Metal Music Reviews from martindavey87

DREAM THEATER Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour

Live album · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.27 | 44 ratings
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They did it in 2000 with ‘Live Scenes from New York’, and again in 2004 with ‘Live at Budokan’, and come 2006, Dream Theater are at it once more, trying to outdo themselves with ‘Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour’, another three-disc live album that shows the kings of progressive metal at their very best.

“So what makes ‘Score’ any different?” you ask... allow me to explain.

‘Live Scenes...’ was focused around the ‘Scenes from a Memory’ album and a multitude of big, prog epics, while ‘Budokan’ had an abundance of heavier, more energetic and varied material. Interestingly, with the exception of a few songs, both albums had different sets, and this continues with ‘Score’. Based around the ‘Octavarium’ album and a retrospective look back at the bands career in chronological order, there is, once again, a varied set here which is different than previously.

With a fantastic production (this almost sounds like a studio release, at times), and superb performances (c’mon, it’s Dream Theater), ‘Score’ is over two hours of prog greatness. With such epics as ‘Octavarium’, ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’ in its entirety, as well as often overlooked tracks such as ‘Afterlife’, ‘Innocence Faded’ and ‘Vacant’, there’s a well-rounded set here. And ‘Another Won’ and ‘Raise the Knife’, both previously unreleased on studio albums, are welcome and popular additions. There’s the “Octavarium Ochestra” in there too, which has fans raving. Though to be honest, I find their contributions a bit lacking, especially when Jordan Rudess could perform most of this on his keyboard by himself.

Overall however, ‘Score’ is another live success for Dream Theater. While ‘Live at Budokan’ remains my favourite, this, along with ‘Live Scenes from New York’ completes the perfect live album trilogy, and is a highly recommended addition to any prog collection.

DREAM THEATER Greatest Hit (...and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs)

Boxset / Compilation · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.11 | 20 ratings
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Released in 2008, ‘Greatest Hit’ (a reference to the bands one radio hit, ‘Pull Me Under’) is a compilation album by progressive metal giants Dream Theater. With an abundance of incredible material to choose from, it should have been easy enough to make this a three-disc box set that would be the defining progressive music collection. Instead, this is more of a two-disc cash-grab, a quick and easy effort to introduce new fans to the band.

Admittedly, for that purpose, it works. However, for the die-hard fans, this is more of a disappointment.

Firstly, it’d be near-impossible to truly do this kind of band justice with a compilation. Since most of their most popular songs are around ten, fifteen or even twenty minutes in duration, you’d require at least five discs just to fit them all in. And since we already have these songs anyway, why bother?

So instead, the band went the route of using radio edits. A risky move, for sure. It’s cool as a fan to own different versions of the songs we already know and love... but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’d want to hear it repeatedly. I’d rather stick with the originals. No cuts. No censored profanities. No nonsense.

But that’s not all, there’s three 2007 remixes of Dream Theater classics from the 1992 ‘Images and Words’ album, and while the compositions themselves are perfect, the remixes are pretty ugly and messy. The mix seems a bit unbalanced and some random noises and sound effects kind of ruins things. Once again, I’ll stick with the originals.

However, for the Dream Theater newbie, this is a great starting point. With all the hits, including ‘Pull Me Under’, ‘Take the Time’, ‘Home’, ‘As I Am’, ‘Another Day’, ‘The Spirit Carries On’, ‘Sacrificed Sons’ and ‘Hollow Years’, this is still a great retrospective of the bands career. But for long-time fans such as myself, this really serves as nothing more than another CD to add to the collection.

METALLICA Garage Inc.

Album · 1998 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.37 | 90 ratings
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Released in 1998 during the heyday of their alternative rock phase, ‘Garage Inc.’ is a two-disc compilation of covers by heavy metal legends Metallica. Regardless of your thoughts on the band cutting their hair, Napster, Lars’ drumming, selling out, Kirk’s wah pedal, James being a table, or the countless other things the band have had thrown at them over their careers, one statement that holds up true is that Metallica have always done an incredible job at covering other artists songs.

Of course, part of that is probably the fact that about 95% of these bands would be absolutely unheard of if it weren’t for Metallica in the first place. But regardless, Metallica have an incredible talent of doing covers in their own way to truly make the songs their own. With beefier guitars, production and Hetfield’s trademark vocal style, pretty much all of these tracks are better than the original.

The first disc consists of covers recorded for this album in 1998, and while the song list is a little hit or miss, for the most part it’s a solid effort. Well produced, well performed, and special mention to Hetfield’s strong vocals here. The likes of ‘Die, Die My Darling’, ‘Turn the Page’, ‘Astronomy’, ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ and ‘It’s Electric’ make this an interesting listen.

The second disc is a compilation of any covers the band had recorded in the past, either for various EPs or as singles b-sides. Some are better produced than others, but overall they’re a solid bunch too. ‘Am I Evil’, ‘So What’, ‘Blitzkrieg’, ‘Helpless’, ‘Breadfan’, ‘Last Caress’ and ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ are more-or-less Metallica songs now. Such is the quality of these covers when compared to their original counterparts.

‘Garage Inc.’ came out at a weird point in Metallica’s history. After going alt rock with ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’, but prior to working with an orchestra and all the drama that would follow with Napster and ‘St. Anger’, this album just kind of sits there, a small, subtle reminder that despite everything, Metallica were still metal fans at heart, who’ve never been afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve. At an excessive two and a quarter hours in duration, this can be a pretty enduring listen, but there’s enough decent material here to make ‘Garage Inc.’ as vital a part of Metallica’s discography as any of their studio releases.

AGE OF SILENCE Complications: Trilogy of Intricacy

EP · 2005 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.84 | 4 ratings
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“Meh”.

I bought this CD in a shop in Germany for 50 cents or something equally daft. I’d never heard of Age of Silence (and apparently, neither had anyone else, since they were in the literal bargain bin), but it was a metal CD, so why not?

Labelled as avant-garde metal... whatever the hell that means... this sounds a lot like something Devin Townsend would do, complete with obscure, gloomy cover art and unusual song titles. Age of Silence have a big sound, with multiple-layered guitars overproduced to give each of the three tracks a huge feeling about them. But otherwise, these songs are fairly dull. The overbearing “big” guitar chords are heard through each track, leaving me feel like there’s been an ongoing chord played throughout the entire EP.

But it doesn’t stop there. It starts to overshadow the vocals, any lead parts, the drums... the whole lot. I don’t “get” this kind of music. I understand it’s based more on ambience and what-have-you, but for the most part this is just pretty boring and repetitive. There’s one or two moments where something might sound catchy or interesting, but as a whole, considering this is only a three-song EP, it’s not really anything I’d come back to.

The shop I’d bought it from was probably relieved to be rid of it.

METALLICA Nothing Else Matters (S&M version)

Single · 1999 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.08 | 2 ratings
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In an age where CD singles are extinct (or at the very least, nothing more than collectibles for die-hard fans), ‘Nothing Else Matters’ serves as nothing more than a three-song sample of Metallica’s 1999 album, ‘S&M’.

‘S&M’, a live album which saw the metal legends collaborating with Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, is an outstanding release, and holds up well to this day for its fantastic performances and sound. It’s well worth checking out, and mostly makes this CD single redundant.

But with that said, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ are done incredibly, with the orchestra perfectly adding to the metal classics, without being either underwhelming or overbearing. And ‘-Human’ (pronounced “Minus Human”), a new song exclusive to the album, is a great addition, and is a nice little extra for this CD, and shows that even in 1999, amidst their alternative rock lunacy, that Metallica could still out heavy most bands on the planet.

While this is redundant today, especially to fans who already own the S&M album, it’s still a nice collectible for anyone that has to own everything that Metallica has ever put out.

METALLICA The Memory Remains

Single · 1997 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 2.14 | 3 ratings
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One of the better singles from Metallica’s often underrated and wrongly dismissed 1997 release, ‘Reload’, ‘The Memory Remains’ is pure hard rock at its finest. With plenty of hooks, catchy sing-along lyrics, and “that vocal melody” (one of the few Metallica songs with a guest vocalist, British singer Marianne Faithfull), it holds up well as one of the better songs from the album.

Included with the title track are two demos. The first, ‘Fuel for Fire’, is a demo in progress of arguably the records most popular and well-known track, ‘Fuel’. Admittedly, the lyrics are pretty laughable, but then, it’s easy to say that when comparing it to the finished version we all know and love.

Then there’s a demo of ‘The Memory Remains’, which is pretty terrible. Overly long, with very few distinguishable lyrics, most of it is just James Hetfield singing ‘la la la’ and ‘na na na’ over and over. Still, it’s a rare look at what the band originally had intended, and if nothing else, this is what singles are made for.

Decent enough single for collectors only.

SLAYER South of Heaven

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.18 | 115 ratings
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When it comes to the “big four” of thrash metal, I’ve always been a huge fan of Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax, yet, for reasons unexplainable, I’ve never been able to get into Slayer. 1986’s ‘Reign in Blood’ is often hailed as one of the all-time greatest metal albums, though, other than it’s absolutely killer opening and closing tracks, I find the record to be mindless drivel (ooh, controversial...).

Yet here we are; 1988’s ‘South of Heaven’, the album where the band infamously “slowed down”. Admittedly, the songs are a bit more polished here, and the riffs are more than just open-string chugging away. Although the album as a whole is still pretty repetitive, and doesn’t sound any different than anything the band have done before.

