Monday, April 29, 2013

Movie review: Imaginaerum

In the end of 2011, the Finnish band Nightwish dazzled us with an inspiring concept album named "Imaginaerum". A album that showed all the good sides of the band and also unknown abilities that at least I thought the band did not posses. A year after the album release, band member Toumas Holopainen and the director Stobe Harju could proudly present the movie "Imaginaerum", an exciting tale about a composer that suffers from dementia and only has the imagination of a 10 year old boy left. The composer, named Tom, travels between the real world and his imagination in the search of finding what he has lost and the answers to his questions. And since Nightwish influenced the whole movie, I just had to see it with my own eyes to know if it was as good as the album.

If you do not want to read spoilers, then take your imagination elsewhere from here on.

So the movie takes place in two areas. First we have the real world where Tom Whitman is old and very sick. He is in a hospital bed and is very close to pass away. Visiting him is his daughter Gem, who is almost happy about the situation. She has always believed that her father's wild imagination has only hurt those around him and that his dedication towards his band has caused the death of her mother. It is a classic tale where the anger eventually, thanks to one of Tom's band mates Ann, turns to love. these kinds of stories never gets old, but they are predictable.

No, the fun is in the second dimension, which is in Tom's dreams and memories. We get to follow 10 year old Tom when he is taken into an adventure with The Snowman. But after a crash landing in a wasteland, young Tom gets to know that The Snowman is more like a poison then a cure. The Snowman steals Tom's memories and is probably the big reason to why Tom has gotten his dementia. During this part of the story, we get to encounter with many of Tom's memories, like when he went to the, at the time scary, circus and when his own father, Theodore Whitman, committed suicide right in front of Tom. It is some strong stuff indeed and it keeps the viewers interest.

The story itself was already introduced in the album with the same name, so I was already familiar with it, but seeing this story come to life is just joyful to me and see if it is like I imagined it. Of course I was way of, but everyone has their point of view. It certainly helps to have listened to the album before watching the movie and vice verse, but it is not necessary. But if you happened to have listened to the album before then you will without a doubt recognize several parts of the movie through the songs like "I Want My Tears Back", "Scaretale", "Last Ride of The Day" and "Song of Myself". And yes, the music in this movie is made by Nightwish and they also have their own parts in the movie. For instance, Anette Olzon plays Ann and Toumas Holopainen plays 47 year old Tom Whitman.

The overall production is well made and so is the special effects. I especially liked how The Snowman turned out with his creepy looks. The best part with the special effect still has to be the epic roller coaster ride in the end where The Snowman is doing everything he can to stop Tom only to finally let go in the shape of Theodore. And the acting is pretty decent even if it is not world class, it is enough to make me satisfied.

If it is one thing that I have to complain about "Imaginaerum", it is that you have to take in a lot at once. There are so many questions and mysteries that you can easily be struggling to follow the story. So it takes a while to get the whole picture, but trust me, it is very much worth the time. Another thing that could have been improved is that they could have put more of the music from the album into the movie, but I was pretty pleased with the existing amount, so it is not a big problem.

If you are a Nightwish fan, then this is a must watch. "Imaginaerum" contains everything that made the album great and it also gives life to the music. The darkness and the awesome story almost gives you the feeling that you are watching a Tim Burton movie (admit it, The Snowman has some parables with Jack Skellington from "Nightmare Before Christmas"). So buckle up, hold your arms inside the cart and enjoy the roller coaster ride entitled "Imaginaerum".

Rating: 9/10 Snowmen

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rob Zombie - Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (2013)

On the side of making music, former White Zombie singer and founder Rob Zombie has had a lot of work in the movie industry. His latest creation, "The Lords of Salem", was released as late as the 19th of April (and yes, I will review that movie sooner or later). So after a failed attempt of creating a similar success with the follow up to the respected album "Hellbilly Deluxe" three years ago, many fans, including yours truly, started to wonder if this movie carrer had took a toll on his music life. After this album, at least I knew that I had gotten the answer I wanted.

"Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" (damn, that is a long name for a album) is the fifth solo album by Rob Zombie and together with him, we have former Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5 (one of my favourite instrumentalists), bassist Rob "Blasko" Nicholson (Ozzy Osbourne, ex-Danzig) and drummer Kenneth "Ginger Fish" Wilson (ex-Marilyn Manson). In other words, the same gang that made "Hellbilly Deluxe II".

