April 30, 2017

Iced Earth - Dystopia (Limited Edition) (2011)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal, Power Metal
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© 2011 Century Media
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney
Iced Earth look back on some old ideas on their tenth studio album, Dystopia, their first album with new vocalist Stu Block (formerly of Into Eternity), who joined the band after Matt Barlow decided to depart the band a second time to focus on his family. The album finds Block pushing his vocals into new territories, moving away from the anguished growl he perfected with Into Eternity in favor of a more soaring singing style. Block handles the change well, easily adapting his style to fill some pretty big shoes in the power metal outfit. While fans might be torn about the new singer, they can find solace in the return of the "Something Wicked" story line, giving them a little taste of something old to ease them into this new period of Iced Earth’s history, which -- regardless of whether you’re running hot or cold on their new frontman -- still delivers plenty of the intense power/thrash goodness.

Green Day - Kerplunk (1991)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: Lookout #46CD

© 1991-1992 Lookout! Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Green Day's second full album was the perfect dry run for the band's later assault on the mainstream, containing both more variety and more flat-out smashes than previous releases had shown. With Tre Cool now firmly in place as the drummer, the lineup was at last settled, and it turned out Cool and Mike Dirnt were a perfect rhythm section, with the former showing a bit more flash and ability than John Kiftmeyer did. Together the two throw in a variety of guitarless breaks that would later help to define the band's sound for many -- warm and never letting the beat go. As for Billie Joe Armstrong, his puppy-dog delivery and eternal switching between snotty humor and sudden sorrrow was better than ever, as were his instantly memorable riffs. The metal-strength chug that always informed the band's best work isn't absent either -- check out Armstrong's opening riffing on "Christie Road." The whole thing starts with a note-perfect bang -- "2000 Light Years Away" is the absolute highlight of the group's premajor-label days, with a great chorus and classic yearning lyrics. It got buried in the wave of Dookie's success a bit, but one other number didn't -- "Welcome to Paradise," also a standout on that album, appears here in its original form. Rob Cavallo punched up the radio-friendly sound on the latter take, but even here it's a treat and a half -- quick, rampaging, and once again with a great stop-start chorus to spare. Other straight-up pop winners include "One of My Lies" and "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?." Elsewhere, Green Day slow down tempos, try acoustic numbers, and in one hilarious moment, pull off a ridiculous yet worthy country pisstake with the Cool-written "Dominated Love Slave." [CD versions included the Sweet Children EP as a slightly surprising bonus.]

tags: green day, kerplunk, 1991, flac,

Green Day - American Idiot (2004) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: 48925-2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2004 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's a bit tempting to peg Green Day's sprawling, ambitious, brilliant seventh album, American Idiot, as their version of a Who album, the next logical step forward from the Kinks-inspired popcraft of their underrated 2000 effort, Warning, but things aren't quite that simple. American Idiot is an unapologetic, unabashed rock opera, a form that Pete Townshend pioneered with Tommy, but Green Day doesn't use that for a blueprint as much as they use the Who's mini-opera "A Quick One, While He's Away," whose whirlwind succession of 90-second songs isn't only emulated on two song suites here, but provides the template for the larger 13-song cycle. But the Who are only one of many inspirations on this audacious, immensely entertaining album. The story of St. Jimmy has an arc similar to Hüsker Dü's landmark punk-opera Zen Arcade, while the music has grandiose flourishes straight out of both Queen and Rocky Horror Picture Show (the '50s pastiche "Rock and Roll Girlfriend" is punk rock Meat Loaf), all tied together with a nervy urgency and a political passion reminiscent of the Clash, or all the anti-Reagan American hardcore bands of the '80s. These are just the clearest touchstones for American Idiot, but reducing the album to its influences gives the inaccurate impression that this is no more than a patchwork quilt of familiar sounds, when it's an idiosyncratic, visionary work in its own right. First of all, part of Green Day's appeal is how they have personalized the sounds of the past, making time-honored guitar rock traditions seem fresh, even vital. With their first albums, they styled themselves after first-generation punk they were too young to hear firsthand, and as their career progressed, the group not only synthesized these influences into something distinctive, but chief songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong turned into a muscular, versatile songwriter in his own right.
Warning illustrated their growing musical acumen quite impressively, but here, the music isn't only tougher, it's fluid and, better still, it fuels the anger, disillusionment, heartbreak, frustration, and scathing wit at the core of American Idiot. And one of the truly startling things about American Idiot is how the increased musicality of the band is matched by Armstrong's incisive, cutting lyrics, which effectively convey the paranoia and fear of living in American in days after 9/11, but also veer into moving, intimate small-scale character sketches. There's a lot to absorb here, and cynics might dismiss it after one listen as a bit of a mess when it's really a rich, multi-faceted work, one that is bracing upon the first spin and grows in stature and becomes more addictive with each repeated play. Like all great concept albums, American Idiot works on several different levels. It can be taken as a collection of great songs -- songs that are as visceral or as poignant as Green Day at their best, songs that resonate outside of the larger canvas of the story, as the fiery anti-Dubya title anthem proves -- but these songs have a different, more lasting impact when taken as a whole. While its breakneck, freewheeling musicality has many inspirations, there really aren't many records like American Idiot (bizarrely enough, the Fiery Furnaces' Blueberry Boat is one of the closest, at least on a sonic level, largely because both groups draw deeply from the kaleidoscopic "A Quick One"). In its musical muscle and sweeping, politically charged narrative, it's something of a masterpiece, and one of the few -- if not the only -- records of 2004 to convey what it feels like to live in the strange, bewildering America of the early 2000s.

