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

DISC ONE:
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

DISC TWO:
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 mean...in 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.

However...

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

DISC ONE:
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

DISC TWO
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 is...you 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.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Alabama - "16 Biggest Hits"



Alabama - 16 Biggest Hits
2011, Sony

1. Mountain Music
2. Song of the South
3. Love in the First Degree
4. If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)
5. Born Country
6. Feels So Right
7. The Closer You Get
8. She and I
9. Fallin' Again
10. Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)
11. Jukebox in my Mind
12. Down Home
13. I'm in a Hurry (And I Don't Know Why)
14. Can't Keep a Good Man Down
15. Southern Star
16. High Cotton

I bought this CD in New York while I was in town because my father had passed away. I saw it in Walmart and couldn't help think back to all the car trips in and around the hills and valleys of upstate New York listening to Alabama. Them, along with Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Daniels and others formed a lot of the soundtrack to my youth. I got this as a way to honor dad in my own weird way and also to see after all these years (and my avowed hatred of country music) if I could get into this at all.

Well... kinda...?

Some of the songs I remember liking as a boy I still like - "Mountain Music," and "Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)" provided the most vivid jaunts down memory lane. I liked those as a kid and still do kind of like those songs. What surprised me the most listening to this album was that the more country the song was, the more I liked it. Take "If You're Gonna Play In Texas..." for example. It's a very country, almost bluegrass song and it ended up being one of my favorites. Unfortunately the lion's share of material on this collection is their radio friendly adult contemporary ballads and what not. These songs are boring as dirt. "Love in the First Degree" and "The Closer You Get" come to mind. I guess that's why I liked the honky tonk songs a bit better - they had some character and were pretty unique. The rest was just radio fodder from the Eighties. Some day it might be worth my time to assemble the songs I like into a playlist and make my own 16 Biggest Hits.

Useless Fact: I noticed that another song of my youth: 40 Hour Week (For a Livin') wasn't on here. How was that not one of the sixteen? Also... Alabama sure did love parentheses didn't they?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Whitecrosss - "Nineteen Eighty-Seven (Gold Edition)



Whitecross - Nineteen Eighty-Seven (Gold Edition)
2005/2015, Retroactive

1. Who Will You Follow?
2. Enough is Enough
3. He Is the Rock
4. Lookin' For a Reason
5. No Way I'm Coming Down
6. Seein' Is Believin'
7. All I Need
8. Nagasake
9. Signs of the End
10. Love on the Line
11. Re: Animate
Bonus Track:
12. Angel's Wing

I never purchased or listened to Whitecross's debut album back in the day. I don't know why. I guess I figured I had Triumphant Return and In the Kingdom so I didn't need anything else. I didn't even get it the second time it came out in 2005 - newly rerecorded with beefier and more modern production. Chalk it up to my wanting to archive things I finally picked up the Gold Edition of Nineteen Eighty-Seven. I am a little disappointed in myself that I waited so long to pick this up. There's nothing like listening to a shredder like Rex Carroll - a man wholly at one with his instrument. He is a true virtuoso that will probably never be widely recognized as a guitar hero because of his "Christian" status. Have I said that before? I feel like I said that before. It doesn't matter, though, because it bares repeating. The more modern production of the rerecording only helps highlight Carroll's considerable chops. I do kind of wish the Gold Edition came with some lyrics or liner notes or something. Also, I'm not wild about this move over to cardboard sleeves for everything. I know it's cheaper...but I like my stuff to have some weight, y'know?

Useless Fact: There are some outtakes at the end of the CD which are interesting once. There's also "Scott's Rant" which is basically telling people they shouldn't be looking for the devil, they should be looking for God. This was back when people were really upset about backward masking (that's when you have a vinyl record and you purposely spin it backward and it makes weird noises, kids). I can't remember if that message was actually on the debut album as a real backward message or what. Still a good point, I feel, in this day and age when a lot of Christians are busy looking for the devil in everything up to and including Pokemon Go.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Testament - "Brotherhood of the Snake"



Testament - Brotherhood of the Snake
2016, Nuclear Blast

1. Brotherhood of the Snake
2. The Pale King
3. Stronghold
4. Seven Seals
5. Born in a Rut
6. Centuries of Suffering
7. Black Jack
8. Neptune's Spear
9. Canna-business
10. The Number Game

