HammerFall – No Sacrifice, No Victory

  

      HammerFall is like ManOwaR, they kinda do their own thing. Their music can border the PowerMetal genre without ever completely staying within the vein. They are a Metal band.

     No Sacrifice, No Victory is a strong album with tried and true driving rhythm and loads of harmony and melody. Why I compare them to ManOwaR is that their music is overtly majestic in the same way that ManOwaR songs such as: Heart Of Steel, Kingdom Come, or Carry On are.
     What is great about this band, besides they are seasoned musicians, is their music has massive amounts of groove and can be deemed as, well, fun to listen to.
     An onslaught of anthem after Metal anthem for sure, but, unlike ManOwaR, HammerFall‘s cheesy does not reach the same heights, rather, they avoid it by not making every song strictly about themselves. They definately do not put supposed likenesses of themselves on their album covers. Granted, they do have some insanely funny, albeit cheesy, song intro’s (intro for Legion) and, like Iron Maiden, they have their own album cover artwork mascot: Hector, who has graced every release barring their latest, 2011’s Infected.

     I keep mentioning other bands in this. Being honest I will say this, HammerFall has found its own niche while remaining true to the style of music that made them want to play in the first place. Hence, when they sound like their influences, they really sound like their influnces. ManOwaR, Helloween, Dio, Accept, Iron Maiden… But they always sound like HammerFall.
     If you saw the movie Rock Star (debacle), HammerFall can be compared to fictitious band Steel Dragon, and why not? HammerFall vocalist Joacim Cans has trained vocally with Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Axel Rudi Pell, Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey, and a slew of guest appearances… vocal whore!) who, unlike the popular belief that Steelheart vocalist Miljenko Matijevic did, sang the Steel Dragon songs. Yes, Joacim can belt it out with the best of them and I relish anyone who sounds like a classic Metal voice. Ronnie Dio, Michael Kiske, Jeff Scott Soto, David DeFeis, Eric Adams, Rob Halford, Rob Rock, and Joacim Cans – all great metal vocalists.

     HammerFall is mostly considered PowerMetal by their fans. I would be hard pressed to add the Power before the Metal. Some songs, yes, but they play some damn good Metal music that is as based in technical theory as it is in Rock. It’s heavy, it grooves, it’s true HeadBangin’ music.

track listing for No Sacrifice, No Victory:
01: Any Means Necessary
02: Life Is Now
03: Punish And Enslave
04: Legion
05: Between Two Worlds
06: Hallowed Be My Name
07: Something For The Ages*
08: No Sacrifice, No Victory
09: Bring The Hammer Down
10: On Of A Kind
11: My Sharona**

* a f*ckin’ rockin’ instrumental
** Cover of The Knack‘s #1 song of 1979

     HammerFall – true Metal at its best. Yeah, you could party to this shit. Mm-Hmm.

 

Break Yer Neck
Headbang
Metal!!!

Have a sick new year!
\m/

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra – The Christmas Trilogy / The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

     As mentioned in the last Post for Savatage – Dead Winter Dead, the band, under the guidance of producer Paul O’Neill morphed into Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I say morphed because they didn’t change their name, Savatage released other albums later on, and TSO was not only Savatage although they remain the entities key players:
     Paul O’Neill – Producer/Composer/Lyricist
     Jon Oliva – Composer/Vocals
     Al Pitrelli – Composer/Guitar/Musical Director
     Johnny Lee Middleton – Bassist
     Chris Caffery – Guitars
     Jeff Plate – Drums

     Trans-Siberian Orchestra took off before their was even a Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Maybe it was denial by the general public but they just did not want to accept that the cool heavy rock sounding Christmas song was played by a band named Savatage. Regardless of names, the public loved the song: Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) and mainstream radio added it into their holiday play lists.

 
     Christmas Eve & Other Stories is the debut release from TSO.
     The album was a bestseller soley based on the song Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) and it received very positive reviews for its innovation and approach to Christmas holiday music.
    Not only were TSO writing new Christmas songs, they were reimagining old ones for instrumental pieces.

