Metal Music Reviews from martindavey87

H-BLOCKX Discover My Soul

Album · 1996 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Ah, the early 90’s. Shell suits, techno pop and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A bright, vibrant time, it was colourful, innocent and fun. Until around the mid-90’s, things changed. “Attitude” became cool. Bands were rebelling. TV was becoming bleaker. Everything suddenly became “darker” and more serious. And much like H-Blockx’s second album, while the music is still similar to their 1994 debut, there’re much more serious undertones to the album than before.

1994’s ‘Time to Move’ was a fun, quirky and very energetic album, with its daft, not-a-care-in-the-world lyrics and brightly coloured artwork, music videos and imagery, it was a sure reflection of the times. However, by 1996, the youthful enthusiasm was gone, and in its place was a more polished and mature band.

H-Blockx, Germany’s answer to the rap-rock movement that was being spearheaded by bands such as Rage Against the Machine, Body Count and Stuck Mojo, managed to incorporate more serious aspects to their music and lyrics, while still delivering an album full of vigour and exuberance. With their punchy guitar riffs, tongue-in-cheek rapping and anthemic choruses, they managed to adapt to the shifting social climate while producing an album that stays true to their own sound.

Underrated and always overlooked, guitarist Tim Tanambergen has some incredible chops in him, with some impressive guitar riffs that can be interesting without having to resort to mindless shredding, and they’re complimented well by two vocalists, Henning Wehland and Dave Gappa, who’s combination of melodic singing and aggressive rapping gives the music a great dynamic, years before Linkin Park were doing the same.

While this album does seem a little more disjointed than ‘Time to Move’, it’s still a worthy follow up and shows a band with so much potential, who just never really were in the right place at the right time. Songs like ‘Try Me One More Time’, ‘Gimme More’, ‘Discover My Soul’, ‘I Can’t Rely on You’, ‘I Heard Him Cry’, ‘Duality of Mind’ and one of my personal favourite rap-rock songs, ‘This is Not America’, show a band with a vast pallet of influences and styles. Ranging from soft and melodic, to energetic pop and downright fist-pumping rock, ‘Discover My Soul’, like its predecessor, serves as a great example of why rock and hip-hop fits together perfectly, and shouldn’t be as nonchalantly discarded as it is.


Album · 2003 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 2.86 | 10 ratings
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Nickelback’s fourth studio album, 2003’s ‘The Long Road’, sees the band finally do away with the post grunge sound of their earlier days and fully embrace the mainstream, radio-friendly hard rock vibe that gave them worldwide superstardom on 2001’s ‘Silver Side Up’ (which featured THAT song).

And to be honest, the band pulls it off perfectly. The songs are all well-written and catchy, yet rocking enough to get heads banging too. Unfortunately Nickelback would fall into that gray area where they’re not “metal enough” for metal fans, and too heavy for casual radio-listeners, however, the bands singles, which usually tend to be on the softer side, gives the band huge mainstream appeal, and it’s for this reason that fans of heavier music probably despise them.

However, with that said, when the band wants to rock, damn, they can rock hard! With pounding guitar riffs accompanied by a solid drum beat and bass line, the band can no doubt hold their own when it comes to heavier music, and their ballads... well, hell, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a catchy melody... and the Canadian four-piece are pretty nifty at that too. The production is also top-notch, giving the music a massive, driving sound, with every riff getting the punch it needs.

Frontman Chad Kroeger, one of the most hated rock stars on the planet, seems undaunted by his reputation, and delivers a fantastic performance, with a great range that emits power and emotion. Whether bellowing at the top of his voice or reflecting melancholically, the man has a great voice and is hugely underrated as a vocalist. (There, I said it).

Featuring guest appearances by Kid Rock and, surprisingly, Dimebag Darrell of Pantera fame (yep, you read that right), and with highlights including ‘Because of You’, ‘Flat on the Floor’, ‘Someday’, ‘Do This Anymore’, ‘Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good’, ‘Should’ve Listened’ and a bonus track cover of the Elton John classic ‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’, ‘The Long Road’ is a fantastic album, which is neither too ambitious or complicated, but revels in its hard rocking simplicity, and is all the more better because of it.


Album · 2005 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.03 | 22 ratings
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2001’s ‘Mutter’ solidified German industrial rockers Rammstein as global megastars, and while it’d be an impossible task to top, 2004’s ‘Reise Reise’ was a more than worthy follow-up which maintained the bands high standards. So what went wrong here?

‘Rosenrot’, released just one year later, is essentially a “leftovers album”. Despite containing a number of singles which were given music videos, the album, mostly consisting of tracks that didn’t make it onto its predecessor, came out to minimal promotion and advertising. But understandably, when the quality of the material doesn’t live up to what the group had released prior, perhaps that’s why.

