Having already laid down the foundations for their post-nu metal career with 2005’s ‘Ten Thousand Fists’, Disturbed have finally shed the stigma that came with the subgenre, and established themselves as a legit and credible metal band with 2008’s ‘Indestructible’.
The band has managed to take the groove-laden guitar style of the aforementioned subgenre whilst blending it effortlessly with an old-school metal mentality and vibe. As a result, ‘Indestructible’ is an album brimming with hooks, choruses and intense guitar work that can appeal to metal fans old and new alike, as well as more casual listeners too.
David Draiman’s melodic vocals work fantastically, his unique style has always given Disturbed their own sound. And they work in complete synergy with Dan Donegan’s guitar riffs, which perfectly capture the essence of traditional metal with the styling of nu metal. Donegan really lets rip a number of times on this album, and shows that he’s more than capable of shredding up the guitar when necessary, but can also show restraint when it’s needed.
Highlights from this release include ‘Indestructible’, ‘Inside the Fire’, ‘Perfect Insanity’, ‘The Night’, ‘Criminal’, ‘Divide’ and ‘The Curse’. The first three tracks in particular were all downloadable content for the incredibly popular 2007 video game ‘Rock Band’, which no doubt helped boost the bands popularity to no end around the time of this albums release.
With a number of stand-out tracks and an outlet for a whole new audience, ‘Indestructible’ is another strong outing by Disturbed, who have so far gone from strength-to-strength since the demise of nu metal, and have firmly cemented themselves as one of the standout metal bands of the 2000’s.
Genres: Alternative Metal
The first time I heard of Blind Guardian was in 2002, when I'd bought Iced Earth's 'Dark Genesis' collection and they were mentioned a number of times in the biography section. It wasn't too long after that I was in a music shop, coincidently in the bands home country of Germany, where I saw a double pack of 'Battalions of Fear' and it's follow-up album 'Follow the Blind' pretty cheap. Didn't even have to think about what to do.
By this point, I was no longer the young, metal whippersnapper that I was when I'd first heard of Blind Guardian. I had a good sense of what I was into, and, to be blunt, I found this album to be pretty boring and dull.
Fast-forward a couple more years, and MySpace is suddenly booming and it's easier than ever to discover bands. THAT'S when I really got into Blind Guardian! I can't remember which song I heard, but it was big! It was epic! It was bombastic! It was full of metal riffs and glorious orchestrations... it was incredible! How did I not get into this band the first time around?!
I swiftly snapped up most of the groups back-catalogue, then set to work familiarizing myself with their discography...
And that leads me right back to square one; this album is still pretty bland.
There's just nothing really exciting going on here... y'know what I mean? 'Majesty' is an okay song, but most of the tracks are pretty basic power/speed metal. The production leaves the music feeling empty of life, and a lot of the melodies, both musical and lyrical, are just boring and uninteresting.
It's not a terrible album, but if you're looking for some generic and bland 80's power metal, there's much better stuff out there.
Genres: Power Metal Speed Metal
Considered by fans to be one of Dream Theater's best songs, 'A Change of Seasons' is the bands first venture into an old prog standard; the 20-minute epic! Clocking in at 23 minutes long, the title track of this release was originally intended for the 'Images and Words' album, but left off due to time restrictions.
No problem! Chuck a few live covers in there, and here we have arguably one of the greatest EP's of all time.
With such a lengthy track, you know that each musician will get the chance to show off their skills, and indeed they do! All five members (including newcomer Derek Sherinian on the keyboards), flawlessly show their mastery of their respective departments, with the song twisting and turning through all kinds of time signatures and dynamic changes, crafting a wonderful tale that takes us on a journey through life and reminds us of how quickly it passes by.
As for the other "half" of this EP, there are four live covers that I don't mind, but are kind of hit-or-miss for me. Covering Elton John, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and a medley consisting of Kansas, Queen, Journey and Genesis, none of them are terrible, but in fairness none of them are overly memorable either. Blatant filler.
As a whole, it's a great record, and an absolute must-have for fans of Dream Theater, and whilst the title track itself is entirely worth hearing, it's the covers that prevent this from getting a five-star rating. Still, it's as essential to your collection as any of the bands studio albums.
Genres: Progressive Metal
The departure of Keyboardist Kevin Moore shortly after the release of this album brought an end to what many Dream Theater fans consider to be their greatest era. Though maybe not as technically sound as Jordan Rudess, or as flamboyant as Derek Sherinian, Moore's contributions had a great sense of ambience, majesty, and creativity, all of which lent its part to Dream Theater's sound very well in their early days.
After their highly successful 'Images & Words' album, there was no question that Dream Theater were in charge when it came to the obscure, underground music genre known as progressive metal, that was slowly exerting its presence over the metal world. With a growing fanbase and record label pressure to produce another hit album, the band rallied together and rose to the occasion, perhaps, not to the standards and hopes of the label, but certainly to that of the fans.
Musically similar to its predecessor, 'Awake' more-or-less replicates 'Images & Words', except with a few subtle differences. The 7-string guitar used by John Petrucci, and Kevin Moore's emphasis on mood and atmosphere on the keyboard, certainly makes this album feel slightly darker and moodier, if not in lyrics and themes, then definitely in tone.
As you would expect, the musicianship is absolutely top-notch, and especially at the time when this album came out, there were very few bands that could match Dream Theater's incredible prowess on their instruments. With more groove-based riffs and detuned guitars becoming the norm, courtesy of bands like Pantera and Korn, the band effortlessly demonstrates their ability to adapt to where the metal genre was headed, whilst still maintaining their own signature style. And James LaBrie's vocals are at their finest, though sadly whilst touring for this album, he would go on to rupture his vocal chords. His voice would never quite be the same.
Songs like '6:00', 'Caught in a Web', 'The Mirror' and the haunting 'Space-Dye Vest', all make this album a requirement in the collection of any prog metal fan.
Genres: Progressive Metal
It's 2001 and I'm 14 years-old, new to the world of metal, and a huge Megadeth fan (or so I thought...). They'd just released their album 'The World Needs a Hero', in which they went "back to their metal roots" (every band goes through this phase). Tuning into Kerrang TV, they were midway through a video that, for whatever reason, I suspected it may have been Megadeth's video for 'Moto Psycho'. It was heavy, it was aggressive, and I was headbanging to it with my measly one inch of hair which I couldn't wait to grow longer. I also couldn't wait to get the new Megadeth album because this song kicked ass!
Except, it was Metallica's 'One'.
2001 was an exciting year for a 14 year-old metal fan living in the UK. With the nu metal scene having completely taken over the world, no doubt with huge thanks to the few channels that had popped up on TV dedicated to rock music, the genre was rife with bands such as Linkin Park, Korn, Slipknot and Limp Bizkit. However, despite all the bands that were tearing up the charts, it was Metallica's '...And Justice For All' that I was seriously digging. I loved the ten-minute songs with two-minute intros. I loved the complex arrangements with constant shifts in dynamics. I loved the guitar harmonies. I loved it all!
There's no denying the influence this had on me around that period of my life. Eventually leading me to progressive metal, a genre this album arguably had a huge hand in influencing in its infancy, bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X just seemed like the next logical step from here. Intricately crafted guitar riffs, harmonies and solos, with some of Lars Ulrich's most challenging drumming (which, fair play to the guy, he may have a rather limited skill set, but he sure busts his chops on this one), make this Metallica's most ambitious album, with the band themselves often citing how this was the most complex stuff they'd done.
