CD Scavenger Hunt – 8/31/09

Another update on what I’ve been able to pick up on Ebay and the record store in the last month or so. I really haven’t bought that much lately but I have a MAJOR want list going so I can concentrate on picking up certain releases.

Sea Hags debut album (1989)Sea Hags – s/t (1989) – $13: Another one of those albums I thought I had on CD but really had on cassette. I’ve kept an eye on Ebay for this one because I wanted the original pressing from 1989 and not the new reissue from Rock Candy Records (although I hear it’s a great reissue, Rock Candy puts out great product). I got lucky on this auction because there were three other Sea Hags auction ending around the same time and the supply outweighed the demand.

wild-boyz-unleashedWild Boyz – Unleashed! (1991) – $32: I finally got my hands on this rare Hard Rock indie after years of watching it on Ebay. UNLEASHED! used to go for hundreds of dollars in the late ’90s/early 2000s but the price has come down considerably over the last few years. Usually the CD runs between $50 – $75 at auction so I was psyched to get this at $29 with $3 shipping. This also replaces the cassette copy I bought a couple years ago for $4 at a local record store.

johnny lima - livin out loud (2009)Johnny Lima – Livin’ Out Loud (2009) – $13: I have read a ton of good reviews on this album so I decided to get off my ass and pick it up! A lot of the online shops I usually order from were carrying this between $15 – $17 plus shipping so I Googled and found it a CD Baby.com for $12.99 plus shipping. That still wasn’t good enough so I went to Johnny Lima’s website and ordered it for $9.99 + $3 shipping AND he personally autographed the insert for me! Now that’s a cool thing! I’ve played this non-stop since I got it in the mail…..within 2 days of ordering, great service! I’ll be buying up the rest of Johnny’s CDs thru his website soon.

Anvil - Hard 'N' Heavy (1981)Anvil – Hard ‘N’ Heavy (1981) – $13: I walked into my favorite local record store a couple weeks ago with my Anvil tour shirt on and one of the guys behind the register asked me if I had heard this album. I told him I had it on cassette from back in the day (I’m old!) but I would take that brand new CD copy he had in front of him! Not a bad price for the CD, especially when it’s a Canadian import and the online stores are charging close to $20!

forged2_bigAnvil – Forged In Fire (1983) – $13: Seeing that I was buying HARD ‘N’ HEAVY I figured I might as well replace the cassette copy of FORGED IN FIRE as well! Again, $13 in the local store but close to $20 online for this Canadian import. Who knew that a Canadian import would be as expensive as a European? Just goes to show you that the Anvil resurgence is loud and proud! I would have grabbed METAL ON METAL (1982) too but that one had been bought earlier that morning.

behemoth-evangelionBehemoth – Evangelion (2009) – $9.99: When I picked up the two Anvil CDs, the real reason i was in the record store was to pick up the new Behemoth album. I didn’t want to miss out on the sale price for the limited edition that included a bonus DVD. Now I’m not the biggest Behemoth fan but one thing I promised myself was that I was going to check out more extreme genres of Metal, specifically Black Metal. I caught the video for ‘Ov Fire And the Void’ online and I thought the music was cool so I decided to pick this up.

gwar-lust_coverGwar – Lust In Space (2009) – $9.99: nothing beats a new Gwar record, especially when you get it the day it comes out for a sale price! Gwar have been one of those cult bands I’ve followed since high school. Back around 1988-1990 when I was a junior & senior, Gwar had released their first two records and were on MTV, we all dug the image and the tunes. LUST IN SPACE is my first new Gwar album since 1999’s WE KILL EVERYTHING, I’ve missed a few in between that I’m going to have to pick up soon.

Ravage - The End Of Tomorrow (2009)Ravage – The End Of Tomorrow (2009) – $9.99: You gotta love the $9.99 sale prices on the new Metal Blade releases! Ravage are from the Boston area so they are a local band for me. The band has been around since the late ’90s releasing demos and E.P.s most of the time, although they have 5 self-released live albums! This is their second proper full-length album, the first one being SPECTRAL RIDER (2005). Check them out!

Swedish Death Metal bookSwedish Death Metal (by Daniel Ekeroth) (2009) – $35: I have been eye-balling this book for a couple months now but the price tag has always discouraged the purchase. My birthday was 8/16 and I received a nice $40 gift card to the local record store so I made it a point to get over there and buy the book. Guess what happened? The copy I had been watching for months had sold! I ended up having the store order one and I had to wait another week. I’ve been reading this for the last week and it’s going to take me a while because Death Metal isn’t my usual thing and I am constantly stopping mid-page, running to the computer and Googling the bands so I can get some music samples…..the Want List is growing!

Ebay Madness: Sgt. Roxx – Push And Squeeze (1990) sells for $610.10!

