September 29, 2017

P.O.D. - Testify (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal, Alternative Metal
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© 2006 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar
Whether it be the group's Christian ethos, ethnically diverse makeup, or reggae-sunsplash-meets-Ozfest vibe, P.O.D. has always retained a bit more respectability than their rap-rock peers. Even during the group's most "nu-metal" moments, they sound like they have at least heard Bad Brains' first three albums and probably dug them. Smartly, on their fifth studio album, Testify, the band continues to eschew such rap-rock gimmicks as ancillary use of turntables and cheesy samples, and instead delivers a mature and workmanlike metal monster-piece. Bright, loud, but always artful, Testify's glossy production comes via journeyman hitmaking producer and synthesizer master Glen Ballard. While P.O.D. has lost none of their rootsy funk metal swagger, Ballard -- the man behind such pop titans as Michael Jackson, Van Halen, and Alanis Morissette -- has found a way to give them an eminently palatable studio sheen that brings to mind a deft mix of the arena rock of Asia and the Police, as much as it does Sepultura. The move toward a more polished sound also pays dividends creatively, as guitarist Jason Truby, while not quite as forward-thinking as Audioslave's Tom Morello, nonetheless shines under Ballard's approach, delivering a truly inspired and technically brilliant performance. Similarly, vocalist Sonny seems reinvigorated and practically giddy on the lead-off track, "Roots in Stereo." Spiritually, the band is as concerned as ever with Jah, inner strength, and the "blood of God's veins," and if the melancholy single "Goodbye for Now" is any indication, they still have a few inner demons to wrestle with creatively. Luckily, though, they haven't forgotten the funk, and songs such as the head-snapping "Lights Out" and the Sabbath-esque "Sounds Like War" combine a bit of hip-hop fun with Bob Marley-inspired metal faith. Throw in a couple of serendipitous guest spots from Hasidic rapper Matisyahu and by the time you get to the devastating metal-reggae album closer, "Mark My Words," you've got a band reborn.

tags: pod, p.o.d. testify, 2006,

September 28, 2017

P.O.D. - The Fundamental Elements of Southtown (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal
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© 1999 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
With their full-length debut, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, POD (Payable on Death) shows considerable promise, crafting an album that flows from aggressive rap-metal to trippy, Beastie-styled reggae dub excursions. It may be all over the map, but give the group credit for trying a bunch of styles and pulling most of them off. At times, they sound too derivative -- when they rock really hard, they sound too much like a Christian Rage Against the Machine -- but there's energy here and the roots of a distinctive sound, all of which are necessary for a strong debut.

tags: pod, p.o.d., the fundemental elementals of southtown, 1999,

P.O.D. - Brown (1996)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal
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© 1996 Rescue Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: pod, p.o.d., brown, 1996,

P.O.D. - When Angels & Serpents Dance (2008)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Metal, Alternative Rock
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© 2008 INO/Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Jared Johnson
P.O.D.'s lineup may have returned to 2001, but thankfully its sound did not. Guitarist Marcos Curiel came back to the SoCal band for the first time since Satellite, bringing his underrated talent and looming presence that had been missing on the band's subsequent releases (2003's Payable on Death and 2006's Testify). The synergy of his reappearance was obvious, even if longtime fans may have been flattened a bit to hear the band's new sound lacking the edge of earlier releases. To their credit, the new sound worked in P.O.D.'s favor since modern rock fans seemed to have left nu-metal in their wake. Indeed, Limp Bizkit and Korn fans were few and far between. No longer shouldering the nu-metal mantle, P.O.D. were free to reacquaint listeners with their versatility. The straight reggae of "I'll Be Ready," the bluesy rhythm of "It Can't Rain Everyday," and the (gasp!) acoustic ballad "Tell Me Why" show that this is not a memory piece or a tribute to harder days. When Angels and Serpents Dance represents the strength of one of Christian rock's greatest assets. Guest artists include the Marley Sisters, Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies, and Page Hamilton of Helmet.

tags: pod, p.o.d., when and angels and serpents dance, 2008,

P.O.D. - Satellite (2001) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Metal, Nü-Metal
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2001 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
During an era when most heavy metal bands wallowed in their own misery, singing about pain and sadness, P.O.D. offered a more optimistic alternative. The band had been releasing music since the late '90s, but it was this album rather than its commercially overlooked predecessor, The Fundamental Elements of Southtown (1998), that reached out to countless listeners. Quite simply, you can't deny the emotion P.O.D. funnels into its songs. The sentiment feels genuine, as if this band truly cares about its listeners, one of the key reasons why this album shook the metal world in 2002. And, as most listeners will no doubt agree, it did so for the better. The metal world needed an album like Satellite in 2002, just like it needed a band like P.O.D. to challenge longtime metal heavyweights like Tool and Korn for supremacy. The spiritual, emotional band writes songs about promise and hope -- songs that inspire you to celebrate life, not despise it. It's not just the singing of vocalist Sonny either, though his soaring voice has much to do with it. Rather, it's the band as a whole that gives the songs on Satellite so much affective power. These four guys obviously love making music together, and that passion comes across in every song. Guitarist Marco, bassist Traa, and drummer Wuv fuse a variety of influences -- metal, hip-hop, dub, Rage Against the Machine -- and create music that stands on its own, apart from the many other nu-metal bands of the time. In particular, "Alive" and "Youth of the Nation" stand out as rallying calls for metal fans looking for music about living, not dying.