But unlike "Hellbilly Deluxe II", "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" is filled with groovy, dark and cool music that makes you think back to the old good days when White Zombie was at their peak. After the slow starter "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy", we get thrown into the adrenaline pumping "Dead City Radio And The New Gods of Supertown" (what is with these long ass titles?). It is groovy, it is catchy and, most importantly, it is a really awesome track. Rob does not stop there though. The grooviness continues in the songs "Lucifer Rising", "Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga" (weirdest and maybe coolest song title ever) and "Behold, The Pretty Filthy Creatures!". This album is for most of the part one big fist pumping adventure.

And when the speed is not the highest priority, the heavy side takes the lead instead. Even though I like this side of Rob Zombie a little less than the faster counter part, I still enjoy it when all the pieces fits together, like they do in "White Trash Freaks" and "The Girl Who Loved The Monsters".

Then we also have that cover of the Grand Funk Railroad song "We're An American Band". It is an acceptable cover, but I expected more from Rob Zombie when it comes to this cover. I like the original and this cover does not have enough of a own personality to make it memorable. So as far as I am concerned, this cover could have easily been left out of this album.

It seems to me that Rob Zombie must have gotten a lot of inspiration after creating the movie "The Lords of Salem", because "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" is, together with "Hellbilly Deluxe", the best solo album he has released. Despite from an uninspiring cover and "Theme For The Rat Vendor", this record is a groovy experience that not only makes you remember the days when White Zombie was together, but also hope that Rob will find his way back to these good old days. This is one of the bigger comebacks this year, and I love it more than saying Ging Gang Gong De Do Gang De Laga Raga.

Songs worthy of recognition: Dead City Radio And The New Gods of Supertown, "Behold, The Pretty Filthy Creatures!", The Girl Who Loved The Monsters, Lucifer Rising

Rating: 9/10 White Trash Freaks

Friday, April 26, 2013

Operation: Mindcrime - Frequency Unknown (2013)

Note: when this album was released, Geoff Tate was in a juridical dispute with Queensrÿche over the name of the band, so he released this album under the Queensrÿche name before a settlement was reached. Just a small clarification for you all. Anyway, back to the review.

The break up between Geoff Tate and Queensrÿche has been more confusing and weird than a episode of the TV-series "Lost". Immediately, the legal process kicked in on who would keep the name Queensrÿche. In the waiting for a verdict, we have two different Queensrÿche out there. The original band with new singer Todd La Torre and the new band with Geoff Tate and his recruits (Rudy Sarzo, Bobby Blotzer, Glen Drover, Kelly Gray and Randy Gane). So yeah, it is a big soup that this break up has led to. If you ask me, I think that the original Queensrÿche did nothing wrong and that this band should be named something else. But until the 18th of November, we have two bands named Queensrÿche and the newer band have now released "Frequency Unknown".

The latest two album that Geoff Tate has released ("Dedicated To Chaos" with Queensrÿche and the solo album "Kings And Thieves") was terrible, so I had very low expectations for this record. But after listening to "Frequency Unknown", I was a little surprised that it was pretty decent. It is not an instant classic but it is clearly superior against its two predecessors. The main reason to why "Frequency Unknown" lifts is that it has some forward momentum and the instruments gets some room to shine, two big attributes that both "Dedicated To Chaos" and "Kings And Thieves" lacked. And it also feels like Geoff has found a new kindling fire that could spark into a flaming inferno in due time, but for now it is small and only helps to make Geoff Tate's voice sound fresh.

The music is, more or less, typical Queensrÿche. It is never ultra fast or super heavy, but it is easy digestive music that has small progressive intentions and an overall soothing mood, which works really nice for listening while you finish up some work or if you just want to chill. Playing this sort of music also comes with a risk. If it is too laid back, it will make the band seem lazy and not so impassioned. A good example for this blandness is "Life Without You". This song has no soul in it, there is no passion what so ever. Plain boring.

Fortunately, most of the songs in "Frequency Unknown" are actually quite pleasing and good. We have some great riffing in "Dare" and "Slave", some epicness in "In The Hands of God" and some emotions in "Cold" and "Fallen". It is almost like a time travel back to when Queensrÿche was at its prime. Despite that the amount of good songs are greater than bad songs, I feel that the overall album could have been better with some more work here and there, but it will do for now.

