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SamueleMerco
5 months ago
Sacred Hearth (Dio), What I Think
Dio was at the peak of his popularity with the release of "Sacred Heart". Both of his first two LPs had gone platinum in the U.S. (1,000,000 + in sales) and were successful across the globe. Some sort of backlash was inevitable. Many were quick to pounce on the album for being inferior to "Holy Diver" & "The Last In Line". This is true. Whereas, those other albums had no filler "Sacred Heart" had it's share of mediocrity ("Shoot Shoot", "Fallen Angels", etc..). Additionally, the production is slicker and it's obvious the band was gunning for a hit. Most likely it was record company pressure. The Dio band's first two LPs were big sellers- going Gold within a year and eventually certified platinum as already mentioned- so likely record execs though if they could get a mainstream radio hit they could better the numbers. At the time it was in the insipid, sappy power ballad. Well, Dio wasn't going there thank goodness. I wonder if they tried to get him to write one. The pop metal "Hungry For Heaven" had appeared on a movie soundtrack ("Vision Quest") and achieved heavy airplay on Rock radio. If ever there was a Dio song (along with "Rainbow In The Dark") that should've made the Billboard Pop chart it was this but no dice. It's just appalling that utter crap like Twisted Sister could get a pop hit but Dio couldn't. Actually, it's to Dio's credit- he was just too metal and history now looks back with disdain on TS and bands like Quiet Riot while the Dio albums still get respect. That's the U.S. In The U.K., Dio was charting but it was a different single, "Rock And Roll Children", that was the hit. It managed a #26 placing on the pop chart. So, yeah, "Sacred Heart" and the following album "Dream Evil" were the closest Dio ever came to the cliche' "selling out". So perhaps there was more keyboard and more melody but that is not selling out. Just think of how nauseating Poison was/is and you'll release that Dio never strayed that far from his signature sound. He always had a sense of melody, not just songs with memorable guitar riffs (like the overly-esteemed "Iron Man" from Ozzy/Sabbath days) Initially, this slightly more polished strategy worked as this became Dio's biggest selling album worldwide. But, for some reason Dio's fanbase began to dwindle shortly after it exited the charts. It wasn't grunge, which killed metal's popularity years later. It wasn't that Dio's songwriting skills wen't bankrupt ("Dream Evil" was a step up from this album). It's true the EP, "Intermission", wasn't well received but that's not it. What was it then? MTV's parade of photogenic Hair Band "Rock" bands plain and simple.

SamueleMerco
2 years ago
Speed Metal Symphony (Cacophony), What I Think
Wowzers...this album holds up pretty damn well for something released in 1987. This was released on the notorious Shrapnel Records imprint, so us old folks know what to expect from this. For those youngsters out there who aren't familiar with this label and its output: lots and lots and LOTS of stunning guitar work, most of it instrumental, was the hallmark of this (still-active) label. Most of it at the expense of actual songs, but this is an exception. This album is mainly a vocal effort, unusual for Shrapnel Records at the time, with Peter Marrino's manly bellowing front and center, a pleasant change from the usual Halford wannabes of the time in the more mainstream circles. Well, OK, this is not *that* mainstream given the amazingly high level of musicianship--the guitar playing was cutting edge at the time and still is outstanding in these days of lameass wannabe riffers who worship at the alatar of Korn. But there are actual SONGS on display here with the guitar work cleverly worked into the framework of them, again an unusual thing for Shrapnel Records. Goofy lyrics, but hey, this was the 80s, so cut 'em some slack eh. Musically, the title is a little misleading, or so I thought when I bought it years ago (on vinyl), not that speed metal at all, or at least the type of speed metal I was used to in those days (Slayer, etc). But there is still an abundance of solid, crunching riffs to go with the shred that are actually rather catchy. Opener "Savage" is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, with well-written riffing surrounding Marrino's strong vocals (I didn't like him too much at the time I bought this, but after years of hearing tuneless death metal grunters and tuneless black metal shriekers it's a welcome change to hear a real singer trying to carry a tune and doing it as authoritatively as he does). Of course, as soon as the vocals drop out of the tune, the guitars take over, and I mean TAKE OVER. The whole middle part of the tune features some of the best guitar playing you will ever hear, on this album and elsewhere, starting with a slow melodic solo going into a creepy little atonal harmony bit, then right into an long, intense dual harmony solo that will have you gawking in amazement with its precision and melodic feel as well as occasional lapses into Oriental sounds. Even the rideout is excellent. "Where My Fortune Lies" has a great slow chorus with emotional soloing beneath Marrino's vocals not overshadowing him that much at all--of course this comes in after the terrifying intro with its torrential legato runs like a volcano erupting and a speed metal verse. Atma Anur's drumming is always perfect for the tunes, he plays the right parts in the right places, and he is as solid as a rock. And Marty Friedman is a good bassist as well, right in the pocket and playing some nice tasteful parts, a perfect balance between mindless shredding and mindless plodding, with thick, solid tone too. The jarring whammy bar squalls after the second chorus lead into another amazing dual harmony solo that would make the likes of Yngwie wet his pants in terror--top THIS, Mr. "Bring The Fuckin' Fury!"--and leads into a sweet little atonal ending. "The Ninja" starts with a quiet clean harmony part that sounds distinctly Oriental thanks to Marty's fascination with Asian music and is a sweet little tasty opener. It leads into the beginning of the song proper with tasteful clean soloing, and then of course the distortion roars back in to make a heavy, crunch riff that moves like a tank underneath majestic harmonies (these guys were all about the harmonies, like Racer X were back in those days). More strong vocals and another catchy chorus here too. Speeds up a little in the midsection, adding a level of excitement to the tune that would not have been there if it had stayed in the same slow tempo. Marty gets in a little shredding on the bass at the end as well.
