Showing posts with label album review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label album review. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Kiske/Somerville's City Of Heroes-By Shawn "Animalize" Irwin


Kiske/Somerville - City Of Heroes 2015

The long awaited second project from Kiske/Somerville, titled City of Heroes will finally be released April 17 (in Europe) and April 21 (in North America). This new release brings us 12 new songs.

As a big fan of Amanda Somerville's work with Avantasia, and Michael Kiske's Place Vendome, and Unisonic, I am really excited to hear these two talented artists work together again. Joining them on this new release are Magnus Karlsson from Sweden on guitar and on bass is Matt Sinner of the band Sinner, Primal Fear, and Voodoo Circle. On drums, we have someone new to me, the much talented Veronika Lukesova. Matt Sinner and Jacob Hansen both produced this long awaited release.

1. "City Of Heroes" -  The first single and video which starts the cd with a bang! Kiske starts out the song with Somerville flowing seamlessly with this duet team. The drums stand out perfectly and the guitar work of Karlsson makes this a memorable piece of music. A very catchy tune that has me singing along.

2. "Walk On Water" - This is the second single and video which is like most songs on the CD, catchy and easy to sing along with in the chorus. More mellow than the first single but well orchestrated with a short but sweet guitar solo to tie it all together. Overall a remarkable song which showcases the musicality and synchronicity of these two vocalists.

3. "Rising Up" - With a little more keyboard standing out from the chorus, it just makes you want to crank it up and sing along with the vocal talents of Somerville. A little more guitar gives a heavier edge and saves it from sounding more like a pop song. Like most of the other songs, the lyrics flow with the melodic tempo of this song.

4. "Salvation" - The longest track on the CD but a story that has me wanting more. The first minute without vocals just builds up until Kiske starts singing and Somerville continues it up right into the powerful chorus. Some heavier riffs from Karlsson which suits me perfectly as I love his work.

5. "Lights Out" - Another chorus that gets you singing with Somerville's vocals that all just flows together. Karlsson shines again with his work on the guitar.

6. "Breaking Neptune" - This is the only song not written by Sinner and Karlsson.
Amanda Somerville and Sander Gommans co-wrote this track. Somerville's voice is just magic on this track and shows why these two work so well together.

7. "Ocean Of Tears" - The slowest song on the CD which may outshine all of these great songs. This song truly shows what these two can do as they beautifully step up their vocals together. I normally like the heavier styles Kiske does, but this is a masterpiece of songwriting, musicality and vocals that make this connection such a wonderful piece to listen to.

8. "Open Your Eyes" - I found this switching to more progressive with a faster sound.  Somerville's voice is smooth as silk as Kiske joins in for more of a rocking heavier edge. Put that all together with the talents of each band member and sounding different than the other songs on this CD which I found makes it a pleasant surprise.

9. "Last Goodbye" - Kiske starts this track again with an even heavier sound. Sure makes me hope this is really not the "Last Goodbye" from these two artists and this band. The band is synced very well and keeping the CD in the roots of a great rock release.
10. "After The Night Is Over" - The second slow song on this release I had to listen to it a few times and found it to be a story that you feel you are a part of, and when it finishes, you realize how a song can get you wrapped up in the music.

11. "Run With A Dream" - With a combination of softer to a heavier sound, this track has everything you have come to expect from this collaboration of musicians. It really inspires you to really run with your dreams.

12 - "Right Now" - Nothing too heavy here - just a nice melodic ending to a great CD. Great solo from Karlsson and with Kiske & Somerville - the voices of two shining stars brings us to a close. A treat to my ears, and hopefully it won't be another 5 years until these two extremely talented artists meet again.

Overall this new release has been well worth the wait and I can't wait to get the actual cd in my hands!

Shawn "Animalize" Irwin

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Meister Goes Shooting Angels

***Please visit this post on our new website: Shooting Angels Review ***

"Apocalypse is finally here, the end of the world and humanity is condemned, angels are coming down to earth to kill us all and send us to hell. So, you load your shotgun and prepare yourself to hit the road and start some angel hunting. Before this, you need to find the perfect music to join you and motivate you through the journey, fulfilling you with energy, power and "let's rip some fuckin' wings" attitude. Well search no more, you just found Shooting Angels."

Shooting Angels was born in Switzerland in 2014 as a result of a night spent by drummer Alex "Black Cat" and guitarist Lee "The Kid" in a strip club after their jam session. The concept presented to them in their drunken stupor in the form of a hot stripper spewing off pothead talk about the end of the world with the "skies opening up and the angels coming down to earth to kill every human, eating them alive and releasing their souls to hell". And so the band concept was born. Many male singers were auditioned for the position, but it was the kick ass-ery of female vocalist Lola Van Loo that won out to front Shooting Angels. February 2015 saw the release of the Deal With The Devil EP which was recorded, mixed, mastered and produced by Federico Truzzi and shortly afterward guitarist Fabian joined the trio. Now Shooting Angels and their Deal With The Devil EP have found their way to The Meister!

The EP begins with the ominous thunder and rain intro to "This Is War" and this track has a straight ahead rock feel to it with a harmonic, leaning towards symphonic, chorus that becomes quite catchy. Loo shows that she possesses the dulcet tones of the very angels the band is hunting (according to their little bio) at the outset of "Mirror, Mirror" before the rest of the angel hunters join in. The band's title song, "Shooting Angels" is up next and seems to follow the little back story from the band's bio about just what the title suggests. Featuring an insanely memorable chorus that rolls around in my head days later, this is the gem of the assemblage for me. The four song EP wraps up with the title track "Deal With The Devil", another solid composition. All four tracks are available on the Shooting Angels YouTube channel and I have included the links below.

I can't help but picture the American TV show Supernatural with characters Dean and Sam Winchester, for those familiar with that program, when listening to these four tracks thanks to the backstory behind the band. The Shooting Angels EP came to me through the band's drummer Alex "Black Cat". I had previously done a review of Alex's other band Mortician and their Shout For Heavy Metal album (These Austrians Shout For Heavy Metal). While both bands possess a difference in styles, I highly recommend giving both a shot. The only thing left for me now is to hope that they will be playing a gig during the time that I'm over in Europe in June 2015! I'm off to load my shotgun.

