Tuesday, December 29, 2009

MAYHEM FESTIVAL 2009 (Concert Review)

Post #81
I'm usually always on the look-out for Ozzfest each summer. It's a great package-deal, day-long indulgence of live heavy metal mayhem. However, when I found out that Sharron & Ozzy Osbourne had not planned an Ozzfest for '09 so that Ozzy could write and record a new album, I was bummed out. What was I to do to satiate my annual craving for an outdoor concert festival of chaos?!?

Luckily I soon discovered Mayhem Festival! This is another summer festival tour featuring several heavy metal bands that started last year. This year's line-up featured several newer bands that I've recently become a big fan of: Bullet For My Valentine, Trivium and All That Remains; as well as some bands I've been a long-time fan of: Killswitch Engage and Slayer! Needless to say I was hyped to get 2 lawn admission tickets as a birthday gift! I invited a friend of mine who had been with me to Ozzfest before, and he was game.

We took our time getting to the show, not really caring if we missed the 1st few bands, since all the artists we were interested in were pretty high on the bill. So when we arrived Behemoth was on stage. They were showering the crowd with their brand of death metal, ghostly white makeup covering their faces. They played some pretty heavy tunes, but before we even heard 2 songs they were finished.

Almost immediately after they concluded their set, All That Remains came onto another stage (for this fest there were 2 small stages, sponsored by Jagermeister & Hot Topic respectively). The dual stage set-up really helped the festival move along at a faster pace than I had ever seen at an Ozzfest. All That Remains really kicked the crowd's asses with their brand of melodic-metalcore from the east coast: blast-beat drumming, gutteral-screaming vocals mixed with strong melodic singing, heavy riffs and plenty of shredding guitar solos... This was my kind of metal! Although their set seemed pretty short, there was plenty more in store...

(Let me mention here that I am not especially into Death Metal. I do enjoy very heavy music and a bit of screaming vocals, but I have to have a bit of melody somewhere in the music. So don't be offended if I don't focus on all the bands at this festival.)

The next act was The Black Dahlia Murder. As is their trademark, they came on stage wearing suits with loosened neckties. They began assailing the audience with their screaming death-metal vocals and got right into their set.

Since neither my friend nor I are particular fans of all-out death metal, we took this opportunity to browse the various vendors at the venue. We checked out a good deal of music & memorabilia stands and made our way back in time to catch the end of Black Dahlia Murder and were prepared to get a good spot close to the stage for Trivium...

In recent months, Trivium have quickly become one of my favorite bands. As I've mentioned before they blend melodic vocals with metalcore-style screams, classic-thrash inspired riffs with a heavy use of intricate guitar solos, and tight rapid-fire double bass drumming. I can honestly say they were the main reason behind my desire to see this concert. I was really hyped to hear what they had in store for us.

Before the last echoes of The Black Dahlia Murder had even faded, Trivium's intro music began to play. It was "The End of Everything", and just like in my review of "Ascendancy", it set the tone for their set. Also just like Ascendancy they kicked off their part of the show with "Rain"! Mini mosh pits started up in a couple places. Matt Heafy directed the moshers, and encouraged much headbanging by example. I craved hearing each song, one after another.

It seemed they were finished almost before they got rolling, but they had given us a good mix of tunes, primarily from the albums Ascendancy and Shogun. Before their last number they announced they would be signing merchandise at the Roadrunner booth. Unfortunately I thought the line too long by the time I found it... a rare opportunity missed.

While Cannibal Corpse was on, we took the opportunity to migrate to the mainstage to get a good view from the lawn. Bullet for My Valentine would be the mainstage opener...

After getting situated with a good view of the stage we kicked back for a few while Cannibal Corpse's droning buzzsaw riffs and harsh vocals faded away in the background, and about 20 minutes later Bullet For My Valentine took the stage and wasted no time in delivering mosh-worthy music as they opened with "Waking The Demon".

Most of their set was also some of their heavier numbers. The peak of their set was probably "Tears Don't Fall", arguably their most well-known song. The lawn section developed an enthusiastic mosh-pit where the intensity of the mosh mirrored the intensity of the music. They closed their set with "Scream, Aim, Fire", the title-track from their newest album, and most recent hit.

Bullet for My Valentine were a perfect appetizer for the next band: Killswitch Engage. KsE are a band as well know for their sense of humor as they are for their thundrous style of melodic metalcore music. Their humorous attitude was immediately apparent when they came on stage and drummer Justin Foley tells us all, "Why don't you put this in your pipe and smoke it!" Not to be overshadowed, guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz wore a black cape over his otherwise-normal garb of t-shirt & shorts.


Being one of the most influential bands of the east-coast melodic metalcore scene, Killswitch had a strong following present in the crowd. The crowd was ready to honor these guys with enthusiastic moshing, and lucky for them, Adam & lead singer Howard Jones were ready to direct them. A few songs into the set Adam paused to scold the crowd, claiming he saw too many people standing still. He said, "This is 'Mayhem Fest' not 'May I Stand Around and Act Like a Pussy-Fest'!" That worked to energize the crowd for another couple songs. Then Jones took a few minutes to direct the lawn section to participate in what I can only describe as a 'Chinese Stand-Off' mosh pit...

If you've ever seen the movie "Big Trouble in Little China", then you know what I mean. There's a scene in the film where 2 china-town gangs have an all-out brawl in an alley. This mosh kick-off looked pretty much like that, minus the guns & blades, but just as intense. It was pure adrenaline personified! Then Killswitch proceeded to complete a great set of new songs mixed with their best known classics. If that wasn't enough we still had Slayer & Manson to look forward to.... and Slayer were up next!

The penultimate act of the night, Slayer were about to bring the entire festival to a new level of Mayhem! In the lull between sets, my buddy & I had edged our way up close to the front fence of the lawn section to get a better view of the last couple acts now that the sun had set....

With the stage set in darkness, an intro of static, feedback, and spoken dialog began to play while upon the black screen back-drop images of various Slayer logos began to turn in circles. I would later realize the intro was actually "Darkness of Christ" from their album God Hates Us All. As soon as the intro drew to a close, the band launched straight into "Disciple", and Slayer's clinic of old-school thrash metal was underway.

Early in their set they played one of their new songs from their upcoming album "World Painted Blood". The song was "Psychopathy Red". Thereafter the rest of their set focused on songs from their greatest albums from the mid-80's: "Reign in Blood", "South of Heaven", and "Seasons in the Abyss".

Although I was transfixed by their stage-set and pyrotechnics (which included a flame-spewing Slayer/pentagram logo), I did take a moment at one point to check the status of the mosh-pit behind me. I was curious if the crowd had run out of steam from moshing all day. That was certainly NOT the case, as the entire lawn seemed like a froth of moshing bodies. It was like watching a popcorn popper, except with human bodies!

Lastly the closing of Mayhem Fest was up to Marilyn Manson. Supporting their new album "The High End of Low", Manson took the stage and did their best to keep the crowd rolling. They opened up with "We're From America". Marilyn Manson himself was draped in an American flag and wearing a war helmet. Manson's music is stylistically quite different from many of the faster-tempo acts that had preceded them in this festival. It was clear to me that much of the crowd had had their fill after the speed & intensity of Slayer and began to head for the exits. The faithful that remained seemed more dedicated to the Marilyn Manson frame of mind: united together against the norm, against the grain, and against the status quo.

Though they did select a few songs from their new album, there were enough of their classics that I recognized that still made the show enjoyable, in spite of it seeming a little anti-climatic following the likes of Slayer. The tunes; "Dope Show", "Tourniquet", and "The Beautiful People" were included among others...

Overall, a fantastic day of Heavy-Metal indulgence!

