Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kiske/Somerville - City of Heroes (2015)

The Primal Fear guitarist Magnus Karlsson is known to be a pretty generous guy when it comes to lending his abilities. He has written material for a bunch of projects during the years, like Allen/Lande, Scheepers and his own little solo project Free Fall. So when it was announced that he would write songs for the two fantastic vocalists Michael Kiske, mostly known for his time in Helloween and his current band Unisonic, and Amanda Somerville, a woman who have guest starred in bands like Avantasia, Kamelot and Edguy, it was all set up for success. Sadly, the first album they released ("Kiske/Somerville" from 2010) was a big disappointment. A big bland blend of uninspired and power less power metal.

So you could sense that I was not overly excited that the trio would once again release a album together, but to my surprise, the sophomore album "City of Heroes" does actually sound quite nice. The biggest difference from "Kiske/Somerville" is without a doubt the quality of the songs. It seems like Magnus has given up to create songs that both Michale and Amanda could do a duet on and instead puts the focus on their individual strengths, which is just the right tactic since I felt that the two vocalists did not really match each other well enough to share the load in a chorus. Or maybe it was the half crappy production that made it seem that they did not match up, I don't know.

Anyway, as I said, the music in "City of Heroes" is a big step forward from the last album. It is straight forward modern melodic power metal, a style that we have heard so much of before, but still is enjoyable when done right and professionally. Michael and Amanda delivers some good singing and Magnus controls his guitar exquisitely. I could wish that the choruses could have been stronger and more memorable, but it still sounds good to my ears and it is fairly easy to sing along to songs like "Lights Out" and "City of Heroes", while other songs, like "Breaking Neptune" and "Ocean of Tears", impress you with its great craftsmanship.

However, is "City of Heroes" enough to stand out in a genre that is more or less overfilled with bands and projects? It definitely is a album that is above average, but it is far from a dazzling experience. You listen to it some times and enjoy the music, but I highly doubt that I will still listen to this album in a couple of months. Fans of the artists and classic melodic power metal should certainly get this release and will most likely enjoy it very much, but do not expect something mind blowing. After all, this is just a side project, and side projects RARELY comes out with anything that would top the works of the main band.

Songs worthy of recognition: City of Heroes, Breaking Neptune, Ocean of Tears

Rating: 7/10 Salvations

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Best of Megadeth

Another discography review is done, and boy, this one was a wild ride. Ups and downs, lefts and rights, glories and shits, this discography offered quite a lot. Megadeth has sure had an incredible career, but how incredible is it really? Well, let us find out, here is the best of Megadeth.

Best album

3. Endgame
This mix of speedy thrash and modern metal was the tip of the iceberg that was Megadeth's second golden age. It is a fantastic album that mixes extreme fury, awesome riffs and solos, and sweet song writing. If you lost faith in Megadeth in the 90's and have not dared to get back into the band, get this one now. I promise that you will not regret it.

2. Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?
The album that launched Megadeth's career, a tightly packed thrash sandwich that just consists of great songs, endless solos and riffs, and a weird, but fun, cover. Definitely more attractive than peace.

1. Rust In Peace
Easily, one of the most ground breaking records of all times. A album filled with solos, riffs, beats and melodies that never seems to end. This thrash orgasm is something every metal head should listen to in their life at least once... or twice... ah, fuck it, at least one hundred times. A time less classic.

Worst album

I think any commentary here is unnecessary, you probably get why I chose this as the worst. If you don't, then consider yourself lucky to have not heard this album.

Best song

5. Hangar 18
This song consists only of 16 lines of lyrical material, which leaves lots of room for the twin guitars going ham at each other. Some may think that "Hangar 18" got too much of the good stuff, I say that I only want more. An amazing barrage of riffs and solos that just hits you hard and fast multiple times.

4. A Tout Le Monde
Still feels incredibly weird to hear such a heavy band play this fragile ballad, but it is still a perfect, beautiful piece that shows that Dave is more than riffs and solos. Just do not listen to the remake that came out in "United Abominations", it is not worthy of your time.