Still, I’ll give Slayer their due. ‘South of Heaven’ is better than anything they had released beforehand, and if vocalist Tom Ayara could somehow implement just a little bit of melody in his singing, they could really be onto something. Instead, as always, while the musicianship is of a high standard, I find the vocals tend to just sit on top of the riffs, without really fitting in too well.

If I had to pick any highlights out, I’d say the title track, as well as ‘Silent Scream’, ‘Live Undead’ and ‘Mandatory Suicide’ are all decent enough, and there’s ‘Behind the Crooked Cross’, which I instantly recognized due to its use in 8-bit midi glory in the video game ‘Doom’ (a game I played religiously in my childhood, years before I should have been allowed to). But as is always the case with Slayer, I’m just not that big a fan, and would much rather listen to any other member of the big four.

NICKELBACK Silver Side Up

Album · 2001 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 2.95 | 14 ratings
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It’s always the ones you least expect, right?

Who’d have imagined at the start of the year that Nickelback would be coming out of 2001 as one of the biggest bands on the planet? After two studio albums which had started to bring some minor success, the band unleashed this nugget upon the world, with a beefed up production that slowly steps away from the Seattle-grunge sound of their previous efforts, they were a much harder and heavier rock band, and with one of radios most played rock songs of all time, they were ready to become household names.

Stylistically, ‘Silver Side Up’ isn’t too much different than its predecessors, but the sound of the album has giving the band’s music a much more anthemic vibe. Featuring ten tracks, each one simple in structure, with hooks aplenty and catchy choruses, Nickelback had their formula, and mainstream success came in abundance.

Of course, the lyrics can get a bit cringeworthy and the songs can begin to sound repetitive at times, but let’s be honest here, this isn’t music meant to be studied and scrutinized. With pounding guitar riffs and a booming rhythm section, this is hard rock, pure and simple. And it sounds bloody massive!

Highlights? Well, there’s ‘Never Again’, ‘Too Bad’, ‘Money Bought’, ‘Just For’ and ‘Where Do I Hide’ for starters. Oh, then there’s ‘How You Remind Me’, only one of the most famous and well-known songs since the turn of the century. Reaching number one on the Billboard charts and helping ‘Silver Side Up’ sell in excess of eight million copies worldwide, it has widely been estimated as being the most played rock song on radio stations. Not bad at all.

While Nickelback aren’t to everyone’s liking, there’s no denying the success of ‘Silver Side Up’. Granted, it may have a couple of filler tracks, but otherwise this is a pretty solid effort, and as it’s since elevated the band to superstardom, it’s no doubt one of the more pivotal albums to come out of the early 2000’s rock scene.

ANDROMEDA Playing Off the Board

Live album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.36 | 3 ratings
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‘Playing Off the Board’, released in 2009, is a live album by Swedish progressive metal band Andromeda. Like many similar bands, Andromeda are not very widely known, and as such, don’t tour very often. So the fact a live recording of such high quality was done at all, is incredible.

Like many prog metal groups, it’s pretty much a prerequisite of the genre that everyone needs to be an absolute virtuoso on their respective instruments, and Andromeda are no exception. The set list, which features all the major tracks from their first three albums, is played immaculately, with each member being given ample opportunities to truly shine and display their technical prowess.

The production is of a high quality too! This literally could pass for any of their studio albums, if not for the few nuances and slight alterations made to the odd solo or two. However, there is one major detriment to this album, and when it comes to live recordings, I didn’t know how much I’d appreciated this until it wasn’t there.

This is not an Andromeda audience.

The DVD of ‘Playing...’ is absolutely beautiful. The auditorium looks fantastic, with its huge stage, incredible camera angles, seated fans with empty seats dotted around everywhere... this feels like it was some kind of showcase, or maybe part of an all-day event where Andromeda had a slot and some unfortunate souls were wrangled into watching a band they’d never heard of (to be fair, the band is awesome, so shut up and stop complaining!). The crowd, which sounds like it’s about twenty people, don’t react excitedly to any song, and applause to the endings with the enthusiasm of an escalator. It’s obvious nobody here really knows who Andromeda are, and it’s a huge shame, because it’s the only real complaint I have with this album, but it makes a much bigger difference than I thought it would.

With hits such as ‘The Words Unspoken’, ‘Periscope’, ‘Two is One’ and ‘Inner Circle’, this is still a decent live album, and these guys are absolutely phenomenal musicians, but the audiences lack of enthusiasm kills it for me. It’s a decent enough album though, but I’d highly recommend the DVD instead.

DREAM THEATER The Making Of Falling Into Infinity (International Fanclub Christmas CD 1997 / Official Bootleg 2009)

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1997 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 1.17 | 2 ratings
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martindavey87
Dream Theater’s Official Bootlegs series has always been a nice touch for collectors, whether it’s demos, live recordings, compilations, or reissues of previous fan club CD’s (which is actually what this one is), they’re usually pretty cool little nuggets of joy for die-hard fans of the band.

And occasionally, there’s utter nonsense like this.

‘The Making of Falling Into Infinity’ is completely and utterly pointless. Not containing any full tracks, the entire album is nothing more than snippets of songs. Guitar riffs, the odd vocal harmony, someone working out a part or someone saying something. It might be interesting for some tech nerd who wants to look into the process of writing and recording an album, but without any commentary or narrative, this CD really is unlistenable.

I can understand with demos that at least it’s interesting to listen to how songs were originally intended to sound and how they’ve evolved to become the finished product, but this is completely useless and doesn’t even show us that. Die-hard fans who must own everything will probably resent having to purchase this, and I’d know, because I’m one of them.

RAMMSTEIN Live aus Berlin

Live album · 1999 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 4 ratings
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Here’s an album that just hasn’t aged well. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed Rammstein’s ‘Live Aus Berlin’ when I was younger, but hearing it now, it just doesn’t do the band justice.

The thing is, anyone that knows Rammstein knows that they are all about being “huge”. They sound huge! Their stage show is huge! Their image is huge! Everything about them is bombastic and over the top, and this album, released in 1999, just doesn’t live up to what the band would go on to become.

With only two studio albums released at the time, the set list is pretty solid, but again, when compared to the bands later output, it’s pretty lacking now. Still, it’s a decent enough look at the band in their early days, even back then, with only two albums under their belts and speaking their native German, they were a live force to be reckoned with.

The production as well, is pretty weak, and just doesn’t compare to the studio albums. All the early hits are here, including ‘Du Hast’, ‘Engel’, ‘Sehnsucht’, ‘Heirate Mich’ and ‘Du Riechst So Gut’, but none of them can compete with their studio counterparts.

Rammstein are one of my all-time favourite bands, and ‘Live Aus Berlin’ by its own merits is not a bad album, but as I started my review by saying, it just hasn’t aged well, and today it’s pretty irrelevant. I’ll stick to the studio albums.

ICED EARTH Enter the Realm

Demo · 1988 · US Power Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 3 ratings
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‘Enter the Realm’ is the 1989 demo EP for American power metal band Iced Earth. It was remastered in 2002 for the ‘Dark Genesis’ box set. Offering just six tracks, four of which would go on to feature on the groups self-titled debut album, the quality of this demo is remarkable, considering the year it was originally released, the bands budget and the music in which they played. It’s no wonder they were signed and went on to have the level of success that they did.

So why the two-star rating, you ask? Simple, really. This is a demo and really not all that worth owning unless you’re a fan who must own everything. The songwriting is pretty polished for such a young band (or songwriter, since pretty much all the credit goes to guitarist/leader Jon Schaffer), and the playing is of a high quality, but ultimately Iced Earth’s debut album would see these all get slight improvements in sound and in some cases arrangements and vocal melodies.

An impressive demo, which is certainly a collectable for fans if you can find an original cassette tape from 1989, but otherwise, just get the band’s debut album.

S.O.D. Speak English or Die

Album · 1985 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.75 | 12 ratings
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Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D... duh!), is a crossover thrash side project of Anthrax members Scott Ian and Charlie Benante, along with Nuclear Assault’s Dan Lilker (formerly of Anthrax himself) and Billy Milano of the band M.O.D. Their debut album, ‘Speak English or Die’ was released in 1985, and is mostly a metal album with a punk mentality, with plenty of short, minute-long songs featuring satirical, aggressive, and downright offensive lyrics.

The problem for me is that it’s not 1985 anymore, and most of the satire, irony and downright offensive material goes straight over my desensitized head. The music is fast and heavy, and when the band do play for more than 30 seconds, there are a couple of decent headbangers here. But for the most part, these are all comical tracks, recorded by a bunch of friends who had some leftover studio time to kill. Oddly, this would go on to be a hugely influential album. Wish I could get that lucky.

Ultimately, this just isn’t my cup of tea, and the only reason it’s in my collection is because I’m a huge Anthrax fan. For what it’s worth, the songs ‘March of the S.O.D.’, ‘Sargent ‘D’ and the S.O.D.’ and ‘Milk’ are alright, and I’ve always found ‘What’s That Noise’ a pretty laughable track, but otherwise this is mostly immature and juvenile, and that’s probably exactly how the S.O.D. intended it to be.

‘Speak English or Die’ is not an album to be taken seriously, and whilst I’ve never been under the illusion that it was anything else, it’s just not something I’m into.

