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Kingcrimsonprog "Kingcrimsonprog" (England)

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The Dark Ride
The Dark Ride
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £16.87

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Helloween - The Dark Ride, 24 May 2014
This review is from: The Dark Ride (Audio CD)
The Dark Ride, from 2000, is the ninth full-length studio album by the legendary German Power Metal band Helloween. It was produced by Roy Z (Halford, Judas Priest, Bruce Dickenson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Sepultura) and Charlie Bauerfeind (Angra, Blind Guardian, Primal Fear, Hammerfall) and released through Nuclear Blast records.

It was the fourth and final record by the Derris, Weikath, Grapow, Grosskopf, Kutch line-up, who released the Master Of The Rings, Time Of The Oath and Better Than Raw albums in the 90s. After this album, guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch left Helloween and started the band Masterplan.

Sometimes people tend to dismiss The Dark Ride as a bad record and sometimes people tend to think of it as a massive departure from the band’s usual style. I feel this album is a bit of an underdog album in their discography that has a bad rap that it doesn’t deserve. Initially I wasn’t crazy about it, but it is a real grower and with repeat listens I really, really warmed to its charms.

It is undoubtedly true that there are a few mid-tempo numbers like “The Departed (Sun Is Going Down),” “Immortal (Stars)” and “Mirror, Mirror,” some of which have with some downtuned guitars and pinch harmonics (“Escalation 666”) which isn’t what you’d expect from this band most of the time …and of course, there is a Power Ballad (“If I Could Fly”), but to be fair, there has been one on every Helloween album since The Keepers.

There are however also some of the bouncy, happy, up-tempo Power Metal songs with melodic choruses and great guitar solos just like you’d expect from Helloween (“Salvation,” “All Over The Nations,” “We Damn The Night,” “The Dark Ride”). As well as just fitting the bill of being in the band’s usual style, these are top-quality tracks as well. The Title-Track in particular is excellent. If you wonder whether this album is too dark for you, give the Title Track a listen first.

I wouldn’t make this your first Helloween record if you are a newcomer (Go for the Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums) or your first Derris-era record if you are a Derris-skeptic (Go for Time Of The Oath) but it is still a good record with a lot to offer and not worth skipping entirely. The musicianship, vocals and production job are all pretty great and there’s plenty of memorable and enjoyable material on offer throughout.

If you are an existing Helloween fan but haven’t chosen to pick up a copy of The Dark Ride yet, I don’t think its wise to think of this album as being way too different from the Helloween you know and love. Even if you only like Helloween doing strictly their usual stuff, you’ll enjoy half of the record. Furthermore, Even when songs aren’t in the style you expect from the band, they are usually quite great songs anyway. “I Live For Your Pain” for example isn’t speedy, but it has a great melodic chorus and an absolutely fantastic guitar solo. When you’re listening to the finely produced record, during an uplifting neoclassical sounding guitar solo you should find yourself entertained, even if magazine reviews at the time said the album was darker than usual.

Overall; The Dark Ride is not your typical Helloween record, and sees the band adding a few more strings to their bow, but there’s still plenty of what makes them great in there, and just because there is some change, does not necessarily mean its bad change, look at it more like a bit of variety to break up things and keep it interesting. Don’t miss out on this one due to the reputation.

Price: £11.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Protest The Hero - Fortress, 22 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Fortress (Audio CD)
Fortress is the second full-length studio album by the unique Canadian band Protest The Hero. It was released in early 2008 and produced by Juice Butty (Alexisonfire, City & Colour, Kobra And The Lotus). It is generally regarded as the band’s heaviest album to date, and featured the breakthrough singles “Bloodmeat” “Sequoia Throne” and “Palms Read.”

Mixing a few dozen strains of Progressive Metal and Mathcore, with occasional Melodic Death Metal riffs, the band have developed their own instantly recognizable sound. The band dart rapidly between different ideas and styles and cover an astounding amount of ground in a single song, without ever sounding like they are just being wacky for the sake of it.

This album sees the band at their most savage, their most technical and their most esoteric. The lyrical content is less personal and focuses on the concept of Goddess Worship. The music is less poppy and the vocals feature a lot more growls and screams.

Highlights include the brilliant and varied “Bone Marrow” which starts off Eastern Tinged, has sort of symphonic flourishes low in the mix but bursts into a huge melodic chorus and almost Reggae sounding breakdown, as well as “Limb From Limb” which contains an interesting out of character Synth solo, and the the very catchy and memorable “Wretch.”

There are so many great little touches that every song is interesting to listen to over and over again to get to grips with all the different ideas. There are so many excellent vocal patterns, interesting drum patterns, amazing little guitar and bass runs and interesting lyrics scattered through every single song that it can take numerous listens to realize just how great any one song is… so full with great parts are they that a quarter of the parts from a single song here contains enough standout moments to fill about four songs by a normal band.

