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Gentlegiantprog "Kingcrimsonprog" (England)

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Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £9.28

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accept - Stalingrad, 30 April 2012
This review is from: Stalingrad (Audio CD)
Stalingrad is the thirteenth full-length studio album by the German Metal band Accept, and their second since reuniting and working with new frontman Mark Tornillo (of T.T. Quick fame) following up on the critically acclaimed comeback album Blood Of Nations from 2010.

The quality of the songwriting is excellent and the band make a superb job of mixing ballsy up-tempo tracks of purely driving classic Heavy Metal and longer dynamic tracks that shift tempos and explore clean and acoustic territory as well. There is enough variety so it isn't all just the same, but enough consistency that you're getting a pure and succinct experience.

Like Blood Of Nations before it, Stalingrad takes the classic Accept sound and modernizes it slightly. Don't misunderstand, it isn't overly contrived to be youthful, but it is energetic and vital with any cheesiness removed. The record touches on a few metal styles, with hints of Thrash, Speed and Power Metal all creeping in in small doses alongside the classic Teutonic Metal style off the early Accept albums.

Basically; imagine all the best elements of bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Megadeth, Overkill, and others condensed down into one album of tasteful guitar melodies and soaring leads, gang-backing-vocals and hard crunchy riffs. Mark's gravely low voice and occasional high notes come across as a brilliant mid-way point between Lemmy influenced singers and Halford influenced singers and suit the music remarkably well.

The production, from Andy Sneap is also utterly perfect for the album and makes the music sound both powerful and clear, with crunchy feeling on the palm muted riffs and a clean sound on the leads. It isn't as dynamic as a 70s or 80s production job but it is a fantastic example of what a modern job can sound like when done right.

Overall, if you like Accept and especially their new line-up then this is a must-have record; if you like traditional heavy metal then this is really worth exploring and finally if you like any other metal in general then you should consider giving this record a chance. Its solid, its meaty, it's the perfect mixture of very Hard Rock and straight-up Metal and I highly recommend it.

Born Villain
Born Villain
Price: £9.52

31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marilyn Manson - Born Villain, 30 April 2012
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This review is from: Born Villain (Audio CD)
2012's Born Villain is the eighth full-length studio album by Marilyn Manson. As with the previous two albums it was self-produced, mixed by Sean Beavan and no living drummer is fully credited throughout. The line-up features Manson, Vrenna & Ramirez like the previous album, only now with Fred Sablan on bass. Interestingly though, Vrenna left the band before the album's release.

For many fans, the band's golden period is considered to be The Triptych (Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals & Holywood), a trilogy of three interlinked concept albums that were released at the height of Manson's fame, critical acclaim, cultural relevance and commercial success. Ever since then; after a decade of line-up instability, notably poor live performances and albums that didn't meet many fan's expectations, the band's stock has diminished considerably in the eyes of the media and a large portion of the fanbase.

I wouldn't go so far as to call this new record a triumphant comeback, but it is undeniably strong and consistent, and arguably the best thing he has released in years. I'd urge you to forget any pretentious interviews or music videos associated with it and give the music a fair and honest chance.

If you have liked the last three Manson albums, then Born Villain is certainly worth trying out. The album has some seriously enjoyable songs that would fit well into a live set or compilation album, and isn't overly full of ballads or slow tracks that don't go anywhere. It isn't just a dull dirge... It is louder, more bombastic and more confident than any of the last few records.

Stylistically, It seems that Manson is going for a mix between trying new things and delving into his back catalogue as well. The opening track `Hey, Cruel World...' has a nice catchy chugging riff and even some double-kicks at one point, but there is also a section towards the end that sounds like it would have fit well on Portrait Of An American Family. Then the album-version of `No Reflection' has a whole build-up section in it that is reminiscent of Holywood and there are even a few allusions to Mechanical Animal's style in `Flowers Of Evil' and `Breaking The Same Old Ground.'

There is also some material that is totally new for the band as well; `Slo-Mo-Tion' is unlike any of his older material, `Lay Down Your Arms' borders on Stoner-Rock territory at times and `Murders Are Getting Prettier Every Day' is deliberately in-your-face-heavy.