3. Holy Wars... The Punishment Due
The opening riff gets you hooked and banging at full speed, but it is the excellent song writing and the smooth structure that keeps you along for the full ride. This song starts of one of the mightiest albums ever created and sets the bar for the rest of the tracks. An instant classic.

2. In My Darkest Hour
Starting off beautifully and slow, this track from "So Far, So Good... So What!" lures the listener into a false sense that this could be a ballad of some sorts. But when Dave starts singing darker and deeper, and the guitars starts to pick up some speed, the song completely changes personality. One of the most versatile tracks I have ever heard.

1. Good Mourning/Black Friday
If someone would get the crazy idea of making a horror film based on a Megadeth song, I would suggest them this one as an inspiration source. "Good Mourning/Black Friday" is a dark experience that picks up speed along the way, attacking the listener with riffs, solos, aggressive drums and lyrics about a manic butcher. A magical song that gives you the feeling that it could go on forever, and you would not mind at all. It doesn't get more thrash than this.

Best album cover

Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?

Seeing Vic as a real estate agent trying to sell a UN headquarter that lies in ruins is just candy for the eyes. A picture that fits perfectly with the album title, giving it an iconic cover that is very memorable. This also helped Vic to become what he is today, a iconic mascot for the band.

Total discography verdict

Quality: 6/10
When it is good, it is amazing, but when it is bad, it is out right offensive. The uneven form that Megadeth has shown us during the years is frightening since you do not know what you will get next. Fortunately, there is more good than bad music... for now.

Creativity: 8/10
Dave is known for his experimentation, so he is without a doubt creative, but he has always had a core heart in his music that makes it recognizable as something Megadeth would do. Just listen to his versatility on the riffs and you will see what a creative person he actually is.

Band chemistry: 4/10
Let us be honest here, Megadeth is more or less just an alibi for the Dave Mustaine one man show. He is Megadeth, and the people he has recruited over the years have not had the skills/patience to stay in the band for an essential amount of time (except for Ellefson, but he left one time as well).

Musicality: 6/10
Dave is an amazing guitarist and most of the band members that has been in this journey has put in a certain amount of touch in the Megadeth brand. However, the band, and especially Mustaine, is far from the best live musicians in the world. Also, Dave's voice is far from flattering.

Lyrics: 7/10
Dave is a master of writing some controversial stuff, wheter it be about politics, war, global disasters, you name it, he can turn it into something aggressive in musical form. He can write about other stuff as well, but it is often a hit (like "A Tout Le Monde") or miss (like "Public Enemy No. 1").

Album rating summary

Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!: 8/10
Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?: 9,5/10
So Far, So Good... So What!: 7/10
Rust In Peace: 10/10
Countdown To Extinction: 6/10
Youthanasia: 8/10
Cryptic Writings: 5/10
Risk: 2/10
The World Needs A Hero: 5,5/10
The System Has Failed: 7,5/10
United Abominations: 8,5/10
Endgame: 9/10
Th1rt3en: 6,5/10
Super Collider: 5,5/10
Dystopia: 7,5/10

Average rating: 7,033333333333333/10

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Megadeth - Th1rt3en (2011)

We all know that Megadeth can change their musical and mental mood in a dime, and judging by the cover of the band's 13th album, they turned a couple of other things as well. I mean, why in god's name would you turn around your beloved mascot so that his back is shown on your cover? It just doesn't make sense, and neither does the title. Who in their right set of mind would name their album "Th1rt3en"? Sure, this is album number 13 for the band, but just because your band has reached a impressive goal in your career, it does not mean you can do anything to boast that achievement. This makes Megadeth look like fools, which unfortunately is not the first time.

So it could have been a better start for the return of bassist David Ellefson, and it didn't turn any better when it was discovered that most of the set list in "Th1rt3en" consisted of old songs that has been previously released in deluxe editions, b-sides and video games. For the common man, these songs might be new, but not for the hard core Megadeth fan, which ultimately takes away some of the excitement that comes with a new album.