Setlists (to the best of my recollection) for the acts I saw are as follows:

ALL THAT REMAINS
-This Calling
-Chiron
-Forever In Your Hands
-Whispers
-Six
-The Air That I Breathe
-Undone
-Two Weeks

TRIVIUM

-The End of Everything
-Rain
-When All Light Dies
-Down From the Sky
-Throes of Perdition
-Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr

BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE

-Waking the Demon
-End of Days
-4 Words (To Choke Upon)
-No Control

-Her Voice Resides(?)
-Tears Don't Fall
-Hand of Blood
-Scream Aim Fire

KILLSWITCH ENGAGE

-My Last Serenade
-Reckoning
-Fixation on the Darkness
-Light in a Darkened World
-A Bid Farewell
-My Curse
-Rose of Sharyn
-Starting Over
-The End of Heartache
-Holy Diver

SLAYER

-Darkness of Christ
-Disciple
-War Ensemble
-Jihad
-Psychopathy Red
-Born of Fire
-Mandatory Suicide
-Chemical Warfare
-Ghosts of War
-Dead Skin Mask
-Hell Awaits
-Angel of Death
-South of Heaven
-Raining Blood

MARILYN MANSON

-We're From America
-Disposable Teens
-Little Horn
-Irresponsible Hate Anthem
-Four Rusted Horses
-Arma... ...geddon
-Dope Show
-Rock is Dead
-Tourniquet
-Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)
-The Beautiful People

http://www.rockstarmayhemfest.com/mayhem/index.asp

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thoughts on "Favorite 2009 Album" poll.

Post #80
2009 was such a great year for Heavy Metal & Hard Rock music. I could list a couple pages' worth of albums to include in this poll, but I tried to stick to some that I personally found most essential and/or successful. This was a hard decission to make, however. So, before any of you get up-in-arms about any occlusions, please remember you can always vote for 'other', and I welcome comments if you'd like to elaborate on your decission.

One rule of thumb that I used to help narrow down the list was not to include any album I have already reviewed. Here are some great '09 releases you can already read my reviews of on this blog:
Shallow Life-Lacuna Coil
The Devil You Know-Heaven & Hell
Black Gives Way to Blue-Alice In Chains

Also, here are the 'honorable mentions' that I decided against after much internal debate:
No Sacrifice, No Victory-HammerFall
Earthsblood-God Forbid
Wrath-Lamb of God
Scream-Chris Cornell
American Soldier-Queensryche
Halestorm
Horehound-The Dead Weather
Anomaly-Ace Frehley
The Dethalbum II-Dethklok
Memento Mori-Flyleaf
The Days of Grays-Sonata Arctica
Life Starts Now-Three Days Grace
Dear Agony-Breaking Benjamin
Retribution-Shadows Fall

So you can see, I had a great deal of good releases to select from. I try not to let any of my polls get into double-digits of options, so I hope the list that is up is good enough for most of you. Happy voting!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Appetite for Destruction: A Monumental Debut

Post #79-Poll Winner: Favorite Debut Album
In 1987 a new rock band revitalized the music scene with a debut album of unprecedented success. The band was Guns N' Roses. The album was Appetite for Destruction.

For the rest of '87 and almost all of 1988, it seemed every track from 'Appetite' that was released as a single became an instant mega-hit. So many of them are still essential hard-rock songs today. Think about it; "Welcome to the Jungle", "Sweet Child O' Mine", "Paradise City"... Could you imagine a world of rock music without these gems?

All the success allowed the band to do a great deal of extensive touring, and they became a world-wide success. They were a cultural phenomenon, being the first band on everyone's mind for months on end. This album's success is hard to equal, even for the band themselves. More so, as a debut, it set a benchmark that may never be equaled.

Though I've reviewed Guns N' Roses before, I'll reiterate some of my top picks from 'Appetite':
-Welcome to the Jungle
-Mr. Brownstone
-You're Crazy
-Paradise City
-Night Train
-It's So Easy
-Rocket Queen

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lacuna Coil-Shallow Life

Post #78
Italy's gothic-metal rockers, Lacuna Coil, come back with "Shallow Life", a long-awaited follow-up to their US breakthrough album, "Karmacode".

"Shallow Life" comes across with more of a main-stream vibe than "Karmacode", without losing their classic sound. The first single, "Spellbound", seemed to get the band even more exposure this past summer. It received a good deal of air-play on radio stations in my area. It was a primary reason for seeking out tickets for one of their shows this summer too.

Almost every song on the album plays on catchy melodies, weather they're ballads or heavier tunes doesn't matter. Lacuna Coil have taken the next step in thier musical evolution, and have presented their most accessible album yet. I dare you to play this album all the way through without getting 2 or 3 of the songs stuck in your head.


My personal favorites include:
-Survive
-I Won't Tell You
-I'm Not Afraid
-Underdog
-Unchained
-Spellbound

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Jimi Hendrix-Woodstock '69

Post #77-Poll Winner: Favorite Woodstock '69 Performer
The 3 day festival of music, peace, & love, that was Woodstock 1969 was a musical event like no other. A generation of music fans gathered for days to enjoy music, promote peace, and become a part of rock'n'roll history. Enduring rain, hunger, and a massive crowd for the sake of music, this throng of people was witness to one of the greatest concerts of all time.

Of all the artists that performed at the original Woodstock Festival, you have voted for Jimi Hendrix as you favorite. At the time, Hendrix was at the peak of his musical career. He was also given the honor of being the closing performer for this 3-day long music festival. His performance did not disappoint. In fact it could be called the greatest live performance of all time. Certainly, his rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a one-of-a-kind performance, and still inspires some of the world's best guitarists to this day.

Here was his set from that historic day:
-Message to Love
-Getting My Heart Back Together Again
-Spanish Castle Magic
-Red House
-Master Mind
-Here Comes Your Lover Man
-Foxy Lady
-Beginning
-Izabella
-Gypsy Woman
-Fire
-Voodoo Child (Slight Return)/Stepping Stone
-Star Spangled Banner
-Purple Haze
-Woodstock Improvisation/Villanova Junction
-Hey Joe

From: http://discoverynet.com/~barnes/Woodstock_songs.htm

Friday, November 6, 2009

Discover New Bands on Myspace...

Post #76
Refer to this post for the November-December '09 Readers' Poll!

In this day and age, if you have a band that's serious about recording music, and you can't find a record deal, it's still easy to get your music available for potential fans to hear. All you need to do is create a myspace web page, upload some of your songs, and who knows what can happen from there?

For next month's readers' poll I'll be featuring the following bands that are either new, unsigned, or independent. They all have a myspace page with songs available to preview. I have suggested one song for each band for you to quickly listen & compare, but please listen to as many of their songs as you can... you'll see there's a lot of variety here! Then, after you've heard them all, pick you favorite & cast your vote! Enjoy the new tunes!

Overdust-"Maybe Tomorrow"
http://www.myspace.com/overdust

Ten With Strangers-"Gotta Get Home"
http://www.myspace.com/tenwithstrangers

Taking Dawn-"Like a Revolution"
http://www.myspace.com/takingdawn

Strych9Hollow-"Better Off Alone"
http://www.myspace.com/strych9hollow

Droids Attack!-"Operation Panda"
http://www.myspace.com/droidsattack

From Sword to Sunrise-"Preparation for Death"
http://www.myspace.com/fromswordtosunrise

Losing Scarlet-"Shade of Hate"
http://www.myspace.com/losingscarlet

Start listening now!! The new poll will be posted in just a couple days!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Label Added- "At Your Library"

Post #75
Hello readers! Just wanted to update you on one of my secret methods of keeping up and up on so much new music. Especially in these times, where money is tight for so many, finding great bargains is essential to people like myself who live on a budget. However, sometimes even a great sale isn't enough to make all the music I'd like to buy affordable.

