Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dr. Living Dead! - Crush The Sublime Gods (2015)

The undead doctors from Sweden are back once again to fill our minds with fast, crazy and humorous crossover thrash metal. Since the release of their latest album, the 2012 release "Radioactive Intervention", the band have had two changes in the line-up. Gone are Dr. Ape and Dr. Dawn and in are Dr. Mania and Dr. Slam, both trying to help and keep the momentum going for this young and talented band.

"Crush The Sublime Gods" is the band's third release and it is very much alike the band's two previous full length efforts. It is good, fast, heavy chugging thrash that also have some comedy in it, but the comedy is done with a twinkle in the eye, which means that the music comes first and the comedy lures in the background, always being done with a smile. The same goes in the live performances, in which the band performs with skull masks and with a big bucket full of passion and energy.

The big change for the band since the last album (besides the new line up) is that they got picked up by Century Media, which instantly means that the band can create a more professional and well produced record, which is very obvious if you compare "Crush The Sublime Gods" with both "Dr. Living Dead" and "Radioactive Intervention". The production is much cleaner, giving the music a much larger play room to really blossom and grow. That also goes for the band members, whom does a strong job behind their gear. Although I do think that the new singer Dr. Mania is almost a pure copy of Dr. Ape. If I did not know about the shift, I would have guessed that it was the same old singer that has always fronted the band.

The song material in "Crush The Sublime Gods" is definitely good, but I really miss that one song that can lift the album to unspeakable levels. Be sure though that there is a lot of good, meaty thrash metal in this album. Some of my favourites are the title track, "Civilized To Death", "Force Fed", "TEAMxDEADx", and even the two instrumental tracks "Salvation" and "Triggerkiller" surprises me in a good way. So there are a lot of good songs to chose from in this album.

It is hard to determine if "Crush The Sublime Gods" is the best album made by Dr. Living Dead! so far because the band keeps on chugging in the same rail way, but this time it is with a cleaner production. Ultimately, I do think that the band has created another stellar crossover thrash product that should go well down in the common mosh pit. The band has a lot of thrash in them and they really show it in this 13 song long piece. I still feel like the band has some bit to go to reach the absolute world class heights, but they are getting there. The gods are not yet crushed, but be sure of that the doctors will see you soon again for another physical exam.

Songs worthy of recognition: Civilized To Death, Crush The Sublime Gods, TEAMxDEADx, Salvation

Rating: 7,5/10 Buck$

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Megadeth - Risk (1999)

This is such a fitting title, because this album single handedly put Megadeth's dignity and credibility at great risk. This album has become so infamous, so notorious and so hated that fans around the world would not wish their mortal enemies to hear this album. It is a album that no one dares to speak off, little less want to hear off. This album is called "Risk", and was released in 1999 as Megadeth's 8th studio album and it was another obvious evidence of the band's blind quest on finding mainstream success.

So what it is with this album that has made it so hated? Well, besides the obvious and douchey "this is not thrash metal" answer, the music in "Risk" reeks of weird decision making and it leaves a confused feeling over the whole product. From the grunge vibes in "Prince of Darkness" to the soft country rock in "Breadline", this album is a complete gumbo of music styles that does not add up. Only a few genres has been left out and thrash is unfortunately one of those, sealing the break up between thrash and Megadeth that has gone on for more than half a decade. Probably a big reason to why Nick Menza left the band before the release of "Risk" (he was replaced by Jimmy DeGrasso).

The positives are extremely few in this records and none of those does not exactly make you jump up and down with joy. The scary groove in "Insomnia" is pretty decent and it is the song that has the hardest sound and best guitar solo, making it an instant winner among tons of losers. And despite its grunge vibes, the second track "Prince of Darkness" is still a decent, dark track with simple, effective riffing and a nice flowing chorus. After that, all hell literally breaks lose, and not in a good way.

The first single of the album, "Crush 'Em" is an obvious choice for that goal, but it is just such a bland song that you do not care for it one bit. It does have a stellar opening intro for it though called "Enter The Arena", but the cut off between the tracks is just stupid and does not fit at all. Another thing I do not fully understand is why Megadeth is trying to sound like a cover band for various bands, like in "Wanderlust", which is more or less a bad copy of "Wanted Dead Or Alive" by Bon Jovi, and in "I'll Be There", which could might as well have been a Dream Theater ballad. The weirdest part however is that they sing about all these dangerous things, like the seven deadly sins and ecstasy, with songs that are as harmful as a kitten. It is so mind boggling that I cannot comprehend it all, or rather do not want to comprehend it all. I just want to leave "Risk" be and let it rot somewhere far away.

