Wednesday, December 13, 2006

666: The Number One Beast - A Tribute To Iron Maiden

666: The Number One Beast - A Tribute To Iron Maiden

Every once in a great while, some critic will review an album and decide upon themselves that a particular disc is not good, that it has no redeeming quality whatsoever and that the CD only takes up space on a shelf. I always thought it was a sad thing to see. And then I bought this album.

This is, without question, the most unnecessary album I’ve EVER heard!

It’s unmitigated crap! Honestly, what was the POINT in making this album?! You have a singer like Steve Overland who takes every single word and tries to make it into some half-assed opera production, accentuating every word as if it’s life or death. To make matters worst, the guitars are mediocre at best on his tracks, and then solos are pure crap.

Paul Di'anno is the only redeeming factor on Volume 1. He only tackles the material done during his stint with Maiden, and the re-recordings of “Wrathchild” and “Iron Maiden” are incredbile.

But the rest of the 2-Volume set (also sold separately, to double your pain and steal your cash) is pure, unmitigated shit! It plays less as a tribute to Iron Maiden and more as a cheap cash-grab attempt by artists in bands no one gave two-shits about in the 80's (save Paul) and calling it a “Tribute”! It is a simply horrid album! Honestly, it’s... it’s just the worst damn album I’ve heard in my entire life, and I’ve listened to “Soundtrack to Your Escape” by In Flames!

1 out of 10, ONLY because of those 2 tracks by Paul saved it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hirax - Not Dead Yet

Hirax - Not Dead Yet

There are 3 types of people who like Hirax: Their friends and family, “metal hipsters”, or people who simply say they like an artist just because no one else does, thus making that band “cool” and those who don’t like it “lame” and have “no taste in metal”.

But the final group are the poor, misguided idiots who, for some reason, like Hirax. These are most likely the same people who went through high school in the 80's always trying to be the “cool, metal kid”. They had the hair, the vest, the look... but they had the shittiest taste in metal! Hirax is the band the symbolizes all of that into one album of sheer, unrelenting shit.

I got this album for 2 reasons. The first was because I heard their name tossed around a lot in metal circles, and the second was because they had an album cover done by Pushead. And I have to say, that cover kicks all sorts of ass! Too bad the music it contains is anything BUT!

The main appeal of this band and album is that it was one of the earliest cross-over albums to exist, taking metal, punk, and hardcore together and making something. I would say “good”, but it isn’t. The best way I can put it is this: Imagine D.R.I.’s insane playing style mixed with the style of Joey-era Anthrax. The idea of putting soaring vocals over a D.R.I. song is enough to give some fans enough joy to live happily.

Essentially, that’s what this album is, but with one major flaw; The vocals are shit! No, no, that’s not it. It’s more like they don’t know how to place the vocals right with the music! Instead of getting what could have been an awesome record, your left with an album that is nothing more than a ball of shit. Imagine a ball of shit. Now imagine a really angry bug stuck in that ball, trying to get out. That’s the amount of an impact and frustration this album is to listen to.

Despite the horrible mess the vocals are, the rest of the band is actually in decent shape. The guitar work, especially on the later part of the disc (the EP) is incredibly well-done. It's just the vocals that destroy the album, and it's a sheer shame. That's the bug, and the vocals are the shit.

By the time they get to the “Hate, Fear and Power” disc, the album is pretty much dead. “The Plague” is the best track out of the entire disc, and the only one worth your time. Keep the cover and throw away the CD.

0.1 out of 10. Pure shit!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Strapping Young Lad – City

Strapping Young Lad – City

It is hard to think of an album more worthy of praise than this disc. Not only did Devin Townsend secure his final line-up for the band on this album, but he forever earned his reputation as the musical genius of metal. While other metal guitarists and artists are more than happy to list that their inspiration came from other metal acts, it's the like of Townsend that name the classical composers of the 1880's as his heroes.

City is a masterpiece in every since of the word. For those of you not familiar with what the word is supposed to mean, it's very simple; a Masterpiece, or Masterwork, is suppose to be the very embodiment of everything an artist has learned put into one piece. If one wanted to, Leonardo's “The Last Supper” could be considered just that thanks to his use of technique and as it was, in essence, everything he knew and learned and pioneered thanks to his genius.

In that same vein, City by Strapping Young Lad is just that; It is THE embodiment of everything that Devin Townsend is capable of.

If there was ever any album that could be called the very portrait of anger and rage, this is it. There is, and never again will be, something that could describe the very anger and rage that goes through the mind of a person in the history of music. Devin Townsend himself has bi-polar disorder. While others would say he “suffers” from it, it's quite the contrary; It has done nothing, in terms of his art, but to act as the single greatest driving force possible. I have known people who have that disorder; I, myself, suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.). I may have Bi-Polar, too, which wouldn't be too surprising.

Without question, this is the most dangerous album ever recorded.

City opens with “Velvet Kevorkian”, the Deceleration of Independence according to Devin. It states in simple terms that he is sick and tired of it all and he wants more from life, his art, and his future. It's followed up by “All Hail the New Flesh”, the musical embodiment of the previous track. It is an insanely complex song that sounds like he is has actually recorded an anxiety attack with a metal band! It ends with a temper with pulsing drums and Devin screaming, “I want it all! I want it all! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!”; the very sound of anger itself, put on record!

“Oh My Fucking God” starts out as manic as you can get; Devin starts out with a relatively clam scream, leading into a non-stop verbal rant about modern society. This gives way later on to a fierce battle of guitars with Devin snarling like a man possessed, leading way to an intense drum blast that must have clocked close to the speed of sound! Soon, they are over-lapped with a chant of “la-la-la-la” over and over again, getting louder and louder and louder until it's enough to... yes, you have finally reached a point beyond anger and into insanity, greeted simply with yelling “Oh My Fucking God”.

“Detox” works just like that. You've been plunged into the world where you now have taken something, drugs, alcohol... something, anything to kill the pain and anger you were just feeling. The song leaves you feeling better than you came. You finally awaken half-way through this song wondering just how you got to the place you came to, feeling paranoid that your looking like an ass in some manner, only to return to the state you cam from. But your still thankful for the experience.

“Home Nucleonics” acts as the cry against all mankind; a “Fuck the world, I hope you all die” kind of sense. Your left feeling insanely angry, warning everyone not to get in your way. The song is essentially written from the perspective of a rouge robot in a future world. “AAA” is an intensely personal song about... well, we can only assume it was written from personal perspective, though I am not one to take 100% belief in it in this case.

“Underneath the Waves” returns you the intensely pissed off Devy that you met earlier. It is Devin screaming in frustration at how nothing is happening. “Tired of Waiting/Tired of Trying/Tired of Waiting/ For Fucking Nothing”, screams the chorus at the top of it's lungs! The guitars chug underneath, giving the cries even more presence.

“Spirituality” is the calmest of all and the perfect closer. It could possibly reveal that the entire album was written from the perspective of some robot, some experiment pondering it's existence, wondering if there is more to it's life than what it's seen. Something I think we can all relate to.

The album is incredibly powerful. Maybe that's why there's a diagram of a bomb on the front. It has the same power, the same intensity.

It deserves no less than a 10 out of 10.

Buy this album, damn it!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kreator- Enemy of God

Kreator- Enemy of God

There's something I want to point out: This album came out Janauary 11, 2005. That's my 20th Birthday! WHOO-HOO! I didn't even know who Kreator was then, but one listen to this album a few months later... Well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is a tough review to write because it's just damn close to something that doesn't seem to be explained. As I write this, it's widely is considered to be a masterpiece, and possibly the greatest Kreator album ever recorded. But why? Why is this true? Because the title track alone makes this album a must-have. What better way to kick off an album than with a thunderous assult of guitars and drums, all the while screaming "Enemy of God" at the top of every chorus? The song is even catchy, if you can believe that!

This album is mostly politcal, something not new to this German-Thrash outfit. And, yes, that was the cheesiest thing I could write, but it's 100% true, they're not afraid of political subject matter. That is plainly evident on "Suicide Terrorist" where they cut down to size the ego and ideologically behind what a suicide terrorist is and does. "Voices Of The Dead", "Impossible Brutality", and "Under A Totally Blackened Sky" deals with war, each one giving a harsh view on the futilities of it. "Murder Fantasies" is exactly as it seems; Someone dealing with their emotions on how they wish someone was dead.

