Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Darn Floor ~ Big Bite

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daniel amos darn floor big biteDANIEL AMOS
Darn Floor ~ Big Bite
Alarma
1987

The eight studio release for Daniel Amos – and also the final release of theirs in the 1980s – Darn Floor ~ Big Bite finds the band’s music going back to a more guitar-driven sound. The title, of course, is famously derived from an incident with Koko the gorilla, who was trained to understand limited amounts of American sign language. After an earthquake, Koko reacted by signing, “Darn darn floor bad bite. Trouble trouble.” So, the band used this as a way to highlight mankind’s oft-inadequate attempts to describe God.*

That previous bit of information is always included in pretty much every review I’ve read on this album; however, my friend Terry Glenn was the first one to inform me of this, and was far more entertaining in the delivery. Anyway…

The album starts with the song “Return Of The Beat Menace”, which seems to be it’s angriest song on the record. Not “angry” as in “loud and grating”, but more to do with the lyrics married with the more driven pace and guitar hook of the song. Like they had a bit of something to say about certain criticisms being lobbied at them. Or something. It’s a good song to kick things off, regardless. “Strange Animals” takes things back to a normal – for Daniel Amos, anyway – pace with a nice jangle pop hook; the title track “Darn Floor~Big Bite” is a bit darker, but has a good bass hook at the beginning before it settles into a nice groove; “Earth Household” continues things with a slower pace, one of those not quote a ballad, but with a dark, kinda Peter Gabriel style going on; “Safty Net” picks things up with a faster, punkish pace and an Elvis Costello kind of hook and an interesting guitar riff; “Pictures Of The Gone World” is upbeat yet melancholy, with a waltz beat and a more avant gard style; “Divine Instant” is more of a psychedelic, slide guitar, kind of Chris Issac style song; “Half Light, Epoch, And Phase” guitar style reminiscent of The Edge from U2; “The Unattainable Earth” has a nice psychadelic, dreamy hook with a good guitar progression; and “The Shape Of Air” ends the album with a lush, psychadelic ballad, not too bad there.

Overall, I found Darn Floor~Big Bite to be a very good, very multi-textured and very smart collection of gutiar-based alternative rock put out by a band that, by now, you would expect nothing less from, regardless of how modified they make their moniker. Listening to this was a pleasure, and probably one of my top favorites from Daniel Amos. I really do prefer the guitar based stuff rather than the keyboard and synth based stuff, but they never seem to disappoint no matter what they do. Recommended.

[* = while it doesn’t pertain to the album itself, I did play this in its entirety the night I learned of the recent death of Koko…rest in peace, pretty girl]

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Music Review: SCARLET – Scarlet

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scarletSCARLET
Scarlet
FnA Records
2010

Hey, look. Just what we need. More obscure hair metal from the 1980s getting re-released in the second decade of the 21st Century. In this case, it’s the band Scarlet, a band that hailed from Florida in the mid-1980s, and recorded nine demo songs before calling it quits in 1988. The band and their demos remained obscure until FnA Records released all nine songs on CD in 2010. And since I’m a sucker for things like this, let’s review this thing, shall we?

The very first cut on this collection, “Right Reason”, more or less gives you an overall scope of what to expect, with a really good, driving hook and riff that’s on the upbeat hard rocking metal side of things, with vocals that go for melodic but are really in need of some vocal lessons to tune things up, with the lyrics going for the standard generic “rock for the Rock” cheese that seemed to be the standard for underground Christian hair metal bands from the 80s. Ah, memories. “Lisa” is one of those not-quite-power-ballad type songs that is mid-paced and heavy, with a melodic chorus and featuring a decent shredding guitar solo. “Stop Runnin'” has a decent mid-paced riff and a good solo, but doesn’t really go much of anywhere beyond that. Kind of a forgettable track. “We’re Gonna Rock” is another upbeat, anthemic rocker with the cheesy “rock for the Rock” lyrics going.

