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Crystal Viper - Legends (2010)
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Are you of the opinion that NWOTHM is the best thing since sliced bread? Does the idea of a lady-fronted band that isn't even remotely trying to ape Nightwish or Within Temptation strike you as a novelty? I present to you Poland's Crystal Viper. This is a band that arrived on the scene back in 2007 and, to coin a phrase, started playing NWOBHM-tastic power metal about six years before it was cool and managed to do so in a highly convincing manner. Given the current power metal climate, it would be tempting to gush endlessly about the vocal talents of frontwoman Marta Gabriel; indeed, her hard-edged style punctuated with the odd shriek makes for tremendous listening. However, the top-shelf guitar work of Andy Wave is equally responsible for completing the band's old-school, and features subtle notes of hard rock and later power metal thrown into a predominantly NWOBHM style. Legends is the band's third album (and the only one I've heard in full thus far), and what an album it is. After a cheese-tastic spoken word intro, the album opens strongly with the Running Wild-esque Ghost Ship and the hard-n-fast Blood of the Heroes, both of which make for good listening, and this quality is more or less maintained throughout the album; truth be told, I could simply list every track here (with the exception of Sydonia Bork, an out-of-place downbeat track which really does disrupt the album's flow), such is the consistent high quality of the album. A particular highlight for me is Night of the Sin, which not only best illustrates all the points made in this review but also features not one, but two fantastic riffs within the first thirty seconds (the second of which once again seems to have been heavily influenced by Running Wild) in addition to a cracking chorus; everything about this song is why I love power metal. That said, this statement could well apply to the entire entire back half of the album (Goddess of Death to Black Leviathan). In short, it's a damn shame this lot haven't found greater success.

 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner
I figure social distancing will let me finish off Dream Theaters Discography, and Sons Of Apollo.


A Dramatic Turn Of Events - Dream Theater
Format: CD/Digital

A spacy introduction brings in the first Dream Theater album with out Mike Portnoy on drums. Some acoustic guitars soon join the psychedelia as the band builds up the is bursts around the one and a half minute mark with a choir coming in emphasising the musicians. James enters following a nice little keyboard lick. His vocals less fluid than in the past but this broken up approach really suits the track thus far so we will see where it goes. This track really has that epic feeling of their earlier 90s albums. A rather subdued keyboard solo segues into a very melodic guitar solo the track continuing to have that building feeling throughout and the past 7 minutes have just flown by not feeling like the track is as long as it actually is. A rather promising start to the album. Build Me Up, Break Me Down comes up next with a more industrial introduction and the track takes a heavier approach right from the start, the chorus for this track goes towards commercial for the start but ends with a scream which I didn't expect. The verses vocals are distorted slightly, and sound distant they are definetely back further in the mix to allow for the more commanding chorus. I like it quite a bit, a different track but quite good. Lost Not Forgotten opens with a very calm piano piece accompanied by the sound of waves, however as one would expect this wasn't to last as the band comes in strong building up in a way which honestly would have made this first segment a great way to come in to open a show, we will see if the rest of the song fits the show opener slot soon, this is the first track surpassing 10 minutes in length albiet barely. The chorus has some furious drum work from newcomer Mike Mangini. James sounds pretty strong here, once again his voice a little distroted in the chorus. A strong track throughout although I feel it could have been cut down in the length a little bit. The solo section begins at the 6 and a half minute mark or so and does give each member a chance to shine however it quite to the standard the band has set in the past. This Is The Life comes in with a short but emotionally charged guitar solo into some calm piano work, the first ballad of the album, James shines throughout vocally, not their most emotionally charged ballad for the first chunk however the ending of it is pretty darn strong. The keyboard and guitar work are fantastic. Making for another great track. Bridges In The Sky begins with a very low drumbeat and what sounds like a mix of a yawn a snore and some distortion, winds come in and the choir from earlier comes back, this introduction doesn't last too long by Dream Theater standards before erupting in a hard hitting rock epic. This track really falls in line with the opener in terms of calling back to the bands earlier work, I could see this being mixed in with something from Images And Words or Scenes From A Memory sound wise at least. A brilliant and lengthy chorus, this song took a bit to get going but wow is it easily the strongest thus far.

