Album Review: ZagreuS – ZagreuS


photo by JZ Zurawski; photo courtesy of ZagreuS

Album Review of ZagreuS: ZagreuS

Adam Sloan and Laurel Marsh are highly-regarded industrial/electronic music duo ZagreuS. ZagreuS’ self-titled album is a follow-up to their 2016 debut EP.

ZagreuS album cover

logo by Michael Hanson; image courtesy of ZagreuS

Beginning to end on this album, ZagreuS combines a raw energy reminiscent of ’90s/’00s Detroit industrial metal luminaries Forge with the tunefulness and pop-friendly vocals of Blog favorite The Sweetest Condition to forge a sound that can only be ZagreuS.

The disc opens with “Times of Change.” On it, vocally, Adam delivers a raw industrial croaking growl, which trades on and off with Laurel’s soaring, Annie Lennox-reminiscent vocals with a steady beat and an ’80s new wave keyboard style wrapped in a wall-of-sound, musical blanket as its musical backdrop. This song opens the disc “big,” an advance sample of this album’s powerful musical character.


photo by JZ Zurawski; photo courtesy of ZagreuS

But there are other flavors and techniques deployed on the album, as well. Not surprising, as any top-shelf industrial/electronic group worth its salt experiments.

On “Possessor,” a catchy, driving beat and a sneaky rhythmic hook make this a very likely dance club favorite, with dueling vocal styles proving particularly complementary.

“Illuminate” is much more Eurythmics-meets-Thompson Twins than anything else on the album, with accessible beats, soaring vocals, some attention-grabbing spoken-word interjections, a very radio-friendly “we can have it all” transitioning vocal bridge… and, most of all, again, that rhythmic, danceable beat.


photo by JZ Zurawski; photo courtesy of ZagreuS

And while “Illuminate” particularly interests me from a song-structure, intellectual perspective, it’s the following track, “Punishment,” that I’m much more likely to remember a few hours later. Specifically, phrases like the tunefully-sung “you get what you give” offset against the gruffer “get what you give” (sans preceding “you”) and the less frequently used but more croakily growled “you wanted it” are delivered memorably – and perhaps repeated frequently enough to drive the point home – amid a mostly beat-driven rhythm with relatively sparse instrumentation. Even the song’s title “Punishment,” when sung, has its own barking style. Indeed, the contrasting, battling vocal deliveries are the driving factor that makes this is one of the more memorable tracks on ZagreuS’s self-titled album.

“A Whisper” is mostly rhythmically standard. Enjoyable but not a standout, except for the piercingly beautiful “Na na na na…” vocal overlay. Very cool. And am I the only one who hears it, or does Laurel have just a hint of a George Michael tone during some of her vocals in this song?


photo by Leanne Williams Photography; photo courtesy of ZagreuS

My remaining favorite track in this collection is its penultimate entry, “Prisoner of Missing Persons.” It blends the soaring-haunting vocal overlay with a stoically aggressive (if that’s possible) vocal croak, atop a catchy, just-slower-than-really-danceable beat, well-placed synth accents, and musical sound effects. Just a really cool mix of elements that create a memorable song.

And the disc closes darkly with “Withdrawn,” a somewhat foreboding track that signals the end… of the album, at least.

In its entirety, ZagreuS is an enthralling album from its namesake performers, a duo comprised of a couple of the top industrial, experimentally adventurous artists in Massachusetts, whose talent helps them stand out in what’s often a less visible genre in most local music scenes, beyond its core audience. Occasionally, an outfit like ZagreuS transcends genre to garner more widespread attention, usually deservedly so. Definitely deserved, in this case, for the talented duo of Adam Sloan and Lauren Marsh.

Keep Up With ZagreuS

Keep up with ZagreuS’s goings-on at the band’s Facebook page or its Instagram page.


Album Review: Trysette – TRX+J


photo by Jeanette Elaine Dubois; photo courtesy of Trysette

Album Review of Trysette: TRX+J

This is a fun compilation of music from Trysette and a talented team of collaborators. A songwriting and performance collaboration, this disc features four co-writers (Trysette, Rob Bonfiglio, Xander Hale, and Jon Ciorciari) and three different lead vocalists (Trysette, Rob, and Xander).

The song order differs, by the way, on Bandcamp (where the song titles are sorted alphabetically) and Spotify. I chose to listen to the album in the Spotify order. How did I write the review? In a third order, by featured vocalist, of course. Each lead vocalist’s songs suit them quite well, and it’s an extraordinary testament to this team’s songwriting skills that they cover such a broad swath of pop musical styles. I suppose that may have been one of Trysette’s goals for this project, to show off the breadth of her songwriting skills above and beyond her primary singing style.