Overall, I think the right balance has been struck between innovation and giving the fans what they want. The album covers a lot of ground, but crucially doesn't sound confused for all the diversity. There are loads of little moments like the hi-hat being way louder in the chorus or an effect on the vocals coming in the third time around etc that really give the tracks a power and `umph' that has arguably been missing for a while.

In my own personal opinion Born Villain is my favourite Manson album since Holywood. That being said however, this album does not meet the same artistic height as any of the individual parts in the aforementioned Triptych and I suspect that if you only enjoy those albums, this probably won't win you back.

To be absolutely fair, if the band's career consisted of only their debut and then the albums from Golden Age Of Grotesque onwards, then Born Villain would be readily considered a great album as it such a solid, creative and well-made album in its own right. It is only because it has the unfair expectation of having to compete with three albums that have been absolutely beloved by millions of fans for over a decade as well as having to redeem, excuse and justify the aforementioned decade of decline that Born Villain unfortunately doesn't measure up.

In summary; if you try and be objective then the album will seem a lot better than you probably expect it to be, but at the same time there is no getting around that Marilyn Manson has made better albums than this in the past and this record isn't up to the highest standards that the band have set for themselves.

I feel that this is easily his strongest non-Triptych album and if you have given up on Manson in recent years, it is good enough to at least warrant a cautious test-listen. If you have stayed a fan all along however, this will doubtless be an immensely enjoyable album indeed.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 5, 2012 8:43 AM BST

The Warning
The Warning
Price: £7.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Queensr’che - The Warning, 28 April 2012
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This review is from: The Warning (Audio CD)
1984's The Warning is the debut studio album by the Seattle Based Progressive Metal band Queensr’che. It was recorded in London and produced by James Guthrie who is notable for his work with Judas Priest, Pink Floyd and also Pink Floyd members' solo albums.

Compared to all other Queensr’che albums, it is the most traditionally Heavy Metal of their works stylistically. It is also arguably the least Progressive of their early albums, although it still shows clear signs of ambitious songwriting and a desire to push the boundaries of the genre. `Road To Madness' for example is an almost ten-minute track with acoustic sections, electric sections, a symphonic sounding back-up and even a few time signature changes towards the end.

Unless you really don't like the sound of classic Heavy Metal, in the vein of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio and early Overkill then The Warning will be an instantly enjoyable album. The standard of songwriting is excellent and the tracks are all for the most part catchy and memorable with driving riffs, pleasing guitar solos and fantastic vocals from the impressive Geoff Tate.

Highlight include `En Force' `N M 156' `Child Of Fire' and of course the aforementioned `Roads To Madness.

Overall, The Warning is Queensr’che's most straightforwardly metal album, and the band excels at delivering that style in a powerful, catchy and intelligent manner. I feel the album is pretty underrated and would happily recommend it to fans from a Metal background. If you like Queensr’che and aren't only in it for nothing but the Prog and the Prog alone, then you really should give the album a try.

High End Of Low
High End Of Low
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £5.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marilyn Manson - The High End Of Low, 26 April 2012
This review is from: High End Of Low (Audio CD)
The High End Of Low was the seventh full-length studio album by Marilyn Manson. It was released in 2009 and saw Twiggy Ramirez rejoin the band after a two-album absence.

The album was met with mixed reviews, some happy that Ramirez was back and the music was more upbeat than on the previous record and some negative about that the music and lyrics not being up to standard.

In my own opinion The High End Of Low is actually an enjoyable album and there are some great moments on it. It is however let down by a few problems, and also in comparison to some of his other albums. The main problems are track sequencing, album duration, stylistic inconstancy and some of the same lyrical misfiring that has been present on every album after Holywood.

For the most part, the album feels a little confused and overlong. For one; the track order seems a little too scattered, as though the songs were hastily rearranged out of the correct order at the last minute and consequently several tracks don't seem really to fit well between the songs the follow or precede.

Secondly, the album is 72 minutes long and the copious material within is in a wealth of different styles to the point where it almost feels as if it is trying too much at once. Variety is usually a good thing and it is often nice to have an album that doesn't end too early, but The High End Of Low unfortunately doesn't get the balance just right.

For example, there are a few up tempo heavy tracks in `Pretty As A Swastika' `We're From America' and `Blank And White' which sit alongside dark pop like `Devour' and `Unkillable Monster' as well as ballads like `Four Rusted Horses' `Into The Fire' and `15' and even a trippy hypnotic number called `I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies' that lasts for nine minutes and feels like an album closer but bizarrely sits at the halfway point.

