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Gentlegiantprog "Kingcrimsonprog" (England)
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Pissing Razors
Pissing Razors
Offered by actionrecords
Price: £7.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Self Titled, 15 July 2014
This review is from: Pissing Razors (Audio CD)
1998’s Pissing Razors is the self-titled breakthrough record from the defunct Texan Metal band, Pissing Razors. It was produced by Andy Sneap and released through Noise Records.

Imagine a world where the only albums that were ever released were Pantera’s Vulgar Display Of Power, Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes, Sepultura’s Chaos AD, Fear Factory’s Demanufacture and Prong’s Cleansing. Well, forgive the hyperbole but that is the world from which Pissing Razors seem to have came from. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, you can hear brief hints of Death Metal and Hardcore mixed in there too, but you get the picture.

If you are in the mood for ‘90s-Sounding, Groove-laden, crunchy, post-Thrash with staccato double kick patterns, noisy unmelodic guitar solos and gruff barked vocals then you’ve hit the jackpot. For someone hearing about the supposed genre of Groove Metal but finding it hard to find much of it actually about, here’s something else for you to try… Pissing Razors have the perfect formula in this regard.

Perhaps the most perfect examples of the band’s sound is the furious opener “Dodging Bullets,” the robotic “Permanent” and the punchy fast-paced “Where We Come From” (if you wonder whether or not you should pick up this record, try out those three tracks first. Other highlights include the adventurous “Desperado” which feels fairly progressive despite its very brief duration.

This is arguably the band’s best album. Joe Rodriguez is one of the better singers to have worked with the band, there isn’t too much filler and the material is performed with energy.

I think that maybe the reason Pissing Razors never broke as big as some of the other bands I mentioned (aside from things like luck and marketing) is that the band may have the perfect formula, the work ethic and talent… they are sadly missing a certain indefinable X-Factor that makes them larger than life and extra special. The riffs are great, but they aren’t that magic “wow, I’ve got to learn that riff myself” type of riff. There’s appropriate vocals, but there’s no obvious concert sing-along moments. The songwriting/structure is also often fairly complex which is slightly at odds with brief nature of the songs, and maybe a few less changes would make things flow better overall.

That being said, despite the fact that they aren’t as indefinably magic as some bigger bands, this is still a worthwhile effort (and one of the closest moments in their discography to that magical status). Its consistent and relatively filler-free. Its got a great guitar tone and a solid production. Its got varied, multifaceted tracks with a good amount of fast and slow, simple and complex, savage and restrained etc. …and did I mention the formula is absolutely killer?

I would recommend this album to fans of the aforementioned albums, as well as the ‘90s work of bands like Madball, Sick Of It All and Biohazard, or indeed of modern groovy bands like Devildriver, Sylosis or Lamb Of God.


Lightning Bolt
Lightning Bolt
Price: £9.48

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt, 14 July 2014
This review is from: Lightning Bolt (Audio CD)
Pearl Jam’s 2013 album, Lightning Bolt, was their fourth consecutive album with Matt Cameron on drums and Boom Gaspar on guest keyboards. It was the sixth out of their ten studio efforts to be produced by famed producer Brendan O’Brian. It was released shortly after all the celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary.

I was incredibly pleased with the band’s previous effort, 2009’s superb Backspacer album, and was slightly concerned initially that the band would perhaps not be able to follow up such a strong effort this late in their career. I needn’t have worried because Lightning Blot continues the trend of really inspired material and bright performances. While not just as upbeat and summery as its predecessor, it is equally well-written and enjoyable. Its nice to hear the band rock out like they’re

The album follows a nice journey, that begins a bit jangly, takes off into a solid rock flavor and ends in balladry. There’s a bit of variety, and you can here touches of different Pearl Jam eras from No Code-esque stuff to Riot Act style material, but it all fits together well.

The songs are fairly concise, and not overlong, mirroring the record itself… there isn’t much extra filler or any weird experimental outros. Its just half a record of the band rocking out and having good fun, and half thoughtful songwriters crafting meaningful pieces, a rather nice balance of the band’s two main directions anyway. Speedy, aggressive moments like “My Father’s Son” balance out contemplative, haunting moments like “Pendulum.”

