Along with sunburn and barbecues, summer also brings news of hot album releases for the rest of 2015. Here are some to watch out for.
Michael Monroe releases his new album Blackout States through Spinefarm, and he reveals that it will feature a previously unrecorded Dee Dee Ramone song. “It’s called Northern Lights and he wrote it in the early nineties,” the singer tells Classic Rock. “He wanted me to sing it because I’m Finnish and that fitted with the title. But it’s taken until now for me to do it.”
The 13-track album was recorded in Gothenburg, Sweden and produced by Chips Kiesbye. “He was recommended by Dregen [Backyard Babies], who was in my band until recently. I’m a fan of a Swedish band Chips was in called Sator. Hilariously, Dregen wanted Chips to produce the new Backyard Babies album. But he had to turn that down because he was busy with my album. Talk about a good deed biting you in the butt.”
The album was recorded live in the studio to retain the energy and vibe. It also has a punky London theme running through it. “That’s not to say all the songs are about being in London, but there’s that general atmosphere throughout,” Monroe explains. “One, Dead Hearts On Denmark Street, is about the way the city’s music scene has changed. But there’s also Going Down With The Ship, which is about being on the road. Then there’s R.L.F – that stands for Rock Like Fuck. The title track is about being a junkie.”
Whet your appetite with a taste from Michael’s last solo venture, 2013’s Horns And Halos, below.
ETA: October 16
With 14 songs to choose from and no label execs to appease, Def Leppard are enjoying a “purple patch”, says frontman Joe Elliott. “We had a ball making this record, and I think you can hear that. It’s fun, serious, fast, slow, everything in between.”
The record, their first as an unsigned band, will be titled simply Def Leppard. “We’ve never done that, in thirty-five years!” explains Elliott. “And when people have asked what it sounds like, we’ve said: ‘Well, it sounds like Def Leppard!’”
In another first for Leppard, there’s one song on the record where every band member sings lead vocals: “The lines everybody sings are poignant to parts of their lives.” Thematically, certain songs tackle geopolitical or religious points. “We don’t like to preach, but we don’t mind commenting,” Elliott reasons.
While guitarist Phil Collen has declared it their best record in 20 years, Elliott is uneasy about making the same claim. “Artists say that every time they release an album,” he says. “But we only put one out every five years or so [laughs], so I think we have a better perspective when it comes to judging it against our past work. So I’d say yeah, it covers all our songwriting angles.”
Not that they’ve sacrificed rocking out. “Trust me, there is some hard stuff there. It’s a guitar-driven album. There are no power ballads harking back to the eighties – there’s a couple of slowies but they’re more organic-sounding.
“Look, you can’t judge this next to Hysteria or Pyromania,” he adds. “But if it’s judged as a standalone record, it’s a bloody good album.”
There’s no question over Clutch’s enduring appeal. Their powerful, bluesy sound always packs a punch live, even without extra production – Neil Fallon admits their shows “haven’t changed in twenty years” – and their records often have them exploring different facets of their sound.
Psychic Warfare, which Fallon says is “done, mastered, and in the can”, is no exception. It’s heavily inspired by the work of sci-fi writer Philip K Dick, and plays lyrically on existential themes.
“It’s not a concept album,” Fallon explains. “Concept records can be too heavy-handed, and the rock opera overtakes the music. I’m not a fan of that. But there is a little movie that plays in my head as far as the lyrics are concerned. For the first track [the titular Psychic Warfare] I see a film noir, with a man trapped in a seedy hotel room, who starts falling victim to psychic forces. We’re recording the video for that one first. Then in the next track, Firebirds, he picks up a mysterious hitchhiker with supernatural powers.”
Don’t be fooled by the fact that it sounds very much like a concept album – it’s actually got more in common with Clutch’s most recent record, Earth Rocker.
“We turned this around pretty quick after Earth Rocker, so it shares a lot with that,” says Fallon. “I’d say it’s faster, and with more of a sense of humour. But there is a slow track on there that I’m a big fan of – Our Lady Of Electric Light has a much darker sound that’s not familiar Clutch territory.”
EAGLES OF DEATH METAL
When asked what their new record sounds like, some bands pontificate for days. Eagles Of Death Metal’s Jesse Hughes is a little more direct. “It sounds like you’ve taken George Clinton from Parliament, bent him over and butt-fucked him using Little Richard as the dick and Keith Richards as the balls.” Er, okay…
Zipper Down comes seven years after its predecessor, Heart On, as the schedule-juggling required to get Jesse and bandmate Josh Homme in the studio together proved tricky. “It became so impossible to find a window of time that we stopped looking and waited for the window of time to show itself,” Hughes says.
Written, recorded and produced almost entirely by Hughes and Homme, Zipper Down features the explosively funky lead single Complexity and an unlikely cover of Duran Duran’s Save A Prayer.
“When I was about twelve I saw a sure-shit whole lotta hot ladies singing along with that song, so I was singing along too,” Hughes explains of the Duran song’s inclusion. “It’s also one hell of a fuckin’ great song.”
With the album done and dusted, Hughes now turns his attention to bringing the party to the UK again on the band’s eight-date November tour.
“I want to get to the people, get my hands on the people,” he says. “I sound like a preacher, but this is religious for me, my friend.”
**ETA: **October 2
Worked on over 16 months, recorded in two cities with a five-man production team and eight mixers, Shinedown’s “brutal but beautiful” fifth record hasn’t come easy. When Classic Rock speaks to frontman Brent Smith, the album is just about to be mastered, and Smith doesn’t mince his words when describing the fruits of the painstaking recording process: “The only way I can describe this record is devastating. It is absolutely ferocious.”
