Thursday, November 19, 2009

KISS Hits With Sonic Boom

It's been a little over a month now since KISS released their latest studio album "Sonic Boom" and it has been received very well in spite of the problems that came from their exclusive deal with Wal-Mart. I've waited this long to write my thoughts of "Sonic Boom" because as a huge KISS fan I wanted to digest every aspect of it's release before sharing my thoughts. And the release is truly the best place to start considering how poorly it was handled.

Every KISS fan, and some non-fans, know that Gene Simmons is as much of a business man as he is a musician. So it was no surprise to anyone that he took a cue from Guns N Roses and AC/DC and struck a deal with a major chain for distribution. And seeing as how well AC/DC did through Wal-Mart with their release "Black Ice" it seemed that a KISS/Wal-Mart deal would work wonders; especially with the idea of the KISS Korner where you could get the new album plus other KISS merchandise. Unfortunately Wal-Mart dropped the ball and left many KISS fans upset as they got to their local Wal-Mart to find no KISS Korner at all in some stores and even having to go to more than one Wal-Mart to just find a copy of the new album let alone other KISS merchandise. Even Sebastian Bach, formerly of Skid Row, had said on his Twitter feed that he had gone to his Wal-Mart ready to buy every new piece of KISS merchandise only to leave with more money than merchandise. And the online store was no better. I pre-ordered the album a month before it's release expecting the receive it the day of release only to have to wait because Wal-Mart didn't ship until the release date. Lucky for KISS that the album wasn't disappointing or they would have had a lot of issues to deal with.

Considering the last new KISS album was 11-years ago, there was a lot of speculation as to whether or not this album would be anything worth listening to. And the truth is that it is a typical KISS album from start to finish. There was no redeveloping or experimenting with "Sonic Boom" so if you know KISS' music then you know what you are getting. And the packaging was setup to give to old fans and recuit new ones by adding a greatest hits CD and DVD of some live performances without costing an arm or a leg.

The opening track, Modern Day Delilah, was also the single for the album. This made perfect sense because it is very reminiscent of the early days of KISS. Almost like a newer version of the KISS Klassic Strutter. Though the vocals on it can get to you as Paul Stanley attempts to hit notes that are obviously out of his vocal range at his age. It's the only time you have that on the album, every track has it's connections to a different era of KISStory.

Danger Us reminds me so much of the mid to late 1980s KISS line-up that it makes me wonder if it was a newly written track or was it something that was passed on in the writing sessions back then. A strongly guitar driven track that has a very simple yet catchy chorus that gets stuck in your head. I've even found myself humming it at random and then searching it out on my iPhone to listen to it again. And then the album shifts to the early 1990s KISS with I'm An Animal, a slower and darker pace compared to the other songs. Much like the album "Carnival of Souls" does to the entire KISS library, it's closer to metal than the classic rock sound that everyone knows and loves KISS for.

My only gripe is that Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, who are replacing Ace Frehley and Peter Criss in this version of KISS, don't really stand out to me on the album. If it wasn't for the trademark 4-part harmonies and Eric's vocals on the song All For The Glory or Tommy's on the song When Lightning Strikes you would never know that they were on the album at all without reading the liner notes. I truthfully feel that Tommy stood out more on the "Alive IV: Symphony" more than this album. While the guitar solos are strong they sound more like a session guy trying to copy Ace Frehley's style than Tommy contributing his own talent.

When it's all said and done KISS didn't really disappoint this member of the KISS Army with "Sonic Boom". True that it took 11-years to get new material and it isn't the original line-up, it is still the same sound that we come to expect from KISS and that makes it a hit in my books. Let's just hope it fuels the flames of creativity and we don't have to wait another 11-years for another one.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Metal Lives in The Garden

You might think that I go to a lot of shows but the truth is when your funds are limited you gotta choose your shows wisely. I usually base my decision on the price of the ticket and the venue. And my latest was a very smart decision as I was one of thousands who packed Madison Square Garden to see Metallica play there for the first time in 10-years.

Most people buy a ticket and get to the venue for the headline act, but not yours truly. I believe in getting to a show for the ticket start time and catching the openers, whether they are good or bad. Originally I thought the show was just Lamb of God and Metallica but there was an opener for them. That bands name is Volbeat. And they were better than some opening acts I've seen in the past. Though they need to learn to speak clearly because no one in the building knew who they were until Metallica thanked them. To describe Volbeat as a type of metal that I would label them as, if you had to, is Hillbilly Metal or even Rockabilly Metal. There is a lot of the old southern rock like Elvis and Johnny Cash in there sound. And for a newer band out of Denmark that's a nice sign that younger bands are finding the older influences in the medium.

