Edguy – Hellfire Club

Hellfire Club is the beginning of Edguy’s turn from the PowerMetal realm to a more hard rock/pop metal sound. Upon hearing the album’s opening song you would not believe this, but please, continue listening…

Hellfire Club is not a bad album, it is, actually, a very consistant album. 
   Tobias Sammat, vocals and chief songwriter of the band had just come from writing and recording three PowerMetal albums back to back: 2001’s Edguy: Mandrake and his side project Avantasia: The Metal Opera and 2002’s Avantasia: The Metal Opera Part II. Plus, before all this, the band re-recorded their first album (demo) Savage Poetry (retitled: The Savage Poetry) in 2000 and did summer festival shows in support of it.
   Hellfire Club was released in 2004 and, if you haven’t guessed already, was written right after Tobias’s four albums in three years, PowerMetal extravaganza or purging, if you will. The direction could not be anything but different from what everyone expected Edguy to do.

Although not too different, there was still the double bass kicking and mini-epic songs on the album, many of the shorter duration songs were metal in sound yet contained a more accessible, sometimes pop-metal tinged sound. The lyrics, however, became more terse which clashed nicely with the 80’s metal sound. When they lyrics weren’t to-the-point they were humor laden raunch – Another homage to the 1980’s metal sound. I should mention the ballad, Forever, straight out sappy lyrics; 80’s all the way.

Track Listing:
01: Mysteria
02: The Piper Never Dies
03: We Don’t Need A Hero
04: Down To The Devil
05: King Of Fools
06: Forever
07: Under The Moon
08: Lavatory Love Machine
09: Rise Of The Morning Glory
10: Lucifer In Love
11: Navigator
12: The Spirit Will Remain
13: Children Of Steel
14: Mysteria (w/ Mille Pettrozza from Kreator)

Love ’em or hate ’em, Edguy is a band that knows how to put a song together and can play many different styles of music. They do not change with what is popular at the moment. They do not bow down before critics and write their music with hopes their fans will like it, if the fans do not – six in one hand, half-a-dozen in the other.

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Nightwish – End Of An Era

A few things about this DVD bug the ever-living-hell out of me.
 
The Editing – There is absolutely no possibility within the human realm that someone can get from one side of the stage all the way across to the other side of the keyboards in a single moment, the batting of an eye. BUT, it happens on this DVD an awful lot. There is also the angle of the cameras that make the band look as if they are moron’s, albeit talented moron’s. And, coinciding with the photo gallery, one could be easily led to believe that two concerts were actually held.

The Music – Seems a bit on the perfect side… I don’t go to a concert to hear exactly what is on the CD. If that were the case I would save my money and just stay home and listen to the CD. I know bands, even the best of them, make mistakes while playing live and vocalists never sound too damn good. WOW! This is almost too damn perfect. I would rather have all the imperfections of trueness than over-editing.

The Music – Yes, I repeated myself (read on).

Track/Set list for End Of An Era:
01: Dark Chest Of Wonders
02: Planet Hell
03: Ever Dream
04: The Kinslayer
05: Phantom Of The Opera
06: The Siren
07: Sleeping Sun
08: High Hopes
09: Bless The Child
10: Wishmaster
11: Slaying The Dreamer
12: Nemo
13: Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan
14: Ghost Love Score
15: Stone People
16: Creek Mary’s Blood
17: Over The Hills And Far Away
18: Wish I Had An Angel

