New Year’s Eve Playlist

Here we are on the eve of 2009 and for some reason I’m getting more of a sense of “the end” rather than “the beginning”. For me, I usually can’t wait for New Year’s. It’s a time to start over, to right wrongs and set things in order. It’s a time of promise and of hope because we all think that the new year will be better then the last. I’ve been very lucky, every year of my life has gotten better. Some years are harder than others but they are all filled with much more good than bad.

Today is a day that I’ve been looking back instead of forward. I’ve remembered old friends and thought of really good times and even some rough ones too. Helping me out in all of this is my CD collection (Hey, I just couldn’t stay serious the whole time, it all comes down to music in the end!). Instead of listening to the upcoming Saxon or Kreator I decided to sit in front of the stereo and spin some albums that I haven’t pulled out in a long time.

Lana Lane – Ballad Collection Special Edition (2000): I’m a big fan of Lana Lane, she’s probably the best female vocalist out there that no one really knows. This collection is a 2 CD set that encompasses both individual albums (BALLAD COLLECTION I & II) in one nice package. Both individual albums are out of print Japanese releases so this reissue is very cool. The ballads fit my mood: slow and relaxing.

Extreme – s/t (1989): Extreme’s first album was one of the great “parking lot” albums of the late ’80s. ‘Mutha (Don’t Wanna Go To School Today’ and ‘Kid Ego’ were big time radio hits on local radio at the time but all the girls in my circle of friends loved the album’s ballad ‘Watching, Waiting’. Good memories of good friends. I was 16 in ’89, we would all park at the Color Tile in the Stop & Shop plaza (we all worked at Stop & Shop) and the cops never kicked us out. We drank a little but it was mostly loud music and hanging out until we found a particular place to party. My favorite off this album is ‘Wind Me Up’.

Damn Yankees – s/t (1990): This album was one of the soundtracks to my senior year in high school and my first year of college. What a solid record, they just had a winning formula with the Tommy Shaw/Jack Blades harmonies. ‘Coming Of Age’ was a big Rock tune but it was the two ballads (‘High Enough’ & ‘Come Again’) that sent the album to mega-status. My best memory was waiting in line in the rain at the Providence Civic Center with a wristband to buy tickets to the Bad Company/Damn Yankees show. We spent four hours in line and the only thing I remember most is the group of Deadheads that were literally camped out because there was a rumor that Grateful Dead tickets were going onsale at some point. We played this album everywhere but this was a car record and still is for me today!

KISS – Psycho Circus (1998): Of all the albums by my favorite band, this one is extremely significant because it’s the album and tour where I got my oldest daughter’s middle name from. No it’s not Gene, Paul, Peter or Ace! PSYCHO CIRCUS was getting a ton of airplay at the time and the tour was opening in Boston (after the Halloween show in L.A.) with 2 shows. I waited in line at a department store that had Ticketmaster around 5am, I was second in line! What I remember most is around 8am a couple came with their 3 yr. old daughter to stand in line. All this little girl did was dance around and talk to all of us KISS freaks…..her name was Jade and that’s my daughter’s middle name.

Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry (1984): I’ve been listening to this album a lot over the last year because my 10 yr. old daughter has taken to this album with such dedication. She reminds me of me at age 10! Actually, my daughter has been raiding my CD cases for all things Twisted Sister and I finally had to load her brand new iPod Nano with all the band’s albums. STAY HUNGRY was one of those album that everyone had back in ’84 and there really isn’t a bad song on the album…..I just can’t listen to ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ anymore. Best song on the album for me is ‘The Price’, my daughter and I duet that one to my wife’s delight. My daughter wants you all to know her favorites are ‘Burn In Hell’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’.

Aersomith – Done With Mirrors (1985): This tour was my first concert. Aerosmith and Ted Nugent at the Providence Civic Center (March 18, 1986). I remember my friend’s older brother buying the tickets because it was the band’s big reunion and we couldn’t miss it. (Just an aside — DONE WITH MIRRORS was the band’s official reunion album, it wasn’t the next album PERMANENT VACATION.) I didn’t have the new record yet and my Mom got it for me on cassette for Valentine’s Day, a full month before the show. I played the hell out of that album: in the car, on my stereo, Walkman, boombox…..I think that was the only album I played for a solid month so I could learn all the tunes. I wrote down the setlist during the show so I wouldn’t forget and I tucked that into the cassette insert. When I replaced the tape with a CD years ago, I moved the paper to the CD booklet. I had forgotten all about that and I found it when I took out the booklet today. I’ve played the CD tons of times over the years but I never bothered with the booklet! They played 5 songs off the new album and I knew every word! To this day, DONE WITH MIRRORS is my favorite Aerosmith record. Here’s that setlist:

1. Back In The Saddle
2. Same Old Song And Dance
3. Bone To Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)
4. Big Ten Inch Record
5. My Fist Your Face
6. Last Child
7. She’s On Fire
8. The Hop
9. Walkin’The Dog
10. Red House
11. Lightning Strikes
12. Shela
13. Walk This Way
14. Let The Music Do The Talking
15. Sweet Emotion
16. Toys In The Attic
17. Dream On
18. Train Kept A Rollin’

CD Scavenger Hunt — DVD Edition

One of the things that I didn’t do much of in 2008 was buy and watch Metal DVDs. I’m not really sure what the problem was, some really good DVDs were released, but I just kept going with CDs. I decided to correct the situation with all the gift cards and cash I got for Xmas.

I took a trip down to my local record store to kill the gift cards first. My major purchase was one of those USB turntables so I can rip vinyl for preservation purposes and my MP3 player. They were $100 but 20% off with the weekly coupon so I used $80 in gift cards to cover it. Armed with a lone gift card for $20, and another coupon, I made my way to the music DVD section…..

manowar-hell-on-earth-part-3Manowar – Hell On Earth Part III (2003) – $16 used: There were two copies of this 2 DVD set: one new for $30 and this one for $16. I’ll take half price any day! I have the first Hell On Earth DVD and it was awesome because Joey DeMaio decided to pack it with content and extras. Part 3 is no exception, it clocks in at 5 1/2 hours WITH over 2 hours of bonus material! Close to 8 hours of Manowar? I hope I’m reading that correctly!

manowar-hell-on-earth-part-2-fire-and-bloodManowar – Hell On Earth Part II: Fire And Blood (2002) – $0 used: If you have Hell On Earth Part 1 and Part 3 then you need to buy Part 2. This DVD has been very hard to come by in my area over the last few years because it always sells out as soon as it comes in to the local shop. For the Xmas season this year, they ordered two brand new copies of Part 2…..one sold the week before Xmas (yes, I keep track of these things!) but the new copy was there the day after Xmas for $25. The good news was that they had a used copy too for half price ($12) so I grabbed it. The tricky part comes at the register…..I had a coupon for 20% off any used DVD (limit 3 DVDs) so the clerk rang both DVDs and took the coupon off but it brought my total to $17 (tax included). Turns out the coupon took the whole price off Part 2 and the guy couldn’t get it to work right. After deleting the transaction twice and trying the ringing it a couple more times, the guy gave up and said “Merry Xmas”. So I got Part 2 for free!

