Archive for January, 2009

It’s the day before the Superbowl and I am ready for action! Like any self-respecting New England Patriots season ticket holder (17 years and counting!), I cannot justify rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers. So I am throwing all of my rooting interest to the Arizona Cardinals.

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Here’s to Arizona being crowned champions of the National Football League!

Final score:
Arizona Cardinals  27
Pittsburgh Steelers 20

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Sinner – Crash & Burn (2009, Candlelight Records)

  1. Crash & Burn
  2. Break The Silence
  3. The Dog
  4. Heart Of Darkness
  5. Revolution
  6. Unbreakable
  7. Fist To Face
  8. Until It Hurts
  9. Little Head
  10. Connection
  11. Like A Rock

Band Lineup:
Mat Sinner – Bass & Vocals
Henny Wolter – Guitar
Christof Leim – Guitar
Klaus Sperling – Drums

Producer: Mat Sinner

Total Time = 41:44

Country: Germany

Sinner official website
Sinner MySpace page
Candlelight Records USA

Sinner is one of those German Metal bands that I have always meant to take a serious listen to but never got around to it. Taking a look at my CD collection, it turns out I have a couple late ’90s albums (1997′s JUDGEMENT DAY and 1998′s THE NATURE OF EVIL) but I think I’ve only given them a couple spins each about a decade ago. Mat Sinner has been a fixture in the Heavy Metal world since Sinner released their first record in 1982 but he is recognized more as the co-founder/bassist of Power Metal powerhouse Primal Fear. Now 28 years later, Sinner is back with studio album #15…..CRASH & BURN.

Having never really listened to Sinner, I expected to hear a Power Metal album in the same style that Primal Fear would make, especially with current and former members of Primal Fear (Mat Sinner, Henny Wolter and Klaus Sperling) involved but the Sinner sound is more of an ’80s retro Traditional Metal sound with more in common to the Hard Rock side of things rather than the Metal. There is plenty of guitar with a twin axe attack, as well as, solid and powerful rhythm section but the overall sound is more melodic and Blues based. Bands that immeadiately come to mind are AC/DC, Saxon, U.D.O./Accept, Thin Lizzy and a touch of Primal Fear but there is also this sleazy Hard Rock influence that make this more commercial sounding. What I expected was fast and furious Power Metal but I got catchy, melodic, straightforward Metal. I knew Mat Sinner’s vocal range was not as good as his Primal Fear partner Ralf Scheepers but he does a good job with his deeper rasp that sounds like a combination of Dave Mustaine,  Udo Dirkschneider and Phil Lynott.

The opening title track starts off with a blaring siren and a powerful guitar riff that leads into a mix of old school Traditional and today’s Power Metal….the combination that Saxon has used so well since the ’90s. ‘Break The Silence’ is very melodic with the harmonies on the chorus and slick main riff but there are also some cool solos added in for power. It’s a very groove oriented song that could easily be from any of the last few U.D.O. albums. Sinner uses that same heavy groove but speeds the tempo up for ‘The Dog’ using an AC/DC-ish Blues base and putting in a bit of Primal Fear over the top. ‘Heart Of Darkness’ is a very surprising track because I immeadiately thought of Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy. The twin lead guitars and harmonies give off that melodic but heavy classic Lizzy sound while the double bass drums give the song a certain “gallop”. So far every song fits within a certain framework but I was completely surprised by the album’s first single ‘Revolution’. This song sounds like gritty, bluesy U.S. Hard Rock like Cinderella, Jackyl and Great White that gets the feet stomping and the party going. This is complete ’80s retro complete with cowbell and full on vocal harmonies but with a biting guitar, ‘Revolution’ could easily fit on LONG COLD WINTER (1988) or HOOKED (1991).

