Saturday, May 31, 2014

Album Recommendation: Rhapsody Live In Canada 2005 (The Dark Secret)

Band: Rhapsody
Album: Rhapsody Live In Canada 2005 (The Dark Secret)

    If there is any band who can release an electrifying live album that captures the concert experience, Rhapsody is the band who can do it. 
    Their epic sounding Symphonic Power Metal style is unmistakable and puts them at the top of Power Metal genre. Their first live album, recorded in Montreal, Canada during their 2005 Demons, Dragons and Warriors World Tour, is a great representation of the band’s cinematic metal musical style. This live release on CD and DVD, captures Rhapsody at the height of their career. Around this time the band had just released Symphony of Enchanted Lands 2: The Dark Secret, an album that marked a shift from the Emerald Sword Saga.
    For their set list, the band equally divides songs from the most recent album and classic Emerald Sword Saga epics like “Wisdom of Kings,” “Dawn of Victory” and “March of the Sword Master.” The opening track, “The Dark Secret,” features a recorded monologue done by the famous actor Christopher Lee, who also narrated some parts on Rhapsody’s Symphony of Enchanted Lands 2. After the monologue finishes, Rhapsody breaks right into the song, “Unholy Warcry.” The way that this album was recorded clearly captures the band’s high level of musicianship. Most live albums I find sound too rough and fail to clearly capture the instruments. Definitely not the case with this album. You can hear every note Luca Turilli plays, even the ones that he sweeps through really fast like Yngwie on steroids. 
    “Wisdom of the Kings” from the album, Symphony of Enchanted Lands, simply sounds great live. I was impressed by how Rhapsody was able to incorporate the older songs in with the new. Compared to some bands whose set lists are easily predictable, Rhapsody throws in some surprises. An example that comes to mind is the song, “ (The)Village of Dwarves.” This song continues the uplifting concert vibe with its catchy riffs, fluid classical instrumental arrangements and descriptive fantasy based lyrics narrated by lead singer Fabio Lione.
    You would think about halfway through the show Rhapsody would mellow out after all the exciting energy they poured into the first four songs. Well, that is just not the case. “Erian’s Mystical Rhymes” is a long epic piece of music that dives into the creative Rhapsody folklore with great passion. Just another example of this band’s great songwriting abilities. Once the song finishes Fabio quickly asks the crowd how they are doing and then screams out the title of the next song, “Dawn of Victory.” The triumphant trumpet introduction builds into a grand guitar and keyboard assault. I feel as though I am right their in the front row raising my fist!
    Song seven on this live album, “Lamento Eroico,” demonstrates Fabio’s dynamic vocal range, and the song is also a departure from the band’s fast paced epic themed style of songwriting. I never was really a huge fan of this song, but the live version is really captivating. The soft arrangement slowly crescendos to an epic earth shaking operatic chorus that is very emotionally moving. Returning to the Dark Secret Saga, Rhapsody offers the crowd, "Nightfall on the Grey Mountains." The slow thunderous composition creates this uplifting and huge cinematic sounding landscape.
    For their finale the band graciously plays two classic Emerald Sword Saga songs that draw a roaring crowd response when Fabio announces them. “The March of the Swordmaster” and “Emerald Sword” were definitely the best choices in my opinion to finish this epic concert. Especially the song, “Emerald Sword,” which is one of the band’s most triumphant virtuosic sounding songs. The violin and guitar exchange is spectacular and their are few bands who can make classical sounding arrangements sound heavy.
    Although I was the only one around when the CD finished, I started clapping for the band. This live CD really captures some of the hardest working metal musicians who truly take pride in their work. Rhapsody Live In Canada 2005 (The Dark Secret), is an album I highly recommend for any fan of Symphonic Power Metal. Also, I think those who are not exactly into this style of music might be impressed by the band’s live energy and incredible musicianship. Why go to the boring old movies anymore, when one can simply buy this Rhapsody album and be taken into a fantastic world of live Symphonic Power Metal?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: Morbid Slaughter, "Wicca EP"

