Archive for September, 2009

Stryper - Murder By Pride (2009)

Stryper – Murder by Pride (2009, Big 3 Records)

  1. Eclipse For The Sun
  2. 4 Leaf Clover
  3. Peace Of Mind
  4. Alive
  5. The Plan
  6. Murder By Pride
  7. Mercy Over Blame
  8. I Believe
  9. Run In You
  10. Love Is Why
  11. Everything
  12. My Love (I’ll Always Show)

Band Lineup:
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Robert Sweet – Drums & Vocals
Oz Fox – Guitars & Vocals
Tracy Ferrie – Bass & Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Tom Scholz – Guitar on ‘Peace Of Mind’
Paul McNamara – Piano/Keyboards
Danny Bernini – Percussion
Kenny Aronoff – Drums

Producers: Michael Sweet & Danny Bernini

Executive Producer: Bill Edwards

Country: USA

Total Time = 45:45

Stryper
Stryper MySpace page
Big 3 Records

I have been a Stryper fan for a long time. Growing up part of the MTV generation, I knew all about Stryper while Hard Rock bands ruled the airwaves and TV channels. I remember first hearing the term “Christian Metal” and seeing the Stryper logo with “Isaiah 53.5″ under the name to mark the passage in the Bible where they got the name from. The band had these crazy yellow and black outfits that made their detractors call them bumblebees but the band had one thing going for them…..talent. I bought THE YELLOW AND BLACK ATTACK and SOLDIERS UNDER COMMAND in ’85 but the real Stryper testament came with 1986′s TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL. That album had the hits, the videos and the band at their peak. As time went on, I grew out of Stryper as the band faded after 1990.

The band reunited back in 2003 for a tour and live album but the real testimony was when the guys recorded the REBORN (2005), the new Stryper album! What a disappointment! Gone were the signature hooks, guitar solos and melodic ’80s Hard Rock sound…..in it’s place was a modern Hard Rock, Grunge, alt Rock sound. The band had toughened up their sound from their hair metal heyday but it just wasn’t Stryper. When I read that the band was coming back for another album, I was definitely wary. Especially when Michael Sweet joined classic rock legends Boston to help fill the void left by the late Brad Delp. All I could think of was another poor Stryper record…..I was wrong.

Stryper in 2009 is much different than Stryper in 2005. The most obvious thing is that the band has dropped the modern/grungy Rock sound and returned to their roots with the big ’80s sound that got them famous. The album kicks off right away with a solid rocker ‘Eclipse Of The Son’ and I could tell right away that this was going to be a good album. The song is fast with plenty of sing-a-long hooks, big background vocals and plenty of guitar. ’4 Leaf Clover’ slows down a little bit and adds some serious punch with the heavy riffing of Oz Fox. There’s plenty of hook to ’4 Leaf Clover’ to keep the listener involved and singing along. In order to make the connection with his latest gig in Boston, Michael Sweet steers the band to a cover of the Boston classic ‘Peace Of Mind’. Normally I won’t accept any cover tune on an album of original material but this version of ‘Peace Of Mind’ is great. Michael Sweet obviously has the high vocal register to handle the Boston tunes and he definitely shines, as does Boston founder Tom Scholz, who plays guest guitar on the track. This is one cover tune that gets a rare pass from me.

Ballad #1 is ‘Alive’ and it’s a beautiful piece of music that rivals the bands biggest hit ‘Honestly’ (from 1986) while ‘The Plan’ dives back into the Hard Rock groove with an opening guitar riff that sounds like .38 Special’s ‘Hold On Loosely’. More pure Hard Rock comes out of the title track, a song that sounds like it came from the harder side of ’80s Stryper. It’s weird to see a Stryper song title with the word “murder” in it but it’s hardly dangerous and/or violent. The song is more about rebellion and standing up for yourself so it’s really inspirational, something the band has always tried to do with their music. The band gets a little more modern edge to their big sound on ‘Mercy Over Blame’ but it doesn’t fall into the trap the songs on REBORN did. ‘Mercy Over Blame’ sounds like classic Stryper, just heavier. Listen for the cool basslines that tracy Ferrie peppers all over this song.

Ballad #2 arrives with ‘I Believe’, a surefire Stryper song title! The song is pretty quiet until the chorus when the guitars and backgrounds really kick in. It’s another successful ballad that could give their signature ballad ‘Honestly’ a run for it’s money. ‘Run in You’ is a mid-tempo, keyboard laced and acoustic guitar drivem track that sounds more like a slower Cheap Trick song.Same thing with ‘Love Is Why’ but the song is a little heavier due to the tempo and the big chorus. The Hard Rock tempo picks up again with the edgy ‘Everything’ and the Heavy Metal tinged guitar throb of ‘My Love (I’ll Always Show)’…..these are two of the best heavy rockers on the album.

Bottom Line:
I definitely wasn’t sure a Stryper comeback would work, especially after REBORN, but the band has created their best album since 1986. All the songs have excellent songwriting and perfect performances. Michael Sweet sounds just as good as he did back in the day and the rest of the band is tight. The songs are full of hooks that had me singing along almost immeadiately. The one thing I noticed is that Stryper conveyed their message of God to the fans without cramming it down their throat. Instead of writing songs that were complete bible-thumping, Stryper decided to take a more subtle approach and use positive lyrics to express their take on every day life. The songs stand on their own as Christian Metal and regular Rock songs. Definitely a solid comeback for Stryper and MURDER BY PRIDE definitely makes the list as really good album from 2009…..and a surprising one at that.

Favorite Songs:
‘Eclipse Of The Son’, ‘Peace Of Mind’, ‘I Believe’, ‘Alive’ , ‘Run In You’

Spank_-_Get_Bent_cover

Spank – Get Bent (2009, independent release)

  1. Turkey Leg
  2. Gravity
  3. Back To Me
  4. Breathing
  5. Terrified
  6. In Time
  7. Space
  8. Grounded
  9. Hard To Understand
  10. Step Out Of Line

Band Lineup:
Brian Boles – Guitars & Vocals
Jody Blevins – Bass & Vocals
Ben Barker – Drums & Vocals
David Barker – Guitars & Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Mitch Easter – Slide Guitar on ‘Back To Me’

Producer: Mitch Easter

Country: North Carolina, USA

Total Time = 33:47

Spank
Spank MySpace page

I’ve had GET BENT from North Carolina’s “ultimate Hard Rock band”, Spank, for a few months now and I let if just fall into the pile of stuff to listen to. I finally came across the press release that came with the CD (that was in another pile!) and the write-up made the band sound good. They made sure to mention the original songwriting, the professional musicianship and the “high energy, sweaty, in your face, entertaing” live shows! I especially liked how they mentioned their first full length record from 2006, THE MONKEY, (I like the play on words) and the name dropping with their self-titled E.P. from 2005, the band was able to work with producer Beau Hill (producer for Ratt, Winger, Warrant) on one track from their E.P. I was impressed that a virtually unknown band got to work with a legendary producer with a great track record. I was under the impression that there was going to be some solid melodic ’80s style Hard Rock on GET BENT. For some reason, it wasn’t to be.