The Meister

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PHOTO CREDIT: Shooting Angels Press Kit 2015

Shooting Angels Website / Shooting Angels Facebook / Shooting Angels YouTube / Shooting Angels Bandcamp

Sunday, April 5, 2015

ANGUS is Back! A Review Of Both Reissued Albums


Dutch legendary heavy metal band Angus finally gets both their albums reissued on CD with plenty of bonus material thanks to Sonic Age Records and their subsidiary Cult Metal Classics. Both albums got released in the mid 1980´s on a small label with very limited distribution. Sentinel Steel Records reissued both albums on one CD in 2001, but this is the first time they get issued on individual CDs with plenty of bonus material (including their first 4-track demo from 1983). Many fans of this kind of classic heavy metal never even knew these albums existed (including myself!). They prove to be a great find now that they are available again.

Angus started in the spring of 1983 when four friends started to rehearse in the attic of an old canal house in Amsterdam, Holland. They played as fast and as loud as they possibly could. The four friends were Ed Sprey on guitar, Ed Lois providing lead vocals, Gerard Carol on bass and finally William Lawson on drums. Sprey described their music as "rugged" like a Scottish bull. That particular type of bull is called Angus which was also the first name of one of his favourite guitar players, Angus Young of AC/DC. It proved to be a perfect name for the new band.

Original Angus line up.
Picture courtesy of Jolly Jokers Ohrenbalsam
The Dutch metal scene in the early 1980´s was dominated by bands that combined speed and melody. The initial Angus sound was based on classical musical structures which was quite different from most other bands of the era. That combination of uptempo metal guitar riffs, classic etudes and fast double bass action made the material unique and stood out from the rest. The band recorded a 4-track demo after just a couple of months as an active band and started to play gigs around the Amsterdam area. In 1984, they launched their first national tour of Holland. The first line-up changes occurred when Sprey was replaced by Bert Foxx, taking over the guitar duties. The first opportunity to commit some of their songs to vinyl came in the summer of  1985 when they recorded two songs for The Heavy Touch compilation ("Lonesome Fighter" and "Aliens"). Together with five other Dutch metal bands on the rise Angus went on tour throughout Holland once again. The compilation album got a lot of positive press and the album sold well.

The compilation album brought Angus to the attention of Boudisque Records subsidiary Megaton Records which signed the band.  The debut album called Track Of Doom was recorded and released in 1986. This album was filled with great classic heavy metal and was produced by the band themselves. The result was really impressive with Lois' mighty vocals and a really tight band that had crafted a bunch of really strong songs. The album was played on national radio stations and on TV channels in Holland. Track Of Doom also made it into the top 20 in the Polish metal charts. Poland was at that time a socialist country behind the Iron Curtain so that was no small achievement. The record sales were promising and the album got a lot of positive reviews from the press. Track Of Doom was released in the US in early 1987 on Restless/Enigma Records which also handled bands like Poison and Stryper.

Cover of 7" single Papa Don´t Freak
Picture courtesy of Jolly Jokers Ohrenbalsam
Before work on the follow-up started the band re-worked the epic Madonna hit "Papa Don´t Preach" into a metal setting  rebuilding, rewriting and renaming it "Papa Don´t Freak" which was released as a single. The cover of the single shows the band members in women´s underwear in front of a peep show shop in Amsterdam´s famous red light district. It was another unusual move by Angus and the result was the media renaming their music as "Sexmetal".

In the summer of 1987 the band entered the studio to record their sophomore effort with British producer John Tilly. Production wise the album was recorded with the latest studio and computer technology of the time. During the recording bass player Gerald Carol had to leave the band due to medical complications so studio bass player Andre Versluys laid down the basslines on Warrior Of The World. The album was released in 1987 and on the live dates that followed Mike Shultz played bass. The album shot Angus into the top league of Dutch heavy metal with its pure classic heavy metal sound coupled with strong melodies. Music Maker Magazine named it heavy metal release of the year in Holland. Warrior Of The World was definitely a huge leap forward for the band who supported the album with another national tour. Unfortunately, the band broke up when the driving force of drummer William Lawson left the band after a disagreement with Megaton/Boudisque Records and their management in 1988.

Reunited Angus. Picture courtesy of
In 1999, Denis Gulbey of Sentinel Steel Records contacted William Lawson and they started to search for old Angus material. The master tape for Track Of Doom was found in the vault of CBS Records in Los Angeles. The album was remixed and mastered for a re-release. Lawson re-formed Angus with a completely new line-up in 2011 and the band has started to write songs for an all new Angus album. The current line up includes Nico Perreijn on lead vocals, Pat "the Axe" on guitar, Rene "Basbeer" Bouwer on bass and of course William Lawson on drums.

Track Of Doom 
Time to spin the debut album a couple of times. The album starts off very unconventional with an instrumental track called "The Centaur" which to me is a very strange opening track. I think the album would have benefited greatly by using a track with lyrics as an album opener. It is followed by "When Giants Collide" which starts with a fast guitar riff that transpires into metal groove when bass and drums join. Then a short stick and some double bass drumming as the song kicks off for real. This song features a very strong vocal performance from Ed Lois whose vocals on this song very much remind me of the great Steve Grimmett of Grim Reaper/Lionsheart fame. Lyrically it's a song about the Gods fighting for fun and it sounds like a giant collision. Up next is the title track "Track Of Doom" which starts out with a great guitar riff and a nice and melodic verse. A mid-tempo rocker with a great guitar solo from Bert Foxx making it one of the strongest songs on the album. The song also has a couple of interesting tempo shifts and it's a tune that deals with the threat of a nuclear war. Next is "Heavyweight Warrior" which starts with an ultra fast riff and continues in an up-tempo beat  throughout
Original LP of Track of doom
Picture courtesy of Play it loud forever.
 most of the song. A tune about an undead army waking up at sunrise to steal your soul. Up next is "Finally Out" that starts with an acoustic intro which then fades out and the heavy and fast riffing takes over again with some really fast drumming from Lawson. "Finally Out" has one of the best and catchiest choruses and some of the strongest melodies on this album. A great heavy metal song about love gone wrong. It ends with another acoustic outro. It is followed by "The Gates" which starts off with a Priest-like guitar riff from Foxx that naturally drives the song forward. A memorable and punchy chorus and this great riff makes this song one of the top picks of Track Of Doom. The song is simply about the Heaven's gates being open for you and me to enter. Once there its time to let the rage begin.

