Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Look Back at Hear 'n Aid's Stars

Everyone knows about Ronnie James Dio's stints in Rainbow and Sabbath as well as his solo band, but his charity work also runs deep in the core of his character. Formed in the mid-80s to serve as a heavy metal answer to "We Are The World" and bring the finest icons of the era together in the name of African famine relief, Hear 'n Aid is one of his more interesting examples of his generous spirit. As you would expect, "Stars" is an incredibly dated song but one that demands to be enjoyed for that very reason.

If I'm being perfectly honest, I must admit that "Stars" isn't that special in terms of its actual songwriting. It's pretty much a "Rainbow In The Dark" rewrite right down to using a similar song structure but trades the iconic keyboard line for a one line chorus enthusiastically shouted by every musician involved. It's still a pretty fun song and wouldn't have been out of place on The Last In Line or Sacred Heart, but it likely would've been seen as a solid filler track if Dio had been the only singer on it.

But like all the other mid-80s charity singles, the guest singers are what make this worthwhile. Whether they were all passionate about the project or Dio was just that good at writing vocal lines, each vocalist gives it his all even if it's just for a single line. Hearing Geoff Tate and Rob Halford belting this out in their prime is life affirming but even the guys like Don Dokken and Kevin Dubrow manage to sound pretty damn epic. Of course, this being an 80s metal venture does mean that the well known shredders of the time get to shine in an extended solo section. This idea's execution is a bit misguided as the seemingly endless soloing threatens to kill the momentum established by the stirring verses and and each one is rather hard to tell apart unless you're that familiar with each guitarist's technique. Yngwie Malmsteen and George Lynch's solos are predictably flashier than the rest and I'm enough of an Iron Maiden fanboy to recognize their duo's harmonizing (and enough of one to wonder what the hell Bruce Dickinson was doing at the time), but it's hard to sit through it all without the video telling which guitarist you're supposed to be amazed by at a given time. Thankfully the drum solos are just a topper before the last chorus and not another section...

A friend and I once debated what singers would be on a modern version of Hear 'n Aid but this project could've only happened when it did and is best appreciated as a relic of its time. The driving rhythm, guest singers, and even the guitarists' contributions make it mandatory for 80s metal nuts but the typical structure and dated feel make it hard to recommend to anyone else. It's a fun listen and I'd probably get a copy if it were ever re-released. Rest in peace, Ronnie, no modern tribute could ever be as fulfilling as jamming this cornball.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review of Nightwish's Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Plenty of bands are prone to airing out their dirty laundry but no other band makes theirs quite as dramatic as symphonic veterans Nightwish. After Forever/Revamp vocalist Floor Jansen has stepped in after Anette Olzon's unpleasant departure, Wintersun drummer Kai Hahto is filling in for an insomnia afflicted Jukka Nevalainen, and longtime session musician Troy Donockley has been recruited as a sixth official member. But amidst the Richard Dawkins cameos and Scrooge McDuck solo albums, Nightwish is staying consistent with Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

As expected with the member shifts, the band dynamic on this album moves away from the Olzon-era template and actually has more in common with Once or Century Child than anything else. The orchestra is still prominent but it does yield to the guitars and keyboards more often and even lets them take the melody on songs like "Edema Ruh." The lyrics also offer a different direction and are largely based around the ideas of Charles Darwin instead of the awkward childhood longing of keyboardist Tuomas Holopanien.

But at its core, the actual performances are still playing it safe. While Jansen is an amazing talent that represents the best of both worlds in a live environment, a very strict songwriting template prevents her from showing off and results in a performance that probably could've been executed by Tarja, Anette, or any woman with the ability to stay in key. Marco Heitala seems to have gotten similarly snubbed as his bass is less prominent than usual and his vocals aren't as common despite contributing to the songwriting more than before. The songwriting also generally sticks with familiar tropes; lead single "Elan" sounds like a composite of "Amaranth" and "Last of the Wilds," "Alpenglow" gives me brief "Ever Dream" flashbacks, and I keep expecting to hear "Dark Chest of Wonders" every time I hear "Shudder Before the Beautiful" and "Yours Is An Empty Hope."

But on the bright side, this album is a definite grower and takes more listens to get a feel for than any Nightwish album since the 90s. It is the band's most atmospheric effort to date, especially during "The Eyes of Sharbat Gula," and covers a broader spectrum of both heavier and mellower styles. The genre blending has become par for the course in recent years but it is starting to feel less gimmicky.