Band: Morbid Slaughter
Album: Wicca EP

    South American extreme music strikes again with the band, Morbid Slaughter. This thrash/ black metal act from Lima, Peru offers up all the right intense haunting sounds on this two song EP titled, “Wicca.”
    Definitely hear influences like Slayer, Celtic Frost, Mayhem, Venom, early Bathory and all those other groups who enjoy scaring priests with blasphemous music. Morbid Slaughter is really nothing that I have not heard before, but I will say that they present some wicked thrashing music. This group has passion, dark passion might I add. Their horror themed extreme music creates ominous chaotic atmospheres, very similar to all those early Black Metal recordings. The first song, “Wicca,” rips into a quick galloping rhythm of darkness that hits the ears right away. Their singer’s vocal presentation is vicious and compliments the sinister sounding instrumental arrangements. Out of the two songs on this EP, I really enjoyed tracked two, “The Nightly Breath of God,” Compared to the first song I thought the riffs were more challenging and the whole song sounds tighter. The guitarist lays down a killer solo of great note ripping fury. His solo is not too over the top like most thrash guitarists, and it fits perfectly into the song.
    Overall Morbid Slaughter put out a solid two song release. I will definitely be checking out more material from this group. I recommend this EP for all those denim patch wearing metal fans who get excited over hearing intense thrash riffs, crushing blast beats and of course, tortured sounding demonic vocals. Remember, you can’t listen to that first Bathory album all the time, so go listen to this young up and coming group out!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Concert Review: The Avengers and Kicker

Concert Review: The Avengers, Kicker and Backseat Lovers

    Punks may get old, but they will always be rebellious and enthusiastic about the music they enjoy. San Francisco based pioneer punk rockers the Avengers, and East Bay hardcore veterans Kicker, showed they are not slowing down when it comes to playing live.
    After performing the night before in SF, the Avengers and Kicker took their show to San Jose’s Blank Club. This was my first time seeing a show at Blank Club, and I must say, it was a suitable venue for the type of show. My only complaint is that the Blank Club happens to be one of these twenty-one and up venues that prevent the younger fans from attending. I definitely think the crowd vibe would have been more electrifying, but the bands that played of course still brought plenty of high powered energy.
    The first opening act was a young punk rock group from Sacramento, CA called, Backseat Lovers. They stayed true to the classic formula with very simple driving rhythms and the common punk songwriting style. Their lead singer was very energetic, but she seemed sloppy at times with her delivery. She had a powerful voice and a good range, but again, there were times where I felt that she was not very consistent. Backseat Lovers’ rhythm section was solid and I think the drummer did an efficient job holding down the beat. Their guitarist was also very talented and he could play some creative leads. Now, my biggest complaint about their set was the frivolous in between song stage banter. The bassist and singer thought they were Sonny and Cher or a couple of SNL comedians. Compared to Kicker and the Avengers, one could tell Backseat Lovers was the younger band who needs to continue working on their live presentation.
    Now, the main reason I went to this show was to see Kicker. I do enjoy the Avengers don’t get me wrong, but Kicker is one of my favorite punk bands. I saw Kicker play at the Tankcrimes Brainsqueeze 2, and was eager to see them again. Singer Pete the Roadie is a real cool down to earth guy who I had the chance to talk with before the show. He is a veteran who embodies the spirit of punk rock and Mr. Roadie is very connected to the music community that he has been apart of for many years. Once the band took the stage I rushed to the front and began head banging to the opening instrumental song. When the instrumental finished Pete took to the stage and delivered his vicious hardcore punk style during the song, “You Can’t Take Me Anywhere.” Bassist Dave Ed showed off his talents by doing wicked bass fills that stood out during each song. His little bass riff during “Crusty Island” provided the perfect background sound for Roadie’s goofy change begging rant. Sure enough someone actually threw change on stage! Of course guitarist Mauz was on top of his game by unleashing tons of crushing riffs. His guitar tone is unmistakable and definitely separates him from the other hardcore guitarists I have heard. Also, drummer Toby Bitter was destroying behind the kit and gives Kicker’s sound a huge kick in the pants. Throughout their whole set I was singing along and rocking out. For some odd reason, I was practically the only person at the front of the stage. I thought this was a punk show!? Besides a drunk couple dancing in the middle, most of the people were standing in the back with their arms folded. Kicker put on one spectacular show and I wish more people would have shown some appreciation for this hard working band by being closer to the stage. 
    About the time the Avengers took the stage more people started showing up. You really had an eclectic mix of people, some who were already three sheets to the wind. The Avengers haven’t been active for a while, so people who listened to them back in the day were probably glad to have a chance to see them again. Lead singer Penelope Houston is a tremendous performer with a great voice. She reminds me of a mix between Wendy O. Williams and Debbie Harry. The band sounded tight and played an enjoyable set. The guitarist sounded amazing as he banged away on his shiny red SG. Towards the end of their set they did this cool cover of The Rolling Stones, “Paint it Black.” Shortly after they closed with my favorite Avenger’s song, “The American In Me.” 
    Overall this was an awesome show that I am glad to have attended. I think if the Blank Club wasn’t twenty-one and up, the crowd would have been more enthusiastic. Still, the veteran punk performers allowed everyone the chance to have a good time. If you have not attended a Kicker or the Avengers show, I highly recommending doing it. Just make sure to be close to the stage or you won’t get the same experience!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Album Recommendation: Carcass "Surgical Steel"

