Posts Tagged ‘Praying Mantis’

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!

2009 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I am still very lucky to have many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review, to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU! Without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases and discovered some new bands. I have totalled up the CDs and there were 125 albums up for this year’s honors!

The only criteria I followed for my Top 40 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection AND the album had to be released in 2009. In the beginning of the year I decided that an album that was released in 2008, but was released in 2009 for the U.S., qualified as a 2009 album…..basically I went by the date on the back of the CD! There are plenty of albums that got late U.S. releases and there may be a few in this countdown. 

The ranking of the Top 40 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom Line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I more than doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into three posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here is part 2, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11 – #25):

#25

Ravage – The End Of Tomorrow (2009): Living in the New England area, there really isn’t much of a local scene like there used to be, especially in Rhode Island, but there are a few bands worth checking out. Ravage has been a fixture on the Massachusetts scene for over a decade but this is only their second full-length album! With most bands on the local, and national, scene playing mostly Metalcore and/or Hardcore it’s refreshing to hear a band play old school Traditional Metal. You could call this Power Metal too, maybe even Thrash in some spots. The bottom line here is that Ravage released a solid record that reminds me of my early ’80s roots…..great to have another local band in this year’s countdown.

#24

Artillery – When Death Comes (2009): WHEN DEATH COMES was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, as well as, one of the albums I was really looking forward to. Thrash is on a major comeback and it was good to hear a new Artillery album, this one with new lead singer Søren Nico Adamsen. I feel that Artillery has expanded their overall sound and added enough melodic touches to their Thrash base to make this album even better than expected. I didn’t take WHEN DEATH COMES out of my regular weekly rotation until mid-November so I really spent a lot of time with it and it hasn’t disappointed.

#23

Slayer – World Painted Blood (2009): Any year with a new Slayer album is a good year and anytime you get a new Slayer album then you know it’s going to be good. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest Slayer fan but I have been following the band since the early ’80s. 2009 was a year for me to fill all the holes in my Slayer collection and give the entire catalog a serious listen. Then the new album was released and I’ve given that all my attention. The more I listen to WORLD PAINTED BLOOD, the more I like it. It’s brutal, heavy, and dangerous…..just like a Slayer album should be!

#22

Bloodbound – Tabula Rasa (2009): The only reason I picked this album up because Urban Breed (ex-Tad Morose, current Pyramaze) was the lead singer. Besides Urban, I knew nothing about Bloodbound but TABULA RASA turned out to be a great buy! I’d call this heavy Power Metal incorporating great guitarwork, a solid rhythm section and, of course, awesome vocals. This is more or less a concept album with most of the songs having the tabula rasa (Latin for “blank slate”) idea but each song stands out on there own. Another big surprise for 2009 and an album I have kept in my weekly rotation for most of the year.

#21

Mastodon – Crack The Skye (2009): I only started listening to Mastadon in 2006 with BLOOD MOUNTAIN so I’m not as familiar with the band’s style as others might be. I’m not going to lie…..I had a hard time getting into this album at first, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the wall of sound that Mastodon is. I bought this when it was released and gave it serious listening time but I didn’t get it. After letting it sit and coming back to it, I get it! Mastodon is going to be like Dream Theater for me where I have to stop listening and then come back later for more, especially with Mastodon as they continue to evolve their sound from album to album. I didn’t rank this as high as other websites’ but this is definitely one of the year’s best.

#20

Candlemass – Death Magic Doom (2009): When Messiah Marcolin left Candlemass again in 2006 I didn’t think that a new record would be anything short of a letdown. That’s why I passed on 2007′s KING OF THE GREY ISLANDS. I picked this album up because the sale price was right and I figured I’d check out what the band sounded like with their current vocalist Robert Lowe (Solitude Aeturnus). One listen to ‘Hammer Of Doom’ and I was hooked into the pure Doom influenced by Ozzy-era Black Sabbath…..after that, I was hooked. Robert Lowe puts in a great performance and the band hasn’t lost a step…..another great surprise for me in 2009 and definitely in the Top 20.

