Archive for April, 2010

Keel – The Right To Rock (25th Anniversary Edition) (2010, Frontiers Records)

  1. The Right To Rock
  2. Back To The City
  3. Let’s Spend The Night Together
  4. Easier Said Than Done
  5. So Many Girls, So Little Time
  6. Electric Love
  7. Speed Demon
  8. Get Down
  9. You’re The Victim
  10. Easier Said Than Done (Remix version)*
  11. The Right To Rock (Reunion version)*

(* Bonus tracks)

Band Lineup:
Ron Keel - Lead Vocals & Guitar
Bryan Jay – Lead Guitars & Vocals
Marc Ferrari – Lead Guitars & Vocals
Kenny Chaisson – Bass & Vocals
Dwain Miller – Drums & Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Steve Riley – Additional Drums & Vocals on the original record
Geno Acre – Bass & Vocals on ‘The Right To Rock (Reunion version)’

Producer: Gene Simmons

Country: USA

Total Time = 40:39

Keel
Keel MySpace page
Ron Keel
Frontiers Records

Hot on the heels of a Keel reunion, complete with a new studio album titled STREETS OF ROCK & ROLL, Frontiers Records has seen fit to reissue Keel’s second album THE RIGHT TO ROCK. The original release was way back in 1985 on A&M Records/Gold Mountain Records and produced by KISS bassist Gene Simmons. The Gene Simmons connection was the main reason why I bothered to check out Keel because I figured if such an important rock star from my favorite band was producing, then it had to be good. Then I saw ‘The Right To Rock’ video on MTV and found Keel’s first album, LAY DOWN THE LAW (1984), and I was definitely hooked. As a young headbanger, Keel was one of those new bands that I pushed on my friends but no one really got into…..years later I’m still a Keel fan. This reissue is pretty much the same music as on the original album but with two bonus tracks: ‘Easier Said Than Done (Remix)’ and ‘The Right To Rock (Reunion Version)’. The remix of ‘Easier Said Than Done’ was previously released on the 2000 reissue of the album on Metal Mayhem Records and the new version of ‘The Right To Rock’ was recorded with the current Keel lineup that includes new bassist Geno Acre.

Back in the day, Keel rocked hard! ‘The Right To Rock’ was definitely a true Hard Rock anthem and ‘Back To The City’ had some blistering guitar…..for a band out of Los Angeles, these were heavy songs. Right away you could hear the power in Ron Keel’s vocals and the overall energy of the band. That energy is immeadiately destroyed by the band’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ classic ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’…..was this Gene’s idea? I remember hating this cover back in the day and fast forwarding my cassette everytime! You had the catchy hook of the Gene Simmons penned ‘Easier Said Than Done’ that should have been a hit single and the obvious KISS influence of ‘So Many Girls, So Little Time’. Not taking anything away from Keel with using Gene’s guiding hand, he can write and produce, and they do a good job on what sounds like an ANIMALIZE B-side. I give Ron Keel credit for doing his best Gene impressions vocally, especially on ‘So Many Girls, ‘So Little Time’. ‘Electric Love’ is a little more commercial like ‘Easier Said Than Done’ but the crunch is in the vocal, ‘Speed Demon’ is hard and fast with a NWOBHM feel to it, and ‘Get Down’ (the third song written by Mr. $immons) has that lumbering CREATURES OF THE NIGHT era sound with thick guitars and loud pounding drums. Read the lyrics to ‘Get Down’ and tell me that’s not pure Gene with some classic phrases…..another KISS-sounding track circa 1982-1984. ‘You’re The Victim (I’m The Crime)’ is a pummelling track that starts off with a quick drum solo intro and then chugs along with lightning power that rivals NWOBHM legends Saxon and puts Keel in a heavier class than their peers out of L.A. (Quiet Riot, Ratt, Motley Crue, etc.).

The bonus tracks are good but not spectacular. The remix of ‘Easier Said Than Done’ I already knew because I bought the Metal Mayhem reissue when it was released…..it’s a little different but not as good as the original. The new version of the title track is pretty good, obviously more modern seeing that the band has aged 25 years, and a little more gritty and raw. It doesn’t have the power and energy of the original but it’s cool to hear the band’s interpretation over two decades later and get a feel of how they sound now. Then there’s the packaging: the cover art is altered slightly to add the “25th Anniversary Edition” title at the bottom and the booklet includes all the original credits, the new credits, song lyrics and an essay by Eddie Trunk. A new promo picture of the current lineup is added in and a smaller promo pictire circa 1985 is added to the song credits page. The back of the album has the band picture from the original album.

Bottom Line:
As far as the music goes, THE RIGHT TO ROCK is still a solid album 25 years later. What impresses me now after all this time was how heavy Keel was in the early days…..’Speed Demon’, ‘Back To The City’ and ‘You’re The Victim (I’m the Crime) are pure Heavy Metal. I know Keel gets lumped in with all the other L.A./Sunset Strip bands that dominated FM Radio and MTV but they were definitely a Metal force…..maybe the Gene Simmons connection takes away from that too? As far as the reissue goes, it’s a good package that’s done very well. I wouldn’t have minded seeing some more vintage pictures of the band included and maybe some long lost demos or unreleased songs, that would have made this extra special. At least there were two bonus tracks to give this reissue a couple of extras. I like this reissue better than the Metal Mayhem version for the extended booklet with lyrics but, for comparison’s sake, the Metal Mayhem version is also an official reissue because Ron Keel himself endorsed it at the time and wrote a quick essay in the liner notes.