Some highlights include the part behind the lyric “It’s a neighbour saving face by saying grace today for yesterday’s beahviour,” “Growing fat on the throne where he sat like a stone, a man who has never known no hunger or shown no mercy,” “Do not beg before me, I will not heed your appeals, with your final words be grateful you died by Irish steel” and “Hell-bent on heaven.” Its little moments like that, that will have you coming back to the album time and again. The album is absolutely chocked full of such memorable moments.

Every Protest The Hero album is of the highest quality, so if you enjoy Fortress make sure to pick up the rest of their fantastic catalogue, they are one of the most consistent and consistently interesting bands going at the moment. Fortress is probably the band’s most heavy and aggressive outing, so it might be a good place to start if you want to hear that side of the band’s style represented more often.

Follow The Reaper
Follow The Reaper
Price: £8.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Children Of Bodom - Follow The Reaper, 22 May 2014
This review is from: Follow The Reaper (Audio CD)
Follow The Reaper is the third full-length studio album by the unique Finnish Melodic Death Metal band Children Of Bodom. It was released in 2000, and has gone on to become something of a fan-favourite record, with many of the tracks becoming live staples.

This would be the last Bodom album before they started incorporating more Groove Metal influences into their sound. The sound here is more based in Melodic European Power Metal than on the albums which would follow.

The album is strong and consistent, with exceptional musicianship and a clear production job. It does a good job of balancing blistering guitar shredding and thundering double-kick speed with nuanced song writing, coming across as an album that is both impressive on a virtuosity level and coherent on the gut level. Choruses are memorable, guitar leads are fun and the record flows well, with no filler or out of place experimental material.

Highlights include the incredibly fun “Bodom After Midnight,” as well as “Everytime I Die” and the single “Hate Me!”

Overall; Follow The Reaper is a very strong album and one which no Children Of Bodom fan should be without.

Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Black Label Society - Mafia, 22 May 2014
This review is from: Mafia (Audio CD)
Black Label Society’s sixth full-length studio album, Mafia, was released on Artemis records in 2005. It is one of the band’s most popular records to date.

The album contains the famous tracks “Fire It Up” (featured in Guitar Hero), Suicide Messiah (About Scott Weiland’s addiction problems) and the ballad “In This River” (Retroactively made into a tribute to the late Dimebag Darrell afterwards).

It is one of the band’s most straight-forward and easily digestible records, with a very clean production job, mostly shorter track durations, and the emphasis shifted slightly from big dirty riffs and meaty grooves to more of a focus on the cleaner vocals and the guitar tricks. If you have lots of Black Label Society albums already, or really prefer the rawer and heavier sound of their debut then you may want to give this one a miss, but otherwise this is a solid, streamlined, fan-pleasing record which delivers exactly what you would expect from the band and from Zakk.

“Forever Down” is the perfect example of the album’s style. It’s a three-minute track that begins with a piano intro to showcase the band’s cleaner side. A simple stompy beat in an upper-mid-tempo pervades throughout, topped off with a main riff with lots of pinches and vibratos, and is augmented towards the end with nice flashy solo. If you wonder whether or not this album is for you, try out that track.

Highlights include the quicker “Say What You Will,” the moody “Too Tough To Die” and the groovy “Been A Long Time.”

Overall; Black Label Society have heavier albums, lighter albums and more varied albums than this. However, if you want the archetypal Black Label Society sound and the hit singles then this is the obvious place to go. Its slick, comfortable, and a good starting place for new fans. If you can, try and pick up a version with the Lynyrd Skynyrd cover “I Never Dreamed” as a bonus track.

Better Than Raw
Better Than Raw
Offered by westworld-
Price: £14.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Helloween - Better Than Raw, 21 May 2014
This review is from: Better Than Raw (Audio CD)
Better Than Raw (named after an in-joke about a meal the band once had) is the eighth-full length studio album by the German Power Metal band Helloween. It was released in 1998, following up the excellent Time Of The Oath record, and was the third album in a row to feature the line-up of Andi Deris on Vocals, Michael Weikath and Roland Grapow on Guitar, Markus Grosskopf on Bass and Uli Kusch on the Drums.

If anyone was to ask what the Deris era of Helloween album sounded like, this is the album that I would select in reply. After searching for their sound on Master Of The Rings and perfecting it on Time Of The Oath; Better Than Raw sees the band sit down, focus, and deliver an absolutely marvelous, tight and relentlessly catchy selection of melodic, virtuosic, enjoyable Power Metal songs. Every song is dripping with character and charm. The production is flawless. The choruses stick in your head for days.

This is a very strong and consistent record, that balances the bands different styles well and serves as the sort of ultimate middle-ground record of the band’s various styles and directions. The fast songs are great, the mid-paced songs are great and the slower quieter songs are great too. Its musically accomplished, but doesn’t go overboard with experimentation, it simply delivers the core Helloween sound with fresh energy, and it does it masterfully.

