Website Spotlight: KISS Burger

kissburger_logo1

As a lifelong KISS fan I have bought my fair share of KISS merchandise over the years and attended plenty of concerts, I know all too well about the money making machine that was once a band. I was catching up on some of my favorite blogs and I saw this post on All Metal Resource. For a split second, without reading, I thought Gene Simmons had finally come up with another “doomed to fail” business venture but not out of the realm of reality. I mean, Gene WOULD do this! After reading the post and visiting the KISS Burger website, I knew it was just a clever fansite. Who comes up with this stuff besides Gene? Nothing is better than the slogan: “Our Meat, Your Mouth”. Check it out….. http://www.kissburger.com/

WANTED: Savage Grace – Master Of Disguise (1985)

WANTED

savage-grace-master-of-disguise

Savage Grace – Master Of Disguise (1985)

Remember the Metal Massacre series that Metal Blade used to put out? I was one of those dedicated fans that used to go out and by the cassette when it came out to get a sample of some of the newer signings to the label. I was going through a box of CDs that aren’t on display (mostly soundtracks, compilations, tributes, etc.) and I pulled out all the Metal Massacre CDs to listen in order. When I got to Metal Massacre II, I saw a familiar name…..Savage Grace.

I didn’t remember much about the band except that they had a cool album cover for one of their albums with a cop and a chick handcuffed to a motorcycle. I got online and searched the band and came up with MASTER OF DISGUISE (1985)…..I immeadiately remembered the album cover! I remember being at my favorite record store with my father back when I was a kid and checking out this album. I was going to buy the cassette but my father, who was a very moral kind of guy, thought that the cover was obscene and gave the clerk working the store a piece of his mind. Then he took me home (I didn’t get the cassette!) and he went through my tapes to see if I had any lewd albums. I’ll never forget that!

Back to Savage Grace….. Except for the one song on MM II (‘Sceptre Of Deceit’), I never heard anything else. I checked my favorite site for obscure albums, Vibrations Of Doom, and they have soundfiles for MASTER OF DISGUISE (1985) and the band’s first E.P., THE DOMINATRESS (1983). I took a look on Ebay and there seems to be a couple of bootleg CDs that include both albums. There are two versions of the bootleg: one with THE DOMINATRESS cover and one with an alternate cover for MASTER OF DISGUISE…..I’m going to wait for a vinyl to pop up.

Press Release: Alias – Never Say Never to finally be released by Angelmilk Records on March 20

From Angelmilk Records:

Angelmilk Records is extremely pleased to announce the signing of cult AOR heroes Alias for the long overdue release of their classic never released second studio album, to be titled Never Say Never.

alias-never-say-never-2009

The album’s release comes after Angelmilk’s Andrew McNeice spoke at length with the band’s guitarist Steve DeMarchi and representatives of EMI Canada, who the album was originally recorded for. EMI were so enthused with the idea, they decided to undertake the remastering process from original master tapes themselves and will control the release of the title in North America. Rights for the world outside North America are with Angelmilk Records and a release across all territories is planned for March 20, 2009.

In 1990, former members of both Sheriff (“When I’m With You”) & Heart formed Alias and released their self-titled debut album which went on to Platinum sales and chart topping songs including “Haunted Heart”, “Waiting For Love” and “More Than Words Can Say”. Now after more than 18 years, here it is…the second Alias album…for all the fans who have asked through the years why the band never followed up their highly praised debut release! Recorded over a five month period in West Orange, New Jersey USA back in 1992, this album has not seen the light of day until now! A few of the songs from these sessions were later re-recorded and appear on vocalist Freddy Curci’s solo debut release Dreamer’s Road, but other then that, the songs originally recorded, have remained in the vaults. Among the tracks featured are several songs written by James Christian (House Of Lords) and Mark Baker (Signal). It is fully expected that Alias will support the release of this record with a few select live performances in 2009.

Guitarist Steve DeMarchi states: “Unfortunately for us and many other rock bands at that time .. the Grunge scene exploded and had taken over … Even though the first Alias album was successful…the climate of music had changed almost overnight… Grunge was in … Rock was out. Through the years we always wondered if this album would ever get released…Never Say Never!”

The Band: Freddy Curci – Vocals / Steve DeMarchi – Guitars / Marco Mendoza – Bass / Larry Aberman – Drums / Robert O’Hearn – Keyboards / Dennis DeMarchi – Keyboards.

WebLinks: www.myspace.com/theofficialalias / www.angelmilkrecords.co.uk.

