CD Scavenger Hunt – The Rock & Metal sale edition – 3/12/10

It’s rare that I have a Friday night off but my wife went to Connecticut to see Train in concert and I went out on a date with my two daughters. After a fun dinner I took them to Gamestop to buy them special video game presents. What was already a great night out with the kids got even better when I remembered that my local Newbury Comics was having one of it’s Rock & Metal special sales with tons of CDs specially sale priced between $7.99 – $11.88…..this is always a good time to stock up! I didn’t go overboard, and I forgot my want list again, but with the kids fed and bribed, we hit the record store! I will be hitting this sale again a few times before it ends the second week of April!

Acrassicauda – Only the Dead See The End Of The War (2010) – $5: I walked in the front door and found this CD right away! I have been following Acrassicauda since I saw the Heavy Metal In Baghdad DVD back in 2008. I remember hearing that the band’s first official album was being released but I completely forgot about it! This is a four song E.P. rather than a full-length record but with the band relocated to the U.S. and signed to a label, I expect more music from the band soon.

White Wizzard – Over The Top (2010) – $9: The new White Wizzard came out a couple of weeks ago and it was only one of two new releases I could remember from my want list! I definitely liked the old school Metal style of last year’s HIGH SPEED G.T.O. (2009) so I’ve been waiting for this follow-up. This CD was displayed right next to Acrassicauda so I was able to get the next to last copy ata great sale price!

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010) – $12: This is the second new release I could remember from my want list and this was a must have for me because of the video I saw on Youtube for the opening track, ‘Lost Forever’, from this album. I wasn’t sure of what to think about A Capella Metal but I was won over by the concept as soon as I heard the opening. This is solid Power Metal but without instruments except for the drums.

Mutiny Within – s/t (2010) – $10: I don’t usually buy into the hype on a new group right away but I heard one track by Mutiny Within and I figured it was worth taking a chance for the $9.99 price. Progressive Death Metal/Metalcore isn’t my genre of choice but I’m exploring different genres and why not try a new band? I noticed that Mutiny Within is coming locally with Sonata Arctica in a couple weeks so I might see the show if I like what I hear.

High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine (2010) – $8: Best price at $7.99 for a full length album. I’m a little late getting on the High On Fire bandwagon but I really wanted to pick this album up shortly after it was released. I’ve read a lot of good reviews so I’m looking forward to spinning it this week and maybe I can pick up a few other High On Fire albums that I saw on sale for $9.99 in the next couple of weeks.

Dream Evil – Gold Medal In Metal (2008) – $10: Best value for a 2 CD set for $9.99 on sale. I’ve been following Dream Evil since DRAGONSLAYER (2002) and I’ve been buying their albums right along as they been released…..actually, I just noticed that I don’t have EVILIZED (2003) in my collection! I remember checking this CD out when it was released a couple of years ago but the price was close to $20. Seeing that it was a live CD plus a rarities CD I wanted it but I figured I could wait for it until the price came down. I actually almost bought this just before Christmas when I saw the price lowered to $14.99 but even then I figured that was too much for a 2 year old release. The bargain hunter in me couldn’t pass up the deal at $9.99, I thought that would complete the Dream Evil collection through the new record, INTO THE NIGHT (2010), but now I realize I’m missing EVILIZED too.

I bought a few other discs in the last couple of days…..as I reported in my Hammerfall concert review, I picked up Powerglove’s two CDs for $17 total and I received Infinite Descent’s CD for free from the band. The only other disc I’ve bought is the debut album from Silent Lapse. I received an email promoting the album as a free download or a free CD…..I never pass up a free CD so I went to the band’s website and I ordered my free disc. It wasn’t completly free, I had to pay the $3 shipping charge so the Silent Lapse CD was $3.

Total = $74

Total (year) =$253

Total CDs (year) = 30

Total DVDs (year) = 1

Total LPs (year) = 1

Hammerfall (with Infinite Descent, Frozen and Powerglove) in concert at The Palladium (Worcester, MA) – 3/6/10

On Saturday night I made the 45 minute drive up to The Palladium in Worcester, MA to catch one of my favorite bands from the last 15 years…..Hammerfall!