Brotherhood of the Snake was another album I bought just because people said it was good. And, by George, it's the finest bit of thrash music this side of Anthrax. It's not quite as excellent as Anthrax's For All Kings, which came out earlier the same year, but it's right up there. An impressive, quality thrash record I say. The big attraction here is the tasty riffage served piping hot with a nice meaty, crunchy guitar tone and plenty of face-melting leads. The lyrical direction is pretty steeped in conspiracy theories and such. It's interesting fodder for discussion though. I'm always fascinated by conspiracies even though I'm not a believer in them for the most part. "Seven Seals" is a full on recounting of the book of Revelation - in which the band sings about Christ's ultimate victory. Weird for Testament (who are NOT a Christian band at all), but not unwelcome. You'll notice Flotsam & Jetsam have a song called "Seventh Seal" that deals with the exact same subject matter. Both albums released in 2016... must have been something in the air I guess. Anywho... go pick up Brotherhood of the Snake because it's awesome and well worth your time.

Useless Fact: I guess there was some tension in the studio while the band recorded this record. I don't think they had full songs when they went in and wrote as they went.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Resurrection Band - "Innocent Blood"



Resurrection Band - Innocent Blood
1989, Grrr

1. Rooster Crow
2. Altar of Pain
3. The House is on Fire
4. 80,000 Underground
5. Fiend or Foul
6. Where Roses Grow
7. Right On Time
8. Child of the Blues
9. Laughing Man
10. Bargain
11. Great God in Heaven

Way back in the day my cousin and I used to make copies of the tapes we'd buy and exchange them with each other, thus doubling our music collections. Innocent Blood was one of the tapes she'd given me. When I was young I only liked the first two tracks. "Rooster Crow" is a short little acoustic opener. "Altar of Pain," however, is a monster metal tune - heavy and fierce. For some reason I didn't like the rest of the album. I chalk this up to youthful stupidity. This album is amazing. I'd never really gotten into the Resurrection Band in my youth. Now I'm kind of kicking myself. I'm not sure what motivated the band to go into the hard rock/metal category after being new wave or whatever they were, but it totally works. They've also mixed in a lot of blues as Glenn and Wendy Kaiser were always blues people to begin with. Now I want more Resurrection Band. There's a cover of The Who's "Bargain" here which always reminds me of my hometown because some local car dealership always used that song in their commercials. I also played a good bit of Mega Man 2 while listening to this album along with Whitecross' Triumphant Return. See, the my cousin gave me copies of both at the same time.

Be careful if you're trying to get copies of Rez's albums. I bough this "new" off Amazon and didn't look closely enough - it's a CD-R. They say it's a CD-R but I didn't pay close enough attention. Ugh! Now I have to find a real copy for the vault!

Useless Fact: The band was originally Resurrection Band but shorted it to Rez starting with Silence Screams. They went back to their original name for Lament.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Flotsam and Jetsam - "Flotsam and Jetsam"



Flotsam and Jetsam - Flotsam and Jetsam
2016, AFM

1. Seventh Seal
2. Life Is a Mess
3. Taser
4. Iron Maiden
5. Verge of Tragedy
6. Creeper
7. L.O.T.D.
8. The Incantation
9. Monkey Wrench
10. Time To Go
11. Smoking Gun
12. Forbidden Territories

Flotsam and Jetsam have a history that extends way back into the early Eighties. Unfortunately, while I'd heard their name on occasion (mostly in connection with Jason Newstead), I'd never actually heard any of their music. So why did I pick up this CD? Mainly it was because Scott Waters of No Life Til Metal said it was really good. You know what? He is correct. This is really good. I'm not sure if F & J are a full on thrash band or just heavy metal but they skew the line between the two, I think. They've even got some NWOBHM influence with "Iron Maiden" which I think is a cover but I'm not sure. It definitely sounds like it could be an Iron Maiden cover and I know they had a song called "Iron Maiden." However, I am just too lazy to look it up. I really love vocalist Erik A.K. - he's got his own style that is somewhat reminiscent of Bruce Dickenson but with a little more thrash grit. That's not to say he sounds exactly like him, but you'll know what I mean when you fire up "Iron Maiden." Also, the band has some really good groove in their riffs, especially in tracks like "Life is a Mess" and "Time to Go." I may just go ahead and start looking into their back catalog because Flotsam and Jetsam is really good.

Useless Fact: Not really a fact about the band, but back in upstate NY where I grew up, the local FYE had a copy of F & J's My God album. I never bought it but always wondered if it was good. What if I would have bought it then? I could have been an F & J fan this whole time!

