Cinderella cancels summer tour!

From Bravewords:

BW&BK has received the following notification:

“It’s with unbelievably deep regret that I must announce that CINDERELLA’s Tom Keifer’s left vocal cord has hemorrhaged, thereby making it impossible for him to sing in the immediate future.

Tom felt his throat give way last night (June 11th) finishing the set in pre-production rehearsals, went to his vocal doctor (Dr. Stephen Mitchell) in Nashville this morning, and was told the grim news. In the short term, Tom’s doctor told him it would be two to three weeks before the swelling and damage would recede to a point to where an assessment can be made as to whether surgery will be required.

Consequently, and again, most regretfully, we have no choice but to postpone the upcoming CINDERELLA tour until such time as Tom is ready tour again.”

 

MSG (Michael Schenker Group) – In The Midst Of Beauty (2008)

MSG – In The Midst Of Beauty (2008, Inakustik Records)

  1. City Lights
  2. Competition
  3. I Want You
  4. End Of The Line
  5. Summerdays
  6. A Night To Remember
  7. Wings Of Emotion
  8. Come Closer
  9. The Cross Of Crosses
  10. Na Na
  11. I Am The One
  12. Ride On My Way

Band Lineup:
Michael Schenker – Guitars
Gary Barden – Vocals
Don Airey – Keyboards, B3 Organ
Neil Murray – Bass
Simon Phillips – Drums

Produced by: Michael Schenker, Romi Schickle, Siggi Schwarz

Total Time = 49:41

Michael Schenker official website
Michael Schenker MySpace page
In-Akustik Records

Michael Schenker is a guitar legend who’s creativity is unbound…..when he allows himself to be creative. Despite all of the substance abuse and organizational problems, Schenker continues his career with the Michael Schenker Group. In 2006, Michael released TALES OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL: 25 YEARS CELEBRATION, an album that comprised of 19 songs and featured every MSG vocalist on at least one song. Original MSG vocalist Gary Barden took part in the project, singing on the excellent ‘Life Vacation’, and that collaboration between himself and the Mad Axeman turned into a reunion of the two men for the latest MSG offering……IN THE MIDST OF BEAUTY.

In addition to Gary Barden and Michael Schenker, original MSG keyboardist Don Airey (Deep Purple) and drummer Simon Phillips (Toto) re-join the fold to add stability and quality musicianship to the band. The only missing original member is bassist Mo Foster but his absence is no big deal because former Whitesnake and Black Sabbath bassist Neil Murray fills the slot nicely. With the lineup set with strong musicians, and personalities, Michael Schenker has a new found creativity and drive.

If there were any questions or doubts then the album’s opener, ‘City Lights’, dispells them quickly. Schenker immeadiately turns a classic Hard Rock riff that blends into the song with Airey playing just over the top of the guitar, the Murray/Phillips rhythm section keeping solid time, and Barden providing a silky smooth vocal. Michael lets loose on this uptempo rocker with searing solos weaving in and out of the main riff while everyone remains rooted to the song. The thing I notice right away is that this sounds like a true band, the chemistry is obviously there. Another serious Schenker riff powers the faster ‘Competition’ with more expert soloing but retaining a sense of melody to hook the listener in. I really enjoy the organ flourishes that follow the chorus, Don Airey is a master on the keys and he just adds to the overall sound. ‘I Want You’ keeps the momentum high with it’s equally fast pace (listen for Murray & Phillips driving this track) and exotic guitar tone that reminds me of Ritchie Blackmore. Schenker really shines at the solo but it’s his ability to make the main riff a solo and vary it thoughout the song that shows his genius.  More hard rockin’ comes with one of my favorites ‘End Of The Line’. Every song is a Schenker showcase but there is something about this main riff that just stays in my head. Gary Barden starts to branch out a little with his vocals. So far he has been mostly in a calm low to mid-range but there are lines in ‘End Of The Line’ where he gets a bit higher, not for long mind you, but he does add some variety. Listen for Don Airey’s piano as it mirrors the vocal.

Michael is known the world over as a premier Rock guitarist but what is usually never mentioned is his acoustic work. ‘Summerdays’ opens with a nice acoustic intro that moves into a subdued electric power chord. Add the haunting keys and saddened vocals and this ballad sounds like it could have come from the MSG debut of ASSAULT ATTACK (1982). Even the solo is subdued but beautiful nontheless, fitting into the somber tone but also being uplifting. ‘A Night To Remember’ is a UFO/Deep Purple/Rainbow flavored track probably due to the organ being right up front with the guitar in the mix. The song has a ’70s heavy mid-tempo vibe to it that fits Barden’s low-key approach. Schenker solos in and out of the main riff throughout the song proving his guitar hero status and lending that unique eccentricity to the song. ‘Wings Of Emotion’ skirts along the lines of mid-tempo and ballad and sounds very similar to Schenker’s ’70s heyday with UFO. No doubt that UFO singer Phil Mogg and Gary Barden share a similar low-key, bluesy style and mood making the song sound like Michael’s previous band. There are a few Barden highs just like on ‘End Of The Line’ but he keeps an even sound for most of the track. ‘Come Closer’ speeds up some during the verses and solo but it slows come the chorus. This ebb and flow keep things interesting with another solid backing performance from Murray & Phillips (listen for some quick fills by Simon) and Airey continuing to use the organ to complement Michael’s guitar.

Another favorite is ‘The Cross Of Crosses’, a Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath song title if I ever heard one! This has to be one of my favorites on the record because of Michael’s soloing: it’s powerful, passionate, and inspired. When he wants to work, Michael puts some of the most mind blowing guitar to tape. He just seems rejuvenated across the whole album but on ‘The Cross Of Crosses’ he sounds like he has transported back to the late ’70s/early ’80s and is channelling his former self. This song sounds very Euro-Metal without being true Heavy metal, more like a bluesed up hybrid with all the power of the first three MSG records. ‘Na Na’ has some interesting parts and is catchy but the chorus bothers me, not my favorite song on the record. It does have a solid solo (just like every song on the album) and solid accompanying keyboards but Gary Barden shows off his higher register like a grittier David Coverdale on this year’s GOOD TO BE BAD. ‘Na Na’ is uptempo but it does have that slow breakdown throughtout the song to give it variety. ‘I Am The One’ is another solid melodic hard rocker that really hooks the listener in to the chorus with a solid vocal and some cool Schenker leads. That guitar in the chorus is so catchy that I prefer to whistle the guitar than sing the chorus! ‘Ride On My Way’ starts off with an inspired opening intro that features a melodic Schenker lead that weaves in and out of the song. Again, the pairing of Neil Murray and Simon Phillips provide a solid backbone while Don Airey complements the sound with a subdued organ. The vocals are very good from Gary Barden, who uses a higher register on the chorus but you can tell his comfort zone is that mid-range rasp. Uptempo and melodic, ‘Ride On My Way’ ends the album on a high note.

