Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing everyone a safe and merry Christmas! I'll be back next year in full force with some great reviews!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Choir - "Peace, Love, & Light"

The Choir - Peace, Love, & Light
2013, Galaxy 21

1. I Saw Three Ships
2. In the Bleak Midwinter
3. Away in a Manger
4. Baby, It's Cold Outside (feat. Leigh Nash)
5. Peace, Love, & Light

This year The Choir did their very first Kickstarter (one in which I actually had the money to help!). It went over splendidly and the band met all of their stretch goals. One such goal was the recording of a Christmas EP. What's great about this little album is that there's a few songs that don't get covered much. I've needed a version of "I Saw Three Ships" for awhile now and I'd never even heard "In the Bleak Midwinter" before. If you're a big fan of the band you won't really find any surprises here. Each version is lovingly arranged and appropriately "Choir-ey." Leigh Nash provides some guest vocals for the band's cover of "Baby, It's Cold Outside." I think their vocals work better here than in "After All" (off Loudest Sound). All but one song made it onto my Ultimate Christmas Playlist. And if you're curious, I didn't put "Away in a Manger" on it because I've already got Nat King Cole's version and I don't like repeats in my playlists. Anyway, it's a great little treat for fans and a good album in its own right. Maybe someday they'll do a full length Christmas album.

Useless Fact: "Peace, Love, & Light" is an original song.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Favorite Albums of 2013

2013 was an interesting year for music. It seemed like a lot of bands lost key members, regrouped, and released self-titled albums. Now that the year is almost over it’s time to list my picks of the year. As always – these didn’t necessarily come out this year, it’s just stuff I discovered this year.

Symphony X, Iconoclast – Oh. My. Word. This album was so awesome I bought it twice. I am not kidding. The riffs are aggressive and heavy, the songs are epic and interesting with great hooks. I listened to this album throughout the year when I needed a true metal fix.

Paramore, Paramore – Paramore is one of those rare bands that get better with each album. They took some risks here but I think they paid off as this is their best album yet. Kudos to the epic Shoegazer finale.

Coheed and Cambria, The Afterman: Ascension/Decension – Coheed’s Afterman saga made me breathe a sigh of relief. I thought the band was on a downhill slope after Year of the Black Rainbow. Turns out it was only a misstep and the band is back with a great double album.

Daniel Amos, Dig Here Said The Angel – It’s great to have another album by one of my favorite bands. It’s every bit as good as you may have heard. I hope we don’t have to wait another thirteen years for an album.

Ayreon, The Theory of Everything - What an awesome way to end the year! Ayreon’s newest is a fine example of progressive music. It’s dense and full of ideas. Great melodies, great vocalists, great instrumentation. While I’m not wild about the story, the music more than makes up for it.

Honorable Mentions

Amon Amarth, Deceiver of the Gods
Toy Matinee, Toy Matinee
Gama Bomb, The Terror Tapes

Disappointments of 2013

Vanden Plas, The Seraphic Clockwork – I loved Christ 0, so I thought Clockwork would be just as good. I was wrong. It’s kind of boring. The story is also kind of whackadoo so it’s really hard to relate to. I hope the band backs off on the theatrics for the next album and concentrates on writing strong songs.

Tatesryche, Frequency Unknown – Can I say this is a disappointment if I didn’t have any expectations for it? I was hoping Geoff Tate would really bring his A-game, but nope. This was just a quick cash-grab while he still has permission to use the Queensryche name. The other Queensryche is much, much better.

Dream Theater, Dream Theater – Man, it really pains me to put this here. I even pre-ordered this album as I have become a big Dream Theater fan over the last year or so. Unfortunately, I’ve listened to this album several times and it just doesn’t stick. Aside from the awesome “The Enemy Inside” the rest of the tracks just don’t do anything for me. Oh well… maybe next time.

Neal Morse, ? – I had really high expectations for this one. It wasn’t bad but didn’t wow me like I thought it would. I suppose that’s not really fair, but it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want! And you’ll like it!

Panic! At The Disco, Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die! – Yawn! Panic’s new one was the very definition of “blah.” Not great, not awful, just there.

Looking Forward To In 2014

Deliverance, Hear What I Say!
James LaBrie, Impermanent Resonance
Bloodgood, Dangerously Close
Lust Control, Tiny Little Dots
Lady Gaga, Artpop
Maschine, Rubidium

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - "The Lost Christmas Eve"

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - The Lost Christmas Eve
2004, Atlantic

1. Faith Noel
2. The Lost Christmas Eve
3. Christmas Dreams
4. Wizards in Winter
5. Remember
6. Anno Domine
7. Christmas Concerto
8. Queen of the Winter Night
9. Christmas Nights in Blue
10. Christmas Jazz
11. Christmas Jam
12. Siberian Sleigh Ride
13. What is Christmas?
14. For the Sake of Our Brother
15. The Wisdom of Snow
16. Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)
17. Back To a Reason (Part II)
18. Christmas Bells, Carousels, & Time
19. What Child is This?
20. O Come All Ye Faithful
21. Christmas Canon Rock
22. Different Wings
23. Midnight Clear

Another awesome entry in the TSO discography. Thankfully, the vocalist I hated so much on The Christmas Attic is nowhere to be found. I would venture to say this is probably the best disc out of the three. I especially like the beautiful acoustic closer "Different Wings." The artwork is also really good with an enormous booklet detailing the story. The booklet is so big it doesn't fit in the jewel case!

Useless Fact: The band has two non-seasonal albums, Beethoven's Last Night and Night Castle. Neither of which have anything to do with Christmas.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone out there is having a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Oh, and if you're out shopping today you might want to check and see if you have a soul.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Panic! At The Disco - "Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die!"

Panic! At The Disco - Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!
2013, Fueled By Ramen

1. This is Gospel
2. Miss Jackson
3. Vegas Lights
4. Girl That You Love
5. Nicotine
6. Girls/Girls/Boys
7. Casual Affair
8. Far Too Young To Die
9. Collar Full
10. The End of All Things

So I guess Panic! put out an album while I wasn't looking. I've liked the band for quite a while so I just bought this sight unseen. Honestly, it sounds a lot like Fall Out Boy's Save Rock N' Roll. A lot like it. It's got the same modern pop vibe and uses a lot of the same sounding beats and vocal melodies. It's not bad, but... I don't know... it's just kind of there. I do like the bass line in "Girls/Girls/Boys" but other than that I can't really think of anything that stands out.

Useless Fact: As I understand it, Brandon Urie is the only remaining band member as their drummer went off to rehab.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ayreon - "The Theory of Everything"

Ayreon - The Theory of Everything
2013, Inside Out

Disc One:
1. Prologue: The Blackboard
2. The Theory of Everything, Part I
3. Patterns
4. The Prodigy's World
5. The Teacher's Discovery
6. Love and Envy
7. Progressive Waves
8. The Gift
9. The Eleventh Dimension
10. Inertia
11. The Theory of Everything, Part II
12. The Consultation
13. Diagnosis
14. The Argument I
15. The Rival's Dilemma
16. Surface Tension
17. A Reason to Live
18. Potential
19. Quantum Chaos
20. Dark Medicine
21. Alive!
22. The Prediction

Disc Two:
1. Fluctuations
2. Transformation
3. Collision
4. Side Effects
5. Frequency Modulation
6. Magnetism
7. Quid Pro Quo
8. String Theory
9. Fortune?
10. Mirror Of Dreams
11. The Lighthouse
12. The Argument 2
13. The Parting
14. The Visitation
15. The Breakthrough
16. The Note
17. The Uncertainty Principle
18. Dark Energy
19. The Theory of Everything, Part III
20. The Blackboard (Reprise)

Yay! New Ayreon! I wasn't sure after 01 that Arjen would want to make another one, but here it is. In my opinion new Ayreon is always good Ayreon. The Theory of Everything is no different. This album is a little bit different than the previous outings. Instead of twenty or so longer tracks this one has forty-two tracks. Actually, scratch that, the album is only four songs. Four twenty minute songs that are broken up into forty-two tracks. Also, there's not a lot of repeating here - very few choruses. As a result it's a little bit harder to digest than most Ayreon stuff but far more rewarding I think. There is so much musical wonderfulness going on here. You'll here some Arjen sonic staples that will remind you of past albums ("Mirror of Dreams" seems like a callback to "Valley of the Queens," for example) but for the most part this album is very unique. Lot's of progressive meat to sink your teeth into. Lovely musicianship, lovely melodies. It's meant to be listened to in one or two sittings at most. Seriously, there might be forty-two tracks but you need to listen to the album as if there were only four. I could go on and on about how good the vocalists are or how good the instrumentation is (notably featuring some of the biggest names in prog rock like Rick Wakeman and Kieth Emerson), but if you're a fan you already know that. If you're not, The Theory of Everything is a great starting point. Get that smoking jacket out friend, you're in for a great ride!