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Tribe Called Quest - "We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service"



A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service
2016, Epic

1. The Space Program
2. We The People...
3. Whateva Will Be
4. Solid Wall of Sound
5. Dis Generation
6. Kids
7. Melatonin
8. Enough!!
9. Mobius
10. Black Spasmodic
11. The Killing Season
12. Lost Somebody
13. Movin' Backwards
14. Conrad Tokyo
15. Ego
16. The Donald

I picked this one up on a lark when I bought Lady Gaga's Joanne at Wal-Mart. A Tribe Called Quest was a group back in the day that was only on my radar because they were perceived as being one of the more artsy and intellectual hip-hop groups from the time. So I saw it and realized I didn't really know who was good in modern hip-hop anymore and picked it up. I kind of wanted to challenge myself with something out of my wheelhouse. Okay... so an older group from the 90's isn't exactly "challenging myself" but whatever.

Anyway, I like this! It's reminiscent enough of the stuff I used to like - with smooth beats, cool samples, a sense of melody, with a more modern sound and production. Also, much to my surprise and delight, Busta Rhymes is here! Not sure if he's a member of the group or just a guest. Also, the lyrics are challenging and thought provoking which is pretty much what I was hoping for. I would definitely be apt to add a few more Quest albums to the vault. Anyone have any ideas which ones are their best?

Useless Fact: I know next to nothing about this group other than the main rapper, Q-Tip, performed with the Beastie Boys and was on Deee Lite's "Groove is in the Heart."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Rush - "2112"



Rush - 2112
1976, Mercury

1. 2112
     i. Overture
     ii. The Temples of Syrinx
     iii. Discovery
     iv. Presentation
     v. Oracle
     vii. Soliloquy
     viii. Grand Finale
2. A Passage to Bangkok
3. The Twilight Zone
4. Lessons
5. Tears
6. Something For Nothing

I don't know why I've given Rush so many chances to hook me. They've always been a band that I feel like I should like, but I've never gotten into them. I watched the Rush in Rio DVD way back in the day in college. They put on a great show but I wasn't hooked. Last summer I bought the Working Men live album collection to see if that would do the trick. I liked it okay, but still not engaged. So...finally, I picked up the band's seminal album, 2112. I thought that maybe if I listened to one album in its entirety that might help. Also, 2112 is a prog-rock classic so I kind of wanted to listen to it anyway.

2112 is wonderful. I really enjoy it. I'm not sure why this is what did it, but I'm glad it did. Everything clicked. I got it. The title track earns its prog-rock reputation and then some. I understand why this album is so highly praised. It's excellent. I've always known Geddy Lee for his distinctive vocal style but he really is a monster on the bass. Neal Peart and Alex Lifeson are no slouches either - both masters at their crafts. I don't know if I'm a total Rush fan yet, but I'll definitely be checking out more of their studio albums in the future.

Useless Fact: I was listening to this at work and instantly got a Mystery Science Theater 3000 joke from twenty-five/thirty years ago. The joke: (from Tom Servo) "Neal Peart on drums." Guess which episode it's from!


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Starflyer 59 - "Gold (Extended Edition)"



Starflyer 59 - Gold (Extended Edition)
1995/2005, Tooth & Nail

1. A Housewife Love Song
2. Dual Overhead Cam
3. When You Feel Miserable
4. You're Mean
5. Stop Wasting Your Whole Life/Messed Up and Down
6. Messed Up Over You
7. When You Feel the Mess
8. Somewhere When Your Heart Glowed the Hope
9. Indiana
10. Do You Ever Feel That Way?
11. One Shot Juanita
Bonus Tracks
12. Next Time Around
13. Goodbyes Are Sad
14. When No One Calls
15. The Starflyer 2000 Reprise
16. Le Vainqueur

When Gold originally came out people did not like it. I didn't really like it. It was really, really different. Not a different style or anything but certainly a different tone. Whereas the first album was more upbeat and the songs peppier, this album is dour, morose, and slow. While the "wall of sound" distortion and shoegazery-ness (I know that's not a word) is still there, the entire thing is so downbeat and depressed. Back in the day I really only liked three tracks: "A Housewife Love Song," "You're Mean," and "Do You Ever Feel That Way?" - these songs sound the closest to Silver. This album has aged well though and people (including myself) have come to enjoy it a lot more over the years. There's a lot to dig into if you're willing. Though, honestly, I really do have to be in the mood to listen to this one. My edition is the reissue from 2005 with the extra tracks from a couple of EPs from the era, the names of which escape me.

