Tuesday, August 15, 2017

E.T.W. - "Stop! The Wild Hype"



E.T.W. - Stop! The Wild Hype
1991, Forefront

1. This Is What Time It Is (Revelation Generation)
2. Stop! The Wild Hype
3. One Bad Apple
4. God Is
5. This Is The Life
6. Destined To Win
7. La Guerra (War)
8. Yo Mouth (Isyomouf)
9. Paper Money
10. The Balm

The other day a great mania seized me. For some unexplained reason I had to listen to all the old Christian rap I had on my Ipod. For that entire day and a couple after I listened to everything I had…but it wasn’t enough. I needed more. I suddenly remembered that there were a few old albums that I never got around to the first time. E.T.W.’s Stop! The Wild Hype is one of them. Now before I get into this album, I have to say I think I was a little hard on their debut. I suppose it’s not objectively “great” but you know what? I still listen to it and I still enjoy it. So there. Anyway, Stop! The Wild Hype is better. It’s still not in the upper echelons of Christian hip-hop, though. At this point they are still being eclipsed by the likes of S.F.C. and Dynamic Twins. However, as I said, this album shows improvement. It certainly has better instrumentation all around. A lot more female vocals are added into the mix as well to spice things up. “Destined to Win” is an odd bird in that it’s almost techno. Kind of cool if you ask me. Though I can’t shake the feeling that these guys just haven’t found their sound yet. I think that probably happened on the next album. Speaking of which, I’ll probably have to get that one too…

One of the things that struck me as I listened to this album was how urgent it sounds. I mean...in the first track there's talk of geopolitics that would be right at home on a Jack Van Impe broadcast. But that's just how we rolled back then. Everything seemed more urgent. Jesus was coming back TOMORROW so you need to get ready! The New World order will rise up any day! Persecution of Christians in America is rampant! THE WORLD IS GOING TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET AND OTHER TYPES OF BASKETS AS WELL!!! While many people still hold this urgency, I just don't have the energy anymore. At my advanced age it does indeed seem like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but I think it's always been that way. Civilizations always stand on the edge of a knife and the sovereignty of God decides when they rise and fall. I'm not sure either of us are right. Wow...that got kind of deep. 

Useless Fact: The liner notes indicate that the album is dedicated to D-Boy. Aww... D-Boy. He's been in heaven awhile now. I will certainly expect some sick beats and rhymes from him when (if?) I get there.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sometime Sunday - "Stone"



Sometime Sunday - Stone
1994, Tooth and Nail

1. Lie
2. Crawl
3. Blur
4. Guilty
5. Blue
6. Self
7. Reach
8. Take
9. Rope
10. Sleep
11. Home

You know, we never really got any grunge in the Christian market. Sure we had alternative rock - lots of it. We had punk, post-punk, ska, swing, emo, hardcore... almost all of the music that grew up out of the ashes of the metal scene. But we never really got an honest to goodness grunge band - like a Nirvana or a Pearl Jam. The closest we came was Sometime Sunday which sounded most like Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden. Vocalist Mikee certainly sounds the part. They've also made sure all their song titles are one word. Very important for a grunge band! The sound and production is gritty and raw. The liner notes state that there were no overdubs or anything used in the recording, so what you hear on the disc is probably what you'd hear live. I never saw them live so I can't say. The lyrics are appropriately dark and tortured, but with just enough optimism to make them viable in the Christian market. While I rib them a bit for being "Christian grunge," I think they do a pretty good job. In fact, I think that if they were on a major label with a bit more publicity they'd could have been pretty popular. I never liked their second album, Drain, but I do recommend Stone as a cool album in its own right.