Spank is a talented bunch of musicians and I’m almost positive that their live shows are high energy and sweaty but the proof is in the songs and all the talent in the world, all the high energy, won’t help if the songs are substandard. The bulk of the album sounds like modern Hard Rock, no different than the hundreds of bands playing the bar/club circuit right now and trying to make it. The sound is also no different from some of the “successful” bands on today’s Rock radio like Nickelback, Puddle Of Mudd or Shinedown. There are some standout songs like the melodic ‘Back To Me’ and ‘Terrified’, the power ballad ‘Hard To Understand and the uptempo and bass thumping ‘Step Out Of Line’. The rest of the album sounds all the same to me, nothing really grabs my attention.

Bottom Line:
Spank are decent musicians but they need to hone their songwriting skills. If they get stronger songs with that hook that makes the listener pay attention then they will have some success. The problem for me was most of this record sounded like a local bar band trying out their original material in between cover songs. Make me pay attention, do something different. Spank accomplishes this with a few songs but it’s not enough for me. A good effort that falls short.

Favorite Songs:
‘Back To Me’, ‘Terrified’, ‘Hard To Understand’

Mike Albert Project - Afterlife (2009)

Mike Albert Project – Afterlife (2009, Big Deal Records)

  1. Octavia
  2. Realms
  3. Blind Man’s Bluff
  4. Stalker
  5. Dr. Death
  6. Afterlife
  7. Hypnotic
  8. Weapons Of Mass Destruction
  9. UMFR
  10. Why Do You Always Say Goodbye
  11. UMFR (censored version)

Band Lineup:
Mike Albert – Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals
Richard Schroeder – Lead Vocals
Jon Escobedo – Bass
Angel Lujan – Drums
Ruben Martinez – Guitars

Producer: Mike Albert

Country: USA

Total Time = 39:29

Mike Albert Project
Mike Albert Project MySpace page
Big Deal Records

Old school Thrash fans might recognize the name Mike Albert as he was the touring guitarist for Megadeth back in 1985 around the time of KILLING IS MY BUSINESS….AND BUSINESS IS GOOD. Mike replaced original Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland after the album’s completion, went on tour, but left the band after the tour due to conflicts with Dave Mustaine. After years of writing and other musical projects, AFTERLIFE is the debut record of the Mike Albert Project.

AFTERLIFE is an album that blends the early Thrash movement from the early to mid-’80s, with a dose of Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society and today’s Doom & Stoner Metal scenes. Get all that? What I’m trying to get at is the album sounds retro but with a modern flavor…..and that still makes no sense! AFTERLIFE is definitely heavy…..it has a solid twin axe attack, a fat billowing bass and attacking drums while lead throat Richard Schroeder has a deep rugged delivery. The playing is very good and that may have to do with Schroeder, Lujan and Martinez playing together for a while in Decimate Inc., a Thrash band from California that was together from 2002 to 2005.

Most of the songs sound pretty much the same with the Thrash/Traditional Metal base but things do slow down for more of a Hard Rock or Doom sound. There’s 11 songs on the record and the opening track ‘Octavia’ is a quick 30 second instrumental that seems so unnecessary, I hate it when bands use a quick instrumental on a record and call it a “song”. The Project makes up for it with ‘Realms’, a slower MASTER OF PUPPETS-era Metallica styled song with a hint of seasoned Metal Church for good measure. The old school Thrash starts with ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’ and the modern Metal  with ‘Stalker’. Listening to ‘Stalker’ closely, I just realize now that there’s a similarity in the vocal style of Schroeder with early Scott Weiland (on the 1st Stone Temple Pilots record) and Sully Erna (Godsmack) on top of the Zakk Wylde thing. Let’s see, more Thrash with ‘Dr. Death’ and ‘Afterlife’, the latter has harsh modern Metal vocals/growls. ‘ Hypnotic’ has some melodic flourishes and ‘Weapons Of Mass Destruction’ slowly builds into a fast Metal track and then ‘UMFR’ (U Mother Fuck R) is another heavy tune that sounds pretty much like the rest but it has the harsh vocals and the opening drum solo…..a lot of drums in this song! ‘Why Do You Always Say Goodbye’ sounds old school Metal but then it takes a Godsmack style when the lyrics start. Last song is a censored version of ‘UMFR’. Totally unnecessary but I see the point to get the commercial side of the band going, maybe because it’s available on most online outlets for download like iTunes?

Bottom Line:
There’s promise! No doubt that the Mike Albert Project is talented and the music is heavy but I just couldn’t totally get into the album. I either heard the old school style or the modern style and I became distracted. Maybe a lot has to do with the Zakk Wylde/Black Label Society/Godsmack sound? If there was more Thrash or Traditional Metal then I’d like it a lot more. Maybe that’s a result of Mike Albert’s lineage in Megadeth and I expected a certain style? AFTERLIFE isn’t a bad record but it didn’t hold my attention either. I’ll keep an eye on this band because there’s a lot of talent here, I’d like to hear what they come up with on the next record.

