Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Last Sting . . .

The Scorpions, of hord rock's most legendary outfits, will uncoil their final studio effort this coming Tuesday (3/23/10) with the release of "Sting in the Tail".

With a career now spanning four decades, the Scorpions brand of crustacae-infused metal has garnered a large and faithful following - this thanks in part to strong studio efforts and a relentless touring schedule. Early-era albums like "Lovedrive", "Animal Magnetism", and "Blackout" firmly established the band's signature sound amongst hard rock afficianados. Anchored by mega-hits "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "Still Loving You", 1984's "Love at First Sting" album catapaulted them into the stratosphere. It still stands today as one of their finest recording / touring efforts. Despite a lack of critical acclaim for ensuing album releases, they are still considered amongst the metal genre's most elite, and deservedly so.

As one would expect with a group of this caliber, the new album release will follow with a major, three-year world-wide tour, with many of U.S. dates being supported by none other than RATT. The expected blast radius from those shows will undoubtedly be vast and very highly anticipated. Having had the opportunity to see the band on their mammoth Worldwide / Live tour, I can report to fact that these guys are the REAL deal, and their stage show - absolutely fuckin' SPECTACULAR! I can only imagine what the band has in store for their final go-round.

You can check out more Scorp news at Blabbermouth; as well as at their official website.

While it's sad to see bands this good hang it up, we can do so knowing that they've left us with an incredible catalog of music to remember them by. I would expect that the forthcoming tour will produce a live concert DVD, thus assuring the fact that we will have the opportunity to feel the "sting" time and time again - - in Dolby 7.1 surround! Glorious! - - J.

Back Out Of The Cellar

80's hair metal mainstays RATT will re-emerge from their eleven year studio hiatus with "Infestation", scheduled for release on April 20th.

Looking to re-create the classic pop-meets-metal sound found on their multi platinum-smashes "Out of the Cellar" and "Invasion of Your Privacy", the band has pulled in former Quiet Riot lead guitarist Carlos Carvazo for six-string duties. The caterwouling Steven Pearcy is once again working his magic at the mic. Rounding out the orignal membership is the shred-tastic Warren DiMartini on lead axe and Bobby "Blotz" Blotzer behind the drum kit.

You can check out the press for the new album at Blabbermouth; listen to the new single "Best of Me" at Road Runner Records; or bask in raunchy Ratt-ness at their official website.

With the core Rattsters in place, and a few new tricks up their sleeve, "Infestation" hopefully will signal a return to prominence for one of L.A.'s premier metal outfits. I'm crossing my fingers for a major U.S. tour and even better - a Fargo date. - - J.

What The Fuzz?

If you spend any time at all perusing online guitar forums, you may have noticed that the "fuzz" pedal is enjoying a well-deserved resurgence amongst today's players. With original fuzz standards / re-issues now being offered by most of today's major players, along with various boutique off-shoots and clones, it would seem that the effect is also finding a new musical identity well-beyond trippy, psychedelia-infused stoner rock.

One thing I've recently discovered in my own musical pursuits is that a fuzz pedal is very effective when employed as a "colour" effect. Just a touch of fuzz adds some interesting complexity and variance against a clean channel, tones that otherwise would have laid relatively flat in the mix.

Another thing I've found to be useful is using it, more or less, as a distortion pedal - which it technically is. Again, this effect seems to be most useful in tandem with a clean channel, where you can set the effect at the desired top-end level, and then control it in the overall tone by using the guitar's volume knob. That way, you can still use the lovely drive effect for rhythm playing, and then send it to the moon with a slight twist of your volume knob.

Many hi-profile classic rock players used a fuzz spefically for overdrive back "in the day" - chief among them Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and Carlos Santana. At that time, there weren't a bazillion different overdrive pedals available, meaning that players were forced to experiment with those that were. The end result was that they often found unique ways to employ effects to get tones that were not commonly associated with it. Another "trick" from this era I found to be interesting was using an wah-wah as a distortion effect. The pedal's treadle produces varying distorted / phased tones by being left engaged at different sweep points. Genius!

Like the overdrive pedal, there are now scads of different types of fuzz effects available. Some use modern silicon transistors, others use vintage-type germanium transistors. Common "tweaks" to the original circuit include Q / phasing controls, introduction of an separate overdrive circuit, and some a clipping control to vary the amount / intensity of the clipping circuit. Depending on you playing style, there's likely a fuzz box that will accomodate it.

The two fuzz pedals I use are the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi and the Dunlop Jimi Hendrix JH2S. The Big Muff is a transistor-based unit that provides a fairly agressive distorted fuzz tone. As I'd noted in a previous post, the Muff can be dialed back for some less-pronounced but still very cool tones. Wide open, its a raging, psychedelic colossus of sound. The Dunlop JH2S is a warmer, less agressive fuzz pedal that also works extremely well as a stand-alone distortion. Both pedals product different, unique tones that can be used in all sorts of live and studio applications.

As basic an effect as a fuzz is, its myriad of applications and tones are often overlooked in favor of other function-specific effects. Truth be known, the power of the fuzz box is vast and aurally volitile when properly employed, meaning that daring tonal explorers can reap its ample rewards with a little pocket cash a few well-intended practice / jam sessions. Lava lamp and incense are optional. - - J.