HIM @ Hammerstein Ballroom (11/18/2005)

Logo - HIM

Artist: H.I.M.
Venue: Hammerstein Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: Skindred, Finch
Date: 11/18/2005
Label: Sire Records

This is will be the third visit of H.I.M. to the United States and the fourth time that I have been able to see them. The first time they arrived on our Shores the venue was smaller with about a 500 person capacity. At this show in the Bowery Ballroom the band performed for less than 400 people because due to tight venue restrictions anyone under the age of 18 was not getting in. H.I.M. has a large and young fan base so kids were crying and giving tickets away at the gate. It bothered me since the venue was not appearing to give refunds and I felt they could have used wristbands for the drinkers and solved the possible issues. The group returned a few months later for two sold-out nights at Irving Plaza and of these shows one was excellent while the other dreadful due to Ville consuming far too much alcohol. It was a blatant display of “Rock Star” syndrome at this one, and news of his antics had reached Finland within minutes of the shows completion. You have to love that Internet. The performance at the Hammerstein Ballroom would be special to be a part of as according to my research the venue holds about 3700 people and this show sold out in a couple of days. Not bad considering lack of radio play in the US on mainstream popular stations. The tour was part of “Viva La Bam’s” show and was appropriately titled “Viva La Bands” and it would place H.I.M. with openers Skindred and Finch. I started out my trek to the show doing the usual networking and since I was only interested in H.I.M. I decided to pass on the openers. As I arrived I did not hear much in the way of praise towards these bands so I was glad about my decision to miss them.
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“11 Dreams” by Mercenary

Artist: Mercenary
Title: “11 Dreams”
Label: Century Media Records
Release Date: 2/8/05
Genre: Progressive Death Metal
Rating: 9/10

Every so often a Metal band comes along with a CD that could possibly change the direction and level of quality in the genre. With the release of “11 Dreams” on Century Media Records; Mercenary has proved themselves to be one such band. As you listen to this piece you will find yourself surrounded by a wide variety of textures and feels. Is it Black? Is it Progressive? Is it Traditional? To be honest there is a fine mix of all these aspects of the Metal genre which makes it very difficult to define under one label or criteria. After a brooding keyboard intro the game is on with “World Hate Center” which thunders in guitar and drumming and even in one’s living room or desk at the office you will find the fist raised in Metal support. Taking a page from the Soilwork book the guys in Mercenary use two vocal styles to some positive effect. Most of the piece is growled through by bassist Kral yet the clean and powerful voice of Mikkel Sandager take you through the darkness. At times Mikkel reminded me of Midnight from Crimson Glory with his pure and passionate vocal lines. There are a lot of strong musical expressions on the CD and I admit that my very favorite tracks comprised the earliest section of the record. “11 Dreams” and “Firesoul” are excellent and in each of them the band performs admirably. These guys are a talented bunch and it’s clear from this album. After this offering I feel that we are only seeing the start of what the group is capable of. It’s the kind of band that fans of Soilwork might really enjoy because it is very in your face like they are yet they also venture off into different musical feels that one does not always find in a Heavy Metal band. The use of keyboard is impressive and the appearance of them on top of the big harmonies the band introduces in choruses brings a lot of these songs to life very well. Keyboards are delivered with finesse by Mikkels Brother Morten. There are a couple of epic numbers running at 7 and 8 minutes each and the band does not get boring in them by any stretch of the imagination. One sometimes dreads the extended artistic expression for it can lose something by being too long. Time seems to fly by in the case of Mercenary.
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“Rainbow Six: Lockdown – Official Soundtrack” by Various Artists

Artist: Various Artists
Title: “Rainbow Six: Lockdown – Official Soundtrack”
Label: Calvin Records
Release Date: 11/15/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10

