Sunday, December 31, 2017

Galactic Cowboys - "Long Way Back To The Moon"

Galactic Cowboys - Long Way Back to the Moon
2017, Mascot

1. In the Clouds
2. Internal Masquerade
3. Blood In My Eyes
4. Next Joke
5. Zombies
6. Drama
7. Amisarewas
8. Hate Me
9. Losing Ourselves
10. Agenda
11. Long Way Back to the Moon
Bonus Tracks:
12. Believing the Hype
13. Say Goodbye To Utopia

I was pretty excited when Galactic Cowboys said they were going to reunite with the original lineup and do a new album. It wasn't long after they announced it that the album itself was released. I am pleased to say that it's awesome. It really is... and a great way to end they year. This new releases eschews the alternative rock sounds of the band's later era to focus on a sound that would comfortably fit between Space In Your Face and Machine Fish. It has a lot of the harmonies that characterized the first two albums with a bit more of the song structure of Machine Fish. "In the Clouds" was the first song the Cowboys ever wrote and it definitely sounds like something that would have been on the debut. "Next Joke" has the sickest breakdown in the middle - one of my favorite breakdowns of all time (right up next to the one in Deliverance's cover of "After Forever"). "Zombies" has become a favorite of both my daughters (which is no mean feat with the older one!). And the title track is epic and spacey - just like you would expect and want from the band. In fact, it's amazing how much this just sounds like the Galactic Cowboys of old. They didn't reinvent their sound or anything but.... it's so good! In my review for Alice Cooper's Paranormal how it didn't break any new ground but was still so good and that's kind of the case here. Long Way Back to the Moon is kind of a "by the numbers" Cowboys album but.... it's sooooo good! Comfortable and new at the same time. Honestly, it's the kind of thing I needed after kind of a crappy year (in general, not necessarily in music). It's not lost on me that the band commented on this exact phenomenon in "Believing the Hype" a hilariously meta-tune about getting the band back together. I really hope this isn't just a one-off reunion for the guys because I could go for a couple more of these.

Useless Fact: The band signed to Mascot for this album (making them label mates with Ayeron). In an interview they said they'd rather have a label do things for them instead of having to do everything themselves with crowdfunding. Hey, in this case I can't argue with the results.

Bushong, Tim - "O Come Emmanuel"

Bushong, Tim - O Come Emmanuel
2016, Rockhill

1. O Holy Night
2. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
3. Joy to the World
4. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
5. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
6. Do You Hear What I Hear?
7. Skating
8. What Child Is This?
9. Santa Claus Won't Come This Year
10. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
11. The Ballad of John Roberts

O Come Emmanuel was a gift from my good friend Uvulapie. Tim Bushong is a name one might recognize from bands like Lovewar and The Bleed (later Rex Carroll and the Bleed). This album does both things that I look for in Christmas music. First, it has some songs you don't hear very often ("Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" and "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"). Second, the songs you have heard have their own unique twist. Songs like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" are pretty familiar but Tim blings them out with some amazing instrumentation. Also included... a cool rock/jazz version of "Skating" from A Charlie Brown Christmas. I also enjoyed "Santa Claus Won't Come This Year"... and original? I think? It's a solid Christmas album all around and I'm very thankful that I have a cool friend like Uvulapie that sends me random stuff sometimes!

Useless Fact: I am kind of at a loss to understand The Ballad of John Roberts. Who is John Roberts? I have no idea.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sia - "Everyday is Christmas"

Sia - Everyday is Christmas
2017, Atlantic

1. Santa's Coming For Us
2. Candy Cane Lane
3. Snowman
4. Snowflake
5. Ho Ho Ho
6. Puppies Are Forever
7. Sunshine
8. Underneath the Mistletoe
9. Everyday is Christmas
10. Underneath the Christmas Lights

While scoping the internet one day I heard Sia had a new Christmas album. Of the current crop of pop music I can honestly say I don't hate Sia. Also, all of the songs were originals. If it's something I'm looking for in new Christmas music it's a) originals or b) completely new spins on traditionals. The first song and video for the album was "Santa's Coming For Us" which, despite the kind of foreboding title is a fun, upbeat song with a cute little video. It stars Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard and reminds me a lot of Hall & Oates "Jingle Bell Rock" video from back in the day. The rest of the songs are pretty catchy as well. "Candy Cane Lane" and "Puppies Are Forever" have sort of an old Motown vibe. The only thing I have against this album is that the last three songs are kind of slow paced. Not bad, mind you, just slow. I could have used another upbeat ditty towards the end for sure. Aside from that, I definitely recommend it. Especially since the songs on here haven't been played to death.

Useless Fact: The videos for "Candy Cane Lane," "Ho Ho Ho," and "Underneath the Mistletoe" form a little trilogy about a little girl, her dog, and a mutant snowman.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Evanescence - "Synthesis"

Evanescence - Synthesis
2017, BMG

1. Overture
2. Never Go Back
3. Hi-Lo
4. My Heart is Broken
5. Lacrymosa
6. The End of the Dream
7. Bring Me To Life (Synthesis)
8. Unraveling [Interlude]
9. Imaginary
10. Secret Door
11. Lithium
12. Lost in Paradise
13. Your Star
14. My Immortal
15. The In-Between (Piano Solo)
16. Imperfection

When I heard Evanescence was going to put out an album full of old songs redone with orchestra and what not, I was pretty ambivalent about it. Add to that the fact that the You Tube concert my wife and I watched wasn't mixed very well. I had no idea about how I was going to feel about this album when I bought it. I must say, though, I am quite surprised - I really enjoyed this. It stands as a display of just how good Evanescence's songs are and how good Amy Lee's voice is. Sometimes I think people don't take them seriously because they're perceived as sort of faux-goth. Make no mistake, these are good songs and good arrangements. It's impressive that none of the passion or power of these tracks has been lost. Even without the crushing, heavy guitars they still have the power to reach me. It actually reminded me a little bit of Origin with the more industrial elements. There are two new songs on here as well, "Hi-Lo" and "Imperfection." The latter of which was kind of a grower, honestly. Hopefully we don't have to wait another six or so years for a new album.

Useless Fact: For some reason the CD case doesn't list tracks 8-11. It just goes right from 7 to 12. Weird.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sons of Apollo - "Psychotic Symphony"

Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony
2017, Inside Out

1. God of the Sun
2. Coming Home
3. Signs of the Time
4. Labyrinth
5. Alive
6. Lost in Oblivion
7. Figaro's Whore
8. Divine Addiction
9. Opus Maximus

I'm not one of those people that claimed that Mike Portnoy was really the brains behind Dream Theater. However, Dream Theater's Pornoy-less albums have been.... ugh. Not great. I found myself wondering whether Portnoy was really the brains after all. I also don't want to have to say of Sons of Apollo's debut something like "Wow... this is kind of what I've wanted from Dream Theater."


Wow... this is kind of what I've wanted from Dream Theater. While Portnoy is maybe the most recognizable name in this group (at least to me) it's filled with experienced and talented players. Jeff Scott Soto on vocals, ex-Dream Theater Derek Sherinian, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, and Billy Sheehan. Quite a list there. So what do I mean when I say "this is kind of what I wanted from Dream Theater?" Well with all of that progressive virtuosity on display in songs like "God of the Sun," "Labyrinth," and "Opus Maximus" (an instrumental track), there are some serious monster hooks on this thing. "Coming Home" and "Alive" come to mind - but every song has something to keep you coming back. Everyone gets a chance to shine and Jeff Scott Soto's vocals are on point. He's got such a smooth delivery but it matches the music perfectly. It's got that perfect meld of progressiveness with pop/metal hooks. I also like the nice, thick guitar tone as it just makes the album sound stinkin' heavy.
Now, to be fair, I don't know if the boys here are breaking any new ground or anything. Fans of this genre will be pretty comfortable here with little in the way of genuine surprises. However, for me, the songs are great and while it might not be too innovative, it's an absolute blast to listen to.

