A little Flickr

I added a Flickr widget to the sidebar so everyone can see the pictures I am planning to take of my collection, the Scavenger Hunts, my ugly mug, etc. I’m definitely going to take some pictures of the local shops so you all can see the places I go. Plus, you never know what you may find that’s Metal releated. So please take a look at my Flickr page if you get the chance, I’m hoping to update it soon.

The current state of my collection

My collection in boxes - 5/9/07

Here’s my collection in all it’s splendor! I think the Chiquita Banana boxes add a tropical accent to the display.

Seriously, what your looking at is my CD collection still in boxes from our move to the new house this past Halloween. We are in room two of the master bedroom, this serves as the “entertainment room” for my wife and I. In the far corner are a couple of Rubbermaid containers and smaller boxes that hold CDs and DVDs. The boxes on the floor were organized alphabetical by band and chronological within the band. Unfortunately, there is a bit of chaos as I pull things out to listen to. The long table has two of my new IKEA brand Benno CD Shelves blocking my shelf stereo and the famous “pile” of CDs and DVDs that I need to get to.

New shelving

These are the new shelves I bought at IKEA. The plan is to hang these on the wall, below the ceiling slant, and have a nice new display. The top shelf holds 110 CDs, the bottom 100 CDs. If I remove the four middle dividers from the shelf, I get the 10 extra CDs in there. Each shelf cost $30, I bought three. I have roughly 2500 CDs, so I need 22 more shelves ($660). I’ve done the research and this is the most affordable way to go.

The current pile

This is a close-up of my pile. There are 42 CDs to listen to and 11 DVDs to watch. The first stack are CDs I haven’t touched. The second stack are CDs I’ve listened to but are still new albums so they are in my rotation. The CDs outside these two stacks are ones I’m listening to and will be heading to the banana boxes soon. The DVD pile contains the 3 different versions of KISS – KISSology Vol.1, Iron Maiden – Death On The Road, Iced Earth – Alive In Athens, and a few more from Kamelot, Rainbow, Helix and more.

So there you have it…..my collection. It’s more impressive when it’s organized and in the original cases I have in storage in the basement. For now, the banana boxes will do.

Current playlist

Here’s a list of what I’ve been listening to so far this week:

  • Starz – s/t (1976)
  • Starz – Violation (1977)
  • Rush – Snakes & Arrows (2007)
  • Dokken – From Conception – Live 1981 (2007)
  • Saxon – Unleash The Beast (1997)
  • Elf – s/t (1972)
  • Ontray – C’mon, Taste It (1988)

What have you been listening to?

Dokken – From Conception: Live 1981 (2007)

Dokken - From Conception: Live 1981

Dokken – From Conception: Live 1981 (2007, Rhino)

  1. Paris
  2. Goin’ Down *
  3. In The Middle
  4. Young Girls
  5. Hit And Run *
  6. Night Rider
  7. GTR Solo
  8. Live To Rock
  9. Breakin’ The Chains
  10. Liar *

(*Previously unreleased)

Band Lineup:
Don Dokken – Lead Vocals, Guitar
George Lynch – Lead Guitar
Jeff Pilson – Bass
Mick Brown – Drums

Total Time – 48:40

Dokken official website

I have followed Dokken since BREAKING THE CHAINS back in ’83 and I am still a big fan today. I remember being at the local shop back in the day and hearing the title track, ‘Breaking The Chains’, over the store P.A., I was instantly hooked! So when the band releases an album, I usually rush to buy it.

FROM CONCEPTION – LIVE 1981 is obviously a live album taken from the Dokken archives. The liner notes, written by Don Dokken, mention how the tapes were found and restored to bring this recording to the masses. So what does the listener get? A live recording from a 1981 tour with a setlist containing most of the songs that would be the band’s debut, BREAKING THE CHAINS.

The key to this release is the inclusion of three songs that never made it to an official Dokken album: ‘Goin’ Down’, Hit And Run’, and ‘Liar’. The background on these songs is explained during the new interview with Don and Mick on the UNCHAIN THE NIGHT DVD. These songs evolved into other songs by taking bits and pieces and meshing them with some fresh ideas for future records. These unreleased tracks are pretty good, I’m surprised that they weren’t recorded “as is” back then.

As for the production, it’s as good as can be expected for resurrecting twenty-five years old tapes of a raw, young band playing live. It’s cleaned up and sounds decent but it still has a bootleg feel to it, albeit a professional and official bootleg. The band sounds tight and George Lynch really puts on a show with some blazing axework.