tags: green day, american idiot, 2004, flac,

Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown (2009) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: 517153-2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2009 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
American Idiot was a rarity of the 21st century: a bona fide four-quadrant hit, earning critical and commercial respect, roping in new fans young and old alike. It was so big it turned Green Day into something it had never been before -- respected, serious rockers, something they were never considered during their first flight of success with Dookie. Back then, they were clearly (and proudly) slacker rebels with a natural gift for a pop hook, but American Idiot was a big album with big ideas, a political rock opera in an era devoid of both protest rock and wild ambition, so its success was a surprise. It also ratcheted up high expectations for its successor, and Green Day consciously plays toward those expectations on 2009's 21st Century Breakdown, another political rock opera that isn't an explicit sequel but could easily be mistaken for one, especially as its narrative follows a young couple through the wilderness of modern urban America. Heady stuff, but like the best rock operas, the concept doesn't get in the way of the music, which is a bit of an accomplishment because 21st Century Breakdown leaves behind the punchy '60s Who fascination for Queen and '70s Who, giving this more than its share of pomp and circumstance. Then again, puffed-up protest is kind of the point of 21st Century Breakdown: it's meant to be taken seriously, so it's not entirely surprising that Green Day fall into many of the same pompous tarpits as their heroes, ratcheting up the stately pianos, vocal harmonies, repeated musical motifs, doubled and tripled guitars, and synthesized effects that substitute for strings, then adding some orchestras for good measure. It would all sound cluttered, even turgid, if it weren't for Green Day's unerring knack for writing muscular pop and natural inclination to run clean and lean, letting only one song run over five minutes and never letting the arrangements overshadow the song. Although Green Day's other natural gift, that for impish irreverent humor, is missed -- they left it all behind on their 2008 garage rock side project Foxboro Hot Tubs -- the band manages to have 21st Century Breakdown work on a grand scale without losing either their punk or pop roots, which makes the album not only a sequel to American Idiot, but its equal.

