Alice Cooper – Theatre Of Death: Live At Hammersmith 2009 (2010) CD & DVD

Alice Cooper – Theatre Of Death: Live At Hammersmith 2009 (2010, Alive/Bigger Picture)

  1. School’s Out
  2. Department Of Youth
  3. I’m Eighteen
  4. Wicked Young Man
  5. Ballad Of Dwight Fry
  6. Go To Hell
  7. Guilty
  8. Welcome To My Nightmare
  9. Cold Ethyl
  10. Poison
  11. The Awakening
  12. From The Inside
  13. Nurse Rozetta
  14. Is It My Body?
  15. Be My Lover
  16. Only Woman Bleed/I Never Cry
  17. Black Widow
  18. Vengeance Is Mine
  19. Devil’s Food
  20. Dirty Diamonds
  21. Billion Dollar Babies
  22. Killer
  23. I Love The Dead
  24. No More Mr. Nice guy
  25. Under My Wheels
  26. School’s Out (reprise)

Band Lineup:
Alice Cooper – Vocals
Chuck Garric – Bass
Keri Kelli – Guitars
Damon Johnson – Guitars
Jimmy DeGrasso – Drums
Tiffany Lowe – Stage Performer

Producers: Alice Cooper, Shep Gordon & Rob Roth

Country: USA

Total Time (CD & DVD) = approx. 91 minutes each

Alice Cooper

THEATRE OF DEATH: LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH (2009) is a CD and DVD release of Alice Cooper’s headline performance at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London, England. The Theatre Of Death Tour for 2009 was basically a continuation of the same tour Alice has been doing since 2008 in support of his last studio album, ALONG CAME A SPIDER (2008). The only difference between this tour and the previous one is that only one song from ALONG CAME A SPIDER (‘Vengeance Is Mine’) is featured, although the setlist contains most of the classics that Alice normally plays and a few deep tracks and newer songs from albums he’s released over the last 10 years. I saw the current North American tour (with Rob Zombie) back in October and the difference I can tell between the two is that the Hammersmith show has a few extra songs, but it’s primarily the same set, and the stage show/performance is the same.

What you have here is a two disc package in a regular CD jewel case containing the DVD of the full concert and the accompanying audio CD. Basically, both are one in the same except that one is video and one is audio. It’s nice that the two are packaged together so you spend a reasonable amount of money and you get great value. What you’re buying this set for is the DVD, Alice Cooper has such a theatrical and visual show that the only way to appreciate it is to actually see it. How many other artists kill themselves multiple times on stage? There’s the guillotine, noose and an IV needle all set up to kill Alice but, like the tour slogan says: “They keep killing him…..and he keeps coming back!”. The full performance is truly great with the interaction between Alice and stage performer Tiffany Rowe who plays characters like Cold Ethyl and Nurse Rozetta, the different costumes and props and, as mentioned, the different killings of Alice all up against a great backdrop of music.

As far as the setlist goes, you get the classics like ‘School’s Out’, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, ‘Poison’, ‘I’m Eighteen’ and a whole bunch of others but Alice and the band really lean heavily on the WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE album from 1975 by playing seven out of the album’s eleven songs. I can’t complain about that because I have been an Alice Cooper fan for a long time and I like all the classic records. What adds to the show for me is the newer songs because Alice has really had a rebirth in the album department since 2000′s BRUTAL PLANET on through ALONG CAME  SPIDER, all of them are really solid records. There’s ‘Wicked Young Man’ from BRUTAL PLANET, ‘Vengeance Is Mine’ from ALONG CAME A SPIDER and ‘Dirty Diamonds’ from DIRTY DIAMONDS (2005) and all three come off great in the live set and fit in well to the stage performance.

Bottom Line:
A solid package overall to have the live show captured on DVD and to have the live album for your stereo, car or iPod. There aren’t any extras here, just the same show on both discs, even the booklet is a little sparse but it does fold out to reveal a tour poster. I would call this an excellent live document of where Alice Cooper and his band are in 2010 and if you haven’t seen Alice in concert it’s a great way to experience it. Like I mentioned, I’m a big Alice fan, and I’m still riding a high from seeing him in concert in October, so this CD/DVD package was a must purchase for me and I’ve really enjoyed it. Great music and a great stage performance makes for a great concert and that’s what Alice Cooper always does.

Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights: Live In Europe (2010) CD & DVD

Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights – Live In Europe (2010, Eagle Rock/Armoury Records)

  1. E5150 (DVD only)
  2. Mob Rules
  3. Children Of The Sea
  4. I
  5. Bible Black
  6. Time Machine
  7. Fear
  8. Falling Off The Edge Of The World
  9. Follow The Tears
  10. Die Young
  11. Heaven & Hell
  12. Country Girl (DVD only)
  13. Neon Knights

Band Lineup:
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Geezer Butler – Bass
Vinny Appice – Drums
Scott Warren – Keyboards & Backing Vocals

Executive Producers: Terry Shand & Geoff Kempim (for Eagle Rock Entertainment)

Country: USA & UK

Total Time (CD) = 1:14:30
Total Time (DVD) = approx 2 hrs & 30 mins

Heaven & Hell
Ronnie James Dio
Tony Iommi
Black Sabbath Online

NEON NIGHTS : LIVE IN EUROPE is a CD and DVD release of Heaven & Hell’s headline performance in Germany, at the Wacken Open Air Festival on July 30, 2009. This is the last professionally recorded performance from the band and of the late great Ronnie James Dio. This wasn’t the band’s final performance because the tour, supporting their latest album THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (2009), continued throughout the world and I was lucky enough to see the show in Boston, MA a month later. That tour stop in Boston was a great concert and will always be one of my favorite shows because I was right up front and dead center, it turns out that it was also the next to last stop on the world tour and the next to last live performance Ronnie would ever have. Sadly, Ronnie James Dio passed away from stomach cancer almost a year later on May 16, 2010. So what we have here with NEON NIGHTS is two separate releases: a CD version and a DVD version. If you’re going to buy one, I’d pick the DVD because they are both around the same price but the DVD has a little extra.

DVD:
The DVD version of NEON NIGHTS captures Heaven & Hell’s headline concert of the first day of the Wacken Open Air Festival in the Summer of 2009. It’s the full setlist shot with mulitple cameras along with two interview segments as bonuses. As far as the setlist goes, this is the exact same set that I ended up seeing in Boston about a month later…..a bunch of classics and three new songs from THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. Even though Black Sabbath with Dio only released three studio albums, there are plenty of classic tracks to choose from including ‘Mob Rules’, ‘Die Young’, ‘Heaven & Hell’ and ‘Neon Knights’ but, the tracks I like the most are ‘I’ and ‘Time Machine’ from the highly underrated DEHUMANIZER (1992) album. The difference on the setlist on the DVD is that the ‘E5150′ intro is shown in it’s entirety at the beginning and an abbreviated version of ‘Country Girl’ is played and segues into ‘Neon Knights’ to close the show. It’s a great performance, a great concert with timeless music and flawless performances. All the members are top notch on their instruments and, for a man around 66 yrs old at the time and battling the early stages of stomach cancer, Ronnie gives another spectacular performance. The bonus features include 30th Anniversary interviews with each band member. VH-1 Classic’s Eddie trunk interviews Ronnie James Dio, Vinny Appice and Geezer Butler while Classic Rock Magazine’s Malcolm Dome interviews Tony Iommi, all the interviews focusing on the timeline of Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell history over the last 30 years. There really isn’t anything new to these interviews if you’ve followed this version of the band over the years, the band history is pretty much recalled the same by all four member, what is interesting though is the will and desire to continue with the current lineup making new music and touring. These interviews were done before Ronnie’s death so, at the time, the plan was to continue with Heaven & Hell. Another round of interviews with Tony, Geezer and Vinny were added as a tribute to Ronnie after his passing and they are basic quick segments of each member remembering their friend and bandmate.

CD:
The CD version of NEON NIGHTS has an almost identical performance compared to the DVD, the only differences being the omission of the ‘E5150′ intro at the beginning and the abbreviated ‘Country Girl’ that moves into ‘Neon Knights’. There’s not really much to say regarding the CD aside from that, the booklet, pictures and liner notes are exact to the DVD version and there are no bonuses.