The production is often criticized, but I was too young to care about such trivial things when I first got this record, so I find myself unfazed by it now. In fact, I find the sound, which comes across as very dry and gritty, sets the mood perfectly for this incredibly dark and bleak album. And with songs like 'One', 'Blackened', 'Harvester of Sorrow', 'Dyers Eve' and 'The Frayed Ends of Sanity', this is an absolute classic that belongs in the collection of any metal fan.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Hey kids! Remember Kevin Moore?! The guy played on Dream Theater's first three studio albums, buggered off, and has since more-or-less completely cut off all ties to the Dream Theater name, wanting nothing to do with the band. So if you wanted to hear what the progressive metal legends sounded like in their early days, playing live with a certain Mr. Moore, then this is likely to be the only chance you'll ever get.
Released shortly after the bands second album, 'Images and Words', 'Live at the Marquee' is a six-track EP which doesn't really do the group or their previous releases justice. It's a nice addition to the collection of any Dream Theater fan, but since most of their live records would go on to become three-disc sets, this one has become pretty obsolete and unnecessary.
With Dream Theater classics such as 'Metropolis', 'A Fortune in Lies' and 'Pull Me Under', there's no denying the tracks are stellar, and considering vocalist James LaBrie would go on to suffer from ruptured vocal chords which would affect his live performances for years to come, it's nice to hear these songs with the youthful energy that the band had at the time.
Overall this isn't a terrible release, but if you're after a true Dream Theater live experience then you're better off looking for 2004's 'Live at Budokan', 2005's 'Score' or 2000's 'Live Scenes from New York'. It's a nice little EP if you come across it, but not really worth the effort unless you must own everything.
Genres: Progressive Metal
Symphony X are back with their second album and a sound that will quickly distinguish them as one of the top prog metal bands in the world.
The differences between this and their self-titled debut are noticeable immediately. Besides the addition of powerhouse vocalist Russell Allen, who's incredible voice can easily switch between both melodic and aggressive styles, the production has been vastly improved and the songwriting is a lot more confident and refined.
The songs on 'The Damnation Game' flow so much fluidly than before. Michael Romeo's intense riffs and exotic solos are much more tasteful, and Michael Pinella's keyboards never sounded this beautiful on 'Symphony X'. While this is far from the bands most ambitious work, it's still a solid blueprint which the New Jersey quintet would build upon with future releases.
Featuring highlights such as 'The Edge of Forever', 'A Winter's Dream', 'The Haunting' and the title track, the reason this only gets a three-star rating is because, despite being a really good record, honestly, it just pales in comparison to what's to come. Such is the strength of the bands later output that I find myself very rarely listening to this one. Still, if you're a fan of Symphony X, then this is definitely an album worth owning!
Genres: Neoclassical Metal Progressive Metal
This is a fairly decent debut album by Kamelot, who at the time were nothing more than a generic power metal band. Progressive elements seen in later albums are rare and discreet, and the band are yet to develop a lot of the more exotic flavours heard in their later songs. But overall, there are still some great compositions on this record.
There are very few keyboard parts and the musicianship is nowhere near that of most prog/power metal bands, but that doesn't prevent a few memorable riffs popping up, such as 'Eternity' and 'The Gleeman', and 'Etude Jongleur is a nice, though short, melodic passage.
There isn't really much else to say about this album to be honest. If you're a fan of Kamelot then it's worth getting, and I think it's generally worth picking up for anyone if you can find it cheap somewhere. Kamelot didn't really hit their stride until keyboards became a more primary instrument and with the addition of vocalist of Roy Khan (who, if you're already a Kamelot fan prior to buying this album, you'll definitely notice his absence), but this still holds up well as a look at a young band who will definitely go on to better things.
Genres: Power Metal Progressive Metal
Power metal has always been the ginger-haired stepchild of heavy metal. It's cheesy. It's repetitive. And sometimes it's Sonata Arctica, in which case, it kicks ass!
Sonata Arctica's debut album burst onto the scene with such gusto and youthful enthusiasm, it's hard not to like it. There's fast-paced neoclassical speed metal guitar shredding, and lots of cheesy 90's keyboard harpsichord sounds. The lyrics focus on the usual themes of fantasy, love, kingdoms and over nonsensical topics we're not really bothered about, because it comes with the territory, and above all else though, it really is 100% cheese, and that's what we love about the genre!
I first came across this band when I heard 'Replica' on a compilation CD. I loved it! I was completely blown away by how awesome this band sounded and to this day, that is still one of my favourite songs (and I still have no idea what it's about, either). I rushed out to get 'Ecliptica' and was not disappointed. 'Kingdom for a Heart', 'Full Moon', 'Letter to Dana', 'Mary Lou' and 'Picturing the Past' are all fine examples of why power metal should never be so easily dismissed. Oh, and 'Replica' too!!!. This album is worth it for that song alone.
I've been stuck for ages writing this review, struggling to think of anything clever or witty to say. The truth is, this is a typical power metal album, and if you're not a fan of the genre, you won't notice any difference here between Sonata Arctica and any other band. But there's just some sort of charm about this record that makes it fresh and exciting, and definitely worth trying out.
Genres: Power Metal
After his 1994 solo release, guitarist Michael Romeo was met with a proposal from a record label to form a band and record an album in the similar vein to his solo material. "Sure, why not?"... and thus was born one of progressive metals most popular and influential bands.
Borrowing heavily upon the neoclassical style of shred made famous by Yngwie Malmsteen, Symphony X's self-titled debut release is a humble album that shows a band with the potential for big things, with the only major setback being the rather subpar production. While it's certainly not terrible, it just lacks that little bit of punch that the music really needs. It's a punch that would be added to future releases, and the difference is immediately noticeable.
As for the music itself, it's nowhere near as ambitious as the bands later releases, which would go on to utilize massive orchestrations, but it's still pretty good, and lays down a solid foundation upon which the band would establish their defining sound. As expected, Michael Romeo's guitar playing is the star of the show here, with his neoclassical virtuosity matched perfectly by keyboardist Michael Pinella, both displaying enough talents to secure their careers in a post-grunge metal scene. Vocalist Rod Tyler does a good job, and is vastly underrated for his work on this album, but it's his only appearance with the group and he will soon be overshadowed by his replacement, powerhouse singer Russell Allen.
'Symphony X' overall is a good debut, with early signs of greatness evident. 'Masquerade', 'The Raging Seasons', 'Premonition', 'Thorns of Sorrow' and the ballad 'Shades of Grey' are all notable reasons why this should be in your collection, and if you're a collector like me, it's certainly not one you'll regret having to own.
Genres: Neoclassical Metal Progressive Metal
‘Master of Puppets’ is without a doubt one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time. Taking what they started on ‘Ride the Lightning’ and pumping it full of steroids, this takes all the best elements of Metallica's previous album and magnifies it a thousand times over, firmly placing Metallica amongst metal's royalty.
A nice combination of heavy and melodic, ‘Master of Puppets’ mirrors its predecessor very closely, but at the same time it manages to maintain its own identity. Opening track ‘Battery’ is very similar to ‘Fight Fire with Fire’, starting with a nice clean guitar harmony, followed by riffs of complete chaos that'll destroy all your senses. ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ takes the ballad concept started on ‘Fade to Black’ and pushes it further than anyone thought possible, and ‘Orion’ is a nice eight minute instrumental that can go toe to toe against ‘The Call of Ktulu’ any day.
