Metal Music Reviews from Pekka

AC/DC Live At River Plate

Live album · 2012 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.27 | 3 ratings
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Pekka
Oh AC/DC - the eternal, unchanging, ever dependable. After going into hibernation following the Stiff Upper Lip world tour nobody, including the band themselves, seemed to know if there was ever going to be a new AC/DC album. It took its time but there it was in the end, Black Ice. More of the same ol', obviously, everybody still seemed to be in shape to deliver.

But to deliver on stage is a whole different deal, especially when it's a bunch of old farts still trying to rock out like youngsters. The major concern at least for me was Brian Johnson's voice, after all his style of singing, ahem, vocalizing ("If you want a singer, go check out the local church choir" is a quote of his that's stuck with me for years) is one that will easily blow the vocal chords to shreds. Maybe it was the years of rest his voice got, but here he's just as good as he ever was. And thankfully that goes for the entire group. AC/DC's never been so much about tempo and dexterity as about groove and badassery, and those are qualities that age doesn't tend to hinder, though it's understandable that they're not quite as reckless and dangerous as the band that recorded If You Want Blood.

As far as the setlist goes, it's hard for AC/DC to squeeze any new material among the countless classics they just have to play every night (as evidenced by them playing only one Stiff Upper Lip song on many of the nights on that tour), but here they manage to play four. Now when it comes to studio albums AC/DC The Relevant Recording Artist sort of ends for me after Flick of the Switch, but from this newest batch especially Rock 'N' Roll Train and Big Jack don't stand out too badly. The rest of it is pure Greatest Hits material, but since it's been 20 years since the last live album, it's okay to get new versions of the same songs.

I saw AC/DC on the Black Ice tour, and by seeing I mean that I was drinking beer with buddies at the back of the Olympic Stadium, a hundred metres from the stage, barely catching a glimpse of Angus Young's bare arse. And I had a blast. I've since held the opinion that AC/DC is the ultimate party band, because if a tightass like me who has never before or never since gone to a rock show for anything else than the music and the music only thinks it was completely sensible to spend 80 euros on the ticket and several more on beer without even bothering to watch the band play, there's something in it that nobody else has.

This release does a fine job capturing that something. It's AC/DC, it's live, and they've still got it.

IRON MAIDEN Best Of The B'Sides

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2002 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.35 | 6 ratings
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Pekka
Review originally posted 1507 days ago as part of the novella that is my Eddie's Archive review.

Best of the B'Sides shows the other side(s) of Maiden, as the title suggests. This album contains not only the best of their single b-sides, but most of them, and they can be divided into four categories: original non-album material, original live material, cover songs paying tribute to their influences, and the merry silliness. The band is made of a bunch of funny blokes, but as it may be wise, they don't let that fact shine through too much on their actual albums. Some unfortunate omissions are the Thin Lizzy cover Massacre, original piece I Live My Way from the X Factor sessions and the infamous Message from 'Arry, a secretly recorded confrontation between Nicko and Steve after a roadie was sent to tell something to Nicko in the middle of his drum solo, which he messed up because of the distraction. But the stuff that is included ranges from interesting to funny to quite brilliant.

This compilation fittingly starts off with the first song ever completely written by Steve Harris, aptly titled Burning Ambition, and the three song Di'Anno portion also contains a fine live rendition of Drifter and much more interestingly a re-recording of Invasion, originally found on the Soundhouse Tapes. The Bruce era contains a lot of cover tunes and a couple of originals, both new and re-recorded. Some of the highlights of this section are the Jethro Tull cover Cross-Eyed Mary, the Nektar cover King of Twilight, Reach Out (written by Dave Colwell for the project band called Entire Population of Hackney containing a couple of Maiden members) which is brilliantly sung by Adrian Smith with Bruce providing soaring backing vocals, the original piss-take tribute to their manager Rod Smallwood called Sheriff of Huddersfield and the budgie cover I Can't See My Feelings. Two early days tracks, Prowler and Charlotte the Harlot are reworked in 1988, but these versions offer nothing much, except Bruce's voice which lacks the madman charisma needed for Prowler, and a bigger sound.

Some of the most interesting tracks come from the Blaze era. Yesterday I complained in my review of the X Factor that the album could do with a couple of faster tracks, and here they are. Justice of the Peace and Judgement Day come from the same sessions, but the band decided to give the album a darker edge by leaving these up-tempo pieces out. After some thought I've come to the conclusion that it was a wise decision, as the tracks aren't quite up to the standards of the eventual album. The familiar pre-show tape track Doctor Doctor by UFO is great to hear in Maiden form too, and the compilation ends with a couple of good live tracks first from the tours with Blaze and then from the Ed Hunter reunion tour.

IRON MAIDEN Beast Over Hammersmith

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2002 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.53 | 5 ratings
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Pekka
Review originally posted 1507 days ago as part of the novella that is my Eddie's Archive review.

Beast Over Hammersmith is a real treasure to any friend of the early Maiden. This full length concert recording was captured very early on the Beast on the Road tour in March 1982, in fact less than a week before the release of The Number of the Beast. So all the people in attendance that evening heard classics like Hallowed Be Thy Name and the Beast title track for the first time ever, only the Run to the Hills single with b-side Total Eclipse being released before. A lot of minds were blown that night, and we're lucky to hear it in retrospect. Imagine a band on the brink of breakthrough, just recorded the album of a lifetime, a future classic, kicking off the tour that will take them to stars. This album is the soundtrack of that scenario. The band is young, hungry and they damn well know what kind of an album they've just recorded. Everyone including the soon-to-depart Clive Burr gives their 110%, and what's especially great is that Bruce's voice, which is a problem on many of their 80s live recordings is in top shape with only less than a month of touring behind them. The entire new album except Invaders and Gangland is performed together with selections from the first two albums. Murders in the Rue Morgue and Killers especially are given a great treating. This is a wonderful piece of Maiden history and very much recommended to every serious fan.

IRON MAIDEN BBC Archives

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2002 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.01 | 6 ratings
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Pekka
Review originally posted 1507 days ago as part of the novella that is my Eddie's Archive review.

The journey into the Iron Maiden BBC Archives begins in November 1979 with Iron Maiden's first radio session, long before their first album was released. Two fifths of the album recording line-up is still missing, with a short time member Tony Parsons handling the other guitar and Doug Sampson playing some of his last beats for Maiden before being replaced by Clive Burr. The tracks were pretty much in their finished form and the band sounds a lot tighter than on the Soundhouse Tapes sessions a year previously. The oldest Iron Maiden recordings officially released on cd, definitely worth hearing if you're a fan [actually I was wrong, as a couple of the Soundhouse tapes recordings were in fact released on CD on the limited edition Best of the Beast. -2014 edit]. The other sample of the Paul Di'Anno era comes from Reading Festival in the fall of 1980, the debut album had been released five months previously and the British metal audience is clearly embracing the band. The band plays well and even brings out an early version of Killers, with different lyrics, that they almost mess up in the beginning with someone missing their cue.

The Bruce era starts on the same festival two years later with a fine performance from the Number of the Beast tour, but that's a subject we'll return to under Beast Over Hammersmith. The real treat of this double cd is an eight song excerpt from the 1988 Donington Monsters of Rock, Iron Maiden at the very top of their game after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Two people had been trampled to death earlier that day during the Guns n' Roses show, but the band had yet to learn about it and they're firing on all cylinders. After the intro to Moonchild, the opening blast of the band kicking in is... I don't know what to say, devastating? With pure energy and burning drive the band rips through the set containing such rare pieces as Infinite Dreams and the Seventh Son title track, the only flaw being Bruce's road worn voice, which sounds very strained in places. I'm still waiting for the Maiden England re-release [Hell yeah. -2014 edit], but as this is now the only official live recording from this era that's available to me, I'm enjoying it wholeheartedly.

NIGHTWISH Showtime, Storytime

Movie · 2013 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Pekka
You probably know the story. Anette Olzon, Tarja Turunen's replacement at the Nightwish mic was let go in the middle of the band's tour for Imaginaerum, and Floor Jansen was summoned to be her stand in at an extremely short notice, finally ending up as the permanent vocalist. At least for the time being, that is, knowing the band's tumultous history with their front women. While all this was happening they had the cameras rolling for a tour documentary they would probably have released anyway, but this turn of events naturally kicked the interest level up a notch or two.

The documentary starts at the turning point of the tour - the gig with the Kamelot singers while Anette was hospitalized and the heroic entry of Floor Jansen, and so naturally the viewer expects a dramatic back story of how they got to the low point. But no, the tour starts out great and everything goes smoothly and the touring machine is examined in great detail from many angles right down to Tuomas Holopainen's wine bottle stand under the keyboards. The tour continues to be a success and everyone is having fun, and suddenly they have insurmountable personnel strife that just can't be salvaged. Especially after reading the mercilessly honest and brutally detailed official band biography, it's very disappointing that the problems with Anette are in no way explained. They just couldn't continue being in the same band and that's that.

So the big potential is wasted, possibly due to Anette's refusal to be included in any form, and that may after all be a blessing in disguise, since the documentary was originally supposed to be a stand alone release. I'm only guessing here, but perhaps this bastardisation was the reason they chose to include the Wacken gig as well, and push the documentary to the second disc.

And holy hell are they on fire in the main feature! I get immense pleasure from the sense that this group that I started listening back in 1997 when I first heard The Carpenter on a metal compilation cassette (fuck yeah) made by a friend, and lost for some years after Once, has finally found the perfect line-up without a single hiccup. Tarja's voice was what made the band stand out in the beginning, but as a metal frontwoman she was always awkward, as was the pop-oriented Anette Olzon after her. Third time's the charm, and in Floor Jansen they have a true stunning metal goddess with lungs to handle any and every song from the band's catalogue while making them her own. And let's not underestimate the official addition of Troy Donockley, who brings important colour to their sound. I'll be excited to hear how the band utilises his rather metalless but extremely pleasant voice on the next album.

The band is captured touring my favourite Nightwish album, so the setlist leaves little to be desired, but it would've been nice to hear more than one track from their first three albums. And Scaretale from Imaginaerum, though that was such a perfect performance by Anette that I doubt Floor can top that. Nightwish as a musical unit is so much tied to the taped orchestrations these days that it leaves very little space for improvisation, which is why it's nice to hear a little additional keyboard solo in I Wish I Had An Angel, and which is also why it's easy to let the newly improved vocal department steal the show.

Put cameras on this show, and it's bound to be brilliant. The band were on top of their game on this tour after the personnel change, so it will be interesting to see how they make the new line-up work on record. For the first time since 2005 I'm eagerly awaiting the next Nightwish album.

Concert ***** Documentary **½

BLACK SABBATH 13

Album · 2013 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.74 | 45 ratings
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Pekka
Ok. So here it is then.

...

Phew. A lot has happened since 1978. The latest developments of the endlessly dramatic saga of Black Sabbath of course being the numerous reunion tours with the original line-up, one aborted recording project with Rick Rubin, hiatuses, other projects, more reunion tours and other projects and finally the triumphant declaration that the true original Sabbath will reunite for one last album. Well that went to hell as we all know with Bill Ward dropping out of the project for dare I say obvious reasons of not being that good anymore, and even Cancer - already not in very high regard in the Sabbath camp for what he did to Ronnie J. - tried to fuck with the proceedings. But Tony Iommi the Iron Man wouldn't have that and here we are.

If not the original Sabbath, then at least the Ozzy Sabbath is back again, and all things considered I say that's good enough. Personally I didn't dare expect much anything despite the fact, or, to be fair, my opinion that whatever Tony Iommi has put out in recent years, be it Heaven & Hell or solo projects, has been of very high quality. The man just doesn't run out of riffs and Geezer's still got his fingers working. But whatever new Ozzy I've heard lately has been extremely uninspired, but to be fair he still has sounded like he always did, though maybe a tad auto-tuned. So all the individual ingredients are basically there, but how does the Rubin factor alter the picture and what about the other B. W.? (I like to believe his initials and the number of letters in his name, along with his much more impressive work record, had some contribution in Rubin's insistence they use him instead of Tommy Clufetos). Does it feel like the real thing anymore?

Turns out Rubin chose the same approach as he did in saving his previous metal mammoth from trying new stuff; go back to the beginning, how did you do things then, try to get in the same mind set, etc. And so the first track, End of the Beginning, plays as an updated version of the song Black Sabbath. Very samey slow ominous onslaught of murky chords, first crashing in heavily, then the verse takes it down and then back up with full force, eventually fading into silence and then a change of tempo into a more furious riff. It all sound very, very familiar, even troublingly so. But soon after the song continues into greener pastures, all very vintage Sab but with new ideas. The first track is like a microcosm of the entire album; at times it sounds like it's been done before, at times it sounds like new stuff done in the good old BS way, but damn, the familiar parts sound way too good as well.

