Power Metal

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Power Metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal music created during the 1980’s. The term refers to two related but distinctly different styles of metal, commonly known as US power metal (USPM) and European power metal (Melodic Power Metal), after the geographic regions in which they originated. The stylistic origins of the genre can be traced back to the 1970’s, where artists such as Ronnie James Dio and Judas Priest laid down the groundwork for what would become staples of the power metal sound, including the lyrical themes, vocal style and use of twin lead guitars. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWoBHM) is considered to be an important influence on the European power metal sound in particular. The musical forerunners of power metal are considered to be traditional heavy metal and speed metal. As both USPM and European power metal refer to the regional origin of the styles it is perfectly possible for artists to come from one region and play the style of the other, such as Kamelot, a US band who plays European power metal, while artists from other regions such as Angra (Brazil) and Galneryus (Japan) also play power metal.

US power metal developed first, during the early 1980’s. It is much closer in sound to traditional heavy metal than the later European power metal, but typically played faster. High register vocals are common and artists put emphasis on melodic guitar leads, making it distinct from thrash metal, of which there can be some crossover with, such as Iced Earth. The music features a relative lack of keyboards compared to European power metal. USPM bands can be categorised into two groups, known as blue collar USPM and white collar USPM. Blue collar features a harder hitting thrashy sound while white collar is more melodic and progressive. Popular USPM bands include Jag Panzer, Vicious Rumors, Helstar and Virgin Steele.

European power metal (also known as melodic power metal) developed a bit later and was pioneered by the German band Helloween, who started as a speed metal band. The turning point for Helloween from speed metal to power metal is considered to be between their first two full-lengths, Walls of Jericho (1985) and Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I (1987) and so 1987 is considered to be the starting point of the European power metal genre. The style is much more distinct from its roots than USPM, drawing much more on speed metal, and is perhaps the sound most people think of when presented with the term power metal. European power metal is characterised by fast percussive like guitar riffs, and strong focus on melody, with artist line-ups often including a full time keyboardist. The sound is regarded as more uplifting compared to the many other sub-genres of metal music. Popular European power metal bands also include Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian (both German), Stratovarius (from Finland). Rhapsody of Fire (from Italy) and Sabaton (from Sweden).

Power metal has developed several different variations in addition to the USPM and European standards, mostly in the form of hybrid genres:

Symphonic Power Metal: A style of power metal typically only applicable to the European sound, symphonic power metal increases the use of keyboards to create a symphonic backing, drawing on classical music. The use of symphonic elements in such bands can vary greatly with some artists using them as a main element of their sound, such as Rhapsody of Fire, while some merely use symphonic elements to flavour their music, such as Avantasia. Symphonic power metal releases are always placed under power metal on MMA.

Heavy Power Metal: Not to be confused with USPM, which is closer to traditional heavy metal to begin with, this refers to a hybrid of European power metal with traditional heavy metal. Bands are typically less speed orientated than pure melodic power metal acts. HammerFall is a heavy power metal act from Sweden while Nightmare are from France. Some artists which fall into this category featured a harder hitting, more aggressive sound, such as Grave Digger of Germany, but are still considered to belong to the European power metal genre rather than USPM. They are included under power metal on MMA, although some such artists have also made albums more directly rooted in traditional heavy metal and have those tagged accordingly. Some of the older heavy power metal acts, including Grave Digger and Nightmare, started as heavy metal acts before adding power metal into their sounds later in their careers.

Folk Power Metal: The folk metal as a genre can take its metal elements from almost any other metal genre going, including power metal. Elvenking and Falconer are folk power metal bands. They are typically included under folk metal on MMA, but with cases such as Falconer where folk influences are normally minimal per album, they are included under power metal instead. Additionally some power metal artists, especially Blind Guardian but also Grave Digger, have utilised folk influences in their music.

