Archive for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal

Album Review – Judas Priest “Redeemer of Souls” 2014

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 21, 2014 by Lightning Slim

JudasPriestRedeemerSouls  When you’ve been in the business as long as Judas Priest, you have an opportunity to reflect upon and work with your longest-standing musical influence: yourselves. And so it is that Redeemer of Souls looks back and well as forward, ending up sounding Judas-Priesty as all hell, and all the more enjoyable for it. The overall feel is the same as what we’ve come to expect post-Painkiller, but there are also bluesy bar-rock riffs on the record that would be at home on Point of Entry, Killing Machine or even British Steel. It’s self-homage without resorting to self-plagiarism (one notable exception is the title track, which is essentially a reboot of “Hell Patrol”).

New guy Richie Faulkner admirably fills the K.K. Downing-shaped hole in the wall, matching Glenn Tipton’s dignified grace and power on the trade-off solos. He’s also heavily involved in the songwriting, which may turn out to be a secret weapon for the band. Having grown up outside the Priest bubble, he’s been listening to the competition. To wit, there are Maidenish touches here and there, especially on “Sword of Damocles”, which is a straight-up Brave New World-era Iron Maiden song that JP appropriate with aplomb.

One elephant in the room: the time of the Rob Halford shriek would appear to be over. We all knew this day would come. Halford does access his falsetto, but it’s during quieter moments, and when he does rage out it’s carefully and gently cradled by the mix and quickly spirited away as if to say “Nothing to see here; move on”. Considering he still has one of the most dynamic ranges around, and his midrange is passionate and full of power, it would be churlish to ask for more.

Be at ease, metalheads. It’s twenty-freaking-fourteen, Mark Wilkinson has yet to tire of painting messianic figures aflame under violet skies, and Judas Priest have gone back to the well to draw forth an album which will be the envy of bands half their age. 8.5 out of 10

Best Bands Worst Songs Part Duh

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by Lightning Slim

Last week I took on the project of Iron Maiden’s very worst, which got me some feedback about picking on poor Blaze Bayley, as if he were a defenseless child and not a grown-ass man of somewhat dubious singing ability. However, if we accept the premise that Blaze Maiden is a completely different animal from Bruce Dickinson’s version, that means I can take another kick at the can and give you some runner-ups. Here are two; one of Bruce’s worst vocal performances and the other a plain old stupid and unworthy song. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’re both from Fear of the Dark, Maiden’s weakest Bruce effort unless you’re a South American fan who likes to gather in the thousands and sing along to the guitar parts.

First Runner-Up: Charlotte the Harlot must have been really good, because Steve Harris is writing songs about her 20 years later. Bad songs. I vacillated between this one and “Bring Your Daughter…To the Slaughter”, and then just flipped a coin.

 

Second Runner-Up: I’m surprised this is a Harris/Gers effort, as it sounds like it would fit comfortably on a Dickinson solo record like Balls to Picasso. I almost wish it was, because then it could be safely ignored with the rest of that crapstick.* Guys, I know you like football, and this is obliquely about football hooliganism, but guys, boring.

 

Note: I won’t be heckling anything from the Paul Di’anno records, for two reasons. A) I don’t consider juvenilia to be fair game. It’s way more fun to poke holes in folks who know better and B) Those two records are balls-out fun and full of life. Very little badness, if any.

Special Honourable Mention: The cover of Dance of Death. Go on, Google it. I’m not depicting it here because it gives me a feeling like I need to pee. Only instead of urine it’s hate.

 

 

*Balls To Picasso is essentially a 30-minute trailer for a movie you don’t want to see, before it finally and mercifully pays off in “Tears of the Dragon”, a great song by anyone’s standards. But what a wait!

Best Bands, Worst Songs

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , on May 29, 2014 by Lightning Slim

Even titans of the genre write crappy songs sometimes. If a band is particularly prolific, they might write a bunch of them, which end up acting like a shit-cocoon around the beauties they hide. What I’d like to explore  here are some of the biggest, best and most well-regarded bands’ very worst efforts. Let’s start with my favourite band: Iron Maiden.

I bet you just started humming “Run to the Hills” or “The Trooper” in your head. You most certainly didn’t break into a rendition of impossibly-long shitpile “The Angel and the Gambler”.