There is not one song from Oceanborn or Angel’s Fall First. Granted, it is their set and they can do what they want, however, aside from Tarja Turunen, all the other members know it was to be her swan-song performance with the band. There are three songs from Wishmaster, four songs from Century Child, and eight from Once, plus the odd songs High Hopes (Pink Floyd cover), Stone People, Sleeping Sun (not originally on a Nightwish album), and Over The Hills…
     Where are Elvenpath, Sacrament Of Wilderness, Beauty And The Beast… Yes, it would have been a long show but it was her last show with them and it would have been a treat to hear what those songs sounded like after originally being recorded years ahead of this concert. Would they be reinterpreted? Slowed down, sped up?
It was Once Upon A Tour but it was also her last show with them and I don’t believe Tarja will ever return since she stated so on her latest release in the song Falling Awake.
     So, we are left to hear these songs sung by Annette (who will not sound like Tarja – Kudos for that Annette) and by a band that cannot bring forth the same emotion/feeling that Nightwish does when performing these songs. Both situations can be summed up like this: It is like hearing Vince Neil’s band perform Mötley Crüe, or taking Colonel Sanders out of Kentucky Fried Chicken (you take away the Colonel and you are doing nothing but frying just another piece of chicken). Sorry guys and gals, I did say I was honest.
     If you only just now discovered Nightwish and their back catalog, you may feel like you missed one hell of a magical moment in music and metal since you are finding out after the fact. There are many bands now that are similar in direction to Nightwish, but there is only one Nightwish.

As for the DVD itself, the concert, it is what it is. The last show we are able to see a glimmer of the aforementioned magic with a very large crowd of people before we are left wondering what happened less than twenty-four hours later.

In the bonus material, we do get to see the documentary “A Day Before Tomorrow” that does show animosity in spades – everything from sideways glances to barbed remarks to uncomfortable silences broken up by meager attempts at civil conversation.
     I think one of the more poignant moments in the documentary is at a festival like show in South America where the band is gathered to take a picture. Before this, Tarja is seen warming up her voice and the band enters her dressing area, she playfully begins to banter back and forth with Jukka who returns her banter with about as much emotion of a dead body on a battlefield.
     The next scene is the band prepping to go onstage. Marco is warming up with a few yells, group hug, and then nerve’s. The players head up the stairs for their intro with the camera following them until whoever is manning the camera abruptly stops and pans back down to where Tarja is left alone. The shot does not last long but it speaks more words than the band knows. It is a solitary, fearful display of uncertainness that seems to permeate the entire documentary and all of the band members who hide it behind anger, false-smiles (smile pretty the cameras on) and silence.
     Throughout the documentary is Nightwish’s very own Yoko Oh-No; Tarja’s husband Marcello Cabuli. My gawd, when they are all in the same room together the silence is deafening. It should be noted that whenever he is alone with the band members Marcello does make attempts to defuse the situation, some so damn goofy even they cannot help but laugh, but when Tarja returns the silence and downcast eyes begin anew.

The documentary also has pop-ups with questions answered by band members. What stands out is that Tarja has the most rock-star answers for the questions though she seems the least rock-star type.
     Another thing is the lack of Tarja’s presence when you feel she should be there standing besides the other band members but she mysteriously is there later in the shot. Is she there? Is she not there? What?
     The documentary does not reveal what really tore the band apart, just the slow build-up to an imploding end that no one within the band did a damn thing to stop.

The bonus material is small but the impact of it is huge. The concert is good aside from the editing that insults the watcher’s intelligence. I would rather see the entire performance without the cuts, mistakes be damned!

Within Temptation – The Unforgiving


I didn’t review this album the first time I listened to it because I remember years ago, before the internet and how everything is leaked onto download sites, the anticipation of waiting for an album to come out that you knew was completed but the release date was still weeks away. Of course there is the video release over a month before the album comes out which prompts those not savvy to how the record company’s and bands market the new unreleased album, which, in turn, causes some people to head down to the CD store and attempt to purchase said unrealesed album only to be turned away with confusion on their face muttering that they had just heard the song on the radio or YouTube… (this happened in the store after I got out of the listening area. A young girl, maybe 13 years old, came in looking for a band – Egypt something or other – that she had been hearing on the radio. Low and behold the album’s release date is in May. She had “That Look” on her face).
Anticipation is kewl as hell, but whatever happened to announcing that the song was from “The Forthcoming Album” and its release date?

Onward to my review.

First, I have got to say that this is a highly listenable album. There are small snatches of the old Within Temptation sound, but for the most part, the band has taken a new direction musically mixing a little of the old with alot of the new.
Have I liked every song on each release? No. Even on THoE there was that one song that did nothing for me. The Unfogiving does not have that problem for me as each song has a different feel from the one before it. Some are pop-hard rock/metal sounding and some are a little heavier.
Bottom line… The Unforgiving is the band reinventing itself. You may or may not like it (as with any bands release) especially if you are “redneck” in your musical taste.