#19

Stryper – Murder By Pride (2009): I only bought MURDER BY PRIDE because I have been a Stryper fan since the early ’80s and I still support the bands I grew up with. I had a lot of doubts about this album because the band’s last album, REBORN (2005), was awful. Then there is the Boston connection, lead vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet now fronting the Classic Rock band…..I wasn’t sure about a cover of the Boston classic ‘Peace Of Mind’ being added to a new Stryper record. Talk about a comeback, Stryper does a complete about-face and shelves the grungy sound they used on REBORN for a return to their classic melodic ’80s sound. The difference between 2009 and 1983-1990 is that the overall religious message isn’t constantly crammed into the listener, the message is still there but it’s more subtle. Stryper had me singing along almost right away and that’s always a good sign…..and the Boston cover? It’s pretty good!

#18

U.D.O. – Dominator (2009): If you’re an old school Metal fan, then you should be an Accept fan. If you’re an Accept fan, then being an U.D.O. fan is basically the same thing. Udo Dirkscheider continues to fly the Accept flag through his namesake by playing uncompromising Traditional Heavy Metal that is always high quality. Every year U.D.O. releases a new record you know exactly what you’re going to get and DOMINATOR is definitely follows the same path as other U.D.O. albums. It’s great to have a veteran band that’s consistent year in and year out releasing solid Metal albums, now if they could just find a better album cover for this one!

#17

Outloud - We’ll Rock You To Hell And Back Again! (2009): First let’s settle the confusion on the album title. The band’s label, Frontiers Records, lists this as “Self-titled” or “Outloud” but there is the title of “We’ll Rock You to Hell And Back Again!” above the band logo on the album cover. Which is it? The Metal websites & blogs are split down the middle and so are the online retailers. All year I went with “s/t” but I will use what’s on the album cover for this list. Back to the music…..remember the late ’80s? Outloud does! This album is a heavy melodic Hard Rock record that is full of hooks and bombastic arena tailored riffs…..fans of Dokken, Europe, early Bon Jovi and definitely Riot will all like this. I had this ranked higher but it fell as other albums moved up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on a lot of year end lists.

#16

Jorn Lande – Spirit Black (2009): I swear that everything Jorn Lande does is near perfect! Doesn’t matter if it’s with Masterplan, Ark, solo or part of projects, Jorn always puts in a masterful performance. It’s hard to believe that SPIRIT BLACK is Jorn’s seventh studio album in ten years but he just keeps releasing album after album of great Metal. SPIRIT BLACK is a record that still has a ton of melody and hooks but a lot heavier, more Heavy Metal. When I was putting this list together, Jorn Lande was an obvious choice…..just listen to that voice, he’s becoming one of my favorite singers alongside Halford, Dio, Turner, Hughes, Bonnet, Soto and D.C. Cooper.

#15

Helix – Vagabond Bones (2009): This is one of the biggest surprises of 2009! I only picked up VAGABOND BONES a few weeks ago but it has been the most played album on a daily basis ever since. Helix always puts out consistently good albums and I have to give Brian Vollmer credit for following his musical formula and keeping everything sounding fresh. Sure, the Helix sound is rooted in AC/DC and the big ’80s but isn’t that what’s so good about them? VAGABOND BONES is an absolutly fun record with a ton of hooks that had me singing right along almost immeadiately. Some of the great songs here are ‘Go Hard Or Go Home’, ‘Jack It Up’ and ‘Vagabond Bones’. Go to the excellent PlanetHelix to give this album a listen and then go buy it!

