. In the meantime, we have all your tracks, we’ll get another guitar player, he’ll redo your tracks, and you’ll have nothing'," replied Sharon.

Wow.

Sharon Osbourne Messed with Iron Maiden

Sharon easily took her bitchy self to new heights during the final Ozzfest show of 2005 at Glen Helen in California.

On that day, after Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson slagged the corporate crowd in the front rows and Ozzy's use of a teleprompter, Sharon admittedly ordered the Maiden P.A. system to be cut (three times) during their set, and then had members of Maiden pelted with eggs and ice.

Sharon finally admitted she was responsible, arguing "(Dickison) didn't realize who he is messing with", adding he got what he deserved and from there, one of rock's biggest feuds began.

Why is Bill Ward Not Part of Black Sabbath Reunion?

Lastly when you look at Sharon Osbourne, you need think critically about why original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward is not part of the ongoing Sabbath reunion and final tour.

No doubt Ward wanted to play on the 13 record, then play the tour. But, according to him, he was never offered equal compensation back in 2012 when the ball got rolling to cap Sabbath's distinguished career.

At the time, the drummer was presented with a take-it-or-leave-it "unsignable contract", which he did not sign. Now who was the one behind the scenes managing Black Sabbath's affairs? You guessed it - Sharon Osbourne, even though she's not Black Sabbath's de facto manager, she still has a huge say in the goings on of the band.

And what about all the social media hype surrounding Sabbath's The End Tour - where all the old band promo pictures posted on Facebook had Ward's image cropped out, so newbie Black Sabbath fans might well think they were a three-piece band of Ozzy, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler. How can you show old pictures of one of the greatest hard rock bands in the world with the drummer cropped out? Insane.

It's just another episode in Sharon Osbourne's cache of bitchy moves.

Six Greatest Halloween Metal Songs

With All Hallows' Eve quickly approaching, we thought we'd compile a list of the greatest metal tracks with a spooky Halloween spirit to them. Not all are about Halloween per se, but they are great songs to crank up and get into the Halloween mood.

"Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)" - Type O Negative

The most well-know Type O Negative song is found on the Bloody Kisses album. With late vocalist Peter Steele's trademark vampiric tones and the band's doomy sound, you can't go wrong. And the gothic atmosphere of this track is all the more strong when backed by lyrics like "It's All Hallows' Eve, the moon is full. Will she trick or treat? I bet she will."

"Halloween" by Helloween

An epic, 13-minute opus from 1987's Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II record, this song from the German power metal band blends heavy power chords with melodic vocals and more than just a hint of Mercyful Fate influence. The foreboding lyrics suggest evil spirits are about on Halloween coming to get all those wandering about on the darkened streets.

"Night of the Living Dead" - Misfits

Inspired by the horror movie of the same name, "Night of the Living Dead" is a Misfits classic from Walk Among Us. It's Glenn Danzig writing about the zombie apocalypse, which today would feature well on The Walking Dead. You gotta have some good, punky horror music on Halloween.

"Bark at the Moon" - Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy's classic 1983 ode to werewolves and darkness belongs on any Halloween music list. With one of Jake E. Lee's greatest riffs carrying the song at a frantic pace, Ozzy delivers the werewolf howls fit for All Hallows' Eve along with some dark lyrics including "Those that the Beast is looking for listen in awe and you'll hear him ..... Bark at the Moon."

"Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath

Simply put, if you want to scare any trick or treaters, put this song on repeat so it's within earshot of kids when they come to the door.. The tolling of the bell in the rain, Tony Iommi's evil riff along with Ozzy's vocals are enough to scare any kid out of their costume. The original heavy metal song of evil works perfectly as a Halloween masterpiece.

"Halloween" by King Diamond

Off King Diamond's 1986 debut album Fatal Portrait, "Halloweeen" is a tour de force of classic heavy metal, featuring King Diamond's evil, high-pitched wail and some tasty, crunchy guitar riffs. It's the perfect mix of melody and heavy. Definitely add this one to your Halloween metal playlist!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Steve Clark: Def Leppard's Late, Unsung Guitarist Deserves More Kudos

So many rock stars who die before their time become more iconic in death than they were in life.

Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Bon Scott, Randy Rhoads are but three examples from a long list of fallen rockers.

Sadly, though, late Def Leppard guitarist Steve "Steamin'" Clark is rarely talked about in terms of the stellar legacy he left behind when he died in 1991 at the age of 30.

Maybe it's because he wasn't Def Leppard's frontman. Maybe it's because he was fairly low key in the band.

Whatever the case, Clark a co-founder of Leppard with ex-guitarist Pete Willis (ironically kicked out of the band for too much boozing in 1982), vocalist Joe Elliott and bassist Rick Savage, was instrumental in writing most of Def Leppard's tracks during their stratospheric rise to stardom in the 1980s from their debut On Through The Night, through High N Dry, Pyromania and Hysteria. Despite not playing on 1992's Adrenalize, Clark co-wrote most of the tracks.

Whether it's "Hello America", "Let It Go", "Switch 625", "Bringin' On the Heartbreak", "Photograph", Rock of Ages", "Hysteria", or "Gods of War", Clark had a hand in crafting those songs and helped Def Leppard reach the top of the rock 'n roll mountain.

Yet, despite that, he seems to never get his due for what he did, unlike Cobain or Rhoads.

Despite Def Leppard's Success, Depression Dogged Clark

Despite his phenomenal talent as a songwriter (one his nicknames was "The Riffmaster") and the amazing success Def Leppard enjoyed, Clark was a depressed alcoholic, who numbed his pain with booze and drugs (both prescription and hard drugs like cocaine).

Tragically, everyone around him knew he would wind up dead, but they couldn't stop it. And Clark seemed resigned to his fate.

His father, Barry, noted in a VH1 documentary his son was " really looking worse for wear" at Christmas in 1990. Barrie recalls telling his son that if he kept on drinking, he'd kill himself. To that Clark responded "Well, I'm not bothered anyway."

Before he died, the members of Leppard and those around them knew Clark was in major trouble, heading down a one-way street to nowhere, so an intervention was held in 1989 after a doctor addressed the serious damage Clark was doing to himself.

Bandmates, longtime producer Mutt Lange, as well as friends were on hand to lay it out for Clark, who, according to guitarist Phil Collen in his autobiography Adrenalized “... sat there with a cigarette taking it all in. Mutt gave him a big hug, then we all hugged him and told him that we loved him. That was a very tearful and emotional experience for all involved, especially when the doctor explained to us that about 70 percent of alcoholics who get to this level usually end up getting killed either by accident or overuse.”

Clark then agreed to go into rehab ( his last of several attempts ) in Tucson, where he met recovering heroin addict Janie Dean, an American. They moved in together and got engaged, but according to Collen, both continued with substance abuse. She was the person who found Clark dead on their couch in their Chelsea home on Jan. 8, 1991.

Clark's Last Night and Death

The night before he died, Dean and Clark were supposed to take in a theatre production, but he'd been out drinking before they were going to leave, so the couple decided to stay home. However, according to Dean, at 8 p.m. on Jan. 7, Clark told her he was going to go out for 10 minutes. He came back four hours later, extremely drunk with a buddy. Clark passed out on the couch and never woke again.

An autopsy confirmed the cause of death was compression of the brain stem - which caused respiratory failure - due to excessive alcohol mixed with anti-depressants and pain killers. According to Dean, he was taking Prozac, Valium, and would also do cocaine.

At the time he died, Clark was on an unofficial six-month leave from the band, so he could focus on getting healthy.

So ended the sad story of one of rock's great songwriters and guitarists. One of Clark's nicknames was "Riffmaster" and when you listen to Def Leppard's first four albums, you know why.

After his passing, Sacramento rock band Tesla, who toured with Def Leppard, wrote a tribute song to honour Clark called "Song and Emotion". And Leppard wrote "White Lightning" for the "Adrenalize" record. The song looks at their and Clark's struggles with substance abuse. Check it out below.