Useless Fact: "Figaro's Whore" is marked as "explicit." "Figaro's Whore" is an instrumental. Let that sink in for a minute.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Mega Christmas Playlist!

A friend on Twitter posted his Christmas playlist. I thought it might be fun to share my own. This list has been honed and tweaked over years and years. I'll still tweak it here and there but this is the list in its current form. What I'm looking for in my mixes is variety and uniqueness. I think I've achieved that here, for the most part. After each track I'll add a little note describing why I picked it...unless I just don't have anything to say about it!

1. “Christmastime is Here” – Sixpence None the Richer
People have said this song sounds dour and dirge-like. I always found it charming and laid-back. 

2. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” – Weezer
I suppose one could argue this one should be first. But I have my reasons as you shall see. I'm not wild about this song as it is, but Weezer makes it palatable.

3. “Christmas Wrapping” – The Waitresses
I've always loved this song. It's cute and catchy. And it has a happy ending.

4. “Good King Wenceslas” – Loreena McKennitt
I feel like this song is one you hear a lot of in movies and shows, but no one ever records it or sings it. I've always liked it... so here it is with some Celtic flair.

5. “This Christmas” – Green, CeeLo
I've just recently really started liking this song. I'm actually considering swapping this version out for the Pentatonix version.

6. “Just For Now” – Imogen Heap
For a while I didn't even know this was a holiday song. I just thought it was cool. Apparently it's a holiday song - it's pretty obvious and I don't know how I missed it. Except that it really doesn't sound like a Christmas song.

7. “Babe in the Straw” – The Choir
The Choir is one of my favorite bands of all time. So... yeah...

8. “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” – The Ramones
Hadn't heard of this one until recently, but when I did I fell in love and it quickly earned a spot on the list.

9. “Winter Wonderland” – Eurythmics
This remains my favorite version. Especially the creepy intro. I suppose it's supposed to sound mystical and magical but to me it sounds like Castlevania.

10. “Linus and Lucy” – Guaraldi, Vince

11. “O Little Town of Bethlehem” – Cole, Nat King
I figured this was a good spot on the list for something very traditional.

12. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – Sixpence None the Richer
There are several good covers and the original is great too. I use this one because it's the best one I have access too.

13. “In the Bleak Midwinter” – The Choir
Another good traditional song that you don't hear a lot of. Done by one of my favorite bands for a stretch goal for one of their Kickstarted albums. 

14. “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Yeah... gotta have this one. Remember, the title is "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" not "Metal Carol of the Bells." It was originally a Savatage tune. Also... kind of disappointed that I saw it on a Kia commercial.

15. “Snoopy’s Christmas” – The Royal Guardsman
When I was a kid I had an old vinyl record with this song on it. Loved it then, love it now. 

16. “Run, Rudolph, Run” – Adams, Bryan
Aside from the original, I think this version is the best. And even though the one with Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead singing is funny, this version is actually good. 

17. “Christmas Tree” – Lady Gaga
One of the dirtiest Christmas songs I've ever heard. Definitely from The Fame period. I do reconsider this one every year. Then I remember no one actually listens to this mix except me so I leave it in.

18. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – Viva Voce
Who'da thunk shoegaze and Christmas would go together so well. One of my top favorite versions of this song (along with Loreena McKennitt's version).

19. “Green Christmas” – Barenaked Ladies
This is one of those originals that totally and completely works. As a bonus... you don't hear it all the time.

20. “The First Noel” – Bing Crosby
This is my favorite version of this song. I especially like the little voice over in the beginning. I put it about midway through the mix because I kind of look at it as my own Christmas special. It's a little break that reminds you to have fun and enjoy yourself and I love the song too.

21. “Peace, Love, and Light” – The Choir
Another original from The Choir's Christmas album.

22. “Gabriel’s Message” – Sting
This is one of those unique songs that has a very cool vibe to it. One of my favorites.

23. “O Come All Ye Faithful” – Flight 180
Hey... why not have a ska version of this song? I kind of debate this one every year because there are better versions out there but... I guess I just like having a bit of ska on here.

24. “Christmas Day” – MxPx
Pop-punk and Christmas. A fun song. Though I really need to put something a bit lighter between these two songs...or maybe it's fine the way it is... I don't know...

25. “The Christmas Waltz” – Connick, Jr., Harry
This is my favorite version of this song.

26. “All I Need is Love” – Green, CeeLo
Includes the Muppets. That's all I really need to say.

27. “White Christmas” – Crosby, Bing
Now that I live in the South, the chances of us having a white Christmas are pretty much nill. 

28. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Carey, Mariah
A lot of people hate this song. That's okay. I still like it. 

29. “Wonderful Christmastime” – McCartney, Paul
Another one people tend to hate. I don't understand why though. I like it!

30. “Redneck Days of Christmas” – Foxworthy, Jeff
After almost ten years of having this song on the mix I still find it amusing. 

31. “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” – Pevee, Gayla
Apparently this was written as a fundraiser for a zoo. I adore it. I wish Paramore would cover it though, it needs some updating.

32. “Mary, Did You Know?” – Green, CeeLo
I had a manager that would always request Kenny Rogers' version of this song. I always told her CeeLo or Pentatonix was the best I could do. Fun Fact: the song was written by Christian comedian/singer Mark Lowry.

33. “(It Must’ve Been Ol’) Santa Claus” – Connick, Jr., Harry
Love this one. Not much else more to say...

34. “Coventry Carol” – McKennitt, Loreena
Another traditional song that you don't hear too much of. I mean... the subject matter is kind of a bummer, but I'm a sucker for these types of songs.

35. “Christmas Collage” – Mattea, Kathy
This originally appeared on the first Now That's What I Call Christmas! It has this kind of comfortable wintery dark feel. Like this is the song you listen to by the light of the fireplace cuddled under a blanket.

36. “I Saw Three Ships” – The Choir
Like I said... they are one of my favorite bands. Also another song you don't hear as much.

37. “Caroling, Caroling” – Cole, Nat King

38. “Merry Christmas Darling” – The Carpenters
If you can't appreciate Karen Carpenter's voice - you have problems. Please see a doctor.

39. “Lollipop Parade (On Christmas Day)” – Joy Electric
Totally different from anything else on this list. I'm not really into Joy Electric's regular stuff but I do love this tune.

40. “O Holy Night” – Weezer
Because we love the show Raising Hope and this version was on their first Christmas episode.

41. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – Mellencamp, John
My favorite version of this song by far.

42. “Anti-Santa Is Coming To Town” – Einstein Savage
Another original about an evil Santa. It's in rockabilly style which is also cool.

43. “Joy to the World” – Cole, Nat King

44. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” – Lost Dogs
Another one I debate having on here because of the extended ending where the robo-members joke amongst themselves. I think it's funny, but other people might not. Then I remember I'm the only one that listens to this and I get over it.

45. “Frosty the Snowman” – Connick, Jr., Harry

46. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – U2

47. “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” – Crosby, Bing & Bowie, David
Another song I absolutely adore. So good... I've always loved David Bowie's vocals and I love Bing Crosby so...yeah... I really have to get to exploring Bowie's discography someday.