     The album begins with a storyline that you have to read (you don’t need to if you don’t want to follow the story the songs are telling and just want to relax and enjoy the music). I don’t want to get into the back story as it is long but you can find all the stories from the Christmas trilogy and the bands other releases here: http://trans-siberian.com/.
     Of course Christmas Eve in the title refers to that song but what is important is “& Other Stories” as many of the songs from beginning bring the listener to the importance of the the last story (the story within the story).
     Lets start.
     An angel is told by God to go down to the Earth on Christmas Eve to find out what good people have done in the name of the day; Christmas.
     yes, the angel discovers alot of music and holiday cheer but he also finds sadness and despair but even within those emotions he feels the dreams and hopes of the human spirit.
     Along his travels, the angel feels a prayer from a father whose child (daughter) is not home this holiday season. The story never says why she is not home, why she is wandering the streets of New York City; only that the father does not know what has driven a divide between he and his daughter.
     Through celestial manipulation, the angel brings the only person nearby the girl to help her. He is also a workaholic who cares about nothing but his business and profits. The girl gets home to her father who rejoices that she is home.
     Realize that this is a condensed retelling of the story of The Pordigal Son without all the sinful details but it also speaks of the human condition and if it seems a bit far-fetched; it really isn’t. I know. 
     The stories end with the angel returning to Heaven and giving what he found to God. Within the last song, after the angel is back, Kyrie plays. A fitting end to an innovative album.

Tacklisting for Christmas Eve & Other Stories:
01: An Angel Came Down
02: O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night (instrumental)
03: A Star To Follow
04: First Snow (instrumental)
05: The Silent Nutcracker (instrumental)
06: A Mad Russians Christmas (instrumental)
07: The Prince Of Peace
08: Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (instrumental)
09: Good King Joy
10: Ornament
11: The First Noel (instrumental)
12: Old City Bar
13: Promises To Keep
14: This Christmas Day
15: An Angel Returned
       Post Script
16: O Holy Night
17: God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman
        On Special Releases
18: Whoville Medley (Perfect Christmas Night/Grinch)

      Trans-Siberian Orchestra‘s second release, The Christmas Attic, again tells the story of an angel sent to earth, but this time he is to leave one thing that will benefit mankind.

     It’s never that simple with TSO. They relish in stories within stories within…

     This one differs in that a young girl is on the brink of losing childhood innocence. Seems that other children at school have instilled doubt in her about whether Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) is real or not.
     She cannot ask her parents as she has been told they are part of the entire Christmas conspiracy. So, like any child, she decides to wait up for Santa to make his appearance in the one room closest to the roof where he lands his sleigh – the attic.

     While in the attic, the angel gets her to notice an old storage chest and the magic is released.
     It doesn’t really hold magic but it does hold something just as powerful; mementos and memories that with the right amount of childhood innocence and imagination become magical.

     As with the first album, this release too has its sad moments. Although there is not as many instrumental pieces as the first release; it is the sadness in some of the stories that makes this album so poignant.

     Trans-Siberian Orchestra can be accused of Aesopian storytelling. Every album focuses on moralistic points (even their non-Christmas themed releases). Forgiveness, hope, that it is never too late, innocence over jaded viewpoints, and cherishing life no matter what kind of life you have. This release gives homage to the innocence of children. Not very Metal? They’re doing what they want and that is very Metal.

     The Christmas Attic garnered another huge hit for TSOChristmas Canon. It is Pachelbel‘s Canon in Dmajor redone with a children’s choir for vocals. It is also the third bestselling digital Christmas song. Another version done with guitars, sans children’s choir, appears on a late release. I know a lot of people who, having heard TSO‘s version on The Christmas Attic, have used for their wedding song.

     All being said, The Christmas Attic is, like its predecessor, Christmas Eve & Other Stories, a mostly light and airy release. It is a Christmas album.

track listing for The Christmas Attic:
01: The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve
02: Boughs Of Holly (instrumental)
03: The World That She Sees
04: The World That He Sees*
05: Midnight, Christmas Eve (instrumental)
06: The March Of The Kings/Hark, The Herald Angels Sing (instrumental)
07: The Three Kings And I (What Really Happened)
08: Christmas Canon
09: Joy/ Angel’s We Have Heard On High
10: Find Our Way Home
11: Appalachian Snowfall (instrumental)
12: The Music Box
13: The Snow Came Down
14: Christmas In The Air
15: Dream Child (A Christmas Dream)
16: An Angel’s Share
17: Music Box Blues

     I remember reading a review for The Christmas Attic in which the author wrote that there is nothing new on the release, nothing different from Christmas Eve & Other Stories. I wonder how much of the music the writer actually listened to? Yes, the music is along the lines of Christmas Eve & Other Stories, but songs like The Music Box, Dream Child, An Angel’s Share, Christmas Canon, Music Box Blues, The Three Kings And I… There was no songs like them on the first release.