The thing is, while ‘Rosenrot’ isn’t a terrible release, it’s just not very memorable. Most of the tracks are pretty generic and bland, and they all tend to sound pretty similar. The monstrous anthems of ‘Mutter’ or the electronic dance grooves of ‘Sehnsucht’ are nowhere to be seen, and there just generally seems to be a huge lack of keyboards here, compared to earlier albums, anyway. Most of the songs tend to plod along with the same monotonous guitar riffs and baritone vocals. Still, the music itself is heavy and pounding, and when the band is on top form there’s a couple of decent numbers here.

‘Benzin’, ‘Rosenrot’, ‘Mann Gegen Mann’ and ‘Te Quiero Puta!’ are all respectable highlights, and fit well in the bands discography, but none of these hold up all that well to the likes of ‘Sonne’, ‘Du Hast’ or ‘Mein Herz Brennt’. Arguably the weakest album the band have put out at this point, ‘Rosenrot’ is still worth a listen or two if you’re a fan of Rammstein, but if you’re a newbie then you’re better off going with anything the band released prior to this.

ICED EARTH The Blessed and the Damned

Boxset / Compilation · 2004 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.77 | 3 ratings
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‘The Blessed and the Damned’ is a 2004 compilation album by American power metal band Iced Earth, and was compiled by their former record label, Century Media, after the band had left to sign with SPV. Consisting of highlights from all the bands albums between 1990 and 2001, including the ‘Alive in Athens’ live album, this is a solid release which still holds up pretty well today, and is a great summary of the bands first eleven years, serving as a great starting point for newcomers.

As is always the case with these types of collections, there’s always going to be a couple of tracks missing and a few I’d have excluded, but none-the-less, all the major hits are here. From the early days with ‘Iced Earth’, ‘Written on the Walls’ and ‘Angels Holocaust’, to later, more polished tracks like ‘Burning Times’, ‘Wolf’, ‘Watching Over Me’ and ‘Burnt Offerings’, there’s a good, varied track list here to please most fans.

In particular, I’m happy the earlier releases were featured here, as the band re-recorded most of their early tracks with third vocalist Matt Barlow on 1997’s ‘Days of Purgatory’, but to be honest, I actually prefer the original versions, so it’s great to see them get some love.

While there’s a good variety of songs, from fast, intense and aggressive to melodic and epic, a lot of the songs do sound pretty similar, and this can be a little tiresome if listened to in one sitting, especially at just over two hours in duration. But regardless, ‘The Blessed and the Damned’ is a good compilation that does the band justice, and is great as a starting point for new fans or as a collectible for old ones.


Album · 1997 · Rap Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Clawfinger’s 1997 self-titled third album sees the band return to form after a rather average follow-up to their debut. While ‘Deaf Dumb Blind’ gave the Swedish rap-rockers some miner mainstream success and publicity, they mostly remained an obscure, unknown entity, especially with constantly shifting music trends. But then, since when has a band like Clawfinger cared about music trends?

Packed full of aggressive, non-stop rapid-fire lyrics and energetic, grooving and pumping guitar riffs, ‘Clawfinger’ is a shot of adrenaline that doesn’t give up until the closing moments of the album. Tackling the usual issues of politics, socialism, relationships and religion, the band is relentless and completely unapologetic in getting their message across. And it’s this tongue-in-cheek attitude that makes them so endearing.

The band has taken a huge step forward here in regards to song writing. Their lyrics are a lot more mature, and the music is much more polished, with more electronic and industrial influences, as well as Middle Eastern sounding phrases and female vocals too. Closing track ‘I Guess I’ll Never Know’ reflects on a friend who had committed suicide, and is incredibly sad and melancholic, with vocalist Zak Tell ditching the rapping for singing. Lines such as “with so much love around you I just wish you loved yourself” shows a group that have a lot more depth and meaning than simply lashing out at governments and social issues.

With highlights including ‘Two Sides’, ‘I’m Your Life & Religion’, ‘Not Even You’, ‘Biggest & The Best’, ‘Chances’, ‘Wrong State of Mind’ and the aforementioned closing track, ‘Clawfinger’ sees the band back on top form with another dose of high-quality, hard-hitting rap metal.

MEGADETH That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires

Live album · 2007 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.59 | 12 ratings
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Well, it’s official. If 2001’s ‘Rude Awakening’ didn’t prove it, then ‘That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires’, released in 2007, does. Megadeth are a pretty naff live band.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a terrible release, and more than makes up for the aforementioned ‘Rude Awakening’, but Megadeth have just never really been able to get a decent live sound. Dave Mustaines vocals are pretty hard to listen to here, and the songs don’t have the same grit and punch of their studio counterparts. There’s nothing overly noteworthy or special about the production here, either. It’s literally one song after another. No hassle. No fuss. Damn it, no fun!

With that said, props to the band for the killer set list. Every album is represented here by at least one track, including 1999’s ‘Risk’, which is an album I consider highly underrated and I’m glad it got some love here, even if it is with ‘I’ll Be There’, quite possibly the most un-Megadeth song the band ever put out (and it’s cool to hear the audience give it a warm reception).

