Saturday, December 13, 2014

Megadeth - So Far, So Good... So What! (1988)

Between the all time classics "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" and "Rust In Peace" lies the close to forgotten album "So Far, So Good... So What!". It is not easily over looked because it is bad, but because it is squeezed between two albums that are much, much better. Still, this album helped the band continue their journey from being a underground band to one of the biggest bands in the business.

The reasons to why this album does not quite reach the same heights as its predecessors are many. First off, there were two new band members since last album, Chuck Behler on the drums and guitarist Jeff Young, two guys that were not long lived in Megadeth, leaving the band before the end of 1988. Then the production is far from perfect since there were some struggles within when it comes to the mixing. The third reason is the quality of the music. While not being bad per se, the overall quality of the song writing in the album is not in the same standard as the music in the two previous Megadeth album.

However, the biggest reason to why this album failed to reach the same level of greatness is the obligatory cover. This time, the band covered the classic The Sex  Pistols song "Anarchy In The UK". A great punk song that was literally slaughtered by Megadeth. There is almost no speed what so ever in it, and the overall mood is way closer to being hippie happy than anarchy angry. This is by far the worst cover so far by the band and it drags the album so far into the dirt.

But I have bitched enough for today, The fact of the matter is that "So Far, So Good... So What!" is a pretty good album that is easily overshadowed because of its slower and darker sound. It is a slightly more mature album with more variety, but less of the best parts, which is the riffs and the speed. So it is just natural to initially get disappointed over this record, but the more you listen to it, the more you will enjoy it.

The clear star of the show is "In My Darkest Hour", one of the best songs in the entire Megadeth discography. It is not only a beautiful song about loneliness and death wishes, but also contains a second half that just thrashes the shit out of you. The solo in this song is just amazing and Dave does some of his best vocal performances in this track. A must hear for every metal head. "Mary Jane" uses similar techniques as "In My Darkest Hour", but without the thrashy speed in the end. It is still a good listen, just like the groovy "Hook In Mouth".

So what if this album is not as good as "Peace Sells"? It is still a good album that gives the listener some fine quality thrash music. It may contain a shitty cover and a lackluster production, but the band gives it their all and performs like the professionals they are. I can definitely see why some people could forget... what's the name of this album again? Oh yes, "So Far, So Good... So What!". Anyway, check out this album, it is a good little gem that will surely put a smile on your face.

Songs worthy of recognition: In My Darkest Hour, Mary Jane, Hook In Mouth

Rating: 7/10 Liars

Thursday, December 11, 2014

AC/DC - Rock Or Bust (2014)

Hmmm... *strokes imaginative viking beard*

Yep, it is an AC/DC album

Songs worthy of recognition: Dogs of War, Play Ball, Baptism By Fire

Rating: 5,5/10 Sweet Candies

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Megadeth - Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? (1986)

The year 1986 is one of the finest years in metal, especially when it comes to the sub genre thrash metal. It was in this year both Slayer released "Reign In Blood" and Metallica released "Master of Puppets", two of the greatest metal albums of all time. Besides them, we also have the Dark Angel release "Darkness Descends", Kreator's "Pleasure To Kill" and the Flotsam & Jetsam release "Doomsday For The Deciever". It was also on this year Megadeth got their big true breakthrough with the album "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?".

The title has an interesting story behind it. Apparently, Mustaine came up with it while searching for food at a place he had crashed on (should be noted that he and the rest of the band was homeless and broke at the time), and he stumbled upon a Readers Digest magazine that discussed over peace, saying that it is good and all, but nobody wanted to buy the concept of it. The album itself has a lot of both social and political awareness in its lyrics, which is also reflective in the album cover where we see the band's mascot Vic Rattlehead as a realtor, trying to sell a UN building that lies in ruins. It is a side of Mustaine that is both good and bad.

When it comes to the music, it is a continuation on what the band did on "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!", times 3. The riffs are faster and tougher, the speed is insane and the cover (this time the Willie Dixon song "I Ain't Superstitious") is once again filled with alternated lyrics that would enrage all fans of the original artist. Dave and co. thrashes like there is no tomorrow, but does it with such precision that would make surgeons jealous.

