Saturday, December 22, 2018

Favorite Albums of 2018

Well, well, well…this year has just sucked out loud hasn’t it? Oh my word. Despite the general awfulness and horror that was 2018, the music was pretty good. If you liked old Christian rock music it was a banner year – with releases from a lot of major bands from back in the day. Anyway, without further ado, I present my favorite albums of 2018!


Jimmy P. Brown , Eraserhead – I’m a bit fuzzy as to whether the band is Eraserhead or is it just the album? Eraserhead is made up of the team that made some of the best Deliverance albums – Jimmy, Manny Morales, and Jon Knox. It’s a little more varied than the old Deliverance records but this is a good thing. I really hope this wasn’t a one-off.

The Choir, Bloodshot – My friend Uvulapie and I might disagree a bit on this one. I found myself going back to this again and again. Steve Hindalong’s unfortunate divorce providing a lot of angst for songs, which are overall better. While the bass desperately needs to be turned up and it’s not quite “instant classic” status, I can say I’ve enjoyed this album the most of any since Midnight Sun.

Coheed and Cambria, Vaxis Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures – Coheed returns to their dark, progressive roots… kinda. Given the fact that the story takes place on a prison planet it doesn’t seem as dark as you would think. The songs here are big and epic, with plenty of hooks. It’s pretty much been a staple at my house since it came out.

Gama Bomb, Speed Between the Lines – I love this band. I thought it was going to be pretty hard to top Untouchable Glory. I don’t know if they topped it, but they definitely matched it. It’s been my go-to when I want some full throttle, in-your-face thrash.

Amaranthe, Helix – Talk about getting a lot of mileage out of a style. The pop/metal fusion they perfected two albums ago on Massive Addictive still works. To the point that I think this is their best album yet. For reals. I’m genuinely surprised at how good this turned out considering I didn’t like the singles that much at first.

Honorable Mentions
Soccer Mommy, Clean
Haken, Vector
Judas Priest, Firepower

Disappointments of 2018

Marmozets, Knowing What You Know Now – I was anxiously awaiting this one for years after having adored their debut, Weird and Wonderful. And honestly, this isn’t a bad album. The problem is that I think they’ve sanded down some of their rough edges. I liked the rough edges. It gave them character. This album is a little more commercial (which isn’t always a bad thing) but I miss the raw, frantic energy of the debut.

Panic! At the Disco, Pray for the Wicked – I knew it would be a daunting task to top Death of a Bachelor. But Pray for the Wicked is just….boring and bland for the most part. It starts off strong with the first few tracks. Then it sort of…blaaaaaah – radio music. My family latched on to this one for some reason and we listened to it over and over and over. Maybe that explains some of my apathy.

Best Reissue of 2018

Undercover, Devotion – I was seriously thinking about putting the two Crystavox reissues here. But the thing about the Undercover reissue is the attention to detail. I appreciate that the liner notes look pretty much like the ones in the original album. The packaging is a little better as is the art design. The album rocks as well. I helped Kickstart this one so I may be a little biased but I do think it’s a great package.

And Finally…

There’s going to be some changes here at the vault as of this posting. The biggest change is that, as much as I hate to say it, I’m going on hiatus for awhile. I don’t know if I’ll stop reviews all together or whether some will pop up from time to time. The fact is that I’m just tired of keeping up with it. Honestly, I’m tired of keeping up with music in general. Some big bands are releasing albums next year and I just…don’t care as much. There’s also the simple fact that this blog doesn’t get any views. I usually top out at, like, 11 views. And most of those are Russian bots. I’ve been doing it for myself all these years and I guess I kind of feel like my work is complete. Again, I can’t say that I won’t pop up with something from time to time – but weekly reviews are going away. Thank you to everyone who has ever read, enjoyed, or kept up with the blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tourniquet - "Gazing At Medusa"

Tourniquet - Gazing At Medusa
2018, Pathogenic

1. Sinister Scherzo
2. Longing For Gondwanaland
3. Memento Mori
4. All Good Things Died Here
5. The Crushing Weight of Eternity
6. The Peaceful Beauty of Brutal Justice
7. Can't Make Me Hate You
8. One Foot In Forever
9. Gazing At Medusa

Gazing At Medusa hearkens back to the early days of Tourniquet. Not so much in the sound (though we will get to that in a minute) but more in concept I guess. Someone on a Facebook group described it as "nine metal tunes." He wasn't being disparaging. This was evidenced after the title track released and it's simple structure and melodic vocals gave me major Stop the Bleeding vibes (especially the album having snake-themed cover art). After years of Tourniquet playing up the whole progressive thing, it's nice to go back to just having nine metal tunes. The progressiveness is scaled back a bit as is the overall run time. This is another case where brevity helps the album. With the departure of Luke Easter, Tim "Ripper" Owens (of Judas Priest and Iced Earth fame) steps in for vocals. Owens has a bit more range and can do those high registers that Guy Ritter used to do on the older albums. This is no offense to Luke, of course - I really like Luke! But Owen's increased range is another factor that makes this album feel a little old school. Also - no medical terms. The over-arching theme seems to be mortality, eternity, and making the most of one's time on earth. I'm not sure Gazing At Medusa will be remembered as a landmark album or anything, but it doesn't need to be. It's nine solid metal tunes and it's well worth your time.

Useless Fact: Owens does not sing the title track. Those vocal duties are handled by Dean Castronovo. Chris Poland (ex-Megadeth) handles guitar leads. Aaron Guerra is still on rhythm guitar.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Cash, Johnny - "The Classic Christmas Album"

Cash, Johnny - The Classic Christmas Album
2013, Sony

1. Christmas As I Knew It
2. Christmas Time's a Comin'
3. That Christmasy Feeling
4. Christmas With You
5. Blue Christmas
6. The Little Drummer Boy
7. The Gifts They Gave
8. The King of Love
9. Merry Christmas Mary
10. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
11. Joy to the World
12. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
13. Ringing the Bells for Jim
14. The Christmas Guest
15. The Christmas Spirit
16. Silent Night

I've had my eye on this album for awhile and I finally pulled the trigger. It really, really pains me to say this about a Johnny Cash album but... I don't like it much. I really wanted to hear Johnny Cash sing. Not Johnny Cash and the Cash Family. Or Johnny Cash and Tommy Cash. I also want to hear him sing, not talk. He talks way too much. Now I know this is kind of his style in a way but I kind of like his singing voice. There's a few tunes on here I like but the bulk of it just kind of annoys me. Oh well, not everything can be awesome.

Useless Fact: Johnny Cash was on a One Bad Pig album! If you follow this blog you probably already knew that!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Haken - "Vector"

Haken - Vector 
2018, Inside Out

1. Clean
2. The Good Doctor
3. Puzzle Box
4. Veil
5. Nil By Mouth
6. Host
7. A Cell Divides

Where to go after the Eighties love-fest that was Affinity? Apparently, you go back to being heavy. Vector is the heaviest and most aggressive album since Visions. I am okay with this, by the way. The songs are dense, knotted compositions, full of heavy riffs, poly-rhythms, and everything you've come to expect from Haken. I also think there's a bit more in the way of hooks here than there was on Affinity. Also noteworthy, this album is pretty short for Haken. At seven songs (with one being an ambient intro track) and a scant 48 minutes, I think this is the band's shortest full-length album. However, I think the brevity works in the album's favor. The cram a lot in those 48 minutes so you're still getting a full meal. I'm just glad I can listen to the whole thing on the way to and back from work. Vector hasn't overtaken The Mountain but it's immensely enjoyable.