Track Listing: 01. Woman Enough 02. XTCOI 03. How Much Longer Is Forever 04. Give Me A Reason To Stay 05. Wild Wild One 06. Pleasure And Pain 07. The Warden 08. Bare Necessity 09. All I Want Is You 10. Call Of The Wild 11. Diamonds 12. Play Me A Song 13. We Want It All.
Bonus tracks: 14. Perfect World 15. Into The Fire 16. Call Me 17. Who Do You Think You Are 18. When I’m With You (live acoustic version).

Ebay Madness – Vinyl Edition: Ritual, Demolition, Krokus, Thunder Rider, Sunset

Vinyl! Vinyl! Vinyl!

I don’t know what it is but I just love finding obscure Heavy Metal vinyl selling for big bucks on Ebay. Maybe it’s because I have a turntable again but I started turning back to vinyl last year, without a turntable, as more of a nostalgia thing. I spent my formative Metal years scrounging through racks of LPs in local record stores looking at the covers and soaking in all the information. When searching Ebay, I found that a lot of obscure Metal albums on CD were readily available, in good condition, on vinyl for affordable prices. Economics dictate my collecting and I would rather spend $20 on an LP than $200 on a CD and some of the albums I was tracking were going for high prices just because they were CDs. That doesn’t mean all vinyl is cheap! There is a vinyl revival that has been growing every year and it has infiltrated the Metal world, many bands now release their new albums with a limited vinyl pressing. That also means some original vinyl presses of obscure albums are skyrocketing especially when CDs are not available or the reissues of said albums have suspect sound quality or are shoddy bootlegs. Either format can bring out the best bargains or the highest prices.

So here are some rare high priced Heavy Metal records that I have found, maybe some of you have them……

sunset-forgotten-kingdomSunset – Forgotten Kingdom (1986) = $103.49

Seller: shermy67
Starting Price = $99.99
Bids = 2

Here’s a band I’ve never heard of but someone must have because they decided that a starting price of 100 bucks was reasonable. I couldn’t find much information on Sunset except that they were a Melodic Metal band from the U.S. and this is their only release. The only other thing I found is that there is a bootleg of this album on Racer Records but I haven’t found any information online about it. There is a page at Vibrations Of Doom where you can listen to this album: http://vibrationsofdoom.com/test/test2/Sunset.html

 

thunder-rider-tales-of-darkness-and-lightThunder Rider – Tales Of Darkness And Light (1987) = $258

Seller: sunset-bomber
Starting Price = $9.99
Bids = 17

I don’t know much about Thunder Rider except that the band is from Canada. There really isn’t much information out there except that the band released a second album in 2002 and that this album was re-released on CD in 1997. The band does have a website (www.thunderrider.com) but it doesn’t seem like it’s been updated in a long time. There is a page at Vibrations Of Doom where you can listen to this album: http://www.vibrationsofdoom.com/test/ThunderRider.html

 

krokus-1st-lp-19761Krokus – s/t (1976) = $270

Seller: j.piero
Starting Price = $9.99
Bids = 24

This one is on my Want List! You don’t see this album all that much and I have been searching for this since 1998 when I found out Krokus had a self-titled album. In the last 11 years I’ve only seen two auctions on Ebay and both went over $100. The seller is from Switzerland and that makes sense because that’s where Krokus is from. If there is any place that there are some copies of this album it’s Switzerland! If you watch Ebay closely, you’ll see CD versions of this album from time to time but I found out that they are bootlegs. This album has never been released on CD, I found that out straight from the Krokus website. The album was graded G+ for the cover and VG+ for the vinyl and this auction ended on Feb 11, 2009 and that is significant because…..

 

krokus-1st-lp-1976-pic-2Krokus – s/t (1976) = $380

Seller: humblebeetree
Buy It Now Price = $380
Bids = 1

…..this auction ended two days earlier (Feb 9, 2009) with BUY IT NOW for a Near Mint copy (both cover and vinyl NM). This seller was located in Switzerland and the auction set the going rate for a really good copy of the record. That’s probably why the other auction had so many bids and went so high.

 

demolition-hooker-hater-axeman 7 inchDemolition – Hooker Hater/Axeman 7″ single (1981)  = $886.54

Seller: rattlehead14
Starting Price = $3
Bids = 21

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) always brings out the the rarest of the rare and the highest prices of all. This near mint 7″ single is no exception…..it started at $3 and went up to $886+, that’s a lot of money! Birmingham, England’s Demolition only released the two tracks and then disappeared like so many hopeful bands did back in the day. I tried to find some extra information on Demolition but there really isn’t much online or in The NWOBHM Encyclopedia (by Malc MacMillan). I did find out that High Vaultage Records released a CD titled WRECKING CREW in 2006 and it compiled the two songs on this single, 5 demos and 12 live tracks from 1981 that includes some songs that never made it to vinyl. Save those pennies because you can find the CD from time to time for around $25.

