Thursday, July 29, 2010

KISS-Alive 35 at the United Center, Chicago

Post #102
[This is a concert review from the show on 11-6-2009 at the United Center, Chicago, IL] Living Legends of rock n' roll, and my long-time favorite band, KISS are back on the road in support of their come-back album Sonic Boom. Last fall I made it to one of their shows. They had taken a few years off recently, so it was a nice opportunity to see this band that I had thought were retired.

Granted this is not the original line-up for KISS, despite the deceiving use of the original make-up designs. Eric Singer (who had been in KISS from '92-'96) is the drummer behind the 'Cat-Man' make-up, while Tommy Thayer (who had been a collaborating musician for the band, off and on, since the late 80's) is now the full-time guitarist as the 'Space-Man' (note I didn't say 'Space Ace'). Regardless, this is a very talented line-up, and they proved more than capable of putting on a phenomenal vintage-style KISS show!

For this show I brought a friend along, who I had just introduced to the music of KISS a couple months before. This friend was a fan of several similar-sounding bands from the 70's and 80's, like AC/DC & Guns N' Roses, so it was somewhat easy to convince him to come along.

Not to be overlooked, the opening band was Buckcherry. Often compared to Guns N' Roses and other late-80's glam-bands, Buckcherry had gotten the show off & rolling with a great attitude of straight forward, hard-edged rock n' roll. They included several of their well-known hits, like 'Lit Up', and 'Crazy Bitch', but also included a great cover of Deep Purple's 'Highway Star'. Though we were a little late and didn't catch the beginning of their set, what I heard was enough to sway me further into their fandom. Shortly after the tour, Buckcherry also released their first live CD, Live & Loud, which closely mirrored the set they played on this night.

However, the best was yet to come, as the crowd now sat in eager anticipation of KISS...

Eventually the familiar intro boomed out to the audience, "All right Chicago! You wanted the best, you got the best! The hottest band in the world, KISS!!!" The curtain fell as the band kicked off the set with 'Deuce'. The show continued from there, with song selection heavily favoring their 70's material. Understandably so, given this was a tour honoring the 35th Anniversary of the album KISS: ALIVE! They didn't play the entire track list from ALIVE!
That would have been very cool, but also taken up almost all of their set-time. Enough of their early classics were included that you could tell they were focusing on delivering a performance true to that classic, first live album of theirs.

They did include a few songs from the 80's and one, 'Modern Day Delilah', from their new album Sonic Boom. After Gene's bass solo, during which he spat blood & 'flew' up to the rafters on his demon's wings, the band played 'I Love It Loud'. Each member took a solo at some point during the show. Eric Singer's drum-solo was played while the drum kit was lifted and spun around. Tommy Thayer shot several fireworks off the neck of his guitar during his guitar solo, and Paul Stanley played a few extended riffs as part of a solo, before soaring out to a central platform among the crowd along a gondola cable, where he then performed another song up close with a part of the audience who previously had a poorer view of the show.
Top notch pyrotechnics we employed during the encore, and tons of confetti was spewed across the crowd during 'Rock & Roll All Nite'. All-in-all a great KISS show. As good as any of the other times I'd seen them (I may review those shows later on as well). As a long-time fan, I'm glad they are touring again. Hopefully, if they continue touring, they'll plan a tour that would include a better-rounded set-list. I feel they have too many good albums that are always under-represented in their choice of set-lists. Time will tell.
Last but not least, one of the coolest features of this concert was the fact that you could buy THAT NIGHT'S PERFORMANCE, on CD or mp3, immediately after the show! I took advantage of this opportunity and got a copy. Amazing how far technology has come! Sure enough, I had the first half of the concert in my hand when I left the show, the other half was sent to me in the mail after redeeming an online voucher.
From this night of rock & roll music from Buckcherry & KISS here's a rough list of the songs:
-Tired of You
-Next 2 You
-Out of Line
-Broken Glass
-Lit Up
-Rescue Me
-Highway Star
-Crazy Bitch

-Let Me Go, Rock N' Roll
-Hotter Than Hell
-Shock Me
-Calling Dr. Love
-Modern Day Delilah
-Cold Gin
-100,000 Years
-I Love It Loud
-Black Diamond
-Rock And Roll All Nite
Shout It Out Loud
Lick It Up
Love Gun (w/ part of 'Stairway To Heaven' as an intro)
Detroit Rock City

Friday, July 23, 2010

RUSH 2112- A masterful dystopian concept album.

Post #101 Poll Winner: Favorite RUSH album from the 70's.
Hailing from Canada, Rush firmly established themselves as one of hard-rock's most creative bands in the mid-70's. During this era, they became master musicians of progressive rock, composing multi-part, epic rock songs that often took up half the playing time of some of their albums. The album that might be the best example of this style: 2112. For the second time, you have picked Rush's 2112 album as a favorite in reader's poll.