#14

Primal Fear – 16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead) (2009): The best thing Primal Fear did in the last few years was to expand their Power Metal sound by adding in a lot of different melodic styles. They did it with NEW RELIGION in 2007 and they have continued with 16.6. You’ve got serious heavy metal with ‘Riding The Eagle’ and then  melodic balladry with ‘Black Rain’ moving into more traditional Metal on ‘Killbound’. Basically, Primal Fear keeps you guessing as to what’s next and the expansion of their overall sound makes them more diverse and exciting then a lot of other Power Metal bands crowding the scene. This album took a few listens to take hold but it became one of my favorite albums of the year and stayed in the weekly rotation for most of 2009.

#13

Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos (2009): The best Thrash album of 2009 without a doubt! I’ve had HORDES OF CHAOS since mid-December 2008 when the kind  people at SPV sent me a promo and I have been playing it regularly for the entire year. I know that Megadeth, Slayer and Artillery all released great Thrash albums this year but kreator set the bar high early on and no one has matched it. The intensity is there, the blistering guitar is there, the brutality is there too but what sets HORDES OF CHAOS apart is that Kreator wasn’t afraid to expand their Thrash formula and add in some melodic flourishes to the overall sound. I hope we don’t have to wait another four years again between new Kreator albums.

#12

Praying Mantis – Sanctuary (2009): SANCTUARY is one of the big reasons why 2009 was such a great year for music, it was one of those albums that came out of nowhere and was just excellent. I grew up with bands from the NWOBHM so I know all about Praying Mantis but I really didn’t expect much from the band 20+ years after I discovered them. SANCTUARY is one of the best AOR/Melodic Rock albums of the year…..there are enough fast songs, mid-tempo songs and ballads that blend together to create a diverse wall of sound filled with melody and hooks a plenty. Current singer Mike Freeland puts in as smooth and effortless performance as  Joe Lynn Turner would and the music is striking in it’s power and beauty. Tino and Chris Troy have kept the Praying Mantis flag flying and SANCTUARY is one of their crown jewels…..I certainly enjoyed this album all year long and it just barely missed out on the Top 10.

#11

FarCry – High Gear (2009): Another band, and album, that came out of nowhere to really captivate my attention and turn in one of the best Melodic Rock albums of 2009! FarCry is a new band and HIGH GEAR is an awesome debut filled with some of the best ’80s styled AOR/Melodic Rock I’ve heard in a long time with big harmonies, hooks and guitars. The music reminds me of classic Danger Danger, Tyketto, Firehouse and Warrant with a bit of Survivor and Journey mixed in. Sounds like good music? It is. Bottom line is FarCry isn’t reinventing the wheel here, their sound is easily 20+ years old for a new band, but they do this kind of music extremely well…..they have great songwriting, good performances, and huge production. HIGH GEAR is one of the best purchases I made this year and it just missed my Top 10. Well worth checking out, I’ve listened to it daily for months!

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Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

praying mantis - sanctuary

Praying Mantis – Sanctuary (2009, Frontiers Records)

  1. In Time
  2. Restless Heart
  3. Tears In The Rain
  4. So High
  5. Turn The Tide
  6. Touch The Rainbow
  7. Threshold Of A Dream
  8. Playing God
  9. Highway
  10. Sanctuary

praying mantis 2009

Band Lineup:
Tino Troy – Guitars, Keyboards & Vocals
Chris Troy – Bass, Keyboards & Vocals
Mike Freeland – Lead Vocals
Andy Burgess -  Guitars, Keyboards & Vocals
Benjy Reid – Drums/Percussion

Producer: Andy Reilly

Country: United Kingdom

Total Time = 51:18

Praying Mantis
Praying Mantis MySpace page
Frontiers Records

I have always been a big fan of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) movement from the early 1980s and I always make it a point to check out the new albums that some of the continuing bands release. Back in the day, I remember reading a lot about their debut TIME TELLS NO LIES (1981) in a lot of the Rock magazines and I eventually picked it up as well as some of their other albums I discovered when I started to research some of the classic bands in the late ’90s. Despite being lumped in with the rest of the up and coming bands of the NWOBHM era, Praying Mantis always seemed to have a different style to their music: more Melodic Hard Rock and AOR than all out Heavy Metal. When I read that Praying Mantis was releasing their first new album in six years, I knew that I was going to pick it up and that it would be a good record.