Power-Thrash: A hybrid of power metal and thrash metal, which can be considered sister genres due to both evolving from speed metal. The so called blue collar USPM can also be considered to be power-thrash but the term typically refers to European power metal mixed with thrash metal, although the early work of Iced Earth is considered to be power-thrash. The mix of elements can vary even within the same artist with some being primarily power metal and others primarily thrash metal. As well as Iced Earth, Dark Empire and Paradox have also released power-thrash albums, while some power metal bands have included thrash metal elements in their sound in smaller amounts, such as Seven Kingdoms and Persuader. Power-thrash artists are treated on a case by case basis on MMA, for example Tales of the Weird (2012) by Paradox is placed under thrash metal, but The Fateful dark (2014) by Savage Messiah is placed under power metal.

Progressive Power Metal: Drawing influences from progressive rock and metal music as well as power metal of either the European or US variety, these acts are typically included under power metal on MMA, such as Pyramaze and Kamelot. The exception is when an artist’s progressive influences become the most recognisable thing about their sound. Illusion Suite is an example of such a progressive power metal act. Vandroya and Wuthering Heights are progressive power metal bands, the latter of which also being classifiable under folk power metal.

Neo-classical Power Metal: Melodic power metal that uses neo-classical guitar playing for its lead guitar parts. Magic Kingdom and Concerto Moon are neo-classical power metal acts, while other power metal acts such as Amberian Dawn and At Vance have incorporated aspects of neo-classical metal into their sounds. As there is no neo-classical metal sub on MMA all such acts are placed under power metal by default, while non-power metal based neo-classical acts are typically placed under traditional heavy metal, or sometimes progressive metal, with which there can also be crossover, as with Symphony X.

Power-Death: A less common hybrid style with no currently widely accepted term; MMA has adopted power-death (similar to the common use of power-thrash) to describe this particular sound. This particular sub-genre combines power metal with death metal (typically melodic death metal) and covers artists such as Children of Bodom, the first album of Wintersun and to a lesser extent the first album from Seven Kingdoms. Power-death typically features power metal music but with primarily growling vocals rather than power metal’s traditional clean singing. Such artists are treated with a case by case basis as to their placement on MMA.

Power Metal Inclusive Genres

Melodic Metal is sometimes included under Power Metal but usually under Traditional Heavy Metal. Melodic metal features a presence of melody akin to European power metal but lacks the focus on speed. Many melodic metal releases tend to use some actual power metal elements as well as hard rock and sometimes other genres. An example of a melodic metal release that is placed under power metal instead of traditional heavy metal is Arven's Black is the Colour (2013).

Neoclassical Metal is sometimes included under power metal dependent on the direction of the riffs in the music (see Neoclassical Power Metal description above). Neoclassical metal artists can also be commonly found under the Traditional Heavy Metal and Progressive Metal sections of the MMA.

- Written by adg211288 (April 2013)

Sub-genre collaborators:
  • adg211288
  • IMPF2112

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power metal Music Reviews

CELESTIAL DECAY QuantumX

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
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adg211288
QuantumX (2014) is the second full-length album by Swedish power metal act Celestial Decay. It's been several years since the band released their debut album Contradictum (2010) and a lot has changed in regard to how Celestial Decay functions. Whereas Contradictum was a band effort of six members the core line-up on QuantumX consists of just two musicians, guitarists Hobbe Houshmand and Freddy Olofsson with everything else handled by guest performers. Of those two only Hobbe Houshmand also performed on the debut. One might expect a multi-vocalist metal opera with that sort of setup but that isn't the case; the album is fronted by Aeon Zen's Andi Kravljaca with growls added by Within Y's Andreas Solveström on a couple of tracks.

QuantumX has been released in two versions, a CD version which comes in a DVD size case and an extended digital version. I must admit I find it a questionable practice to release a physical copy with edited versions on it, which is what the case here is judging from a picture of the CD version's track listing which is the same as the promo copy I received only with certain songs shortened in length. Fortunately to balance that buyers of physical copies will also get a digital copy free of charge. Still with that said at least they've been open about it, though I know that if I'd brought a CD instead of reviewing a promo copy I'd expect to hear the full unedited album on the media I choose to pay for.

