• The Rods - Brotherhood Of Metal (Steamhammer) Album Review



    Released by: Steamhammer
    Released on: June 7th, 2019.
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    “THE RODS WERE BORN IN 1982!”

    Well, despite that convincing shout out on track 8 of this rather kick ass release from New York’s finest, they were really born closer to 1980, but let’s not quibble over trivialities in the face of such a stellar onslaught, shall we?

    This album represents a real musical rebirth for power trio THE RODS since their comeback onto the metal scene around 2011 and their then current album “Vengeance.” The band - bassist Garry Bordonaro, drummer Carl Canedy and guitarist David Feinstein - had essentially been dormant before that since 1987 and the release of “Heavier Than Thou.” “Vengeance” was... ok. Very much the product of a band shaking off the mothballs after a long period of inactivity (only guitarist and RODS lynchpin David “Rock” Feinstein put out much music during the intervening years), it simply seemed like the obligatory new studio album product that gets released after a beloved band reforms for metal festival appearances. This however, is a focused and concerted effort to deliver a convincing metal record. On that front, it succeeds handsomely.

    But first a little history before we dive into the new record.

    As a born and bred New Yorker and lifelong metalhead, THE RODS have been sort of “my boys” since I bought their first major label album on cassette the week it came out on Arista in 1981. I even eventually tracked down the first independently released version of the record titled “Rock Hard’ back in the day. THE RODS were one of the first “bridge” bands between the classic hard rock of the 70’s represented by the RAINBOW/UFO/THIN LIZZY era and the upcoming thrash and heavier sounds that would dominate much of the 80's. THE RODS suffered at the hands of an incompetent record label that simply didn’t understand their sound. The debut album mixed bluesy hard rock like “Woman” with burgeoning speed metal. The RODS two early signature tracks were the feisty slammer “Power Lover” and a blistering cover of ultra-obscure Dutch band WHITE HONEY’s “Nothing Going On In The City.” Guitarist Feinstein - Ronnie James Dio’s cousin from Courtland New York who had begun his recording career in that legend’s band ELF - is the musical center of THE RODS. A top shelf player, “Rock” (gotta love those bluntly descriptive nicknames!), is the rude love child of Ritchie Blackmore and a proto shredder. Melodic but also aggressive, his riffs are catchy and he can solo with the best of them, but he never descends into mindless wankery.

    THE RODS found their musical home in the United Kingdom in their early days. In spirit and sound, they slotted in beautifully with the then exploding NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) and heavier music scene. This was a magical time for metal when every nook and cranny of the United Kingdom seemed to be throwing up one killer band after another. MOTÖRHEAD were topping the charts, IRON MAIDEN and SAXON were beginning hugely influential careers that continue to this day and the country had a vociferous music press that championed the likes of RAVEN and DIAMOND in Sounds magazine, Kerrang! and later Metal Forces. Independent labels like Neat Records were pumping out albums and singles at a ferocious pace. This was also the time of the limited edition single - sometimes with stunning artwork, cool colored vinyl and exclusive unreleased live or studio tracks - and the metal festival. THE RODS struggled in the USA but in England the metal savvy branch of their label put them on tour and commissioned press and released singles. The band were embraced by the U.K. punters and thrived. But sadly they were dropped after their excellent second “Wild Dogs” album in 1982 and ending up dealing with a succession of indie record labels - Shrapnel for “In The Raw”, Combat for their live album and “Let Them Eat Metal” and finally Zebra for their last shot at breaking it “Heavier Than Thou.” That record - though musically excellent - broke the power trio format by adding powerful Israeli born vocalist Shmoulik Avigal who had sung on Dutch band PICTURE’s storming Diamond Dreamer album. It was a concerted attempt to chase the more commercial end of the JUDAS PRIEST sound but it failed to sell.