The Unforgiving has what little orchestration there is done by keyboard. There is no huge symphony backing the sound. No huge choir either. There is the chant-sounding background vocals for ambiance but it is not as huge as those used on previous releases.
The first notable change is the drumming. It is tried and true rock and roll beats. There is some double-bass kicking on faster songs but they are the exception and not the rule.

01: Why Not Me – A snippet of the intro heard on the vid-clip “Mother Maiden“.

02: Shot In The Dark – This song has good groove. It is a keyboard laden tune with a short guitar lead break and there is the underlying ambiance of gloom to the sound. Sharon‘s vocal style for the tune reminded me of Olivia Newton John.

03: In The Middle Of The Night – This is a rocker. There is a driving rhythm and fast tempo to the song. The loud chorus where Sharon is raising her voice (not quite a yell) fits perfectly with the pace of the song.

04: Faster – If you have not seen the video for this song then go to the bands site on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/user/wtofficial?feature=artistob
The verse vocals are sang low and throaty, almost smokey sounding. It has another loud chorus after the spinning sound of “faster and faster and faster and faster“. Whenever Within Temptation does a lead break in a song, in my opinion, it makes the song that much better. My first impression of this song is that it would have fit nicely in the 1980’s music scene.
As the first heard release from The Unforgiving, it is definately not the best song on the album and that’s a good thing because the song is good.

05: Fire And Ice – Has a piano driven intro that stays with the song even after it switches to a power ballad with drums, strings, yet no lead break. Very reminiscent of their old sound.

06: Iron – The intro to this song just has a cool sounding riff that leads into another driving rhythm. A good rock song that has Mother Maiden speaking in the lead break sans guitar.

07: Where Is The Edge – Again the tempo of the song slows the album down. One thing you can say about Sharon is she is not afriad to use vocal effects to her advantage. The lead break has both keyboard and guitars playing. This song reminds me of Delain‘s Stay Forever.

08: Sinéad – Wow! Right after the keyboard intro comes techno beats like Armin van Buuren and Sharon Den Adel Falling In And Out Of Love. There is a orchestral keyboard break and lots of hi-hat. I am still wondering if the guitars were ran through a synth. Great song that surprised the hell out of me.

09: Lost – A Spanish inspired acoustic intro and outro. This is a rocking power ballad with a great chorus. The lead break begins acoustic and switches to electric guitar.

10: Murder – Begins with a deperate sounding violin intro that goes on throughout the song. Sharon is again utilizing a vocal affect. Very bass driven song with another loud chorus and an unusual scream/growl sound before the second verse.

11: A Demons Fate – Another violin intro with guitar that reminds me of the intro to Edguy‘s Sacrifice from their Rocket Ride album and Sharon singing high-pitched vowel/notes.
The song is another driving rhythm tune with fast singing and lotsa double bass kicking from the drums. It has a very melodic lead break from the guitars.

12: Stairway To The Skies – The guitars and drums stay in an almost trance-like mode and the instruments have excellent sync with one another. This would be a Gothic sounding song if it wasn’t so damn rock n’ roll. The chorus is long and the lead break is Sharon‘s voice as an instrument (I will touch on this phenomenon in a later review). There is, however, a melodic guitar lead outro.

There it is. I hope I don’t give away too much because you should hear the album for yourself and form your own opinion. It is a great album. Buy the damn thing! Don’t pirate it! This is what the people in the band do for a living. They have bills like the rest of us. I already preordered the edition with DVD included.

As far as conceptual albums go… Much like Queensrÿche‘s Operation: Mindcrime, all the songs together on this album are stronger next to one another than they are seprate. That is not to say they are not good alone, quite the opposite really. What I am saying is in union, they make a strong album where no song is better than the other. Yes, this is one of the most listenable albums I have heard in a long time.