Outcry comes up next, opening with another low rumbling keyboard centred introduction and when that breaks a wall of sound is born, symphonic and powerful there is very little build to this intro unlike previous ones on the album. Very clear imagry calls back to the first world war from the opening verse. The band pulls back after a couple verses into a very mystical segment, before once again erupting with passion and emotion. A lengthy instrumental section ensues which like the previous lengthened one on the album doesn't quite reach the heights I think it could. The closing chorus' are well delivered and empowering. Another consistent album at this point with only 3 tracks left. Far From Heaven opens up very ballad like, which having heard there is 3 ballads on the album I suspect this will be the case, very quickly this track establishes itself as a powerful emotional piece. Amazing. Breaking All Illusions doesn't waste any of its twelve and a half minute runtime getting to the point, picking the speed up from the start this track doesn't have any sort of building intro instead it hits the ground running. However when James joins the band shifts back to a more pulled back style. His transitioning between near whispers to soaring extended notes. The first instrumental section, finally hits the spot which the others didn't quite reach, but the continuation into the second distinct segment of instrumentals does make it go on a little too long for my liking. Beneath The Surface transitions in from the ending of Breaking All Illusions the closing track of the album, another emotional ballad which I feel continues to build on what was started in Far From Heaven. The solo on this track is from an instrument which I cannot name, but it is well suited to the track. I feel like this track would be a great track to play just before Lifting Shadows Off A Dream. A great closer.

On The Backs Of Angels - 9/10
Build Me Up, Break Me Down - 9/10
Lost Not Forgotten - 8.5/10
This Is The Life - 9/10
Bridges In The Sky - 9.5/10
Outcry - 9/10
Far From Heaven - 10/10
Breaking All Illusions - 9.5/10
Beneath The Surface - 10/10

Overall 93%
Adjusted 92%
Stars 4.5


Another really great album.
 

KidInTheDark666

What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine too
I figure social distancing will let me finish off Dream Theaters Discography, and Sons Of Apollo.


A Dramatic Turn Of Events - Dream Theater
Format: CD/Digital

A spacy introduction brings in the first Dream Theater album with out Mike Portnoy on drums. Some acoustic guitars soon join the psychedelia as the band builds up the is bursts around the one and a half minute mark with a choir coming in emphasising the musicians. James enters following a nice little keyboard lick. His vocals less fluid than in the past but this broken up approach really suits the track thus far so we will see where it goes. This track really has that epic feeling of their earlier 90s albums. A rather subdued keyboard solo segues into a very melodic guitar solo the track continuing to have that building feeling throughout and the past 7 minutes have just flown by not feeling like the track is as long as it actually is. A rather promising start to the album. Build Me Up, Break Me Down comes up next with a more industrial introduction and the track takes a heavier approach right from the start, the chorus for this track goes towards commercial for the start but ends with a scream which I didn't expect. The verses vocals are distorted slightly, and sound distant they are definetely back further in the mix to allow for the more commanding chorus. I like it quite a bit, a different track but quite good. Lost Not Forgotten opens with a very calm piano piece accompanied by the sound of waves, however as one would expect this wasn't to last as the band comes in strong building up in a way which honestly would have made this first segment a great way to come in to open a show, we will see if the rest of the song fits the show opener slot soon, this is the first track surpassing 10 minutes in length albiet barely. The chorus has some furious drum work from newcomer Mike Mangini. James sounds pretty strong here, once again his voice a little distroted in the chorus. A strong track throughout although I feel it could have been cut down in the length a little bit. The solo section begins at the 6 and a half minute mark or so and does give each member a chance to shine however it quite to the standard the band has set in the past. This Is The Life comes in with a short but emotionally charged guitar solo into some calm piano work, the first ballad of the album, James shines throughout vocally, not their most emotionally charged ballad for the first chunk however the ending of it is pretty darn strong. The keyboard and guitar work are fantastic. Making for another great track. Bridges In The Sky begins with a very low drumbeat and what sounds like a mix of a yawn a snore and some distortion, winds come in and the choir from earlier comes back, this introduction doesn't last too long by Dream Theater standards before erupting in a hard hitting rock epic. This track really falls in line with the opener in terms of calling back to the bands earlier work, I could see this being mixed in with something from Images And Words or Scenes From A Memory sound wise at least. A brilliant and lengthy chorus, this song took a bit to get going but wow is it easily the strongest thus far.