For times like this, I utilize my local library. You may be surprised how quickly libraries add new titles to their audio-visual sections. Ever since I started this blog, I've periodically reviewed titles that I checked out from my library. In some cases I've added these titles to my collection since the time I borrowed them from the library, but not always. I've added the label "At Your Library" to all the posts where I first hear the music on a CD I checked out from my library. So pay attention when you see this label at the bottom of a post, and let it be a reminder to yourself that there is probably some cool new music waiting for you at your own library.

Lordi-Deadache

Post #74
Lordi! The monster-mask wearing 80's-style metal enthusiasts from Finland follow-up their "Arockalypse" album with another monster & horror inspired album; "Deadache". This album does a good job of covering all the basic elements from their previous album. Although they don't seem to try anything new or experimental with this album, they do stick to their tried & true formula very well.

They sart off "Deadache" with another SCG-intro, but I don't find it as creative as SCG3 from "The Arockalypse". The rest of the music, however, rocks just as hard as before. Monsters, ghouls, and tales of hauntings lace every musical nook & cranny of "Deadache". Mr. Lordi sings as enthusiastic as ever with his incredibly raspy voice. Catchy guitar riffs and lead guitar melodies show off this band's genre of inspiration- 80's hair-metal. Eerie, mood-setting keyboards provide the essential nightmare-ish vibe that Lordi thrive on.

Feast your ears on this album for Halloween this year, or should I say, let it feast upon your ears?
Here are my recommended tracks:
-Girls Go Chopping
-Man Skin Boots
-The Ghosts of the Heceta Head
-Deadache
-The Devil Hides Behind Her Smile (This song pays tribute to another haunting story, as the keyboards play a musical theme from the musical "Phantom of the Opera")
-Missing Miss Charlene (Why is he missing Miss Charlene? Because a monster stole dear Charlene, of course...)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Alice In Chains-Black Gives Way To Blue

Post #73
After a long period of silence, one of the greatest bands from the grunge-era finally return. Alice In Chains have picked up their bones, filled some voids, and recorded some new music that is surprisingly reminiscent of their previous material. For a band to choose to continue their career after the death of a key member has to be a hard decision to make. For Alice In Chains, they took their time.

After several years of mourning the loss of original vocalist, Layne Staley, and much soul searching, the band decided to reunite. At first they just performed a couple of benefit shows, and had a variety of different performers fill the role of lead vocals. At some point, they called on William DuVall (who'd performed with Jerry Cantrell on his solo tour) to take the lead vocals part. What started as a last-go-around tribute to Layne Staley tour grew enough camaraderie among the band members that they decided to keep going.


DuVall has proven to be the defibrillator that jump-started Alice In Chains' black & blue heart. If you've heard any of the band's new music from Black Gives Way To Blue, then you know why. The first time I heard "Check My Brain" the similarity to Staley's unique voice sent chills down my spine. When I first played the album all the way through, almost every song did the same. There are some places where DuVall is singing solo that you can hear how his voice differs from Layne's, but in the next melody he'll slip into another instance of eerie resemblance.

William DuVall's voice is not exactly like Layne's, but it's damn close! Even more important, the 2-part harmonies between DuVall and Jerry Cantrell sound just like classic Alice In Chains. Casually listening to the music you probably couldn't tell it wasn't Layne. DuVall's performance on this album is the perfect compliment to Cantrell's songwriting. The reflective and cathartic nature of the lyrics depict the mournful mindset of this band at this point in time, sometimes with heartbreaking clarity. If you've ever been a fan of this band, you owe it to yourself and to them to give this album a listen.

Every song has a place on this album, and sounds like a perfect fit among the band's previous material. I will try to narrow down my recommendations, but do yourself the favor of listening to the complete recording.
My picks:
-All Secrets Known (First track- themed around a new beginning, without going back to the start. Sort of a mission statement for this album)
-Check My Brain (The first single, you can probably hear it now on your local radio station... great harmonies between William & Jerry, not to mention a classic AIC riff that sounds almost out of tune.)
-Last of My Kind (Maybe the heaviest song on this album. Great song to hear both similarities and uniqueness when comparing/contrasting DuVall and Layne Staley)
-Your Decision (An acoustic/clean guitar, mellow song. It does have a tone of melancholy, as do many songs on this album- hey, it's AIC!)
-When the Sun Rose Again (Another acoustic number. Pretty much like "Your Decision"...)
-Private Hell (All the elements of a classic AIC song, but one of their slow-tempo electric numbers. DuVall sings an echoing "Uh-huh" that weighs on your ears with heavy emotion.)
-Black Gives Way to Blue (A perfect closing track. The lyrics reflect on the sentiment surrounding Layne perhaps the most of any song here. Awesome guest appearance by Elton John on piano. Layne, we'll all remember you.... rest in peace.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

AC/DC-Back In Black

Post #72 Poll Winner: Favorite AC/DC album from the 80's
After suffering the loss of their original singer, Bon Scott, AC/DC came back with one of their greatest albums: Back In Black. Back In Black was a statement album. AC/DC showed the world that they were not done with rock n' roll. It was a new decade, they had a new singer, a new album, and a new mission to prove they could still rock.

After the first track on the album, Hells Bells, there was no need for any argument. Almost every track is a hard rock classic. Angus Young displays some of the best guitar work up to this point in the band's career. AC/DC rock as hard as ever and set themselves up for a new decade where the sky was the limit!


My favorites from Back In Black:
-Hells Bells
-Shoot to Thrill
-Back In Black
-Have a Drink on Me
and of course...
-You Shook Me All Night Long

Friday, October 2, 2009

...2 Years and Counting....

Post #71
Another year is in the books for this blog! I hope you've enjoyed reading the reviews I write. As always, I'm open to suggestions, so don't be shy when it comes to posting comments. I will try to keep up with new releases in rock & metal music as it comes out, but a little prodding might influence the direction of this blog, or even my taste & appreciation for different music artists.

My general plans for the future of this blog are pretty much the same. I think the routine I've established works well enough for me and my busy schedule. If there's something you think needs improvement, or you have a new idea of something you'd like to see or read about, again just let me know.

Here are some specific ideas/topics I'd like to review in the coming year:
1-More concert reviews. Weather its a show I've seen recently, or from several years ago, I enjoy the nostalgic revisiting of those events. Memories of those shows provide a great deal of specific music, emotions and events to be inspired by. I first started attending rock concerts in 1997, and I've seen my fair share of concerts over the years since then.

2-Little by little, I hope to finish reviewing the entire careers of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I have only managed to cover the most recent work of these two heavy metal icons, and their level of influence in the genre merits an in-depth review. I'll probably work my way through this task in smaller segments, rather than one huge post spanning their whole career.

3-Catching up on the ever-growing list of "coming soon" topics. On this list you can see what I've been listening to lately, its just a matter of finding time to compose the reviews. I'll keep working on them, I promise! I do try to work from the top down, but I sometimes get on a good kick with a particular band or album & crank out the review much quicker.

Lastly let me ask all my readers to contact me with any poll ideas you may have. I'm trying keep on pace with the monthly polls, but new ideas are appreciated!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Heaven & Hell-The Devil You Know

Post #70
After Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath in the late 70's the band has more or less had a revolving door of lead vocalists. While some lead singers lasted for only an album or two, others enjoyed stints of several years. The revolving door even let Ozzy back in briefly in '97-'98 when Black Sabbath headlined Ozzfest.

In 2006 Sabbath got back together with the singer who first replaced Ozzy back in 1980- Ronnie James Dio. Dio's first stint with Sabbath produced 2 solid studio albums (Heaven and Hell & Mob Rules) and the band's first double-live album (Live Evil). Thereafter Dio left Black Sabbath and started his namesake band, Dio, which was very successful in the 80's & early 90's. Ronnie again joined Black Sabbath for another album in 1992, Dehumanizer, only to go back to his solo project a couple years later.

