Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

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, 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.

The Big 4 – Live From Sofia, Bulgaria (2010, Warner Bros.)

DVD 1: Live From Sonisphere Festival, Sofia, Bulgaria – 6/22/2010
(Each band played approximately 1 hour sets.)

Anthrax
Caught In A Mosh
Got The Time
Madhouse
Be All, End All
Antisocial
Indians/Heaven And Hell
Medusa
Only
Metal Thrashing Mad
I Am The Law

Megadeth
Holy Wars…The Punishment Due
Hangar 18
Wake Up Dead
Head Crusher
In My Darkest Hour
Skin O’ My Teeth
A Tout Le Monde
Hook In Mouth
Trust
Sweating Bullets
Symphony Of Destruction
Peace Sells/Holy Wars Reprise

Slayer
World Painted Blood
Jihad
War Ensemble
Hate Worldwide
Seasons In The Abyss
Angel Of Death
Beauty Through Order
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Chemical Warfare
South Of Heaven
Raining Blood

DVD 2: Live From Sonisphere Festival, Sofia, Bulgaria – 6/22/2010
(Metallica played a 2 hour set, the documentary is 45 mins.)

Metallica
Creeping Death
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Fuel
Harvester Of Sorrow
Fade To Black
This Was Just Your Life
Cyanide
Sad But True
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
All Nightmare Long
One
Master Of Puppets
Blackened
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman
Am I Evil?
Hit The Lights
Seek & Destroy

DVD Extra – Backstage documentary including interviews and rehearsal footage of ‘Am I Evil?’

Anthrax
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Frank Bello – bass, backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums

Megadeth
Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, guitar
Chris Broderick – guitar, backing vocals
David Ellefson – bass, backing vocals
Shawn Drover – drums

Slayer
Tom Araya – vocals, bass
Jeff Hanneman – guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Dave Lombardo – drums

Metallica
James Hetfield – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Kirk Hammett – lead guitar, backing vocals
Robert Trujillo – bass, backing vocals
Lars Ulrich – drums

Region 0, NTSC
Total Running Time (DVD 1)
= approx. 3 hours
Total Running Time (DVD 2) = approx. 2 hours & 45 mins
Anthrax CD = 1:03:22
Megadeth CD = 1:01:04
Slayer CD = 1:01:54
Metallica double CD = 1:05:37 & 1:05:57

Metallica
Slayer
Megadeth
Anthrax

Filmed and recorded at the Sofia, Bulgaria stop on the Sonisphere Festival Tour (6/22/2010), this DVD/CD set captures an event that Metal fans around the world have been hoping for: the Big 4 of Thrash all sharing the same concert bill/tour. What was at least a year in the making from a negotiation standpoint, all four bands (Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica) all toured throughout parts of Europe together on the Sonisphere Festival tour, something that I can’t remember ever being done before. All I know is that I grew up with each band being a cornerstone of the Thrash movement back in the ’80s and it’s hard to deny the four bands’ history and legacy when it comes to Heavy Metal music. In addition to the Metal faithful in attendance in Sofia, the concert was screened in over 800 cinemas worldwide on the same day. This was a historical tour and I was sure that a DVD was going to be released and Lars Ulrich himself announced such plans to the audience at the show so I was eagerly awaiting this release. Once it was released, I paid the extra money for the complete audio & video deluxe set.

The Package:
I expected a nice box set and that’s exactly what I got. The box itself is a little larger than a regular DVD case and definitely deeper to fit all the materials. Inside is the DVD set and it’s the casing I don’t like much with one DVD sitting halfway over the top of the other, I always worry about scratches even though I am strictly careful. Also included are a full color booklet with plenty of photos and credits, a double-sided foldout poster with the box set artwork on one side and the tour poster on the other, four picture cards (one for each band) and a special guitar pick. After all that is removed, the five CD set is nestled inside! Each CD is housed in a cardboard slipcase with the band’s logo and a picture of parts of the drum kit, Metallica’s double disc is in a double-sided cardboard slipcase with logo and pictures of the crowd and the band in action.

The DVDs:
There are 2 DVDs and close to 6 hours of footage. DVD 1 includes complete sets by Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer in that order and they were edited on site after each performance so the show could be viewed around the world in cinemas on the same day. DVD 2 is the full Metallica headline set and a bonus documentary of the backstage area and the rehearsal footage of the bands together on ‘Am I Evil?’. All the performances are recorded and filmed crystal clear (this isn’t bootleg material!) and each band gives their performances their all. I wasn’t surprised by the running order of bands like a lot of people were online: obviously Anthrax would open and Metallica would headline but where would Megadeth and Slayer slot in? I wasn’t surprised to see Megadeth second considering that the past bad blood between Dave Mustaine and his former Metallica bandmates might be too much to get Dave to open just before Metallica came on. The more I thought about it though, Slayer is just as huge internationally as Megadeth if not more in certain countries. Who knows? I thought the running order was great and I enjoyed each band’s set. DVD 2 has the full Metallica set, the big draw being the four band jam on the Diamond Head classic ‘Am I Evil?’, and the behind the scenes documentary. If I had to choose which DVD is better, I would pick the first one because I think Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer are truer to the cause than Metallica. I know I will take a ton of criticism for that statement but I really haven’t been into Metallica since the Black album…..I have all the albums since and see the band live but I just prefer the older stuff, the stylistic changes to their overall sound, as well as, their commercial aspirations have soured me over the last 20 years. I have enjoyed albums and concerts by Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer a lot more in the last 20 years and I have become more of a fan of those bands as time has gone by when compared with Metallica. Like I said before, each band puts on a great show and the ‘Am I Evil?’ jam was really cool even if only Dave Lombardo from Slayer performed. If I had to pick the best performance for me it would be a tie between Anthrax and Slayer, I just enjoyed those more. The documentary after the Metallica performance was cool, you got a look at backstage life with each band, rehearsal/soundcheck footage, meet & greets with fans, band interactions and look at the stage area. Like the regular performance, the rehearsals for ‘Am I Evil?’ were extremely cool to be captured on film. One thing I really want to point out during all the bands’ performances is the crowd. Starting with Anthrax and ending with Metallica, the people packed into the stadium were ravenous for Metal and the bands. Anthrax had a large crowd to open that would easily fill arenas and sheds in the U.S. and, as the day continued, the crowds got bigger and hungrier for each band. I always like seeing Metal DVDs filmed outside the U.S. because it goes to show that there is a deep rooted love for all types of Heavy Metal around the world.

The CDs:
I think the best way to sum up the five audio CDs is that they are cool bonuses. The main reason you buy this set is to see the DVD of the entire concert, the CDs are a cool way to re-live that on your stereo or iPod. For me, I liked having the live sets on CD because I have listened to them in the car and on my iPod…..you can only sit in front of a TV for so long! This way you get four live albums for your collections and each one is an exact copy of the performances on DVD, nothing is missing.