Bottom Line:
I really enjoyed NEON NIGHTS: LIVE IN EUROPE because it was a tour souveneir for me and a last look at Ronnie James Dio in action. My favorite Black Sabbath lineup has always been the Dio era and Heaven & Hell is a continuation of that era just with a slightly different name. Taking a good look at the entire package, I can’t help but wonder why Eagle Rock/Armoury Records didn’t just put the audio CD in with the DVD and charge one price for one package, it would be easier that way for fans. I hate to call it a “cash in” or a way to put extra product on the shelves after Ronnie’s passing because this was scheduled to come out anyway, and the concert performance is great, I just wish there were a few more extras remembering Ronnie. Overall, a good concert that was captured on audio and video and it will be the live document that will carry the Sabbath/Dio legacy forward. Well worth picking up on DVD, the CD is for diehards and completists.

Icarus Witch – Draw Down The Moon (2010)

Icarus Witch – Draw Down The Moon (2010, Cleopatra Records)

  1. Black Candles
  2. Aquarius Rising
  3. Reap What You Sow
  4. Dying Eyes
  5. Draw Down The Moon
  6. Serpent In The Garden
  7. Funeral Wine
  8. Haunting Visions
  9. The Ripper

Band Lineup:
Matthew Bizilia – Vocals
Jason Myers – Bass
Quinn Lukas – Lead Guitars
Steve Johnson – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Eric Klinger – Rhythm Guitars & session Drums
Jim Dofka – Guitars on Tracks 7 & 9
Keith Hurka – Drums on Track 9

Producers: Eric Klinger, Matthew Bizilia & Jason Myers

Country: USA

Total Time = 35:41

Icarus Witch
Icarus Witch official MySpace page
Cleopatra Records

There has been a resurgence in the Traditional Metal scene in the last few years and Icarus Witch has been right in the thick of things along with bands like Slough Feg, White Wizzard and Wolf trying to revive the old school Metal approach. I’ve been a fan of the band since their 2005 ROSES ON WHITE LACE E.P. and the band hasn’t disappointed so far, I’m an old school metalhead and I like the Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Dio influences Icarus Witch makes no excuses emulating. DRAW DOWN THE MOON is the band’s third full-length record and it definitely has more of a darker feel to it, a more Black Sabbath influence, but the basics are there: vocals, guitars, bass and drums. Icarus Witch has been known just to be a straightforward Metal band and that’s exactly what they do, they give you the basics and run with it. This being their third album, I expected a little more of an expansion to their sound.

The album starts off with the very Maiden influenced ‘Black Candles’, one of the few faster songs on the album. The first thing you notice right away is (now former) vocalist Matt Bizilia’s unique vocals, he has this high pitch dramatic wail that can either be eerie and cool or very annoying depending on your tastes. There are definitely times on DRAW DOWN THE MOON where I think Bizilia is too dramatic but that’s the point of the band’s style. ‘Aquarius Rising’ continues the uptempo old school vibe reminding me a little of Saxon at times but with a darker edge. The song is pretty good but the drum sound is a little distracting and takes away from the song but you can definitely hear the band start to get a little darker with their delivery. The one thing that Icarus Witch does is fall into a mid-tempo pace on a lot of their songs and that gives them that darker, sludgier sound but also makes the songs drag out at times. The first of these kind of tracks is ‘Reap What You Sow’, it’s definitely darker, definitely more Sabbath influenced especially on the guitar but it sounds too dramatic at times with Bizilia’s high pitched vocals. ‘Dying Eyes’ follows a similar pattern although I don’t like the spoken word parts and that’s what kills the song for me. The title track is the third song in a row that is mid-paced, darker and utilizes Bizilia for dramatic effect…..are you starting to see a pattern? Let’s mix it up a bit guys!