So you can bicker about N.I.B.2. or The Continuing Journey of Planet Caravan or then again you can just revel in the fact that the grandfathers of metal can still pound it with the best of them, and if they've been doing it for 40 years and counting, it's easy to forgive if something's perhaps been tried before. Because they really are some pretty wonderful tunes. You can pretty much sense the effect that Rubin has had on this record, as each and every song could be placed on one of their first six albums, no outside influences whatsoever than what they drew upon back then. The only exception really is Live Forever, the riffs of which I can imagine might originally have been written with the sadly missed voice of Ronnie James Dio echoing in Iommi's head. Since the first time I pictured RJ belting out the first line "Juuuuuust befoore you diee!" I haven't gotten rid of it and can't shake the nagging thought that Ozzy's lower, less powerful register is a bit of a compromise on the song.

But other than that, not much complaining to do. My favourites from this album tend to be the most epic, heavy numbers; God is Dead?, Age of Reason, Dear Father. A special shout out has to go to the "hey all you stoner kids, we were doing this decades before you were even born, so listen up!" track Damaged Soul. Sweet, sweet stuff. And when the album comes to an end with Dear Father, the first track's opening minutes gain some perspective; while everything starts with the extremely blacksabbathian riffing mentioned before, it also closes with a very familiar riff, sort of a less dissonant version of the original trinonus opening of the title song. Very cool bookends to the album - and when the track somes to a screeching stop, of course there is the inevitable thunder and bells closing out the saga where it began. An obvious, but classy move to highlight the end of the band's recording career.

So does it still feel like the real thing?

Hell yeah. Tony Iommi just doesn't seem to run out of riffs, Geezer's bass work is just as brilliant as it always was and he still owns a nice sharp pencil to work lyrics with, Ozzy sounds like Ozzy and remarkably good at that for his age and lifestyle, whatever autotuning there is being quite subtly done. Ok, Bill is not there, but Brad does an extremely good job half emulating Ward's style and half bringing his own. The sound is semi-raw, unpolished and clear, just as it should be.

Only the test of time will tell the end results, but I'm pretty positive that we can add a seventh album to the string of Ozzy Sabbath classics. Welcome back and farewell, gentlemen!

DREAM THEATER New York City 3/4/93

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.28 | 5 ratings
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Pekka
This here is something of a Holy Grail for the early DT fan. A complete show from the Images & Words tour, before Kevin Moore left the band, before James LaBrie busted his voice for years, and before they finished writing a certain song that is arguably (argued by me) their single crowning achievement, and instead played it as a work-in-progress version.

The more I listen to Images & Words and the rest of their output, the clearer it becomes that it stands head and shoulders above the rest of their full length albums. The reason most likely is that because of the label problems and the frustratingly unfruitful search for a new vocalist they had years and years time to hone the material, making it extremely colourful and sophisticated. Pure instrumental magic, and when they did in the end find their vocalist, he fit the material perfectly.

Recorded at home turf slightly before the Marquee show, the band in general are in good shape, if that's a surprise to anyone. There actually are some rare sloppier moments and plain fuck-ups, like in the beginning of Take the Time when Moore misses his cue, but they're quite few and far between. The setlist is obviously mostly excellent given the album they were promoting, and a couple of future B-sides make an appearance as well. Detracting from the excellence is The Killing Hand, which could've been replaced by four or five better tracks from the debut album, and the less said about the drum solo interrupting The Ytse Jam the better.

LaBrie isn't having his strongest night here. Far too often he ends up wobbling somewhere around the correct pitch even in lower registers (in all fairness that's probably due to monitor problems rather than lack of skill, but for the listener it makes very little difference), and when his tour-strained range is not enough for the higher notes, he usually resorts to a croaking, ugly falsetto. But what he missed in accuracy he surprisingly well makes up in raw, gutsy delivery, and while he may at times come off as a slightly feminine choirboy with no real threat to his snarl, here he manages to be quite convincing. The chorus of Pull Me Under is my favourite example of this.

Historically the most interesting song is obviously the halfway-there-version of A Change of Seasons. And I say it was very very wise of them to leave it on the shelf for a few years. The structure of the song is very much ready, but the intro would be fleshed out a couple of minutes worth, a lot of the lyrics would be reworked, vocal arrangements would go through a lot of refining, and some soloing sections would be completely replaced. It might me just the force of habit of listening to the final version, but I'm still going to say that every single change they made was for the better, and this version is valuable mostly for being historically interesting.

When you see the word "bootleg", the first question is obviously the sound quality. And as far as bootlegs go, official or not, this one is rather a good one. A quite clear soundboard recording, with some variance in quality. Most of the time the instruments are well in balance, but at times it may feel difficult to find Petrucci in the mix. But most of the time it's fine.

If you have a choice betweeen Live at the Marquee and this one, don't hesitate to spend a few extra bucks, euros, what have you. The slightly inferior sound and performance quality are made up in the extensive set list. This is a very good live album.

NOWEN Where Hell Begins

EP · 2005 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Pekka
Where Hell Begins is the debut EP of the Finnish death/thrash band Nowen, at the time of these recording sessions functioning as a duo, but since grown into a full line-up. The main man of the group was an acquaintance of mine from a couple of metal related discussion forums, so obviously I had to buy his record to support the good work.

Brutal, hard riffing assault is the name of the game here, and the tightly executed riffs indeed manage to carry most of the songs to the finish line, aided by the extremely effective drum work of Ville Vehviläinen, the thrash beat sometimes slipping into a blast beat and more complex death metal patterns, and always rich in fills.

The furious opener Pathetic Existense and the almost epic multi-part five minuter Breaking Point are both pretty great, and after Illusions lowers the standard a bit, the title track launches into another great riffing and drumming fest. With Pain is almost a weird one in this bunch as it actually contains some rather nice guitar melodies, of course framed by some more blast beating madness. It also has the only clean guitar parts of the EP, if I remember right the sound reference used in the studio was mentioned to be Beneath the Remains.

The two main problems of this recording are the sound that could benefit from some extra bottom and the rather bland growls of mastermind Mikko Lappalainen. I believe at least the first problem is solved on the two full lengths, perhaps I should check them out as well.

If you can find this somewhere, give it a listen!

METALLICA Beyond Magnetic

EP · 2011 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 19 ratings
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Pekka
"Leftovers... I hate leftovers." -James Hetfield (backed with an appropriate wife/cooking joke)

Well that's just what these songs are, technically at least. Fourteen songs were recorded for Death Magnetic, and since the first ten were released in 2008, many people have been wondering whether the rest would ever see the light of day. But here they finally are, after being premiered in the unspeakably cool 30th anniversary shows. Shine, Hellenbach, Holy Revolver, they're all here. Titles you might remember if you followed the MissionMetallica website during the DM sessions.

Coming from the same sessions the style and sound is obviously very much the same as the original album, with the exception that these are unfinished rough mixes. Which doesn't make much of a difference to be fair, as the DM mixes were already very rough indeed. What we have is a bunch of songs that quality wise could replace pretty much anything on DM, but they were in the previously quoted man's words "maybe too long, too something" to be included. They just didn't fit.

Bad songs they aren't. Aside from a redundant intro here and a messy solo there the tracks are very good, and as the EP goes on, they keep getting better from the rather Fuelish Hate Train to the closing Rebel of Babylon, which features some absolutely brilliant riffage, wild tempo changes and some deliciously twisted guitar harmonies. Better late than never, this particular track would've shone brightly on the original album as well. Hell and Back is a treat too; my favourite snippet from the MM website was a dirty little bit which went something like "when the sun goes hellbound, and the blahblah resurrects the night..." and my disappointment was a big one when it was nowhere to be heard on DM. But here it is.

A worthy addition to the Metallica saga. If you need something to cure the Lulu headache, go grab this one.

W.A.S.P. Babylon

Album · 2009 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.99 | 9 ratings
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Pekka
To say that I had big expectations for W.A.S.P.'s fourteenth album is, well, a lie. It happened so that I Wanna Be Somebody was the only song of theirs that I was familiar with until my friend told me to give Babylon a try on the evening before they were playing a metal festival in Helsinki that I was anyway going to. I listened to a couple of tracks and was positively surprised, but that surprise paled in comparison with the shock that was caused by the fact that I enjoyed immensely the brilliant feel-good rock show that the band put on the next day.

They only played one track from this album, Babylon's Burning, but in retrospect I wouldn't complain if they'd played several more. This album contains several tracks that stand just as tall as some of their earlier classics, that I've gotten myself familiar with since that sunny afternoon in the summer of 2010. Crazy is a great heavy metal speedster and the half-title track is another masterpiece, and the solid album includes many other good points as well, like Thunder Red with an extremely tasty pair of guitar solos, and the power balladish Godless Run, again with some bold soloing by Doug Blair.

Even the Deep Purple cover Burn makes sense and fits well into the pack, and not just by its title, but the same can't necessarily be said for Promised Land by Chuck Berry. Godless Run would've made a good closer, but hell, despite not making that much sense Promised Land is a pretty damn fun track to close the album with.

My third big surprise regarding this W.A.S.P. matter is the voice of Mr. Blackie Lawless. It's still smokin' hot, one of the finest and most powerful rock voices out there. All in all this album has been an extremely positive experience, guess I've got to find out what happened between it and The Last Command.

BLACK SABBATH Vol 4

Album · 1972 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 110 ratings
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Pekka
Even though the band thanked the "great COKE-cola company of Los Angeles" in the album's sleeve notes, it's been said by one or more band members that around the making of Vol 4 the booze and drugs stopped being fun and inner turmoil was starting to rise.

I noted in my review of Master of Reality, that despite the versatility of the material, the album manages to convey a sense of focus. That's not the case with this album, even though the majority of songs are of the familiar kind. The reason for this is mostly in the song Changes, which with its piano and mellotron is a big departure from their previous ballads that shared the dark somber mood of the heavier numbers. Of course it's not a happy song, though the opening lines "I feel unhappy / I feel so sad" may not be the most original depiction of sorrow.

But as mentioned, apart from a useless noise bit called FX and another beautiful instrumental Laguna Sunrise, most of the album is dedicated again to the heavier pounding. Tomorrow's Dream, Supernaut and Snowblind are true classics, and Cornucopia has some of Sabbath's heaviest riffs and some tricky rhythms, but the lighter rocker St. Vitus Dance might be early Sab at their most expendable. Opening number Wheels of Confusion on the other hand is an underrated piece of work with a great instrumental section and one extraordinarily powerful riff towards the end just before Ozzy comes back to the mic.

The closer Under the Sun would benefit from better production, as the slow opening riffs are tailor made for good thundering assault, but the sound of the album is a slight step back from the previous production, guitars ringing a bit too hollow to let the heavy riffs shine like they should. Hearing the studio version of Cornucopia for the first time was a great disappointment, as I'd heard the song first as the massive live rendition found on Live at Last/Past Lives. Just like St. Vitus Dance, Under the Sun also has its share of weak riffs, but is somewhat redeemed by a great, long outro also serving as a platform for multi-tracked soloing.

A let down after two masterpieces, but nevertheless an excellent album with many classic moments.

BLACK SABBATH Master Of Reality

Album · 1971 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.39 | 154 ratings
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Pekka
Most bands entering their second recording year are usually still a bit wet behind the ears, but Black Sabbath's first year saw them release two of the most legendary rock albums ever made. And it was only just the beginning. The hit-and-miss debut and the all-brilliant Paranoid have a worthy successor in Master of Reality.

Lasting only about 35 minutes, this album is at the same time very versatile and very focused. Usually when I think about the album I see it as a massive onslaught of heavy riff mastery, but when I take a second thought I remember the surprisingly lightly rocking After Forever with its equally surprising lyrics about a loving God, the two acoustic instrumentals preceding some of the heaviest tracks of the album, Embryo and Orchid, and the planetcaravanish ballad Solitude. That's four of the eight tracks on the album that deviate from my first and foremost picture of this album's nature. I don't know why exactly, but it happens every time still after years of listening.

The somewhat weird and twisted Embryo leads to a classic riff parade called Children of the Grave, which among other things shows that some extra percussion can add a great deal with little effort. Orchid is Tony Iommi at his most beautiful, whereas the next track, Lord of This World is as heavy as anything on any Sabbath album. As are the yay-for-drugs anthem Sweet Leaf and the album closing, thundering Into the Void. Great riff after great riff after an even better riff, all the time.

The band is on fire, the tracks are killer, classic Sabbath worth hearing. A lot of times.

