A huge double album of really twisted doom metal that is let down by a very average production. There are some good ideas on here but this release is simply far too long & the sound really does leave everything sounding very wishy washy. Tracks like "Stygian Narcosis" show some real intensity (with the obvious Disembowelment influences doing them no harm at all) but others come across as lacking substance. Also I thought I'd mention an issue that has annoyed me about all of the Esoteric releases to date. I find myself wishing that the vocalists would just shut up for a while & let me enjoy the music. They can't keep their mouths shut & there are not too many moments free of random screaming. Overall the could've been a good release if it was cut down to one CD & had some decent financing put in to the production.
Genres: Doom Metal
It's a real pleasure to hear such a well-produced & focused recording from a group of very talented musicians. Not a style that I would usually enjoy but I just can't help but be drawn to the pure energy that Dillinger give off. It's a real achievement to be able to pull of a record as diverse as this in such a clean fashion. Singer Greg Puciato puts in a huge performance here. His clean vocals remind me very much of Mike Patton (Faith No More) at times. There are quite a few really catchy vocal hooks that I'm finding infectious. Some of the hardcore chaotic stuff is bit much at times but the music changes so often that it doesn't really detract from the experience too much. It's actually the slower, crunchier moments that are the real highlights for mine. The clean stuff is also well executed. The sound is brilliant throughout. This will get some very loud repeated listens in my car for sure.
I've been revisiting this old favourite over the last couple of days. I thought it was pretty amazing back in 1989 & it's still a great record with loads of energy & a tonne of quality thrash riffs. In hindsight though, every track includes chuggier mid-paced sections that sound quite generic in comparison to the obviously spectacular up-tempo material while the song structures sound a bit jerky as the band have obviously pasted together widely disparate sections in a haphazard fashion e.g. "Tired & Red". There's not a lot of depth on offer however the simplicity of these songs actually works to their advantage by opening them up to a generation of beer-drinking metalheads looking for drunken anthems. I had so many good times screaming out the choruses to these songs which are all very catchy & easy to remember. I definitely prefer the rawer "Persecution Mania" but it's still a really fun album that sounds undeniably German.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Savatage’s 1983 debut studio album “Sirens” did very little for me & given that 1984’s “The Dungeons Are Calling” E.P. was recorded on the exact same day as “Sirens” it was always going to be likely that my feelings would be very similar for it too. And in the end that’s proven to be correct to an extent. I mean I could probably cut & paste my review of “Sirens” here & be done with it all pretty quickly which would be fine by me but no…. you Metal Academics deserve a more detailed explanation so an explanation you shall have. And in fairness, there are some small differences between the two releases even though both include material that the band had been playing live for several years by this stage.
For starters, the lyrical content takes a different direction to the one we saw on “Sirens” with most of this material being focused towards one particular theme in drug addiction. Many fans might not have realized it at the time but front man Jon Oliva was in fact struggling with drug & alcohol dependencies himself which makes the message all the more potent. Sadly, this doesn’t make Jon’s performance any more appealing though as I still find him to sound pretty boring & a touch abrasive at times. He’s just lacking any sort of x factor in my opiion. There’s no finesse or class about his delivery & I can’t understand the general worship that he seems to receive from Savatage fans. The other noteworthy differences from “Sirens” can be seen in the occasional use of keyboards to add atmosphere & the slightly heavier & more epic feel to some of the song-writing. This is probably helped by the more consistent lyrical themes which almost make “The Dungeons Are Calling” a concept release.
The production is unsurprisingly very similar to “Sirens” with this very dry mix failing to connect with me on any level even though the record was recorded at Florida’s legendary Morrisound Studios with Jim Morris handling the engineering. For those that aren’t aware, Morrisound would later go on to become known as the home of Florida death metal. The guitar sound here lacks any sort of warmth & the drums seem almost TOO separated from the rest of the band. Probably because the bass guitar sound isn’t big enough to fill the gap. The snare sound is particularly artificial sounding & the overall result lacks personality in my opinion. A more organic sound would certainly have helped to bring the musicians in closer together as a cohesive unit which would have given “The Dungeons Are Calling” a better chance of connecting with me. There are some solid & crunchy riffs here & there but just as many of them fall a bit flat & this isn’t helped by the lifeless production. The rhythm section doesn’t do anything too special but Chris Oliva is clearly a very talented lead guitar shredder with his Eddie Van Halen influenced guitar solos once again being the clear highlight of the record.
Look I’m probably sounding a bit negative here & it’s worth noting that I’ve never been a Savatage fan…. even during their late 80’s/early 90’s heyday so you can probably take my opinion with a grain of salt but I do think this E.P. is a step up from the debut which counts for something. It still doesn’t give me any excitement though as (outside of the generally enjoyable “By The Grace Of The Witch”) the song-writing fails to connect with me much. And closing number “The Whip” is a terrible way to finish the release with its dumb S&M themed lyrics & equally dumb speed metal approach doing their level best to leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. That’s Savatage at their worst right there & while this may be the band’s heaviest release ever it certainly doesn’t make it an interesting listen for me personally. Given my long-standing distaste for the band & the general fanfare for this release though I’d encourage fans of US heavy metal & power metal to give this a spin & come to their own conclusions. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if you come away the same response to it that I did.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Florida four-piece heavy metallers Savatage were a band that would go on to become a major player in the US metal scene throughout the 80’s & 90’s & were originally formed by the Oliva brothers Criss & Jon in 1979 in the Tampa area that many of you would know as a haven for quality death metal in the late 80’s/early 90s. The band originally went by the name of Avatar with Jon handling the drumming duties before switching to bass & finally taking on the vocal position. It's not that commonly known but they actually released an E.P. under their original moniker before discovering that their name was already in use & making the decision to change their moniker. Strangely Avatar had often presented their name with a big “S” in front of it as they thought it looked cooler; kinda like rock mega-stars KISS. So when they decided to change the name the possibility of using Savatar seemed like the natural choice & was immediately raised for consideration. But a friend of the band suggested changing the end of that name so that it made a bit more sense & so it came to be that the band became known as Savatage with their debut album “Sirens” being released under that moniker later on the same year.
Now fans of Savatage’s later works shouldn’t expect that “Sirens” will be presented in the same sort of rock opera format as their more classic material. This is a much more traditional heavy metal record. In fact it’s probably the heaviest of their career as a result. The production features a very dry & metallic rhythm guitar sound that hints at the mid-range scoop sound that would become a staple of the US metal scene in later years. I can’t say I love it but it’s certainly pretty heavy. In fact Savatage were a particularly metal band for the time. This is not one of those early 80’s metal records that could go either way as far as hard rock or heavy metal goes. It’s classic metal through & through with Judas Priest & Iron Maiden being the main influences on display. The NWOBHM was obviously a big influence on the band but the final package definitely has more of a US sound with Savatage pushing away from the hard rock crunch in favour of the more dense & flashy sound that US bands like Jag Panzer were pushing.
Now I’ve read a whole bunch of reviews on this record over the years & it’s interesting that most of them are absolutely gushing about how underrated this album is & how amazing front man Jon Oliva’s vocals are. It’s generally a well-respected release from the critics too but I’m afraid I just don’t see it. Jon’s voice is nothing special at this stage in my opinion & the vocal hooks just aren’t there. There are certainly some pretty good riffs but they don’t amount to engaging songs. The clear highlight is Criss Oliva’s guitar solos as they offer great melody & virtuosity in equal portions. The lead tone also offers a lot of appeal for an old shredder like me. The rhythm section puts in a pretty good display too but Criss is really the only thing I find enjoyable about “Sirens” with only one song doing much for me. If you’re not already a Savatage fan then I’d strongly urge you to hold off for their later material because even though this represents one of the earlier releases in a rejuvenated US heavy metal scene which was about to explode in the coming years, there were much better examples of this sound coming just around the corner.
Genres: Heavy Metal
This is a really captivating release. I love the ideas & the overall sound. Rosetta create huge walls of atmosphere & noise that leave the listener with a feeling of swimming in the sound. Michael Armine's vocals are more a bark than anything else &, although monotonous, are a captivating call-to-arms. I can detect a fair bit of ambient music & psychadelic rock influence in the song structures. Mid-1990s Anathema also springs to mind. I admit that the album is dying for a crisper, brighter production though. It's just a little annoying that it could've been even better with more clarity. The closing title track is a triumph & is easily one of the highlights of my year so far. This is certainly an album that needs the right setting. Perfect for a dark lonely night & must be played loud. Definitely worth giving this one a few listens as it took two or three listens for it to grab me.
Genres: Sludge Metal Post-Metal
My first Rainbow experience was with 1976’s classic “Rising” album in the late 80’s or early 90’s. The duo of tracks that open & finish the record were unquestionably outstanding efforts & the more epic direction of this material was taking hard rock & heavy metal to places it had never ventured before. While it’s unquestionably a very enjoyable listen I have to admit to feeling that the overall package is a little overrated. There’s a distinct drop in quality in the middle of the album that prevents me from rating it as highly as other people inevitably seem to do but the quality of the rest of the material does manage to carry it to an extent. After I discovered “Rising” I quickly proceeded to check out the other two Dio-fronted Rainbow albums. Strangely I didn’t find either of them anywhere near as appealing & I haven’t returned to them until the last year or so when I decided a revisit was in order.
The production on “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” is pretty thin but that’s not unusual for the time. I definitely think it effects my enjoyment of the album little bit though. I was really hoping to hear Rainbow expanding on the more epic sound they’d started to pursue on “Rising” but there isn’t a lot of that here. It’s a much more traditional hard rock record. I’d definitely like to hear a substantially more expansive performance from Ritchie Blackmore but he really only soars a couple of times during the rare epic moments. Cozy Powell puts in a very professional performance behind the drum kit but it’s no surprise that Ronnie James Dio carries the album. Some of these tracks would simply be generic 70’s hard rock songs without his magical touch but I’m not sure it’s enough to make the album worthy of its status. For some reason Rainbow have decided to drop the keyboards that were such a prominent part of “Rising” & I find that decision to be a strange one. They added a lot to the atmosphere & were one the main elements that made “Rising” sound distinctive.
The album opens with the title track which is a solid enough but fairly generic hard rock tune. It’s kind of fun & has some good energy but it’s certainly nothing special. “Lady Of The Lake”, “LA Connection”, “Kill The King” & “The Shed (Subtle)” are also pretty decent examples of 70’s hard rock & I quite enjoy them but it’s really only the epic “Gates Of Babylon” that sees Rainbow reaching beyond their comfort zones & creating something with both substance & atmosphere. It has a very different feel to the rest of the album & is the clear highlight in my opinion. It’s no surprise that the keyboards have returned on this track & it sounds very much like it could have come for the “Rising” sessions. Sadly the quality of song-writing drops off substantially at the end of the album. “Sensitive To Light” is a generic blues-based rocker that has very little to hold the listeners interest while closing ballad “Rainbow Eyes” is a seriously cheesy piece of disposable garbage that is best forgotten. I’m not sure how the band convinced themselves that it was a good idea to be honest.
“Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” features some decent hard rock songs but it definitely fails to reach the same sort of heights as its predecessor & peters out badly in the back end. In fact “Rainbow Eyes” is bad enough that it's single-handedly caused me to drop my score a bit. That seems like a shame however I honestly think that most of the praise this album receives is based on Dio’s brilliance rather than the overall package. “Gates Of Babylon” is really the only truly great song on display here. Ultimately I find “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” to be a little disappointing & overrated although I do prefer it to Rainbow's similarly overrated debut album.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Rainbow’s debut album “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” was a difficult one for me. I really wanted to like such a well-respected & highly regarded hard rock record but unfortunately I couldn’t quite look past the inconsistent song-writing & execution. There were some really promising signs in the first half of the album but things faded significantly in the back end & I found myself losing interest. Apparently Ritchie wasn’t terribly enamored with the result either as he elected to replace his entire band for 1976’s follow-up release “Rising”. Legendary frontman Ronnie James Dio was the only band member to be retained so there was every likelihood that things might sound a fair bit different going forwards. “Rising” was my entry point for Rainbow & it’s always been a funny album in that my opinions have often fluctuated over the years but I think the time & attention I’ve given it over the past week has finally cleared up any indecision.