I’ve saved the best for last…..the most expensive vinyl LP I’ve seen in a long time…..

ritual-widow-1983Ritual – Widow (1983) = $1246.19

Seller: swirlingorgan
Starting Price: $1218
Bids = 2

I’m not sure if this is the “holy grail” of NWOBHM vinyl but the price sure dctates that somebody out there thinks it is. Congratulations to the seller for getting $1200+ for a simple record in this tough world economy…..at least it’s in Excellent condition. Supposedly the seller bought two copies from the daughter of the band’s former manager and the master tapes no longer exist. this pressing of the album has the distinction of the band name NOT being included on the cover, only the title. A lot of confusion surrounds the album and the band’s actual name, many think it’s Widow. Good news for everyone interested, Shadow Kingdom Records has reissued this album on CD with new artwork, 4 bonus tracks, extra liner notes and original artwork and photos. You can order it through CD Baby or through the band’s MySpace page.

Press Release: New Mastodon album, Crack The Skye, to be released March 26. Limited edition pre-order details announced.

From Mastodon:

MASTODON RELEASE “CRACK THE SKYE” MARCH 24.;
EXCLUSIVE LIMITED EDITION DELUXE PACKAGE AVAILABLE ONLINE ONLY STARTING THIS THURSDAY

NEW DEDICATED WEBSITE SET FOR LAUNCH

Heavy rock iconoclasts MASTODON will release their new album, CRACK THE SKYE on March 24, 2009. However, hardcore fans will have the opportunity to pre-order a very special Deluxe Limited “Tunnel Book” Edition of CRACK THE SKYE online only via the band’s website: www.mastodonrocks.com this Thursday, Feb, 12.

mastodon-crack-the-skye-2009

This super-deluxe version of CRACK THE SKYE will come housed in a hard box case featuring a third dimension worm hole design that will contain exclusive and additional album art by long-time MASTODON artist, Paul Romano. The special package will include the full-length CRACK THE SKYE album on CD, plus a DVD containing The Making of CRACK THE SKYE with photo gallery, Track by Track band commentary and more by director Jimmy Hubbard. 

All pre-orders will also receive a 14″ x 14″ exclusively designed lithograph unavailable anywhere else.   Additionally, those who are first to pre-order will receive the lithograph autographed by the band members themselves.   These extraordinary packages will be extremely limited and once they are gone, no further editions will be created so don’t delay. Cost of the Deluxe CD + DVD Limited “Tunnel Book” Edition with exclusive litho will be $39.99. This may be the most beautiful and innovative album packaging you’ll see for years to come. 

Shortly thereafter, MASTODON will unveil a new online destination designed to bring fans into direct focus on the upcoming new album, CRACK THE SKYE. www.cracktheskye.org will launch the week of Feb 16, and will compliment its existing sibling location of www.mastodonrocks.com

The new site will be a flash-based, interactive experience threading fans through an extremely visual, user-controlled cyber journey into the inner sanctum of CRACK THE SKYE . Content will be thematically based on the album’s concepts, artwork, images, lyrics, videos, and its unique packaging through engaging visuals and music from CRACK THE SKYE intended to accompany and enhance the experience of listening to the album in its entirety. 

As previously announced, MASTODON will tour Europe with Metallica this summer.   In addition, they have been invited to perform as part of the Sonisphere Touring Rock Festival this summer in Europe and the UK with Metallica, Linkin Park, Slipknot, Lamb of God and more.

SuidAkra – Crógacht (2009)

suidakra-crogacht

SuidAkra – Crógacht (2009, SPV/Wacken Records)

  1. Slán
  2. Conlaoch
  3. Isle Of Skye
  4. Scáthach
  5. Feats Of War
  6. Shattering Swords
  7. Ár Nasc Fola
  8. Gilded Oars
  9. Baile’s Strand

Band Lineup:
Arkadius Antonik – Vocals & Guitars
Marcus Riewaldt – Bass
Lars Wehner – Drums

Producer: Martin Buchwalter

Total Time = 41:18

Country: Germany

SuidAkrA official website
SuidAkrA MySpace page
SPV USA
SPV Germany
Wacken Records

I have to plead complete ignorance because I have never heard anything by Suidakra until Crógacht. The band has been around for about 15 years but their brand of Medieval/Pagan/Celtic Metal mixed with the ferocity of Black and Death Metal really isn’t my thing. I decided to do some research on the band, put the new album on, and keep an open mind.