For those who have already listened to the album I'd like to discuss something for a moment. (That was your spoiler warning, folks.) In the "making of" video Arjen says that the lighthouse on the cover represents science lighting the out of the darkness and into enlightenment. I find this odd particularly because is seems science does absolutely jack squat for anybody in the story. Quite the opposite in fact. The Father and The Prodigy are destroyed by their obsession with finishing their formula. The Mother and The Girl's lives are similarly turned upside-down. I would argue that the lighthouse is more a Siren than Beacon, beckoning the characters to crash on the shoals of their obsessions. Moths to the proverbial flame, if you will. It can also be a symbol of isolation. The Prodigy holes himself up there alone to finish his work. These aren't really new themes. In the previous albums the Forever race pursued science so hard they lost their emotions and connection with each other. Now I'm all for an artist interpreting his own work but his comments seem peculiar given the stories he's actually written. I wouldn't say his stories were anti-science, not at all. But I do think they tend to warn of the dangers of obsession. Of letting science destroy what makes life worth living.

Finally, The Father in this album is a lot like the father in The Human Equation. I wonder what Arjen's real father was like?

Useless Fact: The number of tracks on this album is a direct reference to Douglas Adam's Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in which the meaning of life, the universe, and everything was 42.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Metallica - "Metallica"

Metallica - Metallica
1991, Blackened

1. Enter Sandman
2. Sad But True
3. Holier Than Thou
4. The Unforgiven
5. Wherever I May Roam
6. Don't Tread On Me
7. Through the Never
8. Nothing Else Matters
9. Of Wolf and Man
10. The God That Failed
11. My Friend of Misery
12. The Struggle Within

After the band hit it big with "One" I think they decided to court MTV fame for all it was worth. Metallica (aka The Black Album), is far more commercial than anything the band had done before. They made several videos from this album and they were all in heavy rotation back in the day. I usually don't respect any person that says "Enter Sandman" is their favorite Metallica song or that it's their best song. Because seriously, that's just silly. That being said, even though the band's self-titled album eschews the more progressive tenancies of the past it's still just as heavy. In fact, I'd say this album was responsible for bringing truly heavy metal into the mainstream. I realized the other day that I didn't have this album in the vault and I was all, "Why don't I have this?" So in it went.

Useless Fact: I believe "The God That Failed" was about James Hetfield's mother. His parents were Christian Scientists and when his mother took ill, they refused and medical treatment and she died. I can understand where he's coming from with the song, but I still can't say I'm wild about it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

King's X - "Dogman"

King's X - Dogman
1994, Atlantic

1. Dogman
2. Shoes
3. Pretend
4. Flys and Blue Skies
5. Black the Sky
6. Fool You
7. Don't Care
8. Sunshine Rain
9. Complain
10. Human Behavior
11. Cigarettes
12. Go To Hell
13. Pillow
14. Manic Depression

Dogman was the first album King's X recorded without the help of long-time producer Sam Taylor. The differences are immediate. Dogman is heavier, darker, and a lot less progressive. There's also less of an emphasis on three-part harmonies and Ty barely sings lead. That's not to say it's not good, it's awesome. Definitely a classic - if a little depressing at times. Naturally, the C.S. Lewis inspired, Christian slanting lyrics have been dropped in favor of introspective brooding. Again, not bad just different. I was really worried about the band back in the day because I took this as a sign that they were no longer Christians. Apparently I was right. Still, Dogman is a great record and, in retrospect, definitely worthy of the King's X legacy.

Useless Fact: The dog on the cover came in different colors: red, blue, green, and yellow. The one I have now is yellow. The one on my original cassette was red. Also, a box set was released with the first five albums. However, it hasn't been remastered or anything and there aren't any extras. Still, if you've never gotten into King's X before that box set is the place to start!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dream Theater - "Dream Theater"

Dream Theater - Dream Theater
2013, Roadrunner

1. False Awakening Suite
2. The Enemy Inside
3. The Looking Glass
4. Enigma Machine
5. The Bigger Picture
6. Behind The Veil
7. Surrender to Reason
8. Along For The Ride
9. Illumination Theory

Now that I'm all caught up on Dream Theater (for the most part) I pre-ordered this album as soon as I could. It's the first album with new drummer, Mike Mangini, contributing to the actual song writing. I really enjoyed A Dramatic Turn of Events and was excited for what the band would do. I mean, heck, they even threw down the gauntlet and self-titled this album. However, it pains me to say that I'm a little disappointed. Aside from the amazing "The Enemy Inside" and a few other tracks, nothing has really stuck with me. I dig the sort of Rush/Coheed-esque riff in "The Looking Glass" and "Enigma Machine" is a cool instrumental. Other than that nothing seems to really stick with me. I keep forgetting that "Surrender to Reason" is even on the album. I'm also going to risk saying that "Illumination Theory" is one of their weakest epics. It seems like three separate songs strung together with only the most tenuous grasp on one another.

Also, let's talk about the mastering, shall we? There's definitely some loudness wars crap going on here. In addition the guitars seem to be muddy. Muddy guitars. In Dream Theater. Couple that with the loud production (which pushes the vocals back into the mix) and it definitely hurts the listening experience. This ain't Sonic Youth! Or Slipknot! Or a Christian metal album on REX records circa 1990! This is Dream Theater! I kind of expect some precision in the sound. While this release is way better than Systematic Chaos, it didn't entrance me. I'm hoping this one will grow on me.

Useless Fact: The deluxe edition of this album only features extra artwork and a 5.1 mix of the album. Perhaps the label knew the mastering was poor? Hmmm...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - "Homebase"

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Homebase
1991, Jive

1. I'm All That
2. Summertime
3. The Things That U Do
4. This Boy is Smooth
5. Ring My Bell
6. A Dog is a Dog
7. Caught In the Middle (Love and Life)
8. Trapped on the Dance Floor
9. Who Stole the DJ?
10. You Saw My Blinker
11. Dumb Dancin'
12. Summertime (Reprise)
13. Ring My Bell

Wow. Those jackets. They could not be any more early 90's. I think there's more colors in those jackets than is actually allowed by law. Anyway, Homebase is sort of a comeback album.  And In This Corner... didn't do very well so the boys took a little time off, starred in a hit TV show, regrouped and released this. "Summertime" was a massive hit. However, it's the only single from this album. I like this one alright but it's not my favorite. It's a bit more mature - focusing more on instrumentation and smooth jazz stuff. No problems there, but it's not quite as fun. In fact, there's a couple songs that just leave a bad taste in my ears. First there's "A Dog is a Dog" in which the Fresh Prince admits that, yes, he'd like to bed every single women he sees and that should be okay. Then there's the mean-spirited "You Saw My Blinker" in which Fresh Prince raps about breaking some girl's wrist for spurning his advances AND badgering a 90-year-old woman. As a whole it's okay but it'll never dethrone He's the DJ as my favorite album.

Useless Fact: Several guest MC's appear on "Trapped on the Dance Floor," which is a first. I am way too lazy to look up who the actual guests are.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Daniel Amos - "Dig Here, Said The Angel"

Daniel Amos - Dig Here, Said The Angel
2013, Stunt

1. Forward in Reverse
2. Jesus Wept
3. Dig Here, Said the Angel
4. Our New Testament Best
5. Love, Grace, and Mercy
6. Now That I've Died
7. We'll All Know Soon Enough
8. Waking Up Underwater
9. The Uses of Adversity
10. The Ruthless Hum of Dread
11. The Sun Shines On Everyone

I've listened to this album several times and I still don't feel like I've listened enough to review it. I think that's a good thing. A lot of people liken Daniel Amos' new album to Kalhoun or Motorcycle. I don't really see that at all - I think Dig Here is its own animal. I suppose the fact that the album contains eleven self-contained songs which are mostly uptempo rockers is similar, but that's about it.

There are some artists out there whom I've discovered, loved, and then eventually realize that they're one (or maybe two) trick ponies. Daniel Amos is not like that. Each album is fresh. Each album is unique. Dig Here seems to be the band's ruminations on death, suffering, and heartache. Ironically, the morosely titled "Now That I've Died" is probably the most optimistic. It seems like Terry Scott Taylor has been doing a lot of thinking about what may lay beyond and we get to take the journey with him. I like this album. I like it a lot. I feel like this is going to grow on me throughout the years - especially as I get older. Here's hoping the band doesn't take another decade to release another album!

