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Check out the hard rocking new releases below!
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  • KISS: 1977-1980
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  • The Missing Peace
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  • The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (Deluxe Edition) [2xCD+Book]
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    by Iron Maiden
  • Paranormal
    by Alice Cooper
  • Defying Gravity (Deluxe Edition)
    Defying Gravity (Deluxe Edition)
    by Mr Big

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RMS suggests the following new releases.
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  • Runnin' with the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen
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Sebastian Bach - “Abachalypse Now"  CD/DVD

Review by John Jeffrey

When I heard that Sebastian Bach was coming out with a new live CD/DVD, I have to admit my interest was piqued considering how much I enjoyed Bach's first live CD, "Bring 'Em Bach Alive," and also how much I was disappointed with the quality of the live performance on his "Forever Wild" DVD. 

Considering “Abachalypse Now" is a CD and DVD package I was really hoping for the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, due to the lack of foresight, none of the live shows recorded for "Abachalypse Now" were done so with intention of releasing them as an audio only product.  As Bach revealed in an interview his plan was to release "Abachalypse Now" as a DVD (only), but the record company persuaded him to include the audio portion on an accompanying 2 CD set.

Once Frontiers Records plan came to fruition, Bach began to scrutinize the original audio tracks from the live shows, which led to a massive amount of overdubbing leaving the end result a complete mess.  Throughout the 2012 Hellfest and Nokia performances (Bach did not do any overdubs on the Graspop show), there are many times when it sounds like the vocals were doubled and/or auto-tuned with the original vocal tracks and sound completely off key.

While the DVD is fun to watch (especially when Bach pokes fun at himself during the beginning commentary of the Graspop show), the CD portion leaves a lot to be desired. First of all, I don't understand why Frontiers Records insisted that all of the shows be included on the CD set.  While the audio is passable for a "live" DVD, it really doesn't sound all that good as a standalone CD. On top of that, due to the setlists from all three shows being somewhat similar, there are many repeat songs in the CD package. I feel they just should have used the best performances of each song for the CD or included the Nokia show audio on CD, as it is the best sounding of the three shows. 

The biggest disappointment about the entire package is the fact that Sebastian compromised the musical integrity of the Nokia performance by featuring members of the Hop Topic heroes, the Black Veil Brides, in order to name drop them on this release to try to squeeze a few more sales out of the sheep who follow that farce of a band. As contrived as their image is, it is especially well known how horrible they are live.  The appearance by guitarist "Jinx" and bassist  Ashley Purdy on "Abachcalypse Now" are no exceptions.  Jinx’s guitar playing during "Big Guns" is so bad that his guitar is completely buried in the mix (even when he's playing the solo) and Ashley's vocals were so off that Sebastian overdubbed his own vocals over Andy's parts in "Youth Gone Wild."  The sad thing is not only has the Black Veil Brides 15 minutes of fame expired a long time ago, but in a few years, Sebastian Bach will still be remembered as one of the best vocalists from the 80's and the BVB's will be a long forgotten bad memory.

"Abachalypse Now" is definitely a worthwhile addition to any Skid Row/Sebastian Bach fan's collection, but I feel the ultimate Sebastian Bach live package is still yet to be made.


Richie Scarlet - "I Plead The Fifth"

By John Jeffrey

Richie Scarlet is a rock and roll survivor.  Dubbed the "Emperor of Rock" by former cohort Ace Frehley, while some may question whether his 'empire' is waning, one thing is for sure, Scarlet has a cult-like diehard fan base which recognizes the magnitude of his talents, which has unfortunately eluded most mainstream music listeners.
Richie Scarlet is not a quitter.  In this upside down, ass backwards record industry, Scarlet continues to release new music on a regular basis, which each release pushing the envelope of what defines Richie Scarlet as a musical artist.  His most recent release, "I Plead The Fifth," is no different.  The 9 song disc, produced by Tarik Solangi, reaffirms Scarlet as still being the 'rebel boy' in 2013. 