I know this review is a bit thin, so let me try to explain why exactly you should get it; This album takes the same thrash metal started 20 years ago and takes it to the new millennium. The production on this album is just incredible, and the writing is top-notch. It's a remarkable experience to hear this band and this album. Admitedly, there are some moments that seem to just sit there, but the album just has a remarkable flow to it!

4.2 out of 5.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Discharge - Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing

Discharge - Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing

What makes an album perfect? What makes an album do something that no album you have experinced do to you that none other has done before? It's impossible to explain, and it's impossible to pinpoint. But in what I consider to be over 8 years of REALLY listening to music, this is the first time that instead of saying, "I Want to Do something" because of the music, I actually DID something.

If this album doesn't make you do something violent, your not human!

Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing is as violent an album you will EVER hear! Yes, you have groups like Hatebreed, Terror, and Nile out there pushing the boundries of extrme music, but none of them have that same punch in comparisson to the rawness of this album. The riffs are simple but forceful, the drums simply just beat the living shit out of you, and the vocals simply tear your skin off! It's like going dtraight into a insanely nasty war! The lyrics are fiercly political, relying on anti-politics, anti-war, anti-human, even! It's not hard to see why this band influenced groups like Anthrax and Metallica, resulting in both doing covers from this album. The loud, distorted guitars tearing away at the world. It is simply insane.

The standout moment on this album is the combination of "Cries For Help" leading into "The Possibility of Life's Destruction". Dealing with the threat of a nuclear war, it isn't exactly cliche; Instead of some pointless drivle of a 5-minute song going on about how the world will die in a nuclear conflict, it instead uses something much more powerful! It invokes the same reaction as did Lyndon Johnson's 1964 Political Ad where the "images of a cute little girl counting daisy petals give way to those of a nuclear blast countdown in this still-haunting commercial from Lyndon Johnson." That line was taken from the AllPolitics archive on the subject, but I think it works well here. The impact is exactly the same, and that is the best example of what type of album you have.

5 out of 5. 'Nuff Said.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Metallica - Creeping Death-Jump In The Fire CD EP

Metallica - Creeping Death-Jump In The Fire CD EP

OK, this is a bit of a cheat: This isn't an album, it's 2 singles, and it's officially released as the "Creeping Death" single that happens to include the "Jump in the Fire" single. But for the sake of argument, we'll call it the "Creeping Death EP".

That said, I'm not only lucky to have this, but I'm glad I listened to it.

The average metal fan most likely owns every single Metallica album. Or, at the very least, all the one's they did up to The Black Album. We tend to take them for granted, giving them a listen once in a blue moon. It may have been the starting point for most of us, but it doesn't mean we listen to them every single day.

This EP basically reminds you why Metallica is considered legends; Because they know how to write damn good songs!

A quick listen to the opener, "Creeping Death", is refreshing; There is a warmth to the EP that you won't find on the album, one that I can't truly describe. But within the CD format of this EP, the song takes on a new life! The furious guitar intro, the venous tongue of Jame Hetfield, Lars Drums, Cliff Burton's Bass, Kirk's insane solo... They're all the hallmarks of this song.

Following up are the covers of "Am I Evil?" by Diamond Head and "Blitzkrieg" by Blitzkrieg. The recording levels of both songs differ, with the later being louder than the former. It's interesting to hear them on the EP for no other reason then to reflect upon how people 20 years ago must have felt when they heard this when it first came out. But the intensity, the skilled playing... all of it is there.

The main feeling of the entire EP is just a nice warm feeling that you wouldn't normally find on a CD. It isn't something that can be described easily; it boils down to what people must feel when they compare the sound of vinyl to CD. But this was made in a wonderful time, before when even CD's made today had the high-gloss digital-sheen. The feeling of Vinyl can be found here, and it is beautiful. By the time "Jump in the Fire" comes on, it feels like 1983 again!

The last two tracks, "Seek & Destroy" and "Phantom Lord", were alternative studio takes over-dubbed with a crowd, but they sound incredible! It's about as close to hearing a hi-fi version of them playing live in 1983 as you may get.

All in all, great EP!

4.5 out of 5!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wednesday 13 - Fang Bang

Wednesday 13 - Fang Bang

It is incredibly safe to say that I am a fairly big fan of Wednesday 13. I started out with The Murderdolls, then I bought his Frankenstein Drag Queen from Planet 13 box set. I also have Transylvania 90210, which was his first solo album. After some 12 years of Wednesday 13 playing horror-inspired punk, ascending past The Misfits into a neon-goth quasi-S&M extravaganza, and in a good way. Unfortunately, it seems he is no longer happy just creating brilliant albums of horror-punk shtick, but he now wants to breach the mainstream. This is an odd statement to make; If you follow his career or his music, he has always had a nack for writing some incredible hooks and lyrics.

Sadly, it seems Wednesday 13 now wants the mainstream to accept him, and the result is semi-painful. He is one of those artists that tends to create the same album over and over again, but in a good way. This time, we see that he is now relying on more "easy-listening" fair than his normal punk flair; In fact, it is hard to find a single classic rock song until you reach "Till Death Do Us Party", the 9th track on the album. The album closer is a cover of "Burn The Flames" by Rocky Ericson done to a pretty nice level.

It borders on downright dull at times, with the only saving grace being Wednesday 13's lyrics. "And now we're on the run / And you know we're having so much fun / Being American werewolves in London". At least with lyrics like that you can chuckle.
2.7 out of 5.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Darkthrone - The Cult is Alive

Darkthrone - The Cult is Alive

If you read this column regularly (and I hope you do!), then you'll remember that I said that a record store liquidation can offer a chance for someone to discover bands and albums they never would normally touch. I picked this album out because someone I know fairly well from a message board had this album cover as their avatar. So seeing it in the store, I was drawn to it.

Black Metal. A genre born in England by Venom, more or less as a self-defecating joke, taken to insanely extreme and serious levels by Norwegians (for the better, I might add!), tends to get too serious at times, neglecting it's very roots. These roots include Venom, Black Sabbath, and even Blues. The Norwegian Black Metal scene has spawned an unholy union of all these, mixed in with the culture of it's surroundings. The saying is true; All art is a reflection of the times and world it is created in. Thus, a dark, foreboding genre of music is created.

I wanted to give you the history lesson because this album actually shows some respect to Venom in terms of style, and I had more fun listening to this black metal album than anything else released in the last 15 years! Yes, it is dark, it is very, as you kids say, "grimm", but it doesn't wallow around in itself. If anything, that annoys me to no end! It can be nice to get lost in an album, but not bored, and this album does nothing even close to that!

"The Cult of Goliath" instantly shows what I was talking about. To a point, I dare say there is some punk influences mixed in there (a-la Venom), continued on "Graveyard Slut", almost taking on a more Misfits-style. That is, if The Misfits played Black Metal. "Underdogs and Overlords" is more traditional Black Metal fare, the lyrics immediately taking stranglehold on the song while the guitars and drums pound away to a heavy black metal beat.. but sped up to a nice level to keep the album consistent! On the flip side, a listen to "Tyster På Gud" will make you think you just put on an album written by Black Flag.

If anything, this album shows that reinventing one's sound is not the worst thing in the world. It's hard to find many flaws in this album, although I'm sure their diehard fans who have been with them through all 11 albums will disagree. But for me this is my first album by the band and I plan on getting some of their older stuff.

This is a must-have album, and definitely one of the best black metal recordings in a long time.

4.5 out of 5!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hanzel und Gretyl - Scheissmessiah!

Hanzel und Gretyl - Scheissmessiah!

FUKKEN UBER! If there was ever a band I was excited about because no one has heard of them, this is it! THIS is the band people need to start listening to because they just plain rock! I felt the same way about Mastodon in 2004, so that should tell you something right there! As an added bit of trivia, one of the former members of the Cycle Sluts from Hell, Venus Penis Crusher, aka Betty Kallas, is now Vas Kallas, the co-founder of the band. One listen to this album should shut down any rumors that the Sluts couldn't write a song, let alone play their instruments. But that's another day and another review.

Today, we are going to review Scheissmessiah!, which was released in 2004. Opening the album is a nice mellow track called "Lust". It mixes soothing, almost new-age sounds with a speech from some Evangelical preacher going on about hell. This, of course, is followed by "Fikk Dikk Mit Fire". This song barrels like a locomotive with pounding guitars, intense drums, and a chorus with a hook that is impossible to find anywhere else in Industrial Metal! Vas Kallas, the female singer, tears away at the track with a sample of a croud chanting behind her. It all reaches to a fantastic track, and a must-have for anyone who likes metal.

