Stryper @ B.B. King Blues Club (9/24/2005)

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Artist: Stryper
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club – NYC
Opener: none
Date: 9/24/2005
Label: Big3 Records

The Yellow & Black Attack are back and tonight those Messengers Of The Most High have come to the B.B. King Blues Club in NYC to support their latest studio release “Reborn”. The last time I saw Stryper was on the Reunion tour in 2003 which not only brought the band back together after a long absence but also promoted their greatest hits release entitled “7: The Best Of Stryper”. Since that night at Irving Plaza the band has picked up some reunion steam and was playing to a very nicely crowded venue once again some two years later. However, it was not long after the Reunion tours completion that found the band losing original bassist Tim Gaines. His last recording with Stryper would be the live release of “7 Weeks Live In America”. The group would press on and replace Tim with Tracy Ferrie and set out to record a new CD of material entitled “Reborn”. On entering the venue I found it to have a larger crowd than I recalled for the Reunion and that always makes for a better vibe up on the stage. At show time the band entered from the sections of the crowd and that caused frenzy; especially when leader Michael Sweet started singing from on top of one the back bars. It also seemed that everyone in attendance was a diehard fan with the exceptions of the few who were merely curious as to how the band would be in concert. Many people dismissed the band as “Hair Metal” or “Religious Rock”, but let me stress that they are excellent musicians and this capability shows in every song that they play.
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“Hangover Music Volume VI” by Black Label Society

Artist: Black Label Society
Title: “Hangover Music VI”
Label: Spitfire Records
Release Date: 4/20/2004
Genre: Hard Rock
Rating: 6.5

Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society has released a rather unique piece of music with their CD entitled “Hangover Music VI”. I call it unique in as it is definitely not your typical release from this band. Instead of the ripping guitar work and pounding drums that Zakk and company are best known for we find a more laid back approach on this piece. The CD is filled with piano and a lot of acoustic guitar but fans should not worry all that much for a lot of the CD holds a nice dark edge to it. Songs like “Steppin Stone” have a sinister overtone to them and almost comes across as something we would expect of Alice In Chains. While I feel that most of the CD to toss the typical Metal head for a loop based on these compositions I find that it still succeeds in the aspect of showing us that BLS can do more than heavy material. Ballads like “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” seem to work in their simplicity while “Takillya” shows the quickness that Zakk possesses with the pick but only done on the acoustic. I found that I leaned towards tracks like “House Of Doom”, “Crazy Or High” and the cover of “Whiter Shade Of Pale” the most when I was listening. Those are among the best numbers on the CD.
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Stratovarius @ B.B. King Blues Club (9/21/2005)

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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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