After last years shameful soap opera called Queensryche I must admit I finally lost all interest in one of my all time favorite bands. I’ve always stuck by them, even the abominable Q2K contained some good songs in my opinion, and I even thought they were on their way back. I liked their last album ‘Dedicated to Chaos’ very much. I think I was one of the few… But the fighting and spitting on stage made my vision of the ‘thinking man’s metal band’ crumble. Thanks to Spotify I did listen to Geoff Tate’s solo and FU albums I thought they where not half bad but a step back from Dedicated. And I mean songwise. You can argue about style and production, but I’m a song guy. And I really liked the songwriting on the first 6 albums (yes even Hear in the Now frontier). I think they started drifting after Chris Degarmo left. Specially in the songwriting department. Fast forward to the ‘other’ Queensryche’s self titled album. Now I didn’t have big expectations for this album due to the fact that I always thought that Tate and DeGarmo where the main songwriters of Queensryche. Now I stand corrected….
After reading some raving reviews on the net I became curious. I didn’t really care for the high pitched vocals of the new guy Tod LaTorre although they resembled old style Geoff Tate’s. But this was based only on some poor quality youtube movies of a Rising West gig. But the reviews where all raving. So I gambled a little and ordered the album….
After the intro, real QR-like with voice sound effects, the first song kicks in. It’s a fantastic song, style wise it would fit perfectly on my favorite QR album ‘Rage for Order’ . Surprisingly it’s written by other new guy, guitarplayer Parker Lundgren, and I think he listened really well to the older QR albums. The last time I saw QR live, he’d just joined and they played a lot of Rage and Warning songs and they rocked. The first thing which sprung to mind the first listen: Rockenfield is back!!! The drumming is outstanding. Where did he hide all the time!? I think his drumming was a large part of the typical QR sound of the old days and probably held back by GT for the last bunch of albums (actually starting even with ‘Empire’). Second thing: The twin solo’s are back! Loads of ’em. As are the sometimes brilliant guitar-solos. Michael Wilton’s back too!!!
The album is short (only 35 minutes or so)but sweet. No filler songs. It took a while to get used to Tod’s voice, I thought at first that he sounded a lot like a standard high pitched prog metal singer. I hear some resemblance to Ray Alder of Fates Warning and Midnight. And sometimes he actually sounds like Geoff Tate. But having said that, his hooks and melodies are outstanding. I found myself listening the album time after time (competing with Jon Oliva’s also brilliant Raise the curtain) enjoying it thoroughly and singing along with it. The songwriting is great, with hooks and good chord progressions. I missed those really from Q2K on and they’re back. And thus, together with the drumming, back is the familiar old school Queensryche sound. I now realize how much I missed that. This album is a modern version of the never released rightful successor of Rage for Order or if you want Mindcrime. There’s no doubt in my mind that this version is the real Queensryche. And this comes from a big Geoff Tate fan. But this album simply sounds way more as QR then his album. Although I would have really loved to hear his voice on this album….
I have been a fan of Mustaine & co since day one. I really like the man and the controversies he always stirs up with either his interviews or his releases. What I mostly like about him though is his ability to craft real songs. Real good songs. Whatever the style or form the respective albums are in, there are always good songs on it. I even liked Risk, which contained a couple of real good touching songs. Having said that, I didn’t really care much for the last two albums. They contained some great songs, but also, in my opinion, some filler songs. I really didn’t like the productions either. Dense with very tight and compressed drum sound. Actually I didn’t really liked the drumwork of masterdrummer Shawn Drover at all. It was too perfect. The man is like a machine. Very tight and on the mark. I’m much more a fan of the jazzy feel of the first Megadeth drummer, the late, great Gar Samuelson.