Bottom Line:
If you couldn’t be there, or you didn’t have a theater near you that was screening the show, then this is a really cool box set to pick up. I paid the extra money to have the complete box set with the audio and video but there is a DVD only set that is priced lower, I’m not sure if it has all the extras like the poster, pick and pictures. Everything is professionally done, all the performances look and sound great and the behind the scenes documentary is definitely a bonus highlight. If your a fan of all or just a few of these bands, i recommend picking this up and watching a piece of Heavy Metal history.

Favorite Highlights:
Anthrax – ‘Got The Time’ & ‘Indians/Heaven And Hell’
Megadeth – ‘In My Darkest Hour’ & ‘Symphony Of Destruction’
Slayer – ‘Angel Of Death’ & ‘Raining Blood’
Metallica – ”For Whom The Bell Tolls’, ‘Am I Evil?’ & ‘Hit The Lights’

Dio – At Donington, UK: Live 1983 & 1987 (2010, Niji Entertainment Group)

CD 1 – (1983)

  1. Stand Up & Shout
  2. Straight Through The Heart
  3. Children Of The Sea
  4. Rainbow In The Dark
  5. Holy Diver
  6. Drum solo
  7. Stargazer
  8. Guitar solo
  9. Heaven And Hell
  10. Man On The Silver Mountain
  11. Starstruck
  12. Man On The Silver Mountain (Reprise)

CD 2 – (1987)

  1. Dream Evil
  2. Neon Knights
  3. Naked In The Rain
  4. Rock And Roll Children
  5. Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
  6. The Last In Line
  7. Children Of The Sea
  8. Holy Diver
  9. Heaven And Hell
  10. Man On The Silver Mountain
  11. All The Fools Sailed Away
  12. The Last In Line (Reprise)
  13. Rainbow In The Dark

Band Lineup (1983):
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Vivian Campbell – Guitars
Jimmy Bain – Bass
Vinny Appice – drums
Claude Schnell – Keyboards

Band Lineup (1987):
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Craig Goldy – Guitars
Jimmy Bain – Bass
Vinny Appice – Drums
Claude Schnell – Keyboards

Executive Producer: Ronnie James Dio

Country: USA

Total Time CD 1 = 46:42
Total Time CD 2 = 50:12

Ronnie James Dio
Ronnie James Dio MySpace page
Ronnie James Dio Facebook page

DIO AT DONINGTON, UK: LIVE 1983 & 1987 is the first posthumous release by Heavy Metal legend Ronnie James Dio. Sadly, Ronnie lost his battle with stomach cancer on May 16, 2010…..but his music lives on and this live album is a perfect way to document the rise and peak of the Dio band in the early to mid-’80s. At the time of his death, Ronnie was still working and this live album was one of the projects he was working on. Unfortunately he passed before work was complete but his wife, Wendy Dio, had the album finished and released. Niji Entertainment (Ronnie & Wendy’s company) will continue to release archival material in the future.

This live set combines both appearances by the Dio band at the Monsters Of Rock Festival at Donington in 1983 and 1987. The 1983 CD is a concert in support of Dio’s first album HOLY DIVER and the setlist is highlighted by four songs (‘Stand Up And Shout’, ‘Straight Through The Heart’, ‘Rainbow In The Dark’, ‘Holy Diver’) within the first five sandwiching the Black Sabbath standard ‘Children Of The Sea’. The band has the second opening slot after Diamond Head kicked off the festival so time was a factor I’m sure but the band still had time to rip through Rainbow’s ‘Stargazer’ and Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell’ before the final Rainbow song, ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ with a touch of ‘Startstruck’ in the middle. I could do without the guitar and drum solos respectively but, back in the ’80s, these were mandatory parts of the set. The band is tight…..Ronnie sounds incredible and Vivian Campbell shows that, back in the day, he was a premier Heavy Metal guitarist.

The 1987 live set promotes the DREAM EVIL album and is represented by three songs (‘Dream Evil’, ‘Naked In The Rain’, ‘All The Fools Sailed Away’). Dio’s return to Donington in ’87 was at a time when the band was at their commercial peak and the earned them the co-headline slot just before Bon Jovi (imagine that?). By this time, the Dio band was on album #4 and each one is represented with the bulk coming off the HOLY DIVER record but THE LAST IN LINE (1984) is represented by the title cut and SACRED HEART (1985) by ‘Rock And Roll Children’. No solos this time around, it would have been nice to hear Craig Goldy due a solo just so I could compare it to Vivian’s  on the 1983 disc, but I’ll take the extra songs anyday! Nice to hear one of my Black Sabbath favorites, ‘Neon Knights’, open the show to go along with the ‘Heaven And Hell’ & ‘Children Of The Sea’ staples but the cool Rainbow track is ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ to go along with ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’. The band is tight as they should be because the only different piece is guitarist Craig Goldy (replacing Campbell) but it’s not really different as Craig had been friends with Ronnie for a while.

The packaging is a three panel digipak with full color photos and a full color booklet that includes an essay by writer Dante Bonutto but it’s really a basic style package. The extras that were included are two replica all access passes for each Monsters Of Rock show.

Bottom Line:
It’s sad that Ronnie James Dio has passed away but his music lives on and this live document of both performances at Donington are a great way to celebrate his legacy. The music is crystal clear and the band is firing on all cylinders at each performance, especially Ronnie, who’s vocals are truly superb. If you are a Dio fan, I would highly recommend this live album, one of the better live albums I’ve heard in a while.

Favorite Songs:
All the songs are classics on both discs but it’s very cool to hear ‘Stargazer’ on the 1983 set and the DREAM EVIL songs and ‘rock And Roll Children’ live on the 1987 set.

Attila – Rage (2010, Artery Recordings)

  1. The End
  2. Make It Sick
  3. The Invitation
  4. Rage
  5. Lights Out
  6. Temper
  7. Girls Don’t Lie
  8. Strikeout
  9. Cheyenne 420
  10. Jumanji

Band Lineup:
Fronz – Vocals
Nate – Guitar
Chris – Guitar
Sean – Drums
Comrie – Bass

Producers: Eric Rushing & Stephan Hawkes

Country: USA

Total Time = 27:01

Attila MySpace page
Artery Recordings

One of my goals for 2010 was to open up myself to different styles of Metal that I normally wouldn’t listen to. If you’ve read this website regularly then you know that more extreme forms of Metal outside of Thrash really don’t find their way on my stereo except for maybe the occasional “big name” group in a specific genre. I didn’t want to limit myself to just hard Rock and traditional forms of Heavy metal, I wanted to explore more Black Metal and Death Metal because I know that there are great bands that I’m missing out on. When Attila’s third album, RAGE, crossed my desk, I really didn’t give the band much though. Then I went over to their MySpace page and saw that they describe themselves as a “party death metal” band, that was enough for me to wonder what was inside the jewel case.

