Saturday, April 18, 2015
So it could have been a better start for the return of bassist David Ellefson, and it didn't turn any better when it was discovered that most of the set list in "Th1rt3en" consisted of old songs that has been previously released in deluxe editions, b-sides and video games. For the common man, these songs might be new, but not for the hard core Megadeth fan, which ultimately takes away some of the excitement that comes with a new album.
So let me go through which songs are "old". Both "New World Order" and "Millennium of The Blind" appears as bonus tracks in the 2004 remaster of "Youthanasia" ( "New World Order" is also featured in the Duke Nukem soundtrack from 1999), "Black Swan" was released as a bonus track for those who pre ordered "United Abominations", and "Sudden Death" was originally special written for the game "Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock" (A game that also includes "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" and "This Day We Fight!", all three songs are incredibly fun and difficult on guitar). Out of these 4 songs I would recommend 2 of them. "Sudden Death" is a fantastic shredding piece that fits perfectly in the game it was written for and the solos are just a blast to listen to (the chorus is pretty wimpy though) and "Black Swan" is a great song with fine musicality and sweet catchiness.
The new songs holds a great variety when it comes to pure quality. Some songs does succeed in standing its ground and delivers a pretty good mix of thrash beats and more commercial melody lines, while others could more or less be described as train wrecks, especially when you look it from a lyrical stand point. The first single, "Public Enemy No. 1", may be a cool catchy tune about Al Capone with a galloping main riff, but I just face palm when I hear Dave trying to find as many words as possible that rimes with one, and why is the band bragging so much in "Guns, Drugs, & Money"? Just why? Then we have the out right weak songs, like "Whose Life [Is It Anyways?]" and "Fast Lane" that just makes you want to hit the skip button as soon as they come up.
Fortunately, "Th1rt3en" is not completely filled with awful songs. I really enjoy the aggressive, but still very melodic "Never Dead" that brings one of the coolest solos the band has made in the 21st century, and the ending "13" is a nice way to end the album with its slow and hauntingly beautiful tempo. These songs together with the old material definitely makes up for some of the inconsistencies that this album is displaying, but it is obvious that the band went a little too experimental with "Th1rt3en", even if it at first sounds like a normal modern Megadeth album. I miss the anger, I miss the fury, and most of all, I miss the guitars that only gets the spotlight in like two and a half out of the thirteen songs.
So yeah, "Th1rt3en" is a step back for the band in a lot of points, but the overall image of the album is still pretty decent, just not fantastic. Several songs in here are good and worthy of giving a listen to, but to each good song in this album, there is at least two bad/mediocre songs to accompany it. It might have been because of that Dave Ellefson is back in the band and influenced the song creating process enough to steer it back into the 90's direction, but I really do not care since it would have been difficult for the band to top "Endgame" anyways. "Th1rt3en" will always be a decent album that just happens to have a really stupid name and a cover that doesn't make sense. Not Megadeth's finest work, but far from their worst.
Songs worthy of recognition: Black Swan, Sudden Death, Never Dead
Rating: 6,5/10 Wreckers
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
effort, conveniently named "Second Storm", they leave the NWoBHM in the shadows to put all of their earnings on power. A interesting decision that may not be a innovative one, but could help the band in getting more fans quickly to discover what they bring to the metal world.
I do not think that it might have been the wrong decision to change their direction, especially since the change is not that huge, but it definitely makes Lancer more unoriginal. They often sound like a Stratovarius cover band, especially since the vocalist Isak Stenvall sounds a lot like Timo Kotipelto. This really makes "Second Storm" a uneasy experience, cause even if you like the music, you still got a thought in the back at your head that says this could as well have been stolen from Stratovarius.
So it may not come as a surprise for you that I recommend fans of Stratovarius to listen to this album, not because the music has many similarities with what the Finns do, but also because the quality of the craft is quite good. The songs "Fools Marches On", Running From The Tyrant", and "Behind The Walls" gives you the power and speed that you would expect from a power metal band, while "Children of The Storm" and "Masters And Crowns" gives the album more musicality and depth. The set list does have a good amount of diversity, and the red thread goes visibly through all of the songs, which connects them together, making this a more solid piece. I also recommend the epic chorus in "Eyes of The Liar" and the solo work in "Steelbreaker".