So I actually was hoping for some controversy on this album. And I got it. The reviews of the first released songs were mercilessly bad. I only heard the song ‘supercollider’ before the album release and I kinda liked it. It’s a good song. Not a heavy Megadeth song like there where all over the last two releases, but a more ‘poppy’ song like there where on Criptic writings or Euthanasia, albums I love very much. When I actually got the album I was surprised that the first song is way heavier than the title-song. And moreover, it’s also a good song with a great hook and some fantastic guitar work And drum work. Somehow the drum work all over this album seems more adventurous and less dense. The whole album’s production I like better then of the previous two. It’s somehow lighter, less dark and more open.
I must admit I was a little disappointed the first couple of spins of the disc, mainly because of the 3th and 4th song, respectively Burn and Built for War. The choruses of these two songs are, although they grow on you, at best mediocre. But the rest of the songs are really good. Nice hooks and breaks, fantastic solos and great gritty Mustaine vocals. I read in a review somewhere that the best vocals where David Draimans’ on ‘Dance in the rain’. Now I’m of the opinion that if you don’t like Mustaine’s vocals, don’t listen to Megadeth. Dave’s vocals on this album are spot on. A little more gritty and gnarly which makes them better.
All in all I really like this album. It has great songs on it. The style is a little of all previous Megadeth albums with the main focus on the more mid-tempo rock song style like on aforementioned Criptic Writings and Euthanasia, mixed with some of the heavier songs on the previous two albums. It’s typical Megadeth with a slight shift to mainstream rock. If you’re a fan, don’t believe all the bad reviews and go and buy it.
2012 has been a special year for me. Epic even. Definitely musically. There’s been a lot of brilliant releases. Lots of classics. To name but a few, Anathema, Katatonia, Van Halen, Paradise Lost, COC and RPWL released all some of their finest albums ever. Furthermore there were some fantastic new collaborations, like Storm Corrosion and flying Colors, and new discoveries, like Pigeon Toe and Crippled Black Phoenix. But one album I seem to revisit more then the others, even now, almost a year later. And thats Baroness’s epic Yellow/Green. Every day on my way to the gym I rode my bicycle listening to it and I never got bored with it. I read reviews saying it was a big step away from their previous efforts, but brilliantly the first song worked as kind of a bridge for me. A bridge between the old work and this album. The fantastic and moody ‘Take my bones away’ still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. After that the album gets more experimental every song a step as it seems. The ‘second’ album is therefore very different from anything the band has ever produced. And less harsh. Specially the vocals. Speaking of which, the vocals are brilliant all the way through the album. Melodic, moody and full of emotion. This a big step ahead. The songs are all very melodic full with hooks and smart breaks and rhythms. Overall the instrumental playing is brilliant, the guitar and drums work very well together. But most important, there’s a soul in it. It gets to you. It stays with you. I still find myself sometimes singing ‘Take my bones’ in my head. The album became a friend. A companion through a beautiful but sometimes still difficult year. It takes a special album to become that. There’s only a few in my vast collection. And this one’s definitely one. So every music lover, be it rocker, metalhead or proggy, or even popfans, have to get this album. Its fantastic. Album of the decade for me!
Actually my wife started out as the biggest Anouk fan in our house. Anouk is a dutch singer/songwriter/rockbitch and infant terrible of the dutch music scene. And she’s absolutely brilliant. The first couple of albums she released were nice, contained some really good songs, but were not really my cup of tea. A kind of poprock with lots of hooks, recorded by really good studio musicians with fantastic vocals. But it lacked something. It sounded perhaps too perfect. But the last two albums, ‘For bitter or worse’ and ‘To get her together’, both produced by Tore Johansson with Martin Gjerstad, I liked better. They were different, more ‘soulful’ and the songs stood out more. I really enjoyed those albums, although they were not very ‘rock’.