Outcry comes up next, opening with another low rumbling keyboard centred introduction and when that breaks a wall of sound is born, symphonic and powerful there is very little build to this intro unlike previous ones on the album. Very clear imagry calls back to the first world war from the opening verse. The band pulls back after a couple verses into a very mystical segment, before once again erupting with passion and emotion. A lengthy instrumental section ensues which like the previous lengthened one on the album doesn't quite reach the heights I think it could. The closing chorus' are well delivered and empowering. Another consistent album at this point with only 3 tracks left. Far From Heaven opens up very ballad like, which having heard there is 3 ballads on the album I suspect this will be the case, very quickly this track establishes itself as a powerful emotional piece. Amazing. Breaking All Illusions doesn't waste any of its twelve and a half minute runtime getting to the point, picking the speed up from the start this track doesn't have any sort of building intro instead it hits the ground running. However when James joins the band shifts back to a more pulled back style. His transitioning between near whispers to soaring extended notes. The first instrumental section, finally hits the spot which the others didn't quite reach, but the continuation into the second distinct segment of instrumentals does make it go on a little too long for my liking. Beneath The Surface transitions in from the ending of Breaking All Illusions the closing track of the album, another emotional ballad which I feel continues to build on what was started in Far From Heaven. The solo on this track is from an instrument which I cannot name, but it is well suited to the track. I feel like this track would be a great track to play just before Lifting Shadows Off A Dream. A great closer.

On The Backs Of Angels - 9/10
Build Me Up, Break Me Down - 9/10
Lost Not Forgotten - 8.5/10
This Is The Life - 9/10
Bridges In The Sky - 9.5/10
Outcry - 9/10
Far From Heaven - 10/10
Breaking All Illusions - 9.5/10
Beneath The Surface - 10/10

Overall 93%
Adjusted 92%
Stars 4.5


Another really great album.
ADTOE is definitely a very strong album. I think that Rudess and Petrucci particularly give one of their best performances to this day. Sadly IMO there's a significant drop in the quality of the albums after this one.
 

Lampwick 43

Covid Warrior
I love ADTOE. It is the DT album that has by far grown on me the most since the first time I listened to it when it first came out. On the Backs of Angels, Lost Not Forgotten, This is the Life, and Breaking All Illusions all get 10/10's from me.
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner
ADTOE is definitely a very strong album. I think that Rudess and Petrucci particularly give one of their best performances to this day. Sadly IMO there's a significant drop in the quality of the albums after this one.

Considering the run they had up to this point. It was bound to happen but I had heard the next few are worse. I’m not sure I’ll do The Astonishing mainly cause of it being 2 hours long is rather listen to 2 albums than one monstrosity
 

KidInTheDark666

What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine too
Considering the run they had up to this point. It was bound to happen but I had heard the next few are worse. I’m not sure I’ll do The Astonishing mainly cause of it being 2 hours long is rather listen to 2 albums than one monstrosity
The Astonishing is a tricky one. It might be better to listen to and review the two discs separately.
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner
The Astonishing is a tricky one. It might be better to listen to and review the two discs separately.

I may do that, it is what I did with 6 degrees. We will see, I'm also relistening to Distance Over Time at some point since when I heard it a year ago I wasn't that impressed and held off on listening to Scenes From A Memory for about 8 months as a result...
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Dream Theater - Dream Theater
Format: CD/Digital

Dream Theater begins with a short instrumental piece False Awakening Suite starts strong and builds up tension, the piece is split into 3 components which while they are different I don't know why it had to be specified that they were 3 different parts as the track isn't even 3 minutes in length. Overall a nice intro. The Enemy Inside takes a direct approach to the introduction being introduced by a drum based introduction. James comes in quite strong and begins singing about PTSD. The verses have a more direct delivery while the chorus has a pleasent soaring vocal style. Honestly I think they should have started the album with this instead of the Suite it would have been a more effectice opener. Catchy, commercial (for Dream Theater) and effective. The Looking Glass also doesn't waste any time getting started. Even more commercial sounding than the previous track but with it the song gets quite a bit more catchy and I really enjoy it, the guitar tone is really smooth and James delivers some good vocals considering he has been at this for nearly 30 years at this point. While the track is really catchy and easy to listen to it isn't a smash hit, I suspect this is due to a more safe approach being done throughout the track. Enigma Machine an instrumental piece is up next, we will see what this does for me, or lack there of. It has a nice groove quite early on, some spiralling guitar work and furious drums can be found throughout but nothing on here tells me that this should be an instrumental and not several ideas which would have worked will in a complete song. The Bigger Picture comes in with a heavy symphonic arrangement before pulling back to James and the keyboards. The band slowly builds back up in the background before erupting and the song shifts from a softer track into one far more epic feeling and heavy with that. A strong and compact chorus does good on this track. The shift at the 5 minute mark is another good one, the band changed the track just enough to keep it coherant while still making the two segments work well together.

