Twisted Sister – ‘Silver Bells’ & ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ (featuring Lita Ford) (videos, 2008)

Time to get into the holiday spirit! Here’s two more Xmas videos from Twisted Sister’s A TWISTED CHRISTMAS. Look for Lita Ford’s husband, former Nitro vocalist Jim Gillette, in the 2nd video.

‘Silver Bells’

‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’

Current Playlist – 11/30/08

Thanksgiving is over and so is the rush at work. Nothing is worse than working in a supermarket during the holidays so my hard work earned me a long weekend after my Friday shift. I planned to do three things on my four days off: sleep, go to the Patriots game, and catch up on some Metal. I slept most of the day Saturday, and the game is today, so here’s what I’ve listened to and what I have on deck…..

Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy (2008): I bought it last Sunday and I’ve been giving it some spins. I always said that this album would either be the greatest album of all-time or the biggest flop of all-time…..so far, it’s not the flop. It’s definitely a more modern sounding GnR.

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): Saxon’s new record isn’t due for release until mid-January 2009 but the record label was kind enough to send over an advance copy last week. 13 songs of pure Heavy Metal, I recommend it.

Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos (2009): SPV was nice enough to send over Kreator’s new album along with the new Saxon last week and I’ve been giving this album some good spins. Another record that’s supposed to be released in mid-January.

Hammerfall – Glory To The Brave (1997): I was talking with a friend of mine about the late ’90s Power Metal revival and we started discussing Hammerfall’s debut. This is one of the best debuts in the Power Metal scene and you can’t deny Hammerfall’s influence on how the Metal scene was shaped in the last decade.

Hammerfall – Legacy Of Kings (1998): This is my favorite Hammerfall record and definitely their best. I remember buying this at my favorite local shop as an import and blasting this daily for weeks. I still enjoy pulling this one out regularly but I wanted to compare this one with the debut.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – ‘Night Enchanted’ (2008): This is the new TSO single from the upcoming album NIGHTCASTLE. There was a free download of this song at Amazon.com and I went for it. I’m not a download type of guy but I’ve been on the TSO bandwagon before there was even a bandwagon. Being a Savatage fan for a long time, I knew about the project when it was still in the planning stages. It’s good to hear new TSO music because it’s been 4 years since THE LOST CHRISTMAS EVE.

KISS – Crazy Nights (1987): This is one of my favorite KISS records because this was the tour that I saw KISS for the first time. With the 17th anniversary of Eric Carr’s death this past Monday, I decided to remember him and the non-makeup lineup of KISS by giving this album a couple of spins.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I like Thanksgiving because it’s a time to get together with family without all the gift giving and fanfare. You can just kick back and relax with people you enjoy being with and then eat some great food. It’s also a day that reminds you of what is important in life and what you have to be thankful for. I have a lot to be thankful for: my wife & kids, my dog, the rest of my family, our home, health and jobs. When you really stop and think about it, if you have some or all of these things, then you are doing all right in life. Everything else is gravy!

So I wish everyone out there who visits the site a happy and safe Thanksgiving! Cheers to all of you!

– Steve

WANTED: Cyrus Zain – self-titled E.P. (2005)

WANTED

cyrus-zain

 

Cyrus Zain – self-titled E.P. (2005)

Cyrus Zain caught my attention in 2006 when then 15 year old guitarist Dario Lorina was named the lead guitarist for former Warrant vocalist Jani Lane’s solo band. I didn’t know much about Dario Lorina except that he was from the Boston area and I take a particular interest in Hard Rock bands from the New England area. When I punched his name into Google, I found the Cyrus Zain E.P. and the search was on! I’ve only seen one copy on Ebay and that was right after Dario joined Jani Lane’s band. The CD was available at CD Baby but it’s permanently out of stock making it a rare find. You can play all 5 songs from the E.P. at the CD Baby page and there is a recent interview with Dario over at Sleaze Roxx.