It was about this time, as I was settling down and bracing for five more cuts of the same, when “Armor” began with an acoustic opening, but then I was surprisingly caught off guard when some blistering, high-octane NWOBHM style HEAVY METAL ripped my face off with something actually good in this collection. Wow. Nicely done, album. Nicely done. The problem was, this actually raised my hopes that the band was merely getting warmed up, with some better cuts following. Alas, this wasn’t the case, as “I Declare War” is decent, with a driving heavy riff, but with the sound quality not being the best, like the source got a bit damaged between then and when it was transferred to CD. “Treasure” is more of a bluesy metal style, and it’s noticeable that they changed vocalists with this one. Still rather sub-par in the vocals department. “Beginning” decides to shed the whole “metal” thing and goes with a radio-friendly janglepop style that couldn’t end fast enough. But then, the CD ends with “Friends”, which thankfully isn’t a cover of the Michael W. Smith tune, but unfortunately is a !POWER BALLAD ALERT! that’s song by another vocalist entirely, this one more of the female persuasion, that’s just grating on my nerves, and features lyrics that sounds like an angsty 12-year-old wrote them attempting a free-form association thing.

Overall, Scarlet is really more of a curiosity than a must-have in terms of obscure 80s metal. The bright spots to this is definitely the guitar work, which shows some raw talent that I hope the guitarist kept up with after the demise of the group. Otherwise, the production is sub-par, and the vocalist(s) are just annoying. One and done with this one. Pass.

Music Review: BASH-N-THE CODE – Big Mouth

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bash n the code big mouhBASH-N-THE CODE
Big Mouth
Myrrh
1988

And so, we come to the second release from the group Bash-N-The Code. Yeah, I was putting this one off deliberately, as they’re really more of the kind of 80s pop that I didn’t really care for, even back in the 1980s. But, somehow I came into possession of their first two releases — both on vinyl, if you can believe that. And thus, I am beheld to my vow to review everything. Everything. And the voices won’t go away until I’ve reviewed Big Mouth.

Stop looking at me like that. Anyway…

One thing I will give Big Mouth is, it really does sound like a produce of the era it was made. Released in 1988 on the Myrrh label, the album kicks off with the upbeat keyboard pop rock tune “The B-I-B-L-E”, something that immediately brings to mind the band The Jets: All upbeat, big keyboard and guitar hooks, and bright poppy male and female vocals. As we progress through the release, though, there are some variations to the music, at least — while “You Are The One” continues with the upbeat pop variety, there are some mid-paced, somber cuts with “Righteous Dance”, “He Says” (which is total CCM Radio bait), and “Fall Down” (which is the “edgiest” song on here, featuring a heavier guitar riff); the title track “Big Mouth” has an extremely upbeat Rockabilly style going with a decent guitar solo (and a high cheese factor), while “Soon And Very Soon” takes on a faux Caribbean flavor, complete with a steel drum solo at the end. And of course, what 80s pop rock album is complete without the obligatory raise-your-hands-and-experience-the-feels BALLAD ALERT!? There are two: “Use This Child” and official album closer “We Will Magnify You Lord (I Will Call Upon The Lord)”. And, in case all of this wasn’t enough, there’s an extended remix of “You Are The One”, which amounts to adding in bits where it sounds like the song is having a stroke.

The production is pretty good on this record, and I will admit that there are some good guitar work interwoven into the music. Like with their first album, I get the feeling that Bash-N-The Code was more or less created as one of those Christian-alternative-to-secular-counterpart type bands, given the overt and oftentimes cheesy lyrics employed. Then again, cheese was one of the main ingredients to 80s pop. Overall, Big Mouth isn’t bad, per se, it’s just not my cup of cheese.

Music Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS – Australian Metal Compilation: Godspeed

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australian metal compilation - godspeedVARIOUS ARTISTS
Australian Metal Compilation: Godspeed
Rowe Productions
1994

Back in 1994, Steve Rowe — the founder of the band Mortification — started up his own indie label named Rowe Productions, as a means to help promote the underground Christian metal bands, not only in Australia, but all over the world. As such, the first release on the fledgling label was a rather ambitious compilation of Australian metal bands called Godspeed.