Let’s talk about the band lineup first. The Troy brothers (Tino & Chris) have always been the mainstays of the band and they are joined by touring members Benjy Reid (drums) and Andy Burgess (guitars, keyboards) so there is a consistent base. One thing Praying Mantis is known for is numerous lineup changes, especially at the vocal spot. Former singers include some big names like Doogie White, Gary Barden, Paul Di’anno and Bernie Shaw…..now add Mike Freeland (ex-More, ex-Nemesis) to the list! Freeland has a very melodic voice but with a lot of power and range, he kind of reminds me of Joe Lynn Turner a bit because his singing sounds so effortless and melodic. Also maybe Toby Hitchcock from Pride Of Lions and Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween, current Place Vendome). Freeland doesn’t have that high Metal range like a Ralf Scheepers or Geoff Tate in his prime but he has a solid singing voice that fits the music perfectly.

SANCTUARY starts off with the melodic Metal of ‘In Time’, it has some Power Metal characteristics at times with driving drums and excellent guitar work but the song leans towards the melodic side half the time. Some high vocals here from Freeland set the bar high for the rest of the record. ‘Restless Heart’ reminds me of Journey and Survivor with a powerful lead guitar and vocal harmonies as does the mid-tempo ‘Tears In The Rain’. Both songs have that solid blend of guitar harmonies, complimentary keyboards and excellent vocals…..songs that would have been radio singles back when radio was good! Momentum picks up again with the Joe Lynn Turner-era Rainbow style of ‘So High’, my favorite song off the album. It’s very melodic but Hard Rock and the band sounds energetic and fluid performing with ease and the vocals are top notch. ‘So High’ has that melodic hook that gets you cranking the stereo and singing along.

A piano and acoustic guitar intro opens the smooth ballad ‘Turn The Tide’ that has really great vocals harmonies like AOR greats Survivor and Journey but Freeland has that smooth JLT thing going again and it fits the track perfectly. I’m a sucker for an acoustic based song and the guitarwork on ‘Turn the Tide’ is superb. Praying Mantis picks up the tempo again with another Rainbow influenced song, ‘Touch The Rainbow’, and the melodic Metal of ‘Threshhold Of A Dream’. Both songs show off the excellent axework and vocals but I found myself concentrating on Benjy Reid’s drums and Chris Troy’s bass, a solid rhythm throughout the entire album, it sounds like they’ve been together for years. ‘Playing God’ gets heavy with a thick main riff and solid guitar solos but there is that melodic touch that Praying Mantis adds in that really makes the song memorable…..this is how it is over the entire record and that makes a good record! Moving back to the ’80s AOR of Journey, Bad English and Toto, ‘Highway’ is an excellent melodic song that would have been a hit single back in the day. It’s a very commercial, radio friendly song that is the polar opposite of the band’s NWOBHM roots but Praying Mantis are so versatile that they can play different styles with ease. The album ends with the title track ‘Sanctuary’, a six minute melodic Hard Rock feast.

Bottom Line:
I went into SANCTUARY expecting Praying Mantis to pull out a heavy, NWOBHM styled album but instead they produced one of the best melodic rock albums I’ve heard this year. There are heavier and faster songs, a couple of ballads and a few mid-tempos that all blend in together perfectly to make SANCTUARY a top album of 2009. The Troy brothers are still the solid anchors they’ve been since the late ’70s and they are complimented well by both Burgess and Reid but the standout has to be new singer Mike Freeland. Freeland puts in a solid performance showing he can sing both the harder and softer side of Hard Rock with good tone and range, he is definitely the man to fill the vocal slot in Praying Mantis for years to come. If you like ’80s styled AOR/Melodic Rock with a heavier updated twist, then SANCTUARY is well worth picking up.

