The 2012 Heavy Metal Addiction Awards

2012 is over so that means it’s time for my year end awards! It’s been another awesome year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal with so many releases on CD, DVD, Vinyl and Digital formats, not just new studio albums but also live records, reissues and special edition releases. I have had more albums submitted for review this year from bands, labels and PR agents as digital promos have taken over as the easiest way to get the word out as quickly as possible and I have done my part as a consumer and purchased plenty of new and old albums & DVDs from record stores, Ebay, online vendors and direct from bands and labels. The only problem has been finding the time to do through everything!

With all this music it’s been every hard to keep up so this has been the worst year for posting but I have made a serious push in November and December to listen to as many CDs, and watch as many DVDs, as possible to prepare for my year end lists. I said the same thing at the end of 2010 & 2011 but 2012 was in fact the worst year for posting at Heavy Metal Addiction…..I only managed to post 19 times! I couldn’t even break 20 posts on a blog I started 7 years ago as an extension of my hobby! Pathetic! Obviously sitting in front of a computer writing wasn’t something that interested me again this year.

I did listen to a lot of albums this year but I stayed mainly with albums in my collection even though I have piles on my desk, and in boxes right next it, chock full of CDs and DVDs released in 2011 and 2012. I bought a ton of new releases as they came out and I’ve spent some time listening to them, I just didn’t get around to writing about them. I haven’t completely abandoned this website as I plan to continue it because there’s a lot to write about and I will try and catch up on as many reviews as I can but the reality is that there’s no way to “catch up”. I think it’s best to try and concentrate on 2013 and add in what I can from previous years.

I have been re-listening to as many 2012 albums that I can since November so I can post my year end awards. Usually I break this up into a week’s worth of posts but I decided to take advantage of a couple new WordPress features and do it all as one big article. I’m pairing down my lists a bit to give you the absolute cream of the crop in each category and I’ve also decided to re-define a couple categories. This year the Best DVD category will include DVDs that came with CD releases, because that seems to be the current trend,  and the Worst Album category will get a name change to Most Disappointing Album so I can try and maintain some positive spin…..but if an album makes it into this category, then I thought it sucked! Last is the Miscellaneous Release category, that stays the same but there could be some crossover between this and the Best DVD category with all the multiple CD and DVD or Blu-Ray combo releases coming out. I tried to limit the crossovers but the best package is going to get on both lists.

That’s all I’ve got for changes so I hope you enjoy the 2012 awards, please leave comments and give me your thoughts on what was the best & worst of the past year. I’ve got my sights set on 2013 and I expect and even bigger year in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal as I keep checking out new releases and catching up on things I missed from the last couple of years.

The Top 15 Albums of 2012

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  1. Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth
  2. UFO – Seven Deadly
  3. 3 Inches Of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal
  4. KISS – Monster
  5. Accept – Stalingrad
  6. Nightwish – Imaginaerum
  7. The Darkness – Hot Cakes
  8. Kamelot – Silverthorn
  9. Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
  10. Testament – Dark Roots Of Earth
  11. Rush – Clockwork Angels
  12. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Last Of A Dyin’ Breed
  13. Lita Ford – Living Like A Runaway
  14. L.A. Guns – Hollywood Forever
  15. Lamb Of God – Resolution

There were a ton a great albums in 2012 but only one album can earn the top honor of being the best of the year and that is reserved for A Different Kind Of Truth from the “reunited” Van Halen. By reuniting with David Lee Roth a few years ago, the only thing the Van Halen brothers had to do was release a new album with Diamond Dave on lead vocals. Let’s call it like it truly is: this isn’t a TRUE Van Halen reunion because Michael Anthony is out of the band and replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang. The good news is that A Different Kind Of Truth is a great album! Forget the fact that Eddie and Alex went through the Van Halen tape vault for ideas because EVERY band does it…..hasn’t the father of Heavy Metal, Tony Iommi, stated often that he has tapes of riffs for miles? Every band looks for ideas and revisits demos and music they created years before, it’s the updating that counts. This album has that unmistakable classic Diamond Dave/Van Halen sound circa the late ’70s and early ’80s and, even though he’s a bit older, Dave does a great job on the mic. The first single, ‘Tattoo’, wasn’t the best song on the album and might have been better suited to a follow-up single but everything after is classic Van Halen. ‘She’s The Woman’ is a re-worked demo from the ’70s that is clearly the best song on the album for me and it definitely fits that 1984 album era well. ‘China Town’, ‘Blood And Fire’, ‘Stay Frosty’, ‘Big River’…..all new Van Halen classics that sit right up against anything in their back catalog. A Different Kind Of Truth is the true follow-up to 1984, unfortunately 28 years after the fact, and it’s my top album of 2012.

Taking a look at the rest of the Top 5…..UFO released Seven Deadly and earned the 2nd spot with another excellent album of bluesy Hard Rock. UFO has done much wrong since they came back in 1995 and I can’t find a weak track on the album. Phil Mogg’s lyrics are modern poetry and there is no slack in the guitar department because Vinnie Moore has more than a few albums under his belt with the band. Hard to pick a favorite track here but ‘The Last Stone Rider’ is my favorite this week! Had Van Halen not released their new record, UFO would easily be #1. The third best goes to 3 Inches of Blood with Long Live Heavy Metal, probably the best pure and traditional Heavy Metal record of the year. Take one listen to the opener ‘Metal Woman’ or the Judas Priest influenced ‘Leather Lord’ and that’s a great example of not only this record but the band’s career. Of all the Metal albums I heard this year, 3 Inches of Blood got the most rotation on my stereo and iPod. My favorite band KISS comes up a bit short of the top spot but still maintains the #4 album with Monster. When it comes to KISS, I’m extremely critical because they are my favorite band and they have barely released anything since new in 15 years. We got Sonic Boom in 2009 and it took the top spot that year and Monster is just as good but I had a harder time getting into it like I did with Sonic Boom. Maybe it was the anticipation of the previous album, or the travelling circus atmosphere that KISS creates with everything they do, but after repeated listens the album is just as good if not better. Anyone worrying about Dave, Eddie and Alex recycling should give Gene Simmons grief too because it’s obvious he does it but his songs are the better ones on the album. Paul Stanley has great moments too but I worried about his vocal issues going in and Gene hasn’t lost a step vocally. a lot of good songs here: ‘Wall Of Sound’, ‘Back To The Stone Age’, ‘Shout Mercy’ and ‘Eat Your Heart Out’…..here’s hoping they give us another one! Rounding out the Top 5 is Accept’s Stalingrad, the second record to feature new vocalist Mark Tornillo (formerly of TT Quick). The last Accept album with Mark debuting on vocals, Blood Of The Nations, was a superb record and Stalingrad is a great follow-up and it might be more powerful. I think Accept shares the same fate as KISS here, the anticipation for the first new album was so high on my part that a second release suffers just a little. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Hung, Drawn and Quartered’, the title track, and ‘Shadow Soldiers’ are awesome tunes but can anyone explain the meaning behind ‘Flash To Bang Time’?

Rounding out the Top 15…..Nightwish’s Imaginaerum was very close to the Top 5 but came up short because they first 5 albums were so good. I expected nothing from The Darkness but I bought Hot Cakes when it came out and I loved it immeadiately, same thing with Silverthorn from Kamelot despite the change at singer. Gojira was a surprise of the year because I’d never bought an album from them before and L’Enfant Sauvage kicked major ass, so did the new Testament album at #10 and the new Lamb of God at #15, giving the more extreme side of Metal a presence. Rush picked up #11 with Clockwork Angels but I expected a great album so their was no surprise there but Lynyrd Skynyrd surprised with their latest album proving that good music always prevails despite the genre, time or legacy. Lita Ford had a great comeback with Living Like A Runaway, a very introspective Hard Rock record, especially after the debacle of Wicked Wonderland and L.A. Guns proved that they still write great songs and that usually the lead singer’s version of the band will always out do the founding guitarist’s version because the singing voice is the most identifiable thing to most fans.

The 5 Most Disappointing Albums of 2012

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  1. Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension
  2. Steve Harris – British Lion
  3. Geoff Tate – Kings & Thieves
  4. Slash – Apocalyptic Love
  5. Great White – Elation

Usually I call this “the worst albums” of whatever year it is but I wanted to keep a positive spin on this category because who am I to say an album sucks? I have no musical talent, I don’t write songs or play an instrument. I could change it back next year if a bunch of albums do indeed suck but, for 2012, these are the most disappointing records of the year. I heard the first two singles from the new Aerosmith album and I was hooked right away, especially with ‘Lover A Lot’, but the bulk of Music From Another Dimension sounded formulaic and forced. Too many outside writers, too many ballads, too many predictable songs. Do we need another Diane Warren ballad? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and the ballad is what gave the band ultra-success from the Pump record straight through Nine Lives. I was really looking forward to a reunited Aerosmith and a bunch of rocking songs but there’s too much filler. Take a page from KISS…..lock the band in the studio and do it mostly yourself.

There was a lot of surprise when it was announced Iron Maiden’s founding bass player, Steve harris, was releasing a solo album that he had been working on for a long time. With Maiden’s hectic schedule, who knew? Apparently Steve did and he enlisted musicians from a band he had been producing called British Lions, to create the British Lion record. It’s supposed to be a throwback album to the days of classic Thin Lizzy and UFO that had a big impact on a young Harris but, aside from the hard Rock style, I didn’t hear much of the influences. Let’s call it like it is: anything Steve Harris does outside of Iron Maiden will always be compared to Iron Maiden. There’s a different style to the music on this album compared to Maiden but I expected the same excellent quality from Steve. The songwriting seems too pedestrian, too simplistic……then again, we are used to epic lyrics on Maiden albums. The band can play well but Steve seems pushed back purposely in the mix (probably due to the Hard Rock style) and the singer has no range…..then again, we are spoiled with Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden. There’s no helping the comparisons to Iron Maiden but the quality of the material just lacks on this solo album from Steve Harris.