Favorite Songs:
On the original album I like every song except the cover of ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’. The highlights are ‘The Right To Rock’, ‘Back To The City’, ‘Easier Said Than Done’, ‘Speed Demon’ and ‘You’re The Victim (I’m The Crime)’. Of the two bonus tracks, I like the updated 2010 version of ‘The Right To Rock’ better.

Heavenly – Carpe Diem (2010, AFM Records)

  1. Carpe Diem
  2. Lost In Your Eyes
  3. Farewell
  4. Fullmoon
  5. A Better Me
  6. Ashen Paradise
  7. The Face Of Truth
  8. Ode To Joy
  9. Save Our Souls

Band Lineup:
Benjamin Sotto – Vocals
Charley Corbiaux – Guitars
Matthieu Plana – Bass
Olivier Lapauze – Guitars
Pierre-Emmanuel “Piwee” Desfray - Drums

Guest Musicians:
Oliver Hartmann – Vocals on ‘Save our Souls’
Geraldine Gadaut – Vocals on ‘Carpe Diem’ & ‘Ashen Paradise’
Nicolas Marco – Orchestration, piano & keyboards

Producers: Philip Colodetti & Heavenly

Country: France

Total Time = 45:15

Heavenly
Heavenly MySpace Page
AFM Records

European Power Metal.

Some of you may stop reading right now because Power Metal is a hotly debated genre in the world of Heavy Metal. I’m a Power Metal fan, I like the soaring vocals and the duelling guitars…..I grew up with bands like Judas Priest, Helloween, Manowar and Grave Digger, some of the pioneers of the genre. Then I moved on to bands like Blind Guardian, Angra, Gamma Ray, and Hammerfall but I always enjoy discovering a band that may have fallen under my radar. I had never really heard of Heavenly, maybe a passing review online, but the release of the band’s new album, CARPE DIEM, in December 2009 (U.S. release was in late January 2010) gave me a closer inspection. I’ve had a digital promo copy of the album since late December 2009 but I wasn’t going to pay the high import prices, I waited until the U.S. release date in January to pick this up for my collection.

The title track opens the album with blistering double bass pounding from Piwee Desfray and lightning fast riffs from the Corbiaux/Laspauze guitar duo but the song quickly moves in and out of orchestrated parts with guest vocals by Benighted Soul’s Geraldine Gadaut. The song is very good and the trade-off between Gadaut and Ben Sotto works well because she compliments his lead vocal. ‘Lost In Your Eyes’ follows with over the top, technical speed…..basically your typical Power Metal styled song. This track reminds me of the faster songs from Angra’s FIREWORKS (1998) album, it has that huge sound with the multi-layered background vocals and swirling guitars. Honestly, if your not a fan of Power Metal, then ‘Lost In Your Eyes’ is going to turn you off because it’s pretty formulaic in it’s performance but fans like myself will enjoy it.

The thing about Power Metal is that you need to expand your sound and add different elements to it in order to have the music and band stand out. For Heavenly, this means showcasing their obvious love of British Rock icons Queen. ‘Farewell’ is a grand Queen-styled showcase complete with Sotto delivering an extremely high falsetto to an opening piano and weaving in and out of Freddie Mercury’s range (but falling short). Sotto does a decent impression but Mercury is the master! ‘Farewell’ has the orchestration, the piano and almost the exact guitar tone that Brian May uses on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’…..this is Heavenly’s ‘Rhapsody’, even copying the ending of the song for the most part. Queen is one of my favorite bands so I have no problem with the overt influence, it breaks the album up and gives you something different. ‘Fullmoon’ follows the same pattern as ‘Lost In Your Eyes’…..fast paced, guitar and double bass heavy with soaring vocals, sounding like Angra again. It’s definitely repetitive and I feel like I’ve heard this all before and I even pulled out Angra’s FIREWORKS for further comparison! Speaking of repetitive, Heavenly gives us another Queen-inspired song with ‘A Better Me’. There are Queen elements all over this song from the Brian May guitar sound, to the background vocals, to the piano accompaniment and the various pacing added to Sotto’s flamboyant Freddie impression. I like this song too but I definitely would have moved it down the track order so there wasn’t any Queen overkill. It’s definitely over the top with that really large sound and that could be the thing that turns other fans off.