Useless Fact: There's a story here somewhere about a doctor in an asylum performing dubious experiments. Though there's a lot of room for interpretation as to what it's actually about and what is happening.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

MxPx - "Pokinatcha"

MxPx - Pokinatcha
1994, Tooth & Nail

1. Anywhere But Here
2. Weak
3. Wantad
4. Realize
5. Think Twice
6. Unopposed
7. The Aspect
8. Ears to Hear
9. Bad Hair Day
10. Too Much Thinking
11. PxPx
12. Time Brings Change
13. Jars of Clay
14. High Standards
15. Another Song About T.V.
16. Twisted Words
17. Walking Bye
18. No Room
19. Jay Jay's Song
20. One Way Window
21. Dead End

MxPx's debut, Pokinatcha, is missing a lot of the spit-shine and polish of Teenage Politics and Life in General. The sound is dirty, raw, and sloppy. And fast! Most tracks race along at full speed, rarely stopping to take a breath except for a few moments. Those moments being "Wantad" and "Bad Hair Day" for which the band received some buzz back in the day. I don't know though... I think I like my MxPx with a bit more polish. While the sound may be raw, the lyrics are not. They're pretty suburban teenage Christian with a little angst. Not that there's anything wrong with that - that was kind of their thing. It's worth a listen, but I prefer their later albums (i.e. the ones I mentioned, not their later - later material where they were really super duper polished and commercial).

Useless Fact: As I recall the band was originally called Magnified Plaid. It even says that on the spine of this album. However, drummer Yuri was prone to abbreviating it M.P. but with x's instead of periods. So they eventually became known as MxPx. Also, I read in an interview once that the word "pokinatcha" was from a Snickers commercial or something where the narrator says hunger is "pokin' at ya."

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Pentatonix - "Christmas is Here!"

Pentatonix - Christmas is Here!
2018, RCA

1. What Christmas Means to Me
2. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
3. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
4. Grown Up Christmas List
5. Greensleeves (Interlude)
6. Sweater Weather
7. When You Believe
8. Waltz of the Flowers
9. Here Comes Santa Claus
10. Making Christmas
11. Where Are You, Christmas?
12. Jingle Bells

So...maybe it's time to give it a rest with the Christmas albums. I can't believe I'm saying this but...I'm kind of disappointed with this one. Part of that has to do with the song selection. I mean, this is their third Christmas album in six years. I never cared for "Grown Up Christmas List" or "Where Are You, Christmas?" to begin with and these versions only make them slightly more palatable. Then we've got the two non-Christmas songs, "Sweater Weather" and "When You Believe." The former of which is okay but the latter is from Prince of Egypt. Another song I wasn't wild about originally (love the movie, though!). The rest of the tracks? It's Pentatonix. It's Christmas. You pretty much know what you're getting. "Making Christmas" (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) is the standout track which really showcases the originality that I fell in love with in the first place. I don't know. Maybe the problem is on my end. I like this okay but it's definitely the bottom of the three.

Useless Fact: Let's see, I've already mentioned that Avi left and that he and Kristen didn't get along. So... I've got nothing. At least Mitch shaved off that awful mustache.

Friday, November 23, 2018

McKennitt, Loreena - "An Ancient Muse"

McKennitt, Loreena - An Ancient Muse
2006, Quinlan Road

1. Incantation
2. The Gates of Istanbul
3. Caravanserai
4. The English Ladye and the Knight
5. Kecharitomene
6. Penelope's Song
7. Sacred Shabbot
8. Beneath a Phrygian Sky
9. Never-Ending Road (Amhran Duit)

When this album first came out I didn't think it was as good as her previous albums. I have no idea why - I think that the problem was on my end. Listening to it now I love it, naturally. "Caravanserai" and "Penelope's Song" are some of her best. "Beneath a Phrygian Sky" kind of reminds me of "The Bonny Swans" a little bit. I'm glad I went back to this one. I have a lot of memories of listening to this album and working at Coutrywide Home Loans in Florida way back in the day. Just before the secondary loan market burst. Boy that was a sucky job. Anyway, this album is great like the others and past me was a moron.

Useless Fact: My edition has another remix of "Beneath a Phrygian Sky." It's okay but I prefer the original.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Amaranthe - "Helix"

Amaranthe - Helix
2018, Spinefarm

1. The Score
2. 365
3. Inferno
4. Countdown
5. Helix
6. Dream
7. GG6
8. Breakthrough Starshot
9. My Haven
10. Iconic
11. Unified
12. Momentum
Bonus Tracks
13. Say the Word (Acoustic)
14. Dream (Acoustic)

I was a little concerned about this album at first. Neither single, "365" nor "Countdown," seemed to really do anything for me. I didn't think they were bad, just unremarkable maybe. Thankfully, all my fears were laid to rest listening to the album itself. Even those two tracks were a lot better in the context of the whole album. Helix continues to work the ground laid down by Massive Addictive (where they really defined their sound) and refined on Maximalism. New vocalist Nils Molin is a suitable replacement for Jake E. Though I do miss him. I can't tell if I prefer Jake to Nils or if I'm just old and resistant to change. The Rock Critic said once that it's okay to be a one trick pony as long as you're really good at your trick. Amaranthe proves that they are the absolute masters of their trick. Occasionally I wonder if they'll be able to keep up this level of consistency and quality. I also wonder if I'll ever get tired of their "trick." Though, it's been several albums and I still can't get enough of Gama Bomb's trick. And as Helix has demonstrated to me - I can't get enough of Amaranthe's trick either, so who knows?

Useless Fact: My CD comes with two acoustic bonus tracks. I didn't have a chance to listen to them because I forgot they were on the CD proper and not part of the album download. Also, Itunes will import "Say the Word" as "Helix."

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Gama Bomb - "Speed Between the Lines"

Gama Bomb - Speed Between the Lines
2018, AFM

1. Give Me Leather
2. A Hanging
3. 666Teen
4. Bring Out the Monster
5. R.I.P. U
6. Motorgeist
7. Alt-Reich
8. Stay Rotten
9. We R Going 2 Eat U
10. Kurt Russell
11. World Gone to Hell
12. Faceblaster

Hey, I finally got ahead of the curve on a Gama Bomb album! It's a good thing too because I think this is their best so far. That's high praise considering I thought Untouchable Glory was their best. I've mentioned a time or two about the band sometimes having problems making each song distinct. Well... they've long since gotten over that. Every song here stands out and has a catchy chorus or gang vocal that sticks in your brain. Dare I say there's even a little bit of progressiveness in "Alt-Reich." Maybe. Just a drop. "Alt-Reich" is also an example of a lot more socially conscious lyrics on this release. The band has always had a track or two like that but I think it's a lot more prevalent. here. "Alt-Reich," "We R Going 2 Eat U," and "World Gone to Hell" are the best examples. As much as I like the nostalgia, horror, and silliness, it's cool to hear some tracks that are vicious and fast but also carry a message (that I agree with more often than not). It's actually very in line with old school thrash which could be very socially conscious at times (just look at some old Anthrax records). Every time a new album comes out I always think about when I said I didn't know if wanted album after album of this in my Citizen Brain review. I was so wrong. As long as the band stays this awesome I will never tire of it.