All of the songs have a red string going through them, all starting off pretty slowly, but is steadily accelerating in speed further into the song. You would think that it would make the album monotonous, but there is no lack of variety thanks to the instrumentation in the songs. That would not have mattered very much anyway, because Dave have written 7 killer songs that are all magnificent in their own way. From the catchy title track and groovy "Devils Island" to the seemingly never ending "Good Mourning/Black Friday", "Peace Sells" is over filled with great thrash tunes, making the album an instant classic.

Unlike Peace, this album both sells and is bought by others. It is really no coincidence why this album lunched the career of Megadeth. "Peace Sells" is an amazing masterpiece that still holds up very good, 28 years after its release. If it was not for that questionable cover and the short play time, I would rate this album as one of the all time best, all categories. 1986 was indeed the finest year for thrash metal, and this album is just another proof for that fact.

Songs worthy of recognition: Good Mourning/Black Friday, Wake Up Dead, Peace Sells, Devils Island, My Last Words

Rating: 9,5/10 Bad Omens

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Engel - Raven Kings (2014)

Since In Flames flopped royally with their latest release, I was hoping that the guitarist Niclas Engelin would do a better job with his other band, the industrial metal band Engel. This band has gone step by step up the ladder of success with their heavy, and accessible style. There have been some slight turbulence in the band since they have gone through two member changes since the last album, so I was not fully convinced that "Raven Kings" would keep the progress going.

So how are the new guys stacking up? The new singer, Mikael Sehlin, does have a tougher voice than what Magnus Klavborn have, but he does not add anything new to  the band. He just does most of the work that Klavborn did, which includes both growling and clean vocals, and the band is fine with it. And the new drummer, Oscar Nilsson, does a fine job with the beats. The main factor with the music is still the guitars were Engelin and Sunesson attacks with both melodic and energetic riffs, bringing a lot of dynamics to the music.

However, most of this dynamic impact is lost throughout the album since the band puts out around the same kind of force in almost every song in "Raven Kings". I do like it that the band has this grand, powerful sound, but they are over doing it in this album, creating a blob of an album where the only real stand out is the spiritual "I Am The Answer".

Another strength with Engel is that the band knows how to write a good chorus. And together with some great musicianship, the band can really create some highly memorable tunes. In "Raven Kings", one should check out "Broken Pieces" that impresses with its pain and heaviness. One should also listen to the epic "End of Days" where Sehlin does a great job with his voice. Other notable tracks are the fast paced "Fading Light" and the well constructed "My Dark Path".

"Raven Kings" is definitely a fine metal album where Engel show off their muscles, but we have already seen them, and they are not getting any better with age. Compared to its predecessors, "Raven Kings" could probably be considered as the weakest Engel album up to date thanks to its monotonous sound, but also thanks to the fact that the rest of the Engel catalog holds a high standard. If you are a fan of the band, I am sure you will enjoy the hell out of the album, but will not be surprised at all over what the record offers.

Songs worthy of recognition: End of Days, My Dark Path, Broken Pieces

Rating: 6,5/10 Sanctuaries

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Megadeth - Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! (1985)

What do you do if you get kicked out of a band, just before they get their breakthrough and releases a groundbreaking record? Dave Mustaine probably asked himself the exact same question when he got sacked by the rest of Metallica, and he came up with a genius answer. He started a new band, just to get even with his former band mates, and challenged them to a ultimate match between two of the first and biggest thrash metal bands in existence.

And his first strike with this new band was the 1985 album "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!", which Dave created together with bassist David Ellefson, guitarist Christopher Poland, and drummer Gar Samuelson. The goal for the album was to make it faster and heavier than whatever Metallica was doing. Did Dave succeed with his plan? I would say yes and no. This album is indeed faster than both "Kill 'em All" and "Ride The Lightning", but it is not really as heavy as them. You can however not deny that it is a strong punch that Dave delivers towards his former band mates.

