Thursday, July 31, 2014

Grave Digger - Return of The Reaper (2014)

It is indeed the return of the reaper when the German band Grave Digger returns with their 17th album of their career. The band has been in the game for over 30 years and has been one of the leaders when it comes to the development of German power metal. Most of the fans agree on that the band has hit their peak during the 90's with albums like "Tunes of War" and "Excalibur", but there is no denying that the Germans still packs quite a punch in their music.

Nothing is severely different here from earlier albums, except that this album does not have a cohesive theme like its predecessor "Clash of The Gods". And it starts off in a furious tempo after the calm title track that opens up the album. "Hell Funeral" blasts off in classic Grave Digger fashion and it is sure to be a powerful piece that pumps up the crowd at a concert. The following track "War God" is maybe not as fast, but it packs a great amount of punch with its straight forward chorus. And then we have "Tattooed Rider" that is a good epic track that is the track that stands out the most in the album.

But there is something happening with the album after that track, and it is not for the better. The song quality drops for every songs and it just seems like the album does not know where to go in which direction. The songs are not necessarily bad, they are just lackluster. Some songs in the later half like "Resurrection Day" and "Death Smiles At All of Us"  saves some of the band's honor, but it is not enough to save the album.

One thing that comes up for me is that the band is trying to reinvent themselves, not only in the music, but also in the lyrics. "Grave Desecrator" does what it suggest, it has dug up famous Grave Digger lines like last supper and bagpipers play tunes of sorrow. It is still a great song, but the lyrics bug me. And when the band tries to be innovative, they fail miserably. The ballad "Nothing To Believe" is the perfect example, a boring track that ends the album in a sleepy mood. I could have sworn that I nodded of to this song at one of the listening sessions I had.

This review may come out as a very negative one and that I think this album sucks, which is not the case. "Return of The Reaper" is a decent album that is typical Grave Digger, but the problem is that the set list is not very strong and that the band can do a lot better. With over 30 years of experience, you would think that these Germans would know how to make a solid album. Oh well, some songs entertain and the cover art is fantastic, it will have to do until next time.

Songs worthy of recognition: Hell Funeral, Tattooed Rider, Grave Desecrator

Rating: 6/10 War Gods

Monday, July 28, 2014

Overkill - White Devil Armory (2014)

Even though New Jersey thrashers Overkill have had a strong and even career, it is only recently they have gotten the recognition they deserve. The 2010 release "Ironbound" was more or less a shocker and helped the band acquire a bigger fan base (including yours truly). After another really strong effort in "The Electric Age", it is now time for the band's 17th full length album, entitled "White Devil Armory", to enter the stage.

Since the last two album made by the band was fantastic, my expectations was high for this album, and sure enough, I got what I expected. Pure heavy thrash with screaming vocals and well crafted riffs to back it up. Overkill is more or less the Motörhead of thrash. You know what you are gonna get with every new release and you would not have it any other way. It is all here. The slamming beats, the heavy riffs, and the amazing and unique vocals of Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth.

The overall song quality is good in "White Devil Armory", even though you have heard most of the songs in some other way earlier in the band's discography. But no matter what, it is still kicking ass and it is hard to not get into the music. The first half of the album is were most of the highlights hang out, like the high octane opener "Armorist" and the skull pounding "PIG", but to say that the other half only consisted of fillers would be a complete lie. "White Devil Armory" has a solid amount of songs and none of them seems boring nor out of place. However, coming after two records that had several amazing songs, it is not hard to understand that "White Devil Armory" does not have the same number of knockout punches in its artillery, but it is still enough to get one pumped up.

What really surprised me with this release was that it was growing on me, an attribute that is not very common when it comes to thrash records. Songs like "Down To The Bone" and "Where There's Smoke" went past me pretty quickly on the first couple of listens, but has now developed into some of my favourites of the album. This was definitely a plus since I grew tired of several songs on "The Electric Age" quickly, but here, the average life span was improved thanks to a more even set list.

It definitely seems like Overkill keeps on riding that success wave perfectly safe. "White Devil Armory" may not completely live up to the standards that "Ironbound" and "The Electric Age" set up, but it is no doubt that it is a great thrash record that gets the job done very well. So no matter how long you have been into the band, I will guarantee you that you will not be disappointed by this record. It is thrash down to the bone.

