Random album reviews

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

No More Tears - Ozzy Osbourne
Format: CD/Digital

Ozzy's sixth album, the multiplatnium No More Tears which would become the final album prior to his first farewell tour, the infamous No More Tours tour, we all know how that turned out as he is currently attempting to do round 2 of it in 2022... Mr. Tinkertrain opens up the album it has the sound of children and a xylophone introducing it, or a music box, I can't tell for sure. Zakk Wylde has a nice shred at the start before the track goes midpaced and Ozzy asks a young girl if she wants some toys... which is frankly creepy but fitting. A nice catchy and driving track Ozzy sounds incredibly fitting on this track, there is a feeling of uneasiness due to the subject matter and his trademark vocals fit it quite well. I Don't Want To Change The World has a really long title, it comes in more upbeat that the previous track, the chorus drones on vocally but Zakk helps make up for it by shredding away at his guitar, It keeps the momentum going strong. Mama, I'm Coming Home is a phenomenal ballad, end of discussion. Desire has a low crunchy riff introducing it, the track keeps the momentum going hard and fast, the track has single written all over it, but the album already has two massive and incredible singles so not using this one makes sense as well. A brilliant rocker. No More Tears a 7 minute epic track and the albums lead single comes up next, a powerful bass line and some keyboard emphasis allows the track to build up, The eerie and creepy approach from Mr. Tinkertrain returns having been mastered in the meantime and allowing for Ozzy to absolutely nail this track. A brilliant title track, interesting choice of single due to the length and what they had to cut but still an excellent track. S.I.N. opens with a weeping solo, the drum kick in and the track has a nice head bobbing beat, it isn't quite as powerful as the previous 3 tracks but it is around on par with I Don't Want To Change The World if not a little stronger than the track, nice guitar work from Zakk, and the chorus is pretty easy to get into.

Hellraiser starts ominous, it is a pretty decent track, the solo is the highlight, Ozzy sounds good it just leaves a little to be desired during the verses and chorus. Time After Time comes in slower, it becomes a bit of a ballad, not nearly as powerful as the previous one on the album, a strong senitmental track which lacks the emotional connection of the previous one which makes this one look weaker by comparrison. It still is pretty good. Zombie Stomp has a pretty cool bass intro with a rumbling of something as well, this is the second longest track of the album, and it takes its time with this introduction, the energy increases throughout and Ozzy comes in strong, the track feels silly in spots but this is Ozzy. i could see this going over quite well live. It would have allowed for extended solos and giving Ozzy a break in different parts. A.V.H. has an acoustic introduction, this changes into another quick rocker, a nice rocker and a good shot of energy following the longer midpaced track that preceeded it. Road To Nowhere closes out the album, a strong midtempo track to close it all out, Ozzy sounds incredble here and the track has a lot of emotion behind it. An excellent track to end a really consistent and strong album.

Mr. Tinkertrain- 4.5/5
I Don't Want To Change The World - 4/5
Mama, I'm Coming Home - 5/5
Desire - 5/5
No More Tears - 5/5
S.I.N. - 4/5
Hellraiser - 3.5/5
Time After Time - 4/5
Zombie Stomp - 4/5
A.V.H. - 4.5/5
Road To Nowhere - 5/5

Adjusted 89%
Overall 88%
4 Stars
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Happy Jack - The Who
Format: Vinyl

Run Run Run opens up The Who's second album, Happy Jack the guitar tone is heavier than I expected given that this album was released in late 1966, but the track itself screams Beatles influence, which I'm not a fan of them so the stylistic approach doesn't do anything for me. Boris The Spider features John Entwhistle on lead vocals and the bass player delivers some nice licks and pretty good vocals, the title of the track is said in a low rumbling tone. The track is in line with their earlier work, not very impressive but enjoyable, the band hasn't really found their more progressive styles of the late 60s and 70s at this point. Humble beginnings. I Need You features drummer Keith Moon on vocals and it shows in his drum performance as he takes the lead of the track with his explosive style, his vocals are high and filled with falsetto, not the voice I'd expect from such a furious drummer. John takes the lead again on Whiskey Man the band may not be performing the musical style of theirs that I prefer but it is a nice track in the background, pleasent and probably will become a "pop" song that I enjoy listening to now and then. Cobwebs and Strange is an instrumental track, like the others thus far it clocks in at about 2.5 minutes which has recorders being used, the track sounds like a bit of a circius and could probably be used to introduce the band or as a nice little jam, Keith pounds his drums relentlessly. Happy Jack closes out the side, the title track of the US version of the album, and one not featured on the European version, sang by Roger and John the track sounds pleasent and the drumming in conjunction with Pete's guitar work shows some hints towards what the band would release in the future. A nice snapshot of the future.

