Friday, December 21, 2012

He Did It!!!

Been wondering why we're still here, even after the Mayans clearly and precisely (with no room for error) predicted the End Of The World? Well... here's why...



See... this is why The Doctor is awesome.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Green, Cee Lo - "Cee Lo's Magic Moment"



Green, Cee Lo - Cee Lo's Magic Moment
2012, Elektra/Asylum

1. What Christmas Means to Me
2. Baby, It's Cold Outside
3. This Christmas
4. The Christmas Song
5. White Christmas
6. All I Need is Love
7. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
8. Please Come Home For Christmas
9. Run Rudolph Run
10. All I Want For Christmas
11. Mary, Did You Know?
12. River
13. Merry Christmas, Baby
14. Silent Night

I like Cee Lo. I like that he doesn't take himself too seriously. He's like all, "Yeah, I'll wear a giant peacock costume while I play." Or, "I want a Mr. Bigglesworth-cat to stroke while I'm on The Voice." My wife likes to call him "the black Elton John." Cee Lo's Christmas album is a lot of fun too. I heard "Merry Christmas, Baby" on the radio and I really liked it (it features Rod Stewart) so I decided I'd check this out. I like "What Christmas Means to Me" and "All I Need is Love" - the latter of which features the Muppets. I also dig the acapella version of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." It's also nice to see "Mary, Did You Know?" and "River" two songs that I don't think get enough treatment. Probably the only thing I have a problem with is the duet with Christina Agulera: "Baby, It's Cold Outside." The problem isn't that it's bad, the problem is that Christina cannot just sing a line. She has to fill it with trills and fills and whatnot. Vocal acrobatics do have their place but it's not in this song. I also had to get used to some of the more R & B type songs as that's not really my style. Overall, though, it's a solid Christmas album that my entire family likes.

Useless Fact: Did you know Christian comedian/singer Mark Lowry wrote "Mary, Did You Know?" Yep he sure did. And it's been covered by a lot of secular musicians - not the least of which is Kenny Rogers, who looks a bit funny now that he's had some "work done."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - "The Christmas Attic"



Trans-Siberian Orchestra - The Christmas Attic
1998, Lava

1. The Ghosts of Christmas Eve
2. Boughs of Holly
3. The World That She Sees
4. The World That He Sees
5. Midnight Christmas Eve
6. The March of the Kings/Hark the Herald Angel Sing
7. The Three Kings and I (What Really Happened)
8. Christmas Cannon
9. Joy of Man's Desire/Angels We Have Heard On High
10. Find Our Way Home
11. Appalachian Snowfall
12. The Music Box
13. The Snow Came Down
14. Christmas In the Air
15. Dream Child
16. An Angel's Share
17. Music Box Blues

I quite enjoyed Christmas Eve and Other Stories so I picked this one up the other day because it was five bucks. "Christmas Cannon" gets played on the radio a lot. Apparently, people rush out and buy this CD thinking the whole thing is like that song and are rather disappointed when it turns out to be a rock opera. Since I knew what to expect I had no such trouble. It's a good touching album with only one single problem. One of the vocalists is awful. He sings on the first couple songs. His voice is loud and deep and doesn't seem to mix with the music. It sounds like he's just yelling half the time. I'm almost embarrassed to play those songs for other people. Aside than that, this is a solid Christmas album with some pretty poignant and beautiful songs. The story involves the angel from the last album and his new mission. I don't know what the faith is of the band, but their lyrics are more Christian than some Christian bands I've heard.

Useless Fact: I had a friend who saw Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert. He took the "orchestra" part of the name a bit too seriously. He was shocked and appalled when he got a loud, bombastic rock concert.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sad Day Indeed...

Pour a forty on the sidewalk for one of my childhood icons...




Nintendo Power's very last issue was this month! I don't even own any of the current Nintendo consoles but I saw this and had to buy it.

When I was growing up Nintendo Power was second only to the Bible as far as important tomes go. It started in 1988 and lasted 285 issues. It was probably one of the most successful and most popular video game magazine of all time. The day a new NinPow came in the mail was a good one indeed. I read and reread every issue I had several times. Geeks will notice that the cover of the last issue mirrors the cover of the first issue which featured Super Mario Bros. 2.

Just another sign that I'm getting old....

Monday, December 10, 2012

Evergrey - "In Search of Truth"



Evergrey - In Search of Truth
2004, Inside Out

1. The Masterplan
2. Rulers of the Mind
3. Watching the Skies
4. State of Paralysis
5. The Encounter
6. Mark of the Triangle
7. Dark Waters
8. Different Worlds
9. Misled

My first exposure to Evergrey came with their "sellout" album, Monday Morning Apocalypse. If I recall I liked it but it wasn't something that completely enamored me. I've always wanted to hear some of their progressive stuff and I recently acquired several of their albums. In Search of Truth is one of the more popular ones as far as I know. It's okay. That's what's weird about it. The music is well-written and the vocalist is great, but I never really latched on for whatever reason. My other problem has nothing at all to do with the music. The concept is about alien abductions and what-not. However, the whole thing is just dark and moody (which is sort of their thing, I know) and it never really seems to resolve itself. It's just kind of a spiritual black hole - only you're sticking it in your ear. I'm going to listen to some of the other albums I have and maybe something will stick.

Useless Fact: Vocalist Tom Englund performed on Ayreon's binary album. I'm too lazy to look up the exactly 0110 combination.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Free Holiday Music!

Hey everyone! Just wanted to let you know about some free music I've found recently.

The first is Come Let Us Adore Him by Riki Michelle. She was a member of one of my favorite bands of all time, Adam Again. The album is very laid back, very chill. Sort of a cross between Nora Jones and Vince Gauraldi. You can find it at Noise Trade, where you can also leave a tip if you're so inspired.

The second is Fleas, Naughty Dog - Vol. 3. It's a compilation from Rottweiler records featuring bands such as Grave Robber (who is awesome), All the Departed, and Final Surrender. It even includes a brand new song from Lust Control! The music is mostly metal and rock. Check it out over at Indie Vision.

I do have some more reviews coming. I've just been in a nostalgic Christmas mood so I haven't really been listening to new stuff. On the way, however, are reviews on Evergrey and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fueled By Fire - "Spread the Fire"



Fueled By Fire - Spread the Fire
2007, Metal Blade

1. Ernest Goes to Hell
2. Thrash is Back
3. Striking Death
4. Spread the Fire!!!
5. Betrayal
6. Massive Execution
7. Metal Forever
8. Dreams of Terror
9. Command of the Beast
10. Chaotic Punishment
11. Put to Death

Spread the Fire was another gift from a friend. There's a sticker on the cover that says "AUTHENTIC THRASH METAL" - and they sure are. As if you couldn't tell by the thrash guy choking out the goth kids on the cover. Classy. They play a throwback sort of thrash metal, similar to Gama Bomb. Unfortunately, they don't do it with quite the style or fun of Gama Bomb. They certainly have the chops - chugging riffs, great leads, etc., but they don't have that sense of fun or nostalgia. Well, they do have some pretty muddy production like back in the old days, but that's not a good thing. It's a slog to get through and it shouldn't be, especially since I love this style. The vocals sound almost exactly like Gama Bomb too. So, in short, if you want to listen to throwback thrash - choose Gama Bomb, because they are awesome. Fueled By Fire? Um... not so much.

Useless Fact: Supposedly tracks ten and eleven are supposed to be "bonus tracks" but I don't think there's any edition of this disc lacking those tracks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to pop in to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving!

We have a lot to be thankful for this year. Lexi continues to delight and astonish us with how cute she is. There was some awesome music this year. Even in our tough financial spot some friends are helping us out which is wonderful and humbling.

God bless you and yours!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Favorite Albums of 2012


It’s that time of year! I've decided to revamp my process a little bit. After reviewing my past lists, I've discovered that they’d slowly become a recap of what I bought that year instead of a celebration of the best of the best. So this year I’m only picking five albums (with three honorable mentions) that I felt were the absolute cream of the crop. I’m also going to do this later in the year so as to include more.  

Top Five Picks

3, Wake Pig – I got Wake Pig for Christmas last year and all of a sudden 3 became one of my favorite bands. All of their albums are fantastic (except Revisions) but Wake Pig remains my favorite. Imagine combining Coheed & Cambria with PFR and add in some insanely good (and unique) guitar playing and you’ll have an idea of what this band is about.

Tourniquet, Antiseptic Bloodbath – I honestly didn't think we’d ever get another Tourniquet album. Happily, this year proved me wrong! While I still think the songs are more an assemblage of cool riffs and parts than they are songs, I don’t hesitate to listen to it again as there’s so much to like.