Songs worthy of recognition: Where There's Smoke, Armorist, PIG

Rating: 8/10 Bitter Pills

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls (2014)

It has been 40 years since a bunch of British lads laid the foundation of heavy metal with their debut album "Rocka Rolla" and it has all led towards this moment. After 16 albums, tons of laps around the globe and several good and bad times, Judas Priest has created what seems to become their very last album.

"Redeemer of Souls" is the follow up album to the 6 year old predecessor "Nostradamus", and if that album was a wild experimentation, this album is the complete opposite. "Redeemer of Souls" is more or less a beginners guide to Judas Priest. It is pure heavy metal that takes you back to several of the band's master pieces, especially the amazing "Painkiller" is represented a lot in this album. It actually would have been a perfect follow up album to the excellent "comeback" record "Angel of Retribution" if "Nostradamus" was not squeezed in between.

Lot of the talk around this album has been about K. K. Downing's departure, and even if his replacement Richie Faulkner does a good job, he just does not have the same connection to Tipton that Downing had. But still, the guitarists does a swell job in this album despite a very poor production where the guitars sounds flat and dull. Then there is also the fact that The Metal God's voice is not what it used to be, which is clearly evident on the higher notes, but remember that Rob Halford is 63 years old, and to still pack quite a punch in the voice at that age is surely impressive.

Most of the songs on "Redeemer of Souls" are pretty decent, but they can easily be compared to several classic Judas tunes, like the opener "Dragonaut" sounds like "Leather Rebel" and the title track is a lot like "Judas Rising". So there is no song in this album that can really match the band's best work, but that does not bother me since it is still a good quality of music in here. My current favourite is "Halls of Valhalla" that slams down with a grand sound, a catchy chorus and a Rob Halford that gives his all in the song. Probably the best song they have made since Rob's return to the band.

But if this song does not get you going, there are plenty of other songs to chose from. "Redeemer of Souls" contain 13 songs, and another 5 if you have the deluxe edition at your disposal, which makes this a very meaty Priest album (not as meaty as "Nostradamus" though, thank god). Some other highlights in this album is the passionate "Sword of Damocles", the epic and strong "Battle Cry" and the beautiful rock ballad "Beginning of The End". However, since there are so many songs in this record there are bound to be some fillers in there, like the boring "March of The Damned", the sluggish "Crossfire" and all of the bonus songs. Fortunately, there is enough quality in this album to get past these fillers.

I am glad that Judas Priest's discography did not end with "Nostradamus" since it didn't feel like it had the soul of the band. "Redeemer of Souls" has this soul, although it is slightly damaged thanks to a bad production and aging members. But no matter what, this is pure heavy metal, and if this happen to be the last we will ever hear from the band, then I think this is a worthy ending for one of the most inspirational heavy metal bands of all time. Thank you Judas Priest for giving us over 4 decades of great metal music.

Songs worthy of recognition: Halls of Valhalla, Redeemer of Souls, Sword of Damocles, Battle Cry

Rating: 7,5/10 Metalizers

More reviews of Judas Priest
Rocka Rolla
Sad Wings of Destiny
Sin After Sin
Stained Class
Killing Machine
British Steel
Point of Entry
Screaming For Vengeance
Defenders of The Faith
Ram It Down
Angel of Retribution


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Black Sabbath - Born Again (1983)

Man, Black Sabbath is not good at all at timing their album titles. First we had "Never Say Die!", which  was the last album before the definite death of the original line-up, and now we have "Born Again", a title that should have been more fitting on "Heaven And Hell". But at the same time, it was understandable why the band had chosen this title. Bill Ward was back in the line-up and they also had a new singer in Ian Gillan, whom you may recognize from Deep Purple, so you might think that Black Sabbath wanted to start on a new page once again.

