Thursday, June 30, 2016

Rage - The Devil Strikes Again (2016)

There was a lot of buzz about the split-up in Rage last year, a happening that threatened to kill the band. Even if the Germans rarely gets the biggest of attention for their music, I have always had an immense amount of respect for them and their wonderful style of heavy metal. It just makes you smile every time you hear it. Ultimately, Peter "Peavy" Wagner was left as the only member left, and later added Marcos Rodriguez and Vassilos Maniatopoulos as replacements for Victor Smolski and André Hilgers. With that taken care of, their next goal was pretty straight forward, making album number 21.

I really do not know about you, but I was not too worried of how this album would come out, because I knew that as long as Peavy is in the house, then Rage will deliver some good heavy metal, and I was of course right. "The Devil Strikes Back" is what one would expect from the band, no surprises to be seen. If you got the bonus version of the album, you can look forward to 16 songs (3 which are covers) taking a total of 1 hour and 13 minutes of time. Granted that it has been 4 years since we last heard some new material from the band (which is a really long time since Rage usually spits out the records quickly), but I feel like Rage's type of music is at its best when it stays to a length of around 50 minutes, making a lot of impact and not wearing out the listener all too much. This certainly is a meal that will fill your stomach pretty quickly, so do not feel guilty if you only go for the normal version (although you will be missing out on three pretty good bonus tracks).

It is still nice though to hear that the band has not missed a single beat during this mini break. Both Marcos and Vassilos fits in nicely with the sound, and the iconic voice of Peavy is as present as ever. The only thing I can complain about the performance is that it does not have too much of a personality, making me miss the fast paced riffing of Victor that really made the 00's version of the band so fascinating, but I'll look past it this time since I see this as sort of a initiation rite for the new guys. Simply put, as long as it sounds Rage, I am in.

With 13 original songs available, it will be hard to not find a song that will be of your liking. Sure, almost all of them have a similar theme and tempo to them, but there is still enough unique traits to make most of the songs stand out. While I do think that the little something extra is missing, we got several songs that are catchy and heavy enough to make them stick in your head for a while. Just listen to the opening title track, talk about starting off with an ace, a fast and heavy steam roller that truly shows that the devil is once again here to strike metal upon you all.

The continuity here is also fantastic, as per usual. Every song has some good craftsmanship to them, so do not expect any boring fillers here. Although, it is kind of a double edged sword too, making the album quite stale from time to time. I would not recommend you to grind the album over and over again, because it might drive you crazy. As I previously stated, the album is too long if you have the bonus version. While the three original bonus songs are good ("Into The Fire" and "Requiem" are some of the best songs on the record), the three covers are fairly useless, even if the band made some decent interpretations of songs by Skid Row, Rush, and Y&T. They could have just saved those for another occasion, maybe do like Jorn and release a full cover album (please don't).

I am so glad that Rage still exists, and "The Devil Strikes Again" shows that the band still knows how to create some great music. It is a album that is Rage to the bone, so if you love the band, you know that this will be your cup of tea. However, the long run time kills the album quite a bit, and I also feel like the band missed a great opportunity to really show off their new influences. So in short, "The Devil Strikes Again" is far from a revolutionizing album, but it certainly rocks, so it is definitely worthy of your time. At least appreciate it as a sign that the band will not be going away any time soon.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Devil Strikes Again, The Dark Side of The Sun, Requiem

Rating: 6,5/10 Wars

Monday, June 27, 2016

Only For The Week: Part 21

All of the songs on this segment is gathered in a Spotify playlist, you can find it here

The Classic: Ozzy Osbourne - Bark At The Moon

Ozzy is one of few main vocalists that has succeeded in leaving the band, and had as much success in his solo career. The album trio "Blizzard of Ozz", "Diary of A Madman", and "Bark At The Moon" are some amazing albums by the bat eater.

"Bark At The Moon" is simply a kick ass song, mostly thanks to the riffs and solos of guitarist Randy Rhoades. I really hate that he left this world as soon as he did, because who knew what kind of amazing songs he would have written. Just listen to that ending solo, just listen to it! It does not get much better than that. Oh, and Ozzy is great as a howling wolf man.



The New(ish)comer: Vektor - LCD (Liquid Crystal Disease)

I feel like this next line will give me some enemies, so here goes nothing.

*takes a long, deep breath*

"Terminal Redux" was good. Not amazing but good.

This album has been a lot of people's early favourite for album of the year, and I simply can not get into the hype. "Terminal Redux" has a ton of great qualities, like amazing riffing, sweet technicality, and a lot of courage (a 1 hour and 13 minute concept album is not common around the thrash woods), but the production and those hurting vocals makes it hard for me to listen to the band. I still enjoyed the album a lot, but it will not even come close to my top 20 list of this year.

