Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tyranny Response Team

This review should be about the new Iced Earth album, but alas, my local CD haunt had not received any copies yet and thus I am left to wait. However, while checking around about the new Iced Earth, I read about Jon Schaffer's solo project Sons Of Liberty. So while I was left without the new Iced Earth, I did pick up the Sons Of Liberty 2010 release "Brush-Fires Of The Mind".

The reviews of this album were middling, but I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. What I find interesting is the albums lyrical subject. He delves into concepts of Corrupt World Leaders, The Federal Reserve System and Big Business. Listening to this now with all the global economic turmoil and rallies like Occupy Wall Street and such makes this album all the more poignant.

"Brush Fires Of The Mind" cries out for a return to the values that the United States was founded on. Liberty and Free Humanity. How does this message hold up in this medium? Pretty damn good. Jon has already expressed his interest in US History with Iced Earth's album "The Glorious Burden", but I find the Sons Of Liberty "Brush Fires of the Mind" a far more interesting and passionate album.

The album kicks off with the epic "Jekyll Island" which sets a serious and aggressive tone for the album chalked full of conviction. The music here is not unlike what you'd hear from Iced Earth. In fact, Jon Schaffer's vocals sound like a poor man's Matt Barlow. The music wouldn't work for Iced Earth and I'm glad Jon chose to release it as a side project instead.

The music is mostly mid-paced with flourishes of speed and a moderate amount of groove, most notably on "Tree Of Liberty". There are no real ballads, but there are softer moments like the first part of "Our Dying Republic". This is my favourite song here with its melodic vocals and hooky chorus and still manages to bring in some metal towards the end.

Overall, this is a solid album and I would recommend it to fans of Iced Earth. I wouldn't say it is of the same caliber, but when taken in the vein of its intent (a labour of love for Jon Schaffer) then it is an enjoyable and important listen.

In this case, the message is the medium.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Troy Has Fallen ... The Happily Ever After ...

Whilst browsing my new local CD shop (The Beat Goes On) I stumbled across a Virgin Steele album. I had heard of the band, but often passed them up as just another symphonic power metal group along the lines of Skylark and Rhapsody (of Fire). The album was "The House Atreus Act I" the title intrigued me as did the song titles and since it was under $10, I decided why not.

Damn, did I miss the mark completely with this band. First off, Virgin Steele has been around a decade before the previously mentioned bands. Secondly, this album ain't your mother's Symphonic Power Metal. "The House Of Atreus Act I" is pure unadulterated heavy metal with symphonic flourishes to bring out the epicness of the story.

Think Manowar, if Manowar were a European Power Metal band. In fact, the singer David DeFeis is a dead ringer for Manowar's Eric Adams. Both bands came out around the same time, both from New York, so really, Eric Adams could be a dead ringer for David Defeis. I don't know. What I do know is that this album is solid Manowar style heavy metal and I love Manowar.

I feel like a tool for passing this group by for so long and now it's dang hard trying to track down there other albums (especially "The House Of Atreus Act II. This is a double album dammit!). The reviews I've read have been glowing and so they should be. This album is epic and heavy. It is 75 minutes of glorious Greek Mythology based music.

The story concerns the end of the curse of the House of Atreus. After the end of the Trojan War, Agamemnon travels home to his murderously plotting wife (seeking revenge for when Agamemnon sacrificed their daughter Iphegenia) where much unpleasantness happens and Agamemnon is murdered. There is probably more to it then that, but I haven't explored the lyrics much.

What is really important here is the music. Concept albums or metal operas are hit and miss. "The House Of Atreus Act I" is a home run. Think of Manowar's song "Achilles : Agony and Ecstasy in eight parts" only more accessible and simply more epic. The metal songs are grand with biting guitar and soaring melodies interspersed with several interludes that serve as narratives without so much as being narratives. The album does indeed flow well.

For a concept album, I do feel the metal songs could stand on their own merits. This makes the album easier to take in, however, the glory of it all is to hear it as one solid musical journey. I do have to commend the band for their exquisite writing skills. To create a body of work like "The House Of Atreus Act I" that works on a whole, yet still have "radio" hits. That is not an easy task.