tags: pod, p.o.d., satellite, 2001,

September 24, 2017

Queensrÿche - American Soldier (2009)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2009 Rhino/ATCO Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
Queensrÿche always seem to work best in high concept. Who can argue that Operation: Mindcrime was one of the greatest metal concept albums of all time -- and arguably one of the finest that rock & roll in general ever produced. When they revisited it with OMII, in order to finish the story, they went back to use '80s production techniques to give the album a sense of continuity with its predecessor -- and it worked like a charm. Rather than conspiracy and control, this time out Queensrÿche -- vocalist Geoff Tate, guitarist Michael Wilton, bassist Ed Jackson, and drummer Scott Rockenfield -- turn their attention to another high concept setting: American soldiers in harm's way. But rather than simply politicizing their subject from an outsider's point of view, they place the stories firmly in the camp of the subjects. This set is a hard-rocking, loosely woven story about war from the point of view of those in the United States Armed Forces. The 12 songs on American Soldier reflect on every perception of war from the inside -- Tate read dozens if not hundreds of accounts of servicemen, from WWII through Vietnam and both Gulf Wars. Songs are interspersed with recorded voices of servicemen relating their stories in either brief samples or slightly longer interludes. Musically, the album is more melodic than any Queensrÿche set in recent memory. Tate channels his inner David Bowie to full effect -- but not affect. Tunes such as "At 30,000 Feet" walk a thin line between rock ballad and power-chord anthem. "Sliver," the set's opener, charges out of the gate but with one major difference: producers Jason Slater and Kelly Gray allow for a muddier sound here, even with the various atmospheric overdubs. "The Killer," in the middle of the disc, is written from the point of view of a returning Vietnam vet who is encountering cries of "baby killer" in the streets of his neighborhood. The chanted refrains, multi-layered guitars, and popping snares add anthemic weight in the chorus, but the rest of the track sprawls with haunted vocals by Tate.
American Soldier is sometimes difficult to come to grips with musically. It's not a lack of focus per se, but more a purposely ambitious ambivalence on the part of the bandmembers trying to pack as much as they can in the mix, even when it's too much. Most cuts are equal parts hooks and heaviness, but quizzically, never at the same time. Each track functions as its own rock & roll puzzle that sprawls as much as its hones in. The one track that flat-out doesn't work is the album's only ballad, "Home Again." It begins with a reminiscence by a soldier trying to relate his experience, and gives way to Tate in Bowie storytelling mode with a duet vocal by Tate's daughter Emma. The tempo is pure drama, and with its reverb-heavy atmospherics, lilting acoustic guitars, and narrative structure that offers a series of exchanged letters, it falters under its weight. Ultimately, though, that's a small complaint for such an ambitious project. For the most part, these guys have a solid sense of their strengths as a band, and it must be said that Queensrÿche keep the preaching to a minimum while still managing to relate hard truth in a populist way. This is a very fine album that takes on a very hot and noteworthy -- as well as timeless -- topic that no one else has had the guts to take on in such a grand scale thus far.