Sgt. Roxx released one album, PUSH AND SQUEEZE, independently back in 1990 and it is always one of the most sought after Hard Rock indie rarities among collectors. This release is widely bootlegged, there is currently a bootleg out of Italy from 2006 circulating, but if you want an original presing then you better be willing to pay the big bucks!

sgt roxx - push and squeese auction

Sgt. Roxx – Push And Squeeze (1990) sells for $610.10 on Ebay

Seller: silver*wings
Country: Washington (USA)
Starting Price = 99 cents
Bids = 37

The seller is from the U.S. with 100% feedback and low shipping ($3). The auction is extremely detailed with close-up pictures of the CD and the front and back covers…..the all important catalog numbers and label name are very clear. Of all the copies I’ve seen over the years on Ebay, this one looks to be the original pressing and not the Italian bootleg. The auction started on August 8th at 99 cents and it went well over $100 by the end of August 9th. It cleared $200 on 8/11, $250 by 8/14 and then the bidding went wild on the last day to end at $610.10!

Heaven & Hell and Coheed & Cambria in concert at the Bank of America Pavilion (Boston, MA) – 8/28/09

I bought my ticket to the Heaven & Hell show back in early May but I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it last night with all the stuff I’ve had going on physically. About 5pm I decided to drag myself behind the wheel and make the hour drive up to Boston for the show. This was going to be my 4th time seeing Heaven & Hell since they reunited back in 2006 and I had 11th row! Can’t pass that up!

Coheed & Cambria setlist:

I’m going to be extremely honest here: I have no idea who these guys are! I’ve seen the albums in the stores, seen the ads in magazines but I’ve never heard one tune by this band. I figured they were a new band but they’ve actually been around since 2002. The band played 50 mins and was a big hit with the younger crowd that was in attendance…..I would say that everyone ages 12-25 new who these guys were. They got a great response from the crowd and I saw a ton of Coheed & Cambria shirts being bought. Maybe these guys are worth checking out?

Heaven & Hell setlist:

E5150
The Mob Rules
Children Of The Sea
I
Bible Black
Time Machine
(Vinny Appice drum solo)
Fear
Falling Off The Edge Of The World
Follow The Tears
(Tony Iommi guitar solo intro)
Die Young
Heaven & Hell (with extended solo)

Encore:
Country Girl
Neon Knights

Like I mentioned, this was the 4th time I was seeing Heaven & Hell since the reformed back in 2006…..I’ve always been a huge Black Sabbath fan, especially post-Ozzy, so hearing the classic Dio-era of the band in concert is a special thing. Call it what you want, it will always be Black Sabbath to me! So I got to my seat right after the Coheed & Cambria set: 11th row and dead center! I was so close I could see Iommi’s fake fingertips! Great seats!

The band started out with ‘The Mob Rules’, an absolute classic, and never stopped. One thing I have to say for the band, they deliver a high powered set that a lot of younger bands could learn from: Ronnie James Dio sounded the best I had heard of all four shows, Tony Iommi played brilliantly and effortlessly, Geezer Butler’s fingers flew up and down his bass and Vinny  Appice is one heavy hitter. You could tell the guys were enjoying themselves, a lot of smiles on the stage last night! Not a lot of talking in between songs, just quick song intros,  just pure Heavy Metal.

The setlist was pretty good but a little short. The band played the mandatory classics like ‘Heaven & Hell’, ‘Children Of The Sea’, and ‘Die Young’ along with three new songs off THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (2009): ‘Bible Black’, ‘Fear’ and ‘Follow The Tears’. I’ve had the new album since it came out and I really like it so it was good to get a few new songs in the set although I was surprised that they didn’t play any of the three songs off the LIVE AT RADIO CITY (2006) album. I figured they would play two tracks from the latest album and give us ‘The Devil Cried’ or ‘Shadow Of the Wind’. The new songs came off well live with great crowd response…..I did notice a run on the CDs at the merchandise stand after the show, a lot of young kids picking up the album!

The only complaint I have in an otherwise flawless performance is that it was too short. I think I say that about every show I go to because I enjoy the music so much but this one was short despite the 95 minute set. Heaven & Hell have some long songs and ‘Children Of The Sea’, ‘Falling Off The Edge Of The World’ and ‘Heaven & Hell’ take up close to a half an hour on their own, especially when you add in some extended soloing from Iommi. The new songs are also on the slower/longer side of things so you got a more quality than quantity…..I’ll definitely take that. Sometimes newer bands try to cram in a ton of songs and they suck performance wise. The encore had a abbreviated ‘Country Girl’ that was almost like a quick intro to the speedy ‘Neon Knights’ but it got a great response. A lot of old school Sabbath fans were commenting after the show that it was a pleasant surprise to hear ‘Country Girl’ live.

I enjoyed the entire show but there is always something that stands out and for me it was the two tracks that the band played from the underrated DEHUMANIZER (1992) album: ‘I’ and ‘Time Machine’. It’s great to see the band embrace their entire catalog and DEHUMANIZER is a great album. I saw Sabbath on that tour also so that album holds a special place in my Metal world alongside HEAVEN & HELL and MOB RULES. ‘I’ has been in the setlist since the reunion in 2006 and the band has seen fit to perform ‘Computer God’ and ‘After All (The Dead)’ at the other shows I’ve seen so getting ‘Time Machine was a complete surprise! Great songs! Great show! RJD mentioned that this show in Boston was the next to last show of the tour so it looks like I’ll have to wait until 2010 or early 2011 to see the band again.

