Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The year at the halfway point

I always like to take a minute at the halfway point of the year to look back at the top moments so far. To be honest, sometimes it’s hard to put together a top 10 list after six months, but it’s not a problem at all this year. It’s been a year of fantastic records, with hopefully many more to come.

The flood of good records, unfortunately, has been overshadowed by the loss of legend Ronnie James Dio, and a great deal of my music listening time has been devoted to the various stages of Dio’s superb career. Still, I’ve found plenty of time for new music, too, and here are my favorites so far.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: Masterplan, "Time to Be King"

Jorn Lande makes his return to Masterplan on their latest effort, Time to Be King, and it makes all the difference.

The band’s 2007 outing, MKII, without Lande at the helm, was an OK effort, but he was definitely missed. This record makes the absence obvious. With Lande on the mic, they’re a much more powerful outfit.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: Exodus, "Exhibit B: The Human Condition"

I understand that there are some people out there who don’t like Rob Dukes-era Exodus, and I get that. But I, for one, love it. The three records that feature Dukes, including this latest effort, have been some of the heaviest and most aggressive in the band’s entire catalog.

If you didn’t like The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A, then Exhibit B will not likely be to your tastes either. In tone, style and heaviness, the two records are quite similar. The songs here are, for the most part, fast, brutally heavy and on the long side.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: Avantasia, "Angel of Babylon"

Projects that feature a who’s who of artists from a genre usually disappoint me. No matter the gathering of talent, it usually just doesn’t quite gel. One exception to that rule in the past has been Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia. Once again, for the most part, he overcomes that with the double release of The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon. A big difference is that Avantasia remains Sammet’s vision, rather than taking on the characteristics of the other artists.

What he doesn’t overcome is the curse of the double album. Typically, they only contain enough really good material for about one record and some uninspired filler. It could be because I started with Angel of Babylon and was just tired by the time I got to the middle of The Wicked Symphony, but Angel seems to be the much stronger release of the two.

Review: Avantasia, "The Wicked Symphony"

The other half of Tobias Sammet’s two-album Avantasia release, The Wicked Symphony, doesn’t fare quite as well as its counterpart Angel of Babylon. It, too, has its moments, but overall seems just a little too generic power metal in places.

Like its companion piece, The Wicked Symphony opens with a longer, more epic number in the title track. This is one area where this record is better. The song opens with some symphonic adventure movie orchestration and features some dramatic riffing. It’s far better than the forgettable opening track of Angel of Babylon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: Jon Oliva's Pain, "Festival"

I’ve been a fan of Jon Oliva since the first time I heard Savatage, and I honestly don’t think that anything he’s ever touched has turned out remotely bad. (OK, I do try to block out Fight for the Rock). In my mind, he’s one of only a handful of creative geniuses in metal, and he never seems to sit still. He took Savatage from a traditional metal outfit to a symphonic metal force working with producer Paul O’Neill and has even transitioned the basic Savatage sound into commercial success with the symphonic rock spectacle of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Even still, the transition that he’s made with his new outfit Jon Oliva’s Pain has been fascinating to me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review: Godsmack, "The Oracle"

From time to time I catch a little grief in metal circles because I like some of the more commercial hard rock acts like Godsmack and Disturbed. Quite frankly, though, I’m way too old to play the “who’s more metal” game. I like what I like, even if it is commercial.

On their last record, “IV,” Godsmack experimented with some new flavors and sounds. I thought there was some good stuff on the record, but I didn’t love it. For their latest, “The Oracle,” they’ve returned to the sound that got people’s attention in the first place.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Hank Williams III, "The Rebel Within"

It’s not surprising that Hank III’s final album for Curb Records wouldn’t be his best effort. He’s been fighting the label to get the music that he wants to release out in a timely fashion for a long time and has been fighting to get out of the contract for years. “The Rebel Within” accomplishes that goal and starts a new era for III. Unfortunately for fans, it’s a seriously mixed bag with not a lot of real energy.

It’s not a complete throwaway record, though. There are a few definite reasons to check it out, the foremost being “Karmageddon.”