Megadeth certainly took a lot of risks with this record, but none of those really paid off. This face palm of a record was supposed to further build the main stream success that the band had gotten, but the reaction became the opposite because of one, very simple reason. The music sucks! The band wanted to create something that would make everyone think "why didn't we think of this", but instead, the other bands think "thank god we did not think of this". This is the ultimate low point of Megadeth, and I just pray to god that this is the start of a turning point for the band, so that they can start making music that actually matters again. I am not talking about a full regression to the band's early days, just hoping that the band puts a stop to their urge to reach main stream success. No wonder why people believed that the world would end before the strike of the new millennium.

Song worthy of recognition: Insomnia

Rating: 2/10 Breadlines

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Danko Jones - Fire Music (2015)

The Canadian trio Danko Jones have entertained us for almost 20 years with their easily melted rock and roll. With clean riffs and sing along friendly melodies, the band has become one of the more common sights in the mainstream rock radio scene, which is the main reason to why the band have become so popular. Whenever I party with my friends, I can be sure to hear "Had Enough" and "Just A Beautiful Day" sometime during the evening. So when the band releases a new album, I try to picture myself at some shabby apartment in the middle of the Saturday night, feeling buzzed after a couple of beers, just to get in the right mood.

There is really no surprise that Danko Jones's music works so well with the party atmosphere, something that "Fire Music" demonstrates very well. Not only are there songs about partying, doing drugs and joining bar fights, but the music is so intoxicating that it makes everyone happy. So what is it with this music that makes it so groovy? It is mostly the clean riffs and the shear drive that drives the listener crazy, but that would have not been possible without the main man Danko's passion and power. His unique voice and drive gives the album at least two more dimensions than what it would have without him.

Some songs in "Fire Music" do have the potential to become new fan favourites, like the dangerous "Piranha", the groovy "The Twisting Knife", and the rocking "Do You Wanna Rock". And even if "Fire Music" is a fine stand alone piece in the Danko Jones discography, it is obvious that the band has just refined already used methods. You can definitely hear that "Body Bags" have borrowed some traits from "Had Enough", but it does not make the song any worse, it just shows that the band has found a sound that fits them like a glove.

The band does show a good amount of variation in this album, which is directly necessary to not make the band a one trick pony. Unfortunately, most of these other tricks are either weird or just not really fitting the band that well. The bluesy ballad "I Will Break Your Heart" makes me sleepy while the hill billy tune "Watch You Slide" is only fitting in some Starsky and Hutch car chase (still a fun song though). Then we have "Getting Into Drugs" which just blows my mind. The lyrics makes me confused over if it is for or against drugs and Danko himself sounds like Jack Black. It still does have its charm and a small hint of comedy ("Don't care who likes it 'cause I'm 10 feet tall/I wanna save the world and fuck in toilet stalls"), but it is just too weird of a song. I bet they were on drugs when writing it.

"Fire Music" is another fine album by the Canadians, but something in me says that the band can, and will not do anything more than this. They are happy with the kind of quality they are holding up with and have no idea to really go for that perfect score. They are skilled, so they might do a perfect album some time in the future, but it will not happen if they continue to put out albums like this one. Fortunately, they are a hell of a live band, and I am sure the fans will appreciate the songs from this album that will fit into their set list in their upcoming tour, and also in some before and after party in some shabby big city apartment, playing from a computer.

Songs worthy of recognition: Do You Wanna Rock, The Twisting Knife, She Ain't Coming Home

Rating: 7,5/10 Piranhas

Friday, February 13, 2015

Megadeth - Cryptic Writings (1997)

Dude, I just have to say, that is one cruddy album cover. Looks like a doodle I could have made. It is supposed to be a veve, some kind of a voodoo sign, but all I see is a very, very, very, VERY early blue print of a compass, possibly from the year 400. Hell, the band did not even bother to implement their trademark logo on. And for the third album in a row, I am left wondering "where the hell is Vic Rattlehead?". Good god, if I judged a album only for its cover, this one would have gotten a big F instantly, but luckily for Megadeth, I do not.

The 7th Megadeth album "Cryptic Writings" continues on the same track on which "Countdown To Extinction" and "Youthanasia" have been on, more main stream hard rock than thrash metal. And while both albums had some glimpses of greatness, it still left me longing for the good old Megadeth that thrashed my mind with riffs and solos. Not saying that I do not approve of Megadeth evolving their sound, just think that they were better back in the day.

