Hot Wax Album Reviews by the ROCK DOCTOR – March 12, 2023

INTRAVENOUS: REMASTERED Skam (Golden Robot) ******

Every once in a while a great hard rock album comes along that hits your sweet spot.  Skam’s new release, Intravenous, is just such a record.  This disc consists of both earlier released EPS; Intra and Venous, so no weird drug overtones or connotations there.  Straight up fire-breathing rock & roll powered by dense, chunky riffs and spirited playing is the order of the day.

Skam is an English hard rock power trio and Intravenous is a heavy album lyrically too, inspired by modern day struggles and each song focusing on a negative human trait, yet sending the message that there’s always hope.  “Lyrically the songs follow the same theme of human conditions and experiences” says singer/ guitarist Steve Hill on the record.  “You will hear hard hitting bangers typical of the sound Skam are famous for, but also some curveballs in the form of a power ballad and a 90’s style grunge track!”

Skam is the band Nickelback probably wishes they were.  These tracks were re-mastered by Ade Emsley, known for his work with bands like Iron Maiden… in fact I’d say the heaviosity on display here is equal to Maiden’s Y2K Bruce Dickinson comeback disc Brave New World. I like the way they write, and the way they think about what they write; Skam doesn’t use a formula, but as rock & roll fans themselves trying to capture what they would want to hear.  As it turns out there are a great many people- myself included- that want to hear that too.

Great vocals, the guitars are tight and the roll-up-our-sleeves-and-get-to-work ethic of the rhythm section make for a deliciously powerful disc.  It’s a gutsy, guitar-based classic rock mix that has them at the forefront of Britain’s ‘New Wave of Classic Rock’ movement.  I haven’t heard the previous mixes of the 2 EP’s that make up this re-mastered release, so curiosity may eventually lead me in that direction.  In the meantime I’ll take the fist-pounding on the table energy of Intravenous all day long; this perfect music to throw on when you have to get some shit done, or take to the highway for the afternoon.  This is GREAT rock & roll..

HOT TRACKS:  Circles, The Cure, Deadliest Sin

HASTA EL FINAL!” Bad Bones (Rockshot Records) ****

Here comes an Italian power trio that rocks hard as balls on their 6th album.  Hast el Final is a heady mix of blues, punk, classic rock and metal.  Those riffs come at you with sledgehammer force; it’s gratifying that this kind of music is still being made.

Influenced by NWOBHM and the LA scene, Bad Bones was formed in 2007, even making Los Angeles their home in 2009 before moving back home the following year.  They’ve toured the US and Europe, popping up at festivals all over the place.  Hast El Final is short and to the point, like a Motorhead record- 8 songs clocking in at just under half an hour.  “(This record) hits you like a punch in the face” the band says, “compact and powerful.  We didn’t use samples, nor quantized/ triggered fake drums, everything was played live- even the overdubs were kept to a minimum, to keep the fierce spirit of our first albums.”

Bad Bones are Mekk Borra on vocals and guitars, Steve Balocco on bass and vocals, and Lele Balocco on drums. In the trio format there is nowhere to hide and everybody must pull their weight.  While Borra’s guitar work is the star of this record together these three men make a powerful, nigh on irresistible noise. Bandit, the first single and leadoff track on the album, is fiercely energetic, akin to a combination of Motorhead and Iron Maiden. The disc branches out nicely from there, but it’s a promising start and the gateway to some nasty, tasty rock & roll.

Hasta El Final was produced by the band themselves and, sonically it reminds me a lot of Trouble’s self-titled 1990 album, released on Def Jam and produced by Rick Rubin. HEF, no doubt as the result of mostly being tracked live, has a ferocious energy with the songs hard and melodic.  It feels like an old school approach to making records, but I’m an old school kind of guy so this is right up my alley.  The album is short with a 29:21 running time, but by the time that half hour is up, you’re spent.

HOT TRACKS:  Sand On My Teeth, Bandits, To Kill Somebody

RUN FREE Stonetrip (Golden Robot) *****

After a well-received EP in 2021, this is Stonetrip’s full length debut.  A name like ‘Stonetrip’ might lead you to expect swirling dreamscapes and psychedelic sonics yet Run Free is anything but.  This is 4 on the floor guitar driven rock that makes driving too fast a whole bunch of fun.

The label website rightly sums ups these Aussie rockers’ sound as “a groove laden modern rock sound with classic rock sensibilities.”  Run Free has a punchy, muscular sound, a physical presence that’s hard to ignore. Stonetrip worked with Australian producer Ricki Rae to polish the new batch of songs into these beefy, gleaming slices of rock muscle.  Though the sound is different, this disc hits much in the same way as AC/DC’s Highway to Hell did back in the late 70’s.  I couldn’t stop listening to that, and I can’t stop listening to this either.

Run Free includes songs from that first EP- Sideways, Runaway, Nightmare, My Angel and Wild Hearted Son and Leave A Light On- as well as some new tracks, a good way for the rest of us that missed that EP to catch up.  Their debut live performance was in 2019, so it would seem the band arrived fully formed and ready to kick ass.  It can take a band a number of years and a few records to find themselves musically, but Stonetrip hit the ground running with a fully developed sound that is the equivalent of a 70’s muscle car.

Listening to modern radio is enough to make you despair for the current state of music… but when you put on something as undeniably powerful as Run Free, it renews your faith in the power of rock & roll.  Throw the horns, jump up and down, shot gun a couple of beers, drive too fast; however you choose to express your joie de vivre, Stonetrip’s debut album is perfect company.  Play this loud, and play it often.

HOT TRACKS:  Dark Night, Run Free, Leave A Light On

STORM WARNING Stormwarning (Frontiers) *** ½

Storm Warning is the self-titled debut for these South American melodic rockers. Centered around the talents of Argentinian singer Santiago Ramonda, this disc is like a cross between Journey and early Foreigner; plenty of melody and muscle with heroic vocals tying it together.

Santiago’s musically odyssey began in 2007 when he picked up a guitar but he later found he was more suited to singing.  After a few years of self-taught development, he took lessons from singer Ivan Sencion then dove into working with 80’s and 90’s rock tribute bands.  Guitarist Stuart Smith of Heaven & Earth brought Santiago’s You Tube videos to the attention of Frontiers, who signed him and put him together with Marcelo Gelbcke (guitars, bass, keys) and drummer Felipe Souzza, and thus Storm Warning was born. “I am very excited to be a part of the Frontiers family” the singer says. “I come from a small place where the conditions for art are not the best, but the passion of being committed to a purpose can break all barriers. Dream big, because everything is possible and dreams DO come true.”

If you’re looking for a singer to compare Santiago to, I’d go with Joe Lynn Turner and maybe Lou Gramm or Steve Perry.  His singing is forceful but not rough, a voice built to handle the passion and melody demanded of singers in the melodic hard rock genre. The insistent riffing of Gelbcke along with his bright, inventive soloing are still more highlights of this impressive debut. Comparisons to 80’s metal are inevitable and I suppose warranted, particularly with this style of keyboard work.  The production team of Seregio Mazul and guitarist Marcelo Gelbcke have managed a successful marriage of melody and metallic density, a combination that doesn’t sacrifice one for the other… not too frilly, not too knuckle draggy.

Unlike a certain Doors classic, StormWarning’s backbeat is thick and easy to master.  Great singing and guitar playing with keyboards over a straight ahead rhythm section makes for a pretty damn good record.

HOT TRACKS: Horizon Chase, Eye Of The Storm, Way Of The Warrior


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