Bottom Line:
Despite all the personal and organizational problems that plagued him in 2006 and most of 2007, Michael Schenker has roared back to his classic form as one of Rock’s premier talents. A solid supporting cast that is almost a full reunion of the original MSG lineup helps stabilize and complement the guitar heroics that make Michael the legend he is. I’ve had an advance copy for about two months and I have not stopped playing it, this album has received at least two spins a day! I kept delaying the review because I didn’t want to spoil my enjoyment by picking it apart but the problem is that there isn’t anything really bad about the album. Every song is well written, every band member’s performance is solid, and the axe-work is pure classic Schenker. If I had to pick one small detail I didn’t like it would have to be the simplistic chorus of ‘Na Na’…..that’s it. I have been somewhat disappointed with Schenker’s last few albums, especially TALES OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL and ARACHNOPHOBIAC (2003), but also all the cover albums and collaborations. I have always thought that a solid vocalist and lyricist bring out the best in Michael (Phil Mogg, Graham Bonnet, Klaus Meine, Robin McAuley) and Gary Barden continues the excellence that reminds of the first two MSG albums and pairs well with Schenker’s innovative unique style. IN THE MIDST OF BEAUTY is one of my favorite albums of the year.

Favorite songs: ‘City Lights’, ‘Competition’, ‘I Am The One’, ‘The Cross Of Crosses’, ‘Summerdays’……actually, I like every song on the album.

 

WANTED: Black Sabbath – Live At Hammersmith Odeon (2007)

WANTED

Back in 2006, Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice all reunited to bring the HEAVEN & HELL lineup of Black Sabbath back to the Metal masses. As part of the reunion, they guys changed the name to Heaven & Hell (to avoid confusion and hassle with the Ozzy led Sabbath) and released THE DIO YEARS, a compilation of their best recorded material and three new songs.

To help promote the band, the new album, and the world tour, Rhino Records released LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH ODEON through their Handmade imprint. This release was a limited edition of 5000 numbered copies, priced at $19.99, and the setlist was taken from a set of shows during New Year’s weekend 1981/1982 on the Mob Rules Tour. There was a pre-order for this album and it sold out before the release date in May 2007.

Tracklisting:

  1. E5150
  2. Neon Knights
  3. N.I.B.
  4. Children Of The Sea
  5. Country Girl
  6. Black Sabbath
  7. War Pigs
  8. Slipping Away
  9. Iron Man
  10. The Mob Rules
  11. Heaven And Hell
  12. Paranoid
  13. Voodoo
  14. Children Of The Grave

So why do I want it? I’d like to complete my Black Sabbath collection and the Dio era of Sabbath is my favorite.

Why didn’t I pre-order it? I’m an idiot! Seriously, I thought that there would be copies available without pre-ordering and I was wrong. Ever since the pre-order sell-out, copies on Ebay have soared to over $200 and I haven’t seen one yet under $100.

You can get more info on this release over at Black-Sabbath.com

Press Release: Journey’s REVELATION sells more than 104,000 units in debut week.

JOURNEY’S ‘REVELATION’ SELLS MORE THAN 104,000 UNITS IN DEBUT WEEK

Three-Disc CD/DVD Package Exclusively Available at Wal-Mart Stores

June 10, 2008 — JOURNEY’s new three-disc CD/DVD package REVELATION has sold more than 104,000 copies in its debut week according to Wal-Mart Stores, marking the band’s biggest first week’s sales since 1996’s TRIAL BY FIRE. Released June 3, REVELATION is being sold exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club in North America, Walmart.com and Samsclub.com, and Journey’s official website, Journeymusic.com. REVELATION’s first week’s sales marks a 1400% increase over the band’s 2005’s first week’s sales of GENERATIONS.

“We are thrilled with the early success of Journey’s ‘Revelation’ music project, and clearly our customer is excited about it too,” said Jeff Maas, Divisional Merchandise Manager, Entertainment, Wal-Mart U.S. “We believe that if we continue to find innovative products, priced to showcase the value, our customers will show their excitement by purchasing the product. Journey has been great to work with and clearly this reflects a win for them and for our customer.”

The first disc consists of 11 new songs, the second is filled with 11 re-recorded classics, and the third is a live, in-concert DVD. All of the music on REVELATION was produced by Kevin Shirley (who previously worked with JOURNEY on their Platinum-certified TRIAL BY FIRE album).

REVELATION marks a new chapter in the legendary career of multi-Platinum rockers JOURNEY, thanks to two singles at Rock and AC radio (“Never Walk Away” and “After All These Years”) and rave reviews, including the New York Times who hailed: “…the band seems to have taken rock vitamins: it feels alive.”

JOURNEY–Neal Schon (guitar), Jonathan Cain (keyboards), Ross Valory (bass), Deen Castronovo (drums) and Arnel Pineda (vocals)—is currently on a European tour through June 28. They’ll start a massive summer U.S. tour with special guests Heart and Cheap Trick on July 9 in Denver, CO.

For more information on Journey, visit www.journeymusic.com.

Bret Michaels – Rock My World (2008)

Bret Michaels – Rock My World (2008, VH-1 Classic Records)

  1. Go That Far
  2. Driven
  3. Fallen
  4. Raine
  5. Bittersweet
  6. Start Again
  7. Songs Of Life
  8. Strange Sensation
  9. All I Ever Needed
  10. Menace To Society
  11. Right Now, Right Here
  12. It’s My Party (2008 mix)

Featured Musicians: Bret Michaels and studio musicians (see booklet for details, there are a ton!)

Producer: Bret Michaels

Total Time = 39:07

Bret Michaels official website
Bret Michaels MySpace page
VH-1 Classic

So what’s that old saying? “Strike while the iron is hot.”

That’s exactly what Poison frontman Bret Michaels has done. Hot on the heels of his successful television career with VH-1’s Rock Of Love & Rock Of Love 2, Bret has released a new solo album…..ROCK MY WORLD. My first impression of ROCK MY WORLD was that it would be a record full of new material but that’s not the case. In a move that screams “cashing in”, Bret has released an album of three new songs and nine previously released songs from previously released albums. Did everyone get that? Three songs are new, that’s it!

