“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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“Live In L.A.” by Body Count

Artist: Body Count
Title: “Live In L.A.”
Label: Escapi Music
Release Date: 11/15/2005
Genre: Punk Metal
Rating: 6/10

Ice-T’s excursion into Heavy Metal with Body Count was certainly and interesting ride when it was first done. The group gained a fair amount of critical backlash based on the song “Cop Killer” which made an ignored album an impossible to find collectable. The group had a decent show of support from some people yet did not go over in anything more than a cult status. This was probably due to the musical time that it happened during. There was not as much acceptance when crossover bands where doing their thing. This was mostly the case when Rap and Rock of any sort was involved. Of course that has changed very much in today’s music scene where Rap finds its way into most Rock music and most bands who come around at least in the USA all seem to have a D.J as a member. Given that information Body Count is now something that finds its cult status elevated based on the impact that Ice-T had as a performer in acting and rapping. This DVD was filmed at L.A.’s famed Troubadour Club and the show is described as a one-off Memorial Concert. This was done because many members of the band have died since it was first conceived and from the original lineup only Ice-T and guitarist Ernie C. remain. The show is essentially a tribute or “Shout Out” to Mooseman, Beatmaster D and D-Roc. Two had lost battles with Cancer while the other was the victim of gang violence. The set is a tight one and at 17 songs is bound the please the Body Count fan or anyone else who enjoys hard-hitting Hardcore/Metal. The DVD is a several camera shoot that does well in capturing a live performance of the band in this club and I felt visually it was better than the recently issued “Smoke-Out” DVD. Since this is the bands own performance, the set is longer than that DVD offered as well. I did have some issue with the lack of being able to click through the set list but I am not sure if this was because I watched a reviewers copy and not a final release. There are no bonus features on the DVD and that would have been a good thing especially given that it was a Memorial show. A bonus CD of three songs from a forthcoming Body Count record are included. As mentioned above if this band was high on your list then this is for you. It was not a bad listen/viewing in my honest opinion but it was very lackluster in terms of features and functionality.
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“Consign To Oblivion” by Epica

Artist: Epica
Title: “Consign To Oblivion”
Label: The End/Transmission Records
Release Date: 10/11/2005
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Rating: 7.5/10

Holland’s Epica are one of those bands that are following a great path of music forged in the footsteps of bands such as Nightwish and Therion. They do this by combining Symphonic music with powerful Metal riffs mixed with the elements that their Mezzo Soprano lead singer brings to the table. The group also employs a full choir and that brings so much more of their music to life. As you listen you will find some traits of these bands but also a spark of originality that makes for a good overall listen. Epica was founded by After Forever’s Mark Jansen who left that band and began working with Simone Simons. Simone’s voice is as amazing as she is beautiful and from the moment I heard their debut “The Phantom Agony” I knew this was going to be a band I would be interested in. There are many who call this group a second rate After Forever simply because the band utilizes the clean operatic style and the gruff Black Metal growls at points in the music like they do. It also doesn’t help the comparison when both groups feature a standout female vocalist. As someone who has listened to and reviewed both bands I would have to disagree for each one offers the listener something different. There are some similar writing styles as Jansen was a principal writer in After Forever yet with Epica there are more clean Male vocals than the growls used in the former band. Epica also slows it down a little more hitting a couple of ballads on the record where AF maintains a generally heavy course. I like both Floor Jansen and Simone Simons and rather than debate which one is better feel that anyone who enjoys Operatic Power Metal or Symphonic Metal should give each group a fair shot at an unbiased listen.
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“Are You Dead Yet?” by Children Of Bodom

Artist: Children Of Bodom
Title: “Are You Dead Yet?”
Label: Spinefarm Records
Release Date: 10/25/2005
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10

Children Of Bodom are one of those bands that the larger portion of the Metal Community are starting to pay attention to and this is a very smart move. I first caught them in concert with Iced Earth as they toured for their “Hate Crew Deathroll” album (a Century Media Records release). This was a killer record and it proved very early in the listen about the level of intensity and diversity that this band possessed and brought to the table. The new release “Are You Dead Yet?” comes to us courtesy of Universal/Spinefarm Records and the album continues along the same lines of progression that “Follow The Reaper” first lined out. The group does not waste time delivering epic and long winded numbers but instead kick you in the teeth with rock solid Metal on each and every number. As you listen you will find that the band has matured past their earlier works and moved on ever further from the seemed Black Metal direction they once followed and instead have become almost Progressive Thrash. I believe this was a good move and while I felt that this new release required a couple of listens before I got it. I think you will agree if you do the same.
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“Carnival Of Sins” by Motley Crue

Artist: Motley Crue
Title: “Carnival Of Sins”
Label: Clear Channel Entertainment Home Video
Release Date: 10/25/2005
Genre: Hard Rock
Rating: 8/10

When they announced that Motley Crue would reunite and tour I was faced with a couple of different opinions on it. The first was my belief that there was no way that these four could be in the same room together much less be on the same stage for any length of time. This had come to me based on all the consistent in-fighting and solo projects that the various members were involved in. Nikki Sixx had the Brides Of Destruction while Tommy Lee had project after inane project that strayed so far away from his Rock roots that many lost interest in what he was up to altogether. There was always discussion of a “real” reunion that not only placed the four together but also would be a career encompassing show yet for awhile it was all talk. Luckily this came to fruition very early in 2005 where it seemed as though only weeks after the seal of approval on it that tickets were being sold and shows began to sell out in legendary venues like New York’s Madison Square Garden. This DVD documents a performance in Grand Rapids Michigan before a sold out crowd where The Crue delivers over a two-hour set. Presented as two DVD’s you will find the complete concert on DVD1. If you look over the set list you will that it includes a little bit of everything from their first album “Too Fast For Love” up until their recent Anthology release “Red, White And Crue”. I believe that even the most critical of fans will find something that they want to hear and see in this list. I enjoyed the early years of the Crue the most and remembered the show being as thrilling as the DVD reminded me. I did have a couple of minor criticisms as while the larger aspect was enjoyable I felt that the Tommy Lee drum solo left a lot to be desired. He was always one of the more creative of Hard Rock’s drummer elite but his solo was ridiculous samples and things that resembled street performers more than something a player of his caliber could have delivered. Given this almost retro nature of the show he should have pulled something else out of his history and done it again. Nikki’s solo was more interesting on video than I found it in person due to my proximity when it happened. Yet through it all the band performs admirably and every song sounds on target with a tighter sound than one would expect in such a short span of time they had to rehearse this. Out of all members it seems that Mick Mars is to be commended the most for his illness has really placed him in a rough spot. He can hardly move and looks very gaunt yet through it all he does not miss a note. As this DVD was filmed later in the tour Vince did sound a little worn vocally but still gets through everything like a pro. The audience reaction during all the songs is incredible.
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Where Heavy Music & Pop Culture Collide

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