tags: green day, 21st century breakdown, break down, 2009, flac,

April 27, 2017

Testament - Dark Roots of Earth (2012)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 2012 Nuclear Blast Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Forget Metallica, forget Megadeth, Anthrax, and even Slayer! The most formidable on-stage thrash metal powerhouse of 2011 was arguably the (mostly) reconstituted classic lineup of Testament: singer Chuck Billy, guitarists Alex Skolnick, and Eric Peterson, plus returning bass badass Greg Christian and occasional drummer Gene Hoglan, who probably tops most predecessors on the stool, most would agree. This fearsome ensemble spent several months tearing up concert halls worldwide, consistently putting the "mosh" back in the "pit," before invading Oakland, California's Driftwood Studios to record their tenth album Dark Roots of Earth, which, though not quite as timeless as Testament's late-'80s triumphs, sure comes as close as anything they've done over the past 20 years. Savagely lucid thrashers like "Rise Up," "True American Hatred," and "Last Stand for Independence" highlight everything that made Testament special from day one and their failure to achieve stardom so perplexing: the homegrown Bay Area violence rivaled only by Exodus and a versatile musicality on par with Metallica. A simplistic analysis could chalk up the former to rhythm guitarist Peterson's brute-fist force, the latter to lead shredder Skolnick's Satriani-caliber virtuosity, but they are both just pieces of the band's alchemical musical puzzle, complemented by Billy's unique penchant for growling in tune, Christian's inventive and athletic bass contributions, and Hoglan's devastating percussive propulsion (if anything, he holds some of his death metal tricks in check here). Returning to the music itself, the more melodically driven title track and pummeling anti-ballad "Cold Embrace" raise fond memories of the Souls of Black and Practice What You Preach eras, respectively; and in the particularly memorable "A Day in the Death," fans get a polished-off ancient outtake co-written by original vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza! Finally, though the songs named above largely see Testament reaping nostalgia's rewards, the multifaceted "Throne of Thorns" reveals new sounds, ideas, and a willingness to experiment more aggressively in years to come. For now, Dark Roots of Earth improves upon 2008's comeback The Formation of Damnation and, in tandem with those rejuvenated live performances, promises a well-deserved second act for a band that so narrowly missed grasping the golden ring its first time around. Who knows, the best may be yet to come for Testament.

tags: testament, dark roots of earth, 2012, flac,

April 26, 2017

Pagan Altar - Mythical & Magical (2006)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 2006 Oracle Records Ltd.
Review by Angela "The Hunter" for Metal-Temple.com
Ahhh nothing like a little worship at the Altar to get your mind straight. Hail friends! Doom Metal has always been a love / hate issue with me. It’s either really good, or it sucks and the band should have gotten someone other than their stoner friends, or way too supportive family, to give an honest opinion as to if they should record an album. I am happy to say, after my journey through the pagan lands, that the latter is the case. Welcome to the PAGAN ALTAR. As I listened to “Mythical And Magical”, I could feel myself relax, unplug, and just fucking be alive. Terry Jones’s vocals are gritty but very melodic, and really tie all of the elements of each song together. The guitars are heavy and tight, while keeping the riffs and solos low key Very nice balance between the two. You can definitely feel the influence of Iommi and Blackmore, but in a really good way. Standout tracks include “Samhain” and “The Rise Of The Dark Lord”. Drums are a bit thin, but that could be for multitude of reasons. William Gallagher's bass work is also very heavy and melodic, and really puts the finale piece in the puzzle to make each song a whole work. I genuinely enjoyed the journey this album took me on. The band has been around since 1978, yet only first were given the nod by a record label in 1998. That is dedication, perseverance, and unfailing fan base that kept their music alive for over 2 decades. Simply amazing. For Doom Metal fans, this album will find much favor with you. For a rating I’d say 7 out of ten. As always, stay well, and live free my friends!

tags: pagan altar, mythical and magical, 2006, flac,

April 24, 2017

Iced Earth - Horror Show (2001)

*Standard pressing. 
Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2001 Century Media
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
By the time they recorded their eponymous debut, heavy metal traditionalists Iced Earth were seasoned veterans, having gradually climbed their way to the surface of a Florida club scene swimming with hundreds of death metal bands. And it shows, for despite a few production kinks, their sound (combining a tremendous Iron Maiden influence with a few thrash metal tricks, namely double kick drums) was almost fully developed. Led by rhythm guitarist Jon Schaffer, the group storm their way through a series of galloping anthems filled with guitar harmonies, complex time changes, and admirable musical chops, especially from lead guitarist Randall Shawver. "Written on the Walls," "Colors," "The Funeral," and "When the Night Falls" are only a few of the highlights -- most of which were later re-recorded with new players for 1997's Days of Purgatory compilation. Purists may prefer the raw original versions.