Despite the similarities, ‘Master of Puppets’ shows a band becoming more mature with each release. The lyrics are even more grim and darker than before, and the song-writing, especially on tracks like ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘Welcome Home’, shows a band that has developed closer over the years to become as tight as they can be, with Hetfield and Hammett's guitars working in perfect harmony with Burton's bass-lines and Ulrich's (somewhat limited) drum skills.
Often cited as the single greatest metal album in history, it’d be hard to disagree.
Genres: Thrash Metal
It was back in 2003 that I was looking in a Virgin Megastore (remember those?) with the noble intention of investing my money in a band I'd never heard before. These were before the days when YouTube and streaming were so easily accessible. When we had to take risks with our money to try out new artists. I had stumbled across an album by a band I'd only heard of in name, but that risk was about to pay off; Dream Theater.
Being a 16-year-old heavy metal fan at the time, raised on a healthy diet of groups such as Megadeth, Metallica, Kiss and Rammstein, my initial thoughts were, quite simply; “this album sucks”. However, one thing piqued my interest, and it should come as no surprise that it was the amazingly heavy intro to the opening track, ‘Pull Me Under’.
As I heard more and more, the album grew on me. All these random traits of progressive music were becoming clearer. Odd time signatures, long, complex arrangements, the eclectic mixture of styles, keyboards (a heavy metal no-no), the creative lyrics and massive instrumental sections... It all started to make sense. To this day, 'Images and Words' not only introduced me to a new style of music, but a whole new way of looking at music.
So what makes it so great?
'Images and Words' is an album that defined a genre. Without Dream Theater, progressive metal might never have become what it did. Coming at a time when the genre was in its infancy, Dream Theater had that intangible X-factor that bands like Fates Warning, Queensryche, and even a group like Rush, were all missing at that point.
There's a perfect combination of everything on this album. There's metal songs, there's ballads, there's funky songs and there's jazzy songs too. The musicianship came at a time when there weren't many bands displaying such incredible technical prowess, at least in the mainstream anyway. Every song is perfectly crafted, with interesting musical passages and mind-boggling lyrics. 'Pull Me Under', 'Take the Time', 'Learning to Live' and the monstrous epic 'Metropolis Pt. 1; The Miracle and the Sleeper' are all staples in prog metal history.
This is the record that put Dream Theater on the map, and defined all progressive metal bands/albums for years to come. Every fan of the genre needs this in their collection, immediately. And I'm sure most old-school progressive rock fans will at least appreciate the importance this album had on prog music as a whole. Undeniably my favourite album of all time, 'Images and Words' is better than perfect.
Genres: Progressive Metal
Quietly unleashed upon the world in 1989 to approximately no fanfare, radio airplay or any kind of recognition, 'When Dream and Day Unite', the debut album of progressive metal band Dream Theater, was the birth of a legend that approximately nobody saw coming.
It's a debut that has garnered mixed reactions since its release, despite the bands later successes. Personally, I think this is an incredible effort with some fantastic compositions, especially for such a young band. The band clearly know who their influences are, and hold no gripes against showing it, as there are definitely similarities here to bands such as Iron Maiden, Queensryche and most notably, Rush.
Vocalist Charlie Dominici, making his only appearance on a studio album, has always been a common complaint of fans. His pop-inspired singing grating to some, I think his voice has a very majestic tone to it that perfectly fits the raw sound of this album, especially when accompanied by Kevin Moore's 80's sounding keyboards. As for the others, guitarist John Petrucci, drummer Mike Portnoy and John Myung are all serious musicians (having met at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston), who are only just starting their incredible journeys to becoming some of the most revered and respected musicians in the world.
Another strong point of this album of "young" musicians is the lyrics, which contain some of the most random and yet, well thought-out passages I've ever heard. Especially on the track 'Only a Matter of Time'. Other gems worth checking out are 'A Fortune in Lies', 'The Killing Hand' and 'Light Fuse and Get Away'.
An incredible debut. Not as polished as ‘Images and Words’ and lacking the production values of ‘Scenes from a Memory’, but strip away any faults and there are some truly great songs here.
Genres: Progressive Metal
They did it in 2000 with ‘Live Scenes from New York’, and again in 2004 with ‘Live at Budokan’, and come 2006, Dream Theater are at it once more, trying to outdo themselves with ‘Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour’, another three-disc live album that shows the kings of progressive metal at their very best.
“So what makes ‘Score’ any different?” you ask... allow me to explain.
‘Live Scenes...’ was focused around the ‘Scenes from a Memory’ album and a multitude of big, prog epics, while ‘Budokan’ had an abundance of heavier, more energetic and varied material. Interestingly, with the exception of a few songs, both albums had different sets, and this continues with ‘Score’. Based around the ‘Octavarium’ album and a retrospective look back at the bands career in chronological order, there is, once again, a varied set here which is different than previously.
With a fantastic production (this almost sounds like a studio release, at times), and superb performances (c’mon, it’s Dream Theater), ‘Score’ is over two hours of prog greatness. With such epics as ‘Octavarium’, ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’ in its entirety, as well as often overlooked tracks such as ‘Afterlife’, ‘Innocence Faded’ and ‘Vacant’, there’s a well-rounded set here. And ‘Another Won’ and ‘Raise the Knife’, both previously unreleased on studio albums, are welcome and popular additions. There’s the “Octavarium Ochestra” in there too, which has fans raving. Though to be honest, I find their contributions a bit lacking, especially when Jordan Rudess could perform most of this on his keyboard by himself.
Overall however, ‘Score’ is another live success for Dream Theater. While ‘Live at Budokan’ remains my favourite, this, along with ‘Live Scenes from New York’ completes the perfect live album trilogy, and is a highly recommended addition to any prog collection.
Genres: Progressive Metal
2013’s ‘Covertá’ is the second EP, and third overall release, by American groove metal band Adrenaline Mob, and features eight tracks, all of which are covers by various well-known classic rock and metal groups. There’s always a number of ways to view these types of releases; are you a fan of the original compositions? Are you a fan of the covers? Is the selection of songs any good? Do they hold up well on their own?
To be honest... the answer is mostly no to all of these.
I mean, there’s some heavy hitters such as Van Halen, Dio, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Doors... but none of the covers are really all that good, and mostly sound uninspired and bland. Which is a shame considering the absolutely monumental amount of talent involved. No doubt the musicianship is incredible, and the sound and production makes all these tracks a lot heavier and polished than their originals, but in this case, that’s not enough to win me over.
In fact, the only two covers I find remotely interesting are Black Sabbath’s ‘The Mob Rules’, (which was already covered on their debut EP), and Rainbow’s ‘Kill the King’. But realistically, I either prefer the original recordings, or covers by other bands.
Overall, after a fantastic debut album, this is a fairly disappointing EP. Of course, these types of things aren’t really meant to be taken too seriously, and are just filling time between studio albums, which is why this is probably best saved for fans of the musicians involved.
Genres: Heavy Metal
Yikes! What is this?s ! Did I pick up the right album? This isn't the same Pagan's Mind who had that awesome video for 'Through Osiris' Eyes' is it? This isn't the same band who released 'God's Equation" surely?
Oh God... it is.
I was so excited when I finally came around to getting a Pagan's Mind album. I'd heard a few of their songs beforehand and was instantly won over. They have a good reputation amongst the progressive and power metal scenes, and I thought for sure this is a band I would really dig. Sadly for me, my first official venture into the music of Pagan's Mind would come through their debut album, and boy, this album sucks!