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Queensrÿche - Dedicated To Chaos (2011)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2011 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
At first glance, the title of Queensrÿche's eleventh studio album, Dedicated to Chaos, seems strangely at odds with the track record of one of heavy metal's most cerebral and civilized bands; but, on second thought, it's actually a perfect summation of the Seattle group's uninterrupted musical evolution from album to album throughout its storied career, frequently to the chagrin of its loyal fans. Ironically, though, even the band's single, obvious attempt at repeating itself via 2006's Operation: Mindcrime II arguably upset more fans than not, so what does that say about Queensrÿche's chances of remaining a vital, relevant musical entity instead of geriatric participants in the heavy rock nostalgia circuit inhabited by most other veteran outfits of their pedigree? Clearly not much, if not even long-term supporters appear willing to respect, never mind appreciate, each 'Rÿche album's quest for individuality, which, not surprisingly, sees Dedicated to Chaos taking another strange, unprecedented twist. This time, most songs are built from the ground up on strong rhythmic foundations, stopping just short of overt electronics, resulting in culprits like the eastern strains and funk of "Got It Bad," the paranoid string-sections of "Higher," and the ice-cool cocaine soul of "Drive." But this only covers the album's dominant facet and, looking a little deeper, one also finds the Spartan hard rock of "Get Started," where the band gets their inner AC/DC groove on, the haunting "Broken," which amazingly combines Sinatra's Only the Lonely and Bowie's Berlin period; the cinematic "At the Edge," which moves drastically from metallic familiarity to alien techno rave; as well as several rather forgettable tunes ("Around the World," "I Believe," "LuvnU") that simply leave no lasting impression. What's more, as has been the case with most Queensrÿche LPs, post-Promised Land and the subsequent departure of chief songwriter Chris DeGarmo, inconsistency is ultimately the problem here. Yet then, just when mediocrity and disorienting novelty begin to overwhelm, along come tracks like "Hot Spot Junkie" and "Retail Therapy" that actually resemble distant cousins of '90s Empire -- several generations and pure genetic strains removed from their pristine forefathers, but welcome old friends nonetheless. Still, it's no use: Queensrÿche are virtually unrecognizable nowadays, which is possibly worse than ripping themselves off. Not that anyone has been able to agree on the matter for at least the past decade in the band's career: Queensrÿche can't win, and their fans can't win. Stalemate.

tags: queensryche, dedicated to chaos, 2011, flac,

SuperCharger - Broken Hearts & Fallaparts (2014)

Country: Denmark
Language: English
Genre: Melodic Heavy Metal
Style: Rock N' Roll
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© 2014 Sony Music/Gain Records
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs for Metal-Rules.com
SuperCharger are well liked in Denmark. They've won awards and everything for previous releases HAND GRANDE BLUES (2009) and THAT'S HOW WE ROLL (2011). But the home crowd are like that aren't they? Thing is with more rock n roll leanings than countrymen Volbeat, and with the kind of brash attitude that used to be brought by Backyard Babies, there's stuff for everyone else to like as well. If rock n roll is your thing, and we mean kick the throttle, dance on the tables, fun-time rock, then BROKEN HEARTS & FALLAPARTS could get quite cosy on your stereo. Or your iThing. Or that gadget that beams songs straight into your brain – you know whatever kids these days play their music on. (Sure as hell ain't a Walkman). Kind of a shame because SuperCharger are the kind of band that one time you could have broken a Walkman to. “Like A Pit Bull” may slobber and snarl from the start, but as with much of the album if you're looking for lyrical substance you won't find it here. Mikkel Neperus sings them all with gusto though and his voice goes from raspy to punky with ease. “From The Gutter” is a 'we're a band' song which doesn't bring anything new to the story, but continues to make it fun to listen to, and “Blood Red Lips”, which features Mustasch's Ralf Gyllenhammar and David Johannesson, is rock at its bawdy best. “Supercharged” is SuperCharger's mission statement, a good hard stare in the eyes for any newbies, and surely a live anthem for welcoming the crowds. “Get What You Deserve” musically sticks the boot in, whilst “Suzi The Uzi” is let down by its ropey chorus featuring hyper-cutesy but nondescript female interjections. Shame because at its heart its a rocking, piano-heavy tune. It's the wealth of ideas that makes BROKEN HEARTS & FALLAPARTS interesting, because whilst the lyrical ideas may be as thin as an over-worn pair of tights, musically everything from banjo, harmonica,and piano rub up against the usual suspects. Most of the tracks actually have their own identity, and some of them are surprising. See “Hung Over In Hamburg” which tries a bluegrass opening that quickly cuts to a heavier incarnation with a great sing-along chorus, and the acoustic closer of “Goodbye Copenhagen”. It's quite a departure from the rest of SuperCharger's amped offerings, more melancholic than mad one, and perhaps for the first time on the album gives you room to consider just what is being said. You may not remember all the songs in the morning, but BROKEN HEARTS & FALLAPARTS will show you a good time the night before and sometimes that's all you want from music. After all it's usually the good times that you want to relive.

tags: supercharger, super charger, broken hearts and fallaparts, fall aparts, 2014, flac,