April 20, 2017

Testament - The Gathering (1999)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1999 Spitfire Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Hundey
Now here is an aptly named title for the veteran thrash band, as this is truly the definitive "gathering" of musicians for Testament's lineup. Joining the ranks of vocalist Chuck Billy and guitarist Eric Peterson is guitarist aficionado James Murphy (Death, Cancer, Obituary), bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Death and Sadus), and the human drumming machine himself, Dave Lombardo (Slayer and Fantomas). Testament, for the first time in many a full moon, is a complete, well-oiled musical machine. Sounding tighter then the previous four releases combined, Testament has used Demonic as the foundation from which they will once again build their metal legacy. The riffs are faster, heavier, and tighter, while the drumming is simple, but at the same time extraordinary (would you expect anything less from Lombardo?). Billy is one of thrash metal's most gifted vocalists. Continuing to expand upon his over the top performance from the last album, Billy demonstrates an aggressive versatility that is unheard of in this genre, as his voice fluctuates from angry to more angry to downright snarling. Demonic suffered because it lacked vision, however, The Gathering is pure focused aggression, which is why it is such a monumental release for Testament. Songs like "Eyes of Wrath," "True Believer," and "Careful What You Wish For" demonstrate a catchy, uncanny songwriting ability previously unseen in this band. While "Legions of the Dead" is bar none the heaviest song Testament has ever written. Nevertheless, it is "Riding the Snake" that takes the cake on this album. Here the entire band pulls out their finest arsenal. Lombardo pounds away at his kit with equal precision and intensity, while Murphy and Peterson's guitar interplay is playful and masterful. The real gem is DiGiorgio's four-stringed feats, which consist of a Tony Choy-esque solo that is nothing short of extraordinary. Testament will be unconquerable if they can maintain this lineup, but for the time being, The Gathering serves to quench anyone's parched metal thirst. Maybe you'll find it equally refreshing.

Testament - Demonic (1997)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal, Death Metal
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© 1997 Mayhem Records Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
As the 1990s progressed, Testament didn't soften their attack a bit -- in fact, the Bay Area band grew even more extreme and intense. Testament's Megaforce output of the late '80s and early '90s reached a lot of rockers who weren't necessarily seasoned thrash fans, much like albums by Anthrax and Megadeth. But Demonic is hardly an album that's meant for the casual thrash fan. The title is most appropriate -- Demonic actually sounds demonic. Testament had turned to more of a grindcore-influenced style and incorporated industrial touches, and the result is the heaviest, most evil-sounding album of their career. Even if you don't pay attention to the CD's dark lyrics, its sound alone will scare you. Compare ferocious gems like "John Doe," "The Burning Times," and "Hatreds Rise" to "Trial by Fire" from The New Order, and you'll see how much heavier Testament had become. As brutal as The New Order and Practice What You Preach were, they weren't this brutal. Or, to put it another way: Demonic rivals even Slayer's Reign in Blood in terms of heaviness.

April 19, 2017

Iced Earth - The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2 (2008)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal
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© 2008 SPV, Steamhammer Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Power metal concept albums reached the height of their popularity in the 1980s, but they are still being recorded in the 21st century -- and there continues to be an enthusiastic, receptive audience for them among the power metal diehards. Those who fit that description will find a lot to like about The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked, Pt. 2, which is Iced Earth's 2008 sequel to their 2007 power metal epic, Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked, Pt. 1. Although this 59-minute disc picks up where its predecessor left off, there is one major difference between the two when it comes to personnel: Tim "Ripper" Owens, who sang on Framing Armageddon, left Iced Earth after that release -- and this album marks the full-fledged return of Matt Barlow. Changing lead singers isn't unusual in the metal world, but it is rare that a band features one singer on a concept album and ends up using a different singer on the sequel. It is also an intriguing occurrence, and Iced Earth fans will no doubt debate the merits of Barlow's singing versus the singing of Owens (who was Judas Priest's lead singer from 1996-2003). But suffice it to say that both of them are skillful headbangers, and both of them are appropriate for Iced Earth's grandiose, larger than life Something Wicked material. As far as power metal concept albums go, The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked, Pt. 2 isn't in a class with Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime (which is widely regarded as the ultimate power metal concept album). But this CD is respectable and well crafted, and will not disappoint Iced Earth's longtime followers.

