“The Puppet Master” by King Diamond

Artist: King Diamond
Title: “The Puppet Master”
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 10/21/2003
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 8/10

It only took me a couple of listens to King Diamond’s “The Puppet Master” to convince me of his being the Stephen King of Heavy Metal music. King is not only fearsome in his appearance but also with the stories he weaves from deep within his dark mind. For years he has given us tales of horror and villainy and with “The Puppet Master” we find him telling perhaps the scariest tale of them all. To sum up the story this time around King sings to us about an insidious Puppeteer who along with his wife uses real people as puppets to entertain audiences and make their money. King is the central character in this “play” that falls prey to the evil couple. One surely needs to read the lyric book along with this piece for it is very well thought out and delivered from beginning to end. Joining the King as his lineup for the recording are Mike Wead (Guitar), Matt Thompson (drums), Hal Patino (bass), and Andy LaRoque (guitar). Livia Zita joins in on background vocals and she adds a wonderful aspect to the music. I feel this is the strongest lineup that he has assembled in many years and this is also the second full recording that this same lineup has worked on.
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“Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra” by Yngwie Malmsteen

Artist: Yngwie Malmsteen
Title: “Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra”
Label: Eagle Vision
Release Date: 11/1/2005
Genre: Classical
Rating: 7/10

Yngwie Johann Malmsteen has long been a revered name in the world of Rock and Metal guitar. From the day people first heard him in Steeler and Alcatrazz and then solo with Rising Force his skills and technique on the instrument were nothing short of amazing. The playing style that Yngwie employed was always very classical in nature and in his earliest of interviews he would recall being influenced by the era and its greats. This DVD takes this classical based style of playing that Yngwie is so known for and partners him with the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. Filmed in 2001 this performance is something that the US fans have never had the chance to own until now. I am sure bootlegged copies exist but now fans are able to own an authentic copy. The concert itself does not hold much on the visual side with the exception of some great close ups of Yngwie and his guitar technique. You are essentially watching a live performance of an Orchestra and that is always more about the music and its delivery than the visual overtones. Musically this DVD is very interesting as we see Yngwie almost as the front person for an orchestra so to speak. As a matter of fact this release offers those who are fans of all the existing “classical orchestra meets rock musician” releases a little more authenticity. The others like this have been interesting but it was usually the orchestra performing their hits with the musicians behind them. We saw this in Metallica and at times the band was overpowering them. I think it is great that bands are bringing this unique performance to the table but I feel Yngwie has succeeded the most with this one. He showcases more classically based material all of which was written and produced by Malmsteen himself and this works well under the aspect of an Orchestra accompaniment. Assisting Yngwie in this production was keyboardist David Rosenthal who counts among his accomplishments the fact that he was a touring member of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.
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“Doctor Butcher” by Doctor Butcher

Artist: Doctor Butcher
Title: “Doctor Butcher”
Label: Black Lotus Records
Release Date: 9/27/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 8/10

Attention Savatage fans you may rejoice! If you were in need of some of the dose of the type of Metal that the classic band delivered you need look no further. Back in 1993 (around the time that Savatage released “Edge Of Thorns”) Jon Oliva and Chris Caffery were not active members of the group and had formed Doctor Butcher. With Butcher, the pair recorded an amazing number of powerful tracks that were released on a self-titled record which was unfortunately next to impossible to find. Now, thanks to the efforts of Caffery and Oliva as well as the folks at Black Lotus Records you are able to own this gem of music and an important release from these two musicians. As you listen you will find it almost to be a heavier version of the already heavy Savatage. One would expect a similar sound especially from the principle writer of many of the classics ‘Tage fans loved. Vocally, Jon still possessed the powerful pipes that he was known for in all of the Savatage tunes and now they burned with anger in these tracks. Chris’ guitar work was ripping continually and the bass and drums steady and powerful. Songs like “Season Of The Witch”, “The Altar” and “Reach Out And Torment Someone” clearly defined the piece and almost assured this band a place alongside their counterparts as an equal Metal power. Sadly, the material went un-toured and limited in release and availability until now. The CD is a double-disc and features a brand-new Butcher recording that also features the guitar talents of Metal Mike Chlasiak. Drums are handled by John Osborne on a large amount of the songs and Jon and Chris handled bass for the larger recordings. Lyrics and another excellent package are par for the course with all the Black Lotus releases it seems and this one is no different. I lean towards a release that also gives me a lot to look at and find it more worth my time when extra care was placed into it. I had heard this music as a friend owned the original CD (now many years lost) and it was great to hear it all once again.
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“W.A.R.P.E.D.” by Chris Caffery

Artist: Chris Caffery
Title: “W.A.R.P.E.D.”
Label: Black Lotus Records
Release Date: 9/27/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 8/10

When you begin playing your copy of “W.A.R.P.ED.” you will probably find it to be a little familiar to you. You see the reason is because this new CD release by Chris Caffery is not entirely new at all. If you were one of the smart ones, when Chris released “Faces” in 2004 he included a bonus CD that was meant for a future release. This CD was entitled “God Damned War” or “GDW” for short. It was a great inclusion as a bonus and really gave the Chris fan a large amount of music for the money. Very different however from the musical explorations on “Faces”, “GDW” is a bit heavier and now with added tracks this has been released on the public as “W.A.R.P.E.D.”. Chris explores deeper into the themes of the War as he introduced on “GDW”, the piece is definitely meant to be listened to from start to finish. “Home Is Where The Hell Is” kicks off the CD now but I did feel that “GDW” was the better track to start. I have liked the “Saddamize” track since I first heard it, and this one features Mark Wood of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The rest of the recording lineup on this piece is Jeff Plate (drums), Dave Z. (bass) and Paul Morris (keyboards). Jon Oliva makes an appearance in “Iraq Attack”.
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“The Second Coming” by KISS

Artist: KISS
Title: “The Second Coming”
Label: Image Entertainment
Release Date: 1/4/2000
Genre: Hard Rock
Rating: 8.5/10

The phenomenon that is KISS ruled the concert stage and record books on album sales during their heyday. Known mainly for the bombastic shows and presentation as well as catchy music there was literally no stopping them. The end of the 70’s saw core member Peter Criss leave and by the early 80’s Ace Frehley had moved on as well. The band chose to continue with new members and eventually found themselves wiping off the trademark face paint. It was still a great band, but the whole super-hero mystique and appeal would be gone. Years passed with KISS maintaining a steady release of albums, videos and selling out arenas but the fans always wondered if the makeup and original lineup would ever come back. The makeup idea was used as a teaser in the video for “Rise To It” from Hot In The Shade which finds Gene and Paul backstage in their glory days donning it before they hit the stage. They jibe how it will remain on and never off. I remember seeing this video and being on edge about it since it made me really crave a reunion of the original four. Fast forward to the KISS episode of MTV’s “Unplugged” show and fans are given a non-makeup reunion of the original four. The response was quite amazing for not only did we have the appearance of Ace and Peter but we were treated to an all out jam with new and old lineups. History was re-written that day and the wheels were set in motion on a reunion that was to be like no other. As a result we get this DVD that serves as a “Rock-umentary” of the classic KISS lineup, how they reunited and put together this world tour.
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