August 31, 2017

Jennifer Lopez - Rebirth (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
Label Number: EK 90622
.FLAC via Florenfile
.AAC 256 kbps via Florenfile

© 2005 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The last time Jennifer Lopez made an album -- 2002's This Is Me... Then -- she was deeply love with actor/Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ben Affleck, a relationship immortalized in the video for "Jenny From the Block" and "Dear Ben," a ballad that rivals Billy Bob Thornton's "Angelina" as the greatest celebrity love song of the 2000s. Of course, the relationship was also immortalized in the notorious Martin Brest disaster Gigli, released eight months after This Is Me, and that film's abysmal box office was the beginning of the end for the couple, whose engagement was called off in early 2004. Lopez rebounded quickly with a marriage to Latin pop singer Marc Anthony and with the new romance came an opportunity to restart her career -- hence Rebirth, the title of her fourth album. While she doesn't avoid the subject of her highly publicized romantic life, she does bury two seemingly confessional ballads at the end of the record (not counting the album-concluding reprise of the opening single, "Get Right"). Voyeurs may find interest in "He'll Be Back" (a tune not written by Lopez, but a breakup song that certainly recalls the Bennifer saga) and "(Can't Believe) This Is Me" -- a collaboration with her new husband that suggests Lopez may not have learned the lesson of Gigli -- but they're easily the worst moments on an album that's otherwise a sleek, sexy blast. Apart from those turgid ballads, Rebirth is a straight-ahead dance album, alternating between sweet, breezy pop tunes like the irresistible "Still Around" and hard-driving club tracks like the surprisingly heavy, infectious "Cherry Pie." Lopez may not be a flashy singer, but she's appealing on record precisely because she and her collaborators -- chief among them executive producer Cory Rooney -- know those limitations and present them in tuneful packages with big, exciting beats. Since it doesn't deviate from the blueprint she's followed on her first three albums, it's hard to call this record a literal creative rebirth, but song for song, Rebirth has more energy and better hooks than her other albums. It may not be deep, but it sure is fun -- and after the tumult of 2003 and 2004, Lopez sure does deserve to have a little fun.

tags: jennifer lopez, rebith, 2005, flac,

August 27, 2017

Usher - Raymond V Raymond (2010)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 88697 61552-2

© 2010 LaFace/Jive Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
The making of Usher’s sixth studio album was inevitably affected by the end of his marriage and its aftershocks. “Papers,” the early buzz single for Raymond V Raymond, bears the closest relation to the turbulence he experienced. He pours himself into that song more than any other on the set, and breakup lyrics don’t get much more specific than “You don’t think I know what’s up, but sweetheart that’s what ruined us” or “I done damn near lost my mama.” The song was awarded the top spot on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, most likely for its lyrical uniqueness since the song does not break out of an exceptionally repetitive twiddle. Many of the songs on the album have to be taken on their own, stripped of context; otherwise, determining what applies to Usher’s real and fantasy lives can be problematic. (Either way, it’s evident that long-term relationships might not be for him.) The sleek dancefloor track “So Many Girls,” one of a few songs in which Usher sounds dead in the eyes, going through the motions, desensitized by the bounty of women at his feet, is followed by the sarcastically titled “Guilty,” where he whines “I guess I’m guilty for wanting to be up in the club” -- which warrants a response like “Yes, attached 31-year-old man, that’s correct.” A few songs before that is a quasi-redemptive ballad “Foolin’ Around”; he humbles himself, seems to take responsibility for his actions, then casually drops “Guess that’s just the man in me, blame it on celebrity.” The album’s catchiest uptempo song, “Lil Freak,” featuring Nicki Minaj, is effective despite itself, swiping the synthesizer line from “Living for the City” -- a classic containing Stevie Wonder's most angered social commentary -- for the sake of Usher’s lesbian tryst. (The combination is as wrong as Eugene McDaniels' “Compared to What” and a soft drink commercial.) Otherwise, the slow jams and the few moments when Usher sounds as if he's having actual fun win out. Two of the best happen to be collaborations with Jam and Lewis and the Avila Brothers. “Mars vs Venus,” a very slow jam, soars, while “Pro Lover” is a breezy, casual number filled with sweet dub accents.