In the mid 70's Rush had really hit their stride. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, & Neil Pert had become a formidable songwriting team. Neil Pert cites his inspiration for the lyrical themes as Ayn Rand, for the philosophies of objectivism & individualism in her novels. Rush had borrowed inspiration from Rand previously with the song "Anthem", inspired by Ayn Rand's novel of the same title.
The story of 2112 is a futuristic vision of society strictly controlled by the Solar Federation. The track 'Discovery' (as part of the epic title track), depicts the discovery of an ancient musical instrument- a guitar. The unnamed protagonist, whose eyes we see the world through, brings this object & the discovery of music before the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx. It is here that the conflict of ideals manifests and is narrated throughout the rest of the album.

Once again let me mention that 2112 is a true masterpiece of 70's hard rock. To be properly appreciated, you must hear it in its entirety. Here is the track listing:
-2112: I-Overture, II-The Temples of Syrinx, III-Discovery, IV-Presentation, V-Oracle: The Dream, VI-Soliloquy, VII-Grand Finale
-A Passage to Bangkok
-Twilight Zone
-Something for Nothing

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bullet For My Valentine

Post #100
More and more bands are emerging in the heavy metal scene with clear influences from classic early 80's metal bands apparent in their music. Bullet For My Valentine, from Wales-UK, are one them. They've been thrown into the 'melodic metalcore' sub-genre since they first came out, largely due to their use of hard-core screaming vocals, but have said in interviews that they're a hard-rock band with metal influences.

However you wish to categorize them, they clearly have influences from thrash, hard-core, and melodic rock in their sound. The main appeal for me is the thrash sound in their guitar-work, as well as the mixed vocal style, which is always switching back and forth between melodic and screaming vocals. They can play a mean guitar solo too, and I've said several times that great guitar solos are the best way to win me over with heavy metal. Bullet For My Valentine have done so.

Here's a look at their career so far, album by album:

Hand Of Blood ('05) [in UK: Bullet For My Valentine ('04)]
Their debut EP gives a good introduction to this band's sound & formula: fast-tempo thrash inspired riffs, therapeutic rage-filled screaming vocals contrasted with melodic vocal passages, and talented guitar solos in abundance.

My picks:
-4 Words (To Choke Upon) (a new addition on the US release, or a bonus track on the UK version)
-Hand Of Blood (this one plays out like the band's theme-song as the lyrics depict a doomed relationship ending in bullets & bloodshed)
-Just Another Star

The Poison ('06) SPECIAL EDITION
On their first full-length album Bullet For My Valentine deliver a much more polished effort. In addition to the inclusion of several tracks from the Hand Of Blood EP, they have a few power-ballads on this album, as well as more thrashers. However, the BFMV power-ballad almost always has a dark side, and shreds with ferocious intensity before it's done. The 'Metalcore' element of harsh, screamed vocals has a strong presence on this album, though it is broken up nicely by the frequent use of melodic singing too. There is even a guest appearance by Apocalyptica on the intro track (which they also co-wrote). What's more is that The Poison is available as a special edition with bonus tracks and a DVD of some early concert footage & videos.

My picks:
-Intro (featuring Apocalyptica)
-Her Voice Resides
-Tears Don't Fall (perhaps their best-known song, a killer power-ballad!)
-Suffocating Under Words of Sorrow (What Can I Do)
-Cries In Vain
-Spit You Out (great fast-paced, thrash-influenced song)
-The End (Such a dark, evil sounding song. Probably my favorite. Melodic for the most part, but trashes with true fury at well-timed moments!)
---Bonus Tracks---
-7 Days
-Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (An excellent cover of the classic Metallica song!)
-Tears Don't Fall (Acoustic version- just as good as the original, just a different flavor...)

Scream Aim Fire ('08)
On this album, Bullet For My Valentine seem to smooth out the rough edges of their formula a little more. The result is that this album seems more accessible to mainstream acceptance. By this time, the band had really begun to ascend the ranks within the metal scene, earning a main-stage slot on Mayhem Fest '09 among other popular metal tours in the US & Europe. Though the songs may seem a bit formula-driven, they still get the shred out like no other. My only point of criticism is that I feel the ending of the last track, Forever & Always (a power-ballad), seems to drag on way too long. Overall, this album maybe shows off more of their 'thrash' side than their 'metalcore' sound on the previous works...

My picks:
-Scream Aim Fire
-Eye Of The Storm (This one really pushes the tempo about as fast as I've heard from this band. Enough so that I would compare it to songs by DragonForce!)
-Hearts Burst Into Fire (probably the best power ballad on this album...)
-Waking the Demon
-Say Goodnight (best mix of melody & thrash, clean & heavy, on this album)
-End of Days

FEVER (2010)
Bullet For My Valentine's newest album again sees them perfecting their niche within heavy metal even more. You can hear them keeping elements from all their previous works alive in their music, although I would probably say it's closest in sound & style to the Scream Aim Fire album. All the facets of their music you may have grown to love by now are present on this album, and in perfect balance. Their masterful power-ballads keep this album highly accessible for the mainstream-metal audience, but they also make sure to incorporate enough of the metalcore-screaming vocals to keep that portion of their following faithful as well.

My picks:
-Your Betrayal
-A Place Where You Belong (this is one of the ballads, and my favorite one on this album)
-Pleasure and Pain
-Begging For Mercy