It's not that the music is terrible, it's just so uninspired. The riffs are so devoid of any life or emotion. The keyboards seem tacked in to make the music feel more spacey, whilst not really adding anything at all. And the vocals... what happened?! Nils K. Rue is one of my favourite vocalists, but this is horrendous. Whiny, screechy, and again, very uninspired (a recurring theme here), the vocals on this record are just awful. They're very irritating and I don't think there is a single instance where the vocal melody actually suits the music. Or vice versa. As a whole this album is just... "there".
So why the two-star rating then? Because thankfully there is one saving grace to 'Infinity Divine', and that's the closing song, 'A New Beginning'. Sure, the vocals kind of ruin that song too, but damn it if that intro doesn't get heads banging nothing will.
I'm clutching at straws here, but I'll take what I can. Shoddy debut, but better things are coming.
Genres: Power Metal Progressive Metal
Eternity X are a band I have highly ridiculed and mocked in the past. Most notably for the fact that their previous albums, 'Zodiac' and 'Mind Games' take themselves way too seriously, which itself, wouldn't really be much of a problem, if the music wasn't so boring and uninspiring. Oddly however, while 'The Edge' isn't really any different stylistically or lyrically (other than a stronger presence of keyboards), it's an album I thoroughly enjoy.
Must be the keyboards, right?
Main songwriter and all-round focal point of the band, Keith Sudano, has clearly put his heart and soul into this record. The music is well composed, with plenty of ambitious tracks and intricate passages, as well as some very personal and emotional lyrics. The musicianship is tight, with the usual progressive metal traits all here in full force, such as long track durations, interesting guitar riffs, crazy time signatures and a vast use of different sounds. There's plenty of instrumental acrobatics allowing for everyone to shine ('The Edge Part 3' is an interesting example of this) and there's a strong symphonic element to the music too.
Some of the highlights from this album include 'Imaginarium', 'The Edge of Madness', 'The Confession', 'Baptized by Fire', and parts two, three and the "Legacy Reprise" section of 'The Edge'. The album is consistently strong from start to finish.
'The Edge' is an ambitious release that will certainly take some time to get into, but will be worth the effort. It's funny that I like it as much as I do, since it's nothing overly different than what had come before, but there's just something here that resonates with me. It's a shame that Eternity X would go on to disband and Keith Sudano would take a leave of absence from music, because for all the flack I've given this band for their previous releases, this really is a brilliant album, and could have led to great things if they'd continued down this path.
Genres: Progressive Metal
They outlived the comedy covers band gimmick, and made it past the novelty of being a wrestler-fronted originals band. Now, after a five-year gap since their last album, Fozzy are back once again with a rip-roaring slice of metal goodness! Showing that they are a legit band with legit artistic credentials, 'Chasing the Grail' is a great record that boasts some of the bands best material.
With twelve tracks, clocking in at just over an hour, 'Chasing the Grail' may seem a little long-winded at times, but is brimming with enough variety in styles to stop it from seeming repetitive. Full of guitarist Rich Ward's tastiest riffs and Frank Fontsere's most solid drumming, the band have really bonded and grown over the five years since their previous album, which included various festivals and tours. Chris Jericho's vocals (which sound similar to Ozzy Osbourne) are stronger than before, showing a man who is still willing to learn and develop, and with all the charisma and showmanship of a multi-time world champion wrestler, you know that this is a band who more than delivers when taking these songs to the stage.
Featuring some of Fozzy's strongest work, there's anthemic rockers such as 'Martyr No More', 'Let the Madness Begin', 'God Pounds His Nails' and 'Watch Me Shine', there's the softer, more heartfelt moments in songs like 'New Day's Dawn' and 'Broken Soul', and then there's the bands all-out foray into progressive territory with the 14-minute epic, 'Wormwood'. It's a diverse album which shows a band who are constantly evolving.
Overall, a fantastic and very underrated album, 'Chasing the Grail', as is always the case with this band, is often overlooked due to the group's name or the gimmick of being "Chris Jericho's band". But those willing to dig deeper and give them a chance will find that this is a solid rock record that can hold its own with heavyweights of the genre.
"Now let the madness begin!"
Genres: Heavy Metal
Body Count’s discography has always been a story of up’s and down’s, a great album followed by a disappointing one, followed by a... you get the idea. And after 2006’s uninspired ‘Murder 4 Hire’, the band went on hiatus. With frontman rapper Ice-T keeping busy with his solo music and acting career, it would be eight years until the crossover thrash, rap rock pioneers would return, and the trend continues, because 2014’s ‘Manslaughter’ is a fantastic return to form for the band.
Featuring some of their most polished and well-written tracks, ‘Manslaughter’ shows that age hasn’t slowed these guys down, and in fact, they sound more energetic and enraged than ever before. The production is amazing, really emphasizing the bands precision playing and incredibly tight guitar riffs, making this by far the heaviest Body Count have ever sounded, and the lyrics and rapping are probably more consistent than they’ve ever been, fitting wonderfully with the music, and still rapping about themes that are as relevant and relatable today as they’ve ever been.
With the likes of ‘Talk Shit, Get Shot’, ‘Pray for Death’, ‘Pop Bubble’, ‘Back to Rehab’, ’99 Problems BC’, ‘Bitch in the Pit’ and an updated cover of Suicidal Tendencies ‘Institutionalized’, this is some of the strongest material Body Count have put out. And while they’ve often been considered a band that courts controversy and is hard to take seriously, the truth is that ‘Manslaughter’ is a very coherent and well put together album.
Genres: Alternative Metal
‘Made in Germany’ is a compilation by German industrial metal giants, Rammstein. Released in 2011 (the clue’s in the title), it features sixteen of the bands biggest and most powerful tracks, and is a well-rounded retrospective for the sextet at that point in their career. However, as is always the case with these types of collections, the quality of the track list is subjective, and in my opinion, there’s an abundance of missing material!
But that comes down to my own personal tastes, and while there’s a few songs I’d have taken out and replaced with others, as a whole, this is a solid album which represents the band well. Full of bombastic and over-the-top hits such as ‘Du Hast’, ‘Sonne’, ‘Ich Will’, ‘Pussy’, ‘Amerika’, ‘Engel’, ‘Links 2 3 4’, ‘Mein Herz Brennt’ and album-exclusive track, ‘Mein Land’, there are so many awesome songs here that ‘Made in Germany’ still packs one hell of a punch, and will satisfy fans of the group or will make a fantastic entry point for newcomers.
However, while the track listing is fantastic, let’s look at some of the cons of this album. There’s a few fairly subtle edits that take away from the songs. While there’s nothing too severe, one notable exception that irks me is the awesome intro to ‘Du Riechst So Gut’ being cut in half. Not cool. There’s the obvious omissions, which comes down to personal taste again, but where the hell is ‘Feuer Frei’ or ‘Ich Tu Dir Weh’? But the biggest letdown is a bonus disc full of remixes. Sure, these things are normally more of a novelty, but for the most part, none of these remixes are really all that great, barring two; ‘Sonne’ remixed by Clawfinger is pretty good, and amazingly, a Scooter, rave-inspired mix of ‘Pussy’ is incredible, and saves that disc from becoming completely pointless.
Never mind all of that though, as the pros easily outweigh the cons, making ‘Made in Germany’ a fantastic album! While it will no doubt feel dated over time, as most compilations do, it does still hold up well, and the quality of the material on offer is of a high standard. Definitely worth a spin or two!
Genres: Industrial Metal
The band’s debut 'Eternity', despite being nothing more than standard 90's power metal, had some pretty cool moments in there. Unfortunately their follow-up album, 'Dominion', is more-or-less the same thing, only with all-round weaker and less memorable songs.