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SamueleMerco
2 years ago
Delivering The Black (Primal Fear), What I Think
Music listeners who are searching for development and progression in an artist’s sound will not find much of any interest in German power metal/traditional heavy metal act Primal Fear. Those who find themselves sometimes subscribing to the idea of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” however may find a lot to like. Delivering the Black is Primal Fear’s tenth studio album in just over fifteen years, and for all intents and purposes practically nothing has changed within their sound since their 1998 self-titled debut. Like a power metal Motörhead, they’ve put out solid and consistent albums constantly, even including a genuine classic or two like 2002’s excellent Black Sun. In that sense this review is almost pointless for people who have any prior experience of Primal Fear at all, as this album delivers exactly what was expected of it. Primal Fear’s more traditional heavy metal-tinged brand of power metal still has the same ability to kick the listener in the balls, and the band has yet to stop churning out catchy and just plain enjoyable songs. Tracks like opener King for a Day and the title track are high quality slabs of heavy metal action, equipped with razor-sharp riffs and anthemic, infectious choruses. Delivering the Black is actually one of Primal Fear’s more consistent albums in terms of it not having many songs that are significantly worse or more skip-worthy than the rest of the album, a point that goes in its favour. The Judas Priest comparisons that have been with Primal Fear since the early days can still be made, with these songs easily fitting in with classic Priest albums like Screaming for Vengeance. The main point of reference for this is Ralf Scheepers’ vocals. A fantastic heavy metal singer in his own right, he does sound eerily similar to Rob Halford, leading to you sometimes genuinely believe you are listening to a recent Priest record like Angel of Retribution. Scheeper rules these songs with ease, his gritty 80’s wail taking already punchy tracks like Alive and On Fire to new levels. The rest of the band is certainly no slouches either. Guitarists Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt are the real engine of the band, supplying the keen and penetrating riffs that get these songs really moving, as well as unleashing some great solos. The rhythm section of bassist Mat Sinner and drummer Randy Black never really does anything particularly amazing or special, but they don’t need to, instead being the very solid and strong framework that is so well suited to this style. Again, if you’re looking for musical experimentation and development Delivering the Black or indeed anything else Primal Fear has ever done or probably will do is probably not for you, but if you’re content to just put on an album and have some fun with it, you can do a lot worse. It’s a credit to the band that their tenth album is as strong as their first, and that they haven’t lost any of the youthful fire or passion that’s driven them for so long.

