“Live In Canada 2005: The Dark Secret” by Rhapsody

Artist: Rhapsody
Title: “Live In Canada 2005: The Dark Secret”
Label: Magic Circle Music/SPV Records
Release Date: 1/31/2006
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Rating: 8/10

The Mighty Rhapsody gives the world their first full concert album which was recorded in Canada while the group supported Manowar in 2005. The group was part of a killer lineup that placed The Kings Of Metal with Rhapsody and Holy Hell (not to be confused with Rob Rock’s album) and together they toured the US and Canada for a series of sold-out capacity crowd shows. For fans of Symphonic Power Metal the name of Rhapsody is not at all a new name, it’s just the amount of music available in certain markets is limited which sadly affects the bands influence. Fortunately, SPV Records gave us “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands, Vol 2: The Dark Secret” in 2004 which continued the bands exploration into the different levels of Metal that they were well known for. On “Live In Canada 2005: The Dark Secret” the band is found in perfect form and performing for a very hungry and supportive audience. Not only are 4 numbers from the last studio album present but the album also covers some ground from their back catalog. The music from “SOELv2” is very rich in its orchestration parts and is done very well especially in the epic track of “Erian’s Mystical Rhymes”. My favorites from this album are included on this live recording and those are “Unholy Warcry” and “Nightfall On The Grey Mountains”. Their classic numbers that I leaned toward are “Emerald Sword” and “Dawn Of Victory”. I was a little sad that “Holy Thunderforce” was not performed as this was the first song that I enjoyed from this band. However given this was a supporting slot for them the luxury of time is limited. Everyone in the group is on top of their game and singer Fabio Lione showcases the level of skill he possesses as he performs an operatic number in “Lamento Eroico”. Composer/keyboardist Alex Staropoli certainly did a great job in getting all of this music together. Luca Turilli (guitars), Patrice Guers (bass) and Alex Holzwarth (drums) all perform in an effortless fashion and seem very tight for the level of speed that Rhapsody music sometimes entails.
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“Generations” by Journey

Artist: Journey
Title: “Generations”
Label: Sanctuary Records
Release Date: 10/4/2005
Genre: Rock
Rating: 8.5

To classify the band Journey as legendary is probably one of the most qualifying statements a music fan can make. For over thirty years the band that was formed by ex members of Santana has delivered some of life’s most defining songs. Signature albums such as “Escape” and “Frontiers” have withstood the tests of time with songs that sound as fresh today as they did when originally released. While time has changed this band as far as the lineup goes it is clear that their music is as strong as ever. There are some fans that chose to stop listening the minute Steve Perry was no longer part of the group and these people are missing the boat on the magnificent talent that is Steve Augeri. Augeri has been a part of the bands touring lineup for seven years now and those that have stuck around will tell you how amazing he actually is and what a dead ringer vocally he can be on the classic material. The band in 2005 is Neil Schon (guitar), Jonathan Cain (keyboards), Ross Vallory (bass), Deen Castronovo (drums) and Steve Augeri (vocals). When you listen to them you will find them tighter than ever before and given my love for the Perry years and drumming of Steve Smith this is saying a lot from me.
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“Broken” by Mastermind

Artist: Mastermind
Title: “Broken”
Label: Unsigned
Release Date: 12/22/2005
Genre: Progressive Hard Rock
Rating: Very Good