R.I.P – Kevin DuBrow (1st Anniversary)

kevin_dubrow

R.I.P. – Kevin DuBrow (1955-2007)

It was a sad day last year when the Metal world was shaken with the news of Quiet Riot singer Kevin DuBrow’s passing in his Las Vegas home. Quiet Riot hit it big when I was starting to get deep into the Hard Rock scene back in the early ’80s. You couldn’t stop hearing the band on the radio or seeing their videos on MTV and I was a fan from METAL HEALTH on. I never saw them live in the ’80s but when Kevin and the band made it to town in the ’90s (and beyond), I never missed a gig. Some of the best music the band made came AFTER their ’80s heyday and Kevin (along with Frankie Banali) was the band’s driving force. It’s sad that Kevin passed with so many more years to go but he is celebrated with the music and memories he left behind. Rest in peace Kevin, you are missed…..

R.I.P. – Eric Carr (17th Anniversary)

eric-carr-2

eric-carr-1

R.I.P. – Eric Carr (1950-1991)

November 24, 1991 was the day that my world came crashing to a halt when the sad news of KISS drummer Eric Carr’s unexpected death flashed across MTV News. There was already sad news with Queen’s Freddie Mercury passing away the same day but this was a member of KISS…..my favorite band. I figured the band was over, how could they continue without Eric?

I always say that KISS regained some of their success because of Eric’s dedication, skill, and overall positive attitude and I always wanted to meet him. Ask any fan that met him and they will tell you that Eric Carr was one of the classiest musicians there ever was. He is still one of my favorite members of KISS and one of my favorite drummers. Rest in peace Eric, you are still missed very much…..

R.I.P. – Freddie Mercury (17th Anniversary)

freddie_mercury_2

R.I.P. – Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)

It’s still hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since Freddie Mercury passed away. I’ve been a Queen fan since I was a young kid and he has always been my favorite vocalist. I never got to see Queen in concert with Freddie at the mic but, from the DVDs I own, I know that they were spectacular. Here’s to you Freddie! Thank you for your music and all the memories. May you rest in peace…..

New Release Sunday – Chinese Democracy & The Cosmos Rocks

Today is the big day! Guns N’ Roses finally released the long awaited CHINESE DEMOCRACY album! It’s been 17 years since the band has released new material (I’m not counting 1993′s THE SPAGHETTI INCIDENT) and at least 13+ years since Axl Rose started talking about a new GnR record. It’s finally here and I went out to Best Buy to get it…..

gnrchinesedemocracyGuns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy (2008) – $12: Chinese Democracy is a Best Buy exclusive so I really didn’t have a choice on where to go and pick it up. Good news is that the album was on sale and that there were very prominent cardboard displays for the CD and vinyl. There were more than a few people waiting at the Best Buy door when it opened and almost everyone went straight for the CD section. I’d say there were about 20 of us there at 9am for the new album and many people bought both the CD and the vinyl. Good to see some young kids in there buying it too.

queen_the_cosmos_rocks_album_coverQueen & Paul Rodgers - The Cosmos Rocks (2008) – $14: When I got my copy of the new GnR, I decided to see if there were any bargains. Nothing is worse than looking through a Best Buy music section because there is no variety but the vinyl edition of the new Queen & Paul Rodgers album caught my eye. I totally forgot about this record when it came out in mid-October so I snatched this one up also! The concert I saw in March 2006 was a really great show and I’ve been a Queen fan since I was a kid so I took a chance.

Ebay Madness – Vulture, Guns N’ Roses, Roxxi, Dirty Looks, Metallica, Saxon

I love Ebay! There is no better place to find obscure albums while sitting in front of your stereo spinning discs. Unfortunately, the current economy has stopped my rare CD buying but it hasn’t stopped everybody! There are still fans and collectors willing to pay a premium price for a CD that may or may not be rare, is a promo, or an international edition. I have to admit, I’m one of those people but I have limits……it’s good to see that there are still people out there with more money than sense!

vulture-fatal-gamesVulture – Fatal Games (1990) = $321

Seller – vilainshadows
Staring Price = $9.99
Bids = 5

Vulture is a Thrash Metal band from Holland and FATAL GAMES is their debut full-length album. I’ve seen this Vulture album on Ebay before but not at this high a price. Personally, I would have been wary of this auction because of the CD’s location…..Greece. A lot of bootlegs of “rare” discs have come from Greece over the last few years and I usually avoid these sellers but this particular seller describes the CD as an original pressing on Overdrive Records, not a reissue, and from his own collection. I’ve checked the current auctions and there is another original pressing located in Houston, TX but it is a BUY IT NOW for $350. Looks like the market price has been set!