I still feel like it is my duty to at least include them to this playlist, so here you all have "LCD (Liquid Crystal Disease)", a fantastic technical song that is groovy, thrashy, and simply kick ass. It may not be a band fully made for me, but these guys have a bright future ahead of them.



The Personal Favourite: Megadeth - Good Mourning/Black Friday

I really do not understand why this amazing song from "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" does not get the recognition it deserves. This is exactly what you want in a thrash metal song, a speedy riff monster that never seems to end. Sure, the lyrics are kind of primitive, but they fit, and when you stand there banging your head frenetically, you simply do not pay any attention to them anyway. A piece of meat I will gladly hang up all 7 days a week.



Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Fight - A Small Deadly Space (1995)

The final album of Rob Halford's Fight has quite an intriguing cover art, not because it looks good, but because it looks a little muddy, both in picture and in message. "War of Words" was quite a straight forward heavy metal record, offering few surprises, and the same goes with its cover. Now, would you guys say that this album cover says traditional heavy metal? Of course not, it looks more like some blackened doom album, or a less gruesome Slayer cover. So my natural instinct takes over and says that this is gonna be a muddy album, but it is easy to judge a album by its cover, so I ignored it, and pushed the play button.

"A Small Deadly Space" is certainly a more complex album than "War of Words". It is a album that is riskier in a lot of ways, even if this type of sound was pretty standard back in the convoluted 90's. The choruses here are not just utterings of the song's title (like it was on its predecessor), which diversifies the experience in a good way. But while the variety here is quite nice, I feel like the band had a hard time in creating a true core to it all, a foundation to rely on. Maybe that was the main reason to why the band split up just months after this was released, that Rob was not satisfied with how this was heading. The connection just was not there.

This album takes a lot of inspiration from Pantera, and while "War of Words" also did it, "A Small Deadly Space" makes it the main element, applying it to almost every song in this album. This also means that the Judas Priest vein is close to gone. No speed metal, very few screams, just groovy, heavy mauling. Personally, it is kind of odd to hear this from the Metal God, and I feel like it limits his performance quite a bit. Rob simply does not get to flex his wings in this small space (pun intended). I even hear a little Megadeth in "Gretna Greene", which is kind of interesting.

The production here is pretty gritty, which is perfect since it reflects the music pretty well. I enjoyed the fact that the bass got a lot of attention here, giving the music a heavier touch. Otherwise it is not so much I can say about the instrumentation since it is once again nothing really special. The guys does a professional job, but fail to implement a personal touch to the music. Halford is once again the man who gets most of the spotlight, but as I previously stated, the music is not really suiting him all too well, dragging his performance down as well. Overall, nothing to complain about, but nothing that is worthy of extra recognition. Well, maybe the final song of the record, "In A World of My Making", has some of the best performances in it, a fragile Rob and some nice, mellow guitar work gives the album a nice ending.

The song quality is fairly average though, with a couple of nice songs sprinkled here and there. Beside the already mentioned "In A World of My Making", we also got "Legacy of Hate", "Beneath The Violence", and "Gretna Greene" as the highlights of the album. However, they do not affect the overall feeling of the album too much, the fact that it is just like its predecessor, a bit sluggish. It feels a lot slower than it should, and I find it hard to endure all of the 48 minutes without losing focus. It is the wow factor that is missing, leaving me untouched and dry as a bone from no head banging. Not a lot of emotion going on when this record is played.

If you are a bit claustrophobic, both when it comes to spaces and music, "A Small Deadly Space" might not be for you. Despite its versatility, it sound very constricted, not finding enough room to expand its horizons. This marked the end for Fight, and while the band has been some what of a fan favourite over the years, I cannot say that I enjoyed my experience with this band. Sure, the music is not all too bad, but it never truly shines, it is just there, doing what it is supposed to do. In the end, I found "War of Words" and "A Small Deadly Space" to be quite equal, two albums that shares the same amount of positives and negatives. Fight as a whole is decent, and you should check them out if you are a fan of Rob Halford, but if I were you, I would set my expectations fairly low. After all, this is not Judas Priest 2.0.

Songs worthy of recognition: In A World of My Making, Legacy of Hate, Gretna Greene

Rating: 5,5/10 Mouthpieces

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Gojira - Magma (2016)

Being one of the most anticipated records of this year, Gojira had a lot to live up to with the release of "Magma", their 6th full length album of their career. The Frenchmen have gained immense fame during the last couple of years, and established itself as one of the premier metal bands out there. Their last album, the 2012 effort "L'Enfant Sauvage", was a stunning record that took everyone, including me, by storm, so it was safe to say that the expectations for "Magma" were quite high.