Bottom Line:
A live album from a band that was still in their growing stages. Three previously unreleased songs add a little mystery and variety to the set that leaned heavily on the debut album. In all fairness, at the time of the performance, that is all the material the band had. It’s a decent listen but not one that you may reach for over and over. Better to dust off BREAKING THE CHAINS instead.

Coming this week…..

Something happened this past week because I was able to get seven posts out. I was busier than usual at work and the weather has been great so I haven’t been connected to the computer as much. My wife and I are talking about doing something with her extra laptop, if I get my hands on that and go wireless then the posts are going to come fast and furious!

Actually, being a little prepared helped a lot. I was able to listen to a lot more music this past week and I was able to get the templates for the Album Reviews done in advance, that alone saved me a ton of time.

So what’s coming up this week?

  • Album Reviews on Dokken, Starz, Sonic X, and American Angel
  • Current playlists
  • A new CD Scavenger Hunt…..if I decide to go out
  • An updated ‘About Me’ page

Of course this is all very ambitious but I think I can get it all done. Thanks to all of you for stopping by.

Cheers!

Steve

I need some input

I visit a lot of music websites, message boards, and blogs daily. One of the features that I would like to have is the ability for my readers to hear some of the music I’m writing about. Nothing is better than reading about a band, album, or song and being able to hear the music or a sample. Wouldn’t it be easier to check out Balance Of Power if you could hear some tracks? Or if you’re on the fence about dropping $15 for the new Saxon album, wouldn’t it be great to hear a sample?

I’m not looking to open an online radio station or offer people the ability to download the songs, just a means to hear them. Kind of along the lines of Vibrations Of Doom’s Classic Albums. So if anyone out there can suggest a decent MP3 host, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks.

Dokken – Unchain The Night DVD (2007)

Dokken - Unchain The Night DVD

Dokken – Unchain The Night DVD (2007, Rhino)

  1. Into The Fire
  2. Just Got Lucky
  3. Breaking The Chains
  4. Alone Again
  5. The Hunter
  6. In My Dreams
  7. It’s Not Love

Bonus Features:

  1. New Interview with Don Dokken & Mick Brown (Dec 2006)
  2. Walk Away
  3. Dream Warriors
  4. Heaven Sent
  5. Burning Like A Flame

Band Lineup:
Don Dokken – Lead Vocals
George Lynch – Guitars
Jeff Pilson – Bass
Mick Brown – Drums

(Region 1, NTSC, Running Time = 65 mins)

Dokken official website

UNCHAIN THE NIGHT was released on VHS back in 1986. The good people at Rhino got together with the band and decided to re-release the package on DVD with extra footage.

I was fourteen back in ’86 so my hard earned money bought new albums, I never got around to buying these home videos. Twenty years later, I’m spending the money on these DVDs. The funny thing is that the DVD with bonus footage is cheaper now than the VHS was back then.

This collection is a trip down memory lane for me. I’m a Dokken fan, I have all of their albums and I enjoy their music. I get the occasional video on VH-1 Classic, or maybe I check out YouTube, but I like to own the footage. As a collector, DVDs like this are a must.

Basically, you get the original UNCHAIN THE NIGHT home video, a new interview with Don & Mick, and four videos released years after the VHS hit the shelves. Their aren’t a lot of frills here and that is actually refreshing. I’m all for bands like Iron Maiden and Manowar releasing DVDs with running times over four hours but what I remember most about growing up in the MTV era were the videos. That’s what this DVD is about…..eleven songs, eleven videos.

The first part of the DVD, the original VHS, stays true to form with all of the backstage/on tour footage shot by the band included. These slices of “life on the road” introduce and join each song/video. The bonus videos have introductions and commentary by Don & Mick taken from the interview they made for this DVD package. The actual interview separate from the videos doesn’t repeat this song by song commentary, the guys fire away at a number of topics ranging from being on tour in Europe, losing band members, the Internet, the state of the band, etc. You don’t get to actually see candid interviews with bands anymore so I was glad to see this included in the package.

Bottom Line:
A basic DVD with all the videos you remember, a new interview, and some footage shot by the band back in the day. For the $10 I spent, that’s more than a bargain and money well spent. For just over an hour, you get good music and good memories. Can’t go wrong with that…..