He’s quick to add that ‘ferocious’ doesn’t necessarily mean musically heavy; Shinedown-gone-thrash this most definitely is not. “But it is the heaviest emotionally. Even the ballads are still ferocious. It’s a brutal record. It’s beautiful, but it’s heartbreaking.”
Smith explains that while the band took an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach to writing 2012’s big rock statement Amaryllis, this time every riff and hook was put under the microscope before they pressed ‘Record’, ensuring it became a leaner, more stripped-back album. Lyrically, Smith indulged in some serious soul-searching, delving deep into the pain of juggling fatherhood with life as a musician.
“I live in California, my son lives in Florida and we go back and forth. He’s an amazing part of my life. And in making this album I lost a lot of time with him. On this album I really questioned myself as a father. I write songs because it’s cheaper than therapy.”
During the five-year hiatus since Sweden’s Backyard Babies finished touring their fifth, self-titled collection, vocalist/rhythm guitarist Nicke Borg concentrated on his Homeland project, while lead guitarist Dregen punctuated touring and recording with Michael Monroe with making a solo album of his own.
“For a few years it was uncertain what was going to happen with the Backyard Babies,” says Borg. “Peder [Carlsson] hadn’t played drums at all for five years. But once we decided to write and play together again recording the album was a pretty quick process.”
Four By Four was produced by Jacob Hellner (most readily associated with Rammstein and Apocalyptica), who’d previously worked with the band on 2008’s Backyard Babies. “We thought about going away to record, but we all have families and schedules we’re trying to work around, so we decided to stay in Stockholm and work with someone that we trust.”
Four By Four’s lead-off single, Th1rt3en Or Nothing, is textbook Backyard Babies: swaggering Scando-sleaze with a slick contemporary sheen. So what else can we expect?
“There’s a really slow, powerful song called Bloody Tears. It’s piano-driven, anthemic. It’s one of the best songs we’ve written in a long time. The rest of the album is basically what Backyard Babies has always been about, a weird mix of Kiss and Ramones with a splash of GN’R and Pistols.”
**ETA: **August 28
“Everyone just chucks their bit in, and the good things stick.” That’s how Kelly Jones describes the creative process behind the Stereophonics’ latest record,_ Keep The Village Alive_. Nine albums and 23 years after their formation, collaboration in writing comes easily, even when faced with an entirely new songwriting approach.
“A lot of the album is inspired by a film script I’m also writing, about two young guys trying to escape their small town,” Jones explains. “I was writing the script at the same time as the album. It’s a new way of doing things, for me.”
It’s not the album’s only personal touch. “The title comes from a phrase people would use when I was a kid. It basically means ‘keep your spirits up.’ It’s a pretty optimistic record, with some uplifting songs on there.”
The first single, C’est La Vie, a “high-energy, Eddie Cochran, smash-my-guitar kind of song” according to Jones, is an apt demonstration of this, with its retro, bouncy feel. Jones reckons it “fell out the end of the pen” – it was written and recorded in an hour and a half.
The next single, I Wanna Get Lost With You, is a different beast. “It’s a sleazy, sexy song,” Jones tells us.
ETA: September 11
THE BEST OF THE REST…
Details regarding the forthcoming David Gilmour solo album, due in September, are being kept under wraps. However, we can tell you that it will be called Rattle That Lock, and is co-produced by David Gilmour and former Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera. Killing Joke’s Youth is also involved in the mixing department. Gilmour is rumoured to have a hefty 50 tracks which he’ll whittle down to an album’s worth of material.
Chris Cornell’s new solo record, Higher Truth, is out on September 18. The Soundgarden man teamed up with producer Brendan O’Brien (AC/DC/Springsteen/Pearl Jam), and will be playing an acoustic US tour to coincide with the release.
MotÖrhead release their 22nd studio LP, Bad Magic, on August 28. Billed as “bristling with thunderous attitude, pioneering spirit and some of the fiercest rhythms and riffs that’ll beat your ears into submission this year”, the record features such “head crushers” as Thunder And Lightning and Teach Them How To Bleed.
Thrash legends Slayer’s new LP is due on September 11. Repentless was produced by Pantera/Smashing Pumpkins man Terry Date, and is the band’s first since the death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman in 2013. Guitarist Kerry King has since taken over much of the songwriting.
KEITH RICHARDS’s new solo album – his first in over 20 years – is slated for the autumn, and follows the deluxe reissue of the Rolling Stones’ 1971 album Sticky Fingers.
After much anticipation and speculation, Iron Maiden’s 16th album is almost upon us. The Book Of Souls, due September 4, was recorded with Kevin Shirley in Guillame Tell Studios, Paris, where they also made 2000’s Brave New World. “By the time we’d finished, we all agreed that each track was such an integral part of the whole body of work that if it needed to be a double album then double it’s going to be,” says singer Bruce Dickinson.
Following arena dates supporting Steel Panther,** Skindred **are back with their sixth album. The new record from the Welsh ragga-metallers, Volume, hits shelves on October 30.
Having fucked their way through the Fuck EP last year, LA rockers Buckcherry are set to release their seventh LP, Rock’n’Roll, on August 21. “We focused on making a record that encompasses all of what we are,” says frontman Josh Todd. “You get every flavour of Buckcherry.”
British heavy metal stalwarts Saxon also have a new record in the offing. Battering Ram is poised for an October 15 release, with the title track due to be premiered in August.
In other news, there’s a new Metallica album coming. We don’t know when – even the band don’t know when, but it is going to be happening. In theory.