Alice Cooper, Welcome to My Nightmare – Now I know why this is a classic. A truly superb album. From the crazy Vincent Price monologue, to the despicable “Cold Ethyl” to the mournful cries of “Steven!”, Welcome To My Nightmare is a one of a kind album. Before Silent Hill and Rob Zombie movies, there was Alice Cooper.

Sixpence None The Richer, Lost in Transition – I had this in the “honorable mentions” category but switched it because after complaining about not having it for two years I couldn't put in on my list and say nothing about it. I’m so glad Sixpence is back. The new album is a favorite in the house. Even my two year old likes it (and sings along – it’s so cute)! I still wish the songs themselves would have been explored a bit more, but that’s kind of a back-handed complaint. “Hey! The songs are great! I wish they would've stuck around longer!” Yeah… anyway, welcome back Sixpence!

Frost*, Milliontown – I seriously cannot believe how awesome this disc is. It came in my mailbox along with a few other freebies from a friend. Even after the first listen it shot to the top of my list. Amazing, evocative melodies. Great atmosphere. Epic songs. A great way to end the year, for sure!

Honorable Mentions

Vanden Plas, Christ 0
Dream Theater, Train of Thought
Devin Townsend Project, Epicloud/Epiclouder

Disappointments

The Choir, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard – Wait, what?! Yep, sadly, I must include The Choir’s latest on my disappointments list. Let me be clear though, this isn't a bad album. The problem is that I’m used to Choir albums pretty much dominating the Ipod for months. Unfortunately, after the honeymoon period I didn't find myself wanting to go back to it. As much as I loved it when it first came out, there didn't seem to be much to really dig into after awhile.

Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Lost in the New Real – My problem with this one is pretty much the same as The Choir. I expected to be listening to this throughout the summer and into the fall. Again, it’s not a bad album. I just never wanted to go back to it as much as an Ayreon or Star One release. Also, it didn't help that I didn't really care for the second disc.

Flyleaf, New Horizons – Oh gosh. Yawn! The band put all their energy into the first three tracks then ran on autopilot for the rest. It’s too bad that this is the last album with Lacey because it’s not the best closing act.

Cornerstone dying – I was very sad to learn that this year was the last for the Cornerstone music festival. Cornerstone was always the Holy Grail of festivals to me as a youth. While I was fortunate enough to go to Kingdom Bound on a regular basis, there were only ever one or two bands I really wanted to see. At Cornerstone, everyone that played there was someone I liked. I had always hoped I’d get to go one year but it looks like I never will. Le sigh.

Ray Perra leaves Sacred Warrior – Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news? The bad news is that longtime vocalist Ray Perra left Sacred Warrior this year! The good news is that the new album in due sometime at the end of the year with a new vocalist who sounds great. Can’t complain about the replacement because he’s excellent, but it’s still sad that Ray won’t be joining the band for Waiting in Darkness.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Suicidal Tendencies - "Lights...Camera...Revolution"



Suicidal Tendencies - Lights...Camera...Revolution
1990, Sony

1. You Can't Bring Me Down
2. Lost Again
3. Alone
4. Lovely
5. Give It Revolution
6. Get Whacked
7. Send Me Your Money
8. Emotion No. 13
9. Disco's Out, Murder's In
10. Go'n Breakdown

Suicidal Tendencies was a band I never touched with a ten-foot pole. Nay, even in my Metallica loving youth. As relaxed and groovy as my mom was I don't think she would have ever responded well to me asking, "Hey mom, can I have some Suicidal Tendencies?" Also, they are called Suicidal Tendencies. One day I was just window shopping for some new music and I decided to check them out. They're actually not as bad as their name might imply. This particular album is a bay area thrash/punk fusion similar to D.R.I. or The Crucified. I think it's their third or forth album and they've got their sound nailed down, resulting in some high quality thrash. They've got a healthy dose of humor as well ("You wouldn't know crazy if Charles Manson was eating Fruit Loops on your front porch!"). "Send Me Your Money" is the obligatory anti-80's televangelist song. I think it was a law back then to have at least one of these types of songs on your album. Anyway, I don't think I'm gonna rush right out and collect all the band's back catalog, but I'm glad I added Lights...Camera...Revolution to my collection.

Useless Fact: The band is most famous for "Institutionalized" from their self-titled debut. If you ever hear someone yell, "I JUST WANTED A PEPSI! ALL I WANTED WAS A PEPSI!" they're probably referencing that song. Also, Suicidal main man "Cyco" Mike Muir has worked with P.O.D.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Frost* - "Milliontown"



Frost* - Milliontown
2006, Inside Out

1. Hyperventilate
2. No Me No You
3. Snowman
4. The Other Me
5. Black Light Machine
6. Milliontown

Frost*'s debut, Milliontown, was sent to me by my good buddy Uvulapie. I didn't know anything about the band other than they were on Inside Out so I knew they would be "progressive." Upon first listen I heard a pleasant piano intro. Then the real song dropped in and I said, "Holy s***t!" It was so amazing I used profanity - AND I WASN'T EVEN AT WORK! This is, quite possibly  the most wonderful disc I've heard in quite a while. It is fully progressive with time changes and epic song lengths. It barrows from just many different genres from pop to rock to electronica - even a little R & B in the melodies. Speaking of which the album boasts some pretty evocative, lush soundscapes. As I've said before it's very rare that I form an opinion of a new CD so quickly but this was a no-brainer. Not only is Milliontown one of the best CDs I've heard this year, it is probably one of the best I've heard ever. For reals.

Useless Fact: I don't know anything about this band at all so I don't really have any facts. Oh! They do have another album out called Experiments in Mass Appeal. I have not heard it - but I will.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Flyleaf - "New Horizons"



Flyleaf - New Horizons
2012, Octone

1. Fire Fire
2. New Horizons
3. Call You Out
4. Cage on the Ground
5. Great Love
6. Bury Your Heart
7. Freedom
8. Saving Grace
9. Stand
10. Green Heart
11. Broken Wings

It's very rare that I'm able to form an opinion about a new release so quickly. However, upon listening to New Horizons for the first time I thought to myself, "Um... what happened here?" The album starts off really well. The three opening tracks are unique and full of passion. "Call You Out" reminds me a bit of "Breathe Today" from the debut. Unfortunately, after a strong start the album falls apart. It reverts to this standard Christian modern rock sound that feels tired and uninspired. Subsequent listens have not changed my mind any. My wife says I'm being too hard on them but I disagree. Both the debut and Memento Mori were both really good. They had a nice intensity about them that New Horizons lacks. If this is the "new horizon" to which the band is headed then I may have to get off at this stop because it's not very interesting.

Useless Fact: This will be founding vocalist Lacey Sturm's last album with the band. The story goes that after the band's former producer was killed in a car crash, Lacey had a "Memento Mori" moment. Realizing she wanted to spend more time with her new baby and husband, she decided to leave the band. They've got a replacement but she sounds kind of generic in the samples I've heard. Though, to be fair, it's a little too early to judge.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Devin Townsend Project - "Epicloud"



The Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud
2012, Inside Out

Disc One:
1. Effervescent!
2. True North
3. Lucky Animals
4. Liberation
5. Where We Belong
6. Save Our Now
7. Kingdom
8. Divine
9. Grace
10. More!
11. Lessons
12. Hold On
13. Angel

Disc Two:
1. Believe
2. Happy Birthday
3. Quietus
4. Heatwave
5. Love Tonight
6. The Mind Wasp
7. Woah No!
8. Love & Marriage
9. Socialization
10. Little Pig

It's always nice to have some new Devin. After finishing his four album cycle, Devin regrouped and released Epicloud. Rumor has it he was trying to write for the next Ziltoid album but all these pop songs kept coming out, and so we have Epicloud. Or perhaps you could call it Addicted! 2 as it sounds similar in that it retains Devin's trademark styles but is also very accessible. It's a pretty decent mix of all his moods. You've got some more progressive tunes like "True North" and "Grace." There are some sort of Enya-core songs like "Where We Belong" and "Save Us Now" as well as some straight-forward rockers like "Lucky Animals" and "More!." Epicloud is exactly the right word to describe this album. There's a gospel choir to go with the huge production making everything sound... well... EPIC. And LOUD. While I do enjoy it, I'm not quite as over-the-moon with it as I was with Addicted! I think part of the reason is that Addicted! hit its groove pretty early and never let up until the closing notes, which made for a supremely enjoying album. I don't think this one quite hits its mark. The songs are great, for sure, but I don't think the whole thing comes together as quite the package of the previous releases. As a result it almost feels like something's missing. That's not to say it's bad, not at all. I think the songs themselves are great except "Liberation" which kind of annoys me for some reason. Also, I like "Grace" but I think it's plodding pace and more progressive nature goes against the accessible pop nature of the rest of the tracks. In other words, it breaks the groove.