Overall, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is in a spot not unlike 2007's Dark Passion Play. The new lineup is experiencing some growing pains but provides a new or refreshing idea for every time it plays too safe. The songs are entertaining and I can't see the fanbase being too alienated by it after a couple attentive listens. I just hope we won't see another meltdown before this lineup gets the chance to improve...

"Shudder Before the Beautiful"
"Weak Fantasy"
"Yours Is An Empty Hope"
"Edema Ruh"

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Look Back At Mother Love Bone's Apple

Plenty of arguments have been made about how the deaths of such icons as Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain have changed the face of rock music, but I would argue that the loss of Mother Love Bone's Andrew Wood was one of the most severe yet overlooked in rock history. When Mother Love Bone was preparing to release its sole full-length album in 1990, grunge as the general public knows it did not exist. Pearl Jam wouldn't exist until after Wood's passing, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden were still opening for thrash metal bands, and Nirvana's seemingly imminent explosion was still a year away.

I don't think we would look at grunge the same way if Wood had lived long enough to see Apple get its due in the mainstream rock world. Perhaps the shift away from hair metal wouldn't have been so abrupt. Perhaps we would be calling bands like this "thinking man's glam." Perhaps the music of dirty flannel and rainy weather would've been seen as (gasp) fun! Whether you buy into this theory or not, you can't deny that Mother Love Bone put out a pretty damn good album during their all-too-brief run.

One thing that stands about this band is how they pulled from a wide variety of influences and came up with an eerily familiar sound in hindsight. Since most of the instrumentalists here soon ended up in Pearl Jam and Temple Of The Dog, it makes sense that this would have a lot in common with those two though the exotic tone and the theatrical vocals parallel what Soundgarden had done on Louder Than Love the year before. There's also a good degree of 70s rock influence on the singalong choruses and smooth balladry.

While grunge wasn't always a down in the dumps genre, Mother Love Bone's sense of fun was much more genuine than most of their peers. While guys like Chris Cornell and Layne Staley showed their less serious sides with sneered jokes or over the top bravado, Wood has an almost impish quality similar to Robert Plant or Freddie Mercury. His voice is charismatic yet still not trying to intimidate the listener during the album's less conventional moments. The great songwriting also helps as the choruses on "Stardog Champion" and "Holy Roller" will be in your head for days while "Crown of Thorns" has a somber air that is more relaxed or world-weary than truly downtrodden.

Of course, this album isn't quite perfect. You won't find a less than above average song on here but the classic 90s problem of having too many songs does mean that the second half runs together at times. In addition, it has its variety but its consistency does mean that you won't see too many Superunknown-style experiments on here. I suppose that's another element to think about when one considers how much further they could've gone...

Albums like Dirt and Nevermind may be what everyone associates with grunge but it is truly mind boggling to imagine how it'd be seen if Apple had gotten its due. It offers a different sound when compared to the cliche and those put off by the dreary aesthetics may find this more appealing. But even if you don't buy into alternate history, it's just as great as the classics and has plenty of great songs that are worth checking out. A lot of great things came from Mother Love Bone but it's a damn shame they didn't have more time...

"Stardog Champion"
"Holy Roller"
"Man of Golden Words"
"Crown of Thorns"

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Local Love: Review of Thorr-Axe's Gates of Winter

It's been a good four years since Thorr-Axe put out their full-length debut, Wall of Spears. The Bloomington, Indiana band has recently expanded from a trio to a quartet and a few side projects developed between releases may have resulted in a few stylistic modifications. Either way, Gates of Winter is a pretty ambitious sophomore effort that showcases an interesting evolution.

In a way similar to the jump between Kill 'Em All and Ride The Lightning, Thorr-Axe sounds much more mature on this album in comparison to its predecessor. The overall sound is still rooted in sludgy High on Fire worship but the guitar tone is stronger and the Eyehategod recalling shrieks have more power this time around. Even the lyrics have a clearer sense of purpose than before; they still consist of North mythology but the definitive storyline at work does make it more intriguing.

Gates of Winter also sets itself apart by its more prominent black metal influence though it isn't used in the way one would really think with that description. You'll find a lot of tremolo picking and harsher vocals but the inspiration is based more on the blackgaze and post metal variants than any serious brutality. This results in a more dynamic and melancholic sound comparable to a doomier Chrome Waves. This is most evident on the closing "Intermission" and "Awakening" as the former consists of a spoken word dirge while the latter packs in a lot of building riffs and emotions over its fourteen minute duration.