Taking a sample from "Ride of the Valkyries", "Kaiser Von Shizer" shoes what the rest of the album is; incredibly heavy industrial metal mixed in with a good sense of humor and some intense moments! The album isn't a non-stop serious-fit, nor is it a comedy disc. It's more the former than the latter, and it works to great dynamic appeal. The guitar work on this album is great and intense. The album pushes toward thrash and speed metal at times, otherwise sticking to indutrial stylings. The samples and effects are used to the same effect as the most skilled White Zombie tune. A track like "Burning Bush" is great for highlighting the humor of the band, specifically the samples of both a woman moaning and some rapper going "1,2,2,2,2,23!" On the opposite end, "Scheissway to Hell" is an example of dynamic songwriting by the band, showing a great ability of songwriting as well.

As for another headbanger, "And We Shall Purify" is definetly up there! As much as the reference is a pain to mention, yes, the band is similar to KMFDM in it's approach, but they take it to a level they can't, and that's just plain Fukken Uber Fun!

It's hard to nail down certain songs that stand out, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's an album you put on and you can enjoy it. It's not a bloated 72-minute epic, it isn't something that wallows in itself trying to find itself. It's an album that is going to make you laugh with Nazi imagey, great German lyrics, and an entertainment level that's incredibly high. Your not going to get bored and your going to agree when I say it's a great album.

4.2 out of 5!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Edguy - Rocket Ride

Edguy - Rocket Ride

It's tough to be me sometimes. Tower Records is going out of business, and since that day 2 months ago, I've been buying CD's like crazy! Hell, everything's at 30% off with an added 10% for today only, so I got about 20 for $200. Not too shabby.

If there's every a plus side to your favorite record store going under, it's this; You can take a chance and experiment with music you may never otherwise listen to. I know I wouldn't have been able to fully enjoy some artists like Black Label Society without a local store going under a while back.

But for now, we'll focus on Edguy's latest album, Rocket Ride.

It sucks.

I bought it mainly because the album looked cool as hell. Seriously, look at it! It looks like your about to get some insane album of... something! Thash metal, punk... something that will be entertaining at the very least! Instead, as I learned, Edguy is a power metal band. Formed when they were only 14 in 1995, their lead singer sounding very much like a close version of Bruce Dickenson at times.

It's not to say the album doesn't have it's moments. There's a constant feeling of an album bubbling, trying to reach a point where it can take the listener on the very "rocket ride" promised, but it never get's there. Not so much a fustrating listen then it is just a fair-day album, it is well below the level for an album I would really bother every listening to again.

2 Stars out of 5.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Queensrÿche - Operation: Mindcrime

Queensrÿche - Operation: Mindcrime
I hate prog-metal.

My god, there... there is nothing in the world of metal I can think of right now in terms of a music genre I hate more than progressive metal. A bunch of musical snobs going on and on these long intriguet patterns and amazing technical skills, most of them proving they could hold a candle to Vyngviem Malmstein. The reality is, the genre can bore people to tears and the only thing "progressive" about the genre to me is that they can find people who find it interesting, let alone entertaining.

That is the reason why Queensrÿche's "Operation: Mindcrime" is one of the single greatest albums in the history of not just metal, but music as a whole; It may be progressive metal, but it is a damn good album!

When I bought the album last year after hearing rave reviews for it, I was more than skeptical because of everything I just said. That, and albums rarely ever live to the hype I constantly hear being given to them. To me and others my age, we never had to sit through countless days of hearing or seeing the video for a song like "Eyes of a Stranger" a million times, so the band and album can be seen through my eyes as fresh as it was when it first arrived. Concept albums can either rise to the occasion or simply fall flat, the later of which happens a good 99% of the time. This is the exception that proves the rule; an amazingly recorded and executed orchestrated 59 minutes of pure genius!

Opening with the introduction of Nikki, the album's protagonist, waking up in a hospital bed in "I Remember Now", which leads to the "Anarchy-X" where cries of a revolution are heard, leading to "Revolution Calling", creating on of the greatest openings for an album ever, and setting the scene for the rest of the album. Simply put, if you hate these songs, turn off the album and call yourself lame.

The album may have taken place in the Regan-era America, but the album still holds true today,if not even more so. It is simply incredible and mind-boggling to hear Geoff Tate scream "I used to trust the media to tell me the truth, tell us the truth / But now I've seen the payoffs everywhere I look / Who do you trust when everyone's a crook?" in "Revolution Calling".

As the album creeps into "Operation: Mindcrime", you are now slowly learning just what happens to Nikki; he is being brainwashed to commit murder on the enemies of Dr. X.

Taken from Wiki:

The album begins with the protagonist, Nikki, lying in a hospital bed, having a flashback about his past. He remembers how, as a heroin addict, he was mesmerized to join a secret network of rebels who work for a person named Doctor X. As he joins the coup, he becomes hypnotized into a state where when Dr. X says the word "mindcrime", Nikki becomes a puppet on a string (akin to The Manchurian Candidate) to commit any murder Dr. X assigns to him. Dr. X offers a return to Nikki: Through one of his friends, a priest called Father William, he offers Nikki the services of a hooker-turned-nun called Sister Mary. (Details are vague whether these services are sexual or simply emotional.) However, through Sister Mary, Nikki begins to turn back to an emotional human being. Dr. X notices this and, seeing a potential threat in Mary, he orders him to kill her and the priest. Nikki visits Mary, he kills the priest, but fails to comply with the order to murder Mary. He decides to quit the operation and goes back to Dr. X to tell him. X, however, reminds Nikki that he's a drug addict and X is the only one who can provide his daily fix. Nikki returns to Mary, only to find her dead. He can't cope with the loss and succumbs to insanity.

The police, arriving on the scene, find him with the body and arrest him. Since he's in a near-catatonic state, he's put into a hospital, where he starts to remember…

Honestly, there is no better way to explain it since it does it perfectly.

The albums is a non-stop tour through that story, with highlight tracks including "Speak", "The Needle Lies", "Suite Sister Mary", and of course, "I Don't Believe in Love" and "Eyes of a Stranger", the albums two catchiest tracks. If you don't find yourself humming one of those two out of nowhere after hearing this album, you can't be human.

4.9 out of 5!


Operation: Mindcrime (2 CDs + 1 DVD) [DELUXE EDITION]:

Earlier this year, EMI released a Box Set of the album, which included a live disc of the album, recorded in 1990 during the tour for the album. They played it in full live, and it is pratically flawless! It is almost just like hearing the album, only with the added benefit of hearing the crowd get involved, as well as the many flourishes of a live show, like the occasional speeding up of the tempo. Hearing Pamela Moore belt out the parts of Mary live dares to rival hearing it on the album itself!

4.8 out of 5!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Iron Maiden - A Matter of Life and Death

Iron Maiden - A Matter of Life and Death

Bruce Dickinson's voice is shot to hell.

That was the first thing I thought the second I heard "The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg" on the radio. The Infamous "Air Raid Siren" had gone down to kids whistle, but honestly, can you blame him? Ol' Bruce-Bruce is pushing into his 50's and he is, without question, one of the greatest forces in heavy metal. The man is a god-damn workhorse and sings the same songs night after night after night for over 15 years, the last 5 being the big return. But, in an odd way, the voice may be shot, but it is far from dead!

The guys in Iron Maiden have said over and over again how happy they are they didn't go out and get it "polished", leaving a more "raw" sound. That had me incredibly excited, but the result is a deeply-flawed mix. You can hear the guitar feedback at times during songs, and at times, it seems that Dickinson's vocals were recorded without him even hearing the song, most evident on "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns". I constantly felt as if an old audio clip from the 50's, namely a famous sound bite that said those exact words, would pop-up.

But that's not to say this isn't a good album. I always say that it's hard to critiquie new albums by old bands because there are two reviews and points of view that effect it; The album in and of itself, and the album in terms of the overall discography of a band. There is always a need, I think, on the reviewer of the album to give a new album by an old act the respect either the band deserves or the album deserves. If someone were to say, for example, that the latest Vader album was horrible (I don't know, I haven't heard it), they would be deemed "un-tr00" by the metal elitests and it would be hard for anyone to respect him ever again.

That is why it's hard for me to be honest as I want to about this album. I may have made it seem to this point that this album is horrible, but it is, without question, an actually decent album. It's something very different from this band, and it shows, and I'm sure Steve Harris is going to kill me for this, but it shows the band aging and growing more mature. It may not be as heavy as Dance of Death, but the overall feel is simply that of a band getting ready to hit it's twilight years and actually enjoying it by putting out decent albums.