The thing that really drives "Killing Is My Business..." forward is the excellent guitar work. The riffs and solos are bone crushing and the album is overfilled with them. Megadeth just crams them down through your ears one by one, and you do not want them to stop, you just want more of the same, great thing. One thing that is not so great though is Dave's singing voice. I will say that his voice fits the music, but it is far from the finest voice in metal. Apparently, Dave spent six months in searching for a singer before he decided to take the job himself. I can only help but wonder if nobody could meet Dave's high standards or if it was that nobody could handle Dave's personality that forced the decision.

The main problem with this album is production. Sure, it is raw and some people might even enjoy the lack of production value, but I feel like the music would have been even better with a professional production. This album has some sweet thrash gems in it, like the title track, "Rattlehead", "Last Rites/Loved To Deth", "Mechanix" and "The Skull Beneath The Skin", so the album itself is fantastic, but it is dragged down thanks to the production.

We also have the Nancy Sinatra cover "These Boots", which has some altered lyrics, something the original writer of the song, Lee Hazlewood, was not very fond of. He even threatened the band to get rid of the cover since he felt the lyrics was wild and offensive. That is why the song in the re-released version from 2002 have those lyrics bleeped, making the song sound dirtier than what it really is. Otherwise it is an interesting cover with an amazing bass line, and the new lyrics are quite humorous.

For a debut album, "Killing Is My Business.." is far from a bad one. The speed and riffing in the album is pure thrash candy for your ears and a good display on how good of a guitarist both Mustaine and Poland is. But there are still some things the band needs to work on to make their product perfect, like the production. None the less, this statement from Dave Mustaine is a strong one, and a good showing on what a fantastic career he would accomplish with this band. So take a listen to this album, and rattle your god damn head.

Songs worthy of recognition: Rattlehead, Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!, The Skull Beneath The Skin

Rating: 8/10 Chosen Ones

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thomas Giles - Modern Noise (2014)

After the release of a fantastic concept EP + album and some immense touring, the singer and keyboard player of Between The Buried And Me is once again ready to present a album in his solo project. "Modern Noise" is the second solo album made by Thomas "Tommy" Giles Rogers, a album I have looked forward to since I am a huge fan of BTBAM. And even if Rogers does not have a perfect vocal range, I still respect him as a musician and as a song writer.

The fans of BTBAM should recognize the music in "Modern Noise" since it has clear similarities with the band. The only thing that makes Thomas's solo work any different from his work in BTBAM is the lack of metal. There is no growling, no complex rhythms and no pure metal sound in "Modern Noise. Instead, it is the more jazz influented side of BTBAM that is present in this album, which really does not surprise me. I think it is nice that Thomas expands this side of the band since it is only a small part of their overall sound.

But just because there are more jazz influences in here, it does not mean that it is a jazz album. "Modern Noise" is more of a heavier, progressive indie rock album that may not speak to some of the BTBAM fans, while others might enjoy it. Besides fom the weirdly named "Lkcvjvhljbvj≥˜∆˚nnnjmkjijm", there is no track that really stands out as a strong piece. Most of the material here are decent and enjoyable, but there is nothing groundbreaking nor overly impressive. It is just solid music.

A few songs do catch my interest a little better than others. "Siphon The Bad Blood" has a solid beat and some great guitar work. It is without a doubt the catchiest song in the album. The best chorus goes to the one in "M3", a groovy, fast paced song where Thomas is on his toes with his voice. And for the the true BTBAM fans I would recommend "I Appear Disappear" and the title track with their interesting structure and space like feel. Two songs with some slight modification would have been a good fit as a bonus track in "The Parallax II: Future Sequence".

As a huge Between The Buried And Me fan, it is a relief that I find Tommy Giles Rogers's new solo album to be enjoyable. Sure, I am not a fan of jazz or fusion and I do miss some heaviness in the music, but Thomas has put in so much effort in this album that it becomes hard to not commend his work and devotion. The music is enjoyable and has enough references from his main band to make the fans pleased. A good solo album that unfortunately is not anywhere close to the quality his band has put out the last couple of years.