But more talk about "Cryptic Writings", it starts off in good fashion with "Trust", a good, steady song with smooth riffing and catchy drum beats. A nice, groovy start in which Megadeth shows just how good they can be without the use of thrash melodies. Even if it is a strong start to the album, the band can not seem to really live up to "Trust" in the rest of the album. Because the rest of the album is a mish mash of bland ideas that simply does not work. It is not really any song that I hate, but there is too much mediocrity in this album for me too handle. Songs like "I'll Get Even" and "Use The Man" are just so boring and predictable that I want to do something unexpected myself to get rid of the boredom, like cooking a three course dinner (for the record, I am not a good cook).

The band is definitely performing well, holding the standard they have held since the line up was created, and the riffs and solos are some what interesting, but there is something holding it all back, and I am sure that something is Mustaine. His musical structures in this album is so ordinary, so bland that it does not matter how good you play or perform, it will still sound bland to the listener. Not even speedy tracks like "The Disintegrators" and "She-Wolf" takes off properly in this syrup of an album.

I believe that "Cryptic Writings" could have been a pretty decent album that would have continued on the track that "Youthanasia" paved way for, but instead, the band decided to slow down and take a much safer route that leaves their fans sleeping. "Cryptic Writings" is not a bad album, it is just so ordinary and bland that it makes it look bad. I would just get this album out of my existence if it was not for "Trust", the only thing in this album that really is worth mentioning. It is definitely the worst Megadeth album up to date and I can imagine that the fans wanted the band to bounce back with something more feisty for the next album. Little did they know what the future would hold for this former thrash super power.

Songs worthy of recognition: Trust, She-Wolf, FFF

Rating: 5/10 Sins

Monday, February 9, 2015

Live review: Mustasch and Lillasyster at Parken, Halmstad, Sweden

When there is a opportunity of were two of your favourite hard rock bands performs on the same stage, the same night, you damn sure take it. Because even if it was not too long ago I saw both Lillasyster and Mustasch, they are still two bands that shows great showmanship and brings 120% to their stage performances, and just hearing that they would come together for one night was just incredible. I was obviously not the only one thinking that, since the arranger announced that the show was sold out. The stage was definitely set for a perfect night of sweat, shoving, alcohol, and of course, metal.


Last time I saw Lillasyster, it was at James Rockbar (review of that performance can be found here), and it was a hell of a night, so the band had a lot to live up to before entering the stage around 21:45. The big difference between Parken and James is mostly the size of the venue. Parken normally host various dance bands (a Swedish music genre mostly enjoyed by the elderly, and one of few genres I can barely stand) so the stage is sort of divided into two pieces. A dance floor that had to act like the main stage and a outer rim were you could observe the show without the pushing and the shoving. This ultimately affected the overall pressure from the crowd, which is a shame since those attending obviously was excited over the show.

The show itself was nothing surprising, and since the band has not released a new album since the last time I saw them, the set list was more or less unchanged (definitely shortened since they were the opener). I cannot blame them since they only have 3 albums of material to chose from, but once again I think the second album, "Det Här Är Inte Musik, Det Här Är Kärlek", was left out of the set list (I could be mistaken though). It is still a decent set list filled with the bands most well known hits and a tiny hint of LOK in it, but some changes would have been welcome (*cough* Umbrella *cough*)

Even if this performance did not live up to the one I saw around mid September 2013, it was still an enjoyable show, mostly thanks to the passion brought from the band and the audience. Another well executed performance from one of the sweetest bands in Sweden.

Best: "Hårdrock" is seriously the best live song made in Swedish

Worst: The set list is more or less the same since last time

Rating: 7/10

Set list (not necessarily in this order, might have missed some songs):
Total Panik
Berätta Det För Lina
LOK Står När De Andra Faller (LOK song)
Umbrella (Rihanna cover)
Så Jävla Bra
Nu Har Jag Fått Nog Av Dig


Mustasch is certainly in a hectic schedule right now, doing occasional shows while being in the works for their upcoming album "Testosterone" that is due this fall. Fortunately, they did not look tired at all when entering the stage. They brought their all in the performance and delivered tons of power to the people, and the people did the same in return. Somehow, I actually made it to the absolute front of the crowd and I was literally crushed towards the end of the show, which I only see as a good thing.

The set list was a pretty good mix of hits from their entire discography, from the early steam rollers "I Hunt Alone" and "Down In Black" to the more recent hits like "Feared And Hated" and "Speed Metal". It is a pretty predictable play list indeed, but some surprises was mixed in, like "Deep In The Woods", which made it feel fresh. But between the lines was some small, instrumental breaks, which I guess was necessary since the tempo of the show was pushing the artists to its limits, but I could have gone without some of them. I think they had like 5 of those breaks, 2 would have been enough for me.

