Anyone with a radio knows Jon Bon Jovi is one of the most phenomenally successful rock stars of all time.
Not so widely known are the inside stories behind the early ambition and rise to rock-n-roll riches that could only be told by those who were there.
In his soon-to-be released “Bon Jovi: The Story,” (due Nov. 1 through Sterling) veteran entertainment journalist Bryan Reesman interviews early Bon Jovi band mates and associates Jack Ponti, Wil Hercek, Bill Frank and Bruce Stephen Foster, among others.
We learn that Bon Jovi’s 1984 breakout hit “Runaway,” was co-written by New Jersey area musician George Karak and actually predates the band. We’re also informed that Aldo Nova played guitar on the single and sang backup vocals throughout Bon Jovi’s debut album (and remains a close friend and collaborator to this day) after the pair met at Manhattan’s famed Power Station Studios, owned by John’s second cousin Tony Bongiovi who hired the family’s aspiring rock star to fetch coffee and mop floors.
Other insights? Four of the five future Bon Jovi members were delivered by the same doctor in Perth Amboy, New Jersey; Bongiovi changed his name to Bon Jovi (and shortened John to Jon) in an attempt to emulate Van Halen; and, according to Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, only Jon was technically signed to Mercury Records. The rest of the band members were (and presumably still are?) hired guns.
YOUNG GUN: A flyer advertising one of Bongiovi’s early bands. Young John is lower left.
Reesman’s book is an unauthorized affair, but hardly lacking in credibility given the input from early inner-circle connections and such notables as Judas Priest singer Rob Halford; ex-Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell; hit songwriter Desmond Child; music media personality Eddie Trunk; blockbuster music video director Wayne Isham; and music mogul Derek Shulman who all offer their unique perspectives on Bon Jovi the man and the band.
Also included in the book’s 208 glossy pages are 130 color photos (including early promo shots, flyers and assorted memorabilia), sidebars outlining the outside pursuits and current whereabouts of past and current Bon Jovi band mates, as well as Jon’s forays into acting, philanthropic endeavors and humanitarian efforts.
A success story like few others, “Bon Jovi: The Story” also reminds us that the Jersey kid who cut his teeth covering the J. Geils Band, the Asbury Jukes and Bruce Springsteen (who once joined an excited teen-aged Bongiovi onstage at an early bar gig) continues to do blockbuster business around the world 30 years after “Slippery When Wet” went stark-raving ballistic. How many of Bon Jovi’s “hair band” peers can say the same? Exactly! You can count them on half a hand (and even less if you combine album AND ticket sales).
Fluidly written and exquisitely presented, “Bon Jovi: The Story” is a feel-good tale of rock-n-roll determination that’s impossible not to cheer. xxx Full disclosure: Author Bryan Reesman and I have never met, but once were colleagues at Metal Edge magazine. BELOW: Before he was in heavy rotation as an internationally famous MTV superstar, young Bon Jovi was briefly in the Patty Smyth-fronted band, Scandal.
Like a lot of American heavy metal kids, I was first introduced to the Scorpions by way of their 1982 breakthrough album, “Blackout” and its now-classic smash single, “No One Like You.” As they ripped across the Alabama airwaves, the Scorpions sounded positively earth-shaking alongside the likes of Blue Oyster Cult and Molly Hatchet.
Within a year, Dad’s Air Force gig brought us back to my hometown of San Antonio where I briefly reconnected with an old friend who gave me a copy of the Scorpions’ 1979 LP, “Lovedrive” (I still have it). I liked it even better than “Blackout”! How was I so unaware? Must have been the band’s German heritage and limited U.S. exposure leading up to “Blackout.”
While acclimating to my new neighborhood, high school and overall life at age 15, I discovered legendary San Antonio radio deejay Joe “The Godfather” Anthony on 99.5 KISS FM and soonlearned the Scorpions had a history of seven albums dating back to 1972 (all of which were more progressive, psychedelic and European-sounding than the made-for-American-radio “Blackout” and its closest predecessors, “Lovedrive” and “Animal Magnetism”). Make no mistake: In San Antonio circa 1983, the Scorpions were the underdog rivals of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest as one of the heaviest metal bands on the planet.
