Dominic Rios-"Songs For War"-2002

Texas born multi-instrumentalist Dominic Rio is an up & comer currently living in Virginia who has recently released a 3 track CD, "Songs For War". Not only did Dominic write and arrange and produce the album, he played ALL the instruments [drums, bass, guitar, vocals and , of course, drums], as well; this guy does it all! [not sure if he does windows, though. you`ll have to ask....] While the 3 tunes here are of the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal variety, they are distinct from one another, and obviously Dominic went to great lengths to insure this. From the pounding opener "The Mind Of A Killer", to the down `n` dirty "Death To The Liars" and the ZZ Top-sounding "Shoot To Kill", it`s obvious that Dominic is HARDLY a "Jack of all trades, master of none"! Displaying equal facility on each instrument, as well as being a fine vocalist, he is clearly a man who`s got what it takes. Any band looking to enhance their sound [and their career, for that matter!] should DEFINITELY check this guy out! In addition to the 3 tracks here, there are other tunes posted on Dominic`s website. But I don`t need to tell you that, `cause you`re already on your way there now, AREN`T you? [HUGE thanks to Dominic for sending me the disc! You da MAN, Dom!!]

Dominic Rios

Howling Syn-"Forbearers Of Dusk"-2002

From the frozen North comes Howling Syn, a "Gothic Metal" [for lack of a better term!] outfit from Montreal.The band is essentially the brain-child of Patryk Pigeon, who handles bass, vocals, guitars and orchestral programming, as well as lyrics. Their first album, "Forebearers Of Dusk" also features the talents of vocalist Sophie LeMay, who is a prize winning poet, as well; Eric Mireault on drums and Gilbert Riendeau on guitar [Gilbert joined after the album was recorded]. One can hear various influences, from King Diamond to Nightwish, but Howling Syn have their own style and approach. Tunes like "As The Forest Speaks To Me", "Black Moon" and "Night Charmers" weave dark tales, both lyrically and musically, filled with pagan imagery, sensual vampiric love/lust, and all other things Goth! There really isn`t a "bad" track of the 14 on the album, due to the highly polished musicianship, well thought out arrangements, and intelligent lyrical concepts, all topped off with high quality production that only adds to the music. Such professionalism will undoubtedly yield great rewards for Howling Syn; this is a band to watch for! And you can get in on the ground floor by going to the band`s site and ordering "Forebearers Of Dusk" now!!

Howling Syn

Warlord-"Rising Out Of The Ashes"-2002

After nearly 18 years, one of THE progenitors of the Modern Power Metal sound has returned! Guitarist/songwriter William Tsamis and drummer Mark Zonder have patched up their differences, put their own projects [Lordian Guard and Fate`s Warning, respectively] on hold, and have enlisted the services of Hammerfall vocalist Joachim Cans. The result is "Rising Out Of The Ashes", the band`s first release since `84; actually, it`s the first full length release for Warlord, as they only put out EPs`` and singles. [In fact,their August 2002 appearance at Wacken marks the first live Warlord gig, as far as I know!] One of the most anticipated Metal releases, to be sure. But does it live up to all the hullaballo? Mostly yes. It should be pointed out that several of the tunes here ["Battle Of The Living Dead", "Winds Of Thor", "War In Heaven", and "My Name Is Man"] have appeared before on the first two Lordian Guard releases, and I believe that "Invaders", "Sons Of A Dream" and "Achilles Revenge" were originally slated to appear on the third [as yet unreleased] Lordian Guard album "The Holy Empire". Also included here is a remake of the Warlord classic "Lucifer`s Hammer". So, what`s the verdict? Overall, "Rising....." is a worthy addition to the proud Warlord legacy. Tsamis and Zonder work together here like they`d never stopped, as if the previous 18 years never happened! William, who pretty much writes all the songs, offers up some of his finest work ever. This guy probably comes up with more great riffs and melodies in his sleep than Eddie Van Halen did in a year! And Zonder`s unique drumming has always been a stylistic cornerstone of the Warlord sound; ANY track on this album is all the proof you need about THAT! Cans? Wellll... Here`s where I may cause a bit of controversy! The chink in the mighty Warlord armor has always been in the vocal department, and here is no exception. Now, the "True Metal Warriors" are gonna scream and I`ll probably be excoriated for saying this, but Cans` voice just don`t cut it! Both he, and Hammerfall, are waaaayy overrated; Power Metal WITHOUT the Power! But Joachim obviously had a good time singing on the album, and his enthusiasm shows. [AND, he didn`t write any lyrics, so there aren`t any happy, slappy, sing-songy, beer drinking chorus` about True Metal brothers riding blood red dragons made of steel, thank God!] Highlights include the exotic "Enemy Mind", the AWESOME "Invaders" [MY favorite!], a great new version of "Winds Of Thor", which is my favorite Lordian Guard tune, and the ambitious "Achilles Revenge". Unfortunately, "My Name Is Man", another remake of a LG tune, just plain blows! Check out the original, from the first Lordian Guard album; it`s much, MUCH better! That, and Cans` lacklustre vocals, prevent this album from being a complete success. Overall though, ""Rising.... is one of the best Metal albums released this year! And even though the band stress that this is only a one-off project, I doubt we`ve heard the last of Warlord. And in a musical world where Fender gives the guitarist of Blink 182 his own signature model guitar, Warlord is needed, NOW more than ever! "To the swords, to the guns....."