Favorite Songs:
‘Realms’, ‘Dr. Death’, Afterlife

halestorm - selftitled (2009)

Halestorm – s/t (2009, Atlantic Records)

  1. It’s Not You
  2. I Get Off
  3. Bet U Wish U Had Me Back
  4. Innocence
  5. Familiar Taste Of Poison
  6. I’m Not An Angel
  7. What Were You Expecting?
  8. Love/Hate Heartbreak
  9. Better Sorry Than Safe
  10. Dirty Work
  11. Nothing To Do With Love

Band Lineup:
Lzzy Hale – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Joe Hottinger – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Josh Smith – Bass, Backing Vocals
Arejay Hale – Drums & Percussion

Producer: Howard Benson

Country: USA

Total Time = 35:02

Halestorm
Halestorm MySpace page

I do a lot of research before I buy a CD from a new band, especially one that is getting a ton of radio airplay and is on a major label. I never listen to the radio so it was by chance that I heard Halestorm’s first single ‘I Get Off’…..a decent Hard Rock song. The music was modern Hard Rock sung by a woman with a pretty good voice and the song had attitude. Then I saw the album cover…..it looked kind of sci-fi and/or medieval so I figured that the album had to at least be Hard Rock, maybe a touch of Metal. I picked it up for $9.99 and took a chance.

The Halestorm sound is focused on lead singer/guitarist Lzzy Hale (no “I”). Her voice is strong and melodic, I would put her somewhere around Julie Westlake from Hydrogyn and Veronica Freeman from Benedictum. Lzzy Hale has a solid voice for the hard rocking songs and she sings very beautifully on the ballads, maybe she’s a hard version of Kelly Clarkson (my daughter came up with that!)? Hale has talent but the music sounds like Rock radio favorites Puddle Of Mudd and Nickelback and I think those two bands suck!

Taking Halestorm for what they are…..they have some good songs. Opening track ‘It’s Not You’ is good Hard Rock in the same direction as ‘I Get Off’. ‘Bet U Wish U Had Me Back’ is a nice mid-tempo Rock tune that reminds me of Kelly Clarkson as the chorus hits. The song has a nice hook to it and it does get you singing along, perfect for mainstream radio. More uptempo modern melodic Hard Rock with ‘Innocence’, another song that follows the same direction as the two openers. The first proper ballad comes with the haunting ‘Familiar Taste Of Poison’ and Lzzy Hale shows off her strong voice but then another ballad comes through with ‘I’m Not An Angel’. I’m not sure about the sequencing of the album here, I would split up two ballads and not have them back to back like this.

The return to the modern Hard Rock is signalled by ‘What Were You Expecting?’ I’ll tell you what I was expecting…..a bit of diversity. By this point the uptempo songs are sounding very similar and the ballads sound the same too. ‘Love/Hate Heartbreak’ is ballad #3 and it’s paired off with the mid-tempo ‘Better Sorry Than Safe’. ‘Dirty Work’ has some energy, some fire but it sounds like it’s been done before. Same thing with ‘Nothing To Do With Love’, it sounds like everything else. It’s obvious that the focus is Hale and the songwriting could be better. How many angst riddled “scorned woman” songs do we need?

Bottom Line:
I took a chance and didn’t get much from it. The album is neither good or bad, the band is neither good or bad. What I hear is a few standout songs in the beginning and a lot of the same ideas as the album progresses. There is potential and, if one of the ballads hits the airwaves, then Halestorm is going to hit the big time! There is no Metal here, there is Hard Rock but it’s more modern Hard Rock than the classic stuff. I’ll call this an average release because there’s nothing there to drive me away but there also isn’t anything to keep me listening. Keep an eye on Halestorm, the right single at the right time could blow this band to the big-time.

Favorite Songs:
‘It’s Not You’, ‘I Get Off’, ‘Bet You Wish You Had Me Back’

artillery-when-death-comes-2009

Artillery – When Death Comes (2009, Metal Mind)

  1. When Death Comes
  2. Upon My Cross I Crawl
  3. 10,000 Devils
  4. Rise Above It All
  5. Sandbox Philosophy
  6. Delusions Of Grandeur
  7. Not A Nightmare
  8. Damned Religion
  9. Uniform
  10. The End

Band Lineup:
Søren Nico Adamsen - Vocals
Michael Stiitzer – Guitars
Peter Thorslund – Bass
Morten Stiitzer – Guitars
Carsten N. Nielsen – Drums

Producer: Søren Andersen

Country: Denmark

Total Time = 53:15

Artillery
Artillery MySpace page
Metal Mind Productions

I haven’t listened to an Artillery album in years but made a point of giving the band a fresh listen when I saw WHEN DEATH COMES on Metal Mind’s list of 2009 releases. After spinning the classic FEAR OF TOMORROW (1985), TERROR SQUAD (1987) and BY INHERITANCE (1990), I went to pull out the band’s comeback album B.A.C.K. (1999) and I didn’t have it! Maybe the 9 year gap between albums had something to do with why I thought I had bought it but never did. I didn’t make the same mistake twice by letting the 10 year gap this time around get to me, I’ve had WHEN DEATH COMES for a couple of months and have been spinning it regularly.

The first thing that most fans will notice is that original vocalist Flemming Ronsdorf is not on the record but new throat Søren Nico Adamsen does a superior job taking over. The second thing most Thrash purists will notice is that the album really skirts the line between Thrash and Traditional/Power Metal. Maybe it’s because Adamsen sounds different from Ronsdorf? I find most of WHEN DEATH COMES melodic…..melodic Thrash/ Maybe that’s going to be the difference? There are some instances in a few of the songs that could easily be from a Primal Fear, Hammerfall or Grave Digger album. That’s not to say that there isn’t Thrash on WHEN DEATH COMES, it’s more of a diversified sound and it comes out perfectly.

Opening with the title track, Artillery starts out heavy and fast with powerfull riffs and pounding drums with different speeds being used. Listen to the chorus on ‘When Death Comes’, it’s melodic to a point and kind of reminds me of Metallica in parts. Great song to open with because you get all the alements Artillery are using on the album in the first song. ‘Upon My Cross I Crawl’ kicks in with another signature Thrash riff and really keeps up the fast tempo with the excellent drumming of Carsten Nielsen. The Stiitzers really have the guitars blazing on the solos and Adamsen gets a little more aggressive except for the chorus where its comes off again melodic. I find myself singing right along to the chorus almost immeadiately so there is a hook in there that’s drawing me in. ’10,000 Devils’ is the band’s first single/video from the album and it has a very commercial Thrash, dark Helloween sound (from THE DARK RIDE in 2000). Great song, it has some serious guitar and evil sounding melodic vocals, one of my favorites on the album. I like to hear bands incorporate different elements into their core sound and so far Artillery hasn’t disappointed.

