CD Scavenger Hunt – July update

I’m way behind on keeping you updated about my purchases so here’s a long update for July…..

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The Scream – Let It Scream (1991) – $8.50 used
Johnny Lima – Shine On (2004) – $8.50 used
Shok Paris – Go For The Throat (1984/2010 reissue) – $12

Sister Sin – Dance Of The Wicked (2003/2013 reissue) – $10
Queensryche (featuring Todd LaTorre) – s/t (2013  limited edition box) – $14
Oliva – Raise The Curtain (2013) – $11.50
A World With Heroes: A KISS Tribute For Cancer Care (2013) – $25

All the way back to July for this set of purchases! There really wasn’t much I was going to buy this month but I managed to squeeze in a few new releases and some Ebay scores. I started off on a quick Ebay hit by winning both The Scream and Johnny Lima CDs from the same seller for $16 total. I was sure I had The Scream in my collection but I was wrong so I wanted to fill the void quickly and I’ve been on the hunt for any Johnny Lima CDs at a decent price. My third Ebay win was an official reissue from Auburn Records of the first Shok Paris album. I already picked up a copy back in May but it was a bootleg reissue and not officially sanctioned by the band or Auburn Records. I made an Amazon purchase shortly after of some new releases that I hadn’t picked up yet…..Sister Sin, Queensryche and Oliva (Jon Oliva’s solo project, not Jon Oliva’s Pain). I had been watching the sale prices at the local record store but Amazon just beats them out everytime. I’m all about supporting my local record store but it’s actually becoming a hassle going there especially when the selection is always the same and the prices are comparable, if not better, at Amazon. Not to mention that I’m an Amazon Prime member so shipping is free and no sales tax! Looking at my notes, I saved at least $10 by going through Amazon. My last CD for July was a benefit KISS tribute CD for cancer care, organized by major KISS fan and rock writer Mitch LaFon and distributed through Pledge Music. $25 got me a double disc of 40 songs, plus exclusive download and iTunes bonus content and my money went to a great cause. Please follow the link to read more about the project.

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Heaven & Earth – Dig (2013) – $16
Amon Amarth – Deceiver Of The Gods (2013 Deluxe Edition) – $16
Whitesnake – Made In Britain (2CD) (2013) – $0
Satan – Life Sentence (2013) – $16
Scorpion Child – s/t (2013) – $13
Sirenia – Perils Of The Deep (2013) – $0
Butcher Babies – Goliath (2013) – $13
The Winery Dogs – s/t (2013) – $13
Seven Witches – Rebirth (2013) – $0
Lynch Mob – Sound Mountain Sessions E.P. (2012) – $6
Geezer – Ohnwork (2005) – $0 used

I did make it out to the record store once in July for a “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” sale on all CDs so I made the 30 minute drive up to the Norwood, MA Newbury Comics to get a different selection from my two local Newbury Comics stores. I decided to get a lot of new releases obviously and I’m really out to stretch every dollar when I hit these type of sales so I went in with a budget of $100 and I spent $99! I got a bunch of great 2013 new releases and some of the free ones were actually on sale so I saved even more compared to the regular prices. My strategy is to group the highest prices together for maximum savings that way the higher priced CDs are free. I picked up the new Heaven & Earth and Amon Amarth albums for $16 each but I got the new Whitesnake live double disc for free saving the $16 sale price ($20 regular price). My next grouping was the new Satan and Scorpion Child albums for $16 and $13 and getting the new Sirenia for free, saving $13 on sale ($18 regular price) with the extra reward being that the Scorpion Child CD was on sale for $13 instead of the $18 regular price. My third grouping was the new Butcher Babies for $13 ($18 regular) and The Winery Dogs debut for another $13 ($16 regular) with the latest from Seven Witches for free and saving a straight $10. My last grouping was the Lynch Mob E.P. for $6, a CD for my daughter that cost $6 and the last Geezer record for free, saving $4 used. I wasn’t going to buy my daughter a CD because I have my own collection to think about it but how can you resist your kids? Plus, with sales tax, I would have gone over my personal budget so going a little over by buying my daughter a CD is OK!

Once I got home I decided to check my actual savings…..I’m a geek, what can I say? I selected every album and put them in an Amazon cart except for the Geezer CD which I found on Ebay and got a grand total of $122. I actually spent $93 on my CDs with $6 sales tax for a total of $99 at the record shop…..so I saved $23 going to the store. The savings continues when you look at the free CDs that totaled $43 and the sale prices that saved another $13. Had I bought all these CDs straight up at the record store it would have totalled $126. Did you get all that?

Total = $182.50

Total (year) = $1629

Average Price (per item) = $10.79

Total CDs (year) = 134

Total DVDs & BluRays (year) = 4

Total LPs (year) = 6

Total Box Sets (year) =7

CD Scavenger Hunt – May update

In keeping with the tradition of not posting the Hunts at the end of the proper months, here is another big update, this time for this past May…..

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Fozzy – Happenstance (2002) – $4 used
High Noon – No Turning Back (2009) – $6 used
Lance King – A Moment In Chiros (2011) – $6 used
Heaven’s Edge – s/t (1990) – $12 used
Rush – Moving Pictures (1980) – $2.50
Rush – Signals (1982) – $2.50
Deep Purple – Now What?! (2013, Deluxe Edition) – $16
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Mind Control (2013) – $12
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Blood Lust (2012) – $15
Queensryche – Frequency Unknown (2013) – $10
Stratovarius – Nemesis (2013) – $10
Avantasia – The Mystery Of Time (2013) – $10
Amaranthe – The Nexus (2013) – $10
Free Fall – Power & Volume (2013) – $10
Ugly Kid Joe – Stairway To Hell E.P. (2012) – $6

Poison – Sexyback (promo CD single) (2007) – $7 used
Arch Enemy – Black Earth (1996) – $7 used
Arch Enemy – Burning Bridges (1999) – $7 used
Arch Enemy – Wages Of Sin (2001) – $7 used
Arch Enemy – Dead Eyes See No Future E.P. (2004) – $7 used
Shok Paris – Go For The Throat (1984) – $7 used
Shok Paris – Steel & Starlight (1987) – $11 used
Shok Paris – Concrete Killers (1989) – $11 used
Trixter – New Audio Machine (2012) – $12
Waysted – Save Your Prayers (1986/2013 reissue) – $10
Jorn – Symphonic (2013) – $11
Torch – Electrikiss (1985) – $14 used
Airbourne – Black Dog Barking (Special Edition) (2013) – $22.50
Armored Saint – March Of The Saint (1984) – $9.25 used
Armored Saint – Delirious Nomad (1985) – $9.25 used

May was a really good month but I kind of stayed away from the record stores and did more online. I’m torn right now because technology is providing me a means to compare prices on Amazon and Ebay while I’m in the record store and I’m making decisions based on price. I’ve always been a record store rat and I always will be but, I buy and devour so much music yearly, that I need to save as much money as possible. I support local record stores but it’s hard to when Amazon offers the same CD cheaper than the record store sale prices and no sales tax. No shipping for me because I’m an Amazon Prime member and the membership has already paid for itself. Let’s move on to the treasures I found…..