NICKELBACK The State

Album · 1998 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 2.00 | 9 ratings
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Nickelback’s second album sees the Canadian rockers begin to step away from the Nirvana-wannabes that they were, and slowly become the band we’d all come to know and love (and mostly hate). While I found their debut too much of a grunge record way after grunge’s time had expired, ‘The State’ sees them develop a more traditional hard rock style, particularly with the guitar playing, and with frontman Chad Kroeger sounding more like himself than a fake Kurt Cobain.

The formula is simple. Four-minute songs with driving riffs and raspy vocals, simple structures and lyrics that focus on whatever usual drivel people sing about; Relationships, depression, politics etc. It’s not terrible, and it’s a blueprint that has worked for countless bands and will for countless more, but unfortunately ‘The State’ is still a pretty mediocre release. There’s a few moments that show the potential the band possess, but the production still gives it a bit of a post-grunge sound that doesn’t do the music justice.

‘Breathe’ and ‘Leader of Men’ are both pretty decent tracks, though. And if nothing else, they certainly show the direction Nickelback are headed in, and it’s a direction that would bring worldwide success. However, it will come at a cost. But listening to ‘The State’, who’d imagine they’re listening to one of the biggest and most (in)famous bands on the planet?

BODY COUNT Born Dead

Album · 1994 · Rap Metal
Cover art 2.69 | 5 ratings
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Body Count’s 1992 self-titled debut album was a pretty big success for the band. Granted, that success came about due to the infamy and controversy surrounding the song ‘Cop Killer’, but the record itself was a solid effort. When renowned rapper and actor Ice-T put together a metal band, not many people thought it’d last, seeing it as a one-off endeavour. So it was no-doubt intriguing to see a follow-up released, and how did they capitalize on the success of ‘Body Count’?

They didn’t.

Released in 1994, ‘Born Dead’ takes everything that made its predecessor so good, and does away with it completely. The rapping has mostly been replaced by Ice-T constantly repeating the same phrase over and over, with very, very occasional bits of talking. The Lyrics, which once had meaning and were incredibly angry, satirical and lashing out at everything, are now dull, juvenile and pointless. The music seems pretty bland, and hell, even the skits between the tracks are gone. What previously gave the album a loose narrative and plot, is now just one uninspired song after another.

There are a couple of brief instances where the production and sound of the album suffers from dips in quality. I’d guess that this was thrown together in between Ice-T’s rapping and acting careers, as some parts sound rushed and disjointed. And a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic ‘Hey Joe’ seems so out of place here.

However, it’s not all gloom and doom. There’s a couple of moments which take me back to Body Count’s first outing, and reminds me why this band are so good. ‘Necessary Evil’ and ‘Born Dead’ are both decent enough tracks that prevent this album from getting a one-star rating, but overall, considering all the publicity the group had garnered with their debut, this is a disappointing follow-up.

IRON MAIDEN Somewhere In Time

Album · 1986 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.37 | 153 ratings
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Fresh off of the success of 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ and the 1985 live album ‘Live After Death’, Iron Maiden were well and firmly at the top of the metal world, and their run of strong releases would continue with ‘Somewhere in Time’, an album which saw the band continue to enter progressive territory with their writing, with longer songs and the addition of keyboards.

However, stylistically this is still very much Iron Maiden. By this point the band have clearly defined their sound, and there’s not much point in tweaking what already works. With blistering guitar harmonies and wailing vocals, Maiden have clearly hit their stride by this point in their career. The use of keyboards adds an atmospheric, spacey feeling to the music, giving ‘Somewhere in Time’ its own identity amongst the bands discography.

With a solid production and some of guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray’s finest guitar tones, the sound here is timeless. Even after all these years, the album holds up well for both its sense of melody and its metal edge. The lyrics are a lot more introspective than previously, a sign of the bands world-travelled weariness after their constant touring. But it also makes for some of their most sincere and personal songs, particularly in ‘Wasted Years’.

With highlights including the aforementioned ‘Wasted Years’, ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, ‘Caught Somewhere in Time’, ‘Deja-Vu’ and ‘Heaven Can Wait’, there’s an abundance of quality material here, making ‘Somewhere in Time’ another in a string of classic albums.

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Album · 1984 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.67 | 5 ratings
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The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1984 self-titled debut shows us a completely different group to the one that would go on to become one of the biggest acts on the planet. It’s interesting to see how a band could come from such obscure and absurd beginnings, yet, through changing and evolving their sound, have managed to become mainstream superstars.

But alas, here we are; ‘The Red Hot Chili Peppers’.

Completely “out there” is one way to put it. For this album is really a smorgasbord of funky melodies and riffs thrown together in an almost incoherent fashion. Sure, the band would help pioneer what could describe as funk rock, but this right here is mostly a mess of ideas barely strung together by drugs and alcohol.

The album has a very raw production and rather directionless songwriting. However, there’s an abundance of energy, which shows a band who are clearly enjoying what they’re doing. And there’s one or two very (and I do mean very) brief moments that actually shine. ‘Get Up and Jump’, ‘True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes’ and ‘Out in L.A.’ are all relatively decent offerings. Though not overly memorable when compared to later material, there’s still something of merit here that shows a group of capable musicians who just need to tweak and refine their sound.

If you’re coming here expecting huge radio hits then this is not the album for you, and you’re better off sticking with later releases. But ‘The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ is an interesting look to see how the Peppers started out, and if nothing else is worth at least one listen to demonstrate that it’s possible for even the most unlikeliest bands to find commercial success.

DREAM THEATER Live at Budokan

Live album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 43 ratings
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As if 2000’s ‘Scenes from a Memory’ wasn’t enough, here’s Dream Theater with another three-disc assault on the senses, with 2004’s live album from Japan’s world-renowned Budokan venue, aptly titled ‘Live at Budokan’.

Touring to promote 2003’s ‘Train of Thought’, ‘Live at Budokan’ sees the band storm through a set of highly energetic and crushingly heavy material. The format of the shows were simply “an evening with...” type affairs, which meant there were no support acts. Yet, despite the mind-boggling duration of the set, the band remains on top form throughout, and shows no signs of fatigue or letting up.

Focusing more on their later material, ‘Live at Budokan’ is three discs of some of the bands strongest material, played impeccably by some of the absolute finest musicians in the world. Millions upon millions of notes are hit flawlessly, with a number of noodles and jamming sections bungled in amongst the set, this is a highly entertaining live album, and shows an unparalleled chemistry between the highly-respected musicians.

There’s an abundance of highlights here. From newer tracks ‘As I Am’, ‘This Dying Soul’ and ‘In the Name of God’, to older classics such as ‘Pull Me Under’, ‘New Millennium’, ‘Only a Matter of Time’ and ‘Beyond This Life’, which features a near-ten minute jam section which is absolutely incredible and never gets boring. Then there’s the exclusive of this album, ‘Instrumedley’, a 12-minute instrumental medley of various parts of the bands discography. It’s genuinely mind-blowing and further demonstrates how these guys are the absolute best of the best at what they do.

‘Live at Budokan’ may lie a little on the heavier side of things, but this is truly a gem that belongs in any prog fans collection. With an absolutely banging production and top-notch performances, this will surely come to be recognized as a true prog classic.

SAVATAGE Commissar

Single · 2001 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.83 | 2 ratings
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‘Commissar’ is a single by metal band Savatage, released in 2001 to promote their ‘Poets and Madmen’ album, it features three tracks that total at just over eleven minutes in duration.

‘Poets and Madmen’ is an absolute masterpiece in my opinion, and easily one of the bands best releases, so no doubt it’d be tricky to choose which songs to use as promotional singles. However, ‘Commissar’, with its bombastic intro, its intense guitar playing and Jon Oliva’s rapid-fire vocals, is a fine choice, and easily stands out as one of the more memorable tracks on the album.

Second track, ‘Drive’, is mostly a straight-up metal song, but highlights the bands ferocity. With lightning fast riffs and wailing vocals, this is also a noteworthy track that makes ‘Poets and Madmen’ an essential purchase, and gives guitarist Chris Caffery a chance to truly shine. And finally, there’s ‘Voyage’, a short, two-minute acoustic guitar track. It’s a nice little instrumental that fills out the disc well, but isn’t overly essential.

Overall, ‘Commissar’ is an all-round decent enough CD single for Savatage fans.

DISTURBED Indestructible

Album · 2008 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 18 ratings
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Having already laid down the foundations for their post-nu metal career with 2005’s ‘Ten Thousand Fists’, Disturbed have finally shed the stigma that came with the subgenre, and established themselves as a legit and credible metal band with 2008’s ‘Indestructible’.

The band has managed to taken the groove-laden guitar style of the aforementioned subgenre whilst blending it effortlessly with an old-school metal mentality and vibe. As a result, ‘Indestructible’ is an album brimming with hooks, choruses and intense guitar work that can appeal to metal fans old and new alike, as well as more casual listeners too.

David Draiman’s melodic vocals work fantastically, his unique style has always given Disturbed their own sound. And they work in complete synergy with Dan Donegan’s guitar riffs, which perfectly capture the essence of traditional metal with the styling of nu metal. Donegan really lets rip a number of times on this album, and shows that he’s more than capable of shredding up the guitar when necessary, but can also show restraint when it’s needed.