Even the most casual listen to “Rising” makes it blatantly obvious that Rainbow are an entirely different band to the one we heard on “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow”. It’s a much more epic sounding record. Not so much from a production sense as the production is still a little thin. I’m talking more about the instrumentation, themes & atmosphere. Everything is bigger! The blues rock backbone that was so evident on much of the debut is now overshadowed by the stronger & more exciting presence of early heavy metal. As a band Rainbow now sounds far more sure of themselves. There is a confidence that was sorely lacking before. The recruitment of gun session drummer Cozy Powell added substantial weight to the rhythm section while 19 year-old keyboardist Tony Carey also plays a strong role in defining a more substantial sound for the band. Ritchie’s exotic lead guitar solos seem to enhance the lyrical themes at times & although there are still some hints of the blues in some of his riffs this is definitely a much heavier Rainbow. I do have to admit that I struggle with Ritchie’s slide guitar solos a bit though as it’s just not my thing. Vocally Ronnie James Dio puts in one of the great performances in rock music here. It’s truly amazing that a front-man can totally overshadow the likes of Blackmore & Powell but Dio has done it pretty easily here. In fact he’s overshadowed every musician on every record I’ve ever heard him on to be honest. He’s quite simply one of the greatest rock/metal front-men ever.
For all its positives my major problem with “Rising” is in its overall consistency. In fact, it’s a very good example of what I commonly refer to as the quality sandwich. The album starts off very well with a couple really high quality songs. “Tarot Woman” is the sort of epic proto-metal that defines the album. It’s quite long with fantastical lyrical themes & soaring vocals that take you to places you’ve only dreamed of. Then we get the equally impressive rocker “Run With The Wolf” with its great singalong chorus. It’s an underrated song that’s often overlooked amongst the album highlights but I really like it. Then things drop off dramatically. “Starstruck” is a generic blues rock song that sounds very dull to my ears. It really kills that atmosphere that’s been built up over the first two tunes. This is followed by the decidedly cheesy “Do You Close Your Eyes” which sounds quite like early 80’s Van Halen party song to me. It’s not horrible but it’s again a big step down from the earlier tracks. Thankfully things are about to pick up in a major way with album highlight “Stargazer”. This eight & a half minute piece is clearly the defining moment for Rainbow. It features an incredible atmosphere & a stunningly exotic Blackmore solo while Ronnie puts in one of the great vocal performances in all of rock. To be honest I think this song warped my opinion of the record for many years as it’s hard to look past. Finally the album is closed out by another eight minute monster in “A Light In The Black”. It’s an up-tempo rocker in the vein of “Tarot Woman” with some great singalong vocal hooks & some long keyboard & guitar solos.
I think I’ve generally always wanted to like “Rising” more than I actually did & that’s not difficult to do if you focus on the highlights. However if I look at the tracklisting holistically I can’t help but be a little disappointed with the two tracks in the middle of the album. And when you then consider that there are only six tracks on the album it’s hard to deny that this drop in quality in the middle is a significant factor & I’ve had to adjust my score accordingly. “Rising” is a substantial step up from “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” & features some amazing performances but I think it could have been even better with a bit more time & a little more quality control.
Genres: Heavy Metal
I was very late to discover Rage Against The Machine. I had always assumed that they were not my cup of tea based on the “rap metal” tag & their commercial success however when I finally gave their debut album a few listens I found that they actually had plenty to offer a fan of heavy music. I was impressed with the aggression of the vocal delivery & the tightness of the musicianship while the music came across with much more integrity & heaviness than I expected. This wasn’t merely a commercial pop metal venture. After revisiting the debut album again recently & finding that I liked it even more than my initial experiences I decided to give their later albums a chance to impress me.
“Evil Empire” is a very similar sort of album to the self-titled really. The production is a little different in that it sounds a bit brighter with more of a focus on the high end. The bottom end could do with a bit more emphasis & it detracts a little from the overall heaviness of the music in my opinion. I prefer the production on the debut but it’s not a big deal as it generally sounds pretty good. The song-writing style leans heavily on RATM’s previous output while incorporating subtle tweaks to take things a little further. Tom Morello has stepped up his attempts to make his guitar sound as weird as humanly possible & if that was his goal then he has achieved it pretty comfortably. There seems to be a few hardcore-influenced moments & some more straight up hip hop sections on this album with the band flexing their creative muscles a little further than they did before. The rhythm section is again quite brilliant but the heavier production of the debut was a better platform to showcase their skills in my opinion. Zack de la Rocha’s vocal delivery is again strong although probably not as impressive as on the debut.
The album starts off strongly but then the quality of the song-writing fades a bit towards the middle of the album before picking up again in the second half. I think the stronger tracks tend to be the ones where the band just do what they do & don’t try to get too fancy. “Down Rodeo” is my personal favourite with its strong racial themes while hit single “Bulls On Parade” is also very strong. Unfortunately there seems to have been a quality control issue with some of the other material. I find “Vietnow” to be a bit flat but tracks like “Revolver”, “Snakecharmer”, “Tire Me” & “Year Of Tha Boomerang” are a fair bit weaker than anything we’d heard from the band previously. The song-writing on half of the album is up to the standard we expect but the other half is subpar in my opinion. There’s nothing too horrible but these songs just don’t seem to gel. A song like “Year Of Tha Boomerang” for instance sounds to me like the band couldn’t really pinpoint what direction they wanted to take & it ended up sounding like a bit of a mess.
Rage Against The Machine have taken a very similar approach to “Evil Empire” as they did for their debut but it falls short of its older brother in nearly all areas. There's enough quality to leave me confident that the band still had what it took to record a quality record but they definitely needed to work on their quality control & execution.
Genres: Alternative Metal
Even though it may not often be regarded as a truely classic release, Queensryche's debut full-length "The Warning" represents a significant point in the development of the heavy metal genre nonetheless because it gives us our first real signs of the progressive metal sound that we know so well today. The band's self-titled E.P. from the previous year had offered the odd proggy section here & there but still sat much more comfortably amongst more traditional heavy metal brethren like Judas Priest & Iron Maiden overall. Well hold on to your hats people because “The Warning” is an entirely different beast. 1979's “From The Fjords” album from US heavy metallers Legend & the 1980 debut record from Finnish heavy metal outfit Sarcofagus entitled “Cycle Of Life” were close enough to progressive metal to cause some conjecture around who was the earliest exponent but the difference here is that the progressive elements are so tightly entwined with the metal ones that they become one unified sound whereas those more obscure examples tended to have a prog rock track followed by a heavy metal one leading into another prog rock one if you know what I mean. The metal & prog weren’t unified before but Queensryche clearly had a very specific & well-defined sound in mind for their first album & it works as a cohesive unit. Plus, the production job on “The Warning” takes a direction that has a lot more in common with early 80’s progressive rock than it does with metal too & in doing so gives the album a completely different feel to not only Queensryche’s earlier material but anything the global metal scene had experienced to the time. It’s much spacier & shows a lot more ambition in its scope so I genuinely think that “The Warning” can be described as the root of the modern progressive metal sound. I mean the link to a band like Dream Theater is really obvious after listening to this album. It’s easy to imagine that Queensryche were probably their favourite band in their formative years. Coincidently, you’ll find plenty of interviews where the band say that they absolutely hate the production job on “The Warning”; that it ruined the record & that they can’t listen to it without cringing. Front man Geoff Tate has openly stated that the record label took total control of the way the album sounded & that the guy that they employed to do the mixing refused to accept any input from the band & had no prior experience with Queensryche or any sort of hard rock band for that matter. He also said that the album went $300k over-budget which is pretty astounding for a metal debut of the time.
For a bit of perspective, I googled Val Garay who was responsible for mixing “The Warning” & here’s a list of some of the artists he’s worked with: Kim Carnes, Mr Big, Bonnie Rait, Dolly Parton, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Linda Ronstadt, Sarah Brightman, Kenny Rogers, Santana, Reel Big Fish, Joan Armatrading…. I’ve gotta say that I can see where the band were coming from based on that list but does the album really sound all that bad? Well it definitely doesn’t as far as I'm concerned but I can certainly see why Queensryche would have been dissatisfied given their NWOBHM influences. The rhythm guitars aren’t very up-front in the mix & the guitar solos don’t sound as shredding as we’d usually expect from a US heavy metal album of the time. Geoff Tate’s voice also dominates the mix which isn’t terribly surprising given his abilities & status. But all of these things aside I still really enjoy the sound of “The Warning”. You may have heard of producer James Guthrie before as he was the guy responsible for producing the song “Better By You, Better Than Me” for Judas Priest’s “Stained Class” record which impressed the band enough to score him the gig for their follow-up album “Killing Machine” which sounded great in my opinion. Well he’d certainly gone on to bigger & better things after that time with Pink Floyd’s epic 1979 double concept album “The Wall” & the subsequent follow-up, 1983’s “The Final Cut”, being the major feathers in his cap. And once you learn that, everything really does seem to fall into place because “The Warning” is a much more expansive undertaking than pretty much any metal album that had been released to the time. There are loads of production effects employed with beautifully constructed vocal harmonies, highly professional multi-tracking & the subtle use of keyboards all adding a lot of interest & contributing to a darker & more somber atmosphere than was ever hinted at on the EP. It’s really not all that hard to link these sort of elements to Guthry’s Floydian past actually.
Queensryche’s earlier material was definitely faster, heavier, & simpler than its younger brother which predominantly sticks to a mid-paced tempo which is a touch less riffy & a lot more melancholic. “The Warning” is a substantially more ambitious undertaking too with longer, more drawn-out compositions & a far more complex approach to the riff structures featuring the regular use of odd time signatures. The Judas Priest & Iron Maiden influences are still very obvious. Especially the Maiden one which has noticeably increased since the debut with a lot greater use of guitar harmonies; all performed with stunning precision. But the Rush influence is equally as important here too. Particularly in the outstanding drumming of Scott Rockenfield which is a real highlight here although I also love Eddie Jackson’s bass lines. The band is pretty amazing as a whole really & I can only wish that some of the guitar solos sounded a little more shreddy because I don’t think they have quite the impact that the ones on the EP did.
Singer Geoff Tate once again proves that there’s pretty much daylight between him & the rest of the field when it comes to sheer talent. His performance here is more theatrical & emotive than before with a greater use of his higher register. In fact he may even go a little too far with the theatricality at times but it’s hard to deny that most of the greatest moments on the album are centred around his soaring & perfectly executed vocal harmonies. He’s almost an enigma at this stage & the fact that the lyrics are all written around themes drawn from George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” only works further into Geoff’s strengths.
The tracklisting is very consistent with no weak tracks included but I do feel that it starts & finishes with some of the less impressive numbers which nullifies the overall feeling of quality just a touch. Tracks 4-8 see Queensryche hit a real sweet spot though. Particularly the double punch of “NM 156” & the single “Take Hold Of The Flame” which are amongst my favourite tracks from 1984.
Overall “The Warning” really works for me. The more ambitious & progressive approach has only been positive in my opinion, even though it’s clearly made for a less obvious listening experience that requires a greater level of attention & commitment from its audience. But I don’t think there’s much doubt that I sit right in the middle of the target audience that Queensryche had in mind for this record so I have to admit that I rate it slightly higher than the band’s more celebrated debut. It’s a very solid piece of progressive metal indeed.
Genres: Heavy Metal
After hearing that Paradise Lost had gone off on some stylistic tangents on the albums prior to this one, I was interested to see where they were at these days. The last album I paid much attention to was "Draconian Times" & I was pretty surprised to hear that "Tragic Idol" sounds exactly the same as they did back then. Not that this is necessarily such a bad thing. It's just that I was expecting some kind of development & modernization in their sound. I was a big fan of "Icon" & (to a lesser extent) "Draconian Times" so is this as good? Not quite. The first four tracks are all high quality & become quite catchy on repeated listens however the middle 3 or 4 tracks tend to be a bit flat & unexciting. Thankfully they pick things up at the end with a couple of good ones. The sound & performances are all good as you would expect but some of the tracks are so similar to their past glories that I find myself singing different lyrics over the top. I saw them live earlier this year & was disappointed that they seemed quite jaded & disinterested which is in direct comparison to a triumphant performance I saw from them back in 1995. Don't get me wrong. I still enjoyed this album. "Tragic Idol" is like visiting an old friend. Sure it's comfortable but is there a future? I think their best may be behind them at this point.