The latter half of this remastered CD (including bonus tracks) starts off with another fast paced instrumental song that is somewhat of a filler called "Dragon Chase". A song to skip with the remote. The mighty voice of Ed Lois is back again on "Lost Control" which is also the last song on the original vinyl album which contained only eight songs. It starts out with a strong groove and a couple of really nice guitar harmonies/solos from Foxx. A couple of nice tempo shifts with the odd acoustic guitar adds more value and keeps me interested throughout the whole song. Then the four bonus tracks from the first demo take over with original guitarist Ed Sprey handling the guitar. The first song is "Night Fight" which starts with a slow, almost ballad like, intro which then turns into a fast paced song. The chorus features some falsetto screams from Lois that is not my cup of tea. You can hear this is a band in the early stages of development and the lyrics sometimes do not follow the English grammar. The song is about a killer stalking at night and you have to try to stay alive. The tempo changes again for a slow outro of the song. The CD continues with track no 10 which is "Keep On Shouting"  and it  is a much stronger song than its predecessor. It starts with a nice riff from Sprey and this mid-tempo rocker has a decent chorus and a melodic hook to go with it. A song about dancing, shouting and partying. Up next is "Virgin Girl" which is a nice mid-tempo rocker with a distinct chorus. A drum intro is joined by a heavy grooving, almost Sabbath-like guitar riff. Definitely the strongest song off the first demo and would easily have made the album in my book. The CD ends with "Leading You Back" which is another groovy and heavy song about leading you back to the place where you were born and where you belong. It's easy to lose your way.

Picture courtesy of  Jolly Jokers Ohrenbalsam
Track Of Doom is a little bit speedier than the sophomore effort Warrior Of The World but still within the formula of classic heavy metal though. The band bio presents it as a speed metal record, but I would not label this as speed metal. More of a traditional heavy metal record with a few faster songs. The production is a little bit rough around the edges. The music reminds me quite a lot of The Rods, Picture and at times Manowar. What really strikes me is the very strong vocals from Ed Lois who sometimes sounds like a dead ringer for Steve Grimmett and at times, as fellow Dutchman Shmoulik Avigail (The Rods). The songs are great heavy metal songs and the musicianship is top notch. but lack some of the direct impression a great chorus can have. My top picks from this album would be "Track Of Doom", "Finally Out, and "The Gates". The bonus material from the first demo is a nice addition and an important historical document in the Angus history. The sound quality and the production is of course dated but if you can live with that you will find this to be a great bonus. I reckon many fans of Heavy Metal/Hard Rock had not even heard of this band before (including myself) and most of you will find this a great find if you give it a couple of spins. The original vinyl hardly made it´s way out of their origin country of Holland (Poland being the exception) so now it´s time for the rest of the world to discover Angus thanks to the guys at Sonic Age Records.

Warrior Of The World
Warrior of the world original vinyl press
Picture courtesy of popsike.oom
Angus' follow-up album was recorded with a proper producer (John Tilly) and the latest studio technology and you can clearly hear the sonic evolution as well as improvement in the songwriting department. Warrior Of The World starts out with the title track which is a strong heavy metal song with a catchy riff and a driving melody. Ed Lois' vocals are more polished which I decide is a good thing. What is the song about? This short line in the verse says it all: "We are here to steal your soul with metal rock n roll" - priceless! My head starts banging immediately and involuntarily so I guess that means they stole my soul. "Moving Fast" is up next and this song is literally moving fast. With a riff and hook that is repeated one too many times this is not the strongest song on the album. The lyrics deal with living fast - dying young which is somewhat of a classical theme for a rock song. Song number three on the album is "Leather And Lace" yet another typical cliche lyric of a rock song but with Angus you wouldn´t want it another way, would you? It starts off with another catchy and driving riff from Foxx that carries the song onward. A strong song but somehow lacking that big chorus you are waiting for. Sadomasochism is the theme of this song. "Money Satisfies" starts off with double bass drumming and it is an upbeat metal song with an interesting chorus that stands out a bit from the rest. All this makes it one of the most interesting songs on the album. It's a song about seeking fortune, how money can make you feel good and working really hard to succeed. Then it is time for one of the albums faster songs called "Black Despair" which is an OK fast paced rocker with some nice guitar work from Foxx. A song about lying in your bed trying to sleep when depression takes over. A situation many of us can relate to I guess. Then we have the epic and long "2086" which has got a lot of progressive elements and tempo shifts. It also deals with heavy issues as destroying ourselves in an apocalyptic war with aliens and returning 100 years later (in 2086) to see that life is slowly coming back once more. A song that does not hit you instantly in your face but grows the more you listen to it. A very complicated song texture makes it harder to easily dig into. Definitely something new from Angus but also a song without a memorable chorus line. After that treat, its time for another straight ahead rocker in "Freedom Fighter" with  a great melody pulsating throughout the tune and a cool bassline from Andre Versluys forms a great background. A song about fighting for your freedom and your right to choose the way you live.