I should also mention that the special edition has four re-recorded songs from the Queensrÿche discography ("I Don't Believe In Love", "Empire", "Jet City Woman" and "Silent Lucidity"). I get that they are there to show what this new line up can do, but it is so unnecessary that you could just as well have put in silence in those tracks instead. I find no great difference from the original tracks and what is even worse, is that this could be a sign that Geoff actually thinks that this band is still going to be called Queensrÿche after the verdict. It is like putting up a huge middle finger against Geoff's former band mates. Not cool man.

"Frequency Unknown" is overall a pleasant surprise that restores some of the faith for Geoff Tate. But do not for the love of god think that this album is a new "Operation Mindcrime", it is an album that would count as above average and nothing more. The soul is there and the instruments gets their moments, but it is not a dazzling album that will blow down the rest of the competition. Later this year, the other band named Queensrÿche will release their new album and that album will show which side of the same coin is the better one. No matter who will win, Geoff has with "Frequency Unknown" showed that he still got some fight in him.

Songs worthy of recognition: In The Hands of God, Cold, Slave

Rating: 6,5/10 Frequencies

Monday, April 22, 2013

Amorphis - Circle (2013)

Finnish band Amorphis started out in 1990 as a death metal band, but has, slowly but surely, become more melodic and also introduced more modern segments into their music. I definitely felt that the transformation was more or less complete after their latest release, "The Beginning of Times", an album that I by the way find overrated. So when my speakers blasted through with the first song in this new album entitled "Circle", I was almost chocked to hear a heavy sound with a lot of growling which could mean that the band went back towards their roots

"Circle" is, without a doubt, a much darker album then its predecessor, mostly because the growling part of Tomi Joutsen's vocals takes up more space this time (but the main focus is still on the clean vocals). However, do not expect material that could be compared with Amorphis's early works. It is still the melodic and almost Gothic sound that makes up most of "Circle". The closest to something you will get from their first albums is the verses in "Shades of Gray" and most parts of "Nightbird's Song". Otherwise, it is the same old Amorphis that we have learned to know in recent days. Melodic, epic and emotional tunes that makes melodic metal lovers really happy.

One song that is instantly recognizable of the modern Amorphis is "Mission" with its melodic and low-key sound that probably will not make you head bang, but it still releases some good feelings inside your body. But we already know that the band know how to create these kinds of songs, so let us skip to the second half of the album, where things are starting to happen.

When "Hopeless Days" comes in and embraces you with its heavy riff, you better sit there and take it like a man, 'cause it is a very good song that shows some skills, but the chorus could have been improved so the track would be more memorable. After that, "Nightbird's Song" enters the stage and it is without a doubt the song that is closest to death metal. It is a demoniacal song where Joutsen shows his entire growling register and the rest of the band makes sure that the mood is just as it should be. The melody is still there, which works out pretty good for the song even though it takes a more anonymous part in that particular track. No matter what, "Nightbird's Song" gives "Circle" some much needed variation. The last notable song is "Enchanted By The Moon" that has some very interesting tempo shifting and some of the best guitar work in the album. Other songs in "Circle", like "Into The Abyss" and "Narrow Path", scratches my nerves and tries to get my attention, but they just do not have the same strength as some of the best songs on this record, which leads those songs into oblivion. If the band had found the time to put a little more effort into these songs, then "Circle" maybe could have been a smash hit. And one more thing, the bonus track and almost instrumental "His Story" is, according to me, unnecessary.

"Circle" is a enjoyable album, but it does not stand up against albums like "Skyforger" and "Eclipse". And just like with "The Beginning of Time", I find this album slightly overrated. There is nothing in "Circle" that we have not seen in previous Amorphis albums and the mediocre lyrics does not help to lift the album. They try to go back to their roots in some parts, but falls flat out in most parts. So good try Amorphis, but 2013 is certainly not your best year.

Songs worthy of recognition: Shades of Gray, Enchanted By The Moon, Nightbird's Song

Rating: 7/10 Missions

Friday, April 19, 2013

Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind (1983)

Out of all the albums during Maiden's legendary era between 1982 and 1988, I have always found that "Piece of Mind" is the most overrated album released in that period. I don't really know why, but one reason could be that it only have one song with some real tempo ("The Trooper") or that it was some of a disappointment after the great album "The Number of The Beast". So it is about time that I took my time to really get into "Piece of Mind" and find out how I really feel about this album.