See how founding Def Leppard guitarist Pete Willis was fired from the band during the Pyromania recording sessions

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Five of the Most Underrated Metal Albums of the 1980s

The 1980s was a huge decade for heavy metal and hard rock thanks to plenty of radio airplay and emergence of MTV and MuchMusic. While there were many, many great albums produced, some of them were largely overlooked by metal fans thanks to a lack of marketing or minimal exposure on video channels and radio airplay. If you haven't heard any of these five albums, do yourself a favour and check them out!

Mechanical Resonance by Tesla

The debut release from the Sacramento quintet is a hard rock tour-de-force that's exceptionally produced by metal heavyweights Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero. Released in 1986, a couple of tracks "Little Suzi" and "Modern Day Cowboy" got some airplay on MTV and MuchMusic in Canada. Mechanical Resonance is an album that kicks ass from the extended string scratch and solo to open the record on "EZ Come, EZ Go" to the trippy ballad "Right Before My Eyes" that closes the album. Aside from the stellar vocals of Jeff Keith, guitarists Tommy Skeoch and Frank Hannon provide the punch on this album with their brilliant fretwork.

Last Decade Dead Century by Warrior Soul

A band that should have been much bigger than they were, Warrior Soul burst onto metal scene in 1990 with their debut Last Decade Dead Century, a bleak look, from the gutter, at the drug scene in American ghettos, Cold War politics and the rampant consumerism that took over in the '80s. Mixing great melody and harmonies with heavy guitar, Last Decade Dead Century is an album that stands out among the tiring generic metal that was coming out at the end of the decade. There isn't a weak song in this record, which only suffers from production that could be improved. "We Cry Out", "The Losers" and "Charlie's Out of Prison" are exceptional tracks.

Rage For Order by Queensrÿche

Many metal fans know Queensrÿche's opus Operation: Mindcrime, but the record they produced before it is just as good. Rage for Order is the band's sophomore studio album, released in 1986. Among the album's 11 tracks are all-time Queensrÿche greats like "The Whisper", "Neue Regal", "Walk in the Shadows" and "London". The album, a fine blend of metal and progressive rock, took five years before it went Gold in the U.S. (500,000 sales), showing how under-appreciated it was upon release. Production-wise, it sounds better than their debut "The Warning" thanks to Neil Kernon, who worked with the band on the record.

Vices by Kick Axe

When record companies began churning out hard rock records in 1984 after the success of Def Leppard's Pyromania and Quiet Riot's Metal Health, one of the bands they stumbled upon was Kick Axe, who originally hailed from Regina, Saskatchewan. Vices was the Canadian band's debut album and was produced by Spencer Proffer, the guy who was behind the board on Metal Health. Vices is built around hard rock anthems like "Heavy Metal Shuffle", "Stay on Top" and "On The Road To Rock" with big choruses and crunchy riffs. Despite getting some airplay in Canada on MuchMusic, the album didn't propel the band to the top.

Act III by Death Angel

Another record that straddled the 1980s, Act III was released in 1990 after being recorded in 1989. With uber producer Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Savatage, Loudness) at the helm, Act III is a great sounding record blending thrash, classic metal, a bit of funk "Discontinued" and the amazing ballad "Room With A View". MTV played "Room With A View" and "Seemingly Endless Time" but the album never really went anywhere. While Act III is an underrated record, it should be noted how underrated Rob Cavestany is a songwriter and guitarist. Without him, there is no Death Angel.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Story of Black Sabbath's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath"

In 1973, Black Sabbath were riding high on the success of their Vol. IV album and mammoth tour of the U.S., Australia and Europe.

But when it came time to work on the Vol. IV follow up album, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, drummer Bill Ward and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne found the writing well had simply run dry.

Despite trying to duplicate the surroundings and good times they had when writing Vol. IV - renting a house in Bel Air, snorting up bagfuls of cocaine and using LA's Record Plant Studios - they just couldn't replicate that magic in the summer of 1973. The drugs were taking a toll and Iommi, the guy everybody was waiting on to come up with the songs, had the musician's version of writer's block.

"Everybody was sitting there waiting for me to come up with something. I just couldn't think of anything. And if I didn't come up with anything, nobody would do anything," said Iommi in in the book Wheels of Confusion: The Story of Black Sabbath.

