Union – s/t (1998)

Union - s/t

Union – s/t (1998, Mayhem)

  1. Old Man Wise
  2. Around Again
  3. Pain Behind Your Eyes
  4. Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)
  5. Heavy D…
  6. Let It Flow
  7. Empty Soul
  8. October Morning Wind
  9. Get Off My Cloud
  10. Tangerine
  11. Robin’s Song

Band Lineup:
Bruce Kulick – Lead Guitars
John Corabi – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Jamie Hunting – Bass
Brent Fitz – Drums

Total Time – 53:03

Bruce Kulick official website
John Corabi official website

In the aftermath of the KISS and Motley Crue reunions, Bruce Kulick and John Corabi formed their own “union” in 1997 and called it such. The press had a field day with Union because both of the major identities were parts of big-time Rock bands and got the boot. I admit, I was high on this project from the first day it was reported. Anything involving a current or former member of KISS immeadiately goes to the top of the list.

Union is a strong Hard Rock band with a late ’90s edge but roots from Classic Rock of the late ’60s to early ’80s. Hunting and Fitz provide a solid backbone, Kulick is a seriously under-rated guitar player, as Corabi is an under-rated singer. What I liked about this band was that the various influences of the band came through in the music whether it was The Beatles, Zeppelin, KISS, Crue, or the Stones. Union wrote good songs with melody and hooks and solid lyrics, something that was missing in the ’90s.

The debut is solid. Lead single ‘Old Man Wise’ and ‘Around Again’ are solid Hard Rock songs. Both have great hooks that just get you to sing right along. ‘Pain Behind Your Eyes’ has some soft acoustic interludes during the verses but then really kicks come the chorus. Here Corabi shows that he is a good singer and Kulick comes up with some good riffs and melodies. Another shining moment here is a really good guitar solo and some fine harmonies.

‘Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)’ has another modern main riff with that trademark Corabi sneer. What a hook come the chorus! How this band didn’t get airplay is a crime. Another song with great harmonies as well. Looking at the lyrics so far, you can tell that the band was writing in a more personal direction, which I think makes the album even better. ‘Heavy D…’ is similar to ‘Pain Behind Your Eyes’ in that the song slowly builds up from a soft, slow acoustic and gradually building to a hard chorus. This song sounds grunge-like with the gruff vocal delivery and the hard main riff. The best parts of the song are the slower pieces, they add a depth but are simplistic.

‘Let It Flow’ is one of my favorite songs on this album. There is a psychedelic and Middle-Eastern feel to the main riff and music, I enjoy the fact that Bruce is branching out and trying new guitar sounds. Brent Fitz also plays the drums with almost a “tribal” feel though parts of the song. The music and lyrics absolutely identify with the song title, it’s a tune that just makes you feel good. Then the band throws a curve with the depressing title of ‘Empty Soul’. Another song that starts soft and slowly builds into a hard mid-tempo. There are some interesting guitar effects on this track that are subtley like Pink Floyd.

My favorite song on the album is the acoustic ballad ‘October Morning Wind’. This song should have gotten serious radio airplay because it’s got that certain melody that enraptures the listener. Rich harmonies and backing vocals, Corabi and Kulick showing that they can play some serious acoustic guitar. The arrangement is simple and the song is better for it, there’s a warmth to the song. One of my favorite songs of the past decade, I actually play this twice everytime I listen to the record and I just can’t help but sing along.

‘Get Off My Cloud’ is not a cover of the Rolling Stones but rather an original composition that is pure ’90s Hard Rock. The main riff sounds like something from KISS’ REVENGE (1992) or CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1997). John Corabi puts in that trademark rough, screamy vocal with another set of lush harmonies on the backing vocals. The music is a little too REVENGE for me but the song is still good quality, not one of my favorites but still solid. A short guitar solo opens ‘Tangerine’ and builds into another good Rock song with a big hook in the chorus. The main riff is repetitive, again REVENGE-ish, but not like the main riff from ‘Get Off My Cloud’. Bruce plays off the main riff with some subtle parts that add the depth. I also realy like the guitar solo, Bruce opening up those fingers. Another true acoustic number, ‘Robin’s Song’ is soft, slow, and personal. Corabi adds an emotional delivery over the beautiful acoustics.

Bottom Line:
One of my favorite albums of the last ten years and it’s a shame that a band with this much talent has faded away. The Corabi/Kulick partnership works very well, there are extremely good Hard Rock songs on this album that stay true to the late ’90s style while keeping the influence of the Classic Rock these guys grew up on. All the players are solid and the lyrics are personal, this is a very “real” album. ‘October Morning Wind’ is my favorite song off the album. Others include: ‘Let It Flow’, ‘Old Man Wise’, ‘Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)’ and ‘Tangerine’. A good solid Hard Rock album.

