Savatage – Dead Winter Dead

     Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have heard it all, theory after misinformed theory about what band started SymphonicMetal. Wikipedia, whoever uploaded that information, you’re full of shit! Facebook, ditto! I just love how people are eager to espouse misinformation because they have heard Nightwish or Therion.

     Back in 1987, Savatage, a band from Tampa, Florida, along with a visionary producer named Paul O’Neill recorded an album titled: Hall Of The Mountain King and SymphonicMetal was birthed, another bastard child of Metal. It was not entirely an original idea as SymphonicRock had been done (not Tommy by The Who either). But Savatage wasn’t just adding symphonic elements for texture, the elements were an integral part of the songs.

     Dead Winter Dead is the second album by Savatage after the death of Chris Oliva in a car collision with a drunk driver and the first to feature Al Pitrelli on guitars. Zach Stephens is still on vocals but there are appearances by original vocalist and founder Jon Oliva.
Is this an Opera? Mmm…Maybe, in a way. Not like Avantasia: The Metal Opera I & II are.
     Dead Winter Dead tells the story of war torn Sarajevo from various viewpoints; a gargoyle, an elderly cellist, an arms dealer, regular everyday neighbors, and a male and female soldier from opposing sides.
     The story begins at the collapse of the Soviet Union, when many countries found themselves no longer under ruling by Russia. 


     Speculation it may be but there is truth to it as well.
     Though the above are not lyrics; it is the story from Dead Winter Dead written in verse form much like the SymphonicMetal band that Savatage would morph into after this album.

     What makes Dead Winter Dead stand out from many of the bands previous releases is the emotion conveyed throughout the entire album. All parts come together beautifully and you can find yourself lost in Bosnia’s turmoil; feeling the emotions conveyed through the music. Yes, it really is that damn good.

     If you have never heard or heard of Savatage, give Dead Winter Dead the chance it deserves. After all, the album contains the one song that started Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
     The musicianship and storyline/lyrics are above caliber and if you follow Savatage throughout their entire career – from a Metal band to PowerMetal, to ProgMetal, to SymphonicMetal until TSO you can understand how they could become Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Track listing for Dead Winter Dead:
01: Overture
02: Sarajevo
03: This Is The Time (1990)
04: I Am
05: Starlight
06: Doesn’t Matter Anyway
07: This Isn’t What We Meant
08: Mozart And Madness
09: Memory
10: Dead Winter Dead
11: One Child
12: Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
13: Not What You See

     I say little about this album because it one of my favorite SymphonicMetal albums and because it is damn near 3:00AM and I just got off work and did a two hour workout at the gym.

     I have not been online for a bit (see above about work) plus my connection blows major ass. And, I have been walking and daydreaming. Such is what I do when left to my own device.

Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast

     There are legends in Metal, and then there are Icons; the latter being few and far between… A handful of bands whose name is eponymous with Metal – they inspire , influence, are emulated, well respected within and without their genre, their songs are covered from one end of the Earth to the other and they continually sell out arena and stadiums.

     What makes Iron Maiden unique from many Metal bands is they gained popularity in the 1980’s through word of mouth alone. At the time, rock radio played what was number one on Mtv and it was not the music Iron Maiden played. Radio was deluged with a horrendous slew of new wave bands, any hard rock or Metal music played was pop-oriented, trendy and/or had picturesque band members (pretty-boys). Yeah, that left out Iron Maiden whose music was galloping riff oriented theory based mini-epics with lyrics that were serious and told stories. They have never followed the mainstream musically or lyrically.
     One other way Iron Maiden gained their popularity was through extensive touring.

    Iron Maiden’s Beast On The Road Tour United States 1982

The U.S. (North American) tour kicked off on 11 May 1982 with a show in Flint, Michigan and went until 18 August 1982 when the band took a short tour break to play three shows in England, the last being the Reading Festival before restarting their U.S. tour on 01 September 1982 and ending on 23 October 1982.
When their U.S. tour was completed, they had played a total of 95 shows in the United States and 11 shows in Canada for a total of 106 shows in 152 days.

