Friday, August 28, 2015

Symphony X - "Underworld"

Symphony X - Underworld
2015, Nuclear Blast

1. Overture
2. Nevermore
3. Underworld
4. Without You
5. Kiss of Fire
6. Charon
7. To Hell and Back
8. In My Darkest Hour
9. Run With the Devil
10. Swan Song
11. Legend

So yeah... remember when I bought Iconoclast twice a couple years ago? I've slowly become a Symphony X die-hard - so much so that I pre-ordered Underworld to make sure I'd have it whether or not we had money in the house. Is it the non-stop metal freight train the last album was? No, it's not, but that's okay. This disc is a little more progressive than the last. They've backed off a little on the throttle and let in more of the progressive elements that have been part of the band's sound. There's a little bit more of The Odyssey in here than on Iconoclast. However, they've kept a lot of the "fist in the air" metal from that album, only backing it off enough to let some more melody seep into the songs. What you have is an album that is at once very heavy and progressive, but a times dang near commercial with its hooks. So far, every listen has been a treat and it only gets better with subsequent listens. Underworld will almost certainly make it on my picks of the year list.

Useless Fact: The theme for this album, not surprisingly, is hell. Specifically Dante's vision of it but also it includes the general concept of an underworld as seen in Greek myths.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Freedom of Soul - "Caught in a Land of Time"

Freedom of Soul - Caught in a Land of Time
1991, BAI

1. Freedom of Soul
2. Caught in a Land of Time
3. Runnin'
4. A Touch of Soul
5. Cookin' Bacon
6. Blue Sky Lies
7. Acknowledgements
8. It's On You
9. This Is Love
10. Can't Hold Back
11. Cartoon Goes to Texas
12. Skin Deep
13. January 15
14. Y Don't You Want 2 Play Me
15. Serious Lyrics

So I was listening to Mark Solomon's podcast, like you do, and one of his guests was the main man behind Freedom of Soul. Freedom of Soul was one of those rap groups in the same circle as S.F.C., Dynamic Twins, etc. For some reason I never listened to them. I have no reason for this other than I just didn't ever pick up one of their albums. After listening to the podcast, however, I decided to check them out. It's pretty good stuff. Definitely in line with that group of performers. You hear a lot of Super C and the Twins in the background doing various things. I don't think it's quite as distinctive as some of the other groups of the time, but that might just be me. There are also a couple of skits ("Cookin' Bacon" being my favorite). Even Ben Redeemed, who - if you'll remember - appeared on S.F.C.'s A Saved Man (In the Jungle) as a jackass D.J. makes an appearance. He's a little bit more sympathetic here though and it's actually the performers that kind of come off as whiny... to me anyway.

Useless Fact: Rene Vasquez (the main rapper for the group) spoke on the podcast about how he used to just listen to Gene Eugene talk about things and set things up because Rene would learn so much that way. Rene said that you couldn't really ask Gene a question and get a good answer, you just had to listen and watch while he was doing his thing.

I still kind of miss Gene.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Atomic Opera - "Gospel Cola"

Atomic Opera - Gospel Cola
2000, Metal Blade

1. Jesus Junk
2. October
3. WinterLand
4. Reiah Discerns the Times
5. Malediction
6. My Head
7. Silence
8. Muse
9. Love is as Strong as Death
10. The Circle is Closed
11. Stop My Heart
12. Doxology

I've not heard good things about Atomic Opera's albums after For Madmen Only. Sometimes that doesn't matter and I end up really liking those albums. However, in this case, I have to say...Gospel Cola is... okay. Just okay. It's not terrible but it's not nearly as beautiful and addicting as the debut. One of the problems is that while the guitars are still chunky, they're now kicked to the back of the mix. The guitars was one of my favorite aspects so it's disappointing to see them given the short end of the stick. The other problem is the songs themselves... they're... okay. I like "Jesus Junk," "October," and "My Head" but the rest of them are just alright. Not wonderful, not crap just there. Oh well.