Genres: Doom Metal Gothic Metal
Both of Ozzy’s first two solo records had ended up becoming heavy metal classics which was more than partially due to the contribution of the ridiculously talented neo-classical guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads. Unfortunately Randy was tragically killed in a light plane crash 1982 which left Ozzy & Sharon Arden with no choice but to rebuild Ozzy’s career with a new lineup. Thankfully Sharon is as tough as nails & she was able to pull Ozzy through this dark period & the result is 1983’s “Bark At The Moon” album. Ozzy had recruited Night Ranger guitar shredder Brad Gillis, Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo & Black Oak Arkansas drummer Tommy Aldridge for the “Diary Of A Madman” tour & the recording of his 1982 double live album “Speak Of The Devil” however Ozzy’s alcohol problems had been exacerbated by his grief over Randy’s death & he had taken a lot of his frustrations out on Gillis which resulted in him quitting the band at the end of the tour. Sarzo, who was originally recruited on Randy’s recommendation due to their prior relationship in Quiet Riot, also decided to leave the band after becoming disillusioned following Randy’s death so when tasked with the prospect of writing a new studio album Sharon & Ozzy needed to think long & hard about who would be the best fit to not only perform on the album but also to write it. The answer came in the form of 26-year old guitar shredder Jake E. Lee who had previously spent some time with both Ratt & Dio. Incidently, legendary Dokken shredder George Lynch was the other potential candidate & regardless of Lee’s undoubted skills I’m an absolutely huge George Lynch fan so I can’t help but feel that they made the wrong decision here . Strangely, former bassist Bob Daisley who had previously been unceremoniously axed from the band agreed to write & perform on the album too which is quite hard to believe given that he’d previously gone on holidays at Ozzy’s request only to find that he’d been replaced upon returning. If you look at the liner notes of the “Bark At The Moon” album you’ll see that all song-writing credits sit with Ozzy this time though. Bob apparently took a one-off payment for his credits while Jake was blackmailed by Sharon. She threatened to fire him & get another guitarist in to record his songs if he didn’t agree to sign over his portion of the song-writing credits. Such a nice chick!
The result is in many ways very similar to Ozzy’s first two albums but in others very different. Firstly, the production job on “Bark At The Moon” is incredibly ove rthe top featuring an extremely dated 80’s sound covered with cheesy Don Airey keyboards that make this album sound very much of it’s time. In fact I’d go so far as to say that this is the main reason that “Bark At The Moon” isn’t rated as highly as Ozzy’s earlier material. The other is the lack of Randy Rhoads but that’s not to say that Jake E. Lee doesn’t do a stellar job here because he certainly does. His style is a much more traditional heavy metal one but he’s clearly been heavily influenced by Randy in his improvisational approach to his rhythm guitar tracks. But the exotic neo-classical melody isn’t there & that’s what most people consider to be the missing link here. Personally I really like Jake’s performance as he’s got great technique & his sound is very exciting & very metal. In fact I find him to be the best thing about the album so I’ve never understood why some people seem to downplay his ability. I’ve never been a huge fan of Bob Daisley’s bouncy basslines however he’s now dropped those more minimal half-time efforts I took issue with on the first two Ozzy albums & his contribution is much more to my taste here even if I’d have much preferred to hear Rudy Sarzo. Tommy Aldridge takes a much more restrained & rock solid approach than he did on “Speak Of The Devil” which is a shame as I’d have loved to hear him play some more expansive stuff but it fits the songs pretty well regardless & ironically reminds me of Vinny Appice’s efforts on Black Sabbath’s recent efforts.
Musically “Bark At The Moon” features some great metal riffs that would comfortably have fit on “Blizzard Of Ozz” or “Diary Of A Madman”. Ozzy’s performance is par for the course although as the music gets cheesier with the additional keyboards Ozzy sounds more & more out of his comfort zone in my opinion. It’s only on the darker numbers that he seems to fit comfortably as his voice just doesn’t suit the more melodic stuff as well. The song-writing is as solid as ever but like earlier records we again have a horrible ballad in the middle of the album that brings the flow of the record to a grinding holt. I’m also not too fond of the pretty dumb “look at me, aren’t I a bad ass” approach of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel” as it comes across as lacking any sort of artistic credibility.
When all is said & done though this is a pretty good Ozzy album. It’s just not a great one. If the keyboards were more restrained & tasteful with some less bombastic arrangements we might be talking about it in the same breath as Ozzy’s greats but that element really does bring it down a couple of notches. All fans of the classic heavy metal sound will find some enjoyment in the album anyway though. The performances are great & there’s quite a few fun metal tunes to be found if you don’t take things too seriously.
Genres: Heavy Metal
I was too young to be affected by Randy’s death at the time but I’d be lying if I said that it hadn’t affected me in subsequent years given just how influential he was on me as a musician. I’ve often struggled to come to grips with his unfulfilled genius & can’t imagine the heights he may have reached had he been given the chance. It’s worth noting that Randy’s death hit Ozzy Osbourne particularly hard. In fact it’s common knowledge that he was completely devastated by the news but despite this fact Ozzy managed to pull himself together enough to get the show back on the road. Ozzy & Sharon Arden had been planning to release a live album for some time before Randy’s death as they still owed Sharon’s father two more albums at Jet Records & wanted to get them out of the way quickly so that they could move to a deal with Jet’s distribution company CBS. A double live album would count for two albums & would cost very little to make. But preparations for that record were scrapped immediately after Randy’s death. Ozzy simply wasn’t comfortable with the idea of recording a live set of Randy’s songs with another guitarist & Sharon didn’t want to give her father the pleasure of releasing the last great Randy Rhoads record so she came up with a more leftfield idea to fulfill his contractual obligations in the short-term. She decided to record a live album comprised entirely of classic Black Sabbath material instead. No one saw this move coming & Randy hadn’t been comfortable with the idea when it had been tossed around while he was alive but now it seemed to make sense to Ozzy & Sharon although it has to be said that not everyone’s been able to understand the value in the concept since. Ozzy recruited Night Ranger guitar shredder Brad Gillis as Randy’s replacement & the rhythm section was comprised of drummer Tommy Aldridge & former Quiet Riot bassist Randy Sarzo who were both credited on the sleeve notes for 1981’s “Diary Of A Madman” album despite not appearing on the album. The recordings were scheduled for two nights at The Ritz in New York on the 26th & 27th of September 1982. Producer Max Norman must have realized that Ozzy’s ability to handle the old Sabbath material was in question because he actually had Ozzy perform the whole show to an empty room on one of the days before the show so that he’d have some additional vocal tracks to choose from if the real ones were a complete write-off. Apparently three songs that made the final cut are actually taken from that session with crowd noise layered over the top later which doesn’t surprise me at all because Ozzy’s vocal performance really does seem far too polished to my ears. Plus there’s double tracking going on at times too. Not that I’m complaining because I really enjoy Ozzy’s performance here & I couldn’t care less what they’ve done to enhance it although I have read that Ozzy had to read some of the lyrics from a book that he had on stage with him which is a bit embarrassing. Apparently all of the songs with the exception of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” were taken from the 27th of September show. The desk recordings later proved that “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” wasn’t played on either night so it’s anyone’s guess as to where that performance came from. These aren’t strictly faithful renditions of the 70’s Sabbath material either. “Speak Of The Devil” offers a distinctly modernized 80’s take on the songs with the band sticking to the style of Ozzy’s solo material over the warmer & less flashy 70’s feel of the originals. And for that reason this is an extremely divisive release. Some fans can’t stand to hear anyone but the classic Sabbath lineup perform these pieces & any drifting from the traditional arrangements is cause for immediate scorn & banishment. Children of the 80’s however tend to really enjoy these versions as an interesting & exciting alternative. Personally I fall well & truly on the latter side of the fence. This is Ozzy’s only release with this lineup but it’s a terrible shame because this is an awesome band. Firstly Brad Gillis may not be Randy Rhoads but he’s a damn fine shredder in his own right. His guitar tone absolutely slays & although his performance is not flawless it’s very exciting & keeps me fully engaged as I eagerly wait to find out just how he’ll take on each of these classics. Rudy Sarzo & Tommy Aldridge’s performances are fucking brilliant too & they’re a much better match for Ozzy than Bob Daisley & Lee Kerslake were in my opinion. This is a real supergroup & when you throw in an outstanding production job with every instrument presented in a beautifully bright, balanced & powerful fashion you’ve got all the ingredients for a very high quality live release. It was my favourite of Ozzy’s solo releases to that time.
Genres: Heavy Metal
The early days of metal were dominated by a small number of bands & most of those artists have remained amongst the true heavy-weights of the genre still to this day with legendary metal bad-boys Motorhead being one of the more major contributors right up until their sad demise in 2015. Following on from a quick succession of premium quality releases with their classic lineup, 1983's "Another Perfect Day" record really stands out from the rest of Motorhead’s long & distinguished back catalogue for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s noteworthy for being the only Motorhead album to feature Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian “Robbo” Robertson who had been called in to replace long-time guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke. Eddie had left the band in the middle of their 1982 “Iron Fist” tour after becoming increasingly frustrated with the band’s direction following the mixed reactions to 1982's “Iron First” record which was the first & only Motorhead record where Clarke handled the production duties personally. The band’s participation in a sequel to the St Valentine’s Day Massacre E.P. with US punk & metal outfit the Plasmatics featuring a cover version of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” was the straw that broke the camel’s back though as Eddie really struggled with the decision to use the Plasmatics guitarist while he handled the production duties. It’s open for debate as to whether Eddie quit or was fired as there are conflicting stories from Eddie & the rest of the band but Eddie was replaced within a week of his departure with Robertson recruited to fill his boots for the remainder of the tour. This eventually led to Robbo’s contributing to the recording of the “Another Perfect Day” album as well which would be one of the major elements in making the album stand out so much from your average Motorhead record.
I’ve read some heavily opposed viewpoints on the production job on “Another Perfect Day” over the years. Some people think it’s one of the best sounding records of Motorhead’s career while others think it’s a bit lacking. Personally I fall into the second category as I think the guitars & bass sound a bit muddy & washed out while Robbo’s lead solos could do with a bit more strength & definition in the mix. But overall it’s not that big a deal because you don’t want a Motorhead record to sound too clean.
Musically it’s very clear that Robbo’s inclusion has had quite a substantial impact on the band’s musical direction. Firstly, the songs are longer & more drawn out with a lot more time being given to shreddier & more melodic extended guitar solo parts rather than the short bursts of electricity that Eddie was known for. Robbo’s rhythm guitar work is also quite different to Eddie’s with the inclusion of some inventive arpeggios & open chords giving the new version of Motorhead more of a traditional hard rock feel with less punk rock aggression & speed. Robbo is always doing something interesting melodically & although his lead work is clearly more expansive than Eddie was capable of his performance also sounds a lot more controlled. Phil has toned down his drumming a little bit in order to give the additional melodic content more room to move & I think it works pretty well but not everyone agrees with me on this.
Lemmy was a stubborn old bastard & he’s made no secret of his distaste for this particular Motorhead lineup. He did grow to love “Another Perfect Day” over time but it initially left a bad taste in his mouth. He elected to take a more serious approach to his lyrics on this record for some reason with a stronger focus on real world issues than on the sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll direction he’s generally pushed in the past. I have to say that I do miss his sarcastic sense of humour although the new direction certainly suits the dark album cover pretty well. Lemmy certainly didn’t change much about the way that he conducts himself musically on this record though & for that reason you’re never in doubt as to who you’re listening to but it’s still ended up being a bit of a divisive record nonetheless. Personally I have quite a bit of time for it though. Being a guitarist I have no issues whatsoever with Robbo’s inclusion because as cool as Eddie was Robbo does make him sound a little one dimensional in comparison. Plus the slower tempo & more melodic numbers here tend to be the best tracks on the album as they have a similar appeal to the more brooding numbers from the band’s classic 1979 albums “Overkill” & “Bomber” only with none of the psychedelia of a like song like “Capricorn”. The tracklisting is generally pretty consistent with just a couple of weak songs amongst the ten on offer & I’d surprised if any open-minded heavy metal or hard rock fan doesn’t find a lot to like about “Another Perfect Day”.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Soooo… The completist in me simply wouldn’t allow that I let this one pass by after I’d listened to all of the full-length Moonsorrow albums (a feat which required quite a bit of dedication at times). Despite my aversion to the first four Moonsorrow albums I had high hopes going into this EP as it was released between 2007’s “V: Hävitetty” & 2011’s “Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa” (i.e. the only Moonsorrow releases I have much time for). On first inspection the “Tulimyrsky” EP seems to have been an avenue for the band to release the half hour long title track & that observation doesn’t end up being far from the truth. However as a sweetener we have the inclusion of a couple of re-recorded tracks from the bands demo days as well as a couple of cover tunes. With a running time of around 70 minutes there is potential for some pretty decent value for money here.
