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Revisiting “Metal Edge” Magazine: The CD Reviews – Part 12

These album overviews were originally written for Metal Edge Magazine when I was a contributor to their “Hear Us Out” CD reviews section back in 2006-2007. With the magazine wrapping up publication a few months ago, I decided to add them to the context of our PiercingMetal presentation. I felt that by doing this I would not only be raising the horns in remembrance of the magazine but would also be able to showcase just how different writing for a major publication was when it all came down to it. Since “Hear Us Out” notations were usually “100” words in length, these posts will feature several reviews each until we run out of them. The freelance writing tenure at Metal Edge Magazine was discussed on THIS LINK so please check that out when done. Here are the final reviews, so “Hear Us Out” one last time.

Various Artists: “Metal For The Masses V” (Century Media Records)

The great thing about this compilation is that it includes members of the whole Century Media family of labels and as result you get Into Eternity with Meshuggah with American Heartbreak. Two CD’s loaded with songs from existing and new signings make this a worthy slab of Metal, but lets not forget the DVD that features videos from the same rosters. It’s a great way to showcase the already known while allowing you time to absorb those that are new. You cannot go wrong with a release like that for who knows how many more fans it can make for legends and how many legends it can foster going forward.

Various Artists: “Saw III” Soundtrack (Artists Addiction Records)

Soundtracks are not often easy to review since many of them are sub-par but lucky us this is an exception. After the shaking in fear has stopped from seeing this movie, you can once again feel your blood boil hot with the power of the great bands presented here. Hot new acts like All That Remains, and Mastodon are tempered by the legends Slayer and Ministry while ever rising super powers like Lamb Of God and Meshuggah dole it out as well. A soundtrack helped Evanescence, perhaps this will make a spike marked dent on someone elses career. Yes, there will be blood.

Various Artists: “Sick Of It All: Our Impact Will Be Felt” (Abacus Records)

Slowly becoming the be-all label for finding slam worthy Hardcore and Metalcore, Abacus Records gives us a compilation that celebrates 20 years of the band Sick Of It All. This tribute takes some of the hottest talent in the genre and has them bring to life their own version of a SOIA classic. The idea works for a number of reasons as not only do you hear the hot bands of today but you get the chance to learn more about these forefathers of the Hardcore movement. It’s a great sampling of a wide variety of groups.

Venom: “Metal Black” (Sanctuary Records)

Venom have been referred to as being the “Fathers Of Black Metal” and this title is based on their releases such as “Black Metal” and “At War With Satan”. When the band was formed in 1982 there was not really anyone playing the kind of music much less about the kind of topics that they were bringing to the table. When you look back and listen to the early albums you will find that the original lineup of Cronos, Mantas and Abbadon (who were all named after demons) delivered a more Thrash Punk than Metal style and their lyrics while very dark could not have been meant to be taken very seriously. Cited by bands like Slayer and many others as the key influence to their own forays into Metal’s Dark side the group gives us “Metal Black”. The Sanctuary Records release finds Venom bringing their sound into 2006 but the only original member on the release would be Cronos with his growling vocals and thundering bass. We last saw Cronos on the Dave Grohl project “Probot” and now joining him would be Mykvs (guitar) and Antton (drums) with both members helping out on backing vocals. Together the group reminds the listener once again of the goings on down below and with “Antechrist” and “Rege Satanus” prove that they will never stray far from this influence for their music. Oddly enough this release is far different from the early albums and delivers a solid dose of Heavy Metal rumbling that I think can appeal to even the non-fan. It was better than I remember them and finds a little more musicality being showcased this time around. I had a couple of tracks that I liked the most such as “Burn In Hell” and “A Good Day to Die” which were fast-paced numbers along the lines of Motorhead. There were some levels of lyrical predictability here but overall it is possibly the best work that the band has delivered in years. If you find inspiration in the bands of yesterday then this will be worth looking into. Given the earlier disciples to their sound in the past who knows what the return of Venom in 2006 will find. Only time will tell if the next big thing listens to this and follows in their hoof prints.

Virgin Black: “Requiem: Mezzo Forte” (The End Records)

The 2nd of a Trilogy, this CD makes you feel you should be watching in an elaborate Opera house as opposed to a club setting. This is intense drama and passion that also cannot be appreciated on a first listen. As it thundered by in its lush orchestrations, I felt as though I was observing from an ornate balcony as I wondered how so much diversity was fit into the time presented. This is classical and dark, yet imposing and beautiful at the same time. It goes to show how fresh the “Metal” genre remains as new worlds of musical color are presented on a regular basis.