Useless Fact: Rumor has it that this album is about Jason Martin's break-up with Leigh Nash (then Bingham) from Sixpence None the Richer. I think it's a little hilarious that a sweetheart like Leah would get this whole morose album written about her. Maybe someone can confirm or deny the rumor...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lady Gaga - "Joanne"



Lady Gaga - Joanne
2016, Interscope

1. Diamond Heart
2. A-Yo
3. Joanne
4. John Wayne
5. Dancin' in Circles
6. Perfect Illusion
7. Million Reasons
8. Sinner's Prayer
9. Come to Mama
10. Hey Girl
11. Angel Down
Bonus Tracks
12. Grigio Girls
13. Just Another Day
14. Angel Down (Work Tape)

So I thought I was kind of done with Lady Gaga after ARTPOP. It wasn't a bad record. I liked it okay and it had some good songs on it. However, overall I didn't like it as much as The Fame or The Fame Monster and I really didn't like but one song on Born This Way. Add to that I though "Perfect Illusion" and "Million Reasons" were...okay. Again, nothing spectacular. Those particular songs grew on me and I eventually ended up getting the album. Which, I must say, is probably her best album yet. Not kidding. There's a maturity and melancholy here on this disc that just wasn't on the previous ones. She also strips things down a bit like on the title track, which is just her voice and acoustic guitar. It's one of the most beautiful songs she's written. Even the radio friendly "pop" songs are great - recalling some of the fun dance tracks from her debut but adding the maturity.  I came away really impressed and happy that it came together like it did. If I had bought it last year it would have been one of my picks for sure.

Useless Fact: Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine lends guest vocals on "Hey Girl."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Throes - "12 Before 9"



The Throes - 12 Before 9
1995, Rode Dog

1. So Controversial
2. Circles of the Wheel
3. It Bothers Me
4. Mess With Me
5. Words
6. 12 Before 9
7. Confidence Man
8. Reckless Feeling
9. We'll Breathe
10. Stunned
11. So Controversial (reprise)
12. - blank track-
13. C Is For Cookie
14. Words (reprise)
15. Bye-bye

I have some pretty vivid memories of this album. I remember it was spring...around Memorial Day, I think. I remember that I was really having problems sleeping during this period in my life. I'd stayed up most of the night playing Super Metroid. Anyway, I remember my impression of this album being... not very great. I remember thinking it didn't really "sound" like The Throes. I don't know why I felt this way. I also remember that I thought "Words" and "C Is For Cookie" were the best songs on here. So what do I think of this today? Well, I do enjoy it a little more than I did then, but it's never going to be as good as the first two albums. I still hold to the opinion that "Words" is the best track. I think the band agrees with me because it's on here twice. "Reckless Feeling" is about sex. I think the band was trying to court a little controversy because of it and the other song, "So Controversial." Though I don't think there was really very much actual controversy. Definitely not my favorite Throes disc by a long shot. Not as terrible as I thought when I was a teen, but not super great either.

Useless Fact: The band shrinks back down to a three-piece band after being a five-piece band for Fall On Your World. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Xandria - "Theater of Dimensions"


Xandria - Theater of Dimensions
2017, Napalm

DISC ONE
1. Where the Heart is Home
2. Death to the Holy
3. Forsaken Love
4. Call of Destiny
5. We Are Murderers (We Are)
6. Dark Night of the Soul
7. When the Walls Came Down (Heartache Was Born)
8. Ship of Doom
9. Ceili
10. Song For Sorrow and Woe
11. Burn Me
12. Queen of Hearts Reborn
13. Theater of Dimensions

DISC TWO
1. Call of Destiny (Acoustic)
2. Dark Night of the Soul (Acoustic)
3. In Remembrance (Acoustic)
4. Sweet Atonement (Acoustic)
5. Valentine (Acoustic)

Theater of Dimensions wasn't really on my radar when it came out. Mostly because, while I liked Sacrificium okay it didn't really hit the heights of Neverworld's End. In the end, I listened to samples and decided I would check it out. I'm so glad I did! I can honestly say that this album is a contender for favorite album I've heard so far. Yes, equaling or possibly surpassing the mighty Neverworld's End. I think the songs here are far more engaging and exciting than on the previous album. Each has its own character and a great hook to hang your brain on. Dianne's vocals are amazing - switching from operatic Valkyrie to soft and sensitive to rock goddess on a dime. I think this is also the heaviest album I've heard as "We Are Murderers (We Are)" has a couple sections that are almost death metal. They've still retained some of the Celtic influence on tracks like "Death to the Holy," "Ship of Doom," and "Ceili."