Following Volbeat was Lamb of God, the first of the newer metal bands to play at Madison Square Garden to my knowledge. And the put on a great set as well. They played 4-songs of their latest album "Wrath"
using the first 3 songs from the album, in order, to start their set. "Set to Fail" is one of my two favorite tracks on the new album and was awesome live. I wish they had played my other favorite "Fake Messiah" but hey you can't have them all. The songs that seemed to get the biggest response from the crowd were "Now You've Got Something To Die For" and "Redneck". Although no one attempted any kind of mosh pit until the last song in the set, "Black Label". And that had me thinking that Lamb of God, though they slammed the building, is a band best left for a smaller venue like Roseland because they can connect better with the fans. Lamb of God brings such passion and intensity with their music that an arena just doesn't seem like a natural fit.

Before I get to my thoughts on Metallica I want to give a lot of credit to all three bands for performing in the round. As if it isn't tough enough to do a regular stage setup to move left to right to play to both sides but to play where you have to move to play to all around you in a 360 degree setup is amazing. And the other great part about the round setup is it allows for more tickets to be sold which usually results in a lower ticket price. So it's a win for everyone involved.

The anticipation in the building grew as the roadies began setting everything up for Netallica to take the stage. Several times my friends and I jumped thinking it was time, but once "The Ecstasy of Gold" began we knew it was time for Metallica. And since this is the World Magnetic Tour I doubt anyone was surprised with "That Was Just Your Life" and "The End of the Line" being the first songs they hit us with. But knowing that the majority of the building were long time fans they immediately went to some old school Metallica. I had always felt that the song "For Whom the Bell Tolls' was one of their most intense song and man was I right. Now I had heard it live 10-years ago when Metallica played The Garden for the only US date of "S&M" it was just more intense because it was just the raw power of Metallica bringing it to you. And of course "Holier Than Thou" is always great to hear live.

Now some may disagree but I was thrilled and surprised that they played "One". Yes you may say it's a trademark song for Metallica but I could easily see it swapped out for "Wherever I May Roam" or even "The Unforgiven". But with that said the added pyro to the opening effects made it amazing, you gotta love feeling the heat of pyro at a metal show. Another nice surprise for me was their cover of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" from the "Garage Inc.". It has always been a favorite of mine because everyone knows the feelings being expressed by it whether your in a band or just a fan.

As soon as "Master of Puppets" hit it was like someone turned on the moshing light as random pits broke out around the stage. I couldn't help but laugh in between singing along because the security stood there like deer in headlights not sure whether or not they should stop it. Truthfully I think the only reason they didn't make an attempt to stop it was because they were afraid of getting their asses kicked upside-down and sideways. After that things calmed down as they went to "Nothing Else Matters" followed by the song everyone and their mother knows "Enter Sandman", after all the non-lifers would complain if that wasn't played. Though the encore paid tribute to the hardcore fans with their cover of Diamond Head's "Helpless". Which was followed up with "Whplash" and "Seek and Destroy" to end it all, both perfect choices to end a show as they force you to use any remaining energy you have left leaving you with barely enough energy to get home.

It had been 10-years since Metallica headlined Madison Square Garden for the "S&M" show. Some say waiting makes you appreciate things more, and while that may be true I hope, as do many others, that it isn't another 10-years before Metallica returns to Madison Square Garden to rock the roof off the place once again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Looney Tunes Are Back

I got up this morning and after an awesome night at Lamb of God and Metallica (thoughts coming soon), I was still amped and ready to watch some kind of sports. Unfortunately the Giants have a bye week and the Rangers were off. I began searching the digital cable guide and was beyond shocked to see a Looney Tunes marathon on the Cartoon Network.

After the Warner Brothers stores closed down Cartoon Network washed their hands of the Looney Tunes characters for original programming that had less stereotypes in them. Although Cartoon Network has had some great cartoons created for them over the years I found it odd how they were just able to toss them off like an old coat because a bunch of uptight soccer moms and minority groups complained about the stereotypes in Looney Tunes. And let's not forget those who complained they were to violent. And the evening news is any better? Murder here, rape there. That kids are allowed to watch but heaven forbid they enjoy Bugs Bunny getting the better of Elmer Fudd by causing his rifle to backfire.