Wednesday 13: “Fang Bang” (Ryko Records)

Former Murderdolls singer/guitarist Wednesday 13 takes movie monsters, Cemetery romance and grave-robbing to give you ghoulish good time with “Fang Bang”. This quirkiness and the Punk Rock & Roll backbeat are sure to serve the minions of the macabre well as the living dead front man delivers some sinister and twisted tunes. Citing that this recording was more of a return to the style of Frankenstein Drag Queens than his Murderdolls music, the album is a lot of fun from start to finish. If the stuff was done in a serious fashion and not as tongue-in-cheek the subject matter being sung about would terrify a person because he really singing about some horrifying stuff. Instead, this musical adventure is something you might expect from the Crypt Keeper as Wednesday 13 sings as different characters on several songs such as a grave-robbing transvestite during “Happily Ever Cadaver” and someone who lived with his dead girlfriend for “Morgue Than Words”. It all sounds disgusting but it worked oh so very well and you will find them appealing enough to form your own Goth Punk mosh pit. It’s a musically slamming album with more catchy hooks than you can count as he brings Hollywood movie monsters to life on songs like “Haddonfield” and “Till Death Do Us Party”. If you never imagined yourself being moved to stomp during the antics of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers well here is your excuse as these two numbers are among the albums strongest inclusions. Practically every chorus will have you humming once your first spin of the CD is finished. Wednesday 13 shows a really amusing and dark sense of humor that works well on every song (such as “Buried With Children”), and while most tracks are of this nature there seems to be some seriousness on “Die Sci-Fi”, which is a kind of trippy number, and “Burn The Flames” which finds 13 in his best Alice Cooper moment. It’s almost like the credits section as a movie closes. He provides lyrics for the tracks and that allows you in on the jokes of this very fun record. His very visual nature and horror show premise gives the impression that concerts will be an absolute blast. This bone shaking album will allow you monsters to mash a little more so grab a partner and start shaking – here is your new graveyard smash.

White Lion: Anthology 83-89 (Deadline Music)

White Lion was one of the more popular acts in the Hard Rock 80’s – you had the energetic blonde singer (Mike Tramp) and guitar virtuoso Vito Bratta who gave fans a plethora of rock solid hits. The Anthology had the chance to be something excellent but this is not the case as instead of official album tracks you get songs familiar names but are musically quite different. Loaded with outtakes, demos and acoustic tracks the album should have been called “Rarities” as otherwise its deceiving the listener. Given most of these tracks are lesser grade production value tracks it makes the entire disk a reminder of the great band in name more than music.

Wuthering Heights: “The Shadow Cabinet” (Sensory Records)

If you’re longing for speedy drumming, lightning guitar riffing and vocals that are as resounding as a call to battle then Wuthering Heights is just what the doctor ordered. The Danish group uses all the expected tricks but also mixes many classical and folk elements together and brings some truly epic tunes to your stereo. I felt old Blind Guardian as they played “Faith” and “Seize The Night” and completed my listen as a satisfied Metal maniac. With their fourth release, they show a powerful presence remains. Discovery lies ahead on this one. A live performance DVD is included.

ZO2: “Ain’t Is Beautiful” (Independent Artist)

Every so often, you come across a band that reminds you about the simple pleasures of Rock & roll and all of the magic that it possesses. This is the case with New York’s ZO2, who bring you back to a sound that is generally lost by a number of today’s bands that are concerned more about genre labels than the task at hand. “Ain’t It Beautiful” is the bands second independent release and don’t let the term “indie” sway you as the group comes from some truly inspirational foundations. Dave Z. (the bassist) is also a member of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, while brother Paulie and drummer Joe Cassata each have ample background from numerous working bands, which at times were busier than established industry “professionals”. The group was also the opener for the entire run of dates for KISS’ “Rock The Nation” tour. The CD follows up their debut “Tuesdays & Thursdays” with a similar theme of Melodic Hard Rock that will appeal to all fans who loved what KISS and Aerosmith did in their earlier years. Their sound is by no means retro, but instead is a skillful blend of the old meeting the new and showing how fresh it can sound when you focus on the basic formulas. Add in the fact that they use three-part harmony vocals these guys give the listeners easily memorable choruses. Paulie has the kind of voice that many Rock singers aspire to for he is bluesy at times, passionate at others, and when it is called for – he can scream like a banshee. It is the kind of diversity you want in a front man and he surely delivers on all fronts and gets you on your feet with numbers like “Get Up Now” and “If You See Kay”. While these are two of the bands most inspired rockers, I loved “Comin’ Home” and “Isolate” the best as each of them just took me away to a live show with the vibe that they brought. The guys also show respect and homage to the Rock founders on “Get The Led Out”, a number that uses some sweet Zeppelin feels and style. The album sounds fantastic and was produced & co-written by Bob Held. It’s music that you will want to play loud, sing along to and memorize all at the same time. I’m convinced that bigger things await ZO2 and their fans. Anyone else want to come along?

With this post we are finished with this presentation but the other chapters in this series of “Revisiting Metal Edge Magazine” can be examined by clicking on the “metal edge magazine” tag in this and the other posts. I hope that you enjoyed these summaries as much as I enjoyed sharing them with you in this fashion.

