Metal Music Reviews from Modrigue

FIRST BAND FROM OUTER SPACE We're Only in It for the Spacerock

Album · 2005 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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FIRST BAND FROM OUTER SPACE is a young band influenced by 70s' HAWKWIND and the stoner rock movement. Their first album "We're Only In It For The Spacerock" delivers a raw, energetic and powerful psychedelic metal. Heavy cosmic Jam into the universe!

The record opens with experimental old school synthesizer sounds which makes you immediately take off from Earth, to announce "Sannraijz", a catchy trippy metal tune with reverb effects. The baby of you-know-who's "Space Ritual"! Besides, "Sometimes Going Too Far is The Only Way to Go" ressembles a little HAWKWIND's "Time We Left this World Today". The disc continues with "Sannraijz 2", a pretty interesting acoustic version of the song featured before. However, the highlights here are undoubtedly the last two tracks.

The title song features 20 great minutes of instrumental dark space rock improvisation with musical and rhythm changes, alternating peaceful and powerful movements. This jam is sometimes reminiscent of SUBARACHNOID SPACE. The cosmic trip ends with the heavy "Make yourself heard for the sake of the world", a mini space rock epic with beautiful flute playing.

"We're Only In It For The Spacerock" is highly recommended to space and stoner rock fans, especially HAWKWIND, PINK FLOYD and early MONSTER MAGNET lovers.

FIRST BAND FROM OUTER SPACE Impressionable Sounds of the Subsonic

Album · 2006 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.75 | 2 ratings
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Impressive hawks of the stoner rock

The Swedish band has quite evolved from their first release, and it shows. The line up has grown, the music is less raw, less chaotic, more structured and displays a larger variety of instruments. Vocals are more fluent and more spacey, due in part to the addition of a female vocalist. "Impressionable Sounds of the Subsonic" features top-notch stoner and space rock. A mindblowing cosmic journey exploring all types of planets!

As in "We're Only in it for the Spacerock", the album begins by setting up the atmosphere with synthesizers, guitars, drums and flute. The introduction sounds like a heavier version of ELOY. It goes on with "Utan Att Veta" which is maybe one of the best stoner tunes of the century. Powerful and freaky! The whole disc rocks and transports you in another universe far far away. From efficient heavy stoned riffs to relaxing moments through psychedelic sounds and acoustic pieces, from trance rhythms to bongos, through beautiful and angry flute playing, "Impressionable Sounds of the Subsonic" has nearly all! One can hear by moments influences from HYDRIA SPACEFOLK and PORCUPINE TREE. The disc finishes in an empty region of cosmos with an Hawaiian guitar jam.

One of the best space and stoner rock release. If you like 70s' HAWKWIND, HYDRIA SPACEFOLK, MONSTER MAGNET and PINK FLOYD, this album is for you!

FIRST BAND FROM OUTER SPACE The Guitar Is Mightier Than the Gun

Album · 2009 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.75 | 2 ratings
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This third album from the Swedish space rockers shows a little inspiration inflexion compared to their previous opuses. With only three long tracks (four in the CD edition), the compositions has become less melodic, more stretched and improvised. "The Guitar Is Mightier Than the Gun" also marks another change with the discrete incursion of new elements for the band.

The opener and shortest song of the disc, "Demons & Haze", is simply one of the best compositions from the Swedishs. Best passage of the record, it possesses a powerful space stoner rock introduction with an unusual rhythm and vocal flow. Bombastic! The rest of the song is slower and features spacey keyboards reminiscent of Tim Blake. "Turn Left to the Mexican Barbeque" starts with a calm acoustic guitar, to continue with a heavy space metal jam with female vocals. Enjoyable, but we already heard better from FIRST BAND FROM OUTER SPACE. The 23 minutes title track is a little unusual for the band. Not entirely space rock or stoner, this piece alternates soft floyd-ish, psychedelic improvised and joyful cheesy moments. The middle part is too long and the music doesn't seem to go anywhere. Finally, the overall result is average.

The CD edition includes a 16 minutes long bonus track, "Smokin". This is rather a patchwork of different extracts than a structured composition. The song contains long calm passages, nervous moments, short middle-eastern melodies and HAWKWIND-esque touches. Not essential and also a bit lacking musical direction, but more convincing than the title track.

"The Guitar Is Mightier Than the Gun" is a little unequal and incoherent. The band wanted to evolve and emancipate from their initial stoner / HAWKWIND roots by proposing something new, which is a good thing. However, these novel elements are, on the one hand, stretched space rock improvisation (which has been done before in the 70's), and, on the other hand, soapy symphonic passages. The melodies are also less present than on their great previous album "Impressionable Sounds Of The Subsonic". The only remarkable track of the record is the opener "Demons & Haze".

Enjoyable if you like space rock and HAWKWIND, but not the best place to discover the band.

NIGHTWISH Oceanborn

Album · 1998 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 49 ratings
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Nightwish's best album

"I'm listening to some super music right now"...

...said one of my best friends during my campus years. Intrigued, I immediately came to his room to check his affirmation, and... what an ear-shock! A female opera singer over a power metal song? What was this? Never heard that before! In my defence, at that time, I suppose many other people haven't either, as this was the album that really started it all...

Whereas the debut "Angels Fall First" was still hesitating in its approach and incorporated gothic touches, this second opus saws the band now fully assuming their lyrical heavy metal orientation by pushing its concept to the maximum. Both uncommon and refreshing in 1998, "Oceanborn" marries raging and energetic guitars though elaborated compositions with superb melodies, sometimes epic, sometimes melancholic, sublimed by Tarja Turunen's ethereal soprano voice. A classically trained female vocalist, bringing her talent and her 3 octaves range to this genre, was quite atypical at the time. Her crystalline interpretation literally carries the music to a whole new dimension, magic, enchanting, elegant, out of this world...

Not everything is perfect though. The disc contains some of the band's best tracks, but also less catchy passages.

The fast-paced "Stargazers" is a glorious heroic heavy metal opener that directly transport you into another place. Its dark interlude is beautiful. Completely different, the melodic mid-tempo "Gethseman" is tragic, even touching at times. However, my favorite tune is undoubtedly "Passion And The Opera". Epic and haunting, with Tarja's aerial vocalizations and a thrilling finale! The instrumental "Moondance" opens with piano and, supported by rocking guitars, possesses quite dancing folk vibes and numerous rhythm changes. A fairy tale... "The Riddler" is energetic and powerful, whereas "Walking In The Air" is a cover of "I'm Walking In The Air", from Howard Blake's 1982 film "The Snowman". NIGHTWISH's revisit is ethereal and floating...

As I said, some titles have less seduced me. The lyrical "Sacrament Of Wilderness" contains charming moments but is overall rather average. I'm not really fond of the two songs with Tapio Wilska - ex-singer of their fellow countrymen Finntroll - either. "Devil & The Deep Dark Ocean" is raging and oppressive, but fails to really lift off. Same goes for the "Stratovarius-esque" "The Pharaoh Sails To Orion", which includes pleasant Egyptian touches though. "Swanheart" is a melancholic and gracious ballad, but a bit soapy.

Anyway, "Oceanborn" remains an influential breakthrough album, paving the way for a new genre and for future female vocalists in the metal sphere. NIGHTWISH has now definitely crafted its own identity as well as its leadership. With this impacting second opus, the Finnishs impose themselves as one of the most important formation on the nascent revival scene at the end of the 90's and will gain international notoriety. Unfortunately, the later releases won't match the same level of quality and inspiration...

One of the best power/heavy metal with female singer record, and the one to start with if you're not familiar with NIGHTWISH. Fans of progressive metal will also appreciate the numerous ambiance changes within the tracks. A journey through a fairy tale suspended world...

ELOY Codename Wildgeese

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1985 · Non-Metal
Cover art 1.83 | 3 ratings
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An ELOY soundtrack? Without Frank?

Deceiving... There is not much of ELOY's touch here, not even the space sci-fi rock approach they tried to develop in the mid 80's. One of the reason is that the band broke up after the former album, "Metromania", and three members recorded this soundtrack without Frank Bornemann under ELOY's name. The result is... pretty dated and uninspired. Synth pop rock put in short and mainly instrumental tracks. The (few) songs which save the record are often electronic.

The disc opens with "The Patrol", which first notes makes you wonder if it is truly music from ELOY you are listening to. The tune is poor and quickly boring. Same goes for "Hong Kong Theme I". "Hit And Run" is one the most enjoyable piece of the soundtrack with its futuristic and laser sound. Then comes the only sung moment of the disc, "Queen Of Rock'n'Roll", which is just a basic hair pop-metal song. "Destiny", "Deadlock" and "A Long Goodbye" work ok as ambient and mysterious tunes, whereas "Discovery", "Juke Box", "Cha-Shoen" and "On the Edge" are a bit lazy and repetitive. The end does not get better.

"Codename Wildgeese" is the only ELOY release without its leader Frank Bornemann and easily the worst. Don't expect enchanting melodies, guitar solos, symphonic evolutions or space metal here. The only interests are some electro ambient short pieces. The rest just ressembles a flat action movie soundtrack from the 80's.

ELOY Reincarnation on Stage

Live album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 5 ratings
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For their 45th anniversary, ELOY releases its second official live album, "Reincarnation on Stage". The set-list features extracts from the Bornemann and co.'s best records since 1975: "Power and the Passion", "Dawn", "Ocean", "Silent Echoes and Mighty Cries", "Colours", "Planets", "Time to Turn", "Metromania", "The Tides Return Forever" "Ocean 2" and "Visionary". The songs are mostly rather faithful to their original studio versions, a bit rock-ier.

The first disc has a few modifications though. "Namaste" is pleasant ambient opening with spoken words in English. The guitars on "Child Migration" are heavier, however the introduction is absent and the synthesizer, less present. The track thus increases in intensity but loses a piece of its charm. The final "Echoes"-like bass driven part of "The Apocalypse" has also been removed. "Age of Insanity" and "Illuminations" feature nice keyboard solos, while Frank Bornemann demonstrates his guitaristic talents on "Silhouette". "Horizons" has a strange sound which results in an average rendition.

There are much less variations on the second disc. The live versions of the songs simply rocks! The only noticeable change is that "Atlantis' Agony"'s long overture has been cut off. "Thoughts" is a pretty conclusion.

"Reincarnation on Stage" is a great overview of the band's career, as the set-list covers more than 30 years. As on the 1978 "Live" album, there are no big surprises, but the performances are very nice. This double live album should please all fans of Bornemann and co. and is also a good way to discover ELOY.

ELOY Eloy Live

Live album · 1978 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.01 | 4 ratings
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After the success of "Dawn" and especially "Ocean", ELOY is now popular enough to tour in Germany and to release their first live album, simply titled "Live". The track-list consists mainly of tracks of the two aforementioned opuses, with one song from "Inside" and "Power and the Passion". There is no material from their debut, as it is not really ELOY yet, and from "Floating", as its style has always been a bit apart in the Germans' discography. In fact, "Ocean" was initially entirely performed, but, due to technical issues, "Decay Of Logos" had to be removed from the recording.

The live renditions are overall faithful to their studio versions. Some passages have been made more theatrical and features spoken sentences in German. As there were no orchestra, the tracks from "Dawn" are lighter, but nonetheless very nice, even if I'm not a big fan of "The Sun Song" and "Gliding Into Light And Knowledge". "The Dance In Doubt And Fear" is in fact followed by "Lost!? (Introduction)". A powerful moment with a pretty guitar solo in the beginning. As they were not originally played by the "golden" line-up, "Mutiny" and "Inside"'s reinterpretation are quite bombastic. "Atlantis' Agony" has been stretched to 21 minutes. This rather useless and lengthy extension concerns the ambient spacey introduction and does neither really bring something interesting nor enhance the source composition.

For Bornemann and co.'s lovers, there will be no big surprises here, unlike GROBSCHNITT's "Solar Music Live" for example. However, this release is still very good, proving that the band could deliver a robust performance. At this period, during the punk explosion, there were not many live albums from progressive rock bands at this period.

Recommended to ELOY and space rock fans.

ELOY Visionary

Album · 2009 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.36 | 8 ratings
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Eleven years after the band's previous studio album, "Ocean 2", the least that we can say is that Bornemann and co. did not take many risks with this new opus. "Visionary" contains conventional and smooth ELOY space rock compositions. Rather consensual, the songs have also been shortened. A noticeable change is the definitive reintegration of Hannes Folberth, ELOY's keyboardist from 1980 to 1984, and invited as a guest on "Ocean 2" for "Ro Setau".

The first two tracks incorporate flute. The melancholic "The Refuge" is an efficient soft space rock opener. Maybe the only true innovative passage, as it sometimes sounds like JETHRO TULL. Supported by modern rhythms, "The Secret" is rather calm and enjoyable, although a little long. "Age Of Insanity" is the most interesting track of the record. A punchy fantasy space prog composition featuring nice guitar and keyboards solos.

As its title suggests, "The Challenge (Time To Turn Part 2)" is a copycat of the eponymous title track of 1982's "Time to Turn" album. Not much to say about it, except that this variant is not very original. "Summernight Symphony" quite reminds PINK FLOYD's "Comfortably Numb" with its chord progression and hazy ambiance. The slow 9 minutes "Mystery" is the longest song of the record. Rather average, with not many variations, it fails to really lift off and does not justify its length. As a closing track, "Thoughts" is a nice acoustic short piece with a pretty melody.

"Visionary" contains no real bad tracks, but no genuine surprises or memorable tracks either, except maybe "Age Of Insanity". For sure this new opus does not revolutionize ELOY's musical universe. However, despite its lack of originality and fantasy, this album is overall a pleasant listen.

ELOY Ocean 2: The Answer

Album · 1998 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.51 | 8 ratings
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The long awaited sequel of ELOY's "Ocean" album finally arrives 21 years after the original. Contrarily to what its title may suggest, the music of "Ocean 2" is quite different from the iconic 1977 opus. It also marks an evolution in style and production quality compared to their recent previous releases. All ingredients of Bornemann and co. are present: spacey guitar and synthesizers, epic choirs... and a flute. The tracks become longer and totalise nearly one hour of music, which make "Ocean 2" the longest and most ambitious studio release by the Germans. However, compared to ELOY's typical fantasy space prog style, the compositions sound more polite and smooth, less extravagant and memorable than usual.