Still, overall, despite an abundance of hits that span their entire career, including ‘Hanger 18’, ‘Holy Wars’, ‘Trust’, ‘Symphony of Destruction’, ‘Wake Up Dead’ and ‘Kick the Chair’, ‘That One Night’ is a pretty average live release. If you’re a fan of the band it won’t cause any harm by owning, but otherwise I’d be more than happy to listen to any studio album over this.

PANTERA The Great Southern Trendkill

Album · 1996 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.57 | 45 ratings
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How did one of the most influential metal bands of the 90’s (and of all time?) turn out to be so disappointing? I mean, like a lot of metalheads, I’ve always held Pantera in such high regard, but it wasn’t until I properly took the time to listen to their albums that I found myself not really enjoying a lot of it.

The groundbreaking ‘Cowboys From Hell’ and ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ feature some of metals most beloved songs, but I find are also brimming with filler material. ‘Far Beyond Driven’ even made it to the number one spot in the Billboard charts! How??? That album, in my eyes, saw a huge decline from its predessors! And how did they follow that up? With an even more lacklustre mess of an album; ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’.

There’s no denying that the band had been getting progressively heavier with each release, and ‘Trendkill’ is by far their heaviest album to date, but it’s just so chaotic and cluttered that I truly struggle with it. Phil Anselmo’s once-impressive vocals, blending screaming, shouting, singing and all sorts, is just one incomprehensible death metal growly shout after another. And the guitars, once groove-laden and full of pumping, memorable riffs, now sound like generic, throwaway leftovers. Messy and uninspired, the band was at odds when making this album, with the music and vocals being recorded in completely separate locations, and it shows.

The production sounds rather dated as well. While the music’s sheer intensity and brutality make it heavy, the sound itself is rather weak and tinny, struggling to live up to the standards of the bands previous releases.

If I was forced to pick out any highlights, ‘Living Through Me (Hell’s Wrath)’ and ‘Suicide Note Pt. 1’ are probably the best two songs. The title track is alright too. But to be honest though, I’m just really not into this album, and struggling to really see what all the hype was about regarding Pantera.


Single · 1993 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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I always thought singles to promote live albums was a bit pointless, unless there was a certain novelty to it (like, say, playing with an orchestra). Promoting the ‘Live Shit: Binge & Purge’ box set, ‘One’ is a decent enough little package which features four cuts from the album, but true fans were going to buy the bundle regardless, which thankfully, would later be released in a smaller box, with the same CD’s but featuring two DVD’s instead of three VHS tapes (remember those?!).

Featuring four tracks, ‘One’ (which includes a small jam), ‘Whiplash’, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ and ‘Last Caress’, these are all staples in the Metallica live set, and there have been countless live versions recorded over the years, making this single pretty redundant.

Still, if you’re a die-hard fan you’ll want this for your collection, if such collectors actually exist, but otherwise, get the ‘Live Shit’ box set, as that’s definitely still worth the investment. And in fairness, if you’re actually reading this review then I’m going to assume you already own it, anyway.


EP · 2013 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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2013’s ‘Covertá’ is the second EP, and third overall release, by American groove metal band Adrenaline Mob, and features eight tracks, all of which are covers by various well-known classic rock and metal groups. There’s always a number of ways to view these types of releases; are you a fan of the original compositions? Are you a fan of the covers? Is the selection of songs any good? Do they hold up well on their own?

To be honest... the answer is mostly no to all of these.

I mean, there’s some heavy hitters such as Van Halen, Dio, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Doors... but none of the covers are really all that good, and mostly sound uninspired and bland. Which is a shame considering the absolutely monumental amount of talent involved. No doubt the musicianship is incredible, and the sound and production makes all these tracks a lot heavier and polished than their originals, but in this case, that’s not enough to win me over.

In fact, the only two covers I find remotely interesting are Black Sabbath’s ‘The Mob Rules’, (which was already covered on their debut EP), and Rainbow’s ‘Kill the King’. But realistically, I either prefer the original recordings, or covers by other bands.

Overall, after a fantastic debut album, this is a fairly disappointing EP. Of course, these types of things aren’t really meant to be taken too seriously, and are just filling time between studio albums, which is why this is probably best saved for fans of the musicians involved.

DREAM THEATER New York City 3/4/93

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.40 | 7 ratings
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‘New York City 03/04/93’, released in 2007, is the fifth album in the live series of Dream Theater’s official bootlegs. With only two albums under their belts, this is an interesting look at the band in their early days, especially as there are some who consider the Kevin Moore years their best.

Featuring most of the songs from their first two releases, ‘When Dream and Day Unite’ and one of my all-time favourite albums, ‘Images and Words’, the set list is incredibly strong, despite the limited material they had on hand. The performances are (mostly) impeccable (hey, it’s Dream Theater!), and the sound quality is really good, considering this is a “bootleg” lifted directly from the soundboard. The band all sound clear, and the audience is audible enough without sounding fake.