Highlights include the sad yet jaunty ballad “Sleeping By Myself,” the powerful garage rock number “Let The Records Play,” the catchy single “Mind Your Manners” and the excellent Title Track.

Overall; Lightning Bolt is a strong and entertaining album, and I wouldn’t find it too unreasonable to claim that it was rated firmly in the top-half of their discography.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 17, 2014 1:16 PM BST


Fables from a Mayfly: ...
Fables from a Mayfly: ...
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £7.43

4.0 out of 5 stars Fair To Midland - Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True, 13 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The major label debut by the Texan Progressive/Alterative Rock band Fair To Midland; 2007’s cumbersomely titled Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True, drew public attention to the underground band when it was released on System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian’s Serjical Strike record label.

The album; produced by David Bottrill (of Tool, Muse, King Crimson, Dream Theater and Mudvayne fame), sees the band in an experimental mood, mixing touches of electronic music, Progressive Rock, Metal and hints of country music and bluegrass, with large doses of Alternative Rock, and turning it all into a single, cohesive whole. For the most part they manage to squeeze all this into succinct yet multifaceted four-minute tracks that work as catchy rock songs on one level and display hidden depths on closer inspection.

The lyrics concentrate on fairytale themes, old sayings and a general feel of poetic antiquity. The vocals are a mixture of soft melodic singing with harsh Metallic roaring in moderation, very much in keeping with the band’s spirit of mixing it up. Then the toms will starts coming in as heavy singing overtakes them and suddenly keyboards or pianos will appear. Tones range from whimsical, artistic, angry and bittersweet, often within a single track.

Highlights include “Kyla Cries Cologne,” “April Fools And Eggmen” and “Walls Of Jericho.” That being said its all fairly consistent and there isn’t much in the way of filler.

This is a record with a pretty broad appeal, and would suit fans of bands like Coheed & Cambria, Cog, Rishloo, Dead Letter Circus, The Mayan Factor etc., as well as bands like Linkin Park, Flaw and Disturbed, or indeed bands like Muse, Placebo and Radiohead. It’s a grower, and isn’t quite as instant as its superb 2011 follow-up Arrows & Anchors, but is definitely worth your time and will reward repeat listens.


Sharing Space
Sharing Space
Offered by Direct-Offers-UK-FBA
Price: £2.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cog - Sharing Space, 12 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sharing Space (Audio CD)
Sharing Space is the second full-length studio album (depending on how you feel about Just Visiting) by the sadly now defunct Australian Progressive Rock band Cog. This was the band’s final record before they split up and it’s a shame that they are no longer together as they feel slightly ahead of their time and as though if they came out now they’d receive a bit more success outside of their homeland (where this deservedly reached Gold Record status).

The sound found on the album is a sort of mixture between Prog and Alternative Metal, with thoughtful, considered and slowly unfolding pieces mixing it up beside more direct, biting material.

Album highlights include the lengthy album closer (with excellent drumming) “Problem, Reaction, Solution,” and opener “No Other Way,” as well as the more instant “Are You Interested?” and “Say Your Last Goodbye.”

They are definitely a grower sort of a band, and listening to this album gets better and better the more time and concentration you put into it. There’s a surprising amount of depth and nuance in what initially seems like a fairly simplistic record. The contrast of almost Nu Metal style bounce at times with dreamy, slow-paced sections and occasional bursts of synth (“Four Walls” and “Bitter Pills”) keeps things interesting and provides an enjoyable contrast.

The Gower brother’s vocals are emotive and the lyrics are thought provoking and interesting (check out “The Town Of Lincoln”). Add into that the little touches of samples or strings (such as on the excellent “How Long?”) and a solid, clear, effects-laden production job from Sylvia Massy of Tool and System Of A Down fame, and you have a really pleasant, rewarding listen.

If you are into bands like Amplifier, Anathema or Porcupine Tree, or indeed bands like Fair To Midland, Coheed & Cambria, Cog, Rishloo, Tool, A Perfect Circle, Karnivool, The Mayan Factor, Jurojin, Dead Letter Circus or Dredg, then Cog are certainly something you may want to check out, and if you like Cog then Sharing space is an utter must-have.


