Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The biggest reason on why I had a bad hunch for this album was not for the title, it was for the fact that the band has changed singer. Out with Nitte Valo (I do not think that she is related to HIM singer Ville Valo) and in with Noora Louhimo. I did not think that Noora could take over the power that Nitte brought, but Noora proved me wrong more or less instantly. Noora has about the same strength in her voice as Nitte had, and she can also tone it down and sing beautiful. So in conclusion, Noora has a huge vocal range and she is the perfect replacement for the band.
So we have a new singer, but the music is the same as it was in "Steel". Energetic power metal that takes no prisoners. I have to say though that the band has increased their influential width. For instance, I notice some classic 80's sound in "Into The Heart of Danger" and I hint some inspiration from Lita Ford in "Out On The Streets". And even if I like the fact that the band is trying out new sounds and styles, I feel that they have some way too go before they can master the fine arts of musical variation.
But just like in "Steel", it is the powerful and fast songs that is stealing the show. The opener "Let It Roar" sets the bar with a fierce scream and some good work on the synth while "Neuromancer" keeps the momentum with a adrenaline kick that is highly addicting, but the true top speed is measured in "Fight, Kill, Die" where the band is speeding faster than a Formula 1 car. There is, however, some songs that does not stand out for its speed, but for its great musicality. The mid-tempo track "Kingdom" has probably the best musical performance in the album and the solo is also pretty sweet. Then we also have the groovy "Over The Top" that is simple, but effective in its performance. It definitely shows that Battle Beast can write other styles than just powerful songs.
But all is not well in "Battle Beast". "Black Ninja" may have some nice Nightwish vibes (a attribute that "Out of Control" also have), but the chorus is way too boring to even care about, and "Into The Heart of Danger" is about thirty years late. That songs is stinking so much 80's that it is ridiculous
"Battle Beast" is very much alike its predecessor, but it has some better variation and the new singer impresses with her vocal range. I still like "Steel" a little better since it has more of the unstoppable raw force that the band is so good at creating, but I cannot deny that this follow up is great and that it strengthen the band's position as one of the biggest rising stars in the metal world.
Songs worthy of recognition: Kingdom, Let It Roar, Neuromancer
Rating: 8/10 Black Ninjas
Sunday, May 19, 2013
"Somewhere In Time" is the ultimate proof of Iron Maiden's range, technicality and talent. Instantly when the opening track, "Caught Somewhere In Time", screams out of the speakers, you get hit with a wall of futuristic sound, galloping riffs, a melodic bridge and a Bruce Dickinson that sings his heart out. And that is how most of the songs are in "Somewhere In Time", fast or semi-fast songs that brings out every little inch of passion from the band members.
Despite the magnificent performance, this album is the most underrated album in the Maiden discography. The only real hit from this album is "Wasted Years", a beautiful song that may not be that spectacular, but it still brings some good variation to the album. So "Somewhere In Time" is not a album that shines with its success in radio or its appearances in live shows, but the quality is there, and it is high. From the catchy and powerful "Heaven Can Wait" too the more progressive and delicate "Stranger In A Strange Land", "Somewhere In Time" shows a good variation and the low point of the album is still very high.
But the best part of "Somewhere In Time" is when the band is going fully epic, and they do that in two songs. The first one is "The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner" that opens up with a simply awesome riff and then evolves to a fast and aggressive tune. And then comes one of the best choruses I have ever heard. The chorus in "The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner" is simple, but so epic and great that you cannot just sit down, you have to stand up and scream out the words together with Bruce. Then we also have a great solo that completes one of the best, and most underrated songs in Maiden's career. The second really epic tune is the album closer "Alexander The Great (356-323 BC)", a epic tale about the great emperor that conquered such great regions as Egypt and Persia, and ruled one of the biggest empires in ancient history. God, I love it when bands are singing about historical events. But the lyrics are not the only part that makes this closing song so great, it is also the delicacy and the care that the band has put in every beat and chord that makes this song such a great finisher to one of the greatest albums ever made.