The music on QuantumX is a mix of power metal, symphonic metal and progressive metal for the most part but there are also forays into other ideas to a lesser extent such as traditional metal and I even detected a thrash bit at one point. Some of the symphonic ideas have a vaguely folksy quality to them too. I'd say the backbone of the release is power metal though but listeners shouldn't expect an album that focuses on speed all of the time. Andi Kravljaca proves a great choice for lead vocalist bringing the clean and soaring melodic tones that power metal fans lap up. Andreas Solveström's growls by comparison are only really used for backing purposes, which is quite effective too. There is also some female voiced narration used in a couple of places. The band really reminds me of Ancient Bards work in these instances. The sound of the album can be a bit generic at times though, for all the stuff the band gets right. Despite the progressive elements Celestial Decay throw in there isn't really anything that out of the ordinary here, making the appeal of the album limited in my opinion.

It's competently done and enjoyable album from start to finish all the same but if anything the real issue with QuantumX is that it's ambitious to a fault. The reason for this is because of its very long running time which is over the eighty minute mark, with a total of fifteen tracks, not all of which stand out as good as ones like Blinded, Ashes of Decay and Life & Death, which are all excellent. The album simply doesn't manage to fully hold my attention if I try to take it in a single listen and that's definitely a detrimental issue on any kind of release. Their cover of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart is also pretty cringe worthy. I do enjoy their power metal arrangement of it but it's the one place on the album where Andi Kravljaca's singing just doesn't work for me. Ironically it's actually the longest track Final Symphony that stands out as the best on the album despite overall timing issues, though unfortunately it's one of the ones that appears to have received an edit on the physical copy judging by that image I referred to earlier listing an 11:30 duration for it when the version I have is 12:50.

QuantumX is an enjoyable enough power metal release but there are some issues that Celestial Decay need to overcome for future efforts. For this one a rating in the 3.5 stars bracket seems fair.

71/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/celestial-decay-quantumx-t3687.html)

HELSTAR Twas the Night of a Helish Xmas

Live album · 2000 · Power Metal
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Unitron
Helstar-Twas the Night of a Helish Xmas

Now don't get me wrong, I love Helstar. Ever since I heard the raw and heavy debut 'Burning Star' I was hooked. I especially love what they have been doing recently, with their new album for example which I will review at some point. Unfortunately, their first live album doesn't hold up.

The music is good, the set-list is good, James Rivera's vocals are good, what's bad? The production.

The production is probably the worst production I've ever heard, even worse then some demo recordings. It's so muffled you can barely hear anything, and it just takes away from the entire performance. I can't help but think why it's so bad, it was a live performance from the 80's sure but that's no excuse. It wasn't released till 2000, however. I could understand if it was a bootleg or a demo, but to my knowledge it's not. The recording constantly gets quieter and you hear more white noise then music.

Helstar can release a great live album, which they did with 30 Years of Hel in 2012 but they didn't release a good one here. Stay away from this one and get 30 Years of Hel if you don't want to just hear muffled instruments and vocals or white noise.

Hope you found this review helpful.

KOBRA AND THE LOTUS High Priestess

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
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adg211288
High Priestess (2014) is the third full-length album by Canadian heavy/power metal act Kobra and the Lotus. The band's line-up apart from vocalist Kobra Paige has hardly been a stable one and High Priestess again brings some changes to it, with the band mostly recording the album as a three piece. Though Brad Kennedy is mentioned in the album liner notes, the bass on the album was played by guitarist Jasio Kulakowski. Additional lead guitars are played by Charlie Parra del Riego.

Though Kobra and the Lotus tends to call themselves and be called a traditional heavy metal band the music on their self-titled album was actually a mix of that and power metal. On High Priestess they sound has stretched even further into power metal territory. That's the heavier hitting USPM type for the most part to my ears and I would call High Priestess a power metal album over a heavy metal album any day. A couple of the songs also feature a thrash metal edge most notably I Am, I Am which is more of a thrash metal song than anything. The band blends all three styles pretty well though and once again have produced a record that has classic metal written all over it. Cheesy power metal this certainly isn't.