Highlights from this release include ‘Indestructible’, ‘Inside the Fire’, ‘Perfect Insanity’, ‘The Night’, ‘Criminal’, ‘Divide’ and ‘The Curse’. The first three tracks in particular were all downloadable content for the incredibly popular 2007 video game ‘Rock Band’, which no doubt helped boost the bands popularity to no end around the time of this albums release.

With a number of stand-out tracks and an outlet for a whole new audience, ‘Indestructible’ is another strong outing by Disturbed, who have so far gone from strength-to-strength since the demise of nu metal, and have firmly cemented themselves as one of the standout metal bands of the 2000’s.

PARADISE LOST Lost Paradise

Album · 1990 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.34 | 27 ratings
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My introduction to doom metal legends Paradise Lost came about with albums such as 1997’s ‘One Second’ and 2007’s ‘In Requiem’. While the music itself is fairly straightforward, I found myself enjoying some of the grooving, yet melancholic, guitar riffs. With melodic and catchy vocals, along with keyboards that give the music more depth and atmosphere, this is something I could very easily get into.

Which brings me to this, 1990’s debut release, ‘Lost Paradise’. Despite being labelled as doom metal, and even death metal, I thought I’d at least give it a chance, seeing as I know what this band will evolve into, there’s no harm in at least trying, right?

But yeah, sure enough, I’m not into this at all

The death metal growls which are impossible to sing along to, the doom-laden guitar riffs that tend to plod along with about as much excitement as a root canal, and the muddy production that actually makes a lot of guitars difficult to really distinguish. Overall, this is a low-budget 1990 death metal album that sounds like a low-budget 1990 death metal album.

I do like Paradise Lost, and I know I’ll definitely be more receptive to their later albums, which seem more melody-driven, but this right here just isn’t for me.

PLATITUDE Nine

Album · 2004 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Released in 2004, Platitude’s ‘Nine’ is the follow-up to their debut album, ‘Secrets of Life’, which was released just a year prior, and it’s evident in such a short time how much this band has matured and polished their sound.

Part progressive metal, part power metal, somewhat labelled as “melodic metal”, Platitude have that very distinctive European metal style down to a tee. Their songs are pretty easy to get into, with high-energy guitar riffs and beautifully melodic keyboards, this is essentially prog metal which doesn’t require a dozen listens to pick up. Vocalist Erik Blomkvist has an incredible voice, able to hit the high notes while keeping warmth in his tone when not wailing away, his is a voice I could easily listen to all day.

One major difference between this album and its predecessor is that while ‘Secrets of Life’ had a very neoclassical edge to it, with a huge emphasis on shredding and virtuoso guitar playing, ‘Nine’ has taken a step back and stripped down the number of acrobatics. This favours guitarist Gustav Kollerstrom heavily, as his style is more riff-oriented, and while he isn’t known by any means for being a guitar guru, his performance and songwriting is impeccable and consistently interesting, and the very few times he does truly let rip stand out even more because of it.

Some of the highlights from this album include ‘Skies of Xenon’, ‘Dark Mind’, ‘Trust’, ‘Halcyon Days’, ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Catch 22’. But pretty much every song on this release is of a high standard, making ‘Nine’ by Platitude an incredibly underrated hidden gem, by a band which sadly mostly stayed under the radar of fans of this genre. If you’re into melodic metal, then this, or its successor, ‘Silence Speaks’ are definitely worth checking out.

DREAM THEATER Through Her Eyes

Single · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.14 | 3 ratings
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Releasing singles to promote concept albums is always going to be tough. I mean, most often the songs are a small part of a larger narrative, but need to be able to work in the context of a single track. Dream Theater’s ‘Through Her Eyes’ does this well.

It seems a bit of an odd choice for a single to promote the phenomenal ‘Scenes From a Memory’ album, but the soft, gospel-inspired ballad is a catchy and emotional piece. This EP release comes with two different versions of the track, with an alternate mix having a more soulful feel to it. However, the track as a whole is actually probably one of the more subtle and possibly weaker moments from the record it’s promoting.

Then there are two live tracks, both of which come close to the 15-minute mark in duration. Now, Dream Theater are one of my favourite bands, but these recordings are pretty weak, and fairly poorly mixed, and coming at a time when James LaBrie’s vocals were suffering from a previous injury he’d sustained, they don’t really do justice to the band. A medley of moments from their first two albums, ‘When Images and Words Unite’ sounds like it should be an interesting nugget for fans, but it’s actually really not all that inspired.

Overall, ‘Scenes From a Memory’ is an absolute masterpiece, and is a highly regarded and highly recommended album, but ‘Through Her Eyes’ is definitely one for collectors.

DREAM THEATER The Silent Man

Single · 1994 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.62 | 4 ratings
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Taken from the 1994 album ‘Awake’, ‘The Silent Man’ is a bit of an odd choice for a single. A soft, near-four minute acoustic ballad, it’s a great song when heard in context of the album, but alone, as a single, it doesn’t quite have the same impact.

It’s not a bad song as such, and on the album it actually works well as the third part of a trilogy titled ‘A Mind Beside Itself’. But it just seems dreary and dull as a single. There’s plenty of other material from the ‘Awake’ album that would have made more sense to use as promotional material, and a better representation of what the record has to offer.

Still, it’s an okay song I guess. A demo of ‘Take the Time’ is a welcome b-side, though it sounds near-identical to the finished product, making it something only die-hard fans would care about. And there’s ‘Eve’. A short instrumental which the band had jammed out to at gigs, but this actual studio recording doesn’t really do anything for me.

This one is a bit of rarity these days, and since Dream Theater is such a beloved cult band, it’s likely this is still sought after by collectors, and as such, that’s all this is now, a collector’s item. Nothing more, nothing less.

LINKIN PARK Crawling

Single · 2001 · Nu Metal
Cover art 2.25 | 2 ratings
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‘Crawling’ is the second single released for Linkin Park’s monumental 2000 debut album ‘Hybrid Theory’. It’s a solid nu metal track which helped usher the subgenre to a worldwide platform, gaining popularity among rock and non-rock fans alike. With its quiet verses and massively dramatic and heavy chorus, it’s a simple track which highlights vocalist Chester Bennington’s incredible range.

Overall however, of the numerous singles released for the bands debut, this is probably the weakest. I do like it in the context of the album, but never really find myself playing this one on its own. A live radio performance of ‘Papercut’ accompanies the main track, and is a decent enough listen which shows a young, energetic and enthusiastic band in their early days.

‘Hybrid Theory’ is one of the albums I credit for rejuvenating a then-stagnant metal scene at the turn of the century, and is absolutely essential to any music collection. But since CD singles are a thing of the past, ‘Crawling’ is best left to the absolute most die-hard collectors.

RUSH Fly by Night

Album · 1975 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.38 | 66 ratings
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‘Fly By Night’ is the second album by Canadian rock legends Rush. Released in 1975, it’s the first album to feature drummer Neil Peart, and solidifies what is the definitive Rush line up, with bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson, holding up all the way to the bands retirement in January 2018.

However, I don’t think this album is as good as the band’s debut. While there’s a few good songs, and Neil Peart’s drumming has lots of small touches that make him stand out from his predecessor, John Rutsey, I just struggle to really get into most of these tracks.

That’s not really a knock on the band though. I love Rush, especially their 80’s synth-driven era, and their self-titled debut was a solid hard rock album. But ‘Fly By Night’ just doesn’t quite work for me. It’s easy to hear the progressive elements coming into the trios sound, and the musicianship itself is fantastic. I’d just prefer to listen to ‘Grace Under Pressure’ or ‘Signals’ instead.

So what songs do I like? ‘Anthem’ is catchy, as is the title track and ‘Best I Can’, and there’s the soft, folk-inspired ‘Rivendell’ which I didn’t like initially but eventually it came to grow on me. But from a band with such a wealth of material to choose from, I can’t see myself coming back to these very often.

Rush are one of my all-time favourite bands, and with a career spanning over 40 years, there’s bound to be a couple of albums I’m not too keen on. This is one of them. There’s no specific reason, but they have so many other albums that I prefer much more over this one. Simple as that. Sorry guys!

PANTERA Far Beyond Driven

Album · 1994 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.24 | 47 ratings
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‘Far Beyond Driven’ is the seventh studio album by groove metal band Pantera, and the third since their unofficial rebirth, having shed their 80’s glam days. It’s weird to me, however, that while the band were one of the most influential metal groups of the 90’s, and this release reached the number one spot on the Billboard charts, it’s really a fairly average release, and is brimming with subpar material.

The most notable difference with ‘Far Beyond Driven’ over its predecessors is the absolute brutality of the record. It’s by far heavier than anything the Texans had put out prior. But sadly this comes at a great cost, as most of the songs are incredibly lacklustre. While the album starts off promisingly enough, it very quickly becomes a rather repetitive affair, with most songs sounding like a bunch of riffs incoherently thrown together.

The production itself leaves much to be desired, with particular mention going to the drums, which at times sound programmed in. Phil Anselmo’s choice of screaming and shouting over singing has certainly upped the aggression of the album, but does nothing for me. The only real highlight is guitarist Dimebag Darrell, who’s influential guitar playing has garnered endless acclaim, however, even here, it feels slightly by the numbers.