September 23, 2017

Witchcraft - Witchcraft (2012 Reissue)⚓

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file. Reissued in 2012 by Metal Blade Records. Track list and total remains the same (11 tracks total)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Doom Metal, Psychedelic Rock
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 2004-2012 Rise Above, Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Unlike most doom bands, Sweden's Witchcraft aren't content to remake Black Sabbath's original heavy metal blueprint -- doleful, deliberate, scary stuff -- at ear-shattering volume and distortion. Rather, they take it a step further by ensuring their eponymous 2004 debut (which they proudly claim was recorded "in a basement" using only vintage equipment) sounds no more recent than, say, 1971. Sure enough, the results are so eerily authentic that fans of modern doom may at first find themselves wondering if Witchcraft even qualifies as such (strictly speaking, I suppose they don't) -- only to realize, if they know their history, that Sabbath themselves sounded no heavier on their seminal debut. And clearly, it's that unique and genre-founding article, with its looser, at times almost jazzy arrangements, which informs much of the contents here: from the wonderfully simple but effective riffs driving the band's eponymous title track, to the reedy, Ozzy-like vocal swoops punctuating ensuing numbers like "The Snake," "Lady Winter," and "What I Am." Witchcraft have a little more spring in their step than the original Sabs, and therein lies proof of their additional influences in '70s folk and hard rock -- particularly legendary proto-doomsters Pentagram. To wit, "Please Don't Forget Me" is a cover version of a tune by Stone Bunny -- a ridiculously obscure band which later evolved into Pentagram; and first single (and veritable raison d'être), "No Angel or Demon," was in fact recorded as a tribute to Pentagram leader Bobby Liebling. Included here, it sounds somewhat at odds with its surroundings -- partly due to its exceedingly energetic gait, partly because its familiar closing riffs leave one expecting Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" to kick off. Back to more familiar, but no less inventive terrain, "It's So Easy" offers yet another multi-faceted and mesmerizing trip, "You Bury Your Head" suddenly cuts loose with ripping bass and heavily distorted guitars, and the cryptic "Her Sisters They Were Weak" sweeps along medieval melodies on its way to a chilling music box coda, its words recited and printed backward so that one must hold the CD booklet to a mirror in order to reveal a devilish parable! In summary, as much as their admirable songwriting chops, it's often Witchcraft's loving recreation of a sorely overlooked era in underground music that makes this album such a special treat to behold.

tags: witchcraft, witchcraft album, 2004, flac, reissue, 2012,

September 22, 2017

The Stooges - Fun House (1970)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Garage Rock
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© 1970-1988 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
The Stooges' first album was produced by a classically trained composer; their second was supervised by the former keyboard player with the Kingsmen, and if that didn't make all the difference, it at least indicates why Fun House was a step in the right direction. Producer Don Gallucci took the approach that the Stooges were a powerhouse live band, and their best bet was to recreate the band's live set with as little fuss as possible. As a result, the production on Fun House bears some resemblance to the Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie" -- the sound is smeary and bleeds all over the place, but it packs the low-tech wallop of a concert pumped through a big PA, bursting with energy and immediacy. The Stooges were also a much stronger band this time out; Ron Asheton's blazing minimalist guitar gained little in the way of technique since The Stooges, but his confidence had grown by a quantum leap as he summoned forth the sounds that would make him the hero of proto-punk guitarists everywhere, and the brutal pound of drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander had grown to heavyweight champion status. And Fun House is where Iggy Pop's mad genius first reached its full flower; what was a sneer on the band's debut had grown into the roar of a caged animal desperate for release, and his rants were far more passionate and compelling than what he had served up before. The Stooges may have had more "hits," but Fun House has stronger songs, including the garage raver to end all garage ravers in "Loose," the primal scream of "1970," and the apocalyptic anarchy of "L.A. Blues." Fun House is the ideal document of the Stooges at their raw, sweaty, howling peak.

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The Stooges - The Stooges (1969)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Garage Rock
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© 1969-1988 Elektra Records
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
While the Stooges had a few obvious points of influence -- the swagger of the early Rolling Stones, the horny pound of the Troggs, the fuzztone sneer of a thousand teenage garage bands, and the Velvet Underground's experimental eagerness to leap into the void -- they didn't really sound like anyone else around when their first album hit the streets in 1969. It's hard to say if Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, Dave Alexander, and the man then known as Iggy Stooge were capable of making anything more sophisticated than this, but if they were, they weren't letting on, and the best moments of this record document the blithering inarticulate fury of the post-adolescent id. Ron Asheton's guitar runs (fortified with bracing use of fuzztone and wah-wah) are so brutal and concise they achieve a naïve genius, while Scott Asheton's proto-Bo Diddley drums and Dave Alexander's solid bass stomp these tunes into submission with a force that inspires awe. And Iggy's vividly blank vocals fill the "so what?" shrug of a thousand teenagers with a wealth of palpable arrogance and wondrous confusion. One of the problems with being a trailblazing pioneer is making yourself understood to others, and while John Cale seemed sympathetic to what the band was doing, he didn't appear to quite get it, and as a result he made a physically powerful band sound a bit sluggish on tape. But "1969," "I Wanna Be Your Dog," "Real Cool Time," "No Fun," and other classic rippers are on board, and one listen reveals why they became clarion calls in the punk rock revolution. Part of the fun of The Stooges is, then as now, the band managed the difficult feat of sounding ahead of their time and entirely out of their time, all at once.

