By Metal Dave

Looking for trouble, punk? Look no further than the latest from Rancid …

THE KIDS AIN’T ALRIGHT: The debut release from Criminal Kids is a hit-and-run blast of garage-punk fury that will probably land you in trouble. Enjoy!

By Metal Dave

Rock-n-roll should be dirty by definition, but in the brass-knuckled fists of Criminal Kids, it’s also greasy, drunk and belligerent. 

Hailing from the southside of Chicago (and probably kin to Bad, Bad Leroy Brown), Criminal Kids peddle the kind of garage-punk fury that makes you wanna ransack your boss’s house before peeling out in a muscle car on a death wish race with the law. Yeah, it’s that awesome!

Clocking in at six tracks of three-minute (or less) gut punches, this dainty little self-titled debut platter (courtesy of Spaghetty Town Records) serves up such self-explanatory titles as “Little Bitch,” “Outcast” and the fair-warning “Takin’ it Back.” There’s also a cover of the 1979 song, “Night,” by old-school Chicago punk band The Exit and the closing one-two of “Vanity” and “Life.”

At every turn, the vocals of Ryan Burgeson have that ready-to-fight Angry Anderson shout. The bass of Chris (no last name to protect the guilty) gets some cool solo runs here and there, and guitarist Mike Van Kley and drummer Anthony (just Anthony) add weight to the hammer and kicks to the ribs. Like a Zippo to a Molotov, it’s straight-up combustible.

If bands like New Disaster, Zeke, Rose Tattoo and Black Actress snap your hinges, then Criminal Kids are right up your alley. You’ve been warned, now get ya some trouble!

AXE GRINDERS: Singer Lizzy Borden, center, and drummer Joey Scott, rear, have been unleashing American metal for more than three decades. The pair will soon recruit a touring band to promote latest album, ‘My Midnight Things.’

MIDNIGHT MANIAC: Lizzy’s first album in 11 years is a 10-tracker filled with dark themes and the singer’s trademark high-pitched vocals.

By Metal Dave

Some times it’s the shock rockers who get the biggest fright of all. So says axe-wielding heavy metal maniac, Lizzy Borden, who’s calling from his home in Las Vegas and kindly obliging requests for Spinal Tap moments.

“There was a time during the PMRC years when I would attack this guy who would come on stage with this big sign that said ‘No Heavy Metal,’” Lizzy recalls. “I would get so wrapped up in my character that I kept breaking the stick that held up the sign. One time, he couldn’t find a stick so he used a 2×4. It slammed me right in the mouth while I was singing and I thought all my teeth were broken out.

“Another time we came out on stage and there was so much smoke you couldn’t see,” he continues. “Our bass player at the time, Mike Davis, came charging out and went right off the edge of the stage. We didn’t even know he was gone! Luckily, he was wearing all this armor so he wasn’t hurt. Any time you use theatrics, you have to expect something is going to happen, but it’s worth the risk.”

The real reason for Lizzy’s phone call is his first new album in 11 years. Titled “My Midnight Things,” the album is set for release June 15 via Metal Blade Records. Why so long for a new album?

GRAVEYARD LULLABY: Lizzy digs up another prop as part of his eye-popping stage theater (credit Metal Hangar 18 and photographer Валерия Николова).

“It was more about the record company and the collapse of the music industry than it was about me,” Lizzy says. “There was really no point in me recording an album, because there was no path forward for reaching an audience. (Metal Blade Records boss) Brian Slagel came to me and convinced me there was a new way of doing things and he gave me a new record deal that makes sense in this day and age.”

Not that Lizzy’s been lazy. The past few years were spent grinding the overseas tour circuit, and while the live interaction is always appreciated, Lizzy was ready to get back in the studio. Just don’t ask him to name his “midnight things.”

“That’s the only question I don’t answer,” he says with a laugh, “It’s so open to interpretation and I think that’s true art — when you can have people interpret it so many different ways.

“It was the same thing with ‘Visual Lies’ or ‘Master of Disguise,’” he continues. “All my titles or theme songs are open to interpretation and, for me, that’s the goal.”

HAUNTED: Among Lizzy’s many new looks is a ghostly black-and-white facade.

As always, a new Lizzy album reveals a new look for the ever-evolving front man. A first glimpse of his latest incarnation can be seen in the video for the anthemic new single, “Long May They Haunt Us.”

“David Bowie was probably the originator of being a chameleon,” Lizzy says. “For the most part, the album drives my look. With that video, there are many different looks, because there were many different emotions the character is going through. He’s singing, but with every word, he’s turning into something else, because he’s so conflicted.”