My first outing of the month was a quiet one. I hadn’t planned to go to Newbury Comics but I was driving through Warwick, RI and decided to stop in. I picked up the Fozzy, High Noon, Lance King and Heaven’s Edge CDs all in the used bin for some really great prices. The Lance King CD replaces the promo digital download that Lance’s label, Nightmare Records, sent me to review but the gem was the original pressing of the self-titled Heaven’s Edge album. It’s a highly bootlegged CD and there have been some shoddy reissues so I was cool spending $12 for a used CD. I checked Ebay while I was in the store and original pressings were listed for $25+ so I feel like I got a bargain. After the record shop, I went across the street to Best Buy so I could burn a $5 off coupon that was expiring the next day. Best Buy doesn’t have much of a selection and they aren’t big on organization so it can be a crap shoot finding a gem. I knew what I wanted…..Rush! I’ve been filling the holes in my Rush CD collection with Best Buy purchases because they are all $5 each so I grabbed Moving Pictures (1980) and Signals (1982). Take that $5 coupon off the $10 total and I got both for $2.50! My last trip out before I went online shopping was to my usual Newbury Comics location in North Attleboro, MA to grab the new Deep Purple album special edition. I wanted the CD/DVD edition so I paid a little extra than the regular CD. While I was there the store was playing the new Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats record, Mind Control, so I added that in on sale and caved in to buy their 2012 release Blood Lust also.

Now we get to the dilemma…..online vs. record stores. I had been watching a few new releases at the record stores and passed on them because I either thought the sale price was too high or I was skeptical about the material therein. The releases in question were the new albums from Geoff Tate’s version of Queensryche, Stratovarius, Avantasia, Amaranthe and Free Fall.  The Queensryche record has gotten terrible reviews so I was holding out for a used copy and I was actually shopping for the new Stratovarius online for the special ecition with three bonus tracks and those two were well stocked at the sale price. Also, I wasn’t in the mood for another concept record so I passed on Avantasia on sale and I really wanted to try out Amaranthe and Free Fall but those CDs were available at regular price. I finally caved in towards the end of the month and checked the prices on Ebay and Amazon and decided that the best value was to order through Amazon. I got all five CDs for $10 each ($50 total) with free shipping (I have Prime) and no sales tax, had I bought in the record store, with sale prices, the total would have been $68. So I actually saved $18 for the same exact items on Amazon vs. my favorite Newbury Comics…..that’s 1 or 2 CDs! If the Queensryche, Stratovarius and Avantasia albums were bought in store at their respective regular prices ($17 each regular price) then my total in store would have jumped to $80. And those figures in store don’t include state sales tax! The savings is obvious and I guess that’s why record stores are having a hard time competing. As a bonus for saving all that money, I also ordered a hard copy of the Ugly Kid Joe E.P. that I bought digitally back in 2012. The actual CD was $6 so it wasn’t a large add on.

Ebay was extremely lucrative in May. There were a few CDs I paid a little extra for and there were some good bargains. I had to have Poison’s cover of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Sexyback’ but I didn’t want the entire Poison’d covers album so I found the CD single for a cheap $4 + $3 shipping. As soon as that CD was taken off the want list, I focused on Shok Paris. I found a copy of Go For The Throat from a seller who was also selling a four CD lot of Arch Enemy CDs I needed so I went for both auctions and won for a grand total of $35. So I’m averaging $7 per CD on Ebay but the rest of the month was higher. I finished the Shok Paris discography (Steel & Starlight and Concrete Killers) for $11 each, grabbed the latest Trixter record from 2012 for a cheap $12 (replacing the promo download I was sent), the Waysted – Save Your Prayers 2013 reissue from Cherry Red Records and Jorn Lande’s Symphonic album for $11. I grabbed a CD copy of Torch – Electrikiss even though I already own the vinyl…..I’ve never seen a CD version so I grabbed it for $11 + $3 shipping and it’s in mint condition. The CD says Metal Blade for a label and I checked all Metal Blade releases through 2002 (through the anniversary box set) and didn’t see it listed. I think it was a Metal Blade Europe release and it’s a real silver pressed, factory made CD…..I’m still researching it. I had to have the new Airbourne album but I wanted the 2 disc special edition so that cost me a total of $22.50 and the seller who sold me the Arch Enemy lot had both Armored Saint CDs listed in one lot so I grabbed that for $18.50.

Total = $284

Total (year) = $1106.80

Average Price (per item) = $11.07

Total CDs (year) = 91

Total DVDs & BluRays (year) = 3

Total LPs (year) = 1

Total Box Sets (year) =5

The 2 Worst Albums of 2011

Here we go again! 2011 was another great year for new albums…..bands from all different genres of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal released good albums this year and I was on the frontlines buying them up as they were released. Of course there were some bad albums too. I bought more new releases, and had more new albums submitted for review, in 2011 so there were bound to be some bad ones in the pile. In previous years, I’ve received a lot of email about my decision to call this list the “Worst” albums of the year, some people have thought that it is too negative. My feeling is that no matter if the album is a major disappointment because you were looking forward to it so much, or the album is just plain awful from the packaging, to the production, to the performance, then it qualifies under the heading of “Worst”. Of all the albums I picked up some releases were just plain bad, some were huge disappointments, some I just couldn’t stand, the problem is that I didn’t listen to everything I bought or had submitted for review. This year was probably my worst year posting album reviews on the site, as well as, my worst year catching up on all the listening I needed to do. As a result of my inconsitency, I decided to cut the list down from the normal Top 5 to a Top 2. Don’t worry! The two albums that made this list are truly the worst I heard this past year and I can’t really recommend them to anyone…..so here is my list of The 2 Worst Albums of 2011:

#1

Metallica & Lou Reed – LuLu (2011): This collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed definitely raised eyebrows when it was announced and I have to admit that, even though I had some interest in it, I knew that this album was going to blow! Can any true Metallica fan really say that this was a good idea? Especially after the excellent DEATH MAGNETIC (2008)? The music is Metallica but it sounds like a constant drone when you add in Lou Reed’s spoken word poetry that is so immersed in late ’60s hippie culture. It’s two different forms of music that completely clash. I understand poetry…..I’ve read many different poets’ works and I even used to write some myself so I understand it’s an expression and, believe me, Reed expresses himself. But does it makes sense? Does it go with the Heavy Metal score that Metallica produces? My interest was solely to find out if this was going to be the train wreck I thought it would be and I was right. Forget ST. ANGER (2003), LULU is the worst album Metallica has ever put their name to! I’m going to get emails that tell me that this isn’t a Metallica album or a Lou Reed album but a collaborative project…..if that’s the case, come up with a better name than “Lou Reed & Metallica”, using their respective names leads both fanbases down the primrose path. The music is fine but it gets killed by Reed’s semi-coherent spoken word babble. I made it through one listen and it was hard to do, I mean it’s really bad! Thank god I bought this used and cheap! Absolutely the worst album of 2011!

#2

Queensryche – Dedicated To Chaos (2011): Queensryche should be thanking Metallica and Lou Reed for releasing such a turd this year because DEDICATED TO CHAOS was the clear cut winner of the Worst Album award until LULU. Let me start out by saying that I was really looking forward to a new Queensryche album because I was under the impression that the band was going to continue moving forward with the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal direction they went with on AMERICAN SOLDIER (2009). I thought that AMERICAN SOLDIER was a great comeback for a band that had been floundering with their sound and direction for years, that album was so good that any Queensryche fan would be excited for a new record. I even ran out and bought the deluxe version so I could have the extra three bonus tracks! Unfortunately, Queensryche disappoints again! The album starts off well with the late ’90s sound of ‘Get Started’ but that’s where the good times end. The songs slow down, get grungy, industrial, even Nu-Metal in some spots. I knew there was a problem when I heard the word “YouTube” in the lyrics for ‘Hot Spot Junkie’. Lead singer, and band leader, Geoff Tate has made no bones about his dislike of the Progressive Metal, or Heavy Metal, label that gets attached to the band. Geoff tries his best to steer Queensryche away from the Metal genre (listen to 2003′s TRIBE) any chance he gets. At least the music is listenable even if the lyrics are just bad, as is the “slave to technology” theme that fills the album. I’m not digging all the effects used for dramatic license to enhance the songs. In the grand scheme of things I guess DEDICATED TO CHAOS isn’t awful like LULU, it’s more of a major disappointment and an obvious setback to a great band. It’s not unlistenable like LULU in the fact that it blows but in the fact that it sounds nothing like classic Queensryche.