The short opener "Between Future And Past" reminds PINK FLOYD with its clock and spacey "Shine On"-ish overture. It introduces the melancholic "Ro Setau", one of the best passages of the record, featuring an aggressive metal riff, female voices, and a nice minimoog solo by early 80's keyboardist Hannes Folberth, invited as a guest for this track. "Paralyzed Civilisation" is another catchy song with variations and an extended guitar solo by Frank Bornemann. The beginning and end parts are in the style of the "Planets" album. "Serenity" is a calm aquatic pause before the more rhythmic "Awakening Of Consciousness". Its heroic melody fantasy space rock sounds more like typical ELOY.

The 13 minutes "Reflections From The Spheres Beyond" sound overall rather flat and fails to really lift off. Despite its various ambiances, this track has too rare good moments to justify its length. The weakest passage of the record. The first part of "Waves Of Intuition" sounds again very floyd-ish as Bornemann tries to sound like Roger Water. This song is nonetheless pretty nice. In the tradition of ELOY's 90's albums closing tracks, "The Answer" is grandiloquent and features this time the Prague Philharmonic Choir. Despite its heavy metal ambiance, this tune is a little flat and repetitive and fails at being the awaited epic ending.

"Ocean 2" is an ambitious album but could have been shortened. It's a pity the longest compositions are also the weakest. Its polite sophistication in sound and arrangements also restricts a little the fantasy and magical side typical of ELOY's musical universe. Although this last opus from the 90's does not hold all the great promises due its title, it however remains quite pleasant and unique in the German space rockers' discography.

ELOY The Tides Return Forever

Album · 1994 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.37 | 6 ratings
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ELOY returns for good

After ten years of errance and unsuccessful experimentation in other genres, ELOY finally goes back to the style they're most talented for: fantasy / symphonic space rock. Only two years after their worst album, "Destination", the band delivers their best release since 1984's "Metromania".

"The Tides Return Forever" features a few changes showing Bornemann and co.'s will to recover the recipe that made their success. First, the classic ELOY logo is back. Second, Klaus-Peter Matziol, the bassist from ELOY's "golden age" definitely reintegrates the band. Third, the production and sound quality have greatly improved and have finally escaped the 80's. Nico Barretta's drumming is much less present and loud. Finally, and the most noticeable, the inspiration is present.

This can be heard from the first notes of "The Day Of Crimson Skies". An nice efficient opener inviting you to the journey. The first long piece, "Fatal Illusions", has a spacey intro with a gilmourian-guitar, as well as rhythms and ambiances changes. This 10 minutes composition looks a little flat compared to their previous middle-length compositions, but is nonetheless quite enjoyable. The slow "Childhood Memories" is not bad, although a bit soapy.

"Generation Of Innocence" sounds surprisingly 80's hard rock. In terms of sonorities and quality, this represents what you would have expected on the "Ra" album. A direct and pleasant song. The smooth and melancholic title track sounds sometimes a bit floyd-ish again with its female vocals. Despite being the shortest song, "The Last In Line" is my favorite of the record. A nice synth space rock tune with a catchy melody.

The 10 minutes "Company Of Angels" is the longest and heaviest composition of the disc. Like the corresponding ending track of "Destination", it is inspired by Jeanne d'Arc, however this time the song is much more listenable. Again, the mini epic sees the band venturing outside their usual musical territory, as it more resembles a symphonic metal song, with epic choirs and female singing. The final result is a little odd and out of place, but has its moments.

This second 90's effort from ELOY is encouraging and more convincing that the previous one. Despite its weaker passages, dated synthesizers and reduced risk-taking, this record possesses a good sound quality, a mastered balance and a recovered inspiration. While not essential, "The Tides Return Forever" is a pleasant and accessible fantasy space rock album, as well as a good entry point to discover the band.

ELOY is back in the game, and that's the most important.

ELOY Destination

Album · 1992 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.12 | 6 ratings
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One of ELOY's best cover art for... their worst album. What a deception!

For sure, in 1992, during the grunge and rap explosion, space-rock was not very popular. However, why does the music sounds like it was recorded in the 80's? ELOY recovers its old habit of being a few years late. And... what happened to Frank Bornemann's voice? This record showed great promises though: The participation of Klaus-Peter Matziol (the bassist of the band's "golden era") on some tracks, a real drummer, Nico Baretta, and the usage of the flute, a new instrument in ELOY's universe. All these interesting elements do not prevent the lack of inspiration of the compositions. So, is "Destination" a total fiasco?

Weakened by its awful percussions and vocals, the opener "Call Of The Wild" can be described as flavorless ELOY. The incursion of the flute is quite useless. Not much to say about "Racing Shadows" either, it's a rather flat song. Same goes for the title track, sounding very late 80's and boring.

Now comes the (only) interesting part. "Prisoner In Mind" is a surprisingly 80's heavy rock song. While not transcendent, the music itself is quite refreshing and enjoyable. The space metal track "Silent Revolution" is even more ferocious. Rarely has ELOY been this agressive. Wow! Best moment of the album, it features musical changes and a nice finale with a choir. Our heavy metal stop is now over.

Back to the oceans of mediocrity. "Fire And Ice" is average but not very original, while "Eclipse Of Mankind" is rather transparent and dull. The most progressive track of the record, "Jeanne d'Arc", is one of the band's worst song. Although trying a different style, the melody is insipid and the "operatical" passages are barely listenable.

Destination: the middle of the album, as it is only part showing new approaches. The rest is just forgettable in the German band's discography, these tracks won't be played often at concerts. It would have been interesting though to hear their space-rock if they had turned more "metallic". Don't worry, ELOY will recover (a piece of) its lost inspiration in the next opus...

ELOY Ra

Album · 1988 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.88 | 5 ratings
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The weakest ELOY studio album of the 80's. During the late eighties, Frank Bornemann and keyboardist Michael Gerlach met in Berlin and planned to resurrect the band. If the musical style can be to linked to the previous studio release, "Metromania", the overwhelming presence of the programmed drums give to "Ra" a cold artificial aspect and, above all, a terribly dated sound. The songs go back to a more progressive format, but unfortunately the inspiration has not been totally recovered yet. By the way, in case you're wondering, the music has no relation with Râ, the Egyptian god of sun.

The mini-epic "Voyager Of The Future Race" opens with an ambient "Tubular Bells"-ish introduction to then unveil a nice space progressive rock song. Not great, but pleasant. "Sensations" is clearly the best track of the record. Although the keyboards are more present, this well structured tune is both aggressive and futuristic. A potential hit single. These were the only interesting moments of the record.

The rest is forgettable and does not resemble typical ELOY. To be honest, it can merely not qualify as space-rock. Despite its 8 minutes duration, "Dreams" is soft and dull, while "Invasion Of A Megaforce" sounds rather flat. "Rainbow" could have been enjoyable, but its lengthy arrangements make this song finally average and cheesy. To finish the record, "Hero" is quite transparent and useless.

"Ra" is not a very coherent record as well as a deception. Only the first third - the space-rock one - of the album is worth listening. One more time, the band does not really succeed in trying other genres. ELOY's genuine resurrection will have to wait...

ELOY Metromania

Album · 1984 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.24 | 6 ratings
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Welcome to synthesizer space rock city

As the last good album from ELOY's second life during the early 80's, "Metromania" marks the end of an era. Musically, the style is the globally the same as on "Performance", more direct and synthetic, except that the inspiration is constantly present this time. This opus can be seen as a matured version of its predecessor, with solid compositions. Some passages are nervous, others are more progressive, overall the songs are quite catchy space- rock pieces, sounding even heavy metal sometimes. The important use of synthesizer, electronic drums, vocoder and the absence of long guitar soli reinforce the robotic, dehumanized musical ambiance, which is finally adapted to the futuristic city theme.

One remark concerning the Rodney Matthews cover art: the classic ELOY logo (since 1975) has been replaced in favor of a new one. In fact, this is not its first appearance, as the U.K. edition cover arts of "Planets" and "Time to Turn" already features this new logo and art by Rodney Matthews. I personally prefer these alternative covers and find this logo more suited to the band's 80's sci-fi fantasy prog style. Furthermore, it is present on my three favorite ELOY albums from this period, a coincidence?

"Escape To The Heights" is one of the Germans' fastest track, as well as an efficient punchy opener. "Seeds Of Creation" is also good, a slower piece that makes you wandering into this distant megalopolis. The ambient "All Is One" is maybe the least interesting passage of the disc, but nonetheless enjoyable with its good finale. "The Stranger" is a nice synth rock song, proving that ELOY has not lost its talents. It even contains an aerial space disco passage.

The 10 minutes long "Follow The Light" is the most progressive passage of the record. Featuring many changes, it opens with a soft spacey electronic introduction to then unveil a powerful hymn. This track will often be played at concerts. The agressive "Nightrider" is a nervous hard / heavy metal composition, evolving in a dark atmosphere. The title song concludes the disc on a positive note with its galloping synthesizer and heroic melody.

To sum up, there is no genuine weak track, the quality is homogeneous, and the musical style is coherent with the cover art. Despite dated electronic sonorities, this album possesses its own charm and identity. Unfortunately, due to internal conflicts, the band will split up after this release. This will mark a sudden break in the Germans' career, as Bornemann and co. were regular in terms of release frequency (1 album per year since 1973) and musical inspiration.

"Metromania" is an underrated album, and ELOY's most futuristic opus, but also its last good one of the 80's.

ELOY Performance

Album · 1983 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.80 | 7 ratings
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ELOY turns FM

Curious cover for a curious title. This record is the very last I listened from ELOY. To be honest - and as a big fan of the band - for a long time, I didn't know "Performance" even existed. Is this a live release? No, it's ELOY's 1983 official studio album, in the middle of what can be called their second life. How came I never heard of it before? Let's see...

"Performance" shows the band's musical style turning more radio-friendly. Less progressive, the compositions are now more direct, upbeat and keyboards-dominated. The sound is also more plastic and synthetic, whereas the quality and inspiration have decreased. After the ambitious "Planets" and the effective "Time to Turn", the first listen may be a bit surprising.

The change is perceptible from the opening track, "In Disguise". In fact, once the shock is gone, this is a rather correct punchy song. "Shadow And Light" is also a nice hard space rock moment with its incisive riff and variations. In contrast, "Mirador" is a quite useless and repetitive instrumental. "Surrender" is the weakest track of the record, out of place and cheesy.

The enjoyable "Heartbeat" features a cool bass line and introduces the usage of the vocoder, which is on par with the synthetic musical style. "Fools" is the best track of the record, a catchy rocking ELOY moment with a good guitar solo. The ending song, the 8 minutes "A Broken Frame", is also the longest. Unfortunately, this composition is rather average and does not really justify its length.

Except the first self-titled debut opus, "Performance" is Frank Bornemann's least favorite ELOY record, its songs are rarely played at concerts. However, this is certainly not the Germans' worst studio album. Containing no genuine remarkable track (except maybe "Fools"), this opus is surely not great, but not bad either. As the band's least memorable opus of the 1973-1984 period, it contains nice catchy passages worth listening though. The last album to discover from this period, but ELOY still lives...

ELOY Time to Turn

Album · 1982 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.44 | 9 ratings
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Say, ELOY turns floyd-ish again, is it really true?

"Time to Turn" was initially planned as a double-album with "Planets". As the progressive genre was not very highlighted in the beginning of the 80's, the Harvest label refused. The two albums were finally released as a dyptic, which was a reasonable decision. The musical style, sound and inspiration are in continuity with their previous opus, however featuring more guitars and bass as well as a few surprises. Frank Bornemann is more present and delivers some inspired soli. It also marks the return of drummer Fritz Randow, who played in the band during 1973- 1975, and of some PINK FLOYD's borrowings. However, ELOY's style is now quite new, the Germans' fantasy sci-fi prog compositions cannot be compared to what their elder British brothers did. So, there should be less controversy this time.

"Through A Somber Galaxy" is a catchy good space-rock opener. ELOY is style alive, and Bornemann gives us a nice gilmour-ian guitar solo. The progressive "Behind The Walls Of Imagination" is a nice track with mysterious intro and a melancholic ambiance. The title track gives some arguments to the band's detractors, as it can be regarded as their reinterpretation of "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2". The bass and guitar lines are quite reminiscent of the well known song, as well as the kids' chorus. Nonetheless, as said before, the musical style is different, it's fantasy sci-fi here. Anyway, a very nice track in ELOY's discography.

The ambient electronic "Magic Mirrors" is less melodic and more melancholic. An enjoyable piece. The highlight of the record is undoubtedly the 9 minutes mini-epic "End Of An Odyssey". The most progressive track, its spacey intro and various atmospheres will make you travel through stellar systems. In contrast, "The Flash" is the weakest composition here. It sounds like a RUSH's tune from the "Signals" or "Grace Under Pressure" period, however less inspired. The ending song, "Say, Is It Really True" is also the most surprising. Mainly a short acoustic guitar piece, in the style of you-know-who's "Wish You Were Here". Although this exercice is quite new for ELOY, the result is convincing.

"Time to Turn" is ELOY's best 80's album, with "Planets". Whether you prefer the black or the grey one is just a matter of taste. "Planets" is more coherent and dominated by synthesizers, whereas this 1982 opus is more rock oriented and less lyrical. Again, the music still sounds a bit dated, but,at the time, there were not many progressive records of this quality.

Very recommended to space-rock lovers and ELOY fans!

ELOY Planets

Album · 1981 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.27 | 9 ratings
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A little fantasy space prog opera

After the musical directions explored on "Colours", the band has focused and matured its new style. More ambitious and coherent than their former opus, "Planets" was initially planned as a double-album with "Time to Turn". As the progressive genre was not very popular at this time, the Harvest label refused. The two albums were finally released as a dyptic, which was a good decision. This time, the music is dominated by keyboards and synthesizers, there are hardly no guitar soli here. The compositions are fluid, more direct and homogeneous, and the inspiration has been recovered.

The short spacey synth "Introduction" opens the album to announce "On The Verge Of Darkening Light", a cool space rock tune that immediately sets the tone. The guitar is more present on "Point Of No Return", another good song of the record. The nice "Mysterious Monolith" has a melancholic soft opening and then changes to deploy a somber enigmatic ambiance. "Queen Of The Night" is the catchy lyrical moment of the record. You just made a leap into another part of the universe. As its title suggests, it features female vocals. The ambient instrumental tune "At The Gates Of Dawn" is intended to let the listener breath between the songs. "Sphinx" is the weakest song of the record: a little boring, but enjoyable though. The disc concludes on "Carried By Cosmic Winds", a soft synthesizer ending with a violin finale.

