Monday, October 20, 2008

SAXON - Dogs Of War

Dogs Of War
SPV Records

“Dogs Of War” is no means as groundbreaking as the band’s earlier catalog, nor is it as sonically mature as the band’s latest effort “Lionheart”, with this re-release bearing much more in common with bands like Molly Hatchet and AC/DC than much of the group’s output. Somewhat of an experimental venture into hard rock territory for the band, this release was eschewed by many Saxon fans upon its original release in 1995, a time when interest in this sort of music was at an all-time low.

However, with rock sounds being more prevalent than ever in 2006, this revised offering indicates that it may have been a bit of an injustice to write Saxon off in the mid-nineties. Tracks like “Hold On” show wizened songwriting that might be a bit patterned, but is executed with raw talent nonetheless. Vocalist Biff Byford’s talent as a vocalist has often been underrated over the course of his career and he proves here that he can pull off a solid pop metal track just as well as the next guy. Bluesy, Jimmy Page inspired guitar work in sprinkled throughout the record, with a great mix leaving Byford front and center, yet giving the other musicians plenty of room to breathe.

American fans of eighties metal for the most part never really warmed up to Saxon and “Dogs Of War” was clearly an impassioned attempt to appeal to a mainstream rock audience that, in those days, no longer appeared to exist. The group’s return to a more metallic sound proved to be welcome, but this album, featuring very solid tracks like “Don’t Worry” and “Walking Through Tokyo” should satisfy any hard rock lover’s appetite.

Written By: Puss Whiskey

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Judas Priest - The Essential Judas Priest

Judas Priest
The Essential Judas Priest
Columbia Records

As Judas Priest is again rising, fresh from a reunion album with the band’s familiar voice, Rob Halford, Columbia Records has seen fit to issue “The Essential Judas Priest,” a two-disc compilation of greatest hits and crucial tracks that serves as a placeholder between Priest records. What fans get is thirty-four of the trailblazing British group’s best known cuts. For those that aren’t ready to part with the cash to purchase the steel-studded JP boxed set, “Metalogy,” this album makes for the best collection of Priest classics that you’re going to discover all in one place.

Throughout the band’s career, Judas Priest has delivered some of the most exciting and innovative metal concepts and packaged the entire affair in a leather-clad, Harley-Davidson riding, ear-ripping atmosphere that has produced some of the most well-known and much-loved heavy metal hits of all time. Sandwiched between a strong pair of new tracks from the band, the roaring “Judas Rising” and the hit single “Revolution,” classic hits like “Living After Midnight,” “Breaking The Law,” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” underline the group’s massive commercial successes, while live standbys like “Victim Of Changes,” “Freewheel Burning” and “Heading Out To The Highway” recall past concert memories of massive arena chants and the group’s purely electric stage show.

Whether you love to sing along with “Hell Bent For Leather,” a track from the band’s controversial album Killing Machine or fiend for the space age ride of “Turbo Lover,” this collection packs enough Priest punch to keep you “Hot Rockin’” for well over two hours. Insightful liner notes penned by long-time metal scribe Geoff Barton add to the value of this package, but no amount of words can properly illustrate the profound impact that Judas Priest had in defining the most powerful style of the Rock ‘n” Roll genre, heavy metal.

Although hits packages are often catalog crunchers, there are enough important tracks here to be worthy to casual Priest listeners to die-hard collectors. Many call Judas Priest originators and this impressive collection shows that the group had the Metal Gods have delivered the goods like none other. “The Essential Judas Priest” is just that, essential. In terms of sheer volume, this gathering of metal classics will easily become a cornerstone of the record collection of many a metalhead.


OMEGALORD - Hammerdown

Independent Release - 2004

Omegalord is all about delivering metal the way it should be. The hit the listener hard with a sound that is uncompromising, unforgiving and determinedly heavy as hell. Falling somewhere in between Judas Priest style classic metal and a thrashier BLS sound, this appropriately titled album really does bring the “Hammer Down” with ten powerful cuts of roots-based metal. The band’s vocalist, Reverend sings with a deep baritone snarl as the group rolls through the grooving riff machine “Skullbong.”

