Megadeth – Dystopia [Album Review]

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Megadeth – Dystopia
2016, Universal Music Enterprises

Buy the album

1. “The Threat Is Real”
2. “Dystopia”
3. “Fatal Illusion”
4. “Death from Within”
5. “Bullet to the Brain”
6. “Post American World”
7. “Poisonous Shadows”
8. “Conquer or Die!”
9. “Lying in State”
10. “The Emperor”
11. “Foreign Policy”
Digital Bonus Track:
12. “Melt the Ice Away”

Band:
Dave Mustaine – Lead Vocals, Guitar
David Ellefson – Bass, Backing Vocals
Kiko Loureiro – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Piano
Chris Adler – Drums

Producer: Dave Mustaine & Chris Rakestraw

Wow! What a surprise! A new line-up of Megadeth! Joining the two Daves are Brazilian guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler. I had no issue with Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover being in the band but I guess when it comes to Megadeth, everyone Dave Mustaine is on borrowed time.

On to the music at hand, Dystopia is easily the band’s best release since 2004’s The System Has Failed. For the record (no pun intended), I thought Super Collider (2013) had some enjoyable moments but was a little lost on direction. Going a few years further back to Th13teen and Endgame, the band was trying to get heavy again but they completely forgot about melody. Both of those albums were frenetic, forgettable messes and I was starting to think Mega Dave had lost his touch.

It’s interesting that Dystopia has the band sounding as tight as a ever as a new producer has come on board in the form of Chris Rakestraw. Perhaps he helped breathed some new life into the band. I never thought Andy Sneap and especially Johnny K ever truly delivered. I hope Dave never uses either of them again.

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Signed vinyl copy

As with any album these days, there are multiple editions of it. I ordered my signed vinyl copy through the band’s PledgeMusic page and it came with a digital download of the album as well. The digital download and Spotify editions both include a cover of Budgie’s “Melt the Ice Away” as a bonus track. Japan gets “Me Hate You” while iTunes & Best Buy get “Last Dying Wish” and “Look Who’s Talking”. I’d love to hear those three songs but they haven’t hit YouTube yet!

It’s the album’s two cover songs that do absolutely nothing for me. The Budgie song and Fear’s “Foreign Policy”. The funny thing is, I’ve read people knocking Megadeth for having a punk song and some people saying it’s the worst Megadeth song ever… apparently they don’t realize it’s a cover song.

Everything else is top notch. “The Threat Is Real” and “Dystopia” are classic Megadeth and a great one-two combo to open the album. “Poisonous Shadows” is a moody number that sounds like it’s from The System Has Failed. “Lying In State” has a The System Has Failed vibe as well. “Conquer Or Die” is a fantastic instrumental that gives Kiko a co-writing credit.

I haven’t listened to a new Megadeth release this much since United Abominations but Dystopia easily trumps that release. It’s hard to say where I would rank this in the band’s catalog. They have tons of great album and you can now included Dystopia in that long list.

Highlights: “The Threat Is Real”, “Dystopia”, “Fatal Illusion”, “Poisonous Shadows”, “Lying In State”, “The Emperor”

Metal Excess Awards: The Best of 2015

 

 

 

  • Most Anticipated Releases for 2016
    Megadeth – Dystopia
    Avantasia – Ghostlights
    Anthrax – For All Kings
    Bon Jovi – This House Is Not For Sale
    Avenged Sevenfold
    Metallica
    Sixx:A.M.

Electric Light Orchestra – Alone in the Universe [Album Review]

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Electric Light Orchestra – Alone in the Universe
2015, Columbia Records

Buy the album

1. When I Was a Boy
2. Love and Rain
3. Dirty to the Bone
4. When the Night Comes
5. The Sun Will Shine on You
6. Ain’t It a Drag
7. All My Life
8. I’m Leaving You
9. One Step at a Time
10. Alone in the Universe

Musicians:
Jeff Lynne – Vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards
Steve Jay – Shaker, tambourine

Producer: Jeff Lynne

I got into Electric Light Orchestra a few years ago, usually finding myself listening to them late at night during a melancholy time of my life. I even got around to picking up a few old vinyl copies of some of their albums last year. I’m not a hardcore fan, because I really have to be in the mood to listen to them, but I do consider myself to be a casual fan.

Knowing that Alone in the Universe was to be the band’s, er… Lynne’s first new album in 14 years, I was anxious to hear what he had cooked up. And the result? It sounds just like the ELO albums of old. I don’t know, but when I hear ELO, I’m taken away to some trippy magical distant place. It’s hard to explain. ELO isn’t my favorite band, but the ELO sound (including Jeff’s voice) takes me to places that no other group does.