roxxi-drive-it-to-ya-hardRoxxi – Drive It To Ya Hard! (1990) = $209.50

Seller – hinomoto1
Staring Price = 99 cents
Bids = 7

Roxxi is one of those U.S. Hard Rock bands that tried to make a dent in the Metal scene just as the decline started in the early ’90s. The only reason I know this album is because the video for the title track actually got some airplay on MTV in 1990. I saw the video again when VH-1 Classic came to our digital cable provider a couple of years ago but never again. This Japanese pressing has different cover art than the U.S. release and I can vouch for the seller because I have bought a number of Japanese pressings from him in the past. When I was searching Ebay what I found interesting is that the same exact CD was up for auction 10 hours earlier from a seller in the U.K. That CD ended at $69 and then a bidding war started for this CD later in the day! Also, you can get a cassette copy anytime on Ebay for about $15-$20. Here’s the video for the title cut…..

Roxxi – ‘Drive It To Ya Hard!’

dirty-looks-live-in-san-diegoDirty Looks – Live In San Diego (2005) = $202.50

Seller – opd1991
Starting Price = $19.99
Bids = 8

LIVE IN SAN DIEGO was released in 2005 by Dirty Looks vocalist Henrik Ostergaard through the Dirty Looks website. Turns out that this is a CDR of a live recording from the band’s tour in 1994 and is now out of print. There is another auction out there with a higher starting price of $99.99 (BUY IT NOW for $150). I’m not sure if a CDR is worth a couple hundred dollars but there are passionate Dirty Looks fans out there! My question is if it is a CDR then why doesn’t the band print up more?

guns-n-roses-better-singleGuns N’ Roses – ‘Better’ (2008, CD single) = $200

Seller – musick2004
Starting Price = $200 (Buy It Now)
Bids = 1

The hype machine is in full effect for the new GNR album CHINESE DEMOCRACY and these promo CD single for ‘Better’ have been fetching anywhere from $50-$175 at auction. This is the highest price I’ve seen paid so far for this single. Remember, it’s $200 for one song! There are plenty up for grabs right now but you could also wait and drop $15 at Best Buy this coming Sunday.

metallica-death-magnetic-promo-from-uruguay

Metallica – Death Magnetic (2008) promo disc from Uruguay = $153.50

Seller – u2only
Starting Price = $50 
Bids = 14

Collecting can be a niche thing for many people. I know some collectors that will only buy Japanese pressings and some that will only buy original pressings. Other people I know will only collect a certain band or genre. Who really needs a promo disc from Uruguay of the new Metallica disc? Probably only the most diehard of Metallica collectors. It’s the same album, same songs, just with different promo artwork in Spanish. I think the music might be the same no matter if the pressing is from North America, Europe, Japan and Uruguay.

saxon-innocence-is-no-excuseSaxon – Innocence Is No Excuse (1985) = $151.12

Seller – kingdom_of_rock
Starting Price = $6.50
Bids = 10

I have this CD! About 10 years ago, I picked up a bunch of Saxon CDs in this little record store I found 20 minutes from my house. All the Saxon CDs were part of the BURRN! Magazine reissue series and they are long out of print. I think I paid about $18 for this import and I haven’t come across another one in my travels. I’ve bought from this seller before so I know that he gets really good out of print Japanese pressings. Remember the Roxxi auction above? This is the seller that sold his copy of the Roxxi album for $69 10 hours before it spiked to $200+.

Cloudscape – Global Drama (2008)

Cloudscape – Global Drama (2008, Roasting House/Golden Core/Nightmare Records)

  1. Mind Diary
  2. Darkest Legacy
  3. Cloak & Daggers
  4. Paid In Blood
  5. The Silence Within
  6. One Silent Moment
  7. Alagoas
  8. Static
  9. Fragile
  10. Eyes Of Jealousy
  11. Ritual Of The Blade
  12. Justice

Band Lineup:
Mike Andersson – Lead Vocals & Keyboards
Björn Eliasson – Guitars & Keyboards
Patrick Svärd – Guitars
Haynes Pherson – Bass & Backing Vocals
Roger Landin – Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Casper Andersen – Bagpipes (on ‘One Silent Moment’)

Producer: Pontus Lindmark

Total Time = 1:07:06

Cloudscape official website
Cloudscape MySpace page
Nightmare Records (U.S. distribution)
Roasting House Records (European distribution)
Golden Core Records MySpace page (European distribution)

Sweden’s Cloudscape has been on many a Progressive Metal fan’s radar since their self-titled debut in 2005 and sophomore release CRIMSON SKIES in 2006. The band blends Progressive Metal and Power Metal effortlessly with a keen sense of melody and rhythm. The band has all the elements of solid musicianship: an excellent singer, duelling twin lead guitars, complimentary keyboards and a pounding rhythm section. GLOBAL DRAMA was released in August and, on first listen, I immeadiately compared Cloudscape to Balance Of Power, Kamelot, Pagan’s Mind and Symphony X…..not bad company to keep!