The U.S. tour dates were:

11 May 1982 – Flint, MI
13 May 1982 – Grand Rapids, MI
14 May 1982 – Detroit, MI
15 May 1982 – Kalamazoo, MI
16 May 1982 – Fort Wayne, MI
18 May 1982 – Toledo, OH
20 May 1982 – Cincinnati, OH
21 May 1982 – Louisville, OH
22 May 1982 – Cleveland, OH
23 May 1982 – Indianapolis, IN
25 May 1982 – Merrillville, IN
26 May 1982 – Davenport, IA
29 May 1982 – Des Moines, IA

01 June 1982 – Atlanta, GA
02 June 1982 – Nashville, TN
04 June 1982 – Birmingham, AL
02 June 1982 – Huntsville, AL
07 June 1982 – Knoxville, TN
08 June 1982 – Columbus, GA
09 June 1982 – Tallahassee, FL
11 June 1982 – Memphis, TN
12 June 1982 – Jackson, FL
15 June 1982 – Little Rock, AR
16 June 1982 – Tulsa, OK
18 June 1982 – Shreveport, LA
19 June 1982 – Norman, OK
22 June 1982 – Ottawa, ON Canada
23 June 1982 – Toronto, ON Canada
24 June 1982 – Kingston, ON Canada
25 June 1982 – Quebec City, QC Canada
26 June 1982 – Montreal, QC Canada
29 June 1982 – New York City, NY
30 June 1982 – Glen Cove, NY

02 July 1982 – Chicago, IL
03 July 1982 – Buffalo, NY
04 July 1982 – East Troy, WI
06 July 1982 – Danville, VA
07 July 1982 – Cedar Rapids, IA
09 July 1982 – St. Louis, MO
10 July 1982 – Des Moines, IA
14 July 1982 – Salt Lake City, UT
16 July 1982 – Seattle, WA
17 July 1982 – Anaheim, CA
18 July 1982 – Oakland, CA
20 July 1982 – Victoria, BC Canada
21 July 1982 – Vancouver, BC Canada
23 July 1982 – Edmonton, AB Canada
24 July 1982 – Calgary, AB Canada
26 July 1982 – Regina, SK Canada
27 July 1982 – Winnipeg, MB Canada
28 July 1982 – Fargo, ND
30 July 1982 – Minneapolis, MN
31 July 1982 – Springfield, MO

01 August 1982 – Indianapolis, IN
03 August 1982 – Cleveland, OH
04 August 1982 – Columbus, OH
05 August 1982 – Chicago, IL
06 August 1982 – Louisville, KY
08 August 1982 – Memphis, TN
10 August 1982 – Beaumont, TX
11 August 1982 – Corpus Christi, TX
13 August 1982 – Houston, TX
14 August 1982 – Dallas, TX
16 August 1982 – San Antonio, TX
17 August 1982 – Odessa, TX
18 August 1982 – El Paso, TX

01 September 1982 – Long Beach, CA
03 September 1982 – Sacramento, CA
04 September 1982 – Oakland, CA
05 September 1982 – Reno, NV
07 September 1982 – Boise, ID
09 September 1982 – Seattle, WA
11 September 1982 – Portland, OR
12 September 1982 – Portland, OR

14 September 1982 – St. Louis, MO
15 September 1982 – Kansas City, MO
16 September 1982 – Lincoln, NE
17 September 1982 – Minneapolis, MN
19 September 1982 – Rockford, IL
21 September 1982 – Chicago, IL
22 September 1982 – Cleveland, OH
23 September 1982 – Dayton, OH
25 September 1982 – Detroit, MI
26 September 1982 – Kalamazoo, MI
28 September 1982 – Huntington, WV
29 September 1982 – Columbus, OH

01 October 1982 – Worcester, MA
02 October 1982 – New York City, NY
03 October 1982 – Harrisburg, PA
06 October 1982 – Portland, ME
07 October 1982 – Providence, RI
08 October 1982 – Glens Falls, NY
09 October 1982 – New Haven, CT
11 October 1982 – Binghamton, NY
12 October 1982 – Philadelphia, PA
13 October 1982 – Pittsburgh, PA
15 October 1982 – Buffalo, NY
16 October 1982 – Syracuse, NY
17 October 1982 – Salisbury, MD
21 October 1982 – Norfolk, VA
22 October 1982 – East Rutherford, NJ
23 October 1982 – Rochester, NY

    By the time they were done touring, sometimes as openers and sometimes as headliners, there wasn’t a MetalHead in the United States that didn’t know who Iron Maiden was. That is how Iron Maiden became so damn popular in the United States with little radio play.
     These days, what passes for a North American tour, comparatively, is a feeble attempt at best, with most bands doing five shows on the EastCoast, five shows, East to West, through Canada, and five shows down the WestCoast. And maybe, maybe a show here and there in major cities like Dallas, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.