Side 2 opens with Don't Look Away and it goes full Beatles mode, it doesn't do much for me. Pleasent background music. See My Way is the shortest track of the album, clocking in just shy of 2 minutes, it continues in the full blown Beatles approach, harmonies sound good but they just dive deeper into the sound. The production probably doesn't help due to the lack of heavier sounding music at this point, for reference Cream's debut comes out a week after this album. So Sad About Us comes in quicker and upbeat, it slows down and is a pleasent track from start to finish. A Quick One Whie He's Away is the only track where Pete is given vocal credits, the albums 9 minute closer and title track in Europe is their first track to be longer than 4 minutes, with a previous track (The Goods Gone) being their previous longest at 4:02. The track is an extended suite, it is the true groundwork for their concept albums and for lengthier tracks like Won't Get Fooled Again, We're Not Gonna Take It and Doctor Jimmy. A nice track, not mind blowing but it is a good one.

Run Run Run - 3/5
Boris The Spider - 3/5
I Need You - 3.5/5
Whiskey Man - 4/5
Cobwebs and Strange - 3.5/5
Happy Jack - 3.5/5

Don't Look Away - 2.5/5
See My Way - 3/5
So Sad About Us - 3/5
A Quick One While He's Away - 4/5

Adjusted 69%
Overall 66%
2 Stars
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Agents Of Fortune - Blue Oyster Cult
Format: CD/Digital

Blue Oyster Cult's sixth album kicks off with This Ain't The Summer Of Love a shorter track, sung by Eric. It has some early Alice Cooper feeling moments to it, a nice driving bassline is present and the track is a decent opener. There is a fair bit of backing vocals from the crew, and it sounds like a solid hard rock band. True Confessions, features keyboard isn't Alan Lanier on lead vocals, this album features all 5 members of the band taking lead vocals on at least one song, which is mindblowing that a band has 5 people who they feel are capable of taking lead. The track is a bit lighter and poppier than the opener, well composed and pretty solid throughout. If I remember correctly Alan has the lightest most poppy of the band members voices. (Don't Fear) The Reaper comes in requiring more cowbell, Buck takes over the vocals and knocks it out of the part with the track, mostly sung in harmonies throughout the track is a brilliant display of talent from every member, live the track has a wicked extended solo to it, and the studio version ain't shabby at all, a true psychedelic rock track. Brilliant, and Buck's only lead vocal performance of the album, I say it was well used. E.T.I. brings Eric back to the focus, deals with aliens, and frankly his vocals leave a fair bit to be desired, the harmonies help him out a bit but on his own he isn't singing as well as he can. However when those harmonies come in the track does get elevated to a next height and the musicianship from the band is amazing, the sci fi effects fit perfectly and the track has a wicked solo. The Revenge Of Vera Gemini features Alex Bouchard on lead vocals, his vocals have a nice effect on them. The downside of multiple vocalists is that when a vocalist leaves the band these songs get retired in a sense, since this is a nice track.

Sinful Love opens up the second half, Alex continues on lead vocals, his vocals less impacted by effects this time around, the effect made his voice stronger in the previous track, this one he delivers some nice vocals but not great. Instrumentally pretty strong as per the status quo at this point from them. Buck is clearly the showman of the band with his excellent and tasteful solos in basically every track thus far taking the prize. Alex himself delivers some good drumming and the fills are well done. Tattoo Vampire lets Eric back in the drivers seat and his approach seems very fitting for the track, a bit of a sillier track and a shorter one at that. Nice and high energy with a punch to it. Morning Final is Joe Bouchard's chance to have vocals rounding out the 5 members singing lead, a piano based introduction, his vocals sound phenomenal, probably the only ones thus far which have rivaled Buck's performance in (Don't Fear) The Reaper, smooth and clean, the track is slower and more balladlike while not quite reaching. Tenderloin segues in from the previous track, Eric takes his final vocal performance, the final of which will be covered by Alex, it has a weird guitar lick. Debbie Denise closes it all out, a nice ballad of sorts, it closes out the album nicely.

This Ain't The Summer Of Love - 3.5/5
True Confessions - 3.5/5
(Don't Fear) The Reaper - 5/5
E.T.I (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) - 3.5/5
The Revenge Of Vera Gemini - 4/5
Sinful Love - 3.5/5
Tattoo Vampire - 4.5/5
Morning Final - 4/5
Tenderloin - 3.5/5
Debbie Denise - 3.5/5

Adjusted 78%
Overall 77%
3 Stars

Album 465
will come sometime soonish, I've listened to 2/3rds of it, and I want to try something different with reviewing moving forwards, hopefully it works, and constructive feedback on it will be appreciated. (Or suggestions before hand as well would be good as well)
 

mckindog

Living for Sanctuary from the law
Staff member
Blue-Oyster-Cult-Frontiers.jpg

Blue Oyster Cult: The Symbol Remains

Nineteen years between releases makes it hard to approach news of a Blue Oyster Cult studio album without at least a hint of trepidation.