Crógacht means “bravery” and it is a concept album based on a mythological Irish story of Cuchulainn and his journey to the Isle Of Skye to learn the arts of warfare. In keeping with the storyline, the music is a combination of Celtic Folk music mixed with the brutality of Blackened Metal. There are a variety of instruments used in addition to the guitars, bass and drums: banjo, bagpipes, keyboards, flutes and other woodwinds. The vocals flow in and out of aggressive tones to a clean style along with big choral arrangements and there is even a guest female vocalist (Tina Stabel) on ‘Feats Of War’. The music has a very “epic” feel to it and I can only compare the sound to maybe Týr, Heidevolk, or Turisas with an element of the Renaissance from Blackmore’s Night.

The opening instrumental ‘Slán’ sounds traditional Celtic with the bagpipes moving into a quieter melody but that just leads straight into the searing guitars of ‘Conlaoch’, complete with the Black Metal vocals and machine gun drumming but with a choral background and bagpipes infiltrating the assault. ‘Isle Of Skye’ slows down a little but it’s still fast and has the same feel as ‘Conlaoch’, same goes for ‘Scáthach’ but the intensity is revved up once the bagpipes cut out. I have to admit that I’m surprised I’m enjoying this so far but this is a lot to take in and it’s not my genre of choice. A major curveball is thrown in with ‘Feats Of War’ when Tina Stabel takes over the vocals and the band does their best Blackmore’s Night imitation. The character Stabel is playing is Scáthach, a Scythian warrior who teaches Cuchulainn the art of combat, the feats of war. I honestly didn’t expect the pure Medieval/Folk acoustic style with clean female vocals and no hint of Metal.

An acoustic melody opens ‘Shattering Swords’ but it is quickly replaced with blistering guitars and Antonik’s harsh vocals but Tina Stabel guests briefly on this song as well but a little more aggressive. ‘Ár Nasc Fola’ is an instrumental that is rooted in Celtic tradition complete with the bagpipes, flutes, acoustic guitars and marching style drums. All I could honestly think of was the movie Braveheart because it had that epic feel to it. The overall Celtic melodies are also present in the melodic but intense ‘Gilded Oars’, the band shifting gears again into an all out sonic attack. About halfway through, the tempo changes and there is a spoken word/choral arrangement but it leads straight back into the churning guitars with bagpipes augmenting the sound. The final song is also Crógacht’s longest at 7+ minutes, ‘Baile’s Strand’ is a mix of all the styles the band has used thus far with a choral background and a blend of keyboards, piano, and the ever present bagpipes. If you had to listen to one song to get a feel for the overall sound of Crógacht than this would be it. It has the instrumentation and performance that defines the record and shows Suidakra’s various musical personas.

Bottom Line:
Knowing nothing of Suidakra, I expected the worse, I’m not a fan of Black Metal and the aggressive vocal style and the addition of Folk metal had me a little puzzled. After repeated listens to Crógacht, I realized that there is so much more to the Suidakra sound…..their use of traditional Celtic folk music to enhance their Metal is very well done. I really didn’t follow the story as much and I thought the instrumental ‘Ár Nasc Fola’ was slotted too close to the non-Metal Renaissance faire styled ‘Feats Of War’, both songs breaking up the Metallic groove the band was in. It’s small complaint on an overall solid album. I’m not really sure that I would give this a lot of extra time, it’s not really my thing, but fans of both Black and Pagan/Viking Metal will want to give this a listen.

Favorite Songs: ‘Shattering Swords’, ‘Baile’s Strand’, ‘Gilded Oars’, ‘Conlaoch’ and, for a change of pace, ‘Feats Of War’

Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos (2009)

kreator-hordes-of-chaos-2009

Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos (2009, SPV)

  1. Hordes Of Chaos
  2. Warcurse
  3. Escalation
  4. Amok Run
  5. Destroy What Destroys You
  6. Radical Resistance
  7. Absolute Misanthropy
  8. To The Afterborn
  9. Corpses Of Liberty
  10. Demon Prince

Band Lineup:
Mille Petrozza – Vocals & Guitars
Jürgen Reil – Drums
Christian Giesler – Bass
Sami Yli-Sirniö – Guitars