Now I know you’re thinking this is low hanging fruit because it’s from the inter-Bruce period, with Blaze Bayley on vocals. But he’s not the worst thing about “The Angel and the Gambler”. Sure, his two albums were a low point in Maiden history, but I think he got some stuff right on occasion despite a certain amount of tone-deafness (a curious condition for someone hired to be the singer of the world’s biggest metal band, but hey whatever). Blaze does inject an epic, tragic feel to “Sign of the Cross”, some manic energy to “Man on the Edge” and even rocks out a bit on “Futureal”.

This is none of those songs.

Take a peek, but don’t hit play just yet:

Firstly, the time listed is not a mistake. And there is not an interview attached or a cinematic component. The song is ten minutes long. You think “Oh, OK, it’s a big epic song about a sci-fi novel or a famous battle. Maiden does that. No big deal”.

Nope. It’s about a gambler, and the angel who tries to save his soul by having an excruciatingly dull conversation with him. It’s kind of a bluesy, boogie-rock thing with super-obvious keyboards playing a single-note back rhythm (like “Die, Die My Darling” only not funny). And the chorus is one line repeated over and over again, which, in a song of this size, is a lot. I’d say Nicko was phoning in the drum performance, but with no fills whatsoever it’s hard to tell if it’s even him at all. Steve Harris played the keys on this; maybe he just played everything. The real tragedy of the Blaze albums isn’t Blaze, it’s that without the Smith-Dickinson songs to liven up the place, the Harris epics just give way to more Harris epics. It’s bloat.

And it’s not even metal bloat.

Now give the song a play, and feel free to post how long you made it through before switching it off in the comments below. Opinions? Brickbats? Hate “Dream of Mirrors” more? Put that down there too!

Riff Sammiches: 5 Multi-Riff Masterpieces

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by Lightning Slim

Welcome to the first segment in my new “Lists” category. Lists are a tried-and-true method for bloggers to put up some content when they’re a little lean on material. People also like ’em because they’re so flexible and generate discussion. After all, everyone has their own personal lists and they love to compare. I’m hoping y’all are no exception, so here we go:
We’re all here because we love a good guitar riff, and there are many ways to put them together and make songs. Some artists are stingy or minimalists, and keep their riffs sparse within the tune. Others are total riff factories and splash them about liberally. Here are five tunes made better by generous helpings of guitar goodness. And yes, of course there are more out there, probably by Tool and Machine Head, but I did want to keep things under the 9-minute mark:

5. Bolt Thrower – “Contact – Wait Out”. Featuring an unloved and unfairly judged one-off vocal performance from Dave Ingram, Honour – Valour – Pride starts off with a track featuring an entry riff, a mid-song change-up at around 3:20 and an exit riff that eventually blends with the entry. Superb.

4. Arch Enemy – “Enemy Within”. Another album starter, this time built on one of the best intros in the genre and the big debut of Angela Gossow. I always have to listen to this track twice because as beautiful as the solo section is, the rhythm guitar work underneath it is just as interesting.

3. Iron Maiden – “Powerslave” C’mon, where do you think Arch Enemy got the idea? Sure, we all know the big title riff, but the middle section has enough spare six-string in it write at least three more songs. Those were the days, no?

2. Overkill – “Gasoline Dream”. No strangers to riff largesse, Overkill often close out their records with something even more big and epic. Sometime it has to do with their Overkill-themed masterwork, sometimes not. “Gasoline Dream” is one of the stand-alones, filled with speed changes, multiple ideas and a Sabbath-influenced acoustic ending.

1. Black Sabbath – “Symptom of the Universe”. Did someone mention Sabbath? Mad drum fills! Super-stoned bouncy-bass outro! Cybernetic unicorns! Containing something for literally everyone, “Symptom” is like seven songs in one; none of which make sense and all of which are great.

Deals & Steals: Frantic Transatlantic

Posted in Deals & Steals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  Hey all, this installment is imbued with all  the usual bipolar vacillation between my metal and electronic obsessions. All prices $US, and shipping was $7.99.

Rob Zombie: Educated Horses $4.00. I finally get around to Mr. Z’s least-understood record. Not bad!

Powerman 5000: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Volume 1 and True Force, $$5.47 and free with promotion, respectively. I also decided to include the younger Zombie sibling on this order. The first album is an early-material re-release, and the second is their first EP. Considerable overlap; good thing one was free!

Covenant: Europa $6.27. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Europa is a love letter to Front by Front.

Sister Machine Gun: The Torture Technique $4.79. A friend recently gifted me with a SMG discography, but likely (and sensibly) held out on me by keeping this one, their best.

Fu Manchu: Action is Go $6.99. I Googled “What is Fu Manchu’s best album?” Who am I to disagree with the internet?

