As COVID-19 sickens the populations of the world, it can easily be forgotten that it has also sickened the entertainment and social life of those very same populations. In no realm of modern enjoyment and enlightenment is this more keenly felt than in the area of music and the performing arts. This is particularly true when it comes to new and up incoming bands, though certainly, all have felt the sting. As if the toppings earned from streaming are not enough to stifle the reach of new music, the novel coronavirus has only made the struggle to get noticed even more cumbersome than before, something else that applies to even well-established artists.

One band ready to charge out of the gate as soon as the seemingly never-ending outbreak concludes and lines for overpriced beer commence is New Jersey natives, Weapons Of Anew. Often shifting from sleaze rock riffs to straight-up rock n' roll, Weapons Of Anew is made up of some amazing weapons of old. Comprised of “Freddy Ordine (ex-Axiom, ex-HavocHate) and vocalist Ray West (ex-Spread Eagle) along with bassist Stefan “Reno” Cutrupi and the newest addition, drummer Chad Szeliga (ex-Breaking Benjamin, ex-Black Label Society),” according to their bio on their website, it is no wonder why their sound is as diverse as possible.

Szeliga was also the drummer for Black Star Riders, the band who opened the Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy show with such power and force on the last “Firepower” tour.

Weapons Of Anew has taken many fans by surprise and the charts by storm (where they are breaking the Top 40) with their latest offering, a cover of The Chainsmoker's, “Sick Boy.” Anyone who longs for the riffs of solid rock and roll will most likely prefer this version over the original. Never has the lamentations of our obsessions with social media, appearance, and acceptance sounded more urgent than in this version by Weapons Of Anew.

One of the other slamming new releases comes in the form of a charity song from LeRoi XIII. This powerhouse is comprised of Granny4Barrel vocalist, Terry LeRoi along with members of both Evanescence and Of Mice And Men, according to the website Leroithirtheen to bring forth an explosive cover of Dio's “Stand Up And Shout.”

From the very first note, in a video comprised of the band making a compilation from various distanced places (thanks again, COVID), ax-slinger Sammy Boller unleashes a fury of complexity with almost baffling ease.

The song, sanctioned by late singer Ronnie James Dio's wife, Wendy Dio, was recorded to raise money for “The Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund.” The vocals are enough to make even seasoned listeners think that Ronnie James had returned from the dead.

Will Hunt (drums), Troy McLawhorn (guitars) Aaron Pauley (bass) round out the lineup and they are amazingly tight for what some may call “a side project.” The production on this track, particularly as it relates to the bass and solo work from McLawhorn should be also noted. Thankfully, this is not to be a “one-off” project and more music should be coming from this supergroup known as LeRoi XIII, a gathering of greats who have really delivered the goods thus far.

Veteran rockers also ready to return

While Udo Dirkschneider has long ago departed from rock greats, Accept, to downplay what the band has accomplished in the years since Udo and the band's classic, “Balls To The Wall” were on the charts is to make a very grave error.

Accept has just released “Too Mean To Die,” a solid scoop of heaviness that shouldn't be overlooked, meaning that the trio guitar attack of Wolf Hoffman, Uwe Lulis, and Phillip Shouse, along with the bass work of Martin Martink, the furious drumming of Christopher Williams, the scowling vocals of Mark Tornillo is primed and ready to strike... as the new album cover implies in no uncertain terms. Those who enjoy the oft' called “battery acid” vocal style of Exodus, Tom Keifer/Cinderella, and AC/DC will certainly want to crank this release up to 11.

Beyond that, the relentless soloing work found on “Too Mean To Die” works to explain why Metallica's guitar great, Kirk Hammet, recently told German magazine “Gitarre & Bass” that Accept's Hoffman was a huge influence on this playing. This can be found in the utterly blazing solo found in the title track, which almost marries Iron Maiden-ish structures of sound with new technical approaches, as well as throughout the release. “Sucks To Be You” certainly proves, midway into the CD, that this is a must-have release in 2021.

Also, sure to excite fans of all things macabre yet socially relevant, Alice Cooper has returned in fine form with his latest dose of the dark and deranged ditties with a release called “Detroit Stories.”

The single from that platter, “Social Debris” (co-written by Alice Cooper's original drummer, Neal Smith) continues dissecting the themes of our modern woes in much the same way that Alice Cooper did with what many consider to be his most aggressive CD, “Brutal Planet.” That CD was masterfully produced by Bob Marlette, (in)famous for his work with industrial/rock outfits such as 2wo (featuring John 5, Rob Halford, and Trent Reznor, founder of Nine Inch Nails), Rob Zombie, and Marilyn Manson.

Brutal Planet” also had the accomplished chops of Marlette's experience with David Lee Roth, Lynard Skynard, Black Sabbath, and even Quiet Riot, “Detroit Stories” promises to be the same, only once again, sadly, without that dark electronic edge that so many fans also enjoyed on that offering (which spawned a terrifying Haunted House at Six Flags).

Still, it would be impossible to not be excited by the idea of new work not only from Alice and one of the best living guitarists today – Nita Straus. “Social Debris” delivers a blistering helping of melody melding with intricacy, something that has become one of her calling cards.

Bassist Chuck Garric, co-guitarist Ryan Roxie, co-guitarist Tommy Henrickson from Halestorm, and Sixx A.M.'s Glen Sobel on drums complete the Cooper Troupe of Terror and, once again, no matter how grim things get, Alice has a song for it.

Will there be tours?

So, will any of these bands tour? Will LeRoi do anything live, will Alice Cooper be chopping off his head again, and if so, what will be done about things like mosh pits in the age of social distancing? All of this remains to be seen but if nothing else, it seems that a lot of really talented musicians have wisely used the COVID-19 nightmare to craft some relevant, technical music with meaning and drive. If that is a taste of what COVID-19 has inspired artists to birth thus far during lockdowns and shut-ins, it should prove exciting to see what else is about to be released in the coming months.