After graduating high school and college, I started landing legitimate bylines as an aspiring rock journalist and eventually got the chance to interview Scorpions guitarists Rudolf Schenker (twice) and Matthias Jabs. What follows is probably the best of the three interviews, conducted in 2010, with the ever-excitable Rudolf. “D’you people want to par-tay?”
Catch the Scorpions one last time
By David Glessner – Special to the Express-News Published 12:00 am, Thursday, July 22, 2010
Scorpions guitarist Rudolf Schenker was a rock star before he knew it.
“The first time I arrived in America was in 1978 because my brother invited me to visit him in Los Angeles,” Schenker said in his German accent. “He mentioned to me again and again ‘Rudolf, you guys have to come to the United States, because you already are big here. There is a band here in Los Angeles that covers Scorpions songs like “Speedy’s Coming” and “Catch Your Train.” The band is called Van Halen!’”
Stinging the world on a farewell tour that trots the globe for the next three years, the Scorpions rock the AT&T Center Friday night with special guests Ratt.
The Scorps, featuring founding members Schenker and vocalist Klaus Meine, along with longstanding guitarist Matthias Jabs and relative newcomers James Kottak (drums) and Pawel Maciwoda (bass), are capping a 40-year, 100-million-album-selling career with the new album, “Sting in the Tail,” that recalls the riffs of best-sellers such as “Blackout,” “Love at First Sting” and “Savage Amusement.”
STILL STINGING: The Scorpions’ 17th album, ‘Sting in the Tail,’ combines all the best elements of the band’s late-’80s era to create a must-have for fans.
“When we started the album, nobody thought it would be the last,” Schenker said on the phone from a Nashville hotel room. “We went into the studio thinking we wanted to get back to the real essence of the Scorpions. We wanted great guitar riffs, great melodies and great vocals. Our manager heard it and said, ‘Hey guys, that could be a great last album, because how are you going to top it?’
“We thought at first he might be joking,” continued the 62-year-old Flying-V axman. “Then we started counting two to three years (for a tour), then we are 65! Then we take a break and start thinking about a new album and we are 67, 68! Then you are playing ‘Bad Boys Running Wild’ and ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane,’ and the only thing moving on stage is the lights! We want to leave on a high note, not a disaster.”
Since forming in Hanover, Germany, in 1969, the Scorpions have had more highs than lows. They quickly graduated from the club circuit and became headliners worthy of limos and security guards in Japan and Europe. Even the Scorpions’ first American gig was a dream come true despite taking the stage at 10 a.m.
“This was a festival in Cleveland in 1979 and we opened for Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy, Journey and AC/DC,” Schenker said. “We were only allowed 30 minutes, but we kept playing and the fans got more and more crazy. From this moment on we were the crazy Germans. It was fantastic to be part of the American rock scene.”
BREAKOUT: The 1982 ‘Blackout’ album finally put the Scorpions on America’s radar. And, no, that is not Rudolf on the cover.
While most of America waited until the Scorpions’ 1982 “Blackout” album to fully embrace the band, San Antonio radio had championed previous albums such as “Virgin Killer,” “In Trance,” “Taken by Force,” “Lovedrive” and “Animal Magnetism.” The mere mention of Alamo City still gives Schenker a thrill.
“San Antonio is one of our favorite cities ever, because it is pure rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “We came back as headliners in ’82 with Iron Maiden and Girlschool, and that was the moment we knew we were kings in San Antonio. We are looking very much forward to going to the market place and the Mexican restaurant (Mi Tierra) and also the River Walk. San Antonio has been very important right from the start and we are very excited to rock again there.”
WINDS OF CHANGE: Rudolf meets Gorbachev in a mutual display of how music’s universal power can break down longstanding political and cultural walls.
In a career filled with highlights, Schenker says the standout milestone was watching the Scorpions’ 1990 song “Wind of Change” become the unofficial soundtrack to the fall of communism. The song earned an invitation to the Kremlin courtesy of Mikhail Gorbachev.
“It was the first time ever a rock band was invited,” Schenker said. “It was such a fantastic, historical highlight because we knew the Cold War was over and we saw what music could do. That is why Scorpions set out to be a rock band; to cross borders and come to different countries.
“Some people still have something against Germany because of the two world wars, so we wanted to show people there is a new generation. Our parents came with tanks, but we are coming with guitars and love and music.”