Angus bull with logo
Picture courtesy of
The second part of the CD starts off with the first and only ballad ever from Angus and it's a really good one; "I´m A Fool With Love". It starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar from Foxx and some nice keyboard harmonies building a delicate background. A great vocal from Lois and a nice guitar solo from Foxx makes this one of the highlights of the album. An attempt to gain some radio play and write that power ballad that turned out really nicely. Then it´s time for the song with the longest title and the very last song on the original vinyl album; "If God´s In Heaven (Why Is There Hell On Earth). This song is carried by another great and melodic riff and a nice vocal from Lois. That question in the title of the song very much sums up what the song is all about lyrically as well. This song has got a really strong chorus. The bonus material starts off with "Lonesome Fighter" from the compilation album The Heavy Touch from 1985. Again Gerard Carol handles the bass on all the bonus tracks as they all were recorded prior the Track of Doom sessions.The sound quality and production is not as good as on the album but it is a great up-tempo song with a really strong chorus that you can easily sing along to when taking a shower. A song about having to fight for your life in the night although you are not a killer or a criminal. You can be attacked anyhow by some shady figure. Definitely a great addition to this CD reissue. The liner notes say this was the strongest song on the compilation and I can certainly understand that. Up next is the second song from Angus on that compilation called "Aliens". It starts off with some fancy stuff from Foxx on the guitar and continues on in a furious tempo. Not as strong as the previous song and a song about having to leave earth that has been invaded by "Aliens" who no longer had air on their home planet. Now we are fleeing from the "Aliens" from star to star. The next song is "Ruthless Men" which is a pre-production demo that in the end did not make the album Warrior Of The World. It seems to me to be an earlier version of "Warrior Of The World"- the melody for the chorus is the same just the lyrics are different. Up next is an unrecorded and unreleased song called "Men of Hades" and the below par and bad sound quality becomes almost unbearable. I guess it was included for historical purposes. It´s a song with another apocalyptic message which the band seemed to be heavily into at the time. The CD then rounds off with the cult single and remake of Madonna's super hit "Papa Don't Preach". In the Angus world, the chorus has been re-written to "Papa Don´t Freak". This single's cover art also sported the band in women's underwear and they were labeled as "Sex-metal" by the media.  Hilarious! It starts out with the band singing acapella and they have really given it the Angus treatment with a heavy guitar riff and thumping bass. A great addition and bonus material! My top picks from the album would be "Warrior Of The World", "Money Satisfies", "I´m A Fool With Love" and "If God´s In Heaven (Why Is There Hell On Earth)".


Both these albums contain great and surprisingly fresh traditional heavy metal the way it sounded in the 1980´s. I must give a great thumbs up to Sonic Age Records/Cult Metal Classics for a great packaging with 16 page full-colour booklet containing all the info you would need. You have got a band biography, all the lyrics reprinted and who plays what on every song in detail. The bonus material gathered for these re-releases are just fantastic and for the first time available to the masses. These releases must be the ultimate Angus re-releases making all prior ones obsolete. I have never been a fan of putting together two albums on 1 CD and the previous CD issue did not contain any bonus material. So even if you bought the Sentinel Steel reissue you will find plenty of reasons to buy this re-release.

When it comes to the music both the production and songwriting are better and more mature on Warrior Of The World compared to Track Of Doom. It, on the other hand, has got a nice rawness to it. My guess is that you never heard of Angus before either. In that case - do yourself a favour and pick up a copy right now. This reissue is limited and will not be available for a long time. Both these albums prove that Holland could produce great heavy metal and it was not only limited to Picture. I would give Track Of Doom a 7/10 rating and Warrior Of The World a 7,5/10 rating. Time to take the bull by the horn and spin it one more time!

The Lionsheart

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BUY Track Of Doom here! / BUY Warrior Of The World here!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Europe find their hard rock sound on War of Kings


Earlier this month the band Europe released its 10th studio album War of Kings.  Now if hearing the mention of the band Europe evokes memories of poodle haircuts, syrupy love ballads, or sugar coated pop metal then this is not your Europe. War of Kings is a solid collection of hard rock that is virtually ballad free. Gone is the keyboard driven song riffs of the 80's and in its place is a classic intertwining of the guitar and keyboards reminiscent of Blackmore and Lord in the glory days of Deep Purple. War of Kings is collection of solid hard rock that calls back to the days of the guitar driven sounds of the 70's. The band employed the talents of producer Dave Cobb to really mastermind this sounds as he did with last years Rival Sons album.

The album opens with the powerful title track, War of Kings. This song ebbs and flows with intensity throughout. One things I really like about this album is the diversity of the songwriting. On this album every band member gets a song writing credit.  Hole in My Pocket, the next song up, is the fastest on the album has singer Joey Tempest spitting out lyrics as fast as he can in the verses. The next two songs, The Second Day and Praise You, follow the same pattern of riding a groove throughout the song and great vocal melodies in the chorus. The song Nothin to Ya has the heaviest guitar riff on the album and is another mid tempo rocker. California 405 opens with a great Mic Michaeli organ part that blends seamlessly with guitarists John Norum's playing giving the song a great aforementioned classic Deep Purple feel. This song just a great vibe to it. Days of Rock n' Roll is okay, but doesn't do much for me. Children of the Mind gets the rocking going again with a great groove and a powerful chorus. The next two songs may very well be the best on the album. Rainbow Bridge with its epic organ riff and Angels(With Broken Hearts) with its simple blues riff that just grinds through the whole song- a perfect example of when less = more. The regular album ends with a fast paced rocker, Light It Up, and the deluxe edition ends with an instrumental, Vassatan, which ends with a reprise of the first song, War of Kings. I would recommend the deluxe edition simply for the packaging even if there is not a lot in the way of extra music.

If every song is worth one point, I give this album a 9.5 out of 10 and consider it a must buy for the summer. Good listening!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Viper Solfa's Carving An Icon Reviewed by Shawn "Short-Fuse" Carter


Carving An Icon – Viper Solfa – Album Review by Shawn Carter

I first heard Ronny Thorsen, frontman for the Norwegian gothic/symphonic black metal band, Trail of Tears was forming a new band, Viper Solfa about a year ago when I heard the first single, “Whispers And Storms” off of their debut album, Carving An Icon out March 31st. Since then I’ve been patiently waiting for more! Recently I got it. I received their debut album in my inbox last week and I couldn’t wait to feast my ears on the full-length. I was definitely not disappointed.

All the band members are from Norway, the birthplace of black metal and have all had previous band experience, making Viper Solfa a bit of a supergroup. Thorsen is joined by fellow Trail of Tears members, Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow on drums and Endre Moe on bass. On guitars, keyboards, orchestration and composing duties is Morfeus (Limbonic Art, Dimension F3H, Mayhem, etc.) and alongside Ronny Thorsen fronting the band is Miriam “Sphinx” Renvag (Ram-Zet).