Iron Maiden has had 3 guitarists since 2000, but this is the first time that they have used them all to create interesting dynamics. I noticed that immediatly on "Different World", the album opener. Behind the vocals of 'ol Bruce-Bruce, you can hear an angelic 3-guitar harmony, and a guitar tone that has become the bands signature for the new millenium. The song is brief at only a little over 4 minutes, and is one of the most dynamic songs on the album. In all honesty, this should have been the radio single, not "The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg". On "These Colours Don't Run", the guitars are used to a very good effect, reminding me of a mix of Dance of Death meets Seventh Son. Incredibly patriotic and a song of having pride, not only in your country, but also the causes you may live and die for. Nicko's drumming is still top-notch, folks!

For all that I said about it, "Brighter than a Thousand Suns" is actually quite incredible! This one may become a permanet piece in the live shows, if we're lucky to see them for a godo 2-hours every night. It is the stand-out track of the album. If any of these songs live on as a must-have, I would have to say this is it. I don't like the vocal mix at times, but it is something that grows on you. It is incredibly well orchastrated, and it has more of a feeling of classical music than metal. A ton of work, thought, and effort went into it and you can tell. This song examples everything great about the band in it's new form; the use of all three guitarists to create incredible dynamics, Nicko's drums working to complement them, Steve's bass working in harmony with the rest... and Bruce doing his damnest. I'm sorry, but Bruce's vocals are just plain shot and it's painful at times to try and find good in it.

If I was to tell Bruce anything, it would be to use the voice he has now to create a new sound for himself instead of trying to act as if he still was 25. It's deeper now and that could create an even more dynamic sound if utialized right. "The Pilgrim" does just that and it works great for it! Short and sweet, this and "Out of the Shadows" demonstrates that the band isn't too old to create hard-rockers from here to there. The dynamic tracks work to great effect with "The Longest Day" building to a decent track with an incredible chorus. It simply works because this is exactly what Bruce should have done on "Brighter than a Thousand Suns", and that is work with the voice he has. It just fits perfectly in here!

"For the Greater Good of God" does seem like "Dance of Death II", but not even an ounce as boring. Where Dance would simply wallow, this sond gallops and demands to know "Well tell me now what war is/ Again tell me what life is"! How all of the harships of war are for "The Greater Good of God". It's equal to "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns" for being THE song to keep, mainly because the vocals are greater and the harmony is brilliant. Again, orchastration wins out and the song shines for it. Oh, and those little bits where the guitars and drums hit at the exact same moment... simply brilliant!

"The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg" and "Lord of Light" have things working for them, but they simply fall flat in the whole of the song and the album, resulting in a feelig of more filler tracks or attempts at trying to go back to their older songs. It's a shame, really.

But it is the album's closer that creates the feeling I said before, that of a band getting ready for old age and growing more mature. I can't help but see Bruce getting ready to sit into a rocking chair to sing a song for me. The guitars swell nicely, the band working in a very nice harmony. I think this song could be a pre-courser for the next album, a glimpse in the direction the band is getting ready to go to. The guitars and drums work in synch at times, and the guitars galloping with the drums are a very nice touch, with a very nice guitar solo in the middle. The ending of the song is very peaceful and, although it's over 9 minutes long, you'd swear it was much shorter.

I see a more dynamic Iron Maiden forming, one mixing all that they have learned in the last 25+ years into a force to be reckoned with, the likes of which we have not seen in nearly 15 years. This album is something that you will appreciate on the 2nd listen, and one you'll love with some time. This album is like wine and a good cheese; it taste's better with some aging, which is true of Iron Maiden.

This is a 4.2 out of 5 disc, and one that should be in your collection.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Static-X - Wisconsin Death Trip

Static-X - Wisconsin Death Trip

Back in 2000, I was in Wal-Mart for the first time in my life. I was standing around while my parents were checking out and saw two CD's by a band called Static-X, Machine and Wisconsin Death Trip. The albums covers looked cool, the CD's were on sale, and I considered buying them but held out. Last year I decided to finally check them out, and god-damn it, I'm glad I did!

The band has often been declared "nu-metal", and thus the label, "lame", has been synonymous with it. That's only due to the fact they came out in 1998 during the time when it was the only label new metal bands could get, and it doesn't do them justice. The sound is more akin to what Ministry was being declared to be and only achieved on the last two albums; Industrial Metal with some insanely heavy and catchy riffs.

The album kicks-off with, hands down, the single smartest metal lyric of the late-90's; "I See It/ I NEED IT". The lyric, in those 6 words, are the sheer embodiment of the current generation; The see it, want it mentality that we have, the same idea of rampant, almost mindless consumerism that embody most of us. We live in an age instant gratification, and as soon as we see an item, it's no longer a want, it's a need. And we must fill that need. For that, "Push It" stands as one of the greatest metal songs ever.

The songs about love and relationships makeup some of the most dynamic tracks on the album, as well as some of the most unique songs that can actually are entertaining. Most notably, "I'm With Stupid" is among the single zaniest tracks I've ever heard, the sample of the news report of the woman saying "I grabbed my shovel, and I beat him in the skull and took him down. Then I grabbed a rope and I hogtied him." adds a dynamic that is simply amazing. "Love Dump" has a very high-pitched guitar riff going through it, and it's used to perfection.

The album closes "December", a track written by Wayne Static's and Ken Jay's former band Deep Blue Dream. It would, in a sense, almost seem out of place, but it actually sits perfectly with the rest of the disc, creating a nice melodic, relaxing end to an incredibly intense album.

If there was ever an album from the mainstream late-90's metal movement for me to recommend, this would be it. If you either never heard it, or haven't heard it in a long time, it's perfect to rediscover!

4.7 out of 5, this album is great!


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Van Halen - Van Halen

Van Halen - Van Halen

I think this album is summed up in the first line of "I'm The One"; "We Came Here to Entertain You".

Did you ever buy an album you wound up listening to a bunch of times after you bought it? I haven't gotten the chance to do that lately, but this disc has been one that I've been listening to quite a bunch. Not too much because, no matter what album it is, listening to the same album 20 times in a week can kill the impact. And if you don't listen to an album you love enough, after a while, it falls into that category of discs you grow to dislike and ask yourself why you ever liked it. This album, despite being one of the oldest I have ever bought (1978; My oldest is a Johnny Cash album) sounds insanely fresh!

Let me state this now; Albums have a cycle. There is the inital hype and stigma that comes to it when it is released. It will either be glowingly positive or it will be insanely negative. People will either hail it as an instant classic, utter shit, or just another album by an artist. After about 5 years, it's fair to say that the inital hype is dead and all that remains are stigmas and affections, be they good or bad. After 10 years, the final analias is done, and the label stays. Permanetly. It doesn't matter if the album really was pure shit; the label will remain. An album can be looked upon in a more academic sense and be offically declared mediocre, crap, or brilliant, showing signs that it could do no wrong, hail upon as a bands best, or even as a landmark album. After 20 years, the album is aged to a point where it may come back in vouge or fade away.
But what about nearly 30 years? What happens to an album then?

This is a question the more elderly metal heads (sorry to make you feel old) who were around when Sabbath made their first album and went to their first U.S. tour are starting to ask more and more. After 30 years, and album will finally prove it's worth. Most people are astounded that albums after 20 years still sound fresh, so after 30, I think it's fair to say it's a complete and utter masterpiece.

Van Halen's Selt-Titled debut is such a record.

For those who have either never heard their album, be it age, be it finacial restraints, or sheer uninterest, do me the following favor; Do whatever you have to to listen to this album, because it is INCREDIBLE! The opening base riff on "Runnin' With the Devil" is the perfect introduction to the album; Your about to hear an album that will rock and roll you, but with the infamous metal sound to work with it. Eddie Van Halen playes like a man possessed on this album! I, personally, could live without "Erruption" (Yes, yes, it's a legendary guitar solo, but it just sounds "meh" to me), but the album just has a guitar scream!

The classic radio staples are up next with "You Really Got Me" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love". When I write reviews for classic albums, it feels like telling people about the values of water for their body; it seems like common knowledge. But the fact is, there are people who take these discs for granted and people, like myself, who are skeptical of why an album is good ofter get no reason other than it is. "You Really Got Me" has an incredible distorted guitar riff that hooks you into the song; it's like a 1950's-riff with metal discipline. That, added with Davin Lee Roth's vocals, simply make it irresistable. I almost feel old for saying this, but I still remember that damn car commerical with the Barbie Doll and the G.I. Joe. Hell, that was the first time I heard Van Halen, really.

"Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" opens with what I simply refer to as "The Classic Van Halen Sound"; distorted guitars added with a light Phaser effect, giving a futuristic sound to the opening riff, with touches throughout the entire song. It has to be among the catchiest songs they ever wrote, and it is just heavy enough to make sure it isn't sappy, but light enough that it can act as a sort of love-song. But then again, we ain't talkin' 'bout love now, are we?

Underated tracks? They are, without question, "I'm the One", "Atomic Punk", "Ice Cream Man", and "On Fire", two of which were covered by underated and unknown artists I'll mention later. There is just a heaviness to them as well as a classic sense of all their influences. "I'm the One" could be considered a pre-courser to speed metal. Seriously, listen to it and tell me it couldn't influence the Bay Area Thrash movement that spawned Metallica and Megadeth. Same for "On Fire", if not even more so. "Ice Cream Man" is a perfect song for Davin Lee Roth, originally written by John Brim.

I also want to point out two songs on this album that I heard as covers first; "I'm the One" was covered by 4 Non-Blondes on the Airheads soundtrack, and I think they did a damn godo job. It's an all-female group, but really, you couldn't tell. Then you have "On Fire", which was covered by L.A. punk group Wasted Youth on their album 'Black Daze'. Again, good job on their part, but hearing Van Halen do the original is just insane!

I could go on and on and on about this album and how brilliant it is, how it's acutally worthy of the praise unlike some other "classic" albums that may have influenced others but are still shit. But I'll end it on this note; It's incredibly rare to here an album that still sounds fresh after nearly 30 years, and that's exactly what you have here.

4.98 out of 5. Folks, this is the measuring stick.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Metallica - St. Anger

Metallica - St. Anger

Dear Metallica:

I remember how excited I was when this album was about to come out in June of 2003, and how excited I was when it was released early and I was able to buy a copy 3 days before it's release and immediately put it on. This album has always had a special place in my heart for the time it came out and various times since. When it came out, I was angry and fruious because art school wasn't working out the way I thought it should, I was stuck in a job I hated, and I wasn't happy with my life overall. I had started working out and the album was my workout tape.

In 2004, my mom went into the hospital for a brain anyersum, and I now had to face and deal with emotions and feelings I never had before. This album became theraputic for me at times, namely the last song on the album, "All Within My Hands". There is no greater, for better or worst, feeling than to know that someone's life is within your hands. That in a mere instant you can choose if they live or die. It's the type of power that you don't give a 19-year-old, at least not by choice, especially if they have little or no support from their immediate family. I remember one time coming home from school and the song came on shortly before my stop. The feeling I had, I can only describe it as one of intense pain and sorrow over what I had to choose. That my mom's life was within my hands. That, with nothing more than a phone call, I could call the hospital so she could gently pass on.

When she did, and not without me, it was a painful feeling.

For untold months since then, the song has had a double-meaning for me. There are times I get incredibly angry, but at it's worst, it's when I try or begin to take it out on my very good friend. This same friend came to me and shared more with me than anyone else, especially at the time, a year later, after my mom had passed. Today, I yelled at her. I told her to get out, to go away. I wasn't angry at her; I was angry at myself. All this anger and rage went through me after I appologized because I was so angry with myself. And then... then I looked at my hands. Whenever I get angry at someone I love, the words "All Within My Hands" or "Somekind of Monster" will echo through me. Whenever they do, I think.

There I stood, in the kitchen, only a few feet away from her. I looked at my hands, at how they were covered and calicuses, of how the skin was peeling off, and how beat-up they were. I looked at them, and thought about what I felt. What happened next was all within my hands, and I knew it. I walked over to my CD collection and took out St. Anger. I appologized and told her that I needed to hear a song really quick.

As the opening notes of "All Within My Hands" began to play, she had walked away and came back as soon as the first lines came on. She sat back in her chair, and just watched me sit in a chair in the next room with my head in my hands. I walked over to her, and started to tell her what the song meant to me... about what it had to do with mom... about how it feels that I could do something stupid when I get angry... about how all of it is within my hands.

And then I fell to the floor and started sobbing uncontrolably. I couldn't hold it back anymore. For the first time, the very first time in a year, I was actually crying about mom. It was the "Unnamed Feeling" that I had constantly tried to repress. It took me away from myself and made me reflect. She understood and gave me a hug.

James, Lars, Kirk, and Rob, thank you for releasing this album. I love "Dirty Window" because it reminds me of me, and how I simply dismiss all the people who look at me weird and how foolish it is. I love "Frantic" because, well, it kicks-ass! Today, I heard "St. Anger" and actually felt a way to express my anger in a healthy way and to keep it under control. And I heard how I became "Some Kind of Monster" because of myself.

I won't lie and say it's one of my favorite albums from you, but I sincerly want to say it's the most lyrically honest album I heard since anything by Devin Townsend. Trust me, when I say that, I'm saying the world of you guys.

Again, thank you for everything and may the new album rock!
-Larry West

For all you readers out there, I give this album this note: This album is therapy for both Metallica and you, the listener. If you are in a place similar to myself or the band, then the album, for that moment, will be the best thing in the world. IF you at listening to it and find that it is inferior to their other albums, I will agree with you musically. But lyrically, it's the single best thing they have ever done because they did something no artist in their position do; They're honest about how they feel.

Buy The Album

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Anthrax - Sound of White Noise

For those of you who want a damn good metal album:

Anthrax - Sound of White Noise

"Be dangerous and unpredictable... and make a LOT of noise!" Those are the final words on this disc, a mantra that not only perfectly describes this disc, but the band as a whole.

The album's first song, "Potters Field", is a rude awakening to the fact that Anthrax is now a much more powerful, much more devastating force in the world of metal. John Bush's intense vocals and Scott Ian's new penchant for writing riffs with Charlie's drums proves to be an intense, downright terrifiying at times, force. John spits out lyrics like they're his last breaths, giving more depth to something like "I was told to love you/I was told to try/ I was born to save you/I was born to die."

But if this album is anything, it is a testament to what Anthrax can do. Admitedly, I was trying to avoid stating the obvious facts, but it's simply impossible; This album marked the beginning of the Anthrax of the 90's, fronted by John Bush. If John was anything for the band, he was simply the best thing to happen to them at the right time. It was only a year after their last album came out the world went grunge and Scott Ian was smart enough to know he had to change the sound, or at the very least get the same sound he was trying to achieve with the last record and extend it. John Bush was the perfect fit!

Just listen to this album once and you'll know exactly what I mean. "Only" has a hook so aluring that even Moby Dick would bite for it! It has even been described by James Hetfield of Metallica as perfect. The same goes for "Room for One More", with what has to be the single catchiest chorus Anthrax has written in their entire career!

Again, John shines through with "Hy Pro Glo", who seems to have his vocals virtually strike in dynamic patterns. It's almost like watching a baseball bat hit a window; It is intense, terrifying, but the pattern it leaves and weaves as the glass breaks, but doesn't shatter, is beautiful and incredibly interesting. It simply stands heads and shoulders as one of the best songs on this disc. Songs like "Packaged Rebellion" and "Invisible" burn with all the hatred, angry, and frustration of the world, balled up into songs that allow you to give a voice to your rage!

"Black Lodge" is the lone quite moment on the album. Opening with a beautiful guitar riff that echoes and sounds like your going back to a place in your mind you rarely ever go to. When the chorus comes in, you can almost see two bodies struggling to get along with one another in a way that educes the feeling of passion of sex and the resistance to actually follow through in the act.

"C11 H17 N2 O2 S Na" (a.k.a Truth Serum) and "Burst" are the thrasiest songs on the album, presenting a head-butt to the listener. Resistance is absolutely futile to not go around your room and mosh like there's no tomorrow to it! "Burst" has the added effect of the chorus "Kill someone, save a life/Don't do drugs, drink all night/ Worship Jesus, Praise Satan/ Opinions are all contradictions!"