     The number Of The Beast is a classic album that helped spawn a genre of music that continues to evolve and gain in popularity.  PowerMetal pioneers, Helloween‘s, music from Keeper Of The Seven Keys era, has Iron Maiden influences all over and has since. Was/is Iron Maiden the first PowerMetal band in infancy? There are many who believe so and those who do not. Whatever the case, The Mighty Maiden‘s influence can be heard in such bands as Kamelot, DragonForce, Nightwish, Blind Guardian, Midnattsol, Dark Moor, Rhapsody Of Fire… professed MetalHead, Lady Gaga, has covered Maiden during live performances and espouses admiration for the band, their music, and career. Since becoming headliners, the band KISS, has only played second to one band, Iron Maiden.
     Like modern day Maestro’s, their music reaches beyond the years to influence and excite new fans. That they still release new material and tour extensively is proof that they are more than deserving of their status. Even their famed mascot, Eddie – who has graced, in some form, every release, is well known. Many fans await new albums to see what changes have become of Eddie, good or bad.

     On this release, Maiden was joined by Bruce Dickinson on vocals. Because of his loud singing style and high-pitched screaming, he became known to fans as The Air Raid Siren.
     Drummer, Clive Burr, has his last recording with Maiden on this album before leaving the band. Clive‘s drum tech, Nikko McBrain took over playing drums for the band.

     Upon release of this album, the band was immediately tagged as devil worshippers although the lyrics to the song The Number Of The Beast were written about a dream (nightmare) that Bassist Steve Harris had after viewing the movie The Omen II.

Track listing for The Number Of The Beast:
01: Invaders
02: Children Of The Damned
03: The Prisoner
04: 22 Acacia Avenue (The Continuing Saga Of Charlotte The Harlot)
05: The Number Of The Beast
06: Run To The Hills
07: Gangland*
08: Hallowed Be Thy Name

* On the remasterd version, track 8 is the song : Total Eclipse, with Gangland and Hallowed Be Thy Name following

     A masterpiece in Metal finery, The Number Of The Beast is a true Metal classic. It has made list after list of greatest albums from fanzines, magazines. Numerous covers by many bands and performers have covered songs from the album.
     You should know what most do. Get The Number Of The Beast, press play and have one hell of a Mighty Maiden moment!


Anthrax – Among The Living

     Out of the “Big 4” bands, Anthrax seems the least popular. I mean, they haven’t sold the amount of albums that Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer have, they don’t sell out massive arenas around the world… But they are one of the most influential ThrashMetal bands, bar none.

     Among The Living was released in 1987 and Anthrax spawned a movement with it. Their mix of serious, socially conscious, and humerous lyrics with a form of ThrashMetal that was heavily dosed with the same attitude, sarcasm, and cynicism of many other New York bands and leaden with excessive amount of rhythm, bass, and louder than all get out drumming; Anthrax pulled no punches, told it like they saw it, and dominated even the stage of veteran rock band KISS whom Anthrax supported in an opening slot while touring in support of their E.P., I’m The Man.

     Just how influential was Anthrax? Ever been to a show and went into the MoshPit? Yeah, that’s Anthrax‘s influence there and it came about with this album, Among The Living. A classic release and must have for any who think they are true fans of Metal in all its forms.
     HeadBanging is a staple at live Metal shows and at ThrashMetal shows the crowd could and can get so unruly and pressed up against the stage that movement is immpossible but for pushing and swaying. Couple this movement with HeadBanging, crowd surfing, stage diving, and SlamDancing and it, from the stage, looks like a huge mess of bodies and flailing limbs. A huge mess of people Caught In A Mosh; although the song refers to anything that dissolves into complete and utter chaos, like when the best thought out plans go awry – it’s not pretty. Fellow ThrashMetal band, Exodus, refered to it as the ToxicWaltz, but the moniker did not roll off the tongue like MOSH does. Since the release of Among The Living, the crowd centered directly in front of the stage are Moshing and the area itself is known as the MoshPit.
     The other “Big 4” bands might have influenced other musicians but Anthrax‘s influence affected millions of Metal fans worldwide and that affect is still going strong three generations later.

     What makes Anthrax and their music different from the other “Big 4” is they are the only one not from the WestCoast. Centered on the EastCoast, their sound was influenced by early PunkRock and the music was very bass and rhythm guitar oriented, their productions were clear; you could here every instrument in the mix. Oh, they also had a vocalist who actually sang rather than screamed the lyrics.

      As of late, Anthrax has welcomed vocalist Joey Belladonna back into the fold after a very successful reunion tour with him and guitarist Dan Spitz (though Dan chose not to rejoin the band for a new album). I for one am anticipating the new release, titled Worship Music.