48. “Christmastime Is Here (Instrumental)” – Guaraldi, Vince
...and here we bookend nicely with a reprise of the first song. I mean this is the original, of course, but I thought it would be cool to end with the instrumental original as sort of a coda to the previous song. I like that the final words on the mix are about peace on earth. This song is kind of like the "end credits" for the whole mix.

Well... there you have it! Maybe I'll update this in a few years to see how different it is. I hope I've been able to introduce you to a song or a version of a song you haven't heard of that you might like. Also... MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Scandroid - "Monochrome"

Scandroid - Monochrome
2017, Fixt

1. 2518
2. Afterglow
3. Rendezvous
4. Thriller
5. Oblivia
6. Monochrome
7. The Force Theme
8. Future Bloodline
9. A Thousand Years
10. On The Face Of The Deep
11. The Veil
12. Searching For a Lost Horizon
13. Thriller (PYLOT Remix)

Scandroid's debut made my top picks list of 2016 last year. It was such a surprise - something I didn't even know I wanted until I really listened to it. I'm happy that Scandroid is not just a one-off project for Klayton. Speaking of which - he has been a busy little bee. Barely a year after the first Scandroid platter comes, Monochrome. Not much has changed in a year. Klayton still delivers genuine 80's synth aesthetics combined with catchy melodies and hooks. It's one of those rare instances when saying "it's more of the same" is actually a good thing. Make no mistake, Monochrome doesn't throw the listener any curve balls or surprises, but that is totally okay. Well... maybe one curve ball with "The Force Theme" which is a Star Wars cover. There's also a infectious cover of "Thriller." I love it (my whole family loves it), but I'm not gonna lie - no one can match Vincent Price for the voice over. Other than that... it's more Scandroid. And who wouldn't want more Scandroid? Everyone. Everyone should want more Scandroid.  In fact, if Klayton wanted to do yearly installments of Scandroid I would not mind a bit.

Useless Fact: I guess there is a story that ties the two Scandroid albums together about an android and his girlfriendroid. I think. I'm not really sure about the specifics.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Consecrator - "Image of Deception"

Consecrator - "Image of Deception"
2017, Roxx Productions/No Life Til Metal

1. Submission
2. Image of Deception
3. Mindlessly Betrayed
4. Vision Ignored
5. Sayings of the Wise
6. Free From Death
7. Meaningless (2005 Recording)
8. Make Me Laugh (Demo)
9. Satan Lies (Demo)
10. Saving Song (Demo)
11. Messiah Calls (Demo)
12. Troubled Years (Demo)
13. Cast Out (Demo)

Consecrator is remembered, if they are remembered at all, for the stellar track "Free From Death" which appeared on the REX compilation, Demolition. It was a bright spot on that comp for sure (though come to think of it, that whole comp was made up of bright spots!). Years ago I saw that Consecrator had released their demo material and I was elated...then sad because I couldn't get it. It had been long out of print by the time I discovered its existence. Thankfully Roxx and No Life Til Metal have reissued it. If you liked "Free From Death" then... yeah... you'll dig Image of Deception. The sound is sort of a combination of Extraction-era Believer and Testimony-era Sacrament. It's new but still has a really familiar vibe - nostalgic in the best way possible. It takes me back to heydays of Christian thrash and borrowing rare demos from friends and This Prophecy magazine. Good stuff. It's a real shame they never got that contract because I think had the potential to be heavy hitters. I'm really hoping this reissue is successful. Maybe it can springboard into something new...

Useless Fact: Conscrator was originally known as Sacrament but had to change their name because... well... Sacrament.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dynamic Twins - "40 Days In The Wilderness"

Dynamic Twins - 40 Days In The Wilderness
1995, Brainstorm

1. Forget About Your Troubles
2. Who R U
3. It's About Time
4. Reap What You Sow
5. Global
6. The Story
7. Get On Down
8. Will You Still?
9. Back To The Garden
10. Ready
11. Overcomer
12. Are You With Me?

So let's get this out of the way first, "Forget About Your Troubles" reminded me a lot of Coolio's "Fantastic Voyage." A Lot. From the beats to the chorus. I was a little wary at first that they guys would just chase trends for the entire album. Thankfully, while 40 Days definitely sounds like mid-90's hip-hop, it still manages to be fun and entertaining. Some fans say this is the group's best album but I think I probably prefer the first two over this one. Though, again, this one is no slouch. I like some of the shorter tracks the best ("Reap What You Sow," for example). There are some skits sprinkled in here and there two about the Twins being "lost in the wilderness" for real. I'm surprised the skits weren't given their own track numbers. Not much else to say, really. If you like D2, you'll like this no question.

Useless Fact: LPG provides some raps on here. He also performed on S.F.C.'s Illumination. I wonder if he ever got to do his own solo record? Oh well... too lazy to Google it today.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Living Colour - "Shade"

Living Colour - Shade
2017, Megaforce

1. Freedom of Expression (F.O.X.)
2. Preachin' Blues
3. Come On
4. Program
5. Who Shot Ya?
6. Always Wrong
7. Blak Out
8. Pattern In Time
9. Who's That?
10. Glass Teeth
11. Invisible
12. Inner City Blues
13. Two Sides

I mostly remember Living Colour from their stint in the 80's that began with the single "Cult of Personality." I loved that song. Still do. I also remember my dad watching the music video with me. He thought they were saying "culture personality" and then had to give me a lecture about why the band was a bunch of degenerates and blah, blah, blah. That was my dad for you. Anyway, recently Facebook was like, "Hey Old Man, remember Living Colour? Well... they have a new album out. And it's really good!" And lo and behold - Facebook was right on both counts. Shade really is good. It's heavier than I remember Vivid being (but that was years ago). What I like is the variety. This is one of those albums that has a lot of influences but is still very cohesive. So you'll have some blues numbers ("Preachin' Blues," "Who's That"), some funk ("Blak Out"), some hip-hop ("Who Shot Ya?" - which is a cover, I think), and some plain old rock/metal ("Pattern In Time," "Glass Teeth"). There's also a cool rock cover of "Inner City Blues." All this variety is tied together by solid instrumentation (it's mostly hard rock, venturing into metal sometimes) with good hooks. Vernon Reid is a guitar hero in every sense of the word and Corey Glover's vocals are still on point after all these years. Doug Wimbash (bass) and Will Calhoun (drums) carry the rhythm with style and finesse. This album was a delightful surprise that I wasn't expecting and worth checking out - especially if you forgot about them after "Cult of Personality."