That becomes even more pronounced given I am a huge fan and consider the last good BOC album (depending on your definition) to have come out closer to 35 years ago.

I dropped the metaphorical needle without much expectation, but certainly a degree of hope.

* That Was Me hit exactly the right note as an opener. Riding a pummelling, ear-wormy riff straight into a memorable chorus in a manner reminiscent of up-tempo band classic tracks as Cities on Flame and Take Me Away, it makes two necessary statements: the band still can write hooks, and it has not gone at all soft. Eric Bloom snarling his way through a subversive John Shirley lyric and an abrupt musical left turn in the breakdown section just cement the message: the Old Gods Have Returned.

* The usual formula post-Bouchard brothers has been to alternate more metallic Bloom songs with melodic rock from Buck Dharma. Track two, Box In My Head, continues the trend. Light, bright and uptempo, it’s powered by a clean power chord riff. Buck’s voice still carries that mild-yet-magnetic quality that is his signature and his guitar fills are as tasty as ever. But a too-wordy chorus melody bogs things down. It’s an insidiously catchy, inoffensive track, but if it’s going to be the album’s signature Buck song, it doesn’t bode well.

* Over the years, every member of the original Blue Oyster Cult took turns singing lead. But hearing new guy (as in only 14 years a member) Richie Castellano’s voice on Tainted Blood was a bit of a shock. His singing is very good. And the song is incredibly well-played, produced and composed, with an absolutely massive chorus. Despite its very BOC subject matter about vampire love gone wrong, it feels more like Nightwish or Savatage at their most commercial, or something off a Joe-Lynn Turner era Rainbow album. It’s very good for what it is, but also very much a power ballad, and a departure from the eclectic, self-aware and insurgent Cult that fans have come to expect.

* Any suggestion BOC has gone Broadway is immediately shredded by the next track. Nightmare Epiphany is a mad funhouse of a song; it's a dense, image-drenched Twilight Zone-narrative lyric delivered in understated Buck fashion over a deceptively jaunty bounce and stuffed with New Orleans blues soloing — with some surf guitar riffing liberally sprinkled in for good measure. Simultaneously light and dark, with the band in telepathic lockstep, its style harkens back to Spectres-era heights.

* That necessary meld of the fresh and the familiar is maintained on the next track. Eric Bloom — sounding as good as he ever has — singing about conspiracy theories and alien abduction? What could be more BOC than that? Edge of the World is a relentless mid-tempo throb, at once grooving and unstoppable. As accessible as Tainted Blood, but more true to band canon, it’s a take leaning more to the latter days of the Cult legend (think Veteran of the Psychic Wars, or White Flags) with ridiculously catchy rhythmic and melodic hooks, complete with those ethereal signature BOC backing vocals and some subtle gothic keys.

* By the time the first chorus dropped on Richie singing track six, I was diving for the liner notes. Yes, The Machine is a Castellano-penned track. He also wrote Edge of the World and co-wrote Tainted Blood and That Was Me. A multi-instrumentalist, known for his Band Geek YouTube clips, this is Richie’s first BOC album. He’s clearly relishing the opportunity. Like his preceding tracks, The Machine adds a commercial catchiness to the band’s ouevre and is a huge part of the energy and freshness of this album. The song is not going to be universally loved; it’s a pop rock song about cell phones after all, from a band best known for being dark and subversive. But it’s not out of character; sonically it is very much in keeping with tracks like Burning For You, or 2001’s Pocket with Richie’s more emotive vocals replacing Buck’s cool. More importantly, it’s smart, tightly played, fun, and hooky as hell.

* “Feelings, feelings, are somewhat symptomatic of societal abrasions that can form electric static” Train True (Lenny’s Song) is bizarre and obscure, both lyrically and musically — a hodgepodge of rock and hobo railroad country blues, with crazy tempo swings and a double-time chorus that harkens back to The Red and the Black. It’s anachronistic flavour means it’s not going to exactly be accessible, but it is inventive, challenging and catchier than you might think at first blush.

* The less-commercial bent continues on the rocker The Return of St. Cecilia, which features more shifts, a dirty AC/DC riff, some pumping Hammond organ, boogie piano flourishes and some nasty Buck playing. This is another Richie song, but one that sounds like it could have come from the Bouchard brothers in the band’s ‘70s heyday.