The best of Alone in the Universe provides me with the same exact feelings that the best A New World RecordOut of the Blue, and Eldorado do. This album fit in perfectly with those. It’s a fine addition to the ELO catalog.

Highlights: “When I Was A Boy”, “Love and Rain”, “Dirty to the Bone”, “I’m Leaving You”, “Alone in the Universe”

Europe – War of Kings [Album Review]

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Europe – War of Kings
2015, UDR Records

Buy the album

1. “War of Kings”
2. “Hole in My Pocket”
3. “The Second Day”
4. “Praise You”
5. “Nothin’ to Ya”
6. “California 405”
7. “Days of Rock ‘n’ Roll”
8. “Children of the Mind”
9. “Rainbow Bridge”
10. “Angels (With Broken Hearts)”
11. “Light It Up”
Bonus Track:
12. “Vasastan”

Band:
Joey Tempest – Vocals
John Norum – Guitars
John Levén – Bass
Ian Haugland – Drums
Mic Michaeli – Keyboards

Producer: Dave Cobb

Wow. Although I’m not extremely well-versed in Europe’s discography, I knew that they were heavier in their earlier years before they hit it big with “The Final Countdown”. They are a band I haven’t followed all that closely. A new album would come out, I’d give a few songs a spin online, wouldn’t be too impressed, and would move on.

Well, I didn’t do that with War of Kings. I went in expecting more of the same of what they’d recently been doing. I wasn’t expecting such a 1970s heavy and sometimes bluesy rock influence. Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath vibes are all over this album. This are the type of songs that the ill-fated Black Country Communion wishes they wrote. In fact, Joey Tempest cited Zep, Purple & Sabbath as the bands Europe had in mind when recording this album. He even went on to say that War of the Kings is the album the band has always wanted to make going back to their childhood when they grew up listening to those aforementioned groups.

Helping to make the vintage sound even more apparent is producer Dave Cobb who has worked with modern vintage rock band Rival Sons.

This is definitely an album worth checking out for anyone who is a fan of classic rock and metal from the 1970s. It’s riff heavy and the keyboards are used perfectly to give that Purple-esque feel on songs like “Days of Rock N Roll” while “Rainbow Bridge” has a middle eastern element and rhythm that would sound at home in a Led Zeppelin song.

This is NOT the type of album I would have expected to hear from Europe, but it’s great that I am.

Highlights: “War of Kings”, “Hole in My Pocket”, “Praise You”, “Nothin’ to Ya”, “Days of Rock N Roll”, “Vasastan”

The Poodles – Devil in the Details [Album Review]

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The Poodles – Devil in the Details
2015, Gain Music

Buy the album

1. Before I Die
2. House of Cards
3. The Greatest
4. Crack in the Wall
5. (What the Hell) Baby
6. Everything
7. Stop
8. Need to Believe
9. Alive
10. Alive Without You
11. Creator and Breaker
12. Borderline

Band:
Jakob Samuel – Vocals
Henrik Bergqvist – Guitar
Johan Flodqvist – Bass
Christian Lundqvist – Drums

Producer: Mats Valentin

I became a fan of The Poodles a few years ago, and was saddened that this release slipped by me undetected. They’ve changed record labels, so maybe promotion is in part the reason I didn’t notice it originally. Even so, it took me a few more months before I could really take the time to pay attention because of my work and studies.

Devil in the Details is not a disappointment. The Poodles continue on just like they always have with their brand of modernized melodic rock/metal. Big guitars, big choruses, anthems galore! I caught one review saying the album was terrible and too “pop” and not hard ‘n’ heavy enough. Um… have they ever listened to this band before? Pop music has had a place in this band’s sound. They are pop metal, they are heavy metal, they are hard rock… They are whatever the song calls for.

Anyone who has enjoyed previous efforts from the Poodles should find plenty to like here as well!

Highlights: “Before I Die”, “House of Cards”, “The Greatest”, “Crack in the Wall”, “Everything”, “Life Without You”

Stryper – Fallen [Album Review]

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Stryper – Fallen
2015, Frontier Records

Buy the album

  1. Yahweh
  2. Fallen
  3. Pride
  4. Big Screen Lies
  5. Heaven
  6. Love You Like I Do
  7. All Over Again
  8. After Forever
  9. Till I Get What I Need
  10. Let There Be Light
  11. The Calling
  12. King of Kings

Band:
Michael Sweet – lead vocals, guitar
Robert Sweet – drums, percussion
Oz Fox – lead guitar, vocals
Tim Gaines – bass, vocals

Producer: Michael Sweet

Michael Sweet and the rest of Stryper continue their break-neck pace of releasing albums. Given the steady stream of content they’ve been delivering, you’d think the quality would be quite spotty though that hasn’t been the case. BUT… Fallen is a bit of a step down from the very heavy and anthemic No More Hell to Pay.