While I still haven't heard their debut album Out of the Pit (2009) in full, the self-titled album immediately struck me as a band who'd improved by leaps and bounds based on the few songs I had heard from the debut. That growth can also be observed on High Priestess though as the self-titled was also a high quality album the results aren't as dramatically jaw-dropping this time, but by focussing even more on power metal Kobra and the Lotus have done exactly what I'd hoped they'd do. They're good at traditional metal but great at power metal, and the thrash elements are a nice addition to the album making I Am, I Am one of the best songs on offer along with Warhorse, Soldier, Battle of Wrath and Willow. While the guitar playing is great and really gets across the classic metal vibe of Kobra and the Lotus' music, once again it's the powerful singing of Kobra Paige herself that steals the show here.

With High Priestess Kobra and the Lotus have continued what they began on their self-titled and in my opinion outdone themselves. They've really played to the strengths made apparent on their last album while also covering some new ground. 4.5 Stars.

92/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/kobra-and-the-lotus-high-priestess-t3635.html)

ICED EARTH The Glorious Burden

Album · 2004 · Power Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
Burden Iced Earth’s seventh full-length studio album; 2004’s The Glorious Burden, saw the US Power Metal band trading in long-time vocalist Matt Barlow for former Judas Priest singer Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, when Barlow felt the call of duty to serve as a law enforcement officer.

Though my personal favourite singer Iced Earth has had is probably Matt Barlow because that’s who I heard first (usually how these things go), Tim Owens is a fine replacement with a wide range, a good attitude and some real power in those lungs. He’s clearly a very talented guy and fits the band well, matching the traditional high standard of Iced Earth singers.

The album was released via SPV records and was recorded in the famous Florida studio Morrisound, co-produced by Jim Morris and band–leader Tim Schaffer. Naturally, the album sounds fantastic. Crystal clear, grand, and yet still heavy.

The music itself on The Glorious Burden is fairly in line with what you would expect from Iced Earth, if perhaps focusing a little more on the mid-tempo aspects of their style. Mixing the sounds of Traditional Heavy Metal, early 80s US Prog Metal, USPM and a surprisingly high dose of Bay Area Thrash… Iced Earth have a definite identifiable, proudly Metallic sound and don’t deviate too far from it here. It you like melody, double kicks, guitar solos and a crunchy riffs its all here to be had.

The band do stretch their wings however on the fabulous, slightly progressive, three-part album closer “Gettysburg,” which is full of civil-war era music mixed with the band’s triumphant-sounding Metal music (even going so far as to make Metal versions of melodies from “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Dixie” and add them into the proceedings). This trilogy of songs is really worth checking out and practically worth the price of the album on their own.

In addition to that however, there are also an album’s worth of brief, well-written, masterfully executed Metal tracks on the disc too. Things like the memorable “Declaration Day,” “Valley Forge” and “Red Baron/Blue Max.” This is yet another consistent, filler-free effort from the band. If you are in the right mood, and give these songs the time to sink in, you can really grow to love this record.

Overall; The Glorious Burden is a strong and interesting album from the veteran band. Iced Earth fans should enjoy it. Tim Owens fans should enjoy it. Fans of a lot of Metal style should like it too (Heck; even if you have a prejudice about Power Metal due to the Keyboards, Goblins & Wizards stereotype, this should give you a new perspective on the possibilities). If you wonder whether this album is for you, take a listen to “Valley Forge” and judge for yourself.

ICED EARTH Something Wicked This Way Comes

Album · 1998 · Power Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
Something Wicked This Way Comes is the fifth full-length studio album by the US Power Metal band Iced Earth. It was released in 1998 through Century Media records and was recorded at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida with legendary producer Jim Morris.

This is a very tight, strong and consistent record which showcases the band at the top of their game, delivering some of the best examples of their craft to date. The first two tracks; the bouncy up-tempo “Burning Times,” and the grandiose mid-paced “Melancholy (Holy Martyr)” are two of my personal favourite Iced Earth songs.

Mixing elements of early Queensryche with Iron Maiden, then injecting a flavor of the Bay Area Thrash stylings of Testament and Forbidden into things here, Iced Earth release a crunchy, tasteful and thoughtful take on Power Metal that still delivers the triumphant atmosphere and enjoyable melody, but with some added ferocity.