Let me run down that tracklisting:

  • ‘Go That Far’ – new song that sounds like a cheap attempt to publicize his TV shows with childish lyrics.
  • ‘Driven’ – originally released on FREEDOM OF SOUND (2005), this is a song about Bret sexing up a chick with more juvenile lyrics.
  • ‘Fallen’ – ballad about looking for love with acoustic guitars and piano
  • ‘Raine’ – song inspired by his daughter of same name, originally released on SONGS OF LIFE (2003), not a bad song.
  • ‘Bittersweet’ – another off SONGS OF LIFE and has to be the worst song Bret has ever released, or at least in a tie with ‘Unskinny Bop’. Sounds like bad Blink 182 or Bowling For Soup with a terrible lyric about how his chick “sucked in the sack”.
  • ‘Start Again’ – new song that was on a Rock Of Love 2 episode. It sounds like a good Poison ballad.
  • ‘Songs Of Life’ – guess which album this came from! Sounds like a Poison outtake from FLESH & BLOOD (1990), he uses a couple song titles from the album in the lyrics.
  • ‘Strange Sensation’ – another one from SONGS OF LIFE that’s trying too hard to be contemporary with the muddy sound and terrible vocals. Only thing going for it is the drum sound.
  • ‘All I Ever Needed’ – Bret doing Country music with Jessica Andrews on vocals. It’s actually not that bad but it was released 3 years ago on FREEDOM OF SOUND so it’s not an original.
  • ‘Menace To Society’ – 5th song from SONGS OF LIFE! It’s a rocker but not a good one! Another attempt at being modern and rebellious.
  • ‘Right Now, Right Here’ – a heavier tune with decent guitar but it’s too little too late. Very late actually because this is from FREEDOM OF SOUND
  • ‘It’s My Party’ (2008 mix) – OK, so this is a new recording of a song from SONGS OF LIFE so maybe it counts as a new track? Nope, because it doesn’t stray too much from the original.

Bottom Line:
Tale of the Tape = 3 new songs, 3 songs off FREEDOM OF SOUND, 6 songs from SONGS OF LIFE…..can anyone say “Rip-off”?

I pride myself on the fact that I have never actually seen any episodes of either season of Rock Of Love. I actually feel bad for the people who think it’s good television, how does crap like that get on television anyway? The question could also be asked of ROCK MY WORLD. Bret should be ashamed of himself for releasing what is basically a collection of previously material with three new nuggets for fans to chew on. It’s obvious that this was released to cater to the casual fan, fans of the Rock Of Love series, or Poison diehards that need the three new songs. For me, this was a waste of time.

Favorite songs: Of the three new songs, I liked ‘Start Again’ but I wouldn’t call it a favorite.

Journey – Revelation (2008)

Journey – Revelation (2008, self-released)

(NOTE – Album released as a Wal-Mart only exclusive)

CD 1

  1. Never Walk Away
  2. Like A Sunshower
  3. Change For The Better
  4. Wildest Dream
  5. Faith In The Heartland
  6. After All These Years
  7. Where Did I Lose Your Love
  8. What I Needed
  9. What It Takes To Win
  10. Turn Down the World Tonight
  11. The Journey (Walk Away)

CD 2

  1. Only The Young
  2. Don’t Stop Believin’
  3. Wheel In The Sky
  4. Faithfully
  5. Any Way You Want It
  6. Who’s Crying Now
  7. Separate Ways
  8. Lights
  9. Open Arms
  10. Be Good To Yourself
  11. Stone In Love

DVD – Live In Concert from Las Vegas, NV (14 song setlist)

Band Lineup:
Arnel Pineda – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – All Guitars & Backing Vocals
Jonathan Cain – Keyboards & Backing Vocals
Ross Valory – Bass & Backing Vocals
Deen Castronovo – Drums, Percussion & Vocals

Producer on CD 1: Kevin Shirley 
Producers on CD 2: Kevin Shirley, Neal Schon & Jonathan Cain

Total Time (CD 1) = 56:27
Total Time (CD 2) = 48:44
DVD - (Region 1, NTSC, Running Time = N/A )

Journey official website
Journey MySpace page

If you’ve been following Journey at all in the last couple of years you’ll have heard about a band in turmoil and a band only concerned with the nostalgia of playing the hits. Flashback to 2001 and Journey made a welcome comeback with former Tall Stories singer Steve Augeri and a new album titled ARRIVAL. Critics and fans embraced the band and their new singer who coincidentally sounded similar to their former microphone maestro Steve Perry. Augeri helped return Journey back to respectability with a solid performance on ARRIVAL and on tour through 2004 but, in 2005 with the release of another new record, GENERATIONS, rumors began to fly about vocal problems. A scandal involving backing tapes being used live on the 2006 tour surfaced and, when it was obvious he couldn’t continue, Augeri left and was replaced by Jeff Scott Soto, a long time friend of Neal Schon. I saw the tour stop in Mansfield, MA and the band with Soto was tight and powerful but the band parted ways with JSS when the tour was over at the end of 2006. More rumors flew that a reunion with Steve Perry was on the horizon, another hinted at Augeri coming back, and finally that the band was over. News surfaced as the new year turned that Journey were looking at singers who performed in Journey tribute acts. Almost immeadiately the band’s fans started spreading whispers of greatest hits tours and the end of original material but Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain surprised everyone when they hired Filipino singer Arnel Pineda and released a new single, ‘Never Walk Away’, this past February. Now we finally have the new album REVELATION.

REVELATION is an independent release by the band and distributed exclusively by Wal-Mart, this arrangement guarantees Journey’s new album to be well-stocked in all of the retail giant’s stores across the U.S. Journey has followed other Classic Rock legends like The Eagles and REO Speedwagon in this type of arrangement and has also followed their example by giving the average fan more music for their hard earned dollar with a 2 CD package with a bonus live DVD for under $15 (I picked mine up the day of release for $11.88).

The first song, and first single, from REVELATION is ‘Never Walk Away’ a melodic guitar rock song that sounds similar to the singles ‘Higher Place’ and ‘To Be Alive Again’ from the Augeri-led ARRIVAL. Those two single were a blend of classic Journey with a little more modern flourishes and ‘Never Walk Away’ follows the same formula with Pineda sounding like a stronger version of Augeri, who sounded like Perry…..you get the idea. Journey usually gets labelled as lite Rock, or a ballad band, so to start the album off with a guitar oriented song is a solid move. The band moves into familiar territory with ‘Like A Sunshower’ which sounds a lot like the classic hit ‘Lights’. It’s a piano based song with a subdued guitar and big backing vocals but it’s really a spotlight performance for Arnel because it’s really his voice that drives the song. If this were the old days, ‘Like A Sunshower’ would easily be Top Ten!

‘Change For The Better’ is a song that could have easily been the lead single with it’s melodic guitar and pure hook of a chorus. There’s a little of everything here: Schon’s melodic power chords, Jon Cain’s keyboards enhancing the sound, and Deen Castronovo’s drums breaking though and providing serious beat. Arnel’s vocals are soaring and powerful hitting all the highs and providing a youthful energy to the track. The momentum stays high with another uptempo Rock song in ‘Wildest Dreams’, another Schon & Castronovo showcase with great guitars and pounding skins. The end of the song has some impressive solos from Neal Schon, that force you to remember that this guy can flat out play and he is one of the best there is, and some cool piano fills from Jonathan Cain as sort of an answer to the guitar. It almost has a jam session feel at the end.