The album closes on what I consider to be the most experimental song of their careers up to this point, and I think it paid off. "This Is Not an Exit" is a song where you will find your own meaning. "I know I'll never be free/ Change doesn't come easy/ And I'll never be free/ You'll live in Hell with me" burn you, and the rest of the song is just as powerful. The song builds and builds, never pausing. The song is always working away at something to bring you, the listener, to a point where you simply are boiling over with anticipation. Again, it is going to be up to you to decide if it's worth it. "I know I'll never save myself, dying from this immortality" stands as one of the most powerful lyrics I have ever heard Anthrax, or any other band, write.

On a personal note, this was the album I attribute to me being alive today. I bought it around the time my mom went into the hospital, and it was the one thing that helped to heal the pain. "Pain is my way of self-expression" almost became a mantra, and when I had to decide whether or not to keep mom alive, "Kill what I love" became a reality, not just a lyric.

The album ends with the sound of a gerny being pushed through a long hallway of doors, or of simply a lot of doors closing after the other as if your running down a hallway. There is no greater, more horrifying feeling, than to feel locked and trapped in something you can't escape, and the song captures it brilliantly.

The feeling of lost, the feeling of having fun... this album seemed to simply embody what my life was like for the year my mom sat in a hospital bed, trying to live... all while I was trying to deal with the pain and cheer myself up. This album is just that; brutal and devastating, but still one of the best times in your life when you look back on it. It may not have been perfect, and it may not be excatly what everyone wants you to say or think, but it's an album that will always hold a place in your collection for being one of the best.

That is why this album gets a 4.9 out of 5.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lamb of God - Sacrament

If you like Pantera, Anthrax, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, or are looking for this generations Reign in Blood:

Lamb of God - Sacrament

Woah. Is this for real? Did I just wake-up from insane dream? I.... I can't believe what I just got done hearing, I really can't! Ladies and gentlemen, the single greatest achievement in the modern metal movement in the last 2 years has arrived, and it is Lamb of God's Sacrament.

The album opens up with "Walk With Me in Hell". This song has been on the internet for a while, and I refused to hear it until the album came out. Thank god I did, because the impact it had was simply phenominal! The production for this album is laboured for all the better, and this album shows what Lamb of God is capable off, with this song being the culmination of all things. This is the overture of the album, and if you don't like this song, stop calling yourself a metal fan, because this is as fucking good as it get's!

Randy's vocals have undergone as much as a radical transformation as the rest of the band, as they all perform on levels unheard of to this point in their careers. Mark Morton and Willie Adler are doing exactly what they said in 2004 during the Killadelphia-era DVD; They are going to new levels of guitar playing, levels that are going to leave all the other bands of this modern era in it's ashes. Chris Adler is as devestating as ever with his drums, and I tip my hat off to the man for what he's done! And Randy? He no longer is the fierce demon alone, but also a man who, gasp, sings clean at times to dynamic and chilling effect.

God, where to go next? "Again We Rise" seems to be a fierce attack on President Bush ("An Instant Rebel just add greed / lies are told with a southern drawl"), but hat could just be me. The song oozes with ferocity that it just done to a lazer tip, crying "Rise, again we will rise!" The layered vocals are almost operatic. "Pathetic", "Foot to the Throat", "and "Descending", to name a few choice tracks, offer up some of the best song writing by this band ever!

Highlights, my friends? There are many to choose from! "Redneck" sounds Pantera-esq, but done only as Lamb of God could do it! Randy introduces those cleaner vocals of his on it, and it will shock you when ou hear it! "Pathetic" slightly continues that same trend, actually giving off a slightly punk-ish feel to it. "Blacken the Cursed Sun" has an incredibly appocalyptic feel to it. Literraly. "More Time to Kill" and "Beating on Death's Door" are exactly what older fans will love; brutal lyrics and devestating classic guitar work. "More Time to Kill" have some of the best lyrics I've heard in a while; "I just got the news today you were dying / Hot Damn! We're already partying!" The song seems to almost be a tribuite to Overkill "I Hate" in many respects. "Beating on Death's Door" is old-school thrash at it's best!

But there is one song that I sincerly hope and pray is going to go down as a masterpiece, aside from "Walk With Me in Hell" from this album, and that is "Requiem". There is a feeling to it that I can not begin to subscribe acturately. The guitars level on top of the other, creating rich arches and columns of brutal metal might! It is sprinkled with the touches of Pantera, the intensity of the death metal, and sound bites that add to the rich tapestries that hang abound. In interviews, the band has stated that they were merticulous with each single note. If any song shows it as the most, it is "Requiem".

With that, the album is virtually flawless. It is literraly up to you to decide if there are in this case. Few will complain that it's not the same Lamb of God that was Burn the Priest, and that's because they grew up and learned to play better. Few will say it's way too melodic and death metal-ish, and that's because they always had that sound. Some will complain that their influences come through, which is foolish to bitch about since all bands tend to do it.

I also want to say this: It is simply remarkable how far this band has come. They went from 5 guys playing small clubs and releasing some insane records to a point where they have done what every band dreams of, and that is releasing an album that is going to last for a long time. This album will change everything you know about modern metal for the better, because there has NEVER been an album like this!

Folks, this album is simply brilliant! 4.9 out of 5. Period.


Monday, August 21, 2006

In Flames - Come Clarity

If you enjoy Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engaged, and HATED Soundtrack to Your Escape, you'll love:

In Flames - Come Clarity

Is there anything close to a band returning to their old form? When bands change their sound, it's incredibly rare that they ever return to anything close to what they were once before, save they release an album so god awful they realize they need to go back. Helloween's album Chameleon comes to mind. But this is the closet thing we're getting to "classic" In Flames; a return, somewhat, of the guitar harmonies, wonderfully brutal vocal performances, and songwriting of the caliber that was lacking so much on Soundtrack to Your Escape.

The album opens up on a relatively harsh note; literally. The distorted guitars combined with the drums open up the album "Take this Life" with a feeling of getting clobbered in the head repeatedly! But, god dammit, it works out to be a damn good opening! That takes your life and takes you a sort of "outer-body experience" that leaves you feeling like you have just gone to heaven (or hell, your pick). The dual-guitar harmonies begin to swell and the ferocity returns with every verse, returning to a nirvana-like (not that Nirvana!) state with every chorus. "Leeches" is a combination of old-In Flames, new-In Flames, and some industrial elements. As odd as that may seems, that's exactly what it is, and it works so well!

"Leeches" is a combination of old-In Flames, new-In Flames, and some industrial elements. As odd as that may seems, that's exactly what it is, and it works so well! "Dead End" is a beautiful song! I am, quite frankly, shocked that the result came out so great; a female Swedish pop-singer, guitar solos, dual-guitar harmonies, and death-metal vocals and guitar work. Seriously, In Flames makes this work!

Tracks like "Scream", "Vacuum", and "Versus Terminus" all hail a return to the more thrash/death metal In Flames with the new stuff mixed in for flavor. Then you have the more melodic songs like "Pacing Death's Trail" and "Crawl Through Knives". They sound more like left-overs from Soundtrack, but with the same knowledge the band had back on Clayman.

As odd as it is, my friend has forced me to listen to Top 40 radio and Breaking Benjamin. Most metalheads don't give two shits about them, myself included. So imagine my complete and utter shock when I heard In Flames on the radio. The opening non-distorted guitar part, the overall melodic structure. It was a song so melodic and commercial, I found it incredibly odd and catchy. So imagine my complete and utter surprise when I heard "The Diary of Jane" by Breaking Benjamin. It is the same exact song, save a few technical flairs here and there, a lack of a guitar solo, and the words being changed. But a comparison of the two songs shows you that Breaking Benjamin stole the song by In Flames. That song is the title-track, "Come Clarity".

There is a lot of praise that this album deserves. First and foremost, like I said, it's a close return to form. It is, in other words, the result of old and new In Flames combined; a band that can write some brutal tracks, melodic hooks, guitar solos, and some nice lyrics. Save the incredibly-inane album closer, "Your Bedtime Story is Scaring Everyone", this actually is a great album on a whole. Admitedly, I'm a little hesitant to give even more praise to this album right now because it has the stigma of being so close to after Soundtrack and the album is a bit of a modern-day pop-metal offering than others by this band and of metal in general. I only say pop-metal simply because it actually is popular with modern metal fans, namely kids 13-21. Not that's a bad thing, but... well, fuck, I feel old!

This album deserves a 4.1 out of 5, and a gold star for effort!


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Shadows Fall - Fallout From the War

If you like Thrash Metal, Iron Maiden, Helloween, Death, and Lamb of God, you'll enjoy:

Shadows Fall - Fallout From the War

As I write this, the opening gunshots of Metallica's "One" are echoing through my mind. The sound of guns firing in a darken sky, of grenades exploding near you mere feet away from you... Shadows Fall's latest EP does, on many levels, come close to being as epic as that famous song.