Producer: Moses Schneider

Total Time = 38:32

Country: Germany

Kreator official website
Kreator MySpace page
SPV USA
SPV Germany

It’s been four long years since Kreator’s last record, ENEMY OF GOD, and now the German Thrash legends have given birth to a new album titled HORDES OF CHAOS. I used to be a big fan of Kreator back in the ’80s but somewhere along the line I just stopped following the band. ENEMY OF GOD brought me back onto the path with it’s speed and brutality so I kind of knew what to expect from the band four years later. The speed is there, the power is there, so is the intensity. There is plenty of drilling riffs and searing guitar solos to satisfy the fastest of tastes but there are also some different styles that creep in that separates 2009 Kreator from the pack. What sets HORDES OF CHAOS apart from all the Thrash that seems to be coming out of the woodwork lately is that the band puts in some melodic touches to the overall package. The album is full on Thrash but, if you take a listen to the opening title track, ‘Amok Run’ and ‘To The Afterborn’, you will definitely notice the melodies the band adds in to enhance the overall sound. There are also some Maiden-ish duelling guitar (parts of ‘Hordes Of Chaos’, ‘Amok Run’, ‘Radical Misanthropy’, ‘To The Afterborn’, ‘Demon Prince’) surrounded by some hellacious double bass pounding that make things more interesting. Mille Petrozza’s vocals are still as aggressive as ever but there is more of a higher register this time around. Maybe it’s that extra touch of melody creeping in? Either way, I like the enhancements to the overall sound but it’s still Kreator.

Bottom Line:
I have been giving HORDES OF CHAOS a lot of airplay since it graced my desk late in December and I haven’t tired of it yet. I kind of feel the same way I did about last year’s Testament album THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, it sets the standard for Thrash in 2009. It’s the album Kreator needed to make to stay ahead of the retro-Thrash movement that has taken center stage from the Power Metal resurgence earlier this decade. I know it’s early in the year but I have to say that this record will probably be in my year end best of list easily, I’ve enjoyed it that much. Now I have to go back and check out all the Kreator I missed in the ’90s!

Favorite Songs:
Let me go on record saying that I really liked every song but, if I had to pick a few…..’Hordes Of Chaos’, ‘Warcurse’, ‘Amok Run’, ‘Absolute Misnathropy’.

Press Release: New album from Nashville Pussy, From Hell To Texas, artwork, release dates and tracklisting

From Earsplit:

They’re back to kick your ass!  
 
For over a decade, Nashville Pussy has been bringing the fire and spirit of REAL rock n’ roll to stages all across the planet. With four acclaimed full-lengths and a Grammy nomination in tow, the band has honed their most impressive recording to date in the form of From Hell To Texas.  
nashville-pussy-from-hell-to-texas-2009
 
Indeed, From Hell To Texas stacks up perfectly against other masterful ‘Pussy classics such as Let Them Eat Pussy and High As Hell  As always, Ruyter Suys’ spectacular axe-work is front and center, breathing even more whiskey-fueled passion into husband Blaine Cartwright’s creations, with burners such as “I’m So High,” “Drunk Driving Man,” and “Pray for the Devil” leading the charge. The album was recorded at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studio in Texas on the same two-inch tape machine which Willie himself has used to cut all of his legendary albums.    
 
In the past year, they’ve continued to cement their reputation as one of the hardest working bands in the world, with tours of Australia, Brazil, Japan, Europe and most recently almost a year straight with the Reverend Horton Heat all over North America. All the while, band mastermind Cartwright (vocals, guitar), Ruyter Suys (guitar), Karen Cuda (bass) and Jeremy Thompson (drums) spent three years working on the release. “We allowed ourselves this time to give the songs the chance to turn out as perfect as possible,” Cartwright explains.
 
2009 will be another ambitious year for Nashville Pussy. Along with the March 3rd release of the new album, the band’s roadmap is already set:  an exhaustive trek across Europe, followed by summer festivals and full-scale North American tour.  The rock never stops. Bottom line…..Nashville Pussy is the genuine article.  Accept no substitute!
From Hell To Texas tracklisting:
‘Speed Machine’, ‘From Hell To Texas’, ‘Drunk Driving Man’, ‘Lazy Jesus’, ‘I’m So High’, ‘Ain`t Your Business’, ‘Dead Men Can’t Get Drunk’, ‘Late Great USA’, ‘Pray For The Devil’, ‘Why Why Why’, ‘Stone Cold Down’, ‘Give Me A Hit Before I Go’.
The album will be released via SPV/Steamhammer Records on the following dates:

Germany / Austria / Switzerland: February 13th
UK / Rest of Europe: February 16th
USA / Canada: March 3rd

 

Press Release: New album by Cage, Science Of Annihilation, due May 22 and European tour dates

From ArtistWorXX:

CAGE coming to Europe with a new album in May 2009.