With the '06 reunion, the intent appeared to be to record a couple new songs for the compilation album, Black Sabbath-The Dio Years. However since then, this version of the band has toured several times, and recorded a new full-length album, The Devil You Know.

The Devil You Know is both heavy and melodic, dark and ominous. In the same instant it captures the essence of classic Black Sabbath as well as the lyrical and thematic elements from Ronnie James Dio's previous work. The atmosphere of this album is as full of doom and gloom as any Black Sabbath album. It seems at this point that these veteran musicians have found a formula they are all comfortable with. Although the new music generally follows the same formula they developed in their previous periods of collaboration, The Devil You Know sounds like a more polished and refined effort.

Whether the songs are built around a slow, grinding heavy riff; a softer interplay between clean guitar and vocal melody; or a fast-tempo chord progression infused with blues-rock roots, they always seem like classic Black Sabbath (Dio-era). This time around however, they are calling themselves Heaven and Hell. Look for them when they come to your town.

In the meantime, check out these songs:
-Atom and Evil
-Fear
-Bible Black
-Eating the Cannibals
-Follow the Tears

(Cover art from heavenandhelllive.com)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ozzy Osbourne-Blizzard of Ozz

Post #69-Poll Winner: Favorite Ozzy Osbourne album from the 80's
After leaving the ranks of Black Sabbath, frontman Ozzy Osbourne set out to start a career as a solo artist in the late 70's. After a couple years he'd gathered a band and written enough tunes for his solo debut. His first release as a solo artist was the memorable Blizzard of Ozz.

Blizzard of Ozz has become a classic album in the realm of heavy metal music. It is arguably the best of Ozzy's solo material to this day. Ozzy himself even considers it one of his favorites among his own work, and that is evident in his consistent use of many of the songs from this album in almost every concert he performs.
(revised 9-3-09: thoughts on the late Randy Rhoads)
Aside from this being one of Ozzy's greatest albums, it is probably also the best work of the late Randy Rhoads' too-short career in heavy metal. Lost in a tragic plane crash in 1982, Randy's career was still on the rise with Ozzy. Rhoads is famous for his use of layered guitar solos in the recording studio. Recording multiple takes of the exact same solo on top of each other, his solos have a very full and noisy sound. Who knows how far he could have gone? Rest in peace Randy!

Fellow headbangers, you have chosen Blizard of Ozz as your favorite Ozzy album from the 80's. Here are my suggested tracks from this classic album:
-I Don't Know
-CRAZY TRAIN (This song's guitar solo is probably Rhoads' best, if it's not Mr. Crowley... listen closely to hear the layered guitar tracks in the solo!)
-Goodbye to Romance
-Mr. Crowley
-Steal Away (the Night)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Iron Maiden in the New Millennium

Post #68
As the new millennium dawned in the year 2000, the Heavy Metal scene would be treated to perhaps the greatest band-reunion metal had ever seen: Bruce Dickinson returning to Iron Maiden. With Dickinson's creative genius reunited with that of Steve Harris, the formula from Maiden's golden era was reinstated, and great metal music was sure to be in store for us all...

With three studio albums and 2 double-live CD's (not to mention another Dickinson solo-album) released since this monumental reunion, the band has not disappointed. In fact they've probably raised their standard of quality beyond what it was in the mid-80's, as many songs from this new era show a grander ambition. However, Maiden are well equipped to deliver on such ambitious material, since along with Bruce Dickinson, guitarist Adrian Smith also rejoined the band, thus giving Iron Maiden a six-man lineup that includes three lead guitarists.

One might think that one band with such a surplus of talent and creativity would fall victim to personality clashes, but these are true veterans of heavy metal, and most of them have already traveled that road. With deep mutual respect at every corner of this heavy metal sextet, and a good ole' fashioned British attitude in their hearts, this band plows onward to further their already legendary legacy.

Brave New World ('00)
When I first heard this album, I instantly thought, "MASTERPIECE!", and today I still have no reason to withdraw that comment. With their first album back together, Maiden seem set to prove they are back, and ready to show the world of metal music that they haven't lost a beat. The album title begs to double as a mission statement of renewal. The songs on this album range from the fast-tempo thrashers, to melodic introspective pieces, to progressive-metal epics that rival the likes of Dream Theater. The three guitar attack of Murray/Smith/Gers translates so fluidly in the studio that you can hardly tell they're trading off from one solo to the next.
My recommended tracks:
-The Wicker Man
-Ghost of the Navigator
-Brave New World
-Dream of Mirrors
-The Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Rock In Rio (Live-'02)
With much enthusiasm over their successful reunion, both among the band and the fans, Iron Maiden took this opportunity to document their tour with a live album available in either audio or video format. With Rock In Rio as the chosen venue, the insane fanaticism of South American heavy metal fans is captured in vivid clarity. You can hear them singing along at every opportunity, both with the lyrics and the guitar riffs!
My recommended tracks:
-Blood Brothers (Bruce dedicates this song to all heavy metal fans at the beginning)
-Sign of the Cross (Originally sung by Blaze Bayley, now we hear Bruce's vocals on it. An improvement I think- no offense to Blaze or his fans)
-The Trooper (Always a classic, and one of my favorites!)
-The Clansman (Again, hearing Bruce sing one from the Blaze Bayley era is a special treat)
-Fear of the Dark (Great crowd participation on this one!)

Dance of Death ('03)
For their 2nd effort with this lineup, Iron Maiden seem more confident. Their song composition and content take a more conceptual approach, and the progressive elements of their music are strengthened even more. This album is a perfect follow-up to one of the greatest come-back albums in the history of heavy metal. At this point it is as clear as ever that Maiden are on a roll, and bring new meaning to the word consistency.
My recommended tracks:
-Rainmaker
-No More Lies
-New Frontier
-Paschendale

Death On The Road (Live-'05)
Again, Maiden wanted to capture the atmosphere of the supporting tour for "Dance of Death" with a live album (CD or DVD). Having watched this video, I'm very glad they did! They employed an elaborate stage set, an animatronic likeness of Eddie (of course!), and various props to enhance the theatrical elements of each song they performed. Bruce Dickinson frequently changes costumes to fit the context of different songs. If Rock in Rio was to display the commitment of Maiden's fans, then Death on the Road is the showcase for Maiden's performance and delivery at its most sophisticated!
My recommended tracks:
-Wrathchild (Again I'm drawn to the novelty of Bruce Dickinson singing a song he didn't voice the studio version of. He always does a great job.)
-Dance of Death (Bruce does some role-playing on stage during this number)
-Paschendale (Again, Bruce plays the role of a dying soldier in the battle of Paschendale. The recurring lead-guitar theme imitates Morse code. One of the most theatrical performances on this DVD)
-Hallowed Be Thy Name
-Iron Maiden (On the DVD, this is where the giant Eddie come out, pointing at the crowd while holding a sickle)

A Matter Of Life And Death ('06)
Do I dare say this is Iron Maiden's greatest album ever? Yes, I do! I know some of you might be saying I have the bias of this simply being their most recent work, but as much as I've listened to this album in almost 3 years since its release has only strengthened my stance on this opinion. I'm often skeptical of bands trying to outshine their own legacy when they seem to be past their prime, but believe me when I say that Iron Maiden are a true exception to the rule.

With A Matter of Life And Death, Iron Maiden give us a great concept-album that tackles the issues surrounding war. For the first time in a while, Maiden reflect on current events as an inspiration for many of the songs on this album. They manage to get several tough points across without having to be specific about international conflicts or political figures, but you can draw many of your own conclusions if you read between the lines. They also show a good variety of sounds throughout the album, but the prog elements are abundant once again.