As soon as the album started, my jaw dropped, but not for the reason you might think. "The Shooting Star" opens up the album, and it is a very different song from what we are used to with Gojira. It is calm, spiritual, and singer Joe Duplantier only uses his clean vocals. It is a start that does set the tone of the album, because "Magma" is possibly the most experimental album of the band's career. They have always had that little Tool inspiration in their music, and that part gets more attention than usual. I think it is a interesting way to go, it certainly changes the dynamics of the band, but I am pretty sure that "Magma" will divide a lot of the fans.

Fortunately, we do have some familiar material in "Magma" that makes this sudden transition a little easier. The common Gojira fan will definitely love "Silvera", a tune that displays everything that the band stands for. It has heavy riffs, polyrhythmic beats that twist your mind, and a aggression that will make The Hulk seem like a Buddhist monk. The lyrics deliver too, expressing that the only way to change the world is to start with yourself. Oh, I almost forgot about the solo, which is both frantic and epic. Dear god, I am truly in love with this song.

Some good aggression can also be found on the first single "Stranded", even if it already got a stamp as a "sellout" track, plus "The Cell" and "Only Pain", two songs that delivers some sweet drum beats by Mario Duplantier. Among the calmer songs, I find the title track to be the only one that I truly enjoy, because the band succeeds in creation a mood that is hauntingly beautiful. Those screeching guitars could potentially hurt your ears if played at a high volume, but they fit so well in this song that I do not mind if I get tinnitus from it. I have to admit though, the songs sounds a lot like something Mastodon would make, especially on the more normal guitar tones.

While the album is a grower, I always ended up feeling a little empty when it all ended. "Magma" had potential, but the band did not maximize the space that they had. I find it highly unnecessary that the end of the album is a three and a half minute long beatnik session. If we take that away (plus the one minute interlude in the middle of the album), we end up with roughly 38 minutes of material, in other words, quite a short album. That's it! That is why I felt empty every time, because I want more Gojira, more crunchy riffs, more polyrhythmic time signatures, and more experimentation. Four long years of wait, and I get this little? That is a pretty big let down.

The best way to describe "Magma" is that it is interesting, but not fully impressive. The band is up to something, but are yet to arrive at their goal. See this as a new chapter to the story of Gojira, because even if this is far from the best album Gojira has made, it is still pretty darn good. However, it is short, and the song material is unpolished, so even if this album has several good sides, it also has some ugly ones that makes it hard to swallow. You should at least try this album, since it is another statement that Gojira is one of the best and most technical bands from the 21st century. It is definitely not as hot as lava, but it has its warm moments.

Songs worthy of recognition: Silvera, The Cell, Magma

Rating: 7/10 Low Lands

Monday, June 20, 2016

Only For The Week: Part 20

All of the songs on this segment is gathered in a Spotify playlist, you can find it here

The Classic: Judas Priest - Beyond The Realms of Death

I do not need to speak any words about "Beyond The Realms of Death", just listen for yourself, and you will understand the greatness of this song.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "Stained Class"



The Newcomer: Gojira - Silvera

"Magma" in general is not a new "L'Enfant Sauvage", which might scare off some people, but do not worry, the album does have its fair share of heavy aggression, like in the awesome "Silvera". Good god, that opening riff is so amazing, and the song develops into one of the coolest and grooviest Gojira tracks ever. And then we have that epic and ultra technical solo that defies all sense, which I absolutely love. This is truly Gojira at their best.



The Personal Favourite: Enslaved - One Thousand Years of Rain

One of my favourite songs from last year, Enslaved dazzled me big time with "One Thousand Years of Rain". That opening riff alone (both the acoustic and normal version) makes this song amazing, but it is the flow and the tempo changes that takes it to a whole new level, twisting and turning your mind time and time again. It is a thinking man's song, and your brain cells will thank you for the exercise.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "In Times"



Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Live review: Iron Maiden + Opeth and The Raven Age at Ullevi, Gothenburg

My first main metal show took place 8 years ago (man, I feel old), and the band that headlined was Iron Maiden. The tour was Somewhere Back In Time, which of course meant that I got to hear all of the classics from the 80's era of the band, and while I was almost oblivious over how big the band actually was, I was shell shocked over the show, the atmosphere, and the overall experience. It was an amazing night, and still to this day, I hold it as one of my favourite shows of all time. I was supposed to see them again 2 years later, when they played on Sonisphere in Stockholm, but god decided to recreate his main hit, a massive rain storm that would drown all the sinners, or in this case, all metal lovers. It was supposed to be a day filled with awesome music, but it ended early, I was soaking wet, and I only got to see two bands, Slayer, and Iggy Pop and The Stooges (and yes, Iggy played without a shirt despite the rain, he is a crazy man).