* released only on later versions of the album.

     For all those who pined for a more serious release. A more symphonic release (as if the other two releases were not symphonic enough), this is it.
     I will note that it is, at times, melancholy, but very introspective.

     As the story continues…

     Again the angel is sent to Earth on a quest by God. This trip he has to bring him the name of the person that best continues the work of his son on Earth.
     Aside from the daunting task, the angel can only use his power of flight twice. Once to descend and again to return to Heaven.

     Okay, this album has its light and airy moments but for the most part it is dealing with heavy issues. Emotions permeate many of the songs, and many can be deemed on the Gothic side.
     First off, take the cover. See the guitar in the snow globe? Homage to Criss Oliva, original guitarist for Savatage, brother to Jon Oliva, whose life was ended by a drunk driver? Maybe. It is who I thought of upon first seeing the cover.
     And then there is the music.
     From the start there is a melancholic feel to it. Like the second album, The Christmas Attic, this release, too, deals with ghosts and spirits, though more depth is used, in turn making the songs longer, a bit more progressive, less Rock sounding and more Metal.
     Don’t let the mood stop you from listening to this release. Christmas, and holidays in general, are not only times of happiness. There are many people who suffer through them with memories of once good times but now, because life gives you what it gives you and rarely what you want and plan for, holidays mean remembering what is now lost or gone in their life, or their failures.
     But like TSO does, they take you to those memories and let you know that it is never too late in your life to turn things around.

     The instumentals on this album are ridiculously excellent. Unlike the first two releases, the instrumental faire here is based on classic music from the Classical and Baroque periods.
     The story inside the story is extremely sad and at times can make you angry at how selfish human beings can be. But again, it is a retelling of another story,  A Christmas Carol, a story of a stained and tarnished life and the redemption of the spirit. Does it happen? Can a selfish, egotistical, holier-than-thou- SOB change? I don’t know, but TSO makes you believe that with the right amount of magic and timing, because timing is everything, a person can change who and how they are in a night.

     This album clocks in at over 66 minutes of music. Some songs are short and can lead the listener to wonder why they even included them at all, but in the end they have their place. They are not intro’s. Nor are they interlude’s. Imagine what New York City may be like at Christmas and you can imagine hearing a brass band or bells chiming a tune in the distance. Ambience.

Track Listing for The Lost Christmas Eve:
01: Faith Noel (instrumental)
02: The Lost Christmas Eve
03: Christmas Dreams
04: Wizards In Winter (instrumental)
05: Remember
06: Anno Domine
07: Christams Concerto (instrumental)
08: Queen Of The Winter Night (instrumental)
09: Christmas Nights In Blue
10: Christmas Jazz (instrumental)
11: Christmas Jam
12: Siberian Sleigh Ride (instrumental)
13: What Is Christmas?
14: For The Sake Of Our Brother
15: The Wisdom Of Snow (instrumental)
16: Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness) (instrumental)
17: Back To Reason, Part 2
18: Christmas Bells, Carousels, & Time (instrumental)
19: What Child Is This?
20: O’ Come All Ye Faithful (instrumental)
21: Christmas Canon Rock
22: Different Wings
23: Midnight Clear

 
 

 
     This is not a live performance DVD. Neither does it tell the stories from either of the first two albums, Christmas Eve & Other Stories and The Christmas Attic. It is a stand alone story written especially for this DVD release that uses songs from both the first two CD releases.

     The story is about a young girl who runs away from home, to get out of the cold she breaks into an old theater. As is Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s way, the theater is filled with mementos and memories, ghosts and spirits who, with the help of an elderly caretaker, work to turn the girl’s life around.