tags: the stooges, the stooges album, 1969, flac,

September 20, 2017

Queensrÿche - Operation: Mindcrime II (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal
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© 2006 Rhino Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
Here it is, Queensrÿche have returned, 18 years later, to the scene of their greatest triumph commercially and critically, Operation: Mindcrime, with a sequel, appropriately monikered Operation: Mindcrime II. Queensrÿche still retains four of its five original members -- vocalist Geoff Tate, guitarist Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson, and drummer Scott Rockenfeld (guitarist Mike Stone joined as a permanent member in 2005). There are fine arguments on both sides of an issue like this -- messing with a bona fide rock classic by recording a sequel -- all of them are basically irrelevant once the project has been realized; but in this case, the debate will rage regardless. First there's the story: It picks up with junkie hitman Nikki, recently released from prison, haunted constantly by the death and memory of his lover, Mary, a former teenage prostitute turned nun, and this shadowy presence of Dr. X, Nikki's employer. The story of Operation: Mindcrime ended with "Who Killed Mary?" The story picks up with the identity of the killer revealed and Nikki's obsession with revenge on Operation: Mindcrime II. Cool eh? Maybe, maybe not; it depends on your point of view. In any case the most startling thing about II is its sound: pure 1980s heavy metal. The band went back to exploring the kinds of technology used on the first segment and basically revisited it, retuned the guitars to A., and let it rip. Shockingly, it doesn't sound cheesy at all. In fact, it's so balls-out crunchy and stacked -- especially the way those duplicate lead guitars sound on "The Hands" -- it sort of feels as if the records were recorded back to back; the intent and objective here has definitely been achieved. The argument is why you would want to create a second chapter of something and have it sound so much like the first. Okay, there's the music and the story. Tate and company are to be credited here; the story is seamless, though it's 20 years later. Tate looks at the current political and social landscape and can only say that "everything moves faster now/living at the speed of light," other than that, it's the same -- which is why a sequel was predicated in the first place. The band were still under the first Bush regime when the original was released. And despite eight years of Clinton, they find themselves under a Bush regime once more -- a regime perhaps more Draconian and certainly far more secretive than its predecessors. In any case, the historical reality reflects the aesthetic one for the purposes of Tate and company.
There are some new factors on II: Michael Kamen is not on-board as the string arranger this time out; Ashif Hakik is. This set's producer is Jason Slater (who also produced hit records for Smash Mouth and Good Charlotte) who also recorded and mixed II with Hakik, Christina Wolfe, and Mitch Doran on-board for help. There are guests vocalists here, of course, including Pamela Moore, Miranda Tate, and the voice of Dr. X: Ronnie James Dio! Despite the sheer ambition and focus on the music and the story, here; despite the slamming, tough-minded metal and sheer rock dynamics at work, added to the enjoyment of listening to this all the way through as an album by Queensrÿche, the question must be asked: Does it measure up to the original? Not quite. However, the reasons for this have little to do with inspiration or execution; they have more to do with budget.. II is a fitting sequel musically -- and story-wise -- to as classic a work of popular art as you're likely to find, and it does wrap up the story tidily -- though some fans were content with the end left in question as it was originally. As a band, Queensrÿche rock harder now than they have in years; they are absolutely on fire here. Operation: Mindcrime II is a great step back in order to move things forward.

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Queensrÿche - Tribe (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Progressive Metal
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© 2003 Sanctuary Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
Tribe is, in so many ways, a make or break album for Queensrÿche. While the Live Evolution set brought home 30 tracks of the Rÿche's concert material -- with or without founding guitarist Chris DeGarmo -- the band's studio output since Promised Land (and some would debate the validity of that album) has been inconsistent. For starters, there was the departure of DeGarmo after the disappointing Hear in the Now Frontier, and then the loss of another guitarist after the lackluster Q2k. Certainly there were moments of brilliance on both recordings, but the inspiration and fire that fueled earlier efforts were lurking behind the scenes somewhere. On Tribe, the band reunites with DeGarmo. The original lineup wrote and produced Tribe. Whether or not DeGarmo is returning to the band as a full-on member is not clear as of this writing. Tribe reflects a renewed vigor and vision in the Queensrÿche sound. This is prog metal at its best: knotty song structures, complex melodies, bruising guitars, and Geoff Tate's voice and lyrics asking all the tough questions. While this is not a concept album, the themes of tolerance, compassion, the environment, the simulacra at the heart of American society in particular and globalization in general, and the prospect of oblivion haunt this recording. There is a humanist-centered spirituality at the heart of these songs that already sets it apart from any metal record on the market. But this is no new age recording. Spiraling riffs and choruses are woven tightly in "Blood," while "Rhythm of Hope," with its gorgeous keyboard layers against DeGarmo's guitars, brings the trademark Queensrÿche atmospherics toward a new wall of noise edge. The riffing and vocal harmonies on "The Art of Life" are incendiary; this may be one of the finest tracks the band has ever recorded. Ultimately, the members of Queensrÿche prove they've been hearing the sounds of today's progressive metal à la Agalloch, Green Carnation, Anathema, Katatonia, and even Opeth, while remaining true to their own writing vision -- hooks, sprawling melodic architecture, and unflinchingly honest and even scathing lyrics rooted in an inclusive vision of empathy and compassion that would be unthinkable for any other band. Tribe is the sound of a band revitalized, growing with its fans and looking for new ones while remaining true to what made it so special in the first place. Tribe is Queensrÿche's finest recorded work since Empire, period.