Moonsorrow have always juggled two distinct sounds. Each release has seen them combine the somewhat cheesy melodies of folk metal with the epic Viking metal of latter day Bathory. I’ve been told that they initially started life as a generic black metal band & this EP sees them toning back the Viking influence so that they can breathe new life into their black metal roots. The EP opens with the epic title track which is a prime example of this. "Tulimyrsky" can really be broken down into three parts with the opening section being comprised of pure black metal. I quite enjoyed this section & it raised my hopes that I might enjoy the rest of the release. The second section unfortunately heads in more of a folk metal direction which is not to my taste so I found my attention drifting a bit before the final section saw them combining their black & Viking metal sounds fairly effectively. Taken as a whole l I found it an interesting & generally enjoyable experience. The opening black metal material was strong enough to keep me going through the cheesier middle section before offering me some relief in the back end.
I’ve never been a huge fan of recorded cover versions but I find them a lot more respectable when a band attempts to make a song their own rather than simply recreating the original & that’s what Moonsorrow have attempted to do here. The first cover was always going to be a challenge as pretty much every metal fan in the world grew up listening to Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” but they make an admirable attempt at making it into one of their trademark epic black/folk anthems. It’s not really to my taste but I’ve got to respect their efforts. I would’ve liked to see them take the idea further by using their standard black metal vocal style rather than using a cleaner singing style to provide a closer match to the original. It’s not a shade on the Metallica version but I’d imagine it would satisfy die-hard Moonsorrow fans. The second cover version is their reworking of “Back To North” by Swedish death metal band Merciless. I hadn’t heard this song since the mid-90’s & have to admit that Moonsorrow’s version left me no closer to remembering it. I dug out the Merciless album afterwards so I could remind myself what it sounded like & I found it to be a fairly standard death metal track with an unusually folky interlude in the middle which is more than likely the reason they decided it was a suitable track to cover. Again Moonsorrow have recreated it in their own style & have done a reasonable job at it although again I find the death metal style of the original to be more appealing.
The two re-recorded demo tracks present an early Moonsorrow that was clearly still finding their identity. There’s very little of the folk/Viking sound they're renowned for & plenty of blatant early-90’s black metal worship. “Taistelu pohjolasta” (originally from 1999’s “Tämä ikuinen talvi” demo) is clearly the better of the two. It’s actually quite brutal at times & the slick production, quality musicianship & overall energy help me to overlook the fact that it rips off so many great bands. I’m sure that even the most enthusiastic of Moonsorrow fans would have to admit that the opening two riffs are very close variations on parts from Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” & Cradle Of Filth’s “The Principles Of Evil Made Flesh”. “Hvergelmir” (originally from 1997’s “Metsä” demo) is a more symphonic affair & isn’t quite as exciting or effective. It opens with a riff that could have been pulled straight from Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger” & the remainder consistently reminds me of Emperor. Both demo re-recordings make up for their lack of originality with enough enthusiasm to warrant their inclusion here though.
Most of the songs on “Tulimyrsky” have parts that I really like but they generally also include those cheesy or generic moments that prevent me from ever fully committing. The two re-recordings are a bit of fun without breaking any new ground whilst the title track is sprinkled with quality but fails to fully capitalise due to the folky mid-section. The two cover versions are both interesting on first listen but neither has much staying power & they could probably have been omitted. Regardless of these criticisms I still find the high points to be strong enough to draw me in. It’s certainly worth a listen for the casual fan & die-hards will probably find it essential.
Genres: Black Metal Folk Metal
I must admit that I've never been a fan of folk metal but I gave Moonsorrow's 2011 album "Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa" a few runs a couple of years ago & was pretty impressed. The musicianship & production were top notch & the music was Bathory-worshipping viking metal for the most part with just the occasional folk section which I was able to overlook in such small quantities. Shortly afterwards I ventured further back to the previous album "V: Hävitetty" which I also liked. It featured a few more of the folky sections during the second half of the album so I didn't like it quite as much but it was definitely worth a listen. Which brings me to 2005's "Verisäkeet" which has been generally regarded as one the band's essential releases. Again the production & musicianship is top notch but the song-writing on this album features both folk metal & viking metal in equal parts & I just can't get into the folk melodies. They're just not my thing. Plus the viking stuff does tend to be a little cheesy at times. I can see how this album will certainly appeal to fans of the folk metal genre though as it's a very professional package. Unfortunately not something that appeals to me.
Genres: Black Metal Folk Metal
While I've quite enjoyed the last couple of Moonsorrow albums I've always found that the earlier releases contain a stronger folk metal component which is a style of metal that alienates me most of the time. The band certainly has some good instrumental skills & the production is always top notch but the folk melodies are simply far too cheesy for my taste & they become more & more dominant the further you delve into the band's back catalogue. Subsequently I think Moonsorrow's debut full-length "Suden uni" is the most folk-driven album I've heard from them & it's no surprise that I've given it my lowest score yet. There is certainly still some Bathory worship going on here & there but the viking metal influence is nowhere near as strong as it is in recent times when the band's song-writing skills seem to have matured somewhat. I think I'll stick with the more recent stuff.
Genres: Folk Metal Viking Metal
While "With Hearts Towards None" ticks most of the black metal boxes it's lacking in a couple of key areas. Namely originality & variation. Mgla have given us an album of raw early 1990's black metal in the classic Darkthrone style with little thought to breaking any new ground. We have a typically lo-fi production with tremelo-picked riffing, tonnes of reverb on the vocals & some pretty basic musicianship. Having said that there is still plenty to like if you are into this kind of thing. There is certainly a bit of atmosphere. Worth a few listens but it does tend to wash over me with little long-term impact.
Genres: Black Metal
Well you certainly couldn't say that Metallica was lacking in the ambition department with this release. It's about as far from a commercial venture as you can get which subsequently shocked most people. Therefore it's not really surprising that "Lulu" has been crucified as badly as it has either. Metallica fans have a very distinct idea of what they expect from their heroes & although their output has fallen well short of the mark in recent times they had definitely been seen to be making some sort of attempt to steer the ship back towards the course their fan base was demanding.
"Lulu" is a very deliberate experiment with a more art-driven & textural approach. I like to keep an open mind & make my own judgements in situations like these so I've tried my best not to pay attention to the fact that it has been universally labelled a complete failure but after giving it a few listens it's hard to ignore the obvious faults. Firstly this double album requires an enormous amount of effort to sit through given it's ridiculously long playing time & the over-the-top run-time of the individual songs. Many of these songs possess only a single idea that has been stretched out to the extreme so that even if the original idea appealed to you it is likely that you will be tired of it half way through the track. Some of the ideas presented are quite interesting but the execution is simply not up to scratch. I honestly feel that there was a very decent Metallica album in here somewhere but Lou Reed's performance on half of these tracks is out of place & quite frankly bewildering. It is definitely not out of line to suggest that Lou sounds like he is performing over a different backing track altogether at times.
If we look at the individual tracks there are some absolute clangers. Opener "Brandenburg Gate", the disgusting "Iced Honey" & the utterly disgraceful eleven & a half minutes of "Cheat On Me" are very difficult to come to terms with. James Hetfield's vocal performance is about as bad as you can possibly imagine & it's difficult to understand what he was thinking at times. But then there are some tracks where Metallica kick into a great riff & you feel things starting to take shape only to find that there really wasn't any more ideas. "The View", "Mistress Dread" & "Dragon" are good examples of this. There honestly aren't any actual songs! It's basically just poetry being read over the top of the music with no real structure or hooks. Nineteen minute closer "Junior Dad" is the only track where everything falls into place & you get the feeling that this could be due to the fact that it's musically a lot closer to Lou Reed's comfort zone. I really quite like this track & it saves the album from being a complete disaster.
"Lulu" is a fine example of some good ideas ruined by poor execution & self-indulgence. Some of these tracks showed promise but only one was able to reach it's full potential. I'd be very surprised if Metallica did not agree with me on this. If given the chance I think they might like to go back & redo this as a single album of more compact & structured songs. A release of this type requires much more thought & planning than we can see evidence of here.
Genres: Heavy Metal
After making a reasonable return to form in the late 2000’s with albums like “United Abominations” & “Endgame”, 2011’s “Th1rt3en” release saw Megadeth make a rapid descent back into the realms of the disposable. After heading further & further back towards their metal roots during the 2000’s “Th1rt3en” saw Dave Mustaine indulging his more commercial side once more. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if he was able to produce material akin to the catchy metal anthems we heard on albums like “Youthanasia” however the quality just wasn’t there on this occasion & the highlights were few & far between. Subsequently my hopes for yet another return to form with “Super Collider” were pretty slim; especially after reading the early reviews which labeled it athe worst Megadeth album since 1999’s “Risk” disaster.
However the early tracks on “Super Collider” seemed to indicate that things may not be as bad as all that. The production job is excellent & it gives the songs every chance to dig their hooks right in. The musicianship is also of a very high quality. Dave Ellefson has now well & truly re-established himself in the band & he seems to gel extremely well with drummer Shawn Drover. They work as a unit to create the solid backbone Megadeth needs from their rhythm section. Chris Broderick’s lead playing is not quite as flashy as it has been on past albums but that’s not necessarily such a bad thing as he has been found to be lacking in the memorability department on occasions. In fact I quite like his work here. It’s a little more sparse but is genuinely effective when he lets loose. The rhythm guitars are nice & crunchy & there are some great heavy metal riffs on display here.
“Super Collider” may not be the band’s most metal release but it’s certainly not their least either. This is undoubtedly heavy metal. There aren’t too many tracks here that I’d call “hard rock”. Sure a lot of the material is written in a more song-oriented format than the riff-based formula they used during their classic thrash metal days but it’s still got a fair bit of potency. There’s still the odd thrash riff & some powerful double kick drumming every now & then. The one area that the sound falls down a little is in the vocals. Dave’s voice is not what it used to be & the gravelly Alice Cooper-ish style we heard on “Th1rt3en” is probably a little more evident here. I don’t think it’s such a problem but I can understand how some people might find it to be. In truth I'm not sure I would be mentioning this if I hadn't heard Dave in his prime. He's obviously not getting any younger though.
The quality of the song-writing is much better than we heard on “Th1rt3en”. This is a much more consistent record. The catchy title track, dark brooder “The Blackest Crow” & an energetic cover of Thin Lizzy’s classic “Cold Sweat” are amongst the highlights although my personal favourite would have to be “Off The Edge” which hasn’t left my brain since my first listen. There aren’t too many complete failures here although things start to drop off later on with “Forget To Remember” & the horrible “Don’t Turn Your Back…” being well below par. There are a few tracks that possess some really great riffs but don’t quite hit the spot overall. Luckily the production seems to carry these songs a bit & they don’t impact my enjoyment of the album so much.
Overall I think around half of the material on “Super Collider” has comfortably exceeded my expectations while the other half sounds a bit better than it actually deserves thanks to the high quality musicianship & production work. It’s certainly a heavily underrated release & it’s pushing “United Abominations” & “Endgame” in terms of quality & consistency. Perhaps this one might fall under the category of “guilty pleasure” for me but I can’t for the life of me see how people can be comparing this album to the likes of “Risk”, “The World Needs A Hero” or “Th1rt3en”. It’s got a lot more to offer than that & I suggest you give it a spin so as to make your own informed decision.
Genres: Heavy Metal
The late 2000’s saw Megadeth return to a reasonable sort of form with both 2007’s “United Abominations” & 2009’s “Endgame” making a noticeable improvement on their previous string of failures & helping to rebuild their profile in the global metal scene. Pleasingly Dave Mustaine had opted to direct his song-writing approach further towards his metal roots with each album & the more commercial radio-friendly tracks were being gradually phased out in favour of some thrashier numbers that often hinted at the band’s golden age if not ever really looking like matching it. There weren’t quite enough hooks to give these two albums the replay value I would have liked but things were looking up & I was actually quite interested to see what “Th1rt3en” had to offer. The return of long-time bass player Dave Ellefson could only be a positive thing & perhaps this time Mr Mustaine would manage to put together some thrashy metal tunes that also had the hooks to give them the potential for repeat listens.
Right off the bat it’s clear that this is not the case. “Th1rt3en” opens with a few songs that (whilst not overly bad) are certainly pretty uneventful. It all sounds very much like everything Megadeth have released for the past twenty years. The production is very good as usual but nothing much seems to grab me. With the exception of a couple of tracks there is also an obvious return to a more commercial & radio-friendly song-writing style & all of Megadeth’s hard work to resurrect their credibility over the previous five years seems to have been disregarded. The middle of the record sees things dip further with horrible songs like “We The People”, “Guns, Drugs & Money” & “Wrecker” showing a scant disregard for quality control. Thankfully the end of the album makes somewhat of a recovery with the final two tracks “Deadly Nightshade” & “13” being the clear album highlights in my opinion.