And what will retirement be like?
“Good question,” Schenker said. “We are not going to retire and go to the beaches. That’s too boring. We are going to do things that are creative and still a part of rock ‘n’ roll. I recently wrote a book called ‘Rock You Live,’ which is something I want to deliver to different countries. Also, of course, I am working on the Schenker Brothers guitar with my brother (guitar legend and Scorpions co-founder Michael Schenker), and we are talking about doing an album together. Also, I’m very much into car driving.
“You just have to open your eyes. The world turns around and every day is a new day.”
HOLY SHIRT!: In a rare moment of being fully clothed, Iggy pulls the pin inside Waterloo Records during SXSW 2007. The shirt was tossed after a song or two. The set didn’t last much longer (Photo via Flickr. Happy to give credit to photog. Please get in touch)
KEEPING AUSTIN WEIRD: The Stooges fourth album, “The Weirdness,” dropped in March of 2007, a mere 34 years after third album, “Raw Power.”
Perhaps the hottest ticket in Austin during SXSW 2007 was the rare chance to see a revamped, revved-up Stooges playing in the iconic confines of Waterloo Records. Thankfully, I had a connection who got me to the front of a line that stretched down the block on its way to Waco. I also happened to be reporting my SXSW (mis)adventures for the UK’s always brilliant Classic Rock magazine. As it happened, we both got an exclusive that is reprinted below for your enjoyment.
THE STOOGES @ Waterloo Records, Austin
Classic Rock magazine, 2007 (Note: Photos were not printed in Classic Rock magazine)
Stooges, Ink.: Iggy signing post-set autographs. Among the first in line was Sons of Hercules singer, Frank Pugliese. (photo by David Glessner)
Finding the Stooges at your local record store is as easy as knowing the alphabet, but when the band turns up to play an in-store gig, the merchandise is at risk for a meltdown.
For the first 300 fans who queued up at Waterloo Records during Austin’s South by Southwest music festival last March, the legendary Stooges carved a memory as wicked as a scar.
Playing on a stage as cramped as a stairwell, guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Mike Watt stormed through four tracks from the Stooges’ new album, “The Weirdness,” while 59-year-old Iggy Pop snarled like a jackal before careening into the parking lot to snake charm his stranded faithful with shirtless shake appeal.
As quickly as the bomb started ticking, it was unceremoniously defused. Without playing a single punk-shrapnel classic, the Stooges lurched offstage to sign pre-purchased autographs.
The stopwatch set of unfamiliar tunes was no doubt a gut punch, but only an idiot would dare complain. More than 30 years on, the Stooges’ new songs stood up better than they should and seeing the streetwalkin’ cheetahs prowl the aisles of a record store was better than a heart full of napalm.
— David Glessner
Yours truly is wearing a Cliff Burton T-shirt near the front of the line to get into the store (No, I’m not the guy hosting this video). Sons of Hercules singer Frank Pugliese and Ignorance Park singer John Walker can be seen near the front of the stage. Enjoy!
One night during the mid-1980s, I walked into one of those apartment complex keg parties where a bunch of hopped-up teens and barely legal headbangers were pissing away the deposit on a rented poolside clubhouse. This being San Antonio, a popular local band called AZIZ was blasting Saxon’s “Power & the Glory” to the dismay of surrounding tenants. It was basically a heavy metal version of “Animal House,” which is to say it was friggin’ awesome!
Suddenly – and to the surprise of no one – the cops arrived in a blinding buzzkill of flashing blue and red. We scrambled like rats from a flood until I found myself in the backseat of a random getaway car. As we sped away, my newfound accomplices decided to keep the party going at some dude’s apartment. Who was I to argue? Let’s roll.
The first thing I saw when I entered the place was a framed, gold-certified copy of Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to my Nightmare” album. Whoa! At that point in my life, I had never beheld such a crowning rock-n-roll jewel. Where am I? And who owns this sparkling beauty? “It’s mine,” said a voice from across the room. “My dad played guitar on that album.” Get outta here! Really? Hey, wait a minute, aren’t you the singer for AZIZ? “Yeah, my name’s Robert. Welcome to my pad. We split as fast as we could after the cops showed up.” Dude, nice to meet you!