Behind The Veil comes in slowly the first real extended intro of sorts to be found on the album, the calm introduction is broken by the sound of thunder or should I say the band. A more distorted and dark vocal delivery is present on the first verse before shifting to a clear and uplifting delivry style for the second verse and the chorus. A furious solo section ensues and it really is the highlight of the song, having been good but not great throughout. Also what was with the sole intro verse being in a very different vocal delivery from the rest of the song? Surrender To Reason is up next, some acoustic guitar work occurs only for the track to shift away from it rather quickly. A good chorus, it like the previous two tracks is a quality track but not to the incredibly high quality that Dream Theater is known for. Along For The Ride opens with the sounds of water, the shortest non-instrumental track on the album, and it appears to be a ballad, and as with the previous albums this ballad is well delivered and done in a clear and emotional way. Phenomenal chorus. The album closes out with a 22 minute track called Illumination Theory, opening up with a orchestral introductory piece, the second segment of this 5 part track does away with the orchestral component and goes straight into hard rocking. A more aggressive vocal and while it works the track hasn't fully pulled me in at this point which when a track is 20+ minutes doesn't bode well. A second orchestral instrumental section ensues and hopefully the track picks up after it because while these are pleasent sections it isn't worth 22 mins... The 4th component shows off James' range hitting some nice high notes as it comes in powerfully. And the solo section of it is quite impressive the track has really begun to pick up in my eyes. It could grow or it could never be listened to again. Also whats with there being a hidden track at the end of a 20 minute song?

False Awakening Suite - 8/10
The Enemy Inside - 9/10
The Looking Glass - 9/10
Enigma Machine -7.5/10
The Bigger Picture -8.5/10
Behind The Veil - 8/10
Surrender To Reason - 8.5/10
Along For The Ride - 9/10
Illumination Theory - 8.5/10

Overall 84%
Adjusted 85%
4 Stars
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Distance Over Time - Dream Theater
Format: CD/Digital

Well a little over a year ago I listened to this and wasn't impressed at all, honestly haven't heard any of the tracks probably since then so they will have somewhat fresh ears to them today. The lastest Dream Theater album titled Velocity opens up with a very familliar approach, a calm introduction slowly building up over a short segment before the band comes in hard and heavy. James sings from a distance or so he sounds at first. Chorus feels like he is a little uninspired in all honesty, but I think thats because of the vocal effects. The band as a whole sound pretty good and the track is a pretty accessible and strong opener, James just is the weak part of it and it is almost entirely caused by the vocal effects. Rudess and Petrucci's trading solos are well done. I'm sure this would be much better live. Paralyzed comes in next, a very short song by Dream Theater standards only clocking in at around the 4 minute mark, it also has a build up introduction, notably heavier from the previous track at first listen. James lacks the distortive effect from the previous track on the verses but it is present in some capacity on the chorus although much more tastefully and by that I think it actually works here unlike on the previous track. Whereas Untethered Angel was the bands time to shine, this is James and the band delivers a solid performance on this track, it should be short and catchy but overall it isn't the strongest either. Slightly better than the previous track from a whole package viewpoint. Fall Into The Light was the only song from the album which was in my playlist, although it was skipped basically everytime in an effort to find that 1 ins 1500+ songs that I wanted to hear. A slower opening soon becomes furious and I feel like the whole band has hit their stride and the track blends the elements of the previous two together to form a more classic sounding track. It however still isn't a home run like some of the bands previous works. The isntrumental section slows right back down for some melodic components before the band goes full blown Highway Star for the second component of it. Barstool Warrior comes in with a more commercial sounding introduction which goes on for a little bit. The verses come in clean singing of a man in a bar, the chorus is super commercial and catchier than I expected coming into this track. A very stripped back piano solo erupts into a slow and melodic guitar solo. Best track thus far in my opinion, quite catchy and rather easy to listen to. Room 137 comes in wasting no time getting to the point with a crunchy riff and lyrically darker and the delivery works for that approach. It is easily the weakest track thus far. S2N comes up next with Myung introducing the track with a bass introduction, vocally the opening verse is spoken from a very weird robotic approach. Then it shifts into a rather quick but more normal delivery pattern, vocally this track doesn't wow me but musically this track is full blown Dream Theater doing what they do best. At Wits End is up next, the longest track on the album it comes in quickly. The chorus takes a bit of a page from Steve Harris' book of repitition. A stronger track thurs far as a whole, furious drum work is present in the fills right before the chorus. An eclectic solo section ensues and the band backs off allowing Rudess to be alone with the keyboard as James comes back in. One of the more proper sounding Dream Theater tracks from the album so far, stellar outro solo. Out Of Reach is up next, slowly fading in with the echoing sounds of a drumline acompanied by keyboards, this soon fades and piano work continues with James singing quite cleanly over it all, the band has gone full ballad on this track, which begs the question why didn't this stick out to me last time I listened to this album. The song however begins to pick up a little which weakens the ballad aspect of it in this case a bit. The chorus could have been better off if the song hadn't picked up prior to it. Pale Blue Dot closes out the album, slowly beginning with some prerecorded components, this track feels commanding right from the start.