Songs worthy of recognition: M3, Siphon The Bad Blood, I Appear Disappear

Rating: 7/10 Blueberry Queens

Monday, November 24, 2014

Best of Black Sabbath

Man, this took way longer than I expected. I know that Sabbath has made a ton of albums (19 to be exact), but I was just slow on this one. Anyway, I am finally done with the Birmingham band and its complete discography, so all that is left is to summarize. Let's get to it.

Best albums

3. Paranoid
The band's most iconic album is a little master piece with some of the band's biggest hits, such as "Iron Man", "War Pigs" and the title track. I wonder how the metal world would have looked like if this album was never released. Probably a little less awesome.

2. Tyr
Almost all of the albums featuring Tony Martin Harford are underrated, but this one is ridiculously so. Great musicianship from the first to last second, and together with some of the most powerful songs in the band's career, "Tyr" is a power package worthy of the asgardians.

1. Heaven And Hell
The entrance of Ronnie James Dio was the best thing that could happen to Sabbath. The Impact and performance he did on "Heaven And Hell" is tremendous, and it gave the band a perfect, fresh start after a couple of turbulent years with massive drug use and the original line-up splitting up. "Heaven And Hell" is a versatile, powerful album that is an instant classic.

Worst Album
Never Say Die!
The irony, and music, is killing me here. This album saw the end of the original line-up, which is so reflective in the music. The band is lost, falling in darkness and just keeps making the wrong decisions in this plane crash. "Johnny Blade" and the title track saves some parts of the album, but the rest is just bad.

Best Songs

5. The Sabbath Stones
A very underrated song that tops of a very underrated album. Great, heavy power from Harford and fine riffing from Iommi makes this song both dark and epic. Nice, groovy finish.

4. Megalomania
This close to 10 minutes song holds well together thanks to interesting instrumentation and an excellent singing performance from Ozzy.

3. Children of The Grave
This is probably the grooviest song that has ever been created. The simple, but effective guitar playing and the interesting bass line blends well together, creating a sound that is irresistible. The solo at the end is one of my favourites by Iommi.

2. N.I.B.
From the bass intro and Ozzy's apocalyptic vocals to the spot on guitar licks, this amazing song from the self titled debut is one of the finest moments in the career of Black Sabbath. An infectious track that brought out the best out of all of the members.

1. Heaven And Hell
Oh god, how I love this song. The slow, intriguing first part that makes the hair rise only builds up for a fast, catchy ending where the band just goes full speed, taking you on a hell of a joy ride. A song that blends all of the Dio influences with the classic Sabbath sound perfectly.

Best album cover

This cover is truly an artwork that should be displayed at some of the biggest art galleries in the world. The cover is just as beautiful as the music in the album is amazing.

Total discography verdict

Quality: 7/10
The uneven performance drags down the rating here, but when the band hits all the right notes, they are phenomenal. Impressive that they got 7 albums with a rating of 8,5 or higher, a little less impressive that they got 3 albums with a rating under 5.

Creativity: 8/10
The band has never been afraid of changing their sound, which I really commend. Some of those changes are for the worse, but most of them work, making Black Sabbath a very versatile band.

Band Chemistry: 4/10
Black Sabbath is not well known for their stable band chemistry, something the amount of member changes witness. A total of 26 musicians have been a part of the band in one point or another, most of them only lasting for a short while.

Musicality: 8/10
Tony Iommi's guitar style is one of the most recognizable in metal and the band have always had some strong singers backing up the music, but Bill Ward and Geezer Butler's replacements in the bass and drum positions have not reached the same heights as the original members.

Lyrics: 8/10
The dark lyrics are what separated the band from the rest in the 70's, and as the year went by, the band has learned to broaden their lyrical abilities. It is always interesting to see what meaning a Sabbath song has, since it can be about almost anything.