You can try to convince me that this or that album is better, but according to me, "Somewhere In Time" will always be the greatest Maiden album up to date. This album shows no weaknesses and mixes genius simplicity and technical epicness with such perfection that you can just stand there and wonder if it even is possible that there ever will be made another album like this. Perfection, you have a name, and that name is "Somewhere In Time".
Songs worthy of recognition: The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner, Caught Somewhere In Time, Heaven Can Wait, Alexander The Great (356-323 BC), Stranger In A Strange Land
Rating: 10/10 Deja-Vus
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The band's music style is a little mix of death metal and metalcore, which sounds alright from time to time. You can clearly hear the influences from their fellow countrymen Parkway Drive with the heaviness and the constant use of harsh vocals, but I also find similarities to Texas In July. Unfortunately, I cannot hear the vocals very well. It could possibly be so that SoundCloud makes the songs sound worse than what they really are, but the mixing for this album is not the best. The vocals are weirdly blended into the music and it all ends up in, more or less, a mess. This is a shame, since I can feel that the potential of Valkaria is higher then what "Skylines" makes it justice.
Another thing that could be a flaw because of the production, is the vocals. Tyler Kelley knows how to sing, but I am wondering if his voice is too dark for the band. But as previously stated, the production could have made it worse. The only time where the production is doing the band justice is in the last track, "Solus". Here we have great drumming that enhances the song and gives it a bigger depth, and together with the laid back guitars and a good vocal performance, this song makes a very good ending track.The other track in this EP that should be noted is "IO" that has a very interesting and mesmerizing intro, but it is the rest of the song that shows all the good parts of metalcore. Complex time signatures, slamming drums and no real verse and chorus.
The rest of the songs on "Skylines" ("Sleeper Cell", "Grievance", "Luna" and "Enlighten") are not so special, but they make "Skylines" bearable. The biggest weakness with metalcore is that the music can easily be very confusing with the lack of structure, so to make the songs stand up you have to have something that will make you remember it. I will not say that any of the songs in "Skylines" is catchy, in fact, it takes a couple of listens to really take them into your memory, but it could have been much worse.
Valkaria is indeed an interesting band, but I believe that they may need one more year or two to improve their band chemistry and to find a good balance between the death and core in their music. "Skyline" suffers from poor production and I am not sure if Tyler Kelley's vocals really fit into the music, but there are some parts in this EP that shows the band's potential. So in the end, "Skylines" is a even album that works as a starting point. Let us now hope that these guys keep playing and continue to improve their bond with each other so that they may show the world that Parkway Drive is not the only metalcore band from Down Under that can make it out in the metal world.
Songs worthy of recognition: Solus, IO
Rating: 5/10 Sleeper Cells
Sunday, May 12, 2013
The song that definitely does not follow on the Egyptian trail is the starter "Aces High". Prove me wrong, or is not "Aces High" about fighter pilots? It is still a great song with a highly memorable chorus, but it does not fit perfectly in this particular album. The rest of the songs on "Powerslave" follows the concept more or less.
There are two notable things with "Powerslave" that probably made it the great classic that it is today. The first thing is that "Powerslave" is the first Iron Maiden album with the same line up as its predecessor, "Piece of Mind", which have led to a improved group connection. The second thing is that "Powerslave" includes Iron Maiden's first real epic. The 13 minutes and 35 seconds long "Rime of The Ancient Mariner", a song that may not be fast, but thanks to its simple, but awesome, riffing, tempo shifting, incredible singing and theatrical lyrics, "Rime of The Ancient Mariner" is not only highly memorable, but also exciting. That song was the definite proof that Maiden have had that progressive vein straight from the start of their career. And even today, this song is considered as one of the best epics made by the band.
Another notable thing with "Powerslave" is that it contains Maiden's latest made instrumental track. The song entitled "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)" is a highly enjoyable instrumental that has a memorable riff and also sound slightly Egyptian. But it is understandable why the band has not done any more instrumental since then because it is the weakest track on this album. If the band is going to do a new instrumental for the future, I would love to see Murray, Smith and Gers battle each other and really push themselves to the limit, like they do (minus Gers) in "The Duellists".