"Planets" has a good flow and unity, the spatial theme is respected. The eventual reproaches may be that the final result sounds too polite, too clean, because of the lack of risks taking and the dated soundscapes due to the predominance of 80's keyboards over guitar. However, this album possesses its own identity and the quality of the compositions is constantly present, which is the most important.

With "Time to Turn", "Planets" is ELOY's most convincing album of the 80's.

ELOY Colours

Album · 1980 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.12 | 8 ratings
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Modrigue
ELOY is mutating

New decade, new line-up. Frank Bornemann and bassist Klaus-Peter Matziol are the only ones remaining and recruit three new members. New decade, new musical evolution. Although keeping its personality, the style is now more concise and accessible. No more long epics and soli, the songs are shortened. More oriented into fantasy and sci-fi, due to the increasing presence of keyboards, ELOY reinvents itself and is now freed from its PINK FLOYD influences. Good point. Once said, "Colours" is a transition album, thus trying new directions and a little unequal. After their seminal two previous albums, the shock can be hard at first listen.

"Horizons" is a soft decent introduction, while "Illuminations" is good direct space-rock song, with a few variations. The following track, "Giant", is rather flat and uninspired. Not to be confounded with the track of the same name on "Rarities", "Child Migration" is clearly the highlight of the album. A spacey synth opening unveiling a heavy rock riff and a a catchy melody. Wow! ELOY hadn't' been this ferocious since "The Zany Magician", five years ago. "Impressions" and "Gallery" are rather odd and cheesy, as well as quite unusual for the German band. On the contrary, despite its classical piano overture, "Silhouette" is more typical of them. The record ends with "Sunset", a pleasant ending track with a spacey western melody.

A short and uneven opus, with very good songs and weaker passages. "Colours" is certainly not the best transition album ever made. However ELOY shouldn't be blamed, and for several reasons. First, at the dawn of the 80's, whereas most 70's progressive bands have collapsed, the musicians manage to offer some original compositions. Second, ELOY tried to renew its style, to better embrace the new decade. Finally, as the FLOYD already mutated at the time, the space-rock genre do not have many representatives anymore, thus leaving the field open for Frank Bornemann and co. to develop their own fantasy-space-prog. This new direct style may not be appreciated by all 70's purists, but it's here.

For these reasons, "Colours" deserves a listen. This is just the beginning of an unexpected second life for ELOY...

ELOY Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes

Album · 1979 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.52 | 8 ratings
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Symphonic PINK FLOYD?

As the last album featuring ELOY's "golden" line-up, "Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes" marks the end of an era. After the success of "Ocean", this new opus was their best selling record. Musically, the style is the same as on the previous opus, however a little more space-rock and science-fiction oriented. Catchy melodies, variations, rhythm changes, spacey guitar soli, synthesizer layers, hypnotic bass... Everything you're looking for is present. The only small problem is that the band was accused of plagiarism. The compositions exhibit clear inspirations from their British elder brothers, PINK FLOYD. So, rip-off or not rip-off?

"Astral Entrance" certainly resembles the famous "Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 1" ambient opening with its synth-textures and Gilmour-ish guitar. It may have been first time this introduction was ripped-off, but clearly not the last in the progressive world. However, "Master Of Sensation" is different. This catchy song is an immediate boarding for space travel adventure, with varying rhythms and cool Bornemann soli. It really rocks! The 15 minutes "The Apocalypse" epic is the highlight of the record. A cosmic odyssey, alternating aerial and oppressive atmospheres.Driven by synthesizers and bass, this piece contains two PINK FLOYD references. The first one is the female singing passage in the style of "The Great Gig in the Sky". The second one is the pulsating bass line of the ending part, similar to the bass loop on "Echoes Part 2", however with a heavy guitar riff finale. Needless to say these two tracks are amongst ELOY's bests.

That's it for the FLOYD's borrowings.

We continue our interstellar journey with the energetic "Pilot To Paradise", a dynamic song carried by a nice synthesizer melody with some symphonic incursions. The two last tracks are much more ambient and slower. "De Labore Solis" is the weakest track of the record, as it is a little repetitive and does not contain many changes. On the contrary, "Mighty Echoes" offers much more variety and possesses a mystical ambiance. It features a pretty glockenspiel melody, a cool bass line and a spacey finale.

The remastered edition features 2 bonus tracks. If "Child Migration" (different from the track of the same name in "Colours") has replaced "De Labore Solis", this album could have reached the maximal note. This song is one of ELOY's catchiest and rock-iest! "Let the Sun Rise in my Brain" is more anecdotal.

So, plagiarism or not? "Wish You Were Here"'s little brother? I wouldn't say so. First, the borrowings are only present on some parts of the first two tracks. Second, and the most important, ELOY uses their floydian inspirations to develop a different music with its own style and personality: a mixture of fantasy, symphonic and sci-fi progressive rock.

Whether "Ocean" or "Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes" is the best ELOY's album is just a matter of taste. If we really want to sum up, the blue one is more symphonic, while the green one is more space-rock oriented. As you prefer. Personally, even after numerous listens over years, I still can't decide. Anyway, although arriving 4 years too late and sounding a bit dated, this opus is certainly one of the best progressive surprise of the year 1979. An essential record for space-rock and PINK FLOYD lovers!

Unfortunately, ELOY's future albums will never reach this quality again...

ELOY Ocean

Album · 1977 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.26 | 9 ratings
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Modrigue
A mythological space-rock journey

"Ocean" was the most successful album of ELOY, for a reason. More ambitious than their former opuses, this album shows refinements on many points. The few hard-rock influences have vanished, the style and personality of the band is now defined: "fantasy space-rock". The melodies are more noticeable and Frank Bornemann has improved his guitar playing. Compositions become longer again, reaching 15 minutes for the last one. This means that ELOY has completely finished its mutation (started in 1973) to a progressive band. The success of "Ocean" is even more surprising as it was released in 1977, during the explosion of punk rock.

"Poseidon's Creation"'s opening shows inspirations from their British elder brothers. The beginning has reminiscences of PINK FLOYD's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 2" introduction with its galloping bass and piercing guitar. The sung part is pleasant while a bit long, and the ending section features an excellent solo from Bornemann. This track will become a classic in ELOY's discography. "Incarnation Of The Logos" is softer. Starting with an ambient intro, it finishes with a nice melancholic melody.

"Decay Of The Logos" begins with a spacey intro and then becomes more agressive. Although the shortest song (8 minutes), it has a good progression, various ambiances and a noticeable melody. The record finishes with the evanescent "Atlantis' Agony". This epic is the spaciest track of the album, as it alternates atmospheric passages and dreamy soundscapes. The ending is also very catchy.

Only a few lengthy moments prevents this album from reaching the maximal note. With "Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes", "Ocean" is undoubtedly one of ELOY's best albums, and also an essential record of the space-rock genre. Although not very innovative at the time, the band proves they can compete with their other British progressive brothers. A classic, highly recommended to PINK FLOYD, space-rock, or even symphonic prog fans.

ELOY Dawn

Album · 1976 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.77 | 9 ratings
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Modrigue
ELOY's awakening

First album with the classic Bornemann / Matziol / Schimdtchen / (ex-SCORPIONS) Rosenthal line-up, "Dawn" marks the beginning of what many consider as ELOY's golden era. The music is still a mix of space and progressive symphonic rock, but incorporates more and more keyboards and bass, whereas the initial hard rock roots are less present. The band begins to refine its personality. Furthermore, the production is significantly improved compared to their previous opus. As in "Power and the Passion", the record is an alternance of rather short tracks with various ambiances. This time, the symphonic aspect is enhanced by the usage of an orchestra.

The soft "Awakening" is an introduction to "Between The Times", a 70's heavy rock riff with peaceful moments. "The Sun Song" is one of the weakest song, as it is slow and too long. One the contrary, "The Dance In Doubt And Fear" is my favorite track of this record. This was the first ELOY song I heard. The bass line is simply irresistible.

The pleasant "Lost!?" suite also features a galloping bass, this time with more keyboards and a touch of PINK FLOYD. Another remarkable track, "The Midnight Fight / The Victory Of Mental Force" is quite energetic and trippy. Unfortunately, the optimism decreases a little with the ending tracks. "Gliding Into Light And Knowledge" and "Le Réveil Du Soleil / The Dawn" are calm, ambient but a bit too long.

As my least favorite ELOY progressive album from the 70's, I find "Dawn" a bit overrated. While certainly marking an evolution and defining the band's sound, it still has weaker and lengthy passages. Some tracks should have been shortened. Nice space/symphonic rock however, with cool galloping bass lines. For our german space-rockers, the best is coming soon...

ELOY Power and the Passion

Album · 1975 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.91 | 8 ratings
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Modrigue
Fourth studio album by ELOY, "Power And The Passion" is their first true concept album, with continuous track flow. It also marks a slight musical shift to the progressive symphonic and space rock genres. The songs are heterogeneous and contains many variations. Frank Bornemann gradually emancipates from his initial influences, however you can still hear shades of DEEP PURPLE by moments. To sum up, the music can be described as a mix of space, symphonic and early 70's hard rock.

The first half alternates slow and fast passages.The record opens with a short organ introduction, to then reveals a catchy galloping guitar in "Journey To 1358". For the first time, PINK FLOYD's influence can be clearly heard on an ELOY composition. On the contrary, "Love Over Six Centuries" is rather monotonous and too long. With its numerous variations, "Mutiny" is undoubtedly the most remarkable track of the album, while "Imprisonment" is slow and sleepy. The lively "Daylight" wakes you up.

"Thoughts Of Home" is a pleasant clavinet transition, introduction for "The Zany Magician", the most surprising passage of the disc. It features a heavy/doom metal riff in the style of BLACK SABBATH! "Back Into The Present" is a pleasant hard rock tune. The disc finishes with the sweet spacey "The Bells Of Notre-Dame", which is a bit too long, but has a nice finale.

Although "Power And The Passion" contains some lengthy passages, it offers convincing various ambiances and inspired guitar moments. A good transitional album, and one of the bests from ELOY's first era. Recommended to space-rock and symphonic progressive fans.

ELOY Floating

Album · 1974 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 8 ratings
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Modrigue
Hard rock psychedelia

"Floating" is one of the most underrated or forgotten album of ELOY. The music here is simply a top-notch combination of early heavy metal psychedelia and space rock ! Few vocals, very catchy melodies and energetic guitar playing. It ressembles by moments to a fight between DEEP PURPLE (due to Manfred Wieczorke's organ solos) and PINK FLOYD, but, of course, with the German's band own style and spirit. . Furthermore, "Floating" is very consistent, the listener never loses his attention on the music.

The record opens with the title song, a true easy rider ballad to space. The tune is very powerful, vocals are trippy. This is an excellent introduction which lets you expect more... and this arrives with the 15 minutes magic epic "The Light From Deep Darkness". The beginning is very mysterious, in the vein of "Land Of No Body", then the rhythm changes suddenly and gets angrier, but always in a mystical feel. Alternating peaceful and powerful passages with efficient guitar improvisations and special sound effects, the song is evolving, enchanting, stoning, and announces ELOY's future direction towards space rock.

The next track, "Castle In The Air", is much more rock- oriented, very melancholic to become surprisingly trippy and rocky, in the spirit of GONG's "You" (released the same year). Mindblowing! The calm comes back with the delicate melody of "Plastic Girl", before putting you in a galaxy far away with Bornemann's powerful solos. The disc finishes with "Madhouse", which at first glance ressembles to a classical 70s' heavy metal tune. But this is without counting on the talent of the German space rockers, who summon planet collisions and sonic deflagrations with their instruments. An excellent spacey conclusion which will let you in the sky.

Compared to other ELOY's albums, "Floating" is not often cited and its tracks were not often played at concerts. However it's one of their best records, although not representative of their style and a bit lacking personality. Less symphonic than their future albums, the songs are the rockiest composed by the band. The music is very refreshing, never outdated and will appeal energetic space rock as well as early 70's heavy metal fans!

ELOY Inside

Album · 1973 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 7 ratings
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ELOY's first progressive album

After their self-titled debut hard-rock oriented opus, "Inside" definitely marks the entrance of ELOY into the progressive sphere. Important modifications have been made. First, the line-up has been renewed, Frank Bornemann is now the band's leader and singer. Second, ELOY also changes musical label, going to progressive music reference Harvest. Third, the compositions becomes longer and spacier. However, this first progressive attempt is not as complex as YES or GENESIS, as it still shows strong early 70's hard-rock influences.

The album opens with the 20 minutes long "Land Of No Body". A convincing epic with rhythmic changes and various ambiances. The overall style sound very DEEP PURPLE-ish, especially due to the organ. The main interest of the record. The title track continues in the same vein, more melancholic. It alternates soft and loud passages, and contains a nice guitar solo. The most original short track is "Future City", as it features different kinds of percussions and surprising variations. "Up And Down" finishes softly the album with its predominant organ.

"Inside" shows that ELOY has not completely emancipated itself from its initial British hard-rock influences yet. The style can be compared to what DEEP PURPLE would have done if they've turned more progressive. Nonetheless, it's still a good album, with no real weak track. Recommended to space-rock and early 70's hard-rock fans.

ELOY Eloy

Album · 1971 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 7 ratings
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Modrigue
ELOY's self-titled debut album is not representative of the band. After winning a musical contest, the germans recorded a single in 1970, before releasing their first opus the next year. Overwhelmed by theirs british hard rock influences, they have not developed their typical fantasy space-rock style yet. Despite the nationality, the compositions cannot be assimilated to Krautrock either, but rather to early hard/heavy rock, with very discrete progressive elements. Furthermore, Erich Schriever's singing tries to sound like Ian Gillian. At this time, Frank Bornemann was only guitarist, and this record does not display his talents yet.

The opener "Today" is an enjoyable hard rock tune resembling DEEP PURPLE's "Hush" cover. The slightly progressive "Something Yellow" opens with a BLACK SABBATH-ian riff, and features more or less interesting variations. The title track is quite pleasant and clearly confirms the band's British influences. "Song Of A Paranoid Soldier" and "Voice Of Revolution" are also correct early heavy rock tunes, while the organ-driven "Isle Of Sun" is softer. The ending track, "Dillus Roady" is the weakest, rather useless and uninspired.

