“Scarsick” by Pain Of Salvation

Artist: Pain Of Salvation
Title: “Scarsick”
Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 1/22/2007
Genre: Progressive Metal
Rating: 4/5

I never followed PoS before this release so I admit in advance that their new CD would be as much a mystery to me in both band and overall sound. I had only come to the release with the understanding that the mastermind behind it all, Daniel Gildenlow, was a very politically minded and controversial individual. He does not have any fear when it comes to lining out just how sick he is with society around him. As a musical release the new album “Scarsick” is definitely complex and intriguing, it is technical and melodic, yet at the same time unpredictable on many of its tracks as it adventures into a numerous styles. I had read that he falls into the Progressive side but there are so many Metal and Power riffs presented here that this particular album might be the cause of this labeling being debated going forward. He begins with an almost Rap like track that brought to mind Rage Against The Machine with a little Faith No More by the lyrical mannerisms, and when “Spitfall” began I thought I was listening to a new track by Linkin Park. It is quite an interesting start and the commentary on the release cites that this album is the culmination of work he had done in the past. Perhaps it will be easier to grab and be understood by those who followed the group from the beginning because believe me the surprises do not end here. “Cribcaged” starts off with a babies cry and comes off as a gentle ballad until he begins ranting and raving with “F-U’s” for just about everyone and everything he can get out of his system during the length of the song.
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“The Burning Halo” by Draconian

Artist: Draconian
Title: “The Burning Halo”
Label: Napalm Records
Release Date: 10/10/2006
Genre: Gothic Doom Metal
Rating: 4/5

Sweden’s Draconian began their dark existence back in 1994 as Kerberos but when Anders Jacobsson (poet and lead singer) joined them – Draconian was officially born. On their third album, “The Burning Halo”, the band serves up a deliciously morose brand of Gothic Metal that I think any fan of the genre will appreciate. More of a compilation than a new full-length release the album itself is made up of only three new original songs while the rest of it finds redone demos from “The Closed Eyes Of Paradise” and two covers that the band gives the Draconian treatment. Overpowering and intense would be the best way to describe the new originals that are included and each of them is an epic number. I suppose that this works best for Gothic Metal since it’s easier to get to the building point after six minutes rather than falling into the Pop song standard of four. Each of the songs is performed by their two lead singers, who are definitely in command of the whole “Beauty & The Beast” style for while Anders growls and snarls on most of the parts only stopping to speak during others, Lisa Johansson slices the riffs like a melodic siren with her beautiful tones. While I enjoyed each of the new tracks, the best of the three of them is definitely “The Dying” for it adventures into a number of different feels and ties everything together very well. The decision to rework the demos from 1999 was a good idea for it allows a new fan base in this ever-growing genre to build and also appreciate the bands earlier music now done by them as more seasoned musicians. My favorite of these numbers was the very moving tempo of “Serenade Of Sorrow”. “The Gothic Embrace” is pretty good as well, and has segments which reminded me a little of My Dying Bride based on the spoken word and its dark poetry base. The covers were interesting since one is from a 70’s Progressive band called Ekseption and while I have never heard the original song can admit that it surely sounded good after it had been Gothed up and Doomed down. “Forever My Queen” I was not crazy about because I felt it left the overall style of the album behind a bit too much for the sake of them acting out some kind of Black Sabbath jam band thing. The song was originally performed by the Doom band Pentagram and might have been better served as a cover by Witchcraft.
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“Secret Society” by Europe

Artist: Europe
Title: “Secret Society”
Label: Sanctuary Records
Release Date: 11/7/2006
Genre: Hard Rock
Rating: 3/5

Europe resurfaced to the Hard Rock community with “Start From The Dark”, a rallying call of music that showed that the band had not suffered over time but instead improved like some fine wine. The release gave a number of killer tunes such as the title track and “Hero” most specifically. Touring for this album broke venue records and this was not bad for a band that had not performed together in well over a decade. Their new release “Secret Society” continues along with a lot of the same formula that was used on “SFTD” but I admit that it takes a few listens to appreciate it. Joey Tempest still rocks and truly knows how to win the listener over with his smooth voice and should he need to belt them out he does not have any problems. Tempest actually wrote most of the album this time around and while this is a solid disc, there is hardly any of the punch that we felt on “SFTD”. I also felt that the album was lacking in the providing some kind of anthem along the lines of “The Final Countdown” which made this band a household name back in the glory days. There is some killer guitar riffing by John Norum as one would expect and on the whole, this is not a bad album. There are several rockers present with “Love Is Not The Enemy” and “Always The Pretenders” (the first single from the release) and I think overall that it will continue to please their existing fan base. The ballad for the album falls in “A Mother’s Son” and that serves it’s purpose fine and should have lighters or cell phones raised during performances going forward. Personally, I loved “The Getaway Plan” because that seemed to mix classic old school vibe with some of today’s freshness.
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“Deuce” by Beautiful Creatures

Artist: Beautiful Creatures
Title: “Deuce”
Label: Spitfire Records
Release Date: 8/23/2005
Genre: Hard Rock
Rating: 4/5

The Beautiful Creatures know the successful formula for kick ass Rock & Roll primarily because lead singer Joe LeSte originally hails from Bang Tango; a band that was rocking heavy in the years before the Seattle Sound spun things around and Metal still was everyone’s mind. “Deuce” is their second album and the first for Spitfire Records and while it comes four years after the bands debut it is loaded with solid Rock and Roll hooks that make it something that was worth waiting for. There is a lot of killer music on the release and one thing that struck me very quickly when I listened to this CD was some of the similarities that it brought to mind. With “Freedom” they reminded me of Ian Astbury & The Cult, and since “Sonic Temple” was a favorite CD of mine, I truly enjoyed the song that much more. There are flavors that you would remember from bands such as Guns ‘N Roses and LA Guns and pretty much any band that was dead on serious about the Rock they hit you with. That does not mean that BC is some clone band of these references but just something that if that was what appealed to you then this is something you should also be looking for right away.
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“A Light In The Dark” by Metal Church

Artist: Metal Church
Title: “A Light In The Dark”
Label: SPV Records
Release Date: 6/27/2006
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 3.5/5

Attention head bangers it is time for Church – Metal Church that is, and with “A Light In The Dark” we find the band still going strong and creating solid Metal under the watchful creative direction of Kurdt Vanderhoof (the group’s sole original member). Lead singer Ronny Munroe proves his salt with his second outing in the band on powerful numbers like “Mirror Of Lies” and the epic “Temples Of The Sea”, a tune that runs just short of ten minutes. Ronny has the required Metal powers when needed but he also shows the ability of just being an impressive Rock singer with a wide range of vocal styles. He was the perfect person to fill the role of singer in this band and I am sure going forward he will establish quite a fan base for himself. Another change in the group is that the new album also features the talents of Jeff Plate on drums. Jeff replaces Kirk Arrington who left due to health complications in 2006, and brings with him the expertise of working with Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and Chris Caffery. Plate’s style is something that long time fans will appreciate as he is no stranger to playing quality Metal. The group is rounded out by Jay Reynolds and Steve Unger who handle the second guitar and bass duties on the recording and have been members of the band since the previous album “Weight Of The World”. Regardless of the band being comprised of a completely new lineup they still manage to deliver the goods and are perfect for those listeners who are seeking a Classic Metal sound without it being retro or dated. Metal Church was always a pure entity when it came to the genre and since their formation in 1981 has influenced many bands that followed them.
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