Trysette – TRX+J album cover

image courtesy of Trysette

The four songs featuring Trysette as lead vocalist are light pop, with one more of a dance number. All take advantage of the light, airy pop atmosphere perfectly suited to her uniquely identifiable high range.

At both Bandcamp and Spotify, the album begins with Trysette’s “Fall For You.” You may hand-clap a bit or sing along with the background harmonies, or you might just dance or bob in your chair to this cheerful tune.

“Feels Like Magic” lies somewhere between a Disney movie background song and a girl group pop track, though it leans more toward something that would be a great featured background cut in a teen love story, especially one that throws in a little light witchcraft or, even better, yet another retelling of a Cinderella story.

“The Mirror Song” is a cheerful, woman-power pop song that’ll have girls and young women dancing around their bedrooms singing while psyching themselves up with a little “I Am Woman” attitude… for any purpose that would benefit from a song where the singalong lyric is “hot, hot, hot, hot.” This is a fun, catchy song, though the target market for those encouraging themselves with this song is definitely female.

The final song featuring Trysette in the lead is “Feels So Good,” a disco-flavored number that’ll have you dancing in your seat, though I’d be curious whose voice is co-lead through much of this with her – they’ve found a complementary harmonic vocal blend.

Xander Hale shows quite a bit of vocal range in the three songs on which he’s featured.

“Leave a Light On” is a heartfelt, powerful ballad full of the sort of soaring instrumental musical support that’s common on big, emotional soft pop/rock hits… or songs during emotional scenes in motion pictures.

“Put Your Hands Up,” meanwhile, is a catchy, bouncy dance song with great synth hooks. Something I’d definitely dance to, with a broad enough appeal to have a shot at some pop radio airplay.

Finally, “Movin’ Up,” which closes the album, instantly stylistically brings to mind Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” particularly with its recurring, song-driving hook. “Movin’ Up” has a bit more obvious energy than Thicke’s hit, and it’d be a great nightclub – or radio – track.

The first song featuring Rob Bonfiglio‘s voice in the lead is “True Believer,” a rambling soft rock song that takes advantage of Rob’s emotive voice and sports a timeless sound, in that it could have been recorded with roughly the same arrangement in the ’60s, the ’00s, or today.

The other song featuring Rob in the lead, “The Magic in You,” sports a ’60s/’70s pop-song vibe. A bit of the Beatles, particularly in the song structure, kind of the way Cheap Trick and Enuff Z’Nuff infused this sort of songwriting into some of their ’80s hits, though with a more soft rock arrangement than the aforementioned bands. This song, in particular, is the one on the disc that seems like it’s one you’ve heard before… on steady rotation for a while somewhere.

In all, this is a great album containing a variety of songs written by TRX+J, and between the two options I’d recommend listening to it in the Spotify order, as it offers the variety of a half-hour of pop radio listening. Very glad to have this album in my collection; check it out.


photo by Jeanette Elaine Dubois; photo courtesy of Trysette

Looking Ahead

In addition to her solo career, Trysette has performed as a backup singer on John Fogerty’s tour the last couple of years. During the pandemic, she has also performed some virtual concerts, most recently on August 22nd. Though she has nothing currently scheduled, you can find future performance dates (solo and otherwise), when available, on the “Tour Dates” page of her website.

Album Review: Glenn Shorrock Sings Little River Band

Glenn Shorrock Sings Little River Band album cover

image courtesy of BJF Media

Album Review of Glenn Shorrock: Glenn Shorrock Sings Little River Band

I won’t delve into the Little River Band saga, but this record is a stellar collection of re-recordings by original LRB singer Glenn Shorrock. This album is a great opportunity to support a longtime favorite artist. And, perhaps because so many of the songs are already longtime favorites, this disc will quickly become a personal playlist staple.

Shorrock’s smooth, powerful, crisp vocals were ideal for Little River Band, and his voice only seems to have become richer since the original recordings seventies and eighties stints fronting LRB.

Glenn Shorrock

photo by Darren Burns Photography; photo courtesy of BJF Media

This is probably a good time to admit that I was never a knowledgeable Little River Band fan. I don’t own any of the original recordings, though a quick look at the band’s hit list will confirm that the band has recorded a plethora of songs that surely would include a few of everyone’s favorites. As will the collection of songs on this recording, which contains most of Little River Band’s top hits. At least a couple were originally sung by Wayne Nelson (“The Night Owls” and “Take It Easy On Me”), though most were originally voiced by Shorrock.