I got into Hammerfall in late 1997 when I saw the GLORY TO THE BRAVE CD in the Import Section of my favorite record store and I took a chance. 13 years later…..I have bought every Hammerfall album (except 2008’s MASTERPIECES) and have hoped I would get the chance to see them in concert. Back in 2005, Hammerfall toured the U.S. including a stop at The Palladium but I missed it. At the time I was working at a new job and I hadn’t been there long so I probably didn’t go because I didn’t want to make waves asking for a night off to see a Metal show. This time around I took the day off way in advance! I hadn’t been to a show at The Palladium in years so I forgot what it was like…..it’s a great old theater with a general admission floor and it definitely gets all the good Metal shows regularly including the annual New England Metal & Hardcore Festival. I was flying solo so my plan was to get in, get a drink, grab my Hammerfall tour shirt and find a stool in the bar area to watch the opening acts from.

All the opening bands were local Massachusetts Metal bands and this was my first time seeing any of them so I was hoping to hear some cool music and maybe check out a CD or two. First band on was Infinite Descent and they played close to 30 minutes of some really good Progressive/Thrash/Death Metal that all I could immeadiately compare them to was Arch Enemy. A lot of that has to do with lead vocalist Olivia Berka being similar to Angela Gossow with her aggressive vocals but it was her mixing of the clean vocals that hooked me right away. The other cool thing was the band gave away inflatable swords that the kids on the floor used during their moshing battle. I was going to hit the band’s merchandise stand for a copy of their demo but guitarist Rob Gil was handing them out to the crowd after the band’s set…..a good way to meet some of the fans.

Next up was Frozen, another Progressive/Thrash/Death Metal band from Massachusetts that was very aggressive but also very eclectic. There were a ton of different styles the band threw out including modern heavy Rock and musical themes from ’80s Nintendo games so it was an interesting set. I was going to pick up a CD (the band has two releases) but I never made it over to their merch stand because I didn’t want to lose my prime viewing spot.

Last opener was Powerglove and they got the biggest ovation from the crowd. Powerglove is from the Boston area and they play “video game Metal”: the band takes video game music and creates a metallic version. (You may recognize their band name, taken from the old Nintendo glove controller, the Power Glove.) Songs based on Mario, Dr. Robotnik (from Sonic the Hedgehog), Power Rangers, Mortal Kombat, Tetris and Final Fantasy were featured through their set that also included stage props, full costumes and foam swords that they sold and threw into the pit so the fans could “do battle”. You would think that the previous two aggressive bands would get the crowd whipped to a frenzy but these guys were obvious favorites and they had a full floor area moshing, battling and banging their heads. I was completely taken off guard by how good the band was so I went over to their booth on the way out and paid only $17 to get both the band’s CDs. Definitely the most interesting and entertaining of all the openers but I’d say this was one of the better local lineups I’ve seen in a long time.

Hammerfall setlist:

Punish & Enslave
Crimson Thunder
Renegade
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Last Man Standing
Blood Bound
Life Is Now
Heeding The Call
Rebel Inside
The Dragon Lies Bleeding
Between Two Worlds
Any Means Necessary
Stronger Than All

Encore:
Riders Of The Storm
Secrets
Let The Hammer Fall
Hearts On Fire

Like I said before, Hammerfall played The Palladium back in 2005 and I didn’t get to the show, there was no way I was missing the band this time around! Who knows if it will take another 5 years for them to return? My favorite Hammerfall album is their second, LEGACY OF KINGS (1998), so I was hoping to hear a few songs from that, as well as, some new songs. Old school Hammerfall (the first 3 records) is what I like best and I haven’t really focused heavily on a new Hammerfall record since their third with RENEGADE in 200, the subsequent releases were bought and listened to but I put them down quickly. On the ride up to Worcester, I listened to the new album, NO SACRIFICE, NO VICTORY (2009) and CRIMSON THUNDER (2004)…..the new album gets better everytime I hear it and I had forgotten just how good CRIMSON THUNDER was!