So let me go through which songs are "old". Both "New World Order" and "Millennium of The Blind" appears as bonus tracks in the 2004 remaster of "Youthanasia" ( "New World Order" is also featured in the Duke Nukem soundtrack from 1999), "Black Swan" was released as a bonus track for those who pre ordered "United Abominations", and "Sudden Death" was originally special written for the game "Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock" (A game that also includes "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" and "This Day We Fight!", all three songs are incredibly fun and difficult on guitar). Out of these 4 songs I would recommend 2 of them. "Sudden Death" is a fantastic shredding piece that fits perfectly in the game it was written for and the solos are just a blast to listen to (the chorus is pretty wimpy though) and "Black Swan" is a great song with fine musicality and sweet catchiness.

The new songs holds a great variety when it comes to pure quality. Some songs does succeed in standing its ground and delivers a pretty good mix of thrash beats and more commercial melody lines, while others could more or less be described as train wrecks, especially when you look it from a lyrical stand point. The first single, "Public Enemy No. 1", may be a cool catchy tune about Al Capone with a galloping main riff, but I just face palm when I hear Dave trying to find as many words as possible that rimes with one, and why is the band bragging so much in "Guns, Drugs, & Money"? Just why? Then we have the out right weak songs, like "Whose Life [Is It Anyways?]" and "Fast Lane" that just makes you want to hit the skip button as soon as they come up.

Fortunately, "Th1rt3en" is not completely filled with awful songs. I really enjoy the aggressive, but still very melodic "Never Dead" that brings one of the coolest solos the band has made in the 21st century, and the ending "13" is a nice way to end the album with its slow and hauntingly beautiful tempo. These songs together with the old material definitely makes up for some of the inconsistencies that this album is displaying, but it is obvious that the band went a little too experimental with "Th1rt3en", even if it at first sounds like a normal modern Megadeth album. I miss the anger, I miss the fury, and most of all, I miss the guitars that only gets the spotlight in like two and a half out of the thirteen songs.

So yeah, "Th1rt3en" is a step back for the band in a lot of points, but the overall image of the album is still pretty decent, just not fantastic. Several songs in here are good and worthy of giving a listen to, but to each good song in this album, there is at least two bad/mediocre songs to accompany it. It might have been because of that Dave Ellefson is back in the band and influenced the song creating process enough to steer it back into the 90's direction, but I really do not care since it would have been difficult for the band to top "Endgame" anyways. "Th1rt3en" will always be a decent album that just happens to have a really stupid name and a cover that doesn't make sense. Not Megadeth's finest work, but far from their worst.

Songs worthy of recognition: Black Swan, Sudden Death, Never Dead

Rating: 6,5/10 Wreckers

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lancer - Second Storm (2015)

The Swedish power metal band Lancer made quite a big impression on me with their self titled debut album that was released around 2 years ago, mostly because they successfully mixed the power in power metal and the melodies in NWoBHM so well that it turned into a new and refreshing sound. But for their second full length
effort, conveniently named "Second Storm", they leave the NWoBHM in the shadows to put all of their earnings on power. A interesting decision that may not be a innovative one, but could help the band in getting more fans quickly to discover what they bring to the metal world.

I do not think that it might have been the wrong decision to change their direction, especially since the change is not that huge, but it definitely makes Lancer more unoriginal. They often sound like a Stratovarius cover band, especially since the vocalist Isak Stenvall sounds a lot like Timo Kotipelto. This really makes "Second Storm" a uneasy experience, cause even if you like the music, you still got a thought in the back at your head that says this could as well have been stolen from Stratovarius.

So it may not come as a surprise for you that I recommend fans of Stratovarius to listen to this album, not because the music has many similarities with what the Finns do, but also because the quality of the craft is quite good. The songs "Fools Marches On", Running From The Tyrant", and "Behind The Walls" gives you the power and speed that you would expect from a power metal band, while "Children of The Storm" and "Masters And Crowns" gives the album more musicality and depth. The set list does have a good amount of diversity, and the red thread goes visibly through all of the songs, which connects them together, making this a more solid piece. I also recommend the epic chorus in "Eyes of The Liar" and the solo work in "Steelbreaker".

