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Christ Illusion
Christ Illusion
Offered by westworld-
Price: £15.74

3.0 out of 5 stars More of the same, 2 April 2014
This review is from: Christ Illusion (Audio CD)
Five years after 2001’s “God Hates Us All”, Slayer were finally back with a new album. What first struck me when flipping through the booklet was that a whopping seven out of ten songs on the album were solely written by Kerry King, whereas the other three were co-written by Jeff Hanneman and Tom Araya. This inevitably raised the question: had Hanneman hit a writer’s block? After all, it is the Hanneman-penned numbers that form the basis of a Slayer live show. Should we feel worried, then?

However, the album kicks off promisingly enough with “Flesh Storm”, beginning with an eerie fade-in intro that is reminiscent of “South Of Heaven” and “Raining Blood”, before hitting you like a ton of bricks. The haunting “Eyes Of The Insane” is another highlight on the album, describing the nightmares of a homecoming soldier. After the alleged nu metal influences of their previous releases, this feels like a return to old school Slayer. After all, Dave Lombardo was again back behind the drum kit after a lengthy absence. Musically, the material falls somewhere between “Reign In Blood” and “God Hates Us All” (feel free to disagree if you like to).

As the grotesque front cover suggests, several songs on the album have a strong anti-Christian theme: “Skeleton Christ” features the lines “you’ll never touch God’s hand, you’ll never taste God’s breath, because you’ll never see the second coming / I laugh at the abortion known as Christianity / I’ve seen the ways of God, I’ll take the devil any day / hail Satan”. “Cult” takes it even further, claiming that “there is no f@¤#ing Jesus Christ, there never was a sacrifice, no man upon the crucifix” and that “religion is hate, religion is fear, religion is war / religion is rape, religion’s obscene, religion’s a w*#*e”. Some mighty words indeed, but you can’t help but feel that we’ve all heard it before on “God Hates Us All”, haven’t we? I mean, by now we have become more than aware that Kerry King hates religion, and Christianity in particular. And especially after a five-year gap between albums, you really would have preferred some new themes rather than more of the same.

Of course, Slayer still swept the floor with most of their competitors in the heavy metal scene, and remained the kings of extreme thrash metal (no pun intended). However, when compared with the rest of their back catalogue, it has to be said that they have made better records than this one. The most fanatical followers will probably be over the moon, but those with only “Reign In Blood” in their record collection probably won’t feel the need to part with their money.


Tyr
Tyr

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The kingdom of Odin is the kingdom of gods..., 2 April 2014
This review is from: Tyr (Audio CD)
While Ozzy Osbourne’s solo output had started leaning towards more commercial hard rock, Black Sabbath still relied on good old fashioned heavy metal in 1990. And while purists might quibble about the line-up, which featured not one but two former Whitesnake members (Cozy Powell and Neil Murray), and Tony Iommi remained the sole original member of the group, there is no arguing whether or not this is Black Sabbath: monumental guitar riffs, thundering drums, passionate vocals and lyrics full of mysticism are all essential elements of the classic Sabbath sound.

“Tyr” is best described as a semi-concept album based around old Norse mythology. Side 1 opens with the colossal “Anno Mundi”, featuring what is arguably the strongest riff on the album, and concludes with another 6-minute monster, the menacing “The Sabbath Stones”. Sandwiched between the two epics are two briefer numbers, “The Law Maker” (apparently the fastest Sabbath song ever) and the catchy “Jerusalem”, which would have made a worthy single.

Side 2 of the original album begins with the so-called “Tyr” trilogy, comprising of three songs in one: “The Battle Of Tyr” is a brief instrumental, which soon gives way to the acoustic “Odin’s Court”, a perfect showcase for Tony Martin’s undeniable vocal talents. The trilogy concludes with the pounding “Valhalla”, a good four and a half minutes of pure heavy metal. In these surroundings, the proceeding ballad “Feels Good To Me” (also released as a single) feels somewhat out of place. The album finishes with the upbeat “Heaven In Black”, a horrendous story about having one’s eyes poked out.

Vastly underrated and all-too often overlooked, “Tyr” is a more than worthy addition to an old school heavy metal fan’s record collection.