The band returns to the pure speed of ‘Ashen Paradise’, complete with Desfray’s pummelling double bass drumming (he is a force on the entire record!), some airplane sound effects and special guest Oliver Hartmann contributing vocals. The guitar duel between Corbiaux and Lapauze at the solo is very frantic, a little DragonForce maybe, but the speed fits well with the song and there is a lot of melody within those bombarding notes. Another great song follows with ‘The Face Of Truth’, a slower song compared to ‘Ashen Paradise’ but not devoid of speed and power. ‘The Face Of Truth’ has a little more grit and strength to it especially around the main riff. The keyboards compliment the song well but I wouldn’t have minded a tougher vocal from Sotto…..the falsetto is very good but sometimes a lower register adds a lot more. Like many Power Metal bands, Classical Music plays a big part in the overall influence of the band, hence ‘Ode To Joy’. Obviously, the inspiration comes from Beethoven’s 9th symphony and the band weaves a speed metal journey around it. It’s a good song but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, kind of like classical Helloween but with higher vocals. The good news is that Heavenly gives one more solid track with ‘Save Our Souls’ and builds on the “power” in Power Metal rather than the obvious speed. The song opens with some sort of sci-fi intro but moves into a really good, less frantic pace. The speed is still there, especially at the solo, and the layered background vocals give the song that huge sound but there is a bit more control on this song and that makes it one of the better songs on CARPE DIEM.

Bottom Line:
From my description of the songs one might think that I didn’t like this album but I actually like it a lot. That’s the thing about Power Metal, you either love it or you hate it. I like the over the top huge sound, the speedy guitar work, the grand orchestrated passages and the soaring high vocals but that doesn’t appeal to everyone. There is a Power Metal backlash out there that has been brewing for at least the last 10 years so I figured I would describe the songs so people know what they are getting into. I thought the Queen influence was a highlight, although I would have spaced those two tracks out to avoid overkill. The music is performed expertly and there is plenty of power and melody throughout, I would have preferred that Ben Sotto used a little more grit on some of the songs rather than focusing completely with his falsetto but he still has a great voice. For me, there was enough good songs and interesting pieces on CARPE DIEM for me to go back and check out Heavenly’s back catalogue. This is the band’s fifth album and, from what I’ve read, the first four albums are really good. Overall, I liked the album but it did get a little repetitive at times and I found myself checking other bands’ (Angra, Gamma Ray) albums for similar sounding songs. If you like Helloween, Angra, Gamma Ray and Queen then you can’t go wrong with this record. By the way, great album cover!

Favorite Songs:
‘Carpe Diem’, ‘Farewell’, ‘A Better Me’, ‘Save Our Souls’, ‘Ashen Paradise’

NADER SADEK TO ENTER THE STUDIO IN EARLY MAY TO BEGIN RECORDINGS OF HIS UPCOMING DEBUT ALBUM.

The innovative and controversial artist is set to produce a collaborative album, which will feature world-renowned extreme metal artists Steve Tucker, Flo Mounier, and Rune Eriksen.

New York, NY – Egyptian-born artist Nader Sadek will soon enter the studio to begin working on his next project: a full-length LP. The upcoming album will feature compositions and performances by some of extreme music’s most innovative players. The group will consist of Steve Tucker (formerly of Morbid Angel) on vocals, Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy) on drums, and Rune Eriksen (Aura Noir, Ava Inferi and formerly of Mayhem) on guitars. Guest musicians will be announced soon. Sadek himself will play on and develop all album artwork and concepts. The project represents a continuation of the work showcased on his art installation “Ageless,” which took place last November at New York’s Santos Party House and consisted of a live Death Metal performance enshrined in Sadek’s nightmarish stage landscape. Some of the songs performed during the installation, will be featured in the upcoming release. The album will be produced by Sadek, recorded and mixed by Steve Tucker, and mastered by Colin Marston (Krallice, Gorguts, Jarboe). The recording will take place in Brooklyn, New York and will be released in the fall on Greyhaze Records.

ABOUT NADER SADEK
Through his association with Attila Csihar (SUNN O))), Mayhem), Sadek gained considerable exposure as the artist responsible for the stage imagery on Mayhem’s 2009 US tour. The stage sets featured silicone-based sculptures, which resembled entrails and impaled heads, with the centerpiece being a fully detailed flesh-like rendering of the Mayhem logo. Sadek’s work has also included the costumes and silicone “earth masks” worn by Csihar on all his bands. Sadek’s use of petroleum-based raw materials is not coincidental. His work revolves around the notion that all petroleum energy originates from death and, in a morbid vicious cycle, also ends in death, where human lives are expendable and sold for the support of an unending addiction to money and power. Before his work with Mayhem, Sadek had implemented two very successful interconnecting art projects: “B’Doun Wag’h,” a live performance event; and “Faceless,” a drawing exhibit featuring recorded music.

Says Sadek: “My general association with Death Metal, deals with the notion of false perceptions, and how great individuality can be smothered by the weight of an overwhelming environment. This idea is ever-present throughout all my work. Each of the players in this album played key roles in their respective bands, facing difficult challenges, and yet taking their bands to higher levels. Their talent as well as their tenacity has always intrigued me. As such, they fit perfectly in this project.”

ABOUT THE MUSICIANS
Steve Tucker is known for his long run fronting the seminal Florida Death Metal Band Morbid Angel. He has collaborated with Sadek on many of his previous projects. Flo Mounier is the driving force behind Canadian Death Metal outfit Cryptopsy.  He is considered one of the best drummers the genre has ever produced. Rune Eriksen is currently working with Ava Inferi, which is based in Lisbon, Portugal.  He is also well known for his distinctive guitar work in Mayhem, notably on their last album, the award-winning “Ordo Ad Chao.” 