And sure enough, it is a new Black Sabbath that enters in "Born Again", but it is not necessarily a better band that emerges. Just like with Dio, Gillian was heavily involved in the songwriting process, and it is noticeable. It may sound a lot like Sabbath, but there are hints of Deep Purple in the music that makes it easier for Gillian to fit in, which is totally fine since it sounds more like a Black Sabbath album than a Deep Purple album. But it was a problem in the end, because since Gillian came from a different musical background, he had trouble in adapting to the band's early works, which is also why "Born Again" became the first and only Black Sabbath album featuring Gillian.

As for the music itself, it is a mixed bag for me. Some songs like the dark and heavy "Disturbing The Priest" and the epic self titled ballad feels like they belong in this album and is a good continuation of the band's sound. But they are getting mixed up with songs that just throws the album off course. Despite its cool, long solo, "Zero The Hero" is one of those songs with its sluggish tempo and boring structure. And while "Digital Bitch" turns up the heat, it just feels a little too much like a Deep Purple song.

The overall experience of "Born Again" is that it could have been a really sweet album if some of the dents had been smoothed out. Because the main problem with the album is that it has a lot of cool ideas, especially in the solo department, but the final product is just sloppy and poorly made. The production is shaky, the album cover is horrible and the whole band chemistry was just not there. It definitely goes to show that just because you got a great singer with lots of talent at your disposal, it does not mean that you will automatically connect with this dude on a musical level.

This has been the hardest Black Sabbath album to rate so far, and that is all thanks to the uneven quality in the songs. Some songs were good, others were bad. This is without a doubt the most uneven Black Sabbath album up to date and it is not surprising that the record's line up only lasted one album. Ultimately, it is the negative sides that sticks out of "Born Again", which is why I cannot give this album any higher rating than this.

Songs worthy of recognition: Disturbing The Priest, Born Again

Rating: 4,5/10 Digital Bitches

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Amberian Dawn - Magic Forest (2014)

It is almost a shame that the Finnish symphonic power metal band Amberian Dawn has been heavily compared to Nightwish, but there are reasons to why these bands has been compared to each other. Just like Nightwish, Amberian Dawn quickly grew a reputation as a fast playing band that mixed heavy riffs and melodies with the female opera singer Heidi Parviainen behind the microphone. But in 2012, Heidi left the band and was later replaced with Päivi "Capri" Selo, who is a "normal" singer. Most of us know what happened to Nightwish when they went through the same phase, Anette Olzon replaced Tarja Turunen, and even though the two albums she was involved in was some of the band's strongest works, she herself was heavily criticized by the fans of the band.

Checking around in some various metal sites and such, I get the feeling like the fans are a little hesitant about the new singer and that most of them wants Heidi back. Even though Capri is a good singer, I can actually agree with these fans, but mostly because it is hard to accumulate from one style of singing to another. We already got some heads up with the best of album "Re-Evolution" where Capri sings on some old Amberian Dawn classics, and she did a pretty decent job, but it was pretty clear that it was not at the same class as the original versions.

Anyway, how is Capri doing in "Magic Forest", the band's 5th studio effort? Well, she is doing a good job and it is clear that the band has succeeded in writing songs that fits Capri's voice while still maintaining the typical Amberian Dawn sound. I still miss Heidi though, but that does not take away that Capri is a great replacement for the band.

The music itself is nothing surprising, solid and melodic power metal at its finest. However, I do miss some of the craziness that the band usually brings in the guitar department, especially in the solos. Sure you can do a great solo without shredding until your fingers bleed, but it was one of the trademarks of Amberian Dawn in their early career and one of the things that made me a fan of the band. There are however very little in the music I can complain about, even if most of the songs in "Magic Forest" has been done before in any other of the band's albums. I also feel that the album starts of good with strong songs like "Cherish My Memory" and "Magic Forest", but it becomes weaker and more anonymous the longer it goes.

But in the end, "Magic Forest" is just another solid album by the band, and it is definitely a step forward from the lackluster effort known as "Circus Black". The band has made it as easy as possible for Capri to fit in the Amberian Dawn formula, and she is doing a wonderful job fitting in. So do not mourn over Heidi's departure, be happy over that Amberian Dawn still creates highly enjoyable melodic power metal.

Songs worthy of recognition: Magic Forest, Cherish My Memory, Sons of The Rainbow

Rating: 7,5/10 Warnings