All posts by Ken Pierce

Ken Pierce is an NYC based Music Journalist and the Editor In Chief of PiercingMetal.com; He's been documenting the live Metal and Rock scene of the Big Apple since 2003 and believes that there is always something exciting happening in this Metropolis.

“Yeah” by Def Leppard

Artist: Def Leppard
Title: “Yeah”
Label: Universal Music
Release Date: 5/23/2006
Genre: Hard Rock
Rating: 9/10

I will be one of the first to admit that I enjoyed the music of Def Leppard back in the Hard Rock heyday of the 80’s. Their powerful blend of melody and heavy music made albums like “Pyromania” and “High & Dry” instantly successful and propelled the band on to greatness for many years. In their early years the band never held back references to those that influenced them, and in interviews you would find regular mention of The Sweet, Mott The Hoople and David Bowie. Now, more than twenty years after they came upon the scene the band has decided to pay homage to these artists who helped form and inspire them by giving listeners their renditions of some of this music. Being honest to the originals would be an understatement for as you listen you will find very little Def Leppard present and almost spot on covers of these songs. The choice to make is on whether this is a good or bad thing, and in my opinion I think it is great. Too often we find the bands “interpretations” of classic tracks to be very far from the original or including elements that don’t fit at all. Def Leppard’s goal was to bring you into their world for these tracks and have you as the listener understand what made them special to them during their formative years. They could do no less than deliver above par performances. Of the fourteen tracks there are a few standout numbers such as “Hell Raiser” and “20th Century Boy” where the band sounds almost exactly like Sweet and T.Rex. Other tracks I enjoyed ended up with “No Matter What” (Badfinger), “Stay With Me” (Faces) and “Rock On” (David Essex).
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“Wrath Of The Norsemen” by Amon Amarth

Artist: Amon Amarth
Title: “Wrath Of The Norsemen”
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 5/30/2006
Genre: Viking Metal/Death Metal
Rating: 8.5/10

There are many bands who claim to be Vikings and there are also many who hold the spirit of their ancestors high but I have to admit that none pull this off as effectively as Amon Amarth. The group has been part of the Metal Blade Records family for 10 years and this DVD package is the perfect celebration of this relationship. It is the kind of DVD that is not only perfect for existing fans but the type that manages to win over a novice or unaware fan. I can say this with truth in my heart as I was one of the unaware. Amon Amarth had recently been on tour with Children Of Bodom and in the states the fans got to see them support their release of “Fate Of Norns” which is a sword-worthy epic of Metal. While the group were only able to do a little more than a handful of songs you could tell by their presence and their crowd approval that there was much more to this group than most openers had to them. This DVD gives you 7.5 hours of concert footage to absorb and it should be more than enough to help you feel the same way. The three DVD’s are not only lengthy but also loaded with 5 full concert appearances of the group from over the past few years. DVD1 is the longest of the concert features and was filmed in Cologne in 2005. This show itself runs 22 songs and has a behind the scenes “making of” featurette to enjoy as well. I admit liking the whole package but this DVD won me over as the best of the lot and worth the admission price so to speak. The band sounds tight and energetic and very, very heavy; they also prove their Viking status by having a full battle during one of the songs with swords and shields a plenty. Given the dramatic lighting used through the show I am surprised they were able to pull this off so effectively and not find themselves hurt.
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“Metalmania 2005” by Various Artists

Artist: Various Artists
Title: “Metal Mania 2005”
Label: Music Video Distributors
Release Date: 6/6/2006
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10

The Metal Mania Festival is one of the most well-known events of its kind to come about in Heavy Metal music history. This 190 minute DVD brings you to the front stage without costing you the plane fare to Poland to see it in person and offers you several performances from 11 of the bands who appeared. While it is only a sampling of them I found that you are able to form some opinions on the bands if you are not entirely up on their background. I feel the inclusion of more than one track apiece allows you to better enjoy and perhaps gain a little added interest in the groups that will prompt you to look deeper into a few of them. There are only two tracks from Amon Amarth and Pain, but these groups have full-length DVD’s of their own which makes this portion of the film a little bit of a prompt to the viewer to seek them out. Amon Amarth is a true band of Metal Vikings who really deliver, while Pain is fronted by Peter Tagtgren of Hypocrisy (who is serving up a Gothic Industrial vibe with this group). The tracks from Napalm Death speed by like you expect from this Hard Core influenced Metal group and Dark Funeral, who get 4 songs really failed to do it for me. Some Black Metal is powerful and interesting but I was truly unimpressed by their performance and delivery on this one. One of the greatest segments ends up as the closer with cello-bearing rockers Apocalyptica who do two of their originals and one Metallica cover. If you never thought cello players could be cool just wait until you see Apocalyptica perform. They truly showcase some of the limitless direction Metal music can take and I hope a full-length performance piece comes out from them soon. The bands are all using the same stage equipment it seems in many cases so there is very little visual dramatics to enjoy besides creative lighting and camera work.