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UFO - Making Contact (1983)

 *Reissued in 1992 by Chrysalis Records. Made in Japan.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1983-1992 Chrysalis Records Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson
Sadly, it happens. Great rock bands disintegrate, often before their time, and a string of recordings appears posthumously that at best offers little resemblance to the sound and attitude associated with the group, and, at worst, smears the reputation of present and past membership. Then, when the critical musicians reform for real, all credibility has been sucked out of their moniker, and futility extends into farce. While UFO and its various key players made enough good music together and separately after their late-'70s heyday to avoid any worse-case scenarios, records like 1983's Making Contact did little to maintain the metal outfit's dwindling accessibility. With only singer Phil Mogg remaining from the key Mogg/Way/Schenker grouping that led to UFO's most successful releases, this disc should more appropriately be labeled as a solo offering. Mogg sounds fine, but the material here is mostly second-rate '80s pop-metal. The Thin Lizzy-tinted "A Fool for Love" and the upbeat "Push, It's Love" almost cut it, but like the rest of Making Contact, these tracks are mired in a mid- to slow-tempo quagmire of tired riffs and cliché lyrics that limit the record's ability to rock.

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UFO - Misdemeanor (1985)

*Reissued in 1992 by Chrysalis Record. Made in Japan.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1985-1992 Chrysalis Records Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson
The second of two mid-'80s UFO releases featuring only one key member from the group's glory days, Misdemeanor is no improvement over the wilted Making Contact. With Pete Way and Michael Schenker off on their own for years, vocalist Phil Mogg struggled mightily to maintain the UFO name to no avail in the early '80s -- he even disbanded the group briefly before assembling this attempt at a comeback. The final major-label recording for UFO after a long relationship with Chrysalis Records, Misdemeanor boasts better production and better material, but the disc still flounders in '80s commercial rock convention. Mogg is in fine voice and there are a few sweet-sounding guitar moments, but this record practically defines middle of the road. In fact, it's hard to imagine that Chrysalis and Mogg felt they had a chance to attract enough radio attention to make a recording with such pop overtones worthwhile. Maybe that was the plan, but it's hard to believe that there really was any realistic plan for this album at all.

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September 19, 2017

Queensrÿche - The Warning (1984)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1984-1987 EMI-Manhattan Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
1984's The Warning proved to be a holding pattern for Seattle's Queensrÿche, offering quality classic metal with lyrics tending to the mystical and occult. The band would soon embark on a massive creative growth spurt, but they seem to be treading water on tracks like "En Force," "Sanctuary," and the pedestrian title cut. Bright spots include the technology nightmare portrayed on "N M 156" and the nine-minute epic "Roads to Madness," where singer Geoff Tate demonstrates all of his incredible range. The album's high point comes with the anthemic "Take Hold of the Flame," which became a monster smash worldwide, especially in Japan.

tags: queensryche, the warning, 1984, flac,

Queensrÿche - Rage For Order (1986)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1986-1989 EMI America
AllMusic Review by Robert Taylor
After tasting success from both their self-titled debut EP and The Warning, Queensrÿche lost their edge a bit on this release. The hair metal movement was fast approaching and this once unique band now looked -- and for the most part, sounded -- like the average metal band of the day. The signature sound of Queensrÿche is still unmistakable, as Geoff Tate's voice sounds strong. The music here is simpler than on Warning; the lyrics are bit too heavy-handed and have not stood the test of time very well. "Walk in the Shadows" is a well-structured song with a good combination of Tate's howling and dramatic background vocals. "I Will Remember" was a precursor to "Silent Lucidity" and accentuated the power and emotion that Tate can evoke. The band was obviously trying to expand their approach to music with a heavy emphasis on theatrics, but the music suffered as a result. They succeeded with this approach to a certain extent on Operation: Mindcrime, but the band's musical limitations have always prevented them from moving beyond a classier version of Iron Maiden.