* Blue Oyster Cult was certainly a heavy music pioneer, but it’s questionable whether the band ever qualified as metal, at least by 2020 standards. Stand and Fight says hold my sword. Powered by an ominous bass line, a chugging power chord riff, a dramatic instrumental mid-section and a chanting gang vocal chorus, the song is certainly heavy, and metal, at least by the standards of mid-‘80s Metallica or Manowar. It’s both simplistic and cheesy fun.

* One thing curiously absent from the album so far, has been the signature Buck Dharma song. For many it will arrive here in the form of Florida Man, a sardonic, deceptively laid-back explanation of what is really behind those odd headlines coming out of the Sunshine State. It features both the the mildly unsettling pull of Buck’s vocals and the tasty melodic swoops of his lead guitar. This isn’t an obvious song, more one primed to sneak up people’s playlist upon repeated listenings.

* On its heels comes the other band box not yet checked: the epic track. The Alchemist represents something we haven’t really seen on a BOC album since Albert Bouchard left the band. Six minutes of heavy riffing and gothic piano as Bloom spits out a Lovecraftian tale of murder and horror divided by an exquisite Iron Maiden-esque double-time harmony guitar interlude, the song is a worthy successor to tracks like In the Presence of Another World and Nosferatu and will likely be the album’s signature track for many fans.

* Secret Road fits its title: a mid-tempo driving blues-rock groove evoking dark backroads and darker tales untold. Nicely powered by drummer Jules Radino and bassist Danny Miranda (who deserve credit for giving the entire album a diverse and tight bottom end), this one is a vehicle for Buck’s emotional guitar leads, and comes with a surprisingly positive lyrical message. It should help satisfy anyone finding the album lacking in his signature stylings.

* If there is a filler track on the album, it’s probably There’s a Crime. Not that it’s bad, it just kinda feels like somebody said, we need a straight-ahead rocker somewhere on here and this was offered up as the solution. It’s got some energy and thump and probably would cook live, although given the depth of the band’s archives, it’s an unlikely choice to pop up in many setlists.

* It turns out Florida Man was a red herring. It may have taken 14 tracks to get there, but the signature Buck song here is the album closer, the too-brief Fight. Opening with an ethereal riff this enigmatic song is at once as warm as a sunny autumn day and as bittersweet and elusive as mist over the ocean at sunset. In a minor key and augmented by those ‘cult’ background vocals (and, of course, a muted cowbell) it is an intensely satisfying close for fans who have gone two full decades without.

The Symbol Remains (both a line from the 1983 track Shadow of California and a well-placed play on the band’s trademark cross-and-sickle logo) is more than a pleasant surprise. It’s a reason to celebrate for those still holding a candle for the eclectic American proto-metal pioneers.

Polished, diverse and remarkably deep, the album hits a lot of familiar BOC touchstones with the expected chops, but also a surprising amount of hooks, variety and verve. It’s hardly groundbreaking, but it is engaging and a lot of fun.

The Symbol Remains indeed.
 
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The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Alive In Athens - Iced Earth
Format: Vinyl

It is early Winter in 1999, and Iced Earth are touring for their 5th album, Something Wicked This Way Comes, it is at this time that the band decides to record two of their shows for a future live album, back to back shows done in Athens Greece, which would become the monstrous 3 hour live album Alive In Athens.

A 32 track package including the bonus track, of which all 5 of the bands studio albums are represented quite nicely with every album receiving at least 50% of its original tracklisting being featured, with a heavy focus between the two nights on their most recent two records, the aforementioned Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Dark Saga, not to be scoffed at Night Of The Stormrider has 6 songs featured on the set, where Ice Earth and Burnt Offerings has 4 tracks each l being the least represented here.

Because the band provided every track which they performed on those two nights it is possible to recreate each show as it was originally played. Both sets are stellar throughout and the album as it was released is a nice blend of the two often playing several tracks from one night in a row allowing for a nice flow throughout it as the songs transition from one to another. The two sets open very different, night 1 opens with Burning Times off of their most recent record, a roaring rocker which Matt Barlow shows off his ferocity right from the get go, before transitioning into the equally aggressive Vengeance Is Mine. Night 2 takes a softer approach opening with Dark Saga and The Last Laugh personally I think the night 1 opening would have been far more impressive 1-2 punch but both lead off the show quite well, frankly this entire album is really strong and I agree it deserves the praise it has received on here and throughout the last 21 years.