Back to pure Thrash with ‘Rise Above It All’, a song that really has some excellent twin guitar riffs and solos and is a really solid headbang, same goes for ‘Sandbox Philospophy’ with it’s harsher vocals but catchy chorus. Both songs are examples of the older Artillery sound with speed riffs and powerful drums. The song that is going a bit against the grain of the album is ‘Delusions Of Grandeur’. The beginning of the song sounds like a cross between the melodic style Primal Fear used on NEW RELIGION in 2007 and slight Folk Metal stylings. Maybe it’s the acoustic guitars? Listen to the solo section right after the first couple of verses and you ca hear that Folk Metal influence. The song does toughen up around the chorus but it still doesn’t really qualify as Thrash, maybe slowed down Power Metal. It’s a different sound and Artillery seems willing to expand their core sound and experiment a little. ‘Not A Nightmare’ gets the album heavy again but it has a definite Primal Fear sound and the band leans more towards the melodic Power Metal end of the spectrum. Actually, ‘Not A Nightmare reminds me of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens-era Priest more than anything as the guitars get heavier towards the middle of the song. Same thing goes with ‘Damned Religion’ but I’m not really hearing much different than I’ve heard throughout the rest of the record. ‘Uniform’ gets WHEN DEATH COMES back on track to Artillery’s main Thrash base. I like how the song opens with a quick bassline and speeds into the main riff, almost Iron Maiden sounding until the drums kick in and everything speeds up. The final song has a fitting title, ‘The End’ finishes the album off with a very dark slower sound in the beginning and then it races off with a a Thrash/Power Metal gallop in some spots and pure speed in others.

Bottom Line:
I have been looking forward to WHEN DEATH COMES and I’ve given the album a lot of spins since I received the CD a few months ago. All in all, I like the entire album, Artillery has managaed to take their base Thrash and diversify it with some other influences. I like when bands try to experiment with their sound to make it better…..it doesn’t always work but I think Artillery has done a great job. Thrash purists might hear the melodic passages and the Power/Traditional Metal influences and cry foul but Artillery has made an album that is accessible to a wide range of Metal fans and it sounds really good. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that Søren Nico Adamsen, the new singer, has co-written 8 out of 10 tracks on the record? That’s a great way to come in and contribute to your new band! I like the enhanced sound, I like the Thrash base, I like Adamsen’s voice so I’m really enjoying WHEN DEATH COMES. I’m not taking it out of my daily rotation for a while and it looks to be ones of my top albums of 2009.

Favorite Songs:
‘When Death Comes’, ‘Upon My Cross I Crawl’, ’10,000 Devils’, ‘Rise Above It All’, ‘Sandbox Philosophy’, ‘Uniform’

primal-fear-166

Primal Fear – 16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead) (2009, Frontiers)

  1. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
  2. Riding The Eagle
  3. Six Times Dead (16.6)
  4. Black Rain
  5. Under The Radar
  6. 5.0/Torn
  7. Soar
  8. Killbound
  9. No Smoke Without Fire
  10. Night After Night
  11. Smith & Wesson
  12. The Exorcist
  13. Hands Of Time
  14. Cry Havoc (European bonus track)
  15. Scream (European bonus track)

Band Lineup:
Ralf Scheeepers – Lead Vocals
Mat Sinner – Bass & Vocals
Henny Wolter – Guitars & Vocals
Magnus Karlsson – Guitars, Keyboards & Vocals
Randy Black – Drums

Producer: Mat Sinner

Country: Germany

Total Time = 69:25

Primal Fear
Primal Fear MySpace page
Frontiers Records

Two years ago, Primal Fear released what I thought was their career defining record, NEW RELIGION (2007). The album was their 7th studio album and the first to dive headfirst into diversifying the straightforward Power Metal sound the band had forged for ten years. The use of symphonics, orchestration and keyboards within the signature Primal Fear sound, and adding a guest vocal performance from Epica’s Simone Simons, worked extremely well to give the music a melodic edge. Now the band has released 16.6 (BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD) and my hope was that the band continued to build on the new musical direction. It’s hard to believe that NEW RELIGION was released two years ago because I’ve kept it in a monthly rotation ever since but I’ve been very excited to hear new music from the band.

There is another lineup change in the band, guitarist Magnus Karlsson (Allen/Lande, Last Tribe, Midnight Sun) replaces Stefan Liebing and adds a melodic hand to the overall sound, something the band has made a concious effort to do anyway so it’s a solid fit. Otherwise, Primal Fear is basically the same band with Ralf Scheepers clearly taking the lead role, along with founding bass player Mat Sinner. Once again Scheepers proves he is one of the premier Heavy Metal vocalists in the world, blowing away some of his more well-known peers.

The opening song ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’ is a quick intro that moves right into the crushing Metal of ‘Riding The Eagle’. I can’t stand it when bands make a song out of an instrumental intro that clocks in under a minute, why not just add it to a real song? Once the opening guitar of ‘Riding The Eagle’ hits, the guitars and drums roll in and it’s full speed ahead. Two things are immeadiately apparent: Scheepers’ vocals soar with ease and Randy Black is a monster behind the drum kit. Any doubts of Primal Fear going “soft” as they include different melodic elements to their sound are easily dashed by ‘Riding The Eagle’, this song could fit onto any of the previous seven albums. ‘Six Times Dead (16.6)’ is the title track of the record and it has been a grower for me. The song is melodic and heavy but I’ve had this idea in my head that it was subpar because of the dark Industrial sound. It’s taken repeated listens for me to enjoy this song because I couldn’t get past the chorus but now it’s one of the better songs on the album.

‘Black Rain’ is an atmospheric and melodic song that sounds a lot like some of the tracks on NEW RELIGION. The song relies on the melody and the harmonized vocals and I hear some experimental Middle Eastern sounds as well as some female background vocals. Definitely a cool track that hooks you in and gets you singing along, the whole album does that! The pace picks up again with ‘Under The Radar’ for another Power Metal song with a melodic chorus and superb vocals from Scheepers. I’m going to assume that the opening guitar solo in ’5.0/Torn’ is the 5.0 part. The proper song starts out with a quick bass intro and moves into another melodic metal song that actually slows to a mid-tempo groove around the chorus. Another thing to notice is that the keyboards are a little more prominent but not overbearing. ‘Soar’ moves into a more diverse area with flourishes of pure Power Metal and Melodic Rock but there is an experimental, almost Nu-Metal, instrumental smack in the middle. All I could think of was Korn but thankfully the proper song returns and all is forgotten. ‘Soar’ has a very melodic chorus that hooks you into singing and overall it’s a solid song except for that solo breakedown! Primal Fear takes a page from the Accept/U.D.O. playbook of Teutonic Metal with ‘Killbound’…..definitely heavy, definitely melodic with a buzzsaw twin guitar that is the basis of the Accept/U.D.O. sound. I wouldn’t mind Udo and the gang covering this and putting it on DOMINATOR just to hear what it would sound like!