Before I go I need to thank Budget CD’s And DVD’s in Missoula, Montana for allowing me to listen to the album for review and for keeping me up in all the metal music I love. Where the in hell else am I going to get Battlelore, Kiske/Somerville, Within Temptation, Epica, out of print CD’s and  concert DVD’s not released in the United States. You guys FUCKIN” ROCK!

Within Temptation – Black Symphony

Filmed at Ahoy Arena, Rotterdam with accompaniment by The Metropole Orchestra, and the Pa’dam Choir, Black Symphony, in my opinion, is the most ambitious coupling of a metal band and orchestra that has been done.

Metallica and Scorpions both did it years ago but aside from music, there was nothing else. No stage show, no break in the middle for acoustic sets, no guest performances, no video screen as long as the stage is, no pyrotechnics… aside from stage lighting there was nothing but music and two bands that seemed as if they were nervous and had no clue as to what they should do. And, neither of these bands had live symphonies playing on their studio releases either so it was all new to them.

The show, “Black Symphony’ starts out with an orchestral piece, the choir joining in as they make their entrance onto the upper stage. Backstage, the band waits for their queue looking more anxious to get out on stage and begin the show than they do nervous to be performing in such a setting.

As Slayer’s Reign In Blood is considered the epitome of Thrash Metal and Dream Theater’s Images & Words is considered the epitome of Progressive Metal, I have to consider this show and the ensuing CD and DVD the epitome of Symphonic Metal (except the American CD release. Only thirteen songs of the 21 performed? Roadrunner Records, you blew it.) Plus, this show was directly responsible for the live acoustic performance An Acoustic Night At The Theater.
Having just listened to a pre-screening of Within Temptation’s next release The Unforgiving I can say that the sound they had at this show and previous releases does not make an appearance.
I guess, with the spectacle that is Black Symphony, the band has to go in a different direction because the show was an apex of their career. Watch it and ask yourself how they would top this. It really is a brilliant show and why try to top it?
Then again, as far as I am concerned, Sharon, Robert, and the band itself can do whatever the hell they want in music. Look how far they have come with this DVD and its later show/release, An Acoustic Night At The Theater. I for one don’t want to hear a part 2 to any of their albums and the two aforementioned shows are a pinnacle if not classic releases.

The concert contains many of WT’s well-known songs with Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-vocalist of The Gathering and vocalist of Ague de Annique), Keith Caputo (Life Of Agony), and George Oosthoek (ex-vocalist of Orphanage) joining the band onstage to sing.
There is pyro and explosions – the intro to Hand Of Sorrow is off the chain with these, stilt angels during the song Angel, and the crowd itself is loud and very responsive. The décor for the stage screen is a work of art. Bottom line – if you are going to do a show like this, this is the way to do it.

As mentioned In a previous article by me, Sharon den Adel sings twenty-one songs at this show and though each song is not just like the studio album, she goes the distance when many vocalists would say it was too much for them to do. When joined onstage by the other vocalists, the band is humble but with Sharon’s stage presence (and she has huge presence), they cannot outshine her although she is letting them shine. The same can be said for the band. The orchestra is onstage with them but it is Within Temptations stage.

Set list for Black Symphony:
1: Ouverture
2: Jillian (I’d Give My Heart)
03: The howling
04: Stand My Ground
05: The Cross
06: What Have You Done
07: Hand Of Sorrow
08: The Heart Of Everything
09: Forgiven
10: Somewhere
11: The Swan Song
12: Memories
13: Our Solemn Hour
14: The Other Half (Of Me)
15: Frozen
16: The Promise
17: Angels
18: Mother Earth
19: The Truth Beneath The Rose
20: Deceiver Of Fools
21: All I Need
22: Ice Queen

There are also many extras on the DVD including, interviews with the orchestra conductor, the band, and some fans, a short documentary, and what went on the day of the show (pre-production).
On the European version there is another DVD included that has another live show, Music videos from The Heart Of Everything, behind the scenes of the music videos, and video that the band recorded while on tour. Plus, there is video of WT performing at various award shows and in the studio while the orchestra is recording THoE. If you have a DVD player that is PAL capable, get the European version of this DVD.