Band: Carcass
Album: Surgical Steel

    Last year most metal fans said that Carcass’ Surgical Steel was the album of the year. In all honesty, I only listened to a couple tracks when the album first came out. I really liked the couple tracks I heard, but for some strange reason I just never took to the time to listen to the entire album. However, after finally buying a physical copy of the album, along with listening to more than a couple songs, I must admit that this release was one of the best albums to come out last year.
    The Liverpool surgical themed death grind icons deliver their veteran skills with Surgical Steel. It seemed about time since the last studio album these guys recorded was released in 1996! Even after their long break Carcass sounds better than ever. When listening to this album on CD in my car I am left speechless when Bill Steer breaks into a massive sounding guitar riff. Also, Jeff Walker’s lyrics are creative with plenty of descriptive terms to show his vast knowledge of the surgical themed subjects that he writes about. His vocals sound sharp with a nasty edge and sound great as he puts emphasis to each word. Daniel Wilding, the new drummer, fits right into the Carcass groove, and his presence behind the kit can be heard pounding out forceful sounding rhythms throughout this album.
    Surgical Steel’s introduction instrumental song, “1985,” proves that Carcass still knows how to set up an album with a triumphant sounding arrangement. The song sets up the next track, “Thrasher’s Abattoir,” a song that features fierce chord progressions and rapid thrash like rhythms. Songs three and four, “Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System” and “A Congealed Clot of Blood,” are classic gritty sounding pieces of graphic surgical reference. One of my favorite songs on the album, “The Master Butcher’s Apron,” contains some clever lyrical phrasing and vivid imagery. Also, the instrumental composition is technical, but with a sense of purpose to create a solid sound.
    Another impressive track on this album is, “The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills.” Here the band focuses on coming up with clever guitar hooks that are accompanied by catchy lyrics. The chorus has a classic hard rock feel to it with the repetitive catchy verse and can get stuck in your head for hours. The following track, “Unfit For Human Consumption,” is a return to the more aggressive sounding style that I would say maintains an unrivaled presence on this album. Bill Steer sounds just amazing...there is really no other word to describe his abilities. He guy can create truly heavy sounding chord smashing riffs and then compose a fluid shredding solo. Not too many guitarists can copy his style, and that is what makes him... Amazing!
    “Captive Bolt Pistol,” which was released as a single before the album came out, is another solid hard hitting cadaver slicing tune. I played the single on my radio show a week after it was first released, and I still enjoy listening to it. Jeff Walker’s vocals, Bill’s guitar and Daniel’s drumming all blend great together on this track. The final song on the album, “Mount of Excitation,” brings the surgical death madness to a halt by putting all the extreme passion on the chopping block. The unholy tone and dynamic rhythms cannot sound any more extreme.
    If you have not heard more than two track off of this album, go out and buy a copy now. Carcass are still masters of surgical themed death metal who show they can keep the vicious medical persona going. Surgical Steel is a pure metal release in both sound and attitude. This album is how extreme music should be played.
    May I also recommend listening to the album in your car once you purchase it. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the look on the person’s face in the car next to yours as you bang your head to one of Bill’s crushing riffs...Well, keep on rocking (or rotting) in the free world people and get this album!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: Rude "Soul Recall"