Some early highlights on this sprawling 5LP set are Melencholy, Dante’s Inferno and Travel In Stygian, 2 epics and a commercial sized rocker. Melencholy is one of my favourite Iced Earth tracks and it is performed incredibly here, the lower notes from Barlow exceed the studio version throughout and his live tone is phenomenal, an excellent track. Dante’s Inferno had never been performed at this point by the band and wasn’t performed for many years following this singular show, it isn’t quite my cup of tea but I cannot deny it is a brilliant and masterful composition, Burnt Offerings likely will be my least favourite of the Barlow classic era of Iced Earth due to the sheer aggression, but props where it is due. Travel In Stygian is a brilliant story told through song, Barlow unleashes some absolutely wicked screams and wails throughout the track.

One really nice thing about the varied setlists between the two shows is that the band can shift up some of their more extensive tracks up between the nights this is evident as they chose to do several tracks in their album order in places. On night 1 this only took place in the encore as they performed the final two tracks of The Suffering trilogy, although I would count Dante’s as several tracks so that would make the first night having two of them. The Suffering components which were performed were absolutely brilliant especially A Question Of Heaven which could have closed out the show perfectly however the bands eponymous track would end up being used instead. The epic from Dark Saga is a masterpiece in studio, it is a work of art live, brilliant screams and amazing performance throughout. Night 2 featured two different sets of tracks, in the main set the first 3 tracks from Night Of The Stormrider were played in sequence, all were brilliant, Angels Holocaust honestly should have opened up the show for the second night it would have been an excellent and brutal choice. The Something Wicked Trilogy is also performed in full this night as the encore, while it concludes with The Coming Curse which is amazing, the previous two tracks don’t quite hold the same power and excellence, but they still remained pretty darn great.

A few spots where the album was lacking in some aspects was night 1’s choices of Stand Alone and Cast In Stone which together were the weakest two tracks back to back in the show and on the album, not that they weren’t good and enjoyable just a notably weaker set of tracks than the rest of the package. This and frankly The Suffering should have been played in full on the first night. A Question Of Heaven likely should have been played both nights but that is getting pretty darn picky.

The main set each night closed with the combo of I Died For You and Violate both from The Dark Saga, I for one love I Died For You and it was excellent both nights a strong midpaced track which would make way for the absolute shred fest which closes out the show after it. Violate is good, and ends with a nice The Trooper tag on the end which is brilliant. The show itself ends with Iced Earth which has some nice extended solos and crowd participation.

Before I wrap this up there are two final tracks I would like to mention because well they are amazing, those are Watching Over Me and When The Night Falls, the first is an amazing ballad performed with enough oomph to make it a strong track at any point in the setlist and the second is a sprawling epic made incredibly by Barlow.

Phenomenal album from start to finish, and what amazing cover art!

4.5 Stars
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
Alive In Athens is a really, really great live album. Almost every performance is great and often times are even better than the studio ones (but it depends on the song). I’ve only ever listened to it in the original 3CD tracklist order, and IMO the first disc is stellar, the second is strong, and the third is solid. I wanna get my hands on the new vinyl edition and see if the altered tracklist makes it better, because it really is a great album overall.
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner
Alive In Athens is a really, really great live album. Almost every performance is great and often times are even better than the studio ones (but it depends on the song). I’ve only ever listened to it in the original 3CD tracklist order, and IMO the first disc is stellar, the second is strong, and the third is solid. I wanna get my hands on the new vinyl edition and see if the altered tracklist makes it better, because it really is a great album overall.
The new vinyl was fantastic a bit of a chore to get through just due to length but so good throughout.
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
I would like to get that vinyl someday. AiA is absolutely a top tier live album. It harkens back to the 70s when live albums were often the band’s most essential recording and held in as high esteem as the studio albums (Kiss Alive, Cheap Trick Budokan, Deep Purple Made in Japan, Zappa at Roxy, the list goes on). I much prefer it to the studio albums, which I find to be a little overly polished at times. The only pre AiA album I frequently go back to is Burnt Offerings, which isn’t super represented in the live album and still has a lot to offer as its own thing.
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Once - Nightwish
Format: CD/Digital

Nightwish’s fifth album and their final one with original lead singer Tarja Turunen before her departure from the band due to conflicts, it arrives in June of 2004, following up their Century Child album from 2 years prior.

First things first, I’m rather new to the band despite having owned Decades it sat un-listened on shelf as I have come to hate compilation records in general as they are so slanted in many cases that they don’t give a full look of the bands actual catalog, mostly just the singles. Nightwish wasted no time showing their talents on this album, right from the start the songs are melodic, heavy and masterfully performed. Dark Chest Of Wonders has a nice crunch to it and second single Wish I Had An Angel continues the momentum while adding different elements into the sound, which will be discussed later. These two introductory tracks are excellent for warming up the listener for what to expect, they really are just previews in a sense.