But just like in the debut album, "Second Storm" tend to become a little boring after a couple of listens, making its life length disappointingly short. Lot of the songs in this album definitely holds a great standard, but I cannot see myself listening to them for too long, too often. The band also have to work on being more even in the song writing process. The old school "Iwo Jima" is just plain boring and "Aton" does have some neat ideas, but ended up as a close to 10 minute long AOR song that I have trouble with listening to in its entirety. It is way too long for its own good.

So Lancer does not quite reach up to the standards that their self title debut did, but "Second Storm" is still a quite good power metal album by a band that does have a future in this business. The overall song quality is enjoyable and the band knows what they are doing, but to reach the next level in their career, they have to fine tweak some key components, including getting their musical image a lot clearer. Otherwise, they do have several things that makes a great band. A good bunch of musicians, a nice logo, and a cool and menacing ostrich that fonts every album cover. So keep on working guys, and make your coming third storm your biggest yet.

Songs worthy of recognition: Children of The Storm, Masters And Crowns, Fools Marches On

Rating: 7,5/10 Steelbreakers

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Megadeth - Endgame (2009)

I have said it before, and I say it again, the career of Megadeth can be compared to a roller coaster, where it starts going up until you reach the top, which is "Rust In Peace", then it goes down hill until you hit the bottom, which is "Risk". Now here is the second high point of the Megadeth hell ride, the 12th effort known as "Endgame", a album that took all of the things that made its predecessor "United Abominations" so successful and cranked it up another couple of notches. It was a album that was the main weapon in the Megadeth arsenal to reclaim there place among the thrash gods.

And holy crap, talk about thrash candy literally everywhere. It is almost like in the good old days, were the typical Megadeth song consisted of 60% riffing, 30% solos and 10% what ever could fit well into the song (lyrics, intro, more riffing, etc.). But it is not like the good old days, 20 years have passed since, the line up is different and the songs have gotten a modern make over, but it is still pretty good since Megadeth evolves, just like almost everything else in this world.

The biggest thrash steak that "Endgame" offers is the war tank known as "This Day We Fight!", a song that contains one of the meanest and fastest riffs Dave Mustaine has ever played on his six string, and together with a speed that matches Sonic The Hedgehog and the motivational skills that would match a hundred William Wallace's (the main character in the movie classic "Braveheart"), this song is a force to be reckoned with, and it works perfect together with the opening intro, "Dialectic Chaos". The first single "Head Crusher" is also a nice thrashy tune that... well, crushes heads. Pretty good for a song that is just about a medieval torture device.

There are also some songs that have more of the modern touch in it, and still works pretty well thanks to good musicianship. Some examples of that is the well composed "How The Story Ends", the slow and interesting title track and the surprisingly melodic and beautiful "The Hardest Part of Letting Go... Sealed With A Kiss". This definitely gives the album more depth and makes the whole record sound like a mix of the old and new Megadeth, without sounding cliche or stupid. The band really hit all the right notes on this album.

But no matter how much I love this album, I cannot stop thinking on how some of the songs could have been much more cooler and tougher if the band would have changed some minor details here and there. The main problem is that some of the choruses are far too weak, like the one to "1,320'". It is a nice, speedy song that really captures the racing mentality perfectly, but the chorus could as well be non existent, because it is so similar to the verse. The same could also be said to "Bite The Hand" and "Bodies", and all of those three comes after each other, which means "Endgame" has a three song long span without a good chorus, which really annoys me. The band knows how to write a great chorus, so why didn't they apply those skills to those songs?

Despite that, "Endgame" is still a fantastic album that is among the top in the Megadeth discography. The speed, riffs and attitude in this album is over flowing into rapids and you do not want to stop it, you just want more and more and more. This is the ultimate sign that Megadeth is back where they belong, playing thrash that just crushes everything in its path. Even with that modern vibe in it, "Endgame" is still a amazing piece that beats out about 90% of the opposition. This is a game that I would not want to end at all.