    After the Zebra album, THE RODS, like many bands of that era, just sort of faded away. There was a project album titled “Hollywood” that was really a RODS album in all but name (in fact in its current reissued form it’s now CALLED a RODS record) that failed to make much headway. Drummer Canedy moved into record production with some success in the early days of extreme metal - he twiddled the knobs on ANTHRAX’s Neil Turbin fronted debut LP and Canadian band EXCITER’s seminal “Violence & Force” amongst others and bassist Bordonaro virtually disappeared after some work with ex-RIOT vocalist Rhett Forrester (he had also played on VIRGIN STEELE axeman Jack Starr’s solo work but that was concurrent with THE RODS). With the dawn of the 90’s all RODS members were musically dormant until Feinstein (after rumored success in the restaurant business!) released an obscure indie solo album called “One Night In The Jungle” in 2000. It was another 10 years before another solo album but Feinstein did launch a band under his own name for a while that released the underrated “Third Wish” record. This was very much a RAINBOW/DIO styled musical affair that sadly failed to make much commercial headway. Since then, he has released a couple of more albums with “Bitten By The Beast” and especially a Ronnie James Dio tribute being worth tracking down for the avid metal fan.

    Which brings us to the present.

    Thanks to the likes of successful European metal festivals Sweden Rock and Wacken, and smaller endeavors like the USA based Defenders Of The Old, the true metal of the 80’s has seen a comeback in the last 10 to 15 years. CIRITH UNGOL, MANILLA ROAD (R.I.P. Mark Shelton), guitarist Ross The Boss from MANOWAR’s golden era and way too many others to list saw a demand for reformations and live festival appearances. THE RODS were a natural fit for this scenario. They reformed, started gigging occasionally and recorded the “Vengeance’ record. That was a decent effort but slightly forgettable. Now two albums into their rebirth, THE RODS have delivered something far from forgettable.

    The disc opens with the title track and this is slightly uncharted waters for my fave power trio from Cortland New York. This is a full on power metal epic in the mold of the best MANOWAR during their glorious Ross The Boss/“Battle Hymns” era. Almost 8 minutes long, it kicks off with a dramatic and gentle piano bit before going the major DIO route. Rock is no Ronnie James Dio vocally but he does a fine job. The lyrics are simultaneously awesome and ridiculous and carve the album’s theme in stone. This is a record about the greatness of Metal, the greatness of Metal fans, and a horns in the air tribute to the Metal genre. Rock is playing at the top of his game and so are the rest of the band. This is the perfect opener and sets the tone for the rest of this extravaganza. The album never really scales these kinds of epic heights again but it remains a super juiced Metal beast until the end.

    Of the three party rockers on this, kickoff single “Louder Than Loud” makes a killer impression with a sinewy Rock lead and one of the secret weapons on display - the rumbling and aggressive Bordonaro bass tone. Gary has never sounded better and he’s locked in with talented drummer Canedy beautifully. ‘Everybody’s Rockin’” mines similar musical territory but it has an infectious beat, more killer bass playing and a cool shouted vocal. Rock has inevitably lost some vocal range over the years but has figured out an effective workaround and sounds strong throughout the album. “Smoke On The Horizon” was released as a digital download a couple of years back, and it is a speedy Metal rocker with some blazing Canedy drum runs. Of the party tunes, “Party All Night” is the most fun. The lightest track on offer, it gets by on a bubbly boogie bass riff and some great bluesy leads from Rock. “Tonight We Ride” is the obligatory biker anthem and kind of a BLUE ÖYSTER CULT/Metal amalgamation with a doomier sound and more triphammer Canedy playing. It has a nice grinding push. “Hell On Earth” and “Tyrant King” represent the Dio wing of this metal monument. Both are solid trad Metal songs that recall the glories of the early 80’s.

    The recurring awesomeness of Metal/we love you guys/have some RODS history themes reach their zenith in the ballshaking “1982” where you get a mini complete history replete with other song titles and highly entertaining shoutouts to crucial figures in THE RODS timeline like IRON MAIDEN (who took our boys on tour at a crucial time back in the day) and Al “Music Man” Faso. “The Devil Made Me Do It” is another healthy Metal track followed by strong closer “Evil In Me” which began life as a Rock Feinstein solo track. A sprawling rocket powered thruster with some of the finest guitar playing on this album, it’s a fitting close to this album and sees a nice injection of tasteful keyboards into the RODS stew.

    Despite one or two rehashed riffs (Guitarist Rock is definitely a 'waste not want not' kinda guy) and some goofy but lovable lyrics, this is a close to flawless true metal record that never takes itself too seriously but is defined by catchy songs and terrific playing. The band have honestly never sounded better and his production is solid.

    Welcome fully back.

    Highly recommended.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      The Rods kick ass!