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.

MONSTER MAN: Doyle’s latest album combines the muscle of metal with his signature horror-punk howl.

By Metal Dave

As guitarist for legendary horror punks, the Misfits, Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein long ago staked his claim as a punishing, hyper-speed axe-grinder. Just ask Metallica.

No surprise, then, that his second solo album, “Doyle II: As We Die” is a death-comes-ripping monster mash of chainsawing guitar chords, pinched harmonics, pummeling drums and psycho-beast/serial killer vocals.

Awash in waves of distortion and landing somewhere between the Misfits’ Michale Graves albums and Doyle’s previous solo effort, “Abominator,” “Doyle II: As We Die” is at its skull-crushing best on hooky stormers “Run for Your Life,” “Darkside,” “Blood on the Axe” and “Night of Sin.” On the flip side, a memorably haunting Elvis vibe permeates “We Belong Dead” to great effect.

The title track features an impressive vocal cameo from Doyle’s squeeze Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) along with guest guitarist Michael Amott (Arch Enemy); and Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe turns up on “Virgin Sacrifice.”

While Doyle is the obvious star of his namesake creep show (and seems to be credited as bassist, although Brandon “Izzy” Strate gets the nod on “live bass”), vocalist Alex “Wolfman” Story (Cancerslug/Gorgeous Frankenstein) holds his own at center stage with a voice that alternates between bellowing grunts and hardcore rants. Not to be outdone, drummer Brandon Pertzborn (Black Flag) earns a rowdy shout as the band’s secret weapon (the dude brings serious artillery!).

Overall, “Doyle II: As We Die” leans more toward metal than punk, but packs enough deliciously wicked fun to make it a howling good, B-movie-type listen. Crank it up … and tell ’em Doyle made you do it!

Rating: 4 out of 5 pentagrams

ANIMALS (ROCK LIKE A BEAST): Crank County Daredevils are, left-to-right, bassist Billy Velvet, drummer Mike Irwin, lead guitarist Rory Kelly and Drano-drinking vocalist/guitarist Scotty P. For good measure, original guitarist Adam ‘Fever’ Stevens has been joining his old partners in crime for select gigs. (Photo by JRT Photography)

‘DEVILS MUSIC: Produced and engineered by lead guitarist Rory Kelly, ‘Feed the Beast’ roars like a monster.

By Metal Dave

Crank County Daredevils sound like a band that makes lunch out of whiskey and saw blades.  

Raw, raunchy and possibly out on bail, North Carolina’s most notorious sleaze rockers return from hiatus with a rampaging six-song EP that would easily be considered contraband in most civilized corners of the world. (Hey, it ain’t bragging if it’s true!).

Titled “Feed the Beast” and sounding like WASP and Motorhead on a crime spree with Zeke, the EP slams with all the chaotic fury of a head-on dump truck collision. From the blow-your-head-off title track to the breakneck remake of “Speed Kills (But it’s Paying the Bills),” the Daredevils aim to bury all comers.

“Heads Are Gonna Roll” thumps along on behind-the-beat, kickstart-my-heart pounding, and “Kicked in the Teeth” is a grinding romper-stomper of near-boogie guitar that explodes into full-on violence with its bursts of scare-ya-senseless gang vocals. 

“Broke and Shitty (in Detroit City)” is an all-too-real account of life on the road (so much so, that the title was tattooed on band members years before the song was written) that trudges and throbs to a commanding snare crack.

In a slightly a new twist for the Cranks, the psychedelic sludge of “Alcohol, Fire and Weed” could pass for an outtake from Down.

As with previous releases, the beauty of the “Beast” is Crank County Daredevils’ frightening ability to erupt on the stereo the same way they do on stage. This is music as a weapon, and in the white-knuckle grip of Crank County Daredevils, the hammer is relentless as ever. Helmet not included.

Rating: Go ahead. Feed the Beast.

ROCK-N-ROLL JUNKIES: Junkyard 2017 is, L-R, Todd Muscat, Tim Mosher, David Roach, Jimmy James and Pat Muzingo.

ON THE ROCKS: Junkyard’s first album in 26 years offers more of the metallic-blooze the band first uncorked in 1989.

By Metal Dave

Patched together during Hollywood’s hair-metal heyday, Junkyard was the “wifebeater” of rock-n-roll. Sweat-stained and best suited to redneck punks and motorheads, the ‘Yard dogs were a belligerent sight and sound compared to MTV’s fancy-pants poodle boys.