With all the gift cards used I decided to hit Ebay to compare prices with what I saw in the record store. All the new Halford DVDs were on my list this time around…..

fightwarwordsfilmFight – War Of Words The Film (limited edition) (2007) – $16: I’m a huge Rob Halford fan and I am into all of his bands (except Two) so this DVD/CD set should have been bought when it came out but it was so pricey. Halford.com had it for $21 + shipping and the local shop priced it at $28 so I put it off. One of my favorite Ebay sellers got a bunch of new copies and started the bidding at $13. Add the $3 shipping and I’m a happy Metalhead…..

fight-into-the-pit-dvd1Fight – Into The Pit (limited edition) (2008) – $16: One DVD and 3 CDs for close to 2/3 off, that’s a great deal! The record store had it for $40 and Halford.com had it for $39 + shipping so I went with the same Ebay seller and the same exact price as the War Of Words Film DVD. If I was a happy Metalhead before, I’m even happier…..

halfordrockinrioHalford – Resurrection World Tour: Live At Rock In Rio III (2008) – $15: Seeing that my favorite Ebay vendor had Rock In Rio III also I decided to complete the set. Both Halford.com and the record store had this for $25 so I got another good deal. Now I’m an ecstatic Metahead…..with a tons of DVDs to watch!

Total = $65  (I saved $85 by buying used and checking Ebay!)

WANTED: Wild Boyz – Unleashed! (1990)

WANTED

wild-boyz-unleashed

 

Wild Boyz – Unleashed! (1990)

When I got my Internet account back in 1998, I started searching for Hard Rock bands from my youth. I had (and still have) a ton of old Rock magazines and I would grab a back issue and find bands I had forgotten about and search them. Those searches led me to Ebay and one of the rarest CDs at that time, the only release by California’s Wild Boyz, UNLEASHED!

Ten years ago, this CD was a rarity going for at least a couple hundred dollars at auction but the price has levelled off in the last three or four years. You can get an UNLEASHED! CD on Ebay for $40 – $80…..still a little pricey!

I really don’t know that much about the band. I’ve read the comparisons that Wild Boyz is a combination of Poison, Pretty Boy Floyd and Faster Pussycat but I’ve never actually heard a sample. The only other information I’ve had is that there was a Japanese release with a different cover. One of my collecting quirks is acquiring obscure ’80s Glam/Sleaze releases so I need this one.

Check out the Wild Boyz website.

For more history and discussion, check out the Wild Boyz – Unleashed! page at Heavy Harmonies.

‘I Don’t Wanna Cry No More’ 

Coming this week…..

Christmas is over but we have the New Year to look forward to. I love the new year because it gives everyone a chance to “start over” when the reality is that life just keeps going!

Life will continue here at HMA as I already have an eye on 2009. I’ve got some new albums to review that will be released in January and I have enough albums from 2008 that I didn’t review or didn’t pull from the pile. There are also a few DVDs that I need to review as well.

I should be posting everyday from now on (hopefully!) and I’m not really sure what I will write about this week except for a review of the new Saxon album INTO THE LABYRINTH and my 3 Year Blog-versary on Saturday. And I already have a Scavenger Hunt to post because I had to go and blow all the gift cards I got for Xmas!

If you haven’t looked already, please check out the Heavy Metal Addiction 2008 Awards Week for my picks of the best and worst albums & DVDs of 2008. Also look at the links for the reviews and for all the other blogs that posted their list on the same day.

Looking forward to 2009!

— Steve

The Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15)

2008 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I buy a lot of music but the failing economy took it’s toll on my music budget. I was very lucky to have caught the attention of many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review (to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU), without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 30 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection. The ranking of the Top 30 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into two posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here it is, my Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15):

#1

Avantasia - The Scarecrow (2008)Avantasia – The Scarecrow

Tobias Sammet (Edguy) has the magic touch this year and his new concept album THE SCARECROW takes the top spot as Album Of The Year. The album is similar to the first two Avantasia albums, METAL OPERA 1 & 2, in that it is full of guest stars (Alice Cooper, Jorn Lande, Rudolf Schenker, Michael Kiske, Eric Singer, and more) performing  this combination of epic Power Metal blended with hard Rock, Classic Rock, Classical and Folk. That’s a lot to take in at once! Every song is very melodic and I found myself easily singing along after a couple of spins. A good album is one that leaves a lasting impression and THE SCARECROW has been part of my weekly playlist since it’s release in January.

#2

Ayreon - 01011001 (2008)Ayreon – 01011001

A close second! Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Ayreon project is similar to Avantasia with all of the guest stars performing and the epic nature of the music. The difference is that Ayreon’s music is longer, more epic and follows a storyline that started on previous albums. (For a good explanation of the plot, read this album’s Wikipedia page.) This album is almost 2 hours of Progressive Rock & Metal, Power Metal, and Symphonic Metal that is both melodic and heavy…..there is a lot to take in! Even the packaging is complex! There are layers of sound in each song that you sometimes here something different the next time you here it. 01011001 is a little less accessible than THE SCARECROW due to it’s length (2 CDs) and heavy concept but it was a very close second. So close in fact that I almost called a tie!

#3

whitesnakegood_to_be_badWhitesnake – Good To Be Bad

It took 11 years but we finally got a new Whitesnake record and it is a great comeback for David Coverdale. Most of the album retains the Blues Rock that was the basis of the early Whitesnake album while leaning on that big ’80s sound. The songs are full of hooks and great guitar work (Doug Aldrich & Reb Beach) along with that thick Coverdale voice. I had seen the band tour with the Scorpions a couple of years earlier and they were awesome in concert. I knew a new record would have a great sound. It was also good to see this album get a ton of promotion, especially on U.S. television, I didn’t expect to see constant commercials on different channels advertising the CD. In a year full of comebacks (AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Journey), I have to give Whitesnake the best comeback of the year!