I would love to talk more about the more lesser known songs in "Powerslave" (like "Back In The Village" and "Flash of The Blade"), but I just cannot left such classics as "2 Minutes To Midnight" and the title track without something to say about them. "2 Minutes To Midnight" was, oddly enough, the first Maiden song I discovered and still to this day, I highly enjoy its memorable verse riff and powerful chorus. But it is the solo that is the star in this song and I still think that it is one of Maiden's best solos in their entire career. I just love the shredding in the start that slowly turns into a more atmospheric sound and then, thanks to the hard hitting drums, bursts out into the verse riff. Simply awesome. But the best song on this album is the title track. The simple galloping riff, the epic bridge, Dickinson's extra ordinary voice, the doom quire in the background, the long and beautiful solo and that huge, ultra epic ending that just makes your bones shiver. "Powerslave" has it all and it shows it in HD quality.
The concept itself deserves a perfect score, but with the help of some great tunes and impressive instrumental management, "Powerslave" shows the band's full potential. The riffs, the beats, the singing, the lyrics, yes everything makes "Powerslave" a true masterpiece and I would have given it a perfect score if they would have gone all the way through with the concept (you can blame "Aces High" for that error). None the less, this is a must own and listen for every metal fan around the world, no matter of age, gender, sexuality or species.
Songs worthy of recognition: Powerslave, Rime of The Ancient Mariner, 2 Minutes To Midnight, The Duellists
Rating: 9,5/10 Big 'Orras
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Just as the title hints, "Unstoppable Momentum" holds a stable momentum through the album that does not stop entirely. It keeps on truckin' until the very end. Now, this album may not be a new "Surfing With The Alien" where Satriani is pushing himself to the limit, but sometimes is simplicity better then fast shredding. What really matters is how good the end product sounds and "Unstoppable Momentum" sounds very pleasing overall. One great example of the simplicity is in "A Door Into Summer". Soothing tempo, soft riffs and beautiful solos. Just enough to create a good song.
Most of the song has the same tempo and style, but the duo "Jumpin' In" and "Jumpin' Out" has some sort of Fusion Jazz style that both seems weird and enchanting. The main reason why I like these two songs is that they are shifting in shape several times which makes them very interesting and not so dull. But the high point of the album is the following song "The Weight of The World". It is a beautiful song that has a distinct and memorable riff that you can hum all day long. And even though the keyboard sounds sligthly weird, it still gives you the sensation of that you are playing a classic game from the 90's. So the nostalgia factor is the reason to why you should listen to this song.
Strange enough, some of the songs in "Unstoppable Momentum", like the title track and "Can't Go Back", actually reminds me of Buckethead, another awesome instrumentalist. I do not know if it was meant to be a celebration to the man with a KFC bucket on his head or an influence or if it is a pure coincidence, but either way, it throws me off a bit and it ultimately does not feel like something Satch have done by himself. So it does not matter that it sounds good, it feels like plagiarism, but it does not mean that I wont still listen to it.
All in all, this album is still a blast to listen too. Satch shows once again why he is one of the best guitarist and instrumental song creators on the planet. Joe does not have to shred like a maniac to show off his skills, he has already done that and can instead focus on improving his song writing technique, which is already good. So even though this album has some problems with identity issues, "Unstoppable Momentum" is sure to be one of the best instrumental efforts in the year of 2013.
Songs worthy of recognition: The Weight of The World, Unstoppable Momentum, Jumpin' Out
Rating: 7,5/10 American Dreamers
Thursday, May 2, 2013
It has been 4 years since the last album, "Tales From The Grave In Space", but very little has changed since that album. Gama Bomb still spoils us with speed, riffs and humorous lyrics. One difference I sense is that the band seems tighter and that they have improved on almost every aspect on both instrumental skills and musicality. The songs are still mostly superficial, but not as much as on previous records. This time, I can actually tell the difference from the songs after the first listening session. And the song that makes the most impression is the powerful "Terrorscope" that takes you in a stranglehold and shakes you wilder than an earthquake with its wild riffing, awesome guitar solo and intoxicating chorus. And let us not forget that this song has a music video that is one of the funnest metal videos in years.