Arriving a few years too late (which will be a recurrent thing for ELOY), the record does not take many risks and sounds like a second-zone DEEP PURPLE. The progressive incursions are still shy and the musical transitions, abrupt and not very mastered. However, the songs themselves aren't bad. Definitely not the album to start with and lacking personality, "Eloy" is nonetheless an enjoyable listen for early hard / psychedelic rock fans.

DREAM THEATER Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes From a Memory

Album · 1999 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.13 | 166 ratings
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THE concept album of the 90's

After the commercial failure of "Falling into Infinity", DREAM THEATER had to to pull off a major coup to keep their progressive metal crown. Furthermore, the band was lacking a genuine concept album to their discography to enter the prog hall of fame. Finally, fans were requesting a sequel to "Metropolis Part 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper", the most ambitious title from "Images and Words".

All these goals will fully be reached with the sublime "Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes from a memory". This fifth studio opus also marks the arrival of keyboardist Jordan Rudess from LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT. Based on an instrumental demo recorded in 1996, the musicians extended the lyrics of "Metropolis Part 1" to narrate the story of a man though his anterior life, in two acts.

Influenced by the greatest concept records of all time, such as RUSH's, ZAPPA's, YES', GENESIS' "The Lamb...", and especially QUEENSRŸCHE's "Operation Mindcrime" and PINK FLOYD's "The Wall", "Metropolis Part 2" literally redefines modern progressive metal and simply stands as THE major concept album of the 90's. The quintet's musical elements such as multiple time signatures, raging riffs, breathtaking soli and typical gimmicks are of course present, however this time with more harmony, balance, richer instrumentation and better flow. Gorgeous!

Act 1 is nearly perfect. The hypnotic countdown of "Regression" and its "The Wall-esque" acoustic guitar introduces "Overture 1928", an instrumental patchwork of the disc's main themes. The nightmarish and aggressive "Strange Deja Vu" is freaking good. Its rhythm changes are energetic and even a little groovy at times. The sad piano interlude "Through My Words" unveils another impressive composition, the powerful and beautiful "Fatal Tragedy". Its horrific atmosphere and multiple instruments create a tragic and thrilling sensation, carried away by magnificent soli. Wow! Great! Also featuring various musicians' interventions, "Beyond This Life" alternates raging darker, floating and funky sections. Unfortunately, the act finishes with the black sheep of the album, which is... a soapy ballad, "Through Her Eyes", the only weak track. Guess we cannot avoid this type of cheesy song in a DREAM THEATER release... At least, its "The Final Cut"-esque introduction is pretty charming.

Act 2 starts with the longest and most progressive title of the record, "Home". Let's go straight to the point: this is simply one of the best prog Middle-Eastern-ish metal piece of its kind, bombastic and epic! This composition represents the style and quality of music you would expect by looking at the cover art of, say, you-know-who's "Powerslave". The theme from "Metroplis Part 1" makes a short incursion. The instrumental "The Dance Of Eternity" possesses a terrifying and haunting overture, as well as surprising moments, such as rag-time, while borrowing some parts from "Metroplis Part 1". We even got a bass solo from John Myung! Yes! After its beautiful piano opening, the enchanting "One Last Time" reuses the theme from "Strange Deja Vu", whereas "The Spirit Carries On" is quite "The Wall"-esque with its Roger Waters-ian whispered vocals and female choirs. "Finally Free" concludes the disc by alternating peaceful and tragic passages. Enjoyable but a bit too long.

Anyway, this was a genuine mesmerizing journey, both nightmarish and dreamy. "Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes from a memory" is DREAM THEATER's magnum opus, transporting you into another - inner - world. Mindblowing, breathtaking, magic, epic, borrowing from numerous influences and various musical genres, this fifth studio album is simply a milestone in the prog metal genre. In the 90's, there are hardly no concept albums that could compete with such musicality, aggressiveness and virtuosity.

The success will be comparable to "Images And Words"'s and will launch the musicians for a massive tour. The quintet's reign can safely continue... Unfortunately their further albums won't be able to recreate a mixture of such balance and quality...

Simply one of DREAM THEATER's and progressive metal in general's best offerings! An ESSENTIAL listen...

DREAM THEATER Live at the Marquee

Live album · 1993 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.73 | 42 ratings
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Short but good

This album represents for me the first time I heard of DREAM THEATER. Recorded at the Marquee Club in London in 1993, the concert was part of a huge tour following the unexpected success of "Images and Words". (Almost) cleverly thought, the set-list simply consists in 2 emblematic progressive metal titles from their first and second albums, 1 new improvisation and... unfortunately 1 soapy song, "Another Day" or "Surrounded", depending on your version... Choose your sleeping pill. Nevertheless, despite the 45 minutes duration, the quality is present.

The live renditions of "Pull Me Under" and "Metropolis" touch perfection. If you want me to nitpick, I will just mention the very low volume of John Myung's bass solo. A problem of microphone? "Bombay Vindaloo" is an instrumental jam led by John Petrucci, where he displays his virtuosity. This improvisation offers a nice Middle-Eastern-ish mysterious ambiance, although a bit too long. Only appearing on this disc, there exist no other studio or live versions of this track.

However, for the fan, the main interest of this record are undoubtedly "A Fortune In Lies" and "The Killing Hand". Finally, two songs from "When Dream and Day Unite" where James LaBrie replaces Charles Dominici! LaBrie's high-pitched and raging vocals does the justice that these great compositions deserve, making them more aggressive than the originals. His performance, especially on these tracks, is incredible! There is also an alternate opening for "The Killing Hand". Entitled "Another Hand", this enjoyable neo-proggy instrumental was written during the tour to bring a smoother transition to the end of "Another Day".

"Live at the Marquee" is simply THE old-school DREAM THEATER live album to own, as well as a good introduction to the band's first era. After the listen, a hopeless and futile idea germinates in your mind: maybe one day the band will re-record "When Dream and Day Unite" with James LaBrie...

DREAM THEATER Awake

Album · 1994 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.06 | 139 ratings
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Modrigue
When Dream and Technique disunite

After the unexpected success of the enchanting "Images and Words", and especially the hit-single "Pull Me Under", DREAM THEATER were urged by their music label to release a new album, more aggressive, certainly because of the recent grunge explosion. And that's exactly the main issue with "Awake": under pressure, the musicians didn't have the required latitude to fully imagine and develop their compositions. So the tracks are cold, darker, complex, maybe more modern, but without a proper soul. Those expecting the magic and fantasy of their two first albums may be disappointed. No problem with that, every band can - and must - evolve, but this time the virtuosity nearly fails at serving a real cause or crafting a captivating atmosphere. As you understand, I was mostly deceived by this third studio album.

However, there are some titles that caught my attention. "Erotomania" is easily one of DT's most breathtaking instrumentals. The musicianship is unbelievable, and this track features an incalculable number changes and ambiances! Great! My favorite song of the record is the multi-faces "Voices", alternating calm, floating and raging passages with cool sound effects. The middle part is an iced beauty... Concerning the average titles, "Caught in a Web" and "Scarred" reminds me, at times, the vanished magic of the former discs. "Space-Dye Vest" has also touching moments.

The rest of the disc fails at catching my attention and at really transporting me to another world. Furthermore, the somber and modern musical direction of "Awake" does unfortunately not spare us a few moments of soapiness: "Innocence Faded", "The Silent Man", "Lifting Shadows Off A Dream"...

"Awake" is definitely not my DREAM THEATER favorite, but will allow the band to confirm its leadership in the progressive metal sphere. Too long, too complex, too cold, lacking memorable melodies, this opus is an example where the means - the virtuosity of the musicians - is used as an end, and not to an end. Nonetheless, the band members shouldn't be blamed, they were pressurized by their record label, which is in complete opposition to their style of music, requiring to "Take The Time" to give birth to. As a result, internal dissensions will appear within the group, and keyboardist Kevin Moore will left the ship. Therefore, "Awake" marks the end of the first era of DREAM THEATER.

"Awake" still remains a technical demonstration and a mandatory listen for fans. The newcomers won't find it very accessible, although there are a few interesting tracks that shouldn't be missed. Not the DT album to start with.

CAPTAIN BEYOND Captain Beyond

Album · 1972 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.22 | 20 ratings
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Modrigue
Stoning beyond our galaxy

Consider the musical universe of the 70's. If HAWKWIND was the stoner captain in our Milky Way, CAPTAIN BEYOND was another one, however clearly navigating through a different galaxy. Where do those space corsairs comes from? This obscure band is in fact a supergroup composed of former members of well-known prestigious formations: ex-DEEP PURPLE's vocalist Rod Evans, ex-IRON BUTTERFLY's guitarist Larry Reinhardt and bassist Lee Dorman and ex-Johnny WINTER's drummer Bobby Caldwell. So is this another hard-blues formation? A pale copy of the aforementioned bands? Not at all.

CAPTAIN BEYOND's eponymous debut really is an unique mixture of hard/heavy riffs with space/psychedelic/acid rock elements. Is it progressive? Yes, in a sense that this album is more a patchwork than a collection of songs. The music is unpredictable, evolving, moving, as if the CAPTAIN was constantly re-adapting the trajectory of his ship through the unexpected turbulences of the cosmic void. Furthermore, the record is catchy, accessible and avoids being repetitive or messy. The tracks are full of unusual changes and breaks, years before RUSH's proto-prog-metal. This is no touristic stationary cruising, prepare to be surprised. There are signs that do not lie: the original cover art was in 3D. Fasten your seatbelts, an epic journey through undiscovered stellar systems awaits you...

Rather than 13 tracks, the disc should been rather seen as composed of 3 mini-epics plus 2 songs. The first 3 tracks form the first mini-epic, lasting 9 minutes. The take-off is immediate with the heavy "Dancing Madly Backwards", its acceleration and solo will send you directly beyond our galaxy through a wormhole to an unknown destination. Mindblowing! The floating syncoped "Armworth" symbolizes the arrival, introducing the calm and ambient "Myopic Void". You can now rest and admire the stars. Don't relax too much though, the ship re-accelerates to speed of light for a boosted-up reprise of "Armworth"'s theme. The finale is a genuine sonic deflagration. Simply great! One of the best space heavy rocks from the 70's! The aggressive "Mesmerization Eclipse" is a very nice hard rock with many rhythm changes, while "Raging River Of Fear" sounds like DEEP PURPLE on serious acids. It even includes a small jazz-rock interlude.

The next 3 tracks are the second 9 minutes long mini-epic. Don't rely on the acoustic introduction "Thousand Days Of Yesterdays (Intro)", "Frozen Over" is a evolving black hole that gets as thrilling as RUSH's "Cygnus X-1", years ahead! The surprising reprise is terrific! "Thousand Days Of Yesterdays (Time since come and gone)" concludes on a lighter SANTANA-like tone. The last 5 tracks from the third 10 minutes suite. Starting as a cool hard rock, "I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 1)" turns out to be pretty ferocious, until "As The Moon Speaks (To The Waves Of The Sea)" arrives as a welcomed pause when you can peacefully admire star systems at the window... However, the journey is not over yet. The (very) short raging "Astral Lady" unveils a beautiful solo on "As The Moon Speaks (Return)" and prepares the reprise "I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 2)". As you may now expect, the finale is once again worthy of its predecessors. Blimey!

What a pretty impressive journey beyond the stars! "Captain Beyond" is a little spatial treasure containing lots of gems. The quality is constant and the interest maintained intact through the many unexpected changes and the surprise factor is always there, even after several listens. Gorgeous riffs, spacey moments, Rod Evans' rock'n'roll crooner accents and Bobby Caldwell's original rhythms bring the final touches making this album quite special.

CAPTAIN BEYOND's self-titled debut is typically what astrophysicists call a singularity: unique and uncategorizeable. A sonic meteorite or a comet only visible once per century, carrying the listener among several musical stellar systems. The band already exposes innovative ideas and their own identity here. An essential trip for 70's hard/heavy/stoner/space rock lovers! Don't miss the spaceship!

The singularity notion also has its drawbacks: the next albums will unfortunately not be as inspired and breathtaking, the musicians themselves looking like they've lost the coordinates of this extraterrestrial music...

IRON MAIDEN Brave New World

Album · 2000 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.93 | 137 ratings
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Modrigue
Brave New Maiden?

"The return of Bruce Dickinson", "And Then They Were Six", "And Then They Were Three Guitarists"... All that's fine, but all that's for what? Much ado for nearly nothing...

The reintegration of IRON MAIDEN's historical frontman and guitarist Adrian Smith showed great promises for the band lovers. The entire "golden" line-up is back, furthermore with nineties' guitarist Jannick Gers! What else could any fan dream for? In addition, unlike the past decade, the revival of heavy metal of the 2000's were a favorable context of the genre! Unfortunately, even this is not sufficient to recover the inspiration vanishing since 1990. If you're expecting a return of the grandeur of the 80's, renewal, or just something refreshing and catchy, you may be quite disappointed. To be honest, the compositions even difficultly matches the troubled and uneven MAIDEN waters of the 90's.

Named after the well-known eponymous book by Aldous Huxley, "Brave New World" does not take many risks. Like "Virtual XI", the music is overall insipid and lengthy. It contains even fewer interesting tracks than its predecessor. A continuity, as "The Mercenary", "Dream of Mirrors" and "The Nomad" were initially composed for the 1998 album. A global impression is that IRON MAIDEN's asperities developed in 20 years are progressively disappearing: very few memorable melodies, remarkable bridges, breathtaking soli or galloping bass. The same dish, but without flavor. By the way, in case you're wondering about the three guitars, they are hardly audible and fail to bring something to the songs.

In addition, this will be the last collaboration with historical artist Derek Riggs, and he only illustrated the top half of the cover. Furthermore, Martin Birch, the band's producer since 1981's "Killers" has been replaced. There are signs that do not lie...

Concerning the rare good passages, the rocking "The Wicker Man" clearly does the job as an MAIDEN opener with its powerful theme, but it's just an illusion. The only genuine originality here is "Nomad" with its mystical Middle-Eastern-ish atmosphere. We haven't heard this since 1984's "Powerslave"! Recovered creativity? In fact, the calm beautiful section borrows an extract from 1974's BECKETT's "Life's Shadow". A bit lengthy, but overall quite good. "The Fallen Angel" average but has its moments. The rest of the disc rather flat and boring.