After a hypnotic nine-minute album closer the rest of the album seems a little bit like a drag, especially when thereafter tracks are generally slower and less dynamic. This makes the album difficult to digest and it almost feels as if you need to take it in across two separate sittings each time.

Despite these problems, there are quite a few highlights and there is a lot to enjoy on the album. Some of the tracks are very enjoyable, it grows on you with repeat listens and despite taking it too far, the variety on offer does give the album a much less one-dimensional feel than the two albums which preceded it. Should you wish to only listen to the best moments or to take it in across two sittings then you will find enough moments to enjoy without risking being overwhelmed in an avalanche of conflicting ideas.

In summary, The High End Of Low is a flawed album but ultimately it is still a decent album despite these flaws. It may seem a little lacking on first listen, but closer inspection will reveal hidden quality. While it isn't up to the extremely high standards of the band at their absolute peak, it is still of a high enough standard to be worth a listen for both die-hards who like everything Manson does and casual fans who don't just care about the three best albums.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2012 6:52 PM BST

Sad Wings of Destiny
Sad Wings of Destiny
Price: £7.52

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Judas Priest - Sad Wings Of Destiny, 23 April 2012
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This review is from: Sad Wings of Destiny (Audio CD)
Sad Wings Of Destiny was the second full-length studio album by the legendary British Heavy Metal band Judas Priest. It was released in 1976 and was their final studio album to be released on the small label Gull Records.

Since its initial release, Sad Wings' has gone on to become one of the band's most popular and enduring records and also one of the most definitive and influential albums in the history of Heavy Metal. The band have represented the album well in live shows and compilations all throughout their career and numerous important bands have covered tracks from it throughout the years.

Musically, Sad Wings Of Destiny is an interesting and impressive album that was years ahead of its time and miles ahead of its 1974 predecessor Rocka Rolla despite much of the material being written roughly around the same time.
Practically every song on the album is either instantly loveable or a grower that will become loveable over time, or else a mixture of the two, such as on `Victim Of Changes' which just kind of gets better with every listen and also becomes even more dynamic and explosive on their live albums.

Stylistically, the band mix grand piano lead tracks with lengthy semi-epic tracks, acoustic moments and outright rockers, and end up delivering at least something for all kinds of fans. Tracks like `The Ripper,' `Deceiver' and `Genocide' with their use of twin guitar work, power chords, palm muting and powerful steady drumming foreshadow almost two decades of Metal music, and still stand up as good songs to this day.

Then the more Progressive Rock influenced moments like `Prelude' and `Epitaph' showcase the talent and variety that the band were capable of musically and the immense range that singer Rob Halford can operate within, and ultimately help prevent the album from seeming one-dimensional or dull.

Overall; If you like Metal music this is something you should seriously consider listening to and if you like Judas Priest it is an absolute must-have record that no fan should be without for long. Sad Wings Of Destiny is not just an important historical document, but a genuinely enjoyable album that still stands up remarkably well to this day.

Promised Land
Promised Land
Price: £6.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Queensr’che - Promised Land, 19 April 2012
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This review is from: Promised Land (Audio CD)
Promised Land was the fifth full-length Studio Album from the Seattle Progressive Metal band Queensr’che, it was released in 1994 following up their multi-platinum selling 1990 album Empire.

The music on the album for the most part is not up-tempo driving metal music like some of their earlier work or shimmering commercial rock like some of their highest charting stuff, but rather a slow and contemplative progressive style that relies on piano, saxophone and acoustic guitar to do a lot of the work. It is the sort of album that requires a lot of patience to really enjoy, and may take a few listens to really wrap your head around properly.

Despite the slower brooding pace and mostly quieter nature of Promised Land when compared to the band's earlier material, the strength of the songwriting is still very impressive and when it does finally kick off there are moments of superb lead guitar to enjoy as well. This isn't necessarily an album to listen to if you want to bang your head, but if you allow the music to just wash over you it will prove to be among the best moments in the band's career.

Thinking about it, there are two kinds of songs on the album; big powerful tracks that start off as quiet ballads or hypnotic, dense and slow building songs that evolve slowly over time with some metal riffs and a sort of eastern flavor. In addition to the core band there are often a lot of weird percussive rhythms and touches of synth, but the main focus is on the vocals and lyrics.

