McMASTER OF PUPPETS: Watchtower frontman Jason McMaster rallies his metal militia at the Cameo Theatre in San Antonio circa 1984. (Book cover photo by Jeff Tweedy. Photo staging by David Glessner)
SLAYING THE DRAGON: San Antonio Slayer was almost named Dragonslayer until original guitarist Art Villareal suggested they shorten the name.

By Metal Dave

Remember calling your weed guy from a pay phone on the way to a local metal gig? You were driving a junker that barely passed inspection while following a sketchy map on a hand-drawn flyer emblazoned with skulls and the promise of doomsday (plus beer!).

Maybe you listened to your friend’s demo cassette along the way while pondering the impossibility of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest being challenged by emerging neck-thrashers like Metallica, Exodus and Anthrax.

“As Viewed From The Pit” is a literal snapshot of those times captured in South Texas from 1978-1989 when San Antonio was globally recognized as the Heavy Metal Capital of the World.

Compiled by lifelong Texas metal fan Juan Herrera, the glossy photo book casts its net across South Texas to include not only San Antonio, but also Austin, Houston and Corpus Christi. The bands, of course, take center stage thanks to the photo collections of Jeff Tweedy, Liliana Martinez and Phil Adams, among others, but Herrera understands no old-school music scene is complete without the street-level flyers, ticket stubs, T-shirts and demo cassette artwork, which also get due space.

HIGHLY CORROSIVE: 4th Ryke bassist Al Kelly played his first major show as a member of Morbid Termination when he opened for Juggernaut at the Cameo Theatre in San Antonio.

As for the bands, San Antonio’s bragging rights go to Juggernaut (whose drummer Bobby Jarzombek went on to play for Rob Halford, Sebastian Bach and Fates Warning among others); S.A. Slayer (whose drummer Dave McClain went on to spend years in Machine Head while bassist Donnie Van Stavern joined Riot) and longtime local favorites Byfist, Winterkat, Heyoka, Heather Leather and Wyzard along with Valkyrie, Morbid Termination and Death Tripper.

Not to be outdone, Austin is heavily (pun intended) represented by prog-metal pioneers Watchtower (whose singer Jason McMaster would later be seen and heard on radio and MTV as the singer for Dangerous Toys) and Militia — both of whom opened for a fledgling (L.A.) Slayer at the Ritz on Sixth Street in 1985.

In Houston, the nods go to Helstar and Dead Horse, while Corpus Christi checks in with Devastation and Angkor Wat. And just for good measure, there’s even mention of crossover bands like the Offenders (Austin), Fearless Iranians from Hell (San Antonio), DRI (Houston) and Crippled By Society (San Antonio).

SLAY-ER!!!!: The legendary Slayer vs. Slayer gig resulted in a bootleg recording that is a highly sought-after collectible.

In a book full of cool memories, perhaps the coolest is the legendary Slayer vs. Slayer gig at Villa Fontana in San Antonio on Nov. 30, 1984 (with Militia and Syrus opening). Often remembered as a battle for the rights to the Slayer name, the San Antonio version of Slayer was already disbanded, but reformed for the gig in the name of some spirited rivalry with their Los Angeles brethren. More than any single concert in South Texas metal history, this one is arguably the one most likely to be worn as a badge of honor by all who were there.

Of course, no book about Texas heavy metal would be complete without honoring legendary San Antonio deejay, Joe “The Godfather” Anthony, who not only gave air time to local bands, but also helped introduce international acts such as Rush, Triumph, Def Leppard, Scorpions, Saxon, Accept and countless others who readily admit to owing him and the San Antonio faithful the deepest debts of gratitude. It’s safe to say that without Joe (and fellow deejay Lou Roney), San Antonio would never have gained worldwide acclaim as the Heavy Metal Capital of the World.

As its title implies, “As Viewed From The Pit” lets the photos do the talking, but it must be said that the Forward by Texas metal archivist Reuben Luna does a great job of summarizing this vibrant and legendary music scene. He would know; he was there.

Cover-to-cover, “As Viewed From The Pit” will stir the memory of anyone — Texan or otherwise — who strapped on the studded wristbands, banged their head in the pit and lived hard and fast for another night at the whiplash orgy. Go ahead, dive in!

For more info and to purchase, visit “As Viewed From The Pit.”

THE DEVILS YOU KNOW: Guitarist Ace Von Johnson, drummer Shane Fitzgibbon, singer Phil Lewis, guitarist Tracii Guns and bassist Johnny Martin. Can you guess their favorite color?

By Metal Dave

The glory days of the Sunset Strip produced bigger names than L.A. Guns, but none can match the number of rock-solid albums triggered by the combustible duo of singer Philip Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns.