As a fan of IRON MAIDEN's eighties' albums, from their first self-titled opus to "Seventh Son", and of "The X-Factor", I was really disappointed by what was announced as the resurrection of an iconic and influential metal institution. I felt like if I was fooled by the product.

Steve Harris and co. were one of the few to entirely redefine the genre in the 80's. The 90's musical melting pots were a difficult context for traditional metal bands, and MAIDEN didn't make exception, delivering just a few interesting tracks inside average albums. The departure of high-pitched vocalist Bruce Dickinson was an occasion for renewal, seized with the dark and progy "The X-Factor". However, this evolution divided the fan-base, so the musicians decided to return to a secure path by going back to their original recipe, but without the inspiration and the spiciness.

Since the controversial 1995 opus, it seems that the band is on auto-pilot (no pun intended), gave up their creativity and will to try something new. This had to happen, "Brave New World" clearly marks the turning point: IRON MAIDEN has lived and now became a pale copy of itself. For sure, same can be done for other numerous artists of all genres, but here the difference is that the music doesn't match what was proclaimed as a renaissance.

"Brave New World" is an aseptic and overrated album. Too polite, neither raging, nor really epic nor adventurous compared to what modern progressive metal bands were proposing at the same period. A new MAIDEN yes, but not very brave...

IRON MAIDEN Virtual XI

Album · 1998 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.49 | 89 ratings
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Modrigue
Basic XI

With the dark and creative "The X-Factor", MAIDEN showed they can renew without betraying themselves. Despite all this, the fan-base was divided about this orientation, but especially about new singer Blaze Bayley, who couldn't match Bruce Dickinson's high-pitched vocals during concerts on old songs. Therefore the band decided to go back to basics.

"Virtual XI" abandons the controversial sinister atmosphere and doom incursions of its predecessor for typical IRON MAIDEN stuff. However, although more dynamic and classic, this eleventh studio album presents some major flaws. The first one is obvious. Bayley's low tone was well suited for somber and mid-tempo compositions, like on "The X-Factor", but, as mentioned before, not adapted to epic maidenien tunes. Second, some tracks do clearly not justify their 8-9 minutes duration. This disc contains too much repetitions and offers not enough variety. Finally, and most important, surely wanting to please the fans, the Englishs didn't take many risks on this one. Simplistic and averagely inspired music for an uneven result.

Nearly half of the material is good though. "Futureal" is quite pleasant, fast-paced and punchy, typically in the direct lineage of MAIDEN's openers. Beginning with delicate arpeggios, soft and heavy passages, "Lightning Strikes Twice" takes us by surprise with its ferocious riff and main theme. It rocks! Nonetheless, the memorable title from "Virtual XI" is undoubtedly "The Clansman". Inspired by the movie "Braveheart", this epic possesses is a powerful hymn, crafted for and still played at concerts. The tapping at the end is just gorgeous! Freeeedooooooom! "When Two Worlds Collide" is average but has enjoyable moments.

And... that's it. The other tracks are boring, too long and definitely repetitive. No memorable tunes, no breathtaking bridges. A good example is the longest track of the record, "The Angel And The Gambler", which does certainly not deserve its 10 minutes duration. A little originality is "Como Estais Amigos", soft and melancholic, but not really Spanish sounding and a bit deceiving.

As a return to the original recipe, "Virtual XI" is an half-failure. There are a few interesting tracks, more suited for the vocal range of Dickinson, however the rest is flavorless, basic, lengthy and not varied enough. Not too bad, not the worst MAIDEN album of the 90's, just unequal. So if you don't know this disc, do not skip it.

This eleventh opus will be the second and last recorded with Blaze Bayley. The band asked him to leave, and historical singer and guitarist Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith will come back. But was it worth it?

IRON MAIDEN The X Factor

Album · 1995 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.88 | 92 ratings
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Modrigue
Maiden's best 90's album is also its darkest

After two average albums and Bruce Dickinson's departure in 1993, the survival of IRON MAIDEN was questionable. Despite the loss of their charismatic frontman, the band decided to pursue the adventure, by recruiting Blaze Bayley from WOLFSBANE. However, the new singer hasn't really the same vocal range as its predecessor as his high-pitched predecessor, his tone is a lot lower. How to solve the problem? Well, unfortunately for Steve Harris, but fortunately for us, the bassist was then facing personal issues in his life, so he will restranscribe his state of mind in the songwriting. Therefore the musical ambiance is somber, sinister, which is a novelty in the group's history, and perfectly fits Bayley's low tonality by allowing him to affirm his identity.

"The X Factor" simply features the darkest compositions ever written by IRON MAIDEN. At last, after several years, the band's music finally evolve and find their marks in the 90's. The tempo slows down, the songs are sometimes heavy, sometimes doomy, sometimes progy, but always with their own touch of epicness. Furthermore, despite a duration of more than 70 minutes, the longest studio opus ever recorded by the musicians back then, the quality is quite homogeneous. There are no genuine bad song. No title track either, the only other record making exception being "Piece of Mind". To sum up, even if you already know your 80's MAIDEN, you'll hear something different here... Don't worry though, this is still IRON MAIDEN, but with new clothes, for an unique result...

... Also unique in terms of cover art. For the first time, Derek Riggs was not collaborating, the well-known mascot is not hand-drawn but represented by a kind of model which looks like it's straight out from an horror movie. No cartoonesque Eddie here, the poor creature seems really tortured and suffering. This is getting serious! Some countries will even censor it and the artist will have to propose an alternative cover, with a wider angle of view. By the way, who is responsible for this disturbing gory picture? Hugh Syme, who usually takes care of... RUSH's. Not really in the same register...

The beginning of the disc is flawless. The more than 10 minutes duration of "Sign Of The Cross" haven't been seen since "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" from 1984's "Powerslave"! Best song of the disc, this progressive suite is simply a little gem! The slow overture with Gregorian chants distillates a somber ambiance, to then turn more aggressive, dark, and even haunting at times. Don't worry, the powerful bridge shows this is still Harris and co. at commands. Wow! THE 90's MAIDEN epic! The very good mid-tempo "Lord Of The Flies" possesses a cool bass, a catchy tune as well as a gloomy atmosphere. Last of the opening trio, and first single of the album to be released, "Man On The Edge" is a fast efficient punchy rocker. The delicate acoustic intro of "Fortunes Of War" can remind "Fear of the Dark", but the overall is quite different. In fact, without the galloping maidenien solo, it could nearly pass as doom metal! "Look For The Truth" is in a similar style than its predecessor, a bit more heroic.

"The Aftermath" displays a tragic atmosphere, while "Judgement Of Heaven" is a little less sinister. The only genuine average title of the record. On the contrary, "Blood On The World's Hands" one of the best moments of the second half. An unusual composition for MAIDEN with its surprising bass and doom tonality. Very nice! The cool and glorious "The Edge Of Darkness" and "2 A.M." are more typical. As the disc opened with a progressive track, it also concludes with another one. In addition to its different ambiances and numerous changes, "The Unbeliever" is quite in the style of 90's modern modern prog bands, with real pieces of maiden in it. A pretty good surprise at the end of the record!

This tenth studio release is an interesting mixture of dark, doom and progressive elements, done the IRON MAIDEN way. Don't expect fast-paced direct tunes here, nor fantasy prog, the leitmotiv here is "atmosphere". Sometimes the loss of an important member can result in unexpected welcomed consequences as the unknown offers also chances to renew. Although a bit lengthy, these 71 minutes of music proves that Harris and co. can evolve without losing their own identity. If only they could have done that again...

There are many ways to describe "The X-Factor": MAIDEN's darkest effort, one of their post-80's bests, their 90's best, in fact their only truly good studio opus from this decade and better than their 2000's albums. To be honest, the Englishs' last creative works since and for a long time...

So, is a new MAIDEN born? The band will unfortunately wear this dark outfit for this very unique representation. After 1996, the music will go "back to basic" (without 's')...

DREAM THEATER Images and Words

Album · 1992 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.29 | 201 ratings
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Modrigue
Heavy neo-progressive metal at its best

After the embryonic prog-metal of the 70's and 80's, "Images and Words" will definitely establish the genre in the musical landscape, as well as DREAM THEATER as its undisputed leader.. for a certain time. Sincere progress have been made since "When Dream and Day Unite". Singer Charlie Dominici has been replaced by James LaBrie, whose powerful voice is more adapted to heavy titles. In their compositions, the members have sharpened their virtuosity and their rhythm structures science, inspired by RUSH, METALLICA, QUEENSRŸCHE, MARILLION, and even ZAPPA, whose Mike Portnoy is big fan of. The production has also improved and the sound is clearer. Everything is not perfect though: DREAM THEATER offers quite soapy moments here, but its fantasy, soli and breaks are greater than before!

This second opus was initially intended as a double album, with the 25 minutes suite "A Change Of Seasons" included. However, the label imposed a single LP, resulting in the removal of various songs, and the re-recording of "ACOS", who will be released in 1995 on the eponymous EP.

The opener instantly became one of the band's great success. The cult and powerful "Pull Me Under" is a heavy title with an haunting introduction, fact-paced and calm passages, as well as an abrupt conclusion that always surprises me. Like I suppose many people, I thought my CD was broken at first listen. In fact, the musicians wanted to show death could arrive at any time... Not the most complex composition from DT, nevertheless very catchy. One of the band's classic! But the listener will have an even greater shock listening to the next track... What's this? The ballad "Another Day" simply features DT at its soapiest! A soundtrack for a cheesy eighties romantic clip, with its FM piano and saxophone. Easily the worst song of the record. "Take The Time" fortunately takes us back to a world of fantasy and dreamy metal with its gorgeous neo-heavy-prog passages, changing into groovy and funky rhythms. A lesser-known but nonetheless perfect title! Then comes the second and last black sheep of the album, "Surrounded". Another boring and out-of-place ballad, however this time more listenable than "Another Day", a bit in the style of MARILLION.

Don't worry, the second half of the disc can be browsed with serenity. In 1992, "Metropolis Part 1" was one of DREAM THEATER's most ambitious composition. An enchanting and epic tale, including numerous rhythm changes, various sonorities, catchy moments and breaks where RUSH and ZAPPA influences can be clearly perceived. It also features very short but incredible bass play from John Myung. Take the time to enjoy it, his solo interventions will unfortunately rarefy in the future... Anyway, a superb track! With "Take Your Time", "Under A Glass Moon" is "Images and Words"'s other forgotten little gem. Its majestic and floating opening unveils raging riffs and a fast-paced tune, but still with a neo-prog touch. Less breathtaking than its predecessor, nonetheless includes a few surprises and cool soli. "Wait For Sleep" is a short fairytale ballad, however this time much pleasant than the two others, introducing the longest and also maybe the heaviest song of the album, "Learning To Live". In the lineage of "Metropolis Part 1", this powerful epic displays assumed RUSH influences, with numerous ambiances and various interventions. The finale is simply heroic! Great!

"Images and words" is definitely one of DREAM THEATER's best opus, as well as an influential milestone in the progressive metal genre. This second effort show a genuine improvement compared to their debut, with better sound quality, more mature writing, more variations and better vocals.

A small remark though: this is no dark, depressive or aggressive prog-metal per se, rather fantasy / dreamy heavy neo-prog metal. The music is full of dated vintage synthesizer sounds, reminding MARILLION and SAGA, but that's what makes its own charm and contributes to the magical ambiance. Why two cheesy romantic titles among these colorful metallic epics full of gorgeous soli? I don't know... My advice: program your hi-fi to skip tracks 2 and 4. The rest is just flawless.

An essential listen for any progressive metal fan, and the one to start with if you're new to this genre or to DREAM THEATER. What are you waiting for?

IRON MAIDEN Best Of The Beast

Boxset / Compilation · 1996 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.90 | 12 ratings
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Modrigue
Get the 2CD edition if you can

First best of compilation of the NWOBHM kings, "Best of the Beast" was declined in three versions. The most common one is the 1CD edition, good but not without flaws. The 2CD limited edition is well worth the buy if you can grab it. Finally, the 4-Disc vinyl edition was intended for collectors only and is hardly impossible to find nowadays.

Let's talk about the 1CD edition first. The only novelty here is "Virus", released as a single in 1996. A pretty cool song, whose darker atmosphere inherits from "The X Factor", MAIDEN's previous album. Nice! The track-list is overall good, but there are 2 small problems though. The first one is the inclusion of irritating hit singles, such as "Run To The Hills", "Can I Play With Madness", "Bring Your Daughter...", which are the black sheeps of their respective albums. It's a pity, as there are less epic compositions on the disc, nor tracks representing the explosive "Killers".

That's why the limited 2CD edition is much more interesting. Composed of 27 tracks, it contains 3 more emblematic epics from various eras: "Phantom Of The Opera", "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and "Sign of the Cross". Furthermore, it offers a more faithful overview of the band, as each album is represented by 1 or 2 titles, as well as 2 more previously unreleased tracks. The first one is a live version of "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" with Blaze Bailey. His low tone fits the song's haunting ambiance well. The second one is the 1979 demo of "Strange World" from "The Soundhouse Tapes".

Finally, the 4-disc vinyl edition consists in 34 tracks, each album being represented by 2 or 3 titles. It features an unreleased live version of "Revelations" with Bruce Dickinson. However, the main interest of this edition for collectors is the inclusion of the complete 1979 demos recording "The Soundhouse Tapes".

Better than "Edward the Great", "Best of the Beast" mixes studio and live songs with a few rarities. The booklet is richly illustrated with many photos and informations. The most interesting IRON MAIDEN best of compilation, as well as a good way to discover the group for newcomers.

IRON MAIDEN Fear Of The Dark

Album · 1992 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.12 | 112 ratings
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Modrigue
Maiden's most uneven release

In 1992, IRON MAIDEN's ninth studio album navigates in troubled waters. The recent explosion of grunge highly overshadows traditional heavy metal bands. Furthermore, Harris and co.'s last opus, "No Prayer For The Dying", saws a clear lack of inspiration and renewal. "Fear of the Dark" roughly suffers from the same problems than its predecessor, however with the difference that, this time, interesting tracks are more numerous and especially more remarkable. Result: good and great titles, sometimes reminding the past glory, are surrounded by fillers ranking from average to bad. If the music neither possesses the ferocity of the first years nor pursues the progressive approach developed at the end of the 80's, the epicness is (partially) back. Another noticeable point is that "FOTD" features the first songs co-written by guitarist Jannick Gers for the group.