Useless Fact: Dig Here was a Kickstarter funded release. I believe they raised over $30,000 which allowed for vinyl versions of the album to made. Y'know... if you're into that sort of thing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Threshold - "March of Progress"

Threshold - March of Progress
2012, Nuclear Blast

1. Ashes
2. Return of the Thought Police
3. Staring At the Sun
4. Liberty Complacency Dependency
5. Colophon
6. The Hours
7. That's Why We Came
8. Don't Look Down
9. Coda
10. The Rubicon
Bonus Track:
11. Divinity

At first I wasn't that thrilled about Threshold. I'd listened to their live album Critical Energy and, while it wasn't bad, I wasn't quite enamored with it. Then I heard that former vocalist Damien Wilson (who's performed on both Ayreon and Star One) was returning to fill in for the former vocalist who had passed away. I love Damien Wilson's voice. I wanted to get this album just to listen to his voice. March of Progress is pretty good. It's not as progressive as Dream Theater or anything but that's not bad. The songs are very accessible and catchy. There's are some slammin' metal riffs, which is always a plus with me. However, I do think "That's Why We Came" is kind of a boring ballad and "Don't Look Down" isn't quite interesting enough to justify its eight minute running time. Did I mention I love Damien Wilson's voice yet? Because that pretty much makes this album for me.

Useless Fact: I think the album concept has to do with rebellion against totalitarian governments.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Daniel Amos - "When Everyone Wore Hats"

Daniel Amos - When Everyone Wore Hats
2002, Stunt


The Original Songs of the Heart

DISC TWO: When Everyone Wore Hats
1. Donna Nieche and Her Super Race of Kickboxing Ubber Parrots
2. Piano Intro
3. The Glory Road
4. Can't Take My Eyes Off You/Get Back Into the Bus, Aloha
5. Evangeline
6. Uneasy Lies the Head of the Confidence Man
7. The Organ Bar
8. Our Night To Howl, Time to Go Dancing
9. Sins of the Fathers
10. Loveland
11. When Everyone Wore Hats
12. My Hand To God/Piano Outro
13. The Glory Road (Reprise)

1. Part One
2. Your Hidden Hand
3. Part Two
4. Turn This Off
5. Part Three
6. Devil's Elbow
7. Interview

Songs of the Heart is probably one of my top favorite Daniel Amos albums. It's not quite as popular as some of their other albums but it's definitely close to my heart for various reasons. I've always wanted to own the bookset the band put out years ago. Now I've finally got it! It's actually a big package - it won't fit in a normal size CD rack that's for sure. The big draw for me was the acoustic reworking of Songs. It kind of takes a listen to two to get used to the new arrangements. It's also very relaxed - what Terry called a "warts and all" sort of recording. I like it though it's not quite as good as I'd hoped but nothing I'm super disappointed with. I don't think it will replace the original Songs for me. The third disc contains a some readings from Terry and two new songs, "Your Hidden Hand" and "Devil's Elbow" (later recorded by the Lost Dogs). I'm surprised that "Turn This Off" didn't make it onto the Hats disc. The interview is good but the interviewer, Jason Martin, almost sounds like he doesn't want to be there.

Now I'm a sucker for cool packaging and extras and this reissue delivers. There's some ruminations by Terry Taylor about the album, a full short story about Bud and Irma Ackendorf, liner notes about the rearrangements AND full lyrics. I'm really glad that I got it, but it's definitely for collectors and fans.

Useless Fact: Just order the set and read the book - plenty of facts in there!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

So... yeah...

... I sure have not posted anything and it's already the middle of September! Don't worry, it's mostly because I'm digesting lots of Daniel Amos and Threshold and... DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. I'll probably get this stuff reviewed at the end of the month.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Amon Amarth - "Deceiver of the Gods"

Amon Amarth - Deceiver of the Gods
2013, Metal Blade

1. Deceiver of the Gods
2. As Loke Falls
3. Father of the Wolf
4. Shape Shifter
5. Under Siege
6. Blood Eagle
7. We Shall Destroy
8. Hel
9. Coming of the Tide
10. Warriors of the North

Hey kids! Did you like the movie Thor? Would you like to hear an album about it? Actually, that's not really fair. Amon Amarth have been doing death metal about Norse gods for years before the movie. I heard one of their better known songs, "Cry of the Black Bird," a long time ago but it never did anything for me. So motivated me to buy this? Um... I blame the cover. It's cool. Also, it was cheap and I didn't have money to buy any of the new Daniel Amos stuff. As luck would have it, I quite enjoy Deceiver of the Gods. It's got growly vocals aplenty but it also has a lot of melody and NWOBHM sensibility. It makes the songs a lot more interesting as they're not all about blast beats and downtuned noise. In fact, quite a few of these songs are catchy indeed. As I understand it this album marks an evolution of the band's sound. I'm not sure how long time fans would react, but I love this stuff.

Useless Fact: Amon Amarth comes from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It's the Sindarin (his made up elf language) word for Mount Doom.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Music Musings: Concerts and Such

Despite the fact that I love music, I don't actually like concerts that much. I agree with Uvulapie when he wrote, "I don't really care for live music (too uncontrolled and often disappoints compared to a carefully crafted studio album)." I think we actually are brothers somehow. Anyway, I don't like concerts for much the same reason. It's way too loud and, being an introvert, I don't really like being jostled around by people I don't know. I'd rather watch a concert on television or maybe a coffee house. I prefer unplugged shows like VH1's Storytellers where you get up close and personal.

There's also another kind of weird reason that's going to sound really religious. I think concerts, in essence, are worship services for the artist. Think about it: the band is up on stage - your entire being is focused on just how awesome and wonderful that band is. Is that not worship? Now I'm not saying you can't go to concerts or anything. But for me they have that dynamic. That's why I prefer smaller shows. They feel more relational. Instead of basking in the artists glory, they're sharing their hearts and fellow-shipping with us. Again, it's just a personal thing for me. 

Now I'm going to totally copy Uvulapie and see if I can list all the concerts I've been to. Keep in mind that my town did not have a music scene at all so Kingdom Bound was the mainstay of my concert experience. Though, as I've said before, my mom and aunt drove us all around God's green earth to go to concerts too.

Kingdom Bound 1990
- Carman
- Sacred Warrior

Kingdom Bound 1991
- Whitecross
- Petra

Kingdom Bound 1992
- Bride
- The Choir
- Rachel Rachel
- Scary Cats
- Sacred Warrior
- Novella

Kingdom Bound 1993

I don't remember actually going to any concerts this year. I did catch the end of Bloodgood's final show. Had I been a wiser lad I probably would have been at that show. This is the year they moved the alternative/metal stage. They also used the brand new Performing Arts center for the big concerts.

Kingdom Bound 1994
- The Lost Dogs
- The 77's
- Dakoda Motor Mo.
- Sixpence None the Richer
- Phil Keaggy

Kingdom Bound 1995
- Bride
- Johnny Q Public
- Supertones

Kingdom Bound 1996

I  think MxPx was scheduled to play but got rained out. My memory's a bit muddled for the 95/96 era. 

Let's see, now for regular concerts:

1990 - Michael Peace - some church near our town
1990 - Some band called Fortress
1991 - Whitecross and Sardonyx - In The Kingdom tour (some school in Pennsylvania)
1991 - Holy Soldier - Last Train tour (A different school in Pennsylvania)
1991 - Seraiah - Seraiah tour (Same school as Holy Soldier)
1991 - Michael Peace (At our church)
1992 - Carman - Addicted to Jesus tour (War Memorial - Rochester, NY)
1992 - Michael Peace (at Southside High School in my hometown) My cousin and some friends for youth group opened up for him under the name C.F.C.
1992 - Ray Boltz - Moments for the Heart?? (Don't remember where)
1993 - Carman - The Standard tour (War Memorial - Rochester, NY)
1993 - Newsboys at Eastern Nazarene College (Didn't actually watch the concert, I hung out outside and talked to people.
1994- Newsboys (I didn't actually watch the concert either, I chilled outside with my girlfriend at the time)
???? - Mark Lowry (Clemens Center in my very own hometown!)
???? - Alvin Slaughter (Faith Temple in Rochester, NY)
2005 - Emery - The Question tour (The Social in Orlando, FL) Gym Class Heroes opened up for this one or the Flyleaf concert. My wife and I go to see them before they blew up on the radio.
2006- Flyleaf - Debut album tour (The Social in Orlando, FL)

That's all I can think of for now. I'll update it as I remember stuff.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Vanden Plas - "Beyond Daylight"

Vanden Plas - Beyond Daylight
2004, Inside Out

1. Night Walker
2. Cold Wind
3. Scarlet Flower Fields
4. Healing Tree
5. End of All Days
6. Free the Fire
7. Can You Hear Me?
8. Phoenix
9. Beyond Daylight

Beyond Daylight is the kind of album I was hoping The Seraphic Clockwork would be. Since it's before the phenomenal Christ 0, the band isn't so focused on Broadway trappings but riffs and songs. As a result it's a fun listen - full of hooks with just enough of that theatricality to make it interesting. A couple songs, "Healing Tree" and "Can You Hear Me?", are... dare I say, radio friendly. Imagine my surprise. The story is sort of abstract. It's about an oracle who can influence events or something. I didn't even know there was a concept while I was listening. Some might point out that the band (at this point in their career) is copying Dream Theater's template, and they are to some extent. But who cares? As long as the music is good I'm there.

Useless Fact: Oh, I guess the oracle's name is Killroy Murdoch

The Flower Kings - "The Rainmaker"

The Flower Kings - The Rainmaker
2001, Inside Out

1. Last Minute on Earth
2. World Without a Heart
3. Road to Sanctuary
4. The Rainmaker
5. City of Angels
6. Elaine
7. Thru the Walls
8. Sword of God
9. Blessing of a Smile
10. Red Alert
11. Serious Dreamers

I had no idea what to expect when I started listening to The Flower Kings. I'd heard of them before but never given them a listen. Most of the reviews of this disc say it's one of their weaker ones. Figures, I'd love it. It's good progressive rock but whereas most of the progressive stuff I usually listen to is rooted in metal, this is more rooted in 70's prog-rock bands like Yes, Genesis, and Pink Floyd. Of course there's the crazy virtuoso playing, but there's also a good sense of melody too. The vocalist definitely has a bit of a Roger Waters sound to him. Some of the softer guitar parts almost sound like the music they use to play on the Weather Channel when the local forecast popped up. Oh... that's a good thing. I always liked that guitar stuff, oddly enough. "City of God" is particularly 70's-ish, but again, in a good way. A way that makes me vaguely nostalgic. The Rainmaker is definitely a solid progressive rock album and I'm looking forward to diving into some of their other stuff.

Useless Fact: I don't really know this band well enough to tell you anything interesting.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Toy Matinee - "Toy Matinee"

Toy Matinee - Toy Matinee
1990, Reprise

1. Last Plane Out
2. Turn It On Salvador
3. Things She Said
4. Remember My Name
5. The Toy Matinee
6. Queen of Misery
7. The Ballad of Jenny Ledge
8. The Was a Little Boy
9. We Always Come Home

This is another album I discovered courtesy of my friend Uvulapie. It came in a big box full of progressive albums as a little bonus. I opened up the booklet to scan the lyrics and was immediately intrigued. See, Toy Matinee is pop music, but pop music made by actual musicians. Musicians who care about songcraft, melody, and instrumentation. It's the type of pop music that was way to good to actually be successful with the general public. Each song is lovingly crafted and has its own identity while still uniting the album as a whole. It's a pleasure to listen to from start to finish and when it's done you won't hesitate to start it up again. If you're looking for a nice little obscure gem from the early 90's - here it is. Thanks again, Uvulapie!

Useless Fact: Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son, provides some background vocals on some tracks.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Queensryche - "Queensryche"

Queensryche - Queensryche
2013, Century

1. X2
2. Where Dreams Go To Die
3. Spore
4. In This Light
5. Redemption
6. Vindication
7. Midnight Lullaby
8. A World Without
9. Don't Look Back
10. Fallout
11. Open Road
12. Queen of the Reich (Live)
13. En Force (Live)
14. Prophecy (Live)

Queensryche is back. For reals. Frequency Unknown does not count. This new album, featuring three original members and new vocalist Todd LaTorre, is more passionate than the band has sounded since Promised Land. While it does return to the more metallic style of the first five QR albums, it really does have its own identity. Tracks like "Redemption" and "Vindication" are great metal tunes while others, like "A World Without," are slower and more melodic. Each song has a monster hook and the entire album just vibrates with an intensity I haven't heard in a long time. Todd LaTorre's vocals are stellar. He does a better Geoff Tate than Geoff Tate does. The deluxe edition features three extra live tracks (similar to Frequency Unknown's rerecords) which rock. While the extra tracks on Tate's album showcase just how flaccid his voice has become, the live tracks here do the exact opposite. The band is tight and LaTorre just owns the material. However, there are a couple of things that annoy me. Both "X2" and "Midnight Lullaby" aren't songs but noisy "interludes." I don't think they add anything to album - they are the very definition of filler. I would have preferred something more along the lines of "Waiting For 22" or something but I think that was Chris DeGarmo's department. The other problem with this album, it's too short! Not counting the interludes the album has nine tracks making the album clock in at about a half an hour. That seems a bit light for a band whose albums have always been very substantial. These are minor quibbles though. Overall, I think Queenryche has knocked it out of the park and if the judge doesn't award them the QR name in November it will be a miscarriage in justice (sort of... I know there's more important things out there).

Useless Fact: The deluxe edition also comes with a patch, guitar pick, buttons, and a sticker in addition to the extra live tracks. It also comes in a fancy big box.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Megadeth - "Super Collider"

Megadeth - Super Collider
2013, UMe

1. Kingmaker
2. Super Collider
3. Burn!
4. Built For War
5. Off the Edge
6. Dance In the Rain
7. Beginning of Sorrow
8. The Blackest Crow
9. Forget to Remember
10. Don't Turn Your Back...
11. Cold Sweat

I was surprised by how much ire Super Collider has drawn from fans. After the title track was released people were decrying the album as a dud. A return to the pop-rock of Risk. Is that true? Let me think for a minute...uh.....NO! It's not even remotely true. While the album is a lot more melodic and diverse it's far from bubblegum. Songs like "Kingmaker," "Burn!," and "Built For War" are infectious metal tracks. Then there's "Dance In the Rain" which slows things down until blasting away at the end. It also features Disturbed's David Draimen on vocals. He's okay. He doesn't hurt the song any but I wasn't wowed. "The Blackest Crow" is also of note as it features banjo and a little (a smidgen) of country flavor. Don't get me wrong, it still rocks hard. The album closes with "Cold Sweat," a Thin Lizzy cover and one of the best tracks on the album. It almost seems like Dave Mustaine wanted to make more of a hard rock record. Except, unlike Cryptic Writings and Risk where his hand was being forced, Super Collider is pure Dave. I do like this album a lot, even if it's missing some of the furious thrash riffing Megadeth is known for. But honestly, after having consistently great albums since 2004's The System Has Failed, Dave & co. don't really owe me anything. I'm content to just sit back and enjoy whatever they create. I will admit that the album does seem a tad rushed. I think some of these songs could have used a bit more polish. A minor quibble, however. I don't know how Super Collider will stand the test of time, but for now it's definitely a fun summer listen.

Useless Fact: The band must have visited the famed Hadron Super Collider because the liner notes are filled with pictures of it. The artwork (bland cover aside) is quite beautiful.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gama Bomb - "The Terror Tapes"

Gama Bomb - The Terror Tapes
2013, AFM

1. The Wrong Stuff
2. Legend of Speed
3. Backwards Bible
4. Beverly Hills Robocop
5. Smoke the Blow With Willem DeFoe
6. We Started The Fire
7. Terrorscope
8. Cannibals Are In The Streets (All Flesh Must Be Eaten)
9. Shitting Yourself To Live
10. Matrioska Brain
11. Metal Idiot
12. Wrecking Ball

T'was a nice surprise when I found out Gama Bomb had put out a new album. I made it a priority to pick it up, even though their last album, Tales From The Grave In Space wasn't quite as good as the last. The Terror Tapes does see a slight evolution in the band's sound, but not much. They're still all about thrash and speed but vocalist Philly Byrne had surgery for nodes on his vocal cords. Now he's not able to do the high pitched screams of albums past, but I think that's a good thing. It's forced him to be a little bit more creative and as a result does a bit more actual singing on this album. Speaking of creativity, I think these songs are a lot more memorable. They've all got a cool vocal line or riff that distinguishes each one. I still think Citizen Brain might be my favorite, The Terror Tapes is just as good.

Useless Fact: The liner notes for this album look like cassette tape instructions. Not as cool as the pulp comics, but at least we've got the lyrics which I'd rather have anyway.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Morse, Neal - "?"

Morse, Neal - ?
2005, Metal Blade

1. The Temple of the Living God
2. Another World
3. The Outsider
4. Sweet Elation
5. In The Fire
6. Solid As the Sun
7. The Glory of the Lord
8. Outside Looking In
9. 12
10. Entrance
11. Inside His Presence
12. The Temple of the Living God

I think my expectations were a little too high with this one. I've heard a lot about Neal Morse - about what a progressive rock legend he is. Most of the reviews of this CD are glowingly positive, and deservedly so. The music itself is absolutely stunning. The styles are all over the map. I can't imagine a tried and true prog-head not going ga-ga over this. Seriously. Want epic length songs? The entire album is one single track broken up into twelve movements. I think whoever was in charge of setting the track breaks didn't really know how to separate the movements because sometimes the album will be well into the next section but still listing the last track. Anyway, my problem isn't really with the music. ? just didn't engage me like I thought it would. I expected to be enthralled, enraptured. I expected to really be led into the presence of God - especially since this is a concept album about the Tabernacle, the presence of God, and Christ's fulfillment of the Law. Unfortunately, I found my mind wandering in places. I certainly enjoy what's here but it just didn't grab hold of me like I thought it would. I do plan to revisit this one but right now I'm a little disappointed.

Useless Fact: Jordan Rudess and Mike Portnoy both appear on this album.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Mortification - "Erasing The Goblin"

Mortification - Erasing The Goblin

1. Razorback
2. Erasing The Goblin
3. The Dead Shall Be Judged
4. Escaping The Blasphemous Tabernacle
5. Your Time
6. Forged In Stone
7. Way, Truth, Life
8. Humanitarian
9. Short Circuit
10. Dead Man Walking
11. Servants of the Supreme Message
12. Erasing The Goblin (Live)
13. Brutal Warfare (Live)
14. Hammer of God (Live)
15. Purest Intent (Live)
16. Standing At The Door of Death (Live)
17. Spoken Word (Live)
18. Chapel of Hope (Live)
19. 12 Men (Live)
20. God Rulz (Live)

Finally! I found one! A good later-era Morty disc. Actually, good isn't right - great. Yes. This is great. From the pummeling opener "Razorback" you can tell the band is in top form. The songs here are far more exciting and interesting than just about anything I've heard so far from this era. My favorites include "Razorback," "Way, Truth, Life," and the punk-inspired "Short Circuit." Steve's vocals are sort of a cross between his clean shouts and growls. They work with the music and didn't annoy me at all. Probably the only song I didn't like is the title track. It just seems kind of boring to me. However, it's leaps and bounds above anything off of Brain Cleaner. Speaking of which, the lyrics have taken on more of an evangelical slant and aren't nearly as cheesy or whiny. All in all an awesome album! My edition is a recently reissued edition with improved cover artwork and bonus live tracks. The live tracks are okay but Steve's vocals are not very good and the production on the tracks is kind of spotty. Live Planetarium they are not.

Useless Fact: The original title for this album was Impaling The Goblin, but Steve Rowe was informed that that phrase had some sexual connotation in some countries so it was changed. Also, when this album was originally released the last track was either "Dead Man Walking" or "Servants of the Supreme Message" depending on whether you go the Rowe Productions or MCM version. Thankfully, this reissue has both.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fall Out Boy - "Save Rock And Roll"

Fall Out Boy - Save Rock And Roll
2013, Island

1. The Phoenix
2. My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light 'Em Up)
3. Alone Together
4. Where Did The Party Go?
5. Just One Yesterday
6. The Mighty Fall
7. Miss Missing You
8. Death Valley
9. Young Volcanoes
10. Rat a Tat
11. Save Rock And Roll

Save Rock And Roll huh? First, I wasn't aware that rock and roll was in danger. Second, even if it were I don't think I'd trust its salvation to Fall Out Boy. Especially with the least "rock and roll" album the band has made up until now. It's got some lame flavor-of-the-month guest stars. It's also got Courtney Love and Elton John. Courtney's job on "Rat a Tat" is to be vulgar and see how many times she can fit the words "suicide," "blonde," and "bomb" in the lyrics. Elton John's job is to make you go - "WTF? Why is Elton John here?!" But I'm not here to hate folks, so I'll answer the question I'm sure you're asking - "Is it any good?" Let me answer it this way...

You know McDonald's right? Sometimes you just get a craving for a McDouble or fries. Or maybe it's breakfast time and it's the closest thing there is. Whatever draws you to the Golden Arches is immaterial. You know exactly what you're going to get. It won't be "delicious" and you certainly won't "savor" it, but it will do exactly what you need it to do - take up space in your stomach. Likewise, sometimes I get a craving for easily digestible pop music with good hooks that I don't have to think too hard about. That's where Fall Out Boy comes in. I listen to it because I know exactly what I'm getting and sometimes it hits the spot. Some people say this album is really different, but it's not. It's the exact same band only instead of guitar there's more pop noise and no stupid song titles. The strongest tracks are probably "Miss Missing You" and "Young Volcanoes." Those are my favorites anyway. So yeah... Fall Out Boy... the Big Mac of pop music.

Useless Fact: I'm not really sure what's going on with the cover art. Also.... Elton John sings on the title track. Yeah. ELTON JOHN. I wonder if he was drunk or confused or what?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This Man Has No Children...

So I've come to the realization that I will probably never write that post about video game music. Instead I thought I'd give you something different. The videos below were made by a gentleman who calls himself "Smooth McGroove." He has done acapella versions of some video game classics. I was pretty impressed by his videos. He listens to each channel on a track and then replicates it, puts the videos together, and viola! awesomeness! Here are some of my favorites:

This is "Blood Tears" from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest:

Here's "Spark Mandrill" from Mega Man X:

Finally, here's my favorite - "Corridors Of Time" from one of the best video games ever, Chrono Trigger:

Cool stuff huh? Also, as my title points out - this man cannot have any children. Cuz dang - I only have one and I barely have time to poop by myself.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Paramore - "Paramore"

Paramore - Paramore
2013, Fueled By Ramen

1. Fast In My Car
2. Now
3. Grow Up
4. Daydreaming
5. Interlude: Moving On
6. Ain't It Fun
7. Part II
8. Last Hope
9. Still Into You
10. Anklebiters
11. Interlude: Holiday
12. Proof
13. Hate To See Your Heart Break
14. (One of Those) Crazy Girls
15. Interlude: I'm Not Angry Anymore
16. Be Alone
17. Future

Well it's been a good four years since the last Paramore album. The band has been through a lot in that four years - losing members, etc. It's good to see they didn't call it quits because I've always liked them. I read in an interview that no ideas were off the table when making this record. It shows... seriously, seventeen tracks? Wow! I can imagine them sitting around a table, wild with ideas. A fuzz-filled bass track? Yeah! Hawaiian ukulele interludes? Yes! An 80's tinged gospel pop song? Yep! A lounge flavored soft tune? Why not? An epic shoegazer-inspired finale? Sure! All of this diversity, mixed with some more traditional sounding songs create a fun and diverse album that is really a pleasure to listen to. Hayley Williams has one of the best voices in pop music today. She is equally at home with simple pop songs like "Still Into You" as well as the hard rockers like "Anklebiters." I will say I would have liked to have a nice acoustic song like "Misguided Ghosts" but we do get "I Hate To See Your Heart Break" - a nice sensitive ballad. Speaking of which, it reminded me of Starflyer 59's "She Was My Sweetheart" and I wouldn't be surprised if the band wasn't maybe listening to both Silver and Gold as I think some of those discs influenced this album's sound. Nowhere is this more apparent than the aforementioned epic closer "Future." It starts mellow enough but builds up into a distorted wall of fury that lasts over seven minutes. I have to respect the band for pulling something like that off. The only track I don't care fore is "Daydreaming." It's kind of boring and almost sounds like it could have been on the band's debut, which if you'll remember, I didn't care much for. That being said, Paramore is proving to be one of those rare bands that is only getting better with age. I don't get to say this about a lot of albums, but I say with confidence: Paramore is the band's best album yet.

Useless Fact: Hayley wrote "Hate To See Your Heart Break" for one of the other band members when Paramore was considering calling it quits. He was sad that he wouldn't be able to see his friend and band-mate after the break up.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Queensryche (Tate Version) - "Frequency Unknown"

Queensryche - Frequency Unknown
2013, Deadline

1. Cold
2. Dare
3. Give It To You
4. Slave
5. In The Hands of God
6. Running Backwards
7. Life Without You
8. Everything
9. Fallen
10. The Weight Of The World
11. I Don't Believe In Love (Re-recorded)
12. Empire (Re-recorded)
13. Jet City Woman (Re-recorded)
14. Silent Lucidity (Re-recorded)

So I guess there are two Queensryches now. One of them features most of the original musicians and new singer Todd LaTorre and is releasing an album in June. The other one features vocalist Geoff Tate and whoever can stand to be around Geoff Tate long enough to release an album. Tate's version, Tatesryche recorded Frequency Unknown in six weeks or so and shoehorned it onto shelves. I guess Geoff just had to beat the other guys to the punch. I picked this up because I was kind of hopeful. I was hopeful that Geoff would really bring his A-game. I was hoping he'd give us this dark, progressive album that truly tested his own mettle and challenged the boundaries of music like he's always claiming. I was hoping he would totally rock this and out of all the feuding and nonsense we'd get two awesome Queensryche albums. Unfortunately, that is not what happened...

See, if you're going to show up your former band-mates  I would think you would want your absolute best songs. I would think you'd want to wait for the competition to go first, giving you the edge. I would also think you would make an album that was...y'know... really good. Frequency Unknown isn't awful but it's just so full of wasted potential. While I like quite a few of the tracks, nothing really rises above "average." "In The Hands Of God" and "The Weight of the World" are two exceptions that could have been really awesome if more time would have been taken. But who am I kidding? That's pretty much the story of this album - a complete rush job using the Queensryche name to spite Geoff's former band-mates. "Dare" is quite clearly aimed at the other guys. It's all kind of juvenile if you ask me. Especially since Queensryche has always been known as an intellectual band.  Also, Geoff's voice has not aged well. He sounds shaky and strained throughout the disc. This is not the album you put out if you're trying to lay claim to the true 'Ryche throne.

And as if that wasn't enough, the album includes a few re-recorded versions of 'Ryche classics. Naturally, all this does is to showcase how flaccid the preceding material really is. It also pretty much puts to rest any notion that Geoff can still sing rock. During "I Don't Believe In Love" as the song builds up to the rippin' chorus, Geoff can't even be bothered to sing it. The vocals just drop out into background vox. Lame. Totally lame.

Useless Fact: I think the other band was originally going to let Tate keep the name. They were known as Rising West for awhile. Also, in case anyone missed it: Frequency Unknown.... F.U.... yeah... you stay classy Geoff. *rolls eyes*

Monday, April 29, 2013

Symphony X - "Iconoclast"

Symphony X - Iconoclast
2011, Nuclear Blast

Disc One:
1. Iconoclast
2. The End of Innocence
3. Dehumanized
4. Bastards of the Machine
5. Heretic
6. Children of a Faceless God
7. When All Is Lost

Disc Two:
1. Electric Messiah
2. Prometheus (I Am Alive)
3. Light Up the Night
4. Lords of Chaos
5. Reign in Madness

Symphony X's Iconoclast is proof that, as I've said before, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. See I was at Best Buy getting some CDs while on vacation when I saw this. I thought to myself, "Oh, I listened to Paradise Lost and didn't like it that much." But the twelve-year old in the back of my brain went, "BUT LOOK AT THAT COVER ART IT'S FREAKING AWESOME WE MUST GET IT!" Since I was on vacation I decided to take a chance and what would you know - it is freaking awesome. Freaking. Awesome. Metal. The kind of metal I haven't heard in quite a while. The kind that makes you throw your fist in the air and yell "EFFING METAL MAN! RRRRAAAAOOOOORRRRRRR!!!. *ahem* Sorry. Anyway, I bought the one disc edition and liked it so much that I immediately purchased the special edition when I heard it was the band's preferred version (the standard edition left off three tracks).

The music itself is a mash of progressive metal, power metal, and maybe some thrash. Russell Allen's vocals are gruff and growly but he's equally adept at melody as is the case with the single "slow" tune ("When All Is Lost"). The riffs are fast and furious with a nice crunch distortion tone. The mastering is just about perfect - no loudness wars bull-crap here. Each song has a great hook and it's just progressive enough to make the songs really interesting without resorting to technical wankery. Though honestly, I've grown to like technical wankery, but that's neither here nor there. My only complaint is that the booklet is an enormous fold out poster. It's hard to follow along with the lyrics when I have to spread out the welcome-mat-sized liner notes. I much prefer booklets - small, compact, and easy to manage.

Useless Fact: The album's concept deals with machines taking over the earth. Supposedly it was an exploration of how electronics and what not have become so pervasive in our society.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Iron Maiden - "Piece of Mind"

Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind
1983/2002, Sanctuary

1. Where Eagles Dare
2. Revelations
3. Flight of Icarus
4. Die With Your Boots On
5. The Trooper
6. Still Life
7. Quest For Fire
8. Sun and Steel
9. To Tame a Land

What strikes me as I listen to Piece of Mind is not the excellent musicianship, the innovative riffing, or the powerhouse vocals. No, what strikes me is the fact that, man, these guys were huge dorks. Seriously. Just look at the subject matter - mythology, war, fantasy... oh, and let's not forget Frank Herbert's Dune. At some point they figured out that playing music and growing your hair long gets you more girls than memorizing Paul Atraides' lineage. Still, this is a classic metal album and while Number of the Beast would probably be the album that defined the genre, Piece of Mind perfected it. A must for any metal fan.

Useless Fact: A lot of the songs were written by the bassist, Steve Harris. As a result the songs have a lot of cool bass. Can't complain about that, no sir!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Metallica - "Kill 'Em All"

Metallica - Kill 'Em All
1983, Elektra

1. Hit the Lights
2. The Four Horsemen
3. Motorbreath
4. Jump in the Fire
5. Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)
6. Whiplash
7. Phantom Lord
8. No Remorse
9. Seek and Destroy
10. Metal Militia

So I may have shared about how my cousin and I would Christmas shop with my grandparents. They would give us twenty bucks and we were supposed to buy presents. Naturally, we'd buy lots of cheep things so we'd have enough money for tapes later. The first ever time we did this I got Metallica's Kill 'Em All. My grandmother's reaction was, "Oh my..." in that sort of huffy-sigh she always does when something out-of-sorts happens. I was like, "Um... they mean kill all the bad people.... yeah...." Anyway, I got this after getting the other ones. Naturally, it's a classic. The band was young and hungry and it shows in every note. They were a little less thrash and more speed metal/punk here - clearly showing their Motorhead influence (in songs like "Motorbreath" and "Whiplash"). They're lyrics weren't quite as sharp either, often dealing with violence, fast living, and how awesome metal is. Several songs have Dave Mustaine in the writing credits. Most people know "The Four Horsemen" is also Megadeth's "Mechanix."

Useless Fact: The first printing of this album had two extra tracks on it. "Blitzkrieg" and "Am I Evil?" (a Diamond Head cover) were two covers that were left off subsequent printings. I know this because they tape I bought had those two tracks and I've never seen another edition with those two tracks. It makes me sad.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dream Theater - "A Dramatic Turn of Events"

Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events
2011, Roadrunner

1. On the Backs of Angels
2. Build Me Up, Break Me Down
3. Lost Not Forgotten
4. This is the Life
5. Bridges in the Sky
6. Outcry
7. Far From Heaven
8. Breaking All Illusions
9. Beneath the Surface

So I guess I'm a full Dream Theater fan now. After all, I've gotten more and more DT and only disliked one (Systematic Chaos). So... how does the band fare after the departure of cornerstone Mike Portnoy? Answer: pretty good actually. In fact, I think anyone who says "the band sucks now that Portnoy's gone" is crazy and biased. A Dramatic Turn of Events is a fine album. It's vibrant and varied. You can tell the guys are really giving it their all and trying to prove to the fans that it wasn't all Portnoy. The drums are pushed back in the mix a bit and the bass brought out - which isn't really a bad thing if you ask me. I think there's also a little more variety in the songs here. I don't think I've heard a fully acoustic ballad from these guys but the album closes with one of the most beautiful ones I've heard ("Beneath the Surface"). I do think "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" is a tad too long but that's my only complaint. Actually, there's nothing in this album that makes me fear for the band. Quite the opposite, I'm excited to see what they'll do next.

Useless Fact: There is some throat singing in "Bridges in the Sky." We were listening to it in the car and my daughter said, "Is that a burp?" She's so cute!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Carman - "The Standard"

Carman - The Standard
1993, Sparrow

1. Who's In the House?
2. Now's the Time
3. Great God
4. Everybody Praise the Lord
5. The River
6. Marchin' and Movin'
7. Sunday School Rock
8. Holdin' On
9. Lord, I Love You
10. America Again

The Standard sort of represents an "end of the age" if you will - at least in the respect of me liking Carman. This was the last album of his that I ever got into. I think I was growing out of him. After all, this album is full of the same schtick he'd been doing for years. We've got a hip-hop song ("Who's In the House"), a Carribean-flavored song ("Now's the Time"), a rock song, ("Great God"), etc, etc. There is a noticeable lack of real ballads on here (save "The River") for which I am thankful. Carman had also weathered a lot of the controversy that hit when Addicted To Jesus came out and was still a huge name in the Christian music scene. But yeah... I remember listening to the album after this, R.I.O.T., and it did not impress me. So I moved on, musically, but I still have fond memories of Carman and as a result The Standard is in my collection. I remember having to go to the bathroom during one of his concerts - it was just at the end. As I was coming back from the bathroom Carman's "secret service" guys made a little tunnel for him down the stars. I saw a sweaty Carman go backstage and completely ignore me! He was a mere four or five feet from me! Surprisingly, I was not that starstruck.

Now that all the warm fuzzies are out of the way I can rant about "America Again." It's a "story" song except there's no story. It's just Carman ranting about how America is on the path to hell and the solution is to get prayer back into schools. America should repent. Everything was better in the 50's. Blah, blah, blah. Want to know the truth? All the stuff that is happening today was happening then. The difference? NOBODY TALKED ABOUT ANYTHING! You want to know why chewing gum and talking were the two biggest problems in school? BECAUSE NO ONE WOULD EVER TALK ABOUT RAPE! Yes, everyone back then was very pious and religious and had very nice haircuts and wore hats, but they were still assholes that molested and raped and killed and treated their families like garbage. Here's a message to any old people reading this blog - YOUR TIME WAS CRAP, TOO. DEAL WITH IT. Okay, got that off my chest. On to our regularly scheduled blog...

Useless Fact: Margaret Becker provides some guest vocals on the country-esque song "Holdin' On."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

L.S.U. - "Grace Shaker"

L.S.U. - Grace Shaker
1994, Alarma

1. Double
2. Kill Will
3. Blame
4. Thinkin'
5. Bad Disease
6. Grace
7. Shaker
8. Gift Taker
9. Freedom
10. Christ Saves

I've never been a huge L.S.U./Michael Knott person, as evidenced by the dearth of his stuff on my blog. But the stuff I like, I absolutely adore. Now my L.S.U. experience comes through Shaded Pain and The Grape Prophet, neither of which did anything for me for some reason. Grace Shaker, on the other hand, is an amazing, poignant album about weakness and grace. I would go so far as to say it is one of the finest and most essential Christian albums ever crafted. All ten songs are awesome and essential to the theme of the album. It's also filled with some of the best lyrics this side of Steve Taylor. "When the sick need a physician, sometimes the healthy come cuttin' instead of stitchin'" (from "Christ Saves") for example. I may be wrong but I think this is a concept album about alcoholism which makes sense as I believe bassist Brian Doidge has had some struggles in that area. This is definitely one of those albums every collector should have.

Useless Fact: "Double" also appeared on an album for Mike Knott's other band The Aunt Bettys.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Yankovic, "Weird Al" - "Even Worse"

Yankovic, "Weird Al" - Even Worse
1988, Volcano

1. Fat
2. Stuck in the Closet With Vanna White
3. (This Song's Just) Six Words Long
4. You Make Me
5. I Think I'm a Clone Now
6. Lasagna
7. Melanie
8. Alimony
9. Velvet Elvis
10. Twister
11. Good Old Days

Even Worse was my first "Weird Al" experience. Since Michael Jackson was HUGE at the time he provided a nice target for people like Weird Al. The video for "Fat" was hilarious and I was pretty amused with the rest of the songs back in the day. However, I actually think this is one of Weird Al's weaker discs as it doesn't quite seem to hold up as well as Off the Deep End or even Alapalooza. Granted, it's not that I think it's terrible, it's just not as good as I remember. There are some gems here though - I like "I Think I'm a Clone Now," "Lasagna," and "Melanie." I also like "Velvet Elvis" more now than I did when I was young. I don't think "Alimony" is particularly inspired nor is "(This Song's Just) Six Words Long." The Swirling Eddies would do a better version of that type of song years later. Not much more to say, really.

Useless Fact: I never realized until later that "Velvet Elvis" was supposed to be a style parody of The Police or that "Twister" was supposed to be a style parody of the Beastie Boys.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Jackson, Michael - "Bad 25th Anniversary"

Jackson, Michael - Bad 25th Anniversary
2012/1987, Sony

1. Bad
2. The Way You Make Me Feel
3. Speed Demon
4. Liberian Girl
5. Just Good Friends
6. Another Part of Me
7. Man in the Mirror
8. I Just Can't Stop Loving You
9. Dirty Diana
10. Smooth Criminal
11. Leave Me Alone

1. Don't Be Messin' 'Round
2. I'm So Blue
3. Song Groove (aka Abortion Papers)
4. Free
5. Price of Fame
6. Al Capone
7. Streetwalker
8. Fly Away
9. Todo Mi Amor Eres Tu
10. Je Ne Veux Pas La Fin De Nous
11. Bad (Remix)
12. Speed Demon (Remix)
13. Bad (Remix)

Thriller made Michael Jackson, the solo artist, into a superstar and Bad did nothing to diminish that star. It was wildly popular and spawned many, many singles. I think this is where the "Hee-hee! Woo!," "Sham-on," and famous crotch grabbing really started to manifest. It's funny after all these years to hear parodies of his style and then hear him do it in earnest. It's also funny to hear him whisper tenderly to an imaginary woman. Wow... there was a time when women ached for him. Ached. Like, sexually. Ruminate on that for awhile! This album also spawned a mini-movie type video for the title track. "Bad" featured a story in which Michael Jackson tried to prove to Wesley Snipes how hard core he was... with dancing. Honestly, though, I still think this is a darn fine record and the man does know how to write a catchy pop ditty. This was one of the first tapes I ever owned and it was a regular player. The extra tracks are okay but nothing too spectacular. Among them are a proto-version of "Smooth Criminal" called "Al Capone" that doesn't sound like the former at all. Also, another song referred to as "Abortion Papers" which, if I interpret the lyrics right, is actually against abortion. Didn't see that coming.

A lot of stuff happened during this period. I think this was the era of the infamous Pepsi commercial accident. We got the feature film Moonwalker in which Michael Jackson rescued kids from Joe Pesci and turns into a robot... or something. Also happening during this time? Captain EO. Let's talk about Captain EO for a minute. Captain EO was one of those 3D movie/ride things at Epcot Center. Michael Jackson was the titular captain. He and his "ragtag" band of misfits land on a planet that looks suspiciously like the Death Star and do battle with aliens that look suspiciously like Borg. Oh, and he fights them with dancing and music. It's on YouTube so go watch it because it is hilarious! Some pretty big names were attached to the whole project like Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Angelica Houston as the not-Borg Queen. Industrial Light and Magic did the effects so they were top notch for the era. At one time I taped a "making of" special off of Showtime or something and I watched it over and over. I always wanted to go see it but we never had the money to go so far as Disney World. I was obsessed with Captain EO and I don't really know why other than in my kid mind "space stuff" + "Michael Jackson" = awesomesauce! Of course, as an adult it is absolutely ridiculous.

Useless Fact: "Leave Me Alone" was not on the original cassette version of the album. I know this because "Leave Me Alone" was one of my favorite songs and I was sad that it wasn't on my tape. It was on the CD version though. Lucky jerks.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Don't worry...

I'm not dead! I actually have a few CDs to review, I'm just not quite ready to review them yet. Patience, gentle readers, patience. I've also been knee deep in Mass Effect 3 again. So that's why it's been so slow around here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Celldweller - "Wish Upon a Blackstar"

Celldweller - Wish Upon a Blackstar
2012, FiXT

1. The Arrival
2. Unshakable
3. Blackstar
4. Eon
5. Louder Than Words
6. Memories of a Girl I Haven't Met
7. I Can't Wait
8. Gift For You
9. The Lucky One
10. The Seven Sisters
11. Birthright
12. I Makes No Difference Who We Are
13. The Best It's Gonna Get
14. So Long Sentiment
15. Tainted
16. Against the Tide

For those who don't know already Celldweller is comprised of one mister Klayton Scott (aka Scott Albert) of Circle of Dust fame. Circle of Dust put out three "official" albums with the last being Disengage. After that, Scott Albert changed his name and became Celldweller. Celldweller is a bit more commercial and not as heavy - leaning on the more dance/electronica side of things. I've never really given Celldweller a chance for whatever reason so I decided to pick up the latest and see if it did anything for me. Good news - it does do something for me! Yay! Klayton finds a way to add just about any kind of electronic music from Dub Step to industrial and make it work. The songs are quite entertaining. And while some of them occasionally sound like a Transformer throwing up, Klayton uses a lot of melody, clean vocals, and even live instruments. Is there such a thing as progressive industrial? Anyway, I really do enjoy this disc. I may have to pick up the debut someday.

According to Klayton, Wish Upon a Blackstar is a concept album. The concept being "be careful what you wish for." I'm not sure what the actual story is, if there is one. It seems like the first few tracks start telling a story about an alien invasion. Then the middle tracks talk about relationships (with lyrics that could have been on Argyle Park's Misguided), then the last few tracks seem to pick up the alien thing again. I don't really know.

Useless Fact: Work on Wish Upon a Blackstar began as early as 2004! Klayton would release chapters of two songs each as songs were done. Eventually they were collected last year and released as an album.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Freak Kitchen - "Land of the Freaks"

Freak Kitchen - Land of the Freaks
2012, Laser's Edge

1. God Save the Spleen
2. Hip Hop Hooray
3. Teargas Jazz
4. Sick (Death By Hypochondria)
5. OK
6. Honey, You're a Nazi
7. The Only Way
8. Murder Groupie
9. The Smell of Time
10. One Last Dance
11. Do Not Disturb
12. Clean It Up

Freak Kitchen is a fun little band. They've got a progressive metal/rock vibe, an 80's rock vibe, and sometimes a dance/pop vibe. These three influences are blended into some of the most interesting and infectious music I've heard in a while. The album starts off with the pounding "God Save the Spleen" then follows that up with the more pop "Hip Hop Hooray." The third track, "Teargas Jazz" is a bit more progressive but every bit as catchy. These songs stay in your head for days. You'd think because of some of the flippant song titles that the band would be a bunch of goofballs. Well, they kinda are - the lyrics are smart alecky and clever, but the topics they tackle are pretty serious. From black market organ transplants to racism to personal responsibility, they cover a bevy of subjects. They have a way of making you laugh but thinking as well.