I originally thought this was a concept album but as it turns out it's just the title track. It's an epic 13-minute long epic about a young woman, time travel, and an evil overlord. It's pretty good as well. My version is the deluxe edition with a second disc full of acoustic versions of an assortment of tracks. These renditions are beautiful and really show off how great a singer Dianne van Giersbergen is. I wouldn't say they were essential, but they're a great epilogue to a great disc. One of the first great new releases of 2017!

Useless Fact: This album has some guest vocalists: Bjorn Strid of Soilwork, Ross Thompson of Van Canto, Zaher Zorgati of Myrath and Henning Basse of Firewind. Yeah... I've never heard of those bands either. Though I may have to check them out now.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Jet Circus - "No Mercy For the Living Dead" (Demo)



Jet Circus - No Mercy For the Living Dead
1992, Never released

1. Never
2. Motorcycle Mama
3. No Mercy
4. Get In Line or Step Aside
5. Shine
6. Landslide
7. Paradise
8. Honey Pie
9. Delilah
10. Welcome Home

Well, well, well... I finally got it. The mysterious, elusive, REAL second album from Jet Circus. How did I acquire such an animal? Well, it involved a lot of cloak & dagger shenanigans. Overseas accounts. Calls to international diplomats. It was a real 007 operation - but I've got it. And it's.... pretty good, actually! Just hearing Terry singing again filled me with joy. This actually sounds like Jet Circus in a way that Look at Death Now just didn't. I'm still not sure why this wasn't ever released. The rumor mill states that the record company (Wonderland, I believe) was giving them a hard time about it. That's probably because the lyrics on this album are not nearly as overtly religious as Step On It. That's not a problem for me, but back in the day I can see a Christian record exec being a little cagey about lyrics like, "Would you mind if I touched your breast/Kissed your lips and forgot the rest?" (from "Motorcycle Mama"). Granted the song isn't what it might seem just from that line but you can guarantee that people would have gotten their panties all in a twist about it. Also, the sound of this album is just a bit more experimental than the last. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of that deliciously fuzzy guitar and bass. However, there's also a lot more programmed beats and electronic pop noises. Oh, and "Honey Pie" is a straight-up bluegrass song. Love it. Seriously. I want Steam Powered Giraffe to cover it. "Paradise" is the album's lone ballad and it's kind of boring - though there is some sweet bass lines in it. It's also probably the most "Christian" song on the album. I think that if this had come out in '92 or whenever I probably would have loved it. I really wish the guys would get back together and finish this for old time's sake. Definitely worth hearing if you get a chance to!

Useless Fact: I guess there's also a second version of Step On It with three members in the band and live drums. I will have to check that out as well.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Extreme - "Pornograffitti"


Extreme - Pornograffitti
1990/2015, A&M

DISC ONE:
1. Decadence Dance
2. Li'l Jack Horny
3. When I'm President
4. Get the Funk Out
5. More Than Words
6. Money (In God We Trust)
7. It ('s A Monster)
8. Pornograffitti
9 When I First Kissed You
10. Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)
11. He-Man Woman Hater
12. Song For Love
13. Hole Hearted

DISC TWO:
1. More Than Words (Remix)
2. Nice Place To Visit
3. More Than Words (Edit)
4. Decadence Dance (Edit)
5. Money (In God We Trust) (Edit)
6. More Than Words (Non Percussion Version)
7. Get The Funk Out (What the Funk? Mix)
8. More Than Words (A Capella with Congas)
9. Get the Funk Out (12" Remix)
10. Sex N' Love

I wasn't a huge fan of Extreme when they first came out. Not sure why other than I was in that "can only listen to Christian music" phase. However, I got it into my head that I needed to hear this whole album because I really like "Hole Hearted." The rest of the album doesn't quite sound like that... it's a lot heavier for one, but it's just as good. The highlight is the guitar work of Nuno Bettencourt. He is one of those guitar talents that is so comfortable with the instrument that it's impossible for him to do something that's not interesting. There's the main riff, then he dances and fills around it like the crazy virtuoso he is. You've also got Gary Cheron's vocals which are also top notch. I guess what I'm saying is that I was a fool to not listen to this back in the day. It's an excellent example of guitar-centered pop rock from that era.

