Saturday, May 4, 2013

Late & Loud - "Heavy Rockin' Hard Metal: Still Hard" Review!!

In a special early post, here's this month's CD review, and it's of the expanded re-release of Late & Loud's debut EP "Heavy Rockin' Hard Metal"! Subtitled "Still Hard", it was released on April 24th during the band's set at the Rockstar Bar Battle of the Bands Finals, and it's the second pressing of this disc (originally put out in November 2012), though it now features two re-recorded tracks & two new songs to go along with the main 5 from last year's copies. Those 5 carried-over songs were recorded early last year at The Smoke & Oak Room Studio with producer Dave Pihlaja, while the 4 new recordings were done earlier this year with producer/Daybreak Johnnies guitarist Steve Hopkin. All 9 songs (clocking in at around 38 minutes in length) feature the band's classic lineup, including singer/guitarists Jonathan Tiberi & Brendan Christie, bassist Benn Garside, and singer/drummer Josh Hatherley. Copies were on sale for $5 last week, though it's unclear if they'll be available at potential future concerts or be re-pressed at all, but contact the band on Facebook just in case! Also, the 5 returning songs can be streamed at Late & Loud's Reverbnation page.

Just on an advisory note, be wary of playing "HRHM: Still Hard" in slot-loading CD drives, as I think the psychedelic custom art actually helped it jam in my computer, but tray-loading drives played it without issue. Like with our past reviews of albums that featured re-released material (i.e. Destroilet's newest CD), we'll only be giving an in-depth review of the new recordings, and covering older tracks with just some summative thoughts, but of course, if you want to read my full review of the 5 returning songs, check out my initial review of "Heavy Rockin' Hard Metal" at this location! Now, let's begin this review with looks at the aforementioned carried-over tracks!

Tracks 1 and 6-9 are the returning songs from Late & Loud's original recording sessions for "Heavy Rockin' Hard Metal", albeit in a new order, and they're "Heavy or Bust", "Fast As a Bitch", "Machine Gun Maiden", "Whisper of the Damned", and "Rock N' Roll". Like last year, I find these five tracks to be a solid and fun sample of Late & Loud's classic metal setlist, and all four members show their collective musical talent well on them! I'm partial to "Heavy or Bust" and "Whisper of the Damned" of these five, and the new order helps spread these songs out more then they had been. As was the case last year, their chemistry and feel was always there, and Dave Pihlaja's production was an asset, but my main issues are the continuing lack of a full time singer, and that (on my copy, at least), "Rock N' Roll" cuts off a few seconds early, a problem that didn't affect the song on the original EP. Still, these are 5 very nice and energetic songs, and they give a nice glimpse into Late & Loud at their peak, so give these songs a listen (and read my full review on them) at the above links!

As for the new recordings, songs 2 & 3 are the brand new tracks that weren't on the November release in any form, starting with (by far) the EP's longest song, "Trouble"! What struck me right away was that this song does seem to be played at a slower tempo than it is live, but it's still heavy & faithful to their talents, and the guitar work is a standout! Jon Tiberi's vocals are what I expected, though I'd like to see a bit more grit and less melody on the choruses, and some of the gang vocals are messy mid-way through. If anything, I think "Trouble" lends itself more to live shows, as it's length and nature fits a more carefree jamming style with a faster pace, but it works as a studio track, and never feels too long! It's followed by "Live For Excess", which I'm glad to see included despite not being played at their most recent gigs! It has a fun up-tempo pace and nice guitar riffing, along with solid bass & a quality guitar solo, plus it shows Brendan Christie's best vocal performance on an L&L original! However, the song is relatively short, and the chorus is a bit more minimal and more falsetto-focused than in live concerts, but it's still a ripping track and a welcome addition!

As for tracks #4 & 5, these are the Steve Hopkin-supervised re-recordings of "Never Again" & "Love Letter Lockdown", the self-recorded bonus tracks from the original "HRHM" pressing last fall. I've already looked at both last year, but the recording quality is much better, with vocals much easier to hear, and the individual instruments much clearer in the mix, so Steve deserves kudos for his production! "Never Again" still isn't a highlight of the 9 songs, as it's not overly aggressive or energetic, but it's well performed, and the late jam break helps the song end well! It just doesn't live up to the classic metal intensity of most of it's companions. The improved version of "Love Letter Lockdown" is really welcomed though, as it's another heavy and catchy number, if short, but the drumming works nicely, as does the extended guitar solo! The big issue here is the vocals, which don't have the punch I get from this song live, but at least they don't get slowly quieter like before. If you were disappointed by these songs on last year's pressing, try to upgrade & hear these songs more like they should be heard!

So, what's my final word on "Heavy Rockin' Hard Metal: Still Hard"? Well, considering it's expanded and partially re-recorded nature, it's a definite improvement on the original pressing, and I'd say the new songs justify buying a new copy! Like before, we have a lot of very solid and heavy original tracks from this cohesive & talented quartet, with Jon Tiberi & Brendan Christie's guitar work driving each, while Benn Garside's bass work and Josh Hatherley's drumming also tended to stand out and compliment everything else! This is what Late & Loud should have released all along in November, and as it was sold on a $1 discount from the original pressing, it's a win-win! However, for both production & musical quality, the original 5 songs from last fall are probably the best for my own preferences and for audio clarity, but Steve's work & improvements are really appreciated, and don't take anything away from the disc! My main issues are minor, like "Rock N' Roll" being clipped at the end, the lack of some older originals, and as I've always said, the need for a permanent singer (though the guys make the most of what they have.)

I don't know if this will end up being Late & Loud's last gift to the local scene (what with Jon moving & the band's own scattered activity in the past year and all), but "Still Hard" is a great sampling of the Late & Loud experience, and even if there's no imminent shows on the horizon, this should be the next best thing, as it's a very fun and well performed disc, even with it's independent production! Pick it up if you can at the above links, and fingers crossed that this isn't the last that Loudmouths will get to see of Late & Loud! Barring any unforeseen delays, next month's CD review at the SMS will very likely be of local grunge quartet Haggith's third studio album "Deuce" (as it's heavier than their last album "Apocalypse"), so if it comes out as expected on Friday, watch out for our review of it in early June! That's all for today, but stay tuned for a likely new news post on the site tomorrow! Thanks everyone!

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