Let's talk about the 5 interesting tracks first. From the beginning of the disc, you can hear an improvement compared to the previous opus. Composed by Dickinson and Gers, "Be Quick Or Be Dead" is a typical MAIDEN-ien raging, fast-paced opener, much more convincing than "Tailgunner". Steve Harris' "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" is one of the two little gems of the record. Setting up a mysterious and haunting atmosphere, the musics turns melancholic, until the gorgeously powerful bridge. A very catchy composition, on the level of the group's eighties' standards! "Childhood's End" is quite pleasant and epic, while "The Fugitive" is enjoyable. As you may have guessed, the other little gem is the well-known title track, the best of the album, a metal hymn worthy of MAIDEN's past grandeur.

The other songs are mostly flat or boring. Dickinson and Gers' "Wasting Love", the band's first power ballad, which dates back to Dickinson's first solo effort "Tattooed Millionaire", is rather so-so. Without "Judas Be My Guide" and "Weekend Warrior", "FOTD" would have been a correct release.

80's fans will have a strange impression after listening to "Fear of the Dark". An uneven album, where nice titles, and especially two of MAIDEN's best 90's compositions, are interlaced between mediocre ones. Nonetheless, these aren't numerous enough to make a convincing record. Why too much fillers? 2 or 3 of them could have been avoided. As a result, this ninth opus is better than its predecessor, but overall ranks as average. However, if you enjoy the group's 1982-1985 era, you'll still have to give it a try, at least for the few songs cited above.

One year later, charismatic frontman Bruce Dickinson will left the band. Since ten years, his singing greatly contributed to the epic ambiances and the success of the metal quintet. Then... what future for IRON MAIDEN?

IRON MAIDEN No Prayer For The Dying

Album · 1990 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.81 | 99 ratings
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Modrigue
The King of NWOBHM is (almost) naked

Or how IRON MAIDEN will never be the same again... For sure, the beginning of nineties were a turn difficult to negotiate for most traditional heavy metal bands, but here, internal musical divergences led to this half-failure. Adrian Smith, the second guitarist since the great "Killers", wanted to pursue the progressive approach started at the end of the 80's, whereas Steve Harris' intention was to go back to the rawer and raging tonality of the early years. Consequence? Smith left the quintet, replaced by Jannick Gers, guitarist on Bruce Dickinson's solo studio album "Tattooed Millionaire". As a result, "No Prayer For The Dying" logically abandons the fantasy melodic atmospheres developed in the two last records.

The problem is that, despite simplified and shorter compositions and more political lyrics, musically speaking, this 1990 record doesn't possess the ferocity and the explosiveness of the first opuses either. Those who expect a quality and originality matching the Di'Anno era's will be greatly disappointed. So, what happens when the band leaves both its primal ardour, its epicness, and its progressive composing? Not much really...

To be honest, there are 3 tracks worth to rescue. The title song is the best one, slow and melancholic. IRON MAIDEN hasn't lost his science of powerful bridges and breaks yet, although a loss of inspiration can be perceived. The dark "Run Silent Run Deep" is quite haunting and epic. If you like it, I recommend checking "The X Factor" out. Finally, the ending track, "Mother Russia", remains in the pure tradition of MAIDEN's long suites concluding their albums. In relation to the country just leaving Communism, its tragic ambiance and borrowing from the Aranjuez Concerto resembles very much "To Tame A Land". A powerful song which can remind the band's (already) past glory with its Russian choruses, but tends to become slightly repetitive.

The other songs are mediocre and flat heavy metal fillers. For the first time on a MAIDEN album, the opener is not very catchy. "Tailgunner" is rather average and fails at really lifting off. Composed by Bruce Dickinson, the hit single "Bring Your Daughter ... To The Slaughter" is simply irritating...

"No Prayer For The Dying" will neither please progressive / epic heavy metal lovers, nor old-school fans expecting a return of the Di'Anno years. This is not a transition record either, as it does not open new perspectives. Not much inspired and definitely not on the same level as the 80's opuses, the disc only offers a few good songs, and not the most remarkable the band will compose in the new decade.

In conclusion, basic and lacking genuine hymns, "NPFTD" cannot be considered as an essential album. Steve Harris and co.'s least interesting studio release in the 90's...

URIAH HEEP Abominog

Album · 1982 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.74 | 12 ratings
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Modrigue
The best Uriah Heep album of the 80's

After a half-decade of more or less convincing art rock wandering, plus the explosion of punk and the new generation of metalheads, URIAH HEEP could difficulty survive in its current form. Therefore what should logically happen happens: Ken Hensley - one of the two original members responsible of several hit titles - left the band, resulting in the split of the quintet. After multiple hesitations, the other original member, Mick Box, finally decided to reform the HEEP by calling Lee Kerslake back, the band's main drummer during the seventies, and recruited ex-TRAPEZE singer Peter Goalby, ex-OZZY OSBOURNE bassist Bob Daisley and future OZZY OSBOURNE keyboardist John Sinclair. So what could we expect from a recomposed dated art-prog-rock band from the 70's, without its brain, already searching for renewal since several albums, for the turn of the 80's? Well, in fact... a pretty good surprise, really.

"Abominog" is a nice and punchy mixture of direct AOR, hard rock but also of a slice of NWOBHM and a touch of fantasy. After a mediocre try, URIAH HEEP starts the eighties again with a new youth! A transformed quintet for a strengthened approach: rarely before played the band this ferocious! However, don't be mistaken: despite its cover art, somehow demonic title and release date, don't expect pre-thrash / black metal on this album. Even if we're surely not in prog-land any more, fans will still recognize some HEEP's markers here: typical keyboards, powerful choruses and cool melodies, this time coupled good riffs and a harder sound. There is one last particularity to mention about this disc though: half of the songs are covers from 1979-1980 rock titles.

First the new compositions. From the very beginning of "Too Scared To Run", you can hear the reconstructed URIAH HEEP wanting to catch up with the young generation. This dynamic opener is definitely a little NWOBHM bomb! Wow! "Chasing Shadows" is a synth FM rock with a light fantasy ambiance. Simply the best song of the record. On the opposite, "Hot Persuasion" is rather average and flat. Same goes for "Sell Your Soul", which darker and slower passages are the only interest. Concluding the disc, "Think It Over"'s creation dates back to the recording sessions of 1980's "Conquest", the band's previous album. With its short spacey intro, keyboards and chorus, this epic track is the one that resembles the most the band in their 70's.

Let's now talk about the covers. Mainly located in the middle of the disc, they're often pretty nice and match the overall quality of the new compositions. The rearranged version of RUSS BALLARD's "On The Rebound" is a cool "hard new-wave" song, while "Hot Night In A Cold Town" is softer. Another effective title is "Running All Night", in the pure tradition of 80's big rock. The two last covers are unfortunately less convincing. "That's The Way That It Is" is enjoyable but not very remarkable, whereas "Prisoner" aims at calming the pace down but this ballad is a bit soapy and lengthy.

Concerning the 2 bonus studio tracks, "Tin Soldier" starts well in an epic ambiance in the style of MAGNUM, but fails at really lifting off. Contrarily to "Son Of A Bitch", a muscular and direct AOR title, with a slight touch of fantasy. Simply rocks!

Let's go straight to the point: if you're allergic to 80's synthesizers and guitars or expecting 70's fantasy progressive epics, this new HEEP won't fulfil your desires. Furthermore, the music sounds quite dated and has some weaker moments. Apart from these points, "Abominog" is a fun and lively record, offering simple, direct and punchy hard/heavy FM rock, kinda "Adult Oriented Metal".

A lesser-known but underrated album, URIAH HEEP's best in the eighties! Raging at times but never really violent, kind but not too much, the music is finally in par with the creature depicted on the cover: A gentle little demon...

RUSH Grace Under Pressure

Album · 1984 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 33 ratings
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Modrigue
Second signal

Let's make it simple: "Grace Under Pressure" can be described as "Signals" bis, with a little more guitars and a slightly inferior quality. Pursuing the 'synthetic reggae-rock' approach of its predecessor, the band ventures again into new musical territories for them on some tracks, such as new-wave and ska. The keyboards and drums also sound colder, robotic, dehumanized, however this time Alex Lifeson plays a larger role: his interventions are more nervous and punchy than on the previous opus. Furthermore, and most important, the inspiration is still present.

The album title comes from the general theme of the songs: people's reactions when they're under pressure. The science-fiction and heroic fantasy stories of the 70's are now replaced by cold war, nuclear weapon and technology problematics. "Grace Under Pressure" can also reflect the particular conditions in which the disc was composed and produced, as the musicians separated from their historic producer Terry Brown, nicknamed 'Broon', before the recording.

The first side is very good. The powerful opener "Distant Early Warning" is the best track of the record. Referring a nuclear alert system, this reggae-rock song in the style of THE POLICE evolves into a true hard-rock piece, with ferocious guitar passages and an heroic finale. Great! Dedicated to one of the band's friend who had just passed away, "Afterimage" is a touching and melancholic synthesizer reggae-rock track with a cool solo from Lifeson. Inspired by Geddy Lee's mother experience during the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen camp, "Red Sector A"'s topic is the concentration camps and the Holocaust. Despite cheesy keyboards, it offers a nice alternation of electronic, rocking, epic and touching ambiances, even sounding new-wave. The Canadians made a ska incursion with "The Enemy Within", featuring different atmospheres and rhythms. Original and having its moments, but finally a bit uneven.

The second side is unfortunately less inspired. "The Body Electric" narrates the story of an android attempting to escape its programming. Despite its mysterious surprising opening, this electronic song is rather average. "Kid Gloves" contains an excellent guitar solo but the track itself sounds overall flat. As one of the oddest RUSH composition ever, "Red Lenses" is quite irritating as well as the only true weak passage of the record. One the contrary, "Between The Wheels" is the best song of Side 2 with its oppressive ambiance and icy heroic rock.

"Grace Under Pressure" is the continuation of "Signals", a little bit more unequal and 80's sounding. Like its predecessor, 'electronic reggae-rock' could be an attempt to describe the style of this album. Although it features dated synthesizers, the first side and the last track really rock. By incorporating a few new musical elements, the band proves they were still creative and daring.

This tenth studio offering from the Canadians will be the last truly good RUSH album of the 20th century. If you didn't enjoy "Signals", this one is not for you either. Otherwise, go for it without hesitation. Recommended to fans of "Signals", THE POLICE, or even reggae-rock.

RUSH Signals

Album · 1982 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.77 | 36 ratings
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Modrigue
Signs of life in the 80's

Released after the melting-pot album "Moving Pictures", "Signals" represents one of RUSH's biggest musical mutation. The transformation started in 1980 is now complete: dominated by synthesizers, and even sequencers, the music is radio-friendly, less aggressive, contains less guitars. The tracks have all a normal duration and are neither progressive nor metal anymore. Already explored by the band, the reggae sections are also more present. Last point to mention: Geddy Lee's voice sounds now perfectly clean. So... is the end of RUSH as we know it? Yes. Is it worth listening? Yes too.

Rather than turning commercial, this evolution denotes the will of the Canadians to explore new musical directions in the new decade, however this does not necessarily result in a soapy 80's pop-rock. After all, this is RUSH. The inspiration is here, and, if the compositions display an homogeneous style, they still use uncommon time signatures.

The change of musical direction can be heard from the very first seconds. Featuring passages with different rhythms, "Subdivisions" is a powerful synth-rock opener, with a nice melody. Alternating rocking and calmer moments, "The Analog Kid" is driven by an energetic guitar and includes a cool guitar solo by Alex Lifeson. Nonetheless, the overall is a bit uneven. On the contrary, "Chemistry" is my favorite song of the record. A nearly cosmic overture and heroic melody, it rocks! The very cool "Digital Man" contains top-notch bass playing, reggae-based sections and numerous rhythm structures changes.

Even more surprising, the spacey disco-rock "The Weapon" is quite convincing and epic! Then comes "New World Man", a pleasant a soft reggae-rock that an remind THE POLICE at times. Featuring Ben Mink, a friend of the band, at electric violin, I'm not really a big fan of the "Losing It" and tend to find this ballad a bit flat. The only true weak track of the disc for me. The closer "Countdown" is a tribute to the NASA and its astronauts. The song narrates the launch of Space Transportation System-1, the first orbiter of NASA's Columbia Space Shuttle program. The band attended the event in 1981 in Orlando. The track incorporates genuine radio dialogs between the two pilots, John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen, before and during the flight, and is dedicated to them. Not the best passage of the album, but enjoyable.

As may understand, we're not in hard/heavy prog rock anymore. No long 70's hard/heavy prog ambitious suites like on "2112" or "Hemispheres" here. No new-wave either. 'Synthetic reggae-rock' could be an attempt to describe the style the musicians adopted on "Signals". For sure, the eighties' synthesizers sound quite dated, but this does curiously not prevent the tracks from being pleasant and original. Again, this is RUSH, so this is still creative in its way as no other band were offering something musically comparable at the time. Furthermore, this opus has a rather constant quality, and remains better than most 70's' progressive bands' releases in the 80's.

If you only know the seventies' years of RUSH, prepare for a surprise, but a good one. Accessible and lively, "Signals" opens new horizons for the Canadians, and should please fans of the trio, THE POLICE, or even reggae!

RUSH Moving Pictures

Album · 1981 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.44 | 148 ratings
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Modrigue
Rush's best album of the 80's

Last 20th century RUSH album to really contain progressive compositions, "Moving Pictures" is clearly their most varied and colorful studio opus. Its predecessor, "Permanent Waves", marked a turn towards more radio-friendly material, and so do this eighth offering. However, although the record contains several of the band's best-known songs, the music itself has a rich orchestration and still remains quite adventurous, with complex rhythms structures, while approaching different styles. The tracks can be seen as a link between their long elaborated 70's suites and their short and direct synthesizer-reggae-rock songs of the 80's. As ever since "2112", the keyboards become more and more present, whereas the incursions in the metal territory are rarefying. Another point denoting this evolution: there are no acoustic guitar passage.