I purchased my copy back in 1997, at a much-missed record shop that specialized in Christian metal. I figured it was time to get about doing a proper review for this one, as I’ve already reviewed the second in the compilation series. Here goes, then…

Cry Mercy – “Shut Up And Listen”
Decent groove metal tune, good hook; this one seems slightly different than the version that appeared on their self-titled release…

Mortification – “Time Crusaders”
This is the studio version of the song that originally first appeared on the Live Planetarium release. This is the first time the studio version showed up, as it wasn’t included on the Blood World release, like “Symbiosis” did, for some reason. Anyway, good cut regardless…

Nu Humans – “Shattered”
Decent heavy metal cut, good riff, bit tinny on the production, but listenable…

Discarnated – “William Melancholy”
Melodic death metal with a pretty good groove and some doomy bits hither an yon, good cut…

Doxology – “Fight”
Melodic heavy metal with a good riff and decent, if muddled, production…

Deracination – “Fourth Dimension”
Rather good straight-forward death metal tune, from their four-song demo that came out after the full-length. You know, it’s really high time that and the four-song demo get the remaster/re-release treatment. But, I digress…

Harbinger – “The End Is Near”
good NWOBHM riff going, builds up to a rather good straight heavy metal cut…

Krioni – “Black”
Melodic metal cut, female vocals, bit of a poppish veneer to it. Catchy hooks, not too bad for what it is…

Screams Of Chaos – “Eyes Of Chaos”
Interesting industrial cover of the Light Force song. This was my first exposure to Screams Of Chaos, by the way, one of the better finds to grace my collection…

Beheadoth – “Mine Heart Doth Beseech Thee (O Master)”
This cut is actually an early incarnation of the better-known Black Metal project Horde. This song is in keeping with the blistering, face melting second wave Black Metal sound, and is one of the best cuts on this compilation…

Rockin’ Rabbies – “Be Alert”
Representing the quirky hardcore punk genre is Rockin’ Rabbies. The sound is befitting the name, really, as it’s straight forward and snotty…

Embodyment – “Dishallowent Grounds”
Not to be confused with the American post-hardcore band Embodyment, this Australian Embodyment (they would go on to change the “y” to an “i” later) features a doomy death metal cut that is pretty good…

Justice – “Proven Infallible”
Straight-forward hard rock cut, good hook and riff going, but rather bland in the execution…

Metanoia – “Ripped In Two”
Really good Death Metal cut, originally from the Screaming Fetus demo; this also was my first exposure to this great Death Metal band, who fortunately didn’t just release one full-length like Deracination and Discarnated did…

Ignite – “Sanctuary”
Now, this is a good doom metal cut, with a raw and heavy groove and baritone vocals…

Thrash Puppies – “Fastest Song In The World”
Crossover thrash, again with the interesting name choices. This one is decent, if a little standard, if you get what I’m saying, here…

Rosanna’s Raiders – “Mr. Magic”
And ending the compilation with something of a wet splat is this early cut from Rosanna’s Raiders, which is an odd addition to the collection, as the band was more commercial rock than actual metal, per se. Regardless, kind of a weak cut to go out on…

So, here we are. For a compilation, it’s a pretty decent collection, running a good portion of the Metal spectrum with the styles and genres represented on here. For the most part, there’s nothing too bad with the production quality with each song, as I think Steve just took the songs directly from the demos and didn’t do much tweaking. But, I could be wrong about that. Overall, the Godspeed collection is something to get for the fact that there are some good rare cuts on here, including the first instance of Mortification’s “Time Crusaders” studio cut, with only a couple of cuts I’d skip over.

