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”.
Moonspell: “Memorial” (SPV Records)
Fans of the Gothic Metal genre rejoice for there is no better band to bring it to the table than Moonspell. Heralded as the most successful Portuguese band ever, they return to us after a couple of year’s absence from album releases with “Memorial” – it is an album that holds you in its dark grip from beginning to end without question. Musically this effort is one of the strongest I have heard from the Gothic Metal sector in my times observing the genre and to the bands credit, working with producer Waldemar Sorychta (Lacuna Coil, Sentenced, Tiamat) was probably the smartest thing they could have done with this album. Gloomy and intense instrumental intros lead you into a thunderous display of musical power that is so dramatic you feel as though you are listening to a horror movie put to music. “Finisterra” and “Mememto Mori” and among my favorite numbers along with “Sanguine” as they especially deal with darker subject matter and are written it would seem by Darkness itself. Fernando is mesmerizing across the length of the album and as each song plays you can almost envision him atop a moonlit mountain as mists and other workings of the midnight sky happen all around him. “Luna” has a strong level of appeal for not only is a mix of clean vocal happening but there is also the haunting voice of Brigit Zacher. Moonspell have outdone themselves with this recording and I feel that those who have only sampled the band before do themselves justice and grab a copy of “Memorial”. While it is not the bands first effort, it is very clearly their best to date. This will be an album that true Gothic Metal is gauged and rated against so other bands who deliver this aspect of the genre will do well to study it. I think the main part of the records appeal is the fact that it does not totally follow the Gothic definition by being overly depressing and melancholy. The keyboard use and the deeper clean vocals and guitar chord structure make the Gothic vibe come to life, but the album is also very energetic, heavy and darker than the abyss. A lyric and photo booklet is included which will serve to enrapture you more into the midnight world of Moonspell. This is an album for all fans of Atmospheric, Dark, Progressive and Gothic Metal. It’s a winner from beginning to………………End.
Nightmare: “The Dominion Gate” (Candlelight Records)
Fans of Power Metal will be chanting “Vive La France” as they jam out to France’s legendary but still widely secret masters of the Melodic. All the elements for success in the genre are under the bands command and with TDG they stand to be the next big discovered secret by a wider demographic of appreciative fans of the form. This is majestic and entertaining, technical and resounding and there is little chance for boredom as they bound from one track to the next. It’s time for them to join the charge into glory like those who came long after them. Anyone coming along?
Nightwish: “Highest Hopes” (Century Media Records)
And so we come to the release of “Highest Hopes: Greatest Hits of Nightwish”, a collection of some of the bands best material from their career but clearly missing out on necessary numbers for a release of its type. The album comes months after Tarja’s termination and would be better titled “The Tarja Years” as it finds the band cloistered as new music is written and a replacement singer sought. I view this release as a chapter in music history closed while another is in design stages; will it astound us and hold us in thrall as the first part did? Only time will tell.
Opeth: “Ghost Reveries” Special Edition (Roadrunner Records)
“Ghost Reveries” was truly a work of Progressive Death Metal genius and with the bonus DVD on this Deluxe Edition; you see what went into the making of the album. A 5.1 mix of the record with a slideshow and an unedited video for “The Grand Conjuror” plus a bonus track make this a fine collectible from a band that breaks boundaries with each release and shows just how limitless the journey into music can be. The bands consistent experimentation and intelligent melodic structures find them raising the bar on this genre and becoming more inspirational to those that follow this path.
Otep: “Ascension” (Koch Records)
Continuing their self-created brand of “Art-Metal”, the California founded Otep returns with their most inspired effort to date. “The Ascension” finds the band in top form and showing levels of musical growth as they indulge the listener in their established formula while at the same time reaching for new areas of melody and technique. The effort begins with the blistering “March Of The Martyrs”, a track that pummels the speakers with blast beat drumming before the lyrical poetry that singer Otep Shamaya is so known for begins. She is an interesting performer to say the least as she growls like Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy) at most times then suddenly flips to the use of rhymes and poetic verse with a very melodic tonality. The new CD finds her and the group endeavoring into some different ground and changing the way things are done as far as the expectations in their fans eyes are concerned. Respect and props are given to Nirvana by their rendition of “Breed” which is of course given the requisite Metal twist. The good part is that it is still a fine version of the late Cobain’s work. “Perfectly Flawed” is perhaps the most out of place number for its hard rocking vibe and essence totally lacks the growling and verse found on the other tracks and leads to single potential for the group and a wider demographic appeal. It drops right back into the normal flow with “Crooked Spoons”, that was completed with the assist of Mudvayne’s Greg Tribbett. There is a real Mudvayne feel to this one as result of the guitarists influence. The whole album presents a lot of power in the playing here as it just exudes the anger and aggression that houses the singer’s painful and often deeply political thoughts. Shamaya is skilled at presenting the world her conflicts and beliefs via her poetry, which is then morphed into the songs that we find Otep delivering in the manner that only they master. It seems to have worked thus far and the band has come a long way since first being seen by Mrs. Ozzy and offered the spot on the 2001 Ozzfest. I enjoyed the kickass playing of Bassist eVil J., guitarist Karma Cheema and drummer Brian Wolff who form the rest of the group very much. Both Cheema and Wolff are new members who have joined from American Head Charge and Synapse respectively.