It is hard to pick a favourite from the set list since the crowd was on their heels in almost every song, so I have to go with the song that struck me the most this night, which was the ultra heavy semi-ballad "Bring Me Everyone". A fantastic heavy track were the audience just gave their all in the sing-a-long. Amazing. Simply amazing.

The show ended on a high note when Lillasyster joined Mustasch on stage to close it off with the song "Vad Skulle Mamma Säga", a song Mustasch did a guest appearance on in the Lillasyster album "3". Do not think that the crowd knew the lyrics on this one that well, but seeing Ralf, Martin and the rest of the guys was just fun as hell. Ralf stuck around a little longer to join the crowd in a sing-a-long of the Starship classic "We Built This City" to celebrate how good of a metal town Halmstad really can be. Just an amazing end to an amazing evening.

Best: "Bring Me Everyone" crushes any opposition

Worst: There was at least one instrumental break too many

Rating: 9/10

Set list (not necessarily in this order, might have missed some songs):
Feared And Hated
Double Nature
Bring Me Everyone
I Hunt Alone
Black City
I Don't Hate You
Speed Metal
Down In Black
Deep In The Woods
Vad Skulle Mamma Säga (together with Lillasyster)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Blind Guardian - Beyond The Red Mirror (2015)

The German power house Blind Guardian is once again back with their unique power metal style that blends medieval fantasy and soaring melodies. A style that has taken them to the top of the metal chain, a place they have never left since the release of such legendary albums as "Nightfall In Middle Earth" and "Imaginations From The Other Side". Speaking of the later album, "Beyond The Red Mirror" is a concept album that acts like a sequel to "Imaginations From The Other Side", sort of as a celebration of its 20th anniversary. A pretty good way to celebrate one of the grandest albums in the band's discography.

Sound wise, there is no doubt that Blind Guardian has made both "Imaginations From The Other Side" and "Beyond The Red Mirror", but they are still two different albums that has their own strengths and weaknesses. While "Imaginations From The Other Side" was the darkest Blind Guardian album up to the date of its release, perfecting the band's sound to what it is today, this album is a more symphonic power metal record that uses a ton of orchestral means to make the album grander, or what do you say about three huge choirs from three different countries and two full scale orchestras. Grand is just the middle name when it comes to this album.

This grand orchestral sound does have its advantages, giving the album a strong personality, but it also has some disadvantages, like that it takes a huge chunk of the spotlight, leaving some of the band members behind. I find the overall production pretty weird since the twin guitars does not have as much force as I would like them to have, and the same goes with the drums. I can understand that this highlights the orchestras more than what a normal metal production would have allowed, but this was close to overkill. It still does not take away the fact that there are high quality musicians behind the instruments. Olbrich and Seipen produces tons of good riffs and solos, Ehmke puts in the right beats, and the wonderful sound of Hansi Kürsch's vocals are amazing as usual, maybe even better than ever.

Even if this album displays a side of the band that is new and innovative, it still has a solid ground of classic Blind Guardian metal that is very recognizable. The single "Twilight of The Gods" is easy to like thanks to its catchy melodies and excellent cooperation between Hansi and the choirs, while "The Ninth Wave" strikes with a heavy attitude, epic melodies and a very catchy chorus, all packed neatly in a 9 and a half minute spot. But it is when the album reaches mid point when it is truly lifting up towards the skies. Starting with the bonus song, the ballad "Distant Memories" brings the album to another level with its beautiful sound, and one of few songs where the over use of the orchestras is justified. The speed is picked up again in the following song, "The Holy Grail", a classic Blind Guardian attack that makes you bang your head and follow Kürsch in the vocal roller coaster. The middle part is completed then with the excellent "The Throne", sealing the best part of the album in perfect fashion.

The overall song quality is very nice and holds the high standard that the rest of the Blind Guardian discography holds (even if it contains some low marks like "Miracle Machine"), but in the end, it is the weird production and the over use of the orchestral arrangement that keeps the album from being a instant classic. "Beyond The Red Mirror" contains a lot of good quality music and it really hurts to know that it could have been even better if some better choices had been made. None the less, it is still a fun, grand album that every Blind Guardian fan should be proud of, and I definitely feel like the album is worth the 5 year long wait. Of course, it is not as good as "Imaginations From The Other Side", but for a sequel, it certainly does the 20 year old classic justice, which is all I ever hoped for.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Holy Grail, Distant Memories, The Throne

Rating: 8/10 Prophecies