‘Faith In The Heartland’ is a re-make of the lead song off GENERATIONS (2005). It’s a very melodic song that’s a bit softer but not a ballad or mid-tempo number, it’s like quiet AOR if there’s such a thing. I wonder if the guys were short on material or they just weren’t that impressed with the GENERATIONS performance of former lead singer Steve Augeri. I’ve compared both versions and I’d say that Arnel sounds like Augeri only just a bit stronger. Maybe that has to do with the excellent harmonies at the chorus provided by Jon Cain and especially Deen Castronovo. ‘After All These Years’ is the second ballad on the album and it’s another piano based song with very subtle guitar lines and some powerful drum fills. This is another showcase for Mr. Pineda to show off his vocal ability and prove that he can handle Journey’s different styles, a great performance!. I like ‘Where Did I Lose Your Love’ and I would slot it with ‘Faith In The Heartland’ as a softer Rock song but not a ballad. The song starts with a keyboard/drum intro and picks up a clean Schon riff to complement Arnel’s best Steve Perry interpretation on the record. This sounds like FRONTIERS and RAISED ON RADIO era Journey with the prominent keyboard/piano during the chorus and some grand backing harmonies. It’s a big sounding song with some serious highs being reached by Arnel and a great ending guitar solo moving back into the the beginning of the song with the keyboard/drum showcase to finish it off.

The third ballad on REVELATION is ‘What I Needed’ and, even though it’s a solid ballad with the trademark Journey sound, I’m not getting into it. I think the song is a victim of where it’s slotted in the track order because ‘After All These Years’ was two songs previous. Things pick up again with ‘What It Takes To Win’ and it’s another solid rocker in the same style of ‘Where Did I Lose Your Love’ but Arnel has more muscle in his delivery giving him a different edge than the previous songs. ‘Turn Down The World Tonight’ is the fourth ballad on REVELATION and it is a very good piano based song with an underlying electric guitar and subtle bass work from Ross Valory who, by the way, plays perfectly within each song with Deen Castronovo to complete a solid rhythm section. The thing about Ross is the man isn’t flashy in his playing but he is consistent and steady and he builds a solid bass foundation with Deen’s drumming. Last song of the album is an instrumental titled ‘The Journey (Revelation)’ and it’s basically a piece for each member to stretch their wings a bit and let loose. There are some interesting exotic sounds in this one but, for me, I use the <skip> button.

The second disc is a bonus collection of the band’s biggest hits re-recorded by the band with Arnel on vocals. There really isn’t much difference between the originals and these re-makes except for the obvious vocals and a few little insturmental bits here and there. Basically this is Arnel’s showcase to show to the fans and critics that he can handle the big hits without fail. He does a very good Steve Perry and performs extremely well. I really enjoyed his performance on ‘Stone In Love’, my favorite Journey song of all-time.

I haven’t had a chance to watch the DVD yet but when I do I will update this review but it’s another cool addition to the package from the band to give the ultimate value for everyone’s hard earned dollars.

Bottom Line:
I will go on record to say that Journey have successfully released on of the best Rock albums of 2008, don’t be surprised if you see REVELATION make the Top 10 in my year end list. Every song is well performed, each member or the band an expert at his instrument and everyone contributing to the great harmonies on the backing tracks. The songs all fit the AOR/Melodic Rock standard of great harmonies, beautiful melodies, rockin’ guitar, and soaring vocals. The spotlight is firmly set on Arnel Pineda to see if he can deliver and he does! There is always going to be controversy among Journey fans as to who is the better man at the mic and I’m sure Perry purists will point out that Pineda isn’t as powerful as Perry was in his prime. That’s fine, my ears tell me that Arnel has a very similar sounding voice but he does a great job on both discs to give all the songs his own unique trademark. The album has a superb production job by Kevin Shirley proving again that he is one of the best in the business. For a band that was rumored to be focusing on “playing the hits”, Journey has defied the rumors and created one hell of an album!

Favorite original songs: ‘Never Walk Away’, ‘Like A Sunshower’, ‘Change For The Better’, ‘Wildest Dream’, & ‘Where Did I Lose Your Love’

Favorite re-made originals: ‘Stone In Love’, ‘Only The Young’, ‘Lights’, ‘Separate Ways’

W.A.S.P. – Dominator (2007)

W.A.S.P. – Dominator (2007, Demolition Records)

  1. Mercy
  2. Long, Long Way To Go
  3. Take Me Up
  4. The Burning Man
  5. Heaven’s Hung In Black
  6. Heaven’s Blessed
  7. Teacher
  8. Heaven’s Hung In Black (Reprise)
  9. Deal With The Devil

Band Lineup:
Blackie Lawless – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Mike Duda – Bass & Backing Vocals
Mike Dupke – Drums
Doug Blair – Lead Guitar
Darrell Roberts – Lead Guitar on ‘Deal With The Devil’

Producer: Blackie Lawless

Total Time = 43:28

W.A.S.P. official website
W.A.S.P. MySpace page
Demolition Records

After twenty three years and twelve studio albums of shock Rock, W.A.S.P. mainman Blackie Lawless resurrects his infamous band after a three year abscence to release the politically charged DOMINATOR. A lot of things have happened in the W.A.S.P. camp since we last heard from the band, the most glaring event is another lineup change: Stet Howland is replaced on the kit by Mike Dupke and Doug Blair replaces Darrell Roberts on lead guitar (except for one song). The other major change is the band’s label…..the previous four albums were released under the Metal-Is/Sanctuary label, now a division of SPV. The band’s deal fell through and the independent Demolition Records added W.A.S.P. to their roster.

DOMINATOR is an album written in direct response to the ongoing U.S./Iraq war but Blackie has stated that it’s not a concept album, more like a collection of similar ideas. One look at the cover art and the liner notes and you get the general idea of the album’s direction. The Iraq war and the war on terrorism is a fresh topic for musicians to draw from to make their personal statement…..take a listen to Megadeth’s UNITED ABOMINATIONS that was also released in 2007, I expect these current events to be an influence on metal for a long time to come. One thing you can always expect from Blackie and company is the need and ability to shock the masses. In the early days, the threw raw meat and desecrated a nun prop on stage, now Blackie is using his lyrics and intelligence to get people talking. One thing is for sure, when Blackie Lawless writes a record he always finds a way to play mind games with his audience be it with the music, the lyrics or both! You never know what to expect.

‘Mercy’ starts the album off to a rocking start with a cool guitar intro, that reminds me of 1985’s ‘Wild Child’, that continues throughtout the song. Blackie doesn’t use his high pitched shriek from the early days but he’s found that mid-range vocal that sounds dangerous and evil but is also very melodic. ‘Long, Long Way To Go’ continues the barrage of high intensity Metal with some really solid drumming from the new drummer Mike Dupke and some intense soloing from current lead guitarist Doug Blair. Wonder who has incited Blackie’s venom this time around? ‘Long, Long Way To Go’ is blistering attack on the current state of the Iraq war with references to big Oil, “Burnin’ Bush’s lie” and the “Halliburton war machine”. The final lyrics “Bastard, bloody bastards” is pure rebellious, out spoken Lawless. ‘Take Me Up’ slows down a little and offers a more emotional performance from the band but retains all the power with a steady bassline from Mike Duda (who has basically carried bass duties in W.A.S.P. since ’97) and superb guitar from Blair. Blackie’s vocals are pure melodic emotion with a little hint of the old school singing from the early days of ‘Cries In The Night’ or ‘Widowmaker’. ‘The Burning Man’ is another fast Metal feast that sounds like it could have easily fit on THE HEADLESS CHILDREN (1989). Doug Blair really shreds all over this track and has become the a serious focal point of the entire album. One of the things I expected from this album was to have a good guitar performance, so far I’m blown away! It’s not surprising though because Doug has been a member of the band on and off since 1992 and he knows exactly what Blackie is looking for.