     The DVD is short and may leave you wondering why they made it other than that they could, but it also shows the timelessness of the songs and that they can inspire in many different scenerios.
     Of note, the elderly caretaker is played by the late Ossie Davis, who, for some odd reason, you can imagine him hanging out in an old run down theater…Creepy.
     Jewel and Michael Crawford make guest appearances.

Track Listing For The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve:
01: O’ Come All Ye Faithful/O’ Holy Night
02: Good King Joy
03: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
04: Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
05: Christmas Canon
06: O’ Holy Night
07: Music Box Blues
08: Promises To Keep
09: This Christmas Day
10: First Snow

     I don’t believe that at the time of this release TSO had even toured yet. Yeah, I think they had only played one live show by this time.
     Having seen Trans-Siberian Orchestra perform live a few times, I can say that they put on one hell of a show. If you get the chance to see them, please remember this, it is a Christmas holiday event geared toward families. I went with my young son, Blade, and the guy sitting nearby us was inhebriated, stank like a brewery, kept spilling his alcohol, and cursed as if he was at a local dive-bar. What an ass!

     Well, that’s it.  

METAL!
\m/

DragonForce – Inhuman Rampage

        Since its inception, Metal has sprouted many bastard children (genres). Whether it is the mixing of genres or natural evolution, Metal remains within the public eye by its refusal to stop being gregarious. Take DragonForce, they who refer to their music as ExtremePowerMetal, their music demands attention not only for its musicianship, but for its audacity to be faster than anything else while remaining technically proficient.
     Granted, it is hard to decipher between the songs after twenty minutes or so due to the musics nature to have all instruments in ‘shred’ mode, but, unlike 1980’s SpeedMetal, it helps that drummer, Dave Mackintosh, makes little use of blast beats and can play more than a snare drum.

     Inhuman Rampage is DragonForce‘s third release, their first to be released in the U.S. after signing with Universal Music Group label Roadrunner Records for major distribution. Compared to their two previous recordings, Valley Of The Damned and Sonic Firestorm, Inhuman Rampage is, overall, less of an in-your-face offering and more of a PowerMetal band messing around and incorporating various Rock and Metal styles into their music. Is it always lightning fast? No. It is always DragonForce though – it can get slower; yet their slower is still faster than many band’s fast (does that make sense?).

     The band had to break. That’s the bottom line. Inhuman Rampage is too strong of a release to not have the band be noticed. Writing music with 3000+ notes per song can not be easy, and making it sound good to boot…  
     Production-wise, Inhuman Rampage is worlds beyond Sonic Firestorm and Valley Of The Damned.  Notably, the band sounds like they are playing in a studio and not on another planet and the vocals are next to the other instruments instead of being in front of or behind in the mix.

     Before Guitar Hero exposed the band to a multitude of listeners, DragonForce had already worked hard at self-promotion by accepting a mainstage position at the 2006 Ozzfest right after ending a North American tour, and, in between shows at Ozzfest, the band played off-tour dates whenever and wherever they could. After Ozzfest completed its run, the band again toured through the U.S. twice more before ending the Inhuman Rampage tour. For a band to become known in a country the size of the U.S., extensive touring helps***.

     To say the band broke out is an understatement. G3 cofounder and guitar virtuoso, Joe Satriani was amazed at the playing ability of Herman Li, so much so that Herman made a couple special guest appearences at G3 shows.
     Both Herman and drummer, Dave Mackintosh have held clinics throughout the world. One answer still eludes me though – Sam Totman composes a majority of the music so why is he in the background? Strange.

     There have been rumors and stories abounding that DragonForce cannot play as fast as they do, that their music is sped up in the studio through technological means. However, having seen DragonForce perform live five times, I have heard them make mistakes, forget lyrics, venue generators blow up (twice on the same night in here in Missoula), strings break… The music had to stop while the problems were handled and not once did the music continue like a recording was being played. Did the music always sound like it did on the CD? Thankfully it did not. Who goes to a damn show to hear exactly what is on a CD? Stay home and listen to the CD if that’s what you want.
     Live, DragonForce is tight. In concert they are funnier than shit as they mess with each other. I will miss ZP Theart, their vocalist who left the band in 2010. I saw them four times in Oregon; always in the front row banging my head. When they came to Missoula, ZP recognized me and pointed me out.