Opening track ‘Mind Diary’ is a powerful monster of Power Metal riffing, a driving rhythm section and soaring melodic vocals from Mike Andersson. The keyboards swirl and enhance the overall sound to create a symphonic element as the song changes pace. One listen to ‘Mind Diary’ and I immeadiately drew a comparision to Balanace Of Power and knew that they rest of the album was going to be excellent. A simple keyboard introduction opens the heavy ‘Darkest Legacy’ that showcases some serious double bass drumming from Roger Landin amid the chugging guitars. Cloudscape has serious chops and they start to stretch their Metal muscles as they weave through a variety of styles.

‘Darkest Legacy’

‘Cloak & Daggers’ is another melodic prog feast that incorporates an exotic Middle Eastern sound with more prominent keyboards. The sound is very big and grand with a lot of layers, you have to listen very closely to hear the subtle touches the band has employed with the keyboards, percussion, acoustic guitar and what I believe is a sitar. ‘Cloak & Daggers’ also has my favorite performance from Mike Andersson, he shows complete range vocally and is able to move from a powerful delivery to a soft one with ease.

‘Cloak & Daggers’

‘Paid In Blood’ starts out very heavy but becomes more melodic as the song progresses. The chorus is catchy and I found myself singing along by the middle of the song. An immeadiate comparison to Balance Of Power and Kamelot is heard on ‘The Silence Within’. The guitars sound like something from Balance Of Power’s BOOK OF SECRETS (1998) and the vocals remind me of Kamelot’s Roy Khan. ‘The Silence Within’ starts out with haunting keyboards and moves into the main riff to set up a strong base for the melodic vocal delivery. You can tell the mark of a good song if you are singing along, doing your best air guitar, and banging your head back and forth…..that’s me on ‘The Silence Within’! Cloudscape brings in another international element to their music with the opening bagpipes on ‘One Silent Moment’, a mid-tempo song that builds into the chorus and starts to pick up more and more as the song progresses. The song actually starts out almost like a ballad and just continues until halfway where the keyboard has a quick spotlight solo. There are also some really cool bass lines that are more prominent in the mix.

‘Alagoas’ is one of two epic songs on GLOBAL DRAMA and it cocks in at just over 8 minutes. The song is mostly mid-tempo but builds up towards the melodic chorus. Halfway through the song everything slows down completely for an eerie New Age feel and moves into the solo section. The vocals are perfect and the guitar/keyboard combination compliment each other extremely well. Vocals are melodic, soaring, powerful and full of range, Mike Andersson is fast becoming one of my new favorite vocalists! ‘Static’ has a programmed feel to it with the opening keyboard tones but it immeadiately moves into chugging Power Metal riffing and the keys move more to the background. This song makes me think of Kamelot around the KARMA (2001) and EPICA (2003) era but with more crunch to the guitars. The opening piano of ‘Fragile’ is a perfect introduction for a song that is the closest thing to a ballad that you are going to get from Cloudscape. It’s a sweeping mid-tempo song that is near perfect in it’s diverse harmonies and instrumentation to create something beautiful. There are some melodic elements that makes me hear a bit of Angra from around the FIREWORKS album but not as speedy, more controlled.

The second epic on GLOBAL DRAMA is the 9 minute opus ‘Eyes Of Jealousy’. The song is pure Prog Metal that recalls Dream Theater in some spots but retains the overall melodic sense that is a mainstay of the enitre record. ‘Eyes Of Jealousy’ is different from it’s epic twin ‘Alagoas’ in that it follows the Progressive path more closely and incorporates more time changes and a varied musical landscape. ‘Ritual Of The Blade’ opens with an exotic Oriental/Middle Eastern keyboard intro and builds into a guitar/drum driven track with the exotic keyboard passage supplementing the song thoughout. The solos here are very good and the double bass pounding drives the song. Album closer ‘Justice’ reminds me of the album’s opener ‘Mind Diary’ with it’s straight forward Power Metal drive and soaring vocals, a smart way to bookend the album.