Sleepy Hollow-"Soundwell EP"-2002

Bringing to mind such late `70s` Hard Rockers as Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull, New Jersey`s Sleepy Hollow [no relation to the eighties Power Metal band of the same name!] have a style uniquely their own. This 4-track EP showcases the band`s [Dan Castiel, bass, sax, vocals; Joe Dell, piano, organ, synthesizer, vocals; Frank Michael Melick, drums percussion, vocals; Matt Schwarz, lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, flute, vocals] individual, as well as collective talents; DEFINITELY not a case of "the whole is greater than the sum of its` parts"! Each tune stands apart from the other, and each band member takes turn on lead vocals for each track, as well, thus adding to the diversity! From the first track, "Destiny", [with it`s grandiose, ELP-style opening], you KNOW that this is NOT yer average Jersey bar band! The Tull-like "Two Too Late" is next, followed by "From Above", featuring a killer riff and "freak out" jam. Finishing it all off is "Sleepy Hollow", based on the great short story by Washington Irving [you fellow Upstate New Yorkers should be familiar with this tale!] With their abundance of talent, Sleepy Hollow is a band with roots in the past but eyes fixed firmly on the future. Highly, HIGHLY recommended!

Sleepy Hollow

Johnny Lokke-"Early Warning"-2002

Heavy Metal from The Heartland! You KNOW the music industry is in dire straights when a guy with this much talent labors in almost total obscurity! But labor he does, and one would be sorely pressed to find anybody who works harder at their craft than Kansas City`s own Johnny Lokke! On his first album, "Early Warning", Johnny lays down 12 lethal Metallic masterpieces that are are obviously and unapologetically [is that a real word?] rooted in Eighties` Euro Metal. Not in the Primal Fall/Hammerfear cookie-cutter style that currently pollutes much of the European Metal scene; more of a homage than outright plagiarism. In addition to the vocals, Lokke also plays all guitars, bass, as well as recording the whole thing; definitely not the work of a slacker! Drums were provided by long-time associate Damien Scott. The album kicks yer face right from the get-go with the Priestly "Fast Strike", and then follows that opening salvo with the ultra heavy "Don`t Forget About Me" [with a riff like that, how COULD you forget?!]. Johnny knows his craft, and has a genuine love and respect for our favorite genre, as evinced by the super low end crunch of "Horses And Angels" and "Prayer For The Dying", an Accept-like stomper, the Maiden-esque guitar harmonies in "I`ll Be Alright", and the KILLER title track. Lokke`s performance throughout is flawless, in both the vocal AND 6-string departments! And while hints of major influences like Dickinson and Halford abound, tracks like "In My Skin" and "Me The Freak" remind me a little of ex-Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell, proof that Johnny is hardly stuck in the past. High marks also go to Scott, whose drum pyrotechnics on this album show him to be a major tub smasher of the highest order! Closing out the disc is "Starman", my personal favorite. Why? Hey, got to Johnny`s website, get the album and find out for yourself! Metal just got one HELLUVA wake up call, and his name is Johnny Lokke! We will be hearing MORE from this gentleman soon.....

Johnny Lokke
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