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TERRA ODIUM Ne Plus Ultra

Album · 2021 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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It was not death...

Genre: progressive metal

A supergroup of sorts, Terra Odium is a Norwegian progressive metal band whose members are or have been involved mainly in Spiral Architect and Manitou; in addition, prog metal fans will be happy to know that Steve DiGiorgio is also part of the project as the bass player.

We are dealing with progressive metal of the heavier type here more akin to Dream Theater at their heaviest than, say, Queensrÿche or something like that. Thus, the songs are based on very heavy riffage and aggressive, but dynamic, drumbeats to the point that we occasionally enter into US power metal or perhaps even contemporary thrash metal territory. There is also a distinct Cynic feel to many sections on the album which have a similar drive (just check out the opening track). The songs are not too long with the longest being "The Thorn" almost 12 minutes long. The rest of the songs on the album have an average length of 6-7 minutes. While embracing heaviness first and foremost, Terra Odium are not afraid to draw on other elements; for instance, there are symphonic elements on the album along with some djenty bits, a pretty good and epic ballad in the form of 'It Was Not Death', and of course some jazzy-sounding bass sections, and the album opens with a bit of throat singing. The singing is clean and melodic, and the guitar solos are advanced but never too wanky.

Needless to say, we are dealing with top notch musicianship across the board, and prog metal fans will also appreciate the songwriting. The production is dark and crisp and has a very modern feel to it.

Overall, this is a very solid progressive metal album, and fans of Cynic, Atheist, Dream Theater and Pestilence's "Spheres" are bound to really enjoy it. I think, if you're into Symphony X, there might also be something for you on this album as well.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 294 - War Threads

Live album · 2021 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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With the release of “Pike 293 - Oven Mitts” BUCKETHEAD entered new territory as far as the never-ending PIKE series is concerned. It was the first LIVE album to emerge from the coop and in the process opened the doors to a ceaseless supply of such recordings. While the possibility was that it was a one-off, with the fast following PIKE 294 - WAR THREADS it is apparent that the chicken lover plans on releasing a series of LIVE albums under the banner of the PIKE series.

To be honest live albums are not my favorite. Especially for solo artists who don’t put on the best live shows and that includes BUCKETHEAD however these PIKEs do capture a different aspect of this strange musical wonder. Somehow he has bridge the immediacy of 90s alternative rock with the more experimental realms of guitar wizardry. The audience participation adds another element as well and thankfully he culls the vast stockpiles of arsenal to offer tracks that were once really good.

Jordan live - this track has only appeared on the Guitar Hero II video game and therefore makes its debut on an album. Usual stuff but showcases BH’s virtuosity and considered expert level on the video game itself.

Flare live - from “Pike 95 - Flare” Night of the Slunk live - nice live performance from one of my fave albums “Monsters and Robots.”

Fountains of the Forgotten live - another experimentally wild classic from “The Cuckoo Clocks From Hell” album.

The Redeem Team live - an ok but not outstanding track from the “Albino Slug” album

Nottingham Lace live - which comes from the “Enter The Chicken” album is another excellent classic BH trick

Overall it’s a nice break from the incessant mediocrity of recent PIKEs to hear some of the classics in a live setting. While it’s cool they still don’t match their studio counterparts but definitely a worthy listening experience for those indoctrinated into the chicken club. I’d call this a decent PIKE for sure but it does make me wonder if a hundred more of these PIKEs will soon emerge as live recordings. No indications as to where each of these tracks were recorded either.

SUNBOMB Evil and Divine

Album · 2021 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Stronger than before...

Style: traditional heavy metal / hard rock / doom metal

Sunbomb is a project featuring Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns fame and Michael Sweet from Stryper. With such names involved, you might expect their music to be more on the cheesy and glammy side. But that's actually not the case.

Their debut album "Evil and Divine" is actually pretty heavy and also quite diverse stylistically. It probably fits best in the traditional heavy metal bracket, but there are also a number of hard rock elements as well as, perhaps unexpectedly, doom metal and even a tiny bit of power-thrash. While tracks like 'Life', 'No Tomorrows', 'Story of the Blind' and 'They Fought' are straight up heavy metal songs that might as well have been written in the 80s, songs like 'World Gone Wrong', 'Take Me Away' and to some extent 'Stronger Than Before' are straight up doom metal songs clearly inspired by Black Sabbath. And almost out of left field, 'Better End' contains some power-thrash sections.

The production is crisp but not too polished, and there's really nothing to criticize about the musicianship either. Some listeners might find Michael Sweet's belting style a bit much, but I like it. The songwriting is also pretty good but, while there is a lot of emphasis on diversity, a number of the tracks on the album do have a very similar drive. This is not really a detractor in my opinion though.