The band has spent nearly a year compiling this album, working on a sound that they like to call “poison music,” and it seems to have paid off. I always like a real headbanger of a tune to start any album, I find it sets the mood for the rest of the album and with “Deranged” we certainly get that. I also got my first taste of what Miriam “Sphinx” Renvag brings to the table vocally as I have never heard any of her previous material besides the single released last February, “Whispers And Storms”. I have to admit, as a dude that doesn’t usually get into female vocals in metal, I think she sounds pretty amazing. Ronny and Miriam’s vocals work perfectly together, they create a really dark and evil but still beautiful atmosphere that really draws you in. Of course, the atmosphere can’t be solely created by the vocals. The music is as big if not a bigger contributor to the overall atmosphere a song has. I feel that this group of musicians with their different histories and experiences all bring a little something different to contribute to the overall sound this band has created. The level of musicianship each member has over their weapon of choice is clearly very high and with the production of the album being so clear you can really appreciate each member’s contributions.

The overall sound is very symphonic, full of epic, orchestral sections, blast beats and down tuned guitars. It’s not overly original but at the same time I think they have a distinct sound to them. Most of the tracks on Carving An Icon have a great flow to them with seamless tempo changes and smooth transitions. Songs like Vulture Kingdom,” “Whispers And Storms,” “Deranged,” “Shahanshaw,” and the title track “Carving An Icon” are all great examples of this. There are a few tracks like, “Funeral Of Kings,” and, “The Toxic Thousands” where I felt like the choruses seemed a little forced and the transitions weren’t as smooth, but even those songs have great elements to them and are certainly worthy of being included on the album. After all, to you those songs might be the best sounding of the bunch. Every song has a place on this album, there aren’t any songs that feel like filler songs to me, each song is part of the journey that Carving An Icon takes you on and it’s a journey I will most definitely go on again and again.

Overall I give Carving An Icon the debut album from the Norwegian, symphonic black metal band, Viper Solfa, 664 out of 666 horns. If you’re into epic, symphonic, black, power metal, or dark metal as some call it, or even “poison music” then don’t sleep on this album. The album is available through Massacre Records and features 10 tracks. Carving An Icon is in my opinion the best musical achievement I’ve heard come from any of Viper Solfa’s members. They have truly made something new to be proud of. Everything from the musicianship to the song structures, to the atmosphere of this album came out beautifully.

Rating: 664/666

Shawn “Short-Fuse” Carter

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blackberry Smoke Are Holding All The Roses


I saw Blackberry Smoke open for Jackyl somewhere around 2003.  They did a cover of Molly Hatchet's "Flirtin' With Disaster"  and the following day so did my band.  There are elements of Southern Rock I really dig and some not as much.  But basically I love thick heavy Les Paul's played through JCM 800's with lyrics filled with wisdom so simple that it never ceases to be true. 
Blackberry Smoke has come a long way in developing their style and sound since then.  The band I saw over a decade ago was a loud beer guzzlers soundtrack to southern living.  Now they are all that with a little more nuance.  Their latest offering Holding All The Roses isn't a balls out rocker but it is filled with plenty of balls and plenty of rock.  The type that makes southern rock addictive even to those of us in the North Star state.
Brendan O'Brien produced and if you pay any attention to rock music that name doesn't need much explanation.  A-Y, he's worked with everyone from AC/DC to Neil Young and his production on this record doesn't disappoint.
The record opens with the foot tapping "Let Me Help You (Find The Door)" followed by the title track which didn't seem right to listen to without a beer.  "Rock N Roll Again" is sure to be a staple in their set list. "Wish In One Hand" is so southern it burned my neck.  It's so southern Neil Young just wrote a song about it.  It's so southern I voted for Huey Long after listening to it.  So yeah. Its pretty good.
While there are definite highlights I wouldn't say there's a bad song on the record.  Like all good southern rockers Blackberry Smoke has mastered the art of using cliché's without sounding cliché'.  There's a song called "Payback's A Bitch" for fucks sake.  And it kicks ass.  "Lay It All On Me" is probably the funnest song on the record for anyone who's a sucker for a catchy acoustic riff.  Not the most original composition but when it's this good who cares.   
So here's the thing.  Blackberry Smoke recently played my town.  In the middle of winter.  I have summered in Minnesota (where I live), Arizona, Texas, California, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.  And I don't mind saying.  As much as the Minnesota winter sucks it is hard to beat our summers.  In other words.  Bring your country asses back in July and play in my alley.  There is little doubt this record won't be the soundtrack of some weekend that finds me in my backyard smoking the tasty parts of a hog as I crack another beer and reach for my wife's ass.
Buy this record and see this band.  Don't forget to use the Amazon link and help keep Decibel Geek rollin'.    

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Brighton's FURYON Escape Sophomore Slump With 'Lost Salvation'


Seldom does a modern rock album get loaded into my media player that I don't want to delete moments after playback, but for the moment, Furyon's second full length effort 'Lost Salvation' has softened my calloused heart and ears instantly for a number of reasons. First; the absence of "tough guy/douchebag" lyrics. Second; the guitar tracks are nearly void of pinch harmonics, which have certainly become the "2 handed tapping" of the 21st century. And lastly; no ridiculous facial hair. Suffice it to say, 'Lost Salvation' has been a listening pleasure.

From what I can gather, Furyon has been a workhorse of a band for roughly the last decade with touring and releasing a handful of EP's. They hooked up with producer Rick Beato through Kip Winger around 2009 after supporting Winger on tour that year. The union produced Furyon's first full length album 'Gravitas' in 2012, which was a solid debut and well received by music fans.

On 'Lost Salvation' the band charges onward and upward displaying obvious growth in their songcraft. It seems the band has slightly dialed back the some of the thrashy raw energy showcased on 'Gravitas' and exchanged it for a little more focused songwriting and the end result is an album full of dark guitar melodies, soaring choruses, and lyrics which are deep yet I find myself singing them in my head after each play. The Furyon bio states that the members were "raised on a diet of heavy metal, prog, and classic rock" and those styles are  laced perfectly throughout this album from the Tool-esque guitars on "Scapegoat" to the Bowie styled vocals on "What You Need". Great band. Great album. Period.