Two-times HEAVY Magazine soundcheck winner – US Power Metal spearheads Cage will be on tour in 7 European countries during May 2009 in order to promote their forthcoming metal epic “Science Of Annihilation”, to be released May 22nd through Music Buy Mail.

Of coures frontmann Sean Peck and his bunch are able to deliver another milestone regarding power, heavyness and uniqueness. Thus already the cover artwork “Science Of Annihilation” is once again sepctacular art and suggests a true metal masterpiece.

cage-science-of-annihilation-2009

CAGE on tour in Europe.

Lugga Music Productions in cooperation with SwordBrothers Productions are proud to present one of nowadays best power metal bands live at 15 locations around Europe.

Those who are familiar with CAGE´s live shows know that this is an event no true metal fan should miss. CAGE´s live shows are an energetic and powerful trip through their recording history, covering 4 full-length albums by now. With their fifth album “Science Of Annihilation” in their bags they will once again conquer Europe and present what many critics call “pure millennium metal” , “classic metal for the new age” or “modern day power metal”.

CAGE & guests
“Science Of Annihilation Tour 2009“

-    May 7th: (D)     Hamburg – Ballroom
–    May 8th: (D)     Uelsen – UJT
–    May 9th. (D)     Datteln – Metal Mercenaries Fest
–    May 10th: (D)     Frankfurt  – Die Halle
–    May 12th: (D)     Crailsheim – Die Eiche
–    May 13th: (D)     Regensburg – Gloria
–    May 14th: (CZ)   Prague – Exit Chmelnice.
–    May 15th: (SLO) Bratislava – Randal
–    May 16th: (CZ)    Ostrava – Tancirna
–    May 17th: (PL)    Torun – Trabant
–    May 19th: (B)      Gent – The Frontline
–    May 20th: (NL)   Antwerpen – De Roots
–    May 21st: (D)      Oberhausen – Helvete
–    May 22nd: (NL)   Kerkrade – Rocktempel
–    May 23rd: (CH)   Uster – Elements Of Rock

Grave Digger – Ballads Of A Hangman (2009)

grave-digger-balladsofahangman

Grave Digger – Ballads Of A Hangman (2009, Napalm Records)

  1. The Gallows Pole
  2. Ballad Of A Hangman
  3. Hell Of Disillusion
  4. Sorrow Of The Dead
  5. Grave Of The Addicted
  6. Lonely The Innocence Dies
  7. Into The War
  8. The Shadow Of Your Soul
  9. Funeral For A Fallen Angel
  10. Stormrider
  11. Pray
  12. Jailbreak (U.S. bonus track)

Band Lineup:
Chris Boltendahl – Vocals
Manni Schmidt – Guitar
Thilo Herrmann – Guitar
H.P. Katzenburg – Keyboards
Stefan Arnold – Drums
Jens Becker – Bass

Additional Musicians:
Veronica Freeman (Benedictum) – guest Vocals on ‘Lonely The Innocence Dies’

Produced by: Grave Digger & Resetti Brothers

Total Time = 45:38

Country: Germany

Grave Digger
Grave Digger MySpace page
Napalm Records

It’s been a long and winding road for one of Germany’s best Power Metal bands, Grave Digger has survived multiple lineup changes, label changes and even a temporary hiatus to bring us studio album number thirteen…..BALLADS OF A HANGMAN. Not much has changed in the Grave Digger camp as of late, except their change to Napalm Records, they have been able to maintain a stable lineup since 2001 and it seems like every year we get treated to a studio record, live album or DVD. The band just keeps plugging away and still remains one of the founding fathers of pure German Power Metal alongside Helloween, Rage and Running Wild.

Not much has really changed in the Grave Digger sound as well. There are still blistering guitar solos, dual riffing and a double bass drum attack to go alongside Chris Boltendahl’s rough and tough Udo Dirkschneider-like vocals. The only difference is that the band continues to keep the “epic” sound in their music, something they have done well since releasing three concept records TUNES OF WAR (1996), KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS (1998) and Excalibur (1999). The album starts off with the instrumental ‘The Gallows Pole’ that leads straight into the title track, a song that has chant style background vocals open the song and lead into a furious main riff and double bass attack. Hearing Boltendahl scream right at the beginning gives you the sense that Grave Digger mean business but the song slows at the chorus for those chant backing vocals that sound like something Hammerfall did on LEGACY OF KINGS back in 1998.