Like I said, extreme forms of Metal aren’t my strong suit so it’s a whole new world for me as I check out different bands but I had an open mind going into RAGE. Opening track ‘The End’  is actually a quick intro (26 seconds) and it moves right into ‘Make It Sick’, probably the best song on the album or at least the one I most enjoyed. Basically I can describe the entire album by describing ‘Make It Sick’ — buzzing guitars with good solos, double kick drums, “cookie monster” growling, high pitch vocals like Dani Filth from Cradle Of Filth and clean vocals that sound like Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit. It’s a complete mash of influences all rolled into each song and it all adds up to a distraction for me. Musically everything is good as far as I can tell, I like the traditional guitar solos on some of the songs, it’s the three different vocal styles that are throwing me off. Then there’s the songwriting which is either about partying, being a bad ass or not “giving a fuck”. Granted, most albums have the same themes running through most of their songs but it just feels like Attila’s writing is still a bit immature but, like the line in ‘Make It Sick’, Attila says, “I don’t give a fuck if you like this song!”.

Bottom Line:
This just isn’t the album for me. I tried…..I gave RAGE a ton of spins and I tried hard to make sense of the songs but I just kept coming back to the three different vocal styles, especially the Fred Durst-sounding clean vocals, that whining wail that made me want to punch Durst in the face! I like the music, I think the instruments are all tight, especially the guitars…..it’s the vocals that are killing it for me. Go either growls or screams, even both but lose the clean whines. Like I mentioned, this is Attila’s third album, and they look like a young band, so their influences might be all over the place. I wouldn’t mind hearing their next album to see if their songwriting matures and the vocals tighten up but I’m not going out of my way. Not a bad record but nothing really stuck except for a couple of songs.

Favorite Songs:
‘Make It Sick’, ‘Rage’

The Murder Of My Sweet – Divanity (2010, Frontiers)

  1. No Evil
  2. Follow The Rain
  3. Bleed Me Dry
  4. Chemical Attraction
  5. Kiss Of Death
  6. One Bullet
  7. Tonight
  8. Storms Of The Sea
  9. Destiny
  10. Revolution
  11. Valerie
  12. Death Of A Movie Star

Band Lineup:
Angelica Rylin – Vocals
Daniel Palmqvist – Guitars
Johan Niemann – Bass
Andreas Lindahl – Keyboards
Daniel Flores – Drums

Producer: Daniel Flores

Country: Sweden

Total Time = 53:51

The Murder Of My Sweet
The Murder Of My Sweet official MySpace page
Frontiers Records

Named after the 1944 film Murder, My Sweet, female-fronted Swedish newcomers The Murder Of My Sweet have made a serious impact signing with Melodic Rock label Frontiers Records and releasing their debut album, DIVANITY. The amount of female-fronted bands in all genres of Metal grows every year and The Murder Of My Sweet join a crowded field in the Symphonic/Gothic Metal genre alongside bands like Lacuna Coil, Epica, Lana Lane and Evanescence. Just like their peers, the band’s music is driven by heavy guitars, soaring vocals and a generous use of keyboards and orchestration. What sets The Murder Of My Sweet apart from the rest is Rylin’s voice because it just sounds different compared to Simone Simons, Cristina Scabbia and Amy Lee, sometimes it takes a newcomer to raise the bar and Rylin joins good company. The songs on DIVANITY are all heavy but very melodic, dark and brooding but varied in their compsition. There are a lot of sounds to take in between Rylin’s prominent voice, the guitars, keyboards and orchestration…..maybe a little too much and that’s where the band fails to pull away from the pack. The first half of the album impressed me and had me rocking out with songs like ‘No Evil’, ‘Bleed Me Dry’ and ‘Kiss Of Death’ but by the second half I felt like I had heard it all before. That’s not to say that the songs are bad, quite the opposite, they are very good. It’s just that I think that the album gets repetitive and there is so much more room for growth, it wasn’t until the final song, ‘Death Of A Movie Star’, that I heard something completely different. There was a Queen influence to ‘Death Of A Movie Star’ that I found different and refreshing.

Bottom Line:
Overall, a solid debut. I enjoyed listening to the album but after repeated listens it starts to sound the same. There is huge talent in The Murder Of My Sweet and not just Angelica Rylin because the musicianship and songwriting is top notch, all the band needs to do now is to separate themselves by expanding their sound. The Murder Of My Sweet is an up and coming band, I’m definitely looking forward to their next album to see what they do. If you’re a fan of Symphonic/Gothic Metal then be sure to check this album out.

Favorite Songs:
‘No Evil’, ‘Bleed Me Dry’, ‘Kiss Of Death’, ‘Death of A Movie Star’

Auras – New Generation (2010, Frontiers Records)

  1. Beauty Of Dreams
  2. Forgive And Forget
  3. Never Give Up
  4. In My Arms
  5. Reach Out
  6. New Generation
  7. Forever In Your Eyes
  8. Hungry Hearts
  9. That’s The Way Love Goes
  10. Keep On Loving You
  11. Out Of Love
  12. Love To Survive

Band Lineup:
Gui Oliver – Lead Vocals
Ferpa Lacerda – Guitars & Background Vocals
Edu Sallum – Drums & Percussion
Matheus Brandon – Guitars & Background Vocals
Hemerson Vieira – Bass

Producers: Dennis Ward & Auras

Country: Brazil

Total Time = 55:22

Auras MySpace page
Frontiers Records

Auras is a Melodic Rock band from Brazil formed in 2007 with a style/influence from AOR masters like Journey, Survivor, The Storm, Richard Marx and Toto and the lesser known Surrender. Most Brazilian bands that I listen to (Angra, Shaman, Sepultura, and Pleasure Maker) are more Hard Rock or Metal oriented so I was surprised to hear this ’80s AOR sound full of saoring vocals, big harmonies, piano/keyboards and melodic guitar. Lead singer Gui Oliver has a voice very similar to former Journey frontmen Steve Perry and Steve Augeri (also from Tall Stories) as well as The Storm’s Kevin Chalfant. I actually pulled out a few Journey and The Storm CDs to compare the vocals just like I did when Journey hired Arnel Pineda a couple of years ago. It’s obvious that Oliver has a solid voice with good range and that he will be the main focal point in comparing Auras to the older bands. The rest of the band provides top notch musicianship, especially both guitar players (Felipe Lacerda and Matheus Brandon) who have a found that niche where the guitar doesn’t overpower the keyboards. Speaking of the keyboards, I haven’t been able to find out who plays keyboards/piano on this record but they are done really well and compliment the guitars while being a prominent part of the overall sound. The lyrics are all positive and upbeat in that they are all about love, faith and hope.