‘Strength Beyond Strength’, ‘Five Minutes Alone’ and ‘I’m Broken’ are all decent enough tracks, and a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’ actually works really well for the band (I’m not a fan of the original, but this one is pretty good). But overall however, none of these songs are all that memorable to me, and certainly don’t hold up well to the bands previous two releases.

It’s not the worst album I own, but for all the praise it received, it certainly doesn’t live up to the hype. Oh, and the song ‘Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills’ is an absolute abomination.

SAVATAGE Gutter Ballet

Album · 1989 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.83 | 43 ratings
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While there’s always been subtle classical and theatrical elements to Savatage’s music, it wasn’t until 1989’s ‘Gutter Ballet’ that the band really started to take their sound in a more ambitious direction. Inspired by musicals such as ‘Phantom of the Opera’, there’s a much more grandiose feel to this album than anything they’d done before, and would only lead to the band transitioning from power metal to more progressive territory.

One notable change in the band’s sound is the more prominent use of pianos and keyboards. While there were always some keys lingering in the background, ‘Gutter Ballet’ sees them become a more integral part of the music. It works amazingly well, and really distinguishes Savatage’s unique identity.

Of course, the musicianship itself is fantastic. With each member, building upon the momentum they’d garnered with previous album, ‘Hall of the Mountain King’, being on top form. Jon Oliva’s vocals really suit the more theatrical approach well, and his guitarist brother Criss Oliva’s blistering guitars are as incredible as ever. Working with producer/songwriter Paul O’Neill, this was a time of growth for the band, and each member really plays their part to help the band mature.

With highlights that include ‘Gutter Ballet’, ‘When the Crowds Are Gone’, ‘Of Rage and War’, ‘She’s in Love’, ‘Hounds’, ‘Thorazine Shuffle’ and ‘Mentally Yours’, there’s an abundance of killer material here that constantly shifts from heavy to melodic, but never lets up in quality.

1987’s ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ may have been the album where Savatage hit their stride and started a run of successful (critically, if not commercially) albums, but for me, ‘Gutter Ballet’ is where they truly defined their sound and began a creative run that would see them continually release albums of high standards.

SEVENDUST Home

Album · 1999 · Nu Metal
Cover art 3.29 | 3 ratings
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While Sevendust’s second album, 1999’s ‘Home’, is a step up from its predecessor, it’s still a fairly average album at best. There’s a noticeable improvement in the band’s sound and performance, and a number of solid tracks make this album superior to the group’s debut.

With nu metal on the rise, Sevendust’s “alternative” brand of metal was starting to gain the band some recognition, with a good balance of groove, heaviness and melody, the Atlanta-based five-piece are starting to sound a lot more polished with their sound. In particular, vocalist Lajon Witherspoon’s interesting mixture of singing, shouting and rapping is starting to really suit the music better than before. The guitars are also sounding a lot more confident, with the twin-guitar format being utilized to full effect.

Personal highlights for me include ‘Headtrip’, ‘Rumble Fish’, ‘Licking Cream’, ‘Denial’, ‘Bender’ and the title track. While a number of songs on this album seem similar and repetitive, these ones stand out, and show a band that may have finally stumbled upon a sound that’ll give them their own identity.

‘Home’, ultimately, isn’t a bad album, and has its fair share of memorable moments. But it’s just not an album I’d consider coming back to very often. Sevendust are certainly showing potential for greater things though, and with the nu metal subgenre on the verge of taking over the world (this is back in 1999, remember), it’ll be interesting to see if the band can fulfil that potential on later releases.

MEGADETH Still, Alive... and Well?

Boxset / Compilation · 2002 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 4 ratings
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‘Still, Alive... And Well?’ is a “compilation” released by Megadeth in 2002. It features a selection of six live tracks and six studio recordings, and is a completely pointless and irrelevant album to own. There’s no reason at all for this to exist save but one... in 2002 Dave Mustaine suffered an injury that forced him to retire and disband Megadeth (don’t worry... they’d be back a couple of years later). However, contractual obligations meant he still owed Sanctuary Records one more release.

Which brings us to this little nugget of joy...

‘Still, Alive...’ starts off with six live cuts from Megadeth’s final two shows (pre-retirement, anyway). The choice of songs is a bit odd, and none of them flow. The sound is also pretty bad, especially with regards to the fact that Dave’s guitar seems louder than anything else. The liner notes sees MegaDave claiming to be honoured to share these songs with us... but we can all read through his lies. This album is a quick fix to a legal problem. Aw well...

The second half of the album contains six songs from the bands previous studio release, ‘The World Needs a Hero’. The likes of ‘Moto Psycho’, ‘The World Needs a Hero’ and ‘Dread and the Fugitive Mind’ are all good songs, but aren’t enough to save this supposed compilation. And the fact it’s six tracks all from the same album is a bit of a slap in the face. Whatever...

Not worth the price for the live songs, and the addition of the studio recordings makes this a bit of a mockery to fans that paid for it. Overall, ‘Still, Alive... And Well’ is barely passable as something for die-hard fans, and otherwise is something to completely ignore and forget it ever existed.

KISS Hotter Than Hell

Album · 1974 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.45 | 27 ratings
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Impressively released barely three months after their debut, Kiss are back with their second album, ‘Hotter Than Hell’. While I admire a lot of these early rock bands from back in the day for their non-stop work ethic which saw them chug out so many releases in such a short space of time, the end result is usually average at best.

Take Kiss’ early days, for example. Mediocre, sleazy rock ‘n’ roll, at its very finest. I guess. I didn’t really enjoy the bands self-titled debut, and this certainly isn’t any better. From the rather dreary riffs to the forgettable lyrics, the only real shining quality about this album is the apparent chemistry amongst the band members, in particular, guitarists Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley. While it’s nothing remarkable by today’s standards, there’s definitely a synergy between the two, and if nothing else, it’s reassuring to know that these guys will go on to release much better material in the future.

‘Got to Choose’ and ‘Parasite’ are the only two songs I’d even consider passable, and the latter is mostly thanks to Anthrax’s cover of it. There’s a couple of decent guitar solos, but not decent enough that I remember which song I heard them in, and I have no desire to go looking for them.

While Kiss’ early works probably fare better if you were around in the 70’s, or you were exposed to it at an early age, to me, ‘Hotter Than Hell’, much like its predecessor, is a fairly rubbish album. It lacks the energy and bombast of later efforts, and just tends to drag along boringly with no real passion. Mercifully, it’s barely half an hour long.

THE QUIET ROOM Introspect

Album · 1998 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.58 | 4 ratings
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‘Introspect’ is the 1998 debut by American progressive metal group The Quiet Room. I came across this album on eBay back in its heyday (do people still shop on there?), when searches would often have it come up, being advertised by sellers as similar to prog metal pioneers Fates Warning. That was enough to pique my interest, and to be fair, the similarities in their sound are uncanny.

However, the one resemblance they don’t share is quality. Following the typical prog metal blueprint of ambitious song structures with extended musical passages and wailing, high-pitched vocals, The Quiet Room don’t really offer anything that hasn’t been done better by someone else.

The musicianship is fantastic, and these guys are all more than capable at playing their instruments, but sadly not so much at song writing. Everything seems pretty jarred and disjointed. Oftentimes songs wonder off into aimless territory, twisting and turning in ways that lose my interest instead of engaging me. It’s a shame, because the album starts off pretty strong, with opening tracks ‘A Different Scene’ and ‘Grudge’ being respectable enough, but anything after struggles to keep my attention longer than a couple of minutes.

No doubt progressive metal was still mostly an underground subgenre at this point, and with only a handful of bands breaking into the mainstream, The Quiet Room are one of many lost causes that were destined to become obscure, forgotten hopefuls.

YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Rising Force

Album · 1984 · Neoclassical metal
Cover art 4.17 | 42 ratings
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Yngwie Malmsteen’s 1984 debut, ‘Rising Force’, is the album that inspired a whole generation to grab a guitar and learn how to play it really, really fast, as well as giving birth to what’s known as the neoclassical subgenre, a hybrid of metal guitar playing with classical music themes. It’s a highly influential album. But does it hold up well today?

Not really.

I went into this album with some intrigue. The outspoken Malmsteen has never been too modest to tell us underlings of his superior musical abilities, so I was interested to see what the fuss was about. And to be honest, I find it pretty boring. Don’t get me wrong, he plays with absolute precision and intensity, and no doubt in 1984 this was groundbreaking stuff. But by today’s standards, it just sounds like the same recycled classical lick played over and over.

There are a few songs with vocals which aren’t too bad, ‘Now Your Ships Are Burned’ and ‘As Above, So Below’, and in this aspect Malmsteen’s playing suits the music well. But for the most part, I just find this album dull, with all the songs serving as a self-indulgent excuse to play the same guitar scales as fast as possible.

Except for one song; ‘Icarus’ Dream Suite Op. 4’.

Wow! Where did this come from?! I can tolerate mindless shredding here, because the melodies when the song slows down are incredible. The clean guitar playing, the keyboards, everything here just comes together perfectly! This song itself is pretty damn amazing, and while ‘Rising Force’ generally bores the hell out of me, this song alone is enough for me to at least come back for more and see what else the master of men can conjure up.

No doubt this is highly regarded by fans, and in particular, by other guitarists, as a classic. But it just doesn’t work for me.