‘Revolution’

Sinner gets back to their basic formula with the mid-paced melodic groove of ‘Unbreakable’ and following up with a lot of power with the fast assault of ‘Fist To Face’, a song that could easily fit on the first Primal Fear album or one of the Ripper-era Judas Priest records. The speed is kind of refreshing because ‘Fist To Face’ is exactly what I thought CRASH & BURN would sound like. I may not have expected the sound to be different on a new Sinner album but I know I didn’t expect a power ballad! ‘Until It Hurts’ has some cool guitar lines but the song sounds out of place and ‘Little Head’ sounds like something straight out of American Rock radio during the late ’90s Grunge movement. This is definitely not the sound I expected from a German Heavy Metal band, it almost sounds kind of like Green Day and/or Blink 182 but it turns out that the song is really a cover of a Marvelous 3 song. I almost want to give Sinner a pass doing a cover because I have a lot of respect for Marvelous 3 mainman Butch Walker…..but I can’t! It’s a cover song and I hate cover songs on an album when an original could be used. ‘Connection’ is definitely another Thin Lizzy inspired track complete with the harmonized twin leads. Its a pretty good Hard Rock song but it sounds a little dated…..the guitars sound so close to Lizzy that I thought it was a second cover tune in a row. The album closes on a heavier note with the U.D.O./Saxon style ‘Like A Rock’ that sounds a bit cheesy with lyrics like “I’ll rock the devil’s playground…” etc. It’s another solid song with excellent guitar and a big U.D.O. style background vocal.

Bottom Line:
Having never given Sinner a close listen, I expected fast European Power Metal but I was wrong. CRASH & BURN is a blend of straightforward ’80s Hard Rock, some AC/DC boogie, and Traditional Metal along the lines of current day Saxon and U.D.O. There are some Power Metal elements along the lines of Mat Sinner’s main band Primal Fear but that sound is more of an enhancement to the overall sound. I was surprised of the musical direction but not surprised at the musicianship and production: the music is played extremely well (especially those twin lead guitars!) and the it all sounds crystal clear. CRASH & BURN sounds very retro, very classic…..the kind of Metal I began with back in the early ’80s. Overall, I liked this record a lot and I’m going to track down the rest of the Sinner back catalogue.

A quick note: CRASH & BURN was released back in August 2008 on AFM Records for Europe but it only now gets a North American release in January 2009. There really isn’t any difference between the versions except the date.

Tale Of The Tape:
Dell DJ 30 (1st Gen)
4482 songs (387 albums)

I’ve got the MP3 player shuffling as I’m creating a new master list for my CD collection so here’s the first 20 songs that have come up (band-song-year)…..

  1. Tygers Of Pan Tang – ‘Bad Times’ (1980)
  2. KISS – ‘Hard Luck Woman’ (1976)
  3. Icarus Witch – ‘Mirror Mirror’ (2007)
  4. Iron Maiden – ‘Man On The Edge’ (1995)
  5. Def Leppard – ‘Bad Actress’ (2008)
  6. Black Sabbath – ‘Black Sabbath’ (1970)
  7. Scorpions – ‘Obsession’ (1999)
  8. Daylight Dies – ‘A Portait In White’ (2008)
  9. Iron Maiden – ‘Remember Tomorrow’ (1980)
  10. Dio – ‘Straight Through The Heart’ (1983)
  11. Quiet Riot – ‘Overworked And Underpaid’ (1999)
  12. Primal Fear – ‘Fighting The Darkness’ (2007)
  13. Q5 – “Our Love Has Come And Gone’ (1984)
  14. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – ‘Burn’ (1988)
  15. KISS – ‘The Oath’ (1981)
  16. Westworld – ‘Bring The Water To Me’ (1999)
  17. Running Wild – “The Poison’ (1998)
  18. Girlschool – ‘Metropolis’ (2008)
  19. Rainbow – ‘Street Of Dreams’ (1983)
  20. Black Sabbath – ‘Die Young’ (1980)

Bonus Track: Saxon – ‘Forever Free’ (1993)

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Ross The Boss – New Metal Leader (2009, Candelight Records)

  1. I.L.H.
  2. Blood Of Knives
  3. I Got The Right
  4. Death & Glory
  5. Plague Of Lies
  6. God Of Dying
  7. May The Gods Be With You
  8. Constantine’s Sword
  9. We Will Kill
  10. Matador
  11. Immortal Son

Band Lineup:
Patrick Fuchs – Vocals
Ross “The Boss” Friedman - Guitars
Carsten Ketterling – Bass
Matthias Mayer – Drums

Producer: Tarek Maghary

Total Time = 48:20

Country: United States

Ross The Boss official website
Ross The Boss MySpace page
Candlelight Records USA