This album is, just as the title hints, a more progressive approach from the Englishmen. Besides from "The Trooper", you will not find a new "Run To The Hills" nor "Phantom of The Opera" among the 9 tracks. The band is trying to focus more on the melodies and the musical craftsmanship instead of relying on a catchy chorus and Bruce Dickinson's incredible voice. A good choice for the band? Well, I always say that a band is not complete when they do nothing to challenge themselves, so "Piece of Mind" could be a good way to show a new side of the band.

Unfortunately, I think that the band overdid it with the progressive part. Songs like "Where Eagles Dare" and "Revelations" are clear proofs that the music takes over more than it maybe should have. Don't get me wrong, I love the progressive Maiden, but the songs in "Piece of Mind" was a sign that the band was not fully ready yet to go that far into the progressive world. But there are good sides with this change. We get to see a new side of Maiden that increases the level of curiosity inside of us and it makes the band unpredictable, a very fine ability that few bands possess.

There is, however, songs in "Piece of Mind" that has that magical progressive touch that only Maiden can produce. One of these songs are the epic "Flight of Icarus" and with the excellent story about Icarus flight that was too close to the sun, this song is truly Maiden magic at its best. Another good track is "Die With Your Boots On" that shows almost every register that Maiden has to offer (except for the song writing). Last, but certainly not least, we have the power charger called "The Trooper". This song may have no chorus, but the thrilling riff, powerful singing and amazing guitar solo makes this song one of the most memorable songs in the entire Maiden discography. Every time this song plays it gives me the chills and the chills gets even bigger once Bruce runs through the stage with his outfit and his Union Jack waving all around.

The rest of the songs on "Piece of Mind" are nothing special nor worthy a big notice. They may have some parts that are interesting and memorable (like the chorus in "Sun And Steel" and the fine musicality in "To Tame A Land"), but they do not contribute on making this album special. There are no bad songs overall on "Piece of Mind", just mostly less good songs.

Overall, I still think that "Piece of Mind" is overrated. It is surely a good album, but it is far from a masterpiece. Maiden did a complete U-turn on the music direction which means that this sudden change killed some of the magic in this album. It is still the typical Maiden sound, but the band took a longer leap towards the future than they should have done. It is still an enjoyable album that every Maiden fan should hear at least one time.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Trooper, Flight of Icarus, Sun And Steel

Rating: 7/10 Revelations

Monday, April 15, 2013

Stone Sour - House of Gold & Bones Part 2 (2013)

About a half year ago, Corey Taylor and the rest of the crew in Stone Sour released the first part of the two album long concept "House of Gold & Bones". The first part had some exciting music and it showed that the band had taken their music to a new level. However, the concept itself was very hazy and pale, which made the album weaker then what it could have been. So when I pressed play on "House of Gold & Bones Part 2", I was expecting a much clearer story in the lyrics and a further development on the musicality, two elements that could transfer Stone Sour from a mediocre band to a really interesting and deep band.

When it comes to the concept, I am still very unsure of what Stone Sour is trying to tell me. It really sucks that the biggest piece in this puzzle of an album is very rough around the edges, 'cause if you cannot tell a story, then you should not do a concept album. However, there is some light in this darkness. The band is releasing a comic series with the same name so, if you are like me and is unsure of the concept, then the comic should answer all your questions. But that does not mean that it will neutralize the fact that the concept is still hazy in the two albums.

The main difference from the first part is that part 2 is heavier and more theatrical. Just as Corey tells, Part 2 is more of a soundtrack album than a regular album with its theatrical references, which is in one way good for the concept. I can definitely see songs like "Gravesend" and "'82" in the big screen with their easy approach. And with that, I mean that they are easily put in the background, but that does not have to mean a bad thing. These kinds of songs gives the album a stable ground to stand on so the best songs can stand out even more.

Just like any other Stone Sour record, the band is trying with this and that, but this time it feels like they are going in one direction instead of multiple ones. There is a red line through every track. From the strong emotional "Sadist" to the fighting spirit in "Do Me A Favor", you will find a determined band that may have found their particular style. Yeah, I know that Stone Sour have had that sound almost from the start, but it is now that the sound feels somewhat complete.