Scooter: The Stadium Techno Experience. Free with promotion. No comment.

And not-leastly:

  Metallica: Garage Inc. $9.99. What can I say? Still the best way to get hold of their extensive and well-chosen covers collection. This also allows me to retire my rare original Garage Days disc. I should also mention that the champs at Second Spin, having mistakenly sent me only one disc of the set, immediately shipped me a new set. One email, no questions. Gotta like that level of service. Anybody need a Disc One of this thing?

Classic Album Review – Saxon “Rock the Nations” 1986

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , , , , on July 16, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was always more of an umbrella than a straitjacket, with few in-scene penalties for exploring a variety of rock-based sounds. I like to think that it was in this ecumenical NWOBHM spirit that Saxon approached Rock the Nations, a record that someone in a more cynical mood might call 50 percent direct response to Defenders of the Faith and Pyromania, with another half dedicated to putting out some feelers towards the lucrative, burgeoning LA rock scene of the time.

The album roars out of the gate with the title track, full of Defenders-style bombast (and similar ridiculous drum recording), and keeps the ball rolling with rapid-fire historical number “Battle Cry”, a tale of the Battle of Culloden they can claim was theirs way before Braveheart was cool. The first half of the record also contains strong no-nonsense numbers “Waiting for the Night” and “We Came Here to Rock”.

And then things get a bit weird. “You Ain’t No Angel” contains a level of leering lechery unsustainable by anyone but Aerosmith, “Running Hot” is merely forgettable, and the record ends with two ballads, one of the “power” variety and one less so. Stuffed in there as well is the questionable curio “Party Till You Puke”, a Quiet Riot type number with piano by none other than Elton John!*

So yeah, that happened. Rock the Nations is half of a solid record, with a bit of attempted ocean-crossing showing through the cracks. 5 out of 10

The album has definitely made an impression on some, particularly Manowar. I’m not sure what their opinion of its sonic attributes might be, but they did steal the entire cover concept 20 years later:

*If you want to see where Elton’s head was at in this period, have a look here. As for the song itself, it’s harmless fun, and EJ gives it his all. It’s private theory of mine that it was playing in the room where Andrew WK was born.

Deals & Steals: Nuh-Wabbim!

Posted in Deals & Steals with tags , , , , , , , on May 22, 2012 by Lightning Slim

This was the cover:

This was the track list:

1. Am I Evil? – Diamond Head
2. Riding With The Angels – Samson
3. My Number – Girl
4. Wheels Of Steel – Saxon
5. C’mon Let’s Go – Girlschool
6. Hellbound – Tygers Of Pan Tang
7. Backs To The Grind – White Spirit
8. Angel Witch – Angel Witch
9. Bloodlust – Venom
10. If I Were King – Vardis
11. Satisfied Then Crucified – Rock Goddess
12. Give ‘Em Hell – Witchfynde
13. Hard Ride – Raven
14. Killing Time – Sweet Savage
15. Lady Of Mars – Dark Star
16. Death Or Glory – Holocaust
17. Captured City – Praying Mantis
18. Down The Road – Bitches Sin
19. Blitzkrieg – Blitzkrieg
20. Name Rank And Serial Number – Fist

The price? $8.00 at Encore Records.

The Bliss? Indescribable.

Box Set Review – Judas Priest “The Remasters Collector Box” 2001

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on February 1, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  What: The majority of JP’s output with Columbia Records. The set includes Sin After Sin, Stained Class, Killing Machine and Unleashed in the East. There’s room in the builder-box for everything up to Painkiller, so twelve releases in all. This review assumes you went out and filled up the slots, and will therefore discuss the Remasters as a whole.

   Selection: The albums are all complete and then some, so you’re getting about 25 years of Priest. There are 26 bonus tracks spread around the discs as well. Only untangling the legal issues of including the first two albums would have been better. 9 out of 10

Packaging: The cardboard crate looks like a roadcase, and the albums are put into it in regular jewel cases. When it’s full they all have a nice piece of coordinated spine art. There’s a small booklet with a set overview, but most details are in the individual cases. No feelies or extra kibble included, but that could be a good thing if you want to place it on your regular CD shelf. 7 out of 10