But just like in the debut album, "Second Storm" tend to become a little boring after a couple of listens, making its life length disappointingly short. Lot of the songs in this album definitely holds a great standard, but I cannot see myself listening to them for too long, too often. The band also have to work on being more even in the song writing process. The old school "Iwo Jima" is just plain boring and "Aton" does have some neat ideas, but ended up as a close to 10 minute long AOR song that I have trouble with listening to in its entirety. It is way too long for its own good.
So Lancer does not quite reach up to the standards that their self title debut did, but "Second Storm" is still a quite good power metal album by a band that does have a future in this business. The overall song quality is enjoyable and the band knows what they are doing, but to reach the next level in their career, they have to fine tweak some key components, including getting their musical image a lot clearer. Otherwise, they do have several things that makes a great band. A good bunch of musicians, a nice logo, and a cool and menacing ostrich that fonts every album cover. So keep on working guys, and make your coming third storm your biggest yet.
Songs worthy of recognition: Children of The Storm, Masters And Crowns, Fools Marches On
Rating: 7,5/10 Steelbreakers
Thursday, April 9, 2015
And holy crap, talk about thrash candy literally everywhere. It is almost like in the good old days, were the typical Megadeth song consisted of 60% riffing, 30% solos and 10% what ever could fit well into the song (lyrics, intro, more riffing, etc.). But it is not like the good old days, 20 years have passed since, the line up is different and the songs have gotten a modern make over, but it is still pretty good since Megadeth evolves, just like almost everything else in this world.
The biggest thrash steak that "Endgame" offers is the war tank known as "This Day We Fight!", a song that contains one of the meanest and fastest riffs Dave Mustaine has ever played on his six string, and together with a speed that matches Sonic The Hedgehog and the motivational skills that would match a hundred William Wallace's (the main character in the movie classic "Braveheart"), this song is a force to be reckoned with, and it works perfect together with the opening intro, "Dialectic Chaos". The first single "Head Crusher" is also a nice thrashy tune that... well, crushes heads. Pretty good for a song that is just about a medieval torture device.
There are also some songs that have more of the modern touch in it, and still works pretty well thanks to good musicianship. Some examples of that is the well composed "How The Story Ends", the slow and interesting title track and the surprisingly melodic and beautiful "The Hardest Part of Letting Go... Sealed With A Kiss". This definitely gives the album more depth and makes the whole record sound like a mix of the old and new Megadeth, without sounding cliche or stupid. The band really hit all the right notes on this album.
But no matter how much I love this album, I cannot stop thinking on how some of the songs could have been much more cooler and tougher if the band would have changed some minor details here and there. The main problem is that some of the choruses are far too weak, like the one to "1,320'". It is a nice, speedy song that really captures the racing mentality perfectly, but the chorus could as well be non existent, because it is so similar to the verse. The same could also be said to "Bite The Hand" and "Bodies", and all of those three comes after each other, which means "Endgame" has a three song long span without a good chorus, which really annoys me. The band knows how to write a great chorus, so why didn't they apply those skills to those songs?
Despite that, "Endgame" is still a fantastic album that is among the top in the Megadeth discography. The speed, riffs and attitude in this album is over flowing into rapids and you do not want to stop it, you just want more and more and more. This is the ultimate sign that Megadeth is back where they belong, playing thrash that just crushes everything in its path. Even with that modern vibe in it, "Endgame" is still a amazing piece that beats out about 90% of the opposition. This is a game that I would not want to end at all.
Songs worthy of recognition: This Day We Fight!, The Hardest Part of Letting Go... Sealed With A Kiss, Head Crusher, How The Story Ends
Rating: 9/10 Bodies
Sunday, April 5, 2015
The answer is that the band is continuing on the same track on which the 2011 album "Imaginaerum". The music is grand, epic, and just reeks of fantasy, but this time, the band has kicked up the gear in the heavy scale, and I think that Floor is one of the reasons why they did that. It is not that "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" is drastically harder than any other Nightwish record, but it is obvious that Holopainen and Hietala has adapted after the vocalist change, which is impressive. The classic Nightwish vibe is still there though, most present in the first single "Élan", and it is as good as ever, but the added heaviness definitely gives this album its own personality and helps spicing up the music.