So the band can make some good music, but is it really necessary with this occasional short song? "Shitting Yourself To Live" is 21 seconds long, and it is so short that I could almost count the amount of riffs in the song. At least try to make something memorable in that short amount of time, like they did in the 1 minute and 17 seconds long song "Smoke The Blow With Willem Dafoe".
But let us ignore these tiny distractions and let us focus on the rest of the songs. I have always felt that Gama Bomb is at their best when they take their lyrical level towards the sci-fi world. One of these songs are "Beverly Hills Robocop" that speeds through with a surprisingly clean guitar sound and a truly robotic chorus. I do not know if it is supposed to sound cool or just be silly, but I love it none the less. Sadly, there is a lot less science fiction in this album than it was in "Tales From The Grave In Space", but to make it up, the band is making the tunes more individual then ever before. Songs like "We Started The Fire" and "The Cannibals Are In The Streets" are recognizable, great songs that should without a doubt tingle your thrash nerve and make you bang your head.
So overall, this album is one of the better album that the Northern Irishmen has created in their career. With improved song personalities and great riffing, Gama Bomb has now developed themselves as one of the best existing acts in crossover thrash. Their speed and passion has showed several times that these guys never stops having fun, and I always have fun when their adrenaline pumping songs blasts out of the speakers. "The Terror Tapes" may not be a true terror, but it is a album that is terrifically good.
Songs worthy of recognition: Terrorscope, We Started The Fire, Beverly Hills Robocop
Rating: 8,5/10 Metal Idiots
Monday, April 29, 2013
If you do not want to read spoilers, then take your imagination elsewhere from here on.
So the movie takes place in two areas. First we have the real world where Tom Whitman is old and very sick. He is in a hospital bed and is very close to pass away. Visiting him is his daughter Gem, who is almost happy about the situation. She has always believed that her father's wild imagination has only hurt those around him and that his dedication towards his band has caused the death of her mother. It is a classic tale where the anger eventually, thanks to one of Tom's band mates Ann, turns to love. these kinds of stories never gets old, but they are predictable.
No, the fun is in the second dimension, which is in Tom's dreams and memories. We get to follow 10 year old Tom when he is taken into an adventure with The Snowman. But after a crash landing in a wasteland, young Tom gets to know that The Snowman is more like a poison then a cure. The Snowman steals Tom's memories and is probably the big reason to why Tom has gotten his dementia. During this part of the story, we get to encounter with many of Tom's memories, like when he went to the, at the time scary, circus and when his own father, Theodore Whitman, committed suicide right in front of Tom. It is some strong stuff indeed and it keeps the viewers interest.
The story itself was already introduced in the album with the same name, so I was already familiar with it, but seeing this story come to life is just joyful to me and see if it is like I imagined it. Of course I was way of, but everyone has their point of view. It certainly helps to have listened to the album before watching the movie and vice verse, but it is not necessary. But if you happened to have listened to the album before then you will without a doubt recognize several parts of the movie through the songs like "I Want My Tears Back", "Scaretale", "Last Ride of The Day" and "Song of Myself". And yes, the music in this movie is made by Nightwish and they also have their own parts in the movie. For instance, Anette Olzon plays Ann and Toumas Holopainen plays 47 year old Tom Whitman.
The overall production is well made and so is the special effects. I especially liked how The Snowman turned out with his creepy looks. The best part with the special effect still has to be the epic roller coaster ride in the end where The Snowman is doing everything he can to stop Tom only to finally let go in the shape of Theodore. And the acting is pretty decent even if it is not world class, it is enough to make me satisfied.