Useless Fact: "Jesus Junk" talks about all the stupid Christian products the Church thinks up to make money. The song mentions Testamints - which I called out as stupid as well when they came out. There's also quotes at the end of the lyrics from "Bad Buddha" which vaguely remind me of the quotes from Wild Sylas Tomkin back in the day.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

White Lighter - "White Lighter"

White Lighter - White Lighter
2014, Northern

1. Swan
2. Son of Dawn
3. City Sailor
4. That's Right
5. Breath Cancer
6. Heavy
7. Omens
8. Hard Love
9. Make Fire
10. Spearhead

I found out about White Lighter quite by accident. I started listening to Mark Solomon's (The Crucified/Stavesacre) podcast, "Never Was" and was interested in the music he uses for the intros and transitions. Turns out it's his new band, White Lighter, which consists of Andy Pricket (The Prayer Chain) and Steve Dail (Project 86) - making it a veritable super group. It's definitely got a retro vibe to it. Some folks say it sounds a little like early Black Sabbath. However, having never heard any early Black Sabbath I can't say. However, Mark does sound a bit like Ozzy on these tracks. Not that that's a bad thing. It's not really metal either, it's got kind of a mellow swagger to it with great little riffs and infectious hooks and grooves. Take "Son of Dawn" for instance - a tune that will stay in your head for days. I'd also like to give kudos for the lyrics which are very well written... very meaningful and unique. This is definitely on my list for my top picks of 2015!

Useless Fact: As if this band didn't have enough star power behind it, Jason Martin (Starflyer 59) produced the album.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Let's Play stuff!

Hello everyone! I've started a new venture - I'm going to be a dork that plays video games on the internet. This is my first "test" Let's Play of Star Trek: TNG Pinball. Check it out. My very first full LP will be of Gargoyle's Quest for Game Boy. I hope to upload every Friday. I will still be doing music reviews for those two or three of you who actually read my reviews, so fear not!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Atomic Opera - "For Madmen Only (Twenty Years Later)"

Atomic Opera - For Madmen Only (Twenty Years Later)
1994/2014, Feverdream

1. Joyride
2. Justice
3. Achilles' Heel
4. I Know Better
5. All Fall Down
6. War Drum
7. Blackness
8. December
9. This Side of the Rainbow
10. New Dreams
Bonus Tracks:
11. Joyride II
12. Hammer
13. Magic Castle

Years ago I got ahold of Atomic Opera's debut album. I listened to it one time and wasn't too terribly impressed. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when, for some reason, I decided to check them out again and was very impressed. I don't know what changed between then and now but I really got into it this time. Atomic Opera is another Texas Sam Taylor band like King's X and Galactic Cowboys. And like those bands, incorporates heavy riffs with layered harmonies for a most bodacious effect. I guess I'm channeling my inner Bill & Ted now. Atomic Opera does seem to have their own sound despite the similarities. There's also kind of a melancholy here that King's X and the Cowboys didn't quite have until years later. I can't believe I didn't like this the first time around! This particular edition is digital only but does boast a few extra tracks. "Hammer" and "Magic Castle" fit quite nicely with the original material. Having another version of "Joyride" is okay but hardly essential.

Useless Fact: Atomic Opera put out two other albums that I'm aware of: Penguin Dust and Gospel Cola. Both of which I'm going to have to check out.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Beastie Boys - "Hello Nasty"

Beastie Boys - Hello Nasty
1998, Capitol

1. Super Disco Freakin'
2. The Move
3. Remote Control
4. Song For the Man
5. Just a Test
6. Body Movin'
7. Intergalactic
8. Sneakin' Out the Hospital
9. Putting Shame in Your Game
10. Flowin' Prose
11. And Me
12. Three MC's and One DJ
13. The Grasshopper Unit (Keep Movin')
14. Song For Junior
15. I Don't Know
16. The Negotiation Limerick File
17. Electrify
18. Picture This
19. Unite
20. Dedication
21. Dr. Lee, PhD
22. Instant Death

Hello Nasty continues in the vein of the B-Boys previous albums - infectious rap songs bundled together with experimental alternative tracks. They've gotten a bit more electronic here, eschewing the more organic sounds of Ill Communication and Check Your Head. I don't have a problem with this. The raps are still just as catchy as they always are. I will say that after listening to all these Beastie albums I definitely prefer it when they just write awesome rap songs instead of wandering into artsy-fartsy territory. Also, this disc is about three tracks too long. "Dedication" is really kind of boring. "Dr. Lee, PhD" is a rambling track with some guy pontificating over it. It's about as captivating as watching paint dry. Also, the closing track "Instant Death" is a similar snooze fest. This is probably why I really like To the 5 Boroughs... even though it's not a fan favorite. There's no garnish on that one. I really enjoy Hello Nasty despite my complaints.

Useless Fact: In the video for "Intergalactic" the band pays homage to Japanese Kaiju movies. They pilot a big robot and fight an evil monster. I know... everyone's seen that video but I'm not exactly a Beastie Boys expert yet.