My favourite songs are the opener's "Kingdom of the Fearless (The Destruction of Troy)" and "Blaze of Victory (The Watchman's Song)" as well as the pseudo ballad "Gate Of Kings" which is dark and atmospheric with uber catchy chorus.

I cannot say enough good things about this album. If you like power metal this will blow your mind. If you like good Heavy Metal (like mid to late Manowar) this is right up your alley. Or heck, if you like music damn it, this album rocks!

Now to track down Act II ... sigh ...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

After being Battered, Einherjer Is Back!

Another album release this year that was high on my want list was Einherjer's reunion effort "Norron". I've been a long time fan of Einherjer since I bought "Odin Owns Ye All". When I heard they split in 2004 I was saddened. Then I discovered they changed names, and added a couple members to become the thrash act Battered. They released a solid effort under that moniker, and had been quiet since.

Then word came out of Einherjer's reunion and new album and I was stoked. I even thoroughly enjoy "Odin Owns Ye All" which seems to get a bunch of slag. Einherjer play a more groove-laden form of Viking metal after starting in the more traditional blackened base akin to Ensiferum and Thyrfing. To me it made them stand out, much like Tyr's cleaner style of viking metal only rougher around the edges. Einherjer stepped away from being just another viking band rooted in black metal.

What has 6 years and a thrash album later done to the Einherjer sound? Absolutely nothing. "Norron" is a natural progression from 2004's "Blot". Opening with the epic "Norron Kraft", this 13 minute track plods along with a dark and atmospheric rhythm and thunderous flourishes. A solid riff and heavy sound keeps it interesting.

"Naglfar" is similar with a slightly stronger folk edge. More so then normal for Einherjer. "Alu Alu Laukar" is an interesting tune that stands out from the others with driving rhythms riding the line of techno giving us a sense of eagerness. It doesn't quite follow the style of the rest of the album, but that is probably due to it being a cover song. However, it still has a dark urgency to it that is addictive. "Balladen Om Bifrost" closes the album out as a pseudo ballad. Not unlike "A New Earth" from "Odin Owns Ye All", but this song is more epic and beautiful.

I was quite pleased with Einherjer's "Norron". It progresses forward from "Blot" and does not drift from the groove-laden style Einherjer is known for. They simply made it more epic and, I might add, a little darker atmosphere.

If you are a fan, then I see no reason not to enjoy. If you are new to the band, I'd recommend it as solid Viking metal a little different then the bigger names in genre.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I'm The Passenger!

With Angels and Airwaves new album "Love part 2" coming out in under a month, I wonder how will it hold up to their other epic masterpieces. Well if the first single "Anxiety" is anything to go by. It is going to be simply amazing.

"Anxiety" opens and closes with AVA's signature space effects and the song is simply gorgeous. It's hooky with soaring melodies and a beat you can dance to. It's everything Angels and Airwaves is known for. Very much in the vein of the "Love" album. It's emotionally stirring and very uplifting.

"Love Part 2" is going to be off the hook !

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sometimes It Comes With A Shove ...

With Blink 182's new album out and being enjoyed (by me), next on my want list is Angels And Airwaves "Love Part 2" featuring their "Love" album and movie of the same name. "Love" was released February 2010 as a free download (with option to pay and get a bonus track) off their website. I'll finally take at look at this album in anticipation of its inaugral CD release with part 2 coming in November 2011.

As with each AVA release I am hooked on it like crack. I can't stop listening to the album. It usually gets a spin once a week. The other 2 albums still get frequent airplay, but "Love" takes precedence.

"Love" takes the AVA sound to a grander more epic arena. It's just as catchy and melodic as the other 2 albums and it's even more uplifting then "I, Empire" was. Simply put, its bright and airy, yet as emotionally poignant and moving as the other 2 releases. "Love" has a spacier feel like U2 meets Pink Floyd as performed by Radiohead, but does not sacrifice accessibility.

"Love" starts with "Et Ducit Mundum Per Luce" which is quiet spacey number that burrows into your brain and "Flight Of Apollo" hooks you in with a biting guitar riff and soaring melodies. "Young London" follows suit with its bouncy pop sensibility and militant beat. A radio friendly hit with a great chorus and uplifting feel. An anthem for young and old alike and a definite crowd pleaser at concerts.