CD Scavenger Hunt (June update)

It’s been a slow year so far for buying CDs and collecting but I made up for the last few months with a quality buying spree in June. There were a bunch of new releases on sale, a few hidden bargains in the used CD racks, trips to a few different record stores and the discovery of my childhood record store re-opening in the local flea market! June was definitely a good month for the Hunt…..

Luke’s Record Exchange (@ The Big Flea Market in Cumberland, RI)

Luke’s Record Exchange was my childhood record store that got me started as a record store regular and a CD scavenger hunt expert. Unfortunately, the long time Pawtucket, RI location closed a few months ago for good but a chance trip to The Big Flea Market in a neighboring town provided a link to my record store past…..Luke’s re-opened as a large booth. Prices were pretty good: 50% off the stickered price on all CDs! My oldest daughter loves music and has the record store addiction like her dad and she absolutely loved searching the racks and dark corners that the original Luke’s store had. I’ve tried to teach my oldest daughter as much about Metal and collecting as possible, now it’s up to her to decide what direction to go in.

Hair Of The Dog – Rise (2000) – $7: I started scouring the racks of CDs Luke’s had and I found plenty that used to be at their store and plenty that I already owned but with 50% off you have to buy something. I saw this Hair Of The Dog CD and remembered the name from the late ’90s editions of Metal Edge magazine so I snatched this up to try the band out. When I got home I realized I mixed up Hair Of The Dog with another band, American Dog, but a quick check of my back issues and this purchase was worth making. I’ve read some positive reviews online on Hair Of The Dog, and the band was signed to Spitfire Records back in 2000 (a label with plenty of Hard Rock bands and reissues) so I will definitely check them out when I get around ripping the cellophane off the case! Regular stickered price was $14 so it was really $7 for a brand new sealed copy of RISE. Saved $7.

Vince Neil – Live At The Whiskey: One Night Only (2003) – $6: I always meant to buy this live album when it came out but I had read some bad reviews and I decided against it back then. I did keep it on the want list just in case I came across a used copy somewhere. Over the years I’ve seen this album still at regular price anywhere from $12 to $15 and I’ve passed each time. I’ve seen Vince Neil in concert twice with his solo band and he’s been just OK performance wise and the set is always dominated by the big Motley Crue hits so it’s no surprise to only get one Vince solo song (‘Look In Her Eyes’) on this live record. maybe if there was more from EXPOSED (1993) or CARVED IN STONE (1995) then this would have been a more essential buy. Like I said, you can’t beat 50% off so I finally filled a hole in the Vince Neil solo collection. Another brand new sealed copy stickered at $12, the 50% off making it $6. Saved $6.

Wal-Mart

Def Leppard – Mirror Ball (Live & More) (2011) – $10: I hate going to Wal-Mart! In my life there is no reason to ever set foot in one but some of my favorite bands like KISS, AC/DC, Journey and now Def Leppard have forced me to enter the worst shopping place on earth to buy their exclusive releases! Sure, I could have someone else go in and buy it for me, or maybe buy it online, but sometimes we must sacrifice for the thrill of the Hunt! Definitely an old school move by the Leps with the old bulky multi-disc packaging for their double disc live record with the bonus DVD included. I’ve seen Def Lep on every tour since the 1999 EUPHORIA Tour and I saw them back in the day on the HYSTERIA Tour in 1988 so I know how good these guys are live. It’s a little surprising that it’s taken 31 years to finally get an official live album from Def Leppard but it looks like the band’s last few successful tours have finally given it to us. This was more about the new songs for me and their are three of them on Disc 2. The only positive thing I can say about the Wal-Mart experience is that the price can’t be beat…..$10 is a small price to pay for 21 live tracks, 3 new studio songs and a DVD.

Newbury Comics

Twisted Sister – Under The Blade (Special Edition) (2011) – $12: I already own UNDER THE BLADE on CD and on vinyl but I had to pick this up because of all the bonuses included. First, this is the original mix of UNDER THE BLADE as heard on the original Secret Records pressing (the 1985 reissue is remixed) so that saves the vinyl. Second, the RUFF CUTTS E.P. (1982) is the bonus on the CD. The RUFF CUTTS vinyl is easy to find but high in price for a mint copy, it’s nice getting the music on CD. Finally, the bonus DVD is the band’s performance at th 1982 Reading Festival. This is how you do a reissue! Unfortunately, some of the other Twisted Sister reissues on Armoury Records leave a lot to be desired as far as bonus material but this reissue was worth getting even at the regular price of $16. I bought this the day it was released so I got the $12 sale price saving $4.

Black Stone Cherry – Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea (2011) – $10: Black Stone Cherry is one of those newer bands that I’ve followed from their first album to present but I haven’t really gotten totally into them. I have the band’s first two albums, and I enjoy them, but the band hasn’t had the staying power for me to keep coming back. I’m hoping that BETWEEN THE DEVIL & THE DEEP BLUE SEA breaks that cycle and also forces me to revisit the band’s first two records for a fresh listen. Good band and good music but I’m just not completely hooked. This was another day of release purchase to get the sale price of $10 and save $4 but even the $14 regular price seems reasonable. Of course, the day I purchased the album, I get home from the record store and check my email and find a link from Roadrunner Records PR dept for a download of the album so i could review it! I would have bought the album anyway.

Warrant – Rockaholic (2011) – $13: Frontiers Records was kind enough to send me a download of the album for review so I have been enjoying ROCKAHOLIC for a few months prior to it’s U.S. release. In most cases when I receive a promo download for review, I buy the album for my collection if I enjoy it so I caved on buying the new Warrant. For me Warrant has a stigma…..the Jani Lane stigma. Back in the ’80s, I liked Warrant like most Hard Rock fans tuned in to FM radio and MTV but I started to really dislike the band after I got the internet in 1998 and started reading about all the dumb ass things Jani Lane used to do (cancel concert, quit and rejoin, go onstage drunk, etc). Anyway, after seeing the band reunite on the Poison summer tour a few years ago, I had hope but Jani screwed it up again and again. I thought the band’s move to replace Jani with Jaime St. James from Black ‘N Blue for BORN AGAIN (2006) was a great move resulting in a solid record. This time around it’s Robert Mason (formerly of Lynch Mob) replacing Jani (again!) and Jaime (who has a reformed Black ‘N Blue) at the mic and it’s a solid album that actually charted on Billboard’s Top Hard rock Albums Chart at #22! It’s such a good record that I would have easily paid the $17 import price but I saved $4 by waiting for the U.S. release.

