Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Get "Barenaked For The Holidays"!
Seriously, you should get it! Its the collection of holiday music from the band Barenaked Ladies. This is truly a favorite holiday music CD in our household around Christmas Time, right up there with good ole' Bing Crosby (and not just a favorite of mine, my wife digs it as much as I do!) It's also more than just a "Christmas" CD, as it contains a number of Hanukkah songs as well. So whether you put up a tree & stockings, or spin dreidels & light the Menorah, you will certainly enjoy this recording.
In true Barenaked Ladies fashion, they pep-up the album with some comedic tunes like Jingle Bells & The Elf's Lament. But don't think this is entirely a goofy album either! There are a number of truly heart-felt interpretations of classic Holiday songs that genuinely honor the "Reason for the Season", for either faith.
For those who download, I recommend:
-God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman/We Three Kings (features Sarah McLachlan)
-Deck The Stills
-I Have a Little Dreidel
-Auld Lang Syne
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Back in the 90's this group started off as a side project from the band Savatage. Initially they recorded classic Christmas songs in the Heavy Metal style. After a successful video & single with "Christmas Eve", they soon began to write original Christmas-themed material. Since their debut "Christmas Eve & Other Stories", they've released 2 other Christmas albums (both concept albums that create their own story) and one non-Christmas album: Beethoven's Last Night. The Christmas albums are a blend of new material & Holiday classics interpreted throughout. On all their recordings, the guitars & drums are expertly blended with symphonic accompaniment. If you like hard rock music and like getting into the Holiday Spirit, then check out this band!
Recommended Christmas Rock from TSO:
-Siberian Sleigh Ride
-What Child Is This?
-O’ Come All Ye Faithful
-The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve
-Boughs Of Holly
-Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 (This is the song that started it all; it can also be found on Savatage's classic concept album, Dead Winter Dead ['95], which tells a story of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina)
-This Christmas Day
-Back To A Reason (Part II) (This song is a sequel/rewrite of "Back to a Reason", which originally appeared on the Savatage album: Poets And Madmen ['01])
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I Know I've already posted about Megadeth's Rust In Peace album, but I need to have a post about their career as a whole, so here it goes...
Killing is My Business... (...and Business is Good!) -1985
Mustaine's first recording since being ousted from Metallica 2 years before gives true merit to his metal song-writing skills. Megadeth establish a fast/shredding metal sound that is different enough from Metallica to establish a loyal following in their own right.
-Last Rites/Loved to Deth
-Mechanix (this is a new arrangement & lyrics for the Metallica song "The Four Horsemen" which Mustaine co-wrote as well- Megadeth speed it up as you will see if you compare the 2)
Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? -1986
With Megadeth's 2nd release they establish a level of consistency with their fast metal sound. This recording also seems to have more direction & consistency within itself as well. Political themes make their way into some songs here too (most notably on the title track), a premonition of what will become a trend for Megadeth in the years to come.
-Wake Up Dead
-My Last Words (An awesome song about Russian Roulette!)
So Far, So Good... So What! -1988
By Megadeth's 3rd album, the drug habits of the group begin to take a toll on their song quality. Although there are certainly some great metal songs on this album, I must bring myself to say it is probably their 2nd-worst album. Don't let this deter you though, it's still a great deal better than many other heavy metal albums that are out there.
-Set the World Afire
-Hook In Mouth
-In My Darkest Hour (this is possibly the best song in Megadeth's whole catalog- funny that the rest of the album doesn't live up to this standard)
RUST IN PEACE -1990
I won't spend too much time on this album here. For a more in-depth review, see my "Rust In Peace" post! In a nutshell: This is the BEST Megadeth album ever.