Untethered Angel - 8/10
Paralyzed - 8.5/10
Fall Into The Light - 8.5/10
Barstool Warrior - 9/10
Room 137 - 7/10
S2N - 8.5/10
At Wits End - 9/10
Out Of Reach - 8/10
Pale Blue Dot - 9/10

Overall 84%
Adjusted 85%
Stars 3.5
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Psychotic Symphony - Sons Of Apollo
Format: CD/Digital

The debut album of supergroup Sons Of Apollo opens up slowly with some eastern sounding guitar work, a band comprising of former members of Dream Theater, Guns N Roses among others. God Of The Sun slowly builds showing the band is definetely in tune with the Dream Theater style far more than the GNR style of playing. Keyboard heavy and building this track waits till 2 and a half minutes in before Jeff Soto comes in vocally, he has a rather powerful and commanding voice, the song really takes on the epic feeling it is trying to deliver. The vocals as stated are commanding which both works and doesn't it brings the track into a heavier realm with the power behind them whereas I think this track could have been quite mystical in many ways. Although the approach is quite good and the track works well, I just think it could have been really cool to hear it more mystical. After the second chorus there is a more stripped back mystical verse which still has a commanding air about it but it works really well. The instrumental component is what you would expect considering who is in the band. It is complex and extensive with plenty of changes throughout. This song reminds me of Kashmir for some reason. The chorus is the strongest part of this track. An interesting choice of opening track. Coming Home is a much shorter track opening with a keyboard centered instrumental passage and a scream from Soto this track really feels like it may hav been a better choice for lead off track but thats off the first little bit. A direct rocker, with a more soaring approach to vocals in places, compact, punchy and energizing a great contrast to the previous track in terms of approach. I really have no idea why this isn't the opening track of the album. Signs Of The Times hits hard from the start but the verses are soaring with a more drum based approach. This track doesn't hold my attention as much as the previous ones but it still remains are pretty good track as a whole. The vocals are quite strong and Bumblefoot's solo is calm and melodic. Labyrinth opens up with some keyboards instilling a sense of urgency, Jeff sings softly over the keys and slowly but surely the band begins to come in and the track gets heavier. The imagry of the Labyrinth growing as they do so. Quite synthy by comparrision to the previous tracks. Some vocal effects are used here and there in the track which adds to the never ending maze imagry, the sense of urgency remains. This track feels its length in some places. Alive begins the second half of the album, Soto sings strongly from the start and the track from the get go has a emotional feel to it, while not a ballad persay but definely towards that vein. A great anthemic chorus, this track screams single. My favourite thus far. Lost In Oblivion opens up with a sirens call shifting back into the hard and aggressive approach, this is the fastest track thus far the band references the albums title in this track as well. High energy aggressive and just utterly driving and powerful throughout a brief drum solo turns into a call and answer solo section complete with the air raid sirens once again. I like it. Figaro's Whore a very brief instrumental piece comes in which is said to be inspired by Eruption in terms of why they have it separate from the next track despite it segueing into the track. I think it could have been added onto the next track instead of being separate. Divine Addiction a sex addiction track from the womans perspective, a powerful vocal performance from Soto, another track that has a nice powerful groove to it and the track is commanding throughout, interesting that the shorter tracks are the stronger given the songwriters on this album are known more for their longer tracks. This is another of the more commercial sounding tracks, this one calls back to Perfect Strangers a little bit. The outro is fantastic and frankly would have ended the album quite well. Opus Maximus closes off the album, a 10+ minute instrumental and we all know how much I love instrumentals... Although I will say the musicians here have made a fairly solid one throughout, containing multiple distinct passages although still calling it one song and not different parts... which is a smart move frankly. It is complex and it builds and shifts throughout but I don't need 10 minutes. The first segment could have been part of a really cool song though