Noticeably gone is Lizzy’s wild-man mane of yesteryear.

KILLER HAIR: Lizzy and his king-of-the-jungle hair during the 1980s.

“Again, it was all about the character,” he says. “In those days, the character was very animalistic. In my storyline, he had just murdered his girlfriend, buried her in the backyard and kinda went insane. So, this animalistic character had to look the part. It was pretty cool. Back then, big hair was everything and my hair was huge!”

With the downturn in radio airplay for heavy metal artists, Lizzy says video is more important than ever.

“I love it, because it’s perfect for me,” he says. “The label’s already given the green light for the next video, which is going to be ‘Obsessed With You,’ and they’ve penciled in a third and possibly fourth video. At one point, I thought video would take away from the song a little bit, because if you make (the visual) so dead-on with the lyrics, it takes away from the listener’s imagination. I’m very careful with that now, because I want to leave it, again, very open to interpretation.”

With “My Midnight Things” waiting in the wings, Lizzy is finalizing his stage show production and beginning to form a touring band. Drummers need not apply, however, as Lizzy will be backed, as always, by his lifelong musical partner and brother, Joey Scott.

“In the beginning, I chose guitar and he chose drums,” Lizzy recalls of their childhood. “Then I branched out to the bass and dabbled on piano a little bit. And, of course, I wanted to sing. We formed a cover band and played mostly UFO songs at backyard parties in the San Fernando Valley. In those days, in the San Fernando Valley, you could play to 1,000 people at a backyard party. It was great, but I had my vision for a theatrical rock band and wanted to get into writing original music.”

As for the theatrical aspects of the upcoming tour?

“I think it’s going to be the most visual thing I’ve ever done, because now I have technology at my beck and call,” Lizzy says. “I think it’s going to be pretty amazing. We’re going to let the album come out on June 15 and start talking seriously about putting a band together and seeing what territories we can hit. I really want to make a conscious effort to do a proper ‘My Midnight Things’ U.S. tour and add in some other songs that people know. ”

BLOODY KISSES: No stranger to censorship and public outcry, Lizzy Borden has always been driven by his lyrical themes and creative vision when it comes to his theatrical stage show.

And, no, the theatrics won’t be toned down or otherwise sanitized to appease today’s heightened call for political correctness and gender sensitivity, Lizzy says.

“I’ve never lived by the rules of society and I’ve never put my show together within the rules of society,” he says. “The reality is, my show has always been more like re-imagining a scene from a horror movie and then putting that on stage. People put me in that horror-rock category, but the reality is, there’s only one or two parts of the show that come close to resembling horror. The ‘Master of Disguise’ tour had no horror. It was maybe dark and more gothic, but no horror at all. I would never tame my show based on society, because if you do that, then forget art.”
To order your copy of “My Midnight Things,”


DELIVERING THE GOODS: Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner and singer Rob Halford unleash a storm of British metal classics on the closing night of the ‘Firepower’ tour featuring Saxon in San Antonio (Photo by David Castillo).

CRUSADER: Saxon singer Biff Byford feels the power of the San Antonio faithful (Photo by David Castillo).

By Metal Dave

Does this town know how to rock? If the town in question is San Antonio, you can bet your denim and leather.

Proudly known as the Heavy Metal Capital of the World — especially during the late-1970s through the 1980s — San Antonio has a long and storied love affair with hard and heavy music. Just ask Iron Maiden, Rush, Scorpions and countless other world-renowned metal bands that got their American break in Alamo City.

No surprise whatsoever that two of the city’s all-time favorites — elite metal titans Judas Priest and Saxon — received a roaring, gladiator’s welcome Tuesday at San Antonio’s sold-out Freeman Coliseum. As was rightfully noted several times from the stage, the night would offer another chapter of heavy metal memories past, present and future.

First to hold court on this bill of rock royalty was former Thin Lizzy guitar god Scott Gorham who led his Black Star Riders — rounded out by singer/guitarist Ricky Warwick (The Almighty), guitarist Damon Johnson (Brother Cane/Alice Cooper), bassist Robbie Crane (Ratt/Vince Neil) and drummer Chad Szeliga (Breaking Benjamin/Black Label Society) — through a set of tracks from their three albums, plus a cutthroat cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.” All told, the band was a solid blend of tough-guy rock-n-roll sharing pints with Thin Lizzy’s swagger. Yeah, that’s a good thing. Go buy their albums. 