Rounding out the Top 5 here…..Geoff Tate’s new solo album comes on the heels of his split with the Queensryche camp, who are no strangers to this category! In the back of my mind, I knew this wouldn’t be good but I had hope but Kings And Thieves was just plain boring. Same thing with Apocalyptic Love from Slash. Slash is an iconic guitarist and hopes were high for this album with lead singer Miles Kennedy (Alter Bridge) but it was just boring. remember that Izzy Stradlin and Axl Rose were the creative forces in Guns ‘N Roses, not to say Slash didn’t contribute, but anything he does will always come back to Guns…..and even then, Guns only had two albums of classic material with Appetite For Destruction and if you cherry pick off the Use Your Illusion albums. Last album in this category is Elation from Great White, featuring former XYZ singer Terry Ilous on vocals replacing the fired Jack Russell. I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews on this album but, for me personally, it comes down to the voice and Jack Russell’s fits the bluesy Hard Rock of Great White’s music better than Terry Ilous. It’s by no means a bad album and, considering the vocalist change, it a solid effort. I just couldn’t get into it and I expected a bit more after the last two records, Back To The Rhythm and Rising.

The Top 5 DVDs of 2012

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  1. Scorpions – Live In 3D: Get Your Sting & Blackout
  2. Iron Maiden – En Vivo!
  3. Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken 2009
  4. Queen – Days Of Our Lives
  5. Ozzy Osbourne – Speak Of The Devil: Live At Irvine Meadows ’82

This year I decided to included DVDs and/or Blu-rays that came with CD releases or box sets because this seems to be the way bands and labels are adding something extra for fans. My favorite DVD of the year is also the first Blu-ray release I ever bought…..Scorpions – Live In 3D: get Your Sting & Blackout. An excellently produced concert film with plenty of extras, this got the top spot because I saw this tour live over the summer and that put Live In 3D over the top. The Scorpions needed that emotional attachment because iron Maiden delivered another excellent DVD in a long line of excellent DVDs with En Vivo! Does Iron Maiden ever do anything wrong went it comes to video releases? Plenty of awesome concert footage from Santiago, Chile and plenty of documentary film as well the only thing I could complain about is to package the DVD or Blu-ray with the double CD live album for a special package (that’s the next category). The new Saxon DVD is solid and part of the Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken 2009 release, the DVD incorporates the band’s best performances from the Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany for 2004, 2007 and 2009…..that’s 31 songs! and some behind the scenes footage and you’ve got a Saxon fan’s dream DVD, only bettered by the super limited edition box set of this release that included separate DVDs of the full concerts. Had I been able to get one of those, Saxon would own the top spot easily. Rounding out the Top 5 is the Queen documentary, Days of Our Lives, finally getting a proper DVD release and the famous often duplicted, VHS only Ozzy Osbourne concert Speak Of The Devil: Live At Irvine Meadows ’82.

The Top 10 Miscellaneous Releases of 2012

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  1. Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken 2009
  2. UFO – The Chrysalis Years (1980 – 1986)
  3. Motorhead – The World Is Ours Vol.2: Anyplace Crazy As Anywhere Else
  4. Motorhead – The world Is Ours Vol.1: Everywhere Further Than Everywhere Else
  5. U.D.O. – Celebrator
  6. Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance (30th Anniversary Edition)
  7. KISS – Destroyer Resurrected
  8. U.D.O. – Live In Sofia
  9. Dio – The Very Beast Of Dio Vol.2
  10. Quiet Riot – Live At The US Festival ’83

I never like to put these kind of releases into my top albums category because I like to reserve that for albums of new material but there are always other great new releases aside from new studio albums and 2012 was no exception.

The #1 spot goes to the 2CD/DVD release from Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken 2009 because that was my favorite release with the DVD of the best of the band’s last 3 appearances at Wacken Open Air and the double audio CD from Glascow on the Call To Arms Tour in 2011. My only regret is not knowing about the preorder for the limited edition that came with extra DVDs and CDs but it was also a couple hundred bucks. The second slot goes to the second volume of the UFO back catalog on Chrysalis Records from 1980 thru 1986. You get 5 CDs that include the 5 post Michael Schenker albums (No Place To Run, The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent, Mechanix, Making Contact, & Misdemeanor) all with bonus tracks, plus a full BBC In Concert from February 1980 and the live tracks from the Headstone compilation from Hammersmith 1983. I was lucky to have the label send me a copy but to get all this at retail for around $50 is a steal! I already have all the UFO albums on Japanese import with bonus tracks but this is another great compilation for a great band.

The #3 and #4 spots belong to Motorhead with The World is Ours Vols 1 & 2. I couldn’t decide which was better so I put the second volume first because it was fresher in the memory. Both sets have 2CD live sets and a live DVD in great packaging just like the Saxon set. Their label UDR is really putting out great stuff! U.D.O. also gets 2 slots in this Top 10 with the Celebrator two disc compilation of rare tracks and the Live In Sofia 2CD/DVD set. I put Live In Sofia at #8 but it’s a solid live package, AFM Records doing what UDR is doing and, for $14 on sale, it was a no brainer. The Celebrator album is really great because it collects all those hard to find Japanese bonus tracks remixed, some previously unreleased songs and a few songs from various tribute albums. I could have done with out the remix treatment and had the originals but I’m sure that was done to get thru legal label red tape. Its a great compilation of 25 songs on two discs with a great full color booklet. I put the Judas Priest Screaming For Vengeance 30th Anniversary Edition in at #6 more for the DVD from the US Festival ’83 than anything else, same with Quiet Riot at #10…..now that makes three bands that have released live DVDs of their US Festival performances (Triumph did it a few years ago). KISS released Destroyer Resurrected and it made #7, basically it was a 36 year celebration release restoring all the original artwork and having producer Bob Ezrin remix the album. It’s a nice novelty to have especially for the original guitar solo on ‘Sweet Pain’ as a bonus track but I will admit that my KISS fanaticism pushed this higher. Last to mention is The Very Beast of Dio Vol. 2 covering the best of the Dio band’s work from the ’90s up until Ronnie’s death, the track here to have is ‘Electra’ the first completed song from what would have been from the Magica II album that the band was working on when Ronnie James Dio passed away.

3 Releases I Missed In 2011

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  1. Royal Hunt – Future Coming From The Past DVD
  2. Benedictum – Dominion
  3. Skeletonwitch – Forever Abomination

Just a quick note on a couple releases I missed out on in 2011…..the Royal Hunt DVD is a formal worldwide release of the Japan only video release of Live 1996 and, even though it’s all over Youtube, it’s a welcome addition to my collection. Benedictum keeps churning out great albums and their third, Dominion, is awesome as is Forever Abomination from Skeltonwitch, a band I finally got around to checking out in 2012.

CD Scavenger Hunt – August, September, October, November & December update

It’s been a long time since I posted anything here at Heavy Metal Addiction…..a real long time! Sorry to all my loyal readers but I just haven’t had the time or the inspiration to write about anything Hard Rock or Heavy Metal but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been buying my fair share of music! Seeing that we are at the end of the year, I figured it was about time I posted something and why not be a full update of everything I’ve bought since August? Enjoy and please leave some comments…..

(WARNING — This is going to be a long post!)

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August update

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Rainbow – Difficult To Cure (1981/1999 remaster) – $8
Fozzy – Sin & Bones (2012) – $13
Loudness – Eye To Dawn (2012) – $13
In This Moment – Blood (2012) – $10
Jackyl – Best In Show (2012 Best Buy Deluxe Edition) – $10
MSG – The Michael Schenker Story Live (1997/2001 re-release) – $0
Loverboy – Rock N Roll Revival (2012) – $0
Baroness – Red Album (2007) – $0
House Of Lords – Sahara (1990) – $0
Marshall Law – Power Games (1992) – $0
Headcat – Walk The Walk…Talk The Talk (2011) – $0
Exciter – Unveiling The Wicked (1986) – $0
Enuff Z’nuff – Welcome To Blue Island (2003) – $0
Zyklon – Aeon (2003) – $0
Ozzy Osbourne – Black Rain (Tour Edition) (2007) – $0
707 – The Bridge (2004) – $0
707 – Anthology (2009) – $0
Starz – Brightest Starz (2000) – $0
Petra – Still Means War (2002) – $0
Rob Zombie – The Sinister Urge (2001) – $0
Sentenced – The Cold White Light (2002) – $0
Frameshift – An Absence Of Empathy (2005) – $0
KISS – Destroyer Resurrected (2012) – $13
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (1975) – $0
Helix – Breaking Loose (1979) – $26.50 used
Mass – Voices In The Night (1989) – $9 used
Tokyo Blade – Camp 334 E.P. (2012) – $3 (iTunes download)

Where to begin? Obviously August was a good month! One thing that happens evey August is that my birthday rolls around and I get a lot of gift cards to Newbury Comics, my favorite record store, so that will account for all the CDs with zeros for amounts. Let’s analyze these purchases…..

I bought the new albums by Fozzy, Loudness, In This Moment, and KISS on the day of release and on sale…..I had to have the new Destroyer Resurrected the moment the doors to Newbury Comics opened because my KISS collection isn’t complete without the latest new album! The Bruce Springsteen disc was a gift from my best friend’s son who loves Springsteen and is trying to turn me on to his music. I like myself some Bruce, mostly the stuff I hear on classic rock radio, but this is the album I would pick to start getting into The Boss if I were buying it myself. The Helix and Mass CDs were auctions I won on ebay from the same seller, both are original pressings and the Helix album is especially rare and it’s been on my radar for a long time. The last album listed is a digital only E.P. by NWOBHM legends Tokyo Blade that I got from iTunes. I have NEVER bought anything from iTunes because I believe in physical media but there are no plans to release this on any other format so I had to bite the bullet and spend the $3. On to the freebies…..

Birthday = gift cards. I decided to head up to a different Newbury Comics, this time Norwood, MA, to see if there were any bargains to be had. Now this is the BIG Newbury Comics so they have excellent selection when I make the 45 minute trip a few times a year and right off the bat I found a used copy of Baroness – Red Album (2007) for what would have been $10 ($14 for the regular priced one that was there. Among the other highlights from this shopping trip, the Michael Schenker Group live double disc rerelease that would have been $14, the new Loverboy album that would have been $13 on sale ($20 regular price!), and a tour edition copy of Ozzy’s Black Rain used that has all the bonus material for all the different versions of the original album for a mere $6 used price. Of course I padded the collection with used CDs that ranged in price from $2 to $8 but they were all free for me.