And that was it. I’m not sure Robert and I bumped into each other again until some 20 years later in a 7-11 parking lot in deep south Austin. I was walking out and he was sitting on his motorcycle. We gave each other that familiar stare. Dude, is that you? Wow! How ya been? You live here now? Me, too. And so we reconnected.
Years later, we connected again on Facebook. When I posted some pictures of my new home being built, Robert offered a congratulatory comment about my future digs. Being a smart ass, I mentioned how much nicer my new home would be with a framed, gold-certified “Welcome to my Nightmare” album hanging on the wall. Robert sent me his address and told me to pay him a visit. He had something for me. Could it be? No way! I was giddy with anticipation.
When I got to his place, Robert said he didn’t have a spare “Welcome to my Nightmare” album (who does?), but would gladly give me the next best thing: a framed, gold-certified single of Alice Cooper’s 1976 hit, “I Never Cry,” co-written and performed by Robert’s father, guitarist Dick Wagner, who also had worked with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and KISS, among others. “I Never Cry” nearly made me cry.
In a house filled with a lifetime of rock-n-roll memorabilia, few things are cooler than Robert’s one-of-a-kind gift, which today hangs smack in the middle of my living room for all my guests to admire. Sadly, Dick “Maestro” Wagner passed away about a year after “moving into” my home.
Thank you, Robert, for your generosity and friendship. Telling the story of you and your Dad makes me humble and proud. I’ll never hear this song the same way again.
My introduction to the Misfits came courtesy of Metallica. Until I saw the pimply-faced Metallicats wearing Misfits shirts in magazine photos, I had no clue about the greaser-ghoul punks from New Jersey. It was circa 1984 and if the Misfits were good enough for Metallica, then I owed it to myself to start digging.
Given the Misfits’ cult status and short-lived lifespan, there wasn’t much to find. The only semi-readily available albums were “Earth A.D.” and “Walk Among Us.” I’d later add the horrible-sounding, low(er)-budget “Evilive” and two other post-breakup compilations, “Legacy of Brutality” and “Misfits” (which arguably were all made available following Metallica’s very public endorsement). All the albums were crap-budget productions, but that only added to the Misfits’ raw sound and underground, horror-comic shtick. No wonder Metallica loved them!
DAN-SIG: My well-worn copy of ‘Walk Among Us’ signed by Glenn Danzig.
Sharing my love for the Misfits was my lifelong friend Al Kelly who prided himself on listening almost exclusively to the hardest-thrashing metal and breakneck punk bands. As far as Al was concerned, Judas Priest was for wussies. He favored Kreator, Voivod and, of course, the Misfits. One of our favorite rituals was to sit in his broken-down, black Dodge Maverick and slur along to “Where Eagles Dare,” “Bullet” and “Teenagers from Mars.” It was sloppy, good fun.
The Misfits were history by the time Al and I fully discovered them, but they’d eventually reform (for better or worse) giving me the opportunity to interview bassist Jerry Only in 1997 for the San Antonio Express-News.
THE ONE & ONLY: An early action shot of Jerry Only wearing his Sunday best.
MISFITS RETURN FROM THE GRAVE WITH NEW SINGER
By David Glessner Special to the Express-News; Wednesday 8/27/1997
When the Misfits called it quits following a Halloween gig in 1983, they left behind a legacy of ghoulish makeup, guitars that looked like weapons and ultra-fast punk-rock songs that celebrated alien invasions, demonic possession, dismemberment and cannibalism.
“We call it a disease and we try to infect anyone we can, ” said bassist Jerry Only, laughing as he discussed the Misfits’ obsession with the macabre. “It goes back to when we were kids watching ‘Chiller Theater.'”
After a prolonged legal battle with former singer Glenn Danzig over the use of the Misfits name, punk rock’s musclebound zombie squad is back from the grave with a new album and lineup. Hailing from Lodi, N.J., the Misfits descend on the Sunken Garden Theater on Thursday. Second-billed behind headliner Megadeth, the band will rip through 26 songs during a frenzied 50-minute set. “We got it down to a science, ” Only said.
DIGGING UP GRAVES: The ‘American Psycho’ lineup was, clockwise from left, guitarist Doyle, drummer Dr. Chud, Only and new singer Michale Graves.
Corrosion of Conformity and Machine Head also are on the bill. Tickets are $22.50 through Ticketmaster.