While "I Plead The Fifth" starts out strong with the Alice Cooper-ish "Lips Like Morphine" and the raucous  "Burning Through Life," unfortunately the disc kind of peters out with several 'lover lament' songs like "Love Will Find A Way" and "Without Your Love."  However, Scarlet makes up for the poppy ballad slobber with the awesome "I Don't Wanna Die" and the epic "Indian Souls (1876)."  The latter being an acoustic driven masterpiece, which was originally a poem Scarlet wrote in his youth about the plight of the Native Americans.
The disc ends with an atmospheric cover of James Brown's "King Heroin" and an instrumental entitled, "Carousel."  "Carousel" is a keyboard driven 70's style interlude, which will make all guitar aficionados ears perk up and take notice of Scarlet's cutting edge, unorthodox lead guitar playing.  Joining him on the musical journey is Guns N' Roses guitarist Bumblefoot and Dez Cadena (currently playing guitar with the Misfits).  Other notable guest stars on "I Plead The Fifth" include former Ace Frehley bassist, John Regan, and original Alice Cooper Group bassist Dennis Dunaway.
While "I Plead The Fifth" is definitely a solid release, I do find the disc to be somewhat of a 'song skipper,' making me long for Scarlet's harder edged material, like the "Wise Guy From New York" CD.  Even though the disc is somewhat short, there are enough good songs to make the album worth having, as it gives the listener true insight as to who Richie Scarlet is today.


SouthWicked - "Death's Crown" 

by John Jeffrey
When Rob Barrett, the guitarist from Buffalo's own "Death Metal" giant, Cannibal Corpse, announced he was getting married (to wife Irina), it was announced a special show (a wedding reception of sorts) was being put together at Club Infinity, which would feature the reunion of several retired bands from Riverside, NY.  Several musicians who no longer reside in the WNY area traveled home for the event, including bassist, Rock Rollain.  While Rollain returned to Buffalo to reunite with the now defunct, Axmen, he informed RockMusicStar that he far from retired, and is currently playing with the Death Metal band, Southwicked.  While RockMusicStar doesn't typically cover that genre of metal, how could we ignore a band whose bass player's name is "Rock?"  

Southwicked is the brainchild of guitarist Allen West, who is known for his time playing with Obituary and Six Feet Under (which features original Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes).  They have just releasedtheir debut album, "Death's Crown," on Abyss Records, produced by Peter Claes and Mark Prator.  Southwicked harkens back to the early days of Death Metal, when it was more about attitude, versus today's technically obsessed, virtuoso type bands.  While the signature 'cookie monster' vocals (provided by Sven Poets) are ever present on "Death's Crown," which is usually a major deterrent for me, the music is really worth listening to.  Songs like the title track, "Death's Crown" and "Craving for Blood" are reminiscent of early thrash, making me think of bands like Overkill, Death Angel and Anthrax. 

One of the things I really like about Southwicked, is unlike most Death Metal bands, they don't tune their guitars down to "X-flat," as they maintain a heavy tone by playing in the key of "D" and the guitars don't sound like mud.  Rock Rollain's Geezer Butler style bass lines add a certain doom element to the songs and drummer Marco Vreven avoids the trappings of stereotypical Death Metal drumming by avoiding the lightning speed double bass playing and grinding that you'll hear by most drummers in this genre, and goes for a more heavy tom-tom approach, almost like a Dave Lombardo (Slayer).
By far, the best song on the CD is "Green River Killing Fields," an epic tune that will get your blood pumping for anyone who enjoys heavy music.  While Southwicked haven't reinvented the wheel, it's refreshing to hear a new(er) Death Metal band who isn't afraid to bring it "old school" style.

For more on Southwicked, click here.