God Of The Sun - 8.5/10
Coming Home - 9/10
Signs Of The Times - 8/10
Labyrinth - 8/10
Alive - 9/10
Lost In Oblivion - 9/10
Figaro's Whore - 7/10
Divine Addition - 9/10
Opus Maximus - 7.5/10

Overall 83%
Adjusted 83%
3.5 Stars
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Stripped - Halestorm
Format: Digital

Opening the bands stripped renditions of their latest album Vicious comes Black Vultures once a roaring rocker becomes an uptempo acoustic track which focuses in on the message of the track in that being overcoming obsticles. Lzzy plays piano on this track instead of her usual electric guitar and she sounds quite strong on vocals as per usual. This track is one of the most shall we say unexpected acoustic renditions they have chosen to do for this EP, and it works quite well although it doesn't come close to the power of the originial rendition which is easily one of my favourite Halestorm tracks. Do Not Disturb is up next, this one makes a little more sense with the transition into acoustic just based on the overall tempo of the track, Lzzy sounds really raw here which suits the track. Another harder rocker which while it works quite well acoustically this track's subject matter I believe is a little too direct for this acoustic rendition. They sound great but the harder rocking approach is more suitable. Chemicals which didn't make the original album, and frankly should have, is up next a track pertaining towards substance use and mental illness, a powerful track in its own right but in this acoustic rendition it becomes far more powerful, brining the message into the front of the song in a super accessible way. I believe this is a prime example of how Halestorm can write highly impactful songs from a lyrical standpoint in addition to making good hard rocking tracks. It will be interesting to see if they put any of these stripped versions into their setlist of songs or if they will keep the normal acoustic tracks. Heart Of Novocaine is up next, a pretty obvious choice for this project, although I would have expected Vicious to have been placed on this instead just based on the band playing it more frequently, not my favourite track from the original album but this is a well done version and I think the addition of the piano is part of what is helping it out in my eyes. A well performed rendition, still not an amazing track but stronger nonetheless. The Silence closes out the EP, one of the strongest tracks on the original album however I beg the question, how different are these two versions, yes there is subtle differences but not massive amounts. It remains perfect but as mentioned before wouldn't Vicious or Killing Ourselves To Live be more out there and maybe effective choices?

Black Vultures - 8/10
Do Not Disturb - 8/10
Chemicals - 9/10
Heart Of Novacaine - 8.5/10
The Silence - 10/10