Opening NEW GENERATION is the uptempo ‘Beauty Of Dreams’ that sounds like pure Journey and could fit easily on their latest album with Arnel Pineda. ‘Forgive And Forget’ is Journey-esque with a more prominent guitar and this honky-tonk style piano that finds it’s way into the middle while the opening of ‘Never Give Up’ sounds a little like the opening intro to Van Halen’s ‘Top Of The World’ but not as heavy, ‘Never Give Up’ is another song that I could easily see the latest incarnation of Journey playing. It would be an AOR album without a ballad and the piano led ‘In My Arms’ is definitely lighter worthy and one of those songs you hear at weddings! The rest of the album is more of the standard AOR/Melodic Rock uptempo fair: ‘Reach Out’ is more mid-tempo, the title track starts with a keyboard/drum intro and moves into one of the more anthemic songs on the album and ‘Forever In Your Eyes’ has a little more melodic power than ‘Reach Out’ but it still finds a mid-tempo groove. I’m halfway through the album and I haven’t heard a bad song yet, nor have I heard one that lacks perfect sound. ‘Hungry Hearts’ is the first song that the band worked on together and it also was the first one sent to various labels to see if there was any interest, I hear a lot of Survivor in ‘Hungry Hearts’ around that VITAL SIGNS era from 1984. ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ opens with a guitar driven intro but the keyboards give it this ’80s Power Pop sound that only gets saved when the guitar kicks in and there’s not enough guitar for me. When I saw the title for ‘Keep On Lovin’ You’, I was sure that this was going to be a cover of the REO Speedwagon hit but it’s really an original that follows the rest of the album’s pattern. What makes this song stand out a little more is that the band uses a talk box on some of the guitar work to give it that Bon Jovi ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ touch. More mid-tempo Journey-sims arrive with ‘Out Of Love’ and I feel like I’ve heard it already, same with the final ‘Love To Survive’.

Bottom Line:
When I put NEW GENERATION on for the first time, I admit that I was very surprised that Auras came from Brazil because they sound like they come straight from the U.S. West Coast! After hearing the first two songs, I was convinced that I had heard them on the radio back in the early ’80 on FM radio! Of course I hadn’t heard them before but that just goes to show you that new modern AOR/Melodic Rock from around the world is taking hold and bringing people back 25-30 years back in time. I will admit that the sound is definitely dated and, after repeated listens, the songs kind of blend together and you feel like you’ve heard it all before. In keeping with the ’80s AOR style, the lyrics are completely upbeat and positive and it doesn’t offer too much variety…..it’s all about love and the band pours their hearts out. Some fans are going to get turned off by the dated sound and lyrics, maybe looking for something with a little more bite to it and less polish. I think the album is well done and the musicianship is top notch, I’ve enjoyed listening to it a lot but I’m a little thrown off with the complete Journey/Survivor worship. I think NEW GENERATION is a good album that gets the band out there initially but Auras’ career will be defined by their ability to build their own unique sound rather than following their favorite bands’ blueprints. If you like Melodic Rock, then this is for you.

Favorite Songs:
‘Beauty Of Dreams’, ‘Never Give Up’, ‘New Generation’, ‘Forever In Your Eyes’

Methods Of Mayhem – A Public Disservice Announcement (2010, Roadrunner/Loud & Proud)

  1. Drunk Uncle Pete
  2. Time Bomb
  3. Louder
  4. Fight Song
  5. Blame
  6. Two Ways
  7. Take Me Off The Ledge
  8. Only One
  9. All I Wanna Do
  10. Back To Before
  11. Party Instructions

Band Lineup:
Tommy Lee – vocals, guitar, drums
John “J3″ Allen III – guitar, vocals
Will Hunt – drums, percussion
Kai Marcus – guitar, backing vocals
Marty O’Brien – bass
DJ Aero – turntables

Additional Musicians:
Scott Humphrey – synthesizer, piano, backing vocals
Phil X – guitar
Chris Chaney – bass
Deryck Whibley – guitar
Chad Kroeger – backing vocals
Sonny Moore – synthesizer
Chino Moreno – vocals
James Kottak – vocals
Deadmau5 – electronics
Sofi Toufa – vocals
Marcus Davis – vocals
Steven McSwain – backing vocals

Producers: Scott Humphrey & Tommy Lee

Country: USA

Total Time = 43:06

Tommy Lee
Loud & Proud Records

Methods Of Mayhem is Tommy Lee’s side band outside of Motley Crue. Way back in 1999, Tommy quit the Crue and, shortly after his stint in jail for spousal abuse, formed Methods Of Mayhem to give himself a new creative outlet. The band got some serious publicity and a platinum debut from Tommy’s name, his celebrity status, the racy video for the first single ‘Get Naked’ and a touring slot on Ozzfest 2000. I had read all the press releases and reviews and, as a card-carrying Metalhead, I couldn’t get behind Tommy’s Nu-Metal and Rap Metal style with Methods and I especially despised his collaborator, rapper TiLo. I was in attendance at Ozzfest 2000 in Mansfield, MA and I heard all the boos and laughter as Tommy strapped on a guitar and rapped along with TiLo. Requests for Motley Crue songs and the generic “You suck!” comments (a lot of those came from me) were responded to by Tommy by throwing the middle finger. I will never forget the overwhelming boos that the band received at the conclusion of their set and I wondered just how far the mighty Crue drummer had fallen. Fast forward to 2010 and Tommy has since rejoined Motley Crue, starred in various reality TV shows and managed to release two solo albums under his own name…..now we get a new Methods Of Mayhem album, A PUBLIC DISSERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT.

Before I get into the review, let me explain why I was interested in this album. I’m sitting in my seat at Ozzfest 2010 (10 years after Methods got booed off the stage) and the screens keep running commercials hyping this new Methods record to the point of absurdity. There were street team members from the label or PR firm handing out postcard ads to the concert goers and it just seemed like this new album was everywhere a full month before it’s release…..the hype machine in full force! So I’m sitting there at Ozzfest and I’m thinking to myself, “Maybe this album won’t be as bad as the first one.” and “Maybe it’s worth a shot.”. Now I hadn’t heard a piece of music from the album but I did check out the press releases and it seemed that Tommy decided to open the creative door to anyone with an Internet connection and a desire to make music. Producer Scott Humphrey and Tommy offered fans and musicians from around the world to submit material to a specific website and, after listening to over 10,000 submissions, parts of selected submissions were added to Tommy’s writing to create the songs for the album. It sounded like an interesting concept but also threw a red flag in my head because it screamed “laziness” to me. How about just writing your own songs? Why collaborate with fans? Then again, I’m not a musician so how do I know about the creative process? I gave Tommy the benefit of the doubt. So the album comes out mid-September and I’m in the record store debating dropping the $12 for the CD and I decide to wait. Lucky for me, a friend of mine didn’t wait and I was able to borrow his copy.