Do not miss: Holy Wars... The Punishment Due
Countdown To Extinction -1992
Here is where Megadeth really make a change to their sound & push for the mainstream-radio sound in metal. There are a great number of slower tempo, more melodic songs to be found on this album. Although this move kind of went against their previous trend of heaviness & speed, the album is still an overall success, and highly regarded by many long-time Megadeth fans (myself included) as a great album. My personal favorites:
-Countdown to Extinction
-Foreclosure of a Dream
-Architecture of Aggression
This album hits with a bit of a heavier feel than Countdown does, however Megadeth do drift a bit further away from the speed element of their earlier work. The only down side to this album is probably the fact that so many of the songs sound too similar to each other. There are still good ones to choose from, the most distinguishing being "A Tout Le Monde". Other recommendations:
Hidden Treasures -1995
Since the late 80's, Megadeth had been contributing many songs to various movie soundtracks and compilations over a number of years. Most of these contributions never appeared on an official Megadeth record... until now! This is a collection of previously released songs, none of which had been on a Megadeth release. In essence, it's almost like a Greatest Hits record of all new songs.
-99 Ways to Die
-Go To Hell
MD.45-The Craving -1996
With this side project, Mustaine collaborates with Lee Ving (from the 80's Punk Rock band Fear). I think they were aiming for a blend of Punk and Metal. The overall feel is a very raw sounding metal album. The end result is not bad, it's actually better than a couple of Megadeth's own records. It sounds pretty much like a Megadeth album with Lee on lead vocals. However, when Dave remastered the Megadeth back-catalog, he apparently re-recorder the vocal tracks on this album in his own voice. I haven't heard the remastered version yet, but I'd imagine it makes it sound even more like a real Megadeth album. I'll leave you with a couple of my favorite tracks from this CD:
-Nothing is Something
-Roadman (some parts of this one remind me of Rattlehead from Killing is My Business)
Cryptic Writings -1997
As the 90's wore on, grunge and alternative rock grew to dominate the mainstream of rock & metal music. So much so, that Metallica tried their hand at the craft and saw huge success with 1996's Load. With Cryptic Writings, Megadeth seem to make another lunge at radio-friendly song writing. Of all Megadeth's albums, this one comes closest to repeating the level of mainstream success they had with "Countdown". The songs on this album bring back a variety of sounds and tempos that were missing back on "Youthanasia". A bit of the influence of the alternative rock scene can be heard on the song "I'll Get Even", but overall it's not as evident as it is on Metallica's Load from the previous year. There are a lot of good songs on this album:
-Use the Man
-I'll Get Even
Ok, this is it: the only Megadeth album I would actually NOT recommend you buy. It is hands-down the worst Megadeth album. This is the most experimental album they've ever recorded, and it falls short of any expectations. There are elements of Industrial mixed with metal, and other songs are almost pop-metal. Few if any songs can be compared to the rest of Megadeth's work. If you're still curious, a couple songs it wouldn't hurt to try are:
-Prince of Darkness
-Time: The Beginning (& The End)
The World Needs a Hero -2001
This album marks the start of a new era for Megadeth, as Mustaine replaces Friedman on lead guitar and Menza on drums. New members Al Pitrelli (guitar) and Jimmy Degrasso (drums-also from the MD.45 project) help Dave Mustaine right the direction of Megadeth on this effort. The vibe here is definitely closer to "Classic Megadeth" than the previous couple of albums, but it's not quite on the level with "Countdown" or anything that came before that. Still, the good songs on this CD are really good. Check out:
-Dread & the Fugitive Mind (This one originally appeared on "Capitol Punishment: The Megadeth Years", a best-of album that Capitol Records needed from the band before releasing them from their contract. Megadeth switched to Sanctuary Records afterward)
-Return to Hangar (Yes, it's a sequel to Hangar 18! Not as good as the original, but not bad.)
-When (This is a nice long, epic track dedicated to a bad relationship-much like "In My Darkest Hour" was)
This album was intended to be Dave Mustaine's debut solo-album, however the legal-schmegal fine print of record contracts made it easier for Dave to keep the Megadeth moniker, rather than drop it. From this point on, one may want to view any Megadeth material as Dave Mustaine's solo project.