However, with that said, there are two highlights for me, which is 'Song of Roland' and 'We Are Not Separate'. At this point both of these songs are stronger than anything else Kamelot recorded on this album or its predecessor. Sadly they're just not enough to save the whole album from being anything more than "good".
An all-round good power metal album, not really for anyone other than Kamelot diehards though. The best is yet to come.
Genres: Power Metal
Sevendust have always been one of those bands that you just have to respect for their sheer tenacity and persistence. Their self-titled debut, released in 1997, came at a time when metal was pretty much dead to mainstream audiences. All the big names had been relegated to smaller venues and arenas, while bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were helping build up the nu metal subgenre that was still a couple of years from truly exploding worldwide.
With that said, Sevendust's debut album tends to just quietly sit there in the background. It wasn't groundbreaking, or genre-defining, nor does it really make much noise or impact. It's just there. Mixing elements of nu metal, groove metal, hardcore music and some (sort of) rapping, it's a bit of a mess and not overly exciting.
The band will go on to write better things, but for the most part the riffs here just tend to plod along with about as much enthusiasm as a cow in McDonalds. Lajon Witherspoon's vocals are mostly flat and tend to fit in with the music awkwardly. There's just not a lot here that resonates with me.
If I had to pick out any highlights though, the songs 'Black' (easily the best of the album), 'Terminator' and 'Speak' are all alright. They're not really all that memorable though, and other than popping up on any compilations, I'm not likely to go back to them very often.
Overall, 'Sevendust' is a pretty disappointing album by a band who will go on to garner a small cult following. The foundations are certainly there, with the band laying down a blueprint for where they're going, but otherwise, this is a fairly unremarkable debut.
Genres: Alternative Metal Groove Metal
2004 saw the metal community rejoice, as thrash metal pioneers and all-round icons of the genre, Megadeth, returned from a forced retirement two years prior.
However, this wasn’t the Megadeth of old. With the band splitting up in 2002 due to an injury suffered by leader, vocalist and guitarist Dave Mustaine, the following two years in which Mustaine healed up would see himself and long-standing bassist David Ellefson fall out over legal disputes. As a result, while Mustaine was ready to return to the music world, with no band line-up in sight, he set out to record a solo album, which very quickly became another Megadeth project when it became apparent that his own name-value was nowhere near that of his bands.
While ‘The System Has Failed’ is a Megadeth album, it is essentially a Dave Mustaine solo release, with a load of session musicians. Albeit, one of which was returning guitarist Chris Poland, who had appeared on the bands first two releases back in the early 80’s.The two-year hiatus did Mustaine a lot of good though, as this is a return to form after a rather strenuous start to the new century. 1999’s ‘Risk’ saw them go pop rock to critical disdain (I love that album, for the record), and 2001’s ‘The World Needs a Hero’ was a rather stoic, rigid affair, that felt like the band weren’t really making too much effort at all.
But with ‘The System Has Failed’, Megadeth are truly back to their thrash metal roots with heavy, intense and driving guitar riffs, angry, spite-filled lyrics that lash out at politicians and war, and Mustaine’s vocals being more ferocious and venomous than ever. The production gives the songs a thick sound, with a thumping bass line and solid drumming, and the technical prowess of the musicians, along with the melodic approach to the songwriting, gives the album a fresh sound, not heard since 1990’s ‘Rust in Peace’.
Overall, while there are one or two filler tracks, this is a solid album, with songs like ‘Kick the Chair’, ‘Blackmail the Universe’, ‘Die Dead Enough’, ‘Back in the Day’, ‘The Scorpion’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’ showing that Megadeth are back with a vengeance, and more than ready to reclaim their spot as one of metals most beloved bands, and although this won’t ever be considered their best album, it’s a welcome return to form.
Genres: Heavy Metal
'Remains Alive' by Fozzy was recorded live in Brisbane, Australia in 2005, shortly after the release of their third album, and their first as a "proper band". Having ditched the comedy covers gimmick, the group, fronted by wrestling superstar Chris Jericho, were touring to promote their 'All That Remains' album. Their first featuring only original compositions.
While the band are still relatively young here, it's apparent that they already have a penchant for live performances. Chris Jericho, thanks to years and years as a WWE performer, is a natural frontman. Confident on the mic and more than capable at engaging an audience, the few times he struggles vocally, he more than makes up for in charisma and stage presence.
Of course, being partnered up with members of rap metal pioneers Stuck Mojo means that this is definitely a band that was destined to excel when playing live. Guitarist Rich Ward and the rest of the guys are incredible performers, as well as incredible players. Ward has long been praised for his unmatched guitar tone, but at times things do sound a bit "sludgy" here.
Since this was recorded in the bands early days, the set does suffer a little. While all the songs here are bangers, Fozzy would go on to really adapt a feel in their music that was tailor-made for live settings. Having seen Fozzy a number of times, I can assure you their later material are live anthems, perfectly written to give audiences ample opportunities to get more involved with the music.
With that said, this isn't a bad album though, and like Stuck Mojo's 'HVY1' live release, the true joy of this recording is the energy and the banter between the songs. Jericho is a natural showman, and sometimes it's just fun to hear him talk and entertain. And all the bands early hits, including 'To Kill a Stranger', 'Crucify Yourself', 'Enemy', 'With the Fire' and 'Nameless Faceless' are played with pure enthusiasm and enjoyment. While this is certainly best saved for the absolute die-hard Fozzy fanatics, there's still some noteworthy things to listen to here, especially if you're a performing musician yourself.
Fozzy Fozzy Fozzy! Oi Oi! Oi!
Genres: Heavy Metal
Now, I love Dream Theater, and I love Iron Maiden, but this is just all kinds of silly.
'The Number of the Beast' has never been one of my favourite Maiden albums. Sure, it was the record where they truly started to ascend to the top of the metal world, but in my opinion it's vastly inferior to the likes of 'Powerslave' and 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son', and much of their later output.
So when Dream Theater, one of my all-time favourite groups, decided to do a live cover of the entire album, I was far from enthusiastic, but willing to give the progressive metal icons a chance to make something worthy out of it.
Dream Theater's 'The Number of the Beast' just doesn't work. While the band had previously attempted something similar with Metallica's 'Master of Puppets', that live recording had something to it that, while still nothing more than a fun release not meant to be taken seriously, still made it a worthwhile listen. Especially if you're a fan of both bands.
But 'Number...' just doesn't click. Maybe it's James LaBrie's vocals, or John Myung not quite having the energy of Steve Harris, or maybe a guitar/keyboard hybrid just doesn't suit Maiden's sound. Either way, Dream Theater are more than competent as musicians, but this release is a bit of a blunder.
Even as a novelty item, this album is a bit of a stretch. I barely ever listen to the original version, so I'm certainly not going to feel inclined to listen to a cover of it, which is why this is best left for the absolute most die-hard fans of either band. And even then, it's not a release to be taken seriously.
Genres: Heavy Metal
'When Dream and Day Unite', an album that has long been disregarded by casual fans of the band, and even most die-hard fans, is Dream Theater's 1989 debut which was released by Mechanic Records and is since no longer owned property of the band. Which, to the disfavour of many fans, means there would never be a modern re-recording or re-mastered version. So what do the band do? A live version instead!
Now, I love Dream Theater, and I actually really like their debut album as it is. The production gives it a majestic vibe akin to 1980's Rush, and original vocalist Charlie Dominici's voice fits the music well. However, while this 2004 live recording sounds good, with its beefier production and subtle rearrangements, there is still one detriment to this being a live recording as opposed to a studio one, and that's James LaBrie.