Geoff Tate's powerful and dynamic voice caries the listener through a whole range of moods and mindsets, from desolation to practical thinking across a range of topics from parental relationships to coming to terms with your inability to improve the state of the world.

Highlights include the emotional `Bridge' as well as `My Global Mind' and the lyrically superb `One More Time.'

Overall, if you are willing to give it the time and patience that it asks of you, Promised Land is a very interesting album that is worth a place in your collection.

Carolina County Ball
Carolina County Ball
Price: £6.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ronnie James Dio - The Elf Albums, 17 April 2012
This review is from: Carolina County Ball (Audio CD)
Elf was a band that Dio was in early in his career; before his solo band, before Black Sabbath and even before Rainbow, although the early line-up of Rainbow was made up primarily of members from Elf. Ronnie James Dio The Elf Albums is a compilation album released in the early nineties that features the second and third studio albums by Elf together on one disc. The albums in question are 1974's Carolina Country Ball and 1975's Trying To Burn The Sun.

There are a few flaws with the package that a lot of people can sometimes have a problem with; the artwork doesn't fully replicate either album's artwork, there is a slight audio flaw on one of the tracks and the mastering isn't especially good. For a lot of people this will only be a set of minor inconveniences, but if you are usually upset strongly by similar circumstances then it may be worth avoiding this set.

As for the albums themselves, the quality is relatively strong although arguably not on the same level as any of the bands for which Dio would later become famous.

Musically the albums are driven primarily by piano and vocals, with guitar taking something of a back seat for the most part. There is a very clear influence of blues, country and 1950s Rock n Roll on display and it would not be unreasonable to call them more indebted to Honkey Tonk than Hard Rock.

If you can imagine the more boogie orientated tracks by bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Foghat, such as `I Know A Little' and `Trouble Trouble' respectively, mixed with the more 1950s influenced moments by Deep Purple and Queen like `Freedom' and `Crazy Little Thing Called Love' respectively, then you can get some idea of the material on offer here.

Even if you prefer a much heavier style of music than is available here, Ronnie James Dio's incredible voice is still there to keep your interest, although he hasn't developed some of his signature techniques yet which makes for interesting listening. You can hear the potential for what he would do in his solo career but with the benefit of hindsight you can pick up some of the same influences that Ian Gillan and Freddie Mercury had in Dio's performance.

If you go in more for the less-heavy moments, or just want an interesting record of Dio's voice before he had finished creating his own delivery style then Carolina Country Ball will be the more interesting of the two records on the set, and if you want something harder and more similar to Rainbow's debut album (albeit mixed with the style Queen's first three albums) then Trying To Burn The Sun will likely be where you get your money's worth here.

In all honesty it isn't an absolutely essential record by any means, but it is a welcome addition to anyone's collection that will bring at least one or two loveable tracks into your longer-term rotation and is worth checking out to satisfy your curiosity.

Rage For Order
Rage For Order
Price: £7.42

4.0 out of 5 stars Queensr’che - Rage For Order, 16 April 2012
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This review is from: Rage For Order (Audio CD)
Rage For Order was the second full-length studio album by the Seattle based Progressive Metal band Queensr’che. It was released 1986 and is quite a curious album that is both hailed by some fans as a masterpiece and condemned by other fans as a forgettable transitional period.

Initially it may take quite a few listens to really familiarize yourself with and grow accustomed to. If you only heard one or two Queensr’che tracks before buying this it may be pretty confusing, unexpected and hard to absorb at first.

When the album came out a lot of Metal bands were incorporating synths into their sound, and indeed a lot of lighter more pop orientated metal bands were coming out and getting radio success yet this synth filled late eighties metal album doesn't really sound anything like either of the aforementioned styles. Additionally, it also came out just before the real first wave of Prog Metal bands had gained momentum and doesn't share many sonic similarities there either.

The actual music has gotten fairly far away from anything that a conventional Metal band would write at this point, yet isn't glam and isn't stereotypically Prog Metal either, in the sense of long songs with long shredding guitar solos. The album that the band released after this, Operation Mindcrime, actually had songs on it like `Speak' `Spreading The Disease' and `The Needle Lies' that were much closer to the traditional spirit of metal than anything on Rage For Order.