When you see the developments made since the days of “pong” in regards to the video gaming systems you realize that this is not a passing fad and its here to stay as part of our culture. Gaming has become an industry force to be reckoned with and every few years there are advancements that make the previous years devices seem like cheap toys. Visually stunning and action packed games like “Medal Of Honor”, and “Grand Theft Auto” rule the electronic shops in terms of sales. Author Tom Clancy has based a game on his writings and brings us “Rainbow Six: Lockdown” which is an action packed espionage and tactical military game. The other major development in video gaming is the use of incredible soundtracks which no longer are canned electronic rhythms but now are full songs by some of today’s biggest artists. The soundtrack for “Rainbow Six: Lockdown” is a brutal selection of Metal by some of the most current icons. Fear Factory’s Ray Herrera had a large hand in the production of this soundtrack and he made certain that the music to accompany the game would be just as much in your face. The release finds a couple of Fear Factory tracks and signature pieces from Soilwork, Strapping Young Lad, and Mnemic. These tracks are intense and come from bands that you should be focusing on as a Metal fan if you happen to be hearing about them for the first time. In addition there are a couple of straight ahead rockers to sate your appetite and allow you some measure of calm before the attack begins again. Bands like Not Forgotten and Last Amanda deliver the goods on their contributions. The CD comes with a DVD that features a couple of video tracks but I did not have a copy to review for this writing. The soundtrack is good enough to own even if you are not a Gamer as it’s a nice sampler of some of the best Metal that you can buy today.
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“Live in Copenhagen & New York 72/73” by Deep Purple

Artist: Deep Purple
Release: DVD Archive Collection: Live in Copenhagen & New York 72/73
Label: Eagle Vision
Date: 10/18/2005
Genre: Hard Rock/Classic Rock
Rating: 9/10

Eagle Vision’s “Deep Purple DVD Archive Collection” begins with this package that includes live material from 1972/73. “Deep Purple: Live in Copenhagen and New York” brings together a complete show from Scandinavia and the band’s performance on American ABC TV’s “In Concert”.

The March 1972 video footage was originally filmed for Denmark’s public broadcasting station and captures DP in a time when bands could get on stage and present their music “as God intended”, with a stack of Marshall amps and a will to impress. There are no lasers, smoke bombs, Diamondtrons or extraneous diversions needed to get the point across. As the only existing visual record of the respected Mark II Deep Purple line up it would be easy to review this DVD as simply a must own artifact for collectors, fortunately this is a great concert as well, with the band in good form and lead singer Ian Gillan in excellent voice. It is clear that the band is relishing the performance of a set of “new” songs, loaded with material from the then as-yet-to-be released “Machine Head” album.
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“Exordium” by After Forever

Artist: After Forever
Title: “Exordium”
Label: The End/Transmission Records
Release Date: 4/13/2004
Genre: Melodic Dark Metal
Rating: 7/10

Closing in on the bands that are fronted by female vocalists comes After Forever. Singer Floor Jansen is aiming to make fans of the Finnish band Nightwish and Within Temptation her own with her dynamic style and vocal prowess. On this EP you will find some solid Melodic Dark Metal for not only does it feature Floor’s amazing voice but is also includes the darker vocals of Sanders Gommans. The group has grown musically from their last work with departed guitarist Mark Jansen (who is not related to Floor in case you wondered) and began the groundwork on this CD which best serves as an introduction to the coming album “Invisible Circles”. Of the 6 tracks four are original compositions and two are cover renditions. There is a great instrumental piece in “Line Of Thoughts” and the single for the CD “My Choice” is a wonderful number that might give Nightwish a run for its money if it gets any airplay in areas that feature this stuff. Floor is a classically trained Soprano and she belts out the notes on the CD with apparent ease. The included covers were interesting as a great version of Iron Maiden’s “The Evil That Men Do” is delivered with finesse. It was also nice to see a non-expected Maiden tune be used rather than the standards that everyone does. On “One Day I’ll Fly Away” we see an R&B track get the Symphonic Metal treatment and sounds pretty good considering. This tune was sung by Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge and I think I will stick with Floor on this one. Joining Sanders and Floor in the group, the members are rounded out by Lando Van Gils, Andre Borgman, Bas Maas, & Luk Van Gerven. I think we are going to see some great things from this band and if you are fans of Metal fronted by the powerful female presence this is right up your alley..
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Where Heavy Music & Pop Culture Collide

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