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the dynamic and varied vocal stylings of the very talented Matt Barlow, as well as the solid riffing and enjoyable lead guitar work of band leader John Schaffer. If you generally like powerful Metal Front-men with wide ranges, or impressive guitar virtuosos, then there’s plenty to enjoy here.

Its not all about showing-off however. The band are quite skilled at mixing different moods and tempos into single tracks. Iced Earth can make liberal use of both acoustic guitars and full-speed-ahead double kick drums, and make both sound convincing. You may think one song is all about Thrash Speed and heaviness, but suddenly an atmospheric passage will take things in a whole other direction. You may think a song is going to be a ballad, but suddenly a grand Metallic guitar will ring out and signal the band to kick things up a gear. They do this without sacrificing succinct song structures, or compromising the logical flow of the material. It’s skilled, perfectly crafted songwriting in other words.

Highlights include the fierce, menacing “Stand Alone,” as well as the instrumental “1776” and the aforementioned opening duo. There’s also the “Something Wicked Trilogy” of the final three songs, which tell a story that would be continued on two full-blown concept albums later on in the band’s career.

Overall; Something Wicked’ is a very solid and well-written album from a very talented band. I think this is a fine album to start your Iced Earth collection with, and a must-have for any existing fans. I highly recommend it to fans of bands like Hammerfall, Sabbaton, Manowar, Nevermore, Queensryche, Savatage, Testament, Exodus, Forbidden, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon etc.

power metal movie reviews

ICED EARTH Live in Ancient Kourion

Movie · 2013 · Power Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
Live In Ancient Kourion is a live concert Blu-Ray from the American Power Metal band Iced Earth. It was filmed at the ancient Kourion Theater in Limasol, Cyprus (a site with a 6,000-year history according to the liner notes) in 2012, in support of the Dystopia album. The line up features Jon Schaffer, Brent Smedley, Troy Steele, Luke Appleton and then-new singer Stu Block.

The career-spanning set contains 27 songs from all eras of the band’s history, in a concert that lasts around 2 hours and 35 minutes. Its pretty great value for money in that regard.

The performance is very strong indeed, with all band members putting down solid performances with no weak links. Stu capably handles the material of previous singers Matt Barlow and Tim Ripper Owens in a suitable but distinctive way. He fits the band perfectly and is immensely talented. Elsewhere; the dual guitar lines and solos are sublime and the drumming is powerful and rock-solid. If you like Iced Earth then this is a really strong and representative example of what they are all about.

Highlights include strong performances of ‘Burning Times,’ ‘Wolf,’ ‘Declaration Day,’ ‘Days Of Rage’ and ‘Dantes Inferno.’ ‘Boiling Point’ and ‘Damien’ are also especially energetic and exciting here – if you were wondering if you’d enjoy this release, then I suggest trying those two tracks out.

The stage design and the simple, tasteful lightshow in conjunction with the well-integrated use of smoke and pyro perfectly complements the band’s meaty, honest approach to Metal music. The crowd get into it and both clap and sing along on many occasions. Sometimes not only singing the words but also the guitar melodies. The concert really shows a confident band delivering their best to an appreciative crowd.

The camerawork and editing are absolutely solid, the audio recording quality and live mix are spot-on and overall this is a very strong release on both the audio and visual fronts. Sometimes you’ll get a DVD with way too many flashy transitions and cheesy editing choices, or the bass guitar missing from the mix, but a lot of care has obviously gone into making this a tasteful and musician-friendly affair. Admittedly I have seen concert Blu-Rays with better picture quality (Sabaton, Gamma Ray, Stratovarius and Hammerfall spring to mind) and here it can be a tiny bit grainy, soft-focus or washed out at times depending on the lighting conditions in the venue at the time however just because better examples exist, it doesn’t mean the picture here is anything to complain about.

In terms of bonus features there are photo galleries (4 minutes of very high resolution photos of the band and the beautiful Cypriot landscape), a 9-minute world tour story (breaking down the logistics involved such as how many guitar picks and flights the band went through) which mixes photos and graphics with interview footage, as well as the 31-minute Documentary feature “The Making Of Live At Ancient Kourion.”

