…And They Shall Take Up Serpents: Byzantine

CoverbyzserpentsRating: 90%

I have always enjoyed the Heavy Metal scene in the region. For me, growing up, bands like Wrathchild America, Clutch, and Kix among others was a good thing. Well, Byzantine is no different hailing from Charleston, WV. They have a unique style that take Thrash, Groove, and Prog Metal and blending it together to make their sound. “…And They Shall Take Up Serpents” released in 2005 is the second studio album by the band. It literally can stand up and go head to head to In Flames, Pantera, and or Mastodon paying homage to the 1990’s Groove Metal.

Musically, the tempos are slower than that of Thrash, more aggressive and tight. It has some outstanding rhythms and leads. Some of the scales are interesting. The riffs are very heavy, but polished. The vocal style is very close to In Flames where the main verse is harsh with clean chorus lines. Lyrically, the album talks about life in West Virginia from the “Redneck War” when the coal miners rose up against coalmines themselves to the religious practice of taking up serpents in the name of God.

The musicianship is pretty tight overall. You have Chris “OJ” Ojeda on vocals, guitars, and piano. Tony Rohbrough on guitars as well as bass. Matt Wolfe on drums and acoustic guitar.

Track listing:

1. “Justicia” 4:07

2. “Taking Up Serpents” 3:12

3. “Jeremiad” 6:00

4. “Ancestry of the Antichrist” 5:54

5. “Temporary Temples” 4:59

6. “Five Faces of Madness” 5:29

7. “Red Neck War” 5:39

8. “Pity None” 3:58

9. “The Rat Eaters” 4:31

10. “Salem, Ark” 4:31

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Souls At Zero: Souls At Zero

souls at zero.jpgRating: 90%

After being drop from their record label in 1992, Wrathchild America changed their name for a fresh start. The end result was Souls At Zero. The new album was released in 1993, the third for guys, the debut for the new name. Losing more of the Thrash Metal sound and faster tempos, Souls At Zero began experimenting with Groove Metal with the Prog influence. The end result is a record that falls perfectly in line with Wrathchild America’s “3-D” which is where this album picks up as.

Brad Divens sounds the same with his graspy vocal style. His bass playing is killer. He really lays down some funky bass lines. Guitarists Jay Abbene and Terry Carter play some very tight riffs that has a bit of crunch. You can hear more of an experimental with other genres of music in the guitars. The guitar leads and fills are top notch. Shannon Larkin just kills it on drums. For an older band with a new image and name, these guys are playing tighter, more aggressively than previously. The Thrash element has almost ceased to exist.

Track listing:

1. “Frustration” 4:37

2. “Never” 5:22

3. “Look” 4:16

4. “Hardline” 4:40

5. “Lost” 6:19

6. “Checkin’ Out” 4:20

7. “Souls at Zero” 5:37

8. “Grey World” 4:28

9. “Not You” 6:10

10. “Crowded Head” 4:35

11. “Welcome to the 90s” 4:18

12. “Mind’s Eye” 8:34

Girls, Girls, Girls: Mötley Crüe

Rating: 85%

Girls,_Girls,_Girls_(Mötley_Crüe_album)1987 saw the release of “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Mötley Crüe. Changing some things up from their previous record “Theater of Pain”, the band will tap into their darker side of life such as drugs, women, death, and partying. The end result is an album that is pretty dark lyrically.

Musically, the band sounds much better and the song structures are more thought out. It seems as if the band is maturing. It also seems as if the band is also moving toward their first album “Too Fast For Love” as the song tempos are much faster and upbeat. Production work is a bit light and looses that raw gritty sound as heard on the first two records. This is a carry over from the “Theater of Pain” album.

Track listing:

Wild Side 4:40
Girls, Girls, Girls 4:30
Dancing On Glass 4:18
Bad Boy Boogie 3:27
Nona 1:27
Five Years Dead 3:50
All In The Name Of… 3:39
Sumthin’ For Nuthin’ 4:41
You’re All I Need 4:33
Jailhouse Rock (Live) 4:39

Metal Priestess: Plasmatics

Rating: 85%

MetalPriestess1981vinylBackBendFrontCoverSo…1977 and Punk was just ripping through the streets of America. The Plasmatics having been formed would storm through the late 1970’s and early 1980’s with their front woman Wendy O. Williams. Let me say, she took entertainment to a whole new level.  From chainsaws to destruction of cars on stage to her stage outfits. Because of that, Wendy O. Williams was ahead of her time as well as the music her band played. It was influential in both the Punk world as it was in the Heavy Metal world.

Musically, the song structures are along the lines of Hardcore Punk. But the riffs and screaming leads are as Heavy Metal as Heavy Metal gets. This album here is just one example of how the Punk world crossed over to influence Heavy Metal. Just ask Motorhead. They’ll tell you!