It is a little sad though that the album does not really lift until the end when "Blue Smoke" stops playing (great Buckethead esque ending there by the way) and "Do Me A Favor" starts. "Do Me A Favor" shows a determination and attitude that the band shows very rarely. The drum beat is great and the groovy chorus is sure to be a fan favourite in future gigs. Then we have the respectful "The Conflagration" that is some of the band's better ballads (but it is not the best in this album, that award goes to "Sadist"). And finally we have the title track that wraps up the package perfectly. It is very similar to "Gone Sovereign" and "Absolute Zero", the songs that started "House of Gold & Bones Part 1", with its cool riff and enjoyable tempo. A very pleasant way to end the whole concept.

The "House of Gold & Bones" series will not be going in the history books for being one of the greatest concept albums in metal, but they raise the credibility on Stone Sour quite a lot. The second part is the superior of the two albums  mostly since the standard is higher and it is not trying to go in several directions at the same time. It feels like Stone Sour is finally home and can now look forward to a brighter future. But they are still a band that is just below the best in the business even with the improvements.

Songs worthy of recognition: Do Me A Favor, The House of Gold & Bones, Sadist

Rating: 7,5/10 Stalemates

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ghost - Infestissumam (2013)

One of the biggest hypes in recent times has to be the Swedish doom metal band Ghost. With their big show about satanism and secrecy over who is in the band, Ghost has conquered the metal world surprisingly fast. I have no clue of the real identity of Papa Emeritus or the nameless ghouls are, but I know that they can make some really cool music that is highly inspired from bands like Mercyful Fate and The Devil's Blood. The debut album, "Opus Eponymous", was an exciting installment, but it lacked that real nerve that the best albums have. So I definitely expected a fantastic sophomore album that would blow me away and make me convert into being a satanist.

The first album was much about the riffs and the lyrics had a lot of "Satan is our saviour. The end is near". "Infestissumam" however, contains a more developed sound that should prove as a test for the majority of their fan base. The sound leans a little more on the pop direction then it did on the previous effort, but that does not mean that "Infestissumam" totally lacks of metal. We still hear the intentions from 70's doom metal sound even though those intentions has taken a smaller place in the album. You can also bet that the catchiness from "Opus Eponymous" is not only present in "Infestissumam", but also enhanced to a high degree. And when it comes to the lyrics, they are still about the band's love towards the devil, but now they have actually improved their song writing and tried to tell more elaborate stories about succubus's ("Ghuleh / Zombie Queen"), sexual temptations ("Jigolo Har Megiddo") and more.

Another thing that makes "Infestissumam" superior to its predecessor is the evenness of the album. There is very little too dislike in this album since every song is so groovy and captivating that you cannot resist to put on a smile for the devil. Even the overall mood in "Infestissumam" feels uplifting even though it is supposed to be somewhat apocalyptic. The grooviness shows most on the longest track "Ghuleh / Zombie Queen" where the listener first leads through a slow part and when the second half starts, the ride really begins with some groovy "British pop rock" sound that evolves into a faster and faster beat that is irresistible.

One more upside with "Infestissumam" is that it encourages the audience to do a lot of sing a long in the songs. Easily memorable choruses or lyric lines that sticks to your brain like a gum in a shoe. And the most addictive song of them all is the epic "Year Zero" that is sure to be a fan favourite on concerts. I mean, just listen to that genius chorus and the overall fantastic performance throughout the song, especially those ending guitar riffs that should give you instant goose bumps. If there was one song that would make me give up my current religion and convert towards Satanism, then this is the song. Other great sing a long moments on this album is "Per Aspera Ad Inferi", "Ghuleh / Zombie Queen" and "Depth of Satan's Eyes".

It is a shame that Papa Emeritus and the ghouls hides their true identities, because I would definitely search them up and congratulate them for making "Infestissumam". This album has everything that made "Opus Eponymous" great plus better lyrics and a greater edge. Yeah, sure this is more of a pop album then "Opus Eponymous" was, but the high low point makes up for that disadvantage alone. You may not like this album at first, but give it more than one spin and you will probably see that "Infestissumam" grows on you. All hail Papa Emeritus and the rest of Ghost.