In spite of another line-up change and the bad-terms exit of original Bassist Dave Ellifson, this CD really gets back to old-school Megadeth thrashing even more than "Hero" did. For the studio work, Dave even brought in former guitarist Chris Poland to help on a lot of the guitar solos. Chris, at one point described this album as "Rust In Peace Part 2". Some of the better songs on this CD truly live up to that praise, too. Mustaine & Poland have several dueling lead guitar solos on the album, much like they used to do up until RIP. Political themed lyrics are back with a sharp tongue as Dave criticizes a variety of issues including the judicial system and international affairs. The only gripe I have with this CD is how the lyrics sometimes don't flow well with the riffs, they seem a bit forced in places. And other lyrics seem to dwell a bit too long on Dave's new grudge with Lars Ulrich (at least it seems so to me). Here are my top suggestions from this album:
-Blackmail the Universe
-Kick the Chair
-Die Dead Enough
-Back In The Day
-Truth Be Told
United Abominations -2007
If "System" was a true return-to-form for Megadeth, then United Abominations may become known as a masterpiece. Here is another solid step in the direction of unyielding thrash. Mustaine has changed the band's line-up (again), but the speed and technical masterwork on lead guitar doesn't skip a beat from "System". If you thought some of the lyrics were controversial on the previous album, then you better brace yourself for some of these. I've never heard good ole' Dave tear into politics without holding anything back as much as he does here. I'll take a moment here to say that although I don't always agree with some of Dave Mustaine's out-spoken opinions, I truly admire him for having the balls to say what he believes. This is what Rock music & Heavy Metal are all about: sticking it to "the man" (thank you, School of Rock). Much of the criticism on this album is aimed at US foreign policy and the actions (and inactions) of the United Nations. But if you can put some of your opinions aside for the sake of banging your head to some shredding metal, then United Abominations is sure to cause you some well-deserved headaches!
-Washington is Next!
-Gears of War
-Set Me Free (A Tout Le Monde) (this is the exact same song as the original "A Tout Le Monde", just rerecorded and some cool new vocals from Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil. I find it better than the original!)
All cover images from either:
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Okay, Please forgive me this segue into what some may consider the very abomination of what Heavy Metal should be about: the Power Ballad! I swear I'll get back to real METAL quickly with my next post... I'm compelled to write this particular post because of an hilarious video I saw on youtube.com called "Paul Stanley-Lullabye Guy" (here's the link if you want to see it for yourself:) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRM2g8vEEbY
(Although I was ROTFL myself as I watched & listened, I also was able to appreciate this guy's voice as he was actually pretty good at imitating Paul's singing style). It also made me realize that Paul has had a ballad or power ballad on pretty much every KISS album I could remember. So I looked into it a little more closely and came up with this list (in case anyone wants to make a mix CD or i-pod play list of Mr. Stanley's ballads through the years).
KISS ('74)-LET ME KNOW (this album may not have a "true" ballad per se, but this song is close enough, I think)
Hotter Than Hell ('74)-COMIN' HOME
Dressed to Kill ('75)-ANYTHING FOR MY BABY or LOVE HER ALL I CAN
Destroyer ('76)-DO YOU LOVE ME? (the famous ballad from this album is of course, "BETH" sung by Peter Criss, but Paul presents this much harder-rocking pseudo-ballad as well)
Rock & Roll Over ('76)-HARD LUCK WOMAN (written by Paul, but sung by Peter)
Love Gun ('77)-THEN SHE KISSED ME (cover of the 60' pop song, but Paul sings on this track-closest song to a ballad on this album)
1978: PAUL STANLEY's Solo album is packed with ballads-pick one you like!
Dynasty ('79)-SURE KNOW SOMETHING
Music From "The Elder" ('81)-ODYSSEY
Creatures of the Night ('82)-I STILL LOVE YOU (this one lifts Paul's Power-Ballad skills to a new level!)