The special edition of Epicloud comes with a bonus disc with ten demos. Some were supposed to appear on the album proper, while others were bits and pieces of other ideas. The songs are unfinished but, honestly, you'd probably never know as most seem pretty complete to me. In fact, if it were my record, I think I might have switched out some of the main tracks for some of these. It might have improved the unity of the disc.

Useless Fact: Devin did a "video" for "Lucky Animals" in which he danced, poorly, I might add. However, that was just to prompt fans to film their own video for the song. The fan-shot footage will be used in the official video.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cooper, Alice - "Welcome To My Nightmare"



Cooper, Alice - Welcome To My Nightmare
1975, Atlantic

1. Welcome To My Nightmare
2. Devil's Food
3. The Black Widow
4. Some Folks
5. Only Women Bleed
6. Department of Youth
7. Cold Ethyl
8. Years Ago
9. Steven
10. The Awakening
11. Escape

This is the one. This is the album that finally converted me fully into an Alice Cooper fan. I've reviewed several albums of his this year and they've been good. However, it was Welcome To My Nightmare that finally pushed me over the edge (in a good way). I remember seeing the video to the title track on MTV. It was Halloween I think and they had Freddy as a vj. It was a very unsettling video and that vibe permeates the entire album. The story involves a boy (or man?) named Steven who is trapped in a dream world (maybe?) where he suffers torture and does horrible things. It's very effective, especially with the late Vincent Price lending a crazy monologue in "Devil's Food." The album is a lot more diverse than the Alice Cooper band platters. It's like a creepy Broadway musical mixed with good old Detroit guitar rock.

Now, after having heard this one I can see why some would be disappointed with Welcome 2 My Nightmare. The tone is distinctly lighter on the new album. Where the original is a terrifying journey into madness, 2 is a sort of fun, creepy collection of (very good) pop songs.

Useless Fact: "Only Women Bleed" did real good I hear.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Van Giersbergen, Anneke - "Everything is Changing"



Van Giersbergen, Anneke - Everything is Changing
2011, Aqua Recordings

1. Feel Alive
2. You Want to be Free
3. Everything is Changing
4. Take Me Home
5. I Wake Up
6. Circles
7. My Boy
8. Stay
9. Hope, Pray, Dance, Play
10. Slow Me Down
11. Too Late
12. 1000 Miles Away From You

I became aware of Anneke Van Giersbergen by being a rabid fan of both Ayreon and Devin Townsend. She's done guest vocals for both groups and I've always loved the parts she's sung. I was dimly aware of her other bands but when I heard about her solo "pop" album I thought it was time to check her out. Everything is Changing is what author John Scalzi might call a "B+" album. It's not super amazing or groundbreaking, but it's a good, fun album. At the end of everything you're glad to have listened to it. I'm still on the fence as to whether her voice is truly made for center stage or if she's better as an accent in other people's stuff. There are times (especially in the ballad "Circles") when she sounds a bit shrill. Luckily there are plenty of great tunes to balance it out. The lyrics have a sort of English-as-a-second-language feel, but English is Anneke's second language (or third or forth, you never know with Europeans). I think it just adds to the charm. She's known for singing a bit heavier, darker stuff but everything here is pretty sugary pop-rock. Not that that's a bad thing. A time and place for everything and all that. Definitely glad I picked this one up.

Useless Fact: Two videos were made for this album. One for "Feel Alive" and one for "Take Me Home." "Take Me Home" is the better one as things actually happen in that video.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dangerous Toys - "Dangerous Toys"



Dangerous Toys - Dangerous Toys
1989, Columbia

1. Teas'n, Pleas'n
2. Scared
3. Bones in the Gutter
4. Take Me Drunk
5. Feels Like a Hammer
6. Sport'n a Woody
7. Queen of the Nile
8. Outlaw
9. Here Comes Trouble
10. Ten Boots (Stompin')
11. That Dog

So not too long ago I had the hankerin' for some good old tyme 80's sleazy hair metal. You know the kind where, by just looking at the cover, your hair becomes stringy and greasy and you detect the faint odor of whiskey and feet. Yes, that kind of music is what I was craving. So I searched around in my memory banks and pulled up a memory of Dangerous Toys. They were exactly the band I was looking for. You can't get any sleazier than "Take Me Drunk" or "Sport'n a Woody." I think it really takes a certain kind of bravery to release songs like that. I may be unclear about the meaning of the word "bravery." Anyway, while the lyrical themes range from deplorable to vulgar the boys know how to write a song. Each tune has a great hook, cool riffs, and attitude. I think this may be some sort of concept album about the human condition. I know that's stretching it a bit, but there's some liner notes which lead me to think this might be more than it seems. I don't know if I'd even listen to something like this now but it does bring back memories. Speaking of which....

My cousin was the first to get this on tape. We were on vacation in Rochester, NY and we both got tapes. I go some rap tape (Kwame, I think it was). So we were looking at our tapes, basking in the ambiance as it were, when my mom's friend snatches away the Dangerous Toys liner notes and proceeds to read the lyrics to "Take Me Drunk" in front of everyone. My cousin and I were horrified - mostly because we thought our parents would take the tape away. Here's the odd thing - they didn't, nor did they really say anything. So we both got to enjoy Dangerous Toys for the duration of the trip.

Useless Fact: The band made a video for "Teas'n, Pleas'n" that was pretty popular on MTV. They released two more albums before going all modern with their last album.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dream Theater - "Train of Thought"



Dream Theater - Train of Thought
2003, Elektra

1. As I Am
2. This Dying Soul
3. Endless Sacrifice
4. Honor Thy Father
5. Vacant
6. Stream of Consciousness
7. In the Name of God

I was in college when Train of Thought came out and I didn't really pay it any attention. Since my recent rediscovery of the band I thought I'd pick this up as people say it's their heaviest. Indeed, this is some of the most aggressive music both sonically and lyrically the band has put to tape. Given my love of heavy stuff it's safe to say that I really like this album.  Their love for Metallica is evident throughout but especially on "Endless Sacrifice" where they rip off the "Blackened" verses. It's also the most "nu-metally" as some parts almost sound like System of a Down's Toxicity. There's even some rapping in "Honor Thy Father." You'd think this would come off as silly and stupid at best and pandering to the "kids" at worst. This seems to be a divisive album according to the reviews online. Then again, it's pretty much my M.O. to like albums people tend to hate. Anyway, the band manages to create memorable songs - no easy feat considering most of the tracks are about ten minutes long ("As I Am" and "Vacant" being the only two exceptions). Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention Jon Petrucci's solos in this. They are absolutely insane. Fast and intense - I didn't even think people could pick that fast. So there's a bit of wankery here and there but all in all a solid package that I quite enjoy!

Useless Fact: "Honor Thy Father" is about Mike Portnoy's step-father. It contains the most profanity I've ever heard in a Dream Theater song.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

King's X - "Ogre Tones"



King's X - Ogre Tones
2005, Inside Out

1. Alone
2. Stay
3. Hurricane
4. Fly
5. If
6. Bebop
7. Honesty
8. Open My Eyes
9. Freedom
10. Get Away
11. Sooner or Later
12. Mudd
13. Goldilox (Reprise)
14. Bam

When Ogre Tones first came out I was dating my wife. I remember listening to it and freaking out one evening because she didn't call me back or something. I was really worried that night - for no reason apparently! Anyway, I loved Ogre Tones back then. I remember Dug saying this album was supposed to sound like a combination of Dogman and Gretchen. Of course, Dug was in the habit of saying that about any King's X album that was coming out at the time. I would say it's a bit more like Out of the Silent Planet as it showcases the band's distinctive style but remains fairly simple and radio-friendly throughout. They've even included a reprise of "Goldilox." "Honesty" is a Ty Tabor penned acoustic ballad that is simply beautiful and the album as a whole is full of groove and great harmonies. The only song I don't care for is "Open My Eyes." Aside from a cool riff I think it's kind of boring. I got rid of this awhile back because it made me depressed for some reason. However, now I listen to it and think "What made me depressed?! This album is awesome!" I would go so far as to say this is one of the finest of the later-era King's X releases.