tags: usher, raymond v raymond, 2010, flac, raymond v. raymond, vs,

U.D.O. - Thunderball (2004)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number: AFM 077-2

© 2004 AFM Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Upon the final demise of German metal legends Accept in 1998, the man who was its voice, the unmistakably shrill Udo Dirkschneider, pretty much stepped into the breach with his self-named band U.D.O. and sought to carry on with a sound and style that, like a saber-toothed cat of some sort, remains frozen in time. Not that what worked in 1984 will necessarily work in 2004 -- but most U.D.O. fans also happen to be semi-frosted relics (sorry!) from the same time period, Thunderball's carefully orchestrated nostalgia pieces may prove to be just what the doctor ordered. Truly, later day Accept rarely sounded as authentically '80s as Thunderball's title cut and subsequent offerings "Fistful of Anger," "Hell Bites Back" and "Tough Luck II" -- all of them packed with precisely jagged guitar riffs, thundering gang-choruses, and of course Dirkschneider's vocal power-drill slicing everything to tatters. The co-songwriting presence on all of these tracks of original Accept drummer, now guitarist Stefan Kaufmann (the man responsible for many of their greatest hits of yore) is of course crucial to their remarkable time-erasing accomplishments, and its fair to assume that the absolutely incredible "Pull the Trigger" is guaranteed to have everyone's Balls to the Wall. Now, for those who have had enough of the Accept comparisons, let it be known that not every track here sounds like a carbon copy of another band's gimmick. Slower selections such as "The Land of the Midnight Sun" and "The Magic Mirror" aren't nearly as obvious; the string-laden power ballad "Blind Eyes" rips off Demon's "Into the Nightmare" instead; and the hilariously absurd polka-metal of "Trainride in Russia" is certainly unique -- ridiculous, but unique. All in all, and easy comparisons notwithstanding, Thunderball's not a bad Accept -- I mean U.D.O. -- album at all.

tags: udo, u.d.o., thunderball, thunder ball, 2004, flac,

U.D.O. - Mission No. X (2005)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number: AFM 095-2

© 2005 AFM Records
AllMusic Review by Erik Hage
Those who only know Udo Dirkschneider from his German metal band Accept, which (via "Balls to the Wall") enjoyed a shimmer of success during the '80s metal heyday in the U.S., won't find any surprises with his newer project, U.D.O. The latter group's genesis actually goes back to the late '80s, after the split of Accept (who would reunite in the mid-'90s). Many '80s metallers had a tendency to dismiss their lumpen roots in later years; Rob Halford explored Trent Reznor-like industrial music in the wake of Judas Priest, while Tommy Lee went all indie rock and emo on 2005's Tommyland. Dirkschneider is woefully unbound by the tides of taste, however: the gargled, glassy shriek and power chords you hear on Mission No. X ("mission number ten") are precisely the same flourishes he employed when "Balls to the Wall" was on the lips of fashion-challenged headbangers everywhere. Tracks such as "24-7" and "Mean Streets" seem suspended in hard dollops of '80s amber, right down to guitar tone and production value. The former track also displays one of Dirkshneider's lyrical tendencies: using his English skills to glory in opaque, youthful clichés: "You're going to live it, 24-7...24 hours, seven days a week!/You're going to give it, 24-7...24 hours, seven days a week!" (The other tendency would be inscrutability: witness the confounding call to "Put your balls to the wall!"). This album is clearly and unabashedly for that shrinking clutch of metalheads still trying to feed their jones for '80s power metal.

tags: udo, u.d.o., mission no x, no. x, flac, 2005,

U.D.O. - Dominator (Limited Edition) (2009)

*European pressing. 
Contains 1 bonus track & 11 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number: AFM 258-9