Useless Fact: The liner notes in this album are inspired by the covers of old pulp novels. I kind of wish they would have put lyrics in their too, though.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Bowie, David - "'Heroes'"

Bowie, David - "Heroes"
1977/1999, Parlophone

1. Beauty and the Beast
2. Joe the Lion
3. "Heroes"
4. Sons of the Silent Age
5. Blackout
6. V-2 Schneider
7. Sense of Doubt
8. Moss Garden
9. Neukoln
10. The Secret Life of Arabia

UVULAPIEAfter cruising through the absolutely stunning Hunky Dory it seems we’ve hit a wall with "Heroes."  Old Man and I keep telling each other that we need to write this review but it’s not getting done, mostly because the album is pretty weak.  Finding myself with an extreme need to avoid a current work project I decided that the time had come to kick this one off.  Soooo…. "Heroes".  One of the so-called Berlin-trilogy albums.  I’ll start off and say that the album cover reminds me of artwork from the dark Daniel Amos classic Doppleganger.  I’ll second-off and say that some of the synthesizer instrumental tracks on side two, like “Sense of Doubt”, “Moss Garden” and “Neukoln,” sound a lot like the “just messing around” crap I used to make in the late Eighties when I bought my first synthesizer.  Either I’m a genius like Bowie or Bowie was flying high and decided to record his experimenting/noodling around with this then (1977) new toy.
OLD MAN: Y'know, I really enjoyed "Heroes" at first. "Beauty and the Beast" is a cool track and I was already familiar with it through Deliverance's cover. The title track is a classic. Absolutely love "Sons of the Silent Age." Then the album kind of crashes and burns in the second half with all these ambient tracks. I mean... I feel like no one had the courage to tell Bowie "no" here. These are just boring and tedious. And there's like...four of them in a row. "Moss Garden" sounds like the generic music they would pipe in at a spa. Seriously, I was so disgusted with the back half of this disc that I didn't listen to it for a couple months. I suppose if I wanted to play devil's advocate I could say these probably have some kind of connection to World War II and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Doesn't make them any less boring. The last track, "The Secret Life of Arabia," is not ambient (thank goodness!) but it's almost an afterthought. The song (and the album) just sort of peter out. Like "I guess we're done here" - fade out. I guess when you have a reputation as a "risk taker" that must means some risks don't really pay off.
UVULAPIE:  I will say that the album, as a whole, is dark and twitchy, similar to what I suspect a drug addiction would be like.  There’s pretty much just half an album here which means I’m comfortable with just writing half a review.
OLD MAN: Word.
Useless Fact: "Heroes" (the song) was inspired by Bowie watching his producer and his mistress at the Berlin Wall. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Coheed and Cambria - "Vaxis - Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures"

Coheed and Cambria - Vaxis - Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures
2018, Roadrunner

1. Prologue
2. The Dark Sentancer
3. Unheavenly Creatures
4. Toys
5. Black Sunday
6. Queen of the Dark
7. True Ugly
8. Love Protocol
9. The Pavillion (A Long Way Back)
10. Night-Time Walkers
11. The Gutter
12. All on Fire
13. It Walks Among Us
14. Old Flames
15. Lucky Stars

With Vaxis Coheed and Cambria returns to the mult-part sci-fi epics after a brief breather with The Color Before the Sun. You'd be forgiven for thinking this is a return to the Keeping Secrets and Good Apollo era upon hearing "The Dark Sentancer." It's one of those dark progressive songs which are the band's stock and trade. It's got a "No World For Tomorrow" vibe to it. Aside from that, however, I'd venture to say that this album is far more informed by Afterman and Color than most people would want to admit. For one, while the story is about being trapped on a prison planet, the album isn't really that dark. There's too much hope and Claudio's just not a wounded musician anymore - he's a family man in a happy marriage. That stuff has a tendency to brighten up your writing. I feel like this disc is a lot more focus on big hooks and strong, stand alone songs. You'll notice there's not multi-part epic here. Now... this album is amazing. Each track has a huge hook that will stick in your brain forever. "Black Sunday" and "Night-Time Walkers" are the only two songs that I didn't really care for. But two out of fifteen isn't that bad, especially since the other stuff that's here is just so good. "Unheavenly Creatures," "The Gutter," "Old Flames," man... some of the best stuff they've done. This is part one of five so I'm hoping Claudio and the boys can keep this momentum up for the next four albums. Definitely a contender for one of my picks for the year.

My wife and I sprung for the super deluxe box set for this one. It comes with a mask, a huge hardbound book with the album story and lyrics, a poster, and a black card (for VIP stuff at concerts). It's HUGE! But it's cool to have and I have to read the rest of the story.

Useless Fact: A lot of fans (myself included) suspect that maybe "The Pavillion (A Long Way Back)" was originally written for The Color Before the Sun. It's basically about Claudio wanting to quit the band so he can spend more time with his family.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

McKennitt, Loreena - "The Wind That Shakes the Barley"

McKennitt, Loreena - The Wind That Shakes the Barley
2010, Quinlan Road

1. As I Roved Out
2. On a Bright May Morning
3. Brian Boru's March
4. Down By the Sally Gardens
5. The Star of the County Down
6. The Wind That Shakes the Barley
7. The Death of Queen Jane
8. The Emigration Tunes
9. The Parting Glass

The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a return to traditional Celtic folk songs. There's only one original here ("The Emigration Tunes"). I realized I've got some more of Loreena's music to add to the vault because I was missing quite a few. Naturally, this album is great for dark autumn mornings as you feel the chill in the air. I was disappointed that this album lacks the copious liner notes common to a McKennitt album. However, they are traditional songs so I guess there's not much to note.

Useless Fact: You know what's sad? I just recently found out she was Canadian.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Band Maid - "World Domination"

Band Maid - World Domination
2018, JPUD40

1. I Can't Live Without You
2. Play
3. One and Only
4. Domination
5. Fate
6. Spirit!!
7. Rock in Me
8. Clang
9. Turn Me On
10. Carry On Living
11. Daydreaming
12. Anemone
13. Alive-Or-Dead
14. Dice
15. (Title is in Japanese. I don't know what it is.)

After loving Just Bring It I had to get their newest, World Domination. For some reason this one was kind of a grower. I just wasn't as much into it at first. I don't really know why as the instrumentation and songs are just as good if not better than the previous album. I did get more into it after several listens. "Anemone" is one of my favorite tracks and it's one of the quieter ones. I don't have too much more to say. It's good. If you like the band, you'll like this one - hopefully it will take less listens than you to get into it.

Useless Fact: Not really a fact...but...the liner notes fold out into one of those giant welcome mat sized posters. I really hate that. Give me a book. They are easier for me to deal with.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Crystavox - "II: The Bottom Line"

Crystavox - II: The Bottom Line
1992/2018, Roxx Productions

1. The Big Picture
2. Break Down the Wall
3. Rise Up
4. Snakes in the Grass
5. Stick To Your Guns
6. Paradise
7. Cry Out
8. Shame
9. Rockin' in a Hard Place
10. No Boundaries
Bonus Tracks:
11. Stick to You Guns (20 Year Mix Version)
12. No Boundaries (20 Year Mix Version)

Now, this one I did not miss out on. I bought it on cassette when it originally came out. I did not really like it that much except for a track here or there. I have no idea why this is - especially listening back now. What was wrong with me? II: The Bottom Line is a bit dirtier, more raw, less commercial. Even the cover art is more low key. This was a common thing back in the day - first album was shiny, slick, and commercial, then the sophomore album was a bit more gritty (see: Ransom, The Brave, etc). This totally works for them though as I think this one is a bit better than the debut. Their look is even a bit more down-to-earth, trading in the mile-high hair and spandex for leather jackets. This is seriously an underrated album. Still kind of reeling about how wrong I was about this album when I was young.

Useless Fact: Two more tracks from the 20 Year Mix. I'm starting to think I might need this album too, just to complete the collection. Y'know... for research purposes. Yeah...that's it...

Monday, September 24, 2018

Crystavox - "Crystavox"

Cyrstavox - Crystavox
1990/2018, Roxx Productions

1. Sacrifice
2. Power Games
3. Wear It Out
4. Turn It On
5. Home Again
6. All the Way
7. It's All Right (To Rock and Roll)
8. All Around the World
9. Never Give In
10. Tough Boys
Bonus Tracks:
11. Home Again (20 Year Mix Version)
12. Power Games (20 Year Mix Version)

Just look at that cover art, eh? Pretty gorgeous. I saw this on tape way back in the day. I stared at it and tried to figure out if it was metal or not. The logo certainly seemed metal, but while gorgeous, the cover art led me to mistakenly think it could be some Dino-esque piano music. No, I didn't listen to the demo at the store for some reason. I definitely made a mistake that day because Crystavox's debut album is good. Surprisingly good. It's commercial 80's hard rock/heavy metal and listening to it is like going back in time... in a good way. I'm not sure why I'm surprised as to how much I ended up enjoying this. I guess because sometimes I hear these albums now and they just don't do anything for me like the might have way back when. Crystavox is full of big, catchy choruses and anthemic tracks with a lot of power and passion. The recording quality is also much better than I expected. "Sacrifice" and "Home Again" were the big "hits" off this album. At least those are the songs I saw on CCM's charts every month. If you were part of the scene and missed out the first time, you need to check this out. It's good stuff that kind of got lost in the shuffle and I'm glad Roxx reissued it.