As the band’s founding member, Only asked Danzig to rejoin the Misfits and bury the hatchet after years of bickering.
“We won our (legal) battle and I thought I could be on a real power trip or I could do the cool thing on behalf of the fans and ask him to join,” Only said, his Jersey voice quickening to hyperspeed. “He had us thrown out of his hotel so we took that as a ‘no.'”
Taking over lead vocals is 22-year-old Michale Graves, whose voice at times can recall Danzig’s evil-Elvis impersonation. The band is completed by Only’s younger brother and longtime Misfits guitarist, Doyle, and new drummer Dr. Chud. Besides playing music together, the fearsome foursome also lifts weights together.
“Everyone works really hard,” the 38-year-old Only said. “Michale likes to sleep late, that little son-of- a-gun, but he’s a kid. He’s supposed to be wild and crazy.”
RARE BEWARE: This rare, early Misfits release has been known to fetch top bones.
Since the band’s demise, the Misfits have become one of the most-collected rock groups ever. The band’s leering Crimson Ghost logo is legendary, and its early recordings are treasured by members of the Misfits fan club (a.k.a. Fiend Club). The mighty Metallica cited the Misfits as a major influence, recorded a cover of “Last Caress/Green Hell” and subsequently introduced the band to legions of new fans. A recent tribute album, “Violent World,” has many of today’s top punk bands covering favorite Misfits tunes.
“The collectibility is out of control,” Only said, acknowledging that Metallica kept the band’s name alive. “Our original records go for more than Elvis’ original records. To me that’s absurd. Of course we had less volume than Elvis. We have one record called ‘Beware’ with ‘Last Caress’ on it that’s an import from England which sells between $500 and $1,000. I don’t condone that. I gotta say I’m very proud of the fact that someone thinks that highly of one of our original records, but if I got a 15-year-old kid who’s working all summer mowing lawns, I don’t want him subjected to (paying top dollar).”
UNDEAD: In 1997, the Misfits released the comeback album, ‘American Psycho.’ It’s actually very good.
“American Psycho,” the Misfits new album on Geffen Records, is a much more affordable option. As expected, it’s a fist-pumping, shout-along album chock-full of guts, gore and the band’s “fattest, meanest, rippingest” sound to date, Only said.
But what will diehard fans think of their underground favorites signing to a major label and releasing a properly produced album? Will the band’s mystique be damaged?
“You want the truth?” Only asked, before concluding the interview so he could take his son to football practice. “Yes, it would definitely damage us if we stunk. I think our album’s great.”
Sidebar From 1978 through 1983, the Misfits released numerous singles, EPs, a live album (“EviLive”) and two full-length Lps (“Walk Among Us” and “Earth A.D.”). The full-length releases are fairly common, as are subsequent compilations (“Legacy of Brutality,” “Misfits Collection 1 and 2,” and a coffin-shaped box set), but many of the band’s original, early releases on the Plan 9 label are considered rarities. – David Glessner
Like all good fathers, my Daddy taught me well. From throwing a spiral and standing my ground to opening doors and respecting our soldiers, Dad handed down the skills and wisdom that got me from boy to man.
He also influenced me in subtler ways like playing the greats of country western music when I was but a wee lad. Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and George Jones shared our 1970s living room speakers (remember those?) with Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson. Dad would be the first to admit a Telecaster might be a fishing pole, but his casual music preferences left an indelible impression on his future rock-n-roll journalist.
PAYBACK: Nearly three decades after I was born, I took Dad to see ‘The Hag.’
Of them all, Merle Haggard was my favorite. Sure, the songs were memorable enough, but it was the cautionary, and sometimes confrontational, drawl of the lyrics that let you know Merle had been there, drank too much, served his time and learned his lessons the hard way. Or maybe not at all.
There was also the simple, yet elegant sadness that cracked his hard-boiled exterior to reveal a man who was just a man. Merle sang of emotions we all know and hate, but could never put into words. At least not in that crusty, poetic way that puts a lump in the most hardened of throats and drains another shot glass.
To list all of Merle’s great songs is like mailing wedding invitations. Try as you might, someone will be forgotten — your best intentions be damned.
When Merle died on his 79th birthday earlier this week, a piece of my childhood passed with him. Thanks for the music and memories, Merle. And thank you, Dad, for introducing me to the outlaw, barstool genius we lovingly call “The Hag.”