Useless Fact: The band made a video for "Alone" that is... interesting. It's just the guys playing the song with some video hos dancing with them. Also, I recall that the original title was Overtones but I think the label thought that was too plain.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

O.S.I. - "Fire Make Thunder"



O.S.I. - Fire Make Thunder
2012, Metal Blade

1. Cold Call
2. Guards
3. Indian Curse
4. Enemy Prayer
5. Wind Won't Howl
6. Big Chief II
7. For Nothing
8. Invisible Men

O.S.I. started as a side project of ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore and then drummer Mike Portnoy. They've released several albums of which Fire Make Thunder is the latest. It was another purchase I made on vacation and out of all the music I bought I think this is my favorite. O.S.I. are a progressive rock/electronica hybrid that reminds me a bit of Passafist in a way (i.e. it's a bit more rock side than the industrial side). Kevin Moore's subtle vocal delivery almost reminds me of Dave Matthews or Mumford and Sons sometimes. It's certainly unique and interesting. I'm going to have to check out more of this band's back catalog soon!

Oh, funny story, I was listening to this in the car with my wife and daughter when "For Nothing" came on. Lexi did not like it. She said it made her "sad." She actually requested that we listen to Sixpence None The Richer (which has become one of her favorite CDs). She's two, by the way.

Useless Fact: The intro to "Cold Call" features a broadcast by a station in Fort Wayne, IN. There was a miscommunication somewhere and the station was reporting an emergency when there wasn't one. Fort Wayne, for my faithful readers, is where I went to college and learned how to make large lists of nouns.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Momma Wrote a Book...

... and you should go buy it!



I'm really proud of my mom for getting this one out the door. I remember when we were just kicking around the idea of her writing this and now it's in print!

When All Else Fails is a romance about two people who've lives have been wrung through the ringer. Two people for whom defeat always seemed to be snapped out of the jaws of victory. For whom it seemed life itself had it out for them. How do they find each other? Is love really possible for these broken human beings? And seriously, what's with all the dancing?

All these questions and more are answered in When All Else Fails by Elaine Sherwood!

Available now!

Buy a physical copy of When All Else Fails by Elaine Sherwood

OR

How about the Kindle version?

Yes, I know this has nothing to do with music. I don't care! This is my momma! Now stop asking stupid questions and buy her book!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

In Flames - "Sounds of a Playground Fading"



In Flames - Sounds of a Playground Fading
2011, Century

1. Sounds of a Playground Fading
2. Deliver Us
3. All of Me
4. The Puzzle
5. Fear is the Weakness
6. Where the Dead Ships Dwell
7. The Attic
8. Darker Times
9. Ropes
10. Enter Tragedy
11. The Jester's Door
12. A New Dawn
13. Liberation

Sounds of a Playground Fading was another vacation purchase. From the samples I listened too I was really impressed at the melodies and the riffs. I think In Flames was more of a metalcore/death metal band but on this album they boarder on old-school thrash. The vocals do have a hard core influence but they don't get on my nerves like most hardcore vocals. While I really enjoyed this on my first few listens, I found that I didn't want to go back to it as much. I have no idea why though. It's not bad - I just don't feel like listening to it. I will say that the production is a bit loud. The guitars are down-tuned and sometimes they're so low that you can't really hear the riffs. The album is full of good hooks though and still sounds pretty commercial despite the heaviness. Hopefully, I'll get over whatever bug I have up my butt about this album and start to enjoy it more. Cool cover art, by the way!

Useless Fact: One of this band's past albums was called Whoracle. I'm sure it was a concept album but I have no idea what is about. With a name like that the mind can only wonder!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sixpence None the Richer - "Lost in Transition"



Sixpence None the Richer - Lost in Transition
2012, Tyger Jim

1. My Dear Machine
2. Radio
3. Give It Back
4. Safety Line
5. When You Call Me
6. Should Not Be This Hard
7. Go Your Way
8. Failure
9. Don't Blame Yourself
10. Stand My Ground
11. Sooner Than Later
12. Be OK
Bonus Track
13. I Do

All I have to say is:

It's. About. Friggin'. Time.

Seriously. This album has been done since 2010 and has been sitting on the shelf for two years! You'll recall that this albums lack of release has been on my "Disappointments" year end lists. Finally, miraculously, it's here. Is it worth the wait? Sure is. I like it a lot. It's not quite as awesome as I was expecting but it's still a fine release with great songs. They've used three tunes from the My Dear Machine EP and they sound the same for the most part. The rest of the album has some great hooks with a little country flavor. Not annoying modern country, mind you, but real country. Leigh Nash has said that artists like Patsy Cline have influenced her since the inception of the band and that influence comes to the fore here. It's more than just shoe-horning in a pedal steel here and there too. Some of the vocal melodies seem to be cut from the bygone era of female country and western singers. It's just enough to give the album a little spice and flip on my nostalgia chip.

Unfortunately, it's not a perfect album. The song "Failure" is kind of boring to me. Also, the album seems a bit light. I think part of the reason is the short length of the songs. Leigh herself said this album tries to focus more on the songs themselves instead of instrumentation. Each song comes in, does its thing, and leaves. I kind of wish they would have slowed down a bit and explored the songs a little more - let them breathe. Despite those complaints, I really do like disc a lot and I'm so happy that it's finally seen the light of day. I hope this is the start of a new era.

One rant before I finish. The band has gotten a lot of press for this album. I even saw a little blurb in Entertainment Weekly. This made me very happy. What disappointed me was that they said the band had moved away from their "sugary pop" past or some nonsense. In fact, every single thing I read about the band talks about how they've strayed from their pop roots. People, let's get this straight. SIXPENCE WAS NEVER A HAPPY POP BAND. EVER. They were ponderous and melancholy from the very beginning (you know, their first album with the happy, shiny title The Fatherless and the Widow). They didn't produce "singles" they produced albums that were meant to be listened to as a whole. "Kiss Me" wasn't even supposed to be on the self-titled album and neither was "There She Goes." These are the black sheep in the Sixpence library. It just really irritates me that people judge the new album based on those two songs.

Useless Fact: "Give It Back" was originally called "Amazing Grace (Give It Back)." "Sooner Than Later" is about the death of Leigh's father. Also, the album was originally called Strange Conversation.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Iced Earth - "Dystopia"



Iced Earth - Dystopia
2011, Century

1. Dystopia
2. Anthem
3. Boiling Point
4. Anguish of Youth
5. V
6. Dark City
7. Equilibrium
8. Days of Rage
9. End of Innocence
10. Tragedy and Triumph

"I though you didn't like Iced Earth?" asked my wife after she found out I bought this CD. I had to inform her that that wasn't true. I like Iced Earth just fine when they're singing about something interesting. I've always loved Jon Schaffer's warp-speed riffs. Anyway, I was on vacation with some cash burning a hole in my pocket and I bought this. Dystopias, huh? Well... that could be interesting. As you can guess, the theme of this album concerns various dystopias in pop culture from V for Vendetta ("V") to Dark City ("Dark City"... duh). It definitely leans toward "book report" lyrics though. There's nothing here that's terribly thought provoking or memorable but nothing bad or cheesy either. Although Jon has some fascination with single mothers on this disc because they're mentioned in, like, three separate songs. The music is just alright as well. There are a lot of mid-paced songs which made me sad because, as I said, Jon is the master of super-fast picking. There are a couple of fast tracks ("Boiling Point" and "Days of Rage" specifically) but not as much as I would have hoped. New vocalist Stu Block does an admirable job on vocals. He sounds like a cross between Matt Barlow (in the lower register) and Tim "Ripper" Owens (in the upper register). Nothing to complain about there. Frankly, Dystopia is a perfectly pleasant metal album but it's nothing ground-breaking.

So... here's an update. I wrote the above a long time ago. I recently gave this one another shot because I've been reading how people say it's one of their best. Well... yes. They are correct. This is way better than I originally gave it credit for. I'm not sure what my problem was. Oh, and I also don't know where I got the whole "single mother" thing - it's just in "Anthem." Though I may have just assumed "Anguish of Youth" was about that too. Ugh! I'm keeping this up here, but I'm a little embarrassed. Oh well...  I like it plenty now!