#4

Judas Priest - Nostradamus (2008)Judas Priest – Nostradamus

Let the debate begin! Of all the big releases this year from big time bands, no album had more debate then Judas Priest’s double concept album NOSTRADAMUS. I’ve heard all the arguements from “it’s not straight forward Judas Priest” to “it’s too long” to “the concept sucks” to “Iron Maiden could have done it better”…..I think a lot of fans were down on the project due to purely nostalgic reasons. We aren’t going to get the BRITISH STEEL era Judas Priest because they have evolved as musicians and this concept album is what they wanted to do. I’ll admit that Priest isn’t known for their albums being complete epics, they’re more straight forward in their approach, but that doesn’t mean that NOSTRADAMUS is devoid of what makes Priest great. Half the album is instrumental intros that kind of make the album drawn out but the songs do have the Metal that Priest is known for. Rob Halford’s voice sounds better than it has in years and he puts in perhaps the performance of his career. The music is really good if you listen without prejudice and I don’t want to get into that synth guitar arguement because KK Downing & Glenn Tipton have been using them all along. Give NOSTRADAMUS a spin without hoping for 1980 Judas Priest and you will find a great album. This album was tough to get through due to the length (close to 2 hours) but repeated listens have pushed this album from a grower to #4.

#5

Royal Hunt - Collision Course - Paradox II Royal Hunt – Collision Course: Paradox II

This has to be the year of the concept album because the latest offering from Royal Hunt is the 4th concept album in the Top 5! Let’s not even get into the conceptual aspect, the music alone is melodic Power/Progressive Metal with solid musicianship and  great vocal performance from new singer Mark Boals. The last few Royal Hunt albums have been disappointing but COLLISION COURSE proves that the band is still a force. I was surprised at how melodic this album really is because some of the band’s previous efforts were held down by too much keyboard noodling, I think adding Mark Boals to the band adds a fresh influence and creativity.

#6

cover_globaldramaCloudscape – Global Drama

Like the entire Top 5, GLOBAL DRAMA has remained part of my weekly playlist since it’s release. I’ve had the album since late July and I just keep playing it…..that’s the sign of a good record! Cloudscape is a Progressive Metal band but they are very melodic (like Royal Hunt) while retaining their heaviness. The first couple of spins made me think of Kamelot, Balance Of Power and Symphony X…..that’s a good group to be in. Cloudscape was on my list to check out and now they are one of the best newer bands I’ve heard in a long time, I’m currently on the hunt for the band’s previous albums.

#7

msg-in-the-midst-of-beauty-2008Michael Schenker Group – In The Midst Of Beauty

When guitar legend Michael Schenker puts his head down and stays focused, he makes truly great records. There is no denying his talent on guitar but his career has been plagued with different challenges and the subsequent results aren’t always the best musically. IN THE MIDST OF BEAUTY is an almost full reunion of the original MSG: Gary Barden is back on the mic, Don Airey on keys, Simon Phillips on drums and Neil Murray handling bass instead of Mo Foster. That’s as solid a lineup as you’re going to get and I think the strong supporting cast influenced Michael because he created some of the best music of his career, it’s as if you can hear Michael’s happiness in his playing. The album is melodic and heavy with a ton of riffs for the guitar enthusiast but the music is enhanced by that cool Hammond organ Airey commands giving the album a late ’70s/early ’80s sound, almost like classic UFO. If Whitesnake was my comeback of the year then Michael Schenker is a close second.

#8

Journey Revelation (2008) Journey – Revelation

If there ever was a band that described AOR/Melodic Rock then Journey is that band. The last couple of years have been trying for the band with all the rotation at the lead singer slot (Steve Augeri, Jeff Scott Soto) but the band grabbed a virtual unknown, Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, and made an album that is pure classic Journey. Melodic Rock at it’s finest, Journey’s new songs are full of harmonies, good melodies, soaring vocals and really good guitar. Let me add they are also well written and produced too. The band new that another new lead singer would be a gamble but Pineda puts on a great performance that is on par with Steve Perry’s legacy. There was also great value here with a second disc of re-recorded greatest hits and a bonus live DVD…..you can’t beat that for $15! All year long I have been saying that if the music industry wasn’t so screwed up then Journey would have a multi-platinum hit album with REVELATION.

#9

Def Leppard - Songs From The Sparkle Lounge (2008)Def Leppard – Songs From the Sparkle Lounge

I know it’s not fashionable to like Def Leppard because they have “sold out” and downplayed their NWOBHM and Hard Rock roots over the years but they do make very good records. SPARKLE LOUNGE is one of those albums that just has that mix of catchy ’80s Hard Rock and current modern Rock that mainstream radio lives for. The music is full of hooks and melody and the songs are all well done except for one repetitive dud (‘C’mon C’mon’). The Leps know how to make a catchy record and this one had me hooked in and singing along. I like the trademark big sound combined with the ’70s influences and modern updates. Def Leppard takes a lot of criticism but they make good music.

#10

moonspell-night-eternal-2008Moonspell – Night Eternal

I wasn’t expecting much from a new Moonspell album but I was completely surprised by NIGHT ETERNAL and it’s variety of sound. Moonspell plays a blend of Black, Death, Gothic and Power Metals all rolled into one with grand orchestration and both clean and harsh vocals. Get all that? The album is dark and heavy but it’s also very melodic and there are some beautiful orchestrations that enhance the overall sound. As I started re-listening to my 2008 CDs to make this Top 30, NIGHT ETERNAL kept creeping closer and closer to the Top 10. I had the promo for a long time but I ended up buying a proper copy at the local shop for around $13 and the value was really good: a bonus track ‘Age Of Mothers’ and a two alternate versions of ‘Scorpion Flower’ along with a bonus DVD of live Wacken 2007 performances. This kind of music isn’t my usual first choice but I expanded my horizons this year and I rediscovered Moonspell.