Furyon band members are as follows:
Matt Mitchell - vocals
Alex "Nickel" Bowen - bass
Lee Farmery - drums
Tiago Rosado - guitar
Luca Faraone - guitar

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Friday, March 27, 2015

The Scorpions dig into the vaults on Return to Forever


Return to Forever is the latest release by German rock icons, The Scorpions. The record is a combination of both new songs and previously unfinished songs from various periods in the bands 50-year career. Not the heaviest of albums, but classic Scorpions all the way. Musically, the performance is strong as always. The chemistry is evident as current line-up has been together for over a decade. It's mind-boggling how well Klaus Meine’s voice has held up so well after a half century of recording and touring. Meine is joined, as always by co-founder and guitarist Rudolf Schenker, guitarist Matthias Jabs, drummer, James Kottak, and Pawel MaciwodaMaciwoda is still the "new guy", having joined the band in 2004.
The record kicks off with a pair of newly written songs, “Going Out With a Bang” and “We Built This House”. The latter being the stronger song of the pair. The sparse acoustic verse building to a driving melodic chorus is signature Scorpions all the way. With the exception of " Hard Rocking All Over the Place", which would have made a great opening track, this is about as heavy as this record gets. The rest of the tracks consist of mostly mid-tempo rockers and a heavy dose of signature Scorpions ballads. Fans looking for a heavy record ala 2004’s Unbreakable or 1993’s Face the Heat, will likely find themselves little let down. By contrast, this record is almost feels like a cross between 1996’s mellow, Pure Instinct, 2010’s Sting in the Tail.
The band has stated that many of these songs are older ideas that existed in various stages of completion, some have been tucked away in the vault for decades. Though the record lacks certain cohesion and is a bit ballad-heavy, the material is anything but filler. It’s great to see some of these songs finally see the light of day.
Songs like “Rock My Car”, “House of Cards”, “Rock And Roll Band”, and “Catch Your Luck and Play” have origins that can traced back to the 80’s.  All these tunes would fit right in on any classic Scorpions album of the time. “House of Cards” ranks up there with many of the best Scorpions ballads. It’s a shame this one didn't make it on an earlier album.  A lost gem for sure. “Catch Your Luck and Play”, originally written around the Savage Amusement era, thematically fits right in with “Passion Rules the Game”.

Highlights among the rest of the album include the "In Trance" sounding “Eye of Storm”, originally written for 2007’s Humanity: Hour 1, The country-tinged “Gypsy Life”, intended for 2001’s Acoustica, and "The Scratch".

The bonus tracks are as good or better than the rest of the album so, it's definitively worth while to pick up one of the versions that include them. Fans are not going to want to miss out on "Dancing in the Moonlight", "Who We Are", and “Delirious”. "The World We Used to Know" is the most interesting of the bonus tracks. Not a bad tune if you can get past the ELO-esque lead guitar. This one is as pop sounding as anything since 1999's experimental Eye to Eye.

There is no shortage of versions of this album. It can be had in Standard, Limited Edition Deluxe, iTunes, and Japanese editions, all with their own bonus material.  The record is also available on vinyl and box set version as well. 
Return to Forever track listings:
1 - Going Out with a Bang
2 - We Built This House
3 - Rock My Car
4 - House of Cards
5 - All for One
6 - Rock 'n' Roll Band
7 - Catch Your Luck and Play
8 - Rollin' Home
9 - Hard Rockin' the Place
10 - Eye of the Storm
11 - The Scratch
12 - Gypsy Life

Limited Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks 

13 - The World We Used to Know
14 - Dancing with the Moonlight
15 - When the Truth Is a Lie
16 - Who We Are 

iTunes Bonus Track

17 Delirious 

Japanese Bonus Tracks

18 One and One Is Three

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lady Beast II Cooks Up A Delicious NWOBHM Feast

Remember the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) movement that began in the late 70's/early 80's with bands such as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Saxon and many
more? Many of the bands that fall into this sub-genre or category are securely placed among my all time favorites, and pretty much any band playing that style is something that I enjoy. Well, I'm pleased to announce that classic formula NWOBHM in all it's headbanging glory is alive and well in Pittsburg! Wait....Pittsburg? That's not in the UK! But yes, that's right, there is a group of young folks (in their twenties at my best guess) from Pittsburg, USA that are serving up huge heaping steaming bowlfuls of blistering metal. The name of this savior of NWOBHM comes in the form of Lady Beast. In fact, if one did not know one might venture to say that they originated during the NWOBHM period.

The beginnings of Lady Beast can be traced back to 2008/9, but it wasn't until 2011/12 that the lineup was solidified with frontwoman Deborah Levine, drummer Adam Ramage, bassist Greg Colaizzi and the twin axe assault of Tommy Kinnett and Chris "Twiz" Tritschler. Somehow the band's (originally) self-released and titled debut album found its way into my extensive musical library and has been spun quite regularly in the past couple of years. The old school throwback to the NWOBHM that oozes throughout Lady Beast nods to some of the greats mentioned above, blending together the best elements of the era. Finding out (through some internet research) that the album actually contains compositions written by four different guitarists was quite surprising and while the album is certainly not perfect, it succeeds on every level!

So, when Lady Beast was the fifth and final band to be announced as appearing at the M-Pre-Party (prelude and party starter to the M3 Festival in Baltimore) on April 30, 2015 I was instantly pumped. 2014 had been my first M3 Festival (including M-Pre Party), instantly creating a new addiction and I was ready to experience it all over again in 2015, but this was just like the sugary frosted icing on the cake. I re-visited said debut record and still continue to do so as a portion of my gym workout playlist. This Lady Beast live set promises to be one of the clear highlights of the three-day rock fest for me.

Does it get any better than that?...Well, actually yes it does! Lady Beast are unleashing their sophomore effort on March 27 with a live show release party at Cativo in Pittsburgh on March 28, 2015. I wonder if I can slip away from work? (searches flights in another internet window as he types this)

In contacting the band frontwoman, Deborah Levine, she was more than kind enough to forward me the album's MP3 tracks for the purpose of this review and all I can say is "Holy crap!". This album, while not overly inventively titled (Lady Beast II), absolutely kicks ass! Holding true to the NWOBHM style and could have easily fit in with the bigger guns of the era. Lady Beast II is even stronger, more cohesive and polished than the debut and it's easy to see how the solidified lineup and maturity in the band along with all members contributing cohesively to the process have worked wonders.