Useless Fact: So The 20 Year Mix is sort of a "best of" that's been remastered, remixed, and rerecorded in some places. I haven't heard it but now that I have the originals I don't know if I need it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tribe of Dan - "Shook Up Shook Up"

Tribe of Dan - Shook Up Shook Up
1992, Blonde Vinyl

1. Shook Up Shook Up
2. Like You
3. Missin' You
4. I Just Want
5. Be My Friend
6. River Song
7. Barking Dog
8. Blind Lead the Blind
9. Empires
10. Real Heart
11. Beast of Lust
12. Blue I'm Blue
13. Your Hand

I vividly remember the mockery I received when I told my schoolmates about this album. Of course, I was the only one in my class that listened to any kind of Christian music (except for a few other friends). What's funny is I didn't really like this record except for a few tracks here and there - mostly the title track and "Barking Dog." And...well... I still don't really like it that much, so not much has changed. Though this is one of those instances where I think that this is a disc that's just not for me rather than it being bad. Definitely not bad. Indeed, the guitar work is gritty and raw as are Dan Donovan's vocals. The songs have plenty of energy. It fits into that sort of punk/alt rock/hard rock genre that wasn't really a big thing in general in 1992. I don't know... it just never did anything for me and it still doesn't. I'm putting it up here because it's definitely obscure and I don't think there's much info on it. They only released one other album, The Bootus Red, in 1998. I think maybe if this had come out a little bit later, say '94 or '95 it might have gotten some more traction. Though Blonde Vinyl was always kind of ahead of the curve in terms of genre busting music. I definitely recommend checking this out as I think a lot of people would really dig it even though it isn't for me.

Useless Fact: Who is Dan Donovan? Did he front any other bands? He sort of came out of the blue and went right back up into it. That is to say, I don't have much in the way of interesting informational nuggets.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Resurrection Band - "Reach of Love"

Resurrection Band - Reach of Love
1994, Grrr

1. Heart's Desire
2. If Your Love Grows Cold
3. Numbers
4. Sunrise
5. Dead to the World
6. Reach of Love
7. Land of Stolen Breath
8. Mannequin's Dream
9. Empty Hearts
10. Thought I'd Never Love Again
11. White Lies
12. On My Dyin' Bed
13. Heart's Desire (reprise)

I remember buying this the first time at Kingdom Bound. When we got home there was Tornado watches and stuff that I was scared of because back then I was scared of that stuff. Forget the fact that where we lived tornadoes were pretty uncommon. What does that have to do with Reach of Love? Nothing - but this is my blog and I'll do what I like. AND YOU'LL LIKE IT!

Ahem... anyway... Reach of Love is the fourth album in the band's hard rock/metal reinvention that began with Silence Screams. In this case it leans more toward the "hard rock" side than the "metal" side. It's still really good though. Not much more to say, really. If you liked the preceding albums, then you'll like this one. Glenn and Wendy Kaiser were (and still are) pretty talented people so the stuff they do is pretty consistently good. Unfortunately, I had to settle for the MP3's from Amazon because I can't find the official CD anywhere. I can't find any of those albums anywhere. Hey, if someone wants to sell their Silence Screams through Lament albums I can find you a buyer real quick!

Useless Fact: I don't actually have a fact for this one. Like.... I legit know nothing other than the obvious. Hey, that happens sometimes.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Snider, Dee - "For the Love of Metal"

Snider, Dee - For the Love of Metal
2018, Napalm

1. Lies Are a Business
2. Tomorrow's No Concern
3. I Am the Hurricane
4. American Made
5. Roll Over You
6. I'm Ready
7. Running Mazes
8. Mask
9. Become the Storm
10. The Hardest Way
11. Dead Hearts (Love Thy Enemy)
12. For the Love of Metal

I've never been a huge fan of Twisted Sister. Not for any particular reason, mind you - just never really listened intently to their stuff. I did barrow Come Out and Play a millennium ago and really liked "Be Crool To Your Schuel" and of course I like "We're Not Gonna Take It." So as you can imagine a solo album by Dee Snider didn't really have much appeal to me.

Until I heard it. Oh. My. Word.

I don't know what you're expecting but this is METAL. Like, for real, traditional heavy metal. And man does it sound good. And Dee! His voice is perfect for this album. He's never been the top tier of vocalists but his voice fits perfectly. It's a good example of a time when age has helped a vocalist. He delivers a rough, powerful voice with just enough melody to work. I'm shocked... SHOCKED I tell you - at how good his vocals are here. The guitars are heavy and crunchy. The songs are full of hooks. Kind of a dark horse for me but I'm glad I took a chance on it. Snider himself didn't write all the music, it was some guy named Jamey Jasta who I am not familiar. This really reminded me of the Judas Priest's Firepower in the fact that is quality traditional heavy metal with modern production. If you liked Priest's album - this is right up your alley.

Useless Fact: Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage) lends some vocals on "The Hardest Way." Alissa White-Gluz sings on "Dead Hearts (Love Thy Enemy)."

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Bride - "Snake Eyes"

Bride - Snake Eyes
2018, Retroactive

1. Intro
2. Fake News
3. Famous When I'm Dead
4. John the Baptist
5. Think I'll Build the Bomb
6. The Real Jesus
7. Lost Within a Song
8. The Laughter of It All
9. The Painter
10. Call Out His Name
11. Other Side of Suicide
12. There's Always Tomorrow

Wow... so...Bride really wants you to associate this album with Snakes in the Playground. To the point that the intro is literally a recap of that album. It was made specifically to recall that time period - something they said while they were crowdfunding the recording. They've even dug up the old Kinetic Faith logo (which I always liked). Of course, the problem with that is you're not just trying to recapture a sound. You're have to capture the feeling of an era. I remember seeing Bride at Kingdom Bound in '92 just before Playground was to come out. They put on an amazing show. They were a band at their peak and they knew it. It was electric. We eagerly anticipated that release and when it came it remained in heavy rotation throughout my youth group. Snakes in the Playground remains a classic to this day. That zeitgeist is part of the magic of that time and it's almost a fool's errand to try and recapture it. Honestly, when that opening riff to "Fake News" kicked in I thought, "Dang...maybe they've done it." But alas...

The previous paragraph probably leads you to suspect that I don't like this album. That is not the case. I really enjoy this album and I want others to enjoy it too. I just want to manage whatever expectations people may have. No, it doesn't match Playground, but it's still a dang fine hard rock album and certainly the best since their heyday. Dale can't quite do the unrestrained screams of yesteryear, but he still sounds great and there's a lot of variety in his delivery (he does do a few screams here and there). Troy's riffs are infectious and heavy. I mentioned the opening of "Fake News" and there's a lot of that old fire here. While Playground remains the primary influence, there's also a good bit of Scarecrow Messiah. More than I expected. Heck, in a couple songs ("There's Always Tomorrow" being the best example) the band reaches way back, dipping into Live to Die-era. It's fleeting but it's there. The band has said this is their final release. If it has to be the end, this is a good one to go out on. Snake Eyes might not be the sequel to Snakes in the Playground that everyone wanted, but it's a good and fitting celebration of the band's career.