The Glorious Burden
The Glorious Burden
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden, 12 July 2014
This review is from: The Glorious Burden (Audio CD)
Iced Earth’s seventh full-length studio album; 2004’s The Glorious Burden, saw the US Power Metal band trading in long-time vocalist Matt Barlow for former Judas Priest singer Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, when Barlow felt the call of duty to serve as a law enforcement officer.

Though my personal favourite singer Iced Earth has had is probably Matt Barlow because that’s who I heard first (usually how these things go), Tim Owens is a fine replacement with a wide range, a good attitude and some real power in those lungs. He’s clearly a very talented guy and fits the band well, matching the traditional high standard of Iced Earth singers.

The album was released via SPV records and was recorded in the famous Florida studio Morrisound, co-produced by Jim Morris and band–leader Tim Schaffer. Naturally, the album sounds fantastic. Crystal clear, grand, and yet still heavy.

The music itself on The Glorious Burden is fairly in line with what you would expect from Iced Earth, if perhaps focusing a little more on the mid-tempo aspects of their style. Mixing the sounds of Traditional Heavy Metal, early 80s US Prog Metal, USPM and a surprisingly high dose of Bay Area Thrash… Iced Earth have a definite identifiable, proudly Metallic sound and don’t deviate too far from it here. It you like melody, double kicks, guitar solos and a crunchy riffs its all here to be had.

The band do stretch their wings however on the fabulous, slightly progressive, three-part album closer “Gettysburg,” which is full of civil-war era music mixed with the band’s triumphant-sounding Metal music (even going so far as to make Metal versions of melodies from “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Dixie” and add them into the proceedings). This trilogy of songs is really worth checking out and practically worth the price of the album on their own.

In addition to that however, there are also an album’s worth of brief, well-written, masterfully executed Metal tracks on the disc too. Things like the memorable “Declaration Day,” “Valley Forge” and “Red Baron/Blue Max.” This is yet another consistent, filler-free effort from the band. If you are in the right mood, and give these songs the time to sink in, you can really grow to love this record.

Overall; The Glorious Burden is a strong and interesting album from the veteran band. Iced Earth fans should enjoy it. Tim Owens fans should enjoy it. Fans of a lot of Metal style should like it too (Heck; even if you have a prejudice about Power Metal due to the Keyboards, Goblins & Wizards stereotype, this should give you a new perspective on the possibilities). If you wonder whether this album is for you, take a listen to “Valley Forge” and judge for yourself.


Something Wicked This Way Comes
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Price: £16.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Iced Earth – Something Wicked This Way Comes, 11 July 2014
Something Wicked This Way Comes is the fifth full-length studio album by the US Power Metal band Iced Earth. It was released in 1998 through Century Media records and was recorded at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida with legendary producer Jim Morris.

This is a very tight, strong and consistent record which showcases the band at the top of their game, delivering some of the best examples of their craft to date. The first two tracks; the bouncy up-tempo “Burning Times,” and the grandiose mid-paced “Melancholy (Holy Martyr)” are two of my personal favourite Iced Earth songs.

Mixing elements of early Queensryche with Iron Maiden, then injecting a flavor of the Bay Area Thrash stylings of Testament and Forbidden into things here, Iced Earth release a crunchy, tasteful and thoughtful take on Power Metal that still delivers the triumphant atmosphere and enjoyable melody, but with some added ferocity.

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the dynamic and varied vocal stylings of the very talented Matt Barlow, as well as the solid riffing and enjoyable lead guitar work of band leader John Schaffer. If you generally like powerful Metal Front-men with wide ranges, or impressive guitar virtuosos, then there’s plenty to enjoy here.

Its not all about showing-off however. The band are quite skilled at mixing different moods and tempos into single tracks. Iced Earth can make liberal use of both acoustic guitars and full-speed-ahead double kick drums, and make both sound convincing. You may think one song is all about Thrash Speed and heaviness, but suddenly an atmospheric passage will take things in a whole other direction. You may think a song is going to be a ballad, but suddenly a grand Metallic guitar will ring out and signal the band to kick things up a gear. They do this without sacrificing succinct song structures, or compromising the logical flow of the material. It’s skilled, perfectly crafted songwriting in other words.

Highlights include the fierce, menacing “Stand Alone,” as well as the instrumental “1776” and the aforementioned opening duo. There’s also the “Something Wicked Trilogy” of the final three songs, which tell a story that would be continued on two full-blown concept albums later on in the band’s career.