With the likes of ‘Pull Me Under’, ‘Metropolis’, ‘Take the Time’, ‘A Fortune in Lies’, ‘Learning to Live’ and ‘The Killing Hand’, it’s evident that even after only two albums, Dream Theater had a wealth of solid material to choose. Also included is a work-in-progress of ‘A Change of Seasons’, the 23-minute epic that’d end up getting its own EP release. It’s for this alone that most die-hard fans will be interested in hearing this album, especially as the version played here is quite different from the finished product.

However, since I’ve always preferred studio albums to live ones, I can only look at what I get out of this release, and in that case, it’s the things that I’ve learned:

1. Even Dream Theater make mistakes! (Yep, it’s true, there’re quite a few bum notes in there!!!)

2. Even in his younger days, vocalist James LaBrie struggled replicating all the recorded vocals live. Bless ‘im for trying, though.

3. Dream Theater’s early shows had intermissions. Weird.

Strange things to take out of this, I know, but there we go. ‘New York City 03/04/93’ is a nice little nugget of joy for fans of Dream Theater, but as far as live albums go, it’ll take a lot to improve upon ‘Live at Budokan’, ‘Score’ or ‘Live Scenes from New York’.

KISS Dressed To Kill

Album · 1975 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.63 | 27 ratings
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Another Kiss album, and not a lot different than the previous two. Short, sleazy, rock songs about the usual 1970’s affair... sex, women, partying, sex, drinking, women, and occasionally, something different, like sex, women and partying all at once.

It’s easy to see how this might have been a bit more revolutionary in the 70’s, but these albums sound pretty tame and immature by today’s standards. The production is decent enough, and the playing is consistently good (though again, pretty laid back), but after two previous albums of similar material, ‘Dressed to Kill’ just tends to bore.

‘Room Service’, ‘Getaway’ and ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ (admittedly, an early Kiss classic), are the only really half-decent tracks here worth remembering. Still, it’s only half an hour long, so it’s not doing any harm, and Kiss will always be a guilty pleasure of mine, and everyone else’s.

With that said, despite three pretty mediocre releases, the next album is where my fandom for the band really begins, for it’s the album that changed my life. The best is definitely yet to come...


Album · 2012 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.83 | 13 ratings
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I knew immediately upon their formation that I would love this band! Formed by three of my all-time musical heroes, Rich Ward of Stuck Mojo and Fozzy, Mike Portnoy, one year removed from his tenure with Dream Theater, and Russell Allen, powerhouse vocalist of Symphony X. Some of my favourite bands right there. This was amazing!

Except, their debut self-titled EP was a bit of a disappointment to me. Not only was it the most expensive single CD I’ve ever bought (being sold directly by the band themselves and having to be imported from America), I was gutted to find out that Rich Ward (my hetero man-crush) didn’t actually play on the recordings, but merely posed for the pictures. Unfortunately he’d already left the band by this point, leaving sole guitar duties to virtuoso Mike Orlando.

And with that, the band recruited Disturbed bassist John Moyer and released their debut album, 2012’s ‘Omertá’, a hard-hitting, pull-no-punches and take-no-prisoners affair, which offers traditional heavy metal with a huge dose of groove and energy. Brimming with driving guitar riffs and a pounding rhythm section, the music is unapologetic in its raw aggression and attitude. And vocalist Russell Allen, renowned for his incredible range and passion, really nails the anger and emotion needed to bring the music to life.

The production on this album is fantastic as well, giving the music an incredibly heavy and thick sound, and helping the band live up to their name. Tracks like ‘Undaunted’, ‘Indifferent’, ‘Psychosane’, ‘Feelin’ Me’, ‘Hit the Wall’, ‘All on the Line’, ‘Believe Me’ and ‘Down to the Floor’ are all massive metal anthems that can make you feel unbeatable, and not only do they make up for the rather shoddy EP the group had released the year prior, but establishes Adrenaline Mob as more than just another supergroup side-project, but a legit band with a bright future ahead of them.

SAVATAGE Japan Live '94

Live album · 1995 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 2.73 | 7 ratings
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This album is a perfect example of why I’ve always preferred studio albums to live ones. Savatage are without a doubt one of my all-time favourite bands, but ‘Japan Live ‘94’ just doesn’t do their music justice.

Recorded while touring for their 1994 album, ‘Handful of Rain’, this was a short-lived line-up of the band which was reeling from the tragic death of original guitarist Criss Oliva. With Zak Stevens totally owning it on vocals, and guitar master Alex Skolnick of Testament fame stepping in on guitars, the band members are on top form, and the performances from everyone are solid throughout.