THE EAGLE HAS LIGHTNING: Saxon’s latest album offers another chapter of the band’s heavy metal thunder.

Next up was Saxon whose heavy touring in recent years has turned the British metal legends into a well-oiled tank. Fronted by singer Biff Byford and driven by the propulsive churn of bionic drummer Nigel Glockler (is this man really 65?), Saxon is promoting its enthusiastically-received 22nd album, “Thunderbolt,” which offered a few new songs, including the title track, “The Secret of Flight” (a personal fave) and the Motorhead tribute, “They Played Rock and Roll.” The classics were plenty — “Power & the Glory,” “Dallas 1 P.M.,” “Motorcycle Man,” “20,000 Feet (with producer, friend and current Priest guitarist Andy Sneap on guest Flying V),” “Crusader,” “Wheels of Steel,” “This Town Rocks” “Princess of the Night” and “Denim and Leather” — as the band strong-armed every last decibel out of its allotted time.

Founding guitarist Paul Quinn and his counterpart Doug Scarratt kept the soloes sharp and slicing while bassist Nibbs Carter made Angus Young look stiff and hamstrung as he spun his hair like a hyper-speed windmill. On record and on stage, Saxon still swings the hammer like conquering warriors.

HEAVY DUTY: Judas Priest’s newest album, ‘Firepower,’ has been praised as its best since 1990’s ‘Painkiller.’

And then came the call for the Priest. Perhaps San Antonio’s most-loved metal band (the Priest vs. Maiden arguments between high school stoners remain the stuff of legend), Britain’s Judas Priest is soldiering through a tour that is somewhat bittersweet as they promote their wildly successful album, “Firepower,” while reluctantly conceding to the departure of original, fan-favorite lead guitarist Glenn Tipton who, at 70, is battling the onset of Parkinson’s Disease. In his place is the aforementioned prolific metal producer extraordinaire, Andy Sneap (Saxon, Accept, Kreator and more). Sneap, alongside co-guitarist Richie Faulkner (who himself, replaced longtime, fan-favorite guitarist K.K. Downing nearly seven years ago) brought renewed, youthful vigor to the overall Priest performance. Faulkner, in particular, spent the night moving like a shark to chum and damn near stole the show with a mind-bending guitar solo during the 1977 deep cut, “Sinner.” Holy Judas Priest!

Front and center, of course, was legendary 66-year-old, shaved-skull singer Rob Halford who proved still capable of screaming like an eagle. Having seen Priest numerous times on recent tours (and many in the past), I dare say Halford’s impossible wail has somehow improved in recent years as he led Priest through the expected staples while also dusting off such long-buried gems as “Bloodstone” (a personal fave), “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll,” the never-before-played-on-tour “Saints in Hell,” “Running Wild” and a blistering “Tyrant.” Whoa! Truly impressive. Slayer and Metallica would be quick to agree.

From a catalog that offers more diamonds than rust, Priest fueled the fever with “Grinder,” “The Ripper,” “Electric Eye,” “Turbo Lover,” “Painkiller,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” and the Harley-driven “Hellbent for Leather.” The brand-new “Firepower” tracks were fully worthy and included the title song, “Lightning Strike” (amazing) and “Evil Never Dies” (also amazing). Throughout, original bassist Ian Hill swung his axe like a lumberjack while drummer Scott Travis went storming on a one-man stampede.

METAL GODS: Guitarist Glenn Tipton, right, makes a guest appearance in San Antonio. (Photo by David Castillo).

As if the night’s ironclad triple bill needed another stud in its fist, an unannounced Glenn Tipton walked on stage in time for the closing trifecta of “Metal Gods,” “Breaking the Law” and the aptly-titled “Living After Midnight” (which had arena staff triple-checking their watches and reaching for the brooms). It must be said that Tipton looked painfully frail, but as he’s done in select cities throughout the tour, he rose to the occasion to greet his fans — and nowhere was that gesture more appreciated than in Priest-crazy San Antonio on the last night of the tour. If this turns out to be the final bow for one of metal’s greatest guitarists, we humbly say thank you, Glenn, for all the music and memories. We wish you well, good sir.

So, yeah, if it sounds like the gig exceeded expectations, well, that’s because it did. And, as Halford alluded to toward the end of the night, somewhere beyond the realms of death, Joe “The Godfather” Anthony was surely beaming on his heavy metal faithful. 

UP THE DOSE: The debut EP from Medicine Bird is a promising teaser for fans of the Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, the JuJu Hounds and other like-minded, blues-based rockers.

