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While COVID-19 painfully affects the world’s population, it is easy to forget that it also painfully affects the entertainment and social life of that same population. In no area of contemporary entertainment and enlightenment is this more evident than in the areas of music and the performing arts. This is especially true for new and emerging groups, though of course they have all felt the pinch. As if streaming revenues weren’t enough to stifle the reach of new music, the Coronavirus affair has only made the fight harder than before, which is true even for established artists.

A band ready to fire as soon as the seemingly endless escape ends and the expensive beer lines begin, are the natives of New Jersey’s Weapons Of Anew. Often alternating between deceptive rock riffs and straight-up rock and roll, Weapons Of Anew is built from great old school weapons. Composed of “Freddy Ordine (ex-Axiom, ex-HavocHate) and vocalist Ray West (ex-Spread Eagle) as well as bassist Stefan “Reno” Cutrupi and new member, drummer Chad Szeliga (ex-Breaking Benjamin, ex-Black Label Society),” according to their bio at www.weaponsofanew.com, it’s no wonder their sound is as diverse as it gets.

Attentive readers of Blasting News will recall that Sheliga was also the drummer for the Black Star Riders, the band that so powerfully and forcefully fronted Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy during their recent “Firepower” tour.

Weapon New surprised many fans and stormed the charts (where they reached the Top 40) with their latest effort, a cover of “Sick Boy” by The Chainsmoker. Anyone in the mood for solid rock and roll riffs will probably prefer this version to the original. Never has it seemed more poignant than in this version of “Weapons Of Anew” to bemoan our obsession with social media, looks and recognition.

One of the other newcomers comes in the form of a charity song by LeRoi XIII. The shock band includes Granny4Barrel singer Terry LeRoi and members of Evanescence and Mice And Men to create an explosive cover of Dio’s “Stand Up And Shout,” according to https://leroithirteen.com/.

From the first note, in a video composed of a tape collected from several remote locations (thanks again, COVID), Tox slinger Sammy Boller unleashes a fury of complexity with almost surprising ease.

The song, which was signed by Wendy Dio, wife of the late Ronnie James Dio, was recorded to raise money for the Rise and Shine Cancer Foundation. The vocals are enough to make even seasoned listeners believe that Ronnie James has risen from the dead.

Will Hunt (drums), Troy McLawhorn (guitar), and Aaron Pauley (bass) complete the band, and they are surprisingly tight for what some would call a “side project.” The production on this track also deserves mention, especially as far as the bass and McLawhorn’s solo work is concerned. Fortunately, this will not be a “one-off” project, and there should be more music from this great band known as LeRoi XIII, a collection of greats who have done great work to date.

The veteran rocker is also set to return…

Udo Dirkschneider has long left rock bands, but to accept what the band has done since Udo and the classic “Balls To The Wall” reached the charts is a very serious mistake.

Accept has just released Too Mean To Die, a solid and heavy feel that cannot be ignored. This means that the trio guitar attacks of Wolf Hoffman, Uwe Lulis and Philipp Schuse, as well as the work of Martinck on bass, the fierce percussions of Christopher Williams and the sinister vocals of Mark Tornillo are ready to strike… as the cover of the new album unequivocally suggests. Those who appreciate the vocal styles of Exodus, Tom Keifer/Cinderella and AC/DC will no doubt want to bring this release to 11.

Moreover, the relentless solo work on “Too Mean To Die” explains why Metallica’s guitar work is so good. Kirk Hammett recently told German magazine Gitarre & Bass that Accept’s Hoffman was a major influence on this track.

This is evident in the absolutely brilliant solo in the title track, which almost combines Iron Maiden’s sound structures with new technical approaches, but also in the whole release. “Suck To Be You” proves to be a must-have in 2021, already halfway through the CD.

To please fans of obscure but socially relevant stuff, Alice Cooper is back in top form with her latest dose of dark and wacky songs with an album titled “Detroit Storytimes.”

The single “Social Debris” (co-written by Neil Smith, Alice Cooper’s first drummer) continues to dissect the problems of our contemporary misery, just as Alice Cooper did with what many consider her most aggressive record, Brutal Planet. This record was masterfully produced by Bob Marlette, known for his work with industrial and rock bands such as 2wo (with John 5, Rob Halford and Trent Reznor, founder of Nine Inch Nails), Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson.

“Brutal Planet” also presented Marlette’s experience with David Lee Roth, Lynard Skynard, Black Sabbath and even Quiet Riot. “Detroit Storytimes” promises to be the same, but unfortunately once again without the dark electronic side that so many fans appreciated in these offerings (from which the hideous Haunted House at Six Flags sprang).

However, it is impossible not to be excited about a new song, not only from Alice, but also from one of the best guitarists in the world, Nita Strauss. “Social Debris” delivers a dose of intoxicating melody fused with complexity, which has become one of her calling cards.

Bassist Chuck Garrick, co-guitarist Ryan Roxy, co-guitarist Tommy Henrickson of Halestorm and Glen Sobel on drums from Sixx A.M. complete Cooper’s “Terror Troupe” and, sinister as it is, Alice has a song for her.

Will there be tours?

Will any of these bands be touring? Will LeRoi do anything live, will Alice Cooper chop off his head again, and if so, what will they do with things like mosquito holes in a time of social exclusion? That remains to be seen, but it seems that many truly talented musicians have wisely used the nightmare of COVID-19 to make relevant and technical music that has meaning and energy. If this is just a glimpse of what COVID-19 has instilled in artists so far during its closures, we can look forward to what will be released in the coming months.

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