The venue was packed and the band came out to the heavy as hell ‘Punish & Enslave’ from the latest album…..from there it was full speed ahead! Every Hammerfall album was represented by at least one song in the 17 song set with the NO SACRIFICE album getting five played live. All the new songs fit into the set well around all the classic material and the highlights for me were all of them but the standout songs were ‘Between Two Worlds’ and ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’. The band played some classic songs from their earlier era, especially from the LEGACY album, and that had me completely psyched. I finally got to hear ‘The Dragon Lies Bleeding’, ‘Renegade’ and ‘Let The Hammer Fall’ live! Another 5 songs came from the 2004-2005 era, when the band last played the U.S., off CRIMSON THUNDER and CHAPTER V: UNBENT, UNBOWED, UNBROKEN (2005). I never really got into CHAPTER V but I had given it a re-listen a few days before the show and I was surprised at how good it sounded now so it was cool to get the first two songs off that album (‘Secrets’ & ‘Blood Bound’) live. The crowd went nuts the entire time, especially for the classics off the first three albums, but the intensity was at it’s highest for the CRIMSON THUNDER songs ‘Crimson Thunder’, ‘Riders Of The Storm and the set ending ‘Hearts On Fire’.

The band looked like they were having a great time on stage and they were full of energy, Worcester was the second show of the tour so they were probably pumped way up to be back in the U.S. Joacim Cans sounded so great live, his vocals were so good that he sounded almost exactly like the albums…..he has definitely moved up on my favorite singers list! Fredrik Larrson (who played bass on the first record) was back and teamed up superbly with drummer Anders Johannson while guitarist Oscar Drojnak had a blistering guitar and seemed to be having more fun than the crowd! Even though each band member was excellent I have to say that the newest member, guitarist Pontus Norgren, stood out the most aside from Joacim Cans. Many of you may have heard of Pontus through his solo work, his work with Jeff Scott Soto on his solo stuff and in Humanimal or through his various studio & production work. Needless to say, Pontus is a seriously talented musician…..he plays great guitar (very melodic) and his vocal harmonies are a perfect fit for the Hammerfall sound. I found myself watching him for most of the set to see how he would handle the older material vs. the new songs, I say he did an excellent job.

The band was so good, so passionate about Metal and the fans, that I left the show on a huge high note. You couldn’t help it after the band tore into ‘Hearts On Fire’ to end the set, they had the crowd so frenzied that they could have easily pulled out another 2 or 3 songs and it would have been even better. We got 17 songs that represented all their albums with perfect playing and respect for the fans…..that’s about all you can ask from a concert. If anyone has the chance to check out the Hammerfall tour, I fully recommend buying a ticket! The band kicked my ass back into gear and now I am ready for the next big concert and I’ve been listening to all sorts of Metal non-stop: no TV, no sports talk radio, no video games…..just Heavy Metal!

Video clip of Gene Simmons on CBS television show – I Get That A Lot

There’s a CBS TV show called I Get That A Lot and it’s basically like a Candid Camera type of show with well-known celebrities posing as ordinary people at work. I’m not a big TV guy so I have never seen it but when I saw some news that KISS’ Gene Simmons was going to be on it, I wanted to watch it. Of course I forgot to DVR it! The episode aired on Wednesday 1/6/2010, and thanks to the power of Youtube, here is the clip…..

Doro – Fear No Evil (2009)

Doro – Fear No Evil (2009, AFM Records)

  1. The Night Of The Warlock
  2. Running From the Devil
  3. Celebrate (*features guest vocalists)
  4. Caught In A Battle
  5. Herzblut
  6. On The Run
  7. Walking With The Angels (featuring Tarja Turunen)
  8. I Lay My Head Upon The Sword
  9. It Kills Me
  10. Long Lost For Love
  11. 25 Years

Band Lineup:
Doro Pesch – Vocals
Nick Douglas – Bass
Joe Taylor – Guitars
Johnny Dee – Drums
Oliver Palotai – Keyboards & Guitars
Luca Princiotta – Keyboards & Guitars

Guest Vocalists:
Tarja Turunen (Tarja, ex-Nightwish)
Biff Byford (Saxon)
Sabina Classen (Holy Moses)
Floor Janssen (After Forver)
Angela Gosow (Arch Enemy)
Veronica Freeman (Benedictum)
Liv Kristine (Leaves’ Eyes)
Ji-In Cho (Krypteria)
Liv (Sister Sin)
Kim McAuliffe, Jackie Chambers, Enid Williams & Denise Dufort (Girlschool)