Update

I just wanted to give everyone who has contacted me a heads up with what’s going on at the site and especially what’s up with my August project.

Unfortunately, I injured myself and I have been unable to sit at the computer for the last few weeks. That means the August project of “31 reviews in 31 days” didn’t happen according to plan.

The good news is I am better and I can actually do things again so I have a plan! I am going to move the August project to September and get this thing rolling again.

If you are a band, label or PR firm that sent in an album for review, I will be sending you a new publish date for your records. If you are a loyal reader of HMA that has contacted me saying “where are all the reviews?”…..keep an eye on September 1st.

— Steve

KISS announce new album, Sonic Boom, artwork, tracklisting & release date revealed

From Bravewords:

KISS - Sonic Boom (2009)

KISS and Walmart announced today that SONIC BOOM, the band’s highly anticipated CD, and its first new material in 11 years-will be sold in the U.S. and Canada exclusively at Walmart, Walmart.com and Sam’s Club retail locations beginning October 6. SONIC BOOM, produced by the band’s Paul Stanley in Los Angeles, is the centerpiece of a three-disc set that also features a completely re-recorded greatest hits CD as well as a live DVD shot in Argentina during the band’s recent, record-breaking KISS Alive 35 South American tour. The CD set will retail for $12, with pre-orders starting in September on Walmart.com.

KISS’ Gene Simmons says, “Sonic Boom may be the best new record we’ve done since Destroyer! It is Rock And Roll Over meets Love Gun. The world’s biggest retailer had better get ready for the hottest band in the world and hire more cashiers before October 6th!”

Stanley continues, “Through all of the albums that are considered our classics, we tried to always find ways to give our fans extras that went beyond just the music. Besides our making the best KISS album in decades, Walmart has made it possible for us to include a bonus CD with 15 of our most famous songs and an additional live DVD, shot during our recent concert in Buenos Aires. So in every sense, SONIC BOOM is the ultimate return to classic KISS form. You wanted the best, you got the best!”

Walmart, one of America’s largest music retailers, is finalizing its exciting plans now for its in-store and online destinations for KISS fans surrounding the launch of the new album and tour, and will host various KISS products in addition to their music in its stores this fall. More details on Walmart KISS activity, announcements regarding album pre-sales, sweepstakes and KISS appearances will be shared shortly.

Sonic Boom CD Tracklisting:
‘Modern Day Delilah’ (audio sample below)
‘Russian Roulette’
‘Never Enough’
‘Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect)’
‘Stand’
‘Hot And Cold’
‘All For The Glory’
‘Danger Us’
‘I’m An Animal’
‘When Lightning Strikes’
‘Say Yeah’

The US and Canadian release of Sonic Boom is a three-disc set that also features KISS Klassics, a 15-track completely re-recorded greatest hits CD, as well as a live DVD shot in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the band’s 2009 South American tour. The discs are packaged in a DigiPak along with a 20-page booklet.

Sonic Boom will be available exclusively at Walmart, Walmart.com and Sam’s Club retail locations beginning October 6.

KISS Klassics CD Track Listing:
‘Deuce’
‘Detroit Rock City’
‘Shout It Out Loud’
‘Hotter Than Hell’
‘Calling Dr. Love’
‘Love Gun’
‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’
‘Heaven’s On Fire’
‘Lick It Up’
‘I Love It Loud’
‘Forever’
‘Christine Sixteen’
‘Do You Love Me’
‘Black Diamond’
‘Rock And Roll All Nite’

KISS Bonus Live DVD Track Listing:
‘Deuce’
‘Hotter Than Hell’
‘C’mon And Love Me’
‘Watchin’ You’
‘100,000 Years’
‘Rock & Roll All Nite’

Praying Mantis – Sanctuary (2009)

praying mantis - sanctuary

Praying Mantis – Sanctuary (2009, Frontiers Records)

  1. In Time
  2. Restless Heart
  3. Tears In The Rain
  4. So High
  5. Turn The Tide
  6. Touch The Rainbow
  7. Threshold Of A Dream
  8. Playing God
  9. Highway
  10. Sanctuary

praying mantis 2009

Band Lineup:
Tino Troy – Guitars, Keyboards & Vocals
Chris Troy – Bass, Keyboards & Vocals
Mike Freeland – Lead Vocals
Andy Burgess –  Guitars, Keyboards & Vocals
Benjy Reid – Drums/Percussion

Producer: Andy Reilly

Country: United Kingdom

Total Time = 51:18

Praying Mantis
Praying Mantis MySpace page
Frontiers Records

I have always been a big fan of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) movement from the early 1980s and I always make it a point to check out the new albums that some of the continuing bands release. Back in the day, I remember reading a lot about their debut TIME TELLS NO LIES (1981) in a lot of the Rock magazines and I eventually picked it up as well as some of their other albums I discovered when I started to research some of the classic bands in the late ’90s. Despite being lumped in with the rest of the up and coming bands of the NWOBHM era, Praying Mantis always seemed to have a different style to their music: more Melodic Hard Rock and AOR than all out Heavy Metal. When I read that Praying Mantis was releasing their first new album in six years, I knew that I was going to pick it up and that it would be a good record.