Useless Fact: The video for "Who Shot Ya?" features photos of people who have died from gun violence from recently headliners like Trayvon Martin to people like JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Deliverance - "The Subversive Kind"

Deliverance - The Subversive Kind
2017, 3Frogz/Roxx Productions

1. Bring 'Em Down
2. Concept of the Other
3. Center of it All
4. The Black Hand
5. Epilogue
6. Listen Closely
7. The Subversive Kind
8. The Fold


No one should be whining about how the new Deliverance isn't heavy enough. 'Cause, dang. I don't think it's a stretch to say that this is probably the band's heaviest album - and I include Greetings of Death and What a Joke in that statement. Jimmy has assembled a crack team of thrash specialists from the old guard. Jim Chaffin and Greg Minier (formerly of the Crucified) are manning the drums and lead guitar, respectively. Victor Macias (ex-Tourniquet) is on bass. Greg Rogers has even been enlisted for live shows and such. Did I mention this is heavy? Those who've been pining for the old thrash/speed metal days should be overjoyed. The songs are fast and furious and Jimmy's vocals are the harshest they've ever been. The focus here seems to be a little less on intricate thrash riffs in favor of sheer power and passion a la Sepultura. Not to say that there aren't cool riffs here because there definitely are it's just that you won't hear a more technical riff like, for example, "Solitude" or "Flesh and Blood." Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Take "Center of it All" - a blazing thrash tune that won me over with its sheer ferocity. "The Black Hand" has a cool little intro before blasting off at a breakneck pace. The title track echoes "Weapons of our Warfare" a bit in the beginning while being one of the more "melodic" tracks on the album. I put "melodic" in quotes because, as I've said, speed and power are the name of the game here. Songs are very focused here. They have a job to do (namely, kick your head in) and they bust in, do that, and get out. So there's no acoustic interludes or extended classical guitar passages. Also... I think there's a little bit of punk attitude in here too, just a touch, to make things interesting. One of the things that I really like about this album is that even though it's a brief eight tracks long (about a half hour running time), there's still a lot of meat here. I've listened to it several times and I still don't feel like I've got all it has to give. That's quite impressive considering the length. As one of the backers I am quite pleased with the finished product and I can't imagine anyone who was a fan of the band's earlier material wouldn't be pleased as well.

So it seems like Jimmy just can't release anything without some controversy. People complained about the cover. I'm not sure why... I guess it made them feel weird feelings and they just couldn't handle that. Then people where complaining because they thought the album was already out. As of this writing it is not. The only reason why I have it (just the mp3s too, not the physical CD) is because I was a backer. It seems like when it comes to Deliverance people just lose their minds or something.

Useless Fact: There were originally supposed to be ten tracks on the album (one was a cover), they decided to leave the cover off. Then it went down to eight. Not lying... I'd still like to hear those other two songs.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Blamed - "21"

The Blamed - 21
1994, Tooth & Nail

1. Abuse
2. Help Yourself
3. Testimony
4. Drunk
5. Separation
6. A State of...
7. From Me To You
8. Rainbow
9. 3 A.M.
10. God Is Alive
11. Walkabout
12. The Ballad of the Blamed

This album is one of those treasures from the early days of Tooth & Nail... before they got all corporate and everything. The Blamed are raw and gritty punk rock with little polish. The production is similarly rough but in this case it actually helps the music. There's a definite Crucified vibe here but that's probably because Jim Chaffin is the drummer. I'm not sure it quite reaches the heights of some of the Crashdog albums in terms of genuine punk - but it's a good, fun album with some good hooks. "The Ballad of the Blamed" is an interesting song in that it's this melodic, acoustic number that really shows that the band has some genuine chops when it comes to their instruments. They released a second album called Frail but for some reason I never liked it.

Useless Fact: The Blamed contributed a song to the Sweet Family Music Stryper "tribute" comp.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Undercover - "Forum"

Undercover - Forum
1994, Brainstorm

1. Spill
2. The Moon and the Blue Around
3. Forum (Lullaby)
4. Symbol
5. Carmenita
6. Whoa, Nelly
7. Pocket Full of Money
8. The Overlook (Hosanna)
9. (Tell Me) Everything About You
10. Union

I remember getting Forum from Arrowhead Christian Bookstore. Back in the day Arrowhead (which was about an hour away from my town), was like a Mecca for music - second only to Kingdom Bound. Their selection was a lot bigger than my hometown store and so I was always excited to go there. This time however, I either had everything there or there just wasn't anything new - except Forum - which I wasn't wild about. I remember how disappointed I was at the selection that day. It was also really warm that year for fall and that made me mad too because I get mad about stupid things.

You can probably guess how this review is going to go at this point. Originally, I wasn't thrilled with this album. Except "Spill" and "The Moon and the Blue Around" which is... I don't know what style it is but I loved it then and I love it now. The rest of the album is pretty diverse with a lot of acoustic songs and some country influences. We've also got an electric version of "Symbol" from the Brow Beat compilation. So yeah... I like it a lot better now except "Whoa, Nelly" which I still don't care for but I couldn't really tell you why.

Useless Fact: I believe this was the band's last album. They came out with another one called I Rose Falling but I've heard it's not that good.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bent Knee - "Land Animal"

Bent Knee - Land Animal
2017, Inside Out

1. Terror Bird
2. Holes
3. Holy Ghost
4. Insides In
5. These Hands
6. Land Animal
7. Time Deer
8. Belly Side Up
9. The Well
10. Boxes

Well, well, well... my You Tube algorithms have doth blessed me. Bent Knee is kind of an enigma. Sure, you can just call them prog rock but there's so much going on here. There's jazz, rock, alt-rock, a dash of metal... just so many different influences. Odd time changes here and there. They almost remind me of Hot Pink Turtle in that they seem to be able to take a bunch of seemingly disparate pieces and put them all together into something weird and wonderful that works as a whole. Courtney Swain's vocals are a highlight as well. She's got great range and can wail like a banshee but also be quiet and subtle. I would not be surprised if this showed up on my "Picks of 2017" list. If you buy this I can guarantee that it will be the strangest, most unique thing you hear this year. The only thing I don't like is the seven or so minutes of dead silence at the end of "Boxes." Why? You can't just end the song? Just end the song. There doesn't seem to be any reason to have that.

Useless Fact: The band released the entire album on You Tube before it released officially.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Undercover - "Devotion"

Undercover - Devotion
1992/2018, LoFidelity

1. Work It Out
2. Man, Oh Man
3. Sea of Tranquility
4. Purple Flower
5. Devotion
6. Promenade
7. Where I Should Be
8. Dark Night
9. All That I Am
10. So Wonderful
Bonus Tracks
11. Cry Myself To Sleep (Live)
12. Witch Hunt (Live)
13. Devotion (Live)
14. Promenade (Acoustic Live)
15. Devotion (Live)
16. So Wonderful (Live)

A long, long time ago...back when the world was new, Undercover's Devotion inspired my youth group's logo. See, there's a song called "Purple Flower" on here and along with the mention of a purple flower in The Choir's "If I Had a Yard" we thought there was some sort of something going on. So a purple flower was our logo for "The Hippy Youth Group." Named that because a bunch of other kids from another district were like, "look at those hippies over there." Yes, I know Circle Slide pre-dated Devotion by two years so there couldn't have possibly been any correlation. No need to send letters.

Anyway, this was my first introduction to Undercover. I saw the previous album, Balance of Power, in my local bookstore but chose something else over it. I came into the scene way too late to have ever heard their more punk stuff. Devotion rocks pretty hard and while I didn't love it originally, I've grown quite fond of it lately. Quite a familiar refrain I've been singing in reviews these days. I blame it on trying to reclaim my lost youth. The original is really hard to find but the band has completed a Kickstarted a reissue and that's where my copy came from. The extra tracks are all right, mostly live stuff. I also appreciate that they recreated the liner notes of the original album. I know it's kind of a weird, small thing but sometimes when these reissues come out they redo the liner notes and often they don't look as good.

Useless Fact: As far as I know Ojo Taylor is no longer a Christian and is a college professor somewhere.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Iced Earth - "Incorruptible"

Iced Earth - Incorruptible
2017, Century Media

1. Great Heathen Army
2. Black Flag
3. Raven Wing
4. The Veil
5. Seven Headed Whore
6. The Relic (Part 1)
7. Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)
8. Brothers
9. Defiance
10. Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)

I've got kind of a weird relationship with Iced Earth. If you'll recall I wasn't wild about their last two albums and only bought them because I was on vacation and bored (though I have re-evaluated Dystopia and really like it now). In fact, I wasn't even going to bother with Incorruptible because I'd figure I'd just get it a year later on whilst on vacation. However, I'd been hearing some really good buzz about this one with some fans saying it was their best since Something Wicked. Which is super high praise. So obviously I didn't wait until I was on vacation and I'm glad I didn't. I don't know what got into Jon Schaeffer and the boys, but man... this album rocks. There's definitely an energy and vibrancy that wasn't there on Plagues of Babylon. Everyone is at the top of their game and not one track could be considered "filler." I especially like the finale, "Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862) - a song about an army in the Civil War. I'm actually considering this as one of my picks for 2017 if that's any indication.