Track listing for Inhuman Rampage:
01: Through The Fire And Flames
02: Revolution Deathsquad
03: Storming The Burning Fields
04: Operation Ground And Pound
05: Body Breakdown
06: Cry For Eternity
07: The Flame Of Youth
08: Trail Of Broken Hearts
09: Lost Souls In Endless Time
Enhanced CD Video: Through The Fire And Flames

     ***In 2009, DragonForce did a tour through the U.S. called, “Do It For The Fans” tour. It started in Spokane, Washington and continued with stops in medium sized towns that many bands don’t even bother with. Luckily, they came to Missoula.
      On another note, a complaint by many musicians who move to Missoula is there is nothing but a bunch of Metal bands in this town. Don’t like it? Move to Portland or Seattle and be alternative. Although an alternative to what I do not know.

   Later HellRats!

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!

UP THE IRONS!

Kamelot – Epica

     As of late, I have been way too busy, but summer is winding down here in the Rocky Mountains (why is it still in the upper nineties?) so blogging will become more active.
     One good thing about being busy is background noise. I have been listening to alot of Anthrax, Sepultura, Kamelot, Hammerfall, Blind Guardian, Rhapsody Of Fire… Old shit, new shit – Metal!

     Studio albums from Kamelot tend to have an overproduced feel to them. Most times, while listening to them, I knitpick the sound and wonder why it does not move me like their live recordings. The music is not bad, it is just not live and Kamelot is a live band.
     Bands put out an album and then tour to support it, but, it is almost as if Kamelot put out an album to support their upcoming tour. Whatever it may be, Kamelot is one hell of a band to see live and many of my favorite songs by the band are not those that they perform while on stage.

     Epica is the beginning of something while being the end of another. I do think the title is heavily self-prophesying for the band.

     Epica is the beginning of the band’s retelling of Goethe’s Faust. The main character, Ariel, is on a quest to find the meaning of it all. He leaves his beloved, Helena, and travels in search for an answer. Ariel eventually becomes disillusioned when his search becomes long and fruitless.
     Enter Mephisto, AKA – the devil, who tempts Ariel with dreams of power. Needless to say, Ariel eventually accepts.
     Helena, whom Ariel left behind, has been searching for Ariel and eventually the two run into each other. They spend time together but Ariel‘s old drive to find the meaning to everything resurfaces and he again leaves Helena. Distraught that her love has once again left her, Helena takes her own life by drowning herslf in a river.
     Ariel is driven even after he learns of Helena‘s suicide and the death of their unborn child (neither knew she was pregnant).
     Mephisto continues to chide Ariel and push him on despite the high price he has paid for his obsession. Meanwhile Helena‘s soul sings to him of love but Ariel believes himself to be damned and cries out against God as being the cause of his troubles.
     That’s the story in a nutshell.

     There is another beginning here though. A band by the name of Sahara Dust was in a studio recording their debut album and had been listening to Kamelot’s Epica. Inspired by the music they asked Kamelot if they could use the name Epica as their band name. Hence, Epica was born.

     Epica, musically, is close to the bands previous releases, Siége Perilous, The Fourth Legacy, and Karma. It has a very majestic PowerMetal sound though the lyrics deal with a dark and melencholic story. There are a few more mellow songs to carry the changing mood of the story but much of the album has a speedier pace.
     Vocally, Roy Kahn is, as always, damn good. Again, the studio performance of Roy and the band just does not compare to what they do live. No one could ever accuse this band of lip-syncing.

     As for Epica being the end of something, it was. On their release after Epica, The Black Halo (which completes the retelling of Goethe’s Faust), Kamelot took a darker approach to writing their music. Some have accused them of becoming more Gothic in sound. The music has remained along the PowerMetal vein but it has become moodier. The change in musical direction has not lessened their ability to write excellent songs as, sometimes, a change in musical style could just mean they tune their instruments differently or their personal lives have a bit of strife in them and it is carrying over to the music – something musicians tend to allow to happen.

