SHARK ISLAND: LAW OF THE ORDER (retro review) – My take

So this little gem came out in late 1989 and was a great find. It was released by Epic records right before they started avoiding everything that was happy, melodic, and not wearing flannel. Shark Island have a great AOR sound. The singer, Richard Black, is of the Paul Shortino & Mark Free school of Hard Rock singers. He has a terrific voice that definitely exudes a lot of charisma. The first track “Paris Calling”, I believe was also a single. I never saw a video for it, but years later, I did catch the video for “Bad For Each Other” which is cut #4. So it seems Epic/CBS attempted to promote the band somewhat, but they never really took off. Though, Richard Black went on to some prominence as the singer for the failed supergroup CONTRABAND, that featured in its ranks Michael Schenker (from Scorpions & MSG), Tracii Guns (from Guns N’ Roses & L.A. Guns) on Guitars, Share Pedersen (from Vixen) on Bass, & Bobby Blotzer (from Ratt) on Drums. Back to SHARK ISLAND, the album “Law of The Order” is a great album for those who love bands like HOUSE of LORDS & KING KOBRA. With hard rockers like “Spellbound” & “Somebody’s Falling”, sleaze songs like “Shake For Me” & “Get Some Strange”, and of course the prerequisite ballads in the aforementioned “Bad For Each Other” & “Why Should I Believe”… you can’t go wrong with this release. Also, the band featured in its ranks the guitarist Spencer Sercombe. For you guitar aficionados, he worked for B.C. Rich guitars and helped design the very popular “Warlock” model. He also was a member of another brilliant, but ultimately doomed band, RIVERDOGS. I highly recommend checking this album out. The album is out of print, but available at digital media sites.                                         

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WARREL DANE: Praises to the War Machine – My take

I am of the belief that Warrel Dane (Sanctuary/Nevermore) is one of the finest vocalist in Metal. Not just today, but ever! I met Mr. Dane back in 1990 when, his then band, Sanctuary were on tour with Fates Warning. He was one of the nicest people I met. Both Sanctuary & Fates Warning were just wonderful to us. My buddy Dave had scored us “all-access permission” and we took full advantage. We stayed out-of-the-way and , when the opportunity presented itself, talked with the bands. Side note: The opening act was Dead On, who replaced Powermad on the second leg of the tour. I was so disappointed. Wally is phenomenal live. Everything he can do studio-wise, he can execute live. I saw Nevermore 3 years back opening for Opeth. Wally can still bring it live. Again, he is one of the most brilliantly talented vocalist in Metal. Now, I can say, in music as a whole. He recently released his first solo album entitled “Praises to The War Machine”. This is what a solo album should be for a singer who is so associated with a particular style of music, or a band in general. He performs songs on the album that would never see the light of day in Nevermore. Somber tracks like “This Old Man”, where my heart hurts for the gentleman who Warrel is singing about. And “August” is a dire song about the loss of someone special, and the agony of laying them to rest. The album begins with a track that could have been performed by Nevermore, entitled “When We Pray” where Warrel voices his disdain for those who believe more in praying than doing. For me, the highlight of the album is two-fold. On the somber side is the track entitled “Brother”. I almost revel in this track. It is dark and overwhelming in its despair. I feel the bitterness of a family lost after the death of a patriarch. On the more aggressive side is the track “The Day The Rats Went to War”. What a phenomenal song. It features the legendary James Murphy (Death, Disincarnate, Testament) on guitar. It is Warrel Dane professing his viewpoint on, not only war, but its consequences to those who have no control, and no choice, but to fight. Also of note is a brilliant cover of the Sisters of Mercy song “Lucretia My Reflection”. I can’t help but sing along every time it plays. After such a terrific first outing, I hope this is not the last we hear from Warrel Dane solo wise. I can’t express enough, if you dig Nevermore or Sanctuary, you must check this out… you won’t be disappointed. If you dig Dane’s voice, but believe Nevermore is too brutal, I think you’ll like this album. It is a showcase for a truly gifted artist with a one-of-a-kind voice. Thanks for reading. \m/

BLOOD & METAL EP from GOD OF WAR III Collector’s Edition – My take

I recently picked up the “Collectors Edition” of the PS3 game, GOD OF WAR III. Included with all the other goodies is a download code for an EP entitled Blood & Metal. The all the artist seem to be on the Roadrunner label. First off is Killswitch Engage with “My Obsession”. Nothing new from these guys. It seems that KE has found a formula that works, and don’t plan to stray too far from it. If you dig these guys, you’ll dig this track.

Next up is Trivium with “Shattering The Skies Above”. This features their new drummer, Nick Augusto. He must have pumped some blood in the band, because this is one of the most ferocious tracks I’ve heard from them in a while. It’s brutal, melodic, intense… If this is Trivium’s current direction, we are in for a treat with the new album. It most definitely is a logical progression (if not a leap ahead) from Shogun.