What we basically have here is a continuation of the first Methods Of Mayhem album. A PUBLIC DISSERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT is an album full of Nu-Metal, Rap Metal, Alternative Rock and various beats and sound effects that are completely unlistenable. Tommy Lee has simply repeated the same formula as he did 10 years ago with the exception of outside contributions via the Internet. Of course there are also guest musicians, some good and some overrated. I can give credit to having Scorpions drummer James Kottak make a vocal appearance, same with the Chino Moreno from the Deftones, but Chad Kroeger from Nickelback? Deryck Whibley from Sum 41? Kroeger and Nickelback are successful but completely overrated and Whibley is more famous for his failed marriage to fellow Canadian alt-rocker Avril Lavigne than his own band! It just points to the fact that this kind of music and hype is at least 7 or 8 years out of date. At least Tommy listened to the overwhelming boos 10 years ago and got rid of TiLo!

Bottom Line:
Without a doubt the worst album I have heard all year and most likely the hands down favorite for my Worst Album of 2010. I seriously sat in my music room at least 6 or 7 times to give this a serious listen and it was a serious chore. There is nothing on this album even close to Tommy’s music with Motley Crue or even Hard Rock for that matter. Hell, I would even take basic Rock! All there is here is Nu-Metal, etc. and it’s 10 years past the sell by date. I can understand a musician’s right to explore new territory, to expand their musical base, but when you market the album heavily at a Heavy Metal festival like Ozzfest, then you are deceiving the fans. Thank god I didn’t waste my money.

Favorite Songs:
none

Halford – IV: Made Of Metal (2010, Metal God Records)

  1. Undisputed
  2. Fire And Ice
  3. Made Of Metal
  4. Speed Of Sound
  5. Like There’s No Tomorrow
  6. Till The Day I Die
  7. We Own The Night
  8. Heartless
  9. Hell Razor
  10. Thunder And Lightning
  11. Twenty Five Years
  12. Matador
  13. I Know We Stand A Chance
  14. The Mower

Band Lineup:
Rob Halford – Vocals
Roy Z. – Guitars
Metal Mike Chlasciak – Guitars
Mike Davis – Bass
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums

Producer: Roy Z.

Country: USA

Total Time = 1:02:49

Halford
Halford MySpace page

It’s been a few years since Rob Halford released a new album under the Halford band moniker, 2002 to be exact with CRUCIBLE, but now there is a brand new studio album of Metal songs titled MADE OF METAL. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 8 years between albums because the Metal God has been very busy with his committments recording and touring with  Judas Priest and his Metal God empire that includes his own record label, solo catalog remasters, special album releases like the Halford - III: Winter Songs (2009) release and a clothing line. Add touring with the Halford band on this past summer’s Ozzfest and now supporting Ozzy Osbourne internationally, it’s safe to say that Rob Halford has a lot on his plate while Judas Priest takes a well deserved break. Judas Priest is my second favorite band so anything the band members do on the side is always of interest so I knew about the new Halford album from the beginning. Rob’s previous solo releases under the Halford name (2000′s RESURRECTION and 2002′s CRUCIBLE) were high quality Heavy Metal records so my expectations were definitely high when Rob announced he was in the studio creating a new album.

I got my first taste of MADE OF METAL when the digital single ‘The Mower’ was released through Halford.com and then Halford performed ‘Made Of Metal’ when I saw the band live on Ozzfest 2010. I was impressed by both songs and I knew that the new album was going to be really good because ‘The Mower’ sounded like something straight from the first two Halford albums but I also detected that there was a more melodic approach to at least the title track. After listening to the album daily since it’s late September release, it’s easy to hear that Rob’s reunion with Judas Priest has greatly influenced his current solo work because most of the album has a more commercial sound then the previous Halford releases. Obviously Rob’s voice is a large part of the Priest sound so similarities between the two bands are obvious but I think that the 2009 tour celebrating the 30th Anniversary of BRITISH STEEL (1980) may have influenced the writing to have more of a late ’70s/early ’80s Judas Priest vibe. Songs like ‘Undisputed’, ‘Speed Of Sound’, ‘Like There’s No Tomorrow’, ‘Heartless’ and ‘Hell Razor’ all sound like they came straight off Priest records of different eras. That may be a good thing for many fans because Priest’s last album, NOSTRADAMUS (2008), was heavily debated among fans. ‘Undisputed’ has some really bad clichéd lyrics but it’s still a good song, ‘Speed Of Sound’ has a fast tempo like something off SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE (1982) but the chorus comes off like something from TURBO (1986) and ‘Like There’s No Tomorrow’ has a very melodic sound underneath the dual guitars, a Priest trademark throughout the ’80s. Take a listen to ‘Heartless’ and ‘Hell Razor’ (both are back to back in the running order), ‘Heartless’ could easily fit on an album like BRITISH STEEL while ‘Hell Razor’ has a more ’70s Metal sound found on SIN AFTER SIN (1977) or STAINED CLASS (1978). Backing up a little, ‘Fire And Ice’ sounds like current day Power Metal similar to Hammerfall and Primal Fear and the title track sounds like a song that could easily fit on the NOSTRADAMUS album. The title of the song, and album when looking at the cover, is a little deceiving…..Rob Halford is the Metal God and ‘Made Of Metal’ sounds like it would fall right into place as a Metal anthem and Rob declaring his dedication once again but it’s actually a song inspired by NASCAR. Yes, NASCAR! Look at the cover and you see the “supersonic silver flying machine” and the lyrics to the song are blatantly about racing, even name-checking NASCAR. Is Rob pulling a Gene Simmons here by looking for an affiliation like Gene did years ago with Indy Racing?