Overall, this is a very good heavy metal album which almost seamlessly combines hard rock and traditional heavy metal. Personally, though, the doom metal elements are my favorite part. An album that can bring fans of hard rock, doom metal and traditional metal together, Sunbomb's "Evil and Divine" is recommended to fans of old school heavy metal genres who still appreciate a more modern approach.

CANNIBAL CORPSE Violence Unimagined

Album · 2021 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.89 | 5 ratings
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"Violence Unimagined" is the 15th full-length studio album by US, Florida death metal act Cannibal Corpse. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in April 2021. It´s the successor to "Red Before Black" from 2017 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as guitarist Pat O'Brien has been replaced by Erik Rutan (Ripping Corpse, Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal). The former had what can probably best be described as a psychotic episode i December 2018, which led to his arrest, and after some uncertainty regarding O'Brien´s situation and his legal issues, Rutan started filling in for him on tours in January 2019 and finally replaced O'Brien in February 2021.

Stylistically the material on "Violence Unimagined" is the sound of Cannibal Corpse as we know them. Brutal gore/horror themed old school death metal played with great technical skill. Rutan is a suitable replacement for O'Brien, so the guitar riffs are as challenging and sharp as always, and the guitar solos few and far between (as usual). Lead vocalist George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher has a pretty one-dimensional growling vocal style, which becomes monotone after a few tracks. The monotony of the growling vocals are thankfully interrupted by a couple of higher pitched screams here and there, but the vocals are generally not that interesting. A little more emotion and a few catchy vocal phrases would have helped, but I´m not hearing that. The only track I remember after listening to the album many times is album opener "Murderous Rampage" (and bits and pieces from other tracks).

Cannibal Corpse are a technically well playing band, and every track is loaded with fast-played riffs, Paul Mazurkiewicz distinct sounding drumming, and Alex Webster impressive bass lines. This is what we´ve come to expect from the band, and they fully deliver on that promise. The songwriting is solid, but like the growling vocals, "Violence Unimagined" quickly becomes a little monotone and one-dimensional. More spins help, but Cannibal Corpse often appear more interested in delivering brutality at any cost than delivering catchy and memorable songs (I guess that can be said about a great deal of their albums). It´s interesting because the parts are pretty strong. There are some killer riffs on the album (I love how thrashy some of the riffs actually are), and the rhythm style is unique, and although I find Fisher a monotone listen, he arguably gets the job done, so it´s the sum of the parts, which could have worked better.

The whole thing is packed in one of those dry and sterile Rutan productions, and that doesn´t help the material shine either. Riff details are often blurred in the production, and although it initially appears to be a professional and well sounding production, something is off. So upon conclusion this review came out pretty negative, but it´s only because I expect high quality from an artist like Cannibal Corpse, and all the prerequisites are here for success, but to my ears the songwriting isn´t memorable enough to warrant more than a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

PAPANGU Holoceno

Album · 2021 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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One of the things i love about the internet age is that the entire history of music has been laid bare and pretty much put on an equal playing field without record companies dictating what should be heard and what should be jettisoned to the trash bin. As this age continues on, newer musicians have pretty much embraced the entire musical history as their influence instead of a few bands that existed as they grew up. This has seriously challenged the notion of labeling as the desire to create music without any restrictions continues to grow although plenty of retro bands are happy to stick to a designed genre.

Musical complacency is certainly not the case for Brazilian band PAPANGU which formed in 2012 in the city of Joāo Pessoa but has only finally released its debut HOLOCENO in 2021. Initially the band was content as a simple stoner rock trio but as time went on got into sludge metal and eventually the more progressive angsty sludge metal of early Mastodon. But why stop there? The band was equally fascinated by the tripped out zeuhl rhythms of bands like Magma and after seven years of stewing these ingredients in the cauldron of their own making, PAPANGU has hit the ground running with a rather unique mix of musical ideas in a combo effect that i have never heard before!

The band consists of Marco Mayer (bass, vocals, synthesizer), Hector Mota (guitar, vocals, percussion), Rai Accioly (guitar, vocals) and Nichollas Jaques (drums, percussion) who all came from various musical backgrounds including punk rock, thrash metal and doom metal. Their mission is to do to metal what Brazilian musician Edu Lobo did to traditional Brazilian music in the 1970s. Inspirations include not only Magma and Mastodon but Edu Lobo himself who performed traditional bossa nova and a style called MPB, short for short for música popular brasileira, is a loosely defined genre that formed in the mid-1960s as a modernised version of bossa nova and samba-canção which adopted foreign styles of music.