Shuffle Mode – 4/29/07

Tale Of The Tape:
Dell DJ 30 (1st gen)
3138 songs (265 full albums) 

I’m kicking it back tonight and enjoying some music. I just wanted some random songs rather than listen to full CDs so I fired up the Dell DJ, selected “Play All Tracks”, and hit “Shuffle”. Here are the first 25 songs to come on (band-song-album):

  1. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘No Chance To Live’ – Mystica
  2. KISS – ‘God Of Thunder’ – Alive II
  3. Scorpions – ‘Wind Of Change’ – Crazy World
  4. Judas Priest – ‘Metal Messiah’ – Demolition
  5. Judas Priest – ‘Last Rose Of Summer’ – Sin After Sin
  6. KISS – ‘You Matter To Me’ – Peter Criss
  7. Black Sabbath – ‘Buried Alive’ – Dehumanizer
  8. Saxon – ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ – The Eagle Has Landed Live: Pt. 2
  9. Saxon – ‘Fire In The Sky’ – Denim & Leather
  10. Dio – ‘The Mob Rules’ – Inferno: Last In Live
  11. UFO – ‘Love Deadly Love’ – High Stakes & Dangerous Men
  12. Judas Priest – ‘Solar Angels’ – Point Of Entry
  13. UFO – ‘The Wild, The Willing, & The Innocent’ – The Wild, The Willing, & The Innocent
  14. UFO – ‘Too Hot To Handle’ – Strangers In The Night
  15. KISS – ‘She’ – Dressed To Kill
  16. Dio – ‘Strange Highways’ – Strange Highways
  17. Queensryche – ‘I’m American’ – Operation: Mindcrime II
  18. Def Leppard – ‘Work It Out’ – Slang
  19. Tygers Of Pan Tang – ‘Raised On Rock’ – Crazy Nights
  20. Iron Maiden – ‘Be Quick Or Be Dead’ – A Real Live One
  21. Alcatrazz – ‘Desert Diamond’ – Disturbing The Peace
  22. Def Leppard – ‘All Night’ – Euphoria
  23. Iron Maiden – ‘The Unbeliever’ – The X Factor
  24. Black Sabbath – ‘Children Of The Grave’ – Master Of Reality
  25. Tankard – ‘We Still Drink The Old Ways’ – The Beauty And The Beer

CD Scavenger Hunt – “REO” Edition – 4/24/07

A slow week for new releases locally, their were some Black Metal new releases, especially Dimmu Borgir, but I’m not big into Black Metal. There was one release that had my interest, one that intrigued me……the new REO Speedwagon album, FIND YOUR WAY HOME.

Now I like me some good ol’ Classic Rock and lately I’ve been listening to old Styx, Skynyrd, .38 Special, Starship, and Foreigner. The only Rock radio worth listening to in my area are the Classic Rock stations so I’ve been knee deep in the 70s and 80s and I’ve heard a lot of REO tunes lately.

I have no REO Speedwagon in my collection. No greatest hits, no studio albums, nothing. For some reason, this new album shot straight to the top of my want list. My usual shop had the disc listed for $11.88 on sale but, while reading album reviews, I found that Wal-Mart had a 3 CD special edition for $14.88 that was an exclusive and had been released three weeks ago. Even though it goes against all of my principles, I was at Wal-Mart that afternoon.

REO Speedwagon – Find Your Way Home (3 CD special edition) – $14.88: So what makes this release so special? VALUE! The set is three individual CDs enclosed in a slipcase:

  • the new album
  • Hi Infidelity Then Again…Live – a 2006 performance at XM Radio
  • XM Artist Confidential DVD- a seven song acoustic live performance plus interviews

Now you can’t beat three CDs worth of music for $15. I’m always a sucker for limited editions and bonus CDs so this was a good purchase for the money – some new material and some old classics.

Total (w/tax) – $15.60

Quick update

I just wanted to let everyone know that I haven’t stopped writing, I’m just taking the time to listen to some music. The pile of CDs on my desk has grown and there is also a serious pile of unopened DVDs that have gone unwatched…..I’m trying to get caught up.

The weather has been beautiful here in Rhode Island so I have been spending a lot of time outside working on the house, etc. Nice thing is that we have electric outlets outside so I can bring a radio outside and catch up on an album or two.

