Alliance - Fire & Grace
This band, a trio, has an incredible pedigree; players have held down jobs as members of Sammy Hagar's band, GTR, the Greg Kihn Band, Boston and others. So this record comes with high expectations and it does not disappoint. The radio-ready rocker "The Wheel" kicks off the fun; listeners should probably be careful if playing this one in the car as the driving guitars and bouncy beat might lead to a tendency to press on the gas pedal. Bassist Robert Berry also handles all the vocals here and he sings with a style that fans of Bad Company's Paul Rodgers will dig, and like Bad Company, Alliance are adept at crafting catchy four-and-a-half minute songs that stick in the memory; "Real Thing," "I'll Have Some of That" and the soaring "Reason" are perfect examples. Guitarist Gary Pihl and drummer David Lauser round out the band and they rock pretty good all the way through, also stretching out for the lengthy prog rocker "Uncertain," a showcase in particular for Berry who adds piano and synth to the reflective cut.
Thor - Hammer of Justice
Thor begins this effort with the chugging "Beginning of the End" but the veteran hard rock/melodic metal star shows no sign of slowing down. Working basically with the same band that was on his 2017 Beyond the Pain Barrier release, Thor rips through "Warp 5000" at a Motorhead pace, tunes into a Judas Priest-like riff for "Return of the Thunderhawk" and gets ready to really bring the hammer down on the anthemic old school metal of "Destroyinator." As the album begins with "Beginning of the End," it wraps up appropriately enough with a second version of that song called "The End." Pounding drums, ripping guitars and Thor's growly vocals abound on the rock god's latest blast of thunder and lightning. The bonus documentary DVD Return of the Thunderhawk is included.
TANK - Re-Ignition
As you might guess from the album's title, this record finds TANK redoing some of their fan favorites from their '80s heyday. Teamed with veteran guitarists Mick Turner and Cliff Evans, new vocalist David Readman leads the band through 11 cuts that were originally on the first four TANK albums, including the thrashing "Power of the Hunter" with guest Tom Angelripper of Sodom and a take on "Shellshock" with Cradle of Filth's Dani Filth. Also here are the synth-augmented "Just like Something from Hell," the classic "(He Fell in Love with a) Stormtrooper," the manic "Blood, Guts and Beer" and closing salvo "The War Drags Ever On." Longtime fans should love Re-Ignition, also a great entry point for the uninitiated.
Hickoids - All the World's a Dressing Room: Live in L.A. 08.24.2018
In the liner notes for this release singer Jeff Smith notes that the band had tried to record a live album way back in the '80s but that the attempt ended up a "catastrophe" with the performance being a "drunken shambles." This effort on the other hand captures the band's live show nicely; the sound could be a bit better but this one is still fun and meant to be played loud. The sextet rips through the Elvis chestnut "Burning Love," here titled "Burnin' Luv," a take on Elton John's "Bennie & the Jets," the bucolic thrash of "Barnyard Medley" and the horndog anthem "Driftwood" which is dedicated to late band guitarist Davy Jones. "Git Back in the Truck" and the "Stay with Me"-informed "Brontosaurus" combine for a wild, 15-minute end to the show.
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