Album rating summary:

S/T: 7,5/10
Paranoid: 9/10
Master of Reality: 8/10
Black Sabbath Vol. 4: 6,5/10
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: 8,5/10
Sabotage: 9/10
Technical Ecstasy: 5,5/10
Never Say Die!: 3/10
Heaven And Hell: 9,5/10
Mob Rules: 8/10
Born Again: 4,5/10
Seventh Star: 3,5/10
The Eternal Idol: 7,5/10
Headless Cross: 8,5/10
Tyr: 9,5/10
Dehumanizer: 8/10
Cross Purposes: 7/10
Forbidden: 4,5/10
13: 8,5/10

Average rating: 7,1578947368421052631578947368421/10

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Black Sabbath - Forbidden (1995)

Released in 1995, "Forbidden" was long considered to be the very last album by Black Sabbath the world would ever see. And frankly, after hearing the album, I understand why people would think that. Not only did the band break up short after the release of this album, the music on here is some of the worst by Sabbath. Hell, even the members have bad mouthed the albums in various interviews, explaining that several factors led to what happened, everything from bad band chemistry to weird decisions from the record company.

And it starts off in the wrong foot with "The Illusion of Power", a slow, dark song that includes a spoken word part by Ice-T. Do not get me wrong, there are tons of rappers out there that are WAY worse than him, but just his presence in this album is both unnecessary and weird. And it does not get better when you discover that his band mate from Body Count, Ernie "Ernie C" Cunnigan, was the producer of "Forbidden". Body Count may be a heavy metal band, but the bridge between Black Sabbath and Body Count is way too big for them to clash, even if it only comes down to production. It is safe to say that Ernie C did not make Sabbath justice
with his work.

I do hear some intentions of good material in the album, which would mean that the band had something good going initially, but it got worse somewhere along the progress. I still think that the material is weaker than most of the material the band has released during the 90's, so even if the production was good, the end result would still be a album that could not match albums like "Headless Cross" or "Tyr". I also think the overall performance is worse than what it usually is.

But as previously stated, there are some golden moments in this records. The ballad "I Won't Cry For You" is one of my all time favourite Black Sabbath ballads, mostly because of the overall mood in the song, but also for the wonderful solo Iommi is playing. The title track has a good, sinister feel to it while "Get A Grip" is more straight on and more hard hitting. "Rusty Angels" is also a fine track with a good tempo and a interesting structure.

I am glad that this album was not the last for Black Sabbath, because "Forbidden" does not make the band justice. Bad production and vague ideas made this album what it is, and there is not many fans of the band that enjoys it. This album had potential to be a fine piece that would fit well together with the other Sabbath releases during the Harford era, but that potential got lost somewhere, possibly under a rug in the studio. So let us all forget that this existed and focus instead on the more successful albums in the career of Black Sabbath.

Songs worthy of recognition: I Wont Cry For You, Get A Grip, Rusty Angels

Rating: 4,5/10 Kisses of death

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In This Moment - Black Widow (2014)

If I ever would make a top 5 of the hottest chicks in metal, then In This Moment singer Maria Brink would have a safe spot in that list. I mean just look at the cover for the band's fifth album "Black Widow", and gaze over her 3 meter long leg. You have to be gay to not get turned on by that. Unfortunately, there are some things with Maria and her band that just bugs me. The band has evolved from being a good metalcore band that utilizes Maria's voice to the max to being more of an alternative group that relies on shock and pain, both in the music and on the listener.

The red string that goes through this album is that most of the songs are about inner insecurities, struggles and how to overcome them. Even the album title is a metaphor for a woman that gets infected with different traumas and experiences, which eventually molds her to become a poised and powerful creature. And that is indeed the biggest strength with this band, the lyrical themes are heavy and striking, and it also helps that Maria's painful voice is building up the tension in the music. I still think there are tons of female singers that are better than Maria, but she definitely knows how to utilize her voice to set the mood.

As far as the music goes, it is pretty much the same as it was on the predecessor, the 2012 album "Blood". It is some kind of Marilyn Manson vibe all over this album that is blended with a couple of Evanescence ballads, making it a pretty decent blend of both shockful and beautiful music. But the music tends to be a hit or miss for me. Some songs are very infectious, sticking like glue and leaving a good impression on you, while others are pure poison to your ears. It is unpleasant to hear a album that have such an uneven set list.