After the release of "The Book of Souls", I was determined to see the band again, not only because I loved the album, but because it had been ages since I saw them. So I took my bag, packed some necessities, and traveled to Gothenburg, the metal capital of Sweden, and the fantastic stadium Ullevi, and prepared myself for a awesome night with awesome music.

Opening act 1: The Raven Age

Well, here is where I would have written about the performance of this relatively young and unknown British band The Raven Age, a band that has followed with Maiden throughout the tour, but I did not make it in time to see their show (thanks public transportation!). To be honest though, I am pretty sure that I did not miss much. Some of the people I spoke to that saw the show said that they were okay, but nothing more, one even stated that it almost felt like they wrote new material on the fly, which would not surprise me at all since I think they have only officially released 4 songs.

I did listen to them though on my way to Gothenburg, and I can best describe them as a modern In Flames clone, in other words, not the most unique band I have ever heard, but the songs I did listen to were quite good. I really hope that the band takes the most out of this experience, and channel it to make a killer debut record, because this band has potential.

No rating since I did not see the show, but give this band a look at their Soundcloud page right here.

Set List
1. Uprising
2. Promised Land
3. The Death March
4. Eye Among The Blind
5. The Merciful One
6. Salem's Fate
7. Angel In Disgrace

Opening act 2: Opeth

When I saw that Opeth was gonna open up for Maiden, I was like "Hell yeah!!!". Seriosuly, getting to see two amazing bands from two very different spectres of the metal universe for the price of one, it is a offer you cannot refuse. Unfortunately, it almost feels like I was the only one who truly was excited over Opeth, because the arena was not even close to full when they played.

This was a obvious risk Opeth had to deal with, since the Maiden fans are of a different nature, it is difficult to make them pay attention to Opeths long, complex, and heavy songs. The band did a good job though, and they played the gig in a very professional matter, delivering a nice performance that unfortunately went to deaf ears. All around me I could see people sitting down, chatting, and minding their own business, ignoring Opeth almost completely. Sure, I know that you all are here to see Maiden, but give the opening acts some appreciation at least. Is it really that difficult?

As for the set list, I really do miss "Ghost of Perdition" in it, but I really do not mind all too much about that since they were the opening act and they only had so much time to work with (approximately 50 minutes if I recall correctly). I enjoyed every note from the band, and I hope that Opeth gathered some new fans out of this gig, but as Mikael Åkerfeldt himself said, "compared to the main act, we are elevator music", at least to the ears of this specific crowd.

Best: Can't complain on Opeth's professionalism and flawless execution

Worst: The band did not get the appreciation they deserved

Rating: 6,5/10

Set List
1. Cusp of Eternity
2. The Devil's Orchard
3. Demon of The Fall
4. The Grand Conjuration
5. Deliverance
6. Heir Apparent

Main act: Iron Maiden

So finally, it was time. UFO's "Doctor Doctor" had just been played through the speakers, which of course meant that it was time for Iron Maiden to enter the stage. But before they did that, we got spoiled with a short movie clip from the jungle of the Amazonas, watching a gigantic Eddie hand tossing away the Ed Force One towards our location, building up the tension to what would come.

Not surprisingly, Bruce opened up the show with that epic intro to "If Eternity Should Fail", but a problem showed itself already, and that was the sound. The sound was literally all over the place, not only on this song, but more or less the entire first half of the show, which was horrendous. Bruce could disappear time and time again, both during and in between songs, making me, and everyone else, frustrated. It is 2016 for god's sake, and we have yet to invent a way to perfect the sound in a live show. How hard can it really be?

And to add salt to the wounds, the audience seemed... sleepy, or just not fully interested in the new songs. I really love "The Book of Souls", so I was happy to see that 6 songs from the album was a part of the set list, but it was hard for the band to engage the crowd to sing along here. I am not surprised though, because since most of the audience were of the older generation, and they want to hear the classics. It is a conundrum that is hard for the band to work with, but they do the best of it. Personally, I could have done without "Tears of A Clown", and it would have been interesting to see "Empire of The Clouds", but otherwise, it was a good selection of songs from the new record.

The only new song that truly got some appreciation was "The Red And The Black", which did not surprise me one bit. As I wrote on my review of "The Book of Souls", I saw that "The Red And The Black" could become a modern "Fear of The Dark", and I was right. The audience sang along to the "oh-whoa oh-whoa-oh" with a volume that could be heard in all of Gothenburg, and it really was a party through that long solo section. The band seemed to enjoy every moment through out this mastodon of a song.