There’s not a lot of daylight between the recordings on Glenn Shorrock Sings Little River Band and the originals, but there are subtle differences, and I’m sure more avid LRB fans than I will be able to spot more. Side-by-side, you might prefer one version to the other, but I doubt it’ll be a clean sweep either way. This disc is of at least equal caliber to the original, and the variances are subtle.

The album opens with “It’s a Long Way There” and closes with “Reminiscing,” but it’s chock full of hits in-between. It’s a reminder of how really good these songs are now that they’re not particularly common radio staples anymore, so a little time has past before you’ve heard them frequently on the radio. I’ve particularly been enjoying “Help is On the Way,” “Lonesome Loser,” the hipster-cool “Reminiscing,” and the softly powerful “Take It Easy On Me,” though my favorite has to be Shorrock’s smooth, rockin’ performance of “The Night Owls” with his big vocals thriving off the song’s mid-voltage electric energy.

Probably the coolest discovery for me was “Curiosity Killed the Cat.” Since it was a hit in Australia but didn’t chart in the U.S., I wasn’t previously familiar with this song, with its kind of hip, jazzy, occasionally Motowny edge, a song that’s a little psychedelic in spots but mostly just groovin’.

In the end, whether it’s nostalgia or a desire to listen to some really cool mid-range rock (from the now-referred-to-as “yacht rock” genre), whether you’re duplicating the songs in your collection or adding them for the first time, as I’ve done, this is one sweet disc.

Looking Ahead

If you want to catch Glenn Shorrock live, his website lists several upcoming dates in Australia, the soonest a Saturday, October 10th show in Marrickville. Be sure to check out the “Shows” tab of his website for details about currently planned shows and additional concerts as they’re added.

Album Review: Los Goutos – Mighty

Los Goutos

photo by Steve Benoit; photo courtesy of Off the Stage Music

Album Review of Los Goutos: Mighty

Imagine energetic Americana music with an overflowing stage full of musicians, replete with horn section, and the party atmosphere of every college town’s favorite ska band. That’s Boston’s Los Goutos, and with Mighty, they’ve delivered a colorful box of audio fun in a carryout container. A seven-piece band with multiple multi-instrumentalists and several songwriters, I suspect this group could perform just about any style it wants to, but Los Goutos’ primary goal seems to be the creation of an inimitable, raucous good time.

Los Goutos - Mighty album cover

image courtesy of Off the Stage Music

The album kicks off with what will initially strike you as a romp, “Steal It, Pawn It, Buy Another.” And indeed it is, but you’ll quickly discover this is not the band’s top gear. Los Goutos ups its game with the very next song, “Tequila Set the House on Fire.” Yes, you’ll soon be singing along, and before you know it, without trying, you’ll be tracing the path of the fire along with the band, singing loudly along with this mariachi-flavored aural adult beverage.

I won’t touch on every song, but on this disc you’ll be treated to energetic tunes – a lot of them! – featuring horns, accordion, ukulele, and if it were up the band, I’m sure, essentially every instrument ever played, possibly more. Lyrically, be prepared for a fair share of silliness. Or, at least, cleverness. I believe when I reviewed their album release show I called it a party in a box. And, indeed, as noted in the opening paragraph of this review, the album is the carryout version.

Raucous songs like “Down to the Studs” and “Moscow Mule” are sure to get you dancing. And you’ll catch yourself singing every “yea-uh” during hillbilly-styled knee-bobbing rocker “Can’t Hurt.”

Los Goutos

photo by Jim Bouchard; photo courtesy of Off the Stage Music

Yet another favorite, with its mix of Los Goutos’ humor, picture-painting songwriting, and tag-team instrumental leadership, is “If You’re Gonna Miss Me (You Must Be Really Lonely).”

“Dawn” is a squeezebox and horn driven number with a distinctly ’50s rock feel.

Of course, you’ll find some Louisiana Cajun swamp circus swing on the disc, too. At least, that’s my working description for “Over Easy.” To my knowledge, it’s the sole entrant in this genre, but you’ll understand when you hear it.

“Killing Me Kindly” is a personal favorite, as it ambles melodically with perhaps a more uptempo flair than you’d ordinarily expect from a song thus entitled.

Los Goutos

photo courtesy of Off the Stage Music

Finally, there’s the ’50s/’60s gimmick dance number, something to follow “The Twist” on American Bandstand. Or maybe not. But there’s certainly an audience participation, singalong aspect to “The Corkscrew,” the perfect party song for an at-least-7-piece band in a college town like Boston.

You know, when I saw Los Goutos live, I didn’t think it would be possible to capture the band’s essence in a studio and package that party atmosphere in CD form. I was wrong. The music is genre transcendent, and the production ideally captures Los Goutos’ essence. Party in a box… to go!