© 2009 AFM Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
The '80s officially ended on January 1, 1990, but for metal and hard rock fans, the early ‘90s felt a lot like the '‘80s -- that is, until Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's 10 (both 1991 releases) made grunge explode commercially, and caused alternative rock to become rock's primary direction. After that, bands playing ''80s-style metal or '80s-style hard rock sounded very dated. But for some metalheads, the '80s never ended -- and Dominator is a 2008/2009 recording that finds former Accept frontman Udo Dirkschneider continuing to party like it's 1985. Like many other albums that Dirkschneider and his band U.D.O. have recorded in a post-Nevermind, post-10 world, Dominator finds the veteran headbanger stubbornly clinging to '80s-style power metal. But the fact that Dominator sounds so dated by late-2000s standards is not necessarily a bad thing -- certainly not if one still has a passionate craving for pre-''90s metal. "Heavy Metal Heaven," "Stillness of Time," and other fist-pumping tracks don't break any new ground for Dirkschneider, but they're solid and inspired nonetheless. After all these years, he still belts out old-school power metal with plenty of conviction -- and he never sounds the least bit bored on this 44-minute CD. If Dirkschneider had grown bored with this type of material, it would show. But that isn't the case at all. His passion and intensity remain. So his refusal to change with the times is probably for the best. Bottom line: headbangers who still treasure the albums that Accept, Judas Priest, and AC/DC recorded in the ‘80s will find that Dominator, although not essential, is a worthwhile, if predictable, addition to U.D.O.'s catalog.

tags: udo, dominator, u.d.o., 2009, flac, limited edition,

U.D.O. - Steelhammer (Limited Edition) (2013)

*European limited edition. 
Contains 1 bonus track & 15 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number:  AFM 440-9

© 2013 AFM Records
Review by Rustyn Rose for
It has been more than a quarter century since Udo Dirkschneider walked away from Accept and formed his namesake band, U.D.O. In that span he and his band have made some pretty impressive albums, with a few so-so efforts in the mix. This month the mighty Teutonic vocalist and a revamped line-up return with their 14th studio effort, “Steelhammer”. The album is easily U.D.O.’s most impressive effort in recent memory, putting a fresh face on the band’s classic style.
Steelhammer” is 14 tracks deep, and there really isn’t anything that one might consider filler. So the band has certainly made the investment of time and money worthwhile. The album’s cover art is classic metal and for some reason reminds me of Judas Priest’s “Defenders of the Faith”.
In 2012, the band’s longtime guitarist Stefan Kaufman stepped down for health reasons. He has also been Dirkschneider’s writing partner and the band’s producer. To add to the loss fellow guitarist Igor Gianola who had more than a decade in the band stepped down as well.
Finding new guitarists was an exhaustive process but he found two virtuosos in the form of former Amberian Dawn guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen and Russian multi-instrumentalist Andrey Smirnov (Everlost).
Writing the album proved much easier than Udo might have imagined. The stocky singer needed only to look stage-left at his bass player of 16 years to discover a new songwriting partner. Fitty Weinhold has been with U.D.O. since the band’s fifth studio album, “Solid”. Ironically the same album which saw Kaufman initially joined the band.
Full review here..... 

tags: udo, u.d.o., steelhammer, steel hammer, 2013, limited edition, flac,

U.D.O. - Decadent (Limited Edition) (2015)

*European limited edition. 
Contains 1 bonus track.
14 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number: AFM 503-9

© 2015 AFM Records
Review by Nicholas P for New Noise
If the heavy metal of the future is the heavy metal of the past then what is the heavy metal of the past? The answer is FOREVER!
Udo Dirkschneider can still belt out some really great vocals. His singing is clear, and resembles the range he had from the 80s in an uncanny sort of way that could only be explained by just coming out and admitting he is sort of divine. The tracks on Decadent are reminiscent of the Metal Heart days of Accept. Those solos!
The album does serve as a reminder to the masses that Udo should be considered among the heavy weights of old school poster boys for heavy metal. It’s easy to get lost in the hype of a release by a legend, but this one is genuinely good. Yes, there are fantastic rocking tracks on the record like the title track and “Speeder.” “Speeder” has some interesting harmonics, and a great riff to accompany Udo’s unreal low growling scream. Like I pointed out the guy has pipes on loan from God. They’re not going anywhere probably ever, like Brian Johnson’s from ACDC. Udo has some pretty filthy musicians backing him on this one too. Fitty Weinhold from Bullet has been with him for the long haul, but the addition of Gamma Ray guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen and a relatively unknown guitar player from Moscow named Andrey Smirnov have each added their pull of weight to a great project.
U.D.O. continues the true sound of classic metal from Germany. Decadent is a strong album that I would recommend if you are interested in the continuation of 80s sound, speed metal, and angry German men playing fast music. (Nicholas P)

tags: udo, decadent, 2015, u.d.o., flac, limited edition,

Usher - Usher (1994) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 73008-26008-2
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994 LaFace Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: usher, usher album, flac, 1994,