Motley Crue? Two or three essential albums. Roth-era Van Halen? Five. Guns N’ Roses? One. Ratt? Quiet Riot? Poison? I love those bands’ signature records, but with due respect, they barely compete collectively with the six-deep stack of L.A. Guns’ 1988 self-titled debut, “Cocked & Loaded,” “Hollywood Vampires,” “Man in the Moon,” “Waking the Dead” and 2017’s “The Missing Peace.” Fighting words, I suppose, but the simple math rests my case.

With new album “The Devil You Know” set for release Friday (March 29) and seemingly primed to continue L.A. Guns’ winning streak, I phoned Phil Lewis at his home in Las Vegas to discuss the band’s ongoing, white-hot re-ignition.

Why the rush to release “The Devil You Know” a mere 15 months after “The Missing Peace?” It seems like the latter still has momentum and nobody would fault you for taking more time between albums.
We wrote it on the road. A lot of bands have a hard time writing on the road. A lot of bands need to come off the road and go on a country retreat and get their head in the right place. We don’t have that kind of luxury and we don’t really need it. Tracii is sitting on the guitar all day noodling away on the bus, plugged into his phone and it starts there. And because we’re all in such close proximity, we hear it immediately and it’s like, “Oh, yeah, do that bit again.” Or, “Oh yeah, that would make a great verse.” Before you know it, you’ve patched a song together.

So the engine was revving?
Yeah. We were in Australia (on a previous tour) and had a day off so me and (tour manager) Scotty went to the animal sanctuary to see the kaolas and the ‘roos, and by the time we got back, (bassist) Johnny (Martin) and Tracii had written “Rage.” We’ve got a great work ethic and Tracii is a slave driver, man. He wants the best out of everybody and it’s always been like that with him. I think that’s a big part of our chemistry.

That on-the-fly approach seems to have lent a certain energy and rawness to “The Devil You Know.”
It’s a fun album. We put a lot of work into it. It’s very different from “The Missing Peace.” Songs from “The Missing Peace” had been lying around with Tracii for quite some time before the reunion, whereas this one was written from scratch with all of us on exactly the same start line. It’s a lot more punky, stripped down, no keyboards or strings. It’s speedy, aggressive and pissed off, but fun.

Expectations were pretty high for “The Missing Peace” considering you and Tracii hadn’t worked together in so long. In hindsight, how do you feel about that album’s reception?
I think that plays a huge part in why we’ve done this new record so quickly. (The reception) was very inspiring. We knew going in that we weren’t going to sell millions of copies and that’s not the point. That’s not why we do it. But to see it being nominated for so many album-of-the-year awards was such a great compliment and, of course, it’s very inspiring. We already had the deal lined up with Frontiers Records for another album so we thought, “Why wait? Let’s do it!”

I dare say “The Missing Peace” is my third-favorite L.A. Guns album.
What are your three favorites?

I’d say the first two and “The Missing Peace,” although “Man in the Moon” and “Waking the Dead” are criminally underrated.
OK, that’s fair. There are so many parallels between the first two records and “The Missing Peace” and this new one. As far as I’m concerned, L.A. Guns 2.0 is really a new band with an old name. As I said a minute ago, a lot of (“The Missing Peace”) stuff had been lying around before the reunion and it was very much the same with the debut album. When I joined the band in ’88, it was something of a salvage job for me to interpret the other guy’s (Paul Black) lyrics and write new ones, and basically make it my own. “Sex Action” used to be called “Looking Over My Shoulder.” Not that there was much salvage required on “The Missing Peace.” And on “Cocked & Loaded,” we all started (writing) at the same time so that’s a parallel as well on this one.

As far as your 2000-era output, I’m partial to “Man in the Moon” and “Waking the Dead,” but a lot of your fans cite “Tales from the Strip” among your top-notch albums. Obviously, that album didn’t feature Tracii.
As proud as I am of “Tales from the Strip,” it’s not an L.A. Guns record and I just have to come to that conclusion. People have been asking, “Why aren’t you doing certain songs?” and obviously it’s because (Tracii) wasn’t involved and I wouldn’t expect him to play those songs. I think it’s really rotten that Axl makes Slash and those guys play songs off “Chinese Democracy.” It’s not Guns N’ Roses! It’s a fine album, but it’s not a Guns N’ Roses album. It’s an Axl Rose record — and a fucking good one! — but it’s not a Guns N’ Roses record. That’s kinda how I feel about stuff I did without Tracii. I like the studio, I like writing, I like the whole process and that was one of my issues that I had with my former lineup. After we released “Hollywood Forever,” which I thought was a great record, everything kinda slowed down and the fire went out. I was trying to light it up again and get us back in the studio and get us writing again and doing something new and exciting, but they wouldn’t budge, man. Even before the reunion, I’d given in my notice because I wanted to do something even if it meant going out by myself with an acoustic guitar. I’d rather do that than the rut we’d gotten into.