LaBrie is a fantastic vocalist, no doubt about that, and all his studio work is flawless, but he can sometimes be fairly hard to tolerate live, especially with these songs, in which a lot of the times his voice doesn't quite seem as suited to the music as his predecessors. He struggles to hit a lot of the right notes, and his pronunciation has always made it a challenge to make out what he's singing. More often than not, it just sounds as if he's content to wail away with whichever high-pitched screech he can hit.
Overall, I think, while the production is an improvement, even as a live recording, I prefer the original studio version of 'When Dream and Day Unite'. But with that said, there is a little something that make this album worth picking up anyway; bonus tracks 'Metropolis Pt.1' and 'To Live Forever', which feature guest appearances by the aforementioned Charlie Dominici and one-time keyboardist Derek Sherinian.
'Metropolis' in particular is fantastic! Dominici's powerful voice (not diminished through years of performing and a bout of violent food poisoning ala James LaBrie) completely blows his successor away. And a brief keyboard/guitar duel between Sherinian, Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci shows why Sherinian is often unfairly unappreciated for his brief tenure with the band.
Overall this is a great release of a great band playing a great album. There's moments that make me cringe and there's moments that make me wonder why this was released under the band's "Official Bootleg" series and not marketed more commercially. I've always been a sucker for studio recordings though, which is why I won't go back to this one very often, but overall it's a worthy addition to the Dream Theater collection.
Genres: Progressive Metal
Highly revered by fans and often regarded as the bands finest work, 1993’s ‘Edge of Thorns’ is a pivotal album in Savatage’s discography. It’s the first album to feature new vocalist Zak Stevens, with Jon Oliva stepping away from the mic to focus on keyboards and songwriting, and most notably, it’s the final album to feature guitar hero and founder Criss Oliva, who was tragically killed by a drunk driver six months after the release of this album.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the band either. Already fighting an uphill battle against changing musical trends, the band were managing to continually improve with each release, and while following 1989’s ‘Gutter Ballet’ and ‘1991’s ‘Streets: A Rock Opera’ itself would seem a daunting task, the band rise to the challenge with this, one of their most polished and well-rounded releases to date.
With its great production and overflowing with fantastic musicianship, ‘Edge of Thorns’ sees the band step away slightly from the more classical leanings of their previous few releases, and focus more on a metal-tinted hard rock edge. Which is fine, as it’s still a solid album full of memorable tracks. The likes of ‘Edge of Thorns’, ‘He Carves His Stones’, ‘Follow Me’, ‘Damien’, ‘Lights Out’ and bonus track ‘Forever After’ makes this one of Savatage’s strongest releases.
While the band would go on to new creative heights, this was probably their commercial peak. With metal in the mainstream being completely dead by this point, any momentum the band had garnered up until now would slowly squander over the next few years, and while the 90’s would see the band release some of their best and most ambitious works, at this point they would firmly enter the realm of being a cult band. ‘Edge of Thorns’, really is the end of one era and the start of another.
Genres: Heavy Metal
American power metal band Iced Earth had managed to carve a bit of a niche for themselves at this point in their career. Having established themselves as one of the more notable and prominent bands of the subgenre, it’s surprising that their discography has been drastically hit-or-miss. Unable to truly capture any momentum over a string of consecutive releases, one album could be amazing, while the next could be pretty average. There really was no predicting how each release could be received, and 2001’s ‘Horror Show’ follows on with that trend.
After a bit of a lull had been rectified with 1998’s critically acclaimed ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, the band followed this up with, uh, a pretty mundane themed release focusing on horror characters and stories. While one or two tracks could be acceptable, an entire album seems a bit uninspiring and not overwhelmingly promising.
And so here we have it, another pretty average release. Iced Earth’s sound by this point is what it is, and while they aren’t looking to branch out and explore new styles, the quality of songwriting could still benefit from a bit more focus and enthusiasm. This feels slightly by-the-numbers. An abundance of the usual speed metal trappings and powerful, operatic vocals, this is undeniably Iced Earth, but the songs just don’t have the same exuberance and determination that the band have shown with past releases.
Still, it’s not all terrible, as there are a couple of decent tracks on here. ‘Wolf’, ‘Damien’ and ‘Jack’ are alright, though mostly forgettable compared to the bands stronger material. Admittedly however, a cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Transylvania’ is actually fantastic and the true highlight of this album. The band truly stamp their identity all over this instrumental track, and, most notably for me, it’s the song that served as my introduction to the band (how ironic that it was a cover, a fact I didn’t find out until years later).
Overall, ‘Horror Show’ isn’t by any stretch a terrible album, it’s just not overly memorable, and considering that Iced Earth have shown the ability to put out some incredibly strong releases, it just fails to truly stand out in any way other than being “that horror album”.
Genres: Heavy Metal Power Metal
The third instalment of Dream Theater’s official bootleg demo series covers my favourite album of all time, or at the very least, one of them; 1992’s ‘Images and Words’. Like before, this is something that would be best reserved for the die-hard fans, and normally something that I’d not pay too much attention to myself, since I’d rather listen to the actual studio release. But since these are demos for the greatest album in history, my interest is slightly more piqued than usually.
Similar to previous demo releases, this album is split into four parts. First there are instrumental demos, recorded by the band on a four-track Tascam tape recorder, followed by vocalist audition demos. These could be of interest to long-time fans, as it features three different vocalists who all tried out for the band. A highlight here is a very raw version of ‘A Change of Seasons’ which features different lyrics, vocal phrasing and musical arrangements.
Then there’s ‘The Atco Demos’ and finally, pre-production demos, and this is where the songs really take shape. There’s not many differences compared to the finished product, besides a more polished sound, but I guess it’s kind of cool to hear the bands versions of these songs before they were properly recorded.
Of course, at the end of the day, who’d honestly choose to listen to these demos of varied quality, when you could simply listen to the actual album itself? I’ll tell you who... nobody (and possibly a bunch of nerds trying to be cool or something). However, as is always the case with these official bootlegs, they’re only really for the most dedicated of fans, especially as, if you’re like me, you’re only likely to listen to it a couple of times before leaving it to collect dust in your mum’s attic.
Genres: Progressive Metal
Sonata Arctica's debut, 'Ecliptica', was originally released in 1999, and came at just the right time to establish them as one of the top names amongst a new generation of power metal bands that implemented both progressive and symphonic elements. With its energetic guitar riffs, majestic keyboard melodies and impressive vocal performances, it was an incredible album that still holds up to this day.
So why did they decide to re-record it fifteen years later?
2014's 'Ecliptica - Revisited' hasn't really added anything new, and really doesn't serve any purpose. Other than some very slight alterations to the arrangements, the only real difference is that the songs have been detuned or the vocals have been changed to suit vocalist Tony Kakko's aging voice.
The songs are still good, don't get me wrong, but the original 'Ecliptica' had a youthful enthusiasm that this updated version lacks, and this also heralds the third studio recording of the track 'Replica', which we really didn't need. The original version remains not only one of my favourite Sonata Arctica songs, but one of my favourite songs period, and after a 2006 re-recording, we could have done without a 2014 update.
Still, I'll give this release credit for one thing, and that's an absolutely banging cover of the Genesis classic, 'I Can't Dance', which, in my probably controversial opinion, far surpasses the original. And I love Genesis! But this cover of it is just fantastic and is done with such zest and gusto that it's impossible not to enjoy it.
In conclusion, all things considered, 'Ecliptica - Revisited' isn't an awful release, it just isn't necessary and does nothing to improve upon the 1999 original, so stick with that instead.