Bottom Line:
Cloudscape has been on my Metal radar for a couple of years but I never really had the chance to acquire their first two records, listening to GLOBAL DRAMA has changed that mistake! If you want to hear really good Progressive Metal that is hard, melodic and technically sound then GLOBAL DRAMA is the album to buy. The production is well done without sounding over-processed, the musicianship is top notch and Mike Andersson has become one of my favorite vocalists. I got this album back in early August just before the release date and I have kept this in my weekly rotation ever since. I can’t find a weak song on the album. My recommendation is that everyone should check out GLOBAL DRAMA, it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.

Favorite Songs: ‘The Silence Within’, ‘Fragile’, ‘Cloak & Daggers’, ‘Alagoas’. I wanted to showcase a few songs but the truth is that there isn’t a bad song on GLOBAL DRAMA and I like each one!

Sammy Hagar – Cosmic Universal Fashion (2008)

sammy-hagar-cosmic-universal-fashion-2008

Sammy Hagar – Cosmic Universal Fashion (2008, Roadrunner/Loud & Proud)

  1. Cosmic Universal Fashion
  2. Psycho Vertigo
  3. Peephole
  4. Loud
  5. Fight For Your Right To Party
  6. Switch On The Light
  7. When The Sun Don’t Shine
  8. 24365
  9. I’m On A Roll
  10. Dreams/Cabo

(For Musician credits, please refer to the digital booklet at Red Rocker.com)

Produced by: Sammy Hagar & Bob Daspit
Additional Production on ‘Cosmic Universal Fashion’: David Kahne

Total Time = 43:46

Sammy Hagar official website
Sammy Hagar MySpace page
Roadrunner Records

I want to start this review off by stating that I am a Sammy Hagar fan. I have enjoyed his music whether it was made in Montrose, Van Halen or as a solo artist. The reason I want to make this clear is because it has become fashionable to brush Sammy off, especially during his old band’s “reunion” with David Lee Roth. Like it or not, the Red Rocker has released some excellent music throughout his entire career but he often gets referred to as “Van Halen’s other singer” in many fan circles. The guy has had a very successful career in Rock, as well as, a solid business career with his Cabo Wabo Tequila.

When I read that Sammy was releasing a new record I was a little wary but at least he brought Michael Anthony along with the Waboritas to liven the party! I didn’t really get into his last album LIVIN’ IT UP (2006) so hearing that Sam had collabrated with many different wirters and musicians on a myriad of styles got me nervous. One listen online to the first single, ‘Cosmic Universal Fashion’, started to reinforce my fears. The title track is an online collaboration with Iraqi musician/songwriter Steven Lost and it’s an Industrial Pop pseudo-remake of the Van Halen single ‘Right Now’. It’s definitely a different sounding song for a guy known for hard-driving Arena Rock and it’s sounds kind of Dance/Pop and programmed to me. I’ve watched the video a lot and I like the similar theme to the ‘Right Now’ video, I’d say the video makes the song better.

‘Cosmic Universal Fashion’

‘Psycho Vertigo’ and ‘Peephole’ are songs that came from the shelved Planet Us sessions (a collaboration between Sam, Mike Anthony, Joe Satriani, Neal Schon, & Deen Castronovo) from around the Van Halen/Sam reunion in 2005. The songs are guitar oriented tracks with a dark atmosphere to them, everything sounds great on these tracks and it’s a shame that Planet Us got shelved for Sam’s return to Van Halen. When you read the liner notes for these two songs, Sammy refers to the reunion with the VH brothers as “Van Hagar”…..and I thought only the fans did that! Straight from the ’80s, Sammy gets loose with the hard rocker ‘Loud’. This song would easily fit in great on any of the Van Halen albums or any of the solo records Sam has released since 1997. This is my favorite song from the album so far!