Overall; Something Wicked’ is a very solid and well-written album from a very talented band. I think this is a fine album to start your Iced Earth collection with, and a must-have for any existing fans. I highly recommend it to fans of bands like Hammerfall, Sabbaton, Manowar, Nevermore, Queensryche, Savatage, Testament, Exodus, Forbidden, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon etc.


Elements Pt.1
Elements Pt.1
Price: £18.87

3.0 out of 5 stars Stratovarius – Elements, Pt. 1, 1 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Elements Pt.1 (Audio CD)
Elements Part 1 is the ninth full-length studio album by the Finnish Melodic Power Metal band Stratovarius. It is one half of a two album set released in 2003 (the half other being Elements Part 2), although works as a stand-alone release. It was released through Nuclear Blast Records, and was self-produced by band leader/primary guitarist Timmo Tolkki.

The album sees the band incorporating much more of a progressive attitude into their sound; and really leaning heavily on synths, acoustics, choirs, strings etc. Most of the tracks are lengthy multifaceted compositions that each sound like the album closer on a normal album.

In some ways, the music is also a little more flowery than their previous work and some stricter Metal fans may find things a bit beyond the threshold of their tastes. There’s an almost symphonic feel going on here. If you aren’t generally a huge Queen fan, or frequently find yourself disliking cheesiness or pomp, then I’d recommend a try-before-you-buy attitude to this record. On the other hand, if you love things big, bombastic, dynamic and slightly progressive (yet really polished and slick) then tracks like “Papillon” “Fantasia” and the moody Title Track should be right up your street.

Regardless of musical direction, Elements Part 1 can feel a little uneven at times. There are a few moments like the opener, the brilliant catchy single “Eagle Heart,”” as well as the superb virtuosic instrumental “Stratofortress,” the melodic “Learning To Fly,” and the heavier “Find Your Own Voice” that really shine, but you can miss out on that on initial listening’s because something about the tracklisting feels ever so slightly off. It doesn’t flow right to my own ears, and this can take the power away from songs. I recommend re-aranging the tracks from shortest to longest, which seems to rectify this.

Overall; This is an album that saw the band in a transitional period, moving from their more direct and speedy past, to their more progressive future. It isn’t flawless, and some of the material can be a bit overwhelming at times, but there is still a lot of good to be found here. I wouldn’t recommend you make this your first Stratovarius album, but if you already like the band its certainly worth investigating.


Infinite
Infinite
Price: £5.43

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stratovarius - Infinite, 30 Jun 2014
This review is from: Infinite (Audio CD)
2000’s Infinite was the Finnish Melodic Power Metal band Stratovarius’ eighth full-length studio album, it was self-produced by the band’s own leader/lead guitarist Timmo Tolkki, and released through Nuclear Blast records. It was a number one album in their Finnish Homeland, and featured the smash hit single “Hunting High And Low.”

This is a strong and thoroughly entertaining album, that sees the band mix in a few different styles, adding in some of their classic powerful, speedy Melodic Power Metal, a few commercial moments, and a few tips of the hat to the Progressive Metal side that would become a bigger and bigger part of their sound on subsequent records.

Highlights include the aforementioned hit single, which is incredibly good-fun and immensely replayable, as well as the thrashier “Millenium” which showcases the band’s heavier side, the incredibly fun “Freedom” (which almost sounds like Helloween in a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade), and the grandiose 9-minute “Infinity.”

The vocals are strong, the musicianship is honed to perfection, the production is crystal clear. If you are already a fan don’t hesitate to pick this one up. If not; Do you like your Metal with neoclassical keyboard solos, flowery sing along choruses and hammering double-kicks? Do you like a healthy mixture of ballads, epics, and straight ahead synthy Hard Rock tunes in there too for variety? If so, Infinite might just be the album for you.

Overall; Infinite is a pretty top-notch release from Stratovarius, one where they try their hand at all aspects of their sound and succeed in each of them.

(P.S. There’s an absolutely killer part three and a half minutes into “Pheonix” that will put a smile on any Metal fan’s face.)