DISTURBED Ten Thousand Fists

Album · 2005 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.69 | 17 ratings
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Disturbed’s third studio album, 2005’s ‘Ten Thousand Fists’, sees the band finally hit their stride, adapting a more contemporary sound while somewhat maintaining their groove-based nu metal style. With that particular subgenre of music being dead and buried, this was a pivotal album for the band to show that they could hold their own outside of that scene, with an album that would appeal to fans of metal old and new alike.

Having focused on the highlights of their previous releases, catchy choruses in particular, ‘Ten Thousand Fists’ has an abundance of hooks that makes every track memorable, and with its monstrous production and simple song structures, Disturbed’s music sounds a lot more accessible and mainstream.

Guitarist Dan Donegan’s guitar playing is brilliant here. With skull-crushing precision, his riffs are heavy, yet groovy, and fit perfectly with David Draiman’s melodic vocals. In fact, Donegan lets rip in a couple of tracks with some very slick guitar solos, showing that he had the chops all along, but either left them out to further conform to nu metal trends, or simply that there was no need for them. Either way, he’s finally cutting loose, and it sounds great!

Highlights include the thunderous hit single ‘Stricken’, the huge and epic-sounding ‘Overburdened, and a cracking cover of the Genesis classic, ‘Land of Confusion’, as well as ‘Just Stop’, ‘Guarded’, ‘Sacred Lie’, and ‘Pain Redefined’. And then of course, the title track itself, which is an absolute anthem that will literally produce a sea of raised fists for a metal call-to-arms. The musicianship on these tracks is fantastic, with exceptional performances from everyone involved.

Overall, while ‘Ten Thousand Fists’ isn’t quite a masterpiece, it’s a solid album that definitely helped Disturbed shake off any nu metal remnants, and established them as a legit heavy metal act. It holds up well today, and marks the band as one of the more important acts to burst onto the scene at the turn of the century.

CLAWFINGER Use Your Brain

Album · 1995 · Rap Metal
Cover art 3.08 | 2 ratings
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1995’s ‘Use Your Brain’ is the second album by Swedish rap rockers Clawfinger. It follows in the same vein as its predecessor, ‘Deaf Dumb Blind’, with similar compositions and a nearly identical sound, but it seems to lack the same youthful exuberance that made the latter such an engaging listen.

Mixing rapping vocals with metal guitar riffs long before the likes of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park gained worldwide fame, Clawfinger’s groove-laden music has always been about uncompromising, in-your-face attitude. With a dirty, gritty sound, and lyrics that spit in the face of political correctness, they’ve never been afraid to put themselves on the line.

Utilizing simple, yet striking guitar work with electronic samples, the band have an effective and fairly distinctive sound. Vocalist Zak Tell’s rapid fire delivery, which blends rapping with hardcore and punk rock elements, goes well with the music, and certainly paints a picture of an angry and frustrated band.

But unfortunately, ‘Use Your Brain’ just simply isn’t as good as the band’s debut. While it’s not a bad album, ‘Deaf Dumb Blind’ was consistently strong throughout, while here, we’re treated to a few moments of sheer genius being smothered by an abundance of filler material. But despite the weaker tracks, songs like ‘Power’, ‘Die High’, ‘Do What I Say’ and ‘Pay the Bill’ are all strong enough to stand next to anything the band have done before, and are all good reasons to at least give this album a chance.

MEGADETH Crush 'Em

Single · 1999 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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July 5th, 1999.

Megadeth were performing on an episode of World Championship Wrestling’s Monday Nitro. It seemed odd that a metal band would perform at a wrestling event, and much like Kiss did a few weeks prior, it bombed. Nobody wanted to see it. Nobody did see it. And it accomplished nothing.

Except for changing my life.

Performing ‘Crush ‘Em’ to coincide with the return of wrestler Bill Goldberg from a break (Goldberg starred in the movie Universal Soldier: The Return, of which this featured on the soundtrack), the song played repeatedly over the following weeks, and 12 year-old me was absolutely hooked!

‘Crush ‘Em’ itself is a huge departure from Megadeth’s typical sound. With the 90’s coming to a close, Dave Mustaine tried his hand at writing mainstream rock songs, hoping to appeal to bigger audiences with the album ‘Risk’. He failed. Big time. But ‘Crush ‘Em’ served one purpose, and it served it well. It was intended as a sports anthem, with hopes that it’d be played in arenas at games, and for a while, it was. With its pounding bass line and thunderous guitars, the chanting of “Crush! Crush ‘Em!” is tailor-made for getting crowds psyched up. It’s simple, it’s catchy, it’s effective.

As for this single release however? Meh. There’s just two songs. An album version, and a radio version, which basically skips one verse and the outro. Nothing special, nothing fancy, no gimmicks or novelties. Just two different versions of ‘Crush ‘Em’. Fantastic song, and I genuinely mean that. But don’t bother getting this single unless you’re a huge, huge fan that absolutely must own everything regardless of how pointless it might be. Just get the ‘Risk’ album instead.

And yeah, that is a recommendation for ‘Risk’. That album is awesome!

ICED EARTH The Melancholy E.P.

EP · 1999 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.03 | 7 ratings
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Fresh off of an outstanding album, 1998’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, which sees Iced Earth fight back from a string of disappointing releases, the band give us this short EP, which was originally intended as a promotional tool for radios, but ended up getting an official release for fans to get their mitts on.

While its chillingly emotional verses and catchy chorus makes ‘Melancholy’ an understandable choice for a single, in my opinion there’s much better songs on the ‘Something Wicked...’ album that could have been used. It’s a good song, don’t get me wrong, and it nicely shows the new direction Iced Earth were headed in with their sound. But it just pales in comparison to some of the other potential tracks.

Still, along with ‘Watching Over You’ (another strong number from the same album), there’s three covers, all of which I find pretty disappointing. I’m either not a fan of the band being covered, vocalist Matt Barlow’s voice doesn’t quite suit the song, or I just flat-out don’t really care.

Overall, as is always the case with EP’s, I find them pretty hit-or-miss, and serve more as little collectable items for fans than as serious releases. ‘The Melancholy EP’ is no different. It’s alright for what it is, but not anything worth checking out unless you’re a huge fan of the band.

ADEMA Unstable

Album · 2003 · Nu Metal
Cover art 2.59 | 3 ratings
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Adema’s 2001 self-titled debut was released at a time when nu metal was one of the biggest musical genres in the world. However, it was also short-lived, and with only minor mainstream success, the band was unable to make a big enough splash to help carry them through the subgenres demise. And so by 2003, musical trends have already shifted, and the Californian five-piece would get one final chance to either release an album that’ll see them transcend the dying fad, or forever remain one of “those bands” that were good “back in the day”.

And sadly, despite a marked improvement in writing and more confident performances, ‘Unstable’ just wasn’t good enough.

Displaying a nice mixture of heavy, groove-laden and energetic tracks, with some melodic, sentimental and emotional songs, ‘Unstable’ shows a band that has really improved and matured since their last outing. Vocalist Mark Chavez (who was originally only noteworthy for being half-brother of Korn main man Jonathan Davis) has proven himself a competent frontman, and while the instrumentation is fairly straightforward, the band have become adept at using multiple layers of simple melodies to accentuate a warmth in their sound.

But with that said, there’s still only a handful of notable tracks here. ‘Unstable’, ‘So Fortunate’, ‘Co-Dependent’ and ‘Promises’ are all pretty amazing to be honest, and definitely shows a band who certainly had the potential, but sadly never lived up to it. ‘Stand Up’, ‘Blame Me’ and ‘Let Go’ are also fairly decent, but nothing worth getting overly excited about.

Much like its predecessor, ‘Unstable’ does have some moments of absolute genius, but sadly most of it gets lost amongst an abundance of fairly average songs. It’s a good album, but in 2003, with nu metal on its last legs, “good” isn’t good enough, and while it’s certainly worth a listen or two, it’d ensure that Adema will forever be nothing more than another nu metal nostalgia band.

ICED EARTH Something Wicked This Way Comes

Album · 1998 · US Power Metal
Cover art 4.04 | 38 ratings
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martindavey87
After two of power metals finest works, 1990's 'Iced Earth' and it's follow-up, 'Night of the Stormrider', the quality of Iced Earth's work dropped substantially. Two studio albums and a compilation of re-recorded songs followed, none of which impressed me, and I wasn't so sure if vocalist Matt Barlow was deserving of all the praise that was being heaped upon him. I'd all but given up on Iced Earth, until 1998's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' finally put the band back on track.

Maintaining all the qualities of the bands earlier albums, but with a more slick, accessible and mainstream sound, 'Something Wicked...' is a pumping, high-energy album that highlights all of the bands strengths, and none of their weaknesses. With a wide variety of heavy and softer songs, everything here is consistently well-crafted. The guitar riffs are intense and full of energy, while the ballads are hauntingly beautiful and passionate. There's plenty of tasty guitar solos and harmonies, and the very slight change of direction in the band's sound actually does wonders for Matt Barlow's voice, who truly shines on this album and has finally clicked into place.

The production is also spot on. While early albums had a gritty feel to it that suited the music perfectly, the last few releases, and in particular, 'Days of Purgatory', sounded overproduced. The fast guitar picking sounded muddy, and wasn't as tight as it should have been. But here, everything is perfect! The guitars have a big sound, while still accentuating the accuracy of the playing. And with a thumping bass and a pounding drum, this is probably the best Iced Earth have ever sounded.