Next up are the Kings of Progressive Metal, Dream Theater. Unlike the other bands, they decided to go with an instrumental in the way of “Raw Dog”. It is technical, fast, with a dizzying display of talent and speed form the veteran musicians. It is nothing new from DT, but it is really good.

Next up is a band I’ve heard about, but never listened too, Taking Dawn. Their track, “This is Madness” is obviously inspired by, and about, the film (or graphic novel) 300. It fits in perfectly with the theme of, not only the EP, but the game itself. Taking Dawn remind me of the kind of bands that went under the radar beck in the mid to late 80’s, like Warlord or Tyrant. Heavy, melodic, with some almost Thrash Metal elements at times. Based on this track alone, I will pick their new album Time To Burn.

Next up is one the greatest bands in the world of Metal right now, Opeth. This track, entitled “Throat of Winter”, is a slow, melodic, eclectic, entirely clean vocal track. On first listen, it sounds like it is almost a pieced together song of different acoustic ideas. Upon further listens, and a reading of the lyric, you understand the structuring of the track. It is an interesting addition to an already brilliant catalog.

The market EP ends with a track from the band Mutiny Within, appropriately entitled “The End”. Mutiny Within are the result of what would happen if Killswitch Engaged dialed back the “growling” vocals, adopted Dream Theater’s progressive approach to music, and actually made it work. These guys are simply incredible. Another band whose album I will check out, based on this track alone.

For purchasers of the GOD OF WAR IIICollectors Edition”, we get a bonus track. It is a little oddity from a band called The Turtlenecks, and the song is entitled “Even Gods Cry”. This song is really funny. It is a mid-tempo, almost “Folk-Pop” song about the GOD OF WAR series. It is quite obviously a parody and I just could not stop laughing when I first heard it. That’s really all I can say about that. I did a quick search on the band and could not come up with anything concrete on who they actually are.

In conclusion, the Blood & Metal EP is a very cool release, and just slamming if you dig Heavy Metal the way I do. It is only available as a digital download, so there is no excuse for not hearing these great tunes by the end of the day. Thanks for reading. \m/

MEGADETH: RUST IN PEACE 2OTH ANNIVERSARY TOUR

    So here is a taste of what I heard and saw on March 21, 2010. I attended the  The MEGADETH: RUST IN PEACE 2OTH ANNIVERSARY TOUR. It took place at a venue called The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia. The opening act was the long-suffering forefathers of Thrash metal, EXODUS. The show opened with “Bonded By Blood”. Current vocalist, Rob Dukes, is a decent Thrash Vocalist. I have to preface my opinions with the fact that I have only “checked out” the last 2 EXODUS releases and have not been too impressed. He is no Steve Souza, or Paul Baloff… for the matter. It was great hearing some “Old School” tunes like “The Last Act of Defiance” & “Brain Dead”. They also played “War Is My Shepherd” from Tempo of the Damned, right before the live favorite “Toxic Waltz”. I found it odd, EXODUS performed nothing from either of the “Exhibit” releases. Then when TESTAMENT took the stage, it dawned on me why.

    TESTAMENT, even more than MEGADETH, is why I am at this show. Of the 3, they are my favorite. In all of THRASH, they are in my top 5, in all of METAL… my top 10.  I LOVE TESTAMENT. The guys opened with “Over The Wall” and I am like “Wow”. Just because MEGADETH is doing RUST IN PEACE in its entirety, I didn’t know it was “Old School” night across the board. TESTAMENT went on to perform The Legacy release, in sequence, from beginning to end, with the exception of “Apocalyptic City”. Before they concluded the set with the albums’ closer, they performed “Into The Pit” & “Souls of Black”. Don’t get me wrong, it was an excellent set, and MEGADETH had their work cut out for them. However, TESTAMENT have a brilliant current release out entitled The Formation of Damnation. Also in their catalog are brilliant releases like The Gathering, LOW, and the very popular Practice What You Preach. I have to say I was disappointed not to hear anything off the new release. Especially since they had a “Tour Edition” of the new release, on sale, at the venue. Also, it turns out that Alex Skolnick could not make the tour, due to a prior commitment to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He was aptly covered by, former MEGADETH guitarist, Glenn Drover. Now, onto MEGADETH.