Overall 87%
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

MMXX - Sons Of Apollo
Format: CD/Digital

Sons Of Apollo kick off their second album apt named MMXX or 2020 with Goodbye Divinity a 7 minute track to lead off the album, opening with a relatively slow build to it as the band members slowly come in for the first minute or so then the song begins to shift at a quicker pace, this build up feels well suited for the opening of a concert and close to the 2 minute mark Portnoy really begins hammering down upon his drums with Soto still no where to be heard. He comes in at the two and a half minute mark sounding strong as ever, not the fastest opener but one which has a good tempo for getting people warmed up. As an overall track it isn't all that impressive, it functions decently as an opener due to the constant build but this track lacks that wow factor that would pull a listener in and hold onto them for the album. The instrumental section is well done. Wither To Black comes in with more energy than the previous track and it is evident right off the bat that this track will not have the slow build of the previous track instead it will be an in your face rocker. A midtempo track which the band has described as a cross between Rush and Soundgarden, a definite step in the right direction with this track and there is a Rush reference in the lyrics to Tom Sawyer. An effective solo section continues on the good news train and this track is far more engaging than the previous although still lacking in many areas. Asphyxiation starts off with a crunchy riff, it sounds a lot like the previous track and just doesn't have something that really fits that wow factor. Desolate July is up next, track 4 and these past few tracks have been slowly getting longer so hopefully one of them clicks or they will just feel way longer than they do, this one begins with a piano introduction, a ballad for a fallen band member from one of Portnoy's previous bands. Calm verses lead into a powerful chorus, better than the previous tracks from early on a clear feeling of pain is brought on throughout the track. King Of Dellusion is up next, opening with a piano introduction with some distorted speaking behind it after a little while of this calm introduction the band decides to just hammer down, and a thundering wall of drums and guitar comes in hard fast and heavy. Soto is completely commanding from the first note he delivers, easily the strongest song so far, which is good since this song is the 50% mark for the album's length. The track has an epic feel to it, although the tempo could be a bit quicker. Immense soloing towards the end. Fall To Ascend is up next the second single from the album. This song feels like a single, uplifting and powerful, with a short and effective chorus which is easy to sing along to, uptempo punchy. A well written track throughout. Resurrection Day is the final non-epic length track of the album, comping in calmly at first it soon shifts as the others did into a heavy rocker. It keeps the momentum from the previous track intact as it delivers a pretty strong aggressive rock approach. New World Today closes out the album, a nearly 16 minute track, opening with a calm and beautiful guitar tone, when the band breaks in the track has a completely different feel from anything they have done on the album thus far, stellar vocals, shifting and extended this track is a high quality track throughout which is a fair bit above the majority of the first half of the album, it does begin to feel its length but it is a stellar track.

Goodbye Divinity - 7.5/10
Wither To Black - 8/10
Asphyxiation -8/10
Desolate July - 8.5/10
King Of Dellusion - 9/10
Fall To Acend - 9/10
Resurrection Day - 8.5/10
New World Today - 9/10

Overall 84%
Adjusted 85%
3.5 Stars
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner
Seeing as I was supposed to have seen them last week I might aswell give this a listen.


Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones
Format: CD/Digital

Gimme Shelter kicks off the album, the Stones classic is one of the few tracks by the band which I actively will listen to and one of the few I enjoyed from their catalog before trying to go a little deeper into the bands catalog and get to know more than just a small handful of tracks. An upbeat track warning of the coming doom, or war in this case, a duet which frankly the female lead is what really sells the track to its classic status for me. Keith's guitar is menacing throughout and Mick performs admirably. A phenomenal track and brilliant choice in opener for the time. Dark and haunting, to think this came out the same year that Zeppelin and Sabbath first debuted onto the scene. Love In Vain takes a stripped back approach, Mick sings along with Keith's acoustic guitar and the song takes a slow twangy approach in some places. The song has a beat which is incredibly evident for swaying back and forth with lighters in the air. I found with their previous albums the band would slow down from their rock approach too early, this is another example of that. The song sounds good but it isn't amazing and following up the atmospheric and doomy opener with this just loses the potential dark album from the get go. Upon research this was a Robert Johnson cover. Country Honk or shall we say Honky Tonk Woman country edition! comes up next, way to disguise a self cover with a new name change upon initial looking. The track also falls into the pleasent and well delivered track but nothing I will seek out anytime soon catagory. There is a violin throughout which actually works quite well. Live With Me opens with a prominent bass line and the track shifts more towards the album Gimme Shelter hinted at, a darker rocker with a more traditional rock n roll set of lyrics. There is a good groove throughout the track and it has a raw and dark feel to it very fitting of the sexual nature of the song. Let It Bleed is up next, the title track takes a bluesy approach and if this were a vinyl record it would be the side closer, the track references to Lean On Me, along with some other references throughout, the stripped back approach continues to have a nice groove and thats something I will give The Stones credit for, they know how to make some real nice and groove filled tracks even if they aren't the hardest rocking. Very thinly veiled references to sex and drugs fill this track and it works. Midnight Rambler comes up next, a blues rock opera about the Boston Strangler it begins fairly slowly but soon picks up the pace with an early and extended instrumental section before slowing right down to a dark blues which calls out the Boston Strangler and removes any doubts one would have about the track being about them. The track has a lot of potential and Mick's performance in the last half of the track is phenomenal. I wish it was a little more upbeat throughout. Keith takes on lead vocals for the next track You Got The Silver it slows down once again and he doesn't sound too bad on lead vocals, a soft and short ballad. Monkey Man comes in funky and rockin, infectious energy and groove throughout. Probably the most upbeat track throughout thus far on the album and easily one of the stronger tracks. You Can't Always Get What You Want comes in to close off the album with a gospel choir, a strong stripped back rock epic which is well known so really what use is there in talking much about it.