With hits such as 'Burning Times', 'Watching Over Me', 'Stand Alone', 'Melancholy', 'Disciples of the Lie', 'Consequences', '1776', 'Blessed Are You' and the awesome 'Something Wicked Trilogy' (so basically, every song), this is easily one of the bands best albums, with every track flowing effortlessly into the next. 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' is a heavyweight album that firmly establishes Iced Earth as heavyweights of the genre.

MEGADETH The World Needs a Hero

Album · 2001 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.09 | 55 ratings
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martindavey87
Megadeth took a huge risk (no pun intended) with 1999's 'Risk' album. In a bid to gain more mainstream success, the band shunned the thrash metal genre they'd popularized in the 80's and turned to a radio-friendly rock sound. It didn't pay off. Big time. Dave Mustaine and his crew had egg well and firmly on their faces, and nobody likes egg on their faces.

So by the time 2001 rolled around, the band had used up their one and only "gone back to their roots" cliché (every band that's been around long enough gets to do this at least once). The problem was, with 'Risks' massive failure behind them, and with rising tensions between artist and record label, this truly feels like a band, and in particular, a man (Mustaine), who is lacking enthusiasm and who's heart isn't in it.

For the record, I loved 'Risk'. Just saying.

With 'The World Needs a Hero', there's definitely a metal vibe again. But the music just seems pretty lifeless and rigid. The crunchy riffs are back, but everything seems so stoic. The spite and hatred of Megadeth's earlier days is long gone, having been replaced by some of the most mundane lyrics imaginable. While some of the songs are pretty decent, everything just seems so uninspired.

Guitar legend Marty Friedman, who left the band after the 'Risk' tour, has been replaced by Al Pitrelli of Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra fame. This is actually really cool, because I love those bands, but unfortunately Pitrelli doesn't really have his own unique voice like his predecessor. And the interplay between Mustaine and Pitrelli doesn't produce anything noteworthy.

Still, this album does have its merits. '1000 Times Goodbye', 'Moto Psycho', 'Promises', 'Dread and the Fugitive Mind' and 'Disconnect' are all decent enough songs, but not really much to shout about if I'm honest. 'Return to Hanger', a sequel to one of their biggest hits, 'Hanger 18', serves as a weak attempt at capturing some of their thrash era glory, and things are capped off with 'When', a diabolical rip-off of the Diamond Head classic 'Am I Evil' (which is only a classic due to Mustaine's former band Metallica... the irony of it all).

Overall, this isn't a bad album, but it really sounds like a group that are burned out and in need of some new inspiration. While the world needs a hero, it feels like this band needs a break. And on that note...

DREAM THEATER Scenes From A World Tour (Christmas CD 2000)

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 2 ratings
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martindavey87
Dream Theater's 2000 fan club CD is basically a collection of outtakes from their Metropolis world tour of the same year. Jokingly described on the back cover as "Metropolis 2000 Tour Highlights (and Lowlights)", it's not really something you'd listen to more than once or twice, but it's a fun little collector's item none-the-less.

With that said, there's not really anything to comment on. 'What Did They Say?' is a medley of snippets featuring the band members goofing around during various songs, ad-libbing lyrics and whatnot. 'War Pigs' involves a fan singing with the band, and 'The Spirit Carries On' has drummer Mike Portnoy singing, forgetting the lyrics, and getting the crowd to finish off. Nothing serious, just basically an hour of Dream Theater having fun.

Overall, this is a light-hearted album, good for one or two listens, but seeing as it's a fan club CD, it's definitely nothing more than a novelty item for die-hard fans.

ICED EARTH Days of Purgatory

Boxset / Compilation · 1997 · US Power Metal
Cover art 4.03 | 13 ratings
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martindavey87
'Days of Purgatory' is a two-disc compilation of Iced Earth songs remixed and rerecorded with then current vocalist Matt Barlow. At the time, it was intended as somewhat of a greatest hits album, with the goal being to give new fans a taste of the bands older material, while giving older fans "improved" versions of classic songs.

As a whole however, I find this album pretty pointless, and continues a downhill trend the band had been on over the last couple of years. While their first two albums, 'Iced Earth' and 'Night of the Stormrider' are absolute classics of the power metal genre, I find the two albums prior to this compilation, 'Burnt Offerings' and 'The Dark Saga' to be hugely disappointing.

The honest truth is that I just prefer the original recordings. Gene Adam and John Greely's voices suited their material better, especially with the overall sound and production of their respective albums. I find all the new arrangements uninspiring, and more often than not, where Matt Barlow has recorded new vocal lines, I find his ones don't really suit the music as well as his predecessors.

It's not all bad though, I mean, Iced Earth still release some outstanding music, and even though they're not as good as the originals, the songs here are still decent efforts. 'Iced Earth', 'When the Night Falls', 'Angels Holocaust', 'Burnt Offerings' and 'Colors' are among some of the bands best works, as well as a reworked version of 'Written on the Walls' titled 'Cast in Stone' (though I'd stick to the original, myself).

Ultimately, 'Days of Purgatory' is a mostly irrelevant release. Personally I'd recommend the original versions of all these songs. And thankfully, judging by later compilations, these recordings are somewhat "non-canon", so they've not really replaced the originals, but merely become novelty re-recordings for fans and collectors.

AXEL RUDI PELL Between the Walls

Album · 1994 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 8 ratings
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martindavey87
'Between the Walls' is the fourth album by German hard rock guitarist/band Axel Rudi Pell. Not only is it the first release to feature the same vocalist as its predecessor (I guess third time really is the charm) but it's a turning point in the groups discography, in which the standard of their music vastly improves upon their earlier days, and a string of high quality releases followed.

It's 1994 and the music world, in particular on the rock side of things, is a bit of a mess. Metal is "dead", although all these 90's groove bands like Pantera, Machine Head and Biohazard are slowly making headway, grunge has already peaked, and hard rock is, well... still living in the 80's. But that's not going to stop Mr. Pell and his motley crew! Having ditched the sleazy sex, women and nightly thrills 80's vibes of their earlier albums, the band have taken a more fantasy-themed style. Incorporating more melodic elements similar to bands like Deep Purple and Rainbow.

Vocalist Jeff Scott Soto has proven himself a perfect fit with the band, with his incredible voice being a perfect match for the more serious (albeit, still pretty cheesy) lyrics. And Pell's guitar playing, usually impressive though excessively indulgent with the solos, has really started to become more coherent as well. The solo's are still a vast flurry of notes, but there's just more substance there now, as opposed to endless scales up and down the neck. And as expected, there's riffs aplenty here. With tight rhythm work and brimming with massive power chords, this is definitely something for the old school rocker in us all.

While this album is still very much a typical hard rock record, and probably would have fared better had it been released in 1984, it's still got some good, quality music that holds up well today. Songs like 'Talk of the Guns', 'Casbah', 'Cry of the Gypsy', 'Warrior', 'Outlaw', 'Innocent Child' and the title track itself all go to make 'Between the Walls' an essential hard rock album, and one of Axel Rudi Pell's finest.

NICKELBACK Curb

Album · 1996 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 2.23 | 11 ratings
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martindavey87
I never really cared much for the term "post" being placed before music genres. "Post this" and "post that", it all sounded a bit pretentious to me. That is, until I heard Nickelback's debut album, 1996's 'Curb'. Often cited as "post grunge", it all makes sense to me now! Channelling their inner Seattle grunge scene, 'Curb' sounds a lot like a Canadian band poorly mimicking Nirvana or Pearl Jam a couple of years removed from the grunge genres mainstream peak.

Now, don't get me wrong, I actually like Nickelback, and don't understand the absolute scorn and contempt that is thrust upon them. But it's hard to believe the worldwide success they'd go on to have, considering the quality of this release.

I guess it's just a case of a young band trying to find their sound, but there's really nothing noteworthy here except a few half-assed watered down attempts at sounding like the aforementioned grunge bands. The musicianship is fairly average, vocalist Chad Kroeger (who'll go on to become one of the most hated men in rock music) has a good voice and an impressive range, but if you're going back to this album after hearing their later mainstream hits, it's apparent how much he's trying to sound like Kurt Cobain.

Still, it's not all bad. There's one or two moments where it's easy to hear where the band truly shine, and that's in the riffs department. 'Little Friend', 'Pusher', 'Detangler' and 'Where' are all innocent enough numbers. Nothing amazingly outstanding, but they have their qualities that make them listenable. Should I accidently stumble across them, that is.

But overall, let's face it, we only want to hear the bands 2001 mega hit 'How You Remind Me', and this sounds nothing like that band! This is a pretty bland and uninteresting (yet inoffensive if you do happen upon it) release. Wait for them to develop their own style and things will really start to fall into place.

AXEL RUDI PELL Eternal Prisoner

Album · 1992 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.60 | 6 ratings
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martindavey87
Third album, third singer. Axel Rudi Pell is back... are back?... (I'm still not sure which one to use)... with more fist-pumping hard rocking that probably comes a decade too late, but is a pretty decent album regardless. Featuring powerhouse vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, at this point best known for his work with Yngwie Malmsteen and Talisman, this looks set to be a stable line up for the band which could last longer than one release.