I must admit, I’ve given this album multiple spins but it’s not grabbing like recent previous efforts from the band (or solo Sweet) have. In fact, I’m struggling to even come up with anything to say about this album because it’s neither terrible or great. It’s a solid  but ultimately nothing sticks with me after having listened to it.

It’s almost sounds like tracks that couldn’t make the cut for the previous album. “Heaven” is easily the best song here and their cover of Black Sabbath’s “After Forever” is good but there’s not much else worth mentioning.

Highlights: “Heaven”, “After Forever”

Duff McKagan – How to Be a Man [EP Review]

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Duff McKagan – How to Be a Man

Buy the album

1. How to Be a Man
2. Punker
3. Kill the Internet

Musicians:
Duff McKagan – Lead Vocals, Bass
Jerry Cantrell – Guitar
Izzy Stradlin – Guitar
Roy Mayorgo – Drums

Earlier this year, Duff a book full of advice and tips on life called How to Be a Man (and Other Illusions). It seemed to be released a bit under the radar but it has gotten good reviews so I’m sure I’ll check it out at some point. To coincide with the release of the book, McKagan also put together a collection of three songs and released them digitally on the same day that the book was released.

Obviously, Duff McKagan is a rock legend having been an original member of Guns N’ Roses as well as Velvet Revolver. He also fronts his own band called Loaded and released a solo album back in 1993 that I’ve always loved. So while I knew of the book’s existence, surprisingly it’s only recently that I discovered new music from Duff existed when I was browsing through Amazon’s Prime Music service. I can hardly find any info about this EP other than what Duff has said in interviews.

What I do know is that Duff wasn’t stunt-casting musicians for the album as the people who played here are legitimate friends. Regrettably, despite assembling members of Alice In Chains, Stone Sour and Guns N’ Roses together, How to Be a Man is simply adequate.

“How to Be a Man” is an acoustic rocker that has that Alice In Chains vibe and sounds fitting for radio. “Punker” is what you’d imagine — a punk song. It’s “Kill the Internet” that I find most interesting. It’s got a killer (no pun intended) riff. Duff rails against social media, online privacy, ISIS, the Kardashians, etc. in this sound which kinda puts him into grumpy old man category, but the music itself is really good.

Saxon – Battering Ram [Album Review]

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Saxon – Battering Ram
2015, UDR Music

Buy the album

1. “Battering Ram”
2. “The Devil’s Footprint”
3. “Queen of Hearts”
4. “Destroyer”
5. “Hard and Fast”
6. “Eye of the Storm”
7. “Stand Your Ground”
8. “Top of the World”
9. “To the End”
10. “Kingdom of the Cross”

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

Producer: Andy Sneap

Saxon is probably one of the bigger name metal bands from the ’80s that I’ve never really explored much. I’ve listened to their older stuff, but I’ve never owned any of it. They only Saxon album I own is 2009’s Into the Labyrinth. I liked it well enough but didn’t feel compelled to really check out the two that followed (outside of a few tracks). They also got lost in the shuffle because I’m always so far behind on reviewing music from any given year.

Well, proof that album art can be very important — I decided to give Battering Ram a spin based on the album’s artwork. This is a great album cover. So very metal, so very evil and so very ’80s. Fantastic.

The music itself matches the pure awesomeness of the cover art. I don’t think you could find a more authentic heavy metal album than Battering Ram. It’s Saxon being Saxon, no apologies needed. Maybe it’s just that I don’t check out the metal websites and message boards as much I used to, but it seems like this album has received less attention than the last few efforts from the band. That’s a shame because this is the best I’ve heard from Saxon in the last few years.