So after a fruitless month in LA, Sabbath returned to their English roots and rented a medieval castle, Clearwell Castle, in Gloucestershire, England, to work on writing new songs. The castle was well known to bands after Bad Company had worked within its gothic halls and dungeons. Later Led Zeppelin would rehearse some songs from the In Through the Out Door sessions there.

The Riff That Saved Black Sabbath

With a ton of pressure still weighing the band down, Iommi had an epiphany in the castle dungeon when he stumbled upon the mammoth riff that would become Sabbath Bloody Sabbath's title track and savior of the band.

In an interview with Guitar World, Butler tells how low the band was before Iommi came up with that amazing riff: "We almost thought that we were finished as a band ... Once Tony came out with the initial riff for 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' we went 'We're baaaack!'"

Certainly the spookiness of the castle served as an inspiration for Sabbath, who soon discovered a ghost lurked within the walls.

"We rehearsed in the armoury there and one night I was walking down the corridor with Ozzy and we saw this figure in a black cloak ... We followed this figure back into the armoury and there was absolutely no one there," recalled Iommi in 1998. "Whoever it was had disappeared into thin air! The people that owned the castle knew all about this ghost and they said, 'Oh yes, that's the ghost of so and so. We were like 'What!?'"

Butler, in Wheels of Confusion: The Story of Black Sabbath, adds the medieval setting served as an inspiration: "It was really creepy but it had some atmosphere, it conjured up things, and stuff started coming out again."

With songs in hand, Sabbath would end up recording the album at London's Morgan Studios. It was released in December 1973, and on Jan. 1, 1974 in the U.S.

"The Pinnacle" for Sabbath

Indeed, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is one of the band's best albums. In addition to the title track, "A National Acrobat", "Killing Yourself To Live" and "Spiral Architect" are among Black Sabbath's greatest tracks.

Iommi even called it "the pinnacle" for Black Sabbath.

Additionally, the album's cover is one of the most iconic in metal history. It was painted by Drew Struzan and is immediately with its depiction of an evil death on the front, and a good death on the back fold.

Speaking of that period in the band's history, Osbourne noted it was "the beginning of the end" for the band.

"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was really the album after which I should have said goodbye because after that I really started unravelling", Osbourne told Mojo. "Then we ended up falling out of favour with each other."

Friday, October 14, 2016

Making For Those About To Rock ... A Burden to Bear For AC/DC

When you're tasked with following up one of the greatest rock records ever made, you know it won't be easy.

Such was the case for AC/DC as the they got ready to enter the studio in Paris during the early summer of 1981, hot on the heels of their critically acclaimed blockbuster Back in Black album.

What they came out with, For Those About To Rock We Salute You, could be considered Back in Black's bastard son, since most people revere the latter, holding it in such high regard, while For Those About To Rock is more the forgotten son, and doesn't get that kind of love these days, even though it went to No. 1 in the U.S., something Back in Black never did.

Make no mistake, however, For Those About To Rock deserves plenty of kudos as a great album, but it was a massive weight to bare for the Aussie rockers at the time.

As with Back in Black and Highway to Hell before it, Angus Young and Co. decided on working with producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange once again.

Sound Issues Impacted Early Recording Sessions

After rehearsing the songs for the album, the band headed into the EMI-Pathé Marconi Studios in early July, where they were ready to lay down basic tracks.

But after trying and trying, they just couldn't get the right sound, or a sound that Lange was happy with. Heck, the story goes they worked for three days just on the snare drum sound alone. Only the snare drum.

Singer Brian Johnson recalls "The studio came highly recommended, but we just couldn't get a good live sound. Mutt finally said 'This is hard work - we're missing the point.'"

So in August 1981, after trying (and not liking) several different studios around Paris, the uber rock producer found a solution to their recording problems: He’d simply moved the operation to a rehearsal space on the outskirts of Paris, and hired the Mobile One Studio from London to record the group. The sound was deemed solid, and recording began anew with basic track. Vocals and overdubs were completed at Family Sound Studio and overdubs at HIS Studios and recording was finished in September, ending a five-month process that included lots of tinkering by Lange. Back in Black was done in two months.