A Matter of Life and Death is too good not to recommend the entire album! Here are the tracks:
-Different World
-These Colours Don't Run
-Brighter Than a Thousand Suns
-The Pilgrim
-The Longest Day (this one is my favorite from this album! It feels like I'm watching the opening of the film "Saving Private Ryan" every time I hear it.)
-Out of the Shadows
-The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
-For the Greater Good of God
-Lord of Light
-The Legacy

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Metal Masters Tour

Post #67
[This is a concert review of the perfomance in Tinley Park, IL on August 19th 2008]

In recent years I've taken up the tradition of attending at least one concert a year, usually in the summer, and often it is one of the multiple-band festival tours I manage to see. Since I'm also very budget conscious, I usually get Lawn Admission and save a few bucks, unless one of bands on the bill includes complimentary tickets with their new album (as many artists have done in recent years). Either way, these summer "fest" tours are a great deal; you get to see a dozen or so bands for about the same price you would pay to see 2 or 3 bands on a regular tour.

In the summer of 2008, I was lucky enough to see 2 shows. The first one (which I reviewed in a previous post), was Poison on their Live, Raw, & Uncut Tour. However, the one I looked forward to the most was The Metal Masters Tour. This show was on the smaller side for a "fest" format, only featuring 4 bands, but it was a powerful quartet: Testament, Motorhead, Heaven & Hell, and Judas Priest! Judas Priest included a code for a free ticket in their Nostradamus album, and I bought 2 copies so I'd have a pair of tickets to the show.

As with the Poison show, I attended this concert with my brother. He was familiar enough with some of the music of Motorhead & Judas Priest that he didn't mind going, although he didn't consider himself a huge fan of any of the bands. Hopefully the concert experience has swayed his opinion a bit, but that remains to be seen...

Upon our arrival, an interesting scenario developed. It seemed that the concert was undersold, and the venue staff were keeping the gates to the lawn area closed. A little aggravated, I asked one of them what was up. They replied that since the pavilion seating was severely undersold that anyone with lawn tickets could trade their ticket in for a free upgrade to pavilion seating!

So my brother & I got our upgraded tickets and got a bit of a closer view of the show. I was a little disappointed that the turnout wasn't better, but to see this show for the cost of Judas Priest's new album was well worth it. Before we even found our way to the upgraded seats, Testament came on-stage...

The 80's bay-area thrash movement went much deeper than some of today's new heavy metal fans realize. Sure almost everyone knows about Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer, but there were plenty more bands where those came from. Testament was one of those lesser-know, but just as heavy, old-school thrashers. I couldn't tell what a few of their songs were (mostly because I hadn't yet heard their newest CD- The Formation of Damnation), but it was easy to jump right into the frenzied headbangin' madness that had ensued! After a couple songs, I finally recognized "Practice What You Preach", and the crowd got totally into it at that point. Clumps of fans could be seen shaking their long manes of headbangers' hair like it was still 1989!

Being the opening band, they had the shortest set. They focused on playing material from their new album, and were finished all too soon if you ask me. But the songs they played were great, and they got the crowd pumped for the next act... Motorhead!

Truthfully, neither of us had heard much of Motorhead's music. I knew some of their better known songs like Ace of Spades, and Damaged Case (thanks to Metallica covering it on Garage Inc.). My brother said he'd heard a couple songs on Monday Night Raw, since one wrestler always had a Motorhead song played for a theme song. However for the most part the majority of their set was a totally new experience for us.

Not being familiar with most of the lyrics, I found most songs difficult to follow. Lemmy Killmister's thick English accent didn't help much either, and his interludes between numbers wasn't any easier. However the one thing I have to give Motorhead credit for is their attitude and delivery. They really played with a 'go-for-the-kill' attitude. The vibe of their live set was like metal-meets-punk brawl. My personal favorite part of their show had to be the drum solo. That dude can drum fast!

Next up was Heaven And Hell, the Black Sabbath line-up that features Ronnie James Dio on vocals with Vinnie Appice on drums. This time around they are calling themselves Heaven And Hell and their set list was composed entirely from material on the Dio-recorded Black Sabbath albums. I knew this was their approach ahead of time, so I was hyped to hear such an era-focused collection of songs. Some may have been disappointed by the absence of any "classic" Black Sabbath songs, but beggars can't be choosers.

Their stage set up was pretty elaborate; hulking gargoyles flanked both sides of the stage with eyes that glowed red, and wrought-iron fencing lined parts of the stage. The show began with the instrumental "E5150" as an intro, slow buzzing notes from distorted guitar with a bit of volume-swell effect... When Tony Iommi's scheaching guitar burst forth with heavy riffs, we were off and rocking with Heaven & Hell!

"Mob Rules" was the first song and it got the crowd rolling. The rest of the set was no disappointment either, as they mainly played numbers from their 1st album together, Heaven & Hell, balanced by selections from Mob Rules & Dehumanizer plus one of their new songs from the Black Sabbath: The Dio Years collection. Most memorable moment had to be when the gargoyles' heads pivoted and spewed smoke during the song "Heaven and Hell".

As great as that set was, the best was yet to come, for Judas Priest was about come on stage...

With stage lights swirling about the darkened stage, "Dawn of Creation", the intro to Judas Priest's Nostradamus album, set the tone for the show while the band took their positions on-stage among the shadows. When the lights came on the band jumped straight into "Prophecy", also from the Nostradamus album. I was transfixed.
Here I was, finally seeing the legendary Judas Priest unleashing the best of their heavy metal glory! Only one thing had me perplexed.... Where the hell was Rob-Frickin'-Halford!?!? Glen Tipton, KK Downing, & Ian Hill were all on stage, chugging out their heavy riffs, and Scott Travis behind the drum kit (obviously), and I was hearing the Metal God's unmistakable voice narrating the essence of Nostradamus.... but where was he?!? For the first entire verse of the song I couldn't have told you where he was singing from. But then the Nostradamus 'statue' (which I thought was part of the stage-set), high on a platform stage-left, moved its staff about one foot to the left!

Draped in a golden cloak, Rob Halford continued singing as he slowly descended from the platform to the main level of the stage. Once there, he removed his hood as he continued belting out the lyrics of the song. What a master of stage-presence!!! Halford's voice has always been one of my favorites in metal music. Now I can truly consider him as one of the greatest front-men of all time. As the band delivered an awe-inspiring performance of Priest classic after classic I was banging my head and pumping my fists as never before! Tipton & Downing exhibited some of the best guitar soloing I'd ever seen live in concert, especially during 'Painkiller'-one of my all-time favorite Priest songs. Judas Priest are ever-deserving of their nick-name; The Metal Gods. Even on this night of The Metal Masters, they shone the brightest of them all!

Here are the set lists from this show. For the most part they are from my own memory and/or jotted notes during the show. I could be mistaken on some of the songs from the Testament & Motorhead segments, but these should be pretty close...