Says Tucker: “I’ve been looking forward to doing this recording for months. Nader does some very interesting art and I enjoy helping him achieve his twisted vision. It’s rare to get to play alongside a drummer with the abilities that Flo possesses. It’s a bonus that I get the opportunity to jam with professionals such as Rune and Flo. It’ll be brutal.”

Says Mounier: “It’s amazing that artists with different backgrounds can come together to create something so extreme and so dark but yet have so much fun doing so! It has been a pleasure working with Nader and Steve in the past and I’m looking forward to experimenting with Rune’s unique style, I can’t wait to start laying down the extreme with my boys.”

Says Eriksen: “When first being approached by Nader to collaborate with him, Steve and Flo, I was immediately caught up by the idea of it. Not only is Nader’s concept and reasons for doing this of an inspirational character in itself, but also the very thought of collaborating with musicians such as Steve and Flo seemed like an opportunity not to miss.”

ABOUT GREYHAZE RECORDS
Greyhaze Records is an extreme music label based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Its objective is to foster, develop, and disseminate extreme music and art worldwide through audio and video releases as well as live settings.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Nader Sadek: www.nadersadek.com
Nader Sadek Ageless Concert Rough Video: http://vimeo.com/11186498
Greyhaze Records: www.greyhazerecords.com

Ratt – Infestation (2010, Roadrunner Records)

  1. Eat Me Up Alive
  2. Best Of Me
  3. A Little Too Much
  4. Look Out Below
  5. Last Call
  6. Lost Weekend
  7. As Good As It Gets
  8. Garden Of Eden
  9. Take A Big Bite
  10. Take Me Home
  11. Don’t Let Go

Band Lineup:
Stephen Pearcy – Lead Vocals
Warren DeMartini – Guitars  & Background Vocals
Bobby Blotzer – Drums
Robbie Crane – Bass
Carlos Cavazo – Guitars & Background Vocals

Producer: Michael Baskette

Country: USA

Total Time = 42:16

Ratt
Ratt MySpace page
Roadrunner Records

It’s about time that Ratt got back together and released a new album! Since the band’s initial break-up in the early ’90s, Ratt has reformed, regrouped and changed members countless times but they haven’t really made much noise. The band did get together with original singer Stephen Pearcy in 1999 for a new self-titled album on Portrait Records and a prime opening slot on the Poison reunion tour but that soon fizzled out again. Drummer Bobby Blotzer and guitarist Warren DeMartini (the two original members left) went through more Ratt incarnations and continued the war of words with their former frontman but now Pearcy is back in the fold. Longtime bassist Robbie Crane is still with the band and former Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo is on board adding his slick guitar to the mix. The result? INFESTATION!

I have always been a big Ratt fan. Back when I was a young kid, I read about the Sunset Strip scene in fanzines and one of the names that popped up alongside Quiet Riot and Motley Crue was Ratt. I got into Ratt like most people did when FM radio and MTV started playing ‘Round And Round’ in their regular rotations, that’s when I ran out and bought OUT OF THE CELLAR (1984). I’ve always backed Ratt, even when the albums weren’t as good, because they were always a solid band and one of my favorites. Their reunion performance on the 1999 Poison tour was great and I thought they stole the show both times I saw it! The problem has always been that Ratt has fallen just a bit short compared to Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Poison so when I heard that INFESTATION was a return to the old Ratt sound, I was really looking forward to it.

I was hooked from the opening guitar of ‘Eat Me Up Alive’, a classic Ratt rocker that sounds similar to ‘You’re In Love’ (from 1985′s INVASION OF YOUR PRIVACY) but a bit faster. Now that’s the way to open an album…..start right away and go for the throat with a fast song that is guitar heavy. If that isn’t enough, the band follows up with a song that sounds like one of their big hits from the ’80s, ‘Best Of Me’. This track is clearly a return to the commercial melodic Hard Rock that the band became known for and it has a similar sound and tempo to the band’s 1988 hit ‘I Want A Woman’ (from REACH FOR THE SKY). One of the things Ratt did so well back in the day was incorporate the big hooks and the melodic choruses to get you singing along with them, their songs were just infectious and ‘Best Of Me’ follows that tradition. This song is the lead single off INFESTATION and it should definitely be played all over Rock radio, it was tailor made for it, but it’s 25+ years since the band’s heyday and it’s a crime that people won’t hear it.

Ratt always had a sleazy quality to them, maybe it was because of Pearcy’s unique voice or that Sunset Strip hedonistic mentality, but it’s definitely back again on songs like ‘A Little Too Much’, the swaggering ‘Look Out Below’ and guitar driven ‘Last Call’. These songs sound like classic ’80s Ratt, especially ‘Look Out Below with it’s ‘Way Cool Jr.’  strut (from ’88′s REACH FOR THE SKY)  and that isn’t only due to the recognizable vocals from Stephen Pearcy, it’s due to the guitars as well. Warren DeMartini has been in Ratt from the beginning and he has always been the band’s “guitar hero”, even when the late Robbin Crosby was sharing lead guitar duties, and his playing is still amzing both on lead and rhythm guitar. What sets this Ratt lineup and album apart from previous reunion tries is that former Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo is on board and he fits in perfectly. The problem with the 1999 self-titled album was that it was just Demartini on guitar, the classic Ratt sound was built on the DeMartini/Crosby twin guitar attack. Ratt has always maintained this in concert with former guitarists John Corabi and Keri Kelli but they never put it to a record. Adding Carlos Cavazo not only brings another versatile guitar player but also a songwriter, he adds his writing to four songs including ‘Eat Me Up Alive’ and ‘Best Of Me’.