The album is kind of a loose concept record dealing with finding real love in a sex-obsessed world. This is the 25th anniversary edition of this album with an extra disc and liner notes which detail the conception and recording of the album. There's no lyrics though. Ugh! Oh well...

Useless Fact: According to the extensive liner notes in this reissue, Bettencourt did a lot of his songwriting on the toilet.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One Bad Pig - "Love You To Death"



One Bad Pig - Love You To Death
2016, Porky's Demise

1. Love You To Death
2. What Does the Fool Say?
3. The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life
4. Get Your Hands Dirty (ft. Les Carlson)
5. Footwashin'
6. Sunday Skool Rawk
7. Teenage Royalty
8. Heads Will Roll
9. It's Not Pig Latin (Itsay Otnay)
10. Judgement Stick
11. Straitjacket
12. Ben Moors
13. Red, White, or Blue (Color Me)
14. Tumbleweed
15. OMG

So you're looking at this probably wondering the same thing I wondered when I say it: Who the heck is Mitch Connell?! Answer: someone with more disposable income than me! But seriously, this was a Kickstarter funded album and one of the rewards was to have the donor's name on the cover. So there it is! Mitch Connell! Question is, of course, after all these years does the pig still have much of an oink left? Yeah... pretty much I'd say. In terms of style it's pretty similar to what the guys were doing in their heyday. Of note is the cover of The 77's "The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life" and the medley of Sunday school tunes - "Sunday Skool Rawk." Also, Les Carlson lends some guest vocals to "Get Your Hands Dirty" and his vocals are always great. Though I confess this one had to grow on me a little and I only really "got it" the other day listening to it at work. Also, I know that another Kickstarter reward was to have a song written for you, but "Ben Moors" is definitely the weakest song here. Other than that I think if you like OBP, you'll like this though I don't think it reaches quite the legendary heights of their past discography.

Useless Fact: Just a heads up, "OMG" stands for On a Mission from God... y'know... in case that was gonna keep you up at night.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

HammerFall - "Built To Last"



HammerFall - Built To Last
2016, Napalm

1. Bring It!
2. Hammer High
3. The Sacred Vow
4. Dethrone and Defy
5. Twilight Princess
6. Stormbreaker
7. Built To Last
8. The Star of Home
9. New Breed
10. Second To None

Hammerfall kind of remind me of a metal version of AC/DC or Enya - performers that know their thing and pretty much stick to it. There is nothing wrong with this, especially if it keeps resulting in good music. Built To Last is straight-up, no nonsense, traditional heavy metal. If you like heavy metal and/or Hammerfall, you'll like this. Though I think I might slightly prefer the previous album over this one.

Useless Fact: Is "Twilight Princess" a Zelda reference? I don't know... I'm going to say it is even though the lyrics don't have anything to do with the game.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Petra - "Beyond Belief"



Petra - Beyond Belief
1990, Word

1. Armed and Dangerous
2. I Am on the Rock
3. Creed
4. Beyond Belief
5. Love
6. Underground
7. Seen and Not Heard
8. Last Daze
9. What's In a Name
10. Prayer

Beyond Belief is, without a doubt, Petra's biggest, most successful album. This was the peak of the John Schlitt years, for sure. It's a monster album and it still holds up today. Heck, even the theology holds up today (except for maybe "Underground"). It's a classic, hard rock masterpiece and there's not much else to say about it. I loved it then, I still love it today.

So I've talked about the Beyond Belief video and poked fun at it for they guy going on the missions trip and it's the best thing ever and blah blah blah. I guess there's a little bit more to the movie than that. The kid's friend gets in a wreck, he has a crisis of faith, resolves it... THEN the missions trip. Anyway, I haven't watched the entire movie in years, this was gleaned from the music videos I pulled up on You Tube one night.

Useless Fact: During this time, drummer Louie Weaver had this thing with Mickey Mouse. It was on his clothes, his drums... he always had something Mickey Mouse around. I have no idea why. Anyone know?

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Old Man's Temporary Insanity!

For those who may not know, my You Tube channel will be winding down due to my change of employment. That's okay though! I'm not sad or disappointed. I kind of always wanted to do that and I did it and that's great. However, I need to do something else with the free time that I have.

So...