The instrumental performances are all very good. Dave Ellefson gives the bottom end a really solid platform & he hooks in so nicely with drummer Shawn Drover. Megadeth are a better unit for Junior’s return. Predictably Chris Broderick’s lead solos are highly technical & very flashy without ever being terribly memorable & Dave Mustaine’s rhythm guitar work is as solid as ever. Dave’s voice isn’t what it used to be. In fact the gravelly approach he has taken here often reminds me of his old mate Alice Cooper. It’s not distracting or anything but I definitely prefer his razor-sharp 80’s style. The lyrics here aren’t exactly brilliant either. Where is the tongue-in-cheek wit of the band’s heyday?
“Th1rt3en” is a disappointing effort from a band that has only recently proven that they are capable of much better. I’m not sure why Dave Mustaine has elected to go with a more commercially focused direction again after the reception to “Endgame” was so positive. A bit of variety wouldn’t go astray either as Megadeth albums have sounded pretty similar for a very long time now. On the evidence of this album I suspect that the chances of Megadeth releasing another high quality metal album may be slim.
Genres: Heavy Metal Thrash Metal
After a string of four subpar albums in succession I was happy to hear a noticeable improvement on Megadeth’s 2007 release “United Abominations”. Not only was it a bit more consistent than the previous records but it was also a little heavier. There were still a few flat songs here & there but the highlights were enough to pull me through & I was left with some optimism with regard to future releases. Yet more cause for optimism could be found in various reports that 2009’s follow-up album “Endgame” was the long sought-after return to form that fans had been waiting on. I often find that my opinions don't always match up with the common concensus so I reserved my judgement & sat down to my first listen with an open mind.
My first impression was that ”Endgame” is not drastically different from the last record. In fact Megadeth haven’t made any huge changes to their sound since they bombed out completely with 1999’s appropriately named “Risk” album. Instead Dave Mustaine has chosen to make more subtle changes with each album so as to slowly improve on the weaknesses of the last. If you listen to each successive release from 2001’s “The World Needs A Hero” onwards you can hear the band getting slightly less commercial, a little bit heavier & a touch more consistent each time without ever losing focus on hooks & song-writing. It hasn’t always worked but that seems to have been the goal. Subsequently we’ve ended up with a faster & thrashier Megadeth than we’ve heard since 1990’s “Rust In Peace” but not one that sounds like they’ve made enormous alterations or taken substantial risks. The illustrious “thrash metal” label is not out place when describing “Endgame”. There are certainly a lot of thrashing riffs on offer but Mr Mustaine hasn’t let go of his commercial aspirations altogether just yet. You’ll still hear some fairly radio-friendly choruses on occasion but with a little more subtlety than we’ve seen in recent times.
I was very impressed with new lead guitarist Glen Drover’s performance on “United Abominations” so I was a little annoyed to find that he had then left the band before the recording of “Endgame”. However I needn’t have worried too much because Dave then recruited former Jag Panzer guitarist Chris Broderick & he shows that he really has some amazing chops. I’m not sure I enjoy his solos as much as Drover’s (or other Megadeth guitarists of the past like Marty Friedman & Chris Poland for that matter) as he can sound a little over-clinical & mechanical but that’s not a big complaint as I still find plenty to enjoy in Chris’ display of virtuosity. Dave’s riffs have rarely been as aggressive in recent years & the production is very solid as expected. So really all of the ingredients are there for a classic Megadeth album. The only question is in the quality of the songs.
As far as overall consistency goes “Endgame” is probably as solid an album as Megadeth have recorded since “Countdown To Extinction”. There aren’t any real clangers amongst this lot. But having said that there probably aren’t any bona fide Megadeth classics included either. The title track is my personal favourite & it’s unquestionably some high quality metal. The other songs are generally entertaining but seem to fall a touch short of the top shelf without really having too much wrong with them. I quite enjoy instrumental opener "Dialectic Chaos", thrashier numbers like "This Day We Fight!", "1,320'" &"Bite The Hand", the catchy hooks of "Bodies" & the very power ballad-ish "The Hardest Part Of Letting Go... Sealed With A Kiss" but they're also unlikely to change my life. The last three songs in particular feel a bit flat to me. So does “44 Minutes” which sounds quite a bit like a subpar track from the band's mid-90's period.
Overall I’m not sure “Endgame” is quite the muscle-flexing return to form that Megadeth’s fan base were crying out for but it’s definitely another step in the right direction. If Dave could keep this sound together & do a bit more work on the hooks & song-writing then something more special may be just around the corner. There’s not much in it but I think I probably prefer the underrated “United Abominations” just slightly over this one. It had a couple of tracks that were weaker than anything on “Endgame” but it also had more highlights to draw me in. Regardless it’s nice to feel like Megadeth are worth listening to again.
Genres: Heavy Metal Thrash Metal
By 2004, Megadeth’s reputation as a reliable supplier of top class metal music was shaky at best. 1999’s “Risk” & 2001’s “The World Needs A Hero” were both complete misfires & to make matters worse frontman Dave Mustaine had sustained damage to his left forearm which had left him unable to play guitar for a prolonged period. The news that he had eventually gotten past this roadblock & was able to continue on with his music career did not surprise me in the slightest though. Regardless of your personal feelings towards him as a person there can be little doubt that he’s a determined & highly driven individual. Whether that drive stems from healthy sources is debatable but I’ve gotta give him credit because most people would probably have taken the easy option & retired from the industry. Anyway... it’s not too surprising that the prospect of another ordinary Megadeth release didn’t exactly fill me with excitement & anticipation. But then “The System Has Failed” isn’t exactly a Megadeth record. In fact, Dave wrote it with the primary intention of releasing it as a solo album but record company politics eventually won out & the end result was a brand new Megadeth album featuring Dave & some session musicians. The major point of interest for me was that former lead guitarist Chris Poland was back in the fray. His performances on the first two Megadeth albums (while suffering from a serious heroin addiction) were quite special so this was an exciting prospect. This was also the first Megadeth release not to feature long-time friend & bass player Dave Ellefson. How much of an impact this would have on the end result I wasn’t too sure.
The first thing that becomes obvious when listening to “The System Has Failed” is that it has a more metal sound than the previous couple of records. In fact it’s probably the heaviest album the band had released since 1992’s “Countdown To Extinction”. The production is noticeably crunchier & the song-writing is focused more heavily towards heavy metal than the more poppy hard rock direction we heard on an album like “Risk”. There are certainly still some poppy songs here & there but nothing really strays too far from the realms of what we would describe as traditional heavy metal. Dave even takes the occasional foray into his thrash metal roots on tracks like opener “Blackmail The Universe”. This is certainly a positive thing for an old metalhead like myself. As is the fact that there's plenty of time allocated for guitar solos; an important element of the band that was given a backseat for a couple of albums there but had made a bit of a comeback on “The World Needs A Hero”.
Regardless of the positives I’ve mentioned “The System Has Failed” still suffers from the same sort of inconsistencies that plagued the previous three records. I quite enjoy nearly half of the album but the rest seems to be a bit below par. To be fair, the weaker tracks are nowhere near as bad as we heard on “Risk” or “The World Needs A Hero” & there are more high quality songs here but I don’t think it’s enough to lift Megadeth out of the doldrums. The other disappointing element for me is in the soloing. I’m not sure who is playing what solo here but some of them sound rushed & unimaginative while others don’t suit the backing track very well. I expected a lot more from Chris Poland’s involvement. It may be that I’m simply noticing all of Dave’s solos & he is admittedly still recovering from his injury but it’s worth noting anyway as it impacts on my overall enjoyment of the album.
The best material seems to be towards the end of the album with the catchy “Of Mice & Men” & closer “My Kingdom” (which reminds me a lot of "Hook In Mouth" from their 1988 album “So Far, So Good…So What?”) appealing to me the most. They’re both genuinely high quality heavy metal tunes. I also enjoy “Blackmail The Universe” & “Something That I’m Not” quite a bit as well as short interlude “I Know Jack”. Unfortunately I just don’t think the song-writing is good enough on the rest of the material. The punky “Back In The Day” is probably the worst offender while “Kick The Chair” & “Truth Be Told” are also pretty uninspiring. Someone really needs to tell Dave to put the tambourine away for good too. I’ve cringed every time he’s tried it on the last few albums & there’s another example here on "Truth Be Told". It’s not clever. It doesn’t make the track more radio friendly. It just makes it sound more cheesy.
“The System Has Failed” is definitely a step in the right direction. It’s a noticeable step up from the “The World Needs A Hero” & “Risk” abominations & I think it’s also slightly more appealing than “Cryptic Writings” but it’s not enough to restore my faith in Megadeth. It’s certainly possible that Dave’s injury contributed in not allowing him the full freedom of expression but I suspect that isn’t the case. Until he can produce some more consistent song-writing I will find little in the way of replay value in his albums.
Genres: Heavy Metal
1999’s “Risk” was unanimously regarded as a complete failure for Megadeth. 1997’s “Cryptic Writings” had started the alarm bells ringing but “Risk” well & truly justified those fears. It did include a few decent tracks that seemed to indicate that the band still had the ability to write a catchy song or two but the obvious attempts to tap into a more commercial market were a huge turnoff & the quality control seemed to have been pushed to one side for the time being. So it’s fair to say that my hopes for a turnaround with 2001’s “The World Needs A Hero” were not exactly high. Honestly I was just hoping for a return of the more tried & true heavy metal sound they’d been so successful with in the early to mid 90’s & that’s pretty much what they’ve tried to achieve here. Unfortunately I think it’s fair to say that the results are very mixed.
It becomes clear pretty quickly that the Megadeth we are hearing on “The World Needs A Hero” is one that is regretting the approach they took with their last album & the return to a heavier sound was certainly not unwelcome. Don’t get me wrong. There are still plenty of more commercially focused moments on this album but it’s clear that Megadeth were committed to using a predominantly heavy metal toolkit on this occasion. The album also features a more extensive use of guitar solos than we’ve heard on the previous couple of releases. I’ve always felt that the solos were an important part of the Megadeth arsenal & I’d been missing them a bit of late. The examples on display here are not quite as impressive as those we’ve heard from guys like Chris Poland or Marty Friedman over the years but they’re undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
The album gets off to a horrible start with the opening three tracks all falling well below the mark. In fact if you look at the album as a whole the amount of overall quality song-writing is very similar to “Risk”. There’s really only a few decent tracks here. “Recipe For Hate…Warhorse” is my personal favourite. The second half of this track is probably the closest Megadeth have come to their classic sound in many years. I also find “1000 Times Goodbye” & “Burning Bridges” to be pretty catchy & enjoyable. There is very little to be said for the rest though. “Promises” is arguably the worst track the band had recorded to that time while “Silent Scorn”, “Moto Psycho” & “The World Needs A Hero” are not much better. “Return To Hangar” is nothing more than an attempt to rehash past glories & the nine minute closer “When” is one of the most blatant rip-offs I’ve ever heard. It seems that the band have consciously tried to copy Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” to such an extent that it is easily apparent to even the most casual of metal fans.
While “The World Needs A Hero” might have sounded good in theory it’s execution was very ordinary & it has ended up being just as unsuccessful as its predecessor. I probably favour this one just slightly over “Risk” but there’s not much in it. These two albums seriously affected the interest the global metal market showed in Megadeth over the next couple of releases but on the positive side of things they could only improve.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Megadeth’s 1995 release “Youthanasia” was not initially something that appealed to me. I’d been a fan of the band since 1988 by that stage & it’s more simple & controlled blend of traditional heavy metal & pop melodies was a long way from the thrashy aggression of their earlier work. However with repeat listens I found it to be annoyingly consistent & particularly catchy. I ended up giving it more than a few spins but by the time “Cryptic Writings” was released in 1997 I’d lost interest in Megadeth & let it pass by without raising an eyebrow. Given that I’ve recently been enjoying some of my old Megadeth albums I thought I’d sift through their post-1995 material (if only for the sake of completism).
“Cryptic Writings” is not a major side step from the sound the band had been honing on both “Youthanasia” & “Countdown To Extinction”. There’s again a strong emphasis on song-writing & melody with traditional song structures & radio-friendly track lengths. The production is perhaps not as clinical but the overall goal seems to have been similar. What differentiates “Cryptic Writings” though is that it’s a bit more varied than “Youthanasia” was. The band have taken a few calculated risks & thrown in the odd curve ball which is in direct contract to the approach on “Youthanasia” which was heavily focused on a consistent sound. Marty Friedman’s guitar solos have been toned down a bit which I’m not too keen on. I’d much rather hear him play the more expansive & exotic style he’s known for.