METALLICA '82 Garage Rehearsal Tape

Demo · 1982 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.49 | 3 ratings
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Pekka
All bands have to start somewhere. For Metallica it was bassist Ron McGovney's garage, where they blasted out mostly cover tunes, mostly by Diamond Head. They had a couple of original songs as well - Hit the Lights was obviously the first one, and it never changed that much between Metal Massacre and Kill 'Em All, but the other one, Jump in the Fire has some drastic differences in this early form. The lyrics would be completely re-written before the recording of the first album, and James' singing would take a whole new angle. On this version he yells a continuous note throughout the choruses, with the very teenage voice he had before turning to the angrier style heard on Kill 'Em All.

This recording has a couple of the early covers which were never recorded properly, Let it Loose by Savage and Sucking My Love by Diamond Head. Both are good tunes played surprisingly well, but in my opinion they chose the best covers to re-record later. Killing Time, later fabulously captured for The Unforgiven single as a b-side, is suprisingly powerful in this early form as well, as are Helpless and The Prince, despite some rather clumsy bits and parts by Lars especially. Most of these pieces feature James only on vocals with Dave playing the sole guitar track, leaving a lot of space for Ron McGovney's bass. He's no Cliff Burton, but a good, solid bassist anyway. James' voice works a lot better on Am I Evil? than some of the other tracks, but listening to this tape it's not surprising that he wanted the band to get a proper vocalist frontman at the time.

A fascinating piece of history, but obviously nothing more than collectors/fans only stuff.

MOTHER SUSURRUS Mother Susurrus

EP · 2010 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Pekka
Mother Susurrus is the debut EP of the Finnish sludge group of the same name. Comprising of only two tracks worth of over 30 minutes of heavy goodness, this release is recommended for everyone with any interest in the style of music, as it is a free download.

Whoremonger is based on a slow punishing grind with a raw multi-tracked shriek/shout, somewhat resembling the vocal work you might hear on Isis albums, also incorporating a more post metallish spaced out section and an equally massively heavy finale with some soaring guitar before slowing and slowing and slowing to a halt. A hefty piece of metal, but the second track Apocatastasis puts another ten minuter on it. As opposed to the heavy handedness of the opener, this track starts with a bit more intricate riffing and drumming before bringing in the heavy wall of guitars and blood thirsty bellowing of the vocalist. Through twists and turns, some of them crushingly slow, some of them calmer (even featuring clean vocals) and some of them - dare I say it - at least a tad faster, the track comes to a close at 21 impressive minutes.

Slow, raw, heavy as lead. If those adjectives sound good to you, do yourself a favor and get this one. An extremely good debut release.

BLACK SABBATH Sabotage

Album · 1975 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.05 | 96 ratings
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Pekka
For some reason Sabotage is often omitted from the list of the classic Ozzy era Sabbath albums. Whatever that reason may be, I have no idea, since this album is very much up to and above the par set by the five previous albums.

Hole in the Sky has perhaps my favourite Ozzy vocal track ever, the power of his delivery surpassing most of everything I've ever heard him do. Along with the crushing Symptom of the Universe, preceded by a short instrumental in the vein of Embryo and Orchid, they start the album with a fabulous bang, Sabbath at their fiercest best, though the latter also includes a laid-back, almost flamenco-like section with lots of layering acoustic guitars and percussion. Megalomania further illustrated the band's versatility and the growing prog influences, with vocal effects, keyboards, epic form and tempo changes. Wonderful track as well.

As was the case with their previous near-masterpiece Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, the second side of the album is a bit of a let down after the brilliant first. In the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath biography book by Joel McIver one of the bandmembers, the indentity of whom I've forgotten, confessed that he had lost all recollections of a track called The Thrill of It All, but I say he should give it a listen again, as it's a very good, if a tad shapeless piece combining some slow power chord rocking, a rather gorgeous piano-flavored midsection and an uptempo finale with synth melodies. The dark instrumental Supertzar continues the experimentalism with heavy choirs, pizzicato strings and, if I'm not mistaken, a glockenspiel accompanying the riffing Tony Iommi. Am I Going Insane (Radio) is the least effective track of the album, even though it does convey well the feeling expressed in the title. Not least in the disturbing laughter outro. Ozzy returns to his angry self on The Writ, another album highlight, apparently addressing the band's management problems.

Six great albums in just as many years, while keeping a tight touring and drug taking schedule. It would start taking its toll soon, but up to this point the band was untouchable. Another classic from the original Sabbath.

DEEP PURPLE Live In Europe 1993

Live album · 2006 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.75 | 2 ratings
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Pekka
This four disc box set gathers together evidence from the Deep Purple Mk II's final tour in 1993. Also released as two separate double CD's this neat little box includes the Stuttgart and Birmingham gigs and a booklet offering some interesting inside view to the tour and the tensions within the band. I've reviewed both concerts under their individual pages, here I offer small summaries of both and links to the full reviews:

Live at Schleyer Halle: An excellent performance concentrating mostly on the classic purple material from the 70s and 80s with a couple of good new selections. Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore in particular give radiant performances, and the sometimes sub-par voice of Ian Gillan is in good shape as well. http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/live-in-stuttgart-1993(live)--review.aspx?id=223292

Live at the NEC: The core setlist is the same as in Stuttgart with a few omissions, and the performance starts off badly with Highway Star being performed almost entirely without guitar. Despite Blackmore's problems and Ian Gillan's sometimes inadequate voice this is a rather good performance as well, but inferior to Stuttgart on every level. http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/live-at-the-nec-1993(live)--review.aspx?id=223284

Overall this is a very recommendable box set, consisting of one excellent show, one of more historical if not musical value and interesting liner notes. It's not even that expensive, but if money is tight, go for the separate Live in Stuttgart 1993 release instead.

DEEP PURPLE Live In Stuttgart 1993

Live album · 2007 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Pekka
Like the Live at the NEC 1993 double CD, this release also documents the final tour of the classic Mk II lineup before Ritchie Blackmore's final split. This concert was recorded earlier in the tour, and given the internal strife at the time, the band is in a marvellous condition.

Listening to the NEC recording and this one back to back it's easy to compare and see that the biggest flaws of that recording are missing from this one. Ritchie Blackmore actually comes on stage at the beginning of the show and kicks Highway Star to a great drive, which is pretty difficult to achieve without a guitar no matter how hard the others try. Ian Gillan's voice is in a much better shape as well, which becomes delightingly clear especially during Child in Time, and the audience is very enthusiastic and audible during Black Night and Smoke on the Water in particular. Perfect Strangers is another older number that gets a great treating and the new numbers, studio versions of which I'm not familiar with, sound surprisingly good.

Once again Jon Lord shines all the way through, every one of his organ leads is a pleasure to listen to, not to mention the solid rhythm work and the lighthearted solo following Blackmore's Beethoven quotation. Blackmore himself is in great shape too with his versatile and lively playing, Lord and Blackmore trade and share some licks to great effect during the extended Knocking at Your Back Door. One also must mention the good bit of fun called Anyone's Daughter with a lot of lovely electric piano work by Lord and a short solo spot for Roger Glover as well. Blackmore's spirits are considerably higher than on the NEC release, with Anya stretched five minutes longer with some impressive soloing and Smoke on the Water getting a long and beautiful guitar intro, and the band also includes a jam on The Hall of the Mountain King and surprisingly spirited version of Speed King, again with some tasty Lord/Blackmore trade offs and melody/riff quotes from all over the place, both of which they omitted at NEC.

An excellent representation of a band in top form despite inner turmoil. Very recommended.

DEEP PURPLE Live At The NEC 1993

Live album · 2007 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.25 | 2 ratings
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Pekka
This Deep Purple live release is particularly infamous for Ian Gillan's press comments in which he encouraged fans to leave it in the shops, as he considered this performance one of their worst ever. It has some obvious flaws given the circumstances, but also a lot of really good high energy performance.

In short: Ritchie Blackmore had agreed to let the concert be filmed on the condition that there are no cameramen on stage, but when the show time came and he went on, the first thing he saw was a cameraman, so back to the dressing room he went. The rest of the band started Highway Star without him, which as a result sounds extremely hollow, with some really forced Ian Gillan falsetto screams to boot. Ritchie returned to play the solo for the song, but stopped midway through to soak the aforementioned cameraman, who had now moved to the other side of the stage, with a glass of water. Black Night is somewhat hampered too by Ritchie's absent mind, but when he finally gets down to business it's much better, with creative riff variations and improvisation here and there.

The only problem left is Ian Gillan's voice, which has lost a lot of its reach and edge since the golden days 20 years previously. Child in Time is a pale ghost of its original form, but singing in his natural voice he's still handling his duties finely. If he remembers the lyrics that is, which doesn't seem to be the case with the Paint It, Black cover version. But when Blackmore is absent or absent minded and/or Gillan is struggling with his throat, the package is always kept together by the tight core that is Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Jon Lord. Especially the latter's work I enjoy thoroughly, even the keyboard solo is rather amusing. The drum solo following the frantic Lazy is kept short enough as well.

Apparently this individual release is nowadays deleted, thanks to Mr. Gillan, but it can still be found in the Live in Europe 1993 box set, and parts of the concert in the Come Hell or High Water live album. An interesting piece of history, a recording of a classic lineup during its last days.

BLACK SABBATH Dehumanizer

Album · 1992 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.61 | 70 ratings
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Pekka
The history of Black Sabbath has been rather a confusing mess of falling outs and reunions, with every single recording vocalist with the exception of Glenn Hughes (but that was an Iommi solo anyway) making a comeback at some point. Not to even mention the various stints that Geezer and Bill have made over the years. One particularly enjoyable reunion brought back the Mob Rules era lineup, and resulted in perhaps the heaviest Black Sabbath album of all time, Dehumanizer.

A match made in heaven (and hell) to begin with, Dehumanizer brings back together the mighty riffs of Mr. Tony Iommi and the mighty roar or the late, great Mr. Ronnie James Dio, bless his soul. Hats off to the ever-dependable Geezer Butler for his cool bass patterns and the heavy hitting Vinny Appice, who could be mixed a bit lower though, but at the center of this album are the riffs and the vocals. No doubt about it. Sabbath are at their heaviest in slow grinders like After All (The Dead) and Letters From Earth, and TV Crimes and Time Machine sees them picking up the tempo and running with it. The chorus in Computer God is one of my favourite things from all Sabbath and all Dio, very few people can match the power of that delivery. Choruses overall are high points of the album, this group knows how to cash in with the promise set up by the verses.

This might be the least great album these guys ever produced together (counting in Heaven and Hell despite Appice's absence), which speaks volumes of the overall quality of their work. An excellent, solid piece of really heavy metal.

IRON MAIDEN The Final Frontier

Album · 2010 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.63 | 104 ratings
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Pekka
Throughout their fourteen album run Iron Maiden have been accused by some of always sounding the same. This is obviously nowhere near the truth, but come the fifteenth album not even the ignorant can ignore anymore the fact that there's more to Maiden than the gallop and the air-raid siren. Most of the album certainly sounds like the Maiden that they have evolved into over the years, but...

If someone put on the opening track without telling me which band was in question, there's no way in hell that I'd have guessed it's Maiden. With heavy use of synth bass and a drum machine the intro called Satellite 15 is the most un-Maiden thing the band has ever recorded, and while it's an admirably brave jump in the dark, in the dark it's easy to stumble. And that's what they do in my opinion. It's a fittingly dramatic piece to open the album, but I can't help feeling that the piece would be much more enjoyable with the more conventional sound filling the rest of the album. In an effort to sound futuristic the band risks sounding dated, whereas the full band sound is timeless. The title song, tacked on the same track for some reason, is completely unrelated and in its midtempo rocking feel quite an oddball as a Maiden opening track.

When Maiden released El Dorado as the leading single, I wasn't very impressed by it, but on the album it works a lot better, perhaps because it's preceded by an even lesser track. The chaos opening seems even more redundant now that the opening track ends with a similar kind outro, but otherwise the track is a good step up, which is continued on Mother of Mercy, Coming Home and The Alchemist, all somewhat compact tracks with great melodies and performance especially by Bruce. The Alchemist, no relation to the Bruce's solo masterpiece from The Chemical Wedding, is the album's sole uptempo rocker.

In another never before seen move the album is constructed of two very different sides, the first containing the 'songs' and the second containing the 'epics'. This kind of polarization may sound like a weird idea, but it actually works really well. Perhaps more than ever the new Maiden album feels like a journey, which is perhaps helped by the fact that it begins with the weakest track and ends with one of their finest ever, with an overall ascent in quality being present all the time. All five tracks of the second side are multi-part compositions running through many different landscapes, featuring some quite unconventional instrumental sections, like the mess of soloing guitars and something that resembles a pedal steel in The Man Would Be King, as well as some of the good ol' galloping, which especially dominates The Talisman. Closing the album as the ultimate triumph is When the Wild Wind Blows, once again showing the masterfulness with which Steve Harris handles melodies and a gripping storyline and structure.