September update

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Lynyrd Skynyrd – Last of a Dyin’ Breed (2012 Deluxe Edition) – $10
Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance 30th Anniversary Edition (2012) – $14
The Darkness – Hot Cakes (2012) – $16
Cloudscape – New Era (2012) – $15
ZZ Top – La Futura (2012) – $0
Steve Harris – British Lion (2012) – $13
Bullet – Full Pull (2012) – $13
Dokken – Broken Bones (2012) – $0

As September hits we have back to school for the kids, house preperations for winter, the beginning of football season and fantasy football and starting to think of the holidays…..that means money is at a premium and CDs have to wait. I was able to pick up some new releases in my two trips to the record store in September and I caught a great sale at the end of the month – Buy 2 get 1 Free on all regular and sale priced CDs.

On my 1st trip of the month, I had to have the deluxe edition of the new Lynyrd Skynyrd CD to get the 4 bonus tracks and was lucky to grab the last sale priced copy they had for $10 which saved me $7. Take a listen to the Skynyrd records with Johnny Van Zant on vocals, they are all excellent and rival the classic 70s era of Skynyrd with his late brother Ronnie fronting the band. Of course the legend of Skynyrd back in the day overshadows everything newer but the quality is definitely there. The other major purchase was the 30th Anniversary Edition of the classic Screaming For Vengeance from Metal legends Judas Priest. I love all the bonuses on these special anniversary releases and it makes it worth it to re-buy the album, this time around the big deal was the included DVD of Priest’s performance at the US Festival in 1983 but the live tracks and the bonus studio track ‘Prisoner Of Your Eyes’ add to the value. You can’t beat $14 for a CD/DVD combo and I still saved $3 buying it on sale.

The 2nd trip of the month was towards the end but that’s where I caught the special sale and picked up a bunch of new releases I was waiting on. My strategy is to always group the CDs by price from high to low so when I get to the register I get some of the higher priced CDs free. I had been waiting on Hot Cakes from The Darkness and missed the sale price so I had to pay the full $16 regular price and the new Cloudscape was the same deal at $15 regular price but I put them together with the new ZZ Top to get that one free and saved $14 right off the bat! The $14 was the sale price for ZZ Top but regular price was $17 so I really saved $17 in the long run. My second grouping was the new Steve Harris solo album ($13 sale/$17 regular) + the new Bullet ($13 sale/$17 regular) with the new Dokken ($12 sale/$18 regular) for free and saved more money. You have to love those Frontiers Records albums that are $17+ regular price, I would have choked if I had to pay that much for the new Dokken! At least I got it on a double sale!

October update

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KISS – Monster (2012) – $12
KISS – Monster (2012) – $15 (Wal-Mart exclusive limted edition zine-pak)
Arch Enemy – Stigmata (1998) – $4 used
Allen-Lande – The Revenge (2007) – $8 used
Dream Evil – Evilized (2003) – $8 used
Rob Rock – Garden Of Chaos (2007) – $8 used
Motorhead – March Or Die (1992) – $4 used
Cloudscape – Crimson Skies (2006) – $4 used
Kotipelto – Serenity (2007) – $4 used
Dragonforce – The Power Within (2012) – $13
Motorhead – The World Is Ours Vol.2 (2 CD/DVD/Blu) (2012) – $18
Ten – Heresy And Creed (2012) – $12
Sister Sin – Now And Forever (2012) – $12
Night Ranger – 24 Strings & A Drummer (CD/DVD) (2012) – $10
The Sword – Apocryphon (2012 Deluxe Edition) – $12
Praying Mantis – Time Tells No Lies (1980/2011 remaster) – $13.50 (Ebay)

September was a slow CD buying month but October’s prospects improved and there were a few new releases that were must haves. Starting the month of right was the new KISS album…..Monster. I was out front banging on the door fo the record store so I could get this album as soon as the store opened, got it on sale for $12 and saved $4 off the regular price. Of course, KISS is my favorite band and they can’t do anything simple so I ran over to Wal-Mart right after to buy the limited edition zinepak exclusive to Wal-Mart.

My second CD hunt was at the Newbury Comics in Warwick, RI (about 20 mins from home) when the family and I were out for the day and they allowed me to go and search. Actually, they dropped me off and went to the Target down the road! Nothing is better when you walk into a record store and you start to find a lot of cheap CDs that you’ve been looking for…..obviously, I hit the store after someone dumped part of their collection because I’d never seen these CDs at this location before. Right away I found a copy of the latest Dragonforce record, The Power Within (2012), still on sale for $13 while the other two copies with it were regular price at $19. Then I started through the Metal section in alphabetical order and I found the Allen-Lande, Cloudscape and Dream Evil all used and immeadiately crossed them off my want list. I only had $60 in disposable CD income so I had to make wise purchases and I already had $33 worth of discs in my hand so I had to ignore some more higher priced used gems but I did make my way over to a sale table towards the front of the store. Score! Arch Enemy for $4 used, Motorhead for $4 used and Kotipelto for $4 used and Rob Rock for $8 used…..the Motorhead – March Or Die was a missing album in my collection and both the Kotipelto and Rob Rock CDs replaced very plain promotional CDs I received from the record label years earlier. I spent $53 on this trip so i was pretty psyched to come under budget just a little.

The last trip of the month also included an Ebay auction I actually won while I was in the record store! New releases everywhere during the last week of the month: the new Motorhead, Ten, Sister Sin, Night Ranger and The Sword were all high priority buys and the Ebay auction was the Praying Mantis reissue from Rock Candy Records. I saved $35 off the regular prices of the new releases by buying them on sale the day of release with the biggest savings coming from the Motorhead – The World Is Ours Vol.2 release at $12 off. I also saved $6 on the Ten CD and $8 on the Night Ranger (both imports from Frontiers Records), $3 on the new Sister Sin and another $6 on the limited edition of the new CD from The Sword.

November update

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Mob Rules – Cannibal Nation (2012) – $14
Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension (Deluxe Edition) (2012) – $20
Kamelot – Silverthorn (Deluxe Edition) (2012) – $0
Geoff Tate – Kings & Thieves (2012) – $13
Twisted Sister – A Twisted Xmas Live In Las Vegas (2012) – $0
Butcher Babies – Butcher Babies E.P. (2012) – $5 (from Butcher Babies merchandise website)

Another slow month with the holidays looming…..I only made one trip to the record store but I made it count when they had a “Buy 2 get 1 Free” sale on all CDs. Of course they ring the CDs from highest to lowest so I paid for the limited edition version of the new Aerosmith record and the new One Direction limited edition new album (I have a daughter that loves that boy band!) for $20 each and I got the new Kamelot – Silverthorn limited edition for free. I forget what the regular price on the One Direction CD was but that wouldn’t count here but the regular on the Aerosmith was a crazy $29 and the new Kamelot was on sale for $18 but the regular price would have been $22. My second bundle at this sale was the new Mob Rules album for $14 and the new Geoff Tate solo album for $13, both on sale, and I got the new Twisted Sister live Xmas album from Las Vegas for free. The Twisted Sister CD was on sale for $12 with a regular price of $16 and both the Mob Rules and Geoff tate albums had a regular price of $18. The last purchase I made was the debut E.P. from the Butcher Babies for $5. I had been hearing a lot about the band on various podcasts and I finally decided to pick up the E.P. towards the end of the month.

December update

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King Kobra – Ready To Strike (1985) – $8
King Kobra – Thrill Of A Lifetime (1986) – $8
U.D.O. – Live In Sofia (2CD/DVD) (2012) – $14
Bloodbound – In The Name Of Metal (2012) – $14
Municipal Waste – Massive Aggressive (2009) – $10 used
Ring Of Fire – The Oracle (2001) – $10 used
Tankard – Beast Of Bourbon (2004) – $0 used
Avian – Ashes And Madness (2009) – $10 used
Overkill – Feel The Fire (1985) – $9 used
Doro – Classic Diamonds (2004) – $0 used
Iced Earth – The Crucible Of Man (Something Wicked Pt.2) (2008) – $8 used
Municipal Waste – Hazardous Mutations (2005) – $8 used
Tristania – Midwinter Tears (CD/DVD) (2005) – $0 used
Grave Digger – 25 To Live (2CD) (2005) – $7 used
Grave Digger – Rheingold (2003) – $7 used
Gwar – Live From Mt. Fuji (2005) – $0 used
Scorpions – Taken By Force (1977) – $6 used
Overlorde – Return Of The Snow Giant (2004) – $6 used
Tristania – Ashes (2005) – $0 used
Straight Line Stitch – When Skies Wash Ashore (2008) – $6 used
Fates Warning – Inside Out (1994) – $4 used
Tristania – World Of Glass (2001) – $0 used

With the Christmas holiday looming, there was no extra money for CD shopping during December but that’s OK because the end of the year is always the slowest time for new releases. I knew there was a shopping spree coming at the end of the year because of all the gift cards I get to Newbury Comics for holiday gifts. This year was no exception, I netted $135 in gift cards so I held out as long as I could after Christmas (3 days!) and I was able to catch a year end used CD sale, Buy 2 Used CDs and Get 1 Free! The strategy for gift cards and a great sale was to get as much music as possible and to get some of those used CDs that I’d been passing over in my travels and, seeing that everything was basically free and nothing coming out of pocket, I spent a long time combing every rack in the Warwick, RI Newbury Comics. I put up all the prices above, including the sale freebies, so you could get an idea of what I would have spent.

I couldn’t pass on the King Kobra CDs because both were recent reissues in album style cardboard sleeves and brand new sealed at awesome cheap prices…..turns out they should have been $17.99 instead of $7.99 but that’s OK with me! I also couldn’t pass up the latest U.D.O. 2CD/DVD live release, Live In Sofia (2012), or the latest release from Bloodbound…..both were still on sale and they weren’t at my normal closer location. Both of these were $18 regular price so I saved $4 on each theoretically. So those are the new CDs, on to the used!