Fast-forward to “High Water” (Acetate Records) – their first album in 26 years – and Junkyard is still peddling the southern-flavored, metallic blooze-rock that first left skid marks on the Sunset Strip with 1989’s self-titled debut and its follow-up “Sixes, Sevens and Nines.” Think Rose Tattoo meets Lynyrd Skynyrd and add as much booze as you dare.

Still fronted by founding singer David Roach (he of the snotty rasp) and propelled by original drummer Patrick Muzingo, the revived Junkyard now includes bassist Todd Muscat along with guitarists Tim Mosher and Jimmy James (on loan from the Hangmen while Brian Baker tends to his other band, Bad Religion).

Opening hard and fast with “Walk Away,” Junkyard crashes through the door like Social Distortion steering a runaway hot rod. “Faded” weaves tales of misspent youth around stop-start stabs of guitar, and the slinky grind of “Cut From the Same Cloth” (a gem of a song) unravels the mournful tale of a problem child who never had a chance – and comes by it naturally.

“Styrofoam Cup” is filled with twangy regret (ditto for the hillbilly stomp of “Don’t Give a Damn”) and the hard-bouncing “Hellbound” is a loser’s lament that speaks for itself.

Elsewhere, “High Water” swerves between the love/hate romp of “W.F.L.W.F.”; the bratty, revved-up punk-rock of “Wallet”; and the beautiful (yes, beautiful) vocal arrangements of “Hell or High Water,” a song that deserves to be all over the radio (assuming radio still exists?).

Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke contributes the road-weary “’Til the Wheels Fall Off” (another radio-hit-in-waiting) and the explosive “Kindness to the Dead” sounds like Guns N’Roses circa 1987 covering Aerosmith circa 1973.

Overall, “High Water” is as gloriously ragged as Junkyard’s past. Uncompromising, unwashed and blissfully unaware of trends and fashion, it’s the sound of timeless rock-n-roll. Drink up!

Rating: All the aces!

Junkyard trivia: Do you recognize the “Faded” references to Westlake and Circle K? If so, you probably spent time in David Roach’s childhood hometown of Austin, TX.

By Metal Dave

On April 15, 2017, we were invited aboard the Anthrax tour bus outside Grizzly Hall in Austin Texas where the band was headlining an all-day, outdoor metal festival. Our interview covered the band’s latest releases, choice of cover tunes, the Big 4 and first concerts (there’s even a playful jab at the Bulletboys!). My thanks to Steve Miller and his wife, Charlotte, for their technical expertise and assistance, and to the Anthrax crew for their hospitality. This was a good day! Enjoy …

HARD-DRIVING ROCK: The latest album from Austin, TX-based Broken Teeth is another down-n-dirty blast of bad-boy rock-n-roll.

By Metal Dave

Back with more bite than a deep swill of rotgut, Broken Teeth is still breathing fire on new album, “4 on the Floor” (EMP Label Group).

Full-throttle from the get-go, the infectious title track rides waves of stinging guitars courtesy of Jared Tuten and David Beeson while shrieker Jason McMaster extols the damning pleasures of rock-n-roll. Like a pair of muggers, drummer Bruce Rivers and bassist Robb Lampman ensure the beating stays steady.

“Sinful” slows things to a bluesy simmer while continuing to give the devil his due, and “Getcha Some” upshifts into a full-tilt, ballistic stomper recalling younger daze of being “face-down and wasted.”

On an album driven by bangers, the icy swing of “Borrowed Time” arguably wins as the showpiece. It’s hard to pinpoint, but something about its spine-chilling, creepy-crawl burrows into the black-hearted isolation shared by the loners in AC/DC’s “Night Prowler” and “Ride On.” Spooky, yet irresistible.

Picking up speed, “Never Dead” pushes “all the gauges in the red” and serves as the ultimate ode to Motorhead’s Lemmy (written before he passed). A closing cover of KISS’ “Rock Bottom” punches with street-fighting fury.

In all, “4 on the Floor” offers 10 tracks of Angus-n-spuds rock-n-roll that dances evil (“House of Damnation”); steals the show (“All or Nothin’”); calls out the fakers (“All Day Sucker”); and wrestles with demons (“Let the War Machine Roll”).

As always, Broken Teeth has no aspirations of being artsy or refined, preferring instead to keep “4 on the Floor” firing hard on all cylinders. Besides, who has time for manners when you’re this busy knocking heads?

Rating: “This One Goes to 11”