Songs worthy of recognition: Year Zero, Depth of Satan's Eyes, Ghuleh / Zombie Queen, Per Aspera Ad Inferi

Rating: 9,5/10 Monstrance Clocks

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Killswitch Engage - Disarm The Descent (2013)

No one (or at least very few) can deny that Killswitch Engage has become famous and that they have a interesting sound where they can both play heavy metal and more "popier" songs. But one of the band's biggest flaws is the inconsistency. I have yet to find a album by them that holds a constant standard all the way through and I do not think I will ever hear such a album from these guys. Their music is reaching out to two very different fan bases and just like rivaling gangs in a major US city, these fan bases can not for their lives put down their weapons and just talk about their differences (well, at least not without using a lot of curse words, name callings and insulting each others mothers). So Killswitch Engage is trying to solve a conflict that is unsolvable, but you have to admit that the band's stubbornness is astonishing.

"Disarm The Descent" is the band's sixth full-length album and the first album since the 2002 album "Alive Or Just Breathing" with the original singer Jesse Leach who rejoined the band in 2012. And together with Jesse comes a heavier tone in the vocal arrangement that reminds me a lot of Shadows Fall singer Brian Fair, which I welcome. And together with this heavier voice comes a heavier sound which surprised me a bit. Killswitch Engage is well known for their mix of catchy pop tunes and small metal core intentions. So when "Disarm The Descent" had played through my speakers, I had heard a new side of the band. Gone is most of the pop intentions and the band puts the attention instead to the blasting drum beats and the melodies, very much like Shadows Fall.

But just because that Killswitch Engage has put on a heavier suit, I still feel that they have at least one foot in the pop world. Some good examples are "In Due Time", "Turning Point" and "Always" that all have something in them that reminds you of the classic Killswitch Engage sound, which is not good. No, it is when the heaviness takes over that the band is truly impressive. The first "heavy" song is "A Tribute To The Fallen", a song that includes a lot of harsh vocals, Determined drum beats and a chorus that is more than acceptable. Another good heavy moment is the blast beat in "The Call" that almost triggers my headbanging nerve and the chorus is not that shabby as well (even though it is a little soft). The final noticable heavy attempt is "Slave To The Machine". A decent attempt by the band to try showing off their balls, but they come up short and the track is overall a little weak. Could have been a better track if the band had shown some more intensity into the song.

But even though the heavier songs are heavier than 90% of what the band has previously made, you still find small pop intentions in the songs, which bums me out. "Disarm The Descent" is a more consistent album and it directs to one target, but these intentions are enough to scare most of the listeners away.  This also means that "Disarm The Descent" does not have that sharp edge that every great album has since every song has some minor flaw. Most of the songs sounds alright but the high point is not high enough.

"Disarm The Descent" is a big step in the right direction for Killswitch Engage. The band is finally realizing that they cannot work with two different genres at the same time and this realization has given the band's most stable album up to date. There is, however, still some work to do since "Disarm The Descent" is lacking some punch to complete the knock out, but the band is on the right track and hopefully, the next album will complete the transformation to making Killswitch Engage a more consistent band.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Call, A Tribute To The Fallen

Rating: 6/10 Blood Stains

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Device - S/T (2013)

Since the announced hiatus in 2011, I have been waiting for a side project that included at least one of the members of Disturbed. It is an unwritten rule in the metal world that if your band is put in a hiatus for some time or if you get kicked out of a band, you can expect that they will spread their wings in new bands, collaborations or solo efforts. So when the singer David Draiman announced that he would team up with former Filter guitarist Geno Lenardo to create the industrial metal band Device, I was excited, but also worried that Device would suffer from the famous "not as good as the main man's most famous band" syndrome. And those worries was later confirmed after the single "Vilify" was released. It sounded exactly like a Disturbed song with its extensive use of Draiman's vocals, groovy chorus and easily memorable riff. Still liked the song, but it got me really worried that the self titled debut would be a complete rip off of a Disturbed record.

Together with "You Think You Know" and "Penance", "Vilify" sits in the opening of "Device" and just like "Vilify", the other two tracks are pretty similar to the sound that Disturbed has mastered. The only difference is that Device is slightly heavier and Geno's guitar work gives the songs a metallic coating. The opening three are good songs, but they are too similar to what Disturbed has already done, which kind of kills it for me.