As far as collecting, I admit that I haven’t really bought much. The backlog of CDs and DVDs, and lack of time, has temporarily stopped my purchases. One thing I am going to start doing is ordering online more and getting back into Ebay. I haven’t searched Ebay in months and I’m starting to get the itch. I also can’t seem to get imports locally like I used to so I’m going to start using some online stores rather than wait for a U.S. release.

On the concert trail, I have a ticket to see Heaven & Hell on May 15 and I just scored a seat in the 10th row for Def Leppard/Styx/Foreigner for August 11. I also plan on seeing the Rush tour, the Poison/Ratt tour, and Michael Schenker (in Connecticut) if he shows. So far, the Summer concert series looks good.

My night off is tomorrow and I think my plan will be to set up some posts for the upcoming week so I can just login and publish. I seem to post in a timely manner when I use one day to knock out a week’s worth rather than do one a day. I’d also like to update some links, blogs, and websites to the sidebar.

The good news is that I have actually GAINED readers in the last month even with a lack of posts. A check of the blog stats shows that people are coming to the site to see Gene’s facelift and then moving to other posts and exploring. To all the new readers…..Welcome!

And to all…..stay Metal!

Saxon – The Inner Sanctum (2007)

Saxon - The Inner Sanctum

Saxon – The Inner Sanctum (2007, SPV/Steamhammer)

  1. State Of Grace
  2. Need For Speed
  3. Let Me Feel Your Power
  4. Red Star Falling
  5. I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)
  6. If I Was You
  7. Going Nowhere Fast
  8. Ashes To Ashes
  9. Empire Rising
  10. Atila The Hun

Band Lineup:
Biff Byford – Vocals
Paul Quinn – Guitars
Doug Scarratt – Guitars
Nibbs Carter – Bass
Nigel Glockler – Drums, Keyboards

Total Time – 44:40

Saxon official website

For the last decade, Saxon has been creating new albums that are a blend of their NWOBHM roots and Power Metal. The band has released five albums with this successful formula over the past decade and they haven’t sounded this good since the mid-80s. THE INNER SANCTUM proves that Saxon is at the top of their game and they can still write some great Heavy Metal songs.

‘State Of Grace’ starts off with a slow intro that builds into the drums, then guitar, and rockets off at a speed pace. Pounding double bass drums and machine gun riffs push up against a somewhat subdued Biff Byford vocal. It’s a fast song that showcases the band’s Power Metal side while retaining their NWOBHM trademark.

Want to go faster? ‘Need For Speed’ speaks for itself. A blistering opening riff kicks the song into high gear. Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt trading lick after lick. Nigel Glockler abuses his kit, pounding the skins like a man half his age. Biff starts to pick up the pace with his trademark wail and scream.

More speed? White hot heat must come from both guitarists fingers because the main riff and solo in ‘Let Me Feel Your Power’ is insane. Similar to ‘Need For Speed’ in that you get the axe acrobatics and Glockler’s frenzied attack. Let’s not forget Nibbs Carter, his fingers must hurt like hell after slapping those bass strings at such a rapid pace. This song could have easily fit on 1999’s METALHEAD, one of the faster Saxon efforts.

The band slows the proceedings down with ‘Red Star Falling’, a ballad that is straight from 1982, pure NWOBHM. There is some layered keyboard on the track but it is more of a slight enhancement. The guitars are right up front taking charge alongside Biff’s superb vocal. This is a new Saxon classic. More of the NWOBHM roots with ‘I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)’, this sounds like it came from WHEELS OF STEEL (1980) or STRONG ARM OF THE LAW (1981). Almost every album in the band’s extensive catalog has a song with “Rock” in the title. Biff and the boys stay with the program and bash us over the head with this one. The chorus is catchy, a very anthemic song.

‘If I Was You’ is a little faster due to the chugging main riff. It’s not as fast as ‘Let Me Feel Your Power’ but it does the trick. Very heavy sounding…..the guitars sound very thick and Nigel pounds his kit but keeps within the tempo of the song. “going Nowhere Fast’ is traditional NWOBHM Saxon. This is another track that could be found on any of the early ’80s Saxon albums. The main riff has that ’80s tone but it doesn’t make the song sound dated. Another very thick sounding track that has my favorite solo of the album.