The first ballad of the album arrives with the keyboard heavy intro of ‘No Smoke Without Fire’ and Ralf singing over a quiet piano. This is definitely part of the direction the band took on the previous record to get more melodic, the singing is definitely inspired but I almost get the feeling like Scheepers is holding back to accomodate the arrangement. The solos are very good and the keyboards are a great way to bolster the overall sound without being overbearing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the band releases this as the next single/video. ‘Night After Night’ starts out fast and heavy with more rolling drums but it sounds a lot like Judas Priest and not just because Ralf sounds like Rob Halford. More German Metal with excellent ‘Smith & Wesson’ that has similar structure to ‘Killbound’ with that Accept/U.D.O. sound. Songs like this aren’t overdone but they have serious impact with a powerful delivery. Same thing goes for ‘The Exorcist’, which borders on classic Speed Metal and Traditional Metal full of guitars and soaring vocals. What I found interesting on repeated listens of ‘The Exorcist’ is that Ralf Scheepers had a bit more grit to his voice and sounded more like Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens than Rob Halford. Sure it’s almost the same voice but you can definitely hear the differences between Ripper and Rob while Ralf arguably does both better than they do! The proper album ends with another ballad ‘Hands Of Time’. You will notice immeadiately that Ralf doesn’t do all the vocals for this song, the entire band aside from Randy Black takes a verse and joins on the chorus. Very interesting song, mellow and subdued but still very good.

Now if you went out and spent the money for the European digipak version then you got two bonus tracks (‘Cry Havoc’ and ‘Scream’) and the ‘Six Times Dead (16.6)’ video that I posted earlier in the review. ‘Cry Havoc’ is a melodic and heavy Power Metal song that falls in line with the rest of the record with some solid guitar solos thrown in. ‘Scream’ also follows the same formula of melodic Power Metal with a hook filled chorus. The only thing I don’t like about the song is the gang chorus for the song title.

Bottom Line:
I bought the European version in mid-June a couple of weeks after the release date and I’ve kept 16.6 (BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD) in regular daily rotation. At first I thought the album was going to be a grower because the bar had been previously set high with NEW RELIGION (2007) so I started to compare the two albums without enough spins of the new one. First thing I did was take NEW RELIGION out of my monthly rotation and give 16.6 fresh ears…..this album is just as good as the last one. There is still enough pure Power Metal to satisfy the traditional fans and there is plenty of melodic exploration again for the band to enhance their overall sound. Once again, Primal Fear is growing and taking the lead in the Power Metal world. NEW RELIGION made my Top 15 Albums of 2007, I’ve enjoyed this album so much that I can guarantee that it will make my Top Albums of 2009 list.

Favorite Songs:
‘Riding The Eagle’, ‘Killbound’, ‘Smith & Wesson’, ‘No Smoke Without Fire’, ‘The Exorcist’, ‘Hands Of Time’

streamofpassion_flame

Stream Of Passion – The Flame Within (2009, Napalm Records)

  1. The Art Of Loss
  2. In The End
  3. Now Or Never
  4. When You Hurt Me The Most
  5. Run Away
  6. Games We Play
  7. This Endless Night
  8. My Leader
  9. Burn My Pain
  10. Let Me In
  11. Street Spirit
  12. A Part Of You
  13. All I Know
  14. Far And Apart (U.S. bonus track)

Stream of Passion 2009

Band Lineup:
Marcela Bovio – Vocals, Violins
Eric Hazebroek – Guitars
Stephan Schultz – Guitars
Johan van Stratum – Bass
Jeffrey Revet – Keyboards, Piano
Davy Mickers – Drums

Producers: Jochem Jacobs, Joost Van Den Broek, Stream Of Passion

Country: The Netherlands

Total Time = 59:19

Stream Of Passion
Stream Of Passion MySpace page
Napalm Records

I discovered Stream Of Passion back in 2007 when I read a quick newsbit that co-founder and Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen had left the band. Being a fan of Ayreon and of Gothic/Symphonic Metal I decided that Stream Of Passion was a band I had to check out. Earlier this year, the band released THE FLAME WITHIN, their second studio album, and I had previewed some of the tracks online. I heard a similar sound to the late-’90s era of The Gathering so picking up this album the day it came out was a no-brainer.

So what is the Stream Of Passion sound? Think of some the different female fronted bands of this genre and you can get a quick idea, Stream Of Passion fits in perfectly with similar bands like Lacuna Coil, Leaves’ Eyes, Nightwish, The Gathering, Epica. What I like about the band’s overall sound is that they are able to use the beauty of Marcela Bovio’s voice along with their progressive and symphonic sound and still retain some heaviness and keep the most of the songs uptempo. The other key element is keeping the songs from running too long and sounding the same. The band has retained a Progressive Metal element to their music but the songs all range in duration from 4 to 5 minutes, a lot of times this type of music has longer songs but the extra minute or two can sometimes mean the difference between a good song and boredom.

The opening track, ‘The Art Of Loss’, starts out with a piano intro but kicks into an uptempo guitar heavy song. Right away I can hear the similarities between former The Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen and Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia…..pretty good company. There is a very good blend between the keyboards, orchestration and guitars on ‘The Art Of Loss’ and that translates into the rest of the album. ‘In the End’ is a lush mid-tempo song that spotlights Bovio’s voice and the beauty of the musical arrangement. ‘Now Or Never’ kicks back into a heavier guitar with the accompanying keyboards offering a perfect mix, I also like the multi-tracked background vocals Marcela laid down for the chorus. There is a piano & vocal interlude that build into the main chorus and it keeps the song soft and romantic as well as Metal. ‘When You Hurt Me The Most’ is a proper ballad that sounds very sad and emotional and is really only the vocal and piano with the rest of the band very subdued until the solo section where the music gains some power especially the guitar solo. The pattern repeats itself with ‘Run Away’, another true ballad that features only the vocal, piano and violin until the solo section towards the end when the rest of the band kicks back into gear.