This has been criticized by fans and critics before the album (or EP) came out, saying it was just a collection of scraps leftover from The War Within sessions and a few covers, equating to nothing more than a contractual obligation to Century Media before going over to their new major label. Although that is, to a point, true, it doesn't mean that this isn't a damn good record!

Starting off with "In Effigy", the Fallout begins, creating a landscape lush with melodic trash riffs and the hard-hitting vocals we have all come to love. "Carpal Tunnel" is a laugh riot, as it was written about all the people who hide behind their computers and criticize bands all days long. The truth of it all simply is astounding, no? "Going, Going, Gone" is very close to traditional hardcore.

One of the best things about a good Shadows Fall album is that it gets better and better with each listen, which is exactly the case here. Although I am the first to admit that most of the album feels like filler (Track 2, 3, and 4 all kinda just sit there), they add something to the overall feel of the album and can serve as a great introduction to someone just getting into the phenomenon. Although "Haunting Me Endlessly" is doing just that as I write; The riffage and the vocals sink in over time.

The covers on the second half, sadly, don't seem to add too much to the album other than to pay tribute to the bands that inspired them, save the last two. "Mark of the Squealer", at least to me, is an incredibly controversial pick to do simply because of the subject matter in relationship to modern day society in urban cities. While most kids who live in the suburbs or small towns, the entire "Stop Snichin'" campaign is unknown, but it has basically stopped people in most cities from speaking out against violent crimes. The song is incredibly eerie to me for that reason, but it is still incredibly entertaining.

The closer, a Danger Toys cover, is the highlight of the disc for me. If your like me at all, you grew up when all the nu-metal movement was going on and "tru" metalheads teased or, at the very least, looked down their noses at you for not liking some thrash band you never heard of because, well, you were 5 when they were big. If your like me, that never happened and you wound up liking hair metal in the 90's because it was a part of your childhood you wanted back. Myself? I'm a big fan of the Bulletboys album Freakshow. "Teasin' & Pleasin'" is a simply hilarious cover, done exactly as Shadows Fall should perform it! You can hear the playing as only they could! Although Jason McMasters sounds a little rough around the edges at time, it is a great tune!

Yes, this album gets a 4 out of 5. Damn good disc!


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Arch Enemy - Wages of Sin

If you like Iron Maiden, In Flames, Megadeth, Slayer, and Shadows Fall, you'll love:

Arch Enemy - Wages of Sin

Back in 2001, MTV had Headbangers Ball on every night. OK, take a deep breath and re-read that last sentence. Yeah, I'm serious, they had it on every single night! Only it wasn't called that. The name escapes me but around 2AM - 4AM every weekday morning on MTV2 from about 2000 - 2003 they would show heavy metal and hard rock videos from bands you and I may have never heard of, or of artists we knew and love. In fact, I recorded the first time Lamb of God ever had "Black Label" played on TV. I bring this up because back then (I was about 16 or 17 when I saw the video) I saw a woman who looked amazing and had the single most demonic voice I had ever heard, a voice I did not think was possible for a woman. I remember all the fog and the chains and the strobe lights they used. Angela looked incredibly hot in it too, not bad for someone only 25 at the time. That video was "Ravenous".

Fast foward to 5 years later and I finally got my hands on Rages of Sin. Immediately after putting it on, a feeling came over me that is incredibly rare for anything to do. It was the same feeling I got the first time I heard Iron Maiden - Powerslave, the feeling I got when I heard Testament - The New Order. It was the feeling that I was listening to what is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest metal albums ever made.

God, how many times have I said that? Seven times at least, right? But let's consider this; This is the type of praise I reserve for bands and artists who absolutely fucking deserve it. It is incredibly rare that an album, especially something recorded in the last 5 years, has that type of feeling on me, and it is my duty to let you know why.

I... I can't begin. I can't begin to tell you why you need to go out there and buy this album. It's just common-god-damn-sense!

Although this album belongs in "Melodic Death Metal", I think that's a bit of a mistake. The album has riffs that sound more like melodic thrash metal to me, but that's most likely because of the fact that that's the sound of metal now and this is the album that I think can be traced to, and consider to be, one of THE defining moments and albums of the metalcore movement. I must stress that I know how much of a defamation that term can be to some, but this album could be considered the major point in which it became more acceptable for that sound to be the norm.

Angela added something to Arch Enemy that would have left the band in obscurity, and that is sheer attituide. That... and she's a woman. There are so few women in metal, and most of the time when they are added, it's only as eye candy or because someone is fucking someone else in the band. But Angela actually proves she has a reason to be in the band, and she has a voice that I dare say can rival Randy Blythe's of Lamb of God as the official voice of Hell! Add to that the sonic ferocity of the guitarist brothers Amott and you have the three reasons why this album hails as a favorite of mine!

"Enemy Within", "Ravenous", "Burning Angel", "Web of Lies", and "Behind the Smile" all stand out as outstanding tracks, and there is not a single bad track on this album!

Disc 2, which is just a collection of rare and unreleased tracks, is just OK and I'm not taking it into consideration of the overall album.

This a 4.7 out of 5! Brilliant album!


Friday, August 18, 2006

Judas Priest - Angel of Retribution

Judas Priest - Angel of Retribution

One of the hardest things in the world for me to do is to write a review for an album that I love. I noticed that when I was trying to write one for both Testament's Practice What You Preach and Punky Bruster's Hooked on Phonics. I love those albums, track for track, and to me it's as obvious as light and day as to why they are worth your time.

Thankfully, that is not even close to the case here.

I remember having the same feeling as glee as I did when In Flames' Soundtrack to Your Escape came out, that I was about to get one of the greatest albums ever. Sadly, the reaction was the same; How the fuck could this band put out this crap?! As you can see, the album cover to this disc is simply killer. I honestly think it kicks ass, and I really enjoy it. So why is it that this album is just pure shit?

"Judas Rising" is exactly what this album should have been; a return to for for Judas Priest, offering up classic Judas Priest riff's as only K.K. Downing can do. And "Deal With the Devil" has some damn good riffage as well, offering up the best highway song they've done in a decade! "Demonizer" has a few decent moments, and that's about the highlight for the last 30 minutes of the album.

But then you get the other 8 songs which make you simply wonder if this was even worth Rob Halford returning to the band. "Revolution" is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the WORST JUDAS PRIEST SONG EVER! That's a tough thing to do, especially when you consider they wrote "United" and "Red, White, & Blue", both songs that are similar to "Revolution" as wanna-be fist-pumping anthems to get the crowd going, Simply put, god-awful song writing. "Eulogy" is nothing more than a second-rate "Epitaph". "Lochness" has to be one of the saddest attempts at a progressive metal song to ever grace my ears.

There is nothing truly redeeming about this album at all, save the first 2 tracks. In fact, this is the type of album that makes you wonder what people found great about Priest in the first place.

Can we be honest for a second and put away Halfor's cock for a second? (no pun intended) Judas Priest has one of the worst track records in metal history. They released 15 albums, and in reality, only 7 of them are decent. Can you honestly say British Steel and Point of Entry, especially the former, is worthy of being given the credit they have been given? Can you honestly say that all the work between Screaming for Vengeance and Painkiller is worth your time?

For Judas Priest to release an album this bad at this point of their career isn't surprising, especially when you compare it to acts like the Rolling Stones. Actually, they are like the Stones'; They haven't had a damn good records in years. But it's still sad to see since they are capable of doing so much better. They have a new one coming out next year, so more power to them!

With that, this album get's a 1.2 out of 5. This album is just an insult to metal fans who wanted a Judas Priest CD, not some generic metal crap.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Venom - Metal Black

Venom - Metal Black

For some insane, incredibly stupid reason, people who listen to metal, especially black metal, automatically write off Venom. That, despite the fact that they pre-date Metallica and actually fall into the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement. They were formed in 1978 and influenced by Motorhead, Judas Priest, KISS, and The Sex Pistols. Think about that. It's 1978, and Iron Maiden doesn't even fucking exist! The fact that they grew up and worshiped those bands describes them perfectly; A group of showmen with incredible musical talent and a knowledge of shock mixed in with talent. The entire Sex Pistols influence is obvious in the fact that they could barley play their instruments. Considering that without Venom there is no Metallica, Slayer, and essentially, no thrash metal or black metal, I think it's safe to say that this is a band worth your time, especially now.