Add to those formidable influences, King Crimson styled progginess adds an extra helping of tight-knit time signature workouts. The band sings exclusively in Portuguese so therefore one could conclude that PAPANGU implements the zeuhl rhythmic drive of Magma, the metal intensity of Mastodon, the prog rock overdrive of King Crimson and melds it all with the immediacy of traditional Brazilian musical styles heard especially in the lyrical deliveries. HOLOCENO is listed as a concept album but i have no friggin clue as to what that may be about since my Portuguese is rather weak as far as understanding it spoken or sung.

Given these opposing influences on board it might sound like a tall order to fill but PAPANGU manages to keep the songs diverse with some sounding like “Bacia das Almas” resembling more energetic and heavy carnival music while “Terra Arrasada” taking on a menacing doom metal tone. There are also four guest musicians adding the tones and timbres of extra percussion, minimoogs, saxophones and extra dialogue. Add to that the production is excellent and a remix of "Açougue das Almas” which features Kayo Dot’s Toby Driver in the mixer’s chair is available on some editions as a bonus track.

Well, HOLOCENO pretty much checks off many things i love about adventurous music. It’s proggy, it’s heavy, it’s experimental yet familiar. It’s accessible yet weird as hell. It’s irreverence towards the status quo is high and the passion is on fire! The zeuhl rhythms keep it from spiraling out of control and the highly creative mojo on display keeps it from getting stale. This is really an outstanding example of progressive music that progresses without sacrificing the somewhat ossified terminology that has come into play. Highly recommended for those who love bands like Kayo Dot, King Crimson and even Norway’s Shining. Avant-garde and unusual but chock full of sounds that will remind you of some of your favorites!

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MELVINS Outtakes from 1st 7" 1986

EP · 1989 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Outtakes from 1st 7" 1986" is as the title suggests an EP/single release by US heavy rock/metal act the Melvins, featuring outtakes from the sessions for the band´s first EP release from 1986 (often refered to as either "Six Songs" or just "Melvins"). "Outtakes from 1st 7" 1986" was released through Do the Right Thing in 1989. The 3 tracks from this release are also available on the 2003 compilation album "26 Songs".

Naturally the music style on the 3 track, 9:24 minutes long release is in the same raw, hard rocking, and crushingly heavy rock/metal style with an angry sounding Buzz Osborne in front, as the material featured on the 1986 EP. Recorded at the same sessions, anything else would have been odd. Of course knowing the eclectic nature of Melvins output, it wouldn´t have been as surprising as it would have been with other artists, but in the early days Melvins weren´t quite as diverse as they would be later on in their career.

The quality of the recordings is decent enough, and to those who enjoy the early part of Melvins discography, this release will sit well with them. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

MELVINS Six Songs

EP · 1986 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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"Six Songs" or just "Melvins" is the first EP release by US heavy rock/metal act the Melvins. The pre-album EP was released through C/Z Records in 1986. The EP features 6 tracks and a total playing time of 12:44 minutes. The material on the EP has been re-released in various forms over the years. Some versions of Melvins debut full-length studio album "Gluey Porch Treatments (1987)", feature the 6 tracks from the EP as bonus material, and the tracks from the EP also appear on the two compilation albums "10 Songs" from 1991 and "26 Songs" from 2003.

Stylistically the music is raw, hard rocking, and crushingly heavy rock/metal with an angry sounding Buzz Osborne in front. It´s fairly stripped-down guitar, bass, drums, and vocal trio music, with a gritty authentic "garage" sound. Melvins are obviously influenced by both the heavy doom rock/metal of Black Sabbath and the early- to mid eighties US punk/hardcore scene.

The EP is almost over before it began, but it´s still long enough to give a good impression of what early Melvins are about. Raw and organic rhythmic playing, aggression, ultra heavy riffs, and burst of adventurous creativity. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

MELVINS 10 Songs (8 Songs)

Boxset / Compilation · 1986 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"10 Songs" is a compilation release by US heavy rock/metal act the Melvins. The compilation was released through C/Z Records in 1991. The release consists of the 6 tracks from the 1986 self-titled EP, and some unreleased bonus tracks. So it is basically a re-release of the 1986 self-titled EP with some additional material.

Stylistically it´s raw, heavy, and feedback laden heavy rock/metal with a raw shouting vocalist in front. King Buzzo sounded a lot more raw and aggressive in those days, than his more odd sounding vocals on later releases. Early Melvins is a pretty savage listening experience with an authentic "garage" sound, and crushingly heavy tracks like "Grinding Process" and "At a Crawl" are sure to please most fans of really heavy music. A bit more sophistication in the songwriting department and a bit more variation between tracks could have made the material on "10 Songs" a little more interesting, but if you like them as raw and hard rocking as they come, it´s a recommeded release.