I didn’t pay an arm and a leg to get Ace Frehley’s autograph, but I still nearly lost a limb.
The gig was at Fitzgerald’s in San Antonio on Feb. 27, 2016. My pal “Ginchy” offered to drive, so we hit the road to see the legendary KISS guitarist play the songs of my youth in a club.
Ginchy also happens to play guitar for punk-rock legend Cheetah Chrome of Dead Boys fame who happens to know Ace Frehley guitarist Richie Scarlet. It’s classic “I know a guy who knows a guy,” so we clung to a sliver of hope that we may get to meet Ace. Maybe. As in, probably not.
We get to the venue (we’d never been before) and see cars parked for blocks on every side. We decide to leave our KISS albums in the car while we get a sense of the venue’s layout and figure out what credentials may be waiting at the door for Ginchy. No sooner do we cross the street and approach the venue when an SUV rolls up and deposits Ace on the steps of a waiting tour bus. Damn! He. Was. Right. There! And we were empty-handed. Ugh!
Next comes Richie Scarlet. Ginchy walks up and introduces himself as Cheetah Chrome’s guitarist and thanks Scarlet for the guest list spot (Scarlet tells me I look like Bobby Steele from the Misfits. Um, OK). Ginchy asks if there is ANY mathematical possibility we might get Ace to autograph some albums. “Man, Ace does these meet-and-greets, and people pay hundreds of dollars to meet him,” Scarlet says. “I’m sorry, dude, but …” We get it. No hard feelings. Just thought we’d ask.
Resigned to the fact we won’t meet Ace, we decide to abort the mission. We then learn Ace is doing the paid meet-and-greet before his set rather than after, which tells me he’ll be “free” (and racing to escape) when he leaves the stage. Hmmm. Plan B starts to percolate.
Now familiar with the venue and Ace’s pick-up/drop-off point, I decide I’ll skip the last two or three songs of his set, run back to the car, get the albums and try to position myself between him and his getaway car when he exits the building. As I return, the security goons start eyeing me and getting into position. An SUV pulls up and tries to strategically park in such a way that Ace can immediately jump in the vehicle before being accosted. The driver is getting it all wrong so a security guy is barking at him until he gets the SUV squeezed in without an inch to allow for intruders. Except me.
Ace exits the building hiding beneath a towel and sunglasses. He jumps into the SUV and slams the door before I get to him. I stand there motioning through the window holding his 1978 solo album and a silver Sharpie. The towel is obscuring his vision (more likely, he’s blowing me off?). Meanwhile, the back door on the opposite side of the SUV is open and a guy is leaning in with a poster. Ace leans toward him and signs it. Frantically hopeful, I run around to the other side of the vehicle as “poster boy” backs out of the open door. Before I can take his place, a security dude jumps in the SUV between me and Ace and starts trying to close the door. “HE’S DONE! HE’S DONE!” the guy screams in my face. “ACE!” I yell, ignoring the scowling monster. “HE’S DONE!!!!”
Suddenly, Ace reaches for my album. “DUDE, HE’S REACHING FOR IT!” I plead. “HE’S DONE!”/”HE’S REACHING FOR IT!” Ace grabs my album and marker, signs it, hands it back and I barely escape with my arm as the goon slams the door and the SUV peels out. Sure, it wasn’t the most personable autograph, but Ace was cool enough to do it, which started me shouting out loud.
If my persistence sounds extreme, you have to realize I’m pushing 50 years old and still have KISS posters hanging in my house. KISS is the band that turned me into a rock-n-roller. KISS has been in my life since I was 12 years old. KISS was not a phase.
Unless the security goon threatened violence (and he was probably close), I wasn’t going away quietly when Ace was sitting five feet away from me. Not a chance. I’ve waited my whole life for this opportunity and it will NEVER present itself again (unless I bring along an extra $300-$500). I did what I had to do and shamelessly persisted. As Ace himself would say, “No Regrets.”
Knowingly or NOT!, Anthrax throws down the gauntlet with new album, “For All Kings.”