There are two things on this album which I would consider weaker or unnecessary to the extent they are used. The first being several of the tracks have spoken word introductions, with a few also having spoken passages, while they fit the songs and are very well done both within the music and thematically they seem to occur too often. The other thing is the singing in Finnish on Kuolema Tekee Taitelijan which creates a disconnect for me, this in reality is a nitpick and I appreciate the fact the band will sing in their native tongue, maybe an English version as a bonus track would have been cool.

After the 1-2 punch of the introduction the band hits their stride with 4 tracks in a row which are in my opinion excellent masterpieces, these being, Nemo, Planet Hell, Creek Mary’s Blood and The Siren. All 4 of these tracks feel unique and have excellent components. Nemo was a brilliant choice in single, Planet Hell theatrical with an extensive introduction. Creek Mary’s Blood a monstrous epic with some very primal roots feel to it in spots and Indigenous singing as well. These 3 are brilliant tracks and the following track is amazing as well but it will be spoken about in the next chunk of this review.

On several of the tracks Marco the bassist takes co-lead vocals, his voice isn’t always the best at blending with Tarja, these tracks are sprinkled throughout the album, the two most of note are Wish I Had An Angel and The Siren. Wish I Had An Angel is the most similar to the others where Marco takes on the lead for the chorus only, in which he adds a lot of contrast to the melodic and operatic vocals for Tarja, he sounds like the natural choice for male singer if you were to remove some of the symphonic elements of the band. The Siren is his spotlight track, a brilliant track which features minimal verses sung by Tarja focusing on Marco with some softer vocals in the background from her.

One final track needing to be discussed is the albums epic, Ghost Score Love, as it fully encapsulates what the band is doing on every other track. Majestic and theatrical with a brilliant blend of more traditional metal, folk and symphonic elements, a masterpiece just like the album.

4.5 Stars
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Helloween - Helloween
Format: CD/Digital

1985, unveils the german power and speed metal band, Helloween their debut EP comes in with an interesting introduction, it begins with someone snoring and leads into the sounds of radio channels being switched, then a happy Halloween greeting comes in and the metal begins…

Helloween is a brutal fast paced EP, especially the first 3 tracks, once the octane has been hit on the stellar opener Starlight it doesn’t slow down until the end of Warrior, all 3 tracks are fast paced hard rocking with some wicked screams from Kai, amazing solos from Michael and an unending shred fest. Victim Of Fate’s chorus is brilliant and the wails on it are the icing on the cake, it has a slower component which breaks up the fast tempo and adds a different dynamic to the EP. Cry For Freedom starts acoustic, which shows off the weakest part of the EP, Kai’s vocals, he isn’t an amazing singer, but he suits some of the songs quite well, the best of which would be either Starlight or Victim Of Fate. His vocals just don’t have much to them and they really aren’t that likeable when in a slower track but when he can just wail away they can work.

4 Stars
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Walls Of Jericho - Helloween
Format: CD/Digital

The full length debut from Helloween came out roughly 35 years ago this week, it is an impressive showing however it and the EP should have had some of their tracks shifted into a singular release which would have been far stronger in my opinion. Side openers Walls Of Jericho/Ride The Sky and Metal Invaders do good jobs getting the energy up, the former being a far stronger track and an incredible driving track. Whereas Metal Invaders leaves a lot to be desired, this will be expanded upon later. The album had 3 absolute masterpiece tracks in Walls Of Jericho/Ride The Sky, Phantoms Of Death and How Many Tears all 3 are unbelievably powerful shredfests which elevate the album as the other tracks fall short in comparrison more often than not. Each of these 3 tracks Kai's vocals suit quite well and he delivers perfectly throughout with some wicked screams.

The weakest part of the album, well is Kai's vocals, the man just doesn't have a strong singing voice for a whole album format, had he sang 1-2 tracks on an album I'm sure it would be fine but he doesn't hold a candle to the bands later singers in terms of enjoyabilty as the album goes on. Aside from the 3 aforementioned amazing tracks the rest all feature passable vocals for the most part, with Guardians being the only other track to recieve a rating of 4/5 or higher. Metal Invaders and Gorgar feature some weird vocal effects which somehow make the vocals worse.

Instrumentally the album is phenomenal, every members plays incredibly and the band is sure to become a force to be wreckoned with, the jump between this and their next two albums is incredible with the additional influences being added in and more progressive styles being utilized really benefits the band. I wonder what this would have sounded like with Michael Kiske on lead vocals since I'm sure it would have been a little bit stronger thats for sure.