Producers: Andreas Bruhn, Doro Pesch & Torsten Sickert

Country: Germany

Total Time = 47:59

Doro
Dor0 MySpace page
AFM Records

With all the emphasis, and success, being laid down at the feet of female-fronted Metal bands, it’s only right to call Doro Pesch the true reigning queen of Heavy Metal. Think about it…..most fans would give Lita Ford that title but her lack of output for a decade plus negates her claim. Doro continues to release new album, EPs, live CDs & DVDs and tour constantly, she is one of the hardest working artists in Metal and I think she never gets enough credit. I remember buying the first Warlock album (BURNING THE WITCHES) on tape back in ’84 after reading about the band and Doro in Metal Forces magazine and I have continued to follow her career as it’s continued past 25 years.

FEAR NO EVIL is Doro’s tenth studio album and it basically follows the same formula as most of her back catalogue: Teutonic styled Power Metal, a few power ballads, a track sung in her native German and a few guest appearances from other Metal stars. The subject matter is the same as other Doro releases celebrating the right to Rock and enjoy Metal music with anthemic songs like a Manowar or Accept would use, beautiful love torn ballads and pure Power Metal. Aside from the guests that play on her albums, the formula and the sound is usually the same. It works for other bands like AC/DC, U.D.O. and Saxon in their careers and it does for Doro also, the main difference is always the quality of the writing. FEAR NO EVIL follows the Doro formula with Metal anthems like ‘The Night Of The Warlock’, ‘On The Run’ and the standout ‘Celebrate’, a song that features Biff Byford, Girlschool, Floor Jansen and many more on guest vocals. These tracks and the rest of the faster tracks are basically what you expect and have heard before…..they are fast, they are heavy, there are great guitar solos and Doro’s vocals are powerful. The problem is that they all sound a bit too much like each other. I’m not saying the songs are bad, they are pretty good actually but there isn’t much variety. If you’ve heard a fast Doro rocker on her previous couple of albums, FIGHT (2002) & WARRIOR SOUL (2006), then you know what to expect on this record.

Where I think Doro shines is on the ballads. ‘Herzblut’ is the first ballad and is sung in German…..of course, I have no idea what the words mean but I can definitely say that Doro sings with great power and emotion. Same thing with ‘It Kills Me’, the performance (this time in English) is superb, Doro may be the reigning Queen of Metal but she also can sing love-torn ballads with plenty of emotion. The best ballad of the album is the duet with former Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen, ‘Walking With The Angels’. If you’ve ever heard Tarja’s voice then you know it’s beautiful and operatic so her performance is really good in a subdued way, she doesn’t go full opera on the lead vocals but just sings. Not to be outdone, Doro puts in a brilliant soft vocal as well and the two singers compliment each other perfectly. I also like the operatic backgrounds Tarja added. Definitely the best song on the album and my personal favorite.

The only major problem with this album is the mix. On the whole, I’ve listened to the album with headphones and it sounds good but when I’ve put the CD in the stereo I can definitely hear a problem with the way it was mixed. On most of the songs, Doro’s vocals sound more out front than the band, the instruments sound like they are played in the background. I would say that this happens on half the album and mostly on the faster songs.

Bottom Line:
FEAR NO EVIL is exactly what I expected from a new Doro Pesch album. There are plenty of Metal anthems to raise your fist and sin along to and there are also a few excellent ballads that showcase Doro’s more emotional side. It’s Power Metal through and through so if you’re not a big fan of the genre then you’re going to find the album repetitive and clichéd. I’m a big fan of Power Metal so I liked the album…..it’s when I compared it to some of Doro’s previous albums that I wanted a little more variety, songs that explored some new musical territory. For me the highlights were the three ballads with ‘Walking With the Angels’ being the best of the trio.

Favorite Songs:
”Celebrate’, ‘Walking With the Angels’, ‘On The Run’, ‘Herzblut’, ‘It Kills Me’

WANTED: King Kobra – III (1988)

WANTED

King Kobra III (1988)

King Kobra – III (1988)

One of the bands I got into back in the mid ’80s when I was growing up was King Kobra. I saw the video for ‘Hunger’ (from 1985’s READY TO STRIKE) but I wasn’t completely impressed but then the video for ‘Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)’ came out in 1986 and I was sold! I loved the movie Iron Eagle and I bought the soundtrack on vinyl (which I sold years later!), as well as, THRILL OF A LIFETIME (1986) on cassette (the song was part of that album). Over the years I’ve worn out my cassettes of the first two King Kobra albums and now I’m in the market to buy them on CD…..that led me to KING KOBRA III.