Dio At Donington Uk: Live 1983 & 1987
Dio At Donington Uk: Live 1983 & 1987
Price: £16.62

4.0 out of 5 stars Stand up and shout!, 3 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After Ronnie James Dio’s passing away in 2010, there have been quite a few retrospective releases put out from various parts of the illustrious career of one of the all-time greatest heavy metal singers. This 2-disc package features two classic sets from 1983 and 1987, recorded at one of the most legendary rock festivals, Monsters Of Rock at Donington, UK.

Personally, I find disc 2 to be the more interesting one, recorded during the “Dream Evil” tour. Somewhat unexpectedly, several then-recent songs had found their way to the set, which feels really refreshing. While Dio rarely played any post “The Last In Line” material during the latter years of the band, the 1987 set list relied considerably less on the all-familiar “Holy Diver”. The inclusion of a number of overlooked gems such as “Naked In The Rain”, “Dream Evil” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Children” feels very delightful.

In typical 1980’s Dio fashion, several songs in the set list are played only partially. So don’t get too excited for reading titles such as “Starstruck” in the track listing – we only get a few seconds of this Rainbow classic. Still, the band is in fine form, and Ronnie’s vocals are as crystal-clear as ever. Any Dio show rarely gives reasons for complaint, and this live document is highly recommended.


Rude Awakening
Rude Awakening
Offered by dutchtoni
Price: £16.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The world needs Megadeth, 3 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Rude Awakening (Audio CD)
Megadeth finally released their first live album in early 2002, featuring no less than 24 tracks on two CD’s. If memory serves, the set list had been voted for by fans online, so no mutterings of not including this-or-that song are in order. The songs on offer are a nearly all-covering trek through the group’s back catalogue. Every studio album is represented here, with the less than surprising exception of the infamous “Risk”. A number of old classics such as “Hook In Mouth”, “Devils Island” and “Ashes In Your Mouth” had found their way back to the set after a lengthy absence. Four songs were chosen from the then-latest studio offering “The World Needs A Hero”, and even their debut album is represented in the form of “Mechanix”.

The album features the rather short-lived line-up of Mustaine, Ellefson, DeGrasso and Pitrelli. Guitarist Al Pitrelli does a decent job in recreating the parts of no less than three predecessors. However, Jimmy DeGrasso’s habit of constantly hitting the hi-hat whenever there aren’t any drum parts in a song can be annoying.

In comparison with the album versions, many of the songs are played with a faster tempo. “She-Wolf” and “Symphony Of Destruction” have also been extended for a live situation. Very little between-song banter has been included – whether that is a plus or a negative is up to you to decide.

A source of complaint is the mix, which is heavily dominated by the bass and drums. And while the cover artwork is rather amusing in itself (a guy falling off a skyscraper while still in bed – a rude awakening indeed!), the absence of the Megadeth logo makes the product look rather faceless. Still, the set list works well enough, and the performances are ferocious, so one can’t be entirely displeased.


The Dark Ride
The Dark Ride
Price: £8.83

3.0 out of 5 stars End of an era, 3 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Dark Ride (Audio CD)
“The Dark Ride” was the first (and so far, the last) Helloween album that was produced by Roy Z, whose other production credits include Bruce Dickinson and Halford. Perhaps as a result of this rather unexpected choice for a producer, the album was quite a departure from the power metal veterans’ trademark style, with a noticeably “modern” feel. In many of the songs, the guitars are heavily down-tuned, and vocalist Andi Deris sings in a rather rough, raspy voice. With song titles such as “Mr. Torture”, “Escalation 666” and even “I Live For Your Pain”, you aren’t too off the mark in saying that this isn’t a very happy album. There are a couple of tunes with a more traditional Helloween sound, but the overall feeling is very dark and sinister.

Not everyone was happy with the direction the band was heading for, with guitarist and founding member Michael Weikath voicing his dissatisfaction afterwards. As a consequence, “The Dark Ride” marked the end of Helloween’s longest-serving line-up until then, with guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch exiting the band the following year. However, this wasn’t the last time the pumpkin metallers would use such sounds and themes, as they were heavily present on “7 Sinners” and, to a lesser extent, on “Gambling With The Devil”.