Track Listing for Among The Living:
01: Among The Living*
02: Caught In A Mosh
03: I Am The Law**
04: Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)***
05: A Skeleton In The Closet****
06: Indians
07: One World
08: A.D.I./Horror Of It All*****
09: Imitation Of Life

* Based on the Stephen King character Randall Flagg from his book The Stand.
** Based on the comic character Judge Dredd.
*** Based on deceased comedian John Belushi.
**** Based on Stephen King short story Summer Of Corruption: Apt Pupil from his book Different Seasons.
***** A.D.I. stands for Arabian Douchebag Intro. Dan Spitz is of Arabic heratige and it is his lead guitar playing that begins the song.

Slayer – Reign In Blood

     With the entire 10 songs on Reign In Blood clocking in at just shy of 30 minutes; when the album was released people who bought the cassette were pissed off that all the songs were repeated on the 2nd side. Then they played the fucker!

     Holy shit!

     Motley Crue‘s album Theater Of Pain bore a sticker that proclaimed the album contained sonic fury, Slayer‘s Reign In Blood bore no such sticker. Unlike Motley Crue‘s release, which contained mediocre drivel, Reign In Blood does actually contain sonic fury. We were blown away by the albums ferociousness and everyone who heard Reign In Blood could not deny that Slayer was a true ThrashMetal band.

     Now days, Reign In Blood is considered an extreme classic and many go so far as to say it is the pinnacle of what a true ThrashMetal album should be. It is timeless. Listening to it today, it is still as heavy, if not heavier, than anything out there.
     Musically, the songs are short bursts of aggression with relentless drum kicking by Dave Lombardo driving the guitars of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, which sound more like cats either copulating or being strangled than they do guitars, and Tom Araya‘s guttural screams and spitting vocals to lyrics of death, evil, and torment… (sighs) It’s like dying and going to a very dark and blistering version of heaven.

     Most MetalHeads know this album and those who do not like ThrashMetal cite it as one album even they will listen to.
     See, for all their speed, aggression and ferocity, Slayer are a band of accomplished musicians who know their way around their instruments and how to put a song together. Many bands cite Slayer, and especially the album Reign In Blood, as being a major influence on their song writing. Their have been many Thrash releases since Reign In Blood and not one of them comes close to being what this album is, not even Slayer‘s own releases.

Track Listing for Reign In Blood:
01: Angel Of Death
02: Piece By Piece
03: Necrophobic
04: Alter Of Sacrafice
05: Jesus Saves
06: Criminally Insane
07: Reborn
08: Epidemic
09: Postmortem
10: Raining Blood

     What starts out with a wailing scream and ends with the sound of blood dripping from the heaven’s is one hell of a relentless album. If you have not heard this album, you owe it to yourself – listen to it.

Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part. 1

     The latter part of the 1980’s was a good time for Metal music. Bands that were radio friendly were losing public interest after the phenomenon that was the original Guns n’ Roses stomped its way up the charts with music that was anything but safe. Among the new bands was a then little known Deutch (German) band that reminded people of Iron Maiden.

     Helloween, for as good as they were and are, never seemed to get the respect of MetalHeads until many years later. When it came to Metal from Europe the ThrashMetal bands took all the love along with the Scorpions. I tried in vain to get friends to listen to Helloween‘s Keeper Of The Seven Keys, I even explained it as the solo from Iron Maiden‘s The Duellists but played much faster.
     One of the main reasons they could not get into Helloween, and the reason they still give for not liking many of the bands I listen to today, is the operatic quality to the vocals and the overtly technical playing.
     For all there technical expertise, Helloween’s music was not lacking in emotion and it is still Metal. What they were really trying to say was it was not rock n’ roll enough for them, but that is because they never got past the first song and listened to the album in its entirety.
     I like rock, why wouldn’t I? Metal has it’s roots in many forms of music and one of them is rock. But Europe has a proud, and rightly so, tradition of making some of the best and well thought out music. Just look at the past… Beethoven, Mozart, Bach – the Baroque and Classical periods, the invention of instruments to play music on. 
     Helloween‘s leadwork was and is based more on theory while the rhythm is more groove based, and though many of the bands do write music based on rock or incorporate it into their sound, what can be said is, no matter the influence, see them perform live and they fuckin’ rock!

     Keeper Of The Seven Key‘s is a masterpiece of Metal. There was no PowerMetal at the time. Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath’s guitar sound together was unique and the trade off leads and harmonizing leads melded each players own personal technique together without clashing. That Helloween liked to have double bass kick when it came to drums is a relevent factor in considering their music an early form of PowerMetal as they weren’t heavier than other Metal bands and certainly much less so than the Thrash bands.
     For any patron of PowerMetal to know is Kai Hansen and vocalist Michael Kiske are considered legends in the genre. As of late, both have resurfaced playing parts in many Avantasia releases, forming new bands of their own and (excitement!) they are playing together in Unisonic.