On the plus side we have the title track that has some real good riff work and despite the weird, old time infomercial about the infamous black widow, it holds a good flow throughout the track. The first single "Sick Like Me" is another favourite since it is the only song in the album that successfully brings the beauty and the beast together in a fantastic symbiosis. Also a shout out to the aggressive "Big Bad Wolf" and the best ballad in the album, "Sexual Hallucination" (which includes a guest appearance from the Shinedown singer Brent Smith).

While on the negative side of things we find "Dirty Pretty" that could be the equivalent to a really bad and saggy burlesque show. Sounds sexy at first, but it goes downhill after the first verse. "Bloody Creature Poster Girl" is a choppy craftsmanship that is just dull, and "Bones" is just bland. One more thing, it is not okay to showboat and pronounce yourself as the "Sex Metal Barbie" of metal Maria. You are hot, but you do not have to brag so much about it.

"Black Widow" is not as deadly as the spider with the same name, but it does have some punch to it. In This Moment is still far to uneven to call them self a world class band, but their music sells, and it is not hard to see why. Most of the music here is infectious and interesting, and with Maria's strong presence, the band has an identity that they can rely on. The haters can hate all they want, this band will still be in the spotlight for some time.

Songs worthy of recognition: Sick Like Me, Big Bad Wolf, Sexual Hallucination

Rating: 6,5/10 Black Widows

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Outtrigger - The Last of Us (2014)

In the beginning of 2014, metal core band Outtrigger took Sweden by storm when they entered the competition Melodifestivalen, which acted as the qualification to the famous Eurovision Song Contest, with their song "Echo". And together with a nice stage performance that included cages, a straight jacket, and a Hannibal Lecter mask, the band was very close to reach the final in the competition, but was eliminated in the segment that is called Andra Chansen (Second Chance). Almost a year has gone since their participation, and now they are ready to reveal their debut album, entitled "The Last of Us".

And you probably guessed it already, "Echo" is indeed in this album, just like a couple of other songs the band has previously released in EPs, demos and singles. There is not much in difference in between the old and new versions of the older songs (except for better production of course). However, the track "Awaken Me" is another story, since the band made an acoustic version for this album. It definitely works as an acoustic song and it is one of my favourites in this album, but the heaviness that the original had was better than most of the heaviness in "The Last of Us".

But I see why the band made "Awaken Me" acoustic. Without it, there would be close to no variety in this album. Almost all of the songs in "The Last of Us" have the same, simple, boring structure, making the album very monotonous. Such a shame since the band seems to know how to handle their instruments, and the singer, and co-founder of the band, Simon Peyron has a nice voice (although, his growling is weak. Fortunately, it is not used too much in the album).

So you really have to dig deep to find any favourites in the album. "Echo" is definitely a winner thanks to its sing along friendly chorus and "Awaken Me" stands out since it is the only acoustic song in the album, but it gets tougher after that. "World of Fire" has some nice intensity, opener "Superman Is Dead" has a good melody to it and there are some feeling to the title track. But once again, thanks to the overall monotonous sound, "The Last of Us" is just a big lump of the same thing, making it hard to swallow. There is some quality to it, but no one wants to listen to the same thing again and again.

Outtrigger certainly has talent, and with some elbow grease, they could become a very interesting band. But "The Last of Us" leaves a lot  for one to wish for since it contains most of the same thing. It is fine in one song, two songs, maybe even four songs. But a full album of it is too much. So my advice for the guys from Helsingborg, Sweden is that they take their time and improve their song writing, especially on the verses and the structures. They know how to create a catchy chorus, so if they gather enough experience, they could have enough tools to create fantastic music. For now though, it does not quite cut it against the big dogs. "The Last of Us" is a fine debut, but it is just not as good as the video game with the same name.

Songs worthy of recognition: Echo, World of Fire, Awaken Me

Rating: 6/10 Dead Supermen