Music Review: XL & DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR – Offensive Truth vol. 1+2

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xl & death before dishonor - offensive truth vol 1xl & death before dishonor - offensive truth vol 2

XL & DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR
Offensive Truth vol. 1+2
Independent
2016

XL & Death Before Dishonor. They are one of those bands that sadly never got the respect they more than deserved back in the day. They released their debut album, Sodom And America, in 1993, but instead of being recognized for being the genuine article as far as the burgeoning Rap/Rock hybrid that was emerging in the very early 1990s (before it got lumped in with the Nu Metal tag later in the decade), they kind of got lost on the wayside, while bands like Pillar and Payable On Death got more attention. Fortunately, main man XL kept busy, releasing other albums quietly both with DBD and as a solo artist. Then, in 2016, the group released a double album entitled Offensive Truth vol. 1 and vol. 2.

In case you’re not familiar with XL & Death Before Dishonor, and thinking they’re just another P. O. D. wannabe band…no. You can maybe say they’re a Rage Against The Machine clone, but they were contemporaries, releasing their debut a year after Rage released theirs. However, I would say, if you want to make a more apt comparison, Body Count is closer to the mark. Regardless, XL& DBD is awesome. So, enough of that, and on to the album. Or albums, as it were.

Vol. 1 opens with “In Need Of Therapy”, a nice rocking track with an infectious hook and groove, and a catchy melodic chorus, and you realize that XL & DBD haven’t skipped a beat, in a manner of speaking. The music is heavy, but has a variety going with hardcore, metal, rock and funk grooves that keeps things from going stale. Vol. 2 continues on with this, giving us 20 solid tracks of rap/rock hybrid that will get your head bopping along, no matter what the speed.

Mind you, XL and the gang are talented enough as it is (a fact pointed out in “Yeah, I Know Right”). What makes this double album even more awesome is some guest spots by Deliverance main guy Jimmy P. Brown II (“Devastated”, “The Wilderness”, “Daddy’s Too Friendly” and “Corporate Elite”), Oz Fox from Stryper (“Best Friend, Worst Enemy”), musical Jack of all trades, but remembered most from Poor Old Lu., Jesse Sprinkle (“Because Of This”), Crucified guitarist and Applehead guy Greg Minier (“Rapist”), the guy from Crystal Lewis’ band, Joel Goodwin (“The Wrath To Come”), Whitecross and King James guitarist Rex Carroll (“Methamphetamine”) and Jim Chaffon from The Crucified and The Blamed, among others (“My Hour Of Desperation”). Also, there’s a redux of the song “Armed For Battle”, which was originally from their sophomore release, Live From Nineveh, another release there’s hardly any information about online. Trust me, it exists.

Bottom line, if you happen to be one of the people who picked up Sodom And America and wore that down to a nub, here’s two more that you’re going to love. If P. O. D. is your only idea of rap rock nu metal whatever with a Christian message, you really need to pick up Offensive Truth vol. 1+2. They don’t mess around or mince words. Which…okay, I’m beginning to see why maybe these guys didn’t catch on to your standard CCM crowd. Highly recommended.

Music Review: DANIEL BAND – Running Out Of Time

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daniel band - running out of timeDANIEL BAND
Running Out Of Time
Refuge Records
1987

The Daniel Band’s fifth and final studio release before going on what they called an “indefinite hiatus” (meaning they didn’t technically break up as a band, and while they’ve reunited a handful of times for one-off shows from time to time, for all intents and purposes the band was put on the back-burner while everyone lived their lives), Running Out Of Time is the album that I’ve heard others refer to as not their best. And certainly the 80s collage style cover art didn’t help much for first impressions. But, being of the type to have to hear it before forming an opinion on an album, I gave it a good listen. Is Running Out Of Time a weak album? Or does it hold up?

