Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Various Artists - "Local Steel" CD Review!!

It's now time for our 70th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene! As we don't have an eligible new album in our possession to look at for this month, we'll dip in the archives for just the second time since April 2013 with an album that we can tie in to multiple local shows in the past month, as it's the 1998 compilation CD "Local Steel"! Just the second compilation album that we've ever reviewed on here, "Local Steel" was recorded at Full Scale Audio Productions with producers/future Gsis Murphy bandmates Keith Davis & Tony Marcello and later mastered by Dennis Mortson at Master Plant Productions. This showcase of Sault Ste. Marie artists compiles original songs from 17 different acts, all long since defunct by now, but there are many familiar faces to be heard along the way! They include four artists (Tony, Rob Adamson, Steve Batenchuk, and Shawn Daoust) who played on multiple tracks, with Steve on three.

This album is also long since out of print, but you can stream the whole thing on our YouTube channel at this link, and each song name below is linked to it's YouTube copy. Given the age of the album, not all bands will have surviving links or public photos, so more recent pictures & references will be used where needed. Featuring 17 tracks at around 71 minutes in length, let's begin our "Local Steel" review! The first track is "Ten Feet High" by local punk quartet Totally Confused, who featured Rising Tide singer/guitarist Dustin Jones, his Cover Up bandmate Mike Yorke on guitar, recent Wing-Its bassist Trevor Harding, and Mike's Room 206 bandmate Al Watson on drums. Harbouring somewhat of a proto-Inner City Surfers sound, Totally Confused show a fun pop punk sound here with lively guitar and a catchy rhythm, but the guys later work showcases more of a mature presence that you can still see at various local events.

Second is "Sweet Talkin' Women" by Hemp, a blues rock trio featuring recent solo artist Paul Dellavedova alongside bassist Patrick Breen and drummer Gino Sicoly. I don't listen to a lot of blues, but this is very good for the genre, with smooth melodic vocals and a nice bluesy tone, solid guitar solo, and good bass work throughout, though the backing vocals clash a bit. Paul has kept this up with his later solo work, so give that a listen if you can! That's followed by "Flesh & Bones" by defunct local metal quintet Hollow, whose lineup featured former J.A.B. singer Luigi "GiGi" Miceli, guitarists Terry Eaton (Mourning Wood) and Adam King (ex-Mustang Heart), Griphook bassist Dan Beaupre, and Knee Deep drummer Vinnie Milosevich. A straightforward metal song with an Alice In Chains vibe vocally, this is strongly performed by all parties, with a great solo and solid bass and it's an early highlight for me! Nothing too risky, but quality late '90s metal!

Song #4 is "Weight In Water" by Hemlock Tea, an alternative rock band featuring prolific local solo musican Chris Belsito on vocals, Machines Dream's Craig West on guitar, ex-Bigsuit bassist George Ravlich, and Leaves Off Trees drummer Roy Kreutzberger. Not too heavy, but a nice groove on this alt-rock original that switches moods well on verses, and Chris's vocals suit the song very well, but the guitar solo seemed to come out of nowhere and it admittedly clashes with the rest of the track. Next is "State" by Generation Gap, an alt-rock quartet featuring singer/guitarist James Guertin, former Boxcar Junction bandmates Rick Senko & Steve Dowding on guitar & bass, and Havadder drummer Scott McLurg. The softest song yet on "Local Steel", this has an easy to take sound that still blends in skilled drumming and a nice solo, but again, those elements clash a bit with the overall tone of the song.

The sixth track is "When Things Are" by Tripod The Dog, a more recently familiar rock band featuring Thin Ice's Mark Oliverio on vocals and guitar, Billy Bastards guitarist Greg Beharriel, Matt Miller on bass, and Mark's old Boogie Fever bandmate Tracey Hilderley on drums. Showcasing a funk/alternative sound, Tripod The Dog had an entertaining ambiance that's a bit hard to pin down, but it's easy to see why they stayed active for so long afterwards! That's followed by "Remember When" by 2 St. Thomas, a rock quartet featuring singer/guitarist Adriano Guzzo, guitarist Jamie Florio, bassist Jason Naccaratto, and drummer Jim Pulente. Though their members aren't visibly active in recent local bands, they demonstrated talent and chemistry on this alternative rock original that has a dreamlike quality and a pleasant rhythm, that adapts well for it's faster stretch without changing it's style too much, and you can hear this song on their debut album "From Above & Beyond" as well!

Eighth is "Under The Influence" by Marc Boyer & The Hellfish Bonanza, a hard rock quartet featuring Marc on guitar joined by producer/ex-Gsis Murphy frontman Tony Marcello, bassist Steve Batenchuk, and drummer Shawn Daoust. Apparently preceding an album from this band, Marc shows solid guitar ability and songwriting talent on this song, with The Hellfish Bonanza backing him up nicely, including strong vocals and a nice classic vibe that reminds me a bit of Deep Purple! Then we have "Wasted" by defunct punk trio Tha Bombed Squad, whose lineup featured future Lion Ride bandmates Brenton Ellis on vocals & bass and Mikey Hawdon on drums alongside guitarist Pat Suriano. A short & fast paced skate punk original, this is a nice indicator of things to come from Mikey & Brent's future local bands, with good intensity, and it's a quality look into their early local band work!