There are more classic ’80s similarities like the ‘Lack Of Communication’ style on ‘Lost Weekend’ and the ‘Wanted Man’ grind on ‘As Good As It Gets’ (the band even name checks ‘Wanted Man’ in the lyrics!), these songs have a similar base compared to the classics but they stand on their own and aren’t cheap copies. It’s that familiarity that’s really hooked me in and makes the rest of the hard rocking songs like ‘Garden Of Eden’, ‘Take A Big Bite’ and ‘Don’t Let Go’ just as good. You kind of expect an ’80s Hard Rock band to have a ballad on a new album but the closest thing to a ballad is ‘Take Me Home’. I would call this song more of a combination of a hard mid-tempo (on the chorus) and a ballad (on the verses) with an updated sound. What’s throwing me off on ‘Take Me Home’ is that the rest of INFESTATION sounds so much like classic Ratt that the any updated sounds get lost. I like the string arrangement and the guitar solos but ‘Take Me Home sounds more like an idea that needs to be fleshed out a little more rather than a proper song.

Bottom Line:
Like I said before, I have always been a big Ratt fan so I was really looking forward to this new album. INFESTATION is exactly what an old school Ratt fan is looking for: a return to the classic sound. The band hasn’t released a proper album in eleven years so the classic sound is fresh to my ears where it may be dated to others, Ratt basically followed the same formula with great success for close to two decades. Having Stephen Pearcy back in the band makes a huge difference because his voice is the Ratt sound, kind of like Vince Neil is to Motley Crue, it’s hard to replace such a unique singer. Also adding Carlos Cavazo on guitar brings more energy and diverse playing to join with Demartini’s guitar heroics. INFESTATION is sleazy, slick and hard all at the same time and it’s definitely a classic Ratt record that you could put alongside OUT OF THE CELLAR, INVASION OF YOUR PRIVACY and REACH FOR THE SKY. This is easily one of the best Hard Rock albums I’ve heard this year and ‘Best Of Me’ is one of the best songs of the year so far! A great comeback…..

Favorite Songs:
‘Eat Me Up Alive’, ‘Best Of Me’, ‘Look Out Below’, ‘Lost Weekend’, ‘As Good As It Gets’

This is going to be a good update because I have been picking CDs off Ebay for great prices and the local independent record chain I frequent, Newbury Comics, had their 32 Year Anniversary sale last Tuesday…..one day only, everything in the store 32% off. If the item was on sale then you either got the sale price or the 32% off the regular price depending on which was lower. Can you imagine how much money I spent! I bought a few DVDs for my kids and a Lady Gaga CD for my wife but the rest is all mine!

Newbury Comics

(I will list the price I paid rounded up to the nearest dollar and I will let you know what the original price was for comparison.)

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Gods & Guns (2009) – $16: This album was on the Wanted list in January because I missed out on it in 2009. I was not going to buy anything but the 2 CD special edition with the 6 bonus tracks so, after I missed the sale price when the record was released, I waited because the regular price was $24! I couldn’t pass this CD up on such a great sale so this was the first CD I went for because I knew from my previous week’s adventure that there was only one copy! Saved $8.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (2007) – $7 used: I have put off buying this CD for three years but I finally decided that I would pick this up during this sale. Of course I had my choice between the $15 brand new CD or the $10 used disc…..I went used to maximize my buying power. I haven’t heard any songs from this album but everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve talked to said it’s great. I figured that if Plant was involved then it had to be interesting and high quality. This will be a change of pace album for me, somthing different. Saved $3.

Slash – s/t (2010) – $9: This was on my list of new releases and I was going to head over to Best Buy to pick it up because it was $7.99 advertised but I bought it at Newbury Comics and gave the extra dollar to the independent store. This CD was cheaper on the sale price (reg. $15.99) so it didn’t qualify for the 32% off. I’m very interested in this album because of all the guest vocalists like Ozzy, Lemmy, Iggy Pop, and Chris Cornell…..I thin the track with Fergie is going to suck but I’ll save it for the upcoming review. Saved $7.

Armored Saint – La Raza (2010) – $10: I’ve been an Armored Saint fan since MARCH OF THE SAINT in 1984 so I don’t miss a new record when they decide to put one out. It’s been 10 years since REVELATION (2000) and the NOD TO THE OLD SCHOOL (2001) compilation was just a stop-gap so LA RAZA was at the top of my list for 2010. Regular price was around $14 and the sale price was $11 so I saved a extra dollar…..that’s makes up for giving the store the extra buck for the Slash CD! Saved $4.

Raven – Walk Through Fire (2010) – $10: After a year since being released in Japan, Raven’s WALK THROUGH FIRE finally gets a U.S. release on Metal Blade Records. I’m a huge fan of the NWOBHM, and I support a lot of that era’s bands when it comes to new music, so this record was on the WANTED list as soon as I saw it was only available as an expensive Japanese import. I read a lot of good reviews on this album so I have been psyched for this album for a year! I found only one copy, at a $14 price. Saved $4.