Useless Fact: The band's official name for their style was "lurch rock." I admit it kind of fits their sound.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Armageddon USA - "Up In Flames"



Armageddon USA - Up In Flames
Independent, 2015

1. All Over the World
2. Spinner
3. Hypnotized
4. Wanted Man
5. In Your Face
6. Satisfaction
7. Allie
8. Crazy
9. Time Divider
10. Revolution (Peace of Mind)
11. Up in Flames

Here's a question... why Armageddon USA? Why not just Armageddon? Was there a copyright issue or something? Also, this cover art is... really crappy. It looks cheap and generic - especially when you compare this to the art of The Money Mask which was iconic, unique, and just looked darn cool. Up In Flames came out in 2015, some twenty-plus years after the debut. Not sure why I lollygagged around for two years and didn't pick it up, though. Anyway, it's...okay. It starts off a bit wobbly with a trio of songs that I wasn't wild about. "All Over the World" has a decent riff and groove but the lyrics kind of annoy me. They literally just list terrible stuff happening "all over the world" aaaaand...that's it. Without anything else being said it's kind of like...what's the point? Yes... things are happening. And? "Spinner" fares better but the disc comes screeching to a halt with "Hypnotized." It's a Black Sabbath influenced doom-metal type tune that really slows down the album's momentum and is kind of boring on top of that. Thankfully, the album as a whole picks up with "Wanted Man" which is just dang cool. Cool riff, cool hook, cool song. The album keeps up this level of quality throughout as well so if you can get past those first three tracks you're good. "Revolution (Peace of Mind)" is like a love letter to Psalm 9 era Trouble (I feel like they're using the exact same guitar tone). That's not a bad thing, mind you, it's just something I noticed. The band's lyrics are more political than religious this time around. If you were a fan of Armageddon from way back, go ahead and check this out. If not - you can probably pass this by. Except for "Wanted Man." You definitely need that one.

Useless Fact: Vocalist Mike Vance is pretty active on Twitter, usually talking about politics. He is not a conservative, nor is he a fan of Trump. I do not have a problem with either of those things.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Demons and Wizards - "Touched By The Crimson King"



Demons and Wizards - Touched By The Crimson King
2005, SPV

1. Crimson King
2. Beneath These Waves
3. Terror Train
4. Seize the Day
5. The Gunslinger
6. Love's Tragedy Asunder
7. Wicked Witch
8. Dorian
9. Down Where I Am
10. Immigrant Song
Bonus Tracks:
11. Lunar Lament
12. Wicked Witch (Slow Version)
13. Spacial Architects
14. Beneath These Waves (Edit)

I don't know why I got rid of this CD because I really like it. Demons and Wizards is Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth and Hansi Kursch from Blind Guardian. The combination of the two is pretty cool. You've got Schaffer's lightning fast guitar riffing skills and Kursch's unique vocal style. I definitely like hearing his voice without some of the bombast of a Blind Guardian record. The only song that kind of annoys me is slow interlude in "Dorian." It doesn't seem like it fits and brings the song to a screeching halt for a minute. Also, make sure you pick up the deluxe version with the extra tracks. I don't feel like the album is really complete with out "Lunar Lament" (one of my favorite songs of all time) and "Spacial Architects." You can chuck the other two - "Wicked Witch (Slow Version)" is nearly indistinguishable from the other album version and "Beneath the Waves (Edit)" is the same exact song with the mellow post-lude clipped out. This is the band's second release. Some say the first one is better but I've never heard it. Someday I'll have to check it out.

Useless Fact: The album title and several songs are based on Stephen King's Dark Tower saga. "Love's Tragedy Asunder" is based on Romeo and Juliet, I believe. "Beneath These Waves" is based on Moby Dick. "Wicked Witch" is based off The Wizard of Oz. I shouldn't have to tell you what "Dorian" is from. "Immigrant Song" is a Led Zepplin cover.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Keaggy, Phil - "Find Me In These Fields"



Keaggy, Phil - Find Me In These Fields
1990, Myrrh

1. Instrumental
2. Strong Tower
3. Carry On
4. Instrumental
5. When the Wild Winds Blow
6. This Side of Heaven
7. Find Me In These Fields
8. Get Over It
9. Calling You
10. Instrumental
11. Gentle & Strong
12. Final Day
13. Instrumental
14. Be In My Heart
15. Instrumental

Find Me In These Fields often pops up as one of people's favorite Phil Keaggy platters. Seeing as I'd only heard Crimson & Blue (and absolutely adored it), I figured I'd give this one a shot. After all, it was released in 1990, aka The Best Year Ever For Music. Aaaaaaaand...what do you know? It's awesome. Of course it is. This is like a master class in musicianship and songwriting. If you're looking for a great pop/rock record written and played by some insanely talented musicians, this is for you. I was hooked from the opening acoustic instrumental. Any suggestions on which Keaggy album to get next?