The production is pretty good, and everyone can be heard clearly, however, there’re two things about this album that bug me. Firstly, I just feel that the album versions sound a lot bigger, grandiose and epic, especially as the studio can allow for multiple layers and dubs, whereas live, they all sound a bit flat. Secondly... ah... the audience... Like so many similar live releases, the audience at times just sound piped in. It’s when Stevens is talking and the crowd are constantly screaming and yelling, I know metal fans can be a rabid bunch, but at times it just sounds a bit fake (and if it isn’t, well... there’s always reason one to fall back on).

Coming at a time just as the band were starting to become more progressive, theatrical and bombastic with their music, ‘Japan Live ‘94’, (sometimes also known as ‘Live in Japan’) does have a pretty decent set list. With the likes of ‘Chance’, ‘Edge of Thorns’, ‘Gutter Ballet’, ‘Taunting Cobras’, ‘Jesus Saves’, ‘Watching You Fall’ and ‘Sirens’, there’s plenty of good material here, making this is a decent enough album, but as a whole, I think I’ll probably ignore it and just listen to the bands studio output instead.


Album · 2002 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 13 ratings
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Formed by former Angra frontman Andre Matos, Shaman is another one of those typical power/progressive metal bands that are pretty unknown and only have small, cult followings to go by. I’d seen ‘Ritual’, their 2002 debut album, pop up on a number of websites such as Amazon and eBay, where it was being compared to prog metal pioneers Dream Theater, and while I was never under any illusion that they were as good or prominent, it just seemed like they were a bit of a cult band that had something special to offer.

Unfortunately they’re not really anything out of the ordinary when it comes to this kind of music.

That’s not to say they’re bad, in fact, ‘Ritual’ took quite a few listens to get used to, but it’s actually a pretty decent album. It’s not overly “progressive”, but is definitely a typical power metal record with fast, upbeat songs (with an almost “happy vibe”), incredible musicianship, and in fairness, Matos vocals are damn impressive too. The tracks are all well produced, and with solid songwriting that takes influences from Brazilian music, it’s an interesting enough debut, if not generic, but still pretty good none-the-less.

Tracks like ‘For Tomorrow’, ‘Distant Thunder’, ‘Time Will Come’, ‘Here I Am’ and the title track are all pretty good songs that are definitely worth a listen if you’re into this kind of thing. While most of them employ the usual traits of the genre, there are a few moments that do make Shaman stand out. ‘For Tomorrow’ has a very nice, tribal sound, with some interesting vocals and guitar work, while ‘Time Will Come’ has some very tasty, speed metal-inspired riffs.

Shaman aren’t anything particularly unique or innovative, and while it took a fair amount of time to get into, I’m glad I stuck it out, because ‘Ritual’ is a pretty solid debut that shows a band that certainly has potential to improve.

LINKIN PARK Minutes to Midnight

Album · 2007 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.46 | 21 ratings
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And so it was, that as quickly as the nu metal subgenre rose to prominence (and boy, did it ever?!), so too did it burn out. In 2000, nu metal bands were topping the charts and headlining festivals all over the world. By 2003, the genre was dead, with many bands either fading into obscurity or changing their sound to maintain relevance.

Which brings us to Linkin Park, arguably “the face” of nu metal.

2007 saw the band release their third studio album, ‘Minutes to Midnight’, and sees a huge departure from the sound they were best known for. The heavy use of samples, rapping and metal guitar tones have been replaced by a more traditional, radio-friendly rock, which focuses more on Chester Bennington’s impressive singing, and a more hard rock guitar sound. It’s evident that the band have matured and grown up over the years too. Long gone is the spiky dyed hair and teenage angst-ridden lyrics, instead, we have a more melancholic, introspective band, that are looking at bigger, worldly issues than just personal anxiety.

However, one thing remains unchanged, and that’s the group’s knack for writing easily accessible and catchy tunes. The songs are all fairly short, and with very simple structures and hooks aplenty, they’ve managed to update their sound with ease, and show an organic maturity bought upon by their own life experiences, as opposed to a means for the bands survival.

With highlights including ‘What I’ve Done’, ‘No More Sorrow’, ‘Bleed It Out’, ‘Given Up’ (huge props to Chester’s vocals on this one), and ‘Leave Out All the Rest’, it’s apparent that Linkin Park have managed to transcend the nu metal genre, and while ‘Minutes to Midnight’ may not be as innovative as their prior efforts, what it lacks in originality it more than compensates for with such well-crafted compositions, confirming that the band were more than a flash-in-the-pan, and are deserving of their spot as one of the biggest bands on the planet.

MEGADETH The System Has Failed

Album · 2004 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 61 ratings
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2004 saw the metal community rejoice, as thrash metal pioneers and all-round icons of the genre, Megadeth, returned from a forced retirement two years prior.

However, this wasn’t the Megadeth of old. With the band splitting up in 2002 due to an injury suffered by leader, vocalist and guitarist Dave Mustaine, the following two years in which Mustaine healed up would see himself and long-standing bassist David Ellefson fall out over legal disputes. As a result, while Mustaine was ready to return to the music world, with no band line-up in sight, he set out to record a solo album, which very quickly became another Megadeth project when it became apparent that his own name-value was nowhere near that of his bands.