Unfortunately, I have to take points away from the album with the inclusion of ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ by the Beastie Boys. I’ll say it until my face turns blue: Why do artists/bands include unnecessary cover songs on albums of original material? Are the out of material? I know that Sam and his band play a version of this song live, I’ve seen them do it a few times, but it’s out of place among the originals. It fits Sam’s life of kicking back and partying but I have to question doing the song. ‘Switch On The Light’ sounds like ZZ Top and, after reading the booklet, the song is a collaboration with ZZ mainman Billy Gibbons, who also adds some vocals. ‘When The Sun Don’t Shine’ sounds like a cross between Jimmy Buffet and Country music and would fit in nicely on LIVIN’ IT UP. It’s another one of those stripped down and relaxed acoustic songs with great harmonies. Another different style is explored on ’24365′ when Sammy crosses his brand of Hard Rock with some James Brown, Motown and Funk. It’s an interesting song but it hasn’t really grabbed me yet. The Rock moments are solid, the harmonies are great but the James Brown/R&B wibe throws me off. ’24365′ features Bootsy Collins (Parliament/Funkadelic). ‘I’m On A Roll’ is another Red Rocker that could pair up with ‘Loud’ on any Hagar release. Waboritas guitarist Victor Johnson is extremely talented (as are all the Waboritas) and he does a solid Eddie Van Halen on this track. Both the rhythm and lead sound just like EVH and the band really jams like 5150-era Van Halen.

The album closes with a 9 minute live version of the Van Halen classics ‘Dreams’ and ‘Cabo Wabo’ mixed together. It’s more of a low key ballady approach with acoustic guitars and an extended intro speech from Sammy. These songs were recorded straight from the Birthday Bash 2007 from the Cabo Wabo Cantina so it’s a cool addition but I look at it as more covers. These two songs are Sammy’s signatures with Van Halen, he loves them and so do the fans, but I want more original material. I don’t want to write this track off like I did ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’, at least Sam is covering himself!

Bottom Line:
COSMIC UNIVERSAL FASHION was released Tuesday (11/18) but I was lucky enough to have the album a week early. After repeated listens, my fears are gone because the album has grown on me. I think that the release of the Industrial styled title track threw me off a little but once you get into the album you mostly hear soild Rock. I’m not going to count the two cover songs (even though the VH cover is kind of cool) so, out of 10 songs, the 8 originals have a cool Hard Rock party vibe that Sammy Hagar is a master at delivering. Sam throws a couple of curveballs with the Industrial/Dance rhythm on the title cut, and the R&B style of ’24365′, but there is enough of a Rock edge to every track to put this up alongside some of his other works. I have to admit, I was surprised the album was pretty good because I was expecting the worst. The record is a fun listen and it also rocks out but it took me a couple of spins to get into it. I like this new record enough that I’m going to go back and give LIVIN’ IT UP a few spins to give it a fresh listen and see if I can get into that one a little more.

Favorite Songs: ‘Psycho Vertigo’, ‘Peephole’, ‘Loud’, ‘I’m On A Roll’, ‘where The Sun Don’t Shine’

Brainstorm – Downburst (2008)

Brainstorm – Downburst (2008, Metal Blade)

  1. Falling Spiral Down
  2. Fire Walk With Me
  3. Stained With Sin
  4. Redemption In Your Eyes
  5. End In Sorrow
  6. How Do You Feel
  7. Protect Me From Myself
  8. Surrounding Walls
  9. Frozen
  10. All Alone

Band Lineup:
Andy B. Franck – Vocals
Torsten Ihlenfeld – Guitars & Bass
Milan Loncaric – Guitars & Bass
Dieter Bernert – Drums
Antonio Iewa – live & “future” Bass

Additional Musicians:
Miro – Keyboards

Produced by: Sascha Paeth, Miro, & Brainstorm

Total Time = 43:21

Brainstorm official website
Brainstorm MySpace page
Metal Blade Records

Power Metal bands were making a big comeback in the late ’90s/early 2000s riding the waves that Hammerfall and Iced Earth had made with near perfect albums. Brainstorm was on the scene since the mid-’90s but I ignored them until I plucked their third record, AMBIGUITY, from a used bin shortly after it’s release in 2000. Since AMBIGUITY, this German outfit has released three more top quality Traditional Metal albums in METUS MORTIS (2001), SOUL TEMPTATION (2003) and the band’s crowning achievement LIQUID MONSTER (2005). With such a solid string of albums, Brainstorm has become one of my favorite Power Metal bands of the last 10 to 12 years and I was really looking forward to the January 2008 release of DOWNBURST.