Usher - My Way (1997) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre:  R&B
Label Number: 
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 LaFace Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Usher proved that he had a strong, soulful voice with his self-titled debut, but he fulfilled his potential on his second record, My Way. What makes Usher distinctive from his urban loverman peers is the fact that he doesn't oversing; he simply delivers his songs soulfully. Unfortunately, he falls prey to uneven material, just like any of his peers, but there are more strong songs on My Way than many contemporary R&B albums from the late '80s. Both Jermaine Dupri and Babyface contribute seamless productions and fine songs; respectively, "You Make Me Wanna..." and "Bedtime" are their best ballad contributions. Even if the ballads are usually seductive and romantic, cuts like the funky "Just Like Me," which features a cameo from Lil' Kim, might make you wish Usher didn't play it cool all of the time. And while it's refreshing to hear a hip-hop/urban R&B album clock in at a reasonable running time, it would have been nice if the tenth track was something other than a remix of "You Make Me Wanna..." Nevertheless, it's a strong second effort that showcases Usher at his best.

tags: usher, my way, 1997, flac,

August 25, 2017

P!nk - Try This (Limited Edition) (2003)

*European pressing. 
Contains 15 tracks total. 
Bonus DVD not included.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, Pop Rock
Label Number:  82876 56813 2

© 2003 Artista/BMG Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Of all the dance-pop/teen pop singers to emerge in 1999, Pink seemed the least likely to have success. She didn't have an easy-to-market image like Britney or Christina, nor were her singles all that distinctive, so it was a real shock when she reinvented herself as a badass dance-rock chick for her second album, M!ssundaztood. It wasn't just that the album revealed a unique, forceful personality; it was that it crafted an original, dynamic sound from seemingly contradictory sources, as Pink hauled out forgotten 4 Non Blondes leader Linda Perry for her primary collaborator, piled on the hard rock riffs, and sharpened up the R&B rhythms, while writing as nakedly as a confessional singer/songwriter. It was a big surprise that Pink had an album like M!ssundaztood in her, but that surprise is nearly equalled by its successor, Try This, which proves that she can pull off the same trick twice -- an unpredictable giant leap forward, assisted by unlikely collaborators, that winds up being among the best pop music of its given year. While Perry is still around, she only collaborates on three tracks, since Pink has picked another left-field choice for her main co-writer/producer for Try This: Tim Armstrong, one of the lead singer/songwriters for the acclaimed neo-punk band Rancid. Armstrong co-writes and produces eight of the 13 songs here, and while it's true that he helps steer Pink into harder-rocking territory, the end result isn't quite as simple as Try This being a straight-up rock & roll album. Instead, hard rock is used as the foundation for the record (even some of the Perry-written tracks rock very hard), and then it stretches out into several different styles and sounds. Some are familiar -- there's a handful of dance-oriented tracks, a quiet ballad, such as the closer, "Love Song" -- but, like M!ssundaztood, this is pop music that knows no boundaries, borrowing ideas from punk, soul, ska, new wave, and electronica to create an exhilarating listen that crackles with energy and inventiveness. This music has reference points, some intentional and some not -- the similarities of "Trouble" and Nirvana's cover of the Vaselines' "Molly's Lips" may be on purpose, but the echoes of Blur's "Pressure on Julian" on "God Is a DJ" is surely coincidental -- but it's presentation is original and exceptionally well-written. This time around, she's not as consciously confessional, which makes for a nice fit for Armstrong's strong sense of songcraft and pop hooks, resulting in music that is immediately grabbing yet so sturdily crafted it only seems stronger, even catchier, with repeated listens. While Pink's peers take incremental, cautious artistic steps forward, she's slyly fearless, choosing the right collaborators that help her create pop music that has both style and substance to spare. Britney Spears, Pink's avowed arch-nemesis, may claim that she's taking advice from Madonna, but here Pink illustrates that she's the true heir to Madonna's throne, since she displays a restlessness similar to the Material Girl in the '80s, while never once sounding like Madonna -- or other spiritual predecessors like Pat Benatar, Stevie Nicks, or Debbie Harry, for that matter. With Try This, Pink has firmly established a voice of her own, and in doing so, she's made another tremendous modern pop record.