Speaking of closing, the album is also one of the rare efforts that has its strongest songs in the album's second half. "Open The Gates" does make for a powerful instrumental opener and "The Seer's Vision" has a commanding attitude, but the bass heavy doom of "The Foraging Ritual" is where things really start to shine. From there, "Descent" utilizes the extreme influences well and the punctuated beats on the title track are quite memorable.

I may personally consider Walls of Spears and Gates of Winter to be about equally matched in quality, but Thorr-Axe's sophomore effort is the one that is sure to leave the deeper impression. You won't find a song as catchy as "The Island" or "Dragon King," but you will find an album with more ambitious compositions, a more unique incorporation of influences, and a more seasoned group of musicians. And since there are weirdos out there who prefer Master of Puppets over Ride The Lightning, that can only mean the band has something even greater in store for the future...

"Open The Gates"
"The Foraging Ritual"
"Gates of Winter"

Sunday, January 18, 2015

On the Art of. . . Art

Why is it such a chore to create a piece of art? It is something that everyone aspires to do but you find so many people who seem to be content with using the artist's title as a status symbol or identifier rather than anything truly productive. But then there are the people that actually do try to give life to the ideas that fill their heads, only to be confronted with paralysis when they think about the possibility of their art not being adequate. Or they simply just don't know where to start. You can outline and plan structures all you want but sometimes the natural reaction to the possibility of doing anything at all is to do nothing. Why do you think I still go to record stores when every album that has ever been made is right here ready to be downloaded?

No one likes a Magical Barefoot Poser, Mr. Duck
I have been guilty of both approaches, which one more so seems to depend on which medium I am working with at the time. Thankfully I am consistent with my music writing and band affairs, but it's been a year or two since I seriously addressed my fiction and even longer since I tried to get some honest to God drawing done. There is something to be said for fluctuating interests but sometimes I think it has more to do with being afraid of churning out a bunch of crap. But why?

I don't want to say that I didn't have great expectations for myself when I was younger but I still enjoyed writing or drawing even when I was at my most miserable or if the end result wasn't what I wanted. I spent many hours as a teenager composing hundreds of lyrics not knowing where they would end up as the albums that inspired them played endlessly in the background. I actually have used a few of them as an adult and have plans for a couple others; the rest are in the landfill a few feet away from where they found those old Atari games.

And a shit-ton of Vogon poetry
I don't think I ever expected to become famous then and there, but that didn't stop me from giving the entirety of my junior high school experience to the comics I was drawing back then. Sure, I can judge plenty of it and rule it as either good or crap (Or apparently both, as my roommate thinks my old comics are masterpieces of adolescent surrealism), but should I really base what I make in the present or future on how I or someone else will see it?

Art is something that should be made for its own sake with no expectations or regards for any temporal context. Even if you are one of the lucky bastards who has actual people expecting a certain quality from each piece you create, not every piece should be created with their conceptions in mind. Even if the piece you make will never used beyond its composition, the process of making it was still more rewarding and exhilarating than refreshing your Facebook feed for the tenth time in two minutes would be. It would've been nice to have friends to hang out with back then but I don't regret the time I spent in that spiral notebook madness. Your mind sees it as work and you will be exhausted by the end of it, but the feeling you'll have in your head and fingers will be not unlike the best sex you've ever had.

I shouldn't make too many promises but I really do need to create more, even if it's just making random posts like this one when my brain won't shut up. I need to be free of the paralysis that everyone faces and do just everything without the fear of how it will be perceived. Even in the likely event that no one will give a shit about the album that my band is set to release this spring, it will still be there when I die and will still be the greatest thing I've ever done until the next one I'm a part of. It is way more interesting to find a laptop with fifty Word documents full of unpublished fiction than it is to find the same laptop with no files and a soon to be deleted browsing history. Of course, this is also being published on my public blog where there is a remote chance of other people seeing it. You decide how much of a hypocrite that makes me.
I will try, Batman. I will try.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2014

I don't think 2014 was exactly a mind-blowing year for music, but it was better than last year and did have some great moments. My jaded nature led me to miss out on a few established bands' new releases but I did also take the time to check a few out that I previously hadn't gotten around to. It seemed like a particularly good year for slower music as a steady stream of releases from Crowbar, Eyehategod, and the Melvins among others has led me to dub it as the "Summer of Sludge." And lastly, things are getting solid here in Indianapolis as our bands seem to be getting a bit more attention and more underground acts are deciding that this city might be a nice place to stop by while touring. So without further ado, let's take a gander at this year's cream of the crop starting with our honorable mentions!

