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The Bob Holz Band-"Higher Than The Clouds"-2012

Bob Holz is a drummer/vocalist/composer with a resume that would be the envy of ANY musician. Having attended the Berklee School of Music aa well as studying with Dave Weckl, Billy Cobham and Clayton Cameron, Bob has performed and recorded with artists as varied as The Paul Case Band, Kentucky Moon, Cold Sweat, Roosevelt Dean Band, Dr. Killdean, Big D and Tasty Café, Spider Murphy, Albany's Tom Healey Band and many others. He`s also shared the stage with the likes of Peter Tosh, The Outlaws, Mountain, Noel Redding, Robben Ford, Foghat, Molly Hatchet, Head East, and Benny Mardones, to name a few. Yours truly had the good fortune to work with Bob on a recent recording session, so I know first hand what Bob is capable of. "Higher Than The Clouds" is the first CD from The Bob Holz Band, featuring 10 tracks that run the gamut from Heavy Blues Rock to Psychedelia. The album is a collaborative effort between Bob and three time Grammy nominee Frank Stepanek, who plays Bass, keyboards and supplies vocals for one track, "She Can Go Free". "Higher Than The Clouds" is an excellent showcase for Bobs` technical abilities, vocals and compositional skills, all of which are on fine display here! Far from being a collection of clinical, this-is-what-I-can-do throwaway tracks, this album is all about SONGS, and obviously much thought and care was put into each and ever cut. Among my personal favorites are "All That I Need", the title track [both of which remind me of Joe Walsh], the Hendrix-styled "Across The Sky", "Steel Train", the Rockin` "Rider" and "Spanish Plains". All in all, this is a first rate debut from one of the best in the business. You can make sure Bob Holz and other talented artists remain in the business by purchasing their albums, merchandise, etc. Go to Bob`s website for more information; tell him I sent ya!!

The Bob Holz Band
The Bob Holz Band @ CD Baby

Ghost Tower-"Head Of Night"-2012

Third time`s the charm for Old School Metalers` Ghost Tower! "Head Of Night" is album Number Three from the Bellevue, Nebraska trio of Matt Preston [Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, backing Vocals], Ameven [Vocals] and Mike Biggs [Drums]; it`s also their most realized to date. Though they tend to be filed under the Doom category, the sound is very much rooted in the early `Eighties Metal, with a touch of NWOBHM thrown in for good measure. Thematically, Ghost Tower haven`t strayed too far from their previous outings; the spooky feel, and dark song structures that is the bands` signature is still present. Much of the CD was recorded in Matt`s living room with one condenser microphone, and all track were later mixed there. [Thanks to Matt for the technical info!:)] This approach gives "Head Of Night" a more direct, heavier and amped up sound, which is really the best approach for this genre; clean and pristine just won`t cut it. But the song writing is what counts, and the band has once again written some great ones; "Ninth Tooth of the Gravekeeper's Grin", "Island of All-Knowing Eyes", "Secret of Black Moss Lake" are just a few examples. Ghost Tower isn`t simply "Old School" for the sake of being "Old School"; this is what they love, and they apply their considerable talents within this framework. The results speak very loudly for themselves! Got to Ghost Tower`s My Space page for more information on ordering "Head Of Night"; we need to make sure they continue to release such high quality Metal for many years to come! Horns up for this one! [Thanks to Matt Preston for the review copy!\m/

Ghost Tower @ My Space

"Airs-A Rock Opera"-2012

"Airs-A Rock Opera" is, well, a Rock Opera! It is the brainchild of musician/composer/cool guy Steve Brockmann and writer George Andrade. "Airs" is a sprawling 18-song affair concerning a character named Owen Doane. It is an ambitious piece dealing with far reaching themes of guilt, loss and redemption, though it`s not as simplistic as it sounds. Quite frankly, most "Rock Operas" leave me cold, as they usually deal in cosmic themes that require large quantities of pharmaceuticals to appreciate. Not so with this one! In fact, the album deals with honest, human emotions and issues that we all can relate to, thus ensuring a much broader appeal. Steve and George have enlisted an impressive list of guest musicians, as well as several vocalists to portray the different characters. Musically, Steves` approach is in the vein of `70s` Prog; hints of Kansas and early Styx abound, though he throws some straight up Metal into the mix when appropriate. His guitarwork is especially impressive, and he displays equal facility in several styles. The arrangements are neither pompous nor over-wrought, a common failing on most Rock Operas. Steve resists the temptation to overplay; everything has its` place and a purpose for being where it is, a testament to Steve`s compositional skills. Best of all, each track can stand on its` own although it`s difficult to point to a favorite; "Heritage", "Annabelle" and "Grounded II" stand out in my mind at the moment. A massive undertaking such as this would doubtless fall apart in lesser hands, but all the players in this project bring the narrative vividly to life, and really make the listener care about Owen Doane`s plight. This one Rock Opera that is definitely NOT putting on any "airs"! Surely one of the most original albums to come down the pike in a long time, "Airs-A Rock Opera" will open the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of listeners no matter what their genre of choice might be! One of 2012s` best! [Special thanks to Steve Brockmann for the review copy; cheers, bro!]