There are a couple of tracks that are more aggressive than anything we’d heard from the band on the previous couple of albums. “The Disintegrators” is quite thrashy & reminds me of some of the material on "Killing Is My Business... & Business Is Good!" while “FFF” is pure snotty punk rock. Unfortunately neither of these tracks come close to the standard of the band’s classic material. In fact they’re probably the weakest tracks on the album in my opinion along with “Have Cool, Will Travel” & its obscure harmonica solos. But it’s not all doom & gloom. There are a few really decent songs included as well. The hit single“Trust” is probably the best of them & you’ll find yourself singing the chorus for a couple of days after you hear it. "Mastermind", “Sin” & “She-Wolf” are also very solid & would compete very well against the material from "Youthanasia".
The problem here is inconsistency. “Cryptic Writings” doesn’t gel as an album for mine. It lacks focus & the quality of the material is hit & miss which prevents the songs from working together as a cohesive unit. The highlights are cancelled out by some particularly weak tracks & the rest is simply not as good as we’d come to expect from Dave Mustaine & his men. Even though I greatly prefer the band’s thrash metal material I would certainly have appreciated another bunch of catchy songs in the vein of the previous couple of albums but unfortunately “Cryptic Writings” doesn’t really deliver.
Genres: Heavy Metal
I originally got into Megadeth in my early teens back in 1988. "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" & "So Far, So Good... So What!" were my entry points & I quickly became a big fan. I ventured back to the debut album a short time later & although I liked what I heard I never gave it as much time as I did the next 3 or 4 albums. Listening back now it's immediately obvious that the band had enormous talent. The technical proficiency of the band was exceptional when compared with most thrash metal debuts of the time. David Ellefson's bass performance is excellent, Gar Samuelson's jazzy drumming is quite interesting & Chris Poland's guitar solos are both flashy & memorable. Dave Mustaine's riffing features a more distinct NWOBHM influence than on subsequent releases but there's also a raw thrash metal intensity that is quite exciting. Dave's vocals were a little more untamed than the ones we would later become used to as well & I quite like them.
Where "Killing Is My Business.. & Business Is Good!" falls down is certainly in the production department. The band blew half of their production budget on booze & drugs & the end result reflects that pretty obviously. The guitar sound is particularly thin & quite a bit softer than I would like. This really does minimize the impact that the album is capable of having & some of these songs really deserve better.
The quality of the song-writing is good but a little inconsistent. The band's signature tune "Rattlehead" is the clear highlight & is probably the only track that manages to transcend the production problems to be regarded as a truly great thrash metal song. "Skull Beneath The Skin" is pretty close to the mark as well while "Last Rites/Loved to Death", "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!" & "Looking Down the Cross" are all solid & effective. The inconsistencies I mentioned come in the form of Nancy Sinatra cover version "These Boots", the rockier NWOBHM-influenced "Chosen Ones" & the fairly pointless rehash of "Mechanix". "Chosen Ones" is probably the weakest link in my opinion as it doesn't maintain the intensity of the rest of the album. To be honest "These Boots" is kinda fun but I would much rather have enjoyed some more serious Megadeth original material. "Mechanix" is an obvious attempt to out-Metallica Metallica & although the track is not horrible it fails to match "The Four Horsemen" in terms of weight & class.
"Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!" is an essential album for all Megadeth fans although it isn't the classic release that some would have you believe. It marks a solid start for the band & shows signs of greatness but is let down by poor production & inconsistencies in quality.
Genres: Speed Metal Thrash Metal
After "Grand Declaration Of War" received a less than positive response I was interested to see where Mayhem would go next. I actually quite enjoyed the GDOW experiment & felt that it was unfairly criticized. The question was would they continue to expand on those ideas or revert to the tried & true. Although the answer to that question is not entirely straight forward "Chimera" leans further towards the older sound than the new.
This time we see Mayhem reverting to a similar sound to that of 1997's "Wolf's Lair Abyss" EP which contained a fairly brutal black metal attack with some more technical song & riff structures than they had attempted before. There were a couple of things that frustrated me about "Wolf's Lair Abyss" & both of those things have been improved on with "Chimera". Firstly the production is comfortably the best of their post-"De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" releases. The weak drum sounds that plagued the last couple of releases have been improved on & the guitars have continued with the fuller sound found on GDOW. Secondly the song structures are a bit tighter than they were on WLA.
Another notable feature of "Chimera" is the riffing of Blasphemer which is very adventurous & you can definitely hear a strong death metal influence (Morbid Angel & Death in particular) as well as the more traditional black metal one. There's a greater sense of melody than we're used to hearing from a Mayhem record & it makes for a different atmosphere. I feel that this is one of the reasons behind many people's criticisms of this album as it's not quite as dark as your average Mayhem record but personally I really love Blasphemer's approach here. Not all of the more progressive sections work completely but they keep things interesting. Tempo-wise "Chimera" is a pretty brutal record too. Hellhammer really gives his kit a good belting but there's also enough variety & some nice progressive elements to keep things interesting.
Overall I think "Chimera" is a solid black metal record with lots of energy & some fresh ideas in the riff department. Some songs are stronger than others but there can be no doubt that you are listening to a class act throughout. It's not as dark & menacing as "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" but it's good to see that Mayhem aren't going to live in the past. In my opinion this is Mayhem's best release since 1994.
Genres: Black Metal
The first couple of Kyuss albums didn’t exactly set my house on fire. There were some promising moments but the song-writing was generally inconsistent & the production & musicianship weren’t amazing. The Sons Of Kyuss album was nothing more than a primitive learning experience for a band that was still developing the skills of their trade. The debut Kyuss album “Wretch” was a step up from there but it included more than half of the tracks from the debut & the production still wasn’t ideal. The things that stood out to me from those records were a singer with true charisma & a solid rhythm section. Songs like “Son Of A Bitch” proved that Kyuss had what it took to create great rock music but could they do it consistently?
“Blues For The Red Sun” instantly proved that they could. It showed improvement in all areas. The production was much more suitable than we’d heard from them before. It was warm & fuzzy but also very heavy with a real 70’s vibe to it. Brant Bjork’s drumming was a lot more interesting than it ever had been in the past while Nick Oliveri’s bass sound was more powerful. The real improvement from an instrumental point of view though was in Josh Homme’s performance on guitar. He seemed to struggle with his technique a little on past releases but here he is far more in control. There seems to be a continual stream of quality riffs being pumped out of his axe & even his solos are a lot more accomplished than anything he’d offered up previously. There's been a noticeable increase in the amount of psychedelia on offer here & the band seems to be having great fun jamming away. There’s even a few psyched out instrumentals to break things up. I don’t think the band were capable of pulling that sort of thing off previously so it’s a strong indication of how far they’d come.
As with “Wretch”, John Garcia’s vocal performance is again the highlight of the album in my opinion. I simply love the guy’s voice. That gnarly desert accent does it for me every time. In fact, if I go through the tracklisting & pick out my favourite songs they will inevitably feature a major contribution from John. Don’t get me wrong. I don‘t mind instrumental pieces like “Molten Universe”, “Apothecaries Weight” & “Caterpillar March” but John really takes this music to another level altogether. I think the album would have been even better if Kyuss tried harder to utilize John’s assets. There could be way more of his signature vocal style included here. Why smother his voice with effects on “Mondo Generator”? I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the song but I feel quite confident that I would have enjoyed it more without the effects.
Whereas “Wretch” suffered from inconsistent song-writing “Blues For The Red Sun” is at the other end of the spectrum altogether. In fact if you disregard the three second waste of space closing track “Yeah” it doesn’t include a weak song. “Green Machine”, “Allen’s Wrench” & my personal favourite “50 Million Year Trip (Downside Up)” are amongst the most potent material Kyuss ever recorded while tracks like “Thumb” & “Freedom Run” are also of a very high quality. All of the issues I had with "Wretch" have been addressed here & Kyuss have proceeded to create some far more substantial music that is both endearing & engaging but also very fun. This is a great example of the stoner rock genre done well.
Judas Priest were on a real high following the huge success of 1980’s “British Steel” album which had finally enabled them to crack that elusive US market. It had seen the band moving into the 80’s with a simpler, glossier & more accessible sound which was always going to be more appealing to a US audience that had traditionally had far less patience than its European counterparts. The increased revenue that this brought in allowed the band to upgrade their recording budget for their seventh album which was recorded in Ibiza Studios in Spain between October & November 1980.
The aim was to produce a louder, stronger & more live sounding record & I think Judas Priest achieved that with “Point Of Entry” being released in February 1981. It saw the band moving closer again towards a more commercially accessible sound with far more traditional hard rock riffs included than chuggy bottom string metal ones. This didn’t impress the metal community much & I think it would be fair to say that “Point Of Entry” was regarded as Judas Priest’s least popular studio release to that time even though it may have sold a fair few copies. That’s really not all that surprising given that Priest had elected to drop their intensity when the rest of the metal scene was hell bent on increasing theirs. I have to admit that I don’t mind Priest’s more accessible sound though even though I agree that it was not as strong as we’d heard from their previous material.
“Point Of Entry” is a real mixed bag as far as quality goes with some really great material mixed in with some pretty weak songs. As expected, the more metal numbers offer the most appeal but I think it would be out of line to simply disregard a record because its metal credentials aren’t as strong. The fact that “Point Of Entry” is more of a hard rock record than a metal one is in no way responsible for me regarding it as weaker than the band’s previous material. The quality of the song-writing is the deciding factor in that decision. AC/DC was again a massive influence on the sound of this record & a large proportion of the riffage can be tied back to the Young family in some way. The B side includes three real failures in a row which can take some of the gloss off the album highlights if you’re not careful. “All The Way” in particular is both cheesy & dumb with US commercial radio play firmly in its sights. Both “British Steel” & “Killing Machine” had their more commercial numbers however they still possessed enough metal elements to carry them whereas it’s not quite as cut & dry with “Point Of Entry”. Of the ten tracks I would suggest that I really only enjoy half of them but the highlights are just strong enough to ensure that I get enough enjoyment out of it to make the whole experience worth while even though I rarely find myself feeling the urge to return to it when there are so many stronger Priest records out there to quench my metal thirst.
Overall, I’d recommend that fans of hard rockin’ heavy metal should give “Point Of Entry” a listen or two with an open mind. I’d be surprised if you don’t at least find a few songs to spin on your iPod even if you can’t deal with the album as a whole. “Desert Plains” in particular is amongst Priest’s classic songs in my opinion while “Solar Angels” & “On The Run” are also really strong.
Genres: Heavy Metal
I strongly believe that Judas Priest took a noticeable step up with their 1978 release “Killing Machine”. They had finally left their 70’s hard rock/proto-metal roots behind & had graduated to become a full-fledged heavy metal band in the classic sense of the term. Subsequently I found “Killing Machine” to be the first Priest album to really impress me. I’d enjoyed all of their earlier material but I couldn’t say that any of it really packed the consistent punch to draw me in for regular revisits. “Killing Machine” also marked the start of a new era for the band. The songs tended to be produced in a more radio-friendly package now. The track lengths were shorter & some showed distinct signs of a more commercial edge but at the same time everything sounded more metal than before.
On “British Steel” Judas Priest took the new concepts they’d showcased on “Killing Machine” & expanded them further which resulted in a more evolved sound. The production is excellent which gives the final product a more polished feel. It’s a very similar record to “Killing Machine” in that it combines up-front metal anthems with more radio-friendly & poppy material but the poppier stuff is taken a little further here & is subsequently less appealing to my tastes. The ballads that have been a regular fixture on previous material have been omitted on this occasion which is fine by me as that’s never been what Priest have been about for mine. The guitar solos are a definite highlight. They’re as shreddy as anything we’d heard from Priest up to that time & they add a good deal of excitement to proceedings. Rob Halford’s vocal performance is exceptional as usual. He adds that touch of class that can take an average idea & make it seem exceptional.
There are a few extremes in the tracklisting to be fair. Things start off in a familiar fashion as opening track “Rapid Fire” is your usual high quality up-tempo Judas Priest opener. This is followed by an absolute stormer in album highlight “Metal Gods”. There has rarely been a more suitably titled metal track. Then we get our first glimpse at a more commercial sound with the classic “Breaking The Law”. It’s a very basic song that relies heavily on a simple vocal hook. It’s not a bad song but it’s certainly overrated. The intensity picks up with “Grinder” which is another timeless metal anthem before the first half peters out with the extraordinarily poppy “United”. I simply can’t tolerate this song. It attempts to emulate Queen’s “We Will Rock You” in a similar fashion to “Take On The World” from “Killing Machine” but this time the cheese is laid on thicker & it ends up being a very disappointing experience.