The crown jewel of the album for me is ‘Serpent In The Garden’. It’s another slow, plodding Sabbath style song but there is more depth to it and the guitar work is excellent. ‘Serpent’ is the fourth song in a row using this mid-tempo style but it sounds a little more exotic and there are a few twists to the vocals that add a new wrinkle to the basic formula. It’s a very ’70s sounding track and I could easily hear a lot of Ronnie James Dio influence on this maybe in Rainbow or Black Sabbath. Listen for the bass in this song, it really stands out and adds a little extra. Another slow song follows with ‘Funeral Wine’, this is the fifth in a row! Then we get a sixth mid-tempo Sabbath inspired song with ‘Haunting Visions’! At least the pace picks up a little in the middle of the song to almost a ’70s Judas Priest chug but it’s not enough. Speaking of Judas Priest, the band offers up a cover of the Priest classic ‘The Ripper’. I hate cover songs on studio albums, I’d rather have an original song, but this is a welcome addition because it breaks the slow formula of the last six songs. This is as traditional of a cover as you can get, the band doesn’t stray too far from the original and Matt Bizilia does his best Rob Halford imitation and sounds like a cut below Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens.

Bottom Line:
I’m disappointed. I really like Icarus Witch and I really wanted to like DRAW DOWN THE MOON but the problem is that there are just too many slow mid-tempo songs and they all start to sound the same after a while. I like the whole retro style because I grew up on traditional styles rooted in Sabbath, Priest, Maiden and the NWOBHM but Icarus Witch takes it to the Sabbath extreme this time around with the plodding pace and there’s not enough bite to the songs. There needs to be some variety, a good mix of slow and fast songs to keep the listener listening. I’ve listened to this album a lot and I come away bored and disappointed. There are some bright spots because the first two songs show what the band is capable of if and ‘Serpent In The Garden’ is the best mid-tempo song on the album. Since this album’s release, Matt Bizilia has left the band and has been replaced by Christopher Saner and the band added Ed Skero as a second guitarist. It will be interesting to hear the band’s next album to see how these new members influence the overall direction. One last thing…..make a longer album. DRAW DOWN THE MOON is just about 36 minutes long, way too short in my book for a full-length…..then again, it’s a good thing it’s a short album!

Favorite Songs:
‘Black Candles’, ‘Aquarius Rising’, ‘Serpent In the Garden’

Buckcherry – All Night Long (& Reckless Sons Acoustic E.P.) (2010)

Buckcherry – All Night Long (& Reckless Sons Acoustic E.P.) (2010, Eleven Seven Music)

CD1 – All Night Long

  1. All Night Long
  2. It’s A Party
  3. These Things
  4. Oh My Lord
  5. Recovery
  6. Never Say Never
  7. I Want You
  8. Liberty
  9. Our World
  10. Bliss
  11. Dead

CD 2 – Reckless Sons (Acoustic E.P.)

  1. These Things
  2. Fire Off Your Guns
  3. Black Butterfly
  4. King Of Kings
  5. My Friend
  6. Grace

Band Lineup:
Josh Todd – Vocals
Keith Nelson – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Stevie D. – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Jimmy Ashhurst – Bass & Backing Vocals
Xavier Muriel – Drums, Percussion & Backing Vocals

Producers: Keith Nelson & Marti Frederiksen

Country: USA

Total Time (CD 1) = 42:47
Total Time (CD 2) = 24:47

Buckcherry
Buckcherry MySpace page
Eleven Seven Music

Back in 1998, I read about this great Hard Rock band that was on the verge of releasing their debut album. I specifically remember that one of the magazine articles I read stated that this new band were going to be the next Guns ‘N Roses, that’s something that grabs your attention! The band? Buckcherry. The next Guns ‘N Roses? No…..but a solid Hard Rock band that definitely emulates the sexually charged, over the top party antics and danger that was part of the GnR package and that of Motley Crue before GnR. The sound is still AC/DC and Guns ‘N Roses influenced with a ton of focus on vocalist Josh Todd’s singing and guitarist Keith Nelson’s big riffs and solos.