"10 Songs" features a raw and noisy sound production, which suits the material pretty well, so all in all it´s a decent quality release and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

AXE Nemesis

Album · 1983 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.06 | 4 ratings
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CoVinyl Part 7

In my review of Axe's "Offering", I wrote that I picked it up becuase the band name and the cover artwork intrigued me. That also goes for this one. In fact, this one was part of the same haul as "Offering", and I was fortunate enough that the copy I got was a 1983 ATCO pressing. I expected 80s metal, but that's not quite what I got.

That also applies to this record, as it falls more under the rubric of hard rock with a couple of 80s metal elements thrown in than outright 80s heavy metal. And this is, in my opinion, quality 80s hard rock. While the previous record had Bobby Barth as the sole songwriter on most songs, there is more variation here as more of the other members of the band were involved in the songwriting. I think that might be a factor in this album being much better than "Offering" (that is not to say that Barth is not a good songsmith though or that "Offering" is not good - because it is). Pretty much all of the songs are good - with the exception of the ballad 'I Think You'll Remember Tonight' which is just plain silly. Fortunately, that song is easily forgotten in the midts of great tunes like 'Heat in the Street', 'All Through the Night', 'She's Had the Power', 'Eagle Flies Alone' and 'Girls, Girls, Girls' (no relation to the Mötley Crüe hit). Even the more ambient 'Masquerade' is actually a pretty good piece of music.

Now, one thing you can expect from this album is loads of 80s cheese, and some listeners might not appreciate that (in particular in the cover version of Edgar Winter's 'Keep Playing that Rock 'n' Roll'). In my opinion as someone who grew up in the 80s, there's good 80s cheese and there's bad 80s cheese, and - with the exception of 'I Think You'll Remember Tonight' - there's only good 80s cheese on this album.

As you might have guessed, 'I think You'll Remember Tonight' is the one major weakness of Axe's "Nemesis", but I will also point to the lyrics as a weak point. They're just fucking stupid. They're pretty much all about "manly" things like breaking the law, being a lone wolf, fucking lots of girls, and standing up to previous generations (so you can fuck more girls). In a way, the lyrics seem almost like an incel's dream before incels were even a thing. Interestingly enough, 'Girls, Girls, Girls' ends with women laughing at a man... so maybe the album really captures an incel's nightmare? Anyway, the two only songs with somewhat more mature lyrics are 'Let the Music Come Back' and 'Masquerade' - the latter of which is a more mature take on the generational gap than 'Foolin' Your Mama' is.

So, the lyrics are dumb, but the music is very good. The cover artwork is also awesome, depicting some kind of alien-looking figure wielding the bands guitar-axe logo with blood dripping from it. It screams metal, but it isn't... whatever, it's an awesome piece of cover artwork if you ask me which looks amazing on a vinyl record release. The copy I have also came with the original inner sleeve, which actually looks awesome too in its simplicity: on one side you have the lyric sheet (for better or worse) and the other side is just all black with the bands logo in white. It looks really great!

If you like 80s hard rock and don't mind 80s cheese (and can live with pretty stupid lyrics), you might as well pick up a copy of this album if you happen to come across a reasonably priced one. I'd say, at the end of the day, this album is just plain old good fun.

AXE Offering

Album · 1982 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 5 ratings
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CoVinyl Part 6

So, I came across a 1982 ATCO pressing of this album, and - I have to admit - I was intrigued by the name and the cover artwork both of which just screamed 80s metal at me.

That's not quite what I got. Axe were more of a hard rock act who emphasized melody, but injected elements of heavy rock and heavy metal into their music as well.

This definitely applies to "Offering", which opens with the uplifting party track 'Rock n' Roll Party in the Streets'. This song pretty much sets the tone for the entire album, as most of the tunes are indeed uplifting hard rockers which are definitely for the most part very enjoyable to listen to. The one thing is that there is a very good cover version of Montrose's 'I Got the Fire', and this song is leagues above Axe's own material in kick-assery, thus perhaps highlighting some of the flaws in Axe's own songs and obscuring some of the good things. That's a bit of a shame, because, as mentioned most of the songs on this album are definitely enjoyable.

"Offering" is a solid hard rock effort which, at times, draws on more melodic AOR along the lines of Boston and Toto. The songwriting is very good, and Bobby Barth, the main songwriter, is definitely a skilled songsmith who understands hooks, balance, and melody. The musicianship is impeccable as well and the production is quite good for an early 80s hard rock release.