This album has some completely new things and approaches and a slight change from the harmonizing guitars to an emphasis on vocal melodies. Some of the new things work and some don't, but in the big picture that's irrelevant. What's important is that Iron Maiden is still evolving and searching, it would be a pity is this was the end. Luckily by their recent comments it seems that there will be more.

SONATA ARCTICA Winterheart's Guild

Album · 2003 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 23 ratings
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Pekka
Straight up power metal with double bass drums thundering above everything else has never ever been my thing, but from the moment I happened to hear this album years and years ago I've had a strange thing for it. I had seen the band live before, in 2003, and while I already loved Tony Kakko's voice the music otherwise gave me nothing at all.

The opening track on the surface is just what I didn't like about this band, but suddenly the melodies are infectious and catchy, the drumming fits in, and the listener is given room to breathe midway through. The band's palette seems much wider than on previous releases that I had heard, the second track Gravenimage being a great little epic with drama and just the right pompousness, and a big portion of the album being taken up by ballads and rockier, more mid-paced songs. The Cage is another double bass powerhouse with a great Jens Johansson synth solo kicking it off, but it doesn't really reach the standard set by the opening track, which is the case with the other speedier tracks Victoria's Secret and Ruins of My Life.

With the beautiful numbers The Misery and Draw Me, the heavier Broken and the rocking Silver Tongue balancing the full on power attack, which is given a nice quirky twist on Champagne Bath, the album is a delightingly varied mix of different styles, the great melodies coming through all the way. But while Tony Kakko's voice is the thing I most of all like about Sonata Arctica, on this album it's also the biggest flaw, with the very Finnish pronouncing in certain parts being quite hard on the ears. Perhaps I'm the only one having this problem.

I think this is the only album in my collection that falls under the subgenre, but with such positive reaction to it, who knows if I'll end up broadening my view of the style. Up to this point every time I've felt the urge to have some, I've known that I have just the right album to do the trick.

OZZY OSBOURNE Live At Budokan

Live album · 2002 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.18 | 6 ratings
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Pekka
Ozzy Osbourne's studio albums from the last 25 years haven't necessarily been universally praised artistic achievements, but as live draws go, he's still among the very best. This live recording, from Tokyo's Budokan as the title suggests, concentrates slightly on the Zakk Wylde era, with four tracks from No More Tears and three from the then newest solo effort Down to Earth, but the debut Blizzard of Ozz gets three songs on the setlist as well, with a fourth cut from the CD release but appearing on the DVD.

The core band on this release consists of Zakk Wylde on guitar, Rob Trujillo on bass and Mike Bordin on drums, world class master players all of them. And their playing is absolutely fantastic, updating the 80s material with massively heavy renditions. I especially love how the band comes in after the intro of Mr. Crowley. Heavier than lead. Zakk Wylde has been much criticized for his over-use of pinch harmonics, but on this release they work like a charm, as do the other fills and squeaks he often inserts between the familiar riffs. The band's über solid performance, with Ozzy himself in fine form as well, makes up for many of the flaws that song selection might bring.

All five tracks from the first three Ozzy albums are solid gold, flawlessly executed, but the emphasis on No More Tears brings many momentst that pale in comparison. The title track is an excellent piece based on a cool bass groove, but the three others have never been to my liking. I would have preferred hearing for example Desire or Hellraiser from that album. Luckily we get Crazy Train in the middle of the NMT marathon. Earlier in the set the band plays three new tunes, two of which are just ok, but Gets Me Through I value higher than most of the Ozzy material I've heard, the bridge especially being very enjoyable. Paranoid is always Paranoid, but the band brings a fresh new heavier angle to it making it a worthwhile ending to the set.

Since this time all the major players in Ozzy's band have changed, first went Rob Trujillo to Metallica, then Mike Bordin back to Faith No More, and last and definitely not least Zakk Wylde departed for reasons that have never been explained to me clearly. This is an excellent document of this particular lineup, if the idea of plenty post-80s material doesn't turn you off.

MÖTLEY CRÜE Mötley Crüe

Album · 1994 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.24 | 13 ratings
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Pekka
A lot happened between Dr. Feelgood and the self-titled Mötley Crüe album that came out five years later. The single most important thing I guess was the breakthrough of Nirvana and rest of the Grunge scene - overnight the most popular and powerful Glam Metal act turned uncool, a ridiculous relic of the past. As if that wasn't enough, somewhere during the sessions for the follow up album Vince Neil departed, not amicably.

Usually referred to as a "hoarse shouter" or in other derogatory phrases, the new singer John Corabi is actually a big improvement in ways. Vince Neil has the instantly recognizable tone, but Corabi is far superior in power and versatility. A rather fantastic rock voice, only somewhat lacking in unique character, which combined with a new super heavy band sound makes the album altogether very very different from its predecessors. And so it's no wonder the old fanbase didn't exactly embrace the new Mötley incarnation.

By the time the album was released in 1994 Kurt Cobain was already loading his shotgun and grunge was losing ground to the new wave of punk rock, spearheaded by The Offspring and Green Day, but Mötley were riding the grunge train. The difference from Dr. Feelgood is indeed huge. In some songs, such as Uncle Jack and Droppin' Like Flies it's easy to imagine Jerry Cantrell harmonizing with Corabi on a Black Gives Way to Blue outtake, Corabi's voice sometimes being very close to William DuVall's. Corabi being a guitarist as well as a vocalist, the band was able to experiment more with guitar layering, and overall the riffing style is far heavier than on the earlier albums, but with traces from their past popping up here and there. And Bob Rock's massive production suits the new pounding music wonderfully.

But if the pencil isn't sharp, there's not much that a great performance and production can save. Apart from the somewhat catchy opener Power to the Music, some really ballsy parts in for example 'Til Death Do Us Part and Smoke the Sky and the lighter numbers Loveshine and Driftaway, there's very very little that I remember after many listens. And the endless adlibbing closing many of the songs makes the album drag on way too long. A classic case of an album that one listens to with relative enjoyment, but without a lasting impression.

A brave attempt at progressing as a band or a wimpy attempt at riding the mainstream, you decide. This album has many merits but just as many flaws. Not really bad, not really good, nothing you need to hear but something you might enjoy anyway.

MÖTLEY CRÜE Saints Of Los Angeles

Album · 2008 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.39 | 9 ratings
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Pekka
It can safely be said that the last Mötley Crüe album that received any kind of respect and/or commercial success was 1989's Dr. Feelgood. After that they fired their vocalist, made a flop of an album, re-hired the old singer and made an album that flopped even more, and then lost their drummer and made an album that nobody noticed. And now 19 years after their last triumph Vince is there, Tommy is there and Nikki and Mick are obviously still where they always were. But are the songs?

Yes. Written mostly by Nikki Sixx with a group of helping hands including the newest Gunner DJ Ashba and producer James Michael the album includes many pieces that challenge their very best material from the 80s. Much like Shout at the Devil in 1983 the album begins with a short, atmospheric intro build up, though this time about the perils of Los Angeles rather than the children of the beast, which then kicks into an infectious rocker called Face Down in the Dirt. That chorus will stick in your head for a long time.

Down at the Whiskey, the title track, Animal in Me, Goin' Out Swingin'... Many more quality cuts to carry the album proudly to the finish line, but just like the Devil 25 years ago, this album has its share of weaker tracks, like What's It Gonna Take and This Ain't a Love Song. Not necessarily very weak, but weaker than the best of the selection. Anyway, after almost two decades of experimentation or just casually being lost at sea, the band is back with a vengeance, tackling the high energy glam metal of the glory days.

But in addition to the creepy nippleless chicks on the cover, one major flaw of the album is the very compressed sound, which can be pretty hard on the ears at least in headphone listening. In the louder parts, and I presume nobody is surprised by the fact that that's pretty much all this album has, it feels like everything is squeezed though a tiny tube and then blown on the eardrum. Somebody should have brought their 1994 self titled album to the studio to check how proper heaviness is achieved without sacrificing sound quality.

I believe many old time fans to be satisfied with this one, at least a newcomer like me spins it pretty much just as often as the early works. Recommended.

MÖTLEY CRÜE Shout At The Devil

Album · 1983 · Glam Metal
Cover art 4.13 | 40 ratings
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Pekka
Following their debut Too Fast for Love Mötley Crüe were picked up by Elektra Records, which resulted in a proper budget to record their sophomore effort. Released as Shout at the Devil, the album definitely benefited from that, as it has a much punchier and fuller sound than its predecessor, the rawness of which I also appreciate, though.

After the short intro the album starts with a bang, as the title track and Looks that Kill were clearly their most powerful shout-alongs yet. To go with their new darker image the music has a somewhat more metallic edge, which is especially apparent in the next track, Bastard. Throw in the brief guitar instrumental God Bless the Children of the Beast and a totally banging rendition of Helter Skelter, few would've had the guts to cover that, and I find the entire first half of the album pure gold.

Red Hot's drum intro was good enough to be stolen to Guns n' Roses' Double Talkin' Jive eight years later, but after that the second half is considerably weaker than the first. The band performs with energy and feel, but the best riffs are already spent on the first half. But luckily the album ends on a high note with Danger, not their first and definitely not their last song about LA and Hollywood, but one of the best with a great ominous atmosphere.

Along with the fuller sound and the brilliant material of the first side, one big merit of this album is the improved voice of Vince Neil. The cat squeal comes through at times, but otherwise it's gained a lot of power since the debut. One five star side and one three star side, overall probably their best album.

MÖTLEY CRÜE Too Fast For Love

Album · 1981 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.41 | 28 ratings
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Pekka
When talking about Mötley Crüe the sex, drugs, car crashes, overdoses and such are usually the only topics that come up. Everyone knows the band and their CV, but quite a few actually know the music. Unfortunately. That included me for years and years, but recently I've finally managed to make some real contact with the band.

The sleaze kings of LA started their career with this self-funded and self-released album, which says "we're big bad rockers and you should get out of our way or get in bed with us" right on the Rolling Stones influenced cover. They didn't have that much money at the time, so the sound is pretty far from the polished and streamlined rock anthem albums of their later times, but in its honest rawness it's a very powerful sound.

The album does have a few flaws, like the weird drunken cowbell choir of Public Enemy #1 and some moments when Vince Neil doesn't quite manage to sound like a big bad rocker but rather a whiny ten year old dreaming of becoming one some sunny day. That's especially apparent in parts of the title track. But the tracks are very solid, edgy hard rocking material most of the time - Live Wire, Starry Eyes and the title track perhaps being slight highlights - and excluding the mentioned flaws the band gives a great, enthusiastic performance.

After being picked up by Elektra records the album was quickly remixed, rearranged and re-released. The already quite compact album was shortened quite significantly by dropping one track and cutting an intro here and some repetition there. Both versions are nowadays available on the Music to Crash Your Car to, Vol 1 box set, and depending on my mood they both get a spin now and then.

Good straight rocking debut by a band better than their reputation.

SÓLSTAFIR Masterpiece of Bitterness

Album · 2005 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.07 | 9 ratings
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Pekka
I know it's a damn cliché, but all Icelandic bands I've so far managed to hear seem to have a certain quality you'd expect coming from people growing up surrounded by massive glaciers and beautiful nature. Once while listening to this album I thought that you could get a good picture of the music if you thought about a death metal band in dirty garage rehearsal room with a breathtaking window view over the most wonderful Icelandic wilderness. I've forgotten the sub-sub-sub-genre I made up for the band, but at least it included "space", "garage" and something totally different.

Sólstafir's second full length album presents a brutal metal band capable of producing moments of great beauty. The wild female-sung intro to the massive opening track even throws in some Morriconesque western flavors. The band isn't afraid of staying in the same place for good periods of time, which becomes very clear right off in the opener I Myself the Visionary Head, when the same, deliciously rumbling bass pattern goes on for over ten minutes with things piling on top of it or just staying still. Finally the track erupts into a blast beat driven finale. I can't believe it really took 20 minutes to get there. The rest of the tracks are somewhat more concise, but many of them come near the ten minute mark or beyond it.

And if the great songs are not enough, this album has some of my favourite sound productions ever, with a totally raw, live-like and punchy sound. I especially adore the bass, which manages to carry the opening track all the way through not least because of the perfectly fat roar it makes. Also listen to the melodies in the instrumental section of Nature Strutter, I love how it comes through from under the guitars. Another highligt is the gnarly delivery of vocalist Addi Tryggvason, somewhat resembling a Roots-era Max Cavalera, only more high-pitched and more out of control.

