"Residual Alcatraz"

By Dr. Abner Mality

After the big disappointment of Grand Magus' latest album, the raw and rough heavy metal of Dogbane comes as a welcome relief. This North Carolina band has come up with a real sleeper in the strangely titled "Residual Alcatraz".

Good solid Judas Priest styled metal is what you get from these canines. They also bring to mind early Helstar and the great Malice. The vocals of Mr. Jeff Neal are rich, ripe and sometimes overdone, but they really call to mind Malice's James Neal (any relation?) and Helstar's James Rivera. Capable of a scream when necessary but much more in the fruity mid-range. There's also a touch of doom to Dogbane's approach and some tasty hard rock influences.

They keep things nice and raw...not under-produced but certainly not the overshined and lifeless production we had to endure on Grand Magus' "The Hunter". These guys keep the old school balls instead of castrating themselves for a bigger label. The music itself is pretty familiar if you're a fan of early 80's metal, but Dogbane seem to be an authentic extension of that era instead of an "ironic" recreation. Good for them! The album starts well with the mid-paced epic crunch of "Ride The Serpent" and then continues with some cracking tunes like "God Forgive You", the totally rocking title cut and the pounding "Fire And Brimstone". Two highlights are the long and involved tunes "Devil In the Dark" and "Burning In the Light". The latter is a true monster, starting with total doom riffing, speeding up to fast power licks and tossing in a lot of Maidenesque twin guitar work. The former is brisk and more melodic, with Neal's best vocal performance.

Really, just about any track here will satisfy your metal heart. I'm deeply grateful to Dogbane for reminding me there are still bands that know how to get it done old school style!