Band: Rude
Album: Soul Recall


    Time travel has not been invented yet, right? I already know the answer since the Nocturnus android from “The Key” is not ruling the world, but I just needed to make sure after listening to this album. 
    Rude, an up and coming death metal band from Oakland, CA, captures the raw aggressive nature of old school death metal with their debut release, “Soul Recall.” I hear a wide variety of extreme music influences ranging from Pestilence, Death, Autopsy, Bolt Thrower, Master and Morbid Angel. Also, the production value for this album sounds like something that was recording during the late eighties or the early nineties.  
    Of course, Rude is one of many new bands following in the colossal foot steps set by those early death metal groups. With “Soul Recall,” Rude finds multiple ways to separate themselves from the usual suspects. The opening track, “Haunted,” dives straight into a fiery riff and double bass drum world of madness. Rude’s vocalist narrates gruesome lyrics with an awesome tortured sounding vocal delivery. As the music changes from verse to verse Rude always maintains a consistent brutal sound. The following track, “In Thy Name” continues the nonsense old school death metal style. I felt with this track the band offered up a shorter, yet still very intense musical piece compared to the opening song. 
    Now, the third track on this album, “Memorial,” is where the band really demonstrates their solid level of musicianship. One of the more longer tracks on this album, “Memorial,” creates a bone chilling atmosphere full of abrasive sounding riffs, fluid technical guitar leads and more insane double bass drum rhythms. My favorite part of the song is where the music stops and the bass player does this sinister sounding bass line. His bass fills sound like the stuff that Steve DiGiorgio would record for an album.
    The title track off of this album, “Soul Recall,” is another slamming old school death metal beast. Rude puts emphasis on the very percussive sounding riffs to create a fine extreme piece of music. Track five, “Forsaker,” unleashes more raw head banging rage with plenty of chaotic blast beats and machine gun sounding guitar riffs.
    Track six, “Conjuring of Fates,” happens to be my favorite song on this album. The beginning celestial echoing guitar effect creates this pleasant vibe that becomes instantly disintegrated by a monstrous slow Sabbath like riff. This track pushes the band’s musical talents to the threshold of extreme music, and the end product sounds damn good. The last two tracks “Last of Us” and “Internal Ascension” are both strong closing tracks. “Internal Ascension” especially caught my ear with its crazy guitar shredding solos and glorious palm muted bone breaking riffs.
    Rude just happens to play the style of death metal that I really enjoy, and they created their own distinct identity with “Soul Recall.” Compared to the other recent old school death metal sounding acts Rude knows how to play their instruments and can write well-crafted songs. I hate having to be rude, but some new bands I have reviewed can’t write songs for shit. I usually just hear random technical guitar riffs with subpar drum parts over a vocalist who sounds like he is constipated. That of course is definitely not the case with Rude. I highly recommend checking out this album if you desire killer classic sounding old school death metal. Was the best and is still the best style of death metal!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ruins/ Usnea 7” Split Review

Bands: Ruins and Usnea


    Pure chaotic distorted noise is simply the best way to describe this 7”. Ruins and Usnea are the two bands who each offer a song on this crushing split. The Milwaukee based label Halo of Flies is going to be putting the 7” spilt out June 3, 2014. You can pre-order now on the label’s website and pick either clear vinyl or black vinyl.
    Now, may there only be a couple tracks on this split, each song tends to be rather enjoyable in its own unique way. German crust hardcore sludge act Ruins starts the split off with the song “Discrimen.” A blazing riff introduction sets the early tempo, and is soon accompanied by brain pounding rhythms of mighty force. Midway through the song the band shifts course and the tempo picks up. The intense driving hardcore punk style gives the song a fast driving destructive nature. As the singer shouts over the other instruments the foundations around me seem to shake and crumble. Definitely would like to hear what an entire album from this group would sound like, because I was really impressed by their constant changing musical approach. 
    Usnea, a Portland, OR based sludge death doom sounding band, keeps the music on a more consistent level. During their song, “Only the End of the World,” the band slowly draws out distortion crushing riffs for about six minutes. Each time the drummer hits the cymbals, the sound is like a bomb making direct impact with the earth. Also, the singer sounds as if he is singing while the world around him is actually collapsing. I really think the band chose a suitable song title for this track because the music fits perfectly. If there is a movie with a scene that depicts slow mass destruction, I would want this song to be the background music.
    As I said before, for only two songs this split delivers the destructive distortion goods. Both bands composed solid pieces of music. In my opinion, a good split is when the listener walks away wanting to hear more. Guess what? I want to hear more from both bands! Highly recommend this split for all those who like bone crushing and world ending music...slow world ending music to be specific. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Rediscovering Some Lost Breeds