#11

benedictum-seasons-of-tragedyBenedictum – Seasons Of Tragedy

I’ve had SEASONS OF TRAGEDY since it’s U.S. release in March and it is one of the best Traditional Metal albums of the year. A lot of Metal fans might be thrown off by having a female frontwoman but I can tell you that Veronica Freeman kicks a whole lot of ass on the mic! Her vocals are extremely powerful to go along with the fast pummelling music that’s behind her. This is Benedictum’s second album and they steer clear of the sophomore jinx with an album heavy on Power Metal and Thrash that I can only describe as an aural assault. One of the best new U.S. Metal bands out there.

#12

Alice Cooper - Along Came A Spider (2008)Alice Cooper – Along Came A Spider

Another concept album making the Top 30? Of course! Especially if it’s an Alice Cooper album! I’m a huge Alice Cooper fan, always have been, and this is one of the best albums he’s released in the last few years. ALONG CAME A SPIDER has a perfect character for Alice to play (a serial killer named Spider) and he adds his own blend of shock, horror and humor to the performance. The one thing that Alice has done successfully with his last few albums is to revisit some of the classic ’70s sounds that made him the king of Shock Rock and he incorporates this sound with enough modern tendencies to make it sound fresh. the concept might not be all that original but Alice plays it perfectly and the songs are all very good with top production.

#13

uriah-heep-wake-the-sleeper-2008Uriah Heep – Wake The Sleeper

I’ll bet a lot of you are scratching your heads. If you don’t know who Uriah Heep is then you are missing out, the band has been around for close to 40 years and their sound is similar to Deep Purple but with a bit more Progressive Rock. WAKE THE SLEEPER is the first Heep album in a decade and I wasn’t really expecting much but these elder statesman have roared back with a heavy melodic album. Mick Box still plays a mean guitar and Phil Lanzon adds his Hammond organ in to fill out the sound but the performance of the album goes to long time singer Bernie Shaw who puts in one of the best vocal performances of the year.

#14

shannon-angel-in-disguiseShannon – Angel In Disguise

ANGEL IN DISGUISE turned out to be one of the surprises of 2008. I had the album in my growing pile for a couple of months before I got to it and I wasted all that listening time because the record is top flight melodic Metal. Usually, there are a couple of duds in the tracklisting but each song is well done and has plenty of melodic hooks and Euro-Metal power to satisfy a wide range of Metal fans. It’s always a great year when you discover new bands, Shannon will be a band I watch closely in 2009.

#15

testament-the-formation-of-damnation-2008Testament – The Formation Of Damnation

2008 was the year of the concept album and the year of the comeback and Testament came back in a big way with this pounding Thrash assault. This is the album that we all wish Metallica had in them, it’s an in your face old school Thrash attack by a band that I consider one of the best in the genre but sometimes overlooked. This album is one heavy record that easily blows away a lot of modern Thrash out in the last couple of years.

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Please check out the Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16-#30) for the other half of my Top 30 list.

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In case my list wasn’t enough, or you simply don’t agree, some other great Music blogs have listed their Top Albums of 2008:

All Metal Resource
Bring Back Glam
Hair Metal Mansion

Hard Rock Hideout
Heavy Metal Time Machine

Imagine Echoes
Layla’s Classic Rock
Metal Excess

The Metal Minute
The Ripple Effect
Rock And Roll and Meandering Nonsense

Rock Of Ages

The Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16-#30)

2008 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I buy a lot of music but the failing economy took it’s toll on my music budget. I was very lucky to have caught the attention of many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review (to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU), without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 30 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection. The ranking of the Top 30 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into two posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here it is, my Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16 – #30):

#16

motorhead-motorizerMotörhead – Motörizer

The only thing that Motörhead does year in and year out is make really good Heavy Metal albums and this year is no exception. MOTÖRIZER isn’t groundbreaking, it sounds just like all the other Motörhead records before it, but it’s a solid consistent effort from a band that is legendary but never gets the success it deserves. Any year with a new Motörhead album in it is a good one.

#17

acdc-black-iceAC/DC – Black Ice

It only took 8 years but AC/DC finally came roaring back with a really strong album in BLACK ICE. It’s more Blues than in your face Hard Rock but the typical AC/DC punch is still there. Brian Johnson sounds like he turned back the hands of time and the team of Angus & Malcolm Young on guitars still has the fire that burned in the ’70s & ’80s. A great comeback!

#18

Gypsy Pistoleros - Para Siempre (2008)Gypsy Pistoleros – Para Siempre

Technically, PARA SIEMPRE is a reissue of the Gypsy Pistoleros’ debut, WILD, BEAUTIFUL, DAMNED (2007), remastered with two additional songs added in. I wasn’t sold on taking traditional music from Spain and mixing it into a Hard Rock blender but the Pistoleros do a great job of channelling the Crue, GNR, and Hanoi Rocks mixed with flamenco and Spanish music. I’m half Colombian so I dig the Spanish influences and I really like the mix of English & Spanish (the band calls it “Spanglish”) to give it an added dimension.

#19

jorn-lonely-are-the-brave-2008Jorn – Lonely Are The Brave

Jorn Lande continues to make some of the best Metal records of the last decade and LONELY ARE THE BRAVE is no exception. Jorn is a monster vocally and the surrounding cast is as solid as they come. Unfortunately, I bought this very late in the year so I haven’t had much time to enjoy it.

#20

Brainstorm - Downburst (2008)Brainstorm – Downburst

Another great album from one of the most underrated bands in Heavy Metal. Brainstorm plays great epic Power Metal but DOWNBURST shows a band that is willing to evolve it’s sound and becoming more dynamic. It’s not a groundbreaking album but the band follows the path laid down by Primal Fear and Kamelot.

#21

dokken-lightning-strikes-again-2008Dokken – Lightning Strikes Again

Dokken’s best album since 1999’s ERASE THE SLATE, the band continues to play melodic Hard Rock with a great musicianship and songwriting. Jon Levin adds some George Lynch style playing back into the overall Dokken sound and the rhythm section of Barry Sparks and Mick Brown is as solid as ever. Don Dokken’s vocals are a little underwhelming because he doesn’t hit the highs he used to and there really isn’t a solid backing track. Still a very good album.

#22

nightranger-holeinthesun-usa coverNight Ranger – Hole In The Sun

HOLE IN THE SUN is a more modern sounding Night Ranger but there is still the trademark melodic sound that made them a big success back in their ’80s heyday. Best performance on the album goes to drummer/singer Kelly Keagy because his vocals were excellent. This album didn’t really get me at first but it grew on me as I played it more.