I'm starting a podcast! It's called The Old Man's Temporary Insanity and it will (for a little while at least) focus on Christian music and pop culture from the late 80's and early 90's. I figured since I can't do videos and vlogs anymore, I'd do this! Episodes will be coming out every Thursday!

So do yourself a favor and check out my podcast:

The Old Man's Temporary Insanity.

Maschine - "Naturalis"



Maschine - Naturalis
2016, Inside Out

1. Resistance
2. Night and Day
3. Make Believe
4. Hidden in Plain Sight
5. A New Reality
6. Megacyma
Bonus Tracks
7. Eyes, Pt. 2 (Live)
8. Rubidium (Live)

You might remember way back in 2013, I gave Maschine's debut, Rubidium a spot on my top picks of the year. I didn't even know the band was putting out a new album until a few weeks before it was released. I am so on top of things these days! Anyway, Naturalis is pretty much a fine continuation of what the band started with their debut. It's funny, two of the complaints I had with the first album were kind of addressed on this one. The vocalist doesn't seem like he's trying to sound all gravelly or tough, he just sings. Also, the lyrics have changed from relationships to natural disasters and war stories. Definitely more epic than before. If you want more music like the first album but with a little more polish, then this album does the trick.

Useless Fact: "Megacyma" is about the Japanese tsunami from a few years ago.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Genesis Project - "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway"



Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
1974/2007, Virgin

DISC ONE:
1. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
2. Fly on a Windshield
3. Broadway Melody of 1974
4. Cuckoo Cocoon
5. In the Cage
6. The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
7. Back in N.Y.C.
8. Hairless Heart
9. Counting Out Time
10. Carpet Crawlers
11. The Chamber of 32 Doors

DISC TWO:
1. Lilywhite Lilith
2. The Waiting Room
3. Anyway
4. Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist
5. The Lamia
6. Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats
7. The Colony of Slippermen
8. Ravine
9. The Light Dies Down On Broadway
10. Riding the Scree
11. In the Rapids
12. it. 

Finally.

We’ve finally reached the end of our tour. It’s fitting that we end on this particular album as I think it’s the band’s biggest, most ambitious release. There was so much weight on this album that it nearly broke the band. From what I’ve read about the making of Lamb, everyone was miserable. Peter Gabriel, whose surreal and trippy story drives the music forward, quit while it was being written and recorded (he returned to finish when a deal fell through). Other members were going through divorces and what not. It was a tumultuous time for Genesis. If you’ll remember I remarked at length about the relaxed vibe of A Trick of the Tail. No wonder! This album takes itself pretty seriously. Peter Gabriel is at his most obtuse and pretentious. He had to have left after this album because I don’t know what he would have done with himself he continued on. This is truly the apex of the “aggressively intellectual” (to borrow a phrase from Jeremy Parrish), incarnation of the band.

Speaking of pretentious and obtuse, let’s recap the story shall we? After several listens and some research I think I finally have a grasp on what was going on. Keep in mind this is the actual story. I am not making any of this up…
               
Rael is a Puerto-Rican street kid living in New York City. One day he sees a lamb lie down on Broadway. Literally. Kind of surprising to start it out like that, but there it is. Rael notices a dark cloud over the city that turns into a giant movie screen looking thing and absorbs him. He wakes up in a cave, encased in a strange sort of cocoon. Then he finds himself in a cage…somehow. He sees his brother John whom he begs for help. John refuses and leaves him. John gets out of the cage somehow and finds himself in some sort of factory – a factory which makes people. He experiences several flashbacks from his life which end with a vision of him having his “hairless heart” cut out. He then comes to a giant spiral stair case which people are crawling up.

At the top is a room with thirty-two doors, one of which will lead back out. Rael meets a woman who helps him find the right door and he leaves the chamber. Then he meets Death. Death doesn’t kill him, mind you, he just says “hi” I guess? Rael then finds himself in a cave with three snake-like creatures called Lamia. He has sex with them (because why not, I mean really, when are you ever going to have the chance to have sex with snake women?). They bite him and when they taste his blood, it kills them. He then decides (and remember I am still not making this up) to eat their dead bodies because I guess he forgot to pack a sack lunch on this little psychedelic road-trip. 

Does this make you hot? 

He leaves the cave to find a colony of “Slippermen.” Slippermen are deformed humans covered in tumorous lumps. Rael finds that he has turned into a Slipperman, as have all who’ve shagged and eaten the Lamias. I guess it was quite the fad for a bit there. He finds his brother, John (now also a slipperman, because of course he is). They find out the only way to turn back to normal is to visit Doktor Dyper and…wait for it…be castrated. They agree to this far more quickly than you’d think.