tags: pink, try this, 2003, limited edition, flac, p!nk,

August 24, 2017

Mary J. Blige - What's The 411? (1992)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: UPTD-10681

© 1992 Uptown Records
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
With this cutting-edge debut, Mary J. Blige became the reigning queen of her own hybrid category: hip-hop soul. The eloquence and evocativeness that comes through in her voice, could be neither borrowed nor fabricated, making What's the 411? one of the decade's most explosive, coming-out displays of pure singing prowess. "Real Love" and the gospel-thrusted "Sweet Thing" (the primary reason for all her Chaka Kahn comparisons) are and will remain timeless slices of soul even after their trendiness has worn off, and "You Remind Me" and the duet with Jodeci's K-Ci ("I Don't Want to Do Anything") are nearly as affecting in their own right. It's nevertheless unclear how much of the hip-hop swagger in her soul was a genuine expression of Blige's own vision or that of her admittedly fine collaborators (Svengali Sean "Puffy" Combs, R&B producers Dave Hall and DeVante Swing, rap beatsmith Tony Dofat, rapper Grand Puba). Certainly the singer comes across as street-savvy and tough -- "real," in the lingo of the day -- and even tries her hand at rhyming on the title track, but never again would her records lean this heavily on the sonic tricks of the rap trade. In retrospect, it is easier to place the album into the context of her career and, as such, to pinpoint the occasions when it runs wide of the rails. For instance, the synthesizer-heavy backdrops ("Reminisce," "Love No Limit") are sometimes flatter or more plastic than either the songs or Blige's passionate performances deserve, while the answering-machine skits, much-copied in the wake of What's the 411?, haven't worn well as either stand-alone tracks or conceptual segues. In fact, those who prefer their soul more stirring, heart-on-sleeve, or close to the bone would likely find her fluid, powerfully vulnerable next recording (My Life) or one of the consistently strong subsequent efforts that followed it more to their liking. For broad appeal and historical importance, though, What's the 411? is an inarguably paramount and trailblazing achievement.

tags: mary j blige, whats the 411, 1992, flac, what's the 411?,

Mary J. Blige - Love & Life (2003)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: B0000956-02

© 2003 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Mary J. Blige has made it clear in virtually all of her TV appearances and interviews surrounding her sixth studio album that she's happy with the way things have been going for her, both personally and professionally. That's more than apparent -- albeit detrimentally apparent -- throughout Love & Life, an album that sees her linking back up with production from P. Diddy and company. The down side is that you can tell that her heart isn't as into the songs that deal with the nastier aspects of relationships. It's that distance that holds the album back from being one of her best; neither she nor her partners should've felt obligated to cover so much emotional territory, especially when an album's worth of material here (at least 40 of the 70 minutes) beams with joy (and/or desire) and goes along with where she's at right now. Even on the somewhat clunky lead single, "Love @ 1st Sight," Blige's uplifted spirit is as contagious as it has ever been, and just the sound of her voice is enough to get by on. Though her re-pairing with P. Diddy doesn't return her to the glory of What's the 411?, at least half a dozen cuts will vie for slots on a future best-of. For 11 years running, Blige remains a durable and consistent artist, and no one is on the verge of dethroning her.

tags: mary j blige, love and life, love & life, 2003, flac,

Mary J. Blige - Stronger With Each Tear (2009)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: B0013722-02