Sister Sin - "Now and Forever"

by John Jeffrey
Sister Sin has just released their third full length CD, "Now and Forever."  Faithfully following the chemistry which made their first two releases so great, Sister Sin continues carefully crafting songs which sound like updated, metallized versions of early Motley Crue, with larger than life vocals from the Swedish brunette banshee, Liv Jagrell.
After a building classical musical interlude, the album kicks off with "End of the Line," which is a great up tempo song, reminding me of one of their older songs, "Hostile, Violent" (from 2008's "Switchblade Serenades").  Getting deeper into the disc, it's clear that Sister Sin still boldly displays their Motley Crue influence, as songs like "Fight Song," "I'm Not You" and "Shades of Black" have bits and pieces in them that are reminiscent of Crue tunes like "Knock 'Em Dead Kid," "Bastard" and "Too Young to Fall in Love."  While the early 80's LA metal aggression is definitely there, you can also hear more Euro-metal influences creeping into their sound on "Now and Forever."  Tunes like "Hearts of Cold" and "The Chosen Few" feature choruses with that signature, minor key, European Heavy Metal flair.
While drummer Dave Sunderberg continues to drive the beat for Sister Sin, he just plays some incredible stuff on this disc which is quite remarkable, considering he's one of the few single bass drummers in metal.  Guitarist Jimmy Hiltula also really shines on "Now and Forever."  Not only are Hitula's guitar solos top notch, but he's really expanded his sound, experimenting with different tones on songs like "I'm Not You" and doing some killer Mick Mars-like wah pedal type stuff on "Hang 'Em High."  Bassist Strandh, makes his Sister Sin recording debut on "Now and Forever," as he's been touring with the band for past 2 years now.  Strandh follows the Sister Sin bassist mentality set by the players in the band before him, as he stays in the pocket while playing ascending and descending bass lines, working off of Hitula's killer riffs.  Liv Jagrell delivers a performance that secures her place, first in line, to the throne of the Euro-metal queen, which is occupied by the current empress, Doro Pesch.  Coincidentally, Sister Sin will be doing a US tour next year in support of Doro, and Ms. Pesch also appears as a co-vocalist in Sister Sin's promo video for their cover of Motorhead's "Rock 'N' Roll."
The only downside to "Now and Forever" (and Sister Sin as a group in general) is that a lot of the songs sound similar, which is partially due to the fact that don't really change many of the tonal qualities of the music from song to song.  While it's great to have a signature sound, if you don't change it up a bit, it can become a bit monotonous for the listener.  That being said, the most important thing is that the songs on "Now and Forever" are really good, and if they keep putting out material like this, they'll have years to refine their sound, as they keep bringing their old-school metal approach for generations to come.  


Peter Criss - "Makeup To Breakup" book

By John Jeffrey

Attention KISS fans!! Brace yourselves, because original drummer Peter Criss has been issued the launch codes, and on October 23, 2012, Criss will be dropping the bomb, which will cause an upheaval in the ranks of the KISS Army for sure! Peter's projectile will come in the form of his autography, "Makeup To Breakup - My Life in and out of KISS" (co-authored by Larry "Ratso" Sloman), which is by far the most scathing and dirt dishing book put out in reference to any member of KISS, past or present. "Makeup To Breakup" makes the dirt rags ("KISS & Tell" by Gordon Gebert and "Into the Void" by Wendy Moore) written about former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley come off looking tame by comparison. Being so volatile, it makes Gene Simmons' "KISS and Makeup" read like a school text book and it's so raw and racy, it makes Ace Frehley's "No Regrets" seem like an after-school special.

"Makeup to Breakup" does start out rather slow, as the first couple of chapters deal with Peter's childhood, which is the oh so typical, 'poor kid, growing up in a poor neighborhood, gets picked on by the neighborhood bad boys, fights back, eventually becomes one himself, until finding an outlet to escape his surroundings and begins the path on the road to his journey of fame and stardom.'