Straight Out Of Hell
Straight Out Of Hell
Price: £14.37

3.0 out of 5 stars To hell and back, 24 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Straight Out Of Hell (Audio CD)
An album cover depicting a war-torn battlefield. Pumpkin soldiers engulfed in flames and surrounded by flying bullets. With song titles like "World Of War", there seems to be a strong conflict-influenced theme involved here, something that these Germans aren't exactly famous for. But worry not, Helloween haven't gone all political: the hilarious gas-masked pumpkin in the band logo is evidence in itself that despite the odd statement here and there, the power metal veterans' tongue is still very much in cheek.

While Helloween are known for having had rather great difficulties in maintaining the same line-up for very long, "Straight Out Of Hell" is no less than their fourth studio release with the same personnel. Interestingly, a large portion of the songs on the album have been penned by bassist Markus Grosskopf and "new" guy Sascha Gerstner, breaking the pattern of latter-day Helloween albums having usually been mostly written by vocalist Andi Deris.

While these ears didn't exactly regard the band's previous offering, 2010's dark and heavily down-tuned "7 Sinners" as a bona fide classic, "Straight Out Of Hell" sees the band once again harking back to more melodic ground. Album opener, the 7-minute "Nabataea" kicks things off promisingly with its flying melodies and up-tempo feel. "World Of War" and "Far From The Stars" are rather standard power metal, while the mid-tempo "Waiting For The Thunder" is surprisingly catchy, not unlike "A Handful Of Pain" from "Better Than Raw". "Hold Me In Your Arms" could best be described as a power ballad, although less sappy than, say, "Forever And One (Neverland)". The title track ranks amongst the finest numbers on this platter, along with "Nabataea".

Of course, a Helloween album wouldn't be complete without an awkward moment or two: the down-tuned "A**hole" is rather puzzling with its swearword-littered lyrics, as is the 2-minute interlude number "Wanna Be God". Still, the majority of the material on offer wouldn't have sounded out of place on "The Time Of The Oath" (1996).

Unsurprisingly, the glory days of "Walls Of Jericho" and the first two "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" albums, or even the highlights of the band's 1990's output are once again left unmatched. However, with a surprising six new songs in their live set (as witnessed on a recent gig), Helloween seem to show a rather unexpected confidence in their new material, more so than they have in ages. If you prefer "Rabbit Don't Come Easy" to "The Dark Ride" or "7 Sinners", then this one is for you.


Skeletons And Majesties (Mini Album)
Skeletons And Majesties (Mini Album)
Price: £6.24

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Skeletons and oddities, 24 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Following the theme of 2003's live double "Skeletons In The Closet", Gamma Ray visit the less familiar parts of their back catalogue once more. This puzzling mini album is not to be confused with the live DVD of the same name Of the two "Skeletons & Majesties", the DVD is put together far more sensibly, and is definitely worth checking out. This oddity, however, is a whole different matter.

What we have here is... Re-recorded versions of two songs from the band's earlier stages ("Brothers" and "Hold Your Ground") - two of their weaker ones, to be honest. Then we have a couple of acoustic recordings: "Rebellion In Dreamland" works quite well acoustically (I still prefer the original, though), but in sharp contrast, "Send Me A Sign" sounds like a parody of the album version. "Wannabees" is a bonus track from the "To The Metal!" album; put simply, it is a terrible song and is not even funny, so it only has curiosity value. Finally, we have an extended version of the aforementioned "Brothers" (er, why?) and an instrumental "karaoke" version of "Rebellion". Oh, and a hidden track. But even that one isn't particularly funny.

A completely unnecessary release that is unlikely to satisfy even the most devoted fan. Get the DVD instead - it has all the same songs as this one (minus "Wannabees"), plus a whole lot more, and is of superior value for money. Forget this.


Heaven & Hell -Live From Radio City Music Hall [DVD]
Heaven & Hell -Live From Radio City Music Hall [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ronnie James Dio

5.0 out of 5 stars Heaven, hell, majesty, 6 Dec. 2013
I'm still somewhat peeved that they didn't call this Black Sabbath. This was the third time that they had this particular line-up, but unlike on the last two occasions, this time the band chose a different moniker. OK, Heaven & Hell it was, but in practice, it was one of Sabbath's many line-ups with just a different name.