It’s been too long for fans of Mastermind, the Progressive Rock/Fusion outfit from New Jersey and now the wait is over with some new material and a couple of surprises that make up the EP release “Broken”. Holding at 8 songs this is an EP that does not disappoint existing fans and was a lot of fun to listen to for new fans such as myself. The lineup remains at 4 core members, and this will be first official recording for singer Tracy McShane and new bassist Laura Johnson (who completed the lineup about a year ago). Guitarist Bill Berends is on top of his game with this one and those who had wondered about the long wait will be pleasantly surprised at the result he was able to put together . The rhythm of drummer Rich Berends (Bill’s Brother) and Johnson is solid and lead singer Tracy McShane shines all over the recording. “Broken” begins a lot like “Tom Saywer” by Rush almost as if the band was offering props to the Progressive Rock giants. The track is hypnotic and is destined for heavy rotation if the right people are paying attention to the release. “Break Me Down” is more on the Gothic side and can stand along the likes of Lacuna Coil. The remainder of the album is essentially the band treating you to some fun from their past and some of their favorite tracks from other artists. There are covers of a classical piece in “William Tell Overture” and you can literally feel the fun that the band is having with this energetic rendition right through your speakers. There is also a cover of A Perfect Circle’s “Weak & Powerless” and it was interesting to hear a strong female vocal to it. I think Maynard himself would be pleased with how it came out. “I’m So Glad” is a heavy rock/blues version of the Cream classic and given the bands recent reunited tours this holds strong to the times and to Masterminds own love of the Clapton, Bruce, Baker juggernaut. Listeners will be interested in knowing that several tracks were recorded live in the studio and they are indeed very strong in their presentation on the EP. “Million Miles Away” and “Queen Of Sheba” are just as Berends denotes in the insert, “this is how we would sound if we were playing in your living room”. Now that’s a rocking party if that was the case.
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“Hedengang”/”A Curse For The Lifeless” by Nortt/Xasthur

Artist: Nortt/Xasthur
Title: “Hedengang”/”A Curse For The Lifeless” (Split Album)
Label: Southern Lord
Release Date: 5/3/2005
Genre: Atmospheric/Black/Doom
Rating: 4/10

The more I hear this type of stuff the more I wonder what it is that I am supposed to get from it. Simply giving titles to power chords that echo in endless repetition does not make you a musician or songwriter. Perhaps I am simply not getting the point but this split album by cult favorites in the Black Metal scene clearly left me wondering. The album is actually two samplings of “music” by both Nortt and Xasthur. To describe Nortt is to say this is essentially Horror movie soundtrack stuff. A drummer keeps a slow sense of time under the repeating power chords while the singer growls undiscernibly. Too much of this section of the album was the same for me to even enjoy it but I also admit I need a little more drive to my songs. While I was amused at first I was bored after the first two tracks. The keyboard use gives a creepy ambience that gave me the horror movie aspect of it. The press sheet we received with this label Nortt as “funeral Metal” and I give a strong advice that those who are extremely depressed should NOT seek this CD out. Xasthur makes up the final three tracks on this CD and they are a lot more musical and melodic than the portions by Nortt which was good for me since I needed to be placed in a more “up” frame of mind. I actually enjoyed the drive of “Blood From The Roots Of The Forest” quite a bit since it had a full band and was very energetic compared to the rest of the CD. It is a little long though, running over 8 minutes.
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“The Garden Of Unearthly Delights” by Cathedral

Artist: Cathedral
Title: “The Garden Of Unearthly Delights”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: 1/24/2006
Genre: Doom Metal
Rating: 7.5/10

Coventry England’s revered Doom Metal masters Cathedral have returned after a few years absence from recording with a solid sampling of Sabbath/Trouble inspired Metal. Every time I listen to a band that labels themselves as Doom Metal I am brought back to the early seventies it seems because it reminds me of the influences that Sabbath first laid down for the genre that became Heavy Metal. I believe if Sabbath formed today they would be classified as Doom. While the group was formed about 15 years ago, I would not be someone who followed them but I am able to tell you of the quality material presented on this recording. If you are a fan of the trudging heaviness created by Sabbath and carried on by Trouble then there are some things on this release that show the next logical step in this form of Metal. The group makes a smart move by not having every song plod along like some peers might and instead offer you some interesting changes across the album. “North Berwick Witch Trials” is a great Doomy track while “Corpsecycle” is a tad more catchy and accessible citing potential as a Metal radio single. A tasty acoustic number “Fields Of Zagara” is followed by the blistering almost Motorhead inspired “Oro The Manslayer”. During this one I grabbed the air guitar and stopped only to head bang a little during the verses. Cathedral also chose to challenge Dream Theater with the song “The Garden” which according to my CD player caps off at over 28 minutes in length. There is a lot of heavy Sabbath feel to this track and despite the long running time I did not find myself bored at all since there were many changes to enjoy. A hidden track closes the recording and features guest female vocalist Lo Polidaro. All in all it was a very satisfying album for me as a new listener.
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Where Heavy Music & Pop Culture Collide

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