© 2009 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Stronger with Each Tear's first four songs are decorated like NASCAR vehicles, with IDs from the Runners and Akon, Rodney Jerkins, Ryan Leslie, Stereotypes, and T.I. all heard before the voice of Mary J. Blige enters the mix. Sound logos and gratuitous self-serving plugs from producers and guest MCs are nothing new in mainstream R&B, but when an album by Mary J. Blige is dominated by them, in such an extended succession, a longtime follower’s minor irritation has the potential to turn to low-level rage. And while it is also understandable that the appearance of 2009 breakout star Drake on “The One” will help boost sales, the disparity is glaring; the MC was five years old when What’s the 411? was released. Trey Songz, featured on another track, wasn’t much older. Even when factoring these matters, Stronger with Each Tear is a very good Blige album, if not a classic. One of her briefest sets, it is tremendously (almost studiously) balanced between all the ground she has covered so well before. That’s no criticism, though, since most of the songs are easily memorable and display so much range. Those who detest “The One” on principle, for its use of Auto-Tune, need only to forward to the album’s final song, a quiet and sparse throwback (to 40-plus years ago) production from Raphael Saadiq in which Blige professes new love to chilling effect.

tags: mary j blige, stronger with each tear, 2009, flac,

Coal Chamber - Coal Chamber (2005 Special Edition)

*Reissued in 2005 by Roadrunner Records 
with a bonus DVD (not included
Contains 6 bonus tracks & 20 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Nü-Metal, Industrial Metal
Label Number: 168 618 118-2

© 1996-2005 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
While Coal Chamber's self-titled debut album doesn't sound all that original (White Zombie and Korn are obvious touchstones), they are certainly one of the better bands in the so-called alternative metal genre. Their sound is noisy and powerful, they seem to approach the music with strong emotional commitment, and B. Dez Fafara's vocals are appealingly left-of-center. It's not always consistent -- the riffs aren't always memorable (often due to the use of only two notes), "Amir of the Desert" is an annoying throwaway, and "Sway" earns debit points for recycling the "the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire" chant yet again. For the most part, though, Coal Chamber marks this band as one to watch, and fans of the genre will almost certainly enjoy the record.

tags: coal chamber, coal chamber album, special edition, 2005, flac,

Coal Chamber - Chamber Music (Limited Edition) (1999)

*Contains 2 bonus tracks.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Nü-Metal, Industrial Metal, Alternative Metal
Label Number: RR 8659-5

© 1999 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
In retrospect, White Zombie was one of the most influential metal bands of the '90s -- their breakthrough album, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1, relied more on camp theatrics than catchy melodies or guitar riffs, and the follow-up, Astro-Creep 2000, featured an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production that camouflaged the simplicity of the music. Like many of the more popular alternative metal bands of the late '90s, Coal Chamber owe something to White Zombie's musical approach, often relying on noise, texture, and sheer aggression to put their music across, and sometimes neglecting craft in the process. In following up their popular yet somewhat uneven debut, Coal Chamber follows the White Zombie blueprint to a tee on its second album, Chamber Music, expanding the production palette to include electronic/industrial sounds, a bit of updated goth (i.e., more by way of Marilyn Manson than Bauhaus), and even a few orchestrations. In pure sonic terms, all of this means that Chamber Music is a better listen than its predecessor, and since it packs just as much of a wallop, it can be seen as a step forward. In another sense, however, it's something of a holding pattern, because even though the band's sound has grown more eclectic, they don't show significant growth as songwriters. Coal Chamber is still plagued by unmemorable guitar riffs that ride one note, or the same two chords, for far too long, and they simply aren't rhythmically interesting or complex enough to take this approach repeatedly. Plus, in the wake of Orgy's successful cover of New Order's "Blue Monday," there's yet another inexplicable alt-metal cover of an '80s pop song, this time Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey" (performed with special guest Ozzy Osbourne). It's not an incredibly catchy version of the song, and there doesn't seem to be a logical reason for choosing it, which makes it seem like trend-hopping. All of this is not to say that Chamber Music won't appeal to the band's fans -- after all, Coal Chamber is just as hard-hitting as ever, so anyone who liked the first record will certainly like this one too. It just would have been nice to have a little more musical substance behind the blustering intensity.

tags: coal chamber, chamber music, limited edition, 1999, flac,

Coal Chamber - Dark Days (Limited Edition) (2002)