Often you hear talk about the "that something" that certain records might or might not have. Over the years I've come to the conclusion that the tracks, the compositions themselves would merit an excellent four star album, but the overwhelming atmosphere -or "that something", if you will - I feel when listening to this masterpiece of bitterness is worth one full star.

Hear it, please.

OPETH The Roundhouse Tapes

Live album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 30 ratings
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Pekka
I've been lucky enough to see Opeth live five times, one time of them being among my favourite gigs ever and one among the very worst. The latter was at a festival in bright daylight without a soundcheck I'm confident to say, as the sound was perhaps the worst live sound by any band ever. Absolutely horrible mix of bass drums, low noteless bass humming, guitar static and some more bass drums. But if we take Opeth indoors and give them a decent sound, then they're absolute killers live, combining their unique material tightly performed with the stand-up comedy of Mikael Åkerfeldt.

The one problem they, or let's say the audience, have left is the song choices. As the average length of an Opeth track is about ten minutes, they don't have time to play that many, and of course everyone wants to hear their favourites. This concert luckily offers a great selection of material from every one of their albums except Deliverance, which was well represented on Lamentations, and despite the tour still being theoretically in support of Ghost Reveries album we only get one track from that album. Ghost of Perdition is a great choice, as that's a track that has always been among the favourites of mine, but during the four shows I saw on that tour they never played it.

My Arms, Your Hearse and Blackwater Park each get two songs on the list and Still Life the very good rendition of Face of Melinda, but the gems of this release are the early tracks that get revisited. They hadn't touched the material from the first two albums in a long time, but for this date they dug out one song from each of them. The biggest problems I have with Orchid and Morningrise are the sound and the drumming department, and with both of them taken care of, it's a great joy to hear this material. The softer parts also very much benefit from the improved clean vocals of mr Åkerfeldt. And in case you were wondering, yes he pulls off all the transitions from growls to cleans and back pretty damn seamlessly. One point of interest is the addition of Per Wiberg's keyboards, and while especially on Watershed he is an essential part of the band's sound, these older tracks were composed without keys in mind, and most of the time he's reduced to just providing some background hammond and mellotron. Still an improvement, but it would be interesting to hear them completely rearranging some of the earlier material for live performances.

Great tracks, great performance, good sound. Overall an excellent live album.

OPETH Watershed

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.85 | 111 ratings
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Pekka
2005's brilliant Ghost Reveries introduced Per Wiberg as an official recording member of Opeth, bringing along his vintage keyboards to refresh the band's sound to great effect. The time between Ghost Reveries and the next album Watershed brought two more new members, with Martin Lopez and Peter Lindgren quitting due to health and motivation problems respectively. Yet another Martin was introduced in the form of drummer Axenrot, who despite perhaps lacking some of Lopez's most subtle touches is an extremely solid and powerful drummer capable of handling the softer parts as well, and taking the other guitar was Fredrik Åkesson, about whom I honestly can't say anything, since I have no idea which guitarist plays which rhythm and solo parts.

Usually Opeth's albums begin with a bang or a fade-in followed by a flow of metal, but Watershed is launched with a truly gorgeous ballad, Coil. Originally intended as an interlude, Mikael Åkerfeldt turned it into a proper song when he hear Martin Axenrot's girlfriend sing. This fantastically beautiful duet between the big Å, whose both voices improve with every album, and Nathalie Lorichs serves as a perfect intro to A Heir Apparent, a track among the most brutal Opeth tracks ever. If not the most brutal. The one-note onslaughts around four and five minutes are absolutely devastating, and Wiberg's keys bring a twisted edge setting an atmosphere never heard on an Opeth album. The same growing keyboard presence is apparent in The Lotus Eater as well, which also makes great use of blast beats, dissonant fragments of melody, silence and a quirky instrumental section. All these tracks are among my favourite Opeth songs, as is Burden, a stunning power ballad with essentially a basic pop song structure, an explosive organ solo by Wiberg and a fantastic vocal performance by Åkerfeldt. And the fascinating air of weirdness is maintained by a detuned guitar outro.

But unfortunately four brilliant tracks in a row lead to a big let down when one suddenly doesn't meet the standards. Porcelain Heart is a considerably more plain track, even borrowing a distinct rhythm from The Grand Conjuration from the previous album. Despite this and it's slight disjointed nature it's a good song, only not near the opening foursome. Hessian Peel is a step up with its first half containing some very beautiful moments and the latter some brutal headbanging goodness, but as a whole it's still somewhat shapeless to me after two years of active listening. The same goes for the closer Hex Omega, a good enjoyable track, but not very memorable.

This album contains the most brutal, the most beautiful as well as the weirdest moments Opeth has ever recorded. And perhaps the best sound. If the rest of the album would be on the same level as the first four tracks, this would be my favourite Opeth album ever.

OPETH Blackwater Park

Album · 2001 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.11 | 135 ratings
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Pekka
After establishing a new sound on My Arms, Your Hearse and learning to write with it on Still Life, Opeth were in a stable position. A solid line-up was in place, they had a great album behind them, and a new producer in Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. And so once again unrehearsed and unprepared, the band entered the studio to record a new album.

Since Still Life not much had changed, the style is essentially the same blend of death metal with acoustic passages and epic everchanging structures, but with Blackwater Park the band squeezed that last little bit of creativity out of them to make their first undisputed masterpiece. The arrangements have an extra dose of liveliness and colour, the sound is fuller and the tracks, well, a tad more interesting and enjoyable. Martin Mendez had made his recording debut on Still Life, but while his bass was a bit buried in the mix on that album, on Blackwater Park he gets through with brilliant lines a plenty. For example the midsection of Bleak owes much of its greatness to his bass work. Martin Lopez's drumming is getting livelier by every album, here it's pure enjoyment trying to airdrum along to the tracks and find him doing something unpredictable every time you think you got a hold of the beat. But as Mikael Åkerfeldt was taking a bigger and bigger hold of the writing for the band, it's difficult to say which parts come from which visionary head.

Years ago The Drapery Falls was the first song to make an impression on me, and still today I think it's the Opeth track best capturing their combination of atmosphere, great riffs, the distorted guitar orchestra, versatile vocals, beauty, and the sometimes drastic but always fitting contrasts between the ugly and the beautiful. The change from the brutal landslide to the gorgeous acoustic section around 7:50 and the ensuing transitions between them might be my favourite Opeth moment ever. Harvest takes the Opeth ballad to the best results yet following Credence from Hearse and Benighted from Still Life, Bleak has many of my all-time favourite Opeth moments and The Funeral Portrait some absolutely head crushing riffs and transitions. And while the rest of the tracks reach the same standards, I find no room for complaining.

One of my favourite metal albums and the first peak of Opeth.

OPETH My Arms, Your Hearse

Album · 1998 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.90 | 94 ratings
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Pekka
My Arms, Your Hearse was a major turning point in Opeth's career - after the gigs supporting Morningrise half of the original recording line-up departed or were fired, and Mikael Åkerfeldt grew tired of their early sound and composition style, which resulted in a new band with a new approach.

When April Ethereal blasts out after the short Prologue, the change is apparent. While the early Opeth sound was based on clear, harmonizing guitar melodies and very high-in-the-mix double bass drumming, April Ethereal comes out with big murky minor chords and riffs, and a positively muddy and gloomy sound. The double bass drums are still there, but supporting the riffs underneath instead of being on the forefront. One small but absolutely crucial factor which makes drummer Martin Lopez a brilliant addition to the band, in addition to his versatile style and overall skill, is the fact that his hi-hat came with a pedal, allowing an open flowing sound, which his predecessor Anders Nordin never used.

Guitar melodies are still a big factor in the music, but instead of harmonizing with another melody underneath, the second guitar adds a big carpet of sound with distorted chords and riffs. The acoustic parts that were there already on Orchid are still present, but integrated more seamlessly, which makes the song structures feel less fragmented, which was a big problem for me on Orchid. But while I welcome all this new approach with open arms, the songwriting isn't quite there yet. April Ethereal and Demon of the Fall are great tracks, and there are good parts in other songs as well, but nothing is really killer. But the atmosphere is very strong throughout, making the album as a whole a very enjoyable one despite the lack of true class A material.

On Morningrise Opeth mastered their early style, on My Arms, Your Hearse they're still learning their new chops. Stylistically a step forward, quality-wise a slight step backwards.

SLAYER Reign in Blood

Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 166 ratings
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Pekka
All genres have some defining albums, Nevermind the Bollocks and Thick as a Brick coming to mind among the first, albums that always come up when discussing key works of each music style. Along with Master of Puppets, Slayer's Reign in Blood is the defining thrash metal album, and perhaps even the most definitive thrash album alone, if we must choose one.

Almost 30 years ago when thrash as a music form started coming up, it was the most extreme thing around, unleashing aggression and speed never know in the world of music, but as years go the standards change and there's always the bigger and badder thing coming around the corner. But in its 24 years Reign in Blood has lost none of its devastating fury and blinding drive. Even today this album sounds incredibly brutal, insane, and just barely under control, which gives it a dangerous edge rarely heard in music especially today when everything can be made perfect by studio trickery. There are real people playing this music, right on the edge, all the time.

Usually I look for some versatility in the music I listen to, but while this album is a total one trick pony, it does the one trick it has better than anybody anywhere. Or perhaps there are two: the brutal fast track and the just as brutal faster and shorter track. Dave Lombardo is a monster behind the kit, the anti-guitar solos of King and Hanneman are the only thing that could work over such ferocious riffs and Tom Araya has the perfect thrash voice, even making the falsetto screams work for his benefit, which many other bands tried and failed. "Do you want to die?!" he screams towards the end of the album, and I see that as a rhetorical question as every single being under the sun has already been murdered, sacrificed and mutilated during the first 25 minutes of this 30 minute ball of insane aggression.

Switch off your brain, clear the furniture away and let this wave of madness wash over you. It's a humbling experience to take a beating like this once in a while. Absolutely essential.

BRUCE DICKINSON Accident of Birth

Album · 1997 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.71 | 16 ratings
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Pekka
After the remarkable lack of success and subsequent dissolvement of the Skunkworks band, Bruce Dickinson contemplated giving up music altogether, but when Roy Z suggested making a good old heavy metal record, he thought what the hell, let's do it even though nobody will probably care. He also asked his former Maiden mate Adrian Smith to play on a couple of tracks, but he ended up playing on all of them and becoming a permanent member of his solo band, which once again consisted of the Tribe of Gypsies, with whom he had recorded the Balls to Picasso album.

While his last two solo works were quite unfocused efforts with varying quality, everything about Accident of Birth tells that this time Dickinson and his pals knew what they were doing. Metal is the name of the game, and this time it's heavy and melodic all the way through, except for the couple of ballady type songs, which in good Bruce D solo tradition shine as the definite highlights of the album. But while the highs of this album are somewhat as high as on for example Balls to Picasso, the general quality of the other tracks is considerably higher.

Freak opens the album with power, and followed by a short synth-flavored interlude Starchildren continues the high quality onslaught. The calmer but just as powerful Taking the Queen leads to Darkside of Aquarius, one of the biggest masterpieces of Bruce Dickinson's solo career. Immensely atmospheric and heavy, led by a wonderful bass pattern and crowned with mysterious lyrics, this is one of the overlooked pieces of gold that Dickinson produced while being away from Maiden. Road to Hell is one of his most Maiden-like solo tracks, and that brings forth a problem. This song begs for the patented Nicko McBrain ride-cymbal beat, but not wanting to emphasize the Maidenness of the track, Dave Ingraham plays a sort of an upside down version of it, making the track very ungroovy. Other than that he does a first class job on this album as well as the others he's done with Dickinson. The title track of the album is one of the finest, and heaviest Bruce solo tracks as well, but the latter half of the album is dominated by the three gentler acoustic-based songs, Man of Sorrows, Omega, which evolves to a great mini-epic, and especially the gorgeous Arc of Space, perhaps the finest ballad of his solo career.

On this album Bruce Dickinson realized what he was good at - heavy pieces of traditional metal and atmospheric ballads. After the commercial and arguable artistic failure of Skunkworks, Accident of Birth was a great return to form. Or not a return really, as this was the first completely good and balanced Bruce Dickinson solo effort. Very recommended.

BRUCE DICKINSON Skunkworks

Album · 1996 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.89 | 10 ratings
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Pekka
After Bruce Dickinson's Balls to Picasso backing band The Tribe of Gypsies found a record deal on their own, he was forced to find new people to work with. A young guitarist called Alex Dickson became his new songwriting partner, and completing the line-up were bassist Chris Dale and the Italian drummer Alessandro Elena. The four of them called themselves Skunkworks, but when they had their album in the can, the record company of course insisted that it be released under the familiar Dickinson name to help sales.