Whitesnake – Live At Donington 1990 (Special Edition Box Set 2CD/DVD) (2011) – $16: Again, thanks to Frontiers Records, I was able to preview the CD portion of LIVE AT DONINGTON 1990 for a few weeks before it was released but this special edition wasn’t one I was going to miss adding to my collection. Recorded on 8/18/1990 at the Monsters of Rock Festival at Donington Park, this is Whitesnake at it’s chart-topping best: a live album with mostly all the big hits from 1984 to 1990 and a DVD of the exact performance all packaged it a double gatefold CD digipak with full color graphics and booklet. Remember how big Whitesnake was back then? Well their bands before them were The Quireboys, Thunder, Poison and Aerosmith! Import prices online were around $25 plus shipping at most shops but the U.S. release was a regular $20…..I bought it day of release so I saved $4.

Hammerfall – Infected (2011) – $10: I had no idea that Hammerfall was releasing a new album until about a week before the release date…..and I have been following the band since 1998! It’s no secret that I’m a big Power Metal guy and Hammerfall has been one of my favorites since the Power Metal resurgence of the late ’90s so this was a no-brainer purchase for me. “No-brainer”…..that’s a funny way of putting it because the concept here seems to be zombies and being infected as one. It’s a different direction for Hammerfall but one I’m hoping to enjoy as much as their last few records. I’m a little puzzled by the lack of vibrant graphics and no sign of Hector, the band’s knight mascot that has been on every album cover, but if it’s something different then why not try it? Regular price was $16 so I saved $6 buying the album the day of release but I was lucky to get a copy because there were only two copies available when I hit the new release rack at the shop.

U.D.O. – Rev-Raptor (2011) – $12: Here’s another album that I received a promtional download for so I could review it but I added it to my want list. I’ve been an U.D.O. fan since he formed the band after his time in Accept so I’m going to buy every album that comes out but I really wanted to get the European limited edition with the bonus tracks but the online shops sold out quick and I didn’t really want to drop around $25 for a couple extra songs and a couple videos. I’ll give Udo Dirkschneider credit, he knows how to do it Gene Simmons style because there were four pressings of REV-RAPTOR: the regular jewel case, the limited edition European with 2 bonus tracks & videos, the Japanese with different bonus tracks and the special box set with a t-shirt and other souvenirs. I wish there was an easier way to get all the bonus material instead of having to buy to high price imports but I’m happy with my U.S. version. Regular price was $16, sale price was $12, saved $4.

Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions (2 CD Limited Edition) (2011) – $14: It’s only been recently that I’ve really gotten into Arch Enemy so this new album is kind of a new start for me. There’s been a lot of press on KHAOS LEGIONS so I’m hoping that it’s as good as the older material I’ve been listening to. What makes this release interesting is that there are 2 versions: the regular jewel case or the limited edition with a 4 track bonus disc and a code for a free t-shirt. I was grabbing the double disc version but what astounded me was the regular prices: $16 for the single, $25 for the double! Good thing I buy the new releases the day they come out because I save a lot of money…..in this case, the single disce was on sale for $11 and the limited edition for $14. How could I not buy the limited edition and save $11? Add in the free t-shirt and it’s a great buy even if I have to pay the shipping for the shirt and then give it to my daughter because I can’t fit in an XL!

Pagan’s Mind – Heavenly Ecstacy (2011) – $12: I got into Pagan’s Mind with 2007′s GOD EQUATION but I really haven’t gone back and tried to acquire the band’s previous releases. I like the band and I’m a fan of Progressive Metal but Pagan’s Mind just hasn’t taken hold in my listening rotation, hopefully that will change with this new album. This is another band that I didn’t know was releasing a new album but I was pleasantly surprised to find out in the Newbury Comics weekly newsletter. There are two versions of this album too: the single disc or the limited edition with 2 bonus tracks. When I went to the record store the day of release they only had the limited edition (the version I was buying anyway!) and they had plenty of copies. Regular price was a high $17 for the two extra songs but the sale price was only $12 for a savings of $5. I have been to the record store since I purchased this in the middle of June and I still haven’t seen the standard version but I assume that it’s without the bonus tracks and priced around $15 regular price.

Black Country Communion – 2 (2011) – $13: Black Country Communion is Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham…..now that’s a supergroup! The debut BCC album was awesome and made my list of the Top 30 Albums of 2010 at #5 so I was surprised when I read that the band had a new record ready to go. I waited on buying the first BCC album and ended up paying full price, the sting of that purchase was easier to take because the album was so good, but I wasn’t waiting around this time. Day of release and on sale for $13, I pulled the trigger. I like the old school stadium rock sound BCC has and Glenn Hughes keeps sounding better as he gets older while I am totally into Bonamassa’s guitar sound and now checking out his solo material…..good to see this album get on the U.S. Hot 100 chart with it’s debut. Regular price was an expensive $17 so I was glad to get the sale price and save $4.

Alestorm – Back Through Time (2011) – $13: Alestorm is another band I’ve followed from the beginning and I’ve grown to enjoy their Pirate Metal that’s a continuation of what Running Wild was doing a decade plus before. The thing is that the pirate themes and concepts are going to wear thin on the ultra serious metal fans but it’s all done well and in good fun so I don’t mind dropping a few bucks for good pirate party. I ended up buying the special edition of this album too with the hardbound book packaging and the two bonus tracks that are included. I didn’t see a regular jewel case edition at the record store but I read only that it exists. I actually almost pre-ordered this online through Napalm Records with the free t-shirt but they didn’t have the 2XL I need, the price on that package was $25 with shipping. Regular price for the special edition was $17 at the shop but I bought this on sale for $13 saving myself $4.

AC/DC – Live At River Plate DVD (2011) – $12: I’ve had my eye on this concert DVD for a few weeks but I never picked it up because the local shop had a ton of copies for weeks and the sale price kept going. Usually they take off the sale price after a couple week but they had so many copies of this DVD that the sale price was still there about a month after release. I had a little extra money to burn so I went to go pick up a copy but there was only two left this time! I’m not sure if the shop had a run on them all of a sudden or maybe transferred some to other locations but where there were many stood only two and one copy was regular price $15. Lucky for me the other copy still had the sale sticker on it so I knew that I’d be getting the price I wanted. Sure enough, when I got to the register, the DVD rang regular price but they price adjusted to the $12 sale price and I saved $3. I saw the Black Ice Tour in Foxboro, MA so LIVE AT THE RIVER PLATE will be a nice tour souvenir.

Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (2011) – $14: This is another album that I’ve had the promotional download for through Frontiers Records but I decided to pick the album up for the collection. I remember when DAWN PATROL came out back in 1982 and I was a fan of the band straight through to the break-up and reformation in the late ’90s…..this is another no-brainer purchase for me. I didn’t really get into the band’s last album, HOLE IN THE SUN (2008), right away because of the more modern sound the band used but it was still Night Ranger and it grew on me. From what I’ve read and my initial spin, SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA sounds like classic ’80s Night Ranger. I caught the band’s tour last year in Connecticut and it was a high energy show and the band sounded great, maybe taking that energy into the studio proved successful? Regular price here was $17 because it’s technically an import but I got it on sale for $14 and saved $3.

Symphony X – Iconoclast (2 CD Special Edition) (2011) – $13: I haven’t really listened to Symphony X since 2002′s THE ODYSSEY and I had no idea that they were releasing a new album (I’ve got to keep up on my Metal news!) so I was a little hesitant when i saw this album in the new release rack at the record store. Do I take a chance on a band that has released only two records since 2002? I noticed that there were two versions of this CD also (a trend for June I think!): the single disc and the special edition digipak that’s two CDs and has extra songs. I’m a sucker for bonus tracks and the sale price for this version was only $2 more than the regular so I snatched it up! I also noticed that there were a lot of copies of both versions of the album, a lot of which are still unsold and still onsale in mid-July. Regular price for the special edition was $19 so I saved $6 on the day of release. I’m hoping ICONOCLAST is a surprise record for me this year.