    History can be easily forgotten if new generations are not given a proper chance to be aware of the past. That is why when a band reissues an album, they are creating an opportunity for new generations of possible fans to discover older music as if the music had just been released.
    Although reissuing an album does not seem like a big deal to the common American consumer, there are some important factors associated with the reissuing and rereleasing of certain albums. One is that bands can create new exposure and tap into a younger fan base.
    Thanks in part to the internet allowing younger fans to discover older bands who might have been unfortunately overlooked back in the day, those bands now have an opportunity to reissue their old material for a new audience. Record labels like Shadow Kingdom, Tankcrimes, FDA Rekotz and Hells Headbangers are among a few that are leading the way in reintroducing classic hard rock, punk and heavy metal albums. Of course major labels are constantly rereleasing albums, but now with the music industry beginning to become more spread out, the underdogs are getting a chance to put some classic reissued recordings on record store shelves too.
    Recently Tankcrimes Record reissued the album, Ashes to Ashes, by veteran hardcore punk rockers Final Conflict. This is the label’s first major reissue and is currently on sale through the label’s website. With the Final Conflict reissue out and available to the public, I caught up with label boss Scotty Heath to ask him what are some of his views on the importance of reissuing albums.
    “It’s part of our history,” said Heath. “I think the most important albums should be readily available for the new generation to understand and enjoy without paying high prices for original and often obscure original pressings.”
    Along with Tankcrimes, Shadow Kingdom Records is another small label constantly reissuing old albums that might attract a new generation of fans. One band that Shadow Kingdom recently did work with by reissuing the group’s first two albums on CD is, Lost Breed. According to Lost Breed’s drummer Jamie Silver the band’s record deal when the albums were first released fell through due in part to the label going under.
    “When Lost Breed first released The Evil in You and Me, and Save Yourself, we had made a deal with Hellhound Records to tour Europe to support the CDs but hellhound wound up going under and we never got to go to Europe. Then the CDs never really got the exposure they needed and it really bummed out,” said Silver, who has been a major driving force behind Lost Breed’s drive to get their music out and available.
    Now with Shadow Kingdom’s support, Lost Breed looks to gain some new fans within the hard rock and metal community, and give older fans a chance to get their hands on music that might have been hard to find over the years.
     Reissuing albums is definitely helping to keep the die hard music fans interested in their respective communities, whether it be the hard rock, punk or metal community. Another plus when record companies reissue certain albums is that they are putting them out on vinyl. Avid classic rock and old school rap music fan Yuvraj Singh is one of many who are noticing the importance of reissuing albums on vinyl along with the increase in exposure for some bands who do it.
    “The fact that they're ramping up vinyl production should also help the popularity of the bands as well as the vinyl medium,” said Singh.
    He also noted that, “It'll help bring light to bands that've been forgotten and increase the popularity of older bands that are still known.”
    A common claim made about the reissuing of older albums is that it tends to be viewed as a way for record labels to make a quick dollar. When asked about his thoughts on the reissuing and rerecording process, he gave a very specific response.
    “I think it's a good idea when they remaster the album to give it a cleaner sound. If it's a rerelease, I see it as a money grab; the quality should be better on the next go around,” Singh said. 
    Quality of course is held in high regard by most music fans, and can definitely influence a person’s decision to buy an album. Relapse Records recently reissued Death’s classic second album, Leprosy, on CD and Vinyl. Among some of those fans who are interested in the album’s reissue is Daniel Goodman. During a short interview I asked him about his feelings on the reissuing of Leprosy, and what he expects to hear from this reissue. Not only is Daniel a fan of Death, but Leprosy happens to be his favorite Death album.
    Making sure he was quite clear about what he expected to hear and see from this reissue, Daniel hopes, “...the (sound)quality to be perfect, old band photos, pamphlet, concert photos, lyric sheets, the art work to be nice and big, along with liner notes from people who were part of the process.”
    Reissued releases do seem to serve an important purpose in today’s music market as more people beginning to take notice of the subject. Groups like Lost Breed, Final Conflict and Death are given the chance to be heard by younger generations of fans who will grow to appreciate these older bands.
    “I hope it gives a chance for the younger hard rock metal fans to hear our music and I hope they like it,” said Silver, a comment that rings true throughout all music communities.
    As years pass by, the reissuing of classic and lesser known rock and metal albums will continue to keep music fans enthusiastic by making those classic albums available for purchase. The next time you buy an album keep in mind, the print on the side that says, “Reissue,” holds an important and more complex meaning than what you might think.