-Primitive and Deadly by Earth
The latest album by Seattle's former drone legends may have been one of this year's biggest curve balls. While it falls in line with past albums, it is their first in decades to actually feature vocalists accompanying Dylan Carlson's western movie ambiance. The inclusion of the equally legendary Mark Lenegan on two tracks was what initially caught my interest but Rabia Shaheen Qazi's awe-inspiring performance on "From the Zodiacal Light" was what really won me over. I really hope they keep this idea going on future efforts as it is an experimental move for them that really paid off.

-John Garcia by John Garcia
While many artists who release solo albums tend to do it out of a desire to write more or to pursue a sound they ordinarily can't, there is also a risk of just releasing a watered down version of their main band. Kyuss/Vista Chino frontman John Garcia's solo debut dances right along that line but does so in a way that is quite enjoyable. Songs like "The Blvd" and "5000 Miles" are surprisingly riffy for an album meant to show off a vocalist, but they work well and Garcia himself fits in with the variety on display. Still clamoring for a Vista Chino followup (or a Kyuss reunion) but this'll do.

-Catacombs of the Black Vatican by Black Label Society
I may lose some underground metal cred for having Black Label Society's latest opus on my list at all, let alone as an honorable mention, but I have to admit that this album is a pretty fun listen. A few songs still feel rather tacked on and Zakk Wylde's vocals are as processed as ever, but you'll find great grooves on "Believe" and "Beyond the Down" while "Angel of Mercy" and "Shades of Grey" prove to be his most sincere ballads in a good while. I also have to give props to "Empty Promises" as it may be the doomiest song he has ever put together. That in itself may be worth checking out, even if this sort of thing doesn't do it for ya.

-Blood In Blood Out by Exodus
I can't tell if it's the state of the scene or just my personal taste, but it doesn't seem like there were too many appealing thrash albums out this year. While Exodus's tenth album isn't on the same level as Bonded by Blood or even Tempo of the Damned, it has rectified a few of the band's most recent flaws as classic vocalist Steve Sousa is back in and the songs aren't trying as hard to be epic for the sake of it. They even manage to get some guests in on the fun as "BTK" features some solid backing roars by Testament's Chuck Billy while "Salt The Wound" has a solo courtesy of former guitarist Kirk Hammett. Think he's getting tired of his day job yet?

-IV.I.VIII. by Coffinworm
 Coffinworm's second full-length is an excellent slice of blackened sludge though I admit that it's one of my more overlooked highlights this year. It is an overwhelmingly oppressive release and definitely takes a number of listens to get a feel for, but it showcases a lot of different moods and tempos over its six song run. "Lust Vs. Vengeance" is probably the most memorable track of the lot thanks to its contrasts between harsh vocal punctuations and catchy melodic flourishes though "Instant Death Syndrome" has a haunting waltz and "Black Tears" rides a powerful dirge throughout. I do wish they played live more often but they're definitely in a position where they can pick and choose from the best offers out there.

10) Bled White by Novembers Doom
Novembers Doom has always been that band whose albums I consistently enjoy but seem to get overshadowed by other bands in their genre when it comes to putting these lists together. This album has a few more songs than usual but there aren't really any filler tracks to be found. In addition, it manages to keep their emotional angles in tact as "Just Breathe" and "The Memory Room" have their distinct somber edge while the lyrics on "Heartfelt" manage to be incredibly pissed off while still retaining their sense of class.

9) To Be Kind by Swans
As a musician and music listener, I am both impressed and terrified by Michael Gira. To follow 2012's The Seer, a monolithic double album, with yet another monolithic double album is an incredibly ballsy move that wouldn't have worked in anyone else's hands but I just might like this one more. To Be Kind is a bit more straightforward than its predecessor if the riff-driven songs such as "A Little God In my Hands" and "Oxygen" are anything to go by, but the ambient drones are still prominent and unsettling as ever. Like The Seer before it, it can be pretty self-indulgent at times (Did "Bring The Sun/Toussaint L'Ouverture" really need to be thirty-four minutes long?) but it shows that Mr. Gira still has a lot to prove in the late stage of his career.