    MEGADETH opened the show with “Skin O’ My Teeth” and “In My Darkest Hour”, back to back. They sounded tight. I mean just like playing the album at home. After playing a perfect rendition of “She-Wolf”, we hear the opening chords of “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”. You couldn’t even hear Dave because of the crowd singing the opening lyric… “Brother will kill brother, Spilling blood across the land, Killing for religion, Something I don’t understand”. It was AWESOME! The ‘DETH boys followed that up with, of course, “Hangar 18” and the rest of the release in sequence. Whenever Dave tried to banter with the audience, I could not understand what he was saying. After “Rust in Peace… Polaris”, we heard “Headcrusher” from the new release, as well as “Trust” & “Symphony Of Destruction”. MEGADETH performed one enore song, obviously “Peace Sells”. I have to state this, about 5 songs in, I grew kinda bored. MEGADETH were so flawless, and made it a point not to deviate from the song as it is, there seemed no point in seeing them live. It’s like listening to the studio cuts with a crowd. That being said, OPETH are just as flawless in the execution of their songs live. But, Mikael Åkerfeldt has such a great live repore with an audience, it is always a great time seeing them live.

    In conclusion, it was a fun show. That was my first time seeing EXODUS, and they put on a great show (in spite of my reservations about Dukes). TESTAMENT were excellent, as always. MEGADETH definitely deserved the crowd response they got that night. The audience LOVED them. For me, MEGADETH will always be the superior band to METALLICA. Also, with the set list that were performed, I have to declare that it was probably a “once in a lifetime” event, and I am glad I was there.  Thanks for reading. \m/                                  

ICED EARTH: BURNT OFFERINGS (retro review) – My take

   Last week I played through a new video game entitled “Dates Inferno”. As you might guess, it is based on the 1st part of Dante Alighieri’s fourteenth-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is a really cool game. It is a lot like God of War for those of you who have only an XBOX 360. Anyway, upon finishing it the second time, I played through a mini-game entitled “The Gates of Hell”. I decided what better music to Hack & Slash demons to than Iced Earth’s “Dante’s Inferno” based on the same subject matter. The nearly 17 minute track is the concluding aria to a dark, but brilliant, album entitled “Burnt Offerings”. Burnt Offerings was released April 18, 1995. It is the 3rd studio release and the first to feature new vocalist, Matthew Barlow.  Burnt Offerings is said to have been written during a time of turmoil and anger, particularly focusing on a dispute with the band’s then record label, Century Media. Schaffer himself claims it is his least favorite IE album due to the negativity of that time and his mindset in writing it. But, after nearly 3 years of  legal issues and mistreatment of the band, Burnt Offerings arrives.

    Upon first listening, I was in LOVE with Barlow’s vocals. He is not as technically proficient as “Stormrider” vocalist John Greeley, but Matt has something no other IE vocalist has… emotion. When Matt sings about doomed lovers in “Last December”, I feel their pain. I feel his rage on the title track, and his disappointment on “Creator Failure”. The tragic beauty of his lament is heart wrenching on “The Pierced Spirit”, a track that leads into one of the highlights of the Iced Earth catalog… “Dante’s Inferno”. A brilliant song as epic as the poem itself. Jon utilizes lines from the great work along with relating the enormous 1st act through lyric that convey the main thrust of Inferno, without leaving the listener feeling that something is missing. This was the last album to feature the Trash metal influences felt on the previous albums. With vocalist Matt Barlow firmly entrenched as the voice of Iced Earth, the band became a more traditional metal band… along the lines of Iron maiden or Judas Priest. Though still very heavy (mainly due to Jon’s triple picking style and IE’s subject matter),  they became very melodic. I will probably write of my love of the years following in future blogs.

    Iced Earth’s inclusion of Matthew Barlow cemented my interest forever in Iced Earth. The meeting I had with Jon, Matt, and the rest of the band, guaranteed my devotion to the band. I have rarely met artist who seem so appreciative of their fans and are just genuinely good people to talk too. Here is a story I realted to the readers a Metal Odyssey. I was refering to a song by Death Angel entitled “Veil of Deception” & incorrectly stated “Mistress of Deception”, a song by the Thrash Metal band, Coroner. That’s the set-up, here goes:

My apologies… “Veil of Deception”. For some reason I confused the Coroner song with the Death Angel song. Alot of Metal knowledge banging around in my head and sometimes I access the wrong factoid. On that, the worst situation I could have possibly imagined occured in 1997 with Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth. We were talking about the just released “Days of Purgatory” set when I commented to him how much I liked Matt’s (Matthew Barlow) vocals on “When The Night Comes Down”, as opposed to vocals originally laid down by Gene Adams. As I am sure you know, “When The Night Comes Down” is a Judas Priest song and I meant to say the song “When The Night Falls”. I was mortified. In my world, I am the guy who knows all things METAL. What a slip up. We happened to be listening to Priest on the way to see Iced Earth. That is no excuse. I have to state, Jon was gracious in his correction, to me, of my error. I told him “I am so sorry, I did not mean any insult in stating the wrong song title.” That is literally what I said. His retort “You confused us with Priest, how am I supposed to be insulted by that?” He was so cool to us the rest of the night. Signed album after album, gave us some merch, just really a class act… the whole band. I will never forget that day.