I don’t like the Blues/Country/Western sound of ‘Till The Day I Die’, it reminds me of Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ but not anywhere as good and ‘We Own The Night’ has it’s moments but it is so commercial that it becomes forgettable. ‘Thunder And Lightning’ has more of a Hard Rock sound to it and the underlying riff reminds me again of Bon Jovi, this time with ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’. There is a true ballad on MADE OF METAL called ‘Twenty-Five Years’ and it’s very surprising because it’s not really something you expect from Halford. It’s a quiet song for the most part with Rob softly singing until the chorus kicks in and he adds more power to his vocal along with the guitars. Looking at the lyrics, the first thing that comes to mind is the song is about Rob’s battle with drugs and alcohol and staying sober…..not sure if that is what the song is actually about but good music can always be interpreted different ways. ‘Twenty-Five years’ breaks the album up a bit and gives a different fresh sound to all the Metal. Expanding more sounds, ‘Matador’ has a Latin flavor to the overall Metal sound and ‘I Know We Stand A Chance’ sounds like something that a female-fronted band like Lacuna Coil, Epica or After Forever would do. Maybe it’s the mid-tempo pace or the love torn lyrics but this doesn’t sound like Metal God territory. Rounding the record out is the previously mentioned single ‘The Mower’, a song that is very heavy and reminiscent of the vocal work Rob did with the higher screams on RESURRECTION, CRUCIBLE and even Judas Priest’s ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION (2005). It’s a heavy song and a good way to end the album but really listen to Rob’s vocal style and tell me you can’t hear some Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O. & ex-Accept) in there!

Bottom Line:
Like I mentioned before, I was definitely looking forward to this album and I have given it a daily listen since it was released. The problem for MADE OF METAL is that it’s very hard to top Rob Halford’s first two solo albums RESURRECTION and CRUCIBLE…..those are two classic Metal albums from the early part of the decade. It was easy to beat Halford’s third album, WINTER SONGS, because I just didn’t get into the whole “winter/Xmas” style. The bottom line here is that if you like Judas Priest, then you will like MADE OF METAL. All the songs on this album are very accessible and melodic and it’s obvious that the last few years focusing on Judas Priest has made the Metal God’s sound more commercial and full of hooks. Overall, I like this album a lot, I find myself easily getting into the music and the songs stick in my head making it relatively easy to sing along. This may not be the heaviest Halford album, this may not be the best Halford album either, but I would rank it up there as a solid release that I believe gets better as you play it.

Favorite Songs:
‘Fire And Ice’, ‘Made Of Metal’, ‘Heartless’, Hell Razor’, ‘Twenty-Five Years’, ‘The Mower’

Crazy Lixx – New Religion (2010, Frontiers Records)

  1. Rock And A Hard Place
  2. My Medicine (R.O.C.K.)
  3. 21 ‘Til I Die
  4. Blame It On Love
  5. Road To Babylon
  6. Children Of The Cross
  7. The Witching Hour
  8. Lock up Your Daughter
  9. She’s Mine
  10. What Of Our Love
  11. Desert Bloom
  12. Voodoo Woman

Band Lineup:
Danny Rexon – Vocals
Andy Dawson – Guitars
Luke Rivano – Bass
Joey Cirera – Drums

Producer: Chris Laney

Country: Sweden

Total Time = 45:05

Crazy Lixx
Crazy Lixx MySpace page
Frontiers Records

NEW RELIGION is the second album by the Swedish Hard Rock band Crazy Lixx and it was released back in April on Frontiers Records. Crazy Lixx is one of many bands coming out of Sweden promoting the classic Hard Rock sound of the ’80s pioneered by the likes of Motley Crue, Poison, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. The band follows a very specific formula that includes plenty of hooks, big harmonies and sleazy guitar all infused into a complete party vibe.

The album starts off with the anthemic ‘Rock And A Hard Place’ that reminds me of gritty Danger Danger and then ‘My Medicine (R.O.C.K.)’ that is a purely influenced by Def Leppard (check the harmonies) and Poison (the main riff sounds a little like ‘Unskinny Bop’). That’s not a bad way to start an album, especially if you are blatantly going for that kind of sound! As the album continues there are more ’80s hard rockers that have some grit and punch like the Skid Row-ish ’21 Till I Die’, ‘Road To Nowhere’, ‘The Witching Hour’, ‘Children Of The Cross’ and ‘Lock Up Your Daughter’. ‘The Witching Hour’ really stands out for me because it has a real heavy guitar and sounds close to Metal, like an early heavy Ratt or something, but the harmonies bring that melodic Def Leppard influence to even it out. ‘Lock Up Your Daughter’ also stands out for me with that infectious drum sound and huge harmonies reminding me of a cross between Motley Crue, Danger Danger, and Poison. Other highlights from NEW RELIGION are the more AOR/Melodic Rock styled ‘Blame It On Love’, the Bon Jovi influenced melodic rocker ‘She’s Mine’ and the pure Jovi balladry of ‘What Of Our Love’. The only throwaway track on the album for me is the quick instrumental ‘Desert Bloom’, it’s not a bad instrumental but I would just prefer another full song. Ending the record is the tight rocker ‘Voodoo Woman’, another track that has that heavier guitar infused in the middle of the big melodic, harmonized Hard Rock. Just a quick note on the production and sound here…..Swedish musician/producer Chris Laney is back again handling the production duties and the sound is perfect. Almost too perfect actually! Don’t get me wrong, I like a good sounding record but at times I wonder if Crazy Lixx is too polished? Then again, if you are going to be influenced by ’80s Hard Rock, and write songs in that direction, then you have to have top notch production and sound. The Crazy Lixx sound stands up right next to the masters like a Def Leppard or Bon Jovi.

Bottom Line:
I have had NEW RELIGION since March and I have had this in my weekly rotation ever since. The band grabs your attention immeadiately with ‘Rock And A Hard Place’ and never lets go and, as you move on through the album, each song follows suit. I grew up listening to FM radio and watching hours of MTV so the ’80s Glam/Hard Rock scene was inescapable and as the years passed has faded away. What has been missing in the U.S. mainstream is that party atmosphere and good time feeling from the bands that topped the charts 20-25 years ago, it’s good to see a band like Crazy Lixx emulate that style. For me, this is one of my favorite albums of the year and I recommend it for Hard Rock fans that want to travel back to the ’80s.

Favorite Songs:
I like the entire album but if I had to pick a Top 5 off this album they would be: ‘Rock And A Hard Place’, ‘My Medecine (R.O.C.K.)’, ‘Blame It On Love’, ‘The Witching Hour’ and ‘Lock Up Your Daughter’.