Welcome to the ring, Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel Dickinson

And it definitely felt like the band woke up on the right side of the bed this day, especially Bruce Dickinson who acted like a child whom just had a big sip of its parent's coffee. He ran around everywhere, without getting tired one bit, and doing all sort of crazy shit, like doing a monkey dance on "Death Or Glory", and wear various costumes, my favourite being the wrestler mask during "Powerslave". You mean to tell me that this guy had cancer a year ago? I don't believe you.

The rest of the band was on point too of course, duelling, running, and showing off both left and right among that giant Mayan like stage. Seriously you could not tell that these guys were in their 60's, swinging their instruments and fighting rubber lizards (yes, that happened). The funnest moment though was during "The Book of Souls", in which a humongous walking Eddie comes out and starts swinging his axe towards the members, and they interact with him wonderfully, running under him and tricking him. At the end of the solo section of the song, Bruce lures Eddie to him and he just takes his hand, reaches into Eddie's chest, and drags out his heart. Simply put, it was freaking awesome, and that heart was also tossed into the crowd, so some lucky bastard got himself a Eddie heart as a souvenir.

A big Eddie

The second half of the show was more oriented towards the classic stuff, which also meant that the crowd was warmed up and ready to unleash the fury. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" was great and made the crowd jump with excitement, but that was nothing compared to the usual fan favourite, "Fear of The Dark". There are few songs in the universe that can match this song in a live setting, just hearing the crowd sing along here makes every hair on your body rise. A Maiden set list would not be complete without this roof raiser. The main set list ended with "Iron Maiden", and if I thought the Eddie before was big, then I had seen nothing yet. At the end of the song (which was the one that suffered the most from the audio problems), a massive inflatable Eddie appeared in the background, wobbling his head back and forth to the band and the audience. Epic to say the least.

An even bigger Eddie

After an incredibly short break, the encore started with "The Number of The Beast", and a big inflatable beast at the corner of the stage. Together with the looming darkness and some pyrotechnics, this rather worn out song got a neat little face lift. After that though, magic happened. Bruce was going to have another chat with the audience, but he could not get out a word, because the cheers and applause seemed to last an eternity, just making the band shake their heads and take it all in, enjoying every second of this ultimate tribute to them.

The magic continued with the only song from the 00's, "Blood Brothers". The crowd swayed in motion, sang their lungs out, and the ones on the stands took out their cell phones to create a perfect night sky filled with stars. Talk about coming together as blood brothers here, it was pure magic from start to finish. "Wasted Years" ended the show after 2 hours, and yes, there are a ton of songs that I would have loved to be added to the set list. No "Run To The Hills", no "Phantom of The Opera", no "Rime of The Ancient Mariner", no songs from "Seventh Son...", and few newer songs (except for the "The Book of Souls" songs of course), but Maiden has such a huge catalog of amazing songs that any set list they put out is a good set list, and their playful execution will always make sure that you will leave the show with a huge smile on your face.

Even with the rough start and uneven sound, Maiden delivered once again, making sure that they are still one of the best metal acts out there, even after 30+ years of service. I do feel like my first Maiden show back in 2008 was better than this one, but this is not something you can blame on the band, because they did nothing wrong, only right. Ultimately, this was a fantastic show that was spontaneous, fun, and heart warming. Go and see this band while you have the chance, you will not be disappointed, I guarantee you. Up the Irons!

Best: "Blood Brothers" have never been more magical

Worst: The sound was literally all over the place

Rating: 8,5/10

Set List
1. If Eternity Should Fail
2. Speed of Light
3. Children of The Damned
4. Tears of A Clown
5. The Red And The Black
6. The Trooper
7. Powerslave
8. Death of Glory
9. The Book of Souls
10. Hallowed Be Thy Name
11. Fear of The Dark
12. Iron Maiden

Encore
13. The Number of The Beast
14. Blood Brothers
15. Wasted Years

Stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fight - War of Words (1993)

After leaving Judas Priest in 1992, Rob Halford wasted no time in getting into his next project, and that project was Fight, a straight up heavy metal band that had influences from the popular bands in those days, like Pantera. Even if this is a completely new band, Rob did not fully leave his history behind him, including some small influences from his former band and adding drummer Scott Travis to the line up. The rest of the guys though were all newcomers, but it should be noted that the first guitarist of this band, Russ "Satchel" Parrish, did eventually go on to be one of the founders of Steel Panther. Oh goodness me...

Fortunately, we do not get any volatile, and juvenile hair metal in "War of Words". Unfortunately, we do not get any blazing speed metal either. Instead, we get a barrage of heavy attitude, and fairly slow songs that has momentum, but still feels awfully sluggish. I wanna give credit to Rob on that he wants to do something new, and not a Judas Priest 2.0, but this almost feels like he is trying to win over the younger generation with this new band. If I was living during that time, I would have hoped for a more experimental album, a album that is an homage to "Sad Wings of Destiny", but nope, just like most famous artists that leaves their well known band, Rob goes more on the safe route.