Testament

-Over The Wall
-Electric Crown
-Practice What You Preach
-More Than Meets The Eye
-Henchmen Ride
-Formation of Damnation
-Dog-Faced Gods

Motorhead
-Dr. Rock
-Stay Clean
-Be My Baby
-Killers
-Metropolis
-Over the Top
-In The Name of Tragedy
(drum solo)
-Just Cos' You Got the Power
-Killed by Death
-Ace of Spades
-Overkill

Heaven & Hell
-E5150
-Mob Rules
-Children of the Sea
-I
-Sign of the Southern Cross
(drum solo)
-Time Machine
-Falling Off the Edge of the World
-Ear in the Wall
-Die Young
-Heaven and Hell
-Neon Knights

JUDAS PRIEST
-Dawn of Creation
-Prophecy
-Metal Gods
-Eat Me Alive
-Between the Hammer and the Anvil
-Devil's Child
-Breaking the Law
-Hell Patrol
-Dissident Aggressor
-Angel
-The Hellion
-Electric Eye
-Rock Hard, Ride Free
-Painkiller
(encores)
-Hell Bent for Leather
-The Green Manalishi (With Two-Pronged Crown)
-You've Got Another Thing Coming

(image references: Testament from www.cloomisfotos.com; Motorhead from www.rollingstone.com; Heaven & Hell from musicaenprogreso.blogspot.com; Judas Priest from juniors-eyes.blogspot.com)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Metallica-Master of Puppets

Post #66 Poll Winner: Favorite Metallica album from the 80'sMaster of Puppets, Metallica's third studio album recorded in 1986, set a high standard for excellence in thrash metal. To this day many say this standard has yet to be eclipsed. Master of Puppets is such a complete realization of thrash-metal musicianship that it is constantly being referenced as an influence, inspiration, and a benchmark for the genre as a whole. Few heavy metal albums can even come close to this standard of excellence.

As a band, Metallica seemed to just be taking off at this point in their career. Master of Puppets was certainly the most focused effort of their first three albums, as they became an underground phenomenon in the world of heavy metal. It is also the last album written while legendary bassist Cliff Burton was still alive. His unique contributions to song-writing are perhaps most apparent on the instrumental "Orion".

Ever since this album's release it seems that Metallica have always been challenged to duplicate its level of creativity, musicianship and attitude. Other works may have achieved a greater commercial success, but many of Metallica's die-hard fans will always regard Master of Puppets as their greatest recording.

Master of Puppets is an excellent album, front to back. Therefor I recommend the whole thing! Here are the tracks:
-Battery
-Master of Puppets
-The Thing That Should Not Be
-Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
-Disposable Heroes
-Leper Messiah
-Orion
-Damage Inc.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Trivium-Ascendancy (Special Edition)

Post #65
I had many reasons to add Ascendancy, Trivium's second album, to my music collection besides the simple fact that they've become one of my new favorite bands. One, it was the album that first sparked praise from heavy metal veterans like Iron Maiden and Metallica. Two, I'll be seeing them this summer on Rock Star Energy Drink's Mayhem Festival! But probably the most influential reason I collected this album was that it was available in a special edition, with bonus tracks and a bonus DVD with videos and live performances!!!

With Ascendancy, "The End Of Everything" is only the beginning. It's a great mood-setting instrumental intro to the album... a subtle clean-guitar minor key progression overlayed with piano that nearly slips out of key in a semi-frantic rhythym. Just when the notes fall into place and reach their musical peak, the stage is set for "Rain".

"Rain" may be the heaviest song Trivium have written. It has a lot of 'crunch' in the guitar tones, like Metallica and Anthrax had back in their mid-80's prime. In fact, I'd probably say that Ascendany is the heaviest Trivium album of the 3 I've heard so far. Track after track, you're getting a good dose of classic thrash-guitar riffs. Heafy & Beaulieu enhance every song with their masterful guitar solos and duals.

This being the 3rd Trivium album I've added to my music collection, I still highly recommend it. Besides the guitar tones being very heavy, the vocal delivery on almost every song on this album is also very hard-core, as this album finds Matt Heafy employing metalcore screaming vocals in more abundance than on either The Crusade or Shogun. He still breaks into melodic singing segments in almost every song, but they are less common here than in Trivium's newer material. The one exception to this rule would be "Dying In Your Arms".

In sharp contrast to the rest of the album, "Dying In Your Arms" is very melodic, and perhaps the 'softest' song (at least as much as Trivium can write soft) in their entire recording history. Still, the song fits well on this album. It provides an essential element of Trivium's sound, and shows a different side of their potential, rounding out this album in fine fashion and begging Ascendancy to be called a masterpiece for such a young band.

As great as the album itself is, there's more good news for those of you willing to seek out the special edition as I did... The bonus material is well worth the couple extra dollars it may cost you. First; the album contains four bonus tracks, including Trivium's cover of Metallica's Master of Puppets, certainly a must-hear for any fan of either Trivium or Metallica (this is the perfect opportunity to hear exactly how close Heafy's voice is to Hetfield's!)

Second; this edition comes with a DVD of music videos AND live performances of each of the following songs: Like Light To The Flies, Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr, Dying In Your Arms, A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation, and Rain.

If you've enjoyed any of Trivium's other music, or liked any of my previous reviews or recommended tracks then go and find these too!
-Rain
-Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr
-Drowned And Torn Asunder
-Ascendancy
-Like Light To The Flies
-Dying In Your Arms
-Washing Away Me In The Tides
-Master Of Puppets


(Bonus material reviewed in Orange text)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Powerslave: Iron Maiden's 80's Masterpiece

Post #64 Poll Winner: Favorite Iron Maiden album from the 80's.
As the 1980's began, Iron Maiden embodied the (New) Wave of British Heavy Metal. The movement had begun a few years earlier with bands like Judas Priest & Diamond Head, but Iron Maiden seemed to symbolize the perfection of this metal style. Dave Murray & Adrian Smith, quickly became one of the tightest guitar tandems in heavy metal in the 1980's.

Maiden's '84 release, Powerslave, may be the apex of their golden years. After years of alternating guitar solos in one of the world's most popular heavy metal band, Murray & Smith are again at the top of their game on this album. This is, coincidentally, the last album Iron Maiden recorded without any accompaniment by keyboards or synthesised guitars. The World Slavery Tour that supported this album was the most extensive tour the band had done by this point. It resulted in their first live album, Live After Death.

This great album contains many songs that are both fan-favorites and concert staples. Here are my top picks from Powerslave:
-Aces High
-2 Minutes to Midnight
-Powerslave
-Flash of the Blade (This one is a bit more obscure than the first 3, but it's a personal favorite of mine, driven by a fast, lead guitar riff. This song was also recently covered by Avenged Sevenfold on their "Diamonds in the Rough" CD)
-Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Perhaps the greatest epic, progressive metal song Iron Maiden have ever written; this song parallels the story told in the classic epic poem of the same name. The riff that Steve Harris gives this story-turned-song masterpiece is one of the best on the whole album!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

PANTERA: The Full Review

Post #63
PANTERA: They were almost single-handedly responsible for the rise of hard-core heavy metal in the 90's. My discovering of their music represented a phase-shift in my taste in heavy metal at the time. I had heard a few of their songs hanging out with friends who were into them; "5 Minutes Alone" and "Cemetery Gates" were probably the first songs I ever heard. One day I was at a music store and I was pissed off for some reason, and I just grabbed "Far Beyond Driven" off the shelf and purchased it. Man, there's no better time to listen to a little Pantera than when you've got a bit of anger to unleash!

Ever since, Pantera has been an essential part of my collection of Metal music. I count myself as lucky to have had the chance to see them live in concert for 2 obvious reasons: first; because they eventually broke up; and second because Dimebag Darrell (lead guitarist) was brutally shot to death (December 8th, '04) by a deranged person claiming to be a "fan". Any great metal songs he may have gone on to write, or shows he would have performed with whatever band he chose to be in were senselessly stolen from us, the fans, by one violent person with a gun.

I'll try not to dwell on that depressing subject, but rather celebrate the glory of the excellent metal music that is Pantera!


Metal Magic ('83) I don't know much about this album, other than it exists and is hard to find since it was independently recorded. I mean to track it down someday, even though it is probably not nearly as good a recording as any of the albums to follow...



Projects in the Jungle ('84) Pantera's 2nd independent release. This is the earliest album that I have in my collection, and it's combined on a CD with the next album. It is apparent on this recording that Dimebag Darrell was allowing 80's metal bands like Van Halen to influence Pantera's music.

