Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review: Annihilator, "Annihilator"

I’ve been an Annihilator fan since I heard the first strains of album opening instrumental “Crystal Ann” from their 1989 debut Alice in Hell. By the time the second track, “Alison Hell,” was over, I was devoted. The band’s been through some ups and downs over the years, but they always seem to bounce back strong at some point.

Don’t read too much into the eponymous title of this record. This is certainly not a reinvention or re-imagining of the band. If you’ve followed Annihilator over the years, nothing on this record is going to surprise you. Guitarist, founder and primary driving force Jeff Waters does pretty much what he’s always done – high energy thrash with a tight barrage of fast riffs, wailing leads and the occasional grooving breakdown to interrupt the pure fury.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: Flametal, "Heavy Mellow"

I’m a bit of a collector of offbeat recordings. I love strange stuff like (good) parodies, metal tunes covered by groups in other genres (and vice versa), metal Christmas tunes, etc. Given that, and the fact that I’ve always been a closet fan of flamenco guitar, Flametal’s Heavy Mellow was a must-listen for me.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: Nevermore, "The Obsidian Conspiracy"

Nevermore’s latest outing, The Obsidian Conspiracy, is at once recognizable as a Nevermore effort yet still not quite like anything they’ve done before. The primary hallmarks of the band’s style are there: tight performances, fantastic musicianship and the unmistakable combination of Jeff Loomis’ blazing guitars and Warrel Dane’s distinctive vocals. But there’s something of a peeling back of the more progressive elements that have become a bigger part of their sound over the years and certainly a toning down of the aggression of their last outstanding effort, This Godless Endeavor.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Jorn, "Dio"

Unlike the avalanche of Ronnie James Dio tributes that are sure to be headed our way in the coming months, Jorn Lande’s tribute was begun some time ago, when the metal legend was still very much alive. That, to me, puts it in a different league as a heartfelt tribute to the man and his music rather than a cold cash grab taking advantage of a tragic loss. That’s felt from start to finish on a record that is respectful, celebratory and would have been just as poignant if released before Dio’s death.

Jorn takes an interesting approach in selecting the songs, opting for songs that are meaningful to him rather than the “big” songs that might be expected.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: Sons of Liberty, "Brush-fires of the Mind"

So Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer, who has always seemed a very patriotic sort, has now launched a side project Sons of Liberty and electronically self-released a debut record Brush-fires of the Mind (out today in physical form on Century Media). The project is heavily political and obsessed with conspiracy theories. He’s said that he intends the band and its website to become a “think tank,” so he obviously has aspiration for it beyond just music. That’s all well and good, but first you have to have the music, and most of the songs from this record are mediocre at best.

Not surprisingly, Sons of Liberty sounds an awful lot like Iced Earth. Since his primary band is practically Schaffer’s solo project anyway, there’s not a lot that’s musically different other than the inclusion of sound bites from political speeches.
I’m not sure who else is involved in the project as there’s no list of contributors on the site, but Schaffer handles the guitars and vocals, and therein lies the first problem.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review: Danzig, "Deth Red Sabaoth"

When it comes to Danzig, the first three records, in my book, are certified classics. After that, it’s a mixed bag. Yeah, I know most everybody loves IV, but I’m in the minority that thinks it’s just a mediocre record with a few great songs. Blackacidevil, well, let’s just not go there. Satan’s Child and I Luciferi both have their moments and failures for me, and I do have to be honest and say that I’ve never heard Circle of Snakes in its entirety after getting pissed off at his publicist at the time who sent me a “review copy” containing 45 second clips of each song. Really?

So I approached Deth Red Sabaoth hoping for good things, but expecting another mediocre outing. I love a surprise, and I certainly got one here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Review: Ozzy Osbourne, "Scream"

In listening to Scream, one has to wonder why Ozzy was in such a rush to change guitar players. Just about every guitar riff on the record was quite obviously written by Zakk Wylde (the claim is that producer Kevin Churko wrote them, but if so, he's a great Wylde mimic), and though Gus G. plays them, it still sounds, with the exception of a few notable moments, more or less like Zakk Wylde. So, if you’re expecting a big departure from what you’ve heard from Ozzy due to the addition of Gus G., then you’re going to be somewhat disappointed.