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.