Highlights include the interesting ‘Lavdate Dominvm,’ the catchy ‘Hey Lord!’ and the eight-minute “Revelation.”

This is one of the better Helloween albums in the discography, and a very good introduction for Deris-skeptics. The quality of the production, song writing and musicianship are unquestionable, there is an almost gleeful atmosphere throughout and there is absolutely no time wasted on filler. Overall; Highly recommended.

Land of the free Pt. II [Explicit]
Land of the free Pt. II [Explicit]
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Gamma Ray - Land Of The Free II, 21 May 2014
Land Of The Free II, from 2007, is the ninth full-length studio album by the legendary German Melodic Power Metal band Gamma Ray. It is titled as a sequel to the band’s seminal classic album Land Of The Free, and musically it sometimes picks up a few riffs and melodies from that record and reworks them into new tracks.

This record is not held in high esteem by a lot of the band’s fans and critics. Partly that is because the idea of doing a sequel to Land Of The Free (which isn’t even a full on concept album to begin with so the need for a story sequel isn’t even necessary) after such a big gap just seems like an off-putting idea, and forever-doomed to negative comparisions to the fantastic original from the offset and secondly because the band are accused of running out of ideas.

How much you enjoy this record will depend primarily on how much you don’t mind hearing the band rework old music (or indeed nick Iron Maiden breakdowns almost wholesale and your opinion on whether it is tribute or theft). Do you enjoy a sense of familiarity or not?

If we overlook those issues, there are some absolutely blinding moments on this record, including the flashy eleven minute album-closer “Insurrection,” as well as the ridiculously catchy ode to atheism that is “Real World” and the exciting, chunky “Rain.”

Add to these strong songs, an absolutely flawless slick production, some of Kai’s most polished vocals to date and the fact that actually the band do explore some new territory here and try things at a slower pace than usual. Top it all off with the lush sing-along choruses, glorious uplifting lead guitar melodies and delicious drum fills you would expect from Gamma Ray and you have a very solid record.

Overall; historically, this album will be viewed alongside Majestic as a sort of down-point in the band’s discography, however this is very far from a bad record on its own merits and there is much enjoyment to be found here if you are willing to overlook its flaws.

Are You Dead Yet?
Are You Dead Yet?

4.0 out of 5 stars Children Of Bodom - Are You Dead Yet?, 21 May 2014
This review is from: Are You Dead Yet? (Audio CD)
2005’s Are You Dead Yet? is the fifth full-length studio album by the Finnish Melodic Death Metal band Children Of Bodom. The record saw a change in the band’s line-up, guitar tunings and musical direction.

Compared to albums like Hatebreeder and Follow The Reaper the album is noticeably slower and feauters considerably less audible influence from Melodic European Power Metal than before, instead their signature sound (Alexi’s recognizable voice and lead guitar style, plus those bright keyboard tones) is meshed with American sounding Groove Metal, to create something familiar but yet unique. On this album, the band would seem equally at home sharing a stage with Helloween or Pantera without seeming out of place at either event.

Regardless of what it sounds like, the quality of the record is high. The production is clean and crisp, the performances are tight and the album is a decent length without overstaying its welcome. There’s plenty of fun double kicks and flashy guitar solos, and a good balance of sticking to a formula you like while making every song sound different to the last.

Highlights include the famous Title Track and single “Trashed, Lost & Strungout” as well as the absolutely furious sounding “If You Want Peace Prepare For War,” and the slow, out of character Groove Metal song “Punch Me I Bleed.”

Overall; This is a different direction for the band, but a very strong album nonetheless. It may be a very good entry point for fans of more British and American music to get into the band and then work backwards to their more European sounding early work.

Altered State
Altered State

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tesseract - Altered State, 8 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Altered State (MP3 Download)
Altered State is the second full-length studio album from the British Progressive Metal Band Tesseract. It was their first album to feature Ashe O’Harra on lead vocals, it was self-produced and was released in 2013.

Since getting this album, I’ve been listening to it constantly. It has such a high replay value, and just gets better with each repeat listen. It is such an immersive, cohesive, powerful record and I wouldn’t mind going so far as to call it a masterpiece.

The album is broken down into four sections: Of Matter, Of Mind, Of Reality and Of Energy, which are themselves broken down into separate tracks. The album as a whole flows like one giant song, each of the four sections flow like one continuous song, and each track works on its own. It really is a well-developed and brilliantly executed structure.

Highlights include the powerful “Resist,” the catchy “Nocturne” and the lengthy and interesting “Singularity.”

