Reviews

Blaze Bayley-"The Man Who Would Not Die"-2008

Never was an album so aptly named! "The Man Who Would Not Die" brings Blaze Bayley back into the spotlight 4 tumultous years since `04s` "Blood And Belief". All has definitely not been smooth sailing for Blaze since that time, but his new CD is ample proof that what doesn`t kill you DOES indeed make you stronger. It also features some of the most powerful material of Mr. Bayley`s career. Straight up traditional British Metal is the order of the day here, stripped down and full speed ahead, but with a definite modern edge. The album opens up with the title track, and pretty much sets the pace for the duration. Featuring a powerhouse riff, this is classic Blaze at his best, proclaiming that the man is back with a vengeance! Up next is "Blackmailer", which has a few stylistic similarities to Blaze`s former band, [whose initials are I.M.] while "Smile Back At Death" [no doubt inspired by the movie "Gladiator"] features more cool riffage. "Crack in the System" harkens back to the "Silicon Messiah" days, as does the borderline Thrasher "Samurai". As usual, Blaze has surrounded himself with an impressive lineup of killer musicians [guitarists Jay Walsh and Nicolas Bermudez, bassist David Bermudez and drummer Lawerence Patterson] who not only perform like a well-oiled machine but also give their own personal stamp to their respective parts. At the end of the day [which is also the title of track Number 8, by the way], Blaze and crew have made up for lost time in a big way, and the stage is set for the man AND the band to regain the earlier momentum of his solo days. And hopefuly we can get these guys back over THIS side of the pond for a proper tour! One can only hope. A winner!!!!!!!!!

Blaze Bayley

Blackmore`s Night-"Secret Voyage"-2008

What do you do when you have played with two of the greatest Rock bands of all time, played with some of the greatest musicians of all time, released many of the BEST Heavy Rock albums EVER, created THE most memorable riffs that ever existed AND are considered one of the most brilliant Rock guitarists the universe? You could either become another Hard Rock relic, plodding along the same musical territory, OR if you`re The Man In Black you form Blackmore`s Night! Along with the stunning and talented vocalist Candice Night, Ritchie Blackmore has spent the past decade crafting songs that are unlike his previous material, though they are undoubtedly "Blackmore-ish", in every respect. The sound of Blackmore`s Night can probably best be described as that of a group of merry medieval minstrels who have stumbled upon Purple`s/Rainbows rehearsal space outside of Ye Olde Renaissance Fest. Or not. Anyway, over the course of five studio albums, Blackmore`s Night has enjoyed great success outside the Hard Rock box, and with the release of album number 6, it appears that this state of affairs will continue. "Secret Voyage" doesn`t differ too much from its` predecessors; Renaissance-era instrumentation and arrangements weave in and out of more traditional [albeit softer at times] Rock fare, although Ritchie has not retired his Strat by any means. The grandoise instrumental opener "God Save The Keg" gives way to the 8 minute-plus "Locked Within The Crystal Ball"; if Blackmore & Co. were to pack it in tomorrow, this track would assure that they went out on a high note. If I had to pick one song to represent the album AND the group, this would be it! Nearly flawless in all respects, the song features one of the most powerful vocal performance of Candice Night`s career, along with equally powerful lyrics and melodies. And through it all is that gut-wrenching minor key Blues soloing that only Blackmore seems to know how to do well. Much of the albums remainder is more traditional Blackmore`s Night fare, filled with lyrical imagery of roadside taverns, cold nights drinking ale by the fire, etc. Amongst the highlights here are "Sister Gypsy", "The Circle" and the Rainbow cover "Rainbow Eyes". As with albums past, Blackmore delights in revisiting past and redoing endeavors; this version is actually a bit better than the original [which I felt was one of the weaker tracks from Rainbow`s "Long Live Rock & Roll"] Hell, there`s even a tongue-in-cheek rendition of Elvis` "Can`t Help Falling In Love"! What MORE could you want? Quite possibly the best release yet from Blackmore`s Night, and definitely yet ANOTHER career highpoint for Ritchie. One of the years best!