Accept – Blood Of The Nations (2010, Nuclear Blast)

  1. Beat The Bastards
  2. Teutonic Terror
  3. The Abyss
  4. Blood Of The Nations
  5. Shades Of Death
  6. Locked And Loaded
  7. Time Machine*
  8. Kill The Pain
  9. Rolling Thunder
  10. Pandemic
  11. New World Comin’
  12. No Shelter
  13. Bucket Full of Hate

* (U.S. bonus track)

Band Lineup:
Mark Tornillo – Vocals
Wolf Hoffmann – Guitars
Herman Frank – Guitars
Peter Baltes – Bass
Stefan Schwarzmann – Drums

Producer: Andy Sneap

Country: Germany & USA

Total Time = 1:12:59

Accept
Accept official MySpace page
Accept official Facebook page

After a long wait, Accept have finally reunited! After the successful Summer 2005 tour of the European festival circuit, rumors of a complete Accept reunion made it’s way across the Internet and infiltrated all corners of the Heavy Metal world. Unfortunately there was no reunion as original Accept singer Udo Dirkschneider declined to participate due to his committment to solo band U.D.O. The seeds were planted though and guitarist Wolf Hoffmann and bassist Peter Baltes started writing together in 2009. Adding guitarist Herman Frank, who joined & recorded on BALLS TO THE WALL (1983) in 1982 and participated in the 2005 reunion tour, and drummer Stefan Shwarzmann (ex-Helloween, U.D.O., Running Wild and more) to the band, the search was on for a lead singer. While Hoffmann and Baltes were demoing new material, a suggestion was made to bring in former TT Quick vocalist Mark Tornillo to sing guide vocals on the demos. That chance meeting landed Tornillo the job as Udo’s replacement in the reunited Accept and led to the recording of this new album, BLOOD OF THE NATIONS.

Basically, BLOOD OF THE NATIONS is an album that captures the classic Accept sound. There is no compromising to be more commercial or follow current Metal trends, the music is pure, traditional Heavy Metal that sounds like the Accept of the 1980s. Was there really anything else to expect? The core of the band is intact with Hoffmann, Baltes and Frank and Schwarzmann is an excellent Metal drummer who can play various styles…..the wild card in all of this is Mark Tornillo. As the original singer for Accept, Udo has carved his name into the true Accept sound, a sound he continues forward with in U.D.O. While Accept has been on various forms of hiatus, Dirkschneider has maintained U.D.O. since 1987 and has made excellent traditional Heavy Metal that sounds like Accept. Udo’s unique vocal style and image are synonymous with Accept, and not many bands can change singers and be successful, and Accpet tried that already once in 1989 when they brought in David Reece for the EAT THE HEAT record. EAT THE HEAT was a failure by Accept standards and the band broke up so I was disappointed and skeptical when I heard that Udo had declined and Tornillo had joined the reformed Accept. I hadn’t listened to a TT Quick album in a long time so I gave METAL OF HONOR (1986) a few spins…..I just didn’t hear the Accept sound. All of my fears of how well Mark would take over the mic were dashed as soon as the band released a video for the single ‘Teutonic Terror’ back in May.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? And Mark Tornillo sounds pretty close to the power-packed Udo doesn’t he? Once I saw this video and heard ‘Teutonic Terror’, I knew that the band was going to make a solid record. The entire album is a traditional Heavy Metal feast full of churning guitar riffs, twin leads, a pounding rhythm section and the band’s trademark backgound vocals and chants that supplement Tornillo’s vocals. The songwriting is dead on classic Accept and, musically, it sounds like 25+ years haven’t gone by since the days of albums like RESTLESS & WILD, BALLS TO THE WALL and METAL HEART. The key to success rests with Tornillo and his vocals fit the band and material perfectly. He plays it straight with a gritty singing style but his shrieks and screams are the most impressive and it’s those techniques that keep him close to sounding like Udo and the classic Accept style. Obviously fans worldwide agree because BLOOD OF THE NATIONS has entered high on most of the international album charts but the impressive feat is that the album cracked the barren Metal wasteland known as the Billboard 200 at #187. To break the U.S. charts with fourteen years between studio albums and a new lead singer is a great accomplishment.

Just some quick notes on the packaging…..first, there is a bonus track for the U.S. pressing (‘Time Machine’) that appears in the middle of the album. I know that the bonus track was advertised on the pre-order directly through Nuclear Blast so I’m not sure if subsequent pressings (if any) will include ‘Time Machine’. If you want to spend the big bucks on the Japanese import, then you get another bonus track titled ‘Land Of The Free’. This is a glossy digipak with a 14 page glossy booklet full of lyrics, liner notes and pictures so it looks as good as it sounds.

Bottom Line:
Like I mentioned before, not many bands can replace a unique singer, a lot of bands have tried (including Accept) and only a few have had success. On BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, Accept not only replaced the gravel-throated Udo Dirkschneider successfully with Mark Tornillo but they also wrote an album of killer Metal songs full of power and punch. Throughout this review I used two words a lot: “classic” and “traditional”. Using those two words to describe any band or new album in 2010 immeadiately gives a stigma of being dated…..many veteran Metal bands like to stay current and evolve their sound but it doesn’t always work. The basis of the Accept sound is found in album like RESTLESS & WILD (1982) and BALLS TO THE WALL (1983) and that is what they are beloved for, any deviation from that specific formula would be a failure, especially with a new singer. Accept have successfully gone back in time and brought their brand of Heavy Metal from the ’80s and made it sound fresh, exciting and full of power. Choosing a singer that sounds like Udo and enhances the true Accept sound was the right move and Mark Tornillo holds nothing back and makes the position of Accept’s frontman his own. I pre-ordered this album from Nuclear Blast back in the summer and it has been on my daily playlist since it arrived in my mailbox. As a longtime Accept fan, I can honestly say this is one of their best records and one helluva comeback! I had this album as my Album Of The Month for September 2010 but, due to my hiatus with the site, I am posting it now. BLOOD OF THE NATIONS is one of the best records I’ve heard this year!

Favorite Songs:
‘Teutonic Terror’, ‘Blood Of The Nations’, ‘The Abyss’, ‘Shades Of Death’, ‘Pandemic’

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier (2010, Universal Music)

  1. Satellite 15… The Final Frontier
  2. El Dorado
  3. Mother Of Mercy
  4. Coming Home
  5. The Alchemist
  6. Isle Of Avalon
  7. Starblind
  8. The Talisman
  9. The Man Who Would Be King
  10. When The Wild Wind Blows

Band Lineup:
Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
Steve Harris – Bass & Keyboards
Dave Murray – Guitars
Adrian Smith – Guitars
Janick Gers – Guitars
Nicko McBrain – Drums

Producers: Kevin Shirley & Steve Harris

Country: United Kingdom

Total Time = 1:16:35

Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden MySpace page

It’s hard to believe that it’s been thirty years since Iron Maiden’s debut album was released. Thirty years of creating some of the most impressive and creative Heavy Metal ever to be heard and thirty years touring the world several times over. When Iron Maiden debuted in 1980, they were the innovative pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and, in many cases, light years more sophisticated then their peers. Try and think of a band that has continually released top quality studio albums and played to packed arenas without compromising their sound, direction or principles. They were leaders back in the NWOBHM heyday and they are Heavy Metal’s leaders now, THE FINAL FRONTIER marks their 15th studio album and there is no sign of slowing down.