Balance Of Power – Book Of Secrets (1998)

balance2.jpg

Balance Of Power – Book Of Secrets (1998, Nightmare Records)

  1. Desert Of Lost Souls
  2. Walking On Top Of The World
  3. Book Of Secrets
  4. When Heaven Calls Your Name
  5. It’s Not Over (Until It’s Over)
  6. Do You Dream Of Angels
  7. Seven Days Into Nevermore
  8. Miracles And Dreams
  9. Stranger Days (To Come)

Band Lineup:
Lance King – Lead Vocals
Pete Southern – Guitars
Bill Yates – Guitars
Chris Dale – Bass
Lionel Hicks – Dums
Ivan Gunn – Keyboards

Additional Performers:
Rob Brown – Narration
Tony Ritchie – Backing Vocals
Tony O’Hora – Backing Vocals

Total Time – 53:18

Balance Of Power official website

I discovered Balance Of Power back in 1998 when I was shopping at my local music shop, 2 Guys Music (Warwick, RI), and this amazing music came over the store’s speakers. Now I usually spent hours in that store every weekend and heard tons of albums played over the P.A. but this album was a true masterpiece! The vocals soared and the music was so powerful that I stopped browsing and I just stood there listening…..taking it all in. When the music stopped, I grabbed a copy.

If I had to describe Balance of Power’s music, I would call it a combination of Progressive Metal, Power Metal, AOR, and Hard Rock. The music is awash in a twin guitar attack, a solid rhythm section, and lush keyboards. Each member of the band plays with serious proficiency, truly worthy performers that have obviously mastered their instrument. On top of all this is vocalist Lance King (ex-Gemini & owner of Nightmare Records), who has one of the best singing voices I’ve heard in a long time. The band I compare BOP to often is Royal Hunt, but with less keyboard noodling.

This is a concept album based on interpretations of  a book like the Dead Sea Scrolls and/or the Bible’s Book Of Revelation. It’s a very interesting presentation because the songs are joined by haunting narratives between the songs yet each song can stand alone as a single. These narratives (by Rob Brown) are short but they add an extra layer to the sensory overload the music delivers.

‘Desert Of Lost Souls’ is a quick minute long narration full of storm effects, gentle acoustic guitar and keyboards, and a spoken word introduction. Very haunting. Immeadiately, ‘Walking On Top Of The World’ kicks into high gear and the band dives right into the sensory attack. It’s a driving track that sets the Power/Progressive tone. Lance King sounds like a combination of early Geoff Tate (Queensryche) and Tony Harnell (TNT). The guitars are blazing in and out, solos traded back and forth, keyboards complementing the guitar…..it’s so good!

The title track is better than ‘Walking On Top Of The World’. It starts off slow with a keyboard intro and builds into a guitar riff that recalls Judas Priest’s ‘The Sentinel’. The song then takes off into a driving rhythm and riff and King comes in with a delivery that sounds a bit like Andi Deris (Helloween). As the song builds I always describe the feeling I get as being lifted up. The vocals and music just soar into the atmosphere, the harmonies build, and the guitar solo is great. The song is so good you don’t notice that it’s over seven minutes long.

‘When Heaven Calls Your Name’ starts off with acoustic guitars and complementing keyboards with a soft King vocal. The song kicks back into a power feast in the same vein of the previous tracks. Big guitar, big chorus and harmonies…..my favorite part is when they slow the song down midway through for an acoustic solo and then pound into the electric solo. The shortest song on the record, ‘It’s Not Over (Till It’s Over), clocks in just over five minutes. This is the most accessible song on the disc for the average music listener as it isn’t as progressive as the rest of the album. It leans more towards an AOR/Hard Rock vibe with prominent keyboards, almost sounding very dated and mid-80s. The power of the song comes through the without being overbearing.

Finally, a ballad to break things up. ‘Do You Dream Of Angels’ is another triumphant musical soundscape for the band but it showcases Lance King’s softer/slower delivery. This song doesn’t grab my attention like the faster ones do. It’s another exceptional song but it’s not what I’m looking for after the previous assault. That said, Balance Of Power is one of those bands that keep me interested. I may not like the song as much as some of the others but the band still creates a piece of work that I can still enjoy. ‘Do You Dream Of Angels” is a fine song, better than most ballads of the time, but I tend to gravitate towards the harder stuff. ‘Seven Days Into Nevermore’ opens with a simple keyboard intro and narration leading into the main riff and a quick solo. The main riff chugs along with the keys dropping over the top of another superb vocal. One of the harder songs of the album and one of my favorites.

At barely over eight minutes, ‘Miracles And Dreams’ is the longest song on the album. This is another favorite of mine due to the stop and go effect of the slower passages gliding into the full on Power pieces. I also like how the narration is added into the middle of the song adding an unexpected twist to the formula. What really gives the song length is the intrumental parts sprinkled throughout. The close, ‘Stranger Days (To Come)’, is another song that gives off a somewhat dated/mid-80s flavor. Keyboards and piano are a little more prominent on this track, especially during the slower passages. When the song speeds up, the power aspect comes back and it is more of the same excellent Power/Progressive Metal.