Ex-Manowar founding guitarist Ross The Boss is back with a new band and a new studio album called NEW METAL LEADER. The outside sticker on the CD calls NEW METAL LEADER “the best Manowar album since KINGS OF METAL” and that’s a pretty good description. The music is epic Power Metal mixed with some melodic Hard Rock for a completely retro sounding ’80s Metal feast that sounds like…..Manowar. The new band and album came about when Ross The Boss joined a Manowar cover band, Men Of War, at the Keep It True Festival in 2006 for a set and the idea of the Ross The Boss band was born. Men Of War isn’t just a cover band, the members are also part of German Power Metal bands Ivory Night and Divinus so there is plenty of experience with creating original material.

The album opens with the quick 50 second intstrumental intro ‘I.L.H.’ and quickly moves into ‘Blood Of Knives’, a furious metal attack with plenty power riffs, double bass drumming, galloping basslines and the high pipes of Patrick Fuchs. ‘Blood Of Knives’ sounds just like mid-’80s Manowar complete with Fuchs’ interpretation of Eric Adams’ high-pitched assault. ‘I Got The Right’ echoes the same sound but with a mid-tempo crunch that has more power to it without the speed. On this song, I hear a little bit of Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O./Accept) mixed into Fuchs’ high pitched delivery. ‘Death & Glory’ is an interesting track because of the very familiar guitar riffs: the underlying riff sounds very similar to Alcatrazz’s ‘God Blessed Video’ in some parts and the riff over that sounds similar to Iron Maiden’s ‘Prowler’. It’s not a complete rip of both riffs but I picked up on the similarities right away. The song itself has that galloping Maiden/Manowar effect and it’s pretty good but it suffers from that “I’ve heard it before” feeling. I also get the same feeling with ‘Plague Of Lies’. The main guitar riff sounds very familiar and Patrick Fuchs really does a solid Eric Adams again but what sets the song apart is the harmonies and the guitar solo…..I had forgotten just how important Ross was to the big Manowar sound back in the beginning.

‘Blood Of Knives’

‘God Of Dying’ is the album’s epic ballad, or so it seems, as it goes from a quiet acoustic & vocal opening into a pounding power number that reminds me a little of Judas Priest. The next song. ‘May The Gods Be With You’, kind of threw me off a little because I wasn’t expecting a Hard Rock sound after five straight Power Metal tracks. ‘May The Gods Be With You’ is definitely the album’s anthem and it has that catchy melodic chorus that sounds dated but is refreshing because it breaks the album up a bit. It’s a little odd saying this but the song sounds like a combination of Manowar and Twisted Sister with an Axe influence in the vocals, Fuchs sounding a little similar to Bob Harris in some of the more melodic parts of the song. ‘Constantine’s Sword’ is another pounding power attack full of guitar and high powered drumming that gives the song it’s metallic march but I’m not digging the distortion on some of the vocal parts and the chorus is a little too simple. ‘We Will Kill’ is this album’s version of ‘Hail And Kill’ but it isn’t as fast, it has a little more crunch to it. I really like ‘Matador’ with that big heavy main riff and a touch of Flamenco that Ross puts over the top to give it that Spanish flavor. ‘Matador’ is more of the same in your face epic metal so you know what you’re getting, there is a slowdown in the middle of the song that’s a little more melodic and I can hear that Bob Harris vocal style again. Rounding out the record is ‘Immortal Son’, another song that has an acoustic style intro and kicks into a harder mid-tempo groove once the vocal kicks in (like ‘God Of Dying’).

Bottom Line:
Unfortunately the comparisons to Manowar can’t be helped because this really could be “the best Manowar album since KINGS OF METAL”. Manowar perfected this epic style and Ross was a founder of that band so the guiding influence to the overall sound of NEW METAL LEADER is obvious. The funny thing is that Ross The Boss sounds closer to the classic epic Manowar style than Manowar does these days! Ross left the band in 1988 after KINGS OF METAL and Manowar has released only 4 studio records since…..and I thought the last two were awful. Manowar fans should eat this right up, and I’m one of those True Metal warriors, but there really isn’t much here that already hasn’t been done before. I’ve really enjoyed the album and it’s been a fixture in my playlist since late December, I’ll bet this is one of the better Power Metal releases of 2009.