The next song is a cover "Close My Eyes Forever", that was originally made by Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne. And to back up David in this song, we have a guest appearance by Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. David and Lzzy makes a pretty good couple and the cover is solid, but I feel that the band could have made this cover a little more personal. Now they just added some background sounds and a heavier guitar, which is not enough when it comes to the originality. If you thought that Lzzy Hale would be the only guest musician in this album then you would be wrong. Besides from Lzzy we also have Serj Tankian (System of A Down, Serj Tankian) and Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath) in "Out of Line", Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) in "Opinion", M. Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold) in "Haze" and Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple) in "Through It All". Out of these guest artist, I would say that Serj did the finest job with his appearance on "Out of Line". His voice is, as always, stunning and he gives the song that special edge that makes it one of the front runners in this album.

The sound in "Device" takes a whole new turn after the cover to a more darker and slower path. It is more different but you still see the Disturbed influences in these songs as well which is a little sad when you think about it. I love Disturbed and I think that David has a killer voice, but would it kill him to really try something completely different? We have already heard you sing like this and write music like that so try to expand your wings instead of hiding them behind your back. Fortunately, we have at least one song that is trying to stand up with a different sound. "Haze" is pretty much typical industrial stoner music and together with M. Shadows's edgy voice, we got ourselves a really edgy and groovy song that should please those who wants to see Draiman in a different spot. "Through It All" also shows some new intentions and I especially love that little faster instrumental part in the middle of the song.

The only reason I enjoyed the debut album by Device is for my love of both David Draiman and Disturbed. The music is well made and you can tell that experienced musicians have created this album, but the problem is that the front man has already done this with another band before. I would have loved that David could try out some new vocal styles and a sound that is far away from his comfort zone, but he did not make it so I just have to be happy with what I got. Device works fine for those of you who has withdrawal for Disturbed, but when the real deal is ready to return, Device will be left to rot in the attic of forgotten side projects.

Songs worthy of recognition: Out of Line, Haze, You Think You Know

Rating: 5,5/10 Opinions

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Avantasia - The Mystery of Time (2013)

I have always been kind of two-sided about Tobias Sammet's Avantasia. In one way I can see the great music and the epic opera feeling that the singer from Edguy is trying to present but I feel that the music most of the time does not have any emotions. So there was no surprise that I had mixed emotions before the launch of "The Mystery of Time" but I had a gut feeling that this rock epic could be one of the best Avantasia records up to date.

Just like in the previous albums, "The Mystery of Time" is filled with guest appearances from several famous rock names. Some of the artist appearing on this record are Biff Byford (Saxon), Bruce Kulick (Grand Funk Railroad, Ex-Kiss), Michael Kiske (Unisonic, Ex-Helloween), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids) and many more. I am not going to say that I am against the guest musicians but one of the problems with Avantasia is that the guest musicians makes the albums a little less personal. I am really curious of how a album filled with only music that was fully composed and performed by Tobias Sammet would sound like. But I will give Tobias this, he still makes the music his own and the guest musicians has to adapt to the music (which they mostly do pretty well) instead of making songs that would fit every musician which ultimately leads to a more enjoyable album.

The music is very much the same as it has been in the latest Avantasia records. A mix of operatic influences, light version of power metal and some epic progressive sounds baked in the dough. It is a very enjoyable sound indeed but I like it more when bands and projects tries to expand and develop their music, a task that Sammet did not fully complete. It is a new story in the lyrics and some new intentions here and there, but there is very little in the music that is new. But it still sounds good so I do not mind it that much.

"The Mystery of Time" tells the story of Aaron Blackwell who lives in a small English town during the  Victorian era. He is a young scientist and in the album he is forced to investigate the mysteries of time, god, religion and science itself. The story is intriguing,  it fits really well with the music and it gives the album another dimension that lifts the overall performance. This is definitely Tobias Sammet's greatest strength, his ability to tell an interesting story without cutting corners in the music is a rare and great talent. The story gains the most life in songs like the powerful "The Watchmaker's Dream" and the theatrical "Black Orchid" where you can feel that Sammet and his guest musicians puts their heart and soul to the tracks. Another very interesting track is the heavier track "Invoke The Machine" where there is a clear sign that the Pretty Maid singer Ronnie Atkins has made a big mark in the musical part on this track. Works surprisingly well even though this is not a typical Avantasia track.