Blackmore`s Night

Disturbed-"Indestructible"-2008

I can hear it now: "Disturbed?! What the hell, West Side? You gone Nu Metal on us?" What can I tell ya? I`m a recent convert to this band. I pretty much wrote these guys off from the first album, as well as the second. For some reason, I decided to pick up "Ten Thousand Fists" and surprised myself by actually enjoying the hell out of it! Sure the songs tend to have a sameness to them at times and David Draiman`s nasally vocal chants become old hat after a while, but damn if they don`t write some killer riffs. And they seem to be leaning in more of a traditional Heavy Rock direction than before, though still maintaining the elements that brought the Disturbed their initial acclaim. An air raid siren opens the disc; wow, maybe the Chicago 4-piece have been listening to some Old School Metal of late? That leads into the title track, an anthem along the lines of "Ten Thousand Fists", and definitely geared for the stage. The radio hit "Inside The Fire" is next; musically good, though the lyrics tend to fall flat. "Deceiver" gets things back on track, alternating between the usual Disturbed stylings and elements of Thrash. "The Night" is heavy, hypnotic and catchy and is probably my favorite cut. Draiman actually sings more than chants on the CD, a welcome respite from his usual performance, and he really shines. I should also mention guitarist/producer Dan Donegan. Not only are his production values a notch above the usual Nu Metal standard, but he is a mean guitar player, to boot. He actual plays SOLOS on the album, something the Slipknotheads of the world are clearly incapable of. Also, the guitars have definition and character, not the usual buzzy, Z-tuned sludge. All in all a solid effort, though not quite the brilliant masterpiece that some of the groups` starry-eyed followers claim. Still and all, I`m impressed. And with their recent headline appearence at Sweden Rock 2008 [as well as the bands` acknowledgement in the press that the European Metal scene is bigger than in the states], maybe a bit of the Euro-Metal sound will creep its` way into Disturbed musical make-up. We can hope, right?

Disturbed

Anubis-"Sibuna"-2008

At first glance, you might think a band called Anubis would be yet another Euro-Power Metal outfit, but you would be wrong. And while this UK 4-piececertainly lean towards the Heavy Rock end of the spectrum, the outside influences in their music stretch far beyond the average `eadbanging. Their debut disc, "Sibuna" [spell it backwards to figure out its` meaning!] is an album that at some points may require more of an open mind and a taste for the eccentric. Combining elements of Hard Rock/Metal, psychedelia, Celtic and other styles, the band have forged their own style that is at times haunting, hypnotic and just plain out there, but not so much that you can`t get a handle on the music. In fact, Anubis have obviously taken great care in the songwriting department, as the tunes are memorable and catchy. Sarah Co'burn`s vocals give some of the tracks an Evanescence-feel, a sharp contrast to the Metallic axe work of guitarists Simon Lees and Andy Hart. The guitar work by these two is downright deadly; I can`t believe I`ve never heard of them before! To be honest, the album is best taken as a whole, which is not to inply that "Sibuna" is a concept album. Cuts like "Us", "Masquerade", "No One Is Immortal", and "Your World Vampire Waltz" are amongst the standouts for me. While the production could have been a bit better, the sheer uniqueness of this bands shines through loud and clear. For those Hard Rock fans who are interested in something more than the latest Helloween clone, I HIGHLY recommended Anubis!!

Anubis

-Visideon-"Dark Angel"-2006

Visideon were beyond a doubt among the highlights of the 2008 Flight Of The Valkyries fest, which yours truly attended in St. Paul, Minnesota. Having witnessed firsthand what this band is capable of in a live setting, I naturally got my hooks on their 2006 EP "Dark Angel". Formed as an extended project by members of ArcAnA and featuring keyboardist/vocalist Katrina, Visideons` sound can best be described as dark, progressive Metal. [Hey, that was the best I could up with!] Now, a lot of keyboard-dominated Metal promises much but after a while tends to disappear up its` own MIDI port; such is NOT the case with Visideon! One of the most striking features about this band is their keen sense of melody, as well as their obvious songwriting and instrumental skills. Yes, the emphasis is on SONGS, and some damn good ones are on this EP. Clever hooks abound, as can be heard in "Rag Doll", the title track, "Wolf" and my personal favorite, "White Raven". "Fighter" is another highpoint of the CD, and one helluva vocal performance by Katrina. The production is clear and professional and the musicianship of Katrina and her bandmates is of the highest calibre. But unlike similar bands whose creations are studio-bound forever, Visideon`s music translates flawlessly from studio to stage. I was fortunate enough to meet Katrina, and found her to be a solid professional who creates the music that she enjoys, which is far more inportant to her than simply chasing the latest trend. A true Do It Yourself-er that the world desperately needs MORE of! We can ensure that Visideon and all independent artists like them are able to bring their music to the widest audience possible; simply go to their website and purchase their releases. That`s easy, isn`t it? And definitely catch Visideon live when you have the chance; you WON`T regret it! Highly recommended!

Visideon
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