3 Stars
Side 1:
Starlight
Judas
Guardians
Victim of Fate

Side 2:
Walls Of Jericho/Ride The Sky
Phantoms Of Death
How Many Tears



 

KidInTheDark666

What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine too
The musicianship on Walls of Jericho is amazing indeed. I'm not a huge fan of Kai's singing either, but the truth is that Helloween's instrumentation suffered greatly after he departed.
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner
The musicianship on Walls of Jericho is amazing indeed. I'm not a huge fan of Kai's singing either, but the truth is that Helloween's instrumentation suffered greatly after he departed.
I have yet to hear a full album without Kai, but I could see him being a massive loss to the band based on what I've read. I have two more Helloween albums to listen to then I will decide if I continue through the rest of the catalog. Iced Earth and Nightwish are sort of in the same boat but I have 3 or 4 left for them.
 

KidInTheDark666

What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine too
I have yet to hear a full album without Kai, but I could see him being a massive loss to the band based on what I've read. I have two more Helloween albums to listen to then I will decide if I continue through the rest of the catalog. Iced Earth and Nightwish are sort of in the same boat but I have 3 or 4 left for them.
Cool. I need to mention that the songwriting itself didn’t decline a lot, it's just that the main focus seemed to move from instrumental parts to hooks and vocal melodies.
 
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The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Century Child - Nightwish
Format: CD/Digital

Nightwish's fourth studio album Century Child was released in June of 2002, an album clocking in at an accessible and healthy length of 50 minutes. This is the beginning of the band shifting away from a more operatic sound from lead singer Tarja and more towards their rock oriented approach. One thing that can be said about this album is it is quite theatrical and I would be very much interested in seeing a proper stage show be undertaken by the band in a similar way to Alice Cooper since these songs excude theatrics and over the top productions.

The two singles for the album are Ever Dream and album opener Bless The Child, I've heard both before and both in their later era live renditions with Floor on lead vocals. Bless The Child is a nice opener, it sets the tone of the album with theatrical tones and softer operatic vocals from Tarja, this track is much stronger live in my opinion and needs a bit more of a harder edge to it. That being said it is well chosen for both of its roles. Ever Dream was the albums lead single, and frankly it is the strongest track on the album, from start to finish it is an incredible power ballad with excellent excution from all band members, Marco's backing vocals are quite well placed here and are only sprinkled into spots throughout the song. It is a masterpiece.

End Of All Hope and Dead To The World start very similarily to each other, which is a common theme throughout the album that many tracks feel very similar, as a whole the album is quite midpaced with several ballads in the middle of it. The ballads after Ever Dream aren't nearly as powerful they are good songs but they need a harder backing with the softer vocals provided by Tarja. This hurts the album in spots and the same tempo for many of the tracks does reduce variety a fair bit.

The Phantom Of The Opera also screams these theatrical elements having been originally written for the play of the same name back in the 1980s. Duets like Feel For You and Slaying The Dreamer show off the bands chemistry which creates some needed variety in terms of the bands sound. Beauty Of The Beast the albums massive 10 minute closer supports the theatrics comments from earlier, it is a nice track but could do with a bit more bombast in spots.

4 Stars
 

Jer

Sweet voices come into my head


Mekong Delta - Tales Of A Future Past (2020)

Six years after the somewhat disappointing In A Mirror Darkly, Mekong Delta returned with a new concept album featuring a more inspired set of songs, incorporating orchestral and middle eastern sounds with their distinctive brand of progressive metal.