Nightwish – End Of Innocence

End Of Innocence, released in 2002, is not the typical band DVD. There are videos, concert performances, photograph galleries in the “Extra” option and there is an “Extra of the Extra’s” option. The main choice is a documentary, or interview, with Tuomas Holopainen, Jukka Nevalainen, Tapio Wilska (yes, he is not in the band but he has done guest vocals and is a friend and apparent drinking buddy as you see on this DVD).
The DVD has many humorous moments: the boat motor that won’t start, Tuomas musing over the lyric “The scent of a woman was not mine…” as being not something a man would write, Jukka still wondering about the oak leave pictures and still not getting the reason for them, Tapio thinking something was wrong with Tuomas on the release of Century Child because the lyrics seemed so sad…

The island they are on, owned by Tuomas’s family, is also the same place Nightwish came into being; the place immortalized in Sacrament Of Wilderness from Oceanborn. There is a small dwelling on the island where much of the interview takes place, the sky is overcast and from the chosen attire worn by the people the weather is growing cooler. Along with the booze and the intimate setting, the pace of the documentary is slow and mellow, and relaxed: just three friends taking a day out to reflect and muse.

There are outtakes from backstage, in the studio while making Century Child, on the tour bus, at hotel’s; the band and crew playing pranks on each other and other bands, Tuomas in the state of F.U.B.A.R. and being led to his hotel room where he is lain on his bed. The crew, having noticed something peculiar with Marco Hietala, put a camera on an amplifier and recorded just a single concert and what he was doing (I’m not going to say but the look on his face when he notices the camera is priceless), and what a concert sounds like behind the drums while playing.
The interview is informative, introspective, and a bit nostalgic to the point of sadness as the discussion goes back and forth from the earlier times of the band to the recorded present. It is this intimacy that makes End Of Innocence compelling, so much so that the extra content seems piddling by comparison.

This DVD is still in circulation in the United States and can be purchased, counting whatever retailer you patronize has a distributor that carries releases not widely known (my CD store here in Missoula, Montana does, yeah me! Got me Kiske/Somerville, but the owner carries a wide selection of metal music from Europe).

Listing for End Of Innocence:

01: “The Whole Story” Documentary/interview

Extra:

01: Videos: Over The Hills And Far Away
                   End Of All Hope

02: Photo Gallery
03: Interview with Mtv Brazil
04: Live performance in Oslo, Norway (4th of July, 2003)
      01: Sleeping Sun
      02: Wild Child (W.A.S.P. cover)
      03: Beauty And The Beast
      04: She’s My Sin
      05: Slaying The Dreamer

05: The Extra Of The Extra’s

Live performance at Summer Breeze Festival 2002
      01: End Of All Hope
      02: Dead To The World
      03: 10th Man Down
      04: Slaying The Dreamer
      05: Over The Hills And Far Away
      06: Sleeping Sun

Supposedly, there is a hidden outtake of Tarja singing an Acapella version of Sleepwalker. I have never been able to unlock this.

End Of Innocence is worth the money you will spend on it. If you attempt to download it you will not get anything but the documentary if pirating. If you like Nightwish buy the damn thing and support the band (that goes for any band you like. If they don’t make money how can they continue making music?)

Nightwish – Once

     Once, the fifth (or 4th or 6th, Over The Hills And Far Away E.P.) studio album from Nightwish, reminds me of Wishmaster. There are mini-epic’s on Once and there are a couple on Wishmaster also; although Once is not a guitar orientedalbum, the symphony took precedence over lead playing.

    The opening line to the album, “Once I had a dream and this is it.” Could have just as easily have been, “Once I had innocence, where is it?” I say this because within the album entire the question is asked in a couple of different ways.
     Most notable on the album right away is the songs do not seem as stiff as those on Century Child, (whether this is due to the band being more comfortable in the studio setting with a newer member or that the song were just simpler for them to play, Once finds its groove quickly and never loses it).
Epic’s aside, it is the shorter songs on this album that make up most of the magic that was Nightwish during this era.