Genres: Power Metal
Remember the 90's? The fashion? The music? Everything seemed so bright and colourful and life was so fun and vibrant. There was none of this post-9/11 gloom and doom, and whilst most metal and rock bands had been driven underground by Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, there were still a few young upstarts making their ways into the mainstream and finding their niches.
One of these bands was rap-rockers H-Blockx, who burst out of Germany with their 1994 debut 'Time To Move', an album that boosted three hit singles and five promo videos. While bands like Stuck Mojo and Rage Against the Machine were carving out their legacy's with their more political-driven rap metal, H-Blockx fitted in perfectly with the 90's rock scene, their music and image oozing energy, enthusiasm and fun!
In other words, this album reeks of the 90's! And that, young grasshoppers, is not a bad thing.
Henning Wehland and Dave Gappa make a perfect duo, sharing both singing and rapping duties effectively, whilst guitarist Tim Tenambergen gets more out of a few simple riffs than what many modern shredders do with a million different notes. Above all else though, this band is just fun! There's a youthful innocence to their music that takes me right back to the first half of the 90's. 'Move', 'Little Girl', 'Risin' High', 'Go Freaky' and 'The Real Love' are all perfect reasons to give this record a chance.
Sadly however, this is an album that people generally tend to "remember", but not really care much about. Which is a shame, 'cause this is a very underrated album by a very underrated band.
Genres: Alternative Metal
It's been eight years since Crimson Glory's last release, 1991's 'Strange and Beautiful'. The band had made quite a name for themselves at the start of their career, but all their momentum was cut off by "the 90's". Music trends shifted and Crimson Glory, like so many others, failed to remain relevant. However, the band never faltered and eventually returned with 1999's 'Astronomica'.
While 'Strange and Beautiful' wasn't a terrible album, it didn't quite achieve the success of its predecessors, mostly due to the dying metal scene at the time, and the fact that the band tried being more experimental with their approach to songwriting. Thankfully, the boys are back on top form here, with 'Astronomica' going back to a full-on metal assault. Stylistically similar to 'Transcendence', the only major difference here, besides having a different vocalist, is a more beefed up production, which makes the Glory sound heavier than they ever had before.
The album has been scrutinized for its faults however. Most notable is that the drumming is all machine-programmed, a 20-minute police radio broadcast which closes the album off, but wastes a hell of a lot of time in doing so, and then there's vocalist Wade Black! Former vocalist Midnight left some impossible shoes to fill, and it's understandable why most fans weren't keen on Black's efforts, but for what it's worth, I think he does a good job and his voice suits the heavier sound of the band.
If you haven't completely given up with Crimson Glory by now, then you'll find some nice little gems on this album. Songs such as 'War of the Worlds', 'New World Machine', 'Cyber Christ', 'Cydonia' and the title track itself, can all hold their own with the bands previous material, and while it's fair to say this will never be their best release, it's still a worthy addition to any metal collection.
Genres: Heavy Metal
‘Far Beyond Driven’ is the seventh studio album by groove metal band Pantera, and the third since their unofficial rebirth, having shed their 80’s glam days. It’s weird to me, however, that while the band were one of the most influential metal groups of the 90’s, and this release reached the number one spot on the Billboard charts, it’s really a fairly average release, and is brimming with subpar material.
The most notable difference with ‘Far Beyond Driven’ over its predecessors is the absolute brutality of the record. It’s by far heavier than anything the Texans had put out prior. But sadly this comes at a great cost, as most of the songs are incredibly lacklustre. While the album starts off promisingly enough, it very quickly becomes a rather repetitive affair, with most songs sounding like a bunch of riffs incoherently thrown together.
The production itself leaves much to be desired, with particular mention going to the drums, which at times sound programmed in. Phil Anselmo’s choice of screaming and shouting over singing has certainly upped the aggression of the album, but does nothing for me. The only real highlight is guitarist Dimebag Darrell, whos influential guitar playing has garnered endless acclaim, however, even here, it feels slightly by the numbers.
‘Strength Beyond Strength’, ‘Five Minutes Alone’ and ‘I’m Broken’ are all decent enough tracks, and a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’ actually works really well for the band (I’m not a fan of the original, but this one is pretty good). But overall however, none of these songs are all that memorable to me, and certainly don’t hold up well to the bands previous two releases.
It’s not the worst album I own, but for all the praise it received, it certainly doesn’t live up to the hype. Oh, and the song ‘Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills’ is an absolute abomination.
Genres: Groove Metal
Despite a number of albums prior to this that have gained legendary status, 'Powerslave', Iron Maiden's fifth studio recording, is where I feel the band really hit their stride as one of metals most iconic bands.
With a previous four releases over which to bond and mature as a band, 'Powerslave' is a complete bombardment of Iron Maiden having perfected their sound. The dual-guitar harmonies are spot-on and utilized to their fullest, and vocalist Bruce Dickinson's singing hits its peak here, with every line complimenting the music perfectly.
While I didn't dislike any of the bands previous releases, I never held them in such high regard as the rest of the metal community does, feeling that each album was just a steady improvement upon the one that came before it. However, here is where the songwriting really takes a solid step up, as every song is well executed and well played. The riffs and harmonies are very catchy and easy-to-listen to, and the guitar solos all seem to suit their respective songs much better.
Tracks like 'Aces High', '2 Minutes to Midnight', 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and even instrumental 'Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)' are more than just Iron Maiden staples, they're essential listening for all metal fans. On top of all that, the artwork is pretty damn awesome as well!
A key album in any rock or metal collection, THIS is Iron Maiden.
Genres: Heavy Metal
"If I can be serious for a moment..."
After two albums consisting mostly of covers, Fozzy masterminds Rich Ward and Chris Jericho decided that for the band to continue and prosper, it was time to drop the comedy gimmicks and become a real band. Gone were the stage names, the wacky costumes, pig mascots (Arthur was actually a human being suffering from Swinus) and the "we were stuck in Japan for 20 years" shenanigans, and with 'All That Remains', a fresh and invigorated band arose.
Featuring ten original compositions (two of which are re-recorded tracks from Rich Wards Sick Speed project), Fozzy's sound is simple, hard rocking anthems. Nothing overly ambitious or challenging, but catchy radio rock that get heads banging. Sadly, having WWE superstar Chris Jericho as frontman meant that Fozzy were still a novelty act (though it's likely they'd never have had the success they've had without such novelty in the first place) which, coupled with the bands unusual choice of name, meant that they were a band people still refused to take seriously.
With tracks such as 'Nameless Faceless', 'The Test', 'It's a Lie' and one of the groups most memorable hits, 'Enemy', this album showed that, despite everything they have going against them, Fozzy is a band not to be taken lightly. Guest appearances by heavy hitters such as Marty Friedman and Zakk Wylde give 'All That Remains' some much-needed credibility, and with an energetic live show and a relentless touring schedule that saw them hit the Download Festival the year of this records release, it's a sure sign that while 'All That Remains' will never be Fozzy's best album, it's definitely an early sign of greatness that firmly establishes them as the real deal.
Genres: Heavy Metal
'Between the Walls' is the fourth album by German hard rock guitarist/band Axel Rudi Pell. Not only is it the first release to feature the same vocalist as its predecessor (I guess third time really is the charm) but it's a turning point in the groups discography, in which the standard of their music vastly improves upon their earlier days, and a string of high quality releases followed.