Queensryche – Dedicated To Chaos (Deluxe Edition) (2011) – $16: Another deluxe/special/limited edition for June’s hunt! Things with Queensryche have been hit or miss since 1994′s PROMISED LAND but I really enjoyed AMERICAN SOLDIER (2009) and I’m hoping that DEDICATED TO CHAOS is a continuation of the quality material I know the band is capable of. The wild card here is Geoff Tate and the direction his writing and leadership takes the band, one look at the back cover and seeing a bald Tate could either be a bad sign of he’s channelling his friend Rob Halford. Either way, I’ve been a fan of the band since the QUEENSRYCHE E.P. (1982) and THE WARNING (1984) so I’m always going to support the band. I bought the deluxe version for the three extra songs for only $3 more than the standard version. If you’re going to spend $13, why not just spend the $16 and get the whole package? Regular price for the deluxe version was a scary $22 so there was no way I was going to let a sale price pass me by with an opportunity to save $6 on an album I would easily buy.

Zebra – No Tellin’ Lies (1984) – $6 used: This was easily my bargain of the month and well worth the time spent digging through the used sections. I had gone to a different Newbury Comics location that had better selection than my usual store with my daughter and niece so I gave them each some money to shop so I could dive into the used bins. Unfortunately, I own most of the discs I found but NO TELLIN’ LIES, Zebra’s second album, was sitting there at a perfect price at $6 used! I’m not passing that up especially since all the Zebra records are on my want list so I can replace my cassettes. I was particularly psyched about finding a Zebra album because they had just played a local club in Massachusetts back in May (that I missed!) and the band’s hit from the first album, ‘Tell Me What You Want’, has been all over the local rock stations. My online research tells me that an original Atlantic Records pressing of this CD retails at about $15 if you can find it and the double disc reissue with the band’s third album, 3.V (1986), goes for around the same price and is easier to find. My digging saved me about $9.

Zebra – 3.V (1986) – $10 used: When out on a CD hunt always be mindful that where there’s one Zebra CD, there could be another! Zebras travels in herds don’t they? Seeing that I had good luck finding NO TELLIN’ LIES in the used bins, I decided to take the hunt over to the “Misc. Z” section of the Rock/Pop bins and there it was…..bargain #2 of June…..Zebra’s thierd album, 3.V from 1986! Here’s another pristine original pressing that goes for the same $15 alone or in the latest reissue with NO TELLIN’ LIES so I wasn’t about to pass it up! I haven’t seen original pressings of these Zebra albums in local record stores in at least ten years so I’m hoping that the recent concert at Showcase Live made some people clean out their collections. I’m not saying Zebra is a bad band, quite the contrary, but you would be surprised how many people dump their collections after a concert comes through town or the extra used stock the stores have in back makes it to the sales floor. Either way, it pads my collection and gets the want list a little shorter. Spending $10 for a used CD is a little high but I was sure I wouldn’t see it again and I still saved $5 off what would be a $15 regular price.

Helix – Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge (1984/2009 reissue) – $20: Now this was a big purchase but a necessary one. Ever since I rediscovered Helix back in 2005 when I bought lead singer Brian Vollmer’s autobiography Gimme An R!, I have been snapping up a lot of their back catalogue. Rock Candy Records in the U.K. are a great reissue label that takes great care in releasing high quality reissues of classic albums by working alongside the artist in getting the album back in the stores. In the case of WALKIN’ THE RAZOR’S EDGE, I do have a cassette that is well worn and I have the single ‘Rock You’ on an ’80s Metal compilation CD so I’ve been content to wait out the last couple years and get this reissue at a good price. Depending where you look online, you can get this reissue anywhere between $15 and $25 plus shipping charges, that’s too high. When I saw the record store actually stocked the album, I jumped on it despite the price. I figured I’d pay at least $20 on the low end of the online price so I decided to buy it now instead of having to wait a week or two because of the mail services.

Total = $239

Total (year) = $559

Average Price (per item) = $10.75

Total Savings (month) = $97

Total Savings (year) = $336

Total CDs (year) = 49

Total DVDs (year) = 2

Total Box Sets (year) = 0

Total LPs (year) = 1

 

The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40)

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 it is, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26 – #40):

#40

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Night Castle (2009): I have been waiting five years for a new TSO album and they announced the release of NIGHT CASTLE back in December 2008! Nothing like waiting a full year but the wait was worth it. A double album full of TSO expert Rock orchestra with enough guest vocalists (Jeff Scott Soto sings) to make it interesting. I prefer TSO’s holiday albums but NIGHT CASTLE fits in great.

#39

Immortal – All Shall Fall (2009): I’ve always read a ton of great reviews and articles about Immortal but Black Metal has never really been my genre of choice. I picked up ALL SHALL FALL to try the band out and I ended up really getting into it! What impressed me most was that it wasn’t stereotypical Black Metal but there were melodic layers to the overall sound using orchestration and some great guitarwork. I’ve started to backtrack and explore the rest of the Immortal back catalog as a result.

#38

Grave Digger – Ballads Of A Hangman (2009): Old school Power Metal at it’s best, Grave Digger has been doing it longer than most and they always seem to put out a solid album. I got this early in the year and it turned out to be a standout album for most of the year…..being a Grave Digger fan for a long time, I enjoyed it. Unfortunately there were better Power Metal albums that came out this year and I kept moving this one lower, a result of good competition.

#37

Nashville Pussy – From Hell To Texas (2009): Nashville Pussy is one of those bands I started to follow with their debut album and forgot about, subsequently missing out on a few records. I love this Southern-fried, hard drinking, sex crazed Hard Rock, it’s a cross between Motorhead, Ted Nugent and AC/DC mixed with Black Oak Arkansas & Lynyrd Skynyrd. I didn’t really expect much from this album and it turned out to be a great one, especially for the car! ‘Drunk Driving Man’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.

#36

Great White – Rising (2009): Despite my living in Rhode Island and the whole Station Nightclub Fire, Great White is still one of my favorite bands. In 2007 they released one of the biggest surprises with BACK TO THE RHYTHM so I expected another Hard Rock classic. RISING is acoustic based and slower than it’s predecessor but it’s still a solid record that reminded me of the acoustic SAIL AWAY (1994). This album grew on me over the course of 2009 but I’m still a little disappointed that it didn’t have more of the Blues Hard Rock the band is known for.

#35

Tragik – Outlaw (2009): Good to have a local Rhode Island band in this year’s countdown! Led by local AOR/Melodic Rock artist Phil Vincent, Tragik’s second album was a solid Hard Rock record with plenty of guitar and a great overall tone. Tragik follows the footsteps of ’80s AOR/Melodic Hard Rock bands like Journey, Bon Jovi and Night Ranger but there was a more modern sound. Good solid melodies and plenty of hooks to go along with the great guitar sound made this an album I enjoyed all year.

#34

Alestorm – Black Sails At Midnight (2009): I know a lot of people don’t get into the whole Pirate Metal concept but I’m definitely a sucker for a good gimmick and I really got into Alestorm this year. This album has some good songs but the one thing that pushed this album above a lot of others was that it was fun. I bought into all the whole concept and imagery of and the Pirate Power Metal is definitely different…..I really like all those traditional pirate styled instruments mixed in. Added bonus was the DVD from Wacken 2008 included inthe limited edition.