Helloween: High Live [DVD]
Helloween: High Live [DVD]
Dvd ~ Helloween

4.0 out of 5 stars Helloween - High Live, 30 Jun 2014
This review is from: Helloween: High Live [DVD] (DVD)
High Live is a concert DVD by the legendary German Power Metal band Helloween, recorded in Milan, Italy (and Gerona, Spain) in 1996 on the Time Of The Oath tour.

The main feature is a scorching 84-minute concert, in which an energetic and totally on-form band blast through a lot of material from Master Of The Rings and Time Of The Oath to an enthusiastic crowd. Just going off the performance, this is an absolute 5-star live album.

Songs like “Sole Survivor,” “Before The War” and “Power” sound absolutely blistering here, and I’d highly recommend checking it out on that basis. Andi’s vocals on his own material are absolutely excellent on this release, and Uli’s powerful, understated drumming absolutely kills.

There are a few downsides to the overall product however, such as the picture being a little soft and not the sharpest. The sound is pretty great in one way, and you really get that “live feel,” but you have to turn it up fairly loud for it to become clear, as things can sound a bit muddy on low volumes. Nothing show-destroying though.

The other potential downside is that at the end of some songs, it stops, when they cut to the other concert (eg. from Italy to Spain) and the transition isn’t perfectly smooth, which may interrupt the flow a little. Luckily this never happens in the middle of songs or anything outrageous like that, and for the most part isn’t actually too disruptive.

Apart from that, this is a pretty great main feature all round, and shows the band proving why they are still one of the biggest names in Power Metal. In terms of bonus features: There is a text “History” feature, a discography feature and a photo gallery. All your standard ‘90s DVD extras that don’t add too much really, but look good written on the back of the box.

There is also a five minute “review” feature by Malcome Dome, which is a brief Metal Evolution style history lesson with a mixture of archive footage of the band and talking-head footage of Dome. The dialogue is a bit stiff and the audio is a bit muffled, but as a free extra its still worth a watch.

The track-listing for the main concert is:

1. We Burn
2. Wake Up The Mountain
3. Sole Survivor
4. The Change
5. Why
6. Eagle Fly Free
7. Time Of The Oath
8. Future World
9. Dr. Stein
10. Before The War
11. Mr Ego
12. Power
13. Where The Rain Grows
14. In The Middle Of A Heartbeat
15. Perfect Gentleman
16. Steel Tormentor

Overall; If you like the band, especially if you like the Deris era, then it’s a pretty worthwhile purchase. It shows the band at their Europe-conquering best, dripping with enthusiasm and playing like they mean it. The sound and editing are a tiny bit imperfect, but the band themselves more than make up for it.


Visions
Visions

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stratovarius - Visions, 27 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Visions (Audio CD)
Visions is the sixth full-length studio album by the Finish Power Metal band Stratovarius. It was released in 1997 on Noise Records and self-produced by the band’s guitarist/mastermind Timo Tolkki.

The style on music found here is speedy, soaring, upbeat Melodic Power Metal with constant double kicks, plentiful guitar solos, and a prominent keyboardist who doesn’t just take on a background role (Jens Johansson of Yngwie Malmsteen fame).

The album opens with the excellent, concert-favourite tracks “Black Diamond” and “The Kiss Of Judas.” If you wonder whether or not to try out the album, or even the band, then these are songs that you may want to preview first.

Similarly excellent, is the brilliant “Legions” which sounds at first almost identical to Queensr˙che’s “Queen Of The Reich” before veering off on a tangent into that quintessentially European “Glorious/Victorious” feeling, and becomes more of its own song. Singer Timo Kotipelto’s vocals on this track are incredible.

There’s also a fair bit of variety on the album; for example “Paradise” is fun and bouncy, “Holy Light” is a virtuosic instrumental track and there’s also the strong, tasteful power ballad “Coming Home.” The album’s other Power Ballad, “Before The Winter” shows large tendencies towards 1970s Progressive Rock and points towards the direction that the band would take on their Elements Part 1 and Part 2 albums.

The album ends with the 10-minute title track, which is a multifaceted gem with acoustic parts, choral parts, speedy stereotypically Power Metal sections and slower moody sections. It pretty much mixes everything from the album thus far into one single song.

The standard of musicianship, songwriting and production are all top notch on this record, everything is very tight and there is no filler. This is a very strong album for Stratovarius and a good choice to start your collection with.


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