SamueleMerco
2 years ago
Time Is Up (Havok), What I Think
Retro-thrash bands seem to be everywhere these days. They've been pumping out some good old-fashioned '80s-style thrash metal for the past few years. Some are amazing and are totally worth checking out, while most others never quite make the cut. Bands like Warbringer and National Suicide have been making music that most would consider to be sub-par and unoriginal. You could make the argument that you can't really come up with anything original anymore cos all of the good ideas have been taken. Havok, though, decided to take those already-taken ideas, like the sounds used to make thrash, and modify them to make them sound a lot more creative than those bands, and it shows on their album "Time is Up". Sure, it still has some of those retro-thrash cliches, but that's to be expected in any thrash band formed in the 21st century. Quick, name a thrash metal band that HASN'T used an E-note riff in any of their songs! Can't think of any? None? Okay, that's fine, cos it really isn't thrash if it's without the E-note rhythm, is it? It creates an angry, aggressive sound that came from the '80s, and many bands from that time period used it, so why not use it too? Unfortunately, this creates a major problem in many thrash bands, cos they tend to use it constantly, to the point where it starts to sound bland. I can understand that some people would be annoyed by this, but come on, it's not like Warbringer where that kind of riff can only be used for one time signature, is it? Actually, it doesn't have to be that way, and Havok knew it when they cranked out this album. All of their songs have the E-note rhythm, but their time signatures vary, so it's easier to distinguish between songs. You'll know when you hear "D.O.A." and "Scumbag in Disguise", cos even though they have the E-note rhythm, they sound like two completely different songs. That's because they don't use the same time signature. And some of these songs don't settle on one time signature per song, for they can change in the songs themselves too. "D.O.A.", for example, starts off as a mid-paced song, but after the solo, it speeds up to a mosh pit-inducing speed. "Killing Tendencies" has a slower-paced intro, but it accelerates after that. Here's a fact: it's not the E-note rhythm itself that makes "generic thrash metal", it's how the E-note rhythm is used on your album. Like many thrash bands (and especially the retro-thrash bands) Havok's lyrical themes center around the same things. Lyrics surrounding violence and war ("Covering Fire" and "Fatal Intervention") and religious corruption ("The Cleric") are all trademarks of thrash metal. This proves that when it comes to lyrics, Havok really isn't really all that different from most retro-thrash bands at all. Well, I'm not really expecting anything different in thrash metal lyrics, nor do I demand that bands like Havok write songs about anything special, like World War II battles. There are reasons for the lyrics to be centered around negative topics like corruption, and possibly the biggest one is cos the band is trying to send a political message across (all while getting the crowds to mosh, of course!). "Scumbag in Disguise" talks about liars and backstabbers, some of which are presumably in our own government. The songs with lyrics regarding war could be considered cliche by some, as almost all thrash bands use them as constantly as the E-note rhythm. It can be a little redundant even a little underwhelming, sometimes, so it would be absolutely no surprise that "Covering Fire" would be about the horrors of war. I personally don't think of it as a bad thing so much, just as long as the bands write songs about different subjects on their albums which Havok does here. It may be somewhat cliched, it might not be anything groundbreaking and original, but you know what? Havok's "Time is Up" is an album worth searching for. It is a real throwback to the '80s when thrash was the king of the metal music scene, and mosh pits started to be common in the concert halls. While it has all of those cliches, it uses them wisely, and made do with ideas that were obviously already taken and used by so many other bands several times over. They took those old ideas, and used them in their own special way. Because of this, "Time is Up" doesn't have the redundancy of other bands like Warbringer, and comes out as a band that is so good, it just might rival its old masters, like Testament and Exodus.
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SamueleMerco
2 years ago
Capitan Morgan's Revenge (Alestorm), What I Think
Aaaaand here I am again with Alestorm... The frontier of pirate themed music, combining folk influences with power metal to create catchy swashbuckling tales of treasure, adventure, mead and women. The 2008 Captain Morgan's Revenge is their debut album after signing with Napalm Records and changing the bands name from Battleheart. Over the Seas is the perfect way to start an album by Alestorm. Driven by a sense of epic adventure, solid riffs and a catchy as hell chorus this definitely tells everyone right away what these guys are all about. And speaking of epic and catchiness, naturally I have to mention the title track Captain Morgan's Revenge as this is a 6 minute long story of some pirates who are doomed to die because of their actions against their captain. This track is structured amazingly well and has brilliant lyrics written by frontman Christopher Bowes. Chris writes the majority of the lyrics and they are very focused on pirates as you should expect them to be, coming from a band whose trademark is to sing about pirates like on Set Sail and Conquer. Slowing things down with Nancy the Tavern Wench I think was a good idea as almost all the other tracks are mid to fast paced. This song has superb use of keyboards to give a real feeling of actually being in a pirate tavern. With Christopher Bowes once again proving his worth to the band by being the one who provides all keyboards, it shouldn’t be a surprise that all songs have at least a hint of keyboards however one or two have an abundance of it, like the only jokey song of the album Wenches and Mead. Chris Bowes and Gavin Harper write all the music on this release but it really is Gavin on guitars, in my opinion, that makes this album stand out because all the songs have great structures, excellent riffs and not too over the top solos like on thrashy song Terror on the High Seas and The Huntmaster. Dani Evans on bass gets heard from time to time as well just like throughout Death Before the Mast which is the fastest track on this album that shows off these young guys musicianship and skill. The drums on this album are good but nothing super stand-out. The amount of double bass used is crazy, too much if you ask me. You can hear it on songs like The Huntmaster. But it isn't all bad news because you get nice surprises like Of Treasure in which Alestorm use a variety of instruments ranging from acoustic guitars to tin whistles and other traditional instruments. To sum it up here, this is an excellent debut album which any folk metal fan would enjoy especially if you have a thing for catchy songs, pirates and adventure.

Bio
Hi everyone! I'm Samuele, I'm 20 and I live in Italy. I'm a musician addicted to metal, especially power, prog and all kinds of metal where some virtuoso players are. I also love poetry, Latin and Greek in particular :) Feel free to comment on my posts!!