#23

temujin-1000-tears-2008Temujin – 1000 Tears

I’m a big fan of female-fronted Gothic/Ambient Metal and Temujin debuts with an album that has the guitars leading the way and the vocals keeping the listener entranced. Temujin vocalist Kelly has a beautiful voice that reminds me of The Gathering’s Anneke Van Giersbergen in that her performance is powerful without going over the top. A solid debut.

#24

tyr-landTýr – Land

LAND was my first experience listening to Týr and I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes the terms Pagan Metal or Viking Metal throws fans off but what really is happening is Metal mixed with Nordic influences. Týr blends traditional folk to their Metal and uses their native language, as well as choir style backing vocals, to enhance their sound. This album got me into a whole new genre of Metal.

#25

Pharaoh - Be Gone (2008)Pharaoh – Be Gone

Pharaoh creates gool old traditional U.S. Metal based on good guitars, a solid rhythm section and good vocals. The band puts the power forward but you get the general idea after the first few songs. The album gets better as it continues and the band stretches out a little.

#26

the-sword-gods-of-the-earth (2008)The Sword – Gods Of The Earth

I didn’t get into The Sword’s first album but, when I put on this new album, I immeadiately heard what I was missing. GODS OF THE EARTH has an early Thrash and NWOBHM element added to a sludgy Doom Metal groove. It’s a very heavy record that’s grown on me all year long.

#27

Griffen - Linked In Eternity (2008)Griffen – Linked In Eternity

I found out about Griffen because of my obsession with ’80s Swedish metallers Torch: two current members of Torch are in Griffen. Technically, LINKED IN ETERNITY is a promo demo E.P. but it’s done so well I’m throwing it in the countdown. The band plays a really good blend of Traditional Metal and melodic Hard Rock so I have no idea how these guys aren’t signed to a label.

#28

uli-jon-roth-under-a-dark-skyUli Jon Roth – Under A Dark Sky

Anytime guitar maestro Uli Jon Roth releases a new album it’s a good year! How can you deny the talent of a man that was so unsatisfied with regular guitars that he went out and invented one (the Sky Guitar) that suited his ability? I gues you could call this a true Rock opera with all the classical elements and orchestral movements but the underlying focus is Roth’s playing.

#29

Black Tide - Light From Above (2008)Black Tide – Light From Above

A strong debut from a band whose members are only a couple years removed from high school. I was surprised with all the old school Metal influences in the music from such a young band. What the band lacks in experience they more than make up for in attitude and energy. A solid debut.

#30

metallica-death-magneticMetallica – Death Magnetic

See what happens when a band goes back and listens to their previous records, they make a Heavy Metal album! This is the album that Metallica needed to make to prove that they can still play Metal. Some of the songs are a little long but that’s a small complaint, the songs are really good…..better than I expected. Hopefully Metallica continues in this direction.

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Please check out the Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15) for the other half of my Top 30 list.

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In case my list wasn’t enough, or you simply don’t agree, some other great Music blogs have listed their Top Albums of 2008:

All Metal Resource
Bring Back Glam
Hair Metal Mansion

Hard Rock Hideout
Heavy Metal Time Machine

Imagine Echoes
Layla’s Classic Rock
Metal Excess

The Metal Minute
The Ripple Effect
Rock And Roll and Meandering Nonsense

Rock Of Ages

The 5 Worst Albums of 2008

2008 was another banner year for new albums, bands from all different genres of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal released good albums this year and I was on the frontlines buying them up as they came out. There were definitely some bad ones too and I picked up a few of them over the course of the year also. Some releases were just plain bad, some were huge disappointments, some I just couldn’t stand…..so here is my list of The 5 Worst Albums of 2008:

#1

engelabsolutedesignEngel – Absolute Design

An easy choice for 2008’s worst album. This was supposed to be a combination of Industrial and Melodic Death Metal and all that came out of it was a Nu-Metal sound. Once I heard the trendy down-tuned guitars, the synth and the samples I knew I wouldn’t like it. Think Ozzfest bands like Linkin Park, Papa Roach & Korn minus the raps…..plain awful!

#2

bretmichaelsrockmyworldBret Michaels – Rock My World

This is not a “real” new album. Of the 12 tracks, only three were brand new songs, the rest came from previous Bret solo records. So why does it get inclusion here if it’s not a “real” album? That’s how it was advertised to the fans: a brand new album of new material! I’ll go officially on record saying that I like Poison, and I like Bret Michaels as a frontman, but to fleece the fans with false advertising can’t be forgiven. At least Gene Simmons tells us that he’s fleecing us! Musically, I can only take so much sad sack ‘Something To Believe In’ and ‘Unskinny Bop’ rehashing. If Bret went straight up Country he would be more credible.

#3

Don Dokken - Solitary (2008)Don Dokken – Solitary

The last time Don Dokken released a solo album we got the very good UP FROM THE ASHES (1990). On the eve of a new album by his main band, Dokken, Don decided to release this new solo record at his live solo shows and through his personal website. When you see the name Don Dokken on a CD, you know to expect melodic Hard Rock, this time around a nine song acoustic album that follows the “lost love” and “personal pain” themes. In all honesty, it’s a decent acoustic album. I placed it here for the sheer disappointment with the entire project, definitely not Don Dokken’s best work.

#4

Asia - Phoenix (2008)Asia – Phoenix

The Asia of the early ’80s had big hits with ‘Heat Of The Moment’, ‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘Only Time Will Tell’ because of their uptempo melodic hooks that made each song infectious. The opening track ‘Never Enough’ follows the same path but the band must have thought that was enough because every other song is either a ballad, mid-tempo, or a lengthy progressive number. The musicianship is great but there is no guitar…..well, it’s there somewhere. What could have been a huge Melodic Rock record ended up being a bore.

#5

queen_the_cosmos_rocks_album_coverQueen + Paul Rodgers – The Cosmos Rocks 

This is the first Queen album WITHOUT Freddie Mercury (R.I.P.). That should say it all. I understand that musicians need to play live and stay creative but sometimes releasing an album of new material isn’t the way to go. I saw the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour, it was phenomenal! Rodgers did his best to interpret and celebrate the Queen catalog and it worked…..live. The music on THE COSMOS ROCKS sounds forced, as if Roger Taylor and Brian May tried too hard to create the Queen sound. Or maybe they don’t know any better! An album that shouldn’t have been released, leave the Queen legacy alone. The only winner here was John Deacon.