I’ve been a big fan of Buckcherry since I bought their self-titled debut back in 1999, I’ve bought every album since and I’ve seen the band in concert three times. What I’ve liked about the band is that they have always had that element of recklessness, of being dangerous, of being a big party band at a time when the music industry takes itself too seriously trying to appeal to the generic masses. On their first four albums, Buckcherry has glorified sex, drinking, drugs, partying, rocking and more sex without any regard as to how explicit their lyrics are, that’s changed with the band’s latest album, ALL NIGHT LONG. The party anthems are still there in the title track and ‘It’s A Party’…..the sex is still there with ‘Oh My Lord’ and ‘Liberty’ but the danger factor is gone. On previous albums the band has had completly over the top songs like ‘Lit Up’, ‘Porno Star’, ‘Crazy Bitch’ and ‘Too Drunk’ and the sexually charged, profanity laden lyrics didn’t matter. On ALL NIGHT LONG the band has cleaned up their songwriting and the explicit lyrics are gone. As a Buckcherry fan from the beginning, I know that this isn’t what the band is completely about but it has been an intergral part of shaping the band’s image. Call me shallow but I was waiting to hear how the band was going to top ‘Too Drunk’ from BLACK BUTTERFLY (2008), how could they possibly top a song where the main lyric is “too drunk to fuck”? I’m not sure if it’s just the band growing and maturing or they have taken the advice from record label executives in order to sell albums but they are toned down. It’s definitely a surprise because one of the band’s biggest hits is ‘Crazy Bitch’.

So we don’t have the explicit lyrics and Buckcherry is still all about the party but the band has been known to write a good ballad. Remember ‘Sorry’ from the 2006 album 15? That was the band’s biggest hit to date! On this record we get three ballads starting with second single ‘These Things’, a song I expect to be as big as ‘Sorry’. I don’t listen to regular radio so I figure that this is a huge hit. Second ballad ‘I Want You’ is OK by normal standards but the third, ‘Bliss’ sounds like another hit in the ‘Sorry’ direction. I prefer the uptempo stuff from the band but I can appreciate these slower tunes but it’s obvious they are trying to capitalize on their past successes and these three songs are tailor made for radio airplay. There is more uptempo, pure Rock songs with the fast paced ‘Recovery’  and the album’s closer ‘Dead’, both of which stand out because they have that reckless Rock sound and a lot of guitar. Listen to the guitar solo on ‘Dead’…..awesome! That’s the Buckcherry I like! One last song to mention is the environmentally concious ‘Our World’. The band released the song as the third single and it has been part of the aid in the recovery from this year’s BP Oil disaster in the Gulf area. I like the band’s intentions and the song isn’t bad but it just seems out of place to have all these sex & Rock ‘n’ Roll songs and then a political, environmentally friendly tune. Then again, that could be the band’s versatility at work.

If you bought the first pressing of ALL NIGHT LONG at certain stores (I got mine at Best Buy), then you got the RECKLESS SONS E.P. included, I’m always a sucker for limited editions and bonus tracks so I was definitely getting the two CD set. RECKLESS SONS is an acoustic E.P. with an acoustic version of ‘These Things’ and a song titled ‘Black Butterfly’ that doesn’t appear on the BLACK BUTTERFLY album. Actually, none of these songs appear on any other Buckcherry record in any form so these are definitely a cool addition. Obviously, being acoustic, every song is mid-tempo or ballad form but they are pretty good. Like I said before, Buckcherry knows how to write good ballads and the acoustic style gives the band a different style.

Bottom Line:
I have given ALL NIGHT LONG a lot of spins because I like the band and all their previous albums but there just seems like the danger factor, the pushing of the envelope, is missing. I’m not saying that every song on the album has to be explicit, I understand a band’s need to grow and explore different ways to write, but does it have to be overly safe. That’s what ALL NIGHT LONG sounds like to me…..safe. You still get the party rock to get the guys pumping their fists and the girls dancing and then you get the ballads to make the girls swoon…..all in a safe package to get radio airplay. No that may sound like I don’t like the album but I actually do, I would just like it better if the party was a little dirtier. For me, this is definitely a grower but I can hear the potential for me to get into it more.

Favorite Songs:
‘All Night Long’, ‘It’s A Party’, ‘These Things’, ‘Recovery’, ‘Dead’……I also like the acoustic ‘These Things’ and ‘Black Butterfly’ off the E.P.