The B side opens with the very cool “You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise” before again descending into commercial excess with “Living After Midnight” which has a chorus that would be much more at home on a Poison record. Luckily the high quality returns with “The Rage” which is an utter belter. I consider it to be amongst Priest’s best ever tracks. The reggae influenced intro reminds me very much of The Police before it busts into some truly epic metal riffs & a brilliant Halford vocal performance. Album closer “Steeler” is not a bad track but it’s probably one of the less memorable moments on the record.
As you can see "British Steel" includes some real ups & downs & everything in between. It's an album of extremes. We have some truly epic metal anthems mixed in with some pretty unintelligent pop songs. Thankfully the highlights well outweigh the negatives. I thought “Killing Machine” was the best of thing Priest released in the 1970's & “British Steel” definitely had the potential to top it but unfortunately it fell a little short. A lot of that can be put down to the band's commercial aspirations & in fairness they got what they were looking for. Regardless this is still a very solid Priest record with some amazing highlights that should be standards for any heavy metal fan worthy of wearing a bullet belt.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Judas Priest were on quite a streak in the mid-to-late 1970’s. Their first four albums had seen the band going from strength to strength & as their confidence grew so too did their ambition. So much so that barely eight months after the release of their last album Judas Priest fans were gifted with yet another record from their heroes. I quite enjoyed “Stained Class” from earlier that year. It was yet another solid effort but I have to admit that although I really enjoy the early Priest albums I can’t say that I genuinely love any of them. I think I’m perhaps a bit young to really be able to relate to them as well as someone who was a teenager in the late 70’s would. Still, each release saw Priest getting that little bit more metal & my interest was growing accordingly.
I can vividly remember the first time I heard “Killing Machine”. It was around 1987/88 & I was about twelve years old. I was visiting a mate’s house after school & his older brother was a big heavy metal fan. He also played lead guitar in a band so we both thought he was pretty cool even though he was generally a bit of a prick to both of us. On this occasion he was enjoying our attention so he was being friendly & playing us some Iron Maiden albums in the lounge room. It must have been pretty obvious that I was becoming heavily involved with the music so at some point he went back to his bedroom & brought back a cassette copy of “Hell Bent For Leather” (i.e. the US release of “Killing Machine). I'd never heard of Judas Priest before but the album made quite an impression on me. I borrowed the cassette so that I could dub it at home & ended up playing that tape to death over the next couple of years.
Priest didn’t really change things dramatically from album to album during the 70’s. They generally made small adjustments to their already well-defined formula in order to fine-tune their sound. Thankfully for me the changes they made for “Killing Machine” took them in a direction that really suited me. Firstly, the guitar sound & riffing style is more metal than ever before. In fact I’d go so far as to say that this was the moment when Judas Priest went from being a 70’s proto-metal band into a fully-fledged heavy metal act in the 80’s sense of the term. This adjustment went along very well with the band’s new image of leather & studs too. The other noticeable adjustments are the shorter & more marketable track lengths & the inclusion of a couple of tracks with a consciously commercial edge to the song-writing & hooks. Some people may feel that this was selling out however I think that those people are missing the point to an extent.
The album begins with a major bang. Opening track “Delivering The Goods” is an absolute monster! In fact of all of Priest’s 70’s material this song made the biggest impression on me. The riff during the chorus is as metal as it gets & I literally get goose-bumps every time I hear it. “Hell Bent For Leather” & “Burnin’ Up” also provide some major highlights & are both up there with the best tracks Judas Priest has ever recorded. “Killing Machine” (a bad-ass bluesy chugger), “Running Wild” (a heavy metal anthem that sounds like it provided Iron Maiden with the blueprint for many of their early songs) & “Evil Fantasies” (a sexy rocker that owes more than bit to Led Zeppelin) are also of a very high quality. However as with all of Priest’s albums up to this point we also get a couple of less impressive tracks. “Rock Forever” is a pretty basic hard rock tune that's unfortunately crushed under the weight of “Delivering The Goods” while acoustic ballad “Before The Dawn” is a fair bit too cheesy for my taste & this brings me to my next point. There are definitely a couple of tracks on “Killing Machine” that tread pretty close to that line. Both “Evening Star” & “Take On The World” seem to be clear attempts at a more commercial sound. They're both very simple with big choruses & sound like they would fit in very well on commercial radio. In fact “Take On The World” is a very obvious attempt to emulate the appeal of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Luckily I think both tracks have the hooks to keep me interested. The verse of “Evening Star” is quite brilliant & carries the track through a subpar chorus. This commercial edge would continue to pop up on future albums with varying success. I’m open to a more commercial sound as long as the songs hold up but if we look at “Killing Machine” it’s pretty clear that the best material comes from the more serious metal tunes. Luckily there are so many great ones.
I don't think it's unfair to think of "Killing Machine" as the start of a new era for Priest as the band started to take new directions with their sound. In fact I think they were ready for a change & “Killing Machine” might just be the first Judas Priest album that I really loved. Don’t get me wrong. I like all of their 70’s material but this one just hits a bit closer to home for me & has more highlights. It’s also that little bit more metal which pushes it further into my comfort zone. It really is unbelievable that the band was able to pull all of this together in such a short space of time.
Genres: Heavy Metal
I had mixed feelings about Judas Priest’s third record “Sin After Sin”. There were some great moments but a couple of disappointing songs in the middle of the album meant that I probably didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous two Priest records. I was happy to hear them taking further baby steps towards the sound we now know as modern heavy metal though. The albums closing track “Dissident Aggressor” really showed us what could be achieved with dark & heavy riffs so 1978’s follow-up album “Stained Class” had a great opportunity to capitalise on that groundwork.
Priest’s sound hasn’t changed dramatically on “Stained Class”. In fact it was very similar to the one they showcased on “Sin After Sin”. On the positive there were no overly cheesy ballads like “Last Rose Of Summer” this time. The dual guitar attack was probably more potent than ever & Rob Halford’s vocals soared ever higher as he continued to gain in confidence. The guitar sound is still more firmly grounded in 70’s hard rock than heavy metal. It was probably their heaviest record to that time but a lot of that has to do with the style of the song-writing than the actual sound. They still hadn’t quite reached full blown metal status at that stage in my opinion.
Opener “Exciter” is a fast & energetic rocker that yet again shows off the band’s Deep Purple influence. The opening drum intro definitely hints at the classic “Painkiller” intro that was still twelve years away. “Exciter” is very typical of the type of opening tracks Judas Priest would go with in later years. It’s fast, simple & anthemic. Things continue well for the next few tracks with the cover version of late 60’s blues rock act Spooky Tooth’s “Better By You, Better Than Me” being particularly impressive. Priest have once again chosen to cover a tune that was by no means an obvious choice & have truly made it their own. In fact I think it might just be my favourite track on the album. Other highlights include the epic power ballad “Beyond The Realms Of Death” & the bad-ass riffage of closer “Heroes End”. The only track that I’m not overly keen on is “Invader” which once again sits right in the middle of the album. It just seems to be a bit light-weight & flat to my ears which is a shame because it’s really the only blemish on an otherwise fairly consistent tracklisting.
“Stained Class” is yet another solid release for Judas Priest. I probably rate it just slightly behind “Sad Wings Of Destiny” in terms of overall quality but once again I find myself struggling to say that it’s anything life-changing. Perhaps early Priest is just a little simple & tame sounding for someone who was raised on extreme metal like myself. It’s undoubtedly a fun listen but do I find myself craving the intensity of later albums like “Painkiller”. I don’t think the highlight songs are quite as strong as earlier classics like “Victim Of Changes” or “Dissident Aggressor” either & I think this is probably what stops me from rating it a little higher. On the positive side I have to admit that it’s as consistent a record as anything Judas Priest had released to that time & I subsequently find myself enjoying it slightly more than albums like “Rocka Rolla” & “Sin After Sin”.
Genres: Heavy Metal
I quite enjoyed the first two Judas Priest albums. As an early teenager I was introduced to Priest’s 70’s material through 1976’s “Sad Wings Of Destiny” & I subsequently ventured further back to their 1974 debut “Rocka Rolla”. The debut may not have been terribly ground-breaking but it was a very solid piece of 70’s hard rock performed by some more than capable musicians & I found its honesty & warmth quite endearing. “Sad Wings Of Destiny” had lifted the bar higher as the band moved further into heavy metal territory & better utilized the weapons in their arsenal. I can’t say that I truly loved either record but they were undeniably high quality releases. I’m just not sure that “Sad Wings Of Destiny” is deserving of all of the praise that has been heaped upon it over the years.
1977’s “Sin After Sin” album followed a similar musical direction to “Sad Wings Of Destiny” really but you can see the evidence of the band pushing ever further from their hard rock roots. The twin guitar attack is becoming more & more prominent & Rob Halford’s vocal style more defined. The guitar sound is still built firmly on 70’s hard rock so younger metalheads may find things sounding a little tame for their liking but the riffing style is undeniably more shredding than bands like Deep Purple & Led Zeppelin. The production again suits Priest’s sound very well. All of the instruments sit nicely in the mix & there’s plenty of separation. Rob Halford is a true metal superstar by this stage & is the driving force of the band but the rest of the guys have formed a really solid unit. No one overplays their hand. Everyone seems to be focused on what is best for the songs rather than any sort of personal fame.
“Sin After Sin” has always seemed to me to be a bit of a sandwich in terms of song-writing quality. The album starts off very well. Opening track “Sinner” presents the blueprint for dozens of singalong metal anthems in future years with its simple single-word title & catchy hooks. Things take a further step up with a very interesting cover version of a gentle Joan Baez folk song called “Diamonds & Rust”. This version sounds nothing like the original. Priest’s interpretation is far more substantial & memorable in my opinion. Rob has done a fantastic job with the chorus & it’s difficult to remove from your head once it’s found its way in. “Starbreaker” is another of the simple anthemic singalong metal tunes Priest would become known for. Then we move onto a very commercial sounding ballad in “Last Rose Of Summer”. This is where things start to fall apart in my opinion. I find this song to be overly cheesy & it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the album. It’s immediately followed by “Let Us Prey” which I find to be lacking a bit of intelligence. It’s an uptempo Deep Purple-style fist-pumper that features quite a bit of melodic lead guitar but I just don’t think it sounds sophisticated enough for my liking. Thankfully things pick up from there though with a much classier & expansive effort in “Call For The Priest/Raw Deal”. “Here Come The Tears” is a power ballad in the true sense of the term. It hints at some of the commercialism of “Last Rose Of Summer” before taking a much more powerful & captivating route. Well then… now that we’ve gotten through all of that material we can talk about the real star of the album. Closer “Dissident Aggressor” is a massive step up. Not just for Judas Priest but for heavy metal as a whole. It’s substantially heavier than anything we’ve heard from Priest before & the riffing style is simply savage. Rob puts in an epic display. This song is easily amongst Priest’s best material & it’s significance to heavy metal in the 1970’s cannot be underestimated.
Overall I find “Sin After Sin” to be another enjoyable Judas Priest album that shows off all of the elements that make for a truly great heavy metal record but it doesn’t quite get there in my opinion. The slump in the middle of the album really lets it down & I find that I actually prefer the previous two Priest records to this one. Tracks of the quality of “Dissident Aggressor” & “Diamonds & Rust” make it blatantly obvious that this is a great heavy metal outfit but I don’t think they had hit the level of consistency I had hoped for just yet.
Genres: Heavy Metal
I quite enjoyed Judas Priest’s debut album “Rocka Rolla”. The production & performances really captured the electricity of the band’s live performance & the song-writing possessed an honesty & innocence that I found quite endearing. Priest may not have acquired some of their trademark elements at that stage but they could certainly put together a decent hard rock record. It was already quite apparent that this was a class act & I still feel that “Rocka Rolla” is a largely underrated release. Its qualities are often overlooked due to the magnitude of the classic albums that followed it. Priest’s second release “Sad Wings Of Destiny” has always been seen as the point where the great band really hit their straps for the first time though so my early teenage self had some fairly high expectations when going into my initial listen. I was already a fan of later albums like "Killing Machine" & "Turbo" but this was the first of their early 70’s albums that I’d had the pleasure of experiencing.
The production is again very good. I don’t think this one has quite the live feel that “Rocka Rolla” did but you can hear that a bit more work has been done with it. Unlike the debut “Sad Wings Of Destiny” features a lot more riffs that I associate with heavy metal rather than 70’s hard rock bands like Deep Purple & Led Zeppelin. Black Sabbath is obviously still a big influence & the album is a bit heavier than the more laidback feel of “Rocka Rolla”. Vocalist Rob Halford is really coming into his own here with the inclusion of a lot more of his trademark high-pitched screams. There really aren’t too many that can touch Halford in this area even at that early stage. The dual guitar attack is also better utilized than it was previously & the musicianship & performances are strong throughout.