At this point in his career Bruce Dickinson hadn't yet formed a recognizable face as a solo artist, his first album being plain hard rock, and the second a more metallic effort which also included his softest and weirded recorded moments. So now, the third album and the third sidekick brings along the third style. Skunkworks is Dickinson's attempt at capturing the alternative rock and metal spirit, with forays into a stoner kind of vibe. A couple of chords, a fragment of melody - if they're good then it's good to go.

Tracks like Faith, one of the highlights, could come from Balls to Picasso, and it's the most melodic numbers like Solar Confinement, Back from the Edge and Inside the Machine that I find most enjoyable, the first two especially being a forgotten Bruce classics. But then after the first five excellent tracks, the opener Space Race perhaps excluded, the band slows down for Dreamstate and I Will Not Accept the Truth, which can not hold interest in the same way, which goes for Headswitch as well, a full blown stoner rocker with a nice riff but nothing else. Interesting as an experiment, though. Innerspace is another quality track at the end of the album, but the closer Strange Death in Paradise is another less enchanting slow paced track, but luckily it grows to make a fitting ending to the album.

Usually I'm more of a fan of the slower numbers, but on this album it almost goes the faster the better. Some good stuff of the more familiar kind, and some experiments that didn't take off quite as well. A nice album worth listening to, but by no means essential.

IRON MAIDEN No More Lies: Dance Of Death Souvenir EP

EP · 2004 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.02 | 6 ratings
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Pekka
As a thank you to fans for the highly succesful Dance of Death world tour, Iron Maiden released their very first EP since Maiden Japan in 1981. No More Lies was chosen as the leading track, and while in its seven and a half minutes it might not have gotten much airplay on the radio, it's a very good epic track in the modern Maiden tradition of intro, slow build-up, explosion, etc. Their earlier Dance of Death singles had some orchestral and rock versions of certain Brave New World tracks, and while I was expecting some grand reworkings, they basically mean that the string synth tracks have been turned up or down. Paschendale is no different, but with such prominent string arrangements this version is actually an improvement over the original version, which wasn't necessarily the case with the previous remixes. This is Grand with a capital G!

The electric version of the album closing Journeyman is the biggest reason behind this release. Originally visioned by Adrian Smith as a sort of a power ballad, they thought it fun to record an acoustic version to go on a b-side or some other future use, but the result was so wonderful that they chose to put that one on the actual album. This original version obviously doesn't capture the same intimacy as the acoustic re-recording, but here we have some guitar parts that they didn't include in it. I think they made a good decision on what to use on the album, but I also thank them for releasing this. And the cherry on top of this cake is a version of Age of Innocence, which is... hmm... sung? ok, kind of like sung by our beloved mr Nicko McBrain. Scary, isn't it?

And the sweatband, as cool as an Iron Maiden sweatband is, it's too loose for my skinny wrist. Despite that, this stuff is gold if you've got a soft spot for Dance of Death.

BRUCE DICKINSON Balls to Picasso

Album · 1994 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.28 | 13 ratings
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Pekka
Bruce Dickinson's first studio album Tattooed Millionaire was a quick just-for-fun effort, but having quit Iron Maiden in 1993 amidst an aborted attempt at recording a follow up, he had enough time to really concentrate on crafting a second solo album, which he'd been inspired to write after meeting a guitarist called Roy Z. Roy would in the future become Dickinson's trusted sidekick and producer, but on this album, in the beginning of their working relationship he was just the guitarist and songwriting partner.

After the straightforward hard rock record that was Tattooed Millionaire, Dickinson went for much heavier areas, but at the same time he expanded the scope to also include soft ballads and some much more unexpected ingredients... Right off the bat, after a misty intro Cyclops offers a riff far superior to anything heard on the previous album, and the song shows a musician with enough self-confidence to not rush into anything, but taking time to build up the atmosphere. A great track, as is Hell No, a guaranteed crowd pleaser with the very singalongy chorus and a bridge designed for audience participation. The calm verses with their nice turn of melody are a highlight of the tom tom heavy Gods of War, which shows in its chorus that years of raspy singing haven't destroyed Bruce's cleaner voice, while 1000 Points of Light and Fire are the most forgettable tracks of the album, though enjoyable in the context of the album.

After the powerfully riffing Laughing in the Hiding Bush we get a gorgeous ballad called Change of Heart, which for the first time shows that Dickinson is definitely not all about metal and rock. Great guitar solo from Roy as well. Shoot All the Clowns is a track written after the record company requested a track like Aerosmith's Rocks album, and what they got was indeed something like that but with... ahem, rapping over a funk section. Out of the blue it comes for people who have developed a mental picture of what Bruce Dickinson does, but actually it's quite an amusing interlude to a fairly enjoyable rock song. Rapping is a term that could also be stretched to include the verses of Sacred Cowboys, but let's not go there as it's not really true. Close, though. The only song that was kept from the aborted sessions with producer Keith Olsen was Tears of the Dragon, and it's good that they did, because it's a colossal ending to the album. A masterful power ballad, perhaps the most well known Dickinson solo track. After a great Roy Z guitar solo there's even a reggae-like transition to the next vocal part, and it doesn't feel out of place at all.

The gentler tracks are the high points of this album, but overall it's a good testament to the fact that Dickinson was quite capable of making good metal on his own as well.

SERJ TANKIAN Elect the Dead

Album · 2007 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.85 | 8 ratings
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Pekka
When System of a Down went on hiatus, Serj Tankian was quick to release his first proper solo album. Many tracks were apparently suggested to go on SoaD's Mezmerize/Hypnotize double, but as Daron Malakian was overflowing with excellent material, most of Tankian's tracks were left off the albums. Whereas Daron Malakian's post-Soad band Scars of Broadway continued somewhat in the direction of the last System albums, Elect the Dead resembles a bit more the earlier System output, though it's different enough not to be instantly comparable.

As was the case with Scars, Tankian's solo material is also considerably less metal than System. One of the problems of this album is very clear in the third song, Money. Having written a gorgeous intro and verses, Tankian almost destroys them by inserting a mad burst of a chorus. One gets the feeling that it's almost like he wanted to write a simple beautiful track, but because that's what he's known for, he has to go insane in the chorus. It's a good song after all, but it could have been so much more. Many tracks follow the same quiteter verses / loud and heavy chorus pattern.

Tracks like Baby and Honking Antelope are enjoyable listening and Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition is a welcome dose of funky weirdness with its touch of electronics and dissonance, but rarely does anything on this album reach the magic that Serj Tankian is known for. Generally I notice liking his voice much more in the softer parts, in the louder ones he resorts a bit too often to straight colourless booming. I'm sure I would like this album much more if he minimized the metal element, as now it seems a bit too forced in places, like the last bit of metal he had to get out of his system before moving on to playing these songs with a symphony orchestra, and crafting the jazzy and symphonic album that will come out later this year.

That I'm much more interested in than this effort. Occasionally enjoyable, rarely memorable.

METALLICA Some Kind of Monster

EP · 2004 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.54 | 14 ratings
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Pekka
The Some Kind of Monster EP is a companion release to the movie of the same name, featuring the original and edited version of the title track as well as six live cuts of old school Metallica, recorded in Paris on June 11, 2003. "The hottest day in the history of France", the booklet says, that's a good day to do three club shows as they apparently did.

Honesty, that's the word that springs to mind when listening to this release. First of all they show that, a year after the release of St. Anger, they thought things could have been done differently. The edited version of the title track, originally an eight minute juggernaut of slow riffs and fast beats, is reduced to four minutes with a lot of the unnecessary repetition gone, and most notably, they gave in to fan feedback by overdubbing the extremely controversial snare with a more conventional sound. This version is an improvement in every way, and I'm one of those who like the snare sound on St. Anger.

Lots of fans hated St. Anger, but one thing they should thank it for was that it encouraged Metallica to return the old classics to their live sets, replacing most of the post-1988 material. The band was enthusiastic to revisit their old material despite during the long break their playing had lost its best edge. And this is where the honesty comes in again, as the live material is presented here in all its rawness with mistakes and all, with James' voice cracking and amusingly messing up a verse in Ride the Lightning ("I forgot the f**king words", in perfect melody), Lars missing half of his supposed fills and bass drum hits and Kirk stumbling through every solo sometimes completely losing his way. But the band's energy is furious, full of drive, and that's something I value higher than flawess playing. Hit the Lights is a total killer in its ferocity and tight riffing.

A pure collectors/fans only release, and as such a very interesting one, if not always enjoyable.

BRUCE DICKINSON Tattooed Millionaire

Album · 1990 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.98 | 14 ratings
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Pekka
Bruce Dickinson's solo career's beginning was "an enjoyable accident". He was asked to contribute a track to the Nightmare on Elm Street 5 soundtrack, which of course resulted in Bring Your Daughter.....to the Slaughter, which Maiden later reworked for No Prayer for the Dying, achieving a number one hit in Britain. After that one song he was offered an opportunity to record a full album, and so in two weeks in Janick Gers' house Tattooed Millionaire was written.

A far cry from the previous Iron Maiden album, Tattooed Millionaire found Bruce in a classic hard rock setting as opposed to melodic heavy metal. Now in retrospect it's interesting to think how big an effect this album had on Maiden's future direction, as several songs of Tattooed Millionaire could also be found on No Prayer, though from the lightest end of the album. There is the odd twin guitar melody here and there, but most of the time this album contains plain one-guitar hard rock, with extremely raspy vocals in places, and as a sign of the recording year 1989 a very loud snare drum.

Son of a Gun is a nice opening track with a powerful chorus, and the L.A. rock star bashing Tattooed Millionaire has a brilliant pre-chorus to crown the otherwise very solid hard rock song. Born in '58 is a sort of a lifestory song by Bruce and with the title track the other highlight of the album, but after that things turn downhill. Hell on Wheels offers a nice riff but not much more, and there are a couple of riffs in both Dive! Dive! Dive! and Lickin' the Gun that are solid work, but Walk This Way way too clearly to earn very much credit. The Mott the Hoople cover All the Young Dudes is a good song delivered nicely and the album closing No Lies has an enjoyable fat and straightforward drum & bass beat and a good midsection, but...

Ultimately this album sounds just like what it is, friends having some light fun writing songs just because they can. Professionally executed hard rock that fails to offer very many lasting riffs and melodies. Relatively enjoyable for a fan, but I can't see a reason why a casual rock fan should pick this album over his other works.

BRUCE DICKINSON The Best of Bruce Dickinson

Boxset / Compilation · 2001 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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Pekka
In 2001 I was a young Maiden fan, desperately trying to hunt down Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. After yet another fruitless trip to the records store, the guy behind the counter recommended that I wouldn't leave empty handed but try the brand new Bruce Dickinson compilation instead. I did, and it was a very good decision to make.

Released to raise awareness of Bruce Dickinson's solo career in the wake of the massive success of the reunited Iron Maiden, this compilation is a very basic kind of release with the first disc covering the arguable best pics from his studio albums and a live album, and the second disc presenting some rarities. There's even the obligatory two new tracks to make the old fans buy it as well, and to even things out, the first ever Bruce Dickinson recording called Dracula, by a very short lived band Shots.

The first disc contains the two exceptionally good new tracks, Broken and Silver Wings, the latter of which especially is a high speed masterpiece, and a nice selection of older works, at least one from every album. The often forgotten Skunkworks era is represented by Back from the Edge, a highlight track from that line-up, and the solo debut Tattooed Millionaire gave its two finest songs, the title track and Born in '58, all three of them being the lightest rockers of the collection. Many other tracks from the other albums would've been worthy of inclusion, but with such excellent choices as Tears of the Dragon, Darkside of Aquarius and the wonderful live version of Book of Thel, there's no room for complaining.

Nowadays the second disc has devalued somewhat, because if you get interested enough by the first one to go and get the studio albums, they come with bonus discs that have a much wider selection of rarities. Not all of them, though, some key tracks are missing. But back in the day when I did that, the second disc of the compilation was the only place to hear any of this stuff. Included are for example the original Bring Your Daughter....to the Slaughter from the Nightmare on Elm Street 5 soundtrack, a couple of great pieces of heavy metal, Wicker Man (not to be confused with the Maiden song of the same name, they're completely different tunes) and Real World, some lighter tracks such as the brilliant Acousic Song, some funny stuff like I'm in a Band with an Italian Drummer and a wonderfully atmospheric synth rock song No Way Out...Continued. Followed by an interesting, but after the first listen a skippable interview bit comes Dracula, which proves that Dickinson's voice was there as early as 1977, though it would get better as years went by. It's a nice song too.

As compilations go this is an excellent one, but with most of the rarities nowadays spread around the studio album bonus discs, you might want to go out and get Accident of Birth and Chemical Wedding right away and then work your way backwards if you feel like it. Next to Maiden Dickinson's solo work has been left with way too little attention.