There were multiple personnel changes when this album was being recorded. The most important was the replacement of Mark Free on lead vocals with Johnny Edwards, who sang for Montrose on the MEAN album in 1987, went on to sing with Foreigner on UNUSUAL HEAT (1991) and collaborate with former King Kobra guitarist JK Northrup on various projects. Another cool connection for me is that two songs are written by members of KISS and were leftovers from the sessions for CREATURES OF THE NIGHT in 1982: ‘Legends Never Die’ (Gene Simmons, Adam Mitchell, Micki Free) and ‘It’s My Life’ (Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley). Going even further…..both songs were recorded by Wendy O. Williams for her 1984 solo debut W.O.W. and Doro Pesch later recorded ‘Legends never Die’ on her 2002 album FIGHT. That enough KISStory in a King Kobra post?

The direction of this album is more Metal than the AOR/Melodic Rock direction the first two had. I have heard this only a couple times online so I can’t give a great description but here is the video for ‘Take It Off’, listen for Peter Criss on background vocals!.

This album is a rarity on CD and it sells in the $80-$100+ range when it comes up on Ebay. The good news is that you can get a mint or near mint copy on vinyl for under $10…..that means I’ll buy one soon.

Current Playlist

Day off Saturday…..here’s what was burning up the stereo and the iPod today…..

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009): I can’t get enough of the new KISS record! I wanted to live with it a couple of weeks before I reviewed it because I didn’t want the fanboy in me to overpower the truth. After repeated listens, it’s a solid record…..better than PSYCHO CIRCUS (1998).

Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009): This one gets lumped in with the new KISS because Ace is part of the KISS extended family. I wanted to give this a ton of play before I reviewed it, also so I could compare it to the SONIC BOOM. Great comeback for Ace!

Anvil – This Is Thirteen (2009 reissue): I’ve had the album since late 2007 or early 2008 when I ordered it through the band’s website…..I loved it then and I love it now. I picked up the reissue for the bonus track, the never recorded, ‘Thumb Hang’. See the movie, buy the record.

Firehouse – s/t (1990): I saw the video for ‘Don’t Treat Me Bad’ on VH-1 Classic and I pulled the CD out for a fresh listen. I used to love this album back in the day! I remember no one else really got into the band until all the chicks heard ‘Love Of A Lifetime’…..everyone ended up buying it. The good news is that it’s track #11 so you can hit the <skip> button and finish the record. Check out the video, this is the first version, there’s another with a woman throwing all of Bill Leverty’s stuff out a window.

Ozzy Osbourne – Down To Earth (2001): I pulled this album out because my best friend is an Ozzy freak and we were discussing the merits of Ozzy’s last four solo albums. Obviously NO MORE TEARS (1991) and OZZMOSIS (1995) are great records, and I thought BLACK RAIN (2007) sucked, but this album is forgotten. I remember seeing the tour stop in Worcester, MA and the show wasn’t Ozzy’s best…..after a few listens, neither is the album. I like it better than BLACK RAIN.

Bon Jovi – 7800° Fahrenheit (1985): OK, I realize Bon Jovi isn’t as Metal, or even Hard Rock, as some of the other bands I usually listen to but 7800° FAHRENHEIT is a solid record. This is before Bon Jovi broke the bank so I like this & the debut a lot better. Everyone forgets ‘In And Out Of Love’ and ‘Tokyo Road’, two great songs the band should play live.

David Lee Roth – A Little Ain’t Enough (1991): I am huge Diamond Dave fan and I have bought every Diamond Dave solo album when it’s come out so I picked this up back in 1991 and I still love it today. The title track is just pure Dave. Too bad he fell out of the limelight quickly after this album, he was a great performer. He still has 3 more solo albums after this though but his was his last good one.

Thunder – Backstreet Symphony (1990): Thunder were one of those bands that came out just as my senior year in high school was ending and we all jumped on the bandwagon at the parking lot parties. ‘Dirty Love’ got a ton of airplay back in the day on local radio and on MTV, there were 2 versions of the video. I always listen to mid-90s Thunder when I got back into the band but it’s cool to re-live the debut.