*Contains 3 bonus tracks.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Gothic Metal, Alternative Metal
Label Number: RR 8484-9

© 2002 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by John Serba
Coal Chamber will never be known for their striking originality or thoughtful songcraft. That being said, their self-titled debut album convincingly raged at all the right machines upon its release in 1997, sounding sufficiently spooky and sporting a mildly pleasing, if simplistic, rhythmic battery of subcutaneous, groove-oriented riffs and one-dimensional growled vocals. Their second record, Chamber Music, was generally written off as a half-baked electro-goth experiment, and if it found the band spinning their tires songwriting-wise, Dark Days is regrettably stuck in a mudhole, desperately needing a tow rope, new tires, a shove forward -- anything. It offers, well, a mildly pleasing, if simplistic, rhythmic battery of subcutaneous, groove-oriented riffs and one-dimensional growled vocals. Again. The cookie-cutter Korn-copped riffs and cookie monster vocals don't cut it this time, Dark Days grinding away at the same nu-metal stone, drubbing it into a numb nub, "subtlety" not being part of the band's vocabulary. Here, songwriting is condensed into a bland recipe consisting of two- or three-note riffs churned out on top of a solid groove-pocket while vocalist Dez Fafara picks out two or three blasé, tossed-off lyrical phrases and repeats them ad nauseum. While this formula might occasionally work within the context of typical verse-chorus-verse song structures -- opening cut "Fiend" is the lone intelligent standout, and "Glow" and "One Step" aren't too bad -- the tunes lean heavily on the idea of repetition-as-hook instead of presenting anything truly inspired or memorable. Ideally, Dark Days should find Coal Chamber maturing, kicking the musicianship and songwriting up a notch. But ultimately, it's creatively bankrupt, painfully obvious in execution and so caught up in guttural spleen-venting that it lands with a thud, smothering any potential spark.

tags: coal chamber, dark days, limited edition, flac, 2002,

Coal Chamber - Rivals (2015)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Groove Metal, Nü-Metal
Label Number: NPR 585

© 2015 Napalm Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
The fourth studio long-player from the Los Angeles-based nu-metal heavies, and the first collection of new material to see the light of day since 2002's Dark Days, the Napalm Records-issued Rivals finds the newly re-formed quartet putting the past behind them and unleashing a sonic onslaught that's sure to please longtime fans and newbies alike. Thirteen songs long and 13 years in the making, Rivals was produced by Mark Lewis (Devildriver, Cannibal Corpse) and features the singles "I.O.U. Nothing" and the hard-hitting title cut.

tags: coal chamber, rivals, 2015, flac,

White Zombie - Astro-Creep: 2000 - Songs of Love, Destruction & Other Synthetic Delusions of The Electric Head (1995) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number: GEFD-24806
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1995 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Following the belated surprise success of La Sexorcisto, Astro-Creep: 2000 carried the weight of high expectations, something that White Zombie was never familiar with before. Unsurprisingly, White Zombie plays it safe on Astro-Creep, never straying from their white-trash-on-acid metal. While it's undeniably campy, the band genuinely loves the trash they sing about, so they fit right into the tradition of tongue-in-cheek heavy metal bands from Alice Cooper to Kiss. Where those bands relied on songcraft beneath their shtick, White Zombie relies on a full-throttle roar. Borrowing such techniques as distorted vocals and drilling riffs from pseudo-industrial metal like Ministry, the band beefs up their basic sound, making it powerful enough to disguise the lack of solid song structures and memorable riffs. Sonically, Astro-Creep delivers the initial goods, yet it never develops into trash as substantial as "Thunder Kiss '65."

tags: white zombie, astro creep 2000, flac, 1995,

Fight - War of Words (1993) ⚓

*U.S. pressing. 
Contains 12 total.