A quick drum intro and some lush keys push into a meaty guitar to open ‘Ashes To Ashes’. This is another anthemic style song that retains that classic NWOBHM feel. I don’t like the layered chorus, I would rather Biff sing it with less backing vocals. The ‘Empire Rising’ instrumental sounds similar to the ‘Crusader Prelude’ (CRUSADER, 1984) until it flows into the guitar intro to ‘Atilla The Hun’. ‘Atilla’ is eight minutes chock full of speedy Power Metal mixed with a slowed down heaviness. This song clocks in at just over eight minutes so the album has it’s “epic”. ‘Atilla…’ is a great song, Judas Priest should take note because this is the type of song they should have made for the ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION (2005) instead of ‘Loch Ness’. Again, blistering riffs/solos and another drumming clinic, pure precision and power by Glockler.

If a CD with ten solid songs isn’t enough, the band tacks on a separate DVD with live performances from the last tour. Talk about value, this is what you do to win the fans over…..give them more bang for their buck. I haven’t had a chance to see the DVD yet because the CD has been playing non-stop.

Bottom Line:
Has Saxon made a bad album in the last decade? No…..and this album continues the successful run. Byford and company have found a comfortable mix of the band’s classic style blended with Euro Power Metal. What shines the most is the drumming of Nigel Glockler. No wonder the band wanted him to come back, the guy plays like he’s twenty years younger.

The band has made an album that stays traditional to their roots while progressing. Favorite songs: all. This is as solid as it gets, I can’t find one subpar song on the record. This is the best album of 2007 for me. Go out and get it!

Manowar – Gods Of War (2007)

Manowar - Gods Of War

Manowar – Gods Of War (2007, SPV/Magic Circle Music)

  1. Overture To The Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors
  2. The Ascension
  3. King Of Kings
  4. Army Of The Dead (Pt.1)
  5. Sleipnir
  6. Loki God Of Fire
  7. Blood Brothers
  8. Overture To Odin
  9. The Blood Of Odin
  10. Sons Of Odin
  11. Glory Majesty Unity
  12. Gods Of War
  13. Army Of The Dead (Pt.2)
  14. Odin
  15. Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors
  16. Die For Metal    (bonus track)

Band Lineup:
Eric Adams – Vocals
Karl Logan – Guitars
Joey DeMaio – Bass
Scott Columbus – Drums

Total Time – 1:13:49

Manowar official website

Manowar is one of those bands like KISS: either you love’em or you hate’em. I can honestly say that I like Manowar. I’ve been a fan since the FIGHTING THE WORLD (1987) days and I have kept up with them ever since. The band can write a good Metal song but their albums have become more and more grandiose and more of a collection of epic themed songs with each release. I wasn’t crazy about the last album, WARRIORS OF THE WORLD (2002) and I skipped the SONS OF ODIN E.P. (2006) so I was hoping for a lot with GODS OF WAR. This is a concept album about the Norse god Odin, Valhalla, etc. Then again, aren’t all Manowar albums loosely based on this concept?

Let’s start by looking at the packaging. Manowar has always prided themselves as thinking of the fans first and their product is usually second to none when it comes to material, packaging, and extras. Again, very KISS-like. I bought the special edition CD/DVD combo, right there you get value. I haven’t watched the DVD yet but I found out there is a “making of” feature about the new album and a “behind the scenes” section also. The package comes encased in a metal slipcase with an embossed Manowar logo. The package is a book-style, leather bound digipak with a full color booklet and full artwork. What makes the booklet interesting is that it almost entirely written in what I believe to be old Norwegian lettering. You need to use the letter key at the end to translate the booklet. This is a little annoying but Manowar diehards will eat this up., it’s all part of the gimmick.

The first song ‘Overture…’ is 6+ minutes of nothing. It’s all choir, orchestra, and sound effects…..boring. Second song, ‘The Ascension’, is almost three minutes of the same but with some narration and a calm Eric Adams vocal. The song carries into ‘King Of Kings’ which is definitely Manowar: fast, furious, and dated. It’s good Power Metal but the song sounds like it has been released on every Manowar album thus far. Two more minutes of choir vocals and orchestration is ‘Army Of The Dead (Pt.1)’. This is another complete waste of time, why continue with this “brothers in arms choir” crap? Four songs in and only one is a real song!

‘Sleipnir’ is another Power Metal tune with an elaborate introduction that takes up a full minute of the song. It’s a serviceable tune: it’s fast, big guitars, big drums, and Adams singing well…..it just sounds too much like ‘King Of Kings’ before it. I really like ‘Loki God Of Fire’, finally something I can sink my teeth into. Logan pulls out a monster main riff and Adams growls right over it. Columbus is reserved, playing within the song and not doing too many fills and double-bass acrobatics. Killer solo also. ‘Loki…’ shows the band still has balls.