When you and Tracii decided to reunite, how was it settled that you would keep bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Shane Fitzgibbon from his band and guitarist Michael Grant from your own? Obviously, Michael didn’t work out for whatever reason and you’ve since added Ace Von Johnson, but how did that initial reunion lineup gel?
As soon as I heard Johnny and Shane play, it was a no-brainer. They’re really fucking good players and they’re great guys. They’re nice guys and that’s really important when you’re going to be spending a lot of time with somebody on the road. Compatibility is really important. Unfortunately, that flew out the window with Michael Grant.

What happened with Grant?
Him and I just did not get along. It was like running a marathon with a stone in my shoe. It was an easy, paying gig for him. I gave him five years’ worth of work and that’s what it was for him. Work. He wasn’t excited. For him, it was better than not working at all. With Shane and Johnny, they’re an integral part of the band. At this stage of my life and my career, I don’t see why I should fuck around and be around people who aren’t 100 percent inspiring and making me laugh. With Johnny and Shane, it’s just an honor. Those guys are amazing.

[2Fast2Die sidebar: Mere hours after this interview, it was announced Shane Fitzgibbon was leaving L.A. Guns — on amicable terms, for a change — and being replaced by former Brides of Destruction/Ace Frehley drummer, Scot Coogan]

On one of your recent tours, I noticed you wore a jacket featuring a picture of Lemmy on the back. Were you close with him? Do you at least have a great Lemmy story?
Oh, my God! I’ve got so many Lemmy stories. I knew Lemmy since I was 12-years-old in London. Growing up, him and my old man were buddies. My old man used to lend him money and hold his passport as collateral. OK, a funny story: I was about 14 or 15 and Lemmy comes over and I’m playing with a slot car racing set and I said, “Do you want to play, mate?” And he goes, “You’re a bit old for that aren’t ya?” And I was, like, “Yeah, ya know what? Maybe I am.” So he goes, “I’ll tell ya what. Pack it up in a box and I’ll trade ya something for it.” So I said, “OK, OK.” And I’m thinking he’s gonna give me a guitar or something. So he comes back about half-an-hour later and I’ve got the slot cars all boxed up and he goes, “Well, there you are” and he gives me a little packet that fits into the palm of my hand. So I’m, like, “What’s this?” And he goes, “Well, open it … carefully!” He gave me, like, three grams of coke! (laughs). He goes, “Yeah, you’re gonna have fun with that!”

Wow! Goodbye slot cars, hello cocaine!
(Laughing) Yeah! Another time he came over … My old man had a music shop where he bought and sold guitars, lent money and stuff like that. So, Lemmy came over to the shop one day and he brought this really gorgeous girl with him. She must’ve been about 20, 21 and she didn’t speak a word of English because she’s from Switzerland. So he goes, “OK, I’m just gonna leave her with you for a little while. Take care of her and I’ll pick up her up later.” I’m thinking he’ll be back in an hour or so. He left her with me for three days! Oh, my God! What a treat. I had my own apartment above the shop so, well, yeah … I made the best of that situation. He was the best wicked uncle you could ask for.

What was your first impression of America when you arrived from Britain?
I think the first time I came over was with (Swedish actress/sex symbol) Britt Ekland. It must’ve been the late ‘70s. It was the palm trees that got me! All these massive palm trees and this gorgeous skyline. It was the nature that struck me first. It was everything the Crosby, Stills & Nash and Joni Mitchell songs said it was. It was just an incredible, big, hippie paradise. By relative standards, I’m sure it was already tainted, but I caught the end of it. When I came back in the ‘80s – maybe eight years later – to join up with Tracii, it was very different from the hippie paradise that it was in the ‘70s. But still, just amazing! Actually, it was even better because I was a part of it. Now I’m in Vegas, but I was back in L.A. the other day because we were shooting a video for “The Devil You Know” in Topanga Canyon and it’s heartbreaking, ya know? All these rock-n-roll landmarks are gone and the ones that are still there are basically just quick stops on these $20 van tours that people sign up for. Sadly enough, even the Whisky and Rainbow are just another quick stop on Sunset. Breaks my heart, but that’s just the way it goes. L.A. has changed a lot, but the same could be said of Austin or London. You just have to accept that.

Your voice is a constant source of compliment, which is quite an achievement after all these decades. Are you a stickler to a strict regime or just blessed with great vocal cords?
I do a few things to maintain it and I do a lot of things to NOT fuck it up (laughs). I do my warm-ups. It’s not much. Maybe 15 minutes before I go on to loosen up the cords a bit. The guys always take the piss out of me ‘cause of my “nay, nay, naying” from the back of the bus. But it’s paid off. My voice has served me well over decades so the least I can do is make a little bit of an effort. I don’t hold court after a show, I don’t do interviews after a show, I don’t do meet-and-greets after a show. I just keep my trap shut and go to bed. I’m strict about that and it’s paid off. In fact, I did the vocals (for “Devil You Know”) with Mitch Davis in New York when we had 10 days off between shows. I literally flew in from our last show, landed in New York, did the vocals and then flew to Chicago, got on the bus and we played Indiana the following night. You gotta be in good shape to do that!