Useless Fact: Rick Cua played bass on this album. He was kind of a big thing way back in the day.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aerosmith - "Permanent Vacation"



Aerosmith - Permanent Vacation
1987, Geffin

1. Heart's Done Time
2. Magic Touch
3. Rag Doll
4. Simoriah
5. Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
6. St. John
7. Hangman Jury
8. Girl Keeps Coming Apart
9. Angel
10. Permanent Vacation
11. I'm Down
12. The Movie

Permanent Vacation is another one of those nostalgia buys that reminds me of summer vacations. Specifically, with my mom and cousin throughout northern Pennsylvania. My original tape (which is long gone) was purchased from the Columbia tape club. Yes... I ain't lyin' when I call myself "The Old Man." So normally I pick one of these oldies up listen a few times and relive some fond memories and then don't think too much about it again until the next season. With the Aerosmith, however, I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed it. I mean, I always liked it. Heard the singles on MTV all the time. But the whole album is full of really great rock 'n roll. I'd argue that the singles aren't the best tracks here at all (of course, I'd argue that for any band). "Hangman Jury" is a bluegrass/blues inspired track and my absolute favorite on this album. I also like the cover of The Beatles' "I'm Down." The band really knew how to combine hard rock, pop, and blues as this disc seems to be a perfect mixture of all three. I don't know how it stacks up to the rest of their discography, but as a single album it's fantastic.

Useless Fact: Isn't "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" about Motley Crue's Vince Neil? That's what I heard anyway.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Haven - "III"



Haven - III
1995/2017, Retroactive

1. Haven
2. Her Eyes Can't Hide
3. Falling Down
4. Her Eyes Can't Hide (Conclusion)
5. Don't Let the Moment Slip Away
6. Prisoner
7. I Will Follow
8. Love From Above
9. When Jesus Lights the Way
10. The Almighty
11. Don't Run Away
12. Without Excuses
Bonus Track
13. From Everlasting

Now here's a little rarity that I'd never thought I'd hear. Haven's third album was recorded from '93 - '95 and finally released independently in '95. It was recorded in vocalist Kevin Ayer's home studio with whatever musicians he had on hand. I never even knew this existed until the early 2000's when I saw it on Scott Waters' website, No Life Til Metal. Retroactive has rereleased this lost gem with a good remaster and updated artwork. I think the new cover looks pretty cool. The original was in black and white, but the gold here really makes it pop.

For their third album, Haven goes a little more melodic and a little more progressive. You won't hear much in the way of full on power-metal-bordering-on-thrash tunes. Most of the songs are mid-paced and mellower. However, this variety gives Ayers' vocals a chance to shine as he gets to stretch himself a bit more. There's still some of the old school wails, but he also gets to be a little more reserved, a little quieter. He's got great range and this album really shows that off. I love the title track, which harkens back to the bands older material. Also, the riff in "Don't Let the Moment Slip Away" is awesome. Overall, I really enjoyed this album and I think fans of Haven will dig it too.

However...

This album could have really benefited from some label backing - maybe a good producer to help flesh things out. Songs like "The Almighty" and "Don't Run Away" could have used more time in the cooker, I think. Also, while the remaster sounds good, the recording quality is a little bit above "demo." It's not unlistenable by any stretch, far from it. It's impressive considering this was done before ProTools and the like. But like I said, it still could have benefited from big label money. (Look at me acting like REX had money! Ha!) "From Everlasting" is a bonus track that wasn't part of the original album. It has more of an electronic feel, but it's kind of weird. There's like, casio drum beats and record scratching and guitars. The lyrics are serious but it sounds kind of silly with all these elements. Like it was a first attempt at industrial. I also wish there were some lyrics in the liner notes, but what can ya do? III probably isn't the Haven album to give to your friend who's never heard of them, but it's a treat for fans despite my pickune complaints.

Useless Fact: Not a fact...a rumination. I don't think REX would have touched this album in '95. It would have been too metal when they were focusing on hardcore and alternative. As much as I love alternative rock, that wave kept a lot of good albums from being enjoyed.