The tenth song is "Assassins Noose" by D.F.S. a metal band featuring singer Jay Faught, his brother(?) Marc on guitar, Greg Seyler on bass, and Donnie Dupuis on drums. Harbouring a very Rage Against The Machine-inspired sound with pseudo-rapped vocals, this is a solid heavier track, if not that original, but I wonder why we haven't heard much from the members of D.F.S. lately? There was talent there! Eleventh is "A Long Cold Rain Comin' Down" by current StonesmithGC mainman Troy Isaac, which is the only credited solo track on "Local Steel", though he's joined on bass by Rob Marcil. A straightforward mid-paced rock song that has that "driving down the highway" feel, it makes good use of rain effects, and it's well composed with a serious determination, but fans of Troy's heavier music might be disappointed.

Next is "Mr. Silver Tongue" by alternative rock quartet Bud Shamble (who later became Middle of Nowhere), and they're represented here by singer/guitarist Sergio Palumbo, his brother Peter on guitar, ex-Fusion bassist Lino D'Orazio, and Redline drummer Rich Trevisanut. Lively and energetic, this song has pleasant vocals, a good vibe, and clear talent all around, though at times, it sounds a bit too reserved from where it might have gone. That's followed by "Run All Night" by The Second Hand Band, a blues rock quartet featuring singer/guitarist Tyler Caughill, future Crossbreed bandmates Mike "Conan" Kienhofer (now of ACR) and Bob Hollingshead on guitar & bass, and Rob Adamson on drums. I'm detecting a Stevie Ray Vaughan influence on this song, which has a grit to it's take on blues rock, and it has a catchy vibe going for it that blues fans should enjoy!

Rob Adamson makes his second straight appearance next with "I Know" by Alexis Machine, who also featured future Stiffler's Mom bandmates Jon Ferguson (also the former owner of album sponsors Foggy Notions) on vocals & guitar and Mike Davies on guitar, plus The Hellfish Bonanza's Steve Batenchuk on bass. A well-paced hard rock song that bears similarities with Stiffler's Mom's old originals, this is another solid rocker that should appeal to most listeners of "Local Steel"! 15th is "The Pale Horse" by The Porn Fairies, a techno/rock band whose members are cryptically credited as Crusty (guitar), Kekko (bass), and Pottsy (drums) with "Dan" on guest spoken vocals. I have no idea who these guys are, but they delivered an electronic experimental blast here that is hard to describe, but creative, laden with all kinds of effects, and very listenable overall!

The members of The Hellfish Bonanza (albeit with producer/Gsis Murphy alum Keith Davis in place of Marc Boyer) returned for the penultimate song "Deliver Me", under the band name Your Mother. Compared to "Under The Influence", this song is a bit heavier and has distorted verse vocals, but it delivers a solid sound with nice aggression on Tony's vocals, but the song isn't as melodic as some tracks that preceded it. "Local Steel" closes with "The Bones I Throw" by alt-rock quintet The Gully Yodellers, who featured singer John Paul Laberge, guitartists Rob Storch and Ryan Milne, ex-Barfly bassist Ben Garcia, and current Lucky 13 drummer Roger Sartini. A Pearl Jam-esque song at times, this definitely sounds like a 1990s recording (that's certainly not a bad thing), and there's a solid maturity to the sound and lyrics on this well written original, capping off "Local Steel" in fine form!

So, what are my final thoughts on "Local Steel"? While I can't comment on the individual bands as they were in 1998 (I was 9 years old), this compilation serves itself well as a collection of 17 diverse bands from the local scene, with all showing their own gifts and talent on each! I did gravitate the most to the songs by Hollow, Tha Bombed Squad, and Alexis Machine, but there are no bad songs on this collection, and if you like metal, punk, blues, or alt-rock, there are multiple tracks for you to enjoy! It is also interesting to hear how modern day veterans of the scene sounded 17 years ago, as well as discover some talent that we haven't heard much from in recent years, like D.F.S. and 2 St. Thomas. Though their later work with Gsis Murphy can be divisive, Tony and Keith did a great job producing this compilation, and while I'm not sure if a teased second installment ever came out, "Local Steel" is a great time capsule of the local scene of the late 1990s! Be sure to check it out! above!

I hope you guys liked this month's CD review, and as for next month, we will very likely be taking a look at local alternative/grunge quartet Haggith's second album "Apocalypse" next! As "Apocalypse II" is planned for a release on May 10th, it only makes sense to go in chronological order given the conceptual theme of both albums. If all goes according to plan, look for our review of the first "Apocalypse" at some point next month, and we'll see you guys TONIGHT at The Rednecks Saloon! Thanks everyone!

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