Musically, there are beautiful shimmering clean guitar sections and a wash of hypnotic electronics subtly mixing with powerful emotive clean vocals with a real haunting quality, there are brilliant rhythmically interesting and groovy drums mingling perfectly with clever bassline, and there’s the odd section of crushing Djenty heavy guitar at the appropriate moments to top it all off. It’s a lot more subtle, intense and driving than their debut, with an almost post-rock attitude to song building. The way things weave and change fluidly makes it a really enjoyable and entertaining listen. Its a real extension and perfection of everything the band have been working towards so far. They even keep things interesting with some well-placed and non-gimmicky use of saxophones.

Overall; This album is fantastic, it’s a real step-up for the band and a defining moment for the whole movement. If you like this sort of music you’ll absolutely love this record, and if you haven’t heard of this band or album yet, I’d strongly recommend you give it a try. This is one of those rare, perfect, gems of an album that can completely captivate you and capture your imagination time and time again.

Price: £15.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Melechesh - Emissaries, 23 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Emissaries (Audio CD)
Emissaries is the fourth full-length studio album by the unique Metal band from Jerusalem, Melechesh. It was released in 2006 through Nuclear Blast.

Melechesh started out with a style of music sort of close to Black Metal, but by this stage in their career have evolved into something different. There are some Blast-beats and shrieking vocals, but its more bouncy rhythms than icy-atmosphere. The songs largely revolve around big fat grooves and adventurous song structuring but give way to blistering Thrash passages now and again to keep the energy levels up. They are pretty “dynamic” in their mixture of fast and slow, loud and soft, eastern and western.

Lyrically, as on all their albums the band write about interesting historical and fictional things from their own culture (Sumerian/ Assyrian/ Mesopotamian folklore). It gives the band a nice unique angle, and it is handled in a tasteful and non-cheesy way.

Melechesh are just a really unique, incredibly interesting and talented band, and fittingly, Emissaries is a pretty interesting and talent-filled record. One of the best in their catalougue even. If you’re already a fan then you won’t be disappointed at all by the masterfully crafted collection of punchy and vicious, yet strangely accessible tunes.

Everything on this record is pure gold, but highlights include the furious ‘Ladders To Sumeria,’ as well as the menacing album-closer ‘Emissaries And The Mysterium Magnum’ and of course ‘Gyroscope,’ which is a cover of The Tea Party reworked into the Melechesh style.

Overall, Emissaries is a confident, exciting entry in the Melechesh timeline that is strong from beginning to end and highlights everything that is great about the band. Its an incredibly strong listening experience. New listener or existing fan – check it out either way, you won’t regret it!

Edge Of Thorns
Edge Of Thorns
Offered by positivenoise
Price: £6.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Savatage - Edge Of Thorns, 21 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Edge Of Thorns (Audio CD)
1993's Edge Of Thorns is the seventh full-length studio album by the American Progressive Metal band Savatage. The album, which followed up the Streets: A Rock Opera album, sees a sort of re-imagining of the band, with former front-man Jon Olivia taking a back seat as arranger/producer/keyboardist and the introduction of new singer Zak Stevens on lead vocals. It would also end up being the final album to feature original guitarist and co-founder Criss Oliva before his untimely passing.

The album serves as a sort of musical blue-print for all the Savatage albums which would follow and is quite different sounding to the earlier work from the band. Energetic `80s USPM sounds are almost all gone, in favour of 90s Groove Metal riffs (although not as much as Handful Of Rain), heavy handed piano and some occasional Queen-esque moments.

It isn't a complete abandoning of everything Savatage had done before altogether, as there are lovely piano moments like "Exit Music" which feel a little bit like Streets and the brief "Labyrinths" which towards the end is slightly reminiscent of Gutter Ballet, but it certainly has its own identity and is clearly the beginning of a new era of Savatage. There are bright up-beat rockers that start off as power ballads like "Follow Me" and "Miles Away," and there are groovy 90s-Metal tunes like "He Carves His Stone" and "Damien." These two styles and the mixture therof really form the essence of Edge Of Thorns, and its all good stuff... If you are in the right mood for it, and not going in expecting it to sound like Power Of The Night, this is an absolutely superb album. My personal favourite song on here is the excellent Title Track, which is one of Savatage's all time best songs, as well as the bouncy Load-esque "Lights Out" which is a little out-of-place on this album, but fun nonetheless.

Zak Steven's vocal performances on this record are inspired, and you can't help but smile at some of his deliveries in tracks like "Conversation Piece" and the fantastic album-closer "Sleep." The guitar solos on Criss' swansong album are melodic and enjoyable and the solid weighty drumming from Steve Wacholz and Jon Olivia (despite not being recorded on a real acoustic drumkit) perfectly suit the band's new direction here. Overall; this is a superb record and fans of Savatage, or similar bands, should check it out. Its not their heaviest album, its not their most progressive album and its not their darkest album, but it is an absolutely rock-solid collection of well-written and fundamentally enjoyable music, and it grows on you really well with repeat listens.

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