Useless Fact: I guess Dale lives in New Zealand now? Anyway, I pre-ordered and got an album cover sticker signed by Dale and Troy.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Gunn, Dann - "...Losing Steam"

Gunn, Dann - ...Losing Steam
1997, Independent

1. My Ghost
2. Deep Heaven
3. Falling Together
4. Hide
5. The Drowning Heart
6. Secret Language
7. Time Is Now
8. Waiting For You
9. Kaleidoscope

Dann Gunn himself sent me a copy of ...Losing Steam. I was happy to get them as I really like his stuff. This album is no different. Recorded independently in 1997, it was produced by Chris Colbert (Fluffy, Duraluxe, and various other projects). It's a continuation of the sound he developed with Velocipede but with better production. I always love Dann's vocals because they are wholly his own. When he sings, you know exactly who it is. If you were one of the handful of people that bought Velocipede you should check out ...Losing Steam.

Useless Fact: You'd think with being friends on Facebook and what not I'd have an interesting tidbit about this album...but...nope.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Stavesacre - "Friction"

Stavesacre - Friction
Tooth & Nail

1. Threshold
2. Loader
3. At the Moment
4. Suffocate Me
5. Minus
6. Devil
7. Tranewreck
8. Burning Clean
9. Anna Thema
10. Stars & Clouds

Friction represents sort of an end of an era for me. I first bought it at Kingdom Bound in 1996. Among the other CDs I bought that year were by the O.C. Supertones, Roadside Monument, PFR, and others. You'll notice that's a lot of "not metal" there. I think it was the first time I was really conscious of the fact that time was marching on and all of the metal bands I loved were gone. Some had been gone for years. Everything was changing for me - the video games I played, the shows I watched. Everything was moving away from what I always considered the "golden age." Now that I have a little perspective I realize that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but at the time it was a little sad for me. The album itself is pretty good! I always like Mark Solomon's distinctive vocal style. And while sound is more alternative and hardcore there's some pretty great tracks on here. It's also pretty heavy despite not being "metal." Also very melodic. "At the Moment" in particular really helped me out recently. It wasn't long after this that I kind of got out of music so I never really listened to any more Stavesacre, though they were a favorite with the kids in college.

Useless Fact: The lyrics for "Devil" are under the CD tray. Why? They're or anything.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Guns N' Roses - "Appetite For Destruction"

Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction
1987/2018, Geffin

1. Welcome to the Jungle
2. It's So Easy
3. Nightrain
4. Out ta Get Me
5. Mr. Brownstone
6. Paradise City
7. My Michelle
8. Think About You
9. Sweet Child O' Mine
10. You're Crazy
11. Anything Goes
12. Rocket Queen

1. Reckless Life
2. Nice Boys
3. Move to the City (Live)
4. Mama Kin
5. Shadow of Your Love (Live)
6. Welcome to the Jungle (1986 Sound City Session)
7. Nightrain (1986 Sound City Session)
8. Out ta Get Me (1986 Sound City Session)
9. Paradise City (1986 Sound City Session)
10. My Michelle (1986 Sound City Session)
11. Shadow of Your Love
12. It's So Easy (Live)
13. Knockin' On Heaven's Door (Live)
14. Whole Lotta Rosie (Live)
15. You're Crazy (Acoustic Version)
16. Patience
17. Used To Love Her
18. Move to the City (1988 Acoustic Version)

I've had to replace my old copy of this album for awhile. It was one of those cheapo five dollar Walmart deals with no liner notes or anything. I never got around to it until now. Since this is a proper reissue with a remaster, extra tracks, liner notes, I figured I'd get this definitive edition for the vault. I still maintain that Guns N' Roses was never as good as they were on Appetite For Destruction. I don't think there was anything wrong with the original master, but this remaster sounds great and really highlights how talented this band was in their prime. This edition also includes most of the material from GN'R Lies which saves me the trouble of having to bother with that. Not that I think I ever would... though "Patience" is a great song. Still trying to decide if I want to to try getting into the Use Your Illusion albums.

Useless Fact: My fellow game nerds know that the robot bosses in Mega Man X5 were named after members of Guns N' Roses (Duff McWhalen, etc). However, with the reissue of the game on the Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2, they've gone back to the original names. Weird, I thought it was kind of silly originally but now I miss them. "Tidal Whale" just isn't as cool anymore.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Gabriel, Peter - "So"

Gabriel, Peter - So
1986/2012, Real World

1. Red Rain
2. Sledgehammer
3. Don't Give Up
4. That Voice Again
5. Mercy Street
6. Big Time
7. We Do What We're Told (milgram's 37)
8. This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)
9. In Your Eyes

I've always been meaning to dig a little bit further into Peter Gabriel's solo stuff. I listen to Hit way too much to not have any actual albums in the vault. I started with So because, as I mentioned, I'd spend hours watching MTV when I was home sick as a child just to catch "Sledgehammer" or "Big Time." As one would expect, Peter Gabriel's pop music is artsy and compelling and wonderful. Even some of his Genesis-era weirdness shows up (like on "This is the Picture"). I've always been of the opinion that Peter Gabriel works better as a solo artist and So is the first piece of evidence I would submit. I think this was his most successful album - it's certainly his most accessible. Discussion question: I don't think I've ever heard Peter Gabriel called a "sell-out" even though he totally made commercial pop music. As opposed to Phil Collins, who gets that reputation in spades. Why is that? Granted I've never listened to Phil's solo stuff in depth. Anyway...So... it's great. Case closed.

Useless Fact: Peter Gabriel does not like album titles. The story goes that the reason he chose So as the album title is because the record company made him pick something. He thought So would look good from a visual standpoint on the album cover.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Soccer Mommy - "Clean"

Soccer Mommy – Clean
2018, Fat Possum

1. Still Clean
2. Cool
3. Your Dog
4. Flaw
5. Blossom (Wasting All My Time)
6. Last Girl
7. Skin
8. Scorpio Rising
9. Interlude
10. Wildflowers

Sometimes Facebook can do good things – like when it shoved the video for Soccer Mommy’s “Cool” in my feed. Lately I’ve been craving that mid/late 90’s indie rock sound and Soccer Mommy has that covered. Bright jangly guitars, fat fuzzy bass, lithe vocals. Yep… really scratches that itch. Most of the lyrics are about pinin’ after boys. It’s not just whining, though. There’s some pretty dark and violent imagery, specifically regarding the feeling of being emotionally consumed and used. Instead of being insufferable (which is a real risk when pinin’ after boys), the lyrics convey vulnerability and melancholy. Musings on unrequited love, if you will. I’m also getting a bit of a Sundays vibe here  – especially in the vocals. I’m glad that I got in on the ground floor because the Sophie Allison (who is the driving force) shows a lot of potential for growth and I can see her going on to do some great things.

Useless Fact: I guess “Scorpio Rising” is inspired somewhat by Sophie’s interest in astrology.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Panic! At The Disco - "Pray For The Wicked"

Panic! At The Disco - Pray For The Wicked
2018, Fueled By Ramen

1. (F**k a) Silver Lining
2. Say Amen (Saturday Night)
3. Hey Look Ma, I Made It
4. High Hopes
5. Roaring 20's
6. Dancing's Not a Crime
7. One of the Drunks
8. The Overpass
9. King of the Clouds
10. Old Fashioned
11. Dying in LA

Death of a Bachelor was great. Really great. Written before Brandan Urie married his wife, that album is filled with vigor and passion. This one? definitely feels like a plateau. It's definitely not his worst album - not by a long shot. It's also not his best. Pray for the Wicked busts out of the gate with two really great tunes, but after "Say Amen (Saturday Night)" it sort of levels off. I've listened to this album several times and I still don't remember some of the songs. Not great, not crap - sort of in the middle along with Vices & Virtues. Oh, and there's a song with some trap influences on here so...ew. It doesn't stay that way but I really don't like trap music. I don't have much more to say because, unfortunately, this is just that kind of album.