More About Los Goutos

There has been a single released post-Mighty. It’s another great tune, “Help the Neighborhood.” You can get the music at Los Goutos’ website, and you can see the music video on YouTube.

And if you’re really searching, the band also released a couple “holiday singles,” which are available at Bandcamp.

Once live shows are booked again, you’ll be able to find them here, on Los Goutos’ “Shows” page.


Album Review: Kevin Welch – Dust Devil

Kevin Welch - Dust Devil album cover

image courtesy of Sharktooth Touring

Album Review of Kevin Welch: Dust Devil (Dead Reckoning Records)

Kevin Welch is a renowned songwriter in the Americana lane of the country music highway. He got his start as a sought-after songwriter in Nashville, and by the time he released his first album, a self-titled disc in 1990, I was just beginning my reviewing career. I remember – and still have – the album, but I wasn’t able to find my old review. Back in the days of print publications, even though I was master of the short, under-100-word review early in my writing career, probably half of my reviews ended up on the editing room floor due to space constraints, so there’s a good chance it never saw the light of day. This review, however, will be published, as you can see, because it’s my website and I don’t have space constraints.

Kevin’s vocals are soft-spoken, with a Bob Dylan-esque storyteller’s rasp, a bit of a Randy Newman-ish larger-than-lifeness at times, all while still being restrained and subtle, and delivered with a folk-country cadence. Dust Devil is a storytelling songwriter’s album, a down-to-earth telling of everyday tales, an everyman’s exhibition of extraordinary songwriting.

“Blue Lonesome” starts as a slow-moving number that grows in intensity, includes well-placed sax, and emerges as a memorable soft-to-mid-tempo romper, all punctuated by Kevin’s vocals at their most gravelly. It’s followed by the pensive, blue country guitar-picker – replete with weepy slide guitar and closing harmonies – “Just Because It Was a Dream,” a song on which you can really feel the desert wind blowing. Following that, Kevin is at his folky, picture-painting, storytelling best with “The Girl in the Seashell,” which sounds as if it should be familiar as it sways gently, even if it isn’t.

“High Heeled Shoes” is a favorite, stylistically very cool, with a sort of 1920s speakeasy vibe reminiscent of something I’d expect to have heard on The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League’s Masquerade album I reviewed back in 2017. Piano, horns, slightly gravelly vocals, and a smoke-filled barroom. And… scene!

The album continues, relying on Kevin’s memorable voice, his expert-level songwriting, and some great musicians to deliver more tight, memorable numbers. “Brother John” is one track that’s a particular earworm, with horns punctuating the “Brother John, Brother John” lyric throughout. And to be honest, that’s the part that comes back to me days later, though the whole song is a fun listen, a recollection, a reminiscence.

Moving toward the end of the collection, the penultimate track is “A Flower,” which Kevin performs with the most spoken-song style vocals on the album. True country storytelling about hard times, tough lives, and defiance.

And the final track, “Dust Devil,” is a very gravelly-voiced, slow-picked number with the feeling of wide-open spaces and the old west. Or perhaps a cattle drive. Lyrically, of course, it’s more personal than that (“I’m an old dust devil, waiting on the wind to die down”), though isn’t the usually the case?

To be honest, this album is so subtle, it didn’t convince me on the first listen that I’d choose to review it, but it’s Kevin Welch, and it’s pleasant enough, so I gave it a few more spins, and Dust Devil revealed its brilliance over time. The attention to detail is impeccable, the songwriting is exceptional (well, it is Kevin Welch), and it’s the album’s nuances that worm their way into your brain until Dust Devil becomes a favorite spin. For some of you, sure, you’ll find an instant connection. But even you don’t, give it time. It’s a truly fine piece of work.

Looking Ahead

There are no live shows currently scheduled, but when there are, you can find them on Kevin’s website.

Album Review: Ross the Boss – By Blood Sworn

Ross the Boss

photo courtesy of BJF Media

Ross the Boss Friedman is one of hard rock and heavy metal’s premier guitarists. You probably know him originally from headbangers Manowar or punk rockers The Dictators (or both), possibly in addition to one or more of the many subsequent stops on his guitar god/shredding journey. Personally, I’m a big fan of one of the lightest rock entries in his discography, his blues-rock band Heyday, which released one self-titled album back in 1994 after his Manowar and Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom stops. It was proof positive, as if that’s even necessary, that this man can excel in just about any style, even if he’s primarily a heavy metal guitar god. Most recently, Ross the Boss have been largely performing as leader of a band sporting his own name, Ross the Boss.