Inspired the famous book of American writer Mark Twain, "Tom Sawyer" is RUSH's most successful hit single. A powerful and retro-futuristic rock song, with changing rhythms, setting immediately the tone. Great! Alternating softer passages and raging guitars, "Red Barchetta" is enjoyable. With "La Villa Strangiato", "YYZ" is the best instrumental composition of RUSH, and even one the finest of the hard rock genre! YYZ is the international identity code assigned to Toronto's airport. Transcribed in Morse code, these three letters form the opening rhythmic of the track, at bells and guitars. As Toronto is the town where the members live, "YYZ" has a particular meaning to them, as it means home sweet home. This track possesses all you could expect from the Canadians: uncommon time signatures, different ambiances, epic passages, various soli and even a spacey interlude... Fantastic! Highly influential, this complex jazzy heavy rock is simply breathtaking! On the contrary, I'm not really a big fan of "Limelight". Although also elaborated and evolving, this piece is rather average.

Longest and most progressive song of the disc, "The Camera Eye" features both somber and dreamy atmospheres. These 11 minutes contain nice guitar works and rocking passages. Not the best mini-epic from the band, but still good. The two last tracks are the most surprising for the fan. The dark fantasy "Witch Hunt" is quite particular in RUSH's discography. Cover art designer Hugh Syme's synthesizers' layers create a deep, haunting mystical ambiance, increasing more and more in intensity. Love it! Rather lively, the electronic reggae "Vital Signs" foreshadows the style that the trio will develop in their next two albums. It rocks!

The mixture of genres displayed in "Moving Pictures" was quite unique at the beginning of the eighties, when prog has already declined. Varied, original, risky and refined, the music should even please the seventies' purists. I find this album a bit overrated though, as "Red Barchetta" and "Limelight" tend to bore me. Nevertheless, the other compositions are great and more remarkable than "Permanent Waves"'s. At the beginning of the eighties, Lee, Lifeson and Peart still remain pioneers and adventurers.

One of the best and most eclectic albums from RUSH! Highly recommended!

RUSH Exit... Stage Left

Live album · 1981 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.02 | 35 ratings
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Rush's best live album?

After four studio records, one live album. Released in 1981, "Exit... Stage Left" concludes in a beautiful way RUSH's second period, often considered as their most progressive and creative. The set-list consists in extracts from "Fly By Night", "2112", "A Farewell to Kings", "Hemispheres", "Permanent Waves" and "Moving Pictures", recorded at concerts in UK and Canada.

The set-list is more varied and colorful than on the band's first live release, "All The World's A Stage". Still played with the same energy and virtuosity, the tracks have been quite reworked in the studio. Furthermore, Geddy Lee's singing sounds less juvenile and enraged, but rather mastered and fluid.

The cover art (front plus back) contains elements from all RUSH's studio albums from 1974-1981.

"YYZ" includes a mindblowing drum solo by professor Neil Peart, displaying his knowledge and technicality, whereas Alex Lifeson has sharpened his axes on "Jacob's Ladder". Not featured on any other live or studio release by the band, "Broon's Bane" is the novelty here. A nice short instrumental acoustic guitar piece by Lifeson, introducing "The Trees". With "Xanadu", the these two songs see their orchestration enhanced by the addition of cool synthesizers accompaniments. Same goes for "La Villa Strangiato", incorporating also great alternative guitar interventions. Unfortunately, these are also the first official released performances with the super soapy ballad "Closer To The Heart", which appearance will become recurrent at the trio's concerts.

Whether you prefer "All The World's A Stage" or "Exit... Stage Left" is just a matter of taste. The first live album represents RUSH's wilderness and youth, while this one represents its sophistication and maturity. The music of the first one is hard/heavy rock just beginning to turn progressive, whereas the second displays a wide panel of the Canadians' neo-hard-prog more elaborated compositions. As you prefer...

Anyway, both live albums are essential for every fan of RUSH, which won't be the case for the third one...

RUSH All the World's a Stage

Live album · 1976 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.86 | 27 ratings
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Rush's first live album

One live release every four studio albums, this will be the rule. Recorded in 1976 in Toronto, the band's town, "All The World's A Stage" covers RUSH's first period, from 1974 to 1976. A this time, the Canadians were beginning to incorporate progressive elements in their powerful seventies hard / heavy rock. The set-list features extracts from their self-titled debut, "Fly By Night", "Caress Of Steel" and "2112". All discs are well represented and the songs are interpreted with energy, volume and conviction.

Skipping the "Discovery" and "Oracle: The Dream" sections, "2112" has been shortened to 16 minutes. Overall cool, however I do prefer the more polished studio version. On the contrary, "By-tor And The Snow Dog" has been extended to 12 minutes and is undoubtedly the highlight of the record, maybe superior to the original. The band sculpts here an incandescent sonic magma, especially Alex Lifeson creating a maelstrom of furious cosmic guitars. Terrifying! The mysterious spacey interlude is also transcended and simply gorgeous. An unbelievable tour de force! The selection of the average "In The End" as a calm ballad to slow the pace down is a curious choice. "Working Man / Finding My Way" features a long drum solo at the end, Neil Peart being called "The Professor" by Geddy Lee.

Although a bit lengthy, "All The World's A Stage" clearly remains one of the band's best live releases. The concert will please every early RUSH fans, and is also a good entry point for newcomers to discover the trio's first period.

RUSH Permanent Waves

Album · 1980 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.19 | 109 ratings
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A permanent shift towards the radio waves?

Stuck between the great "Hemispheres" and "Moving Pictures", "Permanent Waves" is RUSH's transition album from ambitious epic suites to more accessible songs. Released January 1st, 1980, this seventh studio opus makes the junction between their 70's neo-heavy-prog style and the more radio-friendly and electronic compositions the Canadians will develop in the 80's. Musically speaking, the synthesizers' presence is growing in the band's universe, and the trio slightly starts to incorporate elements from other genres, such as reggae. Furthermore, the lyrics become more oriented towards human nature, society and technology than fantasy and science-fiction. So, has RUSH abruptly left the progressive sphere? Don't worry seventies fans, this a transitional record, so there are still hard/heavy prog rock/metal pieces with complex rhythms structures, uncommon time signatures and changing atmospheres.

The hit single "The Spirit Of Radio" is powerful and evolving. Simply rocks! In the ending section, RUSH even made their first (slight) incursion in the reggae territory, a style that they will further explore in their next three albums. The hard catchy "Freewill" is also quite nice and contains cool spacey guitar soli. However, the highlight of the disc is undoubtedly the somber progressive "Jacob's Ladder". Referring a meteorological phenomena, this track features multiple time signatures, epic riffs, oppressive metal passages and a spacey interlude. Great!

On the contrary, "Entre Nous" ("Between Us" in English) is a much more conventional rock. Average and not very original, this is the weak song of the record. "Different Strings" is a kind of soft and melancholic ballad, with cover art designer Hugh Syme performing a piano solo. Enjoyable. The disc concludes with the 9 minutes "Natural Science", the longest track. Beginning with river and forest sound effects, this hard/heavy prog metal piece has a few futuristic moments. The ending, named "Permanent Waves", is quite heroic. A pleasant but somehow uneven mini-epic.

"Permanent Waves" is definitively a transitional album, as well as a short one. Despite songs not as remarkable as its predecessor's and its successor's, the quality and inspiration are nonetheless overall constant and the trio's hard/heavy prog rock/metal is still efficient. Even if more accessible, the music should please all fans of the late 70's period of RUSH. Once again, the multiple breaks and complex time signatures may have influenced an important number of progressive metal bands.

That's why there is finally no reason not to give it a listen!

RUSH Hemispheres

Album · 1978 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.33 | 112 ratings
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Beyond the black hole

Often referred as one of RUSH's best albums alongside "2112" and "Moving Pictures", "Hemispheres" extends the musical approach and story developed on "A Farewell To Kings". Still consisting in sophisticated changing tracks, uncommon time signatures and complex rhythms with fantasy / sci-fi lyrics, the musicians develop their neo-hard/heavy progressive identity they've been crafting in their two previous opuses. Unlike its 1977 predecessor, there are no filler songs here, the quality and inspiration remain constant this time.

The story of "Cygnus X-1 Book Two" begins where the first book stopped. Initially describing the descent into a black hole, the second book explores what's beyond this spatial singularity and the possible conflicts between the two cerebral hemispheres, by mixing Greek mythology and philosophy. This 20 minutes epic is in the same neo-heavy-prog vein as the suites from RUSH's two previous albums. It alternates soft, calm and rocking passages but is a bit lengthy. Nice, although not as dark and epic as "Book One" or as remarkable as "2112".

"Circumstances" is a powerful heavy rock in the style of "Something for Nothing" from "2112". Geddy Lee even sings a part of the lyrics in French: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose". It rocks! "The Trees" is social fable narrating the battle between two tree species, the oaks overshadowing the maples. At the end, Man comes to cut all trees down, making them equal in death. This song includes nature and bird sounds and features acoustic and nervous changing passages. Another very good track. However, the genuine highlight of the record is clearly the great mini-epic "La Villa Strangiato", RUSH's best instrumental with "YYZ". Here, all musicians deploys their talents and personality through multiple soli showing their virtuosity at their respective instruments, supported by complex rhythm structures. The music itself offers a wide range of various ambiances: Spanish, trippy, beautiful, hard rock, heroic, and even prog metal and little jazzy moments. Original and mindblowing, this composition alone justifies the listen!

Apart from "Cygnus X-1 Book Two" which may be a little repetitive and not as inspired as the other songs, the overall quality of the disc is much more constant than its predecessor's. Unique at the time, the Canadians develop their identity and still manage to bring something new to the progressive world in the late 70's during the punk revolution, when the British elders were rather getting away from it. No other band was offering such neo-heavy-prog at the time. No wonder they strongly influenced DREAM THEATER.

"Hemispheres" is indeed one of RUSH's best albums, maybe the most progressive in terms of structure. Highly recommended!

This sixth studio release is also their last opus to contain 20 minutes suites. The musicians were beginning to find the long epics songwriting too stressful. After this one, the Canadians' music will become a little more accessible, but this does not necessarily means a loss of quality or interest...

RUSH A Farewell to Kings

Album · 1977 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.34 | 110 ratings
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Rush's most uneven album?

This fifth record by RUSH is a mystery for me. "A Farewell To Kings" pursues the same musical approach as its great and mindblowing predecessor, but unfortunately not the same inspiration and constancy. As groundbreaking as "2112", this disc is full of contrasts, as it contains two of the best mini-epics the Canadians ever composed, but also their least convincing short songs of their 1974-1984 period.

The combination of changing rhythm structures, progressive approach, fantasy and science-fiction themes with hard/heavy rock/metal songs was quite risky in 1977, during the punk revolution. Although not as complex as YES' or GENESIS', the music is nonetheless more direct and catchy. Synthesizers become slightly more and more present in the band's vocabulary.

The title track opens with a delicate medieval tune to then become more aggressive. Containing rhythm changes and variations, this song is a bit strange and uneven, but overall rather enjoyable. Unfortunately, this is the best short piece of this disc. The first mini-epic, "Xanadu" is simply a little fantasy prog gem. Unique, the music transports you to a magical world that can remind YES, but however different, as it alternates calm, epic and ferocious moments. A part of the hidden missing link between symphonic and neo progressive, really unique. Then begins the weak middle of the record. The hit single "Closer To The Heart" is over soapy and cheesy. It will unfortunately become one of RUSH's most popular song and a concert favorite...

Don't really understand how RUSH could have composed the boring "Cinderella Man", as this track sounds not very personal. Concerning "Madrigal", it's an average peaceful ballad. But at least comes the highlight of the record, the somber "Cygnus X-1 Book One". The title comes from the name of the first officially identified black hole ever, in 1971, in the Cygnus Constellation. This mini-epic is the first part of the "Cygnus X-1" dyptic, which will be concluded on the next album. "Book One" describes the journey an astronaut in a spaceship diving in to the black hole. Despite its title, the music is no space rock but rather complex prog metal. Beginning with electronic effects like "2112", the different sections weaves terrifying, powerful and cosmic ambiances. Quite ahead of its time, the song is full of syncopes and unusual rhythm signatures. Mindblowing! The general oppressive impression is coherent with the title and retranscripts well the idea of being absorbed by a black hole. One of my personal favorite from RUSH!

As a conclusion, the fantasy progressive "Xanadu" and the dark suite "Cygnus X-1" are truly the main interests of "A Farewell To Kings". No other bands was creating this kind of neo-heavy-prog music at the time. These compositions really display the talents and the originality of the Canadians. In contrast, the short tracks are not that interesting, which is hardly understandable as the ones from "2112" and from their next albums are overall very good. This record stands as an exception, a kind of black hole concerning the short songs... If these were of the same quality as the two mini-epics', this opus would have clearly been a masterpiece.

Anyway, although uneven, any RUSH or hard / heavy progressive rock fan should listen to this disc, at least for "Xanadu" and "Cygnus X-1"!

RUSH 2112

Album · 1976 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.19 | 103 ratings
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The very first progressive metal album?

After the experiments and commercial failures of "Fly By Night" and "Caress Of Steel" - where the band still searched itself - and the disastrous tour that follows, RUSH was at the edge of bankruptcy. The record label Mercury urged the musicians to abandon the progressive approach and compose solely radio-friendly songs. So what was the decision of our Canadians? The exact opposite!

By combining their punchy heavy / hard rock with the complexity of their rhythmical structures and their instrumental virtuosity, the Canadians simply possibly created the first prog metal album, and also delivered one of the most iconic record of the progressive world, all that in 1976. Although not as sophisticated as YES' or GENESIS', the music is however more direct and catchy, as well as a bit ahead of its time in terms of aggressiveness. This disc has inspired future prog metal bands such as DREAM THEATER, and maybe even IRON MAIDEN. It also marks the first appearance of synthesizers, played here by cover designer Hugh Syme, in the band's universe. With "2112", RUSH has at least completely emancipated from its initial British hard rock influences, and delivers their first major opus.

The title track is of course the highlight. A science-fiction musical story, taking place in year... 2112, in a dystopian world where totalitarian priests have banished art and a young man discovers a guitar. Beginning with a spacey electronic introduction, the "Overture" and "Temples Of Syrinx" are the best sections: thundering and ferocious, with epic galloping riffs! I was just completely blown away the first time I listened to it. Grandiose and perfect progressive metal! "Overture" evens contains a short tribute to TCHAÏKOVSKI's heroic "1812 Overture". The rest is also very good. The discovery of the guitar beneath the cascade is reproduced by a gentle hesitating acoustic solo from Alex Lifeson and aquatic sound effects. The opposition between the hero and the priests is rendered by an alternation of soft and hard rock passages. Concerning the ending, it simply rocks! One of RUSH's ultimate compositions, needless to say more.