I put everything up by price because that’s how the store separates them and denotes the free ones. I like the fact that they give you a free CD closest to the price of the ones you buy so the Tankard CD should have been $10 used but it was free because the Municipal Waste and Ring Of Fire CDs were the same price. Obviously, I picked up a lot of back catalog from Municipal Waste, Grave Digger and Tristania with the biggest bargains being the two Municipal Waste and two Grave Digger CDs because you never see these albums used and, if you do, they are $12+ used because of the demand for Municipal Waste and Grave Digger is usually imports. Of the $0 CDs, the Tankard shuld have been $10, Tristania and Doro were $8 each, Gwar and another Tristania were $6 each and the last Tristania was $4 used. The final total on this hunt was $135 all paid with gift cards so I paid nothing out of pocket and I saved an additional $42 on the free used CDs!

Final 2012 Totals

Total (year) = $1804

Average Price (per item) = $7.71

Total CDs (year) = 227

Total DVDs (year) = 5

Total Blu-Rays (year) = 1

Total iTunes Downloads (year) = 1

Just a quick analysis…..

Compared to 2011, I bought 85 more items (227 this year and 142 last year) and I spent $659 more than I did the previous year. My DVD total is low because a lot of bands/labels are packaging DVDs or Blu-Rays with live CDs now and I count those as CD packages. Also, 2012 was the first time I bought a Blu-Ray and paid for an iTunes download. I’m not sure what 2013 will hold for CD hunting but I’m hoping that I find more gems, fill a lot of holes in my collection, acquire more and spend less.

Let the hunt continue!

Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2012) review

Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2012, Roadrunner Records)

  1. Taikatalvi
  2. Storytime
  3. Ghost River
  4. Slow, Love, Slow
  5. I Want My Tears Back
  6. Scaretale
  7. Arabesque (instrumental)
  8. Turn Loose The Mermaids
  9. Rest Calm
  10. The Crow, The Owl And The Dove
  11. Last Ride Of The Day
  12. Song Of Myself
        1 – From A Dusty Bookshelf
        2 – All That Great Heart Lying Still
        3 – Piano Black
        4 – Love
  13. Imaginaerum (instrumental)

Band Lineup (The Imagineers):
Anette Olzon – vocals
Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards, piano
Emppu Vuorinen – guitars
Marco Hietala – bass, vocals (tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 )
Jukka Nevalainen – drums, percussion

Guest Musicians (Fellow Imagineers):
Troy Donockley – uilleann pipes (on track 5 & 13), tin whistle (on track 1, 8 & 10), vocals (on track 10 & 12), bodhran, bouzouki
Dermot Crehan – hardanger fiddle
Dirk Campbell – sorna
Guy Barker – solo trumpet
Paul Clarvis and Stephen Henderson – ethnic percussion
Pekka Kuusisto – violin
“The loved ones & the fellowship” are credited for reciting the stanzas in track 12.

Orchestra & Choir:
The Metro Voices (led by choir mistress Jenny O’Grady)
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, called “The Looking Glass Orchestra” (led by Thomas Bowes and conducted by James Shearman)
Pip Williams – director of orchestra & choir arrangements

Producer: Tuomas Holopainen

Country: Finland

Total Time = 1:14:50

Nightwish
Nightwish Facebook page
Roadrunner Records

(NOTE — This album was released worldwide in late 2011 but January 2012 for the U.S.)

Nightwish is a band that I never really got into until recently…..and by recently I mean since 2007’s DARK PASSION PLAY, the debut of Anette Olzon (formerly of Alyson Avenue) as frontwoman. Up until 2007, I only knew of Nightwish from the press the band received and the reviews I read online and, even though I enjoy female-fronted Metal of all kinds, I was completely unsure of former vocalist Tarja Turunen’s operatic style. The only Nightwish album I own from the Tarja era is WISHMASTER (2000) and I think I only bought it because I found it cheap in a used bin somewhere. DARK PASSION PLAY and Anette opened my ears to the excellent Symphonic Metal that Nightwish creates so I was pretty excited to hear that the band was releasing a new album, IMAGINAERUM, internationally in late 2011 and the U.S. in early January. Unfortunately, that excitement was slightly cancelled when I read that the new record would be a concept album with a movie based around the album.

Now I’m all for concept albums, if they are done right. Too many albums released today are deemed “concept albums” just because they have a running theme throughout. Nightwish, mainly composer/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, have taken it to another extreme by developing a film of the same name and each member having minor roles as themselves in the film itself. That makes IMAGINAERUM the soundtrack to the film that is being made…..sounds a lot like the idea behind KISS’ concept album (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER (1981). At least Nightwish are making the movie, KISS never got that far! So what is the concept? Holopainen’s story revolves around a dying composer who is reminiscing about memories from his youth while his adult memories slowly fade. Interesting but it sounds very Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The first song on the album is ‘Taikatalvi’, a song sung primarily in the band’s native Finnish by Marco Hietala and translated as “magic winter” in English. The song is very basic with minimal music accompaniment from Holopainen’s piano giving the song a children’s lullabye feel to it and it’s basically an intro to the actual album. I consider the track a throwaway and I skip it everytime I listen to the CD. The real opening song is ‘Storytime’ and it is everything that Nightwish is: bombastic and powerful full of orchestration and plenty of crunching guitars to go along with Anette’s vocals. This is the song that sets the album up for me and dashes any doubts as to the quality of the rest of the songs. Once I heard the huge symphonic sound of ‘Storytime’, I felt a little better about the whole concept, the film project and the rest of the record. Judge for yourself, here’s the video…..

‘Ghost River’ continues the bombastic Metal style but with a little more edge to it when Marco’s harsh vocals come in for the chorus. What I like here is that it’s not as “clean” a track as ‘Storytime’, there’s some added aggression in the vocals and guitar and it gives the band another dimension. There’s still plenty of orchestration and a children’s choir but there’s something haunting about this song and it gives off a sinister vibe at times. Just when I think that I know what the album is going to sound like, Nightwish throws in a curveball with the ballad ‘Slow, Love, Slow’ that sounds like it’s straight out of a Vegas lounge piano bar, it’s jazz vaudeville style reminds me of something Bette Midler might sing. The focus here is Anette’s voice and she is without a doubt one of the best singers in the genre…..the song segues right into ‘I Want My Tears Back’, a tried and true Power Metal feast that has a Celtic feel to it with bagpipes throughout. The guitar riff that opens ‘I Want My Tears Back’ is solid and the bagpipes kick in immeadiately on the main riff. There’s a beauty to Anette’s voice that has me in a trance at this point…..I could listen to her sing the telephone book to me (do they actually make those?). The only way I could describe the sound is like pure Power Metal meets the Renaissance sound of Blackmore’s Night…..Folk Metal maybe? It’s a great song and has plenty of power and the album has shown a lot of diversity so far and that’s obvious by the various styles on the uptempo metal nightmare that is ‘Scaretale’. The song is a nightmare scenario in the overall concept and it goes from all out Power Metal to an animated movie feel in the middle…..maybe something from my kids’ favorite A Nightmare Before Christmas? It’s a very diverse song and both Anette and Marco deliver very different vocal performances, Anette does a shrieky, scary vocal while Marco does a ring announcer/carnival barker vocal in the “animated movie” sequence. It’s an interesting track and keeps the listener guessing as to what they will hear next.

‘Scaretale’ moves directly into the instrumental ‘Arabesque’ which also has a movie soundtrack sound to it, I actually think of the old Conan movies when I hear it. Instrumentals don’t really grab me as they did back when I was younger so ‘Arabesque’ is more of a throwaway to me but it does tie the songs together and acts like a bridge to the ballad ‘Turn Loose The Mermaids’. If you want to hear what Blackmore’s Night sounds like, then this is the song! Anette does her best Candice Night impression and the band sounds just like Blackmore’s Night again with that Renaissance music sound. It’s actually a pretty good song and really focuses on Anette’s vocals, and let’s face it, she is the selling point of the band as Tarja was before.The band continues in the dramatic mid-tempo direction with ‘Rest Calm’ that has a solid main riff and good trade-off vocals from Marco & Anette while the song does from heavy to soft once the chorus kicks in. Reminds me of a Balance Of Power song from one of their records but with female vocals…..again, the beauty of the track is in the angelic voice of Anette Olzen. ‘The Crow, The Owl And The Dove’ is another slow ballad that builds dramatically while maintaining it’s calm pace with acoustic guitars, piano and subdued drums to go along with the vocals while ‘Last Ride Of The Day’ builds up immeadiately with choral vocals into a soft Anette purr as she builds up with the song, it kind of reminds me of ‘Storytime’ with it’s fast tempo and grand sound.

Nightwish is a band that thrives on their grandiose style and their bombastic approach, the band uses different orchestrations, choruses, tempo changes and arrangements to build their overall sound. This is extremely evident on the 13+ minute ‘Song Of Myself’, which is technically broken up into four sub-songs. The problem with this song is that thew first half is a proper song that runs into the same vein as other uptempo numbers on the album but the second half is mostly spoken word narration. This is where the overall concept gets in the way, who cares about the movie, just make a good record! If you edit the spoken word narration and cut ‘Song Of Myself’ in half, then you’ve got a solid album track. I understand the point that this is a concept record and the spoken word part follows that direction but there’s a point where it goes to far and it becomes pointless. The title track is the last song and it’s another instrumental of parts of every song on the album. It’s a nice way to roll the crdits on the upcoming film but nothing to really get excited about as an album track.

Just on a side note…..IMAGINAERUM was released as a single CD or a special limited edition double disc that included a bonus CD of just the instrumental version of the album. I decided against buying the limited edition version because I already knew that I would never listen to just the instrumental version. Only the absolute diehard Nightwish fans will enjoy that, I’m a fan of the entire package and especially Anette Olzen, so I found it unnecessary.