The album starts of great though, with the pure head banger "Into The Pit", a fast mauler with a Metal God that implements his patented screaming falsetto. Yes, it has several great qualities, and it is the clear stand out of the record, but one thing bugs me with this song, and the album in general, and it is the chorus. Almost every chorus on this album consists of the title of the track being repeated over and over again, which is really dumb. Sure, you can make an awesome chorus with this small of means, but this is done so often that you can almost feel your IQ dropping by a point or two. Some more content would definitely have helped the album.

Another negative aspect of this album is the guitar work. Sure, I did not expect Russ Parrish and Brian Tilse to be the new Downing and Tipton, but the riffing on this album is fairly bland. It is heavy, but it is bland. As for the solos, they do not stick out all too much, but they do fit in and are sounding nice, so they do have some redeeming quality to them. Still, would have loved some more personality in the riffing.

It is obvious that Halford is the star of the show here, and he delivers a professional performance in which he showcases his entire vocal arsenal. Mixing screams with lower registers, Halford brings a diversity to "War of Words" that very few vocalists could do. He also lifts several songs to a much higher level, like the title track, "Immortal Sin", "For All Eternity", but not even the Metal God can hide the fact that the song material here is, at best, okay. Like, why did they include "Little Crazy" with its country vibe and the super boring "Laid To Rest"? I know you can write better songs than this Rob.

I honestly do not see why Fight have gotten such a cult status in recent years, because "War of Words" is a just above average album that may be heavy, but does not bring anything new to the table. The songs are alright, the execution is professional, but the overall sluggish feel makes the album feel longer and more drawn out than it needed to be. It is an okay album, and the band does have something interesting going, but they just could not show it in this particular album.

Songs worthy of recognition: Into The Pit, Immortal Sin, For All Eternity

Rating: 6/10 Contortions

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Volbeat - Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie (2016)

Just like most metal heads out there, I am a bit two sided about the Danish group Volbeat. Sure, they are unique and they certainly have their core audience, but what exactly are they playing? Is it metal, or is it not? The fans describe Volbeat as a Elvis metal band, a band that blends the groovy, rock-a-billy attitude from around the mid 1900's with more modern metal. It is a big gumbo of different styles that makes Volbeat who they are, which has always been my main grief with the band, but because they are one of the groups that is going to open up for Black Sabbath later this summer in Stockholm (a concert I will attend), I thought that I might as well give the band another chance to convince me.

"Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie" is album number six for the band, and expectations wise, I prepared myself for another diverse experience in which I would like some songs and just flat out hate others. As it turns out, I was completely right. The album is filled with songs that appeal to the greater mass, being catchy, groovy, and soft enough to not scare off too many listeners. It is also a album that stays very true to what Volbeat has done in the past, not cramming in any new elements that steer them off from the current path that they are on, in other words, a pretty safe effort.

A major disappointment that I have with the album is the overall lack of metal in it. Yes, I know that the Elvis part is the ones they focus the most attention to, but they have always brought out a couple of songs that are straight up metal, like "Room 24" and "A Warrior's Call" (my two favourite songs from the band by the way). This disappointment gets even bigger considering two factors. 1. They got a new guitarist a couple of years ago, former Anthrax member Rob Caggiano, whom I thought would make the band heavier, and 2. their last album, "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies", was quite heavy. Frankly, the only heavy songs here are "The Loa's Crossroad" and the one minute song "Slaytan". The history, and the fancy album cover promised a good punch, but fails to deliver it.

The song quality is quite decent, containing a ton of catchy material that will make the fans sing their lungs out, but I cannot help but feeling that I have heard this from the band before. It might be because Michael Poulsen has his own unique song style and that he wants to sing in a certain way that makes the songs sound the same, but it still bugs me, none the less. The band tries to change things up a bit here and there, like singing in Danish on "For Evigt", putting some oriental flare in "The Gates of Babylon", and adding two guest artists, Johan Gotthard Olsen on "For Evigt" and Danko Jones on "Black Rose", but it does not help all that much.

Both "For Evigt" and "Black Rose" are highlights of the album, and the same goes for "The Devil's Bleeding Crown" and its incredibly groovy opening riff that just crushes. The chorus is kind of lack luster though, but I do not mind it that much. "Seal The Deal" is another good song, although I think it is partially stolen from a small Swedish band called Devil's Train. Go and search for their song "Roll The Dice" and you will get my drift.

