Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Within Temptation - "Hydra"

Within Temptation - Hydra
2014, Nuclear Blast

1. Let Us Burn
2. Dangerous
3. And We Run
4. Paradise (What About Us?)
5. Edge of the World
6. Silver Moonlight
7. Covered By Roses
8. Dog Days
9. Tell Me Why
10. The Whole World Is Watching

I picked up Within Temptation's newest album at Walmart. I can only assume this means longtime fans think that Hydra is a "sell out" album. It's certainly got the makings of a sell out. It's got several guest vocalists like Howard Jones (from Killswitch Engage) and Tajra (ex-Nightwish). It also has Dave Pirner from Soul Asylum. You mean "Runaway Train" missing kids video Soul Asylum? The very same. It also has... Xzibit. Yes... Pimp My Ride Xzibit. I have no idea how that happened but it happened and it's here on this CD. Despite all the guest appearances I'll say this: if this is a sell out it's a dang good one. The songs are tight, heavy, bombastic and radio friendly. I especially like "Paradise (What About Us?)." It's such a monster tune and the addition of Tajra on vocals just makes it that much more epic. Also, Xzibit, while still sounding out of place, still does a decent job. He doesn't completely ruin the song - quite the opposite the combination of symphonic metal and rap... ain't half bad. I know, it surprised me too. If you're looking to dip your toes in the symphonic metal pool, Hydra isn't a bad place to start.

Useless Fact: This album came with a two-disc digipak edition. The second disc featured covers of "Radioactive" and "Summertime Sadness." Also, vocalist Sharon del Adel performed on Ayreon's 01 album.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sherinian, Derek - "Black Utopia"

Sherinian, Derek - Black Utopia
2014, Armoury

1. The Fury
2. The Sons of Anu
3. Nightmare Cinema
4. Stony Days
5. Starcycle
6. Axis of Evil
7. Gypsy Moth
8. Sweet Lament
9. Black Utopia

I bought Black Utopia while I was on vacation based on name alone. As most prog fans know, Derek Sherinian used to play in Dream Theater. This album also features guitar legends Yngwie Malmsteen and Zakk Wylde. I did not know it was an instrumental album when I bought it. I'm not much for instrumentals for some reason. Despite that I enjoy this album as the music is exactly as stellar as you think it would be considering the people involved. There's a LOT of shredding. However, it's not a frequent player for me and is usually relegated to background music.

Useless Fact: This is actually a reissue. I think the original came out in 2002 or something.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

King's X - "Out of the Silent Planet (Collector's Edition - Remastered and Reloaded)"

King's X - Out of the Silent Planet (Collector's Edition - Remastered and Reloaded)
2014, Rock Candy

1. In the New Age
2. Goldilox
3. Power of Love
4. Wonder
5. Sometimes
6. King
7. What is This?
8. Far, Far Away
9. Shot of Love
10. Visions

Recently I learned that a British record company had reissued Out of Silent Planet - remastered with extensive liner notes and such. I had to have it. I imported it all the way from the UK. The original album had very little in the way of liner notes and such. Well... this edition is a cool find for collectors. The liner notes contain, along with the lyrics, an extensive interview with Dug Pinnick about the early days of the band. Pinnick talks about the band's early work with Petra and Phil Keaggy and their start as The Edge and Sneak Preview. There's also many photos and the original Kerrang review of the album. Cool stuff for someone like me. The music is stellar of course. It's the same fantastic album you've come to know and love (at least you should know it, you Philistine!). It's been remastered but there was never anything really wrong with the original master in my opinion. There aren't any extra tracks but an album like this doesn't need any. I hope Rock Candy does the next four albums as well! I will be importing them for sure!

Useless Fact: Apparently Dug isn't wild about the band name, King's X. He's not even sure what it means. I've always liked the name because it was unique and distinctive.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Vanden Plas - "Chronicles of the Immortals - Netherworld [path one]"

Vanden Plas - Chronicles of the Immortals - Netherworld [path one]
2014, Frontiers

1. Vision 1ne
2. Vision 2wo, The Black Knight
3. Vision 3hree, Godmaker
4. Vision 4our, Misery Affection Prelude
5. Vision 5ive, A Ghosts Requiem
6. Vision 6ix, New Vampyre
7. Vision 7even, The King and Children of Lost World
8. Vision 8ight, Misery Affection
9. Vision 9ine, Soul Alliance
10. Vision 10n, Inside

While listening to Chronicles the first time I was thinking I was going to be done with Vanden Plas. I didn't like the last album. It seemed boring to me. It's clear to me that the band is far more interested in making "theatrical metal experiences" than they are albums with songs on them. However, I soldiered on. Eventually I started to warm up to the album and now I would say I really like it. The songs have some meat to them and it holds my attention a lot better than Clockwork. I think there's some really great melodies and choruses here especially in "New Vampyre" and "Soul Alliance." The addition of a female vocalist adds some welcome variation too. The whole putting-numbers-in-where-letters-should-go thing kind of annoys me though. Christ 0 is still my favorite but I'm not quite ready to give up on Vanden Plas yet. I'll see what [path two] or whatever they come up with next before I make a final judgement.

Useless Fact: The concept of this album is based on a long running series of fantasy novels by German author, Wolfgang Hohlbein. Man, that is one German name right there.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

DC Talk - "Free At Last"

DC Talk - Free At Last
1992, Forefront

1. Luv is a Verb
2. That Kinda Girl
3. Greer
4. Jesus is Still Alright
5. Say the Words
7. Socially Acceptable
8. Free At Last
9. Time Is...
10. The Hardway
11. 2 Honks & a Negro
12. Lean On Me
13. Testimony
14. I Don't Want It
15. Will Power
16. Word 2 the Father
17. Jesus is Still Alright (Reprise)

I have no idea how I've gone so long without actually owning this album. I also don't know how, despite having never owned this album until this year, I know almost all the words. I remember when Free At Last came out because it had come out the same time as Tourniquet's Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance. Most of the kids in my youth group bought Free At Last, but I think you all know what I bought. It was around Christmastime and all of us were geared up to go to a Newsboys concert but had to turn back because of the weather. Free At Last was the soundtrack to that trip. I am surprised at how much I enjoy this album. It's certainly a huge improvement over Nu Thang. The vibe is a lot more "genuine hip-hop" and less "Sister Act 2 finale." Toby's rhymes have improved immensely and by this point he's developed his own style. The songs themselves are classics. This disc even has little "skits" like hip-hop albums used to have back in the day. They're short and fairly amusing so they don't wear out their welcome. Like I said, I don't know why it took so long for me to finally get a copy.

Useless Fact: My youth group made up a little dance for "Jesus Is Still Alright." I can almost remember it the steps too.