April 18, 2017

Divinyls - What a Life! (1985)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1985 Chrysalis Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Damas
The Divinyls were one of the most unfortunately overlooked acts of the 1980s, but the reason they didn't achieve much commercial success could be because an album like What A Life! is so inconsistent. The Divinyls' best strengths lie both in Christina Amphlett's unique vocal delivery, and guitarist Mark McEntee's bottom-heavy, grungy, guitar work, and not so much in their songwriting. The Divinyls always manage to come up with a few memorable songs, such as "Pleasure and Pain" (a thinly-veiled ode to sadomasochism), "Casual Encounter," and the ballad "Sleeping Beauty," but many of the album tracks are hardly memorable. "In My Life" is a catchy rocker, but Amphlett's vocals (which are usually the highlight of the band's music) sound banal and unpolished. Likewise, the album's closer, "Dear Diary," is a pretentious stab at art that instead sounds very flat and dull. What A Life! is a solid album for fans of the band, but there are better places to start for casual listeners.

tags: divinyls, what a life, 1985, flac,

Iced Earth - Burnt Offerings (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 1995 Century Media
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
After a four-year absence, which, in retrospect, actually spared them from the abuse suffered by most metal bands during the peak years of alternative rock, Iced Earth returned to action with 1995's Burnt Offerings. Known for their uncompromising defense of epic classic metal, the band gets right back to work with the elaborate title track's surprising mix of soft piano tinklings, chorused vocals, double kick drums, and crushing guitars. Remarkably, it all seems to work, and while his ultra-dramatic vocal style occasionally verges on the absurd, resourceful new vocalist Matthew Barlow ultimately carries the day on such standout tracks as "Creator Failure" and "Brainwashed." Then, just when you thought things couldn't get any more grandiose, the band embarks upon the ponderous, 16-minute trilogy (something which would become a tradition for concluding subsequent releases) that is "Dante's Inferno" -- a piece of daunting complexity that will no doubt terrify as many as it delights. Still, classic metal has often been about pomp anyway, and this is what Iced Earth is all about, take it or leave it.

Iced Earth - Something Wicked This Way Comes (1998)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 1998 Century Media
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Released in 1998, Something Wicked This Way Comes offers Iced Earth virtually replicating their previous effort, The Dark Saga, but with somewhat less inspired results. "Burning Times," "Stand Alone," and "My Own Savior" are fine slabs of the classic metal/thrash metal combination the band has become known for, but they lack the spark of yesteryear. "1776" is a humdrum instrumental in the Iron Maiden mold, and while "Watching Over Me" and "Consequences" show the band breaking new melodic ground, "Disciples of the Lie" and "Blessed Are You" are two of the few truly memorable songs. Perhaps time limits are the real problem, as the band seems most at home during the extended compositions comprising the "Something Wicked" trilogy which closes the album.

April 17, 2017

Iced Earth - Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 (2007)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal
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© 2007 SPV, Steamhammer Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
Some metal bands like to wallow in their misery, some like to party hard, and some aren't bashful in voicing their admiration of Lucifer. But a band like Iced Earth refuses to indulge in any of the aforementioned well-traveled roads; instead, they specialize in triumphant-sounding metal, often sounding like the perfect soundtrack for if you were training for the triathlon at the Olympics. And on their 2007 release, Framing Armageddon, the group continues to show off their instrumental and vocal prowess -- as evidenced by the masterful guitar work of founding member Jon Schaffer ("Something Wicked, Pt. One"), and the multi-octave vocal gymnastics from former Judas Priest frontman Tim "Ripper" Owens ("Infiltrate and Assimilate"). Getting back to the whole "triumphant metal" thing, take a listen to the chorus of "A Charge to Keep" and tell me you can't picture raising your fist high in victory. And it should come as no surprise that since the group has always thought in "epic" terms, Framing Armageddon is indeed a concept album. According to a press release, the story line is "A heavy metal sci-fi thriller of epic proportions, propelling one through a tale of evil and tragic loss, as well as the deception, patience and belief it takes to plan a reckoning." Yowsah!