The album opens with "Heavy Metal Destiny" for which the band issued an advance YouTube video via their Facebook page in January, 2015 (included below). The track starts out ominously before a nice little riff begins surging it forward as it gives off an Iron Maiden style of epicness. An awesome opener to Lady Beast II! "We Are The Witches" is the next selection exhibiting a catchy chorus to it. With Levine's vocal style, which is not as high-pitched or shrill as some, she's more Doro-ish in her delivery and that's a lot of what comes through to me on this track. The whole band shines on "Bind The Runes" with its tempo changing chorus, driving riff, meaty basslines and machine-gun drumming. "Caged Fury" lyrically deals with
 inner anger issues I think, a message to those finding themselves in that situation. Another thumping bassline from Colaizzi (who owns Cobra Cabana Records responsible for issuing Lady Beast II on vinyl) can be heard during "Heroes Of Our Time", another track waving the Maiden flag. In a little internet searching it appears that "The Frost Giant's Daughter" was actually released on YouTube in 2013 (link below) and is not a cover of The Sword's 2008 track of the same name. This one blazes along and is over far too quickly for me at just under three minutes. "Forrest Of The Impaled" seems to tell a macabre tale while "Lose To Win" is a straight out classic rocker. While it's more than a difficult chore to choose one track over the rest here for winner of the "Top of the Heap" accolade, if you held a gun to my head I'd have to go with the album's closer of "Banshee". It's grinding and abrasive, smashing through from start to finish in a catchy fist-pumping anthem. Sure hope that one makes the live set on April 30! The sadness that you feel when the record is over can easily be alleviated by doing as I do and hitting play all over again. After listening several times a day since receiving the album ten days before writing this review, I still haven't had enough! The Lady Beast simply roars and for optimum results I recommend playing at an ear-bleedingly loud volume!

All throughout Lady Beast II you can hear the influences or draw comparisons to some of these bands and players, for example at points Levine has a Doro style of delivery and some have even said an impressive resemblance to the late great Ronnie James Dio. There's also a little Halford mixed in there but at times she feels a little restrained. I would love to hear Deb let loose with a primal blood-curdling scream or two (and she does on "Banshee"), I can literally feel that power in her lungs! In any case, I say that Doro should rest comfortably knowing that there is a protegee out there to carry on her "Metal Queen" reign should she retire.

***Unfortunately, I have just discovered that after the album's release show guitarist Tommy Kinnett will be calling an end to his tenure with Lady Beast so he will not be performing at the M-Pre Party. Apparently the decision to leave in order to concentrate on his family life was an amicable one with no "bad blood" on either side. It is already announced that Lady Beast's original lead guitarist, Stephen Lauck, having recently moved back to Pittsburgh from California will be stepping in.***

The Meister

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Lady Beast Bandcamp / Lady Beast on Facebook

Inferno Records Website / Cobra Cabana Records on Facebook

D-Toxin Productions Website (M-Pre Party) / M-Pre Party Facebook

Anticipation of M3 2015 / M3 2014 (Part #1) / M3 2014 (Part #2)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fighting The System With a JADED HEART

German melodic hard rock outfit Jaded Heart has been around for 25 years and during that time transformed from a pure AOR/MHR combo to a melodic metal band and has in the process gone through numerous member changes. Remaining from the original line up is only bass player Michael Müller. Today Jaded Heart is a German/Swedish joint venture but let´s first take the time machine to around 1990 and the Berlin Wall had just fallen. Jaded Heart was founded in Duisburg, Germany by brothers Michael Bormann (Redrum, ex-Bonfire, ex-Letter X, Zeno, Silent Force among others) and Dirk Bormann. Both of them had previously played together in high school band High Voltage which evolved into T.A.X. and then evolved into the seed for Jaded Heart. The year after the brothers were joined by Michael Müller on bass (ex-The Sygnet) and ex-Mad Max drummer Axel Kruse. Michael had also made a name for himself on German TV with a cover of Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive" (Watch it on youtube!).

Jaded Heart started out gigging, writing songs and searching for that elusive record contract. Michael Bormann left the band in 1993 to join Bonfire and even recorded an album with them that to this day remain unreleased but is heavily bootlegged. That did not last long though and in 1994 Bormann was back in Jaded Heart.  Now everything happened quickly and the debut album Inside Out was recorded and released in 1994. After that release, Chris Ivo joined the band on keyboards but Dirk Bormann left the band. Jaded Heart struggled on using guest guitarists (including Dirk) until they found Boris Kepic before recording IV in 1999. Michael Bormann later founded Charade with Bonfire guitarist Angel Schleifer and together they have released two albums with that band. Jaded Heart decided to strike it while it´s hot
The Michael Bormann fronted version of the band
Picture courtesy of
and the second album Slaves and Masters saw the light in 1996 on which Alex Beyrodt (Sinner, Level 10) provided guitar along with Dirk Bormann. Both these albums received rave reviews and contained top class melodic hard rock in the vein of Bon Jovi and 80´s Europe with a strong commercial appeal. Unfortunately, the music climate at the time (both in Europe and North America) was not forgiving for this kind of melodic hard rock therefore hampering album sales. The musicianship was top notch, the songs as strong as ever with a modern production but it did not promote the band to stardom, unfortunately.

Jaded Heart struggled on and released the absolutely stunning albums Mystery Eyes (1997) and IV in 1999. In my opinion IV is still the strongest effort in the extensive back catalogue. I might be biased for this was also the album that made me discover the band in the first place.  In Europe, the music industry was finally showing a growing interest in traditional melodic hard rock and heavy metal once again with HammerFall paving the way for a whole new scene developing in the late 1990´s. The band lost a bit of pace with the average The Journey Will Never End in 2002 which contained a cover of "Larger Than Life" by the Backstreet Boys. Chis Ivo was replaced by Henning Wanner on keyboards before that album was recorded.  They hit back with the great Trust in 2004 before it was time for major changes in the Jaded Heart camp. Founding member and frontman Michael Bormann was subsequently fired by the band and in came Swedish lead vocalist Johan Fahlberg (ex-Scudiero, Denied, Radioactive). A new album with Fahlberg was issued in 2005 entitled Helluva Time.