Useless Fact: There is a special edition of this album with some extra tracks: "Soylent Green," "Iron Will," and another mix of "Anthem."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tourniquet - "Antiseptic Bloodbath"



Tourniquet - Antiseptic Bloodbath
2012, Pathogenic

1. Chart of the Elements (Lincchostbllis)
2. Antiseptic Bloodbath
3. The Maiden Who Slept in the Glass Coffin
4. Chamunda Temple Stampede
5. Flowering Cadaver
6. 86 Bullets
7. Duplicitous Endeavor
8. Lost Language of the Andamans
9. Carried Away on Uncertain Wings
10. Fed By Ravens, Eaten By Vultures

You know that saying that goes "something is more than the sum of its parts?" What's the inverse of that? The sum is less than each of its parts? That's how I felt about the new Tourniquet album at first. It seemed like, much like Telescopic Realm the songs were sort of stitched together. However, unlike that album, the parts are a lot more compelling. As a result I listened to this album over and over until I could finally see the "big picture" and the songs came together. The songs are filled with killer riffs, classical parts, odd time signatures, and some off-the-wall bizarre stuff like the cheer-leading intro on the first track. I think having a good producer helped smooth all the parts together. All in all - I'm really impressed. It's been nine years since Where Moth and Rust Destroy but Antiseptic Bloodbath feels more vibrant and certainly heavier than the band has been in quite a while. Ted Kirkpatrick is still using that dirty, fuzzy tone from that Orange amp he loves so much but the production cleans it up and gives it some weight. The result is an awesome fat tone that is good and heavy with a nice crunch. Speaking of the production - it is stellar. Especially considering this is a Kickstarter funded release. There was a little bit of controversy surrounding the actual amount asked for ($30,000 I believe). I don't know how much money it actually takes to make an album but the money wasn't wasted, that's for sure. Everything from the sound quality to the CD packaging is top notch. This is seriously a great album and will be jockeying for a spot on my picks of the year!

Oh, one quick complaint. I don't like the name "Antiseptic Bloodbath." Yes, I know what the band is trying to say and I respect that. It's really the words themselves seem kind of silly. I can picture a group of young teenagers listening to Metallica and trying to think up a name for their band. "Yeah, man, how about ANTISEPTIC BLOODBATH!" "Oh, that's so rad!" So yeah... I think it's kind of cheesy, but that's just me. Like I said, though, awesome album!

Useless Fact: The album features several guest guitarists including ex-Megadeth shredder Marty Friedman who returns to whip up a few face-melters.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

King's X - "Manic Moonlight"



King's X - Manic Moonlight
2001, Metal Blade

1. Believe
2. Manic Moonlight
3. Yeah
4. False Alarm
5. Static
6. Skeptical Winds
7. The Other Side
8. Vegetable
9. Jenna
10. Water Ceremony

Manic Moonlight is the second of what I refer to as the King's X "experimental" discs. However, unlike Please Come Home... Mr. Bulbous I don't think Manic works as well. Yes... the boys were definitely in their "don't give a crap what anybody thinks" phase. They use looping drum samples throughout to provide sort of a base line for the songs. After a few seconds, though, it's just regular ol' King's X. I don't really understand all the hate this album got originally. I was in college at the time and a friend loaned me the CD to listen to and neither of us really knew what to make of it. It wasn't some techno abomination, but it wasn't stupendous either. There are a couple of tracks I absolutely love like the title track, "Yeah," and "Jenna." Though, like I said, I don't think the experimentation pays off as much. Take "Skeptical Winds" for example - the vocals are spoken word and the entire thing is rather repetitive.  Whatever I might think of this disc at any given time I have to applaud the band for trying something new. Manic isn't lazy like Tape Head so that's something I suppose.

Useless Fact: "Water Ceremony" isn't even a real song. It's the guys drinking water, burping, and laughing. I bet it was hilarious in the studio. On the disc, eh... not so much.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

King's X - "Tape Head"



King's X - Tape Head
1998, Metal Blade

1. Groove Machine
2. Fade
3. Over and Over
4. Ono
5. Cupid
6. Ocean
7. Little Bit of Soul
8. Hate You
9. Higher Than God
10. Happy
11. Mr. Evil
12. World
13. Walter Bela Farkas (Live Peace in New York)

Is it possible for King's X to have a "worst album"? Sadly, the answer is yes - and here it is: Tape Head. After the bid for commercial success failed the band just went into the studio and banged out this album. It's very simplistic and very basic. I also don't think there's as much life in these songs as on previous releases. It's almost like they were tired of being King's X and didn't really want to even make a King's X album but did anyway. They've completely abandoned any sort of progressive sound by now, which isn't bad per se, but the songs are just not as catchy or as strong. I can only think of a few tracks that I really like, some of which include "Fade," "Hate You," and "Happy." "Groove Machine" is alright too and has become a concert staple. This is not the band's finest hour by far. Tape Head was the second King's X album to appear in Christian bookstores. Just in time for Dug to come out about his sexuality. Predictably, in their overwhelming Christ-like love bookstores pulled the album.

Useless Fact: Wally Farkas (from Galactic Cowboys) appears on the last track. Also, that's Dug's head wrapped in tape on the cover. "Happy" was originally a profanity laced song called "Quality Control" that was supposed to be on Dogman if I remember correctly.

 

Monday, August 6, 2012

King's X - "Ear Candy"



King's X - Ear Candy
1996, Atlantic

1. The Train
2. (Thinking and Wondering) What I'm Gonna Do
3. Sometime
4. A Box
5. Looking For Love
6. Mississippi Moon
7. 67
8. Lies in the Sand (The Ballad Of...)
9. Run
10. Fathers
11. American Cheese (Jerry's Pianto)
12. Picture
13. Life Going By

When Ear Candy first came out I tore a path through my hometown trying to find a copy. I was excited about the band returning to form, so to speak. Not that they were really out of form for Dogman but that's what I thought at the time. Ear Candy is a lot more commercial than anything the band had done before. This was also about the time the band was doing profanity laced interviews in all the metal magazines. Ironic given that this disc was probably the first to appear in Christian bookstores. I liked this one even though it's kind of hit and miss. It starts strong with "The Train," "(Thinking and Wondering) What I'm Gonna Do," etc. Also, I count "Mississippi Moon" as one of my favorite King's X tracks ever. It peeters out toward the end with some boring ballads and run-of-the-mill King's X fodder (granted, that's still better 99% of pop music, but still).

About the lyrics - while I do miss the C.S. Lewis type lyrics I have to respect the honest on here. I really feel for what they guys must have been going through. Especially on "Looking for Love" and "Run" both most likely inspired by Doug's struggles. I've totally been there.

Useless Fact: This would be the last album the band would record for Atlantic before moving onto Metal Blade.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dream Theater - "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence"



Dream Theater - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
2002, Elektra

Disc One:
1. The Glass Prison
2. Blind Faith
3. Misunderstood
4. The Great Debate
5. Disappear

Disc Two:
1. I. Overture
2. II. About to Crash
3. III. War Inside My Head
4. IV. The Test That Stumped Them All
5. V. Goodnight Kiss
6. VI. Solitary Shell
7. VII. About to Crash (Reprise)
8. VIII. Losing Time/ Grand Finale

I vaguely remember when this came out some fans were upset because this was a heavier, more "modern" album. It certainly is heavy, probably the heaviest the band had done up until this point. The guitars seem a little bit thicker and the production certainly seems more "modern." However, I can't imagine there's really anything here to be upset over. "The Glass Prison" is an awesome ripping tune that begins the album quite nicely (it's also the first part in Mike Portnoy's Alcoholics Anonymous Suite). I also like the ballad "Misunderstood." "The Great Debate" doesn't do too much for me. I don't hate it, but I'm not over the moon about it either. It actually seems a little drawn out to me (it's 13 minutes long - I think it could have been trimmed). The real treat here is the second disc which contains the ultra epic title track. At over 40 minutes long this collection of eight distinct movements runs the gamut from classically inspired passages to some of the heaviest riffs the band has put to tape then back to some beautiful melodic parts. Truly an awesome song and reason enough to buy this if you're a prog-metal fan.

Useless Fact: As most people know "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" is about different types of mental disorders such as bi-polar and autism.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Arjen Anthony Lucassen - "Lost in the New Real"



Lucassen, Arjen Anthony - Lost in the New Real
2012, Inside Out

Disc One:
1. The New Real
2. Pink Beatles in Purple Zeppelin
3. Parental Procreation Permit
4. When I'm a Hundred Sixty-Four
5. E-Police
6. Don't Switch Me Off
7. Dr. Slumber's Eternity Home
8. Yellowstone Memorial Day
9. Where Pigs Fly
10. Lost in the New Real

Disc Two:
1. Our Imperfect Race
2. Welcome to the Machine (Pink Floyd cover)
3. So Is There No God?
4. Veteran of the Psychic Wars (Blue Oyster Cult cover)
5. The Social Recluse
6. Battle of Evermore (Led Zeppelin cover)
7. The Space Hotel
8. Some Other Time (Alan Parsons Project cover)
9. You Have Entered the Reality Zone
10. I'm the Slime (Frank Zappa cover)

I have to be honest - I wasn't that excited about Arjen doing a solo album. I don't really know why. He said in an interview that he spends a lot of time thinking about what the fans want. But on this album he just "didn't give a s**t" and was going to do what he wanted. No worries though, this isn't out of left field or anything. It's actually a pretty good album though it's not as heavy or as progressive as his other material. The concept involves "Mr. L" (who appeared in Ayreon's last album) having been cryogenically frozen and thawed out a hundred or so years in the future. Legendary actor Rutger Hauer narrates each song as Mr L.'s "counselor" helping him adjust to his new surroundings. The story is pretty interesting as it consists of snapshots of the future from the way the government regulates child-bearing ("Parental Procreation Permit") to the commercialization of euthanasia ("Dr. Slumber's Eternity Home"). The subject matter can actually prove to be quite thought provoking.