Adventurous in its vast melodic scope and high harmonies, “For All Kings” – the follow-up to 2011’s widely (and rightly) praised “Worship Music” – finds Anthrax reining in its thrash-metal tendencies rather than fueling them as a driving force. It’s not “LuLu” or “Slayer-Meets-Megadeth Unplugged,” but it’s beyond the core sound of Big 4 thrash and will certainly divide opinions.
“Breathing Lightning” – arguably the most radio-friendly Anthrax song ever — soars over a bed of keyboards(!) reminiscent of Iron Maiden circa “Somewhere in Time/Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.” It’s a bold move, but ultimately irresistible as singer Joey Belladonna channels Bruce Dickinson (which he does through most of the album) while the band pilots the song’s bullet-train velocity.
Echoes of Maiden also can be heard when the hard-snapping “Impaled/You Gotta Believe” downshifts into a trippy middle break that sounds like Tool tweaking “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
Brooding with menace, “Monster in the End” is the sound of a high-seas storm, while “Suzerain” alternates between chorale beauty and roiling, metallic churn. The title track is a galloping beast and “Defend Avenge” is a pit-ready stomper complete with barking gang vocals.
At seven-plus minutes, “Blood Eagle Wings” is the album’s showpiece. Opening with a spidery guitar lick, the track builds into a towering piece of powerful music that crushes with majestic grandeur. Epic is an overused word, but here it applies.
“This Battle Chose Us” and “All of Them Thieves” boil to thrashing climaxes, and the old-school need for speed comes ripping through on “Evil Twin” and “Zero Tolerance.”
Fans who appreciated the musical growth of “Worship Music” will find plenty to like on “For All Kings.” While it’s undoubtedly well-played, heavy and memorable, the album leans more toward classic heavy metal (with hints of prog and power metal) than traditional full-bore thrash. That said, it’s hard to deny Anthrax the indulgence of artistic progression and repeated listens – especially when it’s still metal and done this well.
If “For All Kings” is a challenge, consider it a challenge accepted.
* Overall Grade: B * Favorite Tracks: “Blood Eagle Wings,” “Defend Avenge,” “Zero Tolerance” and the title track * Secret Weapons: The not-so-secret precision of drummer Charlie Benante; the surprisingly well-aged voice of Joey Belladonna; ripping solos from newcomer guitarist Jon Donais (formerly of Shadows Fall); and the big sound of returning producer Jason Rusk (“Worship Music”) * For Fans of: Proggy Iron Maiden, dynamic song structures, double-kick drumming
Like a lot of great rock bands, Dr. Boogie owes a nod and a wink to the sozzled swagger of Rod Stewart’s Faces and the slinky sting of Rolling Stones guitars.
Born in Los Angeles (but apparently ready to escape to New York), Dr. Boogie’s debut album, “Gotta Get Back to New York City,” swizzles a boozy blend of barroom guitars, swelling brass and hurricane harmonica with killer keys and tambourine hip-shake.
“Down This Road” and “Life on the Breadline” recall Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, while “Together” sounds like something the Stones left behind when they wrapped up 1978’s “Some Girls.” Yeah, it’s that good.
“Queen of the Streets” has a hint of unplugged Guns N’ Roses melancholy and “Personal Matter” is more Toxic than Glimmer Twins. The revved-up title track is the album’s shout-along punk rocker (complete with a telling reference to the Flaming Groovies) while “Cut at the Knees” incorporates ominous undertones perfectly suited to its night-prowler lyrics. As implied by its title, “Really Good Feeling” absolutely beams with grit-pop shimmy.
At only eight songs, “Gotta Get Back to New York City” is also a vintage case of leave ’em wanting more — which is much better than being bludgeoned into boredom, no matter how good the band.
With bands like the Biters, Prima Donna and Smash Fashion revisiting the garage-glam boogie and hard-pop heyday of the late-1960s through ’70s, rock-n-roll is taking a turn for the better. In the shaky, but capable hands of Dr. Boogie, it’s taking a turn for the best.
* Overall Grade: A+ * Favorite Tracks: “Together,” “Life on the Breadline” and the title track * Secret Weapons: Singer Chris P’s nicotine rasp, which is equal measures of Rod Stewart and Izzy Stradlin with a dab of Steve Marriott; well-placed Hammond B3 * For Fans of: All the aforementioned influences, plus the Quireboys, Dogs D’Amour, River City Rebels and leopard-print neckties