With the change of frontman Jaded Heart also slowly became heavier and before releasing 2007's Sinister Mind Boris Kepic left the band and was replaced by Swedish guitarist Peter Östros further pushing the band in a heavier direction towards a sound similar to Pretty Maids. Still sticking to the hooks and melodies both these albums were an example of excellent European melodic metal. Johan Fahlberg has a different but great voice which kept the band on a high note despite the loss of the great Michael Bormann. With the excellent albums Perfect Insanity (2009) and Common Destiny (2012), Jaded Heart maintained their position as one of Europe's leading melodic hard rock bands. After releasing a DVD in 2013 where a show was filmed on their support slot for Axel Rudi Pell it´s now time for new full-length album Fight The System.

Fight The System:
The first thing we can note is that there has once again been major changes in the line-up of the band. Founding member and drummer Axel Kruse has left the band to concentrate on the reunited Mad Max and has been replaced by Bodo Sticker (Callejon) and they have added another guitarist in Japanese guitar slinger Masa Ito thus making Jaded Heart for the first time a twin guitar band. The split with Bormann created a lot of animosity shown in extensively aired interviews and things are not at ease with former members yet but I have always been a fan of both versions of Jaded Heart. For me, there is no reason to dislike the early version of the band nor the later. Fighting The System is a blast of pure melodic metal with some really strong songs on it albeit not the strongest in the discography. For fans of hard rock and metal, there is no doubt this album should be very high on the list of albums to check out. If you are not a current fan there is plenty to discover on this disc. You get top notch musicianship, very melodic but still heavy songs with memorable hooks and great riffs and nice solos from Östros/Ito. It's evident that the first part of the album clearly supersedes the latter part and you will find the strongest songs on the first half.

Track by track comments:
Jaded Heart 2014. Picture courtesy of
The album opens with the melodic and heavy rocker "Schizophrenic" which has an annoying tendency to stick in your head and it´s hard to get it out. I guess that´s a good thing! It starts with a nice riff and some great "flowing" keyboards from guest musician Henrik Larsson. The vocal style of Fahlberg on this particular song in parts remind me of Geoff Tate of Queensryche. The títle of the song very much tells what the lyrics are about. It is followed by another great rocker in "Control" which sees Rick Altzi (Masterplan, At Vance) providing guest vocals. After a short intro, the song kicks off with nice double guitar harmonies from Ito/Östros. A melodic bridge leads into a nice chorus with Altzi/Fahlberg trading vocal lines. A song about being controlled by someone else and a very strong start to the album. Up next is my favourite song on this new album called "Not In A Million Years" which is a midtempo rocker with a huge infectious hook and a chorus line I simply can´t get out of my head after listening to the album. The song kicks off with a nice keyboard fill and an interesting riff with the verse sung in a gritty tone and some heavy riffing in the background. A song of total love and devotion to that special individual you might sometimes find. Up next is "Losing My Faith" another midtempo rocker which starts off with an aggressive vocal from Fahlberg leading on to a more melodic bridge and a nice, melodic chorus with some nice choirs supporting Fahlberg's voice. A very serious lyrical theme in this song which is about losing your faith in humanity when all it does is wage war upon each other.

Fight The System continues with the uptempo rocker "Nightmare´s Over" which is the fastest song so far and it has a nice melody line and again an interesting chorus. The lyrics deal with near death experience and about seeing an angel that fades away when you are being brought back to life. "Never Free" starts with an acoustic guitar, almost ballad-like opening, which is quickly followed by a nice grooving riff and a cool bassline from Müller. The mellow verse erupts in a melodic bridge and chorus. A nice effort! The lyrics deal with the situation of trying to run from your past and memories which you, of course, cannot do. This means you are never free. It is followed by "´Til Death Do Us Part" which is an ordinary feel good melodic rocker and maybe the weakest track so far. The lyrics deal with the obsession that love can create sometimes and a twisted mind that will not let go. It is followed by "Terror In Me" which is a heavier song with some aggressive riffing from Ito/Östros but due to a weaker chorus not the strongest song on the album in my opinion. The song title reveal what this song is about and when you get to the point where you don´t care if you live or die anymore.  Up next is "Haunted" which starts off with a great guitar riff but lacks the melodic power of most of the previous songs. Again the song is about suffering from your memories that keep haunting you.  It is followed by "Crying" which sees some double bass drumming from Stricker and now we are back with a more contagious melody line in the bridge where Fahlberg really shines. The lyrics see the world through the eyes of an avenger and your goal is to make them pay. The final song on the regular edition is "In The Shadows" which is again a midtempo melodic rock song with Fahlberg providing the "odd" vocal on the chorus line. A nice outro with the choir singing "oh-oh-oh". The lyrics are all about being in pain and time is running out for a cure.
Bassplayer Michael Müller
Picture courtesy of the bands facebook page

If you have bought the limited digipak edition you will get two more songs. First there is the cover song from German band Extrarbeit called "Polizisten" (Cops) and the first song done by Jaded Heart in the German language. It´s an interesting piece of work but just not my cup of tea. Closer "Flee And Run" is a good melodic midtempo rocker and better than some of the songs on the regular album. It starts off with a riff with some nice keyboard harmonies in the background which continues throughout the song. A nice chorus with ganglike vocals throughout the bridge leading up to the chorus. If you can get a hold of the digipak it adds a quite substantial value.

So what does this say about the whole album and compared to previous releases? You know what you get when you buy a Jaded Heart album (that meant in a good way). The band never strays too far off the traditional formula (even if "Polizisten" is far off) and you always get strong songs that are easily digestible. On this album, the band has come up with 5-6 really strong songs that would fit very well into a live setting. I think the latter part of the album loses a bit in song quality (from a very high level that is). The lyrics often deal with difficult situations whether it´s love gone bad or something else. It also paints a very grey picture on the state of the world today and the future for mankind. Fahlberg's voice fit the framework perfectly and the musicianship is top notch as always. The band has lost some very important band members on their journey and always come up with one strong album after another. The consistency and quality are impeccable.

I´m really looking forward to catching the band at Väsby Rock Festival this summer for the first time for me in a live situation. Given the problems and tensions between current and previous members and today's lineup's negative approach to old material I doubt there will be any songs played from the Bormann era which is a pity. The Jaded Heart back catalogue is a virtual treasure chest filled with great songs. Still, there is plenty of great songs to choose from Helluva Time (2005) and forward.  A solid and quality release like this would merit at least 7.5 decibel geeks out of 10 possible. Put it on and crank it to 11!

The Lionsheart

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