Lick It Up ('83)-A MILLION TO ONE
Animalize ('84)-THRILLS IN THE NIGHT
Asylum ('85)-TEARS ARE FALLING
Crazy Nights ('87)-REASON TO LIVE
Hot in the Shade ('89)-FOREVER*
Revenge ('92)-EVERY TIME I LOOK AT YOU
Carnival of Souls [The Final Sessions] ('97)-I WILL BE THERE
Psycho-Circus ('98)-DREAMING (Paul-vocals) or I FINALLY FOUND MY WAY (written by Paul, sung by Peter)
Detroit Rock City [movie soundtrack] ('99)-NOTHING CAN KEEP ME FROM YOU (this one was actually written by Diane Warren- who'd penned "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for Aerosmith on the Armageddon soundtrack. This song could be referenced as another example of KISS trying [and failing] to duplicate some of thier peers' glory. I must admit that since Aerosmith's comeback with Permanent Vacation in '87 they've been the better band, but that's a story for another post...)
Live To Win ('07)-This is Paul's new solo-album (post-KISS). Similar to his '78 solo album there are several ballads to pick from. Try EVERY TIME I SEE YOU AROUND, or SECOND TO NONE.
*-If you're like me and can only take power-ballads in small doses, or one at a time, then this is the one I say to go with...
(Images from www.paulstanley.com)
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
In today's Heavy Metal scene Stone Sour started up as a side project for a couple of the guys in Slipknot. The primary reason being that the material they wrote for this new band was such a departure from the blistering & brutal over-the-top heavy sound that Slipknot had become known for. Personally, I think this was a brilliant move: StoneSour is much more main-stream than any previous Slipknot material, and because of that they have opened themselves up to a whole new audience without the worry of preconceptions deterring those who may not prefer to listen to anything Slipknot are associated with.
Stone Sour first caught my ear with "Through Glass" from their 2nd album, Come What(ever) May. This song has gotten plenty of air-time on hard rock radio stations across the country, and probably represents the softest side of Stone Sour. Don't be mistaken, they can still thrash out some heavy tunes, although even these have a bit higher vocal quality than most of Slipknot's music. Corey Taylor really taps his vocal potential in this "side-project", which I hope sticks around for many years to come.
My only regret with this band is that I didn't discover them sooner. The song "Bother" from their debut album, has since caught my attention, & I plan to add that CD to my collection soon. For now I'll recommend some of my favorite songs from Come What(ever) May...
-Come What(ever) May*
* I especially recommend this song due to its STRONG ANTI-BUSH Political theme! There need to be more songs like this out there... maybe I should do a post dedicated entirely to anti-Bush rock music?...
(Image from http://www.stonesour.com/)
Dated January '09: I must correct myself! Thanks to the November '08 issue of Revolver magazine, which featured a cover-story on Slipknot & their new album "All Hope Is Gone", I stand corrected on Stone Sour's origin. It turns out that Corey Taylor was in Stone Sour originally, before either band had a record deal. The members of Slipknot invited Corey to join the band when they competed against each other in a local "Battle of the Bands" contest. When Taylor agreed, they gave their old singer the boot and landed a record deal shortly after. Once Slipknot had established themselves, Corey Taylor got back together with Stone Sour during one of Slipknot's breaks. Having the work from Slipknot under his belt, a record deal now came much easier.
I hope both bands can continue their careers for quite some time. My apologies for getting these details wrong on my initial post. I'll leave the original content as proof that I don't know everything about heavy metal (too many sometimes claim they do!). A little humbling does us all some good every now & then. I'll try to keep up on my facts in the future, but correct myself when I do find errors. Happy headbanging!