IRON MAIDEN A Matter Of Life And Death

Album · 2006 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.80 | 100 ratings
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Pekka
The 80s, especially from The Number of the Beast to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is justly seen as the golden age of Iron Maiden, but many say that a new golden age began when Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith joined the band after years of absence. They are not necessarily wrong, as 2006 brought a third consecutive album of excellence from this line-up.

At 72 minutes A Matter of Life and Death is the longest Iron Maiden album to date, soon to be dropped to #2 by The Final Frontier, and it continues the progressive fashion displayed on the previous albums with most of the album classifiable as epics. In my review of The X Factor I mentioned that around that time the band began to start off their songs with long quiet intros, and on this album this method is taken to the extreme with seven of the ten songs having an intro like that. Different World is one track that jumps right into the main riff, and as an opener it's too much of a Maiden-rocker-by-numbers to make a memorable entry to the album, but the other two, The Pilgrim and Out of the Shadows are considerably better with a slower tempo and a clearer character.

But the epics is what this album's about. Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, The Longest Day, For the Greater Good of God and The Legacy are all excellent longer tracks that touch on the subjects of war and religion, as does most of the album. The first of them has some exceptional bass work from Steve Harris, and one must also mention Nicko McBrain who is one fire throughout the album with joyous fills in every corner. A far cry from Virtual XI where he probably used a kit consisting of a bass drum, a snare and the cymbals. The Legacy could use a bigger climax in the end as it is an album closer, but a very fine piece this way as well.

The long intros, that do not feel redundant at all as may be the case in some of the other songs, make The Reincarnation of Benjaming Breeg and Lord of Light deceptively long, as in their core they are quite basic songs, but what songs they are! Benjamin Breeg has an absolutely crushing riff, one of their heaviest ever, some very tasty hi-hat work by Nicko and the melodies to make this one of my favourite Maiden tracks of the new century. And Lord of Light is even better, with an ominous intro breaking into a masterful heavy metal riff and an immensely powerful vocal by Bruce Dickinson. But it is the quieter middle part that make this perhaps my favourite Dickinson vocal track in the history of Maiden. "Free your soul and let it fly, mine was caught, I couldn't try", listen to the delivery of that line. Love it, absolutely love it. Since the release of this album, every time someone has asked me for my favourite Iron Maiden song, I've always answered Stranger in a Strange Land or Lord of Light. That's how good this track is.

Some say a band is just as good as their latest album, and judging by that Iron Maiden is in an excellent form. Just a week until the release of their next one, we'll see then how they're keeping it up.

IRON MAIDEN Dance Of Death

Album · 2003 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.67 | 99 ratings
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Pekka
Hahaha! A really weird and brilliant joke! Please, it is a joke, right? What the...? These are the thoughts of every single Iron Maiden fan from the moment the new album cover was exposed to the moment the album was really released. That embarrassing mess of crooked necks, dislocated arms, shiny plastic bald girls, toy dogs and levitating babies was really the cover to an album by Iron Maiden, a band that has always put so much effort into their visual appearance. This is metal's equivalent to Love Beach in its sheer stupendous awkwardness.

But enough of the wrapping, once that cd hit the player the feelings were soothed. This was the first new Iron Maiden album I heard on the day of the release, and at the time I couldn't get enough of it as I was hitting the peak of my intense fanboy days. But soon I started comparing it to their other releases and saw that there are lots of albums this one can't match, but it's still quite an excellent piece of work.

Iron Maiden have a habit of omitting a certain portion of every album when doing the tour promoting it, and never returning to them afterwards. Montségur is one such song that I'm still waiting for them to play live some day, one of the definite highlights of the album with its heavy riffs, an amusing contrast between a happy chorus melody line and lyrics about a massacre, and a brilliant instrumental section. Other such songs include the first and so far last ever Nicko McBrain writing contribution New Frontier, a clear winner in the competition of Maiden drummers as songwriters which has some of Bruce Dickinson's best singing on this album, Face in the Sand which is mostly notable for being the only Iron Maiden track ever to contain double bass drumming and the very good Gates of Tomorrow, the guitar intro of which is very reminiscent of Lord of the Flies.

They are in no way deserving of such treatment, as they are every bit as good as the opening duo of Wildest Dreams, which despite its good upbeat rocking feel battles with Tail Gunner and Different World for the spot of the least convincing Maiden album opener, and Rainmaker, a fast melodic heavy metal track that for some reason failed to take off properly when played live. The first epic of the album, No More Lies, feels like The Clansman part 2, taking the same aesthetic to good results, but the remaining two epics outshine that one badly. Dance of Death is a masterpiece of slow moody beginning and very catchy folk melodies and Paschendale is a monumental war song with proper heaviness, an effective composition that goes perfectly with the theme of the lyrics, and a great string arrangement in places. And for the first time ever Maiden digs out the acoustic instruments not only for an intro, but an entire song. Journeyman is one of their finest closers ever in its intimate feel.

Far from their best, far from their worst. A respectable album in every sense, if you remember to close your eyes when taking the case out of your cd shelf.

IRON MAIDEN Brave New World

Album · 2000 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.93 | 137 ratings
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Pekka
"This album changed my life." That's big a phrase you hear suspiciously often, but Iron Maiden's Brave New World is one of the two albums I really can say that about. Had I not heard this album and become an Iron Maiden fan, I wouldn't have met other Iron Maiden fans around Finland and through them I wouldn't have met the lady sitting behind me on the couch. So hearing Brave New World in the summer of 2000 really set moving a course of events which has brought me to this place in my life right now.

For that only I would treasure this album, but the music has stayed with me for ten years, not getting old and boring one bit. In the end of the 90s, a dark decade for Maiden, they had done the thing that many thought inevitable, sacked Blaze Bayley and welcomed back the good old Bruce Dickinson. And if that wasn't already enough to get people excited, Adrian Smith's return at the same time should have done it. As they had the good sense of keeping his replacement Janick Gers in the line-up, Maiden now possessed the power of three excellent axe masters, which makes this album a big bowl of tasty soloing.

Adrian Smith comes back with a vengeance as he is the main composer behind their best album opener since Moonchild, The Wicker Man. Ten years ago this was the song that made me a fan, and I still love it today. This is one of the examples that make Nicko McBrain one of the only metal drummers I know who can make a closed hi-hat beat work like a charm. Ghost of the Navigator and the title track are brilliant pieces, both of which feature the added third guitar doubling Bruce Dickinson's melody lines. One could hope for the guitar to create more harmonies with the vocals to enrich the music, but this approach is an improvement as well, making the melodies more powerful. Blood Brothers is an early favourite of mine that has again climbed near the top of my favourite tracks list, an emotional slower song about Steve Harris' father. The beautiful instrumental section is a highlight of the album, but it too could have benefited from the strings creating harmonies with guitars instead of merely doubling them.

The two rockers, The Mercenary and Adrian Smith's other writing contribution, The Fallen Angel are perhaps the weakest tracks of the album, but on an album this strong in its entirety the correct phrase is "least great". The second single Out of the Silent Planet is of faster nature as well, and a wonderful piece despite the repetition in the chorus. The verses are some of the finest moments on the album. My respect for this album dropped a tiny bit when I learned that (along with some of the lyrics in Hallowed be Thy Name) the gloriously grand and wonderful instrumental section in the highlight track The Nomad is very much copied from a Beckett song called Life's Shadow, but still along with Dream of Mirrors it proves that Maiden's ability to craft memorable epics was still as strong as it ever was. The album closer The Thin Line Between Love and Hate features some pretty unusual sounds for Maiden with its multi tracked vocals and a somewhat loose feeling arrangement. A very good track this one as well, but a bit of a downer for a such important place on the album.

This is one of the dearest albums in my life, and as the listens number 245 and 246 last week proved, I still enjoy it just as much as I did in the early days. Just as good as anything they did during the 80s, excluding the two favourites of mine.

CAUSE FOR EFFECT 0 + 1 = 01

Album · 2007 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Pekka
Cause for Effect is one of the most unique bands I'm aware of. I ran into them by chance at a gig a couple of years ago, and that was one of the most amusing half hours I can remember having in a rock club.

Bass, drums, low grunts, that's all. This group runs rings around time signatures and conventional structures, conventional sound, conventional anything. A truly special blend of jazz, groovy funk and blast-beating extreme metal. The average length of these tracks is under one minute, and one is also the number of different notes used by the vocalist over the course of the entire album. Half an hour of this stuff is the extreme that one can handle in one sitting, but quite surprisingly it's a relatively easy and enjoyable swallow.

This is definitely collectors/fans stuff, and an excellent addition to any such collection. Three stars is a fine compromise between them, and it ultimately reflects very well the level of enjoyment I get from this album. To pay tribute to this music I've kept this the shortest review I've ever written on this site.

IRON MAIDEN Virtual XI

Album · 1998 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.49 | 89 ratings
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Pekka
Iron Maiden's popularity was at all time low during the late 90s following the loss of Bruce Dickinson and the acquisition of Blaze Bayley. Lots of fans jumped ship, but the band soldiered on like nothing happened. The X Factor was a difficult album born in a difficult time, and after the troubles had been overcome, Maiden continued in a more classic vein with a reasonably sized eight song album with highs, lows, fasts and slows.

Virtual XI has a couple of flaws, including the hideous album cover, a bit overlong repetition in a couple of songs, a rather hollow sound and very restrained playing by Nicko McBrain, but luckily the song material is strong enough to make up for most of it. Without an intro, without a drum fill or anything the band jumps right into Futureal, a fast opener of a very rare kind - a Maiden song lasting under three minutes. This track is a polar opposite to Sign of the Cross opening the previous album, and the next song polarizes opinions very strongly, the emphasis being on the negative side. Spiced with a rather silly synth sound, The Angel and the Gambler is a ten minute track made of five minutes of material. "Don't you think I'm a savior, don't you think I can save you, don't you think I can save your life" is a line repeated over and over and over and over and over yet again, but quite recently I've started to see that it's not necessarily boring, it's growing. Despite the seemingly endless repetition the music under it moves forward all the time. It could do it faster, but I'm developing a liking to this song to my big surprise.

Lightning Strikes Twice, When Two Worlds Collide and The Educated Fool are very solid material all of them, the first two featuring rare writing contributions from Dave Murray, and The Clansman is a classic Blaze era epic which they had the sense of keeping in the setlist when Bruce came back. Don't Look to the Eyes of the Stranger is the other track of the album which gets much flak for the repetition of its title, but in this case too it can be seen as boring or growing. In my opinion this song has a great, long build-up, but what it builds up to I'm not quite sure of. A furious melody to a hilarious "humppa" style beat (check Wikipedia if the word is weird) is quite a combination, and I haven't been able to decide yet during all these years if it's a bad part or a good part. Memorable at least. And as the Blaze era began with a masterpiece, it also ends with a masterpiece called Como Estais Amigos, a very emotional song about the men who fought in the Falklands conflict, Blaze giving a great performance and the band playing some brilliant melodies and solos in the instrumental section.

A grossly underrated album of high quality material, though with a few flaws. Recommended to open minded listeners.

IRON MAIDEN Eddie's Archive

Boxset / Compilation · 2002 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.62 | 7 ratings
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Pekka
In recent times Iron Maiden has built a reputation of a band releasing a new compilation every two years. But among all the greatest hits type of collections there is one gem for the hardcore fans: Eddie's Archive. This handsome metal box contains a family tree parchment, a shot glass (mine's still dry, better fix that some day) and six compact discs filled with Maiden treasures ancient and more recent. The three double albums are BBC Archives, which features live recordings from four different years, digged up from - surprise surprise - the BBC archives, Beast Over Hammersmith, a complete concert from the Number of the Beast era, and Best of the B'Sides, which is what the title promises.

BBC Archives

begins in November 1979 with Iron Maiden's first radio session, long before their first album was released. Two fifths of the album recording line-up is still missing, with a short time member Tony Parsons handling the other guitar and Doug Sampson playing some of his last beats for Maiden before being replaced by Clive Burr. The tracks were pretty much in their finished form and the band sounds a lot tighter than on the Soundhouse Tapes sessions a year previously. The oldest Iron Maiden recordings officially released on cd, definitely worth hearing if you're a fan. The other sample of the Paul Di'Anno era comes from Reading Festival in the fall of 1980, the debut album had been released five months previously and the British metal audience is clearly embracing the band. The band plays well and even brings out an early version of Killers, with different lyrics, that they almost mess up in the beginning with someone missing their cue.