Charred Walls Of The Damned – s/t (2010) – $11: I know absolutely nothing about this band except that Richard Christy (ex-Iced Earth) is on drums and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens has the vocal spot. I’ve read a few reviews online and I saw Richard Christy promoting the band/album on a recent episode of VH-1 Classic’s THAT METAL SHOW so I figured I would take a chance on something new. I’m not sure if there is a regular version but the one I picked up has a bonus DVD that shows the behind the scenes making of the album. Regular price was $16, sale price was $12, I got the 32% off for more savings. Saved $5.

Saxon – Destiny (1988/2010 reissue) – $11: I already have an original Japanese pressing of this CD but I couldn’t pass up this reissue, with it’s 6 bonus tracks, at 32% off. Saxon is one of my favorite bands so picking up the latest round of reissues is a priority, there are two other albums reissued: INNOCENCE IS NO EXCUSE (1985) and ROCK THE NATIONS (1986)…..albums I already own on CD. Regular price $16, saved $5.

Saxon – Innocence Is No Excuse (1985/2010 reissue) – $11: I already own an original Japanese pressing of this CD but I couldn’t resist the 7 bonus tracks that EMI tacked on this reissue. 32% off is a good excuse to add expensive, imported reissues to the collection so I bought this and DESTINY (1988). I would have bought ROCK THE NATIONS (1986) too but it wasn’t in stock! Regular price was $16, saved $5.

Gamma Ray – To The Metal! (2010) – $11: I have had a promotional copy of this album for a couple of months now but it had no booklet, artwork or information like a regular CD would so the collector in me wanted an official CD. I saw that there were two versions of this album: the regular CD and the CD/DVD combo that includes the making of the album. I was going to grab the double disc but it was $5 more so I went the cheaper route. Regular price $16, sale price $12, the 32% discount saved $5.

Ebay

Riot – Shine On (1998) – $16: riot is one of my favorite band sand I spent most of the late ’90s collecting every album they released. Missing in action is SHINE ON, the 1998 live record. I had plenty of opportunities to buy this album from 1998 through 2001 at my favorite record store but, when it closed it’s doors, it was the last time I saw the CD. This particular version is the rarer Japanese import released by the Zero Corporation, there is another version on Metal Blade with a different cover.

Heavy Bones – s/t (1992) – $12: About 10 years ago, I could have found multiple copies of this album in used bins and clearance racks across Rhode Island and Massachusetts for $5 – $8. Now I can’t even find one for the price of a regular new CD! I’ve been watching this CD on Ebay for a while but I was not willing to pay more than $10 for it knowing that it’s in a used bin somewhere for half the price! Surprisingly, this CD was commanding high prices in excess of $20+! I happened to get an email in the early morning hours stating that this particular CD was just listed as a BUY IT NOW for $10…..I pulled the trigger immeadiately! Shipping was extremely reasonable at $2. Came with the price tag the seller bought it for…..a dollar!

Mark Free – Long Way From Love (1993/1998 – 2 CD reissue) – $22: Now this CD has been a long time coming! I like King Kobra, so when I got the Internet in 1998, I found out that King Kobra singer Mark Free had released this solo record in 1993. What made this album even better was that Frontiers Records rereleased the CD as a “Special 5th Anniversary Reissue” in 1998 with a second CD added. The second CD has 16 extra songs: a 10 song live set from The Gods Festival 1993 and 6 new studio tracks. I never dropped the $20 for this 2 CD set at the record store and, like the Riot disc above, it was gone after the store ceased operations. I’ve been tracking this set for years but the price always gets high because it is out of print in it’s 2 disc format…..you can still get the single disc version but I didn’t want that one! I’ve seen this reissue sell on Ebay anywhere from $30 to as high as $100 so I was definitely waiting until I found a good deal.  I found this auction 2 weeks ago and I watched it closely, the end time was after 2am so I stayed awake and snatched the CD with a high bid of $25. I ended up paying $19 with $3 shipping.

Total = $146

Total (year) = $399

Total CDs (year) = 42

Total DVDs (year) = 1

Total LPs (year) = 1

Scorpions – Sting In The Tail (2010, Universal Music)

  1. Raised On Rock
  2. Sting In The Tail
  3. Slave Me
  4. The Good Die Young
  5. No Limit
  6. Rock Zone
  7. Lorelei
  8. Turn You On
  9. SLY
  10. Spirit Of Rock
  11. The Best Is Yet To Come

Band Lineup:
Klaus Meine -  Vocals
Rudolph Schenker – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Matthias Jabs – Guitars, Background Vocals & Talk Box
Pavel Maciwoda – Bass
James Kottak – Drums & Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Tarja Turunen – guest Vocals on ‘The Good Die Young’

Producers: Mikael Nord Andersson & Martin Hansen

Country: Germany

Total Time = 44:24

Scorpions
Scorpions MySpace page

I’m 38 years old and the Scorpions have been making Hard Rock music since the year I was born, that’s a long time! The band was started in 1965 by guitarist Rudolph Schenker but the Scorpions started their professional recording career in February 1972 with the release of their debut album LONESOME CROW. The band has seen the heights of international success through four decades and now, with the release of their new album STING IN THE TAIL, the Scorpions are calling it a career. Back in November 2009, the Scorpions announced that they were recording a new album and that it would be their last. The coming world tour to support STING IN THE TAIL would also be their last even though they have planned a 2 to 3 year tour schedule to support the album. More importantly, it’s a chance for the band to say thank you to all the fans worldwide who have supported them for the last 38 years and to celebrate the reason the Scorpions exist in the first place…..to celebrate the joy of Music.