L.A. Guns plays March 29 in Santa Ana, CA. “The Devil You Know” tour kicks off April 4 in West Dundee, IL. Follow Phil and Tracii’s L.A. Guns on Twitter and Facebook, and visit the official L.A. Guns website for tour dates, merch and more.

BLUES BROTHERS: Paul Joseph, left, and DJ Riddick have been cranking out swampy, DIY garage blues since 2013. ‘Holy Water’ is the fifth release from the Florida-based duo.

By Metal Dave

Swamped in distortion and groggy as a hangover, the heavy blues of 100 Watt Vipers conjures images of dusty saloons, road-weary bikers and that morning stumble across the room in search of the day’s first drag.

Lean, but muscular, the fiercely DIY duo (yes, duo) from Jacksonville, Florida merges the howl and twang of the Delta Blues greats with the more contemporary stylings of Jack White — and then piles on the heavy voltage of AC/DC (“Aces High,” “We Ride On,” “My Old Bible”), Black Sabbath (“The Thunder Cries”), Led Zeppelin (“Holy Water,” “Ain’t Got No Golden Cup”) and the stoner version of Corrosion of Conformity (“No Salvation in These Fields”). It’s kinda like the heavy metal cousin of the Drive-By Truckers.

Singing drummer DJ Riddick has the kick of John Bonham and a gritty voice that recalls Pepper Keenan, Zakk Wylde and Ronnie Van Zant. Guitarist Paul Joseph brings a wall-of-fuzz guitar sound that could startle Leslie West (not to mention a psychedelic slide that harkens Jimmy Page).

Cranked to full effect, 100 Watt Vipers would be a suitable opening act for doomy rockers like Black Label Society, Down and the aforementioned COC. Dialed down and acoustic, they’d pair nicely with, say, Blackberry Smoke, Jason Isbell and Steve Earle.

Truth be told, “Holy Water” drones a bit due to the song template of mid-tempo/high distortion and the lack of bass guitar, which would buffer and add dimension to the album’s overall sound. Then again, that probably runs counter to the bare bones intent.

In the end, repeated listens yield hidden nuances and increasing rewards, and songs like “I Am The Traveler” (my favorite) and “After the Storm Comes the Peace” reveal a songcraft that’s worth the dig.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Visit 100 Watt Vipers

FLYING HIGH AGAIN: Jetboy’s ‘Born to Fly’ lineup features, left-to-right, guitarist Billy Rowe,
bassist Eric Stacy, drummer Al Serrato, singer Mickey Finn and guitarist Fernie Rod.

By Metal Dave

Under the radar for most of three decades, Jetboy returns with an out-of-the-blue album called “Born to Fly.” Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit hustling rock.

Led by three original members – singer Mickey Finn and guitarists Billy Rowe and Fernie Rod – Jetboy enlisted former Faster Pussycat bassist Eric Stacy and drummer Al Serrato for the recording sessions. The resulting 12 tracks find Jetboy rebooting its hooky hard rock to such exhilarating effect you’ll forget Lollapalooza ever happened.

Opening track “Beating the Odds” comes out swinging with a vocal cadence that recalls Judas Priest’s “Rapid Fire.” Other fist pounders include the salacious “Old Dog, New Tricks” and the bass-driven social commentary of “All Over Again.”

Some heart-on-sleeve sentiment creeps into the weary Ju Ju Hounds shuffle of “The Way That You Move Me” and “Every Time I Go” (just don’t call ’em ballads, ’cause they’re not); while the title track will stir the envy of worldwide marketing agencies for not penning the swaying singalong as a television commercial. It’s that catchy.

Of course, this being a Jetboy album, it’s only fitting that party favors are offered up in the gyrating “She” and self-explanatory “Party Time!”

For all of Jetboy’s no-frills straightforwardness, the band shows a knack for seasoning its repertoire with Finn’s harp playing, some bluesy slide guitar runs and, perhaps most notably, the well-placed, infectious backup vocals (“Brokenhearted Daydream,” among others) that deftly lend various songs added boogie and lift. Nice touches, one and all.

Like their idols Cheap Trick, KISS, Aerosmith and AC/DC, Jetboy’s calling card has always been instantly memorable anthem rock that’s all about getting your kicks, escaping the grind and fighting the good fight.

For a band that’s endured its share of tragedy and dashed hopes, “Born to Fly” is nothing less than a triumph. It also lands Jetboy alongside late-1980s peers Junkyard and L.A. Guns as a band that today is matching or surpassing the sonic quality of its far away yesteryear.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Visit Jetboy

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