Friday, August 28, 2015

Symphony X - "Underworld"

Symphony X - Underworld
2015, Nuclear Blast

1. Overture
2. Nevermore
3. Underworld
4. Without You
5. Kiss of Fire
6. Charon
7. To Hell and Back
8. In My Darkest Hour
9. Run With the Devil
10. Swan Song
11. Legend

So yeah... remember when I bought Iconoclast twice a couple years ago? I've slowly become a Symphony X die-hard - so much so that I pre-ordered Underworld to make sure I'd have it whether or not we had money in the house. Is it the non-stop metal freight train the last album was? No, it's not, but that's okay. This disc is a little more progressive than the last. They've backed off a little on the throttle and let in more of the progressive elements that have been part of the band's sound. There's a little bit more of The Odyssey in here than on Iconoclast. However, they've kept a lot of the "fist in the air" metal from that album, only backing it off enough to let some more melody seep into the songs. What you have is an album that is at once very heavy and progressive, but a times dang near commercial with its hooks. So far, every listen has been a treat and it only gets better with subsequent listens. Underworld will almost certainly make it on my picks of the year list.

Useless Fact: The theme for this album, not surprisingly, is hell. Specifically Dante's vision of it but also it includes the general concept of an underworld as seen in Greek myths.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Freedom of Soul - "Caught in a Land of Time"

Freedom of Soul - Caught in a Land of Time
1991, BAI

1. Freedom of Soul
2. Caught in a Land of Time
3. Runnin'
4. A Touch of Soul
5. Cookin' Bacon
6. Blue Sky Lies
7. Acknowledgements
8. It's On You
9. This Is Love
10. Can't Hold Back
11. Cartoon Goes to Texas
12. Skin Deep
13. January 15
14. Y Don't You Want 2 Play Me
15. Serious Lyrics

So I was listening to Mark Solomon's podcast, like you do, and one of his guests was the main man behind Freedom of Soul. Freedom of Soul was one of those rap groups in the same circle as S.F.C., Dynamic Twins, etc. For some reason I never listened to them. I have no reason for this other than I just didn't ever pick up one of their albums. After listening to the podcast, however, I decided to check them out. It's pretty good stuff. Definitely in line with that group of performers. You hear a lot of Super C and the Twins in the background doing various things. I don't think it's quite as distinctive as some of the other groups of the time, but that might just be me. There are also a couple of skits ("Cookin' Bacon" being my favorite). Even Ben Redeemed, who - if you'll remember - appeared on S.F.C.'s A Saved Man (In the Jungle) as a jackass D.J. makes an appearance. He's a little bit more sympathetic here though and it's actually the performers that kind of come off as whiny... to me anyway.

Useless Fact: Rene Vasquez (the main rapper for the group) spoke on the podcast about how he used to just listen to Gene Eugene talk about things and set things up because Rene would learn so much that way. Rene said that you couldn't really ask Gene a question and get a good answer, you just had to listen and watch while he was doing his thing.

I still kind of miss Gene.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Atomic Opera - "Gospel Cola"

Atomic Opera - Gospel Cola
2000, Metal Blade

1. Jesus Junk
2. October
3. WinterLand
4. Reiah Discerns the Times
5. Malediction
6. My Head
7. Silence
8. Muse
9. Love is as Strong as Death
10. The Circle is Closed
11. Stop My Heart
12. Doxology

I've not heard good things about Atomic Opera's albums after For Madmen Only. Sometimes that doesn't matter and I end up really liking those albums. However, in this case, I have to say...Gospel Cola is... okay. Just okay. It's not terrible but it's not nearly as beautiful and addicting as the debut. One of the problems is that while the guitars are still chunky, they're now kicked to the back of the mix. The guitars was one of my favorite aspects so it's disappointing to see them given the short end of the stick. The other problem is the songs themselves... they're... okay. I like "Jesus Junk," "October," and "My Head" but the rest of them are just alright. Not wonderful, not crap just there. Oh well.

Useless Fact: "Jesus Junk" talks about all the stupid Christian products the Church thinks up to make money. The song mentions Testamints - which I called out as stupid as well when they came out. There's also quotes at the end of the lyrics from "Bad Buddha" which vaguely remind me of the quotes from Wild Sylas Tomkin back in the day.