It’s also hard to believe that it’s been four years since the last Maiden record, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (2006). There is no doubt that the band is at it’s creative peak since lead singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith rejoined the band in 1999, the band has released four studio albums  and toured the world extensively in support of each. This from a band that is well into their 50s now! I had to actually go back and make sure I wasn’t wrong that the last album was released in 2006, surely there was new music more recently? Iron Maiden has been able to keep the spotlight on themselves by releasing two excellent live albums and three high quality DVDs while touring  just about every year, including a co-headlining spot on Ozzfest 2005 and countless headline appearances at major festivals around the world. This is no nostalgia act as the band has made it a point to feature new songs as the bulk of their live set…..in 2000 on the tour for BRAVE NEW WORLD, they featured at least 6 brand new tracks and they played the entire A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH album on their 2007 tour! It’s not that Maiden doesn’t enjoy revisiting the past, it’s that they embrace their past with their future…..and the future is THE FINAL FRONTIER. Since the band reunited as a six piece in 2000, all the studio albums have been more a Progressive Metal/Progressive Rock affair than the straight Heavy Metal that defined their career through the ’80s and ’90s. The band has progressed and have gotten better with age…..the musicianship and songwriting are of the highest quality, as are the live performances.

The album opens with a very weird, experimental instrumental intro and song titled ‘Satellite 15…The Final Frontier’. It’s distorted bass, odd drum patterns and guitar riffs give the album a spacey feel especially when Bruce starts singing hauntingly about 2:30 minutes in and the momentum slowly builds for another 2 minutes until the band kicks into part two and the song takes flight in the most straightforward Rock direction that I can remember Iron Maiden taking. It sounds like Iron Maiden but very melodic and dark, you get the sense that this album will be a journey into the unknown just like the “space” theme the band is using for the album’s concept. The opening song moves directly into the initial single ‘El Dorado’, the song that was available for free download weeks before the album’s official release. ‘El Dorado’ is more familiar, old school Maiden with that signature Metal gallop and Dickinson’s soaring vocals on the chorus. I downloaded the song the first day and played it several times over, my first impression is that the band were revisiting the past to create something new. The last tour I saw in 2008 was a recreation of the band’s legendary World Slavery Tour from 1984 and was a “greatest hits” tour so to speak so I assumed that the band’s reperforming of the past got their creative juices flowing to return to their roots. Even though the song is decidedly retro, it easily fits into the more progressive and epic Iron Maiden sound.

‘Mother Of Mercy’ continues the uptempo gallop that has defined the distinct Iron Maiden sound while ‘Coming Home’ is a dramatic ballad styled song about piloting an airplane and the long journey home. Both songs are continued excellence, while ‘Mother Of Mercy’ remains a more traditional style Heavy Metal song, it’s ‘Coming Home’ that sees the band start to spread it’s creative wings and add various Progressive touches to the songs. Ending the first half of the album is the fast-paced charger ‘The Alchemist’, a song that brings me back to the old school glory days of Maiden’s Metal past around PIECE OF MIND (1983) and POWERSLAVE (1984). One look at the song title and you would guess that ‘The Alchemist’ might be one of those long progressive epics but it’s actually the shortest song on the record and it’s also the fastest.

The second half of the album starts off with the 9 minute plus ‘Isle Of Avalon’, this is the Iron Maiden that has evolved for the 21st century! Long time fans like myself remember the glory days of faster songs like ‘Run to The Hills’, ‘The Trooper’ and ’2 Minutes To Midnight’ but the newer fans are discovering a new Iron Maiden that is embracing longer and more epic songs. There have always been epics on Maiden albums but, since the reunion album BRAVE NEW WORLD (2000), the band keeps creating albums of high quality progressive/epic Heavy Metal. ‘Isle Of Avalon’ clocks in at 9:06 and there are so many layers to the song, same goes for ‘Starblind’ (close to 8 minutes), ‘The Talisman’ (just over 9 minutes), The Man Who Would Be King’ (8 1/2 mins) and ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’ (11 minutes). ‘Isle Of Avalon’ has a lot of Metal in it, the solos are great as usual, but it’s definitely a more Progressive sound, more atmosphereic. ‘Starblind’ follows the same way with really thick guitars and superb vocals from Bruce Dickinson but there is really a lot to listen here and everytime I hear it I find a different piece of music that I missed before especially in the middle solo section. More atmospheric touches appear with the acoustic, almost spoken word, intro that starts ‘The Talisman’. It’s a haunting 2 minute beginning until the band kicks in full force with that trademark gallop and one of the best vocals Bruce has on the album. It’s hard to believe that the song rolls just past 9 minutes because it really moves along and the vocals are catchy, I picked them up quick. Another slow/soft beginning for another epic as ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ opens with a simple electric guitar intro and moving into a soft vocal from Bruce. The song kicks in with twin harmonized guitars  and Nicko’s excellent drumming. ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ is uptempo but not as fast as ‘The Alchemist’ but it keeps a solid pace and there is a lot of sounds to absorb, this is probably one of the most complex songs on the album as far as tones, changes and pace. Definitely one of the best songs on the album. The final song of the album is the 11 minute ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’, another awesome song. Iron Maiden pulls out all the stops with their musicianship as the song builds into a mid-tempo groove and it really serves as a showcase for each member to stretch out. Almost every longer song on this album has different sounds that I have discovered when listening closely, especially with quality headphones, but ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’ is an epic of epic proportions with different solos, time changes, melodies and drum patterns.

Bottom Line:
Album of the Year! Is it safe to call it a done deal now? Do I have to wait to put my list out in December? I have been a fan of Iron Maiden’s since the early years and, going on 30 years of recording, it’s obvious that the band is at their creative best, look at the releases since the reunited. THE FINAL FRONTIER gets better with every listen because there is something new to discover everytime, there is enough straight uptempo Metal to please one section of fans and enough Progressive Metal to satisfy the fans who prefer the longer more epic direction of the last decade. There is a lot to listen to hear so you have to keep playing the album in order not to miss things, in other words, the album stays interesting and fresh with each listen. With this album you get a high quality ten songs that are a long journey (a 76 minute one!) absolutely filled with different layers and textures. This is a band of musicians that can rip your face off with fast paced Metal or take you on a complex journey of sound…..does any band do it better? I can’t think of a band that does that has the time and history that Iron Maiden does. I have had this album since about a week before it’s official release date and I have played it just about every day. I made this album the Album Of The Month for August 2010 but, due to my hiatus with the site, I am posting it now. Hands down, the best album of 2010.

Favorite Songs:
I like every song on the album but if I had to pick four they would be: ‘Satellite 15…The Final Frontier’, ‘The Alchemist’, ‘Isle Of Avalon’ and ‘The Man Who Would Be King’