There is also two songs that barely reaches over the ten minute barrier, but only one of these songs are holding up to the full play time. The song is "Saviour In The Clockwork" and with its amazing chorus and well timed tempo shiftings, it is truly a feast for your ears when it comes out of the speakers. It is such a shame that "The Great Mystery" does not hold the same standard as "Saviour In The Clockwork" does. "The Great Mystery" is an okay album closer I guess, but it is an uninspiring track that makes you wonder when it is finally over. I know that Sammet can write long epics. In fact, one of my favourite track from Avantasia is "Stargazer" from "Angel of Babylon", so it surprised me that he wrote a very uninspiring epic that could easily been either left out of the album or shortened. Another low point is the single "Sleepwalking" which acts like a big sleeping pill (the title is at least fitting).

This album could have been an amazing rock epic that would have gone through the ages as one of symphonic rocks greatest albums. Unfortunately, because of a song that is too long and a sleeping pill, this album is just great instead of amazing. "The Mystery of Time" is a very interesting concept album and every fan of Tobias Sammet should without a doubt get this record, but it hurts that this album could have been so much better. It is still an enjoyable album and it is one of the better Avantasia albums, so Sammet should be proud of his latest offering to the world.

Songs worthy of recognition: Black Orchid, The Watchmaker's Dream, Saviour In The Clockwork, Invoke The Machine

Rating: 8,5/10 Spectres

Monday, April 1, 2013

Iron Maiden - The Number of The Beast (1982)

Singing about the devil himself is now a days pretty mainstream but when Iron Maiden released "The Number of The Beast" in 1982, it was something that had never been done before. So in a way, you could say that Iron Maiden was hipsters. Nah, but seriously, singing about the devil was not the only new feature in Maiden's third album. Out with Paul Di'Anno and in with, at time, relatively unknown Bruce Dickinson who got picked up by Maiden after a short sojourn in Samson. And that vocalist change later showed that Maiden went from being a good band with high potential to one of the biggest bands ever created.

The first notable difference on "The Number of The Beast", besides Dickinson, is that the production is cleaner than it was on both "Iron Maiden" and "Killers", which is necessary since the music on this album is more complex and epic than it was on the two predecessors. But even if the production would have been rougher, I still think that the strength of Dickinson's voice would be enough to give this album that much needed boost.

Now there is three songs in this album that has both made this album and the band legendary. The mighty three called "The Number of The Beast", "Run To the Hills" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name". These three songs are huge fan favourites and they still get frequent play time on various rock radio stations in all over the world. And even if these songs have been played over and over and over again I still cannot stop liking them. The title track is edgy and hooky with not one, but two of the coolest solos that Maiden has ever done. "Run To The Hills" goes perfectly with the slogan pedal to the metal because it just speeds up in such a fast pace that you barely can tag along, but you still stand there, singing out your lungs on that chorus and headbanging to that solo. But the best of them all is "Hallowed Be Thy Name". With out this song, "The Number of The Beast" would not have a epic grand finale that shocks you with one of the greatest riffs ever created and shows off the amazing qualities that every band member possesses. In other words, you cannot find a better album closer than "Hallowed Be Thy Name" since the song is perfection from first to last second.

But "The Number of The Beast" does not contain only three songs so how are the rest of the pack? Well, they are not nearly as good as "The Big 3", but they still have their charm. The epic story that "The Prisoner" is presenting is interesting even if the chorus could have been more powerful and the slower "Children of The Damned" is also epic but missing that final edge. The best song out of the rest is "22 Acacia Avenue" with its groovy attitude and very solid craftsmanship on every part of the song.

If I would point out the weakest songs on this album the it would definitely be the awkward "Invaders" and the bland "Gangland". None of these two songs holds the right amount of power that I want for this album which is such a shame since "The Number of The Beast" had such a high potential but fails on having a couple of fillers. Not good at all.

The biggest flaw in "The Number of The Beast" is actually that "The Big 3" is way too good. These songs steals the whole show and leaves the rest of the offerings as background characters which make for an uneven album. I cannot deny that "The Number of The Beast" deserves its legendary status but it is not the finest album that Iron Maiden has created. They still have one more level that they still have not shown, but the potential is there and with Bruce Dickinson now in charge of the singing, then I know that the full potential will show sooner or later.

Songs worthy of recognition: Hallowed Be Thy Name, The Number of The Beast, Run To The Hills, 22 Acacia Avenue

Rating: 9/10 Prisoners