Airs-A Rock Opera

UFO-"Seven Deadly"-2012

More than 40 years and UFO are STILL at it! Like Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and other bands who were performing when The Beatles were still officially together,UFO refuse to go the safe, easy route. You know, keep releasing a dozen "Best Of" albums, a couple of live "Greatest Hits" DVDs`, a few tours featuring their most popular albums played in their entirety live. A very lazy, Las Vegas attitude towards their own legacy and Rock & Roll in general, sure to huge reap financial rewards [not that there`s anything wrong with that] while registering a big fat zero in the creativity department. Fortunately, Heep, Purple, and UFO have released high quality original material for many years now, and the latters` latest CD, "Seven Deadly" is yet more proof that they ain`t ready to be put to pasture! Featuring long timers Phil Mogg [vocals], Andy Parker [Drums], Paul Raymond [Keyboards/Rhythm Guitars], the album continues in the vein of 2010s` "The Visitor". The new disc also shows that guitar slinger Vinne Moores` induction into the band nearly 10 years ago was one of the best moves they ever made. He`s all over the album, in terms of guitar playing and songwriting. Check out his soloing in the charging Rocker "Wonderland", easily one of the best tracks. Of course, Moggs` voice has always been UFOs` most recognizable trait, and he is fine form on every cut. And no one writes lyrics like Phil Mogg; lyrics rife with tales of broken hearts, back alleys bars and the streets where the lonely walk. Overall, the band has never sounded better, and "Seven Deadly" reminds me quite a bit of UFOs` "The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent" and "Mechanix" era. Top cuts include "Wonderland", "Angel Station", the Bluesy "Year Of The Gun", the Texas-styled Rocker "The Last Stone Rider", "Steal Yourself", the Stones-like "Burn Your House Down", or the heartfelt "Waving Good Bye". Try to get the LTD ED digipack version of this album, as you`ll get two bonus tracks; "Other Men`s Wives", a Hendrix influenced Blues Rocker, and "Bag Full Of Blues" which consists of just Mogg singing and Raymond tickling the ivories in true Honky Tonk fashion. A winner from start to finish, "Seven Deadly" is yet another fine addition to a massive and highly influencial body of work from a band who obviously have no intention of turning into Hard Rock relics anytime soon; thank God for that! One of the years best!!


Battle Beast-"Steel"-2012

Usually when confronted with a band steeped in the Old School Eighties Metal sound, many people complain how "unoriginal" it is, whether it`s good or not. Such might be the case with Finnish 6-piece Battle Beast, who are most definitely Old School. Original? Not quite. Good? Actually, GREAT! "Steel" is the groups debut, and they make no bones about who influenced them, they flaunt `em loud `n` proud. Unlike many modern day Old School Metallers who are content to raid Helloweens closet, Battle Beast leans more towards the German and US end of the spectrum, and it appears that they gave Accepts` first few albums more than a cursory listen. One listen to the kick off track "Enter The Metal World" makes this obvious; a stomping riff-fest with a great chorus. Vocalist Natte Valo is a total powerhouse, reminding at times of Veronica Freeman and Ann Boleyn, and her voice gives BB an extra edge over their many peers. Fact is the whole band are top class players, as can be heard on, well, every track; "Armageddon Clan", "Band Of The Hawk", "Justice And Metal", the stellar "Die-Hard Warrior", "Cyber Space", and "Show Me How To Die", which is my personal favorite. On this track, Natte sounds like a Female Udo and the song is definitely the best track on a disc loaded with great tracks! "Savage And Saint" is a power ballad with the emphasis on "power", while "Iron Hand" is just epic Metal through and through. "Victory" features Guitarist Anton Kabanen [sounding not a little like Ravens`John Gallagher] sharing vocal duties with Natte, and this tune, along with the bonus track "Stay Black" [Kabanen also contributes vocals here] finds the band back in Accept territory. They do a damn good job if it, too! "Steel" is one of those CDs` that literally screams "BUY ME!", and that`s JUST what you`re gonna do, trust me! Horns High on this one!!!\m/

Battle Beast
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