Just a quick note: NEW METAL LEADER was released in Europe on AFM Records back in August 2008…..there is no real difference between that version and this U.S. distributed disc except for the date. I hate it when that happens!

I’m a t-shirt and jeans guy. I still wear a denim jacket and, if I could, I would still wear my studded armbands and fingerless leather gloves. There has always been something about the look of Rock ‘N Roll that has appealed to me. I’m not into fashion but sometimes what a Rocker wears just looks cool.

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I received a press release about this cool t-shirt company called Worn Free. This company “blends rock and roll and fashion with a series of T-shirts originally worn by legends like John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Joe Strummer, Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa and many others. These shirts take the best designs of the 60s and 70s, some created by Beatles artist Alan Aldridge and underground cartoonist R. Crumb, to create comfortable clothing with history behind it. Worn Free has been an instant hit with celebrities and musicians worldwide, spotted on Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Eddie Vedder, Robert Plant, Ellen Paige, Ryan Gosling, Mischa Barton and Naomi Campbell, just to name a few.”

I checked out the website and there are some really cool designs like the John Van Hamersveld design above that was used for the Grateful Dead. The prices range from $49.95 to $54.95 and the shirt comes with a tag looks like a backstage pass with a picture of the original shirt worn by a famous musician.

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There are shirts with featured artists like The Ramones, Queen, Joan Jett, Frank Zappa and a ton more…..very cool.

If you’re interested, check out the Worn Free website…..

Original KISS lead guitarist Ace Frehley has a new solo album, ANOMALY, coming out sometime in early 2009. The tracklisting isn’t set quite yet but Ace is putting the finishing touches to the album so I’m sure an announcement will be coming soon. Below is the new artwork for ANOMALY and updates can be found at Ace’s brand new website: Ace Frehley.com

ace-frehley-anomaly-2009

1977-rock-n-roll-2008

1977 – Rock ‘N Roll (2008, Play It Again Records, LLC)

  1. Ladies Come First
  2. Love Me Blind
  3. Rock ‘N Roll
  4. Blast Off
  5. Straight To The Heart
  6. Love At first Kiss
  7. Back In The Groove
  8. Gladiator
  9. She Wants It All
  10. Do Ya Know What I Want?

Producers: 1977 & Alexander Coin

Total Time = 33:33

Country: United States

1977 official website
1977 MySpace page
1977 – Rock ‘N Roll available from CD Baby

1977 is a KISS influenced band that takes their love of all things KISS into a whole new dimension. At first glance, I thought this was going to be a tribute album but 1977 have thrown me a curveball, it’s an album of original material that sounds very much like KISS did in 1977.

One look at the LOVE GUN cover art (the people are blacked out) and you can see that the band has made sure every detail is in order from the lettering to the custom logos. Instead of Rock Steady Productions, it’s Stock Ready Productions and instead of Casablanca Records, it’s Play It Again Records both with almost exact logos. Instead of Aucoin Management LLC, it’s Acoin Management LLC…..well, you get the idea! These guys have done a great job putting in the small details of the packaging. Even the CD has special details: it looks like a mini-record complete with a Casablanca Records style label and actual grooves that make it feel like vinyl! Very cool!

As for the music…..it’s all original songs that sound almost like the original KISS at the height of their ’70s Rock ‘n Roll success. The band plays in the same way they original band did: the guitarist has Ace Frehley’s tone down better then Tommy Thayer and the bassist has that thumpy simple bass groove that Gene seemed to use on every song. The vocals sound very close to the original band, especially on the Ace tunes, and the harmonies between the Gene & Paul guys are dead on. The songs are constructed with bits and pieces of different songs from the KISS Katalog with totally different lyrics, maybe a phrase or two come from the original tracks. Listen to ‘Ladies Come First’ and you can hear ‘Love Her All I Can’. Listen to ‘Gladiator’ and you can pick out ‘God Of Thunder’. Try ‘She Wants It All’ and you hear ‘Do You Love Me’. The band takes all the parts of the classic songs, mixes them up and come up with something that sounds very KISS but also unique. It almost sounds like a “lost” KISS album or a bunch of unreleased B-sides. Another fun detail 1977 threw in was the “crackles” and “pops” in between each song that sound just like the old vinyl LPs did back in the day. I had ROCK AND ROLL OVER and all four solo albums on vinyl and I remember all those little “pops” from the needle.