The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2008

2008 was another great year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal DVDs but I didn’t buy nearly as many as I did last year. This year was all about the quality instead of the quantity as the global economy became the issue of the year. The good news is that bands are taking great care when producing these DVDs by adding extra content, bonus footage and CDs of live performances to the overall packages. Money has to be spent wisely and the following list of DVDs gave a lot of bang for my hard earned buck! Here’s my list of The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2008:

#1

Iron Maiden - Live After Death DVD (2008)Iron Maiden – Live After Death

There was no competing with Iron Maiden when it came to DVD of the Year. Live After Death was released in early February and it led wire to wire as the best DVD released this year. The original Live After Death concert footage was in dire need of a proper DVD release and the band answered the call with a remastered DVD of the full performance from the old VHS. In addition to the main feature, the band exceeded expectations and went the extra mile with the second DVD including the History of Iron Maiden, Behind The Iron Curtain, Rock In Rio ’85, ‘Ello Texas, and promotional videos. With over 5+ hours of content and landmark performances Iron Maiden’s latest DVD was the best value of the year, I paid $14 on sale and it was money well spent.

#2

ironmaidenandnewwaveofbyw4Iron Maiden and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal

Just like KISS did last year, Iron Maiden has taken the first two slots in this year’s DVD awards…..technically. This DVD has a disclaimer on the back that states that “this film is not authorized by the current lineup of Iron Maiden nor by their management or record label”. So the band had nothing to do with the release but there is plenty of archival footage of the band as they spearheaded probably the most important movement in Heavy metal history: The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. There is a ton of music and footage, both studio and live recordings, of many of the major NWOBHM bands like Saxon, Samson, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Def Leppard, Praying Mantis and more. Bands members are interviewed as are industry experts like Malcolm Dome, Geoff Barton, and Garry Bushell along with perhaps THE most influential man in the NWOBHM movement, legendary Metal DJ Neil Kay. A DVD that has over 2 1/2 hours of NWOBHM history would have easily taken the top spot any other year but it came in a close second to Live After Death even though I bought it at the end of December. 

#3

gamma-ray-hell-yeah-the-awesome-foursome-live-in-montreal-dvdGamma Ray – Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome – Live In Montreal 

Gamma Ray of one of the best Power Metal bands of all-time and they released an excellent 2 DVD set this year. Disc 1 is a full 2 hour live performance in Montreal, Canada from May 2006. Right there that should be enough but the band adds a second DVD with 2 1/2 hours of bonus footage including a road movie from their 2006 North American tour, videos, Wacken Open Air performances from 2003 & 2006, and Historay. How can you beat over 4 1/2 hours of Gamma Ray for less than $20? The only thing that could have put this in the top spot was if the accompanying CD release of the Montreal concert was included. If that was included and not a separate release, this DVD set would have come very close to taking top honors this year.

#4

heavy-metal-in-baghdad-dvdHeavy Metal In Baghdad

I have always liked learning about the Heavy Metal scene in different countries and Heavy Metal In Baghdad helped me explore the Metal scene in war-torn Iraq. The film follows the Iraqi Metal band Acrassicauda from the beginning of the U.S./Iraq war to the band’s escape from the country and their survival in a new home. There is a lot of talk about “living for Heavy Metal” and “following your dreams” in the Metal scene but that is exactly what Acrassicauda do. Playing Heavy Metal in a country like Iraq is not something that the government and religious community embrace, this makes bands like Acrassicauda outcasts. With their lives in danger everyday with the threats of war, the band members follow their dreams and fight to survive. It shows you how lucky we are in the U.S. This DVD is just under3 hours and includes the main 90 minute film and an additional 90 mins of bonus footage.

#5

paul-stanley-one-live-kiss-dvdPaul Stanley – One Live KISS

KISS is my favorite band and last year they took the top two spots with KISSology Volumes 2 & 3. Here to represent the band is founder, frontman and guitarist Paul Stanley with a DVD chronicling his sold-out solo performance in Chicago on 11/6/2006. The 21 song setlist includes tracks from his 2006 solo album LIVE TO WIN as well as many KISS klassics that you never get to hear. It’s a very basic release in terms of content, there really isn’t much bonus material, but the footage shows off the one thing KISS fans have known for decades: Paul Stanley is the talent in KISS! Highlights for me were some of the tracks from Paul’s 1978 solo album like ‘Move On’, ‘Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me?’, & ‘Goodbye’.

Albums I Missed in 2007

There are so many albums released every year that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Usually I spend the first two months of the new year acquiring all the albums I didn’t buy the previous year before all the new releases start to flood the market. 2007 was no exception, I missed more than a few notable Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums, but I made up for it in 2008. The following is a list of albums I missed in 2007 and picked up at some point in 2008. Some of these records might have cracked my Top 15 Albums of 2007 or at least extended it to a Top 20 or 25.

after-forever-2007After Forever – s/t (2007): I picked up this album January 2nd and it has remained in my playlist pile the entire year. I have always been a fan of female-fronted Gothic/Symphonic Metal bands and bands like The Gathering, Lacuna Coil, and Tristania have made me take a good look around the scene for bands I overlooked. What I like about After Forever is their use of beautiful operatic female vocals courtesy of Floor Jansen mixed with Death Metal growls while keeping everything heavy. This album would have easily made my Top Albums list if I had bought it last year.

anvil-this-is-thirteen-2007Anvil – This Is Thirteen (2007): I’m an old school Metal guy and it doesn’t get more old school than Anvil! Independently released and limited to 1000 copies through their website, Anvil created an album that is straight forward Heavy Metal. The band is like AC/DC in that they don’t stray too far from their original sound. Heavy riffs, solid drumming and gritty vocals…..that’s all that’s needed. Like I said in the review, THIS IS THIRTEEN is one of the most underrated albums of 2007!

Armory - The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007)Armory – The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007): I stumbled on Armory when I was looking up local New England Metal bands on MySpace. I heard the songs on their page and I was hooked! The guys in the band were kind enough to submit their album for review and I got one of the best Metal albums of 2007! I can even tell you that it would easily have made the best of list from last year at #7. Traditional/Power Metal blended with Progressive and Thrash Metal…..Armory is a band that has shot to the top of my list for a band to watch.