Behemoth – Evangelion (2009)

behemoth-evangelion

Behemoth – Evangelion (2009, Metal Blade)

  1. Daimonos
  2. Shemhamforash
  3. Ov Fire And The Void
  4. Transmigrating Beyond Realms Ov Amenti
  5. He Who Breeds Pestilence
  6. The Seed Ov I
  7. Alas, Lord Is Upon Me
  8. Defiling Morality Ov Black God
  9. Lucifer

Band Lineup:
Adam “Nergal” Darski – Vocals, Guitars
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Prominski – Drums, Percussion
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – Bass
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – Session Guitars

Producers: Nergal & Behemoth

Country: Poland

Total Time = 42:00

Behemoth
Behemoth MySpace page
Metal Blade Records

One of my goals for 2009 was to open up my ears to more extreme forms of Metal and one album I decided I would buy when it came out was this new Behemoth record, EVANGELION. I have to plead ignorance here because I’m not a big follower of the Death Metal and Black Metal scenes and I had never heard a song from Behemoth. I knew who the band was, I knew what kind of music they played, but I had never bothered to check them out. I ended up getting a press release from Metal Blade Records about the banning of Behemoth’s video for ‘Ov Fire And The Void’ on different TV channels and internet sites…..that peaked my interest and I searched it out online.

So what does EVANGELION sound like? Well I expected just a ton of noise and “cookie monster” vocals but the overall sound is much more than that. The guitars are absolutely brutal, buzzing riffs and solos everywhere, the double bass drums pulsate and the bass is as brutal as the guitars. Nergal’s vocals are guttural growls that are barely understandable (I needed the lyric sheet to follow along) but they are powerful in their delivery and intensity. What sets this album apart, what sets each song apart, is the use of different instrumentation and orchestration to lend a slightly melodic side to the evil sound Behemoth creates. Sometimes I have a hard time differentiating each song because they do sound a lot alike but I think that’s because I haven’t really experienced much Black/Death Metal before. The opening song ‘Daimonos’ had this epic feel to it and I got sucked in to a good headbang. Same thing with ‘Shemhamforash’ and the previously mentioned ‘Ov Fire And The Void’, once I gave the album repeated listens I started to recognize the individuality of each track. The most intriguing song on EVANGELION is the last one, ‘Lucifer’. Talk about an evil sound! I may not know much about this style of Metal but when you hear something that evil, that epic, you know it’s good. ‘Lucifer’ has plenty of straight up brutal blackened death but the melodic orchestration and effects make this track almost otherworldly.

Bottom Line:
Like I said before, I don’t know much about Black or Death Metal but I’m trying different bands, different albums, and I’m hearing a lot that I like. Having never heard a Behemoth song before this I have to say I’m impressed, not just with the music but with myself that I got into it so much. Of all the new releases I’ve picked up this year, EVANGELION is one of the albums I’ve played the most. At first I was just trying to understand Behemoth, now I’m enjoying Behemoth. I will be checking out some of their earlier releases.

Favorite Songs:
‘Daimonos’, ‘Ov Fire And The Void’, ‘Transmigrating Beyond Realms Ov Amenti’, ‘Lucifer’

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

primal-fear-166

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

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

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

Producer: Mat Sinner

Country: Germany

Total Time = 69:25

Primal Fear
Primal Fear MySpace page
Frontiers Records

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred Oath – s/t (2009)

Sacred Oath - Sacred Oath (2009)

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

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

Sacred Oath 2009

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

Producer: Rob Thorne

Total Time = 50:15

Sacred Oath 
Sacred Oath MySpace page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alestorm – Black Sails At Midnight (2009)

Alestorm - Black Sails At Midnight (2009 limited edition)Alestorm - Black Sails At Midnight (2009 original)

Alestorm – Black Sails At Midnight (2009, Napalm Records)

  1. The Quest
  2. Leviathan
  3. That Famous Ol’ Spiced
  4. Keelhauled
  5. To The End Of Our Days
  6. Black Sails At Midnight
  7. No Quarter
  8. Pirate Song
  9. Chronicles Of Vengeance
  10. Wolves Of The Sea