It's 1994 and the music world, in particular on the rock side of things, is a bit of a mess. Metal is "dead", although all these 90's groove bands like Pantera, Machine Head and Biohazard are slowly making headway, grunge has already peaked, and hard rock is, well... still living in the 80's. But that's not going to stop Mr. Pell and his motley crew! Having ditched the sleazy sex, women and nightly thrills 80's vibes of their earlier albums, the band have taken a more fantasy-themed style, incorporating more melodic elements similar to bands like Deep Purple and Rainbow.
Vocalist Jeff Scott Soto has proven himself a perfect fit with the band, with his incredible voice being a perfect match for the more serious (albeit, still pretty cheesy) lyrics. And Pell's guitar playing, usually impressive though excessively indulgent with the solos, has really started to become more coherent as well. The solo's are still a vast flurry of notes, but there's just more substance there now, as opposed to endless scales up and down the neck. And as expected, there's riffs aplenty here. With tight rhythm work and brimming with massive power chords, this is definitely something for the old school rocker in us all.
While this album is still very much a typical hard rock record, and probably would have fared better had it been released in 1984, it's still got some good, quality music that holds up well today. Songs like 'Talk of the Guns', 'Casbah', 'Cry of the Gypsy', 'Warrior', 'Outlaw', 'Innocent Child' and the title track itself all go to make 'Between the Walls' an essential hard rock album, and one of Axel Rudi Pell's finest.
Genres: Heavy Metal
I'm not going to deny, I'd never heard of Coldseed before seeing this in a secondhand shop for £1. The name of the band, plus the image on the front cover, did make it look like some European symphonic metal band (you know the type), which seemed even more evident when I saw that their drummer was Thomen Stauch, formerly of Blind Guardian.
But I was wrong. Very wrong.
(I was right about them being European, however).
Instead, Coldseed is actually more akin to groove metal or hardcore music. There are keyboards, but used sparingly and more as an addition to the guitar riffs than as a central songwriting tool. And the vocals (provided by Soilwork main man Björn Strid), are more aggressive than I expected. It's hard and heavy, with plenty of fat riffs, but overall a lot of the songs just tend to plod along uneventfully.
Songs such as 'My Affliction', 'Reflection', and 'Strike the Nerve' are alright, and though none of them are going to change the world, they're still worth a listen. And then there's 'Nothing But a Loser', a groove-laden beast of a tune, which is easily the best and catchiest song this album has to offer.
Along with the aforementioned musicians, Coldseed features Oliver Holtzwarth, formerly of Rhapsody of Fire, and also other members who have been former live musicians for Blind Guardian. All things considered, the name of the band, the front cover of the album, the promo pictures, and definitely the players involved, it really is quite surprising that this isn't a power metal project.
Overall, 'Completion Makes the Tragedy' is an okay album, though. It's not anything amazing that I'll go back to very often, but a few of the songs are strong enough to warrant giving this "supergroup" a chance, and if you stumble across it as cheap as I did, you certainly won't feel ripped off.
Genres: Groove Metal
Nobuo Uematsu and his dastardly clan of Black Mages are back with 'The Skies Above', a sequel to their self-titled debut which features progressive metal versions of music composed for the Final Fantasy video games (composed, I should add, by Uematsu himself).
Random nugget for you, but I've never played any of the Final Fantasy games.
Now, I'm not usually a big fan of instrumental albums. While I do enjoy the music, I find it tedious sitting through so much of it in one go, so it's surprising to me that 'The Black Mages', the bands first outing, is a personal favourite of mine, and was awarded as such, with five stars.
'The Black Mages' was heavily keyboard-driven, full of energy and overall a lot of fun. 'The Skies Above' just seems the complete opposite. The songs seem more guitar-oriented, and the fun and enthusiasm of the first seems to have been replaced by super seriousness. It's not bad, but this album just lacks that joyful energy.
There's two songs with vocals this time around. 'Otherworld' and 'The Skies Above'. Both are good songs, and the vocals do break up the monotony a little. On the instrumental side of things, tracks like 'Hunter's Chance', 'The Man With the Machine Gun' and 'Battle With the Four Fiends' are notable tracks that make this album a worthy purchase, but sadly none of them live up to what's come before.
'The Skies Above' is a bit of a mixed bag. There's some good songs and some bad ones. There's a lot of styles covered which keeps things somewhat interesting, and the musicianship is of a high standard, though sometimes wasted on uninteresting arrangements. Overall, it's a good album, but if it's your introduction to the band then you're better off going with their self-titled debut.
Genres: Progressive Metal
It's 1998, and with nu metal slowly getting its footing and revitalizing what was, at that point, a dying metal scene, there's no denying that amongst the rap metal hybrid acts such as Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine, and the teenage angst ridden beats of Papa Roach and Korn, there was one band who had a unique sound of their own, and that band was Spineshank.
System of a Down's self-titled debut album is literally all over the place, from calm to erratic in a heartbeat. It's raw and aggressive, yet at times can be soothing and melodic, whilst maintaining a take-no-prisoners "fuck the world" attitude. It's dirty, gritty, and full of rage and spite. Certainly not a record for the weak-hearted.
Vocalist Serj Tankian has expertly managed to blend all kinds of singing, from melodic clean vocals to shouting, a wide range of eccentric falsetto, something considerably theatrical, and what can only be described as "vocal effects", it could be seen as an acquired taste, but it's certainly unique! And his vocals are perfectly backed by Daron Malakian's guitars. Punchy, heavy and relentless. Frantically shifting from crunchy riffs to odd, out-of-tune bends and licks. It's a recognizable style that very few have been able to replicate.
Highlights to look out for include 'Suite-Pee', 'Know', 'Ddevil' (nope, that wasn't a typo!), 'Peephole' and of course the classic, 'Sugar'.
As a whole, this is a cracking debut. It shows a band with incredible chemistry and potential (which they would certainly live up to), and the only real problem with it today is that it seems a bit dated and overshadowed by what the band would go on to release later in their careers.
Genres: Alternative Metal
‘Streets: A Rock Opera’, released in 1991, is the sixth studio album by American metal band Savatage. It sees the band further develop their unique style which incorporates huge influences from musicals and classical music, and features a concept based on the rise and fall of fictional musician D.T. Jesus. Coming at a time when metal was becoming stale to mainstream fans, it was no doubt a risky move by the band to continue this route, but the end result is one of their most highly revered and well-received albums.
Riding a wave of momentum from their previous albums, ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ and its successor, ‘Gutter Ballet’, and once again continuing their working relationship with producer Paul O’Neill (who wrote the original story for the album), the band have hit their stride here, finding their niche and sounding more confident than ever before.
Wonderfully produced, the sound of the album evokes many moods throughout its diverse track list. From heavy rockers, to melodic tearjerkers, the production perfectly captures the essence and mood of each song. At times haunting and eerie, melancholic and depressing, or uplifting, head banging metal anthems, O’Neill has done a tremendous job of capturing the right vibe which suits the style of the band, and gives each member ample space to shine.
With songs such as ‘Jesus Saves’, ‘Somewhere in Time/Believe’, ‘Tonight He Grins Again/Strange Reality’, ‘Ghost in the Ruins’, ‘You’re Alive/Sammy and Tex’ and ‘Agony and Ecstasy/Heal My Soul’, there’s no shortage of Savatage highlights here. Along with Jon Oliva’s hauntingly passionate vocals and Criss Olivas classically-inspired guitar acrobatics, this is a pivotal album for the band, which would see them continue to ignore musical trends in favour of their own musical and artistic integrity, making ‘Streets: A Rock Opera’, a worthwhile addition to the collection of all rock and metal fans.
Genres: Heavy Metal