Useless Fact: I don't really know any interesting factoid about this album. That's kind of par for the course for it though.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Angelica - "Rock, Stock, & Barrel"

Angelica - Rock, Stock, & Barrel
1991, Intense

1. The Fire Inside
2. Someone to Believe In Me
3. Cover Me
4. Home Sweet Heaven
5. A Little Love
6. Sail Away
7. Keep Pushing On
8. Bumble Boob Groove
9. Rhyme & Reason
10. Without Words
11. Oh Canada

Ahh...the summer of '91. Good times, good times. One of the things that sticks out in my mind was the Hot Metal 4 compilation. It had videos from Angelica, Deliverance, Tourniquet, etc. This was pretty momentous to my cousin and I because we didn't really have any Christian music videos anywhere unless we bought them. Sure, there was CCMtv on at like 11pm on Saturday, but they sure as heck weren't playing Ransom. To say that video got a lot of VCR time that summer is an understatement (I still have a copy, though I have nothing to play it on). "Cover Me" was Angelica's contribution and it was killer... kind of bluesy and melodic but definitely metal. It's kind of an oddball track because the rest of the album is a lot more metallic and shiny a la Walkin' In Faith. Not that I have a problem with that. I think I might prefer Walkin' In Faith, but Rock, Stock, & Barrel isn't bad by any stretch. I think new vocalist Drew Baca doesn't quite fit as well as Jerome Mazza. He does fit on "Cover Me" but the rest of it... I don't know. Not bad... he just doesn't "click" for me. Also, how the heck did they get away with using the word "boob" in "Bumble Boob Groove?" How did Christian stores everywhere not have a fit?

Useless Fact: Years and years later I was watching a DVD from Third Day and saw Drew hanging out with them. I can't remember if he was an engineer or what. But I was like, "Hey, it's Drew!" and no one knew what I was talking about.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Choir - "Bloodshot"

The Choir - Bloodshot
2018, Galaxy21

1. Bloodshot Eyes
2. Californians On Ice
3. Summer Rain
4. Birds, Bewildered
5. Only Reasons
6. House of Blues
7. The Dizzy Wounded
8. Because You're Beautiful (Bloodshot Reprise)
9. The Way You Always Are
10. Magic
11. We've Got the Moon
12. The Time Has Come

Hey, remember way back during the Loudest Sound Ever Heard era when Steve Hindalong said his wife didn't want him to write about their relationship anymore? Well...let's just say he's gone back on that a bit here. Most of the album's lyrics are inspired by Steve's recent divorce. I hate to say it, but that tragedy makes Bloodshot a pretty compelling album. The heartache is real. All of the fights, the sleepless nights, the confusion - it's all here. In "House of Blues," Derri sings, "Bittersweet reverberations/That melancholy ghost is here/Haunting every empty room/Meet me in the hallway/I'll trade you tear for tear." You can really feel the anguish in every note. It makes me look at my own marriage and appreciate what I have and maybe try to avoid some pitfalls. "The Dizzy Wounded" is another favorite with the chorus, "Before we begin our descent into madness/Why don't we/The dizzy wounded dance." There are a few breathers here, "Californians On Ice," "Magic," and "We've Got the Moon," are mercifully upbeat and provide a reprieve from the tumult and balance out the album a bit. Music-wise, the band doesn't stray too far from Shadow Weaver except with maybe a little more acoustic guitar and a little less ambient guitar swirlies. "The Way You Always Are" sounds like it could have been on Steve's solo album, The Warbler (especially because Steve sings the lead). Probably the only track that I don't care for is the album closer "The Time Has Come." It contains 90% of the albums guitar swirlies ("Because You're Beautiful" contains the other 10%). The lyrics center around the theme of forgiveness... but I don't know. It feels like the band wanted to end on a more positive note so they included this song - it falls a little flat for me. Also, as Uvulapie pointed out to me, the bass is kind of buried in the mix for some reason. It sucks sometimes that heartache and pain translate into some of the best art but it's what makes Bloodshot so engrossing. It's among the best of the band's 2010's era for sure.

Useless Fact: There are a few videos for songs on this album, "Californians on Ice," "Birds, Bewikdered," and "The Time Has Come."

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Driver Eight - "Watermelon"

Driver Eight - Watermelon
1996, Tooth and Nail

1. Watermelon
2. Polish
3. Cheers
4. Strange
5. Getting This Thing To Go
6. Waiting For Godot
7. Brown Paper Bag
8. Drive
9. Sunbittern
10. Carrousel
11. Superglue

I remember listening to the demo of Driver Eight back in the day at my local Christian bookstore. I also remember really being impressed and wanting to buy it. Shortly thereafter though I got out of music entirely and Watermelon was lost to me...until now. I guess I was in the mood for some mid-nineties indie alternative rock. This album was just the thing to scratch that itch. I also like the lyrics which are Christian in nature but very subtle. Though that was the thing back then. Nevertheless, this disc is quite good and it just proves that, even as a teenager, I had pretty good taste. It's too bad this band never put out any more least I don' think they did.

Useless Fact: "Driver 8" is the name of an R.E.M. song. I'm pretty sure the band is named after this song. There's definitely some R.E.M. influence in their sound.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Mortification - "Relentless"

Mortification - Relentless
2002/2013 Soundmass

1. Intro
2. Web of Fire
3. God Shaped Void
4. Priests of the Underground
5. Bring Release
6. Syncretize
7. The Other Side of the Coin
8. Altar of God
9. Sorrow
10. 3 of a Kind
11. Arm the Anointed
12. New York Skies
13. Apocalyptic Terror

If you're looking for one of the best albums of the post-EnVision era, this is it. The jump in quality versus what I've heard so far is amazing. This is the first album with Terrorphobia's Mick Jelinic. I thought maybe he was maybe the main songwriter here. But, nope. It's actually Steve Rowe and second guitarist Jeff Lewis. Relentless is a thrash album for the most part. It's filled with tasty, infectious riffs and a lot of attitude. "Sorrow" is a doom metal track and I'm not usually one for doom metal, but this one rocks. Again, largely due to some stellar riffing and guitar work. "Apocalyptic Terror" is full on death metal - reminding me of the old B-side "Butchered Mutilation." Steve is using his clean thrash vocals, but they're not annoying. Though I do think that if he did the whole album in growls it would be better. Also, there are a couple tracks that I could do without. "Bring Release" and "Arm the Anointed" come to mind. They're not bad but the rest of the tracks are so good these bring down the vibe a little bit. Despite my minor complaints, Relentless is just as good as stuff from the early era. I wished this quality would have continued...

Also, I can't tell if the cover art is awesome or cheesy. Both, maybe? I do like it, I can tell you that.

Useless Fact: This is the only time in the band's history to have four people (two guitar players) in the line-up.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Bowie, David - "Hunky Dory"

Bowie, David - Hunky Dory
1971, Parlophone

1. Changes
2. Oh! You Pretty Things
3. Eight Line Poem
4. Life On Mars?
5. Kooks
6. Quicksand
7. Fill Your Heart
8. Andy Warhol
9. Song For Bob Dylan
10. Queen Bitch
11. The Bewlay Brothers

Uvulapie:  Hunky Dory was released back in 1971, before David Bowie was DAVID BOWIE and one year before Ziggy Stardust obliterated the minds of youth the world over.  It was his fourth album and I’m fairly certain his only hit up to that time was “Space Oddity” from his second album.  This album starts with his second hit, “Changes”, which still sounds amazingly fresh and invigorating despite it being drawn from 50's pop nostalgia and nightclub noir.  Another song which immediately caught my fancy is the lighthearted “Kooks” in which he asks his newborn son if he wants to stay and be raised by a couple of kooks.  The music is upbeat with strings, a plucky piano in the verse, and an unusual arrangement.  It sounds sentimental and sweet, almost kitschy, and certainly not something I was expecting from the experimental, gender-bending DAVID BOWIE.