Let’s talk about the band lineup first. The Troy brothers (Tino & Chris) have always been the mainstays of the band and they are joined by touring members Benjy Reid (drums) and Andy Burgess (guitars, keyboards) so there is a consistent base. One thing Praying Mantis is known for is numerous lineup changes, especially at the vocal spot. Former singers include some big names like Doogie White, Gary Barden, Paul Di’anno and Bernie Shaw…..now add Mike Freeland (ex-More, ex-Nemesis) to the list! Freeland has a very melodic voice but with a lot of power and range, he kind of reminds me of Joe Lynn Turner a bit because his singing sounds so effortless and melodic. Also maybe Toby Hitchcock from Pride Of Lions and Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween, current Place Vendome). Freeland doesn’t have that high Metal range like a Ralf Scheepers or Geoff Tate in his prime but he has a solid singing voice that fits the music perfectly.

SANCTUARY starts off with the melodic Metal of ‘In Time’, it has some Power Metal characteristics at times with driving drums and excellent guitar work but the song leans towards the melodic side half the time. Some high vocals here from Freeland set the bar high for the rest of the record. ‘Restless Heart’ reminds me of Journey and Survivor with a powerful lead guitar and vocal harmonies as does the mid-tempo ‘Tears In The Rain’. Both songs have that solid blend of guitar harmonies, complimentary keyboards and excellent vocals…..songs that would have been radio singles back when radio was good! Momentum picks up again with the Joe Lynn Turner-era Rainbow style of ‘So High’, my favorite song off the album. It’s very melodic but Hard Rock and the band sounds energetic and fluid performing with ease and the vocals are top notch. ‘So High’ has that melodic hook that gets you cranking the stereo and singing along.

A piano and acoustic guitar intro opens the smooth ballad ‘Turn The Tide’ that has really great vocals harmonies like AOR greats Survivor and Journey but Freeland has that smooth JLT thing going again and it fits the track perfectly. I’m a sucker for an acoustic based song and the guitarwork on ‘Turn the Tide’ is superb. Praying Mantis picks up the tempo again with another Rainbow influenced song, ‘Touch The Rainbow’, and the melodic Metal of ‘Threshhold Of A Dream’. Both songs show off the excellent axework and vocals but I found myself concentrating on Benjy Reid’s drums and Chris Troy’s bass, a solid rhythm throughout the entire album, it sounds like they’ve been together for years. ‘Playing God’ gets heavy with a thick main riff and solid guitar solos but there is that melodic touch that Praying Mantis adds in that really makes the song memorable…..this is how it is over the entire record and that makes a good record! Moving back to the ’80s AOR of Journey, Bad English and Toto, ‘Highway’ is an excellent melodic song that would have been a hit single back in the day. It’s a very commercial, radio friendly song that is the polar opposite of the band’s NWOBHM roots but Praying Mantis are so versatile that they can play different styles with ease. The album ends with the title track ‘Sanctuary’, a six minute melodic Hard Rock feast.

Bottom Line:
I went into SANCTUARY expecting Praying Mantis to pull out a heavy, NWOBHM styled album but instead they produced one of the best melodic rock albums I’ve heard this year. There are heavier and faster songs, a couple of ballads and a few mid-tempos that all blend in together perfectly to make SANCTUARY a top album of 2009. The Troy brothers are still the solid anchors they’ve been since the late ’70s and they are complimented well by both Burgess and Reid but the standout has to be new singer Mike Freeland. Freeland puts in a solid performance showing he can sing both the harder and softer side of Hard Rock with good tone and range, he is definitely the man to fill the vocal slot in Praying Mantis for years to come. If you like ’80s styled AOR/Melodic Rock with a heavier updated twist, then SANCTUARY is well worth picking up.

Favorite Songs:
I really enjoyed the entire album but the standouts for me were ‘Restless Heart’, ‘Tears In The Rain’, ‘Turn The Tide’ and ‘Heaven’/

Edgehill Avenue – Rambler (2009)

Edgehill Avenue - Rambler (2009)

Edgehill Avenue – Rambler (2009, Departure Records)

  1. Rambler
  2. With These Hands
  3. Just Another Day
  4. Don’t Come Round Here Anymore
  5. I’ll Be Leaving Now
  6. Just Don’t Care Anymore
  7. How You Really Feel
  8. Holding On
  9. Out Of Time
  10. Justified
  11. Justified (Radio Edit)

edgehill avenue 2009

Band Lineup:
Drew Perkins – Vocals & Guitar
Mike McLaughlin – Lead Guitar
John Poole – Bass & Backing Vocals
Lamont Melson – Drums
Paul Nevitt – Piano/Organ

Additional Musicians:
Leigh Ann Yost (tracks 5 & 9)
Daphne Luster (track 4)
Chris Greenwell (track 10 & 11)
Mark Noderer (track 10 & 11)

Producer: William Bartley
(‘Justified’ produced by Nick Stevens)