Tracks I recommend:
-Out For Blood
-Blue Light Turnin' Red (An instrumental that displays Dimebag's skills on lead guitar. Only drawback: it maybe sounds a little too close to Van Halen's "Eruption")
-Takin' My Life (This one is some sort of ballad, following the same formula as "Cemetery Gates" would a few years later...)


I Am The Night ('85) Again, more Hair-Metal influence is present here. The fledgling incarnation of Pantera have established a consistent sound with this album. However, the direction of their sound would soon begin to change...

My picks from this album:
-I Am The Night (A few songs on this album really start to sound like the material they would soon record for their major-label debut. This is one of those songs.)
-Down Below (Another great pre-CFH-era song, this one is subtly referenced in the lyrics of "Cowboys From Hell")
-Valhalla

Power Metal ('88) This album, though still independently produced, sees the debut of Phil Anselmo on lead vocals. The hair-metal influence has begun to fade, as the songs take on a harder edge than the previous material. It would not be long for Pantera to become a force in metal to be reckoned with...
My top songs from Power Metal:
-Rock The World
-Power Metal
-We'll Meet Again (The next step in the evolution of Pantera's ballads; this song improves on the elements from "Takin' My Life" and progresses to the point that it could have been "Cemetery Gates"... But with a record deal, the band was poised to write the metal music they were destined to)

Cowboys From Hell ('90) Pantera's major-label debut. This album is packed with shredding riffs and no-holds-barred lead guitar solos that truly establish "Diamond" Darrell as one of the best young guitarists in all of heavy metal. Anselmo blends dark melodies with tempered screams and guttural roars on vocals. As a band, they've begun to establish a new, heavier style of metal that in the next several years would become known as Nu-Metal.
The great songs you can't afford to miss:
-Cowboys From Hell (Undeniably the band's signature song, this is also their mission statement!)
-Cemetery Gates (A modern heavy metal classic, this is an essential song for any fan of metal!)
-Domination
-Clash With Reality
-The Art of Shredding (A title that embodies what Dimebag Darrell was to heavy metal...)


Vulgar Display of Power ('92) Regarded by many fans as their best album, Vulgar Display was the album that truly established Pantera as a titan in the world of heavy metal. They took the most aggressive elements from "Cowboys" to new heights of brutality with this album.
I recommend:
-Mouth For War
-Walk (As well know as any Pantera song-don't miss it!)
-F***ing Hostile
-This Love (Pantera's ballad becomes even more brutal...)
-Hollow (A surprisingly personal song of loss and mourning.)


Far Beyond Driven ('94) This album is where the planets truly aligned for Pantera: it became the first heavy metal album to debut at #1 on the Billboard charts. It is a non-stop display of relentless brutality that seems to never let up... until you reach the final track... a cover of Black Sabbath's head-trippy "Planet Caravan".
Possibly my favorite of all Pantera's albums, I have many favorite songs to recommend:
-Strength Beyond Strength
-Becoming
-I'm Broken
-Shedding Skin
-Use My Third Arm
-Planet Caravan (A cover of Black Sabbath's often overlooked melodic head-trip of a song)


The Great Southern Trendkill ('96) With this album Pantera kept rolling with their own style of metal, going against the trend of bending toward the alternative/punk-pop metal (like Metallica did?). However the irony of this album's title is that by this time, other bands had begun to follow Pantera's trend for the more extreme style of heavy metal. By this time you could say they were trend-setters, not trend-killers.
My favorite songs from this album:
-Drag The Waters
-10's
-Suicide Note Pt. I & Pt. II
-Floods


Official Live: 101 Proof ('97) Finally a live album from Pantera! This albums captures the band's live-performance energy at the peak of their success. It is also at this time in their career when I finally made it to see them in concert myself. I'll be sure to review that show in another post soon!
My top picks from this album:
-New Level
-5 Minutes Alone
-Cowboys From Hell
-Where You Come From (One of 2 new studio tracks)


Reinventing the Steel ('00) Pantera's final studio-album before they would part and go their separate ways... and fate would steal Dimebag from us all and end any chance of hearing this band play together again. The songs on this album may not be the best of Pantera's career, but they are consistent with what fans would expect from Pantera. There are plenty of good songs to hear on this album.
-Hellbound
-Goddamn Electric
-We'll Grind That Axe For A Long Time
-I'll Cast A Shadow

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Best from Judas Priest in the 80's...

Post #62 Poll Winner: Favorite Judas Priest album from the 80's.
The 1980's saw a rise in the popularity of heavy metal music. The genre diversified into Pop/Hair Metal on the more mainstream end of the spectrum, and Thrash and Death Metal at the other, more extreme end. For most of the 80's Judas Priest stayed right in the middle of the road, clinging to the fundamentals of heavy metal music.

One of the few (N)WOBHM bands to perservere throughout the decade, Priest stayed true to a classic style of heavy metal. Rob Halford's versatile voice gave them the freedom to write heavy metal songs of a broader variety than many of their peers. Many of their songs are credited as being the groundwork upon which thrash metal grew, while others seemed to sound like they were pushing for the mainstream of pop-metal.


Whether you like the harder edged music of Judas Priest, or the radio-friendly hits they created during this era, it is hard to argue against their consistency in the 1980's. The band seemed to grow more confident with each album. As a result, some of their best work can be found on these albums. When it came time for you to choose a favorite Judas Priest album from the 80's, the poll ended in a tie. Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith are both deserving of this award, so I'll recommend songs from them both!


Screaming For Vengeance:
-The Hellion/Electric Eye
-Riding on the Wind
-Screaming for Vengeance
-You've got Another Thing Coming
-Devil's Child


Defenders Of The Faith:
-Freewheel Burning
-Jawbreaker
-Eat Me Alive
-Love Bites
-The Sentinel

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Scars On Broadway

Post #61
When System of a Down announced they would take a hiatus after headlining Ozzfest in '06 it left many of their fans wondering what the band members would do. Would they simply take time off and enjoy an extended vacation having become successful rock-stars? Quietly take their time to work on another album without pressure from a record company's deadline? Or maybe pursue other projects? In this case it would turn out to be the pursuit of solo-projects.

Serj Tankian was the first to release a solo-album (see my review in an earlier post). Daron Malakian would form a new band and call it Scars On Broadway, bringing Jon Dolmayan from System Of A Down with him on drums. Like Serj's "Elect The Dead", "Scars On Broadway" retains many elements of System's sound, though neither project sounds exactly like their previous band.

Some may say that "Scars" sounds like it's missing something (the presence of Serj's vocals), however in many ways this new band offers the chance to hear a different side of Daron Malakian's musical influence. Most of the album carries a vibe that is more hard-rock and less metal. His lyrics still pull no punches, taking shots at many political and social issues. Though part of me also feels like this album could benefit from some of the vocal tag-teams between Daron & Serj that are employed on the System Of A Down albums, I still find the music from Scars On Broadway is worth checking out. It should satisfy many System fans who are waiting for them to make a come-back.

The songs I would recommend:
-Serious
-Funny
-Insane
-Stoner Hate
-Babylon
-ENEMY
-3005

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reader's Polls in Review (the first year: 12/'07-11/'08)

Post #60
[This post is a little later than I originally wanted to post it, but here it is! Enjoy!]

Soon after I started writing this blog, I thought to add a monthly reader's poll feature. I thought I could utilize this tool for a number of reasons: it would provide myself with a catalyst to ensure I post on at least a monthly basis, it would provide some opinion feedback from readers of the blog, and it would keep my mind working to think up new topics frequently. So far, I think this feature has helped keep this blog interesting, and I hope you agree. I remind you again that I welcome reader input on this front, so feel free to suggest topics for these polls. For now, allow me to review the monthly polls up to the November '08 poll, where you voted for the symbolic "president" of this blog. I'll denote the winner of each poll in bold BLUE text, and my own vote in bold with a star*. I'll also briefly explain my reasoning for my vote.


