These album overviews were originally written for Metal Edge Magazine when I was a contributor to their “Hear Us Out” CD reviews section back in 2006-2007. With the magazine wrapping up publication a few months ago, I decided to add them to the context of our PiercingMetal presentation. I felt that by doing this I would not only be raising the horns in remembrance of the magazine but would also be able to showcase just how different writing for a major publication was when it all came down to it. Since “Hear Us Out” notations were usually “100” words in length, these posts will feature several reviews each until we run out of them. The freelance writing tenure at Metal Edge Magazine was discussed on THIS LINK so please check that out when done. Here are the reviews, so “Hear Us Out”.
Gilby Clarke: “Gilby Clarke” (Spitfire Records)
For those of you who only know of Gilby Clarke’s name from the blockbuster television show “Rockstar: Supernova” then this CD offers you the perfect chance to see just where the performer comes from and what he has brought to the table musically for many years. Clarke’s resume reads most prominently with his contributions to the music of Guns ‘N Roses where he replaced Izzy Stradlin while the group was on tour back in 1991. He left in 1994 and proceeded to record and produce on his own which brings us to this tasty compilation release. Musically the best way to define the songs that Clarke usually delivers is by saying its a little bit Black Crowes and a lot of Rock attitude. Listeners will find this collection as a cool treasure chest since it covers his solo releases (Pawnshop Guitars, The Hangover, Rubber, ’99 Live and Swag) which cover 1994-2002 along with some other trinkets. From start to finish, this is solid Rock & Roll and even if you were never a fan of his the diversity and groove of the tracks offers you the chance to try him once again. In 2006, Clarke was a prominent figure in the public eye as the guitarist for a Tommy Lee fueled show and band that would feature Jason Newsted (Metallica/Voivod) as well. The show was an instant hit as singers vied for the coveted position that ended up with Lukas Rossi winning out. Despite his winning, there was another worthy contestant in Dilana and she is featured on the song “Black”. It is a good track but far too Janis Joplin, as opposed to the unique style that she possessed on her own. Other treats here are selections from Col. Parker, the group he had with Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats). They were a good band that sadly failed to generate the interest that was deserved. Clarke is also a strong Producer who has worked with both L.A. Guns and Crash Kelly. The material on the CD finds its strongest tunes in lead track “Cure Me Or Kill Me” which while one of the oldest inclusions is still a fresh dose of Rock. As one of the core creators of the music of RSN, you can see the developments offered here that come to fruition on the new vehicle. This is a great sampler of a very productive career.
Grave Digger: “Liberty Or Death” (Locomotive Records)
For over two decades Grave Digger has continued to dole out Heavy Metal that is still pure, solid and delivers exactly what you desire of this music. The premise of the release is all battle related themes and the band charges through every track like heroic warriors that are certain of victory against staggering odds. GD plays Metal that many of us grew up on and yet manage to remain consistently interesting and not “dated” in any manner. The blood pumps with the drumming and the riffs hand out the air guitars as the listener joins the band in glorious combat.
Hammerfall: “Threshold” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Fans of Melodic Metal can always count on Hammerfall and their continuing quest into glory as once again they deliver music of epic scale with “Threshold”. Anthems and rockers abound on the release and all will have you singing with fists and swords raised high to the sky. It’s musically loaded with catchy riffs and choruses that will set your Metal “Hails” to high as the album takes you to far away and mystical places. It’s a group that truly releases the magic that music is supposed to unleash in a person. Thanks to their efforts, the “Fire Burns Forever”.
Hella: ”There’s No 666 In Outer Space” (Ipecac Recordings)
Hella is definitely a group that shows a level of influence by the likes of Primus and as a result they load up heavily on the experimentation and complex time signatures on every track of the album. There is nothing predictable about their sound, and while at times it looks to confuse it is instead very well-thought out mayhem. Some refer to this as Mathcore, or Nintendo (a term I still don’t catch) but through it all there is definitely a lot of tasty rhythms and patterns that will impress any fan of that Avant-Garde/Experimental side of Rock.
Helloween: ”Keeper Of The Seven Keys World Tour” (SPV Records)
Recorded on the tour for KOTSK3: The Legacy; the adventures of Helloween are captured for the world to enjoy. It was a tour that found the Power Metal masters returning more to the pure format of the genre that they helped to start so many years ago. It’s loaded with standards that are considered anthems in most Metal circles, the band sounds as fresh as they ever did even though membership has changed since their inception. Musically tight and energetic with resounding sing along choruses that many fans know by heart. A companion DVD that presents this show and more also is available.