‘Games We Play’ is another uptempo song that has a very heavy base with a great guitar and drum sound and some diverse vocal harmonies. I think Stream Of Passion is at their best when the songs are heavier and faster because there are more elements to the overall sound. More uptempo songs like ‘This Endless Night’ and ‘My Leader’ follow this same structure and are some of my favorites of the album. The band just sounds stronger on the heavier tracks! ‘Burn My Pain’ is mid-tempo with buzzing guitars and a thumping bassline that keeps the song going along and ‘Let Me In’ continues the melodic lush sound at various speeds. The first problem arises with Stream Of Passion’s decision to include ‘Street Spirit’, a Radiohead cover. I’m not going to go into my dislike of cover songs on studio albums but why not make this song the bonus track instead of ‘Far And Apart’? So far THE FLAME WITHIN has 10 solid songs and then we get a cover song, it breaks things up for me because I’m not a big Radiohead guy, I think they are extremely overrated and overhyped.

The band gets back down to business with another heavy mid-tempo track ‘A Part Of You’ that has one of the hardest riffs on the album but I’m not sold on the vocals, they sound all over the place with no focus. Another piano intro opens the beautiful ballad ‘All I Know’. This is something like the 4th or 5th song that starts with a piano/vocal opening but it doesn’t build like the others do, ‘All I Know’ stays set as a proper ballad with only the violin and some strings being added in…..this is also the shortest song on the record clocking in at just over 2 minutes. The final song is the previously mentioned bonus track ‘Far And Apart’. If you were lucky enough to by the U.S. digipak pressing then you got this song as a nice extra as well as slightly different cover art (pull out the booklet and compare). ‘Far And Apart’ is heavy on the keyboards and orchestration but that symphonic sound fits in easily with the rest of the original material on the album. I still don’t understand why this is left off the proper record instead of the cover song but it’s a small complaint. If you have the choice, pick up the U.S. digipak, the song is worth it.

Bottom Line:
With other major releases in the same genre from Lacuna Coil and The Gathering, Stream Of Passion has a lot of competition for a spot in my rotation. The good news for the band is that they have definitely released the better album and have come out of the shadow of the Arjen Lucassen shadow. The major difference between THE FLAME WITHIN and the other albums released in this genre this year is that Stream Of Passion makes a serious effort to stay heavy and keep the songs from sounding the same. The Lacuna Coil album sounded the same to me and the latest from The Gathering is extremely mellow, both album quickly dropped off my playlist…..points to Stream Of Passion for keeping the Metal in Symphonic Metal.

Favorite Songs:
‘The Art Of Loss’, ‘In The End’, ‘Far And Apart’, ‘Games We Play’, ‘When You Hurt Me The Most’

the gathering - the west pole

The Gathering – The West Pole (2009, Season Of Mist/Psychonaut Records)

  1. When Trust Becomes Sound
  2. Treasure
  3. All You Are
  4. The West Pole
  5. No Bird Call
  6. Capitol Of Nowhere
  7. You Promised Me A Symphony
  8. Pale Traces
  9. No One Spoke
  10. A Constant Run

Band Lineup:
Silje Wergeland  - Vocals & Piano
René Rutten – Guitars
Marjolein Kooijman – Bass
Hans Rutten – Drums
Frank Boeijen – Keyboards & Piano

Producer: René Rutten

Country: The Netherlands

Total Time = 54:17

The Gathering
The Gathering MySpace page
Psychonaut Records
Season Of Mist Records

Sometime in early 1998 I discovered The Gathering through a Century Media CD sampler. the song was ‘In Motion #1′ from the band’s 1995 record MANDYLION. I fell in love with the heavy and melodic music and the beautiful singing of Anneke van Giersbergen, it was a new style of Metal for me. Turns out that female fronted Metal bands would start forming all over the world and now we have bands like Lacuna Coil, Stream Of Passion and Epica carrying on where The Gathering began. Then again, The Gathering had two previous album that were more Death/Doom Metal with a male singer so I was completely confused. I got online shortly after I got the sampler and I found out about the band’s then current album NIGHTTIME BIRDS (1997) and I was hooked on The Gathering. I have followed the band ever since but I have been disappointed with the band’s output for over a decade…..as the band continued to release new material, the music became more ambient, more progressive, more Pink Floyd-ish and the core Metal sound took a backseat. I’ll be honest, I got so fed up by the band’s evolving Floydian sound that I actually stopped buying their albums after 2000′s if_then_else.

What made me come back to The Gathering was the change at the vocal position: Anneke van Giersbergen has left the band to pursue a solo career and former Octavia Sperati singer Silje Wergeland has taken over. Sometimes a change in vocalists is good for giving the music a fresh start and I decided to give the band a fresh listen. When I put THE WEST POLE in the stereo the first track, ‘When Truth Becomes Sound’, turned out to be heavy (compared later to the rest of the album) and an almost 4 minute instrumental. I figured this was a great start and when I heard Wergeland’s vocals on ‘Treasure’ I knew that the band had picked a solid replacement for the popular Giersbergen. As THE WEST POLE continued, the problem for me was that the songs basically took the same route: slow or mid-tempo pace, an atmospheric/progressive/trippy sound and plenty of beautiful vocals…..they all sounded the same! It wasn’t until the 9th song, ‘No One Spoke’, that the pace quickened and the guitars got a little heavier but there were subdued parts of this song as well. I liked the uptempo ‘A Constant Run’ also because it harkened back to the band’s mid to late ’90s sound the most.

Bottom Line:
Obviously The Gathering has found their niche in the crowded Gothic Metal scene by continuing to push their unique atmospheric, Pink Floyd influenced music. I decided that I would give the band a fresh listen in the hopes that there was something heavy contained within THE WEST POLE but I am still disappointed because I was hoping for a little more uptempo and Metal. Most of the album is slow and and mid-tempo with the band concentrating on the “quieter” side of Gothic Metal. The songs are really good, well-written and performed beautifully, but they all seem to sound the same after a while. The good news is that The Gathering have definitely found themselves a high quality singer in Silje Wergeland, she can easily handle any Giersbergen-era song because she has an extremely similar voice. There were times that I noticed no difference at all between the two. I’ve given this a lot of spins over the last few weeks and there really isn’t much that will bring me back in the future save for maybe a couple of songs.