Terminal Death Review

Band: Terminal Death
Album: Terminal Death (Collection of Demos and Rehearsals)

    Around that early to mid eighties period extreme metal music was starting to take form. Bands like Possessed, Death, Master and some of the more intense thrash bands of the time, were definitely creating a brutal style of music that would continue to be redefined over the years. Some bands during this time unfortunately did not get the credit or exposure compared to the groups that I listed in my last sentence. One of those bands was Chicago’s own Terminal Death, who were very much in league with the other founding death metal bands.
    Besides a couple of demo tapes from 1985, the band never released a full-length album. That definitely plays a reason into why they were probably overlooked. So, after many years later, Shadow Kingdom Records along with Hells Headbangers will be releasing a bulk of demos and recorded rehearsals by Terminal Death into one well documented compilation. The album will be available on CD and Vinyl, plus feature plenty of early band photos with liner notes. Also, the demos were remastered a bit to help improve the sound quality. 
    The first six tracks are taken from the band’s 1985 demo, and even though the songs are remastered, the recordings still capture the band’s early raw aggressive style of death metal. Terminal Death takes Slayer like riffs and just turns them into brutal guitar galloping pieces of extreme metal madness. The band was really working to merge thrash metal into something more sinister and brutal sounding. Taking after the band’s name, the first song is a thunderous instrumental that spills over into the next song, “Judge Death.” With “Judge Death,” the band unleashes some unholy blast beat rhythms, harsh early death metal style vocals and ripping guitar riffs. The next two songs on the album, "Day After the End" “Brain Tumor” are a couple of basic old school death metal tracks. Terminal Death maintains an intense factor of relentless sounding music that takes influence from Venom, Possessed, Celtic Frost and of course, Slayer. They do not let their foot off the extreme pedal once during either songs.
    My favorite song on the demo is, “Celestial Execution.” The music is very chaotic yet maintains a continuous driving rhythm. Also, the guitarist unleashes a furious solo with plenty of shredding elements. To follow up my favorite track, “Hacksaw,” finishes the demo up with a gruesome edge and demands attention once the guitarist tears away into his solo. A short yet sonically extreme sounding track.
    The rest of this compilation features recordings done during the band’s various rehearsals. I find the recorded rehearsals to be rather interesting, and they give listeners a chance to hear Terminal Death working on forging a solid death metal sound. The 1985 rehearsals sound more raw and chaotic while the 1986 material sounds a bit more polished and the songs are tighter. To hear a band’s progression especially during their rehearsals is rare, so I like how the rehearsals were added into this compilation. Also, there some songs done during the rehearsal that were not released to my knowledge as demos, so there are some rarities featured on this compilation. Of course I must bring up that the quality of the rehearsals is not perfect, but some fans might enjoy the poor quality recordings that sound as if they were recorded in a dark and stinky basement. Makes the music sound even more brutal!
    Overall this is a historic audio snapshot of an early death metal band who could have been mentioned in the same breath as Death, Master, Possessed and well all those other bands who still need to play plenty of shows to make a decent living. Sadly, Death Metal music does not make millions of dollars. If death metal was a more lucrative business, Terminal Death would have been given a record contract and living in mansions while Bret Michaels mowed their lawns. At least Shadow Kingdom and Hells Headbangers are stepping up and giving a forgotten band the chance to be discovered. I think Terminal Death definitely deserves more recognition for their contributions in the extreme music world. Hope this compilation helps get the band’s name out there more.