Bottom Line:
I’ve been honestly listening to this album since it’s early January release in the U.S. and I have really enjoyed it. I listen to the record and I hear new sounds all the time so it’s an album that is very complex and epic. The musicianship is above top notch and the vocals of both singers are awesome, Nightwish continues to get better with every album. My only complaint is that the album follows the movie concept on some songs more than others and that hurts the overall flow of the album. The good news is that Nightwish are so talented as musicians that they are able to evolve further with every release. At this point, the band is hitting it’s creative stride and they are poised to become one of those bands we talk about 20 years down the line. IMAGINAERUM is a solid album and one that I recommend, it’s surely in my end of the year top albums list.

Favorite Songs:
‘Storytime’, ‘Ghost River’, ‘I Want My Tears Back’, ‘Scaretale’, ‘Turn Loose The Mermaids’

Current Playlist

Here’s what’s been assaulting my ears this weekend!

KISS – ‘Hell Or Hallelujah’ single (2012): I finally broke down and purchased a song from iTunes for the very first time because I just couldn’t wait for the new KISS album, Monster, to hear this new single. I paid my $1+ and downloaded the tune and it’s been non-stop because it’s a great song! This is the KISS I like: heavy, fast, blazing guitars and Paul sounding great. If this is any indication of how the rest of Monster will sound, then it’s going to be a great record.

Motley Crue – ‘Sex’ single (2012): Thanks to the Crue for letting the fans download the track for free on the day of release. Just like the new KISS single, I’m playing this nonstop to get a handle on how the new album will sound. Seeing that both bands are touring together this summer it’s no surprise that both bands threw a teaser track out there to promote while on tour. ‘Sex’ isn’t bad (is it ever?), it’s a good song more along the lines of the Saints Of Los Angeles album from 2008. It’s hard to believe that album is 4 years old! ‘Sex’ didn’t impress me at first but it’s growing on me kind of like Van Halen’s ‘New Tattoo’ did.

Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth (2012): There’s just no getting over it…..this is one of the best albums of 2012! Say what you want about it not being a full Van Halen reunion, the recycled demos from the early years or David Lee Roth’s merits as a singer, this sounds like the album that would have come after the landmark 1984! I can’t stop playing it and I won’t miss their next stop in the New England area when they continue the tour.

UFO – Seven Deadly (2012): This new UFO record has been cemented into the stereo from Day #1! This is another awesome album from the band and it proves that good bands never age. Right now, this is a Top 5 album for me this year.

Lita Ford – Living Like A Runaway (2012): I’m missing the Def Leppard/Poison/Lita Ford concert on August 18 because that’s the day of my 40th birthday party but Lita is doing a signing and performance the next day at the Newbury Comics record store in Norwood, MA. My daughter and I are definitely there so I’m listening up on the new album…..it’s pretty good, very introspective and reflects Lita’s current personal life. Without a doubt, this is a far better album than Wicked Wonderland…..that was a pitiful record!

Lita Ford – Lita (1988): This was Lita’s big platinum seller back in the ’80s and the bulk of those sales came off the high MTV rotation of lead single ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ and her duet with Ozzy Osbourne ‘Close My Eyes Forever’. I figured that I’d re-listen to the hit record prior to the meet & greet at Newbury Comics and I just realized that it’s really a mediocre album. Is it the better wisdom of 24 years gone by or does the album have a staying power? I’m still listening and trying to decide.

Black ‘n Blue – Nasty, Nasty (1986): I had my iPod on shuffle the other day and the title track came on, I forgot that this was a Gene Simmons produced record and that gene used the main riff from this song for ‘Domino’ from Revenge (1992). I went back and gave all the Black ‘n Blue a fresh listen but Nasty, Nasty has stayed in my rotation…..what a great band they were, they should have been bigger.

Big Time Rush – (various songs): Yes, I’m talking about the boy band from Nickelodeon. I have two daughters and these guys are the biggest deal right now so we went to the concert yesterday (Sunday) at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA. I already know most of the songs from my kids’ iPods & CDs and the TV show but I got in a few more songs so I knew the tunes for the concert. My wife & I are cool parents and we shelled out the bucks for our kids to have a great time. I kept it Metal in the parking lot as we tailgated…..

I’ve been catching up on my podcasts as well…..definitely check these out on iTunes or head to their websites…..

Iron City Rocks — http://www.ironcityrocks.com/
Focus On Metal — http://www.focusonmetal.net/
Radioactive Metal — http://www.facebook.com/radmetal
Decibel Geek Podcast — http://dbgeekshow.blogspot.com/
Metalcast — http://www.metalcastshow.com/
Talking Metal — http://www.talkingmetal.com/2011/

CD Scavenger Hunt – July update

The Heavy Metal train keeps rolling to my 30th Anniversary of being a proud Metalhead (August 16th I turn 40!) and there is always plenty to buy! Lots of new releases, used CD treasure and great sales made of another productive, and expensive, month…..

Newbury Comics North Attleboro and Newbury Comics Warwick

Jorn Lande – Bring Heavy Rock To The Land (2012) – $13
Nile – At The Gate Of Sethu (2012) – $12
Machine Head – Unto The Locust (CD/DVD) (2011) – $15 used
Savage Messiah – Plague Of Conscience (2012) – $0 used

My first trip into the North Attleboro store was to take advantage of the sale price on the new Jorn Lande CD. Knowing it was out on Frontiers Records, it was an easy $20 but the sale price saved me $7. I didn’t have to run out for it because the label sent me the promo download but I always support my favorite artists and Jorn is one of the premier Metal singers out there. My second trip was to pick up the new Ozzy DVD and the new Nile album. When I got there, the two copies of the Speak Of The Devil ’82 DVD were sold out so I opted to take advantage of the “buy 1, get 1 free” sale on used discs…..I grabbed the last Machine Head album, Unto The Locust, and the new Savage Messiah record. The Machine Head cost me $15 used but I got the Savage Messiah free so what could have been $35 at regular price, or $23 used price, only cost the $15…..saved more than half on albums I needed. I snagged the new Nile on the way to the counter…..I never got into Nile back in the late ’90s but I’ve always wanted to pick up their 1998 debut full-length Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka. Everytime Nile releases a new record, I get the same urge to buy up some of their CDs so I fired up Spotify this time to stream their back catalog…..real solid Death Metal with Egyptian themes…..and the aren’t Egyptian, they are from South Carolina! Saved $6 buying the day of release and got the deluxe version with the two bonus instrumentals.

Ozzy Osbourne – Speak Of The Devil (Live From Irvine Meadows ’82) DVD (2012) – $13
Icarus Witch – Rise (2012) – $16
HellYeah – Band Of Brothers (2012) – $12
Defender – They Came Over The High Pass (1999) – $2 used
Glenn Tipton – Baptizm Of Fire (1996/2006 reissue) – $3 used
Broken Teeth – Viva La Rock Fantastico (2009) – $4 used
Superjoint Ritual – A Lethal Dose Of American Hatred (2003) – $4 used
Agent Steel – Skeptics Apocalypse (1985/1998 reissue) – $5 used

My trip into the Warwick store in mid-July was to get the new Ozzy DVD because it was out of stock in North Attleboro. While I was there, I picked up the new Icarus Witch and HellYeah albums. Ozzy and HellYeah were on sale so I saved a few bucks but I had to pay full price for the new Icarus Witch…..it was a must buy because they are one of my favorite traditional Heavy Metal bands of the last 6 years and I’ve been following them since their first E.P. While I was there, I decided to grab a few used CDs that were low in price and I had put together in a certain section of the used Metal CD racks…..the Defender CD was nice and cheap for a Power Metal album and I’d been watching it for awhile, same with the Superjoint Ritual album, but I scored a great newer album with the used Broken Teeth CD. The Agent Steel CD was set aside in my hiding spot because I thought I already owned it but I didn’t and I grabbed the Glenn Tipton reissue because I passed on it when it came out in 2006. Baptizm Of Fire wasn’t that great of a record back when it was first released in 1996 but I can’t resist bonus tracks forever!

Luca Turilli’s Rhaposdy – Ascending To Infinity (2012) – $12

Is it Rhapsody, Rhapsody Of Fire or Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody? The whole Rhapsody name change saga is a big pain in the ass: first they were Rhapsody and I got into their Symphonic/Epic Metal, then 10 years into their career they got sued by another band named Rhapsody for copyright issues and they went on as Rhapsody Of Fire to avoid confusion. Now founding guitarist Luca Turilli has left on good terms and formed a new Rhapsody as Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody and Rhapsody Of Fire is continuing on their own path. Did you get all that? All I know is that I like the Metal and I have two band’s to get my fix from. I went to the North Attleboro store quick while running a few errands and I grabbed this because it was the last copy I saw…..they had stocked at least 6 or 7 when it came out and I grabbed the last one with the sale price tag on it to save $6.

Crazy Lixx – Riot Avenue (2012) – $18
Running Wild – Shadowmaker (CD/DVD) (2012) – $18
Baroness – Yellow & Green (Deluxe) (2012) – $0
Testament – Dark Roots Of Earth (CD/DVD) (2012) – $16
Gojira – L’enfant Sauvage (2012) – $12
Crucified Barbara – The Midnight Chace – $0

Last day of the month and an awesome sale…..”Buy 2 get 1 Free on new & used CDs”. I got in the man-van (my rockin’ Kia Sedona!) and raced to North Attleboro when Newbury opened. Everytime I buy on one of these sales, the clerks always group like priced items together so I knew I had to pay a few extra dollars on a couple of CDs to get a similar one for free. Like the Jorn Lande album, I already had the digital promo of the new Crazy Lixx album from Frontiers but I wanted the actual CD for my collection and the new Running Wild disc has been on my list ever since Rock ‘n’ Ralf decided not to retire the band. Both of those CDs were regular price at $18 each but I scored the new Baroness double album for free. Yellow & Green just came out and I have the latest issue of Metal Hammer to thank for adding them to their free sampler CD, so I splurged on the deluxe packaged double disc album and saved the full $17 sale price ($22 regular). The new Testament album was the big release of the week so I bought the deluxe version on sale for $16, added the last copy of the new Gojira album that came out a few weeks ago (thanks again Metal Hammer!) and got the new Crucified Barbara CD for free and saved the full $10 sale price ($18 regular). I was going to buy the latest Dragonforce album that I didn’t get earlier in the year but I opted for the cheaper, and less available, option with Crucified Barbara.

