A few months ago, I went to an intimate three-day concert in the wilds of Germany. Many of the bands I saw I was already well-acquainted with, but there were a few groups I was unfamiliar with that I had heard good things about, and two of them inspired me to buy their CDs when I got back home.
Powerwolf - Preachers Of The Night
Powerwolf has one of the most generic power metal names possible, they wear facepaint and some of them dress in black versions of various Catholic clergy uniforms, three of the members have made-up names, all their songs seem to be about wolves, werewolves, blood, religion (plenty of Latin in song titles), or some combination thereof, and I loved their CD so much I listened to it four times instead of the usual two and it is still in my car. The religious bent also makes an appearance in the tone of the keyboards (a tinge of church organ) and the vocals (slightly operatic), which makes Powerwolf stand out from other bands in its genre. That part is very pronounced and perhaps as over-the-top as the band's visuals in the intro of the song Amen & Attack above, before settling down to a more typical level for the rest of the song. The guitars are fantastic (the speedy riffs after the vocal intro and then the solo are just glorious), but the vocals are the real standout - driving power with that operatic flavor here and there.
From what I have read, Powerwolf has been sticking to a formula, but their fifth album is my first, so I can't penalize them for that. I may be overrating the CD because of how great the first four songs are and listening to those tracks several extra times, but right now I am giving Preachers Of The Night and all its grand guignol glory an A.
Hey look, over to the left in the back, there I am!
Tristania - Darkest White
Tristania is a female-fronted symphonic metal band that also has an element that allows them to stand out from the pack. Most bands in their genre focus very heavily on the vocalist, but Tristania has a strong guitar sound, which I noticed from the start when I saw them perform in Germany. What I somehow overlooked (or was heavily minimized in concert) was the bits of growly male vocals, which are in at least half the songs on the album. I am very anti-growl, unless it is just an accent backing up the singing. I chose a song without growls here, and with the female vocalist coming in second, but it does feature the pronounced guitars and a different type of contrasting vocals that work much better for me. Overall, though, I didn't find any songs that jumped out at me demanding extra plays and there is just too much growling for me to go any higher than a C+.
F'n Brilliant! Besides the usuals it has Lippy the Lion and Hardy-Har-Har, Hong Kong Phooey...and the friggin Hair Bear Bunch!!!!!! Catnip for my inner child!
If I were that pilot, I would've taken Muttley to the pound for laughing at me! mhihi:
Wacky Races were the best.
This is what Rocket did/does better than anyone. Playing rock 'n' roll!
Rocket from the Crypt - In League With Satan
Disco Belgian Queens of the Stone Age...that sums it up. Total earworm and one of my top 5 of the year!
I seem to have a lot of live albums lately, including all five that are currently in my car. Ideally a live album should have additional energy with a minimal loss of clarity. I like some improvisation, but not so much that it takes away from a song. I want to see a good song choice, maybe with something special thrown in. If the crowd is really into it to the point you can hear them, that is a definite bonus, as are some audible effects in appropriate spots. And unless there is a good reason not to, if a band has the material, every disc better have close to 78 minutes of music on it.
Metallica - Through The Never
The two discs of this album average 50 minutes each, but it is the concert portion of the recent movie of the same name, so I'll allow that. However, there is a part during the end of Enter Sandman where James Hetfield reacts to some incident that is part of the story of the movie. That is highly distracting and probably could have been expunged. Hetfield's voice has lost a step or two (or three), but he can still tear into the lyrics. The song selection is very good, spanning their career and completely ignoring St. Anger. Metallica purists will be happy to see that 9 of the 15 tracks (not counting the intro track) are from the first four albums, including a great rendition of Master Of Puppets with the audience shouting along, powerful playing on the (relatively) slow part, and a nice little guitar solo. The improvisations are pretty good, especially on the first disc, but on the other hand you should not mess with is perfection, and they messed with the intro of For Whom The Bell Tolls. There are a couple moments where some very powerful stage explosions can be heard, which really help sell the experience. I won't penalize the album for the annoying packaging that folds out in multiple directions, but they called the thing Through The Never and didn't put the actual song Through The Never on it. Also, more separation from the Binge And Purge live album, which features Hetfield and Lars Ulrich with 20 fewer years on them at the height of Metallica's career playing a lot of the same songs, could have been had by tacking on some extra tracks after the movie concert. Solid overall, but nothing extraordinary. B.
Firewind - Apotheosis Live 2012
I can't seem to find video of the exact version of Head Up High on the album, and the versions I played on YouTube don't come close to the audio on the CD, so you will have to play it off this German website: RockHard: Firewind - Head Up High
Ozzy Osbourne's #1 talent, or perhaps his handlers' #1 talent, really lies in choosing guitar players. Randy Rhoads, Jake E Lee, Zakk Wylde, and currently Gus G. Gus G may have the misfortune of playing with Ozzy at a point where the man's voice is essentially shot (no idea how Ozzy sounds so much better in 2013 with Sabbath), but he has his own band, Firewind, where his ridiculous guitar playing can be appreciated in a much better setting. Ironically enough, I am not a big fan of Firewind's since-departed vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, who has this small bit of scratchiness in his voice that is just enough to be distracting without being distinctive.
The great thing that Gus G does with Firewind is show off some seriously impressive guitar work without allowing it to overwhelm the songs themselves. What I want in a Firewind live album is to hear him take it further, and in that he definitely delivers, shredding his way here and there but never overdoing it, saving that last gear for the guitar solo track and the instrumental it leads into. The single disc has 17 songs, including a cover of Maniac (yes, that Maniac), which was just ridiculous enough of an idea to be awesome (and has a sweet guitar solo that I am going to guess was not featured in the original). The best songs are fantastic, but some of the others are just average. The band's live performance elevates it to a B+ (Head Up High on its own earning an A or better).