The album starts off rather well, with the nice, heavy guitar-driven anthem “Black Or White”. It’s a fist-pumper, for sure. This is followed by a pretty good, solid mid-paced hard rock cut, “Sins Of The Heart”, which reminds me of Dokken in their prime, heavy and melodic. Following this, though, we get a couple of breaks in the momentum–“Hold On”, which is a synth-heavy commercial rock cut that does have a decent hook and a good guitar solo, and “Long Time” which is a power ballad, but not the sappy kind. It’s dark, with a heavy riff in the bridge. We venture once again into a tasty heavy blues rock cut with the hilariously titled “Party In Heaven” (the title of which seems to trigger aneurysms in a lot of the anti-Christian Rock articles I come across online), which is followed by another nice heavy rocker “We Need Love”, and the galloping riff-heavy “Greedy Little Hands” giving us a one-two-three punch of heavier rock, before moving into a more commercial and bright “Things Are Changin'”. The album ends on the title track, “Running Out Of Time”, which is a heavy, dark mid-paced rocker, with a great guitar riff and leads.

So, overall, after listening to the entirety of Running Out Of Time, I’m wondering again why this one is considered a weak album. Maybe in comparison to the previous Daniel Band releases, I can see the argument. If you’ve just come off of listening to, say, Rise Up or Run From The Darkness before popping this on, Running Out Of Time may come off as a bit more commercial sounding to your hard rockin’ tastes. And the original production work certainly doesn’t help matters very much, I do admit. However, when comparing this to other commercial CCM Rock records, or even mainstream commercial rock at the time, Running Out Of Time has an edge over the others. Also, Retroactive Records did a good job remixing the production with their 2012 reissue. The only real complaint I have with Running Out Of Time is the cover art. It’s more New Wave pop than what’s represented on this album. But, again, very minor quibble. Gonna have to go with recommended on this one as well.

Music Review: DANIEL BAND – Rise Up

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daniel band rise upDANIEL BAND
Rise Up
Refuge Records
1986

So far, the Daniel Band has been pretty consistent with the rocking of our faces off, giving us some pretty good solid releases with some fantastic riffs and cuts going on. It’s been a pleasant surprise going through their back catalog. How do they fare with their fourth album, Rise Up? Let’s find out.

The album starts off by immediately giving you whiplash with the hard and heavy “Bethel”, which is pretty metal, and is a great way to kick things off, methinks. Can they keep up the momentum, though? Well, the next cut after this is “Rise Up”, which is the second Daniel Band song that I heard on a compilation years before I began actively checking the band out. This is another radio-friendly rock cut, a bit more anthemic, decent riff and all. Still, I wasn’t impressed enough to listen to more at the time. And following the bombast of the opening song, this maybe takes the winds out of the sails a bit too soon. Not a bad song, mind, just maybe should have positioned it somewhere in the middle of the album, title track or no.

We get back on track with “Don’t Walk Away”, a nice heavy mid-paced cut that begs to be cranked up. “Paradise” is a melancholy sounding power ballad, and…yeah, I rather like this. It’s very much in keeping with the time of the release, with the kind of power balladeering the contemporary rock bands were doing on the radio. “Fight Back” made me think immediately of fellow Canadian rocker Aldo Nova, what with the keyboard riff on this cut. Not bad at all. “Call His Name” is another great hard rocking anthem, heavy and made me think of W.A.S.P., believe it or not, and the momentum is kept going with the appropriately titled “Rock You”, a thick n’ meaty hard rock anthem that, again, begs to be cranked in the car stereo whilst driving. After this, though, we get “My Children”, another power ballad that starts off in tricking you into thinking this is one of those sappy types that goes for the feels, but right when you’re beginning to reach for the barf bag, in comes the power chord, and things get marginally better. The final cut on the album, “Right Heart”, ends things with another mid-paced radio-friendly rock song. Given the fact that Daniel Band has demonstrated the ability to rock hard with some of the greats, this last song kind of give you a “meh” shrug.

So, overall, I would say that Rise Up is a good album, leaning towards very good. It’s got a very decent amount of hard rockers I’ve come to love from the band, along with a couple of radio friendly rockers and a couple of power ballads that, while they’re far better than a lot of general CCM balladeering that was being released at the time, are still ballads. If that’s your thing, great; I just tend to lead more toward the heavier stuff on the album. Very much worth checking out.

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