It’s hard to believe a world of Music without the Scorpions, I have been listening to Rock music for close to 30 years now and the Scorpions have been a HUGE part of my musical education. I discovered the band like most people my age did: through FM radio and MTV. From BLACKOUT (1982) up to 2007′s HUMANITY: HOUR 1, I have been buying Scorpions albums as soon as they are released and STING IN THE TAIL was no exception. Despite the sad news that the band was ending their career, I knew that any new record would be a classic because the band has been at the top of their game for a while. The world of Music isn’t always kind to it’s Hard Rock & Heavy Metal veterans but the Scorpions have always maintained solid fanbases around the world, including the U.S., where I have personally seen their last four sold-out tours in major arenas. Add that HUMANITY: HOUR 1 (2007) was an unexpected masterpiece, the band expanding and exploring their sound while creating a socially conscious Hard Rock record. That album made my Top 15 Albums of 2007…..so how would the Scorpions follow it up two years later with retirement on the horizon?

What I expected from the new album was a continuation of the updated sound on HUMANITY: HOUR 1 but what the band has created is an album that reflects what they are known for…..pure Hard Rock. STING IN THE TAIL is an album that falls into place alongside the band’s commercial Rock successes like SAVAGE AMUSEMENT (1988) and CRAZY WORLD (1990) and the mid-1990′s underrated gems FACE THE HEAT (1993) and PURE INSTINCT (1996). The sound is the basic Hard Rock the Scorpions have had for the last four decades and the usual formula of party rock anthems alongside stirring ballads is revisited in fine form. It’s a predictable sound but in a good way. HUMANITY: HOUR 1 had it’s detractors for being different and UNBREAKABLE (2004) wasn’t fully embraced by a lot of fans even though it was a return to the familiar formula. In a lot of ways, STING IN THE TAIL becomes the natural follow-up to PURE INSTINCT or maybe UNBREAKABLE.

The first thing I noticed about the album was the number of songs with the word “Rock” in the title. Anytime I see an album with more than two songs about “Rock”, I get a little worried that the band is strip mining a concept that’s been done over and over. The Scorpions have never been afraid of celebrating the ability to rock and using it for song concepts so it goes along with the proven formula. Songs like ‘Raised On Rock’, ‘Sting In The Tail’ and ‘Spirit Of Rock’ are all party Rock songs that follow the same direction as previous Scorpions classics like ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’, ‘Tease Me, Please Me’ and ‘Rhythm Of Love’. There is also the trademark Scorpions balladry, something the band used to be criticized for because their ballads became so popular. ‘The Good Die Young’ has moments that remind me of the classic ‘Still Loving You’ and ‘Lorelei’ has some similarities with ‘Send Me An Angel’ but the best ballad on STING IN THE TAIL is the final song ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’. There are some similar sounds between this track and the Scorpions’ mega-hit ‘Wind Of Change’, probably due to the upbeat nature of the lyrics and the mellow tempo, and it’s definitely one of my favorite songs on the record. ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ is also prophetic in that this is the final song on the final Scorpions album but the band is sending a message that “the best is yet to come” in the future. Does that mean the band is keeping the door open to continuing on (like KISS)? Or is it that Meine, Schenker, Jabs, Kottak and Maciwoda are letting us know that the next chapter of their lives begins after the Scorpions cease to exist?

Bottom Line:
I have been giving STING IN THE TAIL round the clock playback since I bought it. At first, I really didn’t get into the album because it was your basic Scorpions record, something we’ve all heard before. I was looking forward to a continuation of HUMANITY: HOUR 1 and the updated sound…..maybe an HOUR 2? After repeated listens, and some comparisons to other Scorpions records, STING IN THE TAIL grew on me and I’ve grown to really enjoy it. If you’re going to end your career on a high note then I guess you should follow the successful formula of making records that you’ve followed for the last 38 years. The Scorpions have created an album that can sit proudly with previous successes and put a positive Hard Rock stamp on their career. The band has done what it has always done: make a good Hard Rock record. It may not be their absolute best but it is definitely far from their worst…..if you’re a true Scorpions fan, then you will definitely be happy with this album.