Bottom Line:
So is it a tribute album or original material? It’s both! The songs are familiar like vintage KISS but they have their own musical structure and unique lyrics full of simplicity and innuendo. The real KISS hasn’t done anything new since 1998′s PSYCHO CIRCUS so I’m calling this album the next best thing, it just sounds like KISS! If you’re a KISS diehard, you’ll love it. If you are a casual fan, you might not be able to tell the difference. I hope the guys in 1977 do another album because I’d love to hear them interpret some other years in KISStory because ROCK ‘N ROLL is a really good album.

saxon-into-the-labyrinth-2009

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009, SPV)

  1. Battalions Of Steel
  2. Live To Rock
  3. Demon Sweeney Todd
  4. The Letter
  5. Valley Of The Kings
  6. Slow Lane Blues
  7. Crimes Of Passion
  8. Premonition In D Minor
  9. Voice
  10. Protect Yourselves
  11. Hellcat
  12. Come Rock Of Ages (The Circle Is Complete)
  13. Coming Home (Bottleneck version)

Band Lineup:
Biff Byford – Vocals
Paul Quinn – Guitars
Doug Scarratt – Guitars
Nibbs Carter – Bass
Nigel Glockler – Drums

Producers: Charlie Bauerfeind & Biff Byford

Total Time = 50:15

Country: United Kingdom

Saxon official website
Saxon MySpace page
SPV USA
SPV Germany

Saxon has been one of the most consistent bands in Heavy Metal in the last decade or so. They have reliably released new studio albums every couple of years since 1997 and they have also released 3 DVD sets and a live album to much critical acclaim. Not bad for a band that hasn’t had the commercial success that their peers from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (Iron Maiden & Def Leppard) have enjoyed since the early ’80s. As 2009 begins, Saxon has released their 18th studio album titled INTO THE LABYRINTH.

The new album is a combination of styles that Saxon has employed with much success since the late ’90s: Traditional/Power Metal and their trademark classic NWOBHM sound. Sometimes the band takes the Traditional Metal and adds in a slight Progressive touch, especially on some the longer mid-tempo songs. ‘Battalions Of Steel’ kicks the album off in impressive fashion with a massive Power Metal drive that reminds me of the fast and furious METALHEAD album from 1999 and ‘Live To Rock’ (haven’t they used this title before?) is classic NWOBHM Saxon that brings everything right back to the bands roots. Right off the bat you get the idea, Saxon is using everything in their arsenal to keep everything sounding updated without dismissing where they started. These two songs are my favorites on this album, especially ‘Live To Rock’ because it sounds like the Saxon from my youth.

‘Demon Sweeney Todd’ is another big Power Metal song with intense vocals and an intense twin axe attack full of solid riffs and blistering solos. ‘The Letter’ is a 42 second acoustic spoken word intro to the heavy ‘Valley Of The Kings’, a song that really drives until the chorus where the song slows to a mid-tempo pace with a big choral arrangement. This is a big mix of sound with a slight Progressive element that reminds me of the band’s cover of ‘The Court Of The Crimson King’ from KILLING GROUND (2001). The band leans back into their old bag of tricks for the bluesy Rock ‘n’ Roll of ‘Slow Lane Blues’ that takes the listener right back to the early ’80s and ‘Crime Of Passion’ continues combination of Traditional Metal and NWOBHM for an updated sound.  Another 40 second intro, ‘Premontion In D Minor’, precedes ‘Voice’ and it’s really an unnecessary. I would rather extend ‘The Letter’ to a full song than get a quick instrumental but that’s just me. ‘Voice’ is a dark heavy mid-tempo song that you could consider as a ballad. It’s slow and heavy with a good vocal from Biff, who’s own voice seems to get stronger every year. The guitars really have some bite to them even of the pace is slowed down.

