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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

The Rods

Vengeance

Review by Mike Korn

In the opinion of many, The Rods should have been one of the biggest metal bands of the 1980s and beyond. Their gritty, catchy heavy rock appealed to both classic hard rockers with roots in the 70s as well as the new breed of thrash metal worshippers coming up through the ranks at that time. Led by former Elf member and cousin of Ronnie James Dio David "Rock" Feinstein, this primal power trio unleashed a slew of notable albums like "Wild Dogs" and "In the Raw" and snagged the coveted opening slot on Ozzy Osbourne's first Blizzard of Ozz tour.

Somehow, it never materialized, but The Rods still had their fans and memories die hard. Now in 2011, we have a comeback album Vengeance and it's like these dudes never left. The time seems right for it, with resurgent interest in metal roots. The songwriting remains the simple "working man's metal" as always, and the sizzling guitar solos of The Rock are just as potent, if not more so, than they were back in the day. Vengeance is not a perfect or world-changing album, but for bombing down the highway with your hair in the wind, it's tailor-made.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Raise Some Hell

Raw, chugging heavy metal with a mid-paced stomp; that's what this track is all about and the whole album in general. Clichés abound throughout this record, but the chorus is irresistibly catchy and Feinstein's lead guitar work is sweet. His vocals are average, to say the least, but they don't really hurt the material.

I Just Wanna Rock
The ghosts of AC/DC and Kiss haunt this up-tempo fist-banging number that brings to mind the classic Rods material of the early 80s. Carl Canedy's power drumming is right on target for this tune, which could be the theme song for "Heavy Metal Parking Lot.”
Rebel's Highway
This is a killer "blasting down the road" song with some awesome chugging riffs and one of the best choruses on the album. You talk about a metal biker anthem; that's what you've got here. It's an album highlight.
Ride Free Or Die
The biker theme continues here. The lyrics are not thought-provoking at all, but you're never going to hear "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" coming from these guys. This has a sleazy, bluesier type feel to it and the guitar solo is absolutely to die for.
The Code
Ronnie James Dio was a cousin of Rods' frontman Rock Feinstein and here he lends his classic vocals to this anthem. It has to be one of the last things he recorded. No disrespect to Feinstein, but his singing pales in comparison to Dio's velvet tones, which perfectly fit this song. This has a bit more epic feel than most Rods' tunes and it's not a million miles away from something that would be on Dio's Holy Diver album. It gives us one last chance to hear the metal master's golden voice.
Let It Ripp
Here's another album highlight. This one jumps out of the starting gate like a nitro-fueled hot rod. This is fast heavy metal that is definitely not thrash, an important difference. This reminds me a lot of the classic Rods' song "Hurricane" from their album In The Raw.
Livin' Outside the Law
The opening riffs here really remind me of early Dio. This is more of a slower, plodding tune, the first of a string of three similar tunes. The biker lyrics go into cliché overdrive here, too. It's not one of my favorites.
Fight Fire With Fire
These guys will never win an award for original song titles, that's for sure. This is another slower tune with bluesy overtones...it even features cowbell! It brings to mind some of the slower Ted Nugent material.
Madman
This starts with TV news snippets of famous serial killers and their infamous deeds. Naturally, it's the darkest song on the album, driven by Canedy's powerful drumming. It's another plodding track and Feinstein's vocals just don't convince on this one. At this point, the album badly needs another tune like "Rebel's Highway" or "Let It Ripp" to pick it up.
Runnin' Wild
Thankfully, this one gets the band back to fast and punchy heavy metal rock n' roll. It features the lead vocals of bassist Gary Bordannaro, which are a little less gruff and more tuneful than Feinstein's. Correspondingly, the chorus is one of the album's strongest.
Vengeance
The album ends strongly with this heavy cruncher. It's not one of the faster tunes, but it's the heaviest and there's undeniable catchiness to the riffing here. It puts a nice strong cap on the album.
 
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