Useless Fact: "Seven Headed Whore" is marked as "explicit"... for the word "whore" I guess because there's no actual vulgarity in the song.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

P.I.D. - "The Chosen Ones"

P.I.D. - The Chosen Ones
1991, Frontline

1. The Chosen Ones (Part 1)
2. Grace
3. Hey Oh
4. The Book
5. Abstruction
6. Authority
7. The Hour of Strong Delusions
8. Victim of the System
9. Yours Truly
10. Get You a Bible (D-Boy Re-mix)
11. Get Under the Blood Stream
12. License 2 Kill
13. 15 Degrees in Detroit
14. Joy Like a River
15. Progression
16. K-Mack the Knife (Soul Fingers)
17. The Chosen Ones (Part 2)
18. Roots
19. 3rd Degree Burns
20. The Chosen Ones (Inst.)

I remember when I originally bought this on tape. I wasn't very impressed. Couldn't tell you why, though. I just didn't like it as much as Back to Back. However, I must report that this is another one of those albums where I just scratch my head and think, "What the heck was wrong with me?!" This album is awesome - better than Back to Back in just about every respect. I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this the second time around. The sound on this one is just a touch harder (as with a lot of groups at the time) and a little more mature. They really dig into the social issues on this one. Not that they were every really shy about that, but there's a lot more here about black culture and the struggle African-Americans face in society - definitely messages that need to be heard. I will say the album kind of peters out toward the end with a few instrumental/remix-type tracks (again, quite common for the time). I am so glad I picked this up again!

Useless Fact: The group is now three people with K-Mack who was the DJ, I think. Also, one of the members when to convert to Islam if I didn't say that already.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Minier - "Minier (Retroarchives Edition)"

Minier - Minier (Retroarchives Edition)
1990/2017, Retroactive

1. Do Not Be Deceived
2. The Skeptic
3. Price
4. Killing of the Innocent
5. Prophecy
6. Philosophy of Man
7. The Secret Song
Bonus Tracks:
8. Do Not Be Deceived (Bedroom Demo)
9. Foolish State (Bedroom Demo)
10. Mulligan Barf (Bedroom Demo)
11. Philosophy of Man (Bedroom Demo)
12. Prophecy (Bedroom Demo)
13. Sowing Life (Bedroom Demo)
14. Interview w/ Tempered Steel Radio Show, Part 1
15. Interview w/ Tempered Steel Radio Show, Part 2

I've long wanted a copy of Minier for the vault but it seemed like the original REX edition was too pricey. Especially for only seven songs. Retroactive once again stepped up and released this little gem and gave it a proper reissue. It's got six demo tracks from the bedroom of Greg Minier himself. The quality is rough as is befitting a four-track recording but not unlistenable. They've also included a couple of interviews for posterity's sake. Greg even writes some liner notes to give a little insight into the recording. All in all a pretty good package and definitely recommended if you liked the raw and thrashy original.

Useless Fact: Apparently there was supposed to be a full length "Minier" album, but The Crucified and Applehead both got in the way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cooper, Alice - "Paranormal"

Cooper, Alice - Paranormal
2017, Ear Music

1. Paranormal
2. Dead Flies
3. Fireball
4. Paranoic Personality
5. Fallen In Love
6. Dynamite Road
7. Private Public Breakdown
8. Holy Water
9. Rats
10. The Sound of A

1. Genuine American Girl
2. You and All of Your Friends
3. No More Mr. Nice Guy (Live)
4. Under My Wheels (Live)
5. Billion Dollar Babies (Live)
6. Feed My Frankenstien
7. Only Women Bleed
8. School's Out

I've been wondering when Ol' Alice would put out a new albums. It seems like it's been forever since Welcome 2 My Nightmare. Paranormal is a pretty straightforward album - no concept, no varying styles - just pure rock and roll. It kind of reminds me of Alice's more seventies stuff, especially with the Alice Cooper band. Speaking of which, they reformed and wrote two songs for this album, "Genuine American Girl" and "You and All of Your Friends." It's funny because this record is pretty simple and it's not really taking Alice Cooper to any place he's never been before, but I really love it. The songs are just so catchy and the production is clear and clean so you can really hear the guitar tones. This isn't a groundbreaking release or anything but I'll be danged if I haven't spun it a ton and have plans to spin it some more. Alice has said in interviews that he really tried to get out of his comfort zone on this album. It tickles me that he's said that because it doesn't seem like this album takes many chances. Not that it needs to, mind you. It's amazing how it can risk almost nothing and still be so dang good. The live tracks are pretty cool bonus. The name of the drummer escapes me at the moment but he is absolutely killing it! See "Feed My Frankenstein" for an example of what I mean.

And let's talk about the packaging for a moment. It's a two-disc digipack with a nice fat booklet full of lyrics. The artwork is pretty cool. Definitely an A++ for packaging here.

Useless Fact: This album was produced by Bob Ezrin who's produced a metric butt-ton of Alice Cooper records. I know that's not much of a fact. *sad face*

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dynamic Twins - "No Room 2 Breathe"

Dynamic Twins - No Room 2 Breathe
1993, Brainstorm

1. Get Up, Get Down
2. Words We Speak
3. Tears of a Broken Heart
4. Getting Brighter
5. Can't Stand the Rain
6. Something To Say
7. Psyched By Your Ignorance
8. (Giving Them) No Room 2 Breathe
9. Against the Flow
10. Check Yourself
11. Flee From Babylon
12. Evil of Currency
13. The Family Song

It's no secret that I loved the Dynamic Twins' debut. Not sure why I never picked up their sophomore release. It seems like the kind of thing I would have grabbed post haste. Maybe I was too much into alternative rock and such to go back to the old rap I used to like. Maybe I was just afraid that everything had turned into gangsta rap. Well...whatever the reason, it was stupid and dumb and I robbed myself of twenty-some-odd years of enjoying another rap classic...cause, dang...this is good. They've gone just a tad harder, not full on gangsta by any stretch, but just a smidge harder. The beats are there and the rhymes are stellar. It's definitely follows the style of mid-nineties hip-hop (a la Naughty By Nature maybe...a little House of Pain), but it's probably one of the best examples of that style either secular or Christian. Why, oh why did I wait so long to check this out?