While at first glance it seems like the music is all over the place, encapsulating all the styles Arjen has played with other the years: rock, metal, folk, Celtic, psychedelic, progressive - you name it. Yet somehow, aside from the rather atmospheric opener and closer the album is a pretty solid (and surprisingly cohesive) space pop-rock album. Nothing here is quite progressive per se but that is okay. The songs are fun to listen to even if they seem to me to be lacking a bit. I like the first disc but I don't find myself wanting to listen to the second disc as much. "Our Imperfect Race" and "So Is There No God?" seem like castoffs and while I loved the cover of "Welcome to the Machine" I'm not really familiar with the other bands he covered. I'm not saying it's bad, I just like the first disc better but the second disc is more of a bonus so it's not that big of a deal. In fact I daresay this is one of the few albums that I appreciate more as a single disc.

One last thing if I woke up one hundred years in the future and Rutger Hauer's narration is what my "counseling" consisted of - it would not ease my transition one bit. He is creepy as heck. Though that's good for what the album is doing.

Useless Fact: Is it sad that I don't thing a "Parental Procreation Permit" is a totally horrible idea? Seriously, some people should not have kids.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

3 - "Revisions"



3 - Revisions
2009, Metal Blade

1. Anyone Human
2. Rabid Animals
3. The Better Half of Me
4. Automobile
5. Why
6. Lexicon of Extremism
7. Fable
8. You've Been Shot
9. Halloween
10. The Emerald Undertow
11. The Game

Revisions is exactly what it says on the tin - a collection of the band's pre-Wake Pig material remixed, rewritten, and rerecorded. The sound is a bit different from their newer material. It even says so in the liner notes. There's not quite as much technical prowess in the songs as they concentrate more on being short, simple songs. "Lexicon of Extremism" is a acoustic solo song akin to "Bramfatura" that is similarly amazing. I also like "The Emerald Undertow" and "The Game." I've noticed the lyrics in these early songs are a lot darker as well. "The Emerald Undertow" is about a handicapped young man who witnesses the drowning of a girl and his subsequent guilt about the incident. "The Game" is sort of a black comedy track about the lead singer killing the other guys in the band, then killing himself. So yeah... some darker stuff. I like this album okay but for the most part I'm not as enchanted by this material as I am their new stuff.

Useless Fact: The band a few albums out before Wake Pig. The ones I can name off hand are Paint By Numbers, Summercamp Nightmare and Half Life. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dream Theater - "Black Clouds & Silver Linings"



Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings
2009, Roadrunner

1. A Nightmare to Remember
2. A Rite of Passage
3. Wither
4. The Shattered Fortress
5. The Best of Times
6. The Count of Tuscany

Okay, get ready people. Heat up the crow pie because I'm about to eat a mouthful. I take back every bad thing I ever said about Dream Theater. This album is amazing. Simply amazing. While the songs are long and very progressive they never seem to get lost in pure technical playing for the sake of being technical. The vocal melodies are catchy. I have listened to this disc several times and have never gotten bored. I admit, however, that "Wither" isn't exactly my favorite song on here but it's also the shortest track. Oddly enough the two longest tracks ("A Nightmare to Remember" and "The Count of Tuscany") are my favorites. Consider me a Dream Theater convert!

Useless Fact: This was the last album to feature Mike Portnoy on drums.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tourniquet - "Microscopic View of a Telescopic Realm"



Tourniquet - Microscopic View of a Telescopic Realm
2000, Metal Blade

1. Besprinkled in Scarlet Horror
2. Drinking From the Poisoned Well
3. Microscopic View of a Telescopic Realm
4. The Tomb of Gilgamesh
5. Servant of the Bones
6. Erratic Palpitations of the Human Spirit
7. Martyr's Pose
8. Immunity Vector
9. Indulgence By Proxy
10. Caixa De Raiva
11. The Skeezix Dilemma, Part II (The Improbable Testimony of the Pipsisewah)

I have a little history with this disc. I originally downloaded "Besprinkled in Scarlet Horror" a long, long time ago and absolutely loved it. However, I never bought the album until five or so years ago. I listened to it several times and never really got into it. After a commenter's suggestion I decided to check it out again.

Microscopic View was a return to the band's thrash roots after the commercial Crawl to China. It is thrash - good and heavy with a lot of cool interesting riffs. It's also fairly progressive with long songs and lots of influences. My main problem with this album has always been that a lot of songs sound sort of disjointed to me. The songs don't flow as well as they do on their other releases. Almost like they pulled some riffs out of a hat and put them together for a song. "Erratic Palpitations..." and "Indulgence By Proxy" are particularly guilty of this. There are a couple songs that reflect some of the groove of Vanishing Lessons, like "Martyr's Pose" and "Caixa De Raiva." Also present - a sequel to "The Skeezix Dilemma" which is an alright song but nowhere near as cool as the original. There are some songs that I just love besides "Besprinkled...". Namely, "The Tomb of Gilgamesh," "Servant of the Bones," and the aforementioned "Martyr's Pose." So the good news? I like Microscopic View a great deal more than I did previously and could appreciate a lot of what is going on here. The bad news? It still didn't "wow" me and probably won't replace the older stuff when I need a Tourniquet fix.

Useless Fact: Legend has it "Caixa De Raiva" was written by vocalist Luke Easter about former Tourniquet vocalist Guy Ritter. One of the lines says something like, "I bet you'd relish the chance at another swing at me." So... was there an actual fistfight between these two?! The mind boggles!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Vanden Plas - "Christ 0"



Vanden Plas - Christ 0
2006, Inside Out

1. Christ 0
2. Postcard to God
3. Wish You Were Here
4. Silently
5. Shadow I Am
6. Fireroses Dance
7. Somewhere Alone in the Dark
8. January Sun
9. Lost in Silence
Bonus Track:
10. Gethsemane

Years ago, before the government cracked down on Kazaa, I downloaded this album just to check it out. I remember that I really liked it. For whatever reason I never got around to buying it (probably because it was expensive and hard to find - heck it was still kind of hard to find now!). I even gave the CD I burned to a friend and completely forgot about it. As I was searching for some progressive stuff to listen to I rediscovered Christ 0 and I absolutely adore it. I made it a point to buy it this time! This concept album is a modern retelling of "The Count of Monte Cristo" - only it's really heavy and melodic. Vocalist Andy Kuntz's vocal lines are awesome and infectious. The songs, while progressive, have great hooks and are stinking heavy in parts. The whole album has a bit of a Broadway musical vibe, especially in "Fireroses Dance" and the epic "January Sun." I've heard the band has been involved in theater before so that may have shaped the sound of this album. It's just a stunningly beautiful disc from start to finish and I'm kind of kicking myself for not having bought it the first time.

Useless Fact: As I understand it the band is named after the car model Jaguar Vanden Plas. Occasionally at work people will buy parts for Jaguars and I always hope it's for a Vanden Plas, but it never is.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Falling behind...

It looks like I'm going to miss my 5 updates per month goal. I've got at least five more albums to write about but I haven't gotten the chance to write about them yet. I'm still digesting them. It is fairly progressive music after all.

How's about you enjoy this song from Sixpence None the Richer slated to be on the new album (due August 7th! Yay!) It's "Sooner Than Later" - it was on My Dear Machine but I'm glad it's going to be on Lost in Transition. 



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dream Theater - "Awake"



Dream Theater - Awake
1994, Atlantic

1. 6:00
2. Caught in a Web
3. Innocence Faded
4. Erotomania
5. Voices
6. The Silent Man
7. The Mirror
8. Lie
9. Lifting Shadows of a Dream
10. Scarred
11. Space Dye Vest

Awake is a lot heavier and a lot darker than Images and Words. I also think it's a good deal more dense. Gone is the commercial sheen that brightened up the last album and in its place is heavy sludge. When I was in college I tried listening to this album again and again and I'd fall asleep every time. How did I like it after not listening to it for years? Well... I did manage to stay awake this time (no pun intended!). However, I still don't really like this album. Most DT fans go bonkers for this one but it's actually boring for me. It doesn't seem like the songs are as interesting. I'd take Octavarium or Black Clouds & Silver Linings over this one any day. I do like "Lifting Shadows of a Dream" and the morose album closer "Space Dye Vest." I suppose it's par for the course for me - I usually don't like albums everyone goes ga-ga over and Awake is, unfortunately, no exception.