Stylistically, the music on this record is relatively dark, brief and quiet restrained in parts. There are moments of hard metal riffs and blazing guitar solos but they are very few and far between. It incorporates a lot of artificial sounds and synth work but in a completely different way to how the likes of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden did at the time and is more unique in its implementation of the controversial instrument.

Rage For Order delivers its dystopian themed messages of paranoia and societal-breakdown in an atmospheric and for the most part vocal-led way, that almost recalls Marillion and the solo career of Roger Waters in as much as the vocal and lyrical content takes center stage quite often and a lot of import is placed on Geoff Tate's diction and emphasis.

Luckily however, Geoff Tate is a remarkably diverse and talented singer with the skill and range to carry off such an album well. The more you get into the nuances of his performance and the polyrhythmic interplay between him and all the other band members, the more the album opens itself up to you as a listener.

Highlights include `Chemical Youth (We Are The Rebellion)' `Screaming In Digital' and `Surgical Strike.'

In summary, this isn't an album that really fits in neatly into one little box, and in that sense it embodies the true spirit of progressive music. No one had made an album like this before; it was music that literally nothing else sounded like. The evocative, melodic and richly textured music can take a good few listens to really "get," but it sure is worth giving it that chance.

No Reservations
No Reservations
Offered by Alemannenprog
Price: £11.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blackfoot - No Reservations, 11 April 2012
This review is from: No Reservations (Audio CD)
Blackfoot were a Southern Rock band from Jacksonville Florida formed by Greg T. Walker and Rick Medlocke (of Lynyrd Skynyrd) around 1970, named after several of the band member's Native American ancestry.

The band broke through big from around 1979-1981 with a trio of superb records that mixed Southern Rock attitude and stylings with a more heavy metal approach and production style. Before that however, the band released two albums that were more traditional, Flyin' High and their debut album No Reservations.

1975's No Reservations shows the potential that the band had even at this early stage in their career. Despite its basic production values and slightly derivative songwriting, there is still a lot of interesting material to be found.

In terms of positives, the album has variety on its side. Mixing some great rock moments like the album highlights `Born To Rock N Roll' and `Take A Train' with quieter moments like the `Simple Man' referencing ballad `Stars' and the excellent Bluegrass album closer `Railroad Man.'

The only problem with the album is that the level of energy is comparatively restrained for the majority of each song's duration, which can make the songs seem a lot less dynamic and interesting than they really are.

Every song does kick right into life when the guitar solos break out however, and suddenly all band members start playing the absolute hell out of their instruments. Had they delivered more of the album with this level of passion and intensity it would be a truly powerful and memorable record.

As it stands it is a nice addition to your Blackfoot collection, although not really something I would recommend to non-fans or first time buyers in the same way that I would recommend any of the four albums which followed. That being said; the more you listen to it, the more it grows on you and while it isn't just as world beating as some of their finest work, it is still way above average.

Flyin' High
Flyin' High
Price: £11.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Blackfoot - Flyin' High, 8 April 2012
This review is from: Flyin' High (Audio CD)
Blackfoot are a Southern Rock band from Florida who mixed hard rock and heavy metal into their sound to create a trilogy of fondly remembered albums between 1979 and 1981.

They are notable for featuring Rick Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd on Guitar and Vocals as well as for being one of the heaviest bands in the Southern Rock genre. This band is something that I would highly recommend to fans of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, Outlaws and the Allman Brothers, as well as to fans of the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Rainbow and Scorpions.

Before the aforementioned `79-`81 period commonly accepted the band's golden-age, Blackfoot had already released two underrated studio albums; their 1975 debut No Reservations and this album, 1976's Flyin' High.

While not as famous as the three albums that would follow, not as well produced and not as easy to find a first-hand copy of these days, Flyin' High is still a great album for both fans of the band and fans of the genre in general. The style of music is raucous and energetic Southern Rock with a mixture of quiet moments, boogie and outright hard rock, and the execution of said style is wonderful.

Highlights include the storming `Junkie's Dream,' as well as the fun `Dancing Man' and the ballad `Mother.'

Overall, if you are already familiar with Blackfoot's more famous moments, Flyin' High is an excellent addition to your collection and well worth checking out if you can find yourself a copy at a reasonable price.

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