Useless Fact: As far as I know there was never an M.V.P. solo album but by this time she'd married Noel. She also does another guest spot on the album.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

E.T.W. - "Stop! The Wild Hype"

E.T.W. - Stop! The Wild Hype
1991, Forefront

1. This Is What Time It Is (Revelation Generation)
2. Stop! The Wild Hype
3. One Bad Apple
4. God Is
5. This Is The Life
6. Destined To Win
7. La Guerra (War)
8. Yo Mouth (Isyomouf)
9. Paper Money
10. The Balm

The other day a great mania seized me. For some unexplained reason I had to listen to all the old Christian rap I had on my Ipod. For that entire day and a couple after I listened to everything I had…but it wasn’t enough. I needed more. I suddenly remembered that there were a few old albums that I never got around to the first time. E.T.W.’s Stop! The Wild Hype is one of them. Now before I get into this album, I have to say I think I was a little hard on their debut. I suppose it’s not objectively “great” but you know what? I still listen to it and I still enjoy it. So there. Anyway, Stop! The Wild Hype is better. It’s still not in the upper echelons of Christian hip-hop, though. At this point they are still being eclipsed by the likes of S.F.C. and Dynamic Twins. However, as I said, this album shows improvement. It certainly has better instrumentation all around. A lot more female vocals are added into the mix as well to spice things up. “Destined to Win” is an odd bird in that it’s almost techno. Kind of cool if you ask me. Though I can’t shake the feeling that these guys just haven’t found their sound yet. I think that probably happened on the next album. Speaking of which, I’ll probably have to get that one too…

One of the things that struck me as I listened to this album was how urgent it sounds. I the first track there's talk of geopolitics that would be right at home on a Jack Van Impe broadcast. But that's just how we rolled back then. Everything seemed more urgent. Jesus was coming back TOMORROW so you need to get ready! The New World order will rise up any day! Persecution of Christians in America is rampant! THE WORLD IS GOING TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET AND OTHER TYPES OF BASKETS AS WELL!!! While many people still hold this urgency, I just don't have the energy anymore. At my advanced age it does indeed seem like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but I think it's always been that way. Civilizations always stand on the edge of a knife and the sovereignty of God decides when they rise and fall. I'm not sure either of us are right. Wow...that got kind of deep. 

Useless Fact: The liner notes indicate that the album is dedicated to D-Boy. Aww... D-Boy. He's been in heaven awhile now. I will certainly expect some sick beats and rhymes from him when (if?) I get there.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sometime Sunday - "Stone"

Sometime Sunday - Stone
1994, Tooth and Nail

1. Lie
2. Crawl
3. Blur
4. Guilty
5. Blue
6. Self
7. Reach
8. Take
9. Rope
10. Sleep
11. Home

You know, we never really got any grunge in the Christian market. Sure we had alternative rock - lots of it. We had punk, post-punk, ska, swing, emo, hardcore... almost all of the music that grew up out of the ashes of the metal scene. But we never really got an honest to goodness grunge band - like a Nirvana or a Pearl Jam. The closest we came was Sometime Sunday which sounded most like Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden. Vocalist Mikee certainly sounds the part. They've also made sure all their song titles are one word. Very important for a grunge band! The sound and production is gritty and raw. The liner notes state that there were no overdubs or anything used in the recording, so what you hear on the disc is probably what you'd hear live. I never saw them live so I can't say. The lyrics are appropriately dark and tortured, but with just enough optimism to make them viable in the Christian market. While I rib them a bit for being "Christian grunge," I think they do a pretty good job. In fact, I think that if they were on a major label with a bit more publicity they'd could have been pretty popular. I never liked their second album, Drain, but I do recommend Stone as a cool album in its own right.

Useless Fact: The band's official name for their style was "lurch rock." I admit it kind of fits their sound.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Armageddon USA - "Up In Flames"

Armageddon USA - Up In Flames
Independent, 2015

1. All Over the World
2. Spinner
3. Hypnotized
4. Wanted Man
5. In Your Face
6. Satisfaction
7. Allie
8. Crazy
9. Time Divider
10. Revolution (Peace of Mind)
11. Up in Flames

Here's a question... why Armageddon USA? Why not just Armageddon? Was there a copyright issue or something? Also, this cover art is... really crappy. It looks cheap and generic - especially when you compare this to the art of The Money Mask which was iconic, unique, and just looked darn cool. Up In Flames came out in 2015, some twenty-plus years after the debut. Not sure why I lollygagged around for two years and didn't pick it up, though. Anyway, it's...okay. It starts off a bit wobbly with a trio of songs that I wasn't wild about. "All Over the World" has a decent riff and groove but the lyrics kind of annoy me. They literally just list terrible stuff happening "all over the world" aaaaand...that's it. Without anything else being said it's kind of like...what's the point? Yes... things are happening. And? "Spinner" fares better but the disc comes screeching to a halt with "Hypnotized." It's a Black Sabbath influenced doom-metal type tune that really slows down the album's momentum and is kind of boring on top of that. Thankfully, the album as a whole picks up with "Wanted Man" which is just dang cool. Cool riff, cool hook, cool song. The album keeps up this level of quality throughout as well so if you can get past those first three tracks you're good. "Revolution (Peace of Mind)" is like a love letter to Psalm 9 era Trouble (I feel like they're using the exact same guitar tone). That's not a bad thing, mind you, it's just something I noticed. The band's lyrics are more political than religious this time around. If you were a fan of Armageddon from way back, go ahead and check this out. If not - you can probably pass this by. Except for "Wanted Man." You definitely need that one.

Useless Fact: Vocalist Mike Vance is pretty active on Twitter, usually talking about politics. He is not a conservative, nor is he a fan of Trump. I do not have a problem with either of those things.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Demons and Wizards - "Touched By The Crimson King"

Demons and Wizards - Touched By The Crimson King
2005, SPV

1. Crimson King
2. Beneath These Waves
3. Terror Train
4. Seize the Day
5. The Gunslinger
6. Love's Tragedy Asunder
7. Wicked Witch
8. Dorian
9. Down Where I Am
10. Immigrant Song
Bonus Tracks:
11. Lunar Lament
12. Wicked Witch (Slow Version)
13. Spacial Architects
14. Beneath These Waves (Edit)

I don't know why I got rid of this CD because I really like it. Demons and Wizards is Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth and Hansi Kursch from Blind Guardian. The combination of the two is pretty cool. You've got Schaffer's lightning fast guitar riffing skills and Kursch's unique vocal style. I definitely like hearing his voice without some of the bombast of a Blind Guardian record. The only song that kind of annoys me is slow interlude in "Dorian." It doesn't seem like it fits and brings the song to a screeching halt for a minute. Also, make sure you pick up the deluxe version with the extra tracks. I don't feel like the album is really complete with out "Lunar Lament" (one of my favorite songs of all time) and "Spacial Architects." You can chuck the other two - "Wicked Witch (Slow Version)" is nearly indistinguishable from the other album version and "Beneath the Waves (Edit)" is the same exact song with the mellow post-lude clipped out. This is the band's second release. Some say the first one is better but I've never heard it. Someday I'll have to check it out.

Useless Fact: The album title and several songs are based on Stephen King's Dark Tower saga. "Love's Tragedy Asunder" is based on Romeo and Juliet, I believe. "Beneath These Waves" is based on Moby Dick. "Wicked Witch" is based off The Wizard of Oz. I shouldn't have to tell you what "Dorian" is from. "Immigrant Song" is a Led Zepplin cover.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Keaggy, Phil - "Find Me In These Fields"

Keaggy, Phil - Find Me In These Fields
1990, Myrrh

1. Instrumental
2. Strong Tower
3. Carry On
4. Instrumental
5. When the Wild Winds Blow
6. This Side of Heaven
7. Find Me In These Fields
8. Get Over It
9. Calling You
10. Instrumental
11. Gentle & Strong
12. Final Day
13. Instrumental
14. Be In My Heart
15. Instrumental

Find Me In These Fields often pops up as one of people's favorite Phil Keaggy platters. Seeing as I'd only heard Crimson & Blue (and absolutely adored it), I figured I'd give this one a shot. After all, it was released in 1990, aka The Best Year Ever For Music. Aaaaaaaand...what do you know? It's awesome. Of course it is. This is like a master class in musicianship and songwriting. If you're looking for a great pop/rock record written and played by some insanely talented musicians, this is for you. I was hooked from the opening acoustic instrumental. Any suggestions on which Keaggy album to get next?