Songs worthy of recognition: This Day We Fight!, The Hardest Part of Letting Go... Sealed With A Kiss, Head Crusher, How The Story Ends

Rating: 9/10 Bodies

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)

After a couple of turbulent years with Anette Olzen as the front woman, Nightwish has moved on to a new singer, and the woman who gets to carry on the relay stick from Anette and Tarja Turunen is the Dutch singer Floor Jansen, most known for her work in After Forever and ReVamp. It was a choice that immediately made me convinced that Nightwish had found the right piece of the puzzle. Floor is an amazing singer that is tougher than Anette and can handle a broad range of vocals. The only thing left now was to see in what direction the band was going to take their music for their 8th full length effort, entitled "Endless Forms Most Beautiful".

The answer is that the band is continuing on the same track on which the 2011 album "Imaginaerum". The music is grand, epic, and just reeks of fantasy, but this time, the band has kicked up the gear in the heavy scale, and I think that Floor is one of the reasons why they did that. It is not that "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" is drastically harder than any other Nightwish record, but it is obvious that Holopainen and Hietala has adapted after the vocalist change, which is impressive. The classic Nightwish vibe is still there though, most present in the first single "Élan", and it is as good as ever, but the added heaviness definitely gives this album its own personality and helps spicing up the music.

And it really is those heavy songs that is the stars of this grand spectacle. The epic orchestral opening to "Weak Fantasy" builds up to a hard hitting and catchy song that should be a future fan favourite in the set list when the band hits the road, which I also hope "Yours Is An Empty Hope" will be since it has one of the coolest and grooviest riffs the band has ever performed, and the rest of the song is a great epic experience. Among the hard songs can we also find the opener, "Shudder Before The Beautiful", a fast steam roller with a classic Nightwish sound.

But there are more to this album besides the heavy songs, even if most of those songs are rather disappointing. The single "Élan" is a fine song that is exactly what you would expect from this band, but it is more or less a copy of the more excellent track "Amaranth" from "Dark Passion Play". If you want a good fantasy track from this album, I would rather suggest "My Walden" whom impresses with its steady beat and beautiful harmonies. I also do enjoy the title track, mostly because it is incredibly catchy, and not in the annoying "gum-under-my-shoe" way. Finally, listen to "Edema Ruh", a beautiful tune that really displays how broad Floor's vocals really are.

The album ends in a way that is a lot like the album cover, mind blowing insanity. "The Greatest Show On Earth" is a 5 part song that takes up 24 minute of space, almost 1/3 of the entire album, making it the biggest Nightwish creation up to date. It is a song that more or less tells the story of the Earth's birth, life, and all of its inhabitants, which I think is a pretty cool concept, but putting it all in into such a huge song might have been a mistake for the band. It takes a special kind of skill to create a song like this and excel with it, and it is something that might take several attempts to really master (just ask Dream Theater). I am not saying that "The Greatest Show On Earth" is a bad song, it does have several awesome parts and it displays the whole range of the band, but since it is so big, it is very hard to take it all in. It is a pretty good first try for the band and I will not mind if they try to create more mastodon songs in the future, but they really have to make sure that those tracks stand out and keep it cohesive so that it does not feel so outspread.

The first album of the Floor Jansen era is according to me a success. "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" may be a complete cluster fuck in the cover, but behind it lies a grand and epic album that crushes most of the opposition. This album stands tall and definitely deserves its rightful place in the Nightwish discography. It may not be the Finns finest album, but it holds an incredibly high standard and I am sure the fans will love it. This is certainly no weak fantasy, this is a epic that is worthy of being told and listen to for the coming decades.

Songs worthy of recognition: Weak Fantasy, Shudder Before The Beautiful, Yours Is An Empty Hope, Edema Ruh

Rating: 8,5/10 Alpenglows