I had actually begun to worry about the Cartoon Newtork as they have begun airing cartoons and "reality" shows aimed at tweens. Add into that the airing of live action movies with no direct link to cartoons in anyway had me thinking that Cartoon Network was turning into the next MTV. The stations name wasn't going to match what it airs.

The return of Looney Tunes will surely help their ratings because they are timeless. Just because Bugs Bunny ocassionally dresses in drag to outsmart people doesn't mean your kid will do the same by watching it. Looney Tunes were and will always be funny to kids of all ages, so untie the hairs on your ass society and start realizing that kids should be allowed to watch things that are fun, too much educational programming will result in a mindless generation that won't know what laughter is.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monk talks music and business on the Selling Circus

Fort Payne, AL - Barre, MA - Munich, Germany
November 8, 2009:
Renagade's Relics is pleased to announce that one of it's Independent Musicians, Monk, will be a guest on the Selling Circus podcast, hosted by Walt Kolenda, aka 'AuctionWally.' Special co-host is Susan Leak aka 'Renagade' of This live broadcast is on Monday, November 9, 2009 on the platform.

Monk, from Munich, Germany will discuss the making of his debut CD, 'Damaged Music for Damaged People'. This album was a three year solo project, with Monk writing, performing, mixing and producing. The show will also cover the way Monk has successfully implemented the Internet to market his music and establish his brand of 'Monk.' Monk and Susan have built a working partnership for marketing Monk's album and have done so strictly via the Internet. This show will be the first time they have had the opportunity to speak directly to each other.

The Selling Circus podcast is hosted by Walt Kolenda of Barre, MA on Talkshoe. The focus is on eCommerce selling and the issues the sellers face in todays ever changing marketplace.
To have a Musician come in an address how the music world faces the same problems of marketing, promoting, and branding, offers a fresh new angle many will be able to learn from.

“ I look forward to being able to share my experiences with The Selling Circus listeners” says Monk. “I have tuned into the show myself. I have found all the guests to be knowledgeable and the platform of Talkshoe a good one. The fact people can ask their questions with ease of just typing in the chatroom or calling in on the phone is great.”

The live broadcast is at 8:00pm EST on Monday, November 9, 2009.
You can tune in by going to:

The show will also be available for download on the site, or at  later in the week.

Lazarus at Don Hill's 11/21

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Heather Williams Is A Jill of All Trades

Very few people manage to do all the things they wish to do in this life. Many of us leave aspirations behind us as childhood dreams, stop due to physical differences in ourselves, or just need to let things go so that we can find a spot to survive in this crazy world. But there are a rare few who somehow manage to do it all and Heather Williams is one of those people. I recently spent some time with her to get some insight into this Jill of all trades.

-What inspired you to become a musician?
Heather: I started on piano when I was 10 and took lessons for a little while then moved to snare drum in the middle school band then high school sports took over.

I always wanted to play guitar and so a couple of years ago went to the local music store and told the manager that I love AC/DC and Van Halen and wanted a guitar with a whammy bar.

-Who are your biggest influences in music and why?
Heather: My biggest would be Van Halen and Lita Ford. My older brother played 80's metal all the time so I got a heavy dose as a kid.

-Being that your music career in still young, what are you aiming for as a musician?
Heather: Yes, I'm definitely green so that means I have to work five times as hard to catch up to todays competition. I'm aiming to be a step above the competition. For me there's no point in setting high goals if they will place me within the norm.

-Anyone who visits your website ( will see a ton things to check out, what are some of the things you do when your not rockin’ out?
Heather: Besides sports and being a real estate agent I love during my down times getting on my myspace page , my facebook page and my twitter

-I was looking through your bio and noticed that athletics was a big part of your teen years, what made you decide to go for a career as a musician instead of an athlete?
Heather: Actually I like to do both at the same time.

-What should people expect from you in the upcoming year?
Heather: This year I'm racing motocross,
which I just picked up a sponsorship with Pirelli tires, and just landed a roll in the new reality show XTREME TEAM where I'm the only female with a group of Elite Protection Specialists. Plus I've been running some 5k road races and skateboarding with my nephew.

She's a rocker, an athlete, and soon to be a reality star. I think it is safe to say that it won't be too much longer before Heather Williams bursts into our homes with everything that she throws herself into.