Finally, the bonus tracks are completely useless, serving no purpose at all, there is not even any unique songs. We got a fully English version of "For Evigt" called "The Bliss", "Black Rose" minus Danko Jones, and a live version of the opening track "The Devil's Bleeding Crown". Come on guys, if you gotta have bonus tracks in a album, don't use songs that are already in the album.

Volbeat continues to be that "metal, but not really" band that just makes me shiver, and while I can see why this band has become such a huge success throughout the world, I just cannot get into the hype. "Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie" is just another groovy effort that tries a little bit too hard to get that new hit, and it ends up making the album sound boring and stale. The album is enjoyable the first three times, but it becomes repetitive after that. Fans of the band will love it, but the album, and the band in general, is not for everyone. It will be interesting to see how they perform live though, maybe they can convince me that way.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Loa's Crossroad, The Devil's Bleeding Crown, Black Rose

Rating: 6/10 Slaytans

Monday, June 13, 2016

Only For The Week: Part 19

The concert season is under way, and we metal heads just get spoiled with tons and tons of amazing acts that are out to entertain or to promote their new album. Iron Maiden is one of those bands right now, doing "The Book of Souls World Tour" as we speak, and on Friday, they make their only stop in Sweden, and guess who's attending! This will be my second Maiden concert (would have been my third if it wasn't for the weather gods in 2010), and I know that they will not disappoint. They are Iron Maiden, how could they fail?

In honor of these giants coming to Sweden, I will add three new songs to the Only For The Week play list, all Iron Maiden songs. Up The Irons!

All of the songs on this segment is gathered in a Spotify playlist, you can find it here

The Classic: Iron Maiden - The Trooper

How do one prepare for a show like this? By chugging beer of course, and not just any beer, but The Trooper ale. I guess that music works fine too, and "The Trooper" certainly gets the job done, with its frenetic riffing, epic wailing, and fast pace. It also gives us a nice history lesson, about the battle of Balaclava in 1854. Who needs school when you have Iron Maiden!



The (sorta) Newcomer: Iron Maiden - The Red And The Black

Out of the entire set list the band is gonna play on Friday, I am looking the most forward to "The Red And The Black", not only because it is my favourite song from "The Book of Souls", but because I know that the fans will be engaged, and sing their lungs out with the sing along friendly parts, making Gothenburg echo through the night. 13 minutes of ecstasy that is sure to be one of many reasons to attend. I can already feel the goosebumps on my skin!



The Personal Favourite: Iron Maiden - Brighter Than A Thousand Suns

Yes, I know that most of the set list will rely on the new album and some of the classics, but there are
tons of songs in the Maiden discography that I would have loved to hear live, one being the ultra epic "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns". It probably is hard for it to squeeze itself into the play list ever again since there are a lot of songs like this one, long, epic, and with a killer sing along part, but I really don't care, I want it, because it freaking rocks.



Stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Best of Judas Priest

Another discography fully reviewed, and I have to say, this has been the best journey through the career of a band that I have done so far. I thought I knew, Judas Priest, but after listening to all 17 albums, I discovered that the band is much more versatile than I could ever imagine. I loved them before, and that love has only increased since, even if the road has been bumpy. Now comes the hard part, summarizing this massive career into some lists and sentences. So what am I waiting for? Let's go!

Best albums

3. Sad Wings of Destiny

Even if the band still was in its early stage, and they were still developing their sound, I simply cannot imagine Judas Priest without this album. It is progressive, not too heavy, and not so fast, and when you first go into the album, you start to wonder if Judas Priest really made it or not, but once you get into the center of this lollipop, you get struck over how good everything is. It is an unreal album that has aged extremely well, and is a must hear for everyone.

2. Screaming For Vengeance

"British Steel" might be the album that truly put Judas Priest on the map, but it was "Screaming For Vengeance" that took the band to the next level. While still maintaining the core sound, the band put the pedal to the metal and delivered a fast knockout punch no one saw coming. Killer song after killer song is delivered, and they all help making "Screaming For Vengeance" a heavy and diverse experience.

1. Painkiller

Not only is this my favourite Judas Priest album of all time, it might even be my favourite album period. Everything in this album screams power, and all of the songs in this album are simply awesome. It took everything that the band had build up to during the 80's, and amplified it to 11. If anyone wants to get into metal, "Painkiller" should be the first step towards entering this magical lifestyle.

Worst album

Nostradamus

No matter how much trash the Tim "Ripper" Owens albums get, "Nostradamus" will always be the biggest disgrace of the Priest family to me. A brave effort that was way too long and too slow for me to enjoy, even if it had a couple of great songs. If the band is ever gonna do a concept album again, I suggest that they first of all actually write a story, and include their specialty, some powerful entity that saves the world with its super hero like power. I think that would be cool.