tags: queensryche, rage for order, 1986, flac,

Queensrÿche - Q2K (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Progressive Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 1999 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
One of the great unknown facts of '90s metal was Queensryche's consistently intriguing, satisfying output. Although the mainstream left them behind after grunge, they never totally revamped their sound, in hopes of regaining a wide audience. They kept on with their ambitious, layered fusion of metal and prog rock, turning in albums that were distinctly different from each other yet tied together by a signature sound. Their decade-capping Q2K is no different. Yes, it does suffer from their worst title ever, but this, their first effort for Atlantic Records, is an assured effort that trims away some of their excesses, replacing it with a slightly heavier, harder approach. As a matter of fact, the album feels like a concept album but appears not to be one, which is unusual for Queensryche. But by concentrating on just the music, it becomes apparent how subtle and nuanced their interplay has become, and how their musicality keeps growing stronger with each year.

tags: queensryche, q2k, 1999, flac,

Queensrÿche - Hear In The Now Frontier (1997)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal
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© 1997 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Gary Hill
This disc opens with screaming guitars that lead listeners to expect another strong Queensrÿche release. In fact, the opening cut, "Sign of the Times," feels a bit like the fine Rÿche rarity "Last Time in Paris," found only on The Adventures of Ford Fairlane soundtrack LP. However, as it carries on, it becomes clear that, like this album as a whole, the song has a tendency to lose its way, and consistency suffers as a result. There are definitely strong points present on Hear in the Now Frontier, but in general it is portions of songs that stand out rather than entire pieces. "Cuckoo's Nest," a hard-rocking piece, is an exception to that rule, though, being one of the most consistent compositions on display here. On the plus side, the album seems a bit harder edged than its predecessor, Promised Land, and that is definitely good for the older fans of the band.

tags: queensryche, hear in the now frontier, 1997, flac,

September 17, 2017

Reverend Bizarre - II: Crush The Insects (2005)

Country: Finland
Language: English
Genre: Doom Metal
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© 2005 Season of Mist
Review by Dee for Metal Reviews.com
Hailing from Finland, the adopted home of all things doom, Reverend Bizarre are an established trio who play a seductive style of traditional doom metal. Already gaining in underground respect for releasing several so-called EPs that each contain over 70 minutes of music, this prolific band has already planned and written at least three more albums of material. Their latest release, "II: Crush the Insects", is a testament to their honed songwriting and tightness as a band.
This album is something of an oddity, as it feels like a three song stoner-doom EP tacked on to the front of a more traditional doom album. Nevertheless, the combination works well.
The proceedings kick off immediately with "Doom Over the World", a rock'n'roll style anthem that begins with a cymbal crash and a low bass note at the very instant that you press play. The guitar tone is certainly heavy, but not crushing in and of itself; the heaviness lies in how the band wields their distinctive sound. Albert's vocals are singular; sounding somewhat raucous, like a clergyman telling salacious tales to the nuns. As the song steadily unfolds, you come to appreciate their influences; this track has a clear Black Sabbath/St. Vitus aesthetic, as well as a strong party atmosphere - as the "Doom over the world! Eternal shall be my mission!" chorus refrains, a long sample of what I can only assume is the band drinking and laughing at the bar is overlaid, and stretches far beyond the conclusion of the song.
"The Devil Rides Out" comes next, opening with a very groovy, bassy stoner riff, complemented by liberal use of toms and crashes; it is here where you realise just how good the Earl of Void is behind the kit. This song flows exceptionally well, maintaining its driving, purposeful feel even through several changes of pace. The only slight complaint I have about this song is that the guitar tone isn't really suitable for solos; indeed, I would have preferred a drum solo by the capable Earl of Void. This track ends in an enjoyable Sabbath homage; the band plays a swingy, jazzy riff and fades into silence.
A short one-two-three-four played on the drums leads into "Cromwell", introducing its striking, stepped riffs. Magister Albert isn't far behind, describing the civil war and the power of the Ironsides. Each verse ends with an explosive drum fill, which is rare for trad - finally, a doom drummer who does more than merely keep time. The song is quite subtly constructed, with a second riff hidden inside of the song; this middle section stretches on for a while, but steps up gradually and you can't be bored by the pleasing progression. At some point in here you realise that not much singing has actually taken place, but the song has kept your attention throughout. The track ends with a simple use of the riff as an outro, concluding the stoner section of this album..
..and the difference is obvious from the first notes of "Slave of Satan"; the band has stepped back from their driving, rock'n'roll and is now working precisely, weaving a slow dirge as the backdrop to an inspired rant about the pretentions of so-called goths. The accuracy on show here is quite incredible when you take into account the crawling speed at which they are playing. Albert picks his moments, stretching a relatively short set of lyrics across a thirteen minute song. His half-rant, half-scream near the end of this track proves a fitting climax. Beautiful.
"Council of Ten" maintains the slow pace of the previous song; I felt the riff here was disappointing following Slave of Satan, but you can't have everything. This song progresses in sections rather than between verses and choruses, which is a nice touch, lending a little unpredictability to the mood. The pace picks up considerably for the last segment of this song, another groovy nod towards Sabbath, and a worthy one at that.
"By This Axe I Rule" begins as another slow dirge, except Albert comes in almost immediately and tells us that he has the urge to kill, foreshadowing the brilliant and frankly hilarious lyrics to come. Four minutes in, the track explodes, transforming into a headbanging blues-rock riff, perhaps the best on the album. Once Albert has delivered his grisly lyrics, the tempo drops, and a lethally slow, dropping riff takes charge, over which Albert screams and babbles eerily all the way to the conclusion at around ten minutes.
"Eternal Forest" follows, but feels strangely lifeless. I consider this the low point of the album, which is somewhat disconcerting as this is an eleven minute track. That's not to say that this song has no redeeming features; it simply does not compare to the rest of the material on this album, and would fit better on an EP, or maybe into the repertoire of a different band entirely.
The eighth and final track on the album, "Fucking Wizard" fully redeems the band, opening as a double homage to Holst's "Planet Suite" and to Black Sabbath's eponymous song. They certainly respect their influences. Albert has the chance to sing without drums for the first time on the album, but opts to whisper, speak, and rant his way through the long verse. Long means long; eight minutes pass as the band slowly plays more and more urgently, until - you know what's coming by now - the pace picks up and Albert starts singing over an incredibly enjoyable if simple riff, and you can tell he's enjoying himself as he "Woo!"s and "alright!"s his way through his lines. The band play without him for the remaining three minutes of the song, reprising the quasi-Mars them, and ending with a huge bluesy climax.
That took seventy five minutes. These guys are generous with their material.
All in all, this is an incredibly enjoyable album, epic in its own way while resisting all comparisons to Candlemass. Even at the doomiest, most droning point in the album, you never tire of their sound. I only wish Eternal Forest could have kept up the momentum.