And it really is those heavy songs that is the stars of this grand spectacle. The epic orchestral opening to "Weak Fantasy" builds up to a hard hitting and catchy song that should be a future fan favourite in the set list when the band hits the road, which I also hope "Yours Is An Empty Hope" will be since it has one of the coolest and grooviest riffs the band has ever performed, and the rest of the song is a great epic experience. Among the hard songs can we also find the opener, "Shudder Before The Beautiful", a fast steam roller with a classic Nightwish sound.
But there are more to this album besides the heavy songs, even if most of those songs are rather disappointing. The single "Élan" is a fine song that is exactly what you would expect from this band, but it is more or less a copy of the more excellent track "Amaranth" from "Dark Passion Play". If you want a good fantasy track from this album, I would rather suggest "My Walden" whom impresses with its steady beat and beautiful harmonies. I also do enjoy the title track, mostly because it is incredibly catchy, and not in the annoying "gum-under-my-shoe" way. Finally, listen to "Edema Ruh", a beautiful tune that really displays how broad Floor's vocals really are.
The album ends in a way that is a lot like the album cover, mind blowing insanity. "The Greatest Show On Earth" is a 5 part song that takes up 24 minute of space, almost 1/3 of the entire album, making it the biggest Nightwish creation up to date. It is a song that more or less tells the story of the Earth's birth, life, and all of its inhabitants, which I think is a pretty cool concept, but putting it all in into such a huge song might have been a mistake for the band. It takes a special kind of skill to create a song like this and excel with it, and it is something that might take several attempts to really master (just ask Dream Theater). I am not saying that "The Greatest Show On Earth" is a bad song, it does have several awesome parts and it displays the whole range of the band, but since it is so big, it is very hard to take it all in. It is a pretty good first try for the band and I will not mind if they try to create more mastodon songs in the future, but they really have to make sure that those tracks stand out and keep it cohesive so that it does not feel so outspread.
The first album of the Floor Jansen era is according to me a success. "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" may be a complete cluster fuck in the cover, but behind it lies a grand and epic album that crushes most of the opposition. This album stands tall and definitely deserves its rightful place in the Nightwish discography. It may not be the Finns finest album, but it holds an incredibly high standard and I am sure the fans will love it. This is certainly no weak fantasy, this is a epic that is worthy of being told and listen to for the coming decades.
Songs worthy of recognition: Weak Fantasy, Shudder Before The Beautiful, Yours Is An Empty Hope, Edema Ruh
Rating: 8,5/10 Alpenglows
Sunday, March 29, 2015
This album takes the band another step forward in making the band sound heavier and it is probably the most provocative record yet written by Mustaine. Songs about the American government, the UN and tons of other stuff, all just to stir the pot up, as Dave himself has said. It is nothing surprising that Dave is doing it since he has always been that kind of guy, and to be honest, some of his best lyrical work comes from him being pissed off, which also goes with the music.
The album starts off in the best way possible, with a fast, thrashing tune that is filled with meaty riffs and solos. That song is "Sleepwalker" and it is one of the best songs Megadeth has done since their original thrash era. It could be that the lyrics about a man that kills people in his sleep has a B-movie stamp all over it, but the music is top notch and catchy. The overall start of "United Abominations" is just fantastic, continuing with the groovy "Washington Is Next!", the provocative title track, and the heavy "Gears of War", a track that was written for the video game with the same name.
I am not saying that the second half of the album is much worse than the first, but it does have more slip ups, the biggest one being the re-recorded version of the "Youthanasia" song "Á Tout Le Monde". There is no good reason to do this and put it in the standard set list of the album. I could have accepted it as a bonus in some kind of deluxe version, but it is just obvious that Dave and the band's new record company, Roadrunner Records, wanted as much money as possible out of this product. The song itself is slightly faster than the original and it also features a guest appearance by Lacuna Coil singer Cristina Scabbia, who does a decent job, but it is not enough to even get close to the beautiful original.
So besides from that unnecessary re-recording, this album kicks ass. "United Abominations" is the most bad ass Megadeth album in almost 20 years and I would say that they have almost completely made up for the albums that was created in the 90's. With a good, strong line-up that is ready to shred until they bleed and a anger that is more or less unstoppable, Megadeth is ready to enter its second golden age with force and determination.
Songs worthy of recognition: Sleepwalker, Washington Is Next!, United Abominations, Play For Blood
Rating: 8,5/10 Amerikhastans
Friday, March 27, 2015
The album is called "The Diary", and it is a double album best described as two sides of the same coins. The same songs are in both of the albums, but in different versions. The first one is the gentle album and the second is the storm one, which more or less means that the first album is calm and only contains acoustic music, while the storm album uses more electric instruments to give it a heavier sound. Not surprisingly, I enjoy the storm part of "The Diary" more, not only because it is heavier, but because the music sounds grander in that version. However, the gentle part is still enjoyable and the two versions are not so different from each other, which really makes me wonder why they chose to arrange it like this. Why couldn't they have made two separate albums instead with different songs in each one? Just makes the album sound like a big, almost 2 hour long echo.
Just like any other record made by Arjen, "The Diary" is a concept album, and it takes the listener to the 17th century, where we get to follow Joseph Warwijk and Susanne Vermeer in a story of love, sickness, adventure and long distance relationships. It is an interesting story, which you would expect from a guy like Arjen, and it is neatly told within the album, even if I miss a male vocalist that could play Joseph, but that matters very little when Anneke does a fantastic job behind the mic.
As previously stated, the double album tends to become pretty repetitive and boring from time to time, but that is not because the material itself is bad, it is because it all sounds roughly the same. Same tempo, same structure and same style. It is a good cohesive piece, but it is such a big blob that it really takes some effort to even make out which song is which. There are some songs that stands out slightly more than others, like the beautiful nautical anthem "Heart of Amsterdam", the oriental "Shores of India", and the bombastic opener "Endless Sea", but the lack of a up tempo song really hurts the album and takes away the effort that is behind the music. Such a shame, since this album had a good amount of potential.
It is a shame that all of the hard work that Arjen and Anneke spent on "The Diary" was almost gone to waste. The material is there and the ideas are interesting, but the execution and arrangement is far from perfect. This blob of an album does have its good share of quality, but the lack of variation really kills it for me. It really surprise me that a musician like Arjen could do something like this, especially considering that he has some of the greatest concept album the metal world has ever seen. My hopes are still up that this project could go on and become better for each album since the talent is there, so I will keep my eye on what will happen to this project in the future, and wish them the best of luck in their journey.
Songs worthy of recognition: Heart of Amsterdam, Endless Sea, The Greatest Love
Rating: 6,5/10 New Horizons
Thursday, March 19, 2015
No matter what, "The System Has Failed" is a kick ass record that brings Megadeth back to the thrash universe in impeccable style. I can guarantee that you have not heard the band sound like this since the 1990 classic "Rust In Peace". But what about the more mainstream rock Megadeth you ask? That part of Megadeth is almost non existent in this album, mostly thanks to the aggression that Mustaine and the session musicians in this album brings. A aggression that is very welcome to all of the thrash fans of the world. Sure, the mainstream stamp is not completely washed off in this album thanks to tracks like "The Scorpion" and "Die Dead Enough", but those songs still have more balls than about 85% of the material in the last 5 Megadeth albums.
If you do not believe me that Megadeth has found their old groove again, then let me hand you some hardcore evidence. First off, "Kick The Chair" kicks your ass with a groove that is very much alike the one in "Rust In Peace... Polaris", which instantly spells success. We also have the opener "Blackmail The Universe" who shows aggression in both musical and lyrical form, and the nice old school "Back In The Day" shows influences from bands like Judas Priest and Motörhead, but it still contains that thrash vein that makes the track all Megadeth and not sound like a cover, something that has been a problem for the band in the last couple of efforts.