Best songs

5. Halls of Valhalla

I bet that I am gonna get a lot of hate for putting this song over such classics as "Victim of Changes", "Breaking the Law", and "Hell Bent For Leather", but I just can't stop loving this song. "Halls of Valhalla" is epic, catchy, and contains amazing guitar work, making you forget that Downing left the band. And let us not forget Halford, who shows that he still can pull off his patented "Painkiller" screams.

4. The Sentinel

This song is one of those Priest songs that are way too underrated, often overlooked when the debate of the best song comes up. The riffs are so god damn awesome, the epic, and frightening, chorus makes you scream, and then we have the hair rising build up, ending with yet another Metal God scream (and a scream from yourself too). Do not miss out on this hidden gem.

3. Painkiller

No song has a greater first impact than "Painkiller, blowing you off from that chair with its slamming drum solo, and it just gets crazier after that. "Painkiller" is a frantic whirlwind that shakes and bakes everything and everyone to its core, with a arsenal of insane riffs and a Rob Halford that sounds like Satan himself. You will forever remember the first time you heard it, and it will always bring a smile to your face.

2. A Touch of Evil

Take your corpse paint, monsters, psychopathic murderers and shove them to a place where the sunlight cannot reach, because nothing scares me more than "A Touch of Evil", and I am loving it. The haunting keyboard, the pounding drums, the simplicity of the riffs, and Rob's demonic side all make this semi-ballad a true horror show. It is just like the song says, I can't resist "A Touch of Evil".

1. Beyond The Realms of Death

This song strikes me on so many level, but mostly on the emotional part. The story about a man longing for death is so sad and dark, and the music just adds to that darkness. It is just so beautiful, every note is carefully placed to fulfill the mood, making it as natural as it can be. Both the simple opening riff and the multi layered solo are so god damn amazing, showing just how skilled and versatile Downing and Tipton are. This song is the ultimate proof that Judas Priest is more than heavy metal, they are life.

Best album cover

Sad Wings of Destiny



Talk about a beautiful piece of art, this album cover looks like it is ripped out of a painting made by Michelangelo. The colors are astonishing, the story is portrayed beautifully, and we also get to see the famous Judas Priest pitchfork (think that's what it's called) for the first time. Can we all create a crowdfunding campaign to cover up the Sistine chapel ceiling with this cover please, because I think it would fit nicely into that environment.

Overall discography verdict

Quality: 8/10

Okay, we have some stumbles here and there, but there is so much awesome stuff that this band has done that it is almost ridiculous. You could fill a warehouse with all of the treasure the band has presented us over the years.

Creativity: 9/10

I was surprised that the band was this creative, more than a band that could deliver killer riffs and fast paced steam rollers. They can do it all, ballads, groovers, corny 80's songs about automobiles. Yep, the band knows how to diversify themselves.

Band Chemistry: 8/10

It took some time in the beginning, but when the core of Ian Hill, K. K. Downing, Rob Halford, and Glenn Tipton was made, the band was more or less complete, only the drummer position was a question mark, and that was solved when Scott Travis joined. The short break of Rob and Downing's departure drags down the rating.

Musicality: 10/10

To say that Judas Priest consist of qualified musicians is almost an understatement, because the musicality that these guys bring is off the charts. All the members really know how to handle their instruments, maximizing their potential.

Lyrics: 9/10

Yet another thing that shows just how versatile the band truly is. The Priest has a broad range when it comes to the lyrical department, writing songs about dark matters and themes, science fiction and fantasy, and even patriotism. And let us not forget their specialty, songs about all powerful beings, such as Painkiller, Hellrider, Metalizer, and Electric Eye.

Album rating summary

Rocka Rolla: 5,5/10
Sad Wings of Destiny: 8,5/10
Sin After Sin: 8/10
Stained Class: 8/10
Killing Machine: 7/10
British Steel: 6/10
Point of Entry: 5,5/10
Screaming For Vengeance: 9,5/10
Defenders of The Faith: 8/10
Turbo: 6/10
Ram It Down: 7/10
Painkiller: 10/10
Jugulator: 6/10
Demolition: 4,5/10
Angel of Retribution: 8/10
Nostradamus: 3/10
Redeemer of Souls: 7,5/10

Before I get into the next discography review, I am gonna do a bonus round! More exactly, I am gonna review all of the albums that Rob Halford has released outside of Judas Priest, which is 2 albums from Fight, 1 from 2wo, and 4 from his solo project Halford. Gonna try to plow through these albums as fast as possible, but I won't promise anything. After that, the next discography review will be on a band from the Big 4 of Thrash metal (hint, it is not Megadeth).

Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson