Monday, April 27, 2015

The Gentle Storm - "The Diary"

The Gentle Storm - The Diary
2015, Inside Out

1. Endless Sea
2. Heart of Amsterdam
3. The Greatest Love
4. Shores of India
5. Cape of Storms
6. The Storm
7. The Moment
8. Eyes of Michiel
9. Brightest Light
10. New Horizons
11. Epilogue: The Final Entry

The Gentle Storm is the latest project from Ayreon mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen. He teamed up with Anneke Van Giersbergen to create a folk/metal album. She sings all of the tracks. This is a good thing. I've always loved her voice all the way back from the Electric Castle days. She does not disappoint here. The music is a cool mix of folk-type stuff and metal. That is, if you're listening to the "Storm" version. This album has two discs with two versions, a "Storm" and a "Gentle." I've listened to both but I prefer the Storm version. There's nothing really wrong with the Gentle version but it seems like I can hear the holes where the heavy parts should be. The music is a lot more focused than Arjen usually does. It's a great disc and I love the songs and the melodies, but it doesn't blow me away. Arjen's usual musical tropes are in full effect. Some parts almost have a Stream of Passion vibe. If you're looking for something really different you'll be disappointed, but it's a solid album and a good listen if you're a fan of Arjen and Anneke like I am.

Useless Fact: One of the special editions for this album is an LP sized art book edition with four CDs! It was a little pricey, so I declined. But it was really, really hard.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Trouble - "Psalm 9"

Trouble - Psalm 9
1984, Relativity

1. The Tempter
2. Assassin
3. Victim of the Insane
4. Revelation (Life or Death)
5. Bastards Will Pay
6. The Fall of Lucifer
7. Endtime
8. Psalm 9
9. The Tale of Brave Ulysses

Trouble was another of those bands I'd always heard about as a youth but never actually listened to. They'd gotten a reputation for being Christian even though the band itself was not. They were just tired of all the satanic stuff in metal and decided to go the opposite direction. I recently watched a YouTube video were Scott Waters (from Ultimatum and No Life Til recommended this disc in his Christian picks (though he admitted the band wasn't really Christian). So I searched You Tube to see if someone had posted the album and lo and behold, I heard some pretty awesome metal. A quick trip to Amazon later and it was on my iphone. Trouble are usually referred to as doom metal which is characterized by slow riffing - made popular by Black Sabbath. There are some slow, doomy parts on Psalm 9 but most of it is just pure, awesome heavy metal. Be sure to enjoy the awesome guitar work of Bruce Franklin who would later go on to form Under Midnight. I can't believe it's taken me this long to check this out. It's definitely a metal classic that should be in every metal-head's collection.

Useless Fact: This album is actually self-titled. It wasn't until later pressings that the record company made the title Psalm 9.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Petra - "On Fire!"

Petra - On Fire!
1988, Star Song

1. All Fired Up
2. Hit You Where You Live
3. Mine Field
4. First Love
5. Defector
6. Counsel of the Holy
7. Somebody's Gonna Praise His Name
8. Open Book
9. Stand in the Gap
10. Homeless Few

Hey kids! It's story time!

A long time ago my cousin and I were really into music. We watched endless hours of MTV, bought tapes by the handfuls (when we could afford it), and generally thought and talked about music 24/7. We had some relatives who we called "holy rollers" because they were Christians and didn't do anything but talk about Jesus 24/7. So one day after church I had said something to my cousin about Skid Row (her favorite band) and she said, "I don't listen to them anymore." I was astounded. She had become a "holy roller." I reminded her that we had vowed never to become those (it didn't work out so well...). At some point she gave me a tape of Petra's On Fire! and I think a Michael Peace tape. I quite enjoyed it at the time and that pretty much kicked off my official entry into the Christian rock world. So when I saw this in a little thrift store on vacation I snatched it straight away.

You know what? It's still pretty dang good. Better, now that I have more of a mind about me to appreciate things. They had embraced an 80's hard rock sound and it totally worked for them. Some of these songs even border on metal (like "Defector" and "Counsel of the Holy"). After this album they would hit their peak with Beyond Belief, but On Fire! is a great album to this day.

Useless Fact: Jon and Dino Elephante produced this disc. You can tell because the production on their albums is always super clean and shiny.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Blind Guardian - "Beyond the Red Mirror"

Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror
2015, Nuclear Blast

1. The Ninth Wave
2. Twilight of the Gods
3. Prophecies
4. At the Edge of Time
5. Ashes of Eternity
6. Distant Memories
7. The Holy Grail
8. The Throne
9. Sacred Mind
10. Miracle Machine
11. The Grand Parade

My wife got me this album for Valentine's Day. Because nothing says, "I love you" like some progressive power metal! I actually had A Night at the Opera for awhile back in the day but I didn't listen to it as much. I think it was just too epic at the time. However, after getting into a lot of symphonic metal last year I decided to check these guys out again and surprise, surprise, really enjoyed them. I love Hansi Kursch's vocals. He has a sound all his own and you can always tell it's him no matter what he sings. This is a concept album about... something... gods? Mirrors? The Holy Grail? Chief? McCloud? Ahem... anyway...It's supposed to be a sequel to one of their older albums but I can't make heads or tails of it. I particularly like the more melancholy (yet still heavy) "Distant Memories." I also like "Sacred Mind" a lot - the one where they sing about Xanadu. I have no idea what that has to do with the story. Thankfully, the music is rockin' and appropriately grandiose.

Useless Fact: Hansi Kursch did a couple albums with Jon Scheaffer of Iced Earth called Demons & Wizards.