Over the years, Blackie Lawless has been able to write mid-tempo balladeering epics that have emotion and power. ‘Heaven’s Hung In Black’ starts off with a subdued portion of the Civil War tune ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ (‘The Ants Go Marching One By One’ to some of you) but kicks into power epic form with crashing drums and plenty of riffs. The vocal is emotionally charged, you can feel the pain that Blackie is trying to push across. At over 7 minutes long, this is the album’s longest track but it is also it’s best. I look at ‘Heaven’s Blessed’ as sort of a faster companion to ‘Heaven’s Hung In Black’ but also as a rival. ‘Heaven’s Blessed’ is faster and a straightforward in-your-face beating with more excellent Blair guitar but, lyrically, it comes down as more greedy whereas the previous song was more humble? ‘Teacher’ is another Iraq war themed song that is fast paced and has some similar guitar tones to ‘Mercy’ and ‘Long, Long Way To Go’ but the solo mid-way through is very impressive as is Dupke’s crashing drum kit. Something I’ve noticed 7 songs in, Blackie’s voice seems to get stronger/better with every song.

‘Heaven’s Hung In Black (Reprise)’ is part two of the epic three songs previous but it’s totally out of place and unnecessary. Maybe the idea is to get the listener back into a somber mood? The Reprise cuts out the heavy guitars and focuses on the vocal so it’s definitely toned down. Good news is that things pick up again with an old school styled rocker with ‘Deal With The Devil’. Fast and furious with another solid performance this time from former guitarist Darrell Roberts. Duda and Dupke drive the song underneath that blazing guitar and Mr. Lawless sounds like the clock has turned back 15 years. If you had to pick a representative track for the album, this could be it, ‘Deal With The Devil’ would have made a great single.

Bottom Line:
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from W.A.S.P. The band’s output has been spotty since their resurgence in 1997 — I enjoyed the evil KILL, FUCK, DIE but ’99’s HELLDORADO was a joke! UNHOLY TERROR (2001) was a solid W.A.S.P. album but I never got around to getting the following year’s DYING FOR THE WORLD. Then there are THE NEON GOD concept albums that I thought were both terrible. Add the constant lineup changes, the upheaval with the label, and another “concept”…..let’s just say I was discouraged, I didn’t even pick this album up until early this year and the record had been out since early 2007 and I’ve been a W.A.S.P. fan since the debut. It just goes to show you that you need to give things a listen and not assume what a band is going to do because DOMINATOR is an excellent album and I am a fool for not picking it up when it came out. The song concepts on the war is real that makes it more appealing to me and the performances from the entire band are solid. The standout performance has to go to guitarist Doug Blair, he created some of the best riffs and solos of the W.A.S.P. catalog. I should also mention that Blackie sounds stronger at the mic than he’s ever been and I was surprised to hear him really belt out some of these songs when he’s been more apt to use his mid-range the last few years. One of the best albums of 2007 that I missed out on…..until now.

Favorite songs: ‘Mercy’, ‘Long, Long Way To Go’, ‘Heaven’s Hung In Black’, ‘The Burning Man’……I like every song on the album but ‘Heaven’s Hung In Black (Reprise)’ counts as filler.

 

Dokken – Lightning Strikes Again (2008)

Dokken – Lightning Strikes Again (2008, Rhino)

  1. Standing On The Outside
  2. Give Me A Reason
  3. Heart To Stone
  4. Disease
  5. How I Miss Your Smile
  6. Oasis
  7. Point Of No Return
  8. I Remember
  9. Judgement Day
  10. It Means
  11. Release Me
  12. This Fire

Band Lineup:
Don Dokken – Lead Vocals
Mick Brown – Drums & Backing Vocals
Jon Levin – Guitars
Barry Sparks – Bass

Produced by: Don Dokken & Tim David Kelly

Total Time = 51:18

Dokken official website
Dokken MySpace page
Rhino Records

I’ve been a Dokken fan since BREAKING THE CHAINS (1983) debuted and I have eagerly anticipated every Dokken album ever since. When LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN was announced back in the Fall of 2007, I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t enjoy the last two studio albums: LONG WAY HOME (2002) and HELL TO PAY (2004). As most bands do nowadays, a press release for LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN stated that the new album would be “a throwback to the classic Dokken sound”. When I read something like that, I get a bit skeptical, usually its a ruse to keep fan interest, but I had my hopes because I hadn’t really enjoyed a Dokken album since ’99’s ERASE THE SLATE. That album WAS a return to the classic Dokken sound.

The good news is that it seems like the merry-go-round of revolving band members has stopped. Former Warlock guitarist Jon Levin is back for his second album and he has solidified his position in the band with his excellent playing. Bassist Barry Sparks is back for album #3, his track record is long and successful including stints with Yngwie Malmsteen, UFO, and Ted Nugent. Add founding members ‘Wild’ Mick Brown and, of course, Don Dokken and the band seems to have solid footing in the crowded Heavy Metal world.

Opening song ‘Standing On The Outside’ starts the album off to a rocking start with an ’80s throwback riff that sounds like a piece from the Dokken classic ‘It’s Not Love’. I was instantly hooked by the ’80s sounding guitar and melodic hook to the chorus but I did notice that Don takes a low key approach to the vocal. He never really goes too high and has more of a raspy tone that keeps the song a little modern sounding. More classic sounding Dokken arrives with ‘Give Me A Reason’, another upbeat song with solid Levin guitar lines and solo. Jon Levin almost sounds a bit like former Dokken guitar hero George Lynch at times, that’s a good thing because it shows that the songs are based around good guitar playing. ‘Heart To Stone’ is the third uptempo guitar based song in a row and it’s probably no coincidence that it’s also the third Dokken/Levin collaboration as well, a writing team that has blossomed into a winner. ‘Heart To Stone’ has another melodic Hard Rock sound with another catchy chorus, Don’s vocal sounds like the clock turned back more than a few years and you can hear some really good rolling fills by the ‘Wild’ man behind the kit.

‘Disease’ is a moody modern sounding song heavy on the rhythm section and distorted guitar (until the solo). There’s some effects put on Don’s vocal during the song and it gives an unusual result. Don Dokken has always been known for his melodic clean vocal lines so the vocal enhancements seem a little out of place. Mick Brown co-wrote the song with Don so that might be the reason for the heavy drum/bass sound. Five songs in and we finally get a ballad with ‘How I Miss Your Smile’. I’m a little surprised that it didn’t show up sooner in the running order but Dokken has put it’s heavier foot forward so far. Don has always been able to write a solid melodic ballad (‘Alone Again’, ‘Slippin’ Away’) and this is one of the better ones. A nice acoustic guitar intro, clean vocals, and a subdued electric guitar…..one of my favorites of the album. The first song released to Dokken’s MySpace page for a preview was ‘Oasis’, a mid-tempo subdued song that reminds me of the SHADOWLIFE-era of the band, maybe even the LONG WAY HOME record. The guitar keeps it a little heavy and Levin has a nice solo but I like the acoustic guitar underneath everything, it gives it a little more depth.