By Metal Dave

Fans of the countrified Rolling Stones, Georgia Satellites and other blues-rock dealers will find their share to crow about on the debut EP from Medicine Bird.

A swampy stew of blues harp, Hammond B3, twangy guitars and backwoods vocals, the five-song serving is the brainchild of songwriting duo Jeremy White and Tobin Dale.

“Just Come As You Are,” gets things started with a three-shot swagger, but overall the EP settles into a morning-after, mid-tempo drawl.

“Lost and Lonely Soul” peeks into the toils of a crumbling down-and-outer (“fold me up like a lawn chair”) while “Only Man You Need to Know” seems to juxtapose lovelorn desperation with (false?) hope. “Chin Waggin’ Mama” runs the vocals through an effects box and tells the classic/cautionary tale of an obnoxious loudmouth who is reminded through a teeth-gnashing sneer that “if you ain’t got two pennies, mama, you ought not drop a dime.” Genius! Closing track “Cold Side of the Mountain” journeys around the bend in search of self-imposed exile and — along with the previously mentioned track — reminds these ears of Austin’s long-defunct bluegrass maestros, the Bad Livers.

EPs seem to be the preferred format of choice these days, but another upbeat rocker or two would better balance this debut flight (L.A. to Nashville) from Medicine Bird. It’s a small spoonful, but it goes down fine, and ultimately Medicine Bird shows plenty of promise for those who like their rock-n-roll dosed with twang-n-drawl.

3 out of 5 Stars

LONG, STRANGE TRIP: Credited to artist Alan Aldridge, the colorful double-gatefold sleeve of Elton John’s 1975 album, ‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy,’ is a kaleidoscope of eye-popping fantasia. The Venus flytrap character, pictured far left, was the inspiration for Jason McMaster’s 1990 chest tattoo.

SCREAMIN’ FOR MORE: McMaster’s Elton John tribute continued to expand.

By Metal Dave

Head-to-toe tattoos are as common as ears among rockers these days, but in 1990 it was a fairly rare breed who went shopping for a needle to the ribs.

Count Dangerous Toys singer Jason McMaster as a dude who liked being scared (not really). Along with Circus of Power singer Alex Mitchell (and precious few others at the time), McMaster took the plunge for an expansive piece of pain in tribute to a favorite childhood album — Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy,” released in 1975.

“I got the tat in West Hollywood in 1990,” McMaster said. “The tattoo artist was recommended to me by David Roach from Junkyard (2Fast2Die Note: McMaster and Roach went to high school together in Austin, Texas).”

The art in question is a Venus flytrap wrapped around a naked woman with a bird’s head. The character detail can be found on the back-cover wraparound gatefold art of “Captain Fantastic” by artist Alan Aldridge. As was typical of 1970s album art, the image was a kaleidoscope of trippy characters and swirling colors.

FANTASTICO!: McMaster letting it rip on New Year’s Eve 1992/93 with his work-in-progress, Elton-inspired tattoo in all its blazing glory. (Photo by David Castillo)

“That record has something about it,” McMaster said. “The cover art was like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ meets a sort of Shakespearean nightmare. I was 10 or 11 years old when I got it, and it changed me. Some dark stories on it.  The title track is so good, but others, like ‘Tower of Babel,’ ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ and ‘Better Off Dead’ are engrained.

“The Venus flytrap section on the back wrap-around art sized right on my chest,” he continued. “It wouldn’t have fit anywhere else except my back so I got it on my sternum and later added tentacles to span up my pecs. Then there are these two Rat Finks with snakes for fingers in tribute to the song ‘Bitter Fingers.’ There is also a version of another character from the original art and they’re facing each other from one shoulder to the other.

“I actually have an autograph from Gus Dungeon who produced that album,” McMaster added.  “There’s no question that Elton John and that particular album are very special to me.”

COCKED & RELOADED: New L.A. Guns album, “The Missing Peace,” is a smashing return to form for reunited singer Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns, along with band mates Michael Grant, Johnny Martin and Shane Fitzgibbon.

By Metal Dave

Fifteen years after a bitter split, singer Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns have bitten the bullet and found their peace. Cue a rowdy round of applause.

Backed by the surefire cast of guitarist Michael Grant, bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Shane Fitzgibbon, the reunited core of L.A. Guns shoots to thrill on new album, “The Missing Peace,” and, man, are these guys on target.

From the ripping opener, “It’s All The Same to Me,” through the punky jolt of “Speed” to the blasting chug of “Baby Gotta Fever” and the infectious, whoa-whoa-ho of “Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight,” L.A. Guns deliver the signature, sex-n-swagger, sleaze-rock that helped them carve their own shadowy niche during the glitz-n-glam heyday of the Sunset Strip.