Monday, October 22, 2007
When it comes to thrash metal, I often will say either Metallica or Megadeth are the best around (depending on which one has a newer CD out at any given time). But there are times when I must consider Anthrax for this title as well. Every now & then I get back into all my Anthrax CDs and just listen to several of them for a couple weeks straight on my daily commute. Whether its Belladonna or John Bush on vocals doesn't matter to me, I like them both! (although I probably lean toward JB...) When I get in that mood, you'd ask me who's the best thrash-band, I'd tell you Anthrax. In the late 80's they had as much "crunch" in their sound as Metallica, and in the early 90's stayed truer to their thrash roots. So check them out! If you like a bit of high-pitch screaming vocals- try the Belladonna-Era work ('85-'91); for a rougher sounding vocal with a bit of growl- go for the John Bush-Era ('93-...).
The only question for the future of Anthrax is who will sing on their next recording?!? Bush stepped down to allow the Belladonna reunion tour in '05, but has said he doesn't want back in; Belladonna was let go after the reunion tour so the spot seems vacant. Rumors speculate big names like Corey Taylor & Phil Anselmo may take the job.... I just hope they figure it out soon 'cause I want more Anthrax! (even if they just do an EP w/ Scott Ian barking all the vocals, that'd be cool.)
Another appeal of some of Anthrax's music that is stronger than most of their peers is their tendency to have meaningful themes in their songs. Anthrax have often been outspokenly against racism & censorship. Songs like "Schism" and "Keep It In The Family" are probably among the best songs against racism in metal, and there is no better song to protest censorship than "Startin' Up a Posse". They have always tried to keep some current social issues in their music, and should be remembered for it.
On a less serious note, they have also written a number of songs about some of their favorite Stephen King novels*. (I also happen to love reading Stephen King, so discovering these songs was a real treat for me). Aside from the noted songs in my following recommendations, "Misery Loves Company" was also inspired by an SK novel (guess which one!)
Sound of White Noise (1993)
Among the Living (1987)
Persistence of Time (1991)
The Greater of Two Evils (2004)
We've Come For You All (2003)
Metal Thrashing Mad
In My World
Among the Living* (Based on The Stand)
Caught In A Mosh
A Skeleton In The Closet* (based on "Apt Pupil" from Different Seasons)
What Doesn't Die
Poison My Eyes
Armed and Dangerous
Intro to Reality/Belly of the Beast
Got the Time
Startin' Up A Posse
I Am The Law
Madhouse (this one appears in Guitar Hero II as well!)
(* Lyrics inspired by Stephen King novels)
Check out: http://www.anthrax.com/
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Do you have a few minutes? I hope so, 'cause you'll need them to read this post.
I first discovered KISS in 1988 when "Let's Put the 'X' in Sex" was their current video-hit on MTV's Dial-MTV show. I must admit, this song didn't strike me as the greatest song ever, but it did introduce me to the band I would soon call my favorite.
The following year, KISS released "Hot In The Shade". It was this album that turned me onto KISS for good. Still an MTV child, I saw the video for "Hide Your Heart" on an almost daily basis. At this time in my life I was supporting my fledgling music collection (of cassette tapes!) with my daily newspaper delivery route. I usually could afford 2-3 tapes in a month. I bought Hot in the Shade shortly after the video-hit "Forever" was released. I quickly became a fan of this album and also grew curious to learn more about this band who had 24 albums (that number amazed me).
Around this time, a couple of my Jr. High School friends had been "racing" to see who could collect all of Aerosmith's 15 albums (at the time... Pump was brand-new!) first. I thought this might be a cool idea for my best-friend & I to try with the KISS back-catalog. He was also into the "Hot in the Shade" album, and said "Sure, why not?" Little did we know the monster we would soon create (or rather, uncover!)
And so, over the next couple of years my collection of KISS albums grew. I know the 2nd album I bought was "Unmasked", followed by "Hotter Than Hell". After that I don't recall the exact order I collected them in. In the end my best friend won the race (he beat me by 2 albums if I recall correctly). However I was the first to get their next new album "Revenge", which quickly became our new favorite. Ever since then, I've kept up with any new release by KISS.