‘Blood Brothers’ is a typical Manowar ballad of brothers in arms battling until the end. Eric Adams shines vocally, this guy has always had a great set of pipes. It’s slow and layered giving off the epic feel and it’s really long clocking in just under five minutes. There should be a rule about having two “overtures” on an album, ‘Overture To Odin’ is another instrumental piece that is totally unnecessary. When will the madness end? This isn’t a movie score, this isn’t an orchestra…..this is a Heavy Metal band! Play some Metal! This request goes unheard because ‘The Blood Of Odin’ is a four minute narration.

The band redeems themselves from wasting the last eight minutes of our time with ‘Sons Of Odin’, a six minute epic power metal song. Another song with balls: superb vocals and guitars/ The only downfall is the narrative/orchestration five minutes in that concludes the song. Remember ‘The Warrior’s Prayer’ from KINGS OF METAL (1988)? That’s basically what ‘Glory Majesty Unity’ is…..another 4:42 of wasted time. It’s a well done narrative with sound effects and orchestration but where is the Metal? We are eleven songs in and there are only FIVE real songs! With all the passages and narratives, I feel like I’m at a stage production but there are no visuals.

The title track is a slower song, more orchestral bits added to the Metal guitars and great Eric Adams vocals. It’s over seven minutes long though and I am about ready to throw this CD right out the window. Luckily I have ‘Army Of The Dead (Pt.2) to make it worse. Another instrumental with choir vocals and organ, it makes me think of Sunday mass. These two songs alone waste another ten minutes of my listening pleasure.

The main guitar riff on ‘Odin’ sounds like something straight from Queen’s FLASH GORDON album. Another slow epic song that I think I’ve heard before. By this time, I’m sick of hearing the following words: Valhalla, Odin, Valkyries, Sword, Blood. Again, Adams shines and seems to be the only bright spot on the album. If you have to have ‘Overture To The Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors’ to start the tale then you better have ‘Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors’ to end the quest! Can you guess what the song is? Correct, a slow epic song with orchestration, choral arrangement, another great Eric Adams vocal, and a good Karl Logan solo and a narrative. Thankfully the record is over…..or is it?

‘Die For Metal’ is the anthem you’ve heard Manowar do before, the anthem you expect, the anthem you hoped would be on the album. Manowar aren’t reinventing the wheel here, they do one or two of these per record but this is a refreshing change from the Norse concept that took up over an hour of my life. The main riff is a Led Zeppelin rip-off but that is forgiven because the tune really kicks ass. It’s mid-paced and cliche but it’s welcome among all the concepts.

Bottom Line:
For diehards only. If you’re a casual fan, save your money. Honestly, I think the diehard Manowar fans in the U.S. will have a hard time getting into this album but I’ll bet this is loved in Manowar strongholds in Europe and South America. I have given this album numerous critical spins and I just can’t get into it. It’s not the concept, that doesn’t stray far from the Manowar ideas, it’s all the wasted time. How many instrumentals and narratives do we need? Out of 16 songs you only get half that are true songs, the rest are conceptual fluff. I will probably never reach for this album again and I will only give the DVD a single spin. A true disappointment…..

Current playlist

I’ve been spinning a few albums on the last couple of days of my vacation, here’s what I’ve been listening to:

  • Saxon – The Inner Sanctum (2007)
  • Manowar – Gods Of War (2007)
  • Sonic X – Thirteen (2007, advance copy)
  • American Angel – Vanity (2007, advance copy)
  • Masterplan – MK II (2007)
  • Riot – Thundersteel (1988)
  • Accept – Predator (1996)

What are you listening to?

Update…..or where the hell I’ve been.

I’m sure that many of you noticed the abrupt lack of posts as I was just getting on a roll for April. I had prepared an update that I was going to post last Wednesday…..but I forgot. Early Thursday morning, the family and I drove to New Jersey for my younger brother’s wedding. It was a great long weekend: lots of family and friends, time off from work, all the wedding events, a ton of drinking, and a splash of Metal on top.

Thursday was our travel day from Rhode Island. We were out by 8am but, after taking the dog to the kennel and doing some last minute errands, we didn’t actually get on the road until 11am. The van we rented was supposed to have an MP3 player jack but it didn’t. No CDs came on the trip so we were stuck with the radio. After a 4 hour drive (2 kids = many stops), we checked into The Hilton in East Brunswick, it was off to the rehearsal and dinner. After many pitchers of sangria, the after party at the hotel bar included many pitchers of assorted beers. The digital music system in the bar had a wide selection of Rock and Metal and we bought 100 songs: KISS, Motorhead, The Doors, Stones, Floyd, Maiden, Priest, The Who, Bob Segar, Boston, Lou Reed, Scorpions, Def Leppard, Autograph, Accept plus a bunch of others. By the time last call came, we were rocked…..from the music and the brew! By that time we were relegated to taking pictures in the main lobby. What I remember is vague but we all took a picture with this huge tattooed biker who was a guest. I remember everyone doing the Metal horns while the best man took the shot. I will post that when he sends it to me.