And now there is Sad Singalong Songs. I had read somewhere it would be a dark and somber album and it is. I had heard a couple of snippets of the song ‘birds’ with which Anouk would attend the Eurovision song contest. No I don’t understand contests in combination with music, I think it’s all a matter of taste, and I certainly never liked or followed the ESC, but this song I really liked and like. And guess what? It’s not even the best song on the album. But the rest of the album is certainly in the same vain. Dark, moody, pastoral, symfonic, elegant and strange. There almost no drums. There’s orchestra and choirs, and there’s Anouk voice. Singing about heartbreak and pain. And you can feel her pain. It’s brutal. I found myself a couple of times with tears in my eyes while listening to the album. Anouk’s voice never sounded better, never sounded more soulful. And never so full of pain. As said, it’s a dark album, but it’s also quirky and interesting. And not depressing. It’s different. And I love it.
In the early eighties, as a young teenage heavy metal kid I was very much into the NWOBHM… Bands like Iron Maiden, Raven, Savage rocked my world. One of the most mysterious bands at the time for us was the aptly called band Satan. Now this was before black metal. This was just before Thrash metal (actually Kill em all and Show no Mercy where released later that year… the buzz was already there..). The name suggested kinship to the at the time very popular Venom but the music was way more melodic and in the league of Iron Maiden and such. I bought the album firstly because I liked the album sleeve very much. I kinda figured (and still do a little) that if a band was creative enough to choose a good interesting cover they must be good and creative and interesting. And they were. The album was fantastic. The music creative, exciting, loud fast and melodic and they had a quirky singer. I saw the band live later in my hometown after they were renamed Blind Fury. They released some more albums as Satan with yet another singer (called Michael Jackson..) which I really didn’t like.
Now fast forward to 2013. They’re back. When I first saw the cover of their comeback album ‘Life Sentence’ I had a feeling this was gonna sound old school. And it does. In a good way. The music sounds as if it was their second album. The same fast pace, the same melodic quirkiness, the same singer. Only the sound is way better. I really like the production. It’s crisp, you can hear the instruments very well and you can actually hear the singer and that he’s really good. Very melodic and with lots of feel. He actually is, together with the guitarplayers though, responsible for the recognizable Satan sound. The songs are well written and the guitarwork is fantastic. What I really like about a lot of the NWOBHM bands is that the guitar-players are not only good soloists but also the riff work is creative. I’m kinda missing that in a lot of nowadays metal. Interesting and odd cords, twinwork and strange, interesting rhythmic changes. All that is on this record in abundance. It makes this album a real pleasure to listen to. Nostalgic but still contemporary. Fine album. It’s good they’re back.
So it has been decided. In my head. The best King Crimson album for me is Red. I just ordered the 3 KC studio albums with John Wetton on it. So now I’m allowed (once again in my head) to listen to them extensively. The first ever KC album I bought was the Nightwatch, a recording of the concert in the Amsterdam concertgebouw, of which many pieces where used for the ‘Starless and Bibleblack’ album. So I was familiar with the style when I first listened to this album. John Wetton has been a hero of me for quiet a long time, ever since I first heard the ‘Night after Night’ album of UK. But here on this very album he’s at his best. The bass-playing is magnificent. It’s eerie, heavy, distorted, mysterious, tight, and loud. Together with drum-master Bill Bruford he leads the band through the songs. Fearless. Ferocious. And then the voice. He’s got a strong, melodic and warm voice and he fills the songs with beautiful, memorable melodies and hooks. Fallen Angels, sort of a ballad, must be the most beautiful song ever recorded by Crim. Or maybe Starless. It’s a draw I think. They’re both stunning songs. Touching, melancholic, beautiful. Then there is ‘one more red nightmare’, a haunting song, again with fantastic vocals. And the strange and eerie electronic percussive sound*, which at first I found anoying, later intriging and now quiet brilliant. Especially when in mingles with the guitar soli of Fripp and later the sax. What a fantastic and adventurous song. The opener, Red, is a typical Crimsonian intrumental song, haunting, heavy and beautiful. Providence is a strange sounding intro for Starless. It reminded me a little bit of UmmaGumma. Eery, mysterious, clearly improvised.
So it’s been decided. Best album of one of the most brilliant bands ever.
*I recently found out that the sound was a ‘scrapped’ cymbal Bill found in the thrash of the studio, left there by the previous band, all bend and crooked.