Things pick up again with ‘Point Of No Return’ giving off that old school “rockin’ with Dokken” feel but ballad #2 ‘I Remember’ slows everything down again. ‘I Remember’ is pretty good although a little dated sounding like the Scorpions at times, especially on the guitar. Even though it’s similar to things I’ve heard before, I like it. ‘Judgement Day’ picks up where ‘Point Of No Return’ left off but I’m left a little cold by this track, the vocals seem strained and even though it’s a faster song, I feel like I’ve heard it all before. ‘It Means’ is more mid-tempo modern guitar rock but with a catchy chorus, I think the song would benefit from bigger sounding backing vocals. ‘Release Me’ is another mid-tempo song that sounds a bit like ‘Oasis’ in the guitar tone and vocal but I do like that thumping bassline Sparks lays down. If the monotone stylings of the last few songs had you bored then the opening riff of ‘This Fire’ gets things back into gear. Definitely an faster rocker but the vocal gives it a subdued, almost moody, feel but the chorus makes things better when the background vocals kick in. Levin shows off his fast fingers come solo time and proves he was a good pick to handle the guitar slot for years to come. There’s a few spoken word lines at the end of the song by Don about thin crust pizza, not sure what this has to do with the music but I figure it’s got to be some inside joke with the band.

Bottom Line:
This is the best Dokken album in almost 10 years, very close to the excellent ERASE THE SLATE (1999). The centerpiece is Jon Levin, he is a great guitar player and can imitate some of George Lynch’s guitar parts AND bring his own style to the table. There are some really cool riffs and solos all over this album but one of the unsung qualities is the underlying acoustic guitar Levin plays on some of the songs. The rhythm section is tight, Sparks and Brown keep everything moving along nicely with serious precision. If there is any complaints it’s with the vocals because it seems like Don Dokken stays in that mid-range a little too much rather than straight out going for it with a higher delivery. Granted, Don’s a little older and his voice has changed a bit since the early days when he was in his 20s, I think maybe he could’ve benefited from bigger background vocals. That’s where a guy like former bassist Jeff Pilson came in for years but he’s out and the more than capable Barry Sparks is in. What Don does do vocally is still pretty good and melodic just not in the higher register. Overall, I think the album is very good. If I had to slot it in the post-George Lynch era (from 1998-present), I would put this right behind ERASE THE SLATE and just ahead of HELL TO PAY.

Favorite songs:
I liked a lot of the faster rockers like ‘Standing On The Outside’, ‘This Fire’, ‘Point Of No Return’, and ‘Give Me A Reason’. A lot of these uptempo numbers have that old school Dokken sound and it’s definitely a highpoint. The two ballads are very good as well. I like ‘How I Miss Your Smile’ a little more than ‘I Remember’ because it seems a little more original and Dokken like whereas ‘I Remember’ sounds like a Scorpions ballad from any album after 1990’s CRAZY WORLD. I like it though, probably the best Scorpions ballad that they never made!

Notes: My version of the album is the U.S. release that came out a couple of weeks after the European and Japanese versions. The European version has a bonus track called ‘Sunset Superstar’ and the Japanese version has a bonus track called ‘Leave Me Alone’. LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN is also the highest charting debut (#133) for a Dokken record on the Billboard Top 200 in over 13 years and it charted higher than BREAKING THE CHAINS did (#138) in 1983. Shows that there’s still an audience out there and it’s not just me buying these types of records.

 

 

 

Man Raze – Surreal (2008)

Man Raze – Surreal (2008, VH-1 Classic Records)

  1. This Is
  2. Turn It Up
  3. Runnin’ Me Up
  4. Every Second Of Every Day
  5. Spinning Out
  6. Can’t Find My Own Way
  7. Skin Crawl
  8. Low
  9. Connected To You
  10. Halo
  11. It’s Entertainment
  12. Shadow Man

Band Lineup:
Phil Collen – Lead & Backing Vocals, all Guitars
Paul Cook – Drums & Backing Vocals
Simon Laffy – Bass, Programming & Backing Vocals

Produced by: Man Raze & Ger McDonnell

Total Time = 39:45

Man Raze official website
Man Raze MySpace page
Def Leppard official website
VH-1 Classic

Man Raze is the brainchild of Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen. The band consists of long time friend and Girl bandmate Simon Laffy and Sex Pistols’ drummer Paul Cook. The band started in mid-2004 as a side project for songs Collen had been writing that didn’t quite fit into his day job with Def Leppard. With the collaboration between the three musicians, the band released a maxi-single E.P. of four rough songs in 2006 and played a few gigs. The response was extremely encouraging and the band commenced work on a full-length album, SURREAL.

The first thing I thought of when I heard about this project was how similar the music would sound to Def Leppard’s. Phil Collen is a major part of the Def Leppard sound from the writing to the guitar to the vocals (it’s Collen’s vocal style that compliments/backs up Joe Elliot’s lead vocals on every Lep record since PYROMANIA). I also figured that the drumming would have a specifically raw Punk style with Paul Cook on the kit so the idea of Def Leppard meets the Sex Pistols seemed like two polar opposites meeting to create a wall of noise. After the first few spins, I hear a variety of styles from Hard Rock and Punk to Reggae and New Wave with a touch of Glam. That’s a lot of styles to blend and reminds me of another trio…..The Police. The production is raw, almost live sounding, more like an underground garage band with a raw “in your face” rhythm section.

Opening track ‘This Is’ is a Hard Rock/Punk hybrid that’s high energy while ‘Turn It Up’ could easily be a Def Leppard song if it was polished up, it sounds like a Def Lep demo. The Police comparisons come with ‘Runnin’ Me Up’ with it’s Reggae beat and Collen’s guitar having that Andy Summers twang to it. I like The Police so this song appeals to me unlike the Punk vibe on the first two songs, the problem is there really isn’t much to the song lyrically so it becomes repetitive. ‘Every Second Of Every Day’ is a pretty good mid-tempo song with a cool hook to the chorus. It sounds like Def Leppard and could have easily fit on X or SONGS FROM THE SPARKLE LOUNGE especially in the vocal and guitar lines. Same goes for ‘Spinning Out’, it sounds like a Def Lep throwaway from the last couple of albums but what makes it interesting is Phil Collen’s vocal impersonation of Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top). The Police/Sting reggae vibe returns with ‘Can’t Find My Own Way’ but it is better lyrically than it’s counterpart ‘Runnin’ Me Up’ and it also has a few cool guitar flourishes.

