Friday, May 23, 2008

A Bargain Hunter's Finds (More Iced Earth!)

Post #25
My music collection is always growing. I occasionally sell back some titles at used CD stores, but it's a rare occurance. Mostly, I find the used music market is always the best place to find those elusive recordings that I missed out on when they were 1st released. Truthfully it's only a handful of times a year that I even buy a music title new from a retailer (and often I redeem either coupons or gift cards to do so!) The used market is much easier on the pocketbook too! Aside from that I also utilize the Audio-visual section of my local library to keep up on hot, new rock music artists.

One of my favorite used CD stores places to frequent is Half Price Books. HPB is a chain in the midwest. You can find their nearest location to you at their website: I recently found some great deals on heavy metal CDs there...

First, by random luck, while browsing through the "I"'s I ran across Iced Earth's "Days of Purgatory" 2-CD set... for $7.98!!! I couldn't pass this up. A collection of their early material re-recorded with Matt Barlow on vocals. A really great find.

Later that same week, I was out visiting family and we decided to go out shopping and we checked out another HPB location. At this one I restricted myself to the clearance section for music. I still couldn't escape without a great find as I ran across Iced Earth's 4th album, "The Dark Saga" for a mere $2.00!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say I was quite satisfied with these finds for the week, and managed to fill in a big chunck of my Iced Earth collection for under $10.00. I've given them a fair amount of listening already, and can give you some recommended tracks:

From "The Dark Saga"
-Dark Saga
-The Hunter
-Slave to the Dark

From "Days of Purgatory"
-Angels Holocaust
-When The Night Falls
-Desert Rain
-Travel in Stygian

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Music Mix Mania! (pt. 2) Metallic Catastrophe

Post #24
Sometimes I find that I've collected a vast amount of excellent, shredding metal music in a relatively short period of time that I have difficulty thoroughly enjoying each title. Sometimes it's moments like these that drive me to burn another good mix CD, allowing a balanced sampling of newly acquired music. This was the case when I compiled "Metallic Catastrophe!"- A really rippin' mix of some excellent (mostly) new heavy metal tunes.

Here's an annotated list of the songs I chose for this mix:

1-Bruce Dickinson-"Abduction" This is from Bruce's most recent solo album, "Tyranny of Souls". I have this song on a sampler CD I got in Classic Rock magazine. I've yet to collect the whole album, but if "Abduction" is any indication of the rest of the CD, then I'm missing out on some good metal!

2-Black Tide-"Shockwave" I've said plenty about Black Tide already on this blog, the reason I've included this song on this mix CD should be obvious... this song kicks ass!!!

3-Trivium-"Anthem (We Are The Fire)" I'm still listening to The Crusade 3-4 times a week. I had to put a song from this album on this mix. "Anthem" is true to it's name; an anthem for heavy metal. You feel an urge to scream along, "We are the Fire!" when you're hearing this song!

4-Avenged Sevenfold-"Chapter Four" This is one of the older songs on this mostly brand-new song collection. From Waking the Fallen, this is probably my favorite song.

5-Megadeth-"Gears of War" From their newest album. I could have easily chosen "Washington Is Next!" or "Sleepwalker", but I think I chose "Gears of War" because I had a lyric from this song in my head while I was making this mix. The lyric... "Smart bombs, precision guided armaments. A more sophisticated way to end up dead!"

6-Serj Tankian-"Sky Is Over" I got Serj's Elect The Dead CD as a gift this past Christmas. This song jumped out at me after my first listen. I still think it's one of the best songs on this solo project from the System of a Down front-man.

7-Iced Earth-"The Clouding" I mentioned this song in my Iced Earth post. I include it on this mix for the same reasons; it's a great epic song that transforms from melodic to thrashy about halfway through. I placed it in the middle of this mix because of its length (if not, I fear I'd run out of room on the CD!)

8-Trivium-"Becoming the Dragon" Another Trivium song. I'm still very into this CD! I couldn't help but to put another selection from "The Crusade" on this mix. I chose this particular song for the intentional play-on-words I utilized with the following song...

9-DragonForce-"Through the Fire and Flames" Wow! How can I describe DragonForce? I'll have to figure it out before I complete my upcoming post on them. I chose this song to put on this mix because it's not only their best know song (with their performing & promoting it on their Ozzfest appearance, as well as its appearance in the game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock), it is also a great example of Herman Li & Sam Totman's unfathomable lead soloing skills. You'll find about 2 minutes worth of non-stop guitar soloing in this song!

10-Lordi-"The Kids Who Wanna Play With The Dead" It's almost unfair to any song I would have follow a DragonForce song. However, since I elected not to have DragonForce as the closing song, someone had to follow. I really dig Lordi. Their horrific visions depicted in their lyrics are very entertaining. Again, you have to keep a horror-movie frame of mind while listening to Lordi. "Kids" is also a great rocking-metallic song.