Country: United Kingdom/U.S.A.
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number: EK 57372

© 1993 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Gary Hill
In some ways, this could have been a Judas Priest album. Since it was the first disc that Rob Halford worked on after his extended tenure in that group, that is certainly understandable. Clearly, he was most likely still aligned in that musical vein and a lot of the sounds here represent that fact. However, there are definitely some differences. First, you can hear a rawer, almost punk-ish aggressive texture on much of the material ("Nailed to the Gun" comes to mind). Next, Halford shows a wider range of vocal styles here than he did with Priest. In fact, there are several points where he sounds like Alice Cooper, and he tries his hand at the more guttural death metal vocal style. The lyrical content on the album has a maturity that Priest seldom, if ever, achieved as well. The recitation of the First Amendment during the title track is brilliant. In some ways, it's too bad that this group only lasted a couple of years. They had a lot of potential. The stunning power ballad "For All Eternity" alone is worth the price of admission for this part of their voyage.

tags: fight, war of words, 1993, flac,

Fight - A Small Deadly Space (1995) ⚓

*A picture of the disc is included in the RAR file.

Country: United Kingdom/U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label Number: EK 66649

© 1995 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Gary Hill
The final album from Rob Halford's first post-Judas Priest band, Fight, A Small Deadly Space is definitely a strong one. The main course for the meal that Halford and the rest of the band (Brian Tilse, Jay Jay, Mark Chaussee, and Scott Travis) have served up is heavy metal. There is no real surprise there. However, there are actually quite a few moments that show off more progressive influences. You just have to give a cursory listen to "In a World of My Own Making" to spot them. The disc found Halford seeming like he was making a solid effort to not reproduce his Judas Priest sound. Indeed, the disc showed a Rob Halford who was staying more to the lower end of the register rather than screaming out in a Priest-ish display of vocal pyrotechnics. Overall, this is a great album, and certainly a nice bookend for the group's brief career.

tags: fight, a small deadly space, 1995, flac,

August 23, 2017

Beyoncé - Dangerously In Love (Digipak Version) (2003)

*Digipak release. 
Contains 1 bonus track and 17 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
Label Number: 509395 5

© 2003 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Beyoncé Knowles was always presented as the star of Destiny's Child -- which probably shouldn't be a big surprise since her father managed the group. So it was a natural step for her to step into the diva spotlight with a solo album in 2003, particularly since it followed on the heels of her co-starring role in Mike Myers' 2002 comedy hit, Austin Powers in Goldmember. Still, a singer takes a risk when going solo, as there's no guarantee that her/his star will still shine as bright when there's nobody to reflect upon. Plus, Survivor often sounded labored, as Knowles struggled to sound real. The Knowles clan -- Beyoncé and her father Mathew, that is (regrettably, Harry Knowles of "Ain't It Cool" is no relation) -- were apparently aware of these two pitfalls since they pull off a nifty trick of making her debut album, Dangerously in Love, appeal to a broad audience while making it sound relatively easy. Sometimes that ease can translate into carelessness (at least with regard to the final stretch of the album), with a prolonged sequence of ballads that get stuck in their own treacle, capped off by the unbearably mawkish closer, "Gift from Virgo," where she wishes her unborn child and her husband to be like her daddy. (Mind you, she's not pregnant or married, she's just planning ahead, although she gets tripped up in her wishes since there's "no one else like my daddy.") Although these are a little formless -- and perhaps would have been more digestible if spread throughout the record -- they are impeccably produced and showcase Knowles' new relaxed and smooth delivery, which is a most welcome development after the overworked Survivor. Knowles doesn't save this voice just for the ballads -- she sounds assured and sexy on the dance numbers, particularly when she has a male counterpart, as on the deliriously catchy "Crazy in Love" with her man Jay-Z or on "Baby Boy" with 2003's dancehall superstar, Sean Paul. These are the moments when Dangerously in Love not only works, but sounds like Knowles has fulfilled her potential and risen to the top of the pack of contemporary R&B divas. It's just too bad that momentum is not sustained throughout the rest of the record. About halfway through, around the astrological ode "Signs" with Missy Elliott, it starts crawling through its ballads and, while listenable, it's not as exciting as the first part of the record. Still, the first half is good enough to make Dangerously in Love one of the best mainstream urban R&B records released in 2003, and makes a strong case that Knowles might be better off fulfilling this destiny instead of reuniting with Destiny.

tags: beyonce, dangerously in love, 2003, flac