Ebay

White Tiger – s/t (1986/1999 reissue) – $16 used
The Rods – Wild Dogs (1982/1997 reissue) – $12 used
Venom – Cast In Stone (1998) – $6 used

I got an Ebay alert for The Rods – Wild Dogs and I decided to finally try and win one of these CDs. I collect the now defunct German reissue label High Vaultage because of the genuine fan enthusiasm they put into each reissue, each one is chock full of bonus tracks, pictures and extensive liner notes. I noticed the same seller had a copy of Mark St. John’s post-KISS band White Tiger up for auction too so I bid and won on that as well. I added in the Venom album when I did some research and found out it was a 2CD set. All total with shipping was$34 for three albums I didn’t own.

Human Cometh

Human Cometh – HC II (2011) – $13

I was going through all my saved emails and I happened upon my email from the band Human Cometh promoting their second album, HC II. I ended up getting a promo download for review but I like to support the bands so, even though the band already sent me the digital download last year, I decided to go and ourchase the actual CD from the band’s website. Can’t beat any CD that has free shipping so I paid with Paypal and it was a done deal. Unfortunately, the CD hasn’t arrived in the mail yet but I checked and it’s on it’s way!

Total = $222

Total (year) = $1393

Average Price (per item) = $8.99

Total CDs (year) = 149

Total DVDs (year) = 5

Total Blu-Rays (year) = 1

Mr. Big – What If… (2011)

Mr. Big – What If… (2011, Frontiers Records)

  1. Undertow
  2. American Beauty
  3. Stranger In My Life
  4. Nobody Left To Blame
  5. Still Ain’t Enough For Me
  6. Once Upon A Time
  7. As Far As I Can See
  8. All The Way Up
  9. I Won’t get In My Way
  10. Around The World
  11. I Get The Feeling
  12. Unforgiven (bonus track)

DVD Extra – Undertow videoclip, All The Way Up videoclip, Making of WHAT IF…

Band Lineup:
Eric Martin – Lead Vocals
Billy Sheehan – Bass & Vocals
Paul Gilbert – Guitars & Vocals
Pat Torpey – Drums & Vocals

Producer: Kevin Shirley

Country: USA

Total Time = 50:54

Mr. Big
Mr. Big Facebook page
Mr. Big MySpace page
Frontiers Records

Has it really been 10 years since Mr. Big released their last studio album? And has it been 15 years since the original lineup released a new album? The answer to both questions is “Yes” so the next logical question is: Why is Mr. Big reuniting again? If you’ve been living under a rock for the last 22 years then you should know that Mr. Big is one of the biggest bands to come out of the late ’80s/early ’90s. The band had instant success with their self-titled debut album in 1989 and then released their follow-up, LEAN INTO IT (1991), that included the smash hit ballad ‘To Be With You’. Once the musical climate changed in the U.S. in the early ’90s, Mr. Big went on to international fame and fortune, especially in Japan. Mr. Big are gods in Japan and that is the reason for the current reunion of Eric Martin, Billy Sheehan, Pat Torpey and original guitarist Paul Gilbert…..the Japanese fans and promoters demand for Mr. Big is insatiable! The band reunited in 2009 for live dates and then hit the studio to create WHAT IF…

The album starts out with the hard rocking first single, ‘Undertow’, that immeadiately reminds the listener that the band is more than a bunch of balladeers, this band knows how to rock! The band sounds completely comfortable, all performances flawless, and the song is classic Mr. Big but with an updated edge. Eric Martin sounds in fine voice and the return of Paul Gilbert is solidified with his guitar solo…..I’d mention how great Sheehan and Torpey are but it’s a forgone conclusion that they are a solid rhythm team. The band hits hard again with ‘American Beauty’, a modern day version of ‘Addicted To That Rush’. This is how to rock! The band puts the foot to floor and heads back to the ’80s highway of fast melodic Hard Rock circa their debut album. The guitar and bass play right off each other and Gilbert turns in another brilliant solo while that funky bassline of Sheehan dances around it. So many fans hear the name Mr. Big and think of the ballads but if you listen to all their albums, especially the first two, these guys can rock with the best of them! That doesn’t mean the guys aren’t going to slow down and they do with ‘Stranger In My Life’, a ballad that showcases Eric Martin’s vocals…..this guy is just consistent, nailing down the vocals everytime on every album. All Mr. Big ballads will be compared to ‘To be With You’ but I’d say that ‘Stranger In My Life’ has more emotion and is more heartfelt, one of the best songs on the album. ‘Nobody Left To Blame’ keeps things on the slow side, more of a mid-tempo, but very heavy. There’s an edge here, a darker emotional feel, that really personalizes the song, Eric’s vocals sound very emotional like a sense of loss. The musicianship is top notch here, as is the case with every Mr. Big song, Sheehan and Torpey giving the song a groove that fits in well with Gilbert’s guitar heroics.

Time to kick it up a notch again with ‘Still Ain’t Enough For Me’, another fast-paced hard rocker that showcases the duelling Gilbert and Sheehan (especially at the solo break). This is another song that could easily be the modern day ‘Addicted To That Rush’ and that’s how I like Mr. Big to be: fast, heavy and straight forward. ‘Once Upon A Time’ continues the faster pace and is very heavy, Paul Gilbert really gets a thick sound on this track. I like the heavy modern edge to the song while maintaining the clean lines each musician follows…..on every song you can hear each player’s insturment clear as day. Obviously the band are excellent musicians but producer Kevin Shirley (producer for Journey, Iron Maiden, Queesryche and more) does another phenomenal job and makes the album sound flawless. I’ve read online that Shirley had the band play the songs live in the studio to capture the true feel of the band…..well, it worked because the band sounds better than they ever have. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since these four guys recorded together but it’s a testament to each member’s talent. The heaviness continues with ‘As Far As I Can See’ but you can hear the early Mr. Big in the melodic parts especially around the chorus…..I’m still wondering if Eric Martin has aged since 1989 because his vocals sound so good that he puts younger peers to shame. Ballad #2 arrives with the acoustic based ‘All The Way Up’, a cool change of pace from the heavier direction the album has taken so far. ‘All The Way Up’ is another perfect example of why Mr. Big gets lumped in with the “big hair” bands and the sweet love ballads, the band is just really good at making ballads! This song is heartfelt and very melodic with another vocal clinic from Eric Martin.

‘I Won’t Get In My Way’ continues the modern edgy Hard Rock and is another solid Rock song but there’s not much of the individual musical definition except come the solo break where Gilbert and Sheehan play off each other. The lack of musical individuality ends with the blazing melodic ‘Around The World’, as song that Billy Sheehan owns with his bass pyrotechnics! If you’re listening to WHAT IF… and you’re waiting for Billy to cut loose, this is the song! It’s not all bass though because the song is very melodic and the chorus is extremely catchy while Gilbert plays off Sheehan. The classic Mr. Big sound of the MTV era is alive and well on ‘I Get The Feeling’, a track that could easily have been a hit back in the day. It’s another melodic rocker with great guitar but I swear Eric Martin sounds a little like Tesla’s Jeff Keith on a couple of lines. The bonus track for the European/North American release is ‘Unforgiven’, another modern hard rocking song that’s very heavy and has that darker edge to it. If you’re like me, you needed to buy the limited edition version of WHAT IF… so there’s a bonus DVD included that has videos for both ‘Undertow’ and ‘All The Way Up’ and footage of the band making the album.

Bottom Line:
So what does Mr. Big have to offer in 2011? Obviously a lot because WHAT IF… is one of the best Melodic Rock records of the year! Seriously, I am already installing this album as 2011’s best and it’s going to be hard for someone to come along and beat it. There isn’t a weak song on the album, all are well written and well played. The production is flawless and Eric Martin proves that he is one of the best singers in Rock. Even the album artwork is great…..no one, including the band, ever thought they would reunite. Maybe “when pigs fly”? A perfect statement that shows the humor and fun Mr. Big is about. I was looking forward to getting this album and I am definitely happy with the results. Fans of Mr. Big will love this album as will fans of Melodic Hard Rock. Best album of 2011 so far!

Favorite Songs:
This is going to be tough because there isn’t a weak song on the album, each one is really great. If I had to pick four songs: ‘Undertow’, ‘American Beauty’, ‘All the Way Up’, ‘Still Ain’t Enough For Me’

Bon Jovi in concert at TD Garden (Boston, MA) – 3/1/2011

It’s hard to believe that it’s been four and a half months since I went to a live show but I was able to kick off my 2011 concert season with a trip to Boston to see Bon Jovi in concert this past Tuesday night. I’ll be very honest, I’m not a huge Bon Jovi fan. Back in the ’80s I was, especially from the first album through NEW JERSEY (1988), and I saw them live at the Providence Civic Center on both the SLIPPERY WHEN WET tour (with Cinderella) and the NEW JERSEY tour (with Skid Row). Anything after NEW JERSEY has never been my high priority list although I do have a few of their most recent albums, including THE CIRCLE (2009), and I caught them in concert back on the CRUSH tour in the Summer of 2001. The main reason I went to the concert is because I was taking my wife and Bon Jovi is her favorite Rock band. She has seen the band multiple times over the last few years including seeing the band on their home turf in New Jersey. Bon Jovi is to my wife what KISS is to me and I decided to go with her when tickets went on sale in November 2010…..$177 dollars a piece after all the Ticketmaster fees!

I’ve had the opportunity to see the band on previous tours but I swore off all Bon Jovi shows because of the show I saw in Summer 2001 supporting CRUSH. Nothing kills it for me than cover songs and Bon Jovi ended that concert with a cover of ‘Tequila’ and ‘Twist & Shout’ instead of reaching into their own catalog for something off the first two albums…..’Runaway’ maybe? That show was great until the last two songs and I was so disappointed that I haven’t seen the band live and I’ve been ultra-critical of them since. Eight years is a long time and Bon Jovi is selling out stadiums when many of their contemporaries and peers have trouble selling out theaters so it’s safe to say that they are as popular as they ever have been. My curiosity got the better of me and I got pretty psyched to see the band live after all these years, plus I heard they mix up the setlist from show to show! The concert was billed as “An Evening With Bon Jovi” so there was no opening act but that meant that there could be a possibly longer setlist, maybe a 2 to 3 hour show!