While ‘The System Has Failed’ is a Megadeth album, it is essentially a Dave Mustaine solo release, with a load of session musicians. Albeit, one of which was returning guitarist Chris Poland, who had appeared on the bands first two releases back in the early 80’s.The two-year hiatus did Mustaine a lot of good though, as this is a return to form after a rather strenuous start to the new century. 1999’s ‘Risk’ saw them go pop rock to critical disdain (I love that album, for the record), and 2001’s ‘The World Needs a Hero’ was a rather stoic, rigid affair, that felt like the band weren’t really making too much effort at all.

But with ‘The System Has Failed’, Megadeth are truly back to their thrash metal roots with heavy, intense and driving guitar riffs, angry, spite-filled lyrics that lash out at politicians and war, and Mustaine’s vocals being more ferocious and venomous than ever. The production gives the songs a thick sound, with a thumping bass line and solid drumming, and the technical prowess of the musicians, along with the melodic approach to the songwriting, gives the album a fresh sound, not heard since 1990’s ‘Rust in Peace’.

Overall, while there are one or two filler tracks, this is a solid album, with songs like ‘Kick the Chair’, ‘Blackmail the Universe’, ‘Die Dead Enough’, ‘Back in the Day’, ‘The Scorpion’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’ showing that Megadeth are back with a vengeance, and more than ready to reclaim their spot as one of metals most beloved bands, and although this won’t ever be considered their best album, it’s a welcome return to form.

IRON MAIDEN Live After Death

Live album · 1985 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.12 | 54 ratings
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Iron Maiden were on a roll. 1982’s ‘The Number of the Beast’ and 1983’s ‘Piece of Mind’ had shot the band to the top of the metal world, and if there was finally any doubters left that didn’t think the band belonged, then 1984’s ‘Powerslave’, the Brits’ fifth studio release, really established them as one of the top metal acts around. What followed was the “World Slavery Tour”, which saw Maiden embark on a trek around the globe with an elaborate stage show that encapsulated the energy and imagery of their music.

So what’s next? How about a live album to commemorate the tour? Which brings us to the first of many live albums the band would put out; ‘Live After Death’.

Split over two discs, the first recorded in California, USA while the second in London, England, ‘Live After Death’ highlights the energy and enthusiasm of the band in their early days. Featuring all the major hits from their first five albums, including ‘Aces High’, ‘Run to the Hills’, ‘The Trooper’, ‘The Number of the Beast’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’, the performances and production are all of a high standard, however, the audience can be a little hard to hear at times, which kind of ruins the experience, but as a whole, this is a good live release.

Though, with that said, I’ve always preferred studio albums to live ones, and as it is, ‘Live After Death’ does seem a little outdated today, considering the wealth of live albums the band would go on to produce. Still, it has its moments and isn’t bad by any means, there just isn’t really anything to entice me to choose this over any of Iron Maiden’s studio efforts instead.


Album · 2001 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.95 | 37 ratings
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Power metal has always been the ginger-haired stepchild of metal. It’s cheesy, and full of corny lyrics about mythical lands and beings going on wondrous adventures. Lame, right? But occasionally, a band comes along who does away with the speed-metal roots and wailing vocals of the genre, and releases something with a bit more depth and substance.

Enter Kamelot, with their fifth studio album, 2001’s ‘Karma’, the group have really hit their stride, with a refined sound and more polished song writing, this is where the band truly begin a streak of strong releases that establishes them as one of symphonic metals true champions.

Building upon what they’d started with 1999’s ‘The Forth Legacy’, ‘Karma’ has a very rich sound that gives the band an amazingly fantastical feel. Brimming with lavish orchestrations and exotic musical influences, Kamelot have slowly stepped away from the medieval themes of past albums and gone for a more varied, worldly sound, and it works well with their upbeat and energetic performances. Special mention must go to vocalist Roy Khan, who’s incredible voice works very well with the music and gives it a warm and wholesome sound.

With highlights such as ‘Forever’, ‘Across the Highlands’, ‘Wings of Despair’, all three parts of a trilogy entitled ‘Elizabeth’, and the beautifully emotional ‘Don’t You Cry’, it’s clear that here is a band who, after a few albums tweaking their sound, have finally found their identity and established a style befitting a band named after the home of the legendary King Arthur. Kamelot may not be for everyone’s tastes, but if you’re okay with a bit of fantasy and majesty in your music, then this is definitely worth checking out.

SYMPHONY X Iconoclast

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 76 ratings
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2007’s ‘Paradise Lost’ is, in my opinion, one of the heaviest albums of all time, and having developed their sound over the years from a neo-classical progressive metal act to an extremely heavy, almost power metal-sounding band, it seems Symphony X have settled on a style that suits them perfectly, as ‘Iconoclast’, the bands eighth studio album, released in 2011, follows on from its predecessor as a possible candidate for one of the heaviest albums you’ll ever hear.