“Sad Wings Of Destiny” gets off to huge start with opening track “Victim Of Changes” marking a new high point for the band. It’s my favourite track on the album & one of their best overall in my opinion. I often notice that a couple of the main riffs in Metallica’s “Seek & Destroy” seem to be variations on some of the great metal riffs in “Victim Of Changes”. It’s not surprising as its simple chuggy riffs have a classic metal feel to them that really seems to get your average metal fan going. In fact the more metal oriented tracks seem to be the ones that appeal to me the most out of the remainder of the album too. “The Ripper”, “Deceiver” & “Genocide” are all high quality early metal tracks that possess that anthemic quality that has became such a big part of the classic Judas Priest sound over the years. There are a couple of ballads included too but they don’t make the same sort of impact in my opinion. “Dreamer Deceiver” gets off to a sluggish start before it’s saved by some excellent guitar solos & some great Halford vocals in the closing stages while “Epitaph” stands out like a sore thumb & is the only real failure. It has none of the classic qualities of Priest’s more epic metal material & is clearly the weakest track on the album.
I've always found “Sad Wings Of Destiny” to be a very enjoyable listen but I’m not sure that I find it to be the classic release that the rest of the world seems to. Perhaps that’s because I struggle to connect with it to the same extent as older fans might due to the fact that I was just one year old when it was released but I don’t think that’s it. I don’t seem to have any problem connecting with the first six Black Sabbath albums by comparison. I just think that “Sad Wings Of Destiny” sounds a little more of its time & has less of the timeless qualities of those early Sabbath records. It’s also not quite as heavy but it’s still a very good release in its own right. I think it’s certainly a better album than “Rocka Rolla” but not by anywhere near as much as it's commonly believed to be. Perhaps I’m just a child of the 80’s.
Genres: Heavy Metal
I had some reasonably high expectations for 2003’s “Dance Of Death album. I’d been impressed with 2000’s “Brave New World” & thought that Bruce Dickinson & Adrian Smith’s return could have been just what the band needed to turn things around long term. Unfortunately “Dance of Death” didn’t live up to my expectations. It certainly wasn’t helped by a poor production job but the quality of the song-writing was never going to produce an album with much replay value. The vocal performance was patchy at times too & honestly I expected more from a Bruce Dickinson-led Iron Maiden. This dampened my enthusiasm for 2006’s “A Matter of Life & Death” substantially & when I finally got around to giving it a listen I was fully preparing myself for disappointment.
I was really hoping for a bumper production job on this album as Iron Maiden’s track record since their classic 80’s period has not been good in that respect. It immediately becomes apparent that I’m not going to see a great improvement in that area though. It’s certainly not as disastrous as the production jobs on albums like “Virtual XI” or “Dance of Death” but it’s still fairly thin & doesn’t give the guitars enough oomph. Thankfully it’s not enough to detract from the song-writing & musicianship on display & once I got used to the sound it wasn’t a big issue for me. The other thing that’s noticeable about “A Matter of Life & Death” is the lengthy track times & the more progressive song structures. It makes the songs a bit less obvious & they required more attention before they began to open up. I see this as a positive thing & it added another layer to the album for me. I’ve always enjoyed Maiden’s more progressive outings & I think they did a great job with the more expansive instrumental sections here.
While opening track “Different World” clearly fits the mould that Maiden have always chosen for their openers it’s simply not an inspiring call-to-arms. It doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the album nicely & is clearly the weakest track in my opinion. I felt very similarly about “Wildest Dreams” on the last album & I think the guys are trying too hard to fit the expectations of their fans. If there isn’t an “Aces High” or a “Tailgunner” amongst your material then I think it’s a bad decision to go with the closest thing you’ve got when it’s not quite up to scratch. Thankfully things pick up from there & there isn’t another disappointment to be found amongst the rest of the material. The second half of the album is particularly strong. Bruce puts in a stellar display on some of this material & he’s really found that form that was lacking during parts of “Dance of Death”. His performance on “Out Of The Shadows" makes it the highlight of the album for mine. It’s got one of those repetitive choruses that is so memorable & addictive that it will stay with you for at least the next 24 hours. “Brighter Than A Thousand Suns”, “The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breej”, “For The Greater Good Of God” & “Lord Of Light” are also high quality heavy metal songs that show no shortage of ambition. This is impressive stuff. The sort of material that can’t be achieved by just anyone. We’re not talking wall-to-wall classics here but (with the exception of “Different World”) there is a solid consistency across the tracklisting.
I was pleasantly surprised by “A Matter Of Life & Death”. It’s not a classic release for the band but it’s a decent step up from the disappointing “Dance Of Death” & contrary to popular opinion I think it’s as good a record as the popular “Brave New World”. In fact Iron Maiden probably haven’t recorded a better album since their 80’s heyday. I would have loved to hear this release with a bumper production job. I think it could have taken it to another level.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Bruce Dickinson & Adrian Smith’s return to the fold spurred Iron Maiden on to a comeback album of surprisingly high quality in 2000’s “Brave New World”. It certainly wasn’t a match for Maiden’s classic 80’s material (as some people would have you believe) but it was well above what could reasonably be expected after the Blaze-era had laid the band’s reputation to waste. It was a very consistent record that possessed all of elements of a great Maiden album but it didn’t quite have the highlights to put it up with the greats of their back catalogue. Regardless, I felt that it offered more than enough quality to indicate that Iron Maiden could still be a force to be reckoned with. Subsequently my hopes for the 2003’s followup album “Dance Of Death” were reasonably high. At the very least I was expecting to hear some epic anthems & some memorable singalong choruses.
When I first saw the album cover for “Dance Of Death” I was overcome by confusion. It looks extremely cheap to me & I was mystified as to how anyone could believe it was worthy of sitting alongside the great covers of Maiden’s past. But there it was & it wasn’t going to go away so I decided not to let it impact my listening experience. The other thing that was immediately obvious to me was the poor production. Maiden didn’t exactly have a great record with their recent production jobs but this one was particularly poor. The guitar sound was very muddy. It’s not enough to completely ruin my listening experience but it certainly doesn’t help. Stylistically things don’t seem far removed from your average Maiden album but I’m not sure the fans are after any sort of reinvention at this stage in their career anyway.
While there aren’t any complete shockers on “Dance Of Death” the song-writing is still pretty patchy. Songs like “Wildest Dreams” & “Montsegur” are a long way from the standard I expect from Iron Maiden & others just come across as a bit flat. There are a few songs that show quite a bit of promise only to be let down by a poor chorus (see “Journeyman”) or some cheesy folk sections (see “Dance Of Death”). Bruce Dickinson’s vocal performance is also a bit up & down. You can definitely hear the strain when he tries to hit high notes on a few tracks but then you’ll hear a chorus like the one on album highlight “Gates Of Tomorrow” & it’s clear that he still has the ability to take things where not many others can. This is a truly great Iron Maiden track; the only one on the album in my opinion. “Rainmaker” & “Age Of Innocence” are very enjoyable tracks too but they don’t quite make it to the levels of the great Maiden tracks of old.
“Dance Of Death” is not a horrible album. It doesn’t scream of its inadequacies. But at the same time its faults can’t be easily ignored. The dodgy production doesn’t help things much but even with a great one I doubt I’d find much replay value in it. It doesn’t have the consistency or the quality of “Brave New World” & I’d hoped for much better.
Genres: Heavy Metal
The Blaze era was a disaster for Iron Maiden as far as I’m concerned. I really struggled with those albums & I highly doubt that I’ll ever revisit them. It wasn’t just Blaze’s vocals though. Everything about those records was diabolical & I don’t even think the presence of the great Bruce Dickinson could have saved them from critical & commercial failure. Therefore even the prospect of a Bruce Dickinson & Adrian Smith reconciliation album didn’t exactly set my hopes soaring. I would certainly have settled for another pleasant (if inconsistent) outing reminiscent of “No Prayer For The Dying” or “Fear Of The Dark” but I feared that may have been asking too much.
Luckily it wasn’t. It seems that Iron Maiden were able to exorcise most of the demons that had plagued their previous couple of albums & managed to tap into the sort of atmospheres we’d come to love from them over the years. “Brave New World” really sounds like an Iron Maiden record & that would have been a relief for so many people. I have to admit that on first listen I felt there was a noticeable amount of cheese present in some of the songs but after a few spins the hooks kicked in & I found myself struggling not to like tracks like “Blood Brothers” & “The Nomad”. I don’t love everything about a fair few of these tracks but almost all of them have epic singalong choruses that help to overcome my doubts & ensure that I enjoy my listening experience. There are quite a few extended atmospheric sections but the song-writing is substantially better than anything we’ve heard from Maiden since “Fear Of The Dark” & the production is also more solid.
There are a fair few high quality heavy metal anthems here. Tracks like “Brave New World”, “The Mercenary”, “The Nomad” & “Dream Of Mirrors” (my favourite) are highly engaging & quite memorable. I’m not sure any of them are true classics though. They all fall a touch short in some area for mine. The rest of the album is all pretty solid. In fact I think this is their most consistent release since the 80’s. “The Fallen Angel” is really the only subpar effort. Bruce puts in an energetic performance & it feels like coming home after a long (& most unfortunate) holiday. The rest of the band seems reinvigorated too. There’s a positivity there that was missing during the Blaze era.
I like “Brave New World” quite a bit. It’s a very good comeback & a genuinely solid & consistent effort. I’m not going to conspire to the idea that it’s a classic Maiden album though. I agree that it’s their best since “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” but I’m not sure it stands side by side with their 80’s material. It’s just missing the two or three truly magical tracks that their great records all possessed. I’m really proud of the boys for putting together such a solid & enjoyable album though. “The Fallen Angel” is the only thing holding me back from awarding it a 4/5 rating.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Not bad but far too generic. The drumming & guitar solos are clearly attempts to copy classic Morbid Angel and they come up well short of the mark in that respect. The song structures also sound quite pieced together & forced to my ears. The guitar riffs are chunky as always but I'm genuinely surprised to see this release at the top of the RYM metal charts for the year. I would class Majesty & Decay as solid but forgettable generic death metal.
Genres: Death Metal
I first encountered Gojira via 2008's "The Way Of All Flesh" (3/5) but it wasn't until 2012's "L'enfant sauvage" (4.5/5) that they really grabbed my attention. "L'enfant sauvage" showed a more progressive & highly professional outfit with plenty of intensity & a load of fresh ideas. I later checked them out live & saw a band that was totally in control of their instruments & sound so it was only a matter of time 'til I got 'round to checking out their most popular album.
"From Mars To Sirius" is a solid & highly focused album that sits somewhere between the sludgy death metal of mid-90's Morbid Angel & the melody & progression of early Devin Townsend. I find there's also a less distinct groove metal influence to some of the riffs. It's a heavy sound alright. One that's heavy enough to interest the death metal crowd but also has a strong sense of melody & an accessibility that you don't generally find in extreme metal. From memory it's a little less progressive than the bands later material but there's still plenty of variety.
The production is of a very high standard with an extraordinarily powerful bass guitar sound that the rest of the metal scene should really take note of as it's very rare that I encounter anything of that quality. In fact I'd say the bass guitar is the highlight of the album for me. The vocals are not your average unintelligible grunting either. They're closer to Devin's heavier moments & should appeal to a fairly wide audience.
I spent a fair amount of time deliberating over my score here. "From Mars To Sirius" is certainly a quality release & even though I don't think the more accessible moments appeal to me as much as the more brutal ones (or Gojira's more progressive ones from "L'enfant sauvage" for that matter) I can't help but be sucked in by the professionalism of the performances & production. It's 66 minute duration is certainly a little ambitious & the quality does fade just a little during the last few tracks but any fan of well-produced progressive death metal will find plenty to enjoy about "From Mars To Sirius" & it comes highly recommended.
Genres: Progressive Metal
A very solid examply of mid-1990s Godflesh, "Messiah" is one of the band's safest releases in some time when you consider its sound comprises a nice mixture of all of the differing aspects that make up their back-catalog without really presenting anything terribly new. Some tracks are certainly stronger than others (with "Wilderness Of Mirrors" being a clear highlight for me with it's strong leanings towards the "Pure" album) but there are no real weak points. I really enjoyed stepping back in time to hear the sound I loved so much on the earlier Godflesh albums & feel that "Messiah" stands quite well on it's own merit. I would suggest it is essential listening for any fans of the band.
Genres: Industrial Metal