11-Dokken-"Drown" Of all the songs on this mix, this one is the curve-ball. "Dokken?" you may ask? But trust me, this one is worth a listen. It comes from one of the better of their many come-back efforts throughout the late 90's- "Erase the Slate". This also features the great Reb Beach on lead guitar, replacing George Lynch. Reb brought his intense ripping lead guitar style into the Dokken sound quite smoothly. And Don's songwriting wasn't so bad either. "Drown" features a dark and haunting riff that really stuck in my head...

12-Dream Theater-"Constant Motion" Dream Theater are such a great band. They're quite heavy but also are top-notch musicians, and it's apparent in their ambitious music. The only downside is probably that they almost put out albums faster that I can keep up with. I put a selection from their newest album, "Systematic Chaos" on this mix so that I can get some more exposure to their music. I can't wait to write a full post about them. It might take me awhile though...

13-Demons & Wizards-"Crimson King" A Stephen King inspired song (from The Dark Tower series!). This band is a side project from members of Iced Earth & Blind Guardian. This heavy and fast song comes from an album highly influenced by King's Dark Tower series. If you're a Dark Tower reader & enjoy this song, check out the album "Touched by the Crimson King"

14-Lordi-"They Only Come Out at Night" Another Lordi song. Again, it's filled with great haunting imagery backed by heavy rock guitar riffage!

15-Iron Maiden-"The Longest Day" I had to have at least one song from Maiden's "A Matter Of Life And Death" album, and this was my favorite at the time. Listening to this song always makes me feel like I'm watching the opening sequence of the film, "Saving Private Ryan"- where they're storming the beaches under heavy fire. I also like having Bruce Dickinson singing on the last song here; it book-ends this collection well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Black Tide: Light From Above

Post #23
Well, I promised I'd follow up with this band once I heard their debut album, and I'm pleased to say I've added it to my collection and I'm far from disappointed. I bought this CD the day it was released, so I've had several weeks to properly digest their debut material for this review. Black Tide more than live up to the expectations I had from seeing them at Ozzfest a year ago, and hearing their 2-song sampler distributed at Hot Topic. These guys really could be the future of metal (as "Ultimate Revenge Magazine" said in a quote on the promotional sticker on the CD). "Light From Above" is filled with classic metal riffs, melodic grooves, and ripping guitar solos that respectfully honor the band's many influences. The album is oozing with raw potential from start to finish.

The band's frontman, Gabriel Garcia, has proven he has some great song-writing potential, and he's so young (age 14 when they played Ozzfest!) there's no way he can do anything but improve. His voice is a bit reminiscent of the early days of Silverchair's Daniel Johns (I know it's weird I should make that comparison since Johns was also under 18 when he recorded the 1st Silverchair album, Frogstomp). But the rest of the band's sound seems to draw from many sources of inspiration. In addition to Megadeth, Metallica, & Guns N' Roses (all referenced in Spin's quote on the Promo sticker), there are distinct elements of Iron Maiden apparent in songs like "Warriors of Time", & "Enterprise". Black Tide also have a few songs that sound like they fit right in with some of their Ozzfest '06 tour-mates. The closing title track, "Light From Above" could sound like an Avenged Sevenfold song, and "Let Me" has an intro riff that betrays an influence from Black Label Society's (& Ozzy Osbourne guitarist) Zakk Wylde. "Show Me the Way" re-works a Megadeth riff from "The Conjuring", but it develops into a very enjoyable metal song. "Give Me a Chance" and "Live Fast, Die Young" are much more 'rock' oriented songs and less 'metal'.

And last but not least, I have to mention their cover of Metallica's "Hit the Lights". This was the 1st song I heard them perform live at Ozzfest, and was hesitant to recommend it on my first post because I wasn't sure they would record it for their debut album. However they did record it, and it is a near flawless rendition. I even went so far as to listen to both versions simultaneously. I was amazed to hear that the tempo and intensity of this cover was practically a perfect match. The only differences are 1: the guitar solos (obviously, soloing is the most artistic aspect of heavy metal guitar playing, and I'd have been a bit let down if Garcia just copied Kirk's solos note for note), and 2: the tempo of the "breakdown" segment. You'll find Metallica whip through that part a little faster than Black Tide, and you'll have to pause one CD player & let the other catch up. All things considered, they couldn't have performed it better. It's perhaps a bit symbolic that they choose this Metallica tune to cover. It was Metallica's first song on their first album, back when they hadn't truly established a direction for their own music (as they later did on their next 2 albums). It's a mission-statement song for metal if ever there was one!

All-in-all Light From Above is packed with a vast variety of rock & metal song-styles. It might be the only down-side of this CD, that there's too much variety. However if you're looking for a versatile new heavy metal band, then here's the band you've been waiting for. As young as they are, Black Tide have the potential to pull the heavy metal genre in their direction. I foresee that they will refine their sound & direction over 2-3 more albums as they continue to write music, possibly incorporating many of their apparent influences more cohesively into future songs. To paraphrase the lyrics of "Give Me a Chance"; we should give Black Tide a chance to figure out who they are. I'm sure we'll not be disappointed.

In addition to my previous recommendations (Shockwave & Warriors of Time) from my previous post on Black Tide, I recommend...
-Give Me a Chance
-Hit The Lights
-Light From Above