 For any fan of PowerMetal or Metal, Helloween: Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1, is a classic album that cannot be ignored.
      The production is analog so the sound is a bit dated from production but the music is still relevant today as any Iron maiden release is.

Michael Kiske, Tobias Sammat, Kai Hansen performing as Avantasia.

Track listing for Keeper Of The Seven Key’s Part 1:
01: Initiation
02: I’m Alive
03: A Little Time
04: Twilight Of The Gods
05: A Tale That Wasn’t Right
06: Future World
07: Halloween
08: Follow The Sign
Bonus tracks on re-release in 2010
01: Victim Of Fate
02: Starlight (remix)
03: A Little Time (alt. version)
04: Halloween (edit)

     Melody, rhythm, harmony, and texture – Helloween is all these. That this release and the subsequent Keeper Part 2 have been major influences in many European Symphonic and Power Metal bands cannot be denied. Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, DragonForce, Blind Guardian, Rhapsody Of Fire, Firewind… Helloween’s influence on their music and playing can be heard on any of their releases.

     At one point a rumor circulated around the Metal community that Michael Kiske was supposed to be the replacement vocalist in Iron Maiden after Bruce Dickinson left for a solo career. Instead, Maiden chose Blayze Bailey. Not knocking Maiden or Blayze (Okay, I am knocking them) but I think Michael Kiske would have been a better choice and who knows, the two albums released with Blayze, X Factor and Virtual XI, might have been accepted by fans.

Megadeth – Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?

     In its infancy, ThrashMetal, was awe-inspiring. There was Voivod, Exciter, Venom, Metallica, and Slayer all with hard to come by albums as all were released on small independant record labels (Music for Nations, Combat, Metal Blade, Megaforce). But, true to its underground roots, even MetalHeads that lived in the then smallish town of Missoula, Montana could get ahold of an album (most times a crappy cassette recording) simply by underground trading. There was no internet so snail-mail was the only way. It worked easily but for the delay of snail-mail. All one had to do was check out the classifieds in metal magazines and send a reply.
     Eventually Budget CD’s & DVD’s opened, although back then it was Budget Record’s & Tape’s. Budget has always (and forever will) have an extensive amount of Metal music, and not just the type you see on Billboard 200.
     Having been listening to Mercyful Fate and Motorhead for years, ThrashMetal was natural progression of sorts. And when Budget opened its doors it brought with it ThrashMetal by the truckloads. To name a few: Overkill, Anthrax, Kreator, Obituary, Celtic Frost, and Megadeth. I still remember what I was doing the first time I heard that classic bass intro to Peace Sells and that bass line has forever been ingrained into my psyche.

     Megadeth was like Metallica (in many ways as I am sure you know) but man, was that singer pissed off or what? He didn’t scream as much as he growled and snarled bitter lyrics along to aggressive music. Then too, he also sang lyrics that told intricate stories with just as much vehemence in his voice as the political lyrics. Megadeth appealed to our anger-of-youth and rabid fascination for all things Thrash. Had we known then just how much Dave Mustaine played a key role in the development of the ThrashMetal genre, he and Megadeth would have been huge from the get-go and not years later. They had popularity from playing ability but were always in Metallica‘s shadow.
     Now days I can say without any doubt, there would not have been ThrashMetal without Dave Mustaine. It is his guitar prowess and respect for theory that permeates early releases by Metallica. Sorry Metallica, you’re good, Dave Mustaine is better.

     Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? was a breath of fresh air or a bitch-slap upside the head, depending on who you ask. It was not their first release but it was many peoples first encouter with Megadeth. It is considered a classic ThrashMetal album, but, the line-up that plays on the album is not considered the classic Megadeth line-up, Still, Chris Poland is an excellent guitarist and among the Dave’s, Ellefson and Mustaine, he seems right at home. Gar Samuelson, the drummer for the album… Megadeth had, just my opinion, three okay drummers before finding and keeping one who’s proficiency with his chosen instrument matched that of the guitars and bass. Later on that.

Track listing for Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?:
01: Wake Up Dead
02: The Conjuring
03: Peace Sells
04: Devil’s Island
05: Good Mourning / Black Friday
06: Bad Omen
07: I Ain’t Superstitious
08: My Last Words

     On the remastered version there are four songs, Wake Up Dead, The Conjuring, Peace Sells, and Good Mourning / Black Friday that have been remixed by Randy Burns.