Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sacred Warrior - "Rebellion"

Sacred Warrior - Rebellion
1988/2010, Intense Millennium

1. Black Metal
2. Mad, Mad World
3. Stay Away From Evil
4. He Died
5. Children of the Light
6. Rebellion
7. Day of the Lord
8. Heaven's Are Calling
9. Famine
10. Master of Lies
11. Sword of Victory
Bonus Tracks:
12. Day by Day
13. Prince of Peace

In my review of the original I said that I didn't really care for this one as much as the others. For some reason they didn't just resonate with me like Master's Command or Wicked Generation. My edition was also the pooptastic KMG edition with no liner notes or anything. Thankfully Intense Millennium is busily reissuing classic after classic and I was more than happy to plunk down some coin for this edition. All the tracks have been remastered and I have to say that I could definitely tell the difference and it really increased my enjoyment of the album as a whole. It seems just a bit more vibrant, more alive. Granted, I still don't care for "Famine" or "Master of Lies," but the album closer "Sword of Victory" is just phenomenal - as is the rest of the album. The two bonus tracks originally appeared on the Live at Cornerstone 2001 disc but it's nice to actually hear them here. They're not really metal - "Day by Day" is more hard rock and "Prince of Peace" is a ballad. Still good though... and I'm still hoping the band puts something new out soon.

Now with all the gushing out of the way, I do have some complaints. First, the cover. It's gorgeous, it really is, but it doesn't fit the music at all. I held the CD up to my wife and asked, "What kind of music do you think this is?" "Goth," she said. It looks like something Evanescence or a band like H.I.M. would dream up. Not to mention the song isn't about Lucifer's rebellion, which is kind of what the cover implies. Second, while I LOVE having all the liner notes (which include stories from Pastor Bob Beeman and the guys themselves) and lyrics, they are REALLY, REALLY hard to read. The small, faded white letters on the dark background makes them very blurry. The liner notes really need to be a lot brighter and clearer - especially for us old folks. Finally, if for some reason you prefer the original cover art (which admittedly wasn't fantastic) it is very poorly replicated.

I know a lot of love went into this reissue and it does show. It also did its job of making me love this album. Hopefully the art direction can tighten up a little for future releases!

Useless Fact: There have been whispers for years about the band getting back together but so far nothing has come of it yet except the two bonus tracks on this CD.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Hark, the herald angels sing! Glory to the newborn king! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!

Merry Christmas everyone! Santa Claus (i.e. my parents) were very good to us this year. Little Lexi didn't really know what was going on, but she got a baby doll, a stroller, a kitchen, and several books. Lindy got a new diaper bag, shoes, earrings, and some other stuff. I got a total of 12 CDs (along with a Star Trek book and a Nintendo DS game)! It won't be too long and I'll be posting them here.

Here's my haul:

Bloodgood - Bloodgood (Intense Millennium reissue, first time owning)
Bloodgood - Detonation (Intense Millennium reissue, first time actually owning)
Vengeance Rising - Human Sacrifice (Intense Millennium reissue, second time owning)
Vengeance Rising - Once Dead (Intense Millennium reissue, third time owning)
Sacred Warrior - Rebellion (Intense Millennium reissue, third time owning)

I'm going to post completely new reviews of these discs, mainly so I can talk about how the reissue is. I also got:

The Swirling Eddies - Let's Spin
The Swirling Eddies - Outdoor Elvis
Mortification - Break the Curse 20th Anniversary Gold Edition
Mortification - Brain Cleaner
Seventh Angel - The Torment (Metal Mind reissue)
Seventh Angel - Lament for the Weary (Metal Mind reissue)

I opened Star One early, and a good friend (Thanks Uvalapie!) sent me Ayreon's Timeline.

It was a very musical Christmas...

God bless all of you out there!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Star One - "Victims of the Modern Age"

Star One - Victims of the Modern Age
2010, InsideOut

Disc One:
1. Down the Rabbit Hole
2. Digital Rain (The Matrix)
3. Earth That Was (Firefly/Serenity)
4. Victim of the Modern Age (A Clockwork Orange)
5. Human See, Human Do (Planet of the Apes)
6. 24 Hours (Escape From New York)
7. Cassandra Complex (12 Monkeys)
8. It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive (Children of Men)
9. It All Ends Here (Blade Runner)

Disc Two:
1. As the Crow Dies (The Road)
2. Two Plus Two Equals Five (1984)
3. Last Day (Logan's Run)
4. Closer to the Stars (Gattaca)
5. Knife Edge

I got to open a Christmas present early a few days ago. As you can see, that present was the mediabook edition of Star One's new album Victims of the Modern Age. It hasn't been too long since I listened to the first one and I liked it even if I thought it was a tad samey in parts. However, I can say that Victims is much better than Space Metal. The first thing I noticed, aside from how amazingly heavy it is, is that the hooks are much more apparent here. All of the same vocalists from the first disc return - no complaint there. Dan Swano has a much more prominent role in here and even gets to growl on a couple tracks. Another thing that made me smile was that this doesn't just sound like slightly beefed-up Ayreon tracks either. Despite Arjen's ever present Hammonds and synths, I didn't feel like I was hearing more of the same. I think there's a vitality and excitement here that may have not been present on Ayreon's latest CD. Some parts reminded me of Devin Townsend's Physicist and other parts King's X. I will say that I prefer "Starchild" to "It All Ends Here" in terms of epic closing songs. I'd also like to praise Ed Warby's drumming here. He's always been fantastic, but I actually agree with Arjen that this is one of his best performances.