Gimme Shelter - 10/10
Love In Vain - 7/10
Country Honk - 7.5/10
Live With Me - 8/10
Let It Bleed - 8/10
Midnight Rambler - 8/10
You Got The Silver -7.5/10
Monkey Man - 8.5/10
You Can't Always Get What You Want - 8.5/10

Adjusted - 82%
Overall - 81%
3.5 Stars
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner

Dominator - W.A.S.P.
Format: CD/Digital

A dark and thundering riff opens up Mercy the first track on W.A.S.P.'s thirteenth album, Blackie comes in sounding decent but aged although this doesn't hold him back too much throughout the track, although this is a major step down from his performance on the Neon God records. Good energy but really not on par with what he has done in the past vocally, although the song does have that edge that one would expect from W.A.S.P. A drum based introduction leads into Long, Long Way To Go, Blackie continues to sound rough, and this track is the first one where his faith is really showing through, and wow what a powerful solo comparably to the track itself! A short punchy rocker which really lacks the overall high quality vocals we have come to expect from Blackie but it is a step up from the opener. Take Me Up is the first ballad of the album and Blackie sounds amazing singing in a clean voice before transitioning into a more raspy delivery and it continues to be the best vocal performance so far on the album, the song begins to take on an epic feeling to it with a building atmosphere behind it. This is the W.A.S.P. I was expecting on this album. The Burning Man sounds familliar or at least the verses do at first that chorus shows off that Blackie can still wail really damn well, the rhythm section gallops this would have made a great opening track, and with the cover of Burn which they dropped from the album and Fortunate Son they could have left those two opening tracks off or improved upon them a little and used this as a killer opening track followed by Burn. Oh well at least we got the Burn cover on Babylon a few years later it would even fit lyrically! Heaven's Hung In Black is a beautiful ballad which begins with a snippet of Johnny Came Marching a heart wrenching ballad which features some amazing vocals from Blackie brilliant and one of the bands best modern day tracks bar none. Heaven's Blessed starts off like a continuation of the previous track before the band kicks into high gear and the tempo is brought right back up. High energy, wailing and punchy, the track doesn't have the most distinguishable guitar work but the vocals really drive the track with the high tempo instrumental staying mostly in the background until the solo section ensues in which they really shine, some of the slower sections which bookend the track could likely have been shortened a little bit but overall a really strong track. Teacher is up next, continuing with the high tempo which is probably for the best seeing as we have a reprise of Heaven's Hung In Black following it up, this track takes a darker role hinting at some fairly unprofessional relationships which a teacher or someone in the teacher role could be undertaking, it is another high quality rocker from start to finish. Heaven's Hung In Black (Reprise) is a much shorter rendition of the original, equally as beautiful although in some ways this version is far more haunting than the original, short and impactful. Deal With The Devil closes out the album coming in fast the track, this song has the feeling of old school aggressive W.A.S.P. with a slightly less polished guitar sound than the band has adopted in their 2000s albums, not to say that isn't there in some capacity. Slow start to the album but it really is consistent barring the opening pair.

Mercy - 7/10
Long, Long Way To Go - 7.5/10
Take Me Up - 8.5/10
The Burning Man - 8.5/10
Heaven's Hung In Black - 10/10
Heaven's Blessed -9/10
Teacher - 8.5/10
Heaven's Hung In Black (Reprise) - 10/10
Deal With The Devil 8.5/10

Adjusted 87%
Overall 86%
4 Stars
 
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