Friday was the off day except for the tuxedos. Picked those up and basically went our separate ways. I checked the local telephone book for record shops but there were none. We were about 10 minutes from Princeton University and there is a HUGE record store there but I wasn’t able to go, the family put a stop to that. My hunting was done at the local Target and there were no treasures to be found. The wedding and reception was Saturday afternoon. I was a groomsman, or usher, in the wedding party so my only job was to not screw up. My oldest daughter and niece were flower girls and they did a great job.

The fun began at the reception. The wedding party and parents were introduced to the guests to the sounds of ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ by KISS. My daughter and niece were introduced after the parents and before the groomsmen & bridesmaids, these two 8 year old girls got the most applause because my daughter knew the song and had the presence of mind to give the horns as they were introduced. There was a good selection Rock: KISS, Journey, Metallica, Faith No More…..but the crowning moment was the cutting of the cake to Def Lep’s ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’. By that time, most were tanked and it was priceless.

We said our goodbyes Sunday morning. The Nor’easter that hit the Northeast made travelling an all day experience. The good thing is that on of my family’s stops was at IKEA in Connecticut. I think I have found the problem to my CD storage problem. It’s not the solution from IKEA I came up with last week but a solution from IKEA that my wife thought of in November after we bought the house. Of course, I’m in trouble for not listening to her months ago!

So I’m back and ready to pick up where I left off last week. I have a few more days off so I will be posting a couple of reviews and this new storage idea over the next couple of days.

Snake Eyes Seven – s/t (2007)

Snake Eyes Seven - s/t

Snake Eyes Seven – s/t (2007, Chavis Records)

  1. Hell Or High Water
  2. Comin’ Down
  3. Love For A Moment
  4. Bitter Pill
  5. Be Leaving
  6. Bullets & Booze
  7. Breakdown
  8. Devil With A Rosary
  9. You’re To Blame
  10. Photos Of The Dead

Band Lineup:
Victor Langen – Bass, Vocals
Daniel Nargang – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Cole Stevens – Guitars
Johnny Bland – Drums, Percussion

Total Time – 43:17

Snake Eyes Seven official website

Snake Eyes Seven released their self-titled debut back in February and the band has shown the Metal community that there is still room for a fresh new sound. Described as “vintage Black Sabbath infused with Rammstein”, this Canadian band is trying to bring the classic old guard in line with the new trends in Metal today. While I don’t really hear the Rammstein connection, I can hear the Sabbath influence on the guitar and drums. I would describe this band more as a blend of Black Sabbath, Ozzy solo, and Black Label Society. There are a few Industrial Metal moments on the record but not enough to really get a Rammstein feel.

It’s definitely a heavy album, full of guitars and pounding drums, but the vocals give off a melodic style. I’m not saying it’s melodic like Journey but there are some good vocals here that blend well with the heaviness. No doubt the band has a big sound, the musicians are experienced coming from bands like Into Eternity, Wrathchild, and Kick Axe. There’s a power and a groove but the band isn’t breaking a lot of new ground, their music actually sounds a bit dated. I get a “retro” feel, something out of the late ’80s/early ’90s Hard Rock and Metal scene. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I think it’s more a nod to the band’s influences.

Bottom Line:
A heavy debut that sounds like different incarnations of the Ozzy sound over the years. Good musicianship, good vocals but a slightly dated sound. Very good production, definitely gives the band a larger than life/BIG sound. I would like to see how Snake Eyes Seven grow and what they do for album #2, this debut is a solid launching point. Favorite tracks: ‘Hell Or High Water’, ‘Bitter Pill’, ‘Love For A Moment’

VH-1 Classic Metal Mania Stripped – Vol. 3 (2007)

VH-1 Classic Metal Mania Stripped - Vol. 3

VH-1 Classic Metal Mania Stripped – Vol. 3 (2007, VH-1 Classic/Sidewinder Music)