The first proper single from SURREAL is ‘Skin Crawl’ and it sounds, well, like raw Def Leppard from the last few albums. I hate to keep comparing Man Raze to Def Leppard but with Phil Collen being such a major contributor to both bands it’s hard not to hear the similarities. Of all the songs so far, ‘Skin Crawl’ has the best blend of Hard Rock, Punk, and the raw sounding production and it sounds more like some of the modern garage bands. ‘Low’ follows the same path although it’s not as heavy as ‘Skin Crawl’ at least until the chorus. It’s another raw track that sounds like a Def Lep demo. When I say “demo”, I mean that in a good way because the production is a complete contrast to what Phil Collen is normally involved with. Def Leppard is polished and slick while Man Raze is raw and rough. When I call a Man Raze song a “Def Lep demo”, it’s not because the song ideas aren’t developed, it’s because the production is as basic as a demo and the songs sounds like the Leps.

‘Connected To You’ has a fast Punk/Police vibe going for it while the guitar parts in ‘Halo’ sound very close at times to Def Leppard’s new single ‘Nine Lives’, it’s definitely almost the same tone. ‘It’s Entertainment’ has a catchy chorus and some interesting guitar and is probably one of the more polished songs on the album. I like Collen’s use of a little extra accent in his vocal and it comes off very similar to Joe Elliot. Actually, throughout SURREAL, you really get an idea of Collen’s vocal contibutions to his man band’s sound because he sounds almost exactly like Joe Elliot at times, especially the current lower registered Elliot. It’s obvious that his background vocals are a huge part of the Def Lep sound. ‘Shadow Man’ is another one of those songs that sounds like a Def Leppard song, especially in the vocal and guitar lines.

Bottom Line:
I’ve been spinning SURREAL for a couple of weeks and I’ve found this album to be somewhat of a “grower”. At first, I wasn’t digging it, probably due to the fact that I wasn’t really expecting much from this side project. The different styles and raw production made the album seem fragmented especially when compared to Phil Collen’s main band Def Leppard. It’s hard to not compare Man Raze to Def Leppard because many of the songs sound like raw, unpolished Lep tunes. That’s due to Collen’s vocals and guitar tone but there is enough different styles included to make things interesting, especially the Reggae tracks that sound like early Police. Reggae is not my thing but it’s definitely something unexpected and fresh. I thought ‘Skin Crawl’ was the best song on the album and I enjoyed hearing the songs that sounded like Def Lep ideas. I’m a Def Leppard fan, it’s hard to separate it all. Definitely a grower of an album with enough different music to make it interesting.

Favorite songs: ‘Skin Crawl’, ‘Every Second Of Every Day’, ‘Spinning Out’, ‘Low’

What’s up this week…..

If you’ve visited in the last 24 hours, you’ll have noticed that I posted 3 new album reviews almost right away: the new Kataklysm, Ihsahn, and Shannon. Unfortunately, a computer issue crept up and I had a spotty connection all week so I had to cram everything into one day. Things have been fixed and everything will hopefully return to normal so I should have a few things coming this week…..

At the top of the review list I have the new W.A.S.P. and Michael Schenker albums that I have been promising to write up but haven’t and the new Dokken record that is getting a fair amount of airplay. I’ve also been listening to the new Night Ranger album that comes out in July and the new Moonspell and Headhunter albums that are being released June 10th…..I wouldn’t mind getting a couple of these done by the weekend so everyone knows what they might be buying in the next few weeks but only if there’s time.

Some notable releases this week include the Man Raze debut, SURREAL, with Phil Collen (Def Leppard/Girl), Simon Laffy (Girl), Paul Crook (Sex Pistols) and the new Journey record, REVELATION, that is going to be a controversial album with the Steve Perry fanatics taking aim. The new Disturbed album hits stores also on Tuesday but I’m not sure if that’s on my list especially when I didn’t go out and buy the new Royal Hunt album last Tuesday! I’ve been spinning that Man Raze album and I’ve been on a Def Lep kick lately so that review is a definite.

So here’s what’s coming:

  • Man Raze – Surreal review
  • Journey – Revelation review (by the weekend)
  • Dokken – Lightning Strikes Again review
  • MSG – In The Midst Of Beauty review ( this WILL get done!)
  • W.A.S.P. – Dominator review
  • Current playlist
  • Metal Mixtape
  • any news that comes along

I have two projects that are ongoing: the first is making that database of my collection…..it’s not going well, I’m only about 300 albums in. The second is answering some questions that were sent to me for an interview, more on that later. I am also going to hit a Metal shop that I forgot about in Providence but I’m not sure what day that will happen. I normally don’t hit it because the selection is spotty but a search for a certain album has made this a mandatory stop this week and I’ve heard from a few people that the shop is doing well. I might take the digital camera with me so I can add some pictures to the hunt!

Rock on!

Steve

Shannon – Angel In Disguise (2008)

Shannon - Angel In Disguise (2008)

Shannon – Angel In Disguise (2008, Artist Service)

  1. Do You Know?
  2. Hungry For Love
  3. No More Lies
  4. Keep On Rolling
  5. No Better Times
  6. On And On
  7. Love In Your Eyes
  8. Long Gone
  9. Winter Night
  10. Coming Back To You
  11. Hang On
  12. Change Your Heart
  13. Road Of Desire

Band Lineup:
Olivier Del Valle – vocals
Patrice Louis – guitars
Nicolas Fixy – bass
Benjamin Bergerolle – drums
Thierry Dagnicourt – keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Renuad Hantson – duet (6) and background vocals (3)
Gianni Pontillo – background vocals (5)
Ben Venet – background vocals (1,2 & 5)
Bruno Levesque – background vocals (1,2 & 5)
Jens Walkenhorst – background vocals (1,2 & 5)
Ben Sotto – background vocals (9)
Joel “JoeHell” Jusmet – background vocals (7 & 8)

Produced by: Shannon

Total Time = 57:49

Shannon official website
Shannon MySpace page
Artist Service

French melodic rockers Shannon released ANGEL IN DISGUISE, their second proper album and third release, earlier in the year and here I am getting around to it now. Bad move on my part because I wasted a few good months of listening pleasure with this solid Hard Rock album. Shannon plays Melodic Hard Rock that is influenced by the late ’80s/early ’90s U.S. scene but there is also a Euro-Metal influence running through the record that makes it heavier.

I was hooked right away by the opening track ‘Do You Know?’ and I instantly knew that I would enjoy the whole record. The guitar is central to the sound with the keyboards enhancing the sound rather than overwhelming it and there is some cool double bass drumming. Olivier Del Valle’s vocals are soaring and I immeadiately compare him to Axe’s Bob Harris, Klaus Meine, Ted poley (Danger Danger), and Krokus’ Marc Storace. An interesting mix of vocal styles, the Meine and Storace comparison coming from an accent standpoint (Del Valle’s French accent is prominent but not distracting) especially when they used their higher register. One of the thing that a melodic band must do is have a solid opening number, ‘Do You Know?’ is just that, but what is even harder is to take it up a notch on the second song to solidify the listener. ‘Hungry For Love’ is another catchy, melodic Metal song with more heavy guitarwork and a thumping bassline that gets the foot tapping. Listen to those big multi-tracked background vocals, that’s what’s missing from some of the more popular bands’ releases lately, they give the song that larger than life feel.