A bonus CD is included for you to enjoy a little more of what happened at the Festival. The 12 bands showcased here performed on the side stage (much like the second stage of Ozzfest). Here is a rundown of the bands on this 52 minute CD: Thunderbolt, Hermh, Hedfirst, Hell-Born, Quo Vadis, Pyorrhoea, Supreme Lord, Mess Age, Abused Majesty, Naumachia, Ded By Dawn, & Valinor. I would have liked to see a little more of a booklet with this release documenting more of the Festival and a complete rundown of the bands who played. This could have served as some worthy bonus features for while they do have some with information on what appears there is not much outside of the realm of the DVD contents. Overall there is enough to enjoy for most Metal fans.

Band Listing DVD:
1. Darzamat
2. Dies Irae
3. ANJ
4. Amon Amarth
5. Dark Funeral
6. The Haunted
7. Pain
8. Arcturus
9. Turbo
10. Napalm Death
11. Apocalyptica

Official Website: www.MetalMania.com

“Live At Montreux, 2005” by Alice Cooper

Artist: Alice Cooper
Title: “Live At Montreux 2005”
Label: Eagle Vision
Release Date: 5/30/2006
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 8/10

Continuing with their collection of excellent concert films from the Montreux Jazz Festival, Eagle Vision gives us a 2005 performance from the legendary Alice Cooper. For over thirty years Alice Cooper has held the title as the “Godfather of Shock Rock” with bands such as KISS and Motley Crue following in his influential footsteps. For this concert Alice would be performing in support of his to be released “Dirty Diamonds” CD (of which several tracks are presented for the viewer to enjoy). However, like many Artists who place too much focus on a new release Alice and Company make sure to provide an absolutely heavy amount of classics from his extensive back catalog. Most of his hits are now legendary parts of Hard Rock music culture and I think even the most distant of music fans knows that “School’s Out” and “Billion Dollar Babies” are Cooper tracks. Fortunately these and many others are present but as you watch this concert there is a couple of things that stand out very quickly about the show. You’ll find that there is not much of an emphasis of the showman from the Nightmarish carnival that he usually brings around with him. The stage itself is not garish in design and no one is really in any sort of costume change except Cooper who has several during the performance while using a number of small props. He has a female dancer who also goes through a number of costume/character changes during the show and she does really well. It was a great difference to the Cooper experience for while its common knowledge about his level of visual talent and capacity, this showed that while it’s an important part of his show, it can be used minimally and still have a maximum impact on the audience. No matter what the reason for his changing the format from the way he used to you can count on Alice to lose his head for you as a viewer when it comes down to it. As an older fan of Cooper I lean to his classics, but was happy to see his newer material hold a heaviness that works very well.
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“Holy Diver Live” (DVD) by Dio

Artist: Dio
Title: “Holy Diver Live”
Label: Eagle Vision
Release Date: 5/30/2006
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10

Is there any question about “Holy Diver” being one of the most important Heavy Metal albums of all time? The overall impact of his solo debut led Ronnie James Dio and his band on a path to Metal dominance and while he would release great music afterwards none were as appealing on the whole as this recording. Songs like “Stand Up And Shout”, “Rainbow In The Dark” and title track “Holy Diver” became synonymous with the strength of Heavy Metal music and its power over the legions of the night. In 2005 during the tail end of his “Master Of The Moon” tour Dio treated the fans to a full performance of this classic album. Thanks to Eagle Vision the supporters of the legendary entertainer will get to relive this concert once again in the comforts of home where they control the volume and the mood. The concert was also released as a double live CD, but the owners of that product will immediately notice that the layout of the music is different. To make sense of the “Holy Diver” presentation, the first CD features that portion of the show, while CD2 features all the remaining songs. On the DVD, which is a single disk we get the entire show from start to finish just as it was performed had you attended one of these shows. If you did not purchase the CD, then here is a good way to make amends and fill a Metal need. Overall the show is very well done, but be aware that by this point Dio no longer does over the top visual shows.
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