I: “Between Two Worlds” (Nuclear Blast Records)
It’s true that side projects are not always that interesting but when you comprise one with Abbath and Armagedda (Immortal), TC King (Gorgoroth), and Ice Dale (Enslaved) it truly bears more than a casual investigation. These musicians are members of the Black Metal Illuminati and their work a testimony to their skills in matters Dark. However, instead of a blistering display of Black Metal with this project the listener is treated to more of a Dark Hard Rock that falls along the line of Motorhead and perhaps even a little bit of Chrome Division (Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir’s side thing). There is also a sense of slower themed Immortal with a twist of recent Enslaved and in the end this is just an excellent listening experience. I never expected a more Classic Rock vibe based on the membership origins but it just stands as credit to the member’s skills and ability to craft a unique project. The albums opener “Storm I Ride” is a thunderous track that will have your attention as they offer tribute to old KISS in the feel and vibe while Abbath offers the high hails and horns to the fallen member of Bathory during “Far Beyond The Quiet”. It is through this track that he feels the spirit of genius offered to Metal by Quorthon is able to live on further in memory. There are also several moments which harkens to Abbath’s Viking heritage (“Warriors) while others offer thoughts of his Norwegian home (“Mountains”). It’s quite a bit darker than the Chrome Division stuff but the influx of Rock into the Black Metal is a great new twist to the genre and raises both the possibilities of new music and its success at generating a larger fan base that it could have done in its original form. Between Two Worlds is more than a title as it also heralds things to come from this brand of music. If you liked the sound of this then you are also recommended to look into the new Satryicon and Enslaved as well for each of those changes the accepted norm. The only downside to the whole release is that the songs are not more plentiful and once you listen you will find yourself also wanting more of this grim yet alluring new brand of Metal. “I” is sure to become one of the new super powers in the genre.
I Killed The Prom Queen: ”Music For The Recently Deceased” (Metal Blade Records)
Jumping into the fray of Melodic Metalcore come Australia’s IKTPQ and they are taking no prisoners with their new album that runs the gamut of bands like Burn In Silence and All That Remains. Perfectly taking the aggression of Metalcore, thundering drums and razor sharp guitar riffing – then they add the clean vocals and end up making songs like “Say Goodbye” an instant winner. Its not all melody though as plenty of circle pit inspiration can be found here and “Bet It All On Black” will remind you of that fact very quickly. A great recording for a band that has some sure fire promise.
Jon Oliva’s Pain: “Maniacal Renderings” (Locomotive Records)
“All Hail The Mountain King” for he has returned and brings The Pain to Metal once again. Yes the Savatage mastermind Jon Oliva is back and doing what he has always done best – delivering emotional and powerful Metal that is loaded with melodic hooks, inspiring piano and choruses that will have you with fists raised to the sky. With their second album as a band they do not suffer the sophomore curse by any stretch of the imagination and instead seem to have worked out any kinks and begun the next logical step in their development. Yet as you listen, and especially if you had followed his career in the past you will find this album to be the most Savatage like of the two they have released. This is probably something that was done on purpose for some reasons and an accident for other reasons. Oliva has one of the most unique voices to ever hit Metal and his song writing style has made albums like “Gutter Ballet”, “Streets”, and “Handful Of Rain” become classics. After so many years in the business one’s overall style does not change fully, yet adapts over time. Based on the Savatage work and his co-creation of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, we find JOP to be a Metal band that utilizes to success some elements of each of these juggernauts. I have felt that Jon’s writing always had a specific vibe to it also and as a result this album could very well have been called “Streets 2”, for as soon as it finished I ran to my case and dug that one out. Oliva fans will enjoy this closeness as the Savalegions have been begging for a reunion of the classic group for years and this is probably as close as they will get. It is an excellent album at the same time with songs like “The Answer” and “Timeless Flight” being among the deepest offerings while “Push It To The Limit” is among the heavier tracks. Jon’s personal struggle with loss seems reflected in the moving closer track “Still I Pray For You Now”, which seems to be another offering of tribute to his brother Criss Oliva who was killed by a drunk driver more than a decade ago. This is an album that succeeds in delivering great music that not only keeps you interested in this band, but also makes you curious about some of their musical origins.
Kamelot: “One Cold Winter’s Night” (SPV Records)
This companion to the DVD of the same name allows you to travel with Metal confidence to the office or by car and keep Kamelot with you at all times. Consisting of the concert on the DVD in support of “The Black Halo” its perfect for audio only fans. Loaded with photos from the film, it will prompt you to look further into their brand of Melodic Power Metal and as this blasts on your stereo you will agree that Roy Khan is one of the more passionate of Metal front men today. The time is right for Kamelot isn’t it time that you joined the party.
Additional chapters in this series of “Revisiting Metal Edge Magazine” will be posted across the span of a couple of weeks. Please stay tuned for the next batch of summaries and let us know what you thought of these items down in the comments section below.
Gilby Clarke: http://www.gilbyclarke.com
Grave Digger: http://www.grave-digger.de
I Killed The Prom Queen: http://www.ikilledthepromqueen.com/
Jon Oliva’s Pain: http://www.jonoliva.net