Gamma Ray - Land Of The Free II (2007)Gamma Ray – Land Of The Free II (2007): LAND OF THE FREE II was released in 2007 in Europe and Japan, we had to wait until January in the U.S. I picked up the European version in January from a CD sale at the local record store the same day the album was officially released here in the States. Is there really any difference? Nothing bothers me more than when a CD gets released eveywhere else and we have to wait a few weeks, or months, for a proper U.S. release. It’s either that or buy the import! It’s an excellent Power Metal record by one of the best in the genre but it seemed to get lost in my playlist with all the new albums coming out.

Helix - The Power Of Rock And Roll (2007)Helix – The Power Of Rock And Roll (2007): This album is a re-release of the GET UP! promotional disc with four more songs added in for good measure. Helix hasn’t changed their sound over the years, they still play the good time party Hard Rock that made them a success in the ’80s. Another album that would have made my Best of 2007 list.

King Diamond - Give Me Your Soul... Please (2007)King Diamond – Give Me Your Soul…Please (2007): Nothing can beat a new King Diamond album and I passed on this one too many times in 2007. Not sure why because it was on my list all year long and I just kept leaving it the racks. I bought this CD the same day I bought the Gamma Ray disc at a really good price and playing this regularly over the last year got me to fill some of the King Diamond/Mercyful Fate holes in my collection.

Lana Lane - Red Planet Boulevard artworkLana Lane – Red Planet Boulevard (2007): I passed on this album in 2007 because I was disappointed with the last few Lana Lane albums. There are so many live records and covers collections you can take before you need real songs and it had been 5 years since 2002’s PROJECT SHANGRI-LA. The conceptual LADY MACBETH was in there somewhere but I couldn’t get into it at all. This album is exactly what I was hoping for from Lana Lane and it’s another release that would have made my Best of 2007 list.

Nightwish - Dark Passion Play (2007)Nightwish – Dark Passion Play (2007): I have never been a big Nightwish fan because of the Opera style vocals of former vocalist Tarja Turunen but I had a couple of their CDs. Nightwish split with Tarja and the news wasn’t taken lightly by many of the band’s fans. When the band announced that former Alyson Avenue vocalist Anette Olzen would replace Tarja, I knew that it was a great move. I liked Alyson Avenue a lot and Olzen’s style is more to my liking. This is another one of those albums that had an international release in 2007 but a U.S. release in 2008. I ended up grabbing the last sale copy of the collector’s edition that included an expanded booklet and a 2nd CD of orchestral versions of the album.

U.D.O. - Mastercutor (2007)U.D.O. – Mastercutor (2007): I missed the release date on MASTERCUTOR and I was trying to hold out until I could find the European limited edition with the bonus tracks. Unfortunately, that search continues but I picked up a U.S. copy used for $7 and it was one of the best purchases all year. I’ve been an Accept/U.D.O. fan all along and I usually pick up anything these bands put out but I missed out on one of the best releases of the 2007.

Wasp - Dominator (2007)W.A.S.P. – Dominator (2007): I passed on DOMINATOR for the same reasons I passed on Lana Lane’s RED PLANET BOULEVARD, I wasn’t thrilled with W.A.S.P.’s last few albums and I wasn’t going to waste my time with an album that wasn’t good enough to get U.S. distribution. It just had to be bad. W.A.S.P. had released two stinkers with the NEON GOD records and I just figured that this one would follow suit. This album blew me away and ended up becoming one of my 2007 favorites, just like the U.D.O. album.

CD Scavenger Hunt – The final hunt of 2008

I went out on my final CD hunt last Wednesday to the local record store. I had two “$5 off a $25 purchase” coupons to use up before they expired so I took the two hours I had free before I had to pick up the kids at school and went shopping. I braved a small crowd buying up Xmas gifts and I managed to find a couple of bargains…..

yngwie-malmsteen-odyssey-1988Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – Odyssey (1988) – $10: Have I ever told you my Yngwie ODYSSEY story? I had it on cassette and it died. I could buy this album brand new for $15 anywhere over the years but I chose to be difficult and buy it used. Over the last ten years I have bought this CD used at least 5 or 6 times and each time there has been a scratch that has made the CD skip. In a couple of cases, I even used a CD fixer before I returned it to the store I bought it. Everytime I walk into one of my local shops, I always grab the new copy of ODYSSEY for $15 and say “Today is the day I’m buying it!”. I walked in the local shop and this album was under one of the staff’s recommended picks and it was brand new for ten bucks! I finally bought it…..

Music Review Twisted SisterTwisted Sister – Live At The Astoria (2008) – $16: I meant to go and grab this two weeks agao when it came out but I forgot. Twisted Sister has had a successful resurgence in the last few years but the revival in my house is due to my 10 year old daughter who has become a total SMF. She’s way too young for me to explain what SMF actually means, all she knows is that it’s what the band calls their fans! The pressure from her to buy the new TS album, and the sale price, was enough for me to pull the trigger. $16 isn’t bad for a CD/DVD combo.

Purchase #1 Total = $21 (after the $5 off coupon)

I give my local shop some credit for having good sale prices and coupons but enforcing the “1 coupon per customer” rule is kind of dumb. I work in retail and I know that policies like that can be relaxed a little, especially when you know a customer is going to walk out of the store and turn around through the entrance again! Unfortunately, the guy at the counter was being an enforcer so I went out to the car, dropped off Yngwie & Twisted, and went back in for more…..

jorn-lonely-are-the-brave-2008Jorn Lande – Lonely Are The Brave (2008) – $14: I finally broke down and picked up the U.S. release because I know that I am never going to break down and order the  European Limited Edition with the two bonus tracks. I keep meaning to order it or buy it from Ebay but I never get around to it.

ironmaidenandnewwaveofbyw4Iron Maiden & The NWOBHM DVD (2008) – $18: I am a huge NWOBHM fan and I love anything that has to do with NWOBHM history. This DVD has been on my radar since it’s release earlier in the year but the online prices have been too high. The record store finally got in a copy and I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve already watched it 3 times and it’s a great DVD.

Purchase Total #2 = $28 (after the second $5 off coupon)

That’s not all! I had a few bucks left in Paypal and I like to use it all up by the end of the year so I went to Ebay and decided to grab a CD that has been too expensive until now…..

kiss-jigoku-retsudenKISS – Jigoku Retsuden (2008) – $28: I featured this album in the WANTED column back in October but the high price for this Japan only release had me scared. The economy has sucked so bad that spending close to $30 on one CD is too rich right now. I never had a problem before but this feeling of responsibility has stopped the purchase until now. The CD was $28 and the shipping was $8 for registered airmail but I had close to $40 in Paypal from selling some old junk online…..I consider this purchase a freebie!