tags: reverend bizarre, ii crush the insects, 2005, flac,

UFO - Mechanix (1982)

*Reissued in 1992 by Chrysalis Records. Made in Japan.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1982-1992 Chrysalis Records Ltd.
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: ufo, mechanix, 1982, flac, reissue,

UFO - No Place To Run (1980)

*Reissued in 1992 by Chrysalis Records. Made In Japan.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1980-1992 Chrysalis Records Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Vincent Jeffries
The first studio recording after the departure of guitarist Michael Schenker, No Place to Run set into motion UFO's critical and commercial decline. While only a slight adjustment to the band's successful hard rock formula, the midtempo guitar rock bore much more of a resemblance to fading '70s rockers like Bad Company than the coming NWOBHM. Fellow Brits like Def Leppard were cultivating a similar but much more exciting brand of simple, angular hard rock built for the millions of AC/DC-loving Americans, while UFO seemed to be chasing their stylistic tail. Louder and way more energetic, Def Leppard were poised to overtake the rock universe while UFO languished on No Place to Run. Tracks like "This Fire Burns Tonight" call to mind Jackson Brown-styled adult rock; meanwhile, any audience UFO might have built up over the harder-edged Schenker years was fleeing to acts like the Scorpions and Judas Priest, who were only getting heavier. To call No Place to Run a middle-of-the-road miscalculation would be generous. The disc had already aged badly when it was released and that hasn't changed in the decades since.

tags: ufo, no place to run, 1980, flac,

UFO - Obsession (1978)

*Reissued in 1992 by Chrysalis Records. Made In Japan.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1978-1992 Chrysalis Records Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
UFO's Obsession was to be their last studio record with star guitarist Michael Schenker. It did indeed contain lots of prime metal cuts, but some of the material ultimately fell flat. "Only You Can Rock Me" kicks off the album with a fun and carefree feel, while the funky "Pack It Up (And Go)" contains some John Bonham-like drumming courtesy of Andy Parker. The opening momentum is carried on through the slow Zeppelin groove of "Ain't No Baby," but soon the band hits the skids. The group takes a crack at a power ballad, which ends up sounding like an Elton John throwaway ("Lookin' Out for No. 1") and a couple of blah, clichéd rockers ("Hot 'N' Ready" and "One More for the Rodeo"), both anchored by Pete Way's ultra-simplistic single-note basslines. But the album eventually gets back on track with the melodic rock of "Cherry" and "You Don't Fool Me," the latter containing some tasty, fiery guitar solos. UFO hinted at their talents with releases such as Obsession and Lights Out, but it was their next release, the live Strangers in the Night, where it all came together for them.

tags: ufo, obsession, 1978, flac,