Favorite Songs:
The standout tracks for me coincidentally are the last three songs on the album: ‘Pale Traces’, ‘No One Spoke’, ‘A Constant Run’. Too bad the band saved them for last because I think they might have helped break up the monotony in the middle of the album.

DAME-FORTUNE-THE-SECRET-ARt

Dame Fortune – The Secret Art (2009, independent release)

  1. In Like Flynn
  2. Perpetual Motion Machine
  3. If You Will, Not When You May (You May Not When You Will)
  4. Holly Fenton
  5. Interlude
  6. The Days Are Just Packed
  7. A Special Place
  8. Santa Ana Blues
  9. I Only Miss You When I Breathe
  10. The Edge
  11. V For Vendetta
  12. Secret Rulers (Of The World To Be)
  13. Good For What Ails You
  14. Hikikomori (Live As Though The Day Were Here)

Band Lineup:
David Blake – Guitars & Vocals
Jeff Wire – Bass & Vocals
Mike James – Guitars & Vocals
John Merritt – Drums & Vocals

Producers: Dame Fortune & Kevin Valentine

Country: USA

Total Time = 45:41

Dame Fortune
Dame Fortune MySpace page

Hollywood, California has produced a ton of Hard Rock bands over the last three decades and Dame Fortune is another Hollywood hopeful that are making their name by getting back to the roots of Hard Rock. THE SECRET ART is the band’s third release and what the band calls “an expantion of their sound and lyrical themes”. I haven’t heard the other two releases but it’s obvious from listening to this album that KISS (specifically Ace Frehley) has to be a major influence along with other ’70s Hard Rock superstars Aerosmith and Ted Nugent. Everything isn’t completely dated because I can hear some ’80s influence as well from Frehley’s Comet, a touch of Guns “N Roses and maybe a little bit of Quiet Riot.

Opening track ‘In Like Flynn’ has a dirty Hollywood street sound with a catchy chorus but I was immeadiately drawn to David Blake’s vocals because he sounds very similar to Ace Frehley, hence the KISS influence! The second song ‘Perpetual Emotion Machine’ is the vocal debut of bassist Jeff Wire and he has this Gene Simmons style vocal. Talk about a KISS influence! This song sounds like mid to late ’70s KISS from DESTROYER to LOVE GUN. The piano and guitar tones sound like ‘Christine Sixteen’ in some parts and the experimental side of Simmons on his KISS solo album. The influence is almost too obvious and, even though the song is catchy, I’m completely distracted. ‘If You Will, Not When You May’ again sounds like an Ace Frehley song with Blake’s vocals and the guitar tones being so obvious but, if you listen closely, you could almost hear Ted Nugent in his more melodic stage.

In true diversified style, Dame Fortune spreads the vocal duties around and, like bassist Jeff Wire, drummer John Merritt gets in the act by making ‘Holly Fenton’ his vocal debut. ‘Interlude’ is a 7 second intro to ‘The Days Are Just Packed’…..if it’s 7 seconds, why make it a song? Moving on to ‘The Days Are Just Packed’, more Ace Frehley here and it’s distracting. This could fit on any Frehely’s Comet record or maybe it’s a new Ace tune from his forthcoming ANOMALY record? Who knows but for some reason I like it, it’s a melodic and catchy song with a thick main riff. One of the heaviest and more original songs on THE SECRET ART is ‘A Special Place’, a song that is an angry message to drug dealer. Here’s the seedy side of Hollywood creeping in to Dame Fortune’s music and I think it helps the music kind of like GNR used their squalor and rebellion to create their debut. Another highlight is ‘Santa Ana Blues’, a heavy Bluesy guitar driven song that has a touch of Terrible Ted along with the evil swagger of Alice Cooper. ‘I Only Miss You When I Breathe’ makes it three solid songs in a row with another guitar driven strut that GNR had back in the day. Great lyrics on this one and the title is very clever.

I’m not really digging ‘The Edge’, aside from the guitar the song sounds like it’s all over the place and the chorus doesn’t sound like it fits the music. ‘V For Vendetta’ is, according to the band, “a tribute to Alan Moore’s amazing graphic novel”. I’ve never read the novel so I can’t comment about that but the song is heavy and different from other songs on the album…..there’s still that Ace Frehley vocal style that has me distracted again. ‘Secret Rulers (Of The World To Be)’ has a catchy guitar riff but that’s pretty much it but Dame Fortune saves some originality for ‘Good For What Ails You’. It’s a Led Zeppelin influenced ballad that breaks things up nicely and shows that the band can branch out and do something a little different. I’ve heard better ballads but, in the context of this record, it’s one of the better songs. Ending THE SECRET ART is ‘Hikikomori (Live As Though The Day Were Here)’, a song about the youth of Japan standing up for themselves and taking control of their lives. You could probably call this another ballad because it’s definitely a slow song with a few quick flourishes at the chorus to keep it interesting. I would have liked to hear this song or ‘Good For What Ails You’ sequenced in earlier in the album to break-up some of the monotony.

Bottom Line:
I’m on the fence with this record. I’ve played it a lot because half the songs are pretty good and I can’t believe the uncanny similarity between David Blake’s vocals and Ace Frehley’s. Seriously, you could have taken some of these songs and put them on any Ace album and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. And there’s the problem…..it’s obvious where Dame Fortune’s influences lie because they mimic them very well but they also are able to create some interesting songs from those same influences. I could go either way and cal THE SECRET ART a decent album or call it a bad copycat or a record…..half the album sounds original, half sounds like KISS/Ace Frehley solo. There’s definitely talent here but I think they need to find their own sound and expand it more.