The cover artwork is simple but brilliant. It draws on the guitar-axe metaphor and simply reeks of metal. I also like how, by having the character hold the guitar-axe up above his head, the artwork also captures the 'offering' notion. Of course, some might argue that the artwork kinda is false advertising, but, hey, there's no denying that it looks really good in alls its simplicity and epicness on a vinyl front cover.

Overall, this is a solid and uplifting hard rock release. If you come a across a reasonably priced copy of it, and you are into hard rock, just grab it.

IRON MAIDEN Nights of the Dead, Legacy of the Beast: Live in Mexico City

Live album · 2020 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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"Nights of the Dead, Legacy of the Beast: Live in Mexico City" is a live double album release by UK heavy metal act Iron Maiden. The album was released through Parlophone Records in November 2020. The material featured on the album was recorded on 27th, 29th and 30th of September 2019 in Mexico City, during the Legacy of the Beast World Tour. The tour wasn´t in support of a particular album, as the band had wrapped up The Book of Souls World Tour in 2017, but rather in support of, or maybe more correctly accompanying the "Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast" mobile game. This meant that the band played quite a few legacy tracks on the tour and even revived a couple of older tracks they hadn´t played in years.

So while it´s no surprise to see that the tracklist includes tracks like "Aces High", "2 Minutes to Midnight", and "Hallowed Be Thy Name", it´s a bit more surprising to see tracks like "Where Eagles Dare" and "Flight of Icarus" included. The latter hadn´t been played by Iron Maiden since the tour supporting "Somewhere in Time (1986)". What´s even more suprising to me is the inclusion of the two Blaze Bayley-era tracks "Sign of the Cross" and "The Clansman". The last surprise on the tracklist is "For the Greater Good of God" from "A Matter of Life and Death (2006)". It´s not as such a surprise that the track is included, but it´s just the first recorded live version to be released of the song. So it´s a well balanced tracklist with both great legacy tracks, and a few more deep cuts to spice things up, and the combination works great on "Nights of the Dead, Legacy of the Beast: Live in Mexico City".

The sound production is not surprisingly of a high quality featuring a powerful and organic sound, and audience responses/noises when that is called for. While this is certainly a hi-fi quality live production, you´re never in doubt that it´s a live release, and that´s how the best live productions usually work. The band are in fine form too and deliver the music with great skill and conviction. I think Bruce Dickinson struggles slightly on the faster-paced tracks, but other than that slight issue his performance here is as commanding as ever. It´s quite frankly amazing how he is able to control his voice and sing the high notes without sounding strained.

Some of the highlights of the album (other than the legacy tracks, which we´ve all heard a thousand times before on preceding live albums), are "Sign of the Cross" and "The Clansman". I realise Iron Maiden have released live versions of the two songs featuring Dickinson on some of the preceding live albums, but every time I hear those songs with him on vocals, I´m in awe of how great those tracks actually are, with a more unique vocalist performing them. Upon conclusion "Nights of the Dead, Legacy of the Beast: Live in Mexico City" is yet another high quality live album release by Iron Maiden to help make the waiting time before the band release a new studio album more bearable for the fans. It´s not the most necessary release in their discography, but it´s greatly entertaining and high quality release through and through. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

IRON MAIDEN The X Factor

Album · 1995 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.23 | 106 ratings
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The 90s were a brutal time for established metal acts with almost all of them suffering a significant decline in popularity. It was both pathetic and amusing to see the most regal kings of the 1980s stumbling around like blind men as the alternative 90s swept away everything that the 80s had excelled at. While a few bands like Metallica adapted with some commercial success, most of the giants of the past were floundering about like fish out of water and so too was the case for one of the greatest of them all, IRON MAIDEN.

When asked which era is one’s favorite in the mighty MAIDEN history books, absolutely nobody will point to the Blaze Bayley years as their highlight. After an incredibly successful decade with one amazing album after another and incessant touring that no mere mortal could sustain, by the time IRON MAIDEN reached the eight album “No Prayer For The Dying,” it was beginning to be obvious that the band was burning out a bit and although that album had some excellent tracks on board, the album itself was much weaker than anything that came before. While “Fear of the Dark” was a bit of a step up, it too failed to reach the sheer perfection of the 80s output.