‘Ballad Of A Hangman’

‘Hell Of Disillusion’ is another really fast song with breakneck riffs but the chorus actually slows things down again for the gang vocals. I actually like this song better that the title track because the drums are vicious and the solos are fast but also melodic. ‘Sorrow Of The Dead’ just kicks in and hits you in the head with pure speed and Boltendahl’s shriek while the duelling guitars make ‘Grave Of The Addicted’ one of the album’s best songs. Obviously, the band’s strongest quality is both guitarists: Manni Schmidt (ex-Rage) and Thilo Herrmann (ex- Holy Moses/Running Wild). Nothing against Chris Boltendahl, the band’s founding frontman, but the whole sound comes down to both guitarists trading off riffs and solos thoughout every song.

In 2009, there are only two ways to make Power Metal grow: do grand epics and/or go more melodic like Primal Fear has done. Grave Digger also flirts with the melodic by bringing in Benedictum frontwoman Veronica Freeman in to provide guest lead vocals on ‘Lonely The Innocence Dies’, a melodic power ballad. For Grave Digger, this is as slow as it’s going to get and it does remind me of some of the work Primal Fear did on NEW RELIGION (2007). What makes this song work is that the band brought in a powerful female lead in Freeman to go with Boltendahl’s rough style. Freeman is an excellent vocalist with a ton of power and she puts in a solid performance. What’s also nice is that the slower tempo breaks up the album a little because the band immeadiately slides right back into the frantic pace with ‘Into The War’. By now it’s the middle of the album so you already know what to expect, especially if you’re a Grave Digger fan, and ‘Into The War’ continues the power assault but it doesn’t really take any chances. Basically it’s more of the same from the first five songs that start the album. ‘The Shadow Of Your Soul’ has an extremely ’80s-retro style that sounds like Accept or maybe Judas Priest especially when the guitars cut out at times and you just have the vocal and the drums (both are kind of laid back). Unfortunately, the band falls back into the previous formula with ‘Funeral For A Fallen Angel’. I guess it’s a small complaint that the band continues to follow the same pattern but this is how a lot of Power Metal is and you either have to be a fan of the band or the genre to really enjoy it.

The opening guitars to ‘Stormrider’ signal a Judas Priest style song with the only difference being the rough vocals. It’s a good song and the riffs really don’t fall all over the place, they are more basic than anything else. Sounds like the band is going more straight forward here and it’s welcome, especially when Schmidt and Herrmann do their best Tipton/Downing harmonies. The first single from the album is ‘Pray’ and it’s a melodic mid-tempo song that retains it’s power when the gang style backgrounds come in for the chorus. The guitars are the cleanest of the album with their clear twin melodies and solos, definitely a song that brings me back to the Heavy Metal heyday of the mid-’80s. ‘Pray’ gives the album a welcome break from the constant pounding, I would have sequenced it somewhere in the beginning of the album.

‘Pray’

‘Pray’ was released in advance in the U.S. a week before BALLADS OF A HANGMAN as the title track of an E.P. of the same name. For collector’s, the PRAY E.P. has 3 non-album tracks (one is a cover of Motorhead’s ‘Overkill’) and an extended version of ‘Pray’. If you bought the U.S. limited edition digipak of the proper album like I did (it was the only version available!) then you got a bonus track: a cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’. Why do band’s do this? I realize that it’s a business decision but why not tack on the two extra studio songs from the PRAY E.P. instead of the Thin Lizzy cover? Now that would be a bonus and I wouldn’t have to buy the E.P. AND the actual album! As far as covers go it’s decent but I’m not a cover song kind of guy.

Bottom Line:
Grave Digger continues to do what they do best in churning out fast and heavy Power Metal. In the grand scheme of things they haven’t really evolved their sound, it’s basically what they continue to do and that’s not all that bad. If you’re aren’t a big Power Metal fan then it’s all going to sound the same no matter what but if you really enjoy the genre then you can appreciate the proven formula and pick out the spots where the band takes chances. I like both the all out attack on most of the songs but I think that the more melodic and retro sounding songs add a certain dimension to the overall sound. I’ve been a Grave Digger fan since the early days so I’ve enjoyed this album a lot and I’m willing to bet that it’s going to be one of the best Power Metal albums of the year.

Favorite Songs:
I’d have to go with the melodic duet ‘Lonely The Innocence Dies’ and the mid-tempo ‘Pray’ as two of the best songs along with the title track, ‘Stormrider’ and ‘Grave Of The Addicted’.

Press Release: Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens solo debut, Play My Game, due May 19

From SPV:

Following his spectacular enlistment by exceptional Swedish guitarist YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, and his awesome vocal performance on the most recent Malmsteen album, Perpetual Flame (2008), American metal vocalist TIM ‘RIPPER’ OWENS (BEYOND FEAR, ex-JUDAS PRIEST, ex-ICED EARTH) is set to surprise the public with the release of his first solo album, Play My Game, in May.