The music is the same as before. Hard rock, power metal, call it what you will. It's got 80's rock stamped all over it. Long haired men with leather jackets (shirts optional), high pitched wailing, simple songs with crazy guitar acrobatics, and of course, at least one of them is probably wearing a bandana.

While Axel Rudi Pell's first two albums were fairly average, 'Eternal Prisoner' is where the band starts to really improve the quality of their work. In particular, Soto's voice lends itself to the music perfectly. Not that there was much wrong with former vocalists Charlie Huhn or Rob Rock, but Soto's voice is perfect for Pell's sound and style. And the songwriting as a whole sounds a lot more confident because of it.

Axel Rudi Pell's guitar playing though still struggles to truly catch on with the solos. The compositions are good, the vocal melodies work well, but it's the guitar solos that tend to drag on in similar fashion. There's a few moments where he does shine, but for the most part his rhythm work stands out far more than his mindless shredding. He's still miles better than me though.

'Long Time', 'Streets of Fire', 'Ride the Bullet' and 'Shoot Her to the Moon' are all fairly decent tracks, maybe even a bit of a guilty pleasure in their cheesiness. But in all honesty, 'Sweet Lil' Suzie' sees the band channel their inner Aerosmith and it is incredible! Easily the best song off the album, and all-round one of the bands best pieces, the album is easily worth the price just for this! Otherwise, this is a standard early 90's hard rock that probably would have been a raging success if it had been released in the 80's. It's got its merits, but overall there's much better stuff to come.

MANOWAR Battle Hymns

Album · 1982 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 29 ratings
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martindavey87
Break out the loincloths and battle axes, it's time to delve into the sword and sorcery world of "real metal", as Manowar's debut album, 1982's 'Battle Hymns' shamelessly ups the ante on pure cheesiness and forces us to ask ourselves what it means to truly be a metal fan.

Kind of like America's answer to Judas Priest, Manowar's early albums seems more akin to hard rock than metal. It's got a bluesy, swinging feeling to it, that doesn't quite match up to the imagery of the band. But that's not going to stop them from preaching the gospel of the metal Gods.

But the thing is, while this might have been heavy and cutting edge in 1982... by today's standard, it's tame, light, and... well, it'll always be cheesy no matter when you hear it. Vocalist Eric Adams sings his heart out, and certainly possesses an impressive range. And guitarist Ross the Boss... yeah, that's his "name"... certainly has incredible guitar skills... just not very good songwriting ones.

Still, not all's lost, as there is some stuff here which is, well... alright, to put it bluntly. 'Death Tone', 'Metal Daze' and 'Manowar' (born to live forevermore, and don't you forget it), are all okay, nothing fancy, but certainly a precursor to the cheese that is to follow. Much like the Priest... their earlier material is pretty tame when compared to metal today, but Manowar's sound will adapt with the times and they will certainly improve on later albums, but otherwise, 'Battle Hymns' is a bit of a naff one, to me anyway.

FOZZY Remains Alive

Live album · 2011 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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martindavey87
'Remains Alive' by Fozzy was recorded live in Brisbane, Australia in 2005, shortly after the release of their third album, and their first as a "proper band". Having ditched the comedy covers gimmick, the group, fronted by wrestling superstar Chris Jericho, were touring to promote their 'All That Remains' album. Their first featuring only original compositions.

While the band are still relatively young here, it's apparent that they already have a penchant for live performances. Chris Jericho, thanks to years and years as a WWE performer, is a natural frontman. Confident on the mic and more than capable at engaging an audience, the few times he struggles vocally, he more than makes up for in charisma and stage presence.

Of course, being partnered up with members of rap metal pioneers Stuck Mojo means that this is definitely a band that was destined to excel when playing live. Guitarist Rich Ward and the rest of the guys are incredible performers, as well as incredible players. Ward has long been praised for his unmatched guitar tone, but at times things do sound a bit "sludgy" here.

Since this was recorded in the bands early days, the set does suffer a little. While all the songs here are bangers, Fozzy would go on to really adapt a feel in their music that was tailor-made for live settings. Having seen Fozzy a number of times, I can assure you their later material are live anthems, perfectly written to give audiences ample opportunities to get more involved with the music.

With that said, this isn't a bad album though, and like Stuck Mojo's 'HVY1' live release, the true joy of this recording is the energy and the banter between the songs. Jericho is a natural showman, and sometimes it's just fun to hear him talk and entertain. And all the bands early hits, including 'To Kill a Stranger', 'Crucify Yourself', 'Enemy', 'With the Fire' and 'Nameless Faceless' are played with pure enthusiasm and enjoyment. While this is certainly best saved for the absolute die-hard Fozzy fanatics, there's still some noteworthy things to listen to here, especially if you're a performing musician yourself.

Fozzy Fozzy Fozzy! Oi Oi! Oi!

DISTURBED Believe

Album · 2002 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.34 | 14 ratings
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martindavey87
Disturbed's second album, released in 2002, continues where 'The Sickness' left off. With groove-laden detuned guitar riffs and David Draiman's signature vocal style, the band show a maturity that will enable them to survive the dying nu metal scene.

The most notable difference between 'Believe' and the bands 2000 debut is that there's more emphasis on hooks, with the songs being catchier and with more focus on strong, memorable choruses. Unfortunately, like before, there's still a good amount of filler material here too. The good songs are really good, but the rest are entirely forgettable.

Dan Donegan's guitar work is great, however. We know he can shred by his work on later albums, but here he's restraining himself immensely. Whether for the good of the song, or simply because the nu metal fad didn't allow for guitar solos, either way, his riffs are heavy, yet melodic, and each flows into the next effortlessly.

While 'Believe' is still an average album at best, there are some notable tracks. 'Prayer', 'Remember', 'Liberate', 'Bound' and 'Rise' are all fantastic songs that make this worth at least one or two listens, and while the band are still pretty much a nu metal act here, there's potential to outlive the subgenre while appealing to both metal fans and radio alike.

MIND KEY Journey Of A Rough Diamond

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.92 | 5 ratings
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martindavey87
'Journey of a Rough Diamond' is the debut album by Italian progressive metal band Mind Key. Released in 2004, it bears many similarities to a certain well-known band...

Now, I've always disliked the notion of so many progressive metal bands being labelled as "Dream Theater clones". Yes, Dream Theater are the pioneers of the subgenre, and have remained flag bearers to this day, having laid the foundations and defined the true aspects and qualities of the style. But God forbid, anyone being inspired by this and playing something similar! Why isn't every metal band in history simply regarded as a Black Sabbath clone? Or a Metallica clone? Or a...

Whatever... Back on track... Mind Key are one of "those bands".

Ticking off every cliché from the prog metal guidebook, the music here is highly ambitious, with long track durations, extended musical passages, unparalleled musicianship, and with a vocalist who mostly sings in a higher range. This is prog metal 101.

But is it any good? It's... alright.

I stumbled across Mind Key back in 2010 when I first heard and fell in love with the song 'Secret Dream'. I couldn't wait to hear the entire album, and when I finally managed to get hold of it, it didn't quite live up to expectations. It's good. But it's so incredibly average. I don't expect every band to reinvent the wheel, but for all the musical talent and production values this band has, there's just not a lot here that hasn't been done more memorably by other artists.

Still, there are some solid tracks here. Besides the aforementioned 'Secret Dream', (which is definitely the best the album has to offer), there's 'Love Remains the Same', 'Lord of the Flies', 'Without Ann' and 'Waiting for the Answer'. None of these songs are going to set the world on fire, but in fairness, while my review does seem a bit harsh, these are pretty decent compositions.

But Mind Key just fail to truly stand out amongst a sea of so many "Dream Theater clones". They're good though, and 'Journey of a Rough Diamond' is worth checking out if you're into your prog metal, but there's plenty of similar bands with more memorable and accessible albums.

SYSTEM OF A DOWN Toxicity

Album · 2001 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 93 ratings
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martindavey87
After gaining a huge cult following with their self-titled 1998 debut, System of a Down exploded worldwide with their 2001 follow-up, 'Toxicity'. With nu metal at its peak, the band's sound was perfect to appeal to fans both old and new, and with one absolute colossal hit, they were ready for worldwide mega stardom.

Following on from where their previous album left off, 'Toxicity' is a fast, furious and frantic release that refuses to let up for a single moment. The chemistry between the band members is incredible, with special mention to unique and eccentric vocalist Serj Tankian and guitarist Daron Malakian's erratic and intense guitar work. Right from start to finish this is a relentless assault on the senses.

Of course, this album is best known for one song, and we all know what that is, don't we? 'Chop Suey'. With its unusual lyrics and unique vocal style, 'Chop Suey', besides being one of the most well-known, beloved and recognizable metal songs of all time, transcends the metal genre. Such is its reputation that non-metal fans love it too!

However, there's more to this release than just one song, and 'Toxicity' is absolutely overflowing with hits. 'Prison Song', 'Science', 'Deer Dance', 'Jet Pilot', 'Bounce', 'Psycho' and 'Shimmy' are all incredible songs that are definitely worth a listen, and then there's the title track and closing track 'Aerials', which were both released as singles and, while not as well known as 'Chop Suey', have still gone on to become metal classics in their own right.

With the release of 'Toxicity', System of a Down became one of those few bands that are truly in a league of their own, and who's future will forever be defined by this album. A monumental success and one of metals most revered albums, there's really no excuses for not hearing this by now!

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