Frustrated and exhausted, guitarist Adrian Smith left all the way back before the “No Prayer For The Dying” album. He saw the writing on the wall and the next to depart was lead singer Bruce Dickinson who left after the “Fear of the Dark” tour in order to embark on a solo career. With such impossible boots to fill, Steve Harris was forced between breaking up the band or finding a replacement. After an incredible amount of searching the new singer was former Wolfbane vocalist Blaze Bayley who appeared on what many have deemed (including myself), the nadir of IRON MAIDEN’s otherwise stellar career. Yep, the 90s were not kind.

THE X-FACTOR was the first of two albums to feature Bayley behind the mic and appeared in 1995, three years after “Fear of the Dark.” The album was a departure in many ways. Longtime producer Martin Birch retired and left another void in the band’s status quo as well as the album cover art being the first not created by Derek Riggs. The band’s darkest days were reflected by the darker cover art and subject matter that was partially inspired by Steve Harris going through a divorce as well as an established 80s band suddenly losing its way in the alternative 90s wilderness.

THE X-FACTOR was released to lukewarm response and for great reason. The band simply was unable to adapt to the 90s and clung on to many of the aspects that made MAIDEN such an excellent 80s arena metal band. Only a few problems with that approach. First of all Bayley’s vocal style doesn’t quite have the range required to bring out the best of IRON MAIDEN’s musical approach and secondly the music which is excellent, heavily borrows from the “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” playbook and THAT was just not cool in the year 1995 when Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots were dominating the heavy metal world. It also didn’t help the band that more extreme forms of metal like death metal, black metal and doom metal were making MAIDEN sound a bit outdated.

This 10th album by IRON MAIDEN is somewhat of a mixed blessing. The band said that one of the singers they auditioned sounded shockingly identical to Bruce Dickinson but they wanted to find a different styled singer. Bad choice. MAIDEN sort of paralleled Judas Priest not only as the metal gods of the 1980s but also in the fact that both bands lost their lead singers about the same time and decided to replace them. While MAIDEN was a superior band in consistency, Priest actually made a better decision once they added The Ripper as their top screamer. Priest got the memo and learned how to adapt the music to the singer whereas MAIDEN simply added a singer and went back to the coffers to pad the music with ideas already presented.

Musically THE X-FACTOR is actually really, really good with the best tracks presented on the first half of the album and some weaker ones providing filler on the second half. Another problem with this album is that it is WAY too long and at almost 71 minutes could have been trimmed down by about 20 minutes. The opening “Sign of the Cross” is a powerhouse and by far the best track on the album with creepy keyboards and Gregorian chants ushering in a very progressive track that features dark lyrics and some of the most interesting instrumental workouts since “Seventh Son.”

The single “Lord Of The Flies” provided the catchy single but once again Bayley lacked the vocal dexterity and larger than life charisma that Dickinson exuded in abundance. Despite the weak vocal performances, musically this is an excellent album but due to the lack of a top dog like Dickinson at the helm feels woefully unbalanced due to MAIDEN’s failure to adapt the music to the singer’s ability. The fact that Harris dropped Paul Di’Anno due to his inability to keep up with the band makes it all the more surprising that this didn’t turn out so well. The rest of the album musically speaking is like the sequel to “Seventh Son” with keyboards provided by guest musician Michael Kenney adding eerie atmospheric backdrops to Harris’ idiosyncratic bass playing and the twin guitar harmonies of Dave Murray and Janick Gers.

For the seasoned MAIDEN fan, you will hear snippets of past ideas ranging from the intro of “Children of the Damned” providing a recycled riff on “Look For The Truth” and many other examples of MAIDEN mining their past however the band also offers some interesting new ideas to their roster such as the bizarre guitar riffs on “Judgement of Heaven” which sounds somewhat familiar but slightly different. The album is certainly not a waste of time on the music side of the equation and if this one happened to be rerecorded with Dickinson i would dare to say that this would be an excellent album and a major return to form. However as it is the incongruent nature of Bayley’s vocals not strong enough for MAIDEN material brings this down a lot.

Basically this album has 4 star music and 2 star vocals but it wasn’t really Bayley’s fault. His style just wasn’t compatible with this demanding music that needed an operatic singer to bring it to full life. What i would like to see happen is this album to be rerecorded with maybe a bunch of guest singers who could hit the higher notes. I rarely listen to this one due to the frustration of wanting Bayley to step up to the plate but alas it never happens! Any true MAIDEN will want this in their collection despite its flaws. It’s not unlistenable and is by far a better album than the absolutely awful “Virtual XI” that followed. All i can think of when i listen to this one is “Where was Ronnie James Dio when we needed him?” HA, if only :D

JANE'S ADDICTION Nothing's Shocking

Album · 1988 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 4.14 | 14 ratings
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While the glam metal scene was dominating the 1980s with cheesy videos that exhibited gorgeous female models shakin’ their shit and grown men in spandex and with ridiculous quantities of hairspray, the dregs of society were conjuring up their own musical revolution in the underground like rats plotting an invasion in the sewers of any major city. While the mainstream music scene was all about the glitz and glamor, the culmination of underground scenes like no wave, post-punk and alternative rock were slowly but surely gaining traction and as the glam metal shtick had started to become stale by the end of the 80s with too many Bon Jovi videos to count, a few bands were starting to rise from the bowels of the music industry until the alternative rock scene finally completely took over in the early 1990s.