The theme for Victims is post-apocalyptic movies - I've listed which one go with which songs for your convenience. Finally, if you're going to get this, splurge and get the mediabook edition. It contains an extra disc with five extra songs and a half-hour "making of" documentary. Of the five, four are awesome and I really think that they should have included them on the disc proper. On "Last Day" Arjen takes his downtuned riffs and plays them acoustically, leading to an interesting Days of the New-type sound. I didn't care for "Closer to the Stars" because it sounded like an Ayreon cast-off to me. The documentary is fun to watch - you'll know what to expect if you've seen most of the Ayreon ones.

When I listened to "Digital Rain" for the first time I didn't think I would like this as much as I do. Definitely worth the dough!

Useless Fact: Arjen said that this album was sort of a reaction to his previous Guilt Machine project that was more melodic and atmospheric.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Choir: Live in Dan's Living Room

Out here where I live (in the sticks) we don't get a lot of cool bands. Scratch that, we get no cool bands. Occasionally around Savannah area a band will come around but usually Atlanta is the place for a music scene. Imagine my delight when The Choir announced a free online concert to be put on December 14th. I took the day off for this. There was no way I was going to miss it.

I actually logged on a full two hours ahead of time just to be sure everything would be in working order before the concert. Several other people had the same idea and we all hung out, shooting the breeze for two hours. It was a lot of fun. It must be what it's like for my wife and her fellow Twilight-tards when they camp out for the newest Twilight movie. The concert started more or less on time though they abruptly started right int he middle of the first song. The complete setlist was as follows:

1. 15 Doors
2. Black Cloud
3. Clouds
4. To Cover You
5. A Sentimental Song
6. Beautiful Scandalous Night
7. Wicked Guns (w/ Steve on vocals)
8. Love Your Mind
9. Spring
10. Leprechaun
11. Mercy Lives Here
12. Hey Gene
13. Enough to Love
14. Between Bare Trees
15. Midnight Sun
16. About Love

The show ran about two hours and the band answered fan questions between songs as well as told stories and fooled around. It was a mellow, intimate, and informal vibe - only Steve and Derri with occasional performances with Dan. The band played in Dan Micheal's living room in front of the fireplace where Dan's family's stockings were hung. Steve had strung Christmas lights over his drums as well. Sometimes it was hard to hear certain band members at certain times but for the most part the audio was pretty good.

As far as the performances - they were all a treat. Aside from a few extras here and there the band pretty much stuck to the songs on de-plumed which wasn't a problem for me because I love that disc. Derri played "Love Your Mind" completely solo and it was absolutely stunning for me. I think I like the acoustic version of that song more than the normal version. I was surprised that they decided to play "Wicked Guns" (off Lost Dogs' Old Angel) and even more surprised that Steve sung on it. It gave that song a different spin and Steve sounded pretty good. He also broke out a lasso and showed off his rope skillz that he acquired on Route 66. I requested "Goodbye Winslow" but to no avail.

It was cool to see all of Steve's weird percussion toys in action. He used a wine glass (with wine in it) on "Enough to Love" and a couple songs featured a "spring drum" I think it's called. The guys shared odd tales from the road like their weirdest gigs and how weird it is to room with Mike Roe, who apparently really likes to be naked. All in all it was a great show and a really fun night and I'm so glad I got to be a part of it. Hopefully they'll do it again soon!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Choir Concert Tonight!

For those who may not know, The Choir is putting on a special concert tonight at 9 p.m. EST. The concert will be available to view at Ustream.com. We'll be able to interact with the band, request songs, etc. So make sure you get involved. This will probably be the only time I'll ever be able to see them live.

Now I don't know the exact details of how to get logged on but you should probably go to Ustream.com and set up an account. Then check The Choir's website frequently today for updates.