‘No More Lies’ and ‘Keep On Rolling’ are more of the same driving Hard Rock, very similar to the first two songs, but ‘No Better Times’ has an opening guitar that has a tone that sounds like Krokus, who sound like AC/DC. It’s more of a boogie woogie feel with keyboards but not as straight forward as early Krokus but more along THE BLITZ/CHANGE OF ADDRESS era. ‘On And On’ is a keyboard laden power ballad that channels pure AOR pomp along the likes of Journey and includes a vocal contribution from Renaud Hantson of Furious Zoo. ‘Love In Your Eyes’ continues the ’80s Hard Rock feast as does ‘Long Gone’, a song that sounds like it came straight from Axe’s FIVE album from 1997. ‘Long Gone’ has an excellent guitar solo and soaring vocals to go along with the melodic hooks that are all over the album. ‘Winter Night’ is a Euro Power Metal song with a solid riff and a big chorus and ‘Coming Back To You’ slows down to a little to a heavy ’80s groove. ‘Hang On’ has the big guitar and drum sound and Del Valle hits all the highs while ‘Change Your Heart’ and ‘Road Of Desire’ continue the melodic anthemic rock. ‘Road Of Desire’ sticking out for it’s exotic tone and it’s AOR sound that reminds of Asia with the keyboards to an extent.

Bottom Line:
It’s very rare to find a melodic Metal album that is full of great songs, usually there is one or two songs that are plain filler. Shannon has succeeded in creating an album with 13 heavy melodic tracks that are musically filled with talented performers. The band is obviously tight and performs extremely well, the result of the band’s 10 year tenure on the scene. Production is excellent, everything is crystal clear and balanced well in the mix. I really can’t find anything wrong with the record but I am surprised that only one proper ballad (‘On And On’) is included. I would have bet that there would be 2, even maybe 3, ballads on the album because the kind of music Shannon plays makes great power ballads. I think the band might have decided to stay heavy to compete with all the heavier bands in the European market but that’s just a small complaint. I’m not normally a ballad kind of guy but I wouldn’t mind hearing Shannon do another. This is such a good release that any fan of Melodic Hard Rock/metal should check this album out, highly recommended.

Favorite songs: ‘Do You Know?’, ‘Hungry For Love’, ‘No More Lies’, ‘Long Gone’, ‘Winter Night’

Ihsahn – angL (2008)

Ihsahn – angL (2008, Candlelight USA)

  1. Misanthrope
  2. Scarab
  3. Unhealer
  4. Emancipation
  5. Malediction
  6. Alchemist
  7. Elevator
  8. Threnody
  9. Monolith

Ihsahn

Musicians:
Ihsahn – Vocals & Guitars
Asgeir Mickelson – Drums
Lars Norberg – Bass
Mikeal Akerfeldt (Opeth) – guest vocals on ‘Unhealer’

Producer: Ihsahn

Total Time = 47:24

Ihsahn official website
Ihsahn MySpace page
Candlelight Records USA

Following the success of his first solo album, THE ADVERSARY, former Emperor guitarist/vocalist Ihsahn is back again with his second solo outing, angL. Emperor is a Black Metal legend and Ihsahn’s THE ADVERSARY (2006) was a Black Metal record within the same formula but with a little more experimetation using progressive elements. On angL, Ihsahn continues the experimentation using a myriad of styles and textures to create a unique wall of sound.

Opening track ‘Misanthrope’ is a song that sounds most like Emperor with frantic riffing and bullet drumming. There are keyboards that add a symphonic element to the song but the vocal keeps things sounding…..evil. The opening riff of ‘Scarab’ is heavy but then leads to a laid back groove made heavy by that creepy growl. It’s almost a tale of two songs: a heavy cruncher that leads into a melodic symphonic rock song. After the solo break 3 minutes in, there is a piano interlude with the cleanest vocal style I’ve ever heard Ihsahn use…..he can growl, scream, and actually sing. Opeth’s Mikeal Akerfeldt guests on the mic on ‘Unhealer’ and does an awesome job blending his clean style with his growl to Ihsahn’s higher pitched growl. I hate to describe this song as being one of the “quieter” songs of the record but I would classify it as a ballad. The song gets heavier with the chorus when the vocals get more gruff and the drums announce their presence. So many different styles used on this song (Death, Symphonic, Progressive) and so many different variations of the instruments. ‘Unhealer’ is one of my favorites on this album and one of my favorite songs so far this year.

‘Emancipation’ opens with another catchy riff added to the vocals to give the song a Gothic/Folk Metal sound. The backing vocals are especially striking when added to the Black Metal/clean vocal style…..everything is a wall of sound. ‘Malediction’ returns to the Black roots of Emperor with more symphonic elements enhancing the sound while ‘Alchemist’ is a hybrid of Prog and Gothic Metal. When I hear the opening riff of ‘Elevator’ I picture something descending…..maybe an elevator? Seriously, ‘Elevator’ is another song that weaves different styles and textures together to create this unique blend of sound. Parts of the song are slow and ballad like and others are driven by the double bass drumming. Piercing guitars, swirling keyboards, haunting clean vocals and screams…..it’s all here. ‘Elevator’ seemlessly moves into ‘Threnody’ with an acoustic guitar and what I can only describe as a beautiful vocal. Ihsahn really branches out with the vocals and I’m kind of surprised at the strength of his singing. During the quieter moments of ‘Threnody’, the acoustics are joined by quiet percussion and piano giving the song a ’70s feel but the track picks up in the middle and becomes more progressive leading back to the quiet side for the end. ‘Monolith’ starts quietly but then drives into Emperor territory again. I would pair this song with ‘Malediction’ as both sound more liek Ihsahn’s Emperor roots than anything else on the album.

Bottom Line:
Honestly, I expected to hear more Emperor so I kind of sat on this album for a couple weeks because I’m not big into the Black Metal scene. Once I actually sat down and gave angL a serious listen, I was taken aback by the multiple styles that Ihsahn uses. I have THE ADVERSARY so I dug that out and gave that a listen as well to see if I had missed something because what I expected from angL is certainly not what I got. There are Black Metal elements and Emperor influences all over the album (‘Monolith’ & ‘Misanthrope’) but it’s the blend of Prog, Gothic/Folk, and Power Metal to the Black that makes angL more accessible. The power and blast is still present, especially in the drums and growling vocal but the acoustics, keyboards, and orchestrations add a layer of sound that makes the album stand out. I enjoyed this album a lot, especially on the headphones! This is one of the best releases I’ve heard this year.

Favorite songs: ‘Scarab’, ‘Unhealer’, ‘Emancipation’, ‘Threnody’, ‘Monolith’