While the conceit of the album involves discovering the recorded history of an ancient civilization and learning of the roots of its downfall, those events are a mirror to our modern times, and it’s an open question whether we are the civilization that fell, or whether we are the ones discovering the ancient message as a warning of what to avoid.
  • Landscape 1 - Into The Void - Tense strings, flute, and percussive accents set the stage for what’s to come. Not really a song, but a haunting and effective intro to the album. Great for what it’s meant to do, 8/10.
  • Mental Entropy - A driving, odd-rhythm riff propels a solid verse 1 into a strong verse 2 with thick harmonized guitars. This leads into a variant verse 2 with a busier guitar lead before returning to verse 1, which cuts into a tension-building pre-chorus and a big, catchy, chiming chorus. A brief rhythmic breakdown leads back to a series of verses, then a cool multi-part solo section and a spoken word bridge. Another series of verses returns to the pre-chorus and chorus, then a quick single-word ending. A great opener, a robust 8/10.
  • A Colony Of Liar Men - A clean guitar lead with distorted guitar accents supports a soft introduction that breaks into a heavier verse. This cuts unexpectedly into a lighter harmonized chorus 1 that breaks into a heavier chorus 2. Another verse and choruses lead into a somewhat rote ascending bridge where the vocals double the guitar line before turning into a more repetitive soaring vocal that gives way to a clean arpeggiated outro. The rote part of the bridge is the only weaker element here, and the rest is excellent. 9/10.
  • Landscape 2 - Waste Land - A synth string fanfare breaks into a marching beat with rock drums, synth horns, and distorted guitar accents with middle eastern melodies. This falls away for a harp interlude, then returns for another round, eventually leading into a pair of acoustic and electric guitar solos that end with a dueling acoustic/electric bit. A rhythmic breakdown cuts into another series of solos that heavily evoke 70s Genesis as the rock orchestration continues on underneath. A return to the middle eastern guitar leads and a reprise of the opening groove builds to a sudden ending. An excellent instrumental that maybe slightly overstays its welcome, but still merits a 9/10.
  • Mindeater - A driving 5/4 riff leads into a solid verse which gives way to a relatively laid back guitar lead. This breaks into a lighter call-and-response pre-chorus that builds back through a heavier interlude to a final vocal. A cool but not exactly catchy chorus leads into a series of solos reminiscent of older Megadeth. This leads into a rhythmic vocal bridge before folding back into the pre-chorus and a variant chorus. A reprise of the laid back guitar lead returns to the variant chorus before a rhythmic breakdown with some soloing closes things out. Excellent music with slightly less successful vocals rounds this down to an 8/10.
  • The Hollow Men - A Megadeth-ish descending guitar intro breaks into a rumbling riff with laid back lead support. This leads into a solid verse, followed by an odd series of pre-choruses that are less appealing, before breaking into a big, soaring chorus. An odd-rhythm interlude with some frenetic soloing follows. Another round of verse through chorus leads to a quick ending on the final chorus vocal. The song’s strong verse and great chorus have a lot of appeal, but the awkward pre-choruses drag this down. Let’s say 7/10 overall.
  • Landscape 3 - Inharent - Spacey synths and an electronic lead are joined by heavy rhythmic accents before breaking into a heavy odd-rhythm riff. This eventually cuts into a more driving groove with distant soloing. Various rhythmic change-ups eventually lead to a more ethereal section with chiming melodies and distorted leads. This returns to the opening odd-rhythm riff before leading into a more driving staccato section with spacey synths and a brief reprise of the opening to end the song. Another great instrumental, 8/10.
  • When All Hope Is Gone - Synth and acoustic guitar support a plaintive, soaring verse vocal. This breaks into a heavier, more cacophonous section with thickly layered vocals. An orchestrated interlude leads into a softer verse 2 that blossoms into a long high note. This leads into a heavy, tension-building pre-chorus, a brief synthy interlude reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s “Little 15”, and a short upbeat chorus. This breaks into a synth-supported solo section followed by a longer orchestrated interlude. A reprise of the earlier synthy interlude leads into an extended acoustic and vocal outro. This is the longest song on the album, lasting nearly 10 minutes. It bites off a little more than it can chew, but I think it delivers strongly enough to hold onto an 8/10.
  • A Farewell To Eternity - An a capella opening breaks into a harmonized vocal with acoustic support. This leads into an appealing verse and an acoustic interlude with electric guitar accents. The music builds through another verse and interlude into a catchy, swaying chorus and vocal bridge before an abrupt ending. Good stuff, 7/10.
  • Landscape 4 - Pleasant Ground - Largely an adaptation of “Sevilla” from Isaac Albéniz’s Suite Española, Op. 47, the first half of the track goes full electric neoclassical before migrating to a clean section that eventually builds the electric guitars back in, culminating in a reprise of the opening fanfare. A great finale to a great album, 8/10.
Average: 8.0/10
Weighted: 8.1/10

What a difference six years makes. While the band’s previous album sounded a bit tired and uninspired, Tales Of A Future Past was a creative rejuvenation, bringing in new sounds and mixing them in with the complex rhythms and song structures that were hallmarks of the band’s style. Singer Martin LeMar got to stretch further than before, with more opportunities for both soft and full-throated balladic singing alongside his more typical metal delivery, and the songs themselves were more cohesive and memorable than on their last outing.

The lyrics hold up a mirror to modern politics, calling out the institutionalization of lying and anti-intellectualism, the gullibility of the masses, and the consequences of leaving those forces unchecked. While the grammar is a bit awkward if you’re paying close attention, the message is clear, and there are some pretty funny turns of phrase like “mental flatliners” and “perdition wells up out of their lying loads”.

For anyone who enjoyed Wanderer On The Edge Of Time, this is a good next stop in the discography — the lineup is mostly the same and the quality of the work is still great. I’m looking forward to their next album, whenever that may be...
 
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