January '08: "Who's your favorite 70's rock band?"
The results
1-Aerosmith
1-Kiss* (Of course I couldn't vote against my all-time favorite-see my previous posts about KISS, they've been a favorite of mine for so long...)
1-Black Sabbath
2-Led Zeppelin
0-Judas Priest
0-Scorpions
1-The Rolling Stones
1-The Who
3-Other

February '08: "Who's your favorite lead-guitarist?"
The results
4-Jimi Hendrix
0-Jimmy Page
2-Eric Clapton
1-Eddie Van Halen
1-Herman Li
1-David Gilmore
0-Dimebag Darrell
1-Yngwie Malmsteen* (This was a very tough choice. I went with Yngwie because I don't think he gets the appreciation he deserves, simply because he's not as popular as some of these guitarists.)
0-Other

March '08: "What's your favorite epic rock song from the 70's?"
The results
5-Stairway to Heaven* (Well, here I finally agreed with the majority. To put it simply: Has there ever been another song as great as "Stairway"?)
2-Hotel California
0-Shine On You Crazy Diamond
0-Freebird
1-American Pie
0-Won't Get Fooled Again
0-Other

April '08: "Who's your favorite grunge band?"
The results
10-Nirvana
5-Pearl Jam
5-Alice In Chains* (Here, I voted AIC. I've always thought Nirvana were overrated as a band. They were good, but I've always liked the other grunge bands more. For me it was down to Alice In Chains or Soundgarden...)
2-Soundgarden
2-Stone Temple Pilots
2-The Smashing Pumpkins

May '08: "What's your favorite 'Unplugged' album?"
1-Nirvana-Unplugged in New York
5-Kiss-MTV Unplugged* (MTV Unplugged is easily one of my favorite Kiss albums. In fact whenever artists do an "unplugged" album it is usually one of my favorites. Many of these are great albums too. I chose Kiss because of the band-reunion that took place during the show.)
2-Eric Clapton-Unplugged
1-Bob Dylan-Unplugged
3-Alice in Chains-Unplugged
2-Rod Stewart-Unplugged... and Seated!
1-Tesla-5-Man Acoustic Jam
1-Other

June '08: "Who's your favorite thrash band?"
1-Anthrax
2-Megadeth* (Always a tough call to choose my favorite thrash band. Here I chose Megadeth, today I might say Metallica, tomorrow maybe Anthrax...)
3-Metallica
2-Slayer
0-Exodus
0-Testament
0-Other

July '08: "Who's your favorite female heavy metal lead singer?"
4-Amy Lee
2-Christina Scabbia
1-Tarja Turunen* (I posted this poll while I was on a big Nightwish kick. I still say Tarja's opera-trained voice is more than a cut above any other female metal singer I've ever heard. I think anyone who didn't vote for her on this poll has simply never heard her.)
3-Other

August '08: "What's your favorite rock album from 1976?"
3-Aerosmith-Rocks* (Okay, here is the first time I took advantage of the 'vote more than once' feature I usually allow on my monthly polls. Unable to pick just one favorite album from this year I voted for 3 on this poll. Aerosmith's Rocks album I think is very underrated- it's every bit as good as "Toys In The Attic", listen for yourself!)
4-Kiss-Destroyer* (To this day this is Kiss' greatest album. How can I not vote for an album from my favorite band?)
2-Boston
4-Eagles-Hotel California
5-Rush-2112* (I must admit I was surprised that Rush won this one. However, being one of those who also voted for this great concept-album, I think it is deserving of the winning votes it received.)
1-Bob Dylan-Desire
1-Ramones
0-Blue Oyster Cult-Agents of Fortune
0-AC/DC-Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
0-Other

September '08: "Vincent Furnier is the real name of which heavy metal icon?"
0-Ozzy Osbourne
5-Alice Cooper* (Okay, this one was straight trivia. You could have googled the name to find the right answer, but thank you for guessing off the top of your head-that's the challenge after all! Alice Cooper is the right answer. More trivia will be coming up as a monthly poll before too long...)
3-Marilyn Manson
1-Gene Simmons

October '08: "Who's your favorite bassist?"
5-Cliff Burton* (Here, I had to vote for Cliff. His contributions to the early work of Metallica are monumental. Heavy Metal itself would be different if it weren't for Cliff.)
4-Geddy Lee
3-John Myung
5-Flea (In the first tie so far on a reader's poll, I reviewed both winners. Flea is a great bassist also!)
4-Nikki Sixx
3-Steve Harris
4-Other

November '08: "Election '08! Who's your favorite heavy metal vocalist?"
3-Ozzy Osbourne
10-James Hetfield (Here, it's James Hetfield winning favorite vocalist, and the honors of becoming the "President" of the blog. I had to have a little fun with the excitement of the real Presidential Election going on! I hope you all voted, in the real election as well as this poll.)
3-Rob Halford* (Halford was my personal choice for this poll. My reason is simple: his vocal range is amazing. He can sing complex melodies in the highest screaming falsettos as easily as he can in a deep growl. His vocal control is excellent as well. He has a vibratto that sounds effortless when many other metal singers can sound like they're trying too hard...)
7-Bruce Dickinson
1-James LaBrie
3-Corey Taylor
4-Write-In

Thursday, May 7, 2009

One-Hit-Wonders of the 90's (part 1)

Post #59 Poll Winner: Which 'Coming Soon' topic should I write next?
The 90's were a time when "Alternative" became the cool new sound in music. But what exactly was "Alternative"? The name itself could encompass many styles of rock music. It seemed to be a blanket label that covered grunge, jam-bands, pop-rock, and neo-punk all at once. Overall the main musical element of "alternative" seemed to be a blending of clean, acoustic, and distorted guitar sounds set in a rock or pop drum beat.

Alternative was cool. It was "in". It was enormously popular. And every week there seemed to be a new "Alternative" band with a hit song on main-stream radio. This was a recipe doomed to yield a plethora of one-hit-wonders, and the majority of these bands failed to last much longer than one or two albums. In a way it's a shame because many of these bands produced a great album or two, and most of the music on each one was generally overlooked in favor of the band's one big hit.

So rewind with me here and let's check out some hidden gems from this era of rock music:

Dishwalla-Pet Your Friends (1995)
The song you probably know: Counting Blue Cars. This song was a great hit about spiritual self searching.

The other good tunes on this album:
-Charlie Brown's Parents (this is the lesser known follow-up single, a heavier, faster song)
-Pretty Babies
-Moisture (a head-trippy sounding song, a bit like Pink Floyd at the beginning, but they speed up the tempo in a couple spots)

Chalk Farm-Notwithstanding (1996)
The song you might have heard: Lie On Lie. This song features a great blend of acoustic and electric guitars, and lyrics focused on social-psychological issues. Although I find this band to be good songwriters the critical part of me has to admit their vocalist doesn't have much range, and sometimes comes off as monotone. Still, the songs themselves are good enough to track down and add to you i-pod library.

The other songs worth checking out:
-Live Tomorrow (a self-aware criticism of a busy lifestyle with misplaced priorities)
-It's Up To You
-Sunflower

Caroline's Spine-Monsoon (1997)
The song you might have heard: Sullivan (either the electric or acoustic version- they both rock!) This song pretty much tells the same type of story as the film "Saving Private Ryan" did, except from the mother's perspective. This song is more of a tear-jerker than that movie was, and it was released a year before the film, in case you were curious which came first.

More great songs from the same album:
-King For a Day
-You & Me
-Monsoon
-Psycho

Happy listening!

[While trying to compose this post I gathered many more artists than the three mentioned here. Rest assured there will be a "One-Hit-Wonders of the 90's-part 2" a couple months down the road, and probably a part 3 and 4... Keep checking back!]