Useless Fact: "The Mirror" is about drummer Mike Portnoy's struggle with alcoholism. Eventually he would turn his experiences in Alcoholics Anonymous into a five song sweet that begins with "The Glass Prison" on Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dream Theater - "Images and Words"



Dream Theater - Images and Words
1992, Atlantic

1. Pull Me Under
2. Another Day
3. Take the Time
4. Surrounded
5. Metropolis, Pt. 1 (The Miracle and the Sleeper)
6. Under a Glass Moon
7. Wait for Sleep
8. Learning to Live

You know what a good day is? Suddenly remembering that you have two Dream Theater CDs that for some reason never went on the ipod. In my Octavarium review I mentioned that Images and Words was the only Dream Theater CD that I really, really liked (that's changing, however). Hearing it again after a few years reminds me of why I liked it in the first place - it's dang near perfect. Everything is in place, not one note is wasted. It even has sort of a commercial sound to the production. I downloaded "Pull Me Under" on Kazaa way back when and it was so powerful, yet so melodic that I immediately went out and bought this disc. Thankfully, the entire album is full of cool parts. I love the drum part in the beginning of "Under a Glass Moon." It's still a pretty tight disc despite the epic length of some of the songs. If you've ever wondered what Dream Theater was all about, Images and Words is a great place to start. I still can't believe I've had this for years and not listened to it until now!

Useless Fact: Metropolis Pt. 2 did happen as a huge concept album. I don't know any more than that though.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Okay Progressive Peeps...

Got a comment yesterday on my review of Dream Theater's Octavarium questioning my dislike of the band and the CD. That's cool. Usually things like that make me take a second look at whoever it is and see if I can't connect with it somehow. I think my problem with some of the more progressive stuff is that I get bored with it because, really, it's like listening to classical music. You have to be paying attention and sometimes that just makes me tired.

However, nothing cool comes out until August 7th (Sixpence's new album) so I'm gonna give some more progressive stuff a try. Here's what YOU can do, gentle reader - suggest your favorite progressive metal or rock albums and I'll try to check them out (money permitting). At the very least I will track down samples and put them on my want list if I like them.

Suggest away!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Alice Cooper - "Alice Cooper Goes To Hell"



Cooper, Alice - Alice Cooper Goes To Hell
1976, Warner Bros.

1. Go To Hell
2. You Gotta Dance
3. I'm the Coolest
4. Didn't We Meet
5. I Never Cry
6. Give the Kid a Break
7. Guilty
8. Wake Me Gently
9. Wish You Were Here
10. I'm Always Chasing Rainbows
11. Going Home

With every Alice Cooper album I listen to my appreciation for him grows. Alice Cooper Goes To Hell is a sequel to the original Welcome To My Nightmare. Like that album this one has a lot of variety from the guitar rock he's known for to some more 50's-style sounds (like on "I'm the Coolest" and "Give the Kid a Break"). There are a couple songs on here I don't care for, like "I Never Cry" and "Wake Me Gently" . what can I say? I'm not much for Alice Cooper ballads for some reason. As I understand it this album wasn't nearly as successful. For me though, it's a pretty solid, enjoyable platter.

Useless Fact: Wait...wasn't Welcome 2 My Nightmare the sequel to Welcome To My Nightmare?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Fresh Beat Band - "Music From the Hit TV Show"



The Fresh Beat Band - Music From the Hit TV Show
2012, Sony

1. Fresh Beat Band Theme Song
2. Here We Go
3. A Friend Like You
4. Just Like a Rock Star
5. Reach For the Sky
6. I Can Do Anything
7. Bananas
8. Music (Keeps Me Movin')
9. Good Times
10. Loco Legs
11. Get Up and Go Go
12. Another Perfect Day
13. Shine
14. Stomp the House
15. Surprise Yourself
16. We're Unstoppable
17. Friends Give Friends a Hand
18. Freeze Dance
19. Great Day
20. Sun Beautiful Sun

I suppose I should be thankful that my daughter's favorite show is not Barney or the Wiggles. It's Fresh Beat Band. They are notable for having songs that don't make me want to vomit and two hot women in the band. In other words - it's tolerable. However, mark my words theses are not so much songs as they are the auditory equivalent to those bugs in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. You know, the ones that go in your ear, burrowing deep into your brain, growing and growing until you shoot yourself with a phaser or Kirk comes to rescue you. Except he doesn't. No, these songs challenge all the other songs in your head and mercilessly slaughter them one by one, Mortal Kombat style, until only "Bananas" remains. Or "Good Times." It really depends on the day. We are actually thinking about dropping a considerable sum on VIP tickets when the band comes to Augusta, GA. That's how insidious this album really is. For the amount of money they're asking for VIP tickets, I should be able to touch Marina's boobs.

Useless Fact: We prefer Old Reed at our house. The new guy is not as cool. So much so that we refer to him as Reed's cousin Sneed. Also, it's pretty clear to me that while Original Recipe Marina was a better singer, New Marina is a better dancer and drummer. Both hot though.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Collection

Hey everyone! I made a little video about my CD collection. Nerdy, I know. But our TV is broke and I've got nothing else to do. Enjoy!




And before you say anything - yes that is a shotgun next to the bed. Don't judge me! I live in Georgia!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Choir - "The Loudest Sound Ever Heard"



The Choir - The Loudest Sound Ever Heard
2012, Galaxy 21

1. Strange Girl
2. Learning To Fly
3. Cross That River
4. Laughter of Heaven
5. O How
6. The Forest
7. Takin' the Universe In
8. Melodious
9. A World Away
10. After All (Feat. Leigh Nash)

The Loudest Sound Ever Heard is quite a boon for us Choir fans. After all it had been five years between Flap Your Wings and O How the Mighty Have Fallen and another five before the band released Burning Like the Midnight Sun. Having a new album in just two short years, well, it's just wonderful. What I like most about Loudest Sound is the fresh, new textures the band brings to bear. I love the album opener, "Strange Girl" with its jangly riff and catchy hook. I also like the watery guitars and Steve's unique drumming on "Laughter of Heaven." Even Dan Michaels' sax seems to have new life as it seems to be more prominent and used in different ways. The low sax notes in "Takin' the Universe In" give that song a groove you won't find on any previous album. I always thought that Midnight Sun sounded very familiar where Loudest Sound takes me in completely different territory. There are some tracks that don't really "wow" me like "Learning to Fly" and "The Forest" - they sound a bit generic to me. However, there's still plenty to love. The pleasantly acoustic "Melodious" (dedicated to bassist Tim Chandler) and the touching "A World Away" also impress. The latter of which includes one of my favorite choruses ever.

Which leads me to my next point. I like the lyrics here as compared to the last album. While the funny stories of "Mr. Chandler" and the Marc Byrd tribute were fun, they didn't really anchor in my heart like Choir lyrics tend to do. Steve's at his best when he's personal and this is probably one of the more personal albums he's penned despite not having any songs about fighting with his wife. Steve openly admits that he doesn't have all the answers - "I'm a world away from enlightened/ More than a stone's throw from the Truth/ I'm a sad, far cry from a man who never lies/ But I'll hold the lantern high for you" (from "A World Away"). It's this kind of hopeful honesty that I've always loved about his lyrics.

The album closes with a duet with Leigh Nash. Being a bonna-fide Sixpence tard I was looking forward to this song most of all. However, upon hearing it I was a little ambivalent about the vocals. See, the problem is that Derri and Leigh sound too similar. So it doesn't really sound like two voices coming together to make something new, it just sounds like two people singing. I think I might have liked it more immediately if they'd traded off vocals. That being said, the melody of this song is haunting and beautiful and after repeated listens I got over my initial dislike of the vocals and it has become another favorite.

The Loudest Sound Ever Heard is quite an achievement for a band that's been together this long. I will say that the cover art doesn't do much for me. It's a little... um... smeary for my tastes. The artwork in the liner notes is great, it's just the cover that looks like it was left out in the rain. A small nitpick, however, because at the end of the day this is a fine album and I love listening to it.

Useless Fact: The album title refers to the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa that killed a bunch of people. It was reportedly the "loudest sound ever heard." It's also used to reference the love between two good friends.