Track listing:

A1 Lunacy 5:04
A2 Doom Song 5:23
A3 Sex Junkie 3:08
B1 Black Leather Monster 3:39
B2 12 Noon 3:31
B3 Masterplan 4:48

Shout at the Devil: Mötley Crüe

Rating: 80%

ShoutattheDevil“Shout at the Devil” released in 1983 was the second album by Mötley Crüe. Even though, I am not a fan of the Glam Metal scene, I will admit, I have liked Mötley Crüe. They were different from the other Glam Metal bands and they also sounded much different than those other bands. You can’t beat this non super group of musicians. I mean come on, these guys sound as if they were from a super group. That’s how tight the musicianship is. You have vocalist Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars, bassist Nikki Sixx, and drummer Tommy Lee. These guys managed to keep this band moving forward for almost 40 years. 

The album features many good ass kicking guitar riffs and lead solos. The vocals are done very well. Vince has always been a good singer who has a good range. The bass as well as the drums are very good as well. The album opens with a prequel leading up to the second song “Shout At The Devil.” Which is one of my favorite Crüe songs. Just the opening riff alone is good. The next strong song is “Looks That Kill” which has a killer tempo.  Another good song “Too Young To Fall In Love” as well as the Beatles’ remake “Helter Skelter” which is done in Crüe fashion. Everything else on this album is pretty generic. It’s not a bad album.

Track listing:

In The Beginning 1:13
Shout At The Devil 3:16
Looks That Kill 4:07
Bastard 2:54
God Bless The Children Of The Beast 1:33
Helter Skelter 3:09
Red Hot 2:20
Too Young To Fall In Love 3:34
Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid 3:40
Ten Seconds To Love 4:17
Danger 4:44

Cool Kids: Kix

Rating: 85%

Kix-CoolKids1983 saw the return of Kix with their second album “Cool Kids.” Although, this album features a more of a New Wave style and is more commercialized, I really dig it from the time I first heard it way back then. I have had the cassette and CD versions of this album, but when i found the vinyl, I had to grab it.

Musically, this album isn’t nearly as hard rocking as their debut. It does have strong chorus lines, beefy riffs and sweet leads. That is what Kix was always known for. But what Kix does here is add other styles of music into their blend and experiments with it. The New Wave sound with all of the synths and the Pop Rock sound is perfectly balanced as to not take away from the tongue in cheek cheesy & riddled lyrics and hard hitting music. But I must admit, it is quirky. But, it worked on this album. And because of that, this album is very underrated.

You have one of the best front man of Hard Rock on lead vocals and his name is Steve Whiteman. He also plays the harmonica and saxophone. Replacing Ronnie Younkins is Wrathchild Americas bassist Brad Divens on guitars. He also is the talk box on “Body Talk.” You also have lead guitarist Brian “Damage” Forsythe. Keyboardist and bassist Donnie Purnell and drummer Jimmy “Chocolate” Chalfant finish out the tempo and rhythm sections of the band. 

Track listing:

“Burning Love” – 3:07
“Cool Kids” – 3:28
“Love Pollution” – 4:04
“Body Talk” – 3:39
“Loco-Emotion”  – 3:30
“Mighty Mouth” – 3:43
“Nice on Ice” – 3:25
“Get Your Monkeys Out”  – 3:20
“For Shame” – 3:11
“Restless Blood” – 3:50

A Fragile King: Vallenfyre

Rating: 80%

R-3418834-1329668619.jpeg.jpgThis album was released in 2011 as Vallenfyre’s debut, as a super group. It consists of Paradise Lost’s lead guitarist on lead vocals and guitar, At the Gates’s drummer Adrian Erlandsson, and My Dying Bride’s guitarist Hamish Hamilton Glencross. It also features Scoot on bass and guitarist Mully.

I really like this album simply because it’s old school Death and Doom Metal. Yes, old school Death Metal drenched in Doom Metal. Not Melodic Death Metal! Plus it features three guitarist. My most recommended song on this album is “Cathedrals of Dread”. 

The instrumentation has this doomy feel that goes with it’s overall sound. The guitars have this crunchy sounding tone along with screaming leads. The guitars are toned down which help to achieve that sound. The vocals are gritty are well.

The song structures are what you would expect from this genre of music. Slowed and heavy with some faster tempos thrown in. It’s got some really nice riffs that are super tight. Those leads and fill ins are just screaming. The drumming is pretty good too.

Track listing:

All Will Suffer 4:09
Desecration 4:56
Ravenous Whore 3:02
Cathedrals Of Dread 3:52
As The World Collapses 3:13
A Thousand Martyrs 3:24
Seeds 4:45
Humanity Wept 2:18
My Black Siberia 3:49
The Divine Have Fled 3:41
The Grim Irony 4:39