Bon Jovi setlist

Last Man Standing
You Give Love A Bad Name
Born To Be My Baby
We Weren’t Born To Follow
Lost Highway
Love’s The Only Rule
Work For The Working Man (cut short due to technical difficulties)
It’s My Life
Runaway
Just Older
We Got It Going On
Bad Medicine/Pretty Woman cover
Lay Your Hands On Me (Richie Sambora on vocals)
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover)
I’ll Be There For You
Bed Of Roses
Who Says You Can’t Go Home
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead/Start Me Up cover
Have A Nice Day
Keep The Faith

Encore:
Dry County
Wanted Dead Or Alive
I Love This Town
Livin’ On A Prayer

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed myself as much as I did, especially after I didn’t like the THE CIRCLE. The band did play three songs off that album (‘We Weren’t Born To Follow’, ‘Love’s The Only Rule’ & ‘Work For The Working Man’) and got them out of the way quick. The show opened with Jon Bon Jovi on a small stage behind the soundboard at the back of the arena (Paul Stanley style) right in front of us singing ‘Last Man Standing’. After the song, JBJ ran through the crowd (with security) to the stage to kick the frenzy into high gear with the classics ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ and ‘Born To Be My Baby’. So far, I’m good even though I didn’t know one word to ‘Last Man Standing’. I knew ‘We Weren’t Born To Follow’ and ‘Lost Highway’ but not ‘Love’s The Only Rule’ (from THE CIRCLE) but all three songs sounded pretty good live so I made a mental note to revisit THE CIRCLE to see if I the album might benefit from a fresh listen and a note to find the LOST HIGHWAY (2007) album at a cheap price. The show was basically going along fine, and the band sounded pretty good, until they launched into another CIRCLE song ‘Work For The Working Man’. The band got maybe 15-20 seconds in and you heard a big “pop” and there was no sound. Either the speakers went or something happened at the board but the arena, save for maybe the people up front, heard nothing. Of course the band played on being able to hear themselves through their in-ear monitors but they stopped halfway through and left the stage. After about 5 to 10 minutes, the band returned to massive cheers and kicked the show into high gear with ‘It’s My Life’.

One of my personal highlights was ‘Runaway’, the band could play anything off the first two albums and I’d be happy even though I’d prefer ‘She Don’t Know Me’ from the first record. I also was psyched to hear ‘Just Older’ from CRUSH, an album I really enjoyed when it came out. ‘We Got It Going On’ sounded decent and the crowd seemed to like it (another reason to check out LOST HIGHWAY) and then it was a double shot of NEW JERSEY tracks ‘Bad Medicne’ and ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’. ‘Bad Medicine’ is a trademark Bon Jovi classic so I would have preferred a more rocking performance without the cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’ attached. ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ is one of my favorite Bon Jovi songs so I was psyched to hear it but Richie Sambora took over the lead vocals while Jon went backstage for a quick break. A well-deserved one too because JBJ was all over the stage and sounded great vocally. I was a little disappointed with Richie’s vocal on ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, maybe it’s age but his voice wasn’t as strong as I’d remembered. Actually, Richie’s trademark background vocals on many of the songs during the show weren’t really that great. The other thing is that the youthful fire that the original songs had seemed a bit dim live this show, maybe it’s because the band has gone on a different direction musically over the years? Mybe it’s because the band has matured a lot more since 1986-1988? It just seemed like the classic songs from SLIPPERY WHEN WET and NEW JERSEY lacked some of that energy and seemed to follow the sound of the newer songs. After Richie was done, Jon returned to sing ‘Hallelujah’, the Leonard Cohen cover that I think was on a live DVD the band released recently. It’s a good song and JBJ does a decent job but all I can think of is Shrek!

I’m not big into Bon Jovi ballads so ‘I’ll Be There For You’ and ‘Bed Of Roses’ were boring for me but the throngs of ladies and Bon Jovi diehards (mostly women) seemed to enjoy them, the songs sounded decent live. Including ‘Bed Of Roses’, the next six songs were from the KEEP THE FAITH (1992) and HAVE A NICE DAY (2005) albums, both of which I don’t own. I always liked ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’ and that was one of the “newer” songs I was hoping to hear, ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’ got the crowd going but I didn’t know it…..I liked the cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ attached to it better than the actual song! ‘Have A Nice Day’ is another “newer” Bon Jovi tune I knew and wanted to hear, very catchy and came off good live, same with the other title track ‘Keep The Faith’. The encore started with the slow ‘Dry County’ off KEEP THE FAITH which I thought was a weird way to kick off an encore but it fit as the band pushed into the classic ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, with Rchie’s subpar vocals. ‘I Love This Town’ surprised me and now LOST HIGHWAY is on my Want List because every song I heard live from that album sounded great and , of course no show would be complete with out Bon Jovi’s signature anthem, ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’.

Overall, I had a good time and I kind of feel bad that I’ve given Bon Jovi the cold shoulder when it comes to picking up some of the last few records and seeing them in concert. I enjoyed hearing the classic songs from the ’80s, although some could use some more energy and power like on the records, but I think the “newer” songs were the best of the night. I’m definitely going to have to get out to the record store and try to acquire KEEP THE FAITH, HAVE A NICE DAY and LOST HIGHWAY because every song sounded great. I’m a little surprised the band didn’t take a track from THESE DAYS (1995) or BOUNCE (2002) because the band usually represents every album live…..except for 7800 FAHRENHEIT (1985)! Can anyone tell me why they ignore 7800 FAHRENHEIT every tour? That was a great album and I would guarantee that I would see the band in concert again if they played ‘In And Out Of Love’ or ‘Tokyo Road’. That said, Bon Jovi put on a solid show and I had a surprisingly good time.

AC/DC – High-Voltage Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History by Phil Sutcliffe (2010)

 AC/DC – High Voltage Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History (2010, Voyageur Press)

Author: Phil Sutcliffe

Pages: 224

Style: Hardcover

AC/DC
Voyageur Press

There’s nothing I like better than a good album but sometimes I need to get my Metal fix by reading a book about my favorite bands. Actually, all the books I read nowadays are biographies on bands! When AC/DC – High Voltage Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History crossed my desk in late 2010, I thumbed through it really quick and realized that this could possibly be one of the better books released over the year. The first thing that catches your eyes is the front cover of Angus Young performing one of his famous stage moves while flat on his back on stage…..the fun thing is you can actually spin the circle and make Angus do his thing! Right there, you know you have something different.

When I read a biography or history on a band, I always look for the attention to detail, the research and opinion. It’s fine to have a bunch of pictures in a book but the attention to detail in the captions and credits can make the read even better. Same goes for the actual writing, if there’s no attention to detail and no research then all you have is common knowledge and hearsay bound as a book. Author Phil Sutcliffe really put together one of the best books about AC/DC that I’ve seen in a long time by adding plenty of pictures of the band and memorabilia to his penned AC/DC history that takes us from the band’s humble beginnings straight through the band’s 2008 album, BLACK ICE. I grew up with ’80s AC/DC so it was especially important for me to be able to read about the earlier lineup of the band with the late Bon Scott on the mic. Almost 30 years on as an AC/DC fan, I love the Bon Scott led albums, and I know part of the band’s history, but AC/DC – High Voltage Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History gets in depth not only about Bon’s time in the band but also each member’s beginnings and AC/DC’s first incarnations including the Dave Evans era and their trip through Australia’s pub circuit.

As the book travels through AC/DC’s past, each album gets there own special review by other Rock journalists to not only lend a fresh perspective on the music made but also how the album related to AC/DC’s overall history. AC/DC’s first few albums had multiple issues depending on the territory it was released (Australia, North America, Europe, Japan) and sometimes an album was didn’t get a release in some countries until years later, this book sorts through these details and provides pictures of the different album artwork for the discerning collector. And that’s another thing that appeals to me, this book feeds a collector’s needs as well. It wouldn’t be an illustrated history without plenty of pictures and there are tons of pictures of merchandise and memorabilia from album covers to backstage passes, from picture discs to 45s, programs, posters, buttons, handbills and also the instruments. Add in all the rare photos of the band playing live across the world and you can just thumb through the book and see the band’s history! Some other cool additions packed in the book’s 224 pages is the attention given to the Young brothers’ gear that they use both in the studio and on stage, details on the working relationship the band had not only with each other but with their various producers, and an Afterword to end it all by Joe Elliot of Def Leppard.

Bottom Line:
If you’re an AC/DC fan (and how many Rock fans out there aren’t), then this is a great book to read up on the band’s complete history but also to get a sense of that history visually with all the band pictures and memorabilia. If you’re a collector, then this book will appeal to you as well with tons of pictures from private collections of the band’s albums, singles, t-shirts, posters, backstage passes, etc…..there’s plenty here to look at for everyone. My favorite part of the book was the album reviews, they were in depth and really not only gave you the information needed but there were definite opinions on each release whether good or bad, something that is rare in a retrospective type book like this. Getting the handle on which version of each album was released when in different countries was especially important to me to fill those holes in my AC/DC collection. If you want to read, or look, at a great Rock book, then AC/DC – High Voltage Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History is a good one to pickup.

(Copies of this book can be bought at Amazon.com)

CD Scavenger Hunt (February update)

February is about to end, and I’m not heading out on the hunt until the coming Tuesday (March 1st), so I figured I’d get this update out on time for a change! It was a pretty slow month for new releases at the record store but not online…..I may have to start ordering a little more at some of the online shops to get all those releases you just can’t get in-store anymore.

Newbury Comics

Motorhead – The World Is Yours (2011) – $10: A complete no-brainer here because any self-respecting Heavy Metal fan should be buying every new Motorhead album…..I’ve been a fan since the early ’80s so you know I was at the record store early for this one! I bought the CD for $9.99 on sale the day of release and I got the limited edition with the bonus DVD of part of the band’s performance at the 2006 Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany. This album was well-stocked but I didn’t see a single disc version at all and I’m not sure if there is a single disc. You know what you’re getting when you buy a Motorhead album, they’re like AC/DC in the regard that they do the same thing each time with no eye towards current trends. It’s all just kick ass Metal! Regular price for the limited edition was $17 so I saved $7 but you can’t blame someone for paying full price…..this is Motorhead after all!