It's been nearly 30 years now that this band has been around, with Cronos being the only remaining original member. But so fucking what? People bitch and moan about this person not being there or it's only one guy. gain, so fucking what? Metal Black is EXACTLY what Venom is; a Damn good Metal Band!

"Antechrist" and "Burn in Hell" open up the album, and also opens up a damn large can of whoop-ass! The thrash-riffs are a welcome introduction to the first significent Venom album in 20 years. "Rege Satanas" reminds me of older Venom tracks off the first two albums, while "A Good Day to Die" echo's that same sentiment, throwing in more of a Motorhead influence. "Maleficarvm" offers up some a very nice offering of metal might, proving to be brutal in it's attacks!

Admittedly, the album suffers at some points from things like odd tempo changes and odd vocal mixing, such as "Death & Dying", "Assassin", and "Lucifer Rising". That, in and of itself, doesn't actually hurt the album overall. Albums, for the most part, are about hills and valley's, and only perfect albums never have a dull moment. This, I think, is something we're actually losing in this era of lame-asses digitally downloading only the "popular" songs by a band; They're missing what may wind up being some great moments to them.

But back to the album, and the overall theme that is Metal Black. "Darkest Realm" is a song that sounds it was just made to be played live, with the line "Deafening Volume In Power and Black / Light up the skies in an aural attack". It offers up as one of the best songs on the album. Mykvs addition as guitarist is absolutely splendid, and his tenure on this album was simply brilliant! The album close, "Metal Black", simply seals this as a damn good album.

This return to form gets a 4.3 out of 5! All in all, this album is a must for any Venom Fan, anyone who likes Thrash Metal, and anyone who just likes metal!


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In Flames - Soundtrack to Your Escape

In Flames - Soundtrack to Your Escape

No one, yet, has complained that all my reviews to this point have all been "Glowing" or "positive", and that I'm showing my true self; a guy who loves practically everything. Today, I am going to review an album I haven't listened to since the day it came out, but one where I've seen songs performed from it live within th last 2 months.

If there was ever an album worth being called a "sell-out disc", or if you ever wanted proof that America corrupts good talent now instead of making it better, this Americanized-Swedish Metal disc finds In Flames, which was formally the single finest example of Gothenberg Metal, turning more toward the American Mainstream. Gone are the incredibly lush tapestries of guitar work and guitar harmonies, replaced for more simple riffage and more "boring" moments. Anders vocals have gone from a more thrash-death metal tone to sounding like Johnathan Davis of Korn.

I have been an In Flames fan since 2002 when I was talked into buying Clayman. I loved that album, and after getting Whoracle, Colony, and the Jester Race, I truly knew I found an incredible band. But when this album came out, even I had to admit, something was wrong. People defend this album like it was their child, denying that In Flames "sold-out", crying out that Andes "doesn't sound like Johnathan Davis!", and the silliest of all, "They've had this sound since Colony". The last one, only in hindsight, can come close. The trend may have had traces in Colony, and some overtones in Clayman, but the real descent to the then-rampant Nu-Metal movement can be heard on the EP, ReRoute to Remain, as well as the Trigger EP. It was around that time that they did a video with Soilwork and the overall sound of the band was ore mainstream. Even then, even then I was able to enjoy them.

But Soundtrack to Your Escape is a travesty to their careers. It is, without a doubt, the album that almost killed the band in the eyes of longtime fans. The effect can be compared to that of Metallica's "Black Album", Nirvana's In Utero, Slipknot's Volume 3: The Subliminal Verus, but it can't. Why? Because, save Nirvana, they were actually GOOD albums, something that can not be said in this case. In Flames may have gained thousands of fans, but it was at the price of their artistic integrity and the loyalty of countless fans that helped get them there and in a position where they could get there in the first place.

The album plays out like any other mediocre metal release from the point up to 2002, only it was 2004; Simple riffs, down tuned guitars, Johnathan Davis-esq vocals at times while Anders struggles to find his new voice-

In fact, I'm going to stop right there. If Soundtrack is anything, it is the REAL LIFE VERSION OF PUNKY BRUSTER. "The Quiet Place" is their "Recipe for Bait"; They're not metal anymore, just commercial whores. Childish to write, yes, I will admit that, but the album has been defended by the band by declaring that they are sick of writing albums they way they did and wanted to "Grow" as a band. If this is growth, then my all means, I feel sorry for the band.

I would also like to point out that when this album came out,it was praised by countless metal critiques, and that makes absolutely no sense to me. Risk by Megadeth was just as much a "natural progression" from Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings, but Risk is still considered, especially at the time, to be their worst album, something even Dave Mustaine himself admitted. The point? That it doesn't matter if progression is "natural" or not, a shit album is a shit album, and I wish more critiques said it. I sincerly think that most of them were told they had to give the album a great review by their editors, were paid off by the record company, or something, because there is simply no way it could be hailed so high.

Thank god that they released Come Clarity in 2006.

With that, I'm stopping this review. It gets a 2 out of 5. Why even 2, especially since I destroyed it? Because, despite all the horrible shit on there, they at least had "The Quiet Place", the only decent song on there that, if recorded 3 years ago, would have been perfect.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Testament – Practice What You Preach

If you like Megadeth, Anthrax, Twisted Sister, or like Thrash Metal in general, you'll love:

Testament – Practice What You Preach

In 1989, I started Kindergarten. I have no idea what type of impact this album had when it came out, musically, culturally, etc. I have no clue how metal heads reacted to this offering at first, and I have no clue how many people jumped on or off the Testament Fan Wagon because of this album. With that, I would love to state that, thanks to all that, any albums I review that aren't from 2002 + will not have any real bias whatsoever, be it to save my “metal rep”, or to trash or praise an album once thought the opposite.

With all that said, I would like to say that, without question, Practice What You Preach is THE greatest Testament album of all time! Dealing with politics, the environment, and religion, the album is a simply unrelenting assult on all three, showing the reality of it all as well as displaying some shows of the occult. The album does something that any truly great album does, and that is give you track after track of entertainment and a flow that is hard to duplicate. Some have said that the album was recorded “live” in the studio, with no overdubs (save the occasional one of the vocals, obviously). I actually think there is a lot of validity to that claim as listening to it reminds me of Megadeth's album Youthanasia before the remix & remaster of 2004. There is a flow here that embarks feelings of a living organism of pure metal might!

The album starts off with a ferocious riffing assault with the title track, “Practice What You Prech”, delivering a one-two punch with the riffs and the lyrics, a fierce take on whatever, really, you want; Religion, politics... it's a rather open-ended song, really, and can be easily applied to anyone who doesn't follow the simple mantra of doing what you say. “Envy Life” is a nice, fairly slow rocker on the album, namely dealing with the classic themes of the occult. “Time is Coming” has a feel that I can only attribute to something such as being hurled through some futuristic corrupt city, like Chicago in Robocop, or Philadelphia in 2006. The flow of the song overall, thrown in with the venomous lyrics about the corruption of government, lends to a feeling of great movement.

How easily the hard-rocking and heavy-hitting track “Blessesed in Contempt” flows into “Greenhouse Effect” is simply more proof of what I mentioned earlier about it being a pure organism of ferocious metal might! “Sins of Omission” has always been a personal favorite, and I still claim that the opening sounds incredibly familiar to the theme to Night Rider! Honestly, listen to that and tell me it's not a little similar! But if the album has anything similar to a stinker, it's “Ballad”. Hearing Chuck trying to sing, albeit like a wounded animal on this one, is a little painful. But there is still something to that song that, within the context of the album, actually gives some validity to it existing. As a slow rocker and an attempt at a ballad (reminding me of Metallica's “Escape” form Ride the Lightning), it may fail, but it serves as a decent break during the album.

The albums closing tracks then serve as a ferocious reminder of the sonic assaults that Testament is capable of! “Nightmare (Coming Back to You)" has to be one of the fastest songs I have ever heard the song write and record, and lends itself more to it's punk influence with a style only Testament can bring. The instrumental that closes the album, "Confusion Fusion (Instrumental)", seems to be a mostly improved song, which actually lends nicely to the overall nature of the album.

In closing, warts and all, this has to be among one of the best metal albums of all time when listened to as an album. The tracks stand great alone, but it is together that they stand tallest, each one fitting with another to form a brilliant album.

With that, I give this album a 4.8 out of 5. Obviously, I had to take off points for “Ballad”.