The version I got comes with a slipcase in a digibook-style box which contains booklet featuring photos, credits and liner notes from bandleader Jon Shaffer. It houses the Blu-Ray version, DVD version and CD version of the concert for maximum flexibility.

The Blu-Ray specs are as follows: Region 0, Format 16:9, Audio comes in a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 or DTS HD Surround 5.1.

Overall; Live In Ancient Kourion, especially this edition, is a very worthwhile release and I whole-heartedly recommend it to fans of the band, or fans of Traditional Heavy Metal and Power Metal in general.

HELLOWEEN Helloween - High Live

Movie · 1997 · Power Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
High Live is a concert DVD by the legendary German Power Metal band Helloween, recorded in Milan, Italy (and Gerona, Spain) in 1996 on the Time Of The Oath tour.

The main feature is a scorching 84-minute concert, in which an energetic and totally on-form band blast through a lot of material from Master Of The Rings and Time Of The Oath to an enthusiastic crowd. Just going off the performance, this is an absolute 5-star live album.

Songs like “Sole Survivor,” “Before The War” and “Power” sound absolutely blistering here, and I’d highly recommend checking it out on that basis. Andi’s vocals on his own material are absolutely excellent on this release, and Uli’s powerful, understated drumming absolutely kills.

There are a few downsides to the overall product however, such as the picture being a little soft and not the sharpest. The sound is pretty great in one way, and you really get that “live feel,” but you have to turn it up fairly loud for it to become clear, as things can sound a bit muddy on low volumes. Nothing show-destroying though.

The other potential downside is that at the end of some songs, it stops, when they cut to the other concert (eg. from Italy to Spain) and the transition isn’t perfectly smooth, which may interrupt the flow a little. Luckily this never happens in the middle of songs or anything outrageous like that, and for the most part isn’t actually too disruptive.

Apart from that, this is a pretty great main feature all round, and shows the band proving why they are still one of the biggest names in Power Metal. In terms of bonus features: There is a text “History” feature, a discography feature and a photo gallery. All your standard ‘90s DVD extras that don’t add too much really, but look good written on the back of the box.

There is also a five minute “review” feature by Malcome Dome, which is a brief Metal Evolution style history lesson with a mixture of archive footage of the band and talking-head footage of Dome. The dialogue is a bit stiff and the audio is a bit muffled, but as a free extra its still worth a watch.

The track-listing for the main concert is:

1. We Burn 2. Wake Up The Mountain 3. Sole Survivor 4. The Change 5. Why 6. Eagle Fly Free 7. Time Of The Oath 8. Future World 9. Dr. Stein 10. Before The War 11. Mr Ego 12. Power 13. Where The Rain Grows 14. In The Middle Of A Heartbeat 15. Perfect Gentleman 16. Steel Tormentor

Overall; If you like the band, especially if you like the Deris era, then it’s a pretty worthwhile purchase. It shows the band at their Europe-conquering best, dripping with enthusiasm and playing like they mean it. The sound and editing are a tiny bit imperfect, but the band themselves more than make up for it. Comment

ICED EARTH Festivals of the Wicked

Movie · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
666sharon666
There's a lot of value for your money in this DVD package. Three full festival appearances are included, two with singer Matt Barlow and one with singer Tim "Ripper" Owens. There's also the seemingly customary documentary and all the band's music videos with the exception of the older Desert Rain back from the Night of the Stormrider era, as well as the advert for the Ten Thousand Strong video and photo slideshows. For the price this seems to retail at (I bought it for just £9.99), this is a very worthwhile package for any Iced Earth fan. The one catch is that it in reality looks more than it is, as both the Barlow fronted shows feature a completely identical setlist. It's still a very good value package to get despite this, but 4 stars is all I feel inclined to award it because of the amount of repetition. Still for the very reasonable price, if you like this band, buy it anyway.

(I originally posted this hastily written review here: http://bit.ly/pafvQh )

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