Useless Fact: Rick Cua played bass on this album. He was kind of a big thing way back in the day.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aerosmith - "Permanent Vacation"

Aerosmith - Permanent Vacation
1987, Geffin

1. Heart's Done Time
2. Magic Touch
3. Rag Doll
4. Simoriah
5. Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
6. St. John
7. Hangman Jury
8. Girl Keeps Coming Apart
9. Angel
10. Permanent Vacation
11. I'm Down
12. The Movie

Permanent Vacation is another one of those nostalgia buys that reminds me of summer vacations. Specifically, with my mom and cousin throughout northern Pennsylvania. My original tape (which is long gone) was purchased from the Columbia tape club. Yes... I ain't lyin' when I call myself "The Old Man." So normally I pick one of these oldies up listen a few times and relive some fond memories and then don't think too much about it again until the next season. With the Aerosmith, however, I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed it. I mean, I always liked it. Heard the singles on MTV all the time. But the whole album is full of really great rock 'n roll. I'd argue that the singles aren't the best tracks here at all (of course, I'd argue that for any band). "Hangman Jury" is a bluegrass/blues inspired track and my absolute favorite on this album. I also like the cover of The Beatles' "I'm Down." The band really knew how to combine hard rock, pop, and blues as this disc seems to be a perfect mixture of all three. I don't know how it stacks up to the rest of their discography, but as a single album it's fantastic.

Useless Fact: Isn't "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" about Motley Crue's Vince Neil? That's what I heard anyway.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Haven - "III"

Haven - III
1995/2017, Retroactive

1. Haven
2. Her Eyes Can't Hide
3. Falling Down
4. Her Eyes Can't Hide (Conclusion)
5. Don't Let the Moment Slip Away
6. Prisoner
7. I Will Follow
8. Love From Above
9. When Jesus Lights the Way
10. The Almighty
11. Don't Run Away
12. Without Excuses
Bonus Track
13. From Everlasting

Now here's a little rarity that I'd never thought I'd hear. Haven's third album was recorded from '93 - '95 and finally released independently in '95. It was recorded in vocalist Kevin Ayer's home studio with whatever musicians he had on hand. I never even knew this existed until the early 2000's when I saw it on Scott Waters' website, No Life Til Metal. Retroactive has rereleased this lost gem with a good remaster and updated artwork. I think the new cover looks pretty cool. The original was in black and white, but the gold here really makes it pop.

For their third album, Haven goes a little more melodic and a little more progressive. You won't hear much in the way of full on power-metal-bordering-on-thrash tunes. Most of the songs are mid-paced and mellower. However, this variety gives Ayers' vocals a chance to shine as he gets to stretch himself a bit more. There's still some of the old school wails, but he also gets to be a little more reserved, a little quieter. He's got great range and this album really shows that off. I love the title track, which harkens back to the bands older material. Also, the riff in "Don't Let the Moment Slip Away" is awesome. Overall, I really enjoyed this album and I think fans of Haven will dig it too.


This album could have really benefited from some label backing - maybe a good producer to help flesh things out. Songs like "The Almighty" and "Don't Run Away" could have used more time in the cooker, I think. Also, while the remaster sounds good, the recording quality is a little bit above "demo." It's not unlistenable by any stretch, far from it. It's impressive considering this was done before ProTools and the like. But like I said, it still could have benefited from big label money. (Look at me acting like REX had money! Ha!) "From Everlasting" is a bonus track that wasn't part of the original album. It has more of an electronic feel, but it's kind of weird. There's like, casio drum beats and record scratching and guitars. The lyrics are serious but it sounds kind of silly with all these elements. Like it was a first attempt at industrial. I also wish there were some lyrics in the liner notes, but what can ya do? III probably isn't the Haven album to give to your friend who's never heard of them, but it's a treat for fans despite my pickune complaints.

Useless Fact: Not a fact...a rumination. I don't think REX would have touched this album in '95. It would have been too metal when they were focusing on hardcore and alternative. As much as I love alternative rock, that wave kept a lot of good albums from being enjoyed.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

INXS - "Kick"

INXS - Kick
1987, Atlantic

1. Guns in the Sky
2. New Sensation
3. Devil Inside
4. Need You Tonight
5. The Loved One
6. Wild Life
7. Never Tear Us Apart
8. Mystify
9. Kick
10. Calling All Nations
11. Tiny Daggers

Okay, so what I remember most about this album is Niagara Falls. My family went on vacation there way back when. It was notable for being one of the few vacations my late father went on with mom and I. Also, it was the only time I have ever (and let's be honest here) will probably ever leave the country. For the record, the Canadian side is way better. You can probably guess by now that...yes, I acquired this album on that trip! It was between this and Weird Al's Even Worse. This is also one of the first albums I owned that had a swear word on it. My mom didn't care because she was cool like that.

So, I guess I should talk about the music some eh? You've probably heard "New Sensation" because it's the biggest hit on here. Though "Devil Inside," "Need You Tonight/Mediate," and "Never Tear Us Apart" were HUGE on MTV at the time. Michael Hutchence was the embodiment of the charismatic front man, oozing with sex appeal. I guess. I mean I was eight at the time so I didn't really know. Nostalgia aside, it's a pretty solid Eighties pop album. I never really got into anything after this one. Even today I'm still not really motivated to search out anything else by them.

Useless Fact: Didn't they have a reality competition show after Hutchence died? How did that turn out? Anyone know?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rose - "Songs for the Ritually Abused"

Rose - Songs for the Ritually Abused
2017, Hindenburg

1. The Tortured Girl/Bye Bye Hands/Songs for the Ritually Abused
2. Keep You To Myself
3. Medication
4. Whispering Whales
5. Kellan and the Illustrator
6. Mickey
7. The Girl
8. Monster
9. Hell's Locked From the Inside
10. When Will I Be Loved?

Remember back in the 80's when there was a big scare (especially in the Church) about satanic ritual abuse? Lots of books written, documentaries made, etc. Bob Larson's Dead Air comes to mind. Despite all the panic it seemed that this phenomenon wasn't as widespread as the paranoia would've had us believe. So... it seems odd that in this day and age Randy Rose and crew would make a concept album about ritual abuse. I mean... that's not something that really happens, right? Though on the other hand, I know the human heart and I also have a hard time believing that it doesn't happen. I guess I'm in the middle about it, was the point of all that.

The music is dark and murky. If you're were a fan of the band's brand of stoner rock/doom metal, then you'll be pretty at home here. This time out, Randy and co. add a few more influences to really spice things up. You'll hear a lot of Queen and even maybe a smidge of King's X. The production is loud and full of fuzz and Randy's vocals, while recognizable, are much more varied. Surprisingly, a couple of the album's best moments come in the form of piano ballads - "Kellan and the Illustrator" and "When Will I Be Loved?" - are heart breaking and poignant. If I'm being honest (and a little bit nitpicky) I could have used another full on faster paced rocker like "Medication." However, as it stands, Songs for the Ritually Abused is a tragic gut-punch of an album conceptually speaking but sonically very compelling and well worth your time. Even if you don't believe in ritual abuse.