Testament - Low (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1994 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by John Franck
If Testament's 1992 record The Ritual was met with lukewarm critical and commercial response, by the time the band released its excellent 1994 return to form, Low, the hard rock panorama had changed beyond recognition. Testament's sixth studio album literally saw the boys from the Bay Area fighting for their lives in the unfriendly surroundings of the alternative nation. Wisely, the band decided to try something completely different and join forces with Rage Against the Machine/Melvins producer GGGarth Richardson. With temporary drummer John Tempesta in place behind the skins, the band began tracking at A&M studios in Los Angeles. Wanting to return to the no-holds-barred yet musically challenging sounds of works past, the GGGarth teaming proved to be the perfect fodder necessary for Testament to regain their confidence. Surprisingly, the dark, raging sounds that would emerge from these sessions represent some of the band's most lucid work since the classic Practice What You Preach. Impeccably mixed by hard rock warrior Michael Wagner, Low gets off to a tumultuous start with the album's title track. A bludgeoning start-stop-start-stop exercise in monster guitar crunch, "Low" showcases everything that is great and yet sometimes limiting about Testament's attack: huge guitar riffs, Chuck Billy's bowel-liquefying growl, and a classic Bay Area thrash sound spearheaded by rhythm ace Eric Peterson. Unfortunately, the song (like many others on the band's post Preach records) never takes off the way older tracks like "Practice What You Preach" or "Over the Wall" did. And with their backs against the wall, good, in this case, just isn't good enough. Still, all is not lost. Track number two, "Legions in Hiding," is the perfect platform for Tempesta's massive drumming. As he leads the band into battle, the guitar duo of Peterson and ex-Death guitarist James Murphy effortlessly peel off one guitar harmony after the other. In Murphy, Testament had finally found a solid replacement for the departed guitar wiz Alex Skolnick. Also on offer is the token power ballad (a department in which Testament never really excelled) in the form of "Trail of Tears." With references to Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, circa "Victim of Changes," "Trail of Tears" only gradually takes flight towards a predictable guitar crescendo. Steeped deep in old-school Bay Area thrash and death metal vocals, "Dog Faced Gods" is an absolute scorcher, and undeniably the album's highlight. In the vein of old band classics like "Apocalyptic City" and "Eerie Inhabitants," "Dog Faced Dogs" will have fans of the classic chugga-chugga Bay Area guitar sound headbanging their necks off. At the end of the day, even though it rekindles memories of glories past, Low ultimately falls short of a full return to form. And like many later day thrash metal albums (see Anthrax's Volume 8: The Threat is Real), for all its merits Low would remain unheralded and unappreciated for arriving just plain too late. In the meantime, a little band by the name of Korn was about to reinvent the wheel that same year and do to Testament what Nirvana did to hair rock. Kill 'em dead.

April 16, 2017

Testament - The Ritual (1992)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1992 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Once on the verge of breaking the platinum sales barrier and transforming the "Big Four of Thrash" (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth) into the "Big Five," the members of Testament were trying to simply stay afloat by the time they released this, their fifth album. In fact, The Ritual is a microcosm of the entire thrash metal scene. Once seemingly indestructible, by 1992 the group was crumbling towards an ignominious end, and despite possessing the genre's most technically gifted guitarist in Alex Skolnick and one of its most fearsome growls in vocalist Chuck Billy, Testament was obviously going down with the ship. Yawn-inducing, production-line moshers like "Electric Crown," "So Many Lies," and "Deadline" dominate the album; brief flashes of inspiration, such as the intro riffs of the title track and "As the Seasons Grey" are few and far between. Ironically, the disc's most uncharacteristic track, "Return to Serenity" is also its best. With its beautifully ethereal melodies, the song is one of the band's greatest achievements. Alas, it was also one that arrived too little, too late to save Testament's classic lineup, which would splinter immediately after The Ritual's release.

Britney Spears - Oops!... I Did It Again (2000) ☠

*European release. 
Contains 13 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
Label Number: 9220392
☠: Selected by Lass
 © 2000 Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Given the phenomenal success of Britney Spears' debut, ...Baby One More Time, it should come as no surprise that its sequel offers more of the same. After all, she gives away the plot with the ingenious title of her second album, Oops!...I Did It Again, essentially admitting that the record is more of the same. It has the same combination of sweetly sentimental ballads and endearingly gaudy dance-pop that made One More Time. Fortunately, she and her production team not only have a stronger overall set of songs this time, but they also occasionally get carried away with the same bewildering magpie aesthetic that made the first album's "Sodapop" -- a combination of bubblegum, urban soul, and raga -- a gonzo teen pop classic. It doesn't happen all that often -- the clenched-funk revision of the Stones' deathless "Satisfaction" is the most obvious example -- but it helps give the album character apart from the well-crafted dance-pop and ballads that serve as its heart. In the end, it's what makes this an entertaining, satisfying listen.