  1. Poison – Unskinny Bop   (from MTV Unplugged)
  2. Shaw/Blades – High Enough   (new recording)
  3. Tesla – Signs   (from Live At The Trocadero)
  4. Kip Winger – Headed For A Heartbreak   (new recording)
  5. Dokken – In My Dreams   (from One Live Night)
  6. Firehouse – When I Look Into Your Eyes   (from Good Acoustics)
  7. Ratt – Way Cool Jr.   (from MTV Unplugged)
  8. Jani Lane – Heaven   (new recording)
  9. Steve Plunkett – Turn Up The Radio   (new recording)
  10. Tom Keifer – Nobody’s Fool   (new recording)
  11. KIX – Don’t Close Your Eyes   (new recording)
  12. Eric Martin – Just Take My Heart   (new recording)
  13. Queensryche – The Killing Words   (from MTV Unplugged)
  14. Slaughter – Up All Night   (live from The Key Club)
  15. Accept – Balls To The Wall   (new recording)

Total Time – 61:59

VH-1 Classic
Sidewinder Music

I don’t know what it is about these compilations that attracts me but I always seem to buy this type of stuff. Call it a love of 80s Hard Rock, call it being nostalgic, call it being a sucker…..who knows?

So what is so great about VH-1’s new Stripped comp? Not much. There are some new recordings and some unreleased MTV Unplugged material but I find the format and concept already outdated. There are also some songs that have been released previously on the bands’ albums, so fans get milked again! Let’s look at the songs:

‘Unskinny Bop’ is the most annoying song Poison ever did, do we really need an acoustic version? Better yet, this was released on Poison’s CRACK A SMILE…..AND MORE album from 2000. Just release the full MTV Unplugged performance already! But do we need that either?

Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades recorded a nice remake of their Damn Yankees hit ‘High Enough’. The duo is in prime acoustic mode with the recent release of their acoustic covers album, INFLUENCE, and their new tour. I like this new version, very good.

‘Signs’ is Tesla’s ‘Unskinny Bop’. Why a good band like Tesla has to ride the coattails of a cover tune is beyond me. Isn’t this on FIVE MAN ACOUSTICAL JAM (1990) already? Sad thing is that the band released the excellent INTO THE NOW in 2004 and it got virtually no airplay but Tesla’s version of ‘Signs’ still gets on Rock radio. I like The Five Man Electrical Band’s original from 1971 better.

Kip Winger has been out doing solo acoustic shows for a number of years now so his new acoustic version of ‘Headed For A Heartbreak’ is dead on. I always thought the song was boring but I have to give Kip credit for giving the tune a fresh sound.

If you want to hear Dokken’s ‘In My Dreams’ acoustic, go buy ONE LIVE NIGHT (1995) and enjoy the whole show. It’s good but it’s better within the context of the live album.

I never got into Firehouse. I liked parts of their debut but I never followed them much. I remember not liking ‘When I Look Into Your Eyes’ when it came out in 1992 so I still thought that it sucked when the band released GOOD ACOUSTICS in 1996. It’s already been released so it’s not new.

An MTV Unplugged that should be released. Ratt keeps the sleaze of the original ‘Way Cool Jr.’ on this acoustic version. Very good.

Jani Lane has stated in countless interviews over the last few years that he doesn’t like to perform songs like ‘Heaven’ or ‘Cherry Pie’ anymore. I can respect the guy for saying that and trying something new live but why does he go against his own words and perform these songs when cash is involved? Never a huge Warrant fan anyway but I dug ‘Heaven’ back in the day. Too bad Jani left his singing voice back in the day too.

Autograph’s ‘Turn Up The Radio’ was a complete surprise to me. Finally, an artist takes a risk and gives a tune a new arrangement. The original was a Hard Rock anthem back in ’84 and it still gets some radio play from time to time. Steve Plunkett did a good job with this new version and it still rocks. One of my favorites on the album.

Tom Keifer butchers ‘Nobody’s Fool’. It’s obvious his voice is shot, maybe that’s why Cinderella never released that reunion album?

KIX never gets the credit they deserve, I’m glad to see them on this mainstream compilation. This is a good rendition of ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ but I prefer the original over this new version.

‘Just Take My Heart’ by Eric Martin (Mr. Big) is OK. It’s a new version so I have to give credit for the recording but the song bores me just as much as the original did in 1991. Mr. Big is in the same boat as Firehouse & Warrant, I dig a few tunes but not enough to enjoy the band.

Queensryche was just a great band and I was a fan right from the beginning. I always thought that RAGE FOR ORDER (1986) was a solid record but it seems to be the “lost” Queensryche album. Nice to see VH-1 didn’t play it safe and released ‘The Killing Words’ instead of ‘Silent Lucidity’. Another good MTV Unplugged show that should be released.

Not sure if ‘Up All Night’ acoustic has been officially released by Slaughter already but, after hearing this version, I wouldn’t pay good money to buy it if it was released. This does nothing for me except hit FFwd.

