Thursday, February 12, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW - Sardonica: Follow Me

If you're an avid follower of the Garden State's underground music scene - or are even remotely knowledgable of the extended family of musicians surrounding Lodi, NJ's legendary Misfits - you know the name “Sal Bee.” An active musician for decades now, Sal first gained notoriety as the frontman of Slaughtered Grace, a late '80s Hardcore/Metal act that released a 1990 EP (Call This Planet...Slaughtered Grace) on the Misfits' Cyclopean Music label. A few years later, he helped out his lifelong friends Jerry Only and Doyle by filling in on vocals in the early days of the band's reformation. Before long, Dr. Chud - Sal's former drummer from his then-current band, Sardonica - got the gig as The Misfits' new timekeeper. And when The Misfits performed their first European and US dates in early '96 after announcing new vocalist Michale Graves, Sardonica served as the opening act. Onstage, Sal struck an intense visual with his shaved head and muscular build; offstage, he endeared himself to fans by being one of the nicest, most approachable guys they could ever hope to meet.

Fast-forward to now, and the ever-charismatic singer/bassist is reaching new audiences all the time thanks to his must-see online show, Rock 'N' Roll Cooking with Sal Bee. He also continues to play live in the NJ/NY area with both Sardonica and a reunited Slaughtered Grace. His latest album under the Sardonica moniker, Follow Me, finds him backed by a who's who of Lodi Punk legends for a selection of covers, new Sardonica compositions and a handful of recent recordings of older Slaughtered Grace tunes. On drums, we have The Murp, best known to Fiends as a member of Jerry and Doyle's late '80s band, Kryst The Conqueror. On guitar, the powerhouse Pete Murder. The one and only Steve Zing (Samhain/Danzig/Mourning Noise/The Undead) turns up to sing a cover of “Runaround Sue,” while Michale Graves fronts the band on a rendition of The Doors' “Touch Me.” Although he's not the most famous musician to add his talents to Follow Me, guitarist Ron Paci's amazing lead playing on “Black Sheep,” “Six Feet Below,” “Terror Unleashed” and the epic “Tragic End” is the record's crowning achievement. As far as what the music on Follow Me actually sounds like...Well, if you know Sal Bee, you know what to expect. If this is your first time, just imagine the Cro-Mags (if they had a sense of humor) jamming with Manowar (if they ditched the goofy ultra-masculine posing). Fans of fellow Jersey bands like Overkill (especially their Punky early stuff) and Whiplash will find a lot to love here. With its excellent production and solid performances, Follow Me serves as the perfect introduction to the music of two of New Jersey's finest bands. Sal's as great now as he was 20 years ago. Respect.

On a personal note, listening to Follow Me brought me back to when I first met Sal Bee during my days hanging out with The Misfits in the mid '90s. I had the good fortune of keeping the beat for quite a few of their rehearsals back then, and I got to jam with Sal on many occasions. (As it happens, I first made noise with him 20 years ago this month.) I still remember when Michale Graves first started working with the band in the spring of '95, and the first time I met Steve Zing (backstage after a Misfits show at Action Park in Vernon, NJ that I put on in '96). And I'll never forget when Sardonica played a benefit show I put on at my high school in support of D.A.R.E.! Sal Bee and Steve Zing have never once said no to me in all the years I've known them, and Graves has earned my eternal respect for his well-earned place in Misfits history and work on behalf of the West Memphis Three. Simply put, some of the best people I've ever met in my travels are on this record, and hearing it makes me feel like I'm 18 again and back in Jersey. Thanks for that, fellas!

Follow Me is available at


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