While Nirvana’s “Nevermind” was pretty much the firing squad that dethroned everything 80s and ushered in the alternative 90s, one band in particular was instrumental in bridging the gap between the underground and mainstream success. That band was JANE’S ADDICTION who like its glam metal counterparts was forged in the Los Angeles scene but took a very different route. Named after lead singer Perry Farrell’s ex-housemate Jane Bainter’s fondness of heroin, JANE’S ADDICTION exuded a gritty underground style that found them living the very part as the dregs of society while they captured the essence of the experience in musical compositions. The band actually debuted in 1987 with its self-titled live release but was virtually ignored by the public although it caught the attention of Warner Brothers which saw the changing tides of musical tastes and offered them a record contract.

JANE’S ADDICTION’s first studio album NOTHING’S SHOCKING came out in 1988 when glam metal was still dominating the MTV scene and although the album didn’t quite pierce the armor of the hairspray army, the bizarre album cover art of two naked conjoined twins with their heads on fire generated enough interest as to exactly what in the world was this music all about. Once MTV banned the first single “The Mountain Song” for featuring nudity in its video, the band began to garner the reputation as fierce and utterly unapologetic in its unorthodox methodologies and uncompromising rebellious behaviors. The band’s short shelf life was also the result of lead singer Perry Farrell’s inflated ego and erratic behavior including demanding 50% of the royalties as the lyricist. The rift between the members was sown from the beginning but oddly enough added a strange tension on the recordings.

NOTHING’S SHOCKING sounded like nothing else. With an energetic drive somewhere between hard rock and heavy metal, the band incorporated alternative rock, psychedelic rock and funk into its mix with an early grunge style that added heavy metal guitar soloing and creepy oft morbid subject matter. The album was intelligently designed as producer Dave Jerden scouted out the band’s material and placed the targeted tracks in a particular order which laid out a strange yet logical procession of musical motifs that ranged from the hypnotically groovy to pungently caustic and in your face. The opening “Up The Beach” set the tone of the album with a sense of impending dread as everything was just slightly off enough and once “Ocean Size” kicks in the short arpeggiated intro breaks into a heavy distorted guitar riffing frenzy that featured a drumming style that would become a staple in the grunge scene as well as Farrell’s distinct high pitched vocal style and cutting edge artistic stage presence.

One of the album’s greatest strength is its unusual diverse palette of influences with songwriting practices that varied from song to song. Some tracks such as “Had A Dad” and “Ted, Just Admit It” were based on Eric Avery’s bass grooves while others like “Ocean Size,” “Mountain Song” and “Pigs In Zen” were full band experiences with independent musical counterpoints. The track “Mountain Song” was actually released as far back as 1986 for the soundtrack of the film “Dudes” which set the raw grungy tone of the entire album. Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea made cameo on the trumpet for the track “Idiot’s Rule.” Both “Jane Says” and “Pigs In Zen” were rerecorded from the previous live EP but underwent a complete makeover to make a better impression. The former becoming one of the band’s so-called ballad songs and the latter the band’s signature middle finger no fuck’s left to give Rage Against The Machine style anthem.

This album was hardly love at first listen for me. In fact i didn’t like this band at all for the longest time. I considered them overhyped and rather dreadful sounding but i have to say that all my friends who were into them played them over and over and over and somehow by osmosis i caught the bug. Sort of like learning a new language, JANE’S ADDICTION sort of was like a dialect of the alternative rock universe and once attitudes were adjusted actually grew on me quite substantially to the point where NOTHING’S SHOCKING has become an all time favorite personal classic. This album is very much a lyrical one as the music is designed to accompany the themes involved so therefore this is not an album that focuses on instrumental dynamics although as accompanying music totally nails it in the subject matter department whether it focuses on serial killer themes of Ted Bundy on “Ted, Just Admit It” or the band’s own personal demons with heroin on “Jane Says.” Overall the classic status of this one is warranted but as someone who was resistant from the start i do have to say that for many it may require a bit of exposure. Needless to say, whether JANE’S ADDICTION appeals to you or not, it was this band and particularly this album that opened the doors for the alternative rock scene to break into the mainstream and would very soon rip the door off the hinges with its followup “Ritual de lo Habitual.”