The offering consists of around a dozen brand-new tracks that Owens composed himself or together with renowned friends, such as Bob Kulick, Chris Caffery (SAVATAGE, TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA), Mike Callahan (ex-EARSHOT) and John Comprix (Beyond Fear, RINGWORM).

The list of guest musicians featured on Owens solo debut is even more spectacular: along with Bob Kulick and Chris Caffery and the others, he was supported by the guitarists Doug Aldrich (WHITESNAKE), Michael Wilton (QUEENSRŸCHE), Jeff Loomis (NEVERMORE), Steve Stevens (BILLY IDOL), bassists Marco Mendoza (ex-Whitesnake), Billy Sheehan (MR. BIG, ex-DAVID LEE ROTH), Dave Ellefson (ex-MEGADETH), Rudy Sarzo (DIO, ex-OZZY OSBOURNE, ex-QUIET RIOT), James Lomenzo (Megadeth), Tony Franklin (ex-BLUE MURDER), Dennis Hayes (Beyond Fear) and drummers Simon Wright (ex-AC/DC, Dio), Vinny Appice (HEAVEN AND HELL), Ray Luzier (KORN), Bobby Jarzombek (RIOT, ex-HALFORD), and Brett Chassen. Fans and experts alike will love this sensational all-star line-up and may rest assured that the haunting songs will effortlessly live up to this illustrious cast of musicians: Tim Ripper Owens has never sounded more impressive, melodic and multi-faceted!

“I’ve gotten better as a songwriter,” Owens explains. “And I also write songs that the fans can really get into and get their fist pounding in the air. I’ve always been a great fan of the Black Sabbath line-up featuring Ronnie James Dio, and I love Judas Priest. Both bands delivered records that are straight forward and go directly to the bloodstream – which also happens to be my compositional approach.”

Release Dates for Play My Game on Steamhammer / SPV:

Germany / Austria / Switzerland: May 15th
UK / rest of Europe: May 18th
USA / Canada: May 19th

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I have been a Ripper Owens guy since he joined Judas Priest and I have enjoyed most of his projects since but I wish the guy would just continue the excellent Beyond Fear project instead of doing a solo album. That said, I’ll bet that this will be a solid record especially with all the collaborators that have contributed. Another good record to look forward to…..

— Steve

Press Release: New UFO album, The Visitor, due June 2nd

From SPV:

Good news for all fans of British rock legends UFO: their brand-new studio album, THE VISITOR, is due out before the end of spring.

ufo-the-visitor-2009-cd

ufo-the-visitor-2009-lp

The arrival of the album has been set for late May/early June, tour dates will be announced soon.

UFO composed more than 35 new tracks in the run-up to the recordings, 13 of which were short-listed and produced at the studio. 11 of these songs are expected to make it onto the regular album, the other two are scheduled to become bonus tracks for a limited edition digipak.

The current line-up continues to consist of the three original members, Phil Mogg (vocals), Paul Raymond (guitar, keyboards), and Andy Parker (drums), as well as American world-class guitarist Vinnie Moore. Bass legend and original member Pete Way is currently suffering from a liver disease and was unfortunately not available for the studio production.

“All those who have been into UFO for a long time will find all our characteristic trademarks on The Visitor, and anybody new to the band will be impressed by our enthusiasm and dynamism,” frontman Phil Mogg enthuses on the subject of the new songs.

THE VISITOR sees the band benefiting especially from their collaboration with Vinnie Moore, who joined UFO in autumn 2003 and has made an excellent impression on the albums, YOU ARE HERE (2004) and THE MONKEY PUZZLE (2006), and on the band’s tours.

Mogg: “Without running down previous UFO lineups – it’s been a long time since we had a team as strong as this one. Vinnie contributes his youthful energy and amazing guitar technique, and in Andy’s return we’ve seen the reappearance of a musician who has always been very important to the band’s original sound.”

Naturally the band will embark on a major world tour this year. Concert dates will be announced soon, and appearances at the Rock Hard festival at the end of May and the Wacken Open Air at the beginning of August 2009 in Germany have been confirmed.

Release Dates for THE VISITOR on Steamhammer / SPV:

Germany / Austria / Switzerland: May 29th
UK / rest of Europe: June 2nd
USA / Canada: June 2nd

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Big news here as UFO is one of my all-time favorite bands! The band has put out some great albums since they came back in 1995 so I’ll bet that THE VISITOR will be a great record and follow along the lines of the last two studio album with Vinnie Moore. I can’t wait!

— Steve