Friday, May 4, 2012

DigHayZoose - "Ascension 7: Rocketship to Heaven"

DigHayZoose - Ascension 7: Rocketship to Heaven
1995, Brainstorm

1. Intro/Dancing In Concert With the Infinite
2. Strugglefish
3. Slow Serious
4. Whoo Woo
5. Slatherage
6. Magentamantalovetree
7. Self
8. Beware of Strangers Bearing Gifts
9. Later (L.A. 1994)
10. Circle of Pain
11. Secret
12. Intro to Regret
13. Regret

I count DigHayZoose's MagentaMantaLoveTree as one of my favorite albums of all time. No lie. So you'd think I'd be super excited about this live album. It's okay. It's not one of the greatest but there's nothing that I can point out as being super horrible either. Allan Aguirre from Scaterd Few joins the band on stage for a couple Sin Disease tunes and that's pretty cool. I also thought the band would be a bit funnier on stage. I guess somewhere I got the impression that they might be goofballs, but they play it pretty straight here. One last thing - great bass playing here. You can hear it really well in the mix so it stands out whereas the guitars sound mushy and sloppy to my ears. It's too bad this band broke up because I always wanted to hear more from them. (Sorry about the cover picture - Blogspot changed all the controls and I'm having a hard time adjusting!)

Useless Fact: The band did record some demos for a new album but it was never finished. I think they posted some of those demos on their Facebook page.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Alice Cooper - "School's Out"


Alice Cooper - School's Out
1972, Warner Bros.

1. School's Out
2. Luney Tune
3. Gutter Cats Vs. the Jets
4. Street Fight
5. Blue Turk
6. My Stars
7. Public Animal #9
8. Alma Mater
9. Grand Finale

So what should I find in my mailbox the other day but a package from my buddy Uvulapie! It's had a few CDs in it and School's Out was one of them. He is trying to transform me into a genuine Alice Cooper fan... and to be honest, it's an uphill battle for him. I previously mentioned my work's radio station and when I listen to anything from this era I think of work. It makes me sad. But I bit the bullet and sunk my teeth into this disc. It's actually really good. Excellent even. It makes me sad but only because the general public will only know this album for the title song. It's filled with cool songs - my personal favorites being "My Stars" and "Public Animal #9." Also, the bass work on this album is phenomenal. You know, like it was played by a genuine bass player and not a guitar player who decided to become the bassist after the band was formed.

Useless Fact: If the liner notes are to be believed the Alice Cooper band got their name from a Ouija board reading.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Star One - "Live On Earth"



Star One - Live On Earth
2003, Inside Out

Disc One:
1. Lift Off
2. Set Your Controls
3. High Moon
4. Dreamtime
5. Eyes of Time
6. Songs of the Ocean
7. Dawn Of a Million Souls
8. The Dream Sequencer
9. Into the Black Hole
10. Actual Fantasy
11. Valley of the Queens

Disc Two:
1. Isis and Osiris
2. Amazing Flight in Space
3. Intergalactic Space Crusaders
4. The Castle Hall
5. The Eye of Ra
6. Starchild
7. The Two Gates

What happens when you get real musicians to play live? Actual music. I say this because I watched a Fall Out Boy concert on DVD and wondered why the heck anyone would go see them live. They were awful. Star One on the other hand is chocked full of talent. As a result Live On Earth sounds almost perfect. Nobody misses notes, nobody screws up the lyrics, the crowd is excited. There's a good mix of Star One material along with a considerable amount of Ayreon stuff as well. A pretty good live album if I do say so myself. Thanks Uvulapie!

Useless Fact: This concert was also filmed for a DVD. Everyone wore shiny space-type clothes to match the theme.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Maybe I should reiterate....

....THERE IS NO MUSIC ON THIS BLOG.

There are no links. If you want something on here you will have to do what I did:

1. Visit some of the websites in my links section. They have a lot of great stuff that's out of print for your enjoyment.

OR

2. Comb amazon and find yourself a copy. I've spent years tracking down the music I want and spending money on it. I see no reason why you shouldn't do the same.

Seriously. If you're still confused see A Purpose Statement for this Blog.

Thank you and God bless!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Music Musings: You Kids These Days...

You kids these days... you don't realize how good you have it! You go into one of these new-fangled churches and what do you see? A gull dern rock band! Right on the platform! With drums! Then they play these songs that have actual rhythms and beats and what nots. Youth groups go to these Christian rock festivals, AND IT'S NOT EVEN THE KIDS' IDEA FIRST! It wasn't that way when I was a boy.

When I was your age the only music we had was hymns. There were two instruments - piano and organ. We were only allowed to sing music written between 1750 - 1900. Anything newer was an abomination! We had to listen to SECULAR rock! Where they sang about all manner of sin (my personal favorite was the sex - but that's neither here nor there). Then this Christian rock comes out. Good Christian rock, like what was on the MTV. And by golly, you considered yourself lucky if your pastor only reacted to it with ambivalent suspicion instead of vehement opposition. You had to cajole and convince the youth pastor to drive you to God knows where to see Whitecross. Sometimes you even had to sit down with the pastor and defend the faith of people you didn't even know but had to be investigated if you were to listen to their music.

Now...good gravy. If you tell your pastor you like a certain secular band he'll probably give you a list of Christian bands that just sound just like the one you like.

I tell ya what. You kids have it easy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mumford & Sons - "Sigh No More"



Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
2010, Glass Note

1. Sigh No More
2. The Cave
3. Winter Winds
4. Roll Away Your Stone
5. White Blank Page
6. I Gave You All
7. Little Lion Man
8. Timshel
9. Thistle & Weeds
10. Awake My Soul
11. Dust Bowl Dance
12. After the Storm

My wife and I got this disc because we really liked "The Cave" and "Little Lion Man." I still like those tunes but I'm kind of ambivalent about this disc. It's good and I like the sound - kind of like a Bluegrass version of Dave Matthews (especially in the vocals). And seriously, props to a band that can make the banjo sound dark, foreboding, and tortured. I just have to be in the right mood to listen to it. Usually afterward I always want to listen to something heavy and ripping.

Useless Fact: One person in the band is indeed named Mumford. No word on whether the other guys are his sons.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

fun. - "Aim and Ignite"



fun. - Aim and Ignite
2009, Nettwerk

1. Be Calm
2. Benson Hedges
3. All the Pretty Girls
4. I Wanna Be the One
5. At Least I'm Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)
6. Light a Roman Candle With Me
7. Walking the Dog
8. Barlights
9. The Gambler
10. Take Your Time (Coming Home)

I really don't know what to say about fun. Well... here goes nothin'. I was originally introduced to fun. by my buddy Uvulapie. He sent me a link to the band's quirky single (and video) "Walking the Dog." I got the album expecting more of that (and there is to an extent) but what I mostly got was something that I'd never really heard before. I guess I'd call it...um... New York City/Broadway/Coffe House pop. Some songs (like the opener "Be Calm" and the closer "Take Your Time") almost sound a bit like showtunes. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm just trying to describe it. "The Gambler," a poignant piano ballad, is quite possibly one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in a long time. The lyrics are amazing - telling the story of a couple's life together. Don't know why it's called "The Gambler" though.

Useless Fact: fun. has become pretty trendy lately. A song from their newest album, Some Nights, was featured on Glee ("We Are Young" to be exact).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - "And In This Corner..."



DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - And In This Corner...
1989, Jive

1. Then She Bit Me
2. I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson
3. Jazzy's Groove
4. Everything That Glitters (Ain't Always Gold)
5. You Got It (Donut)
6. The Girlie Had a Mustache
7. The Reverend
8. Who Stole My Car?
9. The Men of Your Dreams
10. Numero Uno
11. Too Damn Hype
12. Jeff Waz On the Beat Box

After the smashing success of He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, the duo put out this album the very next year. However, I never really heard much from it. I think I saw "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson" a grand total of one time on MTV. And In This Corner... didn't match the previous album. This album focuses a little more on wacky stories and such a la "Parents Just Don't Understand." "Then She Bit Me" immediately recalls the creepy vibe of "Nightmare on My Street" but instead of an amusing horror rap it's filled with non-sequiturs and lame rhymes and almost none of it makes sense. It's really annoying and not the way you want to start an album. Also, I think Will Smith flows better when he's just plain rapping instead of telling a story. As a result, while this album is full of old school fun, I don't quite like it as much. The group took some time off after this one to regroup and came back in a big way with Homebase later.

Useless Fact: Well... there's that "Too Damn Hype" song I was talking about but it's completely different from the one I mentioned in my other review. I STILL don't know where I heard that song. Heck, I'm starting to think I imagined it.