Now, as I’ve mentioned in a few of the reviews I’ve written this summer, I’m working my way through a review backlog necessitated by more than two years of barely writing, so this review is of Ross the Boss’ 2018 release, By Blood Sworn. He and his band have a 2020 release, Born of Fire, as well. Whether I take a stab at reviewing that in the future or simply leave it up to you to check it out on your own remains to be seen. But I’ve been enjoying this album for a couple years now, so the review is overripe…

Album Review of Ross the Boss: By Blood Sworn (AFM Records)

Obviously, Ross the Boss’ guitar drives this record. It provides the melody and the power, as By Blood Sworn is a fast-driving, energetic, cathartic heavy metal album. He’s joined by Marc Lopes on vocals and keyboard, Mike LePond on bass, and Lance Barnewold on drums. Important to the band’s style is vocalist Lopes. Lopes’ other rosterships are with thrash outfit Let Us Prey and ’80s metal/hard rock cover group Kobra Kai. Bringing that thrash vocal edge to the tunes on By Blood Sworn, Lopes helps maintain the frantic energy level on the disc, with his voice cutting through the music while adding to its intensity, as much an instrument as a lyric delivery device. Yet there’s a tuneful, melodic edge to Lopes’ growl that’s almost certainly what makes him the ideal vocalist for this album.

Ross the Boss - By Blood Sworn album cover

image courtesy of BJF Media

As any good metal album should, By Blood Sworn begins with foreboding lyrics, a wall of guitar, and vocal wails on its title track. And Ross, to no surprise, steers the songs’ melody, power, and finesse with his guitar. That’s a common thread throughout the disc, as is the driving power emanating from the rhythm section.

Some tracks, like “Among the Bones,” mix a bit more of the haunting Dio-esque lyrics in segments, and well-placed, finesse-filled, frantic guitar solos dot the album’s musical landscape. Throughout the record, there are interesting musical and songwriting features. The water-falling-up guitar bit opening “Faith of the Fallen,” a song that would serve as By Blood Sworn‘s ballad (in that you can slow-dance to it, among the wailing guitars) is one that always catches my attention. And there’s a guitar bridge during “We Are the Night” that gives the feeling of finding a clearing in a dense forest before the aggressive guitar (and the forest) returns. The musicality of the entire disc is full of really cool moments like those, each fitting well within the context of its song.

One song that stands out for its uniqueness, “Mother of Horrors,” is the closest this disc comes to straight-up hard rock, with a blues rock rhythm and guitar line that somehow manages to be jacked up to full metalhood to fit into this album quite well, while also being a song that could be performed easily by a mid-tempo rock band with no connection to metal whatsoever. That’s just awesome songwriting. Of course, very few people could match Ross’ guitar runs and solos, but the song would be a fun rock ‘n roll romp even without them. Obviously not as special, but still.

Top to bottom, By Blood Sworn is an excellent album without any weak spots. Of course, everyone’s likely to have different favorite tracks. The songs I most often find stuck in my head are “Devil’s Day” and “Fistful of Hate.”

On “Devil’s Day,” I catch myself singing along with the chorus, “I am the true destroyer…” while digging the rhythm, which pushes forward as if it’s restrained but constantly tugging at its leash. Oh, and there’s a serious classic rock-style shredding guitar solo toward the end, too.

The energetic run on “Fistful of Hate” that gets stuck in my head is the chorus that begins with “I see the world through different eyes than you…” The song itself is a fast-paced rocker, exactly what you’d play to get yourself psyched up for an evening out, for competition, or just to get the blood pumping in the morning. And when it ends, so does By Blood Sworn. Time to take a deep breath, stop pumping your fist in the air, and collapse back into your chair exhausted, refreshed… and maybe ready to start the album over again.

Avid fans of Ross the Boss probably already have By Blood Sworn in their collections. More casual rock fans – or those of us whose attention is diverted from constantly seeking out new music by working a demanding job, spending time with my family, and writing reviews (OK, that’s me) – may have missed that Ross the Boss had emerged with this talented cadre of co-conspirators to release By Blood Sworn in 2018… and, just this year,, Born of Fire, which I look forward to seeking out. Certainly, By Blood Sworn is a great, energizing, adrenaline-filled heavy metal ride.

Looking Ahead

As I mentioned twice already, Ross the Boss released a new album, Born of Fire, earlier this year. To catch live performances, check the “tour dates” page of Ross the Boss’ website. A 3-week European tour is slated to kick off on November 11th in Sweden, with dates in Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy. A two-week tour of Spain and Portugal is slated for April-May 2021. And Ross the Boss is slated to perform on July 2, 2021 at the Big Gun Festival in Pereslavl, Russia.