#33

Behemoth – Evangelion (2009): Kind of like Immortal, I knew nothing about Behemoth except for what I had read online. After I saw the ‘Ov Fire And The Void’ video, I had the obsession with checking out the band. Just like Immortal, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed EVANGELION because Black Metal isn’t usually my thing but what struck me was just how brutal the music sounds. The guitars, bass and drums are just so fast and heavy that you have to take notice. EVANGELION helped me start to open my Black Metal horizons and I went from trying to understand Behemoth to enjoying Behemoth.

#32

Edguy – Tinnitus Sanctis (2009): This latest album from Edguy was originally released in late 2008 but it didn’t receive a proper U.S. release until January from Nuclear Blast so I’m going with what the back of the CD says and it’s a 2009 album. I’ve been an Edguy fan since basically the beginning so their Power Metal style is what i like best but the band has gone for more of a Hard Rock style here. I had a hard time getting into this album at first because I kept comparing it to the old Edguy sound, once I got past that I started to enjoy the album a lot more. Turns out I played TINNITUS SANCTUS more as the year progressed and I kept coming back to it.

#31

Saga – The Human Condition (2009): Saga has been churning out melodic Progressive Rock for 38 years and I have been keeping up with the band on and off since 1982. One of the things that helped define the overall Saga sound through the years was the superb vocals from founding member Michael Sadler…..but he left the band in 2007 after a 36 year tenure. Enter ex-Final Frontier vocalist Rob Morrati and he puts on a performance that makes you forget that Sadler just vacated the mic. This was one of the greatest comebacks of the year!

#30

Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009): When Dream Theater releases an album I always know that it’s going to be a good one, then band just releases good albums every single time. Six songs spanning 75+ minutes and that’s just Disc 1! I always have to listen closely to Dream theater records because there are so many layers of sound and this one was no exception, what really stood out was that there was a song that clocked in just under 6 minutes (‘Wither’)! Add the 2 bonus discs and this turned out to be a great package to listen to.

#29

Queensryche – American Soldier (2009): My review is long and it may not reflect the fact that I really enjoyed AMERICAN SOLDIER, the first Queensryche album I’ve enjoyed since 1997. The first thing I needed to do was accept the fact that old ’80s Queensryche is gone and that the band has gone into more Progressive and Epic musical directions. The overall sound is full and layered but it’s the subject matter that really made the album, what is more relevant in today’s society than how soldiers cope with war? Some of the record was repetitive lyrically but the album just flowed every time I listened to it. I bought this when it first came out and I waited until late October to finally unwrap it, I think I would appreciate it more if I had listened to it all along. ‘At 30,00 Ft.’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.

#28

Megadeth – Endgame (2009): Like I said in my review, I haven’t fully recovered from 1999′s RISK debacle. UNITED ABOMINATIONS (2007) started me back on the Megadeth bandwagon and ENDGAME follows closely to cement the band back into my good graces. ENDGAME isn’t a pure Thrash record but it’s heavy, I think it’s more traditional Heavy Metal with some Thrash moments. It’s clear that Dave Mustaine and company have a solid direction and a desire to re-conquer the Metal world.

#27

Hammerfall – No Sacrifice, No Victory (2009): If it wasn’t for me discovering Hammerfall in 1997 then I wouldn’t be the big Power Metal fan I am today. They basically single-handedly revived the Power Metal scene with it’s traditional style and soaring vocals. The problem with the last few albums is that they all just sounded the same and Hammerfall started to become a footnote in the now overly crowded Power Metal world. This album reminds me of the first three Hammerfall albums and it’s the first one since 2000 that I’ve really enjoyed. I had this ranked higher but, as 2009 progressed, there were better albums in the same genre. That said, this is still a solid album full of great powerful songs and Joacim Cans sound better than ever but I’m still not sure what the band was thinking with a cover of The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’!

#26

Stratovarius – Polaris (2009): Remember what I said about better Power Metal albums? POLARIS is one of the big reasons why both Grave Digger and Hammerfall fell a little in this year’s best of list. I really didn’t expect much from Startovarius…..I had actually forgotten all about the band because it has been four years since the bands last album. Add a lot of new members, especially replacing guitarist Timo Tolkki, and this was a recipe for disaster. I got this album when it came out and left it in the pile, I just started listening to it a couple months ago and I missed out on some serious music. Had I started listening to this record when I got it, I probably would rank it higher because it hasn’t left my daily playlist. Another great comeback this year!

——————————————————————————————

Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

Queensryche – American Soldier (2009)

queensryche_americansoldier

Queensryche – American Soldier (2009, Rhino Records)

  1. Sliver
  2. Unafraid
  3. Hundred Mile Stare
  4. At 30,000 Ft.
  5. A Dead Man’s Words
  6. The Killer
  7. Middle Of Hell
  8. If I Were King
  9. Man Down!
  10. Remember Me
  11. Home Again
  12. The Voice

Band Lineup:
Geoff Tate – Vocals & Horns
Michael Wilton – Guitars
Ed Jackson – Bass
Scott Rockenfield – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Emily Tate – Vocals on ‘Home Again’
Jason Ames – Vocals on ‘Sliver’ and ‘If I Were King’
A.J. Frato – Vocals on ‘Sliver’
Vincent Solano – Vocals on ‘A Dead Man’s Words’
Randy Gane – Keyboards
Kelly Gray – Guitars
Damon Johnson – Guitars

Producers: Jason Slater & Kelly Gray

Country: USA

Total Time = 60:31

Queensryche
Queensryche MySpace page
Rhino Records

I have been a fan of Queensryche since the beginning. I remember hearing the QUEENSRYCHE E.P. (1983) and THE WARNING (1984) on a local record store turntable when they came out and I remember waiting in line for EMPIRE (1990). Queensryche has been a band I have followed for a long time…..but time has taken it’s toll! I loved every album through PROMISED LAND (1994) and I rush out to get HEAR IN THE NOW FRONTIER (1997) when there was a resurgence in Metal with all the reunions. By ’97, the band’s sound had changed, especially Geoff Tate’s voice, to a more modern and darker sound. Gone were Tate’s soaring vocals and blistering guitar solos, instead we got a more subdued Queensryche, concerned more with the storytelling of concept albums and a modern sound. There has still been good songs on some of their later records but the last three studio albums (including 2006′s OPERATION: MINDCRIME II) and the TAKE COVER (2007) covers album (that I actually liked) have left a bitter taste with most fans. So can Queensryche make us believe again? Personally, I wasn’t sure. I ran out and bought the album the day it came out in March but I didn’t really give it much of a listen. I think I was prejudging the album based on previous poor efforts but I’ve given this more time and the album has grown on me.

AMERICAN SOLDIER is another concept record, this time centered around the experiences of U.S. soldiers during war. Geoff Tate spent months interviewing veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East conflicts to get a better understanding of how a soldier thinks and how war effects them. Obviously, this topic is actually relevant to the times we live in. Queensryche believes in a certain formula and conceptual albums are what they will probably continue to do. I wasn’t sure if another concept album would be the formula for success considering every album gets compared to the landmark OPERATION: MINDCRIME (1988). The other concern was the sound. The band abandoned Heavy Metal a long time ago for a darker, layered, modern Progressive Rock sound that has more to do with multi-dimensional mid-tempo epics than an all-out Metal assault. For me, I liked the album concept but I wasn’t sure how it would translate musically because Heavy Metal and war usually go hand in hand with a more brutal sound.