Track Listing For Epica*:
01: Prologue
02: Center Of The Universe
03: Farewell
04: Interlude I – Opiate Soul
05: The Edge Of Paradise
06: Wander
07: Interlude II – Omen
08: Descent Of The Archangel
09: Interlude III – At The Banquet
10: A Feast For The Vain
11: On The Coldest Winter Night
12: Lost & Damned
13: Helena’s Theme
14: Interlude IV – Dawn
15: The Mourning After (Carry On)
16: III Ways To Epica

     Epica is a solid PowerMetal release from a band that is so much better and talented than many out there. What is funny is the theme of the album would so go over with many people in the world today; struggles with questions about God, Life, feelings of aimlessness, letdown… If only more people were aware of this band regularly.

* Limited Edition version contains the song Snow while the Japanese version contains the song Like The Shadows

ReVamp

     When After Forever called it quits in 2009, after not having released any recordings since 2007, I knew that the members would resurface in other bands, it was eventual.

     ReVamp is comprised of vocalist, Floor Jansen (After Forever), keyboardist, Joost van den Broek (After Forever, Expedition Delta, Sphere Of Souls, Star One, and Sun Caged), guitarist, bassist, and notable  music producer Waldemar Sorychta (Grip, Inc., Voodoo Cult, Eyes Of Eden), and drummer, Koen Herfst.

     Having followed After Forever I also followed what the ex-band members were doing since closing the door on After Forever and moving on. I have Kiske/Somerville which Sander Gommans plays guitar on and I heard of ReVamp since Floor Jansen released the bands existance on her MySpace site. And Like Kiske/Somerville, my frequent music store, Budget CD’s, here in Missoula, ordered the CD for me without my having to ask them to because they knew I would interested in the band simply because I revel in all the old After Forever releases.
     I have had the CD since August of 2010 but have not reviewed it thus far because I wanted to get through After Forever releases before moving on to individual member releases. In the same way I did Nightwish and then started on Tarja‘s solo releases.
     Alas, a message on Poetry, Melodies, & Metal; left by a reader of the blog; that he hopes I review this album. And, that some of my posts are turning up ver-batim on other blogs around the world (thankfully giving the name of the blog and my internet call, zhadowlord, as the author), and, well, I really admire Floor Jansen‘s vocal ability, which, on this album shines.

     If you do not own this album then I will say that without listening to the music, by just opening the inlay card and looking through it, you can easily tell from the pictures alone that this is one eclectic album. Don’t worry about that though; After Forever changed their style with each release yet you loved them all. In ReVamp, Floor kind of does the same thing with each song.
     The album openers intro starts off sounding heavily influnced by Slayer (not as brutal) before toning down to a more SymphonicMetal sound and the singing starts – Floor sounds really close to Tarja Turunen in the beginning. You know, Floor has such excellent control of her voice that listening to this album, I could imagine her doing many different styles of music with no problem; be they classical or 1960’s hippie-folk music. You could not say that about many vocalists.

     The music, like Midnattsol‘s album Nordly‘s, reminds me of something I have heard but can’t quite put a finger on where I heard it before. Influences abound everywhere on this album. From Classical to Industrial without being kitch, ReVamp takes their influences and defines their own sound from the cacophony – it’s nice when musicians are confident and rounded enough to dare this; it has backfired on some who sound too close to another band.

Tracklisting for ReVamp:
01: Here’s My Hell*
02: Head Up High
03: Sweet Curse**
04: Million
05: In Sickness ‘Till Death Do Us Part 1: All Goodbyes Are Said
06: Break
07: In Sickness ‘Till Death Do Us Part 2: Disdain***
08: In Sickness ‘Till Death Do Us Part 3: Disgraced
09: Kill Me With Silence
10: Fast Forward
11: The Trial Of Monsters
12: Under My Skin
13: I Lost Myself
14: No Honey For The Damned

* George Oosthoek (ex-Orphanage) lends vocals and growls to this song.
** Russell Allen (Symphony X) sings with Floor here.
***Bjorn Strid (Soilwork) growls here.

     Overall, this is a good album with many different musical and vocal naunces. Assuming Floor is leading ReVamp; this band will only get tighter and explore different forms of music by incorporating into their own style, much like Floor‘s own sense of style and appearance.  

     Here is another review, but only of Sweet Silence, Russell Allen‘s duet with Floorhttp://songdynamics.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/sweet-curse-revamp/]Revamp–Sweet Curse

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.

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