Total Time = 51:09

Edgehill Avenue
Edgehill Avenue MySpace page
Departure Records

Every once in a while I get an album on my desk that goes against everything I listen to and offers up something completely fresh…..that’s exactly what’s happened with the latest from Kentucky’s Edgehill Avenue, RAMBLER. I’ve always liked Southern Rock (bands like .38 Special, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top and Black Oak Arkansas) because it’s been a staple of pure American Rock ‘n’ Roll radio. How can you turn on a radio and not hear classic songs like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ‘Melissa’ or ‘Hot And Nasty’? There’s a smoother edge to Southern Rock, it sounds effortless, but it also has deep roots in the Blues and Country and that’s exactly what I hear on RAMBLER. Maybe add a little Stevie Ray Vaughn and The Eagles in for good measure.

Overall, RAMBLER has a slow southern flow to it, mostly mid-tempo to ballad style tracks but there are a few uptempo songs like ‘With These Hands’ and ‘Just Don’t Care Anymore’. ‘With These Hands’ has this blues based sound complete with organ that sounds like most of Great White’s current record RISING (2009) (or what Great White tried to do on their record!) while ‘Just Don’t Care Anymore’ reminds me a little of The Allman Brothers hit ‘Ramblin’ Man’. I also like the Bluesy ‘Don’t Come Round Here Anymore’, a song that rivals a good Skynyrd tune with it’s smooth organ and pretty harmonies courtesy of Daphne Luster. Listen to the guitar solo on this song too, very cool and kind of Stevie Ray Vaughn styled. The slower songs have a lot to offer as well: ‘Just Another Day’ has a really big organ intro with some swirling guitars but it’s definitely a slow and smooth ride while the ballad ‘I’ll Be Leaving Now’ pulls out the acoustics and sounds like the Country side of The Eagles. The first single from RAMBLER turns out to be the last song on the album…..’Justified’. I’d call this song mid-tempo but there are some funky rhythms that almost go a little jazz at times. I like the trade-off solos between the organ and the electric guitar, very cool.

Bottom Line:
With a steady diet of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal it’s always nice to come across an album that is different from what you’re used to. As I mentioned before, I’m a Southern Rock fan and there are different levels of intensity just like Metal. Edgehill Avenue’s RAMBLER is a well-performed, well-produced album that blends Blues, Southern, and a touch of Jazz here and there to complete an overall grassroots sound. Most of the songs are mid-tempo and mellow but that’s exactly what I liked about the record, you can hear the different instruments play off each other without a ton of extras and there’s a lot of soul to the playing. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear songs from RAMBLER on Country radio or maybe Classic Rock radio stations that play some new artists from time to time. Definitely out of my usual musical comfort zone but a nice detour…..worth checking out.

Favorite Songs:
‘Don’t Come Round Here Anymore’, ‘With These Hands’, ‘Just Don’t Care Anymore’, “I’ll Be Leaving Now’

Judas Priest – A Touch Of Evil Live (2009)

Judas Priest - A Touch Of Evil Live (2009)

Judas Priest – A Touch Of Evil Live (2009, Sony/Epic)

  1. Judas Rising
  2. Hellrider
  3. Between The Hammer And The Anvil
  4. Riding On The Wind
  5. Death
  6. Beyond The Realms Of Death
  7. Dissident Aggressor
  8. A Touch Of Evil
  9. Eat Me Alive
  10. Prophecy
  11. Painkiller

Band Lineup:
Rob Halford – Vocals
Glenn Tipton – Guitars
KK Downing – Guitars
Ian Hill – Bass
Scott Travis – Drums

Producers: Tom Allom & Judas Priest

Total Time = 59:58

Judas Priest
Judas Priest MySpace page

Hot on the heels of Judas Priest’s latest tour to promote the 30 year anniversary of BRITISH STEEL (1980), the band has delivered another live album titled A TOUCH OF EVIL LIVE. This new live record marks the band’s fifth live album and the first with Rob Halford since their reunion in 2004…..it’s also the first live album with Halford since 1987’s PRIEST…LIVE. Hard to believe that it’s been 22 years since the band has released a live album with the classic lineup!

I’ve seen Judas Priest in concert four times since 2005 and each time I’ve witnessed a great Heavy Metal concert. What has really made the shows special for me is that the band has sprinkled in new songs from both ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION (2005) and NOSTRADAMUS (2008) with a bunch of classic album tracks to go along with the usual hits. Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy hearing ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ and ‘Living After Midnight’ but there’s something special about a Judas Priest concert when they dig deep for the diehards in attendance and perform songs like ‘Dissident Aggressor’ and ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death’.