Favorite Songs:
I really enjoyed the entire album but the standouts for me were ‘Restless Heart’, ‘Tears In The Rain’, ‘Turn The Tide’ and ‘Heaven’/

I’ve got the AC/DC concert, with Anvil opening up, on Tuesday so I’m listening to a lot of both bands lately but the latest studio records from both bands have been getting the majority of the spins…..

AC/DC – Black Ice (2008): I haven’t really listened to much of BLACK ICE in the last couple of months so I figured I’d give it a few fresh spins, especially since the band has been playing about 5 new songs live!

Anvil – This Is Thirteen (2007): This album has been played a lot since I bought it in 2008 and I’m still not sick of it. I definitely can’t wait to hear a couple of tracks live on Tuesday.

Praying Mantis – Sanctuary (2009): I just got this album in the mail the other day and I’ve only given it one quick spin. I’m a big NWOBHM fan and Praying Mantis released one helluva debut with TIME TELLS NO LIES back in 1981 so I’m hoping that this album will be one of the year’s best. I need to really sit down with this over the next week and give it serious time.

Motley Crue – Shout At The Devil (1983): I’ve been on a Crue kick for the last week so I pulled this one out to relive some childhood memories. The Crue were the biggest band back in the ’80s and his album along with their debut (TOO FAST FOR LOVE) were the most Metal the band would get. I never get sick of listening to this album,

Motley Crue - Generation Swine (1997): A lot of people hate this record but I always liked it. It was definitely a more modern Hard Rock sound compared to the party metal Crue had in their ’80s heyday but you have to remember that this album was written with John Corabi in mind…..then the reunion with Vince Neil was pushed in to cash in. There are some standout songs like ‘Afraid’, ‘Glitter’, and ‘Confessions’ but there are also stinkers like ‘Brandon’…..I had to sit there and listen to Tommy Lee gush this out on piano when I saw the tour in Worcester, MA back in 1997. Awful song!

Tesla – Forever More (2008): I missed out on this album last year because I was lazy. I bought it right around the time it came out and I left it wrapped until Christmas. I think I’ve only given it one spin, maybe two. I’ve read a lot of reviews and everyone really seems to like it so I think I need to spend more time with it.

Motorhead – Everything Louder Than Everyone Else (Live In Hamburg, Germany) (1998): This is one of my favorite live albums and I haven’t listened to it in a very long time. This album was recorded on the tour for 1998′s SNAKE BITE LOVE but the 25 song set is wide ranging from obvious classic like ‘Iron Fist’, ‘Overkill’ and ‘Ace Of Spades’ to songs that were newer then like ‘Love For Sale’ and ‘Take The Blame’. I especially like hearing four tracks from 1993′s BASTARDS, a seriously underrated Motorhead record.

KISS – Carnival Of Souls (The Final Sessions) (1997): The “lost” KISS album. CARNIVAL OF SOULS is a good modern Metal record and definitely a twin companion to REVENGE (1992). I had a bootleg of this record for a couple of years but I was glad that the band finally released the album properly in ’97 in the middle of the reunion with Ace & Peter. Too bad it didn’t come out in 1994 or 1995 because it’s definitely a solid record from the band’s most talented, and stable, lineup since the original makeup days.

ironmaidenandnewwaveofbyw4

Iron Maiden & The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal DVD (2008, Sexy Intellectual Productions)

(Region 0, NTSC, Total Running Time = 157 minutes)

When I was a kid in the early ’80s and I started getting serious about Heavy Metal, many of the bands that I started listening to were from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon, Samson and Girlschool were all playing on my stereo and their pictures were hanging on my walls alongside KISS, Judas Priest and AC/DC. As I got older, I discovered a lot of other new bands from the NWOBHM and older Metal bands that benefited from the movement. Judas Priest, AC/DC, Motorhead and even Black Sabbath saw a resurgence at the beginning of the ’80s due to the NWOBHM explosion.