Official Websites:
Venom: http://www.venomslegions.com/
Virgin Black: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Black
Wednesday 13: http://officialwednesday13.com/
White Lion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Lion
Wuthering Heights: http://www.wuthering-heights.dk/
ZO2: http://www.zo2.com

Amorphis @ B.B. King Blues Club (9/29/2008)

Logo - Amorphis

Artist: Amorphis
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Samael, Virgin Black
Date: 9/29/2008
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

If you live in a city like New York and are a big supporter of any genre’s music scene then you are truly a very lucky person because there is seldom a night where you find yourself with nothing to do or nothing to see – especially when it comes to live music. The city offers up countless bars, venues, and theatres where music across a wide-genre scope is delivered almost nightly and if you are thinking there is no downside to this, well there is when two major events are scheduled for the exact same night. For me, this particular show would conclude the “Finnish Invasion” that I spoke of in both my Apocalyptica and Sonata Arctica commentaries. Sadly, Nightwish had indeed cancelled their appearance based on the illness of singer Anette but we did get a killer set from Sonata. Tonight’s fun at B.B. King Blues Club would also find a killer show that featured Kataklysm, Keep Of Kalessin and Eluveitie going on at the same time over at the Blender Theater and this was really going to make the Metal heads choose because all of the bands combined had the same loyal fan base. For me the choice was simple and locked on Amorphis because the band has not been over here since early 2005 by my recollection and since that time have released two more albums. The show tonight would bring along label mates Samael and Virgin Black from Australia. Here is how the night went down if you had missed it.
Continue reading Amorphis @ B.B. King Blues Club (9/29/2008)

“Requiem: Mezzo Forte” by Virgin Black

Artist: Virgin Black
Title: “Requiem – Mezzo Forte”
Label: The End Records
Release Date: 4/3/2007
Genre: Gothic Doom/Symphonic Doom
Rating: 3.5/5

As part of their three-volume “Requiem” set the band Virgin Black makes you feel as though you should be sitting in an elaborate Opera house as you absorb the second part of the trilogy, a brooding piece of music entitled “Mezzo Forte”. The bands skill at blending Classical and Operatic style into the often somber tones of Doom and Gothic Metal style is commendable but it will not be something that you can “get” at merely the first listen unless you are a diehard fan of this type of style. The intense drama and passion that comes at you on track after track must be absorbed and thought upon so that perhaps after your third listen you will be better able to appreciate what exactly they are doing. The band was founded by Rowan London and Samantha Escarbe back in 1993 in Adelaide, Australia. London handles keyboards and the male vocals while Escarbe is responsible for guitar. Both are core contributors in terms of the song-writing and composition on their albums. For “Requiem: Mezzo Forte” the group had the assistance of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Soprano Susan Johnson. On bass is Grayh and on drums is Dino Cielo. The resulting music is both thunderous and at the same time lush based on the orchestration and melodies. At times I felt as though I was observing from an ornate balcony as I wondered how so much diversity was fit into the time we being were presented. As the second of three parts this seems to be a mix of what the group has done throughout their career.
Continue reading “Requiem: Mezzo Forte” by Virgin Black

Virgin Black & Unexpect @ Lit Lounge (6/11/2007)

Virgin Black is one of the more difficult to catch onto groups in the Metal world. There is a little bit of Opera, a little bit of Classical Symphony and a whole lot of Gothic Metal all twisted around into one unique project. I liked their album enough to come to see them, and appreciated that Unexpect was going to be the opener so if you want to read some more about this gig just scroll past the logo below to be brought to our thoughts.

Logo - Virgin BlackArtist: Virgin Black
Venue: Lit Lounge (New York, NY)
Opener: Unexpect
Date: 6/11/2007
Label: The End Records

When I say that this gig came faster than the taxman then you must believe me. I had only just finished enjoying the newest release by Virgin Black on The End Records (an interesting CD entitled “Requiem: Mezzo Forte”) and suddenly, like a bolt of lightning there was a New York gig scheduled. The performance would be held at The Lit Lounge, a club I had yet to visit, and would also be on a Monday night. This fact alone presented a problem based on work demands so it would definitely be one of those last minute decisions for me. I have to admit that my mind was made up when I learned that opening for the band tonight would be the one and only uneXpect from Montreal. The uneXpect had tried to return to the States a little over a year ago but were stopped at the gates for some odd reason. As I walked into the Lit Lounge, I found the upstairs to be a rather sizable bar but the bands were going to be playing in the clubs basement area – so down I went into the abyss. The downstairs area is quite small and confined but there is a spot to set up equipment and places to congregate should you have a very minimal crowd attending. There is a bar in the back and a spot for merchandise to be sold as well as an area where the bands can prep and ready themselves to perform. The stage size is small by regular standards but with a trio this would work.
Continue reading Virgin Black & Unexpect @ Lit Lounge (6/11/2007)