Useless Fact: "Teargas Jazz" seems to be about the band being in Dehli when the Danish cartoonist published those cartoons that made Muslims mad. They were stuck in this country at the time, apparently trying to convince people that they weren't Danish. They tell it better in the song though.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dream Theater - "Systematic Chaos"

Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos
2007, Roadrunner

1. In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 1
2. Forsaken
3. Constant Motion
4. The Dark Eternal Night
5. Repentance
6. Prophets of War
7. The Ministry of Lost Souls
8. In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 2

I picked up Systematic Chaos because, like Train of Thought, opinions on this one seem to be divided. I really liked Train of Thought so I figured I might like this one too. Unfortunately, I'm on the opposite side. Systematic Chaos, while certainly an example of flawless musicianship (as per usual) just doesn't hold my attention. The first track doesn't really go anywhere, waiting for the second half of the song at the end of the disc to really assume an identity. Tracks like "Forsaken" and "Prophets of War" are completely forgettable. "Constant Motion" is another one of those Metallic-esque tracks, but I don't think it's as good as the band has done before. Two tracks I really enjoyed were "The Dark Eternal Night" and "Repentance." The former is heavy and interesting and the latter is the ballad part of Portnoy's Alcoholics Anonymous suite. Oh, and what's up with the lyrics? Each song (aside from "Repentance") is filled with "dark" fantasy stories. I guess the guys were boning up on their Iron Maiden or something. Anyway, while I've grown to really love this band, this particular album doesn't do much for me. Oh well, they can't all be winners.

Useless Fact: "The Dark Eternal Night" is based off of an H.P. Lovecraft story. While "In the Presence of Enemies" was based off of some manga about a Korean priest... I think... at least according to Wikipedia.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Coheed and Cambria - "The Afterman: Descension"

Coheed and Cambria - The Afterman: Descension
2013, Hundred Handed

1. Pretelethal
2. Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant
3. The Hard Sell
4. Number City
5. Gravity's Union
6. Away We Go
7. Iron Fist
8. The Dark Side of Me
9. 2's My Favorite 1

I'm glad we didn't have to wait a year or two for the second half of The Afterman. I'm also glad that it's just as good as the first half. The band retains their sound while still trying out some new things - though I don't think there are as many new things here as on Ascension. "The Hard Sell," a song about being true to yourself and not selling out, is - ironically - the most mainstream, radio friendly track on here. Not that I mind any. I like that track quite a bit. There's also "Number City" which is one of the more experimental tracks featuring horns and what not. I absolutely love that one. I really think the whole project is something that needs to be listened to together because each album individually, while awesome, is a little light. Either way, I'm excited about Coheed again The Afterman (the whole saga, that is) is truly a treat.

Useless Fact: Vocalist Claudio Sanchez is the voice of Cyrus Amory and Claudio's wife is the voice of Cyrus AI companion, All Mother.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The New Toy

So for my birthday the other day my dad gave me some money with the specific instructions that I get something for myself for a change. So I did...

...a Samsung Galaxy Tablet. I've been wanting something like this for awhile. I have to say - I absolutely love it. It's only 8 GB so I can't stuff it with music and I can't really blog on it, but I use it for everything else. It's nice not to have to boot up the computer just to check my email. I didn't realize how expensive Kindle books are though! I thought they were supposed to be cheaper.

Anyway, there are a couple of problems (not dealbreakers, though). The tablet wants to search for wireless connections constantly. It does it even when it's already connected. I can't imagine this is good for battery life, which is also not superb. And for some reason it wants to update all the time.

All in all, though, it's a solid tablet and I'm very happy with it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Music Musings: Things I Miss

Every now and then I take a look back at my childhood (okay... maybe more than "every now and then") and think about some of the things I miss being a music fan back in the day.

1. Music Magazines

Now I know there's still music magazines out there, but I'm talking specifically about the Christian ones. CCM, Heaven's Metal, Harvest Rock Syndicate, and even This Prophecy were all part of my childhood. I still get magazines in the mail and it's still a thrill. Unfortunately  every single one of the magazines I mentioned died off at some point. Of course, the Christian music scene isn't what it once was but I still miss reading about the newest releases, news, and interviews. On the potty.

2. Demos

This one is kind of silly. It's a LOT easier to listen to samples today on Itunes or Amazon or whatever. Even so, I still kind of miss taking a fistful of tapes to the tape deck and sampling the latest releases. I always thought it was kind of weird that secular stores never did that sort of thing. I guess the Christian bookstores didn't want to deal with returns, so they let people preview what they were getting.

3. A Lack of Information

At strange as it sounds I kind of miss the days where you didn't know everything about everyone all the time. Where information on your favorite thing wasn't mere keystrokes away. There was a lot more mystery about your favorite artists. If you found someone who'd met one of your "idols," it was fun to listen to their stories of how they were like. Scandals could be contained - so as to preserve my illusions that these people I looked up to were actually living the kind of lives they sang about. I guess I could just not read the internet anymore, but c'mon! That's un-possible!

4. Surprise Releases

Closely related to the last point - the lack of information provided many wonderful surprises back in the day. I'd walk into the local Christian bookstore and surprise! A new Deliverance or Tourniquet. It was like a mini-Christmas! Nowadays I pretty much know months in advance when something is coming out. And while waiting for that release date can be fun (as well as preordering for special bonuses), I do enjoy the surprise. It actually happened recently with the new Coheed and Cambria album. Still don't know how I missed that one!

5. The Christian Music Scene

Is there one anymore? I don't even know. Granted, I do think it's actually better this way. However, I won't pretend that I don't miss it... just a little. It was a cool little community to be in. If you met someone who liked the same bands you became instant friends. Christian music festivals were a dime a dozen and featured a lot of great bands.

Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of things I like about the present. I like having to buy CDs online because then I get packages in the mail (which is like mini-Christmas). I do like being able to window shop for any band or style on Itunes. So it's not bad at all. This site's mostly about my nostalgia anyway - so there ya go!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Coheed and Cambria - "The Afterman: Ascension"

Coheed and Cambria - The Afterman: Ascension
2012, Hundred Handed

1. The Hollow
2. Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute
3. The Afterman
4. Mothers of Men
5. Goodnight, Fair Lady
6. Key Entity Extraction II: Holly Wood the Cracked
7. Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher
8. Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria the Faithful
9. Subtraction

Somehow Coheed and Cambria released an album last year without me knowing it. I have no idea how that happened. Probably because I became significantly less interested in the band after the lackluster Year of the Black Rainbow. However, I'm happy to report that Black Rainbow was a simple misstep versus a downward spiral as The Afterman: Ascension is a fine album and restores my faith in the band. Perhaps some of that has to do with a couple longtime members returning to the band (like Josh Eppard on drums). After the usual intro-type track the band plows into "Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute" which immediately recalls some of the more epic tracks from 3: In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth. However, Ascension also takes the band into new territory with the title track and "Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria the Faithful" which are two of the more ethereal, atmospheric tracks. The closing track, "Subtraction," with its combination of electronica and acoustic guitar recalls Claudio Sanchez's side project, Prize Fighter Inferno. The only complaint that I have is that it's too short. Granted, it's only part one of a double album but once it was done I was hungry for more. Which is usually how you want to end things, now that I think of it.

The story is a prequel to every album that came before it. It tells the story of Sirius (or Cyrus?) Amory and his discovery of the Keywork. As he explores he comes to discover the nature of the Keywork itself. It's a lot more straightforward a tale than any of the previous albums. Claudio's actually explained each song on the band's website.

Useless Fact: "Key Entity Extraction II: Holly Wood the Cracked" was written about a girl who made a video about Claudio Sanchez and the band. Apparently she was kind of a raving lunatic, accusing Claudio of being a racist, among other things.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Vanden Plas - "The Seraphic Clockwork"

Vanden Plas - The Seraphic Clockwork
2010, Frontiers

1. Frequency
2. Holes in the Sky
3. Scar of an Angel
4. The Sound of Blood
5. The Final Murder
6. Quicksilver
7. Rush of Silence
8. On My Way to Jerusalem
Bonus Track:
9. Elyson

I'm a little disappointed with The Seraphic Clockwork. After the phenomenal Christ 0 I was excited to get another Vanden Plas album. While this album is certainly shows off the band's chops, the songs aren't quite as memorable or as catchy as Christ 0. In fact after several listens I still couldn't recall even one song. It's only now, after several more listens, that I'm able to remember the hooks. It's not bad to listen to at all - it's just not nearly as accessible. Oh, and the story is all kinds of crazy goofballs. Let me try to explain it. There's a 16th century Roman named Tio. He builds a time machine and eventually finds out he's Judas Iscariot. Oh, and there's a woman named Mia, "the Ravenman," and some paper demons that fit in there somewhere too. Tio lives in a world where Jesus was never betrayed and has to go back in time to betray Him. Compared to the more down-to-earth and personal story of Christ 0, The Seraphic Clockwork's lyrics can be hard to attach to emotionally speaking. I'm hoping this will grow on me.

Useless Fact: "Elyson" is a bonus live track that comes from the band's work with musicals, I think.