The most interesting song though is actually "Something That I'm Not", a song that contains lyrics that could have several meanings. It could be a statement to the "non-thrash" Dave that have been a little too much of a control freak lately, or it could be sort of a revenge song towards Mustaine's former band, Metallica, whom also went through a mainstream period around the same time as Megadeth. No matter what, it is a stellar song that definitely makes the album a little bit more special.
In the end, this album is a showing that Megadeth is back in good form. "The System Has Failed" may not be as thrilling as any of the first 4 Megadeth albums, but it sure is a exciting ride to come along on. With a good variety and a nice big amount of aggression, Megadeth, and especially Mustaine, shows that they are far from done in the music business, that they still can deliver some fantastic music. This album does fall short thanks to some mediocre songs and a couple of unnecessary short tunes, but the quality is there, and that is something that cannot be taken away from the band. Megadeth has rebooted, and the system is back online, up and running smoothly. Let us hope that this system does not fail again.
Songs worthy of recognition: Kick The Chair, Blackmail The Universe, Something That I'm Not
Rating: 7,5/10 Shadows of Deth
Thursday, March 12, 2015
"In Times" is the name of the band's 13th studio effort and follows the 2012 release "RIITIIR", a album that was very interesting and unique, but missed a real cutting edge. That cutting edge has been found again, and has been implemented into this 6 songs long album, the lowest amount of songs in a Enslaved album since the debut "Vikingligr Vildi", whom only contains 5 songs. But do not expect a short and sweet ride from this band, all songs except for one has a length of about 8 minutes, and the one who does not have that length is 10 minutes long, so it adds up to a total play time of around 53 minutes.
The thing that really surprised me with "In Times" is how catchy it is. The album is without a doubt the most easily accessible Enslaved album up to date, mostly thanks to some groovy rhythms and a pretty good chunk of clean vocals. The black metal influence is definitely still there, but the band has evolved their music further and paved way for something that would even work for those who are not so interested in black metal. "Building The Fire" is the perfect example of just that. It is a groovy songs with hooky guitar riffs and excellent clean singing, but it also contains several dark spots with double bass rhythms and strong harsh vocals. A great mix of all of Enslaved's abilities.
The remaining 5 songs are all stellar pieces as well, together creating a very strong outing. The opener "Thurisaz Dreaming" is more classic Enslaved, while "Nauthir Bleeding" shifts genres here and there through out the song, from soft ambient, to black metal and Opeth like progressive metal. "One Thousand Years of Rain" is a fantastic song that mixes punk tempo with a great, epic atmosphere and some really amazing singing, both clean and harsh. Finally, the two ending songs, "In Times" and "Daylight", ends the album in a stylistic fashion, continuing on creating a whole song out of different types of styles, and doing it successfully. The ending to "Daylight" is just so magnificent and grand, but still very melodic.
Enslaved continues their never ending streak on creating fantastic albums. "In Times" is a wonderful record that mixes tons of styles, but still maintains the true Enslaved sound that we all love. Because of the band's strong discography, I would not count this album as one of the best ones, but it is still a world class album that will be a contender for a lot of metal heads and their year end lists. I can think that 6 songs are quite a low number for an album, but when all the 6 songs shows a very high standard, I am not going to complain. So go listen to this record or any other Enslaved record if you have not already, because these guys are definitely worthy of fulfill your life with some high quality metal.
Songs worthy of recognition: One Thousand Years of Rain, Thurisaz Dreaming, Building With Fire, Daylight
Rating: 9/10 Nauthirs
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Even if "The World Needs A Hero" is continuing on the same style that Megadeth has developed during the 90's, it is something different with this album. It is still mainstream hard rock that dominates the album, but it contains a little more bite, it is a little angrier. The music still has a groovy and catchy factor to it, but it feels more heavy metal than before, which is just what the band needed after the meltdown that happened 2 years before.
