This edition of the Rundown features reviews of the latest releases from Black Oxygen, Dee Snider, Keith Moody, Sharks and Janus.
File Under: Balls-Out Rock
Black Oxygen - The American Dream: If you’re into guitar solos, here are two words you need to become very familiar with very fast – Black Oxygen. Scratch that – five words – Black Oxygen – the American Dream. The debut from these Kansas City natives is no song and dance, it’s not a dog and pony show, it’s a true blue rock album with guitars at the forefront, an album that makes no bones about putting the bands six-string assets in the driver seat from start to finish. The American Dream is what it is – a blue collar straight ahead ass-kicking fest fueled by unstoppable riffs that combine elements of classic rock and grunge with a modern flare (“Take It to the Limit,” “The American Dream”), though the album shines when Black Oxygen presses on the brakes a bit in order to slow the pace (“Good Times”), but when the band puts it all together (“Take a Chance”), they sound as if they can’t be stopped. It’s clear that the fretwork is the star of The American Dream, it’s painfully obvious across the board, but the songwriting of frontman David Lyle can’t be overlooked here. Lyle’s old school approach not only saves the song structures from getting too boring, it also strongly compliments the album’s throwback sound. No, Black Oxygen aren’t vets, they aren’t a band that has been doing this for decades, they are young, and with The American Dream now tucked safely away in their back pocket, this is a band that could be doing this for a while. Familiarize yourself with this band now, get to know these two words – Black Oxygen, then get to know these three words – The American Dream – you’ll want to find yourself a seat on the bandwagon before it starts to fill up. (www.blackoxygenmusic.com)
Go Download: “Take a Chance”
File Under: Old Dogs Learning New Tricks
Dee Snider - Dee Does Broadway (Razor & Tie): Just when you think you know the answers, Dee Snider goes and changes the questions, this reinventing himself by heading to the Great White Way, Broadway that is, with his latest project, Dee Does Broadway. Just as Snider has been able to blur gender boundaries while fronting glammed up shock-rockers Twisted Sister all these years, Snider is again attempting another blurring of genre lines, between metal and showtunes. The result is Dee Does Broadway, a mixed bag record that actually doesn’t come off as big a conceptual mess as it would seem. It’s obvious, or at least it should be, that Snider has the pipes to tackle Broadway and through a dozen of the theatre’s most timeless tracks as well as a number of guest appearances (“Big Spender” – Cyndi Lauper, “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” – Clay aiken), Dee Does Broadway can be an enjoyable listen. Snider does a good job blending in his own traditional flare and snarl while keeping intact the hart of these songs, a highlight of which is “Mack the Knife.” Dee Does Broadway is surprisingly light and fun, a record that shows that while it may seem to the naked eye that Snider had done just about everything a singer can do, they’re still are a few rocks left unturned.(www.deesnider.com)
Go Download: “Mack the Knife”
File Under: Singer/Songwriter
Keith Moody - Dreaming Out Loud: Alt-rock meets alt-country on Keith Moody’s debut long player Dreaming Out Loud, a record that surely delivers all of the tortured songwriter hallmarks you could ask for – love, loss, lost love and the pains of being at heart in general. To be sure, Dreaming Out Loud is a well written affair. Moody is an impassioned songwriter, someone unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, and it’s this blunt, transparent songwriting style that should sell you on Dreaming, and have you coming back for more when it concludes. One example of Moody’s classic style is “One Big Ending,” a track that finds Moody waxing cryptic, belting chilling lines such as “the moment we cry/we all start to die from the beginning.” “Do It Over Again” is another standout track off Dreaming, an album that at its core is very easy to buy into. Moody is far from a watered down talent – this guy has the chops. He is the real deal, something he shows off up and down Dreaming Out Loud, a record you’ll want to find in your iTunes tracklist sooner rather than later. (www.keithmoody.com)
Go Download: “Do It Over Again"
File Under:Gritty Pop Punk
Sharks - No Gods (Rise Records): No Gods may technically be a debut, but by no means are Sharks newcomers; having already shared the stage with the likes of the Gaslight Anthem, Crime in Stereo and Gallows, and it’s that experience that has this album sounding like so much more. Call them punk, call them rock, call them what you will, No Gods blurs genre classification lines listen after listen with its powerful, intricate harmonies and spotless pop sensibilities, which causes the record to come off far more catchy and infectious than expected. As a matter of fact, No Gods showcases the bands penchant for staunch harmonics again and again (“Til the Wonders Rise,” “Matthews Baby,” “Dawn Soft Light”), though portions of the record offer a throwback feeling, a sound that harkens back to a Third Eye Blind-dominated 90’s (“What Entails”). No, it’s not all mainstream pomp and circumstance, no, as No Gods offers just as much Sharks being Sharks as anything else the band has ever put to wax (“Patient Spider,” “Arcane Effigies”). The albums ability to generate a certain amount of crossover appeal with their over-the-top melodies without sacrificing elements that got them to where they are today makes No Gods a special listen, one you’ll surely want to devour far more than once. Sure, this album could be looked at as being too soft or too poppy by some, but the album shouldn’t just be judged on its soft exterior, it should be consumed as a whole. There’s a wealth of potential here, and if Sharks can build upon what they’ve started here on No Gods, then there’s really no ceiling high enough for how good they could possibly be. (www.myspace.com/sharks)
Go Download: “What Entails”
File Under: Melodic Rock/Metal
Janus – Nox Aeris (Realid Records): With Nox Aeris, Janus has done what any promising, young band should on their sophomore record – take all those electrifying elements from their debut (in this bands case, Red Right Return), use them as a solid foundation, then build up them to improve in all facets. Nox Aeris is a balanced offering that alternates between intense, polarizing and ethereal melodies (“Lifeless,” “Always Rains,” “Polarized”) and straight-up, old-fashioned heavy (“Stains,” “Promise to No One,” “Pound of Flesh”), thanks to a brilliant fusion of angular, yet moody, guitars, unstoppable, high-motor riffs and impassioned, piercing vocals from frontman David Scotney, vocals that come across as limitless. Scotney’s soaring, near unparalleled delivery fuels the albums overall dynamic at every turn. Nox Aeris is a tremendous rock record, one that, like their debut, should find itself on more than a few best of lists come year’s end. And if Janus is this good on Nox Aeris, just their sophomore album, it’s scary to think of how good this band will be in years to come.
Go Download: “Stray”