Heavy Metal Addiction 2008 Awards Week

Christmas week is finally here, and it’s also the last full week of December 2008, that means it’s time for my year end awards. It’s been another great year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal and I have listened to more new releases by many different bands in many different genres. I have a huge pile of albums released in 2008 that I have been re-listening to over the last few weeks so I can post my picks for the best and the worst of 2008. I will post those picks along with my top DVD picks, albums I missed in 2007 that could have made my best of 2007 list, and the last CD Scavenger Hunt of the year. I’ve got my eye on 2009 and I already have some new releases to get to, my 3 year Blog-versary, and catching up with 2008.

Here is this week’s schedule:

SundayThe final CD Scavenger Hunt of 2008

MondayAlbums I Missed in 2007

TuesdayThe Top 5 Music DVDs of 2008

WednesdayThe 5 Worst Albums of 2008

ThursdayMerry Christmas!

FridayThe Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16-#30)

SaturdayThe Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15)

DragonForce – Ultra Beatdown (2008)

Dragonforce - Ultra Beatdown (2008)

DragonForce – Ultra Beatdown (2008, Roadrunner)

  1. Heroes Of Our Time
  2. The Fire Still Burns
  3. Reasons To Live
  4. Heartbreak Armageddon
  5. The Last Journey Home
  6. A Flame For Freedom
  7. Inside The Winter Storm
  8. The Warrior Inside
  9. Strike Of The Ninja (bonus track on special edition CD)
  10. Scars Of Yesterday (bonus track on special edition CD)

Band Lineup:
ZP Theart – Lead & Backing Vocals
Herman Li – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Sam Totman – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Frédéric Leclerq – Bass, Backing Vocals & additional Rhythm/Acoustic Guitars
Vadim Pruzhanov – Keyboards, Theremin, Kaoss Pad & Backing Vocals
Dave Mackintosh – Drums & Backing Vocals

Producers: Karl Groom, Herman Li, Sam Totman

Total Time = 1:09:55

Dragonforce official website
Dragonforce MySpace page
Roadrunner Records

Like many true Metal fans, my first DragonForce experience came in 2003 when this acclaimed new Power Metal band released their debut record VALLEY OF THE DAMNED. I had read enough articles and reviews online of how Dragonforce was the next big Metal band so I figured I’d give them a try. Then I forgot about them.

My next DragonForce experience was when I beat the Playstation 2 version (my wife won’t let me buy a PS3….yet!) of Guitar Hero III medium, the bonus song was ‘Through the Fire And Flames’ from the band’s third album INHUMAN RAMPAGE. I didn’t realize it at the time but DragonForce hysteria was about to infiltrate both the Metal, and Gaming, cultures. In a matter of months, the band exploded and they were one of the most talked about bands in Metal. Their second and third albums were re-released as deluxe editions, the band toured the U.S., and the video game industry adopted the band as their Heavy Metal ambassador. Everyone was talking DragonForce, people were posting YouTube videos of 10 year olds playing Guitar Hero III on the expert level, and the Metal media was giving the band tons of praise. I forgot about them again.

I picked up ULTRA BEATDOWN when it came out and I have been listening to it regularly, all I hear is very fast Power Metal. Or can this be a version of Speed Metal? The music is played at high speed: frantic dual guitars, pounding bass and speedy double bass drumming mixed with an extremely melodic lead singer. The problem comes when the keyboards sound like and old Nintendo game and the lyrics seem more a cliché than anything else. We’ve heard it all before from the likes of Helloween, Gamma Ray, Grave Digger, Hammerfall and Primal Fear…..there is only so far that ultra fast Power Metal can go.

The band are very accomplished players and they do create some really good fast songs but there are just too many of them. Is it possible to be too extreme? Too fast? The first song on the album is the lead single ‘Heroes Of Our Time’ and it’s a really good track full duelling guitars, a powerful rhythm section, and vocal harmonies that play to the band’s strengths. This is one of my favorite songs on the album and it’s definitely one of the fastest on the record.

‘Heroes Of Our Time’

Lead singer ZP Theart has a great voice for this kind of music but I think he gets drowned out by the pace on half the album. Some of the best moments of the album are when the band takes their foot off the gas pedal for a second and slow down to a normal pace (‘The Last Journey Home’). When the band slows things down a little they prove that they have more to their overall style than just pure speed, they are also very melodic. Listen to the almost ballad like ‘A Flame For Freedom’ and you can hear more power in the bands delivery than in some of the speed tracks. I know that this flys in the face of the bands calling card but it shows a diversity that DragonForce will need as their career continues. An interesting song to listen to is the second track ‘The Fire Still Burns’. This song is speedy but has an element of melodic AOR to it. Listen for Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ melody throughout the song, it’s obvious. As is Toto’s ‘Africa’ although that’s a little harder to detect.

When I picked ULTRA BEATDOWN up, I decided to get the full DragonForce experience and I bought the special edition with two bonus tracks: ‘Strike Of The Ninja’ and ‘Scars Of Yesterday’. ‘Strike Of The Ninja’ sounds like Hammerfall with it’s fast guitars and melodic vocals. It’s a more controlled DragonForce rather then the “pedal to the metal” band that is on the bulk of the record, this is how I envision the band evolving their sound on records to come. The second song, ‘Scars Of Yesterday’, is 8 minutes of lightning fast playing but there are enough slower parts to show off the melodic flash. I like both songs a lot, good thing I paid the extra few bucks, but the video game style keyboards have to go.

Bottom Line:
Speed. Speed. More speed.

These four words can sum up the latest DragonForce record, ULTRA BEATDOWN, very easily. The band’s trademark is their ability to play incredibly fast but it’s their melodic undertones that are one of their real strengths. I liked most of the songs on this album but it all got a little repetitive after a while, there are only so many speed demon songs I can take before I want something different. There are flashes of an expanding sound when the band slows things down a little but the band remains true to their main ideal…..speed. Overall, a good record, enough to get me to check out the band’s second and third albums and keep an eye on their future output. There is a ton of potential that just needs to tapped.

Favorite Songs: ‘Heroes Of Our Time’, ‘The Last Journey Home’, ‘A Flame For Freedom’, ‘Strike Of The Ninja’, ‘Scars Of Yesterday’