Malcolm Young would famously say, in a 1992 interview that "I don't think anyone, neither the band or the producer, could tell whether it sounded right or wrong. Everyone was fed up with the whole album."

Lange is a notorious perfectionist in the studio, and it's highly probably AC/DC were more than fed up with doing take after take, especially since it was their third time working with him.

So, it's not surprising For Those About To Rock was the last time the Aussie rockers worked with Lange.

While the album sounds very polished and crisp, their follow-up records, 1983's Flick of the Switch and 1985's Fly on the Wall were self-produced, with neither boasting exceptional sound, certainly nothing as sonic as found on the Lange-produced records. Neither Flick of the Switch nor Fly on the Wall sold particularly well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Five Greatest Ballads by The Rolling Stones

Labelled as the Greatest Rock N' Roll band in the world, the Rolling Stones have also produced their fair share of ballads over the years. With dozens of slow songs in their lengthy catalogue, choosing the top five is no easy feat, so this list actually features six songs listed (in no particular order) because it's a dead heat between "Waiting on a Friend" and "Beast of Burden". So here are the Stones' best ballads:

"Angie" from Goat's Head Soup (1973)

Arguably the most well-known Stones ballad, "Angie" is a heart-tearing ballad about an ending romance. The mournful string section adds very nicely to the overall sad tone of the track, which was mostly written by Keith Richards, including the sorrowful and distinct piano lines, which were played on the album by legendary Stones session man, Nicky Hopkins. There are various tales about who the song is actually about, with Richards first claiming the title and inspiration came from the birth of his daughter, Angela. But in his autobiography Life, Richards said the name was totally random and it "wasn't about any particular person". However David Bowie's ex-wife, Angie, maintains she was the inspiration. Either way, it's a fantastic Stones ballad.

"Winter" from Goat's Head Soup

One of the Rolling Stones most under-appreciated songs, "Winter" is the highlight from "Goat's Head Soup". While there is no doubt guitarist Mick Taylor helped write it, along with Mick Jagger, he never got credit. It was credited as a Jagger/Richards collaboration, but Richards doesn't play a single note. "Winter" features some stellar guitar playing from Taylor and a beautiful string section adding another layer to the track. It's a great example of a track where the feel of the music mirrors the lyrics.

"Wild Horses" off Sticky Fingers (1971)

Another popular ballad, "Wild Horses" is one of those songs that gets better and better the more you hear it, thanks to the many, layered guitar parts and fantastic vocal harmonies from Jagger and Richards during the chorus. Largely written by Richards, it was recorded at Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama in December, 1969. It's Richards playing the country-like guitar licks on the track, which took only two-takes to nail down (virtually unheard of for the Stones at the time, who were notorious for taking forever in the studio). As an interesting side note, it's Jim Dickinson playing piano, not Ian Stewart (who was at Muscle Shoals), because Stewart didn't like playing minor chords (it's starts with a B-minor chord). Richards relates in Life that Stewart called it "fucking Chinese music".

"Beast of Burden" from Some Girls (1978)

"Beast of Burden" is laid-back track with a fantastic groove that features Richards and Ronnie Wood trading guitar licks. The title comes from Richards, basically saying he wouldn't be the band's beast of burden because of ongoing heroin habit. Richards finally got clean in 1978 after getting busted with smack in Toronto the year before. While Richards called it "Beast of Burden", Jagger's verses are generic.

"Waiting on a Friend" from Tattoo You (1981)

Another Stones ballad with a whole lot of Mick Taylor influence, "Waiting on a Friend" comes from the Goat's Head Soup sessions in Kingston, Jamaica, and yes, it's Taylor playing guitar. It has a reggae-like feel to it backed by Sonny Rollins on saxophone. Richards and Ronnie Wood provide a nice vocal harmony on the chorus, which was their only contribution to the song.

"Moonlight Mile" from Sticky Fingers

This song about life on the road, away from friends and family is another of those famously under-appreciated Stones songs. It wasn't even released as a single from the album, but it's an amazing number that builds and builds until it reaches the ending crescendo with Jagger belting out "Yeah I'm going home, cause I'm just about a moonlight mile on down the road". It's yet another song said to be co-written by Mick Taylor.