What makes Symphony X so heavy, you ask? While people measure heaviness in different ways, in my opinion, it’s the “weight” of the music. The production and the sound, and in this case, the massive and beefy-as-hell guitar riffs. ‘Iconoclast’ is like a ten-ton hammer crushing a thousand skulls at once, and incredibly, despite the sheer intensity and brutality, the album is full of wondrous and beautiful melodies too.

Taking the energy of power metal and the songwriting arrangements of progressive metal, Symphony X’s music is very upbeat and ambitious. With complex orchestrations and masterful musicianship, these guys are at the top of their game, and on par with the genres finest musicians. In particular, guitarist Michael Romeo and vocalist Russell Allen have an absolute synergy rarely seen these days, with Allen’s incredibly versatile range being a perfect match for the guitar riffs.

Released on two discs, or as a one-disc edition for people not willing to spend too much dollar (I wonder how many people actually bought that one), ‘Iconoclast’ is an incredible album with very few flaws. With absolute monstrous beasts such as ‘Electric Messiah’, ‘The End of Innocence’, ‘Bastards of the Machine’, ‘Dehumanized’, ‘Children of a Faceless God’ and ‘Reign in Madness’, this shows that, while Symphony X may not feel inclined to do many classically-inspired prog epics these days, they’ve refused to relent with age, instead, getting heavier and constantly finding ways to update their sound and remain relevant.

‘Iconoclast’ belongs in every metal fans collection. Simple.

ART IN EXILE Art in Exile

EP · 2006 · Gothic Metal
Cover art 1.00 | 1 rating
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‘Art in Exile’ is the self-titled debut release by the Australian gothic rockers of the same name. It’s one of those CD’s that you pick up in the bargain bin (I literally did, in Germany, for 50 cents!), and then have in your collection, forever wondering why you still have it despite not liking it.

It’s kind of gothic metal, kind of progressive at times, kind of death metal, mostly boring. The guitar riffs aren’t very interesting, and the gloomy keyboards don’t really add much. There are one or two moments where the music is alright, especially the intro of opening track ‘Magnetism’, which sounded intriguing for all of 45 seconds, until vocalist Mel Bulian starts screaming away. She sounds a bit like Dani Filth, but I don’t really care about Dani Filth. Her clean vocals are nice, and the band could have had a much better sound if they’d taken that approach, but all her screeching is hard to listen to, and certainly not for me.

Since this band have only released one album (at the time of writing this review, anyway), I’m guessing there’s not much demand for a gothic metal scene in Australia? Who knows? Either way, there’s a reason this was in the bargain bin...

BONZ Broken Silence

Album · 2015 · Rap Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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‘Broken Silence’ is the 2015 debut by Bonz, the original front man of rap-rock pioneers Stuck Mojo. After a second attempt at a reunion with his former band mates produced similar results as before (they’d attempted reunions in both 2005 and 2014, neither were able to sustain themselves for more than a number of shows), it was time for Bonz to step out on his own and break his silence.

Following on from his multiple tenures with Stuck Mojo, this is hard-hitting rap metal, with heavy, crunchy guitar riffs and energetic drumming accompanying Bonz’s spite-filled vocals, which are honest, brutal, and at times humorous. The raw and gritty production gives the album the sound it needs, giving everyone some clarity whilst not sounding overproduced, it sounds dirty, which is befitting of the lyrical themes, style of the music, and image of the band.

However, while there aren’t really any bad songs on the record, there is a major ingredient missing; “The Duke” Rich Ward.

Guitar mastermind of Stuck Mojo and Fozzy, Rich Ward’s groove laden guitar riffs were able to really get the best out of Bonz’s unique voice, which blended traditional rapping with punk and hardcore influences, and unmatched charisma. While ‘Broken Silence’ is a good effort, and certainly gives the man an avenue to voice his thoughts, everything seems just a little rigid without that swinging feeling of Ward’s songwriting and his signature guitar tones.

However, ‘Broken Silence’ is still a good album, and certainly has its moments. ‘Sinister Grin’, ‘Take It Personal’, ’30 Seconds to Swat’, ‘Godshine’ and the title track itself, which is no doubt a shot at his former band mates, are all decent tracks that make this record worth checking out. But if you really want to catch Bonz at his best, check out ‘Declaration of a Headhunter’, ‘Rising’, or ‘Pigwalk’ by Stuck Mojo. The guy is an absolute beast, and ‘Broken Silence’, while a good album, just doesn’t quite do him or his talents justice.

GUNS N' ROSES Appetite For Destruction

Album · 1987 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.25 | 88 ratings
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First impressions are everything. They can determine whether people like you or hate you, and while opinions can always change over time, there’s nothing quite like a memorable first impression. So how did Guns N’ Roses make theirs? They thought it’d be a great idea to release one of the most legendary, iconic and recognizable albums of all time.