Pain Of Salvation: “Scarsick” (InsideOut Music)
Complex and intriguing, technical and melodic yet seemingly unpredictable on many tracks is the latest from PoS and founder Daniel Gildenlow. The interesting release holds numerous flavors from the bands history and is easier understood by those who have followed them for years according to the band leader. The musical surprises jump out everywhere and will have some in furor on “America” while others shall be bopping to “Disco Queen”. It’s a deep release that needs several listens to catch onto and appreciate but when you do its enjoyable and a true turn into a different avenue of musical appreciation.
Paul Stanley: “Live To Win” (New Door Records/Universal Music)
Paul Stanley of KISS is a man who needs no introduction. He is the epitome of the words “Rock Star” and for over 30 years has been the Starchild; front man without peer and legendary performer. A man who has done it all, and now to the delight of millions has released his second solo album. Featuring all new material, the KISS fans need not worry about this being a clone of his career highlights or a revisit to the solo released in 1978. Instead they will find a tasty and well-produced Hard Rock recording. “Live To Win” is an album that begins with a positive message on how to handle life and it is a classic sounding rocker. Full of mixed feels due to the various writers Paul had helping him the listener will find the presence of Desmond Child, his long time writing partner on many of the tracks. He had some help from some of the more contemporary Pop scene scribes and that left me wondering why he felt the need to use them. Surely Paul knows how to write a hit song without such help after so many years. You will not find the same impact on this as the 1978 album, but that’s because time and musical climate has changed drastically. “Lift” has an Evanescence feel but Paul’s pure and powerful voice makes this style work. “Bulletproof” and “Where Angels Dare” have some KISS-like moments circa their “Crazy Nights” or “Smashes, Thrashes, Hits” years with a sleek and polished drive and highly catchy lyrical content. If you don’t look for KISS in the overall music you will not be disappointed. In addition to the studio musicians on the album you will find former KISS band mate Bruce Kulick and Marilyn Manson’s John 5 handling some guitar. Most impressive is “All About You”, one of the hardest rockers present – it should be a favorite for those yearning for heavier stuff. The question remains is whether this release will find the same appeal in the world outside of the KISS realm as while popular to his existing fans, does the larger public care. The music tide is an ever-changing beast and I think there is a strong possibility in this happening for him. This is a solid effort from a talented and worldly musician who is admired by more people than one could possibly count. Live to win – that’s a good idea so let’s try to do some of that while we can.
The Rasmus: “Hide From The Sun” (DRT Entertainment)
The Rasmus are another one of those “overnight sensations” from Helsinki, Finland who are not overnight at all and instead have been releasing albums since 1996. Yes, it seems like Finland is giving the world another band that is set to become the “next big thing” and watching the countries output over the last few years with Children Of Bodom, Nightwish, H.I.M and The 69 Eyes this could be a very good thing. “Hide From The Sun” bears some uncanny resemblance to the sound of Gothic Melodic Rockers H.I.M., yet unlike their Finnish Brothers in music, The Rasmus are not as Dark and Melancholy with their songs. There is a slightly similar groove to be found on tracks like “Keep Your Heart Broken” and “No Fear” but beyond that it is a totally different band. Little emphasis on Death and lost love like H.I.M. is delivering on a regular basis. The resulting hit potential in tracks like “Night After Night” and “Sail Away” are quite high based on how catchy they are. The album is their sixth but its the first to reach the US shores and the amount of sleek tracks it holds make the doubts low that they will be one of the most successful bands of this type of genre as the recording is very commercially strong but does not lose any of its vibe. I see it being popular and finding a place on the Rock radio that is left to enjoy. They do not truly bear the Gothic label, but have a twist of it tossed in for taste with “Lucifer’s Angel” and “Don’t Let Go”. Lead singer Lauri Ylonen has a wonderful texture and passion to his voice and by the look of his photos he will soon adorn the lockers of students in schools across the nation. Fans of the Finnish music scene will also enjoy the visit from Apocalyptica that the album offers on “Dead Promises” (the two met before for their song “Bittersweet” and were also joined by Ville Vallo). This is a solid production from top to bottom and totally catchy and relevant to an ever-growing brand of music. If you like H.I.M. this is for you and if tasty Melodic Hard Rock is your cup of tea you will find little disappointment on “Hide From The Sun”. The US release offers bonus tracks and alternate versions as well.
Realm: “Endless War” Remastered (Metal Mind Productions)
Originally released in 1990, this classic piece of molten Thrash Metal really gave fans of Technical Speed riffing and drums their fill. Sadly, the Grunge movement was imminent at this time and the band would fade into obscurity as result. The became legendary and most-known for their blistering rendition of the Beatles classic “Eleanor Rigby”. The remasters from MMP offer the chance to relive the majesty of Realm once again and remind us of a simpler Metal time when the lines were not as vague and you either brought it, or you sucked. Realm very clearly brought it.
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.
Pain Of Salvation: http://painofsalvation.com/
Paul Stanley: http://www.paulstanley.com
The Rasmus: http://www.therasmus.com/