Stratovarius @ B.B. King Blues Club (9/21/2005)

Logo - Stratovarius

Artist: Stratovarius
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Into Eternity
Date: 9/21/2005
Label: Sanctuary Records

It’s really a great thing when you are able to participate in a bands first appearance to your City. I find it is all the more special with me being a native New Yorker. This will the second time in two weeks that this would be the case many others who form the Metal Legions in the Big Apple. Last week it was Therion and this week the one and only Stratovarius would be coming to pay us a visit. Similar to Therion’s show; the band Stratovarius would also be a featured performer at the ProgPowerUSA Festival while in the States. This band in particular has had a dramatic couple of years which featured break-ups and line-up changes among them. Lead singer Timo Kotipelto left for a solo career very briefly after bad in-fighting with guitarist Timo Tolkki and was replaced. This year the band mended fences and reunited and recorded a new CD entitled very simply “Stratovarius”. Touring was soon to follow this release and rightly so for the group has long been recognized as one of the key forces in Melodic Heavy Metal music. They are well known for their catchy musical experiments and powerful shows with a lineup that is made up of some amazing musicians. Timo Kotipelto on vocals, Timo Tolkki on guitar and Jens Johannson on keyboards are legends in the genre and all are held together by drummer Jorg Michael and new bassist Laurie Porra. The band recently had lost bassist Kainulainen who left shortly after the album was released.
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“Melissa” (remaster) by Mercyful Fate

Artist: Mercyful Fate
Title: “Melissa” (Remastered)
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: 8/30/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 8/10

As part of their 25th Anniversary celebration Roadrunner Records has re-issued one of the most important pieces in Heavy Metal and their own label history. “Melissa”, the 1983 release by Mercyful Fate was not only loaded with intricate music and dark inferences courtesy of Shermann and Denner but also gave us the one and only King Diamond. The King and this group were a force to be reckoned with in the musical sense and also for their very powerful visual imagery. Wearing garish face paint King Diamond was first seen by the larger public due to this album and he would prove to be as dark as the themes he sang about. Musically the band was incredible with Hank Shermann being one of the most creative Metal guitarists to ever grab an axe. The dueling performance between him and Michael Denner was often intense as King prowled and lurked singing and screaming the often horrific subject matter that the band focused on. Rounding out the group was Timi Grabber on bass and Kim Ruzz on drums. This special edition includes the entire album in a remastered sense and includes a score of bonus tracks as well as a live DVD. As you will listen you will find the songs taking on new life sounding as fresh as if they came out today. My favorites on the CD had always been “Evil”, “Black Funeral” and of course “Melissa” and the new release presents them with such a level of clarity that playing a certain volumes will take you away with them.
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“Hall Of Flames” by Edguy

Artist: EdGuy
Title: “Hall Of Flames”
Label: Locomotive Records
Release Date: 9/13/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 8/10

If you are keeping yourself from following the major players in Heavy Metal these days you are probably still missing out on EdGuy. However if you have been smart and following the times you will already be well aware of this German Power Metal act led by Tobias Sammett. Since 1995 the band has been releasing well-crafted Metal to the listener and this 2 CD collection “Hall Of Flames” focuses on the music on the AFM Records label. My first exposure to EdGuy was on the live release “Burning Down The Opera” and at the time their music was difficult to get in the USA. Now that the group is on Nuclear Blast Records we have seen their latest efforts a little easier. This partnership with Locomotive Music and AFM allows potential fans the chance to absorb some of their earlier material. In addition to some classic tracks the band also gives you rarities, unreleased gems, live tracks and two videos. 21 songs in all make this a worthy compilation even without the added video clips.
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Therion @ B.B. King Blues Club (9/14/2005)

Logo - Therion

Artist: Therion
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Beyond The Embrace
Date: 9/14/2005
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

It was only recently that I first heard the music of Therion and I was excited to discover that they were coming to perform for the very first time in the USA as a headliner. One of the stops on the tour would be a show at the one and only B.B. King Blues Club. I have lost count of the amount of great shows this venue has had over the course of the year and this one will definitely add to it. New York City always seems to be a highlight of any bands tour and even more so when it is their first time to the Country ever. Therion was scheduled to play as headliner for one of the nights of the popular ProgPower USA Festival.
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“Kings Of Damnation: Era 1998-2004” by Black Label Society

Artist: Black Label Society
Title: “Kings Of Damnation: Era 1998-2004”
Label: Spitfire Records
Release Date: 10/4/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 8/10

Even though Zakk Wylde has left the Spitfire Records family he did release a total of seven albums under their banner. Five of these were with Black Label Society and the other two are Pride & Glory and Book Of Shadows. Resulting from that partnership was a lot of great guitar laden Metal and it spawned a legion of supporters for Zakk. It was a smart move of Spitfire to offer the fans a compilation based on these albums and it’s the perfect introduction to you should you be interested in knowing more about Black Label Society if you have not already been exposed to them. The material that Black Label Society doles out is pure and simple aggressive Metal. Their music trudges along with Doom-like qualities and has some similarity to Black Sabbath in riffing. Perhaps a lot of the BLS sound was influenced by all of the years Zakk worked along side Ozzy Osbourne. The Pride & Glory stuff has more of a heavy Southern feel to it. Almost as if Southern Metal was preparing to make a comeback. The samplings from Zakk’s time with this band are good and the CD itself is worth looking into. In the case of the BLS material they included a lot of the tracks that you would expect them to have and among them are my personal favorites of “Bleed For Me” and “The Blessed Hellride”. The gentler side of the New Jersey giant can be found on the tracks from “Hangover Music”. In addition to the recorded previously released stuff there are two new tracks to be found in “Doomsday Inc.” and “SDMF”. The new tracks continue along the natural progression of the band. Musicians who take part in the tracks are James Lomenzo (bass) and Craig Nunenmacher (drums).
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