The Bruce era starts on the same festival two years later with a fine performance from the Number of the Beast tour, but that's a subject we'll return to under Beast Over Hammersmith. The real treat of this double cd is an eight song excerpt from the 1988 Donington Monsters of Rock, Iron Maiden at the very top of their game after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Two people had been trampled to death earlier that day during the Guns n' Roses show, but the band had yet to learn about it and they're firing on all cylinders. After the intro to Moonchild, the opening blast of the band kicking in is... I don't know what to say, devastating? With pure energy and burning drive the band rips through the set containing such rare pieces as Infinite Dreams and the Seventh Son title track, the only flaw being Bruce's road worn voice, which sounds very strained in places. I'm still waiting for the Maiden England re-release, but as this is now the only official live recording from this era that's available to me, I'm enjoying it wholeheartedly.

Beast Over Hammersmith

is a real treasure to any friend of the early Maiden. This full length concert recording was captured very early on the Beast on the Road tour in March 1982, in fact less than a week before the release of The Number of the Beast. So all the people in attendance that evening heard classics like Hallowed Be Thy Name and the Beast title track for the first time ever, only the Run to the Hills single with b-side Total Eclipse being released before. A lot of minds were blown that night, and we're lucky to hear it in retrospect. Imagine a band on the brink of breakthrough, just recorded the album of a lifetime, a future classic, kicking off the tour that will take them to stars. This album is the soundtrack of that scenario. The band is young, hungry and they damn well know what kind of an album they've just recorded. Everyone including the soon-to-depart Clive Burr gives their 110%, and what's especially great is that Bruce's voice, which is a problem on many of their 80s live recordings is in top shape with only less than a month of touring behind them. The entire new album except Invaders and Gangland is performed together with selections from the first two albums. Murders in the Rue Morgue and Killers especially are given a great treating. This is a wonderful piece of Maiden history and very much recommended to every serious fan.

Best of the B'Sides

shows the other side(s) of Maiden, as the title suggests. This album contains not only the best of their single b-sides, but most of them, and they can be divided into four categories: original non-album material, original live material, cover songs paying tribute to their influences, and the merry silliness. The band is made of a bunch of funny blokes, but as it may be wise, they don't let that fact shine through too much on their actual albums. Some unfortunate omissions are the Thin Lizzy cover Massacre, original piece I Live My Way from the X Factor sessions and the infamous Message from 'Arry, a secretly recorded confrontation between Nicko and Steve after a roadie was sent to tell something to Nicko in the middle of his drum solo, which he messed up because of the distraction. But the stuff that is included ranges from interesting to funny to quite brilliant.

This compilation fittingly starts off with the first song ever completely written by Steve Harris, aptly titled Burning Ambition, and the three song Di'Anno portion also contains a fine live rendition of Drifter and much more interestingly a re-recording of Invasion, originally found on the Soundhouse Tapes. The Bruce era contains a lot of cover tunes and a couple of originals, both new and re-recorded. Some of the highlights of this section are the Jethro Tull cover Cross-Eyed Mary, the Nektar cover King of Twilight, Reach Out (written by Dave Colwell for the project band called Entire Population of Hackney containing a couple of Maiden members) which is brilliantly sung by Adrian Smith with Bruce providing soaring backing vocals, the original piss-take tribute to their manager Rod Smallwood called Sheriff of Huddersfield and the budgie cover I Can't See My Feelings. Two early days tracks, Prowler and Charlotte the Harlot are reworked in 1988, but these versions offer nothing much, except Bruce's voice which lacks the madman charisma needed for Prowler, and a bigger sound.

Some of the most interesting tracks come from the Blaze era. Yesterday I complained in my review of the X Factor that the album could do with a couple of faster tracks, and here they are. Justice of the Peace and Judgement Day come from the same sessions, but the band decided to give the album a darker edge by leaving these up-tempo pieces out. After some thought I've come to the conclusion that it was a wise decision, as the tracks aren't quite up to the standards of the eventual album. The familiar pre-show tape track Doctor Doctor by UFO is great to hear in Maiden form too, and the compilation ends with a couple of good live tracks first from the tours with Blaze and then from the Ed Hunter reunion tour.

This box is a big investment to make, but if you're interested enough to consider it, I can't believe you would be disappointed. A must have for serious Maiden fans. Worth all the 1212 words I've just written, phew.

IRON MAIDEN The X Factor

Album · 1995 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.88 | 92 ratings
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Pekka
I've become comfortably numb. That's why Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden, he said in an interview. He saw no challenge anymore, but with the iconic frontman gone the band faced one like they'd never known. Add to that the fact that Steve Harris was at the time losing his father and going through a divorce, and the murky feel of the eventual album should come as no surprise.

The band's vocalist of choice was Blaze Bayley from Wolfsbane, a very different type of singer than Bruce. A lot can be, and has been said about him, but no matter how inadequate his range was for some Bruce era tracks live, I think he did a very good job in studio most of the time. Choosing a vocalist so different was a courageous move, and for a band known for openers like Aces High and Be Quick Or Be Dead, starting an album with low humming and monks chanting is a courageous move as well. What the slow beginning evolves into is an eleven minute massive masterpiece called Sign of the Cross, a truly fantastic start to a new era.

Tempo is then picked up with a couple of faster rocking tracks following. Lord of the Flies is slightly hampered by the chorus that due to Blazes limited range doesn't really take off as it could, but Man on the Edge is classic Maiden with great riffs and a memorable chorus. But then the band takes it down again for most of the eight remaining tracks, showcasing them at their darkest and slowest, with lyrics dealing with subjects like war, suffering, war, desperation, war, emptiness and war. Here Maiden also got the sometimes over used habit of starting songs with extended calm intros that take their time and then lead to the verses.

For a long time it was difficult to tell the rest of the tracks from each other. This sameness is both a minus and a plus: though Judgement of Heaven comes close, the latter half of the album could use an uptempo rocking piece to give it a bit of variation, but on the other hand the mood established is incredibly strong and effective, and the tracks good enough to keep interest level high. My favourites would perhaps be Look for the Truth, Blood on the World's Hands which opens with an acoustic Steve Harris bass jam, 2 A.M. and The Unbeliever, all of which have some exceptional melodies relieving the darkness.

This is the dark, slow and heavy Maiden album, difficult to get into but ultimately very rewarding. Very recommended if you want to delve deep.

IRON MAIDEN Fear Of The Dark

Album · 1992 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.12 | 112 ratings
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Pekka
Maiden had hit their bottom with No Prayer for the Dying, which saw them abandoning the big and bold proggish metal tunes in favour of harsher rocking songs about real life subjects. Not a bad idea, but their pencil just wasn't sharp enough. Fear of the Dark continues very much in the same direction, the only difference being that this time they had the material in place. Not all the way but considerably more so than on the previous try.

And harsher it gets. Be Quick Or Be Dead opens the album with the all time most aggressive Maiden blast, over a couple of almost thrashy riffs Bruce spits venom on all the corporate leeches of the world. His newfound vocal style split opinions right in the middle, but for the new kind of material the new rougher voice is approppriate, I think. After the very fine opener things take a turn for the worse with From Here to Eternity, an almost Gn'R like rocker which is, like Hooks in You from the previous album, notable only for being a sort of a sequel to the Charlotte the Harlot saga. But this, like most of the "filler" material on the album is somewhat salvaged by a brilliant instrumental section with both soloists in excellent form. From the later songs especially The Apparition displays the same contrast of an excellent soloing section, I especially enjoy the guitar and bass unison run, and an utterly forgettable set of verses and choruses.

But the good tracks on this album are really really good, wonderful. The title track has been an ever present live staple since the release of the album, and totally deservedly. After hearing tons of great live renditions the original studio recording seems a bit short on energy, but the song is a classic in any shape. As is Afraid to Shoot Strangers, which sadly hasn't made any live appearances since the Blaze days. After a subdued, moody intro the band brings out a superbly radiant melody, which they keep varying until the end of the song, with an uptempo section spicing things up.

So the masterpiece department that was lacking on No Prayer for the Dying has been taken care of, and as the mid album "filler" material is of higher quality than that of its predecessor, with such fine tracks as Fear Is the Key, Childhood's End, Wasting Love, The Fugitive and Judas Be My Guide, the end result is a considerable step up.

A recommended album, but get the classics first. And the ones by the six man line-up. And perhaps some Blaze stuff...

IRON MAIDEN No Prayer For The Dying

Album · 1990 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.81 | 99 ratings
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Pekka
In a way Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was Iron Maiden's ...And Justice for All and No Prayer For the Dying was their Black Album. We'll of course have to exclude the fact that the latter sold millions of units and launched Metallica to international mainstream superstardom, which No Prayer wasn't very close to achieving. But Seventh Son was the album that took the prog Maiden approach to as far as it could go, so the only thing to do next was scale down and return to the rock roots.

But it doesn't always work. Adrian Smith had lost interest in Maiden during the Seventh Tour of the Seventh Tour and quit afterwards to be replaced by Janick Gers, with whom Bruce Dickinson had recorded his first solo album Tattooed Millionaire. Before he went, though, Smith had penned a track that would end up on the new Maiden record, finished by Dickinson. This raunchy rocker called Hooks in You is notable only for containing a mention of a certain apartment "number 22", we all know who lives there, and is among my very least favourite Maiden tracks ever, so perhaps it was good time for Smith to step out. It's just too bad that the band lost Smith's melodic solo style for Gers' sometimes very messy one, but it actually suits the material here quite well.

No Prayer is an odd Maiden album in that it contains no killer tracks. All their other albums, however weak as a whole, always had at least one total masterpiece, but everything here ranges from forgettable to decent to just very very good. Maiden had indeed changed big time, gone were the synths, intricate istrumental passages and epicness and in place was a considerably more rocking feel and very raw vocals by Bruce. The melodies were mostly still there, thankfully. The opener Tail Gunner is a sort of a follow up to Aces High and with its riffs manages to convey a good feel of aerial battle, and Holy Smoke is a very good aggressive-but-light rocker with a good delivery from Bruce against evil televangelists. The more ballady title track has a great melody, but they would take a very similar melody to much higher heights on their next album. The only track that resembles their recent output is the closer Mother Russia. For this song they bring back the keys, and the intstrumental section resembles a sort of a Seventh Son-lite. Some really good guitar harmonies in the beginning and an unusually slow stomping rhythm help make this an album highlight, but on any preceding album it would have been among the weakest.

If you're just starting to get to know Maiden, save this one for last. If you end up buying all their stuff you'll probably find this one quite enjoyable as well. It is, but infinitely inferior to anything they released after Killers. Deserves the occasional spin.

IRON MAIDEN Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

Album · 1988 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.18 | 171 ratings
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Pekka
As much as I love Somewhere in Time, the award of my #1 Maiden album goes without question to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Like its predecessor, it was a very difficult album to get into at the time that I finally managed to hunt it down in a tiny record shop in Helsinki, a big distant city in those days, but again like its predecessor it's an album I eventually completely fell in love with.

Seventh Son is the first and only Iron Maiden concept album, the story being based on an old tale by the same name, set in mystical and magical times, through its protagonist dealing with basic questions like good versus evil. I haven't delved deep into the lyrics, but they fit the music perfectly and make the album feel more unified. When it comes to lyrics I'm usually not after some big storyline, but single effective lines will do the trick to me, from this album a part that's frequently stuck in my head is the whole "even though it's reached new heighths, I rather like the restless nights..." two verse section in Infinite Dreams. Brilliant atmosphere there, one of my favourite parts of the album.

Moonchild might be my preferred Maiden album opener ever, especially live it's a killer moment. Just today morning I was listening to the Donington '88 part from the BBC Archives album and got mad goosebumps when the band came crashing in after the "seven deadly sins" intro and the synth build-up. While we're ranking like this, I'll go and say that the aforementioned Infinite Dreams in its entirety is perhaps my favourite second track on any Maiden album. Wonder why nobody ever makes top lists from this stuff? Can I Play With Madness? and The Evil That Men Do are two tracks that have sticked around in Maiden's live set, but the first of them is the album's weakest number, or let's say least great, in its simple rocking feel. Very enjoyable nevertheless, but in a tad too strong company to shine.

But what follows is one of Maiden's epic masterpieces, the title track. On this album the band added proper synths to go with their earlier explored guitar synths, and they make great use of them on this track that can only be described as grand and monumental. The long instrumental section ending the track is one of Maiden's boldest moments. After a pair of just as impressive numbers, The Prophecy and one of my early Maiden favourites, the Clairvoyant, Maiden does something they hadn't done since the first album and closes the record with a relatively short uptempo number. Only the Good Die Young is for some incomprehensible reason a track that has never appeared live in concert, as it is one hell of a treat of speed, melody and yes, a bass solo.

The most consistently brilliant Maiden record ever, get it if you don't have it.

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