I would not go as far as saying that "The World Needs A Hero" is a fantastic album, because it is not, but compared to its predecessor, it is a very big improvement. There are still some mediocre and bad songs that I do not think holds up very well, and also some decisions are just weird, like the "phone call" parts in both the title track and "1000 Times Goodbye", but the overall quality is actually decent. "Moto Psycho" has a sweet groove and some nice riffs, while the opener "Disconnect" impress me with its solos. There are also some song in this album that has small thrash vibes, but still holds a good hard rock foundation to mix the old and new Megadeth in a good way, like "Dread And The Fugitive Mind" and "Recipe For Hate... Warhorse".
The only thing that "The World Needs A Hero" and "Risk" have in common is the feeling that Megadeth sometimes acts like a cover band. Even if "Return To Hangar" is a great track and one of the thrashier ones the band has done in ages, it is more or less the same as "Hangar 18", which is of course intended since it is a sequel to the track, but I feel like they could have been a little more imaginative about with it (at least put in more elaborate lyrics in). What is an even bigger rip off is the final song "When", which is more or less a complete replica of the Diamond Head classic "Am I Evil?", but with different lyrics. I think it is a disgrace to this classic song and a big middle finger to Diamond Head from Megadeth. I know that Dave have done covers before and altered some lyrics, but he is just stealing here and labels it as his own product. The worst part is that it is not even a good pirated copy. It is like one of those Iphone replicas from China. Might look decent on the outside, but is complete shit compared to the original.
This is a huge step forward for Megadeth and a glimpse of hope that the band might bounce back towards the top of the metal chain once again. "The World Needs A Hero" is not an amazing album that will go to the history as one of Megadeth's finest, but it is a album that at least shows that "Risk" was a one time thing, and nothing more. So if the band gets rid of the non-covers covers and brings a little more anger to the music, we might look at a really interesting future for the band.
Songs worthy of recognition: Return To Hangar, Recipe For Hate... Warhorse, Dread And The Fugitive Mind
Rating: 5,5/10 Moto Psychos
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
More about the album then, "The Order of Things" is album number 7 by the Americans and the follow up to the very disappointing "A War You Cannot Win". And unfortunately, this album is not much better. The band is still stuck in the early 00's and in the sound that once made them famous, but the youthful spark they once had is just completely gone, making the music boring and bland. It doesn't matter if you are good at what you are doing when you are doing more or less the same thing over and over again.
The band does try to expand their sound some in this album, but it just doesn't work out at all. The song "No Knock" is a desperate attempt to try to sound heavy, with low riffs and straight out harsh vocals, but instead it backfires, showing that the band does not know what they are doing at all. It is just a slow grind fest to show off how heavy the band can be, and nobody really likes a show off. And there are more strange decisions that plagues this album, like who came up with the song titles "Fiat Empire" and "TRU-KVLT-METAL"? It just boggles my mind that someone would actually use those titles (unless you are actually sponsored by Fiat, which I highly doubt All That Remain is).
The only really good thing with this album is that is, just like all the other All That Remains efforts, fairly catchy. It is easy to follow with the simple song structures, which does make the music a good starting point for younger listeners. But as soon as those newcomers starts to find heavier, faster and better things in their search for new music, these songs will be left forgotten. There might be a chance that they will still remember songs like the groovy "Divide", the double bass friendly "Pernicious" or the Rise Against speedy "Bite My Tongue", but I cannot imagine that they will stay as favourites for too long, especially if those young kids get a hand of the most famous All That Remains album "The Fall of Ideals" that contains so much better music.
I hope that the band does the thing that the last song in "The Order of Things" tells them to do, and that is to take the criticism and start to get some self realization, that they are not what they used to be. The band desperately needs to find a new direction that fits them, because this bland sound has gone on for long enough. This music was new and exciting back in the day, but now it is just sad to see these guys playing and realize that they have had no progression what so ever. "The Order of Things" is a marginally better release than "A War You Cannot Win", but it is still a boring ass album that I just want to throw it in the trash can. And I just cannot help but thinking that this is the best we are going to get from these guys, which just saddens my younger self.
Songs worthy of recognition: Bite My Tongue, Divide
Rating: 5/10 Fiat Empires