Of course, when the Guns stop blazing, they emote with the coolest of splendor. “Christine” could pass for the younger sister of “The Ballad of Jayne,” while “The Flood’s the Fault of the Rain” starts with a mournful Animals-meets-Skynyrd-style guitar before soaring into a smoldering blues-rock jam that could impress Paul Rodgers and Bad Company.

As always, L.A. Guns cover the bases with convincing ease. The upbeat songs (“Sticky Fingers,” “The Devil Made Me Do It”) quicken the pulse, the ballads (“The Missing Peace,” “Gave It All Away”) are deftly orchestrated without being bloated on cheese, and the elastic vocals and versatile musicianship are always tailored to fit as snug as a pair of black leathers.

When the smoke settles, “The Missing Peace” not only stands alongside L.A. Guns’ classic albums, it also makes a pitch for rock Album of the Year. Perhaps more importantly, “The Missing Peace” reminds us that a reunited Phil and Tracii equal an L.A. Guns much greater than the sum of its pieces.

Rating: An L.A. Guns masterpeace!

CREATURES OF THE NIGHT: Kickin Valentina, from left to right, is drummer Jimmy Berdine, singer Joe Edwards, bassist Chris Taylor and guitarist Heber Pampillon. The band’s third release in four years reveals a fine-tuned chemistry, booming production, improved lyrics and super-thick consistency resulting in Kickin Valentina’s finest record to date.

By Metal Dave

Remember when bands like Faster Pussycat, Alice Cooper and Motley Crue fattened up their sound on late ‘80s albums like “Wake Me When It’s Over,” “Trash” and “Dr. Feelgood”? That’s where Kickin Valentina slots with “Imaginary Creatures.”

More polished than their 2013 debut EP and more focused and cohesive than 2015’s “Super Atomic,” “Imaginary Creatures” is the work of a band that’s finding its strengths and flexing them hard.

Overall, songs like “Eyes,” “Turns Me On,” “Devil’s Hand” and “Roll Ya One” (a number that would’ve been right at home on Aerosmith’s “Permanent Vacation”) serve as Kickin Valentina’s calling card: namely a souped-up, but-not-TOO-slick blend of hair-metal mixed with swaggering sleaze and heavy blues.

“Heartbreak” has an off-the-rails Guns N’Roses vibe while the feverish, ragtime boogie of “Street” swings like Tina Turner’s hips thanks to some rollicking female backup vocals. Mercy!

Dennis Linde’s (hunka, hunka) “Burning Love” (made famous by Elvis Presley) proves to be a novel, but fun cover and “Eat N’ Run,” a groove-heavy highlight from the debut EP, gets reworked to better effect thanks to the sonic upgrade. The closing title track romps forth like a nightmarish Alice Cooper tune and makes a fitting end to a wild ride.

Vocalist Joe Edwards is still the best unknown singer out there and nowhere is his Gregg Allman gruff on better display than “Crazy,” the album’s lone ballad. Just wow! Drummer Jimmy Berdine also shines throughout with perfectly placed double-kick bombs, and bassist Chris Taylor and guitarist Heber Pampillon add their respective rumble and flash. 

Fans of that late-’80s/early ’90s slice of time when cock rock embraced big-guns production without washing away all the dirt will find plenty to like on “Imaginary Creatures.” A winner by any measure, “Imaginary Creatures” is the most fully realized release to date from Atlanta’s formidable heavy rock contenders. Yeah, it’s Kickin. For real!

ACES HIGH: Junkyard’s latest album — it’s first in 26 years — is already one of the best releases of 2017.

By Metal Dave

Junkyard’s first album in more than two decades will almost certainly finish the year in my Top 3. Hell, it might even score Numero Uno.

As I wrote in my review, “High Water” picks up right where the band left off with its two major-label releases beginning in 1989. Rebuilt for 2017 and riding a crest of rave reviews, Junkyard is wrecking stages across the nation on a tour that’s kept the band busier than ever.

I caught up with 3/5 of Junkyard in Austin where we discussed “High Water,” the pitfalls of major labels, an early tour with the Black Crowes, a kinship with Axl Rose and that time an eager James Hetfield showed up to check out this promising young band (kinda).
With thanks to Steve Miller at AustinVideoSpecialist for his audio/video skills
and Jim Daeng Ostrandeer at Texas Mist for interview location and hospitality.