For me, it is the Ronnie James Dio fronted Sabbath that is the definitive incarnation of the band. With the hard-hitting Vinny Appice behind the drum kit, complemented by Geezer Butler on bass and, of course, Tony Iommi on guitar, this was the strongest and technically the most accomplished line-up they ever had.

The set-list is comprised solely of songs from the Dio era, and rightly so. After Black Sabbath had concentrated on all those songs from the early 1970's on one tour after another (and pretty much neglected a large portion of their own back catalogue), it feels so refreshing to witness a set full of classics that had remained unheard for so long.

The band play for nearly two hours, with six songs from "Heaven And Hell," four from "Mob Rules," three from the criminally underrated "Dehumanizer," plus two new songs from the compilation album "The Dio Years." "After All (The Dead)" is perhaps an unlikely set opener, but the band quickly pick up the pace, following with "The Mob Rules." The grinding "I" still remains a personal favourite from "Dehumanizer," and unlike on "Live Evil" or in Dio's own live shows, the epic dirge of "The Sign Of The Southern Cross" is played in its entirety. The highlight of the show (if it is even possible to pick one) is "Heaven And Hell" itself, complete with the now-familiar added verses and live jamming. With the audience chanting throughout the song, this is little short of a religious gathering. In a setting such as this, the likes of "Paranoid" or "Iron Man" are hardly missed.

With tons of extras, including band interviews, a behind-the-scenes type of road movie and even fan reactions from outside the venue, this package leaves nothing to be desired for. A must-have.


That One Night: Live In Buenos Aires [DVD] [2009]
That One Night: Live In Buenos Aires [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Megadeth
Price: £9.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Set the world afire!, 5 Dec. 2013
Megadeth live in Argentina in 2005 in front of a huge crowd of rabid metal fans. Witnessing this live document, it is no wonder why so many artists choose to record their live products in South America - the manic audience is deafeningly loud, and even sings along some of the guitar riffs!

While the authenticity of the band's more recent live offerings has been questioned by many, this appears to be 100% live. The band is in fine form, especially main man Dave Mustaine himself, and the songs are delivered sharply yet enthusiastically.

The setlist is a nearly all-covering trip through Megadeth's back catalogue, with a couple of surprise numbers thrown in, including "Set The World Afire" and even one from the much-maligned "Risk," "I'll Be There." Three songs are included from the then-latest studio release (the comeback album "The System Has Failed"), although they had played more from that record on other gigs of the tour.

Complaints? Well, the disc features practically no extras, with only an alternative version of "Symphony Of Destruction" serving as bonus material And while the playing is flawless in itself, you can't help but feel that this is more like "Dave and the boys" rather than a genuine band effort, given that apart from Mustaine himself, none of the musicians in the line-up had appeared on any Megadeth album before. Even long-time serving bassist David Ellefson was absent at the time.

Still, the energy level of the concert is high enough, and the atmosphere can be felt even on the other side of the screen. Despite the lack of extras, the live show itself makes this release highly recommended.


Instant Clarity
Instant Clarity

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Keeper Of The Seven Chameleons, 23 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Instant Clarity (Audio CD)
Michael Kiske's first solo album after his departure from Helloween is quite a departure from the German pumpkins' trademark sound. Kiske's instantly recognisable voice remains as strong as ever, but stylistically, "Instant Clarity" is much closer to the infamous "Chameleon" than "Keeper Of The Seven Keys," with only a couple of songs that one could imagine having appeared on a Helloween album. "New Horizons" wouldn't have sounded out of place on "Keeper Part II," but the vast majority of the material is more like middle-of-the-road rock/pop than heavy metal. However, given that during his last years in the band, Kiske's songwriting had already started to deviate from power metal, this really shouldn't come off as a surprise. Acoustic guitars, keyboards and mellow songs are aplenty, the 10-minute album closer "Do I Remember A Life?" being the standout track.

What might be of interest to a Helloween fan is the fact that another ex-member of the group, Kai Hansen, appears on a few songs, also having co-written some of them. Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith makes a couple of appearances as well.

A finely crafted and impeccably produced album in itself, just don't expect a "Keeper Part III."


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