I was right about the overall sound. Most of the songs fall into the epic mid-tempo and ballad category with an emphasis on multi-layered instruments and orchestrations. Tate’s voice retains his post-EMPIRE sound with his lower register being the focal point instead of his high screams. I think Geoff Tate has lost a little as far as range (see the band in concert to see what I mean) but he still has a strong singing voice that suits the material well. For this concept and these songs his voice is a perfect fit…..it has that low, dark, brooding sound that comes alive with a few higher flourishes here and there. For once in a long time, I think Tate has done a solid job. The songs’ music falls into a progressive style with a lot of different layers but simpler than say a Dream Theater or a Shadow Gallery, it’s almost like Queensryche is going for a harder, more epic Pink Floyd style. There’s plenty of guitars, bass and drums but there is orchestration and strings, as well as, spoken word and voiceovers from veterans and soldiers. Even Geoff Tate adds in his saxophone playing to a few songs!

Because there is a set formula, most of the songs on AMERICAN SOLDIER sound the same. ‘Sliver’ starts the album out with a modern sound and ‘Unafraid’ sounds definitely like Hard Rock but the song is made up mostly of sound effects and voiceovers from soldiers. I like ‘Unafraid’ because it lends a personal element to the song/album with the soldiers’ voices, the chorus is simple but one of the heavier ones on the album. The slower epic style begins with ‘Hundred Mile Stare’, a song that I find repetitive but decent, and ‘At 30,000 Ft.’, probably my favorite song of the album. ‘At 30,000 Ft.’ is about pilots delivering their payload and being high above the skynot seeing the carnage that results. It’s a very peaceful ballad styled song that contrasts the subject matter perfectly and moves into a harder edge with the bridge and chorus. You can almost feel the emotion of a pilot alone in the sky simply flying and pressing a button to unload bombs, never seeing what happens when they hit the ground. Best song on the album. A close second would be the haunting ‘Dead Man’s Words’, it’s almost hypnotic in it’s brooding dark delivery.

‘The Killer’ is an uptempo modern Rock song that could have easily come from Q2K (1999) or TRIBE (2003) but it’s a little repetitive for me, it sounds like the rest of the album. Same thing with ‘Middle Of Hell’ with it’s almost soothing trippy sound that contrasts with the subject matter and song title, it’s almost like experiencing battle in slow motion? ‘If I Were King’ has more soldier voiceovers starting the song by telling the horrors of seeing a buddy die in combat. The song stays in that mid-tempo/ballad style Queensryche has perfected with the guitars and tempo getting heavier just for the chorus. ‘Man Down!’ is almost a repeat of ‘If I Were King’ with the soldier voiceover starting the track but this is actually the heaviest and better songs on the album! It reminds me of parts of HEAR IN THE NOW FRONTIER or Q2K, definitely a welcome sound to hear a heavier uptempo song. Usually the ballads are used to break up the hard rocker, Queensryche flips that formula for better or worse. ‘Remember Me’ is another ballad with a soldier voice over to start the song, it’s too similar to other songs on the album. Same thing wirth ‘Home Again’, another quick spoken word intro but this song is the best ballad on the album. Geoff Tate’s daughter Emily makes her vocal debut on this song and it fits well with the image of a father and daughter exchanging letters while he is stationed away at war. Definitely one of the more emotional and beautiful songs on the album, this would be a single if this were back in the late ’80s/early ’90s. It’s definitely one of the more mellow songs on the album, as well as one of my favorites. I have two daughters, and I have two nieces who lost their dad during combat times, so it tugged on the heartstrings for me. Last song is ‘The Voice’ and it is thick with orchestration and sounds like the other epics on the album…..it’s a decent song with some heavy guitar flourishes but not enough to make it stand out.

Bottom Line:
My review above may not reflect it but I actually enjoyed AMERICAN SOLDIER, the first Queensyrche album I have liked since 1997. I have given the album a serious critical listen and also just let the album play. Sometimes you can hear something you missed if you just let the album play in the background and flow rather than sit on top of the stereo and pick out every detail! If you are expecting the Metal version of Queensryche and go looking for it in AMERICAN SOLDIER then you will be disappointed. If you just play the record, forget old songs like ‘Queen Of The Reich’ and ‘Take Hold Of The Flame’, and let the music flow then you might appreciate the album more. The Queensryche we knew was great but they are never coming back, the Queensryche of today still makes good music but it’s just different…..slower and layered. I think that more people will like this album if they forget about the old Queensryche sound and OPERATION: MINDCRIME. One of the major problems the band has had has been songwriting and the concept of seeing war through soldiers’ eyes is a good one. The songs are good although some are repetitive in style and the music is definitely epic and grand with plenty of different styles. Overall…..a better effort than I expected but not much Metal. Definitely worth a try, the album continues to grow on me and  I enjoy it more as a full album as I hear it.

Favorite Songs:
‘Unafraid’, ‘At 30,000 Ft.’, ‘Dead Man’s Words’, ‘Man Down!’, ‘Home Again’

Current Playlist

I may have let the blog go downhill a little but I have definitely been listening to a lot of music…..a lot of new releases that I’ve picked up recently. This has been another great year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal! Here’s a sample of what I’ve been spinning…..

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009): Of course I’m listening to the new KISS record! Nothing is better than your favorite band releasing a new album and this is 11 years in the making. I have to admit that I didn’t really get into SONIC BOOM after the first couple of spins but I’ve given it a lot of time and I’m starting to really enjoy it.

Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009): Of course I’m listening to the new Ace album! So far I like it a lot better then KISS’ SONIC BOOM, he beat them to the punch by releasing his new album first. Ace always had the talent, he just lacked the focus, ANOMALY proves that.

Queensryche – American Soldier (2009): I have this annoying habit of picking up albums when they are released and not listening to them, this is the case of the new Queensryche record. I’ve had it, it’s been sitting on my desk, it’s was still wrapped in the cellophane. I ended up putting it in and was impressed with the overall concept and performance. I wasn’t digging the idea of another Queensryche concept album but I’m really enjoying it.

Immortal – All Shall Fall (2009): I wanted to start getting into more extreme styles of Metal so I started picking up different Death & Black Metal bands up over the last few weeks. I’ve given this only a couple of spins and I’m not really sure what to make of it. Black Metal isn’t my first genre of choice but I’m keeping my mind, and ears, open.

Johnny Lima – Livin’ Out Loud (2009): I’ve been listening to this a lot over the last few weeks. It’s really good melodic hard Rock that leans toward Def Leppard, Poison, Dokken and Bon Jovi…..one of my favorite albums this year.

Lita Ford – Wicked Wonderland (2009): The Queen Of Metal’s big comeback! I’ve given it two spins and I’m not overly impressed. Could be a grower so I’ll give it some more time.

Spinal Tap – Back From The Dead (2009): Love the movie, love the soundtrack, love BREAK LIKE THE WIND (1992). I’m not sure if Tap’s brand of comic Metal is what we need in 2009 but it’s a cool break from the ultra-serious way the scene usually is. I could have gone for a straight up new record but I’ll take the re-done classics as a bonus.

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009): I still can’t get enough of this album, one of my favorites of the year. I still wish there were more faster songs though.

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): One of my top albums since it came out back in January. Saxon is one of those bands that I can never get enough of and INTO THE LABYRINTH satisfies both the old school NWOBHM fan in me as well as the Power Metal fan in me. This will definitely be in the running for this year’s best.