     From the 1st sound of Dark Chest Of Wonders (which, when listening to the song, reminds me of starlight for some reason) you just know that each song is going to be spilling over with its own personality. There is no concept here; only 11, 13, or 15 songs, depending on the version you have, that stand out on their own.
     Tuomas Holopainen has genius for songwriting that very few have. His songs rarely sound exactly alike and each album progresses to a next level without alienating his listeners.
     Once has tunes delving into other genres ranging from industrial/techno sound to epic movie orchestration scores. The song Higher Than Hope has a chorus reminiscent of the 1980’s (to tell you the truth, it sounds like a song from the 80’s and I cannot remember what it is called but I think it was a Dokken song. I’ll edit into this post when and if I figure it out because it is not important). The sound is updated and Tarja nailed the chorus in exemplary fashion. The song is another one of those that Tuomas refuse to perform live because of the meaning behind it and how personal that is to him.

     Once is a symphonic metal feast, yet it is also a masterpiece of metal music itself. The mood of the music changes drastically (sometimes a couple of times during a song) but remains light of sound and very admissible.

Track listing for Once:
01: Dark Chest Of Wonders
02: Wish I Had An Angel
03: Nemo
04: Planet Hell
05: Creek Mary’s Blood
06: The Siren
07: Dead Gardens
08: Romanticide
09: Ghost Love Score
10: Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan
11: Higher Than Hope
12: White Night Fantasy*
13: Live To Tell The Tale*

(* = bonus songs  on certain versions. There is a remake/cover of Ankie Bagger’s Where Were You Last Night that was released on the Finnish/Japanese only single: Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan.)

     This is Tarja Turunen’s last studio album with the band prior to her dismissal from Nightwish after the last concert of Once Upon A Tour. That concert took place at Hartwell Areena in Helsinki, Finland and was filmed for the live DVD End Of An Era.

     (On a humerous note, when I returned from the West Coast (where many have never heard of Nightwish) to Missoula, Montana; while walking behind a homeless man I recognized the tune he was whistling to himself. I asked him if he knew the song he was whistling and he replied, “Nemo by Nightwish. It’s a badass song.”
Nightwish is very well known in Missoula and Montana. When the rest of the States were into grunge and alternative music, Montana stuck with metal.)

Midnattsol – Nordlys

Carmen Elise Espenæs, the younger sibling of Leaves Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull,  is the vocalist for Midnattsol, (translation: “Midnight Sun”). I’ve gotta give Carmen props, she sounds nothing like her sister Liv and Midnattsol sounds nothing like Leaves Eyes.

Nordlys or “Northern Lights” is the bands second album and has become one of my favorite albums to listen to because the music is diverse, complex, simple, and honest. On listening to it one could think they have heard the style of playing before yet cannot place where or whom played it, the band certainly wears their influences well, mixing together various players and in doing so creating their own sound.
Carmen has a voice that is both melancholic and haunting, moving from rich, deep tones to higher pitches as she holds onto a note, next reversing the process from higher to lower. She can come across lighthearted and heavyhearted in the same breath whether she is singing in English or in her native tongue of Norway.
It is not only her vocals. The singing works so well because the guitars work well with her octaves and emotional inflections.

The band considers itself kind of Nordic Folk Metal as many of their lyrics are about legends from Norway (many bands from Scandinavia include myths and legends from their country in their lyrics; think Immortal or Dimmu Borgir). Whatever they consider themselves I do hope capable is one of the words they use to describe their musicianship because yes, the music is simple in itself but the arrangement of each song is complex underneath in the same way that Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction had complex underlying rhythms played against simple rock and roll groove.
Midnattsol has well rounded talent and earnestness; they are excellent songwriters and captivating storytellers.

Track listing for Nordlys:
01: Open Your Eyes
02: Skogens Lengsel
03: Northern Light
04: Konkylie
05: Wintertime
06: Race Of Time
07: New Horizon
08: River Of Virgin Soil
09: En Natt I Nord
10: Octobre

There are times when I am listening to the singing and feel like I am hearing a singer from an earlier time or period. The song Wintertime, the intro, gives me the impression strongest.

If you have never heard Midnattsol you are missing out on some damn good ethereal music.