Six of the eleven songs on this album come from the last three studio albums with Halford: two come from ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION (‘Judas Rising’ & ‘Hellrider’), two come from NOSTRADAMUS (‘Death’ & ‘Prophecy’) and three come from 1990’s PAINKILLER (‘Between The Hammer & The Anvil’, ‘A Touch Of Evil’ & ‘Painkiller’). I really enjoyed the last two Priest records so the newer songs have come off well in concert and both PAINKILLER songs have been live staples since 1990, even during the Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens era. That leaves room for four album tracks. When I saw the band in 2005, the arena went completely crazy when the driving ‘Riding On The Wind’ was played so it was good to have it on here. ‘Dissident Aggressor’ has always been one of my favorites from SIN AFTER SIN (1977) and ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death’ is a classic track from the excellent STAINED CLASS (1978). The best track for me is ‘Eat Me Alive’ because it comes from my favorite Priest record DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH (1984). When I saw the band play live at Mohegan Sun last summer, I almost lost my mind when the band pulled this out four songs in.

Bottom Line:
A TOUCH OF EVIL LIVE is another good live album from Judas Priest. What makes the album is the tracklisting, outside of ‘Painkiller’ and ‘A Touch Of Evil’ the rest of the setlist is a diehard’s dream. There are enough old school album tracks mixed with the newer songs to give a bit more variety than yoour standard live record full of hits. This record is more of a souveneir for me, I like having a piece of the last two tours that I saw on CD and I’m hoping that the band releases a live album of the current BRITISH STEEL anniversary tour. My only complaint with the album is that there are gaps between the songs and that disrupts the album’s flow. That shows that these songs were pieced from different tours and shows and sequenced accordingly. I would rather hear a continuous live show for a better feel of what it was like to be there but I’ll take what I can get.

Favorite Songs:
Like I mentioned, the tracklisting is great of you like the new studio records and some of the older album cuts. For me, the best song is ‘Eat Me Alive’ with ‘Dissident Aggressor’ coming in a close second. Of the newer songs, I think ‘Prophecy’ and ‘Judas Rising’ come off the best.

Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens – Play My Game (2009)

Tim 'Ripper' Owens - Play My Game (2009)

Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens – Play My Game (2009, SPV)

  1. Starting Over
  2. Believe
  3. The Cover Up
  4. Pick Yourself Up
  5. It Is Me
  6. No Good Goodbyes
  7. The World Is Blind
  8. To Live Again
  9. The Light
  10. Play My Game
  11. Death Race
  12. The Shadows Are Alive

Musicians:
Tim “Ripper” Owens – Vocals
Bob Kulick – Guitars (Tracks 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 13)
John Comprix – Guitars (Tracks 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11)
Craig Goldy – Guitars (Track 2)
Jeff Loomis – Guitars (Track 3)
Mike Callahan – Guitars (Track 4)
Steve Stevens – Guitars (Track 4)
Carlos Cavazo – Guitars (Track 5)
Bruce Kulick – Guitars (Track 6)
Doug Aldrich – Guitars (Track 7)
Michael Wilton – Guitars (Track 8)
Neil Zaza – Guitars (Track 10)
Chris Caffery – Guitars (Track 12)
Rudy Sarzo – Bass (Tracks 1, 2, 5, 10, 13)
James Lomenzo – Bass (Tracks 3, 11)
Dennis Hayes – Bass (Track 4)
Billy Sheehan – Bass (Tracks 6, 7)
David Ellefson – Bass (Track 8)
Tony Franklin – Bass (Track 9)
Marco Mendoza – Bass (Track 12)
Simon Wright – Drums (Tracks 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12)
Brett Chassen – Drums (Tracks 3, 6, 11)
Ray Luzier – Drums (Track 4)
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums (Track 9)
Vinny Appice – Drums (Track 13)

Producers: Brett Chassen & Bob Kulick

Total Time = 53:01

Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens
Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens MySpace page
SPV

Back in the mid-’90s when Judas Priest were searching the globe for a new lead singer to replace the legendary Rob Halford, no one expected the former Winter’s Bane singer to be the man chosen for the job. We all know the story: Owens was fronting British Steel (a Judas Priest tribute band), a tape got to the Priest camp, and Owens beat out some heavy cometition from the likes of Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear) and D.C. Cooper (ex-Royal Hunt). The story inspires the Rock Star movie, Judas Priest releases two studio and two live albums with Ripper and things are looking up for the once unknown vocalist. Then the eventual reunion with Halford comes and Ripper is let go from the Priest camp to make his own way.

Ripper has done pretty well for himself since the Priest split by joining two big names in the Metal world and creating his own projects. He joined Iced Earth for two studio albums (2004’s THE GLORIUS BURDEN and 2007’s FRAMING ARMAGEDDON) and he sang on last year’s release from Yngwie Malmsteen – PERPETUAL FLAME while finding time in between to get his own band together, Beyond Fear, and release a solid self-titled album in 2006. Amid rumors of a Winter’s Bane reunion and a Beyond Fear sophomore release, Owens has come back with an album under his own name loaded with a ton of guest musicians. All the tracks on PLAY MY GAME are written by Ripper or with co-writers that performed on the album. This marks a significant change in Ripper’s career because he has been involved in projects where the material is already created and it is his job to lay down the vocals. This solo album is much like the Beyond Fear debut in that it is Ripper in control of the material instead of being a “singer for hire”.