If it is one thing that I have to complain about "Imaginaerum", it is that you have to take in a lot at once. There are so many questions and mysteries that you can easily be struggling to follow the story. So it takes a while to get the whole picture, but trust me, it is very much worth the time. Another thing that could have been improved is that they could have put more of the music from the album into the movie, but I was pretty pleased with the existing amount, so it is not a big problem.
If you are a Nightwish fan, then this is a must watch. "Imaginaerum" contains everything that made the album great and it also gives life to the music. The darkness and the awesome story almost gives you the feeling that you are watching a Tim Burton movie (admit it, The Snowman has some parables with Jack Skellington from "Nightmare Before Christmas"). So buckle up, hold your arms inside the cart and enjoy the roller coaster ride entitled "Imaginaerum".
Rating: 9/10 Snowmen
Sunday, April 28, 2013
"Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" (damn, that is a long name for a album) is the fifth solo album by Rob Zombie and together with him, we have former Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5 (one of my favourite instrumentalists), bassist Rob "Blasko" Nicholson (Ozzy Osbourne, ex-Danzig) and drummer Kenneth "Ginger Fish" Wilson (ex-Marilyn Manson). In other words, the same gang that made "Hellbilly Deluxe II".
But unlike "Hellbilly Deluxe II", "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" is filled with groovy, dark and cool music that makes you think back to the old good days when White Zombie was at their peak. After the slow starter "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy", we get thrown into the adrenaline pumping "Dead City Radio And The New Gods of Supertown" (what is with these long ass titles?). It is groovy, it is catchy and, most importantly, it is a really awesome track. Rob does not stop there though. The grooviness continues in the songs "Lucifer Rising", "Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga" (weirdest and maybe coolest song title ever) and "Behold, The Pretty Filthy Creatures!". This album is for most of the part one big fist pumping adventure.
And when the speed is not the highest priority, the heavy side takes the lead instead. Even though I like this side of Rob Zombie a little less than the faster counter part, I still enjoy it when all the pieces fits together, like they do in "White Trash Freaks" and "The Girl Who Loved The Monsters".
Then we also have that cover of the Grand Funk Railroad song "We're An American Band". It is an acceptable cover, but I expected more from Rob Zombie when it comes to this cover. I like the original and this cover does not have enough of a own personality to make it memorable. So as far as I am concerned, this cover could have easily been left out of this album.
It seems to me that Rob Zombie must have gotten a lot of inspiration after creating the movie "The Lords of Salem", because "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" is, together with "Hellbilly Deluxe", the best solo album he has released. Despite from an uninspiring cover and "Theme For The Rat Vendor", this record is a groovy experience that not only makes you remember the days when White Zombie was together, but also hope that Rob will find his way back to these good old days. This is one of the bigger comebacks this year, and I love it more than saying Ging Gang Gong De Do Gang De Laga Raga.
Songs worthy of recognition: Dead City Radio And The New Gods of Supertown, "Behold, The Pretty Filthy Creatures!", The Girl Who Loved The Monsters, Lucifer Rising
Rating: 9/10 White Trash Freaks
Friday, April 26, 2013
The latest two album that Geoff Tate has released ("Dedicated To Chaos" with Queensrÿche and the solo album "Kings And Thieves") was terrible, so I had very low expectations for this record. But after listening to "Frequency Unknown", I was a little surprised that it was pretty decent. It is not an instant classic but it is clearly superior against its two predecessors. The main reason to why "Frequency Unknown" lifts is that it has some forward momentum and the instruments gets some room to shine, two big attributes that both "Dedicated To Chaos" and "Kings And Thieves" lacked. And it also feels like Geoff has found a new kindling fire that could spark into a flaming inferno in due time, but for now it is small and only helps to make Geoff Tate's voice sound fresh.
The music is, more or less, typical Queensrÿche. It is never ultra fast or super heavy, but it is easy digestive music that has small progressive intentions and an overall soothing mood, which works really nice for listening while you finish up some work or if you just want to chill. Playing this sort of music also comes with a risk. If it is too laid back, it will make the band seem lazy and not so impassioned. A good example for this blandness is "Life Without You". This song has no soul in it, there is no passion what so ever. Plain boring.