Old Man:  I won't belabor the point here - I like Hunky Dory more than Scary Monsters. It seems a lot more unified that's for sure. It's also nice to hear Bowie just sing the dang songs instead of yowl all over them. Wow... that was a lot more critical of Bowie than I thought I'd be, but there it is. "Andy Warhol" is great and it's one of my favorite Bowie songs ever already. I also really enjoyed "Oh! You Pretty Things," "Kooks," and "Queen Bitch." The last one sounds like a sort of proto-"Suffragette City." "Kooks" also vaguely reminds me of Daniel Amos' "Props." Not really sure why, though. I'm probably not as wild about "Fill Your Heart" because it seems a little goofy and cheesy but without the familial grounding of "Kooks." However, unlike Scary Monsters, there's not one song on here that I don't like.

Uvulapie: I just re-listened to both “Queen Bitch” and “Suffragette City” so that I could properly tear your comparison to shreds (purely for readership entertainment value, of course) and daggonit Old Man, you’re right.  Whatever.  Good catch.  I’ll respectfully disagree on the “Props”/”Kooks” comparison, however, though you get points for working in a Daniel Amos reference.  One song neither of us mentioned is the gorgeous “Life On Mars?”  It’s a dramatic yet forlorn piano song (in fact, most of the songs on this album are either based on piano or feature it in some way) that builds in an orchestral string section and a big, reaching vocal melody in the chorus.  And if I may work in one final digression, and I will unless you edit it out, this song reminds me of the first two Alice Cooper solo albums in its lofty rock/orchestra arrangement.

Old Man: Dude, I would never edit anything out. What's the fun in that? I didn't think to make the Alice Cooper comparison, but you're right. They were contemporaries on different continents but they tapped into a similar vibe. Though I don't know off-hand when this album was released in comparison with those. Another song we didn't mention was album closer, "The Bewlay Brothers." It's a bit more "Bowie" in that it seems a little more dour, experimental, and more... well Bowie than the rest of the album. It also ends with him singing in a thick accent for theatrical effect. Something Peter Gabriel used to do pretty regularly around the same time in Genesis. Theatrics were big back then...

Hunky Dory seems to be a hit with the both of us. I confess that I would direct someone to this album rather than Scary Monsters to get a sample of the artist.

Useless Fact: The line, "I am a product of Churchill's lies" in "Quicksand" shows up in Jimmy P. Brown's first Fearful Symmetry album as, "I am a product of Church's lies" from "Reinvent the World."

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Def Leppard - "Hysteria"

Def Leppard - Hysteria
1987/2017, Mercury

1. Women
2. Rocket
3. Animal
4. Love Bites
5. Pour Some Sugar on Me
6. Armageddon It
7. Gods of War
8. Don't Shoot Shotgun
9. Run Riot
10. Hysteria
11. Exictable
12. Love and Affection

I've mentioned that back in the day, my life consisted of mostly MTV, Nintendo, Nickelodeon and church. My cousin would "babysit" me during the summers and we'd pretty much spend all day watching music videos and going to the store for penny candy. Yeah.... they don't call me "The Old Man" for nuthin'. Anyway, Def Leppard's Hysteria was quite popular at the time with "Rocket," "Love Bites," "Pour Some Sugar On Me," and the title track on regular rotation. I never had this album before but I did have a copy of Vault in college that I never replaced (it got CD rot). Instead of replacing that one I thought I'd just get the album with most of the songs I'd heard. It's pretty good. It hits all the nostalgia buttons in my brain. Though I've heard a lot of fans kind of regard this album as a huge sell-out. I guess they were a lot more metal sounding on their old stuff. This album does have a lot of super shiny, clean production and layered vocals. I had a friend that saw them in concert once and confirmed that they could not replicate those layers live. Anyway, sell-out or no, I dig it and it does make me want to explore their discography a bit.

Useless Fact:  This really isn't a fact to anyone who knows the band, but the drummer is one handed. He lost one of his arms up to the shoulder. Instead of rolling over and quitting, he devised this byzantine system of pedals to compensate and - as far as I know - is still drumming for the band to this day. That's quite a feat!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Grave Robber - "Escaping the Grave"

Grave Robber - Escaping the Grave
2018, Rottweiler

1. Burial Ground
2. Into the Pit
3. The Evil Dead
4. Zombieland
5. The Beast Within
6. Lips of Blood
7. The Conjuring
8. The Swarm
9. The Night Evelyn Came Out From the Grave
10. Jet Black Tears
11. Escaping the Grave
Bonus Track:
12. Curse of the Werewolf (Remix)

Yay! Grave Robber is back! I always loves me some Grave Robber. They are consistently great. I don't think I've ever heard anything bad by them. Escaping the Grave continues this tradition. This release is a little bit faster and harder - a bit more punk and less metal than the previous ones. Though this album seems a little bit light on content. I don't think this is the band's fault. The band has had to endure a lot of crap since the last album - line-up changes, equipment problems, general life problems. So it's not a surprise that this one is shorter than the others with one track being an intro, the bonus track being a remix, and a cover ("Jet Black Tears"). Add to this that many songs are under two minutes in length. So... considering all they've been through we should be glad we got anything at all, let alone something that's just as fun and addictive as usual. Hopefully this means we'll get a more steady stream of material from these guys!

Useless Fact: The album was produced by Tim Bushong of LoveWar and The Bleed (featuring Rex Carroll) fame.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Sardonyx - "Sons of the Kingdom"

Sardonyx - Sons of the Kingdom
2018, Lightshine Music Group

1. Sons of the Kingdom
2. Children of the King
3. Greater Things
4. All That We Are
5. Power and Love
6. Perfected
7. Awake
8. My Bride Beloved
9. Angel Armies

Sardonyx is back again. I always hoped they'd follow up Linear Progression but gave up after years and years went by. Yet, here they are! I've always like Sardonyx because throughout the years they've really stuck to their guns as a "ministry band." They make no bones about this and they pull no punches with their message. Anyway, unlike Linear Progression there is no nu-metal influences here. This is pure progressive/power metal. It fits nicely right after Majestic Serenity in terms of style but the production is way better this time around. If you like Sardonyx, then Sons of the Kingdom will satisfy you. It doesn't really reinvent the wheel but the instrumentation is excellent and Tom sounds as good as he ever has. "Awake" is probably my favorite track because it's basically a psalm set to music. And I mean "psalm" in the sense that it starts out soul-crushingly depressing but ends with worship. The lyrics are also extremely bold and preachy. As a Christian this doesn't bother me at all, though at times I think they're more concerned with a lyric lining up with four or five Scriptures than it making sense. Sons of the Kingdom is definitely worthy of the Sardonyx legacy and I hope it won't be another twelve or so years for the next one.

Useless Fact: "My Bride Beloved" features some female vocals from Kristen Anselmo-Hertzog. I've never heard of her before but she does a great job.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Metallica - "Load"

Metallica - Load
1996, Blackened

1. Ain't My Bitch
2. 2 x 4
3. The House That Jack Built
4. Until It Sleeps
5. King Nothing
6. Hero of the Day
7. Bleeding Me
8. Cure
9. Poor Twisted Me
10. Wasting My Hate
11. Mama Said
12. Thorn Within
13. Ronnie
14. The Outlaw Torn

I think time has been pretty good to this album. I confess I was one of those that were originally aghast that the band had cut their hair and "sold out." Time has proven that they made the right move here. They'd pretty much done what they could do with thrash as a genre. Where do you go after Justice? Where do you go after the Black album? They had to branch out and do something else and the more hard rock, swagger of Load keeps all the aggression but allows the band do dabble in other sounds. And when that swagger works - man, it WORKS! "King Nothing" and "Bleeding Me" are prime examples. The main strike against this album is the length. At fourteen tracks and almost an hour and twenty minutes of music... well... that's a bit too much swagger for me. I think they could have lost two, three, or even four tracks off this and made a much more compact (and better) album. As it stands I really appreciate and enjoy it now. Though I still hate the cover art. And the title.

