The early days of Blue Oyster Cult don’t sound nearly as "heavy" today as they did at the time. In the early ‘70s, BOC helped define American heavy metal, and were often called the domestic version of Black Sabbath. Now the Columbia Legacy label has reissued the band’s first four albums, 1972’s bar-rockin’ Blue Oyster Cult, 1973’s Tyranny and Mutation, 1974’s Secret Treaties and 1976’s breakout album, Agents of Fortune. The latter album took the band out of cult small-club status with its mass appeal hit "(Don’t Fear) The Reaper." While their sound slowly became more polished in the studio over the course of these discs, through it all the band remained defined by their lyrical "dark side," Eric Bloom’s rough-and-ready vocals and Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser’s gritty guitar riffs and solos. All of the reissued discs include bonus tracks recorded during the band’s early period, and Blue Oyster Cult includes four demo tracks recorded in 1969 that the band, then called Soft White Underbelly, offered to Columbia Records, which rejected them at the time. They would go on to release a single as the Stalk Forest Group on Elektra before returning to Columbia and beginning their now nearly 30-year career as Blue Oyster Cult in 1972.


The Cult - Beyond Good and Evil The Cult
Beyond Good and Evil

When The Cult first appeared on the scene in the mid-‘80s, nobody knew quite where to categorize them. Were they a heavy alternative band? Were they a punky heavy metal group? Both and neither. The Cult defined their own genre, rocking long-hairs, mohawks and goth kids alike with riff-heavy underground hits like "She Sells Sanctuary" from their second album, 1985’s Love, "Love Removal Machine" from 1987’s Electric and "Fire Woman" and "Edie (Ciao Baby)" from 1989’s Sonic Temple. Ian Astbury’s vocals owed a debt to Jim Morrison’s passion and depth, while at the same time having a "scream" factor rivalling Robert Plant or any other classic heavy metal vocalist you’d care to name. And Billy Duffy’s slabs of vibrating guitar power were continuously simple-yet-inventive, and most importantly, loud. Band tensions by Sonic Temple were at an all-time high; they’d already lost a drummer, and following the 1989 departure of bassist Jamie Stewart, Astbury and Duffy forged on with two more discs in the early ‘90s before pulling the plug on the band’s 11-year run in 1995.

It’s taken more than five years, but Astbury and Duffy have finally mended their fences (their first live reunion was at the Tibetan Freedom Concert) and put together a new album for the 00s, with one-time Cult drummer Matt Sorum back in place. The result is a 12-song jamfest of pounding rhythms, yells and hybrid ‘80s goth and ‘90s metal guitar riffs. The Cult is definitely back with a vengeance; Astbury’s vocals and metaphysical lyrics are as heavy as ever, calling upon his Morrison/tribal influences in the stomping "Shape The Sky" and merging both grunge guitar riffs with classic-sounding ‘80s alternative guitar leads in the disc’s inspiring first single "Rise." This track lets Duffy loose with all of his pyrotechnic tricks and sounds like Sonic Temple-era Cult, and should blare from every hard rock-friendly radio speaker this summer. Its followup, "Take The Power," is an even heavier stomp and fist-raise fest with a pounding beat and a call to lead when Astbury yells "Take the power/got to just believe." The band does slow it down a bit with the more atmospheric and moody "Nico" and "Ashes and Ghosts" and tosses in a couple of questionable offerings in "American Gothic" and the ill-considered funk center of "Speed of Light." But overall, this is a welcome return to form for one of the heaviest metal alternative bands of the past two decades.

Catch The Cult live with Chicago’s Stabbing Westward on June 29-30 at the Congress Theatre.


Saliva - Every Six Seconds Saliva
Every Six Seconds

Metal lives!

Saliva’s new disc shot to the top of the rock charts almost immediately upon its release, and with good reason. Pounding beats, reptilian riffs and smart songcraft make Every Six Seconds an irresistible pleasure for hard rock fans. Opening with "Superstar," a wailing four minutes of brazen rock attack, the disc careens through one arena-ready anthem after another, including its stop-start crowning moment, "Click Click Boom."

"Musta Been Wrong," "Click Click Boom" and "Your Disease" owe a lot to Kid Rock’s melding of heavy rap and heavy metal, but whenever Saliva dips into the Kid Rock school of belted verses, they usually follow it up with a chorus straight out of the big-hair metal days – solid, soaring harmonies with plenty of hook. The band borrows from the entire spectrum of heavy rockers on the scene today; the chugging rhythms and dark mood of "Faultline" occasionally brings to mind Rob Zombie, mixed with the sharp harmonic anthem sense of Slowrush.

Every Six Seconds isn’t all high-octane fire, though. "Hollywood" lightens up on the distortion meter for a catchy, celebratory personal story of heading to the coast in search of fame. And the darker closing anthem "My Goodbyes" also leaves space for contemplation. But for the most part, Every Six Seconds is a blissfully unrelenting dose of headbanging power rock. Recommended.