I'm pretty excited. I'll probably take notes and give you some reflections sometime afterward.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

DeGrazio, John - "Stronghold"

DeGrazio, John - Stronghold
2010, Watersound

1. Stronghold
2. I Did Fly
3. Tomorrow Is Here
4. New Life
5. So Much Stronger Now
6. Heaven Sent
7. Fragile
8. At All Cost
9. Shine So Bright
10. Down I Go
11. Lord of Sacred Light
12. What Has Been
13. The Kingdom

Over on one of my other blogs I got a message from Bridegroom & Bitney saying they wanted to send me a copy of John Degrazio's new CD, Stronghold. I informed them that this blog was not even close to professional and basically a temple for my own nostalgia, but they insisted. So I said okay. There's this saying people have about books and covers and not judging and stuff. Though I confess, as soon as I saw the cover for this album I knew what to expect. You know what? I was right. Look at that cover. What does it say to you? If you guessed "Christian pop in the vein of Casting Crowns, etc." you're correct! Though to be fair, this isn't a bad disc. In fact, I really liked "Stronghold," a powerful piano ballad that immediately grabbed my attention. It actually reminded me a little bit of Serj Tankian's (System of a Down) solo material - if you can believe that. I also liked "Fragile" (pronounced frah-jee-lay... I think it's Italian...) - basically I liked the songs with minor chords. Unfortunately this just isn't really my thing. I don't like modern Christian radio and so anything that remotely sounds like it should be on modern Christian radio makes my stomach turn. Though honestly, John writes a good hook and the songs aren't bad at all so if you dig the Casting Crowns-type stuff, definitely give John DeGrazio a listen.

Useless Fact: The liner notes include a lot of Scripture verses for each song. Reminded me of the old days when an album from Tourniquet or Vengeance Rising could be turned into Bible studies - extra points for that!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Choir - "de-plumed"

The Choir - de-plumed. laid bare; exposed; featherless
2010, Galaxy 21

1. Dreams
2. 15 Doors
3. Black Cloud
4. Clouds
5. To Bid Farewell
6. A Sentimental Song
7. Love Your Mind
8. Spring
9. Leprechaun
10. Hey Gene
11. Enough to Love
12. A Friend So Kind

So one day I was checking the Choir's website (as I often do, being the total Choir fantard that I am) and I see that they had a new album out. This isn't an album of new material, but a collection of "unplugged" versions of album tunes - one from each album. I listened to the samples online and my brain screamed at me: you must buy this! And buy this I did. I think the greatest thing about this disc is that it really showcases the songs themselves and just how good they really are. It's nice to hear these tunes without all the psychedelic brik-a-brak that the band is usually known for. I think it makes them sweeter and more poignant - more sentimental if that's even possible! I actually preferred this version of "Enough to Love" to the album version. I'm also glad they did a couple Youth Choir songs because I think "15 Doors" is my favorite track and another one that I like better here than on the actual album. That being said, this isn't going to replace the albums but it's a real treat for fans.

There's only two things I have to complain about. First, "A Friend So Kind" was my least favorite track on Burning Like the Midnight Sun. I would have much rather heard an acoustic version of "That Melancholy Ghost," "It Should Have Been Obvious," or "Invisible." Second, the disc costs $15.99 plus shipping. It's kind of a steep price for what's essentially a CDR in a cardboard sleeve. I think they offer a cheaper online version but for those who like to have the CD it's a bit much. Though I did buy it and I do like it a lot so I guess I should shut up, eh?

Useless Fact: Matt Slocum from Sixpence None the Richer is on hand to play cello for several cuts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Guaraldi, Vince - "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Guaraldi, Vince - A Charlie Brown Christmas
1965/2006, Fantasy

1. O Tannenbaum
2. What Child is This?
3. My Little Drum
4. Linus & Lucy
5. Christmastime Is Here (Instrumental)
6. Christmastime Is Here (Vocal)
7. Skating
8. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
9. Christmas is Coming
10. Fur Elise
11. The Christmas Song
12. Greensleeves
Bonus Tracks
13. Christmas is Coming (Alternate Take 1)
14. The Christmas Song (Alternate Take 3)
15. Greensleeves (Alternate Take 6)
16. Christmastime Is Here (Alternate Vocal Take 5)

So I was having a conversation with some coworkers yesterday about Christmas music. I informed them that I had just picked up the Charlie Brown soundtrack before coming to work. Their response? "OHMYGOSH YOU HAVE CHARLIE BROWN?! YOU MUST PUT IT IN NOW!!!!" In it went - and you know what? We were all instantly happier. That's saying a lot considering how hard it is to make us happy at work. I don't think there was one single soul working with me that day that didn't have a little more spring in their step. Such is the power of Vince Guaraldi and his timeless soundtrack to an equally timeless Christmas special. This is one of those albums you put on, like Bing Crosby's White Christmas, and just sit back and enjoy. There's no flash, no over-the-top antics, simple production, and only three instruments. Yet somehow it has a way of communicating so much. I can't believe it's taken me this long to actually buy this album. Truly a holiday staple if there ever was one.

I feel I need to point out something very important - in all the pictures included with the liner notes, Vince is totally rockin' the handlebar mustache. Yeah... you don't mess with Charlie Brown and you don't mess with the sweet Guaraldi 'stache.

Useless Fact: Vince Guaraldi composed the music for some 14 or 15 Christmas specials and died before his music became a Christmas time favorite.