Favorite Songs:
‘Perpetual Emotion Machine’, ‘The Day Are Just Packed’, ‘I Only Miss You When I Breathe’, ‘A Special Place’, ‘Good For What Ails You’, ‘Santa Ana Blues’

U.D.O. - Dominator (2009)

U.D.O. – Dominator (2009, AFM Records)

  1. The Bogeyman
  2. Dominator
  3. Black And White
  4. Infected
  5. Heavy Metal Heaven
  6. Doom Ride
  7. Stillness Of Time
  8. Devil’s Rendezvous
  9. Speed Demon
  10. Whispers In The Dark

(NOTE — This is the U.S. release. The European digipak has a bonus track titled ‘Pleasure In The Darkroom’ and the Japanese version has a bonus track titled ‘Bleeding Heart’)

udo_main_02

Band Lineup:
Udo Dirkschneider – Vocals
Stefan Kaufmann – Guitars
Igor Gianola – Guitars
Fitty Wienhold – Bass
Francesco Jovino – Drums

Producer: Stefan Kaufmann

Country: Germany

Total Time = 44:48

U.D.O.
U.D.O. MySpace page
AFM Records

Doesn’t it seem like there is a new U.D.O. album every year? It just seems like the band puts out record after solid record and there is never a break! Looking back at all the U.D.O. studio album, DOMINATOR is the band’s 12th studio album and, if you count live albums, their 15th. I could add in all the E.P.s with the excusive tracks but that would get a bit too much. One thing is certain: U.D.O. releases new material consistently and it’s always very good. I have to give Udo Dirkschneider a lot of credit for carrying on the Metal tradition he helped start with Accept back in 1979. His voice was an integral, and unique, part of Accept’s Traditional Metal sound and he has kept that sound alive with U.D.O. There are a lot of metalheads out there that would love to see Accept reunite (again) but U.D.O. is the natural continuation. Like I mentioned, the U.D.O. sound is the same as the Accept sound so, if you know Accept, then you basically know U.D.O. This new album picks up right where 2007′s MASTERCUTOR left off by providing pure heavy Metal of the highest order full of melody, thunderous metallic riffs, and Udo’s unmistakeable growl…..all in trademark German Metal style. If the formula ain’t broke, why fix it? U.D.O. has been giving us the same kind of Metal since 1988′s ANIMAL HOUSE!

DOMINATOR starts out with a short subdued piano intro to ‘The Bogeyman’ but it quickly kicks into the main riff and Udo’s grating vocals. I like the fact that Udo does his own backing vocals because it adds a bit more range when he puts his own scream vocal over his regular growl. ‘The Bogeyman’ doesn’t really surprise, it’s the same traditional style the band usually goes for but the chorus cauhgt me and had me singing along. Another thing U.D.O. does well: they put in enough hooks to grab the listener. The title track is definitely faster than ‘The Bogeyman’ with a more focused twin guitar attack and rhythm. Again, there really isn’t much difference here from other U.D.O. material but the simplicity and straightforward delivery is what makes this so good! It’s kind of like being an AC/DC fan! I like the lower vocal on the chorus (with me singing along again) and the guitars are blazing…..the solo trade-off between Stefan Kaufmann and Igor Gianola are awesome!

What to hear a trademark Accept style “balls to the wall” style riff? Listen to the opening of ‘Black & White’. Heavy but slower than the first two songs with that cool Udo drawl over subdued guitars before everything kicks into high gear. The only problem with this song is the repetitve chorus, I would have liked and different line or two. I did detect a melodic Scorpions-like quality to the guitar solo…..definitely a Teutonic Metal flavor. I know ‘Infected’ from the INFECTED E.P. (2009) that preceded DOMINATOR, the song is a speedy metal attack that sounds like METAL HEART (1985) era Accept. Listen to that pounding drum sound too, Francesco Jovino and Fitty Weinhold (bass) keep everything heavy. One thing you will always find on an U.D.O. album is one of those Manowar-esque “we love Heavy Metal” sounding songs…..that’s ‘Heavy Metal Heaven’. It’s a heavy mid-tempo track with melodic guitars and a gang chorus that really sticks in your head. A bit simple though but I could see this song getting played live to get the crowd involved in a sing-a-long. Moving along for a ‘Doom Ride’, the band uses another Accept styled riff for another heavy tune that gets the headbanging right away, the only drawback being the overly simple chorus.

You could probably call ‘Stillness Of Time’ the album’s ballad but it’s more of a guitar driven mid-tempo than pure ballad. It’s a melodic song and Udo sings in a very subdued melodic style. It’s hard to really call this a ballad but the opening piano, keyboard textures and pace of the song really grab hold. It’s definitely the most commercial song on the record, dare I say “radio-friendly”, with an ’80s Whitesnake style. I like the song, it’s something different among the straight forward Metal assault. U.D.O. always has a novelty song on their albums and ‘Devil’s Rendezvous’ sounds like something off Queen’s A NIGHT AT THE OPERA but metallic…..I keep thinking of ‘Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon’ and Freddie Mercury camping it up! Can you imagine Udo camping it up. The song is like a metallic showtune…..a throwaway for me. Things get back on track with the heavy as hell, pedal to the metal ‘Speed Demon’. Traditional Power Metal with blazing guitars, change vocalists and this could be a Primal Fear, Judas Priest or Hammerfall song…..the deulling guitars on this track are worth the price of the CD! The last song on DOMINATOR is ‘Whispers In the Dark’ and it starts with that ballad feel like ‘Stillness Of Time’ does. The song opens with a soft piano, melodic singing from Udo with soft background vocals and acoustics. Then the electric guitars kick in to bolster the sound but the song still has that sense of balladry…..I would call this a ballad more than I would ‘Stillness Of Time’. An odd way to close a heavy album.

Bottom Line:
You can always count on U.D.O. to deliver the goods and the band does it again with DOMINATOR. It’s another solid album in a long line of solid records made in the same style…..Udo Dirkschneider has been doing this for 30 years and he has stayed true to his sound. That’s what I like most about U.D.O., and DOMINATOR: you know exactly what you are going to get and the music is expertly done with high quality musicianship and songwriting. If you want solid Traditional Metal then this is the album to pick up. I followed Udo after the Accept breakup and I have been an U.D.O. fan since 1988, I always look forward to a new U.D.O. album and I rarely get disappointed. My only complaint is with the album cover (it’s terrible!) and the bonus tracks for Japan and Europe. Usually U.D.O. will include these bonus tracks on a preceding E.P. to give all the fans a chance to hear them. My copy is the U.S. version: no bonuses. No matter, DOMINATOR is easily one of my favorite releases this year.

Favorite Songs:
‘The Bogeyman’, ‘Speed Demon’, ‘Stillness Of Time’, ‘Infected’, ‘Heavy Metal Heaven’