For those not familiar with the NWOBHM here’s a quick simple explanation:

By the late ’70s, big time Arena Rock acts like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, KISS, and Aerosmith were viewed as dinosaurs of the music world and the newest musical fads were Disco and Punk. In the U.K., the Punk movement was a phenomenon and the do-it-yourself rebellious attitude influenced an entire movement of kids forming bands and trying to do something different. Taking a cue from the “dinosaur” bands, these new musicians actually learned to play their instruments well, something many Punks didn’t bother with, and set out to “make it”. The music was loud, raw and heavy and took influences from all styles of music. The biggest bands to come out of the NWOBHM were Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon but there were literally hundreds of bands popping up all over England almost overnight and the new Metal movement made it’s mark.

What this DVD tries to accomplish is to chronicle the history of the NWOBHM from interviews with some of the movement’s players and Rock journalists of the time. There are interviews with Paul Di’anno and Dennis Stratton (Iron Maiden), Brian Tatler (Diamond Head), Thunderstick (Samson), Rob Weir (Tygers Of Pan Tang), Tino & Chris Troy (Praying Mantis) and Girlschool. These are band members that lived the experience and they shed a personal light on what it was like starting out and continuing on with their careers. Other interviews come from journalists Geoff Barton, Malcolm Dome, Jerry Ewing and Joel McIver who all had a first had account of the Metal climate of the time and they add critical review to different aspects and bands of the movement. Of course a retrospective DVD on the NWOBHM would not be complete without the insight of Neil Kay, the Heavy metal DJ who formed the Soundhouse club and who almost single-handedly spearheaded the NWOBHM with his love of well-played Rock. If it wasn’t for Neil Kay, would bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon be playing to millions to this day?

This DVD packs in a ton of rare footage from newsreels, concerts and studio sessions to give an inside historical look at the beginnings of the new Metal genre. There are plenty of interviews and commentaries as well as a bonus section that includes some extended interviews, the NWOBHM and BBC Radio 1, and a interactive challenge game. Like I said, I’m a big fan of the NWOBHM so anything that gives a historical perspective is at the top of my list, the only complaint I have is that there wasn’t much said about some of the lesser known, and less successful, bands of the genre. I would have liked to hear a little more on Rock Goddess, Tokyo Blade, Angel Witch, Jaguar, and many of the rest but there’s only so much time to a DVD! Honestly, you could make a multiple DVD set, or an entire series, exploring the numerous NWOBHM bands but it would get out of focus. This DVD focuses on the more well-known bands, the most successful bands, and moves on from there. No matter what, it’s one of the best DVDs I’ve seen in a long time.

Just a quick word to the wise here: you may have noticed that the DVD title uses Iron Maiden? If you’re looking for footage of the current lineup of Iron Maiden, or a lot of Maiden footage, then I would go out and buy a Maiden DVD. There is a good size portion of the DVD dedicated to the rise of Iron Maiden, they were the biggest and most successful band of the NWOBHM, but the current lineup of Maiden, their management and their label have not authorized this DVD. There is some audio and video of early Maiden but the official stuff is under the cpyright control of the band. It’s still an awesome DVD!

Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of the NWOBHM, then you should run right out and buy this! If you’re a Metal fan and enjoy learning about the history of Metal, then this is an absolute must! What really makes this DVD is the genuine love of the NWOBHM music that everyone involved with it has. These band members and journalists were right in the thick of the movement when things were new and ideas were fresh and their enthusiasm in talking about it all makes it genuine. For me, this DVD was a great companion piece to The NWOBHM Encyclopedia (by Malc MacMillan) reference book. I’ve had that book since it was published in 2001 and it has been an invaluable resource in my quest for picking up NWOBHM albums, I recommend finding that too!

For more info on the NWOBHM, check out these websites:

NWOBHM.info
The Old School Metal Show
Encyclopedia Metallum: The Metal Archives