JANE'S ADDICTION Jane's Addiction

Live album · 1987 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 3.44 | 4 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
JANE’S ADDICTION is considered one of the key instrumental bands that brought the heavy alternative rock music out of the underground and into the limelight during the 1990s when it ruled with a vengeance. Although the 1980s Los Angeles scene was primarily associated with the glam metal scene, this band that consisted of Perry Farrell (vocals), Dave Navarro (guitar), Eric Avery (bass) and Stephen Perskins (drums) was the result of rising from the ashes of Farrell’s previous band Psi Com.

Farrell met Avery and kindled a musical relationship based on a an appreciation of Joy Division and The Velvet Underground and wanted to create a heavier band that implemented the energy of the 80s metal scene with the darker themes of post-punk and the grittier sounds of the underground scenes. The result was JANE’S ADDICTION which was a tribute to Farrell’s old housemate Jane Bainter who had suffered a heroin addiction. Unlike the glam metal bands that sang about good times, JANE’S ADDICTION lamented the less appealing aspects of reality.

This band’s initial run only lasted seven years and disbanded just as the band was perched to become the hottest ticket in the alternative 90s. It’s rather strange that JANE’S ADDICTION released its self-titled debut album in the form of a live EP. At 40 minutes long this eponymous release was as long as their two official studio albums but was completely recorded live at the Roxy Theatre in LA on January 26, 1987 with a few addition overdubs added the next day. While not the band’s crowning achievement, this self-titled debut is very much of interest as it features four songs, "Trip Away," "1%," "I Would For You," and "My Time" which were never rerecorded and included on the two studio albums.

Two of the tracks, “Pigs In Zen” and “Jane Says” were rerecorded and included on the first studio album “Nothing’s Shocking” and although they are far better in their second coming, these alternative versions are actually pretty good too. This live EP also includes two cover tunes including “Rock & Roll” from The Velvet Underground and “Sympathy,” originally titled “Sympathy For The Devil” from The Rolling Stones. The track “Slow Divers” was also recorded for this album but left off for time space purposes. It would later be included on the compilation “Kettle Whistle.”

While this album showcases the core elements that made JANE’S ADDICTION so unique such as Farrell’s distinct vocal style that was always slightly off key and the catchy sing-along song style that made them so popular a few short years later, this EP doesn’t display the band firing on all pistons yet. While the two studio albums showcase the band in extreme heavy rock mode with sizzling guitar solos, bantering bass and psychedelic production tricks, this live EP simply shows the band stripped down bare for all to see with songs that are often a bit on the mellower side. Yeah the rather ridiculous album cover art may be a turn off and this is certainly not the place to start if checking out the band for the very first time but for fans who wanted more JANE’S ADDICTION than the two studio albums had to offer, this is a not a bad release at all especially for the tracks that appear nowhere else.

MELVINS 26 Songs

Boxset / Compilation · 2003 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"26 Songs" is a compilation album release by US heavy rock/metal act the Melvins. The compilation was released through Ipecac Recordings in March 2003. The album features 25 tracks and a full playing time of 70:53 minutes. Tracks 1-10 are culled from the "10 Songs" EP from 1991, which was actually itself a compilation/re-release of the band´s 1986 pre-album 6 track EP. The 6 tracks from the latter mentioned release are tracks number 11-16 on "26 Songs" (the versions of the tracks are different, from the ones which appear on the "10 Songs" EP from 1991). Tracks number 17-19 are outtakes from the 1986 EP sessions. Tracks 20-24 are unreleased tracks and some demo versions of tracks which appear on the 1986 EP. Track number 25 titled "Ever Since My Accident" is taken from the various artists 1991 "Kill Rock Stars" compilation. So all tracks originally appeared on limited edition releases. While some tracks appear in 3 different versions on this compilation, all versions are different enough to be a worthwhile listen.

Stylistically this is unmistakably the sound of early Melvins. Raw, noisy, sludgy heavy rock played with great conviction and skill, and featuring a great organic groove. So it´s the fans of the first two Melvins albums that´ll enjoy this the most. The sound production varies a bit as the tracks are culled from different sessions, but all tracks are listenable and powerful sounding. The demo recordings are for example among some of the best sounding tracks on the compilation.

Upon conclusion "26 Songs" is a nice collection of early recordings by the Melvins, which will appeal primarily to fans of the early part of their career, but also more broadly to fans of raw, organic, and heavy rock/metal with a live "garage" atmosphere. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

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