(The limited edition includes a bonus DVD – Live At Wacken Open Air 2008)

Band Lineup:
Christopher Bowes – Vocals, Keyboards, Tin Whistle
Dani Evans – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Ian Wilson – Drums, Percussion, Vibraslap, Backing Vocals
Gareth Murdock – Bass
Migo Wagner – Session Drums
Lasse Lambert – Session Guitars, Backing Vocals

Producer: Lasse Lammert

Country: United Kingdom (Scotland)

Total Time = 46:17

Alestorm
Alestorm MySpace page
Napalm Records

Alestorm have set sail on their new voyage across the Metal seas to bring us their new album, BLACK SAILS AT MIDNIGHT, the follow-up to last year’s adventurous debut CAPTAIN MORGAN’S REVENGE. Alestorm is a band of Scotsman who really enjoy their fantasy realm of pirates, pillage and plunder and they use their Power/Folk Metal sound to create what they call “Pirate Metal”. Their music has elements of Thrash, Folk, and Power Metal mixed with orchestration and symphonics to give it a high seas sound. I have to admit I like the pirate gimmick because it’s something different, usually it’s all dungeons & dragons, but the fact that Alestorm are really good musicians makes the gimmick work.

‘The Quest’ opens the album with furious riffage and double bass drumming mixed with folk, it’s a seriously fast and heavy song that starts this pirate tale, a solid straight forward opener. The band immeadiately shows off it’s epic side with the equally heavy ‘Leviathan’ with it’s rolling riffs and symphonic orchestration to narrate the story of hunting one of the high seas’ legendary beasts. Christopher Bowes sings pretty much clean throughout the entire record but there are some aggressive growls on the bridge and chorus, especially the backing vocals, and adds to the diverse sound.

A pirate likes his rum and Alestorm likes it too, ‘That Famous Ol’ Spiced’ is their power tribute to the drink. It’s another speed riff song with the hook filled chorus and orchestration to bolster the sound. I like the tin whistle that mirrors the lyrics on the chorus, if you listen to the album closely you can hear that whistle on almost every song. So what do you do after you drink all that rum? You make a traitor walk the plank! ‘Keelhauled’ is a more traditional pirate sounding song with all the bells, whistles, bagpipes and violins thrown into the Power Metal mix as the band sends their tied traitor overboard to be drowned along their ships’ keel. Sounds like a brutal way to die but the pirates in Alestorm make it sound more of a celebration with a lot of “yo-ho-hos” in for good measure!

The voyage slows down for a ballad…..yes, a ballad! ‘To The End Of Our Days’ is slow and epic and uses the orchestration and some sounds of the sea to create the musical landscape. The song sounds like something Manowar would do but with subpar vocals. Bowes is no Eric Adams and his aggressive snarl doesn’t really fit a ballad but I guess pirates get sentimental at times too! The title track bursts in to keep the album going strong with another power riff feast mixed with complimentary keyboards and heavy drums while ‘No Quarter’ is the same type of song but with more prominent keyboards and no vocals except for a couple of “heys”. I’m not always a big fan of instrumentals because I always feel like it’s an unfinished song…..the band couldn’t come up with any words? The key is to keep the listener interested and ‘No Quarter’ has enough musical layers to keep my attention and it’s pretty good. Now you know there is no way that Alestorm was going to go a whole record without having a song with “pirate” in the title did you? ‘Pirate Song’ is a little to pirate for me and it suffers from the weakest guitar performance of the album until the duelling guitar/keyboard solo. I think the pace has more to do with it because it’s more mid-paced and the pirate theme really works well when the band moves at breakneck speed.

Alestorm moves into epic territory again with ‘Chronicles Of Vengeance’, a tale of battle on the high seas full of powerful guitar and symphonic composition. I have to pair this up with ‘Leviathan’ as two of the top tracks on the record, not just because they are both epics but because both songs are examples of how Alestorm uses a variety of sound to give their songs such an adventurous feel. The closing song, ‘Wolves Of The Sea’, is actually a cover song of the Latvian musical project Pirates Of The Sea, who performed at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. There are a lot of “hi hi ho’s” and “hi hi hey’s” in this song that set the pirate feel right away but the song is another Power Metal feast…..the gang vocals are really catchy and it’s pretty much straightforward Metal until a quick middle solo that has a Caribbean flavor. If there was ever an anthem for Alestorm, this would be it! I can just see this being a concert favorite complete with audience participation on the chorus. I know it’s a cover song, and I can’t stand that, but it’s a really catchy tune…..the hook in the chorus is what gets you.