Sonic Manipulation: Lots, and contentious at that. Your standard noise-reduction and volume boost have been applied across the board, although not necessarily evenly. Some older material, such as Sin After Sin, benefits from a little boost. The rawness of Screaming For Vengeance suffers a bit from compression, and Painkiller moves a touch further down the road of sonic “modernity” towards Death Magnetic, but I think accusations of catalogue-wide butchery are a bit extreme. If you’re buying to keep this on a shelf most of the time, or rip it into your Ipod or car, you won’t care. Serious audiophiles will find something to hate, although they may not always agree on what. Considering the personalities of each record and mastering towards that would have helped. 6 out of 10

Rarities/Extras: The nine bonus studio tracks are not much on their own, although many of them are obvious dry runs for songs established later. If this is the pride of the vault, then Priest are economical writers indeed. The seventeen live tracks are nice, if somewhat scattered chronologically in the set (you can see later-era material clumsily glued to early records). The extra songs attached to the two live albums come off best, as they are from the same tour recordings and basically turn Unleashed and Priest Live into expanded editions. Each release has some recording notes and anecdotes from the band, with lots of photos from over the years. 7 out of 10

Overall: An okay mixture of coffee-table brag rights and knockabout playability. If you do not have a Judas Priest discography at your disposal, or if, like my previous set, it consists of small plastic boxes with “Chromium Dioxide” proudly displayed on the side, this may be an elegant solution if the price is right. Be sure to inquire as to whether you’re being offered a full builder-box or just the 4/12 starter set. 7 out of 10

Album Review – Iron Maiden “The Final Frontier” 2010

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , on September 9, 2010 by Lightning Slim

  If you’re anything like me, this will be exactly what you expected; Standard Reunion Maiden. There are few surprises but certainly some pleasant comforts contained within The Final Frontier. Out of Maiden’s sizeable catalogue it most closely resembles Brave New World, with very lengthy songs redeemed by solid performances and a slight lifting of the seriousness that pervades Dance of Death and AMOLAD. Only “The Alchemist” is under five and a half minutes, although intriguing percussive opener “Satellite 15” and the slightly lazy title track single could be considered separate ideas if they weren’t welded together.

There isn’t much more to be said. It’s a good record. It’s a good Iron Maiden record. If you’re a lifelong IM fan like me you already know exactly how The Final Frontier sounds; you can guess the picked-bass openings before hearing them and you will throw down your fists in completely accurate mimicry the first time the drums arrive in “Isle of Avalon”.  If you’re new to Maiden, be aware that this is their fifteenth studio album and there are at least ten you should hear before this one,  lest you dismiss it as somewhat bloated prog-metal. There are dues to be paid and an evolution to be understood. 7 out of 10

Classic Album Review – Iron Maiden “Seventh Son of Seventh Son” 1988

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , on March 28, 2010 by Lightning Slim

 It’s fashionable to rag on this album. For many Maiden fans 7th Son marks the beginning of a period in the wilderness, with a slide into mediocrity during the 90’s and a long march back from the Blaze years, necessitating  a lot of time and hard work before their reinstatement as one of the world’s premier touring bands in 2008. I think that’s a lot of blame to hang on 45-odd minutes of music, and that this record is getting short shrift in musical history.

1984’s World Slavery Tour was the pinnacle of Maiden’s success, and if there was a bit of a drop in quality with the follow-up Somewhere in Time, people were willing to let that slide. They forgave a very long record with rather prominent synthesizer elements due to savvy marketing and great Derek Riggs artwork that managed to successfully sell it as “the space record”. Having the inch in hand, Maiden decided to shoot for the mile and next recorded a darker, even synthier concept album about clairvoyance, alchemy and other stuff no one really figured out before going into the studio. We knew we were in trouble from the cover alone. Make no mistake, cover art really matters to metal fans, especially younger ones. The transformation of music’s coolest homicidal zombie mascot into the plaything of a Dali landscape, frozen into inactivity, filled us with dread.  

Even so, the music held inside still has a certain something. There’s a cohesion to the sound if not the ideas, and no shortage of catchy choruses sung in the last we’d hear of Bruce Dickinson’s full range for years to come. I keep coming back to this record, and I can’t be the only one. Three of these songs were in the set list of the 2008 reunion tour, taking up slots which could have been filled with any number of early treasures. Due to what happened afterwards, it’s easy to forget that this one debuted at #1 in the UK .

Maiden got bad for a while. It’s not 7th Son‘s fault. Fear of the Dark is far worse, they released about nine live records in the next five years, and the Blaze albums are solid slabs of Harris bass-wankery with no Smith/Dickinson melodies to temper the bloat. Right now they’re back on top, but who knows – if they fall off the rails again Seventh Son of a Seventh Son may rise to the relative position of forgotten gem. 7 out of 10

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