8) Once More 'Round the Sun by Mastodon
After spending a good five albums trying out several different sounds, it seems like Mastodon just may have found their comfort zone. While The Hunter offered plenty of excellent moments, Once More 'Round the Sun feels like the true followup to Crack the Skye with its heavier guitar tone, more unified songwriting, and trickier arrangements. Of course, it still manages to be pretty damn catchy and the vocals, which were once the band's biggest shortcoming in their early days, really make the choruses on "Tread Lightly," "Ember City," and the twerk-tastic "The Motherload" that much stronger. Let's just see how much longer they hold out before the cries of selling out start pouring in...

7) For Those Which Are Asleep by The Skull
 I have a confession to make that may result in me having to turn in my doom card: I have never listened to a Trouble album. I really like what I've recently heard off Psalm 9 but I seemed to overlook them as a band while I was getting into the genre in favor of their fellow forerunners. Thankfully, I can attempt to rectify this by stating that The Skull, a new group that is basically just Trouble with a couple different guitarists, truly delivers the Trouble sound on their debut effort. It has a good mix of heaviness and melancholy and the songs on the second half such as "Send Judas Down" and the title track are particularly awesome. All in all, a great album that probably would've been even higher if I'd heard it earlier in the year and if the track listing had been switched around a bit more.

6) Pale Communion by Opeth
A lot of Opeth fans were put off by 2011's Heritage because it signified the band's ultimate abandonment of their death metal past in favor of prog rock; I was put off because the songwriting just wasn't that good. I wanted them to embrace their prog side for years but Mikael Akerfeldt's tendency to just shove random motifs together in hopes of getting a decent song just didn't seem to match his aspirations. Thankfully, Pale Communion is a dramatic improvement that shows the band making up for previous flaws. "Moon Above, Sun Below" and "River" encounter some tangents, but songs like "Eternal Rains Will Come" and "Goblin" show much more care being put into their compositions and they even got a catchy hook in "Cusp Of Eternity." Easily the best thing Opeth has done since Ghost Reveries, if not Damnation.

5) Slaves to the Grave by Rigor Mortis
Texas's own Rigor Mortis has easily been one of the biggest underdogs in thrash, if not the entire metal community. They reunited in the mid-2000s and were poised to make a comeback, only to have guitarist Mike Scaccia tragically pass away in 2012 shortly after finishing their first album in over twenty years. Thank the gods they managed to find the right support for this thing to see the light of day as it is one of the best thrash comebacks in this decade. While it doesn't have the same camp appeal or band dynamic as their essential debut, the band plays harder than the fellas half their age and there isn't a single Pantera-ism to be found amongst this fast paced onslaught. It's a shame Rigor Mortis's comeback turned out to be their swan song; I'll be hoping for good things if they decide to keep going as the Wizards of Gore.

4) Uno Dose by The Heavy Company
With only four original songs and live versions of songs from 2013's Midwest Electric, it might be questionable how much Uno Dose counts for this list. Either way, the Lafayette, Indiana trio puts on an excellent show that I feel bad for having not previously acknowledged before this year. Their brand of Lynyrd Skynyrd stoner rock is a joy to behold as the grit of the studio tracks actually don't make them sound too different from their live counterparts. I'd recommend giving "State Flag Blues" a listen as it shows just why this band is one of the strongest to come from the Crossroads of America in recent years.

3) Blood Eagle by Conan
Combining the bottom heavy crawl of Electric Wizard with the barbarism of High On Fire, Conan just might be the quintessential doom band today. With a name meant to imply the best of Robert E. Howard savagery, the band's approach is appropriately boneheaded as songs like "Crown of Talons" match drawn out riffs and minimalist shouts with a raw production job. Of course, they do show off a decent amount of variety as "Foehammer" is a borderline thrasher while "Gravity Chasm" and "Horns for Teeth" go in a more upbeat direction. I'm not sure if there will be much appeal for this outside of the doom community but you can't deny that it's heavy as all hell and makes for some dumb fun.

2) Of Woe and Wounds by Apostle of Solitude
With the unfortunate dissolution of The Gates of Slumber, I think that the title for best metal band in Indiana has been passed on to Apostle of Solitude. The group's third full-length album is a great demonstration of their talents as it offers some new elements while staying true to their classic doom roots. "Whore's Wings" and "This Mania" are some of the group's most upbeat songs to date, the addition of Devil to Pay's Steve Janiak leads to expanded vocal trade-offs, and you'd be hard pressed to find hooks in doom metal today that are catchier than those on "Good Riddance" and "Die Vicar Die." It felt like a long wait to get this out there but I think it was worth it and hope they get even more attention from the metal scene at large.