The second side consists in of short songs, but is nonetheless also quite good. "A Passage To Bangkok" combines a funny little Eastern theme with heavy punchy riffs. Powerful and original! Based on the TV show of the same name, "The Twilight Zone" is a calmer ballad, delicate and touching. Not much to say about "Lessons", except the fact Lifeson wrote lyrics. An enjoyable rock piece, alternating soft and harder passages. With lyrics by Lee, "Tears" is another melancholic ballad, pretty but a bit repetitive and finally average. Don't rely on the sweet beginning of "Something For Nothing", this track is a ferocious and epic proggy metal song that truly rocks! The best song of Side 2.

If you want me to nitpick, the only negative points I can find are a few strange transitions in the title track and "Tears". Otherwise, "2112" is a great album, thundering and innovative, with an overall constant quality. Originally accused of being a LED ZEPPELIN copycat, RUSH have at least found their identity with this signature record. The music is definitely not just hard prog rock like their neighbors KANSAS, but truly pioneering progressive metal. No wonder future bands such as DREAM THEATER refer to the Canadians as a major influence.

The musicians were right not to follow their record label's instructions: "2112" will be the band's first commercial success and will save them from bankruptcy.

This fourth studio offering is the one to start with if you're not familiar with RUSH. Geddy Lee's high-pitched teenage vocals may not please everyone at first listen, however they're finally well adapted to the ambiance. A cult and iconic disc in the progressive world, opening new musical horizons. This elaborated and complex hard/heavy metal was quite unique at the time, I can't think of comparable bands venturing in this territory with such power in the 70's.

One of RUSH's best albums, an essential listen for progressive hard rock and heavy metal fans!

RUSH Caress of Steel

Album · 1975 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.62 | 69 ratings
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Rush' first attempts at epics

Not often cited by fans, "Caress of Steel" is the first RUSH album to feature a 20 minutes long epic and to clearly exposes the band's entrance in the progressive world, already well occupied by their British elders. Composed only a few months after the release of "Fly By Night", this third studio opus was a bit experimental and risky for the Canadians. Still based on catchy hard rock and slightly on early heavy metal, the songs become more complex by incorporating more and more rhythm changes, however the result is not well mastered yet.

One word about the cover art: for the first time, it was conceived by artist Hugh Syme. Since then, he designed the covers of all the band's albums. The line-up is not the only stable thing in RUSH's universe...

As you may guess, the French revolution is the theme of "Bastille Day", the "Caress of Steel" referring to the guillotine. As "Anthem" from the previous record, this track is a powerful and aggressive opener, with a fast riff quite devastating for the time. This song will become a concert favorite. "I Think I'm Going Bald" is a heavy rock'n'roll with some cool variations and sonorities, as a kind of AC/DC-meets-LED ZEPPELIN. Describing a place near Lake Ontario where Neil Peart used to go, "Lakeside Park" is a sweet romantic ballad with pretty acoustic guitar moments. Enjoyable. Inspired by Tolkien, the mini-epic "The Necromancer" offers various atmospheres. The beginning is a little floydian and resembles space rock, then turns into an oppressive ambiance. It also contains a heavy metal jam. Epic and not very common! The result is not extraordinary but remains pleasant.

Also based on heroic fantasy themes, the 20 minutes long suite "The Fountain Of Lamneth" was RUSH's most ambitious composition at the time. However, the overall lacks coherency, unity, and is still a bit immature. Starting with a soapy acoustic passage, it alternates cool riffing accelerations and soft pastoral pauses. This epic contains nice instrumental sections and even display glimpses of "2112" though, nonetheless the main problem here is that the flow is not mastered enough, resulting in abrupt transitions. After all, maybe "The Fountain Of Lamneth" was a necessary draft for the future heavy prog suites to come...

For sure, "Caress of Steel" is uneven and not well balanced, but contains good passages. If you enjoyed "Fly By Night", you'll enjoy this disc too. RUSH is just entering the progressive world at a time the Britishs has already vastly explored the genre. Therefore the album won't sell much and will cause the band to tour in bars, on the edge of bankruptcy.

So, is this the end for our Canadians? What new progressive musical ideas could they possibly offer in 1976, at a time punk was emerging?

Unless the musicians combine their punchy heavy / hard rock with the complexity of their rhythmical structures...

RUSH Fly by Night

Album · 1975 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.54 | 64 ratings
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A little proggy hard rock animal

First RUSH album with drummer Neil Peart, "Fly by Night" is also the first one to clearly feature progressive passages and to shape the style that will become the trio's future musical trademark. The songs are overall in the same catchy 70's hard rock vein than its predecessor's, but some tracks are more elaborated and varied, alternating soft and aggressive passages. Furthermore, new themes are addressed, such as heroic fantasy.

This evolution is partly due to the arrival of Neil Peart. Already an highly skilled drummer, his play style increased the complexity of the songs' rhythmic sections. He also wrote most of the lyrics of this record.

The first side of the disc is the best. The thundering "Anthem" is simply a great powerful opener. Nearly heavy metal, it sounded quite aggressive for the time! "Best I Can" and "Beneath, Between & Behind" are more conventional hard rock'n'roll songs, pleasant and punchy. However, the highlight here is undoubtedly the 8 minutes mini-epic "By-tor And The Snow Dog". Longest track of the album, this song is one of the progressive passages of the disc as well as one of RUSH's first inclusion of fantasy lyrics. Displaying the musicians' skills, it alternates various soli, rhythm changes, different ambiances and even surprising instrumental passages with a space rock feel! This complex composition clearly announces announces RUSH's future musical direction. Very cool!

The second side is unfortunately less convincing. The autobiographical title track narrates Neil Peart's experience when moving from Canada to London as a young musician. The tune is overall average and a little repetitive. "Making Memories" is a semi-acoustic folk piece that can remind LED ZEPPELIN III at times. Not really remarkable, but enjoyable. The other song taking inspiration from fantasy is "Rivendell", referring Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings". Looking promising, this fully acoustic ballad is finally soapy and lengthy. The record finishes with "In The End", a pleasant soft piece mutating into a slow heavy rock. The best track of this second side.

"Fly by Night" is the release where RUSH slowly begins to craft its identity, by showing the members' mastership in their respective instruments. Combined with energetic hard rock and catchy melodies, complex structures and rhythm breaks will be the musical signature of the band for the years to come.

As one of RUSH's most uneven album from the 1974-1984 period, this second opus is nonetheless enjoyable and contains powerful passages. Not the one to start with for newcomers, but recommended for fans.

Since then, the Geddy Lee / Alex Lifeson / Neil Peart line-up will become one of the most stable formation in the rock'n'roll history and is still remaining for 40 years now...

RUSH Rush

Album · 1974 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.31 | 63 ratings
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Not really progressive yet, but already rocks!

RUSH was a trio formed in 1968, but it was not until 6 years that the band released its first studio album. Therefore this self-titled debut already displays Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson's talents at vocals, bass and guitars. However, this record is a bit of an exception as it doesn't feature Neil Peart yet, but instead original drummer John Rutsey, and lyrics written by Geddy Lee.

Highly influenced by the British rock scene of the early 70's, especially LED ZEPPELIN, the Canadians borrow the hard rock elements for their compositions: direct, punchy and fast. RUSH carries well its name here. The result is neither very personal, original nor progressive, but the songs are energetic, efficient and quite nice.

The hard bluesy rock "Finding My Way" is a powerful opener that immediately sets the tone. Although rather basic, the short dynamic "Need Some Love" is enjoyable, whereas the average "Take A Friend" is anecdotal. Discrete progressive elements can be heard on the soft "Here Again", a pretty and touching ballad with long melancholic guitar soli.

Back to life with the riffing "What You're Doing", which can remind DEEP PURPLE at times. More conventional, "In The Mood" is just a hard rock'n'roll song, while "Before And After" stands for the other slightly prog composition of the disc. Alternating sweet, aggressive and instrumental passages, this track is very good. However, the best track is the heavy and catchy "Working Man", whose style is comparable to BLACK SABBATH.

Despite its lack of originality and personality, "Rush" still remains a promising and rocking debut by talented musicians. The songs have an overall constant quality, the music is energetic, direct and efficient. Although it has not earn success and is rather an exception in the band's career, this a solid and punchy hard rock album. Not revolutionary, nonetheless recommended to early 70's British rock fans!

After this first effort, John Rutsey will leave the trio and be replaced by a man who will inflect RUSH's musical direction and lyrics forever...

QUEENSRŸCHE Promised Land

Album · 1994 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.93 | 52 ratings
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Best 90's Queensrÿche album

After their disastrous MTV attempt "Empire", QUEENSRŸCHE decided to go back to a progressive approach on "Promised Land". However, in 1994, traditional heavy metal from the 80's was agonizing, whereas grunge, alternative rock and electronic music were greatly developing. Therefore, instead of reproducing the complex elaborated structures of "Operation: Mindcrime", the band decided to try something new by incorporating different musical styles. Still influenced by PINK FLOYD, but also by recent grunge bands such as PEARL JAM and even Eastern music, the compositions are more modern and innovative, resembling no other at the time.

Elegant and refined as always, this adventurous opus is well rooted in the 90's and not totally metal. It alternates atmospheric, gloomy, somber, melancholic, spacey, tortured and even slightly electronic passages. The range of addressed themes is also quite wide: reincarnation, isolation, alienation, madness, consumer society...

The ambient opener "9:28 A.M." is a short concrete music piece composed by drummer Scott Rockenfield. Quite surprising, the dark "I Am I" contains heavy riffing guitars and middle-eastern sonorities, installing an oppressive ambiance. Magic! The powerful "Damage Case" is great and sinister too. On the contrary, the enjoyable floydian piece "Out Of Mind" is acoustic and calm. "Bridge" narrates the relation between Chris de Garmo and his father, who died during the album recording sessions. A song also driven by the acoustic guitar, but a little boring tune. The proggiest song of the record is undoubtedly the title track, tortured and depressive. It features original elements such as discrete futuristic sonorities and especially - and for the first time - Geoff Tate playing saxophone! His solo is just mesmerizing! It's certainly not every day that you hear this jazz instrument on a metal disc.

Also pretty uncommon, "Disconnected" deals with American consumerist society and features Tate on saxophone again, supported by groovy riffing and electronic sound effects. Driven by DeGarmo's piano, "Lady Jane" is a touching power ballad about the influence of commercials. Then comes the heavy alternative rock "My Global Mind", efficient and catchy. The last two songs are unfortunately not the best part of the record. The rock ballad "One More Time" is average and a bit repetitive, whereas the acoustic closer "Someone Else?" sounds rather cheesy.

Anyway, "Promised Land" still remains adventurous and pleasant. I would like to hear this mixture of various styles more often. QUEENSRŸCHE has definitely emancipated from their primary IRON MAIDEN influences here. Although uneven and containing less memorable melodies, the music is quite unique and refreshing. A genuine trip into the depths of your mind and the illnesses of modernity. Truly progressive stuff, but not by the common approach of most prog metal bands.

If you're looking for long complex metal compositions such as DREAM THEATER, this is not the one to pick. Nonetheless, if you want something original and depressive, this album is what you need. Recommended to metal or even to alternative hard rock fans!

QUEENSRŸCHE Operation: Mindcrime

Album · 1988 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.32 | 150 ratings
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Operation: Progmetal

What an evolution since "The Warning", released only four years before! Initially considered as an IRON MAIDEN rip-off, QUEENSRŸCHE has simply offered to the world one of the very first metal concept album. Later, vocalist Bruce Dickinson himself will admit that MAIDEN's most progressive album of the 80's - the very good "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son" - was not as elaborated as this opus. Furthermore, people often even assimilate "Operation: Mindcrime" to a heavier version of PINK FLOYD's "The Wall". Indeed, the compositions are ambitious, elegant and refined. However, is this comparison really justified?

The lyrics narrate the story of Nikki, a former junkie frustrated with contemporary society. He will become part of a secret revolutionary organization, led by a political and religious leader nicknamed Doctor X. This mysterious demagogue manipulates Nikki with his heroin addiction and brainwashing for a political murdering operation called 'Mindcrime'. How does all this musically translate?

After the short spoken introduction "I Remember Now" comes "Anarchy-X", a powerful instrumental opening. "Revolution Calling" is a great heavy metal achievement with its uncommon drumming and beautiful guitar solo. The title track is an enjoyable mid tempo 80's hard metal with a cool bass line, whereas the aggressive and complex "Speak" is just a prog metal little gem of and features numerous changes. Then arrives "Spreading The Disease", both threatening and epic, followed by "The Mission". I'm not a big fan of this song which I find rather average.

The second half is bit darker. Longest and most progressive track, the 11 minutes theatrical "Suite Sister Mary" alternates dark and haunting atmospheres. Undoubtedly the highlight of the disc! The band's initial IRON MAIDEN roots are still slightly perceptible with the energetic "The Needle Lies". After the short ambient sung transition "Electric Requiem", "Breaking The Silence" is heroic and touching, due Geoff Tate's typical plaintive singing. "I Don't Believe In Love" is also pleasant, while the short interludes "Waiting For 22" and "My Empty Room" are calm, pretty and floating. The record concludes on a sinister and pessimistic tone with "Eyes Of A Stranger".

"Operation: Mindcrime" is just one of the most important albums of the progressive metal genre. Although a little pompous at times and still sounding very eighties, it provides sophisticated compositions, rhythm changes, and the inspiration is overall constant. Is this an "heavy metal opera"? Maybe... If so, this deserves to be transcribed in a movie, like "The Wall". Maybe this will be already the case when you'll read this review...

Now that we talk about it, how does this disc finally compare to PINK FLOYD's well-known double opus? Well, here the music only borrows 70's progressive elements, as the palette of instruments and ambiances are not as wide and varied. The short interludes and tracks complexity can remind "The Wall" in the spirit, but I find the general comparison a little too exaggerated.

Neither similar to FATES WARNING's dark tortured style nor to DREAM THEATER's, "Operation: Mindcrime" still remains QUEENSRŸCHE's summit and a major influence of the genre. Highly recommended to prog metal fans!

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