Highlights: “Battering Ram”, “Queen of Hearts”, “Top of the World”, “To the End”, “Kingdom of the Cross”

Def Leppard – Def Leppard [Album Review]

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Def Leppard
2015, Mailboat Records

Buy the album

1. “Let’s Go”
2. “Dangerous”
3. “Man Enough”
4. “We Belong”
5. “Invincible”
6. “Sea of Love”
7. “Energized”
8. “All Time High”
9. “Battle of My Own”
10. “Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted”
11. “Forever Young”
12. “Last Dance”
13. “Wings of an Angel”
14. “Blind Faith”

Band:
Joe Elliott – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Phil Collen – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Vivian Campbell – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rick Savage – Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rick Allen – Drums, Backing Vocals

Producer: Def Leppard

After hearing “Let’s Go”, I was pretty hopeful for this album. After all, I liked the three new studio songs included on Mirrorball and “Let’s Go” sounded like a continuation in that direction of the band returning back to their famous ’80s sound after having a slightly disappointing turn with ’70s glam-rock style of Songs from the Sparkle Lounge from 2008. Yes, it’s been seven years since the last studio album. Even the album art looks great and gives off the impression that the band is possibly maybe going to be a bit darker and rock a bit harder. Well, don’t judge an album by its cover art.

Breaking it down a bit:

– “Let’s Go” has been called “Pour Some Sugar On Me, Part 2”. Not quite as poppy, but yes, it bears some similarities and I’m completely okay with that. It’s definitely the one song on this albfum that sounds the most like the Def Leppard of the ’80s.

– “Energized” is the weird type of lame electronic pop song Joe Elliott would like the world to think that the band has always played. This one could’ve been on X, and it should’ve stayed there.

– “Man Enough” is funk rock, and that’s really weird to hear from Def Leppard, but it’s kinda cool.

– “We Belong” is a very nice ballad which has the nice surprise of the band trading off on vocals. Has anyone other than Joe ever had a lead vocal on a Def Leppard song before?

– “All Time High”. Almost sounds like something that you’d hear from the last two KISS albums. Straight forward meat and potato rocker full of positivity.

– “Battle of My Own” is a trippy acoustic rocker. Maybe something that channels a bit of Slang and Led Zeppelin.

– “Blind Faith” is a ballad that blooms late into a rocker and it that seems to be channeling “10538 Overture” by Electric Light Orchestra (which the band has covered).

As you can tell, the album is all over the place stylistically. Much like with Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, Def Leppard seems content to draw inspiration from the sounds of other bands instead of focusing on their own original sound. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is left up to the each individual listener.

All told, Def Leppard is a good album, and it’s that’s better their last two original studio albums (Sparkle Lounge and X) but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by it.

Highlights: “Let’s Go”, “Dangerous”, “Man Enough”, “We Belong”, “Forever Young”, “Blind Faith”

TOP TWENTY: The Best of Guns N’ Roses

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The rumors are swirling! Could they actually be true? Going by what various music websites are reporting, the “classic” line-up of Guns N’ Roses is due to announce a reunion tour any day/hour/minute now. It’s almost too good to be true, but I hope it all works out. I won’t hold my breath for a new studio album (although that would be the Holy Grail) but if they can get through a tour or a spot of big festival shows and get it on DVD, great.

As great as this news is, I’m slightly saddened because I guess this means the end of Axl’s “hired guns”. Sure, the original GNR run is the best, but I really loved Chinese Democracy and would have been content with more music in that vein. Basically, I just want Axl to keep making albums. Whether it’s solo, classic GNR or modern GNR.

Okay, so with GNR on everyone’s mind lately, I figured what better time to return to their discography and select the best of the best? Here’s what I think are the band’s best tunes. I’m excluding their various excellent covers because GNR has written so many great original tunes, they don’t need to hide behind cover songs (even if they did record an album full of them)!
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It should come as no surprise that a whopping NINE TRACKS from the band’s debut album, Appetite for Destruction, are mentioned here. You can’t really argue with the placement of any of these tracks.

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 The sole song I from GN’R Lies, “Patience” is easily stands out from the pack on that album. This one came so quickly on the heels of Appetite for Destruction, it sounds like it could’ve easily fit in on that record.

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In my opinion, history has not been kind to the first of the Use Your Illusion albums. The album seems a bit more crass and has a lot more filler that sees the band failing to capture the raw energy from their debut. I love the album, don’t get me wrong, but the songs don’t hope up as well when compared to the band’s best songs. Still, it delivered two monster ballads: “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry”. An alternate lyric version of “Don’t Cry” appears on Use Your Illusion II and it is just as good.

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Unlike Use Your Illusion I, the second album to come out of those sessions holds up quite a bit better. Much better songwriting this time. Not a flawless album, but seven absolute classics come from it. I even think “Estranged” is a better epic than “November Rain”.

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People probably won’t agree, but I think Chinese Democracy had a number of great tunes. I love the album but couldn’t justify putting those songs in a list that includes these other songs. That is, except for “This I Love”. It’s my favorite song off the album and one of GNR’s best ballads.

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