Bottom Line:
I’m a sucker for a good gimmick and Alestorm have sucked me in with their lyrical imagery of all things pirates! The concept is still pretty fresh when you consider how much swords & sorcery there is in Metal today, there really are only a few bands out their flying their jolly roger high for Pirate Metal. Alestorm has stormed back with a sophomore album that really doesn’t stray too far from the debut’s direction but I guess that’s the whole point. When you’re do something well then you keep doing it until it’s not successful. There’s enough different styles of Metal to please a wide range of fans but the core focus is probably on the Power, Epic and Viking Metal fans. There are some diverse songs with different sounds and tempos but there are also couple that sound like they’ve been done before. I really like the album and I haven’t stopped playing it since I bought it…..I guess you could say I’m “hooked”! Definitely a really good solid fun record, one of my favorites of the year so far.

Favorite Songs:
‘The Quest’, ‘Leviathan’, ‘That Famous Ol’ Spiced’, ‘Keelhauled’, ‘No Quarter’, ‘Chronicles Of Vengeance’, ‘Wolves Of The Sea’

Grave Digger – Pray E.P. (2009)

grave-digger-pray-ep

Grave Digger – Pray E.P. (2009, Napalm Records)

  1. Pray (extended version)
  2. Overkill (Motorhead cover)
  3. My Blood Will Live Forever (non-album track)
  4. When The Sun Goes Down (non-album track)

Band Lineup:
Chris Boltendahl – Vocals
Manni Schmidt – Guitar
Thilo Herrmann – Guitar
H.P. Katzenburg – Keyboards
Stefan Arnold – Drums
Jens Becker – Bass

Produced by: Grave Digger

Total Time = 16:29

Country: Germany

Grave Digger
Grave Digger MySpace page
Napalm Records

When I review the latest album from Grave Digger, BALLADS OF A HANGMAN, I mentioned the PRAY E.P. briefly towards the end. Turns out that I’ve had more then a few emails wanting a review.

The PRAY E.P. was released in the U.S. a week before BALLADS OF A HANGMAN but it had been available overseas since November 2008. For collector’s, the PRAY E.P. has 3 non-album tracks (one is a cover of Motorhead’s ‘Overkill’) and an extended version of ‘Pray’. The first single from the album is ‘Pray’ and it’s a melodic mid-tempo song that retains it’s power when the gang style backgrounds come in for the chorus. The guitars are the cleanest of the album with their clear twin melodies and solos, definitely a song that brings me back to the Melodic Metal heyday of the mid-’80s.

‘Pray’

Second song is the Motorhead cover ‘Overkill’ and it’s pretty straightforward in it’s delivery. Usually I’m against all covers on a new album but this is a special E.P. so it belongs here. A cover song is a bonus, a novelty track, to me so having one on a single or an E.P. makes it more acceptable to me. If the band had put it on the actual album then I would be critical. The two non-album tracks could have easily been included on the new record and they are worth the price of the E.P. alone (I paid $8!). ‘My Blood Will Live Forever’ has the trademark chugging riffs that Grave Digger is known for and it’s definitely a solid Power Metal feast with aggressive vocals from Chris Boltendahl.  ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ is more a mid-paced song but the heaviness isn’t lost as the band slows down, it’s the best song of the four without being typical Grave Digger. There’s a groove to it and the intensity is in the simple delivery, it’s aggressive without being overpowering.

Bottom Line:
If you’re a Grave Digger fan and/or a collector then you will want to pick this E.P. up, especially at the low price! Three out of four songs you can’t get anywhere and the two non-album originals are as good as anything on BALLADS OF A HANGMAN. Actually, I’m a little disappointed that these two songs aren’t on the new album, they would make it even better! I always like to collect different releases from bands I like and these kind of releases make it easier to pick up some cool bonus tracks.

Favorite Songs:
There’s only four tunes and I like all four but the best are the originals not found on the proper album release: ‘My Blood Will Live Forever’ and ‘When The Sun Goes Down’