I picked up DOWNBURST on it’s release date (Jan 22) and I listened to it regularly for weeks but then, for some strange reason, the CD went into the growing pile on my desk and I never relistened to it. I think my shelving the album had a lot to do with my ears being saturated with Power Metal and the consistent new releases by many different bands in the following weeks of early 2008. Taking a fresh listen to the album now I realize that my initial instincts on DOWNBURST were correct: this is a really great record! Brainstorm doesn’t break new Heavy Metal ground, it can be argued that Traditional Metal all sounds the same, but the band does play to their strengths of great musicianship, with a sense of melody mixed with power, and excellent production. Andy B. Franck’s vocal style reminds me of lower register Rob Halford on many songs but he also has his own aggressive style. The guitar duo of Ihlenfeld and Loncaric compliment each other with solid leads and pounding rhythms while Dieter Bernert hits the drums with ferocious intensity. The bass duties fall to both guitar players as the band parted ways with Andreas Milander (replaced after this recording by Antonio Iewa) and the keyboards are added by producer Miro. The overall sound is tight and very melodic with solid guitars and keyboards that enhance the sound instead of drowning it out.

Opening track ‘Falling Spiral Down’ showcases the power of Brainstorm with driving guitars and Franck’s intense delivery and background vocals that give the song a big sound. ‘Fire Walk With Me’ is very melodic with a catchy chorus and ambient keyboards, I hate to say that this is mainstream but I could hear this being played on current Rock stations. It’s a very ’80s Metal sound song in the same area as BALLS TO THE WALL-era Accept and early ’80s Judas Priest. Same thing goes for ‘Stained With Sin’, it’s another good track that has a melodic ’80s Metal style with modern touches. Actually, I would put both songs in the same style as the material on Primal Fear’s last album NEW RELIGION.

Brainstorm moves into more speed and power with ‘Redemption In Your Eyes’. This song is more straight forward in it’s delivery until the chorus where you can hear the subtle keyboard flourishes and melody vocals, it also has one of the best solo breaks on the record. We go from fast to slow with ‘Eyes Of Sorrow’, a moody mid-tempo number that briefly reminds me of Tiamat at the beginning but sounds more like current Primal Fear as the song continues. It’s still riff oriented but the keyboards are more prominent to set a sad and desperate mood. I like ‘Eyes Of Sorrow’ because it’s definitely different from the true Power Metal formula, slows down amd creates a defined tone. ‘How Do You Feel’ picks up the tempo again but has that mainstream sound like ‘Fire Walk With Me’ that makes both songs way too similar. It’s a good song with the same solid elements but it sounds like it’s all benn done before.

Speed dominates ‘Protect Me From Myself’ to the point that the band reminds us that they is power in Power Metal. The riffs are fast but it’s Bernert’s drumming that really drives the song and delivers the punch. Keyboards seem to dominate ‘Surrounding Walls’ but there are guitars here. I’d say the song has more of an epic feel to it with the keyboards and the melodic style kind of like the last few Kamelot albums. Same goes for ‘Frozen’ although the guitars have more tenacity to them and the song overall is faster with the drums really taking charge. I like Franck’s vocals a lot here because he shows off his wide range from low to high, melodic to gruff. The album closer is ‘All Alone’ and it sounds similar to ‘Falling Spiral Down’ in that it starts out hard and heavy and weaves in the epic elements that develop over the course of the entire record. It’s a solid bookend to close out DOWNBURST.

Bottom Line:
My initial thoughts on this album were true: DOWNBURST is another successful Metal album from one of the most underrated bands on the scene today. When I started listening in January I was really into this album but I shelved it for months…..my loss. A fresh set of spins shows a band building on the success by evolving their sound and becoming more dynamic. Everything is in perfect form from the vocals and music to the songwriting and production. My only complaint is that it feels like the overall sound is a little behind the times, maybe by a year or so. Not to continue to compare but Primal Fear and Kamelot are leaders of this epic style of Power Metal and it seems like Brainstorm is coming in a little late with an album that sounds similar to these two bands’ last recordings. That doesn’t mean that DOWNBURST loses points, it’s still a great record.

Favorite Songs: ‘Falling Spiral Down’, ‘Stained With Sin’, ‘End In Sorrow’, ‘Redemption In Your Eyes’, ‘Frozen’