Various Artists, Sin-Atra (Armoury)
U.S. Release Date: March 29th
You know it’s kind of a slow week when the top review goes to a disc where metal artists are covering Sinatra tunes. Clearly indicating that all metal is “Sin”-ful, Armoury records gives us 12 classic Frank Sinatra tunes covered by rock and metal singers. Obviously, if you are listening to this for anything other than the novelty factor, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. After all, how serious can this be when Jani Lane got called to do a track? However, after a good half dozen listens, there are some rewarding moments on this disc.
It shouldn’t surprise you that Bob Kulick is the brain behind this record as he’s also put out a metal christmas disc in 2008 and a disc of Beatles covers in 2006 among quite a few other tribute works. Kulick wrote all the music and plays guitar while Brett Chassen is on drums, Mr. Big’s Billy Sheehan plays bass and keyboards are played by Doug Katsaros whom Kulick played with in the ’80s in a group called Balance.
As far as the artists go, you have your usual group of rockers whose peak was many years ago – the aforementioned Jani Lane, Glenn Hughes, Dee Snider, Geoff Tate and Eric Martin. You have your odd inclusions like dUg Pinnick of King’s X, Nonpoint singer Elias Soriano and Franky Perez. And you have someone like Devin Townsend who is a pretty legit current metal artist.
So let’s start with the good. Glenn Hughes’s work on “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is a bit oversung but that’s pretty much his style. Dee Snider’s version of “It Was A Very Good Year” is actually quite good and rockin’ hard and Eric Martin’s version of “The Lady Is A Tramp” is orchestrated very well.
Then of course there’s the bad. The inclusion of “High Hopes” (Perez) and “Love and Marriage” (Soriano) seem kind of silly in the context of this album. They’ve become kind of novelty songs to begin with but flipping them to a metal style sounds pretty terrible. Townsend’s version of “New York, New York” is strange at best, while Pinnick’s “I’ve Got the World on a String” sounds like he’s participating only to collect a paycheck. But nothing beats the horrific nature of Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna doing “Strangers in the Night.” I’ve never been a Belladonna fan, but his vocals are completely wrong for this which makes the track unlistenable. Even worse though is that “Ritchie” Kotzen plays guitar on the Jani Lane sung “That’s Life.” Yes, his name is spelled “Richie” but not according to this album. Seems a little disrespectful to me, especially since Kulick and Kotzen have worked together in the past. Proofread people!
Any way I look at it, I can’t say the album is good. But the second and third listens to the record at least revealed some decent tracks, good musical reworkings by Kulick and a few smiles to go along with the cringing.
Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising (Metal Blade)
U.S. Release Date: March 29th
I love seeing the press releases that come with a new Amon Amarth record. Everyone associated with the band including the band themselves make it a very public point to state that they are not viking metal despite this being their eighth album of viking themed music. Sure, they are more of a melodic death metal than the sound you usually think of with the viking label, but something tells me if they really want to get rid of that genre being pinned to their name, they could just write about something else.
Singer Johan Hegg has been quoted as saying the production is different on this album to give it a “more aggressive and rougher” feel that previous albums. Unfortunately, I’m not hearing that. Amon Amarth is the Motorhead of the death metal scene. They employ the, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it theory on music. I’ve been listening to the group since 2002’s Versus the World and all five albums since that point have pretty much the same vibe. Not only does an Amon Amarth record sound very familiar to most other Amon Amarth albums but there’s little to no variation within the disc itself. It’s often hard to tell where one song ends and the next begins. So it’s a good thing that the band is damn good at what they do. Just like Motorhead, if you like one, you like them all. I have to think the same principle needs to be applied here. If you have enjoyed any of their previous few albums, you should like this. If you haven’t, Surtur Rising isn’t going to change your mind.