Omegalord kicks things into high gear on the thrashy “Smokescreen”, a track that shifts into fifth gear and never lets up. This cut features some great lyrics that fit the mood of the music perfectly, as Reverend belts out the poetry convincingly. The singer opts to keep the same vocal style throughout the record which is a determining factor in the group’s unique sound. “Roarin’ Through” is a biker’s anthem that contains a manic riff and a sound that is best described as purely mean.

The doomy strains of “Darkness” thump with a fury, fueled by bluesy licks and Reverend’s hellish howls. Musical points of reference include Clutch and the mighty Kinghorse, but this is a group that most assuredly has their own thing going on.

All in all, this is a fantastic package from the well produced music right down to the excellent liner, which features all of the lyrics and plenty of great art, making these guys one of the more welcomed surprises of the year. Make way for Omegalord!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

CHRIS POLAND - Return To Metalopolis Live

Return To Metalopolis Live
Lion Music

Having made quite a name for himself as the guitarist for Megadeth in the mid-eighties, Chris Poland has always been known as a very talented player. It’s a shame to hear “Return To Metalopolis: Live,” a substandard recording filled with errors, poor mixing and most shockingly, a putrid cover version of “Wake Up Dead,” from the Megadeth classic “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying.”

The vocals here are unfathomably terrible, so much so that it makes you want to shut the disc right off, and this is only the second track on the record. What’s most hard to accept about this record however, is the purely putrid mixing. By the time Poland and his bandmates have completely run “Wake Up Dead” into the ground, you’ll have the impression that things can’t get any worse.

Unfortunately, the situation certainly gets no better. To put this record out into the public so long after the release of the original studio “Return To Metalopolis,” it would have to be a live album of the highest caliber that had been somehow lost in time, only to be recently resurrected. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.

Sounding like it was recorded in front of a grand total of fifty people in no way helps.

Between songs, the crowd noise is so sparse; it’s difficult to believe anyone actually had the balls to release the album. Granted, you’ll hear the occasional wicked shred from Poland, but there’s just not enough excitement here to justify recommending “Return To Metalopolis: Live,” even to die-hard collectors.


Grave Digger – Yesterday

Grave Digger
Locomotive Records

In essence, a single’s worth of new music with a bonus DVD containing a decent selection of Grave Digger faves filmed five years ago (including a strong performance of “Heavy Metal Breakdown”), the focus here is the Queen-style title track “Yesterday.”

First off, let’s say that devoted fans of this tenured act will likely find this EP of interest, if only for completist aspirations. Grave Digger has enjoyed a faithful following for many years and for good reason. As forerunners of the power metal scene, virtually anything this band does will be met with a modicum of respect from headbangers in sleeveless jean jackets worldwide.

An emotive version of the Led Zeppelin classic “No Quarter” scores big for its dramatic instrumentation, while Digger heads find a solid look back at the band’s prototype metal styling in “The Reaper’s Dance,” which is a capable anthem in its own right. Of the two versions of “Yesterday” to be found here, the second, orchestral version is more certainly more compelling. But one question needs to be asked in light of this follow-up to the band’s impressive previous full-length.

Is Grave Digger moving forward or simply revisiting their past glories? Most likely, the group’s next full-length will tell the tale.

In the meantime, this offering is a solid enough placeholder between full albums to be worthy of some degree of attention from the group’s loyal supporters.


Crescent Shield - Crescent Shield

Crescent Shield
Crescent Shield
Cruz Del Sur Music

Here’s a platter of fist-pumping, chest-beating metal anthems from Crescent Shield forged with a deeply traditional appeal. In terms of songwriting, this iron clad alignment follows examples from “Killers”-era Iron Maiden, early Queensryche, Mercyful Fate and to a lesser extent, those of the Kings of Metal themselves, Manowar.

There’s a retro vibe to tracks like “Burn With Life” and “Slaves To The Metal Horde” that’s hard not to enjoy and at the same time, a minimal amount of camp that’s generally associated with metal warrior music of this flavor. Testosterone levels run high as the group undertakes resonating chromatic dives and mighty, sure-footed, double-bass-driven beats.

“The Last Of My Kind” opens with ringing acoustics and a steely solo, drifting off into the distance, only to return as a driving onslaught of power before lapsing back into subdued, shining melody. Tracks such as these underscore the affinity of Crescent Shield to craft a well-rounded cut.

Beholden to what many consider to be the glory days of heavy metal, this self-titled offering will be a welcome listen to any who are drawn to sing-along capable, thunderous metal sounds.