After this 1,2,3 punch it's hard to imagine what the band could do to top the first 15 minutes, but after a killer electronic/drum interlude we get the heartfelt guitar intro for "Shove" and one cannot help but be brought to their knees. The notes cry out with hope and longing that leads the listener to wax poetic on life and love. This is my favourite song on this album.

"Epic Holiday" and "Hallucinations" continue with the stirring assault on your emotions that will leave you tapping your foot and smiling uncontrollably. One cannot help but groove to the fast paced, uplifting rythms. "The Moon-Atomic (...Fragments and Fictions)"and "Clever Love" slow things down in thoughtful reflection, but never get boring. AVA has a strong sense for melodies both fast and slow. The music just sticks with you.

"Love" picks up again with "Soul Survivor" and "Letters To God part 2" (Part 1 is from Box Car Racer's self titled album). These songs grow to an epic level. The soaring soundscapes crescendo unto themselves while continuing to build the granduer of the album as whole. The album closer "Some Origins of Fire" ease's us out like a satisfied sigh.

Angels and Airwaves albums have a similar sound, yet are distinctly different. "Love" feels more focused then the first 2 and takes the music to a grander, more epic level. Perhaps because this album came about whilst the band was working on the movie of the same name and therefore had a stronger focus on theme. I don't know.

What I do know is that I'd pretty much buy anything Tom Delonge has his hands in. The man knows how to write good emotionally stirring music. Whether its pop/punk with Blink 182 or his maturer post punk Box Car Racer or his grandiose vision with Angels and Airwaves. I can't get enough of it. That's not to knock the other members who contribute to each project. Tom has hooked up well with some very talented musicians and songwriters. It's simply because Tom is the constant in all 3 projects.

I CANNOT wait until "Love part 2" comes out.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Welcome To The Neighborhood

Well it's been a long while since I've posted. I'm hoping to rectify that by getting back to regular posts. Got busy and lost my motivation, but let's not dwell on that. What brought me back? Well several things. Several new albums that are awesome (Einherjer, Mastodon, Dream Theater) and some older ones that still rock (Odds anyone?) I thought I'd start my return with Blink 182's return after an 8 year hiatus and their new album "Neighborhoods".

Like every Angels & Airwaves album that has come out, I can't get enough of this new album from blink. After a number of listens, I figured I should write something on it and here I am. Returned to my blog.

Anyone who has heard Blink's first single "Up All Night" knows that this ain't your teenagers Blink 182 anymore. "Neighborhoods" is definitely a melding of Mark, Tom and Travis's side projects, but you can't miss the Blink 182 at its heart. You won't find the juvenile lyrics anymore. I always thought Blink handled the potty lyrics very well. There was a kind of poeticism to their brand toilet humour that was acceptably offensive.

I love "Cheshire Cat, Dude Ranch and Enema of The State", but "Neighborhoods" is far from those pop punk days. This album is still very much catchy and well written. Blink have matured and maybe that's why they took a long hiatus. Maybe grew up a little. The band still captures the teenage angst and emotions, just more maturely now.

The first single "Up All Night" and the album opener "Ghost On The Dance Floor" are prime Angels and Airwaves tunes. "Heart's All Gone" and "Kaleidoscope" could have been on the +44 album. Although these songs have distinctive influences by the members current projects, they are inherently Blink 182. Maybe it's the dual vocals of Mark and Tom who perform their roles flawlessly and the chaotic drums of Travis Barker, this is the logical next step to 2003's self titled release.

Overall, if you liked 2003's "Blink 182" album you'll probably enjoy this release. If you liked any of their sides projects, you'll like this. If you are hoping for "Dude Ranch" you are out of luck. The closest you're going to get to classic Blink is maybe "Natives", "Snake Charmer" or "Wishing Well". "Neighborhoods" is a solid pop/rock album with a punk edge and any fan of Blink 182 should find something to like here.

Me? Well, I simply love it all. Welcome back Blink 182!