If there ever was a Euro-Metal anthem from the early ’80s, it was Accept’s ‘Balls To The Wall’. The original song is a serious Metal feast and Accept was a serious German Metal band. Out of all the bands, Accept could never be considered a “hair band” or mainstream, I was very surprised to see them included. I couldn’t believe this version on piano and strings! A totally different arrangement and it comes off well. A true surprise and BEST TRACK on the whole compilation!

Bottom Line:
An OK and average release. Only four songs were previously released, three were unreleased, and eight were new versions…..not bad for the casual fan. For the collector, I advise that you buy this for the Accept, Autograph, and Shaw/Blades tracks. After that, go out and buy the respective albums for the previously released music and trade for the MTV Unplugged shows. Also, get it used because it’s certainly not worth the $15.

Black Sabbath – The Dio Years (2007)

Black Sabbath - The Dio Years

Black Sabbath – The Dio Years (2007, Rhino)

  1. Neon Knights
  2. Lady Evil
  3. Heaven And Hell
  4. Die Young
  5. Lonely Is The Word
  6. The Mob Rules
  7. Turn Up The Night
  8. Voodoo
  9. Falling Off The Edge Of The World
  10. After All (The Dead)
  11. TV Crimes
  12. I
  13. Children Of The Sea (live)
  14. The Devil Cries (new recording)
  15. Shadow Of The Wind (new recording)
  16. Ear In The Wall (new recording)

(Tracks 1-5 from HEAVEN & HELL, Tracks 6-9 from MOB RULES, Tracks 10-12 from DEHUMANIZER, Track 13 from LIVE EVIL, and Tracks 14-16 new recordings)

Tony Iommi – Guitars
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Geezer Butler – Bass
Bill Ward – Drums (Tracks 1-5)
Vinny Appice – Drums (Tracks 6-16)
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards (Tracks 1-13)

Heaven & Hell lineup

(photo of the current Dio-era Black Sabbath under the new name: Heaven & Hell) 

Total Time – 1:19:27

Tony Iommi official website

Ronnie James Dio official website

It’s about time the Dio-era of Black Sabbath got recognized. Ever since the late ’90s reunion with Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath history has been suppressed by the band, management, and media unless it was about the original lineup. Fortunately for the fans, the Dio fronted Black Sabbath was so powerful and successful that it still remains a memorable point of Heavy metal history.

For almost two years, Rhino Records has had plans to celebrate the Dio years of Black Sabbath. At first, plans were to have a box set including all four studio albums (HEAVEN & HELL (1980), MOB RULES (1981), LIVE EVIL (1982) and DEHUMANIZER (1992)) and any outtakes there may be. Unfortunately the plans were pared down to a single CD but three new songs were recorded specifically for this collection.

This is a compilation so I am not going to do a song-by-song review except for the new songs. As far as the songs picked to summarize this era’s output, I think it’s an excellent representation. The only two songs I would have liked to have seen added would be ‘The Sign Of The Southern Cross’ (MOB RULES) and ‘Time Machine’ (DEHUMANIZER)…..I wouldn’t have minded eighteen songs instead of sixteen. Obviously, HEAVEN & HELL is the crowning achievement of this era so that album gets a six song representation but it’s nice to see MOB RULES and DEHUMANIZER with multiple songs because I find they are always forgotten under the long shadow of H&H.

On to the new songs…..

‘The Devil Cried’ is a slow dirge that really packs a punch. A wall of Iommi guitar and RJD sounds in top form. This is an extension of the DEHUMANIZER sound: a more modern sound but trademark Sabbath.

‘Shadow Of The Wind’ is another slow piece that harkens back musically to Ozzy-era Sab but with a better singer. Slow and muddy doom, that’s the good thing. Another track at home on DEHUMANIZER.

‘Ear In The Wall’ is the fast rocker. Trademark riffs and vocal but I find that Vinny shines most on this song, he gets to let loose and put in some nice fills.

Bottom Line:
If you haven’t heard what Black Sabbath sounded like with Dio at the helm, this is a great compilation to get started with. Each album is represented well and the new songs follow the Sabbath tradition. I am still playing this record but I’m really only listening to the new songs now. I know all of the Dio-era albums by heart, the new songs make the difference for me. There is still serious creativity in Iommi, but he’s saddled with Ozzy in the official Black Sabbath. RJD has been churning out excellent albums all along so his mark is especially obvious on these new studio tracks. I wouldn’t mind hearing a new full album under the touring name: Heaven & Hell. I’ll be seeing that show on May 15th!