Favorite Songs:
‘Raised On Rock’, ‘Sting In The Tail’, ‘The Good Die Young’, ‘Lorelei’, ‘Spirit Of Rock’, ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’

Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010, AFM Records)

  1. Forsake What I Believe
  2. Shiver
  3. The Conjunction Of 7 Planets
  4. Cross The Line
  5. Nailed Down Dreams
  6. Blood Still Stains
  7. Ahimsa
  8. The Final Stages Of Decay
  9. Victim
  10. When No One Cares
  11. Would You

Band Lineup:
Andy B. Franck – Vocals
Torsten Ihlenfeld – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Milan Loncaric – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Antonio Ieva – Bass
Dieter Bernert – Drums

Producers: Sascha Paeth & Miro

Country: Germany

Total Time = 54:44

Brainstorm
Brainstorm MySpace page
AFM Records

For the last 10 years, Brainstorm have been one of my favorite Power Metal bands and I have bought every album that vocalist extraordinaire, Andy B. Franck, has sung on (I am missing the first two records!). 2006′s LIQUID MONSTER was an awesome album and DOWNBURST (2008) continued the band’s tradition of solid albums but with an expansion of the overall sound to a more progressive and melodic direction. DOWNBURST turned out to be one of my favorite albums of 2008, despite my shelving it for months after it’s release, so I was looking forward to this new record’s North American release in January. I was lucky enough to get an advance download of MEMORIAL ROOTS from AFM Records back in December 2009 so I have been giving this a lot of time on the computer and iPod but, true to my collecting form, I was able to pick this CD up towards the end of January.

I’ve kept MEMORIAL ROOTS in my weekly playlist because some days I think it’s a brilliant album and some days I think it’s too much of a diversion away from the band’s earlier straightforward Power Metal sound. I was thrown off initially by the Progressive and melodic tones of the opening ‘Forsake What I Believe’, a definite epic track with an orchestrated intro. The opening guitar kicks in and you think it’s going to be one of those powerful speed tracks Brainstorm is known for but the song goes for a more subdued nature with Franck showing his range by utilizing his lower register well. ‘Forsake’ is a very melodic track, very dark and ambient in spots, giving the listener the immeadiate impression that MEMORIAL ROOTS is going to be a comlex album. That straightforward, in your face power is saved for ‘Shiver’, a song that sounds like a more commercial Brainstorm, maybe flirting with ’80s Judas Priest? Thick riffs and solid vocals make this song great but I get a very dated feel from it, it’s still a solid track. Another Progressive Metal epic arrives with the opening tones of ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’ (sounds like a title from an Avantasia or Ayreon record!), one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s similar to ‘Forsake What I Believe’ as far as pace and mood but the overall sound is bombastic and layered. There are so many sounds, tempos and details put into this song that it has to be the most technical yet one of the most melodic. I find myself singing along to ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’ easily and scorching my air guitar, this is the masterpiece of the album.

‘Cross The Line’, ‘Ahimsa’ and ‘Victim’ put the speed back into the Brainstorm sound but the melodic direction is also put on display by the commercial Hard Rock sound of ‘Nailed Down Dreams’. You come to expect powerful riffs from a band with Brainstorm’s history but you don’t expect to hear something so melodic and mainstream. ‘Nailed Down Dreams’ has the word “single” written all over it, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some of the more opemnRock radio stations in the U.S. embrace it, it’s a very American sounding song. ‘Blood Still Stains’ chugs right along and Andy Franck switches from the smooth melodic tone on ‘Nailed Down Dreams’ to a more aggressive, yet controlled, vocal. Halfway through this album, I sit and wonder why Andy B. Franck isn’t always in the discussion when it comes to the top Metal vocalists, he absolutely puts on an impressive display on every song and his voice adapts to so many different styles and ranges. Obviously, Franck defines the Brainstorm sound.

‘The Final Stages Of Decay’ starts out with a basic traditional Metal riff but the song quickly follows the same progressive and melodic plan as ‘Forsake What I Believe’ and ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’. This song is definitely another epic and complex song with different tempos and sounds but I feel like I’ve already heard it before. I’m not saying that ‘The Final Stages Of Decay’ is a bad song, it’s a good song but just a little too much like the other two epics. ‘When No One Cares’ is another song that I’m just not really into, it’s more simple and there really isn’t much going on here, I think the chorus is especially weak. The final song, ‘Would You’, puts everything right again and ends MEMORIAL ROOTS with a song that combines the best of the Progressive elements and the speed and heavy power that compete on the album. I don’t want to go as far as comparing this song to something from Iron Maiden’s catalog but you can definitely hear some direct influences.

Bottom Line:
Despite being thrown off by the opening song’s Progressive sound, I decided to keep listening and the conclusion, after hours of listening, is that MEMORIAL ROOTS is definitely another triumph for Brainstorm. Power Metal can be a restrictive genre at times and the great bands find a way to explore and expand on their Power Metal roots. Brainstorm has followed the path that Primal Fear and Kamelot have blazed with epic Power Metal and the band is wisely writing longer, diverse songs that stretch their musicianship. There is a good balance of power and melody making MEMORIAL ROOTS a solid headbang and a catchy sing-a-long. There are a couple of fillers here, some of the songs sound too much like the others, but that is a small complaint because those songs are still done very well…..they just sound too formulaic. Comparing this to their last album, I find that I like MEMORIAL ROOTS better than DOWNBURST…..maybe because I’ve spent more time listening to it? I like the expanded direction and the exploration of new sounds, this puts Brainstorm right at the top of the Power Metal heap,  MEMORIAL ROOTS is one of the better albums I’ve heard this year.

Favorite Songs:
‘Forsake What I Believe’, ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’, ‘Cross The Line’, ‘Ahimsa’, ‘Nailed Down Dreams’