Bottom Line:
If you like AOR, Hard Rock, Power Metal, and Progressive Metal…..buy this. The musicianship is top notch and the vocals are flawless. It’s technical playing with melodic hooks and harmonies, the band taking the time to create memorable, catchy songs while adding in different sounds through their weapons of sound. It’s a big sounding record full of energy and heaviness. Favorite songs: ‘Book Of Secrets’, ‘Miracles And Dreams’, ‘It’s Not Over (Until It’s Over)’, and ‘Seven Days Into Nevermore’ but there really isn’t a bad song on the album. If you like Royal Hunt, Dream Theater, and Queensryche then you will like Balance Of Power.

CD Scavenger Hunt – ‘Snakes & Arrows’ Edition – 5/1/07

Not a big day for new releases this past Tuesday except for the new Rush album. I wasn’t going to “rush” down to the store to buy the new album but, after receiving my $2 off coupon via email, I had to pick it up.

Rush – Snakes & Arrows – $9.99: How can you go wrong with $2 off a sale price of $11.99? You can’t, especially when it’s a new album from legends like Rush. This was a definite purchase but not an imperative one because I knew that there would be plenty of copies to go around. I heard an advance copy and I enjoyed it from the first listen. Now if the other power trio from Canada would make an album, I bet it would be a “triumph”!

With my obvious purchase, I continued the hunt. Three Rush DVDs were also released to coincide with the new record, they were all released previously on VHS. All three were priced at $12.99 but I passed. I was looking for the new W.A.S.P. album, DOMINATOR, but there is no U.S. release date yet. I had nothing else on the radar so I cruised the used racks. Unfortunately, it was slim pickings but I did manage to score one good disc…..

Twisted Sister – Club Daze (Vol.1 – The Studio Sessions) – $4.99: Five bucks for a still sealed CD listed as “used”. Can’t beat that! The store was trying to move some inventory that had been collecting dust so they put this (and some others) in the Used Bin with lower prices. This starts to round out the Twisted Sister collection.

A small haul but a productive one.

Total = $15

Tankard – The Beauty And The Beer (2006)

Tankard - The Beauty and The Beer (2006)

Tankard – The Beauty And The Beer (AFM/Locomotive, 2006)

  1. Ice-Olation
  2. We Still Drink The Old Ways
  3. Forsaken World
  4. Rockstars No. 1
  5. The Beauty And The Beast
  6. Blue Rage – Black Redemption
  7. Frankfurt: We Need More Beer
  8. Metal To Metal
  9. Dirty Digger
  10. Shaken Not Stirred

Band Lineup:
Andreas Geremia – Vocals
Andreas Gutjahr – Guitar
Frank Thorwarth – Bass
Olaf Zissel – Drums

Total Time – 45:55

Tankard official website

When I picked up this album at the local shop, I knew nothing about Tankard. Honestly, I picked this up because of the cover. I figured that it had to be good.

Tankard delivers basic German thrash, nothing overly excessive, except maybe their love of beer! The album sounds dated but in a good way. It’s actually refreshing to listen to basic old-school thrash that isn’t too technical and complicated. The music is solid and the lyrics range from all -out fun to thought provoking.

With all Tankard albums, there must always be a healthy portion of beer inspired mayhem. Songs like ‘Ice-olation’, ‘We Still Drink The Old Ways’, ‘Frankfurt: We Need More Beer’,  and ‘Shaken Not Stirred’ satisfy a hearty thirst for swilling fun. The band takes some unexpected turns towards current events with their lyrics: ‘Forsaken World’ talks about the state of the planet (global warming, natural disasters, etc.), ‘Dirty Digger’ is politically charged towards the Iraq situation, and crime and violence is the focus of ‘Blue Rage – Black Redemption’. All in all, the lyrics are simple but hold the listener’s attention. I found myself singing along after a couple of spins. The highlight of the record is Andreas Gutjahr’s guitar playing. There are some monster riffs across the board but the shining moments are the solos.

Bottom Line:
Basic thrash metal that sounds refreshingly dated but very solid. If you liked old ’80s thrash, then this is for you. Tankard isn’t innovative and technical but they can definitely party. The album was made to be enjoyed rather than scrutinized. Favorite songs here: ‘Forsaken World’, ‘Ice-olation’, ‘We Still Drink The Old Ways’, and ‘Dirty Digger’. Raise a pint and enjoy!