1) Melana Chasmata by Triptykon
I've noticed that every year I do these countdowns, I usually find my favorite at the beginning of the year and then see how everything that comes out after it will compare. While my experience with the greatness of Tom G Warrior is mostly limited to the earliest exploits of Celtic Frost, Triptykon's second album is not only the best album of 2014 but also one of the best I've ever heard. It has something for nearly every kind of metal fan as "Tree of Suffocating Souls" and "Breathing" offer death metal tempos, "Boleskine House" and "Altar of Deceit" deliver Candlemass-inspired doom, and "Aurorae" consists of a brooding goth rock jam. I also strongly recommend giving "Demon Pact" a listen as it is a legitimately spooky track that sounds like a horror movie scored by Michael Gira in the midst of a fever dream. I definitely need to explore this man's past works more extensively and hope to see even more greatness in the future. That said, I hope he also manages to get himself some decent therapy...

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Look Back at Rebel Meets Rebel

Consisting of country legend David Allan Coe alongside the instrumentalists from Pantera, Rebel Meets Rebel is an example of a project that should've gotten more attention from its creators as well as from its fans. Recorded shortly after the Reinventing the Steel sessions and seemingly forgotten until its 2006 release, their sole studio album is one of the rare examples I've seen of a band attempting to combine heavy metal with old school country music. It may not be a timeless masterpiece but it does show a group of musicians bringing the best out of one another in a promising environment.

If there's one thing I've noticed about the guys in Pantera, it's that they've always catered their sound to whoever was singing for them. They played hair metal with original frontman Terry Glaze, their famous run with Phil Anselmo saw influences from sludge and hardcore overtake their sound, and even the song they recorded with Rob Halford on the mic just sounds more like a Fight outtake with Dimebag Darrell's guitar tone than anything off of Vulgar Display of Power. While these chameleon-like tendencies may have led some to call their integrity into question, it seems to especially work in their favor when this collaboration is concerned.

Coe may have only provided lyrics and vocals to the Abbott brothers' musical compositions but his presence definitely leads to the musicians approaching their instruments from different angles while still keeping true to their core elements. Dimebag's guitar leads often have a noticeable twang, his riffs have a bright tone even when they provide their signature crunch, Rex's Brown bass stands out a little more than before, Vinnie Paul trades his heavy double bass in for more traditional drum beats, and flourishes of piano, fiddle, and acoustic guitar lend the songs a sense of credibility that you don't see as much in your typical southern metal band. As expected, Coe's vocals definitely aren't a source of technical prowess in their old age but his unwavering howl does give the songs a sense of structure that they wouldn't have had under the command of Anselmo's often directionless ranting.

Speaking of structure, the songwriting on this album is also at a different level than the band members' past projects and successfully combines their natural heaviness with a sense of accessibility. The album starts off on its fastest note as "Nothin' to Lose" features some great guitar/vocal contrasts set to an unwavering drum beat, the title track and "One Night Stands" are rock romps in the vein of Motorhead and ZZ Top with the former's trade-offs between Coe and Dimebag emulating "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers," songs like "Cowboys Do More Dope" and "Get Outta My Life" bring in mid-tempo attitudes, and you'll find even slower tempos and more melodic flourishes on "Heart Worn Highway" and "Arizona Rivers." Unfortunately, the album does dip a bit in quality after the tribal stomp of "Cherokee Cry" with "N.Y.C. Streets" in particular sounding like it was put together at the last minute.

Sometimes I wonder what things would be like now if Rebel Meets Rebel had been the group on tour in 2004 instead of Damageplan. This album may have a couple fillers towards the end, but it is a really fun listen that never sounds too forced and leaves a lot of room for potential that was sadly never realized. It would've been great to see these guys get more comfortable with each other on further installments and perhaps even take deeper dives into traditional country and blues structures. I get the feeling that it'd be a lot less awkward than the southern tripe that Vinnie Paul has been coasting on with Hellyeah...

R.I.P. Dimebag.

"Nothin' to Lose"
"Rebel Meets Rebel"
"Cowboys Do More Dope"
"One Night Stands"
"Cherokee Cry"