Gabriel as a Slipperman. Just say no to sex with lamia!

 So… (yeah, we’re not done)… they get castrated and they turn back to normal. As a consolation prize they get to keep their junk in golden tubes around their necks. As they’re traveling a raven swoops down and snatches Rael’s Testicle Tube (a great name for a band, by the by). The Raven drops it down a waterfall into a crevasse. Rael is as distraught as you imagine a man would be and begs John to help him get his balls back. John refuses. Rael chases after his babymakers and falls down into a ravine. John appears to rescue him but gets caught in the rapids. Rael goes to rescue him and pulls him onto the shore where we find out the big twist to the whole story…surprise! John is Rael! Rael is John! They’re the same person! Then they dissolve into light. The end.

Um…so, gentle reader, did that story do anything for you? Did you get the concepts? Yeah, me neither. Now I might not be telling it right, but it doesn’t matter – my opinion stands. I’m not really sure what we’re supposed to take away from this. There’s sort of an Alice In Wonderland vibe here – a connection made obvious by the Mad Hatter printed on the CDs themselves. There’s no whimsy though. It’s far too dark and sexual to just be a flight of fancy. In the end it’s like one of those dreams that feel like more than a simple dream but whose meaning remains inscrutable. If I were to guess there’s probably some point to be made about how one defines masculinity and the trouble sex can cause when carelessly pursued. Still, in the end you’re left asking yourself, what the heck did I just listen to?

And that’s really the trouble with The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The story completely dominates the album. Despite the fact that the music was a band effort with Gabriel contributing the lyrics and story, it seems like this is a Peter Gabriel solo album. The music is good and I liked it more each time I listened to it. But there’s that disconnect… that pesky emotional disconnect that I’ve been talking about since I started this project. It’s just really hard to connect with the material sometimes because it’s so strange. There seems to be very little one can hang their emotional hat on and little in the way of relatable feelings. Even with Pink Floyd’s psychedelic concept opus, The Wall, there were themes of isolation, loneliness, and alienation that everyone could relate to. Here? Not so much.

I know it sounds like I didn’t like the album, but that’s not true. I really did like it. It stands in stark contrast to the rest of the band’s catalog as something wholly unique. I absolutely recommend it – just be aware of what you’re getting into. Besides, Mike Rutherford’s fat bass line in the title track and Steven Hackett’s beautiful guitar passages are just too good to let a little thing like Lamia sex keep you from hearing them. Give me some time and this could even rank up with Selling England and A Trick of the Tail as one of my favorite Genesis platters.

Final Score: 4 out of 5


Useless Fact: Peter Gabriel regretted his Slipperman costume because it was so bulky he had a hard time moving around and singing while wearing it.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Circle of Dust - "Machines of Our Disgrace"



Circle of Dust - Machines of Our Disgrace
2016, Fixt

1. re_Engage
2. Machines of Our Disgrace
3. Contagion
4. Embracing Entropy
5. Humanarchy
6. Signal
7. alt_Human
8. Hive Mind
9. Outside In
10. Neurachem
11 k_Os
12. Neophyte
13. Malacandra

Klayton caps of a year of Circle of Dust remasters with a brand new album. A fantastic one at that! Machines manages to combine the sounds of the old albums into a unified whole. You've got some Brainchild type moments with the title track and "Contagion," but you've also got some more Disengage moments with "Embracing Entropy" and - naturally - "Malacandra." I'm really impressed with this album and I hope this isn't the last we hear from Circle of Dust. The only reason why Scandroid beat out this album for a spot on my picks is because Scandroid had the benefit of being a delightful surprise. I kind of knew I was probably going to dig this.

One thing I noticed was the voice samples. Past Circle discs were full of random samples from television shows, movies, etc. I've noticed that the samples on this album have kind of been limited to obscure sci-fi movies. That's not a complaint by the way. I'm wondering if Klayton was a little gun-shy about using copyrighted material. Back in the day you could get away with that sort of thing, but today? Good grief... he probably had to pick some stuff that was not under copyright just to save himself some headache down the line.

Useless Fact: "Neurachem" features samples from the seminal classic, The Brain That Wouldn't Die as made popular by the best show on earth, Mystery Science Theater 3000.