It wasn't until my sophomore year of college when the most significant event in KISStory happened; the original members of KISS joined the then-current 90's line-up for an MTV Unplugged performance in New York (KISS' hometown). This was followed by a full reunion, reunion tour, numerous nostalgic compilations, and a new studio recording "Psycho-Circus". It was on the tour in support of "Psycho-Circus" when I finally saw KISS in concert for the 1st time. Since then I've seen them on thier "Farewell" Tour and when they co-headlined with Aerosmith.
KISS now seem to have finally called it quits, but Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley have each released solo material recently. Ace Frehley, probably my favorite original member of the band, has seemed to remain in obscurity, but there are rumors he has new solo material in the works. I'll follow the members as long as they keep writing new music, but for now I should get to my KISS top recommendations:
Albums: Anyone who knows anything about KISS should know what the first album to recommend should be. Ready....
Destroyer (1976) (good job KISS fans!)
Creatures of the Night (1982)
MTV Unplugged (1996)
Love Gun (1977)
Carnival of Souls [The Final Sessions] (1997)
Songs: (more coming soon... check back later!)
Detroit Rock City
God of Thunder
Creatures of the Night
Rip It Out
Under the Gun
Hide Your Heart
Goin' Blind (unplugged)
(images from: kissonline.com/ & www.its-official.com/kiss.html)
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Lordi, the Monsters of Rock (literally!) from Finland. I wanted to get this post up in time for Halloween. These guys are for the current generation what Kiss were for the teens of the late 70's, or at least they should be. I've checked out their newest CD, "The Arockalypse", from my local library twice already. They're a great breath of fresh Rock N' Roll-infused Metal, something there's not enough of in today's music. When I saw these guys at Ozzfest this summer it felt like I was discovering KISS all over again. I'm looking forward to adding their albums to my CD collection very soon. Want a monster themed Halloween party this year? Then go get "The Arockalypse" by Lordi!
My recommendations from The Arockalypse:
-Bringing Back the Balls to Rock
-Hard Rock Hallelujah
-The Kids Who Want to Play With the Dead
-It Snows in Hell
-They Only Come Out at Night
(image from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lordi)
Check out: http://www.lordi.com/
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Megadeth. Rust In Peace. This is probably the best Metal album ever recorded (imho). I've never been able to compare another heavy metal recording to this one and say, hands down, it is better. Even the often glorified Master of Puppets, by Metallica I cannot bring myself to say tops this one. Ever since 1990 I've been waiting for Dave Mustaine to put out a Megadeth record more intense than this one, and I'm still waiting. The recent rocordings "The World Needs a Hero", "The System Has Failed", and "United Abominations" have been progressing in this direction. Mustaine seems to have pointed his band in a direction toward the ferocious tempo and unyielding thrash that it turned away from after RIP, and these albums should be given a lot of credit for this. However at this point, the level at which I regard "Rust In Peace" might never be surpassed. In the context of Megadeth's back-catalog it is the clear peak of their career. I do concede that "Countdown to Extinction" was more successful comercially, but RIP will alway be the most classic of Megadeth albums to me.
-Holy Wars... The Punishment Due
-Tornado of Souls
-Poison Was the Cure
-Rust in Peace... Polaris
check out: http://www.megadeth.com/discography.php?era_id=4
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I'm just a fan of Hard Rock & Heavy Metal who wanted to put my opinion on various musicians & recordings out there for all to read...
If you see a band you like & want to know my thoughts about them, just click the post & read. To know where I'm coming from in my musical taste, here goes: I first discovered a love for hard rock & Heavy Metal in 1988 in the midst of the Appetitte for Destruction craze. Discovering Guns N' Roses led me to the music I now love. I quickly got into all the glam-metal bands from LA, and also got some exposure to Thrash-Metal through bands like Metallica, Anthrax, & Megadeth. Other bands that I have counted among my favorites through the years are: Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Extreme, Alice In Chains, System of a Down, Yngwie Malmsteen, DragonForce, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pantera, and Van Halen just to name a few. There is a special place in my heart for KISS, whom I often refer to as my all-time favorite band. Hopefully that is enough to put the following opinions into some perspective. Enjoy!