Fortunately, most of the songs in "Frequency Unknown" are actually quite pleasing and good. We have some great riffing in "Dare" and "Slave", some epicness in "In The Hands of God" and some emotions in "Cold" and "Fallen". It is almost like a time travel back to when Queensrÿche was at its prime. Despite that the amount of good songs are greater than bad songs, I feel that the overall album could have been better with some more work here and there, but it will do for now.
I should also mention that the special edition has four re-recorded songs from the Queensrÿche discography ("I Don't Believe In Love", "Empire", "Jet City Woman" and "Silent Lucidity"). I get that they are there to show what this new line up can do, but it is so unnecessary that you could just as well have put in silence in those tracks instead. I find no great difference from the original tracks and what is even worse, is that this could be a sign that Geoff actually thinks that this band is still going to be called Queensrÿche after the verdict. It is like putting up a huge middle finger against Geoff's former band mates. Not cool man.
"Frequency Unknown" is overall a pleasant surprise that restores some of the faith for Geoff Tate. But do not for the love of god think that this album is a new "Operation Mindcrime", it is an album that would count as above average and nothing more. The soul is there and the instruments gets their moments, but it is not a dazzling album that will blow down the rest of the competition. Later this year, the other band named Queensrÿche will release their new album and that album will show which side of the same coin is the better one. No matter who will win, Geoff has with "Frequency Unknown" showed that he still got some fight in him.
Songs worthy of recognition: In The Hands of God, Cold, Slave
Rating: 6,5/10 Frequencies
Monday, April 22, 2013
"Circle" is, without a doubt, a much darker album then its predecessor, mostly because the growling part of Tomi Joutsen's vocals takes up more space this time (but the main focus is still on the clean vocals). However, do not expect material that could be compared with Amorphis's early works. It is still the melodic and almost Gothic sound that makes up most of "Circle". The closest to something you will get from their first albums is the verses in "Shades of Gray" and most parts of "Nightbird's Song". Otherwise, it is the same old Amorphis that we have learned to know in recent days. Melodic, epic and emotional tunes that makes melodic metal lovers really happy.
One song that is instantly recognizable of the modern Amorphis is "Mission" with its melodic and low-key sound that probably will not make you head bang, but it still releases some good feelings inside your body. But we already know that the band know how to create these kinds of songs, so let us skip to the second half of the album, where things are starting to happen.
When "Hopeless Days" comes in and embraces you with its heavy riff, you better sit there and take it like a man, 'cause it is a very good song that shows some skills, but the chorus could have been improved so the track would be more memorable. After that, "Nightbird's Song" enters the stage and it is without a doubt the song that is closest to death metal. It is a demoniacal song where Joutsen shows his entire growling register and the rest of the band makes sure that the mood is just as it should be. The melody is still there, which works out pretty good for the song even though it takes a more anonymous part in that particular track. No matter what, "Nightbird's Song" gives "Circle" some much needed variation. The last notable song is "Enchanted By The Moon" that has some very interesting tempo shifting and some of the best guitar work in the album. Other songs in "Circle", like "Into The Abyss" and "Narrow Path", scratches my nerves and tries to get my attention, but they just do not have the same strength as some of the best songs on this record, which leads those songs into oblivion. If the band had found the time to put a little more effort into these songs, then "Circle" maybe could have been a smash hit. And one more thing, the bonus track and almost instrumental "His Story" is, according to me, unnecessary.
"Circle" is a enjoyable album, but it does not stand up against albums like "Skyforger" and "Eclipse". And just like with "The Beginning of Time", I find this album slightly overrated. There is nothing in "Circle" that we have not seen in previous Amorphis albums and the mediocre lyrics does not help to lift the album. They try to go back to their roots in some parts, but falls flat out in most parts. So good try Amorphis, but 2013 is certainly not your best year.
Songs worthy of recognition: Shades of Gray, Enchanted By The Moon, Nightbird's Song
Rating: 7/10 Missions