Useless Fact: If I remember correctly Load and Reload were supposed to be a double album. Which is WAY too much swagger if you ask me.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Brown II, Jimmy P. - "Eraserhead"

Brown II, Jimmy P. - Eraserhead
2018, Retroactive

1. EGO
2. Stained
3. Indecisive
4. Entertaining Angels
5. The Scales
6. Memoria
7. A Story of Time
8. The Swell Lot of Thieves
9. Digital Postage Stamp
10. The Watchers

*** This review is based on a pre-release version. The album is due in the fall and I don't know if everything from the art to the track list is finalized. ***

As much I loved The Subversive Kind and its return to Deliverance's thrash roots, I've always leaned more towards the "creative years" of the band. Eraserhead has been billed as an album for fans of that era - especially since it features Manny Morales on bass and Jon Knox on drums. However, there's much more to it than that. It's somewhere between the "creative years," a heavier Jupiter VI, and Saviour Machine (along with a helping of David Bowie, naturally). Tracks like "Memoria" and "Digital Postage Stamp" sound like they could have been on an album after Camelot while "Indecisive" and "The Swell Lot of Thieves" recall Back From Mars with a bit more aggression. Speaking of "Indecisive," Manny is absolutely killing it on the bass! Terry Taylor once said of bassist Tim Chandler that he was good at filling in the cracks of songs. I think Manny is playing a similar role. He's given a lot more room to work so you hear so much more variety and melody than you might with a Deliverance album. With the album not needing to conform to any preconceptions, both Manny and Jon are let loose and as a result turn in some of the finest performances I've ever heard from either of them. Oh, and Jimmy covers a Newsboys song, "Entertaining Angels," for some reason. I've never liked the Newsboys. Ever. So when I say "holy crap Jimmy has made me like a Newsboys song" you might not understand how much of a compliment that is. I might get some hassle for saying this but I think I prefer Eraserhead over The Subversive Kind. There's just so much to dig into here and there's so much energy and heart. The album culminates in the phenomenal "The Wachers." This track is one of Jimmy's finest closers bar none. Right up there with "Sanctuary" and "In-U." It's soaring and majestic - reveling in some Saviour Machine-type theatricality. Finally, I do think that long time fans need to adjust their expectations a little. Yes, this has some influences of Deliverance, Jupiter VI, etc. - but, honestly, Eraserhead is truly its own thing meant to be taken that way. It's not River Disturbance II or Learn II so don't expect that. It's Eraserhead - and if you can handle that, you'll be able to enjoy one of the best albums you'll hear this year.

Useless Fact: "Memoria" was originally supposed to be a Deliverance track and later popped up in a different form on Fearful Symmetry's A Loss of Balance. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Rush - "Working Men"

Rush - Working Men
2009, Atlantic

1. Limelight
2. The Spirit of Radio
3. 2112
4. Freewill
5. Dreamline
6. Far Cry
7. Subdivisions
8. One Little Victory
9. Closer to the Heart
10. Tom Sawyer
11. Working Man
12. YYZ

I've had this album for, like, two years. I've kind of been saving it as a placeholder in case I needed something else to review while I'm listening to other stuff. So... yeah... I'm not really ready to review a bunch of albums at present. They're really good so I want to take my time. Anyway, I bought this in an effort to get into Rush (before I bought 2112). It's a compilation of a bunch of live tracks from various places. It's okay. I wasn't really wowed and it really didn't make much of an impression on me. I much preferred the whole album more than I did this collection. It's not terrible, but if you're trying to get into Rush I'd definitely start with something like 2112 versus this.

Useless Fact: Some of the tracks are from the band's Rush In Rio album which I watched in Bible college. They put on a great show, but I really wasn't super impressed then either.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Judas Priest - "Firepower"

Judas Priest - Firepower
2018, Epic

1. Firepower
2. Lightning Strike
3. Evil Never Dies
4. Never the Heroes
5. Necromancer
6. Children of the Sun
7. Guardians
8. Rising From Ruins
9. Flame Thrower
10. Spectre
11. Traitor's Gate
12. No Surrender
13. Lone Wolf
14. Sea of Red

I've never been a big Judas Priest fan. Sure I like "Breaking the Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming" but nothing beyond that. Not that I hate them or anything - I just never got into them. So it probably seems weird that I would pick their latest album instead of one of their classics. However, the buzz around this album was really positive. Like... "this is one of their best albums in a long time, maybe ever." So I checked out some samples and I'll be darned if I wasn't hooked from the title track onward. This is a great traditional heavy metal album. If you like NWBHM, that's what this is - only with some modern production. Speaking of which, the production is very clean with a fantastic guitar tone that's crunchy and heavy. Halford's vocals are great - he's still got it. Though I do wish he'd hit the high notes a bit more often. I'm not sure if I'm ever going to do a Judas Priest project, but I tell you what, Firepower is probably the first album of 2018 that really stuck with me. Oh... and it has really awesome cover art.

Useless Fact: Did you know Rob Halford was gay? I know! Right? I'm shocked. (I really don't know too much about Judas Priest if you couldn't tell).

Friday, May 4, 2018

Pentatonix - "PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. 1"

Pentatonix - PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. 1
2018, RCA

1. Attention
2. Finesse
3. New Rules x Are You That Somebody?
4. Havana
5. Perfect
6. Stay
7. Feel It Still
8. Despacito x Shape of You
9. Issues
10. Praying
11. Sorry Not Sorry

Conversation about Pentatonix my wife and I had...

Wife: "Why are songs always better when Pentatonix does them?"
Me: "Well, I think it's because most modern pop music these days is very much influenced by EDM in which the production can be very harsh. Not to mention the decreased dynamics and variety in just about all modern pop music. Where with Pentatonix - everything is smooth as silk and in terms of dynamics, sometimes you're getting more with those five voices than with an over-produced pop song. So when Pentatonix does it you get to hear the real melody of the song without the bombastic, harsh production."
Wife: "You're Old"

And so it is with the groups latest offering, PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. 1. It's made me like songs that I never liked and made me like songs I already liked even more. In other words - a normal day for Pentatonix.

Useless Fact: Avi left the band at some point. The name of the new bass singer escapes me and I am too lazy to look it up. Ooh... there's also rumors that Avi and Kristen didn't get along... so... there's that too, I guess.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Morgan, Cindy - "Elementary"

Morgan, Cindy - Elementary
2001, Word

1. The World Needs Your Love
2. Good Thing
3. Elementary
4. Love Can
5. New World
6. Believe
7. End of the World
8. Walk in the Rain
9. Grape Soda
10. Sunshine
11. Happy
12. Love is Waiting
13. In These Rooms
14. I Love You

I admit that back in my youth I didn't give Cindy Morgan the time of day because she was "pop" and I was strictly metal and rap. Recently my partner-in-crime Uvulapie recommended some of her later stuff because she was a bit more in control of her sound and image. I picked Elementary because the title track sort of reminded me of Mandy Moore's "Extraordinary" even though they don't really sound alike at all. I like the album too - there's a bit of variety here and there. "New World" has a bit of a Latin vibe, "I Love You" apes jazz, and "In These Rooms" is sort of a singer/songwriter story song. Unfortunately that last one is boring as dirt, but there's plenty of good tunes here. My favorites being "End of the World" and "Sunshine." I think I may slowly check out some more Cindy Morgan as my schedule permits because she does some pretty cool stuff.

Useless Fact: Cindy Morgan is married to Christian author Sigmund Brower. I read a couple of his books back in the day. They were pretty decent.