Ted Poley – Greatestits (2009): Search for the cover and you’ll understand the spelling! 2 CDs, 23 songs, all spanning Ted Poley’s career after Danger Danger. There are some excellent songs here and now I’m making a list of all the Poley projects I don’t have and need to buy.

CD Scavenger Hunt – New Release Tuesday edition

Another week…..more new releases…..another Hunt!

Went to the local record store to grab the new releases from Queensryche and The Answer but a couple of surprises were in store at great prices!

queensryche_americansoldierQueensryche – American Soldier (2009) – $12.88: Always been a Queensryche fan, straight from the days of the first E.P. and RAGE FOR ORDER, so I always support a new album from the band. Another new record that’s another concept album so I’m going into it with a little hesitation but I like the subject matter: U.S. soldiers coming back after tours in the Middle East…..a topic very relevant today. Fingers are crossed that this is a good record, I haven’t read any reviews going in.

the_answer_-_everyday_demons_coverThe Answer – Everyday Demons (2009) – $9.99: I bought this based on the hype and the sale price. I figure if The Answer sucks then I’m only out ten bucks! I’ve read all the reviews on RISE (2006) and the hype surrounding this new record, I also hear the band is performing well opening for AC/DC. I usually tend to stay away from the current media darlings but I find myself interested enough to blow some cash…..fingers crossed on this one too.

halford-resurrection-2009-remasteredHalford – Resurrection (2009 remastered) – $14: Like any good fan of Rob Halford, I went out and bought RESURRECTION when it came out originally back in 2000 and it’s a great album. Of course, Metal-Is (a division of Sanctuary Records I believe) is defunct and Rob owns his catalog so the reissue was unavoidable. So why buy it? Four new songs tacked in the middle of it that were part of the release to iTunes back in 2006. Just a heads up…..LIVE INSURRECTION (2001) was remastered/reissued too but there are no extra tunes on it, I’m waiting to see what Halford does with CRUCIBLE (2002).

grave-digger-liberty-or-deathGrave Digger – Liberty Or Death (2007) – $9 used: I’m starting to fill in some holes in the Grave Digger collection but finding the albums locally is a pain. This CD was just traded in for store credit and I watched the guy price it up and I snatched it! A bargain at $9! The odd thing is that my CD says the year is 2006 but every website I’ve checked, including the band’s website, lists it as 2007.

alice-cooper-raise-your-fist-and-yellAlice Cooper – Raise Your Fist And Yell (1987) – $7: Sealed original press of this mid-80s Alice classic for seven bucks…..not bad. I thought I already had this CD but I was armed and ready with my database of my collection (I’ve been able to input up to letter D!) and it wasn’t there! I’ve seen this CD sitting in the rack for months at a great price and I’m surprised nobody bought it. I grabbed it and double checked my collection…..not there! Later on, I went through a shoebox that holds the remainder of my old cassettes and there was RAISE YOUR FIST AND YELL on tape…..I knew I had it somehow.

Queensryche – Take Cover (2007)

Queensryche - Take Cover (2007) artwork

Queensryche – Take Cover (2007, Rhino)

  1. Welcome To The Machine – (Pink Floyd)
  2. Heaven On Their Minds – (Jesus Christ Superstar)
  3. Almost Cut My Hair – (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
  4. For What It’s Worth – (Buffalo Springfield)
  5. For The Love Of Money – (The O’Jays)
  6. Innuendo – (Queen)
  7. Neon Knights – (Black Sabbath)
  8. Synchronicity II – (The Police)
  9. Red Rain – (Peter Gabriel)
  10. Odissea – (Carlo Marrale & Cheope)
  11. Bullet The Blue Sky (live) – (U2)

Band Lineup:
Geoff Tate – Lead Vocals
Scott Rockenfield – Drums
Eddie Jackson – Bass
Mike Stone – Guitars
Michael Wilton – Guitars

Producer: Kenny Nemes

Total Time – 55:31

Queensryche official website
Queensryche MySpace page
Rhino Records

Whenever I come across a covers album, or cover songs, I get a little annoyed. Maybe it’s all the covers that made it onto a lot of late ’80s/early ’90s albums. Maybe it’s the excessive amount of tribute albums in the late ’90s. Maybe it’s current trend to make an album of covers, giving bands a quick product to promote. I just don’t like these types of albums…..but TAKE COVER is done really well.

I found out about this project this past summer when I caught Queensryche in concert opening for Heaven & Hell and Alice Cooper. In the middle of their set, Queensryche did a cool rendition of Pink Floyd’s ‘Welcome To The Machine’, complete with Geoff Tate on saxophone! After that performance, I knew I had to hear the rest.

The record starts with ‘Welcome To The Machine’ and it is still excellent, Queensryche really doing the track justice. I never got into Jesus Christ Superstar but for some strange reason, I know some of the tunes. ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ bores me but it’s another example of just how good Geoff Tate’s voice is. The band goes to the late ’60s/early ’70s for material with ‘Almost Cut My Hair’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’. ‘Almost…’ is pretty much straight forward to the CSN&Y version but, again, Tate’s voice sets the song apart from the original. A totally different arrangement changes ‘For What It’s Worth’ and makes it more in the Queensryche vein. I’m so used to hearing the original that I’m both shocked and intrigued by the changes.

I like the band’s take on The O’Jays’ classic ‘For The Love Of Money’. It’s another song that’s pretty straight forward to the original except that it’s “Rocked up” with the electric guitars. My favorite track on this album is ‘Innuendo’. I’m a big Queen fan and I’ve always found many Queen covers to pale in comparison to the originals. We are talking about Queen here, virtuosos at their craft. Queensryche does a superb job of keeping up with the original, it’s Geoff Tate’s best performance on the album but I think Mike Stone and Michael Wilton have Brian’s May’s guitar work down pat. Another spot on cover is Black Sabbath’s ‘Neon Knights’. It sounds almost like the same cut with only the vocals replaced! The solo is very good and the guitar tone is almost dead on to Tony Iommi’s, a very well done song. ‘Synchronicity II’ will be remembered by children of the ’80s as a really rockin’ Police track. I’m glad Queensryche chose this song, the could have gone with a more popular Police tune but they went for one that doesn’t get as much run almost 25 years later. Tate’s voice lacks a little of Sting’s original grit but Geoff hits the highs very well.

Peter Gabriel’s ‘Red Rain’ is another deep track chosen by the band and it comes off really well. This song would have easily fit on HEAR IN THE NOW FRONTIER (1997), Q2K (2000), or TRIBE (2003). I like the echo effect on the vocal, Gabriel does the same thing. ‘Odissea’ is impressive in that it’s Opera and in Italian. tate imoresses again with his versatility and his ability to sing in another language when he doesn’t actually speak it! The last cut is a long live version of U2′s ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’. I’m not sure if this song fits with the band but they seem to pull it off well. It’s very long though.

Bottom Line:
If you are a fan of Queensryche, you’ll pick this up and like it. If you are a casual fan, you might want to sink your teeth into the band’s excellent back catalogue first but this CD will give you an idea of the band’s sound. As far as covers albums go, it’s very good: the vocals are perfect, the musicianship is top notch as is the production. There are a few twists and different takes on some songs but that keeps it all a bit fresh, doesn’t it? Ranks right behind the Shaw/Blades record, and ahead of the two Tesla covers discs, for best covers album of 2007. Favorite tracks: ‘Innuendo’, ‘Welcome To The Machine’, ‘Neon Knights’, ‘Synchronicity II’, and ‘Red Rain’.