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.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Scandroid - "Scandroid"



Scandroid - Scandroid
2016, Fixt

1. 2517
2. Salvation Code
3. Aphelion
4. Shout
5. Destination Unknown
6. Connection
7. Datastream
8. Empty Streets
9. Awakening With You
10. Atom & E.E.V.
11. Neo Tokyo
12. Probots and Robophobes
13. Eden
14. Singularity

I was not initially interested in Klayton's Scandroid project because I'm not a huge techno person. I like industrial and I like the fusion of styles that Klayton is known for, but straight up techno? No thanks. Then I heard what Scandroid actually was - a love letter to Eighties synth wave. I listened to "Neo Tokyo" and I was hooked. It's like it scratched and itch I didn't even know I had. Yes, I know, I always have the nostalgia itch - no need to send letters. It's scary how authentic it sounds. However, even though it revels in Eighties synths, percussions, etc. it sounds fresh, new, and full of energy. Imagine the soundtrack to the first Mass Effect or the more recent Stranger Things combined with tight hooks and pop sensibility. That's kind of what you're in for with Scandroid. There's even a cool cover of Tears for Fears' "Shout." I dug this o much I put it on my best of 2016 list without reviewing it first.

Useless Fact: "Probots and Robophobes" says it "features" Circle of Dust. How does that work? Both of them are Klayton. So... Klayton featuring Klayton?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Holy Soldier - "Promise Man"



Holy Soldier - Promise Man
1995, Forefront

1. Promise Man
2. Mumbo-Jumbo
3. My World
4. Rust
5. Why Don't You Look Into Jesus?
6. Break It Down
7. Cover Me
8. Grind
9. Love Conquers All
10. Sand

Time and fate kind of conspired to make sure Promise Man wasn't enjoyed quite to the extent that it should have been. It came out smack dab in the middle of the Nineties when the alternative revolution was in full swing. Former vocalist Stephen Patrick, the charismatic - if somewhat eccentric acting (at least on stage) was replaced with Eric Wayne. He's got a lower register than Patrick but fits the band's new style. Speaking of which, it's not the commercial hard rock/metal they started out with. As befitting the times it's more alternative hard rock. While long time fans might disavow this album as a sell-out, I really enjoy it. No, it doesn't sound like old Holy Soldier. It sounds more like...King's X. Not lying. There's some pretty serious King's X worship going on here, especially in tracks like "Break It Down" and "Cover Me." They've definitely got the whole drop-d thing mastered. There's also a cover of Larry Norman's "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus?" that was on a tribute album many years back. The band was signed to Forefront, which if you'll remember was the home of hip-hoppers like DC Talk and E.T.W. I guess Forefront wanted to branch out? Anyway, far away from the time it was released I can say it's a good little album. I like it just as much as Last Train.

Oh, and since we haven't done my weird associations game here we go. I got this for Christmas in '95 along with the Super Nintendo masterpiece, Chrono Trigger. So those two things have been linked my entire life.

Useless Fact: Well...I guess more people enjoyed the album than I thought. It won a Dove Award for best hard rock song, "Promise Man."

Monday, January 2, 2017

Favorite Albums of 2016

Wow. 2016. Amirite? Personally, it’s been a year of adventure for my family and I – losing weight, new job, new car, new baby. It’s definitely had its ups and downs. However, it’s been a great year for music. You know the drill: five main picks and three honorable mentions. I’ve restricted myself to stuff that has come out this year so this really is a “Best of 2016,” not just my personal favorites.

TOP PICKS FOR 2016

Anthrax, For All Kings –  Every single one of the big four put out albums this year. How awesome is that? We also got albums from Testament and Death Angel. It was a good year for thrash fans that’s for sure. I could probably fill a list with just thrash. I’m not going to do that though. Out of all the amazing thrash discs I heard this year, Anthrax’s latest stayed at the top. This was truly a modern classic with some of the best songs of their career. Keep in mind Megadeth and Metallica put out some great stuff too. In the end, though, there was no contest For All Kings was king.

Steve Hindalong, The Warbler – Steve Hindalong is not known for his singing prowess. I did not expect his solo album to be one of my favorites of the year. His first solo album, Skinny, decent but I wasn’t totally enamored. The Warbler, however, is probably a better Choir record than some of the more recent Choir records. Great songs, strong production, much improved lyrics over the past few Choir albums. I listened to this one over and over. Just writing this makes me want to listen to it again.

Knifeworld, Bottled Out of Eden – Knifeworld came back this year with the bizarre brand of progressive psychedelic pop. I don’t think it quite reached the highs of 2014’s The Unravelling but there’s just nothing like them out there.

Amaranthe, Maximalism – Like I said in my review, Maximalism is like an energy drink in music form. It’s an instant mood lifter and motivator. Even though the band has gone in a more pop direction with this album, they haven’t sacrificed heaviness and – I think – made their strongest record yet. Still don't like the title, though.

Scandroid, Scandroid- Well, well, well…Klayton has certainly been a busy little bee this year. He’s rereleased all the Circle of Dust albums (as well as the stellar new album, Machines of Our Disgrace) as well as putting out the debut album of Scandroid. Scandroid is Klayton’s synthwave project that is a love letter to the Eighties synth music we know and (some of us) love. I didn’t think this would appeal to me at all, but I was hooked from the first track I heard. Not to mention we get a fantastic cover of Tears For Fears “Shout.” I will review this proper but I haven’t gotten a chance since I got it for Christmas. Yes… got it for Christmas and it’s one of my top picks.

Honorable Mentions

The Jelly Jam, Profit
Panic at the Disco, The Death of a Bachelor
XL & Death Before Dishonor, Offensive Truth


Disappointments of 2016

Dream Theater, The Astonishing – I am shocked at the amount of love this album gets. I must be in the minority. I found The Astonishing to be a ridiculous waste of my time. The story is rubbish, pure and simple. The music has little in the way of hooks and little in the way of progressive mastery. If doesn’t have any of that stuff then why am I even listening to Dream Theater? I can just play Final Fantasy IV…or VI…or VIII. At least the story would be better.  I was never one to say that Mike Portnoy was the “talent” behind the band, but this is the second album in a row on my disappointments list. I’ll give you one more, guys. Then I’m done.

Devin Townsend Project, Transcendence – Wait….what? Yeah… I had some pretty high hopes for this one. It’s not bad. Let me repeat, it’s NOT bad. It just didn’t stick with me like I hoped it would. I didn’t find myself wanting to go back to it again and again like most DTP albums. I’m hoping it will grow on me throughout the years. Maybe it was the gear shift between the more pop oriented albums to a more progressive one.

Favorite Random Music Things of 2016

Circle of Dust Remasters – Klayton (mastermind behind Celldweller, Circle of Dust, and Argyle Park) finally bought the masters to his old music. He remastered them from the ground up and added several discs worth of unreleased material and remixes. It made for a very fine year. And to top it off we also got a new (awesome) Circle of Dust album!

The Genesis Project – Yes, I am not technically done with this project, but it has been a lot of fun. I’m a bonna –fide Genesis fan now. So far my favorites are Selling England By the Pound and A Trick of the Tail. I’ll do a “summary” write up after I finish the final review. It should be at the end of this month. Should be.


Thank you for reading everyone! I hope you have an awesome and blessed new year! Looking forward to all the cool music that’s destined to come out.