Useless Fact: Most of the band these days consists of Randy's wife and kids.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cooper, Alice - "Hey Stoopid"

Cooper, Alice - Hey Stoopid
1991, Epic

1. Hey Stoopid
2. Love's a Loaded Gun
3. Snakebite
4. Burning Our Bed
5. Dangerous Tonight
6. Might as Well Be On Mars
7. Feed My Frankenstein
8. Hurricane
9. Little By Little
10. Die For You
11. Dirty Dreams
12. Wind-Up Toy

So here's something weird - Hey Stoopid does pretty much all the same things as Trash but I like it better. Again, there wasn't anything wrong with Trash, it just didn't do a lot for me. Another weird thing because it's totally 80's and you would think I'd be all over it. But, nope. Hey Stoopid for some unexplainable reason was more likable and catchy to me. I think this one might actually more commercial too. Yeah... I don't know. I do want to point out the cool guitar part in the verses of "Might as Well Be On Mars." I think this album also has more of the creepy Alice Cooper feel too (especially in "Wind-Up Toy"). I'm not sure this one will rank up there with my top Cooper platters, but it's definitely in the upper B-tier.

Useless Fact: Alice Cooper was in Wayne's World. "Feed My Frankenstein" was featured in the movie as well. Though I'm sure you probably already know that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ayreon - "The Source"

Ayreon - The Source
2017, Mascot

1. The Day That The World Breaks Down
2. Sea of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
4. Star of Sirrah
5. All That Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned To Live

1. Aquatic Race
2. The Dream Dissolves
3. Deathcry of a Race
4. Into the Ocean
5. Bay of Dreams
6. Planet Y Is Alive!
7. The Source Will Flow
8. Journey To Forever
9. The Human Compulsion
10. March of the Machines

So let's talk about comics for a second, yeah? If you're a fan you'll know that every so often a comic book series will kind of "start over" either totally with a new number one issue or just sort of clear the way with a simple story. These are usually intended to be jumping on points for new readers. They're designed to be read without having to know all the lore beforehand. I bring this up because I think The Source guessed it... a great jumping on point for new listeners. It's sound is quintessential Ayreon. If you know someone who's every been curious, you can hand them this album and they'll get an excellent overview of what Ayeron is all about.

Some of the reason I say this is because the music is a bit more accessible as well. As a whole I don't think it's as long as previous Ayreon albums (not that that's a bad thing). It's also a bit more traditional in structure with a lot of anthemic choruses and catchy riffs. The focus of this album seems to be two-fold: more guitar and heavier guitar. In fact, I think this is the band's heaviest album to date. This is in stark contrast to the more melodic and progressive The Theory of Everything. While I say this album is the heaviest I don't mean to say there aren't slower, melodic parts because there are - and they go well with the crushingly heavy riffs the album is built around. There's also a lot of faster paced, full on metal songs like, "Everybody Dies," "Run! Apocalypse! Run," and "Planet Y Is Alive!." Arjen said that he thought this album would originally be a Star One album because it was so heavy but that he came up with too many proggy, slow parts for it to really be a Star One disc. He's also said that every album is a reaction to the previous album, which I've said was the more complex Theory. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by an Ayreon album and that still holds true with The Source. So to all you Ayreon-ignorant people out there - the train is pulling up to the station. It's time to get on and experience the wonderfulness that is Ayreon.

Useless Fact: Arjen usually records the vocalists in his own studio, The Electric Castle. However, this time more of the vocalists couldn't do that due to time restraints so only a few of the artists recorded at the Castle. The rest worked in their own studios.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Paramore - "After Laughter"

Paramore - After Laughter
2017, Fueled By Ramen

1. Hard Times
2. Rose Colored Boy
3. Told You So
4. Forgiveness
5. Fake Happy
6. 26
7. Pool
8. Grudges
9. Caught in the Middle
10. Idle Worship
11. No Friend
12. Tell Me How

In my mind, Paramore holds a distinct honor that few bands hold. That is, they've gotten better and better with each release. This culminated in 2013's self-titled album which mixed their original alt-rock sound with pop sensibilities. I found it to be the peak of their career at the time - their final form, if you will. What could the band do that could top that? How could they get even better? Answer: reinvent themselves. This is always a dangerous proposition, as Linkin Park is finding out. Paramore, however, have pulled if off with their usual aplomb. Despite jettisoning all hints of their former alt-rock past, the band has crafted a bright, catchy Eighties throwback pop record. It's immediately recognizable as Paramore but still different from anything they've done before and certainly different from anything on the radio right now. I think that's where Linkin Park erred. Their new album sounds like the usual dreck you hear on the average Top 40 radio station. Paramore, on the other hand, sounds like what you might hear on the radio thirty-some odd years ago. This is a good thing. It's also not really out of left field as a few tracks on the last album kind of hinted at the direction this album took. It's weird because it seems like each song demonstrates some trope of Eighties music but it doesn't come off as ingenuine or pandering.

Now despite the bright album artwork and the upbeat, luminescent instrumentation After Laughter is pretty dang depressing. From the opening notes of "Hard Times" to the moody longing off "Tell Me How," this disc is an ode to bleakness. "For all I know/The best is over and the worst is yet to come..." begins "Told You So." I like the contrast between the music and the lyrics, however, and I think it's just one more thing that makes this record stand out from the crowd. So yeah... four great albums in a row. That's a hard thing to do even for the best of bands. My hat is off to Paramore and hope we've got many more years of albums to look forward to.

Useless Fact: The band put together a playlist of songs that inspired this album. Many Eighties bands make appearances. I know...shocking.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cooper, Alice - "Trash"

Cooper, Alice - Trash
1989, Epic

1. Poison
2. Spark in the Dark
3. House of Fire
4. Why Trust You
5. Only My Heart Talkin'
6. Bed of Nails
7. This Maniac's in Love With You
8. Trash
9. Hell Is Living Without You
10. I'm Your Gun

I remember seeing a lot of "Poison" on MTV back in the day. Of course, as an innocent young lad I had no idea of the scope and breadth of Alice Cooper's work. I liked that song and that was pretty much it. Though it did really well on the old countdown shows they used to have...can't remember how high it got, though. Aww...remember video countdown shows? I totally miss those. Anyway, this is another of Alice's commercial hard rock platters that conforms to the style of the era. Trash is brazenly sexual - not necessarily vulgar, but definitely sexual. Some of Cooper's hallmark "horror vibe" is kind of missing here, which is a shame. That's not to say the album is bad - it's not. The songs are all good with good hooks and performed by competent, professional musicians. It's a solid album but I don't think this will be my go-to album when I need an Alice fix.

Useless Fact: Bon Jovi has some songwriting credits on this album.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Iron Maiden - "Brave New World"

Iron Maiden - Brave New World
2000, Columbia

1. The Wicker Man
2. Ghost of the Navigator
3. Brave New World
4. Blood Brothers
5. The Mercenary
6. Dream of Mirrors
7. The Fallen Angel
8. The Nomad
9. Out of the Silent Planet
10. The Thin Line Between Love and Hate

I haven't gotten into a lot of Iron Maiden's later period... Book of Souls notwithstanding. Mostly because I'm not sure what's good. There was a period where Bruce Dickinson left and they put out some albums that have gotten really horrible reviews. I heard through the grapevine that this one was pretty good. It sees Bruce Dickinson back on vocals so that's something. It's not too much of a stretch to say that if you liked the classic Maiden sound then you'd be pretty happy with Brave New World. I know I was. I can see where their penchant for extended galloping jams was really starting to develop. Several songs have extended sections with leads and choruses that could have probably been trimmed by a minute or two. Still a solid Maiden album, though.

Useless Fact: "Out of the Silent Planet" is the title of a novel by C.S. Lewis. I don't think the song is about the book, but I could be wrong. The case can be made, I think.