‘Protect Yourselves’ sounds like something from the Tim Owens era of Judas Priest but better. The song is mid-tempo but very heavy and sludgy with some good solos. It actually sounds out of place with the rest of the record, not one of my favorites. All is forgiven with the speedy ‘Hellcat’, another solid Power/NWOBHM song that has the best guitar solo of the whole album. Monster riffs, thumping bass and solid drums and big gang vocals on the chorus…..there’s just no escaping the hook. Same goes for ‘Come Rock Of Ages’, it has that solid power guitar sound but retains the classic Saxon sound from the early days. It’s another song that has that hook that gets the fist pumping and head banging. ‘Coming Home (Bottleneck Version)’  is a re-worked version of the original found on KILLING GROUND (2001). This version has a blues/country feel complete with steel guitar, tambourine, and a rootsy vocal. Not sure I really like the idea of revisiting and redoing a previously released song, to me it’s just a cover song even if it’s a Saxon song.

Bottom Line:
I think it’s safe to say that Saxon have done it again and released another solid album, I don’t think they’ve released a bad album since the overtly commercial DESTINY (1988). Since 1997, the band has created some really great albums by updating their classic sound with the resurgence of Tradional/Power Metal. INTO THE LABYRINTH is similar to the band’s last record, THE INNER SANCTUM (2006), but it comes off a little more melodic in some parts that really get you into the songs. There are also plenty of the fast stuff too that could easily fit into the METALHEAD era. The album is really good and I like every song even though I could do without the quick instrumental and the self cover at the end. The album comes in a regular jewel case edition and a limited edition with a bonus 75 minute DVD that features a making of the album, ‘Live To Rock’ video and a bunch of visual extras. Nothing is better when one of your favorite bands releases a new album and I can see myself definitely playing this album deep into 2009, it’s already one of my favorites of the year.

Favorite Songs: ‘Battalions Of Steel’, ‘Live To Rock’, ‘Valley Of The Kings’, ‘Hellcat’, ‘Voice’

WANTED

global_metal1

Global Metal DVD (2008)

 The journey continues for anthropologist/director Sam Dunn and Scot McFayden as they document Heavy Metal and it’s effects on different societies. GLOBAL METAL (2008) is a continuation of Dunn’s awesome film METAL: A HEADBANGER’S JOURNEY (2006) and the journey goes beyond Europe and North America to countries in the Middle East, Asia, and South America to see just how the music is influencing the different cultures. Dunn’s first DVD was awesome and I watch it a lot, it gives me that extra burst when I feel like things are getting stagnant in my own small corner of the Metal world. I’ve been wanting to see this movie for a while but I knew that the run in theaters was not coming to Rhode Island. The DVD should be available at my local record store and, if the price points I see online are correct, then it should cost $25 for the 2 DVD set.

WANTED

edenscurse-thesecondcoming

Eden’s Curse – The Second Coming (2008)

Every year I miss a ton of new releases and new bands and 2008 was no exception. I read MelodicRock.com daily and Eden’s Curse had the #2 album of 2007 with their self-titles debut, the band was a favorite of the website all that year. So I put Eden’s Curse on my list of bands to check out and left it at that. Fast forward to October 2008 and THE SECOND COMING was released and the reviews have been excellent,  I wouldn’t be surprised if this album was at the top of MelodicRock’s 2008 Albums of the Year. U.S. distribution is through Metal Mayhem Records so it’s an easy CD to find at online stores and Ebay for around $15.

WANTED

talon-fallenangels

 Talon – Fallen Angels (2008)

MelodicRock.com had the news that Talon was releasing a new album early in 2008 and I wrote it down but I never bothered going after it. I have the self-titled debut from 2002 and I thought that was a solid record but the band has a new singer (Chandler Mogel), a new label (Kivel Records) and it’s been 6 years since the first album so I left it on the Want List. Then all the year end lists came out and Talon was on a few of them so I checked out a few samples…..sounds like really good Melodic Arena Rock! This album is very easy to find and MerlodicRock.com has a special going that you can get the CD with shipping for $15 if you follow their link…..I just might this coming week!

WANTED

jon-olivas-pain-global-warning-2008

Jon Oliva’s Pain – Global Warning (2008)

I haven’t really gotten into Jon Oliva’s Pain as much as I should seeing that I have been a Savatage fan since SIRENS (1983). I have the first two JOP albums and I meant to pick this up in May 2008 when it came out but I put it off for another CD. It’s remained on my Want List ever since. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to pick this up both in-store and online for around $15. I saw this album on a couple of year end lists  and I’ve been reading the reviews so I’m putting this album as a top priority for the beginning of 2009.