Not a bad start, eh?

Released in 1987 (the same year as yours truly), hair and glam metal was in full swing, with countless rock bands living up the 80’s, prancing around with more makeup and hairspray than an L.A. hooker. And while there were some with the odd hit or memorable album here or there, the scene really lacked that one band that would transcend the genre and make their mark in music history. Enter Guns N’ Roses.

Instantly recognizable for Axl Roses impossibly high and powerful vocals, with their sleazy, spite-filled lyrics, and iconic top hat-wearing guitarist Slash’s fast and frantic blues-inspired riffs, ‘Appetite for Destruction’ has a solid production that really brings the music to life and gives the album nonstop energy and attitude. While it has a distinctive 80’s vibe, it’s still manage to age incredibly well, and even today is a very easy record to listen to, regardless of what music you’re into.

With its legendary front cover (I’m referring to the cross and skulls one which it is most widely known for), ‘Appetite...’ contains some of rocks most greatest moments, including ‘Paradise City’, ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, ‘My Michelle’, ‘Mr. Brownstone’, ‘Out Ta Get Me’, ‘It’s So Easy’, ‘Rocket Queen’ and the monstrously huge megahit, ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’. It took me a while to get around to really giving this record a proper chance, but now that I did, I can confirm that it does live up to its reputation.

An all-time classic, ‘Appetite for Destruction’ is one of those absolutely essential albums that should be in every music collection.

BODY COUNT Violent Demise: The Last Days

Album · 1997 · Rap Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 4 ratings
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Rapper Ice-T and his merry men are back with Body Count’s third studio album, ‘Violent Demise: The Last Days’. Released in 1997, it follows the disappointing ‘Born Dead’, which failed to capitalize on the unexpected and surprising success of the bands self-titled debut. However, with ‘Violent Demise’, the Californian gangsters return to the more brutal, cynical, yet tongue-in-cheek approach that made their first outing so unique for its time.

Starting off with a radio interview skit which sees the host attacking Ice-T over the poor reception of ‘Born Dead’, it’s evident that the group recognizes this and are setting out to rectify any issues. And they do it with a vengeance. With opening track, ‘My Way’, the band are instantly back to their aggressive and violent roots, with guitar riffs heavier than a tonne of concrete slabs and profanity-laden lyrics that will make your mother blush. Covering a host of traditional gangster rap subjects such as gang violence, racism and sex, the band are lashing out at society with both humour and pure hatred.

The musicianship itself is pretty good, and while this style of music isn’t typically known for virtuoso performances, the band members are tight, and the production gives the album a thick, punching sound that really re-establishes Body Count as a solid metal outfit. Ice-T’s vocals are a blend of rapping and generally shouting, but overall it works fantastically with the hardcore-inspired guitar riffs.

With the likes of ‘My Way’, ‘Violent Demise’, ‘Strippers’, ‘You’re Fuckin’ With BC’, ‘I Used to Love Her’ and ‘Dead Man Walking’, Body Count may not be able to recapture the mainstream success they had with their debut album, but it’s clear with ‘Violent Demise: The Last Days’ that this is a band who are more than just a side project, with well-written music of a high standard, this is a solid release that more than makes up for its predecessor.

MEGADETH Rude Awakening

Live album · 2002 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.35 | 13 ratings
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2002’s ‘Rude Awakening’ is the first official live album by thrash metal pioneers Megadeth. Released 16 years after their formation (what took them so long?), it sadly comes during a somewhat weird time in the bands history. Having just gone pop rock with 1999’s ‘Risk’ and then attempting a return to their roots with the rather stoic and not-very-well-received ‘The World Needs a Hero’, the band were suffering greatly around the turn of the century, and just a year later would split up (thankfully they’d return eventually).

Somewhere amidst all the struggle and strife, they’d release this little nugget. However, with a rather weak sound, a mostly non-audible crowd, especially during the first half, and a line-up which just wasn’t resonating with fans (drummer Jimmy DeGrasso and guitarist Al Pitrelli both had the unfortunate job of being with the band during such troublesome times), ‘Rude Awakening’ is a pretty average release that leaves much to be desired.

All criticisms aside, there are a couple of things this album does right. The performances are all solid and tight (although Dave Mustaine’s vocals are a little grating at times), and the set list is pretty much spot on, covering every major track from the bands discography at that point in time. However, the aforementioned detriments far outweigh the strengths, and I’d much rather just listen to the original studio versions of any of these tracks.

A fairly disappointing live release, ‘Rude Awakening’ isn’t overly memorable and serves only as an addition to the Megadeth collection for die-hard fans. And hell, even the front cover is kind of goofy!

DREAM THEATER Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour

Live album · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.28 | 45 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.


Album · 1998 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.38 | 91 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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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 4.20 | 118 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.


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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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.


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?


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 | 156 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 | 44 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.


Album · 1990 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.34 | 28 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.


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.


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.


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 3.41 | 67 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!

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