tags: britney spears, oops i did it again, 2000, flac, oops!... i did it again album,

Evanescence - Fallen (2003 Repress) ☠


*2003 repress. 
This pressing contains 12 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Metal, Gothic Metal
Label Number: 60150-13063-2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 2003 Wind-Up
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Fallen is the major-label debut of Evanescence, a Little Rock, AR-based quartet led by the soaring vocals of 20-year-old Amy Lee. Emboldened by the inclusion of its single "Bring Me to Life" on the soundtrack to the hit film Daredevil, Fallen debuted at an impressive number seven on Billboard's Top 40. But "Bring Me to Life" is a bit misleading. A flawless slice of Linkin Park-style anguish pop, it's actually a duet between Lee and 12 Stones' Paul McCoy. In fact, almost half of Fallen's 11 songs are piano-driven ballads that suggest Tori Amos if she wore too much mascara and recorded for the Projekt label. The other half of the album does include flashes of the single's PG-rated nu-metal ("Everybody's Fool," "Going Under"). But it's the symphonic goth rock of groups like Type O Negative that influences most of Fallen. Ethereal synths float above Ben Moody's crunching guitar in "Haunted," while "Whisper" even features apocalyptic strings and a scary chorus of Latin voices right out of Carmina Burana. "Tourniquet" is an anguished, urgent rocker driven by chugging guitars and spiraling synths, with brooding lyrics that reference Evanescence's Christian values: "Am I too lost to be saved?/Am I too lost?/My God! My tourniquet/Return to me salvation." The song is Fallen's emotional center point and defines the band's sound.

tags: evanescence, fallen, 2003, flac,

April 14, 2017

Testament - The New Order (1988) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre:  Thrash Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1988 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Not only did Testament not suffer from the infamous sophomore slump on its second album, The New Order, but the band delivered its best offering ever. Order is every bit as brutally forceful as The Legacy, but the songs are even more memorable. Testament's outlook was still far from cheerful. Taking no prisoners either musically or lyrically, the headbangers embrace morbid gothic themes on such bombastic treasures as "Trial by Fire," "Disciples of the Watch," and "Into the Pit." And Testament's cover of Aerosmith's "Nobody's Fault" is one of the band's finest accomplishments. For those purchasing their first Testament album, Order is the ideal choice.

Testament - Souls of Black (1990)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1990 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
The first album Testament recorded without producer Alex Perialas, Souls of Black unites the thrashers with the better-known Michael Rosen. With Perialas having served Testament so well, many headbangers wondered how great an impact this change would have on the unit. But they needn't have worried -- Testament sounds very much like it did on its three previous albums and is as heavy as ever. The band's outlook was still far from cheerful. While it had moved away from gothic and occult themes, Testament still sees the world as a hellish, insufferable place plagued by evil governments and the threat of another world war. Like Practice What You Preach, Souls isn't in a class with The New Order, but is nonetheless a welcome addition to Testament's generally rewarding catalog.

Testament - Practice What You Preach (1989) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 1989 Megaforce Worldwide/Atlantic Records
Review by Matt Collar for Allmusic.com
The gothic and occult themes associated with The Legacy and The New Order aren't nearly as prevalent on Testament's third album, Practice What You Preach. Instead, the thrash metallers place more emphasis on subjects like freedom of choice, political corruption, hypocrisy, and the effects of greed and avarice. One of Testament's most informative songs, the disturbing "Greenhouse Effect" takes a painfully honest look at environmental destruction. But while the band shifts its focus lyrically, its musical approach is much the same -- under the direction of metal producer Alex Perialas, Testament takes no prisoners and remains unapologetically abrasive.

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Testament - The Legacy (1987) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer.
© 1987 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Comparable to Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica, Testament is one of thrash metal's more accessible and best-known bands. Testament quickly earned respect in thrash circles with its debut album, The Legacy, a relentlessly heavy and promising effort focusing on such subjects as the occult, witchcraft, nuclear war, and global destruction. Though one can hear the influence of Judas Priest and Metallica on bonecrushing numbers like "Burnt Offerings," "Apocalyptic City," and "First Strike Is Deadly," there's no question that Testament had a collective personality and vision of its own. Alex Perialas' production is superb -- well respected in metal circles, he obviously encouraged Testament to play hard and let it rip.