The beginning of Peter's musical life also coincides with beginning of his relationship with his childhood sweetheart and first wife Lydia Criss. Interestingly enough, the chapters surrounding their relationship and the early days of KISS, closely parallels Lydia's own story she published in her book, "Sealed with a KISS." Getting further into the book, I began recognizing stories that I had read in other KISS related books, like Sean Delaney's "Hellbox" and certain factual data which I recalled reading in "KISS Alive Forever" (Jeff Suhs & Curt Gooch). It's good to know that Criss and Sloman did their homework when compiling the stories and the dates of when things occurred, but unfortunately, I can only give them a B or a C for their efforts, as there are quite a few factual and grammatical errors in the book. While I won't nitpick every mistake, big ones in there are the dates of the last show he claims he performed with KISS (in the picture section of the book it states it was December 20, 2004, when it was actually 2003) and the year that his father passed away (the book states 1995, when it was in December of 1994).

When Peter begins recounting details from the early days of KISS, the readers jaw will undoubtedly drop. While some fans would suspect that Peter would touch on Paul Stanley's long rumored bi-sexual tendencies (which Peter does touch on briefly), it was shocking to read Criss' claims of Ace Frehley's sexual duality. Not only does Peter allude to receiving oral sex from Frehley during a threesome, but stated that he questioned the true nature of Ace's "friendship" with one of his (Ace's) longtime friends.

Peter Criss provides a descriptive and detailed account of his first, second and third run with KISS, in addition to his personal relationships with various girlfriends and his first, second and third wives (Lydia, Debra and currently Gigi). He also provides his account of the beginning and end of his various solo projects, his run in with the mafia, his stint in rehab, his (almost) attempted suicide, and most recently, his diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

When describing his various 'reunions' with KISS from 1996 on, you get a clear picture that instead of time healing wounds between Criss and his former bandmates, instead, it created a brand new hatred for Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and manager Doc McGhee. His distain of the KISS Co. trio became so extreme that he needed to seek professional counseling in order to prevent himself from following through with his ever increasing fantasy of "packing a gun and taking a plane to L.A. and shooting the three cocksuckers." Keeping with co-author Larry Sloman's self-deprecating writing style, Peter did not hesitate to throw himself under the bus throughout the tales in his memoir, however it seems no one else in Peter's circle was safe from that fate as well. While constantly citing his history of repeated drug use, he claims he and Ace were not the only ones to partake in the festivities. He claims that Gene and Paul were "contact high" throughout the recording sessions of "Dressed To Kill," due to all of the marijuana being smoked by producer Neil Bogart. Peter proclaimed, "Gene would order four dozen donuts and chow on them constantly." Later on, Criss alluded to Paul Stanley being a doctor shopping, prescription drug addict, stating that he carried a Louis Vuitton bag filled with everything from pain killers, tranquilizers to sexual stimulants, along with a "phone book of over 50 doctors' names."

(Then again, it would have been weirder if he carried a list of local drug rehab centers around.)

The thing I found most surprising in the book is Criss' apparent bitterness towards Ace Frehley. Most KISS fans always viewed the band as a divided group, with Gene and Paul on one side and Peter and Ace on the other. However, in "Makeup to Breakup" Peter makes it clear that he certainly doesn't reside with team Frehley. While it seems that he feels a kinship to Ace, from the very early days of the band, Peter comments on how lazy Ace was, and states that while he felt that he (Peter) was the best singer in the band (even a better vocalist than Paul), that Ace should have never been allowed to sing in KISS. It seems that because Peter was the third member to join the band, he disagreed with the idea that Ace was more valuable to KISS than he was. Peter always fought to make as much money as Ace did during the 'Reunion' era, and was devastated when he found out that Ace was making more money than he was on the Farewell tour. Between that and Ace going along with Criss' termination in 1979, it seems that Peter still holds a grudge somewhat, as he even noted that the song he wrote called "Space Ace" (from his 2007 "One for All" CD), was not a tribute to Ace like most people thought (including Ace), but actually a slam for "Ace's betrayal."

As scandalous and sensationalized "Makeup to Breakup" is, the storytelling and attention to detail (although at times flawed) is really top notch. It's an entertaining read for any music or KISS fan and it will be up to the reader to determine what may be fact or fiction. Like part of the old William Cooper quote goes, "Listen to everyone, read everything, (and) believe nothing."

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