Crowbar – Sever The Wicked Hand (2011) – $10: I picked up the new Crowbar as an afterthought, I figured I’d just try the band out. I’ve seen a few Crowbar videos on MTV2’s Headbangers Ball, and I got into the two Kingdom Of Sorrow albums, so checking out Crowbar was a natural progression. I don’t own any Crowbar albums and, aside from those few videos, I’d never heard a Crowbar song. Basically, I was walking around the record store and finding nothing of real importance or significance to add to my Motorhead purchase so I grabbed the Crowbar CD (it was displayed next to Motorhead) and went to the register. I don’t think I’ve ever left a record store with a single CD and I sure wasn’t about to start now! Regular price on the CD was $16 so I saved $7 with the $9.99 sale price…..not a large sum to risk on a band you have no experience with.

Lemmy – 49% Motherfucker/51% Son Of A Bitch DVD (2011) – $18: The main focus of my second trip to the local record shop was the new Lemmy documentary DVD…..how can you beat two weeks straight of Motorhead related new releases? I had seen the documentary on VH-1 Classic so I set the DVR to record it but I never bothered to watch it knowing that it would be severely edited…..at least they’re playing it! This is a 2 DVD set with the original documentary clocking in at about 2 hours on disc one and a bonus DVD with over three hours of extra material. That’s the stuff I want to see because you know that there’s got to be ton of interesting footage of Lemmy and Motorhead doing what they do. and a ton of behind the scenes/making of stuff as well. Lemmy is well into his his mid-60s and the guy is still making records, playing full tours and kicking ass! Original price on the DVD was $25 so I saved $7.

Mr. Big – What If… (2011) – $14: This was the second reason why I ventured out for a second hunt at Newbury Comics. Say what you want about Mr. Big but they always rocked even if they’re best known for their syrupy ballad ‘To Be With You’ from way back in 1991. If you remember, they had a hit off their first album with ‘Addicted To That Rush’ but they got lumped into the big hair and sappy love song bands and there’s so much more to them. I had originally thought that WHAT IF… was going to be released a week earlier (that’s what I was looking for the trip before) so I snatched up one of the three copies of the limited edition I saw in the new release section. You get a choice of the single disc for $11 or the limited edition with the bonus track ‘Unforgiven’ and a bonus DVD with two videos and the making of the record for $3 more. Seems logical to me! This album is an import on Frontiers Records so the regular price was a little higher on this version at $18 but I still saved $4.

Stryper – The Covering (2011) – $10: I support the bands I grew up with and Stryper is no exception. I started with SOLDIERS UNDER COMMAND (1985) and kept buying all their studio albums over the years. I was hoping for a brand new studio album because their last one was awesome but I knew exactly what I was getting into with THE COVERING. It’s an album of covers with one new song…..and I detest covers records when new material could be put out.For some reason, I always get sucked into these cover albums, and the tribute albums too. I figured that the sale price wasn’t a lot to risk and maybe there would be some decent versions of the songs…..it’s not a bad album, just one I probably won’t spin again. I guess I wasted $10? Well, at least I saved $5 off the regular price! The band is coming to town in late March but this new CD doesn’t get my blood pumping to buy a ticket…..yet.

Hurtsmile -s/t (2011) – $10: I’ve been an Extreme fan from the beginning and I was a big supporter of Gary Cherone in Van Halen so I was on the lookout for this new project from Gary while Extreme takes a break. The Extreme reunion of the last few years has been excellent, especially their last record SAUDADES DE ROCK (2008), but Gary’s last project, Tribe Of Judah, sucked royally! Tribe of Judah was way to experimental and that’s the problem with Gary solo: you never know what you’re going to get. Even the album with Van Halen was experimental but that was more Eddie Van Halen than Gary. Hurtsmile could either be an Extreme-like project or an extreme project. Gary isn’t above experimenting and trying different syles but that Tribe of Judah record was so bad it still hurts! This one’s a risk like Stryper but I’m high on Extreme right now so I think it will be worth it. Regular price was $15 so I saved $5.

Nelson – Lightning Strikes Twice (2011) – $17: Another risky purchase, especially at the full regular price! I admit it, I own AFTER THE RAIN (1990) and I liked it back in the day…..there was no way to escape it! I haven’t bought another Nelson record since and I’ve had ample opportunities to add some of their follow-ups at cheap used prices. Call it backlash but I just couldn’t stomach Nelson after they were all over MTV with their squeaky clean image. So why am I buying their latest album? Not sure but I was walking around the store and the album cover caught my eye. Frontiers Records was having a great release day with ’80s artists with Nelson, Mr. Big and Gary Cherone’s Hurtsmile and they were all well-stocked. If I’m going to take a chance on Stryper doing covers and Cherone possibly releasing a wreck of a record then I can definitely plnk the money down for 12 original tunes by the talented Nelson brothers. And that’s the thing, these guys are talented musicians, they just got lumped in with the rest back in the day and they paid for their quick rise to the top. I’m as interested in this as I am the new Mr. Big…..looking forward to it.

Cauldron – Burning Fortune (2011) – $7: I had to counter the ’80s bands’ new releases with some solid new school Traditional Metal and the new record from Cauldron fit the bill. When I read about a band, I write the name down for future reference and I’d done that with Cauldron a couple years ago when I read a review on their first album, CHAINED TO THE NITE (2009). I never picked that album up but I kept the name on my wish list so I could pick it up at some point. I like what these guys have to offer: basic heavy Metal like I grew up with and they’re a three piece, if they sound like their Canadian counterparts Anvil or Annihilator then I’ll be happy. How can you pass up a new album for $6.99 on sale? I can’t ! I would have grabbed this based on the old school album artwork anyway so it’s cool to check out this band on the cheap price. Regular price was $12.99 so I saved $6.

Total = $96

Total (year) = $163

Average Price (per item) = $8.58

Total Savings (month) = $41

Total Savings (year) = $195

Total CDs (year) = 18

Total DVDs (year) = 1

Total Box Sets (year) = 0

Total LPs (year) = 0

Requiem Aeternam – Destiny-Man (2010)

Requiem Aeternam – Destiny-Man (2010, ICorp)

  1. Exordium
  2. Destiny-Man
  3. Requiem Aeternam
  4. Freewill
  5. Existence
  6. Vying
  7. Purposiveness
  8. Ser
  9. Perserverance
  10. Epitaph

Musicians:
José Romero Sum – Vocals, Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Fabián Redondo – Drums

Producers: Requiem Aeternam

Country: Originally from Uruguay, now based in the U.S.

Total Time = 50:05

Requiem Aeternam
Requiem Aeternam MySpace page
Philosophical Metal

Requiem Aeternam is a Progressive Black/Death Metal band that formed in Uruguay in 1995. The band has released two albums, ETERNALLY DYING (1998) and PHILOSPHER (2004), while enduring various personnel changes over the years with only José Romero Sum as an original member. For DESTINY-MAN, Sum and drummer Fabián Redondo were the songwriters and performers…..an extremely hard but rewarding task when you hear the wall of intricate sound the album contains. Requiem Aeternam defines their music as “Philosophical Metal”, a genre “which entails not only philosophical lyrics, but also music that gets intertwined with philosophical thinking, music that has existential meaning, and not simple imitation of already-known patterns of composition.” Each song on DESTINY-MAN is inspired by Classical composers who many may not think of as philosophers but the band thinks of as deep thinkers of music. Just reading the press release gives you a sense that the album is diverse and unique.

I went into this album with a hint of trepidation because I’m not the biggest fan of Black/Death Metal. One of my goals in the last year was to expose myself to more extreme forms of Metal and that has helped in my enjoyment and appreciation of DESTINY-MAN. The opening acoustic intro, ‘Exordium’, has a beautiful sound that moves right into the Yngwie-styled guitar intro to the title track. Despite the blastbeat drums and guttural vocals, the guitar intro is what captured my interest and made me listen closely for the music underneath. Same thing with ‘Requiem Aeternam’, the opening guitar opened me up to the rest of the song and, dare I say, the music is more Traditional Metal/NWOBHM inspired through much of the album until the vocals kick in. Throughout the balance of the record, a frantic and disjointed style begins to emerge but all within the concept of blending the extreme with Classical and with Progressive. My own personal tastes are suited to the Classical influence mixed with the Progressive Metal and I get a little lost with the brutal aspects. ‘Freewill’ is a solid song and I like the blend of styles but I find the extreme vocals distracting, I did like the clean vocals and thought they fit the song a little better. The instrumentation on ‘Existence’ is really well done and the guitar sound is really clean, very Iron Maiden in some parts to my ears. Another standout song I liked was ‘Ser’…..again, solid guitar work and I like the clean vocals. The guitar has that Maiden quality to it at times and the lack of blastbeat drums are a welcome sound, there seems to be more of groove here rather than trying to smash two different forms together to construct a song.

Bottom Line:
DESTINY-MAN is an ambitious album that blends the extreme to the fine form of Classical and the Metal of Progressive and I think, on the whole, Requiem Aeternam accomplished their goal of defining a new genre of Philosophical Metal because the music does make you focus and think. I’m not as well studied in Black & Death Metal as others may be but I do know my Traditional and Progressive Metal and those are the parts of the album that I enjoy most. Most of the best Metal is based on Classical music, I can hear the Rainbow & Yngwie Malmsteen influence, and I can definitely hear the Progressive styles of Iron Maiden & Dream Theater, I just find the vocals and the drums distracting. That’s not to say they aren’t well done, it’s just that I’m not used to them. Overall, I found a lot of interesting music on DESTINY-MAN and I had to go back and give the album a few spins to really absorb what the band is trying accomplish. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Metal to make you think? I enjoyed this album more than I thought I would and I’ve gone back a few times to see if I missed anything, I’m just not sure if my doubts are based on my inexperience with harsher Metal.

Favorite Songs:
‘Freewill’ & ‘Ser’