Overall, PLAY MY GAME is a Traditional Metal album rooted in Judas Priest and Black Sabbath influences but mixed with a very melodic Hard Rock groove. Opening track ‘Starting Over’ is a melodic mid -tempo Dio-styled song that doesn’t really pick up until the chorus. Same thing with ‘Believe’, it’s a bit heavier but it leans more toward a mid-tempo chug where the vocal seems to be subdued. Ripper’s main strength is his voice and he can easily match a Halford or Dio as far as power and range but his performance on these first two songs throw up warning flags for me. Don’t get me wrong, he can sing and he sounds great but the album is a “Tim Owens” album, the focus is going to be solely on the vocals and songwriting. Ripper is known for his metallic wail not melodic rock singing.

‘The Cover Up’ gets things back on track with a more metallic sound and a more intense vocal with plenty of high screams. Nice to hear Steve Stevens all over this track on lead guitar and I like the UFO/alien subject matter in the songwriting. Unfortunately, ‘Pick Yourself Up’ gets back to the sludgy mid-tempo pace of the first two songs and it really doesn’t stand out at all. Same thing with ‘Is It Me’, another song that follows a heavy but subdued approach with flashes of aggressive vocals, and ‘No Good Goodbyes’, a track that tries hard to get heavy. These songs remind me of the two Judas Priest records (1997’s JUGULATOR and 2001’s DEMOLITION) Ripper was a part of: doomy, sludgy, heavy but not enough memorable moments to satisfy. The first half of ‘The World Is Blind’ is very promising with it’s uptempo groove but the second half moves in and out of a slow Dio fronted Black Sabbath epic. The contrasting styles make it an interesting song but the best part has to be Billy Sheehan’s bass lines.

Ripper and the gang get back to a melodic Hard Rock style with the biographical ballad ‘To Live Again’. It’s a pretty cool track and definitely introspective as Ripper sounds like he’s using his past experiences as the focal point. There’s a bunch of songs that bleed emotion and feeling over the last few years of being the man in one of the biggest Metal bands on the planet to being asked to leave so they cane reclaim lost glories with their original singer. Songs like ‘To Live Again’, ‘Starting Over’, ‘Believe’, ‘Is It Me’ and ‘No Good Goodbyes’ all have that common songwriting thread and that makes PLAY MY GAME a truly honest album. There is more mid-tempo sludgery on ‘The Light’ that makes it sound like more of the same but the vocal is decent and the title track doesn’t stray too far from the formula either. Thankfully, the album’s best track finally kicks in! ‘Death Race’ is the song I’ve waited for patiently for 10 songs complete with inspired axework from Beyond Fear guitarist John Comprix, powerful drumming and a vocal performance from Ripper that doesn’t sound like he’s trying hard to hold back. The final cut is the dark and brooding ‘The Shadows Are Alive’, a song co-written between Ripper and Chris Caffery (Savatage). The song speeds up halfway through with Caffery’s superb guitar and a lively bass and drum sound from veterans Marco Mendoza and Simon Wright. Even Ripper himself sounds like he has more energy and power…..a good way to end the album.

Bottom Line:
I am a Tim Owens fan. When he joined Judas Priest, I supported him completely as I bought all the albums and caught the live show. When he was asked to leave for the reunion, I thought the alliance with Iced Earth would be Earth shattering but it turned out to be a bit mediocre for me. That’s the thing that has plagued Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens so far in his career, he has always been given material to basically just sing. Over the course of the five studio album he’s made with Judas Priest, Iced Earth and Yngwie Malmsteen, Ripper has only 3 writing credits and they are all co-written with the main composers. That is where PLAY MY GAME lives and dies…..in the songwriting. Every song is either written by Ripper himself or co-written with a member of his all-star cast and that basically leaves the quality of the songs in Ripper’s hands. I like the personal lyrics that Ripper has written on half the songs but I wish the songs were faster with more power. Don’t get me wrong, the slower doom laden style that encompasses most of the album is very well done but everything starts to sound the same after a while. Even the more melodic sounding songs still have that mid-tempo pace and that really makes it hard for individual songs to stand out despite the excellent roll call of musicians that contributed to the album. There are some standout songs like ‘Death Race’, ‘Is It Me’ and ‘Starting Over’ that are completely different from the overall mid-pace package but they aren’t enough to push this record past average. It’s too bad because I was really looking forward to it…..I’ve had the album since early May and I’ve kept it in my regular rotation but repeated spins hasn’t made me enjoy it that much more.

Favorite Songs:
‘Death Race’, ‘Starting Over’, ‘Is It Me’, ‘The Shadows Are Alive’

Sacred Oath – s/t (2009)

Sacred Oath - Sacred Oath (2009)

Sacred Oath – s/t (2009, Angel Thorne Music)

  1. Paradise Lost
  2. Blood Storm
  3. Voodoo Dolls
  4. Counting Zeros
  5. High And Mighty
  6. Sacred Oath
  7. Caught In The Arc
  8. Buried Alive
  9. What The Dark Will Undo
  10. Hunt For The Fallen Angel

Sacred Oath 2009

Band Lineup:
Rob Thorne – Vocals & Guitars
Kenny Evans – Drums
Bill Smith – Guitars
Scott Waite – Bass

Producer: Rob Thorne

Total Time = 50:15

Sacred Oath 
Sacred Oath MySpace page

American Metal pioneers Sacred Oath have been one of the most talked about bands in the underground for years. The band formed in 1985 and, after a couple of demos, recorded their debut, A CRYSTAL VISION, in 1987. Shortly after the band broke up and the legend of Sacred Oath began as they were called one of the leaders of traditional U.S. Metal. In 2005, the band reformed and has released three albums: a re-recording of the debut, a studio album and a live record. With the buzz surrounding the band at a high, the new self-titled album has been unleashed. SACRED OATH was initially released as an iTunes exclusive back in April and the band started getting a bunch of offers from labels worldwide. It’s good to point out that there are two versions of this album: the 10 song  jewel case that I am reviewing here and the 14 song limited edition digipak that I am trying to track down.

Sacred Oath plays an old school style of Traditional Metal that can be described as Power Metal, Thrash, Speed Metal and NWOBHM all rolled into one explosive package. Think Judas Priest, Armored Saint, Diamond Head, Metallica, Metal Church, Queensryche and Iron Maiden all rolled into one. That’s one hell of a combination! Opening the album is the speed demon ‘Paradise Lost’ that reminds me of the NWOBHM mixed with the early Metal Blade and Megaforce bands. There’s a blend of styles with Speed Metal and early Power Metal but it has that raw NWOBHM quality, the essence of independent Metal. ‘Paradise Lost’ sets the tone for the enitre album with twin duelling guitars laying down speed riffs and cool solos while the rhythm section lays down a thick foundation. Right away I feel like I’m back in 1982 again and everything is new. ‘Blood Storm’ is another guitar heavy song that slows down slightly with a thick main riff and plenty of double bass pounding but the bridge and chorus are quite melodic and catchy. Same thing for ‘Voodoo Dolls’, it’s a driving powerful song that captures that early Power Metal sound without all the “dungeons & dragons” stigma that the European bands seem to live with. The bass on ‘Voodoo Dolls’ is incredible, as it is on the entire album, and really pushes the song.

The first single/video from SACRED OATH is ‘Counting Zeroes’, a mid-tempo song that sounds a little subdued compared to the first three tracks. The song reminds me of Queensryche with the higher vocals and the Melodic Metal style…..’Counting Zeros’ is probably the most commercial cut on the album.

One of my favorite songs on the album is ‘High And Mighty’ because it has the very cool Iron Maiden style guitar parts around the main riff structure. If you could just play the music without knowing the band or hearing the vocals, you would swear this was either Dave Murray or Adrian Smith dropping in the licks and solos on top of a very modern main riff. I hear those guitar parts and it just gets the headbanging. Same thing with the title track ‘Sacred Oath’, it sounds very Iron Maiden until Rob Thorne starts singing and he adds in his high Geoff Tate impression. Thorne still has a gruffness to his delivery but the highs sound like Tate in Queensryche pre-EMPIRE. The music on ‘Sacred Oath’ is right out of the Maiden playlist, especially come the solo with the twin leads and the bass…..great song. ‘Caught In The Arc’ stops the Maiden-isms and moves into the early Metallica era of Metal but ‘Buried Alive’ chugs along at a Maiden pace. Both songs are very heavy, especially ‘Buried Alive’ with it’s bass gallop and machine gun guitars.

Eight songs in and the band throws a curveball at us with a ballad! I really didn’t expect that at all but ‘What The Dark Will Undo’ is pretty cool. The beginning of the song relies on a melodic vocal from Thorne and subdued guitars and bass. Just when you think this is going to be a quiet ballad, a break in the Metal pounding, Rob Thorne breaks from his melodic vocal into a full-on scream and the band hits it hard again with breakneck riffs and pounding drums. It turns out ‘What The Dark Will Undo’ is one of the heaviest, and surprising, songs on the album! Closing out the record is ‘Hunt For The Fallen Angel’, another Power Metal feast that has a European flavor to it with it’s melodic flourishes and high end vocals. There’s also a little Progressive sound to the music (especially the bass) during the solo section, like early Dream Theater.

Bottom Line:
It’s hard to expect much from a band that released one classic record in 1987, broke up and reformed almost 20 years later but Sacred Oath have hit on all cylinders with this new self-titled album. There are a ton of influences here but in no way is Sacred Oath copying Iron Maiden, Metallica or Queensryche note for note. What they are doing is taking bits of each bands sound and making it their own. Traditional Metal is making a major comeback and pure Power Metal has been a force since the late ’90s but it seems like the majority of bands playing these styles are from Europe. It’s nice to hear an American band like Sacred Oath make an album that sounds so fresh because it sounds retro. My bottom line? One of the best albums of 2009 and one that I just can’t stop playing! Other bands should take notice. Now I have to track down the limited edition